Disclaimer: I do not own Inuyasha-tachi---that honor goes to Takahashi Rumiko. I do, however, own an embarrassingly large amount of manga for a grown woman, oh!--and a wad of dryer lint.

**Revamped a bit to clarify---no big changes. I have an update list for this fic, so email me with your address and I'll add you!**

Yume

Chapter 1

It was that dream again. He knew instantly because it was the same scenario nightly, for the past month. It chased him down, hounding him like the vengeance of hell, until he gave in and let himself be drawn into the same familiar events his subconscious mind played out for him.

Aggravating---that's what it was, for the dream somehow weakened his emotional barriers, opening him to a display of feelings he thought mastered long ago. It was what made it so enraging...and seductive. It called to him, and no matter how he tried to resist, even his formidable will was no match for the inexorable pull it exerted upon him.

The pull she exerted upon him.

Power and beauty, but mostly power.

He hated to admit it, but it radiated from her in an almost visible aura of blinding pink-white energy, surrounding her like a cocoon, as if what was presented was not her true form and she was simply waiting for the time her power would mature her into something...more.

He hated her.

He wanted her.

She stood before him, the only bright point of light in a faded, moon- washed dream scape. Bathed in moonlight, fair skin glowing and flawless, she beckoned him with her utter stillness, as if the nonchalant pose was a spell in and of itself, demanding his attention, like a compulsion.

Her white gi reflected the light with pristine brilliance, but her hakama, once red, were bled of all color by the night. They appeared grey, as if she were clothed in dim, indistinct shadows from the waist down. The strange effect of the lunar light made it seem that she was only half there- -shining and pure from the waist up, but her legs nothing more than a dream within a dream; ghostly grey and vaporous.

Half a woman.

Half a soul.

Raven hair twisted about her shoulders in the breeze. Ribbons of midnight silk against alabaster skin, flowing in liquid streams driven by the wind that seemed to affect only her. Her dark, luminous eyes were locked onto his poised figure, holding his golden gaze unblinkingly. Daring him to approach.

Those eyes were what always remained with him long after he awoke--the only clear memory he took with him from the realm of the dream. They held secrets and the key to mysteries deeper than even he could know. Secrets older than he was; older than his father, even.

Ancient. Powerful. Compelling.

Seductive.

Her look was ethereal, timeless, and infinitely promising. A promise of power: power of raw sensuality, power of magic, power of domination. Power of something else he couldn't quite name. Something he was afraid to name.

No he, Sesshoumaru, was never afraid. He was only wary, for his heart stirred uneasily when he gazed upon her. It was simply the foreign, unwanted nature of that nameless...something...that made him suspicious.

It also made him angry.

As always, though, her promise of power drew him like a magnet, and he felt his feet unwillingly taking his tall, elegant form toward the statuesquely still woman. His usual graceful, gliding gait closed the distance between them slowly, drawing out the tension to a fine thread until he stood inches before her, towering over her petite figure, hoping to intimidate.

He knew she would not be, though. It was not just a piece of knowledge gained by a month of nights playing out the same unchanging scenario--it was instinctual, this sudden, sure knowledge that she would never cower before him, never back down in the face of his vast superiority. It only served to inflame him further, stoking the fires of his rage...and his passion.

She blinked once, slowly, as if taking in his face and figure, processing his trademark aristocratic beauty, the fire in his amber gaze, the lean musculature of his chest, arms and legs...then moving on without a second thought. Turning, she gracefully began to walk away.

He quivered in suppressed fury that she would dismiss him so easily, but he was trapped within this dream body, aware of his surroundings, but unable to affect much in this non-corporeal form.

He followed.

How he hated her for that! That he, a lord, a prince among the greatest creatures in creation, should feel obliged--no, need--to trot along after a mere human, like a dog on a leash. It was not to be borne. But, no matter how steely his will, he could not convince his feet to obey his commands. And he had to admit to a certain amount of curiosity about her.

He did not worry about where she was leading him, or for what purpose--he had been through this set of events many times and neither the beginning nor the end had changed. But the woman herself drew him.

She was simply human---belonging to that weak, pathetic race---yet was seemingly formed in an entirely different mold than her brethren. She was soft, yes, but with a current of unyielding steel in her spine. Human, but possessing an intensely magical aura...beautiful, sweet, seductive.

A paradox, a puzzle, and he intensely hated not being able to solve the mystery she embodied.

He hated feeling the need to.

