Love's not the Enemy

Disclaimer: I do not own the characters of Inuyasha.

A/U: I'm going to address the biggest misunderstanding about Sesshoumaru's character right here. Sesshoumaru is NOT emotionless. Yes, he's far more controlled than Inuyasha's more brash and loud character. But I don't write any expressions or emotions on his face or in his character that can't be found in the anime or manga, so if you don't like my portrayal of him then take it up with RT.

On top of that he DOES know what love is, and that it's a valid emotion as he clearly portrays the first time he fights his brother in his father's remains when he asks, "Humans, why love them?" He knows what love is and doesn't disdain the emotion - only when it's in terms of being felt for humans. And we all know he learns the fallacy in that belief when he learns to love Rin.

So all that to say I don't want any reviews or messages complaining that I'm ruining Sesshoumaru's 'rep' as a powerful, evil bastard that only cares about Supreme Conquest. If you're stuck on that idea then you never really watched the anime or read the manga, because that idea is as ridiculous as Inu no Taisho being a power-hungry bastard, and that's proved repeatedly especially in the final season.

Amber

~oOo~

"Since you have no information on Naraku's whereabouts I will take my leave of you, Inuyasha," Sesshoumaru said with surprisingly little mockery in his tone. He turned around to leave but caught Kagome's eyes and stared into them for a long moment... but then he seemed to come back to himself and walked away, not looking back once.

If he had he would have caught that lost moment echoing in the miko's oddly opaque gaze.

~oOo~

The enemy vanished and Sesshoumaru straightened, looking around through narrowed eyes to make sure he was really gone. Once he was assured that the confrontation was indeed over he slid his sword through his obi with a crisp snap of his wrist and turned to leave as well.

He got caught in Kagome's burning yet empty gaze before he could and froze, unable to look away. Her eyes were blank enough to have been his own, but only at the surface. Beneath that memories of the world that they'd found together while lost in other realms and trying to find their way back whirled by, and Sesshoumaru, unaware of his own actions began to take a step towards her - but then they were interrupted by his brother's brash voice and another moment was lost. He recalled himself to his surroundings and his eyes went cold as he once again turned and began to walk away.

Kagome's eyes filled with sadness and loss as he disappeared, the glory of the world he'd seen in her eyes gone as if it had never existed, fading to nothing more than another colorless memory that would soon be just as forgotten.

~oOo~

"There is nothing in this world that you have that I could possibly want, miko," Sesshoumaru said icily but in a low tone so his brother would not overhear. He refused to look at her; he didn't want to see the wounds he knew his cruelty had left behind in her eyes. Yet again he turned around and walked away without looking back once, seemingly invulnerable and unmoved by the things that had almost happened between them in those other worlds.

But if he had he might have noticed how little of Kagome was left behind him as he disappeared into the distance, because every time he walked away he took more and more of the young miko with him.

Soon there wouldn't be anything left of her at all for him to walk away from.

~oOo~

"What's got you so moody, wench?" Inuyasha griped as she handed him his ramen distractedly and started to turn away to go back to her seat before the fire.

She paused and glanced back over her shoulder. "Nothing, Inuyasha. I'm just thinking," she said and then sat back down. Drawing her knees up she folded her arms across them and stared into the fire with eyes that rapidly clouded over as she returned to her thoughts.

The hanyou growled at that but when she didn't even seem to notice he narrowed his eyes on her thoughtfully as he began scarfing his dinner. Something was up with her and he was going to be watching her until he figured out what was going on.

Kagome could feel his eyes lingering on her but the knowledge was distant and she simply ignored it to sink deeper into her thoughts.

How could I have known that such a small thing would have such life-changing consequences? She shook her head with a slight exhale, not quite a sigh. I couldn't have...But... if I could go back... would I change it?

Would I?

The memories began to overtake her and she slipped deeper into them, the line between past and present blurring until she completely lost touch with the waking world around her and began to relive the recent past.

