Continuing Tales

Tales from the House of the Moon

A InuYasha Story
by Resmiranda

Part 24 of 42

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Tales from the House of the Moon

"Meeting is such sweet sorrow,
For someday we may have to part -
Hush, don't you make a sound,
You're going to let me down."

–Ben Harper, "Ashes"

. . .

It was growing cold again. Kagome could feel the previous days' warmth become laced with the snap of frost and ice; the chill traveled on the clouds welling overhead, blocking out the setting sun and the rising moon, and the smell of cooking fires curled in her nose as the pungent smoke rose and flattened against the grey sky until it was lost. No doubt there was a celestial fireworks display above the clouds, but here on the earth there was only the gathering gloom and the cold, dark whisper of the forest at their backs.

Sesshoumaru made almost no sound as he landed lightly in the dead and broken grass, his shoes flattening the brown stalks with only a murmur, and Kagome noted this fact giddily. She refused to think of anything other than what was happening at the moment, of the rough armor catching her skin, of his hands releasing her legs, of the way his hair slid over her bare fingers and against her clothes. She refused to look up, to see the house before her, to behold the place she had traveled so long and so far to find.

Should she lift her eyes and find Sango there, Kagome knew that she would have no choice but to run, but whether in running she would rush to meet her or rush to flee from her, she could not say.

She could feel her heart pounding against her breast, begging to be set free, as if it had endured enough already and could not take anything more, but she ignored it as she slowly slid down Sesshoumaru's back to touch down in the dead meadow.

The grasses shifted beneath her feet, crackling their corpses against each other. Absently, not at all trying to distract herself from what was happening, she wondered why she made so much noise and Sesshoumaru made so little. It didn't make sense that he should be quieter than she when he clearly weighed so much more.

Will she be happy to see me, like Kouga was?

The thought flashed through her mind as sunlight on a blade, and just as sharp. If she moved too quickly, she would cut herself.

Her blood was still pounding through her veins, and she had yet to lift her eyes from the dead grass beneath her shoes to the house of the taiji-ya, the sister she had left behind so long ago without even saying goodbye.

Will she be angry?

It fascinated her, the criss-cross of each blade crushed by her weight, the smell of winter emanating from the cold ground underneath, as if the world created the seasons with the warmth and cold of its heart; it was all so complex, so familiar, and yet she was in an unfamiliar place. She was a stranger who recognized the world around her, yet had never seen it before.

Long ago, they had tramped through dead fields together, avoiding snakes and lizards, sneezing from the dust kicked up by their feet, laughing together over silly things, complaining together over serious ones. She and Sango, dearest of friends, close as sisters, though they would probably not have been friends if they had met under other circumstances, in other times; Sango's somber air clashed with her own effervescence, the taiji-ya's sadness the too-heavy counterweight to the miko's innocence. So different, they touched each other through the shroud of tears that surrounded the shikon no tama, instead of through any shared ground, and now they were so far apart in life and in time that Kagome thought she could feel the world separate, yawning wide between them.

Will she remember me?

Kagome closed her eyes.

Sesshoumaru waited, but she had still not moved from behind him, and he could smell fear. He turned to gaze at the young woman he had journeyed with for so long, and nearly stepped away from her. Breath hitching in surprise, he swept his gaze over her, taking in her bowed head, her clenched hands, her shaking legs, and it seemed so absurd. She had faced down a dragon, and now, now she was trembling in terror.

He frowned, eyes narrowing as he puzzled. She had been anxious, yes, but now he could hear her thundering heart and her shallow lungs strive to keep her standing, holding her in place in her panic, as though she were awaiting execution. Shuddering under the strain of conflicting impulses, Kagome was on the verge, teetering between confrontation and cowardice.

Balancing with her, Sesshoumaru thought about the world after the decision. Would she run, or would she stay? If she did the latter, would she find peace? And if she did the former, would he blame her?

She shuddered again, something primal rippling through her body before she raised her head to gaze up at him, wide eyes both terrified and anxious, both hating and needing, her longing almost as great as her panic.

They were here. Their goal sat a hundred feet away, and she shivered with fear.

"Are you ready?"

When his lips moved in the question, Kagome jumped. She hadn't really been looking at him, but he had been standing in front of her, blocking her view of the house, so she had trained her eyes on his face even though she didn't really see it. Sometimes he was so still that he faded against the backdrop of her mind, anyway, and that was probably what he wanted; now that he had jolted her out of her own head and reminded her that he existed she found it difficult to answer him truthfully, but it would have been even harder to lie.

