Disclaimer: I do hereby disclaim all rights and responsibilities for the characters in this intentional extravaganza of sugary sweetness. Let's call it a holiday treat… with sprinkles. A nod of recognition is bent towards Rumiko Takahashi for her creative prowess.
A Debt of Gratitude: Thanks to Fenikkusuken, who braved the alt. pairing WAFF like a trooper. What can I say… it was fun! ::cheerful shrug::
This oneshot was originally posted to Live Journal on December 2, 2008.
Miracle on 34th Street
Demons ran rampant in the feudal era, yet today, they were nothing but fairy tales. Where did all the youkai go? It was a puzzle for the ages, a mystery beyond knowing, an enigma with no answers—one that Kagome Higurashi decided to solve. Today. Preferably by lunchtime, because that was when Inuyasha would be coming for her.
The most sensible approach to such a conundrum probably involved years of careful research, the reconstruction of Japan's historical record, and the quest for obscure clues buried within folk lore and legends. However, this sounded suspiciously like homework to Kagome; she preferred the direct approach. If there are any youkai living in my time, all I need to do is find them! The only question was… how? She couldn't very well travel to the remote areas of Japan where any remaining youkai might be hidden away. I guess I need them to come to me! Satisfied with the beginnings of her plan, Kagome headed downstairs for breakfast.
Fresh inspiration was waiting for her in the kitchen, where her grandfather was sitting at the table, pouring over the newspaper. Gramps was a penny-pincher, a bargain-sniffer, and a coupon-clipper. Mama looked on his obsession as a useful hobby and forbade the Higurashi siblings from teasing him about it, but at the moment, Kagome couldn't have been more thrilled about the old man's frugality. "Say, Gramps, can I see this week's specials?" He grunted and pushed a small stack towards her, and she riffled through the clippings. Buy one, get one free daikon radishes… twenty-five percent off cat food… discounted ramen by the case… hang on! Kagome smiled exultantly.
GRAND OPENING SPECIAL
Sweet Peep's Pastries
Good for one free cupcake!
Redeemable at our brand new 34th Street location.
Saturday Only – December 13, 2008
There were little yellow chicks running across the bottom of the advertisement, and the lettering was an intense shade of pink. It was a cute overdose, but… it's perfect! "Can I have this one, Gramps?" she asked, waving the coupon in his direction.
He peered at her over the edge of his reading glasses. "Yes, yes," he murmured distractedly, going back to his contemplation of battery rebates.
She needed a way to bring youkai to her, and thanks to Sweet Peeps, she could even pick which one. While finding some random demon might prove the existence of youkai in her time, it wasn't as if she could just walk up to them and say, "Hiya! I'm a priestess, and some of my closest friends are youkai! Would you mind answering a few questions?" Nope. That was bound to be awkward. That's what makes this plan so brilliant! She could choose a demon she already knew and ask them to look her up in a few hundred years. This would be the invitation, because it designated a specific place and a specific date. No math required! The best thing was that she only had to wait two weeks to see if her plan worked. Kagome hugged the coupon to her chest and sighed happily. All she needed now was a likely candidate.
Kouga fingered the glossy paper of the Sweet Peeps Pastries coupon, studying the row of dancing yellow chicks with serious eyes. "Is this some kind of human talisman?" he asked, giving Kagome a curious look.
This is harder than I thought it would be! Kouga had been the obvious choice for her little plan, but there was a tiny hitch… or two. In the first place, it hadn't occurred to her until this moment that if he didn't turn up on Saturday, it could mean he was dead. Her stomach dropped at that unwelcome realization; it was much nicer to think that Kouga was alive somewhere in her world. Secondly, although it had sounded simple in theory, she couldn't bring herself to outright ask, 'If you happen to survive for the next five hundred years, could you look me up?' It was too bizarre to explain, and Kouga was so very eager. In the end, the fifteen-year-old lost the nerve to make her request. Rather than giving her would-be suitor the wrong idea, she left him with no idea. "It's a… um… it's a gift. Keep it… if you want. I know it doesn't make much sense, but… um…"
The wolf youkai nodded and tucked the paper safely away in his breastplate before gathering her hands into his own. "Thank you, Kagome. Because it's from you, I'll keep it close to my heart."
"Um… you're welcome, Kouga-kun. Eheh." For better or for worse, Operation: Cupcake was a go.
