Inspiration/Prompt: "Locked Away" by R. City feat. Adam Levine
Triggers/Warnings: Claustrophobia, panic attacks
Sometimes he regretted his quest for power.
Sesshoumaru pinched the bridge of his nose as he leaned back in his chair, a rare sign of emotion running across the former Western Lord’s face. It was times like these that he truly missed the freedom of the warring states. Back when he could go on patrol to avoid his responsibilities. Wind whipping through his hair as he cut down his enemies, the fragrant scent of their blood mixing with the pine from the surrounding trees. It always managed to clear his head.
But now he was trapped inside a glass tower; bound to his work due to technology, greed, and the stench of fear that would permeate his skin if he ever showed them his true form. He could not even remember the last time his beast had been freed. Japan was severely lacking in unpopulated forest.
If he was being honest with himself, he could not deny that the progression of technology had helped him in his endeavors. Power was just measured differently now; instead of blood and swords, it was wealth and connections. Sesshoumaru had never been wanting of the first and the second was now a constant annoyance that he had to deal with on a daily basis. Not only did have monthly board meetings to contend with, but he also had to employ underlings to keep his company running.
Speaking of underlings…
Sesshoumaru slowly rose from his chair and moved to the corner of his office. The blinds separating him from the rest of the floor were closed, but he could still feel her. Loathed as he was to admit it, hiring the miko was the best decision he had made since starting this company. He had been surprised when she had walked into his office for her interview. The name on the list of potential hires had been unfamiliar, but he had never bothered learning any of the names of his half-brother’s pack.
To give the woman credit, she had recognized him on sight even with his glamour in place. Her aura had spiked in shock, her mouth gaping open in the middle of reaching for a handshake. His name had fallen from her lips before she had been able to collect herself, and his eyes had quickly scanned the area outside the doorway to see if anyone had heard. Such familiarity with the CEO was not a regularity, and Sesshoumaru did not have time to dispel the rumours that would have stemmed from being called by his first name by a random intern.
Leaning against the wall, he let her aura wash over him. It had been the same as the first time she had set foot in his office. He had assumed it was just her continued inability to contain her powers, but throughout the interview, he had slowly realized that she was completely in control of herself—after her initial surprise subsided at least.
The strange thing was her presence had put him completely at ease. The tightness in his muscles seeped out with every minute she sat in front of him, to the point that Sesshoumaru had had to focus on sitting up straight. He’d wanted to sag in his chair, the relief in his limbs palpable. He hadn’t even looked at her credentials and hired her on the spot.
The former Western Lord had never understood his deep desire to wander. His presence was rarely needed inside his home; the servants knew what was expected of them and the other lords had their own territories to deal with, only needing to meet with him when another wave of humans acquired notions of grandeur. Plus, with Naraku becoming more of a nuisance, it was logical that he take longer absences to rid the world of his incarnations.
He still had a stack of missives to sort through whenever he returned, but at least the mating proposals had stopped during that time. Everyone was more concerned with their own survival than the survival of their line. And when they did start showing up again, they seemed to mysteriously disappear.
Into the fireplace in his study.
A knock at his door pulled him out of his musings of the past. Running a clawless hand through his much shorter—and darker—hair, Sesshoumaru pushed himself off the wall and walked back behind his desk. His jaw tightened as he stepped outside the boundary of the miko’s comforting aura. Her cubicle wasn’t close enough to his office for him to feel it at all times. He should really do something about that.
The knock at the door sounded again.
“President, the reports from yesterday’s bug in the code are finished. And your three o-clock meeting has been bumped up to one o’clock.”
Sesshoumaru’s eyes narrowed, the usual golden hue hidden behind muddy brown. The butterfly youkai flitted about nervously.
“On whose authority?”
“Y-Yours sir,” she replied, checking the tablet in her hand multiple times. “You wanted all meetings moved up as much as possible due to—"
“Leave the documents and prepare the southern boardroom. I trust all those attending approved of the time change?”
“Yes sir. They seemed eager to end the day early as well.”
Sessomaru glanced out of his glass cage, noting the dark clouds on the horizon. There was supposed to be a storm later and he wanted everyone out of the building as soon as possible. Including himself.
The door closed quietly behind her and Sesshoumaru leaned back in his chair. Wealth was power and the height of his glass tower reflected both. The only problem was he couldn’t just fly up to the top floor; he had to enclose himself in a kami-forsaken box that seemed to get smaller every time he set foot in it.
He’d never connected his need to wander to his inability to handle small spaces. It had never been an issue before—there had never been such small spaces before. Or heights he couldn’t reach under his own volition. His powers had always been enough; the spaces large enough and the humans understanding enough. Or at least fearful enough.
But now he was subjected to the tortuous container twice a day to keep his wealth and power. His jaw clenched again. He was also subjected to requiring the help of a mere human in order to do so.
Not that she knew.
The fact that they somehow rode the elevator together at the beginning and end of the day seemed to have escaped her. At least, she’d never made a comment about it. In the past she’d never shut up even when her life depended on it, so the silence that stretched between them during each ride was strange. Though not unwelcome.
