Disclaimer: If you think I own any of the characters or things that you recognize from elsewhere... I don't.

Summary: Sess/Kag. AU. On Kagome's 16th birthday, her cousin Kikyou gave her a slave rather unceremoniously. Actually, he's a blood-bound, which humans equate with a slave. Sesshoumaru, though, still remembers what a blood-bond entails, even if humans don't.


by ethidda

Chapter Sixteen

The golden summer sunset heralded the darkness of the night. Naraku was a sharp, clear shadow against the last warm rays. Fitting, Kikyou thought, and poetic. There was a sense of finality, which wasn't so strange when she considered the bodies lying around her—the body lying in front of her. But there was also a strange sense of a fitting ending.

After all, if only Kikyou hadn't distrusted Inuyasha. If only she had kept faith. If only she had loved him enough...

But it was, of course, too late for all of that now. And not only did she pay for her mistakes, Inuyasha paid, and Kagome paid, and Sesshoumaru, and it seemed that if Naraku made his wish, the whole world would have to pay for her mistakes.

She was never meant to be a priestess.

Kikyou stared at the scene before her, red like the last, dying rose. And she waited for Naraku's wish to manifest.

But the sun only set further beneath the mountains, a bare shimmer of pink and purple against the black of the mountains.

A crow squawked in the distance.

And then Kikyou saw that Kagome was rushing Naraku with nothing but her own body. Naraku was probably as shocked as Kikyou because he simply stood there and let Kagome approach him.

Kagome was glowing, pink like the Tama used to glow, and there was a firework of pink sparks and glowing ashes when she finally collided with Naraku's fur-covered figure.

The next Kikyou saw, there were hundreds of spiders crawling from where Naraku. They scattered across the grass and skittered over Kagome's body. Kagome's fallen, unmoving body.

Sesshoumaru prepared for the spiders to reach him and then... coalesce into Naraku, perhaps. Or simply bite him piece by piece. Whichever it was, though, it couldn't hurt more than seeing Kagome collapse before his eyes as he lay there, helpless. He wouldn't give up without a fight, Sesshoumaru knew, and Naraku was going to hurt before he finished Sesshoumaru.

Naraku was going to hurt because he had hurt Kagome.

But then the spiders just scattered away from him, barely grazing the edges of his clothes. They blended in with the night and he was left with only the awful silence.

It wasn't silent, though, because he could hear sobbing and pained breathing from those around him who were fortunate enough to still live.

From Kagome, he could hear nothing at all. He could still make out her form on the grass, but there were no sounds from her.

From Inuyasha, he could hear nothing at all either, but only smell the blood draining out of his brother's body.

That was far worse to him than what he knew of the other casualties, because he couldn't tell if Kagome was still alive or not. He couldn't know if he should keep hoping or not.

And because it was Kagome.

He had finally, finally found her again and everything had been perfect for a single moment before it had all gone wrong. He was meant to pay penance, perhaps, for doubting Inuyasha, or for thinking of hurting Kagome. He had made his mistakes.

But Kagome shouldn't have to pay for them.

Slowly, he forced himself up, supported by Tenseiga, and limped to where Kagome lay in the grass. Carefully, he knelt next to her and brushed a stray lock of blood-crusted hair from her pale cheek. Her cheek was warm, Sesshoumaru found.

But she wasn't breathing.

There was that great anger welling up in him, the same kind of anger he had found when Kagome had repudiated him. Again, Kagome had been wrenched away from him. Only this time...

No, Sesshoumaru thought fiercely, desperately clutching the Tenseiga by his side, it was not going to end like this. Naraku was defeated. They had won. They had won against his father's enemy and it would be a happy ending, not one with so many deaths and so much sorrow.

But then, just like last time, the anger seeped out of him. The Tenseiga stole it away, and left him nothing but an empty shell. A bit of disappointment, perhaps, but certainly nothing more.

Then, Kagome coughed.

Kagome hurt.

She hurt worse than that time Naraku attacked her in the woods. It felt like she had died and then come back to life. Which, she thought when she saw Sesshoumaru's stricken expression, could be closer to the truth than she cared for it to be.

"Sesshoumaru...?" Kagome croaked as she tried to make out her surroundings, but it was all dark and she couldn't really see anything. "What happened?"

