Chapter 30

Author Note:

Okay, so...you. Yeah, you. I need your help. I don't wanna be a whiney bitch and say "wahhh, I'm a review whore, wahhhhhhh!", but I do want your input. These past couple of chapters have been super hard to write, mostly because I have no idea how to make a cold demon lord and a stupid, naive priestess admit to being in love to not only each other, but themselves.

So, help me out? Tell me if I'm doing ok. Am I heading in the right direction, or are you completely pissed at me for being such a failure? For those of you who do review, THANK YOU, and for those that don't, I wanna know what ur thinking because honestly I can't tell if I love or hate this chapter. You tell me.

P.S. THE SONG THAT IS QUOTED HERE IS AWESOOOOOME. Listen to it, it makes me cry sometimes, because I'm a sappy goo monster made of mush.

"I want to know your plans and how involved in them I am.

When you leave for good will I be forgiven?

And If you want roses you can go buy a bouquet.

If that just won't cut it, well what can I say?"

~Say Anything, I want to Know Your Plans

It was late afternoon, the sun at just the right angle to cast harsh shadows through the numerous windows that adorned the sky-palace, as a certain demon lord made a rather bold decision. It was not a decision he had come to lightly, but it was a decision that he would carry through nonetheless.

A decision which required certain...unpleasantries.

Sesshoumaru navigated the numerous halls with a sort of precision that could only indicate familiarity, or the practices of one very skilled tracker. The taiyoukai was, quite literally, following his nose, for he knew it could not lead him astray.

The hanyou's stench fills this palace in a most displeasing manner, the lord groused. It was a smell of burnt wood and traveled paths, scents which he did not find pleasing in the least, but most displeasing of all was a scent that was very familiar to him. It was his scent. The hanyou and the lord were kin, the scent of their blood marking them as equals, when Sesshoumaru saw them so very far apart.

Yet, blood is blood, no matter how filthy, he sighed in a resigned sort of way. He had always come to this conclusion about his half-brother. It was why he followed him from time to time, why he had protected him on occasion, and why he had not killed him when any other would have fallen to his claws.

The half-breed was family, in the most basic sense of the word, and Sesshoumaru was honorable enough to treat him with the most basic of privileges of this status. Which, of course, was why he was here.

"Inuyasha," he called, arriving outside the room he knew the whelp to be hiding, but making no move to enter. This conversation would not be a pleasant one, he was in no hurry to begin.

He heard a muffled 'keh' and then the distinct sound of something very breakable hitting the door and shattering.

Childish as always. He sighed, this would be a practice in extreme patience, a virtue of which Sesshoumaru possessed very little.

"Inuyasha, we have matters to discuss," he announced, formality lacing his words. "Though, I will leave you to your childish sulking if you refuse to act in a manner befitting the son of the Great Dog General."

A few quiet moments passed, in which Sesshoumaru was sure Inuyasha was fighting the impulse to yell countless expletives at him, but in the end the hanyou merely sighed.

"Well, are you gonna just stand out there? What, you can't even look me in the face while we talk?" The half-demon scoffed.

The taiyoukai pushed open the shoji screen, stepping into the room and then quickly closed it behind him. The room he now found himself in was dark, the shades drawn and the furniture in various states of disarray, though nothing seemed to be broken. Even the vase at his feet was whole, though he had clearly heard it shatter.

"It just puts itself back together," Inuyasha stated, briefly glancing at Sesshoumaru over his shoulder. His back was turned to the taiyoukai and he stood facing the wall, his arms crossed into his sleeves. "Can't break anything in this damn place."

It was obvious the hanyou had been having a tanrum.

"Half-breed…" Sesshoumaru paused, deciding that civility was in order. "Inuyasha, I believe you and the miko have come to a misunderstanding."

The red-clad hanyou bared his teeth. How dare he come to him and talk about Kagome? Wasn't it enough that he had finally won, that he had finally taken something so precious from him that his will to fight, to survive, was gone? Then again, the arrogant bastard would want to rub it in his face, and why not let him? He had lost. He had lost Kagome and he didn't deserve her back if he had let that asshole taint her.

