His & Hers by Tsuki no Tennyo
His & Hers
Author's Note: [originally posted 06.05.15] Look at what I dug up in my wip folder! A more serious take on the "Kagome staying in her time and meeting Sesshoumaru again AU"…unlike some silly stuff I've been writing lately.
Demons were becoming nothing more than folklore, Sesshoumaru realized as humans continued to grow more intelligent, stronger, and expanded beyond the horizon while his kinds slowly died off, disappeared among civilizations, or hidden among the humans in disguise.
He chose to hide in plain sight.
Kagome never realized when it was that she had first forgotten how to be a normal girl. Perhaps it was on that fateful birthday when she fell down The Bone-Eater's Well. Maybe it was when she realized demons and spirits were as real as the air that she breathed. Or maybe it was when she was captivated by a half-demon, ready to give up everything for him.
While all of her friends talked about starting college, the latest boy bands to hit Japan, and current fashion trends, Kagome found her mind was only occupied by a silly old well that disrupted her life beyond repair.
He was lonely, far lonelier than he would ever like to admit. He had lived hundreds of years, watching out for his own self-interest. He had become stronger day after day, gained a formidable reputation throughout the lands, and was a creature to be feared and revered. It was the only thing he knew. It was the only thing that mattered.
Then a little girl with a toothy smile saved his wretched soul and became forever etched into his heart. He lost her once and was ready to tear Heaven and Hell apart for her. When she was grown, he set her free, realizing that their time together was now over and she needed to live.
Many decades later, he returned to her, realizing that her time was near. On the mat was an old, frail woman with long gray hair. Her memories were hazy, but the moment she saw him, it was as if she was a child all over again. She addressed him in that same respectful, adoring tone just as she did many years ago. To him, she would always be that little girl that found him in the forest. The little girl that gathered food and water for him. The little girl that managed to thaw her way into his heart.
She talked normally, her words betraying the truth of her mental health. She talked about her family. The little ones gathered flowers and berries for their grandmother. One of her sons' ox was sick but is expected a full recovery. A daughter was about to give birth to another grandchild.
He listened all the while, barely aware of the words. His hand would occasionally twitch around Tenseiga's hilt, but he knew that was a futile thought. Her time was due. She was saved far too many times for a human. It was time to let her go.
She breathed his name one last time and he watched as her spirit departed, at peace after a lifetime of facing monsters and living only a brief period of peace and happiness.
Thinking back to that night in that small hut, that must have been when the loneliness grew, he had thought. He realized there were still so many things he did not understand for someone that have lived as long as he had.
Sometimes when she slept, she dreamed of her friends. In her dreamscape, they would still be traveling together, walking down the dusty roads on this sunny day to nowhere. She would laugh with Sango. Shippou and Kirara would walk in front of them a little. Miroku would then make a lecherous pass at Sango, and she would slap him in response. And in the distant, there would be Inuyasha leading the way, ready to take on anything that would attack the group.
Then the sky would darken. A hoard of demons would ambush them. She would hear cries of attacks. Hiraikotsu. Backlash Wave. Foxfire.
She would be frozen in place, rendering her arrows useless. Her friends were fighting for their lives, and she would watch, unable to move no matter how much she willed herself. The ground would crumble up, swallowing everyone before her until finally she was the last to fall into the abyss.
She would wake up, covered in sweats and tears, trembling and crying softly to herself. She would cradle herself in the corner of her bed, reminding herself to let go of the childish fairy tale she lived.
Because life was no longer a fairy tale.
It was an unusually warm evening, so Sesshoumaru decided to forgo driving in favor of walking. It was the one thing he did that was still the same as centuries ago. This was such a silly thought to have that even he found himself to be quite foolish.
As he walked down the street, passing many humans, he picked up a familiar scent that caused him to stop suddenly.
He knew this scent. He had smelled it once long ago. But it couldn't be. It couldn't. It was impossible. He turned in the direction of the scent, catching sight of the Higurashi shrine. He ascended the steps, stopping to see the source of his search.
Kagome sat at the bottom of The Bone-Eater's Well, her knees were all scraped up from the fall. It was stupid. Really, really stupid of her to think that the well would work again when it hadn't three years ago.
