Author Notes: Okay, so this story is delayed (per usual). I didn't beat the holiday season, but this story will stay holiday themed. I mean, it's still feels holiday-ish until the snow lets up, right? Let me know what you think!
Disclaimer: The Inuyasha world and all characters depicted are a creation of mangaka, Takahashi Rumiko.
Miroku tapped his fingers against the steering wheel to the rhythm of the music as he patiently waited for Kagome. After the debacle at Inuyasha's apartment, he had a lot of favors left to grant to his forgiving cousin. Even though she did try to pawn him off to Inuyasha, Kagome had stuck it out and helped keep him awake. The majority of that night was a bit foggy in his head, but he did recall a lot of fighting between his best friend and cousin. They really were like cats and dogs -and he had a pretty good idea which was what.
Miroku did, however, remember Sango being there begrudgingly. She would every so often check that he was doing okay and that he was sobering up. He, on the other hand, made more than one blatant pass at her. There was an apologetic Christmas card was already on the way to the poor doctor. Sure, he was a womanizing dog, but he had his standards of not acting like a drunken concussed idiot toward a woman.
His recollection of the previous week was interrupted when the back door opened and Kagome deposited various bags into the back seat. Finishing her task, she entered through the front passenger and plopped down into the seat. She gripped the seatbelt buckle and strapped herself in.
"Onward and upward." She instructed him once she was situated.
"Not sure about the upward, but onward we go." He pulled his car out of the parallel parking space he found conveniently in front of her building. "So is there anything good for me back there?"
Kagome raised a brow at his question. "You expect a Christmas present after what you put me through with your buddy?"
"He's not that bad." Miroku attempted defending his friend. What he didn't voice was that he had a similar conversation with Inuyasha earlier in the week.
"I don't want to talk about him." She said and reached for the radio to change music and topics. Once she found a station she could tolerate, she glance over to her cousin. "Guess who waltzed into the shop today?"
"The mayor?" He guessed wildly.
She wondered about his left-field deduction, but continued. "No, Kouga dropped by."
"Didn't you say you thought you lost him as a client?" He questioned with a sidelong glance.
"That's what I thought, but apparently he saw you hitting on Sango." She explained. "He went on and on about how a guy like that doesn't deserve me."
"He's right. You shouldn't date someone who's going to hit on other women in front of you." He commented. "But you also shouldn't date a guy who come on to women who are already in a relationship."
She shook her head. "That's the thing. He didn't hit on me. He just came in to talk about another book he wanted."
"Another Hemingway?" He mused.
"He was full of surprises. He wants a copy of 'The Great Gatsby.'" She said happily. "I mean, sure, Lost Generation, he's not exactly stretching his wings but that shows diversity."
Miroku frowned at her optimism. "Tell me you're getting a literature hard-on and not actually considering this guy."
Kagome stumbled a bit over her words but then shrugged. "He doesn't seem half bad."
"Seriously? Kouga?" He sounded disbelieving.
"You don't even know the guy." She rebutted. "And I didn't say I agreed to a date."
"You're just considering it." He sighed in defeat.
"If he were to ask again... I might say yes." She answered vaguely.
"I haven't heard the best things about him." He added.
"From Inuyasha, no doubt." She grumbled. "Well, he had a bit to say about your friend too."
Miroku frowned. "Like what?"
"I don't want to talk about that guy." She cut him off. "It's Christmas. I want to hear annoying carols and be part of family dysfunction."
"We're on our way to the latter." He reached over and switched the station on the radio. "And there you have annoying carols. We're on our way to Kagome's perfect Christmas."
She rolled her eyes and laughed. Miroku may have had a poor judge of friends, but he was always a top grade cousin. He was the big brother she always had but never quite appreciated until she was older.
The rest of the car ride was smooth sailing as Miroku winced every so often when Kagome would belt out a song along with the radio and her voice would crack at a particularly high note. When 'Silent Night' cued up, Miroku had to bite his tongue in order not to ask her to stop. He never realized how difficult that song was to sing until his cousin's octave range didn't quite reach that high.
When they finally pulled up to the Higurashi family residence out in the suburbs, Miroku was at his limit with Kagome's singing. It wasn't that she was a particularly bad singer; it was just that she wasn't a particularly good one either.
Parking the car behind a silver sedan, Kagome scooted up in her seat to look at the car in front as Miroku parked. She furrowed her brows and glanced over to him. "Whose car is that?"
"Maybe Souta got a car?" He offered as an explanation.
