Disclaimer: Inuyasha is not mine. Never will be.
Italics denote thoughts.
"Sesshoumaru-sama! The meat! SESSHOUMARU-SAMA!"
Someone's squawking, he had no idea who, Jaken probably, alerted him to the burning piece of meat in the pan. He hurried to have it removed before it could turn into an unidentifiable, black mass and stuck to the base of the pan. By then, removing it would be a trying task indeed, not that he needed to do something as menial as cleaning the pan, that was something the apprentices were there for. A string of very colorful words ran through his head as he dumped the offending piece of beef into the trashcan. The smell of charred meat hung about in the air.
Obtaining another slice from the refrigerator, he thumped the beef upon the cutting board so hard; all the other chefs in the kitchen jumped and eyed him warily. Never before had they seen him like this and it scared them, the younger and more inexperienced apprentices especially. He had never been someone who was easily approached, but his countenance today and the aura of negativity around him made everyone want to stay away at a safe distance. Only a certain brown-eyed chef seemed cool and unruffled, going about with her work, never batting an eyelid even for a second at his actions.
He set to work again and this time was determined not to lose focus.
A lone figure dressed in a pristine white uniform leaned against the wall. His trademark amber eyes scanned the quiet surroundings. Everything had been cleaned until it shone and returned to where it belonged, nothing looked out of place. The kitchen was spick and span just like the way he demanded it to be. There was nothing wrong, so why was he feeling so restless and out of sorts? It was as how the saying goes; every dog has its day. Today just wasn't his. First he had been very distracted and now he was restless. Anger grew in him as he clenched his teeth at a memory.
Yes, he was angry, very angry. He, Sesshoumaru, had never, in his entire life, been distracted even for a split second from his work. Hell, that particular word did not even exist in his vocabulary. Yet, it had happened to him. His attention had been sidetracked not once but on three different occasions in the span of a mere four days. Every time it happened, a customer's dinner had been so badly burnt that the only place for it is among the garbage. To have it occurring in front of all his subordinates was by far his most humiliating experience.
Only one person had the unnerving ability to cause Sesshoumaru to lose his focus and that was Kagome.
He was of the opinion that by getting rid of that girl, some semblance of peace and sanity would return to him. Only god knows that he had not even had a peace of mind from the minute he first saw her standing there like a goddess from heaven. Images of her, both enchanting and captivating, plagued him in his dreams and worried him when he was awake. He could hardly stop thinking of her. It was as if every little path his wandering mind took led up to her.
He was obsessed with her, obsessed with an obsession that knew no boundaries. She is an addiction, a beautiful addiction. But lately, all he could think of was how he had treated her and how he had made her cry. Guilt played heavily in him as he thought back to that day. It didn't help at all that Rin had gone to stay with his father after what she had seen that night and ignoring him most of the time. As much as he did not want to admit it, the young girl had grown on him despite the distance he kept within them.
A pair of small hands pushed open the wide kitchen doors and feet belonging to the same owner stepped in. Chocolate brown eyes that wouldn't even look at him for the past few days now looked as if they had something to say to him.
She hesitated for a moment before him, thinking and rearranging her words so as to obtain the desired effect. The importance of it greatly outweighed any risks and she was determined to see it through. There was no telling how he would react to it but if he was going to disown her after that then so be it. Kawamura-sama, Sesshoumaru's father, had given his assurance that he would take her in if Sesshoumaru ever did something like that. She was doing this for the sake of her friend and she wasn't afraid of anyone, not even Sesshoumaru-sama.
"You're a very selfish person Sesshoumaru-sama."
Sesshoumaru raised his eyebrow but didn't say a thing. If he was surprised, he didn't show it. Feeling a little bolder seeing as how he had not berated her nor glared at her for calling him selfish to his face, she decided to continue with her little lecture. Dear God, please make him listen to what I'm going to say.
"Sesshoumaru-sama, I know you have lost people you loved deeply once and have never gotten over it. Afraid of losing them again and getting hurt once more, you wanted to prevent it if you can. Thus you selfishly denied your feelings for another because you didn't want yourself to be hurt. Right?"
"It is because of this selfishness of yours you pushed Kagome away and broke her heart, cruelly too, if I may add. What were you thinking Sesshoumaru-sama? I thought you had more dignity than that! Kagome doesn't deserve to be treated so."
