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.

This piece was originally written for the 2011 Dokuga Holiday Exchange and posted there on 1/1/2012.

For Jeni, with love.


"Are you sure you can keep up?"

"Yes, Sesshomaru."

"You really shouldn't be going. Annette can care for you while I'm away."

The little girl's cherub face scrunched into a well-practiced pout as her eyes shimmered with the first ambush of tears. Her father figure sighed, loosening his scarlet tie before turning away from her. "I see your acting lessons are proving to be a wise investment." She nodded but he was already busy inspecting the paperwork he was stuffing into the briefcase on the large king size bed.

A middle-aged woman came to the doorway, dressed in a simple powder blue dress with her salt and peppered hair in a sensible bun; she smiled at the two before speaking to the girl. "If you're going to go then I suggest you get your things ready, Rin."

Rin nodded and followed the woman out of the room, leaving him to his thoughts as he tried to assure himself that he had everything required. Sesshomaru was a busy man, always working hard for his law firm. Now he had a chance for a big bonus and a possible promotion. Because of that, they would not be celebrating Christmas together. She would be here in New York and he would be in Japan, dealing with the merger paperwork of two large companies.

It was all rather stupid to her. Who gave up Christmas with their families to spend time doing business?

After a failed attempt at convincing him that he should stay home, Rin decided the best thing was for her to go with him. He tried explaining that this was not a trip for leisure and that he had little time to make this work, but she insisted. Eventually, he even attempted to say that she could not go because he would not purchase her a ticket.

So, she bought her own.

Served him right for giving her a credit card, anyway! Rin had saved her allowance and had enough to buy her ticket. Of course, she wasn't flying first-class like him but he didn't seem to care much. Once he found out that she had purchased her own ticket, he essentially caved and let her do as she pleased. She was nearing ten and was far too intelligent for her own good, if she wanted to go to Japan who was he to stop her?

This was how Sesshomaru always treated things. It wasn't that he was cold towards Rin, but that he took failure rather hard. He was unable to admit when he was wrong and therefore admitted nothing. Instead of admitting that he knew nothing about how to raise children, he hired Annette. Instead of admitting that he was terrified to have the responsibility of parenthood, he chose not to take the role of parent. Instead of admitting that he was lonely and far too old to be a bachelor, he chose to bury himself in work in an attempt to find happiness.

Ever since coming to this home Rin had been on a mission to help Sesshomaru find that happiness. He was kind, after all. He always assisted those in need, taking on pro-bono cases frequently and volunteering at a local soup kitchen. He told Rin that his father had taught him to help those less fortunate than him only enough to where they could help themselves. Rin saw helping her fatherly guardian as the same thing.

Sesshomaru was the hopeless beggar and she was the one who knew how to make soup. A match made in heaven! All Rin was waiting for was, as Annette lovingly called it, "the right ingredient". Her nanny explained that not just any ingredients could be thrown together. You had to choose the most compatible ones.

Because she and Sesshomaru were both originally from Japan, Rin saw no better place to find the most compatible ingredient. That was why she had to go.

Therefore, at exactly nine that morning, they said their goodbyes to Annette and left for Japan. Sesshomaru did not give Rin any special treatment. He walked quickly, did not carry her luggage, or help her check in. When she received her ticket the woman at the counter asked if she was traveling alone, to which she shook her head. "Oh no, I'm not alone."

Sesshomaru did not hear this, however, and was already in line for what he was certain would be his thirtieth pat-down that year. By the time he was finished having his things checked, he caught sight of Rin as she made her way down the terminal towards the gate. It was then that he noticed their flight was late and boarding at a different gate.

When Sesshomaru arrived at the gate, Rin was nowhere in sight and passengers were boarding. He stepped over to the check-in desk. "Excuse me, is this the right flight?" He handed the young woman his ticket and she looked at it before nodding.

"Yes, sorry about the mix-up. We were supposed to board at another gate, but there was a delay on another flight at that gate. Please forgive us for the inconvenience."

