Thursday, October 11, 2007

Property - Chapter Fourteen

Sesshoumaru touched the swords at his hip. One was the Tenseiga, already familiar in shared grief and anger and pain. The other, the Tessaiga, was still a stranger and not even his own. His father had informed him that he should bring the sword to Inuyasha, who apparently resided at the Higurashi House. A spark flew between his finger tips and the sword, a show of rejection, and he was getting tired of being rejected. At least, he wouldn't have to handle the sword. Let his half-brother try to master it.

Behind him, Rin hummed a happy tune befitting the sunny skies as she walked besides Ah-un. She always seemed to be humming. Perhaps it stemmed from her lonely childhood.

Jaken was busy, leading the disgruntled Ah-un and verbally sparring the staff with two talking heads who were giving contradictory information about youkai in the area.

Suddenly, Sesshoumaru decided to stop. Ah-un stopped obediently. Rin stopped beside Ah-un. Only Jaken slashed air with his staff and tugged at Ah-un's reins. He tugged once too hard and was sent tumbling into Sesshoumaru's back.

"I'm sorry, Sesshoumaru-sama," Jaken apologized profusely. "I apologize. I'm so sorry. If there is anything I can do for Sesshoumaru-sama, anything at all—"

"It's Kouga," Sesshoumaru announced suddenly, cutting Jaken off.

"Kouga?" Jaken repeated in confusion.

"Ah!" Rin stopped humming long enough to exclaim. "The Wolf Prince."

Jaken glared at the human. "What do you—"

"Yes, the Wolf Prince," Sesshoumaru confirmed, leaving Jaken flabbergasted. Imagine, to be outsmarted by a human!

"What's he doing here?" Jaken demanded.

Rin turned to look between Jaken and Sesshoumaru. "Why shouldn't he be here?"

"Why? Why? You're asking me why?" Jaken shouted from his diminutive height, outraged. "Because—I'll have you know—because... well, the answer should be obvious. Because—"

"Enough, Jaken," Sesshoumaru ordered. "This is Kouga's territory. He has every right to be here. Especially if there are foreign youkai."

"Foreign youkai?" Jaken scanned their surroundings. "Where?"

"Silly Jaken," Rin chided and smacked him on the head. "We're the foreign youkai."

Jaken glared at Rin, but realized that she was right. "You're not a youkai."

Rin shrugged. "I smell like Sesshoumaru-sama."

"That's disgusting!" Jaken exclaimed. "You do not smell like Sesshoumaru-sama!"

"Look," Rin said in a much too happy voice and pointing straight ahead. "There's the youkai."

Jaken looked to where Rin had pointed. There was somebody there, certainly, but he stood on two legs and his hair was bundled into a ponytail. Surely, any youkai would have more... class than to wear those scraps of fur...?

"Wolf Prince," Sesshoumaru acknowledged formally.

"Taiyoukai heir," Kouga returned. "I was not expecting you."

"Of course not."

Quickly, Kouga added, "But you are, of course, welcomed to stay awhile."

Sesshoumaru nodded regally. Gesturing to the others, he introduced, "Jaken, my retainer. Rin. And Ah-un."

Kouga nodded to them in turn, even Ah-un. Then, he remarked, "I see that you never lack female human companionship."

Suddenly, Sesshoumaru's eyes flashed and his hand tightened on the sword at the insinuation. "Do not presume to know what I do with them."

"Of course not," Kouga agreed airily. "I'm quite sure that it is quite beyond my imagination, whatever you do with them."

Sesshoumaru growled and Kouga took a step back involuntarily. Still not wanting to lose face, Kouga said, "Well, you've given up your claim on Kagome."

Sesshoumaru straightened up at this comment. "What do you know of that?" he asked calmly.

Kouga shrugged. "She came by a couple months back. She and her friends helped heal some of our wolves. We chatted. She left. I plan to travel to the Higurashi House soon, see if her old man wants to help eliminate Naraku."


Kouga nodded, oblivious to Sesshoumaru's sudden alertness. "He goddamned attacked us. I'm not going to let that slide. I know you probably don't care about us, but Hiroshi's been asking for an alliance and I might as well take his offer. Their territory is next to ours. The daughter's a looker—and has power, too. You're not claiming her anymore."

