Disclaimer: Inuyasha and its characters are created by Rumiko Takahashi. This fanfiction has been written for entertainment purposes only and without intention of infringing upon any copyright.

Warning: Minimal plot with a lot of lemon. Do not read if you are underaged.

A/N: I wonder if anyone even remembers this story (smiles sheepishly). It has taken forever, but here is the final chapter of this story. I hope that you'd enjoy it.


A Mere Digression Part 7 – by elle6778

Three months had passed since she left Sesshoumaru by the side of the cliff.

Kagome sighed as she sat by the edge of yet another cliff, one close to Kaede's village. Staring out at the sprawling farmland before her, she could not help but recall how she had once viewed the landscape from a much higher vantage point.

Three months had passed and yet, she still could not get Sesshoumaru out of her mind. He remained with her even though she did not know where he was. There had been times when she looked around during her travels to see if she could catch a glimpse of him, to just see if he was okay, but there had been no signs of the taiyoukai. If he happened to be travelling along the same route as them, he must be masking his presence.

As she often did nowadays, Kagome's mind went back to the last day she had seen the proud taiyoukai. More often than once, she wondered if she could have handled things differently. Perhaps in her despair, she had acted rashly. So much that she had not given him a chance to explain himself.

Would he explain himself even if she had waited? No, she doubted it. As always, her thoughts looped back to the fact that she had made the right decision. There was no point in remaining with Sesshoumaru when it was clear that he was not interested. If she had stayed longer, she would suffer more at their parting.

Then why was she missing him so much after all this time?

Maybe she had not left soon enough. Maybe by the time she had realized what was happening, it was already too late for her to do anything. She had fallen hard for Sesshoumaru. Yeah, that was very likely considering the emotional state she was in now.

The rest of her companions had certainly noticed.

After she left Sesshoumaru, it had not taken her long to backtrack and find her friends. Fortunately, as she had predicted, they had set up camp nearby. It was an understatement to say that Inuyasha and the rest had been surprised to see her so soon after her refusal to return to them. But she had noticed not a single moment of hesitation before they welcomed her with open arms.

Even Inuyasha.

Kagome frowned slightly when she thought of her hanyou friend. Their relationship had been strained for a while, but soon, Inuyasha slowly returned to his old self. What surprised her most was the fact that she seemed to have gotten over what she had felt for Inuyasha.

She guessed it was just her luck that she had swapped her infatuation from one brother to another. Inuyasha seemed to have sensed the change and whilst he had been his usual gruff self with her, he had, much to her surprise, refrained from speaking about Sesshoumaru. Her lips twitched slightly, but not quite forming a smile. It seemed that her coarse hanyou friend actually had some tact after all.

"Kagome!"

The sound of Shippou's voice drew her out of her contemplations. Turning around on the log she was sitting on, Kagome watched the kitsune as he approached the cliff.

Shippou's growth had been nothing short of astounding. In those weeks she had travelled with Sesshoumaru and the last three months, he had grown up to her shoulders. And from the looks of things, he would grow even more and would soon bypass her in height. His little fox hands and feet had transformed into humanoid-looking ones, and while he still retained much of his baby fat, his features had matured.

He skidded to a halt before her. "Kagome!"

Wondering what had gotten the kitsune so excited, Kagome asked, "What is it, Shippou?"

Eyes wide with glee, he reached behind his back. "Look what I've gotten just now," he exclaimed before he swung his arms forward.

Kagome's lips parted in surprise when she saw the curved blades held in each of Shippou's hands. It glinted in the sunlight, and even with her inexperienced eyes, she could tell that the workmanship was superb.

"They are beautiful," she murmured, standing up so that she could inspect the blades closer. It gave out some sort of familiar youki and Kagome felt compelled to ask, "So, where did you get them from?"

"Totousai made them for me. He told me that it's time I learnt to wield weapons. And this is my own special one, made from my own fangs," he announced, puffing up in pride.

Kagome's eyes shot to his mouth, quickly noticing that the two sharp tips at the corners of his mouth were still intact. "Umm… Your fangs?"

Shippou nodded enthusiastically before he pulled down his bottom lip, revealing two gaps in the row of white. Releasing his lip, he explained, "They will grow back in a few days. Totousai said that when I'm older, I should get blades made from my top fangs. They are stronger."

