Disclaimer: I do not own Inuyasha.
Lugging her suitcase over the uneven paving stones of an unknown street in Shikabe, Kagome blew her fringe from her eyes and scrutinised the illegible scrawl that was masquerading as the directions to Sango;s house. Having come into the city by train, she'd arrived ahead of the blanket of snow that had consumed Tokyo just as she'd left. Sango, who'd been planning on leaving by plane later, had just called to tell her she'd be spending Christmas in the airport but that Kagome could still stay in her house seeing as no one else was currently inhabiting it.
The decision to leave Tokyo and come and stay in the small town in Hokkaido over Christmas had been a sudden one that Kagome probably wouldn't have made if Sango hadn't encouraged her to do so. Sango's sage words about being away from Tokyo helping to lessen the pain had seemed perfectly rational over one too many glasses of sake but now Kagome was feeling decidedly less than empowered. The last time she'd been to Shikabe she'd been fourteen with bright pink braces and a seriously warped view about the perfect man who would come and sweep her away to his castle. So, now, wandering down a street that looked exactly the same as every other street she'd been on that day, she was close to tears. She didn't feel empowered; she felt lost, desperate, heartbroken and angry. Not quite the Christmas spirit that stores attempted to flog this time of year.
Traditionally, wasn't Christmas meant to be spent with either family or a lover? Kagome's family were all in Tokyo and she was cut off from them by a dense wall of snow and her lover... well, Inuyasha was the reason she'd felt the need to flee Tokyo to begin with.
With Inuyasha, Kagome had always operated under the assumption that for all of his callus bluster and surly spite, deep down he loved her just as much as she thought she loved him. High school sweethearts, they'd fallen into a relationship of sorts, that Kagome was beginning to realise had been doomed from the start. No one wanted a boyfriend who habitually couldn't be bothered to call her by her name, who forgot important dates like her birthday and whose idea of a romantic gesture was to do the washing up. So maybe she should have expected him to stand her up on the day before Christmas Eve, but she'd thought he'd had just a little bit more respect for her than to humiliate her like that. The waitress' condescendingly pitying glances had been brutal and Kagome had run straight for Sango and sake.
Hence the idea of going to Shikabe, to escape the reminders of Inuyasha, had been born. But now she was lost and, coming off the train her heel had snapped so now she was shuffling along lamely. Not to mention it was freezing cold and snowing so she could barely feel her extremities and she'd lost her scarf somewhere along the way so now every time a gust of wind picked up, it ran straight through her coat and chilled her to the bone.
Carefully tucking a mitten-covered hand into her pocket, Kagome held the paper with direction on it awkwardly as she extracted the childhood Christmas ornament that she'd made with Sango on one of their childhood Christmases. They'd made a shiny silver foil Christmas tree studded with sequins for baubles. Once upon a time there'd been a number of the miniature Christmas trees but over the years they'd given in and perished. This was the last survivor and sturdier than the rest. Kagome's eyes softened as she smiled fondly at the nostalgia this little hand-made ornament conjured.
However, the weather was apparently feeling vindictive, and almost instantly after nostalgia had started to soothe frayed nerves a little, the wind picked up. The scrap of paper with Sango's address on it and the ornament slipped from her mitted hands and she watched in mournful horror as they were swept into a nearby tree.
It was an old gnarled cherry blossom tree that slumped heavily against the house it belonged to as if it had given up attempting to support itself a long time ago. And now it had eaten her directions and a piece of her past.
The universe was picking on her.
Dropping the handle of her suitcase carelessly, she ignored the clatter as it slumped onto the pavement heavily and, kicking off her useless shoes, pushed open the garden gate to the house that housed the cherry blossom tree. The house itself looked rather traditional; with a lower outer wall that obstructed the house from a casual passerby and had a gate that lead through into a courtyard surrounding the main house, but also blessedly vacant and Kagome hurried over to the tree.
