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Avenoir by Tsuki no Tennyo

Avenoir

Author's Note: [originally posted 07.22.15] It is becoming painfully obvious how much I'm playing around with the "Sess/Kag meeting again in modern time AU." I'm a one-trick pony, but goddammit, I like my trick.

On another note, this was a frustrating thing to write, and I do not recommend writing when you're still half-asleep. I'm not sure I even like this, but goddamn, there are over 8K words, so… Damn my useless muse.

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avenoirn. the desire that memory could flow backward

– The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

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Sesshoumaru had reached the point where he had past his father's age when he had died, feeling now ancient and tired and ready for peace after a lifetime of fighting and killing. His mother, too, had succumbed to the will of Time, as did the rest of their kinds, and he was truly alone in the world—the last demon.

It was fine, though. He was never a people person, so now he was granted what he had always wanted, except he had never meant to live this long. He had suspected somewhere in his life, he would get himself killed (a natural death just seemed too kind for a bloodthirsty killer like him).

At times, Sesshoumaru had to wonder if he was even capable of dying now.

.

With all of the time in the world, he had the luxury that others would envy, though he had to wonder why. He could do whatever he desired at his leisure pace, but eventually there would be nothing left to do, and boredom would take root.

.

Sesshoumaru had been bored for over three hundred years.

.

Sesshoumaru was never one for reminiscing. The past was over, so what was the point of living in it as the uncertain future crept up on you?

He was a Great Demon lord. That was a fact.

He had a half-brother. That was a fact.

He had taken in a human child. That was a fact.

He lost them all. That was a fact.

There really was no point in drifting down memory lane when all that waited for him at the end of the road was sadness and pain.

.

If he saved enough people, Sesshoumaru wondered if that could atone for his past sins.

"Dr. Nishimura," a young girl chirped, running up to hug his leg.

For a moment, he could see the orange and yellow kosode and side ponytail, but then that disappeared to reveal a white hospital gown and short curls instead. He smiled weakly, letting his hand fall on the child's head in a gentle pat.

"How are you feeling today, Asako?"

"Better, Dr. Nishimura, but my chest sometimes hurt when I breathe," Asako responded, making a gesture around her chest to emphasize her point.

Sesshoumaru nodded, kneeling down so he was at eye-level with the young girl. "Your medicine will make you feel better over time. Are you taking them as instructed?"

"Yup!" she flashed him a toothy smile, and that stirred up old memories again for the disguised demon.

"Good girl," he murmured, watching as she bounced down the hallways back to her room.

.

He worked the graveyard shift often, finding himself to be truly useful during this time. He walked the dimly lit, vacant hallway with Tenseiga hidden underneath his white coat, passing rooms and listening intently to the labored breathing of the sick and the doomed.

Tenseiga pulsated against his hip, and he paused in front of a door, looking at the patient's name. It wasn't one of his, but he stepped through, seeing the heart monitor slowly flatlining.

Minions of the Netherworld skulked towards the dying man, but before they even got close, he let his blade sliced through them as if they were papers. Sesshoumaru eyed the heart monitor, and seeing it working again and hearing the steady breathing of the man, he disappeared back into the hallway to continue his silent monitoring.

If he saved enough people, would Heaven and Hell be merciful on his aching soul?

.

Over thirteen million people in Tokyo, and he found her. Seven billion people in the world, and she was the one that came back to him.

A sea of people separated them, but he saw her clearly from across the crowd, arm looped with a human man, smiling and seemingly oblivious to his presence. On the surface, she looked happy, but he had lived over a thousand years, and he would easily recognized a fake smile if he ever saw one now.

And hers was the phoniest of them all.

They continued to weave through the crowd, laughing about some inane subject, while he remained frozen to his spot, suppressing any inclination to follow the former priestess.

.

It had been over three months since he last saw her on the bustling streets of Tokyo. He tried to force her artificial smile out of his mind, reminding himself that she was no one worth meeting again. He didn't understand why she was still alive in the present, but every time that thought lurked by, he would immediately crushed whatever remnants of curiosity that tried to overtake him.

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"Oh, my god," he heard her breathed, wide-eyed, and hands gripping tightly the umbrella she was holding.

Rain poured all around them as he stood underneath a bus stop for shelter on this cold, drizzling November night. She was stepping off the bus, her umbrella blocked both of their sight for a moment before her eyes met his.

"Kagome?" The man from before stepped out after her, a hand rested on her shoulder in concern. "Kagome, are you alright?"

Her eyes remained locked on his for a long time before she shook her head apologetically, turning to smile—that fake smile, he noted—at the man next to her. "It's nothing, Hiroshi. I just remembered something I have to get for Mama."

He watched her walk away, hand-in-hand, waiting for her to look back at him.

She never did.

.

Restless nights were common for Sesshoumaru. He had plenty of time in the world, so losing a night's sleep, or two, was nothing for him to be concerned about.

Losing a whole week, he had to wonder if it was because of the priestess who so callously ignored his existence.

.

