A1969: 'tis the season to be jolly, tralalalalala!
Inuyasha: what the heck?
Kagome: she's not crazy, Inuyasha—she's singing a Christmas carol! Though, she is rather out of tune... XD
Inuyasha: what's a Christmas carol?
A1969: it's the song of the season! Anyway, as I was writing the next chapter for my Reincarnation of Miko Midoriko story, an idea kinda popped into my head for a Christmas-themed oneshot!
Kagome: you don't do oneshots...
A1969: this one's different! Anyway, hope you enjoy this one shot, and Merry Christmas, everyone! Note: this is set after Mt. Tenku.
What happens when you mix a demon lord, an imp, and a little girl with the Christmas holiday? Clara is just about to find out.
"Isn't the snow beautiful, Clara-san?"
Rin's voice made me look up. There, falling from the sky, amidst the thick foliage of the trees, were fuzzy white dots that floated gently to the ground below, some melting before they came within ten feet of the ground. I smiled, feeling cheery.
"It's almost Christmas," I said happily. The snow had been falling for weeks now. "But I wonder what month it is?" The moment I thought of the question, the smile faded from my face. How long had I stayed in the Feudal Era without going back to the Modern? I had a feeling it had been more than five months since I had last seen my mother, and she'd be worried, despite Kagome's reassurance whenever the latter visited the present.
"What's Christmas, Clara-san?" Rin's innocent voice snapped me out of my worry. I looked down at her, surprised that a child didn't know—but then I suddenly remembered that I was in Feudal Japan. And Christianity was not the main religion.
"It's a day we celebrate in my time," I explained.
"What do you celebrate?" the little girl asked, tilting her head.
I smiled. "The birth of a very special baby, the most special one ever born." I felt a warm glow when I realized it was the exact same thing my mother had said when I had asked when I was little.
"What's so special about a human baby?" Jaken, who had been sitting on the log and muttering about babysitting, asked. He folded his arms and huffed.
I hesitated. Jaken was a demon. How best to explain the very pinnacle of Christianity to him? "This isn't an ordinary baby," I said carefully. "When he grows up, the baby will save everyone who wants to be saved."
He scoffed again, and I felt like hitting him. "Saved from what?" he snapped.
I shrugged. "Oh, from the eternal flames of hell."
He rolled his eyes. "Humans are so stupid," he muttered. "How can a human save everyone from hell?"
I gritted my teeth. "You're not a Catholic, are you Jaken? You wouldn't understand."
"Like I want to understand humans and their absurd philosophies!" He rolled his eyes before looking away. At times like this, I so wished Sesshoumaru would hit him but, unfortunately, said demon lord was nowhere to be found.
"Really, Clara-san?" Rin asked. "So, it's almost the baby's birthday?"
Rin's enthusiasm melted my ill temper. "Yeah—soon. That's Christmas, Rin."
She tilted her head again. She looked so adorable when she did that. "Will I get to see the baby?"
The question was so innocent, it surprised me. I chuckled. "The baby was born centuries ago, Rin. But we remember the day he was born and we celebrate it."
She was quiet for a moment. "I want to celebrate it, too!" she said eagerly. "Can we, Clara-san? Maybe we can—"
"Lord Sesshoumaru!" Jaken screeched.
Rin and I looked towards the trees where a silent figure made its way towards us. I would never get used to the sense of awe that emanated from Sesshoumaru. His very presence was enough to guarantee silence.
"My lord!" Rin called cheerfully as she ran to him.
He looked down at her once, making sure that she was fine, before turning those unbearably cold eyes toward me. I blushed and looked away. I always told myself that one day I would hold his cold gaze, but this resolution always wavered when the chance came for me to fulfill it. I frowned as I looked up towards the sky, at the falling snow.
The truth was, it was hard for me to hold his eyes because, well…I liked him. Well, maybe a whole lot more than 'like'. But these feelings of mine were unrequited, I knew. After all, Sesshoumaru was a demon lord, one of the most powerful demons in the whole of Japan (maybe even in the face of the earth, I couldn't tell), and I was just a weak human.
And he hated humans.
Well, maybe not hate per se, seeing as how he treated Rin quite differently. I think he tolerated humans, but could he tolerate a human who was not just supposedly Midoriko's reincarnation, but also a human with feelings for him?
And the funny part was that everyone knew I had feelings for him. Yup. Rin, Jaken, Inuyasha and the others—they knew. Was I really that obvious? The only one who didn't know about my feelings was Sesshoumaru himself.
I sighed as I continued to look up. I blinked as a snowflake landed on the tip of my nose before melting. "Isn't that right, Clara-san?" Rin was saying.
I blinked and glanced at them. I'd been so caught up in my thoughts, I failed to notice that the conversation had taken a turn towards me.
"Eh?" I said apologetically. "Sorry, Rin…I wasn't really listening." Sesshoumaru's cold eyes were fixed on me. I struggled to control the blush that threatened to grace my cheeks with little success. I could only hope he would attribute my red-tinged cheeks to the cold.
Rin pouted. "I was telling Lord Sesshoumaru about the special baby!" she said cheerfully, skipping over to me. She flashed me a toothy grin. "Why don't you tell him about the baby? You can tell it better." She winked at me, her innocent chocolate eyes filled with mischief.
I was at a loss for words. Truth be told, I can't recall having a conversation with Sesshoumaru that lasted for more than five minutes. Thankfully, I was spared from answering when Rin's face suddenly scrunched up. A second later, she covered her face with her hands as she let out a sneeze. We'd been out in the cold for far too long, with nothing but straw cloaks that provided little warmth.
"I think we should get out of the cold, don't you?" I said.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The snow started falling heavier as night fell. Fortunately for us, Jaken managed to find a cave where we could stay for the night. He had a fire going in the center, and Rin was sitting as close as possible to it, her arms wrapped around herself. Ah-Un was sitting behind her, his scaly tail wrapped around her shoulders. I sat across the fire from them, biting my lip with worry. Sesshoumaru was somewhere farther in the cave. He liked being alone.
"Jaken," I said. I could feel the cold finally creeping up on me. "I think you should go find some more wood."
He narrowed his huge eyes at me. "Find more firewood?" he said, incredulous. "Find it yourself!"
"Please," I said. "I mean—you're a demon. The cold obviously isn't bothering you that much."
He grumbled about humans and their frailty before he stood up and left the cave. I smiled to myself. Though he was often complaining, I knew that Jaken really cared for Rin and that his complaining was just for show.
Rin let out another sneeze.
I stood up and sat down next to her. She looked up at me, her nose red. "Ah-Un, I hope you don't mind," I said as I carefully pushed his tail off Rin's shoulder. He let two spurts of air from each of his mouths. I wrapped and arm around Rin and drew her close. "Ah-Un you're a reptile, so you're cold-blooded."
Rin giggled as Ah-Un let out a groan of defeat. "You're pretty smart, Clara-san," she said.
I blushed. "Not quite," I said. "I only seem smart because I know things that you don't."
"Indeed." I glanced behind me. Sesshoumaru made his way to the front of the cave, those cold golden eyes fixed on mine. His cold sarcasm was not lost on me. I blushed and turned my attention back to the fire.
"But it's true," I said as he sat down across from us. I kept my eyes fixed on the fire, conscious of his eyes on me. "I'll admit you're smarter than me, but I know more things than you do."
"For instance," I blabbed on, "I know about organic chemistry. I know the names of all nine planets in the solar system. I know what makes the seasons come and go. I know something about gravity and about Newton. I've heard of Einstein and his famous equation…" I trailed off and shrugged. "But do not ask me about mathematics. I hate the subject."
"The knowledge that you know is of no use and interest to me," Sesshoumaru countered, raising an eyebrow. "Only the knowledge of Naraku's whereabouts are of any significance to me, and if you do not possess this information, you are as good as useless."
I blinked. One, that was probably the longest sentence I have ever heard him say. Two, useless…well, of course. Sesshoumaru was just so single-minded about finding Naraku. As I watched, he turned his eyes to the entrance of the cave, at the falling snow outside. I frowned.
Of course he found me quite useless. What good was I to him? Despite being touted as Midoriko's reincarnation, I haven't been much help to him lately. The only thing I've done thus far was to add one more name to the list people who were burdening him in his search for Naraku.
I inwardly sighed. Sesshoumaru was cold—exactly like the snow falling outside. It may sound funny, but he reminded me of a snowflake. He was cold like one, that much was certain. He was graceful like one. The pattern of a snowflake was one of a kind—no two snowflakes had the same pattern, just like him. There was no demon like him. And a snowflake, under the microscope, was quite beautiful…
I shook my head. What the heck was I thinking, comparing Sesshoumaru to a snowflake, of all things? Get a grip.
"I'm back!" Jaken appeared at the entrance of the cave, his arms laden with twigs and pieces of wood. "Greetings, my Lord." Jaken said as he passed in front of Sesshoumaru. "Gah!" My eyes widened in surprise as Jaken tripped on Sesshoumaru's foot. His pile of wood came raining down on the demon lord's leg.
"LORD SESSHOUMARU, FORGIVE ME!" Jaken screeched as he automatically stood up and took several paces backwards.
Rin and I continued to stare with wide eyes as Sesshoumaru stood up and glared down at Jaken. Jaken seemed to dissolve into vapor under that supposedly cold look. There was silence and then…
A loud thud echoed throughout the cave as Sesshoumaru's foot sent the imp flying against the cave wall.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
It felt hot.
I felt myself drawn out of consciousness by an uncomfortable warmth beside me. I slowly opened my eyes. The last thing I remember is that it had been snowing—it had been cold. There was a fire burning, but it shouldn't be this warm…
I suddenly realized that the warmth emanated from beside me. I opened my eyes in realization. Rin was leaning against me. My arm was still wrapped around her shoulder. Her eyes were closed but her eyebrows were drawn in the middle, as though she was having a nightmare.
I placed the back of my hand to her forehead—she was warm. Much, much too warm for my liking.
Glancing around, I saw Sesshoumaru standing at the entrance of the cave, his gaze fixed on the snow. It was then that I felt the cold. It gnawed at me, and I felt my teeth chattering. Last night's fire had died out, leaving but a pile of smoldering embers. I drew Rin closer to me and wrapped my arms around her, hoping the wide sleeves of my haori would give her some warmth.