Sesshomaru nodded and looked around again before a slight frown creased his brow. "What is your procedure with children who travel alone?"

The young woman seemed confused but smiled. "Children are handled very carefully and are put on the flight before the other passengers, along with those who need special assistance. Is there anything else I can help you with, sir?"

"No, thank you." Sesshomaru took another look around before deciding Rin must have boarded before him.

This was how, on December twenty-fourth, Sesshomaru and Rin became separated for the first time in nearly four years. As he settled into his comfortable seat and enjoyed a drink before take-off, his adoptive daughter was trying her best to keep calm as she stood, lost in JFK International Airport. Eventually, she figured out that she had missed her flight. Instead of frantically running about or screaming for help, Rin opted for sitting by a window and silently crying as she watched planes leave and return, not entirely certain what she would do now.

It wasn't that she was scared. She could always call Annette and go home easily. The problem was…

"Are you okay?"

Rin's thoughts were interrupted by a kind voice and she turned to see a pretty young stewardess standing there in a smart pencil skirt and buttoned up jacket of crisp black. Her stiff white collar peeked out beneath a green scarf tied in a bow at her neck. The girl looked over the young woman carefully, noting how she looked very much like all the other Japanese stewardesses, hair done in a tight bun at the nape of her neck, bangs sharply parted to one side, a delicate shade of glossy pink lipstick on her thin smile, and a shiny brass name tag which read "Kagome" in both English and Japanese.

The young girl's brown eyes narrowed and she looked up into Kagome's concerned gaze, only for her breath to catch as she was met with deep sapphires. The gears in Rin's mind moved quickly as she decided to put this pretty girl to the test. "I'm sorry; I seem to have missed my flight." She said, in fluent Japanese, not wanting to let on that she was quite capable of speaking in English and therefore not entirely helpless. Just to be more convincing, Rin gave a quick bow and turned on the waterworks, letting a few tears drop out as her lip began to quiver on command. When she looked up at Kagome, she saw the stewardess' heart reach out to her and knew she had her in the palm of her hand.

Kagome knelt down and reached out to take Rin's boarding pass, a furrow coming to her brow as she checked it over. "I see; this is the flight that just left. Were you traveling alone?"

Rin nodded, adding a little shiver to make her "fear" all the more convincing. Kagome took a deep breath and stood, reaching over to grasp her rolling suitcase and turning to Rin.

"Come along, follow me." Kagome led Rin to the ticket counter at the gate where she showed the woman there the boarding pass. They spoke at length before Kagome turned back to Rin with a sigh. "It looks like there are no flights leaving tonight. Our only other plane had technical problems. Is there anyone we can call to come pick you up?"

The child nodded and suddenly took Kagome's hand. She got a good feeling from this stewardess and she didn't want to let her go if there was a chance she might be that perfect ingredient. Rin knew she would have to stick to Kagome like glue until she knew for sure. The best way to assure that would be to get Annette's help.

Rin drug a slightly confused Kagome back over to where her luggage was and pulled out a cellular phone, flipping it open and speed dialing Annette. She handed Kagome the phone expectantly and the young stewardess took it with a confused expression before speaking to the woman on the other end. Luckily, Annette was just as tricky as Rin and caught on quickly.

"Yes, ma'am, I'll stay with her until you come to pick her up. Of course, that's no problem. We'll meet you out front." Kagome hung up the phone, not giving it back to Rin as she turned to the girl and let out a heavy breath. "Looks like we have some time to kill. She said it will be an hour at least. Are you hungry?"

The girl was so excited she completely forgot that she wasn't supposed to understand English and nodded. Kagome smiled and led the way, making sure Rin followed. As they ate, Rin opened up to Kagome and asked her many questions. What was her favorite color? What sort of thing did she hate the most? Eventually, Annette arrived and just when Kagome thought she was done with the precocious girl, the child latched onto the stewardess's arm and refused to let go.

