This takes place directly after Sesshoumaru steals Tetsusuiga and then gets it stolen back from him by Inuyasha. Like, right after that episode. Only we have an AU twist come in here: Sesshoumaru keeps his arm and, in doing so, the Shikkon jewel shard embedded in it. And suddenly we notice a bit of a pattern emerging: Sesshoumaru and Kagome develop this odd habit of running into each other . . . How bad could it get, anyways? . . . It's not like Lord Sesshoumaru is anything other that tall, handsome, and incredibly dashing . . . (this is SO a K/S story, by the way. What else would I write??)

*

" . . . The least you could have done is cut off his arm."

"What, and let you conveniently walk off with the jewel shard? I DON'T THINK SO!"

"And what leads you to believe I would have taken the jewel shard for myself? I have been nothing but truthful and honest since we met."

"Yeah, right."

"Give me one example when—"

"One example? One example? WHICH ONE? I can think of at least a million, you damn perverted excuse for a monk! Black cloud, my ass . . ."

"But you'll at least admit that we've slept well lately."

"Whatever. Just don't you dare start on me about getting that jewel shard. 'Cut off his arm,' you say. 'It's not that hard,' you say. Hey, buddy, when you're looking down the shaft of your own sword and hearing some moron tell you to cut off the guy's arm, see how easy it is!"

"Performance anxiety?"

"Excuse me??"

"Nothing; just thinking out loud. Continue."

Inuyasha continued his rant at full volume, and I turned away so that I missed the general explosion. "All I'm saying is that you weren't a whole lot of help yourself! He was using the power of the sword on me—and I got a hand through my stomach, thanks a lot! Next time my asshole brother comes and knocks on the door, why don't you deal with him and cut off his damned arm yourself? Then I'll let you keep the stupid jewel shard fair and square!"

"I may just do that. The offer sounds quite inviting."

Inuyasha just scoffed at Miroku. "You really are stupid, did you know that?"

"I think you've mentioned it to me once or twice," the monk replied dryly.

"Well I'm mentioning it again."

"Hey, do you two want to shut up, by chance?" I asked them. "The point is, we're all still alive, you still have Tetsusuiga, and I don't think Sesshoumaru is anywhere near here right now. Besides, Shippou is trying to sleep, for crying out loud. Have some decency."

"Sorry, Kagome," Miroku told me kindly. "We didn't mean to upset you."

"Who said she was upset?" demanded Inuyasha. "She was just telling you to shut your damn mouth!"

"I was telling you both," I corrected. "It's late, and besides—you should be resting," I added, giving Inuyasha as dark a look as I could muster. "You have to heal completely before we go looking for any more jewel shards—or Naraku, for that matter. I don't think we can afford for you to collapse in the middle of a fight. And what if Sesshoumaru shows up again to take Tetsusuiga? You know you can't defeat him right now."

"Hey, say it louder!" he snapped. "I don't think they heard you on the other side of the world! The last thing we need is for every demon within a hundred miles to know that I'm out of commission, okay? Especially Sesshoumaru. I wouldn't be surprised if he's nearby and we just can't sense him."

"Well I don't sense a jewel shard, so I highly doubt he's around," I replied smartly. He scowled at me. "Besides, you owe me one. I did save your life, you know."

His golden eyes promised murder as soon as he was healed, and I tossed my hair defiantly. "Don't you dare use that against me! Do you have any idea what Sesshoumaru would have done to you if I hadn't been there? Yeah, I didn't think so!"

I snorted. "You're just mad because you didn't get that jewel shard. It's always about the damn jewel shards with you! Between that and Kikyo, I don't know what to do with you! You're hopeless, did you know that?"

"Well I don't see you running off to grab some of the shards! You've been absolutely useless when it comes to finding them anyways—and don't you dare talk to me about Kikyo," he added warningly.

"Then don't start on me about the jewel shards," I replied coldly. "If you'd give me a freaking chance, I could find a jewel shard as easily as you could."

"Yeah, right!"

Miroku arched an eyebrow and took a quiet sip of tea, careful to keep his nose out of this one.

"Wanna bet?" I challenged. "Give me three weeks, and I'll have a damned jewel shard—and if I get it, I'll even let you have it!"