"Sesshoumaru," I said. My breath became mist right before my eyes. "Rin is very warm. She has a fever, I think."
He glanced over his shoulder, his eyes narrowed slightly. "The Forest of Inuyasha is not far," he said quietly, turning to look back at the falling snow. "Take her to the old priestess's village."
I stared at him, incredulous. "You're not coming?" I asked in disbelief.
"I have Naraku to hunt," he said as he stepped out into the swirling snow.
I felt incredulous. How could he act so indifferent at a time like this? "Jaken, get up!" I snapped, irritated.
The imp, who had been sleeping on Ah-Un's back, gave a start as his yellow eyes blinked open. "Wha-wha-wha-wha?" he mumbled. There was a dull thud as he slid off Ah-Un's back and onto the floor.
"Rin has a fever," I said. I gently propped Rin against the wall and began sifting through my knapsack on Ah-Un's back. "And Sesshoumaru could care less." I pulled out a brown sweater and returned to Rin's side. I gently pulled it over her head. She mumbled something incoherent and let out a sigh.
"We have to get her to Kaede's," I said as I began coaxing Ah-Un up. It wasn't difficult. He had sensed that there was something wrong with Rin and he easily stood up.
"What is wrong with Rin?" Jaken asked. He was still groggy from sleep.
"She has a fever!" I repeated through gritted teeth. I bent down and carefully lifted Rin into my arms. It wasn't easy—she was too heavy for me and I nearly stumbled, but I managed to settle her on Ah-Un's back.
"And where are you going?" Jaken snapped as I mounted Ah-Un, positioning myself behind Rin and grabbing the reins.
"To Kaede's village," I said, shrugging. "It's better than staying here in this cave and freezing to death! You coming or not?"
He glared at me before grabbing hold of Ah-Un's tail. "Let's go," I said as Ah-Un darted out of the cave into the snow.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
I can't believe how heartless Sesshoumaru is!
I could think of nothing else as Ah-Un rushed headlong into the snow. When Rin needed something, Sesshoumaru usually told her to go fend for herself—I knew why. It was to prepare her for independence, but…this! I mean, Rin was sick! And he acted like he could just care less? For the first time since I'd met him, I was sincerely angry at him. How could he?
"Clara-san?" I looked down at Rin as the cold rushed past us. "It's so cold." She sniffled and squeezed her eyes tightly shut.
"Don't worry," I murmured. "We're heading to Kaede's."
Rin nodded and snuggled even closer to me. "Tell me more about the baby, okay?"
My eyes widened for a moment and a small smile tugged at my lips. "Of course."
Ah-Un flew faster. In the distance, amidst the whirl of white, I could make out Kaede's village. "Jaken, are you all right back there?" I called out. I glanced behind me. I blinked.
"Gaaaaah!" Jaken screeched as he held on tightly to Ah-Un's swaying tail. He gripped the Staff of Heads tightly in one hand and held on to Ah-Un's tail with the other.
I gripped the reins with one hand and held out the other towards Jaken. "C'mon, just sit behind me already."
He let go of Ah-Un's tail to point a finger at me. "If you think I need a human's help, you're—!"
A second later, he plummeted towards the ground.
"Jaken!" I shouted. Ah-Un immediately made a dive for the ground. Jaken fell from the sky and towards an all too familiar clearing. My eyes widened in surprise as he fell into an all-too familiar well and vanished in a flash of blue light.
I slapped a hand to my forehead. "Great…just great," I muttered as Ah-Un touched the ground. Jaken fell into the well. And the worst part was, the well allowed him to pass through. What to do? Kaede's village was just a short distance away…Rin was sick…but Jaken was in the Modern Era, of all places!
A mental image of scientists in white biohazard suits capturing Jaken suddenly flashed through my mind. It was followed by a second mental image of Jaken barbecuing the scientists to a crisp with the Staff of Heads.
I shook my head vigorously. What to…?
I suddenly had one of those 'Eureka!' moments. The Modern Era was more adept at dealing with fevers…
"Rin," I said as I jumped off Ah-Un. I lifted her gently into my arms. "Would you like to see my world?"
She smiled without opening her eyes. "I'd love to, Clara-san!" she said. "But what about Lord Sesshoumaru?"
I frowned as I sat on the well and swung around so my legs dangled inside of it. It was difficult with my other hand around Rin's waist. I scoffed at the mention of Sesshoumaru. "Forget him."
I jumped into the well and both Rin and I were engulfed in blue light.
I approached the cave and narrowed my eyes.
Clara and the others had left. It was to be expected, of course. However, I did not think that the girl had it in her to actually leave. I glanced down at the two thick kimono I had folded over my arm. Frowning, I tossed them into the snow and began to follow their scent.
I ran through the thick veil of snow, following Clara's scent. For a mere fraction of a second, I thought of how stronger that scent was when I had laid my head on her lap at Mt. Tenku. I frowned and pushed the thought from my mind. My emotions for the girl were something I had yet to take care of.
Clara's scent led me to the edge of an all-too familiar clearing. Ah-Un was lying beside the Bone Eater's well. The generous amount of snow covering him indicated that he had been there for a while now.
It was not difficult to wonder why the dragon was beside the well. Clara's scent led to it. I approached the well. As soon as he heard my tread, Ah-Un lifted both his head and the snow fell off him. He pointed with his tail towards the well.
"I am aware," I said I looked into the well's dark depths. I narrowed my eyes before jumping in.
"Where the hell are we?"
Jaken's shrill voice greeted me the moment the blue light faded away from my vision. The imp was tapping a foot on the ground, his arms folded across his chest.
I sighed. My arms were aching from carrying Rin. "This is the Modern Era—mine and Kagome's world."
"The Mo—WHAT?" he screeched, flailing his arms around. "Lord Sesshoumaru will be furious!"
I approached the wall of the well, where Kagome's grandfather had nailed a ladder in case either of us wanted to come back. "Sesshoumaru could care less," I said. With difficulty, I held Rin with one arm and used the other to grasp the ladder. "You coming or what?"
Jaken grumbled as he followed me. "Will you stop grumbling?" I huffed as I climbed. Really—my arms were killing me. "You're making such a racket. D'you want Kagome's grandfather to come and purify you?"
"He's a priest?" I couldn't see the look of disbelief on his face, but I knew it was there. I heard him scoff. "As if a human could harm a servant of the great Lord Sesshoumaru!"
I rolled my eyes. I reached out to grab another step of the ladder, but as I did so, my finger slipped. My eyes widened in shock and surprise as I felt myself tottering off the ladder. "Crap!" I shouted. I felt myself slipping, my feet losing their balance, felt myself falling…
A red-clad arm suddenly shot out from above, grasping my wrist as I fell. I felt myself hanging in mid-air, Rin clutched securely to me. I looked up, surprise written all over my face.
"Inuyasha?" I said, genuinely surprised.
A pair of annoyed and golden eyes looked down at me. His dog ears twitched. "Clara?" he said as he easily hoisted me out of the well and settled me on the ground.
"Clara!" A second later, Kagome had her arms around me. She wasn't wearing her uniform—she was wearing a sweater and a pair of jeans. So, she'd been here for a day, at least. "It's you!" She pulled away. "I didn't expect to see you here." She suddenly realized who I was holding in my arms. "Eh? Isn't that…Rin? She got through the well? What's wrong with her?"
"She has a really bad fever," I huffed, my arms straining. "And Sesshoumaru could care less."
"Give her here," Inuyasha said. He gently took Rin from me and carried her in his arms.
I stretched out my arms. "So," Kagome said. "What exactly happened?"
"She left without Lord Sesshoumaru's permission, that's what!"
We all turned our heads to the well just as Jaken grasped the edge and hoisted himself up. "No wonder I smelled something foul," Inuyasha muttered, scrunching his nose.
Kagome's eyes bugged open in surprise. "Jaken?" she exclaimed. "What…why is he here?" I could see the panic written all over her face. For a brief instant, that scientists capturing Jaken suddenly flashed through my mind, but I hastily pushed the thought aside.
"It's a long story," I said hurriedly. "He's the reason I decided to bring Rin here in the first place."
"What do you mean bring?" Jaken said as he jumped off the well and right in the middle of Inuyasha, Kagome and me. He pointed an accusing finger at me. "We'd better go back before Lord Sesshoumaru finds out and becomes furious! You don't know how frightening—"
"Hey," Inuyasha said, interrupting Jaken's rant. He had a hand on Rin's forehead. "She's burning."
"—Lord Sesshoumaru can be when he's enraged! Hell will look like a—"
Kagome placed a hand on Rin. "We should get her out of the cold," she muttered. "C'mon, Inuyasha—let's take her to my house."
"—safe haven when compared to my lord's true wrath! He—"
"Can I use your phone?" I asked Kagome as we left the Well shrine. "I need to call mom. I'm taking Rin and Jaken to my place."
"—will be most enraged to hear of this, Clara! He'll—hey! Are you listening to me?"
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
"What the heck is that thing?"
I blinked at the small chaos ensuing before my eyes. The moment Kagome, Inuyasha and I had stepped into the house with Jaken in tow, Souta, who had been waiting at the door, let out a shout of surprise and had immediately ducked behind Kagome and Inuyasha, his eyes fixed on the green alien thing that was Jaken.
"SOUTA!" Kagome's grandfather suddenly appeared at the top of the stairs. Just great. "WHAT'S"—his eyes rested on Jaken who glared at him—"IT'S A DEMON! A DEMON! KAGOME, INUYASHA, CLARA GET BACK! LEAVE THAT THING TO ME!" He suddenly pulled out several sutras from the sleeve of his haori and rushed down the stairs with surprising agility.
"Ha!"Jaken crowed, raising the Staff of Heads. "Don't think a mere human can overcome a servant of Lord Sesshoumaru!" To my surprise, he pointed the staff at Kagome's grandfather!
"Inuyasha!" Kagome shouted.
The staff slowly opened its mouth. "Take this pesky hu—!"