Annette simply smiled and asked if Kagome would care to join them for dinner.

Hours went by and Kagome felt like she was on a job interview. Rin's questioning never seemed to end and her questions became so elaborate that Kagome often wondered if she was being asked something entirely different from the question at hand.

By eleven that evening, Rin was sound asleep on the couch while a fire roared. Kagome stared down at the girl in her lap with a sigh. She really shouldn't be here. She was supposed to meet her on-again-off-again boyfriend for a date tonight - a date she already missed. Not that she was all that interested in going. She knew he only asked her because he had no one else.

Besides, spending Christmas Eve in a high-rise apartment while snow fell outside was not too terrible. She only wished she could get out of her uniform!

There was also the matter of Rin. After the girl fell asleep, Annette explained that the child was rather lonely and her father was away on business often. Kagome felt sorry for her. It had to be sad to spend Christmas alone.

A yawn escaped her as she began to doze off. Right as she was about to fall asleep, an amusing vision of her boyfriend's disgruntled expression at her standing him up floating in her head, the front door slammed open and a deep voice began to bellow around the room.

"Rin? Annette? Rin, are you home?"

Kagome jumped and looked over at the tall man as he rushed into the living room. Her eyes widened and she reached up to gesture that he should be quiet. "Shh… she's sleeping!"

Sesshomaru slid to a halt beside the couch and stared down at the two girls, his eyes sliding closed as he let out a shuddering breath. He braced himself against the couch with both hands, taking slow breaths as he tried to calm himself. After ten minutes he finally opened his eyes to look at Kagome. Their gazes locked and she blushed, turning away to look at the fire that was beginning to die down. "What are you doing here?"

She winced at how his voice came out grated and harsh. Kagome wasn't sure if he meant it that way or not, but she knew that he had a right to be upset with her. It was his half-brother she stood up today and many years ago it had been him.

Kagome met him when she was barely a teenager, by way of InuYasha, his younger sibling and her classmate. At that first meeting she had felt something, but always brushed it off as a schoolgirl crush. Sesshomaru was older, much older, than they were and was in his final year of college. She hadn't even decided what she wanted to do with her life. She was always a free spirit, never able to stay in one place for long. He was the complete opposite, always content to settle in one spot for hours on end. Sure, they were polite to one another, always maintaining a respectable distance and never doing anything alone, but they weren't exactly friends. There wasn't any hope for them.

InuYasha asked her to be his girlfriend and she agreed, enjoying his company well enough. Truth was, she wasn't all that surprised when he asked someone else out to the party of their final year. The most popular girl in school was hosting it at her family's vacation home. That girl was the one InuYasha went with - Kikyo. Sure, Kagome was upset, but not that shocked.

What shocked her was how she received a similar invitation for her winter break that year. Instead of going to the party, Sesshomaru invited her to a ski resort - some sort of business event for the firm he had just signed up with. Kagome was unsure how to take it. It felt like he was feeling sorry for her and while she was grateful for his consideration she didn't want his pity.

Luckily, Koga - another boy she knew at school - invited her to Kikyo's party instead. It had ended horribly.

That weekend Kagome lost the fragile relationship she had with Sesshomaru as he began to ignore her. She later heard how he had lost his best friend, a fellow lawyer, in an automobile accident and had been granted custody of the young couple's daughter. When Kagome sent flowers and a note saying that if he needed her she would be happy to help - he sent them back.

Kagome's eyes closed tight as Sesshomaru drew her back to the present once more. "I asked you why you are here."

"I know. I'm sorry. I found Rin at the airport and she insisted I come home with her. I didn't know she was your daughter. I'll just be going home now." Kagome's voice broke on the last sentence as her heart ripped open with fresh wounds. She had thought she was over her crush, but she was finding it hard to convince herself after seeing him again. Gathering her things, she brushed past him as she practically ran for the door, knowing that if she could just make it outside she would be free again. Free to heal. Free to let go. Free to forget.

