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Running Up That Hill by The Hatter Theory

An Open Prison

READ THIS : I've given this the highest rating for a reason. This story contains ultra violence and graphic depictions and ideas. There are triggers such as rape and abuse, although for all of our sakes, I'm not going into minute details about it. And no, it is NOT Sesshoumaru assaulting Kagome.

Rape is a plot device that has been used in this fandom in myriad ways. While there have been many fics, there have been very few to focus on the aftermath and effects on all of the people involved. While there will be action and adventure, humor and even romance (because I am a sucker for a happy ending as much as the rest of you) this story focuses around the process of healing. It will not be short, and while there will be happy moments, there will be the inevitable angst. 

That being said (Disclaimer), this is all Placebo's fault. I do not own Placebo or their song/lyrics. I do not own Inu Yasha or the characters borrowed from it.

Running Up That Hill

By: The Hatter Theory

Chapter One: An Open Prison

 _______________________________________________________________

It had taken one instant for the world to turn upside down and for everything she loved to be warped and destroyed. Naraku had finally found a way to take her part of the jewel from her, in the guise of the dying Kagura.

She should have known, but the wind witch had been keening in pain, unaware even then what her part to play in the tragedy was. And as Kagome had knelt beside her, hoping to give her some sort of aid after the wind witch had sacrificed herself to protect them from her pseudo brother. Quicker than she could blink, Naraku had emerged from her, the dying body of the witch morphing to his own. He had been dazzled by his own ingenuity when boasting of it later, putting a piece of himself in her as he filled her with miasma. Just enough to make her a clone and destroy any physical trace of her existence after making her suffer.

He had snatched the vial, snapping the fragile chain that held two shards. It had been almost anticlimactic. No big battle, no declarations. Just the form zipping into the sky, his mocking laughter lingering in their ears. Shock from the loss of the jewel and the sacrilegious use of the dying woman's body had numbed her for days.

Then darkness had descended on her homeland, stretching forth it's poisonous claws with a quickness that frightened her. Nothing withstood the taint that gripped the land. Humans were slaughtered, and youkai destroyed.

She tried not to think about Inu Yasha being so completely obliterated, stolen from the land of the living. The ferocity and joy in Naraku's eyes as he had pulled the hanyou apart had broken something in Kagome. Her will gone, she felt like a twitching, hunted rabbit, marked as nothing more than prey.

She had no illusions. Naraku had let her live for a reason, let her run from him with an express purpose in his sickened madness. To torture her. After all, he hated her more than anyone, except maybe Kikyo. And letting her live, knowing the image of the murdered hanyou would never erase itself, could there be any worse punishment for fighting him?

He had done the same for Sango. Miroku lived in a cage in his fortress, his hands, once the cause for so much mischief, were now shattered and broken. Kohaku lived in a worse state, one that didn't bear contemplating. Once he had found he couldn't taint the boy's shard, or touch it for that matter, he had decided to torture the boy into tainting it himself. When it hadn't worked, he had only doubled his efforts.

Shippou alone had escaped, running when Kagome had commanded him to. She only hoped he had obeyed her command and managed to find the youkai she had sent him to. She hoped Kirara had found him and helped keep him safe. Hoped he was alive. She clutched Tessaiga to her chest, her knuckles white. She wasn't even sure she could let go of it anymore, her grip tightening just when she thought she couldn't press the wood any deeper into her palms.

She and Sango were only marginally safer in the world than they had been in Naraku's compound. Youkai were being hunted now, as well as humans. Youkai generally left them alone, recognizing them for what they were. A gifted miko and a taijiya. But from the human men, there was no such recognition.

Bandits and rogue samurai took advantage of the chaos to pillage and rape and burn everything to the ground. What Naraku didn't destroy, they did. Unfortunately, while they could physically fight the men, their talents did little to help them. And it was a laughable attempt against so many. Even Sango's weapons had proven ineffective.

Shuddering, she tried not to vomit at the memory of being held by one band of bandits before she and Sango had escaped, although neither had emerged from that camp unscathed. The hope of seeing Shippou pushed her forward. Of the only youkai she knew could help. She prayed to every god she knew, hoped for her land to find it's way out of this season of death.

Night turned to day, pausing only for water and to eat the smoked meat they had stolen from the bandit camp as they snuck away. Her split lip still bled when she moved her mouth to eat or drink water. Pushing on, they didn't even pause for rest, both determined to reach their goal. Covering miles in the day, they paused twice more for water, and at night they ate once more, only to carry on. Sleep would be impossible anyway. Neither dared to risk nightmares of their loved ones being tortured, or the still close memory of the foul smelling men they had been forced under.

Three days passed in this manner, pushing themselves harder and harder. Neither commented as their supply of smoked meat dwindled and their minds grew more brittle from lack of sleep. It was an unspoken agreement to ignore one another's stilted movements instead of inquiring. Both knew what had caused them. Words of encouragement and comfort also went unvoiced, if they were even thought at all. Both were incapable of speech.

On the third day, Kagome stopped and turned, staring around wildly when she heard Shippou's voice calling out to her, crying. Seeing nothing, she feared her emotions had finally gotten the better of her, or perhaps her lack of sleep was making her mind play tricks on her. She knew they were close to his home. She could feel the energy thrumming through the land, one of the few pure energies left, although the thought of his energy being pure would have been laughable before.

