Wednesday, May 28, 2014

P10: 003: The Favor

~~Chapter 3~~

~The Favor~

 

 

“Please, please, please, please, please, please, please—”

 

Mikio rolled his eyes and tried not to smile as his niece, Jillian Jamison clasped her hands and held them up in front of her chest. “I don’t know . . . Doesn’t his firm have a corporate attorney?”

 

Jillian wrinkled her nose and glanced at the milling crowd enjoying the wedding reception. “Sure they do, but he’s entirely lazy. Spends too much time getting paid for doing nothing, and now that they actually need him, he’s proving to be completely useless. I’m starting to wonder if he went to law school at all, really . . .” She sighed, pale blue eyes widening as her lips turned down in a pretty moue. “Gavin needs you, Mikio . . . You can’t let him get in trouble for something he didn’t do!”

 

Smiling wanly as Jillian rested her hand on his forearm, he shook his head. “Well, I’d have to ask Toga-oji-san if he minds if I took a leave of absence.”

 

Jillian finally relaxed, eyes sparkling as the million-dollar smile broke over her features. “You have no idea how much this means to me!” she gushed, throwing her arms around Mikio’s neck in her exuberance.

 

“Let me make sure it’s all right before you arrange that parade in my honor,” he warned.

 

“It’ll be fine,” she assured him, waving off his concern with a flutter of her hand. “Uncle Toga loves Gavvie! Everyone loves him; you know that!”

 

Mikio rolled his eyes, but grinned.   He doubted that Toga would have a problem with it, either, but he didn’t like to make promises before he checked into the possibilities. Maybe it was the lawyer ingrained in him. “Let me go talk to him,” he told her again.

 

Jillian pressed an extremely loud kiss on his cheek and grinned. “You can stay with us, if you want. We’ve got room to spare.”

 

“Actually,” Mikio said with a scowl, “if I stay to represent Jamison-san, then it’s probably a good idea if I don’t stay with you. Conflict of interest, you know. Anyway, I’m sure I can find a place of my own. Don’t worry about me.”

 

“You have no idea how happy you’ve made me,” Jillian went on with a giggle. “Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you . . . You get a thousand hero points for this!”

 

“You’re still keeping score?” he asked since she’d been keeping hero point score for years.

 

She nodded. “Of course I am, and right now, you’re absolutely my biggest hero—my Gavvie notwithstanding, naturally.”

 

He chuckled, stuffing his hands into his pockets as Jillian hurried away to find ‘her Gavvie’. Gazing over the assembled guests, Mikio shook his head. Evan hadn’t invited many of his rock star buddies since few of them knew who he really was, let alone what he really was, but he had invited a few: namely the head of his security team—a hulking buffalo-youkai with the unfortunate nickname of ‘Bone’—his manager, Michael Murphy along with his mate and daughter, and Bugs, a very flamboyant and very gay rabbit-youkai who had spent the better part of the reception literally sobbing over the idea that Zel Roka, a.k.a. Evan Zelig, was officially off the market. There were a couple others, milling in the crowd, but Mikio hadn’t been properly introduced to them, and, to be honest, he wasn’t entirely sure who they were.

 

It wouldn’t have been so conspicuous, Mikio figured, if Bone weren’t wearing a ragged t-shirt from Evan’s last tour that proclaimed, “I did V with Zel Roka” on the back along with skin-tight leather pants. Mike, at least, was dressed decently, but Bugs had opted to wear all black to ‘celebrate’ the occasion. Mikio winced. Bugs’ eyeliner and mascara were smudged all over his eyes, and the streaks on his cheeks were quite noticeable, and that the waif-like Bugs was currently standing right next to Sesshoumaru Inutaisho, the current Inu no Taisho? Mikio coughed and quickly hid his amusement as his uncle’s golden gaze lit on him. Nope, the irony in that was just not something that was lost on Mikio at all . . .

 

Looking away before he laughed outright at the decidedly irritated look on Sesshoumaru’s face, Mikio frowned when he spotted his great-nephew sitting alone under a tree nearby.

 

Mikio wandered over, tugging on his slacks as he knelt before the three year-old child. The boy tugged on the tie he had obviously been forced to wear. “Something wrong, Bailey?”

 

“Mama said weddings are fun,” he grumbled, nose wrinkling in obvious distaste.

 

“Sydnie-san said that?”

 

He nodded, his dejection growing by leaps and bounds in an instant. “And they’re not. They’re boring, and Daddy won’t let me climb my tree.”

 

Mikio grinned, still amused at the idea of Bas being a father. “No, I don’t suppose he would.”

 

“Then he took away the bokuto Jii-chan gave me,” Bailey grumbled.

 

“Your father did?”

 

Bailey’s frown darkened, and Mikio blinked in surprise. Sometimes it amazed him, just how much Bailey looked like his father. Maybe it was the scowl . . . “He said I would hit people. I don’t hit people, honest! Not even Livvy, even when I wanna!”

 

“I don’t imagine you would,” Mikio agreed. He sighed and slowly stood up. “Come on, Bailey.”

 

“Can you get my bokuto back from Daddy?” he asked hopefully, scrambling to his feet as his eyes grew wide.

 

“No . . . just thought maybe you’d like some cake—that is, if Cain-onii-san will let anyone touch it.”

 

There actually was a chance he would. Gin had enlisted the help of all the women other than the bride-to-be and Madison, since she was busy helping Valerie with last minute things, and Nezumi, who couldn’t cook a single thing unless it came in a box and was stuck straight into the microwave oven, but Ryomaru had stepped in to help in her place, and together they had baked the groom’s cake. Rumor had it that Cain had helped Gin decorate it, and Mikio had to admit that he wouldn’t have known the cake was homemade if he hadn’t been shooed out of the kitchen when he’d gone in there to get a bottle of water while the assembled cooks were working.

 

Bailey sighed, too, but slipped his hand into Mikio’s, following him through the crowd as they made their way to the refreshment table. Kagome hurried over and took the cake plates from Mikio with a bright smile. “Let me carry those for you,” she said.

 

Mikio clenched his jaw, but didn’t argue as Kagome led the way to a nearby table. “Do you want something to drink, Bailey?”

 

Bailey nodded. “Yes, ma’am.”

 

Her eyes rose to meet Mikio’s. “No, thank you,” he replied, brushing aside the rising irritation that never seemed too far away lately, especially when Kagome started mothering him in such a way.

 

Kagome nodded and tweaked Bailey’s nose before hurrying away to get the boy something to drink. “Where do babies come from?” Bailey suddenly asked, turning his questioning gaze on Mikio, who, unfortunately, had just taken a bite of cake.

 

Sucking in his breath and choking on a few crumbs, Mikio coughed harshly and swallowed. “B-B-Babies?”

 

Bailey nodded. “Daddy says Mama wants anudder baby ’cause I’m a big boy and ’cause Olivia is stinky.”

 

“Sh-Shouldn’t you . . . ask your . . . daddy?” Mikio wheezed out, clearing his throat and struggling to breathe between rounds of coughing.

 

He shook his head. “Daddy says that babies come from Mama, but that don’t make sense.”

 

“Why’s that?”

 

Bailey shot him a condescending glance. “‘Cause Mama’s a girl!

 

“That’s true,” he agreed slowly, trying to think of a way to distract the child. “But she’s your mama, and you’re a boy . . .”

 

“Daddy makes the boys, and Mama makes the girls.”

 

“Who told you that?”

 

Bailey shrugged as though it were the simplest thing in the world. “I figured it out myself!” he announced proudly. “I came from Daddy, and Olivia came from Mama—I remember.”

 

Mikio cleared his throat and gratefully accepted the bottle of water Kagome offered him. She poked a straw into the apple juice pouch she’d brought for Bailey and handed it over. “Are you all right, Mikio?” she asked when he coughed once more.

 

“Just fine,” he assured her, pushing the plate away lest Bailey should spout any more of his little pearls of wisdom.

 

“And Grandpa Cain says the world will end if Uncle Evan makes babies ’cause they’ll wear his jeans,” Bailey went on.

 

Kagome coughed, too, and hid a smile behind her hand. “Oh?”

 

Bailey nodded. “He says Uncle Evan and Aunt Valerie should . . .” he trailed off, face scrunching up as he concentrated on the word he wanted, “. . . adapt.”

 

“Adapt?” Kagome echoed with a frown.

 

Adopt,” Mikio supplied, a smile twitching the corners of his lips.

 

“I see . . .” Kagome murmured, a small smile surfacing as she stared at Mikio for a moment. “Come on, Bailey. Let’s go see what Jii-chan is doing, shall we?”

 

Bailey stuffed the last of his cake into his mouth and hopped off the chair, grabbing Kagome’s hand and literally dragging her away. Mikio watched them go, unable to repress the relieved sigh that slipped from him.

 

Maybe staying in the States for awhile would be a good thing for him. The time away from his parents’ scrutiny couldn’t be all bad, could it? True enough, InuYasha never gave him grief, but his brand of concern was just as stifling as Kagome’s, even if it was in an entirely different kind of way. Where Kagome would hover over him all the time, Mikio couldn’t help but feel that InuYasha was somehow disappointed in him; as though he thought that Mikio’s shortcomings were his fault. Morio told him regularly that he was imagining things. InuYasha had never been disappointed in Mikio, and while he couldn’t say that InuYasha had ever really acted as though he were, Mikio also knew how much stock his father put into physical strength and the ability to fight to protect those he loved. Because of his balance problems, Mikio had never, ever been taught to fight. The closest thing to actual training he’d had was learning how to shoot a bow and arrow, courtesy of his mother, because he could do that while standing still, and later, he’d learned how to shoot guns at his father’s insistence.

 

There ain’t anyone alive—man or youkai—who can outrun a bullet,” InuYasha informed him when he’d set the metal case containing a small pistol on the table in front of Mikio.

 

Mikio blinked, leaning back in his chair as he stared. InuYasha unlocked the box and carefully pushed the lid back. Mikio shook his head. “Papa . . .”

 

You’ll learn how to fire that,” InuYasha insisted.

 

Mikio sighed. “I thought you said that guns were dishonorable.”

 

Keh! Dishonorable would be if I let you grow up without having some way of defending yourself.”

 

Mikio had wanted to argue with InuYasha, but the stubborn set of his father’s jaw dissuaded him. “A-A-All right,” he agreed reluctantly. “I will.”

 

And he did. The head of Inutaisho Industries’ security team had trained him, and while Mikio might not be a gunslinger, he was quite accurate. Though his mentor, Yasuaki-sensei was youkai, Mikio had never been able to shake off the feeling that he wasn’t quite as good as his brothers or even Gin, really. They’d all been trained to fight, and despite his father’s insistence that it was just a means to an end, he found the training to be quite embarrassing. He’d heard it said more than once—never by his family once he had started his training: there was no honor in shooting someone, no matter what the provocation. Add to that the weight of being the son of the hanyou of legend, and, well, Mikio couldn’t help but feel as though he were a huge disappointment. He’d tried not to let it bother him, and strangely, he wasn’t teased by his nephews or Gunnar for it.

 

“Penny for your thoughts?”

 

Mikio sat up straight and glanced around slowly, stumbling to his feet when he finally saw Madison standing behind him. She smiled, brushing off the ankle-length skirt of the pale lilac dress. “C-Cartham-san . . . Hello.”

 

She waved off his greeting with a flick of her wrist. “Just Madison or Maddy’s fine,” she assured him. “What should I call you?”

 

For some reason, her question triggered a blush. “Oh, uh . . . M-Mikio’s fine—Just Mikio . . .”

 

She seemed pleased by his answer, and her smile brightened a few more degrees, putting it on par with the afternoon sunshine in Mikio’s estimation . . . “You looked like you were thinking about something pretty serious,” she commented. “Is something wrong?”

 

“Nope,” he replied, brushing away the memory as he offered her a shy little grin. “Just . . . having some cake. Do you want some? I could get it for you . . .”

 

“No, thank you,” she said with a small smile.

 

“You’re sure? Don’t you like cake? I . . . I like cake . . . or, uh, maybe I could get you something to drink? I’m drinking water . . .”

 

Goo-o-ood . . . I sound like a damned baka . . . stupid, stupid, stupid!’

 

She shook her head and slipped into the chair Bailey had vacated. “That’s all right,” she replied. “I thought I’d make the rounds, you know?”

 

“The rounds?”

 

She wrinkled her nose, violet eyes glowing in the light reflecting off the white satin tablecloth. “Well, since Valerie hasn’t left Evan’s side since the wedding, someone has to greet the guests, don’t you think?”

 

Mikio shook his head. “But—”

 

Her laughter was soft, gentle, and he blinked at the surge of warmth that shot through him. “I’m teasing,” she told him, her gaze flittering away as she spotted the couple in question. “They look happy, all things considered.”

 

“Oh?”

 

Madison waved a hand. “Valerie wasn’t very happy when Evan decided to lop off his hair before the wedding.”

 

Mikio nodded, scowling thoughtfully as he glanced from the couple to another pair close by. Bas and Cain stood off to the side, both looking somewhat disgruntled. Closely resembling freshly shorn sheep, Mikio didn’t have to be brilliant to know that the obvious irritation was very likely due to the fact that neither man had chosen to have his hair cut off before the wedding, either. “Evan’s always liked to be different,” Mikio mused quietly, “but why did Cain and Bas cut their hair?”

 

Madison giggled. “Apparently Gin found out about their conversation with Valerie, and she decided that if Evan was going to cut his hair for the wedding, they could, too: a show of solidarity or something . . .”

 

Mikio grimaced. He’d heard about ‘The Talk’ earlier. Cain and Bas had sat Valerie down and told her about many of Evan’s more colorful escapades to warn her about what she was getting into in agreeing to marry Evan. Evan hadn’t reacted well to the idea that his father and brother —all the men in the family, actually—were trying to meddle, but Mikio had to wonder if the entire affair hadn’t been a more calculated effort to relive some of Evan’s more interesting moments without having to admit out loud that they were amused and even a little proud of Evan’s outrageous antics. “Well, I’d heard about that,” he admitted. He hadn’t sat in on the impromptu-conference, though. No, he’d spent his time, lying in bed and blinking into the darkness, trying to put the image of Madison, bathed in moonlight, out of his mind . . .

 

Madison’s lips twitched, and Mikio could tell she was trying not to laugh outright. “Gin’s word was ‘bald’, but I just couldn’t bring myself to shave the tai-youkai’s head . . .”

 

“It just looks . . . strange,” Mikio allowed.

 

“Hmm, yes . . . and vastly disturbing.”

 

“It’ll grow back.”

 

“That’s true, but before the wedding, Valerie insisted that she didn’t want any pictures of Evan without his hair.”

 

Mikio grinned. “No wedding pictures?”

 

“He does look really, really different, doesn’t he? Almost . . . respectable.”

 

Mikio chuckled. “Almost.”

 

Madison laughed, too. “Can you dance?”

 

Mikio’s amusement died away, and he cleared his throat, fighting down the urge to blush. “Dance? Me? I, uh . . . no . . .”

 

“Oh . . .” she said then gave a quick shrug. “It’s a slow song, though, really not much more than swaying.”

 

“I don’t want to . . . crush your toes or anything.”

 

She smiled. “That’s okay.”

 

“Sorry.”

 

“Don’t be.”

 

Stifling the urge to sigh, Mikio scowled at the table and slowly shook his head.

 

Wonderful, Mikio . . . You’re losing points, you know . . . You’re about to end up in the red if you’re not careful, and then where will we be?

 

Better than tripping all over my own feet,’ he thought with a grimace, ‘or falling flat on my face . . .’

 

Kami, she’s beautiful,’ his youkai pointed out with a dreamy little sigh.

 

Yeah, she is,’ he agreed unhappily. ‘Gorgeous, actually . . . and way out of my league.’

 

She doesn’t seem to think you are, or haven’t you noticed that yet?

 

She hasn’t seen me lose my balance or anything stupid,’ he shot back, ‘and I’d rather that she doesn’t, either.’

 

“Hey, Maddy. Come dance with the Bone.”

 

Maddy giggled as she peered up into the leader of Evan’s security team’s smiling face. “What’s that? Slumming, are you?”

 

Bone snorted, rubbing his bald head and shifting his weight from one leg to the other in a lazy, yet calculated stance—one that Mikio couldn’t even hope to accomplish. “Hardly. You’re the classiest chick I’ve tried to pick up today.”

 

“Meaning you haven’t tried to pick up anyone else, right?”

 

Bone chuckled. “Something like that. How about it? Want to dance with the ol’ Bone?”

 

She started to stand up.   Mikio stood up, too. Reacting on impulse, the only cognizant thought in his head was that he didn’t want to see Madison dancing with anyone else, especially someone nicknamed for a state of constant sexual arousal . . . “I-I was going to dance with her,” he blurted.

 

Bone blinked and stepped back, holding up his hands in a good-natured show of deference. “No worries, man. I didn’t realize you’d already asked her.”

 

Madison didn’t gainsay Mikio. He avoided her gaze as he slipped his hand under her elbow and led the way to the center of the lawn that had been fitted with a portable wooden platform for the wedding reception. She stepped into his arms, one hand resting on his shoulder as he grasped her free hand, mimicking the stance he’d seen in movies before. Madison smiled up at him, and he could feel heat infusing his cheeks. “So you do dance,” she murmured quietly.

 

“Not really,” he admitted.

 

“You’re doing well enough,” she said.

 

He grimaced. “I doubt it, but thank you.”

 

She sighed contentedly and shot him a little smile.

 

He stiffened as she moved in closer. If she noticed, she didn’t react. Relaxing just the tiniest bit, he grinned self-consciously and inhaled the lightly floral scent of Madison’s shampoo. The baser scent of her was a little spicier, reminding Mikio of the little custom tea shop that he frequented back home in Tokyo. The array of exotic blends always lent a certain sense of mystery, at least in his mind. ‘Cinnamon and cloves . . . and a hint of something a little wilder . . .’

 

“Are those two as happy as they always seem to be?”

 

Snapping out of his reverie, Mikio blinked and slowly followed the direction of Madison’s gaze. Staring at his nephew, Morio and his mate Meara, Madison’s smile turned a little wistful as Morio held Meara close and leaned down to whisper something in her ear. Meara blushed prettily but smiled at her mate, and the affection in Morio’s expression was apparent to anyone who was looking.

 

“I think so,” Mikio mumbled. “As far as I know, they’ve never even had an argument.”

 

She shot him an amused glance. “The perfect couple?”

 

“Something like that.”

 

“Didn’t you guys grow up together?”

 

“For the most part. Morio and I were a little closer, I guess, but yeah . . .”

 

“Sort of like Bas and Gunnar, you mean?”

 

Mikio shrugged. “I suppose.”

 

“And Evan? Were you close to him?”

 

“Sort of.” He grinned. “Evan used to run off and hide at Kichiro-nii-san’s house instead of training whenever he came to Japan . . . Nii-san taught him how to play the piano. I mean, he learned what he needed to learn from my father, but he never was a fighter like Bas always was.”

 

Madison laughed. “And you? You’re not a fighter, are you?”

 

Mikio’s smile faded, and he sighed. “Not really, no . . .”

 

“Mikio?”

 

“Y-Yes?”

 

“I think that’s okay.”

 

He swallowed hard as Madison rested her temple against his shoulder. “Y-You . . . do?”

 

“Yes, I do.”

 

 

<<< 002: Charity Case

 

~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~

A/N:

Bokuto: Wooden practice sword. Go figure… lol.

== == == == == == == == == ==

Final Thought from Madison:

Not a fighter, huh?

==========

Blanket disclaimer for this fanfic (will apply to this and all other chapters in Anomaly): I do not claim any rights to InuYasha or the characters associated with the anime/manga. Those rights belong to Rumiko Takahashi, et al. I do offer my thanks to her for creating such vivid characters for me to terrorize.

~Sue~

posted by Sueric at 1:31 pm  

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

P9: 224: Thwarted

~~Chapter Two Hundred Twenty-Four~~

~Thwarted~

-OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO-

Honey, you’re my lucky day

Baby, you’re my lucky day

Well, I lost all the other bets I made

Honey, you’re my lucky day…’

-’My Lucky Day’ by Bruce Springsteen.

-Evan-

 

 

Evan stalked around the room with a scowl on his face as Valerie’s words ran through his head for the thousandth time since he’d been so unceremoniously dragged away from her a little while ago.

 

Besides, I know you’re a very sensitive, very sweet man deep down, even if your family tried their hardest to convince me otherwise last night.”

 

‘What the hell?‘ he fumed, stomping over to the window and shoving it wide open. Not even the sudden soft breeze was enough to dispel the irritation that clung to him in thick waves. Just what the hell were they trying to do? Sabotage his wedding as some kind of warped repayment for his negative behavior over the years? And why the hell didn’t it really surprise him, either . . .?

 

No, maybe he ought to have realized that they’d do something like this. After he’d talked to Cain, after he had made peace with the things he hadn’t understood, he’d thought that maybe . . . but no, he was wrong. What other reason would they possibly have for doing such a thing, and to make it even worse, Bas had admitted that it wasn’t just him and Cain, oh no. All of them—all of them—had been in on it, too? His so-called family—the ones who were supposed to love him, no matter what, and in the end . . .

 

And, of course, Bas just hadn’t gotten it, had he? Nope, Bas had just laughed like it was all just one big fucking joke. Didn’t realize or just didn’t care how irritated Evan truly was over the entire thing. It was clear to Evan, what they were trying to do. They were trying to convince Valerie that she really didn’t want to marry Evan, weren’t they?

 

All right, so he’d be the first to admit that maybe he’d gotten into a hell of a lot more than his fair share of trouble over the years, and yeah, he’d allow that he was much farther from being a saint than anyone. Still . . .

 

Here he was, hours from his own wedding—a wedding he hadn’t truly believed would really happen until he’d gotten up this morning—and all he could think about was his own family was trying to sabotage it all. Bad enough that he’d been too worried to credit as he’d watched from an upstairs window as Valerie had approached that damned Murvis. He’d secretly hoped that the little prick would have enough grace not to accept the wedding invitation Evan had sent, but no, of course not, and while common sense had told Evan that there was just no way that Valerie would change her mind and run right back to the little douche bag, common sense held very little sway in his mind, today of all days.

 

And he knew that was stupid, that Valerie had obviously made her choice. Still, somewhere in the back of his mind, Evan couldn’t help but worry, and maybe that was natural, too. After all, she had almost married him, hadn’t she? It occurred to him in a rather vague kind of way that his insecurity about Valerie’s ex was entirely ridiculous, all things considered. Too bad he wasn’t sure he could help it, either.

 

The last thing he’d wanted to do was to send that peckerhead an invitation to their wedding, and yet, he knew, didn’t he, because he knew Valerie, that there was still a small part of her that had hated the way things had played out. Because she was a decent person, because she really did care for Merriwinkle, as much as Evan despised that, he hadn’t had a choice, not really. He’d done it for her, and all the while, he had prayed that the scientist would just have the decency not to come.

 

So maybe it was his already turbulent emotions that were spiraling out of control, but the more he considered the idea that his family had reveled in laying out Evan’s entire life of bad choices, the angrier he grew, and the angrier he grew, the more he considered it all—a vicious circle, maybe, but one that he was helpless to circumvent.

 

“Nervous?”

 

Evan swung around as Madison let herself into the room. Smiling gently as she wandered toward him, she was the epitome of calm, and, while Evan could usually draw off that sense of tranquility, at the moment, he simply could not. “Hardly,” he grumbled, pivoting to glare out the window once more. “Damn . . .”

 

“What’s the matter?” she asked, crossing the floor in a whisper of movement. She hadn’t changed into her maid of honor dress, but that wasn’t entirely surprising. She was probably in between tasks of arranging the women’s hair for the big event to come.

 

“Dunno what you mean,” he muttered.

 

He didn’t have to see her face to know that she’d probably just rolled her eyes. “I mean, you don’t seem like a guy who’s about to marry the woman of his wet dreams. So, what’s up?”

 

Evan snorted indelicately. “Were you in on it, too?”

 

“In on what?”

 

Flicking a hand in a blatantly dismissive gesture, Evan didn’t entirely trust himself to give voice to his grievance.

 

Madison sighed and stepped up beside him, and he could feel her questioning gaze, even if he didn’t bother to look directly at her. “I don’t think I was in on anything in particular,” Madison said, carefully measuring her words. “What happened?”

 

Evan grunted, gave a curt shrug. “Guess the powers-that-be decided to sit V down and tell her every bad thing I’ve ever done,” he replied. “Trying to talk her out of marrying me or something.”

 

Snapping her mouth closed, Madison slowly shook her head. “No . . . That can’t be. What in the world would be the point in that? Don’t you think—?”

 

“No, actually, that’s exactly what I do think,” he cut in quietly, his words no less stinging because of the soft timbre of his tone. “Damn it! How fucking low is that, anyway?” he fumed, breaking into a prowling gait as he stomped away, only to return again. “I guess I should have known, right? Always the screw-up, no matter what, right? Bullshit!

 

“Oh, Evan, I’m sure that’s not what they were trying to do,” Madison insisted gently. “Don’t let this ruin your big day, okay? You and Valerie are meant to be, and nothing anyone ever says is going to change that.”

 

Evan snorted again.

 

Madison sighed. “You’re listening to me, aren’t you? Because I make it a point never to sound like a Hallmark channel movie of the week if I can possibly help it.”

 

“Oh, Madison! There you are!” Kagome interrupted as she leaned in around the door. “Sorry to interrupt, but Kaci Lea’s ready for her hair.”

 

Madison nodded, but cast Evan a questioning look before moving. “Are you going to be all right?”

 

Forcing a smile that he was far from feeling, Evan shrugged noncommittally. “Yep. Better go. Sounds like they need you.”

 

She didn’t look convinced, but she shot him a little smile and hurriedly kissed his cheek. “I’ll be back to check on you, but don’t you think you should start getting ready, too?”

 

“Get on out of here,” he replied, jerking his head toward the door. Madison heaved a sigh, but she finally left, pausing just outside the door, she shot Evan an encouraging smile before hurrying away.

 

“How are you holding up?” Kagome asked, quietly closing the door behind her.

 

“Me? You kidding? I play sold out stadiums for a living, remember?” He snorted, hoping that Kagome couldn’t see through his bravado. “This ain’t nothing,” he scoffed.

