Continuing Tales

The Wind and the Mountain

A InuYasha Story
by Mearasama

Part 55 of 60

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A person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it. ~Jean de La Fontaine

A low buzz hummed on the table a few feet from Kagome's sleeping form. Sesshomaru reached over and grabbed the offending device and sent the call to voicemail before it disturbed her. He grimaced a moment later when his phone chirped and the tiny number at the top changed from sixteen to seventeen. He slipped it under his pillow and let his gaze drift back to the tiny woman snuggled next to him. He had kept her awake half the night and should be utterly content, but couldn't quite bury the urge to wake her again. She was curled alongside him with her head resting on his bicep. Small hands tucked between them to rest against his chest as if feeling his heartbeat. Unconsciously, he traced his fingertips along her bare hip to the dip in her waist and then up her shoulder and cheek. Pushing her hair back, he followed the curve of her ear and softly nuzzled the top of her head, taking in her scent. He wondered if he would ever stop marveling at how it could relax him like nothing ever before.

He frowned again as he felt the phone vibrate through the pillow. He glared murderously at the ceiling as he envisioned ripping the offender's body apart with his claws, 'I miss the old days.'

Ruthlessly ignoring the outside world that was trying to interfere, he pulled Kagome more fully into his arms and buried them under the covers. She woke up enough to slip her arm over his side and place a soft kiss on his throat before murmuring his name sleepily. He held himself in check, even though every movement she made seemed to be designed to drive him insane with need. He let one hand play along the ends of her hair and that devilishly soft skin at the base of her spine instead.

He felt her hand move on his back and he paused, looking down at her half concealed face. Her eyes drifted open and took a moment to focus. When they did, she gifted him with a blissful smile.

"I didn't mean to wake you," he said in a gravelly voice, seeing the exhaustion in her eyes, even though her skin was glowing in the low light of the shuttered room.

She shook slightly with a throaty laugh and whispered knowingly, "Liar."

He captured her lips in a way that made sure she was fully awake before he pulled back long enough to murmur, "I'm not sorry." Rolling her over, he spent the next hour showing her just how unapologetic he was.

Kagome padded quietly from the bedroom to the kitchen. It was evening and the lights of the city began to twinkle outside the large windows along the far wall. She rounded the island but stopped when she spotted Sesshomaru's cellphone lying at the edge. With a glance toward the bedroom, she chewed her bottom lip as she debated whether or not to call her brother. The last thing she needed was for her family to contact the police to report her missing. She grabbed the phone and turned it on when a voice in the darkness made her jump.

"What are you doing?" Sesshomaru's rumbling voice sounded deeper than normal.

With a squeal, Kagome spun around and held the phone in both hands at her chest. "You scared the crap out of me!" she snapped with a frown on her face. They stared at each other and Kagome noticed the suspicious look in his eyes.

"You scare too easily," he shot back before adding, "And you didn't answer me."

Kagome looked down at the phone and shrugged, "I was thinking about calling my family."

He closed the space between them and plucked the phone from her hands to set back on the counter. "There's no need. It's already taken care of."

She stared up at him with her mouth open before snapping it shut. "What do you mean, it's taken care of?" Did you call my mother!?" she asked, imagining all manner of uncomfortable interrogations in her future.

Sesshomaru snorted and continued around her to the refrigerator. Pulling out a bottle of water, he drained half of it before looking her in the eye, "I didn't want to be disturbed, so I sent them a message that you were in the middle of a research assignment."

Irritation chafed her nerves. She felt managed. Crossing her arms over her chest, she answered sulkily, "Well, you could've said something, or better yet, let me call them myself instead of lying to them."

He rounded the island and pushed the half empty bottle into her hands. "Drink this first, then you can yell at me all you want."

She wanted to protest, to make him listen to her and understand why his actions were heavy handed. Instead, her dry throat insisted that she grudgingly comply with his wishes as she remembered why she came to the kitchen in the first place. She unscrewed the cap with a pout and finished the water as he watched intently. The moment she pulled the bottle away from her mouth he swooped in and claimed her lips with his own, scattering her irritation in an instant as she dropped the bottle to the floor. As he backed her against the island, she knew that he was trying to distract her, but his hands were too skilled as they ignited her body. She pulled away long enough to sigh against his lips, 'We're not done talking about this." His expression was unwavering as he grabbed her around the waist, lifting her with ease. The cold marble of the island sent a shock through her bare skin as he set her down and stepped between her bent knees to pull her flush against him.

