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Falling by Stella Mira

Dreams End

The sound of footsteps pierces through the blackness—clattering pace. Her head throbs but not as much as the base of her neck. Cognition is a sharp lance, cutting deep, laved in flames. It burns and stings, hellfire spreading through the haze, igniting wakefulness in its passing. Her lashes flutter once, slow ascent, artificial light, glaring volts of radiance. She blinks the drowsiness away, smothers the ache under apprehension, observes what lies around her. Space, boxes, pallet racks, forklifts, things that attest to a warehouse—and those loud footsteps.

The man is tall, far taller than a human should be, but then she realizes he is not. It merely seems that way from her position. Back resting against one of those boxes, legs sprawled, bent in painful angles, Kagome stares up at him, despite the strain on her injured neck. The first thing she notices is that mockery of gold in his eyes, the hue of sanity rarefied. She recognizes the man pacing before her, back and forth, like a caged animal, but what she knows of him is not what she sees. There is no cockiness in the line of his mouth, no mischief in the glow of his skin, only mutters of words and sweat. He is not the same person she recalls from records of old interviews, merely the darker side of light. Even ghosts have names though, and she remembers his, cannot help but whisper it in the madness of impulse.

“Taishō…Inuyasha.”

The sound of footsteps halts for the barest of moments then comes closer. He kneels to her level, rough hands on her shoulders, shaking her lightly. The grin that stretches across his face mirrors the glint in his eyes. A succession of teeth, white with the luster of psychosis and hope, he speaks to her—but he does not see her.

“You—you know my name, you remember me! Then you must be Kikyō—I was right! He lied to me…You’re alive—he—”

He stops to swallow, nearly choking on his own saliva, nervous tick on his jaw and the delirium of joy. That sooty gold in his gaze turns dimmer, sullied with nightmares cogent to no one but him. Apprehension morphs into fear, chills her blood and her breath, but she can’t tell of what she is more afraid—the man or the ghost, the living or the dead.

“He told me you were dead, that I—that I killed you…but it can’t be! Look at you, my beautiful Kikyō, so beautiful…”

The backs of his knuckles caress the hollow of her cheek, made hollower with the hiss of intake, absorption of truth. Kagome remains stunned under his touch, staring into that murky gold, sinking deep, and deeper. It glistens with guilt absolved, twin pools of mud and tears.

“I could never kill you—I love you too much! You believe me, right? You must—” More spittle than words, hotness fanning on her face, he makes a strangled sound in his throat, moves even closer. It gives her the incentive she needs to break free of those liquid bonds, drag herself out of the quicksand.

“Taishō-sama…” Lips arid, motions of bloodless flesh. “I’m not…Kikyō-san.” Eyes frozen—lids, lashes, irises, pupils. “I’m sorry…but you are terribly mistaken.”

Confusion lights his gaze, sparks of the mind beneath the thick crust of self-conviction. He studies her features—the curve of her lips, the lineation of her nose, the slant of her eyes. His brows crease, whether in contemplation or denial, Kagome is not sure, but he leans back, severs all physical contact, and for that, she is grateful.

“You—are not Kikyō?” He pauses, chin trembling, then falling open into bellows. “But…but you are! Why are you lying to me again, Kikyō?”

Emotions avalanche across his face, too quick in their descent. Eyes wide, voice almost hushed, he approaches her once more, crawling on hands and knees.

“Is he—is he the reason? You don’t have to fear him. I’ll protect you this time, I swear.”

There is nowhere to escape, no place to hide, not that it matters. Fear induces paralysis at the most inopportune of times. The fact that she retains the faculty of speech is a miracle in and of itself, her sole reliance in this matrix of despair.

“Please…Taishō-sama.” Kagome pleads because she cannot do otherwise, but it is a tearless plea. Tears scorn her when she most needs them. “Look closely—I’m not Kikyō-san. My name is Higurashi Kagome. I may look like Kikyō-san but I am not she. Please…believe me.”

Awareness flashes in his gaze, but she dares not hope just yet. How his brows crease, not quite a frown, more disdain than confusion, forewarns nothing good.

“Higurashi Kagome?” He spats the name, as if the mere syllables offend him. “That was—that was the name on those files, those pictures I saw on his laptop, but I thought he changed your name to hide you from me. Isn’t that right, Kikyō? He wants to keep us apart to save face, but I don’t care about that. I wanted to marry you then. I still do. I—I love you.”        

Her brain refuses to process the madness he spews at her, registers nothing but what she wants to hear—that he has shown a speck of interest in her. Even though Kagome has been cognizant of who that he is for quite some time, it never sinks in as it does now. A licking of lips, blood circulates, reddens the pale flesh.

His files?” Memory rides her breath as it leaves her lungs, full of implications, incriminating in its vocalization. His body stills, tension seeping into his stance—and he knows. Kagome can see it in that ruddy gold, both light and dark, promise of spilt blood.

“Kikyō…you—that expression…”

Tentatively, almost tenderly, he reaches for her, fingers stroking her cheekbone, tangling into the mess of her hair. When he pulls her to him, yanks her neck with a force Kagome does not expect him to possess, she finds the strength to struggle, despite the futility of it. That fear spikes, creeps along her skin, beats to the wild tempo of her pulse as his fingers snake around her neck.

“You—fucked him again, didn’t you? Why? Why did you betray me with that cold bastard again?”

His forehead is slick with perspiration as it rubs against hers, skin hot, growing hotter. Kagome fights harder when those fingers tighten and constrict, nails raking his shoulders and down his arms, but his grip never loosens. Blood wells under her fingernails, flayed skin and tissue.

“He doesn’t—doesn’t love you! He can’t love anyone! Why can’t you see that? Why—” His words mute into white noise, gurgling sounds, or maybe those belong to her—Kagome can no longer distinguish. She is falling on the edge of that dream, that foolish dream she knows can never come true.

“Inuyasha.” Perhaps his voice belongs in that dream as well. A death reaper’s gift for a pitiful woman. “Let her go.”

If she could laugh, she would, but as it is, she can only let go.

~~~~~

Skye’s Weekly Challenge: Dreams

 

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