Disclaimer: I own nothing, except this whole plot.

Inferno

The day she turned five, her father left.

He didn't make a big scene, didn't have a shouting match with her mother, didn't even tell anyone good-bye. He just vanished into thin air. Or at least, he had intended to.

She woke at the sound of his footsteps. She had always been a sensitive child. She had an uncanny ability to know when something of great importance was occurring. She had awoken just in time to see her father passing by her bedroom, suitcase in hand. Maybe she should have remained in her room, should have allowed her father to walk out of her life as easily as she could, but she didn't. Some supernatural force drove her from her bed and out into the hall, where her soft, five-year-old voice called out to her father's departing figure. He hadn't faced her, no, just paused, halted in his retreat. Had she looked, she would have seen the fist around the suitcase handle tighten just a little. Had he faced her, she would have seen paper white shade his skin had taken, and the almost lost look in his eyes blaze stronger than she had ever seen it. If he had turned, maybe she wouldn't have taken so seriously his next words. Maybe her mind, young and naïve, could have passed off her father's words as wrong, because he was running away. But no, he didn't face her. So what he told her, the words he whispered to his daughter on her fifth birthday, etched themselves into her soul, burned themselves into her mind, and dictated what she would become.

" Never let them see you cry."

Six words. Seven syllables. Not a good bye of any sort. Not advice of any kind. Only an order. A command, the last he would ever give her. Somewhere, in her heart, in that place where see understood things as no one else could, she knew. Her father was never coming back. She would never see him ever again. So those final words, that final order, was something she must honour and obey. She must never let anyone see her cry. Never let anyone know how much they hurt her. How deep the cut ran across her soul, how long the scar in her heart was. She must keep that inside, bottle it up in a place where no one would find it, and let it out only, only when she was sure she was alone. It was a task she felt her father had bestode upon her, and she would accept it with open arms.

As she stood there, pondering and understanding, her father left. The chill from the open door snapped her back to reality. Her father was gone. Any and all traces that he had ever been in this house has been removed, save for one thing. The fire he had made sure burned every night during the winter season, still blazing and flickering in the fireplace. Moving quietly, silently, as though she were a ghost, she moved toward the fireplace, where she had watched her father so many a-time tending to dancing flames. She sank to her knees before the fire, her small silhouette enlarge on the wall behind her. Her eyes never left the flickering sparks, watching in fascination as the flames danced for her, and her alone. She pressed her tiny hand to the heated glass, feeling the blaze just passed the see-through barrier. What would happen, if she took away this barrier? If she let the fired out? Would the sparks tango from their cage out onto the carpet? Would they make small flames of their own, that would spread out over the entire room and consume it? Would the small sparks be able to start an inferno that would not only incinerate this house, but everyone and everything inside including her?

The thought sent tingles up her spine. Her body shook with anticipation, and she pressed her palms harder than ever to the glass. The fire danced furiously, practically begging to be released. What would it matter, if the house burned down? What would it matter, if her toys were turned to ash? What would it even matter, if she and her family were killed in the flames? It would be worth it, a wonderful way to die, burning in an all-consuming inferno that danced and twirled around seductively, and beckoned to you with each twist. It would be bliss, to watch the fire slowly eating away at the house, piece-by-piece, room-by-room, burning away the tiny twinge in her heart. Her father was gone, so what would it matter, if the fire was set loose, for the entire world to see? It wouldn't. It would be perfect, so perfect. That bright, orange-red flame burning her away, bit by bit. Dancing for her and her alone. Her face was pressed to the glass now too, her eyes half closed, lulled and unfocused. Were she older, with a face not obscured by the pudgy roundness of a child, she would have look so incredibly tempting, so seductive and alluring, she would've brought a man to his knees. Now, however, she was a child, a child whose mind teetered on the brick, dancing on the line between sane and insane. The firelight reflected almost psychotically in her eyes, almost insanely. If only she could let it out, play with it, dance with it for real, and let its heat burn away all her pain and sadness, in the beautiful inferno.

All-consume.

Burn everything.

So perfect.

Everything gone.

Beautiful inferno.

Beautiful inferno.

Beautiful infer-

" Sweetie?"

Her mother's voice, so sweet and gentle, broke the spell. She darted back from the glass, breathing shallowly. Her mind, so sensitive and strange, barely comprehended what she had been thinking.

