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Hear the Other Side by Kanna37

Chapter 1

Disclaimer: I do not own the characters of Inuyasha.

A/N: This fic is dedicated to Wiccan, for her dedicated and time consuming work to get Dokuga back up and running correctly recently. Thanks for all your efforts, Wiccan!

Amber

-zZz-

You always defend him, no matter what he does to you – why do you blind yourself so? And why do you refuse to hear the other side?

-zZz-

Sesshoumaru watched bitterly as, once again, Kagome ran to his downed half-breed half-brother, throwing him an angry glance as she moved past.

Never mind that Inuyasha had started this fight.

Why do you look at me so, miko?” he asked, a definite edge to his voice. “Did I start this battle? Have I killed him for attacking me and mine? And yet you still look at me as though I murdered him.” He turned from her in disgust. “You are blind,” he declared acidly as he walked away. “You merely throw your loyalty away when you give it to him.”

Kagome's eyes opened wide when she heard his embittered words, shock coursing through her system as she turned to stare at his retreating form. He's... he's right... he didn't start the fight – Inuyasha did, and he didn't kill him – he only fought until he knocked Inuyasha out.

Have I really... been misjudging him?” she whispered to herself. “Blaming him for everything because it was just easier to do so – so that I didn't have to blame Inuyasha for anything?” She looked down at her hands for a moment, ashamed as that last part came into her mind. It was true... she had been using Sesshoumaru as Inuyasha's scapegoat. The shame deepened. “Maybe... I should just watch for a while and try to see how he acts. After all, everyone can change – and I've never seen such an expression on his face as the one that he had just now. He looked...” she trailed off, unable to actually verbalize what she'd seen. It was just too strange and... unbelievable.

She shook her head and looked back down at the fallen form of her hanyou friend, noting that his injuries were all minor – none carried any hint of the savagery she knew the daiyoukai was capable of. He truly had merely knocked Inuyasha out and then left.

Maybe... but no, he hates Inuyasha... doesn't he? He always acted like he did. So why wouldn't he try to kill him now? He's done it in the past...

Something's changed, all right... but what?

-zZz-

After that day Kagome began to pay attention to all their meetings and dealings with the powerful Lord – close attention. And the things that she saw shocked, mystified, and shamed her.

For all that Inuyasha always called his brother the Ice Lord and other such names, insisting that he was cold and heartless, Kagome began to see that wasn't the truth. At all. Sure, Inuyasha had good reason to say those things – his brother had tortured and tormented him as far back as he could remember. But it looked as though the winds in the West had changed... and all at the apparent hand of a tiny human child.

At least, that's the only thing Kagome could pin the changes to... Rin's influence.

Still, whatever the reason, her sympathies, which had formerly resided firmly with Inuyasha began to change ever so slightly, becoming swayed more towards Sesshoumaru.

Not that she blamed Inuyasha, either... or at least, not for his anger towards his brother for the past.

What she did begin to blame him for was his refusal to believe or act on the changes he was seeing... or to get over his anger issues. So she took it on herself to begin pushing him, arguing for Sesshoumaru... pointing out the changes and differences.

And even to start sitting him when they would meet up and the hanyou would once again get needlessly aggressive.

The first time it happened after that eye-opening meeting, Sesshoumaru was visibly shocked, and turned a burning, narrow-eyed, inquisitive look on her. His question was obvious.

She sighed, glancing down at her trembling hands for a moment, then looked up at him with sorrow in her gaze. “I... thought about what you said... you know, the last time we all met. You were right. I am sorry, Sesshoumaru-sama.” She didn't say any more, but neither she nor any of the others of the group, including Inuyasha, missed the measuring look that took the place of the inquisitive one as he stared at her for several long moments.

And then he inclined his head and turned to leave. He took several steps, then paused, though he didn't turn back. “This one hopes that you will continue to listen – until you finally hear the full truth.”

Everyone stared at his retreating back in surprise, Kagome not the least. Hear the full truth... what? That he's changed? But that's obvious, and he knows I realize that now. So what else am I supposed to hear? What else am I supposed to see?

It was a question that burned in her mind over the next weeks... through all of their increasing meetings with the daiyoukai.

-zZz-

Of all the expressions she'd seen on Sesshoumaru's face, the one she was staring at now upset her the most. Because it was an expression of bitterness... and old, old pain. Centuries deep hurt... and all attributable to the way his father had handled things with his eldest son.

Sesshoumaru, as the heir to the west had expected to receive the Tessaiga – to aid in keeping control of his inheritance. But instead it had gone to Inuyasha. And for all that everyone had always assumed that Sesshoumaru's desire for the blade was due only to greed and a lust for power, Kagome had come to see the truth – it wasn't about power at all.

It was about his father's respect.

That had become quite clear after their meeting with that old enemy of his father – the original wielder of the meidou, Shishinki. Kagome had heard the acid that being had spouted at Sesshoumaru about being the less favored son, and winced in pained sympathy at the expression on his face when he realized what the connotations of the male's words were. She wasn't sure what the Inu no Taisho's reasons for doing the things he had were, but she could certainly wish that he had done things differently, that was for sure.

And that's when she began to really understand Sesshoumaru. Because it was quite obvious that most, if not all his actions towards his brother and in hiding his own heart beneath a layer of ice were all in reaction to the pain his father's perceived rejection had given him.