The thought of Shippou entering battles with his blades brought forth an immediate wash of anxiety. Although he looked older now, she still saw Shippou as a child. But she should really stop thinking about him like that. After all, Shippou had lived just as long as she had. And as a youkai, he was definitely physically stronger than her.

Still, she could not keep from asking, "Is it safe, Shippou?"

The red-head straightened. "Of course. I've been practicing."

Yes, she noticed. Shippou had spent many hours during their travels practicing with similar weapons which he had taken off one of the demons Inuyasha had defeated.

"I told you I'm going to protect you, Kagome." His expression turned resolute. "You took care of me long enough."

She felt herself warm at his words. "Shippou…"

"Oi! Kagome! Shippou! Where the hell are you two?!" a familiar voice reached them, breaking the mood.

Shippou scowled. "You'd think he couldn't sniff us out."

Kagome smiled as she stood up. "You know what he's like. Let's go."

Shippou simply rolled his eyes.

000


000

It was her again.

Moments ago, he was trailing one of Naraku's detachments. Until he neared this hotsprings, where his steps simply halted. Her scent was unmistakable, almost as if it was burnt into his senses, rendering him unable to move.

Sesshoumaru did not know how long it had been since they had spoken by the cliff. Months perhaps. That was not to say that he had not come across her and her travelling companions since then. And it was not to say that she had not been on his mind the rest of the time.

Each time he had caught a glimpse of her, he experienced an odd surge of what felt like desperation within him. It took a while before he acknowledged what it meant. His instinct was urging him to find her and take her, to keep her for himself. It was only by pure will that he had managed to stop himself from approaching her when he sensed her the last few times.

Irked by his own reaction, Sesshoumaru wondered if he should approach her this time. Perhaps his instincts would be appeased, and he would be able to remove her from his thoughts. It was unsettling that a mere miko could affect him to this extent.

Tilting his head slightly, he expanded his senses to scan his surroundings. The miko was alone apart from the small fox youkai. Dismissing the kitsune's presence, Sesshoumaru came to the conclusion that he should approach her.

Decision made, Sesshoumaru streaked forward towards the hotsprings. His blood rushed in heated anticipation of seeing and touching the miko again.

However, his path was suddenly interrupted by a small, familiar figure.

Green eyes flashing, the kitsune hissed, "Stay away from her."

Sesshoumaru directed a disdainful stare at the insolent kitsune. "Move aside."

A spark of fear appeared, and then it was gone. "You're not going to hurt her again."

Sesshoumaru tensed. The kit was accusing him of hurting the miko? When had he done such a thing?

"Do not speak of what you do not understand."

"Oh, I understand, alright. Kagome was sad before she left with you. But after that, when she came back, she's all broken. You broke her!" the green-eyed youkai accused heatedly.

Incensed, Sesshoumaru streaked forward. In a blink of an eye, the kitsune's throat was caught in his clawed hand. Fueled by anger, the green eyes flashed in defiance. Sesshoumaru flexed his fingers, allowing his claws to bite into the skin but the kitsune refused to bow to his will. When had the kit become so hardened? From what he could remember, the kit had been rather timid.

"Put him down."

Sesshoumaru stilled at the quiet, but menacing voice. It was the miko. He could feel her aura slamming into his back, threatening him. Bringing him a rush of heady desire, even as he bristled inwardly at her disrespectful tone.

"I said, put him down, Sesshoumaru!" Her voice now shook with repressed rage.

Uncurling his fingers, Sesshoumaru allowed the kit to fall to the ground. Slowly, he turned around.

Something twisted in his chest as his gaze landed on her familiar form. Even though she was fully-clothed, it was clear that she had just emerged from her bath. Expression betraying nothing, he took in her wide eyes, set in her little face, her lips and then, lower down to her body. A flash of heat jolted through him at the recollection of what she had felt like against him during all those times they had been close.

Then he raised his gaze to meet her eyes again, and this time, he saw those brown orbs flickering uncertainly. The mix of uncertainty and determination was odd, but compelling. It was… arousing. Not only in the physical sense, but something more. Something which brought forth a fierce possessiveness within him.

"What are you doing here, Sesshoumaru?" she asked warily.

Not bothering to respond, he simply continued to take in her features. This close, he noted that she had lost some weight over the last few months. Had she not been taking care of her own well-being? The thought irritated him.

"Sesshoumaru?"

