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Thunder Before the Rain by Aurora Antheia Raine

Thunder Before the Rain

This is for you, Kagome Yuki Niwa! I hope you like it!

Prompt: Sesshoumaru and Kagome runs into each other in the rain.
Requirements: AU ; Romantic ; T - MA ; Drama & Angst

- T -

Sixty. Sixty-Five. Seventy.

Kagome watched the speedometer slowly increasing in speed with each passing minute, concern deeply etched upon her face. At this time of night, the streets were nearly empty, but that fact did nothing to soothe her worries. The road was slick with rain and just one moment of error in judgment could prove to be fatal. It was a risk she was not willing to take, no matter the circumstances.

"Sesshoumaru, slow down."

She peered at him from the corner of her eye and noticed his grip tightening upon the steering wheel, his knuckles shining white against the moonlight. He didn't respond; didn't even acknowledge that he had heard her.

Seventy-Five. Eighty. Eighty-Five.

"You're scaring me, Sesshoumaru. Please... slow down."

For a moment, Kagome thought that he would continue to ignore her, despite her almost desperate plea, but that notion left as quickly as it came when he suddenly slammed on the brakes, tires squealing loudly upon the pavement. The car swerved violently on the road until it came to a complete stop in front of a red light.

She turned to look at him, noting how tense and rigid his entire body was. His eyes were narrowed in angry slits and his lips were pulled back in a grimace. He closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath, trying to calm his raging temper. He had tried so hard to make sure everything ran smoothly, but he should have known.

Sesshoumaru couldn't recall a single time in which their family dinner had ended happily. They usually came to an abrupt stop when he stormed out due to his father's infuriating ways. He could ignore the jabs Toga had made at him throughout the entire evening, but to speak so harshly and so disrespectfully to Kagome was another matter altogether. That was unforgivable.

To insinuate the things that he had about her made Sesshoumaru see red and he had tried to refrain himself from lashing out at his father, but he, too, had his limits. Kagome had been quiet - too quiet - throughout the ordeal and he knew she had felt humiliated by Toga's outrageous accusations though she had not said as much.

"I..."

Sesshoumaru paused. He didn't know what to say to make things better. He had never been the kind of man who knew how to console a woman, but he knew that this was a situation in which he had to say something. "I apologize... for my father. He shouldn't have spoken so ill of you."

"It's okay, Sesshoumaru," she responded warmly as she turned to face him, laying her hand upon his taunt forearm. "You warned me ahead of time. It's nothing I can't handle, especially since you and I both know that I am not that type of person."

He turned to face her, eyes flashing intensity and boiling rage, but she only smiled at him with understanding. Sesshoumaru opened his mouth to speak but a sudden beam of blindingly bright light shining upon them cut him off. Before their minds could even process what was happening, they were slammed head-on by a speeding car spinning wildly out of control.

A feminine scream rang out amidst the reverberation of shattering glass, squealing tires, and police sirens. Then, everything went black.

- T -

Sesshoumaru stood on the sidewalk, duffel bag in one hand and passport in the other, as he surveyed his surroundings one last time. Within two hours, he would be leaving behind the only place he had ever known as home and starting his life anew in New York.

It had not been a decision he had made lightly, but the guilt of Kagome's death had slowly been gnawing at him from the inside out for the last three years. Sesshoumaru could have handled anything that fateful day except for losing her, especially after he had announced that he had every intention of marrying Kagome - the girl of his dreams.

His father had not taken the news well, stating that Kagome was unsuitable for him, the heir to Japan's largest jewelry corporation; however, if it hadn't been for Toga himself who had hired Kagome, an aspiring jewelry designer, Sesshoumaru would have never met Kagome.

Yet, nothing could have prepared him for the loss of someone so important to him - someone he would have willingly died to protect. The memory of Mrs. Higurashi on her knees, sobbing at his bedside in the hospital that day, frequently replayed itself in his mind.

Her eyes had been red and bloodshot, hair mussed, nose runny and dried streaks of mascara ran down her cheeks as she looked at him with anguish. "I'm sorry... I'm sorry...," she had repeated in broken whispers and while his heart had lurched in despair, a part of Sesshoumaru hadn't believed her.

