Disclaimer: I snuck into Rumiko Takahashi's house and stole the copy rites to InuYasha! But then the cops read this disclaimer, and I had to give them back. Now I'm in jail, and Takahashi still owns InuYasha.

Please vote in the poll on my profile to let me know if you noticed the Doctor Who reference.




Kagome sighed and dropped her head back to stare up at the sky as she reclined on the grass behind Kaede's hut. In just a few minutes, their band would be separating for the first time since they'd come together at the start of their quest. They had all seen so many things, met so many people. They had done the improbable, overcome the impossible. Kagome closed her eyes, unable to help the longing she felt as she thought of their early days together. She could see InuYasha, still and silent and so devastatingly sad, pinned against the Goshinboku. She saw Kaede, the wary old woman who protected the village she'd dedicated her life to. She could see Shippou, the sneaky brat who'd been desperate for any chance to avenge the family he'd lost. She saw Miroku, the wily monk who'd carried her off with a lecherous grin and stolen the Shikon Shards with careless ease. She saw Sango, hopeless as she fought against the only enemy she could see to drown the pain of her clan's destruction. And she saw herself, the naïve selfish teenager, too absorbed with her own wants and needs to understand the danger around her.

They'd all changed, she knew, it was impossible not to have. And part of her broke when she realized that they would never again be the group they had been. More than likely, the next time they were all gathered together would be when they met to defeat Naraku. After that – and Kagome had to believe that there would be an after – they would all be free to create their own lives. This would be the last day of their little group.


Shippou's voice cut through Kagome's thoughts. She shook her head, banishing those depressing thoughts from her mind. "We're going to be just fine." She muttered. "We're friends, no matter what else happens."

"Kagome?" Kagome looked up to see Sango leaning over her. "Everything all right?"

Kagome smiled. "I was wallowing. But I'm better now." She pushed herself into a sitting position and rolled her neck, wincing as it cracked. "Mind helping me up?"

Sango shook her head and moved around Kagome to lend her a hand. Once Kagome was on her feet, they walked together around the hut to where the men were waiting. "Ah, such lovely spring flowers, displayed for us today!" Miroku exclaimed. "To think, I shall miss seeing Kagome's most interesting outfits."

"Pervy monk!" Shippou exclaimed.

"What took you so long, Wench!" InuYasha shouted. "We can't stand here all day, you know!"

"InuYasha!" Kagome shouted. InuYasha's ears immediately flattened as he flinched in expectation of subjugation. Kagome suddenly stopped, shaking her head with a laugh. InuYasha scowled as the rest of the group laughed with her. Kagome threw her arms around him, pulling him into a tight hug. "I'm going to miss you, InuYasha." She whispered. "Be careful."

InuYasha scowled. "Keh, as if I'd let myself get killed." He muttered. "You should be more worried about yourself."

Kagome laughed again as she released him. "I'll be careful, InuYasha, I promise." She turned to Miroku, and after a warning glare, gave him a similar hug. "Take care of yourself, alright Miroku? Don't push yourself."

Miroku gave her a silent squeeze back, and Kagome shook her head when his hand didn't so much as drift towards a grope. "I will be wary, Lady Kagome." He said softly.

There was silence for a moment, the five of them staring at each other. Then Sango hefted her hiraikotsu onto her back. "We should get going." She said quietly, taking Miroku's hand. "If we don't start now, we won't get any decent distance before nightfall."

"Yes." Miroku answered. "We should go."

They left the circle as Kirara expanded to her larger form.

"I have to help Kaede." Shippou muttered. "Rin shouldn't have to do it by herself."

"We're counting on you, Shippou." Kagome told him. She almost reached for a hug, but the stiff set of his shoulders made her hesitate. Instead, she put a hand on his shoulder. "Do your best, Shippou. And please try to be careful, for my sake."

"I'll be fine, Mama." Shippou answered. "You just watch. I'm going to protect everyone in this village!"

"I know you will." Kagome laughed. Shippou grinned and scampered to Kaede's hut, leaving just InuYasha and Kagome. InuYasha scowled, crossing his arms and crouching on the ground. Kagome bit back a laugh and crouched down next to him. "You know, the last time it was just you and me, you swore you were only going to travel with me because you wanted the Shikon no Tama."

"What makes you think I don't, Wench?" InuYasha scowled.

Kagome just smiled at him. "I promised to stay by your side, and you promised to protect me."

