Just A Starving Writer
Disclaimer: nope, not mine.
Author's Plea: Honestly? I didn't think I'd ever finish it. My original ending just would not come out. Then, today, I got this ending and it came out pretty much exactly like this. I'm taking that as a sign, even if it still disappoints me. Maybe I waited too long...
Relatively unedited. Now complete.
Enjoy if you can.
Part 10: Time Extended
As she tied her worn shoes, Kagome thought briefly how her entire life had been decided by running.
Running from Mistress Centipede, she had come across the wakened Inuyasha. Running after the jewel shards, she had found Shippo and Miroku. Running after Naraku, figuratively and literally, she had stumbled upon Sango. Running for the sheer joy of running, she had started a relationship with Sesshoumaru.
Now, running was every much a necessary part of her life as breathing and eating. She had to run. There was no questioning it. There was no denying it. Since she had crossed over for the last time that hot June day, she hadn't once stopped running.
She ran everywhere and everyplace, traveling according to her heart's whimsy. Her family had not bothered worrying about it. They knew she was skilled enough to take care of herself. At the very least, she could easily run away. There was no questioning that.
However, here had started a bit differently.
It began with a subconscious change during her last words with the taiyoukai. She had given him the date, yes, but she had given him the date of one year in her future. In the end, she knew she had needed time to grow as much as he.
And so she had waited, patiently waited, filling the time with studying and running. She had quickly become a regular part of the evening street life. Like clockwork, every night she ran through the neighborhoods, speeding down the streets in her endless search for Life, the yellow gloom of the streetlights blocking out the pink tint her skin would still radiate at times.
She had waited. One long year had passed. The day had arrived… without him. He was not there.
It had been so tempting to give up then, but she had sworn. She had sworn that Life was most important, even more important than him. He just needed more time, she rationalized. He just wasn't quite ready yet.
Convincing herself that he would come eventually had been easy. Still, the shrine, with its memories and constant flow of strangers, only fed her unease and her runs grew longer and farther each night until it became something of street legend, the glowing girl who raced by leaving a feeling of peacefulness in her wake.
When she left Japan, she had tried to convince herself she wasn't escaping with only minimal success. She justified it with her new doctrine: if it took running away to Europe to ensure that she would continue to fully enjoy her life, she would do it. There was no shame in survival as long as she did it for the right reasons. She couldn't see any reason better than Living.
Several months of hard work helped get her accepted at a University and, rather than fly or drive the long miles between Russia where she had landed and France where she would go to school, she packed what few belongings she would take with her and set off running. Heading southwest, she traversed the lands slowly, following lonely roads for the most part. There were relatively few problems, though it was a bit hard convincing people that no, she wasn't hitchhiking and no, she didn't want a ride.
When she finally arrived at the campus just before classes began, she was grateful for a place to settle though she would not have traded her months of exploration for anything. Her nights jogging through the mountains had taught her even more about the joys of living. It was a lesson she held dear even as she began studying History and Geology.
Her path through the jungle of education had been rather straightforward. After spending so much time in the past, she had become interested in how so much had changed through the years. She knew what her boring high school text books had told her, but there were unanswered questions and facts that directly contradicted with what she had seen for herself. It interested her.
Geology had been the result of her travels through the mountains. The sights had been magnificent and made her ponder how such things were possible. It had started as a curiosity in the Feudal Era, one mostly diminished by the seriousness of their mission, but, alone on a road in the middle of empty country, she had speculated. How much of the scenery was through natural processes, and how much had been a result of youkai? It was a valid question of the changes supposed mythology could work on the land, and one she intended on exploring.
She had approached school this time with a more positive attitude. It wasn't so hard once she was actually able to concentrate on it and didn't miss weeks at a time. The only instances when she felt the prickling of uncertainty were when it was time for another run, something that she could never deny herself.
