This oneshot is a direct followup to my earlier story, Utter Doom; I recommend reading the other one first if you haven't already. I debated for awhile about just adding it on to Utter Doom, but I always feel funny about sequels, maybe because they can never live up to what you imagined. Like many Disney sequels, which I treat as a sort of fun extra "fanstory," and then pretend they didn't really happen in canon. To that end, I'm housing this separately from Utter Doom so that it can still be read as a standalone if you choose.

Please forgive me for what is possibly a very OOC Sesshoumaru; this version of him is hard to pull off convincingly. But I just had to torment poor Kagome a little more.

I shall dedicate this to LC Rose, because she is awesomesauce (you should be reading her fics, seriously), and because it is her birthday! Or was her birthday. I am late. Drat.

It was all just a dream, Kagome decided. That was the only explanation. Some sort of delusional, hormone-driven sex dream. A crazed manifestation of her biological clock going tick-tick-tick, time to get laid, Kagome! Just a stupid, stupid dream.

Or…or really, it had been a nightmare! Kagome nodded to herself. Yes. It had been a nightmare. A terrible nightmare about a terrible demon trying to do terrific—terrible, she meant terrible—things to her.

No, it couldn't have been real. Therefore it wasn't. There was just no way she'd actually lost, of all things, a vibrator out in the woods. And definitely no way Sesshoumaru had discovered it. Certainly no way he had offered to pleasure her senseless (maximum pleasure, her mind recited helpfully). And—and even if the first three were true—which they weren't!—definitely no way he'd actually meant it.

Except, that didn't explain why he was following her.

Kagome bit her lip as she felt his aura tickling the edge of her senses again, feather-light. She glanced around at her friends, but none of them seemed to have noticed a thing. They never did.

He'd been stalking them on and off for nearly three weeks, but every time she felt his presence they just strolled along—tra-la-la-la-la!—happy and carefree and completely unaware of the youki that brushed over her like warm breath on the back of her neck. It made her skin hypersensitive, as if he were actually touching her.

Maybe she was just hallucinating, she thought desperately. They had pills that could fix that, right? Right?

Another curl of youki flicked over her like a gentle reminder, making sure she didn't forget he was there.

Which was good, Kagome decided, because it meant he didn't know that she thought about him every freaking moment. It certainly wasn't because she wanted to! It was like his stupid offer had…had hotwired her brain! He'd told her to think about it, and now she couldn't do anything but think about it. Stupid, traitorous brain. She was sure if he'd told her to jump, her subconscious would respond not with How high? but rather, Into your arms?

His aura stroked lightly through the edge of hers again, almost tauntingly. No—flirtatiously. Her eyes went wide. Oh! How dare he harass her personal bubble like this? It was completely unfair!

The youki gave her another playful prod as if in agreement. Stifling a squeak, she flared her own aura out, trying to shove his back.

The way his aura blazed back with almost gleeful enthusiasm made her cringe in alarm. I think I just agreed to play his game.

"Are you feeling all right, Kagome?" Sango asked.

"I'm fine!" she said, drawn back to her surroundings. "Perfectly fine!" As she calmed her racing heart she realized his aura was suddenly gone. She heaved a sigh of relief. Then realized Sango was still staring at her, a funny look on her face. "W-why…why do you ask?" she asked nervously.

"You looked sort of…stressed."

"Me? Stressed?" Kagome squeaked, the mention of the word stress sending her heart into giddy spasms. "Of course not!" she said with a forced laugh. "Why would I be stressed?"

Sango raised a skeptical eyebrow.

"Hey! What're you standing there yakking about? Those shards won't find themselves, get moving already!" Inuyasha yelled brusquely, giving each of them the evil eye. Sango rolled her eyes and picked up the pace, and Kagome secretly thanked Inuyasha. For once she was grateful to him for being such an overbearing slave driver.

They continued treading along in companionable silence, their previous subject forgotten by everyone but Kagome. Who was way more than sort of stressed. It was more along the lines of deeply stressed. Intensely stressed. Maybe even profoundly stressed.

Why, it was entirely possible at this point that she had achieved the hitherto unknown level of maximum stress.

(Maximum pleasure! her mind shot back. What the hell, brain?).

Dear God, she wrote in her head as they walked, pleading with the sky above them, Whatever it is I did to deserve this, I'm sorry. You can stop smiting me now. Please?


Kagome let out a quiet sigh, shaking her head. She got the feeling she was on her own. Maybe she'd racked up too much bad karma in a previous life or something.

Next time she saw Kikyou, she was going to give her such a kick.

"Hold on," Inuyasha said, holding his hand out to stop them. Everyone came to a swift halt.

The hanyou lifted his head, scenting the air, ears trained on something beyond her hearing.

"Is it a youkai?" Kagome whispered.

His lips twisted suddenly in a scowl and with a snarl he was off, bounding through the trees. The others all raced after him, shouting at him to slow down. Kagome found herself grinning as she ran. This was perfect! A good old-fashioned battle was exactly what she needed—anything to get her mind off her troubles with the taiyoukai. Really, she couldn't have asked for a better distraction!

