In Terms of a Shadow
Part VII - Final.
I carefully pulled my clothes on. I'd never liked tying obi's.
I felt so utterly desperate. I needed something, someone. The only person I had, my only friend, was really... Sesshoumaru.
But there had been that look in his eyes. That perfect, lonely gaze he'd directed up at me, his hair streaked with red.
My beautiful, lonely husband. He'd stared at me as though expecting me to reject him, to spurn his touch. How could I? How could anyone ignore a look like that?
I was so utterly confused, I didn't know what to do.
I hung my head a moment as I pulled the last tie on my obi and headed for the door. Sesshoumaru was expecting me, I wouldn't disappoint.
The guard didn't stop me as I expected he would, but remained where he was plastered by the door.
Was... Was he not guarding me, after all? I shrugged. I didn't care. I found his office without trouble and knocked.
His command to enter was a harsh, barking sound, but I wouldn't let his apparent bad mood get me down.
I stepped inside and beamed a smile at him.
I toyed with the idea of kissing those frowning lips, if only to see his surprised expression, but decided it wasn't worth the risk to get so close.
"So." I sat down across from him.
The servant he'd promised to send me never did show up, I thought, recalling the remark.
"Why did you kill Naraku?"
Good place to start, I thought. I did want to know why he'd killed him. I refused to believe it was because of me.
"He threatened to take you away. That is reason enough."
I frowned. So that was the reason.
His definition of "reason enough" certainly didn't match up with mine. I opened my mouth to say so.
"Tomorrow afternoon we're going out riding again. This time beyond the courtyard. Do try to keep from humiliating yourself again."
Humiliating myself? Huh?
"Hey! So I'm not a natural rider, so what? Who wants to be?"
"Return to managing the household affairs." He ordered.
I frowned and stood up. That was a clear a dismissal as I figured I was going to get, so off I was going.
I stopped at the sound of his voice. With the look on his face I thought maybe he'd apologize or say something tender or Well, that it was going to be a "moment".
"Inuyasha and Miroku are having some type of party in the dining room and I think it's disturbing. Go clean it up."
I growled at him. "I'm not a damn maid!"
"No, but you are damn loud, so go throw them out."
I sensed he was more amused than irritated, but I wasn't willing to make any more confrontational moves on assumptions, so I went.
I sighed, breathing in the stale hall air. All was the same as before my untimely confinement. I felt free and happy and
Well, strangely enough, I felt closer to Sesshoumaru, and that was probably better than feeling more distant.
He didn't seem like an open, sharing person.
As I stepped around a corner, I could hear the rowdy crowd already.
"Hello, disaster," I muttered, approaching the room.
Why was he sending me into this zoo of drunkenness?
Manage the household', he said. Why doesn't he manage it? What was he doing anyway, just sitting around that office all the time?
I growled stepping in the open doorway, scowling fiercely. Some quieted at my appearance, others ignored me. Maybe they didn't' see, maybe they didn't care, it wouldn't last.
"Inuyasha" I called sweetly.
He looked over, finally noticing me.
Miroku, right by his side, smirked. "Kagome-sama, come, drink with us!"
I hoped my scowl deepened. "What do you think you're doing, lounging around this room like this? Drinking yourselves under the table?"
I wanted to sound like the disapproving matron, I'm not sure I pulled off the effect exactly.
"We're not under the table," Some halfwit I couldn't identify, or even pick out replied.
"Moron" I muttered
"Oh, come on, Kagome-sama. Lighten up, have some fun." I heard and then spotted Kouga among the crowd.
Somehow seeing him there was fitting.
"Sesshoumaru doesn't approve of your licentious gatherings and wants you all better occupied elsewhere. Now, if you don't get up and get out of this room in exactly five minutes, I'll have the lot of you scrubbing the entire house down with tiny brushes. Got it?"
Silence blanketed the room. Inuyasha was the first to stand.
"Go tell him to come down here himself instead of sending his woman to do all the work!"
I growled. "Go get him yourself." I snapped.
He put his hands on his hips. "Why you doin' what he tells you? We don't need Sesshoumaru's bitch coming' round-"
I stomped forward grabbing a small liquor glass from the table, not noticing it was full until it sloshed onto my palm. I hurled it at him, striking him smack in the forehead.
