By: The Hatter Theory
Disclaimer: I don't own the rights to Inu Yasha
The world was dull and gray in the rain. The steps loomed ahead of him, a nonsensical multitude that he eyed with distaste.
'How pretentious,' He thought, his lip curling in a silent snarl. The irony of being brought to this place after years of searching was not lost on him. What had, centuries ago, been nothing more than the location of a dry well and the infamous god tree had grown into a shrine.
The steps were slick in the rain, but he hardly noticed as he made his way surely up them. The rain pelting him, cold and unforgiving, also went unnoticed. His goal was so close, and he would not wait any longer.
The main temple loomed ahead of him, but the presence he sought out was not there, which was not unexpected. Determined to bring his goal to him, he let his aura pulse wildly, demanding the attention of the one he sought. If they were truly what he had been looking for, they would feel it, and come running. Even if they didn't know it for what it was, it would be an abberation, and it would not be ignored.
Minutes later a door slid open and a girl-no, woman, came stumbling out, eyes wide with fear. He could smell the tang of her terror and the strange note of hope in her scent.
She gasped his name, and his eyes widened.
This was not what he had expected.
Not at all.
Kagome knew the aura, knew the feel of it even after years of not feeling it, of not seeing it's owner. A brilliant flash of color in a monotone world of grays. Scrambling from the dinner table, ignoring her mother's startled cry or her brother's yelp as his soup poured onto his lap, hope and fear warred in her chest. Throwing the door open, she looked out into the rain, heart hammering wildly in her chest.
“Sesshoumaru?” She whispered, wondering if she was dreaming. She blinked several times, but the image persisted. His marking were gone, and his hair had been cut short, but it remained it's natural white. Rain poured down on him, soaking it and plastering it to his face.
Barely able to see his expression in the deluge, she could tell that he made no move for her, and wondered what he was doing on the shrine grounds, and how he had found her. Shoving down her fear and ignoring her brother's cursing, she stumbled down the stairs and into the downpour, ignorant of the cold as she moved closer to him.
“Sesshoumaru?” She asked again, her voice still barely more than a whisper.
“You-” He started, eyes wide and the gold the only vivid thing about him. Everything else was just soaked and slumped, as if he was caving in on himself. Dull. Nothing like what she remembered. Nothing like the great daiyoukai that had fought and conquered and ruled.
“Kagome,” She offered.
“Miko, Inu Yasha's wench,” He muttered darkly, eyes still searching her face. Then it started, a barking sort of laughter that bubbled up from his chest. Kagome shivered at the bitterness in the sound.
“It will make it that much easier,” He finally said, cutting off the biting laughter. The smile however, the angry, hopeless smile stayed, and she shuddered violently.
“You didn't know I was here? Then why-” She started, confused.
“Purify me,” He cut in, voice cold and biting and so much like the voice she remembered.
“What?” She gasped, shock trilling through her.
She stared at him in shock and horror, as if he was some beast she had never seen before. Water dripped onto the waxed wood beneath their feet, the steady drip drip drip maddening in the silence.
“Purify me,” He demanded again.
She somehow managed to look even more horrified, although it shouldn't have been possible.
“Well?” He bit out, eager to have it done with. That he was meeting his end at her hands was a bitter irony that was hard to swallow. That she had the power to destroy him, was the only one with the strength, was a cosmic joke that was not lost on him.
“Why?” She whispered at last. “Why would you ask me to do such a thing?”
Salt dusted the air, and he realized that it was not just rain dripping down her face. She was crying? Why? He had often tried to end her existence, and even during the uneasy alliance with his brother, he had not been kind to her. Why would she hesitate? Why would she care? As he saw it, she should welcome to opportunity.
“My reasons are my own,” He replied shortly.
“No,” She bit out. “Not if you're asking me to kill you. What happened to you?” She demanded, angered by his reply. Horror gave way to sorrow and confusion, and the scents tangled in the air unpleasantly.
“If you do not, I will force you to.”
She shook her head defiantly.
