InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Possession ❯ Eight ( Chapter 8 )
[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]
Ten Years Earlier
The storm woke her with a loud crash of thunder and a violent flash of lightning. Kagome sat up, clutching her battered sleeping bag to her chest and wishing her heart wouldn't pound so frantically. It's just a storm, she told herself. Nothing to be afraid of…just a storm.
The rain pounded on the roof and Kagome eyed the ceiling warily, wondering if it was going to start leaking. It had leaked a little bit the last time it had rained and Kagome herself had fixed it, tired of the annoying drizzle that had dampened the floor. She was rather proud of her handiwork and felt a sort of satisfaction that she could accomplish such things on her own.
Her first instinct had been to ask for help, maybe plead with one of the village men to show her the right way to bind the roof of the tiny hut. Luckily she'd come to her senses before doing something so foolish. The last thing she needed was for him to come home and smell the presence of another male.
There was a rustle at the tattered mat that served as a door for her home. "Kagome?" a small voice asked into the darkness. "Are you awake?"
"Shippou," she answered, grateful for his presence and his concern. She opened her arms, letting the young kitsune snuggle close to her. Since Inuyasha wasn't here, it was all right for them to hug. He'd gotten strangely possessive about that, although how he could see the small fox as a threat or a rival was beyond her comprehension.
It was just Shippou, the same Shippou they'd met on the side of the road, an orphaned fox demon who had adopted her and Inuyasha both as a surrogate family.
Now Inuyasha growled menacingly when Shippou came near, like he hated the idea of anyone touching her however innocent it might be. Whenever he reappeared after one of his long absences, the first thing he did was sniff her all over, testing to see where she'd been and whom she'd been with. Then he'd ask her, expecting her to tell him the truth and half hoping she'd lie.
Kagome knew better than to lie. And what was the point? She had nothing to hide.
"Are you hungry?" she asked, stroking the fox's soft hair. "Do you want me to make you something to eat?" She had food. Inuyasha was good about that at least. He might not choose to stay with her for long but at least he seemed to understand that Kagome wasn't entirely able to provide for herself. It would be wrong of her to depend on the village, although Kaede invited her to take whatever she needed from her garden.
The old woman also invited her to come and eat with her whenever she wished, but more and more Kagome didn't like going to the village. The stares and murmurs were just unbearable. She knew what they thought. Before they'd seen her as a priestess, an odd sort of priestess, but one just the same.
Now they just looked at her and Kagome didn't have to hear their words to know what they were thinking. Demon's bitch, demon's whore. She was to be feared and reviled because Inuyasha had become everything they hated.
Shippou shook his head. "I'm not hungry. I just came because I know how much you hate the storms. I couldn't sleep thinking that you were all alone and afraid."
Tears sprang to her eyes at that and she smiled as she hugged him close. "You're a good friend, Shippou. I don't know what I'd do without you."
"You'd be bored," he answered, a small twinkle in his dark green eyes. That made her smile even more. Shippou had been traumatized by Miroku and Sango's deaths as well; he missed them as dearly as she did. When she and Inuyasha had returned from their final battle with Naraku, the small fox had been almost hysterical with relief to see them walk into the village.
"You're back," he bawled and flung himself into Kagome's arms. Inuyasha had growled and moved swiftly to intercept, swatting Shippou away.
"Inuyasha!" she cried, picking up the stunned fox. "What's wrong with you?"
"I don't like him throwing himself at you all the time," the hanyou turned full demon had snarled. "He should just back off, damn it."
Shippou looked angry. "You don't tell me what to do," he said, clutching at Kagome. Shippou squealed when Inuyasha snatched him up by his tail, tearing him out of Kagome's arms and ignoring her protests. He shook the fox like a doll until the squealing sound died away, leaving the frightened kitsune staring at him.
"You have stripes on your face," Shippou said, sounding shocked. "Your smell is different too."
"No shit," Inuyasha hissed. "Even a runt like you should know what that means."
Shippou knew. As soon as Inuyasha dropped him, he ran like the scared forest creature he'd been when they'd first encountered him. Kagome watched him run away and turned an accusing glare on Inuyasha. "What's wrong with you?" she demanded, her hands on her hips. "You didn't have to scare him like that, Shippou was probably worried sick about us."
