A/N: After many years, this fic has been re-uploaded to correct the strangeness that happened making the paragraphs ridiculously large. To those of you who way back when gave me such praise on it, thank you so much. As my first and most popular fic I decided to reupload it to correct the uploading error that occurred so long ago making this story one large paragraph and very difficult to read.

This story, originally a one-shot and still fully readable as such, later became a 4-story series:

1. Not that he Cared

2. Brothers After All

3. A Fragile Heart

4. I Will Wait

Fandom: Inuyasha

Pairing: Sesshomaru/Kagome

Standard Disclaimers Apply.

Not That He Cared

Kagome wiped her eyes on the sleeve of her blue sweatshirt. Sniffling, she pulled the zipper up tighter to her throat. It was late and she was cold and alone, and she couldn't stop crying. Why was she like this? Why did she let him affect her so much? He'd done it again, sure, but he was Inuyasha, that's just the way he was. She loved him in spite of all that, she had for over a year now, but it was wearing her thin. The constant arguing…the sea-saw motions of their "relationship"…you know, that one they didn't actually have. How could they when he was still hung up on his dead girlfriend. Kagome knew that even if Inuyasha got over himself and his pride, even if by some miracle she could be with him, it wouldn't be enough, because she would always wonder if when he looked at her, when he kissed her, if he was really thinking of Kikyo. She should just go back to her own time and go to movies with Hojo and be his girlfriend. At least she knew he was willing. But she just didn't feel that way about Hojo. She was helpless and abnormal and in love with a stupid hanyou who couldn't even be nice for more than five minutes at a stretch. She looked down into the well. She knew she should just jump, go home, and eventually Inuyasha would come to retrieve her so they could go find more shards of the shikon no tama, but she didn't really feel like going back. She just felt like crying. Every time Kagome returned to her own time anymore, it was just another reminder of the life she was supposed to have, but didn't. She felt like she was falling further and further away from her whole world, and losing who she was supposed to grow up to be in the process. This isn't what she wanted, so she just sunk down beside the well and sobbed, hating herself for sobbing so much.

"Why can't I just be a normal girl?" she choked out.

Even if Sesshomaru hadn't been so nearby, he would have been able to smell that many tears, a faint saltiness, mixed with the human scent, feminine. Not that he cared, but he was curious to see who and what it was, so he moved to the edge of the clearing and saw the dark hair silhouetting the night beside the dry well. He should have recognized her scent immediately, he'd encountered her often enough, but, he supposed, it was just that he'd never cared to pay that much attention to the girl. Why was she so sad? He didn't know why he wondered. It wasn't as if he cared or anything. My idiot brother, of course. Who else could make the girl cry like that. And where is he now? Leaving his precious human all alone in the woods. Anything can happen to her.

But this gave him an idea. He was sure that Inuyasha had a soft spot for this girl, kidnapping her would lure him and the tetsusaiga just where he wanted them.

And then he heard her tiny voice, hoarse from all the tears, and knew it was time to make his move. "Why can't I just be a normal girl?" she sobbed, and he moved out into the clearing.

"Are you sure that's what you still want?" he asked quietly.

She nearly leapt out of her skin as she jumped to her feet, and tripped, tumbling backwards. "Ah!"

But he was quick and caught her by the wrist before she fell head first into the well.

"Sesshomaru! What do you want?" she asked, doing her best to look fierce and strong, but with her tear-stained cheeks, failing miserably.

"First, I would like to know why you're so sad," he said. It was true, he wanted to know what his idiot brother had done to get her so worked up, not that he cared, or anything. He just wanted to know.

"What do you care?" she snapped.

"I don't really, just curious."

"It's none of your business. What are you planning to do with me?" she snapped. She'd had a bad enough day without having to deal with this.

"I'm going to use you to get the tesusaiga, of course. Predictable, I know, but effective. Now, you're coming with me. As long as you stay out of trouble I see no reason why you should be harmed in any way," he said matter-of-factly. But how could she just let him take her away like that, she couldn't, she knew it as well as anyone.

"You expect me to just say okay and go with you? You're insane!" she said and pulled, trying to get her wrist free from his grip. It was a vain attempt and they both knew it, but she had to at least try.

"I expect you to realize that you haven't got very many options." He let go of her wrist to prove a point. "Go ahead. Go back to Inuyasha," he told her calmly. But she just looked down at her hands and didn't move, she wiped her eyes and sniffled. She wasn't going to cry in front of Sesshomaru, she told herself, but the tears were already falling.

"Oh, I see. You don't want to, do you? So you'll what, stay out here all by yourself and likely get yourself killed. What a wasted death," he said. He knew he was being harsh, but she had to know he was right. He knew she was in love with his younger brother, you'd have to be blind not to see it.

"And letting you kidnap me is the answer? That's deluded logic, even for you."

Sesshomaru lifted her chin and wiped away a few tears briskly with his thumb.

"Think of it as a test. If he truly loves you, he'll come to rescue you. And if he doesn't then you'll know once and for all where you stand."

That logic had it's appeal, she had to admit it. But this was Sesshomaru she was talking to, how could she believe anything he had to say? And as she thought about this, she realized, it wasn't Naraku, it was Sesshomaru, and as bad as he could be, Sesshomaru had never deceived, never lied, not to her memory. He just took what he wanted.

And he could see that she was almost half-considering it. "I will make you this promise then," he decided. "I will not harm you, and as long as you are in my care, I will not allow you to be harmed. As long as you do not try to escape before Inuyasha comes I will keep this pact with you."

Kagome knew she couldn't go through the well with Sesshomaru right there, and she wanted to know what he was up to, but more than that…

Inuyasha. Please forgive me, but I want to know. I have to know, really. And he says he won't let anyone hurt me. I know he's your enemy but…I believe him.

"If Inuyasha does come, I don't want him to know that…"

"He will believe I took you by force. I see no reason to break that delusion. I leave that matter entirely in your hands."

"Then…alright. Sesshomaru, please take me away from this place."

Her voice was so steady just now, so determined. What have I gotten myself into? Sesshomaru wondered as he tried to figure the best way to pick her up. Haste was important now, he knew Inuyasha must be close by. His original plan had been to just, toss her over his shoulder kicking and screaming, but that hardly seemed appropriate now.

