All Inuyasha properties belong to Rumiko Takahashi. I'm just futzing around with her characters.
So I've been sitting on this one for a long time. On my computer it's an enormous oneshot that grew into this weird beastie of a thing. But it's thirty pages on Word and finished. I finally pushed through and finished the thing and you can enjoy this in a continuous series of updates. I'm totally okay with criticism, just please remember I cannot fix it if you do not tell me what is wrong. Also, this is unbeta-ed so please forgive any mistakes.
I really hope you enjoy this!
The first time Kagome encountered him, he was sniffing her hair. She was waiting in line to check out at a little corner market when she heard something resembling a light snuffling next to her ear. Then there was an exhale. The resulting breeze tickled the light hairs surrounding her ears and-oh goodness, it was warm. She froze.
Was that…? Was someone really…?
A loud sniff accompanied the jostling of the hair in her ponytail. She knew who was doing it too. Well, she didn't know the guy. But she knew that there had been a guy standing behind her. It had been a long line and Kagome hadn't been opposed to staring at everything and anything to pass the time. She had turned and offered the man behind her a light smile as maybe an invitation to engage in conversation. The man had looked at her so strangely that Kagome had been embarrassed for even trying. She had whirled and resolutely stared at the elderly woman in front of her.
But now this man was sniffing her?
She was frozen in shock. Who did that? It was only until the cashier at the register sent Kagome a dull look that the former miko realized she was holding up the line. It was the out she needed. The young woman hurried up to the register and hastily set her shopping basket down with a clatter. The cashier sent a quelling look at Kagome.
Kagome just wanted to get out of there. She could sense the man standing behind her and she felt cornered. The whole thing just threw her for a loop. She had never been smelled while waiting in line before. Grabbing her items once they had been sluggishly placed into bags and thrusting her money at the cashier, she high-stepped it out of there.
Once safe in the fresh spring air, she spared a glance at the stranger through the glass doors. He was looking straight at her and their eyes locked. Kagome jumped and rushed away as fast as she could without looking like a crazy person.
She felt even crazier when she realized that the almost-pervert didn't look triumphant like Miroku or all the lechers on the trains did. He just looked terribly confused and… and… sad.
After about a month, the miko had already forgotten about the incident. She had laughed about it with her mom and promptly dismissed the memory. But then she ran out of sesame sauce.
The market that she frequented was a few blocks away from her house. There were others closer to the shrine, and with more selection, but the sesame sauce was what dragged Kagome out of her way. Ayumi had used a certain brand in a dish one time and Kagome was hooked. She scoured various markets and could never find it until she stepped into a small corner store that looked to be no bigger than the well house at home. It was small, yes, but it stocked a lot of items that Kagome had grown up with as a kid that were discontinued everywhere else.
So, grabbing her purse, she set off walking. It was a really lovely spring day and Kagome enjoyed the part of the year when she could break out her dresses and pack her boots away. The air was clear and everything was green and vibrant. On days like this, there was something pure in the air that reminded Kagome of the Feudal Era.
She smiled at the thought and the expression lasted all the way to the store. It was only when someone started sniffing her hair again did the smile fade. She had been standing at a waist high freezer, contemplating which fish paste to get, when she felt a presence behind her. Her eyes flickered in awareness, but she made no move. It was then that she remembered what had happened last time.
Praying that this was not the same man, the young woman stared resolutely at the fish paste. Please go away, she thought. Go away, go away, go away, go-
She flushed as she felt her hair being jostled and heard the familiar sounds of someone taking a whiff of her sent. Then she gasped when there was a light tug on her loose hair. He was manhandling her!
That was it. Kagome liked to be understanding, but that was a severe violation of personal space. She whirled, ready to face down her enemy.
"Could you please stop sniffing and touching me?" She demanded.
The man was tall, tan and smiling. He handled her patented death glare quite well. His only reaction was to smile wider and look down at her with hooded blue eyes.
"My apologies," he crooned. His low voice sounded completely repentant even if his smile betrayed him.
She sent another glare his way for good measure, whirled, snapped up a jar of paste and flounced angrily away.
Again! Kagome mentally shrieked. Now, Kagome never had a problem with breaking personal space boundaries, even when it came to males. She often-and happily-broke them when the urge occurred. She had traveled on a boy's back for months and after Miroku, handling lechers had been no problem. The problem laid in the fact that Inuyasha and Miroku had been her friends. She was willing to break those implied boundaries with people she trusted.
