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Since her first day in the Sengoku Era, Kagome knew her life would never be the same. Years have passed since she initially fell through the Bone Eater’s Well, met a half-demon dog boy, and shattered the Jewel of Four Souls. Though a lot has changed since then, one thing remains constant.

 

Danger.

 

It comes in many forms. The most common threats are from characters seeking to take Naraku’s place— both demons and humans alike. No matter how many enemies they take down, more keep coming.

 

Sango and Miroku join when they can, though their time is limited with three small children. The married couple isn’t the only ones who are busy. Shippo is training for his ranks and Kohaku is working to restore the slayer village. On occasion, they are joined by Koga and his pack. More often than not, Kagome and Inuyasha handle the threats with Sesshomaru.

 

The daiyokai is a frequent visitor to the village. Between checking in on Rin and maintaining order in the Western Lands, Kagome doesn’t know where he finds the time to help them. She does know that she’s grateful. Naraku may be gone but demon attacks are on the rise. 

 

Today’s foe is a serpent demon who is responsible for destroying a small village on the border of the Western Lands. She is as large as a train and just as swift. She bends and weaves through the forest interior, using the shadows as camouflage. When the serpent lashes out, she works to separate the trio. Whether she means to eat them or simply kill them, Kagome can’t be sure. She definitely doesn’t want to find out.

 

Inuyasha swings Tetsusaiga at the serpent, but the demon curls in on herself, dodging the attack. Sesshomaru flies forward, leaping over Inuyasha’s back as he follows through his brother’s attack with one of his own. Bakusaiga crackles with energy as it connects with the side of the snake’s neck.

 

She hisses in rage, baring a set of fangs that are the size of scythes.

 

Kagome’s eyes go wide. It’s not fear that startles her. She overcame her unease around demons long ago. What surprises her is what she sees below the serpent’s fangs.

 

“Stop!” she shouts, rushing forward. “She’s not attacking us for power. She’s protecting her babies!”

 

Inuyasha freezes, his sword overhead in mid-swing. Sesshomaru pauses, regarding the serpent for a moment before nodding and sheathing his sword.

 

“Sorry about that. We thought you were trying to take over these lands,” Kagome explains.

 

“I am.” The serpent’s sinister response sends chills down Kagome’s spine. She starts to back away from the demon.

 

“W-What?”

 

“My children will need a nest and food. This place offers both. I merely need to remove a few obstacles,” the serpent cackles, flipping her tail out.

 

“Kagome!”

 

Inuyasha’s warning comes a beat too late. The strike tosses Kagome off balance. She angles herself on her side, to avoid damaging her bow and ends up damaging her body instead.

 

Kagome comes down on her ankle wrong. She groans. A series of sharp stabbing pains prickle throughout her foot. Kagome winces and bites her lower lip to keep from crying out. She prays it’s not broken.

 

Inuyasha darts over, flanked by Sesshomaru.

 

“Are you alright?” he asks.

 

“I think so.”

 

“You require a healer,” Sesshomaru remarks, staring at the joint which is already swelling.

 

Inuyasha scoops Kagome up into his arms. “Let’s get you back to the village. Kaede will know what to do.”

 

He speeds off, leaving Sesshomaru to finish what they started.

 

Kagome hears the serpent’s blood-curdling shrieks ring throughout the forest long after she has lost sight of them. 

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

Fortunately, Kaede confirms that her ankle isn’t broken. Unfortunately, to avoid further injury, Kagome needs to take a break from fighting. 

 

“You can’t travel— not in this condition,” Kaede tells her.

 

“For how long?” Inuyasha asks.

 

“I recommend at least a week of rest. Maybe two.”

 

“Two?!” Kagome cries. 

 

Kaede fixes her with a stern glare. “Unless you want to be a cripple for the rest of your life, you will keep off that foot. You should keep it elevated to alleviate the swelling.”

 

“What about crutches?” Kagome asks.

 

Kaede and Inuyasha stare at her. Kagome tries to explain the concept to them but their facial expressions confirm that this is another modern world advancement that doesn’t exist yet.

 

Defeated, Kagome lays down on her bedroll. Under normal circumstances, two weeks isn’t long. She has her training, traveling with Inuyasha, and her work in the village to keep her busy. The sprain won’t allow her to do any of those things. The most she’ll be able to do is study herbal remedies and sleep. Just thinking about it is boring her.

 

Maybe she can ask for some extra healing salve or promise to take a lot of breaks in between trips. Kaede can’t honestly expect her to sit around for two weeks. Right?

 

“Inuyasha, a word,” Kaede says, gesturing for him to follow her out of the hut. He nods and slips past her. She glances over her shoulder at Kagome. “If I catch you moving around, I’ll make it three weeks.”

