Notes: Finally, back to Inuyasha! I'm hoping this chapter lives up to everyone's expectations... you've all been very, very, very patient.
I'm going to leave the law disclaimer up, possibly for the rest of the story, since as people have pointed out, my interpretation of the legal process isn't very accurate. Thank you, everyone who gave me tips or real information - I don't think I'll be going back to fix it, but you never know. Plus, I always like learning new things.
Another disclaimer before you read this chapter: I know nothing - I repeat NOTHING - about law. I'm making up stuff that sounds good as I go along in this story, and it's only going to get worse from here on out. I don't have the time or patience to research how the law is actually carried out in something like Kagome's case, so I'm giving my best effort to make it seem believable. Hope it's not too painfully inaccurate!
Learning to Let Go
Chapter 23: Breaking the News
Kagome paced in the living room, her arms wrapped around herself, caught between extremes of anxiety and excitement. Inuyasha hadn't been in the house when she'd gotten home, and rather than walk outside and trek the few minutes it took to reach the large tree where he usually went for seclusion and fresh air, she decided it would be better to wait until he came in himself.
The few times she'd interrupted his solitary introspection shouting matches had ensued, and she didn't relish in the idea of breaking her news to him by yelling it up at him.
But she hadn't expected the waiting to be so hard. She'd tried to do homework at first, to get a head start on next week, but her thoughts wouldn't focus on anything but the past few hours. And she couldn't stop coming back to her worries about what the next few would be like.
Had she been wrong? Would Inuyasha really be happy, or would he be angry? He'd told her that she was naïve before, because of her attempts to treat him as she would a friend rather than a slave when they were in public. Would he say the same thing now? Would he be angry with her?
Her thoughts circled, and she became more and more muddled. It had seemed obvious that he would be elated at the chance to be free when she was proposing the case, but now, faced with the prospect of explaining it to him, her stomach was in knots. Would it have been better to tell him ahead of time?
From the back of the house, she heard a faint thump as the door opened and shut. Too late to think about whether she'd done the right thing now.
When Inuyasha came into the room, she opened her mouth to speak immediately, but her voice caught in her throat. He was shrugging out of the jacket she'd bought for him, and as had been happening far too often lately Kagome was entranced by the contour of his shoulder blades, the lines of his body.
Forcing her mind back to the matter at hand, she bit her lip and frowned. How was she going to start this conversation?
He paused after draping his jacket over the back of the couch, glancing at her. His expression went from mild amusement, to confusion, to wariness. "What?" he snapped finally.
She started, fidgeted, cleared her throat. Still couldn't come up with a good way to bring up the subject they needed to talk about. "Inuyasha…"
He was looking more agitated by the minute. "What's your problem? What the hell is going on?"
"Are you happy?" Kagome blurted, and then winced at how lame that sounded.
He stared at her incredulously. "Why are you asking me that? Are you going to get rid of me?"
"No!" she cried, understanding the source of his agitation suddenly. Irritation pricked her. "Why do you always assume stupid things like that? You know I'd never get rid of you unless you wanted to leave. I just – I want to know if you're happy. If you like things the way they are."
He'd relaxed slightly, but still didn't look comfortable with the direction the conversation was taking. "Kagome, you gave me clothes, and food, and you treat me like a person. You let me go outside. You never punish me. You don't expect anything of me. What else could I ask for?"
Kagome shook her head. "But those aren't – they don't – I want to know if you're happy. I mean you have nothing to do all day. You must be bored out of your mind with just video games and the TV and my computer to occupy you. You must wish that you could talk to someone besides me, that you could go other places, that you didn't have to be so careful about the way you act when we're out somewhere."
Inuyasha rolled his eyes impatiently. "I can't have any of those things, so there's no point in wishing for them. And if I'm not happy then I'm at least content."
"But…" Kagome hesitated, picking her words carefully. "What if you could have those things?"
He stared. "What are you talking about?"
She stepped forward, suddenly eager to get the whole story out. "I ran into a judge today. I'd been looking for one for a while, but no one would take the case and I'd given up hope – but he says he'll take it, and he found me a lawyer - "
Inuyasha stared. "He – what? Why do you need a lawyer? What case?"
She took a deep, shaky breath. "I want to take your case to court. I want to free you."