It was just another normal day for the Inu-tachi, a day like any other - which meant that they were once more going rounds with public enemy number one, Naraku. They were hanging out in Inuyasha's father's remains - again - getting ready to fight it out over the final shard when Sesshoumaru had up and decided to join the fracas.

She was about ready to just tear her hair out when he appeared. She stared at him warily - just because he was after Naraku as well didn't make them friends, as he proved quite nicely when he immediately went after his brother. As he landed he drew back his arm to strike Inuyasha...

It was in that moment, the instant when Sesshoumaru was preparing to strike, that Kagome realized that there was another spectator to what was happening - and that he wasn't at all pleased with what was going on. Before the daiyoukai's arm had moved more than a few inches or she even realized fully what was happening she was shoved aside and control of her body was momentarily hijacked. When her brain caught up with her she was between the brothers, her reiki reacting as the youkai spirit took control of her and flaring up around her in an inferno of power that everyone could feel.

Sesshoumaru, reacting to the threat that reiki usually was for youkai drew his youki around him protectively and braced himself with a scowl. Everyone in the area ducked and did the same, knowing what normally happened when the two opposing energies met - a huge explosion.

To make a long story just a little shorter, that's not what happened.

When the two powers met they - for lack of a better word - merged somehow. After spiraling around both she and the daiyoukai for several seconds in a kaleidoscope of light and color they had simply become one power. As they did the ground disappeared from beneath both she and the just-as-stunned Sesshoumaru and darkness reached up to swallow both of them.

She barely had time to hear the inuyoukai lord's low curse and feel an arm like a steel band come around her before an even deeper darkness swallowed her awareness.

When she finally woke again she found herself laying on some ground somewhere with a controlled but still very ruffled Sesshoumaru sitting a few feet away. She looked around, bewildered, her mind trying to make sense of what her eyes were feeding her.

"Ano... where are we?" she asked in a voice hushed by confusion as she stared at the sky that couldn't possibly be seen from anywhere on their world. Two moons stared back at her, gliding across a deep sapphire sky filled with stars - and a missing river of heaven. Well, not missing per se - it was just that they were seeing a different view of it than could be seen from earth.

On top of it, the ground was black with silvery streaks and the vegetation - or what passed for it on this world - was differing shades of crimson and a deep red-purple. It was really beautiful... but weird.

At least the air seemed to be pretty much equivalent to their world's atmosphere.

"I do not know where your interference in what did not concern you has landed us, miko," he said stiffly, staring straight ahead and refusing to look at her.

She knew right then that she would be spending a long day trying to pacify an outraged daiyoukai if she didn't do something about it - so she did the only thing she could.

She told the truth.

"It wasn't me, Sesshoumaru," she said ruefully as he slanted slitted golden eyes her way.

A suspicious silence met her words for several long, awkward moments.

"Do you take me for a fool - one unable to tell the difference between you and an impersonator?" he asked, his voice beginning to rumble dangerously as a faint red haze gathered in his eyes.

Angering this daiyoukai had always been a dangerous prospect. He might wear a facade of ice but beneath that was a volcano just waiting to erupt - Sesshoumaru was as hot as they came and just as deadly and Kagome had always known that.

She sighed and her eyes turned thoughtful; attention arrested, the daiyoukai narrowed his eyes on her, the red fading from them as he began to get the inkling that there was something else going on here - something he decided he needed to know. His eyes narrowed further when she didn't elaborate, his impatient, "Well? Speak, miko!" recalling her to her current uncomfortable proximity to a definitely unhappy Sesshoumaru.

She smiled sheepishly at him and a light blush colored her cheeks.

"Oh... sorry. To put it bluntly, it was your father. He was watching what was happening and was not pleased with you attacking Inuyasha, especially over things you've done-" she glanced at him knowingly and he turned his eyes away from her after a moment though he didn't acknowledge her words in any other way, "-as well. So he took just enough control of me to interfere and sent us, well..." she looked around dubiously, "wherever this is."