He watched her go, his gaze tracking her with the intensity of a skilled hunter. Watching Kagome was easy enough; he had watched her blossom from an awkward young girl to a beautiful woman. It didn't take that long for him to know that she was the one for him. He knew instantly. The moment he saw her, he knew she was his.

There were just two problems: she was significantly younger and his idiot half-brother seemed to have the idea that it was acceptable to date her. Unfortunately, because of the first problem Sesshomaru was left with little option but to stand by and watch.

Oh, he tried to pretend it didn't bother him. He did his best to distance himself from the alluring girl. Every time she came over in her sinfully short skirts he had to leave the room just to keep himself from acting too quickly. He watched her as she flitted from place to place, never able to sit still and never able to fit in. He knew eventually he would ensnare her; his timing just had to be right. If Sesshomaru was known for anything, it was for his ability to wait.

Wait he did, until she outright rejected him and left him alone.

That day had been the worst of his life. Sesshomaru arrived to the ski lodge in a sour mood, aggravated that she had practically ignored his invitation, only to learn that his best friend from college and his young wife had been in an accident. Hours later he was a father. To top it off, Kagome - the same woman who had rejected his invitation - sent him flowers.

Sesshomaru decided that Kagome was obviously not seeking a relationship with him and returned her flowers, hoping to remove her from his life just as easily. He had too many other problems now. He didn't have time to wonder if she was interested in him or not.

Yet here she was in his life again, running away once more.

Was he going to let her walk away this time? Watching her retreat and feeling the knots form in his stomach, he knew he couldn't let this opportunity go. He marched up behind her, determined to have answers.

As she opened the door, his arm rushed past her and shoved it closed. Kagome shivered and stared at the door with wide eyes, afraid to turn around. What could he possibly want now? Wasn't she doing what he wanted?

"All those years ago, why did you not go?"

Kagome stiffened. Did he honestly not know? "I didn't want to go with you simply because you felt sorry for me, Sesshomaru." Silence hung in the air for a few lengthy minutes before he spun her around. She let out a squeak.

A squeak he quickly silenced. Her eyes widened as he closed in on her, pressing his lips to hers firmly. They were cold from the winter snow outside, and yet warmth seeped through her as his arms wrapped around her and pulled her limp body against his.

Her hands trembled as she reached up to brace herself against him, gripping into his coat firmly. She pulled away from the kiss, feeling breathless and bewildered. "Sesshomaru? What…"

His brow furrowed slightly and he silenced her once more with another lengthy kiss. Once he broke their contact he finally spoke. "I wanted you to go. I needed you to be there for me at that time. Instead of being by my side when I needed you most, you sent flowers." He pulled her closer, resting her head against his chest as he held her tightly. It was as if he thought she would fly away. "Why did you abandon me? Do you know how hard it was to wait for you? I waited until it was appropriate, and the moment I approached you all I was left with was your condolences. Even now you seem unable to leave me be. You have left me with no choice."

Kagome's mind was still trying to catch up to everything he had said so far. All she could utter was: "What?"

Sesshomaru's grip on her tightened as he spoke softly, clearly feeling worried. What was he worried for? "Now that you are here, I will have to never let you go again."

Her heart felt like it was going to burst. Sesshomaru wanted her? She licked her lips and looked up at him, a small smile on her face as she pushed herself up on her toes to kiss him.

"Yes!"

Sesshomaru and Kagome turned to look at Rin who was sitting up, grinning from ear to ear as she watched them. It was then that Kagome let out a startled sound and looked at her watch.

"It's Christmas!" She looked around, spotting the large and heavily decorated tree in the corner only to frown. "There are no presents?"

Rin went over to Kagome and took her hand. "It's okay, Santa brought me what I asked for this year."

Kagome looked down at the girl, raising her eyebrow in confusion. "What did you ask for?"

The girl gave a yawn as she hugged the stewardess before shuffling off to bed. "The perfect ingredient."

~*FIN*~

.:||:.

" I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love. " - Mother Teresa