New A/N: Okay, I moved into college, spent a loooooong time sorting out how to survive college, and came back to this chapter on a random whim-to find that no, I do NOT like the ending for it! OOC to the max... okay, here's the new, revised edition. Sorry for the hiatus... I promise I'm working on it!
Disclaimer: You know, if I really did own all these guys I don't know whether I'd be having so much fun making them twitch. So, no, not really. (The Point: I neither own nor profit from the characters, names, and settings below.) The title of this chapter stems from Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing (another most excellent read… or viewing, if you want to watch the movie instead), A5, S3. Don't either own I it.
A/N: Guess what? This's gonna be a long one! But it was such fun… yes, it's fluff. Kinda. You never can tell with these two… they're so much alike it's almost impossible to get them to do anything. But it's the Lucky Thirteenth Chapter, so hey, I got it done in record time! Gomen if it seems a little rushed… I got more ideas than I could handle while writing this.
Now, replies. medlii: —shrugs— Hey, if it works, use it… And I don't think I'm done with Kouga yet. He must be toyed with a bit more, I believe… —cackle with glee— Thanks for your feedback. . C.A.M.E.O.1 and Only: Hai, I told you they would! Just have faith. .
For this chapter, much thanks must go to TailFluffGirl, Niamh, and a whole bunch of other Sesshy writers out there for being so wonderfully creative with that pesky fluffy ice face and providing me with inspiration. (If you really want a laugh, read the Kurama arcs at the beginning and end of almost every chapter of Ithilwen K-Bane's This Can't Be Good. It features the aforementioned Ice Face—as portrayed by Niamh—in the last few parts… well, I laughed my ass off. Read the story too, it's wonderful.)
Okay, I'm done plugging… on with it.
Hands Against Hearts
Kagura really didn't know what to do.
Obviously the first thing on the list was to make sure Kouga didn't wake up anytime before the fast-approaching dawn, and that wasn't exactly hard—did all men sleep like rocks, or was it just a wolf youkai thing?—but it was the stuff that came after that was giving her trouble. What, for example, was she going to do about Rin? Or Sesshoumaru? Or the fact that whenever she thought about said dog demon her face turned red as a radish?
She made men dance for her even in death, but she had no experience with the hold a man could have over her—not this kind, the type that didn't come from power over 'd never had a crush. She'd been born from a fleshpot, for Kami-sama's sake. She didn't even have the excuse of genetics for these stupid 'hormones.' She hadn't known she'd had them until… well, Kouga if you wanted to get technical, but really it was Sesshoumaru who had first triggered them. This was new, unfamiliar, scary territory.
A faint whisper of a passing breeze twined around her like an affectionate kitten. She absently ran her fingers through it as it brushed against her face—then stiffened and darted glances everywhere, suddenly paranoid.
For a moment, she'd smelled him.
She made herself relax as Rin trotted through the underbrush to tug at her kimono sleeve. "Kagura-sama, Rin-chan would like to go back to the nest now."
Guilt—another feeling she wasn't familiar with—gnawed at Kagura. She'd left the girl to fend for herself for so very long, in a forest that wasn't known for its forgiving nature, because she had wanted a little fun with someone she didn't even like anymore. She combed her fingers through Rin's fine, dark hair. "All right, Rin. Did you have fun?"
"Hai, Kagura-sama." The little girl grinned happily. "Rin-chan made friends."
"Oh?" She smiled a little, wondering whether those 'friends' had taken well to captivity. Rin had a habit of creating names, lives, and (temporary) homes for most of the stray creatures that crossed her path. "Which friends did you find?"
"Shippou-kun and Hyakunan-kun."
The wind demoness blinked. "Odd names, Rin."
Rin shrugged. "Rin-chan didn't pick them."
Kagura had begun to suspect that these two weren't Rin's normal run of 'friends' when Rin glanced at something standing behind the woman, grinned, and waved. "Shippou-kun! Hyakunan-kun!" She tugged at Kagura's hand. "Kagura-sama, meet Rin-chan's friends!"
Kagura found herself turned around to be presented with two small boys, one a redheaded, green-eyed kitsune cub, one a green-haired, mismatched… youkai?
In any case, both were as pasty as rice pudding.
She nodded slightly to them, being polite for Rin's sake. From the obvious shock in their eyes, they'd have had the sense to keep out of her way under normal circumstances.
Wait… Her eyes narrowed. The kitsune looked familiar.