"…Please climb onto my back," he said after some deliberation.

"Huh?"

"It is either that or being slung over my shoulder. I leave the choice to you."

"O-oh. Okay," Kagome said as she moved behind him, and noticed the way he uncomfortably ducked down a bit to accommodate her as she put her arms around his neck and, rather uncomfortably wrapped her legs around his torso to hold herself steady. Her face leaned over his right shoulder slightly so he could see her profile, just barely out of the corner of his vision.

This is very odd, he thought. This woman, his brother's woman really, though neither of the pair seemed to know that is what they wanted yet, was clinging onto his back gently, trusting him with her life. Him, her enemy. Very odd indeed. But Sesshomaru knew, if he chose to, he could get used to it, and to her. He did not choose to; at least, that is what he told himself as he took off with her through the woods and toward his home in the western lands, a comfortable estate that some called a castle, though it wasn't really this in his mind, nor had it ever been-it was just…his home.

"Oh wow! This place is huge!" Kagome gaped as they stopped in the courtyard. "You live here?"

He nodded slightly, embarrassed by her thrall over the lands, though he couldn't explain why. Her eyes scanned the courtyard, taking in what must, in the warmer seasons, be a beautiful garden.

"Kagome," he said, the name feeling strange on his lips, and his voice saying it sounding strange to her.

"Y-yes?"

"You can get down now," he told her.

"Oh! I'm so sorry!" she nearly yelped in her embarrassment, both turning a bit red as she let her ankles go and dropped down. She did notice that he ducked again to accommodate her height, as if he didn't know what else to do. Inuyasha never ducked. He was shorter than Sesshomaru, that was true, but still she always had to sort of, hop up onto Inuyasha's back and down again. Not like this at all.

"This way," he gestured for her to follow and they walked in silence for a time.

"Sesshomaru?"

"Hm?"

"Does anyone else live here?"

"A few servants," he answered. "A cook, a few maids, and Jaken."

"That sounds so lonely," she whispered aloud to herself, not realizing. She really had to break that habit and keep her thoughts in her head.

Lonely? The truth was, the thought never occurred to him. He'd been alone for a long time now. At first, without his father around, yes, it had been lonely. There were more people here then, but it was unnecessary to keep so many, just to care for one man. Pointless. And besides that, they were his father's servants, and looking at them reminded him too much of the past, so in the name of logic, he rid himself of all but Jaken, who had always been in his charge, and replaced them with a handful of newer help. It occurred to him now that he didn't even know their names, nor had he ever really cared to.

Kagome could tell as they walked that Sesshomaru had a very particular destination in mind. He likely never paid attention to the better part of his estate, only noting important areas with a half-hearted blandness as they walked, and she was paying more attention to him and the strangeness of all of this than to the places he was showing to her, though she tried to remember where they all were. She knew she wouldn't, but she tried.

"There is a washroom at the end of that hall, but there are others that are closer," he informed her as he pointed to the left and turned right. "The large dining room is on the other side of the estate, but this smaller one is where meals are usually served. In the morning and the evening, if you are hungry at a different time in the day I can have something prepared for you………Down that hall is another washroom, the one that you'll usually use……my quarters are at the end of the hall, beyond that door, and you'll be staying in here," he said opening the door and lighting a thick candle on the dresser beside the door, giving the room a dull illumination.

Sesshomaru's eyes scanned the room quickly, as if checking that everything was in order. It had been a long time since he had had company; there simply wasn't any reason to visit the rooms other than his own. But the room had been kept clean and free of dust, and he brought the candle across the room to a small vanity where he lit another small candle, and a slender pillar on the nightstand beside the bed.

Kagome watched as he did this, elegant motion, and she couldn't help but think that, for being Inuyasha's brother, the two were really nothing alike, as if she hadn't already known that. A blanket of dark emerald velvet lay on the wood framed canopy bed, a wooden dresser to the right of the door, also wooden, the vanity, a silver lace canopy was tied back to the bedposts and there was a small closet to one side of the room. A vase sat on the nightstand, beautiful ceramic painted with a nature scene, but it was empty. Vases always look so sad without flowers, Kagome thought.

"Please take your time to settle in. I will go get you a lantern and return with it shortly."

"…thank you."

When Sesshomaru left, Kagome put her backpack on the bed and opened it. If she was going to be here, she might as well be here, she figured and unzipped her sweatshirt. It was warm inside, so she took it off, revealing the white t-shirt she wore underneath and put the sweatshirt in the dresser, along with her school uniform and a few other articles of clothing that she had with her, a green blouse, a pair of khakis, and a black turtleneck. She was going to have to find out where she was supposed to wash her clothing. A part of her wondered if Sesshomaru even knew, or if he had servants that took care of that sort of thing for him.

She placed her backpack, empty of everything except a bit of snack food and ramen that she didn't really want to see right now anyway in the bottom drawer of the dresser and moved to put her brush on the vanity, but, seeing her windblown reflection, decided to sit down and brush it out, maybe by some chance of luck, it would calm her nerves. As she pulled the brush through her hair in long strokes, she couldn't help but think of Inuyasha and her fighting, again, feeling a little guilty for laying on perhaps a few too many "sits" in her anger, and then Sesshomaru brushing her tears away. Why had he done that? It was not that he cared, they both knew that much was true. But maybe an honest relationship like that was just what she needed right now. To be around someone who didn't care about anyone and willingly admitted it, maybe it would do her a little good to have no expectations, at least until she was rescued again. Still, Kagome hoped it would take her friends at least a little while to find her. She needed the peace and quiet, just…some time to sort out her thoughts. Besides, it wasn't as if she needed to fear Sesshomaru; as far as she could tell he didn't give a damn about the shikon no tama, only the tetsusaiga, and she didn't have that.

She was crying again, brush laying neglected on the vanity before her. Sesshomaru didn't mean to stare, but…he couldn't help it. She was so dejected, so sad, and it was all because of his younger brother. The fool, can't he see how in love with him she is? He doesn't deserve it. Making her feel like this… he shook the thought out of his head as she notice the dull orange glow by the door. She wiped her eyes quickly and he, hesitantly, moved into the room.