"Yeah? Well, why isn't she telling me this herself? Why did she send you, lover boy, huh?" Inuyasha spat, his brow hardened in defiance, but his eyes full of hurt and defeat.

"I am here of my own accord," he said so calmly that it made Inuyasha all the more furious. "As for the miko, I do not know why she has not confronted you herself. Perhaps you have scared her away with your childish tantrum."

"Tantrum! Why I outta⎯"

"No, there will be no fighting, I will have this conversation be a civil one or I will leave," the demon lord said crisply.

Inuyasha fixed him with a calculating stare before shrugging and looking away. "Keh, what do I care if you leave. Either say what you've gotta say, or get out 'cause I outta rip out your throat for doing what you did to Kagome."

The hanyou's voice spoke her name with the sadness of something lost and never to be found again, and Sesshoumaru had to wonder if he would feel the same way were she to turn from him.

"And what, dear brother, have I done?" He asked blandly, but with a softness that only those closest to him would notice.

Inuyasha did not.

"Taken her, that's what!" Inuyasha growled, spinning to face his brother, the anger he had obviously been fighting now evident on his face. "She's mine, the one thing I got in this whole damn world, and then she disappears with you and suddenly I'm stuck with jack-shit!"

"I have not 'taken' her, Inuyasha," he sighed, the uncharacteristic gesture catching the hanyou off-guard, his ears flattening in distrust.

"You're lying, you bastard," he scoffed. Bastard, he's just trying to get to me.

"I am a great many things, brother, but a liar is not one of them," Sesshoumaru flipped his hair over his shoulder in a distracted sort of way and continued. "The miko remains loyal to you, but has become loyal to this Sesshoumaru as well. As loyal as I have become to her."

Inuyasha eyed his half-brother warily. He had been thinking about this situation for the past days and nights and anguishing in the absurdity of a world where is brother and his miko loved each other as he had once loved Kikyo. He knew it could not be true, he knew it, but did he dare hope? "So, you and Kagome, you're not...together?"

"Not anymore than you and Kagome are together," he answered. "Which is why we have matters to discuss."

Inuyasha's heart soared despite himself, but something about the way Sesshoumaru worded his answer was just a little off...Inuyasha looked suspicious again, though there was a spark in his eyes once more. "What would you have to talk to me about?"

"Courtship."

"Courtship," Inuyasha repeated the word aloud, tasting it on his tongue and finding it foreign and tart. "What the hell are you talking about?"

The inuyoukai huffed in annoyance; of course the whelp had not been versed in youkai courtship rituals, and of course it would wall upon his shoulders to correct this fact.

"There are certain...traditions one must follow when one is of noble status and wishes to court his female of choice. Being half-youkai, and a Prince of the Western lands, it is your responsibility to observe these traditions, do you agree?" He asked in a clipped tone, one that spoke of getting this over with as soon as possible.

The hanyou's ears flattened, his cheeks coloring. "Uh...sure, but I don't see why we need to discuss this now

"Because, Inuyasha, we are brothers," he emphasized as though this explained everything and Inuyasha was being particularly dense.

The half-demon had no idea what his crazy half-sibling was babbling about, but he decided that he probably didn't like where this was going. "Look, you obviously have somethin' important to say, but I have no idea what you're jabbering about."

Sesshoumaru had the sudden revelation that his parents deserved a lot more credit than he had ever bothered to give them for putting up with his undoubtedly numerous questions as a child. Explaining things was absolutely frustrating.

"We are brothers, Inuyasha. Normally if two males intend to court the same female, they fight to the death, the winner claiming his prize," Sesshoumaru explained, impatience dripping from every word, "but when two brothers decide upon the same female, there is an entirely different protocol. In that case, the winner is decided by the female."

Inuyasha's teeth clenched as is half-brother's words started to sink in. "And you're telling me this because…"

Inuyasha was not nearly as daft as he seemed, but what he thought Sesshoumaru was insinuating was ludicrous. It was impossible, no, it was more than impossible. There was no way that his arrogant, demon-blooded, son-of-a-bitch brother could possibly want that.

"This Sesshoumaru was under the impression you sought the miko's attentions," Sesshoumaru intoned. "I am simply informing you that I do as well."

