01-24-05 A/N: I apologize, this is not an update or new content to this chapter. I just wanted to mention that dragonlance (penname)has started writing a sequel to Act of Compassion, called Betrayal of the Heart. And since FF frowns on such things as adding chapters just as author's notes, I had to put this here. Please go give her a read!!!
Sesshomaru awoke. Unlike a human, he did not jerk or startle, sit up or look wildly around him. A demon did not need to display such behavior. His expression didn't change, his breathing remained even, his form never stirring. Only his eyes moved, they opened and immediately fixed on the tattered roof overhead. It was a simple creation of wood and worn thatching, smelling slightly of mildew and small vermin. There were holes in the roof, through them he could see the dark sky and occasional distant flash of lightning.
His brow furrowed ever so slightly. Not only did he not recall how he'd come here, unthinkable as that was, he found himself becoming deeply annoyed at the idea he'd been unconscious. That meant that while he'd been incapacitated, someone had dared lay hands on his person and take him to a location not of his choosing. This alone would be a death sentence for whomever had been foolish enough to touch him.
"Sesshomaru? Are you awake?"
At the sound of her tentative voice, the memories of recent events came flooding back. The wench. The arrow. His eyes closed again in silent fury at the humiliation of his circumstances. Someone needed to pay for this indignity but the demon lord could find no appropriate outlet for his anger. He had only himself to blame.
His breath escaped his lips in dark hiss and he again opened his eyes, this time turning his gaze to the side to look at the insolent creature. Her face was pale, he could smell the anxiety radiating off her in waves. She swallowed, he watched her throat bob nervously and found himself picturing how easy it would be simply to reach out and snap her neck. It would take only a hint of strength, her flesh would dissolve under his poisoned touch, her neck bones and muscles would tear apart from the merest application of his claws. It would be like breaking the stem of a flower, a blossom plucked by a child's hands on a sunny summer afternoon. It would be enjoyable.
Kagome couldn't read anything specific in his gaze, but she felt the hair on the back of her neck stand up just the same. He made no move, simply staring at her as his cheek rested in a pile of his silvery hair. Kagome thought it might be wise to just put a bit more space between them and started to inch away. "I'm very sorry, Sesshomaru-sama," the girl said in a miserable voice. "I didn't mean to hurt you."
Hurt him? The great Sesshomaru, powerful Tai-Youkai lord of the West and commander of the inuyoukai? Hurt by a female, a human, a mere slip of a girl? It was ridiculous. His eyes narrowed slightly, no one must learn of this humiliation. Quite simply, the girl had to die before she could boast of her accomplishment. Sesshomaru held very strong opinions on the matter of demons that allowed themselves to be bested by mere mortals. He felt no particular malice for the creature, it was simply a matter of youkai honor that he should end her life.
Sesshomaru started to sit up, fully intending on striking the girl down with a precise and deadly flash of his claws. As he raised his body, he felt an immediate surge of pain from his midsection. He let no hint of discomfort color his face, but privately he thought he might very well pass out again from the sheer agony. Quite unintentionally, his lips parted in a soft gasp of surprise at the intensity of the sensation. When was the last time he'd felt pain like this? Probably not since his bastard brother had ripped off his arm with the Tetsusaiga.
"Oh," Kagome said, flushing. "Please lay still, Sesshomaru-sama. I pulled out the arrow but the wound is very deep." The girl scurried over to the small fire she'd built, a simmering pot over the coals. Quickly, she dipped a cloth in the hot water and wrung it out, returning to his side to gently dab at his belly. Sesshomaru smelled a pungent herbal fragrance mixed with the undeniable scent of his own blood. For the first time he noticed that his armor had been removed and his clothing opened so that his chest and stomach lay bare.
The girl's touch was gentle, soothing away the burning sensation of pain. For a moment, he allowed her ministrations then realized what he was doing. He would have liked to have struck her away, sent her reeling into the wall with his blow, but as of yet, his strength was diminished. "Do not touch me," he said in an icy voice.
"Oh don't worry," she said in a tone of forced cheerfulness. "I'm actually pretty good at first aid, I have to be with the way Inuyasha always gets hurt. Just leave it to me."
Was she intending to insult him so? Sesshomaru wasn't quite sure, watching her continue to dab at his injury. Intended or not, he wasn't going to let such a comment stand. "I need no assistance from you, human," he growled, his voice going hard with menace. "Keep your filthy hands off me."
