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Sweet Betrayal by Kanna37

Chapter 1

Golden eyes watched, half-lidded, as a certain young woman grabbed her bag and cheerfully informed her companions in the camp that she was going to bathe in the hot springs that lay close to their location, and wondered...

She has no idea what has been going on beneath her very nose – that her so-called 'loyal' companions are all lying to her... and using her. It is shameful that my father's blood has fallen so far as to use one of such loyalty in this way.

Even now the half-breed and the slayer tryst – with no thoughts to what will happen if she ever finds out.

Sesshoumaru, however, did consider what might happen if she should find out – and hoped that she would. Because then...

Then I might find such a situation useful.

With a light leap from the tree he had crouched in, the Inu Lord followed the path of the woman, still considering how to show her what was going on without involving himself directly.

It wouldn't have been, certainly, his plan that she find out in the way that she did, though in the end, it worked out for the best – for him, at least.

---sSs---

Kagome tugged her bag more firmly over her shoulder and sped up a little, thoughts of her destination encouraging her to move faster so that she could all-the-sooner enjoy the heated waters waiting for her somewhere up ahead.

She needed a good bath, and on top of that a good long soak – as an accompaniment to a good long chance to sit and think.

Things had been a little off with her companions for some time, and she was beginning to feel as though something was going on – something the others were keeping from her, deliberately.

And it wasn't just one of them, but all of them that were acting odd. That just worried her more, because that meant that whatever it was that they were trying to hide from her, was very important. Very big.

She frowned, sinking deeper into her worries as she let her feet move towards the onsen absently... and that turned out to be a huge mistake – or maybe not. Because as she burst into a tiny clearing on her way to the water, all the questions that she'd just been pondering were answered...

Blinking in shock, all the stunned young woman could see was a naked half-demon pull away from a dark-haired woman with an enraged roar, and red-eyed and feral, move to attack her.

Oh, my god.... he's doing that... with...

Almost unable to move from shock and pain she fell backwards as he clawed at her, and that finally thrust her into reality again as she screamed “Sit!” at the same time as the woman yelled. Immediately she clambered to her feet, heart in pieces on the ground and turned to run, leaving her bag where it had fallen.

She didn't make two steps before a burning pain slashed across her back, and she choked, by some miracle managing to keep her feet as she kept going, yelling “Sit!” once more, louder, hoping to keep him down so that she could get back to camp – back to safety, to normalcy...

Or so she thought.

Shouting burst out behind her as she ran, the burning pain in her back causing a hitch in her breath, but she didn't allow that to stop her, actually speeding up. She was so intent on reaching the dubious safety of the camp that she didn't notice a certain demon Lord's aura in the area at all, and neither did anyone else.

Miroku stood rapidly to his feet as Kagome burst into the small camp, pale and shaken and with tears rushing down her cheeks, and knew that the secret was out as he looked at her with regret staining his violet eyes.

What's wrong, Kagome?” he asked gently.

It's Inuyasha... he... he – he's with... her,” she managed to finally stutter out. “I was going for my bath, and I found him with her, and he attacked m-me,” she sobbed as she stumbled closer to him.

His eyes widened as he realized what had happened. “You found Inuyasha mating – that's why he attacked, Kagome. When youkai are with their mates, they are not to be disturbed,” he said, hoping to calm her fear.

But before he could say anything else Inuyasha himself flew into the camp, wearing only his hakama with his eyes once more golden, and he stared at her with dismay as she cringed from him and stepped back, fear, pain, and betrayal heavy in her eyes.

It was what followed him into the camp, or rather who, that completely broke the young girl's heart as she finally realized the extent of the betrayal – and the looks of shame in Miroku's and Shippo's eyes... they'd both known.

This was what they'd been hiding from her.

Because the woman following Inuyasha, the woman that was only half-dressed herself, wasn't Kikyou, it was Sango... the woman that Kagome had always looked at as a sister.

Her heart sank, pain washing over her in waves as she realized the truth of what had been going on.

Stepping even further back from the people ranged before her, her face dropped, her haunted eyes shadowed by her bangs. “So you knew, Miroku, Shippo... I see it all, now,” she said, her voice hollow. “This is why you've all been acting strange...”

Sango stepped forward, a hand held out with regret plastered all over her face as Inuyasha looked sick. “Please, Kagome – it wasn't planned – it just happened a while ago... and we didn't know how to tell y-”

Stop.” Her voice was bitter, cold, and eyes widened in the camp. Dead, icy laughter came from Kagome, then. “You all must have been laughing like crazy at the stupid fool of a shard detector that didn't have a clue what was going on... tell me, what were you going to do to me once all the shards were found – once I wasn't useful anymore? Kill me?”

Fuck, no!” Inuyasha roared at her. “Why the fuck would you think that, wench? Like I would ever let someone do that to you!” He lunged at her, trying to take her hands in his bloodied ones, but she took several panic-stricken steps back and formed a barrier around herself before he could.

