Title: Table for Three
Genre: Drama, Romance
Rating: R – Slight sexual situation, mild.
Pairings Represented: Sesshoumaru/Kagome Romantic
Word Count: 17,560
For: Yabou, a happy belated birthday. :P I'm still waiting for Stupid Cupid btw
Universe: Canon – Present Day Continuation or Divergence, however you want to categorize this.
Acknowledgements: A big thank you to Snowfall and LadySafire for working with me on this, being a sounding board, and catching some of my stupid mistakes. It is very much appreciated.
Disclaimer: Inuyasha and the characters within do not belong to me. They belong to Rumiko Takahashi
Being a short order cook in the small diner was something Kagome had never wanted to do. She once had aspirations to be something great; a doctor, a lawyer, or a teacher. Once upon a time all of these were well within her reach.
And then she met Inuyasha.
It wasn't as though she looked upon her time with bitterness. She didn't. She had learned a lot about herself during that time, even though it had set her back in her schooling, almost to the point of no return. Nevertheless, she was still working at getting back on track. No, she would never be a doctor, or a lawyer, or even a teacher. Her attendance record at school was proof of that. But she knew she could be something great.
Her time in the feudal era had taught her many things. It taught her that she could be strong. She was determined, stubborn, proud, intelligent, and if she could kick Naraku's ass, then the day to day challenges of living in modern day Tokyo should be a piece of cake. Sighing, she wondered why she hadn't expected the heartache that came with returning to Tokyo.
She missed her friends. They were family and one moment they were all there giving her a hug, and the next she sat alone at the bottom of the well, the magic completely dry, unlike her eyes.
Inuyasha was supposed to come with her. He fed her strength. She learned that as well. His belief in her, his support, his love had made her stronger each day. And when she had found his letter in her backpack after he had pushed her into the well, her heart shattered just like the Shikon no Tama. Hundreds of pieces scattered everywhere.
He wouldn't follow her.
Five years she thought. It had taken her five years to pick up the pieces and make a life for herself. Having attended cram schools everyday after her shift, her hard work was finally going to be rewarded. Tonight, she would receive her high school diploma. She could never be a doctor or a lawyer, but looking at the pamphlets for chef's school in Paris, this was something she could aspire to. She had learned to fend for herself in the kitchen of this small restaurant, cooking all sorts of meals for those who were on a lunch break, or for families that came in for dinner. It was the one thing that she could do, and do right.
Rolling the last of the shrimp into the tempura batter, she smiled. One day she would be a great chef. Hundreds of celebrities would line up to eat her food, and her mother and grandfather would never want for anything again.
After all, Kagome was nothing if not determined.
Looking at the small diner in disgust, Sesshoumaru came up with a dozen reasons as to why he should turn around. It was certainly not his eatery of choice. He preferred something with a bit of class. The food was sure to be greasy, something that continually upset his stomach. The fact was he saw it as slumming. But there was only one reason why he would go in. Rin was waiting for him.
After several centuries of separation when she and her mate had taken off to travel around the world, she had finally come home and sought him out. She swore by this place, telling him she had made it a point to come to this diner once a week for lunch. According to Rin, the food was phenomenal. He certainly hoped it was because the atmosphere and décor left much to be desired. The cheap United States decor was appalling. An annoying bell hung from the door. Crass. The checkered floor was unpleasant and hard on the eyes. 'Inelegant' was the word he would use, if he were being polite and understated. The booths were common. Nothing tasteful about them. He was embarrassed to stand in the establishment. It did nothing for respect of his station. A humiliation to a youkai of his standing.
A quick sniff of the air though told him Rin hadn't been far off the mark. The combination of different spices coming from the kitchen was certainly enticing, if not mouth watering. Seeing her small arm wave in the air, he followed the advice of the rustic 'please be seated' sign and made his way toward the small girl.
'After all these years, she hasn't changed,' he mused as he assessed her. Her dark black-brown hair, pulled back in a ponytail, still fell below her shoulders, and her brown eyes were bright and full of life.
She was always excited to see him, though he was no longer number one in her life. Despite his initial protests against her mating, she had assured him that his place in her heart would never change. At that time he was under the false impression that he could care les, but now, when there were so few connections to what had been, he enjoyed his little rendezvous with her. If he could see her, he would even put up with her mate. Five hundred years ago he would never have admitted she was more than a simple companion. His many efforts to keep her safe should have opened his eyes. He was an inu. Protecting his pack was his duty, no matter how unwanted the companions were. It was strange how they became so integral to his existence.
"Rin." He nodded as he slid into the vinyl seat across from her, surprised at the comfort of the booth.
"Sesshoumaru-sama," she smiled back.
He tried not to wince at the use of his old name. Only two people were given leave to call him such and as they had both disappeared until recently. It was not a name he had heard in a long time. It was the only part of him he retained. Though he held it sacred, he understood that it was something that could not be publicly known.
"Inuyasha?" he asked about the hanyou in distaste, still not quite content with her choice in a mate.
Smiling, she continued. "At home. Jin is sick and he knew how much I wanted to see you again, so he volunteered to stay with him."
'Her pups,' he thought sadly.
Pictures were included in her letters. As Internet communication became more prominent, they were included in her emails. However, he had not met any of the recent ones. Children, he learned as he aged in solitude, were a joy. He wasn't sure about the hanyou's brats but given that they had some of Rin's blood in them, as well as her influence, he was sure they would grow up with some sense of decency.
"Perhaps you can visit one day soon and meet them all. They hear so many stories of you, they'd love to meet you."
"Perhaps." A ghost of a smile touched his lips as the waitress placed the menu in front of him.
Perhaps one of these days he would take some time to go out and visit them.
"Order up!" Kagome called as she placed the plate of rice of rice and teriyaki chicken and vegetables on windowsill next to the tempura shrimp, vegetables and noodles.
Wiping the sweat off her brow, she briskly washed her hands before peering through the window at the near empty diner. The lunch crowd had left long ago and it was still too early for dinner. It was the perfect time to take a break herself as most of her pre-dinner prep was complete. She had dessert in the oven, but they weren't due out for another forty minutes. Pouring a bowl of miso soup, she left the kitchen and took a seat in the booth closest to the doors so she could hear the oven. Mina, the diner owner was in the back office fast at work on the paper work. The only other employee here at this time was serving the lunch plates to the two patrons sitting at the other end of the diner.
Pulling out the pamphlets for the chef's school, she began to fill out the application form, stating her qualifications, as well as personal information. There was so much more she needed and regular customers of hers had assured her they would fill out letters of recommendation, as well as Mina. If she was frugal with her spending, she would be able to just pull it off…just barely. There were other places she could get hired, get paid more and be better off money wise. But Mina's diner was like a second home. She was given free reign to revamp the menu over time and shop for her own ingredients.
Most importantly she was able to schedule work around her schooling.
If she were to work in a hotel or another restaurant, she would be working under a chef and to their schedule, not hers. There was plenty of time for that later. For now, she wanted to experiment on her own, learn by trial and error, and not by having somebody standing over her shoulder.
Separating one of the reference forms from the pile, Kagome left it aside, intent on giving it to Mina when her break was complete. She knew it would the woman a few days to fill it out, but she also knew it would be stellar. She sighed as she listed her qualifications. After all this time it seemed as if her life finally had some direction. No more wandering around aimlessly trying to figure out what she was going to do. Paris would be a fresh start, a new beginning. She would be attending school with all new classmates and would have none of the history that she had here. There would be nobody judging her based on how she had acted five years ago.
She was looking forward to it.
Lifting her head, Kagome finally took a good look at the patrons at the other end of the diner, to see if they were enjoying her meal. At first glance, the hair on the male appeared to be white and she was disgusted to see an old man such as he with a younger woman. However, as she looked at it more and more, it wasn't so much white as it was silver. With her heart lurching and her head hurting, the spoon clattered in her bowl, splashing drops of miso broth over the table. Slouching in her booth, Kagome struggled to remain unseen as shock flooded through her. Her eyes wide, she checked one more time to make sure she was seeing things correctly.
Sitting and talking with the young woman was none other than Sesshoumaru.
Bile rising in her throat, she fought the urge to run. Her head screamed in denial at the sight.
'No, no, no!'
She did not need this right now, not when everything was finally falling into place. A small part of her wanted to approach him, find out what he was doing here after all this time, and find out about what happened with Inuyasha. Despite the heartache, she needed to know what happened to Inuyasha. The other part of her told her to stay away, that she had worked so hard to get over that part of her life and to speak to him would only cause trouble.
Drowning in emotion, Kagome struggled to breathe. It was like a swift punch to the stomach, filled with pain knocking everything out of her. Unbidden, the images of the past fled past her eyes. Overcome with grief, she pushed her tray of food aside, ignoring the hot liquid pouring on her as the broth spilled over the sides of the bowl.
Pain. She was filled with it as she shoved away from the booth. Her breath caught in her throat. Stars clouded her eyes. She couldn't see. She couldn't breathe and couldn't see and fell to the ground, gasping for air. Forcing herself to move, Kagome climbed back to her feet and searched blindly for the doors leading to the kitchen. Pushing them aside, she stumbled in, flinching as her knees buckled. Once again she hit the ground. Physically shaking, she lowered her head between her knees and took a deep breath.
'Too soon,' she thought. 'It was much too soon.'
'I can do this,' she inwardly cheered, hardening her resolve. 'I am stronger than this. I defeated Naraku!'