But a cloud and the firecat descended, and Shippou jumped the last several feet to the ground and ran to Kagome, crying as he took in her ragged form. Sango's face was a mass of bruising, and she knew her own wasn't any better. Their bodies were in even worse shape, and she was grateful their clothing hid the reminders of their ordeal from the kit.

“Momma, what happened?” Shippou cried, his arms tight around her legs as he buried his face in her torn and bloodied hakama. She barely felt it as he agitated the half healed scrapes or the myriad bruises covering her skin. The feel of his arms was enough to assure her that her mind hadn't broken and the keening sobs coming from his throat enough to confirm it was not a dream.

She looked up into the face of the daiyoukai of the west. He said nothing, and his gaze was as cold and impassive as she had ever seen it. There was no warmth in his eyes, but no censure either.

“Naraku has won.” She presented the sword to him, her actions telling him all he needed to know of his brother. Her stilted movements and the scents clinging to her told him even more. She forcibly relaxed her fingers, hearing them pop as her grip loosened and the digits uncurled from around the handle and scabbard.

“Foolish,” He rumbled, taking the sword and adding it to the it's twin on his belt. Sango collapsed, the mediocum of relief at seeing Kirara and Shippou enough to trip her mind enough to give into the exhaustion. The firecat made plaintive noises as she nudged her owner, crimson eyes filled with worry.

Kagome had no such luxury. She trembled as the youkai lord studied her.

“Naraku did not do this,” he stated simply.

“Bandits,” She intoned, her voice devoid of inflection.

“How many days have you traveled?”

“Three, nonstop from the east. Bandits have taken over the area, razing everything to the ground.”

“Kit,” Sesshoumaru ordered sharply. Shippou ceased his sobbing and looked to the youkai, eyes wide in fear, wondering if the daiyoukai would leave them.

“Help your mother.” He moved to Sango and touched her only long enough to throw her over the firecat, who seemed none too pleased by his rough treatment, but too grateful to be bearing his mistress to complain. Shippou helped her onto the cloud and bounced into her lap, ignorant of the pain he was inflicting on her abused form as he clutched at her, sobbing noisily.

And like that, they were heading to his home, one of the few untouched places in a world gone awry.

 _______________________________________________________________

The kit's arrival on a firecat had been unexpected, one that had been the beginning of many such events that upset the balance of his world. A harbinger of the things to come, the pup had explained the loss of the jewel and the capture of the adults he traveled with. After a nights rest, they had set out in search of his mother and her friends well over a moon before.

He had not expected to find them so close to his lands. After a week he had not expected to find them alive. But he knew the woman's aura, would not forget the unique energy she seemed to emit wherever she went. And when he felt it tugging at his senses in the east, he had followed.

Nothing but burning and pillaging had met him. But her trail continued, looping back to the west, moving into his lands.

To find her and the slayer in such a state... Naraku's scent was just barely there beneath the stench of a dozen unwashed bodies, not to mention the pervasive sense of shame and hopelessness the two women exuded from every pore.

He looked to the kit and his mother and while the kit sobbed into her stomach, holding onto her as if she'd disappear, the miko was flat. Blank. He remembered their previous meetings. She had been animated. Happy, angry, determined, but always overly emotional. Hollow eyes gazed at nothing, and her face never twitched, though he supposed the bruising was partially to blame.

It was not unexpected. The stench of her abuse tore at him, and though he had grown used to the mephitis of battle, the fetid odor of rape still pressed at him, tearing at his control. Her own exhaustion was more than evident, and she looked ready to shatter beneath the least force. She had traveled for three days, nonstop, and he believed her.

Thinking it a kindness, with a move so quick the kitsune could barely comprehend, he clipped her on the back of her skull, watching her slump forward onto the kit.

“Why'd you do that?” The red haired child demanded angrily through tears, sharp little teeth bared at the daiyoukai in anger.

“Her body is in great pain, so much so that her own mind has blocked it. She needs sleep or she will harm herself further.” It was half of the truth anyway. The kit had seen much in his young years. Despite his normal apathy, he felt the boy should be spared the whole of it. In all honesty, the pervasive shame clinging to her was spiking along his senses and provoking his temper, and he refused to relinquish control to his instincts. Now that she was unconscious, the scents dulled, although they did not disappear completely.

They made it to the citadel by nightfall, and Sesshoumaru left the two women in the hands of the healers. Their bodies could be healed, although it was not beyond possibility that there could be permanent damage. Their minds however...

Kagome and Sango had both escaped Naraku's lair. They knew the layout, at least he hoped. They knew Naraku. And despite their currently broken bodies and minds, if their spirits could be roused from the pits they currently resided in, he was sure both could be a weapon. Especially the miko. She could sense the jewel, which made her the ideal tracker for the hanyou. But more than that, despite the blankness in her eyes and the shame and despair that twisted her scent into something oppressive, he could practically taste the power still emanating from within her.

 _______________________________________________________________

When Kagome finally woke, she blinked against the too bright light filtering into the room. Confused, she began to move, panicking when she didn't recognize the room she had been sleeping in. Then pain lanced through every muscle in her body, and she remembered that she was no longer with the bandits. Although where she was remained a question.

“You have awakened,” A voice confirmed gently. Kagome jerked back as if physically struck, finally seeing the youkai sitting next to her. Concerned brown eyes stared down at her from a smooth round face framed by unruly, dark curls. Only the tips of pointed ears peeking through the curls and his aura gave him away as youkai.

