A/N: Okay, this started out as a little one-shot, then kinda grew from there. I don't own Inuyasha and I make no profit from this story. I'm just trying to build on that world a bit. I understand that children in Japan receive a gift from the Buddhist monk, Hotei-somo. I chose to work only with Santa as opposed to possibly insulting Hotei-somo by making him do something he wouldn't. Enjoy!
A pale figure in white blended seamlessly into a cold snowy background as a tall, proud being stepped from the forest line and into the clearing outside of the hut. A small face peered out of the door looking for something in the dark.
"Lord Sesshoumaru!" The girl exclaimed, not worrying at all about her bare feet as she ran as fast as she could to her lord. She stopped suddenly before him and bowed, anxious to show her lord that she was learning her manners.
"Rin." It was only one word, but it held more meaning for the young girl then anything she knew. She stood tall and smiled up at him. Before she could say anything, the flap covering the door opened again and a young woman, wrapped in a fur came running out.
"Rin, you have nothing on your feet and no wrap." the woman chided gently, "You are going to catch your death of cold." She went to pick the girl up, but was surprised when the she was taken from her hands and lifted into the crook of a strong arm.
"Sesshoumaru," Kagome smiled and bowed to the stotic demon lord. "Merry Christmas!" she beamed at him. The slightly confused look must have shown in his eyes as Rin giggled a bit.
"Yes, my lord, Mer-ry Chismasu." she glanced at Kagome to confirm that she said it right. Kagome looked up at the girl with a smile and nodded.
The light and warmth from the hut spilled out into the cold darkness as Kagome moved the mat from the door and with a small bow, beckoned the tall figure in. "We have another guest." she announced as she entered the crowded hut after him. Everyone stopped their conversation and Inuyasha stood with his trademark glare already in place.
"Oi, ya ba-"
"Inuyasha..." came a threatening tone from Kagome. He looked briefly at her, before looking back to his brother.
"Oi~" he glanced again at Kagome before continuing, "What are you doing here?" he asked with a growl.
Sesshoumaru ignored the question and instead placed Rin down, watching as she ran off to warm her feet next to the fire. The others around the room each gave a small bow then went back to their various conversations. It was then that the demon took closer notice of the unusual items decorating the hut. A row of evergreen branches lined the walls with small red silk bows every few feet. On the numerous candles were more small bows and standing in the corner was a small evergreen tree placed on a stool. The tree was decorated in little carved wood figures and various origami stars and berries that were strung together to surround it. Crowning the tree was a small wooden star delicately cut and made to fit neatly on the top-most point. Under the tree sat a small pile of items, some boxed and others wrapped in brown cloth and tied closed with colorful bits of string.
The hut was crowded with the beings that he allied himself with several years ago as well as their various offspring. Everyone was eating rice and roasted fish and drinking sake.
Sesshoumaru sat against the wall, near the door. His brother, having given up on trying to get his attention, sat back down to assist the elderly priestess with the fire.
Miroku walked over to the intimidating demon and bowed. "Me-rry Christmas, Lord Sesshoumaru," The man said with a smile, the words still not flowing off his tongue as easily as they did the young priestess'. "Would you like some sake?" he made a slight gesture to the small bottle in his hand. Sesshoumaru gave a slight nod of his head. Miroku sat down next to him, placing the bottle and cups on the floor in front of him, he proceeded to pour some of the liquor in a small round cup and offered it to him with a small bow of his head. The man then proceeded to drink the bit of sake left in his own cup, neither one spoke, instead relaxing a bit in the warmth of the moment. The older children were gathered together on side of the hut nearest the tree. They continued to glance over and whisper among themselves. Sesshoumaru could hear them attempting to guess who's gift was who's and what they were... the little ones were very excited.
"Did Lady Kagome explain this tradition to you, my lord?" A golden glance said that he really didn't understand, though Miroku knew that the proud demon would never admit to not knowing something. So Miroku started to quietly tell Sesshoumaru the stories that Kagome had shared with the group. He told him of this Saint Nicholas who would give to the poor, particularly children. His name had become famous and known the world over. Apparently he is part of this celebration they were holding tonight and tomorrow. Miroku explained that even though the man had been dead for many, many years, they tell the children to be good because Santa Claus is watching. If they are good, they will be rewarded, but if not, then Santa would give them a rock. He told him that apparently the celebration traditions vary from place to place around the world, but the basic idea remains the same. "In Kagome's home village," he continued, "the gifts are usually given only to the children, but Kagome wanted all of us to experience the joy of the holiday, so we're all getting a little gift." He said she stated she loved this tradition. It was her hope that she could share it with her family here the same way she shared it with her family back home before the well had closed for good.
The adults sat about talking and smiling, eating and drinking. Kagome felt a pair of eyes on her as she moved about filling drink cups and heading off those that would snoop at the gifts, Inuyasha being the worst of those. She looked around a moment then brushed off the feeling opting instead to cuddle with Sango and Miroku's latest offspring, a beautiful little boy named Takashi.
After everyone finished their supper, Sango, Kagome and Rin cleared the dishes as Miroku made sure the men's cups were refilled with sake'. Kagome stood in front of everyone with a beautifully decorated cake in her hands. It took some practice, but she was finally able to bake a cake without the modern conveniences she was so used to. She had to for-go the icing, but was able to top it with a variety of sweet fruits. The children's (and men's) eyes went wide as she placed the cake in front of everyone and sliced each a small piece of cake. She was even able to entice Sesshoumaru into trying some of the sweet dessert. Jaken, who had been unusually quiet up to this point, began to extoll the wonders of such a treat. This had the adults agreeing, for once, with the small, green demon and the children giggled at him, as usual.
Twenty minutes later the children and Inuyasha were practically climbing over themselves to lean closer to the gifts. At some point, Shippo trapped Inuyasha to his spot on the floor using a special mixture he learned when attending the fox demon training school. After much giggling from the children, cussing from Inuyasha and a good 'sit' from Kagome, everyone was ready for the gifts to be handed out.
Kagome between the children and the gifts, picking one up, and asked them, "Now children, have you been good this year?" All said children smiled and nodded their heads eagerly. "Have you listened to your elders, done your work and been good to all those around you?" Again the children nodded. "Well let's see what Santa Claus has brought each of you."
"Kagome? Can I take Ah-Un their gifts?" Rin asked.
Now there was a question that Kagome was glad she had anticipated. She handed a small bag of dried fruit to Rin. "There you are," she smiled, "Just make sure to slid on your sandals and grab your wrap before going out."
Sesshoumaru watched his young ward gather her warm outer kimono and run out the door. He could hear her soft footsteps running around to the back of the hut and Ah-Un's soft grunts. The demon was mildly pleased. It appeared that the priestess had taken everyone into account for this gift giving. He offhandedly wondered if he would be receiving a gift from this 'Santa Claus' as well, but promptly pushed the thought out of his mind. "What could this woman have, that he would possibly wish for?" He thought.
"Me Next! Me Next!" chanted Shippo as he bounced up and down in place.
"Now Shippo," Kagome started, "We go from youngest to oldest."
"But that means even Sango and Miroku will get to go before me." the young fox demon whined.
Everyone laughed at that thought.
"I think Miroku and I will open our gifts with the other adults." Sango stated.
"Now beloved, let's think this through," Miroku took his wife's hand, "I'm just as excited as Shippo." He smiled and winked at his wife. She patted his hand in a consoling manner.