The hanyou's heart clenched. No, why would Sesshoumaru want her? Hadn't he just explained that he was not together with Kagome? Why was this happening! It was as though he had been having a nightmare and woken up for the briefest of seconds, in which he thought himself safe, only to discover that the nightmare had become reality.

Why did Sesshoumaru want his miko? And, more importantly, did Kagome want Sesshoumaru too? Inuyasha had always thought that her heart belonged to him, but he had been callous, ignoring her simply because he did not wish to deal with whatever it was he felt about his current priestess, and the one he had loved so long ago. He had refused her advances, turned to Kikyo ⎯ despite the fact that he knew it hurt Kagome deeply ⎯ holding onto a love he had long ago lost, but through all this he did love Kagome too. He had simply not been ready to move on...had she waited for him? Or had he pushed her away one too many times, making room in her heart for someone else…

His sadness and uncertainty manifested itself in the only release it had ever known: anger. "Keh, you ain't got a chance! Kagome would never want you, you bastard!" Inuyasha yelled venomously.

The taiyoukai, for the first time in his long history of dealing with the tiresome wretch, felt his words strike him cold, for there was the very real possibility that she would not want him. "The miko will choose who will have the right to court her, Inuyasha, I will announce my intentions this night, I suggest you do the same if you wish to be considered."

"I'll do whatever the fuck I want, asshole!" Inuyasha yelled, drawing his sword. "And don't you kid yourself in thinking I'm lettin' you two go to hell alone, I'm not leaving Kagome with you! She's my responsibility! Now get the hell outta here and go back to whatever hole you crawled out of!"

"It is not my quest you seek to intrude upon, Inuyasha," he said scornfully, the prospect of traveling with his brother even more repulsive than usual. He knew that this discussion was a horrible idea ⎯ why did he come here? He should have just ignored tradition and pursued the miko on his own, but that would have been dishonorable.

And if Sesshoumaru was one thing above all else, it was honorable, though at the moment he couldn't imagine why. It brought him nothing but grief.

"Do as you wish, half-breed, but if you wish to join this quest, it is not my permission you must seek." Not even sparing Inuyasha a second glance, he turned on his heel and left.

"I don't need anyone's permission to protect what's mine!" Inuyasha called after him. "So, just stay away from Kagome!

The taiyoukai sighed. I can't, little brother, I can't.

Sesshoumaru was acting...weird. Well, weirder, Kagome corrected as she watched him lazily fold the clothes she had dumped out of her bag in her hurry to find a certain feminine product. He folded them perfectly ⎯ of course ⎯ stacking them in neat piles that put her own piles to shame.

Couldn't she be better than him at something? She thought maybe she would have him beat at laundry, but obviously not. Stupid perfect demons.

Amazing laundry folding skills aside, there was very obviously something troubling the demon, and it made Kagome nervous. Well, to be honest, she had been nervous around him ever since this afternoon when they had spoken about certain, uh, things. She wasn't really sure what he expected from her, and ⎯ quite honestly ⎯ she didn't want to have to think about any expectations at this point in time.

She was confused. So very confused. His confessions had left her at a cross roads, an intersection between a love that had had been burning inside her for so long, and one that had just begun to ignite. It was the difference between and steady, strong type of love and an intense and passionate one. The difference between Inuyasha and Sesshoumaru. She didn't know what she wanted, she didn't know who she wanted, and it would take a great deal of thinking and soul searching to figure that out, and she was feeling lazy.

She didn't want to deal with this, not now, not while they still had this job to do, not while Naraku still plagued the world with his presence. What would romance give her other than a distraction that she didn't need? She had a job to do, she had a world to save, and she couldn't deal with the conflicting waves of emotion in her tattered heart. She was only 16, she was still a girl, and she knew that her relationships with both Inuyasha and Sesshoumaru ran deeper than anything she would have been asked to deal with were she a normal girl.

Were she to face her feelings, were she to sort them out and choose, it would be for life: there would be no dinners, no movies, no dating, there would be a commitment, and she did not know if she was ready for that. She did not even know if she loved Sesshoumaru...she didn't even know if she could. Her head told her no, but her heart refused to speak.