"Shippou-kun and Hyakunan-kun were playing with Inuyasha no baka and his friends," Rin chattered on. "They gave them a funny potion that made them yell and fight, and now they're trying to fix it."
That was where she'd seen the kitsune cub before. He was one of Inuyasha's little cadre. Now that she thought about it, this forest was part of Inuyasha's territory, wasn't it? Kouga had even mentioned something about the hanyou's miko—Kagome, that was it.
Eeegh. I cannot believe I did that, she winced inwardly, remembering her initial reaction to Kouga's mention of Kagome. …Why the hell did I behave like that? Another question she didn't have an answer to.
"Kagura-sama," Rin asked innocently, "where is Sesshoumaru-sama?"
She was about to reassure Rin that they would find Sesshoumaru soon—relatively—when a faint scent caught on a whiff of breeze screamed, Right behind you!
She whirled to find the inuyoukai staring at her from maybe ten meters.
This time there was no mistaking the effect he had on her: she wanted to laugh, yell, cry, freeze up, fall down, leap at him, maybe give him a few bruises—but she was glad to see him.
Worse, she thought she saw a flicker of something happy in his eyes.
How the FUCK did this happen?
"Kagura-sama?" Rin was tugging at her sleeve again. Belatedly she remembered that Rin still couldn't see Sesshoumaru or his servant. The wind charm suddenly seemed spiteful; she'd seen how Sesshoumaru behaved around Rin. She'd seen him do for her, without being told, tasks that he'd killed others for thinking about asking him. He behaved as though she were special, as if she could ask far more of him than anyone else—and he'd do it, for her.
Like he behaves around me…
This was making a hellish sort of sense. Kagura mechanically removed Rin's shield. "Over there, Rin."
Rin turned, saw her beloved inuyoukai, squealed, and pelted toward him. "Sesshoumaru-samaaaaaaaaaaa!"
The youkai lord gave one of his rarest almost-smiles as the little girl hugged his legs ecstatically. From him, that was as much as a hug that was never meant to let go. "Rin."
"Rin-chan missed you, Sesshoumaru-sama," she told him matter-of-factly, standing on his feet. "Did you have fun?"
Golden eyes lifted momentarily from the child's eager face, met briefly with crimson. Kagura wished dearly that she could've looked away, but those eyes were all she could see. "It was… educational, Rin."
She bristled at what he might have been implying, then abruptly let go of it. She might have made a comment like that and meant something by it, but it wasn't Sesshoumaru's style. He meant exactly what he said.
Shit. She half knew what he meant, but she didn't want to… but she did. This was not supposed to happen.
She wasn't supposed to love him. She wasn't free to love him…
She forced herself to maintain her cool. "Sesshoumaru."
One eyebrow lifted. "Not 'Fluffy'?"
She blinked. That couldn't have been… "Was that humor?"
Instant Ice Face. "No."
She knew better. And, suddenly, she felt better too. She tossed her head and drawled, "Well, then. The world isn't ending after all."
A slight upward tilt at the corners of his mouth, equivalent to an amused grin. "That seems accurate."
Then his eyes slid to where the two small boys were still frozen and watching. A distinctly annoyed note colored his tone. "What are they doing here?"
She raised her eyebrows. "Gawping like fish, of course. And you can wipe that exasperation right off, because I don't know why they're here any more than you do."
He pressed his lips together vexedly, after having opened them to correct her mutilation of his imprecise semantics. "Kitsune."
The redheaded boy jumped. "W-what?" he squeaked.
"What are you doing away from Inuyasha's protection?"
"Some protection," the other one muttered.
Jaken rounded on the not-youkai. "Sesshoumaru-sama was not addressing you, worm!"
The boy grinned, his mismatched eyes gleaming. "Aww, you mad 'cause I took your pink water?"
For reasons Kagura could not at all identify, Sesshoumaru was suddenly, vitally intent on the multicolored boy. The kid immediately realized something was wrong, and shrank back. "Um…"
"Pink water." There was deadly calm in the inuyoukai's voice. "What did you do with this… water?"
Kagura thought the better question would be why Sesshoumaru appeared to like pink so much. Or, failing that, why he was very studiously avoiding her quizzical gaze.
The green-haired boy was sweating. "Er…"
The taiyoukai may have been as still as stone, but no stone could have withstood the gaze he was leveling at both boys without melting. The kitsune cracked first. "He used it on Inuyasha and Miroku and now they're fighting and so're Sango and Kagome!"