Back in her dungaree-wearing years, Kagome had been the worst at climbing trees out of all her friends, with Sango winning the crown of Hime of tree climbing. But, at the very least, she knew that the fact that she was wearing a skirt was not going to help.
Nevertheless, she actually managed to get a firm hold of the branch in which her ornament and the directions were caught. Shimmying along the branch in a manner befitting a slug, she eventually stretched out her arm and barely managed to skim the tip of the piece of paper. Gulping, she glanced tentatively down at the tiles of the outside wall's roof and shook her head fiercely. Looking down was a bad idea. A very bad idea.
A wave of vertigo grappled with her senses and her stomach fluttered uncomfortably in anxiety. This was why she'd never been very good at tree climbing - she was terrified of heights. Steeling herself, she reached out again and gave a little squeal of exultation as she actually managed to catch the corner of the paper between two of her fingers.
Creak. Groan. Crunch.
Kagome's eyes widened in horror and she just about had time to glance backwards at the junction where the tree trunk and the branch were breaking away from each other, before she fell. As she wasn't actually that high up, she didn't fall for very long and when she stopped, she didn't stop as painfully as expected.
Opening on eye tentatively, she snapped it back shut in mortification as she discovered what had broken her fall. Or rather, who had broken her fall.
Eyes opening timidly once again, she gazed up into the face of her beautiful rescuer, who was holding her rather absentmindedly to his chest as he stared ponderously at the cherry blossom tree. His hair flowed freely around him, sparkling subtly as the snow as it danced in the chilling breeze. His golden eyes were fixed remotely on the damage the fallen branch had caused to the roof of the outer wall as he uttered, "Troublesome."
He wore a plain black hakama and haori with a white kimono with red cherry blossoms emblazoned upon it draped over his broad shoulders. The yellow and purple sash he wore around his waist fluttered in the breeze carelessly and his jagged magenta cheek stripes stood out harshly against his face in the pale snowy background. As she watched, somewhat dazzled by him, a snowflake came to rest on the crescent moon on his forehead and she half expected it to stay there perfectly formed forever, as surely this man who was as pale as the snow around them would be cold. But the snowflake melted away and she suddenly realised she was no longer shivering. His arms were warming her through the barrier of their clothes.
Then he looked down at her through his long lashes, turning the smouldering force of his golden eyes upon her. "You broke my roof," he told her baldly, lip curling distastefully, "and nearly broke your neck."
Kagome's blue eyes grew wide and she traced the trajectory of her fall with a wince. If she'd fallen naturally she would have hit the unforgiving roof before he would have been able to catch her... which meant he'd snagged her from the air and landed away from the tree with her. She was very glad that he was a demon.
"I was..." and then her eyes grew comically wide and she leapt from the bemused demon's arms and back onto her own stocking-covered feet. "Where is it?" she cried, rummaging through the bits of fallen roof tile and the branch of the tree in search of the paper and the ornament.
The demon's silver eyebrow quirked as she stepped on a piece of tile and cut the bottom of her shoe-less foot, proceeding to hop around in pain emitting a high pitched sound.
The piece of paper was waved around in front of her face and she followed it with eagerly like a cat with a strand of yarn.
"Are you looking for this?" he asked calmly.
She snatched at it, lost her balance and was only saved from falling flat on her face by the arm that calmly lifted her from the ground and cradled her. Handing the paper over wryly, he blinked at her downhearted frown.
"The ink is ruined," she mourned, staring down at the scrap of paper melancholically, "and even before that the address was indistinguishable... now where will I go?"
Hoisting her more securely into his arms, Sesshoumaru calmly strolled through the gate towards the entry way of his house. Ignoring her flailing, he slid open the shoji doors and walked through the corridors until he reached his living room; there he deposited her on a zabuton, mindful of her cut foot.
"Stay here," he ordered, the commanding way he spoke seemed to freeze her in her seat and silence any protest she might have made. Twiddling her thumbs, she glanced around the sparsely decorated room as she waited for him to return. Panicking was probably normally in this situation but he'd saved her and something in his eyes made her feel that he was a trustworthy person.
