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Marked by Sage McMae

Marked

The first time Sesshomaru hears her name, it comes from his brother’s lips.

“There’s a weird girl who just transferred into my class at the university. She kinda reminds me of Kikyo,” he remarks before stuffing his mouth full.

Sesshomaru resists the urge to roll his eyes. Between Inuyasha’s table manners and his incessant whining about his ex-girlfriend, Sesshomaru can barely stand to be in the same room as him, let alone seated directly across the table.

“Is she a demon or hanyou?” their father asks.

Inuyasha shakes his head. “Human.”

“Another one,” Sesshomaru’s mother scoffs. “With all the money we pay for your education, I can’t believe they allow such—.”

Touga holds up a hand, interrupting his first wife’s oncoming tirade. “She must be very special.”

Inuyasha shrugs. “She seems pretty dumb to me. I mean, she stopped in the courtyard to ask Jinenji for directions to the Registrar’s Office. Guess she was lost.”

“Why is it wrong to ask for assistance?” Izayoi inquires softly.

“Most humans stay clear of hanyous and demons,” Inuyasha answers. “She was walking around campus all morning waving and smiling to everyone. She acts like we aren’t different at all.”

“In the ways that matter most, we aren’t,” Inuyasha’s mother says.

Her son rolls his eyes. “Whatever.”

“She sounds like a nice girl,” Izayoi comments. “What’s her name?”

“Kagome Higurashi.” 

Sesshomaru tunes out the rest of the conversation. He doesn’t care about his half-brother’s day. Listening to the half-breed complain about his daily routine makes their mandatory family dinners more uncomfortable than they already are. Sesshomaru finds Inuyasha’s prejudice ironic, considering his status as a hanyou, but he says nothing. He does not care what his brother chooses to do with his life. 

Inuyasha is a spoiled pup. As the second in line for the Taisho family, he does not carry the same heavy expectations that Sesshomaru does. His life is his to live any way he sees fit.

As the eldest son, Sesshomaru does not have that luxury. He is expected to follow in his father’s footsteps and take over Taisho Heavy Industries. Their corporation is in the top five defense contracts for the country. It is also the only demon-run company on the list. Even though humans outnumber demons ten to one (and hanyous fifty to one) demons are the superior race. At least, that is what he has been taught. He’s never had reason to suspect otherwise.

When Touga chose a human for his second wife, Sesshomaru was stunned. His mother assured him it was a strategic move— a way to strengthen the demon-human relations during uncertain times. Sesshomaru believed the lie until he saw how his father acted toward Izayoi. Touga treats his mortal wife with a tenderness that Sesshomaru has rarely seen bestowed upon his mother.

Initially, his father’s favoritism bothered him. His agitation grew when Inuyasha was announced. Sesshomaru was not ignorant of how the news impacted his mother. She had locked herself in her chambers for a week, not taking food or visitors. Her absence was impossible to ignore. She remained shut away until Touga broke down the doors.

That day was the first time Sesshomaru ever witnessed his father and mother fight. It was also the first time he saw Arisu cry.

Afterward, Touga took him aside and explained that their marriage was arranged. They were mated to unite their clans and provide a single heir to succeed both daiyoukai lines. His father confessed that he had never met Arisu before. They were introduced the same day they were married and the mating took place the following fortnight under the crescent moon, for which Arisu's clan was named.

Arranged marriages among high-born houses is a common practice. It ensures the bloodlines remain pure and keeps power balanced between the families that make up the Demon High Court. Sesshomaru never suspected his parents had one but it does explain certain aspects of their relationship. He prefers the quiet solace of his thoughts to the constant bickering of his parents. 

Sesshomaru resolves to never take a mate. 

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

The second time he hears her name, it’s from his mother.

“How can you tolerate this?” Arisu snaps at Touga. “Your son shouldn’t be failing his classes. He needs to stop fooling around with his friends and start acting like a Taisho.”

Sesshomaru pretends not to hear their argument and continues past the library to his room. Of course, with his enhanced senses, it's difficult not to eavesdrop.

His mother tolerates Izayoi but she despises Inuyasha. The hanyou represents her greatest failure. If Inuyasha does something wrong, she’s the first to bring it to Touga’s attention.

“The university has a peer tutoring program. His advisor suggested that he take part in it. Ms. Takahashi thinks it will help him connect with the material,” Touga explains.

“Kagome Higurashi? Isn’t that the human girl? The scholarship student?”

Sesshomaru is not certain what bothers his mother more— that the school advised hiring a tutor, the fact she is human, or that she can attend the university due to his father's generosity. After all, it was Touga who spearheaded the scholarship program. With his sizable donation to the school, the administration couldn't object. 

“If she can help Inuyasha, what does it matter?” Touga returns.

“Your son shouldn’t require the aid of humans. He’s half-demon!”

Sesshomaru frowns. Dinner will be unpleasant tonight. He already knows Izayoi will side with Touga, thus furthering the rift between him and his first wife. Inuyasha will do whatever their father says. He has too much respect for Touga to refuse. Arisu will lose this fight. She will be in a foul mood for days.

For the human’s sake, Sesshomaru hopes that she is wise enough to stay away from the Taisho household. 

-*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The third time Sesshomaru hears her name, it is from her own lips.

He is crossing through the atrium to his chambers when he catches an unfamiliar scent, accompanied by the pulse of spiritual energy. A miko. Instantly, he tenses, anticipating an attack. None comes. Sesshomaru searches the entryway and the adjoining hallways but there is no sign of the intruder. 

Then he hears laughter. 

He pivots around to find Inuyasha strolling in through the side entrance. A young woman with long raven hair, blue eyes, and rosy cheeks trails behind him. 

There is something about her presence that demands his focus. It is as if they are the only two in the house. He can hear the gentle rhythm of her breathing, punctuated by the sound of her heartbeat. He notices the way her eyes crinkle at the edges when she smiles. He can feel her power skirt over him, a teasing caress that leaves him in a daze. 

The second the half-breed notices Sesshomaru, he takes his guest by the arm and tries to guide her away. “This way.” 

His attempt to dissuade her fails. She has already noticed Sesshomaru. With a friendly smile, she walks over. “Hi, I’m Kagome Higurashi,” she introduces herself, extending her hand. 

Sesshomaru glares at her outstretched palm. Evidently, she has no instinct for self-preservation. If she did, she would not be here. And she certainly would not be speaking to him. 

“Sesshomaru Taisho,” he responds, disregarding her hand. 

He turns away, prepared to climb the stairs to the second floor where his chambers are located. He doesn’t know what kind of spell she has put him under but he will not give her the satisfaction of succeeding. 

A hand grabs his. He whirls around, stunned to find her smiling up at him. “It’s nice to meet you,” Kagome says, giving his hand a firm shake. 

Sesshomaru stares at her. She does not flinch under the weight of his gaze. The miko maintains eye contact and her composure. Though he will never admit it, Sesshomaru is impressed. Few have ever approached him without showing fear. After all, he has a reputation, both in the Demon High Court and in the business world. 

