Yu Yu Hakusho Fan Fiction / InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Par Tout Autre Nom ❯ Multifaceted Supplication ( Chapter 48 )

[ X - Adult: No readers under 18. Contains Graphic Adult Themes/Extreme violence. ]

Disclaimers: Inuyasha and Yu Yu Hakusho belong respectively to Rumiko Takahashi and Yoshihiro Togashi.



A/N: Ugh and double ugh… if you're all seeing this, it means I didn't manage to fix my internet OR get out of having to sub for one of the admins at this stupid conference. However, this also means that a very dear friend of mine received the disk I sent them and was polite enough to post this update for me. I know it's been a rather long while since I've updated, but work has quite literally been hell, and I just haven't had the time to really get this typed out. *makes a face* Cross your fingers that I will magically gain more hours in my day, and thus not take so long for me to get out the next chapter.


LOL, anyhow anyhow… All of you! As always I shall list what has become something of a chant for me. My darling friends, my junkies, my reviews, and all my readers wherever site you may be viewing… Thank you. The reviews and emails I've received have been lovely and inject a much needed touch of sanity into my supremely hectic days as the dreaded holiday season approaches. I adore you, and shall tack up something special (or… I hope it's special) in a day or two in an effort to show how much you've all inspired me to post stories in a more public venue. ^.~







By Any Other Name



~Multifaceted Supplication~



Kurama discreetly pointed out several items on the menu to the anxious looking waiter, keeping his expression carefully pleasant as the man shakily inquired if everything was all right. Nodding, he made a motion with hand to encourage the young man to lean down and whispered his assurances, "My fiancée and her elder brother often have arguments of this nature. It's not a serious or malicious matter."

The waiter obviously relaxed with Kurama's "help," gladly accepting the menus from the composed kitsune and scurrying off to the kitchen. Kurama covered his mouth with one hand to hide his smile when he saw the waiter pausing to whisper to other members of the staff, leaving a wake of more amused smiles in his wake.

`That's better,' Youko stretched out and ran the tip of his tongue over his teeth. `Now they think the closeness between them is a direct relation, and they will speak amongst themselves that she's ours.'

"I said fish, Kouga-kun," Kagome was repeating as Kurama braced his elbow on the table and rested his chin in his upraised palm. His eyes traced in a private caress over the lines of her stubborn frown, mentally smoothing each displeased line away until Youko was geared up to start an entirely new fantasy in the middle of the restaurant.

We are in mixed company, you know, Kurama pointed out, stomach tightening slightly as he fought to rein in the heat slowly pouring through them. This isn't the best time for you to let your brain wander off like this.

Youko shrugged, not concerned at all by that detail, `I'm the one having the fun thoughts, and it's not like he's got Hiei's abilities. All his focus is on trying to get our lover to submit.'

You sound entirely too amused by that, Kurama nearly rolled his eyes at the laughter in the kitsune's tone. Shouldn't we be stopping him? He's speaking with disrespect.

Youko smiled, tilting their head closer to inhale Kagome's scent, `No, no. Let him speak. For one, she's cute when she's mad, and for two, if she's annoyed with him, she'll help us get rid of him.'

"You need red meat," Kouga shook his head in denial, blissfully unaware of the plotting going on across the table. "I mean it, Kagome. Fish is too light to get your color back."

"Then I'll have a steak at dinner," she promised, sitting back and folding her arms over her chest. "But I don't want to have it for lunch."

Kouga sighed as he leaned across the table, grabbing her chin and tilting her face up to be certain they were eye to eye. "Kagome, you know I won't buckle under and let you get away with murder."

"This is lunch not murder," Kagome pointed out with a cheeky grin, unable to stop her giggle when he let out an exasperated growl.

Kurama smiled warmly at the playful taunt, completely entertained by the lively sparkle in her eyes the longer they bantered over the menu. She's enjoying this.

`As well she should,' Youko sighed, tilting his head as he directed them to look back and forth between the wolf and the miko. `You knowI hate to say anything positive about that bastard, but I have to admit that he can be trusted to look out for our lover's health above his own.'

Kurama inwardly arched an eyebrow, smirking at the reluctantly begrudging tone coming from his other half, Is that so?

`Shut up, Kurama,' Youko growled faintly and wrapped one arm warningly around their soul. `I'm not saying that I necessarily agree with his methods ofpersuasion. Merely observing that should the need arise for us to give him temporary care of our lover, he would take the matter seriously.'

He's doing well enough for a wolf, Kurama scolded lightly at the snide note creeping into Youko's voice. Trickery is our specialty after all, not his.

`As is quite painfully obvious at the moment,' Youko clucked his tongue in sardonic disapproval. `He over-argued his point. You can see it in her eyes, and the way she's smiling at him. Now she won't back down just to annoy him.'

She knows that he's right about getting her color back.

`Of course she does,' Youko turned his nose up defensively, chest expanding as he straightened their spine. `Our lover is neither a child nor a fool.'

Kurama smiled to himself again at the way Youko had readjusted their posture under the force of his preening. You didn't have anything to do with developing her personality, you know.

`Perhaps not, but I can still take pride in my lover's skills and intelligence,' he retorted without missing a beat. `She's going to pass them along to our children after all.'

With that smart mouth, Kurama bit down on his lower lip, readjusting his chin on his hand to make it easier to watch her more exclusively. Between all our personalities, it'll be a miracle if our children aren't boasting a wider vocabulary of curses and vulgarities by the time they begin school than most of the adults in our acquaintance.

Youko shrugged, not in the least bit put off by that probability, `Personally, I would rather know that my children can effectively threaten the mind, body, and soul of any creature foolish enough to cross them.'

Kurama had to catch himself before he openly laughed at how matter-of-fact Youko's comment had been given the content. I wasn't saying it was necessarily a good thing.

`Yes, well, our priorities obviously differ when it comes to our parenting styles,' Youko made a tsking sound.

Then we're going to argue about this more than once.

`Most definitely.'

Kurama's gaze lowered to Kagome's lap when he saw her absently let her hands lower to rest on her thighs. Barely thinking about his actions, he reached out with his free hand and brushed his fingertips over the back of her knuckles suggestively. Kagome turned it over, splaying out her fingers out under his guiding touch and bringing a new sort of warmth to their soul under how natural that simple act had been.

Kurama felt his irritation melt away before it could fully form, Our children won't have to be bloodthirsty, Youko.

`Suggesting I am?' Youko drawled out, sighing happily when Kagome laced her fingers with theirs and squeezed.

You can be, Kurama pointed out in bland accusation, tracing random lines across her palm carefully with his thumb.

`Hell, I wouldn't be able to call myself a man or a youkai if I couldn't,' Youko huffed, pouring out his influence to be an active part of that caress. `Our children will have instincts just like ours, and they will be just as deadly as we can be. Kagome will agree with that.'

She's a miko, Kurama started to protest.

`She's a fighter too, and an instructor of the old ways,' Youko reminded sternly. `Kagome picked her place to be amongst youkai, Kurama. Stop thinking she expects us to be human for her.'

Kurama frowned slightly, looking down at their joined hands as a stab of doubt went through him, I wasn't thinking that.

Youko sighed, winding his arms around their soul as he murmured, `You were, and I could feel it. But thenyou always expected that you would have to play this part forever. We got lucky, Kurama. Our lover, our miko, would not ask us to repress our nature. The way she encourages us proves she won't force us to be something we're not.'