"Silence! You know nothing of what you speak!" He was seething with anger. The girl was overstepping the boundaries.
Her voice raised a few decibels. "I won't until I'm done talking!"
Sesshoumaru was taken aback but he said nothing. Never has he seen his ward in such a manner. Taking a deep breath, Rin continued albeit a little more softly, but it did nothing to take away the sting of her words.
"You know what, you're also the biggest coward on earth, Sesshoumaru-sama. You don't dare to love her because you were scared of ending up hurt so you decided to hurt her before she could hurt you. That is sheer cowardice and stupidity Sesshoumaru-sama! You have hurt her but you have also hurt yourself didn't you? Anyone could see that. You are not yourself lately because you're hurting inside right?"
The young girl spoke very quickly and was trembling inside but tried hard not to let it show. She felt like she had used up her lifetime's supply of courage just for this one occasion. It had taken a lot of nerve to speak up to Sesshoumaru-sama in such a way and she wasn't sure how he would take it. His expression was about as readable as the wall he was leaning on but his eyes, they were burning with a golden fire as they looked directly at her. He had probably never been spoken to like that in his entire life. The possibility of him not disowning her and also firing her in the process looked thinner than a silk thread now. Kawamura-sama had better keep his promise!
"Sesshoumaru-sama, you can only truly heal when you have learned to love."
Without another word, the young girl ran out of the kitchen. The courage displayed earlier on seemed to have disappeared as she sprinted away to safety in the darkened restaurant.
His golden eyes stared at the spot she had just vacated, anger flashing dangerously within, hands clenched into fists beneath folded arms. How dare she speak to me in that insolent way!
She was stepping on thin ice when she spoke of him as both selfish and a coward. Only self-restraint and honor had kept him from hitting her. Sesshoumaru would never ever raise his hand against someone of the opposite sex.Fury coursed through him and the more he thought about it, the angrier he became. Waves of rage seemed to be coming off him as he clenched and unclenched one of his fists. For once, he wanted badly to hit something.
Lying on his bed that night, the events that had happened earlier replayed themselves in his mind. He felt very angry with Rin for she had spoken to him without any respect and had defied his command to hold her tongue. However, in the silence surrounding him, he grew even angrier with himself. He could not ignore the small voice in his head saying that he really is who she said he was - a selfish and cowardly person.
All that his young ward had said was true, deep down he really was afraid of getting hurt and have his heart wounded yet again. Emotional wounds are slow to heal, and the scars they leave will never fade. He'd rather be doing the hurting instead of being hurt, which was why he had decided to push Kagome away.
It had been cruel of him, he knew that, but he had done it for Kagome's own good. She was right then, he was denying and even contradicting himself. He liked her, maybe even loved her, and thought about her every night and day. One could only imagine the happiness he had felt when she declared her love for him. However, the elation had quickly given way to fear. For once, he felt the touch of its icy fingers as they wrapped themselves around his heart in a snakelike fashion. He was afraid that the minute he accepted her love and returned it, she would be gone, snatched away from him.
There had been only two recipients of his love before and they had both departed for the afterlife. He didn't want that to happen to her too. There was no knowing if he would be able to take it if something such as that were to happen to her. Most importantly, he was afraid of being left on his own after having someone by his side. He didn't look it, but in reality, he really was afraid of being alone. The feeling of not having someone there by you after they had been around for some time is unbearable. It was like being sucked into a vacuum, life's black hole and left there with no way out.
Hence, he had decided it would be better for the two of them if he turned her down and kept her away from him, the further the better.
Nevertheless, for all the reasoning of his mind, he couldn't convince his heart to feel the same way. It was still clinging stubbornly and adamantly to her, determined to love her even if the world were to come to an end within the next five minutes. It was pining for her, missing her sweet voice and desiring her gentle touch. He craved for her but he knew that like a forbidden fruit, he could never have her. He would never be able to hold her in his arms, run his fingers through her silky mass of dark hair or even feel the shape of her small hand in his bigger one.
All he could do was to think about her and watch her in his dreams. But his heart, his traitorous heart, wanted nothing of that sort. It wanted to physically feel her soft curves against his body as he held her, feel his fingers tangled up in her hair, actually covering her hand with his and not just dreaming about it.
