Title: Making the Most of Purgatory
Rating: R
Warnings: heavily implied sex, metaphysics
Pairings: Sesshoumaru/Kagome
Words: 3,360
Summary: How to win at losing.
Author's Notes: Written for the 'karma' theme at the 30shards LJ community.

Cuando una puerta se abre, la puerta equidistante, al otro lado del mundo, se cierra irremisiblemente.
Por esto – y todos lo hemos visto– de golpe, las puertas se cierran solas.
El día que todas las puertas se abrieran de una vez, el mundo quedaría lleno de huecos...

- Luis Vidales, "Teoría de las Puertas"

When a door opens, the equidistant door, on the other side of the world, inevitably closes.
It is because of this – and we all have seen it – that doors suddenly close by themselves.
The day on which all doors opened at once, the world would be full of holes...

- Luis Vidales, "The Theory of Doors"

It is said that when one door closes, another opens.

Sesshoumaru didn't believe that. Neither did Kagome.

. . .

Pale cheeks and wide eyes across the sunny outdoor cafe. His hand is frozen halfway to his lips as she stumbles over to come to rest against his table. She looks as though she is about to faint.

They are both silent for a long time until her mutely working mouth finally obeys her.

"Oh... my god... you're still alive?"

"... as, it would appear, are you."

"I can't... what are you doing here?"

"Obviously I am partaking of my morning coffee."

"... You know, even though you have a cup in your hand, for some reason I still can't believe you'd like coffee."

"Why not?"

"I would think you wouldn't be caught dead drinking something so... you know, common."

"... Perhaps I never thought anyone would catch me."

. . .

He really hadn't thought there would be anyone left to see him, so lots of cream and lots of sugar and lots of memories of those he had known crowded around the rim of his cup, looking as sad and lost as they had in life. He wondered if he had finally acquired that same look.

Rin had been an orphan, but she only had to be an orphan for fifty-three years. When he met her Sesshoumaru had been an orphan himself for almost two hundred, and with his claws he had made a lot of other people orphans, too.

And now Rin had been gone for a long time, and he was still alone.

. . .

She invites herself to sit down, and he doesn't stop her.

"What have you been doing all this time?" she wants to know. "Where have you been?"

"I've been working," he says. He is still off-balance, disbelieving, stricken and dumbfounded and taking comfort in inanities. "Here in Japan. Where else would I be?"

But he is not answering the right question.

"No," she says, almost desperately. Her heart is thundering against her breast, her hands are fluttering, looking for a lifeline to hold on to, flying close to his fingers and back again. He tries to decipher her strange sign language, and almost knows what she is asking.

"No," she says again, "where have you been

. . .

Sesshoumaru had only been working for a hundred years. He had enfolded himself in human society and now he was very rich. Before he was a rich pretend-human, he had raised children. They were all dead now.

It probably served him right. He'd caused so many others to lose that it was only fair that he lose some, too.

. . .

"You look different," she says after she has calmed down. She takes a sip of his coffee without asking. "You look more... solid."

"You look tired."

"I am tired. What's your excuse?"

"I am almost two thousand years old," he says.

"Oh," she replies. "I guess it's hard not to be real after that long."

"Yes," he agrees.

. . .

It was a very good excuse, and this is what it meant: he had lived too long and had become very human, so now Sesshoumaru was a mortal who couldn't die.

He hadn't meant to become that; he just failed to get himself killed. So Sesshoumaru had grown stronger and stronger, and lived longer and longer, and as he did he found himself getting more and more human, which meant that he cared for things and missed things and felt terrible a lot of the time, which, he had come to learn, most humans did as well. Even though he didn't show it, he did very human things like caring and then regretting about caring, and then caring about regretting, and so on. It was because he spent so much time around little humans that he had become this way; they had made him into a dog, even though he was a dog to begin with.

A dog is just like a wolf that is half-human, and Sesshoumaru was a youkai who felt so human he might as well have been hanyou.

. . .

"It's polite to ask old friends what they've been doing since you last saw them," she says.

He thinks about telling her that she is not an old friend, but he's never had old friends so he doesn't know what they feel like. Maybe she is one, after all.

