Continuing Tales

The Wind and the Mountain

A InuYasha Story
by Mearasama

Part 52 of 60

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Time is the most undefinable yet paradoxical of things; the past is gone, the future is not come, and the present becomes the past even while we attempt to define it, and, like a flash of lightning, at once exists and expires.
~ Charles Caleb Colton

Sesshomaru stared into the dark car with mixed emotions. He had spent 500 years keeping the memory of this woman safely in the periphery of his life only now to find her two feet in front of him. He knew that Hoshi had been watching over Kagome, which was the perfect excuse to keep that distance intact. Of course, that distance didn't really do much to dampen his memories, nor did the passage of time slow the frequency of nights that she walked through his dreams. It didn't stop his ears from perking up any time a similar name or her neighborhood came up in conversation or in the news either, no matter how much he hated himself for it. Instead, he tried to distract himself with building an empire in the world of humans, hiding his true identity and immortality. To his consternation, what he learned in the process was everything that his father had known on the night he died.

Many would say that Sesshomaru had changed. That he was softer because he no longer simply killed those that dared to challenge him. Of course that didn't mean he wasn't still ruthless. Only now, he asserted his dominance in the boardroom instead of on the battlefield. He ruled his company like he had once ruled his lands, with renowned fairness and deft precision.

Now, standing in the courtyard staring down into her chocolate eyes, he forgot for a moment all of the reasons that he had stayed away. She had aged slightly, her face and curves more womanly as the fullness of youth gave way to the elegant lines of maturity. Cursing mentally, he reluctantly acknowledged that she was even more beautiful now than the last time they stood in his courtyard five centuries ago. Her intoxicating scent, which had given her presence away in the first place, drifted over him like a caress and he gripped the door of the car fiercely to stop himself from reaching inside and grabbing hold of her. Frustration and longing mixed together in a dangerous cocktail of heated emotions that took him by surprise, being the first time in as long as he could remember that he felt pushed to his limit of patience. Pushing away from the car, he turned and scrubbed a hand over his eyes, hoping this was yet another dream designed to torment him. Sucking in a deep breath to clear his head, he ruthlessly brought his emotions under control, grasping at the reminders of why he had kept their lives separate all these years.

'Your life doesn't have room for her anymore, remember? You made sure of it…'

He heard the crunch of gravel and knew she stood only a few feet away. Meeting Hoshi's eyes across the courtyard, he saw the hopeful plea that she shamelessly cast at the two of them and his scowl deepened.

"Sesshomaru?" Kagome's quiet voice stripped him raw, laying open all of the old wounds to bleed and throb in front of the world.

Rounding on her with glittering eyes he snarled, "Why are you here?"

She stepped back at his obvious anger. He had been so quiet when the car door opened, with expressions flickering between irritation, happiness and shock. The last, one of longing and sadness gave her enough hope to answer, "It's complicated."

Sesshomaru glared at Hoshi over his shoulder and the older woman only shrugged with a less than apologetic smile. Kagome added resolutely, "I won't apologize. Being here again made me realize how much I missed everyone."

Raising a brow at her, he crossed his arms over his chest, "Perhaps. Of course it would have been more polite to wait until invited by the house's owner before visiting."

Her face grew red and she fisted her hands at her side, seething, "When you have two giant men show up at your door and tell you that you're going with them one way or another, you kind of have no choice!"

He looked over at Hiraiku with narrow eyes and the other man threw his hands up and stepped back, shaking his head vigorously. "I have no idea. I only drive the car."

"Hoshi!" he barked out with a low growl and waited.

She strode across the courtyard with a defiant look, "Don't take that tone with me young man, I did nothing wrong." Her aura snapped fiercely and Kagome winced. It had been years since being exposed to anything like the heavy oppressiveness that was now filling the courtyard.

