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No More Running by aijoinu

She didn't see it coming

AN:  Um, yeah.  Heres another Dokuga Christmas Exchange one-shot that I wrote for the 2014 holiday.  Written for the wonderful kaoruhana, I am sincerely apologetic for having pulled this from the web. 

oOo 

Original Prompt:  "I love cooking during Christmas, all smells like the hot apple cider, the hot spiced wine." - Amy Smart

Cobalt eyes framed by black lashes stared out the kitchen window as she unconsciously hand washed the dishes used for preparing the evening meal. The view was something Kagome missed over the five years that she had been away from home. She hadn't seen snow since she'd left Japan to get her education. She had wanted to start a new life away from the memories of the past.

Apparently, it had started to snow the day before she arrived in Tokyo, so there was already a heavy coat upon the city. Kagome loved how the whiteness gave everything such a new, pure look.

The time away had been well spent in Kagome's mind. If anything, she had never intended to return to the land of her birth except for the occasional holiday. Yes, she was running away from the past - it was something she could admit to. But here she was, washing dishes in the same kitchen while her mother prepared the Christmas meal. The scent of spiced cider wafted from the crock-pot on the counter; simmering and warming to be drunk throughout the evening. For Kagome, it was one of the smells of her childhood; it brought back images of Christmas Eve’s past and many happy memories with them.

She had been away for over five years now, and now she was waiting for their guest of honor to arrive. It was because of him that she was back in Japan in the first place.  It was because of him that she was able to face her past and make a new future. It was also because of him that she was able to let go and maybe, just maybe, fall in love again.

Kagome focused once again on the task at hand, scrubbing a particularly difficult spot on the pot used to make caramelized sweet potatoes. Again, she found herself drifting to how it had all happened.

oOo

Two weeks ago… 

It was a balmy 75-degree Saturday morning in East L.A., typical weather for early summer… if it had been that time of the year. Who would have known that it was December and only two weeks away from the Christmas holiday? There were very few signs that it was winter with the way that Angelino’s dressed in jeans and t-shirts, some even in shorts. The only sign that the holiday was upon them were the large glittery bells that hung from every few street lamps. Or that some of the storefronts had painted “Happy Holidays” on their window in fake spray snow. Some even went as far as to string lights at the edges of their windows or front doors, but to many not from the area, it really didn’t feel like the Christmas Season.

For the Japanese transplant it was just another day in the month in the year. Though she was use to much colder days and even colder nights with the occasional snow flurry at this time of the year, Kagome could honestly say that she was much happier with the milder summer-like days that were prevalent in Southern California. Where else could you walk by the edge of the sea at any time of the year and not freeze to death?

Kagome did miss her homeland, mainly because her family was still there, but also because it was where so many of her fondest memories were. In Japan, there were actual seasons and Kagome had yet to see a palm tree’s leaves turn brown and fall to the ground.

Kagome mentally shook her head, clearing her mind of the depressing thoughts as she drove her small car, a used blue Corolla, along the busy city streets trying to focus on where she was going instead of the memories that seemed to flood her mind unbidden. There was no sense in rehashing old memories when she was building new ones in her new home. Her new country, though temporary. It must be the fact that she missed her family, especially at this time of the year, and the traditions they held. She was feeling particularly sentimental this year. Probably because she hadn’t been home since she arrived on U.S. soil.

When Naraku had finally been destroyed and the Shikon no Tama had been completed, Kagome had made her final wish upon cursed jewel sending her back to the future from whence she came. Her memories of all of her adventures and her feelings for a certain half-demon were all she had to show for it. Kagome had dealt with the loss of her friends and one-time love in the only way she knew how: by devoting herself to studying and making up for the lost time that she spent in the Feudal Era. She managed to get caught up in her classes, eventually graduating in the top 10 of her class, giving her the opportunity to go to just about any university that she wanted.

And then her grandfather passed away.

It had literally been the final nail in the coffin making Kagome choose to study abroad opting for the change of scenery and all but running away from home and everything it reminded her of. Thanks to her excellent efforts in her studies and the extra credit and volunteer work she did outside of school, Kagome had managed to win the attention of the admissions office at UCLA along with a full scholarship. While at first she had been terrified of heading for the foreign shores of the U.S. and leaving her country, her mother, brother and grandfather behind, Kagome felt that it was something she needed to do. Besides, for what she had wanted to get her degree in, she felt that Los Angeles was a good place to start.

