Obligatory Disclaimer: I clearly do not own any of the characters within (even those who may or may not be originals), any of the settings, concepts, or other potentially copy-written works within this piece. I am merely a vessel; A messenger who conveys a story, nothing more, nothing less.

He couldn't understand his father. Was his mother not worthy? Was his heart simply big enough for two? Was he somehow missing something which this human woman could give? None of it made sense to Sesshomaru. He doubted it ever would. It wasn't that he judged his father. Sesshomaru knew that wasn't his place, but he simply could not comprehend what this woman meant to him and why she was worth dying for. It went against instinct to take a woman who was not already pack.

Inu were not solitary creatures but did not leave their pack, no matter the reason. His father going to that human woman was nearly the same as abandoning them. Sesshomaru could not understand the desire, the draw, the need to have someone who, as his father put it, loved him. This was a strange sensation, an odd sort of pull that Sesshomaru could not comprehend. What use was love? Loyalty was far more important among the inu – and his mother had it in spades. Despite her apparent irritation at being brushed aside as the alpha female for her mate's lustful endeavors, she did nothing to hinder him. She remained as she always did, ever loyal. So why did he push her aside so easily?

Even Sesshomaru had known that someday he would choose a mate based on her best qualities for the pack - strong mothering instincts, intelligence, strength, and above all loyalty – the most enduring quality of the inu. So why would his own father go against such tradition? What exactly was love and what sort of spell had it cast on the great demon?

The answer would never come as his father would succumb to this love so greatly that he would lay his own life down to protect it. His father's last words lingered in his mind. "Do you have something to protect?"

Sesshomaru could not understand such a sentiment. He was not alpha – it was not yet his responsibility to protect. That burden had always been carried by his mother and father, leaving Sesshomaru among the others of their broad pack, to be guided and prepared for the day when he would carry such a load.

That day came earlier than anyone ever had expected as the wailing cries of a newborn infant fell upon the wind, causing something within Sesshomaru to open precariously. Their alpha was dead. Instinct coursed through Sesshomaru's veins and demanded he take action, forced him to accept the responsibility that he was ill prepared for. It was not meant to be this way, but that was how things were and he would not argue against it. Watching the woman leave the burning building with the screaming bundle, Sesshomaru followed.

When he finally approached her, the woman was fearful and clutched her baby to her with an odd sort of ferocity. "This Sesshomaru does not come to harm you. You hold a member of our pack and it is he that we come for."

Izayoi shook her head vigorously, eyes wide with pain and madness. "No! You cannot have him! He... he left me... alone... with this child..." Her head shot up and she glared at Sesshomaru. "He can never know! Never! Just leave us be!"

Sesshomaru raised his eyebrow and stood for a while. Watching the woman whisper to her child, he wondered if this was also part of the crazy insanity that was love. It mattered not. This pup was his pack and he would not allow anyone, even his mother, to prevent him from following instincts. "You do not command This Sesshomaru."

The woman sneered, clutching the baby closer to her chest. "You cannot have him! It is bad enough he has already lost a father! I will not abandon him to your kind! I would rather he die than go with you!"

Obviously, she was not thinking clearly, but Sesshomaru knew better than to not take her threats seriously. His eyes widened slightly as his jaw clenched and his aura surrounded him. "You would threaten This Sesshomaru's pack?!"

Izayoi stepped back, gripping the child only to let out a cry as Sesshomaru stepped forward and easily removed the bundle from her clutches. "No!" She cried out. "InuYasha! Please he is all I have!"

Sesshomaru held the stirring pup in his embrace, looking down on the human woman with disgust. He could not understand what his father had ever seen in such a creature. Without even sparing the sobbing woman a glance, he flew off into the night with the first member of his very own pack. When he arrived home, greeted by his mother, she saw what he had done and pursed her lips as she carefully considered her next words.

"Have you thought of the consequences of your actions, Sesshomaru?" Mizuki wondered, following him as he took the pup to his own sleeping chambers, burrowing the tiny infant among the furs that would familiarize the young one with his scent. The mother smiled at that, knowing that her son did not fully understand the motions that instinct drove him towards, but felt a little sorry that this was not his child to claim as such. She knew this would end poorly.

