Adapted from: "The Untidy Mermaid" and "Inuyasha" by Ruth Manning Sanders and Rumiko Takahashi respectively. Therefore this is AU and anything remotely recognizeable is either not mine or an overused plot development: Enough said.
Oh wait! Dedicated to Duzzie: because her review for 'Her Spirit' made me cry I was so happy!

.:x:x:x:x:x:x:x:x:x:x:x:x:x:x:x:x:x:x:x:x:x:x:.

Sesshoumaru sighed out an exasperated breath as the carriage pulled up to his brother's manse. The trail had been long and rough, and his ward had taken to sleeping on his lap due to the bouncy ride and therefore the treacherous sleeping quarters.

He was more aggravated about the tedious journey, the reason for it more like, than he was for the closeness of his ward or the actual journey. His half brother's property was dropping in production, owning a nice little manse and land hold on the edge of cliffs, perfect for the meetings of the nobles with surrounding land that was fertile for framing and ranching and close enough to stable shore for fishing.

Inuyasha had always been successful, but lately his fishing fleet's catches had taken an abrupt downturn and as a result there were no remains to fertilize the crop and less exported goods to the surrounding port towns and villages.

Sesshoumaru scowled and absently stroked the chestnut hair of his sleeping charge. Inuyasha had always been a rash whelp, but he had gotten serious in his courting of Lady Kikyou and wouldn't do anything quite as rash as jeopardize his chances with the vain lady.

And an abrupt shift in his success would definitely jeopardize said chances.

He snorted as the carriage stopped, carefully hoisting his charge up so he could step down to the solid ground without jostling her too much, and he glared around at the obvious excess in the flowers surrounding the main house.

Inuyasha grinned cockily as he almost shouted at him in greeting, but a stern glare from Sesshoumaru and then a petulant look from Inuyasha had them quietly entering the main house and sending the servants up with the luggage.

Rin was settled down on the bed, a serving wench told to wait for her to wake up before returning to her duties after informing the child of his whereabouts.

It was two tense half-brothers seated in the drawing room, eyeing each other with only the wariness estranged family could accomplish. Inuyasha growled under his breath, seated stiffly at his desk, and Sesshoumaru sneered before seating himself regally and regarding his brother with calculating eyes.

"Don't start Sesshoumaru."

Said elder tilted his head as his golden eyes flashed, nose twitching as he wondered and decided. "You know what answers I seek, it would be unwise to deny me truth little brother."

Inuyasha growled and leaned back heavily against his chair. "The fields are fine; it is only fishing that has declined in productivity."

Sesshoumaru nodded his head in acquiescence- he already knew this, which meant that his brother was only repeating inane facts to distract him from what was really happening. "But why is it so? When I granted you this land hold you boasted that you would increase productivity. I find this latest trend disturbing in its regularity."

Inuyasha's lip raised in a snarl before his hands slammed down on his desk and his eyes shifted. "Fishing wasn't that big of a profit for us in the first place, I've started measures to up our cattle and rice that should compensate for what little effect this did have."

Sesshoumaru scoffed and threw his arm to his side so he could lean against the back of the chair. "Inuyasha, the sea is also rejecting our trade port."

His brother snarled and turned his head away, glaring out at the ocean as if it was the cause of all his problems.

Sesshoumaru scoffed again and shook his head before he left the room.

It was through the passing of much time, due to Sesshoumaru's driving need to discover the true reason of his brother's failure (which was therein his own), that his little Rin befriended the shepherd boy. He was a young kitsune kit and a rambunctious ball of energy.

Sesshoumaru didn't really see anything wrong with the kit, but he noticed the way the child would avoid Inuyasha, or if pressed into his company remain as silent as previously he was energetic.

It was fine for Rin to mingle while she was there, and it was only later in their visit that he thought that the little Shippou was a negative influence on his child with his overactive imagination and complete and utter enthusiasm as he swept even himself away in his daydreams.

.:x:XX:x:.

There was once a young landholder who lived by the sea; and in the evening, when his work was done, he would take his boat and go fishing.

So there he was, one evening, slowly rowing in the pearly twilight on a calm sea, with his fishing lines out over the stern of the boat. And down under the water there was an inquisitive and lonely little mermaid; and when the shadow of the boat passed over her, she swam up to see what was in it.

The young farmer looked round and what did he see? The most odd little creature he had ever set eyes on, with her white arms resting along the gunwale, and her long raven hair dripping over her gleaming shoulders, and her great oceanic eyes gazing up at him. And gazing up, what did the little mermaid see? The handsomest young man ever you can imagine, but with a look of stubborn pride about him, for all that.