When he continued to remain silent, she began to fidget. The kit was now by her side, still staring at him warily.

"Let's get out of here, Kagome," the kit urged, pulling at her arm.

Sesshoumaru's eyes narrowed at the action, displeased that the kit wished to remove her from his sight. He was not done with her yet, even though he had not decided on what he should do next.

"Leave us," he instructed the kit imperiously.

A slight tremble ran up the small form, but the kit remained unmoving, glaring at him angrily. Foolish youkai, Sesshoumaru thought, taking a step towards him with every intention of providing the kit some assistance in leaving.

To his surprise, the miko stepped into his path. Her eyes were flashing in determination and what appeared to be protectiveness for the kit. The stray though that she would be a fierce protector to her pups came to mind suddenly.

"You're sadly mistaken if you think I'm going to let you bully him," she bit out.

Bully? "Send him away," he instructed firmly.

She stiffened. "Why?"

"He is in the way."

"No, Kagome!"

"Do as I say," he intoned flatly.

She regarded him warily. "What do you want, Sesshoumaru?"

He did not like to justify his actions, but he knew that in this case, he had to respond, or the miko would not heed his words. "Just a moment of your time," he finally said.

The miko's brows furrowed as she contemplated his response. And then she turned to the small youkai by her side. "Shippou, can you leave us alone for a while?"

The kitsune's green eyes rounded. "What? NO!"

"Shippou…"

A mutinous look came over the kitsune's features. "After what happened last time, how upset you were when you got back-"

"Shippou!" she interjected quickly. "I just need to talk to him, okay? In private."

The kitsune scowled, obviously displeased. Then, directing a glare at him, the small youkai turned around and walked away. Sesshoumaru kept his eyes on the departing form until the kitsune was no longer within hearing distance before he shifted his full attention to the miko.

Wearing a wary look, she asked, "So, what do you want to say?"

Now that they were alone, he gave in to his instincts. In a flash, he was in front of her. She gasped in shock, her eyes wide as she stared up at him.

Reaching behind her, he clamped a hand around the back of her neck to hold her in place before his head descended. He felt the oddest sensation when their lips met. All of a sudden, he was awash with a comforting heat. He realized that it was something that he always occurred during his encounters with this miko.

Her lips were as he had recalled. Soft, pliant and tasted fully of the miko and nothing else. It was something that he had not realized he had been craving all this time they were apart.

Without much thought, his hand slid from her neck down her back. Lower still, until he reached the soft curve of her rear. Her short attire was not enough of a barrier to prevent him from slipping his fingers up between the top of her bare thighs.

She gasped against his lips when he squeezed her smooth flesh.

000


000

Her core was burning with a familiar molten heat, the heat that she had tried so often not to recall or pay any attention to. But with a single touch of his hand, everything came crashing back to her. Panic engulfed her at the realization of where this could lead.

No.

No, she could not let this happen again.

Kagome found herself panting when she finally summoned up enough willpower to pull away from Sesshoumaru. Then, stunned by what she had almost let happen, she stared in horror at the silent taiyoukai.

No. This should not have happened. She should be trying to get over him, damn it. Not making things worse by kissing him. What the hell was she thinking?

She pushed him away from her.

"We can't do this."

He stared at her.

She shook her head. "Not again."

For a long moment, he remained silent. Then, in an even voice, he asked, "Why?"

Why? Her brows furrowed in confusion. What did he mean, why? Because if they carried on like this, where would it end? It had begun because of something she could not control, but she was no longer in the same position. If they did something like this, they would be doing it out of their own free will.

Would that be so bad, a small voice at the back of her mind asked.

Would it?

Confused, she looked away from him. Yes. It would be really bad because whatever it was that had happened between them, there would be no happy ending for it. She knew that she was already falling hard for him, and it was obvious that Sesshoumaru felt nothing of the sort. They were simply too different. Was that not why she had left in the first place?

"We are too different," she finally said. "And I'm done wanting something that I couldn't really have."

"What do you want?" he asked quietly.

"Something you can't give me," she whispered.

He eyed her intently, not saying a word. She had no idea if she had offended him with her words or not. But she meant what she had said. Sesshoumaru could not give her what she wanted in the long run, and it was best that they remained apart from each other.

Besides, time healed everything, right?

Eventually, he took his eyes away from her. Without another word, he spun around and took to the air.