The shoji door slid back open and Sesshoumaru wheeled her suitcase into the room, her shoes dangling by their straps on one of his elegant fingers.
With a look, she settled back into silence. With a swish of his kimono, he disappeared back out into the corridor, drawing the shoji door shut behind him.
There was an ink painting of a stalk on one of the walls, and she leant her elbows on the kotatsu in front of her as she gazed at the stalk's beak that seemed to be curving in a knowing smile and fretted over what on earth the demon who'd saved her was doing.
The door slid open again and, though she had been about to demand he tell her why he was doing, she found herself suitably charmed and held her tongue. Not only was he carrying a first aid kit, possibly to bandage her poor foot, but on the other hand he was balancing a tea tray which she eyes eagerly as a welcome respite from the biting winds and freezing temperatures outside.
"Thanks," she muttered as he thrust a steaming mug into her chilly hands, ducking her head shyly. Surely he wasn't a kidnapper then... unless kidnappers routinely fed their victims tea and looked after them.
Apparently oblivious to the fact that she was desperately trying to decipher whether he was a good Samaritan or a pervert, the demon carefully rearranged her so that her foot was propped on his knee. He swabbed the wound so gently with disinfectant that Kagome wondered over whether he thought he might hurt her. She wasn't that delicate.
However, she couldn't bring herself to tell him that; it felt so wonderfully good to be fussed over. The bandaging was just as tender and she reflected that the reason she had missed this so much was because in her relationship with Inuyasha she had always been the one fussing over him. And then something unsettling occurred to her... what if he wasn't really fussing over her? What if he was a foot fetishist?
The demon's golden eyes snapped up to her face so abruptly that she feared she had been hypothesising aloud.
"You twitched," he uttered, golden eyes probing, "did I hurt you?"
Kagome shook her head adamantly, hair flying everywhere. This little demonstration of concern had been truly heart-warming, she reflected as she ducked her head once again embarrassed but this time by her overzealous headshaking.
"Hnn," he uttered, unfolding his long legs and moving around the kotatsu to occupy the adjacent corner. Kagome ignored the wild urge to follow him.
Drumming up her courage and self-assuredness that she knew was there but it seemed to have an annoying habit of deserting her when she was faced with beautiful demons, Kagome looked the demon in the eyes. "I really appreciate everything you've done so far... don't get me wrong I really do," Kagome tried not to insult him, "but why? I mean... I did break your roof."
"Material damages can be fixed," he informed her, closing his eyes as he took a contented sip of his tea, "physical damages on humans can be fatal."
Kagome's eyebrows quirked disbelievingly. "I wouldn't have died from a cut foot."
Shooting her a look that implied that he didn't appreciate being interrupted, he continued, "Besides, I recognised the handwriting on your note. You are an acquaintance of Yamaguchi Sango-san, correct?"
Kagome nodded and, sensing an opportunity, she jumped on it. "You know Sango-chan? That means you know where her house is, right?"
"Indeed," he allowed.
"Would you please take me there?"
Kagome blinked. Having been come accustomed to his kind treatment of her injured foot, she'd forgotten the flippant nature he'd first possessed when he'd caught her.
"Why not?" she demanded indignantly.
Jerking a clawed thumb over his shoulder, he muttered, "Storm."
Eyes widening to disbelieving proportions, she hopped onto her feet and, with a moue of distress launched herself towards the sliding door. Pulling it out of the way, she sighed at the sight of the swirling flurries of snow that danced across his elegantly minimalist garden.
"Great," she grumbled mordantly, her breath coming out in a warm huff in the cold air that flooded in through the opened outer door.
"Luck is not on your side," Sesshoumaru hummed, leaning against the doorframe casually and sipping at his steaming tea languidly. Kagome sank down to sit against the opposite side of the doorframe, mindful of her throbbing foot.