As the Grand Opening of the newest location of Sweet Peeps Pastries drew near, Kagome's mild case of the jitters escalated to near-critical levels. Would Kouga really come? Chances were slim, but impossible things always seemed to be happening to her, so she wasn't giving up on that little coupon yet. It was a good plan! Still, every possible 'what if' plagued her mind. What if he lost it? What if he couldn't read it? What if he didn't understand its significance? What if he didn't care enough to accept the invitation? Kagome buried her face in her hand and groaned miserably. Why do I care so much?
When the designated Saturday rolled around, Kagome was up at the crack of dawn and out the door before anyone else was stirring. It wasn't a long walk to the new store, which was located just a couple of blocks from her old middle school, and she wanted to be there right when the doors opened… just in case.
She hadn't slept much the night before, and a new thought had occurred to her in the wee hours. Kouga doesn't even know I'm from the future. They hadn't been trying to hide that fact from the youkai; it just never came up. The chances of him understanding her vague 'invitation' seemed to have gone from slim to none. I didn't even give him a hint! It was five hundred years too late for explanations, and Kagome had pretty much convinced herself that Kouga wouldn't be dropping in on Sweet Peep's today. If he comes, it'll be a miracle.
Kagome was early, and while she waited for the doors to be unlocked, she peered curiously through the glass doors. The pastry shop was as cute as its coupons—bright white with pink trim. In the display case, beautiful cakes and tortes were temptingly arranged, and while she watched, an aproned worker slid a tray of cupcakes into view. Every one of the whimsical little things was frosted to look like a yellow chick. They sure know how to take a theme and run with it, Kagome mused.
The doors were unlocked to admit the one-girl line-up. "Good morning!" bid a young man in a starched white apron.
Kagome distractedly returned the greeting and peered around the inviting interior redolent of coffee. There was a row of small booths and several tables, so she would be able to wait in comfort. Stepping up to the counter, she was momentarily distracted by the two men who appeared to be elbowing one another as they jockeyed for the privilege of taking her order. The shorter of the two 'won' and asked, "What would you like, miss?"
She ordered a cappuccino and the first pastry she saw in the case. Her stomach was tied in too many knots for anything to look good, but she figured it would look bad not to order something.
"For here or to go? Here, right?" the taller server eagerly asked, earning a kick from his partner.
"Um… yes, thank you," she replied.
"Napkins?" the excitable server offered in another bid for the young woman's attention.
The shorter man cleared his throat and gestured towards the otherwise empty dining area. "Sit wherever you like."
"Stay as long as you want!" the tall man added hopefully.
Kagome withdrew a bill from her purse to pay for her breakfast, and the shorter man took it with care, holding it up with reverence. "Our first customer, and our first earnings! This one goes in a frame."
"Really?" Kagome gasped.
"Oh, yeah," the taller of the two quickly affirmed.
"Well, that's kind of an honor. Thank you," she said, feeling a little embarrassed by the attention.
"Oh, no," the shorter man replied solemnly. "We're the ones who are grateful."
A flustered Kagome accepted her order and moved to a window table in the corner where she could see both the door and passersby on the street. Soon, business picked up. School girls came in clusters, giggling over the kawaii chicks and the handsome men behind the counter. Shoppers stopped in for a coffee break, and mothers left with pink- and white-striped boxes of cake, their children clutching their complimentary cupcakes. It was busy enough to keep Kagome from getting bored, but not quite interesting enough to distract her from her nervous excitement. She sipped at her cooled drink and gazed out the window for any sign of long, dark hair and fierce blue eyes.
Throughout the course of the morning, the two shopkeepers went out of their way to make sure she was comfortable. They were attentive, but they weren't exactly flirting; they just seemed to want to be noticed. "Would you like a cupcake?" the tall one offered.
Kagome smiled faintly at him, not wanting to detract from his opening-day excitement. "I… um… misplaced my coupon," she explained.
"Not a problem," he assured her and soon returned with their signature Sweet Peep cupcake.
Shortly before the lunch hour, the shorter man added a small vase of yellow flowers to her table. "The boss asked me to bring these out."
"They're a very nice touch," Kagome said warmly. It wasn't until he walked away that she realized that hers was the only table with a bouquet.
Not long afterwards, another man appeared from somewhere in the back of the store. He conferred with the two manning the counter, then strolled over to Kagome's table. "It's our first day, and already we have a regular," he smiled. Without waiting for an invitation, he slid into the seat across from her. "I understand you've been monopolizing this table all morning. Is it possible you're waiting for someone… special?"
