Title: Cycles of the Moon

Author: Shun'u [shunu@fanfiction.net]

Series: Inuyasha

Genre: Angst/AU/Drama

Rating: PG

Disclaimer: All Inuyasha characters and original storyline are the creation of, and © to Rumiko Takahashi, and subsequent parties. "Cycles of the Moon" is the creation of my demented mind, and © Shun'u Hanashiro 2000-2002.

Author's Note: Alternate Universe Ending to "Full Circle". By popular demand… and my own curiosity as to how this will turn out… I've continued the "What if?" scenario into a 3rd part. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to write a review or email. I really appreciate all of the positive feedback. It's great encouragement. When I first wrote this fic, I never thought that it would be so well received.

C Y C L E S • O F • T H E • M O O N

An Inuyasha Fanfiction

By: Hanashiro, Shun'u

Part III: Kagome

Regret.

The word echoed in the confines of Sesshoumaru's mind as he set about the monotonous task of maintaining the estate records. The job could have been delegated to any one of his minor retainers, but the youkai lord preferred to see to the chore personally; he firmly believed that the key to being a successful landowner and ruler was through knowledge of one's own economic and political standing. Normally he was able to complete his work efficiently. Single-mindedly. Today, he could not stop thinking about Inuyasha and the role he had played in shaping his half-brother's life.

Permanently imprinted…

Sesshoumaru's lips twisted in self-aimed derision. He had been weighed down with regret for so long now that the sentiment seemed to be a part of him, something that he could no longer separate from. The first time he had experienced it was when his father had died. The second time was when Inuyasha had fallen under Kikyou's arrow. The third time…

He gave up on working and slammed his hands down on the table.

The scroll of names and duties curled and snapped shut with the sharp clap that only thick, quality paper could produce. Sesshoumaru left the roll of parchment teetering on the edge of the low table as he went in search of his wife of nine years. During times like this she was the only one capable of soothing his inner demons and bringing him peace.

***

"Kagome."

Kagome let out a startled shriek and tried to grab onto something solid as she accidentally tipped the wooden stepstool she was standing on. The vase she had been attempting to place on the tall armoire slipped from her fingers. Kagome squeezed her eyelids shut in anticipation of a hard fall for herself and a crash of porcelain for the priceless teal and gold vase.

Neither came.

Before either event could occur, a muscular arm caught her about the waist while the vase harmlessly landed in a ready, outstretched hand.

"You should take more care, wife."

"Se- Sesshoumaru!" Kagome's eyes shot open and she twisted around to bat at her husband's shoulders with hands balled into tight fists. Her heart drummed out an erratic series of sharp staccatos. "Don't sneak up on me like that! You nearly scared me to death."

Sesshoumaru easily placed the vase where Kagome wanted it to be and freed his right hand so that he could wrap both around her slim waist. Even standing on the step she was shorter than him by a good four inches, placing her eyes level with his chin. It never failed to amaze him, how many hues of blue her irises could shift into before finally deciding on one color in any given moment.

"I was not sneaking," he said quietly. His gaze briefly lowered to glare at the offensive piece of wood she continually, stubbornly, refused to throw away. "And what have I told you about using that old stepstool?" Seeing the obstinate angle of her jaw, Sesshoumaru's arms increased the strength of their hold. "Kagome…"

Ignoring the warning tone, she sniffed and crossed her arms as well as she could while trapped in his embrace. She said a little huffily, "I was perfectly fine until you startled me, Sesshoumaru."

His lips tightened into a straight line of disapproval. "Look at me."

Kagome stared at some distant point over his shoulder.

He growled low in his throat, the rumbling sound passing through the thin barrier of their clothing so that Kagome could feel the vibrations in her forearms where they were crushed against his chest and in her belly where she was pressed against his torso. Abruptly his arms released their hold and Kagome suddenly found her hands behind her back, held there by his one-handed hold on them. The other hand gently lowered her chin.

"I said look at me, wife."

Instead of complying, as any wise person would do in her position…

Kagome… ignored him.

Always pushing my buttons, aren't you, little kitten? Sesshoumaru bit back the grin trying to make itself known – she knew he hated repeating himself – and frowned forbiddingly. He waited; Kagome could never endure his silences for very long. Her resistance would eventually break down enough for her to give an explanation.