"And what have you been doing with your time, Kagome?" he asks. He is very formal.

"Going to school. Getting my degree in literature. I'm going to write down all the things that happened to us and no one will ever believe it."

"You are looking forward to being disbelieved?"

"No one believes anything I say anyway. No one believes anything anyone says. I might as well get paid for it."

He thinks that this sounds very true.

. . .

Kagome was an orphan too, but unlike all the little children he had allowed to tame him, she was an orphan of the years just like he was. Fortunately - or unfortunately - Kagome wasn't going to live as long as Sesshoumaru would, so she was going through the orphaned motions at lightening speed.

First she had tried being very lonely and very alone since no one else understood anything about her, even those people that felt obligated to love her very much. Sesshoumaru had been in the middle of that particular experiment himself when he had first met Kagome several hundred years ago, except unlike Kagome there was no one who felt like they had to love Sesshoumaru at all, not even his half-brother, who resented him for all the bad things Sesshoumaru had done to him for so many years.

. . .

"So..." she says almost casually. "Do you still see any of... our mutual acquaintances?"

"Even were they alive," he replies almost gently, "I would not."

Kagome looks away for a long moment, before she finally says, "I probably wouldn't either."

. . .

Now Kagome was nearing the end of the second orphaned motion, which was trying to find anyone to love her at all. This was very dangerous because her heart had been broken many times, and now on top of staying lonely and alone she hated herself as well. She missed things and regretted things and felt terrible a lot of the time.

He of course had been very fast and loose also, except instead of lovers, who are replaceable, he had children. They loved him and hated him and were resentful and grateful and selfish and now they were all gone, so on top of staying lonely and alone he had tortured himself as well. He missed them and regretted them and felt terrible a lot of the time.

Sesshoumaru didn't like any of this, and neither did Kagome.

In fact neither of them liked anything very much anymore.

. . .

"This isn't as awkward as I thought it would be. You got a lot more talkative."

"And yet I have ever less to talk about."

She laughs at that, because she is bored too.

. . .

Sesshoumaru had not had a child for a century and Kagome had not had a lover in months. They were both very lonely, so despite the difference in their times and ages they were both ready for whatever came next, even though neither of them knew what it was. Since finding out what happens next is less scary with someone else, they agreed to try it out together.

This was not what they said, of course. What they said was this:

. . .

"Would you like to meet again?" she asks him haltingly, and he can see that she immediately regrets it. "I mean - " she says, "I didn't - I'm sorry - "

She babbles on like this for a little while.

He waits for her to calm down, and when she does he says this:


. . .

Kagome smiled at him so brilliantly that he felt five hundred years younger.

Then she scribbled her phone number on the back of one of his business cards before walking away, leaving him in the middle of a sunny sidewalk café, holding what came next in his hand.

. . .

He discovers that Kagome doesn't like doors. When he holds them open for her she scurries through them, as though afraid that she will become someone else in the instant of the threshold.

"You fear doors," he says to her when they sit down for their first dinner together. He is paying.

She looks surprised. "Of course I do. Don't you?"


"You should," she tells him.

"Why should I? A door can do nothing to me."

"I can't believe that you're so old but you aren't scared of doors yet. Doors have memories, you know. I can't believe you haven't figured that out."

"Doors are not alive. They know nothing."

"I didn't say they knew things, I said they remember."

"And what do doors remember, Kagome?"

"How to close," she says.

. . .

Kagome was obsessed with beating the system. It didn't seem fair to her that she had to pay for so many accidents. She thought she had already paid enough, because she was lonely and she had lost everything that meant something to her. She didn't think she had anything more to give for all the lives she had accidentally destroyed, and she was sorry.

Sesshoumaru didn't tell her that the more she fought, the more she would have to pay. He didn't tell her that she couldn't escape.

And Kagome fought so hard she made herself miserable, and Sesshoumaru was so heartless that he didn't have the heart to advise her otherwise.

. . .

"You know what pisses me off?" she asks. It is their third dinner. The restaurant is very fancy, she is drinking too much champagne, and everyone thinks they are courting.

