Mirrored Future


By Amazonian 21

A/N: Just a little add on to tie up some loose ends.

Item 1: InuYasha

InuYasha sat with his hands folded in his haori, staring at the well, waiting for one particular figure to emerge. The scene was so familiar and so routine that for a moment a dizzying wave of time hit him and left him disoriented. Today could have been two months ago, two years ago, any of a hundred nights where he'd sat just as he was sitting now, waiting for this same woman to return to him from her own time.

Only this time, she wasn't returning to him. She was returning to his bastard brother, a thought that still made the hairs on the back of his neck rise and his anger levels spike. He didn't think he'd ever be truly reconciled to the way things turned out.

Time had happened to their little family group, as it always did, and brought such great changes to all their lives that it was no use pretending things were still simple and routine. The little band of shard hunters had morphed and changed from destroyers to survivors after the defeat of Naraku. Instead of fighting for the death of their common enemy, they were now building new lives for themselves, filled with the potential for future peace and happiness.

It was hard to know that Kagome was now forever beyond his reach. InuYasha and Kagome had been dancing around each other for so long. They had become the best of friends. There were times when InuYasha's very thoughts sounded through his head in Kagome's voice. She meant so much to him.

InuYasha was blissfully happy that he had a second chance to begin a new life with Kikyou, his soul mate, but the suddenness of this reversal still left him reeling. Over the space of a very, very short time, Kagome had gone from a friend with sexual tension to the mate of his evil bastard brother. And InuYasha had gone from her protector and love interest to being bound to the woman she'd been reincarnated from. It was quite a mental shift to go from desiring somebody to denying harboring any residual feelings for them. Secretly, in a deep portion of his soul, he'd always expected them to end up together, if Kikyou hadn't returned to him. He had to remind himself that was no longer an option, and that things were better this way.

It was harder than he'd expected, especially since they'd never really had a chance to say goodbye. Everything had happened so quickly. Kagome and Sesshoumaru's relationship had snuck up on them all, the love birds included. Kikyou's return to life had been just as sudden. He didn't feel prepared for any of this. A window to his past still remained open, and he needed to shut that so he could move more fully into the future, keeping Kagome near him as a friend. He never wanted to lose her friendship. She was too important to him.

And now he was waiting in his usual spot, looking for the flash of light that would herald her return so she could be by his side again, even if only for a short time.

His ears twitched and his heart leapt a little when he first sensed her presence. Without waiting for her to climb all the way to the top, InuYasha jumped down the well, grabbed a hold of Kagome, and jumped straight back up into the moonlight, chuckling to himself at her surprised shrieks of outrage.

"Jeeze, InuYasha! Can't you warn a girl first?" Kagome shouted, once she was safely back on her own two feet.

"Keh," he replied, enjoying bothering her again. It had been entirely too long. Sesshoumaru was so damned protective of the miko that he never got to have fun anymore. One wrong step, even the thought of one wrong step, and his stupid brother was growling like he'd rip his arms off. It was depressing.

"It's not my fault you're such a puny human and scare so easy," he prodded, hoping she'd rise to his baiting. He wasn't disappointed.

"Ooooh, why you..!" Kagome spluttered, trying to think of a creative enough word to blast her hanyou friend with.

"Oh, what are you gonna do, bitch, cry?" InuYasha taunted, lost in the pure enjoyment of annoying Kagome. She just made it so easy, and turned the best shades of red. It really had been too long. Kikyou never fell for his taunts, and after a while he'd stopped wanting to try.

"No!" Kagome yelled, getting a wicked look in her eyes. "Something better!" She was eyeing his neck with a self satisfied expression.

Suddenly InuYasha realized his mistake. He still wore the subduing rosary. In all the commotion and emotional upheaval of the last few months, no one had thought to remove it.

He began to shake his head and move back, holding his hands in front as if to ward her off.

"Oh no," he said, moving to put distance between them, "Don't you freaking dare!"

His instincts were telling him to make a break for it but he held back. He knew from experience that he'd only leave skid marks in the ground when he came crashing down on the run.

"InuYasha," Kagome drawled, reveling in her power, "SIT!"

The hanyou hit the ground with a resounding thud, face planting into the grass with an audible 'whump!'

"Damn it!" he yelled, spluttering and pulling against the restraint, but his efforts seemed almost half hearted to Kagome. He wasn't snarling or threatening her life the way he usually did. He didn't seem as mad with the subduing this time around…

With a start, Kagome realized why. She hadn't 'sat' InuYasha in ages. She'd been far too busy with Sesshoumaru and their budding relationship. InuYasha and Kikyou had always been off by themselves, anyway, even if Kagome had been in camp with the others. They never saw each other any more. Maybe InuYasha had missed this symbol of their ties, their own personal spell that only existed for the two of them. He didn't seem to mind this reminder of simpler times.

