This story received 3rd Place in the IYFG for Best Characterization (Character: Sesshoumaru)! Thanks to all of you who voted for it!
A/N: Sorry for the long delay, but all hell broke loose in my life these past few weeks. I may not be married, but I just went through a nasty divorce! Hopefully, you won't hold it against me because this is it, guys! I want to thank you all for reading and I especially want to thank those of you who thought highly enough of my work to leave me comments telling me how I was doing or blessing me with encouragement. Your words are a gift to me—my reward for writing. (A special thanks goes out to GoldAngel2, Ivykitra, Risa and ElegantPaws for being super inspiring this go-round.) Some of you have been following this story since the beginning and never gave up on me—thank you for the bottom of my heart. You guys are so special to me. This story has been a fantastic voyage for me. I feel like I have grown so much as a writer throughout the course of this story and I have had so much fun writing it and reading your reviews. You guys made this possible and I hope you are satisfied with the ending. You will see more from me and I hope that I have made a great enough impression to keep you coming back for more. Again, thank you.
On a fun note, I'd like to pat Tana-san and Ivykitra on the back for their keen foresight and linyun, a.k.a. SangoShadowphoenix, for correctly guessing the meaning behind White Stone Memorial.
All of you guys rock my world!
X precedes Y.
Silently, she wished it were daylight as structures slid past her window, the streetlights doing little justice to the wondrous sites. She had never been to Kyoto before and from what little she could see, it was rustically beautiful; overflowing with character, making it far different from the bustling Tokyo, where bright lights and neon signs highlighted anonymous skyscrapers.
"Where'd you come from, miss?" the taxi driver asked conversationally, momentarily disrupting her exploration of the scenery.
"Tokyo," she replied, her eyes still seeking the culture that the capital had seemingly forgotten.
"Wow, that's a long way."
"Yeah, it took eight hours and four trains to get here."
"A man, huh?"
She sighed, still looking out the window. "What makes you think that?"
"You came all the way from Tokyo on the local trains with no luggage. What else could it be?"
"Lots of things," she said, unconvincingly, as the world outside seemed to darken just a bit more. It was a shame; there was so much to see.
"He must be pretty special," the driver said off-handily. She finally looked away from the streets outside that she could hardly see and took a good look at the driver. He was a very petite man with slender hands and a voice much too deep for his stature. Oddly, she wondered if he was a father.
"More like especially insufferable." Actually, it felt good to talk. When it came to Sesshoumaru, there was no one who'd understand. But maybe, just maybe, a stranger could fill that gap, for a moment at least.
The driver laughed; a warming sound. "He's got you all flustered, eh?"
She snorted, openly. "He's an egotistical jerk!"
"What man isn't?"
She smiled, thoughts of Inuyasha and Kouga resurfacing for the first time in weeks. At last, it didn't hurt to think of them.
"Well, as true as that may be, this one doesn't try to hide it one bit."
"Would you prefer that he did?" Her eyes returned to the passing roadside, noticing her reflection in the window, like a ghost lurking within the glass pane.
"No, but he's so frustrating. I haven't really spoken to him in over a year and then I find out that he's done all these really nice things for me. It makes me happy and mad at the same time."
The world outside her boxed window had been reduced to nothingness as her reflection conquered the vast spaces. She could see the blackness beyond streamline as the car pushed on, but it was fleeting, her image replacing it as soon as the next plane came into view.
"Because I wanted to do things on my own," she said softly as a streetlight passed, obscuring her image with an onslaught of yellowish light.
"Maybe that's why he did it behind your back; he wanted things to be easier for you. Tokyo's a tough place."
"Maybe, but…he never came to see me. Maybe this trip will end up being a waste. Maybe he doesn't want to see me at all."
"You said he did a lot of nice things for you, so why do you think he wouldn't want to see you?" The cab veered right as she glanced at the rearview mirror. His eyes were downcast, looking at the road, a fierce look of concentration on his face. The driver now looked older, wiser, and suddenly, she missed having a father.
"Honestly, I have no idea how he feels about me."
"Things are pretty complicated between you two, huh?"
She smiled faintly, recalling her red-clad hero. "Once upon a time, I was in love with his brother." His eyes glanced up to the mirror, looking at her, and she noted his surprise. This was why she didn't talk about it.
"Wow. What happened with that?"
"It wasn't meant to be."
"So you think he's avoiding you because of that?"
She felt foolish then, like she had during the entirety of the train ride. What if Sesshoumaru wasn't home? What would she do then? Ayumi was in Kyoto, but she had no idea where to find her. Since she couldn't afford the bullet train, she was in a hurry to get on the next available train as soon as possible, knowing the trip would amount to nearly eight hours. Therefore, it was no surprise she didn't jot down Ayumi's number, nor did she consider giving her a call beforehand. Hell, she didn't even bring a change of clothes!
But most importantly, what if Sesshoumaru really was avoiding her? Like Aya had said, the Big Dog didn't even show up at the banquet.
"I don't know. I had to threaten his cousin to get his address. I think he didn't want me to find him, but I need to see him. I have questions that only he can answer."
"Like why he did all those things for you?"
"Yeah, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that this might be a mistake. I don't want to pressure him or cause him problems. He probably just thinks of me as a burden."
Selfishly, she also wanted to know what had happened to her friends. At the same time, she wasn't sure she wanted to know. She liked to believe that they all led happy lives and got everything they had ever wanted, but now wasn't the time to ask such things. There was a difference between wanting and needing, and right now, she needed to know why Sesshoumaru did the things he did.
On that note, why was he bothering her so much?
"I doubt that. He wouldn't have done anything for you if that was the case."
That was true, but she wanted to hear him say it. That he cared about her.
Another light flew past, her image fleeing as frustration found her. "Then why didn't he come to see me? Why did he keep these things from me, making me think I was all alone?"
"I don't know this guy, but maybe, because of your weird history, he was waiting for you to come to him."
The car stopped at a light; it was red, a vibrant red. When she was first ousted from the Feudal Era, all she could think about was her friends and how much she'd miss them. Ultimately, she was thinking about herself and how empty her life would be without them. Then, after she came to terms with it all, she thought about herself even more, like any good narcissist should. All she thought about was Kagome. Thoughts of friends vanished into the dark corners of her mind, concern webbing over as wonderment of the future occupied the spotlight—wonderment of her future.