The world was truly a small place, Sesshoumaru realized, finding her again standing outside a store window, admiring a dress on the mannequin. He approached her slowly, but stopped when a small group of woman surrounded her, laughing and chattering away. He noticed them talking for a bit before separating, leaving her alone again to admire the dress.

He walked up, standing just a foot next to her. He spoke her name, unused to the foreign sound on his tongue.

"I never thought you knew my name," she responded, not looking at him. Kagome continued to look at the dress, but Sesshoumaru now suspected her prolonged gaze had nothing to do with her interest in the clothing. She gripped the long strap of her purse, seemingly needing some sort of lifeline to hold onto. "You appear well."

He was not, but he nodded slowly.

"You should leave. I'm meeting my boyfriend in a few minutes. I don't want him to misunderstand." She paused, still not looking. "It'd be too exhausting to explain. Please leave, Sesshoumaru. You and I are nothing and aren't under any obligation to reconnect."

"You're alive," he said after she stopped for breath. Her eyes widened for a moment and then she shut them, nodding.

"I am."

"How?"

"It doesn't matter."

Silence formed between the two as people walked past them in a blur of figures. She asked him to leave, but he found that he couldn't, needing some sort of explanation for her existence in this time. She was cold, far more aloof than he had ever remembered. Her hardened heart could almost rival his former self's.

"You loved Inuyasha," he stated after a minute, always suspecting but never quite caring enough to react, "and yet you're with another man."

"Well, he's never coming for me, is he?" she snapped, eyes narrowed at him in rage. Her expression softened as she turned away, resting her forehead in her hand. "He's never coming. He would have come for me sooner. I know he would. But he's never coming. He's not here, is he?"

She looked up, tired and dejected. "Hiroshi is a good man," she continued, somewhat unsure if she was convincing him or herself. "We are happy together. Inuyasha would understand."

"But do you love him?"

"That is none of your business," she snapped again. "Why are you here, Sesshoumaru? Since when do filthy, lowly humans interest you?"

"Humans do not interests this Sesshoumaru," he spoke in that ancient, aristocratic tone he had abandoned long ago, reminding her of their past together. "Only you."

She paused, and then turned and walked away from him. "You really are cruel."

.

The number of times he had fought with his half-brother for an old sword always ended in failure on his part. He had given up on that fool's quest, but over two hundred years after their last clash, the sword found its way to him.

"Take it," his half-brother had barked, looking away gloomily as he rested against a tree, a hand resting over a bloodied wound to his side. He coughed, and blood spilled from his mouth, but that didn't seem to faze Inuyasha the slightest. "Take it. Tessaiga can't save me now."

He looked at the half-demon resigned to his fate. He rested his hand on Tenseiga's hilt.

"Don't even think about it, asshole," Inuyasha coughed again. He threw his head back and stared up at the blue sky. It seemed so unreal that he would die on such a perfectly beautiful day. "You said it yourself last time that Tenseiga wouldn't work twice. Take it. It's yours now." He closed his eyes briefly, and then he opened them again, eyes seeming distant. "I guess I won't see her again. Sorry—"

Sesshoumaru had wondered what he meant, but he died before he could even question him.

.

It had been over a month since she had yelled at him, but Sesshoumaru still found himself walking down that sidewalk, past that store, and hoping to see her standing outside admiring the clothes on the mannequins.

He stood where she did, wondering what she was pondering in her little head as she stared into the window. He closed his eyes, trying to picture himself in her shoes.

"Sesshoumaru?"

He opened his eyes, looking into the window's reflection to see her next to him again. He turned to face her.

"Kagome."

She shifted nervously, tucking strands of hair behind her ear as she stared at her feet. She looked up hesitantly, biting her bottom lip. "I-I'm sorry I snapped at you last time."

"There is no need for apologies—or rather I should be the one apologizing for my strange behavior."

She was quiet for a moment, and then she whispered softly, "My apartment is nearby. Let's have tea."

He nodded, following after her quietly as she led the way.

Sesshoumaru picked up a picture frame on Kagome's bookshelf. He stared at the image of her, wrapped up in the arms of this Hiroshi, masquerading happiness to the unknown eyes. Even in the still image, he could see the longing and loneliness in her eyes, wishing for something that would never come for her.

"I have green tea and jasmine. What would you like? Oh, maybe there might be some lotus tea my mother sent me—"

"Whatever is fine," he interrupted, placing the frame back into its place. He walked into the kitchen, seeing her reached into her cupboard for the object in question. She stood on her tiptoes, struggling to reach for a tin all the way in the back. Sesshoumaru walked up behind her, and pulled the tea tin out for her.

"Th-thank you," she mumbled, taking the tin from Sesshoumaru. She turned away from him to prepare the beverage. As she poured the boiled water into a teapot, she asked softly, "Why are you here?"

"You asked me to be here."

"N-no," Kagome started, unsure of how she wanted to voice her question. "You've been searching for me, haven't you?"

He was quiet, uncertain of his own motive with her. After a pause, he spoke up, sighing, "Yes, I suppose I have been."

"Why?"

"I don't know."