Despite his injuries, he had tore out of the room as quickly as he could, stubbornly gritting his teeth even as pain shot through him. Sesshoumaru hadn't known where she was, but he had been determined to find her. Nothing was capable of keeping him away from Kagome... except, perhaps, death itself. He had been stopped halfway down the hall by a doctor who, like Mrs. Higurashi, could only apologize to him. "I'm sorry, Mr. Taisho. We did everything we could, but..."

Immediately, Sesshoumaru tuned out the remainder of the doctor's condolences and walked away. He hadn't wanted to hear what the doctor had to say - he already knew, but if he tried hard enough, he could pretend that Kagome was alive and well, beaming with her usual happiness. He didn't want reality to settle in yet and without the doctor's official statement of her passing, Sesshoumaru would treat it as nothing more than a horrible nightmare that he would soon wake up from.

But even as he feigned ignorance and oblivion, Sesshoumaru slowly went numb, feeling nothing but the coldness that ran through his veins. The woman who had taught him to appreciate life, to see through a different perspective was gone. The only woman who could make him smile had been taken from him. The first woman who had loved him for him and not his wealth had died... and it was entirely his fault. If he hadn't been driving as fast as he had... If he hadn't chosen that particular location to stop at... It was an endless cycle of ifs but when it was all said and done, it was he who was to blame.

He was Kagome's murderer and for that, he could never forgive himself.

Sesshoumaru inhaled deeply, eyes closed, as he purged himself of the dreaded memories. Everywhere he turned, recollections of Kagome and the time they had spent together lingered in its place and while he had hopes of being able to move on, Sesshoumaru knew the memories would stay with him forever. If he could find a place, any place at all, that wouldn't constantly haunt him, he would willingly go there with Kagome in heart, but not in mind.

It meant leaving behind his family's legacy, but he knew that Inuyasha, his half brother, would be able to fill his position as heir. It had not been the career he had ever wanted and a sense of relief had filled him when he had dropped the news on his father. Toga had not taken it well, but that did not sway his decision. He was leaving and that was final.

Sesshoumaru rolled his shoulders back and stood up straight as he regained his composure, before confidently raising his hand to hail a cab, instructing the driver to take him to the international airport - determination coursing through him to finally leave it all behind.

- T -

A week after his arrival in the States, Sesshoumaru settled into a small apartment in Queens and though it had been slightly difficult adjusting to the sudden changes at first, he had grown to be quite comfortable with his surroundings. It wasn't the English language itself that had been difficult since he had been forced to learn it when he was younger - a requirement his father had given him so that he could take over the company after Toga retired. It had been, quite surprisingly, the food. There were many options, but finding a good Japanese restaurant had been quite a trying task.

And that was how Sesshoumaru found himself that evening, pushing a cart down the aisles of the closest grocery store. Everything had been going smoothly as he made his selections on fresh fish, rice, and vegetables until he saw her. He froze mid-stride as he stared at her from behind, his mind racing wildly with incomprehensible thoughts.

The only thing he knew was that it couldn't be possible, but the lithe frame of the petite woman was exactly as he recalled, down to the length of her glossy hair and the elegant slope of her graceful neck. He watched as the woman put a bag of miso paste into the basket cradled at her elbow before escaping his line of vision as she walked towards the next aisle. Sesshoumaru stepped forward - her name lingering on the tip of his tongue as he followed her, but once he rounded the corner, she was already gone... as if she simply did not exist.

But of course she didn't...after all, he had been there when Kagome had passed. In fact, he had been the reason she had passed. His mind was just playing tricks on him, trying to remind him of the crime he had committed. Shaking his head with a slight frown, Sesshoumaru absentmindedly went to the checkout line, appetite lost.

- T -

The second time he saw her was a month after that first encounter. It was raining heavily as Sesshoumaru sped down the sidewalk after work to get to the subway, briefcase in one hand and umbrella in the other. His attempts at dodging the rain were futile as the roaring winds continued to splatter drops of rain on his suit while matting his hair firmly against his forehead.

