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Checkmate! by Philosophy Blue

Checkmate!

"You can't do that, Inuyasha!"

"Feh, why not, wench?"

Kagome raked her fingers through her hair in frustration. "Because a bishop only moves diagonally! Not horizontally! And it definitely can't jump over other pieces."

"You said it could!" protested the dog-eared hanyou, squatting across the gameboard.

"That's the knight!" Kagome growled. "See? Like this!" She picked up her knight and captured Inuyasha's rook.

"What?" Inuyasha shouted. "What'd you do that for, K'gome?"

"Because that's the point of chess!" she screamed back. She should've known that Inuyasha would utterly fail at chess. "Oh my god, Inuyasha, you are literally the worst chess player in the universe!"

"Am not! It's just a dumb game anyways!"

"Dumb game? It's one of the most brilliant strategic games of all time!"

They glared at each other. Kagome broke the silence with a snide comment that she couldn't resist. "I bet Sesshomaru could play way better than you." At first, she only said it because she knew it would make him furious, but now that she thought about it, it seemed obvious. He was cool, collected, and logical- -none of Inuyasha's wild blundering.

As she expected, Inuyasha blew his top. "That bastard could never beat me!" he hollered, springing to his feet. Reaching for Tetsusaiga's worn hilt, he glowered down at Kagome. "Keh! A stupid game for a stupid human!" With that parting shot, he bounded off.

Too angry at herself for even trying to teach someone as thick-skulled as Inuyasha to sit him, Kagome started setting the board back up. I'll just have to invite Miroku and Sango over to play. Hmm, I wonder which of them will like it the most; Miroku seems like he's appreciate it, what with him being the best strategist in our group, but Sango's a warrior. I guess I'll have them face off against each other. She smiled at the thought, actually looking forward to the match. She got to her feet, and froze when a white column seemingly materialized out of the forest.

"Ah… Lord Sesshomaru!" she said hastily. Well, speak of the devil. "What brings you to this humble… forest?"

He blinked at her coolly. "I could not help but hear, with your raised voices, your argument with Inuyasha."

"Oh," she said, heat climbing into her cheeks. "I'm sorry you had to hear that- -" Had he heard her comment on Sesshomaru's superiority over Inuyasha in the game of chess?

"I would like to see this game you spoke of." He moved past her, graceful yet stoic, and sat down across from where she was standing.

I can't believe this. I can't believe this. I CAN'T BELIEVE- -

"Sit."

Nervously, she sat down across the gameboard, and looked at him looking at the pieces. When a full minute had passed, which was really a lot longer than it sounded, she cleared her throat. "Would you like me to…" What was the word? Teach was somehow too demeaning for him. "...show you how to play?"

He gazed at her coolly. "Proceed," he said simply.

She cleared her throat, inwardly writhing with confusion. "Um… Right. So…" She trailed off uncertainly, suddenly possessed by the urge to laugh madly. This picture was just so strange. Little old her teaching chess to the fearsome demon lord, who had tried to kill her loads of times and still scared her a little, even though they technically classified as allies now? Pfft! Get out of create.

"This Sesshomaru does not have all day, miko."

She snapped out of it, completely embarrassed by her behavior. He must think her an idiot. "Sorry about that, Lord Sesshomaru," she said apologetically. "I'll try to focus." Clearing her throat yet again (which was starting to feel quite raw by now), she settled down to business, trying to pretend that it was only one of her friends she was instructing. "Chess is a game of strategy, Lord Sesshomaru, and it is said to be favored by generals to hone their tactical skills, because this resembles a battlefield. Now, there are two opposing sides in this game, one white and one black. The white always plays first. And the goal of the game? To capture the enemy king." She tapped said piece.

"There are six different types of pieces. The most simple ones in the front lines are called the pawns, and they only move forward one space. However, as long as it is that pawn's first move, it can move up two spaces. And when it captures an opposing piece, it moves diagonally forward one space." She stopped and waited to see if he was confused.

He was nodding slowly, letting it sink through his mind. "So on each turn, we move one piece, correct?"

"Yes."

"Does the first move have to made with a pawn?" His gaze was boring into her, making her uncomfortable.

"Er, not necessarily. But I'll get to that later; let me introduce the other pieces to you. These are called rooks. They move horizontally, and their movements are not limited to any number of squares. But keep in mind that most of these pieces cannot leap over other pieces. That ability is strictly reserved for the knight."

As she continued with her instruction, Kagome was surprised at how easy this was. Sesshomaru seldom interrupted her, and mostly just listened. His attentiveness, actually, was quite unnerving, so she tried not to focus on it too much.

"And then there's the castle move," she finished. "Only to be played when neither your king or rook has moved during the game, and there are no pieces between the two. They move...such." She demonstrated the move with the rooks both on the left and right sides of the king. Replacing the pieces, she looked up at Sesshomaru, who had a slight crease in his brow from his concentration. "Should I repeat anything, or can we get straight down to playing, Lord Sesshomaru?"

"We may play, miko."

She smiled. This was a welcome change from Inuyasha's constant re-instruction. "Okay then. Would you like to play white or black?"

"I will play black."