"No," she whispered.

He didn't move, didn't acknowledge her for a long moment. She saw him blink, as though thinking, and waited for him to pass judgment.

"Then," he finally said, "perhaps the only time is now?"

The sound that escaped her was more of a wheeze than anything resembling her normal full-throated chuckle or her whole-hearted laugh, but it was bitter, and it got the point across.

How is it, she thought, that you are the only one who knows?

Kagome swallowed. "I think so," she told him, nodding her head in short, sharp jerks, and he turned gracefully away from her to face the dip and rise of the slumbering meadow that lay before the house of Sango, the last of the hunters of the shikon no tama.

"Then let us proceed," he replied, voice low and strong, looking straight ahead.

She was finding it difficult to get enough air. "Yes," she choked out, feeling almost ashamed. She had been brave so many times before, but this was one of the hardest things she had ever had to face.

She knew that worse than the hated enemy was the abandoned friend, and that knowledge passed over her with blackened wings.

Sesshoumaru took one step forward and she followed, tripping just a little to catch up and overtake him - this was hers, after all - but halfway down the little incline of the meadow movement became unnecessary.

There was the bright bronze sound of something jangling, something familiar -

- no, no, he's dead, I thought he was gone, no -

- before the shoji screen slid back, and onto the porch stepped an old woman - stooped though her step was strong - and in one wizened hand she held Miroku's shakujou. Her long grey hair, bound low but still free, tossed in the wind of the coming chill, and her face was lined, not with her laughter, as Kouga's had been, but with her somber thoughts, with the melancholy severity that had always lived behind her bright eyes. Kagome could see, beneath the layer of years, the girl who had always had the eyes of an old woman, even when she was young; she could see the girl who had died one too many times.

She had thought that perhaps she would not recognize her, but even without her husband's holy staff, Kagome would have known Sango anywhere.

There was no sound, nothing between them. Kagome was only dimly aware of the overpowering presence of Sesshoumaru a mere step behind her; everything seemed to have faded. Her jaw moved and her lips parted, but her tongue was as sand, burying her words, and she didn't know what she should say anyway. Certain that she looked ridiculously like a dying fish, Kagome swallowed, forced her lungs to continue working, and waited for Sango's face to light up with recognition, withdraw in anger, or collapse into tears.

It was interminable.

Then Sango opened her mouth.

"I can feel you out there," she said, voice gravelly in her throat, but still powerful and clear, as she spoke across the meadow to them.


Kagome wavered, confused.

"What?" she said, or would have said could she have found her voice. Her eyelids fluttered beneath the sudden, lightheaded bewilderment.

Sango's face tightened. "I know you're there," she said. "You cannot hide from me. I have spent my entire life hunting you."

The world washed over Kagome and swept itself from beneath her.

Then Sango placed Miroku's staff ahead of her, tapped it against the porch before she moved forward with only slightly halting steps, and Kagome realized that her friend could not see her, could only feel the presence of the youkai lord standing only a foot away.

Somewhere in the secret years between then and now, whether to youkai poison or old age, to illness or something else, Sango had lost her sight.

Kagome felt her breath leave her body; she was wrung dry. She thought the wind might sweep through her and carry her away if her heart had not been so heavy.

Sango, oblivious, reached the edge of the porch and cleared her throat. "I can tell you are powerful, so you will be able to understand me. I just ate dinner, and I don't want to have to fight you on a full stomach. My family could meet you in battle, but they are still enjoying their meal so I don't want to disturb them." She squared her shoulders, and the image so echoed the Sango of old that Kagome shuddered beneath the wave of memory.

"So leave this village be, and you'll leave with your life," Sango finished.

In the rising wind and the dimming light, the rings of the shakujou tossed against each other, their clanging voices tumbling across the meadow as though to warn the sleeping world of the things to come.

Miroku, Kagome thought.

She was sitting by the well. She didn't even hear him until he was a few feet away and the rings of his staff startled her into the world again. Looking up at him with hot, dry eyes, Kagome felt grateful that she hadn't been crying, because she didn't want to hide again.

He looked down at her before settling on the edge of the well, his staff cradled against his shoulder.

"Kagome-sama," he said, his foolish mask falling away to reveal the wise man beneath it, "you will be leaving soon." His eyes, startling and opaque, told the world nothing of his thoughts, and when he turned those eyes on hers she felt safe but cold; cared for, but far away. He was always knowing, though, could always see the truth underneath. That was the one thing that never changed.

