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A Place to Belong by Sage McMae

Chapter 1

Sesshomaru does not like the holiday season. Between numerous requests for time off, mandatory office parties, and his firm’s annual volunteer project, there is hardly any time left to complete projects for their year-end stakeholder’s meeting.

His mood is dark as he stands in the orphanage. He is surrounded by energetic children who are louder than the constant music he hears playing outside. He wishes his senses weren’t heightened. The smell of cinnamon has overpowered all other scents and if he hears one more verse of ‘Jingle Bells’ he may attack someone.

Sesshomaru runs his fingers over his watch. The accessory hides his true form from those around him. This modern age does not appreciate those who are different. Society rejects anyone who does not conform to the term 'normal'. For the survival of his kind, Sesshomaru has had to adapt. He is certain that if anyone saw the brilliant magenta markings on his skin or noticed his elfin ears, they would be terrified. 

Even without his demon markings, his subordinates are afraid. His imposing demeanor and height often dissuade others from approaching him— a habit he is grateful to see extends to young humans as well.

As he takes in the room, he notices a silent specter floating on the edge of his peripherals. It’s a little girl. She doesn’t flock to the volunteers like the other children. She remains in the doorway, wary of the strangers in her home.

Home is a general term. The orphanage in which she currently resides meets the minimum requirements for such a word. Sesshomaru takes in the bare walls, the line of beds, and the assortment of broken toys. This is not a suitable place for developing pups.

He scowls from his spot in the corner. Around him, the other members of Taisho Enterprises crawl around on the floor or tell stories to keep their assignments entertained.

It was Kagura’s idea to come here. Every year when they select a non-profit to support, the company sends a generous sum. This year, though, his Director of Acquisitions requested something that she believed was more precious than money.

Time.

Perhaps it is because Kagura never knew her parents or maybe it is simply because she doesn’t mind the incessant chattering of small voices. Either way, she convinced Sesshomaru to sign off on her idea. Now, they are here, donating funds and devoting an entire afternoon to the tiny residents. How pedestrian...

A cracked teacup is thrust into his face. Sesshomaru glances down to find the girl who has been hiding in the doorway. She holds the teacup higher, straining to reach him.

As if he would drink tea made from city water.

“No, thank you,” he refuses.

With a determined glare, she tries again.

“I don’t want it,” Sesshomaru tells her sternly.

Her brown eyes brim with tears.

He sighs. “Fine.” Grabbing the chipped cup, he brings it to his mouth but doesn’t drink. “There. Happy?”

The girl rewards him with a wide, toothy grin.

Sesshomaru feels his ire lessen.

She sits next to him, continuing to observe the other children. While she watches them, Sesshomaru studies her.

This girl is far quieter than the rest. He’s thankful that she sought him out instead of those brawling twins who seem to be giving his assistant, Jaken, a hard time. The imp, who is disguised as a diminutive man, is no match for the burly boys who are tugging on his arms, one on each side.

She turns to follow Sesshomaru’s gaze.

He notices a bruise on her leg. “What happened?” he asks.

She opens her mouth to respond but movement at the door catches her attention. Her shy grin blossoms into a huge smile. A woman with stunning blue eyes is standing there.

“Wow, there are a lot of volunteers today,” she remarks to no one in particular. The woman has a large yellow pack in her hands. Sesshomaru can see wrapped packages bursting out of the top.

“Kagome! Kagome! Kagome!”

Suddenly, all the children are shoving each other out of the way to reach her, including the silent spector. The twin boys who were harassing Jaken, push the little girl aside. She falls onto the cold floor and winces.

Sesshomaru starts toward them.

The young woman beats him there. She kneels in front of the girl, pulling a first aid kit out of the bag. “What did I tell you two about respecting other people’s space?” the woman chides the boys over her shoulder. They duck their heads and murmur apologies. Then to the girl, she asks, “Are you alright, Rin?”

The little girl— Rin —nods. Her confirmation doesn’t stop the young woman from opening up the metal container and swabbing antiseptic over her scratched hands.

“There you go. Good as new,” the woman says reassuringly.

Rin throws her stubby arms around the woman’s neck, hugging her tight. Smiling, the woman rubs her back and patiently waits for the child to release her.

“I’ve brought you something,” the young woman tells Rin.

She digs into her yellow bag and withdraws a square package. Rin rips through the wrapping paper to reveal another first aid kit. This one is plastic and translucent. Sesshomaru spots bandages, aspirin, a thermometer, antiseptic spray, swabs, and even scissors. Rin grabs the box out of the woman’s hands, eyeing the gift excitedly.

“If you want to grow up to be a doctor, you have to start somewhere,” the woman says with a wink.

Rin laughs and puts down the kit to hug her again.

