A/N: I just realized that QuickEdit messed up some of my formatting. Great.
Disclaimer: I do not own any character created by Rumiko Takahashi.
Silver hair drifted in the breeze, tousled unceremoniously as an errant current of air zipped through the higher branches of Goshinbuko. If he squinted hard and stared out of the corner of his eye, he could almost imagine that the well was still whole and that any minute, a yellow backpack would tumble over the wooden ledge, followed by a dark head and expressive brown eyes. Small, triangular ears tensed and quivering, the hanyou held himself still, eyes watering as he concentrated on the shallow crater, as if by sheer will alone, the image in his head would manifest as reality.
She would pull herself over the lip, smooth her skirt with long, nimble fingers, then glance up to his perch, her smile reminding him why the sun rose in the morning."Inuyasha!"
"Stupid girl, you're late."
Arms akimbo, she would glare up at him, sweet lips puckering in a delicious pout. "Don't call me stupid, dog-boy."
"Keh. Whatever.""Well if that's how you're going to greet me, maybe I'll just go back home!"
"As if I care, wench." But he did care, so much that a hollow pit had formed in his stomach and ached almost incessantly. He would have gladly welcomed Sesshomaru's poisoned fist through his gut if only he would return Kagome to him.
"Fine!" Her dark eyes would cloud with hurt and he cursed himself for causing her pain yet again, instead of telling her that she held his heart and soul in her gentle hands.
"Inuyasha," a masculine voice called up and Inuyasha jumped, his fragile hold on the vision of Kagome evaporating like a wisp of steam. "It's not healthy to sit in trees and talk to people who aren't there."
"Mind your own fucking business, monk," Inuyasha growled, turning his back on the monk's upturned face and scowling over the top of the forest. A heavy sigh drifted up, followed by the quiet chime of metal rings and a soft rustle of fabric.
"Will you at least come down for dinner?"
When had he last eaten? He couldn't remember clearly, hardly cared.
"Quit feeling for yourself and rejoin the living! You act as if she died."
Dropping out of the tree in a flash of red and silver, Inuyasha was on the monk almost before his feet hit the ground, grabbing him by the throat and holding him suspended as he snarled in his face. "She is dead to me! She betrayed me and killed Kikyou!"
"Don't be a fool, Inuyasha. And if you really believed that nonsense, then you wouldn't sit in this tree holding conversations with her," through his constricted throat, the monk spoke calmly and patiently, as if explaining something simple to a small child.
The will to fight drained out of him and he slowly set the monk back on his feet, shoulders slumping slightly. Miroku was right, of course. He didn't believe that Kagome had killed Kikyou; if anything, the blame rested on him. Never having been one to speak his true feelings on emotional topics, he lashed out instinctively, often injuring the ones closest to his heart. Kagome had borne the brunt of his defensiveness, perhaps not always graciously but forgiving him nonetheless. If only he'd been able to tell her how he truly felt, had called her 'beloved' instead of 'idiot' and 'beautiful' instead of 'pathetic'. Then maybe…
Miroku rubbed the bruise out of his throat and fixed his friend with a sympathetic eye. "She tried to save Kikyou's life but the tentacles had too strong a hold on her." The monk didn't mention the part where Kikyou had tried to pry Kagome's fingers loose from the lip of the well and send her to her grave; that was her story to tell if she so chose. "Even alive, Kikyou was not the same woman she had been fifty-four years ago. You must have sensed that."
"I failed her again."
Miroku wasn't sure to which woman he was referring; perhaps he meant both. However, in the monk's mind, only one of the women really mattered. Only one woman plagued his friend with visits in waking dreams. "She loved you, you know. But women's hearts don't wait forever, especially if they think that you still love someone else."
Inuyasha was silent for a long moment, only the twitching of his silver ears showing that he was still aware of his surroundings. She loved you… think that you still love someone else… Did that mean she left with his brother because she thought he didn't love her? "If she loved me once, then she can love me again."
Miroku stared at his friend uneasily, not liking the determined light that flickered at the backs of his eyes. "Inuyasha, I must warn you against this line of thinking. It's too late; she has made her choice."
