Continuing Tales

The Wind and the Mountain

A InuYasha Story
by Mearasama

Part 57 of 60

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It makes no difference how deeply seated may be the trouble, how hopeless the outlook, how muddled the tangle, how great the mistake. A sufficient realization of love will dissolve it all. ~Emmet Fox

The black town car drove into an underground parking garage, rolling sedately through the dimly lit concrete maze. Its heavily tinted windows turned the interior of the car black as night. Shippo's hand tightened around Kagome's in a comforting gesture in response to her rising anxiety.

"Why'd we come this way?" Kagome asked as they stopped in front of an imposing metal door. Shippo hesitated as the door of the car opened just a fraction and the dome light flickered on to cast them in soft yellow glow. She frowned at the worried expression he quickly hid behind a benign smile.

"It's a shortcut," he answered lightly.

Not buying it for a moment, she pulled her hand from his and narrowed reddened and puffy eyes, "You never were a good liar."

Shippo regarded her thoughtfully, weighing his options. With a resigned sigh he relented, "Trust me, we had to come in through the back." He gave her a knowing look, "You told me you wanted to keep your visit quiet. On your own terms."

Concern squeezed Kagome's chest as she grasped his meaning. That Shippo thought this through just made it all the more real. "Thanks," she answered quietly, truly grateful that he was looking out for her in a way she needed at the moment. Climbing from the car she grabbed his arm before he could walk away and pulled him into a tight hug. "You've become just the kind of man I always hoped you would."

He cleared his throat, trying to hide the emotion Kagome's unexpected words stirred, "Between you and Sango what did you expect?"

She looked up and he wiped away a stray tear that had gathered in the corner of one of her eyes. 'Sesshomaru, you are the biggest kind of fool,' he thought darkly. "Come on sweetheart, she's waiting," he said instead.

Taking a deep breath, she let Shippo take her hand and lead her through a maze under the building and up a private elevator to one of the highest floors. When the doors opened, she was hit with the smell of burning food and high pitched screams. Kikyo's dulcet tones rose above the squawking to quiet them instantly.

"If you two don't stop, I'm going to take those toy swords away and you'll have to play with dolls like your sister." Kikyo came around the corner with a kitchen towel in hand and her hair in a messy bun. She looked as beautiful as ever, with skin like porcelain and eyes that sparkled even from a distance. She no longer radiated the empty sadness that had clung to her clay form. Turning at the sound of the door closing, she stilled as she met Kagome's surprised stare. The two looked at each other for a long moment before three little heads popped around the corner and squealed with delight. They rushed down the wide entry to latch on to Shippo in an excited frenzy.

He grabbed the little girl and swung her up onto his shoulders as the two boys wrestled with each other to get his attention first. "Come on guys. Show me these swords I've been hearing so much about. Mommy needs a couple minutes with her friend."

Kagome stayed by the door filled with uncertainty as she watched InuYasha's children glance back at her as they skipped away with Shippo. It was a relief to find she only felt curiosity and happiness to see them, not the pang of regret that she feared might show up when finally faced with the consequences of her Shikon wish. A weight she hadn't even known existed fell away from her chest in that moment and it felt wonderful.

The unruly bunch rounded the corner and her eyes were forced back to the only other person in the room. She hadn't spent much time with Kikyo after the wish. Her own bitterness and InuYasha's constant presence had made it nearly impossible. Now, looking into the familiar brown eyes and face that looked so much like her own, she wondered how Kikyo felt about having the woman that was her rival for so many years in her home. Was she feeling triumphant? Or maybe it was just pity behind her unreadable expression for the woman that had given up so much for others, only to end up alone. Heart in her throat, she stayed by the door frozen in silence.

Kikyo snapped out of her quiet reverie with a barely discernable flinch. "I'm so glad you came. Please come in and sit while I make tea." Kikyo smiled and it was a genuine, albeit cautious smile that Kagome somehow knew was heartfelt.