Sesshomaru turned to her, his eyes glinting with determination as he quietly spoke. "This Sesshomaru cares not of the consequences – he is our pack and as such, he will stay with us."

Mizuki's eyes widened at that. "Your pack, you say? You are a hundred years too young for such matters, Sesshomaru." Still, she did not force him to give it up as she watched him curl up with the waking pup whose bright amber eyes showed true the link between the brothers. With a small sigh, she turned away and left them to their bonding, knowing it would be all that her child would have left of his father soon enough.

Things went well for a day or two, but all too soon reality came crashing down on Sesshomaru as he held the screaming pup in his arms and tried to console him. Mizuki entered the room, a wistful smile on her face as she shook her head. "Sesshomaru, this will not work. Let the pup return to his mother."

Sesshomaru stared at his mother with a tired and frustrated gaze, not having received an ounce of rest since he had brought InuYasha home. "She threatened him! She does not deserve him! He is our pack, This Sesshomaru will not abandon him."

Mizuki knelt beside him, reaching up to pet at his head gently as she looked upon him and his tiny 'pack member'. "Sesshomaru, every child seeks their mother. It is instinct. Even a poor mother is better than none. Would you deny InuYasha his instincts for the sake of your own?"

She watched the torn expression on her son's face and knew that, despite his turmoil, he would make the right choice. That forlorn stare would be the last show of emotions Mizuki would ever see upon her child. When Sesshomaru left that night, returning InuYasha to a shocked and crazed Izayoi, his heart would stay with the pup.

Over the years, as Sesshomaru tried to visit InuYasha and instill in him the youkai way – the way of the inu – Izayoi continued to despise youkai and Sesshomaru for trying to take her child away. The human woman never spoke poorly of the great youkai which sired her child, but had nothing positive to say for the rest of his kind or his other son.

When InuYasha uttered his brother's name with a happy laugh, after a promising visit where the elder youkai taught his young pack member how to use his sense of smell to his advantage, Izayoi hit her son for the first time. The next time Sesshomaru would see InuYasha, the young hanyou would utter the words "I hate you" with such anger that the immature alpha would be unable to respond appropriately.

"If that is what you wish, InuYasha." He would leave the pup, but instinct still pushed him to check on him from time to time. When the pup grew old enough, Sesshomaru began to use his own anger to his advantage and started to teach the boy how to defend himself through attacks. As time went on, he watched as the hanyou formed more bonds with humans, only to be betrayed and pinned to a tree under an eternal sleep.

Sesshomaru hissed as he tried to break the barrier, but it was too powerful for him and he did the only thing he could. He protected his pack by protecting the forest. It was a rhythmic thing, eventually feeling more like chore than duty, but one that he would not abandon. He wandered, seeking anything that might help soothe his empty heart. Something that could assist InuYasha in controlling his youkai blood, even though he knew looking for such a thing was foolish as the hanyou had not aged or showed any sign of awareness for many years.

Loyalty was a difficult thing to budge, a strange shackle that one bore with pride. Yet, Sesshomaru felt hollow as his pack remained one who was ever sleeping. Having no alpha and not truly being seen as one left him in an unusual position where he felt as if he might topple over into a strange and frightening darkness.
Then, one day... light.

A young human woman came into his life once more, or at least she came into InuYasha's. She released the hanyou and the brothers were once again playing their game of cat and mouse. To anyone with sense, Sesshomaru could easily kill the boy, but to anyone without they would never consider that possibility.

Sesshomaru tried to kill the woman-child immediately, realizing that she could be an even greater threat than Izayoi before her, but she endured and InuYasha – foolish brat – claimed her as his own. The shock of such an admission, that this human girl was now a part of the pack, startled the young lord and left him vulnerable to attack. He lost his arm that day, running away to lick his wounds. It was not the physical ones which hurt most.

When Rin, a small human child, came to his aide his emotions tried to tell him to turn her away. His instincts told him that one human was now pack by proxy – why not another? It was so very lonely being so solitary, after all. Yet, he was afraid. Afraid of possibly becoming close only to be betrayed once more. He chose to leave her to her fate, only to find her once again. As he revived the girl he swore that she was not pack. He was just repaying a small debt to her. She was free to do as she pleased.