Sesshoumaru turned his gaze back to her and stared at her with as close to a bemused expression as she'd ever seen on his face...

And that was how her adventures at the daiyoukai's side had begun.

She sighed, coming back to herself and the present to find Sango and Miroku looking at her solemnly and Shippo tugging on her sleeve, while Inuyasha was still staring suspiciously at her. "Eh? What's with you guys? Why are you all staring at me like that?" she asked a little testily, irritated at being drawn out of her morose thoughts rather than relieved as she normally would have been.

Shippo let go of her sleeve but stepped a little closer to her.

"We've been trying to catch your attention for a few minutes now, Kagome," Shippo said, looking up at her with a worried expression in eerily glowing eyes. "But your face was sad and your eyes far away and you didn't answer. Are you okay?"

"Sure," she smiled, an affectionate expression taking over her features as she looked at the young kit. But there was a little bit of the normal sparkle in her eyes and smile that was missing, and though the kit was too young to catch it the others were well aware of it - and Kagome knew it. Sango and Miroku would respect her privacy if she didn't choose to confide her troubles in them but Inuyasha would not... and that was a huge problem.

Her hanyou friend was well aware that she'd fallen out of love with him, as her feelings had begun to change even before she and Sesshoumaru had disappeared. The issue now was that she'd not only gotten over him, but fallen in love with someone else entirely.

Someone he considered an enemy.

While they'd been lost in other realms and trying to find their way back that hadn't been of any real concern. Where they had been was a place outside of time for them, and so it hadn't mattered if feelings began to develop as time had gone on and days had turned to weeks. With the possibility that they might never find their way home came a certain freedom from societal and racial strictures...

It hadn't mattered that he was a human-hating - sort of - daiyoukai of immense power and high social standing. It hadn't mattered that she was a - mostly - human miko of also immense power but conflicted loyalties because of his brother.

All that had mattered was that while trapped on strange worlds that didn't resemble their own in any way they had each other. As time had gone on they'd had to depend on each other more and more and slowly the two of them had come to know each other a great deal better than they'd ever thought they would. When they'd begun to doubt that they'd ever find their way back a certain closeness had developed between them that was rife with possibilities...

And then they'd found the way home quite by accident, and everything had changed. Sesshoumaru had been quick to point out that with their return to their world those possibilities had been lost, and had vanished after returning her to Kaede's village and his half-brother.

Why should we miss what we've never had?

That had been the last thing he'd said to her before leaving her with Inuyasha.

She'd spent a few days readjusting and crying her eyes out before she'd decided he was right. Why should she miss what she'd never had? And so she'd pushed it all to the back of her mind and off a conveniently placed mental cliff and refused to think about it again.

That determination had lasted until the first time they'd seen him once ore, several weeks after their return from those other worlds. The minute she'd seen him it had all come back, and she hadn't been able to forget any of it again though she'd tried harder every time he'd walked away from her as though she no longer mattered.

But now... now there was no more hiding from the truth for her.

A faint sigh escaped her lips. Would I change anything? No... because I...

... I love him.

I love Sesshoumaru.

~oOo~

"... not a bad guy, Sesshoumaru - and what's more, I think you know it. So why do you keep trying to kill him?"

Sesshoumaru scowled at that memory, irritation gnawing at his skin as her voice rang through his mind. He'd tried so many times to silence that voice, but it simply hadn't worked. The memories just kept haunting him.

"Look at the sky! Isn't it beautiful?"

"It is the sky," he'd said coolly but with no bite as he wondered why she was admiring the heavens when they should both be concentrating on finding a way back to their world. "Why does it matter what it looks like?"

She'd tugged on his sleeve, and when he'd turned his head to look at her she'd smiled. "Come on, sit with me for a few minutes. I need a break, anyway. We've been walking for hours."