Even if it did work, what was she trying to achieve? Was she ready to abandon her entire family for the friends and people she came to love in the past? It was a hard question to answer, and every time she pondered the answer, it made her want to vomit.
"Shit…" The wounds on both of her legs had blood rippling down until they soaked her white socks. Sighing, she climbed out of the well, making sure to close the door so none of her family members would realize what she had been up to again.
She started to retreat to her house when she noticed a figure in the distance. Frowning, she stepped closer.
It looked like—no, it couldn't be. The hair was different. Eyes. Not those eyes, but maybe they were those eyes. Just different.
"I am," she responded simply, eliciting a frown from him. "How are you, Sesshoumaru?"
"How are you, Sesshoumaru?" she asked as if this was an entirely normal person she was supposed to greet politely. He didn't understand why she wasn't as surprised as he was. How could she be here when he remembered her as a human girl in the Feudal Era?
"What are you?" he felt himself asking, needing answers for why of all people, she was the only one left that he remembered.
"A human," she answered in that matter-of-fact tone that proved to be grating to him.
"No, why are you here?"
"I live here." Again, that irritating tone.
"No—" For the first time in centuries, Sesshoumaru was frustrated.
He blinked in surprised when she reached out to grab his hand. Then she said in the softest voice that only his heightened hearing could pick up, "Let me show you."
Kagome didn't understand what possessed her to show Sesshoumaru the well, or what made her spout all of its history, or even about the fact that once not too long ago, this dumb well took her back to the Feudal Era when demons and monsters roamed freely.
When she was finished, she waited for Sesshoumaru to respond, but he remained quiet. He just casually walked around all four sides, his hand barely touching the rim of the well. Once he made a full revolution around the well, he turned to her and asked if this was why her legs were bleeding.
She had blinked in surprise, not expecting this question, but she nodded yes anyway. "Is it that obvious?"
"Your scent is still fresh," he said simply. "Are you still haunted by the past?"
"Yes," she said, finally being able to express some sort of desire about her previous journey.
He said nothing more regarding her response, but instead told her she should get her legs cleaned up. She agreed while accompany him back to the shrine entrance. Before she retreated into her home, she turned back, biting down on her lower lip in a last moment of hesitation. Then, she asked him softly, "Would you like to have dinner here with me tomorrow?"
He had stopped midway down the stairs to look back up at this silly, strange girl, who seemed concerned with everything except herself. In an act that probably surprised even him, he agreed to her invitation, earning a cheerful smile from her before she bounced away to her house.
He didn't understand why he had agreed to her invitation, but it seemed impossible to say "no" at the time. After living through hundreds of lonely years watching countless unfamiliar faces passing him by, it was almost a relief to see the one face that remembered him.
They spent the evening talking about idle subjects like the weather, current political news, the latest technology trend, social issues. They avoided reminiscing, because that was a gate that neither was ready to open.
"You have a lovely home," Sesshoumaru said two hours into their dinner. They were running out of topics to talk about, but he still tried to fill the empty air with words.
Kagome picked up the empty plates and bowls from the table. She chuckled to herself as she walked away to the sink. "Thank you. I'm also so sorry about my grandfather earlier. He really is not senile, but he is kind of…eccentric."
"It's fine," Sesshoumaru responding, standing up from his chair and helping her clear the table. He placed an empty tray next to the sink. He stood there next to her, listening to the water from the faucet running as Kagome tried to occupy herself with washing the dirty dishes.
"I'd like to see you again," Sesshoumaru said after a few minutes of silence. He was more surprised with himself than she was as he found himself talking a step away from her.
Kagome avoided his gaze, but she remained wide-eyed for a moment before smiling and nodding in agreement. "I'd like that. Next Thursday?"
"Next Thursday," he agreed.
"You painted your nails," he said, eyes staring at the mixture of golden/green nail polish adorning her nails. She nodded in response, unsure of what his statement was supposed to evoke from her. "I don't like it."
She laughed at the curt comment, finding him to still have just as little words as she remembered. She fiddled with the straw in her beverage, taking a brief sip before looking at him, smiling. "I don't either, but it makes me feel like a normal woman in her twenties."
"But you're not normal," he said, frowning and perhaps remembering her from many centuries ago.