And all it took was one student packet, mostly filled with frivolous things, to make her forget. That knot of dread that had always lingered in the pit of her stomach concerning her friends had uncoiled so fast that she could hardly remember that it had ever existed.
All that mattered was her future and her wants. Had she really become that self-absorbed?
The car moved forward with a jut, her reflection returning, and she realized then that she had never stopped and tried to look at things from Sesshoumaru's perspective. It was possible that he did those things for her and her family as reimbursement for the things she had done for him, namely taking care of him when he was injured and giving him priceless information about the future. But he saved her family's shrine one war-torn day, hundreds of years ago. That was repayment in itself. She honestly didn't understand any of it, and it was driving her crazy.
"…He was waiting for you to come to him."
But, once upon a time, she had loved his brother.
"All things fade with time."
Was he waiting? Five hundred years was a long time to wait, but maybe, at least for Sesshoumaru, that was nothing.
"They say a herder never looks his sheep in the eye. Do you know why?"
He could hide it, but it would always be there, like a memory of red, signaling him to stop, to reevaluate until it turned. Maybe not all things could be killed by will alone.
"Because he can't stand the thought of knowing the beasts only to kill them."
She always looked him in the eye. He knew this. He had called her on it the one day she couldn't look into his eyes—eyes that were too beautiful for her to behold, too distant for her to see. Like a timeless sword, he was one of a kind, far too priceless for her hands to touch. That much she knew.
A light turned yellow and the cab sped up, bypassing the intersection, a glow of red washing over her for the briefest of moments. But just like that, it was gone.
Sometimes, even an eternity wasn't long enough to prove oneself—not when the shining moments were always missed, or unseen, like beautiful buildings under dull streetlights.
"He really is special," she said faintly, fondly.
"I figured that much."
"He just might be the first man to ever wait for me." She thought of Hojou briefly, but he wasn't the same and eventually, he did give up, though the density of his head was much to blame for that 'waiting' period. But Sesshoumaru knew everything and still he waited, half a millennium, proving in the most powerful of ways that maybe, just maybe, not all things had an expiration date.
"Here it is."
The cab stopped, pulling her attention to the window; a simple building, maybe five or six stories high, stood unobtrusively off the street, an elegant streetlamp giving it an old world glow. Suddenly, she became nervous. She clutched the slip of paper to her palm, realizing she had been holding it the entire time since she left Tokyo. Like the photo shop receipt, it was of vital importance to her.
"What if he's not home? I don't have his phone number."
The driver turned around then, facing her with a bright smile. "Then wait for him. He did it for you, right? It's warm outside."
"Wait for him. It's easier than you think. Just wait for him."
She nodded, glancing at the meter as she pulled her wallet from her purse, taking out a few bills. "Thank you," she said as she handed it to him.
"No thanks needed. I like to talk. It makes the job go by faster." She smiled and stepped out of the car, bowing briefly as she swallowed her fear. "Good luck," he said as she shut the door, his voice muffled, yet deeply reassuring. She waved as he drove off, wondering what she was going to say to Sesshoumaru.
She walked up to the door and immediately noticed the key pad and intercom. Security was to be expected, but the intercom's buttons confused her. Ichimaru had told her that Sesshoumaru was currently residing on the top floor of this location. She counted six levels, but the buttons ended at the fifth floor, the latter only having one, whereas the other floors had several. She stepped back and counted again. There were indeed six and so she assumed the fifth floor's only intercom button would take her to Sesshoumaru. Unlike the other metal pushbuttons, however, there was no name next to it. It had to be his.
She pushed it, hearing a short buzz, and waited—nothing. She pushed it again, smoothing out the leaflet in her hand, looking at the scribbled characters once more. Again, there was no response and she became doubly anxious, her courage slipping as the silence mounted. Knowing Sesshoumaru, he probably didn't like visitors, or maybe, he really was on the sixth floor and disabled the intercom to avoid having visitors. So what was she supposed to do—chuck a rock at a sixth floor window?
She felt overwhelmed as she looked through the glass door leading to a bare hallway. Having acquired such wealth, she really didn't expect him to be living in such a place. Then again, Ichimaru had said he was currently residing here, so maybe he had more than one home. Still, it was hard to imagine, but she had never seen where he lived five hundred years ago. But she had always known that he was a wanderer.
"Um…excuse me, miss, but are you lost?" a soft voice asked, pulling her mind back to reality. It was boy. He looked about her age, but frightfully short. He seemed friendly though, and Kyoto didn't feel very dangerous.
"I'm here to see someone, but I guess he's not here. I came all the way from Tokyo and so I don't know what to do. I guess I'll just have to wait."
"Do you know his apartment number?"
She looked at the crumpled paper again and felt like a moron. Ichimaru only wrote down the floor, not the unit. "No. I was told he was on the top floor." The boy looked startled but quickly regained his composure with a lop-sided smile.
"That's because the top two floors aren't really apartments. The man who owns this place reserved the top two floors for himself and rented the rest out to art students. He seems so pretentious, but I can't complain 'cause the rent's dirt-cheap! This is so cool! I hardly ever see him and when I do, I always say hello, but he just ignores me. Even though he's so good-looking, I never thought I'd see the day when a woman came to see him!"
Kagome just stared as the boy grinned like a clown. Was he happy about being on the receiving end of Sesshoumaru's cold shoulder? She shivered just thinking about it. Well, at least she had the right place.
"Oh, sorry…um…you're not like his sister or anything, are you?"
Kagome smiled, feeling more comfortable now. She refused to believe, however, that her newfound comfort had anything to do with Sesshoumaru's faithful abandonment of his old philandering ways.
"No, just a friend."
"Oh, okay, that's cool. Here, I'll let you in and you can go upstairs and wait for him. There's no elevator so you'll have to walk five flights."
"That's fine. And thank you. I wasn't thrilled about waiting outside."
"Well, you are a girl," he said casually as he waved a plastic card in front of the metal pad. She ignored his stupid comment as the light blinked green, granting them access to the drab whitewashed corridor. "There's the stairs," he said, pointing to the immediate right. "Hope he doesn't keep you waiting too long."
"Oh, miss?" She paused, waiting patiently. "What's his name?"