When she drew up next to him, he leveled a scathing look at her, "I happen to disagree." She was nonplussed, returning his glare with impassive steadiness. When he couldn't intimidate her, he sighed and added tiredly, "I thought we had an agreement?"

Hoshi shrugged and glanced at Kagome, her eyes softening with a hint of pride, "She figured it out on her own, Yama. Once that happened, there was nothing I could do. You know how tenacious she can be."

Turning back to Kagome, he regarded her for a few moments with narrowed eyes. His next words were spoken with a coldness that she felt to her marrow, "Well, as you can see we're all alive and well. Hopefully this appeases your curiosity enough to go back to your life." He turned to leave, clearly dismissing her.

Kagome's angry voice stopped him, "That's it? After everything we've been through, that's all you have to say to me?" her voice shook slightly and he had to stop the natural inclination to reach out and comfort her. Her rolling emotions awakened his inner beast to despair but he ignored it. She added a little steadier, "I told myself not to expect much if we ever saw each other again, but I did expect more than a rude dismissal."

Her words cut him deeply as his own raw anger surfaced dangerously. Spinning on his heel he pinned her with a molten gaze, "What did you expect? How am I supposed to act?" His arms spread out wide, "What'll make you happy Kagome? Me on my knees, grateful for your mere presence? Do you want tears!?"

Burning silently under his icy gaze, her voice raised as she answered him with only the slightest quaver, "I don't know! A kind word…a smile maybe. Anything to show you're even the slightest bit happy to see me."

"I'm not happy to see you!" the shouted words echoed off the stone walls into a heavy silence. Kagome flinched and he immediately regretted his loss of control. Had she looked beyond his carefully crafted exterior, she would have seen his words for the lie they were. But he couldn't afford for her to see the truth, not now.

Dropping her eyes to the ground between them, she swallowed the lump that had risen to her throat. 'God I'm stupid. He hasn't changed a bit.' With a deep breath, she composed herself as best she could. "I get it. Well, I'll be sure to never let you seeme again." Leveling a hollow gaze on him, she bowed slightly before turning to Hiraiku. "Could you please take me home? It's clear I'm not welcome here anymore."

Through a clenched jaw Sesshomaru ground out, "You can make me the bad guy all you want, but I won't feel guilty. You made the choice to leave us." Turning, he scooped up his abandoned briefcase and started up the stairs.

Tears threatened and she shouted after his retreating form, not able to stop the words as they tumbled out in a mass of grief and anger. "I had no choice! Why would I stay when you so obviously didn't want me?"

Sesshomaru paused at the top of the stairs, spinning around at her words. "You had no idea what I wanted!" he roared bitterly. Turning, he stormed through the door and slammed it shut, pieces of plaster and dust falling to the porch.

Hoshi and Hiraiku looked back at Kagome who could only stare miserably at the closed door. Hiraiku moved to put an arm around her and she immediately turned into his barrel chest, choking on a sob. He met Hoshi's eyes over her head and shook his sadly.

"Take her home. It's best she not be around for what I'm about to do to him." He nodded as he watched her wave a hand over the hood of the limo, the steam and dents disappearing in an instant. The little miko shuttered wretchedly, causing a ripple of frustration to shoot through him. His protective instincts when it came to the tiny woman had never faded, even after 500 years.

Hiraiku smiled with grim satisfaction as he watched Hoshi walk purposefully across the courtyard. It was rare, but occasionally he was grateful for the feisty little sorceress and the wrath she could deal out. That was, as long as he wasn't the one on the receiving end.

Hoshi stormed into his room, not pausing until she found him on the balcony at the back of the house. "What the hell's the matter with you?"

"Don't start with me," he growled as he brushed past her, yanking his neck tie off viciously. "You had no right to bring her here."

She followed him inside and paused, arms crossed over her chest. Her tone was lethal, "You may get to tell others what to do, but not me." Reigning in her anger, she took a deep breath, "I was done waiting around for you to get your head out of your ass."