With a reluctant sigh he'd obliged her, and that had been all the further they'd gone that night, because she'd spent most of it pointing things out to him with such awe that eventually her euphoria had infected him just a little and he'd actually noticed things about the skies that he hadn't paid attention to in years. The next morning he'd been content like he hadn't been since he was a young pup, and he'd sat by and actually let the little woman sleep in since she'd spent the entire night talking idly and he'd spent it actually enjoying the peace and occasionally speaking back.

Over the weeks that he'd been trapped with the miko far from their home he'd learned a great deal about her. And he was not happy now to be able to say that he truly admired her spirit. He'd always known she was a very determined woman, one who didn't back down from anything when she was protecting herself or others. She was no coward, and even as he'd tried to kill both her and Inuyasha in his father's remains the first time he'd met her he'd felt approval at her proud bearing. That she'd refused to beg or abase herself before him had struck him as most inhuman of her, and he'd almost wished she'd been youkai in that moment.

Her pride and fearless and indomitable spirit was certainly more fitting for a youkai, though he hadn't actually met many youkai that were like her - or humans, either. She was a most unique being, he couldn't deny that.

Certainly Rin was similar, but she was just a child and her personality and character were still forming. Right now she didn't really need to be courageous - though he knew she could be, as she'd proved when going after the plant to heal a dying Jaken all by herself and a few other times besides. But he would never let her be harmed - she was his and he would protect her no matter what. That was one of the reasons he was after Naraku - it wasn't just because the fool had tried to use him, as he'd used as an excuse for his pursuit of the spider so as to hide his care of the human child. Then he'd decided that he didn't care what anyone thought about his little ningen companion and stopped bothering.

But it was one thing to ignore the fact that a human child walked with you - and another thing entirely to be involved in a relationship with an adult human woman. It was something he'd always sworn he'd never do... he didn't want to end up with a pup like Inuyasha, after all. The boy was a brat most of the time, and he'd certainly not put up with that in his own offspring.

Of course, there was the corollary to the whole thing - Kagome was most definitely not Izayoi. A beautiful woman, even he could not deny that, but she'd been powerless and pretty much helpless as had been proven on the night of his father's death. Kagome was not the same at all.

A very attractive female certainly, she wasn't the beauty that Inuyasha's mother had been - at least not physically. Inwardly was another story. And she was a wellspring of power, even if it wasn't youki but reiki.

Still.

His pride was definitely involved here. He'd sworn, vowed in fact, not to be like his sire and take a human female as his consort and so his preoccupation with this powerful but human woman was not doing him any good.

He gritted his teeth for a moment, trying to let his tension out as he walked through Inuyasha's forest and regain his calm. But it was something he'd not been able to do since returning from his time with the miko, and his agitation surged to the surface along with his youki. He snarled, his eyes reddening and fangs lengthening. Spinning on his heel he struck out at the nearest tree, an old deadfall, and clawed it into pieces.

Pulling back as the remains of the tree fell to the ground in small chunks he curled his fingers into his palm, ignoring his own blood welling up as his claws pierced his flesh. He was too angry with himself and the situation to even notice such a slight wound. Inhaling deeply once more he closed his eyes and forcibly centered himself - or tried to. He managed to gain control of his dangerously close to exploding temper after a several minute struggle, and once somewhat calm again he turned back and continued walking in the direction he'd been traveling in.

I do not want to see that woman anymore! There cannot be anything between us here in our world so it is best that we do not meet again.

He came to a halt at the edge of the clearing that her well sat in and stared at it emptily.

And still, even with my determination to stay away from her I find myself here. My feet wander this way far too often. He growled. It must stop, here and now. I will leave here and never come this way again.

Before he could move to leave, however, Kagome's aura burst into effervescent life around him and he froze, stunned for a moment by the surge of well-being he felt at just the touch of her aura. By the time he'd regained control it was too late to leave without her noticing him.

