A/N: I'll say my goodbyes and thanks up here rather than spoiling the end :) Thank you so much to everyone who's stuck with me all this time. I hope I haven't disappointed you at any point, and I hope you enjoyed reading this fic as much as I did writing it. Thanks for the reviews, and the encouragement. I would never have attempted a second story if it wasn't for the support I got for my first one, or for the constant requests for an update. This won't be the last you hear from me but I will be taking a break for a while, or at least until I get another crackpot idea!
Take care, good luck in everything you do, and all the best from this little corner of the globe :)
The wind blew soft and warm, with the rich scents of summer even that early in the day. A young woman sat on the edge of an old worn well, absently tapping her heel against the wood as she hummed to herself. The song she sang was different, as were many things about her. Some indefinable quality marked her as being from another world.
His heart ached at the sight of her, because he could see the sadness in her eyes that she hid so well from everyone else.
He walked up to her, and lowered himself down gracefully so that he was sitting on the ground and leaning his back against the wall of the well beside her. The inuyoukai rested his arm on his knee, and made no protest when the girl twirled a lock of his hair in her fingers.
The distant sounds of happy children shrieking and laughing reached them on the wind.
"I don't know what to do." Kagome murmured softly. The miko watched the wisps of clouds floating past, but was really seeing something else entirely.
"You miss them." Sesshomaru stated.
He could hear the longing in her voice. It reminded him of how young she really was – just a child, missing her mother.
"Kikyo said I can choose. She said that I would be allowed to travel to my time, and then I would have until midnight of that day to come back here before the well sealed. But then that would be the last time, and there would be no going back.
"How can I leave ... anyone?" Her voice broke with the emotion she was holding inside.
Sesshomaru turned to look up at her, and his eyes saw right through her. "Your friends have had their families and lives restored to them. You have ensured their happiness. This decision is not about them. It is about you." Just meeting his stare like that made her start to burn up from the inside. "What do you want, Kagome?"
Right then and there she just wanted to throw herself at him. He'd been keeping her at arm's length since she'd made the wish. At first she'd thought it was because she was still recovering from her near-fatal wound that the jewel hadn't completely healed. He'd still stayed by her. But now she wasn't sure.
Was he asking her to decide if she wanted to stay for him? Was he giving her space to make her own decision rather than pressuring her into it with pleasures?
How could she decide when she didn't know what she wanted?
The inuyoukai stood in a swift motion of moving silk. He held out his hand, and Kagome took it without thinking. Sesshomaru pulled her up, and for a second she thought he was going to kiss her. The heat was in his eyes, and they were achingly close. He leaned down until their lips were a breath apart.
And then he was gone. Tears gathered in her eyes, as she sat back down on the edge of the well. Didn't he want her? But she could see that he did. Why then? Why was he pushing her away?
How could she say goodbye?
Kagome kicked the wood with her heel, and listened to the distant laughter. She imaged walking there, and saying goodbye. She imaged the tears, and Shippo clinging to her before his real parents consoled him with their love. He didn't need her any more, not like the mother she used to be to him. Inuyasha didn't need her either. He would marry Kikyo, and Sango had already accepted Miroku's proposal. Kouga was alive and well and was, interestingly, spending a lot of time with Kagura who was the only one of Naraku's offspring to survive. Their lives were complete, and happy.
But Sesshomaru was right. This was about her own happiness. Would making them miserable by saying goodbye make her happy, when she truly hadn't decided if it was for the last time?
The miko raised her chin, feeling the soft rays of the sun as it slowly rose higher in the sky play across her skin. It was still very early. Early enough.
She leaned backwards, tilting back over the hole of the well and holding herself on the edge with her hands. Kagome watched the wisps of clouds high, high up in the sky. It was so blue. So beautiful.
She let go, and closed her eyes as she fell into the sacred well so she wouldn't have to watch that other world disappear. And the magic gripped her gently, for what was maybe the last time.