Lips brushing against his cheek snapped Kurama from his silent debate, turning him towards the caress in wide-eyed surprise to see Kagome watching him with a soft smile. She gently untangled their hands to reach up and brush his hair out of his eyes, "Ah, so there you are. I was starting to wonder if I'd lost you for the day."

Kurama blinked and reoriented his thoughts, feeling Youko curve their lips into an affectionate smile, "Please forgive me, little lover… I was just thinking. But more importantly, have you decided what you'd like?"

Kagome sighed and frowned at Kouga, "Well I know what I want to eat."

"No," Kouga shook his head.

Kagome stuck out her tongue, "I'm not a child, Kouga-kun. I can decide what to have for lunch on my own."

"I'm not arguing about this with you any more," he folded his arms over his chest and fixed a particularly stern look on her. "Sesshoumaru would say the same thing if he was here, and you wouldn't be so stubborn about it."

"I can always order cake and call it square," Kagome tapped her finger on the table in front of her.

Kouga flipped out his phone, "Speed dial."

"Cheater," she leaned back in her chair with a pout, sighing as she leaned to the side just enough to brush her shoulder against Kurama's and pull some of his warmth into herself. "There's only so much you can play that card, Kouga-kun."

Kurama chuckled softly at her displeasure, wrapping his arm around her shoulders and tucking her up close at his side. Tilting his head down, he brushed his lips over her temple and whispered, "Your body requires something more substantial than cake, Kagome. But if you promise to have more care for how pale you are now, I'll buy you a crepe from that street vendor you looked like you wanted to attack."

"I'll hold you to that," Kagome warned, opening her mouth to say more when the waiter returned and set down an artfully arranged bento with the teriyaki salmon she'd been insisting on.

Kurama sighed smugly, closing his eyes briefly to savor the moment when she let out a delighted sound and twisted to give him an enthusiastic embrace, She's openly being affectionate in public.

`I am aware of that, Kurama,' Youko's tail flicked back and forth in excitement, opening their eyes to bask in the glaring disapproval on the wolf's face when he realized they'd gone over his head. `Now thenlet's show this lord just how much more effective we are at seeing to her care.'

Kouga's brows had lowered severely as the waiter bustled around them, setting the specified dishes out before bowing and leaving them to their meal, "You-"

"Kagome, honey, you simply have to taste this," Kurama ignored him, lowering his voice to more a more intimate timbre as he took a piece of steak between his chopsticks and held it up to her mouth. "Their chef is quite good."

Kagome's brows lifted, looking from the offering to his smile and back before she leaned forward and opened her mouth. His smile deepened when he caught the faint blush spread across her cheeks. Holding her gaze, he put pressure on the chopsticks to drag them slowly across her lower lip once he was certain she'd taken the bite.

He shifted his weight, leaning in close to purr in her ear again, "Well?"

Kagome's blush darkened over the blatant intimacies, lifting her hand to cover her mouth as she chewed and swallowed before answering quietly. "It's… you're right, it's very good."

Kurama sat up, winking at her when her chopsticks gently pulled a piece from her own dish, "Fair is fair, lover. Are you going to let me taste yours too?"

Kouga sat back, tilting his head to one side in dawning realization when Kagome returned the favor of sharing her lunch. Kurama caught the upward twitch of the wolf's lips before he regained his stern expression, flashing him the faintest smirk of pride as let his teeth graze her chopsticks suggestively. One dark brow arched upwards as the wolf sat back, clearing his throat to snap Kagome out of the daze the kitsune's actions seemed to have lulled her into. She straightened with a soft sound of annoyance, ducking her head and trying to look more focused on eating than she was on the flirtation from the attentive kitsune.

Kurama bit back a laugh, lifting one hand to brush his hair back over his shoulder as he gave her a playful nudge. "I think you may have had the right idea," he gestured to her bento with his chopsticks. "I'd rather have yours."

Kagome fidgeted in her chair, fighting a quick battle with her sense of modesty as she tapped her chopsticks thoughtfully against her lips. She finally came to a decision, glancing off out the window and murmuring quietly, "Would-? Ah, that is… Do you want to share?"

Kurama slanted Kouga a victorious smile and turned a quick, discreet look around the restaurant to be sure they weren't being watched before he ducked and traced the edge of her ear with his tongue. He sat up, pasting on the most innocent expression he could manage when she snapped around and automatically backhanded him in the chest.

"Stop that!" Kagome hissed at him in exasperation, frowning and stealing a strip of beef from his bento. She brandished the meat at him like a weapon, jerking it away when he tried to snatch it away from her and slipping it into her mouth. "You'll regret it if you keep that up, Kurama, don't think you won't. I'm not some blushing little virgin, and I'll get back at you just like I did before."

"I'd never think to question your ability to meet any challenge I give you, little lover," Kurama pressed his hand over his heart and gave her a shallow bow, snatching a larger piece of her salmon as soon as he was sure she was distracted. She let out sound of protest, but she'd barely lifted a hand to stop him by the time it was in his mouth.

Kouga watched it all silently, completely enthralled by the way Kurama goaded her little by little until she was taking more of the meat he'd wanted her to order in the first place. The banter between them was light and easy, every subtle shift in their body language showing a level of comfort that surprised the wolf lord on an entirely different level. His hands slowly lowered, not even bothering to touch the bento in front of him as he continued to regard Kagome's reaction to the kitsune. He- he can actually trick her? Shit… shit! How old is this kitsune?

Kurama felt the weight of Kouga's stare, waiting for Kagome to turn her attention back to her food in a temporary truce before returning the glare with a bland look of his own. He's angry.

`Of course he is,' Youko smiled darkly from inside them at the observation. `We're forcing him to see for himself that she's ours. The way she relaxes and listens to us, the things we can do for herthere's no way he can hope to measure up with us in her eyes now that we have decided to have her.'

Kouga's eyes narrowed sharply at the smug gleam that flickered through those flashing eyes, shifting to Kagome as the expression melted to concern. "Kagome, are you sure you don't need to have an escort? I could leave Ginta and Hakkaku-"

"That won't be necessary," Kurama cut in before he could continue, the look in his eyes turning dark with warning. "It's insulting that you think I won't- or can't protect Kagome. She is safer in my hands than yours."

Kagome held up her free hand when Kouga leaned forward to respond to that claim, her expression set into the same one that Kurama had found to be so damn irresistible when he'd first seen it directed at her students. He had to forcefully restrain Youko from stealing a kiss from her on the spot, especially when Kouga instantly backed down from it as well. He could feel the muscle in his jaw twitch from just how hard he was gritting his teeth with the effort to hold them still and let Kagome handle the wolf.

"Kouga-kun," Kagome lowered her voice firmly, effectively cutting off any possibility for more verbal sparring with the understated disapproval. "I know you worry, and I appreciate the offer. But I trust Kurama to play my bodyguard and satisfy everyone's worries about my health while I'm paying my respects here. If you trust me, then relax. He isn't going to hurt me."

Kurama's eyes flashed scarlet for the barest second, unable to prevent the absolutely wicked smile spreading across his lips as he regarded Kouga's cornered expression. She trapped him with that. He can't argue with her without making it sound like he's insulting their relationship.