From the corners of his eyes, through the haze, he spotted an unmoving figure across the busy street. He was unsure as to what caught his attention - perhaps it was the oddity of the woman standing still in the midst of bustling people or the fact that she was willingly drenching herself in the rain - but he squinted his eyes to get a closer look nonetheless.

He watched, almost in slow motion, as she turned to face him head on as if sensing his gaze upon her and Sesshoumaru felt his heart stop. How...? His eyes widened in blatant surprise and a startled gasp involuntarily escaped his lips. It was her - Kagome. The same sapphire blue eyes, cute upturned nose, and soft lips framed by mussed bangs. The firm hold he had on the umbrella went slack and the umbrella slowly fell forward from his hand, momentarily blocking his view of the woman staring hauntingly at him.

When his vision cleared seconds later, he was not surprised to find that she had disappeared.  

- T -

Sesshoumaru stopped by the mall two Saturdays later to pick  up a new suit. His eyes were tired and his body was tense as he walked through the crowded area. He couldn't refrain from recalling the odd events that had been occurring ever since he arrived in the States. He had left Japan because he couldn't cope with the memories of Kagome, but somehow, his current situation was much worse. Sesshoumaru felt like he was losing his sanity.

Maybe it was Kagome's way of letting him know she did not appreciate being left behind. Perhaps she didn't want him to move on. Sesshoumaru grimaced when he realized how spiteful he made Kagome sound. She wasn't like that at all and he immediately chided himself for thinking of her in such an ill manner.

Coming to a stop before the mall's interior elevator, Sesshoumaru pushed the 'up' button. He stepped back, staring at his mirror image upon the reflective panels while he waited for the elevator's arrival. Sesshoumaru wondered when his life would be normal again; when he would move on past this tragedy. He had given up everything. Everything. Didn't he deserve a little peace of mind as well?

He lifted his wrist and glanced down at his watch before raising his head up in time to see in his reflection a woman walking by him from behind - identical hair, same walk, similar frame. Sesshoumaru whirled around, caught sight of the woman walking away and before he could stop to think about his actions, strode forward and firmly caught her wrist, tugging her to a sudden halt.

The woman gasped in shock and immediately fought to free herself from his grip, hair falling into her face in her attempts. Sesshoumaru held on tight, unwilling to let Kagome slip through his grasp again.

"Kago-," he started to say, but his voice died when the woman snapped her head up to glare at him and her silky hair fell away to reveal a face that was not the source of his haunting. Stunned, Sesshoumaru dropped her wrist and took a step backwards in horror. He was losing his mind!

The woman rubbed at her sore wrist. "Stay away from me, you creep," she hissed. "Or I'll call the cops."

"I... I apologize. I thought... you were someone else," Sesshoumaru murmured, turning away in despair in time to see the elevator doors slide open.

He should have known better. Kagome did not physically exist anymore. Everything had been a figment of his imagination. Everything he had seen since his move had been conjured by his own twisted mind. He was the only one haunting himself, for Kagome was too much of a kind soul, too sweet of a woman to treat him so cruelly.

Sesshoumaru sighed and stepped inside, pressing the button for an upper floor. He lifted his gaze as the doors slowly closed and saw her running past the elevator, shopping bags in tow. It was her! This time, it was Kagome for sure! He had a brief glimpse of her face - it was a face that Sesshoumaru could never forget.

Not bothering to restrain himself as all previous thoughts and errors in judgment fled his mind, Sesshoumaru tore out of the elevator and chased after the woman. He followed behind her with every twist and turn, determination running through his veins to catch her and reclaim her as his but she seemed to appear further ahead of him with each passing moment.

Sesshoumaru increased his speed, but still she seemed to fade right before his eyes, blending into the crowd until she could no longer be seen. Frantic, he ran up to the location he last saw her and searched in every direction while feeling like a crazed man. There were many people walking leisurely, but none had the thick, glossy black hair that he was looking for.

With his heart pounding wildly in his chest, Sesshoumaru was slammed with the realization that perhaps he truly was delusional. Unable to cope with that thought, he uncharacteristically sank to his knees and fisted a hand in his shirt where his heart was. The pain there was so deep, so intense, that Sesshoumaru tilted his head back and let out a loud cry of rage and sorrow, aware that the patrons of the mall would think him insane but not caring in the slightest.

