AN: This is in response to Forthright's Six-Course Challenge on Dokuga_Contest. It will be a 6 part story.
Disclaimer: Inuyasha and Co. Belong to Rumiko Takahashi. I make no money off this. This is purely for fun.
He was back. She could feel the nerves fluttering within her lower abdomen. Keeping her head low, Kagome focused on her task, stocking the shelves with the new arrivals. He would be here in a matter of moments, reading the covers of the new releases, perhaps purchasing one that intrigued him, and then he'd move to the coffee shop attached to the bookstore after making his purchase, order a large black coffee and spend the next two hours sipping the beverage while reading the pages of his new book. Often she wondered how he managed to drink the coffee cold, but then men often did strange things, at least according to her friends. Knowing him, he probably wasn't even affected by the change, though she would have thought he'd prefer it hot, wanting to enjoy the finer things.
Most days she detested changing displays, hated boxing up the older books and moving them to their proper shelves, while finding a unique and creative way to set up the new books. She enjoyed perusing what was on the shelves more as she filed away returns. This gave her ample opportunity to study the various authors and see if there was a book she'd enjoy herself. Reading was perhaps the one thing she enjoyed most and while she was outgoing, sociable and enjoyed hanging out with her friends, she took greater pleasure in the quiet moments, the ones where she could curl up in the corner of her room, no interruptions, and get lost in the words that had nothing to do with school, but everything to do with learning something new.
Working at the bookstore only fed into that obsession.
"Hey, Kagome, break soon?" a friend called. She looked up from her task, carefully glancing at the man before turning to her friend. Shaking her head, she silently told her to wait. The silver-haired man was browsing just in front of her.
Holding her breath, Kagome tried not to stare. Most found staring to be rude and insulting and she knew, experience had taught her that this one would consider it more so than others. She had learned many things from her encounters with him five hundred years ago. Propriety was important, as was keeping her nose out of where it didn't belong, and as she was never part of his entourage, it certainly didn't belong anywhere near him. But she could admit to curiosity. It was difficult to not be curious when it had been so long since she last saw him. Four years for her, over five hundred for him. While the past was the past and it was gone, it was not entirely forgotten. She had spent countless hours trying to document it, and still had countless more to spend. However, memory loss was an unfortunate side effect of time. As it passed, her memories of her time in feudal Japan faded, and she could no longer remember things with the great clarity she once had. It was frustrating. The details she could once recall so easily, such as the smell of fresh air, the crystal clear night sky, the feel of Inuyasha's body against hers as he warmed her during the cold winters had long since slipped from her memory.
But she could never forget him. Or any of the others.
Black strands of hair fell in front of her face as she squatted low to grab another pile of books from the box. She took a moment and opened the cover of the top one, reading the inside cover. Another mystery, and while intriguing, it wasn't her cup of tea. She would read this one at some point, maybe, but not right now. It wouldn't be the book she'd bring home after she was finished her work. It wouldn't aid in her cause to write her own great story. She stood, placed the last book from the box on the table and crushed the box, laying it flat on the cart. Three more boxes, three more tables. She wondered if he'd recognize her today.
The man was still there, reading the inside cover of the book she had just put out. She smiled as he scoffed too, setting the book back on the pile as if it weren't good enough. How many times over the past two months had she seen him do this very thing? Sometimes once a week, sometimes twice. Often she wondered where he ever got the money to spend on books like this and decided that his job must be important enough to feed his own obsession. Unlike her, he couldn't simply borrow books at will. It was a book store, not a library. However, there were times too when rational thought would win out. Sesshoumaru was a youkai of stature, one who had survived several centuries to make it into the twenty-first, when others had clearly perished along the way. If he didn't work, then somehow he had managed to amass a large fortune over the years.
Kagome was surprised to have seen him in the store months earlier when she had first started her job. The job not only fed her addiction, but it also helped pay for the extra schooling and tutoring she needed to catch up to other students her age. Her chances of making it into a reputable school had vanished when her attendance records displayed dismal results. Without a doctor's note to back up her grandfather's claims of illness, she was treated no better than a truant. Her friends made it into one of the better high schools in her district. She counted herself luck to make it into one period. The others had received scholarships for various universities. Sighing, she had long since given up on the idea of post-secondary education. She had the shrine to fall back on and knew one day she would take over for her grandfather. But that wasn't what she wanted from life. The tutors and extra schooling would help get her somewhere, and while she would never be working in a doctor's office, or perhaps a classroom, but maybe between that and her new found love of writing, she'd find something she'd enjoy.
