A/N: I felt a need to write out a small plot bunny that had been sifting through my mind all week. It's obviously not cannon, but it does follow the premise that Kagome fell through the well at fifteen, defeated Naraku, made a wish on the jewel, etc. The only difference is that she did not return to the feudal era and Inuyasha. Obviously, if she did, the story couldn't exist. So I'm taking a little literary freedom here.

Disclaimer: I do not own Inuyasha or any of its characters, and I make no money from it. Although I wish I owned it. I doubt R.T. has any issues paying for tuition.

Warnings/Pairings/etc: This is Kagome/Sess, short and sweet and to the point, and a little AU. Not what you're used to, I'm sure, in many aspects.

"The Fourth Season"

Thirty had not been as easy as Kagome hoped it would.

To be fair, life hadn't been easy. It had taken her years to get over everything that had happened in the feudal era, to get caught up on modern life, to get settled in the world she belonged in. Life as she knew it had never been normal, and normal didn't come easy for her.

Her mom had worried; sure that she wouldn't make it. Higurashi Takara had pleaded, begged, and even tried to bribe her daughter into just becoming the shrine priestess. But living a life so connected to the one she was desperately trying to forget wasn't what she wanted, or what she needed.

So she left.

She had attended school in Seoul, South Korea, earning her graduate degree in Childhood Psychology in 6 very stressful years, and soon moved home to Tokyo to try to find a job. After being accepted by a small private school in Akihabara, she thought everything was finally looking up. At the ripe old age of 25, life was finally settling down and letting Kagome be "normal."

It didn't last long, though.

After two years, the school closed due to the economical situation in Japan, and the students and the buildings were merged into a larger private school. Kagome, like so many, lost her job and was stuck looking for work in a situation that was definitely not ideal.

After many interviews, she found a teaching position at a small university in Kyoto, not exactly what she had wanted but well enough. The position paid well and allowed her plenty of time off to travel.

Travel was something she still craved. She had tried to stop the urge, but couldn't. So she just accepted it as one of her many flaws, a holdover from the feudal era adventures she missed so much sometimes, and let it go.

She lived that quiet little life since, with very little change. Men were few and far between, as once you've dealt with real heroes and men that could make you shake in your boots and quiver with lust at the same time, well, it was hard to find anyone to match up. All the guys she met in the faculty meetings and in the tiny bookstores she frequented weren't even worth a second look. And the few that were usually disappointed her soon. It was a lonely life.

She had known what she was doing when she made the decision to return to the future. She knew it would be hard to leave them all behind, leave what she had known and loved for three years to be boring again. And she accepted it.

Just like she accepted everything else in her life, without complaint.

But thirty hit hard. To realize that she had been on this earth thirty years, twelve without her family from that era, well, it hurt. She had nothing to show for it. Her job was good, but she wasn't doing any major research or writing scholarly papers and articles on a normal basis. She had no husband, no children, nothing except a cat and two close friends, both women she worked with.

Her brother, on the other hand, had a wife, a child, and a promising career as an engineer.

And it depressed her, on her birthday, the day she should be happy and celebrated. And probably drunk. Which hopefully, the drunk part would be taken care of soon by Nami and Hana. They had planned a night for the girls, with cocktails at a cheap bar they loved, a bit of shopping and splurging at a local boutique, and finishing it up with a visit to a restaurant none of them could really afford so they could have a sinfully delicious meal.

Everything went great, too. The cocktails were perfect, as always since the bartender knew them well, and the shopping was a success. They had each found some things to buy in the boutique and splurged more than they should have. And after each changed into one of their new outfits, bought especially for tonight, they went to their final destination.

Yagenbori, the restaurant they had chosen for the night, was extremely popular with the locals and with the tourists that were looking for something a little different that street vendor fare. It was always full, always good, and the perfect place for the celebration of such a birthday. At least it was in Hana's opinion.

Kagome would have been happy with a karaoke bar; as long as the place could fix her a drink of some sort, she was happy.

They ordered a beautiful o-makase meal and some shabu-shabu, which was delectable, and had some very nice sake as they sat by the windows, watching as the geisha district filled with visitors, beautiful women, and tourists.

One face, in particular, caught Kagome's attention. A piece of beef dropped from her hachi to the fine ceramic dish as she saw the gleaming golden eyes across the street, eyes that belonged to a man that seemed to tower over those around him. His brown hair swished, shaggy and longer than most men wore it now, as he entered the reputable teahouse across the street.