"Keh." InuYasha hmphed. "That don't mean nothing."

Kagome laughed. "Yeah, I guess we've outgrown them." She looked over at InuYasha, and tentatively reached out a hand, taking his in her own. "I meant what I said a while ago, InuYasha. You're still my best friend, no matter what else happens."

InuYasha was frozen for a moment, then he gently squeezed her hand. "Sure." He muttered, keeping his eyes on the horizon.

Then he jumped to his feet, "I've got better things to do than stay here all damn day!" He announced. He paused for a moment, then shook himself with a growl and whirling towards a figure in white a short distance away. "Hey bastard! If anything happens to Kagome, I'll make the rest of your existence a living hell!"

Kagome couldn't help the giggle that escaped her at that. She stood and turned towards Sesshoumaru. "I'll see you soon, InuYasha."

InuYasha hesitated, then nodded. "Yeah. See you."

And with that, Kagome was left alone.

Kagome sighed and packed away her things. She wasn't losing her friends, she reminded herself. They were getting a break from each other after years of traveling. Their friendship wouldn't suffer just because they were apart for a while. And if it was a bit lonely. . . well, she'd just get used to that.

Kagome straightened and started to turn, only to give a shout and nearly fall over when Sesshoumaru suddenly appeared behind her. "Bells!" She shouted. "That's what I'm getting you for your birthday. Bells! You're like a really freaky ninja!"

Sesshoumaru raised an eyebrow before turning and beginning to walk. Kagome shook her head and lifted her pack off the ground. "Wait up, would you?" Kagome demanded, smiling as she ran after him. Things would certainly be different, but at least it looked like she'd be having some fun.


Sesshoumaru growled. After nearly four months, he'd thought that he knew what it was like to travel with the Miko no Shikon. Breakfast, travel, lunch, travel, dinner, make camp, with interspersed altruism on the part of the humans and a few demon attacks thrown in just to keep them all on guard. Usually the demons they encountered were weak creatures, easy enough to deal with before moving on. Sesshoumaru had had no concerns upon the group's separation.

He had forgotten the psychological advantage in having larger numbers. Even with his presence, the idiots who hungered for the Shikon shards seemed to believe that simply because there were two instead of seven they would be easier to steal. After only a week of travel, there had been nearly double the amount of attacks, and they were not the weaklings they had dealt with previously.

Their current attackers were from a nest of serpent demons, a rather nasty group even for their species. Still, a mere band of five were hardly enough to pose a challenge for a demon of Sesshoumaru's calibre. As one surged forward, Sesshoumaru lazily sidestepped the attack. With a quick flip of the wrist, his poison whip slashed through the demon's neck, easily decapitating it. The next tried to sneak around to his armless side while his attention was focused on the other one, but a quick kick sent it smashing into the ground with enough force to flatten its skull.

With a cold smirk, Sesshoumaru turned to the last of the nest. He growled as he caught sight of the serpent retreating. He had never had much tolerance for cowards. A small burst of speed brought him alongside the gutless demon. Before the demon had time to register Sesshoumaru's presence, Sesshoumaru's fist had him crashing to the ground. He stood over the serpent, his claw glowing green with poison. "You would have been better served to stand and fight." He said, contempt filling his every word. Then he plunged his hand down into the demon's chest, wrapping his hand around the thing's heart and releasing his poison directly into it. He smirked as the poison took effect, melting everything in its path into liquid.

He straightened, flicking the blood and grime off his hand nonchalantly. The fight had almost been disappointing. He'd expected more, especially from a nest with such a reputation. It was almost as if-

A shout caught his attention. With a curse at his own stupidity, Sesshoumaru whirled and sped back to where the fight had begun. The five he'd fought had been nothing more than fodder, a distraction to draw him away while the others went after their true target: Kagome. With his speed, it took only moment to reach her. He found Kagome sprawled on the ground, an unstrung bow at her side. A quick glance around the clearing revealed several used arrows strewn around the area and two of the serpents just a few feet away from her. Kagome was scrambling to string her bow as the two grew closer.

Sesshoumaru snarled in outrage, springing forward to place himself between Kagome and her assailants. The two serpents stumbled back in surprise, giving Sesshoumaru the necessary room to release his poison whip. With two quick swipes, the serpents lay in pieces at his feet.