“Have no fear, I cannot harm you,” He intoned. Again he cursed his lord. A female healer would have been much better suited for this situation. But Sesshoumaru had commanded him, in no uncertain terms, that he could and would do it.

“Who-where?” She trembled so viciously the words seemed to the chatter from between her teeth.

“I am Tenka, Lady Kagome. And I am one of the mujin,” He said, his voice still gentle, still quiet, as if speaking to an injured animal. Fear spiked the scents in the room, and he began to worry that she would re-injure herself, undoing all of the work he had done to try and heal her.

“Mu-mujin?” She croaked, confused.

“I am a kangan.”

It took several moments for the word to register. A eunuch. Unmanned.

And the reasons why one would be punished in such a manner made her crawl back from him pushing herself further from the bed. He stayed still as he watched her, making no move to reach for her or stop her retreat.

“I was once a healer, and simply that. But in times of war, one does what one must. I carried messages for a man that had earned my respect. When I was caught, I lost it to torture,” He explained, his tone never changing despite the personal turmoil he felt at admitting such a thing to a stranger.

It was the nicest way he could think to say something so awful. But when the miko had been brought to him, she had been a mess. He knew the marks of rape, and there was no mistaking the girl had been used brutally and in every way possible. Bruises in the shape of hands had layered over one another, and the torn flesh had almost been too much to bear. She had been used. And not just for rape. The miko had been beaten in ways he had been afraid were beyond healing. It was only by some miracle that her body was responding so readily to the combined techniques of the healers within the citadel.

Perhaps his own story would not seem so frightening or sad in the face of her recent trials.

“Lady Kagome, do you know where you are?”

Her head shook and she brought the blanket around her tightly.

“You are in Lord Sesshoumaru's home. These are the healing quarters. The woman brought with you woke yesterday. Your son has been anxious to see you, but under the circumstances-” He didn't even finish the sentence. Even with sleeping draught that would have given the strongest of youkai dreamless sleep, her pain had burned through and nightmares had made themselves known in the tang of tears and screams. Only an older healer, one gifted in mind magics, had been able to mitigate even a fraction of the pain. And the old woman had cried as she tried to force Kagome into a deeper sleep.

“How long?” She finally croaked. Her split lip had healed, by her throat and lips felt dry, and her tongue felt as if had swollen to three times it's normal size.

“Nine days. Part of it was induced, so your body would have more time to heal. After your escape, you pushed it too hard. We had to keep you sedated,” He answered.

Kagome nodded.

“Water?” She rasped, suddenly self conscious. Despite the man's admission, he knew everything about her. Could probably make a time line of what had been done to her by the wounds he had been forced to heal.

“Yes, and there's some broth as well. Lord Sesshoumaru would like to speak to you, when you're feeling up to it.”

The mention of the daiyoukai made Kagome's already weak hands tremble even more violently as she accepted the cup of cool water. Half of it splashed on the blanket before it even made it to her lips. Sudden overwhelming panic made it hard to swallow, even though she knew it would help.

“It doesn't have to be today Lady Kagome,” Tenka assured her. “But your companion and your son would both like to see you, if that is alright.”

“Yes, I would like that, very much,” Kagome whispered, her voice incapable of anything louder. He nodded and spooned her broth gently, his heart breaking as her eyes became vacant once more, receding back into the sightless gaze he had come to see too often as of late.

 _______________________________________________________________

“She needs time to adjust,” Tenka reported to his lord. Sesshoumaru would look haggard if he were capable of it. As it was, he wasn't. But he felt it. Small wonder.

The kit's arrival had been a portent of things to come. The miko's sudden appearance had been the first ill wind of a coming storm.

Youkai and humans alike were fleeing to his borders, begging sanctuary. And he granted it, even to the humans. Old hatreds were set aside as common fears and losses united them. But even as asylum was being granted, he was trying to organize resources to be sent to new camps that sprung up to give shelter to the weak and frightened. Men with families came to him, volunteering themselves for whatever position in his guard in exchange for their loved one's safety. The strong and weak enlisted, hoping to fight for honor and glory or to just find a temporary home until the undeclared war was over. Still, it was not enough.

Nothing seemed able to stave off the chaos that pushed closer to his lands every day.

“We don't have time,” Sesshoumaru began, staring down the maimed youkai.

“If you push her, she will break. Sona saw what she went through. Have you ever known that old woman to cry? She was practically catatonic for a week!” Tenka snarled, losing his patience.

“And if we don't hurry there will be hundreds, if not thousands just like her. She's not broken, even you must be able to sense that,” He stated calmly, refusing to give into the rage surging through him at the healer's breach of protocol.

“What do you propose we do then?”

“Have Sona block the memories.”

If Sesshoumaru had not known the youkai better, he would have done more than maim him for the sudden rage the beat at his senses. And for the look of incredulity aimed squarely in his direction.

“Have you lost your mind?” Tenka whispered furiously. “Do you have any idea what kind of monster you sound like?”

“War is destroying this land!” Sesshoumaru snapped, the fraying of his control given way to the pure, cold rage that had begged to be freed. Inhaling deeply, he began again, knowing he had to have the healers on his side to do such a deed. “We must all make choices that are difficult. Have you heard any of the reports of what's going on just outside our borders? Have you seen the people fleeing here? Humans are so desperate they seek sanctuary in my lands. Near my citadel. If this isn't stopped soon, it will consume the whole of the island.”

