Obligatory Disclaimer: I clearly do not own any of the characters within (even those who may or may not be originals), any of the settings, concepts, or other potentially copy-written works within this piece. I am merely a vessel; A messenger who conveys a story, nothing more, nothing less.
Kagome stared down at her hands, grumbling to herself as she tried once more to climb the gigantic tree next to her house. It was, of course, impossible for a girl of her size and without any assistance. Still, every day she tried at least once, and during holiday breaks she would try several times. Her hands were rough, arms scratched and bleeding lightly in some points.
Gripping the bark of the sacred tree, Kagome brought her legs up and tried to pull herself up the massive trunk once more. Of course, like every other time, she failed after a few inches and slid down, tearing at her delicate flesh once more. When she hit the ground, her hands came up to cup her face as she tried to fight down the growing sense of desperation in her – she was running out of time.
"What are you doing?"
Her heart skipped a beat and she stiffened, turning with wide eyes to see the last person she had ever wanted to see her in such a position. There he stood, hair shining in the sunlight, with his usual expressionless mask in place as he stared at her with eyes that only gave a hint at his confusion. Kagome's lower lip began to tremble and she shook her head, laughing brokenly.
"Just being stupid…" Her voice trailed off as a nervous lump formed in her throat. Her mind was racing. Did he really not remember? Had she been trying so hard all these years for nothing?
Sesshomaru was quiet for a while, before shifting his books and stepping over to offer a hand out. Her eyes widened and a faint blush came to her cheeks as she took his hand, her insides feeling giddy and excited as he pulled her up. Their eyes met and she felt as if she might explode in that moment, looking away from him. He turned her hand over in his, running his fingers against her palm as his brow furrowed slightly in thought.
Kagome inhaled sharply and looked at him, a confused and worried look on her face. He had never touched her that much in their entire time of knowing one another – which for her… was all her existence. Sesshomaru was the eldest son of her father's best friend and the elder brother of her best friend, InuYasha. He had been a permanent fixture in her life since before she could remember.
According to her mother, Sesshomaru was not always so empty. When Kagome was just a newborn baby, he would come by and show her all the things he had studied that day. Her mother said that sometimes he seemed more excited at Kagome's presence than anyone. He had never made many friends easily, being different from others and having a privileged life. Kagome's mother explained that, most likely, Sesshomaru saw how easily Kagome accepted him in her innocent state.
Shortly after Kagome was born, InuYasha took his first breath and Sesshomaru's mother left the family home without a word. Afterwards, he was cold and untrusting – particularly of females. From that moment on, Kagome would never be able to reach him. He would still come by, assisting at the family shrine was part of his chores for his allowance, but he would rarely say two words to the girl he once adored.
This would have been fine, if not for one major problem.
Kagome fell in love with Sesshomaru.
From an early age, she knew she would marry him some day. All of her fantasies involved older, pale haired, amber eyed men who would not whisk her away in a blaze of heroic rescue – but would expect her to stand on her own two feet and only save her when it was absolutely necessary.
That was why, when she was five she went to him, full of all the certainties of a childish mind that believes it knows what is best, and asked him if he would marry her. Sesshomaru had stared at her for a good ten minutes before finally speaking. He pointed to the Goshinboku with a sly smirk.
"I'll marry you when you can climb to the top of that tree."
So here she was, ten years later, still trying to climb this stupid tree. If she could not accomplish her goal by the end of the next week – all would be lost. Sesshomaru was going to college. It was unlikely that he would come back single. Most likely, he would go off and find himself a beautiful and intelligent woman… and Kagome would be forgotten.
Part of her knew it was ridiculous to expect him to agree to marry her simply because she could climb a tree. She had only been five when he challenged her, probably expecting that she would never be able to and that eventually, she would forget him. Instead, her heart latched onto those words. They were her final hope.
If she could not reach him now, she would never be able to.
"You shouldn't keep trying to climb this tree. You're just hurting yourself."
Kagome's pulse raced and warmth radiated from her palm, seeping through her spirit and renewing her desire. She looked up at him, eyes clear and certain, and a look of determination on her face. "I have to."
