It was a sunny, but cold day, and a light coating of snow clung to the ground.
Kagome stood in the front of her house, a cold wind lifting the ends of her hair, as she carried a load of firewood in her arms. She had a blanket swathed over her for warmth; it only slightly disguised the fact of her being with child. Something nudged at the edge of her consciousness as she stood there, watching the woods beyond her garden. The path that led to her house and Miroku’s and the village beyond was empty, and the only sounds she could hear were from the trees swaying in the cold wind.
She was about to turn back inside when she heard something, a twig snap, a crunch of leaves, and then she recognized why she was feeling wary. An aura was drawing near; she had felt it many times since her return, especially when she was near Rin, and suspected she knew who it belonged to. Rin lay within her house sleeping at the moment, so she was not really surprised to feel it this time.
A white shape neared the edge of the clearing. She watched, less wary now, and more curious.
He stepped forward, a white figure against the white, snow-covered ground. The cold wind too played with the ends of his very long hair. With his amber eyes and face markings, and the way he stood so lightly in the snow, he radiated his status as a magical creature, and she could feel her own aura flaring up in the presence of his, an automatic reaction in the presence of that much youki. Taking a deep breath, she pushed it back down.
Walking up to where she stood, he watched her, his face set in its neutral, slightly stern mode as usual, nearly impossible to read. She, as usual, looked at him fearlessly, calmly, if a bit uncertain of his presence. She shifted the wood in her arms.
When he grew closer, she bowed politely, or as politely as she could in her condition holding wood in her arms. “Brother-in-law,” she said.
His eyes flashed just for a moment at her use of the title, but then quickly returned to his normal mask. “Kagome,” he replied.
“If you’re looking for Rin, she’s inside,” she said, shifting her burden again. “I believe she is sleeping, though, and it is too cold for her to be out here. You are welcome to come in.” She began to turn to the doorway once again.
“Why?” the Daiyoukai asked, not moving. His voice, as usual, was pleasant but firm, the voice of command.
“Why what?” Kagome replied. She looked back over her shoulder at him.
“This Sesshoumaru met his brother on the road to Edo, traveling with the monk. He told me that Rin was staying with you, instead of the old miko. Why is this so?”
Kagome pulled the blanket a little closer against the chill wind. “Rin is ill. She is here instead of with Kaede because we thought she could rest better, with fewer interruptions.” Kagome reached for the door. “ It would make her happy if you would stop and speak with her.” She opened the mat door. “I am sorry, Brother-in-law. It’s too cool for me to say out here. You may come in if you wish.”
She turned and went in the house.
Several minutes went by. Kagome tended to the fire, adding wood and warming herself as the flames rose to lap around the fresh pieces of wood. She moved the soup pot off its hook and set it to one side on a pot rest and moved the tea kettle to heat over the flames. She had turned to the cabinet nearby to get her teapot and tea when she felt a gust of cool air and heard the rustling of the door mat. Turning, she saw the tall form of her brother-in-law standing there, looking at the room in front of him.
He had been in few human homes. It reminded him much of the old miko’s house, with few furnishings - a few chests, a cabinet, shelves near the fire pit where there were dishes and some things in boxes and jars. Some mats and cushions were arranged near the fire pit. The house smelled of the young miko and the new life she carried, and his brother, and herbs and cooking and , most importantly to Sesshoumaru, Rin. She was sleeping on a pallet not too far from the fire pit, covered with a well-made quilt. Her scent was tinged with something not normal, fever and illness. She stirred a little as he sat down on the edge of the platform to remove his boots, but did not wake.
Kagome said nothing, but watched him and attended to her tea making as he padded over to the fire pit and sat down cross-legged on one of the mats between the fire and Rin. His long silver hair pooled down and rested on the cushion beside him. She noted as she measured tea into the pot that the seat he chose was not that of the master of the house, but one of an honored guest, and somehow, surprised, that pleased her.
“Tell me of Rin’s illness,” he said softly, as he removed his swords from his obi and rested them along side of him.
“It’s called Ryuukan. Many people in the village have had it. I was ill with it, too,” she said, pouring the hot water on the tea. “Rin was very helpful to many people here and helped Kaede a lot treating them. I was so sick with it. I don’t know how InuYasha would have managed, really, if she hadn’t had come by to help. He was so afraid. But she was like a little ray of sunshine.”
Taking a tray off of the shelf, she set it on the floor and put a red plate on it. “She would run errands for Kaede, but always came by to make sure that InuYasha had enough soup and medicine for me, and she usually managed to make him smile before she left.” Opening a jar, she took out several finely wrapped sweets and put them on them plate as Sesshoumaru watched passively, not exactly sure what she was doing. “She is a very special girl. I was beginning to think she might be lucky and escape it, but three or four days ago, she started running a fever and coughing. We decided to bring her here, thinking she would get more rest.”
Kagome chose two finely made teacups from her shelf, and placing them on the tray, set it between her and her guest. She gracefully poured the tea.
“Please, it is not the best tea, but it will warm you on a day like today,” she said. Folding her hands in her lap, she waited.