Checking his watch, Sesshoumaru cursed under his breath before grabbing the stack of papers the butterfly had left and moved back to the corner of his office. The tension in his shoulders abated slightly as her aura washed over him again, though not as strong as before. He cursed again—she’d left her cubicle.
It was going to be a long day.
Tsubasa swooped into the staffroom, her heels clicking against the floor in agitation. Kagome looked up from her phone, then chuckled.
“What did the boss man make you do now?”
“You know, one of these days, I’m going to shove this tablet somewhere really unpleasant,” Tsubasa growled, her coffee mug loudly striking the counter.
“That bad huh?”
“Oh you know, just the usual comments that make me question my sanity and general ability to do my job.” She sat down at the table across from Kagome, her auburn locks seeming brighter than normal.
“You should’ve reminded him that he wouldn’t know where to park his car if it wasn’t for you,” Kagome said, rolling her eyes.
Tsubasa groaned, running a hand through her hair. “Except for the part where he would’ve liquified me on the spot.”
“I’d have done it,” Kagome shrugged, leaning back in her chair.
“You seem to be the only person on this floor—scratch that, this whole building—who would actually have the nerve to say something like that to his face.”
And yet we’ve barely spoken to each other in the two years I’ve worked here. Kagome shrugged again, “He’s not that scary.”
Tsubasa snorted into her coffee and shook her head. “Again, you’re the only one who would say that. I still can’t believe he hired you. No offence, you’re brilliant at what you do, but a daiyoukai hiring a miko is a little out there. Even by today’s standards.”
Kagome was still a little confused about that herself. She knew he hadn’t hired her due to their connection in the feudal era—she’d half expected him to throw her out of the building during her interview. She was a link to Inuyasha. A link that Sesshoumaru had barely acknowledged, let alone embraced.
Imagine her surprise when he not only offered her a position, but a position on his floor. When she’d exited his office and asked Tsubasa what the next steps were, the redhead’s mouth had fallen open in shock. She’d even gone back into his office to confirm Kagome’s claim that she’d been hired already, returning to Kagome a little shaken, Sesshoumaru’s youki trailing after her angrily.
And being a miko wasn’t something she openly advertised—especially since Sesshoumaru employed a number of youkai—but she was the only human on the floor, so it eventually came up in conversation. Plus, Tsubasa had noticed that Kagome never flinched whenever mister-high-and-mighty was on a tirade and immediately wanted to know why.
Kagome played it off that her reiki neutralized his youki, so he wasn’t as intimidating as he tried to be. She’d never let on that they knew each other; it’s not like they’d been friends before, so she wasn’t bothered by it. In fact, she took comfort in being around him every day.
When the well had closed seven years ago, she’d been inconsolable. She’d hoped that the magic of the well was just dormant—had jumped into its depths enough times for her mother to beg her to stop—but nothing had changed. The spark was gone.
She still went into the wellhouse every few weeks. She couldn’t stop herself from doing it. Her feet moved on their own until her fingertips brushed the edge of the rotting wood. Looking for the telltale sign—a tingle of power—that something more than darkness lingered at the bottom.
Maybe that was the reason why she felt comfort in the former Western Lord’s presence. He was the light at the bottom of the well; the proof that she hadn’t hallucinated her time in the feudal era. He wasn’t part of her original group—she couldn’t even classify them as friends—but he was here. Real.
“Have you finished up month end yet? I know you were focusing on the issue with the codes from yesterday—thanks for that by the way,” Tsubasa raised her mug up to toast her, “His lordship would’ve ripped off my wings if it hadn’t been fixed by today.”
Kagome blinked as she was pulled out of her reverie.
“It was easy enough to figure out once I’d found the source. A few clicks and commands and everything was back on track,” she replied, resting her chin in her palm. “And almost. It should be done by the end of the day.” Kagome’s phone dinged, signalling the end of her break and she pocketed it before rising from her chair.
“Don’t forget he’s actually giving us permission to leave early today!” Tsubasa’s voice followed her out of the breakroom. Kagome waved over her shoulder as she headed back to her desk, sliding easily into her chair before opening the spreadsheet on her computer. She’d much rather be fixing codes but the month end reports were a necessary evil. She typed in a few numbers before glancing out the window.
The grey clouds that had been skirting along the horizon that morning had darkened and were now covering the sky. Streaks of lightning flashed in the distance, and as she continued to stare, raindrops began to hit the glass, obscuring her view. Kagome frowned slightly at Tsubasa’s warning; they always seemed to get time off when the weather acted up.
What was it with Sesshoumaru and storms?
Kagome groaned and leaned back in her chair, gingerly rubbing the muscles at the back of her neck. This was the part of the job she hated; the tedious calculations that were required at the end of each month to make sure they were actually making a profit.
She snorted. The books could be in the red for a year and it probably wouldn’t make a difference to Sesshoumaru’s wallet. She, along with everyone else on this floor, would likely lose their jobs, but she doubted it would hurt his bottom line.
Rain pelted the window and Kagome rolled her shoulders. Just a few more sections and she’d be free. Maybe she’d stop by the shrine on her way home; she could ask Mama about—
“We are leaving.”
She let out a yelp as her chair skittered backwards and hit the wall at the back of her cubicle. Startled blue met narrowed brown as she struggled to bring her heart rate back under control.
