Notes: I regret to announce, this is the end of Perception. However, if you liked this piece, keep an eye out for a companion piece I'm planning to write soon. I wanted to stick a bit of smut in here somewhere (my hentai muse decided to pitch in about halfway through writing this), but I'd already put the rating for this as T, and didn't want to up it halfway through and possibly scare readers off who weren't expecting it.

So I'll be posting that as a companion piece once I get it written. I'm also toying with the idea of an epilogue, but that will likely be incorporated into the companion piece, so I make no promises.

Last but not least, a very large thank-you to everyone who dropped a review for this over the last couple days (this has probably been the shortest time it's ever taken me to complete a fic XD).

Love,

The Second Coming

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Part III: Understanding

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When Kagome Higurashi was seventeen she forgot what it meant to be human.

Few things in life were praised more than humanity. Humanity was an ideal, most humans lacked it. Demons and humans had always been different. It was those differences that were emphasised, and feared.

Demons are dangerous.

They hadn't been wrong. She knew it, she understood it. But they hadn't been right either, and she wasn't quite sure what to make of that. There was no doubt that demons could easily tear a human to shreds in minutes, and that most most would. There was no doubt that he could easily destroy her with a quick flick of his deadly claws. Physically, they were stronger, and faster — and natural predators.

Demons are dangerous was a lesson that deserved to be learned.

So why did it feel so wrong? Why did it make her want to stand in the middle of the street and scream that everyone was blind? Why did she want to throw her old textbooks across the room and curse them for their simplicity? Why did every mention of the word 'demon' grate on her nerves, and make her want to tear her hair out?

It all came down to contrast.

She never read the newspaper. Current affairs had never held an interest for her, and she found it served only to depress her. She hadn't noticed that her avoidance of life had become extreme over the past two years.

It was the headline that caught her attention as she lazily poured milk on her cereal. Mother and Three Children found dead in Downtown Apartment. Apparently it had been a robbery gone wrong.

Demon. The word flashed through her mind suddenly and she paused, her cereal-laden spoon half-way to her mouth. Demon. What was a demon, anyway? She'd assumed that it was merely the physical characteristics that set them apart — but what divided the man who had been willing to murder a woman and three children for a stereo, from a demon who would do the same for food?

Pushing away the bowl of cereal, she decided that she wasn't hungry.

Human nature was something of an oddity. Humans, unlike any other animal on the planet, had extremes on both ends. Hatred, revenge, torture — those were all human inventions. Human ideas. Humanity's work. But then again, so was kindness, and love. Humanity believed itself to be above all other forms of life because of these things, but didn't demons feel the same?

The scarf under her pillow was well worn, and had begun to become threadbare in places. Yet it was a gift — a thank-you from a creature reputed to be without emotion, and without higher thought. A gift from a monster.

She almost wished she'd never met him. Monsters don't make good friends.

To Kagome, the world was no longer black and white.

She'd known that he was there. Once again his presence had alerted her first, setting all of her senses on fire with anticipation. Still, wanting to prove something, even if she wasn't quite sure herself what it was, she waited patiently for him to announce himself.

So it wasn't entirely unexpected that he was now standing under the Goshinboku. The corner of her lip turned up in amusement. Perhaps he was a cat demon; he was clearly a creature of habit.

"How long have you been watching me?" she asked, leaning against the well-house doors.

When he didn't answer she tried a different tactic. "I've felt your presence here before. Several times within the last week, and again two weeks ago. Are you following me?"

He nodded slightly.

"Why?"

He seemed to ponder that for a moment before responding. "You intrigue me."

"The feeling's mutual."

He nodded again, however this one seemed almost amused. For someone whose expression rarely changed, he was certainly capable of a wide variety of gestures, she mused.

"What should I call you?" she asked finally.

"Taiyoukai-sama."

She blinked, and bit back a snort.

"Taiyoukai-sama?" she asked, pointedly. "I'd rather not. You may call me Kagome, if you wish." His eyes narrowed slightly, and his posture tensed.

"I am a demon," he said flatly. Not, of course, that he didn't usually say things flatly, but she was pretty sure that this was somewhat flatter than his usual flat. She had a sinking suspicion that he was angry. "This bothers you?"

"Yes." The word came out as an exhale, and lingered in the air like a spectre. The gap between them had widened.

It was a strange line, between demon and human. At times it seemed to disappear completely, allowing the two to be interchangeable in her mind, yet at times the divide seemed so wide that she would never be able to see across it. Looking at him now, she knew, demons and human would never be the same.

They were not black and white. Demon did not automatically equal an enemy. But neither did it automatically equal a friend. Demons, like people, were unique, each presenting their own danger. But they were not people. They would never be people.

This demon had destroyed her, without ever even lifting a finger. And yet, at the end of it all, she'd learned more than her friends and family ever would. The tragic irony remained: that the only thing that could ever teach her to be human, was a being that wasn't.

"Sesshoumaru," he said suddenly, his eyes narrowed and his head tilted slightly to the side, as if scrutinising her thoughts. She got the feeling that he had a fairly good idea what she was thinking. "You may call me Sesshoumaru."

She smiled at him for the first time. "Thank-you, Sesshoumaru." She added a polite bow, for the heck of it. He wasn't human, but that no longer mattered.

Peace.

She felt like laughing and crying at the same time. The conflict that had plagued her conscience since she was a child had finally lifted. It was like learning to breathe again.

He turned abruptly in a graceful swirl of cloth, and began to walk away.

"Will you come back sometime?" she called out suddenly, causing him to stop and look back.

After a long moment he nodded sharply.

"I'd like that," she said. She thought she saw his eyes widen slightly in surprise, but before she could be sure he was gone, fading swiftly into the darkness of the night.

When she got back inside she pulled the worn scarf out from under her bed, and tucked it away in the closet.

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Finis.

Note: The sequel to this is posted. It's titled Divergence and can be found through my profile.