"I…didn't mean to disturb you," he said. "I've brought the lantern. It was…not as simple a thing to find as one would initially expect."

Kagome stood, his comment made her lips tweak in a small forced smile, and she watched him through teary eyes, which she wiped every few moments as he placed the lantern down beside the brush. In this light, she couldn't help but notice that Sesshomaru was actually a very beautiful man, demon or otherwise. It wasn't something that mattered, but she was trying to think of anything other than this awful day.

Impulse took over as he turned to her and he wiped a few tears off of her cheek for the second time this evening.

"My brother, he makes you cry so much…often?" he asked, knowing it was really none of his business, and he already knew the answer. But he hadn't expected the result he got.

She just couldn't hold back any longer, and dropped into Sesshomaru's chest and started sobbing like a wounded child. He flinched, but, awkwardly placed his arm around her, caressing her soft hair to soothe her, he had a vague memory of Inuyasha's mother doing this with the hanyou, and it appeared to work.

It was some time before Kagome stopped crying, and when she realized what she'd just done, she was extremely embarrassed. She hadn't forgotten who this was. "I…I'm sorry. I…" she tried to say something that didn't sound completely lame, but nothing came to mind.

"It's fine," he said flatly. "It appears that you needed to do that. There's no need to think on the matter any further," he said, but it had really shaken him. It had been so long since the last time anyone had touched him outside of a battle, he tried, but couldn't recall when the last time had been in the end.

"Yes," she said finally, a dry squeak. He didn't seem to understand so she said softly, looking down at her lap as she sat on the bed. "The answer to your question," she said, and he realized…he'd forgotten he'd asked. "Your brother is a complete jerk."

"And you're in love with him anyway," he said, not expecting an answer and turning, taking a few steps toward the door.

"You must think I'm really stupid. I know I can do better but…I don't want better, I just want him, or to get over it and get on with my life. God, why am I telling this to you. It's not like you care, or anything."

"It's true. I can't even tell you that I understand. I have never been in love, so I do not know what it must be like for you," Why am I telling her this? "All the same, I made a promise to you, Kagome. That I would protect you while you are in my care. And if that protection extends to protecting you from memories of that idiot, then it can't be helped. Please get some rest now. If you need anything, you know where I can be found."

"Sesshomaru," Kagome said, just the need to say his name, at that moment, some emotion that had no other way of being expressed, had forced it out of her.

"Yes?" he asked, not understanding that he didn't have to answer every time she spoke.

"…um…goodnight."

"Goodnight."

The first night seemed endless. It was the first time in weeks that Kagome had slept alone, and in a bed. She knew Sesshomaru was just a few steps down the hall, but it wasn't quite the same as having Shippo nearly pinned to her hip.

And Sesshomaru lied awake in bed, staring at the ceiling because every time he closed his eyes all he could see was Kagome's tear-stained face. He couldn't escape the feeling of her wrapped around his back, or sobbing into his chest, her dark hair brushing against his throat.

He sighed. This may have been a very bad idea,' he mused.

He sat up and shook his head, "this is useless," he grumbled, deciding that since he couldn't sleep, he might as well take a walk, get some fresh air.

Kagome sat up and wiped her eyes. It was quiet; the bed was warm and comfortable, and the blanket was so soft she wanted to stay beneath it forever. But she couldn't sleep, and she wanted to wash off this awful day. She gathered up shampoo, soap, a change of clothing and opened her door to see Sesshomaru closing his behind him. She gasped and his eyes widened in surprise to see her up and about at this late hour. His first instinct told him that she was trying to escape, but he reasoned, she would have her shoes on, and her tiny blue jacket, if that were true. But there was a moment of fear gripping at his heart.

"Sesshomaru?" she asked.

"I…was going to take a short walk. Are you in need of something?"

"I couldn't sleep so…"

"Is the room not to your liking?" he interrupted unintentionally.

"No! NO, it's…it's great. I just couldn't sleep is all. Restless, I guess. I'm not used to sleeping alone anymore, or something. It's so quiet here, and Shippo usually sleeps right next to me…" Kagome stopped suddenly when she realized that she was babbling. "Anyway, I thought I'd take a bath."

"Oh. Of course, you'll need something to dry yourself with. I'll show you where the towels are."

"Right. Thanks."

"It's fine. I wanted to take a walk anyway. Please," he told her, gesturing for her to walk with him towards the washroom.

"There's a cupboard hidden in the wall. You can't really see it if you don't know what to look for, " he explained as he gestured at the right wall and took her hand. She gasped, but he understood what she thought. He pressed her hand gently against the wall in explanation, under his own and slid it slowly downwards, "You'll feel a notch," he told her.

"Oh," she answered weakly and then felt something strange. I think that's it!" she said, a little too excited about the discovery.

"Alright, you just sort of…push."

Kagome pushed with her fingertips but nothing happened.

"No, like this," Sesshomaru explained, "with the heel."

He pressed lightly on the bottom of her hand and she felt a little pop, which forced her to jump a bit.

Sesshomaru forced down a smile at that and, to keep it down, spoke and pointed at the contents of the hidden closet. "Towels on top, fragranced soaps here, clean sponges there. That robe will be too big for you. Use it tonight if you need to. I'll arrange for a smaller one to be brought in tomorrow. Enjoy your bath. Perhaps it will relax you enough to get some rest," he said before leaving and shutting the door tightly behind him.

"He's making it difficult to remember that he's the enemy," Kagome thought aloud. "He's being so kind to me."

I know what Inuyasha would say; it's all a plot, a lie, who would ever be nice to you on purpose? But I don't care if it is a lie. It feels good. Being here like this now; it's just what I need to get over him.'

She finished washing herself, having taken her time of it, and dried herself off, ready to put on her clothing, but on second thought, lifting the fluffy white robe and wrapping herself up in it. It was definitely too big, but that didn't matter. It was so comfortable that she just wanted to bundle herself up in the layers of cloth, pulling the rope belt tightly about her waist.

It even smells like him,' she noticed an image of how Sesshomaru must look wrapped up in these white folds crossing her mind, which she shook off, and only finding it mildly odd that she knew Sesshomaru's scent as she slunk down to the floor. They'd been in close contact quite a few times today, after all. Her tired mind ignored the fact that she'd just thought about what Sesshomaru looked like in a robe, and it wasn't long before she fell asleep on the bathroom floor.