But this connection couldn't last forever. She didn't have the right to this sort of control over him anymore. And, they didn't really need it. He wasn't going to be her traveling companion from here on out. Their quest was done. They had to move on with their lives, and she had to give up her claim on him.

When the spell wore off, InuYasha stood to find Kagome staring at him with a small look of sadness, a little hint of a bittersweet glance hovering over her mouth and eyes. He'd been preparing to blast her with another round of crankiness but was brought up short when he could see her small tears clinging to the corner of her lashes.

He wanted to pretend he didn't know what she was thinking about. In the past he would have called her a ninny for crying after sitting him, pretending to believe she was concerned she'd hurt him. He would have gruffly told her to stop with the water works because he was too strong to ever be hurt by her anyway, and would have pestered her until she was annoyed enough to forget she'd been feeling sad.

But now was not the time for such things. This was the only chance they'd have for a private moment. Kikyou was helping Kaede tend to some sick villagers and was in quarantine for the next day or so. Sesshoumaru was retrieving Rin and Jaken from his stronghold. There would not be another time for Kagome and InuYasha to say what needed to be said for a long time to come.

Knowing this didn't make InuYasha any more eager to start spilling his guts. He hated these emotional confrontations. They were always so sloppy, and someone always got upset, and someone (not naming any names) always put his foot in his mouth and made someone else cry. This was such a pain in the butt, but he needed to talk to her.

Kagome could tell his thoughts were following along the same lines as hers. She also knew he'd stand there looking miserable until she did something herself.

She did know him better than anyone else, after all. It had been four years of a very intense friendship.

She sighed and stepped forward, resting her hand on his arm. With another little sigh, she reached up to finger the rosary. InuYasha's eyes never left her face.

"I guess it's time for this to come off, huh?" she said, moving to clasp the necklace in both hands.

InuYasha surprised himself by stopping her, putting his hands over hers and holding her in place. He had known it would come but suddenly couldn't bear for it to happen.

"What are you doing?" he almost whined, not letting her move.

"I have to," Kagome said, not meeting his eyes. It felt like there was a new wall of sadness suddenly sprung between them. She didn't like this symbol of their changing relationship- it felt too much like breaking up or cutting him out of her life- but it had to be done.

"Why?" InuYasha said, almost whining. He hated the way this was feeling. It felt horrible, like he was going to lose his best friend in the world. This necklace was what kept them bound together. If she took it off it would be like setting him adrift to face the world on his own, without her near him. It would be admitting that things had changed forever and that they could never go back to how they were. He knew it was true, and knew things really had irrevocably changed to a great extent, but how could he let the past go? He'd never been good at that.

"InuYasha," Kagome said, almost pleading. This was getting harder and harder. Any second she really would cry, and there would be nothing she could do to stop it.

InuYasha looked at her face and saw her pain there. He hated making her cry. That had always been one of his greatest weaknesses. He would be strong. He'd be strong now for her, just like he always had been, because he cared for her deeply.

He gave a resigned sigh and moved his hands away. He let her lift the necklace. He felt as though a great load of rocks was lifted away from his shoulders when it passed his ears and pulled over his head, but felt that same weight settle slowly over his heart instead.

Their bond was broken. The necklace hung useless in Kagome's fingers, more a worthless bead trinket than a powerful rosary. He missed her already.

Kagome stared at it in her hands for a moment, not saying anything. She needed a moment to get her feelings under control. This was so hard.

Finally, she raised her head and gave InuYasha a hesitant but heart filled smile.

"How does it feel?" she asked, smiling as InuYasha rubbed his neck and chest, free from the threat of being sat for the first time in four years.

"I don't know," he said, hesitantly. "I feel lighter, but a lot heavier at the same time," he said, looking back at her.

Kagome nodded sagely. That sounded about right.

"Go on, try it," InuYasha ordered her, watching her expression closely.

"Try what?" Kagome asked, momentarily confused.

"Sit me," InuYasha told her, standing expectantly. Kagome gaped at him for a stunned moment before coming to her senses.

"No!" Kagome shouted, hands flying to her hips. "You just want to gloat!"

"Keh, maybe, but you owe me for all that torture!" InuYasha said, smirking a little.