It was only then that she squeezed her eyes shut against the sting of tears behind her lids. Would she ever get over him?

000


000

They crossed path again in two weeks.

In those two weeks, Sesshoumaru had finally arrived at a conclusion; that he would never rid his mind of the miko. Her features and the last words she had spoken to him taunted him daily, telling him that he had to act on it if he wished for a different outcome.

It left him with only one option. His instincts told him that he had made an acceptable decision, and his instinct had to be trusted.

So, he had left Rin in the care of Jaken and Ah-Un. They were currently in the Western Lands, in one of the secluded accommodations he had procured over the years. This left him free to pursue what he desired.

And what he desired was the miko.

It did not take long for Sesshoumaru to track down the miko's travelling group. And when he did, they immediately faced him in their respective defensive stances. Fools, if he truly wished to harm them, he would have done so before they even saw him.

He simply stood there, studying their tense forms one after another.

"What are you doing here, you bastard?!" Inuyasha snarled.

"Inuyasha…" the taijiya warned.

Lowering his staff slightly, the houshi took a step forward. "It doesn't look as if he's here to fight." Then, meeting his eyes, the houshi asked, "Isn't that right, Sesshoumaru-sama?"

"Hn."

"What is it, then?" the taijiya asked warily.

There was a moment of pause before Sesshoumaru spoke. "We have a common target. It would not be unreasonable to travel together."

The five pairs of eyes stared at him with varying degrees of shock and confusion.

"What the hell are you going on about, Sesshoumaru?" Inuyasha growled.

"Wait, Inuyasha. I think Sesshoumaru means for us to combine our efforts to find and fight Naraku," the houshi said. "Isn't that correct, Sesshoumaru-sama?"

"Hn." The human was perceptive, at least.

"Ah, an alliance then," the houshi murmured thoughtfully, lifting a hand to rub his chin.

"The hell I'll work with him!" the hanyou promptly exploded. His golden eyes went from one of his travelling companions to the other. "You can't seriously be considering this!"

The taijiya continued to eye him skeptically, while the miko studiously avoided his gaze. Sesshoumaru could tell that she was discomfited by the proposal, even though she had kept silent all this while. And yet, she should realize the truth of what he spoke. It would be beneficial for them to travel together, even though he was merely using this as an excuse. That what he truly wished was to be close to the miko.

Sesshoumaru turned back to the human. "Your decision, Houshi?" he prompted.

Before the human could respond, Inuyasha bristled and snarled, "It's not his decision to make!"

Finally turning to address his irate brother, Sesshoumaru murmured, "Perhaps you're under the impression that it is yours then, little brother."

Inuyasha lunged at him, only to be intercepted by the taijiya's Hiraikotsu. Frowning, the slayer cautioned, "Just calm down, Inuyasha. We're not getting anywhere on our own, so maybe teaming up is not a bad idea."

Eyes rounding in disbelief, Inuyasha sputtered, "B-But… It's Sesshoumaru! He's the one Kagome-"

"Shut up, Inuyasha!" the kitsune hissed.

It was then that everyone turned their attention to the miko. She was staring at the ground, frowning thoughtfully. For a long while, no one moved.

Finally, the taijiya approached her. "Kagome?"

The miko finally looked up. "Hm?"

"What do you think of Sesshoumaru joining us?"

Sesshoumaru remained still as the miko turned to him. Her eyes pierced him, as if she was attempting to read his intentions. There was no mistaking the suspicion in her, but he had expected it. Still, he kept his expression impassive as he returned her gaze. Her eyes flickered briefly, and then she looked away.

Haltingly, the miko responded, "I suppose it's good to have him on our side."

The houshi clapped his hands together, beaming as he did so. "That's what I thought. So, it's settled then."

"NO!" Inuyasha protested.

"You'll get used to it, Inuyasha. After all, he's your brother," the houshi placated.

"We can try it for a while, and if it doesn't work out, we can go our separate ways again," the taijiya added.

Sesshoumaru simply quirked a brow as Inuyasha shot him a murderous glare. Like it or not, the hanyou would have to accept his companions' decision. Slowly, he slanted his eyes towards the true reason for his presence.

The miko was staring into the trees, deliberately ignoring him.

It did not matter.

Soon enough, she would be forced to acknowledge his presence.

000


000

Kagome snuck a glance over her shoulders.