Sesshoumaru's eyes darted around the clearing as he took a subtle sniff, ensuring that no more lay in waiting. He glared down at the corpses in front of him, cursing his hasty actions. The two had dared to harm what belonged to him, and their deaths had been far too merciful.

A pathetic growl from behind made him turn, in time to see Kagome glaring down at a rock at her feet. "Stupid thing!" She muttered, giving it a kick. "I was doing perfectly fine until you came along."

Rage flooded him. "You did not call for me."

Kagome froze at Sesshoumaru's voice, only just human enough for her to understand his words through the growling. She looked up and shivered as she met a pair of bright red eyes. "I was fine, Sesshoumaru." She tried to soothe. "Really, it wasn't a big deal. I purified the other one and I was keeping them back when they tried to get too close."

"You should have called for me when you realized you were under attack." Sesshoumaru advanced with every word until he towered over her, his tone ice cold.

Kagome took a timid step back. "You were dealing with the others. Really, it wasn't a big deal. They were pretty easy to deal with."

"You are an incompetent fool!" Sesshoumaru snapped, one hand shooting out to grab her arm and stop her retreat. "You do not have the skills to handle one of these beasts, let alone three of them on your own. Such arrogance and stupdity will result in your death. Or do you believe yourself to be invincible, with your vast years of experience."

A righteous anger filled Kagome at that. She tried to pull her arm out of Sesshoumaru's grip and, failing in that, stepped forward so she was bare inches from him. "Who are you to say anything about my experiences? I've been fighting in this era for years now. If I say I could handle them on my own, then I could have handled them on my own!"

"So tripping over a rock was part of your plan then." Contempt practically dripped from Sesshoumaru's voice.

Kagome flushed. "That was a mistake. I still could have taken care of them."

"If you truly believe that, then you are more of a fool than I had realized." Sesshoumaru released her, pushing her away in the process. "Your fighting skills are worse than useless. You are a libabilty to those around you by your mere presence on the field."

Kagome could feel angry tears filling her eyes. "You have no idea what you're talking about, you arrogant bastard! Just because I haven't trained from birth to kill every living thing in my path-"

In a flash, Sesshoumaru stood over her again, his face mere inches from her own. "I would suggest that you do not speak of that which you could never possibly understand." His words were barely a hiss. In an instant he had straightened, whirling away and walking away. "Next time, you will remain out of the way."

Kagome was nearly shaking, a whirl of emotions flooding through her. "Bastard." She murmured, moving to grab her pack. "Arrogant, condescending bastard." It was a testament to her own stubborn will that only one tear slipped her control.


A week later, the worst and longest week Kagome could ever remember, she managed to find a good enough excuse to convince Sesshoumaru that a trip through the well was necessary. The tension between them was nearly palpable and it grew steadily worse each day. They had stopped speaking to one another almost entirely, communicating only for the absolute essentials. Worse, Sesshoumaru seemed to have lost any trust he'd had in her. He followed her everywhere but to her daily baths, keeping her within his line of sight at all times. It was making Kagome almost claustrophobic, and she was far too close to getting another rosary for the arrogant bastard.

Kagome sighed as she collapsed on the bench, panting with exhaustion as she recovered from her run. She'd run for nearly an hour, her anger pushing her through the burning of tired muscles and the ache of exhausted lungs. Now she just felt empty, without even her righteous fury to carry her.

But that anger was making a rather hasty comeback as she felt a flare of demonic energy somewhere behind her. Demonic energy that Kagome knew far too well. With a growl she started to stand, only to be stopped by a firm hand on her shoulder. Kagome's head snapped up, ready to tell off whoever it was, only to be stopped by the sight of soft gold eyes.

"Kagome." Kin greeted.

Kagome felt the anger in her leave with an exhale. "Kin." She answered, summoning a shaky smile.

"I very much doubt that whoever has caused such anger in you will withstand your wrath." Kin said as he moved to sit beside her. "And I have learned over the years that very few actions taken in such a state are beneficial to either party."

Kagome scowled and turned away. "Believe me when I say that he is an insufferable irritant with an inability to feel anything but disdain for everyone in the world!"

Her voice had risen to a shout by the end, but Kin merely raised an eyebrow. "This is quite unlike you, Kagome."

Kagome deflated, slumping back on the bench. "I know." She murmured. "I don't like feeling like this."

Kin hesitated for just a moment before slowly reaching forward to put a hand on hers. "What exactly has whoever 'he' is done to make you so angry?"

