never was there ever a girl so pretty by Tsuki no Tennyo
never was there ever a girl so pretty
Author's Note: [originally posted: 03.06.15] Originally, I felt like writing a neighborly!AU slice of life story, but then I couldn't stop writing and it became much longer than expected. It took on life of its own and became rather heavy. In hindsight, listening to Lana Del Rey while writing probably influenced a lot of this, and subsequently, this led to me pulling a verse from "Diet Mountain Dew" as the story title.
The first time he met her, she'd knocked on his door, standing there in her distressed denim shorts with a plain black tank top underneath her red and black plaid outer shirt. Her hair was all frizzy, messily put up in a ponytail, almost as a way to counter the humid heat of midsummer.
She stood—leaned against his doorway, an indifferent expression on her face. He should be bothered by her lack of manners, but then, he didn't know her enough to spare a further thought other than wondering why of all doors, she knocked on his.
"Do you have a hammer?" she asked plainly at first. Then, as if he needed more of an explanation, she added, "The landlord's not home and I seem to have lost mine."
As if she could sense his annoyance, she stepped back. "It's fine. Never mind."
She started to leave, heading down the hallways of their apartment building towards the one apartment with stacks of boxes outside waiting to be unpacked in their new home.
"Wait," he spoke, unsure of what is spurring his sudden neighborly kindness. As she stood waiting mid-step, surprised by the call, he retreated into his apartment to rummage through the toolbox in the closet for the hammer. He returned with the item a minute later.
"Thank you," she said, reaching for the hammer, her soft fingers barely brushing against his skin. That faint touch seemed to have sent a spark to him, but he kept quiet, brushing it off as static shock instead of something deeper.
"I'm Kagome. I live over there in 9D," she said, pointing to the apartment with the hammer.
She let a small smile slipped on her face and bowed politely before heading home.
He closed his door, already starting to forget this encounter.
The next time they had met, it wasn't when she'd returned the hammer (she had left it in a box outside his door a few days after their first meeting). This second encounter was when he caught her in the laundry room one Thursday evening wearing only her lilac PJ shorts and camisole.
She sat on the folding table, idly swinging her legs back and forth. Her laundry basket was waiting underneath at her feet for the dryer to finish its cycle. She seemed to not have notice his presence, focusing only on humming the tune to a recent radio hit.
He walked in, setting his own basket of dirty laundry besides her on the table.
"Don't you feel modest?"
She stopped, looked to her side to face him. She frowned, and then she turned away. "No."
He picked up the basket again and moved towards an empty washing machine. He began placing the clothes into the machine, aware that her eyes were focusing on him again.
"Sesshoumaru, was it?"
"You're kind of a dick."
He froze, shocked by the brusque insult. He stood still, barely aware of her hopping off the table, picking up her basket, retrieving her warm, dry clothes, and then leaving, resuming her earlier humming as if this incident hadn't happened.
They didn't meet again for the next five weeks, but he still thought about the laundry room episode every now and then. At times, Sesshoumaru wondered about his lack of anger, but then he realized she did have a point, in her own crude way.
It was nearing the end of summer when he caught her walking past his doorway one warm night.
"It's been a while, stranger," she said, pausing in her steps.
She swung the wristlet she was carrying, and then asked softly, "Want to get some ice cream with me?"
Sesshoumaru had intended to say 'no', but instead he found himself saying the opposite: "Sure."
He had always meant to keep to himself, isolated from the rest of society, but some way, somehow, she managed to pull him into her world step by step. Early mornings of walking to work alone became enjoying each other's company while walking down the stairs before parting way at the building floor for opposite destinations. Midafternoon phone calls about nothings were regular. Long nights of doing idle tasks became frequenting with her every now and then to the convenience store for her sudden craving of strawberry milk or shrimp crackers or other unhealthy snacks.
"You really shouldn't eat too much of that junk," Sesshoumaru stated, watching as Kagome crouched low to the floor to scan through the bottom shelf of ramen packages. Her hand lingered on a popular brand, seemingly gripped by Sesshoumaru's unwarranted advice, but it only took a moment of hesitation for her to move over to the cheaper brand.
He let out a sigh, watching as she tossed two packages into the basket he was holding.
