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Rescue

Chapter 30

Chapter 30: Rescue

 

     An eerie quiet had fallen among the three waiting in the gloomy warehouse. Shiro slept, exhausted from crying. As the sun dipped lower in the sky, coldness crept into the darkened storage area. Shiro whimpered and shivered in his sleep. Kikyo sat in her plastic chair, legs crossed primly, tapping one manicured nail against her knee as her only sign of impatience. Kagome tested her bonds again. They still held firm. The cold concrete floor leeched all the warmth out of her muscles, causing them to knot and cramp. She decided again to try and reason with Kikyo.

 

     “Please untie us,” she pleaded, too worried about Shiro to waste energy on pride. “Think about Shiro. It’s getting colder; at least let us move around to warm up.”

 

     “Why should I do that?” Kikyo examined Kagome as if she was a faintly interesting bug. “I untie you. You try to run away. Naraku catches you before you get two blocks. You die.” She shrugged and looked away. “You’re much safer as you are.”

 

     “I promise that we won’t try to get away.” Kikyo looked at her again. Kagome put her whole soul into radiating trustworthiness.

 

     “And I should believe you?” Kikyo’s eyes flicked briefly between Kagome and Shiro. She leaned back in her chair and examined the nails of one hand in a bored fashion.

 

     “I won’t lie to you,” Kagome spoke, struggling to keep her voice low and even. Panicking would not help now. “We don’t want to be here. We would leave if we could. The truth is that right now my muscles are so knotted with inactivity and cold, I couldn’t run away even if I tried.” She stifled a cry as the leg she was lying on chose that moment to cramp painfully. “I give you my word.”

 

     There was no answer from the woman sitting on the plastic chair. Kagome closed her eyes, taking deep breaths as the cramp eased slightly. She shifted, trying to find a more comfortable position on the hard floor. Her eyes snapped open at a touch on her arm. Lost in her own discomfort, she had not heard Kikyo approach. The rope binding her wrists went slack.

 

     “You had better not be lying to me.” Kikyo speared Kagome with a hard glance before moving to work on the knots binding Kagome’s legs. “And don’t think I’m doing this because I care or anything. You and that brat are making too much noise. It’s annoying.”

 

     Kagome pushed herself into a sitting position, rubbing her wrists and then her legs to try and restore circulation. “I give you my word,” she repeated.

 

     Kikyo retreated to her chair, leaving Kagome to take care of Shiro. She crawled over to the little boy, her muscles protesting the movement. She removed the ropes, which were nowhere near as tight as hers had been, and pulled him into her lap. Bracing herself against the boxes stacked in Shiro’s little corner of the room, she stroked his hair out of his face. Shiro’s face felt too warm for her liking, Kagome hoped that he wasn’t getting sick again. He had only been out of the hospital a short time.

 

     Shiro stirred at the feel of the cool hand on his brow. “Mommy?” he murmured and opened his eyes. Kagome smiled down at him and hugged him closer.

 

     “I’m right here. Everything’s going to be fine.”

 

     Under Kikyo’s watchful eye, they worked the kinks out of tight muscles. Kagome settled back into the corner, pulling Shiro into her lap. Beyond the walls of the building could be heard the faint roaring of the traffic. Kagome listened, but there weren’t enough distinct sounds for her to identify where they were being kept. Shiro seemed content to be quiet now that his mommy was holding him.

 

     “When will Naraku return so that we can go home?” Kagome asked.

 

     Kikyo reached into a pocket and pulled out a small cell phone. “As soon as he gets what he wants, he will call and tell me where to meet him. By the time the police arrive to rescue the both of you, we will be long gone. After we pick up a few things, we will board the plane that Naraku has waiting. By this time tomorrow, we will be far away from this hellhole.”

 

     “And what is to keep Naraku from taking the sword and abandoning you?” Kagome watched a glimmer of uncertainty cross Kikyo’s face before hardening into her usual mask of indifference.

 

     “He won’t,” she stated. “We will leave this godforsaken city and start over someplace new.” The words rang false in the gathering darkness. She set her lips in a tight line and turned away from Kagome and Shiro.

 

     Kagome shifted Shiro’s weight in her lap. “We’ll know soon enough.”

 

^**^

 

     “You will stay here.”