Don't touch me!” she shrilled, ignoring his stricken look at her words. “Never touch me again!” Drawing deep breaths, trying to calm the panic and raging pain in her heart she looked at all of them, noting the remorseful faces, and she laughed loudly, almost hysterically. “What, sad that the baka found you out? Afraid I won't do your dirty work and find your damn shards for you? Well, you should be.”

Her voice lowered to barely more than a whisper, the hurt so deep she could barely get anything out of her clenched throat. “I'm leaving – I don't want to ever see any of you again.”

With that, she turned, still in too much emotional turmoil and physical pain to even begin to think clearly, only managing to grab her bow and quiver of arrows because they were literally at her feet. As she turned, the others, especially Inuyasha, were horrified to see the blood saturating her shredded clothes from the livid claw-marks on her back, and Miroku tried once more to reason with her.

Kagome, you are injured! To leave now would be a death sentence – youkai will be drawn to your blood scent – and the shards!”

She paused in her step, though she didn't turn. “At least it would be an honest death,” she spat, and then continued into the forest, barrier still up, refusing to even listen to the shouts behind her that demanded she return so they could take care of her injuries.

Her only thought was to reach the well before Inuyasha could use her family against her in an attempt to force her to continue looking for shards for them. In her state of mind, she was convinced that he would do so.

She would seal the well, and then figure out how to keep Inuyasha and his group from finding any shards of the jewel – none of them could be trusted with it now that she knew what they really were.

They were betrayers, and no better than Naraku.

---sSs---

Sesshoumaru, though surprised at what had just happened and angered at the injuries the girl had suffered, was actually pleased at the outcome.  Moving back to the small clearing and picking up her odd-looking yellow bag, he turned and disappeared, moving swiftly around the panicked camp on an intercept course with the miko.

This day's work by his brother and companions had just handed the one thing he wanted to him on a silver platter. Now, all he had to do was gather her into his company and he could begin putting his plans into place.

And he knew just how to do it, as well – with her in the state she was in, he wouldn't have to do much to get her to follow him willingly.

Moving to a position ahead of her current one he waited for her to stumble into his path, scowling inwardly at the heaviness of her blood scent. Her wounds needed to be taken care of soon – he did not want her bleeding out.

His eyes were drawn to her irresistibly as she walked dazedly into the large clearing he'd chosen to meet her in – she still, after all, had that barrier up.

When she realized he was there her head came up, dismay clear on her face, until she caught sight of what he was holding – her bag.

Confused, in shock from her injuries and the knowledge of her betrayal by those she'd trusted so much, her mind just couldn't take in the presence of the Inu Lord she'd known for a while, yet didn't really know.

S-sesshoumaru-sama,” she whispered, her voice still hoarse with hurt. “What do you want?”

I am returning your bag to you.”

He didn't say anything else, and she stared at him for a moment before shrugging. If he wanted to kill her, there wasn't much she could do – and at this point, she wasn't even sure she'd care. It was obvious he knew what had happened, since he was bringing her bag to her. She moved forward steadily once she'd dropped her barrier, though slowly, feeling weak and light-headed.  She took the bag from his outstretched hand without hesitation, not even caring that he knew she'd been fooled so badly.

Once she had it she almost stumbled with the weight of it in her weakened state, but once she'd righted herself, she nodded respectfully though tiredly at him. “Thank you, Sesshoumaru-sama – though I don't know why you would do something nice for me,” she finished softly, her weariness showing in her voice.

He continued to watch her for several moments, then asked, “Where do you go, miko?”

She blinked. “I have to get to the well, somehow, before Inuyasha can so I can seal it against him. I don't want him to use my family as hostage against me searching for shards for him.”

One slender black brow rose and he looked behind her contemplatively, knowing that the pursuit would soon follow her. “Come, then. This one will take you to the well, so that you may do this thing.”

Kagome frowned and shook her head, trying to clear her mind of the haze filling it. “I still don't understand why you're doing this, Sesshoumaru-sama – no disrespect intended,” she said.

It occurs to this one that we could be useful to each other, miko. You need the shards, many of which are held by Naraku. I desire to kill the hanyou. If we combine our searches, eventually we will both gain our desire.”

Kagome lowered her eyes to the ground and thought about his words. He was right, but...

She looked back up at him, to find that his eyes were still trained on her, his expression blank, as usual. Before she could speak of her concerns, though, he allayed them.

I will protect you in your endeavors – it is to my benefit to do so. Do you accept?” he asked.

With her mind still too hazy to really be worried about his sudden appearance she just nodded, exhaustion draining any desire to think things through any further. As soon as she did he was before her, and taking ahold of her he began to lift into the air.

Before her tired mind could even take in that knowledge there was a flash of light, and just that quickly they were in the well clearing. He held her arm for a moment to steady her, then let go, smirking inwardly as she stared at him in awe.