—Branches whipped by her—they broke free of the trees, and—

Kagome came to a dead stop.

There, in all his ethereal glory, stood Sesshoumaru.

Why, god? Why?

Her heart gave a funny twist as she stood there like a deer in headlights, unable to look away. He had been beautiful by moonlight, all pale and silvery grace. In the sun, he was radiant. Magnificent. Light edged his hair in a way that made him blaze, and she had the dazed thought that Apollo himself would have been outdone.

No, the gods had clearly abandoned her on this one. They were on his side.

Then Sesshoumaru's summer-night eyes slanted briefly towards her and her mouth went completely dry. It was like looking into the heart of the sun.

"What are you doing here, you bastard?" Inuyasha snapped.

"What am I doing here?" Sesshoumaru repeated with an arch of his perfect, elegant brow.

This was a very good question, Kagome thought. What was he doing here? After so many weeks of tailing her, why show his face now? Why like this?

Kagome looked down and noticed her hands were shaking. She clasped them together to make it stop.

"These are my lands, dear brother," the taiyoukai continued, lightly mocking. "It is my duty to protect them."

"Bullshit!" Inuyasha snarled back. "You expect me to believe you're not here to pick a fight? I'm not buyin' it!"

"And yet it was you who has accosted this Sesshoumaru, not I who assaulted you," Sesshoumaru said, his voice a picture of perfect innocence. Only Kagome knew there was nothing innocent about him, nothing innocent at all. Just what was he up to? "How very un-brotherly of you," the taiyoukai added.

"What?" Inuyasha sputtered. "What?"

"You are as eloquent as always, Inuyasha," Sesshoumaru responded loftily, head held high. "However, I am afraid I do not have time for you today, dear brother. I have personal business I must attend to."

The taiyoukai paused and let his eyes again slant oh-so-nonchalantly towards the young miko, as if he were noticing her for the first time.

She found her hands were shaking again.

"You appear tense, miko," he commented, offhandedly. With an elegant sweep of his hair he turned away, adding with frosty indifference, "This Sesshoumaru has been told from a most reliable source that massages are an excellent form of stress relief."

And then just like that he was gone, disappearing back into the forest before anyone could say another word.

As she tried desperately to pull her scattered and shattered wits back together her friends all stood and stared at each other. Dumbfounded. "What the hell was that about?" Inuyasha finally blurted, looking more than disgruntled over the whole ordeal.

"It is certainly unlike your brother to offer…advice," Miroku said dubiously. Vague warning bells went off in the back of her head, telling her it wasn't a good idea to let her friends ponder Sesshoumaru's behavior too much, but she found herself unable to react. She couldn't even move. Just stare at the place where he'd disappeared, just like that night weeks ago.

Her eyes appeared to be broken, she distantly noted. The afterimage of him was burned onto her retinas.

"I think he was just being condescending!" Shippo then said. The others found they couldn't disagree with that logic and before long the matter was shrugged off. Nothing surprising about Sesshoumaru being arrogant, after all. Nope.

No one noticed how quiet Kagome had gone.

As they readied themselves to leave again the young miko managed to get herself moving, plodding numbly after the others. No one noticed that she seemed strangely distant.

No one noticed her hands slowly fisting at her sides.

That's it, she thought.

That was it.

She'd had enough. She couldn't go on like this anymore! Something had to be done—she needed to take control, break the hold he had over her. Before she lost what was left of her mind. It was consuming her. And the dangerous part was that the longer it went on, the more she wanted to be devoured.

She couldn't survive another three weeks of this. She couldn't survive another three hours of this.

She had to do something.

Kagome stumbled through the underbrush, swearing under her breath. She'd waited until the others had fallen asleep and slipped away from camp into the night. The forest was pitch and she had no idea where she was going but she let her senses guide her. Sesshoumaru's aura tonight was like a beacon, drawing her in. It was almost like he knew she would be coming.

Because I'm probably walking right into his trap! Kagome swallowed, fighting down the edges of hysteria. She had to do this. Nevertheless, now she had proof of her madness. A few weeks ago she would never ever have considered something so crazy—she felt like Little Red Riding Hood, skipping merrily into the jaws of the wolf.

Dear Satan, she prayed as she plowed onward, giving up on heavenly aid, I've already got enough people after my soul, but I've got some textbooks I'm willing to trade…they seem pretty evil to me…

At last she broke through the trees into an open clearing, the moonlight pouring down and painting everything in shades of silver. The air hummed with power and there, in the middle of the…no…Wait. The clearing was empty. Kagome blinked, glancing around. What? Where was he? She was sure she'd sensed…


"Ah!" She whirled around too fast and tripped over herself, falling flat on the ground. Before her eyes was a pair of shiny black boots.

Oh, not again.

"Playing on the ground again, miko?" came the smooth-as-chocolate voice from above her. "I had no idea you were such a dirty girl."

Retreat! RETREAT!

Somehow she held her ground. Her eyes were squeezed shut. Limbs trembling, just barely keeping herself from bolting, she climbed slowly to her feet.