Yet she did love Inuyasha, she had for a very long time, but she wasn't entirely sure that the only reason she still chased after him was because he refused to be caught. She hadn't thought of him in a romantic way...well, since she had started traveling with Sesshoumaru. Yes, she loved him, but what kind of love was it?

She had loved him so intensely and unwaveringly that she wasn't sure why anymore. Yes, he was still admirable and brave and strong and courageous, but the butterflies he used to give her were gone. It was almost like he was her favorite color; you fall in love with one color and you go crazy, buying nothing but that color, wearing nothing but that color, prizing that color above else. Yet, after a while, that color isn't as exciting as it once was. And even though that excitement is gone, if someone asks you, 'what's your favorite color?', you automatically answer, thinking of that period in time where that color was the most beautiful thing in your world.

Had her heart grown so familiar with loving Inuyasha, that she hadn't realized her love had changed? Loving Inuyasha used to be her whole world, but now it was just something that was there to occasionally examine when all other things faded away. Did that mean that loving Inuyasha had become less important, or that everything else had simply become more important?

She thought she loved him, wanted him to be something more, but she wasn't so sure anymore...

Besides, she didn't even know if Inuyasha would accept her if she chose him...she wasn't entirely sure Sesshoumaru would accept her either. After all, he hadn't exactly said anything other than he would die for her, which was a big statement to be sure, but it wasn't a marriage proposal or anything. Maybe dogs were just overly protective of the things they carried with them, and she was just something that would wound his pride were she to die.

But she didn't know. She didn't know anything! And she wanted it to stay that way so that she wouldn't have to deal with it, because dealing with it seemed very convoluted and messy and she just didn't have it in her. Her life was a soap opera and all she wanted to do was slip into a coma and wake up with amnesia, so that her life could be simple again.

Maybe I should just hit my head on the door frame until I give myself a concussion, she thought miserably. Maybe then I wouldn't have to think about anything. I could just be poor, brain-damaged Kagome and no one would expect anything from me.

Yet even someone with brain damage had to admit that the awkwardness between the miko and her taiyoukai companion had increased tenfold ever since he had disappeared after her bath. He had left in a rather taciturn mood after directing her back to the room, something obviously on his mind, but she hadn't bothered to ask. She wasn't sure she had wanted to know the answer, what with all the confusing confessions and tension between them, which she was still trying very hard to forget about for the time being.

Her efforts were completely unsuccessful, as her thoughts had taken up the nasty habit of repeating Sesshoumaru's words, 'I would die for you', over and over in her head. It was like a never ending echo, and she just wished it would go away so that she could simply look at her taiyoukai companion without feeling as though she were about to melt into a bubbling puddle of mushy goo.

And this feeling had been particularly hard to ignore since he had returned from where ever he had run off to, seeing as he was doing nothing but starring. At her. Into her eyes. A very intense, deep stare that one would expect a dying man to give water.

Kagome blushed and turned away, hoping to hide her face. She was determined to finish her packing and ignore the strange behaviors of make youkai. That were in love with her...maybe...which she was trying to forget about.

I'm a mess, she thought to herself miserably. I am going to need SO much therapy, not that any therapist would listen to my tales of demons and time-travel without locking me up. On second thought, therapy is probably a bad idea…

Kagome had the urge to throw a hissy fit.

Maybe I should just embrace the crazy. Then I could just sit in a corner meowing like a cat; it would be a lot cheaper than therapy and I could play with all the yarn my heart desired. Awesome.

Chancing another look at Sesshoumaru ⎯ who was still starring at her like some creepy stalker who was terrible at subtly ⎯ she had the insane image of a red-eyed, white-haired dog chasing a black, scatter-brained cat and quickly cleared her throat and averted her eyes to hide her laugh.

"Okay, I think everything is packed," she announced, grabbing the shoulder strap of the poor, yellow monstrosity.

Suddenly the miko squeaked as a firm, clawed hand grabbed hold of her wrist.

Her eyes immediately sought Sesshoumaru's and slowly she let go of the bag, her cheeks burning. She looked away when he let go of her wrist and shouldered the bag himself. He had carried her bag before, but somehow this was different. This was important and she couldn't help but feel that this simple act of kindness meant far more than she knew.