“Must you sneak up on people like that?”
“It is not my fault you are unaware of your surroundings.”
Kagome glared at him, pushing dark locks out of her eyes with tense fingers. I guess some people never change. Even after 500 years. At least he’d started calling her by her name—
—when there were other people around at least. She pursed her lips and awkwardly shimmied back to her desk, her fingertips skimming over the keys of her computer.
“Did you come over here just to insult me? Or is there another reason you are gracing me with your presence?” She forced herself not to laugh as she felt his youki flare. At least she could still get under skin. Maybe it was good that some things didn’t change.
Kagome yelped again as her jacket was thrown in her lap.
“We are leaving. Gather your things.”
A frown puckered her brow and she turned to face him. “But I haven’t finished—”
“You may complete it on Monday. It is not important.”
She gave him an incredulous look, “Since when is calculating labour costs not important?”
“Since you seem to put it over the safety of my employees.”
“What are you on about n—”
His youki flared again as lightning crackled around the building, seeming to mirror his agitation. Kagome blinked in surprise. Usually the daiyoukai’s aura was a lot more controlled. She could feel his…distress? Was he actually feeling distressed?
“Look around you miko. Are you so lacking in common sense that you have failed to notice you are the only one here?”
Her mouth snapped shut as she looked around the room, cursing his ability to be right. Again. There was no one left. Pursing her lips, she flipped her hair over her shoulder.
“It’s not my fault my boss gives me jobs that are so boring it numbs my brain to everything going on around me.”
He raised a dark eyebrow at her, and Kagome found herself looking past the glamour, imagining his long, silver hair flowing around him instead of the dark, chopped locks that barely went past his ears. His round ears.
“It was my understanding that you enjoyed your position.”
“I do! What I don’t enjoy is staring at my computer for hours on end and using more math than I did in high school to make sure all the columns and rows add up properly. And then going over it again to make sure I didn’t make any mistakes.”
“And yet you do so—have done so—without complaint.”
Kagome couldn’t stop herself from rolling her eyes this time. “Yeah well, it’s important to the company. I enjoy my job enough to want to keep working here, so I guess that includes helping it be productive.” She met his gaze with a shrug, and she swore pride shone through his darkened eyes. She blinked and it was gone, leaving the young woman to wonder if she’d imagined it.
She looked at her computer again, making sure her recent changes were saved before shutting it down. “Are you sure this can wait? It won’t take much longer—”
“I do not like repeating myself,” his tone firm as she rose from her chair and slid her arms into her coat.
“Just remember that when accounting yells at you.” The look on his face—and clearly thought of anyone daring to raise their voice at him—was comical and Kagome had to bite the inside of her cheek to keep her giggles from escaping. She grabbed her small backpack and slung it over one shoulder, her eyes straying to the window as lightning flashed across the sky again. Her feet moved on their own as she gazed out large pane of glass.
Her breath left splotches of condensation on the window, a low whistle leaving her mouth. It was like the lightning was coming from their building. As if something—someone—was painting the white-hot streaks through the air with purposeful precision. Kagome opened her mouth to voice her awe but was cut off by the low timbre behind her.
“Miko.” It came out as a growl, and she forced herself not to tell him where he could shove the title. Instead, she turned around and flashed him a tight smile, walking past him as she flicked her hair over her shoulder.
“Coming?” she asked, heading towards the sleek, silver elevator doors and pressing the call button. She wanted to snicker at the daggers she could feel being shot into the space between her shoulder blades but refrained. His holier-than-thou attitude had always brought out her teenaged pettiness and she found herself reverting to her younger self, reminiscing about emerald cotton, opal silks, and pearlesque-covered arrows.
There was a soft ding and the doors opened. Kagome flounced inside, selecting the main floor before tightening the yellow strap on her shoulder. Sesshoumaru silently joined her, the long material of his peacoat brushing her right leg. She frowned slightly when he didn’t select a different floor.
“Do you need one of the parkade levels?” Her fingers hovered the buttons of the underground floors.
Kagome’s frown deepened as her hand slid into her coat pocket, the doors closing in front of them. She assumed he drove himself—had imagined the various luxury cars he most likely had at his disposal.
“Do you have plans?” she probed, suddenly worried that she’d been keeping him from something important.
He’s getting off at the same floor? For some reason, this bothered her; tickling the back of her mind like she was missing something.
Kagome still used a bicycle to get to and from her small apartment. Public transit was a backup when the weather wasn’t cooperating, like today, but she loved the feel of the wind brushing by her face. Though the smell was something to be desired most of the time. Plus, the security guards on the main floor were nice enough to stash her bike during the day so she didn’t have to worry about it being stolen. They were always at the top of her list when it came to offering baked goods during the holidays.
The elevator hummed as it descended and Kagome gnawed on her lip, thinking back to all the times she’d seen him get off the elevator. She couldn’t account for the times he rode it without her, but didn’t he usually get off on a lower floor? Or was she always in so much of a rush to get off that she hadn’t noticed? Come to think of it, they ended up on the elevator together a lot.