Said the farmer, 'Good evening, my lady!'

'Oh!' said she.

And 'Oh' was all she could say; for it hadn't taken her one half second to recall why she didn't have such contact with her own kind and wonder if the land walkers would be any different, and she was struck speechless by his gentle approach to her. So she let go her hold of the boat, and slipped down under the water again.

Dear me! When she went to her coral bed that night, she laid awake thinking of that young man and the possibility of companionship finally; and when at last she slept, she slept dreaming of happy laughter and friendship and singing. And the next morning, as soon as the sun glimmered over the sea, there she was, perched on a rock close to the shore under his farm, combing her hair with her golden comb, and singing such heart-stirring songs of blessing for the farmer that the little waves hushed themselves to listen, and the gulls flew down in flocks and stood on the shore, quite mesmerized. But the young farmer, who was very conceited, and who thought more of himself than he should, didn't take any notice; though he heard her right enough.

.:x:XX:x:.

Sesshoumaru held in his scoffing breath as he watched the little shepherd boy lead his Rin to the shore front, a little visited spot due to the rocky outcroppings and cold waves crashing along what little sand there was. He was indignant that this little boy could convince his charge that there were such things as the mythical mermaids in the sea, and he wondered if he didn't have some ulterior motive for bringing his little Rin to the shore.

But he watched them settle down on a particularly large rock; overhanging the water just enough that they only got slightly damp from sea spray due to waves that couldn't reach them.

Sesshoumaru waited with them, surprised on some level that the boy stayed so still even when his Rin – so used to Sesshoumaru's stillness that she had in part copied it – was starting to get fidgety.

It was a long still silence that preceded the crash of a wave, but unlike the others it didn't recede with the tide. Instead it swelled and swirled up the bank, foam splashing up the rocks as Rin startled and backed away from the edge.

There was a distinctly vigorous swell in the waves, and then the form of a woman appeared spinning out with her hands weaving magic over the water. She was set down lightly on the edge of the rock, and Sesshoumaru watched her lovingly greet the young shepherd boy and give him a kiss to his brow as her hands ran through his auburn hair.

Rin awoke from her stupor, letting out a small cry as Sesshoumaru awoke from his.

- She had a tail.

- She was a mermaid.

- Dear kami the child hadn't lied…

Sesshoumaru took a startled step forward, his foot knocking a loose stone to clatter over the cliffs towards the water. He froze as if the children could hear it over the crashing waves and calling gulls, but when he relaxed from their inaction the mermaid perked up from the stone's impact on water and turned widened eyes to his direction.

He was frozen in her frightened gaze, the deep blue of her eyes so like the choppy sea at sunset that he couldn't move even though he knew he was found. The young shepherd boy looked to what had his mermaid's attention and let out a frightened and enraged cry.

Rin startled as she caught him as well, and the mermaid recovered from her shock and then panicked with one last look at the shepherd Shippou before she was in a graceful arc with a flick of her tail, slipping into the answering waves before the sea was calm once more.

Sesshoumaru stepped forward in stunned bewilderment, catching the stunned expression in Shippou's eyes as he stared at his ward. The kitsune arched his back, fangs bared in a hiss as he backed up to the cliff edge, undeniably hurt.

Then he was gone in a dash of wind with only disturbed rock and dry grass to mark his path jetting back to the manse and his job.

Rin giggled, Sesshoumaru's eyes slid over to her from where he was sitting with a book spread open upon his knee and his hand balancing a tumbler of whisky in his other. That was the third set of giggles for absolutely no reason – at least none that he could see – and meant that his little Rin had a secret.

He looked at her again, watching as she started to fidget, and then holding in his smirk as her smile wavered before coming back full force.

She had been hanging around the shepherd boy while he was in meetings, and he didn't mind so much. But if she got secrets, it was from the little orphan Shippou, and he didn't want his ward to keep secrets that could endanger her.

He raised an eyebrow, and then she started to talk. "Shippou-chan is going to take me to see his mermaid!" And she started another little giggle fit. Her eyes were wide though, her hands strictly clapped over her mouth as if to ensure that no more little secrets made their way out.

Rin stared at him with something akin to horror in her childlike features, and as her lip started quivering and her eyes started to water Sesshoumaru sighed and stepped forward to lift her up.

She spoke up in a shaking voice and Sesshoumaru pulled her close to his torso to share his comforting warmth. "Do you think…Shippou will still like me?" and he could only shush her gently and resolve to talk to the fox kit who worked for his brother himself.