Kagome had felt his presence the moment she'd landed fully back in the past, and she glanced up at the sky for a second as she cleared the lip of the well, gathering her courage before finally looking at the daiyoukai that had stolen her heart. He was so beautiful, a light figure highlighted even further by the moonlight, and she found she couldn't look away.

As the silence lingered, however, she began to fidget. What was he here for, anyway? "S-Sesshoumaru?" she finally prompted hesitantly.

Once again he turned and began to walk away from her, her voice seemingly waking him up to the fact that he was still standing there. She blinked in surprise, though she realized she shouldn't have been, since he'd been doing this to her since they'd gotten back. And then something inside just snapped, the sensation actually a physical pain. She couldn't take anymore of this whole mess, and by gods he was going to explain what his problem was or she was going to pass to drastic measures!

"Oh, no you don't, Sesshoumaru!" her voice rose as her agitation increased, stopping the daiyoukai in his tracks. "You don't get to do that again! Inuyasha's not here and neither is anyone else, so you'd better tell me what the hell is wrong with you," she gritted ominously. "You've walked away from me too many times, but what's even worse is that you're treating me like I don't even exist anymore!"

Her voice fell into the heavy atmosphere like a stone and it grew quiet for a few seconds, all that could be heard the sighing of the breeze through the grasses and a few crickets chirping.

Finally the inuyoukai lord that was confusing her so terribly spoke, and Kagome's tension decreased a little - at least he was actually noticing her and not acting like she didn't exist - for all the good she already knew it would end up doing her.

"What do you want me to say, miko?" he asked coldly. "I do not owe you anything." He paused, and then reluctantly turned and met her gaze. "And yet it is easy to see that you believe that I do. So what is it that you want from me?"

She stared at him incredulously for one silent second, and then she finally just lost it completely. All the weeks of uncertainty and confusion, of pain and frustrated desire, of missing him and the time they'd had together just erupted from her in a torrent of blurred words and torrid emotions.

"You were so different there, Sesshoumaru! It's like you're a completely unrelated person to the one I got to know those weeks ago, and its confusing. But I'm so tired of crying at the sound of your name or the sight of your face, of feeling as though I've been gutted every time we see each other and you look away like I don't even matter anymore and leave!" she yelled with passionate frustration and bewilderment painted on her face at the ice he was treating her with. How could he be so changed just because they were here instead of there? Why did a place matter so damn much?! "Why won't you give what we could have a chance - or even acknowledge it anymore?!"

Goaded by her palpable suffering and his own turmoil, his ability to control his wildly fluctuating emotions disappeared for the second time that night and Sesshoumaru turned on her. "Anything that we might have had was lost when we returned here, miko! You know the reasons as well as I so I refuse to repeat them again," he snarled. "Leave it where it is - just another one of many paths that exist but that are impossible for us to walk now or in the future!"

Kagome stared at him as the wild emotion of a few moments previous died away and weariness took its place, before finally turning around to walk away herself this time. There was nothing else she could do. She paused at the treeline, however, unable to hold the words in and said, "Love's not the enemy, Sesshoumaru, no matter where we are. I'm not the enemy. Here or there, it doesn't matter," quietly yet with a weary cynicism that struck him as unnatural coming from her, before continuing on her interrupted way to the village.

He stayed frozen behind her as her words tumbled through his mind like shards of broken glass that reflected his own faltering beliefs. They highlighted the holes in those beliefs so starkly that he could no longer ignore the tumult and disquietude that existed beneath the usually placid surface of his mind.

~oOo~

Why do we say things we can't take back?

Sesshoumaru stared into the empty skies above him with a serene face and agitation growling under his skin. He couldn't get the latest run-in with Kagome out of his mind anymore than he could any of the others.

No... what he couldn't get out of his mind were the hurtful things he'd said to her. And that he'd hurt her shouldn't even be of any concern to him.

But he could no longer deny that it was...

Why do we miss what we never had to begin with? Whether he knew the answer to that or not didn't seem to matter because the truth at the bottom, underneath what little he allowed to be seen by the world, was that they did seem to be missing what they'd never had. He was missing what he'd never had.