"He treats me like a child!" Kagome exclaimed. "Every time we run into trouble, he rushes in to sweep it away. And the minute I try to take care of myself, he flies into a rage because I've put myself into danger!" She stood again, needing to do something about her mix of feelings. "It's as if he thinks I'm completely helpless."

Kin raised an eyebrow. "I cannot imagine anyone believing that you are defenseless, Kagome."

The unexpected compliment made Kagome blush. "You'd be surprised." She murmured, pushing her hair away from her face. "I just. . . I'm tired of it."


"I'm tired of being taken care of." Kagome sighed, rubbing at her face. "I'm tired of hiding behind everyone else while they take the risks. I'm tired of cleaning up the mess when it's too late to do anything to actually help. For once, I would like to be useful. And I thought that Sesshoumaru. . ." She shook her head. "Never mind." Kin stared at her a moment, then slowly shook his head, an amused smile on his face that made Kagome grit her teeth. "I'm glad that I could amuse you!" She snapped, turning to march away.

"Do you have someone to protect?"

The unexpected question made Kagome pause and turn back to Kin. "What?"

Kin chuckled. "Do you have someone that you would rather die than see hurt in any way?"

Kagome's hard expression softened. "Of course. I'd do anything for one of my friends."

"I expect so." Kin answered. "You give all of yourself to those you care for. I have seen it with my own eyes." He stood slowly from the bench, moving to stand beside her. "Tell me, what would you do if one of them was hurt because you failed to protect them?" Kagome shivered at the thought, wrapping her arms around herself. Kin nodded, her answer apparent. "You will recall that Sesshoumaru made you a part of his pack. That means you have become his responsibility. It is duty to protect to the best of his ability. Having met the young man, I can say with a certainty his reaction to failure would be just as drastic as your own."

"But I can protect myself." Kagome huffed. "I don't need someone to pro-"

There was a flash of white, and Kagome froze as Kin's hand gently gripped her throat. She looked up at Kin with wide panicked eyes, taking a deep breath in preparation for a scream. Kin quickly released her neck. "If I had wished you ill, you would have been dead before you hit the ground." He said quietly. "Demons undergo strict training from an early age because without such training, we become a danger to ourselves and to those around us. In this day and age, it is far safer for humans. It is rare to find someone who trains as we do. I highly doubt that a high school girl such as yourself has ever had such training."

Kagome shivered at his icy tone. Only the soft sadness in his eyes kept her from running. "So what am I supposed to do?" She whispered.

"That is for you to decide."

With that, Kin started passed her, heading for the trees behind them. Kagome sat back down on the bench, unable to help the shiver that shook her small frame. Something about the way he had spoken was all too familiar.

But still. . . gathering her courage, Kagome raced after him, catching up to him just as he reached the trees. She grabbed his arm and gave a tug, pulling him around to face her. When he raised a quizzical brow at her, she glared up at him. "That was a nasty way to make your point." She said, her voice stronger than she felt. "But I get it. And just to be sure you don't misunderstand, I'm not angry." She released him and crossed her arms stubbornly, daring him to contradict her.

Kin stared at her for a moment before his harsh glare softened. "You do not change." He whispered. Confused, Kagome opened her mouth to question him, but Kin had already turned. "I would suggest you return to your companion." He tossed back to her as he began to stride off.

With a sigh, Kagome turned away. She'd give him time to cool off. Perhaps next time, he would be more pleasant company.


Sesshoumaru growled softly as he watched the older demon take a seat beside Kagome. He knew that the old man wouldn't harm her, that he was fond of her and had previously gone out of his way to protect her. However, his only encounter with the male had ended. . . badly, to say the least. Disastrous would most likely describe it better. Every instinct he had was pushing him to get Kagome away from a proven dangerous rival.

But he was most assuredly not wary enough of the man to risk dealing with Kagome again.

There was a crack behind him, diverting his attention to the presence behind him. "Enjoying the view?" A voice called up to him. Sesshoumaru glanced over his shoulder to see Kin's mate staring up at him. He stared at her for a moment then dismissed her, refocusing his attention on Kagome and the elder demon. "Spying on her isn't going to endear you to her, you know." Sesshoumaru ignored her. "I wonder what she would think of your behavior. Perhaps I should-"

With a growl of irritation, Sesshoumaru dropped from his perch to land before the persistent annoyance. "Your mate is currently occupied, woman. You would be wise to keep your tongue between your teeth."