He was very disgusted with himself. To think that he, Sesshoumaru, the man that was revered by so many was actually a coward. He was a coward who did not dare to confront his feelings, a coward who was afraid to love a woman. He wallowed in misery and self-pity, ignoring the feelings of others around him.
Shame crept slowly into his heart. He was ashamed of himself for refusing to admit his love for Kagome and had brutally broken the heart of a girl who truly loved him. It sickened him to think that this need for self-protection was actually a mask, a pretense. Yet, that was the reality of it. His cowardice masquerading as the need to protect himself, had caused him to treat Kagome in such a way.
If there was anything besides ego that Sesshoumaru had, it was pride. There was no way he was going to be lectured and called names, however true they were, by a young girl. His willful pride did not allow him to just let it be. There was no way he was going down without a fight against the accusations that Rin threw his way. It wanted him to stand up and show the world that he, Kawamura Sesshoumaru, is no coward, but a real man worthy of his name.
The first step began with admitting to himself his love for a certain blue-eyed beauty.
How nice it is to be able to go on a vacation, and with the person you love too. That girl is making me so jealous of her, she thought with a smile as she entered the elevator. Her best friend since forever, Sango, was leaving early tomorrow morning on a two-week holiday to a beach resort with her boyfriend and she had gone over to help her pack as well as pick up on some girly gossips.
She had met Miroku a couple of times since the two of them went steady and in her opinion, he was the best thing that had ever happened to Sango. Well, except for the increasing number of gropes that Sango got since she met him that is. He was sweet and very nice, if not a little more on the perverted side, but she assumed all males were like that. Despite all outward appearances, she could see that he really loved Sango very much and that was all that mattered. She sighed, wishing that she too had someone who loved her as much as Miroku did Sango.
The elevator doors slid open at her floor and she got out thinking that maybe she just didn't have the luck Sango has. It was just so like her usual unlucky self to fall in love with a man who had the feelings of an iceberg so frozen over that you could go skating on it even on a hot summer's day.
She unlocked the door, lost in her sea of thoughts. So absorbed was she that she failed to notice the man leaning against the wall, watching her with his eyes of gold.
She jumped backwards, pressing her hand to her heart. Her breathing came out in short pants, fast and erratic.
"Jeez, don't scare me like that! I nearly died you know," she scolded.
It was only then that her brain finally overcame its initial shock and managed to register the identity of the one standing there. The rate her heart was beating increased considerably and she kept telling herself that it was only due to the scare she just got, nothing else. He was an arrogant jerk and she did not want to see him, regardless of the various acrobatics her heart had done when she caught sight of him.
His amber eyes were laughing at her, amused that she could be frightened so easily. The expression on her face was priceless and so endearing. It made him want to envelope her in his arms and keep her safe there. Maybe I should do it more often.
"What are you doing here?"
Her voice had dropped its familiar warmness, rivaling his in iciness. It cut at his heart to hear her like this. She was made to have a voice as warm as the sun in spring, not bitter and frosty like the wind in winter.
"I brought you lunch, Kagome."
"Eh?" She blinked a couple of times, wondering if she had heard wrongly.
"You are THE Sesshoumaru aren't you and not someone else trapped in Sesshoumaru's body, right?"
He raised an eyebrow at her question, caught between feeling annoyed and amused.
"Yes, I assure you that this Sesshoumaru is still himself and not someone else."
"Right. Well then, what is the great Sesshoumaru-sama doing at my door?" she said, sarcasm dripping with every word.
This girl was testing his patience. If he did not like her, he really wouldn't tolerate her at all. He never repeated anything, but right now, he had a girl to apologize to and win over before the day was out. Swallowing his pride, however hard that may be, he said, "I've brought some lunch for you."
"Gee, that's very sweet of you but I'm not hungry."
A loud rumble from her stomach stated otherwise and immediately, she blushed a bright red. Sesshoumaru smirked. Not hungry indeed.
"You're a very bad liar you know that?"
So now he's throwing my words back at me. Fine, two can play at this – whatever is he doing here anyway? I doubt it's just to play delivery boy although I really wouldn't mind someone so hot delivering my lunch everyday. Heck, he can deliver breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper if he wants.