 

Kagome laughed as she strode over to the opened garment bag hanging on the rack nearby and carefully pulled the pristine white shirt off the padded hanger. “It seems like only yesterday that you were that little, tiny baby that was just happy to be held and cuddled,” she ventured.

 

Tugging off the tee-shirt he’d dragged on this morning, Evan dropped it on the floor and held out his hand. “That was a long time ago, baa-chan,” he pointed out with a wry grin.

 

Kagome held out the shirt and adjusted it over his shoulders before stepping around him to fuss with it more, straightening it perfectly. “Not so very long ago; not to me,” she went on, her fingers deftly working the buttons, her eyes trained carefully on what she was doing. Her eyes were bright, and he could smell the hint of tears that she stubbornly held in check despite the gentle smile on her lips.

 

“You’re not really going to cry, are you?” he teased, lifting an eyebrow to emphasize the question.

 

She sniffled then laughed. “I can’t help it,” she replied. “I always cry at weddings.” Taking a step back to examine her work, her smile widened as the smell of tears spiked though they did not fall. “I just wanted a moment to tell you how beautiful Valerie is, and I think you and she make a wonderful couple, Evan.”

 

“Thanks,” he muttered, drawing her into a hug before she could discern the irritation he couldn’t quite shake.

 

“I’d better go get changed, too,” she said, giving him a reassuring squeeze. “Besides, InuYasha is probably about to start hollering, anyway. He’s been to enough weddings, so you’d think that he’d remember how to tie his own tie, wouldn’t you?”

 

The smile that Evan managed was a little closer to normal as Kagome hurried out of the room again. Given that InuYasha wasn’t a big fan of tuxedos in general, Evan figured that Kagome was quite right in her estimation.

 

Letting out a deep breath, Evan shook his head. A thousand memories ran through his head as he strode over to change his pants. Okay, sure, he would admit that the family likely did have more than enough stories to keep themselves busy for a good, long while in discussing everything bad that Evan had ever done, but . . . It still burned him that they’d done such a thing. Telling Valerie all those stories? Just what the hell had they been trying to accomplish, anyway?

 

“Everything going okay?” Cain asked as he stepped into the room. Already dressed and ready to go, he stuffed a hand deep into his pocket.

 

Evan shot him a glance as he tucked in the shirt. “Never better, Cain,” he replied tightly, unable to keep the snide edge out of his tone.

 

“Are you sure?” Cain pressed, a concerned frown surfacing on his features.

 

“Sure. Why wouldn’t it be?” Evan countered. “You finished trying to sabotage my wedding, or did you think of a few more things you could tell V to convince her not to marry me?”

 

Cain blinked in surprise and slowly shook his head. “What? What do you mean?”

 

Evan snorted, yanking the tie off the hanger and jerking it over his head. “Come off it! V told me all about it. Bubby and you just had to do it, right? Make me out to be such an ass that, sure, who in their right fucking mind would marry me? Thanks, Dad. Thanks a lot.”

 

The surprise in Cain’s expression slowly faded, only to be replaced by a distinctly uncomfortable shifting in his youki. “That really wasn’t what—” he began, only to be cut off by Evan’s loud snort.

 

“Save it,” he growled, grimacing when the tie in his hands ripped. He hadn’t realized that he was yanking on it so hard, and with a heavy sigh full of self-disgust, he threw the pieces onto the floor. “Goddamn, you know, just because you and Bubby are so fucking perfect doesn’t give you the right to try to ruin things for me.”

 

Reaching up, tugging at his own bowtie, Cain carefully pulled it loose and held it out to Evan. “That’s not what we were trying to do, Evan, and I’m sorry if you thought we were,” he said as Evan eyed the tie for a moment before snatching it away from his father.

 

“Yeah, well, don’t fucking worry about it. The last thing I’ll do is embarrass you two in front of everyone,” Evan snapped back.

 

Cain frowned. “Evan, you’ve never—”

 

“Forget it,” Evan snarled. “Just go the hell away . . . I promise I’ll be as respectable as you and Bubby today.”

 

Cain sighed. “You’re always respectable,” he said. Then he turned to go. “You and Valerie . . . I hope that you’re as happy together as your mother and I are.”

 

Evan watched in the mirror hanging over the dresser as his father left the room. Gaze shifting to his own reflection, he ground his teeth together, fought for a semblance of control over the emotions that threatened to overwhelm him, to no avail. The anger, the bitterness, frothed and roiled even hotter. “Respectable,” he growled, opening and closing his fists around nothing. “Respectable . . .?”

 

Without a second thought, he grabbed a pair of scissors that were lying on the dresser, and, grasping his hair in the other hand, he lopped the length of it off in one deft snip.

 

 

-Gin-

 

 

“Here you go.”

 

Giving Gin a quick smile, Valerie gratefully accepted the delicate mug of tea, careful not to pull too far as Madison meticulously arranged the pile of curls atop her head.

 

“You look so beautiful,” Gin said, blinking rapidly as a haze of tears washed into her vision. She wasn’t sure why it was that weddings always made her cry. Maybe it was just the memories of her own special day years ago. Cain, she was sure, would tease her about her sentimentality. She simply couldn’t help it, though. There were so many thoughts, running through her mind, and maybe that was natural, too. Visions of Evan through the years: bringing her flowers that he’d picked just for her . . . coming to her with tears in his eyes after Bas had taken off with his friend, leaving Evan behind . . . telling her about his exploits—sneaking out to see local bands in the clubs that he was too young to frequent—telling her stories that he probably shouldn’t have told her, and she hadn’t had the heart to curb her wild-child . . . Those bittersweet moments that were frozen forever in her mind, those years that seemed like mere moments when Gin was the one who Evan loved best . . . Growing up, building a life for himself, becoming a man who could stand on his own . . . All those things were things that Gin cherished, even if the smallest part of her still missed that baby she’d carried over the threshold so many years ago. It was right that he would find someone who would take Gin’s place as the center of Evan’s world, but, staring at the bride as she nervously bit her lip, Gin figured that it was all right, too. Not just any woman would do: not for her boy. She’d felt the same way, back when Bas had gotten married, too. Neither Sydnie nor Valerie was ‘just any woman’, after all . . . Her sons’ mates . . . They’d chosen well.

 

Gazing at Valerie, Gin couldn’t help but smile. She really was just gorgeous—not that she expected any less for her boys, of course. Bas’ wife, Sydnie, and now Valerie? Both of them had that inner sparkle—the kind of light that shone from the inside out—beautiful spirits that created that incandescence . . .

 

“As long as Evan agrees,” Valerie ventured with a wry little smile as she turned her head from side to side, examining Madison’s handiwork with a critical eye.

 

“Agrees?” Rhonda echoed with a quiet laugh and a shake of her head. “That man is absolutely crazy about you. I don’t think it much matters, what you wear today as long as you meet him at two o’clock.”

 

“Thanks, Mom.” Valerie shot her mother a decidedly nervous little smile, then shifted to face Madison once more. “Maddy, do you think you could go check in with Evan?” she asked. “He’s probably driving whoever’s with him crazy, don’t you think?”

 

Madison laughed and gathered her bag. “Sure,” she said. “I might as well check in on the guys, anyway. Make sure they’re all up to snuff.”

 

Kaci Lea stepped quickly into the room, her eyes bright, glowing, as she smiled a little shyly. “Did you have a nice look around, Kaci?” Rhonda asked, raising an eyebrow as she fussed with Valerie’s bouquet.

 

The girl laughed, her eyes brightening even more as a slight blush rose to her cheeks. “Y-Yeah,” she admitted, ducking her head before giving a tiny shrug. “I was talking to Evan’s cousin, Mikio.”

 

“Oh? What about?”

 

“Just stuff . . . He told me about Japanese schools. It’s a lot different from here,” Kaci Lea remarked almost absently as she straightened her dress.

 

“Mikio . . . Mikio . . .” Rhonda repeated, obviously trying to place the name with the face. It wasn’t surprising, given that so many guests had arrived within the last few days.

 

“He’s my brother,” Gin supplied, idly rubbing her distended belly.

 

“Oh!” Rhonda exclaimed, the confusion on her face disintegrating fast. “Oh, he’s just a cutie!”

 

Kagome laughed as she stepped out of the bathroom, casually messing with one diamond earring. “He’s always been a lot sweeter than his older brothers,” she allowed.

 

“That’s putting it mildly, Mama,” Gin remarked, wrinkling her nose since she knew quite well, just how rotten her twin brothers really could be.

 

“You know Kaci Lea-chan, you could always come stay with us for a year, like a student exchange,” Kagome offered.

 

Kaci Lea looked completely taken aback by Kagome’s offer. “Oh, I . . . I mean, thank you, but . . .”

 

Kagome laughed and reached over to give Kaci Lea’s arm a reassuring squeeze. “Just think about it. The offer stands. If you change your mind, just let Evan know, and we’ll work something out.”

 

Kaci Lea didn’t look like she knew just what to think of it, but she nodded slowly.

 

“Wench! Where the hell did you put my shoes?” InuYasha hollered from the closed side of the door.

 

Rolling her eyes, Kagome giggled and hurried across the room.

 

Wench!

 

“I’m coming, InuYasha!” she called back as she reached for the doorknob. “Excuse me, ladies.”

 

Gin caught Valerie’s sidelong gaze, and they both broke out in laughter. “Some things never change,” Gin mused.

 

Valerie stood up slowly, staring at her reflection in the antique mirror nearby.

 

“My son made an excellent choice,” Gin mused, stepping over to straighten the veil. It wasn’t quite time to put it on, but it would be soon enough. “I can’t imagine anyone who would be more perfect for him than you are, Valerie, and I’m so happy that you’re about to be a part of our family!”

 

Blinking at Gin’s softly uttered statement, Valerie blushed as her smile widened. “Thank you,” she replied, her eyes brightening even more.

 

Gin opened her mouth to reply, but snapped it closed when Madison burst into the room with the oddest expression on her face. She looked like she had something to say, and maybe she didn’t really want to say it, at all, but her gaze flickered to Valerie, and she grimaced. “Uh, V,” she began in a halting tone, like she were attempting to soften whatever she was trying to get out, “umm . . .”

 

Valerie’s eyes flared wide as her smile faded. Turning to face Madison, she shook her head. “What? What’s going on?” she demanded. “Is everything all right?”

 

“Well, that’s kind of subjective, really . . .” Madison winced again, twisting her hands together in a decidedly nervous kind of way. “I-It’s Evan,” she hedged, still trying to decide the best way to break whatever it was to the bride. “He got a little . . . Well, he lost his temper, and . . .”

 

“Maddy . . .” Valerie began in a warning tone.

 

Heaving a sigh, Madison shook her head. “He kind of . . . cut off his . . . hair . . .”

 

Valerie stood stock still, unblinking as she stared at Madison, trying to make up her mind whether or not she believed her. “. . . What . . .?”

 

Biting her lip, Madison gave a helpless little shrug. “He thought that Cain and Bas were trying to sabotage the wedding,” she explained quickly. “That whole thing last night, right? Anyway, I guess he got into it with Cain, and so Evan thought he’d be more respectable if he . . . cut . . . his . . . ha-a-air . . .”

 

What?” Valerie hissed, grabbing her skirts as she stomped toward the door.

 

Rhonda caught her arm and held her back. “Val, now you have to finish getting ready,” she reminded her calmly. “He’s okay . . .” Her gaze shifted to Madison. “. . . Isn’t he?”

 

Madison shot Valerie a tentative smile. “I fixed it,” she assured her. “He looks very nice; I promise.”

 

Valerie stared at Madison for several moments before letting her dress drop as she helplessly sank down on the stool once more. “Oh, my God,” she half-groaned. “But I love his hair the way it normally is!”

 

Gin shook her head, unsure as to what, exactly, Cain and Bas had apparently done. “What did those two do?” she asked, slowly, almost hesitantly.   Then again, she, along with most of the women, had been kept quite busy in the kitchen, starting on things for the huge buffet they’d had this morning, so whatever they were discussing must’ve happened then . . .

 

Valerie sighed, rubbing her forehead in a completely exasperated kind of way. Gin could sense her very real upset, and she couldn’t stop the flattening of her ears, either. After all, a woman’s wedding day should be as perfect as it could possibly be, and getting news like this less than two hours before walking down the aisle? She winced.

 

“Last night, Cain and Bas—well, not just them, but they started it—sat me down and told me all these stories about Evan,” Valerie admitted. “But I don’t understand. I mean, they seemed to be more amused by it all than anything. I got the impression that they were just looking for a reason to relive those things . . .” She frowned and slowly shook her head. “In fact, they seemed almost . . . proud . . .”

 

Gin snapped her mouth closed and made a face. That might have been exactly what they were doing, she figured. After all, how often in the past had Cain broken into the vaguest smile over one of Evan’s antics or another, though always behind the closed door of their private room? To be honest, Gin didn’t doubt Valerie’s impression in the least, no, but still, did it matter if that’s not how Evan saw it? And the damage was already done, as far as Evan’s hair was concerned. There was nothing short of time that could rectify that, and nothing outside of a miracle that would fix it before two o’clock, either.

 

With a determined look on her face, Gin hurried over to the door as quickly as she could move—not exactly fast, really, given the extra weight she was carrying. Grasping Madison’s arm, she didn’t explain as she dragged her along behind.

 

“Gin? What—?”

 

Gin scowled, but didn’t falter as she headed out the door and down the hallway toward the stairs. “If my Evan cut all his hair off because of his father and brother, then it’s only fair, isn’t it?”

 

Madison blinked. “Fair?” she echoed, not quite grasping exactly what Gin was alluding do in her muttered statement.

 

With a very pronounced snort—an entirely odd sound coming from her—she gripped the banister in one hand and, keeping her hold on Madison’s arm with the other, she kept moving forward with a purpose.

 

Cain and Bas were both in the office, she could tell, and she didn’t stop until she stood in the doorway, pinning each man with a formidable glower that stopped them both, dead in their tracks, their voices dying away as they stared back at her. She didn’t miss the worried little glances they flicked at one another, and she wasn’t entirely surprised when her mate’s gaze lit up with the old traces of worry that always accompanied her pregnancies.

 

“Bald,” she stated flatly, pointing from Cain to Bas then back again.

 

Madison choked, her sharp inhalation fairly whistling in the unnatural silence. “B-B-Bald?”

 

Gin nodded just once, determination igniting behind her gaze. “That’s right,” she reiterated as she crossed her arms over her chest stubbornly, still refusing to back down from her current stance. Then she jerked her head at the men once more before she stated once more, her voice even, controlled—angry, “You heard me, Madison. Bald.”

 

 

 <<< 223: The Waiting Game

 225: One Summer Day >>>

~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~

A/N:

My Lucky Dayby Bruce Springsteen originally appeared on the 2009 release, Working on a Dream. Copyrighted to Bruce Springsteen.

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Final Thought from Madison:

Bald …?

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Blanket disclaimer for this fanfic (will apply to this and all other chapters in Subterfuge): I do not claim any rights to InuYasha or the characters associated with the anime/manga. Those rights belong to Rumiko Takahashi, et al. I do offer my thanks to her for creating such vivid characters for me to terrorize.

~Sue~

posted by Sueric at 4:08 pm  

Saturday, May 24, 2014

P9: 223: The Waiting Game

~~Chapter Two Hundred Twenty-Three~~

~The Waiting Game~

-OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO-

You are the only one

I’ve ever known

That makes me feel this way

Girl, you are my own …’

-’I’ll be Waiting‘ by Lenny Kravitz.

-Valerie-

 

 

Eyes flashing open as the crush of a very large body fell on her moments before the hand smashed down to cover her lips, Valerie uttered a strangled scream, even as the realization of who, exactly, was doing the crushing sank in.

 

“Shh!” Evan insisted, lifting his hand to give her a quick kiss her instead. “If they find me in here, I’ll catch seven kinds of hell.”

 

Laughing softly as she leaned up far enough to kiss him in kind, Valerie smiled. “Where’s my coffee, Roka?”

 

He chuckled and rolled to the side, extending his hand behind himself to retrieve the steaming mug of coffee he’d brought with him. “Do you have any idea how hard it is to climb up to your balcony without spilling a damn drop?” he complained, careful to keep his voice just above a whisper.

 

“Why didn’t you just use the door?”

 

He snorted. “Because Bubby’s guarding the stairway, that’s why. Talk about monumental cockblocks . . .”

 

Valerie laughed again. “You know,” she said, her voice muffled by the coffee mug, “it’s bad luck for you to see me before the wedding.”

 

Evan shot her a droll glance. “Are you telling me you believe those old wives’ tales?”

 

Handing him the empty mug before slipping her arms around him, she shook her head. “Not really,” she said. “So did you give in and stay with Gunnar all night?”

 

“That bastard did me dirty,” Evan confessed with a snort. “Caught me trying to sneak out around one, so he called Kurt over to lock me in with ofuda.”

 

“Ofuda?”

 

Evan made a face. “Yeah . . . paper charms that he uses to create barriers that youkai can’t pass through without taking some serious damage.”

 

“I didn’t know that was even possible.”

 

He shrugged. “Oh, it is. They use them in handcuffs and stuff so youkai can’t just break them. Anyway, damned if Drevin wasn’t grinning the whole time, too, little bastard . . .”

 

“Well,” she said, snuggling a little closer to him—or as close as the curlers she still wore in her hair would allow, “it doesn’t look like it hurt you or anything.” She sighed as a secretive little smile tugged on the corners of her lips. “So . . . what are the odds that you brought more coffee up here with you?”

 

Evan sighed, poking a claw at the curlers as a little smile quirked his lips. “Have a heart, V. It was hard enough to get away from everyone, to start with! Getting away with a full pot of Joe?” He shook his head. “I am many things, baby, but I am not a miracle worker.”

 

“It’s my wedding day, Roka,” she reminded him, closing her eyes for a long moment. “Thought you said this whole ‘mates’ thing meant that you’d do anything to make me happy?”

 

He laughed. “Well, I could venture down there,” he allowed. “Of course, there’s a good chance that they won’t let me bring back your coffee. I’m sure Mama would, though, come to think of it . . .”

 

“What time is it?”

 

Leaning up and craning his neck to glance at the clock that had gotten turned on the nightstand, Evan flopped back as he tightened his arms around Valerie. “Nine,” he told her, his voice muffled as he kissed the top of her head.

 

She heaved a long sigh. “Hmm, I guess I should get up, then,” she mused though she made no move to do so. “I imagine my parents are already down there?”

 

“Mmm,” Evan intoned, savoring the feel of her beside him, of the quiet and peaceful serenity that enveloped the room. “Mama laid out a huge breakfast buffet down there. They were all talking and stuff, and I swear to God, your father couldn’t keep his eyes off Mama . . . I think ol’ Jack has a thing for her . . .”

 

Valerie rolled her eyes but laughed. “As long as your father doesn’t take offense to it.”

 

“Cain’s completely oblivious,” he scoffed just before he leaned in to nuzzle her neck. “Anyway, what do you think? Got enough time for some lovin’ before they discover us?”

 

Closing her eyes for a moment, Valerie breathed out a long, wistful sigh as she turned her face to intercept Evan’s lips. Shifting his body, he couldn’t ignore the lick of fire that sparked to life at her easy acquiescence. The banked heat, the searing swell of emotion surged through him, uncontrollable and free. Her lips fluttered under his, accepting his passion as hers spiraled higher.

 

His fingers slid over the thin cotton of her tee-shirt, creating a teasing caress. Remind himself that he really didn’t have the time to press his luck, he uttered a soft little sigh against her lips as her arms snaked around his neck, her fingers sinking into his hair, her body rising up to meld against his.

 

The soft click of the door registered vaguely in his head, but it seemed to have come from so far away, almost more of an afterthought or a vague memory—at least, until someone cleared their throat in a completely grating and wholly obnoxious kind of way.

 

“Evan Roka Zelig! You’re not supposed to be in here!”

 

Pulling away from Valerie with a very longsuffering sigh, Evan managed a wan grin as he turned his head to meet his mother’s disapproving gaze. Standing just inside the doorway with a hand on her hip and a rather chagrined frown on her face, Gin shook her head and waved her free hand impatiently. “You get out of here!” she insisted. “You shouldn’t see the bride before the wedding!”

 

Rolling his eyes, Evan shot Valerie an entirely unapologetic look as he swung his legs off the bed. “What’d I tell you, V?” he teased. “Guess this is it until two o’clock.”

 

Valerie laughed and sat up on her elbow, tilting her face to meet him when he paused long enough to give her a quick kiss. “You’d better not try to run away,” she warned him.

 

Evan’s grin widened. “As if! Love you, V,” he called over his shoulder as he slipped past his mother and out of the door.

 

Gin watched him go with a slow shake of her head then finally turned to face Valerie once more. “You’ve got a visitor,” she said as she hurried across the floor to draw open the drapes that covered the sliding glass doors that led to the balcony. “I can’t believe it’s your wedding day! My baby boy’s getting married . . .”

 

“Who’s that?” Valerie asked about the mysterious visitor, pushing herself up and reaching for the robe lying over the end of the bed.

 

Gin giggled. “Oh! Sorry! It’s your friend, Marvin.”

 

Valerie froze as a thoughtful scowl surfaced. “Marvin?” she echoed. “Oh . . .”

 

Gin paused and looked at Valerie, her ebullience waning slowly. “If you’d rather not talk to him, I could tell him that you’re busy getting ready for the wedding,” she offered.

 

Blinking quickly, Valerie glanced at Gin and forced a wan smile as she stumbled out of bed and toward the closet where she’d stashed a couple changes of clothes. “It’s fine,” she assured her soon-to-be mother-in-law. “Where is he?”

 

“He said he’d rather wait outside,” Gin replied, stepping over to the bed to straighten the blankets. “Is everything all right?”

 

“What? Oh, yes,” she said, pulling a simple dress out of the closet.

 

It didn’t take her long to get dressed, and she didn’t bother with her hair or anything, considering Madison would have a fit if she took her hair out of the curlers before she was ready to fix it for the wedding. Still, Valerie’s stomach felt as though it was flopping over and over as she headed out of the room. She wasn’t entirely sure what Marvin wanted, but she couldn’t help the anxiety that loomed over her, either.

 

Why was he there? What could he possibly want to say to her?

 

Biting her lip as she hurried down the stair and toward the front door, she stifled a sigh.

 

The morning was fresh and beautiful, and Valerie shielded her eyes against the beams of sunlight, caught in the morning dew that coated the lush grass. Marvin stood near his rental car, his expression inscrutable, hands dug deep into his pockets as he reluctantly raised his eyes to meet hers.

 

Taking a moment to gather her thoughts, Valerie slowly descended the porch steps. “Hi,” she said, hoping that her reluctance didn’t come through in her greeting.

 

Marvin managed a fleeting, uncertain smile. “You, uh . . . You look nice,” he said with a helpless kind of shrug.

 

“You look good,” she replied, wrapping her arms over her stomach as she drew abreast of him and stopped. It was a slight stretch, only because of the rumpled state of his clothing, the untidy way his hair stuck out here and there. Still, he was the same endearing Marvin that she’d met at college so long ago. He’d driven all night, hadn’t he . . .? Just to talk to her . . .

 

“Thanks,” Marvin replied. “Do you, um . . . I-I mean, would you . . .?” Trailing off rather helplessly, he grimaced. “Do you have time to talk?” He sighed. “I mean, I know today’s your wedding day,” he muttered. “If you don’t, that’s okay . . .”

 

“Do you want to go for a walk?” she heard herself asking. Something about Marvin’s demeanor . . .

 

He seemed surprised by her offer, and he quickly nodded. “If you have time,” he reiterated.

 

He followed behind as Valerie led him around the mansion, down toward the path that led to the beach. “I’m glad you’re here,” she ventured at length. “I . . . I wanted to tell you how sorry I am.”

 

Shaking his head quickly, Marvin stopped, leaning back against the stair railing as he dug his hands a little deeper into his pockets, scrunching up his shoulders as he stared down at his feet. “No, don’t apologize, Val. I mean, it really wasn’t your fault, and . . . and I never should have said those things to you . . .”

 

“You had every right to be upset,” Valerie insisted softly. “I never . . . I never meant to hurt you.” She sighed and rubbed her forehead, wishing that she didn’t sound so damned perfunctory because she meant it. She could only hope that he knew that. “That sounds so lame, but honestly, I—”

 

“You’re really happy with him?” Marvin interrupted, finally lifting his gaze to meet hers.

 

“I am,” Valerie admitted. She wanted to tell him that she hoped he’d find the same thing, too—the absolute love, the breathtaking affection that she’d found with Evan—but she winced inwardly, staunching the words before she uttered them. How ridiculous would that sound coming from her? How silly and trite . . .

 

He nodded, saying nothing, as though he needed a moment to absorb her statement. Turning on his heel, he slowly made his way down the rest of the steps, wandering almost aimlessly toward the rolling tide.

 

She followed along behind him, wishing that she could say the things she was thinking, wishing that he’d understand the things that she simply couldn’t bring herself to say—things like she thought that he was a good man, that she didn’t regret the time she’d spent with him, that she hoped he’d find true happiness, just as she had—but all those things sounded so very condescending, even in her head, and in the end, she said nothing.

 

“I . . . I want the best for you,” Marvin said in a tone that left Valerie wondering if he really was speaking to her at all. Staring out over the ocean, he seemed so very far away. “That’s really all I came here to say. That, and I hope that he . . . he knows how lucky he is.”

 

“Marvin,” Valerie replied, blinking fast to stave back the wash of tears that sprang to haze over her vision. She did love him, didn’t she, even if she hadn’t ever truly been in love with him. “You . . . You’re such a brilliant man . . . but . . . but I didn’t want to be unfair to you—or to me. I know you deserved so much better, and I know how—how—how stupid that sounds, coming from me,” she said. “I never, ever meant to hurt you. I hope you know that.”

 

He sighed and slowly turned to face her, and the smile on his lips was reluctant, even nervous, but it was genuine. “It’s okay, Val,” he told her. Then he choked out a little laugh. “Well, it’ll be okay,” he amended. “I just . . . I can’t hate you, not when I . . . I made mistakes, too. Do you suppose we could, uh . . .?” He let out a deep breath, as though he wasn’t entirely sure how she’d react to his question,. “Do you think . . . we could be friends? Did I . . .? Did I ruin that?”