Kagome turned around and carefully poured a cup for Sesshoumaru. "Be careful, it's hot." She then proceeded to pour herself a cup, and took her place at a seat at the dining table across from him. "You've never shown an interest in me before."

"I didn't think we'd ever meet again—like this." He took a slow sip of the lotus tea Kagome had prepared, savoring the sweet scent. "You are a human, so how could you be here?"

Kagome propped her chin on her hand, eyes traveling outside the window to stare at the gloomy Tokyo skyscape. "It's a long story."

"I have all of the time in the world."

She laughed, but there was no amusement in it. "I suppose that's true." She turned her attention back to her tea, finding the little cup to be absolutely fascinating and relaxing to look at. "Do you remember the well? The Bone-Eater's Well."

His brows furrowed together as he tried to recall the object in question. It had been so long since he thought back to that era, but after a moment of pondering, he nodded slowly. "You've disappeared with it."

"I did."

She spent the rest of the afternoon explaining the well and its power. She talked about the sacred objects on her family's shrine and their connection to the Feudal Era. When Kagome began talking about the Goshinboku, her voice faltered, catching Sesshoumaru's attention immediately. She resumed speaking, brushing her hesitancy aside with memory loss, but Sesshoumaru believed she was lying, though he did not press her on the matter, sensing there was a deeper story meant to be locked away in the darkest depth of her heart.

As nightfall descended, they had turned the conversation over to Sesshoumaru's life.

"I was a teacher for a while," Sesshoumaru said, smirking behind his teacup when Kagome's eyes widened in surprise. "I taught kendo."

"So what do you do now?"

He hesitated. "I am a doctor."

She remained wide-eyed, and then she laughed, "You were always full of surprises."

Their conversation came to an abrupt stop as Kagome's cellphone rang. She apologized to Sesshoumaru and picked up the phone, walking away to the living room to speak with the caller in private. As she talked, Sesshoumaru let his gaze drift outside to the window, watching as slowly Tokyo came to life at night with each twinkling lights of neon signs. Above it, the sky was dark, barely any stars shined through.

He thought back to centuries ago when he would be walking through forests at night, and he would look up and see the whole, infinite universe looming over him. His mind drifted to the little human girl, the two-headed dragon, his loyal servant. What an odd group of companions, following after him like he was some benevolent god. He wondered what would have happen if they all had never crossed path.

His pride might have gotten himself killed sooner, and then he would never have to understand these cruel feelings that seemed to go hand-in-hand: compassion and loneliness.

He sighed, lifting the cup up to taste the now cold tea.

It was then that Kagome returned, face slightly pale and phone fumbling around in her restless hands. "You should leave."

He looked up, slightly surprised by her sudden request. He didn't protest or even respond, but he did stand up and walked towards the door with her following behind, head lowered. He turned to look at Kagome, sensing a peculiar change in her behavior.

"Please don't come back. Please just leave me alone."

He watched as the door slammed shut.

.

Sesshoumaru's days fell back into routine as he worked, barely resting and unable to feel anything other than the loneliness that couldn't be numbed. The few moments he had formed with Kagome replayed in his mind against his better judgment. It was quite silly how he allowed his mind to be occupied by her when, as she mentioned, they were under no obligation to reconnect.

As he lay in his bed staring up at the ceiling, he thought back to his father's tomb when she so effortlessly pulled out that sword. He thought of her slow, nervous apology. He remembered towering over her, ready to kill her without a thought.

He sat up, leaning against the headboard.

She had every reason to avoid him. She had every reason to cut herself from the past.

But he needed to hear it from her mouth.

.

"He would have wanted you to have it," Sesshoumaru said quietly outside Kagome's apartment door, with Tessaiga presented to her.

She stared at the old sword, shaking noticeably as she reached out for it. It dropped when she tried to take it from Sesshoumaru's hands, and she immediately bent down, still trembling uncontrollably as she picked it up, holding it close to her chest. She laughed, but a sob was threatening to rise, "You always get what you wanted. How many times have you tried to kill him for this? And now you're just giving it to me? What kind of shit are you trying to pull, Sesshoumaru?"

He knelt down to her level, and pressed his lips to her forehead. She shut her eyes tight, feeling lost, confused, and scared.

"Kagome?"

They looked up immediately and saw Hiroshi approaching them both from the stairways. He narrowed his eyes as he intervened between the two, helping Kagome up. He noticed the sword, but said nothing regarding it. His concern seemed to rest solely on Kagome. "What's wrong? Why are you crying? Who is this guy?"

Sesshoumaru felt a growl in the back of his throat, but it died there when she spoke up.

"Nobody—he's the half-brother of someone I knew long ago. He stopped by with a present and he's leaving now."

She didn't look at him, but he reluctantly took her tone as his cue to leave.

.

Time don't stand still, a fact that everyone knew, but somehow always managed to be surprised when they find moments have passed within a blink of an eye. Time flowed slower for Sesshoumaru, but even he was surprised to find spring had come, leaving the lonely autumn and cold winter behind.

He went through the exhausting motions of living, finding his entire existence to be a curse with no cure. He had to wonder if this was his punishment for all of his past crimes.