"I don't care," he answered sullenly. "Just tell him to keep away from me if he knows what's good for him. And he'd better stop climbing all over you. It makes me sick."
"Since when?" she asked derisively.
Really, the childish rivalry between them was ridiculous. They vied for her attention like two competing siblings and it had always annoyed her, grated on her nerves the way Inuyasha bullied the little fox. But Inuyasha had been protective of him as well, like a big brother who didn't know how to demonstrate affection other than with insults and jibes.
Now something had changed in his eyes and Inuyasha looked dangerous. Kagome took a step back as he closed in on her.
"Since always," he said coldly. "You tell him not to push me, Kagome. You tell him that if you don't want him to get hurt."
Inuyasha would hurt Shippou? At the time, she hadn't believed it, hadn't wanted to see what he was really becoming. Now she knew better and so did the kitsune. He kept his distance from Inuyasha, and kept his distance from Kagome whenever the youkai was near. Kaede had stepped in and offered to let Shippou stay with her, for that Kagome was grateful.
Still, something had changed inside the merry little fox; he grew tense and wary, spending more time alone in the forest than in the village, only seeking her out when he was sure that Inuyasha was nowhere nearby.
The thunder crashed and Kagome jumped. She told herself she wasn't afraid of the storm, but she had never liked loud noises. Just to give herself something to do, Kagome lit a fire in the small hearth and started to heat some water. It wasn't much, but at least she could make them some tea and offer Shippou a little of her leftover fish from dinner. She worried that he wasn't eating enough, although she told herself that was just silly.
Shippou could take care of his own needs. Just like she could.
She had just put a cup in his hands when a particularly loud crash of thunder shook the small hut. Shippou jumped into her arms at the sound, shaking like a leaf and she held him as tightly as she could manage. "Everything is okay," she soothed, stroking his hair. "The storm will be over soon."
They were both splattered with water when Inuyasha suddenly entered the hut, flinging aside the mat violently. He stared at them for a moment before shaking himself, sending more water flying around them. His eyes glittered when he saw the fox in her arms and a predatory smile spread across his face.
"What are you here for, runt?"
Shippou didn't answer, just trembled against her. Kagome could feel his heart pounding and disgust filled her that it was Inuyasha who inspired so much fear. "He just came to see if I was okay," she said. "He knows how much I hate thunderstorms."
Inuyasha hesitated, calculation in his eyes. "Okay," he said at last, like he was debating about something. "I guess that's all right with me."
"It is?" Kagome couldn't help it; she was surprised by his easy acceptance.
She'd expected him to order Shippou away, say something vicious and hurtful. Inuyasha was gone more often than not, running wild across the countryside. Probably killing things left and right, attacking whatever was unlucky enough to cross his path. He flopped down on the floor and smiled at her.
Her fingers tensed on Shippou for a moment, wanting to tell him to go to hell, but she didn't dare provoke him. Not with Shippou around to bear the brunt of his temper. Silently, she put her kitsune friend aside and went to sit near him, not touching him but easily within reach. Inuyasha just grunted and pulled her into his lap, nuzzling her as he wrapped his arms around her.
"I missed you," he said, his voice rough with desire.
Kagome's face felt like it was on fire, she was blushing so hard from the shame of having him act like this in front of Shippou. Inuyasha's breath was hot in her ear. "Say you missed me too, Kagome."
"I missed you," she said, hating him for the way he made her feel. She pulled away from him, squirming out of his lap.
"Can I make you something to eat?" she asked lamely.
Inuyasha yawned and shook his head. "Nope. Not hungry for food." She felt him watching her as she went through the motions of tidying up the small space. It was eerie, so quiet. Kagome felt anxiety fluttering in her chest like a trapped bird desperate for escape.
"Hey Shippou," she said brightly. "I still have some crayons, would you like to draw?"
The little fox hesitated for moment before answering her. "Yes," he said in the softest voice she'd ever heard.
Inuyasha snorted to himself and stretched out on the thin futon that served as her bed. "Isn't this nice?" he asked, his voice husky and teasing. "All three of us together just like a little family."
"Inuyasha," she said warningly, not liking the way his tone was thick with dark amusement.
