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Tick Tock by Tsuki no Tennyo

Tick Tock

Author's Note: why am I like this

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She was eighteen when he met her again by chance one sunny day, looking still much the same in spite of the five century-gap since he last saw her. Pale face and shaky legs, she migrated away from her group of friends, ignoring their concerns as she reached out to him in the middle of a busy crowd, her hand gripping the sleeve of his suit with the same desperation as one holding onto a lifeline.

I—I'm sorry, she said, hand slipping away, seemingly gathering her senses again, I thought you were someone I knew…

He grabbed her hand, and asked quietly, Who did you wish to see?

She smiled at him through her tears.

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They didn't see each other again until a year later when she was nineteen, juggling college and work while still trying to readjust back into her own society.

It's funny, she said over her glass of lemonade as they sat at an outdoor café. It was a beautiful summer morning, one that seemed to say all was right with the world. She stirred the straw around, watching with childlike amusement at the ice clinking against one another in the glass.

He drank his own iced coffee and asked, What is?

I feel more comfortable in the feudal era while you look right at home in modern time.

I have had over five hundred years to adjust, he reminded her.

Was it hard?

Very.

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At twenty, she finally asked about his brother.

He is dead, he said with the same curtness and indifference as any other statements that came out of his mouth.

I thought so, she admitted, seeming less upset than he would have anticipated. He suspected she had made her peace long ago when the half-demon never came for her.

She didn't ask for details. He didn't want to give them either.

.

She tried to reminisce at twenty-one, but he reminded her that he cared little for her friends and even less about what had transpired during those years.

Oh, she said quietly, confused, Then why are you here—with me?

He had no answer to the rather good question.

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He scolded her for her tardiness at twenty-two, but she just stuck her tongue out at him instead. They had grown used to each other's presence. Perhaps, too well, he worried.

Complete insolence, he scoffed, turning his gaze over to his menu.

What will you do then, Sesshoumaru? she teased, baiting him.

Clearly a punishment is in order, he humored her, adding, You will pick up the bill this time.

He had never seen such a look of pure anguish passed over her face. It amused him.

(He still paid for their meals, as usual.)

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Twenty-three, and she was drunk and stupid and sad, kissing him with a boldness he didn't even knew she possessed. The alcohol might have been a major influence, he told himself, though he still wondered.

You are not thinking clearly, he chided her, pushing her away.

Do you reject me, too?

I will not be your replacement of him.

You're—you're not! she insisted through her oncoming tears, Sess—Sesshoumaru, why are you being like this?

He would rather nip it all in the bud now than put them both through the heartaches of two lives that would never align.

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A year later, she smiled as if nothing had ever happened between them. Perhaps she didn't even remember. Just as well, he thought grimly, still tasting the alcohol and her lipstick on his lips.

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She was twenty-five and in love again, set free from her first romance at fifteen.

He felt strangely resentful as he listened to her talk about the man that had managed to piece her shattered heart back together.

He's a teacher at my old high school, isn't that funny? her words broke through the jealous haze in his mind.

Very, he answered, not registering a single word she was saying.

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He missed her when she was twenty-six, being taken halfway across the world on an extended business trip.

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He was surprised when she showed up one day, twenty-seven and belly round, glowing radiantly as one would expect.

He gave her a hard look, and she laughed, Six months. I feel like a cow.

You look lovely, he said instead.

What a liar, she scoffed, sitting down with his help.

Are you happy? He wanted to ask, though he swallowed the words when he noticed she caressed her wedding ring with such tenderness and serenity he hadn't seen in a long time.

Instead, he asked, Will I see you next year?

Why would you not? she laughed at the absurd question, forgetting that they did not meet the year before.

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She broke her promise at twenty-eight, crying and panicking about the baby being in the hospital with a high fever.

Calm down, he told her through the phone as he sat alone in the restaurant they had previously agreed, It will be alright, Kagome.

He could hear her sigh of relief, believing him more readily than when her husband had offered the same words of solace. He felt particularly pleased by this.

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Twenty-nine and number two was on the way.

