"Mmm!" Arching her back, Kagome stretched her hands towards the ceiling, interlacing her fingers to complete the movement.
"I am ready to get out of this bed," she murmured, rolling over onto her side. She lifted one arm with the movement, but instead of falling across the warm chest she had grown use to being there, it fell to rest against cold sheets.
Her eyes immediately blinked open, and she sat up, looking at the empty space beside her in sleepy confusion. "Sesshoumaru?" she called out, turning to face the room.
Sesshoumaru's – their – bedroom met her gaze, and she allowed her eyes to ghost over its now familiar features after realizing that he was not in the room.
Their bed, much like in Sesshoumaru's cabin on the Western Moon, was located on the wall furthest from the door, directly beneath the windows, which faced east, allowing the morning sun to spill into the room. In front of it on the floor was a beautiful Persian run, which stretched across the width of the room, stopping in front of the large chest of drawers resting on opposite walls. Kagome's chest has arrived only a few days before; it was basic in shape and appearance, serving only to function until another one could be procured by Sesshoumaru to match his elaborate one.
Beside Kagome's armoire was a lovely vanity set, which Satomi has graciously given to her, claiming she simply must have one. Apparently it had been given to her when the Inu no Taisho wedded her, but since then she had procured another one, and Kagome's had been in storage. She was only to happy to accept the gift, as it really was stunning, with gentle curves and a delicate matching chair.
Sighing softly, Kagome gently swung her legs over the edge of the bed and tentatively touched her toes to the floor. She had been abed for the past three weeks while her injury healed, and for the last week she had been getting out of bed (with help, in the beginning), and walking around first their room, and then the villa. Today, though, was the day Kaede had told her she would be getting her stitches out, which meant she had been dubbed back to perfect health.
Of course, she had been hoping Sesshoumaru would be there when she woke up, but no doubt she would see him later today. She knew he had been preparing to leave again for the last few days, so no doubt he was busy with that, and wasn't expecting her to arise anytime soon.
But Kagome couldn't help her eagerness. She was so ready to shake off her injuries and finally get to explore the island, and maybe reintroduce herself to some of the crew remaining behind, including Jinenji, the kind cook she had met her first day on the Western Moon.
Quickly, but carefully so as not to aggravate her still slightly aching side, Kagome dressed herself in one of her simpler dresses that Sesshoumaru had provided since their return to the island. She would have to take it off to get the stitches out, so she didn't want to wear something that would be difficult to get in and out of.
Her head jerked up when someone knocked on the door, and she quickly let her skirts fall from around her waist to circle her ankles as Inuyasha poked his head in.
"You really have to stop doing this Inuyasha," she chided, giggling as the half-breed blushed and looked away when it became evident she had been getting dressed.
"Yeah, well, I was just comin' to help ya get over to Kaede…you know…if you need it," he explained, scowling at the wall.
Kagome smiled, making her way over to him. "Thanks, Inuyasha. That'd be nice."
"Yeah, well, you're my sister," he replied simply, grinning as he opened the door again. Kagome breezed by him, lightly pinching his cheek as she did.
"And you make such a good big brother!" she teased.
"Oi!" he groused, flapping his hands to knock hers away. "Ain't no one can pinch my cheeks but Kikyou, now."
"I'm sure she won't mind if I pinch those cheeks," she laughed. "Not when she has two other ones to pinch!"
Inuyasha's face turned red. "What's happened to you, wench? I swear you were more modest before you and Sesshoumaru got hooked up."
She took her time walking down the stairs, partly because she was still having a little trouble walking, and partly because she was worried she might laugh too hard at the look on his face and fall over. "Maybe you just didn't know me as well as you thought you did," she suggested, stifling a laugh.
"Iunno," he frowned, glancing at her from the corner of his eye. "I think you've just been cooped up in bed too long. No wonder Sesshoumaru's made himself scarce – you'd probably jump his bones the minute those stitches came out."
Kagome almost started to laugh, because he was mostly right, but the beginning of his statement made her pause. "What do you mean he's made himself scarce?"
Inuyasha flinched, seeming to realize his error. "Uh, what I meant was…."
