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Kintsugi by Sage McMae

Chapter 1

Kintsugi (金継ぎ , "golden joinery"), also known as kinsukuroi (金繕い, "golden repair") is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with lacquer mixed with powdered gold.

It doesn’t end suddenly, in a violent clash of wills the way she expected. Rather it is a slow death, painful and exhausting. It drains her of all joy. The skin under her eyes darkens from sleepless nights and her body thins from her lack of appetite. No matter what spices she uses, everything tastes like ash in her mouth. Then one day, when Kagome can no longer stand it, she leaves.

He doesn’t raise his voice, doesn’t try to stop her. He just lets her walk out. And walk she does. Kilometer after kilometer until the sun sets and the moonlight casts an eerie glow on the dirt path stretched before her.  

She has no destination in mind yet her feet continue to carry her along the road. The burden of what everyone will think does not cross her mind. Kagome doesn’t consider how her absence will affect her friends. It will only make the ache in her chest that much worse. Instead, she buries her guilt along with the broken shards of her heart. The delicate pieces remind her of the jewel she wished gone from existence.

Life is ironic that way.

Kagome passes through towns and meets villagers who remind her of what she’s left behind. She sees herself in the youthful faces of the girls preparing for marriage. She connects with the healers who wear their wisdom on their wrinkled faces. She values the light in the eyes of the children she finds running through the fields. Yet, she belongs to none of these groups. She is like them, but not.

So she strolls onward.

On the third day, when she can walk no further, she takes refuge under a broad tree. The thick roots support her like a chair. She closes her eyes, tilts her head back, and rests. The cocoon of sleep feels like a precious balm, blocking the pain.

A demon approaches from the west. Her reiki prickles along her skin in warning. Kagome ignores it. She’s too weak to fight anyway. If the traveler wishes to kill her, she’d consider it a kindness. Eternal sleep sounds preferable to the constant agony she feels.

This is how he finds her— curled up at the base of the tree, alone and utterly defenseless. Kagome hadn’t even thought to grab her bow before she marched out of their hut.

He makes a soft tsking noise as he scoops her up. It isn’t difficult. She hardly weighs anything.

Her eyes flutter open as his familiar scent— fresh grass, mountain air, and coppery blood —fills her nostrils.

“Sesshomaru?”

His response is as unforgiving as the scowl on his face. “Foolish woman.”

Those gold eyes, metallic and hard, are the last thing she sees before she succumbs to the blissful dark.

Entering the waking world is difficult. Every breath Kagome takes burns as if she has just run from the shrine to school. Her limbs feel heavy as though weighed down with sopping wet clothes. It takes her several attempts to open her eyes but when she finally does she immediately shuts them again. The light is so bright it makes her head hurt. She groans, rolling away.

“You’re awake,” an unfamiliar voice comments with amusement. “Good.” Kagome struggles to blink. Slowly, the form kneeling by her bedroll comes into focus. 

The woman is a few years older than Kagome with black hair pulled into a tight bun at the base of her skull. Her brown eyes move to a small teapot. She pours Kagome a fresh cup.

“I am Sai,” the woman introduces herself.

“Where am I?”

“You’re in the Aki Province, home to the Asano clan,” Sai answers. “Though we no longer have a castle to mark our lands, we have much to be grateful for.”

Kagome glances around the hut, trying to remember if she’s heard of the Asano clan before. The name sounds familiar, but she can’t place it. Kagome decides it's because she hasn’t traveled from Kaede’s village in years. Her understanding of the surrounding lands is limited.

“Thank you for your kindness,” she says to the girl.

“It is I who should be thanking you,” Sai returns.

Kagome’s brow furrows with confusion. “Why?”

“My clan has long sought to repay your lord for the kindness he showed Princess Sara. However, we were never granted the opportunity until today.”

She touches her forehead, wondering if she’s dreaming. “My lord?”

Sai nods. “Yes, Lord Sesshomaru.”

Now she knows she’s dreaming. If Kagome had the strength, she would laugh. “I think there has been a misunderstanding. My name is Kagome Higurashi. I am—.”

“The Shikon miko,” Sai finishes for her with a smile. “There has been no misunderstanding, priestess. Lord Sesshomaru’s instructions were quite clear.”

