A Quiet Gathering

Watanuki sat on his porch, overlooking the garden. He put the pipe up to his lips and drew slowly, savoring the tobacco. Above, the newly risen crescent moon shone brightly, the moonlight filtering through the trees and silvering the leaves. A gentle presence made itself known outside his barrier, and he opened it, expecting his visitor. It was a very special night after all.

A teenage girl came in through the garden entrance, her long, dark hair and elaborate butterfly obi bringing to mind the one he loved, though she was quite a few centimeters shorter. She stopped just short of the porch and inclined her head. He returned her greeting with a lower bow, and gestured to the tray he had prepared. "Please, have a seat. I found some of Yakuro Dokusen's Falling Water in the storehouse. It seemed appropriate."

Kagome removed her shoes, and climbed the stairs, sinking down on the other side of the tray. Watanuki filled her glass, and offered her first choice of drinking snacks. They sat there in silence, watching as the moon rose high and filling each other's sake dish when the levels became low.

When the heavy aura of a strong youkai blanketed the area, everything went silent, though Kagome finally smiled a little. Watanuki opened the barrier once again, allowing the tall, strangely delicate-featured inuyoukai through. Looking at the two, it was obvious where Yuuko had come by her exotic looks.

Kagome got up, and shuffled into her shoes before going to her husband. He rested a hand on her back, and turned his gaze to the new proprietor of his daughter's shop. "This Sesshoumaru sees you, Watanuki Kimihiro. The one whom my daughter protected."

Had Yuuko not taught him to be observant, he would never have caught the taut, thin line of the youkai's lips, the only sign of grief on the stoic male. "I exist because of her. My feelings for her... I don't know when they changed, but I knew when she was disappearing that I would pay the price to keep her shop going, and wait for her return."

A tear ran down Kagome's face. "Do not become another Fei Wong Reed, Watanuki Kimihiro-kun. She paid a horrible price for his vanity... and you know now, from the dream you had last night, that my daughter will never walk beside any of us ever again."

"I promised to fulfill her wish, kami-sama. I will exist, for her sake. I will keep her shop, and grant wishes, until she comes back for me." Watanuki gave her an understanding smile. "After all, nothing lives forever. That was one of her first lessons to me."

Sesshoumaru lifted his head up, becoming interested in the stars over the shop's roof, his lips thinned to bare lines. "I despised the Reed brothers. Magicians they may have been, but still human with all of humanity's faults. I have wished a thousand times over that I had slaughtered them as they bowed to me in greeting. Unfortunately, my contempt made them forbidden fruit, sweet to the senses. And because of their arrogance, my impossible, beloved child eventually lay at death's door, and a careless wish suspended her into a tortured existence."

Kagome stepped closer to her husband, her eyes tightly shut against the pain in her heart. Sesshoumaru continued, "In the many years since, I have wondered what good could come out of the tangle that bastard twisted time into." He leveled a gaze at Watanuki, one that sent a shiver down the dreamwalker's spine. "You may continue to use the crescent moon, Watanuki of the Western Dog Clan. I will honor my daughter's wish, for the sake of the one who honors her.

Kagome looked out into the darkness of the garden, blinking away tears until she could manage a smile once again. "Watanuki-kun, you may have suspended time for yourself, but you are still human, and they cannot live a static existence. That dream... she left it with me until the time came for you to receive it. A hundred years made the bars of your cage, but the door is open now, little bird. You must try your wings again, and fly free."

Watanuki's heart ached at the thought, but he nodded. "I will grant that wish, kami-sama. To hold such a painful thing as that dream for a century leaves me in your debt, though." He thought for a moment, and rose. "Please excuse me for a moment, I know just the thing."

When he came back out, he held a beautifully carved box. Kneeling once again in his accustomed place, he offered it to Kagome. She flipped the latch and opened the lid, and with a shaking hand lifted out the hairpiece inside.

Memories flooded Watanuki's mind at seeing the familiar item. "She wore that almost every day after you gave it to her, and kept it near her bed when she slept."

Sesshoumaru took the hairpiece of silver-chased lapis lazuli crescent moons and mother of pearl butterflies from Kagome's trembling hands, and slid it into her hair. "It is fitting. When next you see our daughter..."

"Yes. She already knows, but I will tell her again." Watanuki watched as the youkai tenderly wrapped his arms around his wife, and they both faded away in a beam of moonlight. He sighed, and gathered the tray to take to the kitchen. Mokona and the girls could clean the dishes tomorrow.

Tonight he'd wander through dreams, and let hitsuzen lead him back into the world.




Happy Father's Day!