.

"So, Mr. Higurashi, you are here for a check—" Sesshoumaru's voice trailed off as he entered an examining room to find his elderly patient sitting on the exam table waiting, but it was his companion that immediately caught his eyes.

She reacted the same as him, standing up just as quickly as he had entered. She turned to the elderly man, speaking hurriedly, "Grand-Grandpa, I'm going to wait in the waiting room for you, okay?"

"Huh? Kagome, wait, I need you here to listen—"

"The patient is prone to memory loss, correct?"

Kagome stiffened in her spot, and then nodded, resigning herself to sit in the guest chair as Sesshoumaru continued with the examination, doing his work as normal, but occasionally out of the corner of his eye, he would cast glances at Kagome, finding her to be distracted and uncomfortable in his presence.

About half an hour later, Sesshoumaru escorted them both out of the room to the reception counter, stopping just a few feet away to grab Kagome's arm. Her grandfather continued to the waiting room, unaware that his granddaughter had fallen behind.

"Wh-what are you doing? Let go!"

"Why are you so against meeting me?"

"Excuse me, Lord Sesshoumaru," she hissed, "I don't believe there are any reasons for us to get reacquainted."

"You cared enough to invite me into your home."

"I wasn't thinking clearly. Why are you so interested in me now?"

"You know me. You remembered me."

She stopped her struggle, a little shocked by his response. Then she shook her head, jerking her arm from his grasp. "I am trying to keep the past and the present separated, so I can live my life as peacefully as possible. I don't need you stirring up any trouble or unwanted old memories."

"You are unhappy."

"Everyone is unhappy. I am nothing special."

"Kagome? Where did you go?" her grandfather slowly wandered back to see his granddaughter still talking with his doctor. "Kagome, is everything alright?"

She forced a smile onto her face, walking over to help her grandfather walk back out. "Everything is fine, Grandpa. Dr. Nishimura was just giving me more information about…"

Her voice became nothing but static noise to Sesshoumaru's ears as he watched her walked away again, cold as ever, but inside he still found that he could not let her go just like this. There must be a reason for their paths to continuously crossed, no matter how much it seemed to frighten them both.

.

Sesshoumaru ran into Kagome a few times since their previous meetings, but often he saw her with her boyfriend. She would meet his eyes, recognizing him from across the street, but then she would walk away, not leaving any room for him to approach her.

By the end of spring, he found his odd fixation with her was waning, dying with each rejection she had shown him. He almost wanted to laugh at how far he had fallen since his glory days, to become weak and attached to a human who rebuffed him at every moment.

His former self would probably scoff at his current state, calling him a pathetic fool.

.

Under the cloak of night, Sesshoumaru walked through the empty halls of the hospital, watching, waiting until Tenseiga motioned for him to stop and carry out its ends. He walked for over half an hour before he felt the familiar pulsing, and then he stopped, sighing while wondering who this person would be.

He opened the door, freezing when he recognized the dying body.

"Kagome…"

Sesshoumaru staggered forward, not understanding why she was here, like this. It didn't seem right for her to be so still, to be covered in bandages, to need a machine to sustain her life. Her heartbeat was slowing, signaling the end was near, and he felt his own heart stopping with her.

He could see the minions of the Netherworld approaching her stilled form, ready to drag her with them back to their dark realm and never to be returned. He didn't hesitate slicing each and every one of them with growing rage. When the last of them was vanquished, he waited with a heavy heart for her eyes to open again. Seconds ticked by, but to Sesshoumaru, it felt like eternity.

Finally, slowly, her eyes opened and met his relieved gaze. Confusion dashed across Kagome's face, and then she found her voice, though it was fairly weak and hoarse, "I died...didn't I?"

"Yes—no. Not really. I—"

"You revived me," she whispered.

He could only nod in response.

.

"We—Hiroshi and I were arguing," Kagome started.

The heart monitor continued beeping to fill in their silence as Kagome tried to remember back to the accident. She stared at all of the machines that were monitoring her, keeping her alive, and it made her shiver to know that she had been in this room for days.

"We were fighting about how indifferent I've been lately. He accused me of cheating on him, and…the light changed," she stopped, frowning. "I wanted to get away from him, so I started walking as fast as I could and…"

"What happened?" Sesshoumaru pressed on while resting his hand over hers. She didn't seem to notice the gesture.

"A car sped through," she whispered, "There was a light. A sound. Screaming, I think. It was brief, but I felt the impact and then…I don't know."

"It's alright now."

Kagome was quiet and then she whispered softly, "I-I'm tired. I'd like to get some rest, if you don't mind, Sesshoumaru."

He nodded, standing up to leave. He closed the door gently, catching one last glimpse of her before resuming his duty.

.

When daylight came, Sesshoumaru was preparing to head for home when he decided to make a brief stop at Kagome's room. He stood outside, seeing through the small crack that her family was gathered around her, smiling and crying tears of joy. In the corner of the room, he caught sight of Hiroshi, standing there arms crossed and stiffened as he averted glances with the relieved family.

"Kagome, are you alright?"

