Disclaimer: I do hereby disclaim all rights and responsibilities for this bit of seasonal fluff... especially for the one who acts impulsively. A nod of recognition is bent towards Rumiko Takahashi for her creative prowess.
A Note of Explanation: This oneshot was written for Anglowritten's Valentine's Day Gift Challenge over at Dokuga. The prompt was to describe the hardships of finding the right present for your beloved on Valentine's Day, and she also requested that the story be humorous. This is my take... with a bit of a twist. Enjoy!
"Why are we doing this again?" Kagome asked warily. She fiddled with a stray lock of hair while one of her best friends gave a large, pink bowl an encouraging shake.
Ayumi, class president, replied, "Because it's good for morale."
"...and because Tanaka-sensei requested it," reminded Yuka.
"That too," Ayumi admitted with a calm smile.
"So pick your fate, Kagome-chan," urged Eri. "There are some cute boys in there; you might get lucky!"
"We're not choosing boyfriends," she huffed.
"No, but we'll be giving them chocolates on Valentine's Day," reasoned Eri. "That's as close as some of us have ever been to having one."
Kagome blushed and looked away, and Yuka pounced. "Have you ever bought chocolates for a boy on Valentine's?"
"Of course," she replied breezily.
"One boy... or the whole class?" demanded Eri.
Kagome blew out her bangs and admitted, "Yeah, it was the whole class."
Yuka and Eri exchanged a glance, and Ayumi asked, "What were we... eight?"
"Probably six," Yuka giggled.
Eri gave Kagome a knowing look. "Have you ever made chocolates for a boy?"
"From scratch... with love?" Yuka prodded.
"No... and I'm not going to waste the effort on some random guy," Kagome grumbled.
"You're such a romantic," Eri said, her teasing taking on a fond quality.
"More like a late bloomer," chuckled Yuka.
Ayumi shifted into business-like tones. "There are some very nice boys in here, and it's up to us to make sure they have chocolates on Valentine's Day." Giving the plastic bowl another shake, she said, "You promised, Kagome-chan... now, draw a name."
She hesitated, and Yuka rolled her eyes. "You don't have to go crazy. Just buy a little box from one of the shops on the way to school and stick it in his shoe locker."
"They're friendly gifts... not pledges of undying love," assured Eri. "The guys won't take it wrong because we're all doing it, see?"
The other young woman fished a slip of paper from Ayumi's bowl, and Kagome groaned softly before following suit. "Since Tanaka-sensei said so..." she sighed.
"That's the spirit!" praised Ayumi, who turned to the rest of the girls gathered in the classroom, distributing more names. "Thank you all for helping out! Remember... the fourteenth is just a few days off, and you need to have a gift ready for the person whose name you receive. If you have any trouble, talk to me!"
As her classmates murmured their assent and began filing out, Kagome unfolded the paper she'd drawn and smiled. Oh, that's not so bad. Hojo's nice... if a bit of a Grandma's boy. He'll be a cinch. She stuck the slip of paper into her pocket and shouldered her book bag. "See you tomorrow!"
In the hallway, Eri caught up to her and whispered, "Kagome-chan... trade with me? Please?"
"Because you're brave!" Eri said in wheedling tones.
"Who did you get?" Kagome asked curiously.
"One of the demons," her friend nervously admitted.
Kagome's expression softened with sympathy, for Eri was skittish around people who weren't human. Persons of youkai heritage were basically diplomatic exchange students. Demons didn't age at the same rate as humans, but for the sake of greater understanding between the species, most youkai attended a human high school at some point during their adolescence. It was common practice, but there weren't many demons left. It's more of a privilege than anything. There just aren't many opportunities for humans to meet demons. She'd been thrilled when just after New Years, a hanyou had joined their class; they were even rarer than youkai. Maybe I should buy him chocolates too....
"So?" Eri begged, tugging at Kagome's sleeve. "Will you swap?"
"Sure... if you don't mind Hojo?"
"Perfect," her friend assured, extending the folded slip she'd drawn. "I owe you one... seriously!"
Kagome nodded and made the exchange, but something about Eri's attitude sent up warning flags. "Erm... who did you say you got?"
"See for yourself," suggested her friend before beating a hasty retreat.