"I need the step," she finally said, "In case you haven't noticed, Sesshoumaru, this place was built around the idea that its inhabitants would be your height. I don't happen to be that tall."

He refrained from telling Kagome that the bridge of her nose crinkled when she scowled. It made her look extremely young and… absolutely adorable.

"And besides…" She darted a shy glance towards him. "The flowers were in full bloom this morning. I thought that the rooms could use a little cheering up."

Instantly his resolve to hold his ground disintegrated, and yet worry compelled him to scold her. "You should have found me instead of trying to reach so high on your own, Kagome. You could have easily fallen and hurt yourself," he pressed his right palm against her still flat belly, "or the baby."

Flustered, Kagome ducked her head. All of her ill temper evaporated at hearing the unadulterated awe in his voice. An unbidden heat crept up Kagome's neck and spread throughout her body. It was like she was a teenager again instead of a twenty-five year old woman and expectant mother.

"I-" She coughed and fervently prayed that her cheeks had returned to their normal color. "I wouldn't have taken that chance, Sesshoumaru."

He stroked her flushed cheek with his fingertips, saw his wife's cheeks bloom even more vividly than before. "You should be resting. One of the servants could have arranged the flowers for you."

"It isn't that much work," Kagome insisted.

He hummed low in his throat. "Except that you woke up early. Went out to find the flowers. Gathered the flowers. Clipped the-"

An index finger placed against his lips stopped his strange ramblings mid-sentence. Kagome knew her husband; he was not one to waste words. Compassion and understanding radiated from the very core of her being.

"What is the matter, Anata?"

…From her very essence…

"Tell me." She gently urged. "What's troubling you?"

…From her profound heart…

He sighed and pulled her close for a hug. Over a decade ago he would not have initiated such an embrace. Physical contact was something abhorrent and to be avoided at all costs, even if the contact was simple and harmless.

But now…

Breathing in her delicate sun-kissed scent…

Feeling the skin warmed from her morning exertions…

He wondered. Why had he ever thought such a ludicrous thing?

Sesshoumaru dropped his weary head to rest against her shoulder. And Kagome's simple response, the way her slight arms wrapped in silent, unquestioning acceptance around his shoulders, made him happier than any impassioned declaration of love could have done.

"I have been thinking about Inuyasha."

Kagome laid a kiss on the crown of his moon-white head. "Which explains your heartfelt sighs."

The feel of his silky hair was so familiar, yet still so indescribable. Kagome watched the liquid strands slip through her fingers. And waited. He would continue when he was ready to speak.

"I wronged him, Kagome."

Unwelcome tears formed and gathered on the bottom rim of her eye. They threatened to spill over thick, dark lashes. "Sesshoumaru…"

"Things could have been different for him. If I had been there when he needed me, if I had been kinder, if I-"

"Stop it," she said.

Sesshoumaru lifted his head to gaze fully into her distressed face. "I abandoned him when he needed me most." Regret was like a razor-sharp knife stabbing deep into his flesh; only this knife could inflict damage that no weapon ever could.

"You came back!"

Hot anger came out of the blue. The color seeped out of Kagome's eyes until a thin rim of black circled her flashing silver-blue irises. It was during times like this that Jaken would comment that Kagome's eyes changed the same way Sesshoumaru's did when he was driven to anger.

"You came back and saved his life when it mattered, Sesshoumaru," she argued. "It isn't like Inuyasha was without options. He wasn't forced into doing anything that he didn't want to. Naraku tricked him and Kikyou tricked him more than once, yes, but it was his choice to believe the lies. If Inuyasha made mistakes, then he did them on his own, so don't you dare take the blame for what his life is like now."

The unblemished skin of his face pulled taut over fine cheekbones. "I am partly to blame."

She snapped. "And so is he!"

The sound of labored breathing was all that could be heard in the otherwise silent bedroom. Sesshoumaru's jaw began to ache. At great cost, he forced his mouth to give voice to the thought that had been haunting him all morning.

"You should have been his."