Sesshoumaru found himself practically stalking the kit during the days that followed, eventually gaining the entire story from the child's perspective and feeling the burn in his heart due to enraged honor and ideals.

It was also one of the few times that he had most vehemently hated his resemblance to his half brother; usually only something of vain disgust blossoming into a deep regret due to his father's base actions to his birth mother.

But now he had to make it up to the child and the mermaid; for his brother's actions and his own surprise arrival that cut into their time… and his own curiosity had been aroused.

.:x:XX:x:.

So by and by her singing turned to sobbing, and the little waves spluttered with anger because of the farmer's hard heart; and the gulls clapped their wings and shouted 'Wa! Wa! Wa!' and flew round the farmer's head as he drove his plough over the furrows calling out, 'Shame on you, hard hearted monster!'

But the farmer only laughed and went on ploughing.

So then, since her songs couldn't move him, the little mermaid took to bringing the farmer gifts. She brought pearls and dropped them into his boat when he was out fishing; she brought rubies, she brought emeralds. But the farmer gathered them up and threw them carelessly to the stern of his boat, and called out, 'You can stop coming around here – I don't need you!'

And that made the little mermaid cry.

Then the other mermaids and the mermen caught word of their banished being treated as such, and got angry with the farmer for flouting her, and said, 'If you need him so much as all that, why don't you upset his boat and drag him under? We'll give you a storm!'

But the little mermaid was too kind to want to drag him under or do anything that she thought he wouldn't like, especially after he was so kind to her that one day. Every evening when he went out fishing she got hold of the boat and drew it to the best fishing grounds, and that pleased him. 'Well, you're of some use after all, young lady!' said he.

And that pleased her. So she began to feel a little bolder, and one evening she climbed right into the boat, and let her curiosity free. 'Do you think I could help?' She asked after questions about his work and enthusiastic babbling about the pretty fiancée he had acquired for himself.

'Oh no you don't!' said he, quite angry. 'I told you I don't need you, such a waste of time!' And he picked her up and tossed her back into the sea, with no more thought for her feelings than if she had been an unwanted conger eel that had got in among his catch by mistake.

So then at last the sea got angry: not angry enough to want to upset his boat and drag him under and drown him and then upset its favorite little mermaid; but angry enough to give the boat a good rocking and himself a fright. And what with the big waves that were sent pounding over the gunwale, and the dark fog that had been brought down all round the boat, he had the worst job in the world to get home that evening.

The next evening it was the same; and the next: as soon as he put out his boat the waves began to roar and the fog to spread; and he found himself to be spinning round and round in the boat as if he had come into the middle of a whirlpool. As to fish: of course he never caught another one.

Some folk began to laugh at him, too; and that hurt his pride. And other folk began to scare him with tales of young fellows who had been dragged down and drowned by mermaids out of spite.

'You'd best catch hold of her and bring her up on land.' They told him; 'Or as sure as you're alive she'll have you down under!'

So one day, when she was attempting to talk to him again, he did catch hold of her; but when she understood he was for taking her ashore, she gave him a frightened look and a scratch to his face, and leaped out of his arms easy as easy. And so back into the sea with her.

Well, what was he to do? He took counsel of a wise woman, and the wise woman told him he hadn't gone about the right way to catch her.

'Did you notice a belt with a pouch slung to it that she was wearing?' said the wise woman; 'the pouch holds her comb and her mirror; but the belt holds her strength and her magic power. Once get hold of that belt, and she'll be like wax in your hands – you can do with her what you will.'

The farmer asked how he was to get hold of the belt; and the wise woman laughed and told him he must find out for himself. So he thought for a long time; and then he hit on the way to do it. He turned from cross to kind; he made out that he was enjoying the mermaids company as much as she sought his, he flattered her, it seemed he couldn't make enough of her; he coaxed her into his boat again and took her fishing with him; he never so much as mentioned bringing her up on land; but when it was time to go home he hugged her small body and eased her over the side of the boat as if she was the most precious thing in the world to him. Yes, he deceived that poor little mermaid more than any man had a right to do – though he thought she had partly brought it on herself by being so bothering.

.:x:XX:x:.

He ceased rowing on the too calm waters, eyes sliding about its surface as the young shepherd boy sat sullenly at the bow. When they completely stopped from his last row he sent him a questioning look, and Sesshoumaru nodded once to show that they were where they would stop.