When he pushed the oversized shirt up to her stomach and kissed her exposed throat, she could only manage to groan hoarsely, "yes, later…"

The delicious scent of beef and vegetables filled the kitchen as Kagome tossed ingredients around the heated pan. She was trying to surprise Sesshomaru with a perfectly cooked meal after he had finally left her long enough to shower and make a business call. She smiled when she thought about the past few days. It was still surprising to her that she and Sesshomaru had fell into this kind of relationship. Being the object of his undivided attention was a little intense, but she couldn't deny that she liked every minute of it. Until only a few days ago, she had struggled with feelings of insecurity, hating how everyone still saw her as an innocent little girl.

Until, in one single moment in the greenhouse, Sesshomaru stamped those feelings out of existence. With him, she felt safe. In his arms, she came alive with an undeniable power as a woman, which only seemed to increase when she saw hunger and appreciation reflected in those golden eyes. Whenever she caught him staring, she found the confidence to assert her desire in return. She delighted at the result of her boldness, especially when breaking through his legendary control until he tumbled headfirst into their shared passion.

Remembering one of their more intense interludes a few hours before in the greenhouse, she blushed at her wanton behavior. Reaching over the hot pan to grab the lid from the back burner, her mind wandered pleasurably. A stabbing pain startled her out of her daydream and she jumped back with a shriek.

Grabbing her wrist, she turned around only to meet a brick wall clothed in fresh smelling cotton. Sesshomaru growled low in his throat as he took in the sight and energy radiating from Kagome as she nursed her wrist awkwardly against her chest. Without a word, he tugged her arm away and held it out to inspect the red welt that was darkening quickly along the side of her wrist. Pulling her to the sink, he turned the water on cold and pushed her arm under the stream, eliciting a whimper as she rocked back and forth in pain.

Kagome stared at his bare toes peeking out from loose white cotton pants that slouched around his ankles. She bounced slightly and pulled against his hold as the burn stung intensely under the cold water. He held firmly, rotating her wrist slightly. After a few minutes, he let go and said in a deceptively calm voice, "Stay right there."

"But it hurts," she whined as she started to pull away, but his hand shoved it back under the water.

"Do as I say!" he snapped as their eyes met and held. She knew him well enough to recognize that expression. A little taken aback at his obvious anger, she nodded and watched him walk away. Within minutes, he returned with a handful of items and dumped them onto the counter. Shutting the water off, he steered her to the island and grabbed a clean towel from a drawer. Carefully, he dried and smoothed burn cream over the welt before deftly wrapping it with gauze, knotting it with a tug.

As he gathered up the items, she finally found her voice, "Are you angry with me?"

He didn't answer, only looked at her as he flipped the stove off.

"Hey! I wasn't done," she cried as she tried to reach past him. He caught her around the waist and pulled her away.

"And I say you are," he said with finality as he set her down.

Blinking, because words failed her in that moment, she trailed after him as he walked down the hall. Sputtering, she finally spat out, "What the hell's the matter with you?"

"You will not recklessly endanger yourself from now on," he answered as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.

She followed him to one of the bathrooms and watched him put all of the items back in the cabinet. "Recklessly…" she muttered more to herself than out loud, her confusion mounting. "It's a little burn, hardly something dangerous Sesshomaru." Trying to figure out why he was being so obstinate, she blocked his way out of the room and held a hand up, "Wait, are you seriously telling me that I can't cook anymore because you think it's dangerous?"

He stared at her intently before reaching up and scratching his neck. He looked more inconvenienced than apologetic. His answer was final, "If that's what it takes, then yes."

She rocked back on her heels as if struck, "But I enjoy cooking," she said in a wounded voice. "You'd really stop me from doing something I love because of a tiny burn?"

Sighing, he closed the distance between them and wrapped an arm around her waist, the other cradling her jaw to force her to meet his eyes. "Your safety is my top priority, Kagome. It's a job I take seriously."

"I don't want to be your job, Sesshomaru," she whispered. "And you can't tell me what to do. I'm not a child!" she nearly cried with more strength.

"It's for your own good, and you will do as I say. End of story." He patted her bottom gently and added indifferently, "Now, I have to finish that conference call and hire someone to take over the cooking."

She watched him disappear into the bedroom with a frown on her face. 'You really are a bully sometimes, you know.'

They sat on the couch in the dimly lit living room, a half empty bottle of wine on the low table before them. While she may have started off next to him, it wasn't long before she found herself tucked comfortably in his lap as classical music played through the high end sound system. She sighed contentedly, not really all that surprised to find out he didn't like television very much, but instead preferred arts and literature.

She watched one hand trace along her thigh as she listened to his steady heartbeat under her cheek. His other hand held a small hard cover book that he was reading silently. She ran her hand up his chest to rest on his shoulder and closed her eyes, enjoying the tranquility of the moment.