With a nod, Kagome nudged forward a pawn up two spaces. "Your move."

Silently he moved up his own pawn to confront hers. She was surprised by his prompt and popular response. She moved up her knight to threaten the pawn, and the game continued without a hitch. Sesshomaru moved with the skill of an experienced player.. She'd expected that, of course, but she hadn't expected the rapidity with which he grasped the game. Already he was outmatching her, she mused as he captured her queen in a brilliant move. She was losing now; two of his pawns had graduated into queens, and they were strategically cutting through her pieces.

"I'm sorry that I am not enough of a challenge for you," she apologized as he took her last knight, leaving her with only her king and several pawns.

"It is enough that you have introduced me to this game," he said without even looking at her, instead studying the gameboard. "I will remember this."

Kagome smiled as she countered his move. "I'm glad to have been of help, Lord Sesshomaru." An idea occurred to her. "If you'd like, I could procure some books that go into further detail about this game's inner workings. There are theories on openings, the middle game, and the end game, and perhaps you would like to look at the records of the greatest chess players in the world's matches. I've never been too interested in them, as I have no blatant talent for this game, but…" she trailed off suggestively.

At last he made eye contact with her, and she was surprised to see earnest interest in his eyes. "That would be acceptable."

She blushed. "Alright. I-I can most likely have them ready by your next visit, Sesshomaru-sama." Why was she blushing? She tried to cool down her cheeks through sheer force of will, but that only made them get hotter. Or was it the fact that Sesshomaru was still staring at her with that intent look in his smoldering amber eyes?

Ack! What was she thinking? This was Sesshomaru, Inuyasha's half-brother! She was imagining things, that was all! "W-was that all, my lord?"

"I did not say anything."

"Oh, right. Erm, well, then. I think I should be getting back to the village."

"As you please." He rose fluidly to his feet and turned to leave, the unfinished game lying forgotten. Kagome, sitting on the ground, found to her consternation that her eyes were directly on level with Sesshomaru's tush. Her brow furrowed as she realized that the seat of his silky white hakamas were covered with a thin layer of dirt and twigs.

"Ah, Sesshomaru-sama?"

"Hn?" He turned only his head, so that he was peering down over his shoulder at Kagome, who was in an awkward half-crouch on the ground, unsure whether she should remain seated or do something.

"Er…" Kagome didn't know what to say. She had a feeling that if she tried to put her helpful observation into words, it would sound so very extremely… strange, for lack of a better word. Years of motherly instinct, awakened by recent care of a certain kitsune, reared up inside her, and before she could stop herself, she was pushing herself up onto her knees, leaning forward, reaching out a surprisingly steady hand… and briskly patting the Killing Perfection's butt.

To say his reaction was exaggerated would be an understatement. He froze, stiff as a board, golden eyes wide with shock. As if he could not believe that she had actually touched his person, he slowly twisted his neck back further to stare at his own bottom. And then his eyes rose to meet hers.

Her errant hand returned demurely to her side, where it hung innocently. Mentally berating her stupid hand, Kagome was sure she was about to die. As if they too knew her fate, the woods fell absolutely silent all around them, and the only sound was that of her wildly beating heart.

One white blur later, Kagome found herself knocked flat on her back, a disturbed taiyoukai leaning over her.

"I'm sorry!" she squeaked, but he silenced her with a subtle narrowing of his eyes. I don't want to die, oh gosh, I was only trying to help the guy!

Then he said something that threw her for a loop.

"I never knew, Kagome."

Big fat red question marks started popping out of Kagome's head, like what? "Uhh?"

Inhuman eyes gleaming in amusement, the rest of his face as wooden as ever, he gazed down at her. "You should have said something sooner," he murmured, leaning in closer.

What?! Whatwhatwhatwhatwhat?!

Panicking, Kagome pushed Sesshomaru off her waist and scooched backwards as fast as she could. Once she was a safe distance away, she pointed a shaky finger at him. As soon as she trusted herself to form coherent words, she managed, "What… in the world… do you think you're doing?!"

He looked perfectly calm as he stood up and brushed his clothes off. "It is this one's understanding that you have made advancements on his person."

When Kagome was done weeding through all the fancy talk, she didn't like what she saw. He thought she was hitting on him! Her cheeks flushed with mortification. Maybe death would have been better than this.

"Uh, no. I was not making advancements on you, Lord Sesshomaru," she told him firmly, tacking on his title as an afterthought so she didn't seem murder-worthy rude. "From when you were sitting on the ground, the seat of your hakamas got soiled. I was merely dusting it off."

She expected instant dejection, perhaps untamable rage. She was prepared to flee, mouth slowly opening in anticipation of the moment when she would have to scream Inuyasha's name. And then Sesshomaru surprised her again.

He tilted his head ever so slightly to the side, and that tiny movement shifted his body to catch the sunlight perfectly; his hair was transformed into a banner of silver fire, draped so perfectly across his shoulders and down his back as if by an artist. Eyes glimmering as if he knew her admiration, he simply said, "Is that so?"

"Yes." Kagome was about to sigh with relief. It looked like this was going to blow over without any trouble. And then…

"Oh, miko, why do you lie to yourself?"