The little shepherd boy Shippou regarded him cautiously for a moment, but his drive to seek out the mermaid he was attached to had made him take his offer of helping him reach her without any threat of discovery from Inuyasha or bigoted villagers had him anxiously putting his hand to retrieve whatever he had insisted he bring in the patched brown bag.

Sesshoumaru watched with some amusement as he struggled with the cumbersome cloth, and then the little redhead pulled out a large green apple he had stolen from the orchard.

He carefully shined it with the cuff of his sleeve, and examined it critically (with the air that only children could get when they were truly serious about something in their innocent manner) before he nodded to himself and took a deep breath.

He carefully shifted so he was leaning against the gunwale, and as he peered into the deep depths of the water calmly rocking the idle boat, he extended the apple out over the water and settled his chin on his arm. And Shippou waited.

And he waited.

And Sesshoumaru watched and waited as well.

And they waited.

Just as he was getting curious, Shippou twitched his nose slightly and spoke; "Mermaids adore apples and bread, some things that they have in their kingdoms just can't measure up to the actual taste." Sesshoumaru ignored the sniffle. "Kagome is partial to the apples, says that she can't get over the sweet taste."

Sesshoumaru shook his head and let out a chuckle, reveling in the feel of his hair slipping across the thin peasant shirt he wore out to sea, indulging in the reprieve from the nobility looking over his shoulder…

He shook his head and settled in to wait as the kid shifted and stilled.

It was another long time before the waters seemed to still, an unnatural calm spreading around the boat and waters.

Sesshoumaru stiffened, watching as Shippou started grinning and strained to hold the apple out over the water further. Sesshoumaru shouldn't have been, but he found himself surprised when a pale hand slipped up from the water.

He was surprised again when it bypassed the apple to stroke the hair on the shepherd's head down and the little shepherd closed his eyes and leaned into her touch. The face of Shippou's mermaid appeared, rising up strongly from the water with a loving look as she caressed his face and seemed to check him over for injuries.

Shippou grinned and, as Sesshoumaru watched, tried to hold in happy tears. "You came."

She smiled. "I thought I told you to simply call," a veiled and amused glance at the apple, "I need no bribery to see you youngling."

Shippou snuffled and furiously wiped at his eyes with one arm. "I wasn't sure you'd still come."

Kagome smiled, lifting herself higher and supporting herself on the gunwale by her hips, and then pulled the young redhead into a hug. Sesshoumaru watched this all, quite like the ignored intruder, and remained silent as they had a quiet and intimate conversation before Shippou was asleep and resting against her breast.

Sesshoumaru could only bask in the silence and comforting aura they created together, but then the mermaid turned and smiled shyly at him. "I thank you, not many would believe a child's tale and seek to aid his endeavor."

Sesshoumaru nodded his head in response. "I had seen you for my own, why would I not believe?"

She smiled; a stronger fuller breathe of sunshine. "There are those that have seen and yet never believe, and those that have never seen and yet always believe."

Sesshoumaru smirked before he sobered. "The kit has had a difficult few days…"

Kagome sighed before cradling the child more firmly to her breast and reaching for the apple with her other hand. Sesshoumaru started and snapped out his own hand to her reaching wrist.

.:x:XX:x:.

So one evening, when the two of them were in the boat together, with the pearly twilight round them, and the sea calm as glass, he with his arms loosely about his knees, and she with her raven head on her folded arms upon the gunwale, he said 'Comb your hair, and let me hear you sing.'

She took her comb and mirror out of the pouch, and gave him the pouch to hold; and she began to comb her hair and sing very sweetly. And when she had done singing, he said 'Give me the comb and mirror and I'll put them back in the pouch for you.'

She handed him the comb and mirror and he put them in the pouch. He let the pouch lie there for a moment in his palm: then he gave a start and said, 'What's this? The pouch is magic! I can feel the strength of it running through my fingers.'

'Nay,' said she, 'the magic is in my belt, not in the pouch.'

But he made as if he didn't believe her, so she took off her belt and put it into his hands, to let him feel for himself.

He gave a great shout then. 'Ah ha! My lady, I've got you now!' And he stuffed belt, pouch, comb, mirror and all into his pocket, lay on his oars with a will, and pulled for shore.

Did she cry? Didn't she! She wept and begged and prayed him to give her back her belt. But he wouldn't listen. He beached the boat, roughly took her in his arms, and carried her up to his farm. And there he dumped her down and said, 'From now on, I'm master. There'll be no more nonsense with you! You'll do as you're told and behave yourself! You slapped me once, but now it's my turn!'

And he gave her a slap on her white shoulder, not to hurt her frail body but just to prove he could do what he pleased with her.

