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And Hell I would Brave for You by Kanna37

Chapter 1

Disclaimer: I do not own the characters of Inuyasha.

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Kagome sat on a hillside away from camp, knees up and arms around her and looked with quiet pensiveness at the brightly lit sky that overlay the silent Sengoku Jidai landscape. It felt like lifetimes had come and gone since she'd first landed here, looking up at the sky in a world that she'd never imagined existed.

This place had seen so many of her firsts. First youkai, first battles, first erratic bursts of reiki... first love. For a long time, she'd figured Inuyasha'd be her last love, too – she hadn't had the courage to think of allowing someone else back into her heart. But she'd learned that permission had nothing to do with it – your heart chose for itself, and it didn't listen to any commands otherwise.

Four years had come and gone since that frightening day when she'd been dragged down an old, dirty well and into a mystical, magical land full of danger and adventure. And in all that time, they were still fighting the same nemesis... Naraku. He'd become bold in some ways, yet always hiding his true self away, making it near impossible to actually confront him and finish the whole thing one way or another.

But despite that lack of resolution against the spider, no one had been expecting what Inuyasha, in his hatred of Naraku and his fixation on destroying him, especially after Kikyou's final death, had done... he'd gone to his older brother and suggested joining forces. Nothing else mattered to him by that time except Naraku's defeat and death – not even his lifetime of abuse at his brother's hands.

Even more surprisingly, Sesshoumaru had agreed. He'd considered his brother for some time, and then let his gaze wander over the rest of them, until he'd come to her. He'd stared at her for quite a while before he'd turned away and told them to follow if they wished to. And that had been that.

Inuyasha had withdrawn from everyone, and it was clear that in his mind he was already gone, and Kagome had immediately understood exactly what that meant. She'd hidden her grief from everyone, but after months of living with it eating at her soul, she'd finally just stopped hurting and let him go. She knew that after Naraku was destroyed, he would leave this world behind to follow Kikyou, and was no longer willing to let him take her with him. He'd already taken her emotional innocence, and she wasn't willing to let him take any more of her away.

Sesshoumaru had watched her quietly throughout their time with him, though she hadn't really noticed it, and slowly, after she demonstrated that Inuyasha no longer held a stranglehold on her heart and loyalty, he'd begun to converse with her, to question her about life and the world and the knowledge her learning in her era had given her.

Or perhaps it would be better phrased that he listened to her. He said little, just enough to encourage her to speak, but he listened as though she were imparting knowledge he absolutely needed to have. Once her purpose as Inuyasha's crutch had departed, his interest gave her something to cling to – something that stroked that part of her that needed to be needed. And so she had not thought about it, following the daiyoukai down any path he led without realizing how important he had become to her.

But her companions, besides Inuyasha, did eventually notice, and were of conflicting opinions on whether her interest in the cold Lord was a good thing or a bad thing. Yes, it had helped her get over Inuyasha's last, lingering hold on her heart, but did it make any real difference, when the male she had turned to was unlikely to ever return her interest? And so the last years of the quest had gone, Kagome slowly falling in love with a different Taisho brother, and that brother allowing her closer than anyone else, while still yet seeming so aloof while her companions watched on with concerned eyes.

Now, though, it was the end of the road. They had finally cornered Naraku, who had come to realize that he could not win his deepest desire unless he was willing to take the risk of confronting his enemies for it. Tomorrow the battle would begin, and both sides knew it. And that was why Kagome was on that hillside alone, thinking about what would happen on the morrow – and what she would wish for to rid the world of the Shikon Jewel.

She knew without Inuyasha ever saying a word that he did not desire the jewel any longer; he had no use for something that belonged to the world of the living when he planned on dying. And so that left her with deciding the best way to destroy the threat that the jewel posed.

It never crossed her mind that they would not win the battle – Sesshoumaru would never be defeated by a halfbreed spider with delusions of grandeur. She didn't think there was anything left alive on earth that really could pose a threat to the inuyoukai. He truly was the pinnacle of youkai breeding, and no one even approaching his power and magnificence would be born again to a dying race whose time had come and gone.