"I believe you will just have to suffer a bit, dear husband." looking at him with a smile as he feigned a pout. At that point Rin came back in with a sniff. Her little nose had turned pink showing how cold it was outside.
"Now that that is settled, here Kirara." Kagome said as she rolled a furry ball toward the small cat demon. She promptly pounced on it, knocking it away and chasing after it around the hut. "It's filled with several dried herbs that cats like, so it should keep her busy for awhile." Kagome told Sango.
By this time the children had started to scoot bit-by-bit closer to the tree, trying to get a closer look at the gifts.
"Ok, we are done." Kagome stated to the children with a smile on her face and a knowing look in her eyes.
Sango and Miroku twin girls, Michiko and Emiko, paled slightly. Shippo and Rin began to fidget more, looking from Kagome to the twins and back. Finally one of them broke and the other three joined in...
"NOOOO!" the three shouted. Inuyasha's ears tried to flatten to his head to avoid the sudden onslaught of noise. Sesshoumaru cocked his head slightly to the side doing a great job of not covering his own ears. The other adults just laughed and shook their heads.
"Now that ye have scared the young ones, why don't we continue. This old woman can't stay awake as late as she used to." Keade poked at the fire again trying to stay warm.
"I will get another warm fur to bring to the old woman tomorrow." Sesshoumaru thought to himself. "It would not be good if she were to become sick and not able to teach Rin further. He was brought from his thoughts by the young priestess' voice.
"Yes Ma'am." Kagome said as she began to rummage again through the packages again pulling a small bamboo box out and handing it to Miroku. "Santa brought a little something for Takashi." She smiled. The twins jumped up and stood on either side of their father, wanting to see what this mystical being would give a baby. Miroku took off the lid and lifted out a small silver rattle. A gentle tinkle sound had the twins smiling and reaching for their little brother's new toy. Miroku lifted his arm up above his head to keep it out of his daughters' grasp only to have a little red-toned blur rush by and snag it out of his hand.
"Shippo!" Kagome exclaimed. The young fox stopped next to Sango and gently shook the rattle above the baby in her arms. The giggling twin girls ran over to watch their little brother's reaction.
"It's beautiful." said Sango as she took the toy from Shippo.
"Indeed," agreed Miroku, "Thank you, Kagome."
"Don't thank me," Kagome shook her head, "Thank Santa."
"Of course," Her friends smiled.
"Ok, who's next?" she asked as she turned back to the children.
And so it went on with each individual receiving something from this mysterious Claus. The twins were each given a new spinning top to play with. They were so happy with their new toys they were twirling as much as their new tops. Rin received a small gold bracelet. She said she felt "like a princess" with it on. Shippo was given his very own ink set and a few pieces of scroll so he could continue with his drawings. He couldn't do much since Kagome couldn't get him crayons anymore. He immediately sat in the corner drawing pictures for everyone.
Eventually it was the adult's turn. Kagome made Inuyasha wait because he was the most impatient. She reminded him that Santa was still watching him, so he better be good. This had everyone, minus one demon lord, looking around like they expected to see someone pop out of the woodwork any moment. Moving on with a giggle, Kagome handed Jaken a small package with a "Merry Christmas". In it was a fur cape with a hood that was just the kappa's size. He moved his tear-filled eyes from his gift to Kagome and without a word, gave a low bow. Kagome was shocked, expecting him to go off about not being so weak like humans thinking that he would need extra clothing. "Well," she thought, "Wow, even the most annoying demons can change."
"Human," She heard Jaken grumbling, "Lord Sesshoumaru should have been first to receive his tribute. You should do so now."
"Hm, or maybe not." she thought with a look back at the packages. "Sesshoumaru will receive his gift in due time toad." she replied. She heard Jaken about to say something else when a yelp from him and a thump told her that Sesshoumaru silenced him in his own way. She smiled and looked over at Sesshoumaru who looked as though he never moved a muscle. "Now Sesshoumaru, remember, Santa is watching you to." This statement received a raised eyebrow and a look that clearly stated, "Why should this Sesshoumaru be concerned with who is watching?" Kagome had to laugh a bit and shake her head.
So the evening went on as Miroku received new ink and a stack of blank sutras. Sango was very happy with her new hair sticks. Keade was pleased with a new collection of dried roots and herbs. Now she would be well stocked throughout the remaining winter and not have to venture into the cold forest. Inuyasha's gift was probably the most comical. He opened his package up to find two bamboo short swords. Kagome explained that he would be able to practice a bit and teach Shippo or the village children a little swordsmanship. Inuyasha snorted saying he had a sword and didn't need to play with childrens' toys.
"These swords are reenforced with steel centers, making them a bit harder to brake. But you would still have to be careful and not focus on brute strength to win a match. Rather you would have to be cunning so you could win, not hurt your opponent and not break the gift that I know Santa worked very hard on obtaining." She stated, looking him in the eyes. "But if it's not a challenge you are up for, I understand and I'm sure Santa will to. We'll just give them to a couple of the village children to play with." She finished with a small sigh, looking away from him and toward Shippo, who was catching on quickly to her scheme.
"No problem Inuyasha," Shippo started reaching for one of the swords. "Hey Kagome, can I have them?" He asked. "with a little practice, I'll be better then InuBaka in no time." And with a thump and a giggle, he took a sword, hit said half-demon on the head and darted out the door.
"Come back here you runt!" Inuyasha growled, racing out after him. Everyone laughed.
"It appears he will be keeping his new swords." Miroku stated with a grin.
"If he can get it back from Shippo." Sango said with a smile.
Kagome then reached for a larger item next to the tree. It was not wrapped, but simply covered with a cloth. She walked over and placed it in front of the quiet demon lord. She bowed low to the ground and coming back up she smiled a bit and said, "Merry Christmas, Lord Sesshoumaru. I hope that Santa brought you something you wanted." There were butterflies in Kagome's stomach and she wasn't sure why. She had spoken to Sesshoumaru plenty of times, though he rarely replied. Why would she feel nervousness now? Unsure, she decided to think on it later.
Sesshoumaru raised an eyebrow. Did the priestess truly think to be able to find something he wanted? If he wanted it, he took it or it was given to him. It was simple and right now he could think of nothing he needed or wanted that she would be able to provide. Rin cam over in that moment and sat next to Sesshoumaru's gift.
"May I, my lord?" she asked, indicating to the cloth. Sesshoumaru gave a slight nod. Rin lifted the cloth and gasped. Underneath was a beautiful dark wooden box with a dog demon carved into the front and a crescent moon carved into the lid. Sesshoumaru's eyes widened fractionally and he leaned forward and opened the box only to have his hand shocked. He glanced at the priestess waiting for an explanation.
"That is what those that are not permitted to open this small chest will feel." she started. "It has been warded so that it may only ever have one owner. Place a small drop of your blood into the moon and it will be bound to you and your descendants. Only those with your blood in their veins will be able to open it." she finished, really hoping she hadn't pushed her luck by activating the wards before giving it to him, but she really wanted it be ready to use when he received it.
