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Once Upon a Dream by Sage McMae

Chapter 1

I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream
I know you, that look in your eyes is so familiar a gleam

“You’re going down, creep!”

Kagome fires an arrow at the scaled-faced lizard demon attacking her friends.

The weapon strikes him in the chest. Her purifying energy causes his skin to boil and ooze as if it were poison. He falls to his knees in agony, thrashing around on the ground.

“What a wimp,” Inuyasha scoffs, resting Tetsusaiga over his shoulder.

“Inuyasha! Kagome, watch out!”

Miroku’s warning comes too late. The lizard’s tail snaps out, kicking Kagome’s feet out from under her. Before any of her friends can reach her, she falls backward. Her head hits the ground with a sickening thud.

As she loses consciousness, the last thing Kagome hears is someone screaming her name.

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

“Kagome! Kagome, wake up!”

"Hmm? Inu— Rin?"

“I told you she wasn’t dead, Master Jaken,” the young girl cheers gleefully.

Kagome blinks, not fully understanding the sight before her. They are in the forest. Rin is kneeling over her and the green imp is standing beside the girl, eyeing Kagome warily. None of her friends are here. She appears to be alone.

Kagome closes her eyes, trying to remember something— anything —before she blacked out.

She recalls battling a demon who possessed a shard of the Shikon Jewel. They had been in a clearing by the river, on their way back to Edo when the lizard attacked them. Had they run across Rin and Jaken then? 

Kagome’s temples throb and she groans. She can’t remember.

“Oh, Lord Sesshomaru, you’ve returned!” the imp cries. 

Kagome is shocked to note that he doesn’t seem surprised to see her. She disregards the way his eyes trace over her curves appraisingly. She’s too busy scrambling to her feet to catch the heat in his gaze. Kagome teeters off balance a couple of times in her haste to reach him. She needs answers. 

Now.

“Sesshomaru, what’s going on. Why— oh my gosh! Your arm!” Kagome can’t stop herself from grabbing hold of his hand. She turns his right arm slowly, inspecting it. “You’ve healed,” she gasps in awe.

The demon’s brow furrows. He glances over her head at Jaken.

“Lord Sesshomaru, the woman appears to have suffered a head injury. She is not herself.”

Sesshomaru steps around Kagome. He slams his fist down upon the imp’s head. Jaken immediately begins spouting apologies but Sesshomaru doesn’t seem to hear them. His attention is back on her.

Kagome stares at him, unable to read his expression.

“Do you remember what happened?” he asks.

“I was fighting a lizard demon and he knocked me out,” Kagome answers.

Sesshomaru frowns. “Jaken.”

“I don’t know what lizard demon she speaks of, Lord Sesshomaru!”

“He had a shard of the Shikon Jewel. He was probably sent to attack us by Naraku. We have to go to Edo and make sure everyone is safe,” Kagome pleads.

Sesshomaru studies her face as if trying to decipher a complex riddle.

Kagome knows he doesn’t enjoy being around Inuyasha but she also knows Sesshomaru won’t kill his brother. They’ve been amicable lately. It’s a slow process but neither has drawn their weapon against the other in recent weeks. Kagome considers that an improvement.

“Please,” she adds, hoping politeness will work in her favor.

“Come here,” he beckons.

Kagome approaches him. He studies her and when she stops less than a meter from him, Sesshomaru cups the back of her head and leans down to press his forehead to hers.

She freezes.

What’s he doing?

Sesshomaru has never touched her before. This feels intimate— somehow special —and Kagome isn’t sure what to make of it.

“If you wish to journey to Edo, we will go,” he tells her.

“Thank you,” Kagome whispers.

“You will travel with me. A-Un can handle Rin and Jaken,” Sesshomaru says, straightening up.

Before Kagome can respond, he snakes an arm around her waist and tucks her into his left side.

The two-headed dragon emerges from the forest. Rin greets him and the beast lays in the grass so she can climb on. She pets A-Un from her perch and speaks to the dragon as if he can talk back. It’s endearing. Kagome smiles as she watches the young girl.

Jaken clambers on behind Rin while shooting irritated glances at Kagome. The imp has never liked her but, for some reason, he seems particularly aggravated today. She wonders why.

As Sesshomaru navigates them through the treetops and out of the forest, Kagome shifts closer to him. This mode of transportation is smoother than riding on Inuyasha’s back. It is also a much further drop if she were to fall off. Kagome wraps her arms around Sesshomaru’s torso, trying not to blush.

Confused, he glances down at her but says nothing. Kagome is sure he must be wondering what happened. He isn’t the only one.

Since Kagome woke up, everyone has been acting off— well, everyone except Jaken who is his normally unpleasant self. Rin has always been a happy child but the toothy grins she keeps giving Kagome feel different.  It is as if Rin looks up to her with the same reverence she has for Sesshomaru.

Kagome shakes her head. That can’t be right. Rin barely knows her. They’ve always been friendly but Kagome is aware Rin prefers the company of demons to humans. The dynamics of demon politics make more sense to the child. Based on how Rin has suffered, Kagome understands why.