 

     “I will not stay here!” Inuyasha shouted. He glared at his brother. Naraku himself had finally called with the terms of the exchange. There was no way he was going to stay home like a good boy just because things might be a little dangerous. “It’s my sword! I’m going!”

 

     Sesshoumaru noted the stubborn tilt of Inuyasha’s chin. There had to be some way to convince the fool that he would be of more use if he stayed out of the way. Naraku did not specify who was to bring the sword; only that it was to be delivered to the appointed spot. He sympathized with Inuyasha’s feelings, but he didn’t need his brother’s explosive temper making things more difficult than they already were. His eyes fell on Rin, watching the argument out of solemn brown eyes.

 

     “I need you to stay here and look after Rin.” Sesshoumaru tried to keep his tone from sounding like an order. That would be the fastest way to get Inuyasha to argue. His little brother had always had a problem dealing with authority. “I can’t take her with me. I need someone I can trust to watch her.”

 

     Inuyasha drew breath to argue when he felt a small hand pulling on his shirt. He looked down to find Rin staring at him, worry evident in her gaze. Swallowing hard, Inuyasha turned away from the little girl. Maybe she needed him, but so did Kagome and Shiro.

 

     “Don’t go.”

 

     The voice was so soft that it went almost unnoticed. Rin pulled more insistently on Inuyasha’s shirt.

 

     “Don’t go,” she repeated a little louder. The sudden silence following that remark was so complete that the click of Kouga setting his coffee cup on the counter sounded like a gunshot.

 

     “Rin?” From all Inuyasha had heard his brother say about the little girl, he never expected to hear her speak. Sesshoumaru had once told him that her entire family had been wiped out while they slept. Somehow, Rin had been missed. It was Sesshoumaru who found her in her hiding place, so traumatized that she refused to speak to anyone except him.

 

     “Naraku is bad.” Rin’s clear voice filled the room, growing louder and more confident with each word. “Naraku killed Rin’s family. Father hid Rin in laundry chute. Father say ‘Don’t make a sound.’ Rin quiet like little mouse. Bad men call Naraku boss. Rin is only one left. Don’t go. Shiro needs his father.”

 

     Inuyasha’s throat worked, but no sound emerged. He lowered his eyes and turned away, silently telling Sesshoumaru that the argument was won. He would stay.

 

     “Don’t worry about a thing.” Kouga clapped Inuyasha on the shoulder. “I’ll make sure Kagome and Shiro get back to you safe and sound.”

 

     “You are staying as well,” Sesshoumaru informed the young man as he calmly inspected his firearm before stowing it in its holster. He met and held Kouga’s eyes in a brief battle of wills. Grudgingly, Kouga backed down and agreed to stay behind.

 

     Rin walked over to her guardian and wrapped her arms around him in a fierce hug. “Come back for Rin, Papa Fluffy.”

 

     Sesshoumaru knelt, returning the gesture of affection. “I’ll always come back. Stay with Inuyasha.” He stood and pushed her in the direction of Kouga and Inuyasha. With a few curt orders, the room cleared, leaving the three of them in a house that suddenly felt too empty.

 

     Inuyasha waited until he heard the last of the cars drive away. Then he dashed out of the room, returning with a baseball bat, a couple of jackets, and Shiro’s Doggy.

 

     “What are you doing?” Kouga demanded as he and Rin were hustled out the front door.

 

     “Do you really want to wait like good children until someone decides to tell us what happened?” Inuyasha didn’t wait for an answer, hurriedly flinging open the door on his car and gesturing impatiently that they should get in. “I know where the drop-off is supposed to take place. I doubt that Naraku would be so stupid as to have Kagome and Shiro right there with him. But I bet that they won’t be far away.”

 

     “Papa Fluffy told Rin to stay.” The little girl crossed her arms, screwing her face up into a stubborn pout.

 

     “He told you to stay with Inuyasha,” Kouga clarified, “and Inuyasha’s getting in the car.” Rin looked a little miffed, but acknowledged that he was right. She crawled into the car and buckled her seatbelt.

 

     Inuyasha grinned and gunned the motor. “Let’s go play hero.”

 

^**^

 

     Kikyo had taken to pacing about an hour ago. At least it felt like an hour. Kagome never wore a watch because she didn’t like the way the band chafed her wrist. The only thing she would wear was the angel charm bracelet that Inuyasha had given her for Christmas. That wonderful Christmas when everything was going so well and the future looked so bright. She’d lost the bracelet somewhere. She was pretty sure that she had it when they were at the park, but couldn’t remember if she had it when she first woke up.