“What of her son and her friend?”

“Her son will stay here, in the citadel with my ward. We can block the slayer's memories as well.”

“It never lasts, you know that,” Tenka reasoned, voice laced with resignation.

“It need only last long enough to do what is needed. And when it comes back, they may bring their wrath on this Sesshoumaru. I can handle it.”

“She watched your brother torn apart while he was still alive. Do you think she will forgive you for making her forget?” The plump healer snapped in frustration while running a hand through curly, riotous hair.

“No, she may keep that memory. Just the bandits actions need to be blocked. The stronger her hatred for Naraku, the hotter it burns, the better for us.”

“You are manipulating people just like that foul thing across our borders,” Tenka ground out, still in disbelief at his lord's command.

“If you can come up with something better, you have until their bodies fully heal to do it,” The daiyoukai said, his voice cold and cutting. Tenka knew it was the only concession he was going to get.

Once alone, Sesshoumaru stared and the scrolls rolled out onto the table. The largest was a map, dominating most of the space. On it markers showed the lands Naraku had so far conquered.

Of the four high daiyoukai, only he remained. How had it come to this? He had always thought the others too involved with politicking and their own importance, but surely they should have been strong enough to endure? And yet news came in every day, carried by the refugees from those lands. The three houses had fallen, and those holding lands that had not fled had died or were barely holding their own.

Tenka's accusation gnawed at him as he stared blankly at the maps. His believed in honor above all else. His duty was to his people, to his lands, and now, to destroy this darkness. Was his plan so awful in the face of the war that raged around him? Or was he giving in to the easiest option, using others and manipulating them so cruelly as to be like the very being he loathed above all others?

But time was too short to try and heal the miko. She had to be able to stand against the hanyou if they had any hope of destroying him. Only she could take and purify the jewel. Without that, the hanyou would be able to survive whatever was done and slither into darkness to gather his strength once again.

And there was too much at stake to lose.

 _______________________________________________________________

The kangan knocked and entered before Sesshoumaru could answer. Staring down the man who had saved him from more torture and possibly death, his expression was grim.

“There might be a way, but it will only work with the miko.”

“Explain.”

Over an hour later, he left, the door closing softly behind him.

Silence reigned as Sesshoumaru tried to digest just what the other youkai had explained.

Every thing he knew, every fact and rumor screamed a denial in the face of his suggestion. But Sesshoumaru's instincts latched onto it. At least he hoped it was his instincts, because if it was hope and need, then he could not only destroy himself, but anything within the walls of his home as well.

 _______________________________________________________________

“Miko,” A voice intoned from the door. Kagome turned her sightless eyes to the form gliding to her. His expression was as impassive as her own, but his eyes were not. Kagome felt herself drawn up from the darkness. His eyes never expressed anything. But now, they seemed torn.

“Miko.”

She merely nodded to acknowledge that she had heard him at all.

“What would you do, if you could defeat Naraku and end the suffering in this land?”

It was as if she watched him from underwater, and he saw her clearly, but his words were muffled and his image vague and wavering. Trapped beneath the surface, there was no part of her that held hope.

But something pricked her through the water, shocking her with cold. Her face turned down to see his hand, so large compared to her own, clamped tightly around her wrist. Her mind registered pain in a peripheral sort of way.

What happened next stunned anyone within the shiro.

One energy, pure and beautiful and frightening swelled, like a bubble, growing bigger and bigger, seemingly ready to pop and unleash it's attack at any second. But the second, a massive surge of youki rose to weave into it and around it.

It suppressed it, pulling it back into the northern wing of the structure. Most could feel the two energies twining around one another, trying to get loose but only becoming more tangled in the process. Those who could not felt their hair stand on end from the suddenly oppressive silence.

The epicenter of the energies was physically still. Nothing moved. But the taiyoukai and the miko stared into one another's eyes, gazes locked and unblinking. His grip on her wrist did not tighten, but it showed no signs of relaxing either. Her wrist itself looked tiny in his large hand, almost on the verge of breaking, but she never made a sound.

He pulled the energy back, closer and closer to the source. Eyes bled to red as he tried to force her growing energy into submission. Gradually it shrank back to the onna, and he used everything he had at his disposal to find the very heart of the source. Her energy began to give in, slipping inward more quickly. But his own refused to relent in it's hold. Lifeless eyes didn't even flicker as he let his energy be drawn into her, into the fissure where her own energy tried to escape to. Along the connection of their energies, he let his mind drift, gaining access to the core of her being without ever having to breach her walls.

Tenka's idea had worked.

Now what?

He was within her core of her being. A strange place that he felt he walked in, yet knew he did not. Being and not being. Substantial and ephemeral. Whether that meant her soul or her mind, he wasn't sure. It wasn't what he had expected, if nothing else. Despite her experiences, the woman had once been a light, and though it was banked, nothing could account for the darkness surrounding him. It was a curious blankness were he could see himself easily, but everything around him was just black, suspended in space. He was standing, and yet he saw nothing physical to hold up his form. The strange disconnect from any kind of reality was enough to make him very ill at ease with his current predicament.

“Miko?” He called out.

His call echoed into the darkness. Nothing answered.

“Miko,” He tried again. Again, nothing.