She walked forward, pulling her coat off as she went. At the end of the hallway she followed Kikyo around a corner into a spacious kitchen with a small table in the corner. Kikyo hurried forward and cleared away the half eaten snacks and crumbs left behind so that Kagome could sit. She watched as Kikyo bustled around the kitchen, efficiently starting the tea and cleaning up the mess around her. It was truly bizarre to see this woman domesticated and in a modern environment. Within a few minutes, she was settled across from Kagome and pouring two cups of tea. "I have to admit, I wasn't sure if you would ever want to come and see me."

Kagome met her eyes and saw the raw truth in Kikyo's face. "I know that we sometimes had our differences, but it doesn't mean I hated you," she answered back frankly.

Kikyo's face softened to open warmth. "It'd be a lie for me to say I never hated you, but I can honestly say that there's no other person in this life, or previous life for that matter, that I'm more grateful for having known. I owe everything I have to you and I never even thanked you for it." Kikyo's voice dropped and she turned red with shame, "It is unforgivable."

Kagome was unable to speak. Surprise at Kikyo's words tipped her world on its side, throwing her off balance. Every memory she had of this woman was of a cold Miko who displayed nothing but distain and anger toward all living things. The Kikyo that sat across from her was soft, emotional and tempered by what Kagome could only guess was motherhood and centuries of being loved. Finally finding words, she was surprised at how sharp her tone sounded, "What happened to you?"

Kikyo blinked, seemingly taken aback by Kagome's blunt question that came out more accusatory than curious. "Umm? Well…I'm not…?"

Kagome shook her head and put a hand into the air, "No, I'm sorry. I'm just not used to you this way. It's weird," her voice raised in pitch a little on the last words.

Kikyo seemed to understand immediately and gently laid her hand on top of Kagome's, "I'm sure this is odd. I sometimes forget that it's only been a few years for you. I've had centuries to get used to this new life, and work on becoming the woman I needed to be." She turned her cup absently as she continued, "I quickly realized that the woman I had become after Naraku was not the woman that InuYasha wanted to spend his life with. It was only his loyalty that kept him bound to me all those years…even after the wish. Not the woman I was. After our first century together, I finally realized that it was me, not him causing our unhappiness." Kikyo smiled wryly at her cup, "It's going to sound strange, but one day I woke up and just knew that I needed to remember what it was about you that had captured everyone's affection. It was my only shot at making InuYasha happy."

Kikyo kept smiling as memories seemed to play through her mind. When she glanced up, there was a brutal veracity that tugged against Kagome's inner wall, softening her guard even more. "You've been on all of our minds and in our hearts since the day you left. We've waited so long for this lifetime to arrive. InuYasha's been so excited to see you again that he nearly braved Sesshomaru's wrath to head back to Tokyo early. I thought he was going to lose his mind when he found out that you had found the castle again and were being kept away from us. I was pretty sure I'd be a widow before the end." Kikyo paused at the stricken look that had come over Kagome's face. "What happened? I thought?..." Kagome shook her head but Kikyo persisted, "InuYasha mentioned what he thought was going on between the two of you. Tell me our brother hasn't done something stupid." Kikyo's dark expression made Kagome lean back a little in her chair. The ex miko was still fierce even without her powers.

Stuttering, Kagome tried to find a distraction but Shippo's shouted response from the other room ended that hope. "He was a jackass, sis, like InuYasha said he'd be!"

Kikyo's frown got deeper as her eyes swept Kagome's face. She stood stiffly and marched over to the counter where her cellphone sat attached to a charger. She pulled the plug out and started scrolling through the contacts. The chair scraped along the floor as Kagome rushed over to snatch it away, holding it behind her back. "Please, I don't want him to know I'm in New York." She looked down at her feet and swallowed the lump in her throat. "Besides I…" she swallowed again, "I don't want anyone to feel like they have to pick sides."

Kikyo dropped her hands slowly and stared at Kagome with a worried expression. "He doesn't know you're here?"

