Ouroborous

Jun. 26th, 2009 12:08 pm
[personal profile] the_rck_fic
Fandoms/Characters: InuYasha/Labyrinth, Rin and Jareth
Rating: G
Word Count: 3491
Summary: Something had to come first, and only one person could have opened the Bone Eater's Well.
Warnings: Major InuYasha spoilers
Notes: Thanks to Olna Jenn for cheerleading and to my husband, Retsuko and Chichiri no Da for beta reading.
Written for amuse in the 2008 Whattheficathon crossover exchange
Originally Posted: 29 September 2008


Jareth walked the Bounds. Each step kept his realm safe, kept his realm real, kept his realm separate. Only the King could walk the Bounds for the Labyrinth allowed no other the prerogative. Those unwise enough to try and powerful enough to avoid distraction eventually discovered that the Labyrinth was an omnivore.

Jareth conjured a sphere and sent it spinning through the air ahead of him. He opened the sphere to the magic of the Labyrinth so that It could take control of the sphere's movement. Something troubled the Bounds, and only the Labyrinth Itself could show him exactly where. Who, what and why, Jareth would have to discover for himself.

Unless I wish the Labyrinth to consider choosing another King. He smiled. I can touch any world, any time, but only if It so desires or if somebody-- some very foolish somebody-- opens the door by asking. I am master here only so long as I never leave. My minions may leave and come back without loss but never me. He couldn't quite regret it. He thought he had regretted it once, but he'd been King long enough to give up regret.

The sphere spun slowly, so Jareth assumed that the disturbance had no urgency. At least, no urgency for me. Whoever's knocking likely thinks it's important. He stretched his steps just enough to keep up with the sphere's forward movement.

When he came within sight of the disturbance, a fluttering strip of paper inscribed with black ink hanging in midair exactly on the boundary between the mortal realm and his own, he flicked his fingers to call the sphere back then closed his hand over it to reabsorb its magic. An invitation? Maybe. A still closed door that I may open. More polite than most.

"Throne, please." He was polite to the Labyrinth most of the time, at least when he needed to be. In this case, he preferred to let the Labyrinth expend magic so he might save his own for whoever-- or whatever-- had put the paper there. They cannot see me until I'm ready, but I also cannot see them. Polite or paranoid?

The Labyrinth produced a tall, broad seat made of interlocking words, the manifestation of oaths he'd given and received. Cloth spun from promises kept draped the back and arms in iridescence. It stood about four feet back from the paper.

Impressive for those who know what it is. Jareth studied it. For those who don't, too, I suppose. He planted his rear end firmly, sighed and raised a hand. With a single pointing finger, he traced a doorway around the paper. He flicked his fingers. "Open."

The paper split and stretched to create the frame and threshold of a doorway. Then the boundary shattered within the small space defined by the doorway. Tiny, sharp fragments of light scattered in all directions.

On the other side of the doorway, a wide, red sleeve shielded a face. Blood lined a tiny cut on a callused but fine boned hand. The arm attached to a body kneeling on a polished wooden floor. Fire from a central pit illuminated the space beyond the kneeling person, leaving shadows dancing in the corners of the small room. Sliding panels formed the wall behind the summoner.

A woman, I think, and...perhaps a shrine. With warding outside. At least she's that cautious. "Breaking barriers is a dangerous business." Jareth thought he might as well speak first before the other had a chance. After all, I am King.

The sleeve lowered to reveal a young woman's face framed by long, loose, black hair. Her attire and features led Jareth to suspect that she was somewhere in Japan.

Somewhen, too. I think there's temporal displacement. He tapped his fingers on the arm of the throne to conceal the gesture that let him sample her world. Yes. Japan. Warring States era. And she has a taste of youkai about her, not enough to hide that she's human but more than a casual or passing touch.

She pressed her hands to the wooden floor in front of her and bowed her head to join them. "Lord of Thresholds, of Passageways, of Boundaries, of Neither Here nor There--"

"Yes, yes." Jareth had no intention of listening to the full litany of his titles. I'm not fool enough-- nor bored enough-- to be bound that way. "Who are you and what on earth do you want that's worth this much trouble?" She's not a fool. Is she as young as she looks?

"I am Rin," she replied. She didn't sound as if she expected that to mean anything to him, and in truth, it didn't.

