Foot In The Door
Genre: Romance, Humor
Time Frame: Canon-ish, Modern Era
Characters: Kagome, Sesshoumaru
Summary: Sometimes she had the sneaking suspicion that Sesshoumaru was interested. You know . . . like that.
Notes: You know what? Kag and Sess are one of my all time favorite pairings ever and yet I find it very hard to write for them. I dunno, don't ask, that's just the way it is. But, I was fiddling with an idea for another fandom, and then this . . . thing poured out. I'm actually quite fond of it. It really is a fun little bugger – and the cause of many late nights this week. So, enjoy!
A whole year had passed in her time when Kagome was faced with the rather unsettling reality that it just may be time to pick up and move on.
Oh, she understands why the well no longer worked – the pesky business of completing the Shikon and all of that. She even understands why she was bound to her proper time – away from friends that continued out their lives without her. The knowledge that they were happy helped, a very little bit.
But that didn't mean that she couldn't good and well sulk for a few months . . . a year even.
Until one day her mom plopped the jobs section of the newspaper down in front of her, and in that strangely compassionate, yet firm, voice that all moms mastered, said: "You may want to start with a job."
So, red sharpie in hand, she did.
And found herself here.
And now really, she realizes that she is Kagome Higuarshi – punching bag for the universe and practical joke of the Gods, but really! This was pushing it.
It was a simple mistake on her part – but really now, who would have ever thought that Takahiro Taisho and Sesshoumaru – Taiyoukai lord of the Western Lands, human hater extraordinaire and aristocratic assassin were one and the same. She hadn't. Nope. Never even crossed her mind.
She had been too busy thinking about how wonderful it would be to work in a museum. She was qualified, and she thought that surrounding herself with pieces of the past would help her dealing with the present. The man interviewing her – Masaharu, was wonderfully kind, and had given her the job at the end of the interview. She had been floating on cloud nine as she bounced right out of the office -
- and right into him.
Her knee jerk reaction had been to call the mountain of a man 'rude' and ask him to watch where he was going next time, before she looked up.
And up, and up, and up . . .
Into a very familiar pair of molten eyes.
Her intelligent, articulate, and all together quite stunning reaction hadn't even been a word. It had been more of a cross between a squeak and a 'grk' sort of sound.
Smooth, Kagome most certainly was not.
Thankfully she was saved by the man who hired her. Masaharu was quick, and altogether quite pleased, to come over and make the introductions. "Taisho-sama, here I have the young lady who received the tour guide position. Kagome Higurashi, may I present Takahiro Taisho – the owner of this museum and several others."
The interruption was enough for him to school the shock that had been the most prominent thing in his eyes a moment before. Unfortunately, Kagome was not so lucky. She was still struggling to keep her jaw off of the floor when he dipped his head in greeting, "A pleasure, Miss Higurashi."
She managed to gather her wits about her enough to smile politely and say, "The pleasure is all mine."
Masaharu continued to talk a moment longer, letting Kagome get an eyeful of the man before her. In a way, he looked totally different from the Taiyoukai she had fought with and against. He was certainly charmed somehow, for his markings and . . . more noticeable Youkai traits were hidden away from the naked eye. He still kept his enviable hair long and silver – either as a statement, or as a vanity she would not have attributed to the Youkai prince. Still, the sheer power dancing over her dormant senses didn't lie, this was who she thought he was.
She was going on to appreciate the pros of a tailored suit over the full warlord regalia when Masaharu took his leave, leaving her alone with the former Lord.
"Miko," he addressed her in that same low voice she remembered, "I must confess my surprise at seeing you here. Alive . . ."
She could hear the unspoken question in the lines of his voice, and she fidgeted, feeling like a cornered mouse before a prowling cat.
"Kagome, really," she said first. "The last think I want to do is attract attention."
He inclined his head, and surprised her by acquiescing. "Kagome," he drawled, and she would be lying if she said that she didn't like the sound of her name slipping off of his tongue. "Then, in an effort to not attract more . . . attention, may I interest you in a cup of coffee? I must admit that I have quite a few questions to put to you."