"Well, no way!" Kagome said adamantly, crossing her arms over her chest and turning away. "I won't give you the satisfaction."

"What?" InuYasha roared, momentarily forgetting his lingering sadness. All he wanted to do was test out his new found freedoms, but she wasn't going to cooperate! Why was she being so stubborn?

"Damn it, wench, just say 'sit'!" he yelled again, coming around to shout in her face properly.

Kagome merely turned away and put her nose in the air, sniffing disdainfully, unknowingly mimicking her mate perfectly.

"Kagome!" InuYasha said, getting exasperated. "Minutes ago you couldn't wait to sit me! You've been doing it all these years, and now when I want you to you forget the word?" His eyes lit up as he thought of his fool-proof provocation.

"Bitch!" he yelled, sitting back smugly to watch her reaction.

Kagome's ears reddened from her efforts at restraining her temper, but to his increasing dissatisfaction she kept her cool. She would not 'sit' him.

"Arrrgh!" he yelled, gnashing his teeth and running up to kick a poor defenseless tree. "Some things never change!"

Kagome, hearing these words and watching her hanyou friend throw a tantrum, had to smile. It was suddenly all she'd wanted to hear.

"You're right, InuYasha," she said, laying her hand on his arm and smiling up into his bewildered face, watching as her presence calmed and soothed him as it always had, even when she was the one upsetting him. "Some things never change."

InuYasha seemed to feel everything she couldn't put into words, and a sense of relief flowed through him. It would be alright. It was going to be different, and sometimes it would be hard and some things would never make sense, but it would be alright.

"Come on," Kagome said, tweaking his ear as he shot her a half hearted growl, "I'll make you some Ramen."

"All right!" InuYasha yelled, pulling her after him as he sped off towards the camp.

Some things never change.

Item 2: Alone Time

"Don't touch it," he growled, narrowing his eyes at her menacingly.

Her hand never faltered on its course, going unerringly to the one spot he did not want it to go. He huffed a great huff as he prepared to growl more menacingly at her, looking to meet her eyes.

He was pulled up short, though, once his amber eyes met her innocent, wide, childishlyguileless blue gaze. He suddenly got all the wind knocked out of him. She was just so sweet, so pure, so nice! He felt himself unable to sustain the proper levels of annoyance and gave up on making her pull away and stop pestering him. The young miko undoubtedly had no idea of how annoying she was. He'd spare her feelings, this time around. The weak little thing most likely wouldn't be able to withstand his scathing wit.

Kagome smirked to herself as Sesshoumaru huffed once more and turned away, trying weakly to pull his tail from her grasp. She'd figured out a long time ago that he wasn't evenninety-five percentas mean and angry as he seemed. However, much to his own loss, he'd yet to discover that she wasn'tninety-nine percentas sweet and innocent as she pretended.

His fault for underestimating her. She gave a little retaliatory tug on his adorable tail, hiding her smirk behind even wider eyes when he turned to glare at her once more.

Finally, he seemed to resign himself fully to his fate. He looked to her once more, seeming to drink in her expression and memorize her face. He searched her features up and down thoroughly as if trying to discover why on earth he put up with her.

Kagome was having a really hard time keeping a straight face when confronted with his adorable annoyed expression. Finally, losing a semblance of control, she innocently tugged on the tail again, laughing when his eyes narrowed in suspicion.

He'd caught her out. He could see the mirth and teasing gleam dancing in her wide eyes, even as she batted her lashes and put on her best, 'who, me?' expression. The little miko was taunting him!

With a lunge and a growl, Sesshoumaru swooped in and gathered her up in a one armed embrace, pulling her under him so he could loom over her threateningly.

"So, you think you can manhandle this Sesshoumaru whenever you like without consequence?" he asked, bringing his face down to hers until they were nose-to-nose.

"Why Sesshoumaru, whatever do you mean?" she asked, unable to suppress either the laughter that fought to escape or the tingle of pleasure she got from their position.

"You know full well, you vixen," he growled, delighting in the small tremors he could feel coursing through his mate. He brought is mouth down to her ear, knowing it was one of her more sensitive spots.

"I just thought you looked like you could use a little attention," Kagome said, trying valiantly to maintain her studied air of innocence. It wasn't working very well. At the moment, her thoughts about her mate were anything but innocent.

"I forgot what a mischief maker you can be," Sesshoumaru purred into her ear, tracing the shell with his tongue.

"How silly of you," Kagome replied breathlessly. "You'll have to be more careful in the future," she said, grasping him more tightly to her.

"I will be," he promised, moving to kiss her deeply. "I most certainly will be."