Despite Inuyasha's constant protests, Sesshoumaru was now part of their travelling group.

She could not believe that they were doing this, that Sesshoumaru was actually travelling with them. Granted, he kept to himself, staying some distance behind them, but he was actually THERE. She could feel his presence so acutely that her nerves remained constantly taut with….

With that? Anticipation? Fear? She had no idea what she was feeling or what she should be feeling.

She sighed heavily.

At least he was not making this more awkward than it was. At first, she thought that he had decided to join up with them because of their… unfinished business. But so far, they had been travelling for the last one week, and in those seven days, he had made no sexual advances towards her. So perhaps he was truly doing this because like them, all he wanted was to destroy Naraku as soon as he could.

They continued to travel until the sun began to descend in the horizon. With the darkness approaching, they decided to set up camp beside a shallow river. As he had done for the last one week, Sesshoumaru remained apart from them. Although he travelled with them, he had never joined them for their meals. Kagome did not even know where he slept at night.

As they began to cook, Sango turned to her and whispered, "Do you think we should offer him something?"

"Huh?"

Sango's eyes flicked briefly in Sesshoumaru's direction. "The taiyoukai. Doesn't he need to eat or something?"

"I don't know," Kagome muttered. She knew so little about him.

"Keh! He knows how to feed himself," Inuyasha spat. "Don't bother wasting food on him."

Kagome closed her eyes in resignation. If any of them offered Sesshoumaru anything, Inuyasha would definitely throw up a huge fuss. She was not sure if anyone wanted to deal with such a thing. It took too much effort.

Slanting a glance at Sesshoumaru, she noticed that he was walking away from them, effectively resolving the issue. It was then that she released a sigh of relief, for the taiyoukai's departure meant that they had just avoided another potential confrontation between Sesshoumaru and Inuyasha.

One week had passed, and Kagome could not help but wonder just how long this fragile truce would last.

Or if Sesshoumaru would ever approach her the way he had done in the past.

000


000

Seated at the base of a tree, Sesshoumaru's gaze followed the miko's slender form as she busied herself preparing the evening meal by the campfire. The taijiya was nearby, tending to the fire while the houshi prepared the fishes Inuyasha had caught earlier.

One week had passed since he began travelling with these humans, but he found that it was not unbearable. Being close to them gave him a new insight of how they interacted with each other and they were not as… repulsive as he had once assumed. However, this could be the miko's influence. After all, she had the strangest effect on those around her.

He was surprised to find that it was almost enough to simply be close to her, to see her daily. Physical contact would be welcomed, of course. However, the miko was never alone, making it impossible for him to approach her in that manner.

Still, he was satisfied, for now.

He had made the first move to approach her by joining up with her travelling group. Knowing how discomfited she was by the situation between them, he realized that he had to allow her to decide the next step. He did not intend to wait forever, but he was content to do so for now. At least, as long as his instinct allowed him to.

A low growl caught his attention then, and Sesshoumaru shifted his gaze to find Inuyasha glaring at him. Arms wrapped across his chest as he leaned back against a nearby tree, Inuyasha's golden eyes gleamed with unmistakable animosity. Unperturbed, Sesshoumaru returned his gaze to the humans.

It was then that he caught the miko's eyes. Their gazes held for a moment, and Sesshoumaru did not fail to detect a hint of desire in hers before she quickly turned away. The fact that she was still affected by him gave him a sense of… satisfaction. Perhaps it would not be long before she approached him.

"Why are you really here?"

His chain of thought interrupted, Sesshoumaru turned to face the owner of the harsh voice. Inuyasha was still glaring at him, but that was not surprising. After all, the hanyou had done it every day for the last one week.

"Resting," Sesshoumaru finally responded, his tone even.

A snort of disbelief escaped the hanyou before he pushed himself away from the tree. "I'm not stupid. You're here for Kagome, aren't you? You've been eyeing her all this time."

Sesshoumaru did not bother to respond to the remark. Inuyasha could form any opinion he wished, he thought as he stood up. Without a single word, Sesshoumaru turned away and began to walk towards the river. If he could not watch the miko in peace, there was no reason for him to be there.

"Oi! Where the hell are you going?"

Sesshoumaru simply continued to walk away.

Soon, the sounds of metal hitting tree reached him. He glanced around until he detected the source of the commotion. Pausing, he stood still to watch.