`I keep telling you she's sneaky,' Youko let out a sound of irritation when Kurama didn't follow his suggestion and wrap an arm around her again. After a moment of internal debate, he gave up on the physical display and simply expanded their youki outward to wind more possessively through her aura. `Although... it makes you wonder, doesn't it?'

Wonder what? Kurama frowned slightly, shifting in his seat at the warmth filling them under the lazy stroke of their energy against the soul they had so recently fed from. The question slipped from his mind almost as soon as it had formed when all the sensations seemed to come rushing back to him at once, Good gods.

`Easy, Kurama,' Youko chuckled at the less refined reaction, nuzzling him encouragingly when it became obvious Kurama wasn't going to stop him. `Breathe slowly… taste the sensations and separate the flavors one at a time or you'll be overwhelmed whenever we do this. Good, good. But back to our lover, it makes you wonder if she didn't set Kouga up to trap himself. She might be testing our creativity.'

Kurama focused on Youko's theory with effort, blinking in disbelief before he muttered, You're getting paranoid if you think she's building complex puzzles specifically for the sake of watching us react over such mundane issues.

`I am not!' Youko protested. `Females do it all the time when they're picking out a breeding partner! She wants to see if we can handle dissention over little things like this cleanly.'

Kurama sighed, easily recognizing that tone of voice as Youko in his most stubborn form and giving up convincing him otherwise as he refocused on Kouga with his own severe expression. She had turned aside the wolf's offering, but their instincts were still bristling enough to goad a more direct response to show the suggestion was unappreciated, "Kagome is no longer your responsibility, Kouga-sama."

Kagome brought her elbow back into Kurama's stomach, "Don't you overdo it or I'll send you with him and use my vacation for alone time."

Kurama offered her a harmless smile, slipping another piece of steak into her mouth when she seemed inclined to scold him further, "You love me too much to send me away in such a heartless fashion, Kagome."

She chewed and swallowed, sticking her tongue out at him and picking up her bowl of rice as she turned her body away from his in subtle snub, "I wonder at my own sanity."

Ah she- wait, Kurama froze with his teacup halfway to his mouth, eyes widening and flickering rapidly between green and gold as her words connected. Wait, did she just-?

`She didn't deny it,' Youko whispered in rising excitement, straightening in their soul until Kurama feared their spine was in danger of snapping in two. `Kurama, did you hear that? She didn't deny it and that damn wolf is right fucking there to witness it!'

Kurama's head snapped around, staring intently at her profile as she stubbornly refused to look at him, Thenshe has deeper feelings for us?

He started to reach out with a sort of awe, mouth open to call her on the clear innuendo in her response when a faint mechanical chirp shattered the silence gripping their table. Irritated at the untimely interruption, Kurama turned to scowl at the culprit. Unable to fully contain his faint rumble of displeasure at the smug look on Kouga's face as the wolf flipped open his ringing phone.

"Moriharuka," Kouga schooled his voice instantly into his clipped, business tone as he instinctively turned to the side to exclude the table from the conversation.

`Stupid human technology,' Youko's lip curled up in supreme distaste, slanting their eyes to where Kagome was poking at the remains of her fish. The pink still tinting her cheeks soothed him somewhat, but it also proved too much temptation not to slide his hand around her waist and lightly pull her closer. Tilting their head, Youko rubbed their forehead against her temple as he kept half an eye on Kouga, `That was a beautiful mood and he just had to fucking ruin it.'

We'll bring it back up when we have more privacy, Kurama assured him, completely forgetting Kouga when Kagome finally relaxed against his side. She didn't mean to admit to her feelings like that, or she wouldn't be acting so shy now.

`Isn't it cute as all hell?' Youko grinned, setting down their chopsticks to brush her bangs out of her eyes and turn her face around to check her color. "You are looking much better now, little lover," he tapped her on the end of the nose. "Well enough to have earned that crepe."

Kagome bit his finger.

Well maybe not that shy, Kurama tried his damnedest not to burst out laughing when Youko let out a yelp of surprise. The laugh choked off and died in his throat though when rather than snatching their hand back, Youko simply stretched out his thumb to stroke down her cheek with that finger still held captive in her teeth.

"That wasn't very nice, Kagome," Youko purred out once he'd recovered from his surprise, flashing her a smile filled with promise just as he dipped his head enough to lick the same spot they'd just tapped.

Kagome's startled gasp freed their finger and Youko was quick to slide the newly freed hand around the back of her head, grabbing a fistful of her hair to hold her still. Her eyes went wide and then narrow in mock anger, "That was a dirty trick, Kurama."

He grinned unrepentantly, "But it worked, and you're still smiling at me. And… if the wolf weren't here spoiling the start of our vacation, we could take advantage of this position we have somehow found ourselves in."

Kurama tugged him back when they started to lean forward to sneak a kiss despite the claim that their "ambiance" had been upset, Back up, Youko, she's still got some of the human issues about public affection. We can't keep pushing her like this in front of so many people.

`That's bullshit, she likes kissing us no matter how many people are looking at us,' Youko snorted, openly pouting at being stopped just before claiming his prize. `Besides, the more eyes on us, the more people will be aware she's not available.'

"She's right here," Kouga announced cheerfully and brought an end to their play. He winked at Kagome and mouthed `Sesshoumaru' when she arched a quizzical brow, "No, everything went well. The kitsune bastard even tricked her into having steak."

Kagome made a threatening gesture with her chopsticks and mouthed back `Don't make me kick you.'

Kouga chuckled and leaned back in his chair lazily, propping his arm up along the back of the seat next to him without a thought to the renewed scowl coming his way from Kurama. "I don't know, you'd have to ask her about that. Yes, I met with Yoshiro and he made all the arrangements for the family house. The phone number hasn't changed."

"Honestly," Kagome muttered under her breath, rising up and reaching across the table without a thought for the temptation she'd just placed literally within hand's reach. "Give me the phone, Kouga-kun, before he shows up just to beat both of us over the way you answer questions."

Kurama's attention had shifted the instant Kagome stood up, barely registering the wolf handing over the cell phone. His gaze dropped to stare at the excellent view the new position provided, not to mention the opportunity for some enjoyable revenge. Youko was already chuckling inside their mind, the sound sending a chill down Kurama's spine as the kitsune took his time sliding his youki down that limb to blend their arm together completely. Youko, he started warningly, biting the inside of his cheek when he felt a streak of heat snake through his stomach.

`Shh… I'm having a moment,' Youko scolded in a dreamy voice.

You are not thinking of doing- Kurama voice failed him completely when Youko pulled them towards her. He curved their fingers over her hip and down until they were cupping her backside, Youko, we're in public!

`You can't possibly tell me you don't think it's worth it when I know you're feeling this,' Youko let out a disbelieving scoff, giving her a squeeze to feel the tone of the muscles beneath their hand.

Kurama tilted his chin down, preparing to try and gather the motivation to release her when Kagome straightened and reflexively brought her hand back to slap his away. His eyes went wide, staring up at her with mouth open and apology hovering on the tip on his tongue. Right until she sat down at his side without the slightest acknowledgment it had even happened. That was-?

`A reflex. And an old one to be so instinctive,' Youko blinked and settled back in their soul to turn that over in his head. He couldn't help but chuckle at all the possibilities her reaction opened to him, shrugging off the new questions under the simplest answer for the moment, `Ah well, the wolf did all but admit her first husband was a pervert.'