Kagome spent the next four years not only acclimating to an entirely different culture but also worked towards her degree in social work while minoring in psychology. For the girl who had a very giving heart and the desire to serve, it was a perfect fit. 

So here she was five years later, on her way to the Los Angeles Mission to help in the planning for the next holiday celebration. Thanksgiving had just passed and had been a huge success for the Mission, feeding thousands of homeless, jobless, or just plain hungry individuals. It was fulfilling to her to see so many get a good meal, along with the resulting smiles from those that really had nothing to smile about except that they were alive. 

Kagome had been volunteering at the Mission as part of the requirements for one of her classes and had continued to do so even after graduating and getting a job with the County. Working in Social Services, more specifically in the Foster Child placement system was a difficult and more often than not, thankless job. The hours were long and the days never ending, but the rewards far outweighed the demanding job. She absolutely loved helping those children who were in need, finding them a place where they could feel loved and cared for.

Visions of a little emerald-eyed, red-haired kitsune and a doe-eyed, brown-haired little girl in a yellow and orange-checked kimono danced in her head; a constant reminder of why she chose the profession she had. Shippo and Rin had both lost their parents early on in life, and were left behind with no one to care for them, especially in an era where there was no such thing as a foster system or adoption. Kagome was so grateful to have been able to care for Shippo for the little bit of time that she had been in the Feudal Era. She held hope that either Inuyasha would continue to watch over the kit as his own, or that Sango and Miroku would welcome him into their own family and raise him the best that they could, even though they were not of demon heritage.

Kagome wondered about Rin and how she managed living with the demon Lord she followed. Did Sesshomaru continue to allow her presence as he wandered the lands? Had Rin eventually moved on and married? Did she live long enough to have her own family? 

So many questions bombarded her mind as she slowly wove her way in and out of traffic and towards her destination. Five years in this city had taught her how to get around efficiently and how to make it to her destination on time. She knew she had a busy day ahead of her so she cleared her mind and focused on her drive.  Kagome arrived 15 minutes later to the sight of organized chaos at the Mission, which was nothing unusual. People were lined up for food outside the doors and had wrapped around the large building that was refuge for so many of the down and out of the city. Tables were full of people eating while some attempted to ‘camp out’ in corners of the dining area to catch a little sleep in relative safety. Volunteers went around waking those sleeping people directing them to safer and quieter places to rest.

“Kagome!” a female voice called through the din of the large room.

She made her way towards where the voice came from, through the crowded room, stopping to say ‘hi’ to those faces she recognized and had become familiar with over the few years she’d worked there. Kagome was impressed by how far some had come since the first time they had come to the Mission seeking shelter and food, only to find not only what they came for but more: acceptance. Many that entered the doors of the Mission wanted food, clothing, and a place to stay. Others came for the same but also for the services provided there. Counseling, drug rehabilitation, education; those in need could get it here and more. Kagome was one of the many volunteers that gave of their time to help those who were less fortunate.

“Kimi,” Kagome waved as she finally met up with the middle-aged woman on the other side of the room. “Busy day?” Kagome asked with a mild grin after making a sweep of the countless people within the crowded room.

“Boy is it!” the elder woman gasped while fanning herself. “It’s barely 8:30 and we’ve been slammed since we started serving breakfast,” the black-haired woman replied slightly flustered. 

Kimi was one of the many volunteers who had regularly given of their time. Kimi Rodrigues was a second-generation Japanese woman who had fallen in love with a hard working Hispanic man whom she had met in her 20’s. Remarkably, they had met at the Mission, both of them volunteers at the time.

“On top of it, we’re supposed to be visited by one of our larger donors,” Kimi provided. “I don’t know when this person or people are to arrive, but word is that we need to be on our toes,” the woman whispered loudly over the din of the room. 

Kagome rolled her eyes. This wasn’t the first time they’d been visited by a major donor and it wouldn’t be the last. In her eyes, many of those so-called ‘philanthropists’ were in it for the tax-break, or just to feel better about themselves and really didn’t think about it as a way to better someone else’s life. Yes, the money did help those who were unable to help themselves and she wouldn’t deny that it was greatly appreciated. But she had difficulty with those people, or corporations, who did it for purely selfish reasons.

“Apparently, this guy is from Japan and has been donating for many years. It’s his first visit to the Mission to see where his money is going to, apparently.”