He grimaced, blinking, what little liquor remained in the glass splattering his face gently. Maybe I should throw the bottle at him too.
"Sesshoumaru's bitch?" I thundered. "Say that again, Inuyasha, and you'll be eating the table!"
The entire room was watching us now. Maybe I reminded him of an angry Kikyo, because he suddenly decided to back off of me.
"Damn idiot brother" He muttered, already glaring, but his gaze was beyond me now. "Sesshoumaru! You wanna fight?"
Sesshoumaru was still in his office, was Inuyasha hoping his brother would hear him? He moved by me toward the doorway. I guess he was going after him after all. Good, Inuyasha was an instigator; it would be easier cleaning them up with him gone.
I rolled my eyes at the tactless shouting. I glanced back only when I heard a heavy thump , followed by an "oomph".
The other occupants of the room broke into laughter at Inuyasha sprawled face first on the ground over the door's threshold.
I didn't find it amusing.
Strange, where had my good mood gone? Maybe the "Sesshoumaru's bitch" comment had helped with that. The nerve of that guy, calling me something so foul.
"Out!" I snapped, finding I was not being obeyed.
Suddenly everyone again noticed me again and my furious glare. They tripped over themselves to be out of the room.
I gathered they might all gather together again in another room, sequestered off somewhere at the back of the house, but as long as Sesshoumaru didn't find them I didn't care.
The room wasn't empty, as I expected. There was still that one guy there. Miroku.
He smiled pleasantly. "You don't mind if I remain, do you, Kagome-sama? I promise to be most courteous."
I waved him off, let him sit, I didn't care. What harm could one guy do? Even if he was a letch there were no other women around except for me. I hoped the fact I was married to Sesshoumaru, recent taker of heads, would inspire him to keep his hands to himself.
Then, quite unexpectedly, another occupant I hadn't yet noticed plopped down with yet another sake bottle. It clattered onto the wood table heavily as he sat it down.
I met Kouga's eyes, not sure if I wanted to frown at his shameless behavior or smile at his somewhat welcome presence. I didn't smile.
"Hey! Wanna drink?" Kouga looked up at me, a smile playing across his lips.
No, I didn't want a drink. I opened my mouth to say so when the kitchen staff appeared with a bucket full of rice followed by other delicacies.
Now that was another matter entirely. I could be coaxed to stay if there was food.
I found I was usually hungry anytime food showed up. I smiled and sat down, good mood reappearing.
"We would be honored to eat with you, Kagome-sama." Miroku reminded me of the slick tongued medicine men that came to town bearing packs on their backs trying to sell reasonably worthless herbs.
I sat down with them anyway.
"One should never waste food," I chimed, taking a seat. I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into.
I heard the slurring idiot long before I saw him. Thumps and shouts, all the way down the hall, accompanied by his own stomping feet.
The dimwit I'd been unfortunately saddled with pounded like a wild beast upon my door before sliding it open and falling in.
He was sufficiently drunk, I thought. So early, too.
Inuyasha lifted his head, and then his frame, pulling himself up and then curling himself down into a decent sitting position.
His tone was unnecessarily intense, that would be more difficult than usual to tune out.
"What's the problem?" I asked, my tone dry and scathing.
"I did all that stuff, why can't I have some fun? That woman came down –" He reached up and then I noticed his forehead was bleeding.
Had the little whelp gotten into a fight? I hadn't known Inuyasha to be someone easily defeated in any kind of brawl, how interesting.
"That bitch of yours smacked me with a cup!"
Bitch of mineI should remember that for later, I thought, already imagining her eyes brimming with the fires of hell and vengeance.
"Didn't I tell you before about lying around in the dining room?"
Inuyasha paused enough to look thoughtful, but then the look returned and no answer to the question was forthcoming.
He opened his mouth, and I prepared myself for the inevitable nonsense to follow when from behind him, I noticed movement.
The softness of her tone was belied by a very audible warning. I watched my brother freeze in mid-insult, his entire body tensing and then slightly ducking.
It was a pathetic sound. I almost grinned.
