DISCLAIMER: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author; Rumiko Takahashi/Shogakukan - Yomiuri TV – Sunrise. No money is being made from this work. The author (Evellin) is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media.

AUTHORS NOTES: I'm not even going to beg for forgiveness. It's been forever since I updated this story, and well, that sucks. But here it is, Chapter 20. Honestly, I am still not happy with it, but eh, it's time to post this sucker. -I can't tell you how many times I've rewritten this thing. (at least six, and no, I'm not joking) But anyway, here it is.

So with that, I say, enjoy!

Autumn

Chapter Twenty

By Evellin

This was her second shower today, and yet the Miko scrubbed at her flesh as if it were the first. A permanent scowl twisted at her features, while teeth nibbled upon her bottom lip. Charged with emotional angst, Kagome took her frustrations out with a soaped loofah scented with lavender. Skin, both creamy in texture and color, soon turned bright red from the vigorous actions. Meanwhile, an internal berating lashed at raw nerves.

'You need to get it together, Kagome...' came the mental hiss of the angered Miko. '...You have three days. Three freaking days to get your family settled. To say goodbye to them. To make it so they aren't worried about you. And yet I just spent an entire day bitching and moaning... Kagome. You baka.' A frustrated huff escaped her lips as tears prickled at her eyes. 'You are as spoiled, and thoughtless as he is egotistical, and judgmental.'

Blunt teeth resumed their assault upon the captured flesh of her bottom lip. 'You have to be stronger than this. For Mom. For Grandpa... Even college-shipped Sota. Why else do you think you are here? To sit around and complain about the dog outside? No... Come on, Kagome.'

The Miko snorted in disgust as her mind switched topics by recalling her false promise made this morning. 'You made a fool of yourself in front of Sesshomaru today. If I act like a child, he is going to continuing to treat me as one. And what is Tatsuta-Hime going to think? Some Miko, acting as if she can evade the will of the Kami? I mean, what is going to prevent a Goddess from sending the two of us back to the Feudal Era? You can't just stop this, Kagome. Not you. Not Sesshomaru... Certainly not my family. This is it.'

At this moment the words spoken by her Mother not but fifteen minutes prior, echoed through the Miko's mind.

"Kagome, I think you should let Sesshomaru see the future." Mother-Higurashi paused for a brief moment only to continue in her parting of wisdom. "I can only guess at the horrors you have faced... And at the hands of that Yokai. So I get it. I understand why you are behaving this way. However, I do know this is something even you can not change. If the Kami of Autumn was able to bring you home, She can and will return the two of you back to the Feudal Era. I don't think there is anything you can do about that..." Once more Mother-Higurashi paused, looking to her daughter in sympathy before continuing. "...Just like this situation between you and Sesshomaru. Make the best of this opportunity, honey. Show him the error in his ways."

Even now, standing in her privet, hot shower, a chill ran down Kagome's back. Though her Mother's advice was gut-wrenching, even when initially spoken, the Miko knew the truth of it. Mrs. Higurashi was right. Nothing can be done. Kagome was Mated to Sesshomaru. She would be returning the the Feudal Era in two days time. And when they returned, she would be the new Lady of the West.

Tearing blue eyes fluttered to a close as the Miko completed her brutal scrubbing. She sighed in exhaustion, and silenced her mind. She was so very tired; physically, mentally, and emotionally. It seemed like an eternity since Sesshomaru claimed her for himself, and yet it has only been five days. Five days that spanned a lifetime. Five days that has changed everything beyond recognition. And it all belonged to her. Granted, it was a life not of her choosing; how could it? None the less, this was her new reality. This was her life. And so, because of this, Kagome would seize the opportunity granted by Tatsuta-Hime. She had too. What choice did she have?

She could not change the fact that Sesshomaru was her Mate. But she could stand up for herself. She could demand respect. And with the modern age surrounding them, who knows? Maybe she could show him a new way of thinking, and thus, a new way of behaving. This thought gave the onna pause as an idea popped into her head. Maybe if he understood how deeply he had hurt her... Maybe if he saw the repercussions of his actions... Could it be? Is it possible? 'Can Sesshomaru actually change? Can Sesshomaru be remorseful?'