Steeling herself, she looked.

Sesshoumaru looked back, the perfect picture of serene composure, more beautiful and erotic—exotic, she meant exotic—than ever. His hair had been dipped in moonlight. His hair was moonlight. His amber eyes had a soft glow to them, like fireflies, and he exuded his usual I'm-too-pretty-and-perfect-for-sexual-thoughts air, except now she knew it to be a lie. The deception made her crazy inside. It was like reverse psychology on her hormones. The more untouchable he looked the more she craved to touch.

Her fingers flexed and Kagome shoved them behind her back before they tried to do something stupid. She didn't trust them.

Kagome swallowed.

"Sesshoumaru," she said.

"Miko," he acknowledged with a nod. A slow, subtle smile curled at the corner of his lips. "It is a pleasure to see you again."

Maximum pleasure? her mind inquired hopefully.

A lobotomy. She was getting a lobotomy.

Kagome continued to stare, realizing she had no idea what to say next. She'd planned it all out but the words had suddenly fluttered away, like a cloud of butterflies. They danced over her head, out of reach.

"To what do I owe this…pleasure?" he continued. His face gave nothing away, as aloof and aristocratic as ever, but that sultry half-smile still lurked in his eyes. Simmering. "Have you come to accept my offer?"

"No. I just wanted to—to talk," Kagome managed, finding her voice.

He looked at her expectantly, waiting, and Kagome braced herself.

"Actually, I'm here to make a request," she blurted. "Sesshoumaru? Could you—could you do something for me?"

"Of course," he replied. "I would do anything to you."

"I, ah…I think you mean for you," she corrected.

He gave a one-shouldered shrug.

"I'm being serious! Please—just do me this one favor. Okay?"

"I would gladly grant any sort of favor you wish," he said with a slow smile.

"Promise?" she asked, pressing her luck. The whole thing hinged on getting him to agree before she told him her request.

The playful light left his eyes and something more serious took its place. "You have my word," he quietly said.

Kagome took a deep breath. This was it. "I need you to take it back."

He raised a perfect brow and she plowed ahead, not daring to stop now. She'd never work up the nerve to do this again. This whole disaster began when he made his offer to her—when he'd told her to think about it. There was something sensual and hypnotic about his voice, something that seemed to mesmerize her. So if his words had cast the spell, it stood to reason his words could lift it again.

"I need you to tell me that you didn't mean it and that you're just messing with my head. That I shouldn't even think about it. Your—your offer, I mean. Tell me it wasn't serious. Tell me anything, just take it back!"

Sesshoumaru just stood there, his face unreadable, and Kagome began to panic. This wasn't working!

"I need you to say, 'Kagome, do not think about my offer ever again.'"

His eyes lit up in a way that filled her with dread.

"Why, my dear distressed damsel, you're not vulnerable to the power of suggestion, are you?"

"N-no!" Kagome quailed.

"Good," he replied in a husky voice. "Because if you were, I would suggest you reconsider my offer." His lip curled up in a smile that Kagome knew was made of pure evil. "Every night, I would suggest you think it over some more. Thoroughly." He tilted his head, a thoughtful look crossing his face. "I would be happy to provide imagery if you require it."

Kagome short-circuited.

The blackout only lasted half a second but the next thing she knew she was on the ground, cradled in a steady arm. Soft fur brushed her cheek.

"Swooning for me?" Sesshoumaru said. Kagome blinked as his face came into focus above her, elegant eyebrow quirked up. "I had not thought you the type. How very flattering."

"Aaaahhhhh!" she shrieked, throwing herself out of his arm and stumbling to her feet. She stared at him, heart beating like a hummingbirds wings. "Ahhhh!" she cried again.

Her nerves were all livewires, sparking under her skin. Things had gotten wildly out of control. I have to pull myself together! she thought, hyperventilating. If she could just get him to take it back it would all be over. She just had to get him to say it.

"Please," she said. "I'm begging you. You promised. Please."

Sesshoumaru tilted his head, considering her. There was briefly something solemn about him, and then it was gone. "Very well," he said quietly. "Since I promised." He drew himself up to his full height, gazing down at her with the air of a commander, of a Lord. "Kagome, do not think about my offer ever again," he stated, his words ringing with finality in the air around her. Kagome sagged in relief.

Suddenly his eyes gleamed.

"Even though it still stands," he finished.


"No, no, no!" she said, panicking. "That's not what I asked!"

"On the contrary, I have said precisely as you instructed, word for word," he countered. His innocent air was ruined by his smirk. "But I could not in good conscience rescind that which was freely offered. That would be most dishonorable."

"No! Be dishonorable!" she protested. "Be as dishonorable as you like!"

His eyes glowed. "Are you certain that is a wise request?" he said with a dark, dark smile.

"Ah! I take it back! I just—I—I—Ihavetogonow!" She stumbled back, his voice caressing her as she fled.

And she ran, ran away, but she couldn't escape his words, the impact of what had just happened sinking in. Her plan had failed, utterly and irrevocably. By giving her traitorous mind an out, he had doomed her. Not only that, but if she thought about him then it was her own fault! Maybe it had been her own fault all along.