Unable to speak, she only nodded. For years Miroku had awoken each morning and looked death in the face; there was nothing she could say that would compare to that. Kagome felt almost ashamed by the strange agony that plagued her - she only had a broken heart, and no one died from that - but she gave him her attention, hoping the monk would tell her how to go on, how to move through it, how to live after she felt as though she had died.

Miroku looked away from her and out across the field, towards Goshinboku, and his staff rattled and sang again with his movements and the slight breeze. For a long time he said nothing, and she was about to rise and go back to the village in annoyance when he shifted and opened his mouth.


She froze, but didn't answer. It hurt too much.

Then the monk shifted again and she looked up at him, into his brilliant eyes that had so often stared into the void, and thought she was looking into the void herself. She thought she saw the void look back.

There was no smile on his lips, but it didn't matter as Miroku sighed again.

"Things do come and go," he said softly, "but you are here today. It is important to know when you are, Kagome-sama. Do not forget that."

She blinked, confused, as he stood, stretched, and then strolled across the grass, as if he had completed a great duty, imparted an infinite wisdom; if only she could pry open his words, she would be enlightened and she would feel pain no more.

He was long gone when she began to cry. "That's it?" she demanded of the man who was no longer there. "That's all you have to say?"

She didn't see him again. Early the next morning she leapt down the well, never again to return to them.

If she had known - really known - that those would be the last words he would ever speak to her, she would have run to him and kissed his healed hand in gratitude.

And now she remembered that the last thing Sango had said to her was, "Get some sleep, Kagome-chan. It gets better."

It gets better.

Kagome wished she hadn't come, hadn't erased her last sweet memory of Sango with this new one, with this woman, old and blind, with this new cold voice, commanding and sure.

She wished she could go back and do all of it again.

Sesshoumaru watched as the old woman lifted the staff and pointed it straight at him, her blind eyes glaring at him with a ferocity he remembered from so long ago.

"I will not tell you again, youkai," she said. "Leave this village."

Only a step away, he heard Kagome's gasping breath, could smell the regret and despair that choked her, felt a little of it himself.

Then she gave a silent sob, and Sesshoumaru thought he could feel her scream.

Abandoned, mindless. She had lost all feeling in her hands, in her legs, in her lips, couldn't tell if she was breathing or not, and a great flash of silver panic, edged with bitter despair, lanced through her brain.

Kagome whirled and fled, breaking into the forest and seeking the darkness it offered.

She left only the scent of her grief behind. Sesshoumaru paused for a few more moments, until the old taiji-ya began to bang the end of the shakujou against the wooden porch.

"Youkai!" she cried, voice cracking beneath the weight of years, a clarion call to her clan. "Youkai!"

From within the house the youkai lord could hear a flurry of activity, the clang of metal against metal accompanied by the slick sound of weapons being retrieved from their sheaths, and reflected that it was probably time to leave. He didn't need the fight, and he did not desire the death of Kagome's only remaining companion.

Not bothering to look back, Sesshoumaru leapt into the air and bounded lightly over the trees, following the girl as she ran beneath him, her sorrow seeping into the night air all around her. She didn't stumble, only ran, looking for the place where she could wind back the ribbons of time, erase her foolishness, leave her regrets behind. He wondered how long she would have to run to find that place. And if she did find it, he wondered if she would let him follow.

. . .

Kagome knew he was waiting, would not come down from the trees until she stopped, so when she finally reached a large clearing she collapsed, exhausted and winded, to the ground and tried to recover before he descended from the sky. In her flight she had shed the furs the wolves had given her, but her bow and quiver remained and she removed them, panting, and laid them next to her on the ground.

Thankfully she regained her breath quickly and, no longer wanting to face the world around her, she raised her knees to her chest, laid her crossed arms against them, and let her head fall forward to shut out the things she hated, which was almost everything in this moment. Kagome closed her eyes.

Within a minute she heard his soft footfalls against the ground, and wanted to scream, though she did not know whether to scream in anger at herself for being so childish, scream in pain, or scream just to relieve tension. She suspected, however, that Sesshoumaru would not appreciate it, so she settled for speaking instead.

"I want to be alone," she told no one in particular, voice only slightly muffled.

There was a pause. "All right," he replied.

She heard his feet shift, but instead of retreating he continued until he was beside her.

Kagome cleared her throat. "That means I want you to leave," she clarified.

"I know."