His eyes flashed red, "Get out, before I throw you out."

Steeling her spine, she kept her features under control even as her anger skyrocketed, 'Insolent pup.' "You do realize your stubbornness hurts all of us. Even without a reason why, I haven't pushed you about her. I haven't defied your wishes to stay away because I had faith that you'd change your mind when this time finally came." Her eyes burned through him with sadness, "But right now, I feel nothing but disappointment."

Her words sliced through him like a knife and he reacted the only way he knew how these past centuries, with pure unadulterated anger. "Good thing your opinion doesn't matter all that much."

Before he could blink, she had him pinned to the wall, her staff jammed against his throat as her eyes turned pure silver. "After centuries of loyalty you dare speak to me like I'm a worthless piece of trash? Fine, if this is how you want to live, you can rot here with all the loneliness and misery you can stomach." She pushed away from him and slammed her staff into the beautiful wood floor, intentionally cracking the plank down the middle. "You go ahead and grasp at some legacy you have no chance of achieving. The rest of us have already chosen to be happy." The staff dissolved in an instant as she added formally, "If you need me for business reasons, you know where to find me."

He watched silently as she slammed out of the room. Under his anger, his heart felt heavy. Since that evening standing alongside the well, he lost a part of his legendary control when it came to Kagome. Anger over her choice to leave had been so much easier to grasp ahold of compared to the alternative. The casualty had been his relationship with Hoshi. When they weren't fighting over Kagome, they kept their conversation centered on business. What had once been two allies that could talk about almost everything, now felt formal, cold and unnaturally distant. It wasn't how he wanted to live, but it was the only way he knew how to avoid the tempest buried deep below the surface.

He grabbed his cell from the low table by bed and flipped through the contacts. Holding it to his ear, he waited until a soft voice answered. "It's me."

"What's wrong," Kikyo asked.

"Hoshi's probably coming to stay with you for a while."

Kikyo sighed, "Again? How bad this time?"

He paused, not wanting to confess that he had seen Kagome. He finally answered reluctantly, "Worse than normal."

Kikyo let that sink in before whispering, "Oh dear." Over the years, she and Sesshomaru had developed a close relationship. Their stoic personalities and history of isolation attributed to a surprising ease of conversation between the two. What was left unsaid was that she was intensely aware of how much she looked like Kagome. She was pretty sure he had no idea that part of the reason for their friendship was this subtle reminder of the woman that haunted his memory. "What can I do to help?"

Sesshomaru ran his hand through his hair, regret seeping into his veins as Kikyo's steady voice brought anger and reason back down into his grasp. Something about her always helped calm his inner beast, though not nearly like Kagome had. His conversations with Kikyo were a sad imitation of the solace he had once found with Kagome, but it was better than facing the bitterness that ate him up from the inside whenever he was alone. "Nothing. I'll talk to her once she calms down."

"What was this one about?" Kikyo asked, knowing that it had to be something to do with Kagome. The bad ones always were. With the exception of Sesshomaru, they had all been waiting for so long that it was almost a daily conversation in her household, holding their breath every time the phone rang. Hoping for the call that their friend was finally found and waiting to see them again.

Sesshomaru hesitated again, guilt threatening as he dodged the question he wasn't quite ready to answer. "Don't worry about it, Kikyo. Give the kids a scratch and remind my lousy brother about our conference call in the morning."

Kikyo chuckled, "Of course. And Sesshomaru," she called out before he could hang up, "We all make mistakes. But family forgives, regardless of the offense. It's what you do when you love someone."

Sesshomaru hung up the phone and sat on the edge of the bed, Kikyo's words echoing through him.

Kagome hadn't heard from Hoshi for two weeks, causing her to assume that Sesshomaru had finally bullied her friends into getting his way and pushing her out of their lives forever. Trudging through life in a daze of whirling thoughts, she fought to keep her focus on her studies. Unfortunately she found the once unshakeable passion decidedly muted, crowded out by her overwhelming obsession to understand what had happened between her and Sesshomaru. Her unexpected reunion with him had been a roller-coaster of extreme highs and devastating lows, leaving her heart and ego battered.