Demons kill to survive.

Humans kill out of greed for money or power.

Kagome sneaks a peek at Sesshomaru. This close, she can admire the fine curve of his jaw and the delicate points of his ears. Silver tendrils of hair stream over his shoulders and down his back. They look as soft as silk. She fights the urge to comb her fingers through his hair. Knowing Sesshomaru, the brazen act might be her last.

Finding the silence uncomfortable, Kagome asks, “Where were you?”

The arm still wrapped around her tenses. "I visited the court."

Her brows knit together.

Kagome knows there is a demon hierarchy. Both Myoga and Inuyasha have mentioned it before but she isn’t familiar with how it operates. She assumes they must have laws, protocols, and traditions that they adhere to. Maybe that’s why Sesshomaru is so reserved in comparison to his brother. He had to follow rules all his life whereas Inuyasha was cast out from demon society for being half-human.

“Do you have to go often?” Kagome inquires.

“No. I had an announcement to make regarding the Western Lands. The news was...not well-received. It appears many still view humans with contempt,” he confesses.

“I’m sorry. I hope they won’t cause trouble for you or Rin,” Kagome replies.

His expression falters. She catches shock, confusion, and a flicker of hurt. Kagome isn’t sure how to handle the latter so she focuses on addressing the first two.

“Where I’m from, raising a child alone is called being a single-parent. It’s difficult and society doesn’t make it any easier. For whatever reason, people always seem to assume the worst of them. Even if they are great parents, people tend to gossip and make assumptions about why they are by themselves.”

“I am not alone,” he reminds her.

“I know you have A-Un and Jaken. I’m sure they help you out in their own ways. I meant more of a partner, someone who you could rely on, someone you can be yourself with and trust,” Kagome explains.

He stares at her, unblinking. “I have an intended.”

“Really? That’s awesome. Has Rin met her? I bet she’s really pretty. Does she visit court too? What does Jaken think of her? How about—.”

Kagome stops. The look Sesshomaru is giving her makes her stomach somersault. His gaze is heavy with meaning. Kagome wants to back away but there is nowhere to run. She’s several meters above the forest with only him to hold onto for balance.

She swallows nervously. “Sesshomaru?”

“Yes?”

“What announcement did you make at court today?”

“My plans to take you as my mate.”

Kagome’s vision blurs as the pounding in her head worsens. There is a buzzing in her ears but the persistent noise isn’t enough to drown out his words. They echo in her mind as she struggles not to faint.

“W-what?”

“Kagome, are you ill?”

He has never called her by her name before. Just like he’s never gazed at her with concern. Sesshomaru— Lord of the Western Lands, demon bigot, and all-around arrogant adversary —is worried about her— Kagome Higurashi, human, miko, and unknowing guardian of the Shikon Jewel. Her head spins.

“I need to see Inuyasha.”

Sesshomaru’s golden eyes harden. “Why?”

“Maybe he can explain this to me.”

“I doubt the hanyou can assist in this matter,” Sesshomaru replies flatly.

“Please?” Kagome begs. “Do you know where he is?”

Sesshomaru sighs, relenting. “Very well.”

Several minutes later, they land in the forest near the Bone Eater’s Well. Kagome begins walking toward the village, expecting to meet up with her friends in Kaede’s hut when a burst of red catches her attention.

Her eyes go wide. “Inu-Inuyasha?” she gasps.

There, bound to the Sacred Tree, is her friend.

He looks exactly as he did the day Kagome was dragged through the well by Mistress Centipede. His head is hanging to the side, his eyes are closed, and Kikyo’s arrow is jutting out of his chest.

“What happened?” Kagome asks, whirling around to face Sesshomaru.

He’s watching her carefully, trying to gauge her reaction.

"Fifty years ago, his lover bound him to this tree as penance for trying to steal the Shikon Jewel. She died on the same day. Since then, no one comes here. The entire forest is thought to be cursed," Sesshomaru informs her.

“But then what about Naraku? And where are Miroku, Sango, Shippou, and Kirara?” she asks.

“Naraku? You mentioned him before. Who is he? Did he threaten you?”

Kagome shakes her head, trying to come to terms with this strange reality. If Inuyasha never woke up, then he never saved her from Mistress Centipede, which meant she never broke the Shikon Jewel.

Hastily, Kagome lifts her blouse to check her right side. Where the scar from the demoness's bite should be, there is only smooth skin. She runs her fingers along her ribs and down her torso, feeling for a bump or another indication there was once a wound there. Kagome feels nothing.

“Perhaps we should return to the palace. If Jaken is correct, you need to see a healer,” Sesshomaru advises.

She tucks her blouse into her skirt. “I know one in the village,” she counters.

His hand closes around her arm. “Kagome.”

“It’s fine. We can trust Kaede,” she assures him.

He doesn’t appear convinced but he doesn’t fight her. “I will remain here.”

Kagome glances behind him where A-Un, Rin, and Jaken are waiting. When she returns her attention to Sesshomaru, his face is impassive once more.