Kagome wanted to laugh at the absurdity of it, as she finished adjusting her shoes and began pulling the leggings into a more comfortable position. She never had grown accustomed to the spandex but had started wearing them to prevent people from commenting on her legs. Her years fighting demons in the Feudal Era as well as the violent games she had played with Sesshoumaru had left her scarred, something her two month long cross country journey had not helped. While she could care less about the red and white lines that marred her skin, the looks of pity and pointed questioning were things she could do without.
Fully ready, Kagome stood and stretched her arms over her head, pulling her back into position and tightening some of her leg muscles. Smiling softly, she headed for the door, and responded kindly to her roommate's call for her to take care.
Of course she would. Life was too precious to be entirely reckless, no matter what people suspected from her behavior. She had too much to live for.
After all, he still hadn't come yet. There was no doubt that he would, when he was ready. He would find her. If there was anything certain in life, that was it.
It had taken three days this time to turn in all her lengthy essays, take her finals, and relieve all her family that she was still alive, not to mention participate in obligatory end of semester drinks with her study group. Three days of complete and utter hell.
Therefore, it came as no surprise that she was happy when she exited her apartment and into the open air. Happy beyond measurement…until she noticed she had slept through the whole day because of what had been intended as a small nap.
However, her disappointment faded in light of the pure beauty of the land around her. The moonlight, the marvelously old architecture, the crisp air… it was temptation in the form of a serene environment, a temptation near impossible to resist. Though Kagome was by no means weak, this was simply not something she could pass up. After all, it was completely innocent to want to enjoy such a simple thing.
Having convinced herself that there was absolutely no possible way for this simple pleasure to cause any harm, she locked up her apartment and took off at a run.
The town rushed by in darkened grey blur as the cool evening air breathed life into lungs that were tired of the dust of ancient libraries. As her muscles fell into a most welcome rhythm, she felt more alive than she had in a long time and, in fact, more in love with life than ever before.
Kagome was well aware of her location. After traveling all over this section of France for almost two years, she had learnt some measure of navigation and the streets surrounding her home were second nature to her. Thus, she was expert when it came to avoiding all the potholes and busy sidewalks. Ducking speedily around the few late night pedestrians and jumping over curbs added to the odd sight she surely made for all there to see her. However, it had by now become something of a routine the townspeople had grown accustomed to: the pretty, young Japanese woman who ran like the wind with a smile on her face.
She was worried for a split second when the thought of dangerous criminals crossed her mind, but she let it slide by her with the wind to flutter into nonexistence. After all, in this town, it was rare to see anything dangerous. As well, there was simply no way something bad could happen on a night as alive as this. This kind of night only allowed positive encounters or, at the very least, picturesque moonlit fountains.
And thus it was that she burst beyond the buildings into what must have been her destination: a rather large opening amidst the town, paved with ancient stones as the white light of the moon lit them to an eerily beautiful brilliance and dominated by a large and beautiful water fountain. Approaching the sculpture without allowing her pace to slow, she almost missed the being she shared the plaza with.
The uncomfortable feeling of eyes watching her finally brought her to a rather sudden stand still. Frozen in mid stride, she turned her panting head slowly to the side to spot her spectator. A perfect match to the location, the taiyoukai glowed with the moon, frosted by the pale light on his shoulders and the pale stones at his feet.
Surprise ruled supreme. While discomfort may have been more welcome, Kagome simply couldn't force the emotion to the surface, not with the beauty of the night. For his part, the youkai lord remained still, watching every breath of the girl who had now turned to face him.
Whatever she had been expecting, it was doubtful his reaction was it. Heaving an obvious sigh, he let his shadowed eyes roam the plaza before he turned and slowly walked away from her. She watched him long after he passed into the darkened streets.
It wasn't until the echo of a car backfiring startled her did she move. Taking the last few steps to the fountain, she sat upon its lip and struggled to think.
It had been him. She was sure of it. Despite his changed appearance, which she could discern even in the odd lighting and at a distance, despite his modern clothing, there was no mistaking the taiyoukai. But… how could it be the proud demon when the man she had just seen had looked every bit resigned? How could it be him when he had walked away with such weariness?