"I'm too poor to eat healthy," Kagome asserted smartly. She grabbed the sleeve of his shirt, pulling him along with her over to the snacks aisle. She could sense his judgmental stares on her back as she picked up her favorite chips. Letting out a defeated sigh, she returned the bag to its place.
Turning around, she gave him a slight wicked look that caught him off-guard.
"Let's go buy feminine products."
"I'm not sorry I called you a 'dick' that one time."
"Aren't you going to yell at me?"
"Look at you, accepting your dick-ishness in grace."
"Now you're just making up words."
"Maybe I am Lord Dick-ishness."
"You're here more often than your own home," Sesshoumaru remarked, watching as Kagome made herself comfortable on his couch. She picked up his remote control, already channel surfing through his TV, and seemingly ignoring his observation.
"Oh, look!" she squealed, stopping in her search. "Penguins!"
He sat down next to her, perplexed by her behavior, but also a little amused by her childlike excitement. He froze when she leaned against him, her head just barely resting on his shoulder.
"It's stupid, right? I'm paying rent for a home I don't really even live in."
He kept his eyes on the television screen, focusing on the flightless birds waddling through the snowy terrain. It was hard to focus, he realized. Her complete lack of regard for personal space was very unsettling.
"You don't care for personal space."
She cooed at the precious birds, and a moment later, her smile disappeared upon seeing the tragedy and cruelty of nature onscreen. She buried her face into his chest, perhaps out of sadness for the penguins, or maybe because her own existential plight was weighing down on her.
"I crave intimacy and yet I'm also intimidated by it," she laughed bitterly into his shirt. "Isn't that stupid?"
He brushed her hair in slow motions.
"Your mother called you again," Kagome said from her place on Sesshoumaru's favorite reading chair. She laid horizontally, her legs swung over the chair's arm without a care in the world. She fiddled with her fingers, looking up to add, "Don't worry, I didn't answer. I just saw the ID."
Sesshoumaru stepped out from the kitchen with two mugs of coffee in hands. He looked at his phone resting on the coffee table, flashing up a notice of missed calls and voicemails left behind. The phone vibrated again with a text message alert.
"You're a bad son," she said, carefully receiving the hot mug Sesshoumaru handed to her. She could sense his guilt, and after a sip of the hot beverage, she added, "You're not alone. I'm a bad daughter as well."
"My half-brother and I…have a complicated relationship."
"My little brother thinks I abandoned the family."
"My father's angry at me."
"My mother's heartbroken because of me."
"We're terrible children."
"Do you think I'm broken?"
He hesitated for a moment, unsure of whether she was seeking an honest answer or a lie, or perhaps even whether he could bring himself to tell her the ugly truth. Then he said softly, hoping she could not hear his response: "Yes."
But she did.
And she seemed unfazed.
"Oh," she said after a pause. "Then I must be."
He instantly regretted letting the accursed word slip past his lips.
"But I don't feel broken."
He couldn't understand why he felt his heart twisting. He reached out for her, but she stepped forward, not noticing his action. She stood there, lost in her own thoughts.
"I called my mother earlier."
Sesshoumaru waited in silence for her to continue.
"I hung up when she answered."
"I'm really the worst."
Sesshoumaru wrapped his arms around her and let her cried into his chest. There were no words that he could say that could comfort her, and he knew she was not looking for sympathy, so the only thing he could do was just hold her in silence until her tears were all dried up.
The first time they fucked, she was sober and in control. She straddled his waist, leaning down so her hair cascaded on either side and framed their faces. Her eyes were hollow but her lips pursed together, beckoning him to claim them as his.
"I'm not broken," she said, keeping her voice even. She held his face in her hands, pulling him closer. Sesshoumaru reached one hand behind her head, steadying her as he pushed forward to grab her in a hard, heated, desperate kiss.
Soft moans fell from those beautiful lips as her hips started moving, grinding against him, wanting nothing more than for him to make her go crazy and forget the world around them.
"I'm not broken, I'm not broken, I'm not broken," she chanted, breathing labored, and her voice on the verge of cracking from despair.
"You're not," Sesshoumaru whispered, pulling her closer to him. He brushed her bangs aside, placing a chaste kiss on her forehead.
"Don't be kind to me," Kagome whispered, burying her face in the crook of his neck. She could hear his bedroom clock ticking away the seconds and drowning out their topsy-turvy thoughts. She tensed up, feeling his warm embrace tightening, promising her of a happily-ever-after that was just too good to be true.
