Kikyo and Sesshomaru, alternate timeline takes place sometime after the events of Mt. Hakurei. Slight deviation of details from the anime.

Published and completed: 10/30/05-12/16/05


The Dead and the Dying

...OOO...

Damn it! Sesshomaru cursed inwardly gripping his wounded shoulder with his one good hand. He had managed to slay his opponent, the giant snake demon Naga but not before it dealt him the toxic blow. Even now he could feel the poison coursing through his body, eating away at his strength and energy. A lesser demon would have already succumb, but even as it was he knew he could not last much longer unless the poison was drawn from his body. Normally, he would have readily spilled his own blood in order to cleanse himself, but he had been preoccupied with the fight and when it had been vital to do so, he found he could no longer even handle his own blade.

His vision had grown bleary, and the fine mist that settled on the ground did nothing to help him. He heard the rushing of the water as it cascaded into a waterfall more than he saw the thing itself. The rocks were slippery. He lost his footing, stumbled, and fell. The sting of ice cold water engulfed his body, and then...

Darkness...

...ooo...

She wandered the thick forest aimlessly, no particular destination in mind though she would know it when she got there. She was searching.

Searching for a place to rest.

A place to rest...

Forever...

No.

She pushed the thought from her mind. It was true that since Naraku's defeat, this had come to be her solitary goal, but for now she didn't want to have to think about it.

Anyway, she was in no great hurry. Every now and then, she found she could still lose herself in her task when she ran into an occasion to help someone- though these became more and more rare as a sense of peace settled on the land.

But she was weary- weary of her empty counterfeit life, weary of having to rely on the souls of dead maidens to continue it...

Even as she thought this, her Soul Collectors swarmed around her, every now and then brushing against her. Nowadays, they were her only company. She no longer even had the occasion to run into Inuyasha or his friends. No, she made sure to stay away from him. It was easier for both of them that way...

As she walked, she came upon a wide but shallow stream- only ankle deep in some parts- that was fed by a waterfall not too far off in the distance.

A small silent gasp escaped her lips when she saw him floating in that shallow water, face up, silver hair glinting in the early morning sunlight. He was more pallid than usual, and she could make out the ragged gash on his left shoulder.

Though their paths had crossed only briefly a few times before, she had become acquainted with his identity- the great Lord Sesshomaru, ruler of the Western Lands...

Now lying half-dead at her feet.

Even though it was her second nature to aid the injured, she hesitated. He was after all a demon, not to mention Inuyasha's older half-brother. Perhaps it would be best to simply pass on by, she thought. After all, a priestess purified demons, not nursed them.

But she stood rooted to the spot.

Finally, she fell to her knees in the water beside him. Gently pushing back the tattered sleeve, she uncovered the wound to examine it. Though it was deep, it was far from being fatal, and, unable to discern any other significant injuries, she pondered the reason for his condition. Certainly he of all people would be able to survive such a simple wound...

Poison, she thought, her quick mind arriving at the logical conclusion.

Her hands felt for his pulse and found it, faint, but still steady. If she did not do something soon, however, she knew that even a demon as powerful as himself would be unable to survive the ordeal. She was surprised he was even still alive.

Scanning her surroundings she spotted a small abandoned hut on the other side of the stream and directed her Soul Collectors to carry him there.

Even as they lifted his body, he did not stir.

Inside, the hut was dark with soot and covered with a thick film of dust and cobwebs, but she cleared away an area beside the fire pit for him.

With quick, experienced hands she tore away the sleeve of his dead arm and wrapped the angry wound with some poultice and the spare bandages she carried. Then using the tip of his own sword, she carefully opened up his veins, allowing the poison to drain with the blood. She watched him cautiously, and when she dared not go further with the blood letting, she sealed up the openings again.

Sitting back, she eyed her handiwork and frowned.

It was still early spring, the weather cool, and he was soaking wet.

Carefully she removed his armor and upper haori and set them aside. Then she took off her own- thankful for the wrappings around her upper torso and that her clay body only felt the most extreme of temperatures- and she placed it over him.

Now all she could do was watch and wait...

...ooo...

Slowly Sesshomaru regained consciousness, but even before he opened his eyes he could sense the difference in his surroundings from when he had first lost it. He was also aware of the scent of bones and graveyard soil...

He awakened to see her sitting at the open door to his feet, her body leaning against its frame. Her head was turned away from him to the outside, a soft breeze caressing her raven hair. Though he could not see her face, he recognized her right away- the undead priestess Kikyo, once Inuyasha's lover and the focus of Naraku's obsession.

Even before he spoke she realized he had awoken and glanced back to see him.

"Oh," she said softly, "so you've awakened... How do you feel?"

To be honest, his whole body was still aching from the poison and his strength had barely started to return to him, but he couldn't very well tell her that, so instead he asked in his unmoving voice;

"Where am I?"

"Here." she answered matter-of-factly, not quite sure herself as to their exact location. "I found you in the river and brought you to this hut. Do not exert yourself too much," she cautioned. "I don't believe you're fully recovered from the poison yet."

She was perceptive- he had to give her that much.

Still he managed to raise himself to a sitting position and was surprised to find her white haori covering him.

"What is the meaning of this?" Looking past her he saw his own garments billowing gently on the breeze, hung on a line to dry in the sun which had now risen past it's pinnacle in the sky.

"If you have no more need for it," she answered, "I would appreciate its return." So he handed it to her, and she slipped it back on, then went to retrieve his own.

"I mended it as well as I could," she explained as he took them from her.

He was quiet for a minute, studying the once torn sleeve and tracing the stitching she had done to reattach it. A strange sort of anger welled up within him- who was she that she should do so much to help him? But he kept it inside, maintaining his cold, indifferent facade.

