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Things began to change when they left Mushin’s.

Golden, early-morning rays bloomed over her face, and Kagome woke. Eyes bleary with sleep, she blinked. It was still early, the sun barely creeping over the horizon. The fire from the night before had burned down to nothing more than glowing coals offering no promise of heat. She narrowed sleepy eyes at the ash and embers as the chill in the air stung her cheeks.

Nope, not worth getting up.

Letting the heaviness tempting her lids win, Kagome closed her eyes again. She was snug as a bug in a rug, content, and cozily surrounded by the warmth of the mokomoko. It would be a shame to ruin a such a comfortable moment. She sank down into the plush pelt, fisting at the fur as she rubbed her cheek over the softness cradling her head. Inhaling deeply, she sighed.

It smelled like Sesshoumaru.

Of course, it does. Her mind drifted back over the few days before they left the temple—drifted back to their mating. Heat seared her ears, and she knew without seeing them they’d turned red. Nevertheless, it didn’t stop her mind from wandering. Remembering. He does smell good. She breathed in the aroma of the mokomoko again and smiled secretly to herself. Really good.

He felt good too. Maybe too good.

She groaned as the sudden memory of his hands on her body surged to the surface, the heat in her ears spreading to her face. Stop now before you can’t, Kagome. It wasn’t something she had allowed herself to think about much since it had happened. At some point she knew she needed to process it and everything that had changed, but that was better done when more privacy was available than she was afforded now.

Smells good, feels good, looks good, tastes good…

Her blush burned crimson, and she growled to herself, flinging an arm over her face in frustration. He’s your friend. Stop!

Despite the silent admonition to herself, her brain reminded her that he had said it wouldn’t be a one-time thing, and Kagome squeezed her legs together, grumbling. Thanks, Brain.

“What is ailing you, Miko?”

Kagome yelped, startled, and tried to jump up from her little nest.  Unfortunately, she was wrapped up quite well in the mokomoko and tripped over her own feet as soon as she was upright. Her free arm waved wildly at her side as her body pitched forward, promising a face full of dirt and embarrassment. But before she hit the ground, an arm snaked around her waist and caught her.

She exhaled in relief as he set her on her feet. “Thank you.”

Sesshoumaru arched a brow, a small smile of amusement barely turning up the corners of his mouth, and set the wood he had gathered to restart the fire on top of the dying embers.

Kagome cleared her throat and started unraveling the mokomoko. “I should go catch some fish.”

His hands stilled hers and took over untangling her. “They are already caught.”

Ignoring the electricity that coursed over her skin at his touch, she stood on her tiptoes as he unwound her, looking over his shoulder to find fish already cleaned, spitted, and waiting by the fire. “Oh. Thank you.”

He hummed quietly in acknowledgement, the last of the mokomoko sliding from her waist as he did. She watched him drape it over his shoulder.

She fidgeted with her fingers before reaching out and brushing the pelt. “And thank you for that. I stayed warm.”

He didn’t say anything but looked at her silently, his gaze considering. Kagome shifted on her feet, still pulling at her fingers as she made herself not look away. But that’s when she noticed the corners of his eyes crinkle, the amber irises warmer than usual as he looked at her.

He smiles with his eyes. She tentatively smiled back, a small, nervous laugh bubbling out of her mouth as she did. Then, before she could lose herself to her anxiety any further, he came closer as her breath caught and gently touched his forehead to hers. Her eyes slid shut as his voice rumbled in her ears, the scent of sandalwood, spices, and something unidentifiable and wild washing over her.

“Good morning, Kagome.”

A moment later the contact was gone, and she opened her eyes to him attending the fire. And when he wasn’t looking, she blew out the breath she didn’t know she had been holding, bending at the waist with her hands pressed to her middle as she tried to regroup.

It was hard to do with butterflies swarming her stomach.

 

_____________________________________

 

The rest of the day wasn’t any easier on her.

Kagome followed him at a slight distance, appreciative of his silent observation that she needed it. But instead of processing her thoughts, she just continued to be distracted.