Deliberately keeping his face blank his eyes shifted to look at the well, and Kagome shook her head again to clear it before moving to stand before it, touching the ancient wood with heart-broken affection.

With a sigh she set her bag down and reached inside to a small pocket, pulling out a small, elaborate ofuda. Moving around to the far side of the well she knelt down and reached up under the lip around its upper edge, setting the ofuda into the little niche and chanting a small prayer over it. With a bright violet glow the ofuda settled into the wood and faded, sealing the well against anyone other than her.

She pulled herself to her feet slowly and with another weary sigh, her shoulders slumped. “It's done – Inuyasha can't go through it ever again. My family is safe now.”

The daiyoukai considered her for a moment, then shifted his stoic gaze to the well. “You can still cross to see them?”

She nodded. “Yeah. When I need supplies or just to visit them, I can still go through.”

He held out his hand again. “Come.”

She shook her head but grabbed her bag obediently, and took his hand. “Not much for talking, are you, my Lord?” she asked rhetorically, not really expecting an answer.

She got one anyway.

No. Idle chatter is just that. There is no need for it.”

He once again lifted them into the air, and with another flash of light and a bit of disorientation on Kagome's part they landed in the middle of the daiyoukai's camp, marking the beginning of a new adventure for the young miko.

It would take a little while, but she would get over the blow that fate and his faithless younger brother had dealt her.

Sesshoumaru would make sure of it.

---sSs---

~Eight months later~

Inuyasha stared morosely out over the road his group was currently on, and sighed, disheartened but unwilling to say anything about it.

Since the day Kagome had found out that he'd mated Sango and run, nothing had gone right. Everyone in the group missed her, he not least of all. On top of that the heart had gone out of all of them when she'd disappeared. They couldn't fight well, and they certainly hadn't found any shards or trace of Naraku. In fact, the dark hanyou, once he'd found out what they'd done had visited once, to taunt them – and they hadn't seen him since.

He didn't even bother with them anymore.

The worst of it was that they had no idea if Kagome was even alive. When she'd run from the camp they'd spent too much time in shock and arguing – and once they'd chased after her, they hadn't gotten too far. Her blood scent was strong, guiding them along - until they'd reached a certain clearing... and then it simply disappeared as though she'd never existed. The only thing they could think to do at that point was rush back to the well and see if she showed up there.

After several days, when she hadn't, he'd gotten desperate and tried to go through the well...

Only to find it sealed.

Nothing they'd done had worked, and eventually they'd all given up.

Looking at it objectively, Miroku had pointed out that it wasn't likely that Kagome had ever made it to the well in the first place - not only was she not fast enough to beat them there on foot, but she'd been injured.

It was most likely that she'd died – and the well had simply closed, since it was no longer needed.

None of them could bring themselves to argue the point, though they equally didn't want to believe it.

The only odd thing was that if that was what had truly happened – where had the shards that she'd carried gone? If Naraku had taken them he'd have gloated to them about it, yet he hadn't – he'd wondered the same thing when he came to them to congratulate them on what they'd done to Kagome, the sick bastard actually enjoying the betrayal of the little miko he'd hated.

Of course, they hadn't seen him since, so there was no telling if he'd figured out where those shards had gone...

Inuyasha was beginning to wonder why they even bothered anymore.

Another being they hadn't seen since was his half-brother, Sesshoumaru. Not that that was a bad thing, mind, but still – it was odd. Usually, they had run-ins with him every week or so... until Kagome'd disappeared.

He frowned at that thought...

Ya know,” he said slowly, “I wonder what that fluffy bastard of a brother of mine is doing?”

His mate glanced at him from where she walked at his side, then looked away, her brow furrowed. “That is kind of strange, actually – that he hasn't come around after the Tessaiga for so long...” she trailed off, not saying what was in everyone's mind...

Not since Kagome left.

Miroku reached up and patted the saddened kit that sat dejectedly on his shoulder, an almost silent sigh crossing his lips. Everything good in their lives had disappeared the day Kagome had, there was no denying that.

But then again, they deserved it. What they'd done to her was wrong, hiding what was going on from her. And though they hadn't really done it just so she'd keep looking for the shards, that had been part of it, she'd been right about that.

Not that the rest of her bitter words had been correct – they'd never harm her deliberately – let alone kill her just because she'd found all the shards and was no longer useful in her eyes. But he couldn't blame her for her words, her hurt, or her feelings of betrayal...

Because she was right. They had betrayed her.

The truth was that even though she'd been in love with Inuyasha, if they'd been honest from the start she would have been hurt, yes – but she would have been much more understanding about what had happened. After all, it wasn't as if Inuyasha and Sango had deliberately fallen in love – it was just one of those things.

It had been a blow to him, too, if the truth were to be known – he'd had feelings for Sango for some time... but there was nothing that he could do. If her heart belonged to another then it did, and that was all there was to it.

