Summary: When the gang finds an injured Kikyou in the woods one day, their group temporarily expands.
A/N: Just so we're all on the same page: This story is going to feature positive Inuyasha/Kikyou interactions, so if that's absolutely not your cup of tea, please feel free to skip this one. For everyone else, I'll try my best to throw in plenty of nice Inuyasha/Kagome moments and Kagome/Kikyou bonding. I would love to hear your thoughts, so please leave some reviews!
Disclaimer: Everything "Inuyasha" related is owned by Rumiko Takahashi. No copyright infringement intended.
The last spring breeze of the day moved through a patch of colorful flowers as a miko walked her lonely path. Kikyou paused for a moment and tilted her head towards the setting sun, eyes closed. Although she couldn't feel its warmth anymore, she did take comfort from its gentle light: on days like this, her solitude seemed to be a little easier to bear. Around the miko, her shinidamachu circled, carrying the glowing souls of deceased women with them. Eventually, the women forced her eyes open and gripped her bow with resolve. As Kikyou made her way onwards, the trees around her grew thicker and the far away sounds of villages faded away until only the sound of the woods – creaking, chirping and the rustling of leaves – surrounded her. For a short amount of time, the miko passed through the woods undisturbed, youkai and animals alike staying out of her way. There seemed to be nothing out of the ordinary happening, and yet, a faint energy in the air had Kikyou proceed with caution. She couldn't pinpoint what this presence was: all the more reason to have her bow at the ready, her eyes searching the trees illuminated by the faint moonlight that managed to find its way through the massive treetops. There – was that a shadow right ahead of her moving around the branches? As Kikyou narrowed her eyes, something slinked down the trunk with fluid motions. The thing moved closer to her, and the miko could make out a cat-like shape with a grotesquely pointed face and elongated limbs. Swiftly, she readied her bow.
"Move if you wish to survive this night." Kikyou's voice was calm, dispassionate. From the creature – now she could sense its odd youki, familiar and strange at once - came a low snicker.
"It is not I who should fear for my survival, miko." The demon purred at her. "You seem to have made someone angry enough to wish you eradicated."
Kikyou's eyes widened. Naraku, she thought frantically, is this thing allied with him? And how… Her single moment of hesitation was enough for the creature to attack. Before Kikyou could raise her bow to swat it away, the demon sprang at her, slashing her chest with its claws and, coming down on the ground behind her, speeding off. Puzzled, the miko looked down at herself: the attack had left no visible wounds, not even her clothing was torn. Just as Kikyou wondered whether the demon had actually failed in its quest to kill her, she felt her body crack.
With a startled groan, the miko collapsed to the forest floor. Pain exploded behind her eyelids, and Kikyou could feel the souls draining from her body at an alarming speed, leaving her immobile. She clawed at the grass feebly, trying to pull herself back up. Overhead, the shinidamachu fluttered in panic, trying to gather up the souls that were floating away and drop them back into her body. To her horror, Kikyou realized that they wouldn't pass through the barrier of her clay skin: her vision blurred at the edges. More and more souls ebbed away.
I can't… I mustn't… Her eyes felt so heavy all of a sudden. By the time Kikyou's head hit the grass again, she was unconscious.
At home, Kagome would definitely have been scolded for staying up as late as she did tonight. Her eyes burned as she pushed her bike back to the village they were staying in for the night; it had taken almost the entire day to slay the group of demons she had managed to track down, and the tiny pieces of the shikon jewel they had to show for it didn't seem to be worth the effort. Looking to her side, Kagome could see that Miroku and Sango were just as grimy and exhausted as she felt – only Inuyasha walked ahead of them briskly, seemingly unaffected by the strains of the day. Kagome didn't know if she envied or admired him more in that moment.
"I'm so tired." Shippo, who was clinging onto her neck like a monkey, whined. The young girl brought up her hand to stroke his tail soothingly.
"We're almost at the village." Kagome said, trying to comfort him. Sleepily, Shippo climbed down her shoulder and into her bike's basket, where he promptly dozed off. Kagome shook her head, smiling; with a few steps, she had caught up to the hanyou.
"You holding up okay?" Even though the words were said gruffly, Kagome could still detect the care behind them, and her lips curved up into a small smile as she nodded.
"Fine. I'll just be glad to finally get some sleep…" Suddenly, Inuyasha froze beside her, his nose turned up to the wind. His nostrils flared.
