The next morning, in an attempt to relax and hide in a rather busy castle, Nikki hid away in her garden. It was cold, her breath a pale steam from her mouth and nose as she bundled up and sat beneath a tree. Sesshomaru found her as he walked by the door for breakfast. He watched as she relaxed and was obviously thinking again. He couldn’t get over how beautiful and serene she looked, compared to the dead of the tree and such caused by winter. He walked into the garden, more to bring her in, but at some point any thoughts he had seemed to just vanish as he approached her.
“Sesshomaru,” she gasped surprised as he pulled her up into his arms. He motioned for her to stay quiet before leaning down and softly kissing her. At first, Nikki didn’t know quite what to do, she was neither experienced nor expecting this. Slowly she reached up and returned his kiss. When they parted he looked at her curiously as she blushed bright red and looked away scared.
“You wish for me to be yours,” she accused softly as he looked at her. Sesshomaru sat beside her as she returned to her spot under the tree. She watched as he took one of her hands in his, he marveling at how tiny and delicate it looked in his hand and knowing it could easily rip him to shreds if she were angry enough.
“One day,” he answered with a nod, “when we’re both ready for it.” She nodded as she listened and thought about what he was saying.
“I wasn’t sure…” she said softly as she hesitated, “I didn’t think…” He watched as her self doubt seemed to creep up and she looked away from him.
“I don’t know why, there is no reason to question it,” he replied as he watched her.
“With everything that’s happened…” she started to say.
“Is not a reason to doubt my intentions,” he told her sternly as she slowly looked up at him curiously. He could see a small spark of her old self coming to light. “I had fully intended on asking for your hand when you agreed to write me after the ball. That was my surprise for you after we took care of the rebellion.”
“It’ll be a year in a few months,” she absently mused as he thought about it. It was true, Eri was almost a year old and soon it would be a year since he met this fascinating female beside him. He was surprised that they weren’t feet under snow at the moment. “Soon we’ll have snows burying us within the castle.”
“Yes, we’ll be locked together inside the castle to endure the remainder of winter,” He informed her amused as she shook her head. “Think you can handle me locked up in a castle?” Nikki smiled weakly as she thought about it.
“I see there is no sending you home with your family once this is done,” she admonished. He shook his head as he kissed her hand.
“No,” he replied bluntly as she looked at him mildly surprised. “I have no reason to go there, father will be there, so all I’ll be doing is sending some poor runner through the snow to write you and continue to pester you.” Nikki nodded as she thought about it; lingering self doubts were still floating through the back of her mind. She had determined one of her best things while the castle was so full was to pretend to the best of her abilities to be as normal as possible.
“When do we tell everyone else?” she asked him softly.
“When we are ready,” he answered as she nodded while thinking. “I don’t want to rush things; we both have been enjoying our freedom and doing as we wish, though I don’t think our mating would actually hinder any of that.”
“I don’t think so either,” she agreed, “we seem fairly content to do whatever when together.” Sesshomaru nodded in agreement as he thought about their time together. Once announced, he was certain the families would want the details of the ceremony quickly. It would be too much for the couple to handle just yet, they needed to discuss it all together before with their families.
“What…” she started as she thought, but hesitated in asking. He looked at her curiously and upset, he hated that she was always hiding what she was thinking and wanted her to blurt it out like she would before.
“Go on,” he urged gently when she didn’t continue.
“What about…your quest…?” she finished her thought; she looked slightly relieved to get it out there but still quite perplexed.
“What about my quest?” he replied. “It will not be an issue for our mating.”
“But…it’s not…there is no ending,” she said softly. “There is always another youkai…another fight…” He nodded as he listened to her, she was partially correct. “So you say it won’t be an issue…it’s an issue…” He understood her point of view; it’d always be an issue, always her waiting and worrying as he is away from home, away from her, fighting. Always her concerned that someone will come after her and any pups they may have, after him and getting her first. Really, she was more worried than he was at this point.
“It will not be something you have to worry about,” he assured her as she sighed and nodded. She would trust him to take care of those issues; it wasn’t like they were getting mated tomorrow. “Come, its cold out here and you should eat breakfast.” He stood up and assisted her before leading her to the dining hall.
They watched as everyone stumbled tiredly into the dining hall, many of the males were dressed to go outside and train with the troops after breakfast. The lords were obviously prepared to go off and do their own thing before the trials in the afternoon.
“We will be interrogating the prisoners downstairs,” Minami informed everyone once they were all at the table, “this afternoon, after lunch, if you wish to view it. I would advise avoiding the throne room if you don’t until we’re done around dinner time.” Kita and Nishi nodded in agreement while Higashi watched everyone listen.
“Yes, we should get this started,” Higashi said in agreement, “you’ll have access to the best of my most loyal soldiers to assist in controlling, containing, and transporting them between the dungeons and throne room.” Minami nodded in approval as he listened.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to get this done before the snows fall,” Kouga said as his father nodded in agreement. “Not that we’re not enjoying your hospitality, my lord, but I don’t think we’d like to be here when the snows fly.”
“Oh, trust me, I understand completely;” Higashi replied amused, “even we get stir crazy being locked in this castle all winter long.” The lords chuckled as they chattered together and started to eat. Everyone finished up and headed out to the courtyard to watch the soldiers and those participating with them train.
“Nikki,” Kagome said as she and Chiaki sat with the Eastern princess and watched the males, “I was hoping you’d return with us this winter, I’d love your help with the preparations for the mating ceremony.” Nikki smiled as she thought about it; it would be good to help Kagome since she’ll need the ideas for her own one day with Sesshomaru.
“I actually agree, that’s a good idea,” Nikki said as Kagome beamed at her happily, “would you be joining us and helping as well, Chiaki?”
“I have not yet decided,” Chiaki answered pleasantly as they all paid attention to the males. As it was a mild winter, they were working up sweat training. Nikki wanted to shake her head as her brothers practiced; Seiji and Shinta were already removing their haori. Kagome blushed a little as Inuyasha followed in suit within half an hour. Both the human girl and ookami youkai giggled as Nikki blushed bright red after Sesshomaru removed his own haori and brought it to her to hold.
“It’s good to see you looking so cheerful,” Chiaki teased as Nikki blushed and shook her head, hiding her face in Sesshomaru’s haori. She reveled a bit in his scent on the clothing.
“I don’t know if I’m more cheerful,” Nikki mused as she snuggled the clothing to herself, “but the healer said that if I just take things by the day I would return closer to normal.”
“Well, you’re definitely doing better,” Chiaki said nodding as Nikki looked down to think. “How about this afternoon, while they’re dealing with everything, we figure something fun out to do.” Both girls nodded in agreement as they watched the males train, the ones with parts of their clothes missing were now showing off their muscles impressively. “Maybe the seamstress can start suggesting a kimono idea for Kagome’s mating ceremony? Or yours, Nikki?”
“I’m sure we can,” Nikki answered nodding, “I’m sure she’d love the work. Mother never let us use her for our own kimonos.” The two smiled and nodded as Sesshomaru, despite being preoccupied, listened in. Nikki’s father was also obviously listening in. Though the two would be in the throne room during the interrogations of the soldiers and Mai, they were happy to hear Nikki would be occupied as well.