So he followed her through the misty forest wordlessly, trapped by his conflicting desires. Trapped by the primal urge to rend her delicate flesh for the temerity of compelling him to feel anything at all, and by the almost desperate need to unravel the tangled knot of curiosity and lust she engendered within him.

Finally, she stopped at the edge of a clearing. A grove of cherry trees awaited them, bare branches whipping in an unseen, icy wind. As she laid one tiny foot inside the boundaries of the open space, the branches halted their frantic motions, as if calmed by her very presence. He wished he could calm himself around her in the same manner.

Lifting one delicate hand, pale skin glowing in the light of the moon, she tilted her palm outward to face the trees. Blossoms burst from buds born of her power, abruptly conceived from the nothingness of winter in a weird twisting of time. She had brought life to something dead, or at least sleeping.

Idly, he thought the effect must be similar to how he appeared to lesser beings when he used his enhanced speed to move. A sudden blur of movement, giving the illusion that he had disappeared and reappeared from the ether; that the observer was somehow stuck in a pocket of time, stationary, while the world revolved on without them.

It made him slightly queasy, and he could feel his teeth grinding in rising ire. It was an effect that only added one more reason to kill her, if he could ever find her true body. Strangely, he did not doubt that she existed in fact, but he was never given a clue to her identity, other than her miko's garb. She never spoke.

In the clearing, glinting in the moonlight, was the broken edge of something that used to be sharp, embedded in the very center of the ring of now-flowering trees. Pale petals of dying cherry blossoms floated around the broken and pitted line of steel like the souls of soldiers slain in battle. The once-deadly instrument was a battered katana, neglected and rusting.

Lonely. Pulsing. Calling out to him.

He recognized the blade instantly.

Movement caught his gaze and his focus sharpened, locking onto a figure emerging from the circle of trees directly opposite his own position. As he did each dreamtime, he thought for a brief moment that he was gazing into a mirror: white haori and hakama, long silver hair floating in the breeze, golden eyes...but the other figure did not carry a sword, and did not move with his own signature grace. It strutted, rather than stalked, and this other carried an empty scabbard in his sash.

As if the emergence of the figure was some sort of cue for movement, the woman took her final steps, closing the distance between herself and the sword. She moved to stand before it, slightly off to the side so he had a clear line of sight to his doppelganger--a reflection he had no desire to look upon, but he couldn't tear his eyes away from those so like his own, burning with a golden fire fueled by hatred and resentment.

He moved closer to the blade he had coveted for so long, spent such boundless amounts of time and energy searching for, only to have it torn from his grasp at the last, critical moment...

As the youkai lord locked eyes with his counterpart, this creature who had stolen his full power, his inheritance from his father, he felt the familiar burning rage bubbling up inside once again. Searing, scalding, it showed in eyes now bleeding a satanic red. He felt the overpowering desire to rip, to rend, to tear this imposter representative of his father's blood flesh from bone.

As he was gathering his demon energy around him--a cloak of violent power preparing his body to abandon its weaker form in favor of his true, magnificent size--though, the woman moved again.

Seemingly oblivious to Sesshoumaru's towering rage, his killing instincts, she reached out a pale hand to grasp his own, slender fingers curling around his clenched fist without hint of fear or hesitation.

Has the woman no sense of self-preservation? He thought in that brief instant before flesh met flesh.

The effect of her touch was instantaneous. Immediately, enveloped in the soothing warmth of her scent, his muscles relaxed. The extreme fury of a moment before melted, draining out of his body in a wave, a wash of...was this peace? Is that what he felt? He wasn't certain--it had been so long since he had experienced anything like it, if he ever had at all.

At his side, Tenseiga emitted a single, strong pulse.

The woman seemed oblivious to her profound effect on the deadly predator, merely turning her head to gaze steadily into his eyes, insinuating her fingers into his clenched fist until the digits entwined with his in a gentle hold.

When she moved her head to gaze at the other, the demon prince noticed the halfling had moved to stand directly before the sword, as well, no more than an arm's length away. Well within striking distance. Sesshoumaru no longer felt the need, though, content to simply wait for further developments.

The woman reached out to hold his opponent's hand as well, though she did not lace fingers as theirs were, only wrapped about the hanyou's loosely. A spurt of something hot and dangerous moved through his chest, scorching a path upward from the pit of his stomach, causing his heart to clench.

Without turning back to face him, she squeezed his hand, as if sensing his dangerous regression to anger, though he didn't know if she felt the peril of his ire was to her, his opposite, or to himself. His emotions were rarely so unruly that he couldn't think straight.