"Kagome," he mocked her with her own name. "It's true, we are like a family. Isn't that right, Shippou? Kagome always took care of you, babied you. That must make her like your mother in some ways, even if she's not a kitsune. Since I'm screwing her that would make me your father. Is that what you want, is that why you keep coming back?"
His words stayed light and teasing, but she couldn't help but feel the hurt behind them and Kagome felt tears standing in her eyes. "Don't do this to him," she whispered pleadingly. "Just let him alone, Inuyasha. He's never done anything to you."
"Oh, he's played his little tricks, don't you remember that? I remember it very well."
Kagome sat down next to Shippou and put her arm around him. He was tense like he expected to run for his life. "Are you trying to scare him, Inuyasha?" she asked quietly.
He rolled on his side to face them, his head propped on his fist propped on his fist as he studied her face. The tension was unbearable; she could feel Shippou trembling under her arm.
"Are you?" she asked again.
Something changed in his eyes, it looked almost like shame. With a grunt, he rolled on his back again and closed his eyes. "Nah, I was just teasing. Just keep your yammering down. I'm tired and I want to sleep."
It was a long evening. Kagome and Shippou listened to the rain splatter against the roof, quietly playing games and drawing with Kagome's worn crayons. Finally, she felt so tired she just couldn't keep her eyes open and tucked a worn blanket around the tired little fox. Inuyasha has been silent this whole time, but she really didn't think he was sleeping either.
At least he was being civil, she thought gratefully.
After putting Shippou to bed and even daring to press a swift kiss on his forehead, Kagome reluctantly went to lie down next to Inuyasha. He didn't acknowledge her or even notice that she slipped in next to him. Kagome pulled her sleeping bag around her shoulders and curled up, not touching him and closed her eyes.
This wasn't so bad, it wasn't bad at all. She could almost pretend that Inuyasha was back to his old self. It felt good having Shippou with them. Maybe the kitsune could start spending more time around her now. Maybe Inuyasha would be gentler with Shippou around and start to remember what things had been like for them when they all relied so much upon each other.
She must have dozed off. The next thing she knew, Inuyasha's hands were slowly moving down her body, caressing her waist and hips. She caught her breath as Inuyasha's mouth ran down the side of her neck and his tongue traced the shell of her ear.
"Maybe he doesn't think of you as his mother after all, Kagome," he whispered intimately. "Shippou is a demon. You might treat him like a fuzzy little toy, but he's really a demon and he understands me better than you think."
She shuddered at the menacing tone of his voice and tried to pull away but he gently tugged her back, breathing into her hair. "Think about it," he whispered, his hands moving lower, rubbing the sides of her legs, and making the skin warm to his touch.
"He's almost as possessive about you as if you were his mate, he wants to protect you from me. He's too young to challenge me for you and he knows he'd lose. That's why he clings to you and pretends that he thinks he's your kit. It's the best he can get from you and he knows it."
"You're sick," she muttered, cringing away from him at the idea.
"Ask him," Inuyasha said, still smiling against the back of her neck like it was the greatest joke in the universe. "Ask him sometime how he really feels about you. Ask him what he's thinks about when he sees me touching you."
She wouldn't ask, he already knew that. Inuyasha's claws dug into her legs, prying her thighs apart. She twisted in his grasp, suddenly desperate to stop him. "No, don't. Not in front of..."
He laughed and turned her face back to where Shippou had been sleeping. "He's already gone, run away like the little runt he is. He waited until you fell asleep, I guess he didn't want to stick around and watch me fuck you."
Kagome suddenly felt rage flare to life inside her. She'd had enough. Roughly, she pushed him away, shoved his hands away from her skin. "Is this fun for you? Do you like hurting me, hurting Shippou? I swear I don't even know who you are anymore!"
Inuyasha grinned at her. "Hurting you? You should see the look on your face, Kagome. If you had claws, you'd tear me apart right now. Go on, say you want to hurt me back."
At her silence, he leaned back and looked contemplative before offering her a dark smile. "I bet you'd really like to sit me, wouldn't you?"
"Sit you?" she echoed, shocked. "I can't sit you, the rosary..."
"Is gone, I know," he said, licking his lips. "Say it anyway. I want you to."