It had been hard for him to stay because of that, but his vengeance against Naraku had compelled him to hang around – he'd have even less chance against the spider hanyou alone – and he knew it.

So he'd stayed and worked himself through the hurt and the loss of the woman he'd cared so much for, and even though it would always hurt in some manner, he'd move on eventually – if he lived.

At this point, though, that was beginning to look doubtful...

It's what we deserve for what we did to Kagome,” piped up a youthful voice, and everyone stopped, wincing at the voicing of that name.

Inuyasha spun around to stare at Shippo, who was still sitting on Miroku's shoulder.

What do ya mean, runt?” he snapped.

That everyone's avoiding us... they should,” the kit finished solemnly, not looking at the hanyou or Sango, who'd stepped forward at his words, too. He barely spoke to either of them anymore.

Before Inuyasha could say anything, though, a small, squeaky voice that they also hadn't heard in months broke into the heavy atmosphere.

Master Inuyasha! It's been months, Master – how goes the search for Naraku?” Myouga asked as he hopped onto his master's shoulder.

Inuyasha grabbed the flea by his head and brought him up to his face. “Well, if it isn't the little coward, Myouga. Huh,” he huffed. “Where the hell have you been all this time?”

The tiny flea squirmed, then breathed in relief as the hanyou held up a palm and dropped him into it. Sitting down, he crossed legs and arms, then looked around at the group.

I've been mostly with Totosai, though I've traveled a bit as well, looking for news and information.”

Well? Find anything good out?” Inuyasha asked, annoyed.

Looking up at his master with complacence, he said, with the air of one imparting something of major importance, “Actually, I have, Master Inuyasha. Your brother is preparing to take a mate.”

Inuyasha's mouth dropped open, and the rest of the group appeared just as startled. “Where the hell did you get that idea? The Ice Lord... actually chasing a woman? Hah!” The hanyou started laughing like crazy at that - the first laughter that had been heard in the group since Kagome's disappearance.

So, you mean that bastard found some poor youkai female that's willing to put up with his frozen ass?” he choked out, not even noticing everyone elses expressions. “She must be desperate!”

Myouga cleared his throat. “Well... the news gets even more incredible, Master Inuyasha. The female he's after isn't even youkai... she's human.”

At that the entire group started laughing, completely overwhelmed.

Myouga waited patiently for them to calm down – after all, this was unbelievable. If he hadn't been at Totosai's when the daiyoukai had appeared with a fang and an order for a protective charm to be created for his intended, he wouldn't have believed it, either.

Finally, as the laughter calmed, he said, “It is no joke, Master Inuyasha. I was with Totosai when Sesshoumaru-sama appeared with one of his fangs in hand and ordered that he create something out of it that would act to protect his intended – and something that could also be presented as a mating gift.”

Yeah, but why the hell would you think it was for a human?! He hates humans, in case you've forgotten, you stupid flea.”

Myouga looked offended at that. “Because he stated that it was, of course. Do you think I'd have believed it if anyone else had said something like that?” he questioned, pleased at the dumbfounded look now present on his master's face – along with everyone elses.

Then he frowned. “Master Inuyasha... where is the Lady Kagome?” he asked, surprised when that question produced nothing but pained looks.

Kagome... we don't know where she is or if she's even alive,” he finally answered sadly. “She disappeared eight months ago...” he trailed off, looking away, and Myouga felt suddenly uncomfortable.

Ah... I'm sorry to hear that,” he said, and he truly was. He'd really liked Kagome.

Inuyasha stared off at the horizon, thoughts running through his mind confusedly. “So that fucker... he always hated me for being half-human, and now he's gonna mate a human? Hypocritical bastard. What's he planning to do – cheat on this woman and get some youkai bitch to give him pups?”

No, not at all. His intended is a priestess of great power, according to him.”

Inuyasha looked confused. “Oi, what's that got to do with anything?”

Myouga looked startled. “Master Inuyasha... you mean to tell me that you don't know? A priestess, if she carries enough power, can choose what her young will be – whether that be human, youkai, or half.”

The hanyou looked stunned, as did the rest of the group. “So... you're telling me that if my mother had been a miko, I could have been born a full youkai?”

Yes, Master Inuyasha, exactly.”

Miroku frowned, shaking his head as Sango reached out to comfort her mate. “Where did you hear that, Myouga? I've never heard of such a thing.”

It's well known in youkai circles, honorable monk,” the flea said. “Why did you think that Kouga-sama, as prince of his people, was never concerned about his desire for Kagome-sama? He as much as Sesshoumaru-sama needs a full-blooded heir – yet that knowledge never deterred him from his desire for her. That was because she was a most powerful priestess, well able to bear full-youkai pups, or in his case, cubs, and he knew this.”

Frowning again, Inuyasha cast a sour look at the group. “That's another bastard we haven't seen in a while – Kouga. I wonder why?”