The half-breed appeared to be uncomfortable with her hold, but did not move to pull away.

Does my face show the same discomfort and confusion at this human's soporific touch? He thought.

The Western Lord did not want to think his stoic mask was slipping, but at least this was only a dream.

Still, one has to have standards.he sniffed disdainfully.

The woman pulled on the hanyou's hand, tugging it closer to the battered sword and wrapping his stiff fingers about the hilt. Again, that red haze drifted across Sesshoumaru's vision, and again she gave a reassuring squeeze, effectively nullifying his rising rage. Jealousy? Or simply anger that she seemed to be condoning the imposter's claim to *his* birthright. She seemed to be cautioning patience, though, as if saying 'all is not revealed yet'.

Her raven head swung back to face him, dark eyes piercing, locked onto his own hawk-bright gaze, delicate features beginning to betray some emotion through the slight softening of lines, but he could not name it. She tugged on his hand now, urging the taiyoukai one more step closer to the katana, and his nemesis.

He tried to resist--oh, how he tried! But it was useless, for he was powerless against the soft light in her eyes as she maneuvered him easily to stand before the neglected steel blade.

How he hated her!

How he longed to touch her.

She guided his own fingers to the already occupied hilt, wrapping the elegant, deadly digits around the cracked leather, and Tenseiga pulsed again. Disorientingly, his skin never once came in contact with the flesh of his cursed half-brother. His hand passed right through the halfling's, as if the other were merely an illusion---a ghost or insubstantial image.

A bad dream, a small voice said, almost hopefully.

Staring at the two hands locked on the last remnant of their father's legacy, Sesshoumaru wondered if his senses were failing him. But no, he could smell the delicate scent of cherry blossoms and warm woman and magic drifting to him on the clean spring breeze that was sifting through his long tresses. He could hear the rustling of tree branches, feel the frayed bindings on the hilt under his fingers...so why?

He turned his head sharply to glare at the woman, certain this was her doing, demands for an explanation patent in his glowing amber gaze.

She merely reached out and laid her hand over both of the overlapping digits on the sword, further binding their fingers to the hilt, and to each other. A visual representation of the blood bond they shared. Irrefutable, unchangeable, and unwanted. He heard his teeth grind viciously together, even as her touch sent waves of calm through his body.

Dimly, he became aware of a premonition of power, heralded by a shiver sliding across his skin and skipping down his spine. In a blaze of golden fire, the rusted and battered blade was transformed into a great, curved length, deadly and powerful, pulsating beneath all three hands and brought forth by her call.

Tessaiga.

His father's fang---no, their father's fang.

The thought was like acid in his mind, and left a vile taste in his mouth. To think that this...halfling mutt...carried the potent, noble blood of his proud and powerful father---it was an utter disgrace. It turned his stomach and enraged him beyond credence.

More shocking still, though, was that a mere human, a pitiful creature if ever there was one, had orchestrated the shift from broken blade to formidable fang.

The great demon prince was in actual awe. He was touching the sword without any resistance from the barrier that had previously prevented him from wielding it and claiming his birthright, from claiming his full power as a demon lord. Power he needed to rule the Western Lands without contention from squabbling, power-hungry enemies. Power he needed to keep peace and carry on his sire's wise rule. Power that had been stolen from him by a worthless, tainted half-creature. Power he could now wield, but apparently only through the woman.

It galled him to no end, but Sesshoumaru was willing to sacrifice his pride to carry on the traditions of his forefathers and ensure the stability of the Western Lands for his own heirs. The woman would be his. The fire of determination burned in his eyes, a blazing inferno of conviction and iron will. Shaking her head slightly, the human woman removed her hand from the hilt, and the once-magnificent fang shrank in on itself until it was once again nothing more than a rusted strip of steel.

Suddenly, it crackled to life, arcs of golden energy and black fire dancing along the length, stinging his hand. He pulled it away smoothly, not betraying the pain produced by the now-familiar barrier that had always repulsed his demon blood before, but had abruptly revived in the absence of the woman's placid touch.

With satisfaction, the Lord of the Western Lands noted that his rival was soothing a burned hand, as well. So, the hanyou had been driven away from the sword also? Interesting. The implication was clear: the human woman was the key to controlling the power of the Tessaiga. But how to harness her power, when he didn't understand how it worked, where it came from, or even who she was? Only one other had touched the Tessaiga, and she was human as well...