"No," she snapped. He growled playfully at her and grabbed her by the arms, pinning her to the floor in one swift movement. He held her wrists and stared down at her face. She twisted against his hold; it was futile as they both knew where this was going. Inuyasha nuzzled her chest; she could feel his hot tongue through the thin fabric of her shirt and gasped in spite of herself.
She felt him laughing at her. "If I'm such a bastard, then why do you like it so much?"
"No," she breathed, defying him again. She bucked against him, but he was too strong. He was always too strong.
"You know you want it," he murmured into her breasts, his hands moving over her skin and teasing reaction from her with the lightest touch of his claws. Kagome shivered and couldn't answer when he pushed up her shirt and gently sucked at her nipples until she wanted to scream.
He made her legs quake with his touch, he made her twist and writhe helplessly. Kagome shattered and broke, crying out hoarsely as she pulled his hair, his mouth covered hers made it hard for her to breathe. She was going to pass out, she was going to die and she didn't even care. His movements rocked her relentlessly until her hips and shoulders cried out from the strain.
Ruthless, he held her on the edge, threatening to push her over and let her drown. He abandoned her and left her broken; he claimed her pieces for his own.
"Say it," he said, his voice slurred and drunken against her throat. He shifted and heard her suck in a deep breath, her body shuddering under his, teetering dangerously on the brink as he pushed himself deep inside. "Say you want me, Kagome. Say that you love me, I want to hear you say it."
She was panting now, she couldn't catch her breath. His hands and mouth were wreaking havoc on her weak body. She felt exposed and forlorn, completely at his mercy now. He was going to make her scream for him tonight. He liked the absolute control it gave him, this twisted dominance over her body and spirit. Every time he made love to her, he stole a little piece of her soul.
There wasn't any Kagome left anymore, she'd given it all away and arched her back, screaming for him as he drove his body against hers in an overwhelming tide of urgent demand.
"Say it." His fang dipped low to graze her breast. She had no more defenses.
He growled at her wordless cries. "I said say it, Kagome. Say you love me!"
She whimpered the words into his chest, his sweat mixing with her tears. Her thighs ached from holding him so hard. Finally, he shuddered and shoved her hard into the futon, heedless of the bruises his hands left on her arms. As he relaxed, he rolled to the side while holding her tight against him in a possessive embrace. Kagome just bowed her head against his shoulder and cried until she fell asleep.
The gun barrel came up, leveled at her face. She couldn't see Scott's expression, all she could see was the pistol as its aim wavered between her eyes.
"No, please," she whispered.
The flash of the muzzle, the stench of gunpowder in the air. This time she wasn't fast enough, she couldn't move out of the way. Instead of ducking, feeling the piercing pain as the bullet grazed her arm, its force struck her directly. It pierced her temple, shattered the delicate bones of her skull and buried deeply in her brain. She fell limply to the floor, dying and bleeding as she stared up at Scott. Her vision faded away just as she saw that his hair had turned silver and flowed down over his shoulders in a molten cascade.
I'll kill us both before I let you get away.
She sat up gasping, her hand pressed hard to her chest. The dream had been so real; she'd honestly forgotten that she was lying on a dusty, dirty floor of a dilapidated hut. The dream was too real, too awful. Kagome shuddered violently and then shook her head hard, trying to clear her mind.
"It was a dream," she said aloud, wanting to hear her own voice. "Just a nightmare."
She felt stiff from sleeping on the floor and looked outside to see the sun was high overhead. I guess I didn't sleep that long, she told herself. At least it's still only around noon. But what did it matter what time it was? She was just as trapped, trapped in the past with no way home and gods only knew what was waiting for her outside.
She looked down at the blood crusting the fabric of her robe to her skin and knew that she had to at least try to clean the wound. This was no time to let it get infected. Not when she was hundreds of years in the past and antibiotics a fond memory of the future.
Shaking her head again, Kagome forced herself to get to her feet and start taking inventory of her surroundings. She had been despairing before, but she wasn't about to let this beat her. She could take care of herself, she was determined to survive and get back to her real life.
If only for the sole reason of making sure that Scott did not escape the consequences of what he'd done to her. Her dear ex-husband might be thinking he'd finished her off, but Kagome Higurashi wasn't about to let him have the last word.