It was rare that they were alone—there was a ton of foot traffic in the building during regular business hours—but she tried to think of a time when he hadn’t been a silent observer at the beginning and end of her day and was coming up empty. She was always aware of him, even someone without reiki could feel the pull of his intimidating aura, so why hadn’t she been aware of his constant presence in such a small space?
Kagome groaned and rolled her head to relieve her still tight neck muscles. She was overthinking it. There was literally one way to get to the top floor, it wasn’t surprising that they’d end up in the elevator at the same time. There was no way he—
The lights went out.
She heard Sesshoumaru curse before the floor jerked under her feet. She gasped as she fell against him, desperately trying to steady herself as the elevator jerked again. Then everything went silent.
“What the hell…” she trailed off as her eyes adjusted to the darkness. It was another moment before the emergency lights came on, bathing them in a soft, pale glow. Kagome had been too distracted by her thoughts to notice how close they were to the ground floor; they could be between floors for all she knew. All her previous awe at the storm evaporated.
“Do you think the power is out for the whole building?” she wondered aloud.
“It is likely. It would not stop otherwise.” His eyes seemed to glow in the dim lighting as he leant forward and pressed the emergency call button, speaking swiftly to the technician on the other end.
“I’m surprised you don’t have backup generators for situations like this.” She knew he owned the whole building and considering how many floors there were, it was strange that the daiyoukai who’d had a contingency plan for every situation in the past didn’t have something to keep the elevators running.
“Something that will be rectified immediately,” he bit out. He relayed their location to the person on the other side of the speaker and for once Kagome was glad to hear the commanding tone of his voice. Hopefully they wouldn’t be stuck for too long.
“At least the lights work,” she mused, looking around the enclosed space.
“Maybe it’s just a quick surge and the power will come back before they even get here.”
“Sorry if this ruins your plans for tonight. We would’ve left sooner if I’d been paying attention.” She knew she was rambling, but the silence was suffocating. There was no hum from the cables or the overhead lights. There was no clicking of buttons or squeaking from shoes scuffing against the floor. It was unnerving. It had never been this quiet even while she’d been camped out on the forest floor in the feudal era.
“I’ve never been stuck in an elevator before, though I’ve never worked in a place tall enough to need one before, so that’s probably why,” she laughed softly, trying to alleviate the tension. “Have you ever—"
Kagome’s words died in her throat as she turned to the youkai next to her. The air crackled around him; his blunt nails lengthening into deadly points.
“H-Hey, take it easy, I doubt it’ll take that long to get things up and running again.” He didn’t respond. A low growl escaped his lips and Kagome watched in horror as he hunched over, silver strands shooting out of his head like lightning.
“Boss—” Youki exploded around them, electricity singeing the skin on her arms as his glamour shattered. Kagome didn’t have time to ponder what had set him off; she had to calm him down before he tore a hole in the building.
The volume of his growls increased as his eyes bled crimson, fangs elongating with each ragged breath. It reminded her of Kaguya’s castle—like he was fighting the transformation with everything he had. He looked like a caged animal; his body pressed into the corner of the elevator. His aura swirled around him, and a cold sweat broke out on the back of her neck at the sight of the ragged magenta marks on his face.
His true form.
If he transformed, they were both dead. His massive size would take out the load-bearing walls and the building would crush them.
Kagome didn’t know what to do. Her reiki was strong—stronger than it had been when she’d gone up against Naraku—but she doubted it would protect them from an entire building.
His lips peeled back to reveal rows of razor-sharp teeth and Kagome’s body moved on its own. She lunged across the small space, grabbing onto his arm as tendrils of pale reiki collided with the vibrant tornado of his youki.
Fully expecting their auras to reject each other, she dug her nails into his arm, forcing her reiki out through her fingers. It travelled up his body before curling around him like a cocoon. Her eyes blinked in surprise, taken aback at how easily it happened. There wasn’t any push back from his youki at all.
The silence that followed was deafening. No air left her lungs as she swallowed the fear welling up in her throat. The crimson fire in his eyes slowly receded, though his magenta stripes remained jagged, his hair slowly settling over his shoulders. Kagome wasn’t sure if his glamour was maintained by his own power or through an item, but either way, it wasn’t working.
Sesshoumaru’s skin almost glowed in the dim lighting, either due to the lack of the glamour or his sudden lack of control. Blood roaring in her ears, Kagome finally allowed herself to breathe.
“Are you alright?” she asked tentatively. He didn’t respond, but she felt his arm tense under her touch. She looked down at her hand; her knuckles were white with how hard she was gripping him.
His clawed hand shot out and covered hers, preventing her from pulling away.
“Do not—” His voice was guttural, and he was forced to clear his throat. “Do not let go.”
Cerulean eyes widened as her gaze whipped back up to his face. His face was tense; muscles ticking along his jawline as he swallowed slowly.
“What’s going on? Is this a regular thing? Were you lying about having plans? The power could come back on at any time, so there was no need to freak out—”
“I mean, I know you’re still not the biggest fan of humans,” she continued, her brow furrowing. “I’m the only one you’ve hired on your floor, but you should be able to handle a short elevator ride with one. I’m not that bad—”
“And you’ve been in here with me before! A lot actually, which is weird, but that shouldn’t make you lose—”
“Miko.” His fingers tightened around hers to emphasize his tone.