To set the fire free, and kill her mother, brother, and even herself.

Her cheeks were flushed from the heat of the glass, her eyes now focused. Her mother walked over to her, eyes slowly filling with tears. She fell to her knees before her five-year-old daughter, and cried. Her sobs wracked through her like tremors, shaking her completely. The little girl watched, face expressionless, body still. Her mother threw her arms around her, holding her close, like lifeline. Over her shoulder, she watched the fire dance hypnotically, swaying to and fro, and reflected it in her strangely blank eyes.

The first day of grade one, she found out she was different from other kids.

She walked into the classroom, a little nervous, but prepared to make some new friends. She was, of course, new in the neighbourhood, and knew no one. She shuffled in behind everyone and waited to be introduced. Her eyes scanned over the classroom, taking in her classmates, memorizing their faces and expressions for future gain. They greeted her warmly, as only 7-year-olds can. A slight rush of whispers about 'the new girl' passed over them, but it faded with a stern glance from the teacher. She turned to her seat, and sank into it, avoiding eye contact.

A tap on her shoulder caught her attention. The girl next to her smiled when she turned.

" Hi, I'm, Ayumi."

She offered a weak smile, and gave her name again. Ayumi happily announced that she thought they would be great friends, and proceeded to talk in whispery tones to her for the next hour. At recess, she was introduced to Eri and Yuka, Ayumi's two best friends. She smiled again, amazed slightly how her obviously fake smiles fooled them. Couldn't they tell she was hurting? Couldn't they see that the move had taken its toll on her mind and heart?

Apparently, they couldn't. She hadn't disobeyed her father.

Later on in the day, they had been outside, talking and laughing, though her own giggles were less enthusiastic than the rest. They had done nothing wrong, done nothing to provoke it, nothing except be themselves. But it had happened nonetheless.

Bullies are strange creatures. They prey on those weaker than themselves to feel better. This particular bully was in grade 4, and loved to harass younger kids. He spotted her, and she was labeled new meat.

" Who's the new runt?"

His tone was cruel, but she paid no heed. In her mind's eye, the flame's image flickered. Her eyes went strangely blank, her face placid and pale. The bully's taunts echoed in her ears, one after another. She heard her new friends jump up to defend her, yelling and screaming, Ayumi, crying.

Those liquid crystals, flowing like a river down her cheeks, they surprised her. She would never have thought of crying. She couldn't cry. Not while people could see, not while the world watched. The boy's words cut through her, aimed at her and her friends. In her mind, she envisioned the flames, dancing. Twirling toward the boy, leaping at his clothes, burning away the material, twisting over his skin, sparking in his hair. She imagined a fire burning all around him, consuming him, his screams ringing in her ears.

It wasn't until he hit Ayumi that she reacted.

She was vicious. She leapt upon him, clawing, and scratching. She even bit him, tearing at any flesh she could find. All the while, imaging the fire destroying him. All while imaging the blazing flames burning him out of their lives.

It was Eri and Yuka who eventually pulled her off him. He ran, terrified for his very life.

With good reason.

She didn't understand until later. Not until she was told, by her friends, how brutal she had been. She wouldn't stop. It was as if she couldn't hear their pleas to cease. Like she forgot they existed. And maybe she had. Maybe the fire that had somehow burned its way into her bloodstream had blocked everything from her sense. Blocked the horrified screams of her friends. Blocked the boy's frantic begging. All she knew was one thing:

She had had ever intention of killing him.

Maybe that made her insane. Maybe that made her psychotic. Maybe that made her a very, very sick child. But she didn't care. She could make them believe she didn't mean it. And she did.

She told them she was upset about something, the move, and had over reacted. She fooled them completely. They never suspected that she wanted to kill him, that her anger had been a killing rage. They never saw the blankness in her eyes, nor the insane look they got right before she attacked.

On that day, she learned she was different from other children. She was strange; she didn't show how she felt. She could feel no remorse if she trained herself not to. She could be absolutely brutal if she let the fire take her over. She wasn't normal. Normal children didn't want to kill someone and not care.

When she was twelve, she learned what she was.

She had been surfing over the web, looking for obsessions, a project for health. Typing in her keywords and clicking the button, she had browsed for something that would catch her interest. One term jumped out at her, though she couldn't explain why.

Pyromania.