Love? He scoffed. Who needed such a thing on the road to Supreme Conquest? Not him. But scoffing wasn't getting him anywhere, because deep down he knew better. He might not have needed love on the path to conquest - but that wasn't really the road he was on anymore. The truth was that he hadn't been on that road for a long time. The moment that he'd accepted Rin's presence at his side he'd left that path - and he'd never looked back.

His eyes burned as he recognized what he'd been hiding from himself for so long. He'd been living a self-fulfilling lie for some time now, he realized with disgust. He'd been lying to himself.

How utterly useless an endeavor...

Missing what we never had, he thought scornfully. That could be said for my desire for Tetsusaiga just the same - and with more legitimacy. I never had that sword, and I do not need it, either. How simple a thing for this one to have missed for so long...

I am strong enough on my own.

He sighed quietly as he acknowledged that thought and the following one.

But now that I understand that, what is truly holding me back from taking what I really want?

It certainly wasn't his brother's probable reaction to realizing what had happened between he and the miko when they'd been lost together. He could care less if his sibling liked his new reality or not. Really, no one would like the fact that feelings had grown between them, a miko and a youkai...

Was that it? What others would say? He'd never cared what anyone else thought about him or his actions before, so when had he started using that as an excuse to hide from his feelings? From her?

His eyes fell closed as he finally realized his own culpability in everything that had happened since he'd met her.

From the very beginning. I used that as an excuse all the while not even noticing my own hypocrisy in saying such a thing even to myself. Because never would this one bow to the wishes of another, and if I based my life on what others would think or say that is exactly what I would be doing. He clenched his fist and stared at it, frustrated. I have been lying to myself, and for months now.

When did I fall so far?

It didn't matter in the end, though. All that mattered was that he had, and now he had to decide if he had the strength to love a human. A miko. Anyone. Because only the strongest of beings could love in the manner he instinctively knew he would have to if he gave in to the feelings that lay inside the heart he'd buried and abandoned so many centuries before.

He'd certainly have to do something, because this situation was no longer acceptable. He couldn't hide from the feelings anymore, because the memories went wherever he went and he'd gained no surcease from them by trying in the weeks since they'd returned. He never would...

"... can you fault a father for loving his son? Don't you see? If your father hadn't loved you, he would have given you the sword, Sesshoumaru. He wouldn't have cared that you don't need Tetsusaiga... because you're stronger than it could ever be."

"Hn," he breathed almost silently into the still night air as a brief amusement washed through him.

How her words angered me then - though they were merely the truth. But it was because I did not want to accept that a simple human had seen something so clearly after naught but a few month's knowledge of the past - when I had missed it entirely for centuries after living it.

A soft growl escaped his throat as he scoffed at the words 'simple human', his momentary bout of humor slipping away. A simple human is most certainly one thing that she is not, he allowed after a few seconds of thought to the irony of both those words. And I am beginning to understand that neither word actually applies to the miko - though it would not matter if they did, he realized in the same instant, because I would still want what she is.

It was in some ways an ignominious truth, but he found that he could not really regret any of what had happened despite that, because where he had the chance of going if he chose correctly was better than anywhere else he'd ever been. And so the fact that he, a daiyoukai of incomparable stature and breeding was now lusting after what a human miko could give him was no longer able to bother him. He was Sesshoumaru, and no one else had any say in what he chose to do. If he chose to take the woman named Kagome then nothing else mattered but said choice.

It seems that my decision has truthfully already been made since I am thinking such things.

He stood from his spot near the fire and glanced at his little group of followers. They were still sleeping, not stirring at his restless movements because they knew they were safe and so slept the deep sleep of the innocent and protected. After a moment he forcibly stilled himself and looked up at the sky, a certain determination taking him over and finally calming his distressed instincts.

I will make things right between us. Because whatever was lost - if anything was lost at all - can be found again.