Tenka had said he might be required to find her. Deciding on moving forward, he walked deeper into the blackness, disoriented by the utter lack of light and scent and sound. With nothing to guide him, he prayed he had made the right decision. What if this had been a mistake after all?

A small eternity passed before he saw a strange light in the distance, breaking the unsettling monotony of the dark. Black grew to grey, then colors began to emerge, as if painted as he walked further in.

And suddenly he was on a cliff, overlooking the sea, as if he had been walking on an ocean path the entire time.

It smelled of the sea. The wind was salty with the tang of brine. Grey skies were dominated with clouds, and he started when he felt rain begin to fall. The waters below were black and choppy, dashing themselves against the cliff face angrily, growing higher with impossible speed.

Could a tsunami within her mind kill him? Or worse, keep him from returning to his own body? Tenka hadn't mentioned anything like this.

Her scent was as strong here as it was in the real world, perhaps more so. Feet pounded against the unforgiving stone, coming closer with each step. He turned, watched the figure in miko garb running toward him, her eyes only focused on the cliff edge just behind him.

“What is she doing?” He wondered.

His answer followed her shortly from the darkness at the edge of the ocean scene. Shadow forms seemed to slip over the edges of the rocks, slithering and tainting everything they touched. They were determined to catch the miko, that much he could discern. Tendrils that resembled straining, eager arms stretched forth over the landscape, constantly reaching for her as they advanced.

Cursing Tenka again, Sesshoumaru stepped into her path, to dissuade her from what he knew was coming. Her eyes widened in panic and she shouted at him to move, to get away. Desperation and fear clung to her, made her eyes fever bright. A foot away from him, she darted to his right. His arm shot out, trying to stop her as his claws dug into her flesh, but the miko was determined, and here, surprisingly, she was as strong as he.

He had a split second to let go of her. He didn't.

They both fell over the edge, spiraling into the choppy dark water. The sound of their joined forms breaking the surface was lost in the roar of the angry sea.

Sesshoumaru found that even in a dream world such as this one, the water was freezing and the current deadly, sucking them down into the darkness. Barely able to see in the inky depths, he felt around him, trying to find the miko. When his hand found cloth, he began kicking strongly for the surface.

When they surfaced, she hammered her small fists against his chest.

“Let me go!” She screamed.

Better she scream than lay lifeless as her body did.

“No! What are you doing?” He snarled, trying to hold onto her while kicking his way to shore.

“They can't get me here! I'm safe in the water,” She sobbed, trying to push away from him. His grip on her tightened and his determination only grew as they got closer to shore. The pummeling of his chest gave way to weak, halfhearted attempts to push him away.

“I will protect you from them.” Not what he had wanted to say, but Tenka had been clear on that, at least. He would have to make the miko feel safe enough to emerge. Not that the current scenario had been what he was expecting in the least.

“No one can protect me from them,” She sobbed, tears mixing with the saltwater dripping from her hair as he dropped her on the beach unceremoniously, wishing he was free of the briny saltwater weighting his hair and clothing down. Annoyed by her self pity and frustrated by her determination to wallow, he inhaled sharply and clenched his fist, glad the kimono sleeve hid the only outward indication of his anger.

“Woman, look at me,” He bit out. For several minutes he thought she'd never stop crying, sand clinging to her wet, limp form as she stayed curled on her side. He knelt, wondering again if this was worth it.

“Miko, look at this Sesshoumaru,” He commanded gently, trying to keep his voice even despite the overwhelming urge to snap at her. That would be as detrimental as the shadow beings chasing her. He forced her chin up and her eyes, a deep blue gray, let him see how wounded she truly was.

“This Sesshoumaru vows to protect you, from the shadows here and in the world.” Floundering, struggling for the right words to convince her to come back from this place, he was easily out of his depth. He didn't know how to be comforting. How to reassuring was beyond his grasp. He was a warrior. A lord. A tactician. A hunter. Not a being that instilled warmth in any capacity. And Tenka had told him that was what the miko would need.

But was it, really? Did the woman need warmth when she knew that it would be a lie? Especially from he, who had tried to kill her and had never shown her anything but contempt? Who could experience what she had and still believe in the light?

He gambled.

“I need an ally like you to defeat Naraku. I will protect you from him and from others that would bring you harm. But only you can help me now.”

“He won,” She whispered, her voice ragged, as if she had been swallowing glass.

“I am alive. An army is amassing in my lands. His taint is held at bay. Speak truly, would you have sent the kit to me if you did not believe this Sesshoumaru could stop him?”

“I thought Inuy-” She didn't finish the statement.

Being in her own soul or mind, wherever he was, made him privy to her every thought, and the image of his half brother being quartered was enough to sicken even him. He pushed on, trying to banish the image from his mind.

“This Sesshoumaru is stronger, and will not be caught unaware. There is still a chance to save those you call your own,” He began, knowing it was a low blow, but necessary. Her flinch told him his aim had been true. “But only you are capable of dealing with the shikon without being tainted.”

Not completely true. He knew he could handle it, but he could not purify it. And he had no idea how to go about getting it from the hanyou. She could sense it, and by default, find Naraku in that way. Both would be a boon.

“I can't anymore, not after-” She began, then stopped. Sobs were constricting her chest painfully as she tried to hold them in.

“Miko-” He started.

