This is just a dorkishly cute idea I had for the "solitude" drabble challenge theme. I didn't finish in time, so I tossed the word count, which probably ruined it. Oh well. Hopefully it's funny anyway. Enjoy!

Kagome curled against the tree, sniffing. There were no sounds except the quiet rustle of leaves above her, but the faint brush of youki against her senses told her she was being approached. "Go away, Inuyasha," she mumbled into her folded arms. "I want to be alone."

The presence neither moved closer nor drew away, and after a minute she swiped her eyes and looked up.

Sesshoumaru towered above her, his hair edged gold in the afternoon light.

Kagome blinked up at him, slightly dazed by how bright he was. What was Sesshoumaru doing here? She knew they were traveling the edge of the western lands, but they had been doing so for nearly a week and he hadn't made an appearance, so she assumed he just planned to ignore them. "Um…can I help you?"

"Miko," he said, glowering down at her, "you will leave now."

She blinked again. "What?"

His eyes narrowed, and she felt as though the action wordlessly accused her of being extraordinarily dense. "This Sesshoumaru wishes to be alone."

Well, so did she, and she had been, up until he arrived. You'd think she had shown up to bother him, the way he was acting. "I don't quite understand."

"I wish to be alone. Here," he elaborated coolly. He carried himself with even more haughtiness than usual, she noticed, but he didn't really look the part. There were little tears in his kimono, mud on his hakamas, and new cracks in his armor. His hair looked frazzled. "This is my place of solitude. I would remove you by force, but I do not wish to soil it with your blood. Leave, human."

Kagome swiped her eyes again, feeling her blood pressure rise. She was having a miserable, awful, really really bad day, and she just wanted to be alone. Couldn't the universe let her have that? Did it have to add a pissy prissy demon with no respect for privacy? "You could just ask, you know."

The line of his shoulders tensed. "I will not ask. You will leave because this Sesshoumaru is Lord here and has commanded it."

Oooh, a pissy prissy demon jerk. She'd had enough of those for one day. Kagome got to her feet, temper spiking. "Too bad then. I was here first." She liked this place anyway. The little grove was walled off by rock on three sides, totally blocking the scent of her tears from a certain hanyou's senses, and the tree she had been resting against was a giant, a true relic of lost ages. It looked to be older than the god tree, and its vast spread of branches cast the clearing in cool, peaceful shade.

It was no wonder he liked the place too, really. The whole clearing just had a soothing aura about it.

Or it did, until he got here.

He gave a slight huff of breath, looking incredulous. "You were here first? I was here before you were born. This place has been mine for centuries, human."

"Yeah, well, I don't see your name on it!" Kagome huffed back.

Sesshoumaru lifted an eyebrow at the odd expression.

Then, he lifted his hand.

In a flash of fast, elegant strokes, his name was engraved in the tree. Engraved deeply. The bark sizzled and a discolored patch of dead wood spread slowly outwards. If she were to walk around, she'd probably be able to read it from the other side.

Kagome gaped.

Sesshoumaru dusted his hand with a small flourish. "And now you do see my name on it." He was facing away from her, but she swore she saw him glance at her through the shadow of his bangs. Kagome choked. He looked almost amused.

Was he enjoying this?

"Oh!" she fumed. "You think you're so clever! Hmph!" That did it—she could be clever too! She dug out a small pocketknife, brandishing it with a hah! (at which he looked singularly unimpressed) and dropping to her knees beside the tree. She started to scratch furiously at the wood, chipping away at it.

Carving your name into a tree turned out to be a lot harder than he made it look, and her crude gouges looked like chicken scratch beneath his fine calligraphy. But it was legible.

Er, eventually.

"There," she said when it was finally done. She folded her arms smugly. "Perfect."

Sesshoumaru gave a disdainful sniff and opened his mouth, and Kagome waited for the forthcoming snarky remark.

It didn't come.

He shut his mouth and paused. Opened it again. Shut it with an audible click.

Frowned slightly. Tilted his head.


The miko started at Sango's voice, and she turned to find that the slayer had somehow sought her out and was standing at the edge of the clearing. Her eyes were wide as a cat's, but instead of looking directly at Kagome, her gaze was fixed in the same place Sesshoumaru's was. "Kagome…what are you doing?"

Kagome's eyes followed Sango's line of sight back to the tree. To where her name was etched into it. Right below Sesshoumaru's.

Her stomach did an unpleasant flip.

It looks almost like—like—

And oh, good lord, the dark patch of dead bark, it had grown irregularly and it—it couldn't be—was it—

Heart shaped?

Why, Kagome silently asked the universe, must you do these things to me?

Sango blinked a few times, and Kagome could almost see the chains of synapses connect and reroute themselves.

Then Sango squeaked and clapped her hands over her mouth. Between one moment and the next, she turned a remarkable shade of pink.

"Oh—I'm so sorry, I didn't realize I was interrupting!"

She took a step backwards. Then another.

"No, wait," Kagome said, finding her voice, "it isn't what it—"

"I'll just leave the two of you alone!"

Kagome was pretty sure she'd never seen Sango run that fast before.

The two stood in silence together in the wake of Sango's departure, staring at their handiwork. Their two names, together, branded into the tree forever.

Kagome giggled. "That backfired pretty badly, didn't it?"

He surprised her by letting out a low, tired chuckle, and she snuck a glance at him from the side. She noticed, for the first time, the stress lines on his face.

She thought about his sour attitude and had the sudden insight that maybe he wasn't trying to be a bastard; maybe he just needed some alone time just as much as she did. That maybe even demon lords had miserable, awful, really really bad days too.

It also occurred to her that this was the best alone time she'd had in ages. She'd stopped crying some time ago, and all of their silly, childish bickering had put a strange light feeling in her chest.

Even Sesshoumaru seemed less cranky.

"I'm sorry I ruined your special spot," she said, feeling a swell of guilt.

"Yes," he said with an exaggerated sigh, "your handwriting is terrible."

Kagome giggled again, feeling lightheaded.

Well, she wasn't ready to face her friends just yet, and she bet he could use a good distraction himself. There was only one thing to do.

"Oh yeah?" she said in mock-challenge, grinning. She held the knife up again. "Let's see how good you can draw."