Kagome took a breath to apologize, then let it out in a whoosh. The evidence of her eyes clashed mightily with what her ears were telling her. His hair was different… his ears weren't pointed… his eyes weren't blue… and he looked so very normal without the armor and fur… but the voice was unmistakable. "Kouga?" she whispered.
"I knew it was impossible, but I still hoped you'd be here." He tilted his head to one side and gazed at her wonderingly. "You haven't changed at all."
"I'm from here," she replied. "This is my time."
"So I see," he acknowledged, adding, "It's mine, too… now."
"Um… is this your store?"
"I gave you a coupon from your own store," Kagome mumbled. "What are the chances of that?"
Kouga snorted. "I opened this chain of pastry shops because you gave me that coupon—or rather, this coupon." From his shirt pocket he carefully withdrew a fragile-looking slip of paper in a protective plastic sleeve.
"Why would you do that?"
"Because I wanted to find you again… and because I hoped you wanted to be found." He leaned forward and earnestly added. "It's the only way I could think of to make things right."
"Make what right?" she asked in confusion.
Ignoring the question, Kouga stood and extended his hand. "Come with me. Ginta has your yen framed, and we're going to hang it in the back."
"And Hakkaku. What, you didn't recognize him without the hair?" He waved his hands over his head, imitating the distinctive mohawk Hakkaku had sported in days of yore.
Kagome slapped her hand over her eyes. "I can't believe I didn't recognize them!"
"I'm surprised they managed to contain themselves until I arrived," he muttered. He led her through a side door into a small office, and when the door was safely closed, there was a shimmer as the illusion of humanity dissipated, leaving a much more familiar Kouga standing before her. Though he still wore modern clothing, his ears came to points, his smile revealed fangs, and the hand that clung to hers was tipped by deadly claws. When a tail swished into evidence, Kagome couldn't contain her delighted giggle, and Kouga's clear blue eyes shone with pleasure at her reaction. He pulled her into a tight embrace, and she stiffened in surprise. "I'm sorry," he whispered huskily, loosening his hold a little. "It's been so long, and I've missed 'my woman'."
The wolf demon's tone went straight to Kagome's heart, and she relaxed in his arms. Still, it was impossible to ignore the possessive note in his half-teasing declaration. "You can't possibly still want… I didn't mean for you to wait all this time for…"
"I know," Kouga interrupted with a sigh. "I'm not going to… well, let's just say that I am now aware that 'my woman' is still just a girl. That's fine, though. It'll give you time to catch up."
"I'd like to hear what you've been doing... I mean, besides opening a chain of pastry shops."
"That too," he agreed as he tucked her head under his chin. "But that's not what I meant. I've finally caught up to you, but you still need to catch up to me."
She pulled back enough to peer into his face, unnerved by the fact that the lightness of his tone didn't match the seriousness in his eyes. Is he trying to tell me something?
"Now, then!" he said briskly, releasing his hold and dropping down on one knee. "I do have one very important thing to ask."
Kagome boggled at him and waved her hands in an effort to prevent him from popping any questions. "Really, Kouga-kun… I don't think…"
"No, this can't wait; I can't wait!"
"We're friends… good friends…"
"I think this is for the best; it would make me so happy."
"I'm too young… you said so yourself…" she pointed out nervously.
The youkai gave a low chuckle and said, "Kagome, hear me out… please?"
She buried her face in her hands, unable to meet those sparkling blue eyes. "Fine," she groaned.
Kouga reached up to pull her hands away from her face and cradled them in his own. "Now that we're together, I was wondering if you'd consent…" He searched her eyes, silently pleading with her to understand. "Would it be okay with you if we changed the name?"
"The… name?" she echoed, thrown for a loop.
"Sweet Peeps Pastries," he explained. "Everyone thought I was crazy when I insisted on little chicks… and pink lettering… and cupcakes. I've endured years of teasing because of you, Kagome."
"Oh, but it's so cute!" she protested. "I like the chicks, and those cupcakes are adorable!"
Kouga's shoulders drooped. "It was worth a try," he said with a sigh. "Then I guess they'll have to stay and stand as proof that I'll do anything to make you happy, Kagome." Her answering smile was cautious... but genuine, and for Kouga, it was enough. For now.
End Note: This oneshot was written for the Live Journal community iy(underscore)blind and their prompt for November 2008—Redemption. 2,569 words.