But like that, she was off, running from him. Had that path been there before? Was the landscape conforming to her wishes? If it was, why couldn't she banish the shadow creatures that hunted her?

Less than pleased, he began to follow, beginning to lose patience with her world and it's skewed rules, especially since the path seemed to vanish halfway up the cliff and he had to use his claws to scale the walls, finding he had almost none of his natural abilities in the prison of her being.

 _______________________________________________________________

It felt like days had passed, but the sky remained the same, cloudy gray. If time moved for her in this place, it didn't show in any way he could tell. Her aura tugged at his awareness and he followed it, seeking to end the chase. There was no time for this foolishness!

Her scream rent the air, forcing his pace into a flat run. Terror choked the landscape, and had he taken notice, he would have noticed the blur of shapes becoming less and less like the seaside and more like a valley of tall, spiraling mountains. Monoliths that stretched at the sky in jagged spikes. Darkness began to descend, as if night was finally falling.

Another shriek, louder and more desperate than the last goaded him further. Despite his boots hard soles, jagged rocks stabbed into the soles of his feet, and he let out a snarl as he realized that even his superior speed had been denied to him.

He almost fell over the precipice the came from nowhere , backpedaling as the edge seemed to crumble beneath his feet.

Another scream, and below him was the source. Once he regained sure footing, he looked down, only to reel back, wanting to vomit from the stench that assaulted him. Emotions were always easy to smell for him. It was why he schooled his own so diligently. But these were so powerful they carried taste.

Shameragefeardesperationlosshateselfloathingdespair.

Rank and foul, like a battlefield littered with bloated corpses left to rot in the sun.

She was pinned by several men, all faceless, but making noises only monsters from stories could make, laughter that was twisted into something dark. The sound of it interspersed with her screams sent chills skittering down his spine. War he could handle without flinching. But this was not war.

Determined to keep his word, starting here in her mind, where it would have the most effect, he made the jump to the crater floor, stirring what seemed like volcanic ash as he landed. He had no swords, no whip, or poison, even his true form was denied to him. But he had his claws. Ripping through the men's forms, he was only mildly surprised to see them rend like shadows, the remains becoming nothing but wisps that dimmed and faded into nothingness.

It was over in only a few seconds, but it was enough for her to begin her escape from the crater. And from him.

Determined to get through to her this time, he caught her, rage fueling his speed. Her terror ground on his senses as he held her arm fast. Every ounce of self control he possessed went into holding her, even though her fear of him made him want to push her away and get a million miles of land between them. That fear, so obvious, so ripping, whispered. Nothing in her mind was closed to him while in this place. And her fear was that he would harm her as the others had.

“Woman, cease this! If you stay here they will always come after you, always chase you. Eventually they will have you. And it will happen again and again and again,” He ground out as calmly as he could. “Let this Sesshoumaru protect you. You can still purify, your powers reacted to mine outside of this place. You are still capable. Will you help your pack,” He demanded, amber eyes boring down into her frightened blue ones. “Or will you rot in this place, let this rip you apart?”

She stared at him, her eyes holding a terror he couldn't begin to fathom. He had always been in control. Had always been able. Never had he experienced anything close to what she had. And he tried to understand. But he needed her free of this place and functioning.

“You are a mother, and you have the chance to save your child from the darkness you witnessed.” He thought, trying to find more to persuade her. “And my ward. A human girl with even less skill in defending herself than you. Would you linger here when you have a chance to save her from the very things you endured?”

“No!” Kagome cried, rage suffusing her features. “How could you even-”

He gave her no time to finish. Tenka had told him to wait for any sign of something besides fear. Fury worked for him. More than worked. Without a word he pulled her to him and tried to ignore the sudden spike of panic at his sudden proximity.

The world began to recede, the blackness swimming over it, covering it, till even the point of light was gone. He followed the feel of his power back to the fissure he had come through. He didn't bring her all the way out though. To do so would have drawn her into him, and that was a possibility he would not allow. He threw her wrist from his hand and stepped away, putting much needed distance between them.

“You bastard,” She snarled quietly from the bed.

“It was the only way this Sesshoumaru could get to you,” He told her quietly, suddenly feeling very tired, although he refused to show any sign of it.

“You used Rin-”

“This Sesshoumaru spoke the truth. Without you almost all of our plans will do nothing but buy time. Naraku's forces have grown exponentially. This Sesshoumaru cannot hold the jewel, cannot purify it. As long as the tainted thing stays within his grasp, there is no chance of winning. And if this Sesshoumaru's lands fall to Naraku, what happened to you will only be the beginning of what happens to my ward.”

He stalked from the room, snarling in his own mind, cursing his own tired body for his emotional outburst. Blamed the miko for the fear she sent spiking through the room. Blamed that hellish place her own heart had become for tossing him about through her own emotional upheavals, like a ragdoll tossed in the ocean.

Lingering traces of that world clung to him, refusing to leave. The smell and tastes still pervaded reality, and he retreated to the bath house to try and rid himself of the lingering remnants of his journey, phantom salt and brine clinging to his skin and in his hair from a nonexistent ocean.

It was only later, when he informed Tenka of the woman's mental return, the he found out he had been in that place for three days.

The stench ghosted by, the shared memories still too vivid to bear thinking on.