She dove into her sleeping bag and yanked the covers up to her chin.

And she lay there, awake, all night, staring up at the moon and seeing only his eyes.

She spent the next day in a frazzled daze, barely conscious. The events of the night before ran over and over through her head, circling like a bird with nowhere to land. They wouldn't leave her alone. Worse: she could still sense him, out there. Out of sight, but not out of mind.

And then, they stopped at a river to fill their water bottles, and there was Sesshoumaru and his entourage doing the same.

Kagome's heart filled with dread, an ominous feeling snaking down her spine. The taiyoukai didn't say a word to her, instead choosing to demand, with a perfect poker face, that Inuyasha stop following him immediately, but even when they managed to end the encounter without a battle and were on their way again the feeling stayed. The fact that they had "happened" upon him two days in a row was a dark sign in her mind, a sign that she surely must be reading wrong. He wouldn't, she thought in disbelief. He wouldn't.

He did.

Sesshoumaru showed up again the next day.

And the day after that, and the next day, and the next, and the next and the next and the next.

Every day, her friends "accidentally" crossed paths with Sesshoumaru and his entourage at least once. If not twice or thrice or more. All of a sudden, he was everywhere.

Ahead of her, Inuyasha clutched his sword tighter and muttered to himself. Kagome winced. Tensions were high. By the end of the first week Inuyasha was having conniptions; by now he was apocalyptic. Sesshoumaru acting like it was all some big coincidence only made him madder.

Her only salvation was that nobody suspected this had anything to do with her. Only Kagome knew that it wasn't coincidence at all, it was his evil plot to tempt—torment, she meant torment—her…err…

Well, both seemed pretty accurate, actually.

I'm so doomed, she thought, groaning into her hands. They'd already encountered him six times today! Six! She wished he would just go away and take his stupid offer with him. Or at least that he'd go back to hovering out of sight like he did before. Why couldn't he leave her alone? Why? She didn't want this. No, there was absolutely nothing she wanted from Sesshoumaru.

Although, a subversive voice whispered in the back of her head, he owes me a new birthday present.

No! Bad voice!

"Oh, for the love of—" Inuyasha suddenly cried. "Not again!"


"Hi, Kagome!" Rin waved as she came into sight around a bend in the trail. The little girl and her companions were stopped at a thorny patch of raspberries while she picked them. Sesshoumaru sat to the side, looking coolly detached. It was breezy and the wind picked up wisps of his hair and made them dance.

She was seized by the urge to bat at them like a kitten. Or maybe run her hands through them and play cat's cradle.

Or, as long as she was working with a cat theme, she could just curl up in his lap and let him pet her.

God, what was wrong with her?

Dear Santa, Kagome scribbled desperately in her head, I know you don't really work this time of year, but I'm running out of people to ask, and I'm not asking much…I just want my sanity back. With a growl of frustration she crumpled up her mental letter and tossed it away. It was hopeless. No one could save her now. How could they? She was the damsel in distress, but her prince in shining armor was also the marauding demon.

The marauding demon looked her way and smiled at her with his eyes.

Doomed. She was utterly, helplessly, hopelessly doomed.

It took more two weeks of this to push her over the edge.

The sun was afternoon-gold as it slanted through the trees around her. Kagome marched down the trail, feeling somewhere between determined and resigned. Part of her couldn't believe she was doing this again, but she pushed rationality aside. She was already doomed: what did she have to lose?

She found him standing alone in a clearing, waiting for her.

"You can't keep doing this," she said.

He was caught in a shaft of sunlight and the first edges of autumn were tinting the trees here, forming a backdrop of amber and fire. He blinked lambent gold eyes. "Doing what?" Sesshoumaru said.

"Showing up everywhere!" Kagome cried. "You can't keep hounding me like this—" she cringed a bit at her choice of words—"following me around all day and pretending like it's an accident."

"Actually," Sesshoumaru corrected helpfully, "it would be quite easy to continue."

"That's not what I meant!" she growled. "I meant you mustn't keep doing this. You need to stop. Stop being such a big…a big pervert!" The amused arch of his brow made her throw up her hands in frustration. "Argh! Why do you delight in torturing me?"

His brow quirked higher. "I have done no more than offer to assist," was his solemn answer.

Kagome paused, set back a moment by that one. He was right. He hadn't actually done anything to her. He hadn't kidnapped her, or groped her, or zealously driven other men away. He was annoyingly—dismayingly—persistent in presenting his offer, and yet, everything was on her terms. He wanted her consent; he was letting her make the next move. In a way…in a way, he'd actually been a perfect gentleman. By feudal standards, anyway.

There was a funny feeling in her stomach at that thought; she fought it back down.

"Even so," she managed, "if you think that means I'm going to have a one night stand with you, you've got another thing coming."

"One night stand?" His smile grew devilish. "Goodness, no. There will be many nights, and many days. And there will be standing on two legs, and standing on four, and sitting, and kneeling, and crouching—" Kagome's eyes grew wider and wider with horror as he continued—"and perhaps even some laying down, if I am feeling particularly traditional; and then there will be—"

Kagome clapped her hands over his mouth in a fit of panic, desperate to stop him. Then yanked them back with a shriek, scalded.