During his latest interview, the reporter dubbed him as ruthless. 

Unlike his father, he does not possess an overabundance of compassion, especially not where humans are concerned. 

Remembering himself, he starts to recoil. A spark ignites between them, burning through the tips of his fingers up his arm. Kagome gasps, jumping back. Instinctively, Sesshomaru’s fingers clench around her, preventing her from pulling away. 

“What was that?” he demands. 

She shakes her head, eyes wide. “I don’t know. I’ve never—.”

“What was what? I didn’t see anything,” Inuyasha snarls. 

The young woman does not answer him. She merely stares up at Sesshomaru. Her smile is gone but its replacement— a mixture of bewilderment and awe —leaves him unsettled. He knows she isn't lying. 

Inuyasha yanks Kagome’s hand free of Sesshomaru’s grip, glowering the entire time. “Come on. We can study in the library,” he grunts. 

As he leads her away, Kagome glances over her shoulder. 

Sesshomaru does not move. He remains frozen in the foyer, watching the miko until her piercing blue eyes disappear from his view. 

-*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The fourth time Sesshomaru hears her name, it is he who speaks it. “Kagome.” 

“What did you do to me?” she cries, shoving herself into his room. 

“Excuse me?”

She slams the door behind her and stomps up to him. 

He wants to remark on how improper it is for her to show up at his chambers unannounced. He knows he should remind her that she is a guest in his home and her tone will not be tolerated. Sesshomaru plans to say all of these things.

Then she holds up her hands. 

Two thick magenta stripes snake around her wrist. The design is mirrored on her opposite hand. Sesshomaru stiffens as she rolls up her blouse to reveal an additional set of stripes that extend from her hips up to her ribcage. They are exact replicas of his markings— markings that he has had since birth. 

“What did you do?” she repeats angrily. 

What indeed. Sesshomaru examines the shape, the color, and even the length of each stripe. They are smaller than the ones adorning his form. These are proportional to her body size but they are undoubtedly his marks. Everything from the shade to their subtle curvature around the wrist bone is identical to his own. He has never heard of a human taking on demon markings before. Unless…

No, it is not possible. 

“Sesshomaru?” 

He blinks. When Sesshomaru refocuses, he notices that her eyes are watery and there is a slight tremor to her lower lip. Sighing, he asks, “What do you know about sole mates?” 

Her gaze narrows with skepticism. Kagome crosses her arms over her chest. “Soulmates? Like something out of a cheesy romance novel?” He snorts. “Are you trying to tell me that’s a real thing?”

“Not soulmates. Sole mates," Sesshomaru corrects. Her brow furrows. "It is a term your human kindred repurposed from demon culture to perpetuate their foolish fantasies."

If Kagome is offended by his callousness, she does not show it. Her expression is pensive. “What does it have to do with me?”

"The term is applied to two individuals who are evenly matched. Their connection transcends physical attraction and logic. They are fused at the core of their beings, a binding which begins at first touch," Sesshomaru explains. 

She gasps, staring at the hand she extended to him the day before. “Is there a way to reverse it?”  

“I have never heard of a separation before. Sole mates are rare. As the term indicates, there is a single match destined for them. By design, the bond makes it impossible for the two individuals involved to develop an intimate connection with anyone else. Their life forces are bound to one another.” 

Kagome’s hands are shaking. Her apprehension is overwhelming. The bitter scent fills his nostrils. He starts to breathe through his mouth to avoid the acrid smell. 

“So you’re saying we’re stuck like this?”

Sesshomaru nods. 

Fury flashes in her eyes. “But I don’t even know you!” 

“Keep your voice down,” he warns. 

The last thing Sesshomaru wants is for Inuyasha to storm into his room. If the half-breed discovers what has happened, he will go directly to Touga. Sesshomaru cannot allow this to affect his position at Taisho Heavy Industries. He would sooner run himself through with a sword than allow Inuyasha to replace him at the family company. 

“This has to be some mistake. I can’t be....” Kagome trails off, gesturing to him as she begins to pace. “And equals? Who would consider us equals? You work for the largest demon-run weapons company on the continent and I’m training to be a holistic healer. You’re the heir to one of the most affluent families in Japan and I’m surviving on part-time work and a scholarship. In what world does any of that make us equals?” 

Sesshomaru follows her erratic movements. Her shoes slap against the cold marble flooring, a staccato rhythm as she walks back and forth. Her hands are balled into fists at her sides. Her jaw is clenched. The only thing loose about her appearance is her hair. It flutters around her face, swaying with each abrupt turn she takes. 

“There has to be a way out of this. Maybe Kaede knows— .”

No.” His sharp refusal stuns her into stillness. “We will not be discussing our situation with anyone.” 

“What?” Kagome snaps. 

“I have no desire to take a mate. I will not be forced into an arrangement by my family or anyone else,” Sesshomaru tells her.  

“I didn’t do this on purpose, you jerk!” she shrieks.

“And as you do not wish to be joined with me, I suggest we keep this to ourselves. I have a contact in the Demon High Court who has access to the historical archives. I will request that he look into past sole mates under the guise of a business matter. Hopefully, he will be able to provide guidance on how to resolve this.” 

Kagome studies his face for several moments. Sesshomaru patiently waits for her to agree. When she finally nods, he holds her gaze but says nothing. 

They exchange numbers and he promises to notify her once he receives word from his contact.  

As she goes to leave, Sesshomaru detects a shift in her scent. It has gone from sour to a combination of vanilla and strawberry. She shuts the door, trapping him in his chambers with the sweet fragrance. 

Long after her departure, the smell lingers. 

-*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Totosai Yanami is an elderly demon, whom Sesshomaru considers quite senile but at his father's request, has kept on the payroll. Once a talented weapons designer, Totosai has spent the last several decades living near Mount Mikuni. He prefers the solace of the country and the natural heat from the volcano. He only travels into the city at the request of Touga or Sesshomaru. 

Up until now, Sesshomaru has never needed to demand an audience with the eccentric demon. He does not trust Totosai to keep a secret but he would rather speak to him than broach the subject with anyone in his family. If anyone were to find out what happened— especially his mother —mandatory family dinners would be the least of his concerns. Sesshomaru needs to find a solution to his problem and Totosai may be the one who can give him answers. 

“Ah, Sesshomaru, still as arrogant as ever,” the retired weapons developer addresses him. He slaps his hand on Sesshomaru’s back as he enters his office. “To what do I owe the pleasure? Surely, you didn’t summon an old man away from his home for a mere consultation?” 

“No,” Sesshomaru confirms, taking a seat at his desk. He indicates a chair opposite him and Totosai sits down. “I have a question related to your other field of expertise. I require information on sole mates.” 

Totosai’s impossibly large eyes grow even larger. “Have you found one?” 

