Title: Falling Stars
Author: Celyia (cel@celyia.com)
Note: Hiya, again! :-) Thanks *so* much for all your support, really. I was just terrified to put up Chap 16 because I just *knew* I'd end up alienating the lot of you. I'm so glad, though, to see that the majority of you guys agree that Sesshou needs to start working in order to earn the right to be with Kagome. :-) Heh. I can't tell you how much it helps when you review-- it gives me such a better idea of what you guys are looking for in a story and also, *grin* makes me all happy and excited about writing. Thanks!

As for this chapter- it's pretty short. Hope you like it and you'll end up figuring out where I'm going with the rest of the story once you finish reading this chapter!

Take care and thanks for reading.

-Cel.
Email: cel@celyia.com
Mailing List: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/celyia









CHAPTER 17



For a moment, he could almost believe that some forgotten goddess, monumental yet exquisite in her greatness, walked across the surface of the earth, draping the sky and mountains in bolts of soft silk. Soft pinks, merging with startling blues, brilliant oranges, and even gentle greens, swirled in myriad of resplendent color that fell in beautiful abundance upon the horizon, strangely touching the proud youkai as he viewed the scene from the comfort of the top balustrade.

His broad shoulders fell forward in a slouch as, in this rare moment of privacy, he allowed himself to lean against the waist-high wooden railing, almost as if he were trying to absorb even a little of the strength inherent in the polished, dark grains of wood. After a time, his nearly perpetual stony fa├žade vanished as his head fell to the hands clasped upon the rail, his beautiful face tired and pale from stress and worry.

Some days, the battle just didn't seem worth it.

He closed his eyes, feeling the fading warmth of the dying sun caress his cheeks as he waited. Undoubtedly, this night, the attacks would begin again. And again. Until finally, the fortress of the West would finally fall, victim to the greed and conniving of those who would see him to his ruin.

Let it fall. Let it burn. I never wanted this.

Sesshoumaru shook his head, a slight, ironic smile turning his lips as he banished the rebellious thought, knowing that no matter how he may scream inside, he would die before he allowed harm to come to his holdings. Still, it didn't ease the discomfort in his heart knowing that mere hours would bring the meaningless demise of more of his warriors in the fight to retain control of a damnable spot of land.

Almost of its own accord, his hand snaked into the inner folds of his white owagi, pulling a small cloth from its depths. Meticulously, he held the red fabric to his nose, inhaling the scent embedded in the strong threads almost desperately, as if the smell alone was enough to stay the demons that haunted the youkai.

At this point, he was past the point of caring why the woman's gentle scent brought him comfort; all he knew was that it did and he wasn't above using what few advantages he still possessed. Carefully, he fingered the scarlet necktie, the fabric coarse and imbued with old blood, yet as filthy as it was, he still refused to have it washed.

For Sesshoumaru knew once it the cloth was washed, his last remaining connection would disappear along with her unique scent that still permeated the tie.

Kagome.

For three months now, he had tried to banish the memory of the woman from his mind, but her smile, both beautiful and damning in its sweet vulnerability, haunted him until all he could do was stare at the thin scrap of fabric resting in his hand, willing himself to hate her but unable to do so.

His back straightened as he pulled himself up to his full, formidable height.

Far too much of his precious time had been spent in contemplation over the human, and it needed to stop. His fortress, the only thing he had left in his life, was beginning to falter beneath the pounding assault of the siege and instead of doing anything about it, he was stood there, sequestered from all, in order to consider the existence of a woman who was disgusted by him.

The growl started low -- intense -- but soon rang through the humming air as the youkai lord rolled the necktie into a small ball. He needed her as much as he needed his worthless brother in his life, Sesshoumaru decided as he pulled his arm back to throw this last reminder of the bitch from his life.

Yet, even as his arm flew forward, carried by the momentum of his anger and self-hate, his fingers refused to stop clutching the fabric, almost as though it were some mystical rope that would eventually lead out of this hell he wallowed in.

His lips furrowed into a frown as his eyes sought the comforting red cloth, almost as if he couldn't believe it still remained within his hand. Still, without giving himself time to contemplate his actions, he brought it to his nose for one last inhale before he tucked it back within his owagi.

"Sesshoumaru-sama?" a feminine voice called out, the sweet tone tempered with what could only be called insatiable curiosity.

"Yes. Kutsumi?" he drawled, carefully schooling his face back into a state of indifference.

Bristly white hair, no longer the length of his hand, swung into view even as a petite body shimmied out through the partially open door.

"It is nightfall, Sesshoumaru-sama," the young youkai spouted needlessly, standing on her toes in order to try to gauge what exactly had absorbed her lord's attention for so long.

He looked at her blankly, watching as the girl wriggled with embarrassment under his scrutiny.

"Return within, Kutsumi," Sesshoumaru commanded almost congenially after a moment. "And take the children to the inner sanctuary."

Kutsumi bowed low, her hair swinging wildly with the movement. "Yes, my lord."

He nodded once, allowing his eyes to return to the twilight-touched hills surrounding the fortress as the child dog youkai to left him to his thoughts.








During the course of his entire existence, he had never felt anything like the terrible burning in his chest that plagued him now. Relieved that there was no one around to witness his moment of weakness as he fell against the wall (was so hard finding good help these days and it would have been highly inconvenient to kill one of his servants just when he finally got them trained), he lowered his head and grunted.

His forefinger snaked down to his owagi, stained and already dirtied by the night's use, and pried it open. Perverse curiosity forced him to peer down at his chest and see what damage had been wrought in the matter of only a couple hours.

Black.

The irony of having the skin directly above his heart mutate into an uneven, patchy black wasn't lost on him, but he was sure he would have enjoyed it a lot more had the injury not been so unsightly.

Or hurt a bit less.

Still, it made his plans a bit more inconvenient. Naraku had known that eventually this body, strong yet willowy in its youth, would wear out and disintegrate like the rest, but he had expected to spend another two to five years using this vehicle before being forced to look for another beautiful shell teetering on the brink of adulthood.

Instead, that vacuous excuse for a miko, all gawky legs and inferior form, had managed in the matter of three months to turn what had once been his kingdom into a living hell. With every moment that slipped through his fingers, Naraku was pushed closer and closer to being forced to accepting an inferior body instead of the one he planned on possessing.

Even amidst the throbbing pain, a grin cursed his lips as his self-confidence assured himself that things would be well underway before this body finally crumbled into dust. After all, it had taken three months for the decay from the purified arrow to reach his chest, so he could undoubtedly afford to wait the two additional weeks he needed for his plan to be put in effect. And what a brilliant plan it was. Almost all the pieces were in place- all he needed now was to lure the inept miko and her company to the Western fortress before it fell and that, he had no doubt, would prove to be as easy as breathing.

And while Naraku didn't quite fancy the idea of being a female for the next ten years, the thought of the pain and anguish he would cause the hanyou and the monk by parading around in the miko's body made the sacrifice completely worth it.






Poor Sesshoumaru- first Kagome tells him that he disgusts her and then, he returns home only to end up having to fight off a siege! Things aren't going well for Our Hero, but never fear! I have faith he'll get things together soon. After all, Sesshou is nothing if not a survivor!