A smile coaxed its way onto her lips as she remembered a quiet, contemplative man who never liked to share his life's secrets. He would read by a fire and ask questions under the stars. It would seem he was one of the few exceptions to time, never needing to truly reveal himself, for few could ever understand as magic was myth and time was linear.
"Sesshoumaru—his name is Sesshoumaru."
"What about his family's name? I don't want to be rude."
Sesshoumaru may not present himself honestly, but he didn't lie and Takahashi was not his name. Sesshoumaru was his name, and once, hundreds upon hundreds of years ago, he vowed never to leave it behind.
"Just call him Sesshoumaru. You can tell him Kagome told you so."
The boy looked affronted and she smiled wider. Excitedly, she jogged up the stairs, never looking back. Her anticipation grew with each step taken and she couldn't contain it no matter how hard she tried.
The stairwell ended at the fifth floor. She noticed the painted brick walls and industrial-like beams as she approached the only door. It was a simple oak door and suddenly, her lungs felt constricted as her heart raced. Trying to ignore the telltale signs of anxiety, she raised her hand to knock, but froze, the red light flashing in her mind.
She waited for it to turn.
Her hand hung suspended between the wooden door and her frozen body, finding herself stiff with uncertainty. What if Sesshoumaru had a reason for not seeking her out? Maybe he'd be unhappy about her visit. Maybe he wanted nothing to do with her, having already repaid his debt with new shrines and scholarships. Perhaps that was all it was—repayment for information that made him rich.
For a moment, she wanted to cry, until she remembered why she was here. Sesshoumaru owed her some answers and by the gods she was going to get them! Her fear was then replaced by frustration and she slammed her fist repetitively upon the door.
There was no answer, no footsteps, but Sesshoumaru had always been deathly silent. She knocked again and again, and still there was nothing. She placed her palm on the cool wood and breathed deeply, the tail end of her inhalation broken and ragged. She came all the way to Kyoto for nothing. But Sesshoumaru was here, at this address. Maybe she could look up Ayumi and stay the night with her so that she could return tomorrow and try again. Yes, that could work.
But it was already past ten and she felt so lost. But she wanted to see him.
Feeling overwhelmed and foolish, the cab driver's words vanishing like a reflection in a light-splayed window, Kagome lost her nerve. She straightened her back intent on leaving, uncertainty and ignorance breeding an unconquerable doubt. Before she could turn around to leave, however, a chill ran down her spine, rousing goosepimples on her neck and arms. Nostalgia claimed her breath.
Her hopeless thoughts fled as her skirt swished with a subtle brush, a large shadow unfolding across the oaken door. There was someone right behind her and she could literally feel his heat. He had always been insanely hot, scalding. He didn't say anything right away and neither did she; she wanted him to have the first words for once and honestly, she didn't know what to say. He took those first words, and finally, she heard that unforgettable voice that had haunted her dreams in broken snippets, begging to be pieced back together, like her favorite song struggling to be read from a scratched disc.
It seemed that she would finally have her three and half minutes.
"Tell me, Kagome, is Fate predetermined?" She saw his shadow move across the wood, shortening. He moved closer and the air grew thicker, not wanting to be hers. "Or do our decisions create its course?" She was immovable, though she wanted to see his face, but she feared distorting the illusion. Deception could be beautiful, she realized.
But she wanted to hear him speak again, like he had never known silence.
"I guess we'll never know," she replied quietly, lamely, awaiting his voice, hoping it was real.
She felt him move though he wasn't touching her. A moment passed and a small clink of metal was heard as his arm brushed across her side ever so lightly. She looked down and watched as he slid a key into the lock, turning it slowly. His chest pressed gently against her shoulder as he pushed the door open and she knew then that there was no illusion to dispel. Maybe reality could be beautiful, too, despite life's preference for ugliness.
She closed her eyes as he stood fully.
"Would you prefer that we speak in the hall?"
She opened her eyes and stepped into the dark room, feeling malleable against him, as she was still too afraid to look at him. But she always looked at him, except for that one time when she first realized that he was a man, a beautiful, strong man, cloaked in anger and desperately seeking indifference. A façade of perfection that only she could discern.
A dim, yellowish light snapped on and she took a good look at his apartment, which again, she found surprising. But he was always so full of surprises. The walls were painted a twilight blue and books were stacked against one wall, almost completely engulfing it. A simple futon laid neatly in one corner, a paper-strewn desk in another. A traditional screen separated the room from what she presumed to be the kitchen. None of his possessions conveyed any sense of affluence. It was so simple and clean, and so obviously lonely. She hated the thought of him being alone almost as much as she hated his silence.
She turned around and looked at him then.
Though his voice had dimmed in her memory during their months apart, she had never forgotten, not even one bit, how beautiful her God of Destiny had always been.
His hair was unbound and his markings were gone. He wore loose fitting khakis and a white button-up shirt; it was casual, but he wore it professionally, reminding her of a time when he made battle armor look like regal fashion.
"What happened to your markings?" she asked, realizing his eyes were still golden.
He said nothing as he walked past her, making her gulp in fear, or maybe anticipation—she couldn't tell the difference. She watched as he picked up a bottle of water and a cloth from a small bedside table. She watched curiously as he wiped his face, magenta stripes slowly bleeding through a thick layer of make-up.
"They attract too much attention and so I conceal them."
She stared as he recapped the bottle, noticing his short, dulled claws. "And your claws?"
"I cut them. Everyday."
"My hair hides them. It is rare that someone notices and if they do, I say I inherited them from my father. Genetic anomalies silence curious questions."
"Is that how you explain your hair and eyes?" She sounded like a five-year-old with all these trifling questions. She liked to think of it as her version of the Socratic method.
"Yes. It is too troublesome to hide them. Being youkai, I dislike hair dyes and contacts. I could withstand them, but I chose not to. It is enough that I hide what I am. I will not hide my appearance as well."
"How does your nose handle this world?" It was surprisingly easy to talk to him, like they had never left that clearing.
"I must adapt."
She thought about the things he had said then, at that time, and remembered how Sesshoumaru had always managed to swim with the tide without ever turning against it.
"I have adapted," he said casually as he dropped his keys on the nightstand.
She stilled, realizing she heard his answer before he spoke it. She wondered what that meant.
"Was your trip comfortable?" Funny, but she could tell he really didn't care.
"As comfortable as expected." Anxiety vied for her compliance then. She tried to turn it away, knowing that indifference was part of the façade.