Sesshoumaru glanced from the small chest to Kagome and back. He knew she wouldn't create something that would be deceptive. She was too loyal to those she took as friends to hurt, or in his case, attempt to hurt them. Without another thought, he pushed a sharp claw into the pad of his thumb and allowed a single drop of blood to fall into the moon. A lick of his thumb stopped the blood and he watched as the moon began to glow. The glow then spread to the rest of the box then stopped as quickly as it started. He reached out again and opened the box, this time with no shock. The interior was lined with a sutra on each side, top and bottom. In the bottom of the box was a scroll. He went to reach for the scroll, but was stopped. Kagome held his hand and with a slight shake of her head and quick glance towards Rin, she said, "I believe that this scroll should be read later Sesshoumaru." Handing the scroll to him. He raised his eyebrow in question but said nothing, instead tucking it into his obi. Now the others were over, ohhing and ahhing over the details carved into the box. Sesshoumaru decided he would look more closely at it and the scroll later after the group went to sleep.
Having decided that they would all stay in the hut to sleep for the night, Kagome and Sango straightened up everything as Shippo and Miroku pulled out various futons and blankets while Rin added more wood to the fire in the center of the room. Suddenly a small hand gave a tug to Kagome's kimono. She looked down into Emiko's wide brown eyes. "What is it, dear?" She asked as she crouched to the little girl's level.
"What about you, Aunty Kagome? Where is your Mew-e Cr-issmas-u gift from Santa Caws?
Kagome couldn't help but smile at the little girl's attempt to say Merry Christmas and Santa Claus. She was just too cute. She pulled the girl into a hug and whispered, "Santa gave me a perfect gift when he gave me you and your sister." This seemed to satisfy the girl as she placed a small kiss on her Aunty's cheek and ran off to tell her sister.
Sesshoumaru listened to the sounds both in and out of the hut. He wasn't asked to assist and didn't offer. He had just dispatched a group of boar demons that had teamed up with a large group of bandits. They seemed to think they could attack the village where his ward lived. They quickly learned that this village was under his protection. He had not been prepared for the two dark priests that accompanied the group. Their sutras were unusually strong, though not strong enough to do any permanent damage to him, they were still draining. That along with the fact he hadn't slept this week made him enjoy this warm hut and the peacefulness surrounding it. He heard the little girl ask Kagome about her gift and the priestess' reply. "So she did not receive a gift." he thought. "I would have thought the half-breed would have done something for her." Then he wondered why he cared and pushed it from his mind.
"I'm going to go get Inuyasha and Shippo. I'll be back." Kagome said to Sango while she slid on her shoes and wrapped her deer fur cape over her shoulders and slid out the door. She took a deep breath and enjoyed the quiet snow covered landscape. The full moon sparkled off the newly fallen snow making it appear that diamonds had been scattered all around. She broke herself out of her quiet thoughts at the sound of the snow crunching behind her. "Sesshoumaru." she nodded in greeting.
"Priestess." he replied.
"Now Sesshoumaru, I thought we went over this." she said with a smile on her face. "You know my name."
He regarded her for a moment before looking off into the distance. "Hn." She shook her head and gave a quiet little laugh. He started to walk around the side of the hut to check on AhUn. He wasn't going to admit that he wanted to walk with the small woman. No. He was just checking on his dragon at the same time she was going to walk out to get his half-brother. Simply a coincidence and nothing more.
She followed him quietly, admiring the icicles hanging from trees and rooftops.
She loved this time of year, and not just for Christmas. Everything was beautiful. The world was sleeping wrapped in a cold white blanket, waiting for the warmth of spring. "Can you hear Inuyasha?" she finally asked him as she watched him remove his dragon's muzzles. He looked at her like she insulted him. "Of course you can." she rolled her eyes. "Would you point out their direction, so I can tell the 'children' it's time for bed?"
He found some humor in her labeling Inuyasha as a child. Indeed he was still a pup who had to be taken care of to some extent. He silently pointed in the direction of the bone-eaters well and watched as she thanked him and set out at a brisk pace in that direction.
As she approached the clearing near the God Tree, she could make out her friend's voices. She peered around the tree and watched them silently. Inuyasha was giving Shippo tips on how to hold his sword. She watched him move Shippo's fingers around so he had a better grip on the hilt. They both were so engrossed in the lesson that neither one heard her until she spoke up. "Having fun?" Both demons popped their heads up in surprise.
Shippo smiled and Inuyasha 'keh'd. "What do you want wench? Can't you see we're busy?" Inuyasha said, trying to sound gruff and failing.
"I wanted to let you know we are all staying in Keade's hut and everyone is getting ready to bed down." She replied, pulling her cloak a bit tighter around her.
"OK." Shippo said. "Can we practice more tomorrow Inuyasha?" the small fox looked up hopefully at his temporary teacher.
"Sure kid." a slightly embarrassed Inuyasha replied. "Now get going."
"'Kay!" and he took off like a shot back towards the village.
Kagome gave a little giggle as they watched the kit race off. "You made his Christmas, Inuyasha."
She watched the embarrassed expression on his face as he tried to find something interesting in the forest.
"Keh." he quietly said. With that he started his trek back towards the village only to stop when he realized he didn't hear Kagome's footsteps behind him. "Hey! Let's go. You'll get sick if you stay out here too long."
"I'll be there in a moment." Kagome looked around. "I just want to enjoy the night. It's beautiful."
"Want me to stay?" He asked. She shook her no. "I don't see what the big deal is, but just don't take to long. I don't want to have to leave the warmth to come back out and track you down." Kagome couldn't help but smile at the way her friend expressed his concern.
After he was out of sight, she slowly made her way to the well. She knew this Christmas would be the hardest. It was her first without her family. At the well, she brushed the snow off the edge and sat down. She looked down into the darkness and gave a sad smile. "Merry Christmas Momma."
"I don't believe your mother is down there." a voice came behind her. Kagome gave an 'EEP' and clutched her chest, staring wide eyed at the ever-too-quiet demon lord.
"Sesshoumaru." she sighed, "You startled me."
"Hn." came his standard reply as he walked over to the well to stand next to her. "Tell me woman, why do you talk to this well? Didn't the magic leave it with the defeat of Naraku?"
Kagome looked back down into the wells depth. "Do you know what roll this well played in all of that?" she asked looking back up and catching his eye. His silence told her that he didn't. "This was the way back to my... village."
With that, the demon raised an eyebrow and looked back down the well. He couldn't smell any falsehood in the statement. He knew it was significant to the final battle as the jewel apparently attempted to trap the young woman in it. It completely disappeared for three days, only to return when the cursed jewel was wished out of existence. "How?" he asked.
Kagome shrugged, "The jewel. Fates. The Gods. Take your pick."
"And where is this village that one would have need of an old well to travel there?" he asked, looking closely at her.
She looked at him and worried her bottom lip, debating. After a few moments of contemplation, she came to a decision. "It's right here...About 500 years into the future." Of any answer the demon thought she would say, that wasn't one of them. He looked at her, waiting for her to elaborate. "It's been awhile since I got to tell anyone this." she said. She looked around the clearing. "I fell into this well, or rather was pulled into the well by Mistress Centipede when I was 15. It wasn't too long before we had our first meeting." she continued with a smirk.
