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 Theia, with love.
It was a small room, nothing fancy or unique. A simple. single bed lay in the corner near a window, a closet on the opposite end of the bed, a small desk to the right of the bed, and a small vanity and dresser against the opposite wall where the door hung open. The room was dark; a thick stream of light came in and illuminated the dust giving a hazy thickness to the tiny space. With the window closed tightly, a heavy wind howling in the mid-day as more ice crystals collected on the pane of glass.
A short, staccato cough filled the room. In the bed lay an old woman, her hair a hearty grey, her face worn and tightened in an expression of pain as she coughed once more. She attempted to sit up, only to pause as a voice filled the room. She looked up with a gentle smile at a young woman coming into the room with a tray of food.
"Now, now, you don't need to be trying to do that! You know the doctor suggested you lay down and stay warm through this storm." The girl said, her blue eyes twinkling as she smiled. The old woman nodded slightly, her eyes closing slowly as she took in a shaky breath. Silence filled the room as the girl watched the older woman with concern. "Why don't you try to eat something?"
The elder nodded, reaching out to take a bowl of broth that the young girl offered. She took a few sips before pausing and giving a wider smile to the girl. "You look so much like me when I was young."
A blush formed on the girl's face, and she reached up to nervously fidget with her thick black hair, assuring it was still up in the ponytail she had it in. "You were much more beautiful. I'll never surpass you."
The old woman laughed and shook her head before settling back and taking another long drink of her soup, looking out the window and watching as the snow fell. "Do you think it will stop soon?"
"They say it will last for a few days."
"I do love the snow."
This time the young girl looked out, giving a smile. "It snowed on that day, too."
"It did." The elder woman's eyes became glassy as she and the girl fell into their own halves of a single memory.
The snow was falling. It was a rather powerful snowstorm and Kagome had no idea what she was going to do. Since her return to the feudal time period she was not exactly enjoying herself as much as she had planned. She and InuYasha had tried desperately to have a relationship and things were going well… until their first intimate night together. Everything suddenly went wrong. It felt so awkward and neither one could get past it. They didn't even finish! In the end, they lay there naked and side by side, laughing and crying at the same time at how weird it all was.
They had decided to just be very good friends. It seemed the sensible step at that point. They both wanted a family and neither one was willing to be with the other and give that up or endure that strangeness simply for the sake of procreation.
Kagome lived alongside him for a while. It hurt when he first started spending time with other women, one in particular caught his eye rather quickly. She was happy for him, even though it was a bittersweet emotion. She was also a little jealous. Her own heart was being rather silly and telling her things that she knew could never be.
He would never want her. It was stupid! Even so, every time she saw him pass by her heart skipped a beat and her breath caught in her throat. The long dormant butterflies in her stomach began to flutter whenever he might look her way and she swore her entire body became red whenever he spoke to her.
Eventually, Kagome could not deny the obvious. She had a crush, a bad crush.
Unfortunately, the one she pined for was so out of her reach, so impossibly unavailable that she knew it would never work. That didn't mean that her feelings weren't becoming obvious to anyone who might observe her.
InuYasha was angry. He demanded answers, explained how her feelings were not going to be returned and how she was a fool for even thinking they might be; eventually, they were yelling. He kicked her out with a sarcastic remark about how her lover might come rescue her.
Of course, he didn't come. He wasn't her lover. He was just someone she knew, they weren't even friends.
Kagome tugged the heavy kimono further around her shoulders as she trudged through the snow, trying to ignore how the cold seeped into her body. Most of the homes had darkened as people fell asleep, the fires within dying down. Her mind wandered as she tried not to cry, but as the snow fell harder she found herself failing.
It wasn't that she was prone to crying or that she was exceptionally weak but InuYasha tossing her out, in the cold no less, simply because of a stupid crush. It hurt to know that he was upset with her but it hurt even more to accept that he was right. She was a silly girl with a dream that could never happen.
She stumbled through the snow, footprints dotting through the pristine white as she made her way to the well out of pure instinct. By now, she was freezing. Her lips were blue, eyes half closed, teeth chattering loudly - that was probably why she didn't notice she was being followed. Not until she fell into the side of the well, bracing herself above it. Not until he spoke.
She gasped and spun around, hair whirling around her as a gust of wind kicked up, blowing snow everywhere. She let out a shriek as her center of balance went off kilter and found herself tumbling into the depths of the well. The last thing she would feel would be the brush of fingertips against her shoe as it slipped off into his grasp, his face hidden from her sight by her own hair. When she came to, she was in the well house of her childhood home.