He turned his attention over to her when he heard Kagome's mother inquiring worriedly. He met her gaze, and he could see that she was shooing him away with a pleading look.

He complied, hearing only her assuring words to her family as he left the hospital.

A few days later, he learned that she was discharged, leaving behind no words of kindness or concern for him. He resumed his days, pretending that he didn't care in the slightest for this insignificant human.

.

The weeks continued to pass by without incidents until one morning Sesshoumaru stepped out of the hospital to see Kagome standing at the entrance, arms crossed and eyes narrowed. He noticed her injuries had mostly healed save for some faint scars. He approached her, face as calm as ever.

"I was fine before you showed up out of nowhere!"

He didn't respond to her sudden outburst, waiting instead for her to continue.

"I had moved on. I had left the past behind, I've accepted how things ended, but then you—you had to show up everywhere and—" She stopped abruptly to let out a loud groan. She then proceeded to stomp up to him, stopping just a few centimeters short, her hands were clenching shakily into fists.

"It is not fair!" Kagome beat her fists against Sesshoumaru's chest repeatedly, not caring about whatever repercussions that may befall her. Her cheeks burned with fury as tears fell. "Am I supposed to be tied to you now, is that it? Was that your way of binding me to you? Is my life yours now to do as you pleased?"

He remained still, taking in her abuses as if they were penances. When her punches weakened, he gripped her wrists, slowly prying them away from him. She struggled in his strong grasps feebly, having used up most of her strength. Then, losing all of her will to hate him, she fell into his arms, crying.

.

"Hiroshi broke up with me," Kagome whispered softly as she sat in Sesshoumaru's living room, not looking at him. After her confrontation, she had followed him home in a daze, barely aware of her surroundings. Even now, she was still barely grasping that she was in his home, talking as if they were two normal people.

Sesshoumaru sat in an armchair to the side, eyes fixed on Kagome as she talked. She didn't speak for a while, so they listened in silence to the faint noises of traffic outside the apartment building, neither knowing what to say to one another. After what seemed like an eternity, Kagome resumed speaking, continuing with her earlier thought, "I've been thinking of you, too."

Sesshoumaru's gaze on her intensified as he listened closely to her soft words.

"That's probably where the problem started," she continued, seemingly speaking more to herself than to him. "I've tried not to think of you, but I guess I haven't truly let go of the past either. I was distracted, moody, always angry, and—well, I guess I can't blame him. Or you."

Kagome paused to fumble around with her hands. She sighed. "You were right. I don't love him, at least not in the way I loved Inuyasha."

Sesshoumaru felt his heart tightened for a moment, but it didn't show on his face.

"Except Inuyasha is no longer here either, so…what am I doing?" She laughed darkly, looking up to sweep some of her bangs out of her eyes. "I am talking to Sesshoumaru, of all people, about my messed up life. I am in his living room, talking about how fucked up I am. This must be some sort of sick cosmic joke."

"Kagome."

She turned to him, surprised to finally hear his voice after having grown used to his silence.

"It is good to see you again."

She lowered her head again, nodding mutedly. "I'm sorry about what I said earlier at the hospital. I didn't mean any of that. I know you don't have any ulterior motive, and I'm truly grateful, but…what are we supposed to do now? Us."

He crossed his legs, seemingly pondering her question deeply, but after a while, the only thing he could do was sigh out of complete loss for their situation. "I don't know either."

"What a sick joke," she repeated in a soft murmur as they let silence filled the room again.

.

"Are we friends?"

They were at a busy, fancy restaurant when she asked him that question from across the table behind her menu. It had been several weeks since they began seeing each other more often, but Kagome was still prone to averting gazes with Sesshoumaru, and he wondered if she was still frightened of him, or maybe if there was something about his appearance that made it hard for her to look at directly.

He dropped his menu and reached across the table to pull down her menu.

She looked at him and then turned away to take a sip from her glass of water. She coughed. "Acquaintances! That might be the word."

"You are not looking at me again."

Kagome blushed. She stammered weakly, "Well, that is—I'm sorry, but it's still so…surreal."

"How so?"

"Well, it's you. I'm trying, I really am, but…I just don't understand what our relationship is supposed to be."

"What would you like it to be?"

Much to Kagome's relief, their waiter returned to take their orders before she could offer Sesshoumaru a response. Once their orders were placed, the waiter disappeared back into the kitchen, leaving the two alone again with their conversation.

Sesshoumaru pressed on. "What would you like our relationship to be?"

Kagome's blush returned a few shades brighter. She fiddled with the linen napkin in her lap. Then she stopped, voice even again and almost wistful as she thought back to long ago, "Well, I'd always thought you'd be my brother-in-law."

Sesshoumaru reached for his glass of wine, and took a slow sip. He placed the glass back down, hoping his appearance was calmer than how he felt on the inside. "That is not possible anymore."

"I know." Kagome's voice was quiet. "Was he in pain?"

"Yes."

"Oh."

"He was thinking of you. He was remorseful."

"Oh," she repeated, her tone still soft and quiet.

They were silent for the rest of dinner.