She yanked her hands away and gave him a hurt look. "I just wanted to help."
He ignored the injured tone of her voice. "I do not want your help."
"But, please, you're hurt, just let me..."
He managed to sit up halfway, bracing himself with his elbow. "You are the one who injured me!"
Kagome bit her lip and looked at the floor, her cheeks burning shamefully. "I know, I'm so very sorry."
"Your apologies are meaningless." Sesshomaru leaned back, resting again on the floor and tried to ignore her. He needed to think. Obviously the purification had not been complete, probably because the girl had removed the arrow. His body would heal. If anything, he could attribute his current weakness not to her arrow, but to his own demon energies gearing up to heal the damage. A normal injury would not trouble him, but the spiritual purification was a considerable blow to his youki. His demon blood would rise to the challenge, angrily racing in his veins to mend the physical damage even as it replenished his power. You did not lightly attempt to purify Tai-Youkai energy.
A loud crack of thunder suddenly split the air. The demon didn't move so much as a muscle, but Kagome jumped. The rain started to pour then, clattering against the beaten wooden walls. She flinched when a stream of cold water touched her shoulder and looked up. Great...the roof was leaking in several different places and Kagome shifted to the side to claim a bit of dry floor for herself.
"Where am I?"
Her nose wrinkled slightly at his imperious tone. Well, he has every reason to be angry, I did almost purify him. Managing an even tone, she replied to the demon's question. "I found this abandoned hut, I thought you'd rather be inside when you woke up."
Silence greeted her words and Kagome sighed. It was certainly going to be a long night. The air had chilled considerably and Kagome shivered, wishing that she'd managed to have her sleeping bag with her when she had been dragged off by that bird. Her little fire wasn't doing much to warm the hut, and no wonder, there were almost as many holes in the walls as the roof and she decided that she had to be content with the fact there was a roof at all. It would have been miserable to have had to stay out in the rain.
After Sesshomaru had collapsed, she'd had to drag his unconscious body all the way to the little hut. He was a lot heavier than he looked, but she kept her own council on that subject. She was really tired and Sesshomaru's icy silence did nothing to make her feel any better. Miserably, she huddled against the wall and pulled her knees to her chest. The thunder cracked the air again and she flinched, burying her face in her legs.
Sesshomaru saw her jumpy movement and smiled inwardly. Pathetic to be so frightened of just a loud noise. A gust of wind invaded the shabby shelter and the tiny fire guttered and went out. Kagome didn't move, the fire might not have provided much warmth but it had at least lit the hut. She shivered again and pressed her forehead against her knees. I'm not going to cry, she thought stubbornly.
A low sound caught her attention, a sort of condescending rumble. Her head came up and she looked over at him, even though she could barely see his outline against the darkness. Sesshomaru was...laughing? She didn't know he could do that. "What's so funny?" she whispered, knowing he'd hear her even over the noise of the pouring rain.
"You, human. You are frightened of the thunder and frightened of the darkness. How pathetic."
Her face flushed in anger. "So what if I am? Don't you ever get scared?"
"Of course not. I am youkai."
Kagome turned the thought over in her head. She didn't like thunder, but usually it didn't scare the pants off her either. And she wasn't normally afraid of the dark. It was just that before when a storm shook the air like this, she knew Inuyasha was nearby, keeping watch. She had no reason to ever be afraid when he was there. Sesshomaru's presence had quite the opposite effect, he did nothing to warm away the chill in her heart.
"You never ever get scared of anything?" she asked wistfully.
He smiled to himself. "Not ever."
The girl sighed heavily and he heard her shift slightly to lean against the wall. "What's it like?"
"What?" he asked, not understanding what she meant.
"I mean, what's it like to never be afraid? To never get scared, or weak, or need someone's help? What's it like to always be in control?"
Sesshomaru frowned, his answer sliding from his lips before he had time to consider it. "Tiring."
By the gods, he must be weakening to have admitted something like that to her. Sesshomaru scowled into the darkness. How dare she presume to ask questions of him in the first place? He clamped his mouth shut and willed her to do the same. He had simply to lay here until he regained his strength. That was all. He had no use for her conversation and no patience for her questions. How did his brother ever put up with such inane babbling?
Kagome sighed, musing over his answer. "I believe you," she murmured at last, settling down to curl into a ball. She was very tired and somehow his words, his simple admission, had made her feel easier. She rested her head on her arms and closed her eyes. In the morning, it would all be better.