 

Valerie smiled. “I’ll always be your friend, Marvin, if you’ll let me . . . and I’ll be your biggest supporter for your research, too. You’ll do it; I know you will.”

 

His smile widened just a little. “Don’t let Evan Zelig forget how special you are,” he said, drawing a deep, almost cleansing breath. “Bet you’ll be beautiful today.” This time, his laughter sounded much more normal. “Well, not that you’re not beautiful every day . . .”

 

Valerie laughed, shaking her head, flicking a hand dismissively. “You know, if you want, you’re welcome to stay . . .”

 

Shaking his head quickly, Marvin couldn’t hide the blush that rose in his cheeks. “Oh, I can’t,” he replied. “I just, you know, wanted to tell you how sorry I am for . . . for those things I said.”

 

“Don’t apologize anymore,” she insisted. “It’s okay.”

 

He stared at her for several long moments, then he finally nodded. “Oh, uh, I should get going. I mean, your wedding starts in a few hours, right? Shouldn’t you be inside, getting ready?”

 

She didn’t say anything more as the two headed back toward the stairs. This time, however, the silence wasn’t nearly as unkind as it was on the initial trek. Still stilted and vaguely uncomfortable, certainly, but the sense of trepidation had dissipated, and for that, Valerie was grateful.

 

The sounds of the crew that was hired to set up for the wedding was muffled. True that most of it was done yesterday, but the last minute preparations were still going strong. Marvin glanced over at it in passing, but said nothing about it. He said nothing at all until they were standing in the driveway once more.

 

“Thanks for taking the time to talk to me,” Marvin said, his nervous smile back in place once more.

 

“I wish you’d have come yesterday,” Valerie admitted. “I would have had more time to talk.”

 

Marvin shook his head. “Oh, uh . . . I . . . I didn’t realize until last night that I wanted to come. But I sat there, staring at your wedding invitation, and I . . . Well, I didn’t want you to get married with telling you how sorry I am.”

 

For a moment, it surprised her that Marvin had received an invitation. That surprise didn’t last. Evan . . . He had done it, hadn’t he? She wasn’t sure what the reason behind it was. After all, it would be easy to think that he’d done it just to rub Marvin’s nose in it, but she knew him better than that. No, the only reason Evan would have done such a thing was because, somewhere in his heart, he knew that Valerie wanted to have a moment to say the things she hadn’t gotten to say on that awful night by the pool. That was the Evan that she knew: the Evan she was going to marry. “I am glad you came,” she said, hurriedly giving Marvin a kiss on the cheek.

 

Marvin laughed softly. It was a warm, genuine sound. “I’m glad I did, too,” he confessed. For a moment, he seemed undecided. Then he hurriedly, clumsily, kissed her cheek. “I’ll . . . I’ll see you, Valerie. Take care.”

 

She nodded as she stepped back, as she watched him stride around the car. She waved as he pulled out of the driveway, and she didn’t turn back to the mansion until the car was out of sight once more.

 

“So . . . did you two clear the air?”

 

Valerie turned around, coming face to face with her future husband. “You invited him?” she asked, arching an eyebrow as she broke into a little smile.

 

Evan sighed. “Well, of course! Had to rub his it in, now didn’t I?”

 

Valerie narrowed her eyes and slipped her arms around Evan’s waist. “That’s not why you did it, and you know it,” she replied. “Tell me the truth.”

 

He snorted as he folded her into his arms. “All right, all right,” he relented with a melodramatic sigh. “Did you tell him what you wanted to say?”

 

She nodded. “Thank you.”

 

“I don’t want you to have any regrets, V,” he said softly, kissing her forehead as he tightened his arms around her. “Even if I don’t like the little shit . . .”

 

“Don’t ruin the moment, Roka,” she warned. “Besides, I know you’re a very sensitive, very sweet man deep down, even if your family tried their hardest to convince me otherwise last night.”

 

Evan snorted. “What do you mean?”

 

She laughed. “Your father and brother thought they should warn me about your less-than-honorable past,” she said then shrugged. “You really were bad, weren’t you?”

 

“They did?”

 

She leaned up and kissed his chin before cuddling against his chest once more. Eyes closed, she missed the irritation that filtered into his countenance, the gathering storm clouds of his reaction to what she’d unwittingly implied. “They did, but it’s okay. I knew you were a troublemaker from the get-go.”

 

“All right, Evan,” Bas remarked as he loped down the porch steps. “Step away from the bride, and come with me.”

 

Evan gave Valerie another squeeze before finally letting his arms drop away. “I’ll see you in a few hours,” he told her, his expression shifting into an exaggerated pout.

 

She laughed as Bas planted a hand on Evan’s shoulders and propelled him toward the porch.

 

“Tell me something, Bubby . . . Just what the hell did you tell V about me?”

 

Bas shot him a droll glance. “Nothing but the truth, Evan,” Bas assured him.

 

“Right, right . . . You’re kind of an ass,” Evan pointed out. “How would you have liked it if I’d told Sydnie a bunch of shit about you the night before your wedding?”

 

Bas pushed him through the door before she could hear his reply, and Valerie laughed as she lifted her face heavenward. Absolutely gorgeous without a cloud in the sky . . .

 

The perfect day a her wedding, wasn’t it?

 

All that was left was the ceremony itself, and then she would be Mrs. Evan Zelig.

 

She couldn’t wait.

 

 

 <<< 222: Reticence

224: Thwarted >>>

 

~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~

A/N:

I’ve redone the forum to allow more features and easier usage. In the new forum, I’ve posted the preliminary chapters for Purity 11 and 12 in the Spoiler Room forum for anyone interested in getting a sneak peek. You must register for the forum and make fifteen counted posts in order to gain access, but hopefully those who do find the chapters to be worth the hassle. http://www.suericfanfictions.com/forums

I’ll be Waitingby Lenny Kravitz originally appeared on the 2008 release, It’s Time for a Love Revolution. Copyrighted to Lenny Kravitz and Craig Ross.

== == == == == == == == == ==

Reviewers

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Blog

WhisperingWolf

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Forums

OROsan0677 ——— cutechick18 ——— lianned88 ——— gin-hayashi85 ——— mariea

==========

Final Thought from Evan:

… Is that right …?

==========

Blanket disclaimer for this fanfic (will apply to this and all other chapters in Subterfuge): I do not claim any rights to InuYasha or the characters associated with the anime/manga. Those rights belong to Rumiko Takahashi, et al. I do offer my thanks to her for creating such vivid characters for me to terrorize.

~Sue~

posted by Sueric at 10:20 am  

Monday, May 19, 2014

P9: 222: Reticence

~~Chapter Two Hundred Twenty-Two~~

~Reticence~

-OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO-

These four walls they could tell you some stories

About lyin’ and dyin’ and fame

There’s a price that you pay for the glory

About losing and choosing and pain …’

-’The Hardest Part is the Night‘ by Bon Jovi.

-Valerie-

 

 

“This way, please.”

 

Frowning at the uncharacteristic stiffness with which Bas led Valerie into Cain’s office, she said nothing as she slipped into one of the chairs across from the wide desk after Cain gestured to it. Closing the door behind himself, Bas moved off to stare out the windows behind his father, hand draped on his hip as he stared out into the darkness. Just after midnight, and she’d been ready to find her bed when the two had approached her and asked her to follow them. There was a strange sense of gravity about the entire affair, but she didn’t object.

 

Settling back in his chair, Cain didn’t speak right away, and in the quiet, Valerie’s trepidation grew.

 

She wasn’t entirely sure why Cain had asked to see her, and the formal setting seemed strained. As far as she knew, nothing unusual had happened—well, aside from Evan’s repeated attempts to breach her window, anyway, and if that were the problem, she was pretty sure that she wouldn’t be the one here in the office waiting for the proverbial gauntlet to fall.

 

Or maybe Cain had taken exception to the idea that Evan—twisted little monkey that he was—had showed up last night to take the place of the stripper that had been hired, which made for a rather interesting moment, given that most of the women in attendance at the bachelorette party were related to the miscreant, including his own darling mother—Cain’s wife . . . He’d even started to strip off the obnoxious bikini pouch that held his ‘family jewels’—the one with ‘The hEvan’ scrolled across it in lurid gold glittering paint. Valerie had managed to stop him, albeit barely. The man really didn’t possess even an ounce of shame.

 

Clearing his throat, Cain slouched lower in his chair, resting his elbows on the thickly padded armrests, steepling his fingers in front of his chest as he continued to stare at Valerie. “Would you like something to drink?” he finally asked, breaking the stony silence that had fallen.

 

“No, I’m fine,” she replied, brows drawing together as she shifted her gaze around the room. “What is this about . . .?”

 

“Sorry,” Cain remarked with a slight smile. “We’re actually waiting for Gavin.”

 

“For . . .?” she finally asked, her gaze shifting from Cain to Bas then back again.

 

Cain stared at her for several moments then finally smiled just a little. “Oh, it’s nothing bad—well, too bad, anyway.”

 

“Just thought you might want to know what you’re getting into,” Bas remarked without turning away from the window.

 

Flicking his wrist as he glanced down at his watch, Cain frowned. “Well, I suppose we might as well begin. After all, it’s been over twenty minutes since Evan last tried to break in.”

 

Bas uttered a pronounced snort. “Oh, yeah? Well, at least that little shit didn’t try to sabotage you,” he grumbled.

 

Pressing her lips together in a tight line, Valerie struggled not to laugh outright since she’d been told that Evan’s most recent attempt had involved catnip—only amusing when she was then informed of Bas’ mate, Sydnie’s remarkable affinity for the stuff.

 

“The only thing that works on your mother is Reese’s, and that wouldn’t accomplish what he tried to do to you,” Cain pointed out.

 

“You say that like it surprises you,” Bas pointed out with a shake of his head. “Twisted little monkey, anyway . . .”

 

Cain raised his eyebrows and gave a little shrug before turning his attention back to Valerie once more. “Anyway, Valerie, we . . . we thought that we should probably warn you about some of Evan’s more . . . colorful moments,” he explained. “Just so you know what you’re getting yourself into.”

 

Valerie’s lips twitched, though she managed to keep from smiling—barely. If she didn’t recognize the understated amusement evident in both Cain as well as Bas’ demeanors, she might have taken offense to it, all things considered, but for some reason, she had the feeling that they weren’t nearly as irritated over Evan’s apparent misdeeds as they might have wanted to appear. “Kind of late for that, isn’t it? The wedding’s tomorrow.”

 

“You still should hear it,” Bas insisted, finally turning away from the window as he crossed his arms over his chest and leaned against the glass. “I mean, he’s been a pain in my ass since the day he was born.”

 

“That bad?”

 

Bas nodded slowly but smiled just a little. “Well, he was kind of cute as a baby,” he admitted at length. “At least, until he started walking and talking . . .”

 

“Back then, he only used to repeat things,” Cain pointed out. “That wasn’t so bad.”

 

“Says you,” Morio retorted as he slipped into the study. “He was like one of those . . . those . . . Oh, those myna birds—and he repeated everything he heard.”

 

Cain slowly shook his head. “Oh, you mean like him telling your mother just what you and your cousins had planned to prank InuYasha? You should be glad he told her that. InuYasha would have beaten the crap out of you boys.”

 

Breaking into a wide grin, Morio chuckled. “It still would’ve been funny as hell.”

 

“I didn’t say it wouldn’t have been,” Cain allowed mildly.

 

Waving a hand, Morio flopped into the chair beside her, pausing long enough to cast Valerie what could only be described as a shit-eating grin. “Oh, hey, do you remember that time Evan decided to break into the city pool to go skinny dipping?”

 

“Why did he do that?” Valerie asked.

 

Cain shrugged. “Because he’d already been banned from the city pool for life for unhooking girls’ tops.”

 

Somehow, that just didn’t surprise Valerie at all.

 

Bas wrinkled his nose. “Damn, Dad . . . He wasn’t even ten at the time, was he?”

 

Again, Cain shrugged. “He might have just turned ten. Should have known back then that it wasn’t just a phase.”

 

Bas snorted. “I lost count of how many times he was booted out of school for screwing girls.”

 

“Or for just pulling pranks on his teachers,” Cain added with an exaggerated sigh.

 

“You mean, like the time he decided to moon the student assembly at the ‘Just Say No To Crack’ presentation?”

 

“Oh, I forgot about that one,” Gavin remarked as he pushed into the study with Toga following close behind. “Jilli told me about it. She thought it was funny as hell. Talk about irony . . .”

 

“He must get it from that baka because he sure as hell don’t get it from his mama,” InuYasha grumbled, jerking his head in Cain’s direction as he stalked into the office behind Toga and gave the younger man a shove to move him along.

 

Cain rolled his eyes and settled back a little further in his chair. “I beg your pardon. I’ve never mooned anyone in my life—though I seem to recall stories about Gin lifting her skirt in front of an entire audience before, so I would guess that would mean he did get it from your side, after all.”

 

InuYasha snorted. “Keh! She was a pup, you bastard. Think again.”

 

“Did you really just throw Mom under the bus?” Bas asked in a low tone as he shifted his gaze to his father.

 

“Of course not, Bas,” Cain replied. “I was pointing out fact; that’s all.”

 

“I remember having to hunt that little shit down when he’d disappear from training,” Ryomaru remarked as he strode into the office. “Got easier after we figured out that he was usually hiding out over at Kich’s house.”

 

“Never did take training seriously,” Toga said, moving over to grab a bottle of water off of the sideboard. “I don’t know how many times I’d hide the candy bags to track, only to find that he’d located them all and traded the candy for rocks.”

 

Valerie smiled since that sounded like something that Evan absolutely would do.

 

“Almost flunked out of school because he never took anything seriously, right?” Kichiro added as he stepped into the room. “Guess he did test out early, though, so that’s something.”

 

“Well, he did get his doctorate, so that’s something.” Cain scooted back and dug into one of the desk drawers then handed a paper over to Valerie.

 

She looked at it and frowned. It was a standardized testing sheet with little circles that were to be penciled in. It was Evan’s, but instead of bothering to answer the questions, he’d drawn what looked to be a symbol with the circles instead . . . “What’s this?”

 

“The logo of his favorite band, I think,” Bas said, nodding at the paper. “Raunchy Little Fuckers, wasn’t it?”

 

Cain heaved a sigh and slowly shook his head. “Something like that,” he agreed.

 

“These stories aren’t nearly as bad as I thought,” Valerie ventured, accepting a bottle of water from Kichiro. “I figured he’d have done much worse.”

 

“Oh, there’s worse,” Bas replied with a snort. “Paid, what? Three? Four hundred bucks for a picture of Sydnie . . . I still owe him a beating for that . . .”

 

“A bit more forgivable than being arrested for defacing that statue at the school,” Sesshoumaru said as he strode into the room to take a seat on the sofa.

 

“What did he do to it?” Valerie couldn’t help asking.

 

“Pissed on it, wasn’t it?” Morio said. “Him and that friend of his.”

 

“Dieter,” Cain supplied. “Those two . . .” He trailed off, tapping his claws against the armrest. “If it wasn’t Evan and Dieter getting into one thing or another, it was Evan and Madison, and if it wasn’t them, it was Evan and Bone . . .”

 

“Evan and Dieter also nearly blew up the school when they decided to make nabe for lunch in the science lab and left the burners on, but it was Evan and Bone who stole Rudy Miller’s boat,” Gavin mused thoughtfully. “Tried to haul themselves, four girls, and a keg of beer out to Faulkner’s Landing and ended up stranded out there when the boat sprung a leak halfway across the bay.”

 

To Valerie’s surprise, Cain broke out in the vaguest hint of a smile. “That took a lot of explaining,” he muttered though he didn’t look any less amused. “Those girls’ parents weren’t impressed; not at all . . .”

 

Bas snorted . “Small wonder. They had to call in the Coast Guard to retrieve them, Dad.”

 

“Or that year we had that drought so the four of them decided to host a naked rain dance,” Gavin added.

 

“That was your fault, Dad,” Bas pointed out. “I told you that Evan would do something stupid if you left him home alone.”

 

Cain chuckled. “Well, your mother wanted to go to San Francisco with me. Was I supposed to tell her that she needed to find someone to babysit her fifteen year-old son?”

 

“If that son’s Evan, then yes,” Kurt retorted as he ducked into the office, too. “He’s a menace.”

 

“Just because he handcuffed you to the bed that time,” Bas reminded him.

 

Kurt just snorted in reply.

 

“Can’t imagine that you enjoyed getting that call from the police, oji-san,” Morio quipped. “‘Yeah, uh, Mr. Zelig, we just broke up a naked rain dance party out at your estate . . .’”

 

Cain nodded slowly, his expression shifting into a thoughtful frown. “That . . . was pretty accurate, actually . . .”

 

Bas shot his father a droll look as he slowly shook his head again. “Yeah, did I ever thank you for telling them that I was the adult in charge?”

 

“Well, you were,” Cain pointed out reasonably.

 

“I was cramming for finals, and I don’t recall you even telling me that you were leaving me in charge of that little deviant,” Bas replied.

 

Cain broke into the vaguest grin and gave a little shrug, as though it excused his part in it entirely.

 

“You could write a book about the trouble he and Madison got into over the years,” Kichiro remarked thoughtfully. “I mean, you know it’s bad when we heard about all of it over in Japan.”

 

“That one owes me more money for keeping his exploits out of the tabloids than you do, Zelig,” Sesshoumaru added.

 

“You owe cover money?” Bas asked, his head turning to look at his father.

 

“Not nearly on the scale that your brother does,” Cain replied smoothly.

 

“At least Evan’s consistent,” Ryomaru said. “If there’s trouble to be had, he’ll find it. One summer, he got into a fight with about ten other punks, all to impress a girl.”

 

“Sounds kind of like someone else I know,” Toga quipped, arching his eyebrows as he stared rather pointedly at Ryomaru.

 

Ryomaru grinned unrepentantly. “I never got into fights to impress girls,” he clarified. “I just got into fights, period.”

 

“You know, Valerie, it isn’t too late to back out,” Cain said, shifting his look to meet Valerie’s. His words sounded quite serious, but she didn’t miss the obvious, if not understated, amusement that added a brightness to his eyes, a sparkle to his gaze.

 

“And if you do go ahead and marry him, maybe you should consider adopting instead of running the risk of spreading his particular brand of troublemaking to your children,” Bas added.

 

Valerie’s amusement at the given situation faded, and she shook her head. “But he . . . he can’t have kids. I mean, you all should know . . .”

 

“That whole sterile business?” Griffin Marin grumbled as he, too, stepped into the office. The hulking bear-youkai didn’t move out of the doorway, but then, there wasn’t much room to be had inside, either. “Isabelle told me about that bit of nonsense,” he went on, his cheeks pinking slightly at the current subject. “I guess it made sense at the time, though . . .”

 

“Wait, what?” Valerie blurted, her confusion evident. Why did she feel as though she were two steps behind everything? “But he was tested, and—”

 

Cain waived a hand to cut her off. “Yeah, he was, you’re right,” he agreed, a faint hint of a flush creeping into his face, as well, “and he was sterile, I guess, at that point. I guess he never got around to telling you that, being youkai, he can choose whether or not to have pups, so if he doesn’t want to, then . . .” Giving his head a quick shake, he tapped a cigarette out of his pocket and spared a moment to light it. “Anyway, that was the easiest way to deal with that particular situation. Evan’s made some pretty stupid mistakes over the years, but that’s never been one of them.”

 

Valerie didn’t respond to that right away. Unsure exactly how she felt on the matter, she took her time sipping from the water bottle as she considered what she’d just been told. On the one hand, he really should have told her the truth about the whole child-issue sooner, but then, she supposed that the subject simply hadn’t come up. In the rush of planning a wedding in three months’ time, she had to allow that her mind hadn’t been on the issue of Evan being sterile, either. Still, a quiet voice in the back of her head prodded her. Why was it that the idea of children had always frightened her, but somehow, the fleeting thought of a small child with Evan’s eyes and the same silver hair was enough to draw a little smile from her . . .?

 

“If you do decide to have children with that one,” Kurt remarked thoughtfully, “we’ll just hope that they take after you and not him. You seem to have much better judgment than he does, anyway.”

 

“Keh! Marrying him, ain’t she?” Ryomaru rumbled, but he grinned and winked at Valerie, just the same. “Not too sure about her judgment, either.”

 

“Still, no one would really blame you if you decided to get the hell out of Dodge before it’s too late,” Kurt said. Then he, too, broke into a grin.

 

“Can’t say you weren’t warned,” Morio quipped. Suddenly, though, he frowned, his gaze shifting over the assembly of men. “Oi, where’s Mamo-chan?”

 

Bas grunted, likely at the use of the name that would likely get Morio clobbered if, in fact, ‘Mamo-chan’ had been there. “Gunnar took Evan home with him, remember?”

 

“Oh, yeah,” Morio allowed. “Too bad. I’m sure he had some other great moments to add.”

 

“Last chance to run,” Kichiro said despite the grin that tugged on his lips. Kurt’s cell phone buzzed, and he dug it out of his pocket, only to frown at the message he’d received. Abruptly pushing himself away from the wall, he nodded at the assembled men and Valerie and ducked out of the room.

 

Valerie laughed and shook her head. “Thank you all for your concern,” she replied as she got to her feet, “but I . . . I think I’ll take my chances.”

 

 

<<< 221: Haste to the Wedding

223: The Waiting Game >>>

 

~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~

A/N:

Nabe: Japanese hotpot. It’s a traditional Japanese ‘stew’ made from cooking veggies and assorted other goodies (mushrooms and seafood or meat) in a broth of fish stock, sake, and soy sauce.

Oji-san: polite way to address one’s uncle.

Mamo-chan: Morio tends to call Gunnar this, mostly to irritate him.

The Hardest Part is the Nightby Bon Jovi originally appeared on the 1985 release, 7800 Degrees Fahrenheit. Copyrighted to Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, and David Bryan.

== == == == == == == == == ==

Reviewers

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Blog

Ginger75125 ——— sutlesarcasm (shows on ch220 post lol)

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Forums

cutechick18

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Final Thought from Valerie:

He’s not sterile …?

==========

Blanket disclaimer for this fanfic (will apply to this and all other chapters in Subterfuge): I do not claim any rights to InuYasha or the characters associated with the anime/manga. Those rights belong to Rumiko Takahashi, et al. I do offer my thanks to her for creating such vivid characters for me to terrorize.

~Sue~

posted by Sueric at 7:44 pm  

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Desideratum: 009: Shadows

~~Chapter 9~~

~Shadows~

 

 

It . . . It’s not possible . . . It’s just not possible . . .’

 

“Tell me, why aren’t you hiding those?”

 

InuYasha narrowed his eyes at the woman. “Hiding what?”

 

“Your ears—among other things,” she replied dryly.

 

He snorted.

 

Letting out a deep breath, she must have realized that he wasn’t about to answer, and while InuYasha wasn’t entirely sure that she was going to let it drop, she waved a hand toward the chair on the far side of the table instead. “Have a seat.”

 

InuYasha stomped around the small table in the nondescript cement room and flopped into the cold metal chair, without taking his glower off the woman. She’d finished speaking with Kouga in the hallway before she’d addressed InuYasha and slipped quietly into the chair across from him. Black hair drawn up in a sensible chignon, she had a rather stern air to her otherwise pretty face, and she took her time, pushing a pair of thick black rimmed glasses up as she regarded him for several moments without speaking.

 

“Akamori-san—”

 

“Keh. InuYasha,” he broke in with a stubborn shake of his head. Akamori might be the name that was printed on what Mrs. Higurashi had told him was a ‘birth certificate’, but it meant absolutely nothing to him.

 

She nodded slowly. “Okay, InuYasha-san . . . It seems as though you’ve got some fairly significant charges levied against you: obstruction of justice, attempted assault of an officer, hindering an official investigation, verbal battery . . . Do you have anything you wish to say for yourself?”

 

“How the fuck are you still alive?” he blurted before he could reconsider or stop himself. “You died. I know you died. I saw you die . . .”

 

The woman blinked, her eyebrows lifting in obvious challenge. “Well, I would guess that it’s pretty obvious that I’m not dead. In fact, I’m certain that I’ve never met you before, so if you don’t mind, can we get back to you?”

 

He frowned. “So you’re not Kagura?”

 

Staring at him for several seconds, she looked like she was trying to figure something out, she sat back and crossed her arms over her chest. “That name means absolutely nothing to me,” she stated flatly, eyes flashing behind the blue tinted lenses of her glasses. “Now why don’t you tell me about the altercation with Ookami-san. Is there a reason you went after him? Tried to attack him?”

 

“Ookami-san?” InuYasha echoed, shaking his head in confusion. “That damned Kouga, you mean?”

 

“I guess I can see where the verbal battery comes into it,” she muttered to herself before leveling another stern look at InuYasha. “Yes, Akamo—InuYasha-san: Ookami Kouga—Ookami-san.”

 

InuYasha snorted. “Weren’t no ‘altercation’ about it,” he retorted hotly. “He’s a fucking liar. I was gonna beat the truth out of him; that’s all.”

 

“Oh? And just what is he lying about?”

 

InuYasha gritted his teeth together so hard that his jaw ached. He didn’t like the altogether patronizing tone in her voice, and there was no way in hell he was about to tell this woman—whoever she was—what he and Kouga were talking about. “That’s between him and me,” he said instead.

 

She didn’t look like she was inclined to believe him, and she didn’t look like she particularly cared for his answer, either. “That does nothing to excuse your behavior, Akamori-san,” she replied in a clipped, brusque intonation.

 

He snorted indelicately. “I don’t really give a fuck, Kagura.”

 

He could see the flash of irritation in her magenta gaze despite the glasses that might have been intended to hide it. As it was, however, a soft knock on the door interrupted the interrogation, and after sparing a moment to narrow her gaze on InuYasha, the woman got up to open it.

 

“Sorry for the interruption, Namikaze-san. Got a minute . . .?”

 

She glanced back at InuYasha before following the man into the hallway and closing the door behind herself. ‘Namikaze-san . . .? But if she says she ain’t Kagura, then . . . So she’s gotta be Kagura’s reincarnation . . .?

