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His Brother's Widow by shinkonokokoro

Chapter 1

“Milord, there's an angry disgruntled dirty woman at the front gate.”

Looking up from his desk, the man's usual frown deepened. “A woman?”

“Yes, milord; she's asking for you. You specifically,” his short servant stressed. “And she's rather impatient, asking for you to meet her immediately.”

“Does she have a name, Jaken?”

He shook his head miserably. “No, milord, but she will not be detained for long, I fear...”

The man stood, silver hair rippling in the dimming light. “Show her in, I suppose.”

“Yes, Lord Sesshoumaru.” He backed out of the room, scurrying away.

His golden eyes narrowed and he sighed, wondering what this woman could possibly want. Padding silently down the hall, Sesshoumaru made his way towards the front entrance.

“Won't you please follow me, miss...” Jaken ordered.

“Sesshoumaru,” the woman said upon seeing him. Her blue eyes met his, dirty face set in determination.

“Who are you, woman, and why do you know me?” He folded his arms, unimpressed by her temerity. Indignation rolled off her in waves, dirty cloth covering her head and draped unflatteringly around her body. Her black hair was matted and tangled, flying wildly from underneath her head covering. And she smelled, he noted with a wrinkled nose as the breeze picked up.

“My names is Kagome,” she said proudly. “I am your brother's widow.”

His eyebrows shot up in surprise. “My brother...?”

“Yes. Inu Yasha is dead. I'm sorry for your loss,” she said, voice hard and eyes flinty. She certainly didn't appear to be sorry.

“My half-brother,” Sesshoumaru corrected. “Inu Yasha was my half brother. And his affairs are none of mine.” He began to turn away.

“Wait!” She barked, hurrying forward.

“You stay here!” Jaken shrieked.

“I'm your brother's widow! You--”

“I don't care who you are, woman. That thing's affairs are none of mine. Now leave.”

“Wha...! You can't send me away! The law says--”

“The law?! What does--”

“It's against the law to send me away, Sesshoumaru. If a man dies, the responsibility for the widow goes to his brother. You must care for me now. Me and my children.”

Sesshoumaru stared at the shocking woman, incredulous. “You...”

“Shippo! Rin!” Kagome yelled, never breaking eye-contact with him.

A small boy trotted into view from behind a bush, dragging a girl-child by the hand. His ruddy hair was in similar condition, the girl's matted similarly. Their faces were filthy.

“You've got to be kidding me,” Sesshoumaru muttered, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Jaken, send them away.”

“You can't. I will go to the law, Sesshoumaru. And I doubt even your reputation can withstand the scorn of throwing a woman out on the streets.”

He met her challenging gaze, frowning deeply. “Prove you are my brother's wife. Widow.”

The woman rolled her eyes. “You're as much of a jerk as he is. Your brother shares the same father, born of a different woman by the name of Izayoi. He was ambitious and impetuous. However...” She slipped her pack off her back and drew a beaten sword from it, throwing it at his feet. “he died defending our village. Stubborn bastard. That belonged to your father.”

Sesshoumaru was silent, staring at the blade. “Jaken. Bring it to me.” He stared at the woman while his mostly incompetent servant brought the blade to him. His brother's children stared up at him, clutching to the woman's skirts.

“Milord...” Jaken bowed his head, holding the blade up to him.

Sesshoumaru grasped the handle, inspecting the sword and finding it true. “This is my father's sword, given to Inu Yasha.”

Kagome folded her arms, arching an eyebrow at him. “You will shelter us then?”

His lips tightened and eyes narroed, but he grudgingly said yes.

“Thank you...” Kagome said, sincerely, her blue eyes full of warmth and grief. The stiffness seemed to leech right out of her as she sank down, pulling her children to her chest.

“Jaken.”

His servant jumped. “Milord!”

“Tell the servants to prepare a room and a bath. Also, begin dinner.”

“Yes, milord!” He scurried off.

“And you,” Sesshoumaru said sharply to Kagome. “you are not my wife. Do not behave so. Keep your children under control in my house.”

“Of course. I will help out any way I can. Thank you for taking us in.”

Despite himself, a wry smile curved the corner of his mouth. “You did not give me much choice...”

“I did what was necessary...” she murmured, blue eyes catching his while a flush covered her cheeks.

“Hn. Very well. Come in. Be prompt for dinner.” He turned away, returning to his study.

“So you have no wife of your own?” Kagome asked as she entered the dining room, Rin and Shippo behind her.