"Hn." Was all he said as he released her hand and turned away, leaving her alone to her task. She realized that he likely did not remember his challenge.
Hours went by as Kagome continued to struggle. Sesshomaru did a fine job of ignoring her and finished his chores, leaving without saying goodbye as the sun began to fade. She did not let his lack of response bother her. That was just how he was these days. There was good in him. She had seen it hundreds of times.
What she had never seen, what she hoped for, was something so rare that her mother said the last one to ever receive one had been Kagome herself. She wanted to see him smile. For him to know that she was serious, that she loved and cherished him and that she did not need him to be her hero – she could be his.
Kagome was determined to pull Sesshomaru from the empty darkness within his heart.
With that determination, she ignored her mother's calls to come in and continued to push herself through the night. Her fingernails were tattered, blood crusting beneath them as she struggled against the tree.
Finally, after what seemed like ages, Kagome found herself sitting and staring at the rooftops of her neighborhood. Her body trembled from exhaustion and shock as a light wind blew through her hair and rustled the leaves around her. She had finally made it.
Tears welled in her eyes as she reached into her pocket and pulled out a small paper lantern and a single match. Her hands shook she carefully unfolded the yellow paper, her handwritten wish boldly declared on it as she lit the small candle at the base. She held the lantern for a few moments, allowing the heat to collect within the cylindrical paper, before releasing it to float into the clear December night.
Kagome watched it as it rose in the sky, hoping that her wish would come true. The soft yellow lantern floated away, mixing with the sparkling stars, and slowly faded as tears blocked her vision and rolled down her face. Now that she was here, at the top of this sacred tree, she had no idea what to do next.
Would Sesshomaru's heart be moved? Would he simply laugh and turn away?
The answer came faster than she expected as said young man raced up the steps of her family shrine, pausing at the top to lean over and inhale sharply. When he looked up at her, their eyes met and she smiled.
He stared at her for some time before going to the base of the tree and giving her a slightly incredulous expression. "How do you intend to get down?"
Kagome sniffed and reached up, wiping at her tears as a small laugh came from her. "I was hoping you would catch me."
Sesshomaru's eyes narrowed slightly. "If I refuse?"
She took a deep breath, giving a half-hearted shrug. "Then I suppose I will stay up here forever." Her heart was unhappy with his responses so far. While his presence was a good sign, she knew better than to think that meant he would accept her. Her mind was already digging her into a deep grave of despair, readying for the moment he would call her a fool and walk away.
The girl flinched and closed her eyes tightly, turning away as her stomach clenched painfully. "I know. I'm stupid. Just go."
"You are stupid. How long do I have to hold my arms open before you will jump?"
Her eyes snapped open and she stared down on him in disbelief before a smile crept onto her face. Without hesitation, she pushed herself from the tree and launched herself into his arms. When they fell to the ground, him giving off a grunt of pain, she looked at him in disbelief.
"How did you know?"
Sesshomaru looked down on her, his own slight disbelief hinting in his expression. "I saw the lantern." She smiled at him and he reached up, wiping the tears from her face. "Why?" It was such a simple question, but with that word he asked so much. Why had she continued to try… why did she even care?
Kagome laughed and threw her arms around him, burying her face in his shoulder. "Because…" Her voice broke as she tried to think of the best way to explain herself. "I love you, Sesshomaru."
Silence filled the yard as they sat together, her clinging to him and him trying to understand her fully. After a few long moments, he finally determined that he had always loved her, too, even if he had been a total failure in showing it. He had been bitter about his mother's choices and had placed the burden of that blame on every female in existence. Most had taken it and done nothing about his grief, not caring enough to express concern. Only one had ever gone through great lengths to try and reach his heart.
Here he was, holding that female in his embrace as she stared at him with a foolish smile. Sweat covered her face, leaves were stuck in her hair, and blood crusted beneath her broken fingernails.
She was gorgeous.
Sesshomaru leaned in, capturing Kagome's lips for the first time, and felt something within him that he had not known in years light up.
Above them, high in the sky, a yellow lantern burned in the starry sky with a simple wish: Sesshomaru's Happiness.
A wish come true.