Breathing deeply, and slowly, she struggled to pull herself together. Hands still shaking, she placed them on the counter next to her, clutching it in an effort to drag herself up. Taking a moment to steady herself, Kagome shook away her apprehensions.
This was Sesshoumaru, not Inuyasha. Sesshoumaru didn't break her heart. Sesshoumaru didn't wreak havoc on her emotions with just a few words. He didn't rip her heart out of her chest and leave her to live as the walking dead. He was a killer, but he didn't play games. She could do this. Unlike the one who crushed her soul, she could deal with a bloodthirsty assassin. Sesshoumaru was nothing. Nothing.
Looking out the window, Kagome steeled herself to meet his gaze. Eyes widening in surprise, she looked out on the empty diner.
'It's probably better this way,' she sighed in exhausted relief.
He was gone.
France, Sesshoumaru mused, was like any other country in the world. Arrogant and proud, the French insisted on competing with the rest of the world to show their might, strength and marvel. The Eiffel Tower was proof of this, as well as the pyramid in front of the Louvre. What he couldn't deny was the cultural richness of the city with many of its renaissance buildings, the Place du Royal, the palaces, and the catacombs dating back to the French Revolution. While the pyramid outside the Louvre was considered to be controversial, inside was a whole other world. It was museum he enjoyed visiting time and time again. Business deals, private ventures and simple travel, it was a rare occasion Sesshoumaru would skip at the chance to walk through halls paying homage to the various treasures inside.
But none of this was why he was here.
After a year, he needed to seek her out. The fleeting glimpse of the miko he once considered dead a year ago continued to haunt him. Peace and solace was denied to him as he increasingly thought of her. Her face, her defiance, her strong will. All of these images returned to him upon seeing her once more.
That was the only way to describe the sucker punch he had received that day in the diner when he laid his eyes on her. She was pale, frightened, gasping for breath as she struggled to make her way to the kitchen when he saw her. He sat there frozen, unbelieving as he realized who she was.
She knew him.
She knew him as he once was. She knew of the battles, of the strength and might of youkai. She knew of the day they all essentially saved the world from destruction. She knew of the fear he used to instill in people. Silent and deadly, she was the one human who managed to stand up to him and live to tell the tale. She knew him.
For weeks he had tried to figure out how a mortal like she could live five hundred years into the future. It was physically impossible for any mortal to live this long and very few from that time were mated to youkai. Rin was an exception because he would allow nothing less. No youkai would willingly mate a human, no matter how hard he tried to find one. Humans were generally lacking in worth and no dowry seemed sufficient for another youkai to 'degrade himself' as they said as to mate a human with power. Her political connections were seen as insignificant. As much as he despised his half-brother, and the match, he considered the courtship a blessing. He was perhaps the only hanyou who had the strength to protect his ward.
And Rin's approval of the courtship only added to his own. The half-breed had yet to let him down. That alone earned his respect over the past several centuries. However, as time passed, even Inuyasha stopped viewing him as a threat. Youkai no longer existed. To humans, they were simply myth. His own power was worthless. It was demeaning, humiliating and human. In this day and age, he, the once great and power tai-youkai, was no better than a human.
He could change that now though. He could bring some of it back through this girl.
When he failed to see her again following that initial visit, it was nothing to speak to her boss and find out where she had gone. It was nothing to fly to Paris to track her down. While he didn't have her address, he knew of the school she attended. It was one he had funded once upon a time when he was bored and traveling with nothing better to do. Like all of his projects, it was considered one of the best in its league.
Part of him was proud that that the clumsy mortal was able to make it into one of his schools on her own. Five hundred years ago he would never have given her this sort of credit. He would have scoffed at her if she tried. Walking through the administrative offices of the main building, he went straight to the registrar's office with the information he had in hand to seek the information he needed.
By the end of the day, he would have his miko.
Her apartment overlooking a small city park wasn't large, but it was home, at least for the next year. Despite the meager furnishings, Kagome was pleased with the outcome. It had character. The second hand couch had seen better days, as did the scuffed kitchen table, but she was pleased with her new pot set. Forgoing spending her money on the big ticket items, she instead spent it on kitchen utensils and kitchenware. They would follow her no matter where she ended up after this. They weren't something for her to simply spend her time with, they were an investment. They were something she could use for the next ten years to create meals for both herself and her future guests.
They were the tools to her livelihood.
Gently petting the new skillet for a moment, she rinsed it before putting it on the stove and pouring a touch of oil on it to season it. She didn't have the large industrial grill she had at the diner to make her dinner, but this would do just as well. Probably better as it was made for an epicure, not for a short order cook. Pulling the vegetables out of the fridge, Kagome was interrupted by a knock on her door. 'An unexpected visitor,' she thought, surprised as she didn't really know anybody here as of yet. She had a few friends within class, but nobody who knew where she lived.
"Sesshoumaru," Kagome gasped as she took him in upon opening the door. Standing tall and regal, she stood there stupefied. In many ways the demon lord had changed, no longer wearing silk clothing and carrying his mokomoko-sama, and no longer bearing the markings that labeled him as a youkai. But there was no mistaking who he was, or his powerful aura. It surrounded her. Pushed in on her. Threatened to suffocate her.
Unlike last year she was prepared for such an encounter as she remembered to breathe. She would not look like the fool despite her mouth dropping wide open. He was here. In Paris. On her doorstep. It was all too much to take in though she remembered to remain composed. Unable to close it she stepped aside to let him into her meager apartment, cringing as she realized it was probably far less than he was used to. Second hand furniture that didn't match, moving boxes sitting out, an old television set, she was sure it didn't compare to his own home which probably screamed of elegance.
Focusing herself, she managed to pull herself out of her stupor. Just barely. Shutting the door she gestured to the living room, silently letting him know to take a seat. "I'll make some tea," she managed to finally say as she turned toward her kitchen, putting the kettle on the stove. Taking a deep breath, she fought the memories that seemed to flood back to her of the feudal era.
Inuyasha's father's grave.
The gaping hole in his stomach while Sesshoumaru stood tall, ready to steal Tetsusaiga.
The two of them standing next to each other, though not with each other as they fought Naraku.
Sesshoumaru saving her from Mukotsu.
Sesshoumaru walking off into the night with Rin without so much as a goodbye despite having reached their mutual goal.
Inuyasha pushing her down the well, the heartbreak evident in his gold eyes.
"Dammit," she muttered clenching her fists on the counter, palms becoming white and sweaty as her frustration and distress increased. She had worked so hard to get over them, this was the last thing she needed.
Why couldn't she be left in peace? 'Why does the past continue to haunt me?' she inwardly cried.
"Something wrong?" His voice interrupted her thoughts.
She looked up to see him standing behind her. His visage was still as stoic as she remembered. She had forgotten about his sensitive hearing. Of course he would hear that.
"Sorry," she apologized sheepishly, embarrassed at her display of weakness. "Just sorry." Running her hands through her hair, she wanted to crawl in a hole somewhere and come out only after he left. Staring at the kettle, she willed it to boil. If she had a cup a tea, it would occupy her hands. Perhaps he wouldn't sense her nervousness as much. Perhaps it would distract him. She needed the distraction herself. She needed to control her anxiety as the whole situation was soon becoming too much. "How did you know I was here?" She asked, trying to make conversation.
"Your boss at the diner informed me of your whereabouts. I merely followed the trail from there."
"Then the question is, why did you find me?" she asked, getting straight to the point, thankful she could see steam starting rise from the spout. Direct questions typically led to direct answers. She didn't know if she could handle him beating around the bush right now.
"I don't know," he answered honestly, bluntly. "You remember. Everybody else has either forgotten, or they know nothing about it. But you, you remember."
"I want to forget. I've tried so hard to forget." The plea came out softer than she wanted, or expected, but the message was still there. 'Don't make me remember,' her heart demanded. 'Don't make me remember.'
Pouring the hot water into the pot, she opened the cupboard in front of her pulling out two teacups and saucers and carrying both to the coffee table in the living room. "You've done well," he commented as he looked around. She cringed despite feeling pleased at the change of subject.
"I'm living in near poverty, but at least I'm able to pay for school and that's what counts. That's all I want. Everything else is incidental."
"Why formal training?" he asked, still looking around. "You could have always apprenticed and learned that way."
Shaking her head she smiled. "I don't want to apprentice. It would take forever to find somebody worthwhile to apprentice. Even then there's no guarantee of success. I've finally got everything in order. The formal training will give me the tools I need to move forward with my life." Leveling a glare at him she laid her cards on the table. It was an all or nothing deal. "I don't want to talk to about it. I remember you as you were, I remembered what happened, but I don't want to talk about it. I'm not ready to."
Nodding, he acquiesced.
"So," she said as she poured the tea, thankful her hands were no longer shaking. "Would you like some dinner?"
Slipping a copy of her key into the door, he smirked as the spicy aroma filled his nose. Cajun. She was cooking something cajun, mostly likely the latest dish she had learned in one of her classes this week. It was becoming a tradition, though it was a short one. Holding a bottle of red and a bottle of white in one of his arms, Sesshoumaru walked into the apartment. Kagome very rarely told him what she was cooking ahead of time, instead choosing to surprise him, and leaving him with the problem of trying to find a suitable wine. His inability to select a proper wine offended his aristocratic sensibilities.
However, she was nothing if not predictable in many ways. If she was cooking food meant for the red, then the next meal she would make something suitable for the white. The wine he bought never seemed to go to waste.