"Inuyasha? Is everything alright?" Kagome asked, looking up at him with concern. Then, the look in his eyes changed: immediately, the girl knew whose scent the hanyou had caught. The back of her neck began to tingle in alarm.
"Kikyou… she should be moving." Inuyasha muttered more to himself. "And there's something else… A weird youkai scent."
"You think she's in trouble?" To say Kagome had mixed feelings about the miko would be more than an understatement, but that didn't mean she wanted her injured. Inuyasha hesitated before nodding slowly. Squaring her shoulders in determination, Kagome took a deep breath.
"Then we should go and find her."
In other circumstances, the surprise on Inuyasha's face might have been funny. Kagome's heart did a little flip in her chest as the surprise melted away into a smile of genuine thankfulness. I can be reasonable, Kagome thought, returning the smile. Behind her, Miroku and Sango frowned in confusion as the hanyou turned on his heel and ran for the nearby woods.
"What's gotten into him?" Sango asked as they followed suit, keeping pace easily on Kirara's back.
"It's Kikyou… Inuyasha thinks something might have happened to her." While Kagome tried to keep her face neutral, the taijiya curled up her lip in distaste.
"Here we go again…" Sango said under her breath, but she still urged Kirara to go faster when she heard Inuyasha cry out in the distance. When the group caught up with the hanyou, they found him with the body of the miko cradled in his arms, hovering over her protectively. Kagome's heart ached, taking in his wide-eyed worried expression, before sternly telling herself to focus. This was not the time for jealousy. She approached the pair with caution, while the others stayed back, watching the scene with concern.
"Is she…?" Kikyou was as still as a doll, her shinidamachu still circling anxiously overhead. Instinctively, Kagome felt a tug of pity tug at her center.
With effort Inuyasha tore his gaze away from the woman in his arms. "Her body's not taking in the souls. I don't know what's wrong with her…" It was rare to hear even a hint of panic in the hanyou's voice, but now it was impossible to miss. He held the miko so tight that his knuckles turned white. Slowly, so as not to startle him, Kagome knelt in the grass beside him.
"May I take a look?" She asked gently. As Inuyasha angled himself so that she could move closer, the girl could see pulsing purple slashes running across her chest. She inhaled sharply.
"There's something… glowing. On her chest." Kagome explained at Inuyasha's bewildered expression. His frown only deepened
"I don't see anything."
"Really? It's right there-" Just as Kagome reached out and touched one of the slashes, several things happened: she felt a searing pain rip through her – and the slash began to fade away. Kagome yelped in surprise, scrambling backwards.
"Kagome!" Still holding on to Kikyou with one arm, the hanyou leapt forward used the other to support her. "Are you okay?"
The girl gave a shaky nod. "I was just… I think I can help her." With her legs still trembling, Kagome moved back to Inuyasha's side and splayed out her hand on the miko's chest. This time, she expected the pain, and bore it through gritted teeth. Beads of sweat formed on her temples; slowly, so slowly, the first gash closed. A shinidamachu floated by, dropping a glowing soul sphere down to its mistress – Kagome could hear Inuyasha's quiet sigh of relief when the soul settled inside of Kikyou's body. Breathing heavily, Kagome sat back on her legs, her hands shaking.
"It's too… too much at once. I can't close all of the wounds now." She gasped. "I'm sorry…"
"It'll have to be enough." Inuyasha's eyes were burning. "Please…"
The always diligent shinidamachu kept pushing souls at Kikyou until she, finally, opened her eyes. "Inu… Yasha…?" The miko's voice was brittle. Gently, Inuyasha raised a clawed hand to push a few strands of night-black hair away from her face; Kagome decided to ignore the small sting in her heart.
"Don't talk too much, Kikyou. You're hurt." He told her in an unusually soft voice. The miko struggled to raise her head.
"I can't… move… I need… souls…" Kikyou forced the words out with effort. Suprising both her and herself, Kagome put a soothing hand on the woman's shoulder. Their eyes met, and for once, there was no animosity between them. Kikyou stilled.
"Your body took some damage." Kagome explained. "I think I can heal you, but it will take some time." A flicker of resignation passed over the miko's face before she inclined her head in acknowledgement. She trusts me with this, the girl realized, I won't let her down. In silence, Kagome and Inuyasha exchanged a look – and came to the same conclusion. The hanyou looked down at his former love.
"Kikyou… I think it's best if you stay with us for a while."