“The villagers aren’t all bad, you know. If you’re tired from traveling, you can rest in one of the vacant huts,” she offers.

“They would prefer not to come into contact with demons,” he replies.

“Alright. I’ll be back as soon as I can,” Kagome tells him.

He nods and releases her arm.

Kagome jogs down the hill, hoping Kaede has the answers she seeks.

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

“Is this some form of trickery?” the elder inquires, staring at Kagome skeptically.

“Kaede, it’s me: Kagome,” she says, placing her hand on her chest. “I’m Kikyo’s reincarnation. I climbed out of the well and—.”

“I am aware of how you came to be here,” Kaede interrupts. “What I am not aware of is why you have returned.”

Kagome’s eyes go wide. “What? What do you mean?”

“Are you not now the Lady of the West? Have you not bound yourself to Lord Sesshomaru as his mate?” Kaede asks.

“What?” Kagome shrieks, her cheeks burning with embarrassment.

Hearing it from the dog demon is one thing but to have Kaede confirm it is something else entirely. Kagome rubs her temples.

This has to be a dream, right? Just a dream, she consoles herself.

“Kaede, something happened in the forest. I got knocked out. I can’t remember how I got here or what’s happening to me. Everything I thought I knew is wrong. I have to find out what’s going on,” Kagome tries to explain.

“You don’t remember Lord Sesshomaru coming to your rescue?”

Kagome shakes her head.

“When you first appeared from the Bone Eater’s Well, the villagers found you in the forest—.”

“With Inuyasha,” Kagome cuts her off. She knows this part of the story.

“Yes,” Kaede says with a nod. “You were brought here for questioning. By the time we realized who you are,— what you are — Mistress Centipede had regenerated. She came looking for you and the jewel. You fled the village.”

“And ran to the well,” she adds.

“You saw that which cannot be seen and when you called for assistance, the one who cannot be commanded came to your aid,” Kaede finishes.

“The one who cannot be commanded? You mean Sesshomaru?”

Kaede nods again.

Kagome gasps as she remembers running for her life and her desperate plea.

Whoever you are— please, somebody help me!

"That wish is what brought Lord Sesshomaru to the forest. He heard your cry and responded," Kaede informs her. "Were it not for him, Mistress Centipede would have ripped the Shikon Jewel from your flesh and devoured it."

Kagome swallows, grimacing. She knows what Kaede says is true because that is what did happen.

At least that’s what she thought happened.

Now, Kagome isn’t so sure. What if she doesn’t wake up? What if this isn’t a dream?

“Lord Sesshomaru slaughtered Mistress Centipede. Naturally, we assumed he saved you in order to gain your favor so he could use the jewel’s powers,” Kaede continues.

“But he didn’t,” Kagome surmises.

“No, he did not,” Kaede confirms. “Instead, he sought the tomb of his father, which you were able to help him extract from Inuyasha.”

“But Inuyasha is still stuck to the tree,” Kagome cries indignantly.

“The tomb was hidden in his eye. Regardless of Kikyo’s binding magic, Touga’s final resting place was within reach. With your guidance, Sesshomaru was able to enter the domain without harming his half-brother,” Kaede informs her. There is pride in her voice.

She goes on to tell Kagome that Sesshomaru obtained Tetsusaiga with her help and from that day on, he kept her at his side.

Together, they found Rin and took the orphan in. It was the child’s misfortunes that prompted Kagome to use her powers to help the Feudal Era.

She traveled across the land with Sesshomaru, helping those in any way she could. Sometimes that meant healing the sick, other times it was fighting for the equality of those under persecution whether they be humans like Miroku and Sango, hanyous like Jinenji, or demons like Shippou.

“I still met Shippou?” Kagome asks excitedly.

“Yes. You reunited him with his father after battling the Thunder Brothers,” Kaede reveals. “You convinced them to give up their search for a new pelt and return home to care for their younger sister.”

“Souten,” Kagome breathes. “She still has her family. She isn’t all alone.”

“You have worked hard to keep many families together,” Kaede says.

“But the villagers don’t like me and neither does the demon court,” Kagome grumbled, remembering what Sesshomaru told her.

"They fear change. What you have done, has never been done before. They are uncertain of how to act." 

“They aren’t the only ones,” Kagome mutters under her breath. Kaede doesn’t hear. She clears her throat and asks, “Am I in danger?” 

“You are the protector of the Shikon Jewel and you are under the protection of the Western Lands. Very few would attempt to raise a hand against you, Kagome. Whether or not you choose to become the Lady of the West will not change that and neither will the courtesans’ opinions,” Kaede explains.

“Lady of the West...I don’t know anything about Sesshomaru’s lands or the demon court or any of it. What if I insult someone without meaning to? What if I can’t get used to living in the palace? What if I humiliate him?”

Kaede laughs, giving her a knowing look. “You fear not fulfilling your role as his mate but have you considered why he chose you in the first place?”

“No. I can hardly believe it,” Kagome admits.

“He chose you because you are his equal. Yes, you are human but you are also incredibly powerful. Your abilities, both spiritual and natural, have always been what set you apart. Draw strength from them. Trust in yourself. Your instincts will guide you,” Kaede advises.

