Author's Note: The story was wrapped up a chapter ago but I had to add this little epilogue. I hope you enjoy it. I had to write it. P.S, if anyone has any ideas about what I should write next, please- PLEASE- tell me. I'm at a lost.
Chapter Twelve: To be/Not to Be
This is how it is to be Sesshoumaru, now.
It is midmorning but the home has not yet rose to action. The windows of his bedroom are darkened. Jaken did it last night; to ensure the sun did not offend Sesshoumaru's tired body should he seek rest. It doesn't. The room is darkened suitably, but still Sesshoumaru can see. He is Youkai after all; a little dimness means nothing to him. From his place, sitting up in bed, Sesshoumaru can hear the wind in the trees for miles; can hear the footsteps of the people in the village. He can even hear his brother's rhythmic breathing in the other room. His thoughts linger on him for a moment, as Sesshoumaru's mind picks through last night.
Tajomaru, back from the dead. Seeing him had birthed pains and joys that Sesshoumaru was unaware were still as powerful as they were. For a moment, and longer then imagined, Sesshoumaru misses the old days. Not the killing, the blood…the power.
He misses his brothers. He missed Ryuhoji and his flute. He missed Tama's coarse laughter and dark smiles. He missed Tajomaru's reason, his assuredness that everything was as it should be. He missed them all. It makes him dizzy.
Then, Rin stirs and Sesshoumaru's attention is brought from the past to now. She is curled up into a little ball near his stomach. She moved there sometime during the night, when still unbelieving that her Lord had fully recovered, she came and clutched to his robes sobbing. He had allowed her, even tucked his arm around her to keep her near. She slept there, and he did nothing to move her. Now she makes sure, even in slumber, she occupies places near her Lord, seeking the spots his body heat remains.
He shifts now, just slightly to stay near, to reach up and touch a small whisper of a scar just above his heart. Last night, an arrow had embedded itself at this very spot and promised his death. Today, it is a scar but only of his own making. Such wounds would disappear fully from a Youkai, but he wishes to keep this. His reminder. Not of his weakness, but of Rin.
He knows, acutely, that she saved his life. When he was imprisoned within the demon's body, only a form of his had been captured, a vestige but now that he is whole and hale again, he remembers it all. Not only the pain, the humanity but also the thick seated rage that his full demonic form had felt at being so abused.
And he remembers more, as Zen.
Somehow, perhaps because of being trapped so long within the boy's very soul, something bled back into him for Sesshoumaru now has memories that were never his, emotions he never seemed to possess before. He now remembers a whole life as a human, a childhood, a family, and loves and joys, and pains, and pride and everything that makes up a lifetime. He even remembers dying, and upon thinking of the river that claimed his life- Zen's life- Sesshoumaru shivers.
Looking down at the small girl before, Sesshoumaru not only remembers but feels. He loves her. He perhaps loved her even before this campaign but now, with these sensations and senses he is not yet master of, Sesshoumaru is certain now. He reaches over, touching the arch of her cheek gingerly. He wants very much to hold her then, but dismisses the feeling and turns to look away.
Sesshoumaru inhales deeply, to control the feelings and closes his eyes. For this moment, he is safe and content to be near her, his servant and –despite himself- his brother. The world has changed utterly for Sesshoumaru, but the time to concern himself with that is not yet.
For right now, Sesshoumaru suppresses shivers and stolen memories to close his eyes, and hold Rin a little closer. She's cold, and he'll protect her.
Tama stumbled, half-blind through the forests till his legs no longer obeyed him. It was mid morning when he fell, finally, from exhaustion and fear. Although he doubted Tajomaru would follow him, he knew how vicious and bitter Nanashi could be when it came to revenge. That gave him strength to run. He could regroup, plan out and attack again later. The woods were thick and dark this deep into them, and Tama knew he had found safe haven enough to rest. If only for a moment. He exhaled, doggedly and slumped to the floor, jerking his head back and resting it against the trunk of a tree. He closed his eyes to sleep.
And, too soon enough for him to truly enjoy his respite, Tama awoke to the sound of horses, and humans. Tama stifled a growl but remained seated.
Bandits. They smelled of liquor, lust and leather. Tama smiled; human versions of what he had once been. He flexed his claws hungrily. It would not remove last night's defeat but it would make Tama feel better to pick on something weaker. He jumped to crouch, and listened. One of the group was warning the others against Youkai in the forest, much to the ridicule of the others. Tama grinned. There was a clever boy.
"The woods are quiet."
"Are you scared, Crow?"
"Scared?" The one called Crow repeated, tasting the words on his lips for the first time. He shook his head, and turned away. Tama tilted his head, watching him. Crow looked barely out of youth, with a face that could have once been attractive to the females of his species if not for the series of scars his life afforded him. On his chest, hung his mask, a stylized version like Samurai's mimicking a Youkai. He wore a gauntlet and brace over his left arm- he was an archer, like Tajomaru. His other arm was just as encased in armor. One each brace were two birds, carrion crows, facing each other and swooping towards the center to devour some dead object. Tama caught the symbolism.
They were poised to devour his heart.
"I am not scared." Crow answered. "I am wary. I know there are some battles not even I can win."
"Wise answer, Crow." Barked a voice from behind. The horse and rider thundered towards Crow's side. He flinched under the elder man's iron gaze. "I knew I taught you well."
"I live but by your mercy, Master." Crow mumbled.
"You live by that cunning tongue of yours."
"As you say."
Another of the bandits laughed as Crow and the leader rode ahead. Tama leaned closer to hear them. Apparently Crow was the leader, (aptly called) Raptor's darling. Had been for years now. He was young, and with a mean streak that seemed to rival Raptor's and had a certain amount of wisdom that kept him in good graces. Tama smirked. Crow reminded him of himself.
The troupe had passed him completely now, and it was then Tama caught his scent. It instantly made him hiss and curse his own stupidity. He had been concerned with Tajomaru's hunt, with Nanashi and hadn't paid close enough attention to the humans. He hadn't truly paid attention to him as he should have.
The boy, Crow, carried the blood of Sesshoumaru's human.
Tama grinned as he stood.
A family member.