Kagome hesitated, "Not exactly." She braced herself at the look on Kikyo's face and added quickly, "We haven't spoken to each other in weeks. It's over, Kikyo. He has no reason to keep track of me." Kikyo glanced over her shoulder and Kagome followed her gaze to find Shippo peeking around the corner.

"Did you know about this?" her voice was crisp as she shot daggers at him with her eyes.

Shippo shrunk back a little with a wince and rubbed the back of his neck, "Maybe?"

"Dammit Shippo! You know how he gets. It's my husband in Germany with him right now! I swear if I end up raising my kids on my own because of this…" Kikyo's anger was a sight to behold. The entire condo had stilled at her outburst, even the children knew to remain silent as they peeked around Shippo's legs with wide eyes.

Kagome reached out and placed the phone on the counter between them. "Please don't be angry with Shippo. I asked him to keep it secret." Kagome was wringing her hands in front of her as she added hotly, "Besides, he made his feelings very clear on the matter so he doesn't get to have a say about anything I do anymore."

Kikyo stared at her with an appraising expression for a moment. Her anger seemed to have subsided. "Perhaps you should tell me what happened. I have a lot of experience dealing with ego driven youkai after all. Maybe I can help."

Kagome chewed her lower lip as she considered the women in front of her. There really was no other person fit to give an honest opinion from a point of view that was similar to her own, but she doubted it would help her in any case. "Sesshomaru is so different from InuYasha. I'm not sure if you can compare the two."

"Oh believe me I know. Sesshomaru's one of a kind," she laughed and rolled her eyed. "What I can offer you is insight into how he looks at the world from someone he counts as a friend. Blending youkai and human relationships isn't all that hard once you know some of the basics. They're more similar than you think."

Kikyo steered Kagome through the condo into a small room with floor to ceiling windows that overlooked the city. The tip of Manhattan spread out before them in all its glory. Kagome took a couple of moments just to enjoy the view before she settled into the comfortable chair across from Kikyo. Hesitantly, she asked, already knowing the answer, "Does Sesshomaru have anything to do with this building?"

Kikyo glanced around and then pinned Kagome with knowing eyes. "He owns it. He stays in the condo on the top floor when here on business."

Kagome only nodded, her eyes drifting over the beautiful vista again as her heart constricted painfully. 'He will haunt me,' she thought morosely as she realized that she would never again be able to look out onto a beautiful view without the specter of his memory taking hold of her heart.

"So, can I assume you're no longer a miko?" Kikyo asked brazenly.

Kagome's thoughts snapped back to the woman in front of her as she turned bright red, embarrassment seizing the voice in her lungs. She nodded but kept her eyes on the floor.

"There's no need to be embarrassed Kagome, unless of course you regret it."

That got her voice working again. "What I regret is that he's a stubborn ass I can't beat senseless."

Kikyo chuckled huskily, "Yes… well, men are especially good at being asses." She added with a shrug as if it was a given, "And senseless."

They both laughed and the remaining tension melted away. Kagome looked at the other woman and thought for the first time that they might grow into true friends if she could somehow manage to keep all of them in her life.

Kikyo went on gently, her eyes sympathetic. "I know him better than anyone, except Hoshi of course. Tell me what happened."

With a deep breath, Kagome steeled herself against the rising emotions that threatened to choke her and poured out her story from beginning to end. Kikyo held her tongue, only asking questions when she didn't understand something or Kagome's words trailed off with emotion.

By the time Kagome finished, Kikyo had leaned back in her chair with crossed arms. She didn't speak right away and after a few minutes of silence, Kagome began wringing her hands. Kikyo finally spoke with a hint of frustration boiling under the surface, "Well, you're right about one thing. He's a complete ass who needs to have some sense beat into him." Kikyo slid a sly smile her way as she added, "If only we were still mikos. We could teach him an important lesson or two."

A soft knock on the door had the two turning as Shippo came into the room. The look on his face had both women sitting up.

Eyes steady on Kagome; he spoke hesitantly, "He knows you're not in Tokyo anymore."