But before Jaken could finish his sentence, a black boot made contact with his back, sending him sailing past the kitchen. At that moment, Mrs. Higurashi came out of the kitchen, wiping her hands on a cloth. Our eyes widened as Jaken flew towards her. She ducked just as Jaken went sailing past her and crashed into a wall with a loud groan. Mrs. Higurashi straightened and smiled at us, cloth still between her hands.
But we weren't looking at her—our eyes were fixed on the person standing in the doorway. "Sesshoumaru!" I said, surprised.
His amber eyes darted to me. "Only you are capable of such disobedience," he said flatly, throwing me a cold look.
I glared at him, fighting down the blush that was spreading across my cheeks. I was still mad at him! I shouldn't be blushing!
"What disobedience?" I snapped, glaring at him. I ended up looking at the floor instead. "You didn't tell us to stay there. In fact, you told me to take Rin to Kaede's village."
"I said nothing of coming here." Though it wasn't obvious, the increasing flatness in his tone indicated that he was getting annoyed.
I looked up at him, conscious of everyone's eyes on us. "Well, I thought you could care less where I took Rin," I said heftily. He glared at me and I once again looked down at the ground. "But, anyway," I mumbled. "We're here…Rin's sick…don't you think it would be better to just stay for a while?" I looked up at him through my lashes, afraid of meeting his imperiously cold look head on.
He looked down at me. I couldn't read the emotion in his eyes—I never could. But he seemed to be considering. He didn't answer as he walked past me and out the door. I blinked. Was that a yes?
"My, if it isn't Clara!" The silence was broken by Mrs. Higurashi. We all turned to her. She was smiling at me with that familiar smile of hers, cloth still between her hands. "Long time no see!"
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Mom's eyes widened the moment she entered the Higurashi house and saw Jaken. She blinked down at him, surprise evident on her face. I'd called her right after Sesshoumaru had left and told her that a 'special' friend of mine was sick. Knowing that this 'special' friend was someone from the Feudal Era, she had driven herself over to pick us up.
And now she was looking down at Jaken. "My, Clara," she said, looking up at me. "I had no idea how sick your friend was. See how green he's become? What happened to him?"
Inuyasha, Kagome and I let out a burst of laughter as Jaken's eye twitched. "Insolent human!" the imp snapped.
Mom blinked. I laughed. "He's not the one, mom," I said, chuckling. "Green is Jaken's normal color—kinda like the Hulk, only worse."
Kagome sniggered. Jaken didn't get what I meant, but he still glared at me. "Anyway," I said. "The one who's sick is Rin—the one Inuyasha is carrying."
Mom moved over to Inuyasha and looked down at the sleeping Rin, whose face was still scrunched up. "She's adorable!" she said, raising her eyebrows in surprise. I think she expected something Jaken-like. "Poor girl. So you want her to stay over?"
I nodded and she smiled. "You couldn't have picked a much better timing," she commented. "It's December twenty."
I stared at her with wide, surprised eyes. "Dec-December twenty?" I stammered. "The last time I checked, it was still August!" I inwardly groaned. I had been gone that long? Truth be told, I had hardly noticed the changing of the seasons while I was still in the Feudal Era, due to…obvious reasons.
Mom only smiled as she turned towards the door. "Well, c'mon then, we have a lot to do!" she said.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
"Where is everyone?" I asked the moment I set foot into the home I hadn't seen in months. Nothing had changed, except for the fact that, aside from me, Inuyasha, Rin, Jaken, Kagome and my mother, the whole place was deserted.
"They left for the holidays," mom said as she closed the door behind her. I raised an eyebrow at this. Since when did she permit everyone to leave home for the holidays? "So," she continued. "I think it's best if we settle Rin upstairs in one of the guest rooms."
"I'd rather have her in my room," I muttered, my eyes on the sleeping child in Inuyasha's arms. "My bed's big, anyway."
We all traipsed up the stairs and towards my room, leaving Jaken behind in the living room (with a stern warning that he wasn't to touch anything at all). Inuyasha carefully set Rin on my bed and I started rummaging through my closet, looking for another sweater for her to wear.
"I'll go out to the pharmacy," mom volunteered. "I'll pick up an antipyretic. I have to stop by the office, anyway."
I turned to her surprised. "The office?"
She smiled. "You've been gone so long. The building is finished. In fact, we've officially opened already." She smiled again. "I'll tell you about it later. In the meantime, tend to Rin. And don't forget to change. Your clothes are damp." I raised my eyebrows as she left.
"What's Christmas?" Inuyasha suddenly asked as I removed several sweaters from the closet.
I let Kagome do all the explaining as I carefully removed the damp sweater Rin had worn earlier. She suddenly opened her eyes. "Clara-san?" she said, blinking. She glanced around, her eyes widening in surprise.
"Where…where are we?" She grasped the comforter with a hand. She was almost panicked.
"Don't worry," I said soothingly as I sat down beside her. "This is my world."
She automatically sat up, her chocolate eyes taking in everything around her. She suddenly pointed to the ceiling, at the small chandelier. "What's that thing?" she said, fascinated. "It's so pretty!"
Kagome and I chuckled. "That's a chandelier," I explained. "It gives off light. You should see it when I turn it on." So saying, I stood up and flicked a switch on the wall. The chandelier immediately flared to life, bathing the room in a soft golden glow. The crystal drops on the chandelier threw rainbows on the ceiling.
"Wow!" Rin said, eyes wide. "Clara-san, it really is so pretty! Look at all the colors!"
I laughed. If Rin could be amazed at a chandelier, then what would her reaction be to everything else in this world? "What about that?" She was pointing at my computer.
"That's my computer," I said. "It does a lot of things, actually."
She tried to get out of bed to inspect the foreign machine, but I gently held out a hand. "Rin, you're running a very high fever," I said. "You should just rest for now. My mother went out to buy you medicine. She should be back soon en—"
"AAARGH!" We all turned to the open door. The voice was Jaken's! "TAKE THIS YOU INFERNAL CONTRAPTION!"
A second later, there was a loud crash from downstairs. "Inuyasha!" Kagome said.
"On it!" The hanyou immediately vanished out the door.
"That was Master Jaken!" Rin said, sitting up again. "He's here, too?"
"Yes, he's—" I began. I stopped short when Inuyasha reappeared in the doorway. He was holding Jaken by the scruff of his neck in one hand and a smashed up blender in the other.
I blinked. "You destroyed my blender?" I said, annoyed.
"The infernal thing was making a barbaric sound!" the imp said, struggling in Inuyasha's grasp "It wanted to destroy me!"
I got off the bed and glared. "That 'infernal thing' is a kitchen appliance!" I huffed. "It's completely harmless!" My eyes suddenly widened in realization. I laughed and they stared at me as though I had lost it. "You were scared of a blender!" I said, chuckling.
Jaken glared. He was about to retort when Rin beat him to it. "Clara-san, where's Lord Sesshoumaru?"
I stopped laughing. "Inuyasha…d'you smell him around?" I asked. Truth be told, I hadn't wondered as to where he'd gone when he walked out the door at Kagome's house.
Inuyasha dropped Jaken and the broken blender to the floor. "Nope," he said. He frowned. "I have a feeling he's just around here somewhere. Remember, he can hide that blasted scent and aura of his."
I bit my lower lip. Where was he? What was he up to? I hope he wasn't doing anything conspicuous.
"Clara-san," Rin piped up in a sing-song voice. She was grinning at me. "You look worried."
My eyes widened in surprise and I blushed. "Me? Worried? Nah, I'm not." I grinned and waved a hand dismissively.
Everyone gave me flat looks. "That grin is so fake," Inuyasha muttered.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
An hour after Inuyasha and Kagome had left, Mom returned with Rin's medicine. I had called her on her cell and asked her to pick some clothes for Rin who found modern clothes both strange and fascinating ("You mean, you don't tie it with an obi?" she had asked as she plucked at the pink shirt she wore). I sent Jaken out with Mom so I could help Rin change. Afterward, Mom and Jaken came back in with a bowl of chicken noodle soup and Rin's medicine on a breakfast tray.
Rin had trouble using the spoon and Mom showed her how. I smiled quietly to myself as I examined my mother. Where did the cold dictator go? Sure, she was still somewhat curt at times, but there was definitely a change. The woman who was helping Rin with the spoon was warm, caring…exactly how she was before my father had died.
"It's impolite to stare," Mom suddenly said. She cocked an eyebrow at me.
I blinked. "Sorry," I said, grinning. She smiled and turned back to Rin. I stood up and made my way to the sliding glass door that led to the balcony. As I stared out at the snow, I couldn't help but think of Sesshoumaru. Really, where was he? Inuyasha had said that he could possibly be here…but what if he had returned to the Feudal Era?
I sighed. I hoped that my actions earlier didn't make him angry. Yeesh, he could be so temperamental for an indifferent guy. The snow outside was falling heavier now and whirls of white streaked across the night sky. I frowned as I remembered something.
"Mom," I said slowly, turning to her. She was helping Rin drink a glass of water. "It's the twentieth, but…I don't see any Christmas décor?"
Mom sighed. "Well…seeing as the servants had left for the holidays…seeing as I thought you wouldn't be coming home for Christmas…I didn't bother." She shrugged. She took a tablet from the bedside table and proceeded with helping Rin take the tablet. Rin grimaced as she swallowed the tablet and drank some water.
I frowned. I'd been away so long in the Modern Era, I had practically neglected my mother. For a moment, I had a vision of her eating a lonely Christmas dinner. Before, when she was still the cold dictator mother, I wouldn't have cared if she was alone or not. Now, however…
"Let's put them up," I said suddenly.
Rin, Jaken and Mom turned to me. "Let's put up the Christmas décor," I repeated. "And the tree."
"What nonsense," Jaken muttered. "As if a tree would grow without soil!"
We ignored him. Rin looked excited. "Can I help?" she asked eagerly. "Clara-san, can I?"
I chuckled as I sat down on the bed. "Sure…when you get better."
She pouted. Mom laughed as she took the tray away from Rin. "I'm sure Rin will be able to help out a little," Mom said. She smiled at Rin. I could see that she'd grown fond of her in the short while that she'd been here.
I smiled quietly to myself. Christmas with Rin, Jaken and possibly Sesshoumaru.
What was I to expect?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
"So you plan to have them over for Christmas?" Mom asked later that evening.