She chose to follow him and exhibited a greater sign of loyalty than even the most noble of inu had ever displayed. Time and again, she would faithfully entrust him with her happiness and over time Sesshomaru found himself content with this small bandage.

Many things would transpire over the coming months as Sesshomaru continued to keep an eye on InuYasha while caring for Rin, finally feeling closer to his pack than ever before. He was not stupid, of course, realizing that he owed a great deal to the young untrained miko that traveled with InuYasha. Had she not released the hanyou, had she not broken the jewel, had she not remained fiercely loyal to her friends and followed the boy with a pure faith – Sesshomaru would not have his own peace.

It was, therefore, a great surprise when she managed to make the most selfless wish possible and disappeared from their time to wherever she came from. That was not the most shocking thing she did, however, as she returned some time later – as if it were nothing. Was she some kind of witch as well as a miko? Was that even possible? He wondered if InuYasha were in greater danger than he had initially suspected and decided to keep a closer eye on the situation.

Rin was the perfect excuse. He could leave her with the old woman and then visit her frequently, thus he would always know what was happening between InuYasha and this odd young human. What was her name again?

Kagome gave off a laugh as she was chased by the two children. She toppled over beneath them, letting out a squeal as the kitsune tickled her mercilessly while the young girl caught up to them. Yet, she paused and turned with a wide grin to run from them.

"Lord Sesshomaru!" Rin called out, dashing towards her beloved father-like figure but halting at a respectable distance.

Shippo pulled back, giving a nod as he lowered his gaze from the more powerful youkai while his adoptive mother flushed and sat up with a grin. "Lord Sesshomaru, what a pleasant surprise! Rin is always a much more diligent student after your visits." Kagome teased, causing the girl to puff up with pride and make the young miko giggle lightly.

Before Sesshomaru could speak, InuYasha trudged up the hill mumbling something under his breath about stuck-up youkai and their tendency to leave things behind. The lord merely raised his eyebrow at his hanyou sibling's comment, before turning to hand Rin the latest of her gifts.

"Kaede says it's time to eat." InuYasha ground out towards Kagome, clearly aggravated by Sesshomaru's presence.

Rin, oblivious to the irritation that InuYasha felt, smiled at the hanyou pleadingly. "May Lord Sesshomaru come to dinner?" She asked, turning to Kagome with hopeful eyes.

InuYasha was ready to say no, Sesshomaru was ready to relent and agree that it would be a poor decision, but Kagome stood and brushed herself off before giving a nod. "With manners like that, of course he is welcome! Very nice, Rin!"

The girl turned to her guardian with a beaming grin. "Kagome has been teaching me how to ask for things properly! I did well!"

Sesshomaru looked to Kagome and their eyes met briefly, a silent thanks passing and a returning welcome given with a nod. He returned his attention to his ward, who was already going on about all the other things she had recently learned, leaving InuYasha, Kagome, and Shippo to return by themselves. "Your speech has improved greatly, Rin."

With that praise, the child practically dragged him behind her, never touching but trusting he would follow. Of course, he did, he could not understand what mystical power Kagome held over InuYasha and now Rin – but he was determined to get to the bottom of it for the sake of his pack.

The evening meal went by without the usual boisterous chatting Kagome was used to from her friends. Everyone was nervously watching the two half-brothers as irritation clashed with apathy. InuYasha continued to try and bait his elder sibling, making rude comments any chance he could in between Kagome's attempts at civil conversation, only for Sesshomaru to merely glare at the hanyou but do nothing more. Before the meal was finished, both had rushed from the main room to find some field somewhere and attempt to hack off more limbs.

Kagome gave a sigh and after cleaning up and giving the children over to Kaede, searched out the brothers. As she watched them fight, her mind wandered. Would their relationship ever improve? She had strong hope for her own relationship with the hanyou, they were great friends still and seemed to harbor affection for the other, but she knew that he was still lonely. He needed family and Sesshomaru was the only one who could fully fill that gap.

The problem was that they hated each other. Well, no... her eyebrow rose as she thought it over carefully. The real issue was that InuYasha held some serious grudge against Sesshomaru – not that she blamed him entirely. The young lord had not exactly been kind over the last few years; he certainly would not win any brother of the year awards. Still, he did seem to be trying, even if it was for the fact that he had given up on Tessaiga.