Nothing else in any world mattered more, he was beginning to realize, not pride, not duty, not their differing races...

Not even opposing relationships. She was friends with his brother and that he had always been enemies with the same brother was certainly not up for debate. But that fact was rapidly coming to mean less and less to him, and he wondered as he stared into the heavens why he'd ever thought such things more important than his own contentment.

~oOo~

Several weeks later Sesshoumaru watched Kagome walk into the trees at the taijiya's side with her bathing accouterments in her arms. After a moment spent considering matters he sat down against a tree in their newest encampment.

Once he'd finally made up his mind about what he wanted he'd approached his brother's group and offered an alliance. They were getting very close to Naraku now and it was best all around if the two groups joined as one. Surprisingly Inuyasha had seen his point and though he wasn't really happy with the idea, he'd allowed it without too much of an argument.

That wasn't to say they were getting along - at least not since his brother had realized that he had an ulterior motive for his presence.

He heard a low growl that the others didn't seem to and looked up.

"Don't think I haven't figured out what you're up to, bastard," Inuyasha gritted between clenched teeth quietly, but with no less heat than his usual shouting. "And I won't allow you to get any closer to her than what you already are just by traveling with us!"

Not even bothering to answer Sesshoumaru stood up again and began to walk in the opposite direction from the one the girls had taken. If he was not to be able to watch Kagome or at least take his leisure in peace then he had no mind to remain in camp.

It wasn't more than an hour later that he looked up at the sound of someone approaching his Inuyasha-free zone to see the miko nearing him. He regarded her steadily through calm golden eyes as she came to a nervous halt when she saw his gaze resting on her.

"Ano... I only came to see if you were hungry," she blurted after an uncomfortable moment spent fidgeting when he didn't say anything.

"I have no need of food at this time," he replied evenly.

"Oh," she said softly, "then I'll go so you can get back to... whatever you were doing."

Suddenly he was looming over her and she stepped back in faintly wary surprise.

"Do not."

"Eh?" she asked, confused now. "Don't... what?"

"Go."

She blinked. "Nani?"

"Stay."

"I don't understand you at all!" she finally burst out when he didn't elaborate. "Stay? Why? Kami, you're so frustrating sometimes! First you don't want me around, and now you're asking me to stay? For what?"

He stepped closer to her. "You asked me a question that night at the well. My presence here with you has been my answer to that question."

"Answer?! What the hell kind of answer has your presence been when you made it clear you were simply here to finish off Naraku?"

"I have no desire to miss what we have never had," he continued as though she hadn't spoken, "therefore I will claim you as mine."

She gaped up at him, completely blindsided.

"Wait, wait, wait," she said when he made to move towards her again, backing up with bewildered and disbelieving eyes fastened to his. "What do you mean, claim?"

"I will mate you," he specified as he studied her through thick lashes to make sure she was understanding what he was telling her.

Whirling away from him she wrapped her arms around herself defensively, turmoil roiling through her. After everything he'd said and done to avoid being involved with her, now he wanted to mate her?

"You can't just waltz in here and demand that after everything else you've said and done, you know!"

"Then are you denying me?"

She froze as everything inside went still. "Well..."

Sesshoumaru reached out and grasped her shoulder, turning her back around to face him. When she looked up, ready to shout at him, the gentle expression on his face halted her in her tracks, her eyes widening in surprise at the sight. But when he lifted her chin and lowered his head to kiss her she pressed a hand to his chest to stop him.

"Are you sure this is what you want?" she finally asked breathlessly after searching his eyes for the truth of his words and letting his calm certainty relieve her own wild emotions of the last weeks. It's not like I don't want him, so why was I bothering to argue again anyway?

He gave her a mildly impatient look, like he couldn't believe she'd even asked him that, and she had to admit how ridiculous that question had been. This was Sesshoumaru. He never did anything he didn't want to do, so why was she worrying about it?

With a shy smile and a small sigh of surrender she removed her hand...

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Owari