"What pisses you off?" he asks. He is surprised to find that he is actually interested.

She tips her glass back. "The fact that I lost everything," she says, "and that it didn't mean anything. It was just stupid and painful."

"Lots of people lose everything and gain nothing."

"Yes, but gaining nothing didn't mean anything, either."

"Why do you think it should have meant something?"

"Well... if it doesn't, then what was the point?"

"If it was meaningless, it had no point. That is what meaningless means."

"That's cute, and yet at the same time no help at all."

"Then I am helpless."

"No, you're hopeless."

"That, too."

. . .

Sesshoumaru had a lot of time on his hands, and Kagome did not. Each envied the other.

After their fifth meal, Kagome went home with him, where she found his time piled high.

He let her look around, so she poked through his apartment only to find that he had five hundred half-finished portraits of nobodies and seven lumps of half-sculpted marble acting as table legs. She found thousands of pages of words that were unconnected to any other pages, and yet they made sense no matter what order she shuffled them into. She found equations scrawled on the wall that described impossible physics and went nowhere anyone could see. She found over a million sheets of music, written for instruments that didn't exist, for creatures that had twelve fingers.

His lonely aimlessness felt like home, so she moved in.

. . .

She discovers that Sesshoumaru is fond of failing. He leaves things half-finished, incomplete, imperfect.

"I always thought you were a perfectionist."

"I am."

"So why don't you do it right the first time?"

"So that I may have something to look forward to."

. . .

Kagome always missed her chances by the slimmest of margins, while Sesshoumaru always got what he wanted.

Over and over, Sesshoumaru found himself secretly astonished at how neither of these outcomes ever made either of them happy.

It was almost as if it wasn't meant to be.

. . .

"Are you afraid that they will close behind you or in front of you?"

"Does it matter?"

. . .

One night, two weeks after she came to live with him, Kagome crawled into his room, dressed in boxers and a tee-shirt with two books in her hands. She didn't seem to be embarrassed about how she looked to him; instead she gave him one book and kept the other, and together they sat up until dawn, trying to find the world in words. Occasionally they would share this or that passage out loud to each other, just in case one of them thought it might be true.

They did this every night for almost a month, until Kagome told Sesshoumaru a truth she hadn't found in a book and that meant more in actions than in words, which they eventually agreed was the only kind of truth there was. If truth even existed at all, that is.

. . .

"We're the only two people in the world," she tells him suddenly.

He looks up, wondering what book she has read this in, only to find that the book she chose is upside down in her lap. "How is that?" he asks. He removes his reading glasses, which are merely an affectation he adopted in order to force people to take him a little more seriously, since he looked so strange already.

Kagome never cared about that, anyway. "Can you prove anyone else exists?" she wonders at him.

"Are we not reading books by other people?" he replies.

"I don't know. Are we?"

He wonders if the strain of being an immortal who can die has finally become too much for her. He puts his book aside and rises from his seat against his headboard, moving to the chair where she sits.

He finds himself leaning towards her.

"You can't prove anyone exists outside this room," she says. "They're all outside the world right now."

And this is true, because for once it is everyone else on the wrong side of the door.

"And how do you know that you and I exist?" he wonders softly. He is very close to her now. He can see her pulse flutter in her throat.

"Because you're the only one that knows who I am, and I'm the only one who remembers who you are," she whispers back, wide-eyed and wanting.

And this, too, is true and true and true and true.

Then he is tugging the book from her white-knuckled grip, putting it aside, pulling her down onto the bed with him.

He tastes her throat, his tongue flickering against her skin. He covers her body with his.

"Will you stay here tonight?" he asks, his voice hoarse with desire, his lips brushing over her ear.

"I don't know," she replies. "Have you been good enough for that?"

But her fingers are already pulling his shirt free from his waistband, are already brushing against the hardness gathering beneath the fabric of his loose pajamas. He nudges her hips with his.

There is a hiss of pleasure, and he cannot tell if it is her breath or his own.

. . .

He hadn't been good enough for that and karmic debt doesn't give time off for good behavior anyway, but she still let him touch her. Perhaps it was she who had been bad enough.