“Stop hogging, Kagome!”

“It’s my turn next!”

“Hey, I was here first!”

“No, me!”

“Calm down, everyone,” the woman cautions them as she stands. “I have something for each of you.”

She directs them to form a line. With the promise of presents, the children are obedient to a fault. They all quiet and follow her instructions.

Sesshomaru is impressed by the power she wields. She hasn't raised her voice once. There is no threatening of forgoing dinner or elimination of privileges, though he suspects there aren't many in a place like this.

“She’s really something else,” Kagura comments, coming to stand next to him.

“Do you know her?” Sesshomaru asks.

“She’s my roommate,” Kagura reveals. “She’s the one who gave me the idea for this place.”

“Was she an orphan too?” he inquires.

“No, Kagome just loves helping people. When she answered my ad and moved in with me, I was so mean to her. I thought her demeanor was just an act. I’d never known anyone to be kind without expecting something in return. Eventually, I realized she wasn’t looking for anything. She only wanted her independence,” Kagura explains.

He raises his brow expectantly. 

“Kagome grew up at a shrine. Her father died when she was young, leaving her mother with a brand new son. Kagome grew up helping raise him and assisting them with the caretaker duties. Her grandfather wanted her to stay on and take over the family business but she said no. She wanted a different life.”

“They kicked her out?” Sesshomaru surmises. He knows that would have happened to him if he had refused his parents. Ever since birth, they’d had his life planned out for him, especially his mother. 

“No. She just needed some space. My place was the only one she could afford that wasn’t in a bad neighborhood,” Kagura shares.

“If she can’t afford rent, how is she able to buy gifts for all these children?” Sesshomaru asks, watching Kagura’s roommate hand out parcel after parcel to the line of eager orphans.

“She didn’t buy any of them. Kagome organized a community toy drive. These are the donations from the families and businesses in the area,” Kagura says.

“Then why did we need to get involved?”

Kagura glowers at him. “Just because you’ve never accepted help before doesn’t mean other people don’t appreciate the gesture. Kagome has her hands full working three part-time jobs. I figured she could use some extra support. Besides, it’s not like you don’t have money to burn.” 

“How does she manage three part-time positions?” 

His coworker stares at him. “What’s with all the questions?”

“I’m merely curious.”

“About the orphanage or my roommate?” she quips.

Eyes narrowing, he responds, “As the COO of Taisho Enterprises, I like to be informed about where our money goes.”

“Right,” Kagura drawls skeptically. “Well, Mr. COO, you can sleep easy. All the money we donated will be going toward repairs and upgrades.”

“It would be better if they demolished the building and rebuilt,” Sesshomaru remarks.

“Probably but that requires more funding than they’ll ever be able to raise.”

He scans the room until he locates Rin. She is off to the side, carefully pulling out each piece of her first aid kit and rearranging it to her satisfaction. Rin can’t be more than six or seven years old. It isn’t the type of behavior he’d expect from a girl her age. He thought she’d be happier with a doll or a new dress.

In a strange way, her behavior reminds Sesshomaru of his own childhood. He has never been one for parties or events. He preferred to stay in his chambers studying or out in the courtyard practicing his forms. His closest companions were his private instructors. He didn’t have friends. 

He also hadn’t let anyone push him around.

The twins from earlier are standing over Rin, mocking her first aid kit.

“Pfft, a first aid kit? Why did you want one of those when you can get that stuff for free?" one questions.

"You're so weird. No one is ever going to adopt a strange runt like you,” the other one mutters, kicking her newly-organized box over. The pieces scatter across the floor.

Sesshomaru’s decision to adopt is not brought on by the need to fill the void his father left nor is it to find a replacement for the half-brother that he can’t understand. His choice to sign the paperwork is an impromptu one. One minute he is speaking with Kagura. Next, he is discussing options for schools to enroll Rin in. Later, he will reflect on the moment with varying degrees of contempt, confusion, and compassion.

As he walks out of the orphanage, Rin gifts him with the biggest smile he’s seen all day.

It settles his nerves. 

 ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The following morning, Sesshomaru realizes he has made a grave error. He knows nothing of human children. In fact, he knows nothing of children in general— human, hanyou, or demon. As an only child and the sole heir to both his father and mother’s lines, he was constantly tended to by servants. He was given the best nutrition, the most-gifted instructors, and sought-after educators to ensure he followed the path laid out for him. 

Sesshomaru knows how to manage a Fortune 500 company. He handles the accounting for multi-billion dollar accounts. He has procured an exclusive deal with the kitsune tribe for illusion charms to protect his kind. He is competent at many things. A child should not be an issue. 

But one simple thing has slipped his mind. He did not lock his bedroom door. 