"Oh, sit up." He wasn't going to get anything from studying the top of her head.

She obeyed, sitting back on her heels and resting her hands on her knees. "I beg the Lord of Passageways to open the Bone Eater's Well so that the Shikon no Tama can pass through time and be destroyed."

Jareth touched the Labyrinth to see what he could find about the Shikon no Tama. He frowned. The Jewel of Four Souls. Madness and power and wishes. Wishes are dangerous things. "Perhaps I should simply take the jewel into my own realm."

Rin bit her lip, and Jareth suspected suppressed laughter. "I don't think either Kikyou-sama or Kagome-sama would give it to you. Would have given it to you." She frowned. "They didn't, so I think they wouldn't, but I don't think you were there. Time travel is complicated. The words don't exist." She shook her head. "And Naraku wouldn't give it to anybody unless they killed him."

Jareth asked the Labyrinth about each of the names. Rin spoke of them as if they were important to the Shikon no Tama, but the Labyrinth hadn't mentioned them when explaining. Of course, It doesn't care for human names. Come, now. I need to know. Grudgingly, It told him more, more but not enough.

Rin turned to tend the fire. She had a kettle and a tray of tea things in the sunken area around the pit. She fidgeted with the whisk then put it down and flattened her hands against her knees. "I apologize for calling you like this. I wasn't sure how else to do it, and Sesshoumaru-sama never mentioned anyone else who even could open the well that way."

That name, Jareth recognized. "Sesshoumaru," he said. That would explain the flavor of her aura. He sat up straight. "I've met him. Pleasant enough fellow." When his wife-- Oh. He masked the slight widening of his eyes by rolling a sphere out of the air and spinning it on his fingertips. And his wife was mine for a time between being human and marrying. I had forgotten that, probably because it hasn't happened to me yet. He gave the young woman his full attention as he tried to reconcile who she was now with who she would be. No. Who she might be. I could unravel that if I wished.

She smiled, her eyes opened wide, and she clasped her hands together. "Sesshoumaru-sama has been very kind to me."

He thought he could hear hope in her voice. Dreams, my dear. If I say no, they're nothing. You're mortal, too fragile for him. He wanted to pull in her possibilities, to touch and taste each in turn. He hadn't indulged himself that way in a very long time. But that would kill her. Sesshoumaru would never forgive me, not even if he doesn't see who she could be. "Tell me, Rin. Tell me everything."

She looked at the floor again. "Is that necessary?" Her fingers dug into each other.

"You've begged me for a favor. I need to know why I should bother."

"A long time ago, there was a miko named Midoriko--"

"No." Jareth held up a finger to stop her. "I know that part." Mostly. "Tell me your story. That's the one that matters. I'll be granting your wish not hers." Given that the subject was the Shikon no Tama, Jareth wasn't surprised that Rin flinched slightly at the word 'wish.' He smiled. "You've asked. Now you must convince."

She put the kettle on the fire. "I was born in a small village of no particular note, to parents who were...also of no particular note. Early death and poverty usually assure that." She raised her eyebrows as if inviting him to find amusement in the statement.

"I've known poets who praised both death and poverty as making beauty obvious." He draped a leg over the arm of his throne and leaned against the corner formed by the back and the other arm. "I've never seen that as adding virtue to either, myself. They merely make the passable seem extraordinary."

She looked at her hands. "Finding some benefit in loss makes the impossibility of avoiding it seem more bearable." She cleared her throat. "I was small when they were killed, only just old enough to survive it."

Ah-- No tears, please. Spare me that. They won't move me.

When she looked up, her eyes were dry, and her face showed no sign of tears. "I found Sesshoumaru-sama in the woods. He was hurt." She shrugged. "I brought him food and tried to care for him."

"You're leaving a lot out."

"I was very young," she said. "I don't remember everything."

If you've forgotten anything about him, it's been taken by force. Still... He chose not to call her on the lie.

"Youkai, wolves, attacked our village. Sesshoumaru-sama saved my life and let me follow him after that."

Oversimplification, I'm sure. Do I need the details? Jareth narrowed his eyes. "That's hardly even a story." He allowed himself a tiny sneer.

She met his eyes calmly then turned check the kettle. "If I tell you every word, every breath, we'll be here for years. Kaede-obaa-sama cannot keep the barrier around the shrine for so long."

