Title: Imagine
Author: Celyia (cel@celyia.com)
Rating: PG
Summary: Sesshoumaru answers a question.
Note: I just needed a little bit of Fluffy to get me through a rather trying weekend. (So much homework!) Unlikely scenario. Completely out of character. But dammit, I so needed a break from writing my economics speech. Bleh. Anyway! Hope you enjoy!

-Cel






Have you ever bathed in a pond? No. Forget I said that. The imagery will not convey what I need it to.

Instead, imagine climbing up an impossible sheer cliff, barely able to hang on as you latch your claws into a slight crack in the yellowing sandstone. Can you feel the brutal bite of the wind as it rushes against you? The thin, frantic air angrily pushes you down, hoping that with just a little more persistence that perhaps it will finally succeed in making you fall.

To your doom.

Visualize the ancient boulders a thousand feet below you, the myriad of stones reminding you a nothing less than a gargantuan mouth opened and waiting, hungry for your blood as you continue your trek up the side of this cliff.

You look around, knowing that it is futile and yet unable to keep from hoping that perhaps there is some sort of handhold nearby. Or even, perhaps, a shelter.

Because, the gods know, you haven't been able to rest in years.

You will not find any sort of relief, you knew it in your heart, but the inane craving distracted you. The pain in your claws is now almost too much to bear; yet you have no choice. You clamber on, a part of you wishing that you'll finally fall, wishing that you could just let go. Let the pain end.

I just wanted the pain to end.

So continue. For, when it comes down to it, you will not let go. You cannot. Perhaps it's pride that keeps you from releasing your precarious grasp, or maybe it is that damnable hope that things will eventually work out. But at this point, does it matter? Either way, you continue in your desperate attempt to scale the cliff.

But the storms come and the rain beats down on you, drowning you in their violent fury. The water weakens your torn claws, which are now caked with blood and dirt, until all you can think about is when the moment will come.

You will fall.
There is no hiding from that truth. You begin to hate the gods for allowing this to go on for so long. You hate the rain for making you vulnerable. You hate cliff for being there.

Most of all, you hate yourself for climbing the damn rock in the first place.

Can you imagine this?

Words are not my forte, but I do hope you have a better idea of what it was like. The pain. The loneliness. The hopelessness. All of it there, all of it unending. Nothing could be done to stop it, yet I struggled. I did not want to fail, but at that point, I did not think I could avoid it.

I wanted to fall.

So now, think.

Use that creativity you humans prize to imagine how it feels.

Out of the corner of your eye, you see a flicker. Vivid green beyond the dull yellow. You don't know whether to turn your head to look because you are not sure if you can handle the idea of yet another false hope. Not mere curiousity would cause you to look, though. No, instead it is that determination to latch onto anything that may support you. Anything.

So you look… and nearly fall as you realize that there is a ledge nearby. You never thought you would use the word, but indeed, from this position, the lush plants protruding from the ledge appear to be magical: if not in nature, then definitely in your soul.

Slowly, you force yourself to climb over there, your heart beating faster… frantically … as you come to the conclusion that you'll finally fall now that you have something. A goal.

Feel the elation as you slowly scramble onto the safety of this narrow ledge. Taste the joy as you look around and notice that numerous trees, each drowning in a sea of ripe fruit, hover above your starved body. And then, wallow in the contentment as you notice the small hollow in the ledge, filled with cool, fresh water.

A bath.

It has been so long since you were last able to take one. No, the rain doesn't count. No, this is much more than a prospect to wash the body clean: this is a chance to allow your heart respite. To finally close your eyes for even a moment and let the pain ebb from your battered soul.

To finally just be.

Long-winded, but I suppose it will do to explain. After all, you did ask. But I see that you still do not understand. You realize that you can be quite… impossible at times, do you not?

Shall I continue, then?

You've insisted on hearing this story so, suffice to say, you will hear it. Even if I have been relegated to acting the part of an idiot with this inane rambling.

I didn't… I didn't think it would ever turn out like this. This is quite difficult. No. Do not touch me. You may not like what I say.

It started that one day several years ago. You remember it, do you not? Yes, of course you do. It would be impossible to forget.

There is nothing as soothing as walking through a sunlit forest in the early hours of an autumn morning. Watching as countless leaves, mottled by crimson and bronze, would fall so slowly, so purposefully to the ground as you wander through a living community of giants greater than you'll ever be is quite awe-inspiring. Humbling. And yet, incredible comforting at the same time.

I suspect that this is one thing most will never know about me: I appreciate the innate grandeur of nature. How many times had I, as a child, fled to the comfort of the forest?

Too innumerable to even consider counting.

But that morning had been unique. I didn't feel reassured by the beauty. In fact, it had no effect on me whatsoever beyond the intellectual realization of where I tread. All I could think about was that the child had begun her menses.

Child?