Should we stop meeting? he asked the inevitable question, wondering how appropriate it was for a single man and a married woman to meet like this. It wasn't like he cared either way, but it felt courteous to ask nevertheless.

Yeah, she snorted unladylike as she skimmed over the menu, When I'm dead.

He decided to not point out the likelihood of that happening, suggesting instead that she might enjoy the steak, prepared from the finest cut of Kobe beef. It was for the baby's sake, he lied.

You spoil me, she smiled from across the table, and he saw again the vision of what could have been.

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She was thinner this year, he pointed out, and she laughed before sighing.

The girls are just too much, she sounded weary, but he could still feel the warmth and love in her words. He wondered if things had been different, would she show the same tenderness to their own children.

The answer was so obvious he wondered when he became the fool.

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Are you seeing anyone? she asked him, putting her phone away after showing him the pictures from her younger brother's wedding. She radiated domestic bliss in the photos with her husband and the two little ones. They looked exactly like their mother, he had noted to himself, though perhaps he was just being biased.

Yes, he answered, not lying, but also not being truthful with her. He went out with women, slept with some of them, but he left them all before the sun even rose. They meant completely nothing to him.

For a moment it looked like her eyes flashed with a flicker of jealousy, almost as if she was asking "why not me?" but he shook the thought away, telling himself it was just what he wanted to believe.

I hope you are happy, she said, holding onto his hand a few seconds too long.

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Thirty-two through thirty-five were missed. He was taken away by his job again. The girls were sick. School recitals, family dinners, a gala to attend, a funeral, so many excuses, they all sounded so fake and so very, very convenient.

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Thirty-six, she looked worse for wear.

I left my husband, she finally confessed after fifteen minutes of silence. The bags under her eyes seemed darker, heavier. She looked so haggard, no longer like the vivacious girl from his memories. He was sleeping with his student. Who knows who else?

He felt his blood boiled, ready to take up his sword again for her sake.

Fuck, I am such a hypocrite, he heard her muttered to herself as she buried her face into her hands.

You are nothing like him! he answered angrily, voice harsher than he had intended. He wondered belatedly if he had betrayed his own feelings.

She remained quiet for a long time before sighing, resigned, and then smiled in spite of herself, What should we eat today?

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She ran her hand through her hair, pushing some of it back, and he saw silver streaking through.

She was thirty-seven now, he remembered, and he wondered where the time went.

People are whispering, she leaned across the table, grinning, What are they saying?

They think you are a cougar, he deadpanned.

They do not! she crowed, laughing and sounding more like herself again.

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She laughed at thirty-eight when she realized two decades had passed since their reunion.

What on earth did we talk about in all of that time?

Not enough, he thought, remembering all of her words, smiles, and tears. He still wondered about the missing years.

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Rain poured over Tokyo as he waited for her in her favorite bakery. Thirty-nine, and she still had the same sense of punctuality as when she was young. He checked his phone frequently, but he saw no messages or calls from her.

He waited, watching as people entered and left.

It wasn't even ten minutes when he heard a young man walking in with a girl. He mentioned with mock concern about the accident down the street. The poor woman was struck out of nowhere by a car that had slipped on the wet road.

He stilled, his mind shutting down.

He didn't remember yelling at the man, demanding the exact location. He didn't remember running out into the pouring cold rain, drenched to the bones. He didn't remembering pushing through the crowd, past the police and medics, forgetting to restrain his inhuman strength.

He remembered her shallow breathing. He remembered her eyes fluttering weakly open.

S-sorry, I'm late, she managed.

The rain washed away any tears that might have ran down his cheeks as he held her close, laughing quietly at her misguided apology. He felt his heart slowing again as he made out the faintest of words from her.

I still...you… she told him with the last of her breath.

Everything came to a pause, nothing seemed to matter anymore. He had thought he had more time with her.

"I'm sorry," he answered, pressing his lips against hers.

.

He looked out his apartment window. It was raining again. She would have been forty.

He wondered when the sky would clear up again, like on that warm, sunny day when she was eighteen.

 

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