"Neither are you," she responded, fingers gliding across the table to skate down his now shortened black hair that barely reached his shoulders instead of the ethereal silvery-white locks that flowed all the way down to his waist so long ago.
"They don't know that," he said softly, eyes scanning the other humans in the café.
"But I do."
She smiled again, seeing him relaxing, maybe even happy that there was someone who remembered him.
"Do you miss it?"
He heard her ask him as they walked nearly side-by-side through a lush park. Her shorter legs had to work overtime just to keep up with his long legs' slow strides. She pulled him over to sit on the fountain in the center of the park, probably needing a break from this surprisingly strenuous walk.
He watched her looked behind to touch the cool water briefly. She glanced at him, smiling mischievously, and flicked the water at his face. She laughed and then asked again, "Do you miss it?"
He wiped his face, making his scowl known but hiding the fact that he enjoyed her antics. "Miss what?"
She leaned back a little to stare up at the bright blue sky full of wispy clouds lazily drifting away. "Being a demon."
"I'm always a demon."
"No, I mean what you did, as a demon."
He thought of all of the lives he destroyed, all of the people tossed aside, and all of the bridges burnt, just so he could reach his highest potential, and in the end, he was alone and nothing seemed to have mattered. His name had never been more fitting.
Kagome still found herself lingering around the well, but less so than before. She knew the reason for the change was Sesshoumaru. He was her new connection to the past, and that just meant she now had an entirely different problem.
She tried to hide this new fact, but she knew nothing went past Sesshoumaru's keen senses.
"The only way to get rid of the ghosts of the past is for you to just let go." Sesshoumaru was always so irritating with his supposed superior wisdom. She knew he was right, though. It was obvious, of course, but she didn't want to let go of such a fantastic and memorable part of her life. She didn't want to forget the people she had come to love. The lives she helped save.
So rather than accepting his advice, she would lash out at him instead: "Then why don't you do the same?"
She felt bad for a moment when his eyes became somber and guilt-ridden, but then she convinced herself that he deserved it, and for a moment, everything seemed fine.
There were days when Sesshoumaru would just trap himself in his home. He would call in sick for work. His human employer didn't care, because to him Sesshoumaru was just another replaceable worker. Likewise, Sesshoumaru also didn't care, because he didn't really need to work, to live the human life, to put on this whole charade and be the very thing that he despised.
At least that was the lie he managed to convince himself was true for the past two hundred years or so. Every once in a while, though, he needed to let the mask drop, to remind himself of his once proud blood.
He would walk around his home, looking at the few mementos still in his possession. His armors were hidden deep within his closet, hiding his warrior past. Tenseiga and Bakusaiga rested on his wall, masquerading as decorative swords to the unknown eyes. Occasionally, Sesshoumaru would let his fingers graze over the hilts, feeling the mighty powers resonating through the dormant weapons.
Then he would walk away, reminding himself that that part of his life was over. He was no longer a Great Demon, or even a regular demon. He was just another nobody in this big, aloof world.
"I'm sorry," were the first words Kagome forced out after Sesshoumaru answered his door. He stood on the other side of the threshold, perplexed by the seemingly sudden apology. She continued, stuttering all the while, "I know you were trying to be helpful, but you see—that is…well, it's just not easy, you know?"
Kagome's eyes traveled all over the place, meeting anything and everything except Sesshoumaru. As she stammered out her explanation, her face grew hotter and more flushed as she realized nothing she said was making sense, but she just couldn't stop, because then she would feel even more foolish for showing up at his home uninvited.
Kagome looked up, her breathing heavy as she tried to calm herself again.
"Would you like to come in?"
She blinked, shuffled her feet, and then nodded.
Sesshoumaru stood in the kitchen, waiting for the kettle to boil. In the distance, he could hear Kagome's footsteps as she walked around his living room, most likely inspecting his home. When the kettle whistled, he picked it up and poured the boiling liquid into a teapot. He picked up the tray and walked out into the living room, placing it gently on the coffee table.
"They're still with you."
Sesshoumaru picked up a cup, filling it with the hot tea and handing it to his guest. Kagome took it gratefully, but her eyes never left the objects in question. Sesshoumaru watched as Kagome stepped closer, placing her hand on the very objects he touched many times before.