"Kaede-obaa-sama?" He tried to remember if she'd mentioned the name before.

"Kikyou-sama's younger sister." Rin raised a hand to cover her smile. "My foster mother now. She's no longer young."

You can't imagine being that old, can you? Your Sesshoumaru is older still. "Why do you want me to rip time? You, personally, I mean. I don't do world saving." Altruists can't summon me. Altruism requires emptying the self too far.

She didn't look surprised. "If the Bone Eater's Well does not open, if Kagome-sama does not come back in time, I will never meet Sesshoumaru-sama or Kaede-obaa-sama or..." She made a tossing away gesture with her right hand. "I would almost certainly be dead."

Jareth frowned at her. "And how many died because she came back?"

"I don't know."

Do you care? Surprisingly, yes. That's something. "Why not? That seems a fact with which to arm yourself."

"I don't know which of them would have died anyway. War and bad harvests and youkai would all still exist." She poured water from the kettle into a clay teapot.

"The shards of the Shikon no Tama gave many youkai more power than they'd have had otherwise." Ah. Yes. That. "Including those wolves you mentioned." He raised one finger. "And Naraku." He raised a second. Then he spread his hands wide to show that he didn't have enough fingers to count those affected.

"Any more power than enough doesn't matter," she replied. "If a weaker monster killed me, I'd not be less dead than if a stronger one did." She laid her hand along the side of the pot then nodded.

He gave her a laugh. "Indeed. If I killed you, you'd be no more dead than if your Sesshoumaru did."

She just managed not to drop the tea she'd begun to measure. "Sesshoumaru-sama wouldn't--"

His renewed laughter interrupted her, and she covered her face with both hands. She loves him. No doubt there, but it's a child's love, I think, a child's love that thinks it's a woman's. It could be more. If she makes it so and earns the fee for it. Which brings us to the bargaining. He shifted his position on his throne, leaning forward and planting his feet firmly on the ground. I probably will do it, but you'll have to earn it. How much are you willing to pay? He considered demanding her memories of Sesshoumaru then considered demanding that she never see Sesshoumaru again. Either would be within my rights. Except that Sesshoumaru has the power to express his...displeasure at the price. Let's see if she's thought about it. "What can you offer me? I do nothing free, and there's no reason why I must help you."

She inclined her head to one side, long black hair sliding over one shoulder. She spread her hands. "Because you already have helped us. No one else could have, and Kagome-sama arrived. We all met her."

That could be changed if I say no. He studied her face. Yes. I think she has an offer to make. Probably more than one, starting with the least costly. Good. "You're avoiding the second question." And you want more than the gate. You want Sesshoumaru. I can smell it on you. Am I not also Lord of Wishes, both wise and unwise?

"What I can offer?" She shrugged one shoulder. "Isn't the death of Naraku to your benefit? Sesshoumaru-sama said that all the Great Lords lost liegemen." For the first time, she looked completely uncertain.

I expect I did lose some. There's always something, and some-- as you will some day if you swear to me-- choose not to come back. He curved one side of his mouth in a bitter smile. "If I do not assist you, Naraku will never be an issue. The Shikon no Tama will remain hidden from him because the girl from your future will hold it and never break it." Lies. At least... probably. A thing like that always finds a way to manifest. It encysts itself, buried in a soul, until it can birth itself.

"I am not so sure." She poured tea into a cup and offered it to him. Her hand shook a little, but she looked otherwise calm.

Tea was not his preferred drink, and he suspected that this was woefully under-steeped, but to refuse would place him at a disadvantage, so he took the cup in one hand. And you are right. Will you carry the argument through? He inhaled the steam. "An interesting blend." A comment like that was usually safe ground. "Does your master offer recompense?"

She stiffened and set down the teapot. "Sesshoumaru-sama believes that what has happened will happen and needs no aid." She placed her hands on her knees and bowed to Jareth. "I have nothing that is not Sesshoumaru-sama's except myself."

"Even that is debatable, Rin." He shook his head. "He has fed you. He has clothed you. He has protected you. You belong to him, and I have no wish to go to war for such a poor return." A favor for him would be for a peer of sorts, younger, less powerful but still a power. A favor for you... He raised his eyebrows and allowed himself a sneer.