 

     Kikyo sported a watch; a stylish number with a delicate band of golden metal links. She had taken to checking it frequently, pressing the stud that caused the face to illuminate. Kagome didn’t bother asking for the time. The last time she asked, Kikyo made an annoyed remark and still didn’t answer the question. There were a few faint stars visible through the window; drifting clouds obscured them at times. Shiro kept dropping in and out of naps; it was as good a way to relieve the boredom as any, since Kikyo didn’t encourage conversation. He became more and more disappointed each time he woke to find that he was still in the warehouse.

 

^**^

 

     Sesshoumaru arrived alone as specified. At least he appeared to be alone. His motions and his conversation were being monitored by the officers staying prudently out of sight. He parked some distance away and approached on foot, gripping the Tetsusaiga tightly in his fist. This part of town contained the most apathetic and least law-abiding citizens. It would be hard to gain more than passing interest from a child, even if a full gunfight were to erupt. He paused just outside the circle of light cast by the only working streetlight on the block.

 

     “Where’s Inuyasha?” Naraku appeared suddenly out of the darkness. Sesshoumaru turned slowly, striving to appear calm and in control. Control came a lot harder now that Rin had broken her silence and identified Naraku as the one behind her orphaned status. The plucky little girl touched a part of him that made him determined to protect her and see Naraku prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Of course, the law would only get to deal with what was left after Sesshoumaru was through with him.

 

     “My brother was unable to come tonight,” Sesshoumaru said in clipped and emotionless tones.

 

     “Too cowardly to meet me himself?” Naraku gave a low chuckle and continued speaking without waiting for a response. “I trust that you will keep your end of the bargain. Have you brought the sword?” Sesshoumaru brandished the sword in front of him, thanking every god he knew that he had been able to convince Inuyasha to stay behind. Inuyasha’s low tolerance for insults would only have resulted in his death.

 

     “Put the sword on the ground.” Naraku stepped forward under the flickering glare of the streetlight. Sesshoumaru complied slowly, trying to buy time to figure out where the girl and his nephew had been stashed. He placed the sword on the ground with the point facing Naraku. “Good. Now back away slowly and keep your hand where I can see it.”

 

     “Tell me where to find Kagome and Shiro.” He stopped about a dozen paces away, far enough that Naraku would feel confident in reaching Tetsusaiga without interference. “And they had better not be harmed.”

 

     “They’re fine. Not too far from here, actually.” He waved his hand at the darkness surrounding them. “Keep your bully boys in check. We don’t want to have any unnecessary accidents.” Sesshoumaru wasn’t surprised that Naraku was aware of the hidden officers.

 

     “What kind of a dank dungeon are they stashed in?” He still hoped to make Naraku slip up and reveal more than he should. Naraku reached for the sword.

 

     “The old supply store warehouse is hardly what I would call dank.” With his eyes fixed on the sword, Naraku momentarily forgot to keep a watch on his tongue.

 

     Naraku cursed as he realized what he had done and dived for the sword. Sesshoumaru fell back several steps, reaching for his gun. It would be foolish to just attack barehanded. Someone like Naraku would not show up completely unarmed. He pulled out his gun with an ease born of long practice, but Naraku dodged before the move could be completed. He hit the ground, rolled, and threw some sort of object as he regained his feet. Sesshoumaru instinctively ducked, but the rock was not meant for him. There was a pop and the sound of breaking glass. The surrounding area was plunged into darkness as the streetlight bulb shattered. Shards of razor sharp glass rained down all around them. By the time his eyes adjusted to the change in light, Naraku had vanished.

 

     Sesshoumaru swore as wailing sirens split the air. Tetsusaiga still lay where it had been placed. This did not bode well for Naraku’s two hostages since it was unlikely that he would give up so easily. With a muffled curse, Sesshoumaru holstered his weapon. He reached up to rub his forehead to try and ease the headache that was building and winced. The falling glass from the broken streetlight had cut into the unprotected skin of his face and neck. It hurt just enough to be irritating. Drops of water hit the dusty ground, quickly turning from a drizzle into a downpour. Just perfect.