"Why are you on his side?"
Miroku sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. He knew that the hanyou was not stupid, but sometimes he had to wonder if the thickness of his skull was one of the great marvels of Japan. He hoped that they would not have to deal with years of hanyou-in-denial about Kagome's relationship with Sesshomaru, or worse yet, scrape pieces of him off of ground if he ever tried to win Kagome back. Sesshomaru would not take kindly to that, nor would Kagome, for that matter. "I am not on anyone's side, I am simply stating a fact."
"Keh. You all but handed her to him when my back was turned." Inuyasha winced inwardly at his own words but didn't retract his accusation.
Throwing up his hands, Miroku turned back to the path to the village. The hanyou was hopeless and he had a wife and dinner waiting for him. "Believe what you like, Inuyasha, but you are wrong. The invitation to dinner still stands." Miroku left him standing under the tree, glaring at the shallow crater that had once been the Bone Eater's Well.
Inuyasha glared at his retreating back until it disappeared into the forest, his shadow lengthening as the sun boiled and swelled and sank below the horizon. How many sunsets had he watched with Kagome, sitting in the cool grass surrounded by crickets' song and crane flies that lumbered clumsily through the twilight? Each sunset had been magical to her, and even if the sky were painted with the same palette of colors as the one previous, she would find something new and splendid, pointing it out to him in hushed whispers. After awhile, he'd come to appreciate the beauty she saw around her, but life seemed to be dull and gray once again. He now knew that it was she who breathed vigor into her surroundings and lent nature her inner light.
For months he'd wandered, trying to hate her for choosing his brother, hating himself for letting her leave. Thoughts of Kikyou had come and gone and he found himself wishing that he'd never called her name on Urusae's mountain. Things could have been so different if Kikyou hadn't been around to distract him. Despite his harsh words to the monk, he didn't miss her. He regretted that she had to die at the hands of Naraku yet again, and though he felt that he was to blame for not saving her, he couldn't work up the energy to feel guilty. She had manipulated him and betrayed him, tried to turn him against Kagome, his friends, even his brother (not that that would have taken much effort). He would never let anyone say a word against her, but in his heart, he knew those words were true. She had never compared to Kagome; he was a fool to not realize it until both women were out of his reach.
She loved you…the words tumbled through his brain as the last flares of the sun's rays kissed the tops of the trees. She can love me again. She couldn't truly love that cold-hearted bastard; she was confused, lost, like he was. If he could only just speak to her once more, put his pride to the side and tell her what she meant to him, wouldn't she accept him back? It would take time to prove to her that she was the only woman for him and that Kikyou had no claim on his heart, but Kagome was…Kagome. She would take him back and things would go back to the way they were. No, they would be better, because he would be free to love her as she deserved! His half-brother certainly didn't deserve her. The fucker was probably already bored and would be happy to get rid of her.
Cracking his knuckles, Inuyasha looked to the West, imagining the misery Kagome must be feeling at the hands of his half-brother. The monk was wrong; he would save her from her suffering, console her, let her apologize for leaving him, perhaps apologize to her for not coming to get her sooner. 'Yeah, I'll rescue her, just like old times. She'll be so happy to see me! She needs me.' Still, he stood rooted to the spot, ignoring the green spots floating before his eyes, temporarily scorched there by the fire of the sunset.
Kagome sighed happily and let her head fall back against the trunk of the cherry tree, relishing the warmth of the sunshine on her upturned face. It seemed like an age since she'd been outside and though she understood why everyone was so insistent that she stay in bed, she couldn't stand it any longer. Lack of vitamin D had to be detrimental to one's health, right? And since there were no pharmacies within reach, and therefore no vitamin supplements, she had to go outside once in a while!
She really hoped that all of the worry and fuss were for nothing; visibly pregnant and gaining weight quickly, she had long since passed the point where she'd lost the others. Though weak and unsteady on her feet (on those rare moments when she was allowed to walk on her own), she hadn't experienced any pain or spotting. She couldn't help but hope that they'd finally conquered the conflicting natures of miko and youkai and she would carry this one to term. Not that she wanted to test that theory, but she doubted that the stress of cabin fever could be any better for the fetus than being carried to the garden for a quiet nap in the sun.