Everything reminded her of what they had shared—what they now were. Her hand absently drifted up to the joint of her neck and shoulder where he had marked her. It was no longer tender and already scarring, and she remembered how after he realized he had forgotten they still managed to get three more rounds in before he actually marked her.

She narrowed her eyes at his back. The actual marking had decidedly not been enjoyable as the rest of the night had been, and a petulant part of her still wanted to get him back for that one as she remembered the vibration of his laughter across her skin while he was fang deep in her flesh.

Those fangs. Her stomach fluttered. The sensations they could draw out of her should have been illegal. If anyone had told her when she first came through the well that, one day, she’d enjoy the feel of his on her skin, she would have written them off as crazy. Now…

“Down girl,” she muttered to herself. Never in her life would she have considered herself starved physically, but her memories of that night made her crave more. There had been plenty of physical affection between her and her friends, platonic as it had been. Even she and Inuyasha had eventually gotten past the majority of their shyness there, though what they had ultimately shared had remained chaste and sweet, never venturing beyond hugs and closeness for comfort.

Her eyes burned at the memory of the hanyou as she walked, but she swiped her hand across them and kept going. When Sesshoumaru stopped ahead and looked back, having noticed the scent of her tears, she shook her head and told him she was fine and just having a moment. He seemed hesitant to keep going, and she mustered a smile.

“It’s just memories.” She said it quietly, barely more than a whisper, but she knew he would hear.

His look was skeptical, but he finally gave a brief nod and then turned to continue on.

Kagome stared at his retreating back for a moment before starting to walk again. It was still strange to see him without armor, the shape of what was hidden beneath all his layers more apparent without it. Her face flushed at the memory of what she now knew was underneath. She looked down at the ground, quickening her pace a bit so she wasn’t too far from him but still giving herself enough distance to at least process her memories in some modicum of privacy.

He certainly hadn’t been shy and had successfully chased most of her own shyness out of her—at least then. Not that he has a reason to be shy.

Her hands flew to her warming cheeks as she remembered him shedding his yukata, letting her explore and learn without shame. She had been hesitant to touch more than his back at first, her shaking hands sweeping his hair aside to trace over the colored markings there, too shy to drift lower where they continued. She had discovered he could be playful then. Sensing her timidness, he had grabbed her hand and slapped it over his backside, smirking at her shock. “There. You have gotten that over with.”

She had laughed, immediately relaxing. It was one way to rip the band-aid off. Who would have thought Sesshoumaru could use humor to ease her nerves?

Giggling under her breath, Kagome looked up ahead at him again, a grateful smile quirking her lips. She wasn’t stupid. She knew what a lot of her friends’ first times had been like. And she knew she had received so much more during hers than any of them had.

Her eyes softened a bit, tracing over his back once again. He had made sure she had a good experience—had made sure she was cared for. He had taught her through the patience of his actions, never pushing beyond what she could handle and seeming to know and understand just where her boundaries were in a given moment. If he didn’t, he asked. And somewhere in the middle of it, they grew closer in way she couldn’t explain.

Truly, there had been no expectations. The only one she had was that they would get this over with and move on. But instead, they found themselves in mutual enjoyment of each other and just didn’t stop—then or the next morning. They hadn’t been together like that since then, but there were bigger things to deal with at the moment.

Still…

Kagome’s eyes slowly peeled away the layers of his clothing, remembering the skin and muscle beneath as the heat in her face spread to her belly. She didn’t really know what was okay now and what wasn’t. She didn’t want to take liberties she shouldn’t. But looking at him and remembering, feeling the connection that was there between them hovering just under the surface…

She couldn’t define it and could barely wrap her head around it. Squeezing her hands into fists at her sides, she tried to suppress the ache to run forward, reach out, and touch him as she had so many times before. Would it be different now? If she were truthful with herself, she thought, yes, it would be. How could even innocent touches not be different with what they had shared? His natural scent, which she had never really noticed much before, now dominated her senses when she was near him. She wanted to surround herself in it, experience it again as she had that night, lay warm and secure against his skin, and—

“Miko, what is bothering you?”