More like oh, God. Reminded of a certain wolf prince, Kagome prayed that Sesshomaru had not come down with Kouga Syndrome. Or that this was all a dream. The more she thought about it, the more it likely it seemed. The afternoon had started out normally, but it had gotten way too bizarre. She had probably fallen asleep after Inuyasha left or something.

"I'm not lying to anyone. I was just trying to help. It was instinct." Feeling vulnerable there on the dirt, Kagome got to her feet so they would be on more equal footing. As she straightened, she thought, Oh, who am I kidding? The guy was like, a solid head and shoulders taller than her. "Um, so yeah. I thought I'd get that cleared up." She turned to pack up her things, but his drawl made her freeze.

"Instinct, miko? Is that also your excuse for subtly sniffing me as we played your game?"

Her jaw dropped. Yes, she had been inhaling his scent a little eagerly, but- -he smelled good! Pine and green tea and almonds and a definite male musk. Beside, she hadn't been shoving her nose up his face. She had just taken deeper breaths. How had he noticed? She was about to explain that you couldn't smell like really good tea and not expect to be sniffed by random people when he continued on.

"Is instinct also your excuse for ogling this one countless times, not only this day but previously as well? Do you tell me instinct drove you to spy upon me whilst I bathed in the secluded hot spring, not two moons ago, not half a day's walk from this very spot?"

Oh my god. Her face was burning. It felt like it was about to burst into flames. Oh my god. Oh my god. "It was an accident- -"

"Upon recognizing my presence, an accidental intruder would have made herself scarce. However, you, Kagome, stayed in the treeline for nearly an hour."

Unable to deny it, she threw her arms up in the air. "Well then, Mr. I-have-eyeballs-in-the-back-of-my-head, why didn't you say anything?"

He gave an airy toss of his hair. "Who am I to deny instinct?"

"You can't- -"

"Ah, Kagome, that's not all. Did you know that as I stand vigil for Rin sometimes at night, hidden in the forest, I can hear one's exclaiming in their sleep. Especially if they are as loud as you are."

She wasn't sure where this was leading up to, but it was mildly disturbing, but at the same time reassuring, that Sesshomaru lurked in the forest outside of their hut some nights. "Go on."

"Well, then, as you most likely aren't aware of your own unconscious ramblings, this Sesshomaru will quote some of the things cried out in your sleep for all to hear." He cocked his head, then did a drop-dead impersonation of her voice. "Sesshomaru? Where are you? Sesshomaru? Sesshomaru! I can't find you! Sesshomaru, I need you!"

He sounded so uncannily like her that Kagome had to check that her own lips weren't flapping. But her mouth was certainly hanging open again as not to soon, she realized what he was saying. "I do not say those things!"

"Oh, but you certainly do. I would even say you sounded infatuated with me."

Her face got even hotter as she slowly remembered some dreams during which everything was dark and all she knew was that she had to find Sesshomaru. "Look, I don't know what you're talking about," she said, but it sounded feeble even to her own ears.

"Hmm, it seems your dreams elude your reach. Do you remember, then, two weeks ago in that very hot spring where you spied upon me?"

For a moment, she had no idea what he was talking about. And then it all came flooding back. Oh. My. God. Please, no. Please don't let him be going where I think he's going...

He was.

"I don't know if it was instinct that drove you, but you seemed certainly to be in considerable admiration of this Sesshomaru as you- -"

"No! You don't have to say it!" Kagome cried, her face strongly resembling a dismayed tomato. "I get it, I get it! I have the hots for you. Oh no!" Mentally slapping herself for saying that, she promptly shut her mouth and waited nervously for his reaction.

In a completely anti-climactic gesture, Sesshomaru turned away and started examining the chessboard, apparently dismissing her.

Kagome was left blinking in shock. Maybe this was a diversion tactic? It was technically still his turn, because she had made the last move, but it was pretty obvious he was going to win, so what was he doing? He had already demonstrated that he had the pieces' functions down perfectly. But he continued to gaze at the game, seemingly captivated. Hesitantly, she shuffled forward a couple steps to see what he was doing.

As she watched, the elegant taiyoukai made a single move, placing one of his queens on a white square. Kagome studied the board, and at first she didn't realize what had happened. Then, as it slowly clicked and she was inspecting the positions for a final verification, Sesshomaru looked up, prompting her to meet his eyes, and flashed her a condescending smile. With a sinking feeling, she knew what he was going to say before he even opened his mouth.

"Checkmate."

-oOo-

Day twelve, and the final event of 12 Days of Christmas, in which I updated each of my SessKags or posted a oneshot every day until the 25th.

We're finally done, guys! Oh gosh, I thought I'd never be able to make a post a day, and I actually had a few 'hot off the keyboard' updates, including this one! Well, I got through it, and enjoyed my inbox being flooded with alerts. You guys are the best!

And here comes the dreaded author's plea: Review, por favor! I would love it if you took a moment of your day to give me some feedback! ;D

Cheers!

Philosophy Blue

 

INUYASHA © Rumiko Takahashi/Shogakukan • Yomiuri TV • Sunrise 2000
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