Blue eyes flashed open as a spark of determination grew into a tiny but permanent fire. She knew what she had to do. Unfortunately, it would be an unpleasant undertaking.

"You can do it, Kagome." The Miko's voice was quite, brimming with the exhaustion that weighted heavily upon her. However, below this saturation of fatigue, lay a current of strength ripe with conviction. It was time to make a stand. It was time to demand respect. It was time to let that Inu know she was his equal.

It was time to reiterate how deeply Sesshomaru had hurt her.

With a weary but determined sigh, Kagome rinsed away the lavender-scented suds from her form. Then, after wringing excess water from her hair, brought an end to her shower. With the simple twist of a knob, the heated spray stopped falling. And as water droplets slowly streamed down her naked curves, Kagome reached for the shower curtain.

Pushing the moss-green, plastic material aside, the Miko looked up from the tiled floor. But rather than finding the typical view of her small and feminine bathroom, strong masculinity was on display.

For there, not but three feet from her naked body, filling every available inch within the tiny room, stood the fully armored figure of Lord Sesshomaru.

"WHAT THE HELL!" Kagome cried out, jumping with a start as she did so. Instantly her hands returned to the shower curtain, only to pull the plastic fabric taunt around her form. Meanwhile, a brilliant rosy hue colored her cheeks as her bright eyes stared daggers upon the one named Sesshomaru.

"What is wrong with you?!" Angered by this intrusion on her privacy, the Miko's left eyebrow twitched as blood continued to flush her cheeks. "You don't just come into the bathroom when someone is in here, Sesshomaru!" her voice was borderline hysterical as she chastised the foreboding male. "For Kami's sake, I'm naked!"

Frustration seared the Inu's blood. Anxious need for answers drove his instincts. However, despite these intense feelings, Sesshomaru came to a pause. The sight of Kagome's naked curves sent a shiver down his spine. And the bashful display of her modesty inspired a humored expression. He had seen the girl naked several times before. He knew the feel of her. The taste of her. And yet she was embarrassed? The girl who once traipsed around Feudal Japan in nothing but an over-glorified green loincloth, and a thin-fabric, white houri? Sesshomaru couldn't help the small snicker which escaped his smirking lips.

"Indeed..." The Inu's voice was deep, and filled to the brim with admiration. "...I rather prefer you in this state of undress." As a response, his Mate's blush intensified which in turn issued another chuckle from the temporarily distracted Inu. Her verbal reply, however, brought him back to the task at hand.

Displaying an expression full of exasperation, the Miko freed her left hand from the shower curtain. "Yeah, well, don't get too use to it, buddy! I'm not your little chew-toy! Not anymore!" These harsh words were accentuated with the wagging of her finger while her right hand tightened it's grip upon the shower curtain.

"Now, be a good dog, and GET OUT!"

Sesshomaru did not find this amusing, and in response, bared a single fang in challenge. "Come here, and make me." His tone was simple, and yet within its current lay dark promises. Promises he was prepared to carry out with impassioned vigor if the situation called for it.

This poorly veiled threat sent a shiver down Kagome's spine, despite her modest outrage. However, her Mate's words, and silent promises did nothing to dampen her spirits. Rather, she inhaled loudly, and bristling with bravery, stared at her Inu Mate in bemusement. This was followed swiftly with an ice-cold snarl.

"I do not train dogs."

Stalemate.

Pegged against one another, a stare-off began. Brilliant sapphire hardened towards liquid gold. Slitted pupils shortened as magenta-lined eyelids narrowed. The two Mated beings remained perfectly still in this tense session of silence. However, due to their spiritual bond, a conversation of sorts transpired. A conversation where emotion was the chosen language. And to Kagome's surprise, Sesshomaru's actions was the topic at hand.

