Sesshomaru froze as his mother's rage washed over him.
"You left her?" She sighed dramatically. "How did this one manage to give birth to such a foolish child? To think he would take after his father to such a degree..." She raised her fan in front of her face as though she couldn't bear to look at him a moment longer.
He hid his own sigh at his mother's flair for dramatics. "Mother," he interrupted coolly, knowing another tirade was coming.
His mother sighed again as she lowered her fan with a disappointed look. "Really, Sesshomaru, what did you expect would happen? This one did warn you that the priestess would become attached if you chose to pursue this path. Are you willing to throw your honor and word aside because of this?"
His jaw tightened. No, he would not relinquish his honor; he simply sought guidance from his mother on how to help deter the priestess from developing such...affections for him.
"Really, Sesshomaru." His mother snapped her fan shut. "She is your wife now, human or not. What harm is there if your own wife cares for you?"
"She is human," he countered, miffed his mother hadn't taken his side as he'd expected her to. While she hadn't opposed his father's second marriage, he'd always know that she hadn't understood his father's choice for a human woman. He'd expected her to empathize with his position.
He wanted to aid the priestess, as per his duty, but he didn't understand her feelings, nor did he desire to. She was mortal and she would one day die, so what point was there in attaching himself to yet another human he'd lose? Rin alone would be enough; he had no desire to add another complication.
"She is yours," his mother countered, rising from her throne. And then, to his surprise, his mother simply left him standing there.
He made his way back to his shiro. His mother had quite clearly put an end to her involvement in the situation which meant it would be up to Sesshomaru to dissuade the priestess from pursuing anything further with him. He had no desire for anything more.
When he arrived back at the shiro, he was surprised to find Jaken waiting for him with an anxious expression.
"She left," he blurted, waving the staff wildly in his anxiety.
His first thought was Rin but he spotted her standing some distance behind Jaken with a worried look on her face.
"Lady Kagome is gone," Rin spoke up, approaching him without her usual bounce in her step. "Rin tried to convince her to stay but Lady Kagome said she was needed back at the village." Rin's hair fell in her face and he smelled the faint hint of her tears.
A lie, he suspected, since the humans in the priestess' village had not even been able to assist in the priestess' recovery.
"Rin." She looked up then, wiping away a single tear, and the command he'd been about to give Jaken fell away. Instead, he promised, "This one will retrieve her."
Perhaps it was for the best, he reflected, as Rin grinned at him in relief. If he retrieved her himself, he would be able to have the conversation with her in private about his intentions with her and if she didn't agree with him, he would simply delay their return a little longer until she did.
She was his wife in name, but she would never be more. He had surpassed his father and he had no intentions of taking on the same affliction that had seen to his father's downfall.
He ignored the tiny voice that quietly pointed out that he had no intentions of ever allowing her to leave him.
He found the priestess not a half-day's journey on foot from his shiro, though it had only taken him an hour to locate her. He had noted, however, with vague amusement that she was traveling in the exact opposite direction of her own village.
"If you seek your human village, you are traveling the wrong way."
She jumped at his words and turned around to glare at him but not, he noted with mild amusement, without turning to correct herself to walk in the right direction. "I can find the village myself, Sesshomaru, so you can consider your 'duty' done," she said callously, without giving him a second look as she stormed past him as he floated on his cloud before her.
His eyes narrowed. How dare she ignore him after he'd come all this way in search of her...
"Rin was in tears," he said, certain the knowledge would cause the priestess to rethink her decision to leave.
"And I'm sorry for that," she replied though he heard the catch in her voice as she spoke, "but I can't live with you. She can always come visit." The you're not was not stated but he understood the message regardless.
His ire rose at her cavalier dismissal and he moved to float next to her as she continued her attempt to walk away from him. "You are this one's wife and he has not dismissed you."
"I don't recall accepting your proposal," she snapped back.
"This one did not recall asking."
She whirled around so fast he nearly collided into her and it was only his quick yokai reflexes that saved her from being impaled on the armor he'd donned before he'd gone off in search of her. "Fine. Let me make this clear, Sesshomaru: I am not your obligation any longer. I'm fine now and I don't need your help so you can just go back to doing—well, whatever you were doing before all of this. I don't need you and I don't want your protection. You helped me out so your conscious is clear."
He reined in his yoki with all the control he had at his disposal. No one had ever spoken to him thus—and lived—but his obligation to her well-being stayed his hand. He could not kill her and keep his honor, but that same honor demanded that he take action for the dishonor she'd just given him.
He reached out to grab her elbow and pull her into his side away from the spikes on his armor. "You are this one's wife," he reminded her fiercely. "It is not your place to reject his help or his obligations. You will return to the shiro and—"
"And what?" she snapped back. "Sit around wanting something I'll never have? No thank you, Sesshomaru. I won't sit around again and pine for something I can't have."