While he is preparing to head into the office, Rin comes looking for him. She may be off for the holidays, however, he still has a company to run. He dresses in one of his custom-tailored suits. When Rin enters, he is slipping on his shoes and has not yet put his watch on.

She freezes in the doorway. He can see his own surprise reflected in her wide brown eyes. Rin scans him from head to toe. She takes in his magenta stripes, the purple crescent adorning his forehead, and his razor-sharp claws. She doesn’t gasp. She doesn’t scream. Sesshomaru doesn’t even hear her breathe. 

For a moment, neither of them move. He stares at her, uncertain of what to do.

Finally, he asks, “Is this going to be a problem?”

Rin shakes her head

“Good. I’m off to work. Don’t get into any trouble while I’m gone.”

He snaps his watch into place and strolls past her.

She doesn’t utter a single word as she watches him leave.

 ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

When Sesshomaru returns home that evening, he glances around the house. It is dark. Not a single item appears to be out of place. The only light he sees is coming from the guest room down the hall. 

He frowns. 

Sesshomaru finds Rin on the floor. She has her first aid kit spread out in front of her. All the pieces are laid out as though she's taking inventory. He notes the creases on the bandages and wonders how many times she has reorganized her gift in the past eight hours.

“Did you eat anything today?” he asks.

Rin shakes her head.

“I’ll order take-out.”

She doesn’t seem pleased or upset by this. Rin is content to continue admiring her most prized possession.

An hour later, when their dinner arrives, she sits next to him at the table and devours an entire helping.

Sesshomaru pushes his bowl over to her.

She gazes up at him.

He nods and she finishes the rest of his too.

 

 ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Raising a human child is no small feat. Her presence changes the serene solitude he has come to associate with his home. It is not because she is disruptive. Sesshomaru expected her to behave but finding that she actually does unnerves him. He worries constantly. 

Before he leaves for work, Sesshomaru checks all the major appliances in the house. He leaves a note of emergency numbers on the countertop. He even installs a security system. The electronic enhancement was never something he required. He is perfectly capable of protecting what is his but there are days when his hours at the firm are long. He will not risk Rin’s safety during the hours she is forced to be alone. 

She has been with him for a month and still hasn’t spoken a single word. Determining Rin’s mood is an impossible task. The only way he knows if she is happy is when she smiles. When she’s upset, she hides in the corner of her closet. It’s rare, but it happens.

The first time occurs after Sesshomaru receives a call from her new school. The teacher is concerned about her lack of speech and solitary behavior. She encourages Sesshomaru to take Rin to see a child psychologist. Her advice makes it seem like he isn’t cut out to be a parent.

That night when he gets home, he demands that Rin talk. Instead, she ends up cowering behind her clothes until he lures her out with a plate of manju. 

The following morning, he confesses his shameless bribery to Kagura. She laughs at him.

“You need to hire a nanny— someone else Rin can trust and form a bond with,” she suggests.

Sesshomaru sets up a grueling interview process to identify the perfect candidate. He goes through au pair registries, babysitter blogs, and even consults with his mother on how she hired her staff.

Of course, this proves to be a mistake. His mother wants to know why he needs such information. He tries to deter her line of questioning but she manages to get the truth out of him.

“Now you’ll never find a mate,” she chides. “What respectable demoness would want someone with a human ward?”

“Goodbye, mother,” he grumbles and hangs up the phone.

Kagura saunters in and deposits a resume on his desk. Across the top, in blue font, is the name Kagome Higurashi. Sesshomaru dismisses Kagura’s roommate, stating she is too young and inexperienced to meet his requirements. 

“You haven’t even read it,” Kagura points out. 

“I don’t need to,” he retorts. 

“You asked for my help. This is me helping you. Take it or leave it,” she snaps. With that, she slams his office door shut. 

After another week of disappointing applicants, and a second call from Rin’s school, Sesshomaru orders Kagura into his office. “What about her other jobs?” 

“If she starts working for you, Kagome won’t need those gigs.” 

“You’ll need to find a new roommate,” he reminds her. 

She smirks. “I already have. Things with Kouga have been going well. His lease is up next month. We’ve discussed him moving in with me.” 

Sesshomaru holds up his hand. He doesn’t need to know about Kagura’s personal life. The fact that he has come to her, seeking advice, is already crossing the line between co-workers and friends. Sesshomaru doesn’t want her to get comfortable with speaking openly to him. 

“Schedule the interview,” he commands.  

 ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Ms. Higurashi strolls into his life with a smile and a wave. “Good morning,” she greets him cheerily. 

Sesshomaru does not return her grin. “Punctual. Good,” he remarks, noting her on-time arrival in the margin of her application. Without preamble, he begins his line of questioning. “What do you find most challenging about caring for children?” 