From past experience Kagura knew of the taijiya and the houshi, and also that quarrels amongst the three humans and hanyou were not uncommon, especially considering the obvious connections between slayer and monk, and miko and hanyou. This, however, sounded different.
And why was Sesshoumaru looking… uncomfortable?
"They've fought before," Kagura noted cautiously.
"Not like this," the kitsune said, green eyes miserable. "It was s'posed to make Inuyasha and Kagome make up and not fight anymore, but it went wrong and got Miroku after Kagome and when we tried to fix it it went more wrong—"
"'After' her?" Kagura's eyes narrowed. Why did this sound remarkably familiar…?
"Like you and Kouga no baka, Kagura-sama," Rin, who had been watching all this with great interest, piped up helpfully. "They were very silly to watch."
Both adults winced visibly at the mention of Kouga. Kagura, however, made several extremely rapid connections, and came to a conclusion that pissed her off exponentially more with every second she thought about it.
"So the… pink water," she murmured slowly, "it causes… lust?"
Something in her voice appeared to scare the hell out of the two boys being questioned, but they both nodded.
"I see." She was perfectly calm. She was quite all right, really.
She exploded. "You did THAT to me?"
"I KNOW it was an idiotic idea!" Sesshoumaru barked back, apparently having braced himself for the storm.
"Then why the fuck did you DO THAT?" Love or not, she was good and ready to kill him. Preferably in a manner too painful for mortal minds to contemplate. "You made me—I was—you gave me the HOTS for KOUGA?"
"I didn't think you'd stoop to screwing ANIMALS!"
"You ASSHOLE! You had the NERVE to comment on my CHOICE in fucking partners!"
"It didn't HAVE to be him!"
"WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?"
"BECAUSE YOU TOOK RIN!"
That cured the brief spate of shrieking, but it did nothing for Kagura's temper. "This was nothing like the last time," she growled, the low tone more dangerous than roaring. "You knew I wouldn't hurt her."
His voice was raw, as if he wasn't used to screaming. "That is irrelevant." He closed his eyes. "I wanted her back."
Kagura looked at him, the wind quite suddenly and most definitely out of her sails, then looked down at Rin, wide-eyed and aghast that the wind demoness and her beloved Sesshoumaru-sama were fighting. The taiyoukai's clawed hand smoothed the little girl's hair repeatedly in a protective gesture even as he glared dully at his opponent.
Amber eyes told her everything: I would do anything for her.
"So I see," she whispered. He's so damn loyal… ah, shit a stick, I can't. I can't hate him for it.
He wasn't looking at her anymore. "It was not… meant to go so far."
"I don't suppose it was," she replied with a touch of her old asperity.
"Your anger is justified."
"I should bloody well think so!"
He gave her a dry look. "Does it upset you more that I manipulated you, or that I humiliated you?"
"Neither one is too appealing." It hurt more that you didn't trust me. Even if I didn't really expect you to.
"I will not say I did not mean to produce that effect."
She snorted. "You wouldn't be yourself if you hadn't." Lying and trickery comes so easily to us, ne? I got it from my bastard father, just like you got it from yours.
"No." She didn't like the way he seemed to be almost reading her mind at the moment. Or the consideration on his face. Where was the cold fish she'd always seen before? The impassive stick-up-the-ass demeanor had been replaced with a Sesshoumaru who refused to take his eyes off her.
She made a face, uneasy with his mood and expression. "You might have picked a better—"
"I chose nothing," he interrupted. "You ran across the wolf on your own."
"I was going to say 'locale,'" she remarked drily, "but while we're at it…" She really didn't want to think about that right now.
Even if he did squeak like a puppy when she—nope, still not gonna go there.
Does Se—nooo-OOO, not gonna go there either!
"I was under the impression that the wolf hated you for killing his pack." He appeared not to notice the rather distinct reactions she was having to her thoughts, for which she was profoundly grateful.
"So was I, actually." She frowned. "Either he's a lot more of a moron than I originally thought, or…" No. There was no 'or.' She was not going to do the 'or' thing.
Sesshoumaru did it for her. "Or you… convinced him."
She glared at him. "Oh, thanks."
His expression was too bland. "You are quite forceful, Kagura. Given his demonstrated mental capacity, I would be surprised if he were not persuaded by you."