Kikyo was the first to ask, "How?"

Looking over at her for a moment he shrugged, "Not sure, but InuYasha just called and asked me to head across the pond to help Hiraiku look for her. Sounds like they're both a little freaked out."

Kikyo stood but stopped when Shippo held out the phone, "Figured you'd want this."

Kikyo grabbed it and dialed quickly. Almost immediately she heard InuYasha's voice through the other end. Holding the phone away from her ear slightly, she rolled her eyes. She finally lost her patience and shouted, "Would you shut up for five seconds so I can tell you something!" Silence fell on the other end as Shippo chuckled softly next to Kagome. "Are you alone?" Kikyo waited a few moments as Kagome assumed he was stepping into a private area. When there was a reply, Kikyo took a deep breath. "I need you to trust me without asking any questions. Understand?"

She waited and when there was no reply, "InuYasha answer me."

A murmur came through the phone and Kikyo went on softly, "You have nothing to worry about. Kagome is safe and sound. I promise."

A strong voice came through the phone and Kikyo's eyebrows rose a little bit, "I'm not telling you that until you come home."

There was silence for only a heartbeat before the other end exploded in violent shouting. Kikyo held the phone away, wincing at his obvious displeasure. They all stared at the phone as she held it for only a few moments before speaking forcefully into it without putting it near her ear. "I'll talk to you when you've calmed down and can be civilized." She hung up the phone and waited. Within seconds it was ringing again. Kikyo answered and the yelling on the other end continued. She hung up without a word.

With an impatient sigh she looked at Kagome. "Sometimes it comes down to simply standing your ground." The phone rang again and Kikyo sent it to voicemail. "Too soon." She smiled at Kagome's shocked expression before adding, "The first thing I learned was that when InuYasha is acting on his youkai impulse, there's no dealing with him. It's better to wait him out until he's rational again."

Kagome thought about this as she watched the situation play out in front of her. Kikyo sent the phone to voicemail three more times before she shot off a text. The phone went silent for several minutes before it finally rang again. Kikyo answered it this time and waited. The voice on the other end was nearly imperceptible. With a gentle voice, Kikyo smiled genuinely as she sat back down in the arm chair and slung one slender arm toward the window. "Yes darling. Everything is fine." A pause and Kikyo added a little more forcefully, "Everyone deserves a short vacation. Especially one with no claims made on her. She's not a toy for kami's sake." Another pause and Kikyo's eyes glittered a little in the afternoon sun, "I think that this reaction bears further consideration. If he's so upset, then maybe he needs to figure out why and do something useful with it."

Kikyo finished the conversation and hung up. She looked at Kagome with a resigned expression. "Well, I'd say you have about 24 hours to either get back to Tokyo, or prepare for him to show up and begin terrorizing the city."

Kagome sighed. "Luckily we leave tomorrow morning."

Kikyo laughed, "Maybe I'll call him when I know you're in the air and tell him that I just saw you. It'd serve him right to spend a few days traveling around the world chasing after you." She tossed the phone onto the small end table next to the chair with a twinkle in her eye, "That is if my hotheaded husband doesn't tell him first. He can't resist an opportunity to drive his brother crazy."

Kagome laughed. "At least some things never change."

Kagome returned to the hotel a short time later to find Ayumi pacing near the window, worry creasing her brow as she rounded on Kagome the moment she walked through the door.

"I was worried! Your note said you'd be back by four." Ayumi said reprovingly as she watched Kagome pull her pajamas from her suitcase.

"I'm sorry, Yumi-chan. I didn't expect my friend to call and then we lost track of time as we caught up." Kagome tugged her shirt off and grabbed her nightgown in order to keep from meeting her friend's sharp eyes, "How did the interview go?"

Ayumi's mood changed immediately and she launched into a detailed account of the entire afternoon, completely forgetting her ire. "So, they said they'll be calling me by Monday to let me know."