She raised a brow at him. For a minute there his voice was . . . dare she say it . . . casual? Not even a touch of frost was present there. Sure, they hadn't exactly parted as enemies in the Feudal era, but they had been by no means friends.
And all she could say was, "You drink coffee?"
If she wasn't looking so closely she could have said that she was imagining the smile that touched his face. Odd. He was smiling . . . and no one was hurt. Hm. Intriguing.
"Yes, quite often. Out of the many of society's changes, I must admit that this is one I enjoy most acutely."
Kagome fought the urge to pinch herself. Surely she was dreaming or caught in an alternate dimension, or something of the sort. For really, why else would she be actually . . . enjoying a civil conversation with Sesshoumaru.
"But, you're . . . you're . . ." Unable to voice her thoughts on an articulate level she swept her hand before her in a rather pronounced gesture. "You're not supposed to drink coffee."
He raised a brow in a move that was much more familiar to her. "And why not?" he asked.
She gaped at him, loosing the battle with her jaw against gravity.
Seeing as how she was having trouble with such a paltry thing as speech, Sesshoumaru continued. "Time can give one perspective on many things," he said rather softly, addressing her unspoken thoughts rather uncannily. "Perhaps I can show you that eventually. For now, I would enjoy buying you a cup of coffee. In the interest of acquiring answers for all."
And damn, that was almost, no, very civil. Nice even.
Getting herself under control, she picked her jaw up off of the floor, and summoned the sunny disposition she was famous for. "You know what, a coffee sounds great."
He hadn't waited for her to reply before striding to the exit, even going as far as opening the door for her. She did her best not to trip out after him. Thankfully there was a coffee shop on the corner, cutting out the need for an awkward car ride.
Feeling the urge to make small talk, Kagome wrung her hands over and together while she sneaked glances at her companion from the corner of her eyes.
Once in line, Sesshoumaru wasted no time in asking, "What are you doing here?"
She gaped at him. "I live here. What are you doing here?"
He raised a brow at her – something told her that she would get very sick of the expression very fast. "I live here as well."
She raised a hand to hit her forehead. "Yeah, duh. The whole near immortality thing."
"Yes. That. And yet, as a human, you would not -"
"- I was born here," she cut him off with a sigh. "There's this well in my family's Shrine that let me travel through time."
"Odd. Very odd, and yet I should not be as surprised as I am." Sesshoumaru nodded thoughtfully. "That would explain quite a few things."
She frowned, "Like what?"
The same brow was raised again. This time it was accompanied by his 'daft human' look. At least that was something that never changed. "Your manner of speech, your dress -"
"- There was something wrong with the way I dressed?"
The 'daft human' look grew. "It was . . . inappropriate, at best," he hedged gingerly.
She snorted. "It was my school uniform. I couldn't help it."
He said nothing.
"Besides, it wasn't that bad."
"Someone would have told me," she said weakly.
He curbed a chuckle.
She huffed. "That's besides the point here," she bristled.
"Indeed," he agreed, still smirking all the while.
Kagome finally found herself remembering how annoying Inuyoukai could be.
Apparently, while she was busy being annoyed with the Youkai Lord, the woman behind the counter was growing impatient.
"Are you going to order something, or not?"
And that was what started it all.
She'd been working for Sesshoumaru for two years.
And it felt like a lifetime.
As bosses went, he wasn't that bad. As brother of the boy she had once loved, and all together supernatural being who had seen some of her most unflattering moments, it was bad.
So bad that somewhere down the line she had actually started to enjoy it.
She'd been promoted to a position in the museum that involved having an actual desk and office about five months ago, and she was starting to develop the suspicion that the only reason that she had the office was so Sesshoumaru could sweep in and scare her at random intervals throughout the day.
Yes, she still jumped.
This time he knocked, and entered with a decidedly thoughtful expression.
She was immediately on guard. "Can I help you?"
"Actually, yes," the Taiyoukai started carefully. Too carefully.
She fought the urge to fidget. She was prepared to take evasive action when he finally spoke.