“Each child is an individual. They may share similar traits or habits but in the end, no two are ever alike. You have to be able to adapt to each one’s specific needs. The process of identifying what those needs are and providing not only what they want, but what they require, can be challenging,” Ms. Higurashi explains.

Sesshomaru scowls. Her answer is thoughtful yet concise. He is amazed at her maturity. It is not what he expected from someone her age.

She is unaffected by his attitude. No matter how brisk he is, the smile never falls from her face. When Jaken interrupts with an offer of tea, Ms. Higurashi thanks him and compliments his thoughtfulness. She resumes answering his questions in complete detail so there is no need for clarification or follow-up. 

Sesshomaru is forced to admit she is the ideal candidate— at least as far as her interviewing abilities are concerned. He decides to give her some background on Rin. 

“My daughter—.”

“Rin.”

He stares at her.

“I was there at the orphanage the same day you adopted her,” Ms. Higurashi points out before adding, “She’s very special.”

“Indeed,” Sesshomaru responds.

“Have you gotten her to speak yet?” Ms. Higurashi asks.

“No.”

“Don’t get discouraged. Rin is wary of new people. It will take her time to learn to trust you but once she does, she’ll open up. Just be patient,” Ms. Higurashi reassures Sesshomaru.

Somehow, she has turned the interview process around on him. He clears his throat and adjusts the paperwork on his desk. “How soon are you available to start?”

“Is next week alright?”

“We will see you on Monday.”

 ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Rin has never looked as lively as she does waiting for Ms. Higurashi’s arrival. She barely eats her oatmeal. Her hair is haphazardly combed and her uniform tie is crooked. Her knees are bouncing as Sesshomaru attempts to fix it.

“This is a trial run,” he reminds his ward. “If Ms. Higurashi fails to complete her duties or you are uncomfortable at any time, I will end the contract. Is that understood?”

Rin nods.

“Now, when she arrives, I want you to—.”

The doorbell interrupts his instructions. Before he can finish, Rin darts out of the kitchen into the foyer. Sesshomaru decides they will have to revisit his guidelines later. He rises from his seat and follows her out.

His ward is standing eagerly by the door. Her brown eyes are sparkling with interest. Sesshomaru sighs. It is impossible to remain angry with her. Her happiness is easily won; her trust is not.

He hopes that Ms. Higurashi is correct and, in time, Rin will open up to him. The silence in his home never used to bother him but now that he is sharing the space with a child, Sesshomaru longs to hear her speak.

“Hello,” Ms. Higurashi beams from the doorway.

She wears a modest dress, flats, and a beaded necklace. While her clothes are on-trend, the jewelry is outdated. It looks out of place with her ensemble, almost as if it was added by mistake. Sesshomaru ignores her fashion faux pas to acknowledge her arrival. 

“Good morning. Right on time again.”

“Have to stay punctual,” she says with a wink.

He bristles at her candor. His subordinates do not speak so freely with him. Sesshomaru will need to discuss proper etiquette with her.

“Hey, Rin,” she greets his ward.

The little girl flings her arms around Ms. Higurashi’s legs.

While she pats the child on the back, Sesshomaru notices that all she has with her is a tote bag. “Where is your luggage?” he questions.

“Oh, Kouga and Kagura are going to help me move tonight after work,” she answers.

He scowls. The last thing he wants is the foul stench of a wolf in his home.

“Or if that doesn’t work, I could always—.”

Sesshomaru silences her by holding up his hand. “I will have my driver pick up your things and deliver them here throughout the day. Give me the address and your keys.”

Ms. Higurashi stares at his open palm, stunned.

“My time is valuable, Ms. Higurashi. Either accept this offer or wait until other arrangements can be made.”

She digs through her purse and hands him a keyring with a Pikachu ornament on it. He glances at her but she doesn’t appear embarrassed by the childish character. Instead, she smiles at him, scribbles her address down in a mini notebook, tears out the sheet, and deposits it over the keychain.

“There you go.”

Sesshomaru’s fingers curl around the objects. “Thank you.”

“What time does Rin need to be at school?”

“Thirty minutes,” he informs her.

Ms. Higurashi leans over his ward, tucking Rin’s hair back. “Hmmm, then I think we have time for a quick braid. Want to show me to your room?”

Without hesitation, Rin takes her by the hand and leads her down the hallway. He hears Ms. Higurashi chattering away and the peal of Rin's laughter.

Sesshomaru lingers for a moment, suddenly feeling out of place in his house. 

During his drive into the office, he ponders over the woman, wondering how she can make light of any situation and why it unnerves him so.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Author's Note: I wanted to write some SessKag family fluff and feels because Sesshomaru, Kagome, and Rin deserved better. This fic is complete so I will be posting updates regularly. Thank you to originalone73 for beta-ing!

 

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