A soft snore sounded from a nearby patch of wild strawberries and Kagome smiled softly, rubbing her belly in quiet thanks to her nurse and healer. Hana, an ancient horse youkai, was an expert at herbal remedies and potions. Large for a female with thick fingers and measured speech, she had brown eyes as gentle and kind as Jinengi's and Kagome had come to think of her as her personal savior.
Kagome had thought that nothing could compare to the heartbreak of Inuyasha leaving her until she'd been rocked by excruciating cramps and had bled the heir of the Western Lands into silk of her kimono. Sesshomaru had held her through her tears, his soft whispers soothing away the despair that had tried to strangle her, and had tried to refuse her to try again, but the alternative was unacceptable. As much as she loved Shippo and Rin, she did not like the idea of raising Sesshomaru's pup by another woman, not to mention the circumstances of the conception of said pup. If he wanted an heir, then they would just have to figure out how to make it work.
Hana had quickly diagnosed the problem and had brewed a tincture made from the essence of a "Miko Eater" youkai to suppress her miko powers enough to not kill the fetus. Kagome was sure that Kaede would have had a fit, but after three miscarriages in the span of six months, she had been willing to try anything. Kagome had suspected that it might be her miko powers that were attacking and killing the fetus, much like an RH-negative mother's blood would attack her baby's RH-positive blood. Now that it seemed to be confirmed, Kagome felt guilty for the deaths of the others and overwhelming grateful that she was being given another chance.
Really, she felt luckier than she thought she deserved to be. After all of the strain and toil of travel and battle, she now had a relatively easy life. Kagome had not been sure what to expect of Sesshomaru's residence, but the ornate, rambling wooden structure on a flat outcropping of rock hundreds of feet up the face of a cliff hadn't been it. One of the wings was completely unoccupied and had been closed off; Sesshomaru had explained that his father had once held court, but after his mother's death, his father had begun to spend more time away and the house had been emptied to a skeleton crew. He had never had a reason to revive it.
Only reachable by air or a winding, narrow path carved into the cliff face, it was isolated and remote unless you were youkai. Kagome figured that was probably the point. The household staff was not large, consisting of a cook, a housekeeper, a gardener, and a handful of men-at-arms that actually lived in a village at the base of the cliff and took turns keeping loose watch over the household grounds. If needed, Sesshomaru could muster an army from allies scattered over his lands, but did not have any formal companies on standby.
Jaken presided over the domestic staff, so Kagome was not surprised to find that Sesshomaru's library was cluttered and chaotic. Until she had been bedridden, Kagome had made it her personal mission to organize it properly and take advantage of the opportunity to learn as much as she could. Though she'd never had any grand aspirations or career plans, she could not stand the idea of doing nothing constructive with her time. She'd even enlisted the help of Rin and Shippo, managing to sneak in a few lessons in the guise of letting Rin help her beloved Sesshomaru-sama clean up the library. Shippo, always eager to impress the girl, threw his being into the project with the fervor that he usually reserved for demonstrating a new illusion. Now, everyone was literate enough to start filing scrolls into a general order.
She must have dozed off because Sesshomaru had appeared next to her, his back against the tree and his arm draped around her shoulders, looking placid and bored as ever. Kagome knew better, however; a slight tightness at the corners of his mouth and an almost invisible wrinkle between his eyebrows spoke volumes.
"I trust I find you well," he said softly before she could ask what was bothering him, as he knew she would eventually. Though it was a little easier to hide things from her now that her miko powers were suppressed, she could still read his face in ways no other being could and their connection had only strengthened since she had bound him.
"Yes, we are," Kagome answered with a small grin as she snuggled closer to him and rested a hand on her swollen tummy.
He nodded once and waited: one…two…three…
"So, what's got you so uptight?"