 

InuYasha let out a deep breath, scowling around the otherwise empty room. He didn’t really give a shit about whether or not that woman was Kagura’s reincarnation, did he? The little patience that he had was sorely stretched to its limit already, and all he wanted to do was to get the hell out of there so that he could go find that damned wolf to demand answers. No matter how he looked at it, he just could not accept the idea that Kagome might actually have married the miserable bastard. To have done so shortly after he’d gotten swept into her world? No, the Kagome he knew would never have done something that rash so quickly, no matter what.

 

Kouga was just being an ass, right? He had to be because . . . Well, he just had to be. Anything else was entirely unthinkable.

 

Maybe not . . . not if she really thought that there was no way you’d ever find your way back to her . . .’

 

Shaking his head as a low growl escaped him, InuYasha rejected that thought as quickly as it had come. There just wasn’t any way that he could accept that.

 

InuYasha, will you let me stay . . .?

 

Why did those words come back to him now? All of the anger that had carried him along seemed to melt in the face of those words. Spoken so long ago, and yet . . .

 

Namikaze-san strode back into the room, closing the door quietly behind herself before turning to pin him with a calculating look. He sensed her irritation, but it was more than that. There was an underlying sense of hostility, though he didn’t necessarily think that it was entirely directed at him, either. No, she seemed to be bothered by something more, as though the situation itself was the source of her feelings. InuYasha didn’t really care, one way or the other. No, he just wanted to get the hell out of there, to get back to the shrine and the comparative quiet so that he could assimilate everything—and so that he could figure out how to verify what Kouga was saying. “Stand up,” she finally said, gesturing with her hand, as though she were trying to hurry him along.

He almost refused, just on principle, but considering he still couldn’t move his arms, he knew damn well that he was at a distinct disadvantage, at least, at the moment . . .

 

She wasted no time in crossing over to him and unlocking the handcuffs. They sprang open with a very loud click, and he couldn’t quite resist the urge to rub at his chafed wrists. “Your brother is here to pick you up. Apparently, Ookami-san called him and told him to make sure you calm down before you end up being arrested for real.”

 

“Keh! Bastard ain’t my brother—just a half-brother,” InuYasha spit out.

 

When she stepped around him again, she crossed her arms over her chest, pinned him with what could only be described as a completely unimpressed look. “If it were up to me, I’d throw you in jail,” she informed him, her eyes narrowing as a rather nasty little smirk surfaced. “You ought to be grateful that you have connections in such high places, though I wouldn’t go around looking for trouble. Next time, who knows if he can be bothered to pull the strings to get you out of it.”

 

Something in her tone surprised him. It almost sounded as though she hated Sesshoumaru—not that he could blame her if that really were the case. He wasn’t particularly fond of Sesshoumaru, either, but . . . But Kagura . . . At least back then, she hadn’t seemed to mind Sesshoumaru at all . . . “Yeah, well, he ain’t doing me any favors,” InuYasha grumbled.

 

She stared at him for another long moment before turning on her heel and pushing out of the room once more.

 

 

:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:

 

 

“Onee-sama!”

 

Stepping out from behind the thin paper wall, Chiyo clucked her tongue at the small girl who skidded to a halt before her, her pale blue eyes bright, her cheeks flushed as she caught her breath.

 

“And just what have I told you about running about when you’re inside?” Chiyo asked, pointedly arching a delicate eyebrow.

 

Minako’s cheeks flushed deeper as she sheepishly ducked her head. “Sorry,” she blurted miserably. Verily, she hated to displease her sister, and the perceived scolding was something she took to heart.

 

Breaking into a small smile as she knelt on the pillow at the front of the room, she held out her hands to the child. “Come, Minako,” she coaxed gently.

 

The girl hesitated for a moment before skittering across the floor and into her sister’s waiting arms. Chiyo idly stroked Minako’s downy hair.   “Tell me about your lessons today?”

 

For the briefest of moments, Minako stiffened in Chiyo’s arms before relaxing and turning an impish smile on her. “Tetsuo-sensei said that I did well,” she replied, eyes widening without blinking, as though she were trying to brainwash Chiyo into accepting her answer as truth.

 

“Is that what he said?” Chiyo challenged with an arched eyebrow. “I could have sworn he told me that he had exceptional trouble getting you to pay attention today.”

 

Wrinkling her nose as her cheeks deepened into a brighter pink tone, Minako heaved a melodramatic sigh as she turned around and plopped down in her sister’s lap. “Why do I need to learn the human arts of writing and reading?” she suddenly blurted, a hint of belligerence coloring her otherwise sing-song voice.

 

Chiyo laughed softly. “Because one day, it may come in useful, Minako. Besides, knowledge is precious, and failure is born of ignorance.”

 

Minako sighed but nodded slowly, twisting a long lock of raven-black hair around her index finger, a nervous habit that she had stopped doing most of the time, unless she was busy thinking. “That’s what chichiue said before he left to—” Cutting herself off abruptly, she stubbornly shook her head. “Do you think he will come home soon?”

 

Biting her lip, Chiyo’s pleasant expression faltered. The child didn’t see it, busy looking at her hands as she was. There had been no word as yet, but there didn’t have to be. Chiyo had seen it all in her dreams.

 

The distinctive whistle outside the window drew her attention, and Chiyo forced a small smile for her sister’s benefit. “Minako, it sounds like Atsushi-kun is here . . . You don’t want to keep him waiting, do you?”

 

With a giggle, Minako shot to her feet, impatiently straightening her short summer kimono. “We are going to check the cave we found in the forest!” she informed Chiyo as she started to run toward the door.

 

“Minako . . .” she called after the child. Minako immediately slowed her gait. “Be home before dark,” she reminded her.

 

“I will, onee-sama,” Minako replied without bothering to stop.

 

Letting out a deep breath that didn’t sound at all like a noise she normally made, Chiyo slowly stood and wandered over to the window to watch as her sister and her best friend sped off toward the forest.

 

“You’re going to have to tell her what you saw in your dreams soon.”

 

Chiyo didn’t acknowledge the visitor who had so quietly slipped into the room following Minako’s hasty departure.

 

“I know that he is a formidable opponent, but to think that your father—the great Yoshiaki-sama—could be defeated by Sesshoumaru . . .”

 

“Silence, Tetsuo,” Chiyo bit out coldly, spinning around to pin the diminutive ermine-youkai with an icy glower. “It’s water under the bridge . . . and Minako doesn’t need to know.”

 

The old and dedicated youkai recoiled from the vehemence in her tone more than from the power of her withering glare. “Forgive me, Chiyo-sama,” he hurried to say, bowing low once, twice as he backed toward the doors.

 

Biting down on her lip so hard that the tinge of blood filled her mouth, Chiyo strode across the room and back as she struggled to regain control over her emotions. The dreams about the hanyou had been bad enough, and though she was reasonably sure that the situation was under control, she wasn’t foolish enough to let her guard down yet, but the dreams of her father? Those were infinitely worse. She had learned long ago that having a dream once was a premonition, but if she had the same exact one twice, then it was truth, and the dream about her father? She’d suffered that one too many times to count, and it was always the same. No matter how many times she screamed, yelled, tried to make her father hear her, he couldn’t, and the shockwave from that wretched and vile sword, Bakusaiga . . .

 

“It was his own fault for daring to challenge one who is rumored to be unbeatable. Yoshiaki-sama was strong. Sesshoumaru-sama is . . . fearsome.”

 

Chiyo turned her head, spotting Tadao as he lounged casually against the wall near the main door. The derision in his tone when he spoke of the current Lord of the Western Lands was thinly masked. “Surely you did not travel this far just to laud the praises of that monster?”

 

“Monster?” Tadao echoed, mocking her choice of words. “You’re right. I did not.”

 

She nodded. “If you’re here about the prophecy, then I tell you that I have suffered no further dreams of him.”

 

Tadao’s face twisted into an affectation of a smile. It was far better to describe it as a pleased grimace. Tadao had forgotten how to smile years ago . . . “Then all is as it should be.”

 

Chiyo tilted her head to the side, silently regarding Tadao for several seconds. The arrogant youkai looked as though he truly believed that all of his troubles were over simply because she had yet to have another of those dreams. Maybe they were.

 

Or . . .

 

Or maybe they were just beginning.

 

 

:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:

 

 

“Thank you! Thank you so much! You have no idea, how much this means to our village!”

 

“You’re welcome,” Miroku said, holding his hand perpendicular to his face and offering a bow. “It’s the least we could do.”

 

“Please, please! It isn’t much, but we would like to give you these baskets of rice,” the headman went on, waving a hand at the small cart laden with woven baskets.

 

“That is very kind of you,” Miroku assured him. “We humbly accept your gracious gift.”

 

Kagome leaned toward Sango without taking her eyes off the men. “So were there really any youkai in the storehouse?”

 

“Two little mouse-youkai,” Sango replied, keeping her voice low, too.

 

Kagome considered than for a moment then shrugged. InuYasha would have pointed out that Miroku was ripping off the village, but she figured that Miroku’s logic was sound enough. After all, two mouse-youkai could easily multiply into the thousands if they weren’t taken care of, couldn’t they?

 

“If you’d like, we’d be happy to prepare rooms for you to stay the night,” the headman added.

 

Miroku opened his mouth to reply. Sango beat him to it. “Thank you, but we must decline. We’re expected back at home tonight.”

 

“Never mind that there’s a good chance that Kaede-baachan is probably well and truly fed up with the two we left behind,” Kagome muttered more to herself than to her companions. Shippou and Bunza were actually getting along today, but Kagome wasn’t so sure that it would last for more than an hour, at best.

 

Sango shot her a knowing look. “There’s that, too,” she agreed.

 

The villagers that were gathered around looked rather crestfallen, and Kagome watched, blatantly amused, as Sango stepped back and let Miroku step behind the bar of the wagon to pull it along.

 

“Should we offer to help him?” Kagome asked at length as they made their way out of the village and back onto the road home.

 

“Oh, I think that he can manage just fine,” she said, turning a very pleasant smile on her friend.   “We shouldn’t have even taken half of that rice for that job . . .”

 

“Ah, but there’s really nothing wrong with stocking up for winter, is there, Sango, my sweet?” Miroku quipped.

 

Sango shot him a look but said nothing as she slowly shook her head.

 

“That’s enough rice for a year, you know,” Kagome pointed out, shielding her eyes with one hand as she peered up at the sky. The sun was out, and the late afternoon was beautiful. Still, the clouds on the distant horizon looked rather foreboding, and as she watched, they seemed to be moving just a little faster. Thick, dense, heavy with rain, and the breeze that blew in from that direction carried that certain smell, too, of the rain, of the ground, of the freshness that only came with the weather. “Let’s hope we get back to the village before that rolls in,” she remarked.

 

The taijya and monk’s heads turned in the direction that Kagome had nodded. “Hmm, that doesn’t look very good, now does it?” Miroku mused, lowering his shoulders as he pushed harder against the cart. Sango and Kagome exchanged looks before ducking under the wooden brace to help out.

 

“Now, now, ladies, I’m sure I can handle this by myself,” Miroku said, his voice distorting due to the efforts of pushing the heavily-laden wagon.

 

“All the rice will be ruined if we get caught in the rain,” Sango told him. “Less talking, houshi-sama, and more pushing.”

 

“Too . . . bad . . . InuYasha’s . . . not . . . here . . .” Miroku added.

 

Kagome laughed. “If he was, he’d be complaining that we’re using him as a pack horse,” she allowed.

 

“Well, at least he was consistent,” Sango quipped.

 

“Hey, Miroku?”

 

“Yes?”

 

Kagome made a face, glancing at the rapidly-approaching line of storm clouds as she dug in her heels to push harder. “Next time, ask them for a horse, too.”

 

Sango gasped then laughed. “You’re starting to sound more and more like InuYasha every day,” she said.

 

Kagome blinked and stopped pushing for a moment. For some reason, the teasing statement struck a nerve somewhere deep down. Sounding like InuYasha? Was she?

 

“Look, houshi-sama. There’s a cave over there,” Sango pointed out.

 

The three of them glanced at it for a moment then back up at the sky, and without a word, they all turned sharply to the right, toward the cave that would at least keep the rice dry until after the rain had passed.

 

They barely made it under cover when the first crack of thunder rumbled the earth under their feet. Miroku let out a deep breath and darted out of the cave to gather some firewood, and Sango quickly dug the one pot they’d brought along out of Kagome’s backpack before hurrying out after the monk. Kagome busied herself by using her feet to scrape the debris littering the cave floor outside. They hadn’t bothered with any bedrolls since the village they’d gone to help was only about an hour’s walk from home. Now Kagome wished they had.

 

You’re starting to sound more and more like InuYasha every day . . .”

 

Shoving a couple boulders over to the side, Kagome frowned. Just how many times had Kagome teased InuYasha about his viable lack of manners, his often abrasive way of talking? And even if Sango had been teasing at the time, Kagome had to wonder if there weren’t some measure of truth in her words. It was true, she knew, that she hadn’t really been herself in the weeks since InuYasha’s disappearance. She spent way too much time, dwelling on the past, and she knew it but it wasn’t something that she could make herself let go of, either. She’d never stopped to really think about why InuYasha might say some of the things he’d said, had she? Yet here she was, saying the same kinds of things—thinking the same kinds of things, too . . .

 

It was anger, but there was more to it than that. Melancholy? Sadness? Loneliness? Sure, she had friends. Sango and Miroku were as close as family to her, not to mention Shippou, but none of them could fill the significant void that InuYasha had left behind, either. Those emotions were the ones that were affecting her, and as much as she might want to pretend that it were otherwise, she knew it. But how to move on without letting go of him? How on earth was she supposed to smile and pretend that she was all right? She wasn’t, and that was the hardest thing of all. To be completely honest, she wasn’t entirely sure that she ever would be.

 

She’d tried to rationalize it in her head. She’d tried to tell herself that they were just best friends. Once in a while, she might even believe that, but she knew. She’d known for a long, long time. She loved him, but there was more to it than that. There was a bond between them, the kind of bond that some people searched for their whole lives, and even fewer were lucky enough to find. He’d taken a part of her with him when he’d disappeared that night—the best part of her—and what remained . . .

 

 

:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:

 

 

Flinching as a bolt of lightning struck the ground so close that the unmistakable smell of charred earth wafted to him moments later, Miroku tried to hurry about his task despite the nagging feeling that anything he collected at this point was going to be much too wet to have any hope of burning. Still, he snatched up a couple more good-sized pieces before turning around and running back to the cave.

 

Kagome started when he dropped the wood on the ground. At least the cave was up on a slight hill, enough so that the rain wasn’t able to reach much farther inside past the opening . . . “Sango’s not back yet with the water?”

 

Miroku stared out into the hazy grayness of the falling rain with a frown. The river that ran past the village shouldn’t be too far away—definitely not far enough to explain why Sango hadn’t returned yet, anyway. “I’ll go look for her,” he said.

 

“Okay,” Kagome said, digging a big box of matches out of her bag and hunkering down to pick through the haphazard stack of wood for the driest pieces. “Wait . . .”

 

He stopped and turned back while Kagome dug into the bag once more, this time, coming up with a bright blue umbrella. “I don’t know how much it’ll help, bu-u-ut . . .” she drawled, grimacing apologetically as she held it out to him.

 

He chuckled and popped it open as he neared the cave entrance once more. “Thank you,” he called over his shoulder before he stepped back out into the rain again.

 

True enough, he was already pretty well soaked. Stopping long enough to scan the area, his frown deepened. There was no sign of Sango. “Sango!” he called, raising his voice, knowing deep down that there wasn’t a chance that she would hear him over the storm. As if to mock him, the wind seemed to strengthen, and with a muttered curse, he ran in the direction of the river.

 

Breaking through the trees beside the water, Miroku stopped abruptly as Sango came into view. She wasn’t alone. Standing there as the rain fell, already drenched to the skin but seemingly unaware, she stood, silent, motionless, as she watched her younger brother slowly walk away. The very air around her seemed sad, wrapped in the somber shades of endless gray. Scowling as he started forward, he tamped down the urge to run after Kohaku, the urge to try to make the boy understand just what it was he was doing to Sango every time he left her. But as much as Miroku might want to do something, it was Sango’s battle, wasn’t it? Something she had to do herself—something she had to learn for herself—even if Miroku hated the role of helpless bystander.

 

“I was getting worried about you,” Miroku remarked in what he hoped was a neutral enough tone as he held the umbrella over the both of them.

 

Sango sighed and slowly turned her face up toward him, her eyes unnaturally bright—completely horrifying when she tried to smile. “He just wanted to check on me. He wanted to let me know that he’s well,” she said.

 

“You don’t believe him?”

 

She quickly shook her head. “No, I do,” she insisted despite the hint of uncertainty in her voice. “He . . . He was smiling while he was talking,” she whispered, barely audible above the winds and rain and occasional cracks of thunder. “He’s traveled as far north as he could go, helping whoever needs it when he’s heard stories of aggressive youkai. It seems like . . . like he’s healing.”

 

Slipping an arm around Sango’s shoulders, drawing him closer against his side, Miroku smiled. “We all are,” he agreed. She drew a deep breath, looked up at him for a moment. There was something else; he could see it in her gaze. Those soft brown eyes hid nothing. Sango was honest to a fault. “What is it?” he coaxed gently.

 

“I told him . . . I told him that I wanted to rebuild our village,” she admitted. “I . . . I asked him if he’d help me do it.”

 

“And what did he say?”

 

Sango sighed, and while she didn’t cry, he had to wonder just how far off those tears really were. “He said that he’s not ready yet . . . but someday . . .” Taking a deep breath, she finally managed a smile—a real smile—and it was as bright and radiant as the sun rising over the horizon in the morning. “He said that someday, he wants to have a place to return to, as well.”

 

Miroku smiled and gave Sango’s shoulders an encouraging squeeze. “Well, I guess that settles it, then,” he told her.

 

She shook her head as though she were confused. “Settles what?”

 

Miroku chuckled and reached out to take the pot from Sango. “It settles what we’re going to do now. When do you want to head back to your village, Sango?”

 

The look she shot him was full of silent thanks, unspoken words that really weren’t necessary. “You’ll help me farm the fields and rebuild the houses and training grounds?”

 

“Can’t say I’m much of a farmer,” he admitted, letting Sango take the handle of the umbrella as they headed back into the forest. “Not sure how good I’ll be with a hammer, either, but I suppose I can learn as I go.”

 

She thought about that for a long moment then sighed. “Well, it’s too late in the season for planting, and there’s not a lot of anything left in the old village . . . I think we should stay here and work on collecting the things we’ll need for spring.”

 

Miroku grinned at her and rolled his eyes. “Whatever you want, Sango . . . whatever you want.”

 

 

<<< 008:Wishing and Hoping

010: Confrontations >>>

~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~

A/N:

Minako: Beautiful Child.

Chichiue: archaic and highly respectful way to say ‘father’.

== == == == == == == == == ==

Final Thought from Kagome            :

Like InuYasha, huh …?

==========

Blanket disclaimer for this fanfic (will apply to this and all other chapters in Desideratum): I do not claim any rights to InuYasha or the characters associated with the anime/manga. Those rights belong to Rumiko Takahashi, et al. I do offer my thanks to her for creating such vivid characters for me to terrorize.

~Sue~

posted by Sueric at 12:29 am  

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Desideratum: 008: Wishing and Hoping

~~Chapter 8~~

~Wishing and Hoping~

 

 

Kagome shivered and scooted closer to the fire, holding up her hands to warm as she stifled a sigh and slowly shook her head.

 

Oh, boy . . . How did this happen? I didn’t want to go with Kouga . . . Why on earth did I agree?

 

An owl in a nearby tree hooted in answer to her thoughts.

 

Even worse, I didn’t get a chance to tell Sango and Miroku . . . I hope they aren’t worried . . .’

 

Gasping out a little squeak as a freshly killed rabbit thumped on the ground in front of her, Kagome jerked back, bumping into Kouga’s legs. She hadn’t heard him return, though she vaguely recalled him saying that he was going to hunt down some dinner. Staring at it, unable to mask her distaste, she swallowed hard and tried to force a smile since the wolf-youkai looked entirely too pleased with himself. “What’s the matter, Kagome? Not hungry?” he asked.

 

“Uhh,” she hedged, trying not to think about the idea that InuYasha always—always—skinned and cleaned whatever he caught before he handed it over for her to cook. Of course, he said it was because he didn’t like getting mouthfuls of fur, but . . . but she rather thought more than once that maybe there was more to it than that; that maybe he had just understood that staring at a carcass like the one that Kouga had just tossed down before her just might be a little more than she could take . . .

 

To her horror, Kouga reached over her shoulder and tore off the rabbit’s left rear haunch before handing the mutilated thing back to her. “Uhh,” she said again, pinching a front leg between her thumb and index finger before very quickly setting it aside.

 

Kouga didn’t seem to notice her reluctance, though, and he stretched out on his side, casually munching on the raw haunch, though he did pause to spit tufts of fur aside. Kagome quickly looked away.

 

“So, if this Banai guy claims to be a priest, why is he raiding your clan?” Kagome asked, mostly to sidetrack her own thoughts before she did something completely shameful, like vomit.

 

“Says he’s taking up donations or something.” Clicking his tongue against his teeth before gnawing on one of the rabbit’s leg bones, Kouga shrugged one shoulder carelessly. “He’s a damn fool,” the wolf-youkai insisted airily. “He also says that youkai are evil and that they ought to be destroyed. I’m pretty sure that he’s forgotten that he is one himself. He’s usually pretty harmless, but to hear tale of it, something’s got him all stirred up.”

 

“Like what?” she couldn’t help asking. The story was starting to get stranger and stranger. “More importantly, just how could he forget that he’s youkai?”

 

Kouga snorted and thumped his feet on the ground. “Well, he’s always been a little crazy. Guess it just got worse,” he said. “Anyway, it’s no big deal. I’ll just give him a friendly warning, and we’ll be on our way.”

 

“Yeah,” she allowed slowly, lifting her gaze skyward, staring at the empty tree branches so high above, wishing in vain to see that flash of crimson, the streak of silver, and knowing in her heart that he was nothing but a memory.

 

“So, uh . . . Tell me, Kagome. Where is that mongrel, anyway?” Kouga asked as he pushed himself up and chucked the bones over his shoulder. There was something in his tone, though, a hint of reluctance, as though he realized that there was something seriously wrong—or maybe he simply realized that she . . .

 

Letting out a deep breath, Kagome winced. It was going to become common knowledge soon enough, wasn’t it? “InuYasha . . .” Swallowing hard, she tried to find the words, but they wouldn’t come. Clearing her throat a few times, she shook her head, unsure where she could begin; unsure what she really wanted to say. “We . . . We purified the Shikon no Tama, and . . . and Midoriko asked us what we wanted. He . . . he chose my . . . my home, and I . . .” The bitter stab of cruel irony hit her hard, and she couldn’t contain the harsh, humorless laugh that slipped from her. “I chose his.”

 

Kouga said nothing for a minute. Kagome didn’t notice. Too busy, trying to cover up the fresh surge of pain brought on by the explanation that she’d given, she didn’t notice anything—until Kouga barked out a guffaw of laughter, anyway . . .

 

“Is that right?” he finally choked out, wiping laughter-induced tears out of his eyes. “I always knew he was stupid, but damn! That’s pretty retarded, even for him!”

 

That earned him a formidable glower from the miko that would have been much more effective had he actually been paying attention to her. He was still too busy laughing, which only served to further Kagome’s rapidly escalating irritation with him.

 

“Oi! Where are you going?” he called after her when she shot to her feet, grabbed her backpack along with her bow and arrows, and started to stomp away from the campsite.

 

“Goodbye, Kouga,” she said stiffly. “I think agreeing to come along with you was a mistake.”

 

Heaving a sigh, Kouga pushed himself off the ground and caught Kagome’s hand. “Okay, I’m sorry,” he said, though he didn’t sound particularly apologetic. “The subject of dog-face is touchy for you. I get it.”

 

Kagome opened her mouth to retort, yanking her arm away from the wolf-youkai, but the sudden rustle in the nearby foliage stopped her. Blinking in surprise as she watched five youkai step out of the trees, she couldn’t miss the low grunt from Kouga—or the dour priest’s robes worn by the middle youkai—a huge boar-youkai with thick tusks , thick fingers, a thick belly, and a very pronounced pig snout.

 

“Banai . . . how nice of you to save me the trouble of hunting you down,” Kouga remarked.

 

Banai,’ Kagome thought as she stared at the boar-youkai. ‘That’s him . . .?

 

“Kouga, leader of the wolf-youkai tribe,” Banai remarked, slowly nodding as he took a step closer. His men spread out, stepped into place surrounding Kouga and Kagome, and while they didn’t seem particularly hostile at the moment, Kagome couldn’t help the unbidden surge of nerves, either. “What do you here? Know you that you’re standing upon sacred ground?”

 

“Sacred ground?” Kouga repeated, shaking his head as a look of feigned surprise surfaced since they had made camp beside a small stream basically in the middle of nowhere. “Nothing sacred about this place, Banai.”

 

“That’s High Priest Banai to you, you lowly wolf . . . and you’ve been poaching our sacred rabbits, too,” one of Banai’s followers accused. Kagome squeaked and inadvertently moved in a little closer to Kouga’s side when he thrust the mutilated carcass from Kouga’s dinner over her shoulder to present the evidence to the ‘high priest’.

 

“The poaching of a sacred rabbit is a crime, punishable by law,” Banai proclaimed. “Bring them along. We’ll decide their punishment at the shrine.”

 

“Wait! This is just ridiculous—” Cutting herself off as she yanked her arm away from Banai’s henchman, she stomped over to the ‘priest’ and planted her hands on her hips, glowering up at the youkai stubbornly. “And there are no such things as ‘sacred rabbits’!”

 

To her surprise—and irritation—Kouga rolled his eyes and slung an arm around her shoulders to propel her around the high priest and toward the forest while the boar-youkai and his men fell in behind them. “Come on, Kagome. Just humor them. I did mention that he’s crazy, right?” he murmured in her ear.