A snort came from the miko. She knew the type fairly well, just in her dealings with the many donors she had been exposed to. Not all of them were young and affluent.

“We’ll deal with it the best that we can, Kimi,” Kagome waved dismissively. She wasn’t impressed with people of wealth unless they truly worked for it. 

A loud sound of empty pots hitting concrete interrupted the women’s conversation, and Kagome waved Kimi off as she headed in the direction of the noise. Well, this is something that will never change. This place, the Mission, her job, her apartment downtown; they were all constants now. She had found security in her routine and even though she had felt that she needed to go home, Kagome knew there were people here that needed her.

“Kagome!”

The voice of the volunteer cook Luis yelled out for her, and was followed by the sound of more aluminum pots falling on the tiled floor of the kitchen. Kagome stepped up her pace and muttered as loudly as she could over the din of the dining room without screaming at the top of her lungs, “I’m coming!”

oOo

Crisis averted, Kagome took a break and sat in one of the offices shared by many of the volunteers. Today was her day to oversee the kitchen while the other five leads were out and about taking care of things that were their responsibility. While normally Kagome would work with the few councilors at the homeless shelter, today she had been asked to help with the organization of the kitchen. Kagome, being Kagome, couldn’t say no.

She leaned her elbows against the aged desk and sighed. She held her head in her hands as she ran through her mental list of things to do before the guest of honor appeared. Apparently, this was a VERY honored guest and someone who wanted to see what the Mission did, and most likely wanted to see where his money was going.

Pots and pans not being used are scrubbed and put away. Floors swept and mopped, she mentally tallied. Breakfast was over and already the kitchen was preparing for the evening meal. Lunch was usually skipped in favor of the morning and evening meals so that people could start and end their days with a full stomach. Well, only if there was money to provide the food for those meals.

Kagome was grateful that management had gotten the latest infestation under control. There was nothing worse than opening an empty pot or moving a group of pans only to discover a dead or even live cockroach. Kami forbid, even a rodent. She shuddered at the thought. 

Her stomach growled. “Great,” she moaned quietly. “I forgot my lunch at home, too. Good job, Kagome.”

Before she could think about what to do about lunch, Kimi poked her head into the office. “Hey girl! The guest of honor is here and boy, is he hot!”

Kagome rolled her eyes at Kimi’s declaration. The woman thought Harrison Ford was hot, for Kami’s sake! Although, if Kagome were honest with herself, she could honestly say that no human mortal was attractive. She’d been ruined thanks to certain silver-haired dog demons with otherworldly looks.

“Come on!” Kimi pushed as she stepped into the office when she saw Kagome wasn’t moving fast enough. “They’re waiting on you, girl!”

Kagome laughed and chortled out a derisive, “yeah, right” and stood up from her seat at the desk, the sound of wood grinding against the hard floor making her flinch a little. “You better hope I don’t mention to Jesse that you think this guy is ‘hot.’” Kagome teased as she walked towards the older woman and in the direction of the main hall.

“Awe, he knows that he’s the only man for me,” Kimi wagged her eyebrows lecherously. For a minute, Kagome swore the woman looked suspiciously like a certain violet-eyed monk. 

“Besides,” Kimi interrupted the younger woman’s daydreaming. “I think this guy is more your type.” Kimi poked Kagome in the side as she teased her.

“Ha, ha. Very funny,” Kagome grumbled. 

Kagome had made it known to all that she worked with that she was not to be “fixed up” or “hooked up” with any males early on. She explained that ‘no,’ she wasn’t a lesbian; she was there to do her job as a volunteer. Surprisingly, her cohorts respected her wishes, albeit reluctantly. However, times like this made it difficult for Kimi not to tease the younger girl into changing her mind about dating. The elder woman thought Kagome was a beautiful young woman with a heart as big as Japan, yet Kimi could see that there was something haunting her. Kagome’s eyes spoke of someone who had loved and lost and she still hadn’t healed from that loss.

The women walked into the hall and lined up at the end of the line where the rest of the volunteers stood, not paying attention to how everyone’s eyes were riveted on the new male in the room. When Kagome finally took a moment to look at their guest, she gasped.

Kimi looked at Kagome knowingly and whispered, “See, I told you he was a looker.”