Meeting her gaze with a hard stare, he asked in a low but demanding voice, "Why did you do all this?"

"Need I a reason?" she returned nonchalantly.

He fell back into silence, searching her face for a sign of her motives, but it was as blank as his often was, and she met his eyes with her own steady ones- a challenge which he took up.

"You know," he answered coldly, golden eyes turning to steel, "I watched him strike you, watched you plunge into his miasma. I watched you die and did nothing to stop it."

"Then be thankful," she replied flatly, her voice devoid of even the slightest hint of emotion, "that I am not like you."

It was not so much her answer, but the way in which she said it that surprised him. After all, he had always taken humans- especially female humans- to be ruled by their high strung emotions- like Inuyasha's wench, always yelling or crying...

But this one was different.

Then again, he found himself thinking, what had he expected from someone who, when faced with death, when her body had been stabbed right through by Naraku, when she was falling, had uttered no sound? Had uttered no panic-stricken scream, no plea for mercy or salvation, no attempt to hold on to life, no matter that hers was not real.

He did not know how her clay body had withstood Naraku's poisonous miasma, but here she was still alive and reeking of death. A complete paradox.

They sat in silence for several minutes until Kikyo stood to leave.

"I'm going to gather firewood," she declared and, giving him a sideways glance, added, "I suppose you'll want something to eat?"

"Hmpf," he replied. "Don't bother." So with that, she left him.

Outside the sun sank lower and lower until it disappeared below the trees of the forest, coloring the sky in washes of orange, pink, and crimson.

Inside the hut Sesshomaru had managed with great difficulty to dress himself again. After his discourse with Kikyo, he found that the little strength that had returned to him had dissipated, and rather than risking a journey and running into other demons who might take advantage of his weakened state, he decided to bide his time where he was until he was fully recovered.

Now he was lying down again, one arm under his head, his swords close by his side.

He was wondering where the woman was and why she had not yet returned.

By now she could have gathered enough wood to keep a small village lit and warmed.

Perhaps, he thought smugly, she had changed her mind after all and decided to leave him to fend for himself.

The thought caused his pride and anger to flare up again.

How dare she think so? As if I, Sesshomaru, would ever have need for the help of a mere woman- and an undead human one at that.

True he knew as well as she did that if she hadn't come upon him, he would have been deader than she was right now. Still it did nothing to abate his anger and annoyance.

Just then he caught sight of her coming out from a thicket of trees, a basket she had found in the hut full and tucked under one slim arm. Her head was slightly lowered as she walked, as if she was lost in thought.

He sat up to meet her, and when she finally did look up upon entering, their eyes met and he caught a glimmer of surprise in her soft brown ones as if she had not been expecting to see him.

But all she said was, "I hope you are well?" (which he did not bother to answer) before setting down the basket and kneeling across the fire pit from him. Now he could see that inside the basket were three large fish, cleaned, gutted, skewered lengthwise, and slathered in herbs and spices. Next to them were several small bundles of plants- medicinal herbs, he figured, and also a small pile of twigs and dried up sticks. These she took and organized into a conical pile in the pit and proceeded to build a fire.

She allowed herself to get lost in the simple task, enjoying the sure way her hands moved, without doubt or uncertainty. It was nice not to have to think so much.

When the fire was hot enough, she plunged the end of the skewers around it so that the fish might cook. While they did, she produced a small kettle and chipped saucer which had also been left behind in the hut by its previous inhabitants. These she washed in the stream and filled the kettle with water to brew some of the leaves and early berries she had gathered to make tea.

While she worked, she felt his eyes on her, never leaving for a single second, but she brushed it off. Let him watch if he chose.

When the tea had done brewing, she poured some into the saucer and slid it towards him.

"It will help detoxify your body," she explained. "And the food will help you to regain your strength faster."

Sitting back, she placed her hands primly on her lap, and now it was her turn to watch him.

Wordlessly he took up the saucer, staring at it for several minutes before finally bringing it to his lips for a sip. Surprisingly it was not too bad- strong and with a hint of bitterness, but he rather liked it that way. Trying a bite of the fish, he also found it to be quite good, especially considering its impromptu preparation.

He was about to take a second taste when he stopped suddenly, eyeing her suspiciously.

"You do not join me?" he asked.

"I thought that you would've known that I..." she paused trying to find the right words, "...cannot consume such matter."

Yes, he had known. But if she had gone through the trouble of preparing this meal solely for him, why had she expected him to have been gone when she returned?

A very strange woman indeed, he thought, resuming his meal.

As the evening wore on, the fire died down into embers, and they both found themselves staring into the soft glow, neither knowing what to say to the other for conversation or if that was even appropriate.

She spoke first, breaking the silence.

"You should rest."

"And you?" he countered. "Or do you not need sleep as well?"

"Need?" she replied. "Yes, but not for the same reasons."

He wondered momentarily about this response, but she did not elaborate and he did not care to ask.

Instead he laid back down in the same position as earlier and stared at the ceiling. He was tired, the effects of the poison still in affect, so he closed his eyes and slept...

He awoke later that night to find the fire extinguished, but the light of the full moon was more than enough to see by. It filtered in through the open window and through every hole and crack on the walls and ceiling, illuminating the room in blue light dappled with shadow. Through these cracks he could make out the serpentine forms of Kikyo's Soul Collectors as they encircled the hut in their vigil over her.

Looking over to where she had been sitting, he found that Kikyo had fallen asleep as well, curled up in an almost fetal position, hugging her arms to her chest and gripping her bow tightly in her white hands, her arrows being no more than an arm's length away.

Perhaps they weren't so different after all, he thought with a glance at the two swords beside him...

...OOO...