"I see my cousin has been meddling." She looked at him, closely, and her nervousness melted away with the onset of a sly grin.
"Well, I threatened to make an announcement in his office if he didn't comply." Sesshoumaru looked at her inquisitively, a single brow rising minutely. She smiled wider. "I was going to tell everyone that he knocked me up and refused to take care of me and the baby. There was only one way to shut me up and that was to tell me where to find you."
The left corner of his mouth twitched, her heart fluttering as she silently prayed he'd smile fully. He didn't, but that was to be expected. He denied himself so much.
"He has always been weak toward females. Tell me, Kagome, does your character reflect that of your mother?"
Startled by his question, she took a moment to think about it as she appreciated the pretty pottery adorning the few mounted shelves.
"In a way, yes, but I'm not as kind as my mother. I'm quicker to anger and not nearly as calm. But I try to be like her."
He nodded, slightly. "Perhaps it is those of us with questionable role models that are skeptical to emulate."
"Ichimaru's not like his father, huh?"
"No. Ichimaru likes to be surrounded by people and so he is the one that remains visible in our endeavors."
"So you pull the strings behind the scenes?"
"More or less." He continued standing in place, rigidly, as she stared, suddenly feeling the need to do something with her hands. She noticed the pottery again.
"That's really pretty pottery. Where did you get it?"
"I made it."
"I bore easily."
"Is that why you created your company and all those charities?"
"More or less."
"Sesshoumaru, the Capitalist," she said mockingly, not quite sure what to make of it. "I guess it makes sense since money equates to power in this era, but thinking back to things you said, I must admit that I'm a little surprised."
She wondered if he'd ever tire of walking the path of conquest. Eternity could run out before that road ended.
"Why is that?"
"Because of all the greedy humans," she replied plainly.
"It was unavoidable. Ichimaru has accompanied me for a long time now. We traveled the world together, but Japan has always been home. The forests disappeared, like you had said, and soon it became obvious that we could not live comfortably outside of human society."
"Currency became too central."
"I never gave you that book, you know."
"I was merely borrowing it."
"Some people call that stealing."
"Knowing how the world would change, I assumed it to be of use, whereas it would be of no use to you, seeing as how you had already completed that course."
"Wanted money and power, huh? Sounds greedy," she chided as he shifted his weight.
"No, just a way to live comfortably while being far removed from human society. Money grants many privileges. I could be indisposed for months at a time and no one would notice or care."
"You don't run your own companies?" She noticed his jaw roll and realized how much she missed that small, seemingly insignificant mannerism.
"In a sense I do, but I can do it away from bothersome people. Ichimaru doesn't need an office in Tokyo. He simply wanted one. I have employees that take care of the day-to-day activities. If that were not the case, then I'd have no need of such assets."
It was no wonder that boy called him pretentious, but it was a big wonder that she was finding his pretension attractive. People always said that nice guys came in last and maybe she was contributing to that assertion.
However, she didn't come here to appreciate Sesshoumaru's flaunted snobbishness, as much fun as that may be. She came for answers. Knowing him as she did, she knew he'd give them to her. She'd just have to see through some of them.
"Why'd you give me that scholarship? I didn't deserve it."
"Didn't you? It is my money and my scholarship. I can give it to whomever I please."
That answer didn't even require much thought on her part. It was too obvious he was taking the easy, albeit indirect, way out. As true as his words may be, he wasn't getting off the hook that easily.
"There were better candidates."
"That's not an answer!" She would have to bait him, but she couldn't do that if she allowed him to irk her. Maybe he was doing it on purpose. He did have a strange fixation with making her angry.
"I didn't force you to apply," he said nonchalantly, piquing her frustration.
"I'm asking you to explain yourself!" she exclaimed, fists clenched at her sides. He looked unmoved, but she wondered.
"Do you not feel entitled to my wealth?"
"No," she began angrily, "I wanted to do it on my own!"
"Does a student with diabetes deserve a scholarship for the simple fact that he has a disease? Does the son of an officer of the law have more rights to aid than you, a girl from an economically disadvantaged household?"
"That's not the same. Merit is still a prerequisite."
"What about the child from a wealthy family that receives a prestigious scholarship based upon his namesake?"
She felt dumbfounded as she watched his mouth move. The edge of her anger was dulling with every roll of his jaw. It was so enticing that she wanted to touch him there as he spoke, just to feel it move. She focused hard on his eyes, willing herself to withstand the intensity there so that she could forget that prominent line perpendicular to his lips. It was hypnotizing and she needed her concentration.
It was disgusting how easily he distracted her.
"I don't want to be like that kid," she said softly, like an afterthought.
"Perhaps I felt that eliminating an evil hanyou and taking on the responsibility of a powerful artifact was more than enough reason for granting you a scholarship. Should I alter the requirements for the Aiko Scholarship to better suit those prerequisites?"
"I didn't kill Naraku, you did."
"You are mistaken. Your arrow was enough; I simply expedited the process. I had no desire to hear another devious word leave his devious tongue."
"That's stupid. You finished him off."
"He had just impaled my midsection with a disgusting tentacle. I felt he deserved purification in combination with Hell for that."
She stifled a giggle as he stared at her, unfazed. Pretentious, yes, but damn funny, too! Was that what he was really thinking in that particular moment? She wondered what he'd do if she spilt tea on his rug.
"This is going nowhere," she said as she focused on revitalizing her anger, already knowing it was futile. "If that's the case, you should've just showed up on my doorstep with a bag of money!"
"Would you have accepted it?" She stood silently, unable to find words, knowing, as the past had proven, that he was right. Then, he began to approach her in that methodical way of his that reminded her of what he was—a beautiful predator that remained aloof and untouchable. She couldn't—she wouldn't—let him get the better of her. Not like that.
"Did you really name my family?" she blurted out, wishing she had worded it better.
"No," he said, staring her so directly in the eye that her knee quivered, knocking against the other. "I slew those that sought to destroy it. Your ancestors took on a new name thereafter. I did, however, influence that name. It was derived from my marking and my vow. My vow to slaughter any that would dare touch that shrine with malice or any that would dare claim it as their own."
He spoke so sternly that her heart skipped a beat.
"Why?" she asked as the distance between them slowly but steadily disappeared, like sand falling through the neck of an hourglass. Time was always ticking away between them.