Sesshomaru had always claimed to dislike InuYasha because of his human mother, but yet he cared for Rin and didn't seem to harbor a huge hatred for every single human that crossed his path – so what was the real reason?

Her brow furrowed as she thought over their past arguments, attempting to find some missing piece of the puzzle. Part of her doubted there was anything to be found. Her eyes widened when she considered the fact that Sesshomaru rarely, if ever now, instigated their arguments. She turned to watch them carefully, noting how the elder held himself back and did not use his full strength, despite having no reason to do so.

It was then that Kagome decided to get to the bottom of the mystery. Of course, InuYasha would tell her nothing useful. He was only full of frustration and anger when it came to Sesshomaru. When she did question him, he scowled and scratched at his head before turning to her and irritatingly grinding out: "If you're so damn curious, why don't you ask him?

An ingenious idea, but how did one get close to a distant and supposedly human-hating youkai lord without inviting death?

A blind man would know she was following him.

Kagome was terrible at being stealthy and even worse at keeping her thoughts to herself. For what seemed like the millionth time since his most recent visit, she knocked something else over and gave off a tiny squeal of apology before helping the villager to pick up their things and then running towards him on what he was sure she felt were light feet. Could she be any less graceful?

Sesshomaru fought the urge to slice her in half and enjoy the rest of his day, realizing that he could not do such a thing now that InuYasha had claimed Kagome as his pack and seemed intent on taking the human wench as his mate. Besides, the odds of InuYasha finding a more competent female were rather low, so he'd let the poor hanyou keep the woman, even if she was a nuisance.

He behaved no differently than usual, generally ignoring most humans as he made his way through the village and followed his ward's scent to where she was clearly attempting to complete a task for one much older and taller than she. Rin unsteadily stood on her toes, reaching up to place a large basket on the hook which held it just under the low-hanging eave of the house.

When he took the basket from the child and hung it for her, Kagome gave a gasp and he turned, raising an eyebrow at her odd actions only to see an even stranger reaction on her face. She was thoroughly blushing, as if she'd seen something highly intimate. Sesshomaru turned away from her, following Rin into the small building and thoroughly blocking Kagome's ability to watch him. Inwardly, he couldn't deny the amusement at how her energy flared with her annoyance. His eyes widened slightly as her powers seemed to fumble out, searching for him almost with a child-like persistence.

Sesshomaru decided to push the boundaries of this odd interaction between them by lightly retreating his youki. His curiosity was rewarded with a response from Kagome, he could almost see her startled and alerted gaze as she rushed to the side of the hut and tried to find him once more. The light, pleading way her energy brushed against him sparked something and caused his eyes to widen. It was quite amusing to play this game of cat-and-mouse with her, but he had never known such things to actually tickle. Stomping down the laugh that tried to bubble out of him when she did it again, his face hardened into a frown for a few moments as he pushed out hard. A satisfying smirk flickered on his face as he felt her retreat and heard her give out a startled cry as she stepped back into someone and knock them over. During the scuffle and subsequent apologies, she had forgotten all about him.

It would be several hours later, when he had left the hut with Rin and had concluded his visit with her – while the sun was slowly dipping into the horizon – that she would find him again. This time, however, he was waiting for her. He did not bother with pleasantries, moving right to the point as her footsteps neared. "What do you want?"

Kagome halted and inhaled sharply, her breath hanging in her throat as she considered that. Could she outright tell him what she sought? Would it be that easy?

Just telling him that she was curious to know more about him and why he and InuYasha had such a terrible history would not work. Still, if she didn't then she might never find out. It was better to be honest and let the chips fall where they may. Flushing slightly, she licked her lips and looked up at him. His back was facing her, the pink and orange hues of sunset lingering on his silver hair as they swayed in the breeze. She was slightly grateful for the fact that he could not see her discomfort, not even considering that he would be able to smell it. Bracing herself, she pushed forward. "I was wondering why you seem to love Rin so easily, but yet claim that you dislike humans – yet are not hateful towards any of the humans here, including myself. Additionally, I wonder what happened between you and InuYasha. I thought, if I could get to know you better... perhaps..." She trailed off, wondering if she had said too much.