Kagome couldn’t believe what her eyes were telling her. Her heart pounded at the sight of the male who was speaking with the Mission Director. He was obviously well off judging by the solid black Armani suit that looked to have been tailored to his form. Black shoes glistened in the poor light of the room. But what made Kagome’s body freeze was the long, silver-white hair that was pulled back into a low ponytail at the nape of his neck. It was perfectly straight and hung just below his shoulder blades and Kagome wondered what drove him to cut it so short.

She could hear the voice of the male as he spoke in clear English, no hint of an accent to mar his speech and Kagome thought it fitting for someone whose name contained the word ‘perfection.’ That voice had haunted her in her nightmares as she relived his constant attacks against his half-brother in the past. Yet now, it was calm and almost sounded warm as he spoke to her boss.

He was still pale-skinned and had that otherworldly look that she remembered from the past, though all he seemed to be missing were his facial markings. She’d bet her entire savings that his hair strategically covered those elfin ears of his. In her mind Sesshomaru hadn’t changed much in the 500 years or more since she’d last seen him in the Feudal Era.

And then it hit her. Why didn’t she sense his youki?

oOo

Ichirou Taisho sat in the back of the black limo as it weaved in and out of the busy Los Angeles traffic. His thoughts were burdened by memories of the past and yet hope for the future.

The name he carried during this era was not his true name and though he would prefer to go by it, it did not carry the same weight that it had in the very far past. There was a time when the name Sesshomaru struck terror in some and reverence in others.

He knew that the miko that traveled with his half-brother Inuyasha was from this time. The hanyou had told him the truth of her origins during one of his "training" sessions in the past. When the female left without a trace, Sesshomaru questioned the whelp of her whereabouts.  He had figured that the pair would become mates once the tyranny of Naraku had been ended but had been surprised to find that they had not. Sesshomaru had found Inuyasha to be tight-lipped for many moons until the boy finally caved in. 

Sesshomaru had been surprised yet it explained much of the female’s differences. While the women in Edo had been mere property to their fathers and then to their husbands, Kagome had been both independent and vociferous when she was treated in similar fashion. Sesshomaru had been privy to her outbursts on numerous occasions when Inuyasha had called her ‘wench,’ usually followed by a magic word that would find the hanyou eating dirt.

Thinking about it now, it was highly entertaining to watch. Sesshomaru almost wished the half-breed were still alive and wearing the kotodama, just to see him subjugated once again.

Although in the past he had no real interest in the miko known as Kagome, time changed his view. Well, more like the little things that had intrigued him seemed to invade his thoughts and running through his mind to the point of driving him to distraction.

Her manner of speech held a different pattern so unlike what he was used to in the past and she was not the timid female of the era. The miko, more often than not, spoke her mind and quite vehemently at times. She stood up for the weak when they were oppressed and stood up for those who became her friends whether they were human, hanyou or full demon. She gave everyone a second chance, never one to judge someone based on looks or initial first impressions. Obviously, since most of those whom she counted as friends had tried to kill her at first contact.

Kagome’s dress, while obscene in the past, now made sense.  Having lived to the current era, Sesshomaru was able to see where her short skirt came from. Thinking back to the later parts of their interactions just prior to her disappearance, Sesshomaru could admit that he had found the view she offered quite tempting. He was a Lord, yes, and kept up his façade of indifference. But he was male too.

And her scent… Kami above, it was the one thing that could have easily been his undoing.

There was just something about her natural scent that called to his inner being.

As an inu, Sesshomaru was able to commit Kagome's scent to memory so that if and when he came across it once again, he would know it was her. It was a distinctive mix of nature and power that caressed his senses and calmed his demon side. He'd never found anyone that could do so similarly.

As time passed, all he had were his memories of how she looked, how she reacted to certain stimuli or situations. He truly wished he had something of hers to drown his senses in once again. The last 500 years had been sheer torture yet no one ever knew of his despair.

Since Sesshomaru knew where to locate the female he finally admitted to longing for, he bided his time by doing all he could for the small shrine and the family that would bring her small life into the world. He even went so far as to donate money to the upkeep so that Kagome would have all the necessary things for a decently comfortable life.

He followed her life from when she first started to show, growing from inside her mother's womb then through the years until she made her first trip down the well. He marveled at the many changes she underwent. For all of his usual distaste for humanity, Sesshomaru found a new interest in them.

Sure, he had seen similar changes in his ward, Rin, as she grew from a young girl and matures as a young woman until she eventually passed on of old age. But to watch the female that held his fascination for so long grow was, in his mind, a miracle.