"Long ago, a premonition was told to me. After knowing you, I discerned that that premonition concerned you. I was to clear the path for you. How was I to do this, Kagome?"
She loved the way he said her name and the way his jaw twitched before saying it and the way the muscle tightened after speaking it. She needed to look away, but she was caught, like a moth obsessing over the glow of a porch light.
"I—I don't know," she said brokenly as he stopped before her, still staring her down. She felt so very helpless, but for once, she didn't mind. And that alone was frightening.
"The past. For so long I had wanted to break the cycle of my past. After knowing you, I knew I could do it. By carefully choosing the path of the present, I could redefine that past while simultaneously redirecting the future."
She lost her breath as the blue walls blurred white, her only focus the man in front of her. Every step he took, every thought he acknowledged and every act he partook was done with her in mind. It would seem she wasn't the only one fixated on her future. But he had a goal, a tangible goal that led him through the ages. In that moment, she envied him.
Suddenly, his hand grasped her wrist and he lifted it up, pulling her weight in his direction. He really was powerful, so powerful that he could control the spin of the potter's wheel, making any shape he desired. It was so easy for him, like a hobby to decorate empty shelves. She could never break free of it, but she could rest easy, for there was no need, not when he was in control.
But, she wanted him to teach her how to do it.
"I—I don't understand," she said, her voice a breathy interjection.
"I have a confession, Kagome," he said plainly as he forced her palm open, her fingers splaying across his hand. "I have meddled."
"I know," she whispered, quietly grateful for his disruptive actions.
She wouldn't be here today had it not been for him. Her family's shrine would have long been nothing, a magical well long since vanished and youkai still fantastic myths had he not meddled in the direst of ways. Her name wouldn't even be Higurashi; she may have never existed. She owed him a lifetime of memories and there was no way to repay such a thing. Then again, it was a paradox because he wouldn't have done anything had he not spent those too few weeks alone with her. Like the nature of Fate, she didn't know what to think of it.
"You know little," he said, almost angrily, as he pulled her wrist farther up, forcing her body to rely on his so she wouldn't fall. Her fear resurfaced as she rested against him, stiffly, knowing she'd never truly understand this man. His emotions were bottled up and for good cause, for he was a wildly passionate creature, his fervor too overwhelming to bestow upon just anyone.
"Then tell me," she said, her mouth pressed against his cotton shirt, muffling her voice.
"Clearing the path has been trying," he said sternly as his fingers wound under her hair, grasping the locks at the nape of her neck. She remembered what this felt like and she wasn't sure that she could withstand it again. Her scalp lit aflame as he pulled her head back, forcing her to look at him. As always, he was unyielding.
She realized then, at that moment, that she wouldn't have him any other way.
"I don't understand," she said pathetically, though she tried to appear unaffected.
"Do you think the Almohad Foundation was the first group to rebuild your family's shrine?" She stared wide-eyed as he continued, his lips moving on as though he didn't even realize how close they were, like their proximity did nothing to him. She envied him even more. "As much as you idolize your mother, she is only human. Her perseverance would have been tried had help not come in some form. Do you think the childcare program named in my father's honor was simply for forgiveness? Think again."
Her heart stopped and her neck went hot. She felt violated. It was like he was in her head and her thoughts were no longer her own. Mounting curiosity overrode the perceived insult as she wondered just how far his micromanaging ran.
He pulled harder on her hair, making her stand straighter, her body sliding against his as she rose. She blushed, attributing it to the heat radiating from him. He was close, too close, and she felt as though she would burn to death.
"I suppose you were too young to remember. Just as you were too young to realize that your father's favorite sweets shop was near to closing down. Do you understand the depth of my meddling? I dislike interference. Yet, you made me interfere."
Remembrance was sweeter than any pastry, she thought as she held his eyes. His eyes may have been captivating, but her body consciousness was moving to the forefront of her mind. Her chest was heaving; he had to feel it. Or maybe his anger was too strong, overpowering his ability to sense her reactions.
"Did I make you give Ayumi an internship too?" she said haggardly as she fought the hazed feeling of drunkenness coming over her.
"Who is Ayumi?" He pulled on her hair again. Her scalp screamed and she pressed further into him, trying to alleviate the tension. He was so solid, so immovable. By the gods, she would give anything to move him right now, to know what it would feel like to see him stumble.
"Your hospital. She got a position." Talking was becoming so troublesome that she contemplated stopping altogether. She was terrified of slurring.
"You misconstrue. The truth is far more severe."
She couldn't look away from him in this position and so she slid her fingers up his arm and to his wrist, wrapping her hand around it. She wanted him to let up on his hold. At this rate, she wouldn't last long, and to her chagrin, he ignored her silent plea.
"I offered Nakashima a better job so that he'd leave Tokyo, taking that boy with him," he said harshly, pulling even harder on her hair, making her yelp. "It wasn't so terrible. Nakashima is a renowned heart surgeon." His jaw pulled so taut after that comment she nearly missed its importance, but then she remembered.
Her body went rigid as a red cap skated across her vision. Before she'd ever learn the name Sesshoumaru, he'd take away her first crush. Pathetically, she wasn't disturbed.
He leaned forward, thankfully giving her scalp some slack. She closed her eyes, suddenly feeling his breath on her ear. The goosebumps resurfaced with a vengeance and she was so sorry for coming to Kyoto. This was to be her undoing.
"Am I hurting you, Kagome?" She thought she would have forgotten her name had he not said it. She needed to keep her wits about her so that she wouldn't black out. She was too afraid of coming undone, too embarrassed to confess her shortcomings.
"Why? Did you—why did you do that?"
"It was strategy. I made the first move. It would seem that I am destined to play first."
She traced the collar of his shirt with her eyes as she wondered how she had ever thought Inuyasha's brother incapable of love.
"Riku never liked to go first."
Though she never met him, she figured Riku would be delighted to know that Sesshoumaru carried the weight of his memory. A similar gift had been bestowed upon her, but she found it frightening.
It weighed too much.
"That isn't what I asked," she said softly, purposefully reciting his past words as she tried to forget what was right in front of her.
"My brother was to be your first love. Not some silly human wielding a wooden bat."
"Why Satuski's?" she asked, unwilling to delve too deep.