Sesshoumaru also looked about the clearing, wondering what would change in so many years. As if she read his mind, she said "None of this is here." Motioning to the trees. "Really, the only things that remain the same around here is the well and god tree." She then got a far off look in her eyes. "I grew up on this land with my mother, brother and grandfather... I miss them so much, particularly now." She quickly wiped a stray tear away. "I'm sorry," she stood. "I'm going back. Are you going to stay with us tonight?" He turned away from her, looking into the clear night sky. "Well, you are welcome to, if you want. By the way, before I forget, you may want to read that small scroll that was in your chest. I've been tutoring the children in their letters and words and they all wrote a letter to Santa. I thought Rin's was cute and thought you would like to read it. If you keep it in that box, it will not age with time. That is one of the charms I made sure to place on it. Good night." And with that she walked back towards the village.
Sesshoumaru stood there thinking as he looked at the stars. He pulled the small scroll out of his obi and unrolled it. The bright moon cast a light glow on it allowing him to read the words written with an uncertain hand. His eyebrows disappeared under his hair as he read what his Rin wrote to this fictional human.
Dear Lord Santa Claus,
This is the first message that I ever wrote. Kagome told Shippo and my other friends all about you. She said that we could write a message to you so you would know what we wish for. My Lord Sesshoumaru gives me anything I need. He is very wise. I hope that he will let me travel with him again soon. I am afraid that he will be lonely. Lord Jaken is nice, but I think Lord Sesshoumaru gets mad at him sometimes when Lord Jaken talks too much. I wish Lord Sesshoumaru could find a wife and be like Uncle Miroku and Aunt Sango. They aren't lonely with each other and help each other. That is what I wish for Merry Christmas, a wife for my Lord to care for him. Please grant my wish Mr. Claus.
Sesshoumaru reread the scroll and let out a small sigh. He placed it back in his obi. There was no one he found worthy enough to mate. Rin would understand that someday and accept that not all of her wishes can be granted, especially by beings that are not real. He will talk with the priestess about further adding to the young girl's fantasies. She is here to learn and grow up, not participate in infant games. He also decided he would question the priestess further about her education and future happenings. She could have valuable information about these lands. He would be able to determine what steps to take with his lands based on what she knew. Being from the future may certainly explain her odd mannerisms and that indecent kimono she wore when they were searching for Naraku. He absently wondered if all woman were as powerful in times to come. He knew she had strong spiritual energy, but he also determined she had a strong and caring spirit as well. She would make a strong mate. Sesshoumaru blinked. He wondered where that thought came from. "She is human and could only bring weak half-breeds into this world." He thought as he turned to walk back to the old priestess's hut.
Passing through the now silent village, a strange scent came to him. It was a smoke smell mixed with something else. Being ever vigilant, Sesshoumaru immediately expanded his senses. A quiet jingle of bells came to his ears as he noticed eight deer, strong bucks, standing two-by-two in front of the old woman's hut. The deer were harnessed to an open carriage of sorts, but it had no wheels. Instead the carriage sat on thin curved planks. His paced quickened and he frightened the animals causing them to take a few steps back, shaking the bells attached to the harness. Sesshoumaru noticed the strange smoke smell lay heavily in the carriage. He turned to the hut and stepped in, determined to destroy this threat to his young ward and allies. As he moved the flap in front of the door he noticed everyone was sleeping soundly. He could not smell any blood, but that could mean that magic was involved. A slight movement to his right had him instantly snapping his poison whip at the intruder. It missed.
"HoHoHo..." came a hearty laugh as the being took a step closer to the fire. "That was a bit uncalled for young demon." A heavy, fur trimmed red cape and hood rested on the head and shoulders of a large man. A long forest green kimono could be seen from the gap in the cape. His boots were a black leather, appearing well worn. His hands were wrapped in a fabric that separated the fingers so they could move separately but be kept warm. Over his shoulder hung a brown satchel that was well worn with use. He was smiling through a thick grey-white beard, looking with sparkling blue eyes at the demon lord with amusement. "It is a pleasure to finally meet you, Lord Sesshoumaru."
Sesshoumaru flexed his claws, preparing for another strike. "Who are you?" he questioned.
"You don't recognized me from Kagome's descriptions?" the man answered.
"Do not think this Sesshoumaru a fool by trying to dress as a child's imaginary character." he growled, and with that quickly moved forward in an attempt to drag poisonous claws through the being. They passed through him, though, as if he were not there. Sesshoumaru glared at the man, unsure how this stranger managed to pull such a trick. The man just shook his head.
"I can not be attacked, young demon. That could ruin all that God has granted me. I know your heart is in the right place by attempting to get rid of a preconceived threat, so I do not hold it against you. Now please don't do that again. I know you would not wish to accidentally harm those that are sleeping." The man gestured to the other beings in the hut.
"Why haven't they woke yet?" Sesshoumaru looked pointedly at his brother. "Certainly his hearing isn't that horrible, is it?" he wondered silently.
"When I work, as a general rule, I make sure all those that are in the home are kept asleep." The man softly stepped over to several candles and lite them. He then went to the tree and looked down at it. "I don't know that I've ever seen a tree decorated with as much love as this one is." He said to himself. He took his bag from his shoulder and began to dig through it.
"You are Santa Claus." Sesshoumaru stated more then asked.
"I am known by many names, but that is one." Santa said. He pushed the hood off his head then looked back into the bag, seemingly searching for something. "Ah! Here they are!" he exclaimed and started taking various packages out of the bag and placing them under the tree. "I know that you have questions for me, young one. Please ask them as I do not have much time." he continued to work as he talked.
Sesshoumaru didn't say anything for a few moments while watching the man work. "Why are you here?"
"I thought that would be obvious." Santa laughed.
"You have not come before." Sesshoumaru said.
"I was not asked before." Santa replied. To this, Sesshoumaru cocked an eyebrow. "Kagome and the children. How could I just ignore such wonderful letters? My first from this country." Santa said, looking over at them with a gentle smile.
Sesshoumaru knew he meant the letters they wrote. "How did you know of those messages?" Sesshoumaru went to place his hand on his obi were Rin's letter was tucked only to not feel it there. He glared, again, at Santa as the man walked closer to him and held out his open hand, showing the same small scroll in it that Sesshoumaru tucked into his obi earlier. "How?" Sesshoumaru asked, taking back the scroll.
"Now, a magician doesn't revel all his secrets." the big man said as he continued to reach into his bag. Sesshoumaru wondered what a magician was but decided it wasn't important. He then noticed that the bag Santa was reaching into seemed bottomless. The man was bent over leaning his head and shoulders into the bag and still seemed to be reaching.
"You will go to other lands this night as well?" Sesshoumaru asked.
"Yes," replied the unusual man, "Father Time has made it so I could visit every home in the world, if I needed to." he added another gift to the small pile under the tree.
"You are a god." Sesshoumaru stated. At this Santa stopped and briefly looked at the demon before going back to his work.
"No." he shook his head. "No where near one. I am closer to a spirit that has been blessed by God. Nothing more." He continued searching his bag for another small gift, both men remaining silent for a moment. "Your ward is a good girl." Santa said, breaking the quiet.
"Hn." was Sesshoumaru's only response.
"She desperately wants you to not be lonely." He took a moment to glance at the pale demon.
"Her concern is not needed." Sesshoumaru stated.
"Isn't it?" Santa asked.
"She is a child. She will understand when she is older."
"Children often see things we do not. Their pure views are not clouded by others yet."
Sesshoumaru looked from the fire to the one dubbed Santa, he wasn't sure if he agreed with that point of view. Children could be too easily influenced by others. "This Sesshoumaru needs no one else." he finally said, looking into the fire.
