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A Case for Hope by thetroll

Chapter 1

Kagome stood at the edge of the cliff, just mere millimeters from the long drop down, and studied the bottom of the cliff with mild concern. Would it be tall enough?

She had left the village two days ago and just started walking, ignoring the fiery pain in her body. She hadn't cared where she was going and no one had tried to stop her. 

And why would they? She was alone.

Sango and Miroku no longer had any time for her with their growing brood—she was too ashamed to face them even if that weren't the case—and she didn't think she could take one more day of InuYasha's verbal abuse. He had been so wonderful, so gentle, when she'd first returned to the past. He had promised to make up for the family she'd left behind in her era and to give her a new one here.

But that dream of a better life had turned into her own personal nightmare.

It had started off innocently enough. He thought she should pull her hair back so it wouldn't get in her face when she worked beside him, gathering herbs as Kaede taught her their use. It made sense so she'd agreed and sure enough, it had been cooler and stopped getting in her way. He'd liked it long, too, so she'd stopped cutting it, even the bangs, but she hadn't seen a problem with that, either. And when he suggested she don priestess garb, well that had made sense, too. After all, she was training under Kaede to fully hone her priestess powers.

He also encouraged her to be more demure, more ladylike, like Sango was. He claimed she stood out too much as brash as she was and, well, Kagome had wanted to be more mature herself. Sango had agreed to help, though she'd told Kagome that Kagome didn't need to change. But Kagome had insisted. Sango hadn't been happy, though, and it had been obvious. It wasn't long before the lessons were finally called off.

After that, she'd spent less and less time with Sango and Miroku and more time with InuYasha as they prepared for their upcoming wedding. It had surprised her when he'd insisted they marry on his human night—his hanyo form had never bothered her and he knew it—but he'd been adamant and finally, she'd given in and agreed.

Somewhere along the way, it had begun to change but she didn't understand why or what she'd done wrong. She didn't even know when it had begun, but InuYasha had grown more and more critical, especially after the wedding. Nothing she did ever seemed to meet his exacting standards.

Finally, one day she looked at her reflection in the river, really looked, and she didn't recognize herself—because the woman in the river was Kikyo.

She should have been angry or upset but instead she just fell to the bank, drained, and had lain there for hours. When InuYasha had finally come looking for her, he'd been furious at her dirtied appearance but she couldn't find it in herself to fight back. She sat there and let him yell at her, not even reacting when he began calling her stupid, idiot, and a disgrace to him. He'd insisted she bathe then and there and she had, but it had been his hand that had propelled her forward. 

Somehow, she never actually thought he'd hit her. She should have paid more attention, she should have realized he would—after all, hadn't he hit Shippo all the time when the kit was small? But somehow she never really thought he'd hit her. She'd been too stunned to do more than obey his harsh command to clean herself up, even when he hit her again and again for moving too slowly for his liking.

Later, she'd thought about leaving that night but as if he'd known her thoughts, he'd threatened to hunt her down if she ever disappeared again.

The only option left was this. She couldn't go home—the well's transportation powers had died. And she didn't dare go to her friends for help. Even if they had been inclined to help—and she didn't know if they would; abuse was looked at very differently in this era than it was in her own—she couldn't bear to get them involved. What if he hurt them? He'd hurt herafter all.

She was too ashamed to admit she'd let it happen, too.

But this... This would end everything. She wouldn't suffer any longer and her friends would be safe. All she had to do was be brave enough to take this next step. She could do it; she'd already fled InuYasha during his human night after using her knowledge of herbs to ensure he'd sleep for awhile. 

He hadn't found her yet, but it was only a matter of time unless she did this... And she would do this.

Kagome looked over the edge again, mentally judged the distance, and took a deep breath before she jumped.

Just a few more seconds and nothing else would ever matter again...

.

Sesshomaru traveled idly around the base of a large cliff. He'd sent Jaken and Ah-Un to deliver supplies to Rin while he eliminated a particularly pesky boar yokai that had taken up residence in this area. He wouldn't have cared what the boar did if it had been anywhere else, but the boar had settled in the Western Lands far too close to Rin's human village for comfort and had begun abducting human women, likely to mate with.

It was a revolting notion, but at least it would give him something to do. There had been rather little of that as of late.

A movement caught his attention out of the corner of his eye. Suspecting the boar had found him but surprised at the lack of warning, he leapt up to meet it.