Uh-oh. There were only a handful of demons in their school at the moment. Kouga, Ginta, and Hakkaku were wolf youkai who'd enrolled together, and they pretty much came as a set. If she drew one of their names, I'd probably have to buy chocolates for all three. Other than those guys, there's just Jinenji. Lots of people found his size intimidating, but the big hanyou was so shy and tender-hearted, it was impossible for her to understand why anyone would be frightened by him. Maybe if I introduced Eri to him, she would understand that there's nothing to fear from.... As her mind rambled, she opened the slightly-crumpled pink slip and blinked. Oh. Duh... how could I have forgotten him?
Sesshoumaru Taishou rarely took part in class or outside of it. He was tall, slender, and pale... except for the vivid markings that adorned his face. His silver hair stood in striking contrast to his black uniform, yet he managed to fade into the background of school life. He doesn't even try to fit in. I guess he's here more as an observer than a participant. Slowly, Kagome tucked the new name into her pocket. No wonder Eri was so nervous!
When Sesshoumaru had entered high school with them, several girls tried to catch his eye, but he'd unequivocally shut them out. Aloof, silent, and uncaring, he remained distant from everyone for nearly three years. I doubt he wants anything to do with any of us. She absently twisted her much-abused lock of hair, thinking hard. Good for morale, huh? Something tells me that Sesshoumaru will only see a Valentine's Day gift as an imposition... but it would be really awful if he was the only boy left out. Her mind made up, Kagome walked home more slowly than usual, paying close attention to the chocolates on display in shop windows.
Sesshoumaru glanced up from his textbook as his younger sibling trotted into the room on bare feet. "Sess! Sess! Need help!" A quick sniff assured him that the hanyou's 'emergency' wasn't anything serious, so he simply waited for Inuyasha to explain himself. The little guy skidded to a stop at his brother's side and thrust one hand under Sesshoumaru's nose. "Read it?"
A single brow arched, and he said, "You have learned your letters."
Silver ears drooped, but Inuyasha's lower lip protruded stubbornly. "Nuh-uh... dunno dese ones. See?" On the palm of his outstretched hand was a small pink candy emblazoned with an English word.
"Where did you get that?" Sesshoumaru asked curiously.
"Mama," beamed the boy. "They're con... conver-san hearts."
"Conversation Hearts," Sesshoumaru corrected, eyeing the small package clutched in his brother's other hand. "And that one says cutie."
"Keh," Inuyasha scowled and poked a pudgy claw-tipped finger into the box. Fishing out a lavender-tinted candy, he asked, "S'one?"
Sesshoumaru propped his chin on his hand and patiently replied, "It says top dog."
"Better," declared the hanyou, carefully setting it aside.
"Aren't you going to eat it?" asked Sesshoumaru casually.
"Nope," he replied seriously. "S'for Papa."
"Hnn... a gift for Alpha," the older brother said approvingly. Inuyasha grinned and popped the first, pink heart into his mouth, crunching the sugary treat. While Sesshoumaru returned to his studies, the hanyou claimed a spot on the opposite side of the table, quietly sorting his candy by color. It didn't take long for the boy to collect all the white hearts and push them to one side. "What about those?" Sesshoumaru inquired.
The adolescent inu-youkai detected the sharp scent of peppermint and nodded sympathetically before giving his homework the full force of his attention. After passing the better part of an hour in companionable silence, Sesshoumaru closed the last of his text books and looked up to find his younger brother waiting. He expected to have to read a few more hearts, but instead, Inuyasha asked, "What's troved?" Sesshoumaru frowned slightly, and the hanyou went on, "Papa says you're old enough to be troved."
"Betrothed," he realized aloud. "When I pass Father's test, I will be officially recognized as an adult..."
"You're growed up?" Inuyasha interrupted.
"Yes, I will be a grown up," agreed his sibling. "And it is not uncommon for this rite of passage to culminate with the announcement of a betrothal." The little hanyou's face scrunched into an expression of utter confusion, and Sesshoumaru sighed before adjusting his vocabulary to his audience. "Father wants me to choose a mate."
Inuyasha's eyes widened in comprehension... then clouded with apprehension. "Do you hafta go 'way to be troved?"
"No, little brother. I am heir, so this is where I belong."