Sesshomaru had walked for nearly three hours around the estate, so when he passed Kagome's open door and noticed the girl wasn't inside, he went to the washroom to check on her. He knocked gently. "Kagome?" No answer. So he opened the door and found the girl asleep on the floor in his robe, bundled into its folds. Asleep at last.'

She must be exhausted,' he realized and gently lifted her, carried her to her room, and tucked her into bed, robe and all. She looked like a sleeping goddess like that, so peaceful. He cringed when she curled into his touch and mumbled Inuyasha's name, but why did it bother him so? He knew the girl was in love with his brother, and even if she wasn't…Sesshomaru couldn't seem to find the will to finish that sentence.

Kagome blinked up a the canopy; she couldn't remember getting into bed and was surprised when she sat up to find she was still wearing the white robe. She gasped, pulling the robe tighter as she heard a knock on the door.

"Kagome?" he asked quietly, not wanting to disturb her if she was still asleep.

"You can come in," she said finally.

He opened the door slowly, trying to decide what to say when Kagome asked, "Sesshomaru, did you come into the bathroom last night?"

"Yes," he answered quite frankly. "I went to check on you after my walk, and when you didn't answer after I knocked, I found you asleep on the floor, so I carried you back to bed. Should I not have done so?"

He carried me to bed? Probably just worried that I would have tried to escape.' She blushed slightly at the thought of him finding her in his robe on the bathroom floor.

"NO. It's fine. I guess I was pretty tired." She noticed a pale blue cloth draped over his arm. "What's that?" she asked, pointing.

"I didn't know if you had anything clean to wear," he answered as he brought the garment over toward her.

Kagome nodded dumbly; she was at a loss for words at his gentleness and blunt but soft manner of speaking, not with emotion, but with fact.

After a moment of awkward silence he said, "alright you must be hungry. I'll arrange something to eat for you. Meet me in the dining room when you are ready."

"Sure."

Kagome shook her head. She had to remind herself that he had technically kidnapped her. All the same, for now, she decided, she wouldn't think about that. She slipped into the blue kimono. It was a little long, but other than that it fit pretty well.

She sat down and combed out her hair, noticing the blue really brought out the color of her eyes. For the first time in quite a while, she felt beautiful.

Sesshomaru was sitting at the table, hands folded thoughtfully in front of his chin when Kagome entered. He stood and observed, "it's too long. I'll have someone adjust the hem for you after you eat."

"It's fine," she told him, stunned at having the chair pulled out for her and pushed in once she was seated, a plate and glass already before her. He treated her like a princess; she had never been treated so by anyone, ever.

"You aren't eating?" she asked, more of an observation really.

Sesshomaru looked blank-faced at the tabletop. He hadn't desired to remind her that, unlike Inuyasha, he was a full demon, but it couldn't be helped.

"I do not need human food," he answered gently. "I can eat if it would make you more comfortable though."

"No. It's fine. It was a dumb question," Kagome answered, scolding herself for asking something so trivial. Of course he didn't do things the same way-he was a demon.

"You had no way of knowing. Many demons do unnecessary things…"

"Not you though."

Sesshoumaru thought about this a moment. Was there anything unnecessary that he did for himself? He couldn't think of anything.

"Not really, no," he answered finally.

"You don't get bored?"

"I…a little, I suppose. Noting to be done about it though; it can't be helped."

"You should find a hobby," Kagome said as she ate her breakfast.

"A hobby? I wouldn't even know where to begin," he admitted.

"Well, think of something you like, and do that."

They sat silently for quite some time as Sesshomaru tried to think of something he liked to do. He used to like walking around the estate, but that didn't bring him any pleasure any longer. He liked having Kagome here, but that wasn't something one did, it just, was…

"You can't think of anything, can you?" she asked finally.

"W…well, do you have a hobby?" he asked defensively.

She giggled; that was the first hint of emotion she'd heard out of him.

"I have lots," she said. "I go shopping, listen to music, go to the movies…"

She stopped at seeing the confused expression he wore.

"Movies are…it's like a play, theater…"

He nodded in understanding. He hadn't seen a play since he was a small boy.

Noting her empty plate, Sesshomaru stood. "I need to run some errands today. I'll summon someone to hem that kimono for you. Is there anything you need while I am out?"

"..Let me come with you," she said finally.

"Why do you want to come?" he asked, genuinely perplexed.

"I…" she looked down at the table. "I don't want to be alone. If I'm alone, I'll start thinking about him, and I don't want to think anymore. Please let me come. I can help, and…"

"Fine, you can come. Go get your shoes on and I'll meet you in the courtyard."

Kagome smiled. That had been easy. "Okay!" she said happily, leaving the dining room behind her like the swift shadow of memory.

"What sort of errands do you need to run?" Kagome asked as they approached a small merchant village.

"Shopping," Sesshomaru answered. "You said you liked shopping, didn't you? Perhaps you can show me what it is you so enjoy about it."

Kagome's step faltered. Sesshomaru thought she would fall and reached out to catch her, but she just stood there, looking dumbfounded at first and then a small, soft smile played across her lips.

"What is it?" he asked.

"So you were listening, huh?" she gave him a wide, happy smile that caused a tremor in his heart as if he were gasping for air. "I wasn't sure," she admitted. "You never look like you're paying much attention to the world around you, but you notice everything, don't you? Like the length of this kimono. I babble a lot, so I don't notice very many things; I guess that's just me though. Since I babble, people learn to filter out most of what I say, but then they miss the important things too. I guess that's my own fault in a way. It's just nice to know that once in a while, someone's listening."

"My brother ignores you quite a bit, doesn't he Kagome?" Sesshomaru asked softly.

"Yeah, I guess so. But it's not his fault. Everyone does, really."

"People who don't care what you have to say, and you call them your friends? I don't understand that."

"Everyone has their own worries. So if sometimes they aren't listening, that's no big deal. It doesn't mean that they don't care."

"…well, I'm always listening," he said, not sure why he was telling her, but that it was the simple truth. "It doesn't matter if you babble or not…You…always know what to say. I envy that about you."