"Do you have plans for tomorrow night?"
"Yes," she replied automatically, without thinking. It had become a routine answer in an office environment, she had found.
He raised a brow in that look she had grown to loath with a passion. (It was by no means endearing.) "Ah, yes," he remarked smoothly. "There is a new Desperate Housewives episode that is demanding your time?"
She scowled right back at him. "Actually, it's Heroes. Those sluts aren't even in the same league."
There was the start of a smile on his face, and curiosity got the better of her. "Why?" she asked carefully. "What do you have in mind?"
"There's a fundraiser being thrown for the museum, and it is expected that I make an appearance." He grimaced at that, and Kagome found the urge to grin at his expense. Sesshoumaru in a room full of humans for a few hours was bound to be interesting.
"And?" she prompted.
"My usual escort is unavailable for the next eve, and so I was going to ask that you accompany me."
Kagome would have laughed outright if she was not so shocked. Because really, it was funny – why six feet of a perfect male specimen wanted her on his arm for an evening was nothing short of amusing. (If she laughed, she could ignore the traitorous part of her that was threatening to swoon.)
"Me?" she managed to squeak out in amusement. "Why?"
He frowned at her. "Why not?"
She scoffed. "Please. I've seen the girls that flock around you – I am nothing like them."
He inclined his head. "Precisely."
A moment passed before she tried again. "You're serious?"
"Why wouldn't I be?"
She fumbled. "Well, I'm not . . . well . . ." she made a gesture over her body and frowned before picking up a long end of rebellious black hair, intent that her gestures should talk for her. He had gotten used to understanding her, in a weird way.
"You look wonderful," Sesshoumaru said slowly, the words came out awkward and heavy, as if he had to think too long on how to phrase them.
She tried not to fall over in her chair.
With a frustrated sort of sound, Sesshoumaru swept his hand through his hair in annoyance. "If it would make you feel better, think of it as a business arrangement."
Because the guy sure knew how to woo a girl.
"A business arrangement?" she repeated.
He inclined his head. "If I were to bring you as a date, you would serve as a suitable . . . buffer to others in attendance, allowing me to focus on more important things."
Kagome stared at him, comprehension not totally dawning until it hit her rather hard. She fought hard not to laugh, but was unable to completely hide the humor in her eyes. "You mean . . . by 'others' you mean 'females.'"
He made a face that she would have attributed to fear if she didn't know him any better.
"Technically that is the correct term," Sesshoumaru muttered slowly.
That did it. She laughed. "You want me, to come with you, so that you don't have to fight through a crowd of your adoring fans for an evening?"
There was the beginning of a glare on his face.
She waved a hand, "Oh, you can get out of big bad demon mode – I'll help you out. Even just to see you blunder through a socially challenging evening."
"It is not my fault that mass murders are now frowned on."
She snorted, "Yes, because heaven forbid that you may actually have to talk to one of them."
"Have you seen the types of females that are likely to attend?" he asked incredulously.
She shrugged. "It can't be that bad."
"C'mon, my baby brother has more courage around the opposite sex."
"Perhaps you should not remark on what you have no idea of."
"Again, I'm sure that it is not that bad."
The next eve found her in a borrowed evening gown that actually did wonders for her figure, too much make-up for comfort, and enough hairspray in her hair to even tame Yura's tresses. She guessed that was what she got for asking her mother for help.
It had taken her a total of fifteen minutes for her to discover that Sesshoumaru was not exaggerating in the least. And really, she was ashamed of her sex for this, she really was.
Even though . . . a small(very very small!) part of her could understand. Understand enough for her to latch onto his arm a trite more firmly than she had intended too, and level clear glares to anyone straying too close.
He took this in with a small smile that he thought he hid most of the night.
But he didn't push her away.
Later on in the evening he asked her to dance, and she had spent a second trying not to. "I'm really bad," she protested feebly.
"I'm not," was all he simply said before pulling her to her feet and out onto the dance floor.