Ah, that, Master Inuyasha, I can answer for you.” Everyone looked in surprise at the flea. “Kouga-sama is in hiding – he hides from the princess Ayame, who is determined to mate him. He does not want her, but she has been searching for him and with all the wolves she has at her command, he has hidden himself away until she gives up. Though your break from him may be over – I've heard that her grandfather finally put his foot down and has bid her to choose someone else – so Kouga-sama will probably come out of hiding soon.”

Inuyasha exchanged glances with Sango at that. “That's not good... first thing he'll do is come looking for Kagome...”

Sango stared at her mate with worry. When Kouga found out what had happened and that Kagome was gone, there'd be hell to pay. It was no odds that he'd attack Inuyasha immediately.

What are we going to do, Inuyasha? When he finds out about us... and Kagome...” she trailed off, not needing to finish.

Myouga looked confused; what are they so worried about? And what did she mean... about us? “Master Inuyasha?” he asked, looking suspicious.

The hanyou sighed, then looked away guiltily. “Sango is my mate, Myouga. When Kagome found out she took off... and that's when she disappeared. She stumbled over us while mating,” he blushed, “and I clawed her before I could override my own instincts. She was injured and hysterical... we tracked her scent for a ways, but then she and her scent just vanished without a trace.”

The flea stared at his master, shock and disapproval open in his face. “You mated the taijiya?” He turned to Sango. “No disrespect intended, my Lady, but...” he turned back to Inuyasha, ignoring the low growl. “It must be the human blood,” he shook his head and sighed. “Kagome was the alpha female of this pack – instincts should have pushed you to her, Master.”

What? Sango's stronger than Kagome – she's a warrior – Kagome has no fighting skills at all, so how could she be the alpha female?” he asked incredulously.

A warrior she may be, Master, but Sango-sama has no power. In youkai mating the male will look for a female with power, not a warrior – because the male will protect the female in battle. She only has need of power to assist her mate and to pass that strength to the pups. Your lady mate cannot breed her skills with a weapon into your children – but Kagome-sama would have passed her power to them. That is why she was alpha. Although, now that I think on it, she wouldn't have been a good match for you,” the flea said as he hopped off his hand, “because she was too powerful.”

Oi! What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” he roared, trying to catch his tiny retainer.

No offense, Master, but the only one who had an aura that was equal to Kagome-sama's was your brother. She was immensely powerful – even if she didn't know how to control it fully – to pass it on to her young she didn't really need to. It's too bad she's gone... her pups would have blessed the inu line and made it strong and fruitful again.”

With that Myouga jumped onto his crow, who'd swooped down for him, and disappeared into the sky, a last, “I'll find you again, Master, when I have more information for you,” hitting Inuyasha's ears.

Feh,” he said disgustedly, jamming his hands into his sleeves and refusing to meet anyone's eyes. “C'mon, let's go. I think it's time to track down that bastard of a brother of mine. I want to see this human that he's planning to mate.”

No one said a word as they began walking again, for the first time in months actually having a destination in mind.

---sSs---

Kagome-sama, Kagome-sama!” caroled a little voice, and Kagome turned with a smile to watch the tiny child come running through the field towards her with a crown of flowers.

Yes, Rin-chan?” she asked, eyes soft with affection on the girl with the blinding smile.

Rin made this for you, Kagome-sama – she'll look really pretty with it on, won't she, Sesshoumaru-sama?” she turned to her hero and asked.

Kagome blushed immediately and accepted the flowers, setting the crown on her head. “It's beautiful, Rin-chan – and who wouldn't look pretty with such a gift to wear in their hair?” she finished nervously, not wanting to irritate her stoic companion by seemingly looking for compliments.

The last eight months had been strange, in more ways than one. Since the day her old companions had betrayed her, her life had changed irrevocably – mostly for the better. But some of the changes just confused her...

Such as the behavior of the icy daiyoukai of the Western Lands, Sesshoumaru.

He'd always been a mystery to her, and that hadn't changed with proximity, but lately... well, things had gotten even more confusing.

Quiet, controlled, and very dangerous if crossed, Kagome had come to understand that the Lord wasn't emotionless – he was, in fact, quite passionate about things he cared for. He just didn't speak of it, and he didn't openly show it.

But if you watched him you learned to see it in his body language, in his actions – and in his eyes. Usually cold and blank, his eyes could go from frozen to molten in seconds – and the change was fascinating.

The reason people thought he was cold was because there really wasn't much he cared about. As far as Kagome could determine, his ward, Rin, was pretty much it.

Oh, she knew he probably considered her as close to a friend as he'd ever had – at the very least she knew he no longer hated or despised her, but...

Of course, who wouldn't love Rin? She's adorable – I don't know if I could ever let go of her... when we've defeated Naraku I don't know how I'll be able to say goodbye, she thought morosely. And it's near, too... I have the feeling that it could be any day, now. I've got all the shards that Naraku doesn't – besides the ones Kouga has, anyway.