After Sesshoumaru paid for their dinner, they left the restaurant and walked down the sidewalk to where Sesshoumaru parked his car. As he opened the passenger door for Kagome, she stopped next to him, a hand touching his left arm gently.

"I'd like us to be more than friends."

He looked down at her, seeing her shaking.

"Is that alright?"

He leaned down and brushed his lips against hers. "Yes."

.

"Can you change back?" Kagome asked softly, tracing her finger over his arm to where his markings should be. She then did the same with his face, tracing out the shape of his stripes and then the lone crescent moon on his forehead.

He shivered under her touch, but he nodded, closing his eyes to concentrate on transforming back into his real form. She watched patiently as his hair changed from black to white, growing in length until it reached down to his waist. His markings reappeared, his fingers lengthened into claws, and when he opened those eyes, he heard her gasped softly as she stared into his amber pools.

She rested her hand on his cheek, seemingly lost in a daze, lost in another time. He placed his hand over hers, stroking it gently as he relished in her touch. Then he spoke softly, "Do you prefer this appearance?"

She laughed quietly. "Yes."

He smiled.

.

Kagome wrapped her arms around Sesshoumaru, pulling him down until his lips met hers. For a brief moment, Sesshoumaru could have sworn he heard his brother's name escaped her lips, but that could have just been his imagination as after that he only heard his own name being moaned over and over as his claws raked up her sensitive skin, sending sharp jolts of pleasure down her spine.

He buried his face in the crook of her neck, nipping gently at the skin there as her own nails ran themselves down his bare back. He could feel her hooking one of her legs over his hip, already grinding against his growing erection. He held back a groan, but when she started nibbling on his earlobe, he found all of his restraints were gone.

.

"I am not Inuyasha," he whispered, rubbing small circles into her back.

"I know," she answered, breathless.

"Do you see him in me?"

"Sometimes."

"Do you wish for him to be here instead of me?"

Kagome was quiet for a long time, and then she sighed into his skin. "That is not fair, Sesshoumaru. Don't make me answer this. Don't be cruel."

He didn't ask her any more questions, finding her one unanswered response to be more painful than any truths or lies she could ever tell him.

.

Sometimes Kagome fell asleep in Sesshoumaru's bed. Other times, he fell asleep in hers. On occasions, he learned of the depth of her torment as she tossed and turned, grappled with nightmares that were trying to destroy her from the inside out. He woke her up, but she always seemed a little disoriented, not quite sure if this was another dream or reality crashing in on her.

"How can such a small object be so destructive even when it no longer exists?" Kagome asked Sesshoumaru late one night while sitting cross-legged in his bed, slightly tangled up in the bed cover. She looked up when he walked over with a glass of water for her. She took it, but didn't drink from it. She held the glass in her hands as she watched Sesshoumaru returned to his side of the bed.

"What do you remember?"

"Darkness. Emptiness. Loneliness."

"You've wished it away."

"I know," she responded, finally taking that sip of water. "But I still feel plagued by it."

"Try to get some sleep. You'll feel better in the morning."

She nodded, placing the glass on the nightstand, and then laying down on the mattress. Sesshoumaru pulled her closer, and she snuggled into his embrace, sighing as she listened to his steady breathing.

"Sesshoumaru?"

"Hm."

"Could I stay here with you? I don't want to be alone."

"…Yes."

.

"Have you been lonely?"

Sesshoumaru looked over the book he was reading at Kagome sitting next to the coffee table folding the laundry.

"I'm not sure."

"You're not sure?" She laughed while trying to find a match to a single brown sock.

"Perhaps, I was."

"Silly demon," she murmured, frowning in annoyance when she pulled a long white sock out of the laundry basket. She looked up at Sesshoumaru, meeting his fixed gaze. Forgetting her current chore, Kagome dropped the mismatched socks in her lap, stood up, and walked over to the chair Sesshoumaru was sitting in.

He placed his book on the coffee table and pulled Kagome down so she was sitting on his lap. He kept his eyes on hers. "I'm not lonely right now."

She smiled. "Good. Everyone deserves to feel peace."

"Are you lonely?"

She shook her head, and he smiled, echoing her earlier comment.

"Good."

.

Sesshoumaru stepped out of his bathroom clad in only a towel around the waist to find Kagome sitting cross-legged in bed, cradling Tenseiga in her lap. She was examining the scabbard intently, barely noticing him walking into the room until he sat down next to her.

"What are you doing?" he asked, running a hand through his damped hair.

"How many lives have you saved?" Kagome asked instead, carefully pulling the sword out of its scabbard and then sheathing it again.

"Not enough," he responded, standing up to walk towards his closet.

"You're not god," she whispered.

Sesshoumaru stopped in his track, stiffening when he felt Kagome embraced him from behind.

"You don't have to keep doing this."

"Doing what?" he asked, feigning ignorance.

"'Saving' them. Punishing yourself."

Sesshoumaru didn't respond to her, forcing Kagome to continue speaking.

"I forgive you. Does that mean anything?"

He stayed still and quiet as Kagome tightened her embrace. He wondered if he was truly forgiven, and if he was, then what was he supposed to do now.