His voice, sharp with concern, stopped her in her tracks. Head snapping up, her hands clutched at her chest in surprise, heart pounding beneath them as her breath came too fast. She stared wild-eyed as he approached, blood rushing in her ears and drowning out the sound of everything around them as he drew closer. She licked dry lips, watching his concern deepen as stopped in front of her, and she tried to swallow around an even drier throat.

His hands came up, drawing her own back down to her sides. “Kagome…”

Breathe, Kagome, breathe.

The impassive mask he normally wore slipped somewhat, and he frowned, those amber of his eyes reflecting earnest worry over her well-being. “If you are unwell…”

“I’m h-healthy,” her voice stuttered. Can’t breathe.

He noticed her shallow, rapid breaths and his concern visibly increased. “You are hyperventilat—"

“I can’t stop picturing you naked!” she blurted before she could stop herself.

Her eyes blew wide at the same time his did, and she slapped both hands over her mouth.  I. Did. Not. Just. Say. That.

His stunned face said otherwise. Sesshoumaru opened his mouth to say something and then stopped, brows furrowing for a moment as he gathered his thoughts.

Kagome, however, didn’t give him time. Hands still clapped over her mouth, she did the only thing embarrassed, female, human instinct allowed.

She turned and ran.

In hindsight, running from Sesshoumaru was about the stupidest plan ever. He could catch her—and did. She ran for roughly ten glorious seconds before his brain started functioning again and he snagged her.

She struggled, pushing against his arms and chest as he carried her over to the forest edge. When she tried to run again, he sighed in exasperation and leapt up into a tree, settling on a thick, sturdy branch with his back against the trunk and her straddling his lap.

“Miko, look at me.”

Unable to run anymore, Kagome leaned forward, hid her face against his shoulder, and refused to look up. She felt him settle the mokomoko around them, the warmth immediately seeping into her skin and chasing away the autumn chill. And once again, there was sandalwood and spices. So close to him, she couldn’t avoid the scent that had surrounded her that morning and invaded her memories. She had to consciously suppress the desire to press her face to the skin of his neck and inhale.

“Kagome.”

His deep baritone saying her name triggered another intimate memory, and she shook her head against him as a fresh rush of blood surged in her face. Good thing his shoulder was comfortable. She decided then she’d be staying there all day.

Mate.”

That one got her attention. Slowly, a bit sheepishly, she raised her face and finally met his eyes. And beneath the exasperation and annoyance she saw there, there was also amusement.

She swallowed. “Can we just pass this off as a human moment and call it a day?”

“No.”

Kagome deflated a bit. Great.

His hand tilted her chin so she would meet his eyes again. “You do not need to be embarrassed.”

She lost track of how many times she had turned red that day as it happened again. “I am though.” It was barely a whisper, but it was the truth.  There was no use in trying to hide it.

“Why?”

With a shrug she sat up and reached forward, taking a lock of his hair in her hands and pulling her fingers through the silver strands. It was as good as anything to fidget with. “Because I apparently have no control over my thoughts or my mouth. Because this is all new.” Her eyes slid back to his for a second before dropping them again. “Because I’m not sure what is okay and not okay to do.”

He seemed genuinely confused by her last statement. “Explain.”

She swallowed then, wrapping the stolen silver strands tight around her finger. “You know, what are our boundaries?” When he didn’t respond right away, she continued. “Things feel kinda different now.”

“How so?”

“I”—she let her fingers slide up and pull more of the long silver mass over his shoulder, focusing on it instead of his face—“I don’t want to be clingy.” Gods, this conversation sucked, but his hair was amazing. She watched it fall through her fingers like water. “But I want to be near you. More than before.” Her voice dropped to a whisper. “I feel like expressing…care…differently.”

I feel like I’m suffocating trying to explain this. Kagome dropped his hair and waited.

He wasn’t looking at her, but he was nodding, contemplating her revelation. She felt her curiosity spike further as she watched him, his face surprisingly open as he considered things. It was strange. He still exuded that intense calm that seemed to follow him everywhere, but she could see the myriad of undefinable thoughts race through his eyes, his own pensiveness made apparent by the way they narrowed—not threateningly—while the tip of his tongue slipped out to wet his lips. Curiouser still, his upper teeth and fangs pressed into his bottom lip, chewing nonchalantly as he came to one conclusion or another.