"Now that's not true, young demon." Santa gave him a stern look. "You are a dog demon, are you not?" Sesshoumaru didn't reply. "Dogs and dog demons need a pack. They need others close to them. A pack looks out for each other. Most of these individuals in this home could be considered part of your pack." he gestured around the room. Sesshoumaru gave him a skeptical look. "Now wipe that expression off your face, pup." Sesshoumaru raised an inquisitive brow at the name. No one had called him pup in many years, and now here was this former human who took the liberty to continually address him with such familiarity. "Now." Continued the jolly man. "You have your pack. Now you need a woman in your life." Santa laughed at the glare the demon lord shot him. "You have your power, demon lord. Now you need someone to balance you out. A sun to your moon, if you will. Do you have a worthy female in your mind or heart yet?" The demon continued to glare at the one who seemed determined to intrude into his life. "Of course you don't." Santa laughed as the look changed from a glare to a slightly inquisitive look, something that said 'And how do you know?'. "I'm Santa, remember? I'm always watching...What of the young priestess?"
"What of her? She is a weak human and a nuisance. Nothing more."
"Ah, truly?" Santa asked with a smirk. "She is the former guardian of the jewel of four souls, is she not? Her spiritual power was enough that the jewel feared it and had sealed a good portion of her power away before the battle in hopes to keep it from being completely purified. Naraku feared her enough to constantly attempt to either use her or destroy her. She has honor enough that she cared for her responsibilities both here and at her home. She is a beautiful and kind young woman." Santa knew that some of what he told Sesshoumaru wasn't aware of. He also knew the demon's pride would never have allowed him to ask about the young woman in detail. After all, he prided himself on the idea that if he didn't know it, it generally wasn't worth knowing. He was like a teenager that thought he already knew it all. "Well, time to make the youngster look a bit beyond the nose on his face." Santa thought with a smirk. "Tell me, what is your ideal female?" Santa asked.
Sesshoumaru considered not replying. He knew this man was trying to get him to consider the priestess. He wouldn't. She was weak, though he wasn't aware of how much her spiritual power had been unleashed. She was always questioning him and arguing with him, even from the first time they met. She didn't know her place. She forgave those that didn't deserve it with too much ease. This set her up for attack from her enemies. The one thing that made her not an option above everything else, though, was the fact she was human. He refused to fall into his father's steps in regards to human females. They became his weakness and his downfall.
"If I needed a female, she would match me in strength, intelligence and status. She would know her place... and she would be able to provide me with a full-blooded heir."
Santa looked at him, blinked...then laughed. It was a loud, long laugh. Not one to be laughed at, of course, this made the proud demon lord growl. Santa just shook his head and waved a dismissive hand. "No, no, pup. No growling. I mean no offense... it's just that you described yourself." He smiled and shook his head again. "Believe me, you don't want to live with another you."
"And I suppose you believe that I should consider the priestess?" Sesshoumaru growled. He was beginning to grow weary of this discussion.
"Kagome?" Santa looked at the small woman and gave a small smile. "She is your opposite, but she is too good for you, young demon."
This simple statement had Sesshoumaru's attention. "Explain." he growled.
"That right there is part of the reason." Santa looked back at him and pointed a finger. "You may treat a high lord like a commoner, but she" pointing back at Kagome, "will treat a commoner like a high lord and for that she will be honored and remembered by everyone she touches." Sesshoumaru looked at him sceptically. "There is power in that, Sesshoumaru." Santa finished quietly. "She may be too good for you, but at the same time she is perfect for you, pup. She is the warm, bright sun to your calm, cold moon. Move past your previous notions now as you did with young Rin... you will not regret it."
Neither said anything further as Santa took one final package from his bag, closed the flap and put it back over his shoulder. "Come." Santa motioned to the door. I must be going, time waits for no one... mostly." he held the flap aside as Sesshoumaru walked out. Santa glanced back over the silent room and caught a small pair of brown eyes. He winked and held a finger to his lips making sure to let the individual know to be quiet. A small grin followed him out the door.
Santa walked over and handed Sesshoumaru a narrow box. He then climbed into his unusual carriage and motioned to the box in Sesshoumaru's hand. "Think of what I said, pup. Think of the gifts she gave to each of those in your unusual pack. Think of what she gave to you. She cares enough for you to give you something to preserve items that over the years would fade. She took into account something she hoped you would need but wouldn't necessarily think of." Santa made himself comfortable in his seat and lifted the reigns. He looked out over the silent, snow covered village. Santa's mood became somewhat somber. "You know, when your young ward grows a bit, you will want her to start her own life, correct?" Sesshoumaru made no comment, choosing instead to look into the same direction as the spirit. "She will grow up, and as any child should, she will start her own life. Eventually, she will marry, have little ones of her own then someday, hopefully far in the future, she will die. Then who will you share you quiet moments with?" he paused for a moment. "Kagome is in the same boat. She will watch as her friends here move on with their lives. She will not be able to settle being a simple farmer's wife and is not meek enough to be a lord's wife or concubine." With that Sesshoumaru let out a small "Hn."
Santa took a quick glance at him and smirked. "She is a priestess, so most demons will try to avoid or kill her and those that don't will try to dominate her. To top it off, her family hasn't even been born yet. She is a jewel. Powerful enough to protect herself and draw others to her forever to be surrounded but alone." Santa motioned to the package in Sesshoumaru's hands. "If you choose to do the right thing, young demon, that gift can be your first courting gift. You can give her a bit of her family."
Sesshoumaru glanced at the box in his hands.
Santa gave a snap of the reigns and the buck jumped forward and started pulling the carriage. As it pulled further away from the hut, it raised higher into the sky. "HoHoHo" a loud voice carried across the silence, and with that he disappeared with an echoing bang. Sesshoumaru stood looking out over the village for a few moments more before heading back into the hut.
Inside the hut was warm and quiet. Inuyasha's ears twitched catching Sesshoumaru's soft footsteps. As Sesshoumaru sat down he looked over to Rin to see her starting to sit up, sparkling brown eyes looking closely at him.
"Lord Sesshoumaru?" she asked, with a rubbing her eyes.
"Yes, my lord." she replied with a smile and laid back down, snuggling into the blankets. She couldn't wait to tell Shippo what she saw and heard tonight.
Sesshoumaru leaned against the wall of the hut, placing the package beside him. He thought over all the old man had said. He looked over at the priestess. "Is she as powerful as the spirit said?" he thought to himself. If she was, he certainly couldn't let that kind of power fall into someone else's hands. He knew she drew others to her, like moths to a flame. Of course, that meant she also seemed to draw trouble just as much. She didn't like to do as a proper woman and priestess should in life. He supposed if she did, though, then she wouldn't share her life with demons. Going against what priestess's seemed to be trained to do. If they mated, or married as the human custom stated, she would be a challenge. Was this a challenge he wanted? Would she be an embarrassment and burden in the long run? She wouldn't live long unless they were fully mated and their auras blended, then their lifespans would be matched. She would live as long as he did. What of their offspring? At one point he could truly say he hated half-breeds. They were weak, with their human blood. Would his children be weak, though, if he was strong and she was strong? No...weakness could only come if they were sickly and Sesshoumaru wouldn't allow that.
The dawn was breaking over the horizon and the occupants of the hut were beginning to stir and prepare for the day as the demon lord continued to ponder these things. Eventually a squeal brought him out of his thoughts as one of the little girls noticed the new gifts under the tree.