The hanyou's obvious relief was rather touching, and Sesshoumaru could practically see the wheels of his mind turning. Finally, the child blurted, "What kind?" It was the elder brother's turn to register confusion, and Inuyasha fidgeted, half-lowering his ears before asking, "A mate like your mama... or my mama?"
The difference in their parentage wasn't exactly a forbidden topic, but the hanyou was sensitive... and hated to displease his big brother. Sesshoumaru inclined his head to acknowledge the question and even went so far as to clarify. "Demon or human? I do not know, and I am not in a hurry to find out."
"You are slow," his brother solemnly acknowledged. A brow arched at this assessment, and Inuyasha went on to ask, "Need help?"
Sesshoumaru huffed in amusement. "Have you have inherited Father's matchmaking tendencies? Because between you and me, he is terrible at it." The demonesses that had recently found their way to the Taishou dinner table ranged from unsuitable to intolerable, and he hoped the thinly-veiled efforts to pair him off would end soon. He will run out acquaintances with eligible daughters eventually.
"Papa picked Mama," Inuyasha defended. "He says she's a markable woman!"
"Remarkable," he corrected with a smirk. Izayoi wasn't bad for a human, and Sesshoumaru was actually grateful for her presence within their pack. It was due to her influence that he wasn't being saddled with a more traditional arranged marriage. "Since I have the opportunity, I intend to choose for myself." Inuyasha shook his head sadly, and his brother cocked a brow. "Do you question my taste in these matters?"
"Nuh-uh," the hanyou quickly assured. "You pick good, but you pick slow."
"Too many mistakes are made in haste."
Inuyasha stared at the uneaten Conversation Hearts on the table; the single colored candy that remained was surrounded by white ones. "What if all da best ones get picked? All dat's left'll be too spicy," he reasoned, nose wrinkling at the thought.
Sesshoumaru pondered the child's simple logic. If the recent queue of unattached females is any indication, the pickings are slim. Taking action was certainly premature, but taking a look around might be in order. "I will keep your words in mind, little brother."
Kagome wandered from shop to shop, looking in windows and eavesdropping on groups of girls who squealed over adorable designs and clever packaging. Since she really didn't know Sesshoumaru, she didn't have any idea what the reserved demon might like, but she spotted plenty of things she was pretty sure would horrify him. Teddy bears are too cute; balloons are too showy. Some of the more expensive chocolates came in understated wrappings, but she wasn't even sure her classmate cared for sweets.
In school the following day, she watched the tall demon for some clue as to his preferences... and was startled by the change that seemed to have overtaken him. Her first and last impressions of Sesshoumaru were of a withdrawn, disinterested individual, but his current attitude sent her heart into a quicker cadence. He was a lot easier to ignore when he was ignoring all of us. From his usual seat in the back corner of the room, he scrutinized everyone. Power simmered on the edges of Kagome's senses as her innate abilities acknowledged him as a force to be reckoned with. He's much stronger than he's ever let on. The intensity of Sesshoumaru's gaze was positively predatory, and she wondered what he was looking for... and pitied his prey.
Suddenly, she was pinned by cat-slit golden eyes, and her breath caught as they narrowed slightly, assessing. Her instincts bucked, but Kagome quickly reined in the fizzing purity that marked her as a priestess. When his nostrils quivered, she knew he'd caught the brief flare and recognized her status. A pulse of youki emanated from the pale youth, and she was tempted to roll her eyes. It was common practice amongst reiki-users to allow a demon to establish dominance before moving on to other pleasantries. The courtesy appeased a youkai's more animalistic instincts and was little more than a formality, but Kagome couldn't resist pushing back... just a little. Holding Sesshoumaru's gaze, she singed the very edges of his aura, knowing it probably tickled more than anything. Then, she nodded respectfully and lowered her eyes.
His youki ebbed, and Kagome breathed a sigh of relief but didn't risk another peek. I'm not afraid of you, but I'm not stupid enough to provoke a demon of your caliber. She smiled slightly into her textbook because, really... it was too funny. We've been classmates for nearly three years, and I've finally made a first impression. At least he'll remember who I am when I give him his Valentine's Day gift tomorrow.