There was the rustle of clothing as he sat down next to her, and silk whispered on silk as he crossed his arms and settled back.

If he was here, she couldn't cry, and she needed to cry even though she was sick of it. She'd shed tears so often in the past month, and she was exhausted because it was never done. There were always more tears to cry.

"Please," she said, voice shaking with suppressed emotion, "please go away."

He did not even answer her, merely sat perfectly still. If she was quiet, she thought she could hear him breathing.

It had been so long since someone followed her when she ran that she had forgotten what a frustrating sweetness it was to need both presence and absence, to desire both company and solitude.

He was so quiet. His trailing sleeves fluttered softly in the rising wind.

Kagome twitched with repressed movements. She wanted to throw herself into his arms and sob. She wanted him to comfort her. She wanted him to run his clawed fingers through her hair, wanted him to say nothing, wanted him to hold her in the safe circle of his arms until the world and all its careless cruelties retreated. She wanted, so badly, to be protected again. No, not be protected, feel protected.

She wanted many things. She knew she would never have most of them.

If he were more like his father or his brother, if she were braver, she might have found solace. But he was not like them, and she was too scared to try. In this one thing, she had always been too scared to try, and maybe that was why she was alone.

She felt stupid. Her chest hurt.

Sesshoumaru was still sitting next to her, ruining her isolation, and he didn't seem to be going anywhere.

Well, Kagome decided, if he was going to stay, he was going to do something useful. Irrationally, she wanted to be punished for her idiocy, and if he was still here he could damn well berate her for being so stupid, for all the unbearable weaknesses that undermined her over and over again.

"You think I'm foolish, don't you?" she challenged him, not bothering to lift her head. I know I do. Let's hear how you really feel.

There was no answer at first; he was quiet, back to his old stoic self, inscrutable and silent, and Kagome reflected that if he were merciful, he would say nothing for the rest of their time together. That was probably too much to hope for.

Finally there was the sound of the breath before the words.

"No," he said, very quietly.

Momentarily stunned, she snorted wetly in response. "Liar," she sniffled. For some reason, she imagined him smiling.

"Well, perhaps you are foolish at times," he amended, "but not, I think, for that."

In her chest the emptiness stirred, and Kagome found she could not think of anything to say. That was all right, though. Even if she had words, she would be unable to speak.

She was so heavy, so... she seemed to sink into the world, and the world seemed to roll toward her. He thought he might slip and fall into the crater with her. Forcibly turning his mind away, Sesshoumaru watched as the moon briefly slipped from behind a cloud to bathe the clearing in bright silver light, and wondered why he felt so sad. Kagome, of course, stirred something soft and melancholy in him, but there was something else, a dejection entirely apart from her sorrow. It was so strange, because he could think of no reason for it, except, maybe, now that their tasks were complete he would soon have to leave her and return to the house that he no longer despised. Soon he would have to find something other than rage or hatred to propel him through his endless days. He hadn't been gone long, but when he thought of his home, he knew he would return there a stranger; even though he had only been gone for two months, it seemed he had left home years ago. And maybe that was the truth of it.

So strange. There seemed to be so little left to do, to care about, so, perhaps, he felt sad because there was no reason for him to feel anything at all.

Next to him, Kagome shifted, aimless despair rolling off her in waves, and he remembered how it felt to stand beneath the moon that night he took back the things he had lost but didn't need. He remembered how it felt to find himself hollow when he had expected to be whole.

Kagome swallowed. She was going to cry if she didn't speak, so she said the first thing that came to her head. The thought that had been rolling through her mind for weeks now, small and tiny and so, so loud.

"I can't go home again, can I?" she asked, and the trembling in her lower lip seemed to have moved to within her chest. Only after she spoke did she realize that the question was unclear, but, she thought, if anyone would know what she was talking about, it was he.

Sesshoumaru was silent for a long moment before he shifted next to her. "That," he said, "would require knowing where home was to begin with."

She choked on the watery laugh that hiccupped in her chest. "And how would I find that out?" she wanted to know, voice shaking, resonating with her trembling heart.

Through the strange spaces of time, Kagome felt herself float, adrift, for home was never where she looked, and if she had ever found it at all then it was never in the same place twice.

He didn't answer. She knew he had already learned this lesson; she thought she had learned it as well, but she had not truly known what it meant until tonight. She had always hoped that she was good enough, was sweet enough, was special enough to be exempt from this; she had always hoped she would be the exception to the rule, and it was bitter to confirm what she had suspected all along - that she was not immune. No matter how bright and sweet and good and kind she was, no matter how hard she struggled, she could never escape.