Sesshomaru blinked placidly, taking a slow breath as he listened to her prattle. So she thought to fix him, did she? Humans, so typical. He shifted his weight to his left foot and turned slightly to the right to face her at an angle, assuring he was still intimidating as he looked down on her. "This Sesshomaru does not see how this has anything to do with you."

The young girl stammered and nodded, her flush deepening. "I know, but... I still want to help." Her eyes hung on his gaze for a few moments before tearing away and darting about, as if seeking something to assist her. Her mind raced as she tried to gather up every bit of courage that she could. "I just don't get why you and InuYasha disagree so much. You're brothers, you should get along!"

He could feel pure annoyance building up behind his eyes and he did his best not to sigh or roll them before turning to look back at the sunset. "You would not understand."

Kagome stilled, feeling as if the wind had been knocked out of her with those words. Her lip trembled before she spoke again, softer, gentler. "I could try."

Why was she so persistent? Why did she insist on bothering him at every turn? His eyes closed and she looked at him, taking in his features and flushing slightly.

Kagome had never really taken in how very beautiful Sesshomaru was. Oh sure, she had noticed that he was pretty before, but had never had the opportunity to actually see it all. It wasn't as if she had ever been given much of a chance to get to know the stoic lord. InuYasha claimed his brother was cruel and would be furious if he found out she was here. Yet, everything she knew of the stiff elder brother was contradictory. When he hadn't responded again, she decided to push her luck and threw out a joke.

"You two didn't fight over some girl, right?" She grinned, wondering how he would take it.

Sesshomaru's eyes widened just slightly and his breath hitched. Fight over some girl? It sounded like a quarrel over a lover, but no... it was still very accurate. The trouble between him and his young pack member amounted to nothing more than a spat over a female. The female in question just happened to be the hanyou's mother. Looking to her stiffly, he noted how she had also froze, her eyes wide with a mix of curiosity and horror. He wondered what she might be thinking. Luckily, he didn't have time to dwell on the strangeness of wondering what human females were contemplating when she opened her mouth.

Kagome struggled to find the words, feeling a sick sensation that was heavy in her stomach. She supposed it was somehow possible, but for some reason the very idea made her nauseated and she felt as if she was ready to cry. It seemed strange, but Kagome felt oddly jealous as she spat out the words, trying to push the conversation forward. "It wasn't Kikyo, was it?"

The way his aura flared and his gaze hardened confused her, and for a brief moment Kagome felt as if the ground below her was giving out. However, when he responded, the absolute irritation in his voice gave way to a peaceful sensation within her that she could not explain. "This Sesshomaru would never fight the hanyou for a lover."

Oh. Kagome gave a broken little laugh. "Of course you wouldn't." She trailed off, feeling foolish as she reached up to tuck her hair behind her ears and darted her eyes to the ground, finding the grass quite fascinating suddenly. She expected the conversation to be over, but for some reason he seemed bothered that she was so irritated, and so he continued.

"It was his mother."

The startling revelation came as the breeze picked up and began to carry the dry leaves that had collected on the ground, rattling them together and snuffing out any further sounds. Kagome felt her heart race as she looked up, only to see that he was no longer there. What did that mean? InuYasha's mother? She couldn't believe that he had loved the woman, with the way he spoke of her it was highly unlikely. Perhaps, he had been jealous? No, that was not entirely accurate either. With a sigh, she resigned herself to waiting for the next opportunity to speak to him.

As the days grew colder, the leaves slowly falling off the trees to their death and the snow beginning to fall, Kagome began to find that her mind continually turned to the memory of Sesshomaru that autumn evening. They had not spoken since, but she could not help to think of him frequently. Over the weeks, she considered what he had meant.

While she was not the greatest at deducting things, she had come to the conclusion that there was really only one possibility. Izayoi had taken something from Sesshomaru, which left him bitter against her and all humans to come. Kagome could remember her own mother reminding her that when there was hate, there was once love. It was hard to imagine the stoic lord loving the human woman, but perhaps he had been very grateful to her for at least providing something? Like a brother?

"Child, ye have dropped another one. Are ye unwell?" Kaede's voice broke through her hazy thoughts and drew her attention to the fact that her legs were now soaked with the water she'd been bringing to the house.