“I can't kill you,” She whispered, still confused at the daiyoukai's demand. Why would he want to die? And why would he choose to be purified of all things? For a youkai it had to be the most painful way to go. Sure, he'd never done things the easy way, but suicide by miko, and by her?
But her words were not what he wanted to hear. Gold eyes narrowed into mere slits and his hand shot out to wrap around the column of her neck. He lifted her into the air, his lips curled into a snarl, exposing perfect, white fangs. Spots danced in her vision as her feet dangled.
“Now!” He roared.
If she could have shaken her head, she would have, as it was, she couldn't, so she tried to sputter out a breathless no, only to fail and make a choking noise. Her power was there, pushing against the surface and only barely obeying her will.
She dropped into a graceless heap on the floor, rubbing her neck and drawing in deep lungfuls of air.
“Why?” He demanded.
“If you're going to ask me to kill you, you're at least going to make me understand why.”
“Why does it matter?” He snapped.
“Because you're you! Because the Sesshoumaru I remember would never have asked someone to kill him!” She shouted, voice still raspy from the abuse her throat had suffered. She stood, and her hands fluttered wildly, helplessly. “Why would you ask me to do this?”
He was quiet for several minutes, narrowed gold eyes watching her every movement. After reaching some quiet conclusion with himself, his shoulders slumped, and for all the world she wanted to go to him and hug him, which was crazy. But she admitted, if only to herself, that the whole situation was crazy.
“I got that,” She commented dryly. Then she went to the door behind him and with a light touch of her fingers, dispelled the barrier he had erected with barely a whisper of effort. The angry shouts and pounding stopped, and he watched her sooth the woman and the younger male, presumably her brother.
“Everything is fine, I'll explain later,” She urged. “Go back to the house. I'll be in later,” She urged them sternly.
“Kagome,” The woman, her mother, started worriedly. “Who is that man?”
“An old friend,” She said, putting a strange emphasis on the word old. But the woman seemed placated, and sighed deeply. He saw her pull on the boy's hand, tugging him away from the door. The boy's eyes were hard, perhaps as hard as his own were, but he relented, and allowed himself to be led back through the rain. Kagome closed the door and turned back to him.
“Want to sit down?” She offered, moving closer to the altar laden with candles and statues. Murmuring a small apology to the kami, she began to light the candles. Accepting her offer, he sat near the statue, finding the smell of the burning wax comforting. Once she had finished, she sat across from him, much more closely than he would have liked. However, he was the one asking her to do something, and he didn't want to anger her.
“Well?” She prodded gently. “Why?”
“This world, I have no place in it,” He told her, with such certainty that it tore at her heart. She was opening her mouth to say something when he continued on, his eyes fixed on some place over her shoulder. “There are few youkai left, and none as old as me. My race is almost extinct, and I have watched it's decline. We are nothing more than myths now, used to scare children.
“I have adapted, and well. Since my lands fell to humans and their complete ignorance of my species, I turned to conquest through trade. And now it is information. I have wealth beyond comprehension. I have power. But it means nothing.”
“Why?” She asked, tears pricking her eyes.
“I am tired of this artless, meaningless world. The crush of humans is repulsive, and the poison they seep into the land, the water, the very air, is a stench that cannot be escaped. There is nothing left except corporate boardrooms and cars. Honor has been twisted and is nothing but a parody of what it once was. There is no meaning for a creature such as myself. It sickens me.”
His words were said with little inflection, and had it not been for the weariness in his posture, the way his gold eyes dimmed as he spoke of the land he had once loved, she would have thought he didn't care at all.
“But why purification?” She demanded in a quite voice. “Why would you ask someone to do that to you?”
“Though it has been centuries since you last saw me, I have not weakened. There is no way for me to kill myself, I have tried. Poisons will not work on me, and burning is not effective. There is no one that can behead me, even so, most blades have trouble breaking my skin. Those that are must be wielded by a youkai, and there are none left strong enough to do so. I sought out humans powerful in the holy arts. All have been too weak to subdue my aura and kill me.”