The snow was falling. An unusually strong snowstorm had hit the area and Mrs. Higurashi was struggling to get things in order, wondering if her daughter might return home or if it was as bad in the feudal time period. Of course, her daughter had not returned for some time. She was now a young woman and it was assumed by all in the family that she and InuYasha would marry and have children soon.
So, it was with great surprise when she turned around the corner and found her own daughter standing there, dressed in a pretty kimono and looking for the world, both curious and lost at once. "Kagome?" The girl turned to her, as if startled, and smiled at her. Mrs. Higurashi returned the smile and shifted the weight of the box in her hands. "Would you like to come in?"
They sat at the table, both staring at their tea and unsure what to say. A howling wind blew outside and a cold seeped into the room as the front door opened and closed. "Mom! I'm home!"
"We're in here, dear!" Mrs. Higurashi called.
As Kagome stumbled in the room, one shoe missing and tears still staining her face, she came face to face with… herself?
The other Kagome, who was still seated at the table, stood suddenly and smiled widely. "Kagome!"
Kagome blinked, her mind grinding to a halt as she tried to take it all in before she came to a realization. Her jaw dropped and she brought a frozen hand up to her face, eyes widening in surprise. "Sh… Shippo?"
The other Kagome nodded, a playful smile coming to her face and she looked over at Mrs. Higurashi. "I didn't fool her, funny how I got you, even if it was for a moment!"
Kagome stood there for a few moments, still in shock from it all before her legs gave out and she tumbled forward. Shippo caught her - transforming into an older version of his usual self in a puff of smoke - holding her up with a worried expression as her vision faded. Her mother came around, urging him to help her to her room. Kagome tried to assure him she could do this herself, old instincts coming to play when she looked at his familiar face, but he would have none of it and lifted her up before carrying her to her bed.
Once she was tucked into bed and warm, she fell into a deep sleep.
"Do you have any idea what happened to her?" Mrs. Higurashi asked Shippo as they went back downstairs, going into the kitchen where the woman took up a rather clean looking dish. She began to polish it rather thoroughly, although seeming calm on the outside. She was worried.
"I do. I know everything that happened until this point. The only part I'm unsure of is the conclusion." Shippo replied, leaning casually against the kitchen counter and looking as if he was right at home. His brow furrowed lightly, emerald eyes twinkling with the hint of memories long past. "I don't know when it started."
"Just tell me what you know."
"After Kagome returned to spend her life with InuYasha, things went strange. They loved each other the same as ever but something didn't work between them. It wasn't until I was older that InuYasha explained how they were unable to be intimate. He said it was like holding a close sister. It was just too awkward for them both and their relationship fizzled into a lukewarm friendship. He started dating a few months later, but she never seemed to find someone who caught her interest. Well, at least not quickly."
"So she did find someone?"
Shippo nodded, swallowing hard. "At first it started really innocently. She didn't react very differently than she had at any other occasion, but then one day they were talking about children - she saw me as hers and he had an adopted daughter - and a strong gust of wind blew through the meadow. Her heart started racing, we can sense that, you know. When I looked to see what was wrong, I saw that she was staring at him as he stood over her, shielding her from the wind. I'm sure he knew, too. After that one moment, she began to display all the signs."
"Signs? Of a woman in love?"
He laughed. "Love can't be detected that way, but attraction can. She was definitely a woman in lust. Although, knowing Kagome the way I did, it was obviously the first stages of a crush. I was too young at the time to fully understand but I did know that she was very attracted to him."
"The same thing that would have happened with any other female who pined for him, I suppose." Shippo shifted and crossed his arms with a shrug. "He waited for her to show a sign of worth."
"He didn't feel she was worthy of him?" Mrs. Higurashi began to polish even faster. It was clear she disagreed with the sentiment. Her daughter was worthy of any man. Of course, she was a little biased and knew better than to go on an angry rant.
"He had a deep seated dislike of humans. Really, he doesn't like anything that is weak. Or, that's what he told himself and tried to tell the whole world. In reality, he's just a big softie who has no idea how to be nice to anyone. He's entirely socially inept and a real stick in the mud. These days people probably would have called him an ice prince. He wouldn't see the worth in someone as gentle and fragile as Kagome."
"I see. So he wasn't worthy of her."
"There was a time when I would have agreed. After that first sign of interest he began to spend more time with her. It was surprising how he was giving her the opportunity; even if he wasn't sure how to go about letting her know that he was also interested."
