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An Offer He Couldn't Refuse by naqaashi

An Offer He Couldn't Refuse

Disclaimer: I don't Own Inuyasha.

A/N: In the years that  I've been a member of Dokuga, I've rarely met Wiccan, in chat. But I have had several encounters with her, and in each, she's been  gracious, forthcoming, frank and...strangely human. It kept reminding me that this site is run by someone who is not merely a username among many. It's an actual person with feelings and so on, and she affords us users the same courtesy. So I'm rasing a toast to this wonderful lady, who mothers us all and keeps an eagle eye on site proceedings. THank you, WiccanMethuselah, for making Dokuga the safe, happy and well-nurtured-well-nurturing place it is today! We love you, and I, for one, certainly respect you a lot, for weilding your power with a rather polite, understanding brush!

I hope you enjoy this, Wiccan! I tried to keep Sesshoumaru as much in character for your fic as I possibly could, and this came out!

*~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~*

It was decidedly unsettling, Higurashi Kagome reflected, what time could do to a man.

It could feather bright, blushing skin with tiny folds and clefts, till one resembled a dried apple.

It could bruise plump lips till they sank and flattened over dull, rotting teeth.

It could carve every sorrow, every joy, every loss and every win into the eyeballs, till the colour faded and faded and all that was left was a tired, owlish squint.

It could leech the certainly, the self-assurance and vitality from the hands that once pointed and gestured with force and emphasis, and leave behind a shivering, grasping attachment of bones and gnarly skin.

It could take a legend and scratch at his veneer till he begged for assistance to perform the simplest of bodily functions.

Time, Higurashi Kagome decided, could do more than just kill a man. It could destroy him.

And she wondered, if she were to scratch away the glowing, unworldly, unblemished gloss of youkai skin and youkai hair and youkai blood – would she find that under those eternally beautiful trappings provided by nature, she would find that Sesshoumaru had become just such a man.

It would be a pity, perhaps. He had been a magnificent youkai. He still was, as long as one concentrated on that shiny exterior of his. But Kagome was fond of staring people in the eye when she spoke to them, and it was a difficult habit to get rid of.

Even if it meant she had to be witness to the death of the mightiest, wildest, loneliest youkai she had ever known.

“I wish,” he stated quietly, “you would refrain from looking at me like that.”

She licked her lips self-consciously and glanced away. “Like how?”

“Like I’m dying. Like you’re planning the funeral.” The flat impatience in his voice was enough to let her know that her act wasn’t appreciated.

Silence reigned for a while, straining and pulling at their nerves. Even the birdsong had disappeared, Kagome noted distantly. But of course it would. No animal of sense would announce its presence to a predator of his calibre. She wondered what she could say to put him at ease..to break through those tight lips of his and…

But she didn’t dare ask. If he said no, she would probably do something she would come to regret. Like throw him out to the street and ensure she never saw him again. And Kagome realised that she did want to see him again.

He observed the set line of his shoulders, the stiffness of his posture as he refused to lean back against the Goshinboku, apprehensive of her response to his scathing disapproval. He had made it clear he didn’t want pity. So which would it be, she ping-ponged in her head. Honesty? Or honesty?

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For his part, Sesshoumaru welcomed the silence. It meant that she was giving significant thought to his unspoken question. Here was someone to whom his feelings…his reactions actually mattered.

It had been a long time since he had known such a person. Before the war, if he wasn’t mistaken. Now they were all scattered. Many turned to vapour and compost, from bombs and guns and misplaced bloodlust in a war that could never have been won. Whoever was left had done just that – leave. He himself had made for Europe. Too many people of his acquaintance in America, and consequently, too many reminders of the people he had failed to protect.

He didn’t know who was avoiding who, anymore. The occasional accidental meeting was an awkward affair. Jerky nods, stilted conversation and guilty relief as they parted ways. Youkai memories went a long way back, and the trauma of five hundred years of variegated genocide – by humans, of human and with humans – still lived within them.

“What has gone wrong with this world?”

It was the question. For all of youkaikind, it was the one question to which they had never received an answer. The only reply the universe returned to them was faster development, more death and far less of the fantastic, natural world they once called their own.

And Sesshoumaru was forced to concede to guilt because he had the answer, and he wouldn’t give it to them. He had never been a verbose creature, and he hadn’t known how to explain it, if it even could be explained. But in his heart, he knew what the answer was. 

In the 1600s when the human samurai and priestesses began waging war upon them. In the 1700s when the foreigners came and colonised and they took to travelling because Japan wasn’t home anymore. In the 1800s through the shallow conceits of what humans called high society and political intrigue and Napoleon. And the 1900s. Good heavens above, the 1900s. When the wise fled to the deepest jungles of Africa, and the masochistic stayed on, to witness the beginning of the end.

So many beginnings, and more painful, their endings. He wished he had gone to Africa. But staying had been the only punishment he could inflict upon himself. He lived, by the skin of his eyeteeth, scraping by day after day. He amassed a fortune, when it was over, and continued to squander half of it on this charity or that – the orphans, the veterans, the starving, the diseased. All those whose fate he could have overturned.