"Don't," Sesshoumaru warned ominously.

"Don't what?"

Sesshoumaru thought about that. He had reacted instinctually and something had churned at the thought of Kagome marrying Kouga, being by his side, sleeping with him. The thought made Sesshoumaru want to tear something—or someone—up. Maybe, he thought, it was just that he didn't want Kagome to find happiness. At least not with the little wimpy Wolf Prince. "Don't marry her."

Kouga looked at Sesshoumaru strangely. "Why do you care? And why should I listen to you?"

Sesshoumaru thought about that. For all the power of the Western Lands, Kouga was still outside of his jurisdiction. After all, the wolf clan had been exiled when the Wolf Prince way back when had refused to send out his men to help Touga. "We'll help you eliminate Naraku."


"You heard me the first time."

Kouga was startled. Then, he shook his head a little as if to clear it. "You don't have a say in who your daddy allies with."

"Sure, I do," Sesshoumaru answered lazily. Kouga was right, but since Naraku was the one who had almost killed both Izayoi and Touga so many years ago, Sesshoumaru had little doubt that his father would gladly kill the hanyou.

"What guarantee do I have?" Kouga asked.

"None," Sesshoumaru answered. "The question is if you also want to chance the possibility of my father’s wrath."

Kouga thought about it. It didn't take long. "Fine, but I can still have an alliance with Hiroshi."

"Of course," Sesshoumaru allowed magnanimously. "But not through marriage to his daughter."

Sesshoumaru, Rin, Jaken, and Ah-un were leaving the caves the next morning when they heard a distant voice shout, "Stop! Stop! Wait for me!"

They were startled into stopping and several seconds later, Kouga caught up with them. He had been running quickly and his sudden stop kicked up a cloud of dust, causing Rin, the only human, to start coughing.

"Oh, my lady," Kouga said, fully aware that Rin was under Sesshoumaru's protection and that if he upset her for some reason, it could lead to undesirable consequences. "I must apologize for kicking up dust."

Rin giggled at Kouga's address. It was a change from yesterday's coarse words. "It's okay," she managed between coughs. "But do try to not do that again."

"Of course," Kouga answered seriously.

Sesshoumaru threw an assessing look at them both. Satisfied that neither was going to attack the other, he started walking again. The rest of them followed.

After about ten minutes of silence, Kouga just about couldn't stand it anymore. He started sneaking glances at Rin. A glance at first. Then another. And another.

And finally, she noticed. "What?" she asked, a little defensively.

"Oh, well..." Kouga plunged ahead and asked, "What's your relationship with Sesshoumaru?"

"Oh." Rin answered, "He's like a brother. A little bit like a father. He's kind of protective about me."

"Oh." So, a totally platonic relationship, Kouga thought. What was with the Taiyoukai heir and leaving beautiful human women alone? So, Sesshoumaru had probably touched Kagome, and she had fairly reeked of the inuyoukai, but Kouga had never smelled sex between them, either.

Maybe the Taiyoukai heir only liked other men?

Kouga scrunched his nose up at that thought. He certainly wasn't interested in men and it was too disturbing to think of Sesshoumaru, well, hot and passionate with, well, Kouga. In fact, it was so disturbing that Kouga decided to banish that thought altogether.

"What's wrong?" Rin asked suddenly, breaking up Kouga's spiraling thought process.

"Oh, nothing."

Rin frowned a bit. "You were staring at Sesshoumaru-sama really strangely. I mean, I know his fairly good looking..."

"Yes," Kouga agreed automatically before frantically backtracking. "I mean, no. I don't notice things like that. I like women. Strictly females only kind of guy. That's me. I like their softness and their breasts and their rounded butt and—" He shut up quickly, realizing that he was only digging himself a deeper hole.

Thankfully, Rin only giggled. "Don't worry about Sesshoumaru-sama," she said. "You're pretty good looking, too."

"Really?" Kouga asked, then corrected himself, "I mean, I know that."

Rin only giggled again.

Kouga didn't know if he should be relieved or frustrated at her giggles.

It was with a touch of haste that Hiroshi Higurashi welcomed Sesshoumaru Taiyoukai to the Higurashi House.

"Is everything all right?" Hiroshi asked. Again. "Do feel free to ask the servants if anything is amiss."