She shook her head. "If he got a car, I would have gotten an earful about it over the phone. He would have talked about how cool it was and how he was going to pick up a bunch of chicks." She shot him a look. "Vocabulary he gets from you."
He rolled his eyes and shut off the engine. "I don't talk like that."
"Close enough." She shrugged and got out of the car. After digging out her bags from the back seat and Miroku doing the same with his packages from the trunk, they ventured to the front door.
He turned toward her before reaching for the door handle. "Ready?"
"As I'll ever be." She steeled her resolved and nodded to cousin.
With her cue, he went to turn the handle when the door opened from the inside. They shared a surprised look as the door opened all the way. Miroku remained confused as an unknown man in his twenties with brown hair opened the door with a wide grin. Kagome, on the other hand, knew him all too well.
"Hojo." She said disbelievingly as he pulled her into a hug.
"Kagome!" He said laughing. Pulling back only a bit he looked her over and smiled like a long-lost friend. "How long has it been?"
"Um... However many years ago high school was." She answered dumbly.
"Way too long then." He finally let her go and grinned at Miroku. "You're her famous cousin, right?"
Raising a brow at the description, he nodded and extended his hand. "Yeah, sure. Miroku."
He enthusiastically took the other man's hand. "Hojo. I know Kagome from high school."
Kagome was thankful for all the years of communicating silently over family dinners with conspiratorial looks. So when she shot her cousin a look to keep Hojo busy, Miroku gave only a small nod in understanding. She ducked away in the kitchen while he dutifully distracted Hojo. Coming upon her mother who flitted around the kitchen of her childhood home, she set her bags down and stalked up to her.
"What is Hojo doing here?" She hissed at her mother.
Her mother, in turn, greeted her with a smile and pulled her into a hug. "Merry Christmas sweetheart."
"Yes yes, Merry Christmas." She reciprocated the hug and pulled back. "Why is Hojo here?"
Rushing over to the oven to take out a pie, her mother spoke while working. "I ran into him at the grocery store buying a frozen dinner. You know Hojo only has his brother left and he went to go visit his wife's family." She next went over to watch over the various pots and pans cooking on the stove. "Hojo was going to be alone on Christmas Eve, so I invited him."
Shucking off her coat and grabbing an apron, she walked over to the forgotten bowl of half-mashed potatoes. "So you decided to invite my high school boyfriend?" She took the masher and took her aggression out on the potatoes. "It took me moving out of state to get rid of him last time."
"Don't be dramatic." Her mother admonished as she grabbed various serving dishes. "He was a perfectly nice boy. Probably the nicest boy you've ever dated."
"He was smothering me with his over attentiveness." Kagome grumbled as she continued mashing.
"Oh Kagome, only you would fault someone for being too nice." She said as she lined up the dishes on the kitchen table and spooned out the various dishes. "You really should give him another chance."
Kagome froze mid mash and stared wide-eyed at her mother. "Please don't tell me you're trying to set me up with Hojo."
"Are you trying to get Kagome to move away again?" Souta questioned from the doorway of the kitchen. Joining the two women in the room, the high school senior grabbed a cookie. "Can I get her apartment when I graduate?"
Rolling her eyes in good humor Kagome tugged her brother over and hugged him. "This isn't my childhood bedroom you're conquering... again." She smiled at the boy who already towered over her in height. "Merry Christmas."
"Feliz Navidad." He said shrugging. "I'd get all your stuff though."
"I'm not dying." She frowned at her little brother. "And I'm not moving, because I'm not going to date my high school boyfriend again."
Her mother continued on with her work getting the dinner ready and shot both her kids a look that told them she meant business. "You two be polite at dinner. Make Hojo feel welcome. No one should be alone on Christmas."
Kagome kept to her mother's wishes and kept polite at dinner. She was able to better protect herself by strategically placing her chatty grandfather between her and the guest of honor. It also helped that aside from herself, Souta, her mother, Miroku, her grandfather, and Hojo, Miroku's parents were also part of the festivities. Kagome had a full arsenal -in the form of her relatives- to throw at Hojo. By the end of the night she remained unscathed and dateless.
Kagome decided that hiding away in her room while her mother prepared a doggie bag of leftovers for Hojo was the best way to avoid getting invited out for coffee at the last minutes. Sighing from the mental exhaustion, Kagome collapsed backward onto her twin size bed. Her eyes wandered across the walls and saw them bare. She couldn't quiet feel at home in this room, since it wasn't really hers. Souta had switched his room for hers the week after she went off to college. She really couldn't blame him, since she did used to have the bigger room.