Even if it had been given in Fluffy-speak, that was the first genuine compliment she'd ever received. She blinked, found herself coloring, and glared some more to cover it (it didn't work). And, damn it, she couldn't think of anything to say to that except—
"Thank you," she said finally, raising a sarcasm-heavy eyebrow to match her voice. "I think." She allowed herself a smirk. "'Forceful,' hm? Does this mean I could 'persuade' you, too?"
She'd said it to watch him squirm, to regain a little of her self-possession, but instead something flickered briefly in his eyes before he returned her gaze in deadpan. "I am nothing like the wolf."
Oh, she couldn't back down now—not now that he'd as good as challenged her. She allowed her smirk to slink into a full-blown suggestion. "No?" She drew out the syllable like something sweet and sticky that would be impossible to get out of your hair once in. Her gaze raked over him. "Maybe not the major parts, but… I think you have more in common than you realize." And make of that whatever the hell you will, Fluffy.
"If you mean that we both find you the most aggravating woman ever to plague the earth, I will concede the point," Sesshoumaru retorted.
She shrugged. "You were the one spending all your time on me," she shot back.
"You are time-consuming no matter what you do."
"Damn right I am," she smirked. Then nearly bit her tongue. Shit, I'm flirting! Somewhere along the line the flippant teasing had evaporated.
He looked at her for a long moment, and she matched him stare for stare, daring him to start the fight. Finally his mouth twitched, translating as a smile.
"So I see."
Oh, that's not fair, her subconscious complained as every nerve in her body blinked and shook its head, trying to figure out what had hit it. The rest of her stared wide-eyed at the inuyoukai, not believing he had just said that.
"You have insulted me, stolen from me, defied me, humiliated me, and challenged me. You have run me around in circles. You have forced me to admit to things that would otherwise never leave my thoughts. You have made me lose my temper, my dignity, my charge and possibly my mind," he told her calmly. "Have you anything to say for yourself?"
She clutched at her pride like a drowning sailor's life raft, and managed a bit of a smirk. "You can't lose a mind that's already lost, Fluffy."
He made an exasperated noise. "You have never been serious in your life."
"Probably not." Except seriously shitfaced ass-over-nose in love with you, gods damn it all. And you will never get me to admit to oh holy shiiiiiiiit—!
He was standing way too close way too fast. As in nearly-face-plant-into-his-chest close. As in close enough to count his eyelashes. As in close enough to feel his breath on her face…
He stopped there, just out of reach. She could have skinned him. "It is beyond my understanding why you refuse to leave me alone."
She could have skinned him with a rusty knife. "Like hell. I wasn't the one doing the chasing." And whose fault was that, hm? "For someone who can't stand me, you're pretty damn persistent."
"Am I to understand that you cannot tolerate me?"
With a rusty pitchfork. "Don't sound so surprised, 'Lord-High-Everything-Of-All-I-Survey'-sama. Just because you're tall, strong, and handsome—"
His entire face twitched. "Handsome?"
Forget skinning. Stabbing. "It goes with the other two."
Ripping. "You're an ass."
Ripping all his clothes. "Arrogant, stubborn, controlling, self-righteous, vain, smug—"
"Don't forget 'fluffy'."
OFF. "—bastard," she breathed after several moments, those having been taken up by a short, forceful kiss she'd had to stand on tiptoe to deliver properly.
She immediately wondered, What the hell was that?
Fucking GREAT, that's what!
She looked up at him, paralyzed, wondering what this meant and whether she'd just made an ass of herself and why oh why he wasn't moving—
He nearly gave her a heart attack: he smiled.
And then he kissed her, very softly.
"D'you think it's safe?"
Hyakunan peeked over the edge of the log they'd taken refuge behind when the earlier conversation had blown up. It had been silent for a while now, but he hadn't trusted it—he could still smell them.
He popped up further. "They're all gone!"
Shippou poked his head up too. "Where'd they go?"
"Not far," a voice said right behind them.
Both boys yipped and tried to bolt, but there was, very abruptly, a hand holding them firmly by one ear. Sesshoumaru watched them impassively as they yelled and pawed at his hand in a futile effort to free themselves.
"I think a little explanation is in order," Kagura said calmly, tapping her fan against her chin. "About the pink water. And the hanyou."
"You will detail the events of this night in concise sentences," Sesshoumaru added blandly. "Very concise, as I am not in a patient mood."
Shippou and Hyakunan looked at each other and gulped.
"Wh-what did you want to know?" the green-haired boy asked in a small voice.
"Let's start with the reasons they're fighting."
Shippou sighed. "This is gonna take a while."