Apparently, now was the time for the dreaded honest discussion. And she had no problem leading the charge.

Kagome was enraged. She was hurt. With zero hesitation she displayed the deep emotional wounds inflicted upon her mind and soul. This was the seed to her pain: his actions, his mannerisms, his total disregard for her feelings and thoughts. And like a taproot coiled tightly around her heart, distrust over her Inu Mate had grown. Too much had occurred. Too much was inflicted. There was nothing she could do, to overlook this discord. At least, not in such a short span of time. Did Sesshomaru not understand this? Could he truly be so clueless as to the crimes he committed against her person, and the results there of?

The answer was no.

To Kagome's surprise, the sensation of sympathy resonated from her Mate. It bled into his anger, his frustration, his longing. It rippled through his spirit, and gently caressed her own. Sesshomaru did feel empathy toward her. However, hidden behind this surprising emotion, was his sense of superiority. A righteous truth that made the very essence of Sesshomaru. And though his sympathy for his Mates suffering was fully developed and recognized, it did not, would not, usurp him.

Sesshomaru was not sorry for his actions. And he never will be.

Kagome's legs began to tremble from this very blunt, and matter-of-fact discovery. 'He isn't sorry...?' came the eternal whisper of Kagome's soul. 'He isn't sorry...' Like a dagger, the truth sliced at armor protecting Kagome's heart. With surgical precision, what little hope remained was quickly dismembered. Anguish curled within her chest, and corroded her bloodstream. It filled her mind, and left her panting from the ordeal. And with eyes brimming with tears, the onna broke eye contact, unable, unwilling to continue her challenge.

"You aren't sorry that you raped me..." Kagome whispered, ending the silence that had befallen the tiny bathing room. "You feel sorry for me, and yet you are not sorry for what you have done..."

To hear his Mate verbalize the emotional vortex swirling within his person left the Inu momentarily conflicted. However, he soon found his voice.

"Yes."

This single word was the final blow. He wasn't sorry. He wouldn't be sorry. He felt compassion, but not remorse. And he wouldn't change his mind on the matter.

He refused to change at all.

Biting her lower lip, the Miko blinked her eyes rapidly in a failed attempt to refrain from crying. "...I... I don't understand how you can be so cruel..." Sorrow unfurled within her gut as her voice cracked. "How can you be so cruel?!"

Pausing momentarily, the Inu Lord regarded his Mate in surprise. His expression went from general startlement, to one of consternation. Then, after a fraction of a moment, took a step forward. With less than two feet separating their bodies, the Daiyokai went to make his move. Grasping hold of the moss-green, foreign material, Sesshomaru proceeded to push the fabric away.

"No!" Kagome whimpered out, tears flowing from her large blue eyes as she desperately clung to the shower curtain. Heartbroken, her whining voice was desolated by betrayal as she fought for her modesty. However, despite her feeble attempt to hide herself, the Miko was ultimately uncovered. With absolute authority, Sesshomaru revoked every covering, every shield, from his Mate. And now, standing naked, became physically, mentally, and emotionally prone before the Inu male. He could see everything. He could feel everything. She was an open book, unable to prevent the Inu from reading each page.

It was all too much. She couldn't do this. This isn't what she wanted.

With an anguished sob, Kagome hid her body as best she could. Hugging her breasts, and twisting her torso, the Miko was swallowed whole by devastation as she stood naked before the Inu. "No..." she cried again as her body was overtaken by overwhelming sorrow. It was too much. She couldn't hold it together any longer. Why should she hold it together? With the hope for his remorse stripped away, there was nothing to fight for. There was nothing to help him change. He would always be her predator, and she his prey. And because of this, Kagome's knees gave in, leaving the Miko unable to hold her own weight.

Watching his Mate collapse before him, Sesshomaru moved swiftly. And before her knees could hit the ground, captured the grieving woman with his strong arms. Now, down on one knee, the Inu Lord offered a low, comforting rumble from his chest. And as this sound reverberated throughout the tiny space, pulled Kagome in, cradling her warm, soft body against his cold, armor-clad chest.