"Bakusaiga. Tenseiga. They look…old."
"They are old."
Kagome sat down next to Sesshoumaru on the couch. "I-I know that. It's just…it seems like it was just yesterday when I saw you wielding Bakusaiga for the first time. I'm sorry. I keep forgetting Time flowed differently for both of us."
"You don't have to keep apologizing for trivial things."
Kagome became quiet. Her hands gripped her cup even tighter.
Sesshoumaru noticed the change, and turned away while inwardly scowling to himself. "They're nothing to get sentimental over."
"You still have them. They obviously mean something to you."
"They're powerful weapons that can't just be discarded carelessly."
"But they're only capable of being wielded by you."
"They're useless scraps of metal."
"A gift from your father and a testament to your own strength. Sesshoumaru, there's nothing wrong with being sentimental."
He had a biting remark to retort, but Sesshoumaru kept silent, knowing Kagome in her own way was trying to help him. He wanted to tell her he was not some broken creature that needed to be nursed back or saved, but on another level, he also knew she was doing this for herself. For her own very selfish reason of holding onto the fairy tale that no one would ever believe.
"Would you like to stay for dinner?"
She smiled, and he found himself wanting to let this girl hold onto the fairy tale just as much as he wanted to escape from his charade.
"I'm still amazed." Kagome couldn't stop grinning. She didn't even know why she was happy, but she was, and it felt good to feel this way again.
"Five centuries later, and you're just now looking like you're entering your mid-twenties." Kagome's smile seemed to grow wider at seeing Sesshoumaru's puzzled look as a response. She shook her head, continuing, "This is not a bad thing. I mean, c'mon, if people knew your real age—"
"They'd start a mob and witch-hunt—or demon hunt, I should say."
"Now, why'd you have to ruin the mood?" The playful tone in her voice never disappeared even when he was scowling at her foolishness. "I wonder what it would be like if I got to know you five centuries ago?"
"You'd be dead."
"Ah, of course, Lord Sesshoumaru."
It was really dangerous how close he was letting her get to him. He was opening himself up to the pain he felt long ago when that child left him, but now it had taken a new form. This was no child, but a woman, one capable of capturing him under her spell if he was not careful.
"You should be with people your own age," Sesshoumaru said one evening over their usual Thursday dinner. He picked up his chopsticks, but he stayed still, waiting for Kagome's response.
She ate some rice and fried fish. Her eyes were closed, seeming to consider his words. She opened them and stared straight into his. "Are you bored of me already?"
Yes, he wanted to lie, but her resilient gaze on him seemed to have left him incapable of being deceitful. He picked up some rice with his chopsticks, and then he dropped them back into his bowl. "No, I'm not bored of you, Kagome, but this is not healthy."
"Me holding onto some fragment of the past and imagining all of the could've, would've, and should've is not healthy? I quite agree."
"You're being foolish."
His eyes remained on Kagome, watching her every movement. She turned to him, calmer than he had ever remembered.
"My friends want me to meet someone."
He tensed up, and she caught that immediately.
"But you wouldn't like that, would you? You feel the same as I do."
The rest of the dinner was eaten in silence.
She danced around the topic, and she knew he was well aware of her hesitancy. It took her more than five weeks before she worked up the courage to ask, and even then she stumbled over the question. He waited patiently, almost as if he was hoping to avoid giving her the answer she dreaded.
"Inuyasha," she forced out, "He's—he's well, right?"
Sesshoumaru stared into her eyes, his answer taking longer than it should have. Then he gave her the news that shook her world.
She mouthed a soft "no," unable to force a sound out of her mouth. She stayed frozen across from him, giving the appearance of being unable to comprehend the world around her when in reality, millions of questions raced through her mind. Finally, she managed to ask softly, voice on the verge of cracking, "He's dead?"
Sesshoumaru nodded solemnly. He reached a hand out to her, intending to offer a stroke of solace, but she recoiled from his touch.
"I-I need to be alone." She started to walk away, stopping only briefly at the door, not quite looking back at him. She let her second question slipped, afraid of the answer she would receive: "Tenseiga—you tried to save him with Tenseiga, right?"