 

Heaving a heavy sigh, Kagome didn’t argue. Considering there were five of them and one of her? Well, two if one counted Kouga, but he seemed to be way too amused by it all to bother trying to dissuade them from taking any rash actions. She should have known better than to make such a stupid, impetuous choice as going with Kouga in the first place. Why, oh why did she have the feeling that it just wasn’t going to end well . . .?

 

 

:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:

 

 

“Wh . . . What . . .?

 

Kouga blinked as his grin widened, thoroughly enjoying the shocked disbelief that InuYasha couldn’t hide. Fast on the heels of that, however, was the anger that InuYasha knew better, and it was that emotion that spoke for him. “You’re lying,” he stated flatly, straightening his back, glowering murderously at the wolf-youkai. “You’re fucking lying!

 

“Am I?” Kouga taunted. “What the hell would you know? You got any idea just how lonely she was after you disappeared? Did you think she’d stay alone forever? And why not me? At least I’m not dumb enough to wish for something that could hurt her—unlike some people I know.”

 

Erupting in a low growl, InuYasha grabbed the front of Kouga’s shirt and shoved him back against the wall without letting go. “You don’t know shit about it, wolf, so don’t pretend that you do. As for Kagome, she’d never marry someone like you.”

 

“Shows you what you think you know, baka,” Kouga shot back.

 

I know Kagome!” InuYasha shot back, giving Kouga yet another rough shake.

 

Sparing a moment to glance down at InuYasha’s hand pointedly before shifting his gaze back to his face once more, Kouga broke into a grin that was closer to a snarl than a show of amusement. “You know, Kagome, huh . . .? It doesn’t really matter because you weren’t there, were you?”

 

That barb struck home. “Shut the fuck up, you scrawny wolf,” InuYasha growled. “Just tell me the damned truth!”

 

“I am telling you the damned truth,” Kouga retorted although his tone was mild, almost bored. “Anyway, I should probably tell you that I’m a detective, and you could be arrested right now—easily.”

 

InuYasha snorted and dealt Kouga another sound thump against the wall. He wasn’t sure what this ‘arrested’ meant, but he couldn’t quite work up the need to care at the moment, either. “Like I give a damn.”

 

“Will you calm down already?” Kouga asked, rolling his eyes as though InuYasha should know enough on his own. “You’re wrinkling my shirt.”

 

“Don’t give a damn about that, either,” InuYasha ground out. “Now tell me the truth about Kagome!”

 

Kouga rolled his eyes. “I am,” he stated once more. “We were married—not long after you ended up here, I think . . .”

 

InuYasha erupted in a low growl, eyes brightening, his pulse thundering in his ears as he realized a moment too late that he’d forgotten Tetsusaiga back at the shrine. Too bad he didn’t much care if he lost control or not, given the circumstances. Tearing Kouga limb from limb was sounding better and better by the second . . .

 

“Ookami-san . . .?”

 

Kouga’s gaze flicked over InuYasha’s shoulder as Katsuragi stepped back out of the building. Then he sighed and knocked InuYasha’s hands away, looking far more irritated than he had before. Whether it was due to the interruption or something else entirely, InuYasha didn’t know—and really didn’t care. “Had to do this the hard way, didn’t you, mutt-face?” he muttered under his breath.

 

“What the fuck are you—?”

 

The snick of something cold on his wrist cut him off, and before InuYasha could get a good look at whatever it was, the damn wolf grabbed his other arm, giving a good yank that spun him around seconds before another ‘snick’ resounded in his ears. Tugging on his hands did nothing to regain his freedom, and InuYasha growled. “What the hell are these?” he demanded, jerking hard enough on the chain behind his back that held his hands together to draw blood. “Kouga, damn it—”

 

“Calm down, baka,” Kouga insisted, grabbing InuYasha’s arm and propelling him forward as he leaned in just enough to be heard, speaking in a tone so low that an ordinary human wouldn’t hear him at all. “Always gotta do things the hard way, don’t you?” Heaving a sigh, Kouga shook his head, grip tightening on InuYasha’s arm when the hanyou tried again to jerk away.   “Can’t say your brother’s going to be pleased about this one . . .”

 

InuYasha snorted, glowering at Kouga as the latter smashed a hand against his head to force InuYasha into the nondescript black sedan. “If you’re talking about Sesshoumaru, he can go straight to hell—along with you.”

 

“I’m going to take him down to the station. Continue the investigation until I get back,” Kouga called over his shoulder at his partner.

 

Just what the hell was going on? Yanking again on the restraints, InuYasha couldn’t stop the growl that rose inside him. They were just stupid metal cuffs, right? So why couldn’t he break them?

 

“They’ve got ofuda in them,” Kouga remarked, peering into the rearview mirror as he closed the door and started the engine.

 

The sound of the engine was enough to set off another round of growling and yanking against the handcuffs. He wasn’t sure exactly what he was in for, but judging from the sound and smell of the beast he’d been forced into, he was certain that it wasn’t good. “What the fuck, Kouga? Let me the hell outta here!”

 

“Can’t do that, dog-shit,” Kouga remarked calmly as the beast started to move. “Now be a good boy and just shut the hell up, will you?”

 

InuYasha gritted his teeth, thoughts preoccupied at least for the moment by the monstrosity that seemed to be moving of its own accord. Sure, he’d seen these things before, and yes, he had realized that people in the modern era used them to travel from here to there. He had just not seen the need to have or be in one before—and he couldn’t rightfully say that he liked it now, anyway. Mrs. Higurashi didn’t have anything like this—a small compensation, he figured—but as the thing pulled onto the street, InuYasha had to wonder just how the hell it managed to move. “Where are you taking me?” he demanded, gritting his teeth as the smell of his blood grew stronger with his struggling. The pain was a minor thing in comparison. Ofuda? Didn’t that just fucking figure . . .?

 

What was it that Kagome had called them? Wracking his brain, he grimaced. Oh, yes, a car, wasn’t it? That’s what she’d said these damn things were. Just how the hell would he ever be able to get used to something as unnatural as this? ‘No fucking way,’ he grumbled.

 

Unfortunately, though, that brought his mind right back to square one. Kagome.

 

She . . . she wouldn’t have married that damn bastard,’ he told himself as his ears flicked nervously. ‘She wouldn’t have, right? She didn’t . . . didn’t love him! Why the fuck would she . . .?

 

What the hell do you know? You got any idea just how lonely she was after you disappeared? Did you think she’d stay alone forever? And why not me? At least I’m not dumb enough to wish for something that could hurt her—unlike some people I know.”

 

Lonely? Okay, he’d buy that, and he didn’t need Kouga to tell him just how dumb his wish really was. Still . . . even if she was lonely, to have married Kouga . . .? There just wasn’t any way, was there . . .?

 

Keh! Don’t be fucking stupid! Of course she wouldn’t have married Kouga!

 

That was true, wasn’t it? No matter how lonely she might have been, there was just no way . . .

 

Unfortunately, too, there was no way he was going to get a straight answer out of Kouga, either. Damned wolf loved to heckle InuYasha, and what better way than to dangle such an abhorrent idea in front of him to see how badly he’d unravel, right?

 

 

Still . . . Still there was just a kernel of a doubt still lodged in his brain. What if . . . What if she had really married him . . .? That question hurt him more than he could credit, but it was that question that stilled his tongue, that kept him from saying another word as he stared out the window, wondering for the millionth time, just how things had gone so horribly awry.

 

Kouga sighed but didn’t speak during the fifteen minute trip through the congested streets of Tokyo. InuYasha was having distinct problems trying to tell himself that he really didn’t need to panic—something else to add to his growing list of grievances against Kagome’s time. There was an underlying feeling of complete helplessness that he just couldn’t abide, and whether it was caused by the moving monstrosity he was being forced to endure or the idea that he just couldn’t get his hands freed, he couldn’t stand it; not at all.

 

Pulling the car to a stop in front of a very large building, Kouga came around and roughly yanked InuYasha out of the car but said nothing as he escorted him inside. “I can fucking walk,” InuYasha snarled, jerking away from Kouga. Kouga sighed and grabbed InuYasha’s arm once more.

 

“Shut up and move, will you?”

 

He opened his mouth to let Kouga know just what he thought of all of this, but he didn’t get a chance as the wolf-youkai pushed open the doors and dragged InuYasha through the busy station and into a very small, very plain gray-walled box of a room—no windows, no nothing but a small metal table and two opposing chairs.

 

“Listen, InuYasha. I could nail your balls to the wall right now on any number of charges: obstruction of justice, attempted assault of a police officer, verbal battery . . . and I might, just for spite . . . Care to spend some time in jail?” Kouga stated flatly after letting go of the angry hanyou and stuffing his hands into his pockets.

 

InuYasha snorted. “Go to hell, Kouga,” he ground out, yanking on the handcuffs yet again—and again getting absolutely nowhere.

 

“Ookami-san,” a very smooth, very feminine voice interrupted. “Katsuragi-san called and said you were bringing in someone who was trying to interfere with your investigation . . . The break-in case downtown? Anyway, Katsuragi-san said that he needed your help with a couple of leads down there, so if you’ll be so kind as to give me a brief overview, I’ll take it from here.”

 

InuYasha blinked, his eyes widening as he slowly turned his head to see the woman who had spoken. Mouth falling open in surprise, he couldn’t quite grasp what he saw. It was impossible, wasn’t it . . .? Impossible and . . . but . . . “Y . . . You . . . How . . .?”

 

 

:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:

 

 

Stomping into the familiar miko’s hut in the village she knew as well as she knew her own home, Kagome’s temper was well past boiling and rapidly approaching total melt down as she dropped her backpack and bow and arrows onto the floor in a huff.

 

“Kagome-chan! Where on earth did you go?” Sango was the first to ask as she recovered from her initial shock. “Why did you leave with Kouga?”

 

Just the mention of that name was enough to send her temper soaring higher, and before she could stop herself she turned her formidable glower on the taijya. “Don’t even mention him to me, ever again,” she bit out, balling her hands into fists so tightly that her fingers turned white.

 

Sango blinked and shot Miroku a quick glance, like he’d know just what was bothering Kagome, and for some reason, that only served to irritate her more.

 

“Something vexes ye, child?” Kaede asked mildly and without looking up from the bowl of herbs she was pulverizing.

 

Face contorting in a marked scowl, she stooped down to dig around in her backpack for small, white cloth bag that she kept her dirty clothes in as well as the plastic container that held the bar soap she’d originally bought for InuYasha since it was about as close to unscented as she could find, but had been using for laundry. “I don’t want to talk about it,” she replied in a clipped tone as she stood up and headed for the door once more, leaving behind some very confused friends.

 

That stupid Kouga!‘ she fumed as she pushed aside the bamboo mat that covered the doorway. ‘If I see him again in the next hundred years or so, it’ll be way too soon!

 

“Oi! Kagome!”

 

Wincing as her teeth ground together at the very sound of that particular voice, Kagome shook her head and started stomping down the path that led to the river, determined to ignore the one person she’d rather kill than talk to at the moment. She should have known that her bad luck of late was still holding . . . Kouga dashed forward, skidding to a stop before her as she heaved a longsuffering sigh. “Got your things together?” he asked in lieu of a proper greeting.

 

Kagome didn’t answer right away, spending precious seconds trying to get a grip on her rapidly rising ire. Her cause wasn’t helped in the least when the ignorant wolf broke into a very cocky grin. “I told you once, Kouga-kun,” she managed to say without screaming, “I’m not going anywhere with you.”

 

“You have to,” he pointed out calmly—too calmly. “You’re my wife now, after all.”

 

Jamming a finger under his nose, Kagome issued a very savage growl—proof of her inability to deal with much more—if he were willing to listen to her, that was. She wasn’t at all sure that he wanted to, given that they’d already had this very same conversation at least a dozen times on the way back to the village. “I’m not your wife!” she hollered.

 

Rolling his eyes, Kouga grasped her forearms and leaned down to look into her face. “You say that now, but once you get used to the idea, you’ll like it; I promise! Not just anyone can say that her husband’s the leader of the wolf-youkai tribe.”

 

Grinding her teeth together since he’d said that like he truly believed that it was a great honor, she knocked his hands away and spun around to stomp back into Kaede’s hut once more. “One question,” she called out, interrupting whatever discussion they were having, and since she figured it was about her, anyway, she didn’t feel very bad about her perceived rudeness. “How does one go about getting a divorce these days?”

 

Five faces completely blanked at her question, though she figured that the children probably didn’t really understand what she was asking, anyway. ‘Stunned’ was a good word for it, she figured. Miroku was the first to recover, but he had to clear his throat a few times before answering. “Divorce?” he echoed. “Uh . . . is . . . is one . . . necessary . . .?”

 

Making a face, Kagome scowled at the monk and tried her best not to blush. “Well, I guess an annulment would do. It’s not like anything like that happened—or will happen,” she grumbled.

 

Judging from the look on Miroku’s face, he wasn’t entirely sure what an annulment was, but he certainly did understand the concept of divorce. “Why . . . Why don’t you tell us how you ended up . . . married . . .?” he asked, carefully measuring his words.

 

Heaving a sigh, Kagome shuffled into the hut and plopped down on the edge of the platform around the fire pit, completely and utterly ignoring Kouga as he followed her inside.

 

Kagome wasn’t exactly inclined to answer, but apparently, Kouga didn’t mind filling the rest of them in. “We went to go talk to this old crackpot, Banai, and when we stopped for the night, he shows up, declaring that we’re desecrating sacred grounds and killing sacred rabbits—” Holding up his hand to stop Miroku’s question—probably something to do with the idea of ‘sacred rabbits’—before he went on. “So he hauls us back to his shrine, said that the fine for poaching one sacred rabbit is fifty head of cattle—like anyone has fifty head of cattle, just laying around to give to the old lunatic—and then when he figures out that we’re not married, he says that he’ll waive the fee if we agreed to let him marry us since traveling together alone is a sin, blah blah blah—You get where I’m going here, right?”

 

Miroku and Sango exchanged looks. Kagome heaved a sigh since she’d have to be blind not to see the amusement awash in their gazes. That just figured, didn’t it? She rolled her eyes, wishing that she could see the humor of the situation when she really just could not.

 

“Who is this ‘Banai’?” Miroku went on, scratching his chin thoughtfully.

 

Stifling a growl of abject frustration, Kagome began, “He’s some crazy pig—”

 

“Boar,” Kouga corrected calmly.

 

Tamping down the urge to kick the maddening wolf, Kagome nodded. “—Boar-youkai who thinks he’s a priest and has been forcibly taking up ‘donations’ from Kouga’s clansmen,” she grumbled.

 

Miroku’s smile widened. “A youkai that thinks he’s a priest?” He laughed. Sango smacked him with the back of her hand to make him stop since Kagome still didn’t think any part of this whole situation was funny. Too bad the taijya looked way too amused, too . . .

 

“Aww, don’t worry about it, Kagome,” Kouga drawled. “Once you get used to the pack, you’ll love it.”

 

“I’m not getting used to anything, Kouga!” she growled, slowly rising to her feet. “For the last time, I—”

 

“Well, unless this Banai is really an ordained priest, then you’re not really married, Kagome,” Miroku cut in before Kagome could give in to the urge to have a nervous breakdown.

 

“Kouga! Kouga! Congratulations are in order, right?”

 

“Welcome to the family, nee-chan!”

 

“We’re not married,” Kagome said, raising her voice to be heard over the din.

 

An epidemic of coughing broke out behind her as Ginta and Hakkaku burst into the already crowded hut.

 

Kouga’s smug grin widened. “How’d you two find out?”

 

Ginta squatted down on his haunches to catch his breath. “High Priest Banai sent word earlier today. We gave his messenger a few stacks of deer pelts for his trouble.”

 

Kouga snorted though the smile on his face had yet to diminish. “Probably what he wanted all along,” he mused.

 

Kagome narrowed her eyes on the wolf-youkai. “You knew, didn’t you? That we weren’t really married?”

 

He didn’t deny it, and, in fact, winked at her, which very nearly sent her careening right over the proverbial edge.

 

“The others wanted us to tell you to hurry home because they’re planning a feast,” Hakkaku informed them happily.

 

“Yeah! It’s not every day our leader gets married!” Ginta added.

 

“For the last time, we’re not married!” Kagome bellowed.

 

The three wolf-youkai squeaked and retreated to the far corner, cowering together as Kagome loomed over them. At least Kouga tried not to look terrified, which was more than could be said for the two clansmen.

 

“That reminds me of someone else,” Miroku muttered, leaning toward Sango. “Don’t you agree?”

 

“It does,” Sango agreed.

 

“So . . . does that mean the feast is off?” Ginta asked Kouga.

 

Kouga, at least, was trying to act like he wasn’t affected by Kagome’s tirade. “Maybe not a wedding feast,” he muttered, cheeks pinking as he tried to pass himself off as unconcerned.

 

“Is . . . is she finished yelling at us?” Hakkaku asked, pushing himself further behind the other two.

 

“Scary,” Bunta muttered, peeking out from behind Miroku.

 

“InuYasha used to cower like that, too,” Shippou pointed out indelicately.

 

Kouga grinned and slowly pushed himself to his feet, but he didn’t come closer to Kagome. “Well . . . think of it this way, Kagome. At least you got that damned mutt off your mind for a couple days.”

 

Heaving a sigh, Kagome retrieved her laundry and headed for the door again. If they wanted to laugh at her, then they were more than welcome to do so, but she didn’t have to sit around and take it. As for getting her mind off InuYasha? ‘Like that would ever happen,’ she thought with an inward sigh. ‘InuYasha . . . I . . . I miss you . . .’

 

 

<<<007: Modern Inconvenience

008: Shadows >>>

~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~

A/N:

The Japanese justice system is vastly different from ours. As such, InuYasha has not been formally informed of the charges that he’s facing, They can hold suspects for up to 48 hours without charging them formally, and if they want more time to build a case, they can get a request to hold a person for up to 20 days without charging them. Let’s hope for his sake that they don’t decide to toss him in jail, too, because ninety-nine percent of those charged in Japan are found guilty

== == == == == == == == == ==

Final Thought from InuYasha:

I shoulda killed him long ago

==========

Blanket disclaimer for this fanfic (will apply to this and all other chapters in Desideratum): I do not claim any rights to InuYasha or the characters associated with the anime/manga. Those rights belong to Rumiko Takahashi, et al. I do offer my thanks to her for creating such vivid characters for me to terrorize.

~Sue~

posted by Sueric at 12:26 am  

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Desideratum: 007: Modern Inconvenience

~~Chapter 7~~

~Modern Inconvenience~

 

 

Well, fuck!

 

Stopping on the edge of the flat rooftop as he scanned the horizon of the city they called ‘Tokyo’, InuYasha rubbed a weary hand over his face and heaved a sigh. He hurt, damn it. Senses nearing overload, it wasn’t the first time he’d thought that maybe he’d made a huge mistake in leaving the shrine grounds. Nose overwhelmed by the layers of stench that made locating the one he wanted almost impossible, ears throbbing from the combined rumble of too many cars, too many people, as well as sounds that he just couldn’t identify . . . Why hadn’t he noticed these things before? He’d ventured into the city with Kagome a number of times, hadn’t he? Why were they so much harder to deal with now?

 

With a grunt, InuYasha pushed off the building, springing forward to land on the next one.

 

He hadn’t told anyone that he was leaving the shrine. He honestly hadn’t thought to. After the idea had occurred to him, he’d been too anxious to see if his suspicions were true, but he hadn’t anticipated how difficult the task of finding that baka might be.

 

He should have, he knew. Even then, that wouldn’t have eased the trouble, would it? It reminded him of the times they’d spent, traveling all over when they’d been trying to track down Naraku’s stronghold. It had been hidden behind a barrier that had stopped InuYasha from being able to sense or smell him, but in the end, he’d found the castle, and if it hadn’t been for his baka half-brother, Naraku would have been dealt with then.

 

Yeah, that’s not entirely true,’ he thought as his scowl deepened, as he leapt across the city’s skyline. They’d done well to flush him out of hiding at the time, he supposed. Of course, he’d bite his own tongue off before he’d ever admit that Sesshoumaru had done anything well. Something about that particular youkai made InuYasha’s blood boil, damn it . . .

 

And just who the fuck was that little brat with him?‘ he fumed, remembering the snide smirk on the strange hanyou’s face. Just thinking about that one pissed him off even more, and he grunted as he pushed off the flat rooftop to make the leap to the next building. It was entirely possible that the hanyou was older than him—and why that ticked him off, he wasn’t entirely sure, but it did, nonetheless. In fact, as far as InuYasha was concerned, the two of them—Sesshoumaru and the one he’d called ‘Sora’—were some sort of unholy union that he wanted no part of.

 

Grimacing as a particularly loud car horn pierced through the sounds of the city, he nearly stumbled in his stride but caught himself and kept moving. A gust of wind caught the visor of his baseball cap, and the pitiful bit of fabric flew off before he could catch it. Muttering a curse under his breath, InuYasha decided against going after it since he had bigger fish to fry.

 

If I can just find that bastard,’ he thought with a low growl, ‘maybe I can get some answers . . .’

 

Irritated all over again at how stupid he’d been, InuYasha pushed himself harder. He should have thought of it sooner, shouldn’t he? After all, if anyone knew anything, then it stood to reason that he did, didn’t it? Knowing him, he was probably sitting back somewhere, laughing his ass off at InuYasha, and why not? He’d been sitting around, feeling sorry for himself in a strange time that he didn’t know surrounded by even stranger things that would probably never make much sense to him and missing the best friend he’d somehow managed to lose along the way . . .

 

But no, the longer he thought about it, the more certain he became. There had to be a way back, didn’t there? It just didn’t matter that he was here and she was there. They shared a bond, didn’t they? Even he had known that. She’d saved him time after time—saved him because she was the only one who could. He simply couldn’t accept that he wouldn’t ever see her again. It just . . . well, it wasn’t possible, was it?

 

Hell, no, it wasn’t! He didn’t believe in the idea that there were simply souls that were never meant to be together, and sure, he’d been foolish with Kikyou. Because of her—because of her sacrifices—he’d always vowed that things would be different with Kagome. He’d faltered now and again, but wasn’t that natural, too? No, he absolutely couldn’t accept the idea that she was beyond his reach. He refused, damn it . . .

 

Skidding to a halt on the edge of a flat topped building where a bunch of plants were potted and flourishing, InuYasha frowned and hunkered down, sniffling deep as the unsettlingly familiar scent wafted to him from somewhere down below. The darkened alley was difficult to discern, and any noises that he might have recognized were far too muddled in a dull buzz of a thousand other sounds.

 

But that scent . . .

 

Unconsciously erupting in a harsh growl, InuYasha dug his claws into the weathered concrete rim that ran around the perimeter of the roof, crumbling it as easily as it would have had it been formed from sand and water on the beach.

 

A surge of anger shot through him, and before he could talk himself out of it, InuYasha hopped forward, pushing himself off the ledge and into the darkness below.

 

He landed with a dull thump in the middle of the alley, crouching low just behind two shadowy figures that were poking around with flashlights in their hands, wearing strange suits. He’d been right, after all, and even as he got to his feet, he couldn’t help the rumbling growl that issued from him, either.

 

“—obvious that the perpetrator ran down here, tossing the weapon over this way where we found it. We know he didn’t run in there—they’d have seen him, and he couldn’t have gone all the way to that end since there’s a security camera by that door, so he’d have had to duck in there . . .”

 

The two men stopped talking and slowly turned to face him. InuYasha ignored the one—he didn’t know or give a damn who he was, even though the man’s face shifted into an expression of mild shock, as though he couldn’t quite believe just what he was seeing. Cracking his knuckles—they popped inordinately loudly in the confines of the alley, InuYasha bared his fangs, his eyes glowing in the darkness.

 

The second being—the one who had been talking—eyed him up and down as a slow, lazy grin that looked almost more like a sneer broke over his features, and he nodded as though he recognized something despite the amused glint in his eyes that InuYasha really didn’t trust. The grin widened as he shook his head, as though he simply couldn’t quite reconcile the idea that InuYasha had literally dropped in out of nowhere . . .

 

“Well, hello, dog-shit . . . Long time, no see, huh?”

 

 

:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:

 

 

“Those two are going to kill each other, yet,” Sango remarked ruefully, shaking her head as she watched Shippou and Bunza face off nearby. The children were glaring at each other without blinking, their arms drawn back as though they were ready to dash forward, their teeth bared, which might have been less humorous and more serious had they been a little bigger.

 

Kagome didn’t comment as she slowly sipped a cup of tea and did her best to ignore the altercation.

 

“What are they fighting about this time?” Miroku asked as he tucked a stack of ofuda into his kimono.

 

“The last onigiri,” Sango replied, offering the rice ball in question to Kirara in her open palm. The fire-cat-youkai sniffed it once, twice, then grabbed it in her mouth before curling up in a ball beside Sango to eat her unexpected serving.

 

“They get along almost as well as Kouga-kun and InuYasha,” Kagome remarked idly, lowering her cup to her lap. “Knock it off, you two!” she hollered.

 

Sango and Miroku exchanged significant looks behind the young miko’s back. They could understand, of course, that Kagome’s temper of late had been a little short, and in all honesty, they couldn’t really blame her for that. Still, it was unusual for her to snap at the kitsune, and that, more than anything, worried them.

 

“Kagome-chan . . .” Sango began. Miroku shook his head in warning.

 

Kagome’s gaze shifted to her friend, and Sango, taking Miroku’s warning to heart, forced a bright smile and shook her head. “Why don’t we go fill the water jugs?” she ventured instead.

 

Kagome considered that then nodded. “Can you keep an eye on them?” she asked Miroku.

 

“Absolutely,” he assured them. “Take your time.”

 

Miroku let out a deep breath as the two women disappeared over the rise of the small hill in the direction of the nearby stream. “All right, you two,” he called, trying to draw the children’s attention.

 

“That’s my onigiri, baka!” Bunza yelled indignantly.

 

“Yeah, right!” Shippou shot back. “You got the extra fish last night, and I know you ate the last of the rice this morning! You’re fat enough, Bunza! That rice ball is mine!”

 

“Actually, the rice ball was Kirara’s,” Miroku commented.

 

That got their attention. Both little heads swiveled to stare at him, and Miroku sighed. “You two need to stop arguing. The womenfolk are beginning to find it tiresome.”