Kagome was truly happy for her; sure that she would soon be saying good bye to her friend. Now, if only she could get through the evening and onto the plane tomorrow morning without any unexpected incidents. She didn't want the tangled mess of her love life to dampen the soaring mood of one of her best friends during what could be the most exciting times in her life.

Ayumi was standing at the window peering out onto the city that was rumored never to sleep. "I could get used to a place like this," she said almost more to herself than to Kagome. She remained there for a few more minutes before turning with bright eyes, "I'm too tired to go out. Let's order a pizza for dinner and watch movies like we used to when we were little."

Kagome laughed with relief, "Deal."

They were sitting in the plane at the terminal waiting for departure when Kagome finally turned her phone on for the first time since leaving home. The signal caught and she waited with bated breath. It began to buzz insistently and she glanced at the screen as soon as Ayumi began digging through her bag for headphones.

'27 text messages and 14 voicemails. Great,' she thought sullenly. Flipping through the messages, mostly from her mother and brother, she came across one from Sesshomaru from late yesterday afternoon. 'Where are you?' Five minutes later, 'If you don't answer in the next 5 min I'll break all InuYasha's bones.'

She snorted and glanced at Ayumi out of the corner of her eye. Luckily the other woman was already listening to music on her phone. 'He still thinks he can bully me…' she thought testily. Then with a touch of remorse, 'Sorry InuYasha. I'm sure he tried.'

Scrolling to the next line sent a few minutes later, 'Your mother doesn't know either. This isn't like you.' She bristled at that, reminded of their last encounter at the shrine.

An hour later, 'On my way. Stay put.'

Kagome did the math. He would be landing within the hour. She looked out the window at the planes surrounding them and wondered. A sigh of relief mingled with her escalated heartbeat, she looked back down at her phone to the last message from only an hour ago. 'Talked to Kikyo. Call me.'

Kagome's heart squeezed again in her chest. He wanted control without giving her anything in return. The pilot's voice sounded over the intercom and the plane started rolling backward. Relief flooded her and she sagged against the back of her seat. She held the power button and watched the message fade into black.

Kikyo was smiling as she heard the angry voice on the other end of the phone expound on all the reasons human women were a menace to society. She and Shippo had been monitoring Kagome's flight information all morning and it was clear that her cantankerous brother-in-law had not made it in time to intercept the young woman. 'You've had this coming for centuries, Yama,' she thought wryly as his deep tones grumbled through the phone. She had yet to add anything to the conversation, instead content to find humor in his ranting.

"How does a 95 pound female elude a professional security detail assigned to her?" he demanded in the same tone her children used when learning cake wasn't an acceptable breakfast food.

She had to pull the phone away and cover her mouth to keep him from hearing her muffled laughter. With a deep breath, she put the phone back to her ear. He seemed to have finally run out of steam.

"So…where are you now?" she asked with as a detached tone as possible.

"On the tarmac. They're making us wait our turn."

She rolled her eyes at the petulant answer. He seemed to be at a loss as to why he had to wait for anything. "Perhaps you should spend this forced solitude thinking about why you just crossed half the globe in pursuit of a young woman you do not consider worthy of being your mate."

A brief silence met her casual observation before he murmured, "I see that you spoke with her."

"I did."

His anger seemed to return full force at those two words. "Dammit woman, you know how worried I've been. That pain in the ass husband of yours wouldn't have been able to resist telling you I'm sure. Whose side are you on, anyway?!

She waited, letting the silence stretch just a little bit. "It sucks when someone you love keeps secrets, doesn't it?" He didn't answer, only puffed out a small breath into the phone. 'Bingo,' she thought with another smile.

"You do love her, don't you?"

Sesshomaru had a hand over his eyes as he sat next to the window in his jet. The snow was falling steadily, partly to blame for the delay. He was getting accustomed to the heavy feeling in his chest and the burn behind his eyes from stress and lack of sleep that made his head ache uncomfortably. 'Or has this feeling been around since the day she left?' he thought tiredly. The silence stretched out so long Kikyo was sure he wouldn't answer. The question lingered in the space between them like a bright balloon. She wouldn't believe this lie any more than he could tell it. "Yes," he admitted in a raspy whisper.

