Second Alliance – Chapter 13

Back to Chapter 12: Take His Pleasure

Chapter 13: Know Your Alpha

Kagome had woken extremely well-rested from her nap to find that she was left with only minor aches from her recent attempt to use her powers. She meditated, and discovered, to her relief, that there wasn’t anything wrong with her reiki, but it was exhausted. She guessed that it might have taken a week or so for her to regenerate all of the energy she spent healing Sesshomaru and the rest of the castle if she had left her powers alone. Her session with Aki and Kento had probably pushed that time back considerably. And then the demonstration for the soldier, well…that was just stupid. Her temper had a habit of getting her into trouble, and she had no one to blame but herself. She wasn’t sure how long it would take her reiki to get better, but she wasn’t in any pain, and she could tell it was recuperating, so she swore to keep her energy to herself and got up to play with the children.

They read for a while and Kagome was surprised to find that neither Shippo nor Rin fit well in her lap anymore. Rin was a bit more expected, but the kit must have grown at least an inch since they had arrived at the castle, maybe more. She supposed she should be grateful that he was getting new clothes at Sesshomaru’s expense, but mostly she just felt nostalgic that he was growing up so quickly.

By late-afternoon they were getting restless, so Kagome suggested an outing. She changed into her modern clothes and Eiichi and Eiji escorted them to a courtyard sheltered from the wind. They built snowmen and had an impressive fort started when Inuyasha arrived from the training grounds. They quickly drew sides, Rin and the hanyou against Shippo and Kagome, and had a snowball fight that occasionally took innocent bystanders. Eiichi was a good sport. Eiji was not.

Happily tired and starving, they returned to their temporary lodgings and had a boisterous and lengthy supper. Kagome even convinced the rock brothers to take turns eating with them. Jaken and the servants returned to clear away the dishes and Inuyasha relaxed on the floor while Rin and Shippo took turns reading with a fairy-tale book from Kagome’s time.

She had waited patiently though supper. And then impatiently during the first story. He had said they would discuss the trip over dinner. Over dinner. As in, while they were eating. She knew he was busy; he was a lord, for crying out loud, he probably had a million things to do. Still, even lords should have breaks for things like eating, sleeping, and satisfying the curiosity of an anxious miko.

His mokomoko pooled in her lap and she found herself absently petting it. She stopped and blushed as soon as she realized what she was doing, and then considered it. He had said she should oil the fur in exchange for using it. While she had her doubts that he was being strictly selfless with that offer, it would be rude not to take care of it. After all, it had kept her warm all day, even in the snow. Kagome smiled a devilish smile, her cheeks heating even redder. And if she had to really work to get the oil rubbed in, well then, there wasn’t anything wrong with that. She was just doing what he had asked her to do. If it bothered him, if she was being too thorough, then he could come tell her that.

Satisfied with the twisted logic that absolved her of any ulterior motives, she grabbed her oil and a blanket to protect her new kimono. Starting at the…not tail end, she poured a small amount of leave-in conditioning oil into her hands and rubbed them together. Then she went to work.

ooo

Sesshomaru was growing impatient. He had read all of the details of Kento’s report on the North, and had come to the conclusion that the dragon lord was amassing information. To what end, he was not yet certain, except that it would be, at best, irritating to him. Since Ryukostokken had returned to Japan, he had stayed firmly within his own borders. There were daiyoukai, even other lords, who urged him to wipe the dragons out, as they had tried to do to the Western Lands when the Inu no Tashio was killed. Sesshomaru had not seen the logic. The war that raged between the demons and humans when Izayoi was murdered, then revived and fled with her hanyou child, had taken immense tolls on both sides. It was over before Ryukostokken returned, but moving against him, even with the reduced resources and army of the North, was unwise.

The rebuilding of that time was followed by another war, this time with rogue demons from the mainland. The South had been decimated, as they had borne the brunt of the attacks, but the invaders had been beaten back. Sesshomaru led his own forces, the only army that contained mixed demon ranks, to victory after victory. He saw no reason not to capitalize on the strengths of those that would fight for him. A mortal blow did the same damage from a panther as a badger, and two fighters with different styles could make each other stronger. He had even asked Inuyasha to join him, but the hanyou had bitterly declined. It was that war that had earned him the title Saidai Mao. Through all of that, all of the years, the North had remained silent. Even humans rarely ventured into the lands still quietly patrolled by dragons. None ever came out. There had been rumors that Ryukostokken slowly culled all of the non-dragon youkai from his domain, but it did not affect the West, or any of the other demon lords.