We were in the music room. I was sitting at my piano, and she was looking out at the picture window, at the falling snow. Rin had long since fallen asleep, and Jaken was staying in the room with her. I'd given the imp a very, very stern warning (if my sternness was stern enough) that he was not to touch anything there. Though I think the blender episode was enough to deter him from touching anything…for now.
"Yeah," I said, tapping one of the keys. I missed playing the piano. "I mean, I think Rin'll be better before the twenty-fifth…why not stay for Christmas?"
She glanced at me from over her shoulder, a thoughtful expression on her face. "What about Sesshoumaru? Is he fine with that?"
I froze. Truth be told, I had no idea whether or not Sesshoumaru would approve. He wasn't the type to stay over just for some human holiday. There was a possibility that he'd choose to leave for the Feudal Era when Rin got better. But, really—searching for Naraku in this snow? Besides, we didn't have that much of a clue as to Naraku's whereabouts. The last we heard about Naraku was from Hakudoshi—and Hakudoshi's clue was rather vague.
"I'm not really sure," I answered. "You can never be too sure with him now, can you?"
She turned and approached me. She sat down beside me and tapped a key on the piano. Her expression was thoughtful. "You sound as though you two don't get along well."
My finger froze above a key. "Huh?" I said, surprised. "I do?" I blushed for a moment. "I don't hate him. I don't think he hates me…but I think he finds me annoying."
Mom suddenly smiled at me. "You like him, don't you?"
My eyes bugged out. Really! This was so ridiculous! Was I really that obvious with my feelings? "I didn't say I liked him in that way," I said, raising an eyebrow at her.
"You didn't say it," she agreed. "But it's written on your face. And in the way you speak of him." She smiled at me.
I blushed again, bewildered. This was getting out of hand. If I wasn't careful, Sesshoumaru himself was bound to learn of my feelings. That would be such a nightmare!
"But," Mom went on. Her voice snapped me out of my thoughts. She was looking at me with a thoughtful look on her face. "I don't think I approve."
My eyebrows shot up in surprise. Alexis Rose did everything in her power to keep me away from boys, the ultimate distraction, according to her. In my elementary days, she had sent me to an all-girls boarding school in London. During junior high, she sent me to a school in New York…with a chaperone. It was a nightmare. I didn't have much of a social life (I'd been too bitter with my mother to have friends), but the chaperone was torture. She had to follow me wherever I went like a devoted bodyguard, and reported any 'suspicious activity' back to Alexis.
And now, she was still at it.
"You don't?" I said, trying to hide both surprise and disappointment.
"No," she said, folding her arms. "He's a demon."
"I don't think he's the devil," I said, rolling my eyes. "Besides…he can be very nice. Occasionally."
"He's very cold."
"It's innate. You can't change that."
"He comes from another time."
"There's the well to fix that."
"I'm sure he has a lot of enemies. He comes from Feudal Japan, after all."
"He's strong enough to kill them all off."
"He's too old for you."
I paused, stumped. "You know, I'm not really sure how old he is, either." Oh, I'm guessing somewhere between five hundred and one thousand. Or maybe even more.
Mom smiled knowingly. "See? You're defending him from every attack I make."
I blushed and ignored her. She laughed. It had seemed like ages since I'd last heard her laugh. I looked at her and, as she laughed, I saw not the stern CEO and owner of one of the most progressive companies around, but the former young woman who'd so captivated my father with her charm and smile. I blinked.
"I'm not defending him," I muttered as I began to play Strauss's 'Blue Danube'.
Mom watched me play for a moment. "Ah, it's been a while since I last heard you play." She continued to listen as I played out the familiar and somewhat playful tune. She sighed then stood up. "It's getting late, Clara," she said.
"Yeah, you go ahead," I said. "It's been a long time since I played last. Rin's already asleep and Jaken's with her anyway."
I continued to play. Once I'd finished the piece, I let the music morph into one of my favorite pieces—Pachelbel's Canon. Pretty soon, I let the music take over, losing myself in the melody. Everything seemed to fade as Pachelbel's piece swelled. Everything…except for an all-too familiar demonic presence in the room.
I glanced to my left. Sesshoumaru was leaning against the wall, his arms folded, his eyes fixed on me. Feeling a warm tinge in my cheeks, I hastily looked at the keys, though I really didn't need to. How long had he been there? A few minutes? I immediately stopped playing.
"Hey," I said, still not looking at him. I tried to remember that I was still irritated with him for his indifference earlier. "Where have—"
"Why did you stop?"
I blinked, surprised. "Why did I—?"
Bewildered at his request, I obliged. Who knew he liked piano?
This felt strange.
The music was beautiful, but it occupied a mere fraction of my attention. I could not stop my eyes from falling on Clara as she played. She had the expression of one who was literally lost in the music. I could not stop myself from coming closer. I inwardly frowned. This unwilling attraction was distracting, and I wished to be rid of it.
Presently the music came to an end and she sighed contentedly. "It's been so long since I played, I forgot how good it felt," she admitted quietly. She turned her sapphire eyes to me. "Sesshoumaru," she said, hesitant. "How long do you plan to let us stay here?"
I raised an eyebrow at her. "Until Rin is better." Is it not obvious?
"Today is the twentieth," she went on, turning her attention to the window, at the snow. "If Rin gets better before the twenty-fifth…will we leave?"
Her eyes snapped to mine again. "Can we stay until the twenty-fifth?" she asked. "You see…I wanted Rin to experience was Christmas is like."
I raised an eyebrow. I had heard her mention that this 'Christmas' was a human celebration to celebrate the birth of a baby. A very special baby, according to Rin. Humans and their trivialities. This celebration was surely a waste of time. I was about to refuse her when those eyes stopped me. Her eyes were not pleading—they were merely waiting for a decision. I had the feeling that if I refused, she would not force the issue. She would agree.
I inwardly frowned. I knew why I was hesitant. It was because of my accursed feelings for the girl. The desire to give what she asked for—a trait common with these feelings—was slowly making itself known. Hn. What a bother.
"Do as you please."
Clara's eyes lit up. "Really?" she said. "Thank you!" She paused. "But…what about you, though? Will you return to the Feudal Era and come back after five days?"
Five days…Heh, I would be wasting five days of my time. These feelings were certainly annoying. Hn…She was still looking at me with what I perceived to be hopeful eyes. Did this girl want me to stay? The thought pleased me—and I found this disturbing.
"Will you?" she repeated.
I frowned. How best to answer such a question? "Perhaps," I said.
A smile broke out on her face. "I'm glad," she said. She blushed, as though realizing what she had just said. For a moment, my eyes held hers. Hastily, she looked back down at the piano, her cheeks tinged even further.
I frowned as I turned away, towards the window. In that brief instant that our eyes had met, had she looked away because she had seen the desire in my eyes?
I slid the window open and a blast of icy air greeted me as I stepped out. There was something I wished to do that I hardly needed to do in all my years of existing.
I needed to clear my head.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
I sat on the roof, the swirling snow falling around me. The cold did nothing to clear my head. My thoughts riveted to the girl again. It was difficult to shake the image of how happy she had looked when I had told her that perhaps I would be staying. Humans were queer creatures. They were given a slight probability, and yet this makes them contented, even happy.
Hn…I was no fool. If it made the girl happy, then I had no choice but to indulge her.
I raised an eyebrow at this. No choice?
Heh, but of course. These blasted feelings of mine forced me to give what would make her happy. For a brief instant, I wondered if this was what Father had experienced when he had fallen for Izayoi. I frowned. How does one remedy oneself from an affliction such as this? I did not want to follow in my Father's footsteps—his love for Izayoi and the half-breed had forced him to sacrifice himself so that they may live.
I stood up. I certainly had no wish to do that. Yet.
Since when did sleeping on the ground feel so good?
I was still hovering between the fine of line of sleep and wakefulness. The ground felt so comfortable. I stretched. Hm? I felt my fingers grip something soft and as I slowly began to wake up, I realized it was a comforter. Comforter?
My eyes flew open.
A pair of great big yellow eyes were staring down at me from above! "Eeek!" I shrieked as my fist automatically shot out and made contact with something hard.
"Gah!" A second later, a crash resounded throughout the room as Jaken rammed head first into the wall. Jaken?
I sat up and memories of yesterday immediately came rushing back. "Jaken, I'm so sorry!" I whispered. Rin, despite the crash, was still asleep beside me.
Jaken sat up and rubbed his head, glaring at me. "You annoying human!" he snapped under his breath.
"I'm sorry!" I whispered. "Besides…it was your fault for leering at me!"
"Who was leering?" Jaken snapped as he stood up. "Lord Sesshoumaru merely asked me to see whether or not you were awake!"
I blinked. Huh? Sesshoumaru asked…?
"Why?" I asked. I suddenly remembered the vivid expression in his eyes last night and I blushed.
Jaken shrugged. "Perhaps to see whether or not you had died from the cold," he said. "You humans are so weak, a little snow puts you off."
It was my turn to glare. Sighing, I raked a hand through my hair. "Yes, Jaken," I said as I rolled my eyes. "I'm still very much alive. I hope I didn't disappoint you."
He huffed then he left the room. I frowned after him. Did Sesshoumaru really send him in here to see if I was awake? What did he want?
"Good morning, Clara-san." I turned my attention to Rin. She was awake and sitting up. Her chocolate eyes smiled at me.
"Hey," I said. "I'm sorry—did we wake you up?"
She shook her head. "No—I was awake when Master Jaken came in."
I smiled. "How are you feeling?"
"Better," she replied, grinning. I placed a hand on her forehead. The fever was slowly subsiding. She wasn't as hot as she was yesterday.
"Your fever's going away," I said. "But d'you still wanna eat here?"
"I wanna eat downstairs," she said, grinning. "I want to see more of your world!"
I laughed. "Unfortunately for you, more of my world is covered in snow." I got up and parted the curtains at the window to reveal a steady stream of white falling from the sky. "But you can see more of my house, if you want," I added hastily, seeing the disappointment in her eyes.
She brightened. "Really?"
I nodded. "Really. And after breakfast, maybe you could help us decorate the house for Christmas?"