Sesshomaru was irritated with himself when he found he needed to reread the same sections of text every few pages. Kagome's soft scent played across his senses, pulling him from the story and down into visions of her long limbs and silky hair wrapped around him. She was like an addiction, and he was hoping that if he spent this time with her feeding that addiction, he would finally be able to shake the powerful hold she seemed to have over him. He knew he needed to leash the irrational feelings that seemed to rise up without warning. The incident in the kitchen earlier had hung heavily between them for hours until he finally lost patience and pulled her onto the couch with him. She never failed to melt under his touch, causing them both to lose themselves to the passion that felt as natural as breathing. Reflecting on the past, he wondered on more than one occasion how he kept his distance all those years ago.

Their truce lasted through dinner and into the evening. Kagome was quiet, though her mind kept wandering to the one thing that kept popping up whenever her mind wasn't consumed with Sesshomaru's roaming hands. Watching his thumb trace slow circles over her knee, the words seemed to come out before she realized it, "What are we doing here?"

His hand paused and he looked down at the top of her head. "Sitting on a couch."

She huffed impatiently and pulled herself up to meet his eyes warily, "That's not what I meant and you know it." She glanced down, but forced herself to meet his gaze again. "It's just…well...I need to get back to my classes and you probably need to go back to work soon."

He closed the book and tossed it to the far cushion. Apprehension filled him at the troubled look in her eyes. "If you're concerned about your classes, I'll take care of it."

Shaking her head, she met his gaze earnestly, "That's not it, Sesshomaru. I…" she paused and her eyes dropped to his throat. Fighting for the words to ask the question that burned within her, she took a deep breath.

He watched her struggle and drew his brows down. Running a hand over her hair, he forced her to meet his eyes again, "What's bothering you?"

Before she could lose her nerve, she blurted out the words burning inside, "I was wondering about us? What exactly are we doing?"

Arching a brow, he answered stoically, "Didn't I already answer that question. We're sitting on the couch together."

She popped him on the shoulder impatiently, "No, I mean us. Our relationship. What are we exactly…you know, to each other?"

He stared at her for a few moments, contemplating her question. To him, she embodied equal parts peace and obsession. He had no intention of ever giving her up, and every intention of protecting her from anything that might threaten harm or bring her misery. He thought about what Hoshi had done for Kikyo to extend her life by bonding her life force to InuYasha's. They had even gone the extra step to become mates in the eyes of youkai society. He knew that it would be easy for him to make the same decision to prolong her life in order to remain with him, though he wouldn't need to go as far as his half-brother. He watched her carefully, smelling the uncertainty in her scent. Finally, he cupped her cheek and brushed his thumb over her lower lip, "I'll take care of you for as long as you want to stay with me."

"What exactly does that mean though?" she asked, starting to feel nervous that he hadn't yet brought up marriage or, more importantly to a youkai like him, becoming mates.

"Why the questions all of the sudden?" he asked tiredly, not understanding her need for reassurance that his motives were true. His honor would not allow him to walk away from her, not after the past few days. Most importantly, he didn't want to walk away. He ignored the suffocating feeling that seized his chest whenever the thought of her leaving him crossed his mind.

"I can't help but think about the future, Sesshomaru. It may not be a big deal to you, but it's important to me," she answered defensively, her body ramrod stiff in his arms.

He pulled his other arm from around her and cupped her face with both hands gently. "If it matters so much, I will promise you. Our future is together." Kissing her deeply, he pulled back long enough to add seriously, "Put these worries aside and trust me." He felt her fingers brush along his ears and his eyes tinged red as his inner beast roared for him to claim her as his mate. He pushed it down, though it roiled just below the surface. He resented being forced into any decision not of his own free will, especially by the baser side of his instincts. Refocusing on her face, he saw the softening of her features as she relaxed slightly against him. Her silent surrender tugged at something inside, making him need to erase her unwanted uncertainty. "I promise to protect you forever," he growled as he picked her up and carried her to the bedroom.

After four days, Kagome and Sesshomaru finally emerged from the penthouse. Her door was long since fixed, but Hiraiku's call had gone straight to voicemail, as had Hoshi's, InuYasha's and a myriad of other personal and business related messages that piled up in their absence.

They stopped by Kagome's apartment for her to grab her things. He then reluctantly dropped her off outside the large academic building that housed her first class.

She felt as if on a cloud as another smile crept across her face when she sat down and replayed their conversation from that morning.

"Are you sure this is necessary? We could turn around and head back right now," he had said sullenly as they idled outside. It had taken quite a bit of persuasion to let her leave the cocoon they had made in his monstrous bed. With a smile, she leaned across the seat and kissed him quickly before jumping from the car with a wave. They both needed to get back to their very real and very important responsibilities.

