A/N: This is the final installment of this story. I want to thank each and every one of you for your wonderful reviews. It has truly been a pleasure to write, and I hope you have enjoyed it. A very large debt of gratitude is owed to imanewme for catching all of my goofs before I sent these out. May you all have a wonderful holiday season, however you choose to celebrate it.

Part Twelve - Warm Hands, Warm Heart

What is it to love someone like me? That I still cannot say. But I can say I know what it is to be loved.

Of course it lies in the big gestures such as standing by your side in grief, of helping to heal past pain, of simply offering acceptance without judgment. But it is the little things that stir the soul and brush away the weight of regret like the pretty blush across her skin when your lips press against hers; the smile that lights the room and reserved only for you; the soft cries of ecstasy at the touch of your fingers, and the feel of warm naked skin finding its way to your own in the still quiet of the night.

Long I had followed the lure of ultimate power, destroying lives and wreaking havoc to take what would only make me stronger and leaving the rest to rot. But that power was a cruel and false mistress to follow, offering me nothing but wisps of what I desired but could not possess - nearly destroying me in the process.

My father knew the truth of it all, back then. He had tried to teach this last lesson - yet there are some things that must be learned though one's own trials and suffering.

True power was found not in the steel of a blade, but in the depths of the heart. My father had found strength at Izayoi's hands, and his gift of the Tenseiga was a testament to the heights I could achieve - if I would have only the courage to reach for it.

Rin gave me a glimpse.

Yet Kagome showed me the world.

I know her life will be unbearably short. There will never be enough time to satisfy me, and I have no intention of giving her up easily. The fates may try to take their share, but they have never encountered the stubbornness of this Sesshoumaru.

But for now we dwell in the moments of happiness - ones that have made the blackest of days bearable once again. There will be time for all else when the raven-haired moon has set - and for now there will not be a wasted moment - for no other could possibly love the darkness under my skin.

. . .

Soft blue light shone across the room as claws clicked across keys, golden eyes flicking up every few moments to her slumbering form.

Kagome lay wrapped in heavy blankets near the dying fire, rolling over under their weight. She cracked her eyes open when her hand reached over and blindly searched for the missing warmth of his skin and the secure embrace of his arms.

Sesshoumaru quietly turned off the laptop and gently easing under the covers next to her, his nose pressing against black locks as her fingers entwined through long white fur, pulling him closer. Strong, striped hands circled her waist, and she gave a contented sigh against the bare skin of his chest - soft yet strong that smelled of the coming storm.

She pressed her lips lightly against his skin as her hand made its way to his face, cupping the side and dragging her fingers along the stripes of his cheek. He closed his eyes, relaxing under her touch with a soft exhale. Fascinated by the texture of his markings, she continued to trace along all of them with deliberate slowness - along the crescent moon and across the magenta lines of his eyelids. They were raised slightly, yet with a feel and softness all their own.

His breath grew faster, along with the strong beat of his heart; a heart that held more damage and pain than one should ever have to bear alone. Her fingers continued their journey over his features, along the shell of his ear and down the straight ridge of his nose while their feet tangled together under the covers, his toes running along the edge of her foot.

Kagome pushed the long silver bangs away from his forehead, running her hand along the side of his face. Golden eyes opened, bright with emotion. "I don't deserve her," he thought.

A small smile graced her lips, reading the look on his face. "Let's just find our happiness while we have the time," she said as she reached up to place light kisses along his jaw. Sesshoumaru pulled her into a tight embrace, and her kisses grew bolder along the nape of his neck.

Pushing back against her shoulder his red eyes blazed under her touch, and he claimed her lips with a passionate kiss, saying all he could say where cold words would never do justice.

Sweat glistened as bare skin slid against bare skin; as long raven tresses mingled with soft silver ones; as graceful curves met hard angles, and as he lost himself in the deep blue depths of her eyes.

Cries of ecstasy and gentle moans carried through the stillness of the house.

Kagome awoke in the deep of night to the sounds of the gentle rhythm of his slow and steady breaths.

Silver hair fanned out across the pillow, catching the light of the moon shining in from the window. He was deep in sleep; face relaxed and the heaviness of the past lifted from his brow, at last finding a sense of peace.

"Merry Christmas, Sesshoumaru," she whispered.

He opened his eyes. "Merry Christmas, Kagome," he said, wrapping his arms around her, both falling back into sleep amidst the silence of night.