 

That seemed to stop them both in their tracks. Their shoulders slumped and they dropped their contentious stances, stomping back over to the campsite though Miroku didn’t miss the sulky glowers that they cast one another, either. “Don’t you think that the two of you can learn to get along?” he asked when they’d both sat down on opposite sides of the area.

 

“It’s his fault,” they said in unison, each indicating the other.

 

Miroku heaved a sigh and shook his head. ‘I should have known better than to ask . . .’

 

Sango crested the low rise of the hill and wandered over to them, sitting quietly beside Miroku, who cast her a cursory glance. “Where’s Kagome?” he asked, his expression quizzical.

 

She sighed and shook her head. “She asked that I leave her alone for awhile,” she admitted. “Houshi-sama . . . I’m really starting to worry about her.”

 

He considered that as he stood up to drop a few more pieces of wood onto the fire. The sun was sinking rapidly, and with it came the slightly chillier night air. “Everyone grieves at this or her own pace,” he said at length. “To Kagome, InuYasha’s disappearance is like he died, never to be seen . . . It will take some time before she can cope with the truth of the situation—that we really may never see InuYasha again. It’s not surprising, given how close the two of them have always been.”

 

Sango nodded, staring pensively at the flickering flames of the fire. “It seems like there is more to it than that.”

 

“All we can do is to offer her our full support,” Miroku concluded with a shake of his head.

 

“Even if she’s being crabby for no good reason,” Bunza grumbled.

 

Half expecting the young kitsune to snap at his arch enemy for that comment, Miroku only blinked and stared as Shippou hopped off the fallen log where he’d been sitting since returning to the group. Without a word, he started away, heading over the hill.

 

 

:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:

 

 

Kagome heaved a sigh and tightened her wrists around her ankles, resting her chin on her raised knees as she stared at the world around her without seeing any of it. Miroku and Sango had tried to tell her that she didn’t have to come along. They were only traveling as far as an outlying village to perform an easy youkai extermination of an old barn that was said to be a haven for fire-rats. Sure, the two of them could have easily handled the mission. No, it was more that Kagome needed to get away from the ever-watchful eyes in the village. As though they’d all made some sort of pact, it seemed to her that there was always someone there watching, observing, and even if it weren’t true, did that really matter when she felt like it was?

 

They think I’m going to break down, don’t they? They think that I’m nothing without . . . without InuYasha . . .’

 

Wincing at the almost bitter sound of her words, she closed her eyes and sighed. Wasn’t a loss like that supposed to get easier to deal with? Wasn’t every day that she awoke and stared at the morning sun supposed to bring her just a little closer to a sense of closure?

 

But it didn’t, did it? With every sunrise came the harsh realization that InuYasha really wasn’t there, and with every sunset came the night, and it was during the night when she lay awake, listening to the sounds of her friends as they slept that she missed him the most—missed looking up into the tall branches of the trees and seeing his profile—so strong, almost peaceful—the few times that he seemed almost pensive . . . Lost in thought as he stared out over the forest that he so loved, and every so often, he would glance at her, a half-smile on his lips—one devoid of the overlying emotions that he tried so hard to hide behind . . . Those had always been the moments when she’d felt closer to him, when she’d felt as though he understood how she felt, and that maybe he really did feel the same way . . .

 

Oh, what does it matter now?‘ she thought suddenly; angrily. ‘Is this really how it was meant to be?

 

There was no answer. She hadn’t really expected one: the whisper of the wind, the gurgle of the water . . . It was peaceful, wasn’t it? Peaceful and beautiful and . . .

 

And completely empty . . . without InuYasha . . .

 

Kagome . . .

 

With a startled gasp, she sat up straight, her eyes brightening as she scanned the area, as she searched in vain for the face that went along with the voice. As though he had spoken from there beside her, it was the first time that she hadn’t felt entirely lost, entirely alone, in such a long time . . .

 

But there was no one—no surly hanyou clad in crimson . . . and she heaved a sigh, dropping her chin into the cradle of her arms, resting atop her raised knees. ‘Even my own imagination is playing mean tricks on me . . .

 

Something familiar brushed over her, but she refused to turn around. She sensed the being but didn’t really hear him approach. No more than a movement in the falling night, a breath of familiarity that she neither welcomed nor refuted.

 

“Oi, Kagome . . . how goes it?”

 

“Hey, Kouga-kun,” she replied, her tone vague, a million miles away.

 

“Am I dreamin’ or do I really not smell the scent of that bastard with you or your friends?”

 

“InuYasha’s . . . not here,” she forced herself to say, shivering slightly as the breeze blowing through the trees picked up.

 

“Yeah? Where’d he run off to? Don’t tell me he left you alone.”

 

“It wasn’t like that,” she replied sharply, casting the wolf-youkai a scathing glower. “It’s not like he chose to leave . . .”

 

Except that he did,’ an unwelcome voice whispered in the back of her mind. ‘He chose it . . . wherever ‘it’ is . . .’

 

Kouga, as usual, only heard the part that he wanted to hear. “Figures . . . damn mutt-face . . . Next time I see him, I’ll punch him in the damn nose. See if I don’t!” he fumed.

 

Pushing herself to her feet, Kagome brushed her skirt off and bit down the rising irritation that roiled inside her. “So why are you out this way?” she asked instead, more to change the subject than because she really wanted to know.

 

Kouga rolled his eyes and sighed—a strange sound from the cocky youkai she’d come to know. “Eh, I have to go talk to old Banai,” he explained. “He’s been raiding some of my wolves lately—holy contributions, he’s calling it—and while they can take care of themselves, I figure it’s time to let the bastard know that he’s overstepping his boundaries when he attacks my kin.”

 

“Banai? Who is he?” she pressed. In truth, she hadn’t ever heard of this ‘Banai’ fellow, but from the way Kouga talked about it, it was obvious that he thought that everyone had.

 

“Just a crazy old loon, really . . . a boar-youkai who thinks that he’s a priest, if you can imagine that.” Kouga laughed suddenly and shook his head. “He hasn’t actually killed anyone, though it hardly matters. I don’t take kindly to unwarranted attacks against my wolves.”

 

“A youkai who thinks that he’s a priest?” she echoed, blinking in abject disbelief. “Isn’t that kind of an oxymoron?”

 

Kouga snorted and shrugged indifferently. “Well, you got the ‘moron’ part right . . .” Trailing off, he suddenly glanced at her, his dark blue eyes taking on a suspect shimmer. “You know, Kagome, why don’t you come with me? You know, if you don’t got anything better to do . . .”

 

She opened her mouth to say no. She was traveling with Miroku and Sango, after all . . . “Okay,” she said, much to her own surprise. ‘Wh—What? Where did that come from . . .?

 

Kouga looked shocked for all of thirty seconds. Then he barked out a loud guffaw, scooping up a protesting Kagome and dashing away into the forest . . .

 

“W-Wait, Kouga! I need to—”

 

His laughter cut her off. “Where’s your sense of adventure? You’ll have fun, I promise!”

 

Shippou stopped short and stared in gape-mouthed surprise. ‘Kagome . . . why would you go with Kouga . . .?‘ he wondered as he blinked at the emptiness around him.

 

The only answer he got was the gentle whisper of the trees.

 

 

:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:

 

 

InuYasha narrowed his eyes on the mangy wolf-youkai before him. Irritating smirk still firmly in place, he looked entirely strange in the modern clothing and yet completely familiar, too. “What the fuck are you doing here, Kouga?” he demanded.

 

The other man—a human, InuYasha could tell—looked entirely uncomfortable as he shifted his gaze from Kouga to InuYasha and back again.

 

“Ookami-san . . . Do you see what I see . . .?”

 

Kouga shot his partner a cursory glance. “What?” he replied, casting InuYasha a quick look. “Oh . . . Don’t worry about that. Cosplayer.”

 

“O-Oh . . .”

 

Ears flicking in abject irritation, InuYasha snorted. He didn’t have to understand the terms ‘cosplayer’ to realize that Kouga and his little human buddy were talking about him, anyway . . .

 

Brushing off the human’s obvious concern, Kouga flicked a hand in the general direction of a nearby door. “Anyway, Katsuragi-san . . . why don’t you go question the owner of that club for me?”

 

He didn’t look like he wanted to do what Kouga said, but he bowed once then strode away.

 

Kouga watched him go, jamming his hands into his pockets before shifting his gaze up and down the alley to make sure that they were alone, his black ponytail falling over his shoulder as he slowly smiled. “So this is where you ended up . . . I wondered, of course . . . not that I cared . . .”

 

“Cut the crap, Kouga,” InuYasha spat. “What the hell are you doing here?”

 

The wolf-youkai rolled his eyes. “I live here . . . well, not here, exactly . . . Right now, I’m working.”

 

“Working?”

 

Shaking his head, Kouga looked vaguely amused. “Yes, working, dog-breath . . . earning money . . . Surely you’ve heard of it. You work for it . . . spend it on things you need . . . It’s not that new a concept, really.”

 

InuYasha snorted indelicately and cracked his knuckles, indication clear: if Kouga wanted a fight, he’d be more than happy to oblige him. “What about your damn pack? You just leave them to fend for themselves, you coward?”

 

“My . . .?” To his surprise, the wolf-youkai laughed—a sound that still got InuYasha’s hackles up, just the same.

 

“Why, you . . .”

 

“Aw, relax, relax . . . Ginta and Hakkaku are livin’ in Los Angeles making gay porn . . . and I take care of my business.”

 

“Keh!” InuYasha snorted, since he didn’t actually understand most of what Kouga had just said. Didn’t matter to him, anyway, did it? Who the hell cared what those two bakas were doing, anyway?   “Tell me what you know about Kagome!” he demanded, wishing that he’d bothered to go inside for his sword before leaving the shrine. He felt completely naked without it, damn it, and dealing with Kouga without having it on hand . . . well, it only exacerbated the situation, as far as InuYasha could tell.

 

“Kagome,” Kouga repeated, as an entirely suspicious glint ignited in his eyes—as that damned mocking smirk of his widened even more. “What do you want to know, dog-shit?”

 

“Don’t fuck with me, Kouga!” he snarled, taking a swing at the youkai and missing when Kouga calmly stepped out of the way of InuYasha’s descending claws. “Tell me now or I’ll tear you apart with my bare hands!”

 

“Now, see, InuYasha, you’ve always had an impulse control problem, and I have to tell you that she’s none of your business, you know.”

 

“Since when?” he shot back, taking another swing at Kouga, who leaned to the side to avoid the contact.

 

Kouga’s grin turned downright nasty as he uttered a menacing chuckle. “Since she became my wife . . . baka.”

 

 

<<< 006: Assimilation

008: Wishing and Hoping >>>

 

~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~

A/N:

== == == == == == == == == ==

Final Thought from InuYasha:

D-did he just say … wife …?

==========

Blanket disclaimer for this fanfic (will apply to this and all other chapters in Desideratum): I do not claim any rights to InuYasha or the characters associated with the anime/manga. Those rights belong to Rumiko Takahashi, et al. I do offer my thanks to her for creating such vivid characters for me to terrorize.

~Sue~

posted by Sueric at 12:22 am  

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Desideratum: 006: Assimilation

~~Chapter 6~~

~Assimilation~

 

 

Kagome carefully nocked the arrow back and took aim, focusing her energy into the softly glowing tip. It was one of the exercises she did daily to keep her senses open and receptive, and she had to admit that, in the time since they’d defeated Naraku, she had grown a little rusty. It just hadn’t been the same, and while they’d fought some youkai along the way, it wasn’t like it had been before. Fighting every day . . . remaining on constant guard . . . She had let her focus drift, and she knew it.

 

She went through the motions of training with Kaede every day despite her preoccupation and the pain that was never very far away, and all the while, she tortured herself with questions and thoughts . . . ‘What would InuYasha think of this . . .? Would he think I’m being stupid? Would he be angry? Would he think that I was trying to be too much like Kikyou . . .? Would he be proud of the progress I’ve made?

 

The questions were enough to drive her insane.

 

The breeze caught her hair, tossing it into her face. She shook her head to clear her vision, focusing her energy into the arrow. Releasing it, watching as it zipped through the air, she saw it all with a certain level of detachment.   The arrow struck the target dead center—an ofuda that Miroku had affixed to the trunk of a stout tree that held a barrier in place. The barrier was released with a flash of pink light. She turned away, lowering the bow as she strode away from the field as the ofuda burst into flame and curled up on itself.

 

She felt like a stranger in her own skin. With every day that passed, she felt more and more like she was standing back, simply watching someone else’s life—someone who called herself Kagome but who wasn’t; not really. Too bad she wasn’t sure who the girl was.

 

Was this how Kikyou felt . . . when she looked at . . . me . . .?

 

Brushing the thought aside, she closed her eyes and kept walking toward the village. She could hear the sounds of children playing—laughing and yelling, the kinds of noises that were timeless and beautiful and somehow sad, just the same. The sun was shining, the breeze was gentle . . . the varying sounds of animals blended with it all to create a calm.

 

Yet the more peaceful that the day was seemed, the more fake it felt, and the biggest fake of all was Kagome.

 

Smiling brightly at a few children chasing after a makeshift ball, she wondered vaguely when the last time she’d felt like smiling really was, wondered if they could see right through it if they tried hard enough. “Will you play, Kagome-sama?” one of the children asked.

 

Her smile faltered. “Not today,” she said, very aware that she always indulged the village children when they’d ask her to join them. Today, though . . .

 

Veering away from the village, she took the path that led toward the river nearby. Kaede had mentioned something about journeying to a neighboring village to exorcise an earth spirit that had taken up residence in a hilltop shrine. She’d wanted Kagome to come along; Kagome had sensed it—and had summarily ignored it. To her, it felt like everything was crashing down on her, crushing her, bearing down so heavily that she had to struggle just to breathe.

 

The sanctuary on the bank of the peaceful water soothed her, calmed her, as unbidden memories dug under the edges of her shaky façade. InuYasha, sitting on the cliff overhead as she bathed . . . It was the first time he’d looked at her with anything other than absolute disdain, and while she’d come to realize later that his curiosity had more to do with Kikyou than it did her, she’d never, ever forget the feel of those amazing golden eyes staring at her, either.

 

Crumpling to the ground beside the water, she covered her face in her hands and drew a steadying breath.

 

“Kagome?”

 

She didn’t uncover her face at the sound of Miroku’s voice. She didn’t acknowledge him at all.

 

She heard the chimes of his shakuju coming closer, and he hunkered down beside her with a gentle sigh. “You did well in training today,” he said softly.

 

“Did I?” she asked quietly.

 

Miroku cleared his throat, and somehow she knew that he was trying to weigh his words carefully. “You did,” he finally allowed. “So well, in fact, that I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it for myself.”

 

“That’s what expected of me, isn’t it?” she replied, her voice taking on a vague sort of monotone. “That’s all I have left . . .”

 

“You don’t really believe that, do you?”

 

Kagome sighed. “I don’t know . . . I don’t know anything. I think . . . I think I’m losing myself,” she whispered, shaking her head as she tried to make him understand just what she was trying to say. “I can feel it every day . . . I’m losing those things that made me who I am . . .”

 

Miroku sighed and shifted to sit beside her. “Is that honestly how you see it?”

 

She nodded, finally lifting her face, closing her eyes as she allowed the gentle breeze to soothe her. “I . . . I don’t know . . .”

 

“You don’t want to be a miko?” he asked gently, lending voice to the singular question that had been plaguing Kagome for awhile.

 

“I . . .” With a sigh, she shook her head and bit her lip, staring out over the landscape, her eyes shifting quickly with every movement on the far side of the stream; waiting for a flash of silver, a blur of crimson . . . and when she realized what she was doing, she sank her teeth into the soft inside of her cheek, willing herself not to scream as a pang of loss so harsh, so strong, hit her yet again. It was those pangs that had convinced her that she was still alive, after all, but suddenly she had to wonder . . .

 

If I look down, would I see my hands? My feet? Would I see . . . myself . . .?

 

“You don’t have to become a miko if it isn’t what you want,” Miroku said, breaking the silence that had fallen. “We simply thought it best for you to learn how to use the power you have. What you choose to do with that power is entirely up to you.”

 

It was the same thing that he’d said before; that they’d all said before. In the beginning when the suggestion had been made, they’d all maintained that it was best to have Kaede teach her how to harness and use her spiritual power, and while Kagome knew deep down that they were trying to help her—maybe trying to distract her. In the end, she had to wonder if they weren’t also trying to change her, even if they weren’t really conscious of the intention . . .

 

Shooting to her feet rather abruptly, she gawped, dumbfounded, at the reflection mirrored on the water. Hair hanging down her back but caught toward the end by an insular white band of cloth . . . white haori . . . red hakama . . . the quiver of arrows peeking over her shoulder . . . even the expression on her face wasn’t truly her own: a blankness that she’d seen far too often on another face at another time . . . Blinking once, twice, to clear her vision, she snatched up the bow and jammed it down hard in the center of the reflection, disbursing the image with a splash and a ripple.

 

It was too much, wasn’t it? Too hard to look at herself; too difficult to separate herself from the image that had mocked her. ‘I . . . I’m not . . .’

 

Turning on her heel and dashing away, she ignored Miroku’s voice calling after her as she ran blindly through the trees.

 

Breaking through the forest into the clearing around the small village, she ignored the odd looks she garnered; ignored the voices calling out to her. Kaede’s hut was mercifully empty. The old miko still hadn’t returned. With a harsh cry, Kagome dropped to her knees, shaking her head as she frantically dug through the bag for the familiarity she needed. Clothes—her own clothes . . . whimpering softly, she pulled the clothes out with a shaking hand, yanking on the ties of the hakama with the other.

 

I’m not Kikyou,’ she thought, tugging and pulling at the clothes that didn’t seem to want to be discarded. ‘I’m not Kikyou; I’m not Kikyou . . .’ Wincing as she struggled with the stubborn fastenings, she couldn’t help the rising panic, the fierce surge of absolute fear that shot through her. “I’m Kagome,” she whispered, a tear spilling over; coursing down her cheek. “Kagome . . . Kagome!

 

Hurling the haori across the small hut, she dashed her hand over her eyes and snatched up the pale pink blouse, tugging it over her head in a reckless sort of way, she couldn’t help the little sob that escaped her as the sense of familiarity of having her own clothing on buffered her.

 

“Kagome? Is something amiss?” Kaede asked as she pushed aside the mat covering the doorway and stepped into the hut.

 

Tugging the zipper on the side of the skirt up, Kagome managed a shaky little smile that was entirely too thin but would have to suffice. “No, not at all . . . I’m fine; just fine . . .” she assured the aging miko.

 

Kaede’s eyes slowly shifted around the room, taking in the garments that Kagome had throw in her haste to be rid of them. “Be ye certain, child?”

 

“Of course,” she insisted, her smile faltering despite her best efforts to keep from letting Kaede see through her upset.

 

Kaede nodded slowly, shuffling across the floor to take up a hunk of wood for the dying fire in the pit. She didn’t speak as she hunkered down, carefully coaxing the fire back to life. “Kagome . . . do ye not wish to train as a miko?”

 

Taking her time adjusting the hem of her blouse, Kagome didn’t respond right away. Sitting on the edge of the wooden platform floor, she carefully tugged off the long white stockings before pulling her bag over to root through it for a pair of her normal socks. “Training’s fine,” she allowed, careful to keep her gaze trained on the socks she gathered in her hands to pull the first one on.

 

“Ye fear that ye will lose yourself,” Kaede ventured when Kagome didn’t volunteer more information.

 

Giving up her pretense, Kagome hunched forward, wrapping her arms around her legs and letting her chin fall onto her knees. “I don’t have an identity here,” she murmured, her voice catching as emotion rose to choke her. “I . . . I don’t guess I ever have.”

 

“Of course ye have,” Kaede said though not unkindly. “Ye never have given yourself enough credit.”

 

She didn’t respond for a moment, wishing that she could understand the things that had never made much sense. “Can I ask you something?” she finally ventured, watching a bird soaring through the crystal blue sky outside the hut through a window.

 

“What is it?”

 

She made a face and hugged her knees tighter. “Who do you see . . .? When you look at me . . .?”

 

“Ye are no more my sister than my sister could be you,” she replied quietly. “Kagome, ye must forge your own path . . . and mayhap ye should stop looking to the past to better see the future.”

 

Stop . . . looking to the past . . .? To . . . InuYasha . . .’

 

Standing abruptly, she walked out of the hut without another word to the old miko. Blinking fast to stave back the hotness that poked at her eyelids, she knew deep down that Kaede was just trying to help her, and yet she couldn’t suppress the rise of anger that nearly choked her, either. InuYasha had done so much for the village; protecting it from youkai and other threats. He’d become a part of her life; inseparable, really, and now . . .

 

Stop? How? And how could they?‘ she fumed. After all was said and done, and it was so easy for them, wasn’t it? Easy to shove him back, easy to lock the memories away, to allow him to become nothing more than a legend, a fairy tale, a bedtime story for children. All of the things he’d done, the times he’d stood up to protect them all, and now . . .

 

Smashing her fist against her lips, she broke into a sprint as she neared the path—the one that led to Goshinboku . . . the one that led to the well . . .

 

 

:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:

 

 

Miroku watched Kagome’s hasty retreat with a thoughtful frown darkening his gaze as the breeze stirred his bangs. As abrupt as her behavior was, he had to admit, however grudgingly, that it was a good sign. She’d been walking around in an almost trance-like state for far too long, and he’d been worried that she’d never snap out of it. Even if she wasn’t in the best of spirits, he had to allow that it was a relief,

 

A flash of color drew his attention, and he couldn’t help the indulgent little smile that surfaced on his features as Sango stepped out from behind the foliage that otherwise blocked her from view. Spotting him hunkered down beside the water, she returned his smile, albeit a little shyly as she made her way to his side. “Have you seen Kagome-chan?” she asked, breaking the companionable silence.

 

“You didn’t pass her?” he asked, his smile fading as he slowly got to his feet.

 

“No . . .”

 

“Hmm . . .”

 

He could feel her discerning gaze on him. “How did the training go?” she asked softly.

 

Miroku shrugged. “She’s doing very well,” he allowed.

 

“Why don’t you sound as though that’s a good thing?”

 

Casting her a half-hearted smile, Miroku shook his head. No doubt about it, Sango was far too perceptive. “She thinks she’s losing touch with herself.”

 

Sango considered that and slowly nodded. “It must be difficult for her.”

 

There wasn’t really anything that he could say to that. True enough, he knew. It was a tough thing when the one person who had always served to give Kagome a defining presence was no longer there.

 

“Where are the children?” he asked suddenly since Sango had taken Shippou and Bunza with her and Kaede to exorcise the hilltop shrine.

 

Letting out a deep breath, the taijya shook her head slowly. “Those two . . .” she began only to trail off with a sigh.

 

Miroku winced in commiseration. “Still not getting along well?”

 

Sango shot him a dark look, her meaning clear, and he chuckled. True enough. The two seemed to get along too well or just not well enough, depending. Judging from the look on Sango’s face, though, Miroku figured that it was the latter of those options today.

 

“They fought over who got to help Kaede check the shrine,” she admitted at length.

 

“They couldn’t both help her?”

 

Kirara climbed into Sango’s lap and yawned wide before curling up in a ball and closing her eyes for a nap. “No . . . and they interrupted Kaede’s mantras a number of times before I thought to send them both off to find a few herbs that we didn’t need.”

 

“That’s my smart girl,” Miroku intoned with a soft chuckle. “Both wise and beautiful . . .”

 

The woman’s cheeks pinked at the warmth of his praise, and she scrunched up her shoulders in a decidedly nervous sort of way. Biting her lip, she stared over the water’s surface, and while Miroku didn’t shift his gaze away from the rise of trees on the far side of the stream, he could feel the intensity of her stare time and again. It was dangerous, wasn’t it? Sitting here with her . . . ‘How ironic . . .’ he thought with a sardonic little smile that held very little real humor.

 

I cannot change things for you. I cannot lessen your fears nor can I dispel your doubts. I can tell you that the things you seek are not impossible. The path is troublesome, but you, Miroku . . . you must be certain that it is what you truly want.’

 

Closing his eyes just for a moment as he tried in vain to forget the meaning behind Midoriko’s words, Miroku frowned.

 

That was the trouble, wasn’t it? He knew what he truly wanted, and yet . . .

 

And yet those choices that Midoriko had alluded to . . . They were choices that he wasn’t entirely certain that he could ask Sango to live with, either . . .

 

 

:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:

 

 

“You failed to mention exactly how . . . charming . . . he can be.”

 

Sesshoumaru strode along the wide corridor illuminated by the ambient wall sconces that dotted the walls of the elegantly appointed office building. Sparing a glance at the hanyou who walked beside him, he didn’t pause in his gait as they headed toward the grand staircase in the center of the area. “I told you that he was a baka,” he intoned smoothly.

 

Sora’s lips twisted into a sardonic little smile, and he shrugged as he stuffed his hands into his pockets and nodded at a woman hurrying past with her arms full of manila folders. “Was it really all right to leave him in the forest?” he asked at length.

 

Heels clicking against the cold marble floor, the Inu no Taisho’s steps resounded in the comparative quiet. “Incidentals,” Sesshoumaru remarked. “There are far more pressing matters at the moment. I cannot be bothered by the likes of InuYasha.”

 

Neither man reached for the banister railing that lined either side of the immense staircase. For the moment, Sesshoumaru’s words had taken the edge off Sora’s very real concerns.

 

At least the meeting had proven interesting. He wasn’t sure what, exactly, he’d expected. After having heard so much about the hanyou history called InuYasha, he had to admit that he was taken by surprise by the surly, defensive teenager that he’d led on a merry chase through the woods.

 

“I must confess, the stories I heard did not do him justice,” Sora went on with a shake of his head as his smile widened slightly. “He’s much more volatile than I was led to believe.”

 

“I have cautioned you before not to trust everything you hear,” Sesshoumaru reminded him.

 

Sora nodded vaguely. “You did,” he agreed at length, lifting his gaze to the vast open ceiling of the skyplex. “She . . . She wasn’t with him.”

 

Considering Sora’s observation for several long moments, Sesshoumaru nodded. “It doesn’t matter.”