To his astonishment, it was not the boar but his hanyo half-brother's wife before him and he caught her reflexively, bringing her back to the ground without stopping to think about his actions. Rin cared for the woman and he had no desire to see his ward cry. 

But when he looked down at the woman in his arms, the words of reprimand over her foolishness fled. 

The priestess was covered in bruises and cuts that oozed a sickly yellow fluid. He didn't need to scent them to know it was InuYasha's doing; he'd seen the hanyo enough in battle to recognize the cause of the injuries.

Still, it was almost beyond his keen. InuYasha, half-breed though he was, was the son of the Great General of the West. His lineage was long, powerful, and unbroken. They did not strike their mates.

The woman had lost consciousness and he briefly wrestled with what to do with her. Finally, he decided he had no other choice. Custom dictated he return her to her husband, but her husband had been the source of her injuries. Therefore, as the clan's alpha, it was his duty in the absence of a mate.

He summoned his cloud and took to the air, refusing to second-guess his decision. He would heal her. What happened next was irrelevant.

.

Kagome woke atop an unfamiliar futon with the softest blanket she'd ever felt gently wrapped around her. She blearily looked around the room but didn't recognize any of her surroundings. The room itself was far too large to be her home and there was no pit in the middle for cooking. Instead, there were several tansu against one delicately screened wall and a screen set up in another area of the room, likely sectioned off for bathing or dressing.

"You are awake."

She started at the familiar voice and searched the room again to see Sesshomaru slide open a screen door and step within the room.

All at once, she recalled her attempted suicide and the fall. Something had interrupted it, she recalled, but she'd lost consciousness before she'd seen what had caught her. Now, she realized it must have been Sesshomaru.

She licked her dry lips before she spoke. "You should have left me," she said, looking away. 

If her lack of graciousness bothered him, he didn't show it. "You were injured," he pointed out.

Kagome noticed the past tense and looked herself over. To her surprise, she saw none of the horrible injuries that had wracked her body. "You healed me?"

He inclined his head briefly. "You are in this one's shiro. He ensured you received the aid your damaged body required."

"A doctor, then," she said, understanding immediately.

He inclined his head again. "How do you feel? The wounds the hanyo left had become infected. It was thought you might lose a leg but it seems you were able to recover without such measures."

At once, she recalled how she got the injuries and flushed in shame. "I'm fine. Thank you for not amputating my leg." Her words were stiff because it didn't matter if he had. It wouldn't have stopped her from trying to kill herself again.

"This one is aware of what it is like to live without a limb," he answered, shaking off her gratitude. "If you are well—"

"I'm not going back," she told him, guessing where the conversation was going. "I won't go back to InuYasha."

His brows raised. "This one was not suggesting that you do so," he replied in a surprisingly patient tone. "You do not need to return."

"Yeah, well, he'll find me anyway so it doesn't matter." She struggled to push her tired body upright. Her injuries had healed, but it seemed her body was still too weak to move under its own power.

"Do you really think the hanyo could hope to challenge this one?" Sesshomaru asked in an imperious tone as he moved to help her sit. He reached for some cushions she hadn't noticed before and used them to prop her upright.

Kagome snorted. "Doesn't matter what I think. He'll still try."

Sesshomaru raised a brow. "Then let him."

He turned to leave the room by the same screen door he'd entered. As he slid the door open again, he turned back to her. "You are welcome to stay... Kagome."

Kagome didn't bother to answer. As soon as she was well enough, she would find another method of ending her own life. 

.


It was easier said than done, though, Kagome quickly realized. In fact, it was almost as if Sesshomaru knew of her intentions. 

She was never alone. If he himself could not be with her—which wasn't often; he'd even had her brought to his own rooms each night and slept beside her—then he ensured others were. Some appeared to be soldiers under Sesshomaru's command but others appeared to be retainers or servants. 

Either way, it seemed they were all fiercely loyal and evidently Sesshomaru had given them enough instruction to ensure she would never have the chance to act on her desire.

As the days turned to weeks, Kagome grew more despondent. Finally, resigned to the fact that Sesshomaru would not directly give her the opportunity for a quick death, she elected for a slow one: she stopped eating.

"You will eat." Sesshomaru's one brooked no argument when he arrived the first night of her hunger strike. He brought a tray of food with him and it smelled amazing but Kagome pretended not to notice the rumbling of her stomach.

"I'm not hungry," she said, turning on her side on the spare futon he'd had moved into this room. She was determined to ignore him.