"You're early," she exclaimed as she stood over the stove stirring a pot. "If you open the bottle of white and let it breathe, it should be just right when dinner's ready."
Opening the utensil drawer, he found the bottle opener, using it to pull the cork out of the white before placing the red in the fridge for the next time. Reaching above her head he pulled out the two wine glasses she had kept stored there, a gift from him upon their first dinner when he had learned she didn't have any. It both amused and astonished him at the same time to know he was given such liberties in her kitchen. She was extremely detail-oriented and very protective of the contents within her cupboards. It was perhaps the one area in the apartment that was kept immaculate and up to date. She laughed and shrugged off the dollop of wine she spilled on the couch last time, but panicked if her pans weren't put in the water to soak right away.
Her living quarters for the most part left much to be desired. But then he had come to expect that from a student. She was too proud to ever ask him for money; not that he would have freely given it, and they still didn't know much about each other. Money just complicated matters. But they had the connection. A shared history, and for the time being it seemed to be enough.
Or it had been. Pouring the sauce over the sliced roasted chicken, Kagome arranged everything on the plate carefully before carrying them over to the table. Cooking seemed to come naturally to her, he noted. She would do well with it and go far. Though she was just a student, he could honestly say he hadn't had any dish as tasty as the ones she prepared for him, and he wondered was it truly because she was a great chef? Or was it because she now had a purpose with her cooking?
It was something he wasn't ready to dwell on yet.
"You never told me how you knew I was still alive," she stated simply; though, her voice belied her fear.
"I didn't think you were. I was merely at the diner visiting Rin last year when I fell upon you."
"I wanted to see what it would be like," he mused, unsure why he was revealing this much. "I wanted to see what it was like to sit and talk with somebody who remembered, and who wasn't living under the delusion that youkai were all a figment of their imagination."
"You're lonely," she replied, the answer dawning on her as she poured the wine into the glasses. "Some days, so am I."
Dinner was enjoyed in silence as they both focused on the food on their plates. She was good, he had to admit, in both food preparation and understanding what he was going through. And while most would see it as a weakness, she considered it a norm. It just was.
As was typical for the two of them, he carried the empty plates to the sink while she filled it with suds. She washed and he dried. After a few dinners together it became routine, and at times he had to wonder why he was so content with the routine. He was never one to stay in one area for long, or to do something for a long period of time. He was a wanderer, and yet he found himself wanting to visit her time and time again, to participate in this single routine.
"Do you know why I'm still alive?" Kagome asked as he placed the last of the dishes in the cupboard.
"The Bone Eater's Well doubled as a time vortex. Inuyasha explained it all to me after I first saw you."
She flinched as she heard Inuyasha's name. It was one she hadn't thought of in years and one that still tended to hurt her above all others. He pushed her away. He broke his promise and pushed her away. It wasn't something she could easily forgive him for. "Is he still around?" she asked before she realized what it was she was asking after.
His eyes were guarded as he answered though, as if he knew the answer would be something she didn't want to hear. "He is mated to Rin. She is who I had lunch with when I first saw you."
The words cut through her like a knife; the pain was that intense, that deep and that swift. Closing her eyes Kagome fought not to cry as once again the memories of him turning his back on her, pushing her though the well, walking away returned. She should have known something was up even then. He had slowly been trying to push her away. One day it was one thing, the next, something else entirely. He stopped carrying her on his back. She had thought it was because they weren't really traveling anymore. He started taking off on his own for hours at a time. He told her he was thinking, tying up loose ends before he returned with her.
Her heart was shattering once again, she realized she had never properly mourned his loss. Instead she simply repressed it. "Rin," The name sounded dull on her lips.
"You didn't know," Sesshoumaru said, interrupting her train of thought.
"Tell me," she asked, an edge of desperation in voice. Despite this she wasn't sure she wanted to know the story. "I need to hear it."
Though the mating had not been planned ahead of time, according to Sesshoumaru anyway, Kagome still felt hurt and betrayed. The anguish she had long since bottled in threatened to rise to the surface. He had once promised her his life, and now it had been given to another. It didn't matter that Inuyasha fell for Rin until long after she was gone; it was that he was with somebody else at all. It took her five years to get over him, and in that time he was already happily mated.
Despite the time spent apart, despite all she did to rid him from her memory, it hurt and she could feel her heart rip apart into a thousand pieces. Slowly, painfully, bit by agonizing bit. Starting with a dull pain it had soon grown to a near unbearable level.
"I'm such an idiot," Kagome murmured as she poured a third glass of wine, willing the alcohol to numb the emotions overpowering her. "I should have expected this. I should have known he would have found somebody; Inuyasha can't be alone."
"He was alone for years," Sesshoumaru tried to reason with her. It didn't matter, she didn't want to hear it. It was as if her ears were closed off to the
"It's hard to be alone after you've had so many people around you." Drinking this glass down in one gulp, she huffed when Sesshoumaru removed the bottle from her grasp.
"You are drunk."
"No," she giggled half-heartedly. "But I'm getting there. I'm trying to dull the pain." And it wasn't working, she knew as another wave of anguish rolled over her at the image of Inuyasha and Rin together.
Rin instead of her.
"You are going about it all wrong."
Feeling her head spin, Kagome sighed. This was what she wanted, something to take the edge off. She would mourn her loss tomorrow. She would say goodbye to Inuyasha, as well as the past, but tonight she could indulge in something she never allowed herself to. She could get drunk. She could be reckless, carefree; she could live and not worry about the consequences of her actions. For too long she worried about what could happen if she turned one way or another. Letting the wine dictate her actions, Kagome spun toward Sesshoumaru, pushing him against the counter. Taking the dominant role for once, she vowed that she would no longer be second. "Make me forget."
"This will not help," he said, despite his hands settling on her hips.
"Doesn't matter. I'm a woman, you're a man and I'm offering. Are you going to turn me down tonight? I have nobody. Inuyasha has Rin and I have nobody. I want to know what it feels like to be wanted for just one night."
Staring into his amber eyes she smiled inwardly as a fire lit in them, and a growl ripped through his mouth. Spinning in his arms, she snaked her own around his neck, pulling him closer as he pressed her against the counter. Letting her feelings guide her, Kagome reveled at his easy acceptance, knowing he knew it wasn't about love, or even liking each other. It was about necessity, and easing the hurt and the pain.
Judgment clouded, emotions running high, and throwing caution to the wind, for once she gave into her urges. For the first time, she would know what it would be like.
This time, she wouldn't be denied.
For a prowler and hunter like him, the darkness was where he was most comfortable. Silently slipping from her bed Sesshoumaru slipped on his pants and grabbed his shirt, before exiting the room. He didn't once turn to look at her, though he knew the picture she presented at the moment. Soft and relaxed, half covered with the duvet covering the bed, her hair spread out across the pillow, a sentimental fool would find the image endearing.
It was a mistake.
He knew that going in last night, and it hadn't changed throughout. Nevertheless, Kagome's words spoke volumes to him.
I want to know what it feels like to be wanted for just one night.
He wanted to know what it would be like to leave loneliness behind for just one night. That was the thought that ultimately pushed him toward his decision, though inwardly he knew it was wrong one. Last night wasn't full of passion, or intimacy, or romance, anything that waxed poetry. It was empty, meaningless, hallow.
In its simplest form, it was a fuck.
And somehow that didn't seem right, not with her.
She was right though. Inuyasha had Rin. Rin had Inuyasha. Jaken had left long ago to serve them both, much to Inuyasha's dismay and for years he wandered with nowhere to go, and no one to come home to. For one night, she gave him a hint of what it could be like.
For that reason alone he needed to leave. He was not a coward, but Sesshoumaru knew better than to play with fire and that was what he would be doing if he stayed. Neither of them were ready for what would have come in the morning.
And so, without a second thought he slipped silently into the night, knowing this would be his last dinner with her. They were both better off.
Exhausted and weary to the bone, Kagome gave her self a minute and let her headrest against the cool door of the industrial refrigerator. Her sous-chef had everything under control at the moment. The sauces were made and slowly being brought to a boil, each cut of meat was cleaned and being grilled to perfection. Her own desserts had been put in the oven and all she had to do was wait. The staff was hard at work, under her direction and despite the fact that everything seemed to go smoothly, she felt like she was being torn in two.
Looking up, she smiled at Nala, one of her apprentices. As a future chef she held promise, and Kagome was looking forward to the opportunity to help her get there. "I'm fine," she said. "Just a little tired. Mika is still getting over the flu so I'm not getting much sleep." The excuse was half-assed, she knew, but it was better than the truth. Nobody would ever believe her.
"You should go home and get some rest. We've got it under control here. The main course is nearly ready to be served then it's just dessert and tea. Sean can handle that no problem. Turning to look at her sous-chef, Kagome could see him putting the final touches on the beef tenderloin before passing it down the line for garnishing. A well-oiled kitchen. It pleased her to watch everybody work as one unit. It was perhaps the second most rewarding aspect of her career.
"I shouldn't," she argued. "But I think common sense is winning out. I can't be of much help when I'm ready to sleep standing on my feet. I'm going to pack it in. There's enough here for you guys to carry on without me." Walking away from the food prep area, Kagome removed her hat and hairnet, slipping them both in her bag in her locker. Wrinkling her nose she could smell the various food items on her person and knew, despite how much her body protested at the moment, she would need a shower before climbing blissfully into bed. This was perhaps one aspect of her job she disliked. The smell of cooked pasta or the many desserts was pleasing to the senses, and quite often teased her, but the it was the raw meat the fish that quite often made her want to gag long after her shift.