But why would she be used to being groped in public and not kissed? Kurama frowned slightly. That seems a little backwards.

`Maybe he had a fetish.'

Kagome was smiling in exasperation, leaning back in her chair as she listened to whatever Sesshoumaru was saying, "I know, I know. I wasn't there very long, I know better. No, Sesshoumaru, Kurama and Kouga are taking good care of me."

Youko frowned, sliding their arm around her waist possessively again, `We are taking good care of her. The wolf is not nearly clever enough to know how to handle our lover properly, and I'll be damned if I let him take the credit for our work.'

"You don't have anything to worry about, Kurama is almost worse than all of you put together as far as the hovering thing goes," Kagome shot him a look, sticking her tongue out at him when he gave her an innocent expression.

"I don't hover, honey," Kurama winked at her, pressing a finger to her lips before tracing their shape with a feather-light caress. "I just know how best to take care of you, to keep my most beautiful lover healthy and safe."

"Sit back from my miko, kitsune."

Kagome jumped slightly, blushing at the low rumble in her ear and stammering her excuses as she stood and backed away from the table. Shooting a dark glare at Kurama for causing her embarrassment, she turned and walked back to one of the windows in their secluded corner of the restaurant to continue the call.

Kurama followed her with his eyes, again propping his elbow on the table and resting his chin in his palm. His eyes darted briefly to Kouga, satisfied the wolf was finally seeing to his lunch and leaving him unobserved as he let his mind wander over their unexpected progress. She didn't deny that she loves us.

`I was right here, you know,' Youko reminded him, adding his own pleasure over that event to the mix in their aura. `She knows we understood what she said to us. Although I would very much like to know what prompted her to admit her feelings to us now.'

Something changed, Youko. Something happened to her in that shrine, Kurama frowned at the emotions curling through their soul at the thought of what could have possibly been inside a barrier that strong.

Youko chuckled softly, making their eyes flash with dark possessiveness, `Something didBut it makes no difference in the end. Kagome is starting to understand that her place is at our side.'

Kurama followed the nervous path of her hands, unaware of the predatory smile sneaking across his lips the longer he watched her fingers toy with the curtains, Is she?

Youko wound his arms around their soul again, bringing his mouth to Kurama's ear as he whispered, `Trust me, Kurama. She knows that we won't let her go.'



Kagome felt a tingle chase along her senses, lifting her head and glancing back at the table only to be caught by that dark gleam in Kurama's honey-toned stare. The tightness in her expression slowly relaxed under the subtle twinge of his youki reaching towards her, and Kagome couldn't stop herself from smiling at him. It was difficult, but she still turned away from that entrancing, oddly comforting stare with effort to be certain her quiet discussion with the taiyoukai wouldn't be overheard. "He's not the one."

"You believe him?"

Kagome nodded once, reaching out habitually to brush aside the curtain and rest her hand on the window in front of her, "I believe him."

"This is not good news, miko."

"No, it's not," she blew out a heavy sigh, bracing herself for the reaction her next statement was sure to garner. "Neither was finding out who he says it really is."

Sesshoumaru fell silent on the other end for a moment before letting out a sound of veiled impatience, "I am waiting for your answer."

"I know," Kagome whispered, curling her hand back in to cover her heart and send out a faint, hungry pulse. Behind her, she could sense Kouga going still in response to the unexpected call and dipped her head to reassure him at the searching glance he turned to her. His jaw tightened, but he nodded in understanding and reluctantly went back to his lunch just as he opened his soul as well.

Kagome's eyes slipped closed, bracing her weight against the wall as the faint echoes of youki seeped back into her soul. Each separate beat of comfort winding into her from their widespread sources adding to her composure until the disquiet settled back down to a faint murmur inside her soul.

"Is that better, miko?" Sesshoumaru murmured in a warmer tone than he'd been using just as his signature energy wound through her more intensely than all the others. "Or is there a need for interruption?"

"No, nothing like that," she shook her head, sliding her hand up into her hair as she gathered her resolve. "I just thought that we wouldn't see any more from Musou. Naraku absorbed him so quickly-"

Kagome winced and pulled the phone away from her ear when she heard a shriek of protest she quickly identified as Shippou. "Musou!? NO WAY! There's no way he lived this long! Naraku would have never let him go and- herk-!"

"Continue, miko," Sesshoumaru ordered calmly as soon as the tirade choked off. "Who is Musou to you?"

"Long story," Kagome couldn't help but smile when she felt the slender vine of her rose reach out to pet her fingers when they passed within close reach. "I'll tell you when I get home, or you can ask Shippou if you haven't killed him again."

"The kitsune will recover."

"I'm sure," Kagome retorted dryly.

"I will call you home if you don't satisfy my questions, Kagome, don't think that I won't," she could practically taste the way his eyebrow kicked up under that lofty threat. "Kouga informs me that he would be more than happy to return you if I deem it necessary to your health and safety."

"All right, Sesshoumaru," Kagome acquiesced, not bothering to hide her exhaustion from him. "But it really is a long story. In a nutshell, Musou was Naraku's first real attempt to get rid of his humanity. He was what remained of Onigumo in a body that Naraku had created, but it made Naraku too unstable. Naraku chased him down and reabsorbed him before his body could fall apart. And no, Musou was nothing like Hakudoushi."

"Where is he now?"

"Naraku said he's probably hiding in Makai," Kagome leaned her shoulder against the wall, biting her lip as she tried to resist glancing at the table when she felt the weight of Kurama's stare again. "I can't tell you for sure without having a look myself, but he doesn't have any reason to lie to me now."

"This Sesshoumaru does not have the faith in that creature that you do, miko," he snorted in disgust. "I would sooner slaughter that ghost than I would speak with it under even the gravest situation."

She smiled faintly, "You know it doesn't work that way for me."

"It would be infinitely more simple if it did," Sesshoumaru sighed. "However, I will not waste time on impossible things. You will allow Kouga to restore your energy before he leaves you alone with that kitsune."

"All right," she nodded in agreement, relief easing the stiffness in her shoulders that he wasn't going to recall her immediately under the disturbing new information.

"You will have the phone I put in your bags with you at all times, and you will answer when this Sesshoumaru contacts you," he continued to list his orders sternly. "Your hybrid will accompany me to Makai to make inquires regarding the potential truth to these rumors."

Kagome's brows rose, a faint giggle bubbling out of her, "Decided you needed to break out the big guns for this one?"

"This Sesshoumaru will see for himself if the hybrid is worthy of trust."

"Just don't freak him out too much, Sesshoumaru," Kagome scolded lightly. "There isn't a youkai alive that you can't intimidate within an inch of its life when you really put your mind to it, and you know it."

"As it should be," the smug amusement was clear in his voice. "You will be careful with yourself, miko. This Sesshoumaru will be greatly displeased if he finds you have exerted yourself unnecessarily so quickly after forcing yourself to meet with Naraku's shadow."

"Don't worry, I'm just planning on going to the house from here," she finally gave in, turning in profile to let her hair partially obscure her attempt to sneak a look at Kurama. "The most strenuous thing I'll probably do tonight is take a bath."

"Either myself or Takashima will call to verify that," Sesshoumaru promised. "Finish the kitsune's steak and draw in Kouga's youki. Then you may take your bath and go to bed."