 _______________________________________________________________

“How is Sango?” Kagome asked the next day. Tenka stared at the miko thoughtfully. She had not drawn back into herself, had made no motion to. He knew it would be up to time, but he wondered how Sesshoumaru had succeeded in convincing her to stay firmly within this world. When asked, Kagome had told him it was none of his business.

“She is angry,” He answered. “Her lover and brother are still with Naraku, and it is enough for now to keep her moving. She is determined to find a way to help them.”

“Then we had better start planning. This needs to be done, and quickly.”

“This Sesshoumaru is glad you agree,” The inu cut in as he stepped into the room.

Kagome glared at the daiyoukai, but said nothing. He knew, without any doubt, that she hated him. Hated that he had used her own pack, and even a member of his own, against her. And maybe for saving her from the manifestations of her own demons instead of letting them destroy her.

“You can still purify, your powers still react defensively. Can you still use them offensively?”

He was pushed back into the wall, heard wood splinter and crack more than he felt it. It was only because of his superior strength and her current condition that he hadn't gone through the wall itself. Not that he would admit such a thing out loud. But her strength pleased him immeasurably. Contrary to the teachings of ningen mystics, she had lost none of her power once her maidenhead had been pierced.

“I think maybe the Lady Kagome would like to eat and see her son,” Tenka suggested delicately. “And perhaps rest.”

If she had been any other woman, and the situation had been any other, he would have killed her on the spot.

But she wasn't, and it wasn't. So he refrained. Barely.

“No. If she can so easily do that to this Sesshoumaru, then she is ready to come to the council chambers.”

It was petty, but he took no small amount of pleasure from her suddenly pale face.

“But they're all-” Tenka began.

“Miko, you can use your powers, you have proven it. The only worry you have from this point on will be humans, who are immune to your magics. They are not immune to this Sesshoumaru's blade.”

“But-” Tenka began again, trying to protest.

“She is not defenseless, do not treat her as such. There will be only one human besides her at the council meeting, and it is her companion. Considering the strength of her ki, if she feels the need to defend herself, which this Sesshoumaru doubts, she will be more than able to handle it. Have her ready for a meeting within the hour.”

Kagome knew she had no choice. But he was right. She had pushed him through the wall, even though she had only intended to push him back. She could defend herself against youkai.

Now if only she could trust him to live up to his word and protect her from humans.

 _______________________________________________________________

An hour later she felt the stares of over a dozen youkai bearing down on her. The only link to sanity she had was Sango's hand clasping her own tightly beneath the table. The almost bone crushing grip lent her strength as she endured the hostile glares and acrimonious muttering.

“She was the one who lost the jewel in the first place. You trust her to help you regain it?” A feline youkai demanded incredulously. Kagome hated the muttering, felt them agreeing with the outspoken demon.

“She was aided by a hanyou at the time. This Sesshoumaru is not so weak.”

“But she is a human!” Another interjected.

Comments about her abilities began to fly around her, all acting as if she wasn't even there.

She wanted to go back to the cliff, wanted to dive into the ocean and just sink beneath the surface and be safe. But Rin, crying in pain, and Shippou wandering, broken without her, kept her hold on sanity and quieted any thoughts of retreat. The voices around her weren't loud to begin with, youkai had no need to shout. But she tried to drown them out. Struggled not to hear each insult. Endeavored to emulate the icy daiyoukai that had brought her into the middle of this whole thing.

And she failed.

The power was rising from her before she could stop it, at first a sort of bubble around her. Desperately she tried to change it's intent. The energy was reacting to her distress, rushing forth, ignoring her conscious attempts to force it down. While all but one stared at her in dawning horror, she tried to reel it back in, knowing their insults did not warrant their purification.

Air whooshed from her lungs when she hit the wall, Sesshoumaru's hand on her chest, just below her throat. Claws pricked into her skin warningly. Trying to do anything to avert a crisis, she frantically tore through her mental cupboards for an idea despite the panic at his sudden proximity.

“Your ki,” She struggled, trying to remember the tangle of their energies. Understanding lit his features, and Sango and the other youkai watched in fascination as his energy wrapped into hers, bending it forcefully, giving it no option but to tangle with it's opposition.

He could not force it into submission, not now that she was aware, but he focused it, kept it from touching the youkai that watched, stunned. That was the time she needed to pull it back into herself. When the last traces of it vanished, Sesshoumaru pulled his own ki back, let it settle into him like a bright mantle before disappearing completely. His hand dropped from her chest and he stepped back, imperious, but his eyes glinting in satisfaction. Kagome wondered why.

“It seems the miko might be stronger than we thought,” The feline conceded, staring at the woman, awed and disconcerted.

She realized what her outburst had done, and why Sesshoumaru bore an air of the cat that had got the canary.

“And aided by Lord Sesshoumaru, surely she will be successful,” Another volunteered in an overly forceful tone that did little to hide it's fear.

Kagome sat back at the table, noting in a weary sort of satisfaction that they gave both the taijiya and herself wide berth, they eyes still skittering over her when they thought she wasn't looking, appraising her silently.

“Now, to the matter at hand. Do either of you remember anything about Naraku's fortress?”

“He let us escape on purpose. If we go back and he's even remotely aware of it, he'll knows we'll use that way to get back in,” Sango replied.

“On purpose? Why would he let you escape on purpose?” One youkai asked.

“He has my brother and my husband-to-be trapped there, both of them have been tortured grievously. And he killed Inu Yasha.”