"O-okay, um, let's go?" She asked, turning her eyes from the taiyoukai and trying desperately to still the butterflies in her stomach. She told them to catch fire and die slow deaths because they were only making her thoughts more complicated.

Shaking her head slightly, she heard Sesshoumaru shift and felt his claws gently prick the small of her back as he started to lead her from the room.

"Lady Kagome," a small, slight girl chirped, appearing in the doorway with the tiniest of 'pop's. "Lord Sesshoumaru," she acknowledged them both with a low bow that was awkward and jerky.

Getting over her initial surprise, Kagome tried very hard not to yell at the girl for giving her a minor heart attack. It was like the palace was haunted and it was only a matter of time before something literally appeared in front of you and made you come ever so close to peeing your pants.

"Uh, yes?" Kagome decided to ask, seeing as Sesshoumaru would probably just be rude to the poor servant.

"I am here to deliver an invitation and a message from my great master," the small, brown-feathered girl twittered. "In one hour, you are to join the master for a feast this night. All in your party will be in attendance. It is to be a formal, and mandatory affair."

Kagome almost chuckled as the bird-girl sent an accusing glance at Sesshoumaru. She could almost feel his desire to slice the poor, jittery thing in half.

"And the message?" Sesshoumaru asked, his tone cold.

"Ah, yes," the girl muttered, her cheeks coloring subtly. "My great master wished me to tell you that, 'since you two have been taking your dear, sweet time, I have decided that we will feast tonight and depart tomorrow at dawn. You had better be ready or I will skin you both and hang you in my foyer as an example to all those who cannot be bothered to keep track of time'."

The servant ended her rant with a low bow and mumbled something about meaning no disrespect, before scampering off down the hall.

"Sheesh, he sure is impatient for someone that lives forever," Kagome scowled, ignoring the guilty voice in the back of her head that told her she had been planning on leaving yesterday, but had let her personal business get in the way.

"Time is important to all, even those who do not bend to it," Sesshoumaru shrugged lightly, his hand still on the small of her back. She wished he would take it away already because it was very hard to concentrate with his hands on her.

"And YOU," she accused with an exaggerated roll of her eyes, using the conversation as an excuse to turn and face him, effectively breaking their contact. "Do you have to be so infallibly all-knowing?"

He shrugged in a way that said, I do not have to be, I simply am. Neener, neener, neener.

Okay, maybe Kagome added that last part on her own.

"Well, it's annoying," she huffed, a playful gleam in her eyes. "And you know what? You're annoying. So there."

Sesshoumaru raised an elegant browin mock surprise. All of a sudden he glanced every so quickly passed her shoulder, as though something down the hall had caught his attention, before his glance returned to her. He smirked.

"My apologies miko," he intoned, that awful smirk still on his face. "How fortunate for you that tonight's dinner is a formal affair; I do know how much you enjoy dressing for such occasions. Perhaps you shall enjoy it to such a degree that you will forget your annoyance."

"Oh no…" Kagome muttered, a look of absolute horror overcoming her facade.

"Lady Kagome!" Taka and Hakuchou cawed in unison, their elegant head peering around the doorframe a moment before their bodies followed.

"I hate you," she mouthed to the evil, horrid demon lord, before putting on a weak smile for her bird friends.

Sesshoumaru simply smirked as they led her away to her doom.

Somewhere, deep in the intricately woven interior of a silver palace in the sky, a young, beautiful miko was being tortured.

The girl looked on in desperation as her tormentors swaddled her in fabric, constricting her lungs, and preventing her escape. She grimaced at their reflections as she watched the whole horrible ordeal in the full length mirror standing so innocently across from her. They didn't notice, ignoring her completely as they turned to her hair, weaving and pulling the stubborn strands into an intricate bun.

Somewhere, deep in the intricately woven interior of a silver palace in the sky, a young, beautiful miko was plotting everyone's murder.

"Aren't we gonna be late for the feast?" Kagome whined hopefully.

Taka gave her a grave stare. "If you must be late, then you must be late. Perfection takes time, Lady Kagome, and once everyone sees you they will know it was worth the wait."