"Santa Caws came again!" she yelled as she bounced around the room, eventually leaping on top of Inuyasha's head.
Everyone gathered around the tree and stared at the gifts underneath. They were wrapped in beautiful bits of colorful silk and tied with elaborate bows.
"Lady Kagome?" Miroku questioned. All the adults turned to face her, waiting to see if she would admit that there was indeed more gifts she neglected to tell them about.
Kagome was dumbfounded. She knew there were some that exchanged gifts on Christmas day, but her family had always done so on Christmas Eve, so she didn't think about doing it any other way. She didn't have access to her life in the future so could only get gifts with whatever life provided her here. She certainly couldn't afford such fine silk to use as gift wrapping, let alone afford more gifts then what was already given. Even those had to be acquired with assistance from others, like the village's young women that helped gather the herbs for Keade and the beautiful carving that Inuyasha did on Sesshoumaru's box. So where did these gifts come from? She shook her head and looked down into the children's hopeful faces.
"I guess there were some more gifts Santa forgot to drop off earlier." she said to the children. The little ones started to chatter excitedly. She looked at Sango and just shrugged, indicating that she had no idea where the presents came from. As Miroku directed the happy children to sit back so he could hand out the presents, Kagome made her way next to Inuyasha. "Do you know where they came from?" she asked him.
He looked from the packages to her and shook his head. "No. I didn't hear anything last night. I sat here, dozed a bit and didn't hear anything but Miroku snoring and the bastard moving around." motioning to his brother. "The only thing is that there is a strange smoke smell mixed with something else." He had a feeling his brother knew something. He also knew he wouldn't tell them.
"Strange." Kagome said, watching the children get settled. "Maybe someone from the village or a grateful merchant that we helped decided to give us a surprise." She was racking her brain trying to think of who could have been so nice. Then a thought came to her. "Hey Inuyasha." a worried look crossed her face.
"Yeh." he replied, wondering what she was thinking.
"Could you go over and give the new gifts a sniff without the children noticing?" she asked quietly.
"Why?" he asked, giving a very confused look.
"Make sure there aren't poisons or traps in them." the thought of a poison cloud going off in the face of one of the children had her shiver slightly. "Just to be sure someone isn't trying to hurt us."
With wide eyes, Inuyasha gave a nod. Since the destruction of Naraku, they had all relaxed a bit too much. He slowly walked over and sat near the gifts, giving each a subtle sniff.
Sesshoumaru listened closely to everything being said. He was slightly amused that they were so sure that Santa didn't exist they brushed by the simple truth that he did. He was pleased that the priestess took care to not alarm the children and at the same time, was watching for a trap. She apparently knew that most of the time, something that appeared to good to be true, generally was. It wasn't the case this time, but one would never know until it was too late. He turned to see the woman sit next to him. She apparently had not noticed the package sitting on the other side of him. Not taking her eyes from her half-demon friend as he continued to inspect the packages and defend himself from the children that thought he was trying to take the gifts for himself.
"Sesshoumaru." she said quietly. He gave a small grunt to indicate he was listening. "Do you know where these items came from?" She asked, now looking at him. He turned to face her then looked back to look across the room without replying. "I only asked," she started after a moment, "because I don't want anyone hurt if these are something of a trap." She waited to see if he would respond. After a few moments she sighed and stood up, preparing to go stop anyone from opening the gifts.
"It is this Sesshoumaru's belief that the gifts are just that... gifts."
Kagome looked again at him for a moment and briefly wondered if he had anything to do with the surprise. She then laughed softly and shook her head. The ice lord she knew would never stoop so low as to gift anyone but Rin with anything but his presence. On top of that, he was not aware of the gift giving portion of this holiday. She had only told him last month that they were having a bit of a celebration like they used to have at her home and that he was invited, never really expecting him to take her up on the offer. It seemed these last two days were full of surprises.
She walked over to the gifts, looking over to Inuyasha who just shook his head a bit and said "Nothing" quietly. Well, as quietly as one could with little ones bouncing all over the place.
"Ok, well..." she started, clapping her hands to get everyone's attention. "Looks like Santa was done with us yet, so should we give out the gifts or eat first?" At this question, the children began to chant "Gifts! Gifts! Gifts!" and all Kagome could do is look down at them and smile.
"Oi, wench!" Inuyasha groaned. "Get on with it before these brats make me deaf." Sesshoumaru had to agree with that thought. The little humans were reaching new levels of sound that even began to hurt his ears.
A certain look in his direction warned Inuyasha to watch his language and he put his ears as flat against his head as he could. With that Kagome handed out the gifts in the same order that they did the previous night. Each gift was tagged with a small slip of paper with the recipient's name on it written beautifully.
Miroku was holding Takashi, so Sango opened the baby's gift. As she unwrapped it, she realized that the silk cloth that wrapped it was actually a blanket. Inside was a new outfit, including little mitts and booties, for the infant to keep him warm.
The girl's went next and opened theirs at the same time. Again the items were wrapped in something useful. Each girl now had a new cotton kimono and obi. They opened them up to each find a pretty little doll wearing a smaller version of the girl's kimonos. The kimonos were quickly forgot about as the girls proceeded to care for there little 'babies'.
Rin was next, her box being wrapped in a beautiful light colored obi. The bamboo box opened to reveal a small bone colored dog charm. It was accompanied by a little note.
'A little protection when your lord can not be around'
"May I see that, Rin?" Miroku asked. She handed it to him and he examined it closely. "It appears to be just what it states. A charm of protection. I can feel the energy coming from it."
Sesshoumaru raised an inquisitive brow. "I can protect what is mine." he thought defiantly. He then stopped and realized that there would be times he would be away from the village. If those bandits from the other day were any indication of things to come, then a bit of extra protection would be prudent. He would have to thank this Santa for that and for the charm showing exactly to whom Rin belonged.
"Let's attach it to your new bracelet, Rin." Kagome said, reaching for the box.
Shippo opened his gift next. It was covered in a forest green silk cape with a hood. He laughed saying how that would help him in his fox magic practice. Blending into the background was important. Wrapped inside the cape was a beautiful set of paints, two new brushes and some paper. Shippo was excited to think that he would eventually become a great artist and immediately started to practice.
Kagome gave Sango and Miroku their gift next. It was a fine, warm blanket, big enough to cover them and their growing family. Miroku was smacked in the back of the head after commenting on how many more offspring they would be able to create under said blanket.
Keade was also given a warm blanket. Inside was a beautiful blue winter cape. Keade was pleased. She had a big smile on her face, and a twinkle in her good eye. Now she could stay warmer as she visited homes around the village.
Finally, Inuyasha opened his gift. A warm red winter cape was wrapped around a large ceramic pot. When the half demon opened the pot and looked in, his face lite up. He looked like he wanted to squeal like a school girl, instead he opted for his standard "Oh Shit!" He looked quickly at Kagome then back down at the pot and took a deep breath, inhaling the spicy smell.
"Well? What is it?" Kagome finally asked.
"Ramen!" said a drooling Inu. "Three and a half years... Kagome! Can you cook this up for me...now... please?" Now they knew it was serious. Inuyasha was practically begging. Everyone, not including his brother, was laughing at the look he was throwing Kagome.