"Higurashi!" Abagail Henley, the owner of the restaurant called out to her chef, looking for her throughout the kitchens.
Groaning, Kagome couldn't do anything but call back as she fell forward onto the door of her locker, wish the oncoming headache and exhaustion would abate. Her evening wasn't over yet. She was considered a celebrity of sorts now in the food industry, could get away with many things, but Abagail was still her boss, and as such, she would need to follow her direction. "Back here," she called, pulling a brush out of the locker and running it through her hair.
The sharp clacking of heels against the floor echoed as they came steadily closer. Not only was Abagail Henley the owner of the restaurant, and considered to be one of the most successful women in New York, she dressed the part as well, tonight being no different. "Keep your jacket on," she said referring to the white smock Kagome wore. "There's a customer here who wants to pass his compliments onto you. Asked for me specifically to sing your praises, then asked for you. He's extremely well off so make sure you're extra nice to him. We'd like him to come back."
Used to this routine by now, she quickly lifted her hair off her neck, pinning it back with a simple tortoise shell butterfly clip. It would do no good to walk through the restaurant wearing her uniform with wild hair. As integral to the restaurant as she was, it was still something she could be fired for. Following her boss out of the kitchen, she made sure the place a smile upon her face, knowing it was what the customer wanted to see regardless of how she felt. People in New York were like that, she learned. Nobody cared if she was upset, exhausted, in pain or on top of the world. They only cared about themselves, what they ate and if the food was worth the money they spent on it.
Even more so as she served the A-list.
Ignoring the patrons at the tables she passed, Kagome continued to follow Abagail. She wasn't very surprised to see they had passed the general populace and was heading toward the stairs to the upper floor of the restaurant, where the private rooms where. Most often this was where she would have to head. Three sharp knocks on a door and they entered, eight sets of eyes focused on her. Looking around the room, she stifled a gasp when her own fell upon shocked gold ones. Bowing low, she followed Japanese tradition, knowing it only added to the atmosphere of the restaurant. Her own descent was one of several reasons as to why she was hired here. Who better to cook and prepare Japanese food than a Japanese chef? "Gentlemen," she greeted, pleased that her voice didn't shake under the scrutiny of his gaze.
"Miss. Higurashi," he murmured as he stared at her.
Kagome didn't hear the others compliment her on her work, or hear them praise her food. Her eyes were set on the one being in the world who could still make her nervous. The one person who could still shock and surprise her.
The apartment complex was posh, elegant, and a far cry from the one she had in Paris, Sesshoumaru thought as he stood outside the doors, torn between going inside and staying. It had been years. He purposely stayed away as he tried to evaluate everything she had made him feel. She had turned to him out of anguish and pain once and though he regretted the circumstances, he found it hard to regret the act. He wasn't sure why he felt that way. But now, being so close to her again, having stumbled upon her again in that restaurant, he was compelled to see her in private once more. Seeing the door open, he took the opportunity to walk in without calling up to her first, using his nose to scent out her apartment. It was hard to miss as the aroma of her cooking wafted through the hallways.
Only one could smell like this.
And yet there was something more he thought as he knocked upon the door. She wasn't alone he realized. There was something else with her in the apartment. Though little could faze him anymore, the sight that greeted him on the other side surprised Sesshoumaru. "Mika," Kagome had called out from somewhere across the room before him. "You can't just answer the door without me, you don't know who it is."
"I know him, mama," the little white haired girl had answered as she eyed him critically. "He smells like me."
And suddenly Sesshoumaru felt his whole world crashing down on him, dizzying and debilitating.
Anger. Hurt. Betrayal. They all swam through him, mixing and bumping into each other as his instincts warred with his rational being, both fighting for dominance in his reaction.
There was little doubt this child was his, that they shared the same blood, and yet the miko had kept it from him. Why? Did she assume he would not want a child by him? What about his rights as a father? It was a given he had never cared much about hanyous, but this girl was his own flesh and blood, what could be his progeny. She was most definitely the last of his personal line. Glaring at the woman behind the door, he took note of her weary face, the lines and dark shadows beneath her eyes he hadn't seen last night at the restaurant, the beginning vestiges of a touch of grey. She was still so young for age to set in like this. Pressing his lips in a thin line, he held off on any verbal attacks. She clearly was not ready for it.
"Come in," was all she said, gesturing to the living room area. "Mika. Go to your room and practice your letters."
"I can still hear everything," the little girl replied, gesturing to her elf-like ears.
"Fine," Kagome replied, weariness still evident in voice. "Turn the music on then."
He watched the little girl turn down the hall to what he assumed was her bedroom, the sounds of Hannah Montana playing out before the door closed. Though he could hear the subtle sounds of her turning the pages in what he assumed would be a book, he doubted very much she'd be able to hear them with her hanyou hearing. "Explain."
Settling across from him, she could only give him one answer. "She's yours. Apparently all it takes is one time in bed to produce a child."
Fury built up within him at her obvious, flippant answer. Clenching his teeth, Sesshoumaru fought not to unleash it. "You didn't think to call me, though you had my information."
"You made it very clear when you didn't show up for dinner the next week, or the week after, or any of the following weeks that we were done. Not that I blame you."
"You denied me my child," he said carefully, struggling to keep his anger, and instincts in check.
"No, I just didn't inform you. And then the pregnancy became hard, and during the last trimester I put schooling on hold just so I could survive it. By the time she was born, I was tired. In the beginning I was too embarrassed to call you. By the end of it, I just didn't think to call you, I was too busy. And when I finally did, you were gone."
Her explanation seemed reasonable, plausible. And while it didn't dissipate his anger, it did lessen it to a degree. She hadn't denied him. She had merely forgotten about him. That didn't sit well either.
"I tried to find Inuyasha to let you know," she whispered, placing her head in her hands. Knowing her thoughts, her feelings on that particular hanyou, Sesshoumaru could feel the last of the anger drain out of him. She had tried.
"I would have helped you if I knew."
"I know," she smiled into her hands. "I was too embarrassed by my behaviour that night. That played a role in it. I didn't want to burden you with more than I already had. I knew you would help. I didn't want you to help because you felt obligated. That was one burden I could free you from."
Standing from the couch, he looked around the apartment before walking toward the bookshelf and picking up a picture of Kagome and the child. It looked fairly recent. Itching to put the photograph in his coat jacket, he forced himself to put it back on the shelf before picking up another, this one the child was an infant. "Mika? You say?" he asked, testing the name on his tongue. "New moon. Was that when she was born?"
"No, it's a tribute to her heritage, the newest member to the moon bloodline; official line anyway as it probably took you years to even acknowledge Inuyasha as anything other than a mistake."
His lips quirking into a smile, he placed this photo back down as well. She had honoured him. "By all rights he should be the official heir to my line and all that I hold. Until now I've had his son listed as heir instead, the blood of my ward. I will change that when I leave today."
"I put together a photo album for you in case I ever ran into you again and you found out. It doesn't have everything, but it has duplicates of some important events in her life." She opened one of the cupboards beneath the shelves and pulled out a mahogany leather bound book. "You can take it if you want, or leave it. I won't be offended if you do. It's a lot to take in at once."
Looking toward the closed bedroom door, he held the photo album close, opening it up to see a copy of her birth certificate front and centre.
Mother Kagome Higurashi
Father Kane Taisho
"You didn't give her my name," he murmured, a pang of disappointment filling him though he had no reason to expect her to have followed that custom.
"I gave her your heritage. My name, your heritage, it was enough."
"Or perhaps you wanted to keep more of her to yourself."
He could see the quick flash of temper in her eyes, the first all evening and it thrilled him. For the most part she had seemed this hallow shell of the girl he once knew. She still had some life to her. "I have her, I need nothing else. Am I being selfish about this? Yes, but then I couldn't get a hold of you. I was prepared to go through her whole life without you because I couldn't track you down. I tried, I failed, I stopped. I won't apologize for it."
"She should know her father," he argued, inwardly pleased at her response.
"Yes, she should. You're more than welcome to come and visit any time, and I won't take it personally if you disappear again after today. Just do me a favour though. If you choose to get to know her, then you need to stick it out. I don't want her heartbroken if her father ups and leaves after a few weeks."
"You go to far miko," Sesshoumaru growled, no longer pleased with her words.
"I don't go far enough. I will go to the ends of the earth, Sesshoumaru, to protect my daughter, even if it means protecting her from you."
The quick sharp knocks on her door didn't do much to improve Kagome's mood. Physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted, the last thing she wanted at the moment was a visitor. The only thing she wanted was sleep, though she knew that was not forthcoming anytime soon. How did Inuyasha's mother survive she wondered. How did Inuyasha survive?
Answering the door, she wasn't all that surprised to see Sesshoumaru standing there, a brightly wrapped gift in his hand as was customary with all of his visits lately. A gift for Mika, to make up for all the ones he had missed, he had explained the second time he showed up. And true to his word he had removed Inuyasha's son as his heir, and officially named their daughter instead. If she wasn't so tired, she'd have smiled.
"She's sick," he stated as she let him into the apartment, forgetting about the current disarray. Between work and taking care of her daughter, she had little energy to do any cleaning. Laundry spread out on the couch, toys covering the floor, and the pans from lunch still in her sink, she just wanted to lie in bed and sink into oblivion for a couple hours. And she still had to work tonight.
"It comes and it goes. She finally fell asleep." Pushing the clothes on the couch onto the floor, she made space for the two of them. She made a mental note to pick them up later. "It's been an ongoing battle since birth. We'll both survive this bout."