This man was a stranger. Who knew what gross things he was thinking when he was sniffing her? They also were not in the Feudal Era anymore. Kagome could not even blame the man's strange behavior on strange youkai customs… She couldn't really blame his behavior on anything. Which weirded her out. What was he doing?
She had tried her best to avoid any more encounters. The next time, Kagome went only a few minutes before closing time and had even scouted the aisles to see if anyone else was around. The coast was apparently clear.
She just wanted to do her shopping in peace.
It had been a really rough day. A really rough day. So she felt a little more than justified when she whirled around and hissed: "Enough!" What she was not counting on was the unusually strong flare of reiki she sent off. Even odder, the man winced and pulled back as if… as if…
Before she could even think to apologize, the man had disappeared. One minute he was there, and the next he was not.
Kagome dropped her basket full of fresh produce in shock and leaned against a nearby fruit stand. He had pulled back as if… as if she had burned him. As if he were youkai.
The whole situation understandably sent Kagome into a tizzy. She had searched for so many years for any sign of youkai. She had walked through many different neighborhoods of Tokyo with her reiki fanning out behind her, diligently feeling around for anything. When she went to visit family in the countryside, she did the same thing. She carefully peered at faces and followed up on everything that even hinted at having spiritual connotations and power. She had tried so many things that she had become exhausted, both physically and mentally.
This frenzied search had lasted until she was eighteen. Her whole family was out: Souta at school, Mrs. Higurashi shopping and Grandpa visiting friends. The house was just so quiet without them… and in the quiet there had been laugher tickling the fringes of Kagome's consciousness. Their laughter.
She had fallen to the knees in the middle of the hallway and gasped for breath. It was then she realized that she had not been searching. She had been running away from the truth. The painful truth that her friends were truly and irrevocably gone. Her friends were gone and she had not faced up to the fact that she missed them more than her little heart and patched-up soul could bear.
So it was there, in the middle of her hallway that Kagome buried her face in her hands and wept. She mourned like she had only done once before for her father and grandmother.
One lesson she had learned from the loss of her father was the difference between wallowing in the past and remembering it instead. Kagome could either do one of two things. She could be consumed by reliving memories and neglecting to make new ones. Or she could honor the Inu-tachi's memories by remembering them fondly, but not letting grief overtake her at just the mere thought of them.
In the name of her friends, she chose the latter. And lived for the first time since the well closed and she wished the Shikon no Tama out of existence.
But Kagome's optimism was a terrifying force to be reckoned with. Just because she probably would never see any youkai she knew, did not mean that she would never see any youkai at all, she reasoned. So the miko had been alert. She never tore herself apart searching for them anymore, but the idea that one might pop up still lay dormant in her mind.
Now she had found one and almost purified him. Kagome could smack herself for her stupidity. There were so many things she wanted to ask him. Could they have been friends? Did he know any of the youkai she knew? Was he even that old? He seemed human, how was that possible? Were there more like him? Would he be terribly mad that she zapped him?
The possibilities were endless.
She had blown it. Miserably. He did not show up again. She had gone back to the store as many times as she could spare. She even timed her appearances to the previous times of the day that they had run into each other. Nothing. He had simply vanished. The woman even considered asking around to see if anyone had seen him, but dismissed it as a stupid idea. She wasn't even sure what he looked like other than; tall, tan and a wide smile.
To soothe the logical side of her brain, she recognized that she would probably never see the man again. That stupid optimism, however, stayed. It caused her to keep her spiritual powers swirling lightly around her, ready to sense any hint of youki. She justified the expenditure by calling it a precaution in case he was prone to violence. (It did not seem like he was; he had run away instead of lashing out.)
So, with that in mind, she waited. Three unbelievably long weeks passed. When the youkai did show up again, Kagome encountered him when she least expected it. Of course, it always worked that way. One of her grandfather's favorite proverbs was about the very phenomenon.
It was fortuitous then, that her granddad would have his granddaughter sweeping the shrine steps when her waiting came to an end. She was humming an off key song and too lost in her thoughts to notice a man slowly making his way up the stairs towards her. If she could have of seen herself, she would have wondered what kind of first impression she made.
She was still on stair number three, going down, humming to nothing. A moderate breeze and her constantly moving powers gently arranged her hair into something more wild.