"I-NU-YA-SHA," she ground out. "You better tell me the truth right now."
His ears pinned themselves back against his skull, preparing for the screaming they knew they were about to receive. "Sesshoumaru's…gone."
Kagome winced slightly as she all but stalked out of Kaede's surgery, ready to hunt down the reason for Sesshoumaru's abrupt departure now that she had her stitches out.
Of all the things…why? She wailed internally, frustrated and upset. Why on Earth has he left this time? That stupid demon! Can't tell anyone what he's on about, even when it's probably perfectly innocent. Ugh!
Scowling, she raised her eyes and blinked when she noticed Kikyou and Inuyasha obviously waiting for her.
"Kagome," her sister began immediately, brow knit with concern, "don't stress yourself too much. You just got the stitches taken out."
"I do know that, Kikyou," she grumped, repressing the urge to stomp forward. She walked towards them calmly, and sighed at their blatant worry.
"Kagome, before you go on a wild goose chase, no one knows why Sesshoumaru left, nor so abruptly," Inuyasha told her firmly.
"And how do you know that?" she wondered.
"I asked around while you were with Kaede," he replied.
"Mmm," she hummed mysteriously. Inuyasha frowned.
"We mean it, Kagome. Don't go running around trying to dig up a mystery," he ordered. "There's nothing to learn. Sesshoumaru left, and no one knows why, but we all know it won't be anything big."
"Yes," Kikyou agreed. "If it was a regular trip around the Caribbean, he would have told everyone, so that most likely means he doesn't intend to be gone long."
"I'm sure you are both right," Kagome concurred. "There is absolutely no reason for me to panic about this."
"Uh, right," Inuyasha faltered, glancing to Kikyou uncertainly.
"Then if you'll excuse me, I'm just going to go to the kitchens and see if I can't beg a little breakfast out of Hachi." Nodding to them both, she glided past them, heading towards the main room of the villa, beside which was the kitchen and servants' quarters.
"She's up to something," Inuyasha muttered, watching her go with narrowed eyes.
"Don't be silly, Inuyasha," Kikyou demurred. "Come on, let's go see Father Mushin about having a small wedding, now that Kagome is well."
Distracted by her suggestion, he grinned, wrapping an arm around her. "All right; the old man should be done his morning prayers by now."
Smiling softly, she allowed Inuyasha to lead her away, in the opposite direction Kagome had gone. Good luck, Kagome, Kikyou thought as she gave one last look over her shoulder.
Kagome thought about sneaking out immediately to do some investigating into Sesshoumaru's second disappearing act, but her growling stomach made her reconsider. She pressed a hand to her stomach, frowning slightly.
Perhaps getting a bite to eat really isn't such a bad idea…
Nodding decisively she continued towards the kitchen, a slight bounce in her step. It really was a good thing that she was all healed up, now! She'd missed being active, and now was a great opportunity to explore the island a bit.
Once I've eaten, I'll do both. I'll explore a bit, and find out about Sesshoumaru's voyage.
"Mr. Hachi!" she called out, sliding into the kitchen. "Are you here? I know I missed breakfast, but—" Kagome cut herself off, confused when she came face to face with the empty kitchen.
It was a rare occurrence that the kitchen would be empty. Servants of all level made their way through it constantly during the day, and Hachi, the raccoon demon in charge of running the kitchen, could usually be found within it. The only time he left was when his top cook, Jinenji, could take his place for a few hours.
So if Mr. Hachi isn't here, then that means…
"Miss Kagome," a low voice called in greeting. Smiling, Kagome turned to face the horse-hanyou and he ducked into the room from the pantry, various vegetable cradled in his large arms.
"Mr. Jinenji!" she answered happily. "What are you doing here? I would have thought you'd be with Sesshoumaru."
"Do not worry, Miss Kagome," he chuckled, gently depositing the vegetables on the counter and beginning to peel them. "I was not needed on the ship, because Captain said he would not be gone long. He will be back soon."
"Inuyasha said Sesshoumaru wasn't going to be long either," Kagome confirmed, sidling up to him. "But I'm curious about where he is going, if he isn't planning on being away for long."