"Do you know him?" her friend asked as Sesshoumaru picked up a book she had placed on the shelf only moments ago, a historical drama. Kagome had nearly chuckled that, knowing that he'd be the one being who would be able to point out all of the inaccuracies portrayed by the author. Most could only dream of them. He had lived through them.
"Yes," she whispered back, her eyes following him to the cash register. For months now this had been his routine. His normal spot in the coffee shop attached to the store had just opened. It would only be a few minutes before he was seated there, reading chapter one.
"He's hot. Go speak to him."
Kagome waved a hand at her friend, brushing her off for the time being. One did not merely approach Sesshoumaru and expect to hold a simple conversation with him. One did not merely converse with Sesshoumaru. One had to be invited to exchange words with him, and even then they had to be important words, words worthy enough of his attention. What would she say to him? 'Do you remember me? I used to travel with your half-brother and yes, I'm human, but I'm still alive five years later. I'll explain another day.'
No, she couldn't approach him. But she enjoyed watching him. Somehow over the years he had grown to be even more dignified. The changes to his person were subtle, but there. He wore glasses now when he read, just a small pair of rounded spectacles that sat half way down on his nose. Whether they were cosmetic or he had an eye problem, she wasn't aware. Perhaps it was merely a way to disguise himself from others who may recognize him. Perhaps he was merely trying to adapt to society. Many older men wore glasses.
And he had chopped his hair off too, so it sat at his shoulders, fluffed lightly so the ends stuck out. But still, there was no mistaking the great western lord. Even without his markings his regal bearing gave him away. She could feel the power roll off him, feel the way his youki spread over the area, searching for any threats, declaring his dominance over others.
"He's too old for me," she replied in jest to her friend. Though he didn't look it, it was the truth. He was much too old for her both in terms of age and wisdom and knowledge. He had the opportunity to experience far greater than she ever could, and she knew his life had barely begun. He would live for several more millennia still. "I wonder if he gets lonely," she murmured, shifting her back so she wasn't directly facing him when he turned in her direction. She wasn't sure if she wanted him to recognize her yet. More so, she wasn't sure if she could handle having to face what she was in the process of putting so neatly behind her.
He had trimmed his nails, she noticed, so they were blunted at the tips, rather than sharp like claws. For whatever reason he was forced to remove probably the most simple and probably most effective of weapons. Had he forced himself to blend in? Or was this a conscious decision he made on his own? His shadow stood over her for a second as she was crouched low, shifting through the box. Then it was gone as she saw him make his way over to the cashiers, book in hand. Much to her chagrin, she had missed the title. Checking out the titles of the books he bought had become somewhat of a game for her. Sometimes she would end up purchasing the same book as it sounded interesting. Other times she merely wanted to study the types of books he read. Most times it was an unconscious event to find a connection between them.
Hot breath floated by her ear momentarily, "join me," before disappearing entirely. Too shocked to do much more than stand there, she regained enough of her senses to look up and see him walking toward the small coffee shop. His normal table was free and she could already see the clerk making his coffee. She was still unused to not seeing his normally long hair flowing as he walked, and blushed as she saw the musculature of his back through his crisp, white button down shirt. It wasn't until he sat down with his coffee that she noticed two cups, not one, and his golden gaze piercing her own.
"I'm going on break," Kagome whispered to her co-worker, trying to settle the increasing fluttering within her abdomen. Four years was a long time and she wasn't sure if she was ready to rehash old memories out loud yet. On paper was one thing. She saw the words she put them down, but she didn't have to hear them, she didn't have to truly understand them. This would be different. He played a role back then and she knew that by sitting with him he would play a role once more. Still, she couldn't refuse the invitation, knowing that it would never again be offered if she turned it down.
"Sesshoumaru," she inclined her head as she took a seat, and reached for the second cup of coffee. Four years later they had both changed, she thought. Both were significantly more experienced. She was certainly more mature. She didn't know how she would have handled such an encounter four years ago, especially so soon after her return. It was as if the extra years acted as a cooling period for whatever emotion was consuming her back then.
"You asked if I ever get lonely," he continued, leaning back, his gaze ghosting over the silver wire rim of his glasses, confirming her first thought. They were cosmetic, merely meant to help disguise his identity. She knew her answer then. He was surrounded by people day in and day out at whatever job it was that he chose to do. But none of them knew who he truly was. She understood that. Averting her eyes, she gazed into the black liquid in her cup for a moment, before lifting them once more to meet his.