Gripping a warm coffee that she had just bought after her last class, she walked briskly toward the bus station with her head down against the icy wind that blew in her face. Replaying the events in the courtyard again, she tried to sort out her own feelings and reasons why Sesshomaru had been so unhappy to see her. She knew she was being a typical girl in over-thinking every facial expression, word and movement, trying to interpret what was going on in the stoic youkai's mind, but she couldn't seem to help it.

She stepped quickly around some people stopped on the sidewalk to make it across the street before the light changed when she felt the hair stand up on the back of her neck. Looking around, she tried to figure out what was causing her senses to trip over themselves. The scene around her was normal, the people and traffic all like any other given day. Glancing one last time over her shoulder, she didn't notice the cross walk had changed until she was in the middle of the street. Turning back, a horn blared a split second before a solid force caught her from behind, knocking the coffee aside and the air from her lungs.

Time seemed to slow as she felt her feet leave the ground and her body, propelled by the steely object at her back, soar through the air as the concrete loomed ahead promising to finish the job of whatever hit her from behind. Squeezing her eyes shut, she let the images of her brother, mother, and grandfather float across her vision. Rueful sadness bloomed as she said good bye to them in her mind. A pair of golden eyes replaced her family and she both hated and loved the sight, finding the humor that her last thoughts on earth would be of someone who had no desire to ever see her again. She wondered if he would even care that she died here on the dirty street.

Something touched her stomach and she felt her body being yanked around at the last second just before a jarring impact rattled her bones as she landed on her side. Her feet scrapped against the concrete, scuffing her boots beyond repair. Her hip and knee burned as the skin scraped along the rough surface of the road, dragging her flesh to a grinding halt. She held her breath until the world finally stopped moving underneath her.

Opening her eyes, she expected to see heaven shining; maybe a couple of dead relatives ready to welcome her with open arms. Blinking back the stinging pain in her leg that made her eyes water, she focused on the blurry object in front of her. A license plate and muddy silver bumper filled her vision defiantly. Confusion was the predominant emotion until a grunt sounded near her ear and she glanced down at a wrist adorned with a gold Rolex wrapped around her stomach, just as the chest pressed intimately against her back took a deep breath. There was something familiar and comforting in the solid embrace. She had been here before, a long time ago.

The world seemed to start again as people and sound rushed forward, asking if she was alright and praising the mysterious person that was still wrapped around her protectively. Her senses focused and she felt her heart speed up. Rolling slightly, she turned her shoulders enough to look into a pair of golden eyes that were watching her silently.

"What happened?"

He reached out with his senses and inspected her for injury. The scent of blood touched his nose and he narrowed his eyes on her face. Gingerly, he sat up with her still against his chest and watched uncomfortably as she winced and put a hand down to brace her weight. Rolling her to the side, he lifted her off the cold pavement and stood with ease. Brushing through the crowd that had gathered, he heard the distant whine of a siren and knew that the onlookers had called for help. Wanting nothing more than to take her somewhere away from all the curious eyes that were watching them, he leaned against a nearby building and looked down, not sure what reaction he would find.

Her eyes were clear and bright and locked intently on his face. He took a deep breath of relief. The world had fallen out from underneath him when she stepped off the curb and directly in front of a bus coming through the intersection. It happened to be a coincidence, but if he hadn't been there…

He shook the thought away and latched on to the anger that spiked now that the paralyzing fear had started to subside. "What were you thinking? You almost became a speed bump," he asked furiously.