For everyone, even her, the bonds of love bit deep enough to bleed.

His silence continued and finally Kagome lifted her head from the cradle of her arms to look at him as he gazed up at the sky. She found him bathed in moonlight, shining so brilliantly she almost had to shield her eyes from the light he shed.

Luminous, incandescent, his face shone so bright...

Funny how she could find only shadows there.

Then the moon passed behind another cloud and they were together in the chill darkness again.

He looked down at her, though she could no longer see him in the gloom, and found her face haunted and sad, a lovely young suicide ghost only he could see, and for a split second he thought she might not even be real. He reached out.

Kagome waited for him to say something, but instead she felt his fingers on her own, and to her surprise he stilled the fumbling of her thumbs against her new scars. She blinked, frowning; she hadn't even been aware of the restless movements.

"What is so fascinating?" he asked quietly, pulling her hands to him and running a claw over the backs of her fingers, as though he could read the answer in the texture of her skin.

Almost squeaking at his audacity, Kagome twisted, off-balance, and tried to keep herself from falling against him. She felt strange, a little breathless under his scrutiny, and she could hear the rough spun fabric of her hakama rub over the fine silk he wore.

Blushing at his proximity she tugged uselessly in his grasp as she attempted to take her hands back. "Nothing," she told him, troubled. "Nothing is fascinating about them."

"Mm," Sesshoumaru replied. Her hands were small in his own; she felt so fragile beneath her proud battle scars. "Why do you try to hide them?"

Her movements stilled, and she felt slightly faint, lost in the dark with only his voice to tell her what he was thinking, with only its nuances to speak to her of what he really meant. Kagome swallowed. "Do I?" she asked. "I didn't know."

"Mm," he said again. "You shouldn't."

Kagome tugged against his hold once more and he released her, watching as she fell away from him into the grass, catching herself awkwardly. He heard her take a shaky breath as she readjusted her position, and he thought she would ask him why.

She didn't.

"Okay," she murmured instead. "I won't."

He could think of nothing to say.

They were quiet for a long while, the chilly breeze flowing between them. After almost a quarter of an hour he was just speculating that she might have fallen asleep where she sat when she lifted her head again.



The trees rustled in the wind, their naked branches tossing against each other.

"Is it worth it?"

The quiet stretched out, unrolled so gently she almost didn't notice its passing; she could feel his gaze rest upon her, though she could not see it.

She heard him laugh softly.


Kagome smiled at him in the dark.

. . .

"You expect me to believe," Sesshoumaru said, clearly unable to comprehend what she was telling him, "that they just relinquish their power after a set amount of time?"

Kagome sighed. Explaining 20th century democratic and parliamentary systems to a feudal youkai lord was a lot harder than she thought it would be. "Yes, they do. That's the key to a representative government, after all - the need for representation keeps changing, so the leaders have to change, or the people have to be given a chance to change the leaders. There are checks in place so no one can have all the power."

He slanted a suspicious look at her from the corner of his eye, and she was glad she was on his back instead of in front of him where he could turn the full force of that withering glare on her. "What kind of checks?" he asked.

"Like..." Kagome tried to think back to her anthropology classes. "Like the fact that no one else would ever let one person gain too much power, because then that's less power to go around."

Sesshoumaru frowned.

"So," he finally said, "you expect me to believe that they just relinquish their power after a set amount of time?"

Kagome began to hit her head against his shoulder.

The sun had nearly set, and they were nearing Edo; the closer they came, the more nervous she grew. Kagome had been surprised to find out that they would be at the Bone-Eater's well by sunset, but they had been traveling for quite a while. When she worked it out in her head, she discovered that they had made a wide loop around the top portion of Japan, ending at Sango's village, which was a little to the south-east of Edo.

She had awoken that morning beneath a tree she hadn't remembered crawling under the night before; she thought she had fallen asleep sitting up on a hillside.

Working the crick out of her neck, it had slowly dawned on her that she was at the edge of the clearing when she had been in the middle last night. Her eyes narrowed and she shot a look at Sesshoumaru, whom she found standing a little ways away and staring at nothing. He didn't turn to meet her gaze, though she thought he had a distinctly amused air, no doubt caused by her confusion.

"Did you move me?" was the first thing out of her mouth.

He cast a look at her from over his shoulder. "No," he said, as though it were obvious. "You eventually decided to relocate on your own, though admittedly only after some encouragement."

