It was the first time Sesshōmaru came to visit her since he brought her to his mother's fortress. Under the cherry blossoms, beneath the spring sun, she was the vestige of life – a wood nymph donned in white fur. Her complexion spoke for her affliction, but Sesshōmaru would rather ask how she was than speak of his desires. They would be unwelcome, unforgivable, if he voiced them – and so he kept them inside.
"How are you faring?"
"I'm well." A smile. A lie. "Madoka-san has been pleasant company, more often than not."
Her words gave him pause, the beginnings of a frown.
"Mother allows you to use her name?"
Kagome chuckled, eyes gleaming with a vitality she was surely not feeling. "Is that a crime or a great discourtesy?"
"No." That frown lessened until no trace remained, only the gold of his eyes, slightly perplexed. "Merely attachment. It is rare when it happens."
"I can believe that."
She laughed then – the sound stroked his ears, glided over the arced ends. Need awakened, struggled beneath layers of compulsion, clawed to be unshackled, and she must have seen, she must have known. How she averted her gaze, the way she swallowed her laughter, told him as such, spoke louder than even her change of subject.
"Would you like some tea?"
No, he didn't want tea – unless he sipped it from her lips.
"I must leave. Perhaps another time."
There will be no other time. The pallid sheen of her skin, the ashen luster of her eyes, everything of hers, whispered this to him.
Today could be the last time she promenaded the gardens, enjoyed tea with Madoka, relished the spring air. Kagome felt it in the thinness of her blood, the weakness of her bones. Perhaps Madoka felt it as well – she would have never asked such questions or used such bluntness otherwise.
"Why do you not mate him? The bond can be unmade if you wish for it later."
The vicinity of the end, the bare reality of it, unchained Kagome's tongue – and she gave a portion of the truth Madoka had so artfully tried to extract from her all this time.
"He has not asked."
A flicker of hauteur and laughter lighted the gold hue of Madoka's irises. If the yōkai indulged in uncouth sounds such as snorts, Kagome guessed she would have.
"Neither have you."
A sigh toiled in Kagome's throat, but she could neither swallow nor release it. Gaze downcast, as if shamed to admit such things, she gave Madoka another portion of her truth.
"I don't…have that right."
"Nonsense." Inukimi huffed, her eyes turning the color of burnt caramel, dusked with disbelief, opaque annoyance. "If there is a female who has that right then she is standing right here."
Kagome laughed – but it was an unpleasant sound, filled with self-recrimination. "I lost that right when I lost…Kazusane."
The name didn't warm her soul this time – it churned, licks of lava melding with hot blood, tearing her asunder from the inside out as she uttered it. Inukimi cast a glance at her, a scintilla of curiosity.
"Now it is you who speaks in riddles."
Kagome did sigh then, laughed that bitter laughter – and gave Madoka the last part of her truth. "Did you want the pup you lost, Madoka-san? Because I didn't – not at first. Only later, too late. I wanted him so much then…"
Vocalizing her guilt, sharing this with someone else, was liberating, didn't hurt as much as Kagome thought it would – but the truth never changed, never could.
"Ah I see – but such is youth."
Yes, Madoka could understand, could grant forgiveness, but Kagome couldn't – they both knew that.
"You think he would blame you if you confessed to him of such?"
Kagome's smile rivaled the cherry blossoms – lovesome and fragile and ephemeral.
"No more than I."
Sesshōmaru could feel there was something amiss, terribly wrong, before he even landed, stepped foot into his mother's abode. The wind brimmed with foreknowledge, pressed down on his shoulders, neither light nor scentless. Blossoms scattered, fallen before their time, withered and stripped of their aroma. Inukimi's voice echoed in the density of the air, cut through this precipitance of dread, no longer lilting, thick of all the things the wind murmured.
"You are late, my son – but not too late."
Madoka needn't have explained more, Sesshōmaru wasn't listening either way – he was racing through halls and corridors, features strung, pulled tight with awareness. Her scent wafted to his nostrils – but it neither calmed him nor roused his wants. It wasn't that kind of scent, not this time, held no intoxication – cinnamon strangled under quietus, smothered by unearthly odors. She smelled not of woman but separation, ruinous sleep, soon to come, much too soon. Her voice, too, was laden with all those things, another kind of huskiness, but her smile –
"You came, Sesshōmaru."