She seemed to consider his words carefully before a giggle escaped her parted lips. Stunned, he set her down in front of him and let his eyes travel over her, looking for the source of the blood that tickled his nose. Her odd reaction had him fearing that she had suffered a head wound in the fall, even though he had done everything he could to take the brunt of the impact. When she only continued to laugh, his anger took a back seat as he asked worriedly, "Where are you injured?"

Still not looking away, she shook her head jerkily as she tried to stifle her laughter. When she stepped to the side, she shifted onto one foot and his eyes fell to her right leg. Dropping to his knee, he pulled at her torn pant leg and found a nasty scrape that was still bleeding.

She touched his shoulder lightly to keep her balance as her husky voice sent chills along his body, "Its fine. Just a little scrape." When he looked up into her eyes, she smiled again, "It's better than being a speed bump." The last word was broken up by another set of giggles and he narrowed his eyes on her face again.

"I'm glad you find near death experiences so humorous. I, on the other hand, do not."

Sobering, she reached out and plucked at a rip in his suit. "I have a feeling you're going to be more disturbed at the fate of your expensive suit than what could've happened to me."

His voice dropped an octave, "Again with the assumptions." He grabbed her hand, holding it between them to wipe away some dirt with his thumb. As he looked at her small hand in his he added quietly, "I'm tired of everyone thinking they know how I feel."

Kagome's heart tripped over itself at the look on his face. She forced herself to keep a light banter in order to avoid a repeat of their confrontation in the courtyard, "Well, there's an easy solution to that. You could just tell people." Her teasing tone pulled him back into the memories of how they used to be. Comfortable. Peaceful.

He stood up as a medic pulled up to the curb next to them. Two men jumped out and approached with leather bags, one speaking into a radio. Sesshomaru pushed her toward them and waved off their help. They shuffled Kagome over to their vehicle where they cleaned her up and bandaged her bloody knee. When they went to work on her hip, Sesshomaru hovered nearby, watching the two young men intently. The moment they finished he whisked her along the sidewalk and back across the street. His steady touch burned through her clothes as he guided her in and out of the crowds of people hurrying to their destinations. They stopped alongside his sleek sedan and he opened the door with a flick of the wrist.

Feeling his mood, she didn't hesitate to comply with his gentle prodding. So happy that he wasn't looking at her with contempt, she would have done just about anything to keep his eyes compassionate. Sliding into the soft leather seat he pushed her bag into her hands and shut the door. She watched him circle the car and fold his tall frame into the seat next to her. In a flash, they were zipping through the streets.

Stealing a look at him out of the corner of her eye, "So," she steeled her nerves, "what were you doing near the university?" The question seemed ordinary, but they both knew to read between the lines.

He skipped over her question and asked one of his own, "Why did you step in front of a moving bus?"

Heat rushed to her cheeks and she stared at her lap where her hands were tightly clasped. "I was distracted."

He gave her an arch glance, "Oh? What could be so consuming that you'd forget the common sense to look before stepping into a busy intersection?"

His patronizing tone only incensed her more. "If you must know, I was thinking about you…you bully!" she huffed, turning away with her nose in the air.

"Bully?" he asked in surprise.

"Yes, bully. You're the biggest bully I've ever met," she smirked in satisfaction as he gave her a dark look.

His irritation was evident as he grumbled, "I am not a bully."

Her laughter was like music, washing away his irritation. "Oh, yes you are! But I like you anyway," she added shyly, "At least most of the time."

His heart jumped at her quiet confession. Pulling up to the curb, he shut off the engine and turned his head to stare at her. "You are by far the oddest human I've ever met." She blushed prettily and he cleared his throat, getting out of the car hastily. Crossing to the passenger side, he opened the door and held her bag while she climbed out.

They rode the elevator up in silence and walked the short distance to the door of her apartment. Fumbling for her key, she finally opened the door and turned to face Sesshomaru, who was looking around the hallway dispassionately.

"This building is…charming," he said dispassionately.

"Yeah, well not everyone is an immortal billionaire," she quipped.