"Inuyasha" She spoke again, her voice low and steely.
Inuyasha turned to face his soon-to-be bride, Kikyo, in the still open doorway.
Her eyes were directed at my brother, as though I was not there at all, but I was not offended. This was far too amusing to be worried over such pettiness.
"Didn't we talk about the loud parties and
the drinking? Need I remind you-"
"No? No, you don't need to remind me. I remember." Inuyasha snapped, pulling himself to his feet.
Kikyo glared at the tone and Inuyasha shrunk back.
My brother was whipped by a girl. I felt a smirk blossom over my lips. This was too good.
"Maybe you should send him to bed without dinner " I spoke up. "For a week."
Kikyo's gaze flickered beyond Inuyasha, who was now just registering my comments and whipped around.
"Perhaps." Kikyo agreed, interrupting just as Inuyasha had started to malign me with foul-mouthed insults.
"Wha?" Inuyasha turned back to face her. "You can't not feed me, woman. This is my house!"
They were now ceasing to entertain me.
"It's my house." I reminded him. Inuyasha promptly abandoned Kikyo again to attempt another argument with me, but she wouldn't have it.
"We will not disturb you further." Her eyes were directly on me. "If you are unaware, Kagome is in the dining room with Miroku and Kouga."
I quirked a brow. Really now?
"I believe they are dining together. I could not tell if she was drinking with them. The scent of alcohol has permeated the room."
She paused, looking back toward my brother.
"Inuyasha," she spoke, perfectly clipped in the tone of a command.
An invisible collar snapped around his neck and he followed her out, but I heard him grumbling at her all the way down the hallway.
Poor, stupid fool, I thought, standing up.
Drinking with Miroku and Kouga, was she? Hadn't I warned Kouga?
I couldn't recall if I'd warned Miroku or not. All of Inuyasha's friends looked rather much the same to me. They behaved much the same also.
I took my time, wandering to the dining room. Absently, I wondered where Rin had wandered off to, but I assumed Kagome had some inkling. If she didn't I could always punish her. The possibilities of that seemed endless and all seemed quite equally amusing.
As I neared, I noted the doors were pulled mostly closed. Although I thought myself above the menial task of eavesdropping, I stopped outside the doors, perfectly hidden and listened to the conversations within.
It wasn't difficult. They weren't even trying to be secretive about their topic.
"Shut up! That's not true."
I wondered what she was so adamantly defending.
"I didn't even know Sesshoumaru's father, but I'm sure that isn't true."
"Ah, but you couldn't be certain, Kagome-sama." There, that was Miroku, I thought, recalling the smooth talking holy man that was always trying to convince the maids to get friendly.
Yes, I remembered that one.
The monk continued. "The matter is largely rumor; no one is certain what happened."
She slammed something onto the table. I heard glass tinker, and clink as it jumped from the force.
"There is no way that's true! None, I don't believe it, and you better watch it there, buddy. My father was best friends with Sesshoumaru's. I will not tolerate slander!"
The monk immediately acquiesced. "Of course, Kagome-sama, but I did say it was largely rumor. No one knows for certain."
What were they speaking of? I was now thoroughly curious.
"Furthermore, the marriage of the previous Lord is none of your business."
"This is true," Miroku agreed. "I apologize for offending you."
"Damn right." She snapped. "Repeating rumors about the former Lady of the House is bad manners."
"Eh," Kouga grunted. "Who cares, she's not here anymore anyway."
I listened, only to have the sound of shattering glass answer the comment.
"It does matter, you moron!" She snapped viciously. "I wouldn't want people saying bad things about my mother and since I'm married to Sesshoumaru that technically relates me to her so I don't want to hear it again! Got it?"
Both men agreed quickly.
"Good." She chirped, sounding pleased. "How did we get on such a volatile topic?"
I glanced into the room, almost chuckling at the looks the men were shooting at her.
"It isn't a widely discussed topic. Most people around here are too afraid of the current Lord of the House to say anything about the disgrace of his mother."
"As it should be," she agreed. "It's disrespectful. Do you think he wants to be reminded? It was his mother, that's rude." She paused. "Has Inuyasha said anything about her?"