.

"I don't think I'd like it if you met someone else after me," Kagome confessed while fiddling around with her skirt to seem nonchalant.

They were sitting at the kitchen table, enjoying breakfast as Sesshoumaru read up on the news. He looked across the table, frowning, and perplexed by her sudden confession. He lowered the newspaper he was holding, noting that the buttered toast she was eating only had one little nibble on it.

"There would be no others."

She laughed, unconvinced by his declaration. "There would be. You just haven't crossed path yet, or she just hasn't been born yet."

"There would be no others," he repeated, though the conviction in his voice remained the same as before.

"There must have been others before me, so it's only logical there would be more after me."

"Kagome—"

"I'd iwant/i you to meet others after me," she interrupted him; her eyes were sill fixed on her skirt, but her grip around the fabric seemed to have tightened, threatening to tear the material. "I don't like the idea of you with someone else, but—I'd hate it even more for you to be lonely."

He stood up, and walked across the small distance that separated them until he stood by her side. She continued to keep her eyes lowered, so he knelt down until he was at eye-level with her. He raised her chin so her gaze would meet his.

Her breath caught in her throat as she looked at him. He could smell the salty tears that she had been holding back, but were now ready to spill. He brushed his thumb over her bottom lip, watching as she trembled under his touch.

"There would be no others," he repeated softly. "Only you."

He kissed away the tears that fell, tasting the salty sadness on his lips.

.

They built a life together, something neither had truly thought would ever happen between the two. In their younger years, it seemed like a ludicrous thought to even toy around with, him a coldhearted killer, and her, the pure, young maiden that traveled through time.

She was a human. He was a demon.

She loved his brother. He loved no one.

She was now alone. So was he.

Now, it seemed only natural for the two of them to fill the loneliness the other felt.

.

"I have a gray hair," Kagome said one morning while looking at herself in the bathroom mirror. She held up clumps of hair, trying to find the gray, brittle strand that had disappeared among her darker locks. Finding it, she carefully pulled it out, afraid it would withdrew back into her thick tresses.

Sesshoumaru stepped into the bathroom just as Kagome yanked out the offending strand. She held it up, seeming completely mesmerized with it. Sesshoumaru stepped over and stood behind her, both hands were on her shoulders. He looked down at her, but she remained still, not really noticing him.

He knew what she was thinking.

It was the beginning of the end.

A cry pierced the loaded silence that filled the air, startling her out of her spell. She turned in the direction of the noise, dropping and forgetting the hair that captured her attention just moments ago.

"The baby's crying—"

"I'll get him," Sesshoumaru interrupted, kissing her forehead and leaving her alone in the bathroom.

.

"I'd never pegged you for the domestic type," Kagome said, placing a plate of eggs in front of Sesshoumaru as he read the newspaper.

He lowered his newspaper, eyebrow quirking up at her in question. His gaze followed after her as his eyes lingered on her slight swollen belly before looking up at her face. She walked away, casually shrugging, "Then again, I didn't think I'd be fucking you and being married to you and having children with you." She paused, frowning while unconsciously placing a hand on her belly, and then continuing, "Life is strange."

A wry smile formed on Sesshoumaru's lips. "Indeed."

"Coffee?"

.

Sesshoumaru came home one day to Kagome sitting in the kitchen, expression blank as her hand rested stiffly over her belly. He could see their young son asleep in his crib, thumb still in his mouth as he dreamt of sweet little things. He approached Kagome slowly, concern in his eyes.

"Kagome?"

She was quiet, not really noticing him.

"Kagome?"

She looked up this time, and whispered hoarsely. "It happened again. I can't feel it."

He walked closer to her, intending to embrace her, but she stood up, knocking her chair over and waking their sleeping son from the noise.

"I don't want to hurt you too," she whispered softly, staring at her hands. "I don't want to hurt any of you."

He stepped closer, pulling her into his tight embrace, and letting her sob into his shirt.

.

"I thought I had it under control, but—but sometimes…I don't know why, Sesshoumaru." Kagome continued to place her hand on her belly, wondering if she waited long enough, she could feel movements again.

"It is not your fault," Sesshoumaru responded, slowly lifting her hand away.

"I don't feel threatened, so why—is it because of its demon blood?"

"Perhaps."

"A demon and a former priestess trying to have a family together...There's a joke for the century," a dry laugh escaped Kagome as she voiced her last thought. Her head jerked up when she heard her son calling for her in the distance. She hesitated moving, turning to look at Sesshoumaru with pleading eyes. "Will you please check on him?"

Sesshoumaru nodded, disappearing to check on their son as his wife remained seated on the couch, still rattled and scared. He returned with the young boy asleep over his shoulder, and he placed the child into Kagome's nervous arms.

"It is not your fault," he repeated, stroking his sleeping son's dark hair as he stared into Kagome's eyes. "We shouldn't linger on our losses, but cherish what we have instead."

"It'll happen again," Kagome repeated, staring down at the little dog ears that twitched and stirred an ache in her heart. She gingerly touched an ear and smiled sadly when it responded to her stroke.