Why would he when he, too, thought himself to be insane?

- T -

The following weeks passed by in a blur for Sesshoumaru. Almost robotically, he went through his daily routine with blank mind and vacant eyes, wondering when his next episode would occur. He couldn't sleep; his nights were haunted by his past where Kagome was happy and carefree and alive. His days were spent with paranoia, wishing to see his delusions, if only to pretend for one moment that Kagome was still here, while hoping he wouldn't so no one, especially himself, could deem him mad.

He chuckled dryly to himself. If only Toga could see him now... the great Sesshoumaru, famed in Japan for being heir to his father's jewelry empire, was now reduced to this - a mentally unstable man alone in a foreign country. It was truly a pitiful sight and as he absentmindedly walked down the street, briefcase in hand, he didn't even realize he had run into someone until they let out a yelp as they hit the ground.

Sesshoumaru blinked, his gaze unsteady as he peered down at the woman he had knocked over. She was crouching on the ground, frantically picking up her fallen groceries and he knelt down to assist her. He picked up an orange that was rolling away and held it out to her. As she moved to take it, she lifted her head to thank him as he opened his mouth to apologize and both froze when their eyes met.

"You...," Sesshoumaru whispered, the orange slipping from between his limp fingers to land on the sidewalk and tumble away.

Her eyes widened a fraction of an inch before she composed herself. She bowed to him in gratitude for his assistance before standing up. "Thank you for your assistance, sir."

He knitted his eyebrows together, puzzled. "Mrs. Higurashi... you don't remember this Sesshoumaru?"

She looked at him blankly. "I'm sorry. I've never known a Sesshoumaru before in my life." She stood up and bowed again - this time in farewell and Sesshoumaru quickly seized her wrist to prevent her from leaving.

"Please...don't tell me you're a figment of my imagination too," he murmured mournfully. "I've been seeing her... I've been seeing Kagome... everywhere. She's haunting me and I... I fear that I may be losing my mind. Please don't tell me that I'm insane."

She stared at him, midnight eyes portraying her pity as she peered at Sesshoumaru closely. Upon seeing the torment behind his golden eyes and his tired, worn out features, Mrs. Higurashi sighed dejectedly before nodding decisively. "No dear, you're not insane."

Immediately, a wave of relief washed over him, lifting the burden he had been carrying for months. He wasn't going crazy and he wasn't delusional. For the first time in a long time, Sesshoumaru felt like he could breathe easily again. But wait... If he hadn't been losing his mind all this time, did that mean he really had seen Kagome? And if so, well...wasn't she...dead?

As if sensing his exact train of thought, Mrs. Higurashi chuckled humorlessly. "I know what you're thinking and it's a long story. If you'll help me carry these home, I'll tell you everything."

Wordlessly, Sesshoumaru grabbed hold of the groceries and followed the woman, his curiosity burning.

- T -

Mrs. Higurashi placed a cup of steaming green tea in front of Sesshoumaru before taking a seat across him at the table. "I suppose there are a lot of things running through your mind right now. A lot of things you cannot make sense of."

Sesshoumaru nodded silently in response, taking a sip of his tea.

"I want to start out by apologizing... for lying to you all these years."

He froze, teacup halfway to his lips. Sesshoumaru cleared his throat and set the cup down again. "What...what do you mean?"

"Kagome...," Mrs. Higurashi paused for a moment. "Kagome's alive."

What?

Sesshoumaru stared at her incredulously, caught between elation and fuming anger. He recalled the way she had sobbed at his bedside that day in the hospital.

"I'm sorry... I'm sorry..."

And suddenly, it all made sense and Sesshoumaru felt like such a fool. It hadn't been "I'm sorry for the pain you're bound to feel over Kagome's early departure..." but "I'm sorry I'm going to cruelly let you believe Kagome died for the rest of your life."

Mrs. Higurashi fiddled with her fingers at the sudden coldness in his eyes. Never had she thought she would see Sesshoumaru again. Of all the places he had chosen to travel to, why here? Why now? She sighed. Perhaps it was fate - no matter how hard they fought against it, what's meant to be will always find a way; it's inevitable.