Kagome jumped slightly, then pursed her lips to keep herself quiet. Sesshoumaru straightened himself, flexing his shoulders one at a time. Kagome felt his muscles roll even through the thick material of his coat.
“You are not at fault.”
A dark eyebrow rose, mimicking his usual expression. “Care to explain why you almost went Super Saiyan in the elevator then?”
He scowled at her, a direct contrast to the smooth touch of his hand against hers. Kagome watched him intently, noticing each micro-expression flicker through his golden irises. Her head cocked to the side as her body warmed at the familiarity of it.
She honestly didn’t expect an answer. They’d never been on good terms, even being in close contact with each other in the last two years. It wasn’t as if the Lord of the Western Lands was about to—
“This One is…uncomfortable with…” He peered at her from the corner of his eye, then looked around at each wall. “Small spaces.”
“You’re claustrophobic?!” she screeched, causing him to wince. “Sorry, sorry. But seriously? You literally have to ride an elevator to get to your office. How do you survive doing that every day?”
Genuine concern was etched into her features as she looked up at him. She knew how bad panic attacks could get with claustrophobic people. Hell, Sesshoumaru was the most composed person she’d ever met and look what had happened after only a few minutes.
He turned his head and met her gaze, his eyes searching. Kagome gave him a reassuring smile and threaded her fingers through his, being careful of his claws as she squeezed his hand.
“Your secret is safe with me Boss, no one would believe me even if I told them. I’m just curious how you’ve managed to endure it all this time. You’ve been in this building for years.”
“It has been easier as of late.”
“You mean you’ve been getting used to it? That’s surprising. You don’t seem like the take-a-few-deep-breaths-to-calm-your-nerves type. Have you gone to therapy for it?” Giggles erupted out of her mouth at his incredulous look. “Right, right, can’t let anyone know you’re not perfect at everything.”
Kagome rolled her eyes. “So what changed?”
Her mouth fell open and she stared at him. “W-What?”
“Your presence—aura,” he corrected himself, “Seems to dull the effects of the…discomfort. It is tolerable when you are near.”
“Is that why you’re in the elevator with me so often?” Her eyes widened as he gave her a pointed look. “Every day… We’ve ridden it together every day, haven’t we?”
“Why didn’t you say anything?! I could’ve done something, helped in some way. I could’ve made sure—”
“This One assumed it to be beyond the limits of our relationship.”
The edges of her aura darkened, blazing around them like flames. “When have I ever denied someone help just because we didn’t have the best relationship? Most of my friends in the feudal era tried to kill me the first time. You included!”
He seemed surprised at the intensity of her reaction, his head cocking to the side in question. Her teeth ground together as she glared at him.
“I swear, all you inuyoukai are the same! Always having a stick up your ass when it comes to asking for help. Your brother was exactly the same—”
Her cerulean orbs turned stormy. “Don’t start! You’re still the same! And I never met your mother, but she was probably the same way.”
Amusement danced in his eyes as his lips curved up into a smirk. “She is.”
A strange feeling fluttered in the bottom of her stomach. The smirk softened his features in a way she hadn’t seen before. Usually, any expression he willingly showed was the precursor to someone losing their life, but this was—
Wait. Did he say…
“Is? As in, she’s still alive?”
“Hnn. Time means nothing to us, miko. My father was over a millennium old when he mated my mother.”
Kagome groaned slightly, her fingers flexing between his, their hands still connected on his arm. “Do I even want to know how old you are?”
“Does it matter?”
“I suppose not,” she laughed softly, her shoulders relaxing slightly. “It wouldn’t change anything.” Blue eyes slid to their hands and her thoughts sobered.
“Are you going to be okay if we’re in here for a while? I’ve never been in an elevator when it’s broken down, so I have no idea how long it’s going to take.”
“I am fine as long as you remain close.”
A blush spilled onto her cheeks, and she worried her bottom lip, unsure how to respond. She meant what she said about not knowing how long they’d be stuck. The power was out, but neither of them were hurt, so they wouldn’t be at the top of the technician’s list. ‘Remain close’ was a relative term; would he be alright as long as she was within a short distance of him? Or did she need to be physically touching him?
“You are overthinking things, miko.”
Kagome jumped, then scowled at the still-amused smirk on his face. Tons of centuries old and still a jerk.
“Yeah well, I’ve never been the key to keeping someone sane before.”
“And yet that was your function with your pack during your time in the past.”
“What? That’s not true, we all supported each other! And Inuyasha had Tessaiga, that’s what kept his demon blood in check.”
“You delude yourself if you think that my father’s fang was the only thing that prevented the halfbreed from succumbing to the psychosis of his feral state.” Kagome had the distinct feeling that if he were the type, Sesshoumaru would be rolling his eyes at her. “And I seem to remember you preventing other members from making their own regretful decisions.”
She felt a blush creeping up her neck again. Okay, maybe he wasn’t a jerk all the time. “How would you know? It’s not like you spent a lot of time with us.”
“Your actions speak volumes, miko. It did not take long to discern your purpose.”
The blush had made it into her cheeks, and it was suddenly hard to meet his gaze. “I’ll take that as a compliment.”