"Y-you licked me!" she squeaked. Her hands were still burning. She stared at them, certain she would find scorch marks.

"Did I?" he asked, straight-faced.

What had she been thinking? Coming here again was madness! Kagome took a step back in defense.

"You!" Kagome pointed, hand shaking. "You're a…you're a bad dog!"

"Yes," he rumbled, taking a step forward. "I am." Another step. "And you," he added, voice dropping an octave as his head lowered, his forehead nearly touching hers, "are a very dirty girl." He plucked a stray twig from her hair and let it fall, his eyes locked with hers. Eyes filled with promises; promises of bad, bad, naughty-naughty things. Her heart raced.

She swayed forward—

The distant shouts of her friends were the only thing that saved her. She threw herself back, horrified at herself.

"I need to leave! Now. I'm leaving now. Right now," she stammered.

The taiyoukai titled his head. "Always a pleasure," he purred.

(Maximum? her mind added.)

And Kagome ran.

That night, Kagome dreamed.

The day had seemed to drag on for eons and by the time night fell she had welcomed the quiet dark of sleep.

She should have known it would not be so easy.

In her dream she found herself in a shadowed forest. She was running from something. No—she was running towards something? She was running.

And then she was there, opening the door to a little stone cottage in the woods, and she knew at once that this was grandmother's house, and she was Little Red Riding Hood, and she was dreaming a fairytale.

Dream Kagome tossed off her little red nightrobe and skipped merrily into the cottage, where she found herself standing at the foot of a bed, Sesshoumaru laid out on it before her.


"My," her dream self said, "what a big—"

Kagome shrieked and shoved herself awake before her wretched brain could finish with what he had that was just so very "big." But not before her subconscious summoned the burning image of hooded, summer-night eyes, and the smoky words, "All the better to fuck you with, my dear," whispered through the back of her mind.

Sweat-soaked and shivering, Kagome blinked awake. And found herself staring into the hooded eyes of her dream.

Kagome opened her mouth to scream but a clawed finger pressed against her lips, silencing her. Heart skipping, she looked up into the face that haunted all her dreams and nightmares, waking and not. He was here, crouched over her in her sleeping bag, his hair pooling on the ground by her pillow. Sesshoumaru looked back down at her, head canted with the air of a curious cat.

She felt like a cornered mouse.

"What are you doing here?" she mouthed the instant he took his hand away. The taiyoukai shook his head, holding his finger to his own lips in a call for silence. The same finger that had just been touching her own. Like an indirect kiss! she thought hazily.

Without a word he withdrew back into the trees, away from camp and her sleeping friends. Muzzy with sleep and with shock, Kagome blinked a moment, watching him leave. That was it? He shows up, scares the daylights out of her, and vanishes? How dare he just walk into their camp uninvited and hover over her in her sleep?

Kagome scrambled out of her sleeping bag, determined to get some answers.

"What are you doing here?" she hissed again as she caught up.

Sesshoumaru gave a smooth shrug. "You called for me."

Oh good god no.

"I—I did not!" she sputtered.

"You were speaking my name. I assumed you wished for my presence."

Kagome prayed for death.

"I was having a nightmare," she lied. No, it wasn't a lie: he was a nightmare. A recurring nightmare. Her body betrayed her when awake; now her voice was betraying her as she slept. Everyone was against her! "A terrible nightmare about a terrible demon," she added for good measure.

The taiyoukai clucked his tongue. "My dear, distressed damsel, you do not appear well-rested at all." His amused eyes told her he wasn't the least bit fooled by her bluff. "My assistance is still yours, should you wish for it. You need only to ask."

"I don't want your help!" she cried.

"Are you certain?"

For a terrible moment, the answer wouldn't leave her mouth. Her throat was locked. Horrified, she tried harder but there was still no sound.

"Pleasant dreams, miko." His velvet-warm voice draped over her like a caress, and then he was gone.

Slowly she sank to her knees, like that night months ago. Sitting in the dark.

Kagome wished, suddenly, that she wasn't a good girl. She wished she were wanton and reckless—she wished she were the kind of girl who craved pleasure for pleasure alone! The kind of girl who could revel in passion without needing it to mean anything; who wouldn't think twice about taking darkly sensuous demons up on darkly sensuous offers. She admired those girls; she envied them.

But her heart was so battered, after years of pining away hopelessly for someone who never loved her back and never could, that she just didn't have the nerve.

She would want it to mean something. And that wasn't what he was offering. And there wasn't a chance of that changing—this was still Sesshoumaru, after all—so her heart needed to shut the hell up about it.

Hours after he was gone she raised a shaking hand to her mouth. She could still taste his skin on her lips.

Stupid, stupid heart.

"We sure have been seeing a lot of Sesshoumaru lately," Sango said, rinsing the shampoo from her hair. Kagome bit her lip and said nothing.