Hiding his surprise of her presence and the question, Sesshoumaru looked up, unable to hide his surprise at her appearance.

“Something wrong?” She murmured to her boy who sat down politely. The girl sat next to him.

“I beg your pardon?” Her face and her hair were clean, and his servants had found her fresh clothing. Her skin was appealingly tan, making her unusual blue eyes accentuated. Her hair draped over her shoulders in loose waves, shining blue in the light. She was slim and supple, a trim waist and attractive curves. Apparently his half-brother had some taste after all...

“I asked if something was wrong? You looked...perplexed.”

“Hn. No. Please sit.”

Kagome nodded. “Very well. Sesshoumaru, here is your nephew, Shippo. And this is your niece, Rin. Shippo is five, and Rin just turned four. Say hello, children.”

“Nice to meet you, Uncle Sesshoumaru,” they chorused, the boy grinning while the girl looked at her hands in her lap.

“A pleasure to meet you, Shippo. Rin,” he returned formally. They really were rather attractive children.

The servants walked in carrying the food and setting it on the table.

The rest of dinner passed almost enjoyably for Sesshoumaru. He'd not had a dinner guest for some time. Kagome was a capable woman and her conversational skills were excellent, handling herself with surprising grace. He enjoyed debating and speaking with her, though he would never admit that to her. After all, she was imposing upon his hospitality. He cursed the law mentally. And his incompetent half-brother.

“Sesshoumaru, I'm going to put the children to bed, and then I'll return.”

Sipping his sake, Sesshoumaru nodded non-committally. She left quietly, leaving Sesshoumaru with the company of his thoughts. Perhaps having the woman around would not be disadvantageous. Her manner was not irritating. Her children, his niece and nephew, were apparently well-behaved, speaking well of Kagome's sense of duty and order. She was forward-thinking and plucky, but held to a strong sense of responsibility. And she was intelligent. Inu Yasha hadn't made her stupid, apparently. He wouldn't be surprised if Kagome had told him that it were she who managed the household, ruling from behind the scenes. She--

“Sesshoumaru...”

“Woman, you--”

“My name is 'Kagome,' Sesshoumaru. Please call me that,” she said quietly but firmly.

“Your boy--”

“Your nephew.”

He arched an eyebrow at her, her quiet smile reprimanding him. Again, he couldn't help the smile quirk at the corner of his mouth. “Kagome, my nephew and niece went to bed quickly?”

She laughed, warm and intimate. “Yes, Sesshoumaru. They shall be asleep shortly. Would you like a massage?”

He blinked at her slowly, her laugh resonating with something within him. “A massage?” The request was rather intimate.

“Yes. To help you relax. May I?” She extended a hand, leaning forward of her heels.

“Hn. Very well.” He folded his hands before him, extending her his trust.

Her smile became secret and he thought he saw a twinkle in her eye as she stood and moved behind him, her small hands kneading his shoulders. “Gracious, you're tense.”

“Mm. My half-brother died protecting your village?”

“Yes. Inu Yasha did.”

“How long ago?”

“About four months.”

“Four months. So what have you been doing in the meantime?” He dropped his head, pulling his long hair in front of him, allowing her easier access to his tense shoulders.

“Doing? Trying to survive. Travelling. Learning how to protect myself and my children on the way...”

He was silenced by her tone of voice, sensing the hurt and hardness, experiences too raw to be spoken aloud. So he remained silent, letting her surprisingly capable and strong hands work the knots in his back and shoulders. What to do with the woman? Perhaps having her around wouldn't be too bad... He bent over further as she worked down his lower back. His eyes closed, Sesshoumaru exhaled deeply, groaning softly.

“You're so tense...” the feminine voice murmured more sensual to his ears than he was sure she was conscious of or intended.

Sesshoumaru's eyes snapped open and he sat straight. “Enough,” he said more harshly than he meant. How easily she could encourage him to let his guard down set him on edge. “Thank you. I wish to be left alone now.” He didn't face her yet. She had the dangerous ability of endearing herself.

“Very well. Good night then, Sesshoumaru. Shall I draw your bed for you?” She looked at him from the doorway.

“No. You're not my wife. No need to behave as such. Good night.”

The dismissal was clear. Kagome gazed at him, expression unfathomable. “Very well. I'm just trying to be of help. Good night.” She vanished from view.

Breathing a sigh of relief, Sesshoumaru diverted himself from invasive thoughts of her by throwing himself into paperwork. It worked. Two hours later, he ghosted down the halls to his bedroom. He paused, however, outside of his brother's widow's room. She was crying. Her sobs were quiet, but she sat there, in the dark, sobbing alone. His half-brother's name passed her lips, and with that he moved on to his own room, his bed drawn. “Hn.”