"Thank you, Kaede," Kagome says, hugging her.

“Oh.” The elder is shocked by the embrace but quickly recovers. She pats Kagome’s back reassuringly. “Be well and stay safe.”

“Thanks. I will,” Kagome promises.

She gives Kaede a wave and heads toward the Bone Eater’s Well.

Kagome does not have memories of this timeline. She may not be the Kagome Sesshomaru pledged his loyalty to. She isn’t even certain if this is real— it may all be a dream.

What Kagome is certain of is the fact that she isn’t ready to wake up yet.

 

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

The instant she steps into the clearing, Rin is rushing towards her.

“Kagome! Kagome, look what I did!” the little girl cries excitedly, holding up a flower crown.

“Wow, Rin. That’s really well-done,” Kagome praises her.

“It’s not as good as yours but I’m practicing,” the girl replies. “I picked the wildflowers from over there.” She points to a cluster a few meters away. “Lord Sesshomaru told us to play while you were visiting the village. Are you better now?”

“Yes,” Kagome answers.

“Good,” Rin says, hugging her. “Lord Sesshomaru promised me a new kimono for the mating ceremony and you promised to do my hair, remember?”

She doesn’t but Kagome finds herself nodding anyway. “Of course.”

“Rin,” Sesshomaru calls her away.

“Don’t forget your crown,” Kagome tells her.

“It’s for you,” Rin insists, handing it to her.

A warm sensation starts in her chest then bursts and seems to melt through her until it has covered her entire body.

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” Rin responds before spinning on her heels and hopping away. “I’m going to make one for Master Jaken too.”

“You do that,” Kagome says with a laugh.

As Sesshomaru approaches her, she sees that Rin has also made him a flower crown. His is decorated with an assortment of purple and red flowers to match his markings. The colors stand out against his hair.

“How are you feeling?” he asks.

“My head still hurts a little,” she confesses, “but talking to Kaede helped.”

“The miko did not cast you out for choosing a demon over a mortal suitor?” Sesshomaru questions.

“No,” Kagome answers, thinking about Kaede’s initial reaction. “Why would she?”

“Just as I face doubt from the court, the villagers are wary of a human who prefers the company of a demon,” Sesshomaru informs her.

“Oh, well, they’ll get over it,” Kagome waves him off.

If people can get used to her traveling around with Inuyasha, they can adapt to Sesshomaru. At least he’s calm and level-headed. He won’t go around insulting people and brandishing Tetsusaiga like a petulant child.

“Indeed.” Sesshomaru cups her chin, gently tilting her head from side to side.

Kagome watches him inspecting her. She knows she should be outraged. He can’t just paw at her when he wants to. They aren’t—

mates? a traitorous voice supplies unhelpfully.

Only they are— or will be very soon.

She audibly swallows. How did they get this far? Why did she say yes? Kagome hasn’t even kissed a guy before let alone do...well that!

“You are trembling,” Sesshomaru observes, dropping his hand from her chin to her arm.

He draws her to his chest.

Kagome has hugged Inuyasha— and been hugged by Inuyasha —countless times. He has never held her the way Sesshomaru is holding her now. The demon lord’s embrace is tender and effortless— as though he’s done this a thousand times before.

For someone so inscrutable, Sesshomaru is surprisingly warm. Kagome rests her head on his chest and closes her eyes. She finds comfort in his arms. Here she is safe. Here her insecurities don’t matter. Nothing matters except this moment.

With Sesshomaru.

Her cheeks burn. Kagome buries her face in his kimono, attempting to hide her reaction though she suspects he can smell it on her.

“What did the miko suggest in terms of treatment?” Sesshomaru inquires.

Kagome pulls away reluctantly. “Hmmm?”

The hint of a smile appears on his face.

“Oh.” She flushes again. “I have memory damage.”

“What is the cure?” he asks.

“There isn’t one,” Kagome tells him.

Sesshomaru’s almost smile disappears. “What is the last thing you recall?”

“Coming through the well,” she admits.

“Yesterday?” he prompts.

Kagome shakes her head. "When I called out for help and you...," It's hard for her to say the words when he's looking at her this way like his entire world is crumbling around him. She licks her lips and continues, "You saved my life."

For a moment, he doesn’t speak. He stares at her, a mixture of remorse and concern warring within his metallic eyes.

“I’m sorry.”

Her apology is not enough. Even as she says it, Kagome knows it’s not enough but she can’t think of anything else to ease his pain. How do you apologize for erasing months of their life together— an entire relationship?

“When you woke up...”

She cringes. Kagome knows where he’s going with this. “I didn’t know what had happened. I was confused about why you were here— why I was here with you.”

“And now?”

“Kaede filled me in. She told me about all the people we’ve helped,” Kagome shares. She slips her hands into his and gives them a reassuring squeeze. “I’m glad.”

Sesshomaru doesn’t seem to believe her or maybe he’s worried that she’s only saying it to pacify him.