She had felt the burn of dozens of eyes staring daggers at her back, and she tried to not feel too self conscious as Sesshoumaru led her through a waltz. True, while she did not think of herself as unappealing, she couldn't but help feel plain standing next to the dozens of scantily clad beautiful woman who were vying for his attention.
Unbidden, memories of Kikyou came – of her gentle face and her graceful body. She thought of those hands – finally alive again, and those eyes, finally fueled by her own soul, as she claimed again what had always been hers.
She had been happy for her Hanyou friend, she really had. But sometimes . . .
With a pang she buried her head into Sesshoumaru's chest. Trying to escape the weight of her own thoughts.
"There is something troubling you." Not a question.
"You lie," he whispered softly.
She tried to hide the sardonic tilt of her mouth. "Just some things that I thought that were better left forgotten."
He nodded – he had a closet full of skeletons as well, memories trapped away and firmly banished, she knew. In an odd way, he understood.
She couldn't help but feel slightly better as his arms closed tighter around her, drawing her too him. She knew it was wrong to feel as content as she did in that moment, knowing that it was only the comfort of a friend to a friend. But still . . .
She was clearly reading too much into things.
A month after 'the night'(she refused to call it by any other name, thank-you very much!) she had figured out just how he could repay her.
Predictably enough, Sesshoumaru balked.
. . . Never mind that she didn't blame him in the least.
"Please, I'm desperate!"
. . . And well, she was.
"That I can see."
"C'mon, we both know I helped you out! Now it's your turn! Otherwise you'll just be a really crappy friends!"
"How fortunate then that I am your boss."
She fought the urge to roll her eyes. She really really did. "Fine, then you're a crappy boss! And you know what they say about crappy bosses."
"No. I don't."
"Neither do I – but I bet it's bad. And painful, and something you really really won't like."
"Well then, now that you have put it that way, I have no choice but to -"
"Ugh!" she stomped her foot for good measure, and tried not to notice that the Taiyoukai was more amused at her expense than guilty. Of course he was.
Fine. She could back away gracefully. She could -
She widened her eyes and put out her lower lip in her most convincing pout. This was the look that Inuyasha could never resist, ever. This was the look that brought grown men whimpering, and her mother bending to her will. This was the look that was . . .
. . . not even beginning to work on him. Typical, heartless, icy -
" - Why is it that you desire my presence so badly?"
Kagome fought the urge to cringe. "It's my cousin's wedding. My mom doesn't go into matchmaker mode until she's around my aunt – and since I'm a whole twenty-three years of age, I'm practically a spinster in their eyes! I know that the reception is going to involve me dancing with every single guy between twenty and thirty, and I really, really, really would like to save my poor feet in advance, and . . . Sesshoumaru? Are you okay?"
He didn't look okay. His eyes had gone cold, and she could feel his jaki lapping quite dangerously against her senses.
Was he . . . angry?
"I will help you," he stated quite firmly.
And hey, she was a girl who would take what she could get!
So, no questions asked, she punched a fist in the air and squealed rather loudly. "Thank-you so much!" she exclaimed then, before launching herself through the air to wrap her arms around her clearly startled boss.
She recognized a split second later that that may not have been the wisest course of action.
She immediately went stiff, and her self preservation instincts kicked in as she pictured him growling, "Remove yourself from this Sesshoumaru at once!" before his claws would glow green and -
- and he would hug her back.
Sure, it was stiff, and it was awkward, but he did. He even patted her rather tersely before firmly pulling away. "You're welcome," he said gruffly before making a speedy exit, leaving her to gape after him in a most unflattering manner.
"Huh," she said out loud.
Most interesting indeed . . .
She was three years into surviving life with Sesshoumaru when everything breaks loose.
It's an office party, complete music that was too loud to be moving, and a beat that was too pounding to be tasteful. The lights were down low, concealing the flamboyant decorations strewn this way and that.
She had told herself that she would be in and out – quick like, smooth and all that jazz.
Nope. No luck.
She had been passed around from co-worker to co-worker, exchanging pleasantries and trying to avoid dancing. She hated dancing, she really, really, really did. And so she camped out by the punch table, intent on the idea that if she looked like she was occupied then she wouldn't be pestered.