By day he put her out with the cows on the croft. And by night he made her a bed on some straw in a corner of the cow house, and there she had to sleep. The straw got in her hair, and she begged for her comb and mirror, but he wouldn't let her have them. He had hidden them away, together with the pouch and belt, behind the clock on the kitchen mantelshelf.

The poor little thing got untidier and untidier: her hair was all tangled up, and she looked such a sight, flopping about on her tail with bits of straw dangling from her and her scales drying with the land dust and once fair skin burned red and peeling from the sun, that the farm-hands laughed and called after her. The dogs didn't like her, either: they snapped and snarled whenever she was near them, so she had a very bad time of it, did this little mermaid. And the worst of it was that she could look out on the water, all bright and sparkling in the sun, and couldn't get near it.

The farmer went fishing in the evenings as usual ; but he locked her up in the cow house before he went; and since the other mermaids and the mermen thought she had gone home with him of her own free will, they didn't trouble him. He had calm seas ad good catches all through the summer, and was well pleased with the way he had managed things. Only he was a little worried about where he had hidden the mermaid's belt and things, because she was always poking here and there looking for them, and he thought she might manage to scramble on to a chair and look behind the clock on the mantelshelf.

So it came autumn, and the corn was cut and carried. And when it was being stacked, the farmer thought what a good place the middle of a corn stack would be to hide the belt in. So, one evening, when the farm men had gone home, and the little mermaid was locked in the cow house, he took belt, pouch, mirror and comb from behind the clock, and went softly out into the stack yard, made a hole in one to the stacks, and stuffed belt and all in there.

He thought no one saw him; but someone did see him, and that was a little lad who herded the geese. He was a kind little lad; he never laughed at the mermaid, however draggly and queer she looked. He used to talk with her and give her half his apple, when he had one, because he knew that mermaids liked apples.

.:x:XX:x:.

She gave him a frightened look, but he only glanced up at her briefly before gently tugging the wrist to him and running his fingers over the white spidery scars that graced her skin. Like webs that all connect, thin lines and thick gouges from her fingers danced across her hands and faded slightly on her upper arms.

She gently tugged her arm back to her, her eyes intent on his face as if waiting for his laughter.

He didn't give it.

"Were those…?"

She looked away. "Mermaids do not do well in dry land captivity."

Sesshoumaru softly cursed, and suddenly the mermaid was lifting herself over the gunwale, careful of the child held to her, and Sesshoumaru rushed to aid her movement. He was raised to be a gentleman, and no matter that she was mermaid she was still a lady. And he figured in some way, that he and his owed her for the transgressions of his brother.

She busied herself with dusting off the apple, checking it with a little sparkle in her eyes and a smile at the child before she bit into it and looked over at him.

He watched her enjoy the apple, couldn't withhold the smile as he did so, and watched her blush and her eyes avert when she noticed. He smiled more.

"Shippou is very attached to you."

Her eyes clouded happily as she gave him an unsure glance, but she smiled tentatively and stroked the child's hair. "Shippou is a little joy, I am glad that he is attached to me." But there was a sad light to her eyes that told him she knew it would be hard for him when the kit grew up, that she couldn't be a proper relation in his life like she wanted to be…

Sesshoumaru looked down and shifted. He had many things to ask her, but he had only gotten the child's view of her story, and he was certain that many things had gone on under the child's innocent eyes- things that the mermaid wouldn't have let him notice since he could clearly see the way she held him as if to protect him from the world. He took a breath; "If the scars are from my brother," a tentative glance at him from under her dark bangs, "and the little one was ignorant of them, what else is there to the child's story that I am unaware of?"

She seemed to size him up, her eyes clouding and the sea becoming choppy of its own will. There was an abrupt stillness, "The reason I sought your brother's company so was because I was banished from my colony. I am not like the many merpeople who grace the waters, and the people feared illness should I stay."

Sesshoumaru regarded her solemnly, "You were lonely."

She smiled; gaze far away as it gave her a sad, dreamy and tragic quality- as if fate had played too long in her life and left her nothing even with all its well meaning machinations. She seemed to snap out of it with a welcoming smile. "I'm sorry; we've never been properly introduced. My name is Higurashi Kagome." She gave him a little bow with her head, a tellingly graceful move that gave away her bearing. "I do hope we can…ah…form a comfortable acquaintance."

Sesshoumaru couldn't see why not.

