Inspiration: "Winter Dreams" by Kelly Clarkson
How had he been talked into this?
Sesshoumaru glowered as he walked around the main hall, pushing another sake bottle with his foot. It rattled against the floor, rolling away before disappearing under a table.
His mate's obsession with Christmas had somehow led to him hosting the event this year.
Various lanterns and strings of paper hung from the walls, a large evergreen standing in the middle of the room. At the request of his mate, two large tables had been set up so the myriad of guests could congregate while they ate.
It had led to a lot of noise.
He should've expected it, considering how the affair had been celebrated in years prior, especially with how his brother and the rest of his pack handled their alcohol. His mate had also been known to partake, though had abstained this year due to her role of hostess.
Instead, she'd encouraged her friends to make fools of themselves in the name of a celebration Sesshoumaru had yet to understand the origins of.
And he'd allowed it.
If not for the radiant smile on Kagome's face the entire night, Sesshoumaru would've sworn he'd gone soft. And perhaps he had, for he found himself helpless to any of the requests made by his mate. She didn't make them very often, but when she did, he could never find it in him to deny her.
A collection of nuts crunched under his boots, and he almost groaned aloud. The servants would not complain, they never did, but the hall would be out of commission for multiple days while the room was cleaned. Sesshoumaru paused by the row of baskets; his mate had insisted exchanging gifts become an annual tradition, the number of recipients increasing every year.
He suspected Kagome enjoyed the act of selecting gifts for others more than receiving them herself.
Pausing at his own basket, his brow puckered slightly. He'd assumed she'd been too busy with the festivities to hand out all her gifts, but now every basket was full, his mate having carefully placed a wrapped bundle in each woven container.
Each one save his.
Perhaps it was payback for the year she'd agreed to become his mate.
A decade had passed since he'd accepted Rin's invitation to Christmas in Edo; since he'd witnessed the miko—now his miko—wearing his symbol. It had not been long after she formally accepted his suit that she'd moved into the Western Stronghold. Her scent permeated every room, making even the hardest rock smell of jasmine and honey.
It was an enticing combination. Sesshoumaru himself had been susceptible to its charm, even in the beginning. Kagome's often chastised him for—
He froze in his tracks, his brow furrowing as he inhaled deeply. The last of the guests had slunk away to their quarters only minutes before, leaving the hall in disarray. His mate had insisted on walking each person to their room, playing hostess until the very end. She'd been mingling the whole night, barely leaving his side.
So why was her scent so stale?
Something tugged at the back of his mind. There had been too many people—too many odours—during the celebration to discern one from another, so Sesshoumaru hadn't noticed the lack of Kagome's scent.
But it had been missing since before then.
Sesshoumaru tried to remember the last time the sweet aroma of honeyed jasmine had wafted through the stronghold—and his senses. Coming up empty, his youki flared, seeking his mate.
The answering reiki calmed his disquiet, luring him towards their bed chambers. Kagome stood in the middle of the room, still clad in her lavender kimono, though her hair had been pulled out of its intricate knot.
The brilliance of her smile was almost blinding, her aura flickering around in excitement as she bounced on the balls of her feet.
It only made his frown deepen.
She held up a hand, and he stilled in the doorway. "I haven't given you your present yet."
A slender eyebrow raised. "You have stated that gifts are meant to be placed in the baskets before midnight."
"This one doesn't fit."
Golden eyes flitted around the room, trying to discern what she could have possibly chosen. His agitation only grew as her soft laughter followed his gaze.
He smelled the salt first, his body already moving to comfort his mate as her eyes filled with tears. The years hadn't changed everything—Kagome had always been an emotional creature—but the reason behind the sudden shift in her moods was unclear. Had he missed an insult aimed toward her at the celebration? No, she was more than capable of—
His feet froze in the middle of the room, shock coursing through his body before settling onto his face as her scent finally hit him.
Sesshoumaru inhaled deeply, muscles automatically relaxing as instincts were sated from the loss he'd only just become aware of.
But the shock remained.
He inhaled again, just to be sure, pupils dilating when his initial intuition was confirmed.
"How long?" His voice was strained, unrecognizable even to himself.
Kagome let out a choked laugh. "A month. I think? There's no easy way of measuring like in my time but—"
The words had barely been uttered before he swept his mate up into his arms, crushing her body against his as he peppered her face with kisses.
"You are sure?"
Her responding smile was immediate.
"Why do you think I've been hiding my scent from you? I didn't want to spoil the surprise."
"You are a devious mate."
Kagome grinned, and she tugged on his collar, pulling him down to brush her nose along the stripes on his cheek.
A chuckle rumbled in his chest. "You are not."
It was Kagome's turn to laugh. "No, not really. I wish cameras had already been invented. The look on your face was priceless!"
"I am glad I can be of some entertainment."
Her smile turned sultry. "Your 'entertainment' is how this happened in the first place."
"If your timeline is accurate, you were the instigator."
"And you a willing participant."
Fangs gleamed before they dragged across the mark on her neck, her grip on his collar tightening along with the rest of her body.
"Are you saying that you were not?"
"With you? Never."
"Good, as I plan on entertaining you thoroughly tonight."
His mate hummed softly, wrapping her arms around his neck before kissing the underside of his jaw.
Sesshoumaru claimed her lips as he carried her to their bed, intent on ravishing her until dawn broke over the horizon.
But it was not to be.
After he'd stripped her, his hands settled on her stomach, and he'd become thoroughly distracted. Fingers splayed wide against her skin, youki curling around his claws as something small and foreign responded.
He jerked in response, pupils dilating before he lay down next to her, pulling her close. Kagome's fingers combed through his hair—she always seemed to know when he required comfort.
He had yet to best her in the act of gift-giving. It would take years to top this one.