Kagome's eyes widened and she let out a sigh, handing the half-filled bucket to the older miko before excusing herself. This was the third time this week she had done this. Her mind was so distracted, so full of Sesshomaru and wondering why he had become the way he did and what he meant by what he said that she could barely function. Most of the villagers attributed it to her getting used to living with them, to them Kagome came from a strange place with odd customs. Perhaps it was entirely normal where she came from to daydream and dump water on yourself. Still, Kaede knew the girl the best and had seen this before in her elder sister.

Kagome was in love.

The elder woman's face contorted into a frown as she thought it over. It was very obvious that the girl was very badly in love, but it was very unfortunate how fate drew two individuals together and apart so easily. Her eye shifted towards where InuYasha was chopping wood and giving a show to some of the village children, letting out a sad sigh as Kagome walked right past him... oblivious. At once, the girl stilled, just on the outskirts of the village, and Kaede watched with a mixture of amusement and horror as the young woman took up the bottom of her drenched kimono and broke into a run towards the well. It was not until Rin also darted out from inside the hut and ran in the same direction with a squeal that realization set in. This was worse than she had thought.

When Kagome felt his aura pushing against hers, she stilled, her breath hitching in her throat as she tried to ignore the butterflies that fluttered in her stomach. Now was her chance for answers! Rushing towards the well, Kagome was ready to confront Sesshomaru, but halfway there she felt another energy tickling from behind and she skidded to a halt, darting into the trees and leaning against one as her chest heaved. Watching the young girl run towards her father-like figure, Kagome suddenly felt the weight of her emotions crush down on her. What had she been doing? What had she expected?

Trembling, she remained where she was as the day began to cool and the snow started to fall. Despite the fact that she was wet and her teeth were now chattering loudly, Kagome felt hot. Her dull nails dug into the bark of the tree behind her as she leaned back, closing her eyes and allowing the cool snowflakes to fall upon her lashes. When he spoke, that soothing cold would lance down through her body and pool into warmth within her abdomen, causing her to gasp.

"You will die if you remain out here."

She nodded stiffly, feeling tears well in her eyes at the very notion that he was remotely concerned for her well-being. Her throat was filled with cotton as she tried to speak, the cold of her skin and the heavy warmth pooling within her mixing to cause her to tremble visibly. "Sesshomaru..."

He did not respond, but inwardly he was surprised and curious. She had dropped the formalities and was speaking to him intimately? While many humans were foolish and often stupid, this particular female had proven she was not typically so. Why the change? He chose to ignore the way his heart sped up at how his name fell from her lips. He realized that he had thought of her far too much during his absence, which only caused him to stay away for longer. They were getting too close. He would have to tell her everything in order to satisfy her curiosity and then leave her to InuYasha. This was how it should be.

"Sesshomaru..." The sad look in her eyes as she gazed into his sent a chill down his spine; luckily she did not seem to notice. "What did she do to you?"

Seconds dragged on as he found it difficult to breathe. He had spent so long within the lie that for quite some time he almost believed it, too. No other had ever seen the truth, had ever known the honest pain that he suffered. They all believed that he hated InuYasha for his human heritage and, in some ways, that was true – but it was not because he had hated humans before. They had always been an enigma to him, always confusing and contradicting, always so full of life in their short lifespans. Sesshomaru had wondered why they even bothered. He had honestly not thought on them much until his father fell in love with a human woman. Love, still such a strange concept to him that he could not even know that he was falling for its traps this very moment as he looked upon the shivering female in the snow.

In the distance a bird cried, breaking the spell that had cast about them, and he finally spoke. "She gave this Sesshomaru pack... and took it away."

Tears fell from Kagome's face as her heart filled with those words. Pack, she had learned through the years, was a word many youkai used that was somewhat synonymous with the human family. Yet, unlike families, packs never parted unless the situation was dire. In this case, it seemed that when the great dog general died saving Izayoi and InuYasha, a young Sesshomaru followed instinct and took his brother as his own, declaring him pack. Being human, however, Kagome also understood the bond between a mother and child. Izayoi was unlikely to be able to function without her baby, particularly after the death of her lover. It was all so very sad.

Sesshomaru and Izayoi had come to despise each other, to be mortal enemies, because they both wanted to love the same individual.

"Are all your questions answered?" He queried, unable to stand here much longer. Instinct told him that she, too, was pack by way of InuYasha, and he was struggling against the desire to pull her towards him and warm her clearly frozen body.