"Do not speak." The command slashed across his cheeks, festered in his mouth, forced its way through arid tongue and clenched teeth.
She merely smiled wider, brighter, both a blessing and an anathema. "If I don't speak now then when? I must tell you things, things I cannot take with me."
His lids descended, his mouth locked, aggression trapped, raging within – then he composed himself, came closer. Sesshōmaru knelt beside her, stared at the whiteness of her eyes, lips, skin. A nod, strained, nothing except dilated pupils and silence, but she didn't ask for more, carried on after a licking of lips.
"When I first learned I was pregnant, I was filled with denial. I wished it had not happened. It was…foolish – but I was young and scared. By the time I came to love the life growing inside me, it was too late. You must know… I truly loved him. He should not have been taken from us…he should not have –"
Perhaps it was the scent of salt and sorrow, perhaps the frailty of her neck in his grip, bones made brittle, breakable, Sesshōmaru couldn't tell what it was, what he wanted to do. Quick, painless death or –
"No more lies, no more pains, no more regrets – that is what you said to me." The words emanated from his chest, rumbling sounds, thunder-streaked, nails prickled the sides of her neck, strips of thin skin.
That smile touched her lips once more, lovelier, viler than ever before. "Yes, I did – and there aren't, there will be no more."
Sesshōmaru felt her vocal cords move under his clutch, proof of lingering life, though there was none to be found in her words – and that was unacceptable. Wrath coalesced with despair beneath taut skin, inside his blood vessels, pressured him to act. He would unmake this, he would not allow her to leave him, no matter the means, the promise of hatred – but he couldn't. There was only one thing to prey upon, one thing to use against her.
"Yet you lie to me…you never say what you need."
Kagome kept quiet, even though his digits uncoiled, slackened, delicacy in his grasp, in his strokes – but such intensity in his eyes, gold veined with crimson, so much ardor as she had never seen in him before. It chained her own voice, stole any reply she could have given.
"If you still will not speak then you leave me with no choice."
It was a warning, given again, and again, until there was no more restraint, no tether to hold him back. Lips on the slope of her neck, tongue sliding, smearing wetness over the beat of her pulse – but no teeth, not yet.
"Tell me to stop."
A growl, venereal, drenched in guttural undertones – now teeth scraping, heavy with intent, with leashed imminence.
"Tell me, woman."
She didn't speak, never told him to stop, not even when canines grazed the curvature of her neck, back and forth, sank and broke through bloodless skin. Sesshōmaru revitalized her fading pulse with his intrusion, gave her energy even as he took her as his own – the moisture of her blood, the throb of her heart, the marrow of her soul.
Yōki soaked through sinew and muscle, lapped at joints and tendons, spilled into every organ and artery, cogent with innate purpose – to claim, to ravish, nest so deep inside her that it would be inseparable. It was the medulla of life, surging and writhing and roiling, lust in the veins, blood heat. Potent, thick, full of primal impulses, of animal instincts, slices of vigor – the baser parts of him. It merged with that insidious snare imbedded in her core, remnants of their curse, fed and nourished, swelled and grew, made her whole.
Sesshōmaru inscribed his essence in her heart, sprang forth within her bloodstream, circulated into every dip and crevice in her body, etched his name into her mind – never to be erased, never again. Nerves ravened, raw sensations, throbbing pulsation and resonance. Little by little, she took him inside, imbibed the wildness, stroked the puissance of his yōki, until it bent and twisted, thrust into the pith of her cells, until it became hers, white-hot fire stretched beneath her skin.
When Kagome emerged into the world once more, came out of her body, she was aware of proximity, of urgency and need – the seam of his mouth curling, canines withdrawing from the slickness of her flesh. Blood, dark and viscid and hers, slathered on his lips, droplets of thirst, dripping down his chin – melted gold, heated into copper lust. Her tongue darted out, cerise, slithery muscle, laved her essence on his skin, tasted the phantom beat in it, the thrill of the mating. Lick after lick, slow, sinuous, she traced the angles of his jawline, the shape of his lips, the tips of his fangs, incited that seething urge, provoked him to complete the bond as it was meant to be fulfilled.