Her shoulders slumped a little, then. It's too close – all this time I've wanted to finish this mess off – and yet now I wish Naraku would disappear again... because I don't want to leave Sesshoumaru. I'm so stupid...

At first, in the days and weeks following her severing herself from her former friend's lives, she'd been quiet and morose, her heart grieving for the loss of her innocence... her easy trust in people now a thing of the past. And in that time the stoic Lord had done nothing but given her a quiet support, making sure her wounds healed and giving her the space she needed for her wounded psyche to heal, as well.

But soon enough she'd begun to move away from the grief and the pain and smile again – especially at the big Inu who was her new companion on her search.

When he'd said he'd protect her for the duration of their alliance, he'd meant it – not once in the eight months had she received even one injury during any battle. He made the most efficient protector she could ever have imagined.

It was obvious, as she'd watched him in battle time and time again, that he'd never really meant to kill his brother. When she'd asked him why he'd shown up so frequently to fight Inuyasha since he had no real desire to kill him, he'd replied that he'd had other reasons for approaching her group, and with an enigmatic look at her confused expression, left it at that.

Unfortunately, though, it appeared that her heart hadn't learned from her last mistake, and now it had done the ultimate foolhardy thing... it had thrown itself at the daiyoukai's feet, and now she'd never get it back in one piece.

She really hoped that he never figured out just how much she wanted him...

She was pulled from her thoughts by a baritone voice saying complacently, “Yes, Rin – the miko looks very well with the flowers you have given her.”

Kagome almost choked with shock, her eyes swiveling to stare up at him, uncertainty clear in her expression. He met her gaze calmly, brow cocked. “Ano... thank you, Sesshoumaru-sama,” she said hesitantly, flushing deeply. Looking back down at her tiny companion, she tugged her along. “Come on, Rin-chan – how about we ride Ah-Uhn for a while?”

Sesshoumaru watched as Kagome tried to get out from under his gaze and distract herself and the child from the last topic of conversation.

Does she think that will work? She should know better by now...

For him the last eight months had dragged by. It was a good thing that he was as patient as he was, because he'd had to use every bit of it to help the little onna over her heartbreak at the hands of his foolish younger sibling – and all without letting on that was what he was doing.

And now he knew that she was perfectly well over the boy – and very attracted to him – which is what it had all been about to begin with. He fingered the mating gift hidden in his sleeve as he walked, and considered when to give it to her. Perhaps he should wait until he'd destroyed the spider? After all, they would have him soon... the fool was closing with them, planning to attack and take the rest of the jewel.

He narrowed his eyes slightly. As if he'd allow such a pathetic creature to harm what was his – or take something from under his nose. The spider was truly an idiot to think that he could attack the miko while she was with him, and actually succeed in harming her.

Yes... I think that I will wait. Not that I haven't been waiting for some time already – but perfection, after all, cannot be rushed. And once the spider is removed there will be nothing holding me back from claiming the miko for good.

He allowed himself a small smirk of satisfaction at that thought.

Nothing at all.

---sSs---

Two days later, just as Inuyasha finally got a lock on his brother's still-distant aura, something happened that shocked the hell out of the whole group – Miroku's wind-tunnel disappeared.

With a strangled yell the monk dropped to the ground, holding his hand as pain wracked his form for several long moments... and then it was over, and with complete disbelief he ripped his restraining rosary off to find smooth, unmarked skin covering the palm of a hand he'd never seen.

It was immediately apparent that Naraku was dead – and they all felt cheated at that. None of them had gained their vengeance on him...

Inuyasha was livid – he was positive that his brother had been the one to destroy the evil hanyou – after all, he'd repeatedly said that he would. But Inuyasha had also repeatedly told him that he wanted to do it – he was the one that was owed vengeance on the dark spider, not his uptight brother.

It looked as though, once again, Sesshoumaru had one-upped him.

With a snarl, Inuyasha ordered Miroku to ride Kirara and he took his mate on his back and took off in the direction he sensed his brother's aura, determined to find out just what the hell was going on.

He wanted answers...

And he was going to get them.

None of them, however, were expecting any of the answers that they did get.

---sSs---

Sesshoumaru stared disdainfully at the remains of the spider hanyou and swiped Bakusaiga through the air to rid it of the blood tainting its blade.

Worthless fool,” he said finally, watching as Kagome moved over and began to purify what was left – she wanted to be sure that he had no chance to ever be brought back.

As his body faded to dust at her hands the large chunk of the tainted shikon that he'd held dropped to the ground, and Kagome stared at it, almost not wanting to touch it – picking it up would drive home that it was over.

With a shuddering breath she slowly reached down and wrapped tiny fingers around the jewel that had wreaked so much havoc in so many lives, and watched solemnly as it purified to its normal pale pink in her hands. Taking out the chunk that she carried, she held them together and merged them, her powers glowing brightly around her.