"Then why are you fighting it?" she asked frankly. When he didn't answer, she added, "I spent time with her yesterday, and you know what Sesshomaru? She could handle it." She heard him take a breath but cut him off before he could say anything, "Save it. I already know your reasons, but I'm starting to wonder if those reasons are just easy excuses. I think for once in your life, you're afraid to take a risk." Just to drive her point home, she added frostily, "Or maybe she's too weak and worthless for someone as important as you."

"She's not worthless," he shot back without any hesitation. Kikyo wondered if he was aware of the fact that he bristled savagely at the mere words.

"Well, you better get your head out of your ass before she wises up and moves on to someone else. She's great, and it's going to happen one day, whether you accept it or not."

The line ended on that unpleasant thought. He threw his phone across the cabin and it broke apart in a glittering spray of plastic, metal and glass. Running a palm over his face, he stared impatiently out the window as plane after plane took off on the runway next to him.

Kagome lugged her suitcase through the door, exhaustion gripping every cell of her body. The flight home seemed to take forever as they waited on the runway for almost an hour before finally getting clearance to take off. After landing, it had taken even longer to get through customs, her bags being searched more than once. She was sure it wasn't just a coincidence. Her name had probably been given to airport security and they in turn thought she was a threat. She could strangle a certain taiyoukai for all the extra hassle, but would worry about that later, too tired to do anything but stumble ahead with singular determination.

Locking the door behind her, she dropped the suitcase and let her dragging feet carry her into the bedroom. In a haze, she stripped down and shrugged on a large T-shirt. Crawling into bed, she snuggled down and slipped off to a dreamless sleep almost immediately.

Sometime later, a noise pulled her from the comfort of nothingness and into the muted sounds of car alarms and honking horns. Rolling over, she peevishly tried to bury herself into the covers, the blanket pulled up and over her ears. Another noise from the front of her apartment forced her brain just above the surface of drowsy sleep and into consciousness. Slow footsteps pounded against her skull like drums. Scrambling to a sitting position, she turned toward the half open door and pushed her tangled hair from her eyes. A part of her wanted to call out, hoping it was her brother coming to check that she made it back in one piece. It didn't take her long to remember that he didn't know her return flight schedule. She slipped from the bed to grab the tennis racket lying on the floor where she had thrown it while digging her suitcase from the back of her closet several days before. Sending a silent thank you to her younger self for once entertaining an interest in tennis, she gripped the wooden handle tightly in both hands.

Creeping around to stand behind the door, she waited; cursing that in her exhaustion she left her cell phone on top of the luggage by the door. Holding her breath, the door opened a little toward her and she felt more than saw a man sized body move through the frame and into the room. The figure stopped when facing the bed a moment before looking around the room. Shutting her eyes, she swung the racket as hard as she could, connecting with something a moment before she felt a hand close around her wrist and swing her around. She screamed at the top of her lungs until another hand clamped over her mouth and she felt herself fall backward onto the softness of her bed. Thrashing wildly, she continued her muffled scream until the hands squeezed painfully. With one last effort, she knew she finally hit the right target from the sting in her knee and a rather disgruntled groan above her head.

"Kagome, stop before you kill us both," a raspy voice wheezed. She stilled and opened one eye to peer at the face hovering a few inches away. Golden eyes and a fierce grimace stared back. He looked disheveled and tired, along with another emotion mixed in as his eyes roamed her features. She tried to free her face from his hand and he glanced down as if realizing that he was still restraining her. Removing his hand, he slowly rose up from the bed and backed away as she scrambled to grab the racket from the floor.

He watched her with an odd expression, eyes flitting from the racket to her face. His voice was soft as he put his hands up between them in a placating gesture, "Kagome, I'm sorry I scared you." When she didn't answer, he titled his head and spoke with an even gentler tone, "Kagome?"