School went by in a blur. She was behind in her research and had missed turning in two assignments. Class after class, painfully long conversations ensued with her professors along with several assurances that she would turn everything in by the end of the week. Then she would move on and attend her next class, only to do it all over again. By the time she was heading to the spot where she had told Sesshomaru to pick her up, her temper had turned foul. Even though he had offered to smooth things over with her professors, she didn't want to cede any more authority over her life to him than their new relationship already had. It was becoming obvious to her that she was going to have to fight him over her continued independence. Scowling at the thought, she nearly ran over another student in her haste, bumping shoulders and knocking the books from her arms.

"Great! My day is perfect now…" she grumbled as she stooped to grab everything before passing people trampled all of her research and handwritten notes.

"I'm sorry, I didn't see you. Are you okay?" a raspy male voice sounded above her head.

"Yeah, I'm fine, thanks." She sounded less than convincing, but didn't care. A worn green book bag dropped down next to her as the man started gathering the papers and notebooks in large, tan hands. With an audible sigh, she finally looked up to take the stack of items, regretting her sharp tone. Freezing in place, she met familiar ocean blue eyes. He looked just like…

"Hey Koga! What are ya doin? We're late!" another man called from across the street.

Kagome sucked in a breath as she stared at him. He was looking back at her with a troubled expression. She took the books he offered and stood up, swaying slightly under the weight of her own surprise. "Thanks." She whispered, barely able to breath. Damning the loss of her miko powers, she had no way of knowing if this was her old friend, or if it was merely a coincidence. Sesshomaru had told her that her aura was vastly different now that she was no longer a miko. To those that relied on that method of identification, it made her harder to recognize and was one of the things that Sesshomaru liked least. Not being able to sense her from a distance made him uneasy, which he said explained his overprotective actions as of late.

The man nodded curtly and started across the street, glancing back at her as he went, when Sesshomaru finally pulled up. He got out of his car, his eyes taking Kagome in with a heat that scattered her senses. Closing the distance, he grabbed her bag and books a moment before stopping cold. His sight focused on the wolf standing across the street staring at them with deadly intensity. Kagome put her hand on Sesshomaru's arm and asked in barely a whisper, "Is that the same Koga I remember?"

He nodded tersely. His arm slid around her waist, pulling her close to his side when Koga crossed the street again and approached them with a measured pace. Tossing Kagome's bag into the back seat, he shut the door forcefully and braced his legs apart as his arm tightened even more around her. She could feel his body vibrating, a muted indication of the aura that would have once made her uncomfortable in its ferocity. She slipped her hand under his suit jacket and held the back of his belt, ready to stop the two from fighting. Her other hand slid up his stomach to rest by his navel. Koga's eyes flickered to the intimate gesture and he curled his lip.

"So, it is you. I thought my nose was playing tricks on me since you aren't a miko anymore." His eyes slid from her to Sesshomaru as he added snidely, "Now it all makes sense."

Sesshomaru tensed even more but Kagome cut in, her voice tight, "Yeah, well a lot has changed in the 500 years since we've seen each other."

"You mean since the day you tried to kill me and stole the shards right from my legs," his anger and resentment was apparent. It cracked against Kagome's heart like lightning.

"It wasn't my fault. I tried to stop it but..." Memories rushed to the fore, her heart aching. She hadn't seen him since the day Katsuro used her powers to knock him out to steal the shards.

Koga growled, his face feral with hate. "You used my feelings for you to get close enough to betray me. I should have known better than to trust a stupid human." His friends shouted again from across the street and he glanced their way irritably with a wave of his hand.

Sesshomaru could feel Kagome's sadness rolling from her and he hated it. "I think you should leave…now." His voice was deadly in its calm and control. He didn't want to create a scene or harm any innocent humans in a confrontation with the fool. The wolf was barely in control and he refused to engage such a weakling anywhere so public as a human university.

Koga laughed bitterly, the sound dark and stilted. It was a sound that didn't seem natural to Kagome. "Yeah, maybe you're right. I know how you dogs are about your women. I just didn't think you shared," he sneered.

Kagome barely had time to act as Sesshomaru pulled away from her grasp and pinned Koga against his car by the throat. The sturdy sedan rocked from the force of the impact. She rushed forward and wrapped her hands around one of his steely arms, tugging with all of her strength, "No! Sesshomaru stop, please!"

A cold voice stopped the fray in an instant. "Enough!"

Sesshomaru stepped back and dropped his hands. His eyes glittered as he stared murderously at Koga who was wide eyed and visibly shaken. Kagome looked over and almost smiled in relief. Hoshi strode toward them from the limo that had pulled behind Sesshomaru's BMW, her lavender eyes shooting fire at them all. People were starting to stop and stare at the exchange, curiosity openly spiking at the small dark haired woman and two large men with murderous expressions.

"I don't know what's going on here, and frankly I don't care. But whatever it is, it's done." She turned to Koga and asked sharply, "Who the hell are you?"

He hesitated as he took in Hoshi's strong aura. After a moment he answered arrogantly, "Koga of the northern wolf tribe."