Sesshoumaru seemed startled by her question and he knelt close by her, not quite daring to touch her, afraid that she would disappear or break into little pieces. "You killed Naraku," he told Kagome.

"Is... everyone okay?" Kagome asked.

No. But then, Sesshoumaru saw Miroku struggling to sit up, and pulled back down by his volumous monk robe. And Inuyasha's youki flared back to life, even as Sesshoumaru looked at Inuyasha's unmoving body. "Yes, everybody's still alive."

"That's good." Kagome smiled and then fainted.

Kagome managed to sleep for a week before she could sit up and eat real food.

Sesshoumaru had brought said food, which was apple sauce, of all things. But she supposed that she should be grateful that he decided to bring her something easy to eat. Now, he sat attentively by her bed as if he didn't have anywhere else to be.

And she knew that she was in her old room at her father's palace. She could see out into the garden.

"Marry me," Sesshoumaru said suddenly as she ate the apple sauce.

Kagome was so surprised that she could only look at him blankly.

"I want us to be together for the rest of our lives, and I want everybody to know that we belong to each other. I thought I had lost you when we fought Naraku, and I don't want to ever feel that way again. Ever."

Kagome looked at him, startled.

It was Sesshoumaru who looked away first. "I... I love you, Kagome."

"Oh, I love you, too," Kagome replied. "Of course I love you. But how are you going to be the Lord of Western Lands if you marry me? Inuyasha is a hanyou, and you know how they react to hanyou heirs."

"I don't care," Sesshoumaru said fiercely. "I don't need them."

Kagome looked down at her blanket. "But they need you."

Sesshoumaru stood up and looked at her, and she thought she felt her heart break with his cold look. "Fine, then. If that is your answer."

She stayed silent and watched him walk out of her room, a straight back, an elegant turn of his yukata.

Inuyasha and Kikyou married each other soon after Kagome woke up. They held hands and were always seen together. It was as if they were making up for all their lost time when Kikyou had misunderstood what had happened.

Everywhere Kagome went, she could Kikyou's tinkling laughter or Inuyasha's petulant "keh" as they lazed around and did nothing. Inuyasha never had had any duties except to wait on Kikyou and as the Tama was lost again and Kagome was proven to be its keeper anyways, Kikyou had no duties as part of the Higurashi house other than to be a part of it.

Kikyou didn't seem to mind.

When Kagome saw the couple, she was happy for them. She told herself that she was honestly happy for them, but always, she would feel the need to retreat back to her own rooms, because the sun was too bright or the air too still.

One day, Kikyou confronted her. "Why are you still here? Why aren't you with Sesshoumaru?"

Kagome hadn't thought that Kikyou had seen her at all. "His people need him."

"But you need him, too." Kikyou made a little frustrated frown. "Why do you want to force yourselves to be apart from each other when you know and he knows and we all know that you should be together?"

Kagome sighed and turned away from Kikyou. "His people need him more."

Kikyou took a deep breath, as if needing extra patience to speak with Kagome. Kagome wished that she would just leave. "How do you think his people need him?" Kikyou asked Kagome. "Touga is still alive and well. Sesshoumaru is only the heir. And besides, if his people need him, and he needs you, then his people need you, too."

Kagome sighed again and shook her head. "It doesn't work like that."

"Of course it does," Kikyou rebutted sharply and then stalked back to Inuyasha, as if that was as long as her patience lasted.

Sango didn't care about bad luck or anything of the sort. She made sure that she knew where Miroku was every minute of every day between the end of the battle and her wedding to Miroku a month after their victory. Even so, she threatened all sorts of nasty things if Miroku ran away again, which he promised quite earnestly that he had no intention of doing.

Kagome broke down crying when they finally promised themselves to each other, because it was so beautiful. She offered her congratulations and after the banquet, went back to her room and couldn't stop crying.

It was just like that, that Kagome's resolve broke. She supposed that maybe she was never very strong-willed in the first place, but her heart ached too much for Sesshoumaru.

It was perhaps not good for his relationship between him and his people if she sought him out, but if he loved her—and he had told her that he did—then he must hurt as least half as much as she does. And she would not inflict that on him.

Kikyou was right, Kagome rationalized. If they needed him and he needed her, then they would have to accept her, no matter what.

So, with that in mind, she set out to find Sesshoumaru.