It was some weeks later, after her midnight encounter, and things had gone on as usual. Mostly. The group still hunted shards; Naraku still taunted them from out of reach. Sesshoumaru still made regular appearances and Inuyasha still threw fits about it. Everything was the exactly same, except her.

Kagome wondered, distantly, when things had changed—how they had changed. Maybe it was that first night, so many months ago, when he made the offer that opened a door in her mind. Sesshoumaru had always been attractive to her. She had just never been attracted to him. Such a subtle, subversive shift, but it had turned her whole world upside down. And it was wrong, all wrong. He was wrong. It was one thing to admire someone like him, another thing to want them. It was dangerous.

She was playing with fire and he would burn her. She felt like a moth seduced by the flame.

He's hot; I'm bothered, she thought with a sigh.

Oh why, why, why did it have to be someone like him? She didn't want to want him. She wanted to crave a normal person; not necessarily normal as in human, but normal as in able to reciprocate feelings. But noooo, it had to be lofty Lord Sesshoumaru that set her hormones ablaze. Which is why she just had to stay away from him, until he tired of playing games with his new toy.

The young miko sighed, sinking deeper in the spring. If only she could talk to Sango about it. She was sitting there right next to her best friend, yet she'd never felt so alone. She needed someone to help her sort through the mess she was becoming, but how could she tell anyone? They'd think she was mad. (They'd be right).

"Too bad the personality doesn't match the face," the slayer said with a dramatic sigh, reaching for the soap. "He's so pretty, but so cold."

Kagome wrung the washcloth in her hands.

"Sango?" she began carefully, gazing down at her reflection in the water. "Did you ever wonder if…if maybe Sesshoumaru…isn't the way he seems?"

"What do you mean?" Sango said, pausing.

"I mean…what if—hypothetically of course—all that icy exterior was just an act and he were really someone completely different on the inside."


She fidgeted. "Well,, just for example, if he were, oh, say…if he were…"

"If he were…?" Sango prompted.

"A sex-crazed nymphomaniac," she blurted.

Sango's soap dropped in the spring with a plunk. "What?"

"I just mean—hypothetically!—what if he were only pretending to be an icicle? And underneath was some kind of…master of seduction!" She waved her hands in the air. "A carnal animal ready to jump in bed with anything that walks! A depraved, lust-ridden dog that goes around offering to pleasure random women senseless!"

Her friend blinked at her, eyes wide with astonishment.

And burst out laughing.

"Oh, Kagome," Sango giggled, "that was a good one. That's the funniest thing I've ever heard."

"Yeah," she said, trying hard to smile. "It is, isn't it?" Kagome forced herself to laugh along, feeling somehow crushed.

"Sesshoumaru, a pervert of Miroku proportions!" The slayer snorted and doubled over again with laughter.

Kagome felt sick. Her chest hurt.

"Really, Kagome," she giggled, "how do you come up with these things?"

I live them? "I…"

"I have had enough!"

Kagome and Sango shrieked, dunking down in the water as something dropped down from the trees. Sputtering, Kagome gaped up at the looming figure of Kagura.

"You were watching us bathe?" Kagome gasped, feeling violated. Fear would probably have been more appropriate, but being peeped on by Kagura was just—just—Ew, and…ewww!

"Oh, please!" Kagura snapped. "I was spying for Naraku, you fools! But I cannot stand by and listen to your disgusting fantasies another moment." The wind witch perched lightly on one of the boulders sunk in the spring, glowering down with pure venom.

"Er?" Kagome said. "Er…what?"

"How dare you defile Lord Sesshoumaru with your filthy human thoughts!" she spat. "That you have had the fortune to gaze upon his perfection is more than you deserve! Now you dare to soil him with your repulsive human lusting?" Kagura's eyes glittered like cut rubies. "He is power!" she praised. "He is perfection! He is above all of us. For a miserable human to pretend, even hypothetically, that he were subject to the base desires of your wretched kind—it's blasphemous!"

Their eyes grew wider and wider as the wind witch continued on her tirade, bristling like an angry wildcat. Kagome and Sango briefly exchanged glances. Are we supposed to fight? Sango asked with her eyes, looking confused and uncomfortable. Kagome gave her head a slight shake. Not unless it's a cat-fight, she silently added. Oh dear. It seemed Kagura was afflicted by a bad case of taiyoukai-worship, and felt the need to stake her claim.

Kagome felt a spike of sympathy for the demoness. She understood all too well the effect Sesshoumaru could have.

"As if he would even look upon weak, revolting creatures such as yourselves!" she finished. Kagura held her head up haughtily, tilting her fan towards herself. "Even I was not yet worthy of the Lord's attentions."

Kagome's heart gave a jolt. "Wait—" she interrupted, sloshing forward, "you've—you've tried to get Sesshoumaru?"

"Of course," Kagura said, looking at her like she was an idiot. "Hasn't every hot-blooded demoness? He's Lord Sesshoumaru."

"And he…he turned you down?"

"Hmpf," Kagura sniffed. "He turns us all down."