“What?”

“Please enjoy the tea. I will prepare a meal for you.” Before she can get another word out, Sai exits the hut.

Kagome stares after her. She sips her tea until the cup is dry, not thinking about anything in particular. When Sai doesn’t return, Kagome shakes her head and lays back down.

What a weird dream.

It started with Sango and Miroku’s daughters. The twins were a mischievous tag-team that delighted Kagome but annoyed Inuyasha. Though she tried to advise him on how to behave around them, he didn’t listen. She suggested he spend time with their son, hoping he’d find more in common with the baby boy than the two giggling girls. He hadn’t.

Their disagreements turned into rows. He never hit her. The impact of his words delivered a harsh enough blow that there was no need. Gone were the days when she looked at him as though he was her entire world. The rose-colored glasses lifted. Kagome finally saw the truth. 

The first crack formed.

Kagome blinks blearily. Her surroundings are unfamiliar, as are the noises coming from outside. She glances around, trying to make sense of her location. Slowly, the memory of waking comes to her and Kagome realizes she’s in the same hut as earlier. 

So...not a dream then. 

The tea has been removed and in its place sits a covered pot of stew. Though it has cooled, Kagome doesn’t waste a single drop. She didn’t realize how hungry she was until the smell of food filled her nostrils.

As she ladles up the last spoonful, Sai enters. “Good evening. How was the soup?”

“It was wonderful,” Kagome tells her. “Thank you.”

She is grateful for the other woman’s presence. It saved her from running her finger along the inside of the bowl to clear away the remaining droplets. Kagome inwardly chides herself. She’s a guest here. She can’t forget her manners and risk dishonoring these kind-hearted people. 

“I’m glad the meal was to your liking,” Sai says with a bow. She sets down a jug of water and collects the empty bowl. “If you are well enough, I can escort you to the hot springs for a bath.”

Kagome smiles. “A bath would be great.”

Sai provides her with a clean towel and a brush then leads her out of the hut. 

It’s the first time Kagome has seen the town, if town is an accurate description. The Asano clan may not have a ruler but it certainly looks like they do. Based on their population, which is nearly triple the size of Kaede’s village, they are a city. Though some families live in tents and others have huts, they are all clustered together in a way that allows for distinct roads between them. The entire place is organized and well-maintained. 

Several people stop to smile when Kagome emerges from her hut. A few call out greetings to Sai, who knows them each by name. They lower their heads when Kagome nears. She feels the urge to blush and promptly pushes it down. They may know her as the Shikon miko but she has done nothing to earn their respect. 

Sai guides her along the widest path which Kagome decides must be their main street. It travels away from the curious onlookers, past the edge of a forest, and to a divide. Sai veers right, climbing uphill. Kagome follows. 

The landscape changes from smooth to rocky. Moss and bushes line the stones. As they near, Kagome can smell the springs. Sulfur taints the air but Kagome has grown used to the scent. She can’t afford to be picky. Indoor plumbing won’t be invented for another four hundred years. 

“Here we are,” Sai says, gesturing to the steaming water. 

Both women disrobe and slip beneath the surface. After days of not washing, Kagome savors the fierce warmth surrounding her. It washes away her regret and shame almost as well as it washes away the dirt and grime.  

She finds a spot along the side where she is able to sit. Sai joins her. 

“Your heart is heavy,” the woman observes. 

“I loved someone once, but it wasn’t enough. We grew apart,” Kagome shares, tilting her head toward the night sky. “No one ever tells you that.”

“Tells you what?” 

“That you can’t build your life on love alone,” she answers ruefully. 

Sai thinks about this for a moment. “Love is not just one thing. It is made of many layers. Perhaps the longevity you speak of requires one to have an absolute love, one constructed on many layers instead of one or two.” 

Kagome considers this. She’s never thought of love in these terms but hearing Sai explain it makes her wonder. 

She and Inuyasha never had much in common. They’d always faced challenges and Kagome had always been the one to extend the olive branch. It was always her who was saying sorry, always her who was giving up what she wanted— time to study for exams, a weekend off to see her friends, a family. That last one stung. Unbidden, tears come to her eyes. 