It was as open as she had ever seen him. Well, except for that time.

“Sesshoumaru?”

His head jolted up, torn from his thoughts, eyes brighter than normal as he met hers. “Hmm?”

She wrinkled her nose, her hand drifting up to her mark. “Did I just make things weird?”

He smiled then, the action small with a quiet fondness lurking in the expression, and he settled back, shifting his shoulders against the tree. “No, you did not.”

“Then, can you tell me what you’re thinking?” Try as she might, it was hard to keep her insecurities from bleeding through in her tone.

Sesshoumaru was silent, once again not looking at her as he gathered his thoughts. She wasn’t expecting it when his hand found hers, pressing her small palm to his larger one. She had to remind herself to breathe, anxiety surging through her chest at the contact and what it might mean as much as her uncertainty about what he would say.

He focused on their hands when he finally spoke. “I think neither of us are keen on centuries of emotional solitude”—his eyes drifted to hers, almost indolent in their lack of urgency—“or celibacy.”

Instant relief flooded through her. No, she didn’t want any of that, and it wasn’t until he said it that the scope of her worries really registered in her brain. Without overthinking things, she leaned forward and lay flush against him in the biggest hug she could manage with their position. “I’m so glad you said that.”

His chuckle vibrated against her, but his arms came up around her, firm with their reassurance. “Better?”

“Yes,” she breathed, and she indulged her earlier desire to press her face to his skin and inhale the unique aroma that had been tormenting her for hours.

He seemed to know what she wanted—needed—and tilted his head to give her better access. The aroma that was wholly him flooded her senses.

“Can you tell me why your scent is driving me crazy?” Without thinking, she placed a tiny kiss to the side of his neck before once again burying her face against him there. “It’s like I can’t get enough of it.”

“Inuyoukai are naturally drawn to their mate’s scent.” His head fell back as she grew bolder and moved to his throat, brushing her nose over his flesh as she breathed him in. Her advances were unexpected but not unwelcomed, and his breathing slowed and deepened as he closed his eyes to the sensations she wrought. “It is both a comfort and delectation for us.”

“I can see why.”

She grew much bolder then, biting at the thick line of muscle at his throat, and he swallowed heavily. “I did not expect it to influence a human so.”

“Oh, this human is influenced,” she murmured, flicking her tongue out to taste him. Pine. That wild, unidentifiable part of his scent was the forests. “So, so influenced.”

She couldn’t stop—didn’t want to stop. And both his words and the way his heart pounded against hers said he didn’t want her to either. Still, insecurities had a unique ability to creep in…

He must have noticed her uncertainty rising because his hand tangled in her hair at the back of her head, and he whispered just one word.

“Stay.”

It was what she needed to kill her doubts. Parting her lips, Kagome gently began to suck right over the same spot where he had marked her, and she didn’t let go and move on until a contented rumble began to vibrate in his chest.

Time slipped away. She didn’t know how long they stayed like that, but she took her time mapping every inch of his neck with lips and teeth and tongue, listening as his deep, even breaths turned into something ragged and shallow while she continued to taste and tease.

It became too much. With a small whine, she leaned up, pulling him close as best as she could in a tree and laid a searing kiss against his mouth. Perfectly sculpted, his molded to hers, kissing her back without hesitation and melting her into a molten puddle of miko.

It was just…everything.

“Why,” she mumbled against his lips, “was I ever nervous about this?”

He gently bit her bottom lip, pulling it into his mouth and soothing it with his tongue before speaking. “I have not the faintest.”

She sighed as he kissed her again. “Me neither.”

New warmth seeped into her skin when his arms came around her and held her closer, the slow, soft pressure of his lips against her own quickly escalating into something deeper and more sensual.

Her breathing hitched, and she circled her arms around his neck. “Sesshoumaru?”

With a controlled breath, he pulled back just enough to rest his forehead against hers. “What is it, Miko?”

Kagome turned her face to nuzzle his cheek with her nose. “This is so much better than you trying to kill me.”

He laughed, and she smiled. And that was better too.