He gave her an answering bow, "Sesshoumaru of the Western Lands, I greet the Aquarian Lady with welcome." He tilted his head and let a small smirk twist his lips. "Though I don't suppose you would feel free to tell me the story?"

She gazed at him in shy amusement, as if wondering how a land walker and male related to the wretched Inuyasha could ever find interest in her except for his own gain. "Perhaps with time." She paused and a small regretful smile came over her face as she glanced out to the barely visible manse on the cliff and her eyes flashed with some awareness he didn't have. "Is it really going so badly for the lands?"

He quirked an eyebrow at her and wondered. The way that Inuyasha had spoken had vaguely hinted at the waters betrayal being all her doing, to hear her slight worry was in itself surprising. "The waters have rejected my brother's fleets, trade and fishing profits have declined."

She winced and shifted the child in her lap, her tail folding under her delicately and catching sun and shadow. "Ah, I wish there could be something done about that."

Sesshoumaru tilted his head, ignoring her comment briefly and wondering if he could ask a question about the abilities of her kind out of water, but decided that abruptly changing the thread of conversation would throw off her comfort in his presence. Even with the motherly way she held the child in her lap she still seemed to be positioned as compact as she could possibly be, as if waiting for him to grab her up and harm her.

"I was under the impression that you were the direct cause of the ocean's rejection."

She hesitated slightly before she smiled, "The merfolk are a proud race, and even though I am one of the few isolated they still saw my ordeal as a slight to them." Her eyes crinkled as she smiled sheepishly and absently soothed Shippou when he stirred. "Mermaids are allowed to stay on land but because of my treatment I was scarred, another slight to our vain nature." Her eyes danced in amusement at her races' hubris, but he could see the way she shifted, hiding some part of the truth from him.

He tilted his head, feeling the ponytail shift across his back as he let his eyes flash with understanding. "The Auquarian clans responded on your behalf, and you had nothing to do with the troubles we are going through." He paused and watched her blush shamefacedly. "But…" He let it hang, watching the young woman slump slightly before she straightened and a determined light lit up her blue eyes.

He had judged her correctly.

She was brutally honest and forgiving, to not avenge her person from the very real slights of his half brother…

"It is partially my fault, Sesshoumaru-sama," she hesitated again. "The waters took a liking to me at birth, and they too raged against your brother's lands." She sadly glanced down at her hands, woven through the auburn hair of the child adopted by her soul.

Sesshoumaru couldn't help but gape, half awed that nature had risen to defend one of her daughters and half stunned that she felt it her fault.

His father had always been yammering and perusing his library for information on the elementals, and it was a wonder that he hadn't discovered the presence of the merfolk in his endeavor. The realm of nature was very picky, and only took a fondness to the best of its creatures.

Nonetheless he nodded to show he understood and let the conversation dwindle into pleasant chatter and comfortable silence; until the child awoke from his peaceful slumber and once again chattered happily with his pseudo-mother, and Sesshoumaru rowed back to the keep.

And that was how it went.

.:x:XX:x:.

So next morning this little lad was driving the geese out on to the croft, and there was the little mermaid sitting and crying. And he decided he could ask about it that day.

Said he, 'Why do you always cry?'

Sad she, 'Because the man has hidden my belt and my pouch and my comb and my mirror. Without my belt I can't get back to the sea. Without my sea I can't survive much longer – and see what a mess I'm in!'

Said he, 'I know where they're hidden.'

'Oh!' said she, 'please, please tell me!'

Said he, 'Shall I get them for you?"

Said she, 'Oh yes, yes, yes!'

So the little lad ran and pulled the belt and the pouch and the comb and the mirror out of the corn stack, and brought them to the mermaid. In a moment the belt was round her waist. She didn't stop to look in the mirror and tidy herself; she rose up on the tip of her tail, and flip! she was gone like one flying: gone from the croft and over the beach and splash! into the sea.

The little lad stared and stared. First he saw nothing but the shining sea; then he saw a bright eddy; then up came the mermaid. There she was sitting on the water, combing the straw out of her raven hair and singing. It was a song all about her past miseries and her present joy, and how she would never, never be so silly enough to trust a human man again.

When she had done singing, and got her hair all sleek and shining, she waved to the little lad, and called out 'Catch!' She tossed up her hand, and something went flying and landed on the croft at the little lad's feet. He stooped to pick it up. It was a purse of gold.

The farmer was at the market. When he came home and found the mermaid gone, didn't he rage! He couldn't think how she had got her belt back, and you may be sure the little lad never told him.