 

Kagome sighs. So much for that idea…

 

She stares at the ceiling, trying to listen to their conversation. The walls of the hut are thicker than they appear. All she can make out is muffled arguing. Inuyasha’s temper can’t contend with the stony glares that Kaede wields. Eventually, he must tire himself out— much like a willful child, —because Kaede returns alone.

 

“Inuyasha is going to head East to Chiba. The locals are having an issue with a gang of demons.”

 

“I should go too,” Kagome insists, sitting up.

 

“No,” a firm voice comes from the doorway.

 

She’s surprised to see him. Usually, after a mission, he returns to the West. Maybe he stopped by to visit Rin.

 

“Sesshomaru, I promise to be careful. I won’t even—.”

 

“No,” he repeats.

 

“What if I—?”

 

No.

 

“Or I could—.”

 

“Don’t be foolish,” he chides. “You spend far too much time with Inuyasha. His brash behavior is rubbing off on you, miko. You sound like a petulant child.”

 

“Excuse me?” Kagome snaps irritatedly.

 

“Facing an opponent with your injury will make you an easy target,” Sesshomaru observes. “Heed the elder’s advice and rest. I will ensure your duties are fulfilled.”

 

Kagome gapes at him. “You? You’re going to take care of my garden, wash clothes, teach the children how to ride a bike?” she asks, rattling off a handful of her daily tasks. 

 

He narrows his eyes. “You believe me incapable?”

 

“No! No, that’s not what I’m saying at all,” she hastily replies, waving her hands back and forth. “I guess…I’m just surprised, is all.”

 

He frowns. “Your duties are hardly worth being concerned over.”

 

She flushes, feeling silly. Sesshomaru isn’t someone to underestimate. He is a fierce warrior, loyal ally, and devoted father. She wonders if there is anything he can’t do.

 

“Okay, well thanks. Let me know if you need help.”

 

“If I require guidance, I will seek you out,” he promises.

 

Kagome glances over at Kaede who is watching their exchange. She seems amused by their banter, though Kagome can’t tell why.

 

“Rest well,” Sesshomaru says, bowing his head. With that, he exits the hut.

 

Kagome lays back down, already dreading the next two weeks.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

The start isn’t bad. Kagome receives several visitors, all offering her supportive words that echo Kaede’s advice.

 

Sango comes early in the morning with the twins and Hisui. The girls sit on opposite sides of Kagome, each taking a portion of her hair to braid.

 

She hasn’t cut it since she returned from Tokyo. It falls well past her shoulders now. Kagome has learned to tie it back so it doesn’t interfere with her routine. She doesn’t know how Inuyasha and Sesshomaru keep their hair so long. It seems like the length would be a constant bother.

 

“Are you in pain?” Sango asks, cradling Hisui in her arms as he feeds.

 

“Not really,” Kagome responds. “I’m more annoyed than anything.”

 

“I know it’s hard but Kaede is right. Right now, rest is the best thing for you.”

 

“Says the woman who didn’t stop fighting even after she nearly died,” Kagome retorts.

 

Sango gives her a knowing look— one Kagome is sure she’s used countless times on the twins. “Things are different now. Naraku is dead. The jewel is gone. Whatever threats we face now are nothing compared to what we overcame. Inuyasha can handle the problems in Chiba. You need to worry about yourself, Kagome.”

 

“I know.”

 

“Do you?” Sango questions. “Sometimes I think you care too much for others and not enough for yourself.”

 

“Is that a bad thing?” Kagome asks.

 

“I just want you to be happy. I know you and Inuyasha decided to move forward as friends but since then you haven’t entertained the idea of anyone else— not even Koga tries to court you anymore.”

 

Kagome snorts with laughter.

 

Sango stares at her. “What?”

 

“Nothing,” Kagome manages to reply between stifled giggles.

 

She won’t reveal Inuyasha’s secret to anyone— not even Sango. After all, it’s not her story to tell. She has every confidence that her friend will share the news with their group when he’s ready.

 

“Okay,” Sango drawls skeptically, “anyway, I think you should consider courting someone.”

 

“I don’t have time,” Kagome returns. “When I’m not here teaching the kids or making healing remedies, I’m traveling. Who would want to bother with all that?”

 

“I can think of someone,” Sango answers.

 

“Who?”

 

Sango shakes her head and grins. “If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m not going to ruin it for you.”

 

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Kagome demands.

 

“Let’s just say that Miroku and I have a bet going that I intend to win.”

 

Kagome folds her arms across her chest. “Seriously? My dating life is entertainment for you two?”

 

“Everything that is not related to our children is entertainment for us. You’ll understand when you have kids,” Sango tells her.

 

“Yeah, Auntie, when are you going to have a baby like Mama?” Kin’u asks, as her twin peers up at Kagome.

 

“I’d have to get married first,” she says.

 

“And then you’ll have a baby?” Gyokuto prompts eagerly.

 

The twins inherited Sango’s looks and Miroku’s talent for mischief. Kagome knows of only one way out of this. She envelops both girls in a hug, which quickly turns into a tickle fight.