Miroku looked up. "Not for a long time. He told me his mother left when he was little and that his father refused to hear any mention of her name thereafter."
For a man who was probably close or already drunk, he was surprisingly lucid, I thought.
"I heard just yesterday a letter came from her. The servant who handles the mail was worried – afraid if he should deliver it to Sesshoumaru-sama or not."
Kagome's eyes widened. "A letter? From her? Really?" She sat back. "Are you spouting more rumors?"
"Deliver the damn letter, he can handle it." Kouga grumbled. "Holding onto the damn thing is a death wish. That is not the kind of thing you keep from a man like that."
It damn sure wasn't, I thought, pushing the doors open abruptly.
They all leapt like their little kitty nest had suddenly been discovered by a snarling dog.
"What is this of a letter?" I asked.
If they wondered how long I had been there, none was gutsy enough to ask.
"Ah" Miroku shifted uncomfortably. "It was M-Mostly a rumor, Sesshoumaru-sama."
I turned quickly on my heel and left. I heard the sound of clattering glass and the rapid padding of footsteps.
I was in the hall before I heard her voice.
I paused briefly.
"Can I Can I come?"
My answer was a half tilt of my head. She took it as a yes, and followed after.
Not twenty five minutes later I was in his office, serving him some tea, watching him as he sat, grimacing ferociously at the tabletop, perfectly still.
It was completely and utterly creepy. He hadn't said a word since he got his hands on the aforementioned letter that turned out to be real.
"Sesshoumaru?" I ventured.
I had left him in silence for a while, only to get some tea. I figured he wouldn't want any sake and I didn't want any either. My mother always said it wasn't proper for a lady to drink much and not at all if possible. She had said to me my father had said that to her and it made me feel warm inside.
That was one of the few sets of words I had from my father. I valued them.
"Is it bad?" I asked.
He had yet to respond to anything I'd said.
His gaze turned up to me and I trembled. He looked like he wanted to rip me in half. I felt infinitely thankful he wasn't holding anything sharp, but I didn't really doubt he could hurt me well enough bare-handed.
I forced myself not to look away.
"She is a disgrace to me. She has no right to send me such filth."
Oh, well, that wasn't good. I didn't expect it would be. I knew his mother was a sore-spot.
"May I see?"
I was probably pushing it to ask that, but it was too late. He threw the paper at me with a snarl. If he was closer I might've though he'd bite me, but thankfully the table separated us.
He showed no signs of touching his tea. I wondered if the tea set would end up broken before I left.
The crumpled paper didn't seem anything unusual, not expensive, not cheap. Just paper. The writing was neat and legible, as expected of a high-born lady, I assumed.
Dearest Sesshoumaru –
I blinked. "Dearest Sesshoumaru? Well that's cozy" I noted aloud.
Sesshoumaru's respond was to growl at me as though I'd written it.
"Hey!" I looked up ready to argue I had every right to call him "dearest", but decided against it when his eyes narrowed even further.
Dearest Sesshoumaru –
I apologize for writing to you; I imagine my letter will not be welcomed. I have heard your father has died, I am sorry to hear it.
Sorry to hear it? Empty politeness, I thought, was that disrespectful to Sesshoumaru, or was it expected courtesy? I didn't really know, I wasn't familiar with the high art of letter writing among the nobility of which I was now, technically, a part of.
It is, no doubt, discourteous to you to mention the man with whom I left your house to be with, but I have no other way.
My beloved has died and left me. Being still married to your father, I was never able to marry my beloved and everything we had, that was his, has gone to his heirs.
I have had no children with him, myself.
I find myself alone and penniless. In light of my actions, I am shunned. There is no respect or willingness to help a man's mistress – a fallen woman, a woman disgraced voluntarily.
My mistakes are what they are, I suppose. It was foolish indiscretion, but even so, I cannot be sorry I fell in love, I only regret it was with someone outside my marriage.
I have written to request your assistance, to plead for it. I am alone in the world, with only my two sons, whom I abandoned, to plea for help to. I am certain I have no right to ask anything of you, I was self-centered and my actions well may be unforgivable.