The smile that grew on the obnoxious woman's face threatened to break Sesshoumaru's composure. "Now Sesshoumaru, that is a nasty way to say hello. Surely you have better manners than that." Sesshoumaru sent her a glare, keeping one ear trained on Kagome's conversation with Kin. "Is there a particular reason you're hiding in the bushes, rather than staying with her?"

"This Sesshoumaru's business is no concern of yours." He snapped as turned away.

"If you can't tell me what's happened, then how can I help?" Ao asked.

"This Sesshoumaru requires no aide."

"Right. Because you know everything there is to know about how a human woman adapts to living within the pack dynamic."

Sesshoumaru paused. As much as he hated to admit it, even to himself, the woman had a point. He had never had to teach anyone about being part of a pack. Inuyoukai understood it instinctively, and Rin had been able to pick it up from hanging around. And his first lesson had resulted in a fight that ended with Kagome storming off back to her own time. It couldn't hurt to gain a different perspective on the problem. But he couldn't bring himself to request aid from this woman.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw Ao give him an indulgent smile, and it put Sesshoumaru on edge. "Please, Sesshoumaru. Tell me what happened."

Sesshoumaru steeled himself to speak. "The woman will not allow this Sesshoumaru to protect her, as befits a member of this Sesshoumaru's pack. She did not take well to instruction."

Ao made a noise that sounded suspiciously like a snort, but in the name of the truce between them, Sesshoumaru pretended not to hear. "How exactly did you attempt to instruct her?"

"I informed her of the truth. That she was untrained, and therefore had no business becoming in a fight." Sesshoumaru answered.

Ao nodded. "I see. So you told her that once she was trained she would be able to fight. That sounds reasonable."

Sesshoumaru felt something tighten. "I did not."

Ao raised an eyebrow. "Alright. But she must know already that once her training is complete that you won't have a problem with her fighting."

Now there was something squirming. "She is in no training."

Ao cocked her head in confusion. "Well, if she is already trained, why aren't you allowing her to fight?"

"She is not trained." Sesshoumaru answered.

Ao's eyes narrowed and her stare became accusing. "Let me be sure that I understand the situation correctly. Kagome has had little training, if any. You have not been training her in any form. Instead, you belittled her when she tried to defend herself." Sesshoumaru remained silent, but that must have been answer enough. Ao's hands moved to her hips, a disappointed look on her face. "Sesshoumaru, what is the most important duty of a pack leader?"

Sesshoumaru's eyes narrowed. As a pup, he had had many a grueling lesson about the duties of each member of a pack. Most importantly, on the duties of the pack leader. His father had ground into him all that he must one day become, and he had often had the same question posed to him when he had failed. But this woman was not his father, nor an elder to whom he had to answer. She had no right to question his actions.

"Your observations are appreciated, but do not presume to lecture this Sesshoumaru." He warned.

"I merely asked a question." Ao answered loftily. "Did it make you uncomfortable? I do apologize."

Sesshoumaru grit his teeth at the woman's mocking. "I will warn you once more. Be careful how you speak to this Sesshoumaru."

Ao sighed. "You know, I'd forgotten how much of a pain you dogs can be. You're so concerned about protecting her that you don't see the person doing the most damage is you."

Sesshoumaru growled. "Woman, you have no concept of what you are speaking of."

Ao smiled, and Sesshoumaru could feel his hackles rising from the condescension in that smile. "Sesshoumaru, turn around."

After a moment of suspicion, Sesshoumaru slowly turned. He froze halfway around as he saw a person standing there. Kin Nishinoshu stood just ten feet away, and Sesshoumaru had had no clue to his approach, had not even realized that he was there. Somehow the older male was masking his presence so thoroughly that even now Sesshoumaru had no sense of him except for his eyes. His unease made him tense and he unconsciously shifted into a defensive stance. "So this is where your bravery comes from." He snapped.

"Kin has long since learned that I am fully capable of handling my own affairs." Ao answered calmly. "The only reason he would interfere would be if for some reason I became incapacitated. He is the leader of our pack, and he knows each of our limits because he has personally trained each one of us."

Sesshoumaru heard the unspoken sting in that even as he refused to acknowledge it. After a moment, Ao sighed. "Stubborn dog." She muttered. She began walking, passing Sesshoumaru to continue on to her mate. Once there she turned back to him. "Sesshoumaru?" Sesshoumaru turned his gaze more fully towards her, acknowledging the question. "Just one more thing. It's a question, but I don't really expect an answer. It's just something I thought you might want to think about." She paused, as if debating with herself, before sighing again. "Why is it that you didn't want Kagome to fight?"