Yes, he knew her well; in merely a blink of an eye compared to his own long life span, he'd come to know her like he knew himself and he wouldn't have it any other way. It was awkward at times such as these, when he did not want to upset her, especially when she was so fragile. Unfortunately, she would find out eventually and he wanted her to be prepared and on her guard. With a gentle nudge of her ear with his nose, he reclaimed his arm and pulled a small scroll from the folds of his kimono and handed it to her. He watched her face closely as she read, delight blossoming only to be chased away by alarm, then sadness.
"We both knew he probably wouldn't take it well," she sighed as she scanned the tidy kanji once more before re-rolling it and handing to him.
"The depth of his foolishness knows no bounds."
Kagome rolled her eyes and laced her fingers over her belly in an unconsciously protective manner. "Maybe he just needs to see us and talk to us to really believe that things will stay the way they are," Kagome said, though her voice was doubtful.
"I am posting a guard to the family wing of the house."
"If he is doing his job well, you will not notice him."
"I'll know he's there! Don't you think you're overreacting?"
"You will not argue with your lord."
"In my time, marriages – matings– are equal partnerships," Kagome gave him a stern look with steady brown eyes, her brows furrowing as he met her stare without flinching.
"Yes. You would ask me, 'Kagome, would you mind if I had a guard intrude on our life?' and I would answer-"
"Whatever my lord wishes is my command."
"Um, no, but nice try. I would say, 'Yes, in fact, I do mind!' Do you know what you'd say?"
"You'd say," Kagome continued as if he'd never spoken, warming up to her one-sided conversation, 'Well, in that case, what do you suggest?' and I would-"
"Regardless, the guard will be assigned," Sesshomaru cut her off before she could become too heated.
"What about when you're with us? Aren't you and Hana protection enough?" Kagome frowned at a green vine that was burrowing between the stones of the garden wall.
Sesshomaru didn't like her implication but knew what she meant. "He will remain outside of our private chambers and baths but within calling distance."
Kagome fidgeted several minutes in silence, staring pensively off into space and Sesshomaru wondered, not for the first time, if there was ever a time while she was awake when she could sit still and quietly at the same time. He wrapped long, graceful fingers over hers, and was not surprised when she chose that moment to speak.
"Do you really think Inuyasha would come after me?"
"In his missive, Miroku states that he has not yet given up on mating you," Sesshomaru pointed out with an eyebrow quirked in quiet disbelief.
"He didn't write that!" Kagome exclaimed, aghast.
"To a youkai, that is exactly what he wrote. I will not let you nor our pup come to harm, however unintentional, at the hands of a delusional hanyou."
"He wouldn't hurt us," Kagome muttered mulishly, glaring at him from the corners of her eyes.
Sesshomaru wanted to sigh but settled for blinking slowly. Relentlessly optimistic, Kagome was determined to believe the best about everyone even when, in his opinion, it was unwarranted. Her trusting nature was an endearing quality, one for which he was usually grateful; had it not been for her faith in innate goodness, she would not have allowed him into her heart. However, it was a weakness that had left silvering stripes down her neck, a weakness that could be easily exploited.
If a youkai wished to mate an already claimed female, the male would kill that female's current mate and any offspring, freeing up the female to bear his pups. Sesshomaru did not know if Inuyasha's youkai instincts ran that deeply but was not inclined to wait until it was too late to discover it was true. At the first sign of violence toward his pack, the hanyou would be dealt with, half-brother or not. Moreover, there was absolutely no way that he would allow Kagome to wheedle that information out of him; if Inuyasha had to be destroyed, then she would remain in the dark for as long as possible. The trauma could easily disrupt the fragile balance mother and child seemed to have found; Hana had warned him that, under no circumstance, was Kagome to come under duress. As much as he disliked admitting it, she still cared for that ignorant fool and his death, especially in her defense, would wound her. Let her think she'd already figured out what was bothering him and that the guard was an unnecessary caution. If the half-breed knew what was good for him, and Sesshomaru had his doubts, then he would stay in his forest and find his own female.
"I'm not going to change your mind, am I?" Kagome said, and though posed as a question, it came out as a statement.
