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Onus by Drosselmeyer

Chapter 1

The storm that had threatened all afternoon rumbled, spilling its first drops as his car rolled up, and Kagome pulled her pot roast out of the oven, setting the kettle to boil just as he walked through the front door.

With a smile, she washed her hands and dashed out of the kitchen, swiping her wet hands over her shirt to dry them. “You’re back early!”

“Thirty minutes is hardly early.” The door shut with a soft click behind him, and Sesshoumaru bent to accept her kiss hello while tossing his keys on the console.

Kagome’s smile faltered at the subtle bite in his voice. “Long day?”

He sighed, rubbing his temples. “Very.” Toeing off his shoes, he neglected to put them with the others.

Her brow creased at the uncharacteristic sloppiness. “What can I do? Dinner’s done, but I can keep it warm and—”

His mouth pressed firmly against hers, cutting her off. The kiss was hard and demanding—not at all like he usually kissed her. It took her by surprise, the impulsive recklessness of it weakening her knees and leaving her clinging to his front, unwilling to let go, and the sharp beat of his heart thrummed under her fingertips.

He’s hiding something.

A minute later, he pulled back as if all were normal, straightening her shirt where he had caught her. “Dinner is fine.”

She shot him a suspicious look. Oh, no you don’t. “Sesshoumaru…”

“Your water finished boiling.”

Her face fell flat, but she didn’t push it. He wouldn’t spill what was bothering him until he was ready. Suddenly tired herself, Kagome just nodded and turned back to the kitchen. “Tea?”

“Please.” He offered a small, tight smile, reaching up to loosen his hair from its clip. “But let me shower first.”

He headed for their room, thunder cracking behind him.

Eyes wide, Kagome whirled back around on her heel. “You can’t shower in this storm!”

“I will take my chances with the lightning.”

“I don’t think—”

Dismissive, he waved his hand. “It is fine.”

With that, he was gone.

Oooooooh!

She hated it when he did that.

Pushing back irritation, Kagome set his shoes where they belonged and went back to the kitchen, shredding the meat waiting in the Dutch oven before pulling out two teacups.

“What is going on with him?” she mumbled, staring out the window. The sight didn’t make her feel any better. It was coming down in sheets now, thunder echoing between flashes of lightning.

She frowned. He really shouldn’t be showering. Still, she couldn’t blame him for wanting to wash the hospital off—never mind the thick makeup hiding his markings. It was the same routine whenever he got home. Shoes off at the door, kiss her hello. Shower. Dinner.

The shoes and kiss had been different.

Setting the teacups on the counter, she didn’t look away from the rain as her fingers drifted to the soft flesh of her lips. “Ow.”

They were tender, though not quite bruised. But that kiss spoke to something being…

“Off.” She cocked her hip and frowned, resting against the counter. “Something’s off.”

Still mulling over things, she fixed their tea, the scent of sulfides and tannins mixing with the roast waiting to be plated as she lost herself to thought. Off was concerning. He wasn’t in the habit of being carelessly rough with her. Never had been.

The thunder broke as she removed the tea bags, and she cocked her head, listening for the shower. He’s still in there.

Shaking her head, she dug sugar cubes out of the pantry and grabbed the milk. “Taking longer than normal.”

Mechanically, she set to finishing their tea, her brows furrowed. Sloppy with his shoes and rough with his kiss? And now lingering in the shower.

“In a thunderstorm,” she grumbled, looking out the window as she stirred in milk. What a day to take forever. He normally only does that when…

Her hands froze. “Oh no.”

Dropping the spoon, she cursed herself before turning off the stove and rushing out of the kitchen. Kagome, you idiot.

Running water grew louder as she dashed into their bedroom. Clothes trailed across the floor—something else he didn’t do—and Kagome picked them up, dumping them in the hamper.

Tenseiga lay silent on their bed.

The sight was stifling, and a different heaviness washed over her. She stopped, looking at the sword. It was difficult to describe the feelings that rushed through her as she watched it laying there, but they tingled up her spine as electric as the lightning outside in the storm. Awe, hatred, grief…

Respect.