“No,” he lies, making sure to keep his voice even. “My interest is of an educational nature. One of my clients has an interest in the subject and I’d like to be able to discuss it with him over tea.”

The elderly demon does not appear to believe the ruse. He tilts his head, studying Sesshomaru closely. “Educational, huh? Well, that’s a new one, I must say.” Totosai slaps his knee and chuckles. 

“If you are ill-equipped to provide the information I seek, I can reach out to another archivist.”

“No, no,” Totosai says, waving his hands. “I know everything there is to know about sole mates.”

“Enlighten me,” Sesshomaru commands. 

“Each pairing is unique. They were more common centuries ago, before you were born, but as the great demon clans died out, so did the mating bonds. Couples began to seek mates of their own violation instead of waiting to meet their destined partner,” Totosai shares. 

“You believe destiny is the cause?” Sesshomaru inquires. 

“I think there are some things in our world that are better left unexplained,” he answers. 

“Hn.” 

“In the case of sole mates, those who are matched are always exceptional,” Totosai says.

“How so?” Sesshomaru asks. 

“The last known pair was Ryura, the God of War, and Kagyua, the Goddess of Eternal Night,” his guest reveals. “They were immensely strong, highly intelligent, and extremely powerful. Separately, they were capable of great things but when they worked together they were nearly invincible. Of course,” Totosai pauses to sigh, “that was over five hundred years ago. I haven’t heard of a single pairing since theirs.” 

Sesshomaru frowns. “They were both demon-born.” 

Totosai nods. “Naturally.” 

“Has there ever been an instance of a demon-human bonding?” he questions. 

The old man strokes his beard. “Not that I’m aware of. I doubt a human could survive the binding process.”

Sesshomaru’s claws pierce the arms of his chair. “If the mating has not yet taken place, is there a way to nullify the connection?”

Totosai scrutinizes him. “These are awfully specific questions for someone who claims to be in pursuit of knowledge solely for academic purposes.” 

“Answer me.” 

“No,” Totosai replies, shaking his head. “There is no way to reverse the process.” 

-*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Sesshomaru does not wait for his day to conclude before he summons his driver. He directs A-Un to take him to the university campus. The news he has to share with Kagome cannot be discussed over the phone. Sesshomaru stares out the window, concealing his inner turmoil with an expression of indifference. 

The sky is dark. Rain pelts the windows as they make their way across the city. The dismal atmosphere matches his mood. He suspected Totosai would tell him that there was no way to break the bound. In all his studies, Sesshomaru had never heard mention of a broken bond. Still, he had hoped there would be an option. Even more concerning was the unforeseen danger to Kagome’s life. 

He does not think of her scent and the way it envelopes him like a warm embrace. He does not picture her eyes or recall the way they stared at him with reverence. He does not remember the way she said his name or how she touched his hand. He does not allow his worry to cloud his mind and muddle his emotions. 

When A-Un arrives at the campus, he pulls the car up to the curb by the main building. Sesshomaru gazes out at the crowd of students huddled in groups under umbrellas, trekking along the sidewalk on their way to and from classes. It will be difficult to track her in this place with the rain washing away her scent. 

Sesshomaru is unfamiliar with the layout of the campus. From her ranting yesterday, he knows that he will find Kagome in the medical building. Her chosen profession may be holistic healing but such practices are all housed in the same area. He just needs to identify the correct wing. 

As he reaches for his umbrella, Sesshomaru feels a ripple across his skin, almost as if a chill has drawn out goose flesh on his arms.

That’s when he spots her, tucked under the awning of the main building. She has confined herself to the corner, pressed so far up against the walls that the shadows hide her slight form. 

He rises from his seat and opens the door. Droplets tap against his umbrella, a raining symphony serving as a soundtrack for his stroll. 

“Kagome.”

“Sesshomaru?” 

“Come. I will take you home,” he offers, extending his arm to her. 

She hesitates, eyeing his work attire and the black town car waiting several meters away. “It’s not that far of a walk. I’m just waiting for the rain to slow down,” Kagome says. 

As if her words have provoked nature itself, the rainfall increases. Water splatters the sidewalks with renewed force. He leans closer to her, raising his arm slightly. With reddened cheeks, she accepts. 

Together, they rush back to the dry warmth of the car. 

“Miss,” A-Un acknowledges her with a polite bow of his head. 

“Uh, good afternoon,” she responds.

“Where to?” Sesshomaru’s driver questions. 

She gives him an address and he nods, waiting for both her and Sesshomaru to buckle their seatbelts before pulling away from the curb. 

“Where is your umbrella?” Sesshomaru inquires. 

“Shiori didn’t have one so I lent her mine. She only had morning classes today. I figured by the afternoon the storms would have passed. Guess I was wrong.”

“Indeed.”

He doesn’t know who Shiori is, nor does he care. His primary concern is sharing the details of his conversation with Totosai so they can strategize a way to move forward. If what the old archivist told him is true, then Sesshomaru is bound to the miko. And she is bound to him. They will have to work together if there is any hope of them continuing to lead their lives. 

“Why are you here?” Kagome asks. 

“I thought it best to discuss my findings in person,” he shares. 

She drops her gaze to her lap, where her hands toy with her skirt."That bad, huh?"

“It is...not what we hoped for,” Sesshomaru admits. 

“So it’s permanent. We’re stuck like this?” Kagome surmises. 

He nods. 

They sit in tense silence for a time. The only noise is the unrelenting pounding of rain on the car’s roof. A-Un remains respectfully quiet. 

Eventually, Kagome turns to Sesshomaru. “We should get to know one another, now that we’re...um...whatever it is we are.” 

“Bound,” he provides, meeting her eyes. 

The blue color darkens and he sees her lips part. He clears his throat and faces forward. 

“I suggest we maintain our current schedules. You have just over a year left at the university and I have a company to run. Neither of us wants to lose our independence. I believe we can become acquainted while still pursuing our goals,” he proposes. 

“Have you told anyone? Inuyasha or your parents?” 

“No one needs to be privy to our personal lives,” Sesshomaru insists sternly.

“Okay,” she responds. 

Her scent sours. Sesshomaru glances at Kagome, finding her staring at the floor, her hands twisting in her lap once more. The miko’s distress comes off her in waves. Her reiki presses against his yoki. The opposing energies push and pull like the tide beating on the shore. 

“When will you be returning to the house to tutor my half-brother?” 

“We are reviewing content for his midterms tomorrow,” she replies. 

“After you are finished, come to my chambers. I should have my work completed by that time. I will have some tea brought up,” he offers. 

She peers over at him. “Are you sure that’s okay? What if someone sees me?” 

“Inuyasha is blind. I doubt he will notice. As for the servants, I will speak with them,” he tells her.  

“I mean, is it okay that I’m coming to your room?”

“I am extending an open invitation. You may make yourself welcome there whenever you wish.” 