For all of his anger that his brother had received Tessaiga, however, when he'd learned that the blade was necessary to seal Inuyasha's youkai blood, he'd stopped trying to take the sword. Deep down, no matter how much he'd been hurt by the history between he, his father, and his brother, he couldn't quite bring himself to destroy his brother – his only sibling, half or not.

Her heart softened further at that knowledge and she wanted nothing more than to comfort him, wipe that horrid expression off his face... but she didn't dare. Instead, she simply held his gaze when it fell on her and let him see that she understood, though she did not pity him. It seemed to help, as his face smoothed into his customary even expression, and he tilted his head just a bit towards her, letting her know that her understanding – and lack of pity - was noted and appreciated before he once again continued on his way, disappearing into the distance.

-zZz-

Through all of the weeks that she studied him, her quest to understand Inuyasha's half-brother had begun to place a bit of distance between her and the other members of her group – simply because she was always preoccupied with her thoughts.

However, the distance between her and Inuyasha... was a little more deliberate.

She'd begun to be tired of the whole Kikyou-Inuyasha debacle some time before the older miko had finally died again and had started, at first unwittingly, pulling away from the feelings she'd held for the hanyou, trying to protect her heart. And after Kikyou's death she hadn't fought the distance that Inuyasha had placed between all of them and himself, she'd gone along with it.

Now that his grief had lessened, though, it looked as though he were beginning to look at her again... only this time he was trying to bring her closer than she was willing to get. It was only too obvious that the main reason he was now wanting her was because she was all he had left of Kikyou – and she refused to be someones link to the past. She was Kagome, not Kikyou.

However, because his focus was now all on her and not divided, his jealousy and possessiveness was getting completely out of hand – and for some reason unknown to her, his brother seemed to bring those tendencies out more than any other. She couldn't understand it – he had no reason to act threatened by Sesshoumaru over her – after all, the daiyoukai was not overly fond of humans... it wasn't like he wanted her or anything. Inuyasha's actions made absolutely no sense to her – but it led to every encounter with Sesshoumaru ending in Inuyasha being sat... harshly.

Something has to give, thought Kagome, frustrated. Because I can't take much more of this.

-zZz-

Why do you keep pushing me away?!” Inuyasha yelled, scowling angrily at Kagome.

She stared at him, tears in her eyes but her heart empty. “Because it's not really me your seeing, Inuyasha. I am not Kikyou. You can't be with Kikyou through me. I'm nothing like her. The past is over, Inuyasha, and it can't be regained – and certainly not in the way you're trying!”

He stared at her, even more pissed as her words hit like stones thrown with deadly accuracy. “That's bullshit, Kagome! I thought you loved me!”

I thought so, too, once,” she said slowly, quietly.

She turned and sighed, staring into the trees, her eyes picking out little save the darker and lighter shadows of moonlight playing along the forest floor. It was ironic – after all those trysts of Inuyasha's and Kikyou's in the forest, now she was the one in a clearing with him in the moonlight.

But it wasn't the same at all, and that was what she was trying to get through to him.

It wasn't working too well, though.

No! I won't listen to this shit, Kagome!” His hand slashed downward in a negative gesture of frustration because she didn't answer him. “I know you don't mean it – we belong together, and I won't listen to anything else. You're just mad about Kikyou, and I can understand that, so I'll wait until you calm down – but you're mine, Kagome, and you always will be,” he said determinedly before he turned and began to walk back towards camp. “Come on – we should go back to camp before the others come looking.”

You go on, Inuyasha – I need time to think,” she replied sadly. “This... you aren't listening to me, and I don't know how to feel about all of this. I just... need to be alone for a while.”

He stiffened, but didn't turn back around. “Keh. Don't wander too far, wench,” he said, ironically ignoring her statement about not listening to her.

She didn't say anything, simply watched him walk away until he'd disappeared into the shadows, then sighed again. Turning her head up to stare at the sky through the tops of the trees, she drooped sadly, suddenly so uncertain. With a shake of her head she began to move, just wandering along as she lost herself in her morose thoughts.

Why do I feel so... dissatisfied? Like I'm missing something important? Tears filled her eyes again, only this time she let them fall, not even realizing they were there. Inuyasha... for so long, I waited for you, only wanting to be with you. But it wasn't enough. It never would have been, either. All you ever would have seen would have been Kikyou.

But... even if we share a soul...

Why do you cry?”

Kagome started at that voice, stiffening in alarm for one moment before relaxing as she realized who it was. She wondered how she could have missed his aura.

She turned to look at the male standing behind her, a light figure against the darkness of the night.

Beautiful...

Sesshoumaru-sama,” she acknowledged softly. “You caught me by surprise.”

He simply continued to look at her. “My question, miko?”

She blinked. “Eh?”

Why do you cry?” he repeated evenly.

Cry?” she asked slowly, brow furrowing. She lifted a hand and brushed it over her cheek, surprised to find that he was correct – she had been crying. “I... didn't realize I was, but I suppose it was because of Inuyasha and Kikyou. Why can't he see that I'm not her? So we share a soul... but... does that make me her?” she asked, suddenly unsure.