She hated herself right now. She hated the sound of her voice, the feel of his heat, the depth of her weakness—she hated everything. Except the noise. Except his voice. She feared his silence most of all.
"I was rather fond of their an-dangos from the first one I consumed."
She felt his nose touch her ear as he spoke, only to slide up her temple to the crown of her head. She knew he was telling a half-truth, but she was too focused on her breathing to care, trying to level it, humiliated by actions she couldn't control. Her breath was choppy, like a pant, and she closed her eyes, not wishing to keep all her senses in working order.
"I wanted to tell you about Vienna," he said softly, his face finding the dip of her neck. "And Prague. I wanted you to see the mountains of Peru. But you weren't even born yet."
A light turned red in her mind. She begged it to turn, but it wouldn't. Not yet.
She lost her breath, the silence growing, consuming her as she let his breath bathe her shoulder. Suddenly, he pulled her hair again, disrupting the quiet peace. She cried out, sharp and loud.
"Does it hurt, Kagome?" he asked roughly. He pulled again, forcing her head farther back as he loomed over her. She was so vulnerable right now, so very vulnerable.
"Does it?" he asked again, louder this time.
He was scaring her and finally, she found the courage to push against him. He was being too atypical. It had been so long that perhaps he had changed. In fact, it was naïve of her to think he hadn't. She had been so convinced that time was unable to reach him.
Then he turned the world right again, but she knew, all too well, how easily he could tilt the axis.
"You should know by now that fighting me is useless. Your only weapon is your tongue. If you want me to stop, then convince me. Convince me that you don't want my touch."
Or maybe he was untouchable, like she had first thought.
She stilled and his hold loosened. His hand slid from the nape of her neck to the small of her back as his other hand reached up, pushing her bangs from her forehead. The light still shone red and she knew—deep down—that she was missing something.
"I didn't know how to clear the path for you other than making the future better for you. But nothing is as easy as it seems."
"What are you talking about?" she asked, acquiescing herself to him, knowing only he could trigger that light to change, finally setting her free from the bounds of ignorance.
"Time crawled," he whispered. The second-hand ceased with a final tick, stopping her heart with it.
He pressed his lips to her temple, but he didn't kiss her, he just held his place there. His fingers dug further into her back as his other hand gripped her hip, like a makeshift hug. But this one was too intense, too desperate, to be confused with a simple embrace. Only Sesshoumaru could make desperation look so good, she thought, as she struggled to find the meaning behind his words.
Like the bare hours of twilight, graveyards became relics and age was forgotten. She was beside herself right now; time was supposed to be nothing to Sesshoumaru.
"Did I really make that much of an impact?" she asked as she shut her eyes tighter, a tear wedging through the closed space. He was moving and contrary to her previous desire, she didn't want to look. Seeing him move was like feeling her heart break, but loving the pain.
"It would seem that I am white to you," he said as his lips roamed over her brow, crossing back over as he planted the faintest of kisses on the corner of her eye, smearing a tear. "However, I feel that your reasoning behind green was incomplete."
Her essay—he had read her essay. Uneasiness slipped into the chasm, filling it rapidly, like a dam had broken from above, the seal too weak. She called him envious in that part, but it was so blatantly true that he wasn't even denying it. He envied his brother's sword after all; it was no secret. Jealousy consumed him, forcing his blade countless times. She had seen it.
But her eyes were never very good.
"I have always wanted what my brother had."
The light turned. And she opened her eyes. Everything seemed so clear, like the lamppost's light was truly white and shadows were denied it.
She had long known that eternity was an insurmountable gorge between them. She could handle the drop and Sesshoumaru wasn't so weak-minded to be intimidated by the fall. But maybe that wasn't truly the problem. For Sesshoumaru, time had no meaning. It was nothing.
"Because he can't stand the thought of knowing the beasts only to kill them."
But rejection and disappointment was something.
Time only possessed meaning when shared with others, like a pretty building under the scrutiny of appreciative eyes.
"You said that after knowing me, you learned how to break the cycle. How?"
"I was your enemy. I even sought your death. Yet, you held no hate. If hate can be overcome, then forgiveness can be discovered. That was the key."
She gripped his arm and closed her eyes, turning her face to him, opening herself up. She wouldn't resist anything he offered, good or bad.
"You were waiting for me to come to you, weren't you?"
"Only then would you be ready."
Green—the light turned green.
"Have you been lonely, Sesshoumaru?" His face was at the juncture of her neck and shoulder; she felt him inhale as her belly flipped.
"Ever since Rin left."
Another tear passed as understanding washed over her, like an unrelenting rainfall soaking through her clothes, exposing her to the summer heat, brutal yet welcome.
Inuyasha's parents loved him before he was even born and two women would offer their hearts to him without reservation. Friends would adore him and put their lives on the line for him. A cherished sword would accept him and continuously grant him more and more power, as he so wished. His heart's greatest desires had always been offered to him, despite his half-blood that first made such things seem impossible.
But life was not so for Sesshoumaru.
Sesshoumaru wanted to be first, like the order of his birth. His father never noticed him, decidedly choosing a new fling over his first born any day. His uncle was bitter and self-serving, willing to give anything to have his sister back, including Sesshoumaru, whom he blamed for her loss. Hitomi toyed with his feelings and strung him along, never once partial to the idea of loving him. A gap was formed, a gaping hole, the filler hard to come by and not sought, for one so unloved would never know how to keep it, let alone identify it. A distant monk, a traveling youkai, a motherless cousin and an estranged brother could never fill that gap, but a little girl came close, hero-worship falling short as it was merely a substitute. Rin probably grew up and married, loving him still, but leaving him behind.
That was why he sent that woman away from his harem. Someone loved him that didn't know him, yet the people that did know him couldn't. He wouldn't face them because, to him, their love was illusory—fake—and he hated deception. And Sesshoumaru desired love—the kind of love that superceded all, making him the most central aspect of someone's life—the first priority.
He didn't know what that felt like. And she kind of understood.
He waited, for when she came, she would be able to offer him this.
He knew her better than she thought he did.
She folded her hands around his neck, guiding his face to hers. He stared at her like he always did, intensely, and she kissed him then, fully, without abandon, her heart bleeding with sorrow and adoration. White was so befitting of him, for when she kissed him, it was all she could see. She felt him quiver slightly beneath her, her mind rejoicing with her first victory. Like redirecting the future, moving Sesshoumaru was a trying task.