Her scent bursts with the fresh aroma of strawberries. The first inhale is ripe and tantalizing. Sesshomaru barely manages to keep himself from growling appreciatively. Strawberries have always been his favorite. And right now, Kagome’s cheeks are as red as a newly-picked batch. 

“Oh, this is me!” she announces. 

He blinks, realizing the car has stopped outside of a shrine. The torii at the top of the steps is adjacent to a large tree surrounded by a shimenawa. The folded white paper decorations along the rope are swaying languidly in the breeze, a calm contrast to the relentless downpour. 

“Uh, I’ll see you tomorrow then,” Kagome says tentatively. 

“Here.” Sesshomaru hands her his umbrella. 

“No, it’s okay. I’ll be fine.” 

“You will be soaked. Take it,” he demands. 

“Alright. Thanks.” 

“Until tomorrow.”

He makes A-Un wait to leave until she is safely up the steps and out of sight. 

-*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The skills required to run a profitable business are the same as having a successful relationship— communication, adaptability, integrity, and trust. Sesshomaru prides himself on his abilities. He compares navigating this new alliance with Kagome to the first acquisition he managed at Taisho Heavy Industries. 

As with everything else in his life, Sesshomaru has a strategy. He will familiarize himself with her, tend to her needs, and see to it that they are each allowed to continue their separate lives. They do not need to be ruled by the markings. They can have an amicable union without binding themselves to each other. He and Kagome will be mates without being mated. 

Or so he tells himself. 

That night his thoughts are of soft lips on his, whispered declarations, and curious fingertips grazing the stripes that adorn his hips. He attempts to focus on work, burying himself in spreadsheets and accounting ledgers. 

It is a fruitless endeavor. The dull content causes him to doze off. 

In his dreams, Sesshomaru is assaulted by the smell of strawberries and vanilla. The intoxicating blend cocoons him, filling him with a sense of satisfaction and security. A warm body presses against his own. The form fits perfectly against his side, curves molding into one another like puzzle pieces slotting together. A tender hum that sounds like a purr vibrates along his bare chest. A delicate hand slides up his torso to cup his face. Her mouth covers his and he swears he has never tasted anything as sweet as her. 

It starts slow and sensual— light touches, murmured words, and stolen kisses— but as the heat grows between them so do his urges. 

He flips her onto her back, spurred on by the surprised gasp that escapes her. His teeth graze the pale flesh of her neck. Her hands grasp at his shoulders. He tears at her blouse, popping buttons loose in his haste to bare her to his eyes. She arches her back eagerly. He can smell her desire. The air is heavy with it. It is like an opium haze, dragging them both further into their need for each other until they find release. 

Sesshomaru never sees her face. Regardless, he knows who the woman in his dreams is. 

Kagome Higurashi. 

He wakes up aroused. An ice shower is the only cure for the issue. Sesshomaru stands under the water for longer than necessary, trying to erase the images his subconscious conjured. No other has ever ensnared him the way she has. Many have tried but none have been capable of holding his interest. When the frigid temperature does nothing to help, he is forced to take himself in hand.

The indiscretion plagues him all day. He struggles to concentrate on his meetings and when he is at his desk the only thing he does is count the minutes until they meet again.

This woman has ruined him. 

By the time the tea arrives in his chambers, Sesshomaru is starting to doubt his plan. If one brief car ride can inspire his imagination so vividly, what will an entire afternoon do? 

He does not have time to ponder the question long before a knock comes at his door. 

“Yes?” 

Kagome steps inside, her eyes darting around the room until she finds him. “Hey.”

“Hello.” 

“I brought your umbrella back,” she says, holding it up. 

“Thank you.” She chews on her lower lip, hesitating in the doorway. “You may come in,” Sesshomaru adds. 

Her cheeks color and she steps inside, shutting the door behind her. He gestures to the chabudai situated in the center of the room. Kagome kneels on the cushion across from him and sets the umbrella down beside her. 

“Tea?” he offers. 

“Yes, thanks.” 

Sesshomaru pours two cups, handing the first to the miko. 

Kagome accepts hers by wrapping both hands around the steaming mug. She lifts the cup to her face and breathes in. “Green tea?” she guesses. 

“Gyokuro,” Sesshomaru confirms. 

She sips her tea gingerly, giving him a chance to observe her. Kagome is dressed in a long-sleeved sweater and a pleated skirt. Her modest attire keeps all her markings covered, even though the spring days are beginning to grow warm. 

“I assume you have questions,” he remarks. 

“I’m not really sure where to start,” Kagome confesses, tucking her hair behind her ear. “I mean, I’ve never even seriously dated anyone before.”

There is a primal sense of satisfaction that comes from hearing her words. Sesshomaru hides his smirk in his teacup. “May I ask you a question?”

“Sure.” 

“What would you like out of this arrangement?” he inquires. 

Kagome sets her cup down, brow furrowed. “I don’t know. To be honest, I wasn’t thinking about getting anything. I was trying to figure out the reason why.” 

“I doubt anyone can answer that for you,” Sesshomaru responds. “There has never been a demon-human pairing before. All records of marked mates have occurred between full-blooded demons.”

"But there's a chance an undocumented occurrence happened," she points out. 

“I trust the court’s accounts.”

“I don’t,” she returns. “No offense, but if they are anything like your mother, I don’t think they’d want to have a record of a human-demon relationship.” 

Sesshomaru frowns. He wants to reply but finds he has no rebuttal for her assessment. 

“Anyway, I spoke with Kaede about the potential side effects of a human-demon mating. I wasn’t sure if it could happen with our abilities. I’m human but....” she trails off, appearing uncomfortable about her powers. 

“You’re a miko.”

“Yeah,” Kagome agrees. She sighs, leaning on the table with her elbows so she can massage her temples. “Kaede isn’t familiar with the human-demon mating that occurred with a miko. Typically, the pair have hanyou offspring, though there is a chance that a child born of their union may be a full-demon or fully human.”

Sesshomaru tries not to think about the fact that they are discussing pups. He has never considered having a family. Though he respects his parents, he does not wish to repeat their failures. It was one of the reasons he had been so adamant about not taking a mate. However, as soon as Kagome mentions offspring, Sesshomaru’s nostrils flare with the rich scent of strawberries. He breathes through his mouth so he can temper his carnal instincts. 

“She thinks there might be complications.” 

He blinks, instantly sober. “What kind of complications?” 

“There’s no way of knowing. Without a past example to reference, Kaede wasn’t sure if it was something minor such as the need to temporarily bind one or both of our powers or if it was life-altering.”

Life-altering. The word hangs in the air between them. As he gazes at her, Sesshomaru feels a pang in his chest. 

“But don’t worry about it. I’m sure if there are issues, they are all minor,” Kagome waves it off. She takes another sip of her tea and smiles at him. “For now, I think we should get to know each other. Let’s start with the easy stuff. What do you like to do when you aren’t at work?” 