. . .

"I burned the eggs," she tells him.

"I know," he says. He can smell it, and she knows he can.

"I was never very good at eggs."

"I was never very fond of eggs."

"Oh, good," she says. "Then all's well that ends well. Coffee?"

. . .

Kagome couldn't take care of herself, but she liked to take care of him. She cleaned his apartment and cooked decent meals and always made sure he had his coffee in the mornings.

In return he worshipped her body, and each relished their reversed roles. It was a nice change of pace, like being on vacation from enduring themselves.

. . .

And each night they stay up too late, and they are weary. Sweat-slick, they beg each other for an ending.

"Please," she murmurs, and Sesshoumaru hears what she is really asking for. He wants it, too, and so he echoes it back to her.

Of course it never ends and never will, but with Kagome, he can pretend.

. . .

And, of course, Sesshoumaru knew that when it did end, it would not end well.

. . .

"You do a lot of useless things," she tells him, shuffling his music into boxes.

"You do more."

. . .

Kagome knew that it would not end well, too.

. . .

"You are very bad at being human," he tells her after the tenth unreturned call from her mother sits on the answering machine for two days.

"You seem to know a lot about that," she replies.

. . .

It was almost as if it wasn't meant to be.

. . .

"Want to know something true?" she asks, sucking on a lollipop.

"No," he says.

She tells him anyway. "You can be a real asshole."

"And whose fault is that?"

"See? There you go again."

. . .

And they were scared of nothing except something going right.

. . .

She throws him out of his own apartment because she no longer fears doorways, and he leaves because he is in danger of letting something perfect happen.

They argue artfully, and then they run.

"You are a leftover. You should have been over," he says, knowing it's true and wishing it were false.

"Go away. I'm so sick of you," she replies, knowing it's false and wishing it were true.

So he does.

. . .

Sesshoumaru left because it was a good love affair done badly, and Kagome cried because driving him away was a bad job well done.

. . .

It had to end some time, and now is as good a time as any, since it is too hard to pretend to use each other any more.

It takes three days for him to figure out that she isn't going to chase him.

It takes three days for him to wonder why they knew they were going to fuck it up, and why they tried so hard to make that true.

. . .

What goes around comes around. Sometimes more than once.

. . .

"You stayed here," he says.

"Yes," she agrees.


"I wanted to see if you'd come back."

"Oh," he says.

"So. Why did you leave?"

"You told me to."

"You've never done anything anyone told you to do," Kagome says.

There is no arguing with that, so he just nods once, sharply.

She stares at him for a long moment, and then she bursts into tears.

. . .

It was almost as if it wasn't meant to be. They really were both very good at doing badly.

. . .

Tangled legs and indigo moonlight and kisses still branded on skin, still bound together with eyes, hands, fingertips.

His lips brush against the swell of her breast.

"Tell me something true," she says.

"I do not think I deserve you."

She laughs a little like weeping.

"No, I don't deserve you she corrects him.

"And yet you stay."

"... Is it so painful to have me, Sesshoumaru?"

"... It is, in a way, but that is not what I meant."

"I guess leftovers just aren't worthy of you."

She weeps a little like laughing.

"Deserving and worthy are not the same thing at all," he says, planting a kiss against her throat. "No one deserves me."

"And why not?" she pants as he moves up her undeserving body.

Her question is almost drowned by the roar of his heart in his ears. "...What?"

"... You said that no one deserves you. Why not?"

He laughs a little like weeping, and she shivers beneath him.

"Why does no one deserve me?" he whispers. "Because no one has been that wicked."

"Ah," she sighs. "What a strange coincidence."

. . .

Sesshoumaru made love to her, and she gave as good as she got, which was very good indeed, and when the sun came up they were right back where they had started.

But that was okay. There were worse places to be.

. . .

And the dawn creeps across the floor.

"So did we win or did we lose?" she wonders into his skin.

"There is no such thing," he replies. He tangles his fingers through her hair as she laughs, and he wonders what she knows that he doesn't.

"All right. So... did we win or did we lose?"

"...Both. We did both."

"...Oh, really? How funny. I couldn't tell."