"Sesshomaru…oh wow!" Kagome said, distracted by the site of the village. "This is great!" she squealed, her attention diverted instantly to the many-colored wagons and carts selling different merchandise.

"Well, to start, what do you want to eat for dinner tomorrow?"

"Um…." While Kagome thought, Sesshomaru held out a small handful of coins. "Why don't you go pick something out and find me when you're finished," he said.

"Okay!" she said and ran off towards the food carts.

I should be more worried about her trying to escape,' he thought. But he wasn't worried-something inside of him…trusted her. She was quickly working her way to some hidden place inside of him, his heart. And he realized, he liked her, not in any intimate sort of way, just a generic kind of liking. She made him want to learn things about her and make her happy, and maybe even become happy himself. You notice everything, don't you?' Her voice and those words echoed through him. He moved to a linens wagon. The primary objective of today's shopping was getting material for clothing for Kagome's stay. Sesshomaru knew he needn't do this personally, but he wanted to pick out the colors and textures that best suited her himself. He frowned at the dark selection of cloths; Kagome would look best in brighter, more living colors, like that striking blue she wore now. He stole a glimpse at her out of the corner of his eye.

"Don't you have anything more…vibrant?" he asked. "Such bland shades do not suit my purposes."

"I have some spring cloth left over from last season," the merchant answered, pulling out a box of many-colored items.

Ah, much better,' Sesshomaru thought, lifting a bright salmon pink silk with the faintest silver undertone. He considered a bright red, but it was too like Inuyasha's preferred shade, and the girl didn't want to be reminded of him just now, so he chose instead a deeper, wine red, lavender, a warm forest green, pale, powder blue, and deepest black which would be stunning against her pale skin.

Kagome appeared to still be shopping and making decisions when he finished this task, so Sesshomaru wandered the many carts rather aimlessly, quite against his nature, picking up a trinket here, a bauble there. He purchased a few hair pins and on a "logical" impulse, a somewhat larger than life plushy squirrel. It is about the size of that fox kit,' he reasoned. It may help her sleep.' He stuffed it under the many layers of cloth, embarrassed by the purchase.

What might he like to do?' Kagome wondered, determined to find a hobby for the sad, soft-spoken demon. She talked to the shopkeeper, telling him what Sesshomaru was like in order to get helpful ideas.

"Well…he's very kind, and sort of sad. He thinks logically about everything," she rolled her eyes at that, but continued, "and not much gets by him. He pays close attention to detail…um…he only has one arm, but he doesn't let that stop him…" she paused, trying to think of anything else. I bet he would like jigsaw puzzles, but they probably don't exist yet,' she thought.

"Has he tried any artistic venues? He sounds like someone suited to painting," the man smiled at the girl, not realizing the man she spoke of was Sesshomaru of the western lands, or he might not have suggested something so…passive.

Kagome would have never thought of that, she realized, but she smiled at the idea. It did seem to suit him, the more she considered it. The man wrapped up a small package of supplies for her. Two small easels, some paper for sketching, paint, brushes, a quill and ink…

She got a good bargain on the bundle and ran off happily to find him, tripping over the too long kimono on the way.

"Eep!"

But a strong grip caught her.

"Sesshomaru!" she gasped, embarrassed at falling into him.

"You should be more careful," he told her as he bent down to pick up his purchases, which he'd dropped in order to catch her.

She nodded and blushed a bit. "I tripped over my kimono," she admitted sheepishly.

"Yes. I noticed," he said, working very hard to keep down a small smirk. "Are you ready to go now?"

"Yeah. All done. I bought a surprise for you too!" she beamed happily. "I'll show you when we get back."

"A…surprise?" he asked a little skeptically, not sure whether he should be honored or afraid.

"A hobby. Maybe you'll even enjoy it!" she said, choosing to ignore the somewhat skeptical expression he wore, because she doubted he'd take her laughing at him very well, even if it was very hard not to.

"I see…"

Kagome sat in Sesshomaru's room fidgeting. He had told her to wait for him there while he spoke to one of his servants.

It's so dark in here,' she thought. A lantern sat on top of a small dresser, but Kagome was fairly certain it was only there for her benefit. She sat on a chair by the window, fiddling with the tie on the package and second-guessing herself. He's gonna hate it. He's gonna think it's silly.' It wasn't very late, but the sun had already disappeared for the day and the stars were coming into view.

Sesshomaru rested the stuffed animal carefully on the bed and shook his head. It was such an impulsive purchase. She'd probably laugh at him; but on second thought, as long as she was laughing…

He sighed slightly and smiled a bit. "Kagome, what is it about you that makes me so weak?"

He pushed the thought aside for now. Nothing could be done about it, but he had a lingering fear of what the problem might be.

Kagome looked up when the door opened. She was breathtaking in the moonlight. Sesshomaru's heart caught again; he had to force himself not to grab it. Why her? Why now? She was in love with his brother, and his brother made her cry. Sesshomaru hated thinking of it.

"I'm sorry I took so long," he said finally.

"It's alright. I'm sure it was important," Kagome said as she stood and brought the bundle in her arms over to him.

He took it and sat on the edge of the bed, snapping the tie with a claw before opening the folded cloth.

"…art supplies?"

"You think it's dumb, don't you?" Kagome said with a faint blush. "You don't draw."

"I can't say I've ever tried, but no, I don't think it's dumb. You just keep surprising me, that's all."

"Really?"

"Yes. Why don't you sit by the window and I'll give it a try," he answered, wanting to prove that he liked the gift.

"You want to draw me?" Kagome asked.

"Well, why not? If you don't want me to, I can think of something else," he offered.

"No, I…I'll just go sit down," Kagome faltered.

They sat silently for a while, Kagome occasionally smiling at the look of intense concentration Sesshomaru wore without ever noticing. But it was also a soft expression, she noticed. He had a hidden gentleness in him that she really liked.

"I believe it's done," he said finally, as if he wasn't entirely certain. It did resemble her, even he could see that, but there was something missing that he couldn't place, perhaps the colors, he told himself.

Kagome came over and peeked at it over his shoulder, her eyes widening as he found the pace of his heart speeding up a bit.

"Wow! You made me look so beautiful!" she said, amazed.