She glanced at her watch and noticed that it had been almost an hour since he’d forced her out of her cubicle. Her limbs suddenly felt heavy, her muscles still tense from hunching over her computer all day.
“Do you mind if we sit down? We might as well relax.” He gave her a curt nod and she gingerly removed her hand from his as they both lowered themselves to the floor. Kagome leaned against his left side, biting the inside of her cheek as he assumed his usual position, bending his right leg and leaning the same arm on his knee.
Some things never change.
Maybe that was why she enjoyed his presence so much. There hadn’t been any emotional bonds between them in the past so there was no reason to feel awkward around him. Looking at him just made her nostalgic and content to know that all those adventures actually happened. The weight of the well closing was a little lighter when he was near.
She leaned her head against his shoulder, content in the silence that surrounded them. Strange, considering how often she was the one to keep a conversation going. It didn’t feel stagnant or forced; her fingers weren’t twitching with the need to fill in the gap.
Had he always been like this? Flashes of chestnut eyes, a squawking beak, and flying scales came to mind. The twin dragons obviously wouldn’t have talked back, but had Rin and Jaken been as comfortable in the silence as she was currently?
Kagome snorted, causing the body she was leaning against to shift slightly.
“Something amuses you about our situation?”
“Hmmm? Oh, no,” she replied softly, closing her eyes. “I was just imagining how many times you had to tell Jaken to shut up.”
“It was unnecessary.”
“Seriously? You don’t seem like the type to just let him—”
“Physical reminders were much more effective.”
She snorted again, quickly turning into a fit of giggles. The sound echoed off the metal walls before she was able to stop herself.
“He probably enjoyed every shred of attention you gave him, regardless of the consequences. Or injuries.”
“Jaken was loyal.”
She hummed in agreement, her eyes sliding shut again as she settled against him. Her breathing slowed to a steady pace, the images of Sesshoumaru punting Jaken into the distance while Rin cheered him on the last things she saw before the darkness of sleep overtook her.
Something was wrong.
Kagome’s brow furrowed slightly as she shifted her shoulders. Why did it feel like she was sleeping on the ground? Her bed was a lot softer than this…
Suddenly the night’s events came flooding back and she remembered she hadn’t made it home yet. Groaning softly, she tried to sit up, her muscles protesting. When had she lay down—
Her thoughts were interrupted by a heavy weight on her chest. It slammed her back against the floor, making her cry out.
“What the—” Cerulean orbs opened to meet crimson and teal. “Shit…”
He’d started to transform again.
How long had she been asleep? Kagome silently cursed. Clearly long enough for Sesshoumaru’s claustrophobia to kick in again. But she was close to him—touching him even. Why hadn’t it had the same effect on him as before?
She was currently flat on her back in the middle of the elevator floor with him hunched over her on all fours. The pale emergency lighting caused the rage in his eyes to glow brighter, the teal of his pupils boring into her soul.
And yet she wasn’t afraid.
Placing one hand over the claws on her chest, she raised the other to brush across the jagged stripes on his cheek. Her aura reached out, not seeking to dominate, but to sooth. The snarling quieted to a whisper even as his grip on her tightened, the tips of his nails piercing the material of her clothes.
“It’s alright,” she whispered, her thumb stroking his skin. She watched as he dragged in a ragged breath, teal slowly giving way to gold. The corners of her mouth tilted up in a reassuring smile, the turbulent tornado of youki finally dissipating.
His shoulders shook slightly as he lowered his head, silver strands hiding his expression as he pressed his face into the crook of her neck. She supposed she should’ve felt awkward, considering the circumstances, but all she could think about was the desperation in his eyes as his face passed hers.
She patted his back, wisps of reiki flowing out of her fingers and over his body. “What happened?”
His body stiffened before he answered, “It seems your aura becomes dormant when you sleep.”
Her eyes widened and she pushed against him slightly, her hand still gripping the one on her chest.
“Why didn’t you wake me up?”
Sesshoumaru finally sat up, leaning back on his feet as he gave her a fleeting glance. He dragged a clawed hand through his hair before leaning back against the elevator wall. Kagome pushed herself up onto her knees, giving him an expectant look. He lifted his chin slightly before breaking eye contact.
“You appeared to need the rest.”
“Need the re—Sesshoumaru! You’re literally terrified of small spaces and you’re worried about me taking a nap?”
“I fear nothing,” he snapped, baring his teeth at her.
Blue eyes turned stormy, and she grabbed a handful of his hair, yanking hard. “Don’t you dare! I don’t have time for your everyone-is-beneath-me attitude!” She pushed his knees apart and settled between them, leaning back against his chest.
“Stop being an ass just to save face, I’m not some lowly youkai you stomped on in the feudal era. Or one of your board members for that matter. This isn’t about trying to get information out of you to get ahead in life. I’m just trying to help.”
Crossing her arms over her chest, she watched his hands clench into balls, his long fingers digging his claws into his palms. Sighing, she reached down and grabbed both, laying them in her lap as she forced them open. She traced the lines of his palms, sending calming waves of reiki up his arms. She continued the motions until she felt the muscles behind her relax.