"Oh. Thanks." I think.

She watched as a small, condescending smile graced his lips. "Miko," he said speculatively, "it astonishes me that you have managed to survive thus far without substantial help. If you are going to fall asleep in fields, at least make an attempt to doze. After all," he said, slightly theatrically, "there is no telling what could happen to you if you were so sound asleep you do not wake when I place a hand on you."

His choice of words poked her, hard. "Wait, what? When you place a hand on me?" she demanded as he turned and took a few steps toward her, arms folded into his sleeves and looking insufferably self-satisfied. "That doesn't sound like waking me up enough to move. That sounds really suspicious!"

Sesshoumaru gave her a look, and even though the muscles in his face hadn't moved more than a fraction of an inch, she was left with the distinct impression that he was exasperated with her.

Kagome was not amused. The world should not do this to me when a cup of coffee is several centuries away. "What did you do to me?"

"Nothing," he replied.

He smirked as she relaxed. "But if I did, you wouldn't have known."

Kagome squeaked.

"But I didn't."

Flashbacks to parties when she was in college brought to mind any number of things one could do to a sleeping person, and Kagome wished she had a mirror so she could strike 'write obscene poems involving squid across forehead' - or something to that effect - from the list.

She stared at him for a moment before arriving at a solution.

"I'm going to pretend we didn't just have that conversation," she announced as she climbed to her feet and began to stretch. "Why are you in such a frisky mood this morning?" she demanded as she extended her arms over her head, pulling the muscles in her back out of the knots into which they had settled.

"Frisky?" He sounded offended.

"Yes, frisky," she shot back, bending over to stretch her hamstrings. "Not that I mind. Usually you're so solemn, like someone just ran over your dog."

After a moment in which there was no answer, she looked up to see if he had taken the bait, but he was looking strangely far away, as though looking somewhere only he could see.

Sesshoumaru rolled her voice around in his head, letting it echo against his memories, and found that it resonated.

"Don't be so solemn."

Who had said that? He couldn't quite remember.

Kagome frowned. It was not like him to ignore her poking, as she usually left herself wide open for a cutting remark. She put a foot on the tree next to her and began to stretch her legs as she cleared her throat - a bit too loudly - and recaptured his attention. "You," she said, making her voice as clear as possible, "haven't been this insufferable since we were coming back from the mountains."

That grabbed him. "Insufferable?"

"Just a bit, just a bit," she said smugly. "Usually you're only irritating."


"Oh, stop that," Kagome said.

Sesshoumaru gave a sniff full of wounded pride. "Do not erase my fond memories of you by acting childish on your last day here."

What? she thought before the impact of the rest of his statement hit her, sinking to her stomach like a ton of icy bricks. "Last day?"

The subtle falling of his eyebrows set his face into an unreadable expression, though Kagome thought he might have looked vaguely wistful. But only vaguely. "We will be at our final destination by sundown," he informed her before turning away again, gazing across the sunny grass.

Kagome wasn't sure what to say to that. It rather put a damper on things. "Oh."

Surprised by her dismay, she frowned, thoughtful. She had wanted to be finished with this, hadn't she? To cut the lines to the things that weighed her down?

Of course she had.

Still, if what he said was true, this would be their last day together, and the thought tweaked her heart.

"Are you ready?" he asked, startling her out of her melancholy thoughts.

Not really, she thought, but outwardly she nodded. "I guess."

"Then let us go."

So she had slung her bow and quiver of arrows - both rather worse for the wear - over her shoulders before she climbed onto his back and they took to the trees.

She'd worried that because of her encounter with Sango she would be too sad to appreciate her last day, or at the very least she thought that things might be awkward between them because of the suddenly short time they had and the strange conversation they had shared the night before. Instead Sesshoumaru had headed those melancholy musings off at the pass by asking about her home.

He had tried to hide his curiosity behind a bored tone of voice but he only marginally succeeded; anyone who asked so many annoyingly complex questions did not have a merely passing interest. At first she had been gratified and happy to tell him about her time, but by late afternoon she was so sick of talking about the modern era that she seriously considered throwing him in the well and staying in the past herself instead.

Kagome continued to let her head rise and fall against his shoulder, as though to beat the annoyance out. Inuyasha had never been such a nuisance, she reflected, though, if she were to be honest, that was probably because Inuyasha had not been as... astute as his brother. She could not figure out if this was a good thing or not.