Almost imperceptibly, Jinenji's eyes widened before he looked away, hands fumbling slightly as they continued peeling. "I-I do not recall hearing a reason as to Captain's departure."
"Really?" she wondered, leaning up to peer into his face. "I'm sure the crew gossips, and Sesshoumaru must have told someone why he left."
"N-No, no one," Jinenji insisted, shifting away, a light blush rising to his cheeks.
Kagome huffed, crossing her arms. "You just don't want to tell me."
"Okay, okay," she sighed, moving away to sit down at the servants' table. "I'm just hurt that he didn't even say goodbye," she murmured.
Jinenji turned away from the counter to sit across from her. "We all know Captain wouldn't do anything to purposefully hurt you," the hanyou chided gently. "He has a very good reason for not telling you he was leaving."
Kagome pouted, propping her cheek on her hand. "I still want to know why he left."
"Well, I'm afraid I won't be the one to tell you, Miss Kagome," he grunted, standing up. "Now, you said you missed breakfast?"
Her stomach rumbled with agreement. "Uh, yeah," she muttered, patting her belly. "I got my stitches out today, and Kaede wanted to do it before I ate anything, so I missed the morning meal."
"Then just sit there for now, and I'll make you something," Jinenji offered, smiling. "You can continue your investigation after."
Kagome easily agreed, shifting into a more comfortable position with a grin. "Okay!"
Hunger satisfied, Kagome walked back into the main hall, glancing around contemplatively. With Inuyasha's refusal to explain things to her, and Jinenji hinting that he might know the reason before Sesshoumaru's departure, but wouldn't reveal it, Kagome had only one other source in mind that could know the truth.
If Jinenji knows, he likely learned it from another crew member – but the ones who know why are probably all on the ship! If it's true that Sesshoumaru isn't planning on being gone long, there is only one other person he may not have taken with him…
Smirking, Kagome lightly patted the pouch of sweets Jinenji had given her for her cooperation. It would be put to good use – as a bribe.
"Kagome!" Shippo shouted, dashing towards her as she entered Rin's room. "Are you all better now?"
"Yes, I'm good as new," she replied with a laugh, catching him as he jumped up into her arms.
"Do you have a scar?" Rin asked excitedly from her seat beside a silent Kanna.
"I do," Kagome admitted, "but it is not in a decent place for showing."
"Miss, did it—"
"Souta," she interrupted gently, smiling at the flushing youth. "You are my brother. Please call me by my name."
"R-right," he stammered. "K-Kagome, did it…hurt?"
"Worse than anything," she whispered conspiratorially, kneeling down to their level as their eyes widened with awe. "Worse than scrapping your knee, and doubly worse than eating your vegetables."
"Wow," they breathed.
Smiling, Kagome turned to the only child who had remained silent. "Hello Kanna," she murmured.
"H-hello miss," she replied, turning her gaze away.
Slowly, Kagome reached forward and grabbed the girl's chin, turning her head back to face her. "You do not have to look away from me, Kanna. I know that you were being controlled by Naraku. You didn't want to hurt me."
"Never, miss," she agreed tearfully.
Kagome lightly stroked Kanna's hair, gaze kind. "Then just be yourself. And call me by my name too, please."
"All right, Kagome," she said, small lips pulling up into a smile.
"Good!" Kagome exclaimed, falling backwards to sit on her butt. "Now, where is Kohaku?" she asked, feigning surprise at the boy's absence.
"He's gone with Cap'n," Shippo revealed, frowning. "Cap'n said he wouldn't be gone long, so he didn't need his cabin boy, but Kohaku's a powder monkey – he's still gotta be aboard." The little fox demon pouted, crossing his arms.
"That's hardly fair," Kagome cooed, to which Shippo nodded vehemently. "Maybe he didn't need your help with anything?"
Shippo snorted. "Cap'n doesn't need anybody's help, where he is going."
"Really?" she asked, fascinated. "And where is he going?"
"To see—wait a minute," Shippo interrupted himself, eyes narrowing up at her. "You're trying to trick me. That won't work with me, Kagome – I'm a fox! The king of all tricksters!"