 

“Auntie!”

 

“Let us go!”

 

“Mama! Help us!”

 

Sango shakes her head. “You girls got yourselves into this mess. You can get yourselves out of it.”

 

“But, Mama!” Kin’u whines, desperately trying to wriggle free.

 

Sango ignores her daughter’s cries.

 

“It’s not fair! Auntie isn’t ticklish,” Gyokuto complains.

 

She tries putting Kagome in a chokehold. Inuyasha taught them the tactic. The girls typically use it against him when they are roughhousing outside. Today, however, Gyokuto chooses to apply the technique to Kagome.

 

Gyokuto’s arms lock around Kagome’s neck, restricting the airway and forcing her to release Kin’u. The youngest twin squeals in delight. She tries to use her hold to clamber up Kagome’s back when a shadow falls over them.

 

A hand reaches over Kagome’s shoulder, prying the little girl off of her.

 

“Restrain your offspring. Their behavior is appalling,” Sesshomaru says coolly, directing a disapproving glare at Sango.

 

“I can’t wait for you to have kids,” she replies.

 

“Rin is exceptionally well-behaved.”

 

“That’s not what I meant,” Sango remarks as her daughters move to stand between them.

 

“We were only playing with Auntie, Lord Sesshomaru,” Kin’u says.

 

He kneels so he is eye-level with the girls. “You must exercise restraint. You have been blessed with the strength of your family line. You need to master control to avoid hurting those you care for.” 

 

“But Auntie’s really strong!” Gyokuto insists. 

 

“She is but she is also injured. You must be careful,” Sesshomaru cautions gently. 

 

The girls lower their heads. “We’re sorry.” 

 

“Sesshomaru, don’t be so hard on them. I’m fine. Besides, no one can be held accountable for what happens in a tickle fight, right, girls?” Kagome smiles at her nieces.

 

“Right,” they chorus.

 

“Hn.”

 

Kagome cups a hand to her mouth, fake whispering, “Ignore the big grumpy dog in the room, okay?” 

 

The girls giggle. 

 

Sesshomaru will not be deterred. “Who taught you that move?” he inquires. 

 

“Uncle ‘Yasha,” Gyokuto answers proudly. 

 

Sesshomaru scowls. 

 

Kagome knows that look. It’s a good thing Inuyasha left yesterday. If he was still in the village, Kagome is certain she wouldn’t be the only one under Kaede’s healing care.

 

The brothers haven’t contended against each other since the days before Naraku died. The final battle put a lot of things in perspective. Though they don’t always see eye to eye, their disagreements are more akin to bickering than actual fights.

 

She suspects Sesshomaru cares for Inuyasha more than he lets on. Kagome has noticed how hard Sesshomaru pushes him during training. He’s a tough teacher. He holds Inuyasha accountable for his actions and doesn’t accept any excuses. In a way, Sesshomaru is the father neither of them had.

 

Kagome likes to think that if things had been different when the two were growing up, they would have had a relationship like Sango and Kohaku. Regardless, Sesshomaru seems to be making up for lost time. He’s joined them on more missions than any of their other friends combined.

 

“Alright, girls, it’s time to go,” Sango announces.

 

The twins immediately start pouting. “We want to stay with Auntie.”

 

“Not today.”

 

They rush to Kagome’s side, clinging to the fabric of her kimono. “But Auntie will be all alone if we leave!”

 

“No, she won’t. Sesshomaru is here to keep her company,” Sango says with a wink.

 

Kagome feels her cheeks burn. Since when did Sango start acting as sly as her husband?

 

“I will stay,” Sesshomaru confirms. He shifts closer, taking a seat on the mat beside Kagome.

 

In unison, the twins turn their heads to look up at him. He meets their gaze. Kin’u spits her tongue out which prompts Gyokuto to cross her eyes. Not wanting to be bested by her sister, Kin’u curls her tongue the way Kagome showed her last week. Gyokuto pulls down her lower lip as she clenches her teeth. Their behavior does not affect the daiyokai.

 

“I see your father has been in charge of your education,” Sesshomaru states evenly.

 

Kagome laughs.

 

Sango is less amused. “Come on, girls. Let’s leave Kagome to rest with her guard dog,” she says.

 

Kagome prays her blush is hidden by the girls as they take turns hugging her.

 

“Bye, Auntie. Bye, Lord Sesshomaru. See you tomorrow!” The twins wave and follow their mother out of the hut.

 

Sesshomaru scoffs. “Guard dog.”

 

“Serves you right for poking fun at Miroku,” Kagome says.

 

“I do not poke fun. I observe.”

 

“You can use all the fancy words you want but that won’t change the fact that you insulted Sango’s husband,” she points out.

 

“He should not teach his pups such disgraceful expressions,” Sesshomaru responds.