Feeling her throat tighten, she made for the bathroom and didn’t bother knocking when she reached the door. Pushing it open, she flinched when a cloud of steam blasted her face, curling her hair at the edges. It was dense, hot. But as she peered through it, not even the thick vapor was enough to hide the heartbreaking image of him.

Tears pricked at her eyes. “Sesshoumaru?”

The lack of an answer didn’t surprise her.

He sat underneath the pounding stream, his knees drawn up to his chest and his face hidden in them. His long, silver hair fell in heavy, wet ropes, some plastered to his skin while the rest floated in the gathering pool of water. And through the glass door, she saw the almost imperceptible movement in his shoulders.

They were shaking.

Her throat ached, and she tapped her fingers on the glass. “Sessh?”

His head lifted, the rest of him unfolding with it, and he pushed the sopping mass of his hair out of his face, stretching out his legs. The shower was a decent size, but he almost filled it, and as he pushed the shower door open, he let his head fall back against the tile, red-rimmed gold shifting her direction.

“Who?” she whispered, afraid to ask but wanting to know.

A stray lock of hair fell into his face, and he shoved it aside before answering her. “Liam.”

Kagome nodded, the tears breaking free, and her hand pressed to her mouth. “I’m sorry.”

Looking down, Sesshoumaru flicked at the water with a subtle shrug. “That is cancer.” He watched the droplets splash the tile, biting at his lower lip as he did. “No child should…”

He couldn’t finish.

Without a word, Kagome stripped her clothes off and joined him, shaking off the hot stream of water as she sat and looped her arm through his. “Was he comfortable?”

A bitter laugh. “Smiling and attempting to play this morning.” He shrugged again, turning his head to rest his chin on top of her head. “He crashed shortly after lunch.” Another swallow. “Nothing could be done.”

Her brow furrowed. “How—”

“Children are unpredictable like that.”

She couldn’t say anything to that, so she didn’t and instead wrapped her arms around him, pulling him close as he leaned against her and let her hold his weight. He didn’t make a sound, but she felt when his shoulders began to shake again and tangled her fingers into the hair near his nape, massaging the base of his skull.

When he chose work in pediatric oncology, she had stared at him like he had two heads, memories of Rin crashing to the surface and screaming the chaos of grief. Her loss had been a harsh, ugly reality, painting the depth of his mourning in shades she never knew existed. And through time as Rin’s children and theirs succumbed to mortality, she watched those wounds grow deeper, discovering a part of him he hid from the world.

The once-feared Lord of the West mourned deeply, and where children were concerned, that grief was something overpowering.

“Why do you do this?” She stroked his back, feeling the water trickle between her fingertips and his skin, and the warm, wet sensation was a welcome distraction from the concern twisting her insides.

“Do what?”

She frowned at the choked tightness in his voice. “Throw yourself into the heart of loss.” Touching under his chin, she tilted his face up and met the vacant look in his eyes. “Especially with children.”

Not wanting to answer, Sesshoumaru looked away, but Kagome didn’t let it go.

“Hey—”

“What do you wish me to say?” He turned back to her, his eyes flashing with a slow burning anger only inches from hers.

“The truth.” Kagome held his gaze, refusing to back down, and threaded their fingers together even as her shoulders knotted up. “I saw Tenseiga,” she said quietly.

Thin, razor-like pupils expanded and softened, the anger simmering behind them cooling. The tension bled out of her muscles then, and she sank back against the stall wall, flopping their joined hands down between them.

Sesshoumaru tilted his head back and closed his eyes. “I apologize.”

“Don’t. I just…” She trailed off.

“Just what?”

With a self-deprecating laugh, Kagome shrugged. “I forget that you’re still just a bit wild.” Her lips quirked up at the corners as water droplets streamed down their faces. “It’s kinda easy to do when I watch you leave the house in scrubs covered with cartoons.”

He snorted and lay his head back again. “I am getting rid of them.”

“Don’t you dare. The kids love them.”

His answering smile was small. “It is easy to want to please them.” Shoulders wilting, he sighed. “Harder to let go. Tenseiga…”

She waited.