Item 3: Kikyou

He sensed her coming a mile away. He'd wondered if this confrontation would ever actually happen. For a while he'd idly dared to hope it wouldn't. Not that he was afraid of the miko; he'd killed her once before. He could kill her again if it came down to it.

Only this time, there would be no way to conceal his actions from InuYasha and Kagome. No, if the miko decided to threaten him or his mate again, things could definitely get messy and he'd be left with a lot of dodging, fighting, and explaining to do. It would most likely be more effort than it was worth.

He had no idea of what to expect from the miko when she reached him. Would she launch into an open attack? Would she try to coerce him into something by holding the knowledge of his past actions over his head? Would she even remember all that had transpired while she was in her undead state? Kikyou was an unknown element in his life's equation.

He snorted derisively to himself for a moment. All the mikos he'd known personally had ended up that way. Why should she be any different?

But there was something about Kikyou that would always unsettle him. He knew nothing about her. All he could see was a calm, powerful, and intense soul who'd been capable of descending to the depths she'd reached. That sort of nature was one he did not enjoy being around. His Kagome was so different. He admired the lightness and the inherent innocence of his mate. This miko was born weary and had carried that heaviness around with her, throughout life and death.

Not that he knew much of her personally, of course. When he'd made her limited acquaintance she'd already been half insane, blinded by hatred and bitterness. She was probably much different and more pleasant as a whole, living being. The last time he'd seen her, she'd been mostly dead as it was. When he killed her officially, he'd really just given her a nudge in the right direction.

Now, she was a fully regenerated miko in possession of all her faculties. Would she be angry about what he'd done to protect Kagome? Would she attempt to seek revenge, or to get even in some way? He didn't know what to expect, and that threw him off.

The miko entered the very clearing where he'd slain her a couple of months ago. She showed no sign of fear or apprehension but she did show recognition. She knew where they were and what had transpired between them the last time they met on this ground. That answered one question. He wondered why she'd not said something to anyone before now.

In the months following the battle Sesshoumaru had seen the resurrected miko, but only from a distance, and only in the company of InuYasha. He knew she hadn't said anything to InuYasha. The camp had been far too quiet and the temporary truce too upheld for that to have been a possibility. The two of them had certainly never spoken. They'd yet to pause in their busy schedules and ask each other all important questions like, 'So, how are you? You know, after I killed you methodically out in the forest without telling anyone else what fate you'd met?' or 'So, you're mated to my reincarnation, the woman I was planning to kill in order to reclaim my soul. How's that working out for you?'

No, this would be the first time they'd chat one on one with something other than impending murder on their minds.

One would hope, anyway.

"Sesshoumaru," Kikyou began, bowing formally, "I have been waiting to speak to you."

He said nothing, merely nodded in reply. It was always best to keep your cards close, not giving away anything too early in the game.

When it was apparent he did not plan to take her conversational lead and run with it, Kikyou continued, drawing up straight and standing tall as she spoke to him. Her expression never wavered once.

"It would be noble of me to apologize for my actions while I was in my clay state. It would be commendable of me to explain my motivations and thoughts, and to tell you why I did what I did, seeking your understanding and forgiveness." All this was said with an air of long mulled thoughts seeing the daylight for the first time. "I should apologize for seeking the soul of someone you loved. And," she said, regarding the TaiYoukai closely, with no trace of fear on her noble face, "I should thank you for the steps you took to prevent me from succeeding in my wicked desires."

Here she stopped and regarded him some more, searching for facial clues to gauge his receptivity. She, however, was no Kagome, and so was not tuned into his tell tale facial ticks and giveaways. He knew she did not know how he felt about her pronouncement.

"I should explain that I know why you would slaughter me as I was without telling the man I loved or anyone else about my death. I should be grateful for the inherent rightness of your actions, and should pledge myself to repaying a great debt you have placed upon me." Here again she paused, but this time appeared to be examining herself introspectively, ignoring the demon lord for a moment as she collected her thoughts.

Still Sesshoumaru said nothing. There was nothing for him to say.

"But I will do none of those things," she finally said, decisively. The demon could feel his eyebrows reach his hairline, the only visible betrayal of his surprise and interest.

"I alone know what I thought and felt at that time," Kikyou said with conviction. "I alone know what real hell is. I alone know the depths of the darkness of souls, and I alone will bear that weight. There is nothing I can or will say to you in my defense, because my crimes are not for this world to judge. There's not a being alive with enough experience to hold the scales."