She didn't seem to notice. "Sesshoumaru-sama said I might do as I wished. He said he is not brother or father or husband to tell me what I may do."

Ah. That's it. Clever Sesshoumaru. He conjured a sphere that showed her falling sakura blossoms. He rolled it around his hand three times to be sure of catching her attention. As if I might have lost it. He tossed it into the air, split it in three and began to juggle. He evades debt to me and finds a place for you. A master move if it works and no great loss to him if it doesn't as she won't deserve...but she will. I've met her. He's only guessing, but I've met her. "There are some prices you cannot meet, child." He wasn't sure if she'd understand the warning in his voice or know that he referred to something other than her open request.

She sighed, her eyes following the falling petals rather than the moving spheres. "Many of us lose if Kagome-sama never comes. There are others I can ask who will help if I cannot meet your price." She straightened her shoulders.

Clever child. You asked them first, didn't you? I can use clever people. They're better than powerful people. He collapsed the spheres together and let the remaining one spin just above his fingertips. Have you thought of the convincing argument for bringing her here? The cost will be less if you have, only what you can afford. But I will take everything offered.

"I am healthy, young, free to give my loyalty and accustomed to walking among those...from other worlds." She bowed again. "Our time is better able to fight a threat such as Naraku. In Kagome-sama's time, magic hides, barely known. The youkai who still bother with human lands are those capable of blending in, something Naraku never had trouble doing. No hanyou. No demon hunters. No monks with nothingness devouring them and everything around them. No Sesshoumaru-sama. Centuries more for the spider to prepare. Do you truly think that he would die or that he would not find Kagome-sama?"

Very good. He would find her soul in one life or another, and I cannot move against him directly, not unless he steps into my kingdom. "I might take care of him myself." He flicked the sphere to his other hand.

"And risk angering the other Great Lords?"

He gave her a smile by way of granting her point. "Those who enter my service cease to be human."

"I won't mind."

He let silence sit between them to see what else she would offer. You alone might be sufficient, but you're not sure of that, are you? Human and female and without family name in this place and time... Not that I measure things so. I might do this just for you, but if I can get more... He steepled his fingers and smiled at her. How many others offered service or tribute?

After a minute, she cleared her throat. "Kaede-obaa-sama--"

Enlightenment. She coached you, didn't she? Did you think of it first or did she? Or was it a hint from Sesshoumaru? "Would she leave her people unguarded to come to me?"

The girl clasped her hands. "For this, she would."

"Child--" He waved a hand to burst the sphere like a soap bubble. "Did no one warn you that my price is never less than what the favor is worth?"

She swallowed visibly and seemed to brace herself. "What is this one worth?"

In truth? Very little. It will take no effort at all and is clearly my prerogative. He let his smile widen. "It's not as if you will lose by entering my service, not for this cause." Or did you ask anyone who has truly settled?

She sagged just a little. Someone less used to understanding human body language than Jareth might have missed it. "Shippou-san said I must not ask anyone who I was not willing to give to you. He said all of them were too stupid to say no."

Jareth laughed. "Did he say yes?"

She lifted the teapot, silently offering him more tea. "He didn't answer. He told me to ask you if you really want a kitsune because you cannot make him other than what he is."

He accepted more tea, trying not to look at the green liquid with the irritation he felt. He considered changing it to something more palatable. But that would be rude, and she might notice. "I might need to...negotiate details with him."

"I asked Kohaku-san after that, but I didn't ask anyone else. If they want to say yes, they, too, would have to 'negotiate details.'" She smiled and sipped her own tea. "With each other as much as with you." She set her cup down. "There are children to consider."

He narrowed his eyes. "Children are welcome in my realm."

"Children change in your realm."

"They do that anyway, no matter where they are." Her, the old priestess, the kitsune and this Kohaku. Who is he? He asked the Labyrinth in case the information was already there. Ah, yes. The demon hunter who was dead for a while. He should be mine anyway. He stood and stretched. "For loyal service from the four of you and a chance to meet with the other four, I will open the Bone Eater's Well at those times so that Kagome and InuYasha may pass through. Those times will touch in that spot as long as they need to." And you might make your Sesshoumaru a fascinating Lady some day if you keep on as you've begun. Perhaps.

May 2010

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