“I didn’t expect to be your mate but hearing what we’ve accomplished, all the good we’ve done— that’s the life I want. You protected me in a world I didn’t recognize. You supported me in my quest to help people. You gave me a place to belong,” Kagome tells him.

She echoes his earlier gesture of cupping her chin by placing her hand under his jaw. “I may not remember our past but I know how I want to spend my future: with you. I want to be your mate.”

His golden eyes shimmer. Sesshomaru peels her hands away from his face to draw them around his neck.

“Mine,” he croons, pressing his face into her hair.

Kagome feels his lips against the column of her throat before they begin working their way up to her mouth.

Her first kiss is gentle, coaxing, and it fills her with a nervous energy that leaves her aching for more.

Sesshomaru pulls away much too soon for her liking. She tangled her fingers in his hair, attempting to steal another kiss but he merely smirks and inclines his head to the clearing where three pairs of eyes are watching them.

Kagome’s embarrassment returns as she sees Jaken, A-Un, and Rin staring.

She turns away, half-laughing, half-groaning into Sesshomaru’s chest. His arms stay around her, a comforting embrace as she weathers her storm of emotions.

“I’m not done with you,” he says, inaudible to anyone to her.

Kagome’s cheeks turn three shades darker. She is grateful her face is hidden from view, even if Sesshomaru can surely tell how embarrassed she is.

“Come,” he says, guiding her over the others. “We will return to the Western Lands.”

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

They travel in the same fashion as before. Kagome uses the height as an excuse to hold on extra tight to Sesshomaru. He doesn’t seem to mind.

As night falls, he guides them into a clearing near the hills. From the scent of sulfur in the air, Kagome knows there is a hot spring nearby. She grins. A bath is exactly what she needs. It will give her an opportunity to process the day.

Her head doesn’t hurt anymore. The pain receded the second Sesshomaru’s lips touched hers.

Kagome’s cheeks color at the memory. She hasn’t been able to go a full minute without thinking about it. Her first kiss was the type of kiss all girls dream about— sweet, soothing, and special. It felt like a promise, a preview of what was to come.

She smiles, thinking of staying here.

They could raise Rin together. Kagome has so much more to teach her than just how to make flower crowns. Once she’s old enough, Kagome will show her how to shoot. Maybe Sesshomaru would be willing to teach her how to use a sword.

Kagome wonders if he would give her lessons too. The Feudal Era is dangerous. It wouldn’t hurt to expand her skill set.

Someone tugs on her skirt. “Are we having ramen for dinner again?” Rin asks.

“Oh, my bag!” Kagome cries, realizing she hasn’t seen it since she woke up.

“Here.” Sesshomaru produces the bulging yellow pack.

Her surprise is only outweighed by her gratefulness. She knows Sesshomaru is protective of his companions but seeing this level of thoughtfulness gives new meaning to the term provider.

Kagome smiles and thanks him as she takes the backpack. 

Rin kneels in the grass next to her as she empties the contents. There are several cartons of ramen, tea, instant coffee, pocky, and strawberry-flavored Hi-Chews. From his perch on A-Un, a couple of meters away, Jaken eyes the pink treat hungrily.

“Would you like some?” Kagome offers.

“Yes.”

“No,” Sesshomaru grumbles, stepping in front of his vassal. “Treats should be given to those who have earned a reward. Your behavior does not warrant such an offering, Jaken.”

“Lord Sesshomaru,” the imp begins again.

“I think Jaken can have a piece,” Kagome says at the same time.

“No,” Sesshomaru repeats more firmly. He turns to glare at Jaken.

Kagome tucks the Hi-Chews and pocky away in her bag. Maybe the imp dislikes her because of how hard Sesshomaru is on him. He’s probably jealous.

Rin helps her collect twigs and small branches to build a fire. While they are gathering the wood, the girl whispers, “Lord Sesshomaru is still mad at Master Jaken for not keeping you safe.”

“What?”

“Your head,” Rin clarifies. “If Master Jaken hadn’t allowed you to fight the lizard demon, you wouldn’t have been injured.”

“Oh, right,” Kagome says half-heartedly.

She feels guilty Jaken is being blamed for that. There is no way to prove whose fault it was— not when she can’t remember anything from before this dream began.

“Lord Sesshomaru loves you, you know,” Rin continues. “And you love him, right?”

Kagome swallows, glancing up from her task across the clearing to where the subject of their conversation is watching them. She’s positive he can hear them.

Which means he can also hear her heart hammering away in her chest.

“Can you love someone you’ve just met?” Kagome asks.

She means it rhetorically. Kagome doesn’t expect the child to answer but Rin stuns her by replying, “I don’t remember much about my family. The villagers told me they were killed and that was why I was mute. They didn’t understand me. They were cruel. The day you and Lord Sesshomaru found me felt like coming home. You didn’t care if I spoke or not. You were kind to me. Right away, I knew I belonged with you. I may no longer have a mother or a father but that’s okay because I have you two.”

Tears line Kagome’s blue eyes. She absently wipes them away and clears her throat. “We will always be here for you,” she promises Rin.