"You are beautiful," he stated matter-of-factly, looking at the drawing instead of her face. Did I just say that out loud?' he wondered. His cheeks flushed and he was suddenly very glad for the darkness. I can't go on like this. Little brother, please come soon and take her away from me before it's too late.'

Kagome didn't know what to say. He thinks that I'm beautiful?' "You…think…"

"It's late. You should get some rest," he said, cutting her off.

"Right. I'll go to my room now," she replied.

"What is…?" Kagome asked as she picked up the gray plushy that was lying on the bed. She decided to go back to Sesshomaru's room and ask about it.

Sesshomaru removed his shirt and hung it in the closet before lifting the little sketch with a small smile, looking to the chair where Kagome had so recently been sitting quietly for him. I'll get to keep you like this forever at least,' he thought. Then, a bit sadly, he put the supplies on that same chair, drinking in her scent, which still lingered there when he heard a knock on the door.

"What is it?" he asked, collecting himself.

Kagome opened the door with a smile on her face and held up the squirrel plushy. "What is this?" she asked before blushing slightly when she noticed his bare back, which became his bare chest as he faced her, and answered, "A squirrel," rather frankly.

"I know that," she said, choosing to not look at the shadows that played across his chest and stomach and the half arm missing which hung awkwardly at his side, instead meeting his eyes. "But you aren't getting off that easily. Explain," she said as she moved and stood in front of him.

"Well, it's about the same size as that fox kit, and…." he paused. "Forget it. It's silly," he said.

Realizing what he meant, Kagome, already absent-mindedly forgetting his missing shirt, threw her arms around his neck. "It's adorable!" she assured him. "I love it!"

He's so warm and soft; I don't want to let go,' she realized.

Kagome, I…my heart. I can't. Gods! I love the way you smell-everything about you really,' Sesshomaru thought.

His heart is beating so fast. Do all demons have hearts that beat so fast?'

Sesshomaru slipped out of her grip. "…you should go back to your room," he said finally, his whole body mourning the loss of precious contact.

"You're so hot and cold sometimes. Why are you like that?" Kagome half-sighed when he turned his back on her.

Sesshomaru couldn't speak for a long moment, then said, rather weakly, "Kagome, go back to your room…please. If you don't, I….please, just go."

"Sesshomaru? What's wrong? Have I done something wrong?" she asked.

"No. Nothing. Just go. Please don't make me say it out loud," he said, almost a whisper.

Kagome put her hand on his shoulder. "But…you're in pain."

"That can't be helped."

"Of course it can!" she protested.

"No, It can't!" he snapped, shrugging her away.

She gasped. She'd never heard him raise his voice before, and the force of knowing that made the act a near-explosion.

"Wh…" Kagome began to say but stopped when Sesshomaru started to speak again, more softly now.

"I know it can't," he said. "Because you're in love with him. All the same, I can't help it, the way I feel about you. I don't want to love you. I'd make it stop if I could, but I can't…and you're…so perfect." He took a breath and raised his chin, still not looking at her. When he spoke again, his tone was even and no longer a whisper. He told her in his matter-of-fact way, "so either tell me how to stop loving you, Kagome, or just go back to your room. I will see you in the morning."

There was nothing Kagome could say to that, she realized. Defeated, she went back to her room and curled up in bed with her squirrel. I know because…you're in love with him…tell me how to stop loving you…I don't want to…Sesshomaru loves me?' his words, along with her own thoughts swam through her mind as she, slowly, drifted off to sleep.

Sesshomaru wiped his eyes. "I behaved like a spoiled child just now," he scolded himself, tossing his body back onto the bed. "She made me tell her, but I could have done so with a bit more self-control. I couldn't even look at her-I just wanted to kiss her so badly. Things won't be the same anymore. She'll be different around me," he reminded himself sadly. If he could only have lied to her about this one thing, he would have been able to keep her just the way she was around him, but he hadn't been able to do even that, not even that.

He stood up and moved to the window. Looking out at the endless stars and the crescent-shaped moon he said, "Inuyasha, please come and take her away from me soon. If I can't hold her, if my love is destined to never be returned, then having her near me is just far too painful."

"You're eating this morning," Kagome observed. It was a strange thing to see Sesshomaru sitting there picking absently at the fruit basket, even if his heart wasn't really in it. He was startled a bit, but it was a dull reaction as he looked blankly at the tiny green grape in his hand and rolled it around in his palm.

He looks so sad, but can I…can I love him? I need more time. I hope…I hope it takes Inuyasha a long time to get here.'

"I wanted to apologize for my behavior last night," he said finally, softly, not looking at her and also, ignoring the tiny grape he'd been playing with. "I shouldn't have spoken so…emotionally. I was out of line."

"But, I'm glad you did," Kagome told him.

"You're glad?" he looked at her with that confused expression again and she smiled a bit.

"Yeah. It was nice to see that you can voice what you're feeling sometimes. I think I understand you a little better now."

"But…the things I said…"

"You can't help how you feel, Sesshomaru. No one can help how they feel. But…my own feelings are very confused right now, so please be patient with me a little longer."

He blinked a bit, not having expected this at all. "Of course," he answered. "I know how troubled you've been lately. Just please know how sorry I am to have complicated issues for you. Don't think of me, in that case. Decide what you feel for Inuyasha. That is why you came here, after all. I'll still be here waiting, no matter what you decide. What else can I do? I'll be in my room if you need anything."

I want him to stay here fiddling with the fruit basket in that cute, half-comfortable way, but I have no right to ask him to stay,' she thought as he left her to eat her breakfast alone.

Of course. I'll wait. I'll always be waiting for you, Kagome. Even when my brother arrives and you run into his arms like you always do, even when you leave me all alone to go live happily ever after with a man who always hurts your feelings and makes you cry. Even then I'll be here waiting for you. I'll do that because you're the only one that I love,' Sesshomaru thought as he sat in his room adding details, little things, to his sketch. A cherry blossom and bushes with flowers, the chair becoming a stone bench as he imagined her sitting in the garden in the spring.