“Until you found me?” She asked, surprised. “You didn't even know it was me either,” She sighed. “And I thought for a minute- nevermind.” Sighing and telling herself it was silly to be hurt that he wouldn't seek her out for her company, she leaned back against one of the roof supports and raked a hand through her tangled, wet hair.
She could understand why he would want to just leave the world behind. It's not like she didn't feel displaced and outside of time. For one glorious year, she had been a part of a world that was filled with magic and teeming with beauty. Pure air, lush forests. And then that world had been closed to her. Day in, day out, go to school for a degree she wasn't even sure she wanted. Go to work where she couldn't connect with anyone even when she had been trying. Sleep, and dream of times where she felt important. Useful. Happy.
Suicide had never been an option, never even occurred to her. But if she did as he asked, she wasn't sure she'd be able to live knowing he had been there for an instant, and gone again, taking the last bit of magic with him. There had always been hope for something, anything. But seeing him so tired, so alone and bereft of will only proved to her that such hopes had been a childish dream, the last, lingering vestige of the teenage girl she had been.
It cast an ugly light on what she had lived through. Had it all been so pointless?
“Time traveling via the well. Not that it works anymore,” She muttered.
“Will you do it?” He asked after several quiet, tense moments. He was surprised as she made a strangled sound and the salt of fresh tears bit the air.
“Kami, we're both so selfish,” She murmured. He looked at her in askance, unsure of her sudden mood swing. When she looked back up at him, her blue eyes were filled with tears. “You want to be selfish and die, and I'm selfish and want to keep you alive.”
“Most find halting a suicide to be an act of kindness.”
“I'm so tired of being alone. I was there, and it was beautiful and amazing, and I can understand why you would hate this new world. I don't blame you,” She whimpered. “But you're here, and you're the only person who can understand anything. I don't want to destroy that.”
Shocked by her admission, and even more rocked by the desperation and anguish in her words, he buried his face in his hands and bit back the frustrated sound that wanted to escape. He would not find his release today. Might not ever. Was he damned to watch the slow march of centuries yet to come, trapped by blood he had once taken so much pride in?
So enraptured with his own agony, he jerked in surprise when he felt her fingertips ghosting over her hair. She had a sad smile on her face as she pulled her hand back.
“It's strange, seeing you with short hair.”
“There was no longer any reason to keep it long.”
“Why did you back then?” She asked, leaning back against the pillar.
“A sign of strength. Hair can be used against you in a battle, a handhold. Long hair is a challenge to opponents.” She nodded in understanding, the same, small, sad smile still playing on her lips. When she reached forward again, he didn't move away, merely let her explore the markings he no longer hid.
“Do you ever get lonely?” She asked at last.
“I am one of less than a dozen remaining youkai.”
“I'm the only time traveling, jewel guarding miko.”
“Perhaps you have answered your own question.”
“Perhaps,” She sighed at last. She allowed herself a real smile, the first in quite some time. “Come in and have dinner with us. Mom and Souta know all about youkai, so you don't have to hide yourself.”
“But-” He began, but was shocked to find that she was pulling at him insistently,the smile refusing to leave her lips.
“Even if I do end up purifying you, you can at least eat beforehand. It's oden, and mom's is the best.”
She watched him shrug indifferently, and tried to hide her hurt. He followed her back out into the rain and walked beside her. But he never retracted his hand. Pulling him to the house, she was surprised to see her mother and brother waiting for her under the overreaching roof, towels ready.
“Thanks,” She murmured to her brother, who was staring at the daiyoukai in shock.
“And who is this dear?” Nodoka asked. Kagome blushed hotly at her rudeness, then gestured to Sesshoumaru.
“This is Sesshoumaru, Inu Yasha's brother. Sesshoumaru, this is my mother, Mrs. Higurashi, and my brother Souta.”
She didn't miss the sudden excited gleam in her brother's eyes as he handed the daiyoukai a towel. Sesshoumaru took it silently and ran it over his hair before wrapping it over his shoulders.
“Souta, perhaps you have something dry to loan Sesshoumaru?” Nodoka urged sternly, breaking the boy's stare. Souta stammered and rushed inside, eager to fulfill his task. Nodoka turned her eyes back to the daiyoukai and smiled gently. “It is very nice to meet you Sesshoumaru. Come in.”
