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I Fell for Myself by Stella Mira

You Are Cruel

"Miko."

Kagome stirred at the sound of the male voice, smooth baritone, familiar and unwelcome – then she lifted her lids. Slow, heavy ascent, spine bending and straightening, she surveyed her surroundings – all but the man standing before her. She lay on a bed, in the centre of a cavernous chamber, piled with pelts of the finest ivory, soft furs and murmurs of lavishness. She took a few moments to gather herself, but she knew she couldn't avoid him for long. Low, husky, her voice echoed in the large chamber when she addressed him, when she raised her eyes to his level.

"Where are we?"

"At my mother's dwelling."

His revelation took her aback, stunned her for the merest of moments. She licked her lips, moistened her dry flesh.

"Your…mother's? Why would you bring me here?"

"You will know when you meet with her."

If she strained her ears, Kagome could hear the sigh in his words, but she didn't care – Kagome had other matters that racked her mind, less important but more wanted.

"I told Inuyasha I would return by nightfall. What time is it?"

"It is noon."

She would have sighed in relief had Sesshōmaru not said what he did after that.

"I shall tell the hanyō you will not return until the matter is settled, until we have our answers."

"Inuyasha..." The mere mention of the hanyō's name made her swallow thickly, struggle with the furs as she tried to rise. "My pack…they know nothing – nothing of this. I need to return to them."

"No." Sesshōmaru might not have restrained her physically, might not have used force, yet the decisiveness in his tone was enough to give her pause, to make her regard him with suspicion.

"Bokusenō wishes to speak with you once more. There are things he has not yet told us."

A snort made its way past her lips, full of derision, but mostly weary. "I've learned enough."

"I have not."

His admission spoke for itself, unraveled the yarn of doubt.

"So this is the real reason?" It was redundant, the answer staring at her with eyes of gold and thin lips. Kagome scorned those eyes. They pierced right through her, held the secret of her regret, cogent of things he should have never known. For a moment, she forgot to breathe.

"Ask your questions, Sesshōmaru. I will answer on one condition." An attrition of teeth, furor and sorrow in her voice, but provocation in her eyes, salient promise, as it slipped past her tongue, brushed against his ears. "You must never bring it up again."

Cool but hot, Kagome's voice washed over him, drained him. Sesshōmaru's gaze traveled over tawny skin, full breasts, met the blue copper of her irises. A crescent grin on her lips, languor and jaded glint in her eyes, she dared him to open his mouth.

"We shall speak of this later, miko." Sesshōmaru wished she wouldn't look at him with those eyes. Whether anger or guilt or a mix of both, he couldn't tell what it was, what Kagome saw in him, but it made his skin burn, feel heavier, cling to his flesh. He knew her blame fell more on herself, her reactions had more than proven it, yet he considered never asking his questions if only not to have her look at him like that ever again. The ghost of life, blood of his blood, would urge his tongue – only that – they were both aware, but neither of them would mention it now.

"My mother awaits you in the gardens. Talk with her when you have bathed and eaten."

He didn't know what response to expect, but surely not the one she gave – a chuckle, full of dismissal and loftiness.

"Why?"

It was not his place to tell her, not his right – hence he kept his silence once more.

She sighed, spared him a glance, hawk-eyed and silent warning before he left. "Don't tell Inuyasha anything he's not supposed to know."

A nod of his chin, tacit farewell, and he turned to leave. Sesshōmaru gave her his back, pretended the wetness under her lashes was sweat, the salt in the air an illusion of a scent.

~~~~~

Sesshōmaru meandered through the lush gardens, sought his mother's presence before he left. He found her amidst the bountiful trees, wafts carrying the scent of cherry blossoms. The woman who stood before him was an eyeful of silver and scarlet. Apples and plumpness were her lips, argent and silk her hair, vanilla and moonflowers her scent. She laughed a songlike laughter, and the wind laughed in consort with her.

"You come and go as you please, my son. Where to, this time?"

"I must speak with the hanyō."

"Strange guests, ningen females, you bring me – always."

The overt satire in the elegance of her voice effectively raised his guard.

"Though perhaps the miko is not what she seems to be at first glance." The way Inukimi chose to phrase this, how the gold of her eyes shimmered with secrets untold, olden wiles, warned Sesshōmaru there was more to his mother's words, more than she implied. Sesshōmaru scowled, thin lines, mild vexation on the expanse of his forehead.

"I do not care for your wiles, mother. If you wish to say something then do so."

There was that laughter again, full of waggishness and knowledge.

"She is not your mate." It was more of a question and less of a statement. Is she to be your mate was what his mother truly asked.

Though it was obvious, Sesshōmaru gave the answer she solicited.

"No." She is not, she will never be.

A frown above her brows and a dip in the hollow of her cheeks, Inukimi huffed. "Then why bring her to me?"

It was the one question Sesshōmaru wished to avoid for a while longer, but he couldn't delay it forever, anyhow. His mother would know, soon, much sooner than he would have liked. Perhaps it would be best if she heard the truth from Sesshōmaru's lips.

"She lost a pup."

Inukimi stilled – and the wind stilled with her. For the barest of moments. When she next spoke, her voice was soft but cold, the softest and coldest tones he had ever heard from her.

"Yours?"

Sesshōmaru kept quiet, didn't bother voicing what was self-evident – and she laughed again, her laughter pure, reminiscent of bell-like lightning amidst electrum skies.

"Of course. You are cruel, my son…crueler than I." The barest split of woe overlay the laughter in her voice, but Sesshōmaru could still hear it, see it in the slender bow of her spine when she turned her back at him. There was nothing more to be said on either part, so he took his leave.

Cruel, she said. It was true for both of them. His mother could only show cruel affection to him. It was the only kind she harbored, the only kind they could both accept.

 

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