This chapter is just after RosieB's Chapter 7. Before you ask, yes, she's read it, and this is posted with her permission, no matter how horrified you'll be at the end.

I totally stole some of her lines and some of her OCs, too.

If you'd like to keep on thinking that Kagome should love Sesshoumaru and only Sesshoumaru, I'd suggest you don't read this.

Triberg 1649, evening of the feast

The night was relatively warm. Kagome counted the demons around her. Her dress was a light blue with a white shawl draped over her shoulders for warmth. Her face was serene, even smiling when she turned her attention to things at hand again.

There was dinner, and dancing. The demon people went to the dance floor in fours, coming together and apart to the tune. Kagome vaguely remembered a history movie she'd seen, oh, almost a century ago. The scene was not as colourful as the movie had been, the dresses more subdued in tone and the music only as loud as the instruments would give without electricity. With sudden pain, she missed the old TV set in the living room of the shrine house, the quiet rustling of tatami on the floor and the cosy warmth of the kotatsu on winter evenings.

Sixteen years in the castle, and she only had a handful of friends. She'd known the whole town of Surat within a year, and been on good terms with most. While her mind knew that staying here was important for Sesshoumaru, she also knew that she was wilting.

For a moment, she thought she saw Sesshoumaru in the distance, his clothes light green to the countess' darker green dress. She grinned at the thought that he looked washed out, but then turned away and left the great hall and its sparkling chandeliers. No-one stepped in her way. In the relative darkness of the hallway she sought a dark alcove and sat down, sighing. Through a window she saw the bright full moon, a few stars that were bright enough not to be obscured by the moonlight, and clouds flying swiftly east, driven by the west wind.

She felt Brandt just before he came into view, in all his terrible glory, with burning hair and pale eyes. As usual, he seemed annoyed at her.

"Guten Abend," she said.

"My, are we polite tonight," he sneered. He had never made any secret of his dislike for her. "Lord Sesshoumaru is being most inattentive to the countess on account of looking around for you," he said, but it did not sound as if he were sorry for either Sesshoumaru or the countess. Kagome, yet again, wondered whether he was in love with the countess or just jealous of Sesshoumaru's position within the Echidna. After sixteen years, she still could not tell.

"Your pup is in the stables, just in case you wanted to know," he said. "I think he might have changed his mind…"

"So he isn't leaving after all?" Kagome asked despite her resolve not to give Brandt any hints as to how she felt.

Brandt, true to his name, smiled and let her burn in silent curiosity for a moment, then he touched her thumb with one of his fingers, as he sometimes, very rarely did, as if to burn her for real – which in reality he would not dare – and said:

"No, I think he is leaving tonight."

Kagome was on her feet in an instant. "He said he'd…"

"Yes?" Brandt prompted, always eager to find something new to torture her with.

"Thank you, Brandt," Kagome gasped, shaking his presence from her mind like a tree would shake a dead leaf, and she left him standing there in the hallway while she first walked, then ran downstairs to the stables, still in her ball gown.

Brandt touched the finger that had had brief contact with her skin to his chest and stared into nothing. He played with his life when he touched her, but sometimes he had to touch her just to feel alive. Mostly, he hated himself for it, but not tonight, because tonight, with its full moon, was different. He slowly returned to the great hall only to find Sesshoumaru at the entrance. He bowed very briefly to him.

"I thought I saw Kagome," Sesshoumaru said.

"She ran after the wolf," Brandt said with a shrug.

When Sesshoumaru calmly turned to walk after her, Brandt stood in his way.

"What do you need her for?" he asked, quietly. "Everything you might need is here among your people, and you know – you know you should have gotten rid of that one long ago. She is a liability to you and to us and…"

Sesshoumaru felt weary, because he could not just kill Brandt and be done with it. Again his subordinate position in this place came to his mind in full force. Politics dictated he leave Brandt alive, no matter how much it irked him.

"I have a responsibility," he said curtly. "She came before you, and you will get out of my way, Brandt."

"If she takes off with the wolf, you'll be rid of your oath," Brandt suggested.

Sesshoumaru considered this for a moment. "That will not happen," he said. But he traced back his steps to Gisela's side and let the sounds of the ball envelop him again, yet only for a moment. It was not like him to change his mind all the time; nevertheless, he took his leave from the countess for the evening and left the feast. Gisela's eyes bored fiery holes into his retreating back until Brandt came around and laughed at how obvious she was with Sesshoumaru in front of all her subjects.

Sesshoumaru walked downstairs, slowly as if he was afraid at what he'd find there. His hair shone in the moonlight, so he tied it to a tight bun and went on. He assumed Kagome and her lame wolf would be in the stables, saying goodbye. It was not as if he were suspecting her of wanting to leave him with Ranulf, but then again, Ranulf's words that afternoon had somewhat shaken him:

"She is your unfaltering companion, but she is bound to you by responsibility only. Do not let that responsibility take away the one corner of her heart that is not consumed by her sadness at this half life she leads with you!" he'd said. He had compared her with the sun, as opposed to his ice.

Sesshoumaru had never had much use for the sun; he did not freeze in the cold and he could see in the dark. Yet since this afternoon he caught himself wondering briefly what Kagome might want out of life. He'd trapped her in this fortress for sixteen years. For a noble cause, of course, and she'd offered to help – although they never let her – but still. Perhaps being with the wolf was something she wanted out of life?