The kitsune was practicing with his blades. It was obvious from his moves that the blades were new, and the youngster was unused to them. As he continued to watch, Sesshoumaru's eyes narrowed slightly at the uneven movements. The kitsune was not employing the correct method, wasting the potential of the blades.

It would not do.

"Do not lock your wrist," he intoned quietly.

The kitsune immediately stilled, and then slowly, turned to him. Blinking in confusion, green eyes looked down at the blades before looking back up at him.

"Uh… don't lock my wrists?" he ventured uncertainly.

"Hn." After a short pause, Sesshoumaru added, "You must keep your wrists loose."

"Oh." The kitsune darted hesitant glances left and right before he nodded. "Thank you."

The small youkai continued to practice, and this time, his movements were more fluid, even though there was certainly room for improvement. Still, it was acceptable as a first attempt. With practice, the kitsune would no doubt become a passable warrior.

When Sesshoumaru realized just what he was thinking, his brows drew together. It was unusual for him to ponder over such matters that had nothing to do with him. The kitsune's progress did not matter to him, did it?

But it mattered to the miko.

000


000

Once again, they made it out of a battle intact.

As they left the battlefield, Kagome darted a quick glance towards the youngest member of their group. Shippou was walking tall, his chest puffed out with pride and confidence as he chattered excitedly.

The battle with Kagura and the undead bodies she controlled had been vicious, as usual. However, this time, they had more fighters than usual. To everyone's surprise, Shippou had managed to hold his own against the enemy forces. So it was not long before the wind demoness had fled on her cloud.

Once they were in the clear, they made camp to recover from the battle. It was then that Kagome found herself listening to Shippou's recount of his part of the battle as she rested against a tree trunk.

"I thought he'd rip my arm off, but I brought my blades around in time!" the kitsune exclaimed excitedly. "One swipe, and he was down!"

She gave his hair an affectionate ruffle. "Well, you've been practicing hard, haven't you?"

Shippou blinked, and then shot a glance into the dense forest. Kagome knew who he was looking at, but she kept her eyes trained on the kitsune as she wondered what he was thinking. Just as she was about to ask, Shippou shifted his attention back to her and lowered his voice.

"I didn't just practice alone," he whispered.

A little confused, Kagome asked, "What do you mean, Shippou?"

The kitsune looked a little uncomfortable. "Well, Sesshoumaru had been giving me pointers."

Kagome's eyes widened in surprise at the revelation. She did not expect this at all. Sesshoumaru did not strike her as someone who would take the time to guide another youkai in the art of battle. But then again, if someone asked her months ago, she would say that Sesshoumaru would never touch a human female the way he had done to her. The thought made her flush, as usual, and she quickly brushed the memories away.

Still, this latest revelation was most unexpected. The fact that he did this for Shippou meant that perhaps Sesshoumaru was actually not as cold as she had assumed. Had she misjudged the taiyoukai?

Focusing on Shippou, she asked, "How long has this been going on?"

Shippou's brows furrowed slightly. "Maybe a few weeks. A month?"

So long? "And no one knows?" she murmured, more to herself than anything else.

Shrugging, Shippou responded, "Well, at first it was a little strange, you know? I didn't know if I should say anything, so I kept it to myself."

Strange was an understatement, she thought dryly.

"But after a while, I got used to the practice sessions." A pause followed, and a sheepish look came across Shippou's face. "He's a good teacher."

Kagome nodded absently.

"He's not as bad as I once thought," Shippou ventured hesitantly.

Of course the kitsune would say so. It was beginning to look as if Shippou had a mild case of hero-worship. This was unbelievable. And she bet if Inuyasha caught wind of it, the hanyou would blow his top. However, she had to admit that what Sesshoumaru had done was a good thing, for Shippou's skills had advanced. And with the advancement, Kagome could tell that Shippou was happier and more confident of himself.

"Kagome?"

Thoughts broken, she turned to face him. "Hm?"

"You're not angry, are you?" he asked somewhat nervously.

She sighed, smiling. Reaching out, she ruffled his head again, much to his chagrin. "Now why would I be angry? I'm happy you're a fully fledged warrior now. It must have taken some hard work, though. I'm proud of you."

Shippou beamed in pleasure. "Thanks, Kagome."

They chattered for a while longer about inconsequential topic, but Kagome had to admit that her mind was elsewhere. Shippou must have sensed it as well, because soon afterwards, he excused himself to go help Inuyasha and Miroku hunt for some wild game for dinner.