The next morning, Kagome lay in wait by the shoe boxes, her gift for Sesshoumaru hidden behind her back. She'd settled on a safe gift—store-bought chocolates of good quality with tastefully muted wrappings. I could just leave it in his locker, but somehow that feels like chickening out. Other students brushed past in a steady stream, and the minutes ticked towards the last bell. He's never late. Why is he late today of all days? She fidgeted as the halls began to clear, then gave up and joined the stragglers bolting towards the stairs.
Kagome breathlessly slid into her seat, barely avoiding a tardy. "He's not here," she hissed at Ayumi.
Her friend glanced towards the back corner of the room and shrugged. "Maybe he'll come later."
By lunchtime, there was still no sign of Kagome's assigned Valentine, so Ayumi dragged her to Tanaka-sensei's desk. "Do you know why Taishou-kun isn't here?" she asked sweetly.
"Hmm? Oh! Yes," replied their teacher distractedly. "His father notified us that he'd be absent today... some kind of family obligation."
"Today of all days?" Ayumi sighed. "Well, Kagome-chan is going to be speaking with Taishou-kun later, so perhaps she could bring him his homework assignments?"
"Oh, that's very thoughtful," Tanaka-sensei agreed. "I'll have a packet ready for you at the end of the day, Higurashi-chan."
Kagome turned a hand-drawn map sideways, trying to decipher Tanaka-sensei's hastily-scrawled instructions. The Taishou residence wasn't very far from her family's shrine, but she wasn't familiar with any of the landmarks on the street she was following. "You know you're in trouble when the directions end with, you can't miss it." However, her teacher was actually right. The Taishou dojo was impossible to overlook. "Whoa... big!" she gasped.
A bold sign hung beside huge double doors set into a high wall. With considerable trepidation, Kagome knocked, then pushed her way into what appeared to be a tree-filled park. Nervous as she was, it never occurred to her to go back. A promise was a promise. "Hello?" she called uncertainly, starting down the path.
Suddenly, there was a little boy blocking the way, crouched defensively with his hand on the hilt of a wooden sword. "Who you?" he demanded, baring tiny fangs and giving a treble growl.
Kagome was too surprised to answer. The child was barely more than a toddler, with softly rounded cheeks and big, golden eyes. He was dressed in traditional clothing, his hakama gathered at the ankles in poofs that drew her gaze down to small feet. It's awfully cold to be out here barefoot. Awww... claws! Best of all were the ears poking out from his unruly mop of silver hair. Is he hanyou? How cute!
"I dunno you!" he accused with an adorable scowl.
A smile was already shining in her eyes, but Kagome kept a straight face. "Does Sesshoumaru Taishou live here?" she asked politely.
The boy nodded gravely and straightened, letting his hand fall away from his sword. "Sess's wiff Papa. He's gotta test."
"Oh," she said, peering around uncertainly. A distant rumble and enormous bursts of youki carried from somewhere beyond the winter-bare woods. "He definitely seems to be busy."
"Why you want Sess?" he asked suspiciously.
"Erm... I brought his homework from school," she explained. Feeling the need to be fully honest with the little fellow, she added, "...and a gift."
Small, pettable ears pricked forward. "Why?"
"It's Valentine's Day."
His mouth dropped open. "I knowed that!"
"I didn't think demons paid much attention to human holidays."
The little boy stepped closer and confided, "My Mama's human."
"And you're Taishou-kun's brother?"
"Sess's mine," he nodded, then amended. "Half mine."
He eyed her thoughtfully and announced, "You're 'most as pwetty as Mama."
Her lurking smile blossomed, and she crouched so she was eye-level with the boy. "I should introduce myself; my name's Kagome. What's yours?"
"It's nice to meet you," she said.
The hanyou edged nearer, nose twitching. "You bringed a gift? What kind?"
Kagome turned to her bag and fished out the box of chocolates, offering it up for Inuyasha's inspection. "Does your brother like sweets?" she asked hopefully.
Her shoulders sagged. "I was afraid of that."
The little boy patted her arm and said, "I trade you."
Inuyasha sidled closer, and Kagome held very still as he sniffed at her. "I have better present. Trade."
"You want the chocolate?" she asked with a weak smile.
He grinned and held up his arms. "Yep. Carry?"
"Erm... sure," she chuckled. "How about piggyback?"