She stood shivering as her mind jumped back and forth between the past and the present. Memories of a moonless night where she found herself pinned to the wall with groping hands and hot breath on the back of her neck. A night where the only thing that saved her was her own ability to break through magical chains long enough to bring fear to the mind of a slimy hanyou bent on breaking her mind, body and soul. She stared unseeing at Sesshomaru from across the room as the memories relentlessly assaulted her.

He backed up even more, knowing that she was fighting an inner battle not in this room, but instead from 500 years in the past. His chest ached at the fear and desperation lining her face. "Please put that down, love. I swear, no one is ever going to hurt you again."

Something in his resolute tone must have finally reached her. He watched her slowly drop both arms to her side as a shuttered breath racked her entire body. The racket slipped from her hand and she covered her face, sinking to the floor as the memories pressed down. With a whimper, she propped a shoulder against the side of her bed. He stood motionless for a heartbeat, not sure if she would welcome his touch. The instinct to comfort her was something be had never been able to deny. Sinking down to his knees, he reached a hand out and brushed her arm. "Kagome, can I sit with you?"

She nodded and he eased himself down, waiting for her to calm a bit before he spoke in a gravelly whisper, "I didn't mean to scare you."

She seemed not to hear him. "He used to come to that disgusting dungeon and watch me. I'd pretend to be sleeping, but..." Her tone was hollow, almost like the words belonged to another person. Sesshomaru felt fury at the reminder of Naraku. She went on listlessly, staring at the floor in front of her with hollow eyes, "Then there was that one night…he came in and woke me up with a kick to the head. I thought he'd broken my jaw…he probably did…but my miko powers healed it almost instantly. It still hurt like hell though." Rubbing her jaw absently, she took a breath and Sesshomaru knew what came next, his anger and disgust rising, "then he grabbed me by the hair and shoved me against the wall…I remember the stone scraping my chest open…"

She shivered and rubbed her chest absently. Without a second thought, he reached out only to have her flinch away. He withdrew again and waited. This had existed between them like an invisible wall, a silent barrier to her inner soul. Yes, they had shared a physical relationship, and he was certain that she felt more than a small amount of emotional attachment to him, but that did not mean that the events of her past had not left an indelible mark. There was still a part of her that she kept to herself. He hadn't realized until this moment how much he wanted inside that wall to sooth the scarred and terrified Kagome that no one saw. Kagome let the tears fall down her cheeks, "I tried to fight back." She looked up and he could see how much she felt the need to convince him, "I fought as hard as I could…but I was so weak."

"You were never weak, love." He couldn't say anything else or his anger would show. He couldn't risk making everything worse.

"Then, the other one showed up and for once I was happy to see him. He reminded that bastard that if he didn't stop, then their plan would fall apart because I wouldn't be a miko any longer." She looked at Sesshomaru again, chilling him to the core with her next words. "I could hear his thoughts. He only stopped it because he planned to do the same thing once I found all the shards and he could take the Jewel's power." She added with a voice barely above a whisper, "He knew I could hear him. He said he'd kill anyone who tried to spoil...," she swallowed audibly with a violent shiver. "I can still see his face…the way he looked at me." Sesshomaru had to master his reaction quickly. He hadn't realized how many memories had been lingering to torment her, even after the connection with Kagome through the crown had given him a front row seat.

His voice held a steel edge as he stared at her face, now covered by the curtain of ebony hair that cascaded to pool on the floor around her bare legs. "I'd bring him back with Tensaiga just to kill him again. Both of them, slowly and painfully."

Sniffing back tears, she nodded. He kept going, hoping to distract her, "I'm glad that all of our work in self-defense paid off," he said sarcastically as he rubbed his shoulder. She made a sound somewhere between a hiccup and a laugh and he pushed on relentlessly, "I was worried, so had to make sure you made it home safely." Settling more comfortably next to her, he added almost sheepishly, "I did knock, for the record." And after a brief pause in a deeper tone, "I turned right around after landing in New York."