"I love you too," Kagome snorted, wincing slightly as she felt the spike in youki coming from the table as soon as the rose began to scold her choice of words.

"You will also inform this kitsune and his pets that in all things regarding yourself, miko, this Sesshoumaru comes first," he instructed her with a definite note of sadistic pleasure when he heard the sounds coming from the rose. "I will not have his jealousy put you in a dangerous situation."

Kagome cupped her hand over the bud before it could really get going, carefully suppressing its youki down to a more docile level, "Relax, Sesshoumaru. I'm in good hands here."

"That, miko, remains to be seen."




I don't know if I should be humiliated or extremely proud of you right now, Kurama sighed as he squeezed the excess water out of his hair.

`What? They were dreaming if they thought I would permit that arrangement,' Youko frowned in severe disapproval at the very memory of their afternoon difficulties. `Kagome will not be so far from my senses when the purpose of this vacation is for us to get to know each other without interruption. My lover will not be without my protection.'

Kurama didn't bother to correct the mistaken singularity as he reached for the light cotton yukata resting on his stool. He was sighing as he slipped into the more formal sleepwear Sesshoumaru's `vacation house' kept on hand, Neither of them seemed to be very surprised that we rejected that placement.

Youko snorted, flicking a hand as he absently reached up to smooth their fingers carefully through their dripping hair, `They would have been surprised if we didn't. Kouga knew he was only putting in a token disagreement and Kagome wouldn't have been happy if he forced us to fight it out in public.'

Kurama wrinkled his nose, He just wanted to be sure she was still happy enough with him that he got a kiss before he left.

`On one hand, I can't fault him for that,' Youko made a vague sound of agreement, lifting the towel to go about the arduous task of drying their thick hair. `However, if he makes any effort to follow through with that, I will simply have to kill him.'

You're in a good mood, Kurama chuckled, redirecting their hands to start his vines reaching out for the hairdryer once they'd done all they could with the towel.

`Of course I am!' Youko sounded amazed that his happiness had been in question. `Kagome is getting rid of that bothersome wolf as we speak, Hiei and Yuusuke have agreed to keep an eye on things to keep us from being interrupted by Reikai. And most importantly, our beautiful lover just admitted to having deeper feelings for us. In a public restaurant no less.'

I applaud your restraint for not tackling her to the ground on the spot, Kurama couldn't resist taunting dryly, turning his head for his vines as the faint whirring noise of the dyer filled the bathroom.

`You wouldn't have complained if I had, smartass, so unless you want me to let you handle your sexual control on your own I suggest you give me the credit I deserve,' Youko threatened with a meaningful snap of ki across their soul to get Kurama flinching. `I know you were just as excited as I was, and just as eager to show her how much we liked hearing her say what she said.'

Kurama frowned at his reflection for a moment before he let out a heavy sigh and lowered himself to sit on the stool his vines quickly supplied for him. His gaze shifted to the side as he leaned forward, propping his elbows on the counter and clasping his hands together in front of his mouth. "What are we doing, Youko?"

Youko perked up, focused and alert at the change in his tone, `About what?'

This, Kurama closed his eyes, resting his forehead on his hands. What are we doing? Two months ago if anyone had suggested we would be chasing down a miko with the intent to possess every piece of her soul we would have laughed. Maybe killed them depending on the situation, but we definitely would have been laughing.

`You want to have this discussion now?' Youko cocked his head to one side, readjusting to the more serious mood.

You've been holding me off long enough, Kurama challenged. You think I haven't noticed? You've been just as confused by all this as I am. Everything we're feeling, what made it all so different? Why is it so intense now?

`Two months ago we were not where we are now,' Youko sighed, carefully sinking himself down deeper into their soul and winding his arms around their soul to cushion the disquiet winding through them. `Things change, Kurama.'

That's funny coming from you, he lifted his head, wondering briefly why he was letting himself be comforted by the overbearing kitsune before brushing it aside in favor of addressing the more important issues.

`I create any change necessary to suit my needs, so it shouldn't be "funny" to hear me say that,' Youko let out an indignant huff. `Why are you questioning our decision now? What about our situation is worrying you?'

Kurama tilted his head back, staring up at the ceiling without really focusing on anything as the vines went about finishing their task. You aren't worried?

`What reason do we have to worry?' Youko cocked his head to one side, trying to convey his difficulty understanding this particular mood swing. `There is nothing about our nature that we need to hide from our lover if that's was has you up in knots. She knows how we work, and you can't deny that. She was the one asking us to feed on her. We can be ourselves to her the way we need to be.'

She's a widowed miko who happens to be an integral part of a youkai family that has been hiding seamlessly in the Ningenkai since before the barriers split.

`My standards have always been high.'

Kurama brought his hand down on the counter so hard the ceramic nearly cracked, Dammit, you're missing the point!

Youko fell silent, eyes narrowing faintly as he let Kurama feel more of him winding even more deeply throughout their soul. `Am I?'

Kurama covered his eyes with one hand, forcing himself to take a deep, cleansing breath before he snapped at the kitsune again. "I'm losing my mind," he finally gritted out.

In any other situation, Youko would have instantly pounced on the temptation to turn that remark into a prime deprecation. Now, however, he clucked his tongue in affectionate disapproval and forced their body to sit up with regal elegance. `You are being foolish. Why are you picking now to be pessimistic? This is supposed to be the fun part.'

I'm allowed to have a moment, all right? Kurama resisted Youko's attempt to control their posture and slumped forward, folding his arms and resting his chin on them as a thoughtful expression smoothed away his frown. Doesn't it seem strange to you? How much we crave having her heart? Her soul? I've never felt like this, and I know you haven't either.

Youko chuckled, shaking his head like a much older sibling preparing to speak with a young child, `You still don't understand, do you?'

We're obsessed with her.

`Perhaps, but I still don't see why that upsets you,' Youko informed him with a shrug. `I wanted a lover, you wanted to breedWe found the perfect lover to do both.'

You're over-simplifying matters just a bit, don't you think? Kurama looked into the mirror again, waiting for the telltale flicker of gold. Why her? Why does it matter who we want when it hasn't before?

`Why not?' Youko arched one of their brows in mocking question. `I want her, and I actually like her beyond lust. I like how she feels, how she looks, the way she kisses usYou can feel it, can't you?'

Of course I can feel it, Youko, I'm not an idiot, Kurama frowned in irritation.

Youko's brows lifted, and he let out a soft sound of understanding when he prodded deeper through their soul, `That's what's scaring you about this. You can feel the way it's making us both burn every time we touch her.'

She's a miko, Kurama defended.

Youko rolled his eyes in exasperation, `You said you weren't an idiot, so don't act like one, Kurama. You know I hate it when you do that. And you know damn well that what we feel when she touches us is not purification.'

It still can't be healthy to want to possess her so completely, Kurama shivered and sat up, staring more intently at his reflection. What's wrong with us?

`It's our way.'

We're moving too quickly, Kurama tried to protest.

`Do you actually believe that our feelings would change if we slowed our pursuit?' Youko's mocking laugh rippling through their soul clearly displayed his own opinion of that idea. `You have wanted me to admit to you what my intentions were since you first realized you were feeling so possessive. But now that I am telling you, you're questioning them? Why are you so afraid of admitting to yourself that you feel the same way I do?'