Sesshoumaru's action kind of made her realize that as aloof as he was, the taiyoukai was actually not deliberately distancing himself from the rest of them. It made her feel a little bad that they always excluded him from their daily things, even though he was actually travelling with them.

Perhaps she should go speak to him.

Or was this merely an excuse on her side to get closer to him again?

Kagome bit her bottom lip, wondering if that was the case. It had been a while since they had spoken face to face, even though she was always hyper-aware of his presence. And each time their eyes met, she could almost read the feral need in those golden orbs. The thought of it made her shiver.

He clearly wanted her in the carnal sense. But was that the only thing he wanted her for? Was he even capable of more? More importantly, what exactly did she want from him?

Groaning, Kagome buried her face in her palms. She was just going around in circles, and she was just as confused as before.

Perhaps it was time to take some risk.

With that thought, she stood up abruptly. She should speak to him before she lost her nerves. The silence had dragged on long enough. What had she got to lose anyway?

Recalling where Shippou had glanced towards earlier, Kagome pushed her way through the dense forest growth. With each step she took, her heart seemed to thump harder in anticipation. She could hardly believe that she was doing this.

Soon, she caught sight of a mass of silver hair. Her breath hitched in her throat as she ran her eyes over his form. Sesshoumaru resting against the base of a tree trunk, his eyes fixed to some unknown point in the distance. He did not move a muscle, but she was sure that he knew that she was there.

Slowly, she approached him.

"Sesshoumaru?" she ventured hesitantly.

He slanted a pair of golden eyes at her, but said nothing. Kagome steeled her spine, telling herself that this was something she had to do. Besides, she was sick of letting things just HAPPEN to her. It was time that she took control of things a little. And she would start by patching things up with Sesshoumaru.

Taking a deep breath, she went on, "I just want to thank you for watching over Shippou. He told me that you helped him with his training."

"Hn."

A moment of silence passed as she wracked her mind for something else to say. Sesshoumaru was still staring at her, obviously waiting for her to continue speaking. The first thing that came to her mind was food.

"Inuyasha and the rest are hunting for food now. Would you like to join us?"

His eyes flickered slightly, and then he said, "I have no need for food at the moment."

"Oh."

Feeling rather discomfited by the intensity of his gaze, she looked away. "Well, that's it, really. I'll leave you to…" She gestured around in no apparent direction before finishing lamely, "… to meditate."

Spinning around, she began to walk away, only to be halted by his smooth voice right behind her. She stilled immediately, the fine hair behind her neck standing on its end. When had he gotten up?

"Stay."

Her eyes widened at his single word. Stay? He was asking her to stay?

Slowly, she turned around until they were face to face. She tried to read his thoughts, but it was futile. His expression was as blank as ever. It was infuriating to say the least. How was she supposed to know what to do next if the only thing he did was stare at her?

"Why?" she finally asked.

When he continued to regard her silently, she let out a huff of frustration. "Never mind. I'll-"

"You said once that if we continue to travel together, there would be complications."

She blinked at the unexpected sentence. The words sounded vaguely familiar. And then she recalled when she had said it. The memory of it brought a pang to her chest and she looked away from him. She had said that just before they had parted ways in an attempt to save herself from more heartache. Did the fact that he had remembered meant that those words were important to him?

"I know I said that," she murmured, and then she glanced back up at him. "But don't you agree?"

"We are travelling together now," he pointed out evenly.

She pinched the bridge of her nose. "It's not the same."

"There is no complication," he went on, as if she had not spoken.

"But…" she faltered, uncertain what to think of his proclamation. This was the last topic she had expected him to bring up. She was so confused, as it was.

Suddenly, she felt a little angry. Hands clenching by her side, she pinned a glare at him. "Why are you doing this, Sesshoumaru?" she hissed. "Why are you bringing that topic up?"

He regarded her silently.

Irritated, she jabbed a finger in his chest, ignoring the fact that it was possibly a foolish thing to do to a taiyoukai who could snap her into half with one of his clawed fingers. But he was confusing her like hell, and she had had enough of it. It was time that he came clear about his those cryptic comments and silent looks.

"I don't know what's going on in that mind of yours, Sesshoumaru. Why are you really travelling with us? You never needed travelling companions before. Are you really here for that, or for something else?" she demanded loudly.