"No..." Kagome sobbed once more, her voice miniscule as she lamented. Her hands left her body, attempting to push the Inu away. Simultaneously, she shook her head as tears streamed down her flushed cheeks. "You're so cruel..." her voice was but a whisper as her body trembled within his embrace.

Despite the pathetic resistance offered by his Mate, Sesshomaru held her tightly. He refused to let her go even as he shrugged his mokomoko off his shoulder. Then, possessively yet tenderly, engulfed his Mate with the warmth of his pelt.

"Kagome." Sesshomaru's voice was low, and filled with a tender heat. "Kagome, listen to me." the Inu spoke again, his words easing over the Miko's pathetic mewling, and fruitless struggles. His large, strong hands held her firmly as his robust arms maintained their commanding grasp. And with his white, fluffy pelt swaddling her nude form, protected her modesty in this intimate embrace.

"I will not have remorse over actions which brought you to me."

His voice, though dripping with male dominance, whispered over Kagome's prone form like the gentlest of strokes. It caused the Miko to hiccup to a stop, her tear-ravaged eyes fluttering open only to look up into orbs of amber. When fiery gold met brilliant sapphire, the Inu continued.

"I did not plan to take you as my Mate, Kagome. But I will not view my actions as a mistake. The pain you have expressed? Yes... That is my doing. Your distrust of me was a lesson learned. I accept those truths. I do regret your pain. However..." Once more the Inu paused. And in doing so, tightened his hold, and tucked Kagome up under his chin.

"...I do not regret the moment where I took you for my own."

Kagome was brought to a shocked silence. '...He... He doesn't regret...? …I don't understand...' Lost to this startling admission from her Inu Mate, she neither resisted, nor complained about her new position under his chin. Even as the Daiyokai nuzzled the top of her head, she did not retaliate. With his white, fluffy expanse swaddling her body, Kagome did not feel the cold bite of Sesshomaru's armor. Nor did she feel his clawed hands holding her tightly. What she did feel, was his overwhelming strength, his unshakable control, and his raw honesty which ensnared every inch of her mind, body, and soul. Mystified, the Miko continued to listen as the Yokai's lips pressed against her moist, raven hair.

"I will protect you, Kagome. And the pups I shall sire upon you. And with time, I will earn your trust." Once more the Yokai paused as he slowly leaned back in an attempt to look down upon Kagome's face. When the emotionally stunned onna refused to return his stare, the Inu's right arm tightened, allowing his left to capture her chin.

Held firmly between clawed forefinger and thumb, Kagome's chin was tilt back, forcing the onna to look directly into his eyes. There, a concoction of emotion brewed. Confusion. Longing. Sympathy. He was overflowing with these emotions, and connected as she was, Kagome's spirit absorbed the excess. She was angry. She was hurt to her very core. None the less, she felt. She felt every inch of Sesshomaru's tribulations. And when the Inu spoke, she had not the will, nor the desire to squash the empathy which blossomed within her heart.

"It's too much." Sesshomaru admitted lowly to the silent Miko who refused to blink. Here the Yokai inhaled slowly as his eyes closed to the world. When he spoke again, they slowly opened. "I can hear the Earth screaming, Kagome. I can taste the suffocating air. I feel the trees shiver in fear..." Golden orbs burned all the brighter as his full lips, mere inches from her own, sagged in dismay. "I am torn in every direction. I have no barrings. Mother Earth is dying, and yet I know not as to why. What sort of world has this become? How can the ningen be so thoughtless? So careless? So greedy?"

Here, Sesshomaru's embrace tightened minutely as his face edged ever closer. "Help me to understand, Kagome. I need to understand."

Kagome's sapphire gaze widened. Her breathe hitched. And for the first time in her life, she saw Sesshomaru differently. For the first time in her life, she heard the Daiyokai Lord ask for help.

Silence reined over them. It was not uncomfortable. It was not awkward or embarrassing. Rather, in this still, privet moment, there was understanding. There was honesty. There was respect.