"Let's fuck," she breathed. "Let's forget. Make me forget everything, Sesshoumaru."
He could do nothing but pull her closer, and complied.
When he awoke the next morning, she was gone. He sat up, leaning against the headboard to ponder over the night. He felt guilty, ashamed that he might have taken advantage of Kagome in her vulnerable moment. He breathed in deeply, eyes closed to figure out his next action.
Sesshoumaru started to back away, feeling perhaps foolish that he was more than likely worrying over nothing. He tightened his hold on the bouquet he had bought moments earlier, questioning if maybe he went overboard on this. He breathed in sharply, wondering just why it was taking Kagome this long to answer her door. He raised his fist again, and then he stopped, hearing the sound of movement behind the closed door.
He took a step back, regretting his action, but by then the door swung open.
"You left earlier." He didn't know why he said that. In the back of his mind, he kicked himself for not planning a more tactful greeting.
She looked behind him, seeing the flowers, but she made no comment towards them. "It was nothing," she said simply, turning around and reaching into her closet for her jacket and purse. She walked out, closing her door, and locking it.
Kagome walked past him, and laughed lightly. "Besides, you don't seem like the cuddling type."
Sesshoumaru sat on his living room couch with a leg crossed over the other, and his arms stretched out. Kagome had disappeared into his bedroom with a shopping bag and told him to wait. He decided to humor her.
It was only a few minutes later when she appeared in front of him, twirling around to show off her new beige crocheted skirt she had bought. She pulled at the sides, laughing and giggling. "Isn't this pretty? It'll be great for when the weather is warm again and I could go to the beach or maybe a picnic…"
He looked at it, wondering what made her think he was fit to offer any opinion on clothes. "Can you afford it?"
"Oh, it wasn't too bad."
"You're barely able to pay the bills for the apartment you don't even live in."
Kagome's spirit dropped, but then she bounced back just as quickly. "I'll just not buy grocery this week," she said, walking into the kitchen to grab a banana off of Sesshoumaru's counter.
"Promise me you won't do anything creepy with this," Kagome said, eyes urgent while a single key dangled in front of Sesshoumaru's face.
"I don't desire it," he answered her curtly, watching with mild amusement as her face puffed a little in annoyance at his spitefulness. She shoved the key into his hand, leaving no room for argument.
"This is for emergency, only. Like a fire, gas problem, burglars—"
"You're too poor to have anything for burglars to steal."
Kagome glared at him, not enjoying the twinkling in his eyes at her expense. She decided to ignore his snide comment.
"I also took the liberty of making a copy of your house key."
Sesshoumaru frowned. "And what would you do if you come face-to-face with burglars stealing my stuff?"
She shrugged. "Stab them in the neck with scissors. Pepper spray them. Call the police."
"You've thought about this."
"Do you ever just wake up and wonder if the world would even miss you if you decided to just stay in bed all day?"
"Are you trying to justify your laziness?"
"Don't be an asshole, I'm serious."
"So am I."
"I'm not lazy, I'm just—tired."
"Not tired, like 'exhausted' but just 'tired'."
"Worn down. Beaten."
"Yes! Exactly. That. I just want to stay in bed and do nothing. Until I'm no longer tired."
"Then why don't you?"
"I don't think I'll ever stop feeling tired."
He searched for her on Christmas night, puzzled by her sudden disappearance for the past week leading up to this festive day. Her phone was off and she wasn't answering any of his knocks. He knew she was home, because he could hear the faint sound of the heater humming inside.
Her warning about the key came into his mind, but he ignored it.
He stepped in, seeing the apartment pitch black, save for the faint light emitting from the balcony window. That was where he found her, sitting outside in the snow alone in an oversized sweater, just staring at the twinkling lights of Tokyo on this night.
He slid the door opened.
"You're abusing your right to that key," she stated softly, not looking at him.
"You're going to catch the flu sitting out here." She ignored his scolding, causing Sesshoumaru to sigh out of exasperation. "Why was your phone off?"
"She might call me. Or him. I don't know, one of them."
"And what's wrong with that?" He settled down next to her to watch the light snow fall from the bright sky. Kagome never answered his question, but she rested her head against him, finding the sudden warmth from him comforting.