All this was said with such power and surety that Sesshoumaru could not help but agree. Not that he'd bother to tell her that, of course.

She met his eyes directly when she was finished with her speeches. Whatever she did or did not see in his face or countenance seemed to be what she was looking for, in spite of his efforts to remain blank and impassive, because she made one final statement.

"The past is past, and it always will be. I will not carry it around with me, mourning things that are dead and over while I am alive and ever changing. The future has already happened and is already somebody's past, but I have a chance to see it new for the first time."

The demon lord had to admire the steely look of resolve in her eyes as she again met his direct, unflinching gaze. Her face lacked the passionate vibrancy of Kagome's expression, but it had its own strength.

He simply nodded to her, showing his respect for her thoughts concerning the history that lay between them, and the history that lay strewn about in pieces all around them all. Pieces that none of them would pick up to mull over any time soon.

Without another word, Sesshoumaru's brother's miko nodded back once and turned back the way she'd come.

They would have no more problems between them.

Item 4: Shippou

The young kitsune sat on a nearby boulder, almost at eye level with the reclining TaiYoukai who was currently lounging not two feet away. A certain young miko was sharing space with him, her back resting against his chest as she lazily read a paperback book from her time. The inu youkai was content to stare off into space, thinking his own private thoughts, as his independently motivated hand occasionally found its way into her hair, stroking the soft strands absently.

It was a very cozy scene, one that made Shippou both very, very happy, and also very sad and nostalgic.

Kagome was like a mother to him. He loved her deeply and was happy to see her finally with someone who cared for her and made her feel loved and safe. And he was a demon, even if young and surrounded by humans, so he respected Sesshoumaru's obvious strength and protective capabilities. He wasn't worried at all that Sesshoumaru wouldn't be able to keep his mother friend safe from all physical harm. No, there was no one better for the job of miko protector.

He was just worried that Sesshoumaru wouldn't like him, and wouldn't let him stay with Kagome. Shippou needed her, and needed to know he'd be welcomed wherever they went. Somehow, he didn't think Sesshoumaru would be very welcoming.

Sesshoumaru, as if feeling the weight of the young kitsune's regard on his face, cracked open one golden eye to look the kit over.

Shippou let out a small 'Eep!' of distress at being caught staring and dived behind the rock.

He didn't get far, however, before he was hauled up by the tail, brought face-to-face with the last demon he'd ever wanted to get up close and personal with while hanging upside down.

Sesshoumaru let out an inquisitive growl, low and unthreatening, but definitely meaning business. What did the runt want?

Shippou began to stutter out an explanation, all the while desperately looking to Kagome for assistance. She'd always been able to put InuYasha in his place when things got too rough, but this was no InuYasha. Sesshoumaru was a different sort of bully, and Shippou really didn't want to come off as a good target.

He was saved, however, when Sesshoumaru let out an annoyed 'Umph' before turning his glare on Kagome. She'd sat up from her reclined position to shoot him a pointed stare, letting him know in no uncertain terms that he'd better play nice.

Sesshoumaru simply sniffed and looked away from her, putting Shippou back on the ground as if that had been his intention the entire time.

Kagome just hid a small smile and got a look on her face that Shippou instinctively knew meant trouble. It was the excited look Kagome wore when she was about to say, 'Hey, I have an idea!'

"Hey, I have an idea!" Kagome said, sure enough, as Shippou closed his eyes and said a small prayer. Even Sesshoumaru, still new to her foibles, knew enough to regard her warily when she looked and sounded like that.

Kagome, however, chose to blissfully ignore all of their expressions. They were nothing she hadn't seen countless of times before.

"Since Shippou will be staying with us for a long time, you two should get to know each other better!" The enthusiasm in her voice was obvious, but neither of the two males found it infectious.

They just looked at each other out of the corner of their eyes, sizing each other up like opponents. They knew that once Kagome got an idea into her head it was best to just hang on and grit your teeth as you got through it, but they didn't know how the other would react to her demands.

Shippou decided that the efforts to break the ice and establish friendly connections would fall on his shoulders. Taking the youkai by the ears, metaphorically, he made his first foray into enemy territory.

"Do you want to play?" he asked Sesshoumaru, hesitantly.

"This Sesshoumaru does not play," Sesshoumaru replied, saying the word 'play' the same way you would say 'maggots'.

"Do you want to catch bugs?" Shippou tried again, trying to think of all the things he was good at that would be fun with another person. The disgusted look on the demon lord's face, however, told him he was striking out.

"We could go swimming," Shippou thought out loud. A giggle from Kagome and an answering glare from Sesshoumaru told him that option was out, too. Shippou was running out of ideas.