Even if the portents regarding the dragons turned out to be worse than his scouts and advisors feared, he still believed he had made the right decision. Not that he would hesitate to ever cut down an enemy that might cause problems in the future. No, it had simply been the wrong time before. Japan had been divided by wars and distrust. He could have eliminated the dragons, but the cost to his lands would have been too high. It was one of the reasons he preferred to patrol his lands without assistance. Any that he did battle with alone, were alone. There were no armies to consider. No innocent villages to protect. No alliances or trade routes or economic consequences. If he had to strike against the North now, he would do so, but it was not a pleasing prospect. Killing, that he had no issues with. He even enjoyed it on occasion, especially when the opponent was honorable and challenging. Ferreting out the dragons and eliminating them would be tiresome, bloody work that had little honor or personal meaning. It would be business. The business of the West. Of Japan.

The annoying administrator that oversaw the outer chambers slunk into the study again, this time with fresh paper. Sesshomaru restrained the urge to lash the obsequious demon with his youki. Thankfully, Hisao was much more short-tempered. He physically booted the intruder and returned to his place next to Kento.

“We should send an emissary to the wolf-pack,” Hisao suggested.

“Kouga-san’s wolves?”

“Who else, Kento-san?” Hisao made a disgusted sound. “He is the only one who has any control over the wolf-youkai. Damn things are more animal than demon most of the time.”

Kento sighed and added a few marks to his list. “There are not many who could bring us information on the East, and fewer still who could bring the chaos there into any sort of order. If Lord Kuren has been assassinated by an outside force, then another daiyoukai may be afraid to step into his role. It will be a near impossible task to make the demons there fall into line. They will be wild and uncontrolled.”

Hisao snorted, “They were wild and uncontrolled before. There is a reason why Kouga-san has so much authority in the East, and why Inuyasha was able to carve out his own little human territory. Kuren never did anything without spending at least twenty years contemplating the consequences, and even then he rarely acted. The male was a coward and a bureaucrat. It is too bad his father died without another heir.”

“Spineless bureaucrats are sometimes the only government we get, Hisao-san. It was better than nothing. With Kuren dead, the demons will be in a panic. They’ll attack humans and other youkai alike, without stopping to consider anything. The wolf packs will hold the mountains well enough, and Edo and the surrounding forests and village will stand as one under Inuyasha, but I estimate that everything from here,” Kento pointed at the map before them with the handle of his brush, “to here will fall to chaos within a year.”

“What hasn’t already been lost to the disease. Kagome-sama said that many of the human villages as close as two-days walk from Edo had the illness. Assuming her quarantine worked, everything north of here,” Hisao drew a light crease with the back of his claw, “will have been stricken. We’ll have to send someone who won’t startle the humans if we want any good information. After a plague they always get anxious about outsiders, especially demons.”

“Inuyasha will go to the East to gather information and calm any panic,” Sesshomaru declared tonelessly. He named another which would be sent with a message for Kouga. They had been over all of this before. He had questioned the scout from the East regarding the fall of Kuren, and then listened as Hisao and Kento went over his information again. After he was dismissed, other reports were heard and similarly dissected. There was nothing that further study would tell them about the situation. Sesshomaru was ready to be done with it. Reviewing each piece of information three times was tiresome; it was enough to make him wish that Kento had stayed in Aki’s bed so that there was one less opinion to listen to. The inuyoukai had not apologized for his absence, nor for requesting Kagome’s assistance. In a certain light, Sesshomaru could understand. After five hundred years of waiting, Kento had a chance at the mate he had been chasing and a pack of his own. It was understandable that he would seize the opportunity. However, he should have consulted his Lord before asking Sesshomaru’s miko to use her skills. The consequences would be determined later. If Kento was lucky, Sesshomaru would be in a better mood then.

He had felt her reiki pulse once earlier in the day, but it quieted almost immediately. His youki sensed no danger, although it urged him to go to her regardless. He shackled his instincts and threw himself into his work. The sooner he finished, the sooner he could see to the miko. He could feel the muscle in his jaw tightening, and he was supremely aware that darkness had fallen. He could smell supper faintly, being served to the soldiers and, no doubt, to Kagome and the others as well. Sesshomaru had told her they would speak over dinner. He did not appreciate being made to go back on his word.