Feeling the couch shift next to her, Kagome fought the urge to sink into his warmth and curl up. How desperately she wanted to do that, how desperately she had wished there was somebody around so she could do that. "What's wrong with her?" he asked.
"Nothing I can easily fix. Her heritage is rebelling against her. One powerful youkai plus one former powerful miko equals disaster in a child. The two sides can't mesh together and so she's often doing battle within herself, trying to force both sides to settle down. It tires her out."
"It tires you too." Leaning into his touch, she smiled as he ran the pad of his thumb over her eyes.
"I have to watch it all knowing there's nothing I can do. It plays havoc on me as well. She doesn't know why this is happening to her, she's in pain, cries to me to make it stop and there's nothing I can do. Five years, Sesshoumaru, and I don't know how much longer either of us can do this. It gets worse every time, and she becomes more and more despondent each time."
He had a right to know, she told herself. This was a weakness she would never admit to others. It was a condition she couldn't take her daughter to see the doctor about, else she would risk exposing her to all those who wished to experiment on her. Her own miko powers lay dormant, except when Mika's youki would rise, causing her own to flare in response. It was becoming increasingly difficult.
"Her blood is rebelling," he stated, and she could see his eyes harden at the thought. Five years ago when she took him to her bed she never once thought of the consequences. When she found out she was pregnant, this was one scenario she would never have dreamed would happen. Not once did she think about what the combination of miko and youkai would do to a child. She just didn't want to be lonely that night.
"How did Inuyasha deal with this?"
"His blood was unstable, nowhere near the point of this. He had father's fang to bind it. That is the only solution I can think of, yet it wouldn't help like the Tetsusaiga did. It would serve to temper some of it, my half of it. Yours would continue to rise and without this equal balance of both, it would only destroy her faster."
"So, we do what we need to do. She's so close to giving up. I can't lose her. What do I do?"
Sitting in the living room of her apartment while she was away at work, he thought of forming a bond, a link between the three. Having cancelled his evening meetings and sent away her babysitter, he had offered to watch his daughter himself, requiring the time to know her better. The little white haired child sat across from him, a book open as she carefully coloured the pages. She was so meticulous, so precise it amused him. Other than her eyes, which were full of life and did little to hide how she felt, he couldn't see any of Kagome in her. She was truly his daughter in almost every aspect. Every now and again he could see her brow scrunch in mild frustration when she made a mark outside of the lines. Though he didn't have colouring books when he was younger, he was sure he would have made the same face if he did the same. He could recall his own lessons in kanji when he was younger, and the way he would scrap parchments upon parchments of paper when his letters didn't reach near the perfection of those belonging to his mother. Hours would pass as he sat in the candle light, his hand cramping from use, and repeating his letters over and over again until he got them right; until each looked perfect upon the scroll. His father never understood his fascination with penmanship, but looking at his daughter now – his daughter! He was still shocked at times to think of it – but looking at her colouring, he knew she would understand completely.
"Mama's worried," she said, her gold-brown eyes focused on the page.
She had his intelligence and instinct as well. "Your mother always worries. It's who she is," he replied idly, despite knowing where her train of thought was leading toward. Guarding his expression, Sesshoumaru tried to figure out a way to address the girl's concerns without giving away too much.
"She's worried big time," Mika had said in all seriousness, finally leveling her gaze with her father's. "She doesn't know what's going to happen, but what she doesn't know is I'm fine for now. She thinks I'm dying."
"Eventually. If things don't balance out." He didn't mince words. The four year old in front of him held the wisdom of those much older than her in those eyes. She deserved nothing less than the truth. "There's still time though. Your mother doesn't realize this."
The little girl nodded her head, showing full faith in his words. Until he moment he never knew what a humbling experience it could be. For centuries he ruled most of Japan as one of the most powerful daiyoukais in existence. Many would agree with him. Many had faith in his ability to protect what was his. Rin, the only child he had ever considered his own worshipped the ground he walked on and believed everything he said to be the word of kami.
And yet, here he stood, humbled as this little girl he barely knew believed in what he was telling her.
'Wonders never cease,' he thought, fighting the swell of emotion he had long since buried. Not since the days of his own mother's death had he felt anything of the like.
"Do you want to colour with me?" she asked innocently, handing him the blue crayon on her hand. Filled with a sense of awe and pride, he could do nothing but nod.
This child was his, it dawned on him as he placed the crayon to the page. Regardless of blood, she belonged to him, and in that instant he knew he would do anything to stop the oncoming storm.
'I will protect her.'
Her feet killed her. Dragging them along the hallway of her apartment, knowing they were picking up static from the carpet, she didn't even have the energy to pick them up properly as she walked. Her sous-chef had quit. She walked in, handed her a letter of resignation effective immediately as she found a better job as head chef elsewhere and walked out. And while Kagome wished her the best of luck, she would have preferred to receive some notice. Not only would she now have to do the job of two, but, she would need to find some time to set up interviews and hire somebody else.
Tonight was a bear too as it seemed the whole world and sundry had shown up at the restaurant, each demanding something different on the menu. Her system was out of whack when she didn't have her full team. A cog was missing tonight; an important on. Everybody felt it as at the end of the night they were all willing to leave the kitchen be and just leave. Of course common sense won over and instead of heading home when she usually did, she decided to stay and help clean.
She just hoped Sesshoumaru wouldn't be upset that she was so late coming home.
Sesshoumaru, she thought, was another thing all together and after several visits, she still didn't know what to think of him. The first night he watched Mika she had returned to find him staring at a picture she had coloured for him. The mix of emotion in his eyes was enough to take her breath away. He looked both honoured and perplexed at such a gift. Sure, he had grown up with Rin, but as he explained to her, Rin never made him anything. Certainly not something like this.
Kagome had no doubt in her mind that the picture was either hanging on his fridge or framed somewhere in his own penthouse apartment.
The love was clearly there, she saw. Right from day one when he first laid his eyes on her. Despite his shock, anger, the feeling from being punched in the gut, Sesshoumaru saw through all that and loved her. It was almost instantaneous, and he had no qualms about watching her whenever she went to work. Mika herself was thrilled to have the chance to get to know her father. It truly seemed a match made in heaven.
Pushing the door to her apartment open, she silently slipped inside, unwilling to wake her daughter. The light in the living room had been turned out, though the television set was still on, casting an eerie blue glow across the room.
'Oh my', she thought as she fell upon the sight before her on the couch. Curled up in his arms lay her daughter, a serene smile on her face as she pressed it into the crook of his arm. Her silver strands mixing with his own, the sight seemed right, wholesome. It was almost as if everything in her world balanced out for this one moment in time. 'I'm sorry,' she mouthed to Sesshoumaru, gesturing to Mika as he glanced her way. Gold eyes hardening, she didn't need to hear the words to know he was having no part of that apology. "I'll put her to bed," she said, extending her arms to take the child.
With the grace he always seemed to exude, he lifted both him and Mika up in one fell swoop before heading down the hall to her bedroom. Collapsing on the couch, Kagome needed to stop her racing heart.
'Five visits,' she thought. 'And he's already more of a father than I ever gave him credit for.' Heart pounding in her chest, she blinked, hoping to stop the tears that were starting to form at her eyes. Exhaustion was already setting in and she wanted nothing more than to crawl head first into bed and pass out.
"You smell of fish."
Scrunching her face, she closed her eyes, sinking into the warmth he left behind on the couch. "Flatterer. You really know how to make a girl swoon."
"You need a bond. A strong one," he said as he sat next to her, close enough she could feel the heat radiating off his body, far enough they weren't touching. He was warm, inviting. She knew his body, had known it for years. Temptation called for her, demanded that she reach out and grab what she wanted.
"I've already figured that out. I'm trying to see what kind. What I do know is I need an anchor. I need something to anchor down one side of her so the other doesn't feel threatened." Yawning, she made an effort to cover her mouth. While they could no longer be considered enemies, or even mutual acquaintances, she would not be rude around him. "I'm doing some research. I plan on calling my grandfather first thing in the morning after I get enough sleep to function without looking or acting like a zombie." Staggering to her feet, her body pitched forward as her exhaustion set in tenfold. Eyes blurry, it was as if the world around her was shifting, making her unbalanced.
A firm arm grabbed her own, steadying her, keeping her from falling face first onto the floor. "You're practically asleep on your feet. Why did you stay so late if you're in this condition?" he asked.
"I have to pay the bills somehow. My sous-chef quit. If I left the kitchen in any kitchen but pristine over night, I could be shut down and lose my job."
Silently, not saying a word, he escorted her to her bedroom, stopping at her bed before letting her go. "I will be back tomorrow night."
"Sesshoumaru?" She saw him stop at the doorway. "Thank you."
Falling back and sinking into oblivion, she knew he would lock the door on the way out. It was funny how she trusted him…
He worried about her. It was an entirely new feeling within him, to feel worry, but there was no other word for it. Part of was telling him to tell her she had time, that Mika truly didn't have anything to fear until she became of age, and for a hanyou child, it would be about another fifteen years before anything would happen. And yet, he was holding back. Somehow it seemed important that they resolve the issue now, rather than ten years down the road.
But it was wearing her down. Kagome was spending hours tirelessly working, followed by several more hours of research online to see what either of them could do. And he had to admit, he was putting in his fair share of work as well, searching for several more hours after sending her to bed for the night.