"I'm sorry," she repeated.

"I've heard it more than enough from you," Sesshoumaru snapped, feeling betrayed. "Why?"

"It wasn't my choice. Believe me when I say that. The accident... it changed Kagome."

"How?"

Mrs. Higurashi sighed, her eyes watering. "When she woke up in the hospital... she couldn't speak. The doctor examined her thoroughly, but she was fine. Kagome was healthy. The accident did not damage her larynx or her nerves. Her voice was simply... gone."

"They couldn't figure out what happened?"

"The only explanation they could offer was a psychological one. The doctor said that perhaps the accident had simply scared her into locking her voice away. That the accident triggered suppressed memories of a painful period in her life and somehow, that was the way her mind decided to cope with it."

Sesshoumaru nodded in understanding. "You mean to say...her memory of the car accident in which Mr. Higurashi was violently killed had resurfaced."

"Yes. I believe that may be the case. When Kagome was rescued from the car...it took years before she was able to function normally again. The mental and emotional trauma had deeply scarred her. At the time, I thought I had lost Kagome forever."

They were silent for a long moment, both lost in their own thoughts. Sesshoumaru took a long drink from his cup before examining Kagome's mother. "Will she ever be cured?"

"The doctors don't know. It's a medical mystery."

Sesshoumaru frowned. "Faking Kagome's death... Was that your idea or hers?"

"Kagome felt that she would burden you with her disability," Mrs. Higurashi explained. "Your future is bright, Sesshoumaru. You're constantly in the spotlight as heir to your father's company. Kagome thought that having a mute for a wife would reflect badly upon you, so she chose to step back and allow you to find someone better suited for you and your future. She feels she doesn't deserve the name ‘Mrs. Taisho Sesshoumaru.’"

His eyes darkened at her explanation. He had been betrayed and lied to for the sake of his reputation - the reputation that he had never wanted. Sesshoumaru had never once cared for what other people thought and Kagome should have known that. He was angry - fuming mad - that Kagome had thought him so shallow. All these years, he had felt guilt and sorrow for nothing.

Sesshoumaru stood up so suddenly, the chair tethered before clattering to the floor. He shot Mrs. Higurashi a look so cold she recoiled in her seat and wordlessly, he picked up his briefcase and walked towards the door, slamming it on his way out.

Mrs. Higurashi sighed when a movement from the corner of her eye caught her attention. She looked up and noticed Kagome peering at her from the entrance of the corridor. Kagome had tears in her eyes and an unspeakable sadness upon her face.

"Why did you tell him?" Kagome signed, her hand motions quick and fluid.

"I'm sorry, Kagome. I didn't know he was here in the States and we ran into each other," her mother revealed. "He asked and when I saw the look on his face, I couldn't refuse."

Kagome just looked at her, tears trailing down her cheeks.

"I think he still loves you very much, Kagome, and I know that you still love him. Maybe... maybe you should go after him."

She shook her head vehemently. "You saw the look on his face, mom. He's not coming back. Not now, not ever. He found out the truth and now he knows...I am not worth it."

Kagome sniffled as she turned to walk away.

Her mother called out to her, but Kagome ignored her as she went back into her room, feeling as though her heart was shattering all over again.

- T -

Mrs. Higurashi was pulling the turkey out of the oven for their annual Christmas holiday dinner when the doorbell unexpectedly rang. Her eyes lit up in surprise as Kagome went to answer the door. It was unusual since they had mostly kept to themselves, forgoing the chance to make friends. Shrugging nonchalantly, Mrs. Higurashi continued to fuss over her turkey, thinking that perhaps it was simply some Christmas carolers passing through the neighborhood despite the rain.

Kagome pulled the door open with a smile on her face before lifting her eyes up in silent greeting. The sight before her; however, made her smile drop and she gasped soundlessly. She questioned him with her eyes, wanting more than anything to simply slam the door shut and pretend he didn't exist... but she knew she didn't have it in her.

"Hello Kagome," Sesshoumaru said cordially. His silver hair shimmered under the porch light and his golden eyes shone like the brightest moons she had ever seen. He was dressed warmly for the cold weather, but she could see the puffs of breath when he spoke.