"Kagome." The sound of her name had her turn back around. She'd never heard him address her personally before. "You will eat, Kagome."

This time, he cajoled instead of demanded but Kagome was determined.

"No."

"Hnn." He walked over to her and placed the tray beside her. She thought he would leave but instead he sat down on the floor beside her and waited.

"I won't eat," she warned him, "no matter how long you sit there."

She rolled over onto her other side so she wouldn't have to see him and closed her eyes. She wouldn't give in and she wouldn't pay him any attention, no matter what he said.

To her surprise, he seemed to ignore her words. "The first formal gift this one received from his honorable father was a wooden sword. It was modeled after his father's own fabled blade, the Tessaiga. This one was so proud to wield it. He carried it with him, even to bed, though his mother tried to dissuade him from the habit. He called it the Mighty Fang and used it to cut down his enemies."

Despite herself, she listened.

"Of course," Sesshomaru continued with quiet amusement, "he was still a young pup. He had no real enemies to slay save for the ones in his own mind. Yet he did not falter. He fought with great bravery." Sesshomaru sounded even more amused now at the memory. "There was an area in this one's father's shiro in the heavens where this one's mother grew pure white lilies. It was a source of great pride. Many clans requested them for their own ceremonies, though she often did not acquiesce. It was said that a gift of her lilies would bless a couple forever."

Kagome could guess where the story was going but she forced herself to stay quiet and not give him the satisfaction of speaking aloud.

"One day, during a particularly fierce battle, this one's warring led him deep into the garden by the lake. Deeper and deeper he fought until eventually, he wound up in the bed of lilies." Sesshomaru chuckled as Kagome gaped at the surprising but handsome sound.  "His mother was most displeased. This one was banished from bladework for many moons and forced instead to tend the damaged lilies alongside his mother."

Kagome could picture in her mind the ensuing battle and the damaged flowers. Though she didn't know what Sesshomaru's mother looked like, it wasn't hard to picture what she might look like and soon, Kagome saw the whole scene unfurl in her mind.

"When this one once again took up the Mighty Fang, he resolved to stay away from the flowers and his mother's ire forever." Sesshomaru finished the story with a small degree of amusement. "You will find offshoots of this one's mother's lilies in the shiro’s garden as well. Perhaps you would care to see them?"

Kagome was tempted but she had a feeling she knew what the price would be so she kept silent.

"Hnn." Sesshomaru stood abruptly. "What a pity. The flowers have been infused with yoki and are at their most beautiful on nights of the full moon...like tonight. Perhaps another time."

Kagome's curiosity grew the better of her and she grudgingly agreed to see them. As expected, Sesshomaru requested she eat first.

She chafed at the command but did as he bade. He then led her into the garden to see the famed lilies. 

They were gorgeous, reflecting the moonlight with a soft, silvery glow of the yoki within them. As they walked past, the oriental lilies opened up, displaying silvery white petals with flecks of gold at the middle of each petal, running small, golden streaks.

Sesshomaru handed her a flower and as she watched, infused it with some of his own yoki before handing it to her. A faint green glow melded with the silver, creating a soft but beautiful effect.

When she returned to her futon to sleep, the flower seemed to watch over her.

.

More days passed. Kagome's hunger strike failed miserably. Each time she'd tried, Sesshomaru had appeared with another story. She learned of his childhood, of his family, and even of his first meetings with Jaken, Rin, and Ah-Un. 

But sooner or later, reality had to return and it did in the form of InuYasha.

"Keh. Gimme my wife, bastard." She heard him bellow long before she saw him. She followed its source that morning to see Sesshomaru and InuYasha standing in Sesshomaru's receiving hall. Sesshomaru remained seated on his cushion, ignoring his brother's posturing, which, she noticed as she entered the room, only fueled his brother's ire all the more.

"This one does not have anything in his possession that belongs to you. Take your leave, InuYasha, and search elsewhere." Sesshomaru's voice was firm as his gaze left InuYasha to settle on her own.

"Oy, bastard, I can smell her scent all over this place. I know yah have her so give her back!" InuYasha unsheathed his sword and brandished it wildly.

Kagome flinched as she saw his claws clench around the hilt. She remembered the pain as they dug into her own skin.

"You are not welcome here, InuYasha. Leave." Sesshomaru ignored InuYasha and beckoned Kagome over. Slowly, she went to him, careful to give InuYasha a wide berth but she hadn't fully made it to him when InuYasha noticed her.