 

“He didn’t. I did,” Kagome says. He frowns, prompting her to explain. “My brother and I used to challenge each other to face-offs. Whoever could make the worst face— and make the other laugh —won.”

 

“You did this for enjoyment?”

 

“After Papa died, we didn’t have a lot of money,” Kagome shares. “Anything extra Mama earned from her part-time job went to the shrine but it was alright. Sota and I found ways to amuse ourselves.”

 

“Indeed.”

 

“What about you? What kind of stuff did you do as a kid?” Kagome asks.

 

“I reviewed battle strategy, trained in various forms of combat, and expanded my weapons collection,” he answers.

 

She should have expected a response like that. Sesshomaru is nothing if not efficient. It shouldn’t surprise Kagome that he was an equally dedicated student. “Okay, that’s great, but what did you do for fun?”

 

He tilts his head. “Fun?”

 

“Yeah. Did you go swimming with your friends or play games like tag?”

 

“Tag?” Sesshomaru repeats uncertainly.

 

Kagome swats his arm. “You’re it.”

 

For a tense moment, he stares at the spot she touched, then lifts his eyes to her face. Kagome’s smile falters. She worries that he’s mad. Despite all their travels together, this is the most Kagome has ever spoken with Sesshomaru. Usually, their conversations revolve around Inuyasha or their plan of attack. She doesn’t know him as well as her other friends. Hopefully, she hasn’t offended him.  

 

Slowly, his lips curl upward. He lightly smacks her arm. “You’re it.”

 

Kagome leans to the side, knocking her shoulder against his. “Tag, you’re it.”

 

Sesshomaru responds in kind. “It.”

 

It doesn’t take long for things to escalate. By nature, Sesshomaru is stubborn. Kagome matches his intensity with her competitiveness. She refuses to lose to the Lord of the Western Lands.

 

When he reaches over to flick her nose, Kagome retaliates by pinching his earlobe. Sesshomaru tugs on her hair. Kagome yanks on his sash, setting it askew. He unties the sleeve of her kimono. Kagome nudges mokomoko off his shoulder. Sesshomaru tosses the pelt-like accessory onto her lap. Kagome laughs, collecting the furry object in her arms like a well-loved pillow. She doesn’t even realize how close they’ve gotten to each other until a throat clears from the doorway.

 

Kagome whips around to find Kaede and Rin standing there. The latter is carrying a large bucket with both hands.

 

The instant he notices, Sesshomaru is on his feet. He takes the container from his ward and brings it over to Kagome.

 

“We went down to the river to get you a pail of cool water. Kaede says the cold will help your flamation,” Rin explains.

 

“Inflammation,” Kaede calmly corrects, before turning to Kagome. “How are you feeling?”

 

“Better,” she replies. “I think it’s just a mild sprain. I should be able to move more tomorrow, maybe even take a walk around the village?”

 

“No.”

 

“Sesshomaru.”

 

“One day of rest is not sufficient. Your injury requires patience, miko.”

 

“I told you; I’m fine,” she insists.

 

“If my instructions were not clear—.”

 

“Your instructions!” Kagome snaps. “You can’t order me around! Who do you think you are?”

 

His expression shifts from anger to something she can’t quite place. For a tense moment, they regard each other in silence. Then, Sesshomaru responds and his words cut her to her core. 

 

“Someone who cares for you.”

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

The following day is less eventful. Kagome receives a handful of visitors, including Sango and the children. When Hisui begins fussing about his afternoon nap, they go.

 

Kagome is left alone with only her thoughts for company. She’d rather face down another snake demon than have to relive yesterday. The look of utter disappointment on Sesshomaru’s face haunted her dreams. Kagome can’t erase the image from her mind.

 

She rolls onto her side and sighs. Maybe Sesshomaru is right. Maybe she has been spending too much time with Inuyasha.

 

Kagome hasn’t meant to gravitate toward him but after she returned, so much had changed. Sango and Miroku were married. Hisui had just been born and the twins were causing chaos. Kohaku was hard at work in his hometown, while Shippo was traveling back and forth to Edo in between his ranks. It seemed that in the three years since Naraku’s defeat everyone had moved on.

 

Unsure where she belonged, Kagome defaulted to what she knew best— going on adventures with Inuyasha. It didn’t take long for her to discover that he had changed too.

 

In her absence, Inuyasha hadn’t felt comfortable in Edo. Settling in the small village wasn’t an option for him. Inuyasha preferred to travel. Along the way, he reunited with Koga. The animosity that had once existed between the pair evolved into a different kind of passion.

 

It had taken Inuyasha months to work up the courage to tell Kagome. She didn’t have the heart to admit she’d already figured it out. The two weren’t subtle— or quiet. Earplugs can only muffle so much.

 

Despite their nightly rendezvouses, Kagome is happy for them. She knows their friends will be happy too. Inuyasha just needs time to accept that.

