Title: Redemption and Its Discontents
Squicks: None
Featured Characters: Sesshoumaru, Kohaku
Words: 1490
Summary: Death has its ghosts. So does resurrection.
A/N: Written for the "revenge" theme at the LJ 30shards community. Much love to Rumdiculous - I wrote this while listening to the mix cds she gave me. XD

Redemption and Its Discontents

They say that no good deed goes unpunished, and they are right. Perhaps that is what his father wanted him to learn.

Sesshoumaru isn't even particularly good at doing good deeds, but they turn on him all the same.

They also say that the wicked will reap their just rewards, and they are right. Tessaiga taught him that.

Now he is not even very good at doing bad deeds any more.

And he is not good at doubting himself either, but when it is autumn and the sky is wispy grey and the moon is cradled the bony branches of the trees, he is inclined to wonder why he bothers doing anything at all.

..o..

Tenseiga is a sword that requires pity to use, and pity is a pitiless emotion.

It was over, and then there was the sobbing slayer, slathered in gore, cradling her darling corpse, crying out his name.

And he thought: heartbreak was what she fought so hard for.

She is pitiful. They are all so pathetic - a pathetic little girl, a pathetic demoness, now a pathetic woman - all so very pitiful when they try and fail anyway, when they try to change the unchangeable.

Pity moved his hand. Back then, he was only dimly aware that each urge came easier than the last.

At the edge of his mind he felt a tugging at his sleeve, his pathetic little girl begging in mute appeal, but she needn't have bothered.

Just a sweep of the blade, and the boy came back.

And then he came back a second time. And then a third.

Tenseiga is a sword that brings people back, and Kohaku reminds him of this over, and over, and over again.

..o..

In spring, the resurrected hunter hunts him down and begs him to take his life again.

"There is so much blood on my hands," he says. "I can only atone with my life."

"If you truly do not deserve to live, you will take your own life with honor," Sesshoumaru tells him.

But Kohaku trembles, reeking of resentment. "I can't," he says.

Sesshoumaru waits, letting the silence speak for him.

"I can't," Kohaku finally repeats. "That would kill her, too."

The memory of tears comes easily to him now. Sesshoumaru turns and walks away.

..o..

"Sesshoumaru-sama," Kohaku says when he finds him again in winter, "you stole my justice from me." His voice gleams with half-realized horror.

Sesshoumaru does not answer. Instead, he looks to the clouds, and the sky is so heavy with snow he thinks that he can almost touch it from the mountaintop on which they stand.

Behind him, Kohaku trembles. "This is hell," the young man whispers, though whether it is his life or his absence of death that is so painful, Sesshoumaru cannot tell.

Each man must bear his sins.

He takes pity on him.

"Then jump," he says, and he flies into the sky and fades into the snow.

..o..

"Why did you do this to me?" Kohaku wants to know. It is summer, and the boy is almost full-grown, becoming the man he was never meant to be.

How many years have passed? Sesshoumaru cannot remember, but his pitiful little girl is no longer with him. She took Jaken - who said he did not want to go, but did - and is raising the family she was never meant to have in a village far to the south of here, and sometimes when he sees each shining little face that she has brought into the world, Sesshoumaru thinks of blood.

Blood passes on, down through the years.

If the blood of those he has killed is on his hands, he wonders idly, what remains of those he has saved?

"Answer me!" shouts the man who was the boy he brought back, once upon a time.

It is harder, Sesshoumaru decides, to give life than to take it. Victims have no breath with which to question.

"I did not do this for you," he says after a moment.

There is a long silence.

"She is my sister, and I hate her," Kohaku finally whispers. "Almost as much as I hate you."

Sesshoumaru laughs.

"Shut up!" the man yells. "Shut up! Do you like torturing me? Is this some kind of sick joke to you?"

It is a sick joke. A very sick joke, indeed.

Sesshoumaru shakes his head, the humorless smirk still on his lips as he walks past the boy from the past, and into the roadless forest.

"Come back here!" Kohaku shrieks. "Come back here!"

Sesshoumaru walks on.

..o..

Kohaku would probably laugh, too, if he knew what Sesshoumaru knew, which is this: pity is a pitiless emotion.

So is guilt.

Hilarious.

..o..

"Kill me," Kohaku says. "Melt the body. She can't know that I wanted this. My life is yours anyway."

Fall. Dry leaves, grey skies - just ashes left behind by the fire of summer.

A lifetime of pain is a long time. Longer than a lifetime. Perhaps he owes him something.

"Why can she not know?" Sesshoumaru asks.

Startled, Kohaku stares at him, his mouth falling open in shock. It is the first time the demon has made any gesture that suggests he cares one way or the other about his fate. Mutely he works his lips, swallows, tries again.

"Because..." he says, voice croaking. "Because... then she'll think that she failed me. She'll think she wasn't enough to keep me."

"But she isn't," Sesshoumaru says, turning back to the branches above them. The stench of decline is all around him. "That is why you are here."

Silence. The wind picks up.

Then Kohaku is in front of him, his hands woven into his kimono, dragging him down.

"You bastard!" Kohaku screams in his face. "You goddamn bastard!" He tries to shake the stunned youkai lord, but Sesshoumaru is too strong, is as immovable outside as Kohaku swears he is on the inside. Angrily he lets go and steps back.

"Just watch," he tells the demon, his voice low and quivering with impotent rage. "I swear on my life that I will make you regret this."

He turns his heels and stumbles away, so furious that he cannot see straight.

Sesshoumaru watches him go, and doesn't tell him that he has already succeeded.

..o..

The moon has not even turned once when the first one finds him.

"Kami-sama," he breathes, kneeling in the cold dry grass. "Kami-sama, I was told by a passing storyteller... I didn't think it was... I mean, I would have brought something to offer you..."

Sesshoumaru watches as pitiful tears trail down the man's dirty cheeks. Each one falls against the skin of the infant in his arms. If the baby had breath, it might cry as well.

Pity wells in him, pours out, and his hand is already on his sword.

He hesitates only for a moment, wondering at this strange impulse that has come so easily.

But he is not in the habit of doubting himself; he does not know how.

The blade falls.

..o..

And then there was another. And another. And another.

It is astonishing how long it takes him to realize that the storyteller who spreads his tales of the god in the forest with the power of life is the one who wanted nothing more than to die.

But it is too late, too late to retreat. From the very first moment he pulled the blade from its scabbard to bring back a pitiful little girl the battle was lost.

Pity is a pitiless emotion, and it chases him down without mercy.

..o..

And it may be too late to run, but that does not stop him from trying.

So Sesshoumaru retreats, and keeps retreating, searching for a way out of this fate, and even though the boy becomes a man becomes withered and grey becomes dust in the ground, he follows him still, dogs his footsteps with his immortal stories.

He never wanted to be a savior.

It does not matter what he wanted, though. It is well beyond his grasp now.

And they follow the tales, and when they find him - and someone always does - there is nothing he can do but be moved.

Kami-sama, please bring her back, kami-sama, my mother has little time left, kami-sama, there is an epidemic in my village, kami-sama, this is my only child, kami-sama, he is all I have, give him back to me, give him back, give him back, give all of them back -

He wishes he could choose what moves him. He wishes he could ignore it. Ignorance, he remembers, was bliss.

But ignorance is the one thing he cannot resurrect, and each time shakes him more than the last.

One day it will shake him so much that he will fall apart.

..o..

And each man must bear his sins, and no good deed goes unpunished. For all the mercy he gives out, there is none to return to him.

Pity is a pitiless emotion.