The black shadows beneath her eyes disturbed him and more than once he found himself reaching, wanting to rub them away with the pad of his thumb. It was strange, this sense of caring. She was nothing more than the mother of his daughter. And yet that was the crux of it. She was his daughter's mother; by proxy, she belonged to him. The apartment she lived in now was a far cry from the one in Paris. The furniture was no longer second hand and though it was well used and well worn, it was clearly something she had spent time picking out. Her kitchen, of course was as stellar as ever and filled with the best of equipment. It sparkled from the light fixtures above his head to the ceramic floor beneath his slippers. The cupboards, he knew, contained the best of everything. Non-stick Calphalon pots and pans were stored in the pantry closest to the stove. The stove itself was gas powered to allow for maximum heat. No expense was spared. The kitchen, she had told him once, was her sanctuary. It was the one place she wouldn't dare to cut corners in.
Still…she worked too hard, despite what she had to show for it. Putting one of his father's ancient texts down on the coffee table, he stood and walked toward her small office, not bothering to knock on the door. Extremely pale, Kagome looked like a shell of her former self, causing his breath to hitch in something he was unfamiliar with. "You're done," he murmured as he placed one hand on her elbow to lift her from the chair while the other pushed the power button on the screen of the computer.
"I can go another hour," she replied, lifting her hand to turn the screen back on.
"No. Go to bed. We can continue tomorrow night. She'll be fine until then." Pulling her to her feet, she allowed him to guide her to her bedroom. In a zombie like state, she went through many of the motions as if she were a robot. This too disturbed him. Where was that vitality he had seen in her so many times in the past? Where was the spunk? The life? The thing that made her distinctly Kagome, and once the human bane of his existence?
"I don't get it," she mumbled as he sat her on the edge of her mattress, her black hair hanging lifelessly in front of her face. "I don't know where else to look, but something has to be out there that can help us." Brown eyes wide, filled with exhaustion, tears sitting on the lashes; she stared up at him. "Why can't I find what we need?"
Kneeling in front of her he felt compelled to sooth her, ease her worries away. Running a hand through her hair, he pushed her bangs back, exposing more of her face to him.
"You will find it. It will take time but you will find it. I have yet to see you fail at anything."
Hearing her laugh bitterly, his chest tightened once again. Feeling overwhelmed with something indescribable, he pulled her closer to her, following the part of him that begged of him to hold her close, to ease her fears away.
"I failed him," she whispered, so silently he nearly missed it.
"Inuyasha. He didn't want me. I failed him."
Anger. Rage. The blood pumped viscously through his veins upon hearing his half-brother's name coming from her lips. Suppressing a snarl, he wanted to remind her of who was alpha dog in this pack of theirs, as unconventional as it was. "I thought you were over this, him," he growled, challenging her to refute his claim. His youkai demanded placating. He couldn't tell her why.
"I am," she sighed, leaning forward to drop her head on his shoulder. "I'm tired, my emotions are running high and I still have no sous-chef." Laughing bitterly, he could feel her shoulders shaking against him. "I think I just need to sleep; get a fresh start in the morning."
Not bothering to allow her to change out of her clothing, he gently lifted her from her perch on the end and lay her down in the middle of the large bed. Brushing her hair slightly, he fought the knot that formed in his throat. A slight blush touching her cheeks, she appeared to be the picture of innocence, and yet, there was nobody he knew who had been through more than she had in her lifetime. This connection, this bond he had to her, their daughter sleeping in the next room over. In the matter of a few weeks she had turned his life tipsy turvy, causing chaos at every moment.
"Sesshoumaru?" Startled, he saw her eyes opened, thinking she had fallen asleep. "I'm glad you're here."
And yet, she was the source of a sense of inner peace he had never experienced before.
Tears pouring down her face, Kagome fought Mika's screams; touching and running her hands all over the child's body in an attempt to sooth her from the pain. However, she knew there was nothing she could do but wait as it was all internal; hidden away from her touch. Exhausted and weary to her bones, she had been woken from her sleep by the piercing shriek. The girl's powers fluctuated beneath her hands, rising up and down as the two sides continued to fight for dominance over the other.
Human or youkai.
The power to heal or the power to destroy.
Her own reiki tried to rise to the child's increasing youki, and she fought to tamper it down, not wanting her daughter to see her as a threat.
"Wait it out," Sesshoumaru instructed from the door, surprising her. She had thought he left long ago.
"I can't; she hurts. You can't ask me to just let it be."
Feeling his arms wrapped around her, she began to jerk and fight as he pulled her away. 'No' she inwardly cried as she was being dragged away from her daughter. 'No'. The screams. The anguish. The constant lamenting for the pain to be relieved. Each cry bit into her, calling her to do something, anything. Each cry caused Kagome to feel the same pain as her daughter, though it was only in her head. "NO!" she called as he slammed the door shut behind them. Attempting to push him away, she screamed in frustration as he wouldn't move. He just stood there, motionless, holding her in place. "Bastard, get out of my way, she needs me."
"Listen to me," he growled, shaking her lightly so he had her attention. "You being there is making it worse for her, not better. Each time your powers flare up, hers spike even more. You are not helping her by being with her."
Numb and hallow, tired of fighting, she slumped forward as his words finally sank through her despair. There was nothing she could do. Being with Mika was only making things worse. Even now, without being in the same room as her daughter, she could feel things evening out, her powers slowly tempering and dissipating, much quicker than normal.
She couldn't help. What kind of mother was she?
Finally letting loose, Kagome breathed deeply, inhaling his scent before choking on a sob. "Go away," she managed to choke out as tears began to cloud her vision. She didn't want to break down in front of him. She didn't want him to see her cry like this, as if there was nothing in the world that could console her. "Go away!" she screamed out again, her anxiety building up.
His arms only tightened around her. "I cannot fathom your upset, but you will not push me away in this," he chided. "This is no failure of yours."
His words, spoken softly seemed to be her undoing as the stress of the previous half hour boiled past it's breaking point. Wrapping her arms around him, grasping to his strength and sturdiness, she let go, confident he would not judge her for this moment of weakness.
Rubbing the pads of his thumbs over the dark patches beneath her eyes, Sesshoumaru shifted her position on his lap before turning his attention back to the computer screen. Common sense told him that he should put her to bed. Lay her down her bed, cover her up and forget that this evening had ever happened. But his will seemed to ignore common sense, and he tucked her head further into his shoulder. She was connected to him, in ways deeper than even she could imagine.
Staring at the blank computer screen, he struggled to think of where to search next. He had told her there was nothing she could do right now, and it was worse than being in there. She had considered him cruel, heartless, and in a manner he was. What she didn't know was every scream coming out of that room tore into him a hundred fold, knowing he was a great and mighty taiyoukai who had lived for over a millennia, and he still didn't know what to do. What he did know was that he couldn't join the little girl he had grown so fond of either, and it seemed that at that moment, holding Kagome was about all he could do.
There was something calming, soothing about her, despite the fact that she had spent the last thirty minutes crying into his shoulders. As his instincts went into overdrive, her mere presence was enough to keep him calm enough to maintain control. The breaking point within him seemed less stressed, he had become more relaxed since reacquainting himself with her, and in this apartment he had found a home, unlike his which was simply a place to sleep. Business functioned well without him, a quick e-mail to Inuyasha assured him somebody was taking care of what needed to be taken care of. He had a new role to play in life now, one that he welcomed.
Turning off the computer for the night, he lifted both himself and the tiny miko out of the chair with ease before making his way to her bedroom. 'It smells of her' was his first thought upon entering what she termed her sanctuary. He could count on one hand how many times he had been in this room.
He didn't count the nights he would carry her in after she fell asleep on him. The room itself was decidedly Kagome in nature, with cheerful, yet sedate colours adorning her walls and bed sheets. It wasn't messy, nor was it clean either as a small growing clothing pile lay in the corner of the room. Her dressers weren't littered with perfume bottles like most women, but instead she kept it simple. A handful of jewelry, and photos of their daughter. Laying her down on the cream duvet, he slipped the slippers off her feet before covering her the soft blanket. The moonlight cast and eerie glow on her, making her look almost celestial in nature.
This was the Kagome he remembered from five hundred years ago. A mere slip of a girl then, somehow she had developed into a woman.
He wanted to stay.
He didn't want to just drop her off and leave like had had so many nights before. Sleep by himself in his lonely bed, in his lonely apartment, where it didn't smell like her. Or anything remotely close. It was no longer a place of refuge, a sanctuary for his own solitary meanderings.
It had become a place of simple existence where he would live one day to the next hoping that something would pull him away from it all.
And just like that Sesshoumaru made his decision, deciding he'd deal with the consequences of his actions the next day.
Climbing into the bed next to her, he reached over to turn off the radio, and settled in for the night.
"You're not the same," Kagome stated simply as she piled several pancakes onto Sesshoumaru's plate.
"The same as what?"
Settling down next to him, she quickly glanced at Mika's bedroom door, waiting to hear if there was any motion coming from inside of the room. Given the activities of the previous night, she had decided to let the little girl sleep in for a change, instead of waking her up for her morning lessons. "As you were. You told me years ago that the reason you sought me out was because I remembered who you were. I still do. But you're not the same."
The silence that followed almost seemed deafening as she struggled to say what she wanted to without offending him. Though he had changed, she was sure he was still deadly in many ways. His power, though tempered, was much stronger than it was five hundred years ago. "You've grown."