“Inuyasha,” Kento said in the same flat voice.

“Your brother,” Hisao stated with a quirked brow.

“Half-brother,” Sesshomaru corrected. He could see that they disagreed, and he did not want to take the time for them to come around to the correct solution on their own. He held back a sigh of frustration. “He has made contact with most of the human and youkai villages in the East during the search for the shards of the Shikon. He is trusted and respected by many of the humans there, and strong enough to deal with the lesser youkai that may try to take advantage of the situation.”

“Strong enough,” Hisao snorted, “he has barely held his own with me on the training grounds, and he lacks any sort of technique!”

“He is untutored,” Sesshomaru corrected. His nostrils flared and he hoped that the two other dogs would sense his irritation. He did not want to be in his study at that moment, in fact, had a much more desirable place to be, and pointing out the finer qualities of his father’s bastard hanyou was not improving his mood. “A hanyou less than half your age with no formal training has bested you once and held his ground all other times. This one believes his strength will suffice.”

When Hisao did not object again, he continued, “His well-known animosity with this one will serve him well should our conjectures about our enemy be proven correct. They are more likely to share plans with a potential ally against this one than with a youkai known to serve the West.”

“What of diplomacy?” Kento ventured quietly. “If any are left of Kuren’s vassals, they will be difficult to steer from misdirected revenge. Will Inuyasha be able to harness them to a greater goal? Will he be able to ally with Kouga-san and any other strong demon packs in the East?”

“Yes,” Sesshomaru said simply. A tingle ran down his spine and he sat up straighter. The feeling was muffled, but he was aware of a firm kneading of the tight muscles in his neck and shoulders. A rumble of pleasure started to build in his chest. He cut it off abruptly before Kento and Hisao could be alerted to the sound.

“Inuyasha can be…compelling.” Warm caresses worked across the skin of his back, brushing, flexing, stroking. He forced himself to focus. “When he wants to be. In addition, the miko’s other companions will no doubt accompany him.” Sesshomaru sucked in a breath and held it. As if she was seated behind him, he could feel the miko’s hands massaging from the base of his hair to the tops of his hips. She made long, pulling motions that were designed to ease the tension from him. They had that effect, and also the unintended consequence, he was sure, of making him desire her hands on the rest of his body. I explicitly told her not to touch mokomoko in such a way.

“The monk and slayer,” he let out his breath when the sensation eased, “have much experience with such matters. The monk, in particular, is a skilled diplomat. Even you, Kento, would be-” Her hands returned and Sesshomaru had to snap his mouth shut or risk growling in a way that neither Hisao or Kento would appreciate.

“My Lord?” Kento ventured.

“We will discuss it with the hanyou in the morning. This one is finished here,” he spoke tightly and left via the shoji screens that led outside. He wished to waste no time avoiding servants or administrators, he had a miko that needed reprimanding. Immediately.

He used his cloud to speed up to the third floor guest quarters and let himself down on the wide walkway outside her rooms in a few short seconds. He slid open the shoji screen and quickly surveyed the chamber. Rin had been reading, but the scroll was forgotten when he entered. She greeted him with a smile and a happy ‘Sesshomaru-sama!’ but did not rise from her cushioned spot. On one side of her lay the kitsune, his head lolling against her knee and his mouth open in a quiet snore. On the other side sat Inuyasha. In the moment it had taken him to recognize Sesshomaru’s scent and youki, his hand had gripped Tessaiga and his muscles tensed to stand. Sesshomaru’s eyes narrowed, but he gave his half-brother a nod and Inuyasha returned it.

Her scent was still strong and lightly seasoned with cinnamon; the miko sat in the doorway to the sleeping chamber she had claimed as her own. He could smell her scent on the futon. She wore the kimono he had commissioned for her, and he felt a surge of pride in seeing her in his colors, in garments he had designed and purchased for her use. Her hair was held back in a strange style, and although he preferred it free, and spread across his chest, she looked beautiful. Mokomoko lay across her lap, the majority of it showed signs that she had completed oiling it – which he had already guessed. She held one of his tails in her hands, a guilty look on her face.