“Yeah, maybe,” she managed to reply. 

If Sai knows Kagome is crying, she’s kind enough not to comment. She doesn’t speak again and neither does Kagome. Her mind is full. She will need time to process things. Lots of time. 

They stay in the hot springs until their skin prunes. Slowly, they gather up their things. The sky has darkened and the first few fireflies have begun stirring in the grass nearby. 

As they meander back to the village, Kagome spots a bloom of red along the path. 

“Is there a graveyard in town?” she inquires.

Sai’s brow creases. “Why do you ask?” 

The brilliant crimson color of the red spider lilies reminds Kagome of the reason she’s here, or, more accurately, the one who left her here. Their beauty calls to her and she decides what to do with them before she answers Sai. 

Kagome crouches in front of flowers to gather a small bouquet in her hands. “I’d like to pay my respects to your mistress.” 

She finds the butsudan in what remains of the palace courtyard. It is the only complete structure amongst the charred bones of the former castle. Kagome moves quietly through, keeping her head inclined out of respect as she approaches the altar. 

Though she didn’t know Princess Asano, Kagome feels indebted to her. Without the late princess’s kindness, Sesshomaru wouldn’t have cared for her people. They have survived because of him. And so has Kagome. 

She kneels before the altar. Carefully, Kagome lights a candle in front of the portrait of the late princess. The woman had blue eyes like hers, though her hair was lighter and her skin looks like fine porcelain. Kagome absently wipes the back of her hand across her cheek, knowing the long hours outside have taken a toll on her face. 

She bows her head and sends a silent prayer to the kamis to watch over Sara Asano in the afterlife. Hopefully, the woman knows her people are safe. Kagome thinks she would be relieved by the news. 

When she lifts her face, Kagome notices the flute in the woman’s hands. Music has never been a talent she cultivated. Still, she finds joy in listening to those who have learned how to play. Kagome wonders if the princess has continued her tune in the afterlife. She hopes she has. 

Her skin bristles. Kagome senses him before he approaches her. She is both surprised by his presence and not. A part of her expected this— the inevitable confrontation. After his dark scowl, Kagome can only imagine what harsh words he will dole out. 

“You pay respects to a woman you never met?” 

He sounds perplexed by her behavior, almost as confused as she felt when she woke in this village. 

“I owe her my thanks,” Kagome answers, placing the flowers at the base of the altar. 

“You owe the dead nothing, miko. They are at peace.” 

“You think Naraku is at peace?” she asks, skeptically as she straightens up. 

“Naraku was undeserving of such mercy.” 

Kagome can’t argue with him on that point. Naraku’s malice harmed many lives, probably more than she will ever know. The sixteen-year-old Kagome wouldn’t wish a terrible fate on anyone. She is no longer a naive child. 

“I will provide an escort for your return travels,” Sesshomaru offers. 

“There’s no need,” she tells him. “I’m not going back.” 

He doesn’t comment on this, no doubt believing she will change her mind. 

She won’t. 

Kagome knows that. It is one of the few things she can see about her future with true clarity. Kagome feels as though she’s awake for the first time in years. The longer she stays away from the village— from him —the more she feels less like a companion. She’s beginning to feel like a person. 

“Sai will get you settled,” Sesshomaru eventually says. 

Kagome turns to thank him but he has already gone. She whispers her gratitude to the moon instead. 

The first time she cried it was outside of the village. She overheard Sango and Miroku. Their pity stung as did their perspective on the situation. 

Her initial hurt gave way to anger. They couldn’t comprehend what she had given up— her family, yes, but also her freedom. She could have forgotten about the jewel, thought the entire thing was just a bad dream, and left them to fight Naraku on their own. There are days when Kagome thought she should have. Things would have been easier. 

She could have been a fashion designer like Ayumi or a journalist like Eri. She could have traveled the world as a corporate liaison the way Yuka had. They all forged their own paths. Even Hojo had found belonging at his father’s company. High school had been tedious but at least she’d had a choice. There had been options. 

Her only option now felt like a noose tightening around her neck. 