Could it really be?

She knew some of them had survived. After all, many of the demons she had met were over a thousand years old, and could have lived longer. She knew that Shippou was living in America, that Kouga had made it to the 1800's before dying in a fight with another demon, and she had run into Shiori, the bat half-demon, in Tokyo once. She doubted the girl recognized her, though. So it would come as no surprise that Sesshoumaru could live this long and make it to this time.

"Kagome? Are you okay?"

Her brown eyes shifted over to Hana, the plump face looking worriedly at her friend.

"Sure!" She laughed at little, a self-depreciating little chuckle. "I just think I saw someone across that street I haven't seen in years. I'll just have to watch for him. I'd really like to talk to him, see how he's been."

Nami and Hana's eyes lit up. They rarely met, or heard about, anyone from Kagome's life before she settled in Kyoto other than her family. They knew she was like them, pretty much friendless in this huge city, far from what they considered home.

"Well, if you see him, just go on out there. We'll wait for you!"

Kagome flashed a smile at her friends, and they continued eating, with Kagome glancing out the window every few seconds. It just wouldn't do to miss his exit. Maybe her birthday wouldn't be the total waste she thought it would.

Sesshoumaru was weary, tired, and disgusted. The man across the kotatsuwas boring and ill-studied on the subject of maritime financing, and if it hadn't been for the urging of his partner, he wouldn't be here. Kyoto was a beautiful city, one of the few old places in his homeland, and this teahouse was one of the best still surviving. Yet, here he was, sharing the experience with an incompetent moron.

He fought down the urge to tell the man to leave, and tried to enjoy the company of another person without his internal cynic spouting complaints every five seconds. It didn't work, though.

He tuned out the greasy little man, he thought his name was Hiroki but wasn't sure, and tried to concentrate on his surroundings. The light shamisen music, the steam of the fragrant tea, the beauty of the painted shȏji, but he couldn't. It was unnerving.

A few centuries ago, he would have killed him and been done with it.

If his partner thought they would take this man's business under their wing, he was wrong. If it meant he would have to spend another minute with him after tonight, the deal was off. Sure, their corporation might not be big and could use the growth, but it wasn't worth this. They were well off and didn't need the income enough to tolerate this man.

"So you see, sir, the actual bottom line once you include the equity as well as the loans for…" the man droned on, and Sesshoumaru finally stopped listening for much more than a cue that he could use to escape.

What a waste. A visit to one of the most beautiful cities in the world, in his opinion, and he had to deal with this. He could imagine the Nijo-jo across from his hotel, the castle rising in the distance like a long-forgotten memory, the geisha in the street, the beautiful antiques in the stores lining the narrow streets. It had been years since he had visited Kyoto, literally. The last time he had been here was before the war in the 40's.

He never had a reason to visit, really. His business was located in Tokyo and London, and he rarely made it anywhere other than those two cities, except for Beijing, and that was to visit one of his few old friends, one of the few people who could claim to know him well. Why Jin, an older cousin of his, chose to live in that filthy city he would never understand, but he had enjoyed stopping in this year on his way from London and getting to see the new Olympic stadium. Technology still amazed him, everyday.

He could see that the sun was finally setting, that night was truly falling over the city, and he grabbed the first chance he heard to plead out of the meeting, using an excuse of visiting some family in the area before he left the next morning for Tokyo. He paid the bill quickly, not even noticing the amount, and left some money for the continued use of the room for his "associate" before he stepped out into bustling Kyoto.

He made it about a block down the street, in front of one of the few okiya that still existed in this district, before he felt a small hand grab onto his arm and tug him backward.

The night had been long, and all he wanted to do was have a chance to enjoy the scenery before having to go to bed, and now he was being accosted in the streets. He was quite sure this would be his last trip, ever, to Kyoto.

He turned around quickly, spinning on his heels, the words on his tongue sharp and disrespectful. But he was caught in a rare moment of surprise, and his brain seemed unable to connect to his mouth.

"It is you!"

The young woman in front of him looked very much like she did last time he had seen her, but she had obviously aged and matured. Little lines had begun forming around her eyes, and her hair was not nearly as dark as it once was. She had gained a little weight, was no longer the stick of human he remembered, and she had decent, real clothing on. Clothing that actually covered her up a bit.

"Do you remember me?"