"But I-I'm hungry," she exclaimed. She knew she was just grasping at straws, but god damn she just wanted to get out of here!

Not to mention she was starting to have awful cramps and she really had to pee. She had been stubbornly refusing to use the bathroom since she only had one tampon and it had to last as long as it could.

But, trooper that she was, she pushed through it, and when they were done and she was allowed to step up to the mirror and get a good look at herself, she almost had to admit that the torture was worth it.

Her hair had been pulled back from her face and woven into a complex bun that sat snugly at the base of her neck. Two ivory combs inlayed with what looked suspiciously like sapphires held it in place, the crown of the combs just tall enough to peak over the top of her head on either side, and behind her left ear were three perfect white flowers.

Her lips had been painted ruby red, but Kagome had protested enough that they begrudgingly left the rest of her face bare.

The beautiful Kimono she was stuffed into was a deep, midnight blue so dark that it would have appeared black were there not enough light. The garment so tight that she wore nothing underneath save for her underwear, and the sleeves so long and voluminous that they brushed the floor. Her obi was white with black brocade dragonflies dancing along the entire length. It was tied into an impossibly large bow, the ends tickling playfully at the backs of her knees.

She was stunning…and just a little exposed, she decided, eyeing her very obvious cleavage suspiciously. She had always known she was rather...well endowed, but this was ridiculous. Her bird 'friends' were making her into some...sexy sex-goddess, and that was something that Kagome most definitely was not.

"Uh, hey guys, don't you think that maybe this Kimono is a little...small? I mean, I should find one that...closes all the way...you know, in the front." The priestess tried tugging the front closed, but to no avail.

"Stop that," Hakuchou warned, giving her a slap on the hand and grabbing hold of her shoulders as she began pushing the miko out of the door. "You look absolutely tiny in this, and besides, there is no time to change."

"No, no time at all," Taka agreed, looping her arm under Kagome's and dragging her forward as Hakuchou continued to push from behind. "You are very late, Lady Kagome, we must hurry."

The miko sighed and let them guide her through the halls with an attitude of tired resignation. Tonight was going to be a long night.

When Kagome was ushered into the room, her overzealous servants announcing the 'elegant and gracious, Lady Kagome's' arrival, the whole room could not help but to stop and stare.

She was beautiful, entrancing really, a vision that put even the most beautiful and prestigious demonesses to shame ⎯ and that was saying something since demonesses were notoriously beautiful and infamously vain.

Izanagi, Miroku, Inuyasha, and Sesshoumaru simply stared, while Sango was overcome by a jealous sort of awe. The only two immune to her were a kit and a cat.

"Kagome, you sure look nice," Shippou said bluntly. "You better come sit by me, they're gonna bring out the food soon!"

Kirara mewed eagerly.

Grateful for the distraction, the miko quickly took her place beside the fox and rubbed behind his ear affectionately. "Good, because I'm hungry, how about you, Shippou?"

"Keh, he's always hungry," Inuyasha scoffed, his trance apparently broken. He sent the kit a glare that had nothing to do with Shippou being hungry and everything to do with where Kagome was sitting.

"Like you should talk, Inuyasha," she scolded, a playful grin on her red lips. The hanyou nervously glanced at her and then averted his eyes to his lap, a blush on his cheeks.

Oh dear kami, they're just boobs, everyone! She grumbled to herself, tactfully resting her hand on her chin so that her arm covered most of her cleavage.

"Well, um," Izanagi cleared his throat. "Now that we are all here, let the feast begin!"

And with that a score of servants appeared, silver platters in each of their hands. They flitted about, depositing a bowl of steaming soup in front of everyone, which they all sipped with the utmost vigor. Well, all except Sesshoumaru, who ⎯ Kagome remembered ⎯ did not eat human food.

As well as eating, it seemed as though the taiyoukai did not have to dress up either. Apart from Sango and Miroku who wore new, expensive looking, yet plain, kimonos, everyone else seemed to be in their usual attire. So, it was all some conspiracy was it? Some plot to get the pretty, little miko into something worth a whistle, or two?

Two can play at that game, Kagome thought, narrowing her eyes at Izanagi as she barely avoided tipping her spoonful of soup down her front instead of down her throat. She knew this was his doing.