A soul is almost generic – it is not who you are. Who you are is unique to each life, miko – unique to your mind and heart. Those do not transfer from life to life. Therefore, you and she are different people entirely and are not interchangeable. He is a fool that cannot understand this simple concept.”

Kagome stared at him, a little startled. “You know, it's so rare to hear you speak so much.”

He cocked a brow even as he moved closer, flowing across the ground with devastating grace. “This one only speaks when he has something to say.”

She understood what he meant immediately – he didn't waste time on idle chatter, only speaking when he had something important to impart. She smiled wryly, looking away from his penetrating gaze.

It's too bad you don't speak more, you know. You have a beautiful voice – when it's not being used to threaten my life, that is.” She looked back at him pensively, then, her eyes subdued. “It's nice to be like this, you know... peaceful. Not fighting.”

Something flashed in his golden gaze, his eyes softening on her almost imperceptibly as his own expression seemed to become almost poignant for a moment. He tilted his head in agreement. “It is.”

A small smile crossed her face. “Were you just passing by and noticed the train wreck that is my life, Sesshoumaru-sama?”

Train wreck?” he asked, a slightly confused expression settling on his usually blank face. “This one does not understand your question.”

She waved her hand, chuckling wryly. “It's a term where I'm from. It simply means that my life is a mess.”

Hn.” A knowing look took over his expression then. “That is to be expected, seeing who your companion is, miko.”

Yeah,” she sighed dejectedly, “you're right about that. But what can I do? I care about him, but it isn't the same anymore. Maybe it's selfish, but I want someone to love me for me, not for who they wish I were.” She closed her eyes with a pained sniff. “Am I wrong, Sesshoumaru-sama? Should I just accept his second-hand affections, knowing that really he's only seeing Kikyou in me?”

She was shocked to hear an angry growl at her words; opening her eyes, she shrank back on finding golden eyes rimmed with crimson in her face.

Do not ever let me hear you speak such idiocy again, miko. You know the answer to that question. If you give yourself to the hanyou, I will kill you, do you understand me? Death would be a better fate than the one you would end up with in his arms,” he snarled at her.

Kagome was completely shocked at his reaction - and his words. “You... you'd kill me?” she whispered, something inside tightening painfully at that thought, but oddly enough not with fear.

I would,” he said, with an air of cold finality that she couldn't ignore. “Rather than watch you die a slow, lingering death as you withered away inside I would make it quick.”

She looked down sadly. “Then I... after this all ends, I'll have to go home. I guess there really isn't anything for me here.”

He moved so silently that she didn't even realize he was gone until she heard his words ghosting back at her from under the trees.

Is Inuyasha then the only one worthy of your attention? Are there truly no other males here for you to consider?”

She couldn't hear anything else for the sudden silence his words left her with.

What?

-zZz-

Kagome never got the chance to ask him what he'd meant, the battle with Naraku coming faster than any of them had thought it would, and then after wishing the jewel out of existence she'd found herself back in her own era, with the well sealed.

And so she brooded on his words and the fact that she'd never see him again, for three long years.

-zZz-

~Three Years Later~

Inuyasha stared with furious eyes at his hated older brother, no longer willing to let his suspicions live on as they were. He wanted to know the truth.

Tell me, you fluffy bastard, why do you really keep coming back here? Why did you all of a sudden leave Rin here, hmm? Don't think I haven't watched you when you come, with your excuses of seeing the brat and bringing her things. You always sniff the area so carefully,” he snarled. “What are you really looking for?”

Sesshoumaru paused in his step, then halted. He'd just been on his way out of the village when his half-brother had confronted him, and he wasn't in the mood for dealing with the whelp. It looked as though he had no choice, however. Inuyasha was persistent, if nothing else.

What concern is it of yours, Inuyasha, what I do here?”

Eyes narrowing, he growled deeply, anger overriding everything. “Answer me, you prick. This is my village, and I don't want you here.”

With an inward sigh of aggravation Sesshoumaru glanced up at the sky, then looked back over his shoulder at his younger sibling. “Why so suspicious, half-breed? Is Rin not still my ward? She is here, and therefore at times I also will be here.”

He tensed slightly as he heard the slight snick of Tessaiga being thumbed from its sheath, though his brother had not yet drawn it, and waited. He didn't wait long.

It's Kagome, isn't it? Don't think I didn't notice your interest in her before she disappeared, Sesshoumaru,” he spat. “But even if she comes back, you'll never have her. She's mine!”

Inuyasha was taken aback at the mocking chuckle that came from his brother, then, and something inside him shifted as he heard it – he'd never heard a sound such as that from his stoic elder sibling.

Is she really, half-breed? It is amusing that you should think so, when she told me herself that while she still cared for you, it was not in the same way that it once had been. You betrayed her too many times with the undead, Inuyasha.”

Even while his heart sank at his brother's far too-true words, the rage inside would not let him consider what had been said as valid in any way.

Shut up, you bastard! Like Kagome ever talked to you about anything!” He slashed his claws through the heated air with force in a negatory gesture brimming with virulent hatred. “Take your damn ward and leave my village and don't come back! When Kagome returns, and she will, it will be to be with me – and there's no way in hell I'll ever allow you anywhere near her again, understand me, you son of a bitch?!”