She leaned against the door, her hand tightening around the doorknob until her knuckles were white as she waited for him to say something else.

He didn't. He only continued to stare at her with those unreadable eyes.

The silence was awkward, only slightly improved by the sound of rain hitting the pavement.

"Can I come in?"

Kagome's eyes widened. That shouldn't have been unexpected, but it was. She fought an internal argument with herself before reluctantly stepping back to allow him entrance. The moment Sesshoumaru stepped beyond the door, Kagome knew it was a mistake. He towered over her petite frame and his light cologne wafted over her, tossing her back into the past where everything was simple and carefree and...right.

She tried to distance herself from him, but as if sensing her exact thoughts, Sesshoumaru gripped her elbow in a light hold. His touch sent shivers down her spine and Kagome didn't have to look at him to know that her emotions were splayed out for him to see. He had always told her she wore her heart upon her sleeve.

"Kagome...," he said softly. "There are many things I would like to say to you, and I'm not quite sure how to proceed, but among those thoughts, the one ringing the loudest is this: I love you."

Tears immediately filled her eyes as her heart gave a painful lurch. Why was he doing this to her? He knew they couldn't be together. She shook her head frantically, hands trembling as she fought to get out of his hold, stumbling backwards in the process. He followed her and Kagome felt cornered. Panicking, she ducked underneath his outstretched arm and ran out of the house into the pouring rain.

"Kagome!" Sesshoumaru shouted, breaking out into a run to chase after her. The pounding of his heavy footsteps echoed her lighter ones and Kagome felt fear. She didn't want him to catch her, but Sesshoumaru had longer strides than she did. It didn't take long for him to catch her again by the elbow and whirl her around to face him.

"Stop running! Stop running from me."

She pushed him away from her, quiet sobs wracking her body - the only indication Sesshoumaru had that she was crying. They were both being drenched, but they couldn't care less. Everything would end today - one way or another.

"Didn't you hear me, Kagome?" Sesshoumaru asked, raising his voice so the rain didn't drown him out. "I said I love you."

She didn't know how to respond. She couldn't speak and he...he wouldn't understand her. Her heart was racing and Sesshoumaru was staring at her just like how he used to - with love and affection. Frantically, Kagome signed a reply back to him, unsure of what else she could do.

Her movements were too quick to mimic her jumbled thoughts and for a moment, Kagome thought her fingers would knot themselves together. "You can't come back here after two years and tell me that you love me. It doesn't work that way. We're not meant to be. You should go back to Japan and find someone else better suited for you."

Kagome stared at him, pleading him with her eyes to leave her be, but Sesshoumaru shook his head and raised both his hands up to chest height. Making sure that she was paying close attention, Sesshoumaru began to sign a reply back to her, slowly but confidently.

"I love you. You love me. The solution has always been simple and yet, you make it so complicated. Are you afraid I wouldn't be able to understand you? You're wrong. Sign language can be learned. Did you think I had walked away from you forever the day I left your house? You're wrong. I know you. I know the way you think and I knew I couldn't convince you to stay by my side until I could show you that nothing can keep us apart."

Her eyes were wide as she read his movements before she responded with her own. "But how...?"

"The day I left your house was the day I joined a sign language class."

"I may never get my voice back..."

"I know," Sesshoumaru signed, before speaking. "But that doesn't make me stop loving you."

Kagome's entire frame shook with her sobs and Sesshoumaru pulled her into a tight embrace. Her hands fisted the fabric of his jacket as she leaned into him.

"I'll never let you go again," Sesshoumaru whispered. "If you'll let me, I will keep you by my side forever, on a promise that you made me five years ago."

Kagome went still for a moment before slowly nodding; her tears of heartache were now of elation. She felt Sesshoumaru's fingers on her own and she looked down to find that he was slipping on her finger the same engagement ring from all those years ago.

She looked up at him, eyes sparkling, to find that he had a smile on his face as he gazed down at her. Sesshoumaru lowered himself to her petite level, lips hovering above her own. "Merry Christmas," he whispered before claiming her lips in a soft and tender kiss.

-

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