Kurama set his jaw, brows lowering against the nagging insecurity as Youko's amusement sparked his temper, Because it makes me forget which one of us is controlling our body.

`That's hardly cause for concern,' Youko slid his hands carefully down Kurama's spine, smiling to himself when their body tried to arch. `We are one in our desire, Kurama. This miko is going to belong to us, and you'll be lying to me if you try and say you don't have chills from anticipating that. Tell yourself you're human until you lose consciousness, but you will always be this, be me. And you will still wake up wanting to consume every last inch of this human miko until she is as much a part of us as our own body.'

Hiei is right, Kurama reached out to the mirror, lightly resting his fingertips against the cool glass. It is more than a little disturbing to see you behave seriously after seeing the other side of you for so long.

`I am not to be taken for a fool just because I enjoy having fun,' Youko flashed him a razor-edged smile through their lips. `You are fully aware of that, just as you're aware of how grossly underestimated our skills so often are behind this face of ours.'

Kurama's eyes narrowed slightly, continuing to study Youko's eyes through his own reflection. How do I know you aren't coloring my emotions towards her?

`Because I have never felt a need to hide my disagreements from you in regards to what is usually your poor taste in lovers,' Youko shrugged nonchalantly. `Face it, Kurama, you've finally found a woman who awakens the side of you that you pretend you can turn on and off. You can feel how much you need her to feel at home with these feelings and it scares you.'

Kurama's hand curled into a fist, resisting the urge to break the mirror and put a stop to the sly look in those golden eyes, This isn't me.

`This is you underneath all the pretense and humanity, or else you wouldn't be acting so heavily on our instincts,' Youko shot back easily. `Stop angsting over this like a dramatic little human teenager and admit that you want to be possessive about Kagome.'

"Hey," the soft call had him instantly snapping back to the present as he straightened in surprise and turned to find the door wide open. Kagome was watching him, a cup of tea held out towards him in one hand with the vine around her throat holding another one carefully up by her shoulder. "You were throwing vibes all over the house, Kurama. Are you all right?"

"I'm sorry," Kurama stood quickly, shaking off his frustration and trying to recollect his thoughts to smooth over his behavior. "I-"

"Don't apologize to me," the concern smoothed out of her expression after she'd made a quick sweep of him from head to toe to check for herself, bringing a soft smile to her lips as she dismissed his apology. She reached out and clasped his wrist to lift his hand enough to pass off the tea when he didn't take the hint, "I'm the one who came in without knocking."

Kurama blinked, looking down at the tea and back up at her as the rose chittered in amusement and passed her the cup it was holding. He tilted his head, staring down at her with an unreadable expression as all the tangled frustration and confusion inside him began to smooth away. The longer he looked down at her smile, and tasted the very real worry she had been feeling for him, the less it mattered why he'd been so upset in the first place, "Thank you."

`You know why.'


"It's probably my fault you feel upset anyway," Kagome leaned back against the doorframe and sighed, looking back down the empty hall. "I shouldn't have let you stand in holy magic for so long. I was being selfish."

"No, it wasn't that," Kurama hurried to assure her, reaching out to brush the back of his fingers across her cheek. He turned her face back towards him, cupping her cheek as he pressed a soft kiss to her forehead, "I'm sorry. It's not your fault, Kagome. I was just getting carried away with some old troubles."

Kagome closed her eyes, suppressing her shiver at the touch of his lips on her skin, "You were still hurting on the inside. I could feel it."

Youko perked up eagerly, `Feel it?'

Kurama pulled away, looking down at her in confusion, "You could tell what I was feeling?"

"I've spent enough time around you to know how it feels when you aren't calm," Kagome admitted softly, slipping back out into the hall with a quick look over her shoulder. "Come on, I made up one of the spare rooms for you. Or you can come to the kitchen and finish the tea with me if you're done in here."

Kurama arched an eyebrow, his lips twitching upward when he caught the faint blush on her cheeks. A curl of warmth snuck through their soul at the implication in her words, and the almost shy note to her admission, She knows us. She took the time to learn how our ki feels.

"It's not as nice as the hotel, and you'll have to live with my cooking," Kagome sipped at her tea as she started to walk, reaching up to stroke the vine playing with her hair in what seemed to be becoming a habitual gesture.

"I don't think that'll be a problem," Kurama slipped out into the hall behind her, reaching out and catching her hand to lace their fingers together. "I'm a fair cook myself you know, and I'm not all that fond of hotels."

`Not usually a lot of nature on hand,' Youko added arrogantly. `And too many eyes that I don't care to have on me when I'm busy with more important matters.'

Kagome almost faltered a step when he tugged her back to match his pace, sliding his arm around her waist to tuck her up against his side. His hand curled down over her hip possessively, radiating a wave of youki through her so quickly that it had her soul trying to reach out towards him before she could fully control it. Oh

"Besides, we've spent enough time going to different rooms when we say goodnight," Kurama couldn't stop himself from smiling in arrogant satisfaction when he felt the shudder run through her.

`You see? When you stop asking questions and just let yourself act, it comes so naturally, doesn't it?' Youko chuckled softly, obviously relishing the ease of the intimate teasing they were indulging in.

Are you going to bother me with this now? Kurama gave her a hip a squeeze, guiding them back towards the kitchen when she seemed to lose her train of thought.

`You started it,' Youko shrugged. `I'm not the one trying to over-analyze our decision to keep her more seriously than we first intended.'

Kagome caught herself when she felt the first whisper of encouragement, shaking off the urging in her soul to open more actively to that seductive youki. Forcefully calming her instincts, she brought her elbow lightly into his ribs to jolt him enough that the smug curl in his aura flickered. "We still have different rooms, Kurama."

`The only way we will be sleeping in "our" room is if Kagome is lying in that bed beside us,' Youko turned up his nose.

Don't you think you're pushing things? Kurama reluctantly let her duck out from under his arm when they reached the kitchen, following her pointed direction to sit at the little table in the corner.

`I have let you take more time with getting under her skin than any other lover I have ever set my eyes on,' Youko scoffed at the suggestion. `If it were up to me, Kurama, we would have dragged her off the first time we were kissing her. That was the when we found out how very much we like the way she tastes. If not then, we've had countless opportunities to carry her off since. And now? Now I am going to see to it we begin our vacation properly.'

Kagome felt a chill run down her spine, glancing over her shoulder as she reached for the tea kettle. Her hand froze on the handle when she found herself under one of Kurama's more piercing golden stares, the tea cup hiding his mouth as the rising steam gave him a particularly devilish appearance. Oh dammit all to hell, he's already starting.

"My rose is very fond of you," Kurama observed with a smile as he set down his teacup, his more predatory instincts responding to the subtle change in the air. We need her to be at ease for this to work, Youko, stop looking at her like you want to eat her.

`But I do. That is not a bad start for conversation though, considering the relationship those two have formed is a surprise all its own,' Youko chuckled, extending his youki to re-strengthen the little plant's orders. `None of my roses have ever attached themselves to any female I planned to partner. Tell her how special it makes her. I want to see if it makes her more comfortable.'

"None of my personal roses have ever been so attached to anyone but me, you know," Kurama obliged that request, nodding his head to where the vines were separating and seemingly experimenting with hairstyles.

Kagome's hand lifted reflexively, giggling softly when the bud of the rose rubbed against her palm before going back to work. "Shippou told me that it said you had never given away one of your `special roses.' After it told him you liked me."