"Don't bother!" he retorted irritably. "I'll be kind enough to give you a month—and if you don't find one, I don't want you to talk for SIX DAYS."

"Fine!" I snapped, royally irked. I'm not usually stressed out after a fight, but then I don't usually stare down Sesshoumaru and shoot at him, either. I'm no hero—I'm just a kid yanked from her school and her friends to run around in the feudal era looking for a jewel that someone stashed in me with the help of a fox kid, a horny monk, and a bitchy half-demon dog boy from hell.

The said bitchy half-demon dog from hell grinned ferally as I stood up to storm off into the woods and throw a temper tantrum. "Silence will be good," he taunted.

I flounced off, tossing an angry "Sit, boy!" over my shoulder. There was a crash and then some choice curses from Inuyasha, and I stormed away. Served him right for being a jerk.

I stopped at the edge of a waterfall, a few hundred yards downstream from the riverbed we were camped at, and sat down irritably. Stupid Inuyasha. Damned dog from hell. And damn Sesshoumaru for pissing him off. Damn him for having a jewel shard in his arm. Damn him for even having an arm! I didn't know how he'd gotten the sword to respond to him—Inuyasha had only been able to use it the first time when he was protecting me—and by no means had Sesshoumaru been protecting me with the sword. Maybe it was the jewel shard, or the fact that he had the arm of a human. Or maybe, as Inuyasha delighted in telling me, I was just a stupid girl and I didn't have a clue.

I folded my arms and closed my eyes, breathing in the fresh air and peaceful atmosphere. But I was suddenly aware of the jewel shard that had been constantly present in my mind the entire evening. It had been far away when I had been talking to Inuyasha, but over the past few minutes it had grown closer at an alarming rate. But who cared? If Sesshoumaru felt that it was his duty to kill Inuyasha and steal Tetsusuiga, then that was his own problem. But the least he could do was wait for him to be up to the challenge.

At that particular moment, I was feeling a bit crabby and far from rational, and so I took advantage of the fact that the carrier of the jewel shard was about to blow right by me so fast that I'd probably pass it off as a breeze. But he wasn't going fast enough that he wouldn't hear me if I spoke to him directly.

"Excuse me, but haven't you done enough damage lately?" I asked dryly to emptiness and the darkness that surrounded me. I was not surprised, however, when out of the darkness came the looming, intimidating form of Inuyasha's brother.

Well . . . half, anyways.

Maybe speaking up wasn't so bright after all.

I swallowed down a sudden thrill of fear and an urge to kick myself and run like the wind. But I might as well sit it out. Maybe he'd just kill me and be done with it. It wasn't like Inuyasha would miss me, anyways.

"Large words for a small thing like you," the Lord of the Western Lands informed me. "I would mind my tongue if I were you—I don't see your bow and arrows to back you up."

I stood up and put my hands on my hips, well aware that I'd never actually been this close to Sesshoumaru before and been the object of his attention. Damn . . . and I thought Inuyasha had been imposing. I'd always thought he was pretty big for a guy, especially compared to Miroku, but Sesshoumaru dwarfed his brother in height and made me feel two inches tall. But hey, if you're a demon lord, then I guess you can't afford to be wimpy.

"I wasn't threatening you," I replied in a voice that was tighter with fear than I'd hoped. "I was just stating that it would be polite to leave Inuyasha alone until he's strong enough to fight you. He's pretty weak right now—you did put your hand through his stomach, you know."

"I don't think he would appreciate the fact that you're telling me how weak he is," his voice came from the darkness. It's not that it was so dark that I couldn't see him, but . . . well, when he spoke, that's where his voice seemed to come from. It was like the darkness was speaking to me, not him. "As it is, I could simply walk into your little camp and kill him where he sits. Then the sword will belong to me—and rightfully so—and from what you tell me, it won't be difficult at all."

My mind raced with a decent response. "Well sure, but where's the fun in that? Where's the challenge—the fight? That's like walking up to an old lady and stealing her wheelchair—or whatever you use here. Okay, bad example. My point is, wouldn't it be more meaningful if you actually fought for the sword and won it, rather than walk up to a cripple and take it? But don't let me give you advice," I added acidly. "As I don't have my bow and arrows to back me up."