I am currently located quite near your home in a small village. I'm certain you know the one – your father liked to ride there with you when you were young.
I looked up to meet his eyes.
"Dirt poor." He replied dryly.
"You're not going to help her, are you?"
He sat back, a scoff slipping from his lips. "No."
I bit my lip, feeling uncomfortable.
I knew she left. I knew she abandoned him, fallen in love with someone else. I knew this. But still
I looked back up. "You You don't have to bring her here"
"I don't have to do anything."
"No... I mean You won't even consider it?"
"If you don't do anything she'll have to wander around and rely on the help of strangers. She's not likely to find much, she'll starve." My eyes widened at the possibly. I could see in my mind's eye a slender woman, dressed in fine clothes, torn and muddied, hair long and elegant, pooled down her frame. I could see her leaning up against a building, cheeks hollowing, and eyes downcast. "That's awful" I muttered, mostly to myself.
I didn't notice the intensity of the stare being leveled on me.
"How very generous of you"
I looked up again. "Sesshoumaru"
He wasn't going to budge, I could tell already. "Empathize with her, do you? Do you see yourself in her place, twenty years from now?"
"No!" I snapped voice taut. "I intend to be here twenty years from now." I lifted my chin, hoping to lighten the mood. "Besides, I could hardly depend on you alone to raise our children. Imagine a house-full of little Sesshoumaru's."
Somehow that thought was a bit frightening.
"Just a little? A little? You don't even have to see her, just You don't want her to starve, do you?"
His respond was silence, but the answer in his demeanor was clear, I could care less.
"Can I? Can I go meet her, at least? Just once?"
His tone was clipped and sharp. "Do what you like."
He looked away and I realized I was being dismissed.
Tomorrow morning then, I would go.
It was late that same evening, when Sesshoumaru came to the bedchambers, I saw him again. For the rest of the day he'd been anywhere I wasn't. I was more than a little worried he was really angry with me.
When he came in that seemed to be the case. His eyes glanced everywhere but at me.
"You're angry, aren't you?"
His eyes flickered toward mine, gold and bright and intense.
"I've changed my mind." He replied, his voice tight. "I'll leave my mother to you, but you are, under no circumstances, to bring her here."
I blinked, surprised. Why had he changed his mind?
He shrugged out of his clothes casually, letting them pool to the floor. He didn't answer, and I could only speculate. I started to ask as he approached me, his hand already reaching, closing around my wrist, pulling me against his chest.
"I told you once, nothing outside matters in this room."
Any protest I might have tried to make was lost as his lips pressed against mine.
The morning brought warmth and sunshine and an empty room. Sesshoumaru was gone, where he was, I couldn't begin to guess. I stood, going for my clothes.
Once I dressed, I found my way to the dining room. It was empty. There were no lingering scents, stains, wet spots, broken tables, damaged doors or ripped cushions in the room indicating a late night bash had taken place. That seemed like a good start, although I hadn't discovered any of those things before, who knew what could happen? Any party could get rowdy.
I yawned and sat down feeling sleepy. Absently I wondered what time it was.
As it called by a silent call, Sesshoumaru appeared and sat with me. Afterwards, a serving crew following with breakfast.
He didn't speak until it was just he and I again in the room.
I started to speak but he cut me off.
"What you do with my mother in inconsequential to me. I have no interest in your mercy mission. She will not come here and you will not tell me about her, under any circumstances. I will not have my ears sullied."
I blinked. "Understood. No news, no visits."
I smiled brightly at him.
"So then, just Kikyo's wedding and our baby."
He sat up, he didn't ask, but I could see he was curious.
"I'm not carrying one yet; at least, I don't think so. It's too early for me to tell." I answered. "Just looking forward to it is all. Imagine, a cute little girl with eyes like mine. Cute!" I made a day-dreamy face, watching him from the corner of my eye.
He shot me a glare.
I could already see a comment forming about his first child being a "girl".
I guess I was being overdramatic. My life wasn't over, marrying Sesshoumaru wouldn't kill me. In fact, I think I was going to be quite happy here.
As Inuyasha and Kikyo appeared, the former looking disgruntled, my smile grew.
Yes, I was certain it would work out.