For a moment, Sesshoumaru remained silent. Then he straightened. "This Sesshoumaru shall. . . think on it." Then he turned and left the couple behind.

Sesshoumaru waited until his younger self had disappeared from sight before turning to his Kagome. "I will never understand your penchant for overreaction."

Kagome snorted, rolling her eyes. "At least I'm not a stubborn overprotective worrywart." She reached out to take her mate's hand. "We were a pair of idiots, weren't we."

Sesshoumaru pulled her closer, twirling her so that she landed against his chest with his arm wrapped around her. "Yes. Some of us more than others."

"Hey!" Kagome protested, pulling away slightly. "I was being perfectly reasonable."

Sesshoumaru shook his head solemnly. "They do say that memory is the first to go. Paranoia is a close second." At Kagome's squawk of indignation, Sesshoumaru pulled her close again. He waited out her struggling, done more out of habit than a true desire to escape. Once she'd settled, he spoke again. "He is becoming worried."

"We have a bit more time." Kagome answered.

"It is becoming too dangerous." Sesshoumaru protested. "Anymore than this, and we could push too hard."

"I know." Kagome soothed. "Believe me, I do. But there's still a bit more we need to do."

Sesshoumaru sighed, allowing Kagome to maneuver herself out of his hold. "I will trust you on this." He whispered. "Even if you are exhibiting signs of dementia."

With a huff, Kagome released his hand. "Come on, then. We've still got two more laps around the park to do." She sped off almost before she had finished. "Race you to the other side!"

Sesshoumaru sighed. He could already feel the migraine coming.


When Kagome finally returned home to the Shrine, she could feel Sesshoumaru's presence outside. For a moment, a petty part of herself wanted to ignore him and go inside. But the more mature part of herself won out and, after stopping inside to check in with her mother, she went to hunt him down. She found him at the base of the Goshinboku, staring up into the branches of the tree. She came to stand beside him, and for a moment they remained quiet.

Then Kagome spoke. "I'm not a child." Sesshoumaru turned to look at her, but she couldn't bring herself to look back. "When I came to your time, I was fifteen. I was selfish and naive, and just generally an idiot. But I'm not fifteen anymore." She looked up at Sesshoumaru. "I know that you want to protect me, but I'm not a child. I've been fighting since the day I arrived in your time. I may not be very good, but I'm not helpless either. Traveling with my friends, we settled into a pattern. We've kept it because it's always worked, and changing things might mean making mistakes. But that doesn't make me helpless. It doesn't make me useless."

Sesshoumaru stared down at her silently. She waited patiently, understanding that this was probably something far outside his experience. After a moment, he looked back to the tree again. "This Sesshoumaru is responsible for the safety of the pack. To allow an untrained female into battle would be to disregard that duty." Kagome crossed her arms and opened her mouth to protest, but Sesshoumaru continued before she could utter a word. "You will be trained."

Kagome's jaw snapped shut. "Sesshoumaru, we don't have time to train me. We're so close to the end, and stopping now would jeopardize everything."

"This Sesshoumaru will train you." He answered. "We have spoken of this before."

Kagome bit back an angry retort. "Look, I appreciate that. But no offense, you're a demon. How are you going to help me with my holy powers?"

"You will be trained, this Seshoumaru has stated so." Sesshoumaru answered. "We will begin in the morning."

Kagome snapped. "Look, I appreciate the help. But you're being an idiot if you really think that-"

"Kagome." Something in his tone made her pause. She met his eyes, bewildered and annoyed. Sesshoumaru held her gaze. "This Sesshoumaru has given his word. Do you believe I shall break it?" Kagome blinked, then slowly shook her head. "Then we shall begin tomorrow morning. Dawn."

Kagome knew she should answer, should try to press the point. But instead, she nodded slightly and turned to return to the house. It took until she reached the house before she registered the second part of Sesshoumaru's statement. "Wait. What do you mean DAWN!"


Late that night, after the rest of Higurashi Shrine's occupants had long since fallen asleep, Sesshoumaru stood over Kagome's sleeping form. Ao's words kept circling through his mind, her questions taunting him as he struggled to understand what she was trying to say.