The words struggled to get out, and he pressed his lips together, gathering his thoughts. “Tenseiga is a responsibility. Working with the children”—his voice caught again, and he cleared his throat—“serves to remind me of that responsibility.” He lifted their joined hands and kissed her knuckles. “It is easy to reach for a sword and save them all. But I cannot do that.”

“But you want to.”

He nodded, struggling to swallow. “I want to. And I hate myself when I cannot.”

It wasn’t a small confession.

Kagome shifted over, climbing into his lap and smoothing weariness from his face before looping her arms around his neck. “Well, I don’t hate you.”

He gave her a flat, watery look. “Miko, you could not find it in yourself to hate Naraku.”

“True.” She started combing through the wet tangles in his hair with her fingers. “But I didn’t like Naraku at all either. “I do like you, however.” Leaning forward, she touched her forehead to his. “And so do all those kids and their parents.”

“They would not if—”

“Stop that.” She kissed him. “And don’t sell them short. They deal with stuff others don’t too.”

It was the truth, and he knew it, so he didn’t argue. Instead, he held her, claws drifting with an absentmindedness over her skin as he processed her words and the day in light of them.

Kagome let him and snatched up the disregarded soap. He didn’t complain when she lathered up a loofah and scrubbed him off as he continued his reflection. He did when she grabbed the shampoo, scrubbed his hair, and got soap in his eyes. And by the time she made for the conditioner, he batted her hands away and took care of it himself, glaring half-heartedly as they sat waiting for it to sink in and do its job.

Vanilla and almond permeated the bathroom, and he wrinkled his nose. “What happened to the unscented?”

Laughing, she flipped his hair over his shoulder. “It ran out. You use more than a salon.”

He gave her a sour look, but his quiet smile broke out a moment later. “I should rinse.”

“It hasn’t been two minutes yet.”

Sesshoumaru rolled his eyes. “It is fine.”

Wiggling backward, Kagome pushed off his legs and stood. “Your choice. But if this humidity gives you frizz, you’ll look like a poodle.” She stepped out of the shower and shrieked when a soapy swat landed on her backside. “Hey!” Ignoring his chuckle while he rinsed, she craned her neck around and grimaced. “I’m using your towel to clean this off.”

Sesshoumaru flicked his hair under the stream, smirked, and said nothing.

Relieved by the action, she couldn’t help smiling back. “You going to be okay?”

The water shut off, and he stepped out, grabbing his towel before she could make good on her threat. “I will be fine.”

Kagome started toweling herself off. “Dinner will help, though I may have to remake the tea. It’s sat out too long.” Wrapping her hair, she grabbed her robe, “Or do you want something harder?”

He paused as he stepped into flannel pants, his eyes darkening. “I am off tomorrow.”

“Liquor it is.” She fluffed out her hair, shaking loose droplets from it, and headed for the door. “Do you want me to put Tenseiga up?”

Tying his own out of the way, he shook his head and reached for his shirt. “I will do it.”

Understanding, she drummed her fingers on the doorjamb. “Okay.” Still drumming, she looked into the bedroom before glancing back at him.

Sesshoumaru arched a brow. “Speak your mind, Kagome.”

Caught, her eyes sparkled, and she turned back to face him. “Your father knew what he was doing leaving the sword to you, you know.”

Brows drawing together, he frowned. “My father left me Tenseiga to teach me a lesson.”

“More than that.” Kagome crossed the bathroom and stopped just in front of him. “He trusted you’d have the wisdom to make the hard choices.”

Something wistful and melancholy took over the frown, and she stood on her toes and kissed his mouth. The vanilla and almond scent of the conditioner still lingered, and she found herself smiling again as she wrapped him in her arms. “I’m here when there’s hard choices.” He stiffened, and she clung tighter, refusing to let go. “Always.”

His tension broke under her reassurance, and Sesshoumaru tucked his face into her neck, hugging her to him. “I know.”

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A/N: Been a while since I've posted to this series. More will come. Their backstory eventually will be covered as well. Thank you for reading!

 

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