"Fine, Koga of the northern wolf tribe, if you wish to continue this, however much I advise against it considering Sesshomaru's about to rip your head off, you can call me to set up an appointment." She handed him a business card and added in a clipped tone, "We have a reinforced dojo if you insist on getting this nonsense out of your system."

Turning back to Sesshomaru, she hissed caustically, "And you! I haven't worked the past five centuries to watch you blow everything over a wolf who obviously can't keep his wide trap shut." Turning to Kagome, she held her hand out, "Come dear, get in the car. We need to discuss some ground rules."

Hoshi helped Kagome into the front seat of Sesshomaru's sedan and leaned in, whispering solemnly, "I'll deal with the wolf. I remember him from our talks and he obviously needs a few things explained." She shut the door and pointed to the car when she met Sesshomaru's stubborn expression, "Get in the car and comfort her. She's cried enough tears for three lifetimes."

That seemed to break through his rage. With one last snarl at Koga, he stiffly climbed into the car and started the engine. Pulling away from the curb smoothly, he drove them out of the city.

After several minutes of heavy silence, her voice came out small. Wrenching in its hesitancy. "You don't feel like you shared with InuYasha, do you?"

He growled, jaw ticking for several more moments as they drove on. She thought she heard him whisper, "Damn that wolf," but it was so soft that she wasn't sure. She was feeling despair grow with every mile when he finally answered, voice gruff as if every word caused him pain. "At one time I thought there might have been more, but that all changed when you came to live at the House of the Moon. You belonged to no one." He seared her with a hot look, "Until now."

She stayed quiet after that, taking in his statement and digesting its meaning. They were climbing the hills away from the city when Kagome's small hand came to brush the hair from the back of his collared shirt. Her simple touch drew the curtain of anger back and he took a deep breath. Catching her hand in his, he brought it to his lips and placed a lingering kiss in the middle of her palm. He needed to erase the pained look on her face that was eating him alive.

By the time they pulled into the courtyard, the tension in the car was high. Throwing the car into park, he unbelted and pulled Kagome across the center counsel and into his lap, branding her with scorching kisses until she was breathless.

He pulled back until his forehead pressed against hers, hands holding her head on either side, "I don't like when you're sad."

A shuttered breath racked her as happiness swelled. She gifted him with a watery smile and kissed him gently. "Yeah, me neither."

His hands dropped, skimming along her body, lingering along the spots he had learned could make her squirm. She groaned, her eyes falling closed as a ripple of desire traveled along her body. He was sliding his hand under her shirt when the limo pulled in next to them. With a curse, he pulled it away and straightened their clothes enough to look presentable.

Opening the door, he met Hoshi's knowing gaze and rolled his eyes at her chuckle. "Shut up," he growled as he climbed out. Kagome still wrapped in his arms until he could set her down in front of him.

Hoshi smiled up at him and shrugged, "I have no idea why you're so cross with me. I didn't do anything but set that boy straight. Now he wants to apologize to Kagome."

"Absolutely not. He won't get anywhere near her," he answered without hesitation.

Kagome could feel her frustration rising. She liked that he wanted to protect her, but not at the expense of her freedom or ability to make choices for herself.

Hoshi sensed the undercurrent and waved to the door. "Let's go and have dinner. We have some things to talk about now that the two of you finally got around to… well…" she waved her hands, gesturing between the two of them, "Well, this."

Kagome blushed scarlet and Sesshomaru swiped his claws at Hoshi as she ducked away with a laughing smile.

They followed her inside at a distance, Sesshomaru's fingers twining into Kagome's to trace small circles into her palm as they traveled the familiar halls.

"You're being obtuse and you know it!" Hoshi huffed across the table.

Sesshomaru lifted an eyebrow but remained silent, sipping from his glass while staring at Hoshi with a controlled expression.

Hoshi set her own glass down with a thump and looked between Kagome and Sesshomaru, frustration plainly written across her fine features. They had been arguing for over an hour about how to classify the current situation that existed between the two lovers. Kagome remained surprisingly silent, her eyes downcast and mind increasingly troubled at Sesshomaru's seemingly unemotional response. Her brain rebelled at the notion that they would not become mates, and that marriage was a human custom holding no interest for him.

"So, let me get this straight…you don't think her feelings matter in this?" Hoshi pressed on, not willing to let it rest.

"Her feelings are not a part of this discussion." Sesshomaru refilled his plate and looked at Kagome before adding, "She has my protection, loyalty and anything else she might desire."

"Anything except a real, public commitment, you mean," Hoshi bit out caustically.

Sesshomaru shot her an irritated glare, "Why are you trying to stir up trouble where there is none? Kagome is fine with things as they are."