Kagome never quite reached the Western Lands. She stopped at Kouga's cave and he solicited her help for healing his wolves. Most of those who had not died in the battle against Naraku were well already, but there were the few who still suffered from a broken knee or a shattered bone that was not set back right in time. So Kagome used her priestess powers and healed these wolves.

Though she was anxious to find Sesshoumaru, the thought that she was going to meet him eased her heart. And besides, Kouga was an ally and she considered him a friend. So, she did this and stayed there for three days.

On the third day, she woke up to noises that signified the flurry of activity going on outside. Blearily, she woke up and stepped out of her chamber and froze.

Sesshoumaru was there.

Then, she found herself hugging him desperately. It felt as if they had stayed apart for a lifetime instead of a mere month and a half.

"Sesshoumaru," she cried.

His arms tightened around her. "Kagome," he murmured to her hair. "Oh, Kagome, say that you will marry me. I know you came this way to find me, because you are not at your father's palace, so you cannot mean to deny me again."

How Kagome wanted to say yes. Maybe she even meant to say yes when she traveled in search of Sesshoumaru, but now that the reality was upon them, she could find nothing to say.

"I would," Kagome finally replied. "But when we are both old and weary of purposeless lives, you will be blaming me for having had to give up your place and your land for me. And you may say that you will have no regrets, but you will, because that is the way of it."

"No, I won't," Sesshoumaru declared just as Kagome had expected. "First of all, you should let me choose what I am willing to give up. Secondly, I would rather that I regret it later than to not have you at all. And besides, I don't have to give up anything anyways."

In the end, Sesshoumaru and Kagome married. Sesshoumaru completed the mating vows. Touga admitted to his well-meant mistakes and decided to step down and made Sesshoumaru the Lord of the Western Lands.

It turned out, that the reason that there were so few hanyous was not because youkai and humans do not like each other or that they are separated. Rather, if the mating vows were completed, all the children from the couple are either entirely youkai or entirely human.

Sesshoumaru forced his subjects to respect Kagome, partly by ordaining so and partly by telling them of how Kagome defeated Naraku. Eventually, they admired Kagome, too, because she was willing and able to heal youkai that all other healers have already given up on, and to deliver youkai babies, which were especially difficult since youkai babies seemed to be born twice as large as human babies.

Souta ended up as the Higurashi heir anyways. He told Shippou quite ambitiously that he would get rid of all the blood-bonds humans imposed on youkai. Shippou cried, and threw a tantrum that Souta hated him and he wanted Kagome back.

Kikyou remained the High Priestess. But in no way did her life remain the same, because she and Inuyasha were together and happy now, truly. And anywhere they went in the garden, the plants seemed to flourish and the flowers bloomed wider answering Kikyou's good mood.

Kagome and Sesshoumaru's first child was a boy youkai, with straight black hair and pretty gold eyes. He was named the Taiyoukai heir.


Author's Notes: Well, I think this is my first finished long story. For those of you who have waited (some of you up to a year, I think) for me to go through the edits, I apologize. But I went through it—it was weird reading my own story and not remembering much of what happened—and now it's officially done. It's going on the shelf. :) It's a good feeling.

I appreciate all the readers, especially those who have reviewed. Without you, I would not have finished writing the story.

Some things might not be clear. So, I wanted to clear it up.

1.) The Tama did not work for Naraku because Kagome had already made a wish on it. She wished that she would have the strength to leave Sesshoumaru, and it's considered a selfless wish, because she did not wish for it to be easy or painless, just that she would.

2.) Kagome's dreams—a completely useless subplot, except as another way that Sesshoumaru could protect her—foretold of the cycle that the Higurashi's and the Taiyoukai's were doomed to repeat over and over again unless the Shikon no Tama was destroyed. But... it was never quite necessary to explain it in the story.

3.) Yes, Shippou is still blood-bound at the end of the story. He likes the security that somebody cares for him. Since he hasn't reached puberty, he isn't bound quite by the same rules. Kagome "gave" him to Souta, since she was leaving. Hmm... wonder if anything would happen to Shippou and Souta... Hmm...

If you liked this story, please write a review this way. :) They light up my day, and make me very happy. After all, if I just wanted to tell a story, I could have kept it all to myself.

And lastly, feel free to visit me on fictionpress and read my stories (soon-to-be) there. Same username.