“Miko,” his voice was low, but he found he could not control that. He could barely suppress the growl that threatened to escape. It took an immense amount of will to reign in his youki and control his scent. Unfortunately, he was not quick enough to avoid his half-brother’s nose.

“Ya gotta be fuckin’ kiddin’ me,” Inuyasha muttered in disgust. There was a sniff behind Sesshomaru, and the hanyou stood. He would have continued, but Rin interrupted him.

“Inuyasha-san.” She had a disappointed, warning note in her voice, “Bad words.”

“Keh. I’ll be outside.” He stalked over to the shoji screen and slid them shut behind him as he joined the rock brothers. Sesshomaru considered the situation. Due to the construction, the family quarters, both his and Rin’s, were far too cold for humans. He had relocated the females to a guest suite, but he had not considered that the kit would stay where his mother was. Inuyasha, too, was overly protective of the miko. He would become argumentative if she was taken out of range of his senses. Useless for the hanyou, of course, but he did not wish to deal with another hole in his walls. It did necessitate alterations to his plans for informing the miko that he would not tolerate her disobedience. Willful disobedience, if her guilty expression and scent were correct.

“Rin, prepare for bed.” He picked up the sleeping kit and held him close, ready to tuck him into the miko’s futon.

“Sesshomaru-sama?” Her voice halted his progress. “May Shippo-kun sleep in Rin’s room? We already moved a futon,” she gestured to the nest on the floor near her own mound of bedding. Her voice dropped to a whisper, “Shippo-kun and Rin do not want to be alone in this new room. It is different.”

“Hn.” He changed directions, and the miko was quick to stand and follow him to tuck her adopted son in. She stood by silently while he lifted the blankets and settled the kitsune into place. He secured the bedding around him. Pups and children needed to be kept warm at night; he assumed the same was true for kits. A strand of his hair had gotten caught in the little demon’s claws. He carefully extracted it and stood, to find the miko staring at him with an odd expression. Her scent was…confused. Not only were there too many emotions filtering through his nose, but there was also a strong thread of the muddled, bland taste of her confusion.

“May Rin hug Sesshomaru-sama?”

“Hn.” His daughter wrapped her arms around his waist, and Sesshomaru noted that she had grown again. He placed one hand on her head, patting her hair and calculating that at her current rate she would be fully-grown in another year or two. Shorter than the miko, perhaps, but still a respectable height for a human female. He let his claws slip through her loose hair, scent-marking her. “Sleep.”

She obliged, happily crawling into her futon and wishing the adults good night. It occurred to him that perhaps the miko might learn to follow commands better if she spent more time with Rin. He waited in the anteroom while she kissed both children and shut the screens. “This one will speak with the hanyou. You will wait.” He made his gaze as cold as possible to show her that a serious discussion was forthcoming. It did not affect her.

“Your mokomoko,” she said calmly. Her voice was steady, but her scent was a riot of emotion and her cheeks were pink. He wondered, again, how far her blush extended. She held out the fur, and his traitorous tail twined around her arm as he took it.

At his touch, it relaxed and merged with him again. It was disconcerting, but as long as no others saw how mokomoko clung to her, he would not prevent it from the display. He had already admitted that he preferred her touch, even her company. The lesser part of himself would share the inclination. Her scent was deeply worked into the fur, along with the mild, pleasant odor of her oils. He had covered her with his own scent, but he was not certain how he felt about being equally marked by the miko.

“You will wait,” he repeated, and left to seek out the hanyou.

The rock demons were still stationed in the corridor, and Sesshomaru dismissed them, ignoring the sidelong glances to his tails. Inuyasha was slouched against the opposite wall, one foot on the floor and his arms crossed defiantly. Always eager for a fight. The daiyoukai refrained from shaking his head in exasperation. “In the morning, you will go to the East and investigate reports of attacks on the villages there. You will determine how the Eastern Lord, Kuren, has been assassinated and if any of his House live. Speak with any allies you or your group has in the East. Prepare them for further attacks. Remind them that you will stand against their enemies. You will return before the new moon and report to this one.”

“Keh. Like I’m gonna take orders from you, asshole.”