His response was unexpected. The flicker in his eyes, followed by the almost imperceptible twitch at the corner of his lips, was not what she had expected to see. She had expected him to lash out at her for daring to question his motives, to threaten her into silence. Stunned, it was her turn to stare at him wordlessly.

"Will you object if it was something else?" he finally asked, reaching out with one clawed hand.

She froze when his fingers touched her cheek, and then slowly stroke downwards to her chin. The heated look in his eyes was tempered with something else this time. Not so much lust, but something subtler. He had pretty much implied that he was not travelling with them only to hunt down Naraku. But did it mean that he was there for her? Faced with this possibility, she did not know how to react.

"Do you wish for me to leave if that was the case?" he asked quietly, his fingers holding her chin so that she could not avert her eyes.

Her breath hitched slightly. "Will you? Will you leave if I asked you to?"

His golden orbs hardened. "No."

She swallowed past the dryness of her throat. If she was honest with herself, she did not want him to leave at all. Having him there with her all these weeks, even though they barely spoke, had not been unwelcomed. But what did this mean for them? What would happen if he continued to stay?

"So where does this leave us?" she whispered, not sure if it was the right question to ask.

The gleam of possessiveness in his eyes sent a shiver up her spine. Then, in an unrelenting tone, he declared, "I will claim you as mine."

Her lips parted in surprise. Was he saying what she thought he was saying?

"Claim?" she echoed.

"Hn."

She blinked. Needing to make sure that there was no miscommunication here, she pressed on, "I don't understand. 'Claim' as in 'mate'?"

"Hn."

Shock ricocheted through her. Sesshoumaru intended to make her his MATE? This was happening too fast. WAY too fast. Throwing her hands up in the air, she exclaimed in an exasperated tone, "But we hardly know each other!"

A flicker of impatience could be seen in his eyes. "What else do you wish to know, miko?"

"I don't know!"

Once again, he gave her that thoughtful look. When he next spoke, his tone was imperious, "You may ask what you wish to know, and I will provide the necessary answers. But by the next full moon, we will be mated."

Her eyes widened at his tone. Why, the…

"Our current situation is no longer acceptable," he added evenly.

"You can't just ORDER me to be your mate, Sesshoumaru!" she snapped, hardly believing that they were having this conversation.

"Then, are you objecting?"

She stilled. "Well…"

He raised a questioning brow, his thumb stroking her chin idly as he waited for her to respond. It was as if he was confident that she would say yes, and was merely waiting for her to confirm it to herself.

Releasing an exasperated breath, she averted her eyes. He could be right after all. Was this not what she wanted in the first place? She had wanted more than sex from Sesshoumaru, and now that he wanted to make her his mate, why was she raising such a fuss about it? Was it because she was not sure why Sesshoumaru was doing this?

"You think too much, miko," he murmured, dipping his head down to hers.

Before their lips met, she held her hands to his chest to stop him. "Is this really what you want?"

He gave her a mildly impatient look, and that was when she realized that he had no reason to do such a thing unless he wanted to. This was Sesshoumaru, for goodness's sakes! He did this out of his own volition, tying himself down to her and her alone, for that was what it meant for a youkai to be mated. The fact that he had chosen to do this was enough proof that he felt deeply for her, even though he would probably never verbalize such a thing.

With that thought, she released the pressure on his chest, allowing him to close the distance between them. When their lips met in the gentlest kiss she had ever received from him, she could not help but let out a soft sigh of happiness. The strain of the last few months instantly dissipated.

When their lips finally separated, she looked up at him to find him staring down at her with a pair of possessive golden eyes. It was as if he was telling her that she was his now.

Smiling slightly, she leaned forward to wrap her arms around him. "You know you won't be able to get rid of me now, right?" she murmured into his chest.

"Hn."

As his arms tightened around her, Kagome's smile widened.

When she had left him by the cliff all those months ago, she had never thought that they would end up this way. But she was happy that it did. Everything had happened so fast now that she thought about it, and she knew that the journey ahead would be far from smooth, especially considering how Inuyasha would react to this development.

Still, it would be worth it.

Because she knew now that she would have Sesshoumaru by her side.

000


:The End:


000

A/N: And that brings us to the end of this story. Hope you've enjoyed it. Unfortunately, there would be no sequel to this story. Please review if you could. Thanks!

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