Her brown eyes stared up at him, and he wondered what to say. What did you say to someone that you haven't seen in 500 years? He wasn't sure that there was a proper response for this situation in any etiquette book, and his mind raced to answer the question.


Finally, he stirred, coughing a bit and clearing his throat.

"Kagome, yes?"

Her eyes lit up, and he couldn't remember the last time someone had that reaction to him saying their name.

"Yes! How have you been? It's been years since I've seen you!"

Years, he thought, yes. Centuries.

But it wasn't for her, was it? Maybe a decade, but not the tedious time he had wasted. He noticed two women approaching behind Kagome, one a bit short and plump, the other much like Kagome. All three seemed dressed a little too nicely to be out in Kyoto sightseeing, and he wondered what Kagome had interrupted to chase him down.

"I have been well. And you? It has been some time." The lines around his own eyes, as well as a few around the corners of his mouth, crinkled just a bit as he tried to seem approachable with a small relaxing of his face.

"Great, really. I live here now. I work over at Kyoto Sangyo University, in the Cultural Studies department."

One of the other women stepped up shortly, handing Kagome an envelope and wishing her a good evening. The two women waved goodbye, heading on down the road.

"It is your birthday today?"

She grinned, a little embarrassed.

"Yeah. They took me out to celebrate. We went to Yagenbori and I saw you leaving the teahouse across the street. I couldn't resist coming to talk to you. I'm sorry if I made you late for something. It's just, well…" she stopped, stuttering, "I see people so rarely that really remember me, and I couldn't help but come say hi."

He looked at the slip of a woman in front of him, still so much smaller than he, and knew what she felt. He had been there, felt it too, so many times before. Sometimes, the wishing for days past just became too much, and sometimes it was merely a whisper in his mind, days long gone.

He motioned for her to walk beside him, and she stepped into place, fighting the winter wind all the way up the road.

"Do you live here as well?"

"I do not. I am frequently in Tokyo and London."

He noticed her smile fell just a bit, and some part of him was thrilled at it. He wasn't sure why.

"Oh. I moved here a few years ago, couldn't really find work in my sector in Tokyo anymore."

He nodded, turning a corner onto another street, the small female simply following his lead. He stopped in front of a small shop of some sort, most likely one of the many antique stores he had wanted to visit while in the city.

"I am staying at the ANA, at least until tomorrow. I must go back to Tokyo."

"So you're a jet-setter now, hm? I never pictured you as the type." He could sense the teasing tone in her voice, and he regretted having to leave so early in the morning. It had been so long since he had talked to her, and she had always been able to amuse him.

"I would not say so."

"Well, I would."

Her smile was back, and he almost reciprocated as he flagged down one of the few taxis on the street.

"Here." He handed her one of his business cards, and watched as apprehension of what it meant appeared on her face.

She dug in her purse, pulling out a small case of her own, and handed him a card.

"Call me sometime, Sesshoumaru. It would be nice to see you again, maybe talk some more. I wish you had more time!"

He watched as she struggled to make her feet move along the sidewalk, no doubt taking herself on home, and as she turned to wave at him, still smiling.

"Indeed it would, Kagome."

He climbed into the small cab, telling the driver to take him to the hotel, and he sat back against the seat, contemplating trips to Kyoto and the woman that lived here. Perhaps another trip would be in store soon. After all, he never did get to look at any of the shops, or see the castle from any vantage point other than his hotel room. And now, he would have a tour guide.

As the scenery of Kyoto passed him by, he was silently composing an e-mail in his head, wondering exactly what he could say to this new Higurashi Kagome, and figuring out how much time he could really get off of work with the excuse of seeing winter in Kyoto.

Just a little interlude, maybe a meeting that would lead to a developing relationship. You can decide your own ending, hmm? As for the many italics, I have included definitions below.

Yagenbori- a restaraunt in Kyoto that comes highly recommended

O-Makase- a sampler plate of sorts, with local cuisine

Shabu-shabu- thin strips of beef you dunk into a broth and eat

Sake- rice wine

Hachi- chopsticks

Geisha-I'm sure we all know that term, hm?

Kotatsu- a low table

Shamisen- Japanese musical instrument

Shȏji- rice paper walls and doors, usually with vibrant paintings

Nijo-jo- an old castle in Kyoto

Okiya- a geisha house

ANA- a hotel in Kyoto across from the Nijo-jo castle

Kyoto Sangyo University- a small university in Kyoto