A quick inventory of the small hut yielded dismal results. Kaede seemed to have left in a hurry, but there wasn't much left behind. Kagome knew she couldn't use the herbs that had been left in their containers. She knew they were too old to have retained any of their useful properties. She wanted to make a poultice for her arm and realized that she would have to collect the fresh herbs on her own.
At least there was still a bit of firewood and Kagome was proud when she had no difficulty starting a tiny fire. The wood was musty and it smelled like a family of mice had been living in the hearth. She couldn't find any tools left behind in Kaede's hut and although it would have been nice to have something useful like a blade or a bowl, she took heart of the fact that so many things were missing.
Perhaps Kaede had escaped Inuyasha's attack on the village. Escaped and regrouped, taking her possessions with her to move to some safer place. She liked that idea a lot, it gave her hope and she wished for it to be true.
Kagome found a cracked shallow bowl that she could fill with water and place over the coals. This meant a walk down to the river but she needed to have some water to tend her shoulder. There was just no help for it.
Calm down, woman, she told herself firmly. It's broad daylight and the river isn't far. You just have to grab a bucket and make it quick. No one is going to jump you; no one even knows you're here.
Telling herself that she was panicking for no good reason, Kagome found the required bucket lying on the ground just outside Kaede's stoop. She picked it up and hurried down the path. It was just as overgrown as the path from the well had been and Kagome cursed her bare feet and the sharp stones in her path. There had to be a spare set of sandals somewhere in this ruin of a village. She wasn't sure she could fashion her own and just kept her fingers crossed as yet another rock lodged itself in the tender surface of her left sole. Damn it!
The river was exactly the same as she remembered and she scolded herself for thinking that it would be any different. How many times had she sat on its banks? How many times had she dipped her tired feet into the cooling water and splashed playfully at her friends? Now she filled her bucket and forced her mind away from those good memories. They couldn't help her now and she had to be practical if she wanted to survive.
The water bucket seemed heavier than it should be; she had to use both hands and considered that there was no reason to fill it so full. It would have been easier to carry if she'd just filled it half way. That would have been enough water for her to wash in. Kagome was studiously not thinking of food at this point but she guessed Kaede's garden might be her best bet.
And there were fish in the river, although she was not optimistic about her skill in catching them. She was a city woman; any fish she consumed came to her prepared neatly on a plate by the finest chefs. It had been forever since she'd had to prepare her own raw food. Just the idea of fish guts on her hands was making her queasy.
Kagome was preoccupied by her heavy bucket and also distracted by the idea of having to catch a fish to feed herself. She made her way slowly up the path, grumbling about how her manicure was going to be totally ruined. Her thoughts were selfish and superficial, but she understood herself well enough to realize that she was just trying to keep the panic at bay.
Utterly alone with no way to get home and no way to survive in a rough era, she was a woman alone without protection. What was to stop anyone from attacking her? Not just youkai, there were bandits, marauders. Kagome shuddered, knowing all too well the hazards that a lone woman could face. She would have to find a way home.
It was then that she noticed something was following her; her ears detected the faint rustling of foliage that had nothing to do with her footsteps on the overgrown path. She swallowed hard and told herself to ignore it. But she still made herself walk a little bit faster, her steps quick and determined.
She wasn't far from the village but the cluster of ruined buildings offered her little protection. When she heard the sound suddenly rustle louder as something fell in behind her, she didn't hesitate. She dropped her bucket and ran for her life.
Kagome blessed the fact that she had kept herself in shape. Even her sore ankle didn't slow her down as she raced down the path, her legs pumping wildly. She usually ran at least five to ten miles a day back in Honolulu, a lot of the time she ran uphill over natural terrain. She might not have much luck of defending herself against whatever pursued her, but she could sure as hell try to outrun it.
Instinct warned her and Kagome screamed and flung herself face down in the dirt, feeling her palms skidded almost raw. Just over her shoulder some kind of serpent beast had been aiming for her. She rolled to the side, desperate to get her legs under her. She remembered this part of life in this era.