The demon lord lay awake long after the human girl fell asleep. He listened to the measured sound of her breathing, if he strained he could almost hear the beat of her heart. The smell of her was filling the small hut, annoying him with the base mortal aroma. The tingling feeling from his wound was increasing and it was becoming a distraction to him. He knew his demon blood was becoming more and more active, incensed as was he himself at the near purification. Sesshomaru resolved himself to remain still, exerting his will over his instincts.
Healing from such a purification was difficult, even for one of his strength. The presence of the sleeping girl was becoming more of an annoyance. As his instincts warred with his will for dominance, he was increasingly aware of her. Or at least his demon blood was, sensing a likely victim in the immediate area.
No, he told the darkness inside him. You will not have her.
Pain washed along his nerve endings, punishing him for denying the instinct to kill. Sesshomaru was unmoved, letting his body relax again as the sensation faded. We do not stoop to play with such creatures, he thought sternly.
The instinct whined at him, demanding an outlet for its aggression. Sesshomaru sighed and promised it plenty of blood and death, only at a later date. The feeling subsided, not really pacified by his promises but recognizing that Sesshomaru's will was still in control. He let his mind start to drift, diverting his energies to restoring his strength.
She woke suddenly, feeling lost in the quiet darkness. It was the silence that had woken her, the lack of rain pounding against the roof and walls of the tiny hut. Kagome sat up, rubbing her eyes. Through the holes in the roof she could see that the sky had cleared and the light of the full moon washed across the floor in brilliant streamers. They illuminated the still form of the youkai on the other side of the hut and Kagome hesitated before softly speaking his name. "Sesshomaru?"
No answer. She smiled and shook her head. Out like a light, she thought, grinning to herself. So much for all that demon pride, I guess even he has to rest. She felt so guilty about the arrow, he'd come back to save her from the second bird and what did she do? She shot him. Granted she had no idea he was there, firing out of instinct herself, but oh, she would have felt awful if she'd killed him. Inuyasha would have been angry, she didn't doubt it. Not because he cared for his brother as much as he didn't get to be the one to destroy him. She sighed. Such a pleasant family.
But at least if he was asleep, he wouldn't be insulting her. The least she could do was check his wound since she'd caused it. Kagome hesitated, he'd been very clear he didn't want her touching him. That was just his attitude, she told herself firmly, crawling across the floor. He'll never know I looked, he didn't even feel me drag him to the hut.
She knelt beside the quiet Tai-Youkai and gazed down on him. The moonlight turned his pale skin to alabaster and his hair sparkled against the dull floor. She blinked, watching the still, perfect face. So beautiful, she thought, catching her lower lip in her teeth. Just like Inuyasha when he sleeps, so perfect you'd think they were just a dream. At least until they woke up and started to talk. Like his brother, Sesshomaru's personality ruined his angelic appearance. Haughty attitudes or foul mouthed cursing, neither brother managed to project the illusion of inhuman beauty once they opened their mouths.
She lifted the edge of her makeshift bandage and whistled softly. The wound was completely healed, nothing marred the velvety smoothness of his skin. Curious, she brushed her hand over his stomach, wondering at what made them heal like that. His skin was hot to the touch, almost unpleasantly so. Kagome frowned, hoping that he didn't have an infection or fever. He sure didn't seem to be in any distress, lying quietly as the dead. She touched him again, even if he did have a fever, he wasn't sweating. She wondered if Sesshomaru even did things like that. Inuyasha could sweat up a storm when he was in the middle of really good fight.
Kagome leaned a little closer, sniffing. Of course, she didn't have their senses but she could smell a faint spiciness coming from his body, a musky rich scent that made her think of cloves and cinnamon. Strange. Inuyasha smelled more of forest, trees and earth, but not in a dirty way. She rather liked his smell, even if he told her that she stank in return. Kagome smiled, that was a lie, he liked her scent but he also liked to pretend he didn't. Sesshomaru, on the other hand, probably detested her human aroma.
The girl inched closer, not wanting to take her hand off him just yet. She'd probably never have another chance to see him this close and this unguarded. Her fingers trailed up his body, exploring the firm chiseled muscles of his chest. Wow, she thought, blushing just a bit at her daring. She had to laugh at herself, being this curious about Sesshomaru. He was just such a mystery, so aloof and cold. Only his hatred for his brother seemed to burn hotly in him, everything else was so precise and under control. She couldn't imagine him losing his temper and throwing a fit like Inuyasha...it would be something to see. As long as you aren't in the path of the storm, she reminded herself wryly.