“Uncle Sesshoumaru!” The boy's voice was loud. The girl was right behind him, silent.

He looked down at the two children. “Yes?”

“Want to see a trick?”

“A trick.”

“Rin! Stand in front of me.”

The little girl trotted into place with a toothy grin, big brown eyes looking up at Sesshoumaru.

“I'm now going to make flowers appear out of Rin's ear!” the boy announced grandly, flourishing his arms. He adopted a visage of deep concentration, waving his hands next to Rin's ear, flowers suddenly jettisoning forth. “Ta-da!”

The girl giggled. Sesshoumaru arched an eyebrow. “Brava,” he murmured, knowing the cynicism would be lost on the child.

“Wanna see another one? I can--”

“Rin? Shippo!” Kagome's voice echoed around the corner, followed shortly by the woman herself. “There you are! I'm sorry, Sesshoumaru. Were they bothering you?”

“Kagome. Good morning. Your children are very entertaining..”

She gave him a brief harried smile and then murmured next to the children's ears, “I told you not to bother your uncle..”

“They are fine, Kagome. Now, I have work to do. Feel free to make use of my grounds. Make sure the children don't break anything if they wish to play indoors.”

She nodded and steered them away, murmuring quietly.

Sesshoumaru watched her go and then made his way to his office, ordering tea from the servants.

A pattern developed within the first three weeks: Sesshoumaru woke early, joined by Kagome for morning tea. The children were woken within the next hour, fed, and then Kagome and her children and Sesshoumaru parted ways. Sesshoumaru went to work. Kagome and the kids went out of doors, doing Sesshoumaru knew not what on his grounds. He skipped lunch. Dinner was had collectively after Sesshoumaru spent the afternoon training and exercising. Kagome spent her afternoons teaching the children. After dinner, Kagome put the children to bed at dusk and she frequently returned to chat.

Sesshoumaru found he valued this time. She was an intelligent woman and brought interesting ideas to the table, challenging his point of view. She was also well-read, an idea shocking to him when aligned with the fact that she had been married to his half-brother Not, to say, that his brother had been a complete barbarian and chauvinistic pig, but he frequently never saw beyond his own needs.

“The children are put to bed?” Sesshoumaru asked, looking up as Kagome re-entered the dining room.

She sighed. “Yes. Finally.” She sat down again, next to him at the low table.

Sesshoumaru's lips twitched again into an almost smile. “You do a good job with them. I applaud your stamina and discipline.”

She glanced at him, surprise written clearly on her face. “Thank you, Sesshoumaru...”

“I have a meeting in a week and a half.”

“Oh.”

“I'll need to leave very early the day after tomorrow for travelling purposes, and then I shall return as soon as possible afterwards. I shall most likely be returning in about three weeks.”

“Oh.”

He glanced at her, her silence making him feel the need to further explain himself. “You shall be entirely safe here while I'm gone.”

She shook herself. “Of course. I was surprised is all. Of course you have meetings. It had just never occurred to me.”

Had he been able to read her better, he might have thought she were disappointed. “You are comfortable here? Is there anything you need to make you more comfortable?”

Kagome's smile warmed him. “Thank you, Sesshoumaru. I'm sure we'll be fine. You've done plenty already in allowing the children and I to stay here. Is there anything you want me to do in your absence?”

He shook his head. “No. Join me for a drink?”

“Ah... I would love to.”

Sesshoumaru called the servants for wine. “The good stuff tonight.”

“Ah! Excellent.” She giggled. “I'm flattered,” she continued, bowing her head in thanks.

Sesshoumaru said nothing. Just waited.

When the servants delivered the wine, Kagome leaned forward. “I'll serve, if you don't mind.”

Again, Sesshoumaru found himself surprised by the woman, yet her hand tipped the bottle with grace and control. “Who are you?”

Then she did slip. But only a drop. “I beg your pardon?”

“My half-brother ran off with no money. You must have come from money. Your skills, grace... You laugh. Why?”

“Sesshoumaru, I don't come from money. I'm not graceful. It's all pragmatism. And...” She fixed him with a look. “You really didn't know your brother at all, did you?”

“Of course not,” he replied stiffly. “He left.”

Her head tilted to the side reprovingly. “The way he tells it is he was driven away.”

His spine stiffened. “My half-brother--”

“Was a good man, Sesshoumaru. Your brother treated me well. He provided for his family.” She set down her empty glass, refilling it quickly.