No. With this, she was no longer a child: Rin was a woman.

It should not have bothered me, but it did. With her menses came the brutal realization that she would, too, leave. Sooner or later, she would stop following me. Sooner or later, she would marry. Have children.

Sooner or later, she would die.

It was disturbing to know how much I cared for the girl. It was twisted. It was wrong. But somehow, it felt so right. She was my pup. Somewhere along the line, I went from merely condescending to allow the girl to follow me all the way to being willing to die to save her.

But how could I save her from impending death?

Tensaiga cannot restore youth. No potion or spell can keep a mere human from aging. Certainly, it would take a few years, but Rin was as good as lost to me. Death would eventually claim her.

And it hurt.

Here I was trying to scale this mental precipice and I found that I no longer could climb. Instead, I clutched and pleaded with whatever god was listening, hoping he would take pity and not let me fall.

I was so overwhelmed by my thoughts that I didn't even see her until the last moment. Normally, I could sense the woman from quite a distance but that morning, I was… I was lost inside.

I stood there, watching her as she pulled her knees up to her chest, her position quite precarious indeed as she sat on the rotting wood of the old well. Her head drooped back, her eyes closed, as she inhaled a great breath of air into her lungs.

She looked so vulnerable, so hurt. Sorrow was practically emanating off the woman, so much so that it angered me.

What the hell did she think she knew about sorrow? About loneliness?

The only person in my life who gave a damn about me would soon leave and this bitch, with her multitude of friends who would stop at nothing to protect her, had the gall to sit upon the rotting wood and weep? What did she know?

Her very existence annoyed the hell out of me. I had never killed in cold blood before, but I was willing to make an exception in the miko's case. If she thought her insignificant little life was so miserable, then I could damn well end it for her.

I stalked closer, the scent of her salty tears grating on my every nerve.

I stood in front of her, my hand already resting upon the handle of my sword as she looked up. After all, I couldn't just kill the wench without warning. I had to give her some sort of opportunity to defend herself.

"Sesshoumaru," she whispered, those strange eyes glowing with some emotion I had never seen before. Admittedly, though, I've never been one to try to analyze the expressions of mere humans.

"Stand."

"Inuyasha isn't here," the miko said, her normally vivacious voice bland as death.

"If I were searching for the hanyou, I would have found him," I bit out, wondering if the girl was trying to make her impending death even more painful than I had already intended. "Stand."

"You do know that it will do no good to kidnap me. Inuyasha won't trade me for the Tetsusaiga."

Was the woman dense? She couldn't honestly believe I would stoop so low as to kidnap a mere human. No. Let my half-brother keep the damn crutch. It's humiliating enough to know that there is a hanyou in my family as it is; it would be much worse to know that the aforementioned hanyou was completely insane, as well.

"Stand," I demanded, grabbing her slender wrist and yanking her from the safety of the well. She stumbled, falling to the ground in a flurry of green cotton as she looked up at me in confusion.

"Get on your feet, wench."

I remember the way she looked up at me, those blue eyes so fearless as she stood up. Had it not been for her scent and the slight way her hands trembled, I would have never known she was scared.

That alone kept me from slicing her pretty head off with the ravenous blade of my sword.

"Are you going to kill me or not?" she asked as I rested the tip of the blade at the pulsating vein in her throat, her voice strong and almost indifferent.

Good question. She shouldn't be so hasty to discover my intentions, I thought. After all, when I came to my decision on whether or not to slay the girl, she would be the first to know.

"If you aren't going to kill me," she muttered as she pushed the blade back with a careless finger, "then at least have the courtesy to let me sit. I'm tired and grouchy and I want to go home."

Why did I let her sit back down? Why didn't I just kill her then and there?

I didn't know the answer. I still don't.

But there was something in those blue eyes that nagged at me until I was drawn into their devastating depths. I admit it. I was curious. What could cause the tears to well up in those strange eyes, the salty water refracting the sun's callous light until her eyes appeared nearly gray?

"You know, you can take a seat," the miko offered, her voice still flat. "You're making me nervous by just hovering there."

Sit? At a human's command?

I think not.

"Beautiful morning, isn't it, Sesshoumaru-san?" she spoke softly, a slight smile touching her lips as she looked around the small clearing. "Life's been so busy for the past few years… everything coming and going. All the change. I mean, it's so easy to get so caught up in the chaos that you forget to enjoy what's here. In the rough and tumble mess of it all, you forget how beautiful things can be."

This coming from a woman whose sorrow was so strong that it was nearly tangible? I didn't know what kind of game she was playing, but she wouldn't win.

For, in the end, I would still be standing, even after the last tree would fall.

"My mother would really like it here, I think," she continued, the hum of her words falling upon my ears as insignificant. But still, I listened.

Those luminous eyes had already captured my curiousity.

Who would have guessed they would soon make another conquest?