Raising a brow, he answered without missing a beat, "Only immortal billionaire's can have a nice place?"

"Ha ha," she shot back as she tossed her bag into her apartment and froze as a thought dropped into her mind like a stone to a riverbed. "Sesshomaru… how did you know where I live?" A gentle push sent her through the door and when she turned around, she caught the remnants of a wistful expression.

Leaning forward he grabbed the door knob, his breath brushed against Kagome's cheek. "Determination and indifference are two very different things, Kagome."

He pulled the door closed and when she finally shook herself free of the shocked stupor that had held her transfixed, she ran to her window and brushed the long curtains aside. Peering down into the darkness, a few stray snowflakes passed her window to fall onto the empty pavement below.

Kagome was just climbing out of the shower the next day when her phone rang. Scrambling out of the tub, she skidded on wet feet as she grabbed the phone. "Hello?" she wheezed.

"Kagome, are you alright? You sound out of breath?" Hoshi's concerned tone met her from the other end.

Adjusting the towel around her body, she answered, "I'm fine." She smiled as she felt her heart lift at her old friend's voice until she remembered that it had been almost two weeks. "Where on earth have you been?" she asked, miffed that it had taken so long to hear back from the older woman.

"I know, I know. I should have called sooner, but I've been in New York. I just got back actually," Hoshi answered contritely.

"Oh?" Kagome was curious about Sesshomaru's company and had been doing research on it since that fateful day in the courtyard. She remembered reading that he had opened an office in New York City about 25 years ago, which was now one of the top cyber security companies on the planet.

Hoshi's voice recalled her to the present conversation. "Yes, and I brought back someone who is eager to see you. We'll be there in ten minutes."

Kagome nearly dropped the phone. "Wait, what do you mean you'll be here in ten minutes? I have to go to class this morning!"

"Oh pish. Your classes can excuse you for one day. See you in a few."

The phone clicked and Kagome pulled it away from her ear in stunned irritation. "You've got to be kidding me."

She barely had time to pull on black leggings and an oversized purple sweater before a loud knock sounded at the door. Quickly twisting her thick hair into a messy bun, she crossed to the door, muttering the entire way about being careful what one wished for.

Opening it, she found Hoshi standing in a white suit, the epitome of sophistication. Her dark hair was pulled into a braided bun and delicate gold glasses perched on her nose, making her violet eyes appear even more ethereal. Kagome sighed as she took in the older woman's appearance, feeling like a rumpled bumpkin.

Hoshi walked in and hugged Kagome tightly. "I'm so happy to see you darling," she whispered quietly into Kagome's ear. Pulling back, she spoke louder, "But I know there's someone else that's even more excited to see you."

Kagome turned back to the door and found a wide pair of green eyes staring at her like she was a ghost. The boy looked to be about nineteen with spiky red hair and a lanky but muscular build. She cocked her head, recognizing the aura of the boy, but not quite able to place it.

"It's been so long," he murmured and her heart jumped as recognition hit with the force of a cannon.

She beamed at him as she whispered back, "Shippo."

A tear slipped down his cheek and he ran at her, scooping her up in his arms in a wide arc to bury his face into her neck like he used to when he was little. Kagome laughed as joy filled her soul. "You're so tall! How have you been?" she asked as he tightened his arms around her.

"I've been good. We've all wondered how you've been every day since you left," he answered into her hair.

She pulled back and looked up into his eyes. 'He's almost as tall as Sesshomaru,' she thought vaguely before Shippo's words sunk in. "We?"

Shippo glanced behind him at Hoshi and when she nodded, he turned back to Kagome with a shy smile. "InuYasha, Kikyo and I. We moved to New York a while ago."

Kagome blinked at the words, her chest squeezing at the mention of InuYasha and Kikyo. "So you guys stayed together all this time?"