"I'd love to!" she said, excited. She hopped off the bed with such vivacity I laughed.
"Take it easy," I said. "But first, we need breakfast!"
I made the bed first so Rin could use the bathroom. She was amazed that water could come out of a pipe. She was even more amazed at the soap which bubbled and smelled like peaches. After she was done, I took a shower, changed and came out of the bathroom to see her holding something in her hand—my locket.
"Sorry, Clara-san!" she said hastily when she saw me. She put it down quickly on my dresser.
"It's alright," I reassured her as I grabbed my blow drier. "You can touch it, if you want."
She smiled then picked it up again. "It's so pretty," she said. She put it back on the dresser just as her stomach let out a loud grumble. I laughed and led her out of the room.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
When Rin and I went into the dining room, I was surprised to find Jaken and my mother there. Mother was sitting at the head of the table, her eyes on the morning's newspaper (a morning habit she never broke), a plate of untouched food in front of her. Rin and I nearly laughed when we saw that Jaken was sitting beside her—sitting on three or four thick books so his head could at least reach the table. He was poking at a piece of egg on his plate with his fork, yellow eyes narrowed suspiciously at it.
"It won't bite you, you know," I commented as I sat on my mother's other side, Rin beside me. Mom lowered her newspaper and I greeted her good morning.
Jaken glared at me with narrowed eyes. "Human food," he muttered darkly.
I was curious. "Say," I said. "What do demons usually eat?"
All eyes on the room were on Jaken. He shrugged. "Not this rubbish," he muttered, still poking his egg.
I raised an eyebrow. "Try it," I challenged. "We'll see if you think it's rubbish."
With some difficulty, he managed to slice a piece of egg with his knife. It was like trying to watch a toddler eat with silverware. It took him almost five minutes to spear the piece of egg with his fork. "Go on," I prompted. "Eat it."
"If it weren't for Lord Sesshoumaru," he muttered darkly. He popped the egg into his mouth and chewed. Slowly.
Rin and I watched as he began chewing faster. His eyes widened in surprise as he swallowed. He muttered something about not understanding the flavor and popped another slice of egg into his mouth—this time with bacon. His eyes widened even further as he swallowed again.
We all laughed. "Shut up!" Jaken snapped as he continued to eat.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Mom left after breakfast for an important meeting with an investor, promising to be back at seven. After giving Rin her medicine, I herded her and Jaken upstairs, to the attic, to find the Christmas décor.
"Decorations!" Jaken muttered savagely as I led them upstairs. "Humans are so difficult to comprehend!"
We stopped at a door at the end of the hallway. I opened it. A set of stairs led from the door to the attic. I switched on the light and frowned. "I think it's a bit chilly upstairs," I said as I climbed. "Rin, maybe you should just stay here with Jaken."
She frowned. "Can I still help you with the decorating?"
"Of course," I reassured. "Wait downstairs with Jaken. I'll catch up."
I climbed the stairs and found myself in the attic. It was a simple room with brown walls where things were stored away. There were shelves upon shelves of boxes wide enough to fit my head in. The house was newly made, so dust hadn't quite settled on the boxes yet. So many boxes…it would take me hours to hunt through them all.
Luck was on my side. Alexis Rose, being the methodical mother that she was, had carefully labeled the shelves and the boxes. I found a shelf labeled 'Décor'. In said shelf, I found eight or so boxes labeled 'Christmas'. I took them down—each box was somewhat heavy. I piled four boxes on top of each other and carefully lifted the four into my arms. I would come back for the rest later.
I huffed as I went down the stairs. It was a miracle that I didn't trip and fall. "Jaken!" I called as I felt my arms aching. I hadn't even made it halfway down the hallway yet! "D'you think you could come up here and—"
I stopped as I bumped into something. The boxes teetered precariously as I steadied myself. I blinked and glanced around the box, wondering what I'd hit. My eyes widened in surprise when I found myself staring at a familiar piece of black armor. I looked up and blinked as a pair of familiar golden eyes looked down at me.
"Sesshoumaru," I said. "Er…sorry." Hm…where'd he been, anyway?
"What," he began, "are you doing?"
"What does it look like?" I asked, ducking behind the boxes to avoid his eyes. "D'you mind if you move as—" My eyes widened in surprise when I felt his fingers on top of mine, beneath the boxes. My cheeks felt hot as he deftly removed the boxes from my arms. I blinked in surprise as he turned and walked down the hall, carrying the boxes with him.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
"They're all so pretty!" Rin gushed as she opened a box. Inside were colorful bundles of ornaments that set Rin's eyes sparkling. She carefully pulled out an angel dressed in a silver robe and holding a gold cross in one hand. Its wings were made out of ivory. "It's such a pretty doll, Clara-san!" she said, laughing.
I laughed. "It's not a doll, Rin," I said, taking it gently from her. "It's an angel."
She blinked. "An angel?" she frowned. "They have wings like birds?"
I chuckled. "The Japanese version is different, I think," I said. "To you, isn't an angel like a celestial maiden?"
Rin laughed. "No, Clara-san!" she said. "To me, people like Clara-san are angels!"
My eyebrows shot up in surprise. "I don't really think—"
"Isn't Clara-san like an angel, Lord Sesshoumaru?" She turned to said demon lord who was leaning against the wall, staring at us. My cheeks burned. Rin! She was doing this on purpose! Who knew she could be so devious? Behind me, Jaken scoffed and rolled his eyes.
"Isn't she?" Rin prompted.
His golden eyes snapped to mine. I forced myself to hold his gaze. "Perhaps," he said quietly. I didn't miss the cold sarcasm in his voice. Jaken glanced at his master, a slight frown on his face. I inwardly groaned. Did the toad think that Sesshoumaru guessed about my feelings? Jaken was with me when it came to hiding my feelings from Sesshoumaru. According to him, he didn't want his master to be troubled by trifle human emotions.
I turned back to the boxes, ignoring the blush on my cheeks. I glared at Rin and she smirked at me before turning back to the box. Her eyes widened as she drew out a familiar plant-like decoration sprinkled with glitter dust. It had familiar white berries on it made, like the angel's wings, out of ivory.
"What's this?" Rin asked, blinking at it. "It looks like a plant."
I inwardly groaned. Did she have to pull that out? But she was waiting for an answer. "That's mistletoe," I said, sighing. "You hang it up, and if…a boy meets a girl under it, they're obliged to kiss."
As expected, her eyes widened in surprise…and mischief. "Really?" she said. "So, for example, if I put this above you, does that mean Lord Sesshoumaru has to kiss you?"
I froze. She was devious…but I didn't think she could be that devious!
Jaken's eyes snapped to his master to gauge his reaction. I didn't even dare to remove my eyes from Rin's seemingly-innocent face. "Does he?" she prodded.
Time to salvage the situation. I let out a cough. "Technically," I said, trying to keep a straight face. "The one nearest to me is Jaken." I turned to the toad and grinned at him.
"Wha?" Jaken squawked. "No way, human!"
I laughed. "I was only joking." As I glanced at him, I stole a peek at Sesshoumaru. I stiffened. He was staring at me with another one of those unreadable expressions in his eyes. I hastily looked back at Rin.
"So, Rin," I said. "How should we decorate the place?"
"Let's go back!" Inuyasha snapped as we approached the gate to Clara's place.
I rolled my eyes. "How come you didn't mind coming here before?"
"'Cause I could still stand the stench," Inuyasha said, wriggling his nose in disgust. We reached the gate and I looked expectantly at him.
"Clara says that they're alone," I went on, ignoring his irate mood. "And that none of the servants are there."
"So." I raised an eyebrow at him. "It's kind of cold, Inuyasha." I wrapped my arms around myself. The snow wasn't falling as hard as yesterday, but the wind that whipped at us made my teeth chatter. Of course, the cold didn't seem to bother Inuyasha. In fact, several passersby all stared at his bare feet.
"You should've worn something thicker," Inuyasha said, staring disdainfully at my three layers of sweater. He removed his robe of the fire rat and draped it protectively over my shoulders.
"Eh?" I said, blushing. "Don't—you'll get cold."
He scoffed. "D'you think the cold bothers demons that much?"
"That much," I pointed out. "So it still bothers you then."
He ignored me. He glanced around to make sure no one was watching before lifting me into his arms. In one jump, he cleared the nine foot wall that surrounded Clara's house and landed in the garden. The plants were frozen stiff, and icicles hung from the leafless trees. A small pond at the far end was frozen over.
Inuyasha settled me on the ground. The moment he set me down, the sharp tip of a sword was suddenly at his throat. My eyes widened in surprise.
"So, little brother," Sesshoumaru said casually. "What brings you here?"
"We just came to see how Clara's doing!" I said hastily. "We're not—"
Before I could finish, a familiar voice called out from behind me. "Sesshoumaru, what are you doing?"
We all turned to the porch. Clara was standing just outside the sliding doors, her eyes round with surprise as she took in the sharp sword at Inuyasha's throat. To my surprise, Sesshoumaru withdrew his blade and flicked it to the side before returning it to its sheath. He didn't answer her. Inuyasha and Sesshoumaru glared at each other.
"Kagome!" A second later, I felt Clara's weight hit me as she hugged me. "Hey!"
"Hey yourself," I said, laughing. "How're you and Rin doing?"
"Come see for yourself," she said as she took me by the hand and dragged me to the house. She suddenly stopped, and glanced over her shoulder, at the two brothers who were still glaring daggers at each other. "Are you two coming or not?"
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
"Isn't it pretty, Kagome-san?" Rin asked proud.
I glanced around. Rin and Clara—probably with a little help from Jaken—had decorated the inside of the house and transformed it into a Christmas palace. Festoons of tinsel hung around the picture windows. Wreaths of holly literally decked the hallways, along with red and gold poinsettias. They'd strung Christmas lights around the place though they weren't turned on yet.
In the center of the wide living room stood a tall tree that reached to the ceiling (mind you, the ceiling was two floors high). It was decorated with gold and silver Christmas balls that glittered as the light hit them. Silver and gold stars were pinned in random places around the tree, as though Rin and Clara just threw them into place. Wreaths of gold and silver poinsettias dotted the middle of the tree. It lacked a star, though. However, there was a step ladder just beside the tree, indicating that Inuyasha and I had come when they were just about to put it on.