It takes them time to find a rhythm but by the fourth or fifth question, Sesshomaru feels himself opening it up. He can’t recall a time when he has ever spoken so much with another person, especially about himself. Normally, his conversations are based around the family business. He rarely has the opportunity to discuss details of a personal nature. 

Kagome doesn’t rush him. She sits patiently while he shares his affinity for weapons. He tells her about his collection of ancient swords and how the first was a gift from Touga on his eighteenth birthday. They both lament about being the eldest sibling, swapping stories about how their younger brothers have pestered them over the years. 

Their banter is interrupted by a member of the staff, who comes to collect Sesshomaru for dinner. Before he can invite Kagome to join them, she is thanking him for the tea and walking out. 

At dinner, Sesshomaru doesn’t engage Inuyasha, ignores his mother’s barbs, and avoids his father’s questioning gaze. The entire meal feels like one tedious drawn-out affair. He wishes he had excused himself. 

When Sesshomaru returns to his chambers, the tea has been cleared away. All evidence of Kagome’s visit is gone. He goes to bed with a hollow ache in his chest. 

-*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The next three days drag by. As predicted, his dreams grow increasingly graphic. Sesshomaru forgoes sleep, choosing to shift his energy onto more fruitful endeavors. He has been eyeing Hitomi Manufacturing for over a year. Acquiring the company would increase their clientele base while decreasing their production timelines. With facilities in each of the eight regions, it would be a tremendous asset to their portfolio. 

Sesshomaru wants to execute a deal with the Hitomi CEO before year-end, however, the man has countered every offer. Nothing Sesshomaru proposes is to Onigumo Naraku's liking. Sesshomaru doesn't believe the hanyou wants to sell his business. He simply enjoys toying with people as if they are pawns in a chess match. 

His frustration over the agreement is magnified by his lack of sleep. He starts to yell at his subordinates, snap at A-Un, and even accuses Naraku’s assistant, Kagura of blocking his calendar. His temper has gotten so far out of control that his skin begins to itch. 

“Sir, are you sure you are well? I could make arrangements for you to see the family physician,” A-Un offers on the third day. 

“No,” Sesshomaru refuses flatly. 

He drums his fingers on his thigh, irritated by the traffic preventing them from speeding along the highway toward the house. 

“Perhaps a bottle of sake this evening instead of tea?” A-Un suggests. 

“No.” 

Sesshomaru cannot risk losing control around the miko. He is already on the verge of giving in to his baser instincts. He must keep a clear head. 

An accident on Route 4 delays their arrival. He growls, noting the time. 

When A-Un pulls into the driveway, Sesshomaru spots a pink bike parked by the main entrance. He scowls.

No one speaks to him as he ascends the stairs to his chambers. The attendants know his moods well enough to keep their distance.

He barely has time to freshen up before a light knock at his door announces her arrival.

Sesshomaru inhales deeply. He counts to three before opening the door.

“Hey,” Kagome beams up at him.

“Hello.”

“Can I leave this here?” she asks, sliding her book bag off her shoulders.

He nods and she deposits it on the floor. Sesshomaru leads her over to the chabudai. The tea hasn’t arrived yet but he doesn’t care. He is far more interested in the woman before him than the afternoon drink.

“How was work?” Kagome asks with genuine interest as she sits opposite him.

“Taxing,” Sesshomaru answers.

“Still struggling with the Hitomi deal?”

Sesshomaru forgot he’d shared the complication with her. “Nothing I propose seems to suit Naraku,” he says.

She taps her chin thoughtfully. “Maybe he isn’t interested in money or stock options. He might be motivated by authority, power— all of which he’d be giving up by agreeing to your terms.”

He stills. Her insight is perceptive and— most likely— accurate. None of his strategic business advisors arrived at that conclusion. No one on his staff has managed to give him valuable guidance. Yet, this miko, with little to no knowledge of the industry, has identified Naraku’s reason for refusing.

A thrill shoots through him. He begins to understand why she is considered his equal. Pursing his lips, he wills the sensation away.

“I will take that into consideration,” Sesshomaru says. “Also, I apologize for my tardiness. I was delayed on my way home.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Kagome waves him off with a smile. “I used the time to review principals with Inuyasha. He’s still struggling with his course load.”

Sesshomaru frowns. He doesn’t want to waste their time together discussing his brother. “How are your studies progressing?”

“Pretty good so far,” Kagome tells him. “Though I’m at a slight advantage. My abilities tend to favor healing and defense. I’m not as gifted in offensive maneuvers.”

“If you wish, I could assist you,” he offers.

Her eyes sparkle with interest. “You want to train with me?”

“I want you to excel,” Sesshomaru clarifies.

She drops her gaze to the tabletop. “Thank you.”

“What are you most concerned about?”

Kagome rolls her lips. “I’m decent in kyudo but Kaede wants me to advance with my projection. I’ve been struggling with releasing power towards a specific target. I only seem to be able to do it in a defensive setting.”

“Such as?” he prompts.

She sighs and begins to twist her hands in her lap. “Don’t tell Inuyasha,” Kagome prefaces and an ugly feeling begins to claw at Sesshomaru’s stomach. “One of the demons at my school came after me the other day. She came up behind me, grabbed my hair, and yanked me backward.”

“What?” he snarls.

Kagome doesn’t glance up. “I lost my balance and that’s when I hit her.” Her hands still. “She...uh...she was unconscious for a couple of hours until I was able to bring her out of it.”

Sesshomaru cannot believe what he is hearing. “You healed her?”

Her eyes go wide. “I had to,” she insists. “It was my fault she was hurt.”

“It was her punishment for attacking you,” he counters.

Her face falls. “I could be expelled.”

You,” he hisses. “What about her? She initiated the argument. She should be held responsible for her actions.”

“Sesshomaru, it’s not that simple. The university has a very strict code of conduct and I violated that.”

“You were defending yourself!”

“Why are you so mad about this?”

His eyes narrow. He opens his mouth to respond when the tea arrives.

“Leave it there and go,” he instructs the servant coolly.

Kagome looks outraged. “Sesshomaru! That’s no way to speak to people.”

The attendant rushes from the room. He ignores her hasty exit. His attention is on the miko standing before him.

Her arms are rigid and her hands are shaking at her sides. He can feel her reiki rising within her but she keeps it contained. Despite the ice in her gaze, Kagome does not lash out at him.

“People deserve respect,” she states resolutely.

“Our staff are paid for their efforts. If I want tea served at a specific time, I will have tea at that time,” he informs her.

“Just because it is their job doesn’t mean you can’t be kind. Does it take extra effort to use a softer tone? Would it hurt you somehow to say please and thank you?”

Sesshomaru stares at her.

When he doesn’t say anything in return, she shakes her head and moves toward the door.

As she picks up her bag, he reaches for her. “Kagome.”

“Don’t,” she warns.

A flare of energy shields her from his touch. His hand hits her barrier, stunning him momentarily.