She felt as though her body is being cleaved in two. Part of her wanted to fight, to cling to what could have been. Maybe if she just tried a little harder, maybe then things could be different. A small voice inside of her told Kagome that is foolish. That part of her— a tiny, quiet piece —was tired and believed the battle to be over. 

Kagome sat at the bottom of the Bone Eater’s Well, tears streaming down her face. She didn’t know what to do. Or maybe she did and just wasn’t strong enough to admit it. 

Another crack formed.

The hut becomes her home. In the passing weeks, Kagome takes care to sweep it, clear out the corner cobwebs, and weave new mats. She buys fabric at the market and sews curtains. Her shelves are soon filled with pots for her herbs and vases of fresh flowers picked from the field. 

Sai visits daily and the women become fast friends. She learns that Sai was a handmaiden to Princess Asano, something Kagome expected since her first night but has since been confirmed. Sai’s intended, a man named Akiro, was killed serving Sara’s father in battle. Despite losing the one she loved, Sai holds no bitterness in her heart. She tells Kagome that she will see Akiro again when she passes from this life unto the next. 

Sai’s faith reminds Kagome of her youth. She’d been full of determination, resolute in her belief that destroying the Shikon Jewel would save lives. In the end, it had. Yet, she feels no satisfaction over the deed. 

Selfless, the villagers call her. Kagome tries not to listen. She doesn’t feel selfless. She feels broken. What other reason could she have for not being happy?

It’s a question Kagome asks herself often. She allows herself to wander, learning this new place by getting lost and forcing herself to find the way back. It’s like a game. Some times it takes her hours to retrace her steps but she doesn’t stop. This is the first thing Kagome has done for herself in ages. She finds comfort in her ability to exercise this newly acquired freedom. 

Sai has work to do, so Kagome’s walks are solitary ones. 

Until the day he joins her. 

“You have traveled far today,” Sesshomaru observes. 

Kagome glances over her shoulder, no longer able to see the dilapidated guard tower in the distance. The town’s tallest building has always been her lighthouse, guiding her on her return trip. Without it, Kagome isn’t sure how to navigate home. 

Home, she thinks. 

It’s strange to think of this place that way. Home used to be the shrine with Mama, Gramps, Sota, and Buyo. Then it was in the village with her friends and Inuyasha. And now...

“I have upset you.” 

“No,” Kagome replies calmly. “I’ve got a lot on my mind.”

He hums thoughtfully. “I shall leave you to your musings.” 

“No.” She grabs at his kimono, catching his pelt— or what she assumes is his pelt —instead of the silken cloth. 

She’s not sure why she does it. Looking back on the action, Kagome is embarrassed for being so forward. Her hand recoils the instant she recognizes how ridiculous she’s being. 

“Would you prefer company?” Sesshomaru asks. There is no inflection in his voice. Kagome can’t tell if he’s mad, curious, pleased, or an odd combination of all three. She decides it doesn’t matter. 

“Please.” 

“Then I will remain.” 

Kagome doesn’t know how long they walk together. They drift further and further from the town, not uttering a single word. There is no oppressive need to fill the silence. The absence of conversation doesn’t make her nervous, rather it feels intimate like they are sharing a secret. 

When the sun dips low on the horizon, bathing the world in a range of orange, pink, and purple, she follows Sesshomaru back to the Asano clan. He walks Kagome to her hut. 

As he moves to leave, she reaches for him. This time, Kagome catches herself before she touches him. Sesshomaru notices anyway. One silver brow arches in question. 

“Would you like to accompany me tomorrow?” she asks. 

His face gives her no indication of whether he is surprised by her request or not. “I will find you,” he replies. “Rest well.” 

Kagome finds that she does. 

“Why don’t you have any kids yet?” Shippo asked. 

They had been on an errand for Kaede in the next village over when he approached the sensitive subject. Kagome knew he was too young to understand why it hurt. To Shippo, mating was merely a stage of life. 

Marriage, though not unheard of, wasn’t practiced by many demons. They saw mating as an infinite bond. The ritual was sacred, similar to the way humans viewed marriage with one key difference. Matings almost always resulted in the birth of the couple’s first child. Inuyasha had refused to mate her for that very reason. 