 

Raising an eyebrow at Sesshoumaru’s marked lack of concern, Sora frowned. Of course, it bothered him. But if Sesshoumaru didn’t find anything amiss, then Sora could only assume that perhaps he was simply over-thinking the situation. “So what’s next?”

 

“Next?” Sesshoumaru repeated. Sora could feel his gaze though the youkai hadn’t bothered to turn his head. “Next . . . we wait.”

 

“Why?” he challenged sharply, casting Sesshoumaru a questioning glance. “We know where he is . . .”

 

The look he garnered for daring to doubt Sesshoumaru’s command was enough to diffuse the precluding sense of haste that had remained just below the surface of Sora’s affected calm since the altercation in the woods days ago. It was a frightening expression, full of disdain and designed to let one know when he had overstepped his boundaries. It was simple to see exactly why Sesshoumaru was the undisputed Inu no Taisho, in Sora’s estimation. “I apologize,” he murmured, making a low bow. “I did not mean to be presumptuous.”

 

“You show your true colors,” Sesshoumaru mused.

 

The hanyou grinned. “Is that a compliment?”

 

“Take it as you will.”

 

Sora chuckled softly, even as he reminded himself that the only thing that could help him now was to exercise the patience he’d struggled so long to learn. “And you are certain that he will come to you?”

 

Sesshoumaru considered Sora’s last question. “He will,” he decided, “and when he does . . . I trust you remember what you’re to do.”

 

Sora nodded slowly, his amused expression dissipating, only to be replaced with a steely glint of absolute determination. “Absolutely, Sesshoumaru-sama. Leave it to me.”

 

 

:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:

 

 

InuYasha dug his claws into the table top and concentrated on the idea that he really, really, really couldn’t tear the irritating human limb from limb—at least, he couldn’t unless he wanted to endure what he figured would be a fairly nasty scolding from Mrs. Higurashi, that was . . .

 

“So if you take the numerator and multiply it by the denominator, then you’ll get the product, and—”

 

And I don’t give a rat’s ass!‘ he fumed, glowering across the table at the oblivious Houjou who had his nose buried so deeply in the text book that he wasn’t even aware of the mutinous scowl he was receiving.

 

“—try the next problem. I’ll bet you can get it if you just set your mind to it.”

 

No doubt about it, Houjou’s eternal optimism was stepping all over InuYasha’s last nerve. With a muted growl, the pencil that he’d been gripping snapped in half, and that, at least, was enough to draw the human’s attention. “Lesson’s over,” he snarled, standing up so abruptly that he shoved the chair back with a loud scrape.

 

“Uh, okay,” Houjou agreed, looking completely perplexed as he started to gather his things. “Just work the rest of the problems on this page, then, and I’ll . . . I’ll be back tomorrow.”

 

InuYasha snorted noncommittally, tossing the remnants of the pencil in the general vicinity of the trash can as he stomped out of the kitchen. Beneath the baseball cap that Mrs. Higurashi had reminded him to put on just before Houjou’s arrival, his ears twitched nervously, and he grimaced. He started to reach up to yank it off only to stop when he spotted the old man leading a few tourists around the shrine grounds.

 

“Aww, for fuck’s sake,” he muttered, stopping short as he weighed his options. He could go hide in Kagome’s room, but he still hated to go in there. Odd thing, really . . . being surrounded by Kagome’s lingering scent both comforted and irritated him at the same time. ‘Damn her,’ he thought with an inward snort. ‘Stupid girl . . . can’t even make a wish right, can she? She’s completely useless without me . . .’

 

The snort shifted into a soft little whine, and without stopping to consider his actions any further, he pushed the door open and stomped past the tourists who were all staring at him with varying degrees of interest—possibly because he’d managed to sniff out his old clothing and put it on, much to his satisfaction, and much to Mrs. Higurashi’s dismay.

 

“There’s an old legend about a terrible, ornery hanyou who was pinned by a sacred arrow to this very tree!” the old man was saying.

 

Ordinarily, InuYasha might have taken issue over the ‘terrible, ornery hanyou’ part, but he just didn’t feel like spending the next hour yelling at the crazy old man, either. He kept moving toward the one place where he might find a modicum of peace, and only because it wasn’t an area that was normally part of the tour—the well house.

 

To be honest, InuYasha had never really stopped to think about why the well wasn’t part of the tour, though he had a feeling that it had more to do with the loss of Kagome than because an old dry well was less than fascinating. He felt it too, didn’t he? Every time he stepped into the shadowy building, he couldn’t help but remember the countless times that he’d traveled through that very well—sometimes to fetch Kagome, sometimes to bring her home to visit . . . sometimes just because he missed her . . . Maybe . . . Maybe he ought to have told her that last part a little more often . . .

 

Hunkering on the steps, he pulled the baseball cap off and let it tumble from his fingers as a thousand memories assailed him in the dimness and the quiet of the stagnant air.

 

Kagome . . .’

 

What was she doing now? Was she helping the others to protect the village? He grimaced. ‘That damned pervert and Sango better be taking care of her,’ he thought with a decisive snort. ‘Kami only knows the kind of trouble she’ll get into if they leave her to her own devices . . .’

 

That was right, wasn’t it? How many times had she gotten him into precarious situations simply because she never knew when to leave well enough alone? Jumping right into the fray when Sesshoumaru had tracked him down to challenge him over the ownership of Tetsusaiga . . . getting herself kidnapped by that moron, Kouga . . . nearly dying from poison in that damned burning shrine . . . so many more times than he really wanted to consider, and still he couldn’t help the sad little smile that turned up the corners of his lips as he remembered the feeling of contentment that he’d gotten just knowing that she was there with him. She wanted to be, that’s what she’d said, even if he hadn’t deserved her devotion.

 

Keh! If she wanted to be with me, why isn’t she now?‘ he fumed, shaking his head as a rapid gush of anger shoved the melancholy feelings aside. As though he couldn’t control the need to move, he shot to his feet and stomped across the well house to retrieve the carefully wrapped piece of wood that he had stashed under the platform that ran around the perimeter of the building.

 

Strange how the parcel seemed to temper his anger. Frowning at the smudgy cloth that he’d carefully wrapped around the simple shelf he’d fashioned out of the branch of Goshinboku he’d cut down, he let out a deep breath and felt his ears flatten momentarily.

 

He supposed that it was stupid. There was a strange sense of urgency that he couldn’t shake, an unreasonable fear that if he didn’t hurry, something terrible would happen. It didn’t matter that he knew damn well that nothing would be able to bring her back, he couldn’t help but think that maybe, if he could finish this . . . maybe . . .

 

With a deft hop, he lit on the edge of the well, holding the shelf against his chest, he stared down into the darkened void. He hadn’t been inside it since he’d found the letter she had written him. Almost afraid that he would find another one, he had ignored the urge to test the portal since he knew deep down that the well really was closed.

 

Settling down with a dejected sigh and a shake of his head, InuYasha carefully unwrapped the piece of wood that he’d been carving. A small shelf carved out of a solitary branch from Goshinboku, it was simple—almost plain—yet he had a strange feeling that it would please Kagome.

 

‘If she ever sees it . . .’

 

Wincing inwardly as the truth behind that statement struck a little too close to home, InuYasha ground his teeth together, willing away the familiar ache that always accompanied his thoughts of Kagome, of the time that he knew and the life he’d left behind. From the moment he’d started to fade—the moment he’d realized that Kagome had wished for something entirely different—he felt as though he’d somehow stopped living, existing on the edge of nothing. He’d lost everything in that moment, hadn’t he? His reason to fight, his feeling that he was worth something, after all . . . Somehow in the course of the years since he’d first met her so long ago, she’d quietly and gently and without his ever having realized it . . . She’d become all of those things to him, and he . . .

 

Kami, he missed her.

 

There has to be a way,’ he thought with a scowl as he shaved away bits of wood here and there along the plane of the shelf. ‘Just have to figure out how . . .’

 

Too bad there wasn’t someone who could just tell him how to do it. He’d been thinking about it ever since the night everything had happened, to no avail. He’d thought so hard that his head hurt, and he wasn’t any closer to figuring out if there was anything he could do than he had been in the beginning.

 

Rubbing the wood with the pad of his thumb, he sighed again and slowly shook his head, his scowl resurfacing as he concentrated on the task at hand.

 

If there were someone who knew and understood his problem, maybe they could help him figure out how to fix it all . . .

 

Someone . . . someone . . .

 

Sitting up straight, InuYasha’s eyes flared as an insular thought occurred to him. “That’s . . . That’s right . . .” he murmured.

 

The shelf thumped on the packed earth floor as he shot to his feet and stomped toward the stairs, pausing only long enough to snatch up the baseball cap as he snorted indelicately since he really had to wonder exactly why he hadn’t thought of it sooner. It was all-too obvious, wasn’t it? Well, provided he could find him, anyway . . .

 

He’d know, wouldn’t he?‘ he fumed as he shoved out of the well house and into the hazy afternoon sunshine. ‘That damned old bastard . . . of course he would . . .’

 

 

<<< 005: Secrets of the Well

007: Modern Inconvenience >>>

~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~

A/N:

Taijya: Youkai exterminator.

== == == == == == == == == ==

Final Thought from InuYasha:

What the hell do I need to know math for…?

==========

Blanket disclaimer for this fanfic (will apply to this and all other chapters in Desideratum): I do not claim any rights to InuYasha or the characters associated with the anime/manga. Those rights belong to Rumiko Takahashi, et al. I do offer my thanks to her for creating such vivid characters for me to terrorize.

~Sue~

posted by Sueric at 12:19 am  

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Desideratum: 005: Secrets of the Well

~~Chapter 5~~

~Secrets of the Well~

 

 

InuYasha narrowed his gaze as he peered up through the branches of Goshinboku.

 

“What are you doing, Inu-no-nii-chan?”

 

He grunted in response but didn’t turn to face Souta as he continued his perusal.

 

“He looks like he’s trying to find something,” Hitomi ventured.

 

“I can see that,” Souta grumbled. “What are you looking for? Maybe we can help you find . . . whatever it is.”

 

“Are you sure he can hear you?” Hitomi asked dubiously.

 

“Yeah, I can hear you,” InuYasha growled, crouching down before leaping into the branches of the beloved tree. “I was trying to ignore you.”

 

Hitomi lifted her hand to her forehead to shade her eyes and stared up through the branches. “Not very friendly, is he?”

 

“Sure, he’s friendly,” Souta shot back. “Maybe he just doesn’t like you.”

 

InuYasha settled back against the tree trunk and closed his eyes, set to ignore both Souta as well as his little friend as he crossed his arms under the generous folds of his haori sleeves. In the length of time he’d been forced to say at the shrine, it never ceased to annoy him whenever those two ended up arguing—which was all the time. If it wasn’t one thing, it was another, and that was enough to set InuYasha’s nerves on edge. They’d ended up arguing over the shade of green on a flyer that had been left on the front door earlier. It was stupid. It was senseless.

 

It made him miss Kagome just a little more, too.

 

That ain’t true,’ he insisted. ‘We didn’t fight about stupid shit . . .’

 

Flinching inwardly when the memories of the number of times they’d done exactly that assailed him, InuYasha couldn’t help the slight flattening of his ears. ‘All right; so we did fight over some hella stupid shit . . .’

 

He sighed. He’d been doing that a lot of late. He missed Kagome so much that he hurt. Unable to eat, unable to sleep, he couldn’t even stand the sight of the ramen he used to love. Mrs. Higurashi offered it to him, but when he’d looked up to take the food, he could only see Kagome’s face smiling at him. How many times had she brought him ramen—even times when she professed to be upset with him . . .?

 

Cracking one eye open, InuYasha shifted slightly, gazing down through the mesh of branches. To his relief, he noticed that Souta and Hitomi were shuffling toward the door. Still arguing, they were, but at last InuYasha was left in blissful quiet. Turning his attention upward, he slowly got to his feet once more. About ten feet over his head, he spotted it: the branch. Five hundred years ago, it was the one that he used to sit on with Kagome all the time. It was the branch he wanted.

 

Leaping up to land on another branch just below the one he’d chosen, InuYasha cracked his knuckles and drew his hand back. The thick branch gave easily, and he watched with a self-satisfied grin as it crashed down to the ground. The network of branches below slowed the decent, but the tremendous sound of the branch hitting the pavement below the tree echoed through the air. He dropped out of the tree, landing neatly beside the fallen limb. Drawing Tetsusaiga with a flash of yellow light, he grasped the hilt in both hands and raised the sword over his head as the clatter of footsteps sounded behind him.

 

“What on earth . . .?” Mrs. Higurashi exclaimed as she hurried over to InuYasha’s side. “The branch broke?”

 

“With a little help,” InuYasha mumbled as he shot her a dark look. “Stand back.”

 

“He broke it on purpose!” Grandpa hollered as he pushed the door to one of the smaller storage rooms open and poked a spindly old finger in InuYasha’s direction. “He’s gone mad, I tell you! Mad!

 

InuYasha snorted and rolled his eyes. “Ain’t nothin’ ‘mad’ about me, jiijii,” he growled.

 

“Well,” Mrs. Higurashi said quickly, glancing from InuYasha to Grandpa and back again. “The tree is still healthy enough . . . but InuYasha-kun, you really can’t go around chopping off branches.”

 

“He’s trying to desecrate Goshinboku!” Grandpa yelled, stomping toward them.

 

“I’ll desecrate you next,” InuYasha snarled.

 

“Now, now . . . Come on, Grandpa,” Mrs. Higurashi cut in as she hurried over to intercept the old man in an effort to stave off the coming altercation. “I just made some tea . . .”

 

Grandpa followed Mrs. Higurashi back into the shrine, muttering under his breath about irrational hanyou, foul-mouthed hooligans, and general desecration. InuYasha watched them until the door closed before he was satisfied that he was finally—mercifully—going to be left alone before turning back to the felled branch and wrinkling his nose.

 

The branch was heavy, sturdy—more than adequate for what he had in mind. ‘It’s all that damned Souta’s fault,’ he mused as he grasped the branch under one arm and dragged it toward the well-house. He’d mentioned that modern girls liked silly things like weird trinkets that were entirely useless and just sat around on decorative shelves made expressly for displaying those ridiculous things, and InuYasha wasn’t entirely certain why, but he’d been obsessed with that idea ever since he’d heard it.

 

The inside of the building smelled stale and dusty. Ignoring the offensive stink, he pushed the branch down the steps with his foot, flattening his ears momentarily as the wood crashed against the side of the old well. It shuddered and shook but didn’t break. He didn’t expect it would. That thing had been standing for over five hundred years. He had serious doubts that anything could actually bring the sides down, especially not a paltry bit of timber.

 

Stomping down the steps after the fallen branch, InuYasha crouched down and scowled at the wood. It was simple enough to strip off the bark. It fell on the earthen floor under his deft fingers. Using his claws to carve deep into the branch, he carefully started to chip away hunks of wood, gaze glowing in the dim half-light as he settled down to work . . .

 

 

:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:

 

 

“She’s doing better, don’t you think?”

 

Sango glanced up from polishing Hiraikotsu to watch Kagome. The miko was kneeling on the ground near the fire, carefully scraping a couple fish that Shippou and Bunza had caught for dinner. The two children were far from getting along. Since hearing the story of InuYasha’s disappearance, Bunza had seemed almost hostile toward Kagome. Maybe he blamed her for the fact that InuYasha wasn’t there to help him save his tribe. Still Sango knew that Kagome blamed herself for his disappearance, too, and hearing the same thing from the youngster just wasn’t something that was going to help anyone in the end. Miroku had taken to dragging Bunza everywhere he went, mostly to keep Bunza from saying things to Kagome that would only serve to deepen her depression. It helped, but Sango had to wonder just how long they could keep the child away from Kagome before he said something bad.

 

“Better? Maybe . . . she still misses him.”

 

“I’m certain she does,” Miroku agreed, thrusting the end of his shakuju into the soft earth beside the fallen log Sango was using as a bench. “She cared about him more than she wanted to admit.”

 

“Sometimes it’s difficult to admit your feelings to someone when he seems a little distant,” Sango remarked, carefully keeping her eyes on Hiraikotsu and stubbornly refusing to inflict any emotion at all into her words that might give her away. He’d been distant himself of late. At first, she’d thought it had something to do with InuYasha’s sudden disappearance. She had to wonder, though, if that really could be the case. Something about his behavior . . . She sighed. ‘Maybe,’ she told herself as she rubbed to remove a blemish from the weapon’s smooth surface, ‘I’m just reading too much into things . . .’

 

If Miroku sensed Sango’s underlying meaning, he didn’t remark on it. Hunkering down beside the log, he turned his head, staring off into the distance. “I suppose some things just aren’t meant to be,” he finally said, his voice quiet, tinged with a sort of bitterness that Sango felt deep inside.

 

“Houshi-sama . . .”

 

He turned his head slightly, gazing at her out of the corner of his violet eyes. “Don’t worry, Sango. Everything will be as it should be. Fate is unavoidable.”

 

Frowning at the sadness in his eyes, she watched as he stood up and headed off to gather more firewood. She had the feeling that he wasn’t simply talking about InuYasha and Kagome, but was talking about them, instead.

 

After we defeat Naraku . . . will you live with me? Bear my children . . .?

 

Wincing at the memory of those words—words that had thrilled her even as they had frightened her, too—Sango bit her lip and stifled a sigh, unable to shake the notion that he was trying to push her away.

 

But he promised . . .’ she told herself with far more bravado than she was actually feeling. ‘He said that was what he wanted . . . Houshi-sama never would have said it if he didn’t mean it . . . He promised . . .’

 

 

:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:

 

 

The forest was darkened with the shadows of descending night as Chiyo moved through the trees. The gurgle of water somewhere to the distant east drew her toward the place where she said she would meet Tadao, but she didn’t quicken her pace.

 

She was late, and he would be irritated, but that was of no real consequence. She’d heard all of his complaints before. He never had been able to grasp the concept of being patient. It was one of his flaws.

 

Stepping out of the trees near the small clearing near the stream, she wasn’t surprised to see Tadao pacing to and fro near the water’s edge. Indulging in a moment of watching him, she almost smiled to herself before ambling over to announce her presence. “Come now, Tadao. I’m not that late.”

 

The dragon-youkai whirled around to face her, narrowing his ruby gaze as the tip of his forked tongue flicked out of his mouth for a split second. “You try my patience, Chiyo. What did you learn?”

 

“He is gone,” she said simply.

 

A cold smile surfaced on his face; a hardened glimmer of satisfaction brightening his blood-red gaze. “So the prophecy cannot come to pass,” he mused, more to himself than to her.   “Excellent . . .”

 

She didn’t confirm or deny his assertions. In truth, she was rather perplexed by it, too, and while she had yet to have another vision, the fact that InuYasha didn’t seem to be anywhere didn’t offer her the same level of reassurance. It was too . . . easy, she supposed, too neat and tidy, and if she had learned nothing else during her lifetime, she’d learned never to trust anything that appeared to be that simple.

 

“This calls for a celebration,” he decided, casting her a calculated grin.

 

Chiyo shrugged and turned away. “Celebrate if that’s your wish,” she tossed over her shoulder. “Just remember that altering the future isn’t as simple as you believe. If I were you, I’d make certain that what I have foreseen does not come to pass. There are more effective ways of ensuring that than simply relying on happenstance.”

 

She left him standing there beside the water’s edge as she disappeared back into the forest once more. He’d be angry, of course. He despised it when she left before he granted her leave. She’d learned long ago that he needed her. He relied on her abilities far too much to lose his temper with her, after all. ‘Let him sit and stew over things for awhile . . . I am not as foolish as he. There is still a very real threat, whether he wants to believe it or not . . . those same dreams that foretold of his failure . . .’

 

Her pale violet eyes narrowed as she moved through the trees.

 

She could still feel the truth in those dreams, couldn’t she?

 

 

:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:

 

 

Kagome sat on the edge of the Bone Eater’s Well, clutching the slip of paper that fluttered in the breeze. She wasn’t certain when the idea had occurred to her. It had started more as a passing whim than a concrete thought. She’d been looking through her backpack at a notebook that she’d used to work math problems, and she’d just started writing a letter to InuYasha.

 

She wasn’t sure she actually expected him to get the letter. She just felt closer to him when she was here, at the well. Unfolding the letter, she heaved a sigh, her eyes hot, dry, burning.

 

:

 

Dear InuYasha,

I don’t know why I’m bothering with this letter. I don’t really think you’ll get it or anything. I suppose I just wanted to find a way to tell you that I miss you. I think about you every day in a part of me that hurts when I remember even the good times we shared. I feel as though I’ve broken the promise I made to you; the one I made when I said I’d never leave you.

Bunza is with us now. He came here looking for you. He needed your help in saving his tribe. We went with him, and we tried to help, but we got there too late, and, well . . . We brought him back with us.

All I wanted was to stay with you. That was the wish I’d made. I ask myself every day what went so wrong, and yet I know that your wish . . . you wanted to stay with me, didn’t you? You gave up everything you knew? You did all of that just to stay with me . . . and that means more to me than you’ll ever know. I only wish there were some way I could tell you all of this. A piece of paper can’t last five hundred years, can it? Manmade things aren’t meant to last, are they?

I see you every time I turn around: in the whisper of the wind in the trees, in the constantly flowing waters of the streams we’ve crossed . . . I see you in the stars—I only saw the stars with you, did you know? Tokyo, even at night, even at the shrine . . . You can’t really see the stars so well there. I guess you know that by now, don’t you?

I miss everyone—Mama and Grandpa, Souta and Buyou . . . but I miss you most of all, and I think about the silly arguments we’ve had, and I’m ashamed. I let my temper get the better of me, always taking for granted that you’d always be there. I catch myself thinking a thousand times a day, ‘Oh, wait! I want to tell InuYasha about this . . .’

And then I remember, and remembering hurts.

I doubt you’ll get this letter. I just wanted to write all of this down. I miss you more than you’ll ever know, but I hope that you’ll find a way to be happy in my time. If by some miracle you do get this, though, know that you’re always in my mind and heart. Be well, InuYasha.

Kagome.’

:

 

Wiping away a tear that streaked down her face, Kagome refolded the letter and pressed it against her heart. Every day she woke up and tried to smile until she remembered that InuYasha really was gone. Every day she told herself that it was okay; that whatever was meant to be, would be. Every day she forced herself to go through the motions of living so that she wouldn’t worry her friends, and every day, she felt as though a part of her was dying . . .

 

She loved him, didn’t she? She’d loved him for a long time. Grouchy, curt, arrogant, and oftentimes impossible, she couldn’t remember a time when he wasn’t there, and no matter what happened back then or even now, nothing could change her feelings, could they? Nothing could erase the sense of complete and utter loss; of desperation and despair that twisted her stomach until she felt as though she was going insane.

 

Mama will help him, and Souta will, too,’ she told herself as a wan smile surfaced on her face. Trembling and unsure, it flitted over her lips like a feather on the wind, and she sighed as her tears prickled her nostrils. A sudden, savage pang ripped through her, and she gasped, doubling over, nearly toppling headlong into the well. She didn’t care. For the briefest of moments, she’d felt him, hadn’t she? As close as he would have been if he were standing directly beside her, his youki had seemed so real, so encompassing . . . so comforting . . .

 

“Kagome-chan!”

 

Turning at the sound of her name, she hurriedly dashed the back of her hand over her cheeks and swung her legs out of the well, waiting for Sango to catch up. “Yes?”

 

Sango hurried over and sank down beside Kagome, clutching the wooden lip of the well as she shot her a timid smile. “Kaede is looking for you. She wants to know if you’re interested in starting your training.”

 

Kagome nodded, digesting Sango’s words. “I should, shouldn’t I?” she said slowly, biting her lip as she pondered the options.

 

“That’s up to you. If you don’t want to, then don’t. Just because you’ve got spiritual powers doesn’t mean you have to be a miko.”

 

Kagome sighed. “It’s not that. I should learn how to use my powers. It’s just . . .”

 

“You’re tired of the comparisons to Kikyou?” Sango asked when Kagome trailed off.

 

“No . . . sort of . . . not really . . .” She sighed and shrugged, unsure how to explain her feelings to Sango when she wasn’t at all positive that she understood them, herself. “It’s just . . . a miko should be at peace; tranquil . . . and I’m not. I can’t help but question and wonder and . . . and be a little angry. I mean, look at Midoriko. She was a miko, and I know she didn’t have regrets, but she gave her life to fight youkai, and because of her, everything . . . and then Kikyou . . . Didn’t she pay the ultimate price just because she fell in love with InuYasha?”

 

“But, Kagome, the Shikon no Tama is gone now. It can’t hurt you anymore.”

 

Stubbornly shaking her head, she blinked quickly to stave back the angry tears that rose up fast. “Don’t you see? It already has, and I . . . I don’t know if I can find the peace inside me to . . . It seemed so easy before. I thought . . . I thought I’d be sent back to my side of the well, or I thought that maybe I’d be allowed to stay here with InuYasha, but I never . . . I never thought that I’d be here without him.”

 

“Anger is difficult to deal with,” Sango agreed. “But I’m sure InuYasha wouldn’t want you to be angry or to be sad . . .”

 

Standing abruptly, Kagome couldn’t help the surge of rage that shot through her. “I can’t help it!” she exclaimed. “I just can’t!”

 

Stomping away, she broke into a sprint, unconsciously heading for the sanctuary of Goshinboku. Sango watched her go and sighed, heading back toward the path that led to the village.

 

Neither girl had noticed the folded paper sitting on the lip of the well after Kagome made her hasty retreat. The breeze caught the folded edges, pushing it closer to the edge of the wall. A light gust blew across the meadow, and with a whisper of movement, the paper teetered on the lip before careening down into the blackened depths of the well.

 

 

:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:

 

 

Perched on the edge of the well, InuYasha stared down into the murky depths with a melancholy sigh. He spent a lot of time here, and maybe he really thought that if he stared at it long enough, it would somehow open, and Kagome would appear. It was wishful thinking, surely, but he couldn’t quite help himself, either.

 

He jumped into the well daily, all in the desperate hope that it would open up beneath him, and while he knew that it just wasn’t going to happen, he couldn’t help himself, either. The one day he didn’t try it was bound to be the one time it would work . . . Then he’d spend an hour or two fighting off the overwhelming hopelessness inspired by the desolation of being alone.