"She didn't want me to leave," Kagome whispered finally. "But I just felt like I was suffocating staying there, pretending everything was fine, even though inside I just wanted to disappear. It's stupid. I'm so blessed and yet I can't stop this feeling of loneliness inside."
"It's Christmas," he stated softly. "Call her."
"I'll call them. All of them."
He watched her pull out her phone, turning it on. They waited a moment for the screen to load, and then he watched her skim through her contact list. Her finger hesitated on the 'call' button, but a gentle nudge from him guided her.
She waited. And waited. And waited. And—
"Mama? Merry Christmas."
She heard her name on the other end, and then a cry, and then she turned her phone off again, unable to carry on the conversation.
"You did well." He kissed the top of her head.
"Then why do I feel so miserable?"
"Baby steps," he whispered, reaching for his own phone to hold up his end of the bargain.
He looked down to see her shivering against him while her eyes continued to avert his.
"Merry Christmas, Sesshoumaru."
"Merry Christmas, Kagome."
The second time they fucked, she came to him with a proposition on New Year's Eve, just minutes before midnight.
"Want to be fuck buddies?"
"Yes," he answered, lips already crashing into hers, as the clock ticked into the New Year.
Sesshoumaru came home early one day to see Kagome was standing outside her apartment, just staring at a small parcel at her feet. He approached her, making his presence known. She, however, continued to just stare at the box, making no motion to pick it up or even acknowledge him.
He picked it up for her, turning it carefully to read the address. "From your mother?"
She nodded. "One of my friends must have given her my new address."
He looked at her, waiting for a sign of what she wanted to do with this parcel. She turned, smiled, and grabbed his sleeve. "It's my birthday, let's go eat oden."
"Oden, oden, oden, oden!"
He placed the parcel in her hands. "Open it."
She bit her lips, hesitating. She knew he wouldn't let go of the matter, so she nodded, turning to open her apartment door. He followed her inside, watching as she grabbed a knife from the kitchen to open the box. She took a deep breath and then started to cut the box open.
Tears fell from her eyes as she pulled out the contents. Family albums, her baby book, new photographs of her brother and grandfather, and underneath the pile lay a heartfelt letter from her mother forgiving her for leaving and understanding why she did it.
"Let's go eat oden," he whispered, wiping away her tears.
Sometimes they would do it under the stairs, thrilled by the prospect of getting caught in a compromising position. Other times they would do it in the dead of the night on his balcony where they wanted nothing more than to be the only beings in the whole universe. At times, she would wait for him in his bed, smiling coyly like a little sex kitten waiting for him to pounce. They found comfort in this twisted relationship of raw animalistic passion with no-strings-attached.
He would hiss in pleasure when she kissed that sensitive spot on his neck, and in turn, his tongue would circle her nipple, slowly, teasingly, tormenting her to the brink of insanity. Her legs would wrap around him, aching for him to put an end to this game.
Except neither truly desire an end to this game, not when it was only during these moments when the problems in their lives disappeared.
"Why me?" he asked one afternoon, his breathing was heavy.
She smiled slyly in between moans. "Why not?"
"Sometimes, I just want to leave."
"And go where?"
"I don't know. Somewhere in Europe or America. Maybe I'll get a car and just drive."
"And do what?"
"I don't know. Figure things out."
"And when you're done figuring things out?"
"Who said I'll accomplish anything?"
"It was awful," Kagome complained from her place on Sesshoumaru's couch. She pulled off her high heels, sighing with pleasure as her feet were finally able to free themselves from the tortuous prison. "He was like, 'Sorry, but you owe me a drink.' My dumb friends kept egging me on to humor him, so fine, I was like, 'Why?' and then he said it, oh my god, it was so cheesy: 'Because when I looked at you, I dropped mine.'"
"So why'd you go if you knew you were going to hate it?" Truthfully, he was a little relieved to hear her saying she had a horrible time. Before the night, he had forgotten that she might have friends—other people, anyone but him—that she hung around. He had truly come to believe he was her only companion in the world.
"I told you, one of my friends is getting married, so we gave her a bachelorette party."
"And you had a horrible time?"
"Awful, awful, goddamn awful," Kagome repeated. She stood up and bounced down the hallway to his bedroom without warning. He looked after her, confounded by her sudden behavior. Sesshoumaru sat down on his chair and picked up his reading glasses. He opened the newspaper and skimmed through yesterday's news while he waited.