Raising one eyebrow, the Daiyoukai, gingerly picked up a cup, took a hesitant sip.
“Sesshoumaru-sama?” said a soft, scratchy voice.
The two adults turned to look at the small figure trying to sit up in bed. Sesshoumaru put down the teacup.
“You came to see Rin?” the girl whispered, looking up at the Daiyoukai with happy eyes. But there were dark circles under them and her skin was pale.
“Yes, Rin,” he said. A veiled touch of worry crossed his eyes. “Why are you speaking so softly?”
“It’s the sickness,” Kagome said. “The fever has made her voice weak and given her a cough as well.” As if on cue, Rin began to cough, a hard, bronchial cough that took several minutes to finish. The youkai looked on, not sure of what to do, afraid to touch, glancing at Kagome. Kagome moved over to the far side of Rin’s pallet, where she had set up a small table earlier. The miko carefully and skillfully poured a decoction into a small cup.
Rin looked at her visitor, her face saddened as if she were disappointed in herself. “Rin is sorry, my Lord, for letting you find her like this.”
Sesshoumaru brushed the girl’s forehead lightly with the back of her hand. It felt unnaturally warm to his touch. “Rin has nothing to be sorry for, “ he said softly. He rested his hand on hers lightly.
“Here,” said Kagome, handing him the medicine cup. “She needs to drink this.”
Their eyes met, his amber eyes, so like and unlike those of her husband’s, locking with hers, at first boring into hers, then questioning, then at last accepting. He nodded his head, and took the cup carefully from her hand.
“Rin, drink this,” he said.
The girl sat up, and made a face. “Must I?”
“Yes,” he said.
Sighing, she took the medicine cup from his hands, stared at it for a moment, then downed it in one gulp, shivering at its aftertaste, then laid back down.
“The medicine will make her sleepy,” Kagome said, replacing the cup on the tray.
“It does,” Rin said. “My Lord, will you sit next to Rin until she falls asleep?”
“Yes, Rin.” He smoothed the bangs off of her forehead. “But Rin must get well.”
“I will try,” she said in a serious tone, but smiling.
It was a starry, but cold night. A lot of the snow had melted in the afternoon sunlight, but the wind was still chill, and cut right through to the bone.
Kagome pulled the blanket close around her. The wind played with the ends of her hair as she shifted the load of firewood she held in her arms. She could feel a familiar, comfortable aura nudge against her consciousness, and as she looked down the path that led to Miroku’s house and the village beyond, the moonlight caught on the white hair of a weary traveler.
He looked up and his eyes glowed in the night, and her heart warmed, even through the cold. He quickened his pace and she dropped her wood and stepped away from the porch to meet up with him.
Red sleeves billowed around her as he held her in his arms and kissed her forehead. “What are you doing out here?” he asked. “It’s too cold for you, Koibito. You’re going to get sick again.”
Kagome leaned her head on his shoulder. “I came out for some firewood and saw you coming,” she said. “I just had to wait, InuYasha. How did things go?”
“Good, like usual,” he said. His arm slipped to her waist and they started back up the path to the house. “Miroku – What the hell?” Suddenly his eyes narrowed. “What’s my brother doing here?”
Kagome put a finger over InuYasha’s lips. “Sssh. It’s because of Rin.” She picked up the wood and handed it to him. “Promise me not to wake her up.”
InuYasha stared at his wife, looking deeply into her eyes and taking her scent for several moments, thinking of the past few weeks. “Keh,” he sighed. “I promise not to start anything. And if he tries, I’ll try to take it outside.”
She nodded, and gave him a quick kiss. “Thank you, InuYasha,” she said.
Sesshoumaru looked up as they walked in, sitting with his back against one of the walls of the house, much like InuYasha used to do at Kaede’s. InuYasha put the firewood in its bin, then walked over to look at Rin sleeping.
“Poor pup. How’s she doing?” he asked Kagome.
“I think her fever’s going down,” his wife answered. “I’ve got hot water on. I’ll make you some tea.”
He nodded and went and sat at his place by the fire pit next to Kagome. He poked at the flames with a stick for a moment, took a deep breath, and said, “The hell with this,” and got up, walked across the room and plopped down next to his brother.
Kagome held her breath, frozen, as she held the tea kettle over the tea pot. InuYasha looked at her and winked. Suddenly, she looked at what she was doing, blushed, and finished pouring the water.
He turned to his brother, and looked at him solemnly. He took a deep breath. “Thanks,” he said.
Sesshoumaru raised an eyebrow. “For what, Little Brother?”
“For watching over them today. These are the most important women I know about.” InuYasha, just as quickly, got up and moved back to his place by the fire pit.
“On this, you are correct,” said the youkai. He reached out and picked up his swords. “You may tell Rin that I will see her tomorrow.” Quietly and smoothly, he stood up, and walked out of the house.
Kagome let out a big sigh.
“Now that was different,” the hanyou said.
“You don’t know the half of it,” she replied, and happily, handed him a bowl of soup.