His blood heated as she refused to back down, glaring up at him with all the passion she'd once given his half-brother. "You will—"
"I won't," she interrupted, trying unsuccessfully to pull herself free. "Let me go, Sesshomaru! I don't want to be with you!"
There was something about the furious way she denied him that had him pulling her closer to him even as the rational part of himself wanted to push her away. All of the feelings that had been welling in the background over the past few weeks suddenly came to the forefront, nearly overwhelming him with their intensity.
What is this...?
He didn't even know where to begin in processing how he felt; all he knew was that he did not wish her to leave him. The more she rejected him, the more he backtracked and forgot his own decision to let her go.
She pounded his chest with her fist. "Stop, Sesshomaru!" Her cry this time sounded pained rather than angry. "I don't want to love you! You left me!"
He narrowed his gaze as realization hit him. "And this is why you left?" he asked her, striving to keep his tone neutral.
She just shrugged.
"You will return." He didn't give her a chance to argue. He simply pulled her more fully onto his cloud and flew back to his castle, ignoring the small fist that pounded against his chest in protest.
The priestess didn't speak to him for several days after their return to the shiro. He reestablished their routine from before but now the priestess rarely made eye contact and if she spoke, it was only when he made it clear he would not leave without a response.
It infuriated him.
She would speak to Rin and occasionally even Jaken if they crossed paths, but the moment he made his presence known, she would shut down and avoid him.
Finally, he decided that enough was enough. He would not allow her to act this way and damage her recovery.
He entered her room, not bothering to take a moment to identify himself before doing so.
She screamed, groping around for her blanket in the dim lighting and it took him a moment to realize why.
She'd been changing into her namaki, but she hadn't done more than slip her hand into one sleeve when he'd walked into her room without warning.
"Get out!" she hissed, reaching for her pillow to throw it at him.
The pillow stopped short of his person by several feet. He raised a brow at her in mild amusement.
She glowered. "Out!"
He stepped closer, unwilling to allow her to dictate his actions. "You are this one's wife," he remarked casually. "Such a sight is hardly of any concern."
"Maybe not to you," she ground out, "but it is to me."
"Yet you have feelings for this one." The words left his lips before he even realized he'd spoken them but once said, he couldn't take them back.
She pressed her lips together. "The feelings will fade," she snapped, shoving her other hand into its sleeve. "So you don't have to worry that I'm going to pounce over you or throw my poor, unworthy human feelings at you. And besides, I meant it before, Sesshomaru. I want to go back home."
He stood before her now. "This is your home."
"No," she stressed, "it isn't. You made that clear the other day when you just disappeared. You don't want me. Fine, I get it, but I don't want to stay here while you rub my face in it!"
"You are human." He was reaching for her before he knew what he was doing but the sudden heat in his blood told him that he wasn't as unaffected as he'd believed.
She growled at him. "Dammit, Sesshomaru, I know that! You don't have to keep reminding me." She suddenly sniffled, catching him off-guard as she began to cry. "I lost everything, Sesshomaru! It wasn't supposed to be you with me. I was supposed to spend forever with him and—and instead I'm here, being a burden where I'm not wanted and I can't do it, okay? I need to be needed and I want to be loved. Is that so much to ask?"
The sight of her tears nearly sent him into a panic and so he did the only thing he could think of. Once again, he pulled her into his embrace, letting her cry as he did his best to soothe her. It should have felt wrong, holding her so close to him when he wore little and she wore even less. He had no armor, no weapons, and he felt defenseless as she sobbed against him.
"What are you doing to me?" he whispered and he didn't realize that he'd spoken aloud until she gasped.
She tried to pull back but he wouldn't allow her. He felt more exposed than he'd ever been in his life. "What?"
"Calm yourself and rest," he tried, hoping she would be soothed to sleep if he continued to rub her back as he had before. "Your body is weary."
But she shook her head against his chest. "Oh, no. You can't say something like that and pretend you didn't."
This time, she pulled back and he let her, seeing no other alternative. She stared up at him for several moments and he wondered what she saw. He didn't understand his own feelings then but he knew that he didn't wish to leave her then as she was. He was afraid that if he did, she would attempt to leave once more, insinuating yet again that she found him to be an unworthy protector and husband.
He acknowledged that feeling for the first time since she'd tried to leave.
Whatever she saw, the tension left her body then. "It's scary," she admitted, but he wasn't sure she was talking about herself as her voice dropped. "But Sesshomaru, I'm not ready to do this just yet either. But," she added with a tiny smile that he found gave him relief from the quiet anxiety building within him, "we have time. I'm willing to do this if you are."
And then, to his surprise, she kissed him.
And he let her. It was a simple, soft kiss, but he found himself leaning in, allowing her to deepen the kiss, and rationale left him.
Later, he would sit back and analyze what had happened; how he'd allowed the situation to go so far, but for now, all he could focus on was how much he enjoyed the feel of her lips on his and her soft body pressed against his own.
There would be time enough later to consider the ramifications of this moment and what it would mean for them both.