Sesshoumaru waited for her to stop abusing his person and enjoyed a private grin. Not only were these lessons interesting, they were entertaining as well. One the one hand, he had not meant to annoy her, but on the other hand, he did find her amusing exasperation an unexpected and welcome bonus.

After a moment Kagome lifted her head and hitched herself a little further over his shoulder. "Why the sudden interest?" she demanded. "You didn't show any curiosity about me the entire time you tagged along, so why are you asking me now?"

Sesshoumaru raised a peevish brow at the phrase 'tagged along,' but decided, for the sake of a quiet life, to ignore it. "I had not given it much thought until now," he answered truthfully. Dressed as she was in the warmer, traditional outfit of a miko rather than in that rather ridiculous green and white thing he remembered from decades ago, it was surprisingly easy to forget her strange origins.

"Oh," she said. "Why not?"

He shrugged. "You do not seem so terribly strange any longer," he told her.

Kagome wondered if she should take this as a compliment or not. "Thanks," she said dubiously.

He smiled until, only a moment later, Edo came into view.

Smile fading, he nodded toward the village. "There," he said.

Kagome followed his nod. "Oh," she replied, and she was proud that she was able to keep most of her disappointment from her voice.

Sesshoumaru did not comment, merely leapt from the trees and glided over the village huts according to her mumbled directions - ignoring the rather vocal interest the citizens seemed to take in them - until they came to the newly built shrine and he lightly touched down in the courtyard. The comment they had caused was still audible.

Kagome slid down from his back - one last time, she thought - and patted down her hair.

"Just a minute," she said. "I have to go return my bow to Kagura."

He arched a brow.

"Er," Kagome said, "the resident miko. Not the other one."

Sesshoumaru said nothing as she turned away from him and jogged to the hut where she had stayed that first night. When she reached the door she knocked loudly on the frame.

"Hello?" she called. "Are you home?"

When it became apparent that no answer was forthcoming; she frowned and stuck her head inside the hut.

Kagura wasn't there.

Sighing and feeling a little regretful for having missed the hapless girl, Kagome bit her lip and unslung the bow and quiver from her back, placing them carefully on the floor by the entrance. She straightened before staring down at the borrowed weapons that had saved her life more than once, and thought she would miss them, too.

She cast one last glance around the cozy hut. "Hope you get better at archery," she said quietly to the miko that wasn't there before taking one last look at her bow and exiting the hut. The flap of the door behind her sounded like the rustling of pages.

Sesshoumaru was still waiting where she had left him, staring at the fading light of the sun to the west. She wondered if he was looking forward to going back home.

He turned to look at her as she drew near and cleared her throat.

"The well is this way," she said. Her voice came out hoarse and trembling; her cheeks flared in embarrassment as they walked to the well house.

When she reached the doors, Kagome slid them open and stepped inside. It was almost, but not quite, familiar to her, like almost everything she encountered now that she had grown up into this. Slowly, she descended the stairs, and after a moment she heard him follow.

Kagome stopped when she reached the edge, peering down into the dark depths she knew so intimately before turning to meet Sesshoumaru's golden eyes. They seemed to shine in the gloom though she knew they only reflected the light of the setting sun above them.

This is goodbye for us, she thought, and she was only half-surprised when she twitched with the impulse to hug him in farewell.

There's been so much... we have... I am... he is...

The strange desire to say goodbye to him as she would say goodbye to any other - what is he? - dear companion hit her again, but he wouldn't like that.

But this will probably be the last time I see him, she thought. The last time. What will I wish I had done when I can no longer be with him?

Sesshoumaru looked down at her and watched her think, wondering what she would say. He was not in the habit of making farewells - he came and went as he pleased - but, just this once, he found that it pleased him to stay.


She was fiddling with her sleeves again, fraying the cuffs with tiny, nervous movements; she seemed on the verge of speaking.

Sesshoumaru waited.

This is the most humiliating thing I've had to do since I had to ask him about his sex life, and I've no idea why, Kagome thought. She could feel her face begin to burn with embarrassment as he watched her, and she felt the tension winding, winding tight -

"Can I hug you?" she blurted suddenly. The fire in her cheeks flared up a few notches. She didn't dare look at him for a moment, but his silence quickly grew to be too much. She forced herself to meet his eyes.

He looked stunned.

"Why?" he said, perplexed.

Kagome scowled, annoyance replacing embarrassment.

Really. He could be so dense.

"Oh, shut up," she snapped before she lunged towards him and caught him in her arms.