Before Kagome knew what she was doing, she spoke. "Yes..." Her voice was a whispered breathe, practically drowned by her own thundering heart. Meanwhile, her brilliant eyes had yet to blink, let alone revoke their stare from Sesshomaru.

Inhaling her scent through his nose, the Inu's brows furrowed slightly. His full lips parted. He ever so slowly began to lower his mouth onto hers. However, when the Miko spoke again, the Inu became perfectly still.

"...But I will need something in return."

Here Kagome felt her body begin to tremble as a nervous energy spread through her veins. Blinking her brilliant eyes, she watched as Sesshomaru returned to his previous station. Once again a few inches separated their lips. His fingers had yet to revoke their hold upon her chin. But now his eyes blazed with an intensity flavored by curiosity.

"Speak." The Inu's voice rumbled yet maintained a soft, and non threatening quality. "Tell this Sesshomaru of your needs."

Taking a deep breathe, Kagome bit her lip as she bolstered her courage. 'Here's your chance, Kagome. It's now or never...' the Miko thought to herself. Then, blinking once, made her demands.

"I need you to do more than get me pregnant, Sesshomaru. If I am ever going to trust you, I need more than your protection..." Here Kagome paused as Sesshomaru cocked his head every so slightly. "...What I need is your respect." Kagome paused again as her brows furrowed, and her pink tongue moistened her lips. "Look, I understand you are Inu. I'm a Miko, you are Yokai... I get that. We're different. But... Does that mean we can't work together? Can't we find... I don't know... Some sort of common ground?" The ningen onna bit her lip as her heart began to race. "...I need this from you, Sesshomaru. I will try and keep in mind the nature of your instincts... But I need you to do the same for me."

Maintaining eye contact became unbearable. With a blink of her eyes, Kagome shifted her gaze down and away, only to fidget within the Inu's unrelenting embrace. Why did she feel so embarrassed? Her heart was racing a mile a minute. She was on edge. She was proud of her vocal declaration, however the outcome of such a display was still in question. Chewing on her lower lip, the Miko blinked before glancing up at her Mate. How was he going to respond?

To the Miko's amazement, the Daiyokai returned her nervous glance with a warm stare. He was not mad. He was not offended. Though his typical placid expression was in full use, Kagome could see the slightest upturn at the corners of his mouth. Golden eyes, usually ablaze with hunger and power, now radiated something softer, more gentle.

With his forefinger and thumb still holding the Kagome's chin, Sesshomaru looked down upon his nervous Mate. 'More than my seed? More than my protection? Oh little girl...' Sesshomaru's inner voice surprised even himself, '...I will give you so much more.'

He couldn't stop his lips from twitching upward. Though far from a smile, the physical display of his satisfaction was natural, and unpreventable. His amber eyes glowed. And with his clawed forefinger maintaining its position under Kagome's chin, used his thumb to pull her lower lip from between her teeth.

"Agreed." The Inu's voice was deep, and low in volume. It held the weight of his sincerity, and the depth of his promise. And as the Inu continued to stare down upon his Mate, Sesshomaru felt an odd sensation spread within Kagome. This sensation, though experienced with others, was new when concerning himself.

Kagome believed him.

She could not put into words as to why. She did not understand it herself. Every part of her functioning brain told the Miko to ignore his promises. Their past suggested the Inu to be a liar. And yet, locked within Sesshomaru's embrace, held tenderly, carefully, cautiously, she knew the truth of his words. Sesshomaru would try. He would do more than try; He would succeed. Sesshomaru was capable of change. And it was this realization that brought an end to the Miko's tears.

With one last blink, the final drop of sorrow escaped Kagome's sapphire eyes. As this lone tear slipped down her cheek, Sesshomaru's thumb was there to wipe it away. Gently his clawed digit caressed tender flesh still blushing from her emotional tribulations. And as this gesture came to an end, Sesshomaru blinked his golden eyes before parting his lips, offering a modest glimpse of his two sharp fangs.