"He actually translated for it?" Kurama's brows lifted in pleased surprise.

"A little at first, but now Shippou says he refuses to help it pass along what you want to say to seduce me through it," she nodded, lifting the kettle off its stand and joining him at the table. "I'm getting a handle of the basics though. It's very smart."

Kurama's eyes flickered gold as they watched the way the rose preened under her praise as Kagome sat down. Despite the complete oddity of the situation, there was an honest fondness in the miko's eyes for the unnatural -even potentially deadly- rose, and to hear her acknowledging its ability to think was incredible.

"Not to say it doesn't get out of line now and then if I let it," Kagome had drawn the bud back down in front of her face to fix it with a stern look. Yet the frown softened as soon as the rose appeared to droop at the chastisement. Sensing victory, the rose pressed its version of a kiss to her nose quickly, retracting back into her hair before she could scold it more. Sighing in exasperated affection, she turned a dazzling smile back on the kitsune watching her so intently, "Thank you for trusting me with it."

Youko's smile passed through Kurama's face as he reached out and pushed down on her wrist to get her to release her teacup. Covering that hand once she had obliged, he squeezed her fingers and waited for her to look up at him, "I intend to spoil you to the fullest extent of my abilities, little lover."

Kagome tried to laugh it off, ducking her head and setting down the kettle to have a hand free for a nervous brush through her hair. Damn him for having such a sexy voice, she snuck a glance up at him through her bangs, stiffening when he brushed them off her face with slow precision. And for having such a romantic side. How does he know just what to say to me?

Kurama trailed his fingertips down the side of her face, soaking in the warmth of her skin against him at his leisure, "You can stare at me if you want, Kagome. It's not necessary for you to try and be covert."

"You're about to lose your fingers," Kagome warned, but the corners of her lips were quirking up. "You know I mean it."

Unable to resist, Youko blended them together and leaned across the small table, tugging her forward to murmur against her lips, "You are still very sexy when you are threatening me."

Kagome bit his lip, pulling back to scrape her teeth over it and release him before he could respond in kind, "You think you are entirely too clever for your own good, Kurama."

Youko blinked in surprise at her retreat before grinning widely at the challenge, "Is that so?"

"You're good," she nodded with a soft chuckle, folding her arms over her chest in a discreetly protective gesture. "But I have experience with smooth-talkers like you, experts, and it's going to take more than that to get your way."

`Oh I hope so,' Youko reached up to touch where she'd bitten him, slowly dragging his tongue across the stinging flesh as he savored the sensation and flavor she'd left behind. `It just wouldn't be fun if she didn't pretend she didn't want us a little longer.'

But you said-

`I said that I was going to begin our vacation properly, that doesn't mean we are going to suddenly become lazy,' Youko cut him off before he could even complete the thought. `I want to chase her, and play with her. In the end we will still have caught her, but this lover is special. We've discussed this, remember? She needs to see how much she needs us. She needs to crave us, Kurama.'

"I would never dream to provide you nothing but lip-service, Kagome," Kurama tried to push the kitsune to the back of his thoughts when the intensity of his words sent a chill down his spine.

"I'm sure you wouldn't," Kagome turned her attention down to the kettle, focusing on the mundane task of refilling their cups to collect herself.

`A gentleman always follows through,' Youko couldn't resist adding once it became obvious his other remarks were going unhindered.

I'm not repeating that.

`You should, she has a wicked sense of humor or she wouldn't have groped us as often as she has,' Youko chided matter-of-factly.

"Do you mind if I ask you something, Kurama?" Kagome tried to sound casual, propping her elbows up on the table and lacing her fingers together to make a cradle for her chin. "You don't have to answer if you don't want to."

Youko and Kurama both when still, all their attention turning towards their very nervous companion with perfectly matched severity at her abrupt shift in moods, "By all means, Kagome."

:How deep will your pain run when he betrays you for your power as well?:

Kagome winced, lifting her hand to her head for a moment, turning her focus inward to close off the memory echoing those damning words. She gritted her teeth, pushing down the protective flush of jyaki within her before it could get out of hand sensing her uncertainty. It was almost enough to convince her to hold back, allow her calm to resettle before voice the potentially dangerous question. But… it had to be done, and she knew it. Waiting will only make it harder in the end, better to do it now and get it over with.

Squaring her shoulders, and trying to internally prepare for the worst situation, Kagome focused on Kurama's face to watch for his reactions to her inquiry. "Why did you pick me?"

Kurama leaned back, so startled by hearing her ask the same question he'd asked Youko that it was a simple matter for his much less inhibited side to take over speaking for them, "In general… or were you thinking of a more specific incident?"

"Both," Kagome calmed slightly at his reaction, the stiffness slowly being replaced by a more regal posture as she waited for his answers. Even still, her mind was racing with the questions she couldn't ask, biting down on her tongue to keep the damning concerns silent. Why did you ask me that question? Do you know me? Know us? How do you pass over the promises of the Shikon-no-Tama so easily?

"I've already told you that I loved your hands," Youko shifted their weight forward, reaching out to trace a slow caress across her knuckles without taking his eyes off her face. "I noticed them the first day I saw you, when you were standing in the doorway of your temple and watching Takashima skate away from another youkai."

Kagome frowned, searching her memory until realization struck and her brows lifted, "But that-?"

"Was a long time ago?" Youko supplied, lips curving in triumph at having surprised her. "I told Sesshoumaru that I had been watching you much longer than we had even thought to begin dredging up stories from the past. I had already decided to have you for myself, although I am sorry I didn't articulate that well the first time we spoke."

Stop trying to make me sound stupid, Kurama prodded him sharply in disapproval.

`You did sound stupid.'

"You asked me to bear your child," Kagome's lips twitched up in a nostalgic smile, eyes taking on distant shadows for a beat of time until she shook it off and looked at him again.

Suddenly I don't think she thought it was stupid, Kurama murmured in amazement as he watched the subtle play of emotions across her face.

`Suddenly, I think you're right,' Youko pushed forward, lifting their hand up to cup her chin and be certain she was looking into his eyes. "A question you still haven't answered for me, little lover," he pointed out, trying to subtly encourage her to rise to the bait.

"You were serious?" Kagome blurted out, instantly wincing when she realized just how bad that was going to sound. "Damn, I didn't mean it that way."

`I should hope not,' Youko drawled out, holding back his reaction to wait for her clarification.

She let out a faint sound of disgust aimed entirely at herself, leaning back and covering her eyes before raking that hand up into her hair in frustration, "I'm sorry. Something about you makes everything I want to say come out wrong."

Kurama chuckled quietly, reaching out to take her hand out of her hair, glancing at the rose to silently convey his instructions to smooth the upset strands. "I know the feeling, Kagome. There are times you do that to me as well."

"I'm not sure that's a good thing," the laughter was infectious, and Kagome ducked her head slightly in shield her own amusement at their shared "affliction."

"I have it on good authority that it is a good sign," Kurama assured her at Youko's insistence, giving her hand a light tug to help restore her comfort level. "It seems that our feelings for each other are very similar if we are having the same problems."

"I'm supposed to be too old to act stupid because of a boy," Kagome pouted slightly, feeling safe enough to look up at those green-gold eyes with his teasing.