There was a long moment of absolute silence. Neither of them moved. Kagome stared into the Hanyou's depthless golden eyes, lost in the matrix of complex emotions there. Abruptly he spun away.
"Don't be an idiot. That's impossible."
"No one's tried it before!" Kagome protested. "There's no reason that - "
"There's every reason!" Inuyasha snapped. "Slavery is one of the most lucrative industries in the country! If you could free slaves it would destroy it's whole foundation. Nobody is going to sit by and watch that happen. They'll stop you."
Kagome lifted her chin stubbornly. "They can't stop me. I've already found a lawyer to represent me and a judge who'll hear the case."
"You don't understand – they'll stop you. They'll find a way. I thought you were starting to understand how this all works, but you're still naïve. This is a stupid idea."
Furious, Kagome reached out and grabbed his arm, spinning him around. He stared down at her, taken by surprise. "Don't call it stupid if your only argument against it is that other people won't like it!" she yelled at him, so angry that she was shaking. "Don't call me naïve when at least I'm trying to do what I think is right! If you don't want to be free then just tell me and I'll call it all off. But don't pull this bullshit about it being too idealistic. Don't sit here in my house for the rest of your life wondering what could have happened just because you're afraid."
She didn't swear often, and she could tell the force of her pronouncement had shocked him. She didn't care. She was still holding his arm, still trembling with emotion, still glaring at him, daring him to contradict her or continue to argue. The golden eyes softened, and he took her by surprise by reaching up and tracing his fingertips down her face and over her jaw in the lightest of touches. "Kagome…"
She didn't look away, her heart pounding out of something other than fury now. He was so close. If she stood on tiptoe, if she lifted her face just an inch, her upper lip would touch his lower lip. And somehow, she could tell that he was aware of the same thing. Something like heat lightning trembled between them for the barest instant – and then Inuyasha took a step back, prying her fingers off his arm with the hand that had touched her face just a moment ago. She felt a vague sense of loss as he let go of her hand.
"What do we need to do?"
His quiet question startled her out of the confused daze. Her blue eyes flew to his face in amazement. "You mean – you're going to - "
He crossed his arms over his chest and glared at her, but there was nothing behind it. "You've obviously got your heart set on it. Although I don't know how you have time to dream up these crazy little schemes in between all the other work you have to do."
She ignored his condescending tone and smiled brilliantly at him. "I'm so glad! I was so afraid you'd be angry!"
He sighed. "Why would your delusions of grandeur make me angry?"
She flung her arms around him, knocking him a step back with her enthusiasm. His eyes widened. He could never get used to her randomly inspired displays of affection. Before he could figure out whether he was supposed to hug her back or not, she pushed away. "We'll go back to the courthouse tomorrow and talk things through. Kouga said we might get a hearing by Monday – can you believe it? And I'll have to start my homework right away, or I'll never get it all done. I'm going to have to do research…" Her voice drifted off as she bounced out of the room to get her backpack and lock herself up in her study.
Inuyasha stared after her, bemused, disconcerted, and with his emotions in more kinds of turmoil than he could distinguish between. The majority of it was the result of Kagome's plan to win his freedom – he would need to spend quite a bit of time sorting all that out. But what had happened just a moment ago, when he'd nearly kissed her… that was strange and confusing and disturbing in its own way.
He sighed. It had been a while since he'd tried to deny his attraction to the dark haired girl. And he certainly wouldn't pretend that he wasn't infinitely grateful to her for everything she'd done for him, or that he didn't respect her determination, her brilliance, her openness with her emotions. But all of that, combined with the way everything about her personality seemed to intrigue him and inspire a confusing, unfamiliar warmth inside him…
He couldn't fall in love with her. Inuyasha dug his claws into his palms in an attempt to bring himself back to reality – the reality where he was a slave, with nothing but the clothes he'd worn the day she'd brought him home, and she was the rich, talented daughter of one of the most respected and powerful people in the country. He couldn't fall in love with her. He would inevitably lose her – to her life, her job, her own family. There was no way she could ever love him back, and Inuyasha couldn't bear to lose her the way he'd lost everything else he'd allowed himself to care about.
I liked this chapter. I think you liked it, too. If not... hopefully the next one!
Another huge thanks to those who reviewed - I love your feedback.