Kagome watched her mother lead Sesshoumaru in,and the fair haired daiyoukai did as he was bid, politely accepting the clothes Souta had found and making his way to the bathroom to change, never once uttering a word. When the door closed behind him, Kagome sagged against the wall.
“Is everything alright? He seems kind of off,” Souta observed.
“It's a long story,” She hedged. “But let's just get through dinner. I'll explain later,” Kagome sighed, pushing herself from the wall and heading for her own room, determined to get out of the cold wet clothing and into something dry.
The male, Souta, his eyes were wide and searching, as if looking for something that he was sure was there, hidden. It probably wasn't there, whatever it was, he reflected wryly. The miko's mother kept glancing at him, her eyes strangely looking to the top of his head again and again.
“Is there something you wish to ask?” He finally asked, the woman's strange looks beginning to annoy him. Kagome started, almost upsetting her bowl.
“You and Inu Yasha look alike, but his ears were different,” The older woman commented in a curious tone.
“He was my half brother, half human. The weakness of his lineage kept him from reaching a perfect form.”
“Hey!” Kagome snapped, swatting his arm angrily. “Just because he was part human doesn't mean he didn't have a perfect form.”
“I meant no insult,” The truth, strangely enough. His animosity for the half breed had faded years ago. “But it is the truth. Only the strongest youkai can achieve forms that completely mask their natural state. One does not know I am a dog demon unless they see me in my true form. One had no doubts when looking at the hanyou.”
“What's your true form like?” Souta demanded. Kagome paled and laughed nervously.
“Big,” She giggled. “And fluffy.”
Sesshoumaru choked on his soup and sputtered for a moment.
“Fluffy?” He deadpanned, pinning her with a glare.
“Fluffy,” She shot back, taking a measure of delight in his sudden anger. “Cuddly even.”
“Perhaps time has dulled my memory, but I do not remember you trying to cuddle me when in my natural state,” He bit out.
“I totally would now though,” She taunted. “All that soft white fur-” She stopped, unable to continue for her laughter as she watched him bristle.
“Kagome, that's not nice,” Nodoka murmured, although watching the man react to his daughter's sally was amusing to say the least. That he did nothing but glare reminded her of his younger brother, and her own wistful sigh was lost in the midst of Kagome's laughter.
“I'm sorry,” Kagome finally whimpered, brushing a tear from her eyes. “But you deserve it for all the hell you put me through in the past.”
“You have my apologies,” He muttered darkly as he sat his now empty bowl down. With an incline of his head, he murmured a thank you to her mother.
“Perhaps we had better give you two some time to catch up,” Her mother said, giving her son a meaningful glance. Souta pouted, a strange expression on a teenaged male, but one Sesshoumaru did not comment on. They took the empty dishes away and he released a breath he had not been aware he was holding.
The whole affair had been laughable and it's own blessing was that it was short. He looked to the miko and tilted his head slightly.
“Now?” He asked. Kagome sighed, lacing her fingers together to support her chin. Her gaze was considering, and he felt the unfamiliar sting of nervousness.
“On one condition,” She finally answered, a sadness much like his own settling on her shoulders, a thick mantle that did not suit the girl he remembered.
“Name it and it shall be yours.” Money? His business empire? A house? Anything was worth release only she could offer.
“You have to do the same for me while I do it.”
Surely he had heard her incorrectly. Surely she would not ask-
“Does it matter?”
“You demanded an answer of me, and I gave it. It is only fair.”
“Because-Because you're the last one that remembers anything. Because it's been hard, and I still feel like I don't belong here. Because I'm tired of being alone. I feel like I'm just going through the motions. School, work, sleep, repeat. And if I kill you, there's no hope anymore, no reason to pretend.”
Her explanation was as strange as her previous admission, and a dull ache began in his chest. He had not considered that she might hate the world she had grown up in as much as he did.
“As you will it,” He answered evenly, even though it felt wrong, the idea was wrong. As wrong as the world was now, as wrong as his existence felt, this felt even worse.