"I could kill you where you stand," he said softly, as though it had just come to mind and he was suggesting it to me. And on top of that, he was suddenly right behind me, speaking into my ear. I stiffened at the feeling of his lips brushing my ear, so close to me . . . "And my brother could not save you."

"Could not? Because if you mean would not, then you're right, so if you think that killing me will enrage him and give him some strength to fight you, then you're wrong. I've heard it before—kill the wench, kill Inuyasha's wench, kill his whore, blah blah blah, you're all stupid and wrong. He'd just be pissed off that you beat him to it."

A dark chuckle, and then he was in front of me again. "You are certainly interesting, human."

"Well thanks. You fascinate me too."

Goosebumps rose up on my arms and the back of my neck, although I wasn't sure if it was from the cool breeze that was blowing or the way he was looking right at me. His golden eyes bored holes in mine, and I felt myself take a step back.

"Do I frighten you?" he asked with a slight smile.

I swallowed again, my mouth suddenly dry. "I travel with a horny monk and a temperamental half-demon dog from hell. Very few things frighten me, and congratulations—I think that right now, at this immediate moment, you qualify as one of them."

His face, so quiet and serene in the pale moonlight, seemed ancient and made of porcelain for a moment as he regarded me. "You are wise to fear me. The only reason you live now is because I do not feel like killing you."

"I didn't plan on asking why you're letting me live, but since you mention it—and also, I'll probably say something obnoxious later and make you mad anyways, so I might as well ask—why don't you feel like killing me? Every time I see you, you've got some kind of agenda going on that includes killing us all. And stealing Tetsusuiga, of course," I added. "I'm not trying to be rude or anything—I'm just curious."

If he was the type of person that shrugged, I think he would have. "I do not analyze my moments when I feel like granting mercy, as I usually rethink it and kill the individual in question, so I ask for your sake that you do not make me do so. Unless you'd like me to kill you, which could be arranged," he added offhandedly.

"Oh, no thanks. I'll pass," I assured him nervously. "But thanks for the offer."

I think he snorted, but it was highly unlikely. "I will wait for my brother to regain his strength, and then I will take the Tetsusuiga from him with honor," he declared. "Pray to whatever primitive gods you have that I do not see you on that day, because I will not be in as fair spirits as I am in now."

"Well I'm glad you're in a good mood now," I managed, getting scared suddenly. "Um—I'll just be going now. I probably ought to get back to camp anyways, so if you don't mind—"

Before the sentence was done—actually, before I could come up with a tactful way to end the sentence, he had clamped one hand over my mouth and grabbed me with the other to keep me from screaming. I closed my eyes, certain he was going to snap my neck or something violent like that, but there was a whoosh of air rushing by, and from the way my stomach was left behind, we were moving—fast. When we came to a stop, I opened my eyes and heard the distinct voices of Inuyasha and Miroku by the fire, not more than ten feet away.

I raised my eyes to Sesshoumaru, shaking with the adrenaline rush that comes with the certainty that you're about to be killed, the question written all over my face.

"These woods are dangerous at night," he told me softly, to keep Inuyasha from hearing him with his inhuman ears. "I should hate for a foolish wandering demon to end your life when I have so kindly spared it. Do not walk these woods alone after dark, or you will meet those less merciful that I." And with that, he turned and walked away. Just walked off, like it was nothing.

I heard a yelp from Inuyasha, and suddenly he and Miroku were at my side. "What in the hell did you think you were doing, running off like that?" he exploded. "For one thing, these woods are crawling with demons, and for another, I smell Sesshoumaru! He's roaming all over these woods, and he'd jump at the chance to kill any of us!"

I snorted. "You know, thanks to me, he didn't come over here and kill you a minute ago, so HAH."

Inuyasha got right up in my face then and put his nose very close to me. "You're not kidding, are you?" he asked slowly. And then came the rant. "ARE YOU ABSOLUTELY OUT OF YOUR HALF-WITTED MIND? OR ARE YOU JUST STUPID? Did you actually go after my brother or something?—because if you did, I'll be the first one to play demonstration on how dangerous he is! This hole in my stomach? Yeah, THAT WOULD BE FROM HIM! You are absolutely the stupidest—"

I slipped around him and shouted into the woods, simply to make Inuyasha furious, "The sex was great!"