 

He’s not afraid of anyone disapproving of the relationship. What bothers him is all the teasing he’ll have to endure once the truth comes out. Miroku and Shippo will definitely be the worst of the bunch. Kagome has been stocking bandages and healing salves for when that time comes. She suspects there will be a brawl or two before things settle down.

 

Inuyasha has matured in some ways, but in others, he’s still the brazen dog-eared boy she found pinned to a tree. He’s fiercely protective of those he cares for, especially Koga. He’ll take on all the taunting himself if it means keeping his mate from having to endure a single word.

 

She didn’t expect him to be so thoughtful. When Kagome asked Inuyasha about it, he told her that she was the one who taught him to put others first.

 

Kagome smiles. It’s nice to see Inuyasha moving on. After Kikyo, she was worried he wouldn’t trust anyone with his heart. Kagome doesn’t know when exactly things changed between her best friend and Koga but she’s grateful. They deserve a fresh start.

 

A cry comes from outside. Kagome jumps up, wincing when the sudden movement causes her ankle to throb.

 

She leans against the wall and pauses to massage the joint.

 

If Sesshomaru hadn’t already reduced the serpent demon to a pile of rotting flesh, Kagome would hunt her down. Purifying that snake would make her feel better— or at least give her something to do.

 

She hears more commotion outside. Carefully, Kagome hops toward the doorway. When she pulls back the flap, her eyes go wide.

 

A crowd of children congregates around her bike. From where she stands, Kagome can see the wear on the old vehicle. The paint is chipping, the front basket is starting to come off the handlebars, and the seat needs to be replaced. Each imperfection tells a story. It reminds Kagome of the scars on her skin, especially the long laceration that extends above her left hipbone. At least this sprain won't leave a mark. All the damage is beneath the surface. The same cannot be said about her bike.

 

The state of her bike isn't what has Kagome’s attention. It’s the daiyokai beside it.

 

Sesshomaru stands in front of the bike with both arms extended to hold onto the handlebars. He keeps the vehicle steady as a nervous but eager child climbs onto the seat.

 

“Sit up straight. Place your hands here. When you’re ready to move, press down on those,” Sesshomaru instructs, pointing to the pedals.

 

The boy stares up at him, his expression a mixture of fear and awe.

 

Though Sesshomaru is a frequent visitor, the villagers remain wary of him. He doesn’t take an interest in their lives. His motivations for coming to Edo are to check on Rin’s well-being and to eliminate troublesome demons. He’s indifferent to everything else.

 

Or so she thought.

 

Kagome watches as Sesshomaru shifts the position of his hands. Holding the bike with one hand, he uses the other to guide the boy’s feet to the corresponding pedals. “Alright?”

 

The child nods.

 

“When I let go, move your legs.”

 

Again, the boy nods.

 

Slowly, Sesshomaru removes his hand and steps away.

 

The boy pumps his legs, propelling the bike forward much faster than he anticipated. His eyes go wide and he lets out a shout. The other children scramble out of his way. He glances over his shoulder at Sesshomaru at the same time, he unintentionally turns the bike.

 

The abrupt turn sends him into a ditch. He flips over the handlebars.

 

Sesshomaru is there instantly. He is a blur as he leaps over the fray to catch the boy. Kagome’s bike clatters to the ground. It is the only noise that she hears. A hush has fallen over the village.

 

She holds her breath, waiting for the inevitable tears to fall from the scared child, only to be surprised when he exclaims, “That was fun! Can we do it again?”

 

“Perhaps another time,” Sesshomaru responds, setting the boy down.

 

“Me next! Me next!” the others cheer as they flock around him.

 

Kagome lets out a sigh of relief. She’s not sure how Sesshomaru would have responded to crying. Based on what little Kagome knows of his childhood, she gets the sense that it was considered unacceptable.

 

Watching Sesshomaru interact with the village children is endearing. After the bike incident, any reservations they had about him are gone. They practically climb over each other as they vie for his attention.

 

He speaks to them in a calm tone. Sesshomaru finds a way to garner control of the situation. In battle, he navigates around his opponent’s weaknesses the way a champion chess player moves about the board. He operates with the same precision here.

 

Nothing flusters him.

 

Kagome knows he’s a wonderful father to Rin. Sesshomaru goes out of his way to ensure he’s available for her. Even if she reaches out solely because she misses him, he flies over. He’s dedicated. Kagome believes he’ll be equally devoted to his mate— when he selects one. For some reason, that thought ends with a pang in her chest.

 

"I did not expect Lord Sesshomaru to fulfill your duties so quickly," Kaede says, appearing next to her. 

 

"Huh?"

 

Kaede points to a plot of land several meters away. Kagome was gifted the land from the villagers when she returned. She's been using it to grow herbs to treat the villagers' ailments. There is ginger for nausea, ginkgo for respiratory issues, echinacea for wounds, feverfew for headaches and arthritis, and goldenseal for skin irritations. She also grows a small patch of chamomile to brew a calming tea. It's especially good for children and pregnant women.