A quick nod of his head only confirmed her suspicions. Gathering the courage within her to say what she had to, she was sure he wasn't going to lop off her head. After all, he had carried her to bed last night after holding her to him.
And she had woken up still being held as well, she remembered with a blush. For the first time in years she had woken up feeling a sense of security, like all was right in the world and nothing could harm it. Or at least her. It was comforting.
It was strange.
But nonetheless, it was right.
"Why?" she asked.
"I suppose it has to with time changing, and humans evolving." Placing his fork down for a moment, he dabbed a bit of syrup off the corner of his mouth. "For you humans, five hundred years is more than you can fathom. You yourself know of the physical changes this world underwent during this time, the way humanity itself has evolved. You have come a long way since the days of Naraku. And yet, in so many ways you are still the same. For youkai, it is a blink of an eye, and we must adapt to theses changes much quicker than you. For my part I saw the changes, acknowledged them as they occurred. Youkai, like most animal species, have two choices in life. Adapt or die out. Those who were smart enough did so."
"You've become more human," she surmised, shocked that the change was that drastic. He, who had once despised humans, hated his brother because of his human blood, became more human.
"Make no mistake," he growled. "I am still very much a youkai. I am simply a youkai living in a human world now. A world where my kind are known only in stories and nightmares." She waited as he brought a forkful of pancakes to his mouth. Though his facial features hadn't changed during his little tirade, the look in his eyes had. Indignation, ferocity, animalistic frustration, and all had died out to simple resignation. This was not the lot in life he chose to be in, she realized as she watched him. This was simply where he ended up, one more obstacle he needed to overcome.
Anonymity did not suit Sesshoumaru.
He would think her pathetic if he knew what she was thinking at this moment. She certainly didn't pity him. Pity didn't help with anything, and very few were actually deserving of it. Pity more often than not hindered a person. No, she didn't pity Sesshoumaru, but she didn't know what to make of his life. It appeared as if for the last five hundred years he merely existed, traveling from one place to another with no real destination in mind. It was amazing how much he could change in what he called a blink of an eye. Five hundred years ago he would never have given her the time of day. And today?
Well, they had a child together.
"You appear shocked," he said, breaking the silence and pulling her back from her thoughts. "Surely you don't expect people to stay the same over five hundred years."
Pulling her lower lip into her mouth, Kagome began to chew on it in contemplation. It wasn't so much that he had changed, as he was right, nobody stayed the same over five hundred years; but it was that he changed so much. The one demon that once tried to melt her with his own acid had held her close last night. For the first time in years she felt safe, cherished.
She wasn't even sure if that word was in her vocabulary. Sure, she loved Mika as any mother loved their child. She would lay down her life for her child in a heartbeat, and as her condition became increasingly worse, she feared it was precisely what she would have to do. No sane, rational mother could watch their child go through the pain her daughter was going through. So yes, she loved her daughter with everything that was inside of her and more.
She had thought she loved long ago.
The accompanying heartbreak that came every time his image flashed before her eyes had lessened over the past several years, now that she had some closure, but it still hurt to think of him. The pang that began deep down seemed to resonate through her, causing her emotions to rise and swell. Nostalgic for the good old days sometimes, she knew that she couldn't go back in time. But sometimes that didn't help.
Did she love him? Maybe. Maybe that's why it hurt so much to be tossed aside. Maybe that's why it felt like somebody was crushing her heart in his hands when she heard that he had mated Rin. It was if somebody had stabbed her with a knife so hard she could feel it in her very soul.
And yet, she so easily accepted Sesshoumaru as a part of her life. He was there now and had become integral to her day. She looked forward to each of his visits, she relished their chats, and she enjoyed the quiet moments where they would either sit and watch television, or sit and watch their daughter play or colour. His interaction with the little girl was another thing entirely. He was a totally different demon around her. No longer stoic and stiff, she could feel the ease and tension roll off him the minute he would sit down with her, and yet the sense of awe never seemed to abate. He cherished each moment spent with Mika, and like her, he would lay down his life in an instant for his child.
Provided somebody ever got that close, she mused.
She had a feeling he would have hacked and diced his way through said offender long before it ever got to that point.
There was magic in her food, he decided, as he ate with co-workers at her restaurant. Here, she cooked because she had to in order to pay her bills. It was a job, and though she enjoyed it, there was no passion. While the food was full of flavour, it wasn't filled with life. The spices used were distinct, and considering the palate he had developed, he was able to separate each of them in his mind. There was no focus, no need to think about what he was eating. It was food, simple as that. The chicken he placed in his mouth was no more than that, and no less. If he were to compare the chefs of the different restaurants he ate at over the years, he could honestly say she was the better of them. And once he would have considered this food outstanding, but now it was simply passable.
She had spoiled him.
The food that came out of her kitchen when she cooked for him at home was out of this world, as if she put everything she had into it to impress him. Or maybe it was because she got to cook for people she cared about, or loved like her daughter, that she tried harder at home. But there was a distinct difference between the fare he ate here and that which she prepared for him when he would visit.
Until she had begun to cook for him at home, he had never realized there could be such a difference. Maybe it's why many people enjoyed a home-cooked meal. There was an added element of something there that couldn't be found in store bought, fast food, and restaurant fare. Staring down at the plate in front of him, he willed the answers to appear. He couldn't call himself a gourmet, but he did enjoy eating at the best of restaurants, which was why he was a frequent patron of this particular venue, but it no longer appealed to him.
At this point he was just going through the motions.
"Oi, asshole, quit picking at your dinner. Rin and I aren't rich enough to pay for food you're not going to eat."
Sending a glare to his brother that challenged him to defy him, Sesshoumaru turned back to his dinner, picking up another piece of chicken with his wooden chopsticks. "Watch your mouth, Inuyasha," he seethed. "We are in public. Your display is not needed here."
While up on the terrace he had kept an eye on the double grey doors below that separated the kitchen from the rest of the public and hoped Kagome wouldn't peak her head out as she had done so many times before. She didn't know he was here, or who he was with. As far as she was concerned he was out with business partners across town. While he wasn't trying to hide his whereabouts, the fact of the matter was simple.
He didn't want her to see Inuyasha.
She had assured him that she no longer wanted him, or even cared for her presence, but instinct demanded he keep them separate anyhow. And that was another thing to ponder. When had he become so possessive and insecure that he needed to keep former rivals away? And when had he begun to consider Inuyasha a rival? Surely it had to do with the child. They shared a bond deeper than most through the shared blood of Mika. "We have business to discuss," he said, turning toward his brother. When he had called Inuyasha for the meeting, he hadn't bothered to fill him in on the details, and by revealing as much as he did he knew he could irrevocably change things. There was only so much he could do to keep Inuyasha away from Kagome. Once he informed his brother of her existence, and his relationship, there would be little he could to do to keep the hanyou away from her if he was so inclined to see her.
But when it came to information regarding the biology of one hanyou, the best source, it appeared, was the advice from another.
When had he sunk so low as to rely on his brother?
Uncommonly giddy, Kagome pulled the note out of her purse, glancing at it one more time. It was odd as to how excited she became when she learned that he had dined at her restaurant again, and ate her food, though unknowingly. What surprised her even more, though, was the small folded piece of paper he had sent to the kitchen for her. Nothing more than a few courteous words, a compliment really, in one of the only ways Sesshoumaru could offer a compliment, but she was acting as if it were a note from her secret high school boyfriend. Eri and Yuka would act like this whenever they received something from their boyfriends. She was always the calm one. But she couldn't mistake the slight flutter of anticipation in her abdomen as she thought of his imminent arrival. It was strange. This was the same man who had joined her for dinner many nights before. He had seen her at her worst, both fighting Naraku and fighting whatever it was trying to destroy their daughter. She had wept against him, slept with him, and spent many nights with him fighting sleep so she could find a solution.
And she was nervous over sharing a meal tonight.
Checking on the fettuccine in the pot, Kagome stuck a fork in it to see if it was cooked properly. She placed a small saucepan on one of the back elements before filling it with the cream sauce she had put together earlier. The buzzer from the oven went off and she opened it, pulling out the lemon pepper salmon she had marinated in the morning. "Perfect," she murmured as she inhaled the light scent of it. Sesshoumaru was typically a red meat man, but surely he could appreciate a well-marinated salmon and some pasta. He would bring the wine, she knew. He always brought the wine, though this time she had told him white. She was no longer the inexperienced cook she once was.
Now, if only she could show him she wasn't the inexperienced woman she once was.
The dining area didn't look as if she had it set up for seduction, and it wasn't meant to be she kept insisting, but it did look like it was set for a nice dinner. Maybe a casual date. It would depend on how Sesshoumaru viewed it. Her clothing was simple, a black skirt, and a red silk blouse. It was conservative, but the colour was vivid. Nala had told her how to dress. She had told him she had good news, and she did, she thought, but that would come at the end of the night. He could take the dinner anyway he wanted to now. Candles were put away as she didn't want to scare him, but she knew even if she had them on the table he would appreciate the atmosphere. Sesshoumaru was nothing if not a rich pretty boy, she giggled.
There were very few occasions she ever pulled out her china or her crystal, mainly because with a hanyou child, she very rarely took the opportunity to entertain guests. Until Sesshoumaru arrived, she had no way to hide the tiny fangs that poked through her mouth, the little claws, though not overly sharp, were still sharp enough to shred cloth and paper if the little girl wasn't careful with them. Sighing, the days of the dolls weren't that long ago where she had to buy a doll a week just to keep Mika happy. At the age of three she didn't understand why the heads or arms would fall off simply by picking them up. It made for a very trying, and expensive time.