Shippo sighed and nodded. "I believe so. I've had a long time to think over what happened while waiting for her to return, after all, and I can say that his behavior points towards a mutual attraction. I don't know if he was fully aware of it at first, either. It wasn't as if they were a natural pair. She is lively and full of love, which she freely gives to others. He is secretive and harshly judgmental of anyone he meets."
Mrs. Higurashi smiled, looking over at the red-headed young man with a knowing gaze. "Opposites attract."
His eyes widened in surprise. "They do?"
She laughed and nodded, setting the bowl aside. "They do. It seems you have quite a bit to learn about love still."
"Were you and your mate… opposites?" Shippo asked, his voice suddenly higher pitched and full of curiosity.
"Oh yes. Very much so, in many ways - we were so different that no one thought we would make it."
"So you stayed together to prove everyone wrong?"
Mrs. Higurashi shook her head, letting out a wistful sigh as she leaned against the counter, staring out the window at the falling snow. "Oh no, we stayed together because we loved each other. In fact, we were a pairing much like Kagome and her mysterious crush. An outgoing and loving spirit and a quiet and awkward one, from two different worlds - practically two different time periods! No one ever imagined we'd fall in love, let alone marry and live our lives together."
"Why did you like someone who was so… stuffy?"
She laughed, lines forming on her face as her eyes shone with complete understanding. "I was the stuffy one."
Shippo's mouth fell open as he stared. "What? You mean…"
"Yes. Kagome takes after her father in most ways, not me. From me she only gained her temper and appearance, I'm sorry to say. Her vibrant way of life, her willingness to trust and love others so easily, those come from her father. She didn't know him well of course; he died when she was very young. Still, she has grown into nearly an exact duplicate of the man I loved."
"So what happened? How did you end up together?"
"Much the same way Kagome and her beau will end up together."
"What? You don't think…"
At that moment there was a knock at the door. Mrs. Higurashi smiled and reached up, smoothing out her hair and clothes before turning to Shippo. "I believe that would be him."
Kagome sat up suddenly, her heart racing as she stared around the dimly lit room. Home again… away from InuYasha, all her friends, and him. Tears welled in her eyes as she felt the painful tug on her heart. Why had he been there, standing in the snow as if he had followed her footsteps to where she was? What did he want? He'd said her name - had he ever said her name before? Her lip trembled. She was so confused!
Was he angry with her because of her feelings? It wasn't like she'd tried to push them on him! Had someone told him something? She knew he could sense her attraction, being a youkai and a dog at that, but wasn't every female reacting that way to him? Surely he would just think she was some insane human female. He probably laughed at her every time their paths crossed.
So why was he there?
Why did he look so… so… concerned? Conflicted?
A knock at the door startled her and she looked out the window, brow furrowing as she considered who might be coming by during such a storm. She could hear her mother and Shippo downstairs, answering it and then… a familiar voice filled the house.
Not that she could hear what they were saying.
Just the familiar vibrations of his voice traveled through her, causing her heart to jump. She closed her eyes tightly, letting out a groan as she pulled the blankets over her head. Why did she have to like him?
Wasn't it all just so stupid?
It wasn't like he was very nice to her. In fact, after her crush blossomed in her she found him spending more time around the village. Ironically, - she was certain it was just her imagination - he seemed to spend more time around her. Maybe he really was laughing at her and found the whole situation amusing.
Whatever! It didn't matter anyway, right? He was probably there to say something to Shippo, right? He wasn't there to see her.
A knock at her door startled her out of her thoughts and she jumped with a squeak, burrowing deeper under the blankets. "What?" She managed to mumble.
The door opened with a gentle click and then closed behind whoever it was softly. It had to be her mother. Only she would think she had the right to come in here so freely. The bed shifted as her mother sat on the bed, and Kagome let out a sigh. "Is he gone?"
A hand came to her back and she suddenly felt it all rushing out of her. Everything she'd held up inside her just flooded out of her mouth in a torrential storm of emotion and tears. "Good. I didn't want to see him anyway!" Her heart wrenched and a small sob came from her as she lied to herself, trying to will it to be true.
"I really don't know why I care. I mean… he's not exactly a nice guy. He is a terrible conversationalist and has horrible timing. Besides, no guy should look prettier than a woman - right?" Her mom gave a little snort, perhaps in amused agreement. Kagome grinned a little, reaching up to rub at the tears as they began to flow even heavier than before.
"Still, I think… I mean… I know… I loved him. I really did. I loved how I never felt lonely when I was with him. I loved how he was strong but didn't need to show off like InuYasha did - that confidence was amazing and contagious. I found myself feeling braver just by being near him. That feeling of constant calmness was also so comforting, I just felt so relaxed… like I could tell him anything, oh and I did. I told him so many things that I later felt embarrassed for even discussing."