Her eyes are wide with surprise and regret. Yet, she doesn’t collapse the barrier. “I’ll see you next week.”

Sesshomaru watches her pedal out of the drive. Only after she’s gone does the sting of her powers abate.

-*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

If his demeanor last week was unpleasant, it is nothing compared to the tyrant he turns into following Kagome’s abrupt departure.

Sesshomaru simmers for long hours in his office. The first person to approach him each day either gets a death glare or snapped at until they leave. Naraku sends back Sesshomaru’s most recent proposal, resulting in an impromptu meeting with his staff to renegotiate. He keeps them late, working through several revisions until the document is perfect. In the end, it is Touga who dismisses them, not Sesshomaru.

“I understand this is important to you but you need to show some compassion,” his father reminds him.

Sesshomaru thinks on his Touga’s advice. It is similar to Kagome’s insistent behavior the other day.

He has never been spoken to so forcefully and never by a female, let alone a human female. Part of him demands that she learns her place but then he hears her words in his mind.

Just because it is their job doesn’t mean you can’t be kind. 

Placing both hands on his desk, he leans forward and breathes.

“Perhaps, I have placed too much pressure on you,” Touga says, putting his hand on Sesshomaru’s shoulder. “I assumed you wanted this role. You have always thrived under intense scrutiny. The board cautioned me about appointing you as my successor. I never doubted it for a second. You are committed to achieving your goals. You have no equal.”

Those words threaten to break his resolve. He contemplates telling his father what has happened.

Touga rose to power through sheer determination and his will to survive. While some call him powerful, Sesshomaru has always thought of his father as strict but fair. Touga inspires loyalty and those who are loyal to him are under his protection indefinitely. That extends to Kagome.

“There is no other who will fight for this company the way I have,” Sesshomaru tells him. “Following in your footsteps has been my prerogative since I was a child. I plan to exceed your expectations.”

Touga pats his shoulder. “You already have.”

-*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

When Kagome returns to his chambers, Sesshomaru is waiting with a fresh pot of tea.

And a single daffodil.

Along with signifying that he is sorry, the flower is a springtime bloom, symbolizing new beginnings. He hopes Kagome accepts it. Sesshomaru wants to build a relationship with her.

His father was wrong. He does have an equal.

Kagome Higurashi.

“Is this for me?” she asks, picking the flower up.

“Yes.”

She brings it to her face, burying her nose in the center. Sesshomaru watches her chest rise with her inhale. As she exhales, a smile blooms across her face. “It’s perfect. Thank you.”

“Tea?” he inquires, offering her his hand.

Kagome glances at his open palm, an echo of the gesture she initiated when they first met. Her smile widens. She slides her hand into his. “Tea sounds great.”

-*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Sesshomaru begins to leave work early two or three times a week, depending on Kagome’s tutoring schedule. He continues to greet her at the door, take her bag, hand her a fresh flower, and escort her to the chabudani.

They discuss their days, sharing everything from the minor details— like how long it took to arrive at the office —to more impressive events— such as the fact that Naraku has accepted a meeting to review Sesshomaru’s latest proposal.

“I have you to thank for it,” he tells her as he pours them each a cup.

“You just needed to bounce ideas off of someone who wasn’t so deeply ingrained in the process,” she replies.

“Perhaps, or perhaps I needed you.” 

Her cheeks turn scarlet. She doesn’t respond to his remark so Sesshomaru asks about her courses. They haven’t met to train. He has attempted to bring the subject up during their past few weeks together but each time he thinks of how she threw up her barrier and left. 

“Finals are coming up,” Kagome tells him. 

“Are you prepared?” 

She gives him a shy laugh. “I think so. Either way, it will be nice to have a break this summer. No more classes, no more tutoring—.” 

Sesshomaru’s grip almost shatters his teacup. “You are finished with tutoring?”

“Well, yeah. The semester will be over. There won’t be anything to review until the fall. Plus, I don’t even know if your father wants me to continue working with Inuyasha. He hasn’t approached me about it,” Kagome explains. 

“I am certain he will. The half-br— my brother,” he corrects himself, “has advanced with your support. I believe he will continue to rely on you to reach graduation.” 

She smiles. “Thanks.” 

“When is your last exam scheduled for?” 

“Two weeks from tomorrow,” Kagome replies. 

“Then that Friday I will arrange for us to have dinner instead of tea to celebrate,” Sesshomaru decides. 

“Dinner? Doesn’t your family all eat together?” 

“Indeed. Perhaps it would be better if I pick you up. We could dine downtown,” he suggests. 

Kagome stares at him, lips parted in surprise. 

“If you would like,” Sesshomaru hedges. 

Her blush covers her from the top of her head past the neckline of her blouse. Kagome’s hands shake as she sets her cup down but when she answers, she meets his gaze directly. “Yes.” 

His chest swells with pride. “I will make arrangements with A-Un.”

“Okay then.” 

Sesshomaru feels the urge to touch her, to reach across the table and drag her into his lap, and never let her go. His heart rate has accelerated. With each minute that passes in her presence, the beat grows louder. He thinks of his dreams and of the restless hours he has spent separated from her. Imagining an entire season away from her will be torture. He won’t allow it to happen. 

When he moves, it is as if his body knows what to do before his mind does. Sesshomaru kneels beside Kagome, cups her cheeks, and presses his lips to hers. 

He momentarily forgets about Totosai's warning, the fact that Inuyasha is right down the hall, or his reservations with taking a mate. None of those details matter. Reason doesn't play a part in his actions. He operates on pure instinct. 

For a brief instant, Sesshomaru is elated. Kagome feels right. From the second his lips touched hers, he felt their connection sing. His markings are thrumming with power— both hers and his. He feels invincible. 

Then reality crashes into him. The threat of their union to Kagome’s life. The thought of losing her warm smiles and kind words causes him to retreat. 

He leans back to find her eyes blown wide. “Sesshomaru?”

“This was a mistake,” he murmurs. 

Whatever she says in response is drowned out by his pulse pounding in his ears. He exits the room and doesn’t look back. 

-*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The seasons change. Sunlight fills the days for long hours, enticing and welcoming. By comparison, Sesshomaru’s mood is dreary and dark. The summer heat makes his skin feel as though it has been pulled too tightly over his bones. It itches and burns. No matter how much water he drinks or the number of cold showers he takes, nothing relieves the uncomfortable sensation. 

Seeing the miko with Inuyasha doesn’t help either. 

At his father’s request, Kagome continues tutoring the half-breed. The semester is over but they both still have their final year left to complete. Touga doesn’t want his youngest son to fall behind over the break. 

She shows up twice a week to review content with Inuyasha. If the weather is nice, they sit out on the patio together. When it rains, they are confined to the library. Either way, Sesshomaru catches a whiff of her strawberry scent as he passes through for dinner. She is always gone before he appears. 

He has never hated Inuyasha more. 