Sesshoumaru studied the woman beside him closely. Though her features were clearly illuminated in the moonlight, they still remained somehow indistinct, fuzzy, blurred around the edges, as if viewed through rain. When he attempted to put them to memory, the details slipped right through his mind, like liquid through fingers, leaving behind only fragments of the total.

Tonight, then, he would gain a solid clue that would lead him to her. Tonight would be different from the countless other nights he had come away from this dream with nothing other than the memory of her dark, compelling eyes and sweet, seductive scent.

With a supreme effort of will, he forced phantom lips to form audible words.

"Who are you, woman?" the sharp question was both harsh demand and pitiful plea, and he clenched his jaw with the force of his self-directed anger. Control...

As if sensing the tenuousness of his emotional control and agreeing now was indeed the time to finally move matters forward, she turned to face him fully, shattering the routine set and repeated on previous nights.

Stepping closer, moving herself away from the sword, she placed her back to the hanyou in a move that seemed somehow symbolic, shutting his cursed brother out of her long-awaited revelation and enclosing just the two of them in their own narrow sphere of epiphanies.

Though his shock did not reveal itself on his blank, stoic face, he could not suppress his surprise when she gracefully shrugged out of her sleeves, the soft folds of fabric falling to drape around her waist and hips, held on by the tie of her hakama.

A hot rush of need swept the stoic taiyoukai as he drank in the bare, luminescent perfection of her skin, from slender shoulders to tiny waist. The swell of her breasts, the sharp outline of her fragile collarbone, the long line of her throat...

He recognized the rare emotion he was experiencing for what it was--aching lust--and was vaguely disgusted with himself for it. He, Sesshoumaru, descendant of an ancient line of supremely powerful taiyoukai, had better control than this in the worst of situations. But to feel such unexpected, unwelcome, naked desire---such animal need---for a human, no less, was...unconscionable.

He had to regain his control; he was dangerously on the edge of reaching out, dragging her to him, and plundering those plump, moist lips, torturing her with sensual delights until she willingly spilled her secrets, and more...

As a powerful youkai lord, though, he would resist the call of the blood pounding fiercely in his veins, threatening to overtake his reason and aesthetics. He refused to shame the dignity of his noble house by abandoning the most basic emotional control, even though his fingers itched to feel the smooth texture of her skin, taste it, if only to prove to his tingling tongue that, yes indeed, it was as sweet as her scent...

Shaking off the unwanted urges, he concentrated on the unspoken messages embedded in her eyes, in her actions. Sesshoumaru didn't truly believe the woman was attempting to seduce him, but that most primal part of him wasn't listening to reason and logic. It wanted to mate.

There was no answering desire in her gaze, however, though they did hold a mysterious glow, as if a light was trapped deep within her being and she was only now beginning to release it and hint at her true power.

Once again, she reached for his hand, but this time extended one of his perilously clawed fingers towards her, holding it in a pose, as if he were pointing at her. She took one more step closer to him, her breasts almost brushing against his armor-clad chest, and the youkai prince had the fleeting, absurd wish that the restricting barrier would disappear so he could feel hot skin against hot skin.

His eyes flicked briefly, tellingly, to his brother, standing alone and silent, seemingly unaware of events going on around him. It was as if, when she turned her attention away, he became removed from the scene. The lord was searching for a reaction, but none came. He didn't know why he thought the halfling would care; perhaps it was an unconscious reaction.

Or perhaps it meant something. Did he know, on some subliminal level, who this enticing, infuriatingly wordless woman was?

With a startlingly quick movement, his wandering attention came back when she jerked his hand toward her. He felt the deadly edge of his outstretched claw bite into her white skin, razoring a clean line in her side, low on her rib cage. He vaguely registered the feel of his hand brushing against the satiny underside of her breast before the crimson torrent of blood flowed from the wound, black in the moonlight and staining the pristine whiteness of her skin and gi.

Is she trying to kill herself, using me as the instrument? His confused question was answered when she released his hand, only to delve those slender fingers into the wound, seemingly searching for something.

Without so much as a grimace of pain, she pulled forth a small, glowing sphere, all traces of blood miraculously absorbed into its pulsating depths. He'd never seen it before, but he recognized it all the same, on some instinctual level. The pink-white light was similar to that glimpsed in her eyes just seconds ago, and the pulse of heady power, unequaled by anything he had ever encountered before, was in tune with the woman's own heartbeat. His changed tempo to match.