Shippo nodded, his eyes traveling over her face as if memorizing every detail. "After you left, they asked me to stay with them. We all decided to build houses near the well to protect it. None of us wanted to be too far away…you know…in case you ever came back." His voice was quiet, the note of sadness tugged at Kagome's heart.

Reaching up, she placed a palm against his cheek. "I'm sorry if my leaving hurt you Shippo."

He grabbed her hand and shook his head. Holding it to his face, he met her eyes with sincerity. "None of us blamed you for leaving. I was young, but I understood why. Besides, when InuYasha couldn't make it through the well to bring you back, we knew that whatever magic had brought you to us in the first place was gone."

Kagome bit back a wave of guilt and tried to hide her reaction. InuYasha couldn't travel through the well because she had closed it behind her. It wasn't really that she wanted to keep anyone out, more that she wanted to keep herself from going back in. It warmed her heart to know that InuYasha had tried to come for her, even if she was equally glad that he had been unsuccessful. With a watery smile, she squeezed his hand, "Well, we're all here now and I couldn't be happier." She tugged him over to her sofa and pulled him down next to her. "Now, tell me everything you've done since I left."

Shippo laughed, his deep voice held a gravelly quality, "Everything? It's been over 500 years Kagome! That might take a while."

Kagome looked over at Hoshi and then back at Shippo and shrugged. "Hoshi made a good point. Class can miss me for one day."

Kagome laughed and joked all day with Shippo and Hoshi as they caught up and reminisced. She learned that Shippo was in college in America, studying Art and Theatre. He had a girlfriend who was a dance major, and InuYasha disapproved vehemently due to the fact that she was human and the risk of discovery was too great. Shippo shrugged it off and Kagome laughed when he told her that he was a young cub, hardly ready to settle down. Mia was fun and very pretty, that was all.

She then learned that InuYasha and Kikyo had three children, two boys and a girl. They lived in New York City and InuYasha ran the American branch of Sesshomaru's security company. Kagome listened in shocked silence about how the brothers had found a peace of sorts over the centuries that had settled into a grudging respect for each other.

Kagome was bringing a tray of tea into her small living room as Shippo told her about how they made it through the world wars and occupation. "Then about 25 years ago, Sesshomaru told us all that we needed to move to America. I wasn't allowed to stay, but I heard the argument from the other side of the house." Plucking at the end of his shirt, he looked like a typical petulant teenager. "Within two weeks, we were living in New York." He picked up a cup of tea and sipped it, expression giving way to private thought.

Hoshi had remained mostly quiet during their reunion, only adding to the conversation when warranted. She wanted the two friends to have as much unspoiled time together as possible but at Shippo's sadness; she was prompted to fill in the gap that she knew neither would ever understand on their own. "Kagome, how old are you now?"

The two turned to her with wide eyes. Shippo was the first to catch the meaning and his face hardened as Kagome answered, "Twenty four." As the words left her lips she caught it as well.

"Before you both pass judgment, know his reasons were sound."

Kagome crossed her arms over her chest as anger swept over her. "No doubt it was for some selfish reason."

Hoshi's brow creased and she pinned Kagome with a stern look. She may be angry with him, but she knew his reasons and could not fault them in any way. "He did it so that the flow of time didn't get interrupted by you meeting with any of us before the time was right. Do you know what that would have done to you Kagome? It could have driven you insane." She turned to Shippo and added, "And you know very well that if you had seen her from across the street, you would've run up to her without a second thought." Her gaze softened, "None of us were allowed to live in Tokyo until last year, when he knew you were back for good. Regardless of what you think of him, even though he kept his distance, it was for the best. He's not as selfish as you might think."

Kagome bit her bottom lip as regret clouded her momentary vexation. "I know he's not," she whispered to no one in particular.

Another knock broke the silence and they all looked at each other with surprise. Kagome jumped to her feet and went to the door with a frown.

"Who is it?" she called.