"What am I supposed to do now?" she mourned, running a hand through her hair exasperatedly as she worried her bottom lips with her teeth, "maybe if I leave right away then I can get to Sango's house before it gets too bad?"
The demon snorted derisively. "It is already so bad that you would not be able to see your way."
She shot a miffed glare at the pointedly placid demon. "All I want to hear are solutions, pessimism-san," she cajoled.
"My name is Arai Sesshoumaru," he corrected coolly and Kagome's eyes widened as she realised they'd yet to introduce themselves.
"I'm Higurashi Kagome," she supplied, sketching a polite bow, "pleased to meet you."
Judging by the faintly amused glow in his golden eyes, Sesshoumaru found her prim and proper greeting entertaining.
"What?" she snapped defensively, crossing her arms under her breasts as she gave him a guarded look, "I grew up on a shrine, politeness is important."
"Of course," Sesshoumaru uttered dryly and Kagome got the impression that he was humouring her, "but you can spend the night here, Higurashi-san, and I will take you to Yamaguchi-san's home tomorrow."
The offer was generous yet highly suspicious. "Why would you do that?"
Tossing his hair disdainfully, he strode back into the room and gathered up the tea tray and first aid kit. "If you went out now I'd have a dead female on my conscience," he informed her coldly, "I'd rather not have to explain to Yamaguchi-san why I didn't help you."
"Oh," she mumbled. That was a perfectly reasonable explanation, though he had been very callus about it. "But if you turn out to be a pervert I'll purify you," she warned, hands sparking warningly with the residual charge of her reiyouku.
Lip curling at both the insinuation and the ridiculous threat, Sesshoumaru jerked his head, motioning that she follow him.
"This is your room," he motioned towards the shoji door, "I put your suitcase in there already."
"Thank you," she muttered, belatedly worrying that accusing him of being a pervert might have been too harsh. Sometimes she needed to think about what came out of her mouth.
"The bathroom is two doors down on the left," he advised curtly.
She bowed her head in acknowledgement and opened the screen door to her room but lingered in the doorway to watch him stride away to the kitchen. She probably could have been more grateful, she reflected guiltily, she doubted that many people would have let her stay with her without a dark ulterior motive. And, from what she'd experienced so far, although demonic, Sesshoumaru was behaving as a perfect gentleman.
The room hed given her was sparsely furnished with a simple coffee table and a built in wardrobe, her suitcase waiting for her on the tatami mat covered floor. Walking over to the wardrobe, she pulled out the futon and rolled it out on the tatami and unearthed a simple yukata that she snagged to use. She needed a bath badly after the day she'd had.
Following Sesshoumaru's instructions as to where the bathroom was located, she listened carefully to make sure she could still hear him pottering around in the kitchen before she entered the room and carefully hung up her yukata and grabbed her towel before sliding the door open to enter the main bathing area.
And then she screamed.
Sesshoumaru, who had been in the kitchen preparing dinner, promptly dropped his knife and ran to the bathroom in record time. Lifting his kimono from its place draped over his shoulders he carefully wrapped it around the little Miko and glowered at the figure in his bathtub.
"What the fuck?" Inuyasha asked incredulously, "I wondered why you suddenly decided to skip town," he accused the shivering Kagome, "how long have you been seeing this asshole?"
"Wash out your mouth," Sesshoumaru hissed, tucking Kagome into his side defensively.
"I'm not talking to you, bastard, I'm talking to her," Inuyasha spat callously.
"I wasn't cheating on you!" she mumbled, "you were the one who stood me up."
"Whatever," Inuyasha snorted, "like I believe you. You're the one who's naked in my brother's house."
"Brother?" Kagome asked incredulously, glancing incredulously up at Sesshoumaru. Sure their colourings were similar but their personalities had been so opposite that she'd never made the connection. Not to mention the fact that she'd known Inuyasha for years and he'd never mentioned having a brother.
"Half brother," Sesshoumaru corrected tersely, baring his fangs at his little brother, "and why, pray tell, did you see it fit to break into my home?"