Sesshoumaru turned to face his brother, ice now clear in his gaze. “You would do well to understand that there is nothing you can do to make me do anything I do not wish to. I leave Rin here because I choose to do so; my reasons are my own and matter not to you. It is certain that you cannot stop me, at any rate.”

Inuyasha stiffened at the obvious challenge from the older male, his mind going blank as his rage and fear overwhelmed his human blood, coming dangerously close to freeing the beast that lived inside him.

Voice dropping several levels and going almost unrecognizable, he snarled, “Draw your sword, Sesshoumaru. Today you die!”

Before the second word was out of his brother's mouth, Sesshoumaru had Bakusaiga in hand and was halfway across the distance to Inuyasha, who barely reacted in time, just getting Tessaiga up to block the deadly blow.

Landing heavily from where he'd been flung by his brother, Inuyasha glared over at him and jeered. “What's the matter, Sesshoumaru? Can't take the truth? Kagome loves me, not you. Never you!” He stared fixedly at the daiyoukai for several seconds. “Why are you so interested in her, anyway? She's one of those damn humans you hate so much. Why should you care in any way about her?”

Sesshoumaru said not a word, simply moving to attack once more, his temper finally getting the better of him as his eyes rimmed crimson with contempt. Silver hair streaking behind him like a living banner, he slashed outward with his sword taking Tessaiga low on the blade, a jarring, forceful blow that openly startled his brother.

T-touched a nerve, did I, bastard?” he mocked, barely managing to push his brother back enough to raise Tessaiga and slash back at him.

Eyes going fully crimson, Sesshoumaru's aura pulsed through the air with ominous force, causing Inuyasha to leap back in shock, never having seen his brother lose his legendary control in such a manner but once – when Naraku had stolen Rin, infuriating the daiyoukai by taking something he considered his.

Even then, it hadn't been like this.

Inuyasha understood then that he was very close to death – closer than he'd ever been in his life.

Disengaging completely from his brother he leapt even further back, crouching low and holding Tessaiga defensively before himself. For once common sense kicked in, and he kept his mouth shut as his brother visibly struggled to regain control.

After several long, dangerous moments, the crimson fire of his gaze faded back to red-rimmed gold and Inuyasha breathed just a little easier.

But only for a second.

I will warn you once, and only once, Inuyasha,” he said, with deadly intent. “You are not my equal – not even with Tessaiga. If I had truly wished you dead before, dead you would be. Do not tempt me to reconsider leaving you with your life.” Stepping back, he sheathed Bakusaiga and then turned on his heel to leave, finishing his ultimatum as he disappeared into the forest. “Never again attempt to keep me from anything I consider mine, half-breed – or you will be meeting your mother and our father on the other side much sooner than you had planned.”

And with that he was gone, leaving a shell-shocked, angry hanyou behind...

But one who knew that on this day he had taunted the devil... and almost met death.

Sheathing Tessaiga he wiped the sweat from his brow, and with an angry pout he slipped off to sit before the Bone Eater's well and stare into its depths, fully aware that his suspicions had been correct.

Sesshoumaru wanted Kagome. And badly, if that confrontation was anything to go by.

For the first time in his life, Inuyasha was truly afraid – because he knew that his brother was right.

He had betrayed Kagome too many times with Kikyou, and that single fact meant that he might just have lost his last hope of holding onto his past in any way.

-zZz-

Three years, she thought, three years away from the life I wanted to live.

To her, it seemed as though much more than three years had passed since the day that they had defeated Naraku, since she'd come home and the well had closed her out. It all had just validated her thoughts that there wasn't anything there in that place and time for her, though, despite Sesshoumaru's words to her.

She hadn't seen any of her friends from the past since... or Sesshoumaru – except in her dreams.

The funny thing was how that single fact bothered her more than anything else. For some reason, the beautiful youkai Lord that had begun to open up to her just a little before she was yanked away was on her mind for much of the three years she'd been stuck in her era.

It took her a long time to figure out why. But when she did, despair kicked in and she almost... almost gave up.

She'd fallen in love with him.

But even now, the day after her high school graduation, she couldn't figure out how or when it had happened – or why she'd not figured it out until so long after she'd been ripped away from that world.

Was I deliberately leaving myself blinded to my feelings – because of the pain of knowing that even if I hadn't been taken away from that world, I could never have him anyway – because I'm human?

With a quiet, sad chuckle she acknowledged the truth in that thought. But what's even worse... if I could go back, leave this world behind forever, I would. Even knowing that all I could ever be was an acquaintance, that the only times I'd see him would be by chance, I... would still go back. Because then I would at least be able to see him once in a while, but here... I never will.

She strolled slowly over towards the Goshinboku – this is where it all started, five hundred years in the past. With a sigh, a tear slipped down her cheek as a strangely hollow feeling made her middle feel sore. I loved Inuyasha so much, but it was never enough. It was like no one could love him enough to fill the hole left inside when he lost Kikyou. I didn't understand then, why it was that way... but now I do. Because no one else could ever love me enough to fill up the hole inside where my feelings for Sesshoumaru are.

And I've only just realized I love him – Inuyasha knew for fifty years he loved Kikyou. But maybe... maybe he's managed to find someone now to fill the void and be happy with. She blinked as a certain thought crossed her mind, and wasn't sure what to feel about it.

Lifting idle fingers to the trunk of the tree, she stared blindly up into its branches, mind lost in another world.