Sesshoumaru nodded.

"We're very sorry about our daughter," Ayako, Kagome's mother, added. "We apologize for any discomfort she might have caused when you were in... your unfortunate circumstance."

Sesshoumaru nodded.

"But she did free you, right?" Hiroshi asked anxiously.

Again, Sesshoumaru nodded.

Hiroshi breathed a sigh of relief. "That's good. Our daughter, she can be a little air-headed sometimes but she really doesn't mean badly. But it would be just like her to forget to free you from the blood-bound."

No, Sesshoumaru thought, she certainly had not forgotten.

Hiroshi was still talking, "I had assumed that you are free since Touga Taiyoukai graciously let me return, but I am glad to hear it from your own lips."

Sesshoumaru nodded. It was beginning to feel like a reflex.

Suddenly, Hiroshi seemed to realize the awkwardness of the conversation and laughed self-consciously. "You must be glad to finally be free, huh?"

Mechanically, Sesshoumaru jerked his head once.

And he should be glad to be free. To not be bound to some human or be plagued by their emotions. But the absence of the bond had only made him feel as if he were missing something. And he should be glad to be rid of reminders of his "unfortunate circumstance," but for one last time, he wanted to see Kagome Higurashi.

Like his father said, he needed some kind of closure.

"I'd like to talk with your daughter," he requested.

"Well, you are not bound to her anymore, right?" Hiroshi asked. Anxiety had returned to his voice.

"No," Sesshoumaru answered. "But I'd still like to talk to her. Talk some things through. I'm sure you understand."

"Well..." Hiroshi hedged. He supposed that he should be glad that he didn't know where his daughter was. He doubted that the youkai had anything favorable to discuss with Kagome. On the other hand, he could not afford to upset Sesshoumaru... "Actually... I'm not quite sure where Kagome is."

Sesshoumaru narrowed his eyes. "What do you mean?"

"It's been upsetting for all of us," Hiroshi explained.

"What do you mean?" Sesshoumaru asked again, this time with each syllable carefully enunciated.

Hiroshi sighed. "I'm sure that you've heard the rumors... It's hard on all of us who believed in her. Tomorrow, or the day after, we're officially instating Souta as the heir."

No, Sesshoumaru wanted to say, I did not hear about the rumors. But he could not appear as anything less than in control. Especially since he thought that if he started saying everything he thought, he wouldn't stop until sunset... and maybe not even then. And he didn't want Hiroshi or Jaken to hear about those things. He wanted to rant at Kagome, the cause of it all.

Instead, he said, "What about Kagome?"

Hiroshi looked down at the table. "She will be dead to us."

Sesshoumaru fell silent at that. Disinheritance... a severe punishment for a shameful transgression. He wondered what Kagome had done since their parting, since he remembered the legal documents that Hiroshi had given Kagome to prepare her for being the head of the Higurashi House.

Maybe he wouldn't find the closure he needed.

After a while, he requested, "Can I walk around the gardens, then?"

Hiroshi gestured towards the doors. "Feel free."

Sesshoumaru nodded.

Ayako tugged on Hiroshi's sleeve when Sesshoumaru left and it was just the two of them. "Why were you being such a simpering idiot?"

"What else was I supposed to do?" Hiroshi turned and asked her.

She glared at him. "Something else. You acted like putty in his hands. You were practically asking him if you could rub his feet for him."

He covered his face with his hands and leaned heavily on the table. "What was I supposed to do? He was upset. Even you could see that."

"Oh, so you sell out our daughter? You know she would never have done those kinds of things."

"I know, I know," he said tiredly. "But what else was I supposed to do? I'm going to disinherit her because she couldn't keep herself chaste until her marriage. I'm going to have to make Souta the heir. Aya, do you know that Souta is only twelve years old? He's going to have to deal with the pressure of people's expectations. Good and bad. And they would wonder if he would turn out like his sister."

"But Kagome is still your daughter."

"I couldn't have done anything else." He pulled his hair back in a ragged motion and let out a long sigh. "I couldn't have done anything else," he repeated, though it seemed more for his own benefit than for Ayako's. "Do you know what will happen if Taiyoukai decides to attack us?"

Ayako's lips thinned. "We were prepared for it before."