She had the grace to blush at his words, knowing it was her fault he had traveled the distance of the planet in the course of a day and a half. Wiping the tears away, she took a deep breath before finally peeking at him from the corner of her eye. He was watching her steadily, but there was a blankness to his features that gave her pause. Then she let her eyes drift and noticed his fisted hands against the floor and the tight set of his shoulders and jaw. He was holding back his emotions from her and she felt frustration spike. She wanted his emotions. She craved them because it proved that he felt the same things that she did. Without thinking, she blurted out what had been clamoring for acknowledgment for more than four years, "If you care so damn much, why the hell can't you just say so?"

He leaned back a couple of inches at her ferocious question. She was sure he would leap to anger and retort with some scathing remark, but instead he only took a deep breath. His silence was deafening, and said it all. With a sigh, she braced her arm against the bed and rose. Looking down at him, sadness and acceptance mingled with a strength that she could always count on in the darkest hour.

"I wish I could convince you that the shadow you live in is only in your mind." She stayed next to him, unable to stop herself from running her fingers through his whisper soft hair, "I can't wait around hoping that one day you'll finally open your eyes and see that choosing a life with me isn't the same as what your father did to you and your mother."

He stared back, wanting to be angry at the veiled accusation threaded throughout her tone. Her words echoed in his head as if from far away. Not for the first time did the question filter through his mind of why he was holding so tightly to a tradition that no one else seemed to understand. It had been centuries since his father had even been mentioned in passing. While his father's legacy had existed as a great leader who fought for peace in the West, his personal life and the bastard hanyou left behind had survived as only a small chapter. In fact, it was more often than not remembered as a great love story that only fueled the legacy of his father as a compassionate and great leader.

The compassion and grief reflected in Kagome's velvety brown eyes caused something inside to stop, crack and trickle away like broken glass. This woman standing before him had more strength and wisdom than most youkai. It had not taken him long to see that she was special. When her safety became of utmost importance, he never bothered to examine the reason until that fateful moment in the garden staring down at her lifeless body. It was then that he knew she had grown into his soul like the roots of a plant, weaving so fully into his flesh that if he tried to remove her, he would irreparably damage both of them.

The realization had shaken him to the core. At first, he pushed her away, believing that she was his ultimate weakness. In order to preserve what little chance he had of being the leader he thought his father never was, he had to sever their connection. In the end, she made it easy by leaving the House of the Moon on her own. It wasn't until she was beyond his reach for the next 500 years that he was able to see what she had taken with her when she left. A part of him that he had no idea she had access to…his heart.

Ironically, it was the father he so desperately wished to defeat who understood his sons better than anyone could imagine. A choice to keep the Tessaiga from his oldest son now seemed like prophecy. The great Inu no Taisho had somehow known that Sesshomaru held within him a flaw that would take a tiny human woman bursting fearlessly through his iron will to bring him to his knees. Reaching out he took her hand gently, memorizing the delicate long fingers and petal soft skin. The softest touch of her skin had always brought a sense of peace and comfort he knew intrinsically would never exist with another.

Finally, he looked into the uncertain brown pools shining with unshed tears above him. "I hate it when that blasted woman is right."

Kagome blinked, question showing on her face. Sesshomaru shook his head and released her hand as he stood up, swaying slightly before righting himself. The frantic need to cover her body with his, to kiss away the haunted look in her eyes nearly undid his control. His world shifted as something large and desperate started to fight vehemently from somewhere deep inside. It took a few moments to recognize it as his inner beast, howling for release. Howling for her.

For the first time in his considerably long existence he did not know what to do, suddenly finding retreat to be the only option. The leader of the West and general of one of the greatest youkai armies ever to exist took over. It was the familiar mantle of power and control, and had always been Sesshomaru's best defense.

"I don't know how to admit defeat," he whispered before casting one last regretful look over her face. He left silently, the only sound was the door clicking shut and echoing through the tiny apartment.

The Wind and the Mountain

A InuYasha Story
by Mearasama

Part 57 of 60

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