The wind witch brushed it off with a dismissive wave of her fan, her gaze going bright, and went on to tell them (with only slightly obsessive glee) about how he was just waiting for her to prove herself by killing Naraku, and then he'd be hers (all hers!), but Kagome wasn't listening anymore. Her mind was too busy racing to take in what she'd just heard.

Sesshoumaru didn't make these kinds of offers to everyone?

She didn't understand. Kagura was beautiful, cultured, elegant. Powerful. A youkai. Everything Kagome wasn't. Kagura was a butterfly and Kagome was a drab little moth, and nobody sang sonnets for moths when they could have a butterfly. She should know; they'd been born of the same soul, but somehow, Kikyou had emerged a butterfly and Kagome hadn't. Inuyasha never let her forget it.

The demoness was exactly the sort of creature she would imagine as the perfect match for Sesshoumaru—exactly what she'd expect him to want. Why would he turn her down?

She'd—she'd just assumed that he—that the way he was with her was well, normal for him. Weren't dogs known for shameless promiscuity? Just because he was chasing her metaphorical tail didn't mean he didn't offer to "assist" every lovely lady he crossed. After all, it's not like this meant anything.

He didn't make these kinds of offers to everyone?

Heart thudding, Kagome stood up in the water. "I'm going back to camp," she announced. No one answered. The conversation had somehow taken a sharp left turn while her mind wandered, and Sango was busy listing Miroku's many lecherous sins while the demoness nodded and made appropriate commiserate sounds. Go figure.

She waded to shore and toweled off, dressing quickly. As she started to set off down the trail, Kagome paused and turned around. "Kagura?"

"Hm?" The wind witch's brow arched.

"I know we're technically enemies, but woman to woman, if you think proving yourself to someone will win them over you're in for heartache. You'll spend forever trying to be someone you're not, and nobody deserves that." Kagura blinked, surprised, while Sango's eyes softened. "The right one for you won't expect you to prove yourself—they'll be the one trying to prove themselves to you."

She made to leave again, then stopped, and added, "Also, you strike me as the type who likes being in charge. Maybe you should be looking for a less powerful male?" And thinking back on all the many men she'd known, someone who needed a powerful female who'd keep them in line, she suggested slyly, "Have you considered wolves?"

And with that she left the two of them in stunned silence behind her.

Hair still damp and freshly brushed, the early twilight air was cool on her face as Kagome carefully pushed her way through the foliage. Everything was overgrown; there wasn't any path to follow this far off the trail. There wasn't a point in using the trail. She wasn't going back to camp. And it didn't matter which way she went.

She didn't have to search for long. He was, as always, right around the next corner. It must take a lot of dedication to be that committed to tormenting her, she thought distantly. There was something disturbingly charming about it.

This time they were in a quiet forest glade. The trees were curtained in ivy; sprigs of some small white flower pushed up through the moss. It was quiet and lovely. Sesshoumaru waited at the edge, his amber eyes catching the fading light as he regarded her with curious intensity.

Her heart in her throat, she stepped up to him.

"Why are you following me?"

"I like following you."

"What were you doing near the village, that night you ran into me?" she asked, searching his eyes. The first night, the night this started.

"I like following you," he repeated softly.

It hadn't been random, she realized, and her heart thudded as the possibility struck her that this had been going on for far longer than she had imagined. How many nights had he followed her unnoticed before revealing himself? "Then…then what made you approach me that night? Why then?"

"Why?" he echoed. Sesshoumaru's eyes were eerily bright. Animal. "Why?" He went quiet for a moment. Then he reached into his sleeve and pulled out a familiar sheet of instructions.

"—Oh my god, you still have that?—"

"I have told you before, miko, that I am not a benevolent youkai," he began, "and yet even a sinner such as I cannot help but think it a sin for a creature such as you to be so damnably…innocent."


"A cruel sin that one can inspire such longing, yet be untouched by it." His eyes were fixed on hers with feral intensity and the words were coming faster, as though he could not stop. His voice lowered. "This one has watched, and wondered, how one can wear such attire, yet also wear the air of one too pretty and perfect for carnal thoughts. Wondered if sweet and innocent damsels ever feel mortal desire."

It was just like the things she always thought about him, she realized dazedly.

"And it is a punishment," he continued, "to want something that cannot want back." His fangs briefly bared in a tight smile that was more painful than anything else. "Pure and pretty mikos do not lust for dark and terrible demons. And make no mistake, miko, I am dark, and I am terrible."

His hand came up, claws ghosting an inch over her cheek, then clenched and drew back.

"And so this one stayed away, knowing you were too innocent, too pure, to ever feel such things. Until I discovered this," he said, flipping open the sheet—the vibrator's instructions, illustrations and all. "And then this one knew that you desired the affections of a man, but has no man whose affections you desired." There was something strangely earnest in his face. Something open and hopeful. "And then I thought, perhaps it need not be a man at all. Perhaps this one could give you what you desired." The rough edge of his voice grew deeper. "Perhaps even a miko would consider a demon, if she wanted badly enough."

Kagome stood, frozen, breathless. Her whole nervous system was disabled.