“Inuyasha’s not ready,” Kagome answered. 

“Why not?” Shippo pressed. 

Because he only cares about what he wants, she thought angrily. 

“Not everyone becomes a parent, Shippo,” Kagome told the kitsune. 

“But you want to be.”

“It doesn’t work like that,” she replied. 

“Well, it should,” he grumbled, crossing his arms in front of his chest. 

If Kagome had been in her own time, it would have. Options for single women existed, not that it mattered now. She had made her choice. She just hadn’t realized it was the wrong one until it was too late. 

A third rift cracked her open. 

The seasons change. Leaves turn colors, the air has a chill to it, and the farmers begin their harvest. Everything around her is transitioning. Kagome realizes she’s doing the same. 

Over the past few months, the city has transformed into her home. She knows where to buy the best fabric, goes to the same stand weekly for her produce, and even meets Sai from time to time at their favorite tea shop. Her life has found a rhythm again. 

The routine isn’t complete without a visit from the Lord of the Western Lands. She finds herself looking forward to the brooding demon. No matter how early Kagome wakes, she always finds him in the same place— seated by her doorway. Seeing him eases the ache in her chest. 

There are days when they talk and then there are those where they simply bask in each other’s company. Sesshomaru stays by her side, a constant as Kagome works through the maelstrom of thoughts that plague her. He never asks about his brother. She suspects he knows why she left, even if she’s never told him. 

One day, they come across the tree where she collapsed. Kagome recognizes it instantly. Things become clearer when you think you’re about to die. 

For a second, she sees the shadow of her former self hunched over the roots, gaunt and covered in dirt. Kagome wonders if Sesshomaru can see the ghost of her past too. His mood is considerably darker on their return trip.

It prompts her to inquire, “Why did you save me?”

There is a moment where Kagome suspects he will not answer. Then, “You cared for Rin when I could not.”

She glances over at him, trying to discern his meaning. He does not meet her gaze. Instead, his metallic eyes are focused out across the sweeping landscape, as if seeing beyond the horizon. Kagome doesn’t think he’s lying nor does she believe he’s telling her the full truth. 

She decides not to push him. He has never sought answers from her before she was willing to give them. She will offer him the same courtesy. 

“Her training is coming along well. She helped delivered all three of Sango’s children. Kaede believes she will make a fine healer,” Kagome informs him.

“I am glad to hear she has adapted.”

Are you? Kagome wants to ask. His tone and expression reveal nothing but she wonders how he can be so calm. Sesshomaru must be lonely. He traveled with Rin and Kohaku for a long time. By comparison, Jaken can’t be much company. At least not the kind of company he would value. Briefly, she wonders why she hasn’t seen the imp around. 

“And you?” he asks. “Are you well?” 

“I am.” 

It isn’t until she speaks the words aloud that Kagome realizes she is. 

No one has come looking for her, or if they have, they haven’t found her. Kagome isn’t sure whether to be sad about that fact or relieved. She concludes that it is a problem for another day. Her attention turns to the stew she is making, something hearty for the long winter nights ahead. 

She invited Sesshomaru to stay for dinner but he reminded her that cooked meat is not to his liking. 

Kagome contemplates going to the market to ask Miratu if he can craft her a bow. Her fingers itch to hold a weapon. It has been months since she last nocked an arrow. Kagome wonders if she even remembers how. 

The next day, while she enjoys supper with Sai— who enjoys cooked meat —Kagome asks for her opinion. 

“If you want to shoot, you need a bow,” her friend tells her with a knowing smile. 

Mind made up, Kagome visits the bowyer. 

It takes her a few days to correct her fingering and straighten her posture. Months of lazy habits have ruined her form. She practices for hours at a time, always at night, always alone. Her afternoons are spent collecting straw and sewing targets. When Kagome runs low on arrows, she makes a new batch. 

Nothing feels as gratifying as taking down her first deer. Ending the animal’s life is bittersweet but Kagome is comforted by the knowledge that she gave the creature a merciful death. It will not be wasted. 

She bows under the weight of the carcass. Each step is a struggle. As the last rays of sunlight fade away, Kagome wonders if she’ll make it back to the village before the meat rots. 