Sitting back in his limo, Sesshomaru reflected back on how he had approached Kagome's mother and explained to her what was happening to her daughter on the other side of the well. He never once told her how he had helped her family over the years, as he knew that her pride would demand that she find a way to pay him back.

Although, he figured the best form of payment would be in the form of her daughter, but Sesshomaru knew that, in this day and age, it would not be looked upon kindly.

So instead, the silver-haired demon kept tabs on Kagome through her mother, who was to keep his presence and visits a secret until the time he wished to come forth.

By the time he decided it was time, Kagome had gone off to college in the United States. He felt a sense of pride that his chosen female had worked hard to better her grades to the point that she was awarded a full scholarship abroad. He'd decided to bide his time and wait for her to finish her studies and return home before approaching her.

But she didn't return.

Mrs. Higurashi had been kind enough to contact him and tell him that Kagome had decided to stay in the U.S. as she had found a job that fit her career choice. Kagome had explained to her mother that she felt that she had found her calling in Los Angeles. What she didn't tell Mrs. Higurashi was that she was afraid to go back to the place that held so many memories.

Sesshomaru had been astounded to find out that she actually worked with foster children placing them in good homes. To him it was ironic that the young girl who practically adopted an orphaned kitsune as well as showing unconditional kindness to his own ward would pick such a form of career.

Sesshomaru had Kagome investigated quietly over the ensuing months and it had been revealed that she volunteered a good amount of hours at the Los Angeles Mission, and had been doing so even when she had been attending college. When did she have time to have a social life? In all honesty the inu was pleased that there had been no mention of a male in her life besides her brother or her grandfather, but it disturbed him that she did not find time to have some kind of personal life. He was concerned that she would burn herself out.

Hence his trip to Los Angeles.

He had been donating to the Mission regularly and used this trip as an opportunity to both see where his money was going and to hopefully see the woman whose life he had been following from the shadows.

He was not disappointed.

Beneath the strong scents of humanity, Sesshomaru could pick out hers and he trained his senses to focus only on that. When he had his first sight of her, he almost dropped his stoic mask.

She'd changed, though for the better. The baby fat she'd had in her teens had melted off revealing her high cheekbones and strong jaw line, even for a female. Her blue eyes were clear yet clouded with sorrow. Sesshomaru saw her interact with one of the other volunteers as they entered the hall where he stood and he could see that her smile never quite reached her eyes.

Her figure had slimmed down in some ways, yet had also filled out in all the right places. He hadn't seen much of her since high school so he was well pleased with how she had developed. Though, he internally frowned when he noted just how thin she was. Something would have to be done about that.

The Mission Director directed Sesshomaru to the beginning of the lineup of current volunteers, introducing each one and explaining what they did while there. It took a lot to run such a large organization and Sesshomaru could tell that each and every person involved there gave their best to ensure that things happened smoothly.

"This is Kagome," introduced the Director with a large smile. "She has been with us for almost five years now and not only works with our counseling group," the elder gentlemen explained. "This girl also fills in, in other places when needed and I've found her to be a very hard worker."

Sesshomaru's and Kagome's eyes met, each one recognizing the other for who they were and who they were now. Kagome blinked before formally greeting Sesshomaru in Japanese while bowing low in deference to his position of wealth and authority.

"Oh!" the Director exclaimed. "I hadn't realized you spoke Japanese, Kagome. How wonderful! Maybe you can translate if Mr. Taisho needs assistance?" he suggested.

Kagome blanched. She had a feeling that Sesshomaru didn't have the need for a translator. Being who he was, he probably knew more languages than she herself, and fluently. But before she could say anything, the object of her thoughts spoke.

"I would very much like that. If Ms. Higurashi doesn't mind?" he posed while looking at her questioningly.

Kagome's eyes widened. How did he know her family name? Did he recall it from so many years ago? She didn't remember it ever coming up. If anything, Inuyasha was the only one who knew it.

"Um..." she paused a little nervously, "I guess that would be fine." Butterflies made themselves known as she tried not to stare too much at the male before her. She held back the urge to fidget under his scrutiny but was having difficulty. Sesshomaru, she noted, was still amazingly beautiful even with shorter hair. If anything, it made him look manlier, and it was extremely distracting.

"Hn," he muttered reminding Kagome of the past. Some things never change.

"Well, now that that's settled," the Director clapped. "Shall we continue the tour?"