And a curious thing happened then: he did not push her away. He didn't even stand there stoically and endure her weak, human impulse with his usual bad grace.

Instead, to her complete and utter shock, his arms fell around her, one hand slipping around her waist to hold her fast, the other weaving through her hair.

She felt his body curve as he bent to her, until his mouth was so close to her throat it seemed a heavy pulse of her heart would be enough to bring his lips to her skin.

Distantly, Kagome reflected that she might have made a tactical error, but then she felt his fingers spreading over her, smoothing against her ribs, and an uncertain, aching warmth arose where they touched.

Suddenly, she found it very hard to breathe.

Oh, shit, Kagome decided distantly, muzzily. Trembling very slightly, she held him close and tried not to think.

Later, Sesshoumaru would remember the endless moment before she fell against him in a fierce embrace. It seemed to him that she moved slowly, as though they were beneath the surface of the sea; at any point he could stop her advance, could prevent her hands from reaching him. Any point at all.

He had not touched anyone with any kind of fondness since Rin had died.

Then she was twining her arms around his neck, and Sesshoumaru was hit with a startling wave of dizziness. Unwilling to push her away, he felt his hands go around her, as if it were perfectly natural, as if he had embraced her every day since they met.

This was not something he should have allowed; he resisted such gestures, had released the trappings of affection long ago.

Sesshoumaru was afraid of nothing, but if, if he were to fear something, it would be the memories such an action would stir, the memories of the only mortal creature who had never shrunk from him in terror.

He had fully expected to die without ever knowing this again. He would have been content to never gather another to him.

When she had launched herself at him he had expected something dark and despairing to awaken, and yet here he was - arm circling her waist, fingers in her hair, face to her throat - still waiting for the grief to wash over him and steal the warmth she had brought.

It failed to happen.

She was shivering even though she was warm in his embrace, and something in him, stirred, woke, hungered.

His lips were a hair's breadth from her skin. She smelled beautiful.

He closed his eyes.

Then she was loosening her hold, slipping down as she released him and stepped back. For just a moment longer he allowed his claws to slide through her hair, and then he, too, was retreating, wondering what he had just done, and when he would regret it.

She was smiling nervously up at him, cheeks lightly flushed.

Befuddled, mind in disarray, he returned her gaze.

"You never told me what my normal scent smelled like," she said suddenly, though it did not seem to break the strange, frail quiet between them

Sesshoumaru searched for his voice, found it. "Indeed?" he replied. He could hear the fuzzy edges of his words.

She nodded. "Last time you told me I smelled like an unwashed wolf."

He felt a very small, but very real smile tug at the corners of his mouth.

"When you return," he said softly, and he did not know why he had chosen these words, "I will tell you then."

When I return...

Kagome nodded again, felt as though her breath was trapped between her teeth. "All right," she said, her voice struggling around the tight beats of her heart. She held his eyes for another long moment and waited for him to leave, because she knew he never said goodbye.

He turned away from her and started toward the steps.

Sesshoumaru was only slightly taken by surprise when he felt a tug on his kimono, and, turning back, he saw that she had caught the trailing fabric of his sleeve in her delicate hand. She stared at the fabric she had snared, as if she had no idea how it had come to rest between her fingers, before looking up at him.

She stared at his face intently. Blue eyes searched his own, as though she could find what she needed in him, as if he weren't just as lacking as she, as if he weren't just as incomplete as she. Perhaps she thought that there was something he could give her, or that she could give him, so they would not have to spend the rest of eternity so horribly unfinished, so broken, so poorly mended.

The silk of his kimono slipped from her grasp as she drew back, just a little.

"Stay until I'm gone," she said. "I'm tired of watching people walk away."

He was silent, still as a statue. He did not look away as she backed up to the lip of the well, and she kept her eyes on his as she lowered herself down to the ancient wood. He did not look away as she straightened and stood, her back to the void behind her.

He held her eyes as she balanced on the well's rim.

It was as though they were expecting something, and yet neither of them had any idea what it was they were waiting for so patiently.

When he moved, unexpected, she thought he would turn and leave her anyway, but instead Kagome watched as he took one step forward, and then one more, so that he was only a few feet away. He gazed up at her, expression indecipherable.

Not ready, but the only time is now.

"I'll see you," she told him.

"Yes," he replied.

Kagome jumped.

Sesshoumaru watched her fall.

Tales from the House of the Moon

A InuYasha Story
by Resmiranda

Part 24 of 42

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