She was so lost in her thoughts that she didn't notice the quiet male standing behind her at the bottom of the hill and watching her. His presence was radiating far and wide, as he'd left his aura unbound and unchecked, and so she truly had no warning that he was there until he moved to stand next to her, and the silver of his hair brushed across her arm as he sat down beside her.

Startled, she turned wide eyes on him and wondered why he was there. Was he about to impart some instructions for the battle they were facing? She waited patiently for him to speak, turning her eyes back to the sky in the meantime, knowing that nothing would make him talk until he chose to do so.

He said nothing for some time, simply watching the sky as she was, and after a while, she became so sure he wasn't going to speak that she was taken by surprise when he did. His deep, silky baritone slid over her with an almost tactile force, and she shivered deep inside, just as she always did when he spoke.

What is on your mind?”

She blinked, startled at his conversational gambit. “Uhm... the same thing as everyone else, I guess. The battle tomorrow – or more correctly,” she sighed, “what's going to happen after it.” She blinked again, sleepily, as his energy began to thrum over her in waves. It always relaxed her when he did that, and he knew it.

Do you speak of Inuyasha's fate?” he asked, not looking at her.

Startled, she shook her head. “No... Inuyasha left a long time ago. What's here with us is only his shadow. Tomorrow that shadow will simply dissipate and I know that. I wish things had been different, but they aren't, and it's truly none of my business anymore. He chose his own path, and I respect that.” She picked a piece of grass and whirled it between her fingers, staring down at it thoughtfully. “I'm talking about how to get rid of the Shikon no Tama. What wish I should make to destroy it so that it doesn't cause any other calamity with its cursed existence.”

Good.”

He said nothing more, and suddenly curious, Kagome couldn't help the question that spilled from her lips. “What are you thinking of, Sesshoumaru-sama?”

Of risk versus reward,” he replied, his answer only confusing the bright-eyed girl. She wrinkled her nose.

Well, that doesn't tell me anything,” she muttered, sighing as she once again turned her gaze to the stars. He's always such a mystery, she thought, but he wouldn't be who he is if he wasn't.

Again, a peaceful silence fell, and Kagome fell into her thoughts so deeply that she didn't notice when bright gold eyes turned from perusing the night sky to look at her. He studied her profile for some time before he spoke again.

After the jewel is gone, what will you do?”

She started at his voice, turning to meet his eyes as his youki gentled, washing over her in less demanding waves. “Oh... I don't know,” she finally said, looking away to clasp her hands together in a desperate attempt not to reach out and touch him as she badly wanted to do. “Where do I really belong? That's a question I've often thought of. I don't feel right when I go through the well anymore – of course, that world has moved on without me, and I don't think it's possible to catch up anymore. But what is there for me here?” she asked, her voice sad. She exhaled deeply after a moment, that sadness deepening. “I... just don't know.”

What will you do after the battle is over and our quest is done?” she asked after a moment's silence, hoping he'd give an answer. She really wanted to know.

For a minute, he was quiet and still as only he could be, his eyes shrouded from her, and then he sighed, just slightly, and Kagome's eyes widened. She'd never heard him make that sound before.

It confused her.

Sesshoumaru-sama?” she prompted softly, concerned.

That is the question that is at the core of my dilemma,” he finally responded. “There is something that I desire to have, yet I cannot decide whether the reward outweighs its price.”

Oh. Well... what is it that you want? I must confess I can't think of what could be causing you to be so uncertain. You've always seemed so sure of yourself and your path.” She picked another piece of grass with nervous fingers and played with it.

Because what I want is human. And I must decide if having this human would be worth the cost,” he responded, causing Kagome's eyes to round in shock.

Does he mean Rin? She is getting older, and though still just a little too young, it won't be but a few more years that standards here would have her an adult. Her heart fell and she looked away, her hands clenching tightly around herself as she dropped the grass her fingers had mangled and grasped her knees almost as though to protect herself from the blow she believed was about to come.

What's the price that you're talking about?” she asked, keeping her voice calm despite her heartache. She had gotten quite good at pretending.