"Ohh, you caught me," Kagome groaned, clutching her chest. "You saw through my clever deceit."
Shippo crossed his arms proudly. "Thought so," he sniffed haughtily.
"I guess since you're so smart, I should give you a reward," Kagome murmured, looking at her hands, which were fiddling with each other in her lap.
"A reward?" Shippo asked, intrigued.
"Yes. Jinenji gave me this big bag of candy," she said, pulling the sack out to show them. "There's far to much for me to eat on my own – I could share it with you."
"Can we have some too?" Rin asked eagerly.
"Sure!" Kagome chirped, opening the bag. "Here, Rin, Souta, Kanna – hold out your hands." When the three children dutifully did so, Kagome placed three bonbons in each of their cupped palms and then closed the sack.
"What about me?" Shippo whined.
"Oh, right!" Kagome gasped. Reaching into the bag, she placed one candy into the hands that Shippo eagerly cupped together.
The kit pouted, glancing at the other children. "They all got three."
"Tell me where Sesshoumaru has gone, and I'll give you five," Kagome offered, smiling.
Shippo immediately scowled, brows drawing close of his eyes. "You're trying to bribe me."
"Sure am," Kagome agreed, unrepentant.
"But Cap'n told me not to tell you where he is going," Shippo sighed. "He wants it to be a surprise."
"What on Earth is he doing, that it must be a surprise?" Kagome grumbled. Shippo grabbed her arm suddenly, making her jerk her gaze to his begging one.
"Please, Kagome, don't make me tell," he implored.
She sighed softly, reaching up to pet his hair and ears. "All right, I'm sorry. I just really want to know why he's gone."
"Its okay, Kagome," Rin chirped, sucking on her candy. "You'll really like the surprise."
Kagome frowned, casting Shippo a calculating glance. "You told them why Sesshoumaru left?"
"Uhh," Shippo mumbled, retreating slowly. "Cap'n didn't say anything about not telling them."
"I see," Kagome growled. "So everyone is allowed to know but me?"
She pinched the bridge of her nose, breathing deeply. "That stupid man," she muttered under her breath. "He is in for it when he gets back. Here," she spoke up, putting down the back of candy. "Share it fairly."
The children watched as she left, steps heavy and shoulders stiff. "I do not want to be Cap'n when he gets back," Shippo gulped, to which the others all nodded.
Puffing her cheeks out in irritation, Kagome made her way towards the gardens, hoping the air and atmosphere would help her clear her mind and think of a solution.
"Kagome!" a cheerful voice called out. Following the direction of the sound, Kagome forced herself to smile when she saw Sango and Kikyou sitting together on one of the many stone benches in the garden.
"Sango, Kikyou," she greeted, moving to sit with them on a facing bench. "Surely you will understand my dilemma, far better than any of the men on this island do."
"What do you mean?" Sango asked, brow furrowing.
"I believe she is talking about Mr. Sesshoumaru's abrupt departure early this morning," Kikyou confided quietly.
"Oh," she breathed. "Miroku mentioned that Captain had left this morning."
"He did?" Kagome gasped. "Did he tell you why?"
Sango shook her head sadly. "I would have thought, after last time, Captain would have told you, so I didn't think to ask."
Kagome sighed, slumping forward. "It's all right, Sango. Miroku may not have told you anyway, since everyone seems intent on keeping the truth from me."
"Then maybe you should take their advice and be patient," Kikyou suggested idly. "You may find that it is worth the wait."
Eyes narrowing slightly, Kagome raised her head to stare contemplatively at her sister. "You know!" she accused, astonished.
Kikyou smiled gently. "Kagome, trust me when I say, it would be better if you just waited. You will not be disappointed."
"I'm disappointed right now!" Kagome exclaimed, standing up in a huff.
"But that would be because Mr. Sesshoumaru left without a word, rather than not knowing the nature of his journey, correct?"
"No," Kagome denied. "It's because no one will tell me anything about this journey he is going on!"
"Kagome," Sango began, frowning slightly. "There will be many times when Captain will be unable to tell you the nature of his voyages. Surely you knew that when you decided to become involved with him."