In another part of Inuyasha's forest, Sesshomaru felt her scent fade from his world. He felt it, like he had never felt anything before. This small, insignificant mortal girl had made him understand everything his father had ever done, or said. All those years of hating his sire, of resenting him for forsaking his own life and son for a human woman, fell away in a moment. Sesshomaru, the powerful inuyoukai with the icy heart, felt those barriers around himself fade away. He knew, now, what it meant to care for someone, to protect them above all.
And he knew the pain that came with giving up everything he wanted, so that the person he cared for could be free.
There was nothing he wanted more than to have stopped Kagome from going. Once he'd realised how he felt about her, he had wanted to make her his own. But she would never have been happy with him. She couldn't have been. He would never have been able to give her the care-free, safe live she deserved. With him she would always be in danger. She would always be judged, by human and youkai alike.
The human who gave herself to a demon.
The miko who gave herself to a demon.
But now there was no chance of that. She'd gone home, and he believed that she wouldn't return. Why would she? She belonged in her own time.
A little voice interrupted his brooding. Rin stood a few metres away, her hands behind her back as she watched him shyly. The girl wriggled even though she didn't move her feet. Even when she tried to be serious, she couldn't stay still.
He nodded to her, acknowledging her presence. "Yes, Rin?"
"I picked some flowers for you, but Master Jaken said you wouldn't want them. I thought he was being silly, so I brought them anyway!"
The young girl offered him the bouquet, an endearing smile on her lips.
Sesshomaru took them from her, watching her expression. "Where are your family, Rin?"
The girl giggled. "My Ma is helping priestess Kaede with the herbs, Pa is helping with the fields, and my brother is playing with Shippo." She leaned in, lowering her voice to a tone more appropriate for conspiracies. "We're planning a fun game for Master Jaken!"
The youkai looked her over, keeping his face expressionless. He'd had a lot of practise where his former ward was concerned. "Does it involve an amount of mud?"
Rin nodded, her giggles returning with force.
Sesshomaru listened to a distant call. "Your brother is calling for you, Rin."
She nodded, and waved to him before racing off. He watched her go, and marvelled again over the change in her. Her speech had corrected itself directly after her family were returned to her. That had been an amazing reunion, but only one of many. The fox kit had his parents returned, and even the slayer had her brother and entire village brought back to the living. In a way it was bizarre. It was as if the world had returned to how it was, except for a few changes, and the jewel had never existed.
But they all remembered what had happened. They remembered every loss and every fight that had brought them to this end, that was in a way the beginning. The world had come full circle.
Why was that not enough?
Night fell while he stayed lost in his thoughts. Sesshomaru had lived a long time, and so time didn't have the same meaning to him. But this time, he felt every moment as it became the past. The future, turning into the present, and becoming the past. Midnight approaching, nearing, passing. It was over.
And then soft arms encircled his waist from behind. Not daring to think, Sesshomaru turned around to see her. Kagome looked up at him with her luminous eyes and mischievous smile. "Did you miss me?"
Sesshomaru picked her up in one swift motion, and she wrapped her legs around his waist as she fell into the kiss she'd been waiting for for so long. It was more full of passion, heat, love and tenderness than any kiss she could ever have imagined and she threw herself into it whole-heartedly.
His claws raking over her skin made her whimper, and that pleading sound caused him to shudder in response.
Kagome tugged at his clothes, making frustrated noises until he complied with his little minx and helped her free his arms from his sleeves. Instantly he was rewarded with her hands sliding all over his skin, tracing smooth lines of muscle. She teased and wriggled until he almost couldn't take any more. Sesshomaru let her go long enough to throw his massive pelt on the ground, and then throw her on it before following.
The miko laughed at his impatience. He made her feel powerful, and cherished and delicate at the same time. How had she found him? In all the worlds, how had she found someone like him?
That was what her mother had said to her. She could smile and remember her mother, and her family. Being the amazing, wonderful, unbelievable woman she was, Kagome's mother had let her go with a smile on her lips. She would always miss them, but her mother had made her see the truth.