"What do you do for fun?" he asked Sesshoumaru in exasperation. There had to be something they could do together, at least to get Kagome off their backs. The miko in question was currently narrowing her eyes at Sesshoumaru, ready to elbow him again if he didn't start participating.

"I kill things," Sesshoumaru said with all confidence.

"Uhh…" Shippou said, wondering if this was a team sport.

"Good, then that's settled," Kagome said, standing up and dusting herself off. "You'll go off into the woods, be very manly, and kill all sorts of innocent woodland creatures in the spirit of male bonding," she decided, reaching out a hand to help haul Sesshoumaru up to his feet.

The TaiYoukai was more than willing to do as she said. Sure it would be a bit of a hindrance having the inexperienced young kitsune around while on the prowl, but he'd put up with it for Kagome's sake. The things he did for her…

Besides, the young kit had relied on his weak, pathetic bastard of a half breed brother for a male role model. Someone needed to straighten the kid out and give him some useful pointers. No one else would be able to make a man out of him.

Shippou was beginning to feel excited. It looked like Sesshoumaru was really going to take him into the forest and show him how to hunt! This was every little demon's dream! He'd never had the chance to watch such a cool and powerful demon at work. His inner demon was jumping up and down in excitement. It looked forward to having such a mentor. This wasn't an opportunity to pass up.

With a cry of excitement, Shippou launched himself thoughtlessly onto Sesshoumaru's neck, chattering happily all the while. He was so busy being excited that he failed to notice the way Sesshoumaru's shoulders tensed before relaxing to allow the kit to remain on his perch. Shippou wasn't even aware of his first personal victory of the day; being permitted to manhandle the great TaiYoukai of the West without losing any limbs.

Kagome waved them farewell with a happy little smile as the stoic TaiYoukai bore the excitable little kit away on his shoulder. Her men were off to spend some quality time together, just the two of them. It made her heart happy. She would sacrifice a whole forest's worth of fuzzy mammals if it made her little family any closer and more secure.

Sesshoumaru, though he'd never admit it, was reveling in the young kit's admiration and indirect, heartfelt praise.

"Will you show me that cool thing you do with your claws?" he'd asked, not even pausing for an answer before continuing with other attack requests. "Or that one thing you did when you knocked InuYasha flat on his face that one time? He never saw that one coming it was so fast!" Shippou said, being unintentionally disloyal to his hanyou friend.

Sesshoumaru, however, didn't mind the slip at all. An afternoon spent off in nature, killing things for fun while hearing how cool he was?

That sounded just fine to him. Maybe having the runt around would be alright after all.

Item 5: Communication

Sesshoumaru was a demon, he was not a person. He certainly wasn't a people person. He was an extremely strong, intelligent, crafty, and controlled demon. He said what he needed to say, when he needed to say it. The words 'chit' and 'chat' never existed together in his mind. He would be loathe to admit that the word 'chat' existed at all.

He had many, many years of experience under his belt and a lot of insight into the inner workings of the world. He knew what needed to be done, when. His word was law, literally. He was the lord of the western lands, after all.

He was blessed with intuition and brilliant foresight and an almost supernatural ability to predict what the future would hold.

Well, up until the events witnessed one fated moonlit night by an old, forgotten well, of course. That had come as a surprise.

But aside from all that, he was always right.

Unfortunately, no handy little mirror ever told him he would be mated to a young woman who was also always right, only in the most annoying and contradictory ways. He still wasn't quite sure how that worked.

"Sesshoumaru, I promised I would go to Souta's birthday party," she said, moving past him to head back to the old well. They were far away in another area of the forest, doing a cursory check on his land's borders.

But he was not in the mood to argue. It was completely unnecessary and undignified. He didn't want to let her go. He wanted her with him. He doubted they'd ever talked about any kind of party to begin with. He would not give her words an answer, because they didn't need one.

'Humph,' he seemed to say, giving a slight sniff and not meeting her gaze

"That's tonight," she pointed out, moving away from him. "I told you about this a week ago."

'Indifferent stare,' he projected, maintaining a studiously bored countenance.

"I have to go now so I can help mom set everything up!" she said, beginning to get annoyed. "We can't go off killing things on the border of your lands today, I have to get going."

A Narrowing of eyes and piercing glance were her only reply.

"You promised you would take me and Rin over to the well," she said, moving to poke him in the chest. "You said you'd fly us there so we'd make it before noon!"

Turned nose, avoided glance, studied air of nonchalance.