“I know.”

They lapse into silence for a time, each immersed within her thoughts.

“I think you love Lord Sesshomaru,” Rin states. “You always put him first. Even though he’s bigger and stronger, you always guard him. When people say rude things, you defend him. I think you’re the only human who does...besides me of course.”

“Love means wanting the best for someone— no matter what,” Kagome tells her.

“And you want the best for Lord Sesshomaru?”

“Yes, I want him to be happy,” Kagome answers honestly.

“You make him happy,” Rin points out. She glances up. “Right?”

Kagome gasps, noticing Sesshomaru has snuck up on them.

“Indeed,” he agrees, his eyes on Kagome. “Rin, have Jaken start the fire,” he says, not looking away.

“Sure,” she responds with a mock salute.

The gesture results in her dropping her bundle of sticks. Kagome hides her grin as they wait for the girl to gather up the wood.

She hurries over to the imp and dumps her collection into a pile before him. Jaken complains momentarily about the task being a waste of his talents but one smile from Rin has him teaching her how to line up the sticks.

“I don’t remember being so smart when I was her age,” Kagome remarks as she observes them.

"Children see through an unfiltered lens. Their world is much simpler than ours," Sesshomaru says sagely.

“Well, everything she said was true,” Kagome returns.

“Including your feelings for me?” he challenges lightly.

Her breath hitches. She can’t lie to him but she doesn’t want to hurt him either. Kagome settles on the truth. “Before my accident, I believe I loved you. Now...,” she pauses, searching for the appropriate phrasing, “...I’m not saying that I don’t love you but it feels disingenuous to say I do. I barely know you.”

“We can remedy that,” Sesshomaru says, taking her by the hand. “Jaken, prepare dinner and watch over Rin. The miko and I will return.”

“Yes, Lord Sesshomaru,” the imp responds with a bow. 

Rin waves. “Bye!”

Kagome waves in return.

Sesshomaru leads her away from the clearing to the hot springs. The sight of the steaming pools fills Kagome with both excitement and dread. Why has he brought her here?

“I understand today has been uncomfortable for you. I will remain here while you bathe,” Sesshomaru says.

Kagome stares at him.

“You can relax. I will not be joining you this evening. I intend to sit here,” he tells her, lowering himself to the ground with his back to the water, “and serve as your guard.”

It takes her a moment to digest what he’s offering.

The idea of being naked close to him makes her feel hot and jittery. Kagome can't deny that she's thought of him before. He's attractive. She's never met anyone as commanding or overwhelming as the demon lord. He is in a league all his own. The fact that he wants to be here stuns Kagome.

Miroku and Inuyasha have peeped on her and Sango countless times. She’s never felt like this about them. All she felt then was pure rage.

“Alright,” she agrees.

Kagome steps around him. She strips out of her school uniform, carefully filing each piece and laying them on top of her shoes. Before she steps into the springs, Kagome glances over her shoulder at Sesshomaru.

He is in the exact same position.

Kagome releases a breath she didn’t realize she was holding. She slips beneath the scalding hot water.

The tension in her muscles loosens. Kagome feels her body letting go of the day’s stress. It falls from her shoulders and she breaks through the surface with a clear head.

“Sesshomaru?”

“Yes?”

“Um, could you tell me about before? I know that’s a strange request.”’

“When we began this courtship, you had many questions,” he reveals. “I will answer them for you now, just as I did before.”

Kagome finds a shallow place to sit while he speaks.

“The first time we spoke after you retrieved Tetsusaiga, I told you that I admired your spirit. You misunderstood my intentions then too. You accused me of mocking you and threatened to purify me,” Sesshomaru shares.

She drops her face in her hands, mortified.

“I had never met a woman as insufferable as you. I vowed to leave you in the forest and forget about you but when we parted, you thanked me. You were genuinely grateful for my assistance. And it pleased you that my efforts to locate the blade had not harmed my brother.”

Kagome thinks about how Inuyasha is still bound to the tree. “Did we— I mean, have I tried to wake him up?”

“Several times,” Sesshomaru answers. “Had I not interfered with Mistress Centipede, your powers may have woken him. But when I responded to your summons, we were bound. Inuyasha is bound to another. Without her, the spell cannot be broken.”

“I’m sorry,” Kagome apologizes, though she’s not sure who she’s directing it towards— Sesshomaru or Inuyasha.

“Perhaps, one day you will find a way to unbind him so he can be free,” Sesshomaru offers graciously.

“I hope so.”

“You wondered why I chose you,” he continues. “You knew I was averse to mortals and could not comprehend why I would seek to align myself with one.”

“I still don’t,” Kagome admits.

“I feared losing you. I had never come across anyone— human or demon —that behaved as you did— as you do. At first, I planned on keeping you as an ally but as our travels progressed I stopped thinking of you as a comrade. I cared for you. Deeply,” he confesses.

She feels her pulse quicken.

“I found myself seeking your opinion on matters at court. I wished to know your strategy going into battle. In the evenings, I sought your company as I patrolled our camp. I was selfish, curious, enamored.”