Sesshomaru bowed in agreement while signaling to Kagome to follow. They walked down a series of halls that led to different areas of the mission, all the while being told what each room or group of rooms was used for. The elderly gentleman continued to walk while talking while Sesshomaru and Kagome spoke to one another very quietly in Japanese.

"You look overly thin, miko. Have you not been taking care of yourself now that you're on your own?" It was a jab and he knew it, but he wanted to see the fire back in her eyes.

He was not disappointed.

"Really?" she replied quietly but with a heavy dose of sarcasm. "I haven't seen you in over 500 years and the first thing you do is pick on my weight?" Oh yes, she was not happy with him.  "Ooo, if I only had another kotodama..."

Sesshomaru smirked. Kagome saw it and immediately relaxed, the realization that he'd baited her finally hit.

"You're incorrigible," she grumbled under her breath.

While Kagome should have feared for her life, and would have had they been in the Feudal Era, this era was entirely different. Sesshomaru couldn't do anything to her without repercussions. If Kagome suddenly disappeared from the face of the earth, she would be missed and she didn't think Sesshomaru wanted to deal with the fallout.

"Hn. Yes, well a lot of time has passed and I've been saving all of my best taunts for this moment," he explained and Kagome could hear the smirk in his voice.

She stopped and gaped at him, both parties having completely ignored their tour guide. "What are you saying?" Had he been... looking for her?

"That I have been looking for you, priestess. Following your family line and assuring their survival and in turn yours," he told her, amber eyes boring intensely into her own blue. He stood so closely before her that Kagome could feel the heat of his body.

"Why?" she asked, confused. "I'm human."  In the past, Sesshomaru was always reminding her of her shortcomings, being human.  Now it was time she threw it back in his face.

A small smile played over Sesshomaru's face and a hand drew from his side to move a stray strand of blue-black hair out of her face and behind her ear.

His hand slowly ran from her ear and down her jaw line before gently grasping her chin. Kagome could feel his breath as he moved in closer and she barely noticed the hint of mint before he dropped his lips on hers in a chaste kiss.

The effect was instantaneous. A zing of power shot through both participants as youki and reiki met for the first time. Slowly they broke apart, Sesshomaru wearing a subtle smirk and Kagome dazed and confused by the demon's actions.

"Because, I wanted to," he finally answered, his voice husky from the deep emotions that came forth after being denied for so long.

The sound of the clearing of a throat was heard and the pair looked up to see a confused, yet largely smiling Director as he attempted to gain their attention. "Do you know one another?"

Kagome was grateful that Sesshomaru spoke because she was having a difficult time organizing her thoughts. "We were acquainted many years ago," was all that the male offered.

"Ah, I see," the elderly gentleman nodded in understanding. "Then I assume you want to spend some time with Kagome instead of finishing the tour?"

"I appreciate the time you have taken to show me around the Mission. I will continue to contribute as long as the work continues to help those in need."

"Well then, we do appreciate your extreme generosity, Mr. Taisho and thank you humbly."

Sesshomaru bowed his head in acknowledgment once again before speaking. "I hope you do not mind if I borrow Ms. Higurashi for the rest of the day so that we may become... reacquainted?"

Kagome blushed. After just a simple kiss, she wasn't sure she wanted to know what he meant by that.

oOo

Sesshomaru had his limo follow Kagome to her apartment so that she could drive her car home. From there, he took her out to dinner. A very nice place, where she had wished he had allowed her to change out of her frumpy and slightly dirty clothes from her day. However, the people at the restaurant didn't even bat an eye.

Kagome got to hear his story and about why he had been looking for her, stumping the girl. She still couldn't grasp the idea that he held a deep affection for her, one that had developed over the last 500 years from curiosity. It was mindboggling.

Sesshomaru asked if she would return to Japan and that her family missed her very much. He also explained that his home was outside of Tokyo in a more rural part, and that he wanted to pursue something more with her, if she was willing.

Kagome thought about it in silence as they finished their meal, followed by a light dessert. Sesshomaru didn't push, but she could feel the fluctuations in his youki. She had asked him earlier why she didn't sense him before, he had told her that he had concealed it on purpose. It was only when he kissed her that he released it. Now she could feel him and his uncertainty.

She had to admit that she was thrilled to have the attention of the most powerful male she'd ever known and yes, she already had a bit of a crush on him. So why was she hesitating? She could afford to take a vacation, but she wasn't sure whether or not she would stay in Japan.

But it was tempting.