He was silent for so long she thought he had decided not to answer her, so she was surprised when he said, “To give myself to a human means that someday I will lose her. For when we die, she will go to the paradise of the humans, and I will go to the place of youkai in hell. I will never see her again, and that pains me. Is such a grievous wound as that would be worth the years of her presence while we yet live? That is what I question.”

She lowered her head and stared at her lap, angrily forcing her foolish heart to accept that he would never be hers. But if he was happy, then she could accept the loss. Once she had gotten herself back under control, she asked, “What does your heart tell you?” She glanced at him, taking note of the glow of his eyes. It was her turn to sigh quietly. “In this type of situation, listening to your head won't help you. Only your heart can guide you now.”

Making a move to stand, she said, “I'll let you alone to make your decision. Whatever you decide, just know that I wish you happiness, Sesshoumaru-sama.”

Before she could move, however, his hand shot out and gripped her arm. He looked up with smoky golden eyes and held her gaze with his. He could easily see that she meant what she was saying. It was also clear that she had not associated his want of a human female with herself. She thought he was speaking of another, and was willing to see him with whoever he chose as long as he was content in his choice.

It was that willingness to give up what her heart desired so deeply that made her so very worthy of his affections. Oh, he was very aware of her feelings for him, and had been for some time. The girl was not very good at hiding it, though she seemed to think she was. Of course, that could be because she had, indeed, fooled her companions for quite a while. But he was not so blind.

Her attention and her willingness to see him happy in whatever way he chose seduced his affections, and it wasn't really all that long before he was bound to accept that he was more like his father than he'd ever thought he could be. And that thought brought no bitterness in the here and now, as it once would have done. Truly, he had changed greatly in the four years since he'd met her.

In one single second, Kagome's world opened up and possibilities that she had not known existed before were suddenly before her as he pulled her down into his lap and kissed her. For it was then that she knew...

He had been speaking of her, not Rin or any other.

Apparently, he'd made his choice, and with nary a word being spoken between them, she also made hers.

Now all that was left was for them to defeat Naraku and destroy the jewel, and then lifetimes together would stretch away before them.

But as Kagome surrendered to his choice and hers, she couldn't help the sadness that came into existence within a part of her heart. For she, too, suddenly, had to face the knowledge that one day, they would be separated forever.

It was a frightening thought, and she understood completely why Sesshoumaru had hesitated for so long over this decision.

She could only pray that forever never came, because she couldn't imagine being separated from him in such a manner. That was a wound that would only eat at her soul until it was destroyed.

She shivered. I wish...

And then her thoughts were silenced and washed away as Sesshoumaru took her to a heaven of their own creation, and they stayed there, all through the night, not missing sleep or anyone elses company at all.

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It was over.

The battle had truly not been much of a battle at all. Inuyasha had gone into it without care for any injuries he would take, because he intended to die with his foe and so he easily overpowered Naraku, who could not defend himself from one who had no care for his own life.

Surprisingly, Sesshoumaru had stood back and let his brother do what he had long ago decided to do. The only thing Inuyasha had said before he'd died had been an exhortation to take care of Kagome using Tessaiga, proving that he had been at least minimally aware of what had been going on around him, and that he did care about the girl who had followed him across Japan without question for so many years.

The daiyoukai had merely nodded, and then closed the hanyou's eyes once he'd passed, setting the newly curse-free Miroku to dig a grave for his brother with Jaken's assistence. Sango, who had gotten in a few blows for her family's sake, had handed the portion of the jewel that Naraku had carried to Kagome, and then smiled sadly and gone to help Miroku, leaving her alone with Sesshoumaru to make the jewel whole once more.

Have you decided what to wish for?” he asked, solemn eyes meeting hers as he gently wiped a stray drop of blood from her cheek. She had been minorly injured by flying shrapnel, and her blood called to his primal nature, making sure that he could never ignore it.

She smiled wearily up at him and nodded, her eyes holding his for a moment before falling back to stare at a softly glowing Shikon. “Aa. It's the only wish that could possibly work.”