But the look on her face each time she received a new one made her heart sing, and the gouge in her small bank account was worth it. She would live in poverty herself it meant her daughter could have the things she wanted.
That was love, she decided, thinking back to her earlier mental debate.
That was love she understood.
She could honestly say her daughter was her light. But it seemed as if every moment she spent with Sesshoumaru was equally as bright. She was comfortable with him. She felt safe with him.
They shared the bond of a child.
It was something she couldn't fathom sharing with anybody else, including Inuyasha. Watching the sauce bubble and boil just a touch, she turned the heat down and drained the pasta before adding it to the saucepan. The fresh herbs from her balcony gardens were clean, having scrubbed them already. Gently ripping the leaves off the stocks, she placed them in the pasta filled sauce and closed the lid, allowing it to simmer for a few moments.
The knock on her door was right on time and once again she could feel the light fluttering deep inside her that she had every time she thought of him, only this time it was intensified knowing he was standing just on the other side of the doorway. Would he figure it out? She wondered. He was by no means unintelligent. He was far from it, having both the intellect and wisdom his age and upbringing has provided. There was very little she could put past him and as such, she really didn't want to look like the fool.
Which she would be if she read his signals wrong.
"Hi," she smiled, stepping aside to let him in. He was ever on the look out, she noted, as his eyes briefly scanned the apartment before him. This was typical, normal. Like all fierce protectors and alpha pack animals, he was simply making sure his territory was safe. He had explained it all to her one night when she asked, tired of searching for answers and simply needing a reprieve. She was surprised he had answered, assuming it would be some great secret. However, as his child lived here, and so did the mother, it was basic instinct that had him believing they belonged to him.
Kagome wasn't sure if that should flatter her or not.
There was something different about her today that was off putting, Sesshoumaru thought as he stood by the sink drying the dishes. She was at ease. It wouldn't be so bad if he knew how she had become so relaxed, or why, but it remained a mystery. It was a striking contrast to her previous demeanor. Frowning, he watched her. She moved about the small apartment quickly, lithely, dare he say it, with a skip in her step. Her head was held high, her eyes were bright, and several times he had caught her with a small smile on her face. It was unrestrained and free from force. Too many nights he had sat by her side and watched the shadows form beneath her eyes, watched as her lips curled downward in frustration, and the pallor of her skin become increasingly pale. Too many nights he had wanted to do nothing more than rub them all away and put her to bed worry free. It was another thing that was disconcerting: his need to take care of her. It was becoming a compulsion, an obsession. He not only wanted to help her, he needed to.
He narrowed his eyes at her again when she began to hum lightly, swirling the wine in her hand. It was enough to amuse her, and not nearly powerful enough to cause the light liquid to spill over the rim.
She was happy.
"Hmm?" dazed eyes looked up at him. "Why what?"
"Something has happened." Leaving the dishes alone for the time being, he walked over and stood before her, lifting his thumbs to her cheeks. Lightly, he ran the pads of them over the skin beneath her eyes, and willed himself to ignore the slight tingling sensation at the touch. "You are no longer tired, your eyes are no longer dark. Why?"
The blush that graced her cheeks at his touch only fueled his desire to leave his hands on her. It was endearing, and only enhanced her glee, instead of substituting it with embarrassment as he half expected she might do. Her eyes were just dancing with excitement as he studied them. "I have a solution, and it's a good one, plausible anyway." He raised his eyebrow, silently demanding her to continue. He couldn't move, couldn't breathe as he waited for her answer, the apprehension and tension in the room growing thick. "A blood spell. Inuyasha uses your father's fang to bind his blood, but it's not the fang itself that does that, it's his father's blood on the outside that tempers that on the inside."
Stepping away, she paced. "Think about it. When he pulled the fang out, there had to be a bit of dried blood on the root. He binds his own with the mixed blood running through Inuyasha's veins. It's powerful stuff."
"Indeed, blood is not to be taken lightly." Though the idea did have merit, he realized as his mind began to race a mile a minute, trying to catch up with her.
"No. It causes us to speed up, slow down, and without it, we cannot survive. Too many incurable diseases are carried through the system by blood, and too many organs in a body can become sick because of a virus being transmitted by blood. That's just scientifically. Think spiritually. How many cults and religions have used it in the past? This is a pagan ritual of sorts, I stumbled upon. But if it works for Inuyasha, why couldn't it work for Mika?"
"Your blood. My blood. Our mixed blood. She has both within her and both need to be tempered down. We can't give her anything she'd leave behind, and she's five, so it's a possibility she might leave something behind. Or a bully or somebody might take it from her if they think it has value."
Sesshoumaru reached out to grab her arm, stopping her pacing so he could get a good look at her. "What are you suggesting?"
She breathed deeply, her excitement evident still. "A tattoo. One made of blood and made permanent with a spell. My grandfather can help with that. She's always wanted to meet him and a trip home to Japan would do some good."
"As I recall, you once told me your grandfather wasn't a very powerful priest."
Drinking down the last of her wine, she placed the glass on the counter next to her. "He's not, but that doesn't mean the land the shrine's on isn't powerful. The spell would have to be cast by you and I, her parents. But we can do it right underneath the Goshinboku. Somehow, that tree seems like the right place for it. There's power there. And knowledge."
Scanning her face, he watched as nervousness, apprehension ran over them, as she wondered what his answer would be to their not so small problem. It was a dangerous game they were playing, he knew. Blood spells were highly volatile and if performed wrong, the effects could be disastrous. But she was right as well. If this spell were performed correctly their daughter could lead a full and happy life without her two sides warring within her. It was a chance they would have to take. If they didn't follow through, the little girl would be dead within a matter of years. Allowing a shudder to run through him, it was something he couldn't allow. He couldn't allow her to go without trying everything possible.
Kagome felt the same. She understood the ramifications. He could see it. "It could work."
Her shriek of joy caused him to wince slightly before her arms wrapped around his neck, pull him down to her. The smile was worth it, he realized. For the first time in thousands of years, a human smile made a difference within him. Filled with a warmth he hadn't known before, not with her, and not with any other woman, he allowed himself to succumb to the elation she exuded.
And when she brought his mouth down hers, he knew there was nothing he could do to stop the inevitable.
There was nothing he wanted to do to stop it.
"You're mine now, miko," he murmured, before turning the tables on her and taking the lead.
Left gasping for air, Kagome could do nothing but clutch the sheets next to her, fisting the silk within her hands as she struggled to bite her lower lip to keep from screaming out. Looking at the silver haired man between her thighs, she let out a small mewl of pleasure as his tongue found the small nub yet again. Hours, now, she thought in a daze. For hours he had managed to bring her to the precipice again and again, each time reasserting his position in her life.
He had no plans of leaving in the morning. She didn't need him to say so, she just knew.
The way his hands ghosted over her skin.
The possessive nature of his touch.
The way his gold eyes went opaque and filled with emotion as he filled her.
Their time together six years ago paled in comparison to tonight. Then it was about easing the hurt, the pain, and feeling a connection with somebody, though it didn't really matter who. Tonight, it was so much more.
Love. She thought of it again and wondered once more if this was what it was.
"Mine," he reiterated, trailing his tongue up her body, taking a moment to focus on her navel. Her abdomen fluttered beneath his touch, and she raised her hips, begging for more. "Soon," he chuckled, the small puffs of hot air on her belly only adding to the effect.
How had she gotten along without him these past six years, she wondered. How was it possible to sleep at night without him? Or go through her day without seeing him at least once, talking with him, laughing and smiling with him. Or watching him play with their daughter, a tangible connection between the two of them that was unexpected, but most welcome. Grabbing his hair, she brought him up to eye level. "Now."
"Now," he repeated, before catching her cry with his mouth. Stretching to accommodate him, she held him close, urging him in further to fill the emptiness he had left there six years ago.
And an hour before.
"Now you're mine," she whispered, moving along with him. "Always mine."
"Yours," he agreed, picking up the pace, and driving his need into her. His clawed hands grabbed her hips and held her in place. Three times, she thought, and each time it was if it were the first time all over again. Gone was the awkwardness of the first time, and gone was the awkwardness of the second time. His gold eyes bore into hers and they mesmerized her. The emotion, the possessiveness, the passion. All of it he let her see and she trembled, knowing no other woman ever had the privilege.
Yes, he was hers, just as she was now his. "More."
Japan, Sesshoumaru thought, as they boarded his private jet. It had been years since he was last there. Not since the last time he saw her. He was surprised Kagome had managed to secure some time off the restaurant so fast, but then her sous-chef was more than capable of taking over for a few days. It was all they would need she had said, as her grandfather had everything ready for them already. He watched on the tarmac at the bottom of the ladder as Kagome escorted their daughter through the door. The little girl was just brimming with excitement at the idea of traveling, and seeing the land her mother had spoken so highly of. She knew of her great grandfather, her grandmother and her uncle, but not once in her five years had she met them.
And now, she wouldn't stop talking about them.
'Home', he mused as he took the first step up. It was where it all began, five hundred years ago.
A hanyou brat, his miko wench and their band of humans fighting against Naraku to save the world from a darkness nobody could fathom. Now, he and the miko were returning there, to save their daughter from a new threat. Five hundred years ago they were mere allies. Today, they were so much more.
And like five hundred years ago, they would succeed.
After all, he had every intention of setting her table for three for years to come. He would ensure that each chair was occupied, and Kagome would ensure each plate was filled.