And besides, the punch was really really good.
So this was how he found her – a little tipsy, taping her foot to the music, and tracing patterns in the styrofoam cup with her nails.
He had raised a brow at her (the same one she was now so used to, so it didn't bother her, nope, no siree), and said in a voice that was a throw back to the past, "You are drunk, Miko."
She rolled her eyes. "No I'm not!" she exclaimed over the roaring music(when did it get that loud, anyway?).
If she didn't know him any better, she would have thought that that was disappointment in his eyes.
Very determinedly, she took another swig of punch, tilting her head back and adding more emphasis to the move than necessary.
There was a scowl joining the hated raised eyebrow.
At this point, the room was spinning quite merrily – all red lights and silver faces melding together in shiny bands across her vision. So she giggled, "Ah, lighten up a little! It's fun!"
She reached out for another glass, and he placed his hand quite firmly over her wrist. "Miko," he growled, his voice quite low and dangerous. "No more."
She gave a scowl fierce enough to match his. "You don't have to call me that any more," she said, quite lucidly. "I'm not . . ."
Okay, maybe she was a little drunk. That was really the only time when . . . certain things were at the forefront of her mind. Certain things that she would like to stay forgotten things.
She fought the urge to whimper. "Can you take me home, please?" she didn't think she could drive.
And sure, she was being stupid, getting accidentally tipsy on punch, of all things (she had no tolerance for anything), but his gaze softened, and his hands on her turned from restraining to supporting. She was suddenly so very grateful for that.
"Really, Miko, punch?" he said as he helped her to walk.
She scowled. "It's not my fault that we all don't have supper healing-y powers."
He rolled his eyes. "Take my word, it may take considerably more, but Youkai can get inebriated."
She giggled, remembering stories fro his past he had told her in very good moments. He was often quiet about that subject, and sometimes she could fool herself into thinking that they were both only in the here and now.
Here and now . . .
"Inuyasha never did," she still insisted. "No matter how much sake Miroku -" her voice cut off abruptly as she blinked away tears. Gods. Why was this suddenly so strong now?
She could see something dangerously close to sympathy in Sesshoumaru's eyes. Which was just silly. He was Sesshoumaru, and that meant -
- meant what? He was no longer the cold hearted arrogant man she had thought she knew. Yes, he was still proud, but he was also tempered – at peace, almost, with the world around him. The bigotry that she had long hated in him was gone, tamed by years of human domination of the planet.
There were times when she even thought that he liked her.
And she, well . . . .
She hazarded a glance up at her escort, and felt something deep down inside go all swervy at the warm glow in his eyes. It was a look that she could get used too . . .
Smiling rather goofily, she raised a hand to his face, tracing where she knew his markings to be underneath the charms. He didn't seem to mind, she noticed, if anything he leaned into her touch.
Maybe . . . maybe he did like her.
And that was the only thought circling through her head as she stood on the tips of her toes and kissed him.
A second into the kiss she realized what she did – inebriation aside – and went to pull away. But he had moved one hand into her hair, and the hand that had been encircling her waste was now quite insistent as well. And . . .
And wow. That was . . . unexpected. Yes, she'll settle on unexpected. It was harder to think after that to give it an more appropriate term.
He tasted good – full and heady like a fine wine combined with the sharp spice of the alcohol on her tongue. This was something she could very easily get used to. Very, very, very used to . . .
Her stomach swooped low and twisting, and at first she attributed it to the heat of the moment. Swoops like that were only to be expected, but then -
Why her? Why her?!
Thankfully for him, she broke away quickly enough to avoid a really uncomfortable experience, but not quickly enough to avoid loosing her lunch all over the front of Sesshoumaru's expensive designer suit.
Oh no. Oh no, no no no . . .
She darted her eyes up to his face, intending to see disgust, but only saw amused sympathy. Sure, he couldn't have liked the situation, but he was kind enough to help her clean up before driving her home. He was so gentle with her, and she spent the next miserable hour not so miserable with him by her side.
Or maybe she was drunk.