'He's going to kiss me now...' Kagome mentally whispered as her blue eyes lowered to his full, masculine mouth. The thought made her heart leap within her chest, making her body tremble once more. She was nervous. She was excited. She was scared. She didn't want him to touch her, and yet she was ready. She was prepared.

Kagome stopped breathing as she watched Sesshomaru's mouth lower. Every muscle in her body tensed in preparation. However, mouth-to-mouth contact was never made. Instead, her captured chin was gently tilted, forcing her head to cock ever so slightly. Then, with her eyes wide, and breathe held, the Inu's check brushed against her own as his lips found her ear.

"It is time for bed, little otome."

The gentle caress of his hot breath made the onna shiver. The smooth texture of the Inu's cheek made her heart skip a beat. And when his fingers released her chin, she found herself immobile; unable, unwilling to move. Eyes wide, lips parted, Kagome had to remind herself to breathe as shock whispered through her system. However, this expression, and total lack of verbal response, came to an end when Sesshomaru moved.

With his arms cradling her form, the Daiyokai slowly and effortlessly stood. This caused the Miko to gasp, her arms jumping to Sesshomaru's neck in response. "Hey! Put me down..." the Miko whined, a look of righteous outrage lighting up her features. "I'm not tired yet, Sesshomaru!" Her bemusement morphed into embarrassment as a powerful yawn momentarily held her hostage. Per usual, her body betrayed her mind.

Sesshomaru could not prevent the warm chuckle which rumbled through his chest. His Mate, so strong, so intelligent, was still very much like a child. "Yes, you are." His deep voice confirmed. Its warm timber resonated with dominance, yet caressed the air soothingly. It was akin to that of a loving parent guiding a wayward child.

Glaring at her Inu Mate, the onna pouted prettily. "No I'm not." Her voice was quiet as her lips pursed. However, this small tantrum came to a swift end when Sesshomaru left her tiny bathroom, and entered the bedroom. Upon seeing her bed, a second yawn ripped past her control, forcing the onna to cover her mouth from the loud display. Simultaneously, a vivid blush colored her cheeks.

Once more the Daiyokai chuckled his amusement as he approached Kagome's bed. "You are a terrible liar, Miko. Now behave. It's time for bed."

Maintaining her pouting expression, Kagome kept her mouth shut. She didn't like it when Sesshomaru was right, even on trivial matters such as this. None the less, the Miko remained silent. She needed to learn to choose her battles. And her bedtime, specially after such a long day, was not one of them.

Adjusting his hold, Sesshomaru leaned over Kagome's mattress. Then, with his left hand, pulled back the pink blanket. Once the white sheets were exposed, Sesshomaru began to lower his sulking Mate. And careful to keep his mokomoko about her naked body, revoked his arms from her person as he went to one knee. In this position, he began to tuck her into bed.

An odd silence enveloped them both as Sesshomaru concluded this intimate action. He was highly aware of Kagome's blue eyes, watching him in uncertainty, unblinking, unmoving. However, it was only when the job was finished that he met her vivid stare. There, a flash of electricity sparked between them. So powerful was this sensation, Sesshomaru could all but see the brilliant light. And when Kagome gasped in surprise, Sesshomaru realized he was not alone in this experience.

"...Um... I, uh...Well, thank you..." Kagome whispered, her brilliant eyes wide with curiosity and the slightest tinge of fear. She wasn't sure what more to say, and felt terribly unnerved by the energy coursing between them. Thankfully, Sesshomaru interrupted her confused murmurings.

Blinking his eyes, the Daiyokai quickly changed the subject to a less intimate topic. "I wish to start early, tomorrow." The Inu announced as he shifted upon his knee. Reaching down, he began to loosen his obi which held his swords in place: it was a desperate attempt to ignore the delightful electricity which flowed though his veins. "However I shall leave it to you, as to when and how we start."