“When did you first kiss me?” Kagome asks.

There is a pause before he admits, “You kissed me.”

She drops lower into the water to prevent herself from squeaking in surprise. “I—I did?”

“We had just saved a mortal woman and her hanyou daughter. They were being targeted by human villagers and the girl’s bat demon grandfather. You purified the dishonorable coward,” Sesshomaru explains.

Shiori, Kagome thinks.

“After the battle, you were quiet for days. You kept to yourself, often wandering off on your own. One night, I came searching for you and found you crying. When I asked who had hurt you, you blamed me. I did not understand. You grew frustrated and tried to leave. I could not bear to see you in pain. I wrapped my arms around you and held you close. When your tears quieted, you looked up at me, grabbed my face, and kissed me.”

It sounds like something out of a romantic film. Kagome's cheeks are burning as she listens to his tale. The rollercoaster of emotions and outpouring of feelings is evident. Kagome knows herself well enough to acknowledge that she would behave that way. She just wishes their first kiss had been less embarrassing.

“I’m sorry I blamed you.”

He chuckles. “You have apologized many times since.”

“Still, it must have been uncomfortable for you.”

“I was relieved,” Sesshomaru admits. “I was ignorant of human courtship rituals and had failed to acquire information on how to approach you. By you making the first move, I was able to proceed with expressing my interest. I have no regrets.”

“Even if any child we have will be a hanyou?”

“Any child that results from our union will be a blessing. I have told you before but I will repeat the sentiment as many times as you need to hear it,” he says.

Kagome hears the promise in his tone. This is important to him. He needs her to believe.

“Being mated is not the same as your concept of marriage, Kagome. Mates are forever. There is no separating.”

“But your father and Izayoi,” she counters.

“My father’s indiscretion was appalling but it did not change his bond with my mother. When his enemies attacked, both her and Izayoi were protected. They were both loved and cared for until the day he died,” Sesshomaru tells her.

“And you’re certain this is what you want? A lifetime— more than a lifetime —with me?” Kagome questions.

“I have lived for centuries. No other decision has ever been as clear as this one. I will have you and no other,” he responds.

There is no hesitation, no waver in his voice, and not a single ounce of uncertainty. Kagome has never known a love like this. It feels heavy, not in an oppressive way but in the sense of overwhelming importance— the way all life-changing decisions feel.

Kagome rises from her spot and climbs out of the water. It isn’t until she is standing directly behind Sesshomaru that she realizes she doesn’t have a towel.

“Here.” Without turning around, he hands her mokomoko.

Cheeks on fire, Kagome covers herself in the soft, white fur. “Thank you,” she stammers nervously.

He is quiet as she dries herself. Though he hasn’t moved from his position, she notices a tautness to his back. It makes her wonder.

“Hey, Sesshomaru? Have we, uh...,” Kagome trails off, unable to finish the question.

His answer is quiet as if he doesn’t trust his voice. “Yes.”

Kagome’s blush spreads across her neck and chest. Hastily, she dresses, worried that if she doesn’t, her curiosity might lead her to do something rash.

Once Kagome is fully-clothed, she takes a deep breath and steps in front of him. "I have one more question."

Sesshomaru stares up at her, his expression unreadable.

“Can I kiss you?”

There is an almost imperceptible nod of his head.

Kagome sits next to him. She drags her fingertips across his cheeks, brushing his hair behind his shoulders. When she draws them forward, Kagome arranges them along his jaw, tilting his face at the right angle to meet hers.

It is soft, warm, and just as perfect as the first time. She feels herself melt against him, leaning in to press closer.

Sesshomaru’s arms wrap around her. One hand cradled the back of her head. He pulls her into his lap. Kagome’s hands fall to his shoulders and chest, running over silk and armor.

Her head spins.

There is no pain. This time there is only pleasure. Beautiful sparks of heat and thrilling pulses of pleasure encompass her body. Kagome gives herself over to the sensation, sinking into it the same way she sunk into the hot springs.

“Mate,” Sesshomaru whispers against her lips.

The word causes fire to erupt in her core. She rolls her hips. His grip tightens on her, holding her in place. Kagome becomes aware of his physical reaction— strong and prominent like the rest of him.

She feels dizzy.

Sesshomaru leans away. Kagome chases after him but he presses his forehead to hers the same way he did when they met in the clearing. “Rest now,” he says.

Kagome drops her head to his shoulder, curling into him. He keeps himself draped around her. Between the heat of the pools and her desire, Kagome’s eyes grow heavy.

As she drifts off, her last thought is of him.

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

 

“Sess-Sesshomaru?” Kagome reaches out for him. Her hand clenches around nothing but air.

Huh?

Groggily, she opens her eyes. It takes her a minute to adjust to the bright sunlight. She blinks against the stark white light until her vision clears.

Sango is leaning over her, flanked by Shippou and Kirara. “Kagome, are you alright?”

Glancing around, Kagome sees Miroku finishing burial rites over a cluster of nearby graves. To his left, Inuyasha is chopping up the remains of the lizard demon.