How would I feel if I gave up my life here to go back there, and Sesshoumaru had found someone to love? Flashes of pain shot through her... but they were followed by feelings of contentment, and she accepted what her heart was telling her with a peculiar sort of resignation.

I'd hurt... but I'd also be happy to see him happy. And I would still choose to go back to that world – and stay.

Even as her thoughts took her back five hundred years into the past to the place where her heart lay, her feet took her to the beginnings of the path back to that place. When she woke to her surroundings once again she found herself leaning over the well... and staring into blue skies as a cooling breeze filtered through it and ruffled her bangs.

Her heart stopped in that instant and she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that she had to go – now. There was no time to search her family out, no time for lengthy goodbyes... and she found that she didn't regret that. But she was glad that for some reason fate had called her mother out here to her – after all, she didn't want to just disappear, leaving her family with no knowledge of what had happened to her.

She held her mother and told her about her decision and her heart, and then...

Then, with everything said that needed said...

She jumped... and never looked back.

-zZz-

Tears still rimming her eyes from her goodbye with her mother, Kagome landed at the bottom of the well five hundred years before she'd jumped and breathed in deeply, heart beating with happiness at the beautiful, clear air that met her senses.

She took a few moments to just breathe, calming her rapidly beating heart and eyeing the vines on the inside of the well. She snorted in amusement at the thought of climbing out – she was dreadfully out of practice after three years; by the time she made it to the top, she'd probably be exhausted.

Before she had the chance to get a start, though, a hand surrounded by fire rat cloth appeared above her, and excited and happy to know that Inuyasha was still alive and well she grasped the hand, allowing him to pull her from the well in one smooth motion.

She smiled down at the hanyou, pleased to see him after so long. “Inuyasha... I'm sorry, were you waiting for me?” The thought that he'd come to check the well softened her heart – it proved he cared, even if he could never truly love Kagome rather than the Kikyou in Kagome.

That knowledge no longer hurt, however – she was long since past that pain.

You idiot,” he breathed as he pulled her into a hug, “what have you been up to?” He could be nothing but glad that his brother had been to the village only hours before – it wasn't likely he'd be visiting again so soon, and that gave him a chance to get his own foot in the door with the future-born miko – or so he hoped.

Kagome chuckled a bit as she pulled away, looking up at him with a wry smile. He'll never change, she thought fondly, always with the names.

Her attention was soon caught by the rest of her friends as they swarmed the well clearing, and before long she was seated in Kaede's hut visiting with everyone. She was caught off-guard, however, when she saw Rin and was definitely surprised to hear that the girl lived with Kaede now.

The moment she got the chance when Rin ran off to play, she asked with some concern, “Did Sesshoumaru-sama abandon her here, Kaede?”

No, Kagome. He comes and visits her regularly, protects the village from afar, and still takes care of his responsibilities when it comes to providing for her. He was here just a few hours ago, as a matter of fact,” the elder miko said blandly, despite Inuyasha's loud growl.

Oh,” Kagome said, a mild blush crossing her face at Kaede's knowing expression. She looked down, not meeting Inuyasha's sudden narrow-eyed expression and Miroku's surprised face. Sango just looked perplexed, as if she couldn't understand the reason for Kagome's question or reaction.

W-well, anyway, I suppose I need to figure out what I'm gonna do now that I'm here,” she sighed, putting thoughts of Sesshoumaru out of her mind. “I... Kaede... perhaps you could begin training me as a miko?” It was, after all, the only talent that she had that would be at all useful in this era. Besides her knowledge of healing, of course – which was also a purview of Miko in this time.

The elder priestess nodded thoughtfully. “Oh, hai, that would be for the best, I'm thinking. Ye may stay with Rin and I and we will see about getting ye another bow and quiver of arrows. Ye will be needing them; even though the jewel be no more, still youkai be a danger to any village.”

Hmph,” Inuyasha snorted rudely. “As if I don't take care of any marauding youkai before they get here, babaa.” He shot a look at Kagome, then stood up and stomped over to her, holding out an imperious hand. “Come on, Kagome – I think we need to talk.”

She stared at his hand for a moment, suddenly uncomfortable – what could he want to talk about that he couldn't say in front of the others? She sincerely hoped it wasn't what she was thinking he wanted to talk about...

He led her swiftly from the hut, refusing to relinquish his hold on her hand, and Kagome, resigned to the confrontation she now knew she couldn't get away from, followed without protest. She hated the thought that she was going to hurt her friend so much with what was about to be said, but it was inevitable.

They hadn't had the chance to talk things through before she'd been pulled back home after wishing the jewel away, so Inuyasha had never learned of her changed feelings towards him. And now even more, with her finally realized feelings towards his brother... giving in and staying with him just because she didn't want to hurt him was not an option.

Especially as she fully remembered Sesshoumaru's promise to take her life if she gave in to his brother's twisted need to hold onto her because of her past incarnation. She had no desire to lose her life – and certainly not by Sesshoumaru's claws.

She would never wish to burden him in that way.

-zZz-

Sesshoumaru, despite the fact that his brother didn't realize it, was never far from the village.

He had long known how to hide his scent and aura from the boy, and since the day that Kagome had disappeared from this era had kept a vigil over the village she'd been so much a part of, though she hadn't come from it.