Sesshomaru blames his brother for bringing Kagome Higurashi into his life. It is the half-breed’s fault for being dim-witted. If he had any sense at all, he wouldn’t require tutoring and the miko would have never entered their household. 

He blames Inuyasha because he is angry with himself. 

His days are one tiresome meeting after another. Everything around him seems to be monotonous, dull, lifeless. He can no longer see colors. There are only drab black, white, and gray tones for his daily routine. The office begins to feel like a prison. Sesshomaru is weighed down by the never-ending list of tasks he must accomplish. He completes them one by one, inching closer to victory but it garners no satisfaction. 

His nights are spent tossing and turning, trying to forget the breathless way she said his name after he kissed her. He wishes he had never touched her, never felt the way she melted in his hands as if he could absorb her. Most of all, Sesshomaru longs to go back to a time of ignorance, when the only thing he cared for was his role at Taisho Heavy Industries. 

Things were simpler then— lonely but manageable. 

He moves like a puppet on strings, going through the motions but not actively participating in his actions. His heightened senses are dulled by a lack of interest until the day he hears her scream. 

“Inuyasha, stop!” 

Sesshomaru flies through the house, dodging servants as he makes his way out to the patio. He bursts through the doors to find his half-brother standing over Kagome. She is hunched in on herself, her back to him but he can tell by the way she straightens that she can feel his presence. 

“What is going on?” Sesshomaru demands. 

“She’s too hot in that thing,” Inuyasha grumbles, pointing to the long-sleeved cardigan Kagome is wearing over her sundress. “I told her to take it off but she won’t listen.”

“I’m fine,” Kagome insists stubbornly, not looking at either of them. 

Sesshomaru hears a hitch in her voice. She is most certainly not fine. 

“You’re flushed and sweating. Take the damn sweater off!” Inuyasha yells. 

“You should adjourn to the library,” Sesshomaru suggests, hoping the air conditioning will help. 

“We’re almost done,” Kagome replies, continuing to ignore him. 

From up close he can see that she has lost weight. The cardigan is loose and her dress hangs from her shoulders. Her skin, once vibrant, is now sickly. Her lips are pale, almost colorless. There are dark circles under her eyes as if she hasn't slept in days. Sesshomaru resists the impulse to scoop her up and carry her inside. He will force-feed her if he must.

“How could you let this happen?” Sesshomaru snaps at his brother.

Me? Why is this my fault?”

“She is ill and you have done nothing to care for her,” he points out.

Inuyasha crosses his arms over his chest defensively. “Kagome’s my friend. If she says she’s alright then she’s alright. I’m not going to make assumptions about her just because—.”

Whatever Inuyasha plans to say next is cut off by the scrapping of chair legs and a thud that turns Sesshomaru’s stomach.

“Kagome!”

“Get away from her!” Sesshomaru barks, smacking the half-breed’s hands away.

He takes the unconscious miko in his arms, cradling her to his chest.

“What the hell do you think you are doing?” Inuyasha asks, eyes wide.

“Tending to my mate.”

Sesshomaru doesn’t linger to see his brother’s reaction. He goes inside and up to his chambers. As he climbs the steps, he spots a servant and politely requests that the family physician be sent immediately.

Kagome does not rouse. Her breathing is labored and her body is covered in a sheen of sweat. If Sesshomaru didn’t know any better, he’d believe she had been poisoned.

In a way she was, he thinks ruefully.

He tosses the sheets of his bed aside before laying her down upon the mattress. With tender strokes, Sesshomaru brushes her hair out of her face. Color has returned to her cheeks but it isn’t the kind he wishes to see. Kagome is feverish. Given her diminished appearance, Sesshomaru believes she has been battling her illness for some time.

Gently, he maneuvers her to discard the cardigan. Her stripes look brighter against her pallor. It fills him with guilt. He should have never allowed her to take his hand. 

The doors of his room burst open. It is the only warning he receives before his father is ripping him away from her bedside. Touga slams him against the nearest wall, his golden eyes turning crimson with rage.

“What have you done?”

Sesshomaru has never seen his father behave so rashly before. He has heard stories from centuries past when Touga battled opposing demons— a time long before the modern world — but he never expected to experience it.

“You could have killed her!” he roars.

Sesshomaru blinks. “You knew?”

“I suspected you were mated,” Touga clarifies, briefly glancing at Kagome. “You both have been acting...odd. But if I had known she was marked, I would have never allowed things to get so out of hand. You abandoned her!”

“I was protecting her,” Sesshomaru insists.

“How?” Touga demands. “By ignoring her? I knew you had no interest in taking a mate but I never thought you would be so callous as to allow another to suffer for your foolish pride.”

“What do you mean?”

“The mating marks— your bond —once it is initiated it cannot be broken. It is bound to you and your life forces. If you deny it and separate, the connection will drain you both of energy until you wither away,” Touga informs him.

“No,” Sesshomaru shakes his head, stunned and uneasy at the thought of what he has done. “No, Totosai said the mating process would kill her.  I...”

His words fail him. Horrified, he stares past his father at Kagome’s motionless form.

“No,” he repeats, unable to believe it.

Touga releases him with a heavy sigh. “Sesshomaru, I will ask you this only once. Do you care for her?”

His answer is immediate and while his gaze never leaves the miko, his words are sincere. “I desire her more than anything in this world.” 

“I will summon Bokuseno,” Touga tells him. “Totosai may be knowledgeable in many things but he tends to exaggerate. Bokuseno will be able to provide insight on how to proceed.”

“I cannot lose her,” Sesshomaru says.

“Kagome isn’t some delicate flower you need to cater to. She will survive this,” Touga replies, patting him on the shoulder. “You two are the first match in over five hundred years. You were made for greatness. That does not fade simply because you made a mistake. Learn from this and grow.”

Sesshomaru nods.

“I will explain the situation to everyone and ensure you two have privacy,” Touga promises as he exits.

“Thank you, father.”

Before the door is shut, Sesshomaru is back at her side. “Forgive me,” he murmurs.

The hollow ache in his chest expands until it threatens to tear him in half. Knowing that he is at fault for her condition— that he did this to her —rattles him.

Sesshomaru falls to his knees, fighting to hold back tears. His emotions are turbulent. Rage, sorrow, regret, anguish— they weave in and out of each other like the shapes in a kaleidoscope. He draws a shuddering breath and collapses into bed beside Kagome.

“I’m sorry,” he apologizes, gathering her in his arms. He kisses the top of her head, overwhelmed by his concern. “If I had known....my fault….I thought I was protecting you….You’ve helped me realize...I never would have...I miss you.”

Sesshomaru starts and stops several sentiments. They all vie for priority, overlapping each other until he sounds as ineloquent as his brother.

“I missed you too.”

He leans away, gazing down to find Kagome’s weary blue eyes staring up at him.

"Hey." Her voice sounds hoarse as though she hasn't drank anything in days. She winces, trying to sit up. 