... "You are everything I could have wished you to be: as special, as loving. What you decide will be a product of that. You have been given a gift, my daughter, my precious Kagome. Someone you love has given his heart to you to hold in your keeping. What will you do with it?" ...
Sesshomaru entwined one of his hands in her thick hair, using his purchase to tilt her head back so that he could pay attention to her throat and the soft skin below. His other hand traced the curve of her waist, curling behind her back to bend her body into his. She was so pliant and needy, and giving and expressive. He knew exactly what she enjoyed, because she said it in her soft sighs and the way her nails dug into his skin.
And then she shifted against him and he almost came undone.
Sesshomaru tensed, turning his face away from her with a low growl. Kagome froze as well, afraid that she'd done something to hurt him. But it was just his darker nature that had been awoken.
"Sesshomaru, its okay." She reached out to him, but he shook his head.
"If I harm you-" His voice was a deep growling rumble in his chest.
Kagome turned his face back towards her with a soothing hand on his cheek. She looked at him, at his red-gold eyes, and smiled. "You could never hurt me."
He could read her confidence, her belief. And it made him believe as well.
"Why did you come back?" He'd been determined not to ask the question, but the words slipped from his lips.
Kagome traced the markings on his cheeks. Her hand moved from his cheek to rest on the skin above her heart. The exact place where he had marked her so long ago.
"You told me to go home, Sesshomaru. And I have. I am home."
The youkai stared at her for a long moment, and then he enfolded her in a tight embrace before pulling back and kissing her long and hard.
When he finally gave her a moment to breath, the miko's eyes drifted upwards to the sky. It was a beautiful, completely magnificent night. The stars and moon were so bright that she could see the clearing easily, and the sky itself was every shade of black, blue and even purple.
"Its beautiful, Sesshomaru," she murmured, looking back at him. The youkai nodded, but didn't look up once.
"It is. Do you remember what I said, all that time ago?"
She smiled, twisting provocatively. "Damn right I do. Don't think that you'll be getting out of it this time, because I remember what you said exactly: 'When it is you and I, beneath open sky.' I think you ended off with something cryptic."
His lips curved in a smile as well. The youkai ran his fingers across her skin. "When it is you and I, beneath open sky. Then I will make you mine." His eyes glowed with the intensity of his desire, and the ferocity of his possessiveness. "You are mine, Kagome."
The miko responded with a gentle smile. She took his intensity in her stride, not afraid or submissive. It was one of the things that made her so different, so special. Kagome could laugh at his temper, and rather than antagonising him it lightened his heart. She leaned in to brush soft lips against his in a gentle kiss. "I am yours, if you will be mine."
He watched her, and again she marvelled at his enigmatic, alien beauty. "Then I will be yours as well," he replied, and he pressed himself against her. Sesshomaru washed her away in a flood of sensation, and lust and love. Soon it felt like he was all around her, inside and out. Kagome's cry of pleasure was swallowed by his lips, and she in turn drove him to the edge of madness again and again.
It was insane, and insanely divine. All the blood that had been spilt, all the evil, wiped clean. In a way it was bizarre. It was as if the world had returned to how it was, except for a few changes, and the jewel had never existed. It was as if Kagome had always been with them.
Kagome threw her head back when his teeth marked her skin again, her fingers digging into his shoulders with the agony and ecstasy of having his power flood every inch of her being. And she welcomed it, welcomed him inside her soul. He was her home, and she was his heart.
With that bond, they were linked together and their souls entwined. And as a last blessing from the miko and youkai who had been freed from their torment in the heart of the Sacred Jewel, their lifespans were entwined as well.
They all remembered what had happened. They remembered every loss and every fight that had brought them to this end, that was now the beginning.
The world had come full circle.
Can you see them? Can you see them rise from their exchange of love, and bathe in the clear waters of a spring? And she demands a hot-spring in whatever home they build together, while he greets her orders with a teasing smirk. And there, they go to join their friends at last. They are welcomed back into the village with a whirlwind of children, and an irate and muddy toad-like servant.
There are smiles, and laughter, and tears of happiness.
And there is the future.