"Alright, thank you for your trouble. You can just leave it here actually. Oh, do you want a tip or something? I'm sure I have some spare change in here somewhere," she said, opening her purse and digging into it.
He cursed in his head, patience running thin. "Do not take this Sesshoumaru for a delivery boy!"
"Then tell me why exactly are you here!"
"Do you always leave your guests standing in the corridor?" Sesshoumaru said, inviting himself into her house before she could even open her mouth to protest.
That stupid, pompous jerk! Having exhausted her supply of names for him, she settled for a couple of those that had appeared first instead. He'll be out of here before he knows it anyway, she thought gleefully, ignoring the butterflies fluttering in her stomach at being in such close proximity with him. She was determined to see him out of her house without losing her heart to him yet again in the process.
Squaring her shoulders, she turned around only to find that Sesshoumaru was nowhere to be seen. Where the hell is that guy now?
Faint sounds of drawers being opened and closed answered her question. She let out an exasperated sigh before walking in the direction of her kitchen cum dining area. Leaning against the doorway, she observed him for a moment. He was bent slightly to get access to the low drawers, long silver hair falling over his shoulder. In an odd way, he looked as if he belonged there and had been there for his entire life. That is, if you discounted the fact that the way he was rummaging around the drawers and cabinets was very much like that of a giant squirrel hunting around for its hoard of lost nuts. She giggled softly at that thought.
Her giggles reached his ears. Sesshoumaru did not need an Einstein to tell him that he was the source of her current mirth and him being who he is, did not really enjoy it.
"Kagome, where on earth do you keep your eating utensils?"
"Second drawer on your left. Why?"
"I believe it is our custom to eat with something. Unless you prefer to eat using your bare hands?"
"Has anyone ever told you that you're insufferable?"
He ignored her, pretending to not have heard it. Petty squabbles like these would be more fun if left for another day. Right now, he had something very important to do.
Handing her a pair of fork and spoon, he said, "Sit down and eat."
She grabbed the offered items and promptly sat down. A black bento box, similar to the one she owned, was put in front of her. She wondered what could an innocent looking box like this hold? It must be something of utmost importance or else Sesshoumaru wouldn't bother coming round with it after having told her in no uncertain terms that he wasn't the least bit interested in her and would she please leave him alone in the future. Curiosity got the better of her and without hesitating she lifted the lid.
A mixture of smells greeted her as she closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. She took her time trying to make out what every scent was. There was the fragrant smell of warm rice, so warm that little tendrils of steam were still floating upwards. There was also the enticing scent of exotic spices and the spicy tang of chilies mixed together in a mouth-watering dish known as curry. All these different aromas tantalized and teased her sense of smell. Being someone whose livelihood revolves around food, these smells were not at all foreign to her. They were her friends and she couldn't wait to taste them. They smell so delicious! Her stomach let out another low growl.
"Are you eating or would you like this Sesshoumaru to feed you?"
Her eyes snapped open as she sent a glare that promised a slow and painful death his way. How dare he disrupt the mood! I really should kick him out for this. Picking up her spoon, she took a tentative mouthful as if she was afraid of what she would find.
Sesshoumaru watched her eat with bated breath from his place opposite her. She kept her head lowered and her bangs obscured her eyes so he had no way of telling what she thought about the food. Only the continuous movements of her hands told him that she was still eating. If she hadn't stopped, that meant his chance was still there.
It was only a simple dish, rice and curry, but from her initial reaction, he was ready to bet that he had caught her attention. Now, whether he fails or succeeds, was all up to the food in the box. He had, for the first time since Higurashi-sama's death, poured forth all his feelings into what he was cooking. His joy, his happiness, his fears, his doubts, his longings, his desires and most importantly, his love for her, were all channeled from his heart and into the food.
For someone who was extremely perceptive to the different tastes, there was no way she could miss it.
The scraping of her spoon against the bottom of the box alerted him to the fact that she was done with eating. Unblinking amber eyes looked at her expectantly. A sudden pang of fear ran through him. Would she like what she tasted? He wanted to know her thoughts yet at the same time afraid at what she would say. Her head was still bowed, hidden from his view. The silence was loud in the room, so loud it was almost deafening.