"I wouldn't mind seeing my family," Kagome confessed. "It's been a long time since I've been home, but I'm hesitant to commit to more than that right now."

"I see," the silver-haired male quietly responded. She could hear the disappointment deeply rooted in his voice.

Kagome reached for one of his hands and clasped it between her own. "It doesn't mean that I'm not going to give you a chance, Sesshomaru. I'm just saying that you'll have about two weeks to convince me to stay in Japan." She smiled warmly at him, and in turn received a hopeful look from the male next to her, though it was hard to tell, since he still held that stoic facade.

"I think I can work with those conditions," he told her gently. "In fact, I look forward to the challenge."

Kagome giggled and Sesshomaru smirked and the rest of the evening was spent talking and reminiscing.

oOo

Back in Japan

Kagome smiled as she recalled all that had led up to her agreement to return to Japan, even if it was for a short vacation. She'd been worried that work would give her a difficult time for taking time off, but had been pleasantly surprised when they happily agreed to let her go.

She related to Sesshomaru how her boss had practically pushed her out of the building not noticing how the inu smiled knowingly. Kagome would have been perturbed knowing that he had made a few calls to ensure she was given the time off.

She'd been back in Japan just under a week already and had been spending little time with the inu who'd been the one to drag her back. While she was thrilled to be home spending time with her mother and brother, Kagome missed Sesshomaru.

Kagome finished rinsing the last dish and placing it on the dish rack before drying her hands on a nearby dishtowel. "Do you need me to do anything else, Momma?"

Before Hitomi could respond, the doorbell rang, signaling the arrival of their guest. She smiled. "Well, I guess you can greet our guest."

Kagome took off like a shot towards the door getting there just before Souta could answer the door.

"Sheesh," the male grumbled before turning away to walk back to the living room, missing the way Kagome stuck her tongue out at him.

The black-haired woman opened the door pleased to see the male she, now that she could admit it, had been waiting for all day. He wore a long trench coat over his clothing, the black bringing out the color of his silver hair and golden eyes even more.

Kagome had continued to peruse his frame and didn't realize how long she made him stand outside before Sesshomaru spoke. "Are you going to let me inside, Kagome?" he purred.

She jumped at the warm sound of his voice and blushed at being so rude to her guest. "Sorry," she muttered sheepishly. She moved out of the way while indicating for him to come in.

Sesshomaru removed his shoes and coat revealing the deep red silk shirt he wore, hanging the long coat on the rack nearby. "Have you been enjoying your time with your family?"

Kagome nodded vehemently. "Oh yes, most definitely," she replied as she led him towards the kitchen so that he could greet her mother and trying hard not to ogle him again.  Red, which had usually been Inuyasha's color, looked really good on the elder male.

When Sesshomaru confessed that he'd been in contact with her mother, Kagome had been upset that her mother had kept it from her. However, Sesshomaru was quick to inform her that he had been the one to tell Mrs. Higurashi to keep it from her and that he would reveal himself to Kagome in his own time. Kagome understood his reasoning but she didn't really like it. She wished she had known he was in Japan. She might have returned much sooner, regardless of her reluctance to return to the shrine and the sight of so many memories.

For some reason, it hadn't been so bad to come home. It seemed like she'd been able to move past the past, or maybe it was the presence of the male who seemed to chase her inner 'demons' away.

They reached the kitchen and Sesshomaru was greeted with an affectionate hug from her mother. Hitomi quietly thanked him for bringing home her daughter while said daughter was preparing some hot tea for their guest. Kagome wasn't sure if he'd be interested in the spiced cider they had for Christmas. She would offer it later.

Sesshomaru was shooed into the living room where Souta was playing video games and Kagome sat him down on the couch. Hitomi made Kagome stay with their guest telling her that she had things under control.

After several minutes of silence, Sesshomaru looked at the other body in the room and decided what he had to say needed to be said privately.

“Kagome,” he called out, making the female jump, so lost in her thoughts that she was caught off guard. “Can you show me around the shrine grounds? It has been many years since I have visited and would like to see the changes since then.” 

Kagome’s face lit up. “Oh! Okay, but I’ll need a coat,” she informed him. 

He nodded minutely. “Hn, of course.” 

They rose from their seated positions, Kagome walking by Souta and smacking the back of his head earning a half-hearted “hey!” from him as she walked by before heading towards the entry where both of their coats hung.