Kagome returned a few minutes later dressed in one of his dress shirts while her own dress was in her arms. She tossed her dress onto the couch next to her purse. "I stole one of your shirts."
"I see," Sesshoumaru responded, lowering his glasses.
"This is so comfortable and I just wanted to get out of that dress. You try wearing a dress made of spandex for six hours straight in high heels while getting hit on by losers who can only afford cheap booze." Kagome settled down on the arm of Sesshoumaru's chair. She removed his glasses from his face, placing it on the side table. She smiled mischievously at him. "If you're mad I stole this, I can lend you my push up bra as a fair trade."
"On what planet would that be a fair trade?"
She shrugged. "You're a man."
"Precisely. I'm not some pathetic teenage boy who needs a bra to fake his masculinity to his equally idiotic friends."
She dropped herself onto his lap. "You're no fun," Kagome said, pulling at Sesshoumaru's face until it became a weird smile. She stopped when he let out a low, almost threatening growl. "What did you do before I came into your life?"
"Not have a conversation about trading bras with a neighbor at four in the morning."
"Oh, really? How dull." Kagome picked up one of his hands, and played with his fingers, using them to trace images on her bare thigh. After minutes of this inane play, she let out a loud yawn. "I don't think I can crawl home. I'm too tired."
"You barely live in your own home since you became a tenant."
"My life is full of bad choices. Stop judging me, or I'll spread rumors to your workplace that you hold secret bra exchanges in your apartment during the early morning hours."
Sesshoumaru glared at her, but she waved it off with an "it's four in the morning and I'm hammered as hell, you can't hold me accountable to anything I say" look. When her head drooped and then jerked back immediately, Sesshoumaru let out a sigh, knowing she was in no condition to be by herself. He picked her up in his arms and proceeded to carry her to his bedroom.
He carefully laid her in his bed before settling in himself on the opposite side. As he pulled up the cover, Kagome turned over and touched his arm. He looked down to see her looking up sleepily. "Sorry. I'm such a nuisance, aren't I?"
Sesshoumaru lay down, turning over to look at her. "Am I a bad choice?"
She yawned again. "You, Sesshoumaru, are my worst mistake ever."
She closed her eyes, and drifted off to sleep while her callous words haunted him.
It occurred to Sesshoumaru one day during a mind-numbing meeting at work that he and Kagome rarely ever talked about past incidents between the two. It was in his nature to be a man of few words, but she, he realized, was purposely manipulating their conversations. When she was at her peak of happiness, she would shine brightly in his monotone world, but when she was at her lowest, she would take him into the darkest of the abyss.
And it was getting harder to escape her grasp.
"I didn't know you read romance novels," Sesshoumaru remarked, leaning over Kagome's shoulder to look.
She shook her head. "Oh, a co-worker gave this to me. It was from her last book club. She said everyone loved it, but I just don't get what the thrill is."
"You don't care for this?"
"Romance is nice and all, but you can't expect it to be all rosy with chaste kisses and tender caresses." She turned around to stare deeply into Sesshoumaru's eyes. Her face was gradually getting flushed. "Isn't it better to desire uncontrollable passion? I don't want love. I just want you to ruin me."
Sesshoumaru never realized he was so weak.
"I know I'm crazy."
"You're not crazy."
"I told you, don't lie to me. I do and say a lot of absurd things, but it's like I can't stop myself."
"What do you mean?"
"It's like an out of body experience. I'm floating, watching this me do all of these stupid crazy things and I can't stop her. In my head, I'm screaming at myself to stop, but I've lost control and I just keep making mistakes after mistakes and hurting the only people who would give a shit about me."
"And I'm an enabler?"
"Yes, and I know I'm going to hurt you one day, and you'll hate me for it. I'm looking forward to the day you'll hate me and I'll disappear from your memories."
"I won't hate you."
"You barely tolerate me."
"I tolerate you just fine."
Sesshoumaru was very good at lying and hiding his feelings.
But Kagome was better.
Sesshoumaru had left work late, coming home to nearly nine at night. He arrived on his apartment floor, surprised to see his mother and Kagome standing in the middle of the hallway talking. Kagome had her head lowered while his mother talked.
"I've seen you with my son often. What are you to him?" Sesshoumaru's mother looked at Kagome critically, not understanding her son's fascination with this plain ordinary girl.