“Okay. Let's go. I'm not doing this at the dinner table.”
“It will not be painless,” He offered, hoping that she might reconsider.
“Neither will yours.”
Ignoring the hesitation in his eyes, and the brief flare of surprise, she placed her hands on his shoulders.
“You know, maybe I can ask another favor,” She murmured, blue eyes still fixed on his own.
“Are you stalling?” He demanded, wondering why she kept putting off the inevitable, and why she had asked him to end her existence as well.
“I've never been kissed,” She blurted, then looked horrified. She watched as his mind stuttered and tripped, too shocked to hide his feelings, which would have been an amazing accomplishment under other circumstances.
“What?” He asked flatly, knowing exactly what she was asking, but unable to believe it.
“Oh come on, it's not like I'm a leper,” She ground out indignantly, mustering her courage. “I just never had the time. Or inclination. The men of this time are, well, you know? Boring.”
“You're asking-” He started.
“I think, after everything that I've given up and gone through, I've earned one measly kiss before I die,” She muttered darkly. He found that as preposterous as it was, she was right, for a human anyway. How strange that a woman that had seemed to attract suitors wherever she went had never even had that much. A life half lived for a human.
“I have never kissed a human,” He admitted at last, his own way of asking her to reconsider.
“When was the last time you kissed someone?” She asked, unable to see him alone, but not able to picture him with anyone either. How strange. How lonely.
“Centuries.” She left off, seeing how discomfited the conversation was making him.
“I think I'd like to die while getting kissed. Too cheesy for you?” She joked. He gave her another flat look and she inched forward on her knees, too curious to blush. She hadn't been lying, if she ended his existence, she wouldn't be able to continue her own. Not after seeing him again, tangible proof that her time in the past had been real, had been worth something. And damn it all, if she was going to die, she was going to get a kiss beforehand, even if it had to be from Sesshoumaru. At least she could say he wasn't boring. And he was beautiful, even in Souta's clothes and short hair.
He looked as awkward as he was surely feeling when she moved her hands from his shoulders to his face, her fingertips tracing the lines of his markings. Tears sprung to her eyes as she took in his completely bewildered expression, and she wondered when he had last been touched, really touched. Her six years of loneliness were nothing compared to the centuries he had endured, and even she felt ready to break beneath the weight. What had he felt, or not, in the centuries since she left?
Bringing her face forward, she noted that his eyes stayed open when their lips made contact, and for a minute she was disappointed when there were no fireworks, no bells or angelic choirs bursting into song. Instead there was only the sound of their breathing, the light smack of their lips meeting, the drizzle of rain just beyond the protection of the tree.
And then shock lanced down through her when his tongue traced the line of her lower lip, and the softness of his short hair between her fingers barely registered as she opened up to the kiss and let him take the lead, physically coaching her, showing her what to do. Claws pricked through her shirt, grazing her ribs and tensed, as if afraid to move and hurt her. Which would have been funny, if she'd been thinking about it.
Somehow, it felt appropriate, given the ironies of the night.
He was shocked when he felt it at first, the rise of her reiki, the power softly pulsing out. It burned and sizzled on his skin, and he let his youki slip it's restraints and rise to meet her, knowing that he was hurting her even as she was hurting him. He was vaguely impressed that she didn't stop kissing him even though she had to be in pain.
Instead, she clung more tightly to him as their powers met and clashed and demanded access to flesh, sparking in the darkness, creating a physical wind around them, the pressure roaring as it built up against their shields and burst past them. He allowed her to cling, allowed her to take, because despite her goodness, her power, even her all too human beauty, she had never been given anything before. And though he had little to give, it would not matter in mere moments.
Her tongue brushed over a fang and he shuddered, unsure if it was from the touch or from her power pushing at him, burning him. It shoved past his own aura, his youki giving in and surrendering to the onslaught. The unfamiliar burning that he had craved for almost a decade sunk beneath his skin and began to wreak havoc on his flesh, an inferno spreading through his blood like liquid fire, pulsing and stabbing at him from within, as if determined to permeate every blood vessel and fill it with light, obliterating his own darkness.