Kagome sighed, sitting back down slowly. "Of course I knew. But this is different. Everyone seems to know why but me, and they all refuse to tell me why. Why am I not allowed to know, when they are?"
Sango shook her head slightly. "I can't answer that, Kagome, but I do think you are blowing this out of proportion."
"Really?" she murmured, looking at them apologetically.
"Mr. Sesshoumaru still didn't tell you he was leaving today – common courtesy to a mate dictates he should have," Kikyou answered. "But I agree with Sango. You are looking for a deep conspiracy that simply isn't there – he wishes to surprise you. So let him."
Clasping her chest tightly, Kagome let her head fall forward, bangs shrouding her features. "But the last time he just left…"
Kikyou's expression softened and she stood up with Sango to embrace Kagome, who gladly returned it. "Nothing is going to happen this time. I doubt he would have left if he thought so. However," she added, pulled back to smile wickedly. "That is no reason to forgive him just yet. He still left without even telling you he would be gone – that is hardly considerate of the person he seeks to mate."
Sango nodded in agreement, her grin equally bad. "I would say relax and continue healing. But once he returns…."
Kagome smiled, eyes gleaming excitedly. "I may just take your advice into account."
A fortnight later, Kagome woke up to the frantic activity of servants rushing about the manor, preparing, it seemed, for a large dinner that night.
"What on Earth is going on?" she asked to the air, watching from the bottom of the stairs as Jinenji rushed passed, his arms full of food; following him was Ayame, heading to the gardens with a pair of huge shears. Others she recognized as they zipped passed her were Ginta and Hakkaku, the Thunder Brothers, and Father Mushin.
"Ayame," she called out, chasing after the wolf demoness. "What's going on? Why is everyone in such a hurry?"
"You didn't notice?" the wolf asked, surprised. "Captain Sesshoumaru arrived this morning. He's ordered everyone to prepare a banquet for tonight."
"He did?" Kagome gasped, freezing as Ayame began clipping some of the garden's roses and other blooms. "Is it to be a welcome back feast?"
"I don't know, Kagome. No body knows why – they're just following orders."
Kagome huffed. "Yet another secret. Very well, do you know where he is?"
Ayame shook her head. "I haven't seen him. Kouga is the one who's been telling everyone Captain's wishes, actually."
"Okay, then where's Kouga?"
"He's back at our hut. If you're going to talk to him, take these with you," Ayame requested, placing a few blooms in Kagome's arms. "Tell him to put them in a vase with water."
"All right, I will," Kagome agreed, smiling. "I'll see you later."
Nodding absentmindedly, Ayame went back to clipping some flowers for dinner's arrangement, leaving Kagome to head out on her own.
Leaving through the gateway of the wall that surrounded the villa, Kagome stared down at the village wistfully. It was a quaint little village, home to all members of the crew and the islands previous inhabitants – the bat demons. In a helter-skelter manner, the huts were arranged a good distance up from the beach, to account for high tide.
The huts, made out of straw and wood, were spaced a good distance apart from the other, giving each home room for a personal garden.
Kouga, as the highest ranking crew member in the village, had his hut placed in the middle, and was the largest of them all. Miroku, having the next highest rank, lived beside him; his hut was relatively the same size.
Walking down the path leading to the village, Kagome made a beeline for Kouga's hut, knocking only briefly on the door frame before pushing aside the insulating tarp and entering.
"Kouga!" she called out, looking around. His hut, as the largest, had two rooms. The main room, the largest, had a cooking area and a dining area. In smaller huts, the dining area would double as a bedroom, but in Kouga's hut (and also in Miroku's) the second room was for sleeping. At the moment, Kouga was sitting on one of two chairs, arms resting on the table.
"Hello Kagome," he greeted, grinning. "What brings you to my humble home?"
Kagome smiled, lifting up her fistful of flowers. "Ayame told me to bring you these. She wants you to put them in a vase with water."
"Oh," Kouga pouted, standing up to take them. "So you didn't come to see me, then."
"Actually, I did," Kagome admitted, moving to sit down after Kouga gestured her to a seat. "I was wondering if you know where Sesshoumaru is."