Sesshoumaru remained quiet, knowing whatever response he would give her would only bring her despair. He shook his head slowly, being fully aware that she wouldn't see the action, but he sensed she knew what he was doing. Then he spoke up, "I was too late. I didn't learn of his passing until much later."
She stood at the door with her head down. Her voice trembled, "But you would have, wouldn't you?"
Sesshoumaru stayed silent, and Kagome took that as his answer and left.
It had been a little over two weeks since Kagome asked him that question, and he in turn, gave her the answer she feared. She walked away, seeming even more lost than when he found her that fateful evening. He thought of calling her, but there were no words that he could say to break the ice that formed.
Finally, he settled on meeting her face-to-face again, on the very steps of the shrine where they had reunited. Unlike that evening, this particular day was chillier and less inviting. Even so, Sesshoumaru walked down the sidewalks, unsure of his own actions.
He stopped in front of the shrine, finding Kagome sitting on the steps at the top gazing down at him as if she was waiting for him. He made his ascent, his eyes never leaving hers. He reached the top, but she remained seated, unable to look at him further.
He settled down next to her, freezing when she rested her head on his shoulder. He heard a sigh, and then his heart stopped.
"I forgive you."
"Do you miss it?" She asked again, although the meaning behind her words was slightly different than before. "Do you think we'd have been where we are now if I had stayed?"
"No," he answered too quickly than they both would have liked. She nodded her head, silently agreeing and knowing that that her would be an entirely different person than who she was now. Just like that him was not the him she had met again.
It was a very troubling thought, one that made her feel like she was a traitor somehow, although she knew there was no reason to feel such a thing. But she did feel it, and it was hard to let go.
"I feel like this is a mistake."
"Perhaps," he whispered, tucking strands of her hair behind her ear. "Lives are full of mistakes, but not all mistakes have to be bad."
"Happy mistakes?" she half-laughed, half-choked.
He smiled, looking more human than she had ever imagined him to be. She touched his face, tracing over the areas where his markings should be. Then her hand glided down his left arm, briefly thinking back to when it was cut off during their first meeting.
He nodded, remembering his former self. She remained quiet, lost in her thoughts. He spoke up, stirring her out of her reflections. "Does it scare you? To remember that me."
She shook her head. "You changed, and I don't mean just now again in modern time, but you changed then. Before. With…you know, during the last fight."
It was his turn to remain quiet.
"You could have left me to die then when I fell. You could have let those demons tear me to shreds. You could have—"
He silenced her with a kiss, unable to bear hearing her thoughts of all of the "could have" scenarios running through her busy mind. He felt her gripped his shirt tightly as if he was her last lifeline to hold onto, and perhaps he really was.
"Lord Sesshoumaru…" he heard her breathed as they pulled away.
"I'm no lord. I'm nobody."
"Maybe so," she murmured, wanting to look at his face but also trying very hard to avert those piercing eyes. "But aren't we all nobodies in this world?"
Sesshoumaru stayed silent, prompting Kagome to ask a different question: "Will you miss me when I'm gone?"
"I don't like thinking about the future."
"You still think of her, don't you? Ri—"
"I don't enjoy dwelling on the past either."
"But you miss her, right?"
"…Yes. Very much."
Kagome nodded softly, understanding his pain and loneliness far too well. She looked up in surprise when Sesshoumaru responded to her earlier question.
"I'd miss you very much."
She let her head drop on his shoulder again. "Dinner next Thursday?"
"Why not tonight?"
She laughed and stood up immediately to hold her hand out to him. He took it, following her immediately towards the house.
As Kagome walked towards her home, she sensed a change in the Well that forced her to stop mid-step. She looked towards the well house, her mind fluttered for a second before she felt Sesshoumaru tightened her hand with his.
He knew what she was thinking. Hoping. Wishing for even. He had to wonder if he was enough to make her stay. He suspected he was not.
Kagome squeezed Sesshoumaru's hand in response while her gaze remained locked on the well house beckoning for her. For a brief moment, she thought of the fairy tale she lived, and then she smiled to herself, finally accepting that that story was over.
She pulled him towards the house, smiling. He responded with his own, and for the first time ever, he allowed himself to feel happiness.