"Oh, Izanagi-sama, I have to thank you for this kimono," she said earnestly, folding her hands in her lap and squeezing her arms together, strategically accentuating her bosom.

His eyes boggled, it was so...typical.

"Um, yes," he said, suddenly taking a great interest in his bowl of soup. "Just something I had, you know, laying around."

Kagome smirked. "Oh, well, I'm glad you didn't go through any trouble then."

"No, no trouble at all," he smiled at her, which immediately brought his attention back to the very thing he had been avoiding...which brought his attention back to his soup.

She is evil, he told it. She is the most evil, vile, erotic...NO! Not that! She's awful.

And thus the night proceeded in much the same way. More food was presented, more conversation was had, and somehow Izanagi always ended up talking to his food. In fact the only one who did not contribute in any way, shape, or form, was Sesshoumaru.

He simply sat there, still as a statue, staring fixedly at a point just above Kagome's head. He did not eat, did not move when the servants took away his untouched food and replaced it with the next dish, which would surely be as untouched as the one before it. He didn't even argue with his half-sibling, who had been periodically throwing the demon lord the dirtiest looks anyone had ever given anybody. He just sat there. Not blinking, not breathing, because he was much too busy.

Much too busy thinking about Kagome. Ever since he had come to the realization that it was his intention to pursue her, which had admittedly only been a few hours ago, he had been finding it a lot harder to ignore some of her more...feminine attributes.

The sway of her hips, the swell of her breasts, the softness of her skin and lips...

It was one thing to admire a fine sword being forged, yet quite another to decide to purchase it as your own. For when you did that, you would most certainly wish to wield it. Immediately. With all due haste.

And the way his miko looked, made him want to wield something much less sharp than a sword, yet just as impressive.

She will be mine, he promised himself. He would not let his foul brother have her ⎯ Inuyasha did not deserve her.

And so he planned away the evening, waiting patiently for Kagome to stop shoveling sugary treats into the kits eager mouth and for them to be excused.

"Miko," Sesshoumaru's voice was finally heard as Izanagi announced the end of a wonderful night and sent them off to bed.

Kagome turned towards him, a smile on her face. "Ah, so it lives. I thought you had gone brain-dead or something."

No, just struck dumb, his mind supplied. "Miko, there is something I must discuss with you."

"Oh...now? Can't it wait until we get back to your room?" She asked, yawning.

"No."

At their words Inuyasha's ears twitched and a scowl overcame his handsome face. "I told you to stay away from her, asshole," he growled, stepping between his brother and his Kagome.

Sesshoumaru did not growl, but the look he gave Inuyasha was enough to set him aflame. "Do as you wish, hanyou, and this Sesshoumaru shall do as I wish."

His ears flattening, the boy reached for his weapon.

"No," Kagome warned, her small hand grabbing his wrist and preventing him from reaching the sword's hilt. "Inuyasha, Sesshoumaru is my friend, just like you, and that means that you can't fight each other or I will be very upset. Got it?"

Inuyasha huffed, pulling his hand free of her grasp. "Keh."

Satisfied that any epic, life-threatening battles had been avoided, Kagome smiled. "So, what did you wanna talk about?" She asked the taiyoukai.

Sesshoumaru opened his mouth, his words had been chosen carefully, an oath of loyalty and protection should she accept him, yet they would not come. "You look pretty."

The demon blinked dazedly at the words he had just spoken.

"Oh...well, thanks," she said, giving him a funny look. Inuyasha scoffed beside her.

"I...it pleases me," he offered, his eyes widening slightly in disbelief as he spoke. Why am I babbling like an imbecile?

"Uh...okay." The miko raised a brow at him and nodded impatiently.

Taking a deep breath to collect himself, the stoic demon-lord ignored his half-brother's mocking chuckle and urged himself to find the words that he wanted.

"Kagome Higurashi, I, Sesshoumaru, pray that you will find me worthy of your attention. You are my woman of choice, and should you wish it so, this Sesshoumaru shall provide for you and protect you, until my heart no longer beats. I will remain at your side and you shall be at mine as my lover and equal. We shall rule the West together, and the West will be stronger for it."