"But you haven't seen the best part, Kagome-san!" Rin said as she dragged me to a corner. "Look!"
In one corner of the room was a coffee table draped in a gold-colored cloth with lace at the edge. On this table, was an unmistakable scene—the Nativity scene. I wasn't a Christian, but I knew enough to know that the replica of the miniature porcelain people kneeling around the tiny infant was the highlight of the season.
"See that baby?" Rin said, grinning. "Clara-san says that Christmas is that baby's birthday!" She let out a sigh. "I would have loved to see the baby. He looks so cute! And Clara-san says that he grew up to be very gentle and loving."
I was silent for a moment, staring at it. "You two did all of this by yourselves?" I finally asked.
"Jaken-sama helped," Rin said, proud of the imp, who huffed in mortification.
"A little," Clara said as she entered the room. She was holding a red box in her hands. "He was completely useless when it came to stringing tinsel around the walls, though—he just couldn't reach." She let out a long suffering sigh as Jaken glared at her.
"What's in the box?" Inuyasha asked. He was lounging at one side of the living room, away from Sesshoumaru who was staring out the picture window at the garden. There was a slight frown on the demon lord's face.
"The finishing touch," Clara said proudly. She made her way towards me and suddenly stopped. She glanced up at the ceiling and, to my surprise, she stepped sideways and continued towards me.
I looked up and my eyebrows shot up in surprise. On various points on the ceiling were unmistakable bundles of leaves. "Mistletoe?" I said, grinning.
She blushed as she removed the lid of the box. "It wasn't my idea," she said. "Rin asked me what it was for, and she wanted to put them up. Gee—I wonder why." She threw the little girl a mock glare and Rin gave her an innocent look.
"What's the big deal about a plant?" Inuyasha asked. He pointed above him. My eyes widened in surprise. He was standing innocently underneath a mistletoe.
"Ooh!" Rin said, laughing. "Inuyasha-sama, that means Kagome-san has to kiss you!"
"WHAT?" Inuyasha and I screeched.
"That's the rule!" Rin complained.
"No way!" Inuyasha snapped.
"I wouldn't even think of it!"
"Like I'd even want to kiss her!"
I threw him a glare. He blinked and blushed violently. "I didn't mean—!" he said hastily.
A second later, a loud crashed echoed throughout the halls as Inuyasha plummeted to the ground. From the corner of my eye, I noticed Sesshoumaru regarding Inuyasha with a mildly amused look on his face.
"Anyway!" I said firmly, ignoring Inuyasha's groans. "What's in the box, Clara?" My voice came out a bit too harsh.
She opened the lid, and my eyes widened in surprise. There, nestled among velvet folds, was an ornate crystal star. I looked closely. It was a five-point gold star embedded with rows of diamonds arranged in perfect symmetry so as to dazzle the eye. It glittered and sparkled, easily outdoing the real stars in the sky.
"It's…it's wonderful!" I said, staring at it.
"Clara-san…is this a real star?" Rin asked innocently. Her eyes were wider than saucers.
Clara smiled sadly. "No. My father had it made for me and my mother on his last Christmas," she said very quietly. She turned to the step ladder. "My mother and I haven't celebrated Christmas for quite a while now," she went on. She handed me the box as she carefully climbed the ladder. "That's one of the reasons why I wanted to celebrate it so badly this year."
She held out a hand for the box and I carefully handed it to her. She put it on the top step of the ladder and gently lifted the star out. It glittered and sparkled, drawing all eyes in the room to it. Even Sesshoumaru turned to regard it. A second later, however, his eyes were drawn to the girl holding the star. Hm…
"I really do hope my mother will be happy," Clara said as she carefully placed it on top of the tree.
"I think she will, Clara-san!" Rin said happily.
Clara smiled at the little girl as she began to descend the ladder. "I think she will, too—oh!" Clara's eyes widened in surprise as her foot slipped. She lost her grip on the ladder and fell to the floor!
Of all the times to lose my footing, why now?
My fingers fluttered as I tried to steady my grip on the ladder, all to no avail. I felt myself fall, and heard several voices call out my name. I closed my eyes and prepared myself for a concussion and a head-splitting crash. I did fall. But it wasn't on the floor. I felt my body hit a pair of strong arms and I opened my eyes.
Sesshoumaru was staring down at me with another one of those unreadable looks in his eyes. His arms held me close to him. What was that look in his eyes? Annoyance? Confusion? Intent? I couldn't tell…Annoyance, I think. Of course, I'd been annoyed too if I had to keep on saving a bothersome human all the time. My cheeks burned.
"Thank…thank you," I stammered as he settled me on my feet. It was quiet—a very awkward kind of quiet. "You saved me from a possible concussion," I said, trying to dispel the atmosphere.
"Er…Clara-san?" Rin said a little too innocently. "Sesshoumaru-sama?"
We all looked at her. She grinned and pointed above us. My eyes widened in surprise and shock as I slowly followed her gaze. I inwardly groaned. That mistletoe hanging over us seemed like an omen of death. I could feel my cheeks burning as I very slowly turned my eyes to Sesshoumaru.
He was staring at me with another one of those unreadable looks in his eyes again. I felt my heart hammering in my chest. I had the strangest feeling—it was as if my stomach vanished and the air was sucked out of my lungs.
A second later, everything was black.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
"I think she's just tired."
The voice was very familiar. I just couldn't place it. "After all," the voice went on. "She and Rin had to decorate the whole house by themselves. And Rin has a fever."
"Clara-san did most of the work," Rin's voice admitted guiltily. "This is my fault."
"No, it's not," the voice…Mom's, I realized. "Clara is sometimes prone to fainting spells—she's just too stubborn to admit it. She's just tired, Rin."
"I think she fainted for a different reason," Inuyasha's gruff voice said snidely.
Different reason? Oh! That stupid mistletoe! My eyes fluttered open. I was lying on the couch, several faces—Rin, Kagome, Mom—looking down at me with worry.
"Clara-san!" Rin said, relieved.
I blinked. "What happened?"
Kagome chuckled. "You passed out," she said. "We think it's because you're tired from all the decorating you did." She winked at me and I blushed—we both knew I passed out because of an entirely different reason.
I slowly sat up. "You did very well, by the way," Mom said, smiling at me. "I haven't seen these decorations out since…" Her voice trailed off and she smiled at me. "Thank you."
I smiled as she hugged me. "Wait," I said, pulling away from her. "Where is Sesshoumaru?" Glancing around, I could see both Jaken and Inuyasha in the room, but no demon lord.
"He left," Inuyasha said, shrugging. "About time, too."
I stared at him. "Left?" I croaked. "What do you mean left?"
"He went back to the Feudal Era." Inuyasha said, shrugging. "He just mentioned Naraku and told Jaken to stay with you two."
I frowned, feeling a heavy sense of disappointment falling on me. I really did want to see what Christmas would be like with Sesshoumaru around…
Mom suddenly cleared her throat. "If you're done mourning Sesshoumaru," she said.
"Who's mourning?" I said, blushing.
"I have something for you," she said. She pulled a shopping bag from somewhere beside the couch and handed it to me.
I stared at it and laughed. "It's still the twenty-first," I pointed out. I made a mental note to make a list of gifts that I would have to buy.
She chuckled. "This isn't my Christmas gift to you," she said.
Curious, I took the bag. My eyebrows shot up in surprise when I pulled out a roll of red silk. I unrolled it. It was a strapless dress that would reach just above my knees. I wasn't much of a dress person—I was more into jeans and sweaters. I could easily recall the handful of times that I'd worn a dress—since birth.
"I thought you could wear it on the twenty-fourth," she said. "At midnight." Every twenty-fourth, at midnight, we always greeted the twenty-fifth with a display of fireworks. Usually, it was my dad and several of his employees who lit up the skies with fireworks (though, how they managed that without the police complaining, I will never know). But since Dad died, well…
I stared at the dress and at my mother. It was hard to imagine her and fireworks—they just don't go together. "Thanks," I said at last.
"I know you're not much of a dress person," Mom said.
"I think you'll look very pretty in it, Clara-san!" Rin said.
"I think so too," Kagome said. "That dress is very cute. You'll look very pretty in it!"
I inwardly sighed. Oh yes—I'll look pretty because of a dress. That said a lot. I quickly pushed the thought aside and regarded it. I had another Eureka! moment.
"Kagome, is your mom planning anything on Christmas Eve?" I asked.
Kagome frowned. "I'm not quite sure," she said. "I don't think so—we usually celebrate on the twenty-fifth. Why?"
I grinned. "Would it be alright if you and Inuyasha come on Christmas Eve?" I asked.
She nodded. "We'd love to!"
"What?" Inuyasha protested. "Kagome…we've wasted so much time on—!"
"Sit, boy." A loud thud. Kagome smiled. "Of course we'll come."
"But," I went on. "You have to wear a dress, too—I have no plans of suffering alone."
"What?" Kagome said, blinking. "But—"
I smiled sweetly. "Thank you, Kagome!"
Still no sign of Naraku.
Standing atop a cliff, I could make out the vast expanse of snow-covered valley beneath me. The snow seemed to gleam in the dark of night as it continued to fall. A cold breeze rushed past me and I frowned.
I left the Modern Era and returned here to search for Naraku—no need for me to waste my time there. I frowned. I had been pondering Hakudoshi's clue of Naraku's whereabouts, and it still made no sense.
"Naraku is not a being of this world anymore—he's not dead, though, so don't get your hopes up. I will tell you this much—he's right underneath your very noses."
My frown deepened. Such a cryptic remark. It had been three days since I'd left Clara's world to search for Naraku, and to think that I had found nothing in that span of time was most infuriating. However, Naraku was not the only reason I had chosen to leave.
I thought back to the incident three days ago. Clara was about to fall from that contraption, and I had no choice but to catch her…despite the fact that Inuyasha was much closer. In truth, I had seen Inuyasha make a move toward her, but, strangely, I could not allow him—him, of all people—to save her.
I had set her down and, afterwards, Rin was most kind to point out the presence of a mistletoe above us (what a foolish plant). In that instant, as I'd looked at the girl, I'd felt something I had no reason to feel in all my existence—desire. If Clara had not passed out, I would have…
I let the thought trail off. How very unlike me not to finish a thought.