"And if you wanted badly enough to seek relief through such strange means," he motioned the paper again, "you must want very badly indeed." The pleased rumble in his words gave her the shivers. "It was as though fate had gifted me with a sign. That, dear damsel, is why."

The disconnect between what he said and what was true made a few synapses stir awake. "But I…I never wanted anything," she said falteringly, feeling the need to protest, "Someone gave it to me as a joke…I mean…I never would have bought something like that for myself."

Sesshoumaru drew back as if struck. The hopeful light in his eyes froze over into winter ice. His expression was flat, empty, closed off. He was the old Sesshoumaru.

Her chest twisted with the feeling that she'd just made a terrible mistake.

"Forgive me," Sesshoumaru said, taking a step back from her before she could say anything. "I did not mean to impose myself upon you. I had thought…this one did not know such advances were unwelcome."

The paper was crumpling in the fist his hand formed. When she stepped forward he flinched back from her, a crack fissuring through his stony façade. In a flash it smoothed over and he gave a stiff bow. "I will not bother you with my—" there was that painfully tight smile—"this one will not bother you again."

He turned to leave and she couldn't let it happen like this, she couldn't—no—she caught his sleeve.


Sesshoumaru stilled and Kagome's heart pounded in her ears as she tried to find the right words. "Just because I didn't want the vibrator," she swallowed, staring at the ground," doesn't mean I don't want you."

The youkai turned, and she could feel the weight of his gaze. She'd fought so hard not to know this truth yet saying it was like letting out a breath she'd held for too long. "I want you," she breathed.

The confusion and caution in his eyes melted into something oh so warm and wonderful, and the slow smile was dark and terrible in all the right ways because, hell, apparently she liked it like that. The youkai leaned towards her looking like he wanted to devour her right there on the spot. "Nevertheless!" she warned, putting her hands against his chestplate before things got out of hand, "I'm not going to just—just sleep with somebody I hardly know!"

Sesshoumaru gave her a bland stare. "Then get to know me."

Oh. Kagome blinked. Could it really be so simple?

Though knowing him would be no simple thing, she was sure. Already she was seeing a side of him that no one else had. How many more layers did he have?

She found she wanted to know.

Sesshoumaru's gaze drifted to the sky and Kagome realized with some surprise that it was already dark. For a moment he seemed to be searching for something in the faint dusting of stars before she realized he was scenting the air. Whatever it was he smelled displeased him, fine lines appearing around his nose as he wrinkled it. "I am afraid this one is needed elsewhere."


His gaze sharpened. "We will continue this later." It was more of an order than a request but it made her half-smile nonetheless.

"By which you mean you'll show up in the dead of night and scare the daylights out of me."

"Perhaps," was his amused answer. She had forgotten her hands were still pressed up against his armor, until he gently removed them. Before letting go entirely he dipped his head and pressed his lips to the back of her hand. "Always a pleasure," he murmured against her skin.

The unexpectedly chivalrous gesture left her both warmed and shaken. This—all of this—the confession, the weeks of seduction, that hopeful, almost tender look—it made no sense. The taiyoukai turned from her with a small bow and Kagome found herself cradling the hand in her other one as she watched him merging into the soft shadows that edged the clearing. Before she could stop herself she was stepping forward and—

"Why me?" Her voice shook.

Sesshoumaru paused and half-turned. "Why not you?"

"Because I'm no one." She was ordinary. Maybe a little more tenacious than most, but that just made her mule-headed, not bold or brave or beautiful or special. She was nothing but Kagome. Plain little Kagome, with the hand-me-down soul and the hand-me-down face. She didn't even warrant anything new.

The youki that rose up around her sparked and snapped, crackling like heat lightning. Before she could react Sesshoumaru bore down on her, his mouth a thin, grim line, eyes flashing. He's angry, she realized. He's really, really angry. The youkai stopped only when he towered over her, his face inches away. "Even dirty girls," he rumbled, grasping her chin, "should not sully their mouths with such filthy lies."

And then in a rush he closed the space between them and his mouth covered hers. He swallowed the surprised squeak she made, swallowed her breath. The kiss was urgent and a little uncontrolled, like he didn't know how to hold back. Firm lips pressed demandingly against hers; sharp canine teeth closed over her lower lip in a gentle bite. When she bit back he shuddered all over. Her vision flickered. The hand that tangled in her hair was shaking with want of her and his breath came in warm puffs. Hooded amber eyes watched her through it all with unbroken intensity, drinking in every detail. Smoldering in the dark.

When he released her she was panting and grinning. "Very sorry," she breathed, thoroughly reprimanded. The taste of sultry summer nights lingered on her tongue.

"Good." He was breathing as raggedly as she was. Her heart warmed at the glow in his half-lidded eyes. And maybe she really was crazy, but she was crazy about him. Madness wasn't really so bad.

She could learn to like madness.

She could learn to love it.

Sesshoumaru made to leave again and this time, she made to follow. At his surprised glance she only shrugged and said, "On second thought, I feel another dirty lie coming on. I'd better come with you just in case."

The marauding demon smiled with his eyes.

And Kagome went willingly to her doom.