Hiroshi shook his head. "Not anymore. Souta's not ready as the Higurashi heir. But even that's not such a big deal. It's what Kikyou told me."


He nodded. "Naraku. He attacked us while I was gone."

Ayako's eyes narrowed. "She's making it up. Don't forget, I was here, too."

"I know. I considered that." Hiroshi shook his head and leaned back. "But Inuyasha confirmed her story. And according to Kikyou, she was looking for the Shikon no Tama, which he has been since hundreds of years ago."

"Just like any other youkai," Ayako interjected.

"And he mentioned Kikyou's resemblance to Izayoi."

Ayako's eyes widened. "No. Nobody knows that Izayoi was a Higurashi priestess."

"Of course not," Hiroshi soothed. "If they did, the Higurashi House would have long been destroyed by those who would have thought that humans sent Izayoi to weaken the Taiyoukai Lord. So, our ancestors kept the fact that she was a Higurashi priestess secret." He paused, then added significantly, "But Naraku knows."

"We can't fight the Taiyoukai Lord and Naraku at the same time. Even if Kouga does ally with us."

"That's what I was afraid of."

The bright sunlight woke Kagome up early in the morning. She had just gotten two loaves of fresh bread yesterday and they lay on the table. She had washed her clothes yesterday, too, and they were dry today. The gardeners had told her that it would soon turn into the shower half of the summer season and she needed not to worry anymore about the plants.

She should leave today.

Soon, her father would be announcing her disinheritance, and she was quite sure that she didn't want to be present for that. Even if she was prepared to reveal the fact that she had had an indiscretion, as her parents had put it, she thought that she would not enjoy people looking askance at her. She was not a masochist.

She wished she had the strength to leave.

But she realized now that a little part of her was still waiting for Sesshoumaru to come back. Maybe, her heart whispered, he loved her—or had loved her—despite the blood-bond. Maybe, it told her insidiously, some of his affection was—or had been—genuine. Maybe... maybe... maybe...

And Kagome answered back: maybe.

And if you leave, her heart whispered... If you leave, he can never find you again.

Maybe that was so. But maybe he would never look for her. Maybe he thought she was good riddance when the blood-bond had broken and he finally understood what kind of a burden she had been.


Today, she should leave.

She bundled up a change of clothing and some food in a large piece of cloth. She had even picked out a direction—south—and yet she couldn't seem to set one foot outside. The watering cans needed to be put away. Maybe she should stay to wash the sheets—the next inhabitant wouldn't want dirty sheets. The door needed to be locked, and she had no lock.

But somewhere in her mind, she knew that she was only fussing and finding excuses.

And she wished that she had the fortitude to leave.

She was determined.

There was no reason to remain as a burden to everyone around her.

And the world outside was vast. There were adventurers outside the life in the Higurashi House sheltered by the gardens and stone walls. And surely, surely, her mother was right. Surely, one day, Sesshoumaru would be a true love of the past, and she would find some human, a farmer maybe, or a physician, and they would have seven children and grow old together.

Maybe she could have more than one true love.

But she needed to leave. Today.

She stepped out of the hut and slung the pack on her back. She walked the familiar path down the garden. It would take her around the house and bring her to the south entrance.

She stopped suddenly when she saw a flash of familiar white hair—must be Inuyasha—but forced herself to turn sharply toward where she needed to go to leave the Higurashi House. She needed to leave today or she would never leave at all.

"Kagome," she heard a familiar voice call out. Sesshoumaru... and her heart seemed to trip before beating again. But it couldn't be. It must be a figure from her overwrought imagination.

And even if it was, she would have to leave.

She quickened her pace. She would need to leave before she saw him, because then she would not want to leave at all and the hard won strength would slip through her fingers.

And she did not want to see him looking at her with hate and disgust in his eyes. Or worse, with nothing in his eyes. She had seen him look at others with that blank, gold gaze, and she did not want it directed at her.

She wanted to remember how well he had treated her and comforted her. How he had taken the time to teach her and tease her.

And yet, he was suddenly in front of her, larger than a mere figure of imagination had any right to be. He was almost just as the last she had seen him, with armor and pelt. Two swords hung at his waist instead of one. His hair was still long and white, flowing freely with the summer zephyr. And his eyes still gold, with something she didn't understand in them. At least they were not blank.