They both looked at the young woman who sat in stony silence. Color had risen to her cheeks as she stared at her untouched dinner without moving. Hoshi glanced at Sesshomaru and took in the narrowed eyes as he stared at her steadily, clearly waiting for her affirmation. Looking back at Kagome, she caught the slightest tremor run through her stiff body. She reached over and brushed her fingers along the other woman's arm hesitantly, "Kagome?" She had barely gotten the word out before Kagome shot to her feet. Shaking her head, she put her hands up and murmured an excuse before leaving the room.

Running along the familiar corridors, she ended up outside her old room. The door loomed large above her and she felt as though not a day had passed since that fateful day 500 years earlier. The same choice had plagued her then as it was now. Stepping back, she looked down the hall to the door at the end. Without hesitation, she closed the short distance and slid it open easily, not bothering to close it behind her. Moving through the room, she pushed her way to the balcony and ended with her hands gripping the rail, ebony hair whipping around her shoulders as she gazed out onto the darkening valley below.

Pain racked her body as his words replayed in her mind. She knew that her relationship with Sesshomaru wasn't going to be easy, but to hear his impersonal reply to something that meant a great deal to her was a bitter pill to swallow. The last few days had been easy to get lost in, reveling in his attention and the mutual need for a connection they had denied for far too long. She tried to calm her rolling emotions, choking down the sadness that filled her until she felt like she would burst. Nothing had actually changed. He still didn't want her in the same way that she wanted him.

Hands slid around her to rest on the railing and she jumped at the sudden intrusion into her solitary thoughts. Sesshomaru nuzzled her hair softly, "Kagome?"

She shook her head, misery keeping words from her lips. He sighed in her ear and turned her around, tipping her chin up to meet his eyes. "Why are you sad again?"

With the railing pressed into her back, and his tall frame directly in front of her, she felt confined. Trapped. Not able to move away, the resentment at his stubborn and controlling nature spiked. Her words tumbled out, blasting him with their intensity, "I just don't understand how you can sit there and say those things. Do you even care about what I want?" she didn't pause long enough for his answer before going on, "You never listen to what I say, and now you're making all these decisions for me! About my future!" Kagome pushed against him, her eyes shut tightly as she shook her head back and forth. "I don't want to be told where to go, who I can and can't see…" When he didn't move or respond, she stilled. Exhaustion seemed to overwhelm her entire body and she felt defeated. It was obvious that her words had no impact.

Heaving a shuttered breath, she whispered dejectedly, "Obviously it doesn't matter." As soon as the words left her lips, she used one of the moves he had taught her and slipped from his grasp. She made it halfway to the door when he stopped her, pulling her around with an angry expression.

"Where the hell is this all coming from?" he demanded, brows drawn down harshly.

Using another move, she broke his hold again easily. Stepping out of his reach, she met his confused eyes squarely, "Maybe we should have thought about this a little more. I'm not sure we're such a good fit after all."

"I think we fit perfectly," he answered huskily, leaving no doubt as to where his mind was straying. He reached for her but she jumped back, holding a hand out to stop him.

Heart dropping to her toes, she felt her control slip dangerously as she cried wildly, "Is that it? Is that all this is to you? Sex?!"

He stiffened, surprise draining all other thoughts from his brain. "No," was all he could mutter as she watched him clearly try and work out what he needed to say to her in order to distract her again. It was his best tactic in dealing with her and she resented him even more.

Crossing her arms over her body, she felt moisture gather in her eyes. Déjà vu tripped over itself in her mind as she remembered the last time she stood on this balcony with anger and grief coursing through her veins. The irony made her sick to her stomach. Swallowing the lump that had risen in her throat, she forced her voice to be calm as she took a chance and laid down her ultimatum, "I want to be equals and I want you to recognize me as your mate. I won't settle for anything less than that."

"Equals?" he repeated the word like it was completely foreign and distasteful. It was his turn to shake his head, completely at a loss as to how to respond to her. "Kagome, we're not equal. Especially now that you no longer have any miko powers." He regarded her with obvious confusion and frustration, "The youkai world is still active Kagome, and dangerous in many ways. There are certain expectations to fulfill."

The words were like a knife ripping the flesh in her chest open and carving her still beating heart from within. Bile rose in her throat and she caught a sob before it escaped. Digging deep she grasped for the frayed and collapsing edges of her control. "I see. Well…I think we're at an impasse then." Drawing herself up, she kept his gaze. "Thank you for dinner."

"Where…" he started to ask, but Kagome was already gone. He remained there, standing in the middle of the room in bewilderment, rapidly filtering through all of their conversations over the past two weeks to figure out what had just happened. A tiny voice came from somewhere deep, 'You shouldn't have given in. You should've never touched her. It was just like your father.' Something twisted in his stomach at the thought, but he pushed it hastily aside, not wanting to consider the motivation behind his own actions. 'Shut up,' he thought stubbornly, trying to find a reason why she was so upset that didn't include him. After all, he had made no promise to make her his mate.