You had to keep moving, if you stopped you were just dead meat. As long as you could keep your feet, you might have some kind of chance against whatever monster had decided to make you their lunch. She caught a frantic glimpse of black and green teeth in a raw red mouth. Suddenly something crashed into her side and she realized the beast wasn't stupid. It knew it had to knock her down to wrap those jaws around her body. She curled into a ball with a shriek and covered her head.
She heard it moving closer, could smell the stench of its breath as the gaping maw opened above her. So much for survival, she thought, screwing her eyes tightly shut and hoping it would quick. That was all she had left to hope for, she was out of options and no one was going to come to her rescue this time.
Kagome heard a shout, something leapt over her head and she rolled out of the way as the serpent oni struck. A slim body hurtled in front of her, drawing the strike away from her and springing high over her head. He was so fast he was a blur, Kagome couldn't make out the features of her rescuer but a quick strike of his claws opened the snake's body and dark blood gushed from the wound.
She didn't hesitate when she saw the mess pooling towards her. Kagome scrambled out of the way and promptly tripped over her own feet, falling hard on her ass in a clump of tall weeds.
"You stupid woman," a voice rasped harshly. "Don't you know demons are all over this area? What kind of idiot are you?'
Suddenly angry, she sat up, shoving weeds to the side as she struggled to get to her feet. "I didn't know it was there. I was just getting some water!"
"You were just about to get yourself killed, this territory is dangerous for humans."
Kagome yelped as a hard hand reached into the brush and grasped her wrist. She found herself unceremoniously yanked to her feet and stared at the youkai who rescued her. He was a beautiful young man, skin tanned to bronze with copper red hair that fell over his shoulder. His eyes were a dark, rich shade of green and fairly glittered with mischief. She started to pull away, not quite believing what she was seeing but the handsome young demon held her fast.
He stared down at her and seemed to be lost in a trance. His eyes roamed over her face, her hair and suddenly he yanked her closer and inhaled, his eyes going wide in recognition. "You can't be..." he whispered.
Kagome's lips started to tremble. He was older, he looked so different. But his eyes, his eyes were the same for all they were guarded and wary. There was no mistaking them.
"Shippou," she husked, hardly able to make her voice work.
He grabbed her shoulders and stared into her face. "Kagome...you can't be here. Am I just dreaming? Are you real?"
She'd thought he was dead. She'd resigned herself to it, believing his last heroic effort in saving her had cost him his life. Kagome remembered the manic fury in Inuyasha's face when he'd slammed the kitsune boy into a tree. She remembered the cruelty in his eyes as he'd savagely punched Shippou right in the face and then thrown him to the ground.
She hadn't known if he was alive or dead, she told herself over the years that he was almost certainly dead. And it was all her fault. Just like everything was always her fault.
"Kagome?" he said gently, smiling at her. "I missed you."
It was too much. With a desperate cry she flung her arms around the startled kitsune and sobbed into his chest. Shippou's arms wrapped around her and held her carefully as he rocked her back and forth, soothing her now as she had once comforted him when he was just a frightened orphan who had no where else to turn.
"And that's what happened," Kagome said, folding her hands in her lap and not meeting his gaze. She and Shippou were in Kaede's old hut, a small fire burning brightly. Shippou had half carried her back to the village; she was still too much in shock at seeing him again.
For once, Kagome was grateful to have someone else taking care of her. Shippou had built up the small fire, put the cracked bowl over the coals to heat some water for her. Then he'd found an oversized yukata to wrap around her like a blanket and even gone so far as to sweep out the worst of the dust and debris from the floor.
Now she sat and told him what had happened, the confrontation with Scott, the way she'd fallen down the well and how it had mysteriously opened for her.
"Your mate meant to kill you?" he asked, his voice hesitant and soft.
"Yes," she said, sighing in defeat. She wasn't about to tell Shippou why Scott had been such an obsessed lunatic, better that her friend think the attack was unprovoked. There was no way she could explain how twisted that relationship had been or how she had been every bit to blame for her part in it.
"I must have fallen just as he fired, that's why he only nicked my shoulder," she explained.
It felt so strange, so surreal to be sitting here in old Kaede's hut and talking to Shippou. Having guessed that he was dead, she'd never been able to visualize him as an adult. The young man who watched with those bright eyes couldn't be the same baby fox she'd cuddled and snuggled with. It didn't seem real.