She looked windswept.
The man's steps faltered briefly. After a brief moment of stillness, he walked up towards Kagome more briskly than before. This jerky movement that caught her eye. She glanced up and squinted at the newcomer.
Recognition hit her hard and she gasped. Dropping her broom, she rushed to meet the stranger halfway. This time, she made sure to clamp down on her reiki, hard. Brazenly grabbing his hands in what she would later see as an amusing role reversal, she immediately started apologizing.
"It's you! Oh Kami, Iamsosorry! If I had known you were-" she looked around and dropped her volume briefly "-you know-I would have never done that. I didn't even know I was until it was too late and-"
The man had been wearing so serious of an expression; it seemed to have been weighing down his face. As she spoke the stern look had melted to a small smile that bloomed into a full out grin.
"Stop." He ordered, gently. "Stop and let me apologize."
"But you don't have to! I was the one-"
"Perfectly justifiable." He intoned smoothly. "What you did was perfectly justifiable, considering the circumstances. You were protecting yourself."
Kagome still felt guilty, but nodded. She moved to take her hands from his, but he held fast. Her eyes widened as he leaned in and gently took a sniff of her hair.
His voice gentled even more when he spoke next. The look in his eyes made Kagome blush despite herself. "I'm sorry for imposing myself on you. I just wanted to make sure it was really… you."
Kagome examined his face for the first time. It was lean and angular. His eyes were ice blue and his black hair was so short with a long fringe that hung in front of his eyes. But there was something there she recognized. Something that reminded her of long hair and a cocky grin. As she searched his face, his hidden youki carefully unfurled and gingerly touched her skin in welcome. She gasped at the familiar feeling.
"K-kouga?" She mewed, bewildered. It's him, it's him, it's him…
His smile widened. "Kagome."
It was him!
She threw herself into his arms so fast that she knocked him down a step or two. But he kept his balance and his arms wrapped around her waist in response. She buried her fingers in his short hair and tried to keep the tears at bay. He was laughing, full belly laughs that reverberated through Kagome's whole being.
She was so excited that she was shaking. Never, never, never in her wildest dreams did she imagine that Kouga would survive. She had hoped that maybe youkai did live that long, but she had tried to keep a lid on it to save herself from disappointment. Yet, there he was. He was pleasantly warm beneath her and his grip was strong and firm despite the years.
Kagome suddenly pulled back and studied Kouga's face. He did not look half as old as she would have expected. He looked to be in his middle to late twenties. The only thing that seemed really different to her was his hair and his more pronounced laugh lines.
"You look so young," she exclaimed. "You hardly look like five-hundred years have passed."
His answering smirk communicated a kind of lazy contentment. She briefly wondered exactly how many smiles Kouga possessed and if she would ever learn them all. It took a while before she realized she was staring and she blushed.
"I'm just not used to you without hair," she mumbled as she kept a hold of one of his hands and lightly pulled him up the shrine stairs. "Can you talk?" She asked. "Do you have time?"
He picked up the discarded broom as they passed it. "I do. Do you?"
"Of course! It's not every day an old friend comes to visit!" She paused and gave him a wistful look. She reached over and gently touched the rounded curve of his ear. Too lost in her memories, she missed his shiver. "I thought you were all gone…" She sighed.
Kouga pulled her into another hug. This one was still fierce, but instead of Kagome enveloping him, he enveloped her. He cradled her head as she buried her face in his chest.
"I'm very sorry, Darling."
There was a small sobbing noise and Kagome belatedly realized she was crying. She tried to pull away and apologize. This was supposed to be a happy occasion and she was ruining it with her tears.
He just held her tighter and made small soothing noises. "Shh, it's okay, Darling. It's okay to cry."
With that declaration, a dam hidden in the depths of Kagome's heart burst. She was just so relieved. Even her stubborn optimism had been decaying into something less pure and a little bitter. Kouga's return had made everything okay. It justified her stubbornness. It justified her hope. It made her feel less foolish for holding onto childish belief.
This ancient friend of hers was practically back from the dead. She was overcome by gladness. Her sorrow was forgotten as she buried her face into his chest and cried. He held her with surprising gentleness, his grip erasing her embarrassment. She instinctively knew it was safe to be so open.
For the second time since she had come back, she realized that it was truly okay to cry.
Coming up: Kouga meets the folks.