He kissed her hard, pressing into her, like her body, crushed against his, was too far away. His hands slid down her sides and over her hips and before she knew what was happening, her back was against the wall. His knee pushed her thighs apart and she broke from his mouth, turning her head to the side so that she could breathe.
"Is this really happening?" she asked as he drug his nose and lips up her throat, like his hands alone were too inadequate to feel her.
"There is still one more thing I can give you, Kagome," he said softly as he kissed her jaw.
He slipped his body in between her thighs, silently answering her burning question as he lifted her off the ground, pasting her to the wall. There were many privileges in this era, she thought as she gripped his sides with her knees, holding her place, yet still at his mercy. He could touch her without worry, for no one would care as tolerance grew and tradition died. The past couldn't reach them here, in this moment, or the moments after.
When guilt packed its bags, freedom could move in.
He unbuttoned his shirt, watching her as he did, like he could see something in her that she couldn't. But, unlike her, he always did have good eyes. A tank top was underneath and he pulled it over his head, watching her as she watched him, like a pact had just been agreed upon.
They stayed like that for a while, staring at each other, and finally he moved, his fingers dragging up her thighs lazily, like he had all the time in the world. He stayed true to his path, pushing her skirt up to her hips. For a moment, she began to panic, but his fingertips rolled over the band of her skirt and under her shirt, following the curve of her waist. It was a simple, light touch, but it felt so good. His hands skated over the tops of her breasts and she swallowed, realizing then that her mouth had gone dry. Suddenly scared and wanting reassurance, she decided that she needed to hear his voice.
"Tell me about Peru."
"The mountains were tall," he said as he moved closer to her, spreading her thighs further apart, forcing her legs to wrap around his waist and pushing her further into the cold, hard wall. Before the discomfort could fully register, he trapped her knees under his arms, pressing them into his ribcage. Her calves slid up his back as he did that, her body heating with a desperate want that dreams could never replicate.
"The people were primitive," he continued, his voice pulling her back to the outer reaches of reality. "They chewed on coca leaves all day."
"Why did they do that?" she asked, closing her eyes as he slowly traced his lips over her shoulder. He wasn't even kissing her, just faintly touching her, teasing her, and it was maddening.
"If they didn't, the altitude would make them ill." His hand moved up her torso then, leaving her in a mess as she wondered where he'd touch her next. "Even I tried them."
"You…did?" She felt removed from herself as his fingertips grazed over her belly and up her sides.
"For the first time in all my years, I was intoxicated." Next, his hands roamed over her chest lightly, like he hadn't even touched her. She opened her eyes, half-mast, his collarbone, large and defined, filled her vision. She recalled how he looked wet. She had to close her eyes again.
"That's bad for you." His hands were everywhere and nowhere. He was exploring her body so gently yet so thoroughly that she wanted to scream in frustration. His slow, deliberate caresses were leaving her feeling dissatisfied and horribly wanton. She wanted him to press harder so she could feel him—really feel him.
"It made my heart beat too fast. I never did it again. The noise was ridiculous."
She suddenly became aware of her own pounding heart and fought the urge to beg. She needed more pressure. Luckily, for her, he kissed her neck, slowly at first, then harder. Her heart fell and he became increasingly more demanding, like she had wanted, but it was so intense and the feeling was building so fast that she felt like she was losing herself. He bit her shoulder and she gasped; a small bit of nervousness coiled in the pit of her stomach. Again, confusion begot her as anticipation and excitement intermingled with anxiety. She didn't know what to feel.
"Was it beautiful?" she asked, licking her lips, wishing she weren't so thirsty. His head lifted and she opened her eyes. His jaw rolled and her hips twitched. She wanted to kiss him, sliding her hands over that muscle so that she could feel it as it moved with his tongue.
"Yes. There was one spot where you could look down from a cliff and see an oceanic lake and a desert simultaneously." He kissed her lips this time and she traced his jaw, feeling every movement. He was demanding, like he had been before, but this time was a bit different. He felt impatient. That thought alone made her forget her anxiety.
He pressed into her, their bodies flushed, and she felt it, now fully understanding what she was getting herself into. She licked her lips and looked away, timidly. As always, with him at least, she couldn't get away with anything.
He leaned in closer and whispered, "Why won't you look at me, Kagome?"
She took a shuddering breath, his voice seducing her into a state of compliance. The coil tightened and she realized then that he was fully aware of her body's every reaction. For some reason, that knowledge excited her even more. There was definitely a very distinct difference between dreams and reality.
She looked at him, slowly, and he attacked her mouth, fiercely. She had never felt so wanted in all her life. Not for the first time, she'd do anything he wanted. His hands were everywhere, making her insanely hot and causing her body to weep, begging for the tension to subside, to loosen that unbearably tight coil. She wondered how long it had been since he had last been touched and knowing she had never been touched, she wanted him all the more, knowing full well that the unrelenting Sesshoumaru would exhaust all avenues, leaving her body in a state of no complaint.
With that thought, she knew, at that very moment, that her body needed him.
Her hands sought him and she traced his lines, hard with muscle and softened by flesh. The feel of his body, warm and secure and so very impatient, incited a confidence within her that maintained her shy exploration. Her touch apparently invigorated him and he met her with more passion than she had known, fabric tearing in the background as the seemingly cold man before her found his flame. She loved him as the paradox he was, and as her fingertips glided up his back, he lifted her up again, his lips still demanding everything from her as her skirt fell to the floor.
And that was okay.
She fell atop a soft mattress and his body was on top of hers as soon as she opened her eyes. She knew what was coming next and worry resurfaced, but fell short, as her awakened desire dominated all thoughts and feelings.
"Is this what you were waiting for?" she asked jokingly, trying to lighten the mood so that she could breathe a little easier.
"Perhaps," his said cryptically, though she knew the truth. And it made her hotter.
"I knew you were a whore-monger," she said faintly, unable to muster more volume as the fog forged on, restricting her foresight.
He smirked and stared at her, his arms flanking her as he hovered above, contemplating his next move. He was a strategist and he always moved first. Right now, she really liked that.
"You are still untouched," he stated, his eyes roaming her body as if to verify his assumption.
She blushed. "What's it to you? How do you know that anyway?"
"You are timid." She blushed harder, looking away, further proving his assertion.