Kagome kept her head lowered, unsure herself. She started to open her mouth, the word 'nothing' dangled on the tip of her tongue, but then—
"She's my lover, and I love her."
Both whirled around, seeing Sesshoumaru approached them. He wrapped a protective arm around her, acting as a message for his mother to back off and leave them alone. Unbeknownst to him, Kagome shrank back, not from the fear of his mother, but from his bold claim.
"Son." She glanced at the two lovers pointedly, looking for any sign of deceit. "Very well." She turned to leave, making no indication whether this was a one-time visit or not.
She slapped him. She screamed at him. She was inconsolable.
"How could you?" she screamed for the umpteenth time in his apartment. "Don't go telling other people that lie just because you want to piss off your mother!"
"It's not a lie. Kagome, I lo—"
"No, don't say it. Don't say it, don't say it, don't say it, don't—"
He kissed her hard, pushing her up against the wall in a fiery passion. She struggled, biting viciously on his lips to force an abrupt end. She pushed away, breathing intensely while her hair was strewn about as wildly as her soul felt in that instant. He allowed her space, watching with bleeding lips, as she backed slowly towards the door.
"I can't stay," she said simply in between breath, still trembling from the reality closing in on her and the safe world she had built. "I'm sorry, Sesshoumaru, I can't do this."
And he watched her disappear.
Sesshoumaru knocked on her door the very next day, hoping that the hours away from him was enough for her to calm down and gather her thoughts. He stood there in silence, waiting. Fear crept into him as the seconds turned into minutes.
He knocked again and again and again and again, each time getting more and more aggressive until he was just pounding the door out of desperation.
"Open up," he breathed, his guard was dropping as his fear became more and more evident. "Open up, please open up, Kagome."
He searched for the key she gave him long ago. With shaky hands, he opened the door, searching in vain for the woman that had the audacity to come into his life like a hurricane and then leaving behind nothing but a mess for him to clean up.
He went from room to room, finding most of her belongings were still there, untouched since perhaps even before their clash. Water bottles lay on their sides, dirty dishes in the sink, closet doors left opened.
He stood in the middle of her bedroom, looking for any sign that this was just another day. She'd only left for work and would be back by six. She would come home and complain about her craving for strawberry milk and shrimp crackers. She would drag him out to eat oden and then they would stop for ice cream on the way home. She would commandeer his couch and TV, forcing him to watch baby kittens take on the world in their first months of life. She would fall asleep on his shoulder, and he would wrap a blanket around them both. They would continue living in their quiet world, forgetting everyone else, while reaffirming that they were just terrible children, terrible siblings, and terrible people.
And it broke him to realize how much she had come to mean to him. It tore him apart to know that he let her get away. It shattered his every being to know that he should have known better than to tell her all of the sweet little nothings she was afraid of when she was not ready.
Sesshoumaru didn't sleep well for the next eight days.
It took him another three weeks to begin accepting the possibility that she was gone.
It was when the landlord put up an eviction notice that the hard truth became reality.
He arrived home late one day to see boxes piling outside her apartment. Her belongings were tossed in haphazardly, ready for donation to any who would see fit to give the items a new home.
Sesshoumaru approached the apartment in slow strides, watching as the landlord walked out with another box in his arms. The old man set the box down next to the others. He stood up, cracking his back, and wiped the sweats off his brows.
He told Sesshoumaru he was free to take whatever he liked.
Her. I want her, was all that he wanted to say.
He turned back, returning to his home to hide from the god awful reality.
It was a brisk Saturday morning when Sesshoumaru called his mother. The words were sparse and the atmosphere was heavy. Silence filled most of the time, speaking the unspoken words mother and son had for each other. They ended the call with a Sunday brunch arrangement.
"Your father will be there, and Izayoi, of course. Inuyasha will probably stop by with his fiancée. Oh, he's engaged, did you hear?"
"Well, we'll have lots to talk about tomorrow, dear."
He didn't understand what prompted him to reach out for his estranged family. He didn't understand why he agreed to this event. He couldn't even understand why the gods played a sick joke on him by making a woman look like his Kagome appear into his life now.
"You look like her," he whispered, not noticing his family froze in their idle chatters and eating to look at him stare at his brother's fiancée in earnest. He continued to stare, not noticing the young woman's uncomfortable shifting, and then he said just as softly, "but you're not her."