Just a very little .
But still . . .
A few days after the . . . incident, Kagome slipped into work, intent on apologizing and blaming all of her behavior on alcohol.
It had sounded like a good idea at the time – a great idea even, until she had reached his office, only for his secretary to inform her that Sesshoumaru had canceled all of his meetings for the day.
Hm. Odd. Sesshoumaru was what could easily pass for a workaholic, she knew, it would have to take something big for him to do that. Something big, or -
A thought hit her, rather hard, and she glanced at the calendar hanging over the secretary's desk.
Oh. That explained it.
She took a second to get her purse and keys, and then she was off.
The drive out of the city didn't take so long, and didn't really accomplish anything except putting her nerves on edge – again. They seemed to be doing that more and more often as of late. Funny, how she had not noticed them until now.
When she pulled over, she exchanged her high heels for a pair of tennis shoes in the backseat, and took a deep breath before starting out on one of the park's many trails. There were a few backwater ones that led to an ancient shrine that the museum had bought in the interest of 'preserving history.' To the general public it was nothing more than an ancient religious sight.
To him though, it was a last monument to a child he claimed as a daughter.
She picked through the forest growth with ease. Even though they were hundreds of years overgrown, they were still paths that had taken up four years of her life. The scent of pine invaded her nose, and the dappled patterns of the sun through the trees almost convinced her that she was there now. If she tried hard enough she could hear Sango's laugh on the wind mingling with Miroku's stories. She could hear Shippo riffling through a bag of crisps while Inuyasha moodily led them up ahead.
And that didn't hurt as much as it used to.
When she reached the clearing, she loitered a bit at the edges, unsure on how to intrude on what was such a private moment for him.
Before the small shrine there were literally hundreds of flowers carpeting the grounds. Every color, every shape, and every size. The air smelled rich and heavily fragrent with the dying blooms. Years ago, Kagome knew that there would have been the carcasses of wolves, but in a way this seemed to be more fitting. More personal.
It was touching.
She has no idea how long she stood there watching him before he slowly got to his feet. She could hear the low murmur of his voice, and the emotion there was enough to bring tears to her eyes.
He then turned, and caught her eyes, and she knew that he was aware of her presence the whole time.
Immediately, she fought the urge to defend herself. "I'm sorry," she babbled as he approached her, "I know that this is, and well, I would never . . ."
There was no anger on his face, not even the grief that she expected to see. There was a calm peace.
And so she settled on asking, "Are you okay?"
He gave a sharp nod once he got close enough to her. "Of course," he whispered.
"It's okay if you're not," she offered.
The barest twinge of a smile touched his lips as he looked back towards the flower covered field. "Loss becomes easier to cope with after time. I look on my memories of Rin with fondness."
And she had to ask. "So . . . the pain . . . it gets better after time?"
He took a moment to look at her eyes, searching for something. "Yes," he whispered simply. "It does."
And that helped. A very little.
She took in a deep breath, and let it out. It felt easier now, a load lifted, or something of the sort. The ghosts that had parading around in her mind quieted, and she could hear her own thoughts that much better.
He was watching her curiously, "Why are you here?' he asked suddenly.
She blinked at him. "Well, I knew what today was . . . and . . ." she let her voice tapper off awkwardly. "I thought you may want company. You know, you're not alone anymore."
He smiled softly, a look she had come to long to see as much she had come to loath his smirk. "Yes, I know."
Something goofy and light started to tap dance right about where her heart was, and she tried not to let a silly grin break free on her face. She suspected that she wasn't completely successful, for a moment later his smile grew as they started to walk away from the clearing.
She followed after him, something burning bright deep down inside.
He took my hand.
He smiled at me.
He kissed me.
He helped me when I was at my worst.
He, he, he, he . . . .
And she couldn't help but wonder, did he? Was he? You know . . . like that?
A moment later she reached out and took his hand, wondering what he would do. What he would say. She suspects she already knows, but still . . . She knows how dangerous a thing like longing and hope was, and never again does she want to . . .
But it didn't matter.
Because a moment later he squeezed back.