Half and hour and one large cooked pot of noodles later, everyone sat around either enjoying their gifts or preparing a chicken for the mid-day meal. (Inuyasha ate his pot of noodles himself... the whole thing) Kagome pondered the gifts found in the morning. She didn't know who gave them, but they were obviously not inexpensive. They were also perfectly thought of for each individual. She felt alittle disappointed that there wasn't a gift for her, but she brushed that off, enjoying the expressions of her friends.
"Priestess." came a baritone voice, interrupting her thoughts. She turned and looked up at the demon looming above her. "Come." and with that he turned and walked out the door. Sango and Miroku looked from the door, to Kagome with questioning expressions. She shrugged her shoulders and walked out the door after him.
Sesshoumaru walked to the bone-eaters well. He looked at it, contemplating as he heard the woman's gentle approaching footsteps. His grip tightened on the gift in his hand. He considered everything that the Santa being had told him. He would take the time to get to know this unusual woman. They would begin a formal courting to see if they were compatible. He considered mating her without the courtship as some did, but he didn't take to the idea of allowing a human close that close to his person if he wasn't going to be able to tolerate her. He wanted to see if this human, so opposite of him, could hold his interest without his wanting to kill her.
Kagome stood silently next to Sesshoumaru. She looked at the well, trying to imagine what her family was doing right at that moment. Sesshoumaru's voice brought her out of her thoughts again. "Woman, what is your relationship to the half-breed?"
"That's not something I expected you to ask." said Kagome as she looked at him, a bit surprised. He simply raised an eyebrow at her, waiting for an answer. She looked at him a moment longer then started, "First of all, it's Kagome. I know you know my name, Sesshoumaru. I will ask you again, please use it. Second, I know you and your brother have had.. 'issues' in the past," Here Sesshoumaru gave his customary 'Hn.' "but please refer to him by something other then half-breed. He is more then what his parents were. He has shown his strength and really should be seen as the brave individual that I know he is."
He stood looking at her. "You have yet to answer this Sesshoumaru."
Kagome huffed. She knew it would take awhile to change the attitude of a certain two stubborn dog demons. "More like mules." she thought with a giggle. "Anyway..." she said, trying to think of how best to describe her feelings now for Inuyasha. "I suppose I feel for him what I feel for my little brother." She looked at him as he seemed to be contemplating something. "I will admit, I used to care more for him... a good deal more." She took a deep breath and slowly ran a finger along the edge of the well. "The well closed for three years, allowing us to grow up a bit. Then it reopened and I knew I was meant to be here. I promised that I would stay by Inuyasha's side, it will be as his friend. Someone as close as a sibling...well, most siblings." with that last word she looked pointedly at him and smirked. "Why do you ask?"
Sesshoumaru listened to the young woman's words. He thought his half-brother would have claimed this woman without hesitation. She was strong and loyal, almost to a fault. She gave up her family to be here for him. Well, if the half-breed didn't understand what he had, that made it all the better for him. "Can I really adjust to having a human stand by my side as an equal?" he wondered to himself. He looked back down at her and something in him just knew. It was a quiet voice that insisted she would be a perfect helpmeet for him. Some of his ideas would be hard to change, but he could. He was perfection when it came to fighting, even if that fight was within himself.
With his resolve in place he turned again to her, watching for a moment as she gathered some snow into a snowball and threw it at a tree... and missed. She let out a 'humf' and looked up to see she was being watched. He enjoyed the slightly embarrassed look that crossed her features. "Kagome." he started, noticing how her eyes widened with the use of her name. Suddenly, he decided that the woods looked much more interesting. "I am not an emotional being." He raised an eyebrow at a little snort then clearing of a throat that came from her. He seemed to do that a good deal when she was around. "I have been raised to rule the land and it's people. My parent's chose my mate for me when I was young, but this Sesshoumaru rejected the choice before the mating deeming her and the alliance she offered unworthy."
She was stunned. First he used her name, then he told her something of his past. This has to be the most she has every heard him speak. She was afraid to speak or even move, in case she broke the spell.
"There are few that this Sesshoumaru finds... tolerable. Weakness is an annoyance. Cowardice is unforgivable. If an individual refuses to fight with their own power for what they deem worthy, then they do not deserve anything. I have found you to not be weak, or a coward. You fight for your beliefs, even if at times you do so foolishly." They both thought for a moment of their initial meeting and shifted a bit. "This Sesshoumaru has reached a point where it is time for him to mate and have an heir to follow..." He stopped at this point, at a loss for words. He was the feared Lord of the West. He took what he damned well please and here he was having to resort to having to ask for something from a human woman. And to top it off, somewhere deep down, he was afraid she would reject him. He wanted to say that would be impossible, but this person was known for being impossible.
Kagome was running through all the demon lord was telling her. "He couldn't mean what I am thinking...could he?" she thought. "Sesshoumaru?" she started quietly, angling her face in an attempt to look into his. "Are you asking me to...be your wife? Your mate?"
He regarded her for a moment then looked back to the forest. "We would court for a time, to confirm that we are..." what was the word he wanted to use here... "compatible." he tightened his fingers a bit on the box in his hands before continuing. "Your Santa Claus and I spoke in some detail during the night. He is not entirely without wisdom, though I do wonder the intelligence of giving gifts to those that are not worthy." He said the last part almost to himself. Next to him he heard her give a small giggle.
"You really met and talked to Santa?" she had with a big smile on her face and twinkle in her eye. "I always thought he was someone my parents made up."
"You travel through a well, through time itself. You have seen spirits and magic. Is it so hard to believe that he is real?" he asked.
She cocked her head a bit to the side, "I guess, when you put it like that, then no. Maybe somewhere I knew he was real." she added with a small shake of her head. "He suggested me as an appropriate... mate?" she asked.
He gave an almost imperceptible nod of his head. "Marry Sesshoumaru?" she thought. "There's something I never thought about. She turned to him to regard him more closely. "He's not the ice prince that Inuyasha always thought him to be. He just guards his emotions more closely. Probably has to do with his status." with that her eyes widened. "If we do this, that would make me a Lady of the lands."
"Sesshoumaru," she said to him. "I don't know if I would be a good choice. I don't know the first thing about being a proper lady like you and your lands would need. Not to mention I know so little of your lands..." she started gesturing. "I know so little of you." She looked back at him, "I mean, aside from our obvious history and what Rin has told me. I'm human, just in case it slipped your mind. And what of children? You will want an heir and I cannot provide a pure blooded one. You hate half-breeds, remember?" by the end of her rant, she was raising her voice. What was he thinking? Is he possessed or something? She walked closer and tried to look him in the eye. He just looked at her, like he was thinking over her words. Then it struck her, this was the killing perfection known as Sesshoumaru. Granted, he wasn't as perfect as he would have one believe, but he wasn't the type to be so easily possessed either. Maybe he was serious. If so, could she seriously consider it?
While she pondered his possible possession, he thought of what she said. Could she truly believe he was incapable of caring for her needs? "Woman, you are human, a powerful one. It would be impossible for two powerful beings to breed a weak being." with his next words he looked away. "If the half-breed has taught me anything, it is that power comes in many forms."