Kagome's brows lifted in surprise. He was letting her take the lead? Kagome bit her lip as she snuggled into the warmth of Sesshomaru's pelt, and the pink blanket covering the bed. "Sure... Okay." the Miko whispered, peering up at him from her prone position upon her back. From this angle, she watched as Sesshomaru removed his weapons. To her surprise, he did not remove his armor.

"Aren't you... uh... Aren't you uncomfortable?" Kagome asked, her eyes lowering to the metal plates guarding his chest and torso.

Sesshomaru looked down his nose at his Mate, eying her with an indifferent stare. "No." was his simple response. He was pleased when an embarrassed blush colored her cheeks.

"Oh." Kagome whispered, turning her eyes anywhere but the massive, silver-haired god currently kneeling beside her bed. The following awkward silence led to a massive yawn, her weariness reintroducing itself to the forefront of her thoughts. Out of politeness, she hid this physical display below the covers.

Upon seeing his Mate's fatigue, Sesshomaru could not help but sigh gently. It was indeed time for bed. His Mate had undergone much over the past several hours. Her ningen abilities must be stretched to the max. With this in mind, the Daiyokai glanced about the odd room, filled with alien objects and materials. Within moments, his golden stare fixated upon the brilliant, unwavering flame lit at the center of the ceiling. 'Hmm. How does one extinguish this unnatural light?'

Right on cue, as if the Miko could hear his thoughts, Kagome freed her right arm from beneath her covers. "Do you see the small rectangle on the wall, by the door, Sesshomaru?" With this inquiry, the onna pointed toward the door which fed out into the hall. Following the invisible trail with his eyes, Sesshomaru took notice of the described item.

"Yes." Sesshomaru replied as he effortlessly stood, and moved toward the rectangle. At its center, a small, white nubbin of sorts protruded. It looked unusual, however it was not the first time he took notice of it. He had seen these odd things scattered throughout the house.

Kagome couldn't help the sleepy grin that contorted her face. "See the switch at its center? Flick it down."

Curiously, and without hesitation, the Inu did as he was told. And with a click, the room instantly went pitch black. "Extraordinary..." the word left his lips in a hushed tone of bewilderment. Moments later, driven purely out of curiosity, Sesshomaru flicked the switch again. Just as suddenly, and just as bright as before, the light returned. "...Extraordinary." He whispered yet again. This was followed by repeated action; light switch on, light switch off. Light switch on, light switch off...

Watching the Yokai examine this modest piece of technological advancement, Kagome couldn't help but giggle in amusement. However it was this musical sound that made Sesshomaru pause his actions, leaving the room brightly lit. Turning toward his giggling Mate, the Daiyokai offered the girl a smirk before extinguishing the light, returning the room to darkness.

"Do you laugh at this Sesshomaru?" The Inu's voice purred from the black depth. The sound, and the reaction it inspired within Kagome, made her palms sweat. His voice was entirely overwhelming, and frighteningly erotic. As a result, her lower stomach tighten in a most delicious and alarming manner.

"No..." The Miko squeaked, clutching the mokomoko tightly as she blinked in the dark. "-I wouldn't dream of it." Minute horror lined her hushed tone of sarcasm. Meanwhile, a shocking thought crossed her mind. 'My god... Am I...? Are we...? Flirting...?!'

"Hnn." Came the velvety tone of Sesshomaru's voice. The sound made the hair on Kagome's arms stand on end as a delightful shiver ran down her spine. She couldn't help but fidget beneath the covers. However, when Sesshomaru spoke again, she jumped with a start.

"Careful, little girl..." The hushed warning was spoken in a playful, alluring tone. And it's source was located just above her head. So close, in fact, she could feel Sesshomaru's heated breath caress her parted lips. His mouth couldn't have been more than an inch or two from her own.

"Kami!" Kagome hissed in a startled tone, her eyes wide open, staring into the blackness above. Somewhere in said darkness, her Inu predator watched. "Are you trying to freak me out? Gah, you did that shit on purpose..."