"Perhaps, perhaps not." Sesshoumaru sat down on the couch next to her, and pulled her into his embrace. He kissed the top of her head. "But everything will be fine."

.

"Another son!" Sesshoumaru could hear Kagome's mother announcing joyfully, holding up his newborn son. She smiled, making the wrinkles around her eyes more noticeable. "And with the same adorable little ears like his older brother."

She handed Sesshoumaru his son, all cleaned and bundled up in a warm, soft blanket. He stared down at the little yawning face that was just shrieking a few minutes earlier. The ears twitched, and Sesshoumaru was reminded of his long dead brother.

"Is he alright?" Kagome leaned up against her pillows, glistening sweats still dripped down her face as she stared at him with worried eyes.

"He is perfect."

She smiled, leaning back and closing her eyes.

.

"Are you bored of me yet?" Kagome asked one sleepy morning, her warm breath ghosting over Sesshoumaru's skin.

He ran his fingers through her hair, occasionally lifting his hand to see gray streaks threaded through his fingers. He watched them fall, returning to rest against her face.

"No."

She laughed, unconvinced. "Liar. You barely look like you're in your early thirties while I must look so old, people might assume I am robbing the cradle when it's really you who is robbing the cradle."

He smirked at her incessant rambling. "That is true, but I am never bored of you."

"How sweet," she sighed with a faint hint of sarcasm in her voice that wasn't lost on Sesshoumaru. She closed her eyes again and relaxed under his soothing touch. "Well, I still do look young for my age. Think I can past for twenty-one?"

"Maybe thirty-nine."

She gasped. "I am thirty-nine, you jerk!" She leaned back to look down and see her husband's eyes twinkling in mischievous amusement. She slapped his shoulder lightly before resuming her earlier position of resting in his arms. "Wish time could flow backwards," she whispered almost sleepily. "I'd do everything again if it meant we could restart from the beginning."

"Hm," Sesshoumaru resumed his earlier slow caresses, wondering to himself if he would still be that ruthless demon so long ago. It seemed almost surreal to think back that far.

.

The years rolled by in a flash, and he hadn't realized anything had changed until one cool morning he noticed Kagome staring intently at him from their bed as he got dressed. In the distance, they could hear their five children laughing and yelling, but she remained quiet, eyes never leaving his form.

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing is wrong," she murmured, still staring at him. "Just remembering."

"Remembering?"

"What are you going to do later?"

"Well, I promised the twins I would mediate while they spar—"

"N-no. What are you doing later?"

Sesshoumaru froze, realizing her implication. He stared at her, still seeing the young woman on the streets of Tokyo so many years ago. It wasn't until he stared back at her fully that he realized her hair was grayer than he remembered in spite of how often she dyed away those aging locks. Her eyes were wiser, but still tired, telling of fantastic stories that seemed like only fairy tales now.

"I'll be here," he said after a pause, sitting down on the bed next to Kagome. He placed a hand gently on the back of her neck. "I'll be here."

Kagome reached for Sesshoumaru's other hand and placed it in her lap. She stroked his hand tenderly, her eyes never leaving his.

"You don't have to be."

"This Sesshoumaru only does things he wants to do."

She laughed, sounding like she was on the verge of crying.

.

Over thirteen million people in Tokyo, and she was taken from him in her sleep. Seven billion people in the world, and she was stolen from him when he wasn't looking. Sesshoumaru woke up to find her motionless and cold. He had remained still, holding her cold body in his arms for hours, not ready to accept that this was the end they had both dreaded so long ago. He was barely aware of when his eldest son guided him away as the rest of his children cried and mourned.

Heaven's blade couldn't bring her back, not again. In its own rights, Tenseiga was an even crueler weapon, being able to grant people one brief moment of happiness before letting them die a second, permanent death, and leaving behind a trail of sorrow.

.

Sesshoumaru was never one for reminiscing, but her memory haunted him, promising to never leave him alone and it wasn't as painful as he thought it would be.

He could still smell her sweet scent next to him in bed. Hear the light laughter that resonated in the air like little bell chimes. See the mischievous smile when she was teasing him, or the angry frown when she was upset with him, and even that sad loneliness on certain dates when the past collided with the present.

Memories of the life they had built together flooded him, washing over him until it felt like he could no longer breathe and he was drowning in a sea of emotions. The children that came from their union visited him often with their own children, and in each and every one of his child and grandchild, he would see a shard of her shining through.

There would be no others, the thought returned to him, and he truly didn't feel as lonely as she believed him to be.

.

He visited her grave often, needing to touch the cold stone that bore her name. He traced his long, slender finger over the characters, repeating each syllable slowly to savor the sound of her name on his tongue. As he did that, the familiar sensation of nostalgia threatened to overcome his senses again, starting from that very first violent meeting so many centuries ago to the last one of her in his arms.

He sat underneath the tree residing over her grave, letting his back rest against the rough trunk. He felt tired, so he closed his eyes, wondering absently if today was the day they would meet again after being separated for so long.

It felt warm, he sighed.

 

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