Kagome managed to stop herself from rolling her eyes, muttering about stubborn youkai under her breath. Her fingers dug into the flesh of his palms, finding pressure points, and working out any knots. She pushed the cuffs of his coat out of the way, her fingers stilling as they brushed over the stripes on his wrist.
“Do you use an object for your glamour?”
“Only inside the building.” He raised his left arm, a slim, silver watch adorning his wrist. The glass face was broken, the cracks spreading out like spider webs. “It is not required otherwise.”
She turned it over slowly, inspecting each part. “So you don’t have to think about maintaining it while you’re working?”
“Indeed. It would be a waste of power.”
“Because you have so little to spare.”
“Your temperament has not changed in 500 years, miko.” His tone didn’t have the usual bite to it and Kagome felt the sides of her mouth pull up into a smile.
“Oh, I wouldn’t dream of disappointing the mighty Lord of the Western Lands.”
“You are one of the few yet to do so.”
Her head whipped to the side, her eyes flying up to his face as words failed to form in her mouth. She watched him intently, looking for any sign of deceit but knowing in the back of her mind that she’d never find any. It was one of his admirable traits; one that never faltered in all the years she’d known him.
But never disappointing him? That was a stretch. Especially with his bitterness towards humans when they’d first met. She couldn’t remember anything other than indifference or a sneer adorning his face during every interaction during their hunt for the shards.
Not towards her anyway.
It had been worse for Inuyasha, but with Rin… There had been a softness in his gaze that she’d never thought possible. Even after the initial shock of realizing that the little girl was following the stoic daiyoukai by choice, she’d constantly wondered why. Why she followed him, why he allowed her to, why he appeared to risk his life to keep her safe, why—
“You are overthinking things again.”
Wrenched out of her thoughts, Kagome jerked slightly against him, a blush creeping into her cheeks again. Her bottom lip caught between her teeth as she played with a lock of her ebony hair.
“Probably. But I don’t even know how to respond to that.”
“A response is not necessary.”
“Maybe to you,” she argued, “But us normal people actually converse on a regular basis.”
“And yet doing so only causes tensions to rise and emotions to flare.”
Kagome shrugged, failing to notice the silver strands that were now mixed in with her own, her fingers weaving them into a loose braid. “Some people actually like it when that happens. You have to be able to communicate with people you care about.”
“Actions speak louder than words.”
The braid fell as she let out a sharp laugh, her hands trying to stifle the noise.
“You find this amusing?”
“Only because you’ve attacked me twice in the last, what, 30 minutes? What does that say about us?”
“That you are an extremely lucky individual.”
“Luck had nothing to do with it! I calmed you down both times! If we were keeping score, I’d definitely be winning.” She interlocked her fingers before stretching her arms out in front of her. When had she become so at ease around him? She was essentially sitting in his lap, had invaded his personal space on more than one occasion—though that, she supposed, was by necessity—and was actually having a civil conversation with him. She wondered if she’d missed out on something during their time as reluctant allies.
Her heart clenched slightly, causing her to frown. She suddenly wanted to know more about him. Her view of him had always been skewed—altered through the lens of Inuaysha’s resentment. Was he actually as bad as her friend had made him out to be? Even in the beginning?
“Look…” she trailed off, her fingers fidgeting nervously, “You don’t have to answer this, but I figured I’d ask anyway, since you seem to have hit your head and forgotten that you only speak in single-syllables…”
“Yeah that.” A smile tugged at her lips. Apparently, he actually had a sense of humour. “When did your claustrophobia start?”
Silence stretched between them, and Kagome’s shoulders slumped. She knew better than to ask something so personal. She was nothing to him, why would he even bother to—
“I did not become aware of it until the early 1970s.”
Her initial surprise was completely usurped by her confusion. “Why then? I figured it would’ve been earlier than that.”
“That is when the first skyscrapers were built in Japan.”
She made a soft sound as understanding set in. “It never bothered you before then?”
“I was never forced into a small box with no means of escape on a daily basis before then.”
“What happened the first time you rode an elevator?”
He stiffened behind her, his hands tensing slightly. Kagome immediately intertwined their fingers and gave him a reassuring squeeze. She knew she was pushing her luck, but she couldn’t stop herself. The questions kept pouring out of her mouth with each one he answered.
She imagined the doors closing on him for the first time and the panic slowly setting in. He’d probably never experienced the emotion before. Had he been confused about what he was feeling? Had he tried to remain in control? Or had he simply attacked? Elevators had evolved quickly, so the trips nowadays took less than a minute, but that was only if no one else got on or off.
Sesshoumaru cleared his throat, his muscles still tense. “This One was…unfamiliar with the sensation. It was as if all of the air had been sucked out of the room.”
Her fingers squeezed his again, her thumb brushing across the pad of his hand. “Did you transform?”
“No. But the negotiations I was there for went much quicker due to the unease the others felt.”
He didn’t transform but he hadn’t been able to control his youki, she mused, her lips curving up into a smirk. “I bet they all grovelled at your feet, trying to appease whatever they thought had put you in a bad mood.”
“And you’ve just been forcing yourself to deal with it since then?” she probed, her heart clenching tightly in her chest. Phobias like this were common, but to have to experience it every day—twice a day—was beyond her understanding. Even for him.