How ironic, she thought painfully. As the jewel is made whole, my heart is shattered - again. She stared at it dispassionately for a moment... Looks like he got the shards from Kohaku and Kouga, too... I hope they're okay.

Looking up at the Inu Lord, she smiled tearfully. “It's done,” she whispered. “We both achieved what we needed to.” With a forlorn sigh, she looked down at the jewel again. “I only ask one last thing, Sesshoumaru-sama... will you take me to the well once more? I don't want to try to make the trip alone while carrying the jewel...” she trailed off, knowing that she didn't need to finish.

Sesshoumaru kept his eyes trained on her as he flicked his sword one more time, then slid it into its sheath. He didn't say a word, instead choosing to wait until she looked back up at him before speaking.

Tell me, miko,” he asked almost idly, “why you think I will allow you to leave me?”

She stared up at him, startled. “Uhm... what?” she asked, sure that she'd heard him wrong. He didn't just say... no, I'm just being silly...

He didn't shift his gaze from her, still watching her with a peculiar intensity in his golden eyes. “Did you think that because Naraku is now gone I would let you leave?”

D-demo... I thought that's what you wanted. When you took me in,” she paused in painful remembrance, “you said that until we found Naraku you would protect me. That's done now,” she finished hesitantly, looking at him with confusion.

I never said that it was only until we found Naraku. I only stated that if we combined our searches we would both gain our desires.” He lifted his head and stared into the sky. “Your mistake was in thinking that my only desire was the destruction of the hanyou.”

She shook her head, trying to clear it of the confusion his words were evoking in her. “Okay... I admit, you've got me. What was it you desired, then, if it wasn't just Naraku's death?”

She truly has no idea...

He reached into his sleeve and pulled out the gift that he'd spent the last days since he'd retrieved it fingering and glanced down at it, pleased. A small bracelet lay in the palm of one hand, tiny beads formed of his fang glowing with an iridescence that would please the little miko, he knew. She had an affinity for such things.

Turning to her, he held out his other hand, waiting for her to take it before pulling her upright. He watched silently as she took the shikon jewel and pocketed it, then began to walk, knowing that she would follow. They needed to leave this place – after all, it would not do to mate her in the midst of a battlefield - his lady deserved better.

He was silent for a time as they left behind the place Naraku was finally defeated, but once they had been swallowed up into the forest he spoke, almost startling her. She'd just about forgotten what she'd asked him.

While I have always desired Naraku's death, that was not the reason I wished for you to join me. I would have destroyed the half-breed with or without your presence, make no mistake.” He glanced at her for a moment, then turned his face back up to the leafy canopy over their heads. Her clueless expression was amusing, to say the least.

Is it really so hard for you to figure out what it is that I desire from you, miko?”

Kagome shook her head with a half-frown, not understanding in the slightest what he wanted. Perhaps it was a companion for Rin that he needed? If that were the case, she would be happy to oblige – after all, she no longer really fit in at home and she'd already dreaded leaving the little girl behind... as well as the male beside her. If she could stay with him, even as just a companion to Rin, she'd be happy...

Are you wanting me to stay as a mother-figure for Rin? I would be honored, you know... I'm well aware that there are very few that you trust, and that you would trust me with her means a lot to me,” she said, smiling up at him, sure that was the answer to his questions. It never, ever, would have occurred to her that he was actually after her for himself.

His expression hardened, then, annoyance at her low opinion of herself beginning to bleed through his control. Even with all the hints he'd given her, it still didn't occur to her that she was what he desired. His brother had much to answer for.

Between one second and the next he dropped his icy mask and his eyes instantly flared with heat. Coming to a complete stop, he pinned her with his molten gaze and poured every bit of passion into it, knowing it would overwhelm her as he reached up and unfastened his armor, letting it drop where he stood.

He was right... Kagome had no idea of how to react – and couldn't even fathom why he was looking at her that way – or taking his armor off.

Stepping closer to her, his eyes narrowed with satisfaction as she took a matching step back – within moments he had his female's back pressed to a tree, and he hadn't even touched her yet. Slowly bending forward until his face was hovering just above hers, he let an arrogant smirk settle on his lips as her breathing hitched.

This one has been pleased that you are so innocent, little miko, demo... at this time, it is no longer welcome. The only desire that I have had that pertains to you, is a desire for you. I have waited patiently for you to heal from what the half-breed did to you, and now that you have... this one intends to take you as his mate.”

Kagome's eyes had grown wider and wider as he spoke, and her breathing stopped – she was stunned, completely overwhelmed. This was nothing that she had ever expected.

Demo... I-I'm human, Sesshoumaru-sama,” she whispered. “This won't work at all for you – you need a full-youkai heir.”

Red bleeding into the centers of his eyes as she argued, but not because she didn't want him, he kept her pinned with his gaze, not allowing her to look away.