 

The most difficult thing about maintaining a garden is time. Kagome has to constantly weed the rows of herbs so they can thrive. Plus, there is always the threat of pests— mostly insects and rabbits —eating her plants before she can harvest them.

 

The latter will no longer be an issue. Sesshomaru has erected a fence around her plot and draped mesh across the top. The net is thin enough to allow sunlight and rain to pass through but thick enough to prevent bugs from getting to her crop. She doesn't have to look to know he's also removed all the weeds.

 

"He is surprisingly apt at doing the laundry. I've never had luck with removing blood stains from white cloth but he managed to do it," Kaede comments.

 

Kagome follows her gaze to the riverbank where an empty basket sits. She recognizes several of her garments strung up nearby.

 

"I guess he has a lot of experience from battle," she replies.

 

"Perhaps," Kaede returns. She clasps her hands behind her back, observing the village crowd. "Lord Sesshomaru certainly knows how to handle the children."

 

"Yeah, he does," Kagome says, smiling.

 

Kaede pats her on the shoulder and walks off, leaving Kagome to her musings.

 

She thinks about what Sango said. If Sesshomaru has children, will they inherit their father's crescent or will they develop markings of their own? Briefly, Kagome wonders if the markings are passed down based on clan or if they are earned over time. She's never thought to ask. Will Sesshomaru's children share his physical attributes? Or will their appearance be a blend of his and hers?

 

Kagome shakes her head. Where did that come from? 

 

“You should be resting.”

 

“Hmmm?” Kagome glances up into a pair of golden eyes. “Oh,” she blushes, embarrassed to be caught thinking about such things. “I wanted some fresh air. I’ve been stuck inside for days.”

 

“Two days is hardly a prison sentence.”

 

“It is when you're used to being outside all the time. Plus, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about,” she says, gesturing to the children.

 

“My apologies for the damage to your vehicle,” Sesshomaru says.

 

Kagome shrugs. “It’s not a big deal. It's worth it to see the kids happy. You did a great job with them. I can see why they like you so much.”

 

He seems to consider something, then nods.

 

“Hey, Sesshomaru, about yesterday,” Kagome begins, rubbing the back of her neck sheepishly. “I was frustrated and I took it out on you. I’m sorry.”

 

“I do not require an apology, miko.”

 

“Yes, you do! I was a jerk. You were only trying to help. I shouldn't have treated you like that. It was unfair. Let me make it up to you.”

 

“How?” he prompts.

 

Kagome chews on her lower lip. She didn’t think that far ahead. “Um…I could polish your sword?”

 

“Unnecessary, I maintain my own weapons.”

 

“Oh, uh, how about patching up your armor?”

 

“There is no need. My breastplate was forged by a powerful yokai. It does not sustain damage the way your human clothing does.”

 

Kagome deflates. “Okay…”

 

“If you sincerely wish to make amends, follow the elder’s instructions and rest.”

 

“What? But why? How does that benefit you?”

 

Sesshomaru cups her chin and leans down until his nose almost touches hers. The beat of her heart changes from steady to erratic. Kagome barely hears him over the drumming of her pulse.

 

“I will no longer have cause to worry.”

 

“Okay,” she squeaks.

 

“Good.” He straightens up and his hand falls to his side.

 

“Wait!” Kagome grabs his arm. “I'll do it on one condition. You have to visit me every day.”

 

“Of course."

 

His confirmation gives her the courage to tug him closer. Before she can overthink it, Kagome springs up on her tiptoes and brushes her lips along the diagonal stripes of his cheek. “Tag, you’re it.” 

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

Later that evening, Kagome is still blushing. She’s never done anything quite so bold before. She wishes she could run over to Sango’s hut. Kagome wants to tell her friend what happened— partially because she wants to see Sango’s reaction but also to convince herself that what happened was real.

 

Kagome sits by the fire and gazes into the flames. She still can’t believe she kissed Sesshomaru. Even if it was only on the cheek, it was Kagome’s first kiss. Her cheeks burn.

 

She couldn’t look at him afterward. She made up some lame excuse about feeling tired and came inside.

 

But sleep is the last thing on Kagome’s mind.

 

She’s spent the rest of the day securing ropes to the walls of her hut. They dangle about a half-meter from the ceiling, just far enough that Kagome can grab onto them and use them as leverage to half-hop, half-pull herself around her home.

 

When in Rome, she thinks with a smile.

 

There are no crutches here but, with her rope course in place, Kagome can move about freely. Her makeshift system keeps weight off her ankle and provides an upper-body workout. At least she won’t be bored.

 

Now, Kagome just has to figure out what to do when Sesshomaru visits tomorrow. Should she play it cool as if the kiss was no big deal? Or should she tell him how she feels?

 

She gnaws on her lower lip. How do I feel?