It was amusing to him, to say the least, that for once in his misbegotten life Inuyasha had hit the nail on its proverbial head. He was there because of the miko – he had deliberately used his ward as an excuse to maintain ties to a group of people he'd never had much use for in the past. Not that he didn't have every intention of making sure that Rin was taken care of in the most befitting manner – his ward would have only the best caretaker, and it was obvious that the elder miko of the small village was a good choice.

It worked out well for him.

He had known, even as Inuyasha had returned from the meidou alone, that Kagome would one day reappear – it was only left to see what the reason for her return would be. He had been perfectly serious when he'd told her that he would never allow her to be with his brother, so if she returned with that thought in mind he'd have to pull her away and convince her otherwise.

He didn't think, however, that she would seek to gain his brother's affections again – what he'd told his brother during their confrontation had, after all, been the truth. She had said that her feelings for the hanyou were no longer the same as they once had been. He wondered if she'd ever understood what he'd been trying to get her to see and understand... namely, his own interest in her, but somehow he doubted she'd figured it out.

Oh, he knew that she'd begun to see him very differently to how she once had, but he didn't think that her new understanding had gone as far as it had needed to. After all, it was undoubtedly astonishing – that he, Sesshoumaru of the Western Lands, had fallen victim to the same vice as his father.

A human woman.

Still, she was more than merely human as Inuyasha's mother had not been, and she was most certainly not powerless like the hime. He'd long since realized, however, that particular fact was merely a sop to his arrogance – it would not have mattered if she was no more than Izayoi had been.

He would still have wanted her.

With a slight sigh he tilted his nose into the breeze, enjoying the coolness of the air against his face, and thought back to that dark day she'd disappeared. When the meidou had claimed her he'd had to fight himself with everything within to keep from going after her – since Inuyasha was now the one to wield the meidou, he'd have to be the one to go in to save her. It had been the hardest thing he'd ever done – to let his brother, his rival, had the girl but known he looked at it that way – go after her, while he waited and hoped for the correct outcome.

If Inuyasha had returned with failure in his eyes he would have died, because he, Sesshoumaru, would have killed him painfully – and immediately.

With a restlessness not native to him he leapt to the treetops, surveying the lands around him and wondering why he felt so unsettled all of a sudden. Something had changed... he could feel it in the winds, in the energy of the earth – but what?

Eyes narrowing on the village that lay spread out before him, something inside clenched – could it be? Had the miko returned? Was that what this feeling inside, this suddenly energized feeling within his usually apathetic soul meant? It had to be, he decided – nothing save Kagome had ever made him feel this way, and with his youkai blood in a sudden uproar, he once again sniffed the air searching for any trace of her scent.

When he caught it his insides tightened with triumph and in a bright streak of white light, he was gone.

-zZz-

Oblivious to the rapidly approaching daiyoukai, Kagome was nervously trying to figure out how to let her friend down easily even as he finally came to a stop at the foot of the Goshinboku and plopped down; gesturing for her to take a seat next to him, he waited 'til she did.

He sighed and looked up into the branches of the great tree.

Why did you come back, Kagome?” he asked softly, taking the miko off-guard. She hadn't expected him to start with a question.

She stared at him blankly, then blinked, not knowing what to say. “W-well, uh... you see,” she stuttered, and he laughed grimly, somehow unsurprised at her inability to give him an immediate answer.

Come on, Kagome, it's not that hard a question to answer, now is it? You had to have had a reason to do something like this – something so drastic. You knew before you jumped that you'd not be able to go back. You gave up your future world and your family... for what? Why did you come back?” he asked again.

She sighed. “Inuyasha...” shaking her head, she plucked several blades of grass and twirled them nervously in dainty fingers. “I... after being there for three years, finishing school... I just didn't fit in there anymore. When the others, my friends were talking about college and what they wanted from life, I realized that world didn't have what I wanted. This one-” she paused for a moment, watching the dancing grass in her fingers, “-this world corrupted me, I guess. Things over there are so... fake, sometimes,” she mused, not noticing his gaze on her nor another golden gaze that was pinned to her from back in the forest. “I missed my friends here, and the bonds we created on the battlefield and during our quest. Nothing in my time could compare to that.”

Inuyasha eyed her askance. “So you came back to be with... us?”

Kagome nodded, her eyes still on her hands. “Yeah,” she said softly. Sort of, she thought to herself.

Inuyasha inhaled and then, hands clenching the pommel of his sword, he asked, “And what if I said I wanted you to come back... for me?”

She stiffened. “Inuyasha,” she breathed, finally looking up at him with pained eyes. “That's not fair,” she said. “How can you expect me to give myself to someone who only wants me because he can't have the one his heart really yearns for? Kikyou will always be first in your heart – shouldn't I be allowed to find the one that would put me first in their heart? Don't I deserve that?” Her voice was full of anguish, and Inuyasha couldn't help the stunned inhale that came with her words.

He'd never thought of it like that.

Saddened, he looked away. “And you think you're gonna find that here, Kagome?” he almost whispered.