When all three pulses were synchronized, the woman reached out to lay her soft hand upon his ruined left shoulder.

As soon as her skin made contact with his, a blinding flash of cleansing, magical light erupted within the clearing. Warmth poured through his body and exited through the truncated bicep where his arm used to be. Only now, it was back, returned as if it had never been painfully and humiliatingly hacked off by his cursed half-brother with the very blade he had searched out for so long.

Turning amazed, golden eyes up from the miraculous sight to the tiny woman who wielded such awesome power, he was inundated with the feel of her aura, twined inseparably with that of the pulsing, glowing jewel still resting in her hand. Her liquid eyes met his, and she seemed to be trying to communicate with him, soul to soul.

Realization struck, and he knew he had been given much more than his missing limb back--now he had direct knowledge of what her aura, that most individual signature of inner being, felt like. Now he knew what power she controlled, sitting innocently in her palm.

She was it's guardian--or perhaps it guarded her. It mattered not. The way to seek her out was to seek out the jewel.

The Shikon no Tama.

He regarded his newly restored limb with amazement, reveling in the return of symmetry and balance. After absently noting with detached startlement the flood of relief he felt upon seeing the familiar, now matching, stripes gracing his wrists, he turned his golden irises back to the woman. He was irritated to find that he felt...grateful...to this human, but he could not deny the fact that she had just performed him a great service. His lips twisted wryly, wondering what price she would extract from him, but he couldn't halt the whispered words that tumbled from them.

"Who are you?" a repetition of his earlier inquiry, but now awe and gratitude colored the simple syllables, and he cringed at the weakness in himself they revealed.

Just as he felt his haughty, cold mask slipping comfortably back into place, though, she moved. Looking over her shoulder to the other man, she gazed at the shadowy figure for a long moment, then nodded minutely, giving him some silent cue to action. Her focus returned forward.

A sudden, inexplicable foreboding gripped him, making the fine hairs on his nape stand on end. Rising behind her, like some demonic avenger, was his half brother. The youkai prince never saw him move, he was simply there, white hair whipping in an unseen wind, expression eerily blank.

Sesshoumaru watched with growing confusion and dawning horror as the hanyou advanced a last step, woodenly lifted his arm and brought razor-sharp claws down across the woman's back, just at the apex of her right shoulder. The vicious slash caused a spray of blood, casting strangely delicate patterns against skin and ground.

She crumpled into the taiyoukai's waiting arms, pitched forward by the force of the traitorous blow, black blood glistening in the moonlight, soaking into his clothing, matting her hair against her skin as it paled even more with the loss. He felt a knot of torrid, roiling pressure rising in his chest, blocking his breathing as he cradled her limp form against his chest, her hot blood flowing slickly over his hands as they pressed to her slender back.

The Western Lord could feel his lips moving with mindless, soundless words-- -the same pattern of denial forming over and over, but all sound had ceased to exist. A haze of rage settled over his mind, scarlet as her blood, threatening to snap his iron control.

Distantly, he was alarmed that the mortal wounding of such a pitiful creature, though seemingly unjust, would cause any kind of reaction in him, but he could not fight the livid force of vivid, unequaled emotion frantically thrashing for release. Who was this woman, that she should garner such a response--any response?

And then, the question didn't matter any more as the raging beast within broke its tether, spurred on by the coppery scent of her life blood, liberating itself in violent fury and intense sorrow. A tormented growl, beginning low in his chest and rising, swelled in volume until the unearthly silence of the dreamscape was broken for the first time in the entire month he had repeated the same cycle.

Crushing the lifeless body of the beautiful young miko to him, he briefly bowed his head over her, the silken silver fall of his hair shielding their locked forms from all else. He wove his fingers into her midnight tresses, and then threw back his head to release the long, anguished howl of mourning clawing up from his chest.

As the sound of his grief and rage echoed into the night and the dream began to quickly fade around the edges, one realization burst upon him with the crystal clarity of inarguable truth:

He loved her.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Okay, here it is, my first foray into Inuyasha. I got such a great response from everyone that I decided to keep this fic up---you all inspire me so much! Quite a few people seemed to be confused by this chapter, though, so I revamped it just a bit. I hope it helps, as I don't really plan on doing anything more drastic with it. I didn't want to ruin the integrity of the work, just tighten it up.

Anyway, let me know what you think...is it horrible? Too vague? Intriguing? Overdone? Review me!

Tsukitani