 

     Inuyasha was not going to be happy.

 

^*^

 

     It was more luck than skill that led Inuyasha to locate the correct warehouse. He knew how Kikyo’s mind worked and her love of drama. She would have insisted that they bring the hostages to some isolated spot where she could live out her little fantasy of being a bad girl. Inuyasha had to admit that was part of what had attracted him to her in the first place. She did what she wanted and didn’t care what anyone else thought.

 

     Unfortunately, there were a lot of warehouses in this part of town, most of them abandoned. Inuyasha parked the car and instructed Rin that she was not to open the door to anyone she didn’t know. Quiet again, Rin nodded and curled up in Inuyasha’s jacket. He stood there for a moment, holding Shiro’s Doggy, before opening the door and handing the stuffed toy to Rin. He had snatched up Doggy at the last minute with some vague idea of presenting it to Shiro as soon as he was rescued. On second thought, it was probably better if Doggy waited here and kept Rin company. Shiro would understand. Rain poured down from the sky, drumming on the roof of the car and plastering hair and clothes to their bodies. He handed the baseball bat to Kouga and indicated with a jerk of his head that Kouga should go one direction while he went in the other.

 

     Inuyasha checked two warehouses, both empty save for the rats, before he had any kind of luck. He froze in the shadows, thankful that Naraku seemed too distracted to notice his presence. Naraku cast a cursory look over his shoulder before opening a door into one of the warehouses. Tetsusaiga was nowhere in sight. His idiot brother must have screwed things up.

 

     The door had not closed all the way behind Naraku. Praying that the hinges wouldn’t squeak, Inuyasha eased the door open far enough that he could slip inside. Immediately, he took shelter behind the nearest stack of boxes. This was not the time to act impulsively. If he wanted to get everyone out of this in one piece then he was going to have to think. Voices echoed from farther inside, but the weird acoustics of the building made it impossible for him to make out the words. Leaving a small river of water in his wake, he inched closer until the words became distinct.

 

     “What do you mean we have to leave?” Kikyo whined. “You said that I would have time to stop at the apartment.”

 

     “If you want to stay out of jail, you will forget about your jewels and furs.” Naraku’s voice shook with suppressed fury.

 

     “What about them?”

 

     Inuyasha peeked around a stack of boxes. Naraku and Kikyo were right in front of him, standing in the middle of a cleared area. There was only a plastic chair and a metal stool near them. Luckily, neither one was looking his way. He saw Kagome sitting with Shiro among the boxes on the other side and barely restrained himself from calling out. Kagome cradled Shiro in her lap, brushing the hair out of his flushed face. It was hard to tell in the gloomy warehouse, but he thought they shivered slightly. Both were still dressed for a warm day of playing at the park.

 

     “We might have to bring them with us.” Naraku regarded his two hostages. “We could use them to keep those damned police officers from pulling any more stunts.”

 

     “What are we going to do now Mister ‘I know what I’m doing’?” Kikyo’s voice dripped with sarcasm. “You said that kidnapping the child would cause Inuyasha to hand over the sword without a fight.”

 

     Naraku shot her a peeved look. “Don’t mess with me, woman. You’re the one who said that Inuyasha would do anything for that brat.” He paused. “What was that? I thought I heard something.”

 

     Inuyasha ducked out of sight, praying that the box he had accidentally shoved wouldn’t tip over and reveal his location. He could almost feel Naraku’s eyes boring into him.

 

     “It was probably a rat,” Kikyo pointed out. “This place is crawling with them.”

 

     Inuyasha gritted his teeth to keep the words he wanted to say inside his mouth. I’ll show you who’s a rat, you slimy bastard. Now he wished that he hadn’t been such a fool as to let Kouga have the baseball bat. That would sure come in handy for smashing that arrogant smirk off of Naraku’s face.

 

     He shifted, preparing himself to seize the first opening that presented itself. Kikyo meant less than nothing to him. Naraku was the dangerous one. Only he would be twisted enough to kidnap a child and a woman to get what he wanted. He listened with only half of his mind as Naraku and Kikyo continued arguing. Kikyo wanted to go back for a few dozen ‘can’t live without it’ items and Naraku wanted to leave now. The bickering and the tension were starting to give him a headache.