“Kuren is dead. It is probable his pack and vassals are as well.” Inuyasha only scowled, so Sesshomaru reigned in his impatience and explained. Slowly. “The miko reported that the sickness was widespread in the East. This one has obtained reports of attacks on youkai villages there. The demons are unorganized and have no leader. The humans are ill and frightened.” Sesshomaru wanted to sigh. His half-brother smelled confused as well as angry. “You are more familiar with humans than this one. What will frightened villagers do when confronted with youkai refugees fleeing illness and attacks?”

“Fuckin’ hell,” Inuyasha muttered. Finally, he comprehends. Leading another to the correct conclusions was tedious. “They’ll kill every demon they see. And the demons will strike back. It’ll be a fuckin’ bloodbath.”

“Indeed. Perhaps it would be best if the humans were met with a familiar presence, rather than a strange youkai. Do this, or bear responsibility for the outcome. The West stands behind you, Inuyasha. You will not fail. ”

“Fucker.” Inuyasha glared, but his scent was full of acceptance. “If you mate Kagome while I’m gone, I’ll cut off that arm again and beat you with it.” Tactful and eloquent as always. Sesshomaru pondered the hanyou’s words. The miko was his. He would keep her. But he had not considered what that would mean to him, to them. He had every intention of claiming her body, but to make her his mate – he had not considered it. “You bastard!” Inuyasha hissed, obviously sensing his hesitation and drawing his own conclusions. He pushed away from the wall and stood with one hand on the Fang. “You were gonna- gonna use my friend and throw her aside, like some whore-”

Sesshomaru was at his throat in an instant. This time he did not make the mistake of allowing the hanyou enough air to speak. His youki was clawing for release, and he was angry enough to want to let it out. “Do not speak of the miko in such a way again. Your foul words are undeserved.” He bared his fangs, “And they displease This One.” With great effort, he pulled his claws from his brother’s throat and stepped back.

“You’re the one who said it shamed father,” he rasped. He still smelled of anger, but also…sadness. “She is my friend, Sesshomaru. I won’t let you do that to her.”

“You would not be able to stop This One,” Sesshomaru noted without any heat. He did want the miko. But he would not shame her. She was worthy of a place of honor. But a mate…a mate was for eternity. A mate produced pups, heirs. He had already decided that he would not allow her to age and die as other humans did. Pups, however, were another matter.

“I would die trying. And Kagome does love me, Sesshomaru. If you killed me, you’d have to force her to stay. You’d have to keep her locked up and force yourself on her if you wanted her. Is that how it will be with Kagome?”

“No,” Sesshomaru answered without realizing he had spoken. He blinked. He would never hurt the miko. He could not. And she would stay with him, invite his attentions, because she desired it to be so. He had already decided that he preferred her acquiescence. But pups… He ignored Inuyasha’s hateful stare and imagined the miko holding his son or daughter. Wide golden eyes meeting soft blue. Tiny claws on her breast. I will remind the young one to be careful. White hair strewn across her kimono. Pointed ears straining for the sound of its mother’s voice. Sesshomaru stiffened his already straight posture. Not pointed ears. Furry dog ears, like Inuyasha. A hanyou, like Inuyasha. He considered his brother with renewed interest. “Hanyou,” he murmured quietly.

“What? You got somethin’ to say for yourself, bastard?”

Inuyasha was uncouth and tactless, but those were products of his upbringing, or lack thereof. It might not have been so if their father had lived…and he had given Izayoi the place she deserved. Sesshomaru had spoken the truth to Hisao. The hanyou was stronger than most full-youkai. Formal training would make him superior to nearly all but Sesshomaru himself. The demon blood of their father ran in his veins, and if he ever managed to control his youki, he would be a formidable opponent. Despite the prejudices against hanyou from demons and humans alike, Inuyasha had gained allies and friends of both species.

Sesshomaru had never considered taking a mate or having pups of his own, but still… He realigned his mental image to give the pup fuzzy triangles on the top of its head. The picture was no less attractive to him. Would, could, the West accept a hanyou heir? My choices are my own.

“She will be this one’s mate,” he announced, more so that he could hear the words himself than out of any need to reassure his brother.

Inuyasha made a derisive sound, “Ya haven’t asked her yet, have ya?”

“She will agree with this one’s decision. Your presence is not required or desired.” He narrowed his eyes to make certain that Inuyasha got the point.