Why didn't she stop touching him? She could have excused herself for seeing to his wound, but now she was running both hands over his chest thoughtfully, moving up to caress that delicately perfect face. His bone structure was much more refined than his brother, like an abstract drawn of the same person. Kagome swallowed hard, realizing what she wanted to do. She'd never get another chance. Inuyasha would kill her if he found out. Sesshomaru would do more than kill her, he'd probably tear her limbs off. Slowly. Her heart sped up in her chest and Kagome shook off her fear. If you've really got the guts, you might as well do it, she told herself. You'll never get another chance, you can count on that. Slowly she leaned over, it was just a harmless kiss. He'd never know, only she would remember. She closed her eyes and pressed her lips against his, noticing again the strange heat, the odd pulse of power that seemed to wash over her, the way he seemed to be...oh my god.
Sesshomaru wasn't asleep, he'd never been asleep at all. Instead the demon lord was fighting a desperate battle for control. Inside him, the darkness was laughing. She wants us, it said, whispering in his mind.
I will not.
Give in, it hissed. You'll feel better when you're done with her.
She's a human, he thought angrily. I would rather die.
Give in, let me take her. I promise to leave no witnesses.
He ached with fighting it, the powerful instinct, the urge to rut and kill. He was a damn Tai-Youkai lord, not some craven hanyou who was slave to his darker aspects. He was in control, he was going to deny the darkness the pleasure of tearing the girl's throat out, not because he cared for her life but because he was the one who said who lived and who died.
Then give me something else.
No, he thought, damning the girl when she leaned into him, her mouth soft against his. He was losing this battle, he was too exhausted from healing, the purification had sapped his will along with his youki. Now there was nothing to hold it back anymore and this stupid little girl didn't know what she was doing by provoking a demon's darker instincts.
Kagome cried out when he suddenly seized her and threw her off him. Oh no, she thought, closing her eyes. He's going to kill me. His body came down hard on hers, pinning her to the floor. "I'm sorry," she cried out.
A low growl answered her and Kagome peeked up at him. Sesshomaru's eyes were glittering in the faint light. "I told you not to touch me."
"I..." she began, opening her mouth to apologize again and beg for her life. His lips crashed into hers, taking her over in a hot, desperate kiss. She tried to twist away from him, but he pursued her, forcing his tongue past her teeth with ruthless intent. She struggled futilely, but his hand reached up to caress her face gently. And then he moved back, gave her breathing room, breaking the kiss with a soft moist lick to her lips.
She was breathing heavily now, staring up at him with large confused eyes. Sesshomaru looked down at her, feeling the girl's body starting to react to his, desire pooling between her legs and in the pit of her belly.Her hands were clenched on his shoulders, not pushing him away. Lazily, he leaned forward and ran his tongue down her cheek. "Foolish girl," he hissed, holding her against him.
Kagome didn't know what to say, his kiss had woken up her nerves, pounding in her pulse with an insistent desire. This was so wrong, why was she wanting him? She didn't love him, she loved Inuyasha and laying on the floor with his brother on top of her should have felt so wrong. But it didn't, no it didn't feel wrong at all. "What's happening to me?" she whispered.
Sesshomaru knew. He knew her human body couldn't withstand the pure youki he was putting out. He could do anything he liked, he could hurt her or he could make her want him very badly. He could take her over and over, have her for hours and still she'd cry for more. It was just as well, the instinct had taken him over and he would have had to kill her if he didn't find another way to satisfy the growing urgency. Damn her anyway, if she'd just kept her hands to herself this wouldn't have happened. If she'd just left him alone, let him lie in the forest alone to heal this wouldn't be happening. Her act of compassion had returned on her, as much as his act in saving her had undone him.
He closed his eyes, not wanting to force her. "Give me your permission," he said quietly. She might be in the grip of the powerful energy pouring from his body, but she still had a mind of her own. It might kill him to stop himself, but he could still do it. He was the stronger and even though he was angry that he was now about to answer his needs on the body of a human woman, he would not lower himself to a beast and take her against her will. Not now, not ever.
Kagome's hands pressed against his bare chest, her legs wanted to reach up and clasp him tight. "I have a choice?" she asked, feeling the overwhelming power dominating them.