Kagome could hear rather than see the Daiyokai's uncharacteristic grin. "Behave, Miko..." came the Inu's gentle reprimand, bringing an end to their random, yet playful banter. Simultaneously, Sesshomaru's clawed hand reached forth, and pulled his royal pelt up under Kagome's chin. There, his forefinger and thumb took hold of her in a secure yet caressing manner. "...Go to sleep." It was a command.

"Oooo, you can be so overbearing, you know that?" The Miko grumbled as her heart-rate slowly returned to normal. Once more she heard Sesshomaru smirk, his thumb caressing her cheek while doing so.

"Only when I must. Now go to sleep, Kagome. I will not ask you again." The Inu ordered, his voice maintaining its soft tone despite its commanding presence.

When Sesshomaru released her chin, Kagome made a face in the dark. "Yes, your Majesty..." The Miko mumbled in a sulking fashion, a full on pout shifting her features. However, despite her bemused attitude, Kagome shifted upon her bed, getting into a more comfortable position. Once she was on her side, hugging Sesshomaru's pelt to her chest, Kagome's blue eyes fluttered to a close. There, she huffed in frustration as her internal dialog spat a few choice words. None the less, she kept her mouth shut. 'Choose your battles, Kagome...'

In no time at all, Kagome's awareness began to drift away. Oh how she missed sleeping on a modern-day bed! Spread out, warm and comfortable, Kagome felt completely at ease for the first time in days. Months, even. However, there was a nagging sensation prickling at her senses. She was being watched, and she knew by whom.

In a muffled, sleepy, slightly annoyed voice, Kagome broke the silence to address this small distraction. "Are you going to keep watching me like that?"

To the Miko's surprise, Sesshomaru responded. It was a response that left the onna speechless. It was a response that made her embrace her own exhaustion as a form of escape.

"For the rest of my days."

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.

.

.

.

The Shrine was dark. He worked best when alone.

The night was silent. Though surrounded by Tokyo, the hill upon which the Higurashi Shrine sat, remained excluded.

His goal was clear. He must protect that which belongs to him. And though it was impossible to break the spiritual bond which melded the spirits of Lord Sesshomaru and Kagome together, Grandfather-Higurashi still had options.

'That son of a bitch will pay.' whispered the angry thoughts of the old Priest.

The moment dinner concluded, Grandfather-Higurashi excused himself from the kitchen. With a peck on Kagome's cheek, and a mumbled 'I love you', the old man left his Granddaughter and Daughter-In-Law alone. After all, listening to Kagome's rantings did nothing to help the girl beyond showing support. And though that was all well and good, Grandfather-Higurashi wanted... No, needed to do more.

And he would. Tonight.

Alone in the dark he stood, surrounded on all sides by the holy Shrine. Within this sacred space his own ability could be honed. It was true he was no great Priest. His abilities with holy power were next to nil when compared to his own Granddaughter. However, he was trained. And within this holy space, even his modest abilities would prove enough. They had to be enough. For though the spells in which he conjured were simple, they must be solid. They must be unbreakable.

After all, they would be used upon one of the greatest Daiyokai to have ever walked this Earth.

The process was slow. It was a project that would take all night. Each bead must be created individually, and yet be perfectly identical. They must be formed, one by one, until the exact amount required was met. Then, each bead, one by one, must be painted. This too must be identical, both in color and style. However, at each of these steps, each individual bead must be infused with the chosen spell. One by one. Bead by bead. The process was tedious, and time consuming. But it would be worth it. Oh how it would be worth it.

All night the old Priest labored to achieve his goal. Muscles cramped. Sweat dripped from his brow. Hands ached, and stomach turned. All the while he chanted. Quietly. Evenly. Like a lullaby sweetly hummed to a dozing child, these ancient words surrounded his work. It offered him a rhythm. And with it, a distraction. His muscles cramped and yet he did not stretch. Sweat burned his eyes and yet he did not blink. Sick to his stomach, and aching from old age, Grandfather-Higurashi gave everything of himself.

Everything to achieve his goal. Everything to save Kagome.

Everything to bring that son of a bitch down a notch.