A week passed in which Sesshomaru all but locked himself up in his room with his new hobby and Kagome felt too awkward to approach him. He snuck out every night after she'd fallen asleep to check on her-something he had done every night since the beginning, and which had become a strange force of habit and a mild compulsion that prevented him from sleeping if he didn't do so.

But tonight was different. As he looked down at her peacefully sleeping face and brushed the hair from her eyes, he couldn't help but press his lips gently against hers. Just for a moment. Just one kiss so I can at least have the memory. She's asleep. She never has to know,' he told himself, trying to justify the action even as he was leaning down over her. But Kagome woke up when she felt the hot breath on her face, just soon enough to feel his lips press against hers gently, only for a brief moment, not forceful, barely brushing, but very obviously a kiss.

"Sesshomaru?" she asked. "What are…?" but her voice trailed off as she saw the horrified panic on his face.

Awake!?! Oh Gods! She knows. She knows that I just…'

"Kagome!" he almost yelped in his shock. "Ah Uh…please forgive me. I…intended only to check up on you, I swear, but…I…I just wanted to kiss you so badly…" he told her, backing away with every word, nearly choking on each turn of phrase, glad again for the darkness as shame forced silent tears from his eyes and he swore that, no, he wasn't going to cry, had no right to cry, really. "…just once," he told her. "It…it won't happen again. I'm so sorry…so very sorry," he whispered as he reached for the doorknob, ready to make another quick escape.

"Sesshomaru," she said softly.

"Huh?" he stared at her, frightened as to what might come next.

"I miss you," she said.

"I…miss you too," he replied softly, his voice hoarse as he tried to choke back the strangled sob he could feel building there, as the dim moonlight reflected over his face where Kagome could see his tears while he silently thanked the gods for the darkness, for at least granting him that bit of protection from complete humiliation and shame.

Kagome pulled the blanket closer around her as her heart nearly broke, seeing tears on what she had always considered such a stern, proud face. There should never be tears on a face like his,' she thought.

"Then why do you hide away in your room all the time?" she asked.

"So I can get accustomed to missing you, for when you leave me," he said, looking away from the sad expression she wore, resisting the urge to go over to her and hold her until she was done with her sorrows, or forever.

"You're so certain of what I'll decide, when even I don't know."

"Of course I'm sure. You'll run to him the way you always do. You'll forget about me. Anyway, it doesn't matter, I've known that from the beginning. Only people you care about can make you cry. Everyone knows that. You cry over him too much to not love him," he told her.

"You were supposed to protect me from all of this," she scolded half-heartedly. "You were supposed to help me forget about Inuyasha," she accused. "You promised."

"But you don't want to be protected, not from that…and not from him. You don't want to forget. Even if it does cause you pain, you don't want to forget. I'm no match for that, Kagome. I won't pretend to be."

"…is that what it's like for you? Is that why you believe…"

"You make me a weaker man," he half-blurted out, rather frankly before escaping to his own room once again, where he was free to let the half-hearted, broken sobs escape his throat and roll out, muffled, into a pillow where no one could hear them but him.

"Eep!" Kagome jumped when she saw Jaken lugging a large package past her bedroom door first thing in the morning.

"Jaken? What is all that?"

"More art stuff for Lord Sesshomaru. He wants bigger canvas. And a lock for your door."

A lock for my door?' Kagome wondered. To keep me in?' and remembering last night she realized, No. To keep him out. Sesshomaru.' She sighed slightly.

"Let me help you. It's too heavy for one person," she said, lifting up the other end of the bulky package before Jaken could protest.

"…well, I suppose it would be okay."

His sketches lay along the floor in neat rows, the two tiny canvases both propped up on the dresser.

Kagome gasped when she realized, they're all of me.' And Sesshomaru was sitting by the window drawing a new sketch, looking tired, worn thin around the edges, but content enough in his own little world with the project propped up on his knee as he worked.

"Just leave it there Jaken," he began to point when he realized that Kagome was standing in the doorway, and got to his feet. Shit!' he thought as he left his sketch on the chair.

She was looking at the pictures. If he knew she'd be coming, he'd have put them away, but he'd been trying to decide which one he liked the best, which one he wanted to paint. He already had the first one, her in the garden, but the flowers looked so sad. He'd also painted her asleep in his robe because he loved the memory of finding her like that.

"You aren't in any of these pictures," Kagome noticed, kneeling down.

"Jaken, you can go," Sesshomaru stated blandly.

With permission, Jaken darted from the room. And Kagome pulled on Sesshomaru's sleeve to get him to join her on the floor. She didn't seem horrified, as he thought she would be.

"You should be in this one," she said, picking up a sketch of the dining room. "Sitting here, where you always sit, and fiddling with the fruit basket. You have that tendency, you know. You don't even notice you're doing it."

Sesshomaru just stared at the picture, unable to find any words. Kagome took this as signal enough to continue.

"And you drew me at the market, but you were there too. You looked kind of cute, trying to pick out the right color cloth…"

She saw me at the market picking out her clothing? She noticed me then? No, she was with me that day, of course she would. Right?'

"…and this garden. Don't you think I'm lonely, sitting there all by myself?"

Sesshomaru shook his head weakly. "You're waiting for Inuyasha. He should be along any minute now," he told her.

"No. I think I've given up on him. I think I know he's not going to come. I'm a little sad, but I'll get over that."

"He'll come. He always comes."

"It doesn't matter, even if he does come. Maybe he's too late."

"Please. Kagome, stop this. The answer to all of your questions is in the courtyard. He's here."

"Inuyasha is here?"

Sesshomaru nodded and stood. "He just arrived. Like I told you, he always comes. Let's not keep him waiting, hm?"

"I'll kill him if he's touched her,' Inuyasha thought as his brother emerged with Kagome behind him wearing the most stunning black kimono and a floral gold barrette that held all of her hair up off of her neck.

"Kagome. Are you okay? He didn't…"

"I'm fine Inuyasha," she said, but for the first time, didn't run to him, didn't throw herself into his arms.

"Hand over the tetsusaiga and you can have her back, little brother," Sesshomaru said steadily, but Kagome had learned to read something in him, just a vague tension in the shoulders. He was just going through the motions and they both knew it. This is your test, Inuyasha,' he thought. Prove that you love her by giving me the sword. If you don't, then I won't be able to let her go.'