"Sesshoumaru," she breathed.

"Kagome," he answered and turned so that his back faced her. "I want to know why."

That was not what she had expected him to say at all. "Why what?"

"Why you repudiated me."

"Because..." Kagome twisted the question in her head and tried to answer it. "Why not? Aren't you happier now?"

"That's not a reason."

"You've always wanted to be free."

Sesshoumaru turned suddenly, fastening his fascinating eyes on her. "I wanted to be free... from the enslaving blood-bond. But I never asked you to repudiate me. I protected you. I... might have even cared for you. I never wanted to be free from you."

"You..." Kagome saw her vision blur with tears. This was what she had dreamed of hearing. Only, Sesshoumaru didn't know. "That was all from the blood-bond."

This time, Sesshoumaru put his hands on Kagome's arms and shook her a little. Kagome thought she might have even protested but for the shock of feeling Sesshoumaru's touch again. She should have protested for being manhandled. But this was Sesshoumaru. And Sesshoumaru... well, he had a right to be angry. She heard him ask, "Is that what you think? That the blood-bond can force me to feel things? Kagome, a normal blood-bond like the one we had can only tell me of your emotions, and nothing more."

"But..." Kagome protested.

"If I don't protect you, it hurts me. But do you think I would have let a little pain stop me from doing what I wanted to do? Do you think me so weak?"

Kagome looked away. "You know I don't. But it must have been easier for you to help me get to the Western Lands."

Sesshoumaru looked down at Kagome.

Silly Kagome who had hurt him and tried to explain to him that it was for his own good. Stupid Kagome who thought he would accept such an excuse. It wasn't good for him, and he couldn’t imagine why she had thought so in the first place. So, really he ought to just tell her to go to hell—at least he was not actually hurting her in retaliation as he would have done if he had followed his first inclination after the repudiation—and walk away and live the long overdue life as the Taiyoukai heir leave all human filth behind.

Except... this line of thinking was also so typical of Kagome. His Kagome. Innocent and trusting, believing whichever fool had misled her in an effort to separate them. Still wanting the best for him, even at her own expense. And still thinking that she knew better than him. He had lived for over five hundred years. He had more life experience. Shouldn't he know the world better? And besides, he had been with many women. And it irked him that she thought he wouldn't know if he liked someone.

Frustrated, he bent down and kissed her, and yet all the frustration melted away once he tasted her lips. Gently, his lips touched hers and explored the texture. Softly, as he had wanted to ever since he found out that they had mated while he was in heat and he couldn't remember what had happened. Carefully, because he wanted her, and not just for now, but for a long time... he wasn't quite sure yet if he was ready for forever.

"Sesshoumaru," Kagome said as soon as she could, several dazed moments after he had broken the kiss. "You're just reacting... to the repudiation."

"No, I'm not," Sesshoumaru refted. He looked at the sky behind her, wondering if Kagome was still Kagome... and how to convince her that he was still Sesshoumaru. The one she had known. "I've... killed my owners before, and that hurts like repudiation. And I don't love them after their deaths."

"Oh." Kagome didn't know how to react.

He went on, "But you're different. I want to protect you, to make sure you're safe. I want to know if you're in danger. When you were attacked by Naraku, I made a vow that I would stop anybody else from hurting you. And I will."

Before Kagome could say anything, a strange feeling encompassed her. She looked at Sesshoumaru questioningly and he smiled a little smile. "Now, I'm blood-bound to you again."


"I did it of my own free will this time, and you really shouldn't repudiate me again, because that really hurt."

"I don't know—"

"Sh," Sesshoumaru soothed as he held Kagome tight against his chest. He let her confusion and anxiety and uncertainty fill the emptiness in him that had been waiting for her. But more, he felt her bewildered happiness and it danced through his own heart.

Hesitantly, Kagome put her arms around Sesshoumaru's waist. She could feel him solidly under her arms, not fading like a mirage as she had feared. She could hear his heart beating.

After a few silent moments, Kagome admitted, "I missed you."

Sesshoumaru thought that it had taken a lot for her to admit that, but he was not sorry that she did. He stood there and enjoyed the feel of her warmth against him. But he could feel Kagome's growing anxiety and before Kagome could pull out of his arms, he thought he should say something. What came out was, "I missed you, too."

It was true.