Kagome sniffed a little, shifting in her dark cocoon of blankets. "He didn't seem interested but he didn't seem to mind, either. I guess I just made up my own mind on his willingness and kept talking, figuring he must enjoy having someone with marginal intelligence communicate with him once in a while." She laughed. "I never fooled myself into thinking it was possible, though. I knew better. I knew he could never love me. He was so far out of my reach, so impossibly beyond me. Besides… I was the one thing he really despised."
Kagome frowned and sat up, turning to look towards her mother who had yet to speak. "Mom?"
Her heart dropped into her stomach and she inhaled sharply, letting out a squeak. Her eyes widened as she instinctually pulled back. It wasn't her mother sitting at the end of the bed. It was him… and he had heard everything.
Her lip trembled and she shook her head, trying to get the idea of Sesshomaru sitting at the end of her bed out of her mind. Instead, he remained and her mind raced for some idea of what to say. "I'm sorry." Her voice came out before her brain even had the chance to form a legitimate response.
"You are sorry." He finally spoke and her stomach clenched as her cheeks burned. If he noticed her response, he didn't react. "Are you sorry because you admitted the truth or are you sorry for what you put me through?"
Kagome's brain faltered on the fact that he was referring to himself so modernly and so it took her a few moments to reply. When she did, however, her brow was furrowed in frustration. "Put you through? What did I ever do to you?"
"You forgot your place."
She brought her gaze up to his, brow furrowing as she felt her irritation rise. "My place… and what place is that, exactly? I think I'm right where I should be!" She turned away then, feeling a mixture of anger and sadness as she stared out her window and watched the snow fall.
Kagome's heart skipped, and the whole world seemed to halt. She knew what he said but also sensed that there was more to that sentence. It wasn't that she left… it was that she left him. Did he really care as much as he was implying?
"You left and I went insane."
Shattering the romantic moment with one word, how very like Sesshomaru. Kagome rolled her eyes and turned to him with a sarcastic expression. "How is your insanity my fault?"
"I could not stop thinking about you. I longed for the mindless chatter of an intelligent female who never ceased in proving how little intelligence really saves humans from stupidity. I carried that ridiculous shoe around just to have the fragrance - and when that faded, I craved it. I could not find you. I could not reach you."
Kagome wasn't sure if she should be totally elated or entirely annoyed. She never had the chance to fully express either one, as he continued on his rant.
"Every youkai turned against me when our numbers began to dwindle and I could not bring myself to bed a female for the sake of our species. Even Jaken eventually found it within him to pity me. I could not live among my own kind nor could I live with humans." His fist clenched and a low growl came from him as he stiffened and turned to look at the entirely shocked looking girl who had thrown his entire world upside down.
"What do you want from me?" Kagome asked, her lip trembling as she spoke.
He moved so quickly, turning and crawling up the bed towards her. Instinctually, she backed away until her shoulder was pressed against the wall. He stared down on her and she looked up at him, those fluttery butterflies dancing about in her stomach as their eyes met. His breath was hot and thick on her face as he spoke. "I wish to dominate you as you have done to me."
Kagome grinned. "You already do."
Finally, after what seemed like forever of holding herself back, Kagome gave in and leaned forward to press her lips against his.
The old woman coughed, spilling a little of the soup on herself and bringing both the females out of their memories. As the young girl fretted about, taking the soup and getting a cloth to clean up the mess, the elder smiled, lines forming on her face as she watched.
"What for, Kagome?"
"For being there for him when I…"
"Don't talk like that. It's just a cold. You'll be fine."
Kagome shook her head, letting out a broken laugh. "No. I'm dying. I can feel it. I can sense it. I think he can, too."
Shippo frowned, his eyes bursting with frustration and annoyance in a mimic of the younger woman he now portrayed. "Then why isn't he here?"
"He is angry with me."
Kagome grinned, looking back out over the snowy landscape. "For not giving him five hundred years in exchange for five hundred years, I'm sure."
Shippo rolled his eyes. "Are you serious? Where is he? I'll go talk some sense into him."
"He's out trying to find some way to keep me alive."
"He really loves you, huh?"
Kagome nodded. "I think so."
"He never said it?" Shippo asked, angry once more.
The elder woman shook her head, a small laugh coming from her. "No. He never said it. He showed it."
"The moment you have in your heart this extraordinary thing called love and feel the depth, the delight, the ecstasy of it, you will discover that for you the world is transformed." - Jiddu Krishnamurti