Ignoring Sesshoumaru completely, Inuyasha continued with, "He kept his whore of a mother's last name."
"My mother," Sesshoumaru snarled out, the arms around Kagome becoming tense, "was of higher breeding and better character than your father could ever wish for."
"He's your father too," Inuyasha needled, "and you can't stand that can you?"
"Okay!" Kagome yelped, burying her face in Sesshoumaru's shoulder embarrassedly, "We all hate each other, but can we continue this conversation when Inuyasha isn't naked?"
Inuyasha's smile turned lecherous instead of mocking. "Distracting you, am i?"
Sesshoumaru's jaw twitched and, faster than Kagome could comprehend, he'd grabbed Inuyasha by one furry ear and was dragging the whining Hanyou from the bathroom, sans clothes. Kagome followed in stunned silence and watched bemusedly as Sesshoumaru through Inuyasha out on his ear, quite literally. The naked Hanyou took a nose dive into a snow drift and cursed his way out of it.
"What the fuck?" Inuyasha roared indignantly.
Sesshoumaru chuckled, the sound low and predatory, "Get in your ostentatious car and leave, dearest brother."
"Give me my fucking clothes!"
Sesshoumaru's eyes glinted malevolently. "For all that you have forced me to endure and for all that you have put Kagome through... no."
And then he slid the door shut on the naked Hanyou and turned back to Kagome.
For a moment their eyes met in a wordless thank you and an acho of shared suffering and then Kagome collapsed.
Laughing so hard that her lungs threatened to burst and her eyes streamed with tears, she collapsed onto the tatami mats, clutching her stomach.
An amused glint in his eyes, Sesshoumaru dropped onto his knees at her side and ruffled her hair.
When she finally regained the ability to breathe, she met his amused stare and said, "I think I love you for doing that."
Sesshoumaru scoffed, "I have been longing to do that to him for years."
"You've never done anything like that to him before?" Kagome asked confusedly, "If he's always like that to you I'm surprised he's still alive."
Sesshoumaru's expression darkened. "He is... protected."
"Eh?" she tilted her head to one side confusedly, "How?"
Sesshoumaru leant his head back against the wall, training his eyes on the ceiling. "His mother and our father were married," Sesshoumaru murmured, "and as such as my father left no will, my brother had inherited everything. Including my father's heirloom swords... he holds no attachment to them and threatens to sell them to spite me at every turn."
Kagome frowned and hugged her knees to her chest. "I didn't think he'd be so... cruel."
"He hates me," Sesshoumaru murmured, shrugging tiredly.
Frowning slightly at the hint of melancholy clouding his features, Kagome patted his hand rather awkwardly. Sesshoumaru's lips twitched as if he was fighting off a smile.
"You should take your bath," he murmured, reminding Kagome that she was currently wrapped in only his beautiful kimono.
Amused, Sesshoumaru sat there as she sprinted back to the bathroom and called out after her, "I'd like that back."
The door, which had slid shut, slid back open, and the kimono winged its way out into the corridor before the door slammed shut again.
She really was a remarkable woman and if his brother had driven her away... well, it wasn't surprising. But Sesshoumaru would not make the same mistake.
Seldom did he take a risk, stake a claim, become emotionally attached, but there was something about this woman...
Maybe he should take a risk.
"Are you laughing at me?" Sesshoumaru demanded irately, the chopsticks snapping in half in his powerful hands.
"I'm not laughing at you," Kagome hastened to assure the pink-eared, embarrassed demon, "I'm laughing at your shrimp."
Sesshoumaru shot her a sharp look and tossed the cremated shrimp into the bin. "They would have been perfect if Inuyasha hadn't interrupted me," he grumbled.
Kagome giggled, cheeks pinked from her bath as her wet hair curled distractingly against the nape of her neck. "Do you have anything else we could eat?" she asked curiously.
"The fridge is bare."
Pursing her lips, Kagome thought for a moment and then smacked her fist onto her open palm when an idea came to her. "I think I saw a convenience store just a few streets away," she muttered, "I'll go and get some onigiri or something!"