"Sesshoumaru?" Kouga asked, stiffening up at the question. With his back still to her, he cast an uneasy glance towards the other room. "Why would I know where he is?"
"Well, you were away with him for two weeks, so the least you should be able to tell me is the last time you saw him," Kagome answered shrewdly, eyes narrowing. "You should know, he's made me quite upset – it would be wise if you didn't do the same."
"Right, well, I haven't seen him since we disembarked a few hours ago. I came straight here," he replied, chuckling weakly.
"I know that's a lie, Kouga," Kagome frowned. "Sesshoumaru's been giving orders through you all morning, so I'll ask again. Where-is-Sesshoumaru?"
He raised his hands in defeat, eying her warily. "Okay, okay. The truth is, he left here about half an hour ago. Said he was going to find Inuyasha."
She stared at him for several minutes, sizing him up, before finally nodding and standing. "Thank you, Kouga. I guess I'll see you later…you will be dining with us up at the villa, I assume?"
"Yes, of course," he agreed. He winced as she finally left, before turning to face the doorway leading to the second room. "Damn glad I decided not to pursue anything with her. She's turned out to be quite the bitch, eh, Sesshoumaru?"
Scowling, the demon captain slowly re-entered the main room, staring blandly at his quartermaster. "Do not flatter yourself, wolf. You were never a contender."
Kouga snorted. "Well, your mate seems to be on a rampage. What are you gonna do now?"
Sesshoumaru frowned, unconsciously fingering the small purse tied to his belt. "Avoid Inuyasha."
"Inuyasha!" Kagome shouted as she stalked down the hallway. "I want to see Sesshoumaru right now!"
"Christ, wench!" he groused back, slamming out of his room with a growl. "I'm just about tired of all this! I don't know where he is!"
"But…Kouga said Sesshoumaru was with you," she replied uncertainly, crossing her arms over her chest.
"Well he ain't," Inuyasha barked, frustrated. Kagome deflated, the fight seeping out of her. "Look, Kagome…you are seriously taking this too far. Just…go relax somewhere, all right?"
"How can I relax when Sesshoumaru is obviously avoiding me?" she asked, visibly upset.
"Maybe he's hidin' cuz he knew you were gonna be like this," Inuyasha muttered, looking away with a sigh. He dragged clawed fingers through his hair, thinking.
"Why don't you go sit in the gardens for a while?" he suggested. "Take a breather and just sit. I'm sure Sesshoumaru will come to you."
"How can you be so sure?" she asked, not expecting an answer as she turned to walk away.
"Because I'm gonna make sure he does," Inuyasha promised to himself, frowning as he watched her go.
Kagome sat with her eyes closed, trying to block out the continued sounds of hurrying servants by listening intently to the chirping of bird song in the gardens.
She had followed Inuyasha's directions and come directly to the gardens, and found it empty.
Ayame must be done out here, and everyone else must be busy, she concluded, opening her eyes to gaze up at the clear sky.
If she had to be honest with herself, sitting alone like this was giving her time to think. The day she discovered Sesshoumaru had left, she had been so upset and hurt, that she hadn't stopped to think why, but had instead rushed around the villa, trying to find someone who knew the truth and would be willing to tell her. When her search ended in bitter disappointment, she had vowed to lay in on Sesshoumaru when he finally returned.
And now that he's back, rather than be happy about it, I'm angry, clinging bitterly to the hurt that he hadn't even told me he was leaving, Kagome realized sadly, cupping her face in her hands and sighing. Sesshoumaru must have even been able to tell I was upset, because even he wouldn't avoid me for more than half a day after returning from a voyage without good reason!
She felt frustrated tears gather and stubbornly rubbed them away. There was really no reason to cry – all the heartache she had experienced for the last two weeks had been caused by her own stubborn refusal to just wait for Sesshoumaru to return and explain himself. And now that he was back, she had done everything to try to find him not to hear an explanation, but to give him a lecture.
"I'm horrible," she murmured.
"No, Kagome, you are not," a low voice answered her.
"Sesshoumaru?" Turning around on her seat, she stared at the dog demon, her face crumpling as tears tried to force their way out again. "You're showing yourself to me now?" she asked waveringly, trying to sound angry but failing.