"WHAT?!"

"I'm going to bed," I told him calmly. "So if you'd mind shutting up now, I'd really appreciate it. Thanks."

"You're so freaking—"

"Good-night, Inuyasha."

"—absolutely the most goddamn—"

"Good-night, Miroku."

"'Night, Kagome."

"—such a damned stupid—you didn't really—"

"Sit, boy."

*Crash*

#

To say the least, Inuyasha was pretty pissed off at me for a while. Even as I helped him regain his strength, I don't think he ever really forgot my 'the sex was great' comment, and I don't think he really forgave me for it—though whether it was for trying to piss him off or actually thinking I was serious, I didn't know.

Miroku walked beside me as we travelled to wherever our road took us next, as Inuyasha walked several dozen yards in front of us to make the statement that he didn't need us. He was also declaring for all the world to see that he was sulking. Big hissy fit he'd been throwing, if you asked me.

"So," the monk said after a long silence. "Do you think he's really okay?"

I shrugged. "I'm sure he'll be fine. I think he ought to rest a little more, but I think we're headed in Kaede's direction, so maybe she'll be of some help."

He studied me for a long moment, and for the first time, I had the feeling that I wasn't being undressed by his eyes. "And what about you? You seem . . . well, different. Sharper. Something's changed lately."

I bit my lip. I had been worrying myself as well, actually—ever since the battle with Sesshoumaru, I had felt reckless and rebellious. No . . . it had been before then.

You know what's wrong, a tiny voice in my mind whispered.

Love. That was the source of all my problems—all of everyone's problems, actually. My love was the source of problems.

When I first landed at the bottom of the well and crawled into my own past, I had found myself falling slowly in love with the most insufferable person I'd ever met. It didn't matter that at the new moon he turned into a human, or that he had ears like a collie, without the droop and long fur but just as cute—not even that his father had been a full-blooded demon and he was constantly accosted by his half-brother, another true demon. None of that bothered me. It just seemed to define who he was, and any definition of the real Inuyasha was welcome to me. But the son of a bitch shut me out before I could get past his defenses, because I was a reminder of a time when he had been more human than demon. I reminded him of that stupid priestess Kikyo, who I resembled down to a very fine visual analysis. And he could never accept someone who he felt had betrayed him so deeply in a former life. It was because of her that he was in the tree that I found him in for fifty years—he was jaded. Sure, he loved Kikyo, but he wasn't in love with her anymore. That did not mean he was in love with me.

I was yet young, but even I have to give up every now and then. It wasn't like he was afraid to admit he loved me, or even that he hated loving me—he just didn't love me, period. I was a sister to him, maybe even just an annoyance. And I finally gave up on him. I couldn't make him feel something that he was unwilling to feel. It was better off if we were just friends anyways—I would eventually have to go back to my own time for good and leave this place behind, and I don't think I could function if I was in love with someone who died a very long time ago.

God only knew I was no masochist. I wanted so desperately to be in love with him the way I had been, and be the way I was before I had to quit, but I couldn't. I just couldn't. Change is always a terrifying thing, and when your heart suddenly goes from seeing one person to seeing nothing . . . you change some more. I was not the person I had been not so long ago, when I had been hopelessly in love with him. Had all this transpired in that short amount of time since I'd first fallen into the old well?

I sighed. "It's a long story, Miroku."

"It's a long walk."

"What are you, my therapist? If I were in denial, that would be one thing. But I know darned well why I'm different, so it's not a problem."

He shrugged. "If you insist. Whenever you need to talk about it, just come to me. I'm always willing to talk to you."

"It's nice to know I have at least one normal friend here," I sighed. "Thanks, Miroku. I owe you one."

His eyebrows jumped. "Really. Well do you mind if I were to call you on that favor? It's a small request."

It always was with him.

"Sure, I guess."

In a very conversational, casual, and yet serious tone, he said, "Please do me the honor of having my children."

" . . . You are such a sick fuck!" Inuyasha hollered back at him. "You nasty perv, go jump in a cold tub or something!"

Guys are such guys.