No one seemed to understand except Sesshoumaru, who knew the hanyou's tastes from past experiences.

“He wants us to suffer. We fought against him. Sango was one of the few to battle his will and break through his lies. And I-” Kagome found it hard to continue. That secret still burned her from within, scorching anything it touched. If Sango knew, she would hate her forever. “He aims to destroy everything pure. Everything must bear the taint of his mark.”

“It will be his downfall,” Sesshoumaru said quietly. “Do you know where he keeps the jewel?”

“It's still in three pieces,” Kagome said. “At least, I think it is. I can only sense one part, but I know it's not the whole jewel. It could be in more.”

“Why would he keep the pieces separate?”

“Because he holds them. With this much power he doesn't need to make his wish until he's ready. Only when everything is in his hands will he use the jewel,” Kagome murmured, knowing it to be true even as she said it.

“What more could he wish for?” Sesshoumaru asked, eyes boring into the girl. His path was one of conquest. If the pseudo hanyou wanted that, why not wish for it? The daiyoukai knew the hanyou was no stranger to shortcuts, unlike himself. What else was there besides conquest?

“He'll wish Kikyo back to life, at least I'm pretty sure he will. She's the reason he was created in the first place.”

“But Kagome, if he does that-” Sango gasped, eyes wide with terror.

“I know.”

“What do you mean?” The feline asked, obviously the most curious and least fearful.

“I am Kikyo's reincarnation. By bringing her back to life, he'll kill me. But we have time. He'll want me there when he does it, instead of just wishing for it to happen. He's the sort that will want to see it all happen for himself.”

“I'm finding the more I know of this creature, the more curious I am how he rose to power,” An older youkai said, scratching his beard thoughtfully. Kagome tried to discern his race by physical features, but he could have been anything, a cat, dog, even a bear. “You are obviously very strong in your own powers, and you were with him for at time.”

Kagome let the insult slide, knowing it did look like she had done nothing.

“My powers are hard to control,” She admitted. “I haven't been trained.” And that was only the half of it. Ever since her arrival at the shiro, it seemed that her powers had grown, doing more than she had thought possible. Throwing Sesshoumaru almost through a wall was easily the best example of her newfound strength. The sudden, unwanted burst of ki was another.

“What is your proposed plan of action Sesshoumaru?”

Sesshoumaru seemed to be thinking very hard.

“He's always preferred to be the one pulling the strings. He uses puppets and his children, extensions of himself. If we can find him, draw them away, we can get to him.”

“But that was before-” Another started.

“I don't think it'll change until his wish is made, maybe not even then. He's a coward, a hold over from his days as a bandit,” She spat the last word with venom. “I don't know if he'll still be at the fortress. I believe he will be, it's too choice a stronghold to give up,” Sango added to Kagome's thoughts. “If we can find distractions for the children and his puppets, we can get to him.”

“What of the jewel?”

“I might be too far away to feel anything but the one piece, but the one I feel-” She paused, her eyes flashing in reaction the taint she felt pulsing through the broken orb. “It's definitely his.”

“That settles locating him then. But what of distractions?”

Sango thought for a hard minute, then looked at her friend, staring deep into her eyes, as if in apology.

“Make the bandit problem work for you,” The taijiya said, lowering her eyes to the table.

They were so focused on her strange statement that they didn't notice Kagome flinch. But Sesshoumaru did. As Sango told them her idea, he watched Kagome grow paler and paler. He had to admit though, the idea of turning bandits into mercenaries was a good one. And if they happened across the band that had captured the miko and taijiya, so much the better. Sesshoumaru did not often indulge in thoughts of vengeance. But seeing the miko's memories, feeling her terror firsthand had provoked those baser instincts. But then, it felt more like a form of justice.

There were many ways to make a man one of the kagan after all.

 

 _______________________________________________________________

“Are you okay?” Sango asked a few hours later as she and Kagome moved for the inner gardens, searching for the children.

“The bandit thing startled me, but it was a good idea. I hope it works.”

“Greed will drive all of them, that a chance to be set up as proper lords. Although to be fair, most of them, if not all, will die in the attempts.”

“Real soldiers are going too though. They're the ones I'm worried about.”

“They knew the risks when they became soldiers, it can't be helped.”

Kagome wondered about the change in her friend. It felt as if Sango was sliding back into the dark place she had been entrenched in when Kagome had first met her. But this time she had no idea how to fix it. Had she brought Sango to this, by encouraging her feelings for Miroku before the battle was over and Naraku was gone?

“Do you think it'll work?” Kagome asked, referring to the plan.

“Sesshoumaru is the strongest youkai I've ever seen. And your powers are growing. As strange as it sounds, if you two can actually work together, I'm not sure anything can stop you. Although getting a miko and a daiyoukai to work together would be harder than herding cats.”

“We don't have a choice,” Kagome finished the dark conversation and forced a smile to her face as Rin and Shippou both ran to her. There were still aches in her body, but these were small compared to when she had been found. Tenka had done his level best to make sure they as physically sound as possible.

Her smile grew from forced to genuine as she allowed herself the simple pleasure of just listening to her son and his new friend.

 

 _______________________________________________________________

AN: So.....Yeah. Placebo has some great music and I got back into listening to them. And then this happened. If you need something to blame, blame good ole 90's grunge rock. And me of course. Now I'm off to DragonCon! Peace!

 

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