InuYasha ran his fingers through his hair. It was mudcaked, and caked with more than that, after the run-in he had with the snake youkai, as was his jacket. He thought for a moment about stopping and washing up, but he was getting so close to home he didn’t want to stop.
Once again, he cursed the luck he had, to be called to help at the next village down the road the day of the moonless night He found the youkai by mid-afternoon, and left Miroku behind to collect their fees and began the dash home.
Another half hour or so should see him under his own roof. The sun would be down in about half an hour, too. It would be a close thing. He passed by the ancient shrine that held his Inu ancestors’ family kami. For some reason, he took a moment out to wash his hands and mouth at the spring near the entrance, then walked through the gate that marked the sacred enclosure. There was no building to house the kami; instead, the kami would manifest by a huge, dog-shaped rock in the center of the enclosure. He walked up to the rock, clapping three times, then whispered his prayer to the spirit there. Clapping once more, he turned and hurried up down the road.
As he headed up the path that would take him to Kagome and his children, he could feel it as his youki began to fade and his arm beneath his torn sleeve began grow from a small irritation to a painful throb. The snake had nicked him, letting some of the poison into his system. His pace slowed as the sun dipped lower, and slowly his arm went numb and his world began to spin. One rise before the final trail to his house, the sun dipped below the horizon. His world went black.
InuYasha’s world slowly lost the darkness, and it was replaced by the gentle touch of a hand on his forehead. He blinked his eyes, and slowly they focused on the loving and concerned face of Kagome, hovering over him.
“Hi,” she said, letting her hand drop from his forehead to trace the outline of his human-for-the-night ear.
He shivered a little at the touch. “Hi,” he replied. Slowly it dawned on him that he was laying down in his own bed, in a clean sleep robe, and most surprising, he felt no pain at all. “What happened?” he asked. “How did you find me?”
Kagome bent down, and kissed his forehead, brushing a stray lock of black hair out of his eyes. “It was the oddest thing. Just after sunset, I was sitting here sewing when a man walked into the house. He was Inu Youkai, but I had never seen him before. Before I could say anything, he said, ‘I think this belongs to you,’ and I saw that he was carrying you over one shoulder.
“He helped me lay you down in bed. Your arm was swollen horribly, but he touched it, and the swelling started to go immediately down. I asked him his name, but he wouldn’t tell me, but told me to tell you that you should talk to your great-grandfather more often.
“I tried to get him to stay, but he wouldn’t, and said he had things to do. After that, he patted Atae on the head, and gave Yukika a hug, and left. When I walked out to watch him, he took off flying down the mountain.”
She laced her fingers into InuYasha’s hand. “I’m so glad he found you.”
InuYasha’s eyes grew large with her tale. He sat up, pushed up his kosode sleeve, and saw the skin, which should have been black and swollen with the youkai’s poison looking clean and unmarred. “I got nicked by a snake youkai this afternoon. When I was on my way home, I stopped at the shrine before I headed up here,” he said. “I wanted to make sure I got home to you before the sun went down.”
“Is that what happened?” she asked. She took his arm, ran her fingers over the skin. “It was so swollen. How did he do this?”
“My great-grandfather is the kami of the shrine,” he stated.
Kagome sat there silent for several moments, looking deeply into her husband’s violet-grey eyes. “Maybe you should go and talk to him more often.”
“Maybe so,” he agreed.
Somewhere in the darkness, a large dog bayed at the night sky.
A/N Yama Inu (Mountain Dog) is a type of spirit that inhabits mountain heights and passes, wild, sometimes malevolent, but also often protective.