I don't own anything Inuyasha.

There was a time when Sesshoumaru would sit outside for hours to watch the day die and night bled through in a passive wave of blue and purple hues. When the world was asleep he would remain a witness, his thoughts swaying with the damp gusts of cool winds, and he felt content. The stars glimmered and he could sense their ageless impact before the sun would burst through, fading the kingdom's darkness and nightmares. It was a time Sesshoumaru could dream and be whatever he desired before fate finally asked for what was expected of his existence.

The current drama with his father had sent him in a tailspin of honor and responsibility, but it wasn't until the battle with Kimiko that he felt the Universe calling.

Kimiko deserved a long, drawn out fight. She was strong, highly capable, smart, and had entered into the contest independent of family ties. Truly, she a remarkable youkai, and Sesshoumaru believed her an admirable female as well. However, their battle was challenging something deep within him. Each movement was a perfect opposite of his own, debasing his every instinctual response. There was no preparing for her and no time to strategize. His katana would thrust forward and she would swipe at his ankles. The green flash of his whip would crack the sky, yet she would be at his back, and they both would jump away not knowing what to expect next.

With every blow and dodge he aged, feeling the weight of fate pressing down on his heart and his childhood dying on the edge of her Dao blades. From the first time she struck, he knew the outcome of this battle would determine his path from now on.

He had spun out of range of her last assault when the crowd collectively gasped. Where Kimiko once was now stood a gigantic oni, still shimmering from her illusion taking affect. It was such a believable likeness and such a commanding power that even the environment around her reacted. As the blue devil barreled ahead, the ground shook and its roar deafened Sesshoumaru. He knew her strength had not increased, but was unaware if he had to adjust the angles of her attacks or assume that this image was not reality, and therefore her true form was still only as tall as he was. He had little time to consider before the oni was on him, bringing down an enormous blade. Instead of countering, he rolled to its left into the strike and used his whip to wrap around the thick trunk of its leg. A feminine shriek rolled out of the monstrous jowls as he pulled, tripping the oni to the ground. Sesshoumaru stood and stared as the dust settled and shimmered with Kimiko's next illusion taking form. When she finally stood up, he was staring at his father.

It was a clever move to play with his personal life. He thought it would make him fiercer, but even he was shocked by his small reaction. Yet this time he did not wait for her to charge. With a growl, Sesshoumaru struck, leaning away from her left sword as it swung at his head and meeting her right with his own. The metallic clang rang loud between them, and he stared at his sire's smirk. In the low tone he had grown up with, the Western Lord mocked him. "Does your discontent from me truly yield so little a response?"

Sesshoumaru growled and pushed the ibis away. "You exploit the wrong stressors, Kimiko-san."

Once again, her form faded. "Then being personal is the wrong game to play with you." His sire's silver hair turned raven and his armor gave way to a stark white haori. "Instead of a remorseful enemy, how about a natural one?" Once the full transformation took hold his heart stilled. There in front of him stood Miko in traditional priestess dress. He could not fully compose himself and hoped she did not notice how it had unsettled him.

With a brilliant smile she attacked and Sesshoumaru could not break his glance away from her burning eyes. An urge to hold onto Miko and settle her rage made his muscles ache, but he had to settle for countering her strikes instead. She sheathed the Dao into the carrier on her back and it converted into a quiver and bow. He leapt away, landing on the opposite side of the arena, and tried to calm his heartache.

A whisper trailed in his ear. "It isn't me."

His chest swelled with Miko's voice. It was only now he could see the differences. Kimiko's eyes were sad and her hair tame. Also, her movements were more graceful than he had ever seen Miko to be. As he jumped from a glowing arrow's path he noticed that it wasn't her illusion that took him off guard, but his fear that his secret imaginary friend was discovered, or that by fighting her was he destroying everything she had meant. He remembered sparing with Miko as children, the thrill and fun they shared learning each others' movements, and started at Kimiko with a new vigor. He understood. This was a test to see past who he was taught hate and realize who the true enemy was.