Cupping the jewel in both hands, she held it up like an offering and then said, “I wish the jewel would disappear... forever.”

Between one second and the next, the jewel woke, and Sesshoumaru stepped back, shielding his eyes from the flaring brightness of it and waiting for the light to diminish.

But within that light, Kagome was confronted by a being she instinctively knew, and she bowed, deeply awed as Midoriko gestured for her to stand. They looked at each other for a moment, two women so alike from such different times, and then Midoriko spoke.

You gave up much and learned even more on this journey, Kagome. And you found the right way to free me and end the danger this jewel represented. You asked for nothing for yourself in all of this, and for that reason alone, I will offer you one wish with the last of my power before I go to my rest. What is your deepest desire?”

Kagome blinked, a little taken aback. She'd never expected something like this, and at first, didn't know what to ask for. But then the previous evening came back to her, and the reason that Sesshoumaru had hesitated for so long in approaching her came into her mind and she smiled, knowing what she wanted to ask.

I don't want to be separated in death from the one I've chosen. The one who chose me, despite the fact that he feared the knowledge that one day, we would be torn apart and would never see each other again.” She smiled wider, her eyes soft. “I would ask to be allowed to follow him in death... even though I fear hell and the suffering that comes with it.”

Midoriko chuckled a little at her response. “Hell is many things for different beings, Kagome. For youkai, hell is merely a place, like paradise is for humans. There is no suffering.” Her expression became a warning, then. “But be aware of what you give up with this request. If you do this, you will never be reborn again. You will be bound to that level of hell with your youkai, and will never reunite with your family and loved ones in the afterlife, either. It is a big thing to give up – and you will be one human soul among thousands of youkai. Can you handle that? Can you truly handle losing all of that for one male?” she asked, her eyes solemn.

Her eyes lowering, Kagome thought about it. The thought of never seeing her family again after death was enough to bring tears to her eyes – but not enough to make her change her mind. She accepted in that moment that it would truly be a separation from her family beyond the end of the world. She looked back up and met Midoriko's eyes.

Yes,” she said firmly. “I will miss my family, it's true. But I would miss Sesshoumaru more. And truthfully, how long would any of us have together in the afterlife before we would be reborn – as other people who held no relation to those we once had? I don't think it's really that great of a sacrifice, but whether I'm right or wrong, it's one I'm prepared to make. I wish to remain with Sesshoumaru – even in hell. I would brave anything to stay by his side always,” she finished, and Midoriko nodded.

Very well,” she said with a smile. “Then with him you will go. Be aware, however – when he dies, you will also. You will remain together in life and in death, and can never be sundered from each other,” she finished, and Kagome grinned and thanked her as the light began to fade, and the other woman disappeared. That's no kind of warning... it's the definition of paradise to me. To be together without fail and with no way for anyone to separate us.

She didn't even have a chance to blink after the Shikon was gone and with it Midoriko's soul before she found herself held within Sesshoumaru's strong embrace. It seems that while he couldn't see what was happening with her inside the light, he had been able to hear what was said.

You would give up something so basic to your humanity to remain with me?” he murmured, searching her eyes for her thoughts.

Smiling, she tugged a lock of silver over his shoulder and wrapped it around her finger before pulling on it, just a little. “Do you really have to ask?” She shook her head. “I understand Inuyasha a lot more, now,” she said. “He was willing to give up his life to follow Kikyou. And since that portion of our soul that she had never returned to me, they will always be able to be together in the afterlife. It's not really that different from my choice – except I'm giving up my death to remain with you in our afterlife. Odd how things echo each other sometimes, ne?”

He tilted his head thoughtfully as he considered what she'd said, and found that he could understand his brother a lot better now, too. For she was right... his choice was just like hers, only in reverse.

Making peace with his brother's memory, he set aside the past and looked to the future, instead...

A future that would forever include the young human woman that he had decided was indeed, worth the risk...

And then found that there really was no risk involved, after all.

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A/N: Just a little one shot I thought up while working on the next chapter of Windows on the West. Hope everyone enjoys.

Amber

 

 

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