She admitted that several times over the past few years she had dreamed of what a 500- years-older Sesshoumaru would look like. While she had always said, quite honestly, that she would still love him no matter how much his appearance had changed, she had never expected this. All the times she had dreamt of this encounter, all the times she made herself press onward if only for the chance to see him again… Surely that could not be it?
She growled with frustration as she rose and began to pace in front of the ever churning water.
Why had he walked away? Why had he found her after 500 years only to turn his back on her? And, most importantly, why had he done it with such a definite and solemn way? What had changed so drastically in the last few minutes that made him no longer eager to be reunited?
She turned an angry gaze in the direction in which he had disappeared. Who did he think he was, making her wait almost three years longer than she had intended, only to walk away when she first set eyes on him?
With a noise that sounded suspiciously like a snarl, she took off, intent upon finding him and forcing answers. Tearing down the almost deserted street, she searched everywhere for the white hair, short now but no less prominent, that she had waited so long for.
It took almost half an hour before she spotted his head among a small crowd.
"Sesshoumaru!" she called out without slowing her pace. He stopped but did not turn to face her rapidly approaching form. The stiffness in his pose, the droop in his shoulders, the overall fatigue that seemed to blanket him stopped her as well a scant few feet away. The crowd of unconcerned citizens went about their business, ignoring the tense couple in their midst.
Her anger was forgotten in favor of dread. Remembering her last words, remembering why she had given him so much time, she decided to face one problem at once.
"Does it still matter?" she asked quietly, aware that even now he could hear her. "You waited three years, but you found me. So, does it still matter what I am?"
He was still for an indeterminate amount of time before shaking his head slightly.
"Then why? Why did you leave?" she asked plaintively, tears struggling to the surface.
He moved with what could only be a sigh before he turned to face her. If his body language had confused her, his expression only made her horribly sad. In the more telling light of the street with such little distance between them, there was no hiding his countenance. While age had been definitely good to him, there was a certain weariness in each new crease, in every slacked feature. This was not the face of a young demon with the world at hand. This was the face of a man who had seen far too much in his life… and knew there was still far much to see.
And in an instant, Kagome recognized her own mistake. She had assumed the time would mature him, but she had not considered what life would have been like for him, nor was she able to truly comprehend it now. It was unnecessary to speculate; his tired eyes, his faded youth told her everything.
"I'm sorry," she cried before throwing herself at him, relieved when he at least allowed her that even though it broke her heart that he seemed hesitant to return the embrace.
"I'm sorry," she murmured continuously as she tried to snap him out of this dullness through sheer force of will.
After all that he had silently taught her…
A thought snapped into place with instant clarity. Releasing his waist, she brought her hands to his cheeks and demanded his full attention.
"You are a fool," she stated solidly despite the tears that remained. "A fool to forget so easily."
Without a pause, she pulled his face to hers and kissed him to bring the message through. All her worries faded as he responded with as much passion as she remembered, but in this time, there were no more games.
This time, she remained exactly where she belonged.
"It is time to return."
"But the night is so beautiful!"
"You heard your father. It's time to start back."
"Don't you start. Go on now."
With a grunt of displeasure that did not match the sparkle in his eyes, the boy turned and ran back in the direction they had come, leaving the two adults alone for a moment. Kagome, still glowing slightly pink, looked over at her partner, who did not look the least bit ruffled from their exercise. With a soft smile, she purposefully strode up and kissed him, happy beyond belief that despite their child, they still had time for each other.
While the years changed everything around them, they stayed relatively the same. He was still quiet and powerful. She was still smiling and protective. They still kissed with unreal fervor. They still ran.
Time did not seem to touch even Kagome, though she spent precious little time worrying about it. She decided once that her lack of obvious aging was most likely a product of the several things, namely the Shikon Jewel she still wore on her neck and the bracelet made from remains of Tenseiga. Some days, she wondered if perhaps because she failed to age merely because she failed to concern herself with aging.
Overall, she paid it no mind. There were much better uses for time.
The past and present taiyoukai released her suddenly and pointed her in the direction their son had gone before she was even quite aware of what was happening. It wasn't until he leant down and whispered in her ear that she responded.