I glanced up at the sky, at the falling snow. Truth be told, I felt a desire to return to the Modern Era. And this desire disturbed me—it was because of her that I wished to return, and this bothered me. And yet, I felt pleased at this desire to see her again. Pleased yet disturbed.
As I turned to go, a single thought occurred to me—these emotions could try, but I was not going giving in without a fight.
"There!" I said as I tied the ribbon behind Rin's back. As she turned and flashed me a grin, I smiled. Inwardly, I sighed. Christmas Eve had finally come and Sesshoumaru had not returned. I tried to fight down the disappointment with little success.
Rin turned around to look at herself in my mirror. She was wearing a red dress that matched mine, except that hers had sleeves. Her hair was done up in a French bun, courtesy of Kagome. In addition, I'd leant her my pearl necklace (which I've never worn before).
"You look very pretty, Rin," I commented, placing both hands on her shoulders as I stood behind her. I looked at her reflection and grinned.
"So do you, Clara-san!" she said.
I frowned. I was wearing the dress, a pair of earrings and my locket. I'd left my hair hanging lose—it had grown and was now down to my waist. "I don't think so!" I said, laughing. "It really doesn't matter if I'm pretty or not. This isn't a party."
"I'm sure Lord Sesshoumru will think you look pretty!" she commented.
I blushed. It was Christmas Eve already, but Sesshoumaru wasn't here yet. I mean, he really didn't have any reason to be, anyway. I pushed the feeling of disappointment aside.
"Stop joking, Rin!" I said, laughing to cover up the feeling of disappointment.
"I'm not joking," the little girl said as I moved towards my desk. "I think he likes you, Clara-san!"
The blush deepened and I felt butterflies in my stomach. "Now that—"
"I really do think so!" Rin interrupted. "Sometimes, I can see him looking at you, Clara-san! I really think Lord Sesshoumaru likes you, but just doesn't want to tell you."
I sighed. "Rin…"
"I think she's right, you know," a voice at the door said.
I turned. Kagome was standing at the doorframe, arms folded, and a grin on her face. She looked very pretty in a blue dress with her hair hanging around her shoulders. She walked into the room and frowned at me. "Clara…"
"Enough with Sesshoumaru already!" I huffed. "Can we focus on the event at hand?" I raised an eyebrow at them.
"I wasn't going to say anything about Sesshoumaru," Kagome said. She looked at me closely. "Clara…you're Mom looks very pretty, you know."
I sighed. "I know that. She was a model, after all." Still looks like one, too. That didn't do anything to boost my morale, though.
"And she's wearing—"
"I will NOT wear makeup," I said, getting her hint. I hated the stuff.
"What's makeup?" Rin asked. "Make up…like an apology?"
"No, Rin, it's something that makes you look prettier. Like rouge and rice powder," Kagome explained. Rin's eyes widened and she grinned at me.
"There's no need," I said, taking a step back as Kagome and Rin took several steps towards me. Was it just me, or did those two have somewhat devilish grins on their faces?
"Honestly, stay away," I said, taking another step back. "I like to look natural, thanks."
"I just want to see what you would look like, that's all," Kagome said as she reached out her arms.
"Hey!" I snapped. "Stop, what're you—nooo!"
. . . . . . . . . . .
"Aw, c'mon, Clara-san…you look very pretty!" Rin said, tugging on my hand as she and Kagome led me down the hall towards the dining room.
I huffed again. I don't know what exactly they—mostly Kagome—did to me. Kagome had curled my hair and tied it back to a half up do. I didn't know what she did to my face. I didn't bother looking in the mirror—I was afraid of what I would find.
"You insolent half-breed! Didn't you hear Lady Rose say that we should wait for the others?" we heard Jaken screech as we neared the dining room. A second later, there was a loud knock as Inuyasha's fist supposedly made contact with Jaken's head.
"What's going on in there?" Kaogme muttered as she pushed the double doors opened.
I blinked. The table was covered with heaps of food. There were strawberry cakes, tarts, cheeses—and in the middle of it all was a giant turkey stuffed with partridges. A cheerful fire was burning in the fireplace, basking the room in a warm golden glow.
Inuyasha and Jaken were standing in front of the table. They both wore their normal attire, after they adamantly refused to wear anything that made them look like idiots. Jaken was rubbing a spot on his head and glaring at Inuyasha, whose fingers were pink with frosting. "You dishonorable half-breed!" Jaken screeched. "No wonder you cannot compare to Lord Sesshoumaru! You are—!"
"Oh give it a rest!" Inuyasha snapped, raising his fist.
"Inuyasha, sit!" Kagome's voice cut through the air, sending the hanyou falling to the ground.
"Serves you right!" Jaken crowed.
"My, my," another voice said. We turned to the door that led to the kitchen. Mother was standing there, smiling at the scene in front of her. Kagome was right—she did look beautiful in a satin beige dress. "You all sound so noisy—I'm sure it's a sign that you're hungry."
"Mom, you made all this?" I asked as we approached the table.
She shrugged. "It all looks so good!" Rin commented, her eyes zeroing in on the sweets.
Mom laughed. "Well, why don't we sit down?" she said, sitting at the head of the table. "It's still nine—we can open the presents after we eat."
"Presents?" Rin asked, tilting her head. "Really?"
I laughed. "I forgot to mention that part."
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
It took a long while for everyone to finish eating. This was due to the fact that Inuyasha, Rin and Jaken took time to eat. Inuyasha, who never refused food, would've finished ahead of everyone else, if it weren't for the fact that, the moment his plate was spotless, he grabbed another dish and began a whole new cycle of chewing and swallowing.
Rin, however, would take a bite of something. Her eyes would light up and she would chew it slowly, savoring the bite before she took another bite. She was most particularly fond of the chocolate tarts and strawberry sponge cake. Jaken was an entirely different matter. At first, he refused to touch anything, saying that proper demons—this was said while glaring pointedly at Inuyasha—did not eat human food. At my mother's prompting however, he took a bite and, like Inuyasha, kept reaching for dish after dish.
Truth be told, I didn't enjoy the dinner as much as I thought I would. I knew that it was inappropriate, but I just couldn't stop thinking…What would it be like if he was here? But the moment I thought of those questions, I immediately pushed them aside. I wouldn't let my disappointment ruin the night.
Afterwards, we proceeded to the living room. Rin was surprised to see gaily wrapped boxes underneath the tree. During the time Rin was convalescing from her fever, I'd asked Mom to stop by the mall for me. I knelt beside the tree, with Rin sitting on the floor beside me while everyone else lounged on chairs—with the exception of Inuyasha and Jaken, both of whom were standing up and folding their arms (they had the same pouting facial expression, too. This was saying something).
I reached for a red box tied with a gold bow. "Rin, would you like to read what's on the card?" I asked, handing it to her.
She nodded eagerly as she took the box from me. "This one is for Inuyasha-sama, and it's from…Kagome-san!" she announced.
"What?" the hanyou asked. Both he and Kagome blushed. He blinked as I tossed the package at him and he caught it. Regarding it suspiciously, he shook the box. "What's in it?" he asked Kagome.
"How will you know if you don't open it?" Kagome wondered aloud.
"Feh!" the hanyou said. With a flick of his sharp claw, he sliced the ribbon. He took off the lid and looked into the box, blinking in surprise.
"What's in it?" Rin asked.
Inuyasha pulled out a green scarf. "I made it myself," Kagome said, grinning at him.
The hanyou frowned. "What do I need a woolly piece of cloth for?" he asked.
A vein twitched in Kagome's temple as we all sighed at Inuyasha's tactlessness. Realizing his mistake, Inuyasha quickly turned to Kagome, but the miko was already glaring at him with fire in her eyes.
We laughed as he plummeted to the ground, the scarf falling on him. Once the laughter died down, I handed Rin another package. "This one is for…Kagome-san!" she announced. "From Clara-san."
Kagome stared at me in surprise. "You didn't have to get anything for me!" she said as she took the blue package. She suddenly blushed. "I wasn't able to get anything for you!"
I shrugged. "Never mind," I said. "Just open it."
She hesitantly opened the box and peered inside. "Oh!" she said. She pulled out a digital camera. "Clara! This is too much! I can't accept it!"
"Just accept it," I said, grinning at her. "Didn't Inuyasha ruin your old digi?"
"Well…yeah." She glared at the hanyou who shrank away from her. "But…this is…this has got to be expensive!"
"It's better to give than to receive," I said solemnly.
She rolled her eyes. I handed Rin another package. "This is for…Jaken-sama, and it's from Clara-san!"
Jaken's eyes bulged as he clumsily caught the package I tossed him. It nearly slipped through his fingers. He glared at me. "I don't accept gifts from humans!" he huffed. He glared at the green colored package. "Especially gifts such as these!"
"Earth to Jaken," I pointed out. "You just sort of accepted it already."
He huffed. "Just open it," I prodded. "I promise it won't degrade your demonic reputation."
He glared at the package before muttering something about sentimental humans. He tore the ribbon and opened the box, peering inside with evident curiosity.
"What're these?" he muttered, pulling out another box. The box was square and nestled in it were pieces of round chocolate wrapped in gold foil.
"It's chocolate! Fererro Rocher's," I said. "I didn't know what to get you, and since you seem to like the food here"—he glared at me—"I thought I'd give you this. Go on—eat one."
Still glaring at me, he opened the box and took out a foil wrapped piece. "You have to unwrap it first," I said. Muttering something about the unnecessary things humans did, he unwrapped the piece. He eyed it suspiciously before popping it into his mouth.
Jaken chewed…and chewed. As he did, the sour expression in his face seemed to melt away. His eyes took on a mellow look, and the edges of his mouth curled upward into an unmistakable smile. "This…this is…" To our surprise, he clapped his hands together. "Where has this been all my life?" the toad squawked.
We all sweat-dropped. I plucked a box wrapped in pink and tied with a white ribbon and handed it to Rin, grinning at her. "This one," Rin said, reading. "This one is for me?" Her chocolate eyes were wide with surprise.
I nodded. "You didn't think I'd forget you of all people, did you?"