"Open the door," a deep voice answered from the other side. She heard Shippo groan as the boy stood up, his face uneasy. Hoshi stood too and gave him a reassuring look but stepped forward to stand in front of the young fox.

Kagome opened the door and found Sesshomaru towering on the other side, his forearm braced against the doorframe. He was in a suit and tie, but his semi-relaxed stance belied the warrior underneath. His eyes lingered on Kagome for only a moment before they swept past her to Shippo and Hoshi. "I thought I might find you both here."

Hoshi came forward and put her hands on her hips. "I brought him here, Yama. If you're going to be mad at anyone, you can come at me."

Moving into the room with a stalking elegance that reminded Kagome of a panther, he shoved his hands into his pockets and gave them an innocent look. "I've no intention of getting angry. Only to reassure my annoying brother that Shippo is indeed still alive." He grinned at Hoshi and then at Shippo. "He's been calling me every hour on the hour since he found out you left school." As if it were clockwork, a musical ringtone chimed and Sesshomaru drew a cell phone from his pocket. He tossed it to the fox with a sigh, "Talk the old man off the ledge…for my sake."

Shippo answered and sheepishly moved himself to the tiny bedroom in order to reassure his old friend. Hoshi stared at Sesshomaru with a closed expression before she asked, "Can I leave you long enough to use the restroom, or will I regret it?"

Sesshomaru shifted slightly before answering quietly, "Everything's fine Hoshi." He watched the older woman leave and then turned to find a pair of wide brown eyes regarding him with wonder. His heart sped up as her scent washed over him, wrapping his limbs and senses in its warm embrace. A piece of hair had fallen from her messy bun and he longed to tuck the errant strand behind her ear. When she only continued to stare, he raised a brow at her, seeming to break the spell that had fallen over the small space.

Shaking herself visibly, she sighed with relief, "And there's the Sesshomaru I know."

Puzzled, he frowned at her. "What?"

"Well, the way you just spoke to Shippo, and how you talked about InuYasha…all normal like. It's almost as if you don't hate their guts. I have no idea who that man is," she answered with a shrug.

He regarded her carefully, reminding himself that for her it had only been four years. He spoke slowly, choosing his words with care, "It's naïve to think that someone can live through 500 years without learning a thing or two. To survive that long means to adapt."

Tilting her head to the side, she mulled over his words. A smile spread over her face that sent a rush of heat through his body. Her laughing question held a note of disbelief. "Have you really changed all that much? I'm not so sure."

Weariness flooded him at her simple question and he felt surprised at its cause. His weariness came in fighting against something that felt natural. In keeping at arm's length the siren song that called to him like the beckoning of heaven. Of defending his choices to all around him that would call him a fool, and also in convincing himself that he was indeed not a fool for avoiding the one thing that he wanted most in this world.

She stood a few feet away from him, her aura beckoning like pure sunlight after centuries of rain. She held no concept of the struggle that had warred inside him from that first moment he busted into the bath house shortly after her coming to the House of the Moon. Her presence had woven itself into his existence like thread, and when she left, it felt as though he were holding the loose strands together with nothing but air. Every day that she was gone held a driving need to find something to fill the endless minutes with noise, drowning out the silence just to survive until the next minute. Building empires in order to play games of strategy were his only pleasure as he kept the endless march of time at bay. That was until the day that he read her parents wedding announcement in the paper.

The next day, he left Tokyo and stayed away for 25 years. Twenty five years of sheer agony. Over two decades of constant second guessing, so much so that he returned and bought an apartment five blocks from the university where he spent every night, but still never contacted her. Had he changed? That was her question and she waited patiently for his response.

"I don't know," he answered truthfully. Something tugged at him from the inside and he knew that he had to do the one thing that truly frightened him, which was to let go of what had kept him away from her all these years. There was only one way to tell if he had really changed. "You could always have dinner with me, and then we can both find out."

The Wind and the Mountain

A InuYasha Story
by Mearasama

Part 52 of 60

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