Pulling her hair out of the way, she urged Inuyasha to climb aboard, which he did with surprising gentleness. I suppose having a human mother helps in that department. Standing, she bounced slightly on the balls of her feet to test her balance, then asked, "Which way?"
One small finger pointed, and Kagome began walking. The grounds were impressive, but it didn't take long for her to be distracted by the way Inuyasha nuzzled into her neck, snuffling noisily as he pushed past her scarf. I wonder how much his nose is telling him... the little snoop. Well, fair's fair. Indulging her own curiosity, she reached up and petted the boy's bangs. Inuyasha froze for an instant, but when he didn't pull away, she went further. Slim fingers threaded through puppy-soft hair to one of his ears and circled it before gently scratching the base.
The hanyou muffled a giggle against her shoulder. "Tickles," he protested.
"Should I stop?"
Small arms wound around her neck and held tight. "Nuh-uh."
The tile roof of a large house came into view beyond the trees, and after another minute, forest gave way to formal gardens. Following Inuyasha's directions, she skirted the buildings, coming up behind one of the largest. Who are we avoiding by taking the back way?
"Dis good," he announced and wriggled out of her grasp, landing lightly on his feet before taking her by the hand. He led her to the corner of a building, then peeked around it, nose twitching. "Wait here."
"I will." Kagome was impressed by the hanyou's speed as he streaked across the open courtyard and through a door in the far pavilion. While she waited, she gazed around the compound, which was easily as large as her family's shrine... larger if the distant shudders of youki were coming from somewhere on the property. Concentrating hard, she focused on the clashing auras and realized that they weren't land-bound, but airborne. As she peered at the overcast sky, she recalled Inuyasha saying something about Sesshoumaru and a test. What in the world is happening above the clouds?
The boy returned with a small cloth bundle in hand, and he very carefully folded back the silk to reveal a beautiful comb. "Better," he announced.
"I can't take that!" she protested. "It looks valuable."
"S'not for you," Inuyasha argued, "You give dis to Sess."
"Is this even yours to trade?" Kagome chided, not wanting to get herself—or the little hanyou—into trouble.
He ignored her question. "Choc'late's for human giving; dis is for youkai giving. Mama told me da story, so I know!" Pressing the bundle into her hands, he gazed up at her expectantly, and with a sigh, she gave up her box of chocolates, which he carefully tucked into his sleeve.
Before she could ask her next question, a bright light streaked in front of her, sending her hair into a whirl, and Inuyasha was gone. Or rather, he was safely perched in the crook of an arm belonging to a broad-shouldered demon with jagged cheek stripes and fierce bronze eyes. "Inuyasha, what have you been told about taking things from strangers?" he asked in a deep voice.
Kagome's eyes widened in dismay, but Inuyasha didn't seem concerned. "Dis K'gome."
The tall youkai cocked a heavy brow and looked her up and down, noting her school uniform. "I know my son is charming, but he is rather young to be attracting admirers on Valentine's Day."
Unsure how to explain, Kagome bowed and said, "I apologize for the intrusion... Taishou-sama."
The demon's expression softened into friendlier lines, and a twinkle lurked in his eyes when he asked, "So how did you and Inuyasha meet?"
"Oh... erm...." she fumbled helplessly.
Inuyasha interjected a scornful, "Keh. She wants Sess."
"Then why do you have the lady's chocolate?" inquired his father.
The hanyou's expression grew serious, and he whispered, "I think she's markable!"
A deep chuckle rolled through the compound, and Taishou-sama's gaze slid to a point just beyond Kagome's right shoulder. "Quite the commendation. What do you say to that, Sesshoumaru?"
Kagome whirled to find her classmate standing a short distance away, looking much different without his plain, black school uniform. Sesshoumaru looked older, or perhaps ageless, in his traditional clothing. A white kimono with bold crests decorating shoulder and sleeve was covered by armor, and a sword rode at his hip, tucked into a vibrant sash. Realizing she was gawking, Kagome lowered her eyes and bobbed her head in silent greeting.
His father smoothly inquired, "What business do you have with my eldest?"
"Oh! Erm... here. This is for you," she replied, extending the silk-wrapped comb towards her classmate. He cautiously took it, and Kagome fumbled with the clasp of her book bag before withdrawing the folder of homework assignments from Tanaka-sensei. "And these are today's...." She trailed off because Sesshoumaru was staring at her with the oddest expression on his face, one corner of fabric still held between thumb and forefinger.