After donning their shoes and outerwear, Kagome lead Sesshomaru out onto the grounds, leading him to the one thing that still stood throughout the centuries: the Tree of Ages. They stood before it in silence, the scar on the trunk a reminder of who had been pinned there so long ago. Nothing was said but Sesshomaru knew that eventually Kagome would ask about his half-brother.

“Do you want to see where the Bone Eater’s well used to stand?” she asked the silent male nearby. Though he didn’t respond, she knew he did and led him to the building that had once held the source of her travels through time.

The building looked like many of the rest of outbuildings on the shrine and Sesshomaru would not have thought that that such a place carried a well of power. However, once Kagome opened the door to the worn structure and they walked in, he could sense it.

Power. Old magic. Though the well was gone from the building, there was no mistaking what had once been there.

“There is still residual magic in here even though the well no longer stands,” the stoic inu stated.

“Really? I hadn’t noticed, but then I haven’t exactly been out here since I returned from the past for the final time.”

Sesshomaru had seen enough and was able to map out the area now that he knew where key landmarks stood. He led Kagome out of the well house and made his way in a specific direction somewhere between the Tree of Ages and the well, stopping in a clearing just before a large stone.

The stone had weathered the centuries well, though it no longer held the markings that had once been carved upon it. Sesshomaru knelt before it, ignoring the cold of the snow all the while confusing Kagome. After a few moments of reflection, Sesshomaru stood and turned towards Kagome whose face reflected her puzzlement.

“Ask me another time about this stone,” he told her. Kagome understood that he would tell her when she asked. For now she would respect his wishes.

Sesshomaru reached for her hand grasping it in his and they walked slowly around the grounds. The snow had stopped falling before they had come out and there were patches of clouds still in the sky, yet one could still see the stars in the areas that weren’t covered in cloud.

It was a beautiful night Kagome thought to herself. The warmth of Sesshomaru’s hand surrounding her small cold one was welcome as the heat seemed to work its way through her entire being. They once again found themselves in front of the tree that had stood for so long and had been a constant in their lives. Sesshomaru cleared the snow from the small stone bench that stood before it and the pair sat down.

They sat in silence looking up to the sky and marveling at the beauty of the few stars that could be seen. It was a moment when Kagome realized just how small she was in the world. However, the male next to her made her feel like she could accomplish anything.

“Stay.”

The baritone sound reverberated through Kagome’s being. The single word conveyed more to her than just his desire for her to stay in Japan, but she didn’t want to be mistaken. She needed to know why and from his very lips.

“Why?” she countered.

“Because your life is short and I want to spend what remains with you for as long as I can.”

Kagome frowned. “That still doesn’t tell me why, Sesshomaru.”

Golden eyes turned to her questioning blue ones. She could see the pain, the loss and something deeper within those orbs. Was it affection?

“Because I lost you once and I don’t want to let you go again, only to lose you forever. Please allow me to be a part of your life and you a part of mine for as long as you remain on this planet, Kagome,” he pled quietly. “It took me too long to realize just how important to me you are and to understand just how much this jaded heart has needed you in its life.”

Kagome was stunned into silence. While Sesshomaru had kissed her back in L.A. when he first approached her to come to Japan, it was the last time he had given her a clue of his true feelings. Kagome, being Kagome, chalked it up to too much wine and a hallucination. However here he was, telling her in no uncertain words that he wanted her.

And she wanted him. She’d not spent much time with him in the past, but the small time she had spent in his company lately told her that there was no small amount of attraction on her side for the stoic inu. Honestly, she knew that he would be the only one that she would allow herself to eventually love. Males of her time wouldn’t understand her and would never live up to her expectations.

All she could do was accept what the inu was offering. She needed to stop running away from her past and embrace her future with the male next to her.

“I need to find a similar job here in Japan if I’m going to stay,” Kagome voiced. “I refuse to let all of my hard work go to waste, you know.”

Sesshomaru gave a warm smile while pulling the agreeing female into his arms and halfway onto his lap. “That is agreeable.”

“Good.” Silence followed.

“Sesshomaru?”

“Hn.”

“Thank you for bringing me home.”

“You are welcome Kagome,” he said warmly. “Just promise me, no more running away.”

Kagome looked up at Sesshomaru, understanding communicated between them. She wouldn’t run anymore.

 

INUYASHA © Rumiko Takahashi/Shogakukan • Yomiuri TV • Sunrise 2000
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