"Poor Mama," she whispered, her fingers gingerly rubbing at the bridge of her nose. "She's going to be so sad. Grandpa and Souta, too. But I think Mama will be the saddest of them all."

She didn't think I really gave a damn about her family, did she?

"Any other parent wouldn't have allowed me to travel back and forth, especially knowing how dangerous it is here. But Mama? She's different. She knew how important it was that I do this, you know. I mean, I'm not sure if it was destiny or what, but I had to come here. But who was to know that the well would stop working?"

I glanced down at the wooden well, confused by her strange statements. Sheathing the sword, I watched as the girl gazed back down into the frail structure.

"Who knew that I would end up trapped on this side?" the miko whispered, her voice finally choking as several tears escaped from her eyes. "She'll never know what happened, Sesshoumaru-san. She'll never know I love her. She'll never know…"

Why she spoke to me as if I was her friend, I do not know. Even more disconcerting was the idea that I actually stood there and listened. But there was something about the scene that hit me. Who would have guessed that it would hurt to watch her, that seeing the girl cry actually caused some long-dead compassion to resurrect within me?

She didn't even seem to notice when I laid my hand on her shoulder, though I couldn't stop from silently berating myself for the action.

"Mama's lost so much in her life. I don't… it isn't right for her to have to lose me, too."

"It is the risk of being a parent."

She looked up at me, startled. Frowning slightly, she looked at the hand that rested upon her shoulder, only to gaze up at me in wonder.

"But she'll never know that things worked out," she sighed, her head lolling back almost as if she had lost all muscle control in her neck. "She will end up believing I was killed."

"Perhaps."

"And I can't do anything about it," the woman growled, the sound bizarre coming from her slender, human throat. 

How well I understood that feeling.

I nodded at her, feeling slightly liberated by the camaraderie that began to pulse through my veins. It was actually quite ironic, really. It was almost as if we were standing on the opposite ends of a chasm: both experiencing the same type of loss, but from two different perspectives. The miko- from the child's perspective and I, Sesshoumaru- from the parent's.

One day, I would lose Rin.

I couldn't hide from that, especially the seeds by which I would lose her were already planted and beginning to sprout. So what does one do when there is nothing to be done?

You do what you can. You dig your claws into the rock and hang on, and hope that everything will turn out in the end.  And maybe, just maybe you will triumph. You will scale that damn cliff.

Shivering, the miko suddenly fell forward, her nostrils flaring as she lost her balance and tumbled towards the damp ground, those silent tears louder than any scream could ever be.

Instinctively, I reached for her, only to be surprised by the way she clung to my arm. She really wasn't that heavy, I decided as I lifted her against me, only to wrap her hands around my waist as she whimpered.

I stood there, motionless, as I tried to understand what was happening. Outside of Rin, no one had ever touched me like that before. It was odd. Discomforting. Yet I did not want it to stop. I began to wish it wouldn't stop.

The woman cried silently, hiccupping occasionally as I allowed my hand to glide reassuringly through her soft hair. I knew not what to say, so we merely stood there, quietly as the glistening rays of the morning sun showered upon us.

"Thank you," she said all of a sudden, lifting her head to shine those radiant eyes on me. "Thank you, Sesshoumaru-san. I know you are probably completely disgusted with my weakness, but thank you for listening to me."

Abruptly, before I knew what she intended, the comforting embrace melted into a tight hug as she smiled at me.

Warmly.

It was given so freely, so easily, yet, somehow, it seemed more precious than anything I had ever been given in my life. With absolutely nothing to gain from the action, the woman still gifted me with a present that literally twisted my heart.

"I better get back to the village and tell them about the well," she whispered as she gently broke free. "But… well. Sesshoumaru-san?"

I nodded curtly.

"Take care of yourself," the miko blurted unexpectedly, a slight blush kissing her cheeks as she looked up at me.  Shaking her head emphatically, the girl rushed away, only to pause as she finally made it to the shelter of one of the towering trees.

"I may be silly, but I can't help but think of you as a friend now, Sesshoumaru-san," she whispered, her face so red that I could see it easily from where I stood. "So, really. Take care."

Within a blink of an eye, she was gone, leaving me alone with my thoughts and this odd clenching in my chest. Had it not been for the tearstains she left upon the white silk of my clothing, I would have suspected the girl had been naught but a mirage.

Silently, I touched one of the stains, only to rub the slight moisture between my fingers. For one moment, it seemed as though she had forgotten everything. For one moment, the girl had trusted me.

I can't even describe how that felt.

Smiling softly as I looked at the remnants of the tears upon my finger, this awkward symbol of a fledging friendship, some invigorating feeling of hope washed over me gently. I walked away from there a different person, changed forever by the impromptu bathing in her tears that my soul had just taken

And that, Kagome, was how I discovered that I could love you.