Striding over, his father inspected Kagome's gift, and his mouth twitched. "She is quick! You have only just attained the right to accept such things." To her amazement, color rose in Sesshoumaru's cheeks, and he looked away. Taishou-sama continued, "I will leave you to give her an answer." The tall demon inclined his head to her before tossing his younger son over his shoulder and sauntering away.
Inuyasha waved, calling out, "Not spicy, Sess! I checked!"
Left alone with her luck-of-the-draw Valentine, Kagome smiled apologetically. "I'm sorry to intrude," she repeated.
"It is nothing," Sesshoumaru stiffly replied.
As the silence verged on awkward, she cleared her throat. "Your little brother is cute."
"Hnn," he replied, his gaze dropping to the comb. Very slowly, he neatly folded the silken cloth around her offering. "Higurashi, why are you here?"
"I brought your homework," she explained, proffering the folder.
"How thoughtful," he murmured, making no move to take it. "And this?" He lifted her traded gift.
"Valentine's Day," she replied lamely. His brows arched, and she hastily explained, "We—all the girls—wanted to make sure no one was left out."
"Inuyasha gave this to you?"
"Yes," she admitted. "He said it would be better than chocolate."
"Then you are not aware that this is a betrothal gift?"
"Eh?" Kagome squeaked.
"By presenting this to me in the presence of my father, you have officially declared your
your intention to court me," he calmly explained. "Since he offered not objection, he does not oppose the match."
"Are you saying that I just... proposed to you?"
"Yes, you did," he replied, stepping close enough that she had to fight the urge to step backwards.
"But... I barely know you!"
Sesshoumaru nodded solemnly and said, "That is easily remedied."
She gripped the folder nervously. "By what?"
He smirked slightly and replied, "Conversation."
"Oh... that makes sense," she laughed, twisting her finger into her hair.
Sesshoumaru's larger hand covered hers, and he unwound the strand, letting it coil over his knuckles. It was impossible to stop the color rising in her cheeks as he bent closer and murmured, "I accept your suit."
"You will?" she gasped. "But... why?"
"Because you asked."
"But I didn't realize what I was asking!"
"I know," he replied, smiling ever-so faintly.
She shook her head in disbelief. "You want me to court you?"
"How would I do that?"
Sesshoumaru raised one shoulder in a careless shrug. "In whatever manner pleases you."
Kagome couldn't shake the feeling that the demon was playing with her... and winning. How am I going to explain this to Mama?
"It is traditional for you to acknowledge my acceptance," he prompted.
With only the vaguest idea of youkai customs, she was at a loss. "H-how?"
"A gesture of approval and reassurance," he replied vaguely.
"Erm... right," she mumbled. "Are you serious about this?"
His head canted, and his eyes drifted out of focus for a moment. Then he blinked and met her questioning gaze. "Impulse."
"Do you often do things on impulse?" she asked warily.
"Yet you're willing to be accidentally betrothed to someone you barely know?"
"Just this once... yes."
He quietly studied her upturned face, waiting, and Kagome tried to think of a suitable gesture. Demons might be human in appearance, but they relied strongly on instinct. Scent... touch... physical displays of dominance or submission... and I'm supposed to be the suitor? Biting her lip, she tentatively reached up and laid her hand against the side of Sesshoumaru's face. Tension she hadn't realized was present in his expression eased, and gathering her courage, Kagome brushed her thumb across the lower stripe that marked his cheek. "Is that good enough?" she whispered.
"It will suffice." She withdrew her hand, and he raised his. "May I?"
Heart thudding, Kagome nodded, and Sesshoumaru mirrored her gesture, gently cupped her cheek. He inhaled deeply and exhaled with a kind of sigh. "You may withdraw if your hopes lie elsewhere."
The offer struck her as uncharacteristic as the impulse that would bind them together, and it was a sweet gesture... one that won the first little piece of her heart. She smiled and replied, "No, you can have them."
There was a hint of a challenge in his answering smirk. "Then, I look forward to your pursuit."
End Note: 4,550 words. Posted on February 14, 2010—Happy Valentine's Day!