Kami, it hurt. Hurt more than losing his arm or growing it back. Hurt more than being on the receiving end of Tessaiga's attacks. More than being caught in the hellish explosion of great bomb decades before. The light in his veins spread, finding his heart and taking over, twisting it painfully in his chest. However distantly, he was aware of his hands clenching her sides, his claws piercing clean through the fabric and pricking her skin, the scent of blood only exciting a beast he had long ago forced into dormancy.
Blood and the taste of salt mixed with the distinct scents of their own powers warring, intent on destroying the other, pricking at his consciousness. Demanding.
His eyes flew open, and he saw the tears trailing freely down her cheeks from behind closed lids, saw his energy, like lightning, dancing on her skin, knew instinctively that it was doing most of the damage beneath the dermis, in the flesh and bone. She whimpered, and the absolute wrongness of the situation hit him, and he pushed her away.
“No,” He snarled, barely recognizing his own voice.
And his youki slipping in under her defenses and wreaking havoc within her wasn't so bad either, or more aptly, not as bad as she thought it was going to be. It still hurt like a wicked bitch if she was honest with herself. His power skittered through her, like lightning, trying to blot out her own light and replace it with his own.
“What?” She asked breathlessly, flinching when she tried to move back to him. Her muscles screamed in protest, angry at the foreign energy that stabbed at them even as it faded, and her ribs ached from his prior grip on them.
“You cannot die now. Not like this,” He told her, shoulders heaving as he drug in air. “This is wrong.” The conviction in his voice stabbed at her.
“So it's fine for you, you can just demand I kill you and leave me here in a world without youkai because you're tired? Because you hate the world?” She suddenly demanded angrily. “It's okay for you to be tired of everything, but not me?” The tears pouring down her cheeks cooled quickly in the chill autumn air.
He was quiet for several minutes before standing. She watched him come closer, and the grimness in his eyes was matched only by the stern set of his lips. But it was his hand reaching down to her that surprised her most.
“I have been surprised today. I had not thought it possible anymore.”
“Will you leave?” She whispered, the idea of him suddenly getting better and being happy and leaving her behind tearing at her. He was alive and real and she wasn't sure if she could continue knowing that if he just went away, never to be seen again.
“You need-something,” He started. “But it is not death.”
“That's not an answer,” She whimpered, unable to stand. He bent down and picked her up as if she were nothing, and sighed.
“I do not like humans,” He admitted at last.
“Please.” She put a world of feeling into the request, unsure just what she was asking for. For him to stay, to be her friend, to not hate her just because her race was as destructive and dumb and artless as he had always claimed them to be.
“I will stay,” He finally sighed. “If you choose to live, I will stay.”
Relief washed through her, and the absurdity of their situation caught up to her. A hysterical giggle escaped, then another, and another until she was laughing uproariously in his arms, unable to stop, not even aware that he stumbled back, still weak from the attack on his own body. He leaned against the trunk of the giant tree, and slumped down until he was sitting at it's base, chuckling just as hopelessly.
“I had hoped for something, anything,” She finally admitted through her tears. “I never expected this. What a messed up world.”
“The fates are mad creatures, to bring me to you,” He admitted, the not quite humor of the situation receding. He felt drained, but it was not the tired feeling he had carried for decades. No, it was simply that, drained. And sleepy, not soul weary.
She snorted once and relaxed against him, her eyes scanning the night beyond them. “Mad, yeah, I can deal with that. It's not like my life has ever been sane.”
The rain was light as it pattered against the grass just beyond their shelter, and he said nothing, just continued to hold her, as they listened to it. The small woman within his arms was relaxed and breathing evenly, and the sting of her powers had begun to seep from his skin. Shifting her around, he brought her back to him, resting his legs on either side of her as they silently contemplated their strange fates.
Exhaustion quickly claimed them both; her even, steady breathing as she finally gave in to slumber lulling him into his own sleep.
'Mad indeed,' was his last conscious thought before allowing himself to fall into his first true sleep in years, the onna tucked into his embrace.