"In your defense, I am much more compelling than any of the `boys' I've seen in your company," Kurama winked at her, delighting in the blush that spread across her cheeks as well as the half-hearted swat to his shoulder.

"You're certainly vying for the top-spot as far as arrogance is concerned," Kagome chided him, but the sparkle in her eyes showed she wasn't nearly as annoyed with him as she was pretending to be.

"I always have enjoyed being the one on top," Youko snuck out the remark before Kurama could censor it, snickering to himself at the internal hiss of irritation.

"Mm, I'm sure you have, you pervert," Kagome tugged her hand out from under his to pick up her teacup again. "I should break your heart and tell you that I don't like that position."

"I can convince you," Youko replied in perfect confidence.

Kagome burst out laughing, catching herself before she dropped her teacup under the casual way he'd just made that announcement. Shaking her head, she bit down on her lip and focused on him with a strangely serious light in her eyes, "You and my husband would have gotten along absolutely famously."

Youko let out a triumphant bark of laughter, eagerly blending with Kurama as their expression lost all hint of teasing, `Yes! She's going to open up for us! Be honest, Kurama, and encourage her to keep speaking.'

I know that, Youko, hush and focus! Kurama scolded him quickly, clenching and unclenching his fists against the urge to grab her hand again when that melancholy look clouded her eyes again.

"Hiei told me you already knew about him," Kagome tilted her head to one side, the look quickly changing to something much more guarded.

`She's prodding, trying to see if whatever he told her was true,' Youko cursed under his breath. `Dammit, I knew we should have beaten the answers out of him when he told us they talked about us.'

Too late for that now, Kurama nodded to show her she was correct, sitting up straight and taking extra care to hold her gaze without the slightest hint of hesitation. "Kouga mentioned him, and that he had died. But I thought it would make you more comfortable if I waited until you were ready to tell me about him."

Youko let out a sigh of relief when the tension along her shoulders relaxed, and she dropped her gaze self-consciously to the mug in front of her. "I'm sorry," Kagome wrapped her hands loosely around the mug to prevent giving away just how much she didn't really want to have this conversation by fidgeting. "I wasn't sure how you would take that, and I just-" she paused, turning over how she wanted to give her excuse before she simply shrugged and admitted, "-I wasn't sure if I should tell you."

Kurama was quiet, feeling his own inhibitions about their instincts sliding away as he soaked in her obvious dilemma. Realization had him leaning towards her, trying to wordlessly offer comfort to what had to have been more difficult than any soul-searching he'd found himself doing, Do you think she felt she was being unfaithful to his memory? In wanting us, I mean. Is that why she has been so careful?

`Perhaps,' Youko observed quietly, closing his eyes and reaching out for her soul for some hint to her reasons behind the anxiety now that he had a clearer line into her. `I was right though, she thought that finding out she was married before would change our decision.'

Kurama's was already touching her face by the time he realized his hand had moved, turning her chin up to lift her gaze, "Did Hiei tell you that knowing about your husband didn't change my feelings?"

Despite the gravity of the topic, Kagome couldn't hold back the tiny smile dying to break free at the threatening edge in his voice. She had no doubt that if she told him "no" that he'd be up and out the door with every intention of doing serious damage to the hybrid. And yet, even the wicked side of her couldn't quite dredge up enough sadism to tell that lie, "He told me."

"Good," Kurama's tense expression eased, releasing a pent up breath he hadn't been aware he'd been holding.

`We would have killed him if he hadn't.'

Yes, yes we would have, Kurama agreed softly.

"You know… you really should look for someone without previous ties to have children with, Kurama," Kagome nudged gently, reaching up to lightly cover his hand with her own. Damn, this is harder than I thought it would be. "I have a lot of history, and you are… someone in a position to be much more selective."

Youko's eyes snapped open as his concentration shattered, letting out a humorless laugh of disbelief as he intoned softly, `My ears are playing tricks on me.'

"I'm sorry?" Kurama tilted his head, not entirely certain they understood what she was trying to get at. Or more accurately, not entirely certain he wanted to understand what she was trying to say, ItAm I going crazy or does it sound like she's about to tell us we're too good for her?

`It sounds like she's about to try and turn me down,' Youko drawled out in a mild tone that had Kurama warily putting a check on his control.

"I'm not sure I'm the one you want to have such a serious relationship with," Kagome mentally said a prayer that she wasn't about to make a mistake in being so honest with him, frowning at how difficult it was to get the words out. "I'm a miko and all… and you have enough of a reputation as a youkai and a human to marry someone from a more influential family, someone with a calmer life than mine to be raising kids."

"Calmer?" Kurama repeated numbly, more than concerned by the silence from Youko than his own seemingly delayed ability to process what she was saying.

"Not to say I don't like you," she winced, reaching up to push her hair back again when his youki seemed to be hovering tensely in the air between them. Hell, this isn't coming out right at all. "You… make me feel things that I didn't think I could. But then again, I'm not sure if… dammit, I'm making a mess of trying to explain this."

`Oh yes. Yes she is,' Youko purred out darkly, leaning back in their soul with over-exaggerated elegance and covering his mouth with one hand as his youki steadily mingled through their soul.

"I haven't been in any type of relationship since I lost my husband, Kurama," Kagome tried again, making an absently sweeping gesture with one hand. "If you're serious- if you're looking to have children, I mean. I'm just not sure I can make that kind of promise."

Kurama stared at her in amazement, blinking as he tried unsuccessfully to gather his scattered thoughts, She-? Holy fucking gods, did she just-?

Kagome continued to watch him as the silence stretched, sighing heavily at the distracted, even glazed look in his eyes. Hell, I didn't mean to throw him so off balance with this. Unable to sit still as the youki thickened in the air, she slid her chair back and rose to her feet, reaching out to give his shoulder a comforting squeeze, "I didn't mean to make this awkward. I know you're stressed out, Kurama, and if you want to unwind with me here, I'd be glad for the company. Even I can tell you're tense, and you shouldn't be. You'll find a girl."

Kurama's hand snapped up to catch her wrist as soon as she started to pull away from him, tilting his head to one side to look up at her through his bangs, "It is quite magnanimous of you to extend such an offer to me, Kagome."

Kagome's fingers curled instinctively at the way his lowered voice slid along her senses, practically screaming with danger as he pressed his other hand on the table and fluidly rose to his feet. She tipped her head back to follow his eyes when he didn't seem inclined to step back, or release her for that matter, "Well, it would be ridiculous if I tried to say I wasn't attracted to you."

"Yes, it would be."

Okay, this is not exactly going the way I was expecting, Kagome tugged lightly on her hand as her resolve buckled and she took a step back, not entirely surprised when he followed. Or when he kept walking her backwards until her back hit the wall, Just perfect, where's Shippou when I need him to translate kitsune?

Kurama brought up his other hand to brace against the wall beside her head, effectively caging her in as his eyes flashed completely golden. A slow, positively wicked grin spread across his lips as his head tilted to one side in a very precise motion, "I'm afraid I must inform you… I have already found the only `girl' that I intend to pursue seriously, Kagome."

Kagome pressed her hand to his chest, eyes widening, "Kurama-?"

"Really, lover, I was polite enough to let you speak without interrupting you," Kurama pressed one finger to her lips to cut her off, not caring just how completely he and Youko had mixed together as he lowered his head to whisper into her ear. "It's my turn."