"Sesshoumaru, dear, where are yo—"
He stood up, his chair backed abruptly and his linen napkin dropped to the floor. Eyes were on him, watching his every uncoordinated movement with judgment.
"I'm sorry. I need to leave."
Every night Sesshoumaru tried to picture his life before her. He tried to picture the isolation before that hot midsummer day, but it all ended in vain. He was in too deep, and the only bliss from this abandonment was meeting her again in his dreams, where perhaps, she might love him even a little.
He carried on, promising himself that each day he would miss her less.
It was easier said than done.
Everywhere he went, he would see her presence still there. He would see her skipping down the sidewalks ahead of him, humming a silly song. He would see her sitting on the laundry room table, legs swinging like during that second meeting. He would walk past convenience stores, convinced that it was her crouching low to the ground looking at ramen packages. He would see her sitting in his reading chair, fooling around with his reading glasses and doing a damning imitation of him. He would even see her asleep next to him, unaware of the hold she had on him.
And then he would remember every part of her body from the little birthmark on her hip to the delicate fingers that would tangle in his hair. He remembered the soft lips that would kiss his shoulder and spilled dirty little sounds, the slender legs that would wrap around him, and even the sweet smell of orange blossoms in her hair.
He also remembered all of the ways she said his name. She would call for him happily, she would sing his name teasingly, she would be sad, angry, upset, annoyed, but then she would moan his name, pleading for him to unravel her, and he would lose himself in that beautiful voice.
Her very existence was etched into his soul.
"I'd like you to be my best man."
Sesshoumaru looked at his half-brother blocking him entrance into his own home. "How long have you been waiting here?"
"It doesn't matter," Inuyasha said. "Please, I'd like you to be a part of—"
"Find someone else."
"Sesshoumaru, please, we're brothers, we only have each—"
"Half-brothers," Sesshoumaru corrected, pushing Inuyasha aside.
"Don't give me that technicality, goddammit. Sess-Sesshou—"
Sesshoumaru's hand lingered on the doorknob as he continued listening to Inuyasha's pleading.
"If it'll make you happy…little brother."
It was the most excruciating fourteen hours of Sesshoumaru's life in what should have been a happy occasion. It was a happy occasion, for everyone else. People cried joyful tears, laughed in delight, and ate and danced in bliss under this beautiful day.
But he could only feel his own pain, watching the beautiful bride share that nearly identical face with the woman he loved was tearing him apart. All of that progress in forgetting her receded, but tomorrow would be a new day.
So maybe just this once, maybe just this one day, he would think of her. Her and him, in a maybe-ever-after.
Another summer came back. Sesshoumaru had been busy burying himself with work and making more frequent visits with his family to even notice the coming warm season.
"Congratulations, Bro!" Inuyasha hollered excitedly over the phone.
If he could, Inuyasha would see the questioning, raised eyebrow, "what the hell are you babbling about" expression Sesshoumaru had on his face.
"You're gonna be an uncle, dude!"
Sesshoumaru let a smile slipped on his face. A light chuckle escaped when he heard Inuyasha's next bumbling thought: "Oh, shit. Don't tell Mom and the old man I told you first. And if your mother asks, you are definitely the fourth person I told. Sixth, at most."
"Congratulations, Inuyasha. Send my regards to Kikyou as well."
It was the hottest summer day, the weather forecast reported. He walked up the stairs of the building, his hair clung to his face and sweats covered his entire body. It had been a long day, and a cold shower was what he had in mind for when he got home.
But the gods above wasn't done making him the fool.
Sesshoumaru froze as he stepped off at his floor, seeing in the distance a familiar figure.
He could only think it was very rude of the gods to toy with him like this, making up hallucinations of that woman. He walked closer, his vision becoming even clearer with each step. He froze again, seeing her turn to look at him.
It happened in a flash. She was up against his door, his hands holding onto her face, pulling her into that little fraught, needy kiss that already said she was forgiven, already telling her how happy he was that she was back, and already begging her to stay.
"Don't leave," he whispered, pulling away for just a second, his lips still just centimeters from hers.
She stroked the hand still holding her face. "I've missed you."
And he laughed, sounding broken. "You're a very cruel woman, Kagome."
"Do you see me in your life six months from now?"
"Yes, yes, yes, yes."
She closed her eyes, smiled, and let the sound of his steady heartbeat lull her to sleep.