That is of no concern,” he whispered right back. “That is also not an answer.”

Do I even have a choice?” she asked, knowing that he had the tendency to simply claim what he chose.

If you had not, then I would not have asked.

You didn't!” she exclaimed, eyes narrowing suddenly.

His smirk widened, then, even as his eyes bled redder and he drew the tip of his nose down her cheek, openly scenting her. “Will you allow me to mate you, little miko?” he rumbled, his voice dropping – it was like liquid sex.

Kagome shivered, her eyes drooping suddenly; Sesshoumaru was drawing the answer he wanted from her – she would be unable to deny him. It was a trait of inuyoukai... seduction at its finest.

I... I...” she broke off, blinking, trying to think around her sudden need for him.

Just say yes, Kagome,” he breathed, his nose dipping as his lips grazed across hers, barely touching, just letting their breaths mingle.

That's all it took, and her knees weakening beneath her, Kagome swallowed hard and then choked out, “Y-yes?” almost hesitantly, questioningly, as if asking if that was really the answer he wanted.

Sesshoumaru's hand clenched with triumph around the bracelet he held; directing her to hold out her wrist he wasted no time in putting it on her, and then dropping a tiny bit of his blood on it he poured his youki into it, sealing it to her - and none other.

She could never escape him now – though not yet actually mated she was already bound to him, nothing and no one could change that - ever.

Without pausing his lips claimed hers and she collapsed into him, hands immediately fisting into his haori as he took what he finally, finally, had every right to take.

Eight months well spent, he thought vaguely as passion rose and he proceeded to claim his miko.

Definitely well spent...

---sSs---

Inuyasha growled in increasing frustration.

They had been following his half-brother's aura for three days now and no matter what they did they couldn't seem to get any closer than what they were now – which wasn't close at all.

On top of that there were tantalizing hints of something else, something powerful with his brother, but the most they could get was teasing hints of just what it was. He was pretty sure that it was the aura of this priestess his brother was planning on mating – and he had to admit, Sesshoumaru had spoken truly to Totosai - the woman was powerful.

The really weird thing about it was that, other than Kikyou, the only other priestess of such power alive at this time had been Kagome, and since she was gone...

He wondered for one, mad moment if it weren't Kikyou that his brother were after – but then he dismissed that. Kikyou was an undead – and his half-brother had made no bones about the fact that he had no use for her.

At the thought of Kikyou he felt a bit of guilt go through him – since he'd mated Sango he hadn't thought about his first love at all. Sometimes he wondered if she hadn't passed back into death already – they hadn't seen her in nearly a year, nor had they heard anything of her in all that time.

Truthfully, though, he had to admit he was glad for that – he didn't want to face her the way he had been forced to face Kagome. He'd never wanted to hurt either of the women, but... what had come between he and Sango had hit with no warning.

When he'd mated her in the heat of the moment he hadn't been able to regret it, though both of them had felt tremendous guilt for the hurt they knew that Kagome was going to feel when she finally did find out. The sad thing was that he did love Kagome dearly – but not as a mate. He could only find it in his heart to love her as family... his best friend.

He grimaced, then. Once best friend, he thought, old hurt pulsing through his heart. The worst and most painful part about it all was the not knowing what had happened to her. Then again... if they ever did find out that she'd died, he didn't know how any of them would cope with the guilt – they barely managed now as it was.

He really hated that things had come about the way they had... and that it was his claws that had hurt her, on top of the hurt they'd dealt to her heart; sometimes it was enough to make him really hate himself.

He was pulled from his thoughts as they made their way onto a large field that had seen recent battle – and with a snarl Inuyasha reacted instantly to the scents. “This is where they fought!” Skidding to a complete halt he let his mate slide from his back as she looked around, and Miroku climbed off Kirara to do the same.

It didn't take long to find the spot that was Naraku's place of death – the tattered remains of his clothes lay limp and abandoned there, covered in ash that was all that was left of the spider hanyou that had tormented so many over his lifetime. They all crowded around the spot, staring down at it in disbelief, until Inuyasha let out a low growl of hatred.

It was Sesshoumaru, all right – I can smell him. But there was someone else with him, though I can't get a scent... apparently Myouga was telling the truth – whoever she is she's a priestess. She purified the remains...”

Miroku nodded. “Hai... I can feel a touch of her power still remaining.” He frowned, then. “But it feels familiar...” he trailed off, uncertainly. “We really must catch your brother, Inuyasha. I fear that only he can answer the questions I suddenly have.”

Inuyasha cast him a sharp look but Miroku shook his head. “Let us go. We gain nothing by standing here – if you want answers, then lead us on.”

Eyes narrowed thoughtfully, he stared at the monk for a moment, then crouched for his mate to once again climb on his back. Once Miroku was back on Kirara, he took off in the direction his brother was in.

Keh... monk knows something... but what?

 

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