"No." Sesshomaru softened his answer by brushing the tips of his fingers over her cheek, his eyes sparking as she shivered slightly. She leaned her face into his hand, lips tickling his palm as she planted a kiss at the base of his thumb. A burning ached raced through his arm and shot into his groin, and he'd sunk his hand into her hair and his tongue into her mouth before his brain had registered that he'd moved. Her fingers wriggled under his clothes, blunt nails scratching over skin that had suddenly developed a fever, leaving trails of stinging flesh and excitement.
He'd slid a knee between her legs, which had parted eagerly, her calves curling around his thighs as he crawled up her body, when a throat had cleared itself. The lovers froze and Kagome blushed furiously as she realized that her yukata was hanging off one shoulder, exposing a swollen, unbound breast. Sesshomaru growled, torn between the quandary of whether to tear out the offending throat or bite said breast. It was a tough decision, but the breast won out and he sucked the nipple into his mouth, nipping at the tightening areola and giving Kagome an unobscured view of Hana's disapproving face.
"My lady, if you do not wait until you've birthed that pup to continue your current course of action, I do not guarantee that the pup will be born."
"O-okay," Kagome gasped breathlessly, pushing lightly against Sesshomaru's chest as he growled around her nipple, vibrating the sensitized flesh in an entirely too wanton and enticing sort of way.
"Two months, my lord," Hana said quietly, respectfully. "It is not that long."
Sesshomaru was inclined to disagree, but seeing as his mouth was busy, he settled for a noncommittal grunt. He supposed he should be grateful that her term seemed to be closer to five months than the typical nine months of a human or even the six and a half of a human bearing a hanyou. Still, two months before burying himself in her body was two months too long.
"Come, my lady, it is time for your medicine and afternoon tea," Hana tried again when the Lord Sesshomaru made no indication that he moving off of her patient. 'Males are the same the world over,' she whickered quietly, 'even taiyoukai with reputations for being cold and unemotional. Always thinking with their penises.' Her young patient wasn't much better; already her eyes had glazed over again with lust, the horse youkai's call to food falling on deaf ears. Hana pursed her lips, foreseeing a long residence for herself here in the heart of the Western Lands. Perhaps it would be a good idea if she strengthened the tincture in the event that these two could not keep their hands off of each other. In the meantime, it looked like she'd have to resort to force if she wanted to see this pup born.
Grasping the back of the lord's collars, she carefully dragged him off of his lady, ignoring his threatening snarl. She was not a renowned healer for nothing, and dealing with irate taiyoukai was par for the course. Adjust the lady's yukata so that she was decently covered, she lifted the female into her arms and sent the lord a stern glare that pulled the rug from underneath his frustrated, self-righteous anger. She'd had two boys of her own, after all, and could wield a glare better than most warriors could handle their swords.
Sesshomaru pulled himself together as the horse youkai entered the house through the garden door with his mate in her arms. 'That insolent horse is asking for a beating,' he growled to himself as he brushed bits of grass from his knees and headed inside for a cold bath. He knew he would never actually hurt the woman; he needed her to help with Kagome and if she successfully produced an heir, he would owe her too much. He didn't like the idea of owing anything to anyone, but then again, he'd never thought he would end up mating a human, even a not-quite-so-human like Kagome. Just her name brought to mind creamy skin and intoxicating scents, and he hastened his pace to the bath.
Torture, that's what this was. 'Maybe I should seek out my idiot brother to relieve a little of this pent-up energy by pounding him into the ground…and warn him away, of course,' he added quickly as a flash of Kagome's eyes, bright with irritation instead of desire, flashed in his mind. 'Any other lord would be able to dally with a concubine if unable to take pleasure with his mate,' he huffed. 'But no, I must have that one.' Stripped and still quite erect, he lowered himself into the cold-water bath, only the narrowing of his eyes betraying his annoyance and frustration. Two months…
A/N: Okay, this is it. If I write a sequel, it won't be for a while. I have a one-shot and two longer fics brewing – all Sess/Kag. I like this pairing A LOT. Thanks for reading and reviewing, or just even just reading!