That evening the farmer thought to go fishing; but the moment he ran his boat down to the water, a huge wave rose up and washed the boat back on to the shore. And the more he tried to launch his boat, the bigger the waves that came rolling in and beat the boat back again. So he couldn't go out fishing that night, or any other night, for always the same thing happened. The sea wouldn't have him, or his boat.

Folk told him that he'd better keep away from the shore; they warned him that if he didn't, the mermaid would one day send the sea in after him and drown him. But the little mermaid never did. She remembered how he had once been quite kind to her; and perhaps her heart was a little tender towards him yet.

Only one thing she was quite determined about: he should stay on land where he belonged, and she would stay away from him where she belonged. And there should be no more meeting for them one with the other.

.:x:XX:x:.

But Sesshoumaru saw things in her interactions with the child that strongly reminded him of Rin and himself, and watched as she yearned to be closer to Shippou and yet couldn't, and saw an opportunity to oust his brother from his haughty stride.

Kikyou had received quite a few precious gems a while back, jewels and trinkets that Sesshoumaru were sure couldn't be found on land and that had mysteriously stopped coming when the sea rejected their business.

Every time he went out in the little rowboat with the child he slowly started to stop closer and closer to the shoreline, occasionally bringing Rin along so the timid relationship between the children could grow and ease the mermaid.

It wasn't an ordeal for him by any means.

And the mermaid was one with delightfully insightful conversation.

He found her curious about the political intricacies on land and the questions she posed were often times more innocent in wording than any land woman lusting after jewels and prestige could sound in her wiles.

She was dreadfully modest, having encountered another of her kind he could see the shy way she covered more of her body compared to the blonde and unusual counterparts of her race (at least he thought they were unusual, he had only ever really been around Kagome). He rather liked that about her, it would be good for Rin who was turning into a little spitfire with only the old butler Jaken to play some sort of quasi-nursemaid.

He cherished the time spent away from his brother and the trivial court he kept; free to do as he wished without their peering eyes haunting him over his shoulder or them whispering behind his back. Instead he had her comforting silence or soothing conversation, the children's' laughter and the lapping waves.

She was delightfully innocent, and forgave his brother for his slight against her person. Sesshoumaru couldn't picture himself ever doing so; giving up some sort of revenge and even doing his best to discourage it…but he supposed that was another thing that set the ningyo apart from any other he had seen before.

He uncovered her passion for the land, her intense wish to be a part of something that wasn't confined to the water in tradition and society- admiring the freedom of the terrain and the gifts the land walkers enjoyed; dancing, horses, apples and bread, direct access to the heated sun in moderation, travel and spices, languages diverse in race and tongue, and gentle scented breezes caressing your skin.

She seemed humored by the elegant and restricting dress of the nobles, and with the natural clothes of her magic belt/pouch and her loose top he figured she had every right to be. He found he rather liked that about her, like the ocean- free and innocent and ever changing in some constant way.

He discovered her love for music, the enraptured way she leaned into the sound as it caressed her ears and carried over the water. And her shy voice, hesitant to sing but beautiful in that hesitancy because it was even rarer to hear it.

She was fiercely protective of the kids; he had the pleasure of seeing her eyes flash with some mothering quality that light them a brilliant and unadulterated blue when she heard of some teasing that had been going around the land keep.

And he got to watch her with both the children surprisingly attached to them.

And he grew attached to her.

She was charming and innocent and beautiful.

He was brutally honest with himself.

He decided.

…:x:…

It was during one such conversation, conveniently on the sands of a shadowed lagoon near his brother's property that he decided to be brutally honest again.

The exchange was shaping up to be one of the more serene and comfortable easy paced ones, and he stunned her into silence and wide eyes with his abrupt and rather meaningful questioning. "Why is it that you do not make overtures for company with others when you so obviously are lonely?"

She blushed with a small smile, hiding her face behind her dark bangs even though her bright eyes could still be seen flashing in the provided shadows. She made a strange face, as if contemplating something, before she straightened and spoke. "I was shunned by my own family for my differences, and can't help but wonder if everyone will know something is wrong with me upon sight." She gave a little self-depreciating laugh before her gaze went dreamy at him and then was directed to the kids. "You and the children are wonders to me."

Sesshoumaru watched his hands as he resettled himself upon the sands, gently turning over his thoughts before he looked up with molten eyes. "I find nothing wrong with you even with our extended contact and conversations." He tilted his head, feeling the free shift of his hair against the peasant shirt as he smiled slightly at her. "I actually find you to be one of the most tolerable and even enjoyable presences I am forced to put up with."