When nothing seemed to come to mind, he gave up and made his way back to the dining room to find Hoshi by herself with a bottle of his favorite scotch. She glared at him with seething anger. "Well… you certainly made a mess of everything."

Skipping over her words, he glanced around the empty room impatiently, "Where is she?"

Tossing back a glass of amber liquid instead of wrapping her hands around his neck like she wanted to, she took a breath as it burned down to her stomach. "I had Hiraiku take her home. She needed privacy. I wasn't about to make her stay here and deal with your thoughtlessness."

"Watch it. I've had enough of nonsensical women this evening." He warned as he grabbed the bottle from her before she could pour another, and started to leave the room.

Hoshi frowned at his retreating form, "And here I thought you'd learned a thing or two about nonsensical women over the past 500 years, but I was clearly mistaken!" she called sarcastically after him.

Kagome was sitting at her table sipping tea when a loud knock sounded at the door. Glancing at the clock, she frowned. "It's two-o-clock in the morning," she muttered on her way to the door. Standing on tiptoes, she peeked through the hole in the door and felt her heart contract. She had finally stopped the tears and was just about to drop dead from exhaustion and here he was, standing outside her door.

"I don't have the energy to fight with you, Sesshomaru. Please go away."

"I will break it down again," his muffled reply had her stepping back unconsciously.

Not wanting a repeat of the other evening, she opened the door but held her hand out when he moved to enter. "Uh uh. I said I'm not doing this with you tonight."

He stared at her hungrily, searching for the perfect curves hidden beneath the layers of her fluffy bath robe. He leaned forward to inhale her alluring scent, murmuring softly, "I want to talk to you."

The smell of scotch hit Kagome hard. "Are you drunk?"

"No," he answered with a wolfish grin. Propping a shoulder against her doorframe arrogantly, he stared lazily down at her and waited.

With a heavy sigh, she stepped back. "Fine. You can come in for a few minutes…but then you'll leave."

He sauntered into the room and paused by the table. When she started to pass he looped an arm around her waist and pulled her against his chest. His mouth found hers easily, branding her with barely leashed intensity. She was pliant at first as she instinctually responded to his embrace, but as her brain kicked in to overrule her body, she was soon pushing against him. Her hands braced against his shoulders as she twisted until forcing their mouths apart with gasping desperation.

"Stop!" she kept struggling until he finally let go. "You can't just kiss me and everything magically goes away!"

"I know that. I just needed to touch you." His words had an odd note to them, almost like they were supposed to be a thought in his head and not something said aloud because he added quickly, "You left the house angry."

She blinked in surprise, but wouldn't give in. "Do you even know why I left?"

Heaving a sigh, he brushed a hand through her hair, tucking an errant strand behind her ear. "You think I don't respect you." His face softened as he dropped his hand to rest at his side. "It isn't true, you know."

Kagome tilted her head to the side and leaned back against the small table behind her. "What isn't true?" she asked, wanting to make him say it out loud.

His jaw flexed but he forced the words out, "Well, it isn't exactly a secret that at one time I didn't think very much of humans. I felt they were weak and prone to unnecessary emotions. Hoshi's the only human that I ever saw value in, but after time she's become more like a youkai than human." He shrugged at her frustrated glare, "Of course that all changed when I found Rin. And then you. It wasn't too long before you came to the House of the Moon that I realized how different you are." He held his left arm up between them and they both looked at his perfectly sculpted hand. "And it isn't because of this."

Sighing, Kagome met his eyes. "Yeah, well my miko powers seemed to impress just about everyone, human and youkai alike. It seemed to be the only good thing about me."

"It was never your powers," he added grumpily, "It's deeper than that." His voice grew quiet and he fairly whispered, "It's how you see the world."

Kagome's breath caught at his words. She could feel his sincerity; the truth burned her skin under his golden gaze. "Then why am I unworthy of being your mate?" she waited, not able to breath. Everything hinged on his answer.

Sesshomaru gave her an arrogant look as he shrugged out of his coat, tossing it over the back of a chair. Her eyes wandered over the close fitting long sleeved shirt and designer denim that made him look like he stepped out of a fashion magazine. She almost laughed at the absurdity of millions of women salivating over a man that was actually a demon dog in disguise. Swallowing the emotion, she turned toward the living room when his next words made her pause.

"Hoshi called me a fool and now won't speak to me." He gave a self-deprecating smile as he continued, "She thinks that times have changed enough that it won't even be noticed, but I'm not so sure." His smile faded and Kagome swore he almost sounded wistful when he added quietly, "There will always be expectations."