"What is your problem?" she asked, throwing her hands up in frustration. "You know full well we already had plans for the next couple of days. You just forgot and now you're trying to make me feel like it's my fault, or like I'm keeping you from doing your duty!"

Raised eyebrow, pointed glare.

"Oh, come on! We're always killing demons! We killed demons last weekend; we'll kill demons again next weekend. The demons know the routine by now already! They'll probably start slaughtering themselves without us, just out of habit!"

Snort of derision and crossing of arms. Even if she did have a very small point.

"Arrgh!" she shouted, finally giving full vent to her frustration. "I hate it when you won't even argue, just standing there like a ticked off brick wall! I refuse to argue with a statue!"

Small smirk of victory.

"Oh, fine then," she said in a warning tone. "If you can't tell me what you want and discuss things like a grown up, I'm going to ignore you and do what I want anyway."

Sly look to see what was going to happen. He would not give in so easily.

Yes, Sesshoumaru did not negotiate. He did not discuss. He did not need to use word after word after word. His actions did all the talking for him, and the sooner his mate realized it, the better. Words were a waste of perfectly good air, especially when you could get what you wanted from life without them. She would come around, and would fall in line behind him. Sesshoumaru did not change to suit the world, the world changed to suit him.

To his chagrin, however, he saw Kagome turn on her heel and flounce away without a backwards glance, taking a smiling Rin with her until they reached the side of Ah Un.

At this Sesshoumaru allowed himself a larger smirk. The dragon allowed none but him to issue orders. It certainly wouldn't allow a mere slip of a human girl to clamber up on its back and tell it where to go, acting like the boss of the giant creature. No, that dragon had only one boss, and that boss was Sesshoumaru.

To his slight horror, he saw Ah Un greet the miko warmly by nuzzling her stomach, silently asking for treats the manner of horses and other beasts of burden the world over. The once fearsome beast was acting completely tame, and was allowing itself to be entirely at Kagome's disposal.

How had this happened? How had his beast come to tolerate the presence of such a weak being?

Sesshoumaru saw Rin climb expertly up to sit in front of the mounted Kagome. The older girl's arms coming around to hold her in place as Sesshoumaru realized his error. The beast was long used to catering to humans.

Much like Sesshoumaru had become, apparently.

Sighing internally, Sesshoumaru watched as Kagome encouraged Ah Un to take off to the skies, beginning the first leg of their journey to the well. She never once looked at him as she left, keeping her eyes averted and her nose in the air. She was deliberately shunning him!

He hated to admit it, but her avoidance agitated his inner youkai. He was, after all, part canine, and being isolated and removed from the good graces of your pack was internally traumatic. His demon's mate had cast him aside, punishing him by refusing to share any portion of herself with him.

He could not have that. With a low growl of hurt and annoyance, Sesshoumaru followed, keeping pace with the girls just out of sight.

Kagome sighed once they were on their way. She had originally felt so sure of herself, determined to hold her own and get her way. And she still thought she was right; they had promised to go to Souta's party and she really needed to be there. And Sesshoumaru was too contained. He really, really needed to vocalize his thoughts and emotions more.

Not that she wanted to be needy or anything, but the man just left her so… busy. She was always watching him, gauging his reactions. She had catalogued eighty-two separate facial expressions so far, and they hadn't been mated that long. Eighty-two different interchangeable faces that took the place of all words. She spent all her time trying to understand him, and he did nothing to make her job easier.

It was nice that he wasn't a big talker in some respects because Sesshoumaru was a good listener. Or at least, he would pretend to be giving her half an ear if she started prattling on during their journeys around their lands. He would sometimes answer her more direct questions if he thought they warranted a response, and would even occasionally venture a question of his own.

But he'd never, ever said one word that would tell her how he was feeling about any subject. And she needed that communication sometimes, because she felt so vulnerable. It was hard always trying to guess. What if she guessed wrong?

She'd left one life for another the day she became Sesshoumaru's mate. She closed several doors that would never reopen, and took a big leap of faith. She trusted her instincts, and her heart, and knew that this would be very, very right. She knew that true love lay ahead of her.

But she had never heard any words to that effect coming from Sesshoumaru himself. Sure, he seemed happy that she was by his side. She knew he felt restless and uncomfortable when she wasn't around, and she knew he only really relaxed in her presence. She knew he was very, deeply, fond of her.

But did he love her? She had no idea.

To tell the truth, she'd only discovered that she really, truly loved him two days ago.