But it was and his eyes were warm with concern for her. "Let me see," Shippou said softly. "You need to take care of that wound."
She turned her back to him, feeling the slight flush of embarrassment as Shippou's strong hands moved to slide her robe off her shoulder. She winced as the crusted scab was broken, smelling the faint coppery scent of fresh blood.
"Is it bad?" she asked, anxious.
"No," he answered soothingly. "It's not bad, not deep. Just grazed you, I'd say." Shippou's fingers gently prodded the skin around the wound, making her tense as the injury called attention to itself. "I'll just clean this for you," he said at last. "Then we'll cover it so that it doesn't get infected."
She expected him to get a cloth and the water that was warming over the fire. Kagome had even had a moment or two of apprehension, wondering if there was anything in the river water that might not be good in an open wound. She was ashamed to admit it, but she'd forgotten more than she remembered of Kaede's teaching.
Now she wasn't sure if she'd pick the right medicinal herbs to treat her own injury or inadvertently poison herself in the process. She was mulling over that thought when she felt something warm touch her shoulder.
Kagome jerked away, twisting to look at him. "W...what are you doing?"
Shippou cocked his head to the side. "Cleaning the wound," he said as if it was obvious enough. "Turn back around so I can see it."
She stared at him. "You licked me!"
"Yeah, so?" Shippou didn't seem to understand why she was surprised. Then he grinned. "Come on, Kagome. Youkai saliva makes wounds heal faster on humans. You knew that, right?" Gently, he pulled her back and licked at the dried blood again. Kagome shuddered.
"I must have forgotten," she muttered, not really remembering that little fact. His tongue ran over her skin, pulling gently at the edges of the wound. His breath was warm on her neck as he leaned in close, she could feel his hair tickling her cheek. Somehow the intimacy of his touch made her want to shiver in response, his hands were too warm and strong on her arms.
"Doesn't it taste disgusting?" she whispered, closing her eyes against the strange sensation.
"What's disgusting about it?" Shippou asked in a conversational tone. He might have been discussing the weather and Kagome realized with relief that he certainly saw nothing unusual or overly intimate about what he was doing to her. "Blood is just blood, pretty much all tastes the same."
Finished with cleaning her, he eyed the tattered remains of her robe. It was torn in several places from her fall down the well, not to mention her frantic run to evade the serpent oni. Fingering the fabric thoughtfully, he offered a grin.
"I don't think we've got anything better to use for a bandage."
Sighing, she shrugged it off and handed it over. Shippou made quick work of tearing strips from the soft cloth for her bandages. Kagome sat patiently while he wrapped her shoulder and was glad to have help. It would have been awkward work for her to do alone.
"Thank you," she said shyly when he finished.
Shippou laughed loudly, almost startling her. His laugh hadn't changed, only the timbre of his voice. "When I think of all the times you took care of me, it seems like the least I could do. I remember all the bandages you wasted on me, knowing I'd heal from those scratches overnight. I was a real pest."
"I never thought of you that way," she said in a soft voice. "It was important to me to take care of you, you didn't have anyone else."
He just stared at her until Kagome realized she was blushing and turned away. "I'm just happy that you're still alive. I've never been able to forgive myself for leaving you."
"Kagome," he began, reaching for her hands.
She stood up and folded her arms around her belly, trying to hold in the fearsome pain of it. "I thought I got you killed, Shippou."
"Don't," he said roughly. She glanced down at him, surprised by the fierceness in his gaze. "Don't you blame yourself for what he did."
"I can't help it," she murmured, tears standing in her eyes.
The kitsune got to his feet with a fluid movement, taking her gently by her arms and looking down at her. His eyes were greener than she remembered, Kagome thought, and found it very unsettling that the tiny youkai child she'd known now towered over her with the confidence of a strong young man.
"Don't you understand?" he asked, his expression intense with sincerity. "You were good, you were always so good. You were what held us all together; you kept everyone going when we wanted to give up. It wasn't your fault what happened to Inuyasha and you didn't deserve what he did to you."
She hated herself for what she asked next, hated herself for wanting to know, but the words came tumbling out of her mouth before she could stop them. "Do you know...is he still alive, Shippou?"
His hands fell away from her arms so slowly; he turned away and wouldn't meet her eyes.