“So this is where you’ve been sneaking off to,” Sesshomaru’s deep baritone comes from behind her. 

He removes the deer from Kagome’s shoulders with a shake of his head. There is no heat to his comment. Those golden eyes of his twinkle with amusement. 

“Surprise,” she offers with a shy smile. 

“Indeed.”

“You won’t eat my stew so I improvised,” Kagome explains. 

“I do not require you to hunt for me,” Sesshomaru tells her. 

“I know,” she says with a sigh. “You probably could have caught something better than a deer.” 

“You misunderstand. I appreciate the gesture but it was unnecessary. You have nothing to prove. I am aware of your value.” 

Kagome chuckles. She can’t recall the last time she laughed. “My value, huh? You make me sound like a piece of jewelry.” 

He sends a sidelong glance in her direction and Kagome beams up at him. 

When they reach her hut, she holds the flap open for him. For the first time since Kagome moved in, he accepts her invitation. 

They pass the winter months together. Sesshomaru outfits her with pelts, making sure both her hut and her body are covered. Even still, she insists upon a fire each night. He teases her about her delicate human form. Kagome reminds him that she’s not easy to kill and they both reflect on their first encounter. It feels like a lifetime ago. 

He doesn’t apologize for his actions. She doesn't expect him to. They were different people back then. 

As the ice melts and new life springs forth from the patches of frost, Kagome resumes her practice. She takes her bow with her during the walks with Sesshomaru, shooting at branches weighed down with snow. It’s a silly way to pass the time but if he minds, he doesn’t say so. 

Sesshomaru has taken to spending the nights in her hut. Kagome isn’t sure where he went before. She considers asking him but it ends up on the list of things they don’t discuss, along with Inuyasha and where Jaken and A-Un are. 

One morning, she rises to the sound of hammering. Curious, Kagome races out of her hut to see what is going on. She spots dozens of villagers repairing the old watchtower as well as the gardens. 

A shadow falls over her. “You didn’t tell me you were rebuilding the palace,” Kagome says. 

“It was time,” he remarks.

“The villagers must be happy for the work. They take pride in their lands. I’m sure they will exceed your expectations,” she tells him.

“They had better.”

Kagome shakes her head but can’t keep the smile from her face. Always so sullen, like he doesn’t want anyone to know what a good heart he has. 

They don’t follow any particular path that day. Kagome lets her instincts guide her, away from the village and through the fields until they come to stop at the river’s edge. 

She sits near the water, skipping rocks. He stands behind her, a silent spectator. Sesshomaru doesn’t comment on her childish antics. He allows her space to breathe and room to grow. He seemed to understand, before Kagome did, that what she needed the most was security. She had to learn how to trust again. 

The northern wing of the castle is completed first. It houses the master residence and is the pinnacle of opulence. Kagome has never seen anything as grand as the interior of the castle. 

The wooden floors have been polished so well that she can see herself in them. Hand-painted silkscreens depicting the great daiyokai of legend decorate the rooms. Dozens of lanterns are hung from the ceiling, bathing the chambers in warm light. 

“It’s beautiful,” she whispers in awe. 

“It’s yours,” Sesshomaru tells her. 

Her blue eyes widen and she stares at him, certain she’s misheard. “What?” 

His expression leaves no room for misunderstanding. Kagome heard him correctly. “I had it built for you.” 

“I have a home.”

“That hut is insufficient. This is a proper house,” Sesshomaru argues. 

Anger burns through her, the first spark of passion she’s felt since starting her new life. It awakens the final piece of her wounded soul, jump-starting several emotions all at once. The effect is immediate and dizzying. Words spill from her tongue quicker than she can process. 

“You have no right to decide for me. I was happy with what I had. It wasn’t much but it was mine.” 

“You asked to stay. I provided for you,” he responds calmly. 

“I can take care of myself!” 

Sesshomaru scoffs. She hates how the noise reminds her of his younger brother. “When I found you, you were a husk of the woman I knew.” 

“What was I supposed to do? I lost everything!”

“No,” he snarls, invading her space. “Do not mistake his faults for your worth. You lost nothing of value that day.” 