The hanyou chuckled, his scent easing to one of anticipation with only traces of darker emotions. “This thing in the East better not take too long, ‘cause I don’t wanna miss the shitstorm you are about to crash right into. It’s gonna be great.” Sesshomaru ignored his laughter and turned back to the rooms. “Ya sleeping here?” His voice was disapproving, and the answer self-evident, so Sesshomaru did not respond. “Stupid wench’ll let ya too. Keh. Whatever. I ain’t guarding your ass all night and smellin’ you,” his voice dropped and the sadness grew stronger, “and her. Ya know she used to…she smells nice, doesn’t she?”

There was an aching sort of regret, but no longing, in his brother’s voice, so Sesshomaru did not remove his tongue for commenting on the miko’s scent. He tried to imagine what it would be like to have the miko to himself for years, and then know she was no longer his. It would never happen. Still…he could understand Inuyasha’s loss. At least the hanyou had recognized that the miko belonged to Sesshomaru.

“The kit and Rin would miss your presence. This one will erect a barrier for sound and scent. In the morning, you will leave for the East.” He slid open the door, and seeing that the miko had ignored his order and gone into her own sleeping chamber, he said quietly, “Cherry wood and magnolias.” He sensed, more than saw, Inuyasha’s nod behind him.

“Yeah.” The hanyou closed the screen and settled himself against a wall to sleep. “At least the fuckin’ wolf didn’t get her. Can’t wait to see the look on the mangy mutt’s face,” his mutters were insensible, but Sesshomaru filed them away for further consideration.

He slipped into the room and threw up his youki barrier even before the screen had softly clicked closed. Kagome stood still, eyes wide and obi dangling from her fingers, obviously mid-way through undressing for bed. He breathed in her scent and it soothed him; it confirmed all of the decisions he had made about her. She was his. He would claim her. She would be his mate and bear his pups. They would be hanyou, and stronger than any others. He wondered if they might develop a resistance to purification, and put that aside for further contemplation as well.

“I, ah-” Her embarrassment was abruptly replaced with irritation. “What are you doing in here? I am trying to change!”

“I was not aware that miko had such power.” He deliberately misunderstood her, and waited with a contented sort of anticipation for her reaction. “What sort of form do you change to? It cannot be as pleasing as this one, but I would see it regardless.”

“Why, you- I-” Her face grew red again, but he was unable to discern if it was from modesty or anger. He enjoyed the peppery spice in her scent. “I can’t change into anything, you nut!”

“Nut? Is this a term from your era? I do not understand what-”

“You’re completely crazy! Do you even listen to yourself? You think you can just barge in here and- and-”

“Converse?” He suggested helpfully.

“Arrgh!” Her growl did strange things to the hairs on the back of his neck. And other parts of his anatomy. “You are so frustrating! It is like talking to a mental patient.” He opened his mouth to goad her again, but she beat him to it with clenched teeth. “I am trying to tell you, you can’t be in here, not while I am trying to undress.”

“You do not wish me to see your nudity,” he said calmly. Her face reddened again and she nodded in a strangled sort of relief. He almost smiled. “Has it changed in some way since this morning? You have said you did not have the power to-”

“Sesshomaru-sama,” she interrupted him sweetly. The daiyoukai was enjoying himself too much to take any notice of her dangerous tone. Pink sparks crackled along her fists. “Get out or I’ll -” She broke off abruptly with a sound of agony. He was at her side in an instant, holding her against his chest as she sank to the floor. “Oh, it hurts!” She panted, her eyes squeezed tightly shut.

Sesshomaru reached out with his youki, desperate to understand and stop her pain. Her body seemed fine, but her reiki was curled in on itself like an injured animal. It snapped at him when he approached, drawing another mewl from the miko. With the smallest amount of power he could manipulate, he wrapped it around her energy. The second time, her reiki responded, turning into him and burrowing against him seeking warmth and protection. Her power was far beyond the exhausted state he had encountered after her session with Aki. She had over-used it. Like prey that runs until it is weakened, and then goes on until it is crippled, she had pushed her powers beyond its limit until it would require significant rest to recuperate. Perhaps even more than that. He settled her on the futon, her legs folded to her chest and her head and shoulder leaning against him.

“You have damaged yourself. I instructed you not to use your reiki.” He recalled the brief moment earlier that day when he had felt her power. His instinct had been to go to her, but he ignored it as his senses told him she was physically well. Physically, not spiritually. His jaw tightened and he berated himself for not caring for her properly. She would be his mate. He could not allow anyone to damage her. Not even herself.