Fingers dropping the now destroyed bits of grass they went instead to the hem of her short skirt, rolling it around absently as her thoughts drifted with sadness to the one who now held her heart, and she shrugged. “I don't know, Inuyasha... but as long as I stay true to my own heart, there's always hope.” She looked up, then, and pinned him with a sad gaze. “I do love you, Inuyasha, but it isn't in the same way that I once did. When I finally understood, you know, about your heart, and mine... and Kikyou's, I... let go. You will always be my best friend... but that's all that we will ever be. And you'll see... as time goes on you'll realize I'm right. Who knows... maybe someday you'll meet someone new – someone not connected the way you and I and Kikyou are. I think that would be a good thing for you – to leave the past completely behind.”

With a stiff nod Inuyasha clambered to his feet, and refusing to look at her, he said, “I... I think I'm gonna go patrol for a while. Need to think, ya know?” Without waiting for a response he took off, and Kagome let out a little sob as a few tears ran down her cheeks.

Damn... that was hard,” she whispered to herself. “I hated hurting him, but I couldn't... it wouldn't have been right to lead him on. It would only have hurt worse in the long run.”

You are correct, miko. This one is pleased that you did not take the easy way out of this situation,” Sesshoumaru said as he walked out from under the trees, cocking a brow at her stunned dismay when she laid eyes on him.

S-sesshoumaru-sama! What... what are you doing here?” she gasped, barely able to speak around the lump in her throat at his sudden appearance.

After three years, seeing him once more threatened to steal more than her breath.

A shining, white figure in high relief against the darkness of the forest, his perfection of face and form left her shocked – and suddenly desperate. She wanted so badly to run her fingers through his beautiful silver locks that waved so sweetly in the gentle breeze. Spellbound, she watched as he took several steps towards her, his form only highlighted more when he stepped into a patch of sunlight.

His golden eyes held her own gaze captive, rendering her speechless as he stared at her, and she shivered in atavistic delight at the bright eyes so intent on her.

He didn't answer her directly. “Tell me, miko, do you remember my question to you just before the battle with Naraku?” he asked finally.

Kagome blinked, brow furrowed slightly. Do I remember...? How could I forget? That damn question has plagued me for three years! “Ano...” she hesitated, then blurted, “Yeah, though I could never figure out what you meant. I mean... who else would I consider? There was Kouga, but I never felt that way about him, and the only other one I could think of that you might have meant was Miroku – and he was already taken.” She rolled her eyes. “And besides... I couldn't handle his constant lecherous behavior,” she finished wryly.

And are those two the only males you know in this era, miko?” he asked blandly.

Well... I kinda thought you were really talking about humans, since you're so against humans and youkai together... but I really don't know any other human guys but Miroku. And I don't know if I could really stand the way humans around here treat their women, anyway,” she sighed. “Where I come from women are not objects to be owned and used.” She thought about it for a moment, then shook her head. “I really have no idea who else you could have been talking about, Sesshoumaru-sama. I just don't know anyone else here.”

He frowned at her, displeased at her willful – in his opinion, at least - blindness. “Do you not also know me?”

She stared at him for a moment, then burst into laughter, though she had to hastily tamp down on the hurt his words caused. As if he would really mean... “Oh, but I know better than that, Sesshoumaru-sama – like I just said, I know how you feel about human-youkai relationships!” She waved a hand his direction, not at all taking his words seriously. “Don't worry... I would never sully you by thinking you meant such a thing.”

Not the least bit happy with her answer, Sesshoumaru frowned even deeper at her, causing her to look surprised. “Have you still not heard, miko, after all this time?” he murmured as he moved closer to her yet again. “It is apparent to this one that you learned that he was not necessarily what you thought at one time, and yet you seem unable to take the final step and realize what this Sesshoumaru has been trying to make you see since well before the fight with Naraku. Why is that?”

Not sure what to make of his words she simply stared at him, uncertainty clear in her features, and he sighed, visibly annoyed. For the second time that day, she was asked a certain question.

Tell me, Kagome,” he asked gently, surprisingly so for his obvious irritation, “why did you really return?”

And just like that, the opacity in her eyes failed and he saw exactly what he'd wanted to see for so long. Her heart lay open and unbound, and he knew triumph in that moment – she was his for the taking and he had every intention of taking everything she offered – and probably more.

For one long moment the silence between them held every meaning that it ever could, and then he held out his hand to her.

If you would have your desires, the ones that truly brought you back to this time fulfilled, then take my hand, Kagome. You dream of a life with me... and I will give you that if you but open your heart and listen - and take that final step.”

Speechless, held captive by his suddenly burning eyes, Kagome could no more deny his command than she could stop breathing and without hesitation she put her tiny hand in his much larger one, allowing him to pull her to her feet to stand before him.

Is... is this what you were trying to say, that day?” she whispered.

Open your heart, woman, and listen. Not to my words but to what makes me who I am. Only then will you know.” He didn't loosen his hold on her hand – or on her eyes, keeping her pinned with the intensity of the emotions swirling in red-hazed gold orbs.

She shook her head. “It's so unbelievable,” she murmured. “How did this happen, Sesshoumaru-sama?”

Something in his eyes shifted, then, and he finally looked away though he did not relinquish his hold on her hand. “It happened because it had to. It was inevitable, miko. Two souls crafted for each other – it is the hand of the Kami that decided that the one created for me would wear a human shell. Truly, it matters not. Even I, Sesshoumaru, cannot fight the hand of Kami and fate. Nor do I even wish to any longer. We are what we are meant to be – together.”

