Strong arms push Izayoi to the dust painted floor. Splinters pierce her flesh as hot lips scald her cheeks. Weaving her fingers into his silver hair she clasps her hands behind his head. Her lips press lightly against his forehead and her free hand strokes his muscled back.

Silver hair flutters carelessly over her face, pooling gracefully against her throat. He moves on her slowly--not bothering to uncover her face.

He pretends, imagines she's someone else.

xxx

They met on a day when the wind blew dark clouds across a dun hued sky. The trees appeared more yellow than green, and touches of scarlet were beginning to show. Late afternoon sunlight squeezed between their leaves, and flashes of silver danced amongst their branches.

He stood atop a gnarled pine, sunlight streaming off his silvery mane. He was tall and unearthly in his beauty. Wearing of the whitest white, armor that held the gold of fiery sunlight, and a crown that glowed the silver of perfect moonbeams.

"Youkai," Izayoi breathed, unaware she spoke aloud. Though she knew them to be futile, fleeting thoughts of fleeing raced across her mind. Few who crossed paths with youkai lived to tell the tale.

He stared down at her with impassive, indifferent eyes. Unsure, she smiled demurely as she bowed lowly. Which in turn excited a half-cocked eyebrow. He looked bored, foppish, and very, very wise.

xxx

He is gone when she wakes. Her body protests as she rolls to her side to trace his outline in the dust.

xxx

With spring came her menses, and a marriage to a local lord. Amida-sama was small and not particularly handsome. His clothes were dark and his hair shot with gray. He didn't wear armor, and could barely lift a sword. But he was gentle, and his eyes were kind.

Never was she short of sweetcakes, or sweet smelling sachets. "Sweets for my sweet," he would whisper against her dainty ear.

Izayoi would blush. And Amida-sama would steal a kiss. Which always led to another blush, another stolen kiss, and tangled sheets until morning.

xxx

Izayoi presses her hand close to her rounding belly. She thinks, worriedly counts months for the thousandth time, and again comes to the same conclusion. The dates are too close, her cycles too irregular. It is impossible to ascertain the identity of her child's father.

Amida-sama joyously builds the child's crib, and places delicate vases out of reach. He is giddy with the prospect of fatherhood, and ignorant of his wife's trespasses.

She smiles at his antics, while wondering when Touga-sama will come again.

xxx

When Amida-sama dies early in summer, she comes to the realization that one problem invariably solves another. He tells her he loves her and what be believes to be their unborn child.

Izayoi smiles, refusing to feel guilty.

She would rather be a youkai's whore, than a daimyo's wife.

xxx

They make love after the funeral. She cares little that it's improper, even vulgar, or that her handmaidens think her wicked. They're wrong; of course, for true love is its own justification.

She cuddles next to him, curled against his side, and fails to notice the dark expression tainting the warm glow in his eyes.

"I love you, Touga-sama," she whispers between kisses.

He stiffens beside her, the fingers running absentmindedly through her hair cease. He sits up abruptly and pulls the sheet about his waist. He glares at her, angry, as she's ever seen him. "You are never to call me that." His tone drops to low, cold hiss. "Understood."

Izayoi frowns a little, dismisses his rage, and pouts cutely. In a manner which, Amida-sama, would have undoubtedly found endearing. "But the other is so long."

Touga snorts in half disgust, and wonders why he bothers. "I'm going home."

Izayoi watches him dress; his guilt-slick fingers fumble over the familiar fastenings.

"She rejects you," she reminds, gently, almost desperately. "Recoils at your every touch. That's why you come to me!" Izayoi grabs his arms; her feeble human nails biting into his arms. "Why!" she cries, suddenly anguished. "Do you keep going back?"

As it often is, the truth is agonizingly in its simplicity.

"I have to believe," he says as he ties his sash, and stares at a woman, unseen and far away. "That one day she'll be herself again."

Her voice quivers, and a solitary tear streaks down her cheek. "You love her."

"More dearly than the world."

xxx

Somewhere he has a wife, a daiyoukai princess of unimaginable beauty and power. Grief is her sickness, and anguish the taint that replaces the blue blush pearl of her eyes.

She walks the halls of her moonlit castle, her hands pressed against her belly. Beneath her kimono are bandages, salves, and stomach muscles still loose from a premature birthing. They are the least of her agonies.

She fights her tears, swallows her sobs, and moans until she aches.

"Mother?"

She gasps, and blinks back tears, hides them from eldest and only child. "Sesshoumaru." Her voice is brittle, hollow, and very far away. "It's late," she whispers against his temple. "You should be in bed."

Sesshoumaru slides his arms around her waist, and lays his head against her breast. He combs his fingers through her hair, carefully unsnarling its countless knots, comforting her in his father's place. "I'm waiting for father."

Her arms tighten painfully about him, but he doesn't cry out. Strangled sobs and mangled moans stumble passed her lips until his hair is made wet with her tears.

Sesshoumaru picks her up, he's young, but she's not heavy, and puts her to bed. For hours she lays there, unmoving, except when an occasional sob shakes her.

He sleeps next to her, half-afraid. When he wakes, he finds her praying at the tiny grave.

"I never got to hold her," she whispers to herself, or to him. He's uncertain if she's aware of his presence, or of anything. She rocks slowly, crossing her arms over her chest, rocking, rocking a ghostly infant. "Why didn't let me hold her?"

Sesshoumaru doesn't know, and so he doesn't answer.

xxx

Afternoons are ripe for confession.