The demon lord stood in front of the stable door, thinking about going in, but then he saw a hem of a blue skirt and stopped just behind the wall. Let them talk it out, he thought. He might just as well look at the moon in the meantime. If Kagome felt like leaving with Ranulf, then he still could… what? Intervene? Or let her go? He would think of that when the question presented itself. So he masked his presence and waited quietly.

Kagome stood in the stables and looked at Ranulf as he took up the saddle to put it on the horse.

"Put the saddle down, please, or I swear I'll burn you," she whispered. She was not quite sure he had heard her until he put down the saddle and turned to her. Of course he had heard her with his demon ears.

He turned to her and she saw his eyes red and his face more demonic than she had ever seen it. The softness was gone from his features, the nice gamekeeper lost to her, so it seemed.

"I thought you wanted to come say goodbye," she said accusingly.

Ranulf made a fist and shrugged. Kagome came closer to him but stopped when a look from him froze her in mid-step.

"He killed you," she stated.

"I think he did," Ranulf admitted calmly. "I think he killed everything in me."

"And here I am, not here to bring you any good news, either," she said.

"I know you are not, otherwise you would've come around to see me this afternoon," he said. "I do see now," and he looked at her with those icy blue eyes of his, "that no matter how often you say that you love me, you will always be his. His toy, his pet, his creature."

"Don't be ridiculous," Kagome said unsteadily. "I am not…" But she stopped. Was she not?

Ranulf only smiled humourlessly and turned to take up the saddle, only to find Kagome under his hands, stopping him from going on.

"I don't want you to go like this. You are not like this, please. Let's talk."

He picked her up by the shoulders, lifted her right up so her feet did not touch the floor any longer, as if to put her aside, but Kagome shifted in his grip so he had to lean on the wall in order to keep himself from losing his balance. Kagome would know how, he thought. Still he kept her in the air.

"What am I to do with you?" he asked.

"I don't know," she said. "What would you like to do? You might never get the chance to do anything again."

His face went back to the grim mask he had been wearing until a minute ago.

"You might kiss me," Kagome suggested.

"I could put you on my horse and take you away from here," he said. "Such a good idea. What do you think?"

Kagome seemed to consider it while her feet still did not touch the ground, but she shook her head.

"You have no idea how tempted I am, but you might be right, and I am Sesshoumaru's toy, his pet, his creature. No matter what comes next, Sesshoumaru was here first, and my duty is to him before all else. My promise, my life, anything."

"Your anything."

"You know he's everything to me. While he is nothing. My eternal life, and he is the only thing that will stay permanent. I cannot leave him."

Ranulf put her back on the ground, but tugged her gently into his warm, strong embrace. She came right up to his chin. Kagome inhaled his smell, one she might never get to smell again, and started to cry into his shirt.

"You know, for all you're here, and ruining my shirt, I'm the one who should be crying," Ranulf said to the top of her head. "You'll live a long happy life with that… person, and I'll be rotting away here in the middle of Schwarzwald, not knowing whether you'll remember me at all."

Kagome smiled through the tears. "I'll always remember you," she said. "And the ones that live longer have longer to remember and regret."

"You are still not used to living this long," he said.

"No, but I'm getting by. I guess it might be easier on Sesshoumaru, because all of you demons expect to live long, if not forever." She sighed and lifted her head, and he kissed her, first her tears, then her lips.

Kagome had always enjoyed kissing Ranulf. There was a healthy, down-to-earth attraction to him, probably something about his broad shoulders that would appeal to any woman, not only her. But for all his strength and size, he was a gentle wolf, and tonight he was kissing her with an exquisite desperation which held its own fascination. So she kissed him back, equally desperate.

Outside, Sesshoumaru came back from his reverie of the silver moon and found himself an unwilling audience to what seemed to be a make-out session. He quickly took his leave and walked over to a huge black oak which stood in the courtyard and which reminded him of a tree he'd once seen in Japan, an eternity ago. Inuyasha had been pinned down to that tree for a long time. Sometimes a dog needed a tree to help him bear the weight of the world.

Forgetting his dignity and his fine green clothes for once, Sesshoumaru climbed the tree and found a good place to sit and keep watching the moon. He did not want to go back inside to the feast, the countess and her fiery shadow Brandt, and his empty bed still held no appeal, despite his tiredness. He hadn't had the opportunity to rest since his return from Sweden.

Canst thou, O cruel! say I love thee not,
When I against myself with thee partake?

Shakespeare had sent those lines to him, and he had never known what he meant by that. Now he was dead, of course, and he could never ask him. Sometimes he thought back at that scrap of paper – and he could have sworn he still had it somewhere, perhaps tucked away in a vault in London he and Kagome had prepared for the case they had to leave Britain suddenly. Perhaps he still had it in Surat somewhere, or maybe in Delhi, Agra or Amritsar, where they had their little treasures hidden well away from prying eyes. Maybe he'd left it in Japan with Jaken? Kagome must have packed it away somewhere, he would ask her when she… Oh, he'd gotten used to being able to fall back on her, not his pet, his toy, or creature, but probably, as she had put it just back there, his everything… and his nothing.

And while Kagome and Ranulf walked towards Ranulf's rooms, quietly talking, Sesshoumaru sat in the tree. A moment later, inside, behind glass, Kagome lit a candle which illuminated her silhouette on the curtain for a moment, and Ranulf kissed her neck and slid the fabric from her shoulder.

The candle sputtered and died; and Sesshoumaru slept in the crown of the tree, dreaming of William Shakespeare and the sun.