There was a knock at the door and Kagome panicked. Flipping over, she fell to the floor and scooted under the bed. Hearing the door open, she tucked herself below the bed. If Hojo came to say his farewell, she wasn't going to let him have the chance.
A pair of feet cautiously entered the room and stepped about for a bit. Kagome watched silently from her hiding place under the bed as a pair of dress pant clad legs approached the bed. She almost voiced a protest when the person sat down on her bed. After a long moment, a familiar male voice called out to her. "Really Kagome? Under the bed?"
Recognizing her cousin's voice, she crawled out from her hiding place. "It's an oldie but goodie."
"You're in your twenties," he said chuckling. "You can't hide under your bed anymore."
Picking off dust bunnies that seem to have clung to her sweater, she took the spot next to him and sat down. "Is the coast clear?"
"Yeah, he's gone." Miroku remarked with a smirk. "Hojo was going to try hunting you down to say good bye, but I convinced him you had one too many slices of pie and needed to lock yourself into the bathroom."
"So he thinks I have exploding diarrhea?" She sighed and leaned back, supporting herself on her elbows. "I guess that'll make him think twice about me."
"He kept saying great things about you." He pointed out. "He's probably a safer bet than Kouga."
"Maybe, but I dated him for the last two years of high school. Actually, I didn't know we were dating until one of my friends told me. I feel like I was lured into a relationship trap." She thought back to her teenage years. "He was the nicest guy at school and way too sweet to dump. I tried liking him, but I just couldn't click with him. And the only way I finally got out of that relationship was by telling him that a long distance relationship wouldn't work out."
"And that's when you went running off to college." Miroku concluded for her. "Well, I guess he was pushing it a little at dinner when he kept making sure if you were single."
"See, I dodged another bullet." She nudged him with a smile. "God knows how long I would have dated him this time."
"Might have even gotten married." He jested. "If you're going for the opposite of the nicest guy..."
As her cousin's words trailed off expectantly, she shot him a glare. "No."
"Why not? I know him. Inuyasha is a good guy. May not be nice, but obviously that's not a problem for you." He pestered. "You know I wouldn't steer your wrong."
Her glared remained in place. "Do I need to remind you of Bankotsu? The guy you set me up with from your office because he seemed 'calm and cool' under pressure?"
"He wasn't that bad." Miroku protested.
"He started a fight on all three dates I went on with him." She argued. "I don't need your mentally imbalanced friends. Anyways, enough about me, what about you? Did you end up getting Sango to go out with you?"
A genuine grin split across his face. "It took about twenty text messages and five voicemails, but she finally said yes."
She laughed and shook her head. "Couldn't that be considered stalking?"
"Not if she says yes and goes out with me for coffee." He reasoned. "And she said yes to a date on New Year's."
"Seriously?" She sounded surprised. "A second date? When was the last time you had one of those?"
"I don't know how I should feel about what you're insinuating." He gave a mock frown. "So you need to get yourself a date for New Year's Eve."
"Why? I make an awesome third wheel." She quipped.
"Bicycles, Kagome. Bicycles. The world isn't made up of tricycles." He argued. "And Sango is apparently holding a party, so let's avoid the bars this year."
Kagome furrowed her brows. "Wait, did you get a date for New Year's or did she just invite you to her party? Because those are two very distinct things."
Miroku frowned. "Why are you trying to ruin my moment?"
"I'm not." She denied. "I'm just trying to warn you so you're not disappointed."
"There was some talk about finding me at midnight." He mused.
"Oh, that does sound promising." She nodded with a smile. She glanced at the clock and saw it was getting late. "So are your parents spending the night like usual?"
"There's no way my mom or yours would break the Higurashi tradition." He remarked. "So where's the air mattress? Or am I sleeping on the floor this year?"
"You're in my old room, Souta's room, again. You know an air mattress won't fit in here." She smirked at his groan. "Or you could take the couch downstairs."
"Tried that two years ago, I woke up with a sore back." He grumbled.
"Souta's grown up now. He's not going to talk your ear off." She tried to stick up for her younger brother. "He also won't wake you up at six in the morning to open presents. If anything, he'll be the one sleeping in."
"Fine." He sighed in defeat, stood up and headed toward the door. "Then I'll see you in the morning by the tree?"
"Family tradition." Kagome nodded. "Wouldn't miss it. You're going to love what I got you."
Miroku grinned. "So you did get me something afterall."