“I’m back,” she whispers.

“What?” Sango asks, staring at her with a perplexed expression.

“Nothing,” Kagome mutters hastily. She pushed herself up into a sitting position. “How long was I out?”

“A few hours,” Sango answers. “We were really worried about you. How are you feeling?”

“Fine,” she answers, getting to her feet. The only thing she can think about right now is finding him

“Kagome, shouldn’t you be resting?” Miroku admonishes as she runs past.

She doesn’t stop. Instead, she calls over her shoulder to her friends with a wave, “I have to do something. Be right back!” 

They all stare after her but not a single one follows, not even Inuyasha. Kagome is grateful. She doesn’t know how she’d explain this to them. 

Finding him isn’t difficult. Kagome can sense demonic energy nearly as well as she can locate jewel shards. Tracking him down isn’t what concerns her— his reaction is. 

Kagome doesn't expect him to treat her as his mate. She doesn't believe he will call her by her name or hold her close. Those moments were from a different time, a different place. Even so, Kagome knows she won't be able to bear it if he casts her aside. 

The very thought of his dismissal makes her stall. Her courage rapidly vanishes and she considers returning to her friends. 

Then he speaks. 

“Miko?” 

Kagome glances up and there he is, towering over her as if summoned by her thoughts. 

“Um, hi,” she greets him weakly. 

He blinks. “Are you lost?”

“No, I— uh —I was looking for you, actually,” Kagome admits. 

His golden eyes darken. She gulps and steps back. He follows. 

“What do you require of me?”

She thinks of their last interaction— of how considerate he was, of how attentive he was, and how devoted. Kagome doubts anyone else will ever treat her as well as Sesshomaru.

And she doubts she’ll ever react the way she did when he kissed her back.

“I wanted to try something,” Kagome says, a plan forming in her head.

He stares at her the way Souta looks at pickled vegetables.

Kagome feels her resolve slipping. “You know what? Never mind. This was a stupid idea.”

She pivots around and makes to leave.

Sesshomaru moves lightning-quick to block her path. Kagome gasps, eyes going wide.

“I will ask once more. Why are you here?”

“I wanted to fix your arm,” she cries before she can stop herself.

He doesn’t move. Neither does she. They stand in the woods, staring at each other in tense silence. Kagome watches him, trying to discern what he is thinking. She can’t.

“Why?”

It’s a fair question, especially considering how he lost his arm in the first place. Knowing he’ll be able to scent any dishonesty in her reply, Kagome answers, “it’s the right thing to do.”

Sesshomaru doesn’t speak. She thinks he may try to kill her again. He probably thinks she has an ulterior motive. It’s not entirely untrue. Kagome wants him to like her. He wants him to look at her the way he did in her dream.

“Alright,” he eventually agrees.

He presents the stump of his left arm to her. Kagome holds her hands over the scarred flesh and focuses inward. She feels for her powers, diving into its connection to her and every other living thing.

Each life is like a fine thread. She just has to find the correct one.

His energy is stronger than most others. It doesn’t take her long to locate the appropriate thread. Once Kagome has it, she entwines her own around his. She imagines his arm the way it was when they met— full and whole.

Heat seeps out of her hands into him. Flesh and bone materialize, weaving together as his missing limb is reconstructed before their eyes. The scars disappear, replaced with a functioning limb and five perfect, clawed fingers.

Kagome slumps against the nearest tree, temporarily drained from the healing process.

While Sesshomaru inspects her work, she takes several deep breaths. It helps her ground herself. After a moment, Kagome can stand on her own.

“Why now?” Sesshomaru asks. 

“I think if we had met under different circumstances, we would have made a great team. I guess I’m mourning what could have been,” Kagome answers. She gives him a sad smile and walks away.

“Miko.”

Kagome pauses.

“If you grow tired of your companions, I would not be opposed to you traveling with me”

Slowly, she turns to face him. “I have to restore the Shikon Jewel.”

He nods in understanding. “What will you do once it is complete?” Sesshomaru inquires.

“I don’t know,” Kagome answers honestly.

He approaches her, stopping less than a meter away. “Perhaps, you should consider a place in the Western Lands.”

She laughs. “I don’t think the court would like that much.”

“No, but I would.”

Before she can respond, he inclines his head until their foreheads are touching. “Do not mourn past opportunities. Embrace new ones.” 

Kagome stares into his golden eyes. She wants to commit this moment to memory. The change feels monumental, even though neither of them are moving. Kagome holds her breath. She focuses on every detail— the way the sun reflects on his hair, the sound of the breeze teasing the treetops, and his smoldering expression. It's a perfect beginning.

"Lord Sesshomaru!" a shrill voice calls.

The perfect moment shatters.

Slowly, the demon lord straightens up and strolls off in the direction of the imp. He glances over his shoulder at her, his gaze heavy with meaning.

Kagome watches him go, hope blossoming in her chest.

She has found something new to fight for, or, more accurately, someone.

And I know it's true that visions are seldom all they seem
But if I know you, I know what you'll do
You'll love me at once, the way you did once upon a dream

 

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