“My temper,” she whimpered. “Mama always says it will get me into trouble. I thought she meant detention. I didn’t think it would hurt so-” He stopped in the act of standing when she clutched at his clothing. “Please, don’t go, it hurts less when you-”

“Hush,” he smoothed his hand across her hair. “My youki will stay, I wish only to remove my boots.” He had to pry her fingers from his collar, and she still made sounds of distress as he stood and toed off his boots. He quickly divested himself of everything but his pants as well, determining that she would be reluctant to let him go again to make himself more comfortable. As he was reluctant to leave her.

He knelt next to her, and seized her small hands when she would have latched onto him again. Her whimper shot straight through his chest. He should have taken her personally from the springs to her room. He would not fail her again. He loosened the ribbons tying her kimono closed and she made no protest as he slid it from her shoulders. He reached for the ties of her inner kimono and she finally balked.

“Sesshomaru?” she whispered.

“You should be comfortable. You need to rest.” She still smelled anxious, although it was difficult to scent under the fear and pain. “And you are wrinkling your kimono,” he added in the calmest voice he could manage.

“Oh, yes, please help…” She moved her arms to try and assist him, but her motions were more of a hindrance. Her sandals and socks had already been removed, and he was reluctant to sort through the strange braid of her hair, so he pulled her into his lap and tossed her two kimono on top of his own. “The wrinkles -” she protested weakly.

“Hush,” he soothed her again. Carefully, he lay down on her futon, holding her close to his chest. She refused to unfold her legs, and if it eased the pain he was not going to force her. Instead, he lay down with her tucked between his chest and his arm. He pulled a light blanket and arranged mokomoko over top of them.

As his body heat seeped in to her and his claws traced lightly up across her spine, he stroked her reiki as well. Slowly, he added additional tendrils of his own power, cradling the bruised pink light in a thickening web of youki. He smelled it when her pain eased to a manageable level and her spirit relaxed against him, relying on his energy to support and comfort it. He tucked a stray hair behind her ear and traced the line of her jaw. “You must not use your reiki again until I know you are completely healed.”

“It was just for a moment,” she whispered against his chest. “I just wanted to show that jerk I wasn’t helpless.” His beast raised its head at the mention of the ‘jerk’ but he set the potential for a rage-induced disemboweling aside. He could find the one responsible later. The miko needed him now.

“You are never helpless. I am here.”

“You won’t always be, Sesshomaru. If I depend on you to fight my battles, what will I do when you’re not around anymore?” He wanted to reprimand her for even considering that they would be parted. He would not allow it.

“I will always protect you,” he responded instead. She hummed noncommittally and yawned. He listened through the one-way barrier as Rin slid open her screen and approached Inuyasha. They spoke in hushed tones for a moment about Sesshomaru’s location and Inuyasha’s pending departure. The girl should be in bed. He began a rumbling vibration in his chest, something he remembered his father doing, a very, very long time ago, to soothe an injured pup. She yawned again and pressed her face into his skin, breathing in his scent and leaving her own in return.

“I am sorry for being such a burden, Sesshomaru. You-” she yawned again, “you brought me here to help, and you have spent so much time watching out for me.”

“It is my duty.” A sharp jab to his reasoning skills, something rude that felt an unfortunate amount like Inuyasha, reminded him that she was more independent and required more reassurance than most females. “My choices are my own, Kagome.”

She was breathing softly, deeply, and he wasn’t sure if she had heard him. Her reiki was resting, encased in his own power. He was surprised he had managed to push his powers so deeply inside her with no real effort or thought, and little resistance on her part. The miko was asleep. He pressed his lips to her forehead and closed his own eyes, realizing with a reluctant smile that she had managed to avoid a discussion on his intentions, as well as the repercussions of her actions with mokomoko. The miko was truly unique, and her challenges were part of her appeal.

He listened to Rin and Inuyasha, speaking of nothing and wasting time that the girl would have better spent sleeping. I told her to go to bed. He wondered briefly, as he inhaled sweet magnolias and drifted into a light doze, if Rin’s exposure to the miko would not make Kagome more biddable, but instead make Rin less so.

Chapter 14: Passing Notes

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