"Should I be sorry?" she asked mockingly, unconvincingly, as he leaned down.
"No," he replied plainly, his voice calling to her, rousing her senses through the dense fog.
He pushed his hips in between her thighs again, her knees hugging him, and he crawled up her, coaxing her legs higher as he claimed her lips with a possessive brutality. It was as if he owned her body and she was all too happy to sell.
"Is this going to hurt?" she asked as his lips moved down the length of her neck.
"It'll get better, right?"
"If you relax, yes."
"What am I supposed to do?"
He laughed; it was short and sharp. She had never heard him laugh before. She wanted to hear it again.
"This time, I'll do everything," he whispered against her skin. Her belly flipped and she licked her lips.
"So…by this time…you mean we'll do it again, right?"
He pushed himself up and looked at her. Instinctively, she licked her lips again. His hand traveled up her chest and over her throat, his thumb slowly tracing her bottom lip, taking her breath away once more. She wondered how often he could do that. He smiled fully and suddenly, she felt relaxed, like she was lying under a star-speckled sky, a fire warming her skin as a night breeze washed over her, carrying with it an even, one-of-a-kind voice. She could feel like this forever and never tire of it.
"I should have known you'd be a talker."
His fingers traveled over her skin, finding every forgotten corner, every neglected crevice, reminding the runner-up that she was by no means a loser. She could feel every move he made, his hips brushing against her thighs, his knee pushing into her. She could even feel his heartbeat as his chest pressed against her so that he could kiss the curve of her neck and the side of her face. Her belly was warming and her skin tingled. She felt so good, but the warmth was intensifying and it made her feel wanton and uneasy. Her breathing picked up and she didn't know how to steady it. She didn't like feeling desperate. She didn't like feeling unsure. She didn't know what to do—except talk.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"You like to talk." He pressed further into her, kissing her belly, causing her to wiggle. She could feel him so closely—every detail of him—that it was starting to frighten her.
"Been thinking about this, huh?" He released a shuddering breath and suddenly, she was beginning to like desperation. He moved closer and she embraced the unknown, her fear fluttering away like petals in the wind. She wanted him closer, deeper, as a part of her. He bit her throat and she moaned, stretching her neck to the side.
"I knew I could take you," he said gruffly, desperation obviously claiming him as well. It made her feel better and more impatient.
He moved lower and she froze, gripping his shoulders. Feeling, firsthand, the breadth of those shoulders she had so admired made her forget her fear. He really did have a supernatural power over her. He played with the band of her panties, pulling, then stilling, his lips hovering at her hips. He brushed his mouth across the curve of her hip; he was driving her crazy. She turned her head to the other side.
"My father must be laughing at me right now," he said, his voice soft yet rough, his breath teasing her skin. She loved every inflection his voice hit almost as much as she loved every corner of her body he found.
"Laugh with him."
He paused, rigidly, and she opened her eyes, realizing sweat was beading at her forehead. Her stomach flipped over and over again as he stared, her hips shifting as her body waited, impatiently, for him to return. She hated his silence, but now, she hatred his stillness even more.
"What's wrong?" she asked, fear threading up her spine. He was always so sure of himself that she had trouble believing that he was changing his mind about this. But the longer he remained silent, the more she questioned herself.
He said nothing as he met her eyes, his intensity unwavering, but he had always been an unyielding man. Streams of moonlight filtered through the parted blinds, highlighting the glossed pottery lining the wall-bound shelves. They were colorful, but all she could see was white.
"When you explained red, you called me passionate," he said oddly, like he was on the outside looking in. "No one has ever called me that."
"Was I wrong?" She wove her fingers through his hair, watching him as he watched her. He masked it well with indifference, and many times his passion was confused with anger and so all doubted his fervor, not knowing him well enough to see it. But it was angry—a soul shattering anger forged from long denied desires. And that made it—made him—intense.
And she loved it.
He bowed his head, his hair splaying across her chest. She felt him swallow.
"You're open to me," he said as he ran a hand up the side of her body. She wasn't the first woman to offer herself to him, but he said it like she was the only one who had.
"Is that wrong, too?"
"I," he began, his body sliding, lethargically, up hers once more. She felt hot and tingly and knew she'd never bore of that feeling of closeness, like they were one in the same but not—a mirror image. She knew what he felt before he'd say it. She'd been there before. She just wondered how he'd say it.
And she could've never prepared for it.
"I'm finally going to have something my brother should've had." His voice was but a whisper, like a voice filtering through a dream, hoping to rouse the dreamer.
Once, when she was a little girl, she drank her tea too soon and burnt her tongue. She remembered crying, but most of all, she remembered to let her tea cool before drinking it. Memories acted as teachers, urging its carriers to shield their broken hearts and to fight for their trampled pride. The personality was nothing more than the interpretations of the teacher's lessons.
But interpretations were flexible. People would enter and leave their mark, some stronger than others, but when it was all said and done, the real teacher was the emotion they'd leave behind. The feeling of pain seared her mind so that from then on she'd be careful with things that were hot.
Just like her fluttering heart told her when she was in love.
She turned her head to the side and opened her eyes, silver moonlight capturing a glossy object, an ordinary object that ccaught her eyes as well as her heart. There, resting on the windowsill, perfect, like it had been purchased that very day, was a prism.
The immovable youkai had long since been moved.
She felt a tear, and then another, slide down her face and she felt awed and inspired. Sesshoumaru traced his lips over her tears, dispersing them with her thoughts.
He really didn't present himself honestly.
"You kept it all this time?" she whispered as he stilled, his lips hovering above hers.
Like the spectrum of white light, Sesshoumaru dissected her while keeping her whole, making her beautiful, like a bright rainbow, unbroken by clouds.
She knew what he'd say before he'd say it, but she never knew how he'd say it. And that made Sesshoumaru the most interesting person she had ever met. She hung onto his every utterance, clinging to each syllable, waiting, wondering how he'd chose to string the words together. Her belly flipped and her heart fluttered and she knew, as memories predestined, exactly what that meant.
"Because you are the color amongst the gray."
He kissed her, slipping closer, and she knew she could stay with him forever, like time was perpetually in limbo, the end of the road never in sight, like a rainbow permanently etched into the sky. Even if that was an illusion, it was okay, because when Sesshoumaru was with her, the world knew no gray.
And she wanted to live in a colorful world.