Before I could blink, she suddenly threw herself at me, her arms around my neck. "Thank you, Clara-san!" she said happily.
I laughed. "Don't thank me until you've opened it," I said.
Rin carefully tore open the box, not wanting to damage the ribbon. Her eyes widened in surprise. She carefully took out a doll. It had long dark hair and green eyes. It wore a pink satin dress with a necklace around its neck.
"It's so pretty!" Rin cried out. She turned to me and grinned. "Thank you Clara-san!" She hugged it.
I laughed handed Rin another box. It was a package wrapped in gold and tied with a silver ribbon. "This one is for…Lady Rose!" Rin announced.
Mom blinked before reaching out a hand for the gift. She looked down at it. "I don't remember buying anything for myself," she said.
"It didn't have to be bought," I said.
She slowly undid the ribbon, a small smile on her face, a curious look in her eyes. She opened the box and peered inside. She blinked as she carefully pulled out a handcrafted bracelet. I'd used three things for the charms—an old earring that we'd both picked out and forgotten, a small glass flower that we both bought because it looked pretty (we forgot that it existed, too). The last thing was the most special.
When my dad was alive, he used to place his keys on a keychain that had a small silver dog. When my Mom decided to throw away dad's things when he died, I'd managed to salvage this one. And now, its silver dog hung on my mother's bracelet.
She raised it to her eyes and stared thoughtfully at it. We both knew what it meant—the first two charms represented the times we'd lost when my father died. The last charm represented my father himself. I knew that my mother sometimes tried to forget about my father, so she wouldn't have to feel the pain…but…
She lowered the bracelet and looked at me. I was still. "Thank you, Clara," she said quietly. To my surprise, she opened her arms to me.
I smiled and wasted no time in standing up and hugging her. I felt her arms close in around me and I closed my eyes. It had been years since I'd been able to give my mother a hug like this…
I pulled away from her and knelt back on the floor. "I almost forgot," she said. From somewhere beside her, she pulled out a flat package wrapped in brown paper. She handed it to me. It was flat, and somewhat rectangular. A book?
I looked up at her, curious. "Open it," Mom prompted.
Carefully, I tore the brown paper away. It was a leather-bound notebook, somewhat old, the edges of the pages somewhat yellowed. I opened the notebook. It was filled with familiar lines and symbols—sheet music. It was a notebook of sheet music. The title of the first piece was 'Beginning', and it was written in an all too familiar hand.
"What is it, Clara-san?" Rin asked, seeing my surprised expression.
I couldn't answer her. I looked up at mother. "This…this is dad's?" I choked.
She nodded. "When we married, he gave it to me as a wedding gift," she explained. "He had written all of the scores there for me and me alone. But…that changed during page thirty."
I tilted my head. "Page thirty?" I quickly turned to the page and gaped. The title of the piece was 'Clara'.
Mom sighed. "Truth be told, he was the one who chose your name, not me," she said. "I wanted something with more strength to it, but he wouldn't budge. Besides, I think your name suits you perfectly."
I stared at the piece. I felt a burning desire to run to my piano and play this piece. I looked up and smiled. "Thank you, mom."
"So!" Mom said, standing up. "Why don't we all go to the second floor balcony? There's another surprise."
"What surprise?" Rin asked eagerly.
"Oh, you'll see," Mom said as she waltzed out the door. "Clara, I know what you're thinking—you have thirty minutes."
I smiled at her. "Thirty minutes for what?" Kagome asked as she stood up.
Staring at the piece in my hand, I grinned. "I'll catch up with you guys," I said. "Can you please make sure Jaken doesn't do anything stupid?"
I slid the glass window open and stepped inside. Glancing around, I found myself in the same room where Clara's piano was. I stared at the instrument. For an instant, I wanted to hear her play. I inwardly scoffed and pushed the thought aside.
This was getting out of hand. These emotions were highly inappropriate, and yet they could not be helped. These emotions were annoyingly compelling, and this was most distracting.
I looked up. From beyond the door, I could hear a light and familiar tread headed towards the room. I was well acquainted with the scent that accompanied it.
A second later, the door swung open and Clara walked in. She was holding a book in her hand, and she failed to notice my presence. I stared at her. She wore a dress that bared her shoulders and reached just above her knees and her hair fell to her bare shoulders in loose curls.
She suddenly looked up at me, surprised. I, too, was inwardly surprised. Her lashes seemed thicker, darker.
"Sesshoumaru?" she said, her sapphire eyes wide.
For a moment, neither of us spoke—and then she smiled. "Hey," she said. She came closer, not to me but to her piano. "I thought you were still looking for Naraku."
I moved so I stood in front of her. "I grew bored of hunting him," I answered. I looked down at her, and this time, she did not pull her eyes away, like she normally did.
"Well…" she said slowly, as though thinking of what to say. "At least you're back…" She blushed and turned to the piano. Hn…was this girl glad that I had returned? One could not tell. To my knowledge, when a woman secretly favored a man, she would beguile him with her eyes and her flirtatious charm. This girl, however, often averted her gaze when her eyes met mine—did she harbor a profound dislike for me? Not that I was supposed to care.
Clara sat down on the piano and opened the book she was reading. I stood behind her to see what she was so absorbed in. I raised an eyebrow. The book she was reading was filled with lines and queer symbols that made no sense.
"You should have been here earlier, though," Clara went on, still not looking at me. "Inuyasha and Jaken ate so much! I think it was enough to feed a platoon of ravenous warriors. And then Inuyasha was tactless about Kagome's gift, and I think you know what happens when Kagome gets annoyed at him."
Indeed, I knew. Secretly, I found Inuyasha's subjugation to be highly amusing. "Gift?" I asked.
She looked up at me and nodded. "We gave each other gifts," she said simply. "Well…I did most of the giving, anyway." She turned her attention away from me and back to the book. For several moments, she was completely absorbed in it, her eyebrows furrowed. "This is somewhat difficult," she muttered to herself.
"This is a book of compilations my father composed for my mother," she explained.
She nodded. "When he learned that my mother was pregnant with me, he composed a piece for me," she said. The color of her eyes became a dull, dreary blue. "That was before he passed away, though." She paused, frowning intently at the book. "I want to play it…but this piece looks a little too complex to play directly without practice."
She looked up at me, surprised. "Play it?" Clara shook her head. "As much as I want to, it's a piece I have to practice first. If I let you hear me play it now, you might think I was the worst pianist in the world."
I held her gaze and a light tinge of red graced her cheeks. "Then play anything."
She looked away from me, her gaze resting on the keys. "Maybe later," she said, sighing. "Everyone's on the balcony, waiting for something to happen. I have a feeling it's fireworks. Do you want to come?"
I raised an eyebrow at her. Was she refusing me? "I wish," I said quietly, my eyes boring into hers. "To hear you play."
Clara stared at me, surprised. She turned to the keys, and tilted her head slightly, thinking. "What do you want me to play?" she asked at last.
"Anything will do."
"Hm…" Her fingers hovered above the keys, and she narrowed her eyes slightly, still thinking. Then one hand fell on the keys at one end, a high-pitched melody reverberated through the room. Her other hand hit the keys near the middle. The melody was somewhat haunting, yet there was something to it that seemed to suggest celebration.
My eyes strayed from her hands to her face. Her eyes were intent, her expression calm. For an instant, I desired to place both hands on either side of her face…
I narrowed my eyes and pushed the thought aside. How troublesome.
The music swelled and suddenly stopped. She sighed and looked up at me. "That was Ring Christmas Bells—piano version, of course," she said. She stood up and made her way over to me. "Um…" she said, blushing. She looked down at her feet. "Do you want to…watch the fireworks with us?"
Clara looked hesitantly up at me. Had she failed to notice it, then? She was standing a mere's arm's length away from me. My feet seemed to move of their own volition. I crossed the small space that separated us and looked down at her.
"Clara," I said quietly. "Look up."
"Huh?" Her gaze followed mine upward, to that innocent plant she and Rin had so cheerfully strung across the ceiling several days earlier. A violent blush clouded her cheeks as her gaze slowly met mine. I tried to push away the compelling desire, but these emotions made it impossible.
Ah, well then—to hell with it.
What? What? What?
What was he doing?
Was it just me, or…or…was he…was he leaning in towards me? Was he sick or something? I felt my heart thundering in my chest. I couldn't move—he was getting close…much too close…He tilted his head, and I could feel his warm breath on my lips. Every inch of me felt paralyzed…
A sudden flash of light from the window made us turn our heads. I suddenly forgot about his strange behavior. Outside the window, flashes of bright light lit up the sky with loud bangs. Sparks of different color flashed one after the other as I felt a smile on my face. For a moment, I wondered where the fireworks were coming from, but I pushed the thought aside as I turned back to Sesshoumaru.
"Come with me," I said. On impulse, I grabbed his hand and pulled him with me towards the window. I felt a slight tinge in my cheeks, but at the moment, I didn't care—I only cared about showing him this. I was surprised when he didn't pull his hand away.
I stood with him at the window, and looked at the flashes of light that lit up the sky. A torrent of childhood memories with my mother and father flashed, like the fireworks, through my mind, and I smiled to myself.
Beside me, Sesshoumaru stood looking at the fireworks. His eyes cold eyes took in the brilliant sparks and the luminescent pattern of lights that lit up the sky.
"Hey," I said softly.
He glanced sideways at me. "Merry Christmas," I said simply, smiling at him.
"Hn," was all the reply I would get. He turned his cold eyes back to the fireworks that flashed outside.
My eyes widened in surprise when I felt his hand suddenly close around mine. We didn't say another word as we continued to watch brilliant lights in the sky.
A1969: this was supposed to go up during Christmas, but we left for an out of town holiday, just as I was halfway through it. –Sigh- and we came back a day before class started, too. Bummer. And then the stupid internet connection had to go loco… .
Inuyasha: I am not surprised. Humans in the modern era are too preoccupied—or is that just you?
Kagome: Inuyasha! Don't be mean, it's Christmas.
Inuyasha: that was two weeks ago, Kagome.
A1969: so? I still feel very Christmas-sy, actually. Anyway, consider this oneshot my belated Christmas gift to you guys. Hope you liked it!