 

He hated the stagnant smell of Tokyo; despised the noise and the constant motion. The only place he had to escape all of it was here, the well. Even the forest that stretched out behind the shrine wasn’t immune to the ‘modern conveniences’. The sound of the trees couldn’t drown out the hundreds of thousands of noises that made up the world he was stuck in.

 

Scratching his chest—he despised the strange feel of the cloth of what Mrs. Higurashi had told him was a ‘tee-shirt’. It wasn’t rough, no, but the feel of it just felt disturbing, almost like he wasn’t wearing anything at all. She’d dealt him dirty, waiting until he was in the bathtub—also her idea—before she barged right into the bathroom and snatched up his clothes with the promise of washing them for him and leaving behind the irritating and strange things she called ‘jeans’ along with the stupid tee-shirt. It had taken him nearly twenty minutes before he’d figured out that he was supposed to wear the thin cotton short pants—she called those ‘boxers’—as underwear, and the jeans? He grimaced. How the hell he was supposed to fight in these things was completely beyond him . . . Then to add insult to injury, he’d located his regular clothes lying neatly on Kagome’s bed. But they smelled like soap and fake scents. The washing machine had laundered out the last lingering remnants of Kagome, and that . . . Well, that pissed him off far worse than the clothes she’d bought for him . . .

 

His ears flattened as he grimaced. He still couldn’t bring himself to go into that room. Her scent was still too strong in there, too overwhelming, and too comforting. The problem was that the comfort he garnered from it hurt him, too. He couldn’t help but feel completely overwrought with guilt if he allowed himself to take comfort in anything that should remind him that she was stuck in the past because of him . . .

 

The kicker, though, had been her nonchalant announcement that Houjou would be arriving within the hour for his daily tutoring session. InuYasha had stomped out the back door with Tetsusaiga in hand, and now his beloved sword was doing the greatest task of all: it was lodged through the door handles, barring entrance against anyone who thought to interrupt his solitude.

 

With a sigh, he pushed himself off the edge of the well, dropping into the darkness and grimacing when he lit on the hardened earth beneath his feet. The familiar surge of sadness swept through him, and he couldn’t suppress the half-moan that spilled over. “Kagome . . .” he whispered, closing his eyes against the darkness. Leaning forward, fists resting on the compacted dirt, he drew his arm back only to slam his fist into the ground. The earth shook, dislodging dirt that fell around him like rain. Pulling his other hand back, he punched the ground once more but blinked suddenly. His fist had smashed against something almost smooth. Scowling in the darkness, he saw the faint outline, and he picked up the item in question, staring at it with an expression akin to grudging curiosity writ in his gaze.

 

Leaping out of the well, he strode up the stairs and jerked his sword out of the door handles. Sunlight flooded the well house when he opened the doors, and he blinked for a moment as his eyes adjusted to the bright light of day. Turning the slip of folded paper over in his hand, he frowned. ‘InuYasha’ was written on one side of it, and he recognized the handwriting as his heart skipped a beat.

 

Vaulting over to the base of Goshinboku, he leapt into the branches, thankful for the cover provided by the thick foliage. Examining the paper, he scowled. It looked like it was crumbling before his very eyes. Wincing as he tried to use his claw to separate the weathered paper, he carefully managed to pry the first fold open before it broke in half. He could piece it back together, couldn’t he? If he could get the bits apart, he could piece it together so he could read it . . .

 

The next fold wasn’t nearly as easy to maneuver. The paper was just too old. Having spent five hundred years sitting in the bottom of the well—he could only figure that being in the enclosed well was the reason that it hadn’t disintegrated long ago—but he desperately needed to read whatever Kagome had written . . .

 

A sound akin to a whine escaped him as another bit of the paper crumpled to dust in his hands. All he had left was half of the folded letter—the half with his name written on it. Swallowing the bitter wash of disappointment that assailed him, he tried to take comfort in the idea that she’d written him the letter, even if he couldn’t read it.

 

Kagome . . .’

 

Ears flattening as the sound of her laughter echoed through his head, he wrapped his arms around Tetsusaiga and tried not to think about how often he’s sat in trees—this tree in particular—with Kagome. Too many times to count, and how often had they just sat without saying a word? They hadn’t seemed necessary, after all, had they . . .? He winced. No, they weren’t necessary at all because . . . because Kagome knew him better than he sometimes knew himself . . . Carefully clutching the remnant of paper as though it was his last lingering hope, he sighed again and let his head fall back against the tree trunk.

 

Some way, somehow I’ll find a way, Kagome,’ he vowed. ‘I’ll get back to you . . . just . . . wait for me . . .’

 

 

<<< 004: Ashes to Ashes

006: Assimilation >>>

~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~

A/N:

Shakuju: Miroku’s ringed staff.

Hiraikotsu: Sango’s weapon.

Houshi-sama: Sango’s ‘pet name’ for Miroku … a very archaic way of formally addressing a monk.

Miko: Shinto Priestess.

Chiyo: Thousand years; eternal.

Tadao: Complacent; satisfied.

== == == == == == == == == ==

Final Thought from InuYasha:

Damn it … what did it say …?

==========

Blanket disclaimer for this fanfic (will apply to this and all other chapters in Desideratum): I do not claim any rights to InuYasha or the characters associated with the anime/manga. Those rights belong to Rumiko Takahashi, et al. I do offer my thanks to her for creating such vivid characters for me to terrorize.

~Sue~

posted by Sueric at 12:16 am  

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Desideratum: 004: Ashes to Ashes

~~Chapter 4~~

~Ashes to Ashes~

 

 

Sango scowled as she stared at Miroku’s back. Striding along, using his shakuju as a walking staff, the monk stared straight ahead, seemingly oblivious to the taijya’s ardent attention.

 

“Earth to Sango-chan . . . Are you okay?”

 

Sango blinked and forced her gaze away from the monk, eyes shifting to meet Kagome’s worried gaze. “I’m sorry,” she replied. “You were saying?”

 

Kagome frowned, eyes clouding with concern, and she wrinkled her nose as she adjusted the straps of her backpack and scowled thoughtfully. “You’ve been like this all day,” Kagome remarked. “Is something wrong?”

 

She shot Kagome an apologetic glance and shrugged, hitching Hiraikotsu more securely over her shoulder as she hastened her step and lifted her chin. “Of course not, Kagome. I was just thinking, I suppose.”

 

“You’re sure?” she asked, her voice tinged with a suspicious lilt.

 

Sango forced a bright smile. “We should be reaching Bunza’s village soon enough.”

 

Kagome sighed. “I’ve been a horrible friend lately, haven’t I?”

 

Caught off guard by Kagome’s softly uttered question, Sango stopped and turned to stare at her. “Why would you say that?”

 

Giving a slight shrug, Kagome kept her gaze trained on the path beneath their feet. “I just mean that I’ve been so caught up feeling sorry for myself that I haven’t really been listening, have I?”

 

Sango clucked her tongue and quickly shook her head. “That’s not true, and you’ve had every reason to be upset.”

 

Kagome winced. “Maybe, but that still isn’t an excuse . . . I’m sorry.”

 

“Don’t be. You’ve always been there for me. It’s your turn to let us support you for once.”

 

Forcing a wan smile, the miko shrugged and adjusted the strap of her backpack. “So tell me . . . What’s bothering you?”

 

Sango tamped down the furious blush that threatened to stain her skin. “Nothing,” she replied hurriedly. “Nothing at all . . .”

 

“Is something wrong with you and Miroku?”

 

Sango missed a step and hoped that Kagome didn’t notice. “Not really,” she insisted when one of Kagome’s eyebrows shot up in silent question. “I’m sure I’m just imagining things.”

 

“Things? What sort of things?” Kagome pressed gently.

 

Sango sighed. “He’s been a little distracted lately . . . nothing important, I’m sure.”

 

Kagome digested that in silence, frowning as she stared at the monk’s back. Shippou was perched atop his shoulder while Bunza strode ahead of them, chin lifted proudly, leading the way along the path toward his village.

 

“I hope that we’re not too late,” Sango mused, following the direction of Kagome’s stare. “I wish Inu—”

 

Kagome winced as Sango cut herself off. Lowering her eyes as she scowled at the dirt path, Sango’s cheeks blossomed with color that she couldn’t suppress. She hadn’t meant to say that . . . Stealing a glance at Kagome, she bit her bottom lip. She wasn’t crying, but her eyes were suddenly awash with tears that she stubbornly held back, making Sango feel even lower than she already did for the careless slip of the tongue.

 

“Kagome-chan, I’m sorry.”

 

Kagome shook her head and blinked furiously, a slight quivering of her lips belying the calm in her tone. “Don’t be.” Her voice lowered almost to a whisper, and she dashed the back of her hand over her eyes. “I miss him, too.”

 

Sango started to tell her that she was sure that InuYasha was fine, wherever he was. Bunza’s yell interrupted her. Turning to follow the direction of the lynx-youkai’s outstretched finger, Sango gasped when she saw it: the thick, billowing cloud of acrid black smoke rising over the trees in the distance. Miroku hollered at Kirara, and in the blink of an eye, the fire-cat-youkai transformed. He hopped onto her back as Sango broke into a sprint to catch up with the monk, vaulting onto Kirara just before the cat leapt into the sky.

 

“What do you think is going on?” Sango murmured quietly.

 

Bunza climbed onto Kirara’s head as Miroku shot her a worried glance. “I don’t know,” he replied, his tone carefully calm despite the feeling of foreboding that was so palpable that she could almost touch it.

 

“My papa’s all right, isn’t he?” Bunza asked, his eyes lit with concern and a choking sense of fear.

 

“I hope so,” Miroku said, unable to summon more reassurance than that.

 

Sango winced. Something in his voice sounded so final—too final. Without thinking about it, she reached around him, squeezed Miroku’s hand. Miroku spared her another glance and tried to smile. “We’ll do what we can, right, Sango?”

 

Sango nodded and glanced over her shoulder to see Shippou’s inflated form trailing behind them. So far away that Kagome appeared no more than a misshapen blob on the bright pink Shippou-balloon, Sango tried not to think about how wrong it seemed to her. Too used to seeing Kagome huddled against InuYasha’s shoulder as the hanyou sprinted wherever they were heading, the sight of the miko with the youkai child . . . Somehow it made Sango want to cry . . .

 

 

:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:

 

 

InuYasha glared from his half-brother to the strange hanyou and back again. Defenses high as he cracked his knuckles and reached for Tetsusaiga, his glare narrowed when Sesshoumaru uttered an unnerving sound—one InuYasha had never heard from him before. He chuckled. “Be not a fool, InuYasha. This is neither the time nor place for me to see you dead.”

 

“As if you could kill me!” InuYasha scoffed without taking his hand off Tetsusaiga’s hilt. “What the fuck are you doing here, bastard?”

 

Bored gaze flicking over his half-brother in an entirely dismissive sort of way, Sesshoumaru didn’t look away. “Where is your miko?”

 

Grinding his teeth together in an effort to suppress the pang brought on by the blatant reminder, InuYasha snorted. “Keh! None of your business.”

 

“So you’ve misplaced her?”

 

“Shut the fuck up!”

 

Sesshoumaru smiled just a little though there was no actual humor in the expression, only a sense of condescending loathing. “Still as ill-tempered as ever, I see.”

 

InuYasha’s gaze shifted from his irritating sibling to the strange hanyou beside him before flicking back to Sesshoumaru’s face once more. “Who the hell is that?” he demanded, jerking his head to indicate the intruder without actually acknowledging him.

 

“Who, indeed?” Sesshoumaru replied, his expression shifting into a narrow-eyed scowl.

 

“I’m not in the mood for your games, bastard,” InuYasha snarled. “Either tell me what the hell you want, or get the fuck outta my forest.”

 

“I see you did not exaggerate about his foul disposition,” the strange hanyou commented, his gaze mocking, the half-smile on his face almost insincere.

 

“Odd. I thought I understated it,” Sesshoumaru remarked dryly.

 

InuYasha glowered at Sesshoumaru for another minute before shifting his eyes to the side to assess the hanyou. “Who the hell are you?”

 

The hanyou started to speak. Sesshoumaru’s hand shot out to silence him. “Who he is matters not. Your business is with me. This Sesshoumaru simply dispatched Sora to lead you here.”

 

“That Sesshoumaru can kiss my ass,” InuYasha growled without taking his eyes off the hanyou.

 

Sesshoumaru held his hand out. Sora bowed slightly before shrugging off the beat-up, dirty brown backpack. Scowling as he dug a black folder out of the bag, he handed it over before refastening the buckles and slinging it back over his shoulder again.

 

Sesshoumaru looked over the contents of the folder, an altogether nasty smile surfacing on his features before he tossed it onto the ground at InuYasha’s feet.

 

“What the fuck is that?” InuYasha demanded without sparing the folder even a moment’s glance.

 

Sesshoumaru’s smile dissipated. “It’s your future, baka.”

 

“I don’t want or need a thing from you,” InuYasha assured him.

 

Sesshoumaru stepped forward slowly, deliberately. The strange clothing he wore—Kagome had called it a suit—seemed to add even more coldness to his already frigid façade. Something else struck him as strange, but he didn’t bother to try to figure out why. “I don’t care if you want it or not. Times are different, half-breed, and you will not embarrass me.”

 

“All the more reason for you to shove that folder straight up your ass. As if I give a shit if I embarrass you or not.”

 

“It matters not to me, InuYasha. Sora, call him.”

 

The hanyou dug a little black device out of his pocket and flipped it open. The soft beeps that sounded as he pushed the buttons made InuYasha’s hackles rise, and he couldn’t quite stop the low growl as he jammed his hands up his sleeves to keep from using Tetsusaiga to silence it.

 

“Good day, Houjou-san . . . yes, this is Sora . . .”

 

InuYasha growled at the mention of that particular name, balling his hands into fists as he clenched his jaw and glared at his deranged half-sibling. Sesshoumaru didn’t even blink.

 

“What the hell is that all about?” InuYasha demanded.

 

“I arranged for a tutor for you, baka. Houjou-san was to instruct you.”

 

“Houjou?” he snarled, caught somewhere between outrage and disbelief. “As in, the little shit that used to bug Kagome all the time?”

 

This time, Sesshoumaru chuckled, as though he were enjoying InuYasha’s displeasure. He probably was. “Yes, Houjou . . . I know nothing of his . . . bugging . . . the miko, however, he was highly recommended by the university, so unless you think that he is too smart for you . . .”

 

InuYasha erupted in a low growl again. “He ain’t fucking smarter than me. Go to hell, bastard! I don’t need your help.”

 

The expression that surfaced on the youkai’s features spoke volumes about his agreement with InuYasha’s claim. “In any case, he’s definitely the best one for this task.”

 

InuYasha uttered a terse snort. “Keh.”

 

Sesshoumaru stared at him for a long minute then shrugged. “I should have known that you would be too afraid to try.”

 

“Afraid? To try what?”

 

Eyes narrowing in silent warning that InuYasha summarily ignored, Sesshoumaru raised an articulated eyebrow. “Afraid to carve out a life for yourself here . . . or are you giving up before you even try?”

 

“Go to hell, Sesshoumaru,” InuYasha growled, cracking his knuckles. For reasons that InuYasha didn’t understand and didn’t really care to think about, Sora chuckled at him.

 

Sesshoumaru nodded at the folder on the ground. “Being a half-breed doesn’t make you worthless, InuYasha. Being a coward does.”

 

InuYasha started to reach for Tetsusaiga. Stifling a low growl, he stooped instead and retrieved the file. Scowling at the strange papers, he could only make sense out of one of them. ‘Akamori InuYasha,’ it said. “What the hell is all of this?”

 

“Those are everything you need to exist in this world, baka,” Sesshoumaru said. “Take them and invent yourself or remain forever a worthless half-breed.”

 

“Bastard,” InuYasha gritted out from between tightly clenched teeth. “I hate your fucking riddles!”

 

Staring at him for several long seconds, Sesshoumaru’s expression remained impassive. When he finally did speak, his words were clipped, as though InuYasha had succeeded in getting on his nerves at last. “As I’ve stated, InuYasha: either you do what needs to be done so that you don’t dishonor your father or me, or you come to my house, and I’ll see you dead.”

 

Taking a step closer to his half-brother, InuYasha did not back down. “Why don’t you shove your threats up your ass?”

 

“Would you like me to . . . take care of him for you?” Sora asked, keeping his gaze trained on InuYasha’s face though his question was directed toward Sesshoumaru. The almost smug little grin on his face hadn’t dissipated, and for reasons that InuYasha didn’t really understand, that grin was almost enough to goad him into losing the little bit of patience that he had left.

 

“If you think you can, then by all means,” InuYasha ground out.

 

“Do not waste your time, Sora,” Sesshoumaru interrupted dryly as he turned on his heel to walk away.   “We are finished here.”

 

Sora spared a moment to bow before following Sesshoumaru without a word.

 

InuYasha didn’t look away until the two had disappeared into the trees. Gaze falling back on the folder in his hand, he snorted. ‘Keh! That bastard . . . always dishing out stupidity . . . I don’t need his fucking help! I don’t need—’

 

The sudden flash of brown eyes and black hair . . . the gentlest smile and softest laughter carried on the breeze. InuYasha gritted his teeth again, closing his eyes as he grimaced at the sharp pain that stabbed at his chest.

 

Kagome . . .’

 

He opened his eyes, told himself not to bother looking around. She wouldn’t be there, as much as he wished otherwise. He couldn’t stand the disappointment, and yet . . .

 

And yet his gaze still traversed the forest. His chest still constricted painfully when he saw the trees, the leaves, the rich, brown earth, and no Kagome.

 

Dropping the folder on the ground, InuYasha jerked Tetsusaiga from the magnolia wood scabbard. Unleashing an infuriated howl as the blade transformed into the beloved sword of the fang, he heaved it over his head, holding the hilt in both hands before bringing it down onto the earth with a ferocity that shook the ground. Yellow-white streaks of flame shot out of the blade, ripping deep gashes in the dirt until the flames converged, exploding against a gnarled old tree. The detonation of wood splinters and dust clouded the air but did nothing to assuage the anger that still ravaged InuYasha’s emotions.

 

Letting go of the sword, InuYasha fell to his hands and knees. Claws scraping the rich, damp earth only to leave empty indentations in the ground, he crumbled forward, rested his forehead against the forest floor. How could such an innocent wish be twisted into something so ugly, so tainted?

 

I just wanted to stay with her,’ he told himself, chanting it over and over in his head like a mantra. ‘I just wanted to belong with Kagome . . .’

 

He hadn’t felt quite so lost; quite so alone in such a long time. He hadn’t felt that way since . . .

 

Since Kagome woke me up . . . since Kagome saved me . . .’

 

Eyes stinging, nose tingling, he felt the tears rising. Squeezing his eyes closed, he shook his head, groaned softly as his chest constricted, another painful wave of desolation ripping through him with the force of a gale wind. The tears would not come. Maybe it wouldn’t have been so painful if he had at least been left with some sort of hope. What hope could there be for a damned soul? What sort of answers could he find in something that held no logic, no reason? Kagome had given him a reason to fight. Kagome, Sango, Shippou, and Miroku . . . The friends he had told himself that he didn’t need; the family he used to think he didn’t want. They were all gone, weren’t they? Five hundred years . . . They couldn’t have survived five hundred years.

 

Shippou!‘ InuYasha thought suddenly, head snapping up as he sat back on his heels. Sesshoumaru had lived through those years, hadn’t he? If he had, then maybe Shippou . . .

 

If he could find him, maybe the kitsune could answer some of the questions that plagued him.

 

Then again,’ he amended with a grimace as he pushed himself to his feet once more. The questions about Kagome . . . Had she been happy? Had she found a life for herself that hadn’t included him? InuYasha swallowed hard.

 

Maybe some questions were best left unanswered . . .

 

 

:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:

 

 

Kagome stared around at the smoldering embers and dying flames of the once proud lynx-youkai village. Smoke stung her eyes, burned her nose, and as she picked her way through the packed earth path, she slowly shook her head.

 

They were too late.

 

In the distance, she could hear Bunza’s frantic cries as he called out time and again for his father, for anyone he knew. There were no answers; just the crackle of burning wooden supports and the blazing fields . . .

 

If InuYasha had been here . . .’

 

She shook her head quickly. Thinking about him wouldn’t really help at all. No matter how many times she wished that he were still here, it didn’t change a thing. Even if he had been there, it wouldn’t have guaranteed that he would have been able to stop the oni that had laid waste to the village.

 

It looked as though the lynx-youkai had fought bravely. The signs of struggle were conspicuous even in the rubble left behind. Shippou hopped onto Kagome’s shoulder, covering his nose with his tiny paw-like hands. “Kagome? They’re all gone, aren’t they? All of them . . .”

 

Kagome swallowed hard and nodded. “Yes, Shippou. I think they are.”

 

“And Bunza’s father? He’s gone, too?”

 

Kagome didn’t answer right away. Lifting her chin and squinting as she tried to see through the billowing smoke, she spotted Miroku ducking into the huts, looking for any survivors while Sango did the same on the other side of the path. Bunza’s voice was fading in the distance.

 

“I think . . . I think he’s gone, as well.”

 

“So he’s an orphan, like me,” Shippou mused sadly. “Will he stay with us, Kagome?”

 

“I . . . I don’t know.”

 

Shippou hopped down and shifted his gaze around the ruins. “Even if we had gotten here in time,” he mumbled, dashing the back of his hand over his eyes, “without InuYasha . . .”

 

Kagome gritted her teeth and knelt beside the kitsune. “You listen to me, Shippou,” she said, determination lending her voice a strength that she didn’t really feel deep down. “Even if InuYasha . . . Even if he . . . that doesn’t mean we’d have gotten here on time . . . besides that, we’re strong, too. Miroku and Sango . . . and I can be strong . . . InuYasha wouldn’t want us to give up. Don’t you know that?”

 

Shippou bit back his tears and slowly turned to face Kagome. “You’re right,” he agreed. “I can be strong, too!”

 

“Of course you can,” she assured him. “We all can, can’t we?”

 

“Kagome?”

 

“Hmm?”

 

Shippou shuffled his feet in the dirt and scrunched up his shoulders, chin dropping as though he were afraid to look her in the eye. “Is he ever coming back?”

 

“I don’t know,” she said. “I just don’t know.”

 

Shippou whipped around suddenly, scanning the area behind them.

 

“Shippou?”

 

The kitsune darted off, scampering through the debris and completely ignoring Kagome. She got to her feet as he disappeared into the fog of smoke. “Shippou!”

 

“Kagome-chan, what’s wrong?”

 

Kagome glanced at Sango as the youkai exterminator skidded to a stop beside her. “Shippou just ran off,” she explained. “He acted like he heard something . . . or sensed something.”

 

Sango didn’t wait to hear more, and Kagome hurried along behind. The jingling of Miroku’s Shakuju rang out as he joined the women. “Shippou!” Sango called, glancing back and forth as her high ponytail swung around her shoulders. “Shippou, answer me!”

 

The kitsune stepped out onto the path in front of them, a perplexed sort of expression creasing his brow as he scratched his head thoughtfully.

 

“Shippou!” Kagome exclaimed as she ran to the child and snatched him up. “Why did you run off like that?”

 

“I sensed . . . something,” he told her.

 

“The oni?” she pressed. “But—”

 

“Not the oni,” he insisted. “It felt like . . . like we were being watched.”

 

Miroku scowled at the surrounding trees. “He’s right,” he agreed at length. “I can feel it, too.” Raising his voice, he jammed the tip of his staff into the ground. “Whoever is there, come out and show yourself.”

 

The forest remained still, silent—too silent. As though not even the trees dared to stir, the effect was eerie, and Kagome couldn’t help but tighten her hold on Shippou’s small frame.

 

“They’re gone . . . all gone,” Bunza said sadly, shuffling down the path from the village. His eyes were dull, vacant, too shocked to feel much of anything, Kagome supposed. As much as she hated to see the youth in such a state, maybe it was better that way. Time enough to mourn his loss later, when he wasn’t standing in the midst of the place that he used to call ‘home’.

 

“Bunza . . .” Sango began, taking a few halting steps toward the lynx-youkai.

 

Bunza drew himself up proudly, face screwing up in a determined scowl. “Thank you for your help,” he told them. “I guess I don’t need you anymore.”

 

“Come with us,” Kagome said, letting Shippou hop onto Miroku’s shoulder so that she could step up beside Sango and kneel before the child. “You can’t stay here alone . . . You can come with us, if you’d like.”

 

Bunza’s cheeks reddened as he shook his head. “I must rebuild my village,” he decided. “That’s what my father would have wanted.”

 

“Your father would have wanted you to be safe, Bunza,” Sango said softly. “My family—my village . . . they were all destroyed by Naraku. Come with us now, and someday you can come back here and rebuild your village, but in order to do that, you have to live, right?”

 

Bunza stared at Sango for a moment but finally nodded. “Humans are weak,” he decided as a quickly dashed a trembling hand over his eyes. “I can protect you.”

 

Kagome watched as Sango picked up the youth and hugged him close. The look on the slayer’s face tore at Kagome’s heart, and she choked back a wash of tears. Did it matter how many years it had been since Sango had first lost her village? No, Kagome supposed it didn’t. In the end, the pain would always be there, just below the surface, and maybe the only thing that made it bearable was the support of those that she called her friends.

 

InuYasha . . . I miss you . . .’

 

“Let’s go,” Miroku finally interrupted, though not unkindly. “There’s nothing more we can do here.”

 

They trudged along the path in silence, oblivious to the pale violet eyes that peered out at them from the darkest shadows of the trees.

 

 

<<<003: Filling the Void

005: Secrets of the Well >>>

~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~

A/N:

Sora: Sky.

Shakuju: Miroku’s staff.

== == == == == == == == == ==

Final Thought from Shippou:

I know I sensed something there

==========

Blanket disclaimer for this fanfic (will apply to this and all other chapters in Desideratum): I do not claim any rights to InuYasha or the characters associated with the anime/manga. Those rights belong to Rumiko Takahashi, et al. I do offer my thanks to her for creating such vivid characters for me to terrorize.

~Sue~

posted by Sueric at 12:13 am  
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