"There you are, wench!" InuYasha glowered at her as he sheathed the blade, noticing her unbound hair and the delicate kimono Sesshomaru had provided. "And you're changing. You look like some princess," he spat. "You're my wife, K'gome, in case you forgot."

Sesshomaru stood then and gently pulled Kagome behind him. "She is not yours, InuYasha."

"Keh," InuYasha snorted. "She sure as hell ain't yours, asshole. Hand her over and we'll be on our way. You don't want a human like her stinking up the place anyway."

Kagome found herself pressing into Sesshomaru's back, drawing comfort as she saw InuYasha flex his claws. She could still see her blood on them...

"Does your pathetic nose fail you, hanyo?" Sesshomaru growled softly. "Can you not scent this one's scent on her? She has slept beside him every night since she left your presence... And she has enjoyed what he has to offer."

Is that way he insisted on putting our futons next to one another and sleeping side by side?

She looked around Sesshomaru again to see InuYasha's nostrils flare. "Like hell," he growled back. "I won't give her up to the likes of you! Kikyo is mine!"

Something within her broke. As Sesshomaru placed a comforting hand on her shoulder, she rounded around him to glare at her husband. "I am not Kikyo!" she snapped. "My name is Kagome, InuYasha! Kiyko is dead! Please just leave me be, InuYasha!" 

"Like hell she is!" InuYasha hollered back. "I saw her die! I held her in my arms! I saw the souls leave her body—but then I remembered that her soul came from you—it returned to you! Maybe you're just mad at how badly I treated you before, but I promise things'll be different. There's no need to be so mad, Kikyo. Don't hide away from me within her. I just want you."

"You have no claim to Kagome," Sesshomaru announced calmly, stopping Kagome from speaking as he gently squeezed her shoulder. "This one is stepping in as alpha and freeing her of you. Be gone, InuYasha, and seek your happiness elsewhere. Perhaps, in time, you will learn the lessons needed to find it again."

InuYasha charged his brother, claws extended, but Sesshomaru calmly used his yoki whip to knock InuYasha away. InuYasha was flung through the wall, punching a hole in it as his body was ejected from the shiro.

"See to it that the hanyo is barred from entering again," Sesshomaru said to the soldiers who'd stood at attention in the room. "And see to it that the hole is repaired."

With that, Sesshomaru left the room as Kagome scrambled after him, too stunned to fully accept that InuYasha would never trouble her again.

.

"You didn't have to do that," Kagome said later that night as they walked through the garden.

Sesshomaru looked down at her with a thoughtful expression. "Perhaps," he agreed easily. "This one is aware that you can fight your own battles, Kagome, but this is not one he wished you to fight alone. There is no shame in accepting his help."

"Well... Thank you." She looked up at the crescent moon above them. It resembled all too well the mark on Sesshomaru's own forehead. "But he'll try again."

"Perhaps," Sesshomaru said again, slowing to stand before her.  "But the hanyo will not succeed. Even if this one's guards did not interfere, you are stronger now. You will be able to repel him should he attempt this again in the future, even without this one's aid. You simply needed to realize you could."

She was surprised by his words, and then thoughtfully considered them. "Perhaps," she echoed as she, too, stopped to look up at him, realizing that it was true. Somehow, over the weeks she'd spent coddled by Sesshomaru's gentleness, Kagome had begun to heal. She'd felt brave enough to stand up to InuYasha, though she'd done so with the confidence that she'd have help.

In time, she might regain her natural confidence, though her wariness of men would likely remain for some time. She would never again put herself in such a vulnerable position. 

"I don't know why you helped me, but... Thank you." Her words were softly spoken.

"You are worthy." His reply was simple. "Perhaps, in time, you will even discover you have become stronger in spite of InuYasha. In time, you may even find the affection you seek again."

His fingers gently ran through her hair for a moment and only then did she realize the possibility he was offering her. Not now, not even soon, but one day, when she was ready, he would be waiting.

She considered him, studying his features. Sesshomaru was a harsh man at times, but he had been nothing but gentle. So had InuYasha, but as she reflected over their weeks together, she realized none of the warning signs of InuYasha's were Sesshomaru's as well. She still couldn't say she wasn't blinded; it would take time for her to trust her judgment again.

But, as they continued to walk through the park side by side with his hand casually draped around her as if to shelter her from the harshness of the world, for the first time in a long time, she had the hope of a better tomorrow.

 

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