The fierce glare disappeared. Not a trace of her fiery, indomitable spirit could be found as Kagome's face crumpled.

"Is that what you think? Is that what this is all about?" She somehow asked through a throat gone dry and hoarse.

"I don't deserve the happiness you bring me," he whispered.

And just that easily his will to continue was subjugated by her tears. Sesshoumaru cupped her face with unstable hands. He never could endure her suffering.

"Don't cry. Please don't cry, Kagome."

A disquieting fear took hold of him. In his mind's eye, each teardrop that managed to trickle past her cheeks was a strike against his immortal soul. It became imperative for him to stop the steady flow of salty droplets. Never releasing his wife, Sesshoumaru rained almost frantic kisses across her cheeks and upon her eyelids. In each tear that he lapped he tasted her sorrow as well as his.

"I'm sorry," he said. "I'm sorry."

When her crying only increased, he became a little desperate. Mindless to everything else, he focused all of his energy on comforting his wife. Murmuring the little nothings that he had learned – somewhere along the course of their improbable courtship – she liked to hear.

Little by little the kisses drifted toward her soft mouth as he followed the natural curve of her cheeks. And as he moved further along the delicate line of her jaw, as her sobs quieted into little hiccups, the nature of his kisses changed as well.

"I didn't mean to upset you," he said, brushing his lips over hers. "Don't pay any attention to my insanity, sweetheart."

Kagome sniffed and nodded, blinking away the residual moisture. "I know you didn't. It's just…" Frustrated by her inability to articulate as well as he, she blurted out, "You're not responsible for everything in the world, Sesshoumaru!"

"I know that."

Kagome stiffened at the obvious amusement in his tone. She pulled away to frown up at him. "What's so funny?"

Sesshoumaru hauled her back into his arms.

"You." He massaged her tense neck with nimble fingers.

"Me." He strengthened his hold to tilt her face up, and nip the tip of her nose.

"Us." He kissed her soft, soft lips.

Now it was not Kagome who needed the comforting, but he. Sesshoumaru had never expressed how much her crying upset him. Nevertheless, Kagome understood. When she became pliant and allowed his hands to mold her body to his, he realized that Kagome knew him better than he knew himself; in the calm that came after their storm of raging emotions, he needed some comforting too.

He needed her.

"I realize that I'm not solely responsible for what has happened to Inuyasha's life, Kagome." He placed a gentle kiss on her rosy cheek before releasing her. "But that does not absolve me of all guilt. I did play a large role, and it is only now that I fully see just how much I damaged him."

Kagome smiled sadly. "And so did I, Anata. So did Kikyou, Naraku, and, yes, Inuyasha's mother and your father. We all helped to shape Inuyasha into what he is today, but none of us more so than himself. So you can keep beating yourself up and letting the guilt eat at you, but know this: if Inuyasha wants to make anything out of his life, then he has to do it. No one else can do it for him."

Sesshoumaru gently dislodged her arms from around his waist. Lifting her hands to his face, he kissed the inside of one wrist, and then the other. "You are too kind."

She shook her head. "No, I'm not. If I were, I wouldn't be so hard on him."

"Ah, but you are," he disagreed. "Honesty is what he needs most after all of the deceit he has been victim to in his young life. You, Kagome, are the only person strong enough to give it with love and compassion. Do you have any idea how amazing that is? That you should be capable of such forgiveness after all of the wrongs he has done you?"

Molten amber intensified. "Do you understand just how precious such selfless giving is in this world?"

[End | Cycles of the Moon | Part III: Kagome]

Definitions:

Anata: You. However, coming from a wife to her husband, this can be translated into an endearment such as "darling" or "dear." The same does not apply the other way around. Unfortunately we live in a double standard world. -_-;

Author's End Notes:

Oh boy… I think that's the end of "Cycles of the Moon". At last! Hmm… like I said, I never meant to resurrect this fic. It was supposed to be a one-shot with just that first part. There goes that idea. ^^; I hope you all enjoyed reading it. Although this fic does fall under "angst" and "drama" I would like to think that even people who don't normally read these genres found something worthwhile in this story.

Until later,

Shun'u

Email: h_shunu@hotmail.com -or- shunu@fanfiction.net

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