 

     “Can’t you just come to a decision?” Kagome interrupted the current argument to demand. “I think Shiro’s fever is coming back. We need to get him out of the cold and into someplace warm.”

 

     “That brat’s health is none of my concern,” Naraku snapped.

 

     “Please,” Kagome pleaded.  “You must have a heart in there somewhere.”  Inuyasha heard her sniff and, though it was too dark to see clearly, he could picture the tears filling her expressive brown eyes.  “You tried and you failed.  Just let us go!”

 

     “Be a good little girl and shut up.” Naraku narrowed his eyes and glared at the girl.

 

     Kagome abruptly changed tactics and tried to appeal to the few mothering instincts that Kikyo might possess. “Shiro was really sick not that long ago. You told Naraku that you didn’t really want to hurt him. Well this is hurting him.” Kikyo looked away uncomfortably.

 

     “I said shut up.” Naraku reached into his pocket, his fingers closing on some object there.

 

     “I will not shut up!” Kagome’s voice became shriller with each passing second. “The cops will be knocking down that door any second.” She squeezed Shiro in a tight hug, earning a startled squeak out the boy. “Kidnapping is a crime! You’ll be in big trouble! Make things easier on yourself and let us go!”

 

     “It’s too late to be making demands, girl.”

 

     Afterwards, Inuyasha was never sure if Naraku meant to use the gun he pulled out of his pocket. Probably his intent was only to scare Kagome. Inuyasha sprang from his hiding place, sending boxes tumbling to the floor. Kikyo uttered words that were not suitable for the ears of anyone, let alone her own child, and scrambled out of the way.

 

     “Inuyasha!”

 

     “Daddy!”

 

     Inuyasha ignored the shouts from his girlfriend and son, all of his attention fixed on Naraku. Sirens wailed in the distance, getting ever closer to the warehouse. The man spun around at the clatter behind him, but didn’t retreat. The last of the boxes skidded to a halt well short of his position. Inuyasha neatly sidestepped the last box since getting squished was not part of the plan. Naraku was no longer an immediate threat to Kagome and Shiro, since he was now facing Inuyasha. But he was still holding a gun.

 

     A blind rage gripped Inuyasha. This man had made the last several hours of his life a nightmare. Abandoning the rest of his half-formed plan, he charged. Inuyasha closed quickly with Naraku, grappling for possession of the gun. They pushed against each other fiercely, but it was impossible to tell who was winning. The sudden shot deafened everyone inside the building.

 

     Kagome screamed and curled herself into a protective ball around Shiro. Kikyo, unnoticed until now, where she stood pressed against a row of boxes, gave a high-pitched sound that was less of a scream and more of a squeak and promptly fainted. Naraku broke away from Inuyasha, bolting in the direction of the door. The sirens were so loud that it sounded like the police cars were right inside the building.

 

     Inuyasha staggered a few steps. He looked down, mildly surprised to see a spreading red stain on his shirt. One hand pressed briefly under his shirt and came away wet with blood. A gut shot may not be immediately fatal, but it hurt something fierce. The last of the adrenaline drained away. Pain hit him in a wave and he sagged to his knees before crumpling onto his side.

 

     “Everybody freeze!”

 

     That was fine with Inuyasha. His energy seemed to be flowing out of his body along with his blood. Warm hands pulled insistently at him, turning him onto his back.

 

     “Inuyasha! Don’t die on me!”

 

     Silly girl. He wasn’t going to die. It just felt so good to lie on the floor. He’d get up in a minute. Naraku still needed some serious ass kicking.

 

     “Please, Inuyasha! Don’t leave me!”

 

     Small hands pressed down on his stomach. It hurt. Inuyasha grunted and tried to push the hands away. Warm moisture dripped onto his face. Was it raining inside?

 

     “Is Daddy going to be okay?”

 

     Shiro. Inuyasha made an effort to turn enough to locate his son. Hands on his chest pushed him flat. The room kept fading in and out and the edges looked kind of fuzzy. The important thing was that Shiro and Kagome were safe. And if he survived this, he would find the courage to ask Kagome to stay by his side forever. That was the thought Inuyasha clung to as he surrendered to the darkness.

 

^**^

 

Food for thought (courtesy of KC and IC):

 

Never go out to meet trouble. If you will just sit still, nine times out of ten someone will intercept it before it reaches you.

 

copyright: The Literary Dragon 2004