Why is it that you didn't want Kagome to fight?

He growled to himself. It was a simple question with a simple answer. Kagome was untrained. Having her fight in a battle, any battle, would irresponsible and cowardly. As her pack leader, he could not allow her to participate.A simple question, a simple answer.

Except Sesshoumaru had lived amongst the Western Court for far too long not to understand the true meaning behind a person's words.

When Ao asked the question, she wasn't asking about that one skirmish. She was asking why Sesshoumaru had wanted to keep Kagome out of every battle. It had been this motive that had stopped him from training her from the beginning, or even after he had given his word that he would do so. Ao was asking why was keeping Kagome from fighting her own battles.

And that was question was far from simple.

With a snarl Sesshoumaru whirled away, only barely remembering not to slam Kagome's bedroom door. With his speed he was out of the Higurashi residence in a mere twenty seconds and at the Goshinboku in ten more. The ancient tree, the only connection to his own time, had been the only place in this modern world he had found any peace. Under its branches he sat, staring up into the blank sky as his thoughts whirled.

Why? Duty and honor defined him, had made him who he was. Why would Sesshoumaru go back on his word, ignore his duty? What could possibly be so important that he would risk everything he was? What made this single human girl so special?

At that thought, Sesshoumaru let out a reluctant chuckle. A girl born with the Shikon no Tama in her body. A girl who fell down a well into a time five hundred years past. A girl who made friends humans and demons and hanyous. A girl who could walk amongst enemies and turn them into allies. A girl who than anything, wanted to protect everyone. A girl who, after everything she'd seen and done, still believed in second chances.

There wasn't a being in the world more special than Kagome Higurashi.

Sesshoumaru sighed, his gaze dropping down. There was the truth of it. She was unique, unlike anyone that he had ever met. Her power came from a strange combination of wisdom and innocence, a purity that surpassed any he'd seen before. And more than anything, he wanted to protect that. Kagome may have killed, but she had never done so except in the most dire of circumstances. The thought of her staining herself with blood made him furious, and the thought of training her to do so made him nauseous.

Sesshoumaru looked up at the house, in specific, Kagome's window. It was pathetic. It was weak. It was against everything that he had ever stood for. But he would not be so weak that he could not admit even to himself his own failing.

He loved Kagome Higurashi. It was foolish and ridiculous. They were five hundred years and worlds apart. But somehow in his foolishness, he had fallen in love with the woman. And he knew that she would never look at him in the same way.

With a snarl, Sesshoumaru's fist slammed into the Goshinboku, shaking its leaves with force enough to destroy most others. He was a daiyoukai, the Lord of the West. He would not reduce himself to the role of a sniveling damsel, waiting on the sides while desperately wishing for her prince to look her way. He would keep his feelings to himself, where they would cause no one harm but himself. He would fulfill his duty to Kagome, teach her to fight and protect her. And at the end of their war, he would leave her behind and shut off all contact.

Decision made, Sesshoumaru stood from his seat and returned to the house. Tomorrow would begin soon enough, and he would begin the necessary actions to finish their fight. And if a small secret part of himself would hoard the days he had left, then it was no one's business but his own.



Horse Wolves: OG, I thought Kagome was going to realize her feelings first!

Obsessive_Goddess: Yeah, I got bored of that. I have three stories already where we have some Kagome angst. I thought it was about time Sesshoumaru got a taste of it.

Kagome: [snorts] As if that maniac has any concept of angst! He's nothing but an arrogant bastard without any form of human emotion.

Sesshoumaru: As if this Sesshoumaru has any need for your pathetic human emotions.

Obsessive_Goddess: Watch it, you! I spent three years inside of Serephina of the Kamis (May She Live Forever)'s hea. And while it is a dark and scary place, I did learn a few things!

Sesshoumaru: This Sesshoumaru is not afraid of any pathetic attack you may pose against him.

Obsessive_Goddess: [Cackles maniacally] Oh, my fair haired friend. You truly have no idea what you're up against. Frankly, you just aren't that scary anymore. In fact, I -

Horse Wolves: [slaps hand over OG's mouth] Don't you dare! That power is too great for anyone, especially someone like you!

Obsessive_Goddess: [pouts] Fine. But if he goes after me again-

Sesshoumaru: Your writing style is inane, errant, inscrutable, and frankly, pedantic.

Obsessive_Goddess: VENGEANCE WILL BE MINE!