"She forgets it was my child as well." There is no resentment in his tone, nor is there anger. He's weary, lonely, and impossibly tired. He longs for a woman who shrinks from his touch.

Izayoi holds him, kisses him, and whispers it's not his fault. It's enough, what he needs to hear. His vision skews, his mind drifts, he accepts her comforts, whilst damning his soul.

Her clothes lay in tatters, his scatter the floor. He kisses her frantically, takes her mercilessly, and growls another's name as he comes undone.

xxx

Nights are ample for confrontation.

Sesshoumaru has the look of his mother. His skin is unnaturally pale and clear; his bones are slender fine. Delicate, beautiful, and deceptively fragile, the only proof of his father's contribution in his making is his silver hair and his golden eyes. Eyes, normally impassive and serene, glare with impossible hate and fury.

His fists are balled at his side, the stripes on his cheeks slightly jagged. "Where have you been?" It's more demand, than question.

"I don't have to answer to you, boy." The words are cold and laced with guilt.

His father answer is unsatisfying, thus prompting Sesshoumaru to offer another.

"You were with your human whore."

Touga says nothing in his defense. And in that silence, a betrayal is assumed.

"You were with her while they--"

The rest is a growl, a scream of flashing claws and gnashing fangs. Sesshoumaru can't say the rest, can't admit what happen, he has to pretend he didn't see.

Armor shatters beneath clenched fists, and blood flows between sharp claws. Touga doesn't fight back, nor stop the blows until Sesshoumaru's growls become wails.

It's then Touga learns there are many ways to bleed.

xxx

Guilt is a prison mortared with grief.

"It is my fault," he admits, and cannot be dissuaded. "I underestimated the viciousness of my enemies. I thought they were honorable. I never thought they would-" the rest is a truth he cannot voice- "I was a fool."

His eyes grow glassy, he swallows hard as fine tremor runs through his hands. "They did more to her, than she'll ever admit."

Izayoi cuddles next to him, her soft breasts pressed against his legs. None to gently he pushes her away, ignoring the hurt within her eyes.

"Do you love me?" she asks, though not for the first time.

"Yes," he answers, and her heart nearly bursts. "But not in the manner you wish."

The words are kinder than they are cruel.

xxx

He greets her at dawn with two swords and sour disposition. Izayoi is uncertain which is meant for her. They make love until she believes it doesn't matter.

xxx

Izayoi gives birth on the coldest night in winter. It's a boy-child, with silver hair, and ears of a dog. She is weak, but happy, and blissfully unaware of the tax upon her health. If she survives six summers it will be a blessing, seven a miracle.

xxx

Touga's failure has come full circle, proof lays within a swaddled bundle. The child's eyes are gold, like his, like Sesshoumaru's, and like his daughter's might have been. In the child he sees nothing but betrayal, heartbreak, and broken lives.

The child is hanyou, doomed by his father's crime.

xxx

Days pass, and Izayoi recovers enough that he may leave. He walks the garden one final time, the moon is full, its light glitters against the newly fallen snow.

"Touga?" A soft voice drifts upon the wind. If he were not a youkai he never would deciphered it from the calm snow drift.

He turns slowly, almost not daring for fear it's but a dream, or an illusion blown in with the storm. She stands amongst the snowdrifts, as if she were one with them. Her colorful, beautiful markings scream against the paleness of her flesh. He remembers tracing them once while she was slept.

"Amayami?"

Amayami nods, takes a hesitant step forward, but stops and won't meet his eye. "I've been looking for you," her voice quivers, ever so slightly, but it is otherwise calm, serene, and something like herself.

He says nothing, too lost in the sweet sound of her voice. Her head bows, her painfully thin hands cross over her waist. She grows silent, and trembles, but not because of the cold.

"Where is Sesshoumaru?" he asks, half worried, half dying in the silence.

She smiles, her dainty fangs peeking just slightly over the pale pink of her lip. "I left him with Toutousai," her voice drops to secretive tones. "For training."

Touga's chuckle ends in a clatter of silence. He wants to hold her, and kiss her, and make love to her, but he knows he's unworthy. Nevertheless he takes the pelt from his shoulders, and slips it about her willowy form. When she flinches, his heart nearly breaks.

"You should dress more warmly," he says dismissively. 'She is truly lost to me.'

Before he can fully turn his wrist is snagged. Amayami's voice comes again, sad, mournful, like the soft patter of rain. "I understand if you can't forgive me."

She stiffens as his arms encircle her, but relaxes enough that she may lay her cheek against the crook of his neck. She hiccups a single, joyful sob, and then quiets. She has wanted this for a long, long time.

"There is nothing to forgive," he whispers into her hair. His lips silence her protests as they drift a hair's breadth over her skin. "I love you." He kisses her cheeks, her eyelids, her forehead, and her lips, every kiss more desperate than the last.

"I love you so much," she whispers in turn, frantically between kisses, fervently gripping the silk of his haori. "But, when--" she chokes back tears, forbidding them to fall-- "I became lost for so long." Her eyes met his, and then her lips, and she lost all power for words.

He holds her, clings to her, vowing never to let her go.

Izayoi stands in her window, staring, slightly smiling. He smiles in turn, and she nods, as if she understands and pulls the shutters closed. His arms tighten around Amayami, his lips fall to her temple. He knows not what fate may await or what trials they may face, but for the first time in nearly two years the world is beautiful.

"So did I."