"You bastard!" Inuyasha began to charge at him.

"Inuyasha don't!" Kagome pleaded.

"You're such a troublesome woman." Inuyasha grumbled and tossed the blade at his brother's feet.

"You now have your answer," Sesshomaru told Kagome in a whisper. "As I told you, he always comes. Now go to him."

"Sesshomaru. Please give Inuyasha the tetsusaiga back. I know you think it's yours by right, but he needs it more than you do, to find the shikon shards," Kagome begged.

"Fine. Take it. What do I care?" Sesshomaru said with as much roughness as he could muster, trying desperately to keep his role of callous bastard in tact. "Just go away. You're too troublesome," he said, but as he walked back into his home, Kagome could see the tears welling in his eyes.

"Kagome, let's go," Inuyasha said, and with one final look back, Kagome nodded and followed.

I didn't have enough time,' Kagome thought, but when she looked at Inuyasha now, she knew, something had changed. She cared about him a lot but…it wasn't love, not anymore.

Sesshomaru curled up in a ball on Kagome's bed, surrounded by her scent, hugging the squirrel plushy tightly to his chest. It was over. He knew this would be how it would end, but…but it still hurt, and he had a sinking feeling that it always would. So much pain. He didn't know there was so much pain in the world, let alone that one person could feel it. It felt as if his chest would burst, his eyes and throat burned from sobbing so. The old Sesshomaru would have scolded him for behaving in such a cowardly fashion, but the new him didn't care. He didn't even care if he died. He wanted to die. But he knew he'd fulfill one promise at least. I will wait for her forever.'

Kagome was behaving strangely. She was quiet, distant, and she would sigh in her sleep. She wouldn't even yell at Inuyasha anymore. Nothing he said really seemed to bother her much since she'd come back from Sesshomaru's. He just couldn't take it anymore.

"What did Sesshomaru do to you?!?" Inuyasha demanded as she sat quietly by the lake. She'd been there for a long time, trying to figure out how to say it. How to tell him that…she'd made up her mind, and Sesshomaru had been wrong.

"He didn't do anything to me, Inuyasha," she said. Then paused. Hadn't done anything? Yeah right. "Well, I guess that's not really true," she said, more to herself. "He…touched me," she said.

Inuyasha turned red, angry. "H-he TOUCHED you!!!"

Kagome put her hand to her heart as she looked at Inuyasha sadly and said, "he touched me here. And he held me when I needed to cry, and he carried me, and he… loved me'…and he gave me a squirrel."

"A…squirrel?" Inuyasha looked at her with complete bewilderment etched on his features.

Kagome just smiled. They were things Inuyasha would never do for her, couldn't really, and she didn't blame him, she just…couldn't wait for him any longer, so she took her heart back, and gave it to someone who needed it much more than he did, really.

Kagome nodded, saying, "a squirrel," softly as she took the jewel shards off of her neck and closed his fingers around them.

"Inuyasha, please forgive me. I couldn't wait for you any longer," she said, and then, she ran with a newfound strength and determination.

Sesshomaru. I'm coming, and I am so sorry for hurting you.'

Inuyasha leapt into the air and landed in front of her. "Where the hell do you think you're going?" he demanded.

"I'm going…I'm going home!" she said proudly, but not meaning what he thought she did. "I'm sorry. I…Inuyasha. I have to go, now. Because I…I'm in love with Sesshomaru. I'm sorry."

And once again, she ran. "Please use the shikon shards to find happiness," she called behind her.

Inuyasha, stunned and saddened, let his ears drop, a small whimper escaping his throat as he clutched his fist around the tiny pink jewels. How could he stop her? He had no right to stop her, and as she disappeared into the forest, he fell to his knees and sobbed. "Happiness? Without you what's the point?" he sniffled, wiping his eyes on his sleeve and remembering her words. I couldn't wait for you any longer.' She had loved him. If he was alone now, that was his own doing, his own fault.

That scent! Kagome?!?'

"What are you doing here?" Sesshomaru asked.

"I forgot something," she said heavily, catching her breath. "have you been here since I left?" He nodded blearily. "But that's been almost two weeks!" she gasped as he sat up weakly. To hell with pride. It had gotten him nowhere anyway.

"I didn't realize. What did you forget?" he said.

Now or never Kagome,' she told herself as she stood in front of him, still sitting on the bed, looking up blankly, tired and all out of hope, but with eyes full of love that she didn't know how she'd missed before now. He was holding onto the squirrel as if letting go would disrupt the beautiful dream he was having.

She took a deep breath and pressed her lips against his, wrapping her arms around his neck and getting an almost immediate response. His arm, squirrel and all, pulled her in closer; he deepened the kiss until she nearly fell into him, her knees feeling like jelly all of a sudden.

Kagome gasped for breath when she pulled away. "I forgot to kiss you back," she told him softly, brushing a few strands of vagrant white hair away from his face. "Sesshomaru, I'm so sorry for hurting you," she told him. "I think I'll always love Inuyasha a little, but you're the one I…you're the one who I want to hold forever and ever. I love you. I want to be with you. Please don't cry anymore. I'm here now, so you can stop waiting."

Sesshomaru squeezed her into a tight embrace, brushing his lips vaguely over her cheek, and told her, "Kagome, I will love you until the very last star falls from the heavens and burns into nothing, and even then…"

"Shh. I know. Just kiss me. Your kiss tells me everything," she said.

So their lips joined again, and Kagome parted hers slightly, giving her silent permission, which Sesshomaru took gladly, dropping the forgotten plushy to the floor as he pulled her onto the bed with him.

They kissed, held one another in their arms, and professed their undying affections for one another, as lovers are wont to do in such moments.

"I'm afraid to close my eyes and find out this was all a dream," Sesshomaru said as he fiddled with the collar of Kagome's blouse, just an absent gesture, an absent-minded way of keeping light contact.

"I'll be here when you wake up," Kagome told him, burying her head in his chest. "I'll always be here….forever and ever," she yawned as he pulled the blanket up over them.

"Yes," he answered. "Forever and ever," and they fell asleep in one another's arms, the gray plushy alone and forgotten on the floor, and Inuyasha alone in the forest, wondering what happened, and how he can compete with squirrel love.