“I will fetch you some tea.”

Sesshomaru moves to leave when her hand grasps his wrist.

“Wait. Can you lay here with me for a while first?”

He pulls her close and vows to never let her go. 

-*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Tentative fingertips caress his forehead. They skirt along his skin, tracing each of his markings. As they follow the magenta stripes along his cheekbone up to his ear, they brush back his silver-white hair. Slowly, they drag across his shoulder blade before running over the dip in his collarbone.

Sesshomaru doesn’t have to open his eyes to know who those deft fingers belong to. 

“Kagome.”

“Morning,” she greets him. “Or...afternoon, I guess.”

He glances around, surprised to find that she is correct. They have slept for an entire day. 

When his eyes rest upon Kagome, Sesshomaru is pleased to see the color is back in her lips, her eyes are shining, and she is smiling. Without hesitation, he leans in and kisses her. He has much to apologize for but he won’t apologize for this. 

As he pulls back, she sandwiches his face in both of her hands. “Are you going to run out on me again?” 

“Never.” 

“Good.” She cards her fingers through his hair, dragging him towards her. 

Her lips slot against his own and Sesshomaru loses all sense of time and reason. He feels everything— from the way she shudders when he sucks on the pulse point of her neck to how her breath hitches when he drags his claws teasingly along her inner thigh.

Piece by piece, they discard their clothes. Sesshomaru has never bared himself to another before but this physical intimacy pales in comparison to how much of himself he has already shared with Kagome. His most guarded thoughts, his memories, and even his fears have been laid before her. She has met him with acceptance and understanding.

Starting today, he will cherish her the way she deserves.

Sesshomaru flips her onto her back. He nudges her legs apart with his knee, settling himself between them. He pauses. Kagome kisses him again, a wordless consent for him to continue.

He takes his time, mapping each curve and angle of her body. Sesshomaru lingers over the markings splayed across her hips. When his lips press to the flesh there, their bond vibrates with intense energy. He continues lower.

Kagome is responsive. She writhes and moans beneath him, grabbing onto his shoulders to ground herself. Sesshomaru does not slow in his ministrations until her back arches beautifully off the mattress. She comes apart on his tongue with a satisfied cry.

Sesshomaru crawls up her body, cupping her cheek in his hand. “Are you well?”

There is a generous blush painting her face as she nods. Kagome bites her lower lip.

“What is it?” he inquires.

“You didn’t...”

“I am pleased if you are satisfied,” Sessuhomaru tells her.

“Oh, um...that’s not what I was going to say,” she confesses, unable to meet his gaze.

He tilts her head toward him. “Kagome.”

“You didn’t bite me. I thought...” she trails off again and he scents her hurt.

He kisses her forehead. “Mate, when I make you mine, I intend to have you screaming my name in rapture. Those cries are for my ears and mine alone.”

Kagome’s blush darkens.

Sesshomaru can taste how his words have affected her. He has plans for them— plans that involve not being anywhere near his family.

At the thought of his parents, he realizes Kagome’s are unaware of where she is. Upsetting his in-laws is not how he wishes to start his relationship with her. Sesshomaru would prefer their blessing before he officially takes Kagome as his mate.

“You should alert your family to your whereabouts,” he suggests.

“I’ll call my mother later. Souta’s on the exhibition team for soccer so they are away at a competition right now. And I’m always up and gone before Gramps anyway,” she explains.

Sesshomaru is relieved her overnight stay will not be held against him. He leans in to kiss her when a sharp knock sounds at the door. The lovers break apart. 

“Sesshomaru, Bokuseno has arrived,” his father calls into the room. 

Kagome’s cheeks turn red but she smiles at him. “Guess we need to find our clothes.”

Sesshomaru traces the magenta bands on her hips. “Yes. These marks are for my eyes only.”

 

-*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Over the next few days, Bokuseno aids them in navigating their bond. He stresses the importance of their proximity and highlights the impact of a long-term separation. Sesshomaru is all too clear on the consequences. He will not make the same mistake again. While the elder speaks, he keeps one arm around Kagome's shoulders while his free hand holds hers.

During a very uncomfortable dinner between the Taisho and Higurashi families, introductions are made, explanations are given, and Kagome announces that she and Sesshomaru will be moving into a house of their own.

Touga, Izayoi, and Bokuseno accept the news calmly. Arisu, Inuyasha, and Kagome’s grandfather begin hurling objections, each shouting over the other. Kagome’s mother and Souta appear upset but don’t get involved. They pull Kagome aside later to discuss their concerns.

Sesshomaru paces in his chambers until she returns to him.

“Well?”

“I think they are still in shock,” she tells him, “but Mama appreciates you coming to her to ask for permission even though there really isn’t another option. She thinks you’re an honorable man.”

He is grateful her mother has agreed to their union. Sesshomaru wishes his mother was more understanding. Since she heard the news, Arisu has been fighting with Touga, blaming him for allowing Kagome into their house.

Sesshomaru ignores her antics. If Arisu cannot accept that this is the path he has chosen, then she can live out the remainder of her days without seeing her son. He will not tolerate her harsh words.

He and Kagome begin house hunting. They have limited time now that his acquisition of Hitomi Manufacturing is underway. She spends her days researching sole mate bonds with Bokuseno. 

He agrees with Kagome’s assumption that if there was a human-demon pairing previously, it would not have been recorded. While Bokuseno is not aware of such an occurrence, he doesn’t discount it. However, he does believe that their miko-demon pairing is the first of its kind. 

Fall is approaching when her demon powers manifest. Kagome is facing off against Inuyasha in the yard. He draws his sword against her, aiming for a side strike. Kagome raises her hands to block him with her reiki. A burst of white light shoots forth and suddenly she is holding a strand of energy in her bare hands. She has replicated Sesshomaru’s light whip.

After that, Sesshomaru and kagome devote their afternoons to training together. The longer they spend in each other's presence, the stronger their connection grows until Sesshomaru can conjure a barrier to block Kagome's whip attack. The first time it happens, they both freeze, awed by how their abilities have manifested in each other. Then their competitive nature takes over and the sparring continues. 

One week before her final year at the university begins, they move into their new home. The house is situated on the edge of the city, far enough away from his family, the office, and any other distractions.

No sooner has A-Un left with the movers than Sesshomaru makes good on his promise to Kagome. Even though the ceremony is scheduled for tomorrow, he has decided that he is done waiting. This woman is his mate, his partner, his equal. Sesshomaru wants nothing more than to start their life together.

He feels the exact moment they become entwined. A searing heat explodes through him as though the process is melting each of them down to reform them into one. When Sesshomaru opens his gold eyes to stare into hers, that is how he feels.

One with Kagome.

Whole.

Complete.

-*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The first time Sesshomaru hears his son’s name, it is from his mate’s lips. “Hajime, meet your Papa,” Kagome says, carefully handing him over. The name she has given their child is appropriate. 

It means a new beginning.

 

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