They had been laying together at the base of a tree, preparing to go to sleep for the night, with Shippou tucked up to one side of Kagome. Normally the little kit slept in his own sleeping bag, but the night had been an especially cold one.

Sesshoumaru had turned over to curl around her back, resting his face in the crook of her neck as he peered over her shoulder. The little kit's tail had accidentally fwapped him in the face, causing him to pull back and narrow his eyes. Without any thought, without any intent, his hand came up and flicked Shippou on the behind, startling the young kit into an upright position.

When Shippou had come awake abruptly, looking around him with suspicion trying to discover the culprit, Sesshoumaru had simply kept his hand still where it was and gazed away into the distance, affecting the deepest innocence and ignorance.

When Shippou had stalked off to confront an absent InuYasha, somehow convinced the hanyou had snuck by them all, even Sesshoumaru, to torture him while he slept, Kagome had collapsed against Sesshoumaru's chest, weak from laughing harder than she had in a long while.

She looked up into the youkai's face, happy to see him watching her laughter with a small, content smirk on his face. Her mirth had died down a little, trailing off to a small sigh as she traced his face with her gentle fingers.

'I love this man,' she'd thought clearly, feeling soft, warm, and deeply happy. She had known, for the first time, exactly what she'd been waiting for all these years.

But they'd never said anything out loud, and while she knew how she felt, she had no idea what he was thinking. It scared her to know she could feel like this about someone who might only be fond of her. That would be unbearable.

She hugged Rin more tightly, resting her cheek on the small girl's head, and sighed a deep sigh she meant completely.

"What's wrong Kagome?" Rin asked, looking up to see the miko's troubled expression.

"Oh, nothing," Kagome lied, wondering if she could really ask the things she desperately wanted to ask the young girl. Did Sesshoumaru love anyone? Could he love her? Would she ever feel completely reassured? How could she phrase it so Rin wouldn't get upset? No one needed to be burdened with her own groundless insecurities.

"Well, if something's wrong just tell Sesshoumaru-sama. He always makes everything better," Rin said confidently, completely sure of her guardian's ability to fix all the broken things in her life.

"Oh he does, does he?" Kagome asked ruefully, amused with the girl's simple confidence.

"Yep," Rin said offhandedly as she watched the scenery flash by them. "Sesshoumaru-sama fixed me when my body got hurt, and he let me come with him when I was all by myself, and he saved me when bad guys took me away, and he got me you to keep," she said, as if listing all these things off on her fingers.

Kagome stifled a laugh at the thought of herself as a birthday present to Rin and managed to nod seriously.

"You do have a point," she agreed, returning Rin's innocent smile.

It really did make her feel better, even if it hadn't been exactly what she'd thought she'd needed to hear. Sesshoumaru protected and watched over Rin and had for years. He would do anything for her. It was obvious, even to demons like Naraku with no true knowledge of the softer emotions, that he truly loved the little girl.

But she'd bet he'd never said the words in his entire life. And Rin never expected him to. Some things went beyond little phrases on Valentine's cards.

So it was that Kagome wasn't really surprised to see her mate waiting for them at the well, having arrived moments before they did, even with their head start. She would have been more surprised if he hadn't been there. She was leaving him for a couple of days, after all, and he wasn't one to let that slide without a proper good bye. Plus, she knew he hated to be ignored.

Sesshoumaru stalked up to his little runaway miko, pulling her straight into his arms without any further ado. He thought he was just forcing her to acknowledge his presence and end his inner demon's torment. He thought she'd continue on being annoyed with him until she got her way, forcing him to blabber on about nothing in particular just to satisfy her need for conversation.

He didn't expect, however, the way she came so willingly into his arms. Or the way she threw her own so exuberantly around his neck, hugging him tightly to her. Or the way she pulled his head down for a searing, heartfelt kiss. Or the way she seemed to be thanking him and questioning him, all at the same time.

Finally, she moved to pull away, but the demon lord was not ready to let her go. This time it was him holding on to her, pulling her close into his body. He was painfully aware that she would not be by his side for much longer than he would like, and both sides of him weren't in any rush for that time to begin.

Finally, with a resigned sigh, he allowed the girl to step slightly away from him. However, before she could get too far, he lowered his head to rest right by her ear.

"Come back to me," he breathed, direct and to the point. That was all he said, but that was all he felt the need to say.

And when he pulled back to look into her face, he was pleased to see the happy look of comprehension he'd waited so long to see grace her features. She finally knew what he didn't ever think to say.

Some things didn't need to be said to be understood.

A/N: Okay, and now I really am done. I just can't leave things well enough alone.