Without turning toward him, she asked just as softly, "These expectations you keep talking about… what are they exactly?" She couldn't meet his eyes for fear of bursting into tears again. Stepping away, she stopped when his hand shot out, palm resting against her stomach.

"I don't need a document to tell me, or anyone else for that matter, that we've bound ourselves together. That happened when you offered yourself to me, and I in turn vowed to protect and care for you. That's what is important to me. What's expected outside of that is merely a formality."

Kagome's face turned to his with wide eyes. She wasn't sure if she understood him correctly. "So where exactly does that leave me in this equation?"

His fingers twitched against her stomach and he nearly growled, "What I'm saying is that whatever happens with my duties as the Taiyoukai of the West, it won't interfere with us."

Anger spiked when he didn't say anything else. "What, so I'm supposed to be content with your attentions and not think about formalities or the fact that you'll have to marry someone else in the future? We both know how it worked out the last time your prospective bride saw me as a rival." She pulled away and put a space between them so she could think. His touch always made her mind feel like mush. "So your word that we'll be together is good enough to bank my entire future on, hoping you won't one day tire of me and throw me to the curb with the rest of the trash?"

He flinched, almost as if she had struck him. As her words seemed to sink in, she watched his face darken with fury. "So my promise to care for you means nothing compared to some government sanctioned piece of paper that we're married? You insult my honor Kagome. I've killed for less."

She couldn't seem to care. Her heart burned with roiling emotions, "And you question mine by suggesting that I be thankful just to be your whore! I'm sure you've killed plenty of people for so called transgressions against your honor. The truth usually provokes that kind of reaction with an ego as big as yours."

She grabbed his coat from the chair and thrust it into his hands. "Leave."

His large hands closed in tight fists around the coat as he looked down on her with an icy expression. "Why are you being so unreasonable?"

"The fact that you think I'm being unreasonable tells me everything I need to know," she laughed without humor before continuing on with a resigned expression. "I made a promise to myself long ago that I wouldn't settle for less than I deserve." She held herself rigid, emotionless and cold. She was tired of crying, of being weak. It was time again to stand tall against those who would only take from her and never give back in return. She would never let herself be dragged into another one-sided relationship. Heart aching, she realized that he hadn't changed all that much. He had simply learned to hide his motives from the eyes of the world in order to get what he wanted.

Sesshomaru didn't move, only held her gaze with an expressionless one of his own. The words seemed to be dragged from his mouth reluctantly, "So you feel you deserve better than me."

Sucking in a breath at his hurtful words, her voice quavered a little as she spoke harshly, "What I deserve is to be with a man who wants to share a life with me and commit to me in the eyes of the entire world. Even if that means he wants to do crazy things like marry me, or stupid things like take out a billboard on the side of the highway telling everyone that he can't live without me. He has to see my needs and happiness are just as important as his own. I'm not some piece of property that the other dogs can't play with." She took a deep breath and blew it out slowly. "Mostly, I want a man who sees me as a partner, equal in all things. Someone who knows that building a life with me will be hard, messy work every single day that'll probably be full of fights…but there'll be laughter and passion too." She faced him squarely, her jaw set firmly, "He'll not want our life, or me, any other way."

Sesshomaru wanted to laugh at the absurdity of the situation. He finally had what he thought he needed within his grasp, and here it was slipping away because of illogical female emotions that he would never understand. She left him the first time because of a silly legend Hoshi had told her, and now history seemed to be repeating itself. "I can't change what is expected of me, Kagome."

Swallowing the lump that had risen in her throat, she tried to smile. It ended up brittle at best, "That's too bad." Turning on her heel she walked to the door and opened it silently.

He didn't move at first, only stared at her as his emotions warred inside. He wanted to tell her that his choice was to be with her over all others, but the duty he had carried with him for centuries was forcing him to present a façade to the world. His biggest fear was to place her in danger again. Before, she was a powerful Miko that many youkai feared. Now, she was a human without any special defenses beyond her own physical strength. He had watched how hard it was for InuYasha to protect Kikyo those first few decades of their life together as youkai that learned of her previous abilities sought her out for notoriety and revenge. Publicly declaring Kagome as his mate would put the same target on her back. He would never forget how he failed to protect her from a determined enemy one time before. Losing her again, this time permanently, was something he wouldn't survive. Instead, he would force himself to take a youkai female as a mate in order to protect her from a fate he wasn't sure he could prevent. It was a sacrifice worth making, knowing full well it would never be where his heart found happiness.

When she finally raised her head to look at him, he saw the firm set of her jaw. Neither would be relenting on this night. Giving up for now, he walked out the door and down the hall, his ears picking up her faintly shuttered breath as the door clicked shut at his back.

The Wind and the Mountain

A InuYasha Story
by Mearasama

Part 55 of 60

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