But he hadn’t done it. He hadn’t said yes.

The memory stood dull and faded in his mind, as though someone had smoked too much in the room and forgotten to open a window. The scenery was a boring blob of grey. Perhaps Jaken and Ah-Un and little Rin had been nearby, perhaps they had not. That bit was fuzzy too. Kagome was clearer though. He could see her hesitant smile, contrasting oddly with the confident lilt in her tone as she spoke to him. As if she already knew the answer, and was already anticipating her delight when he delivered it. She hadn’t been accustomed to refusal in those quarters, he knew now. She hadn’t expected it of him, either. That explained her buoyancy. But he was Lord Sesshoumaru, and Lord Sesshoumaru harboured a healthy disdain for humans and a decidedly healthy dislike for his half-brother.

So he had the unthinkable.

She had held her hand out – pretty, soft, pink-and-tanned, brittle human hand. She had asked him to be her friend. 

He had refused. And that was the detail that glittered with cold, unforgiving clarity in his recollections.

She had made him an offer he shouldn’t have refused. What was that cliché again? Pride before a fall, wasn’t it? Surprisingly, he still had both. Pride, and countless falls, and pride that he had picked himself up again and moved relentlessly forward.

And so he was here again. Perhaps to show her that he had survived anyway, even if she thought he would be dead without her guiding hand.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“You look smaller,” she finally announced.

He blinked at her, peered down at himself and blinked again. Perhaps she was referring to his hair…? Unconsciously, his hand came up to graze against the tips of the short, neat strands.

“Not that,” she muttered. “Though that was a shock, let me tell you. Just…you. Your attitude. Your aura. It’s smaller.”

He couldn’t just let her insult his power like that, now. He let himself loose and took pleasure in her awed gasp. He knew he was glowing with raw power. In her limited vision, he must look like a god.

Kagome gaped at the ethereal spectacle for a few long minutes before coming to her senses. Not that she was in any danger of being crushed by all that youki – being Guardian of the Shikon came with some perks in the power department – but because he had inadvertently proved her right. Of course, she went and did a very Kagome thing to do.

“You’re so sad!” That is, blurted out the first thing on her brain and promptly cringed and launched into a string of apologies.

He cut her off before she could utter more than four. “Five hundred years of death and development, priestess. Did you expect me to come chirping around?”

“Well…no…”

He ignored the shock on her face and hurtled on. “I could have stopped it with one word. Yes. I did not.” He didn’t elaborate further, and he didn’t need to. They were both thinking of the same incident.

Silence took up an uncomfortable residence around them once more.

Hours passed. Sesshoumaru supposed there was nothing more to say, on his part. And if the blasted woman was quiet for so long, then for once in her godforsaken life she had been rendered speechless as well. Or perhaps she thought he’d kill her if she said the wrong thing, and she valued her life too much to risk it just to assuage his feelings? He didn’t blame her, if that was the case. She was very good at saying the wrong thing. And he was angry.

But he made no move to leave, and neither did she.

The stars were out twinkling when a careful, compassionate voice finally piped up. “I didn’t offer you friendship because I had any notion of changing the past. My past, or no, this world’s past. I just…I don’t know. I liked you. I was curious, and interested. And I thought Inuyasha could do with someone to look up to.”

He swung around and stared at her through narrowed eyes, incredulous.

“I couldn’t have changed it, Sesshoumaru. I couldn’t have let you change anything either. Things happened, and if they hadn’t then who knows? Maybe I wouldn’t be here. Maybe nothing would be here. I’m not some sorceress breaking the rules of physics or anything, you know!” She finally looked him in the eye, and said with all the force she could muster, “I’m just me. And I was never planning to mess around with rules that I couldn’t have broken in the first place. So if you’re been beating yourself up all these years for being a snooty jerkass, you’re welcome to it. You can say sorry, and then you can say yes. But if you’re planning to guilt yourself to the grave, you can…you can…just...”

She gave a tired, confused shrug.

Sesshoumaru watched her for a while, drawing it out. She wasn’t driving him away, he noticed. But she wasn’t going to deal with his guilt either. According to her, he shouldn’t be feeling any, even, that he couldn’t have changed a thing even if he had taken advantage of her knowledge of the future. She was making him an offer, again. And she wanted him to apologise for being a “jerk.”

Such novel ideas. Too many new ideas, too many to deal with at once. Sesshoumaru decided to take them one at a time. 

Last came first. It was the easiest, after all. He never apologised to anyone for being a jerk.

And since that made such a quick, easy start to the whole thing, he decided to run with it backwards all through.

She was making him an offer, again, wasn’t she? Her eyes were waiting, shining blue and welcoming him in the starlight. He could refuse it again, guilt-free this time. She knew even less of the future this time round than he did.

He found that after all, he couldn’t refuse.

So he reached out and took her hand, lacing his fingers through hers, squeezing gently. “Yes.”

She squeezed back.  

*~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~*

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