 

It’s true she finds Sesshomaru attractive. Even before he joined their group, Kagome thought the daiyokai was gorgeous. His appearance is one of the reasons she finds him so intimidating— not that she’d ever admit that.

 

Of course, there’s more to Sesshomaru than his looks. He’s a tenacious tactician, a skilled warrior, and an affectionate father. She’s seen the countless presents he brings Rin. The way Sesshomaru spoils her is adorable, though Kagome suspects if she ever told him, he wouldn’t appreciate the comment.

 

Regardless, Kagome enjoys seeing that side of him. She likes to think that Sesshomaru only shows that version of himself to those he trusts.

 

He’s difficult to read. It has taken Kagome the better part of the last year to understand the subtleties of his facial expressions. Sesshomaru has a dry sense of humor. There are times when his jokes are lost on Inuyasha and the two of them share a secretive smile. Kagome wonders if he ever does it on purpose, just to see her laugh.

 

She hugs her legs to her chest and rests her chin on her knees. Romance has never been easy for Kagome. Love always looks so seamless in the movies. A couple meets, they fall in love and live happily ever after. It’s sweet and heart-warming, but it’s pure fantasy.

 

Real-life is messy. It is never as simple as meeting the right person and starting a life together. There are so many variables to consider, so many ‘what ifs’. So much could go wrong.

 

But what if it goes right?

 

It’s the most dangerous ‘what if’ and the one that’s currently floating around in Kagome’s mind.

 

The answer to her question is yes. She does have feelings for Sesshomaru— probably has for a while now if she’s being honest. Maybe today was a result of those feelings being pent up for too long. Or maybe Kagome wanted to surprise him the way he shocked her with his confession.

 

I shouldn’t have run away.

 

“I agree,” a deep voice says from the doorway.

 

Kagome turns crimson, realizing she spoke the words out loud. “Sesshomaru, what are you doing here?”

 

“You asked me to visit, did you not?” He pauses, observing the numerous ropes. “Are these for defensive purposes?”

 

“No,” Kagome laughs. “They’re for me.” She stands up and demonstrates how she uses the ropes to help her remain upright as she hobbles around the interior of her home.

 

“Impressive,” Sesshomaru remarks.

 

“Are you on your way back from visiting Rin?”

 

He nods. “I intended to come earlier. I did not anticipate she would ask so many questions.”

 

“Questions? About what?” Kagome asks.

 

“You,” Sesshomaru answers.

 

“Me? What would she ask you about me?”

 

“She was quite upset that you kissed me.”

 

Kagome nearly lets go of the rope. “What? She saw that!

 

“The entire village saw,” Sesshomaru informs her.

 

“I didn’t think Rin would be mad. I didn’t mean for her to see but…oh man! I have to go apologize.” Kagome heads for the door.

 

Sesshomaru places a hand on her arm. “Miko, Rin is not upset with you. She is angry that I did not kiss you first.”

 

Kagome’s face heats. “Oh…did you want to?”

 

“Yes.” His hand slides down her arm then circles around to rest on her lower back while the other comes up to cradle her face. “I still want to.”

 

Sesshomaru leans down. His bangs brush across the top of Kagome’s forehead. She glances up to see tendrils of silver and black meshed together. For a moment, Kagome is distracted by the stark contrast. It reminds her of the night sky— one part dark and one part light, blended in harmony.

 

The instant Sesshomaru’s lips meet hers, she forgets about the comparison. She can feel his longing in the kiss. Everything from the gentle way he tilts her face up to the guttural sound that escapes him fills her with heat.

 

Her skin prickles. It reminds her of when she gets too close to the fire. There is a hot, tingly feeling that teases her flesh. She tries to get rid of the sensation by wiggling her hips.

 

Sesshomaru’s grip on her tightens. “Miko,” he growls. “You are testing the boundaries of my control.”

 

Kagome can barely understand what he’s saying. It’s stifling in her hut. The rising temperature is making her dizzy. She has to concentrate to form a response. “Hmm?”

 

Sesshomaru sighs and drops his head onto her shoulder. “First, you lay claim to me with that kiss, and now, you seek to disarm me.”

 

“Disarm you? Sesshomaru, what—?”

 

He grabs her face, silencing her with a kiss. Kagome has to cling to his forearms to remain standing.

 

“Let me take care of you.”

 

She nods.

 

Sesshomaru lifts Kagome into his arms. He carries her across the hut to where her bedroll is laid out. As they pass the hearth, she notices the fire has almost gone out yet the heat remains. 

 

It’s scorching now. Kagome can’t believe she’s not sweating. She’s never felt this way before. The temperature makes her feel slightly delirious. She can’t tell if things are happening in slow motion or double time. Her pulse is racing. Kagome is jittery like that night she crammed for her final exams and drank too much caffeine. Her vision blurs. 

 

“I have you.” 

 

At the sound of his voice, she blinks. Everything comes into sharp focus. 