She inhaled deeply, then let it out; clenching her hand within his, she asked, “So... this means what for me?”

A slight smirk tilted the corner of his beautifully molded lips as he looked back at her. “It means that the fate that you thought you were facing when you returned here is different – it is what you hoped for, deep down. Your destiny does not lie in this village – but out there-” he gestured with his other hand, “-with me.” He shrugged elegantly. “It will be what we make of it.”

A sad look crossed her face. “You mean, I have to give up my friends again?” she asked.

He pulled her closer at that, tugging her forward to land against his chest lightly, so as not to endanger her with his armor. “Just because our fate does not lie in living here does not mean that we cannot visit, woman. Just as I have done for the three years you have been gone. I will not, after all, abandon Rin.”

Hesitantly, she raised her other hand, laying it against his chest over his armor, and looked up at him searchingly. “How did you know how I felt?”

He returned her searching gaze. “I listened,” he said finally, and in that statement she began to understand what he had been trying to get through to her so long ago.

He listened to his heart. He wanted me to do the same... to hear the other side of things. It took me a long time, though.

I'm sorry it took so long for me to understand,” she said earnestly, and he tilted his head in acknowledgment.

Come, then, miko. If you are sure of your choice, we must go speak to your friends and tell them of your decision to go with me.”

Kagome stared at him for another moment, then nodded, a warm, shy smile crossing her face as she finally took in the fact that her deepest dreams were coming true. She tucked a strand of her dark hair behind her ear. “Yeah... I wouldn't want to worry anyone when I just up and disappear.”

With that, she followed placidly along at his side as he strode towards the village miko's hut. It seemed that the adventure her life had always been was nowhere near over, and she was perfectly happy with that. As long as the rest of her adventures happened with the male at her side she was perfectly content.

She blushed deeply, however, at the startled silence that filled Kaede's hut when Sesshoumaru brushed aside the matting over the door after a commanding tap against the lintel and pulled her in behind him. The only one not taken by surprise at the sight of the daiyoukai holding Kagome's hand was Kaede.

She was the first to break the silence. “So, I take it ye won't be needing the training – nor the place to live, Kagome?” she asked archly, and Sesshoumaru narrowed his eyes on the elderly woman.

Why is it that you are not surprised, miko?”

Because I pay attention, Sesshoumaru-sama,” she replied. “I saw your eyes when young Kagome here was pulled into the meidou. And took note of the fact that ye left your ward with me... in the village that would be the one place Kagome would return to should she manage to find her way back through time.”

He eyed her for a moment more, then nodded curtly in acceptance. “You are correct – she will not be residing here.”

 

Miroku finally found his voice after a shell-shocked glance at his wife. “Kagome... what about Inuyasha? We assumed that you had returned to be with him.”

Kagome tugged her hand from Sesshoumaru's and then went to her knees before her friends, hoping to make them understand. “I gave up on that a long time ago, guys. Like I told Inuyasha a little while ago – it isn't fair to me to expect me to give myself to a man that could only ever put me second in his heart. I deserve to be first to someone, too, after all. Inuyasha could never give me that.”

With a glance at the bland-faced Sesshoumaru, Miroku asked disbelievingly, “And you think he can give you that?”

How do you know that I cannot, monk?” Sesshoumaru asked. “Do you pretend to know me?”

Sango put a hand on her husband's shoulder and shook her head at him, then looked up at the daiyoukai before answering his question. “No, we don't know you, Sesshoumaru-sama, but if Kaede is not surprised by this and Kagome wants you then we will accept what has happened.” She looked at Kagome, then. “Does Inuyasha know?” she asked.

Kagome shook her head. “No... Sesshoumaru came after he left. I guess I need to find him and tell him, huh?”

They were all startled at the voice that came from behind Sesshoumaru then – all except the daiyoukai.

So... I was right, wasn't I, Sesshoumaru?” Inuyasha asked despondently as he stepped around his brother. “You were waiting all this time... for her.”

Hn,” Sesshoumaru agreed noncommittally, not saying anything else – showing a sensitivity to his brother's hurt feelings that was unexpected by everyone in the hut except Kagome.

Inuyasha looked at Kagome for a moment, then his shoulders sagged and he nodded. “He can give you what you wanted. You know, that being first thing, 'cause it's for sure he ain't never loved anyone else in his whole blasted life. I hope... I hope you're happy, Kagome.”

Looking at him solemnly she nodded back at him, knowing that no more needed to be said. “Thanks, Inuyasha,” and with that she stood up and moved around the room, hugging everyone. “I'm not going to disappear forever, you know. I'll always come back to visit!” she finished, trying to cheer the suddenly somber atmosphere.

Forced smiles greeted her efforts and she sighed, knowing that things would get better with a little time. And after all, she had plenty of that. With one final wave she followed Sesshoumaru from the hut, and then her gaze swept across the village before landing on him.

So... what now?” she asked, feeling excited about the future for the first time in three long, lonely years.

He met her eyes, and once again held out his hand to her. “We go where the wind takes us, Kagome.”

With a smile that lit her eyes from within she took his hand...

And stepped with a full and open heart into her destiny.

-zZz-

A/N: And done... damned if this fic didn't take me forever to complete!

Amber

Edited 10/13/2013

 

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