Kagome stared at him for a while, the tears slowly trailing down her face as she felt the emotions that had been slowly building well up inside her. Before she could convince herself to do otherwise, she threw herself at him, arms flying around him as she embraced his stiff torso.

Sesshomaru's eyes rounded as he stilled within her grasp, his breath hitching in his throat as he tried to focus on what she was doing. This was wrong. Kagome belonged to InuYasha, his pack. To hold her and give her false hope now would be the same as betraying his sibling, and he would not do that. Gently, he grasped her shoulders and pushed her away, holding her at arm's length and looking down at her tear stained face. "This cannot happen."

She wanted to ask why not, to question his judgment, to push for what her heart was telling her, but she could do none of that as he was gone before she could even finish taking in a breath. Her heart shattered as she fell to her knees in the snow, not even caring that it was only making her colder. It was in that moment that Kagome realized the horrible truth. She had fallen in love with Sesshomaru.

Worse, he would refuse her at every turn because of pack loyalty and because of his fear of relationships. Not that she could blame him. Nearly every relationship he formed hurt him in some way. His father abandoned him for Izayoi and InuYasha. Izayoi betrayed him by taking InuYasha from him. InuYasha... his ignorance hurt Sesshomaru with every day that he continued to hate the elder sibling.

It wasn't as if Sesshomaru was without fault in this. He instigated the anger and distrust that InuYasha felt. Yet, Kagome had noticed that Sesshomaru rarely initiated any arguments or sparring between them now. She had to wonder if it had all been for InuYasha's sake, which only made her heart break even greater.

Slowly, Kagome stood and brushed herself off, not really noticing how very disheveled she was as she stumbled through the snow and towards the village. The closer she became, the clearer a pair of voices became.

"Lord Sesshomaru! Your honorable mother is expecting you, is it wise to keep her waiting?" Jaken questioned, bracing himself to be kicked but knowing he could expect worse from his master's mother.

Sesshomaru stilled, noting that Kagome's scent – while muted from all the snow – was nearby. He did not want her involved in this, but it seemed he might have no choice if she was going to be insistent. Turning towards her, he spoke without looking at her. "This Sesshomaru understands our mother's request and is in the process of obtaining Rin for a plan to get out of the agreements our mother has arranged."

Jaken seemed confused that his master was discussing his thoughts with him, but replied nonetheless. "If you do not marry your betrothed, Lord Sesshomaru, it would end badly for the relations between the northern and western pack."

The usually stoic inu gave out a frustrated sigh, brow furrowing. "This Sesshomaru does not wish to marry the princess of the northern pack. To mate her would require remaining in the north, which cannot happen."

Kagome's brow furrowed. So he meant to ask Rin to help him? "How?" Her eyes widened in surprise, as she hadn't really expected to voice her thoughts aloud.
Sesshomaru did not mind, used to her outbursts and responding. "Rin will pose as our lover. It is well known that This Sesshomaru has cared for Rin since she was a child, so it will not be impossible to believe. If This Sesshomaru can convince the pack that we have already found a mate, the betrothal can be called off without spoiling relations between the packs."

The miko seemed surprised at this. Did the inu really place such value on love? She considered his plan, but frowned. "You shouldn't ask Rin this." He was already walking towards the village once more, as if to say her opinion was unimportant on the matter. She sighed and raced to catch up with his with long strides. "You know this is wrong! If you were so certain you would have already asked her instead of putting it off until the last minute!" He stilled but she did not back down, knowing it was too late for that. "You'll give her the wrong idea. She already cares for you too much. Do you want to hurt her?"

Silence filled the forest, only occasionally broken by Jaken's mumbling under his breath about insolent human women. When Sesshomaru finally spoke, Kagome nearly jumped. "Do you have another suggestion?" It was less a request and more mocking than anything. He was teasing her.

Her mind raced. Did she have another idea? She did care for him greatly and she did want to help him, even if it meant that she might hurt her friend. Friend... with a sigh, she inwardly admitted that InuYasha no longer held the highest place in her heart. It wasn't that she no longer trusted him, but that her heart had changed.

Looking down at her semi frozen hands, Kagome answered firmly but softly. "Take me instead."