She looked at him, seemingly for the first time. She realized that he just admitted learning something from his hated half-brother. If he could change this much in his attitude, perhaps she could change her view of him. Besides, she could do worse then being courted by one of the most powerful beings in the land. She really couldn't see herself settling for a human male. Their attitudes in this time drove her crazy. She would never be able to truly be herself, that was one of the reasons she came back here. "If we go through with this courting and marrying, mating, whatever, you need to know that I will still be loyal to my friends and help those in need." She shook her head slightly, "I know I can get on your nerves, Sesshoumaru, I am not blind, but this is how I am. I don't know if you want a stubborn woman like me. I would not sit quietly by if you did something I was against, wife or not."
"I have taken your... personality and loyalties into account, priestess." He looked pointedly at her, deep into her eyes. "I need my strength matched and I can be just as stubborn. My only condition being that there are times, particularly during the council sessions, that you will have to simply let me lead. If you disagree, do so behind closed doors."
Kagome knew that saving face was important these days. He could not be seen as weak or that could throw his lands into turmoil. She took a deep breath. "Okay, I agree." she smiled at him. "What's next."
"The first courting gift." he said, and held out a beautifully decorated box. The cloth covering it was an obi that matched Sesshoumaru's. The wooden box had floral inlays made of cut shells. She opened the box and lifted out a scroll. Opening the scroll, she gasped as tears came to her eyes. She looked at the demon lord before her then back down at the gift. "How?" she finally asked.
He watched her with a slight curiosity as she opened the box. He wondered what the spirit deemed a worthy courting gift. The other gifts he left were appropriate, but he was still a bit cautious. He heard her gasp and could smell the salt of her tears as she looked at the painting on the scroll. He noticed the figures painted there. An image of her was in the center, to her right was an image of an older woman that looked like her. In front of her was a young male and to her left was an older human male in priest clothing. Surrounding them was their unusual pack. All of the allies were included from Inuyasha to the young fox, Shippo and included himself, Rin, Jaken and AhUn. In the detailed painting her right hand was grasping the older woman's left. Her left hand rested casually on the young boy's shoulder. What the demon lord took note of was how his image was placed directly behind Kagome's. His hands on her shoulders. Above the beings on the left was the kanji for the sun. On the right was the kanji for the moon.
Sesshoumaru looked at the young woman as she started to speak quietly. "Momma, Sota, Grandpa..." She took a stuttering breath. "How?" She looked up at the demon before her. "How did you know what my family looked like?" Then without waiting for an answer, she did the unexpected and let go of one side of the scroll and wrapped her arm around her former enemy, pulling him into an embrace as tight as she could, while refusing to totally relinquish the gift. "Thank You so much." she started again. "I love it. This way I can see them again in a way."
He stiffened for a moment then forced himself to relax. Placing a hand gently on her head and another one her waist. They froze for that brief moment, lost in each others eyes. Slowly they found themselves drawn to each other. They came together for a simple kiss, then paused looking again into each others eyes. There was something there that wasn't there a moment before. They leaned together again, this time the kiss was heated. A passion that very few couples can find. It was as though they were both starving and didn't know it until right then. He lightly nipped at her bottom lip, requesting entry and she eagerly obliged. Their mouths and tongues dancing and tasting all they could of each other. With a hesitation, they pulled away from each other. It was then that Sesshoumaru noticed the scroll painting touching the snow covered ground. "This Sesshoumaru would advise you place your painting back into the box least it get ruined."
She just looked at him with a glaze in her eyes. The word 'Wow...' was followed by the thought "Why do my legs feel all wobbly?" then it was "Mmmm, I'd like to do that again."
"Kagome?" he said again. His male pride was given a boost seeing how he affected his chosen with just a simple kiss.
"Mhm?" she mumbled as she looked as his lips. Then she finally snapped out of her stupor. "Ah, right...the scroll. Gotta put it away." She started carefully rolling it back up and looked up at him catching the slight smirk in his eyes. "Oh, you..." she started, "stop laughing."
"I am sure that I was not laughing, woman." Sesshoumaru replied dryly.
This time it was her turn to cock and eyebrow at him. "Uh-huh." she said as she gently placed the scroll back into the box, giving it a gentle caress. "Let's go back." She said turning towards the village. "I need to finish helping make the mid-day meal, then we can watch Inuyasha throw a fit when we announce this." she gestured to the box.
"Hn." came his standard reply as they made their way side-by-side down the path.
"Hey," she started, "Do you even have a house?" she asked as they approached the village.
The look in his eyes, made her hear the words, "Are you kidding?" yet he said nothing, but continued to walk.
"Sesshoumaru, I asked you something..." still no answer. With a huff she started again, "Sesshoumaru! Answer me!"
~1 Year Later~
He approached the village observing the silence surrounding it. His patrol lasted longer then usual this time and he missed the Christmas celebration his intended had set up with their extended pack. As he approached the hut, he noticed two rows of tall deer tethered to a familiar open carriage, or sleigh, as his Kagome had pointed out. The bells on their straps gave a musical note to their movements as he approached.
The familiar smoke scent came to him as he entered the hut to come face-to-face with Santa Claus.
"Welcome back, young demon. How have you fared this past year?" The spirit asked.
"It was this Sesshoumaru's understanding that you were always watching." Sesshoumaru replied, with a bored look in in his eyes.
"HoHoHo..." the man laughed and the wrinkles crinkled around his sparkling eyes. "So it is said. And indeed, I have been watching. You two are entertaining."
"She is still a nuisance." Sesshoumaru replied.
"Yes," said Santa. "But you wouldn't really have her any other way, would you, pup?" and Santa gave him a knowing look.
"Hn." was the only thing the demon lord would say.
"When is the wedding?" asked Santa.
"We will have a mating and a human wedding in the spring. She wishes to be joined under the sakura blossoms."
"That will be beautiful." Santa said. "My wife and I were married among the evergreens. One seems to feel closer to each other when their lives are started among God's handiwork." he continued.
The demon said nothing, but simply watched as the spirit gathered his bag. It was then that Sesshoumaru noticed the gifts under the little tree. "You are already finished." he stated.
"Ah, yes," said Santa. "Father Time insists I keep a bit on schedule." he smiled.
They walked out to the sleigh in silence. Sesshoumaru watched as the spirit known as Santa Claus made himself comfortable, reaching over on the seat and lifting an already smoking, long pipe to his lips. He took a long drag from it and looked into the distance as the smoke drifted skyward.
"So your young ward gets her Christmas wish." he said, breaking the silence. Sesshoumaru gave no reply. "And you get your Christmas wish as well." sending a knowing look at the young demon.
Sesshoumaru looked at Santa. The look in his eyes was all the older man needed.
"Will you return each year?" asked Sesshoumaru.
"I will. Though you will not always see me."
Both men sat in comfortable silence for a moment more. "Well, pup, I must be off." and with that he gave a snap of the reigns. "Let's go everyone!" the sleigh gave a lurch forward and in no time was lifted into the sky.
"HoHoHo!" Echoed a voice, "Merry Christmas to all! And to all a good night!" and with that a loud bang echoed across the valley.
Sesshoumaru stood a moment more, watching the sky. He then turned and walked quietly into the hut.
A/N: Like I said, this started out as a one-shot and ended up being like 20 pages long. Sheesh I heard a comedy Christmas song about how some guy shot Santa. (it was the neighbor, don't ask) and I thought "I wonder what would happen if Lord Fuzzy ran into the man in the red suit. Of course, poor Saint Nick would be attacked if Sess didn't know who he was. The plunnie went nuts from there. I wonder if I should make a sequel and build up to the wedding...