For the first time in his entire life, he grew nervous with every passing second. Sitting there, he felt like a teenage boy declaring for the first time, his love to a girl. He was trying his very best to not think about what Kagome would say, yet his thoughts kept returning to the dreaded question that was dancing around in his mind. The hands of the clock on the opposite wall ticked slowly by, still Kagome had not uttered a word nor moved a muscle. His hands grew cold and clammy.
She didn't know what to say. The food she just had was completely different from what Sesshoumaru had dished up the first time she tasted his food. It was as if someone else had made it. At first, she nearly thought she was being treated to her father's cooking once again. The food tasted very much the same way too, packed full of the chef's emotions. However, that was where they began diverging from one another.
Where her father's cooking had been full of love for his daughter, Sesshoumaru's was a potpourri of different emotions. Nevertheless, those feelings, they were real; so genuinely real that there was no way it could have been anyone else cooking them but him. They overwhelmed her and flooded every corner of her soul. She could feel all that he felt – the pain he hid, the yearning of his soul, the guilt he carried, everything, as if they were her own. But above all, she could feel the love that had made up the essence of his cooking.
It was this love of his, a love whose presence could be found even in the smallest grain of rice that shattered her resolve. The love that she could feel, so strong and passionate, was further heightened by the heady smell and taste of spices and it was all for one person – her. Suddenly, she felt so cherished and wanted, it made her want to break down and cry.
She had never felt this loved by another man before.
She took a deep breath and lifted her head to face him. Her beautiful sapphire eyes glistened with crystal tears that were threatening to fall. Red lips parted and her soft voice reached his ears.
"Do you mean it Sesshoumaru?"
A single tear ran down her cheek but that did not mar the radiance of her smile in the least. He reached out a hand and brushed the teardrop away, vowing never to let another drop touch her cheek. She had shed enough because of him; there was no way he would be able to live with himself if she were to shed another.
"Don't cry, my Kagome."
She continued to smile as she hastily brushed the others away before they could fall.
"Sorry, I'm -"
He cupped her cheek in his hand, placing his thumb upon her lips, effectively silencing her. His lips curled upwards in a small smile as he enjoyed the feel of the contours of her face under his palm. If this was a dream, I wish I'd never wake up. But this was no dream. The girl whose cheek he was touching, the girl of his dreams, was not an apparition or anything. She was a real person, alive and breathing, with her skin soft and warm to his touch.
"Don't be, it is I who should apologize to you. This Sesshoumaru is sorry for all the hurt he has caused you due to his selfishness and cowardice. Please forgive me, Kagome," he said, in the gentlest tone he possessed.
Bright blue eyes, now devoid of tears, widened at his words. Sesshoumaru…he is apologizing to me!
Kagome being the person that she is had already forgiven him even before he said he was sorry. She had not expected him to verbally ask for her forgiveness, having already felt it in his cooking, but his humble apology endeared him to her even more for there was nothing like a man who was ready to admit his faults and apologize for his wrongdoings.
She removed his hand from its place on her face and clasping it between two smaller ones belonging to her, she said, "I have already forgiven you, Sesshoumaru."
No words could accurately describe what Sesshoumaru felt at hearing those few words. It was as if the sun's rays had broken through the line of dark clouds after a very bad thunderstorm, bestowing her golden light onto the earth. His heart felt lighter than it had ever been, like a great load had been lifted off it. He leaned across the table and placed a soft kiss upon her forehead.
"I love you, Kagome."
"I love you too, Sesshoumaru."
A/N: Here it is, the final chapter. Thank you and a big hug to all of you guys who have stuck with this story since Chapter 1. Another round of cookies for my loyal reviewers, you know who you are. Enjoy:D
cyrstal lilith - there...i made this chapter as happy(?) as i can. i've found out that i don't really enjoy writing sad parts. ::sniffles::
cookiemonsterks - i hope Sesshoumaru managed to un-break your heart in this chapter. :) about the replies to reviews ... it's the least i can do after you guys go out of your way to leave me those lovely reviews in the first place.
Ru-Doragon - writing about Sesshoumaru beating himself up in his subconscious is also very satisfying. ::grins evilly:: i was about to take your advice and make Rin pound him, but she didn't have the guts to do it. so i'm leaving all the pounding to you. :)
lil mutt face grl - did Sesshoumaru manage to make you change your opinion of him being an ass in this chapter:)