Her hand, almost as though it weren't attached to her body, moved the curser to the link, and clicked. Instantly, the homepage came up, offering a definition for the term.

An irresistible urge to start fires.

Her eyes widened, as the image of the flickering flames danced before her eyes. Her breath rasped.

An irresistible urge to start fires.

She gulped in air, a lump forming in her throat. She leaned forward, reading again, and again.

An irresistible urge to start fires.

Unable, or barely unable to prevent oneself from starting a fire. Such people were called pyromaniacs. They loved fire, the website said. They were obsessed with it. They craved it, lusted for it, adored it. There was nothing more beautiful to them, then a full-fledged inferno.

She couldn't breath by this point. Her heart was thundering.

An irresistible urge to start fires.

She…loved fire. Adored it, yes. But that didn't make her…a pyromaniac, did it? She didn't think it was alright to kill people just to see an inferno, did she.

Her heart stopped moving as a memory came to her.

What would it matter, if she and her family were killed in the flames?

She had thought that, the night of her fifth birthday, the night her father had left. She hadn't cared who was killed, so long as she got to see the fire. She was… a pyro. She was obsessed with flames.

An irresistible urge to start fires.

She was crazy, a psycho, a nutcase. She didn't care about her own family being burnt to a crisp, for God's sake!

Trembling, shaking almost uncontrollably, she turned the computer off. She flung herself onto the bed, and cried. Screamed, howled, shrieked. She tried to get the fire from her blood, undo what she had done all those nights ago when she let the fire into her soul as she stared at it. But she couldn't let go. It was a part of her now. And it was never going to go away.

But she could hide it. Hide it behind fake smiles, and cheery laughter. Bury it beneath and happy disposition and bouncy attitude. She had fooled people once before, and who was to say she couldn't again? Though it threatened to well up and destroy her from the inside out, though she wanted nothing more than to run to her mother's arms and cry, she stood fast.

" Never let them see you cry."

Her father's words rang in her head, echoing in her darkened mind, steeling her resolve. No one would know. Her smile and laughter would fool them all. They would never see the madness that danced just beyond her eyes, never see the tears that glistened just out of sight. Never see the real her, who lingered just past their view.

It was easier now. Years of practice had made it easy for her to act. She fooled everyone, even her own family, into thinking that the preppy, happy, bubbly girl she presented to them was the real her. They never suspected that, just beyond the surface, just under the skin, her world tilted in the edge. That her mind slipped up and down into the abyss, like a yo-yo. Her dreams and her reality melded together sometimes, and she couldn't tell the difference. No one knew. Maybe no one cared.

Over the time, as she convinced person after person with her act, she became just the slightest bit sickened. People were so dense. They were so gullible. They swallowed every lie she fed them, every little fib, every tiny act. No one looked beyond the surface, beyond the girl she presented to them. She knew exactly what they wanted her to be, and that's what she was. She manipulative, cunning and sneaky. She played her role so perfectly, so precisely, so utterly completely, that no one knew of her obsession with fire.

And it made her sick.

No one cared enough, no knew enough to try and save her. She wasn't stupid. She knew she was slipping. Her grip on reality was fading fast. She wasn't even aware of things around her half the time. The urge to burn things, watch them light on fire was suffocating her, taking her over. It was all beginning to be too much. Even her mask, that carefully crafted mask, that mask that had both destroyed and kept intact her sanity was beginning to crack and fall. It was slipping from her face more and more, revealing her true face for the entire world to see. It was cracking swiftly, so shards of who she really was fell into conversations more and more frequently. It terrified her, and yet, she awaited it eagerly. She wanted the world to see her for what she truly was, what she was truly like. She had grown bored of fooling people so easily. She wanted to see their face when her true self stood, tall and proud, before them. But she was scared. She had lived behind the mask for so long, she had forgotten what it was like with out it. She was afraid everyone would leave, abandon her after they knew what she really was.

So she sat, zoned out of the conversation, gazing, transfixed, into the fire. The red-orange flames dancing contently, no barriers but a ring of stones around it. She sat, wishing her mask would remain, but knowing it would fall and looking forward to it at the same time. But until then, she would keep up this charade. She would continue to pretend, even if only for a little while. Only until her mask slip and crashed to the ground, shattering into a hundred million pieces. And she would be free to stand before the world, as herself for the first time since she was five.

But, until then, Kagome Higurashi could wait.