Kagome gasps. Finally, she sees the whole picture. “Y-you didn’t find me. You followed me.” 

He doesn’t deny it.

His deception hurts worse than any of her friend’s betrayals. Kagome feels her chest ache as though it is splitting down the middle. Starting from her breast bone down to her belly button the pain cuts her through. Her throat constricts. The edges of her eyes prick.

“I’m grateful for all that you’ve done for me,” she says in thanks. Her voice sounds weak, even to her own ears, and she hurries to leave the chamber. Maybe if she moves fast enough no one will notice her return to the village and she can slip into her hut unnoticed.

“Kagome.”

She freezes. Sesshomaru has never referred to her by name before. Slowly, she turns to face him.

Whatever space existed between them vanishes. He moves to stand before her, towering more than a full head taller than her and blocking out the moonlight. Kagome doesn’t know what to say. Her body is trembling from her overwhelming emotions. She’s stuck between wanting to scream, bursting into tears, and needing him. It’s a frustrating paradox. 

Her voice cracks as she speaks, “I don’t know what you want from me.” 

“This is not about my desire. This is about yours."

It takes a moment for the truth of his words to sink in. She can't stop herself from gravitating toward him. It's like a moth being drawn to a flame. They crash together and she feels the overwhelming sensation of her passion like an inferno in her core. Sesshomaru slams the sliding door shut with a growl. 

Clothes are ripped off. Kagome is bare in every sense of the word. She hasn't been this vulnerable in months. The thought of what they are doing— what she is doing —should terrify her. She should leave. She should walk out of the palace, pack up her meager belongings, and leave this place. Kagome can't afford to open herself up to the possibility of being broken again. She doesn't have the strength to repair herself.

His thumb skims over her bottom lip and she gazes up at him.

Her fear slips away.

They fit together like tectonic plates. Each shift of his hips, every exhale of breath brings them closer. When he withdraws, she whines. Then he fills her and her cries echo through the land. The rhythmic pushing and pulling reminds Kagome of the ocean’s tides. They are constantly in motion, coming together, breaking apart. The noises he makes rumble like thunder in the night and when she crests over the edge she sees lightning strike. 

Hours later, when they both have tired and Kagome can barely tell if it is day or night, Sesshomaru presses a kiss to her forehead. The gesture is such a small, seemingly insignificant thing, barely worth noting.

Except she does.

For the first time in years, Kagome feels whole.

Their son is born on the first day of winter. The land is covered in a thin blanket of snow, appearing serene. Inside the castle, there is chaos. Sesshomaru hasn’t left her side since the contractions began yesterday. Lack of sleep is making her testy, though her attitude cannot rival his. Between hissing death threats at the midwife and snarling at his mother, he is the most unhinged Kagome has ever seen. 

She squeezes his hand. Initially, the gesture is meant to be reassuring but as the day drags on, her grip tightens. Kagome doesn’t worry about hurting him. She’s in too much pain to think of anything but the delivery. 

When their son arrives, Kagome fears he’ll scream himself hoarse. The midwife wipes him down and places him in her arms. 

Sesshomaru is there, as he always is— as he always has been. “What do you wish to call him, my moon?” he asks. 

“Aiko,” she decides. 

Later that night, as they lay curled together in their bed, Aiko sleeping soundly between them, Kagome lifts her eyes to her mate. 

“Sesshomaru?”

He hums, trailing one claw along the length of her thigh, never taking his eyes off their son. 

“You were right.” 

His golden gaze shifts to her. 

“This is a proper house to raise a family in.”

Lips curling, he leans in to press a kiss to her lips. “Our family.” 

Kagome warms at his words. There is no way for her to express how much she loves him. She’s tried to show him, attempted to tell him but it is never enough. No gesture exists to demonstrate the magnitude to which Kagome is grateful. He saved her life by giving her the tools to piece herself back together. 

Those cracks that once tore her apart are still there. The scars of her past will always be a part of her. Instead of looking upon them as something to be hated, Kagome sees them as a testament to how far she has come. She wears them as proudly as the mark her mate gave her.

 

INUYASHA © Rumiko Takahashi/Shogakukan • Yomiuri TV • Sunrise 2000
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