"Yes," he murmured, stepping towards her. "I'm sorry I didn't come to you right away, but I had a few last things to complete."
"I suppose you'll tell me all about it now, huh? Why you didn't tell me you were leaving, and where you were," Kagome presumed, forcing down her emotions.
"The reason I didn't tell you I was leaving, I suppose, is because I am not used to having to," he admitted. He stopped a few steps away from her, his hands limp at his sides.
"I guess you really can't teach an old dog new tricks," she hiccupped, sniffing.
Sesshoumaru frowned, unable to disagree with the analogy. "Kagome, I did not think it important, at the time. You knew I was preparing to leave."
"Yeah, but I didn't know you were going to leave the day I got my stitches out," she retorted, old anger beginning to rise again. She viciously squashed it, determined to hear him out.
The demon inclined his head. "I apologize, Kagome. Believe me when I say I didn't leave that day with the intent to hurt you, by the abruptness nor the secrecy, but the reason for my journey was important."
"So important that I couldn't know about it?" Kagome asked, unable to keep the hurt from her voice.
"Since the journey was for you, no," he replied, smiling when she deigned to look at him curiously.
"For me?" she murmured, curious despite herself.
"It was meant to be a surprise," he explained, reaching into the pouch at his waist, "and delivered to you under the moon tonight after dinner, but I do not think it wise to wait any longer."
Lifting a hand to cover her rapidly increasing heartbeat, Kagome stood slowly, taking small steps towards him. "What…what is it?"
"The reason for my journey," he said, smirking at her frustrated huff. "I went to the island of Totosai, a legendary demon sword-maker. He made the swords Inuyasha and I carry for our father, from his fang. They are imbued with his spirit and power."
"Then why would you go to him?" Kagome asked, confused. "I do not know how to wield a sword."
"I know. That is why I did not have him make a sword." Sesshoumaru took the last few steps towards her, pulling his cupped hand out of the pouch. "Using one of my fangs, so that it may be imbued with my spirit and protection, I had Totosai make…a ring," he told her, opening his hand to reveal his gift.
Sitting in the center of his palm, the ring was simple in design, a single band of silver. Resting in the center was a small sapphire, the same shade of blue as her eyes.
"Why a ring?" she breathed, aching to touch the beautiful piece of jewellery.
"Human couples have a tradition involving the exchanging of rings, do they not?"
Kagome looked up at him, surprised, and the warmth she saw in his gaze melted the last of her irritation away. She couldn't help her hope-filled smile as she reached up to touch his check, lightly tracing his markings. "Are you asking me to marry you, Sesshoumaru?"
He took her hand in his, cupping it against his cheek for a brief moment before pulling it down. "We are already to be mated – in demon society, none would challenge our claims to each other. But you are human, and humans recognize a couple's claim on each other if they are wearing rings."
"It's a little more complicated than that," she laughed, deeply pleased by his consideration, "but I accept your proposal, Sesshoumaru. Wholeheartedly."
It wasn't until he heard those words and his shoulders slumped that Sesshoumaru realized how tense he had been, and as his heart swelled with triumph and pleasure, he slid the ring onto her finger.
"There was another reason for my journey," he admitted, lightly rubbing the ring with his thumb.
"Oh?" Kagome asked idly, watching the movement.
"For the foreseeable future, I will not be leaving the island," he said, smirking at her shocked gasp. "Kouga will take my place on the ship, and oversee all of the voyages."
"I will still be captain, and decisions will still be deferred to me, but Kouga will represent me for now. The journey to see Totosai thus had the second function of giving Kouga the chance to practice commanding the crew in my presence."
Sesshoumaru grunted softly when Kagome immediately pressed herself against him, arms wrapping around him tightly.
"Why?" she asked softly, face buried in his chest.
"Because I wish to remain with you," he said, leaning down to whisper it in her ear.
"You know, you go about doing things in some of the worst ways, but the things you do are simply amazing," she told him, pressing their lips together.
"I love you," she mumbled against his lips, and felt them pull up into a smile against hers.
"And I you."