Her head was spinning, her body fighting with her conscience. He was shaking, she realized. Shaking with the effort of holding himself back, letting her decide. Suddenly she knew he wasn't in control of himself, not if he was willing to touch her. And she was out of her mind because she wanted him to. Slowly, her fingers unclenched and she slipped her arms around his neck. "It's all right," she whispered, closing her eyes. Oh Inuyasha forgive me, I know you'd never understand but...Kagome arched her back as she was again flooded with a wave of full youkai lust. My god, is that what he's feeling, she wondered, quivering with the way it made her skin burn. "Sesshomaru," she murmured, drawing him down to her.
Giving in, it wasn't something he could do easily. Sesshomaru held himself to impossibly high standards, impossible for anyone else anyway. Now he was lost, his control ripped away, instinct alone sending him over the edge. With a desperate cry, he fell against the girl who was welcoming him as lover and not enemy. White hot light flooded his vision, blinded him as he took her, her small hands clenching and unclenching in his hair. Kagome's voice grew shrill, calling loudly for some redemption, he didn't know. In the nearly silent darkness, cut by the sounds of frantic breathing and urgent flesh, Sesshomaru the demon lord gave himself away to her, a mortal woman, a human girl. She soothed away the flames of youki and melted the icy prison of his soul. For a night at least, he could forget to be strong, forget to be invulnerable. Instead he accepted the gift she gave him and allowed himself to let go, give in and feel no loss from it. Only peace.
Sesshomaru dressed slowly, putting on his clothing and armor with a distracted air. The sun was just barely beginning to lighten the sky, painting it in shades of violet and rose. He found himself in a tiny human hovel, waking with a warm human body wrapped around his. He glanced down at her, still sleeping deeply and no wonder, she should be tired. His eyes wandered over her body, seeing the scratches he'd made, no few bruises either. The musk of their union still hung heavy in the air and while he regretted his loss of control, he wasn't going to be foolish enough to regret the pleasure it had given them both. Now he was unsure what to do. Should he wake her before leaving? It would be the honorable thing to do, not slipping away like some ashamed paramour. It might be easier for her also, knowing that she'd be embarrassed and feel guilty for having enjoyed herself. He smiled faintly, she absolutely had enjoyed herself.
And what would his bastard brother think? Sesshomaru allowed himself a cool smile of pleasure, thinking of the anger in Inuyasha's face when he found his human woman. Bearing the marks of his claws, her body smeared with his scent and his seed. What a fine way to let the half breed know that there was nothing he possessed that Sesshomaru couldn't take from him. Even the love of a woman. Would it devastate him, to know that his Kagome had given herself to his brother in passion? Would he come after Sesshomaru for revenge, finally gaining that one last confrontation that would settle all? Or would he simply reject the girl as something now tainted and worthless? Sesshomaru didn't know his brother well enough to predict how he would react to the knowledge.
And she loved him. Sesshomaru frowned, looking down at the girl again. She did indeed love that bastard half breed, he'd gained enough of her mind to understand that. If Inuyasha did revile her for what they'd done, the girl would suffer. It was not his intention to have her pay for his moment of weakness. She had given herself to him freely, her body at least. Her heart belonged to another and the demon lord contemplated the fact without bitterness. No. He would not make her currency in their dispute. What was between himself and Inuyasha would stay between them, he needed no human girl to hurt the hanyou. It would be beneath him and cheapen what she'd given him.
Slowly, he pulled the sword from its sheath, the faint light of dawn moving like liquid down the polished surface of the blade. Tenseiga was a sword of healing, it could do more than restore life. He gently rested the tip against her shoulder and concentrated. The bruises began to fade, as did the scratches left by his passion. No evidence would remain of their encounter, he thought with a wry smile, even her maidenhead would be restored. That amused him greatly, leaving no physical traces of his presence. At last, when the sword had finished its work, he leaned down to brush her hair back from her eyes. Only the barest touch of his mind against hers and all memory of the night would be hidden. Another brief touch of his youki and he'd effectively destroyed all traces of his scent. A full blood youkai would wonder at the absence of smell on her body, but he doubted if Inuyasha would notice.
Was this kindness he was experiencing? Compassion perhaps? He snorted with faintly condescending amusement. Of course not, such emotions were for humans, mortals and fools. He was simply assuring himself that no one would know of his moment of weakness, his loss of control. When he allowed himself to find comfort in the arms of a simple but sweet human girl.