Kimiko's frustration grew as her new tactic spurred Sesshoumaru on instead of hindering him. The area sizzled as the glow around her priestess body intensified and the dirt at their feet shook. With a scream, a false blast of purity shot out from her hands. The crowd cowered, though the wave proved to be harmless, but a murky cloud that enveloped the stadium was left behind. Sesshoumaru swung his blade to clear away the dusty haze and he found himself looking into his own eyes. Kimiko had changed into him.

It was then he realized what the powers that be were telling him. She was sent to him for this challenge. Not to fight against it, but to allow it. Once he locked onto his own eyes Sesshoumaru heard the Universe, and it believed in him. All he could do was trust in himself, the way Miko did, and permit fate to take hold. He let go of his control and his body seemed to move on its own. It was incredibly freeing. Blocking her attacks, dancing on the battlefield, flirting with every blow- everything he was ever taught and every belief he held dear were collimating into the fighter he was now becoming as he let himself loose. All he had to do was fight the only person truly holding him back; himself.

She charged, the stripes on her arms breaking into jagged slashes with the tight grip on her favored blades as she brought one down on him. Instead of connecting once again with his katana, he moved in close, grabbed her wrist, and broke the small bones within. His voice shouted in frustration through her illusion as she dropped the sword and swung the other. Never would he consider releasing his own weapon, but the weight of it left his hand without a second thought. Panic raced through Kimiko's false golden eyes as the true Sesshoumaru grabbed onto her other arm and twisted both of her arms behind her back. Her body pressed hard against his. Her chest jutted forward and he could fell the softness of her breasts give way and the hard muscles on her stomach shake from her rapid breathing. He now understood the full capacity of her shape shifting power to be visual only, but was taken off guard by the heat and scent of her. Other than Miko, no female had ever been this close to him, and his friend had no true form to share this experience. Her illusion dropped in a graceful shimmer and he was once again looking at Kimiko's smooth face, sharp nose, and round eyes. The salt off her skin mixed with the perfume of bath oils and the sweetness of her own scent. Her breath brushed against the tiny hairs on his neck and stung the scratches from their battle. He looked down into her eyes as both their chests rose and dropped together with each inhalation.

Through his breathless pants, he commanded her in a low voice. "Withdraw."

"I would think you should prefer me to submit? Perhaps, even bow at your feet?" Her tone carried a hint of mirth that only females could toy with and she dropped her head slightly, exposing her neck as a taunt.

Sesshoumaru only glanced at the naked skin for a moment. "You are acquiescent, Kimiko, but not meek. I would not dare tarnish such an admirable quality."

She smiled at him. It was not coy like Miko's, but feminine and fierce in a way that stirred his blood. Her shoulders dropped and her last weapon fell to the ground. Cheering overtook the crowd, but Sesshoumaru waited another moment before liberating her arms. Kimiko nursed her shattered wrist while commending him. "You will be a fine Alpha." She had lost the flirting tone, but her levity remained.

"From you," he stood straighter and offered a sly grin back, "I will take that as the highest compliment."

.

That night, Miko came to him after he washed and dressed. Without any words they embraced and he could not compare it to the way Kimiko had felt in the same position. Miko was small in his arms, but he felt them overflowing and he closed his eyes to imagine her warmth invading him.

"Father was not there today."

Her voice was muffled in his chest. "Where did he go?"

"No one will say, but I fear the worst."

"The Dragons?"

Sesshoumaru stilled. That thought had not even occurred to him. Since when did he believe ningen to be a worse enemy than dragons? Or a tryst more deadly than a battle?

Miko pulled away to read his face. "What's wrong?"

He sighed deeply and watched as she started to glow in her apprehension, then pulled her close again. His father had been absent, but she had been there with him. "Thank you." His tension waned and he went to stroke her hair, willing himself to feel the dark locks. She melted into his embrace until she disappeared completely.