“There is no other alternative. Wealth is a reflection of one’s power and humans seem to measure this in glass and steel.”
“You men and your toys,” she groaned, shaking her head.
“Do you deny you were not impressed when you first arrived here seeking employment?”
Kagome flipped some of her dark tresses over her shoulder even as a blush stained her cheeks. “I admit to nothing.” She’d never tell him just how excited she’d been when she’d received the call for her interview. His company alone was something to strive for, never mind the splendour of the building itself. And that was before she’d known who was running it.
Had he known right away that her powers would help with his claustrophobia? Or had it been a lucky coincidence? She struggled to remember when he’d first been in the elevator with her. There’d only been a handful of times she actively noticed him being in here with her, but she’d never felt the surge of panic from him before today.
And that had only been the two of them.
“Is it worse when there’s more people in here?”
Kagome ran the hand that wasn’t clasped in his through her hair in agitation. “I guess this explains why you always finished at the same time as me. I wish you’d said something sooner.”
“I have explained my reasoning as to why it was inappropriate.”
“I know but still," she argued, tracing one of the stripes on his wrist before a realization struck her. “Is that why you’re constantly walking by my desk and checking up on my work?”
He didn’t respond and she turned her head to glare at him, blue eyes turning stormy as she opened her mouth to blast him. However, the words died on her tongue as she noticed the slight darkening of his cheeks.
Was he blushing?
She blinked and the colour was gone. She couldn’t have imagined that. There were a lot of possible scenarios that she could come up with, but the idea that Sesshoumaru, former Lord of the Western Lands, Mr. Condescending himself could actually feel embarrassment was completely foreign to her.
“Does it bother you just to be in your office?” Her voice was quiet and hesitant. Conflicted emotions filtered through his eyes before he rested his chin in his other hand.
“The Western Stronghold evolved over time, but never to the point of having glass in the windows. Sound is stifled and the air becomes stagnant. It creates feelings of…”
Another thought struck her, Miroku’s description of the events prior to Sesshoumaru getting his arm back running through her head. From what he’d told her, Sesshoumaru had been completely encased in Magatsuhi’s stolen body parts that he’d absorbed from various youkai. The Shikon no Tama’s evil spirit had been the only entity that had even come close to damaging the daiyoukai.
“Does it remind you of—"
Darkness descended around them, making them both jump. A few moments went by before they were bathed in artificial, iridescent light, the floor jerking beneath them. The control panel flickered, then came back to life, signalling the return of electricity to the building. They both sighed in relief.
Shifting her weight, Kagome slowly got to her feet without letting go of his hand. Sesshoumaru followed suit, silver hair spilling over his shoulders and tickling their connected fingers.
A shiver ran up her spine at the sensation, the reflection of the neon lights making his hair seem duller than she knew it to be. Images of white silk and moonlight flashed through her mind and her lower lip caught between her teeth.
“You should put your glamour back on.”
She watched as a pale eyebrow raised at her. “You feel I should not?”
Unable to stop the blush that stained her cheeks—she really needed to stop doing that—she shook her head. “Of course I do! The press would have a field day if you suddenly showed up like this.”
“Your scent betrays you miko, I can smell your deceit.”
Kagome felt her face get hotter, her free hand unconsciously reaching up and tracing the crescent moon on his brow. “I just prefer you like this. It’s a shame you have to hide it.” Her fingers continued along the curve of his ancestral mark before she realized what she was doing and snatched her hand away.
He gave her an odd look before rolling his shoulders, the marks fading as his hair darkened. His claws retracted and Kagome felt a twinge in her chest at the loss.
What was wrong with her? Sesshoumaru had been a terrifying sight during their initial encounters, why would she want the reminder of someone who literally tried to kill her staring her in the face? It had clearly been a long and trying day and the fatigue of actively using her reiki must’ve been getting to her.
The elevator chimed, finally signalling their arrival at the main floor and their freedom. The doors barely had time to open before she tugged him out of the small space and past the front doors, letting the fresh—albeit electrically-charged—air wash over them.
She cast a look over her shoulder, noting the lack of tension in his jaw and regretfully let go of his hand. “Feel better?”
“Hnn,” his answer was almost lost amongst the sounds of traffic and the splatter of rain against the sidewalk.
“Good. I’m glad.” She worried her lip between her teeth. “I’m sorry you had to go through that.”
“You were not at fault,” he said, doing up the buttons on his coat. “But since you insist on helping, you will join me in the elevator at the beginning and end of each day.”
She would’ve been offended by his commanding tone if she hadn’t already decided to do it herself.
“And any other time your presence is required on a different floor?” she asked, trying her best to imitate his haughty tone.
She giggled to herself as she pulled her umbrella out of her bag. “You could always just move my cubicle next to your office. Then you wouldn’t need to walk by it so often.” Checking her watch, she tried to calculate how much time she’d be spending waiting for the next bus. If she hurried, she may only have to stand in the rain for—
“I will make the arrangements on Monday.”
Her head snapped around and she stared at his retreating back. “What?! That was a joke! You can’t just rearrange the entire floor!”
“You forget I am in charge. 7:30am in the lobby miko.” He had the gall to give her a backhanded wave as he walked away.