His footfall was soft atop the polished linoleum.

'How has it come to this?' he wondered.

White washed walls and open doors passed by him on either side, but he paid them no mind. It didn't feel real. Even the knots of apprehension in his stomach, that wound tighter and tighter with each step, felt as though they were somehow disconnected from the rest of him.

It had been months since he'd last seen her, four to be exact. Four months of anger, bitterness, unanswered questions and a constant, troublesome pain that resided in the center of his chest. He didn't have a name for it, only knew it was there from the moment just before his eyes opened each morning until he went to sleep at night.

He blamed her, of course, and why shouldn't he? The traitorous bitch.

He hated that she possessed the ability to cut him so deep; hated just how much he loved her, needed her… His love had become a deep and cankerous rot, fed by bitterness and vitriol, that took root in his heart and festered.

'Never again', he would tell himself over and over, 'never again'.

And for a while, he even managed to convince himself that she no longer mattered.

So it struck him on the side of ironic, that after four months of trying to erase her from his life, the moment the news reached his ears that she was sick his world had come to a standstill.

"You should come," the grave voice on the other end of the line had said. "If you don't...well…you might not get another opportunity."

He'd listened to those words in silence, acutely aware of the ice cold touch of panic slowly creeping up the back of his neck.

Why now?

Why her?

Why?

Breathing was difficult after that, and moving even harder. It seemed impossible, ridiculous even. He wanted to laugh it off and dismiss it as an elaborate ruse, but he knew better. He knew her better.

His hands were shaking as they gripped the steering wheel and his throat suddenly felt too dry. He swallowed to push down the growing nausea churning his stomach to no avail.

It wasn't supposed to be like this. Even now, as he drew closer to her room, reality had yet to sink in. He kept expecting to wake up, the prisoner of some wanton dream brought on by a late night and too much booze, but the stench of sickness and death masked beneath the reek of sterilization told him otherwise.

Waking up in his bed at home would have been easier, anything would've been easier, than stepping across the threshold before him into the world he was about to enter; a world of truth and consequences, mortality and vulnerability…

There was no turning back.

His first thought was that she looked smaller than he remembered.

The disease had taken its toll; she looked faint, too thin, and whiter than the sheets tucked around her petite frame. He faltered in the doorway with his hand lingering hesitantly on the jam. In the pit of his stomach another knot of anxiety wound itself tighter. He had no right to be here, none whatsoever, but the only direction his body seemed determined to move was forward.

And that was how he found himself sitting next to her, his eyes trained on the slow rise and fall of her chest. She breathed in time with the heart monitor at her side, slow and methodical. Her eyes slowly opened and he was relieved to see that, unlike the rest of her, they hadn't changed. They were the same toffee brown hue he remembered, only now they reflected surprise and pain instead of laughter.

He held her gaze a moment, realizing afterward that he'd been waiting to see a glimmer of hatred there as well only to find it nonexistent. He couldn't bear to think of the things he'd done to her, the spiteful venomous words he'd said.

"I-…"

Ashamed, he bowed his head and willed his shaking hands to be still. Was it already too late to apologize?

The sounds of the hospital were too vivid a reminder of why they were there. Her heart monitor beeped loudly, filling the silence within the room. He listened and thought it sounded too much like a clock, ruthlessly counting down the days, hours, minutes, they had left.

…So much wasted time…

"I know," she answered softly. "I'm sorry too. I shouldn't have kept this from you."

He glanced up to find her gazing at him with a hopeful expression and boldly reached up and took her hand in his. Sucking in a deep breath, he blew it out slowly and swallowed the lump in his throat.

While looking into her eyes it was possible for him to fool himself into thinking that the past months of shared agony between them had never existed. He could pretend that he'd never treated her like she meant nothing to him and forget that he let her walk out of his life without a fight.

He could even pretend that she was going to be okay and would most definitely pull through…almost.

"I can't ask your forgiveness," he said, his words slow and articulate, "because I have no right. I want to make this right, Kagome. I want…"

He hesitated before his other hand reached out to cover hers. His voice grew quiet as he asked the one thing he knew he had no right to ask of her.

"Promise me you'll fight?"

His heart stalled, gripped by a kind of panic and fear he'd never known. He couldn't lose her, not yet.

He needed this.

He needed her.

If he only had the time, just a little more, just enough...He could change. He could help her get better. They could get through this – together.

Surprisingly, her grip was strong when she squeezed his hand and a faint, hopeful smile flitted across her lips.

"I promise," she whispered, her eyes smiling at him from behind her tears.

As he gathered her to him he couldn't hold back a smile, or the quiet sigh of relief that escape his lips. Because her words, small though they were, had given him more than enough.


Author's Notes for the Curious:

I got my inspiration for this little drabble ficlet after reading the news stories about Jade Goody's death. Allow me to digress - while I don't have any particular attachment to Ms Goody, I thought that her death at such a young age from cervical cancer was a vivid reminder to us all just how short and precious life is. We're all human and we make mistakes but it's important to realize them for what they are and fix them while we still have the time to. I wanted to show through the backwards progression of time in this story that even the most beautiful and loving relationships can be tarnished by such simple things as a lack of trust and communication. That's the premise I was working with as I wrote this and it sort of blossomed from there.

I don't like to think of this last chapter as an ending between her and Sesshomaru, but rather, a new beginning. And while what they both went through in the course of their split was painful, it taught them valuable lessons too - about what was truly important to them and what they'd taken for granted. So not totally a lot cause.

I think their relationship would be quite a bit different going forward, out of necessity as well as wisdom. They were lucky enough to get a second chance at a happily ever after - how long it lasts is entirely up to you, the reader :)

Thanks again for taking the time to follow this through with me to the end. This has been a lot of fun to write and challenging too (in a good way!).

~ Langus