Narrowing his eyes, Sesshoumaru leaned forward, refilling his own glass. “He certainly hadn't had any sort of responsibility while at home. And, you drink quickly for a woman. How long had you been married?”

She tossed her hair, blue eyes flashing. “You're pushy, Sesshoumaru.”

“Pushy?” He reeled back mentally. “Woman, you--”

“Inu Yasha and I were married for seven and a half years. You, I assume, have never been married.”

“I haven't,” he replied, voice deadpan, unsure what it was she was she was implying.

“And it's not hard to see why, Sesshoumaru. You've no social skills! You keep to yourself, never interact with others unless you're forced to, and you certainly make no efforts to change.” She folded her arms, drawing his eyes to her breasts.

“You, woman, are offensive and out of line!” He said heatedly, incredulous. How dare she! This was not allowed. No one pushed him around, and he was certainly not socially clumsy. His father and tutors had seen to that. How dare she! Was he really being brow-beaten by this slip of a woman?

“You see, Sesshoumaru! You have no fun,” she laughed. “You get all wound up; you never relax. I bet you never even drink too much. You're always in control.”

“I've been drunk before--”

“Have not.”

“--and don't enjoy it.”

“Mm-hmm.” Kagome fixed him with a challenging gaze, sipping calmly.

He growled under his breath. “You're cheeky, woman.”

Her laugh was warm and rich.

This was going to be a mistake, Sesshoumaru thought as he tipped back his glass and promptly refilled it. “Fine then. I accept your challenge.”

She grinned. “Excellent, sir. To your health. Though I never made any challenge.” She tipped back and refilled.

They kept at it for longer than they should have.

“You see? Now you've done it... I'm very drunk,” he slurred, lips feeling thick and heavy.

Kagome giggled. “Perfect! You need to relax.”

“I'm relaxed!”

“I know!” She chirped.

His hand brushed hers as they reached for the bottle at the same time. “Sorry! You go ahead,” she told him brightly and then laughed. “I... ha... I haven't been this drunk since Yasha and I...” Kagome hiccuped. “Oh dear...” Tears all of a sudden began to drip down her face. “H-how cliché... I don't mean to...”

“I know you cry for him every night,” Sesshoumaru murmured solemnly, leaning towards her.

Her eyes widened. “I... I'm sorry! I don't mean to disturb you.” She hiccuped again.

“You don't...” Sesshoumaru whispered, staring at her, surprised to find it was true. “I...” He clamped his lips shut against the words that would suddenly seem out of place.

Pulling the sleeve of her kimono over her hand, she wiped at the tears. “S-sorry... I... I'm apparently drunker than I thought as well.”

This time he allowed himself a smile as he looked up into her eyes, leaning on his elbow. “Sfine... You've impressed me with your propensity for holding liquor.”

Her response was a snuffly giggle. “Even drunk you're formal... Who taught you to speak?”

Leaning back, he stuck his nose in the air. “I grew up in my father's courts. Language is always formal. Was. Was formal... My mother...” He frowned resulting in another chuckle from the woman.

She sighed and pushed herself to her feet, swaying slightly. “I should get some rest.”

He followed her lead and stood, his advanced metabolism giving him the advantage of sobering more quickly. “I shall walk you to your room.”

She gave him a bobbing bow. “Thank you, sir. For I could never make it back on my own...”

He gave her a look and then noticed the merriment in her eyes. He shook his head, regretting the decision immediately. Brushing past her, he was stopped by her arm suddenly linked with his. He processed this and then directed her into the hall.

“You know...” She said quietly after a moment. “You really are like your brother. I doubt you'd really want to hear this, but you are. It's not a bad thing.”

“I don't hate my half-brother, Kagome,” he returned. “I never really knew him. He's very much a stranger to me.”

She nodded. “He looked up to you.”

This surprised him. He'd always figured the little brat hated him. They hadn't been close as children. They'd received different instruction from different tutors, himself being groomed for court and ruling, his younger half-sibling allowed to run free. He'd envied him sometimes, in the secret recesses of his heart. He envied the child allowed to be responsibility-free.

“Well, good night,” Kagome murmured. She stopped in front of her door, her cheeks still very much flushed from intoxication.

“Good night, Kagome.” He dropped his arm and gave her a small nod. “I shall see you in the morning.”

She gave him a brief smile and then disappeared behind the sliding door leaving him to the silence of the late hours and his contrastingly noisy thoughts.

 

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