 

Sesshomaru lays her down, paying special attention to her ankle. Kagome trails her fingers along the pattern printed on his silk hankimono until she reaches his armor. 

 

“I will remove it.” 

 

“No, I want to do it,” she insists. 

 

He waits as she locates the ties. It takes her a few minutes to unknot them. Kagome neatly stacks each piece and sets them aside. Next comes his boots, followed by his swords. Her hand hovers over his obi as she remembers the prior night. 

 

Sesshomaru drags the tip of his nose up her cheekbone. “You never told me what happens when one wins a game of tag.” His breath is hot as it fans across Kagome’s ear. 

 

“Bragging rights.”

 

“Hn. I have something better in mind.” 

 

His lips are warm. They ignite a path across her flesh, starting with the pulse point of her neck, dipping to her collarbone, and then returning to her mouth. The heat must start to affect Sesshomaru because his patience wanes. He practically rips her kimono off. 

 

Kagome hisses at the assault of cold air against her bare skin. The chill only lasts a second. Then, Sesshomaru is draping his body over hers.

 

They dissolve into a tangle of limbs. Their bodies twist and thrust, driven by instinct as they chase sweet release. Kagome is aware of the way Sesshomaru clings to her. She hears the ragged way he calls her name. An intoxicating wave rolls through her when he loses his composure and comes undone with a grunt. There is one final push and Kagome feels as though the fire is coursing through her veins. It explodes before her eyes. 

 

Her body goes limp. Kagome is spent. Sated and happy, she closes her eyes. Her body aches— a delicious blend of pleasure and pain that puts a satisfied grin on her face. The fire isn’t completely extinguished. The burn is no longer an incessant ache in her core. Instead, a comforting warmth spreads from her center to the tips of her fingers and the ends of her toes. It’s soothing.  



As Kagome drifts off, she’s aware of Sesshomaru wrapping himself around her. She presses her face against his chest. Kagome listens to his heartbeat, strong and steady. The sound lulls her to sleep. 

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

In the morning, Kagome wakes to a different sound. It takes her a moment to place it. She blinks away the remnants of a dream and finds Sesshomaru asleep. This is the first time she’s ever seen the daiyokai rest. No matter how many opponents they encounter or how far they travel, he never appears tired.

 

She watches the steady rise and fall of his chest. Each breath is deep, rhythmic. A few tendrils of hair tumble over the dip of his collarbone. Kagome reaches up and tucks them behind his shoulder.

 

He shifts closer, nuzzling his face in the crook of her neck. Kagome drags her fingers from the crown of his head all the way down to the base of his skull. He makes a humming noise that reminds her of a purr. Smiling, she continues the ministrations. Laying here, Sesshomaru resembles a puppy. She wonders how often he allows himself to be this vulnerable.

 

If she has her way, this will happen more often. Much more often.

 

As if sensing her decision, his metallic eyes open. “Morning.”

 

“Morning,” she greets him.

 

Sesshomaru kisses her forehead. “How are you feeling?”

 

“Good,” Kagome answers. “You?”

 

He kisses her again, this time on the mouth. “Quite well.”

 

Kagome smiles.

 

“How is your ankle?” he inquires, glancing at her foot.

 

“It doesn’t hurt but I’ll probably have to move soon so I can prop it up. Otherwise, it might start to swell again. The river water only does so much. By the time I get it here, it’s not really cold enough to help. Ice would be better but the only way I can get that is if I go to the mountains.”

 

“Why not ask Inuyasha’s mate to deliver some the next time he ventures down from the northern mountains?” 

 

Kagome sits up. “You know about Koga?”

 

“Indeed.” 

 

“Did Inuyasha tell you?” she asks.

 

“He did not need to. I noticed the change in his scent. His mate has a rather potent musk.” 

 

Kagome laughs, remembering the smell of Koga’s wolf den. If the scent was intense for her nose, she can’t imagine how bad it is for Sesshomaru. She wonders if it is different for Inuyasha. Do people smell different to their mates? 

 

“And you’re okay with it?” she asks hesitantly. 

 

Sesshomaru studies her expression. “Why would I take issue with my brother’s mate?”  

 

“He’s worried about everyone’s reaction. He’s afraid they’ll tease him,” she shares. 

 

“Inuyasha has no reason for concern. He has chosen a powerful mate, one who has proven his loyalty and will be a good partner. Anyone who mocks such a union would be foolish,” Sesshomaru responds. 

 

Relief washes over Kagome. She should have known Sesshomaru wouldn’t mind. His prejudices died a long time ago. “I can’t believe you knew this whole time and didn’t say anything.”

 

“I cannot believe we are still discussing this,” Sesshomaru returns. He draws her flush against his body and gives her a searing kiss.

 

Kagome grins against his lips. Suddenly, the idea of spending the next two weeks in bed doesn’t seem so bad.