Sesshoumaru finished his speech with a bow, lowering himself to one knee and placing his lips quickly to her wrist, before lowering his head, his hair falling over his shoulders and pooling at her feet.

Kagome stared at him dumbly, her mouth slightly open. "Uh...what?"

Did Sesshoumaru just say all of that at once...to me? Did he just ask me to marry him...or something? What the hell is going on!

"What the bastard is trying to say," Inuyasha snarled, his arms crossed and his ears back, "is that he wants to court you...whatever the hell that is, and that I gotta say it too or he wins. Keh."

"Um...court?" Kagome repeated dumbly as Sesshoumaru rose, his nostrils flaring in anger.

"Half-breed," he ground out, "you will adhere to tradition. Either announce your intentions or leave."

"What?" Kagome squeaked, her panic rising as she watched the two brothers stare each other down. Apparently Sesshoumaru won, because Inuyasha looked away first and the taiyoukai gave him a triumphant 'hn'.

Inuyasha gave Kagome a nervous glance, which he quickly brushed off and replaced with a brilliant blush. "Well, I'm in too. Kagome, I know that I can be a real asshole, but you gotta know that I...well, what you mean to me. Don't pick this bastard, don't leave me."

Kagome's world was upside down and hot pink. The sky was made of cookies and the ground was jello and nothing made sense ⎯ least of all what was happening.

Am I completely off-base or did the BOTH just tell me they want me. ME. Stupid, silly, clumsy Kagome. Me. A human. Who isn't Kikyo. Who isn't a demon...just me? I need to get this Kimono off, it's obviously driving all the men insane!

"…court." She repeated like a tape stuck on repeat. Her eyes frantically searched for Sesshoumaru's, begging for answers.

He shifted uncomfortably. "It is a tradition practiced by youkai nobility," he explained carefully, his eyes never leaving hers. "A male chooses a female and she must then choose him. The male is generally expected to prove his suitability to both the female and her family."

Kagome struggled to keep it together. "And...how do they do that?"

"Gifts," he supplied, eager to answer her questions. "Food, clothes, riches. As well as protection, loyalty and…"

"Yes," she urged.

"Unwavering attention."

"Keh, what a load of⎯

"Shhhhh, Inuyasha," she scolded. She needed to know exactly what they were asking her, exactly what all this meant. Blushing, she turned back to Sesshoumaru. "And uh...what happens, you know, after that?"

Sesshoumaru looked away, embarrassment marring his face for the first time since childhood. "Betrothal...or rejection."

"S-so, I have to choose. One of you?" Kagome stuttered, her eyes flashing between the two brothers, her head feeling full and heavy, her heart even more so.

"Or you may reject both of us," the taiyoukai said, his deep voice quiet and cold.

"I…" Kagome breathed, her hand going to her forehead and her heart beating wildly out of control. She stumbled back a few steps until her heels hit the wall. She slumped against it, thankful for its strength when her legs were quickly losing theirs.

"I need to go home. I need to go home!" She panted, her eyes wild and her breaths coming in short, panicked huffs. "I have to go home right now. Please, someone take me home!"

Inuyasha and Sesshoumaru gave eachother worried looks before rushing to Kagome's side.

"Where?" was all Sesshoumaru asked as he grasped her hand firmly.

"Bone eater's well!" She breathed.

And in a ball of light Sesshoumaru and Kagome were gone, leaving Inuyasha to punch holes through every wall in sight.

Why were they doing this to her? They were giving putting her in an impossible situation and Inuyasha knew that she would rather die than hurt a single living creature, even if that creature was his abominable half-brother.

But really, this was her fault. She had made them ⎯ the most distant and cold beings in all the world ⎯ make room in their tattered, shriveled hearts just for her, and now she was being punished. There was a price for being loved so intensely, and as she was carried back to her home, Kagome was surely paying it. As Sesshoumaru's light surrounded her, whisking her far, far away, her heart was quickly ripping itself to shreds.

Chapter Notes:

Sometimes little girls just have to panic

We're not proud of it, but that's just how it is

It's like when you watch 'Titanic'

You just have to cry...you didn't? well I did