Sesshoumaru blinked, utterly bemused as she rushed to the genkan, shoved her feet in those impractical shoes and hobbled out of the door. Hurrying after her, he stopped in the doorway and called out, "Hey, what about your foot?"
Kagome waved vaguely at him. "It's just a scratch; doesn't hurt a bit!"
And with that she teetered and tottered her way out of the house.
Sesshoumaru ran a hand down his face in dismay. "Crazy woman."
In the end all I managed to get was some onigiri and strawberries... Kagome mused, swinging her bag as she attempted to stay standing in skimpy heels and snow. Not a combination that lends itself to staying upright.
It's stopped snowing so badly... Sesshoumaru could take me home. Yet even as the thought occurred to her she shunned it. She was enjoying spending time with the demon whose ear-tips turned red when he got embarrassed. Was she being selfish, imposing on him like that? Well, he could always kick her out.
Hopefully he was enjoying her company too and wouldn't want to kick her out. Hopefully. Maybe.
So absorbed was she in her own ramblings, she didn't notice the pair of men walking up to her until one of them had his hand on her shoulder.
"You look like you could use some company," the first one leered.
Removing her shoulder from his grip primly, she carried on down the street, panicked when they decided to play chase. If only they were demons! I could singe them! She mused as she skittered treacherously in her highly impractical shoes.
Just as she was about to crash to the ground a strong arm shot out as grabbed her securely around the waist and in the next moment she was draped in Sesshoumaru's kimono again. "I'm sorry gentlemen," Sesshoumaru uttered, his deep baritone reverberating under her cheek in a way that sounded more menacing than apologetic, "but the lady is with me."
Kagome was vaguely aware of the sound of the two males scampering off, but that was in the back of her mind, right at that moment she was more preoccupied with unsteady thumping of Sesshoumaru's heart.
"Idiot," he mumbled affectionately, dropping his chin to the top of her head and looping his other arm around her shoulders, "I was going to come with you but some idiot left before I got shoes..."
Kagome laughed against his chest. "Sorry."
"Let's go back."
They barely got a metre before Kagome's heels made her crash into a tree, and with a sigh of great suffering, Sesshoumaru knelt to give her a piggyback. Kagome, though she had been about to insist that she could do it herself, indulged him when he flung her his best no-nonsense look. It was nice, him holding her like that, and she played with his long hair whimsically. Strangely, he didn't seem to mind.
Waking up groggily to the rhythmical clanking of the shishi odoshi in Sesshoumaru's garden, it took a moment for Kagome to realise that the warm and kind of firm pillow she'd been sleeping on was Sesshoumaru's thigh. She'd fallen asleep on his lap!
Bolting upright in mortification and making the blanket Sesshoumaru had draped around her fall off onto the tatami matting, Kagome frantically smoothed down her hair and glanced at the perfectly unruffled Sesshoumaru, who was sat cross-legged at the kotatsu. They'd both fallen asleep in the sitting room last night talking about everything and nothing, but he'd apparently woken up before her.
Blinking bemusedly at the twenty or so origami Christmas trees littering the kotatsu, Kagome felt a lump rise in her throat.
"You lost the other one, right?" he muttered, beginning to look uncomfortable under her scrutiny, "I know these can't replace them..."
Ah! His ears! The tips of his ears were turning red again. Kagome's heart melted even though they were completely snowed in.
"No," Kagome agreed sombrely, "these trees will never replace the ones that I made all that time ago with Sango."
And then nearly tumbled sideways as Kagome pressed a tentative kiss to one magenta facial stripe.
"But they can symbolise the new memories, right?"
"Hnn..." Sesshoumaru allowed and Kagome giggled as he tucked a Christmas tree behind her ear. "Here's to new memories."
A/N: This was written for the 2010 Dokuga Christmas exchange for RosieB! Originally posted on December 24th on LJ. Thanks for reading and if you enjoyed please review!