She looked shocked for a split second and then almost hurt, but her face cleared because she had been around him for so long and she understood what he was truly meaning. And then she threw her head back and broke out into laughter.

It was a laughter he had never heard from her, something so out-there and open that it sounded like a different person compared to her quiet giggle and unobtrusive chuckle: Sesshoumaru couldn't help but gape. And then he smiled and laughed and heard the kids join in the stunned sound.

It was after they were settling down, the kids joyfully complaining of cramping cheeks and sore stomachs that she seemed so much brighter than she had been before- like the ocean had come alive in those rare instances where you really chanced a real look and startled yourself with the difference more than a passing glance made.

And he fell in love even more.

It was with quiet children at her side and a smile on her lips that she leaned in closer to him and whispered: "I think I love you too."

…:x:…

Sesshoumaru felt his lips curl into a satisfied smirk as he spotted his brother and his step sister's stupefied looks as his own mate walked into the hall. She was stunning in a dark kimono of green that set off her skin tone and accented the midnight of her hair. He was very pleased that his ningyo made such a stunning ningen, and even more so that she provided a striking contrast to him when they stood together.

He felt his lips curve into a true smile as he ducked his head and took intent steps forward to claim his mate's arm for the night. She smiled beatifically up at him, and he couldn't hold in the smug pride that settled over his face as he tilted his chin up and escorted her to his brother- as tradition.

He tilted his head in formal greeting and placed his free hand over Kagome's. "Brother mine, and Kikyou his, I greet thee with my joy for the world to see." He glanced in satisfaction at his mate and then at the stupefied look on Inuyasha's face and the quizzical one on Kikyou's.

Inuyasha hurriedly collected himself into the formal bow- eyes darting about as it looking for any being in the hall that would point out his guilt in his previous actions to the new mate of his brother. "I greet thee in return and wish you and yours blessings." He stammered out as Sesshoumaru smirked and tossed his hair over his shoulder with a disdainful flick of his head.

Kagome smiled pleasantly from beside him and discreetly squeezed his hand as if in reprimand. He knew she felt the vibration of his stifled chuckle against her side. He grinned before he straightened his face.

"The Higurashi clan was more than happy to accept my suit, and her father graced me with trade circumstances that would be impossible for even our best fleets he knows the sea so well." Inuyasha paled.

Kagome giggled happily beside him before she squeezed his hand more firmly and smiled at the duo in front of them. Sesshoumaru gladly let her continue on with more mundane topics, content to watch as even these were interpreted as some veiled threat by the ever frantic Inuyasha.

Sesshoumaru had never really pictured himself with a mate at his side, let alone one formerly ningyo. He didn't think anyone could picture that. But Kagome had accepted him and his stoicisms and he had loved her and her eccentricities due to her heritage and 'condition'. And the perfect solution had been birthed.

Mermaids had the ability to shift into a land walking form if their soul was centered on the process. With Kagome's love for him and his love returned she was able to accept herself and her magic and shift so she could be with him and the children.

The sea had been outraged that one of its own had been rejected by the landholders as well, and had raged against his business due to the ocean. With Kagome now a landholder's mate, the merfolk were appeased and the sea was content knowing that it's favored one was happy. When one mermaid left the waters for a land place it was considered high insult for them to be returned. Sesshoumaru rolled his eyes at their hubris.

But it had worked out for the best, as Sesshoumaru had been able to obtain the shepherd Shippou for his personal manse and lands due to his rocky interaction with his brother (what good were employees who avoided you and were wary of you?) and so Rin had her playmate and his love had her son.

And they could be happy that way.

Sesshoumaru's eyes flashed with amusement as he was drawn back into the conversation. "No, I don't think the trade fleets will need to reroute with the allies I now have…yes, we also obtained more resources our previous access to was limited; jewels and the like…they will not betray us, they pride themselves on their loyalties…."

He had his unearthly beauty of a mate, two delightful children, the healthy cliff lands that housed his manse and all his most precious, the sea as his ally and the merfolk as a friend, and a secure business connection that would last as long as his immortal life.

His enjoyment wasn't dimmed at all by the obvious discomfort of his brother at the recent developments.

Sesshoumaru smiled.

He could live with that.

.:x:x:x:x:x:x:x:x:x:x:x:x:x:x:x:x:x:.

Mishka's NOTE(S):

My neighbor got a new car with the license plate containing DUZ- a reminder to work on this for DUZzie every time I left the house. .

Ningyo-mermaid.

Ningen- human

I hope you enjoy! I might tweak it later but this is pretty much a finished project. Toodles!