~Dizzy Defense for an Underdog~
Chapter Seven: Fools Rush In
"And what would a handsome gent like yourself want with little old me?" Tsubaki all but fell into her chair, a high-backed, padded monstrosity embroidered with flowers and trimmed in carved cherry wood. She was all leisure as Miroku took a seat across a low table from her, the couch under him decidedly less grand but still worth more than her shabby apartment hinted at.
"It's about a friend of mine" he started, keeping his tone casual despite the tense atmosphere. "He's in some trouble thanks to something that happened about ten years ago. I wanna help him out."
Lifting a thin cigarette holder to her lips, Tsubaki took a long drag, blowing out slowly and watching the rising smoke before bothering with a response. "And what's your friend got to do with me? I'm not in the business of charity work, Mister…."
"Miyatsu" he answered for her, watching as a hint of understanding flashed in her eyes. He hoped throwing his name out would be the push to get her talk, instead of a hammer to shut her up. An ingratiating smile lit his face as the woman before him took a somewhat shaky pull from her cigarette.
"Well well… Miyatsu. Haven't heard that name in a while… a long while." Her lips pursed, and her gaze turned stern as she looked across at him. "Tell me what it is you're really here for, Dick, before my hospitality runs out."
He reached for the ornate coffee cup on the table, swirling the contents inside and not daring to take a sip. "Nothin' to get riled up about, I assure you. You won't be under any investigation… if you cooperate that is. And I'm sure you will." Miroku set her with a dazzling smile, and her frown pinched even more. "It has to do with the unfortunate death of your colleague ten years ago. A nurse named Kikyo. I'm sure you remember her."
She tapped her cigarette sharply, the ashes falling to the table and completely missing the crystal tray, and Miroku knew he was playing with fire.
"You looking for that scrap of jewelry too?" Her mouth pinched into a sour expression. "You think I'd be living like this if I had something as valuable as that?"
"No no, nothing like that" Miroku said absently, setting down the china cup of coffee without having tasted a drop. He valiantly kept his eyes focused forward, instead of roving them about the opulent room. She wasn't exactly living in squalor; a waitress' salary wouldn't cover half the valuables in this room, but he hadn't come to pry into her shady finances. "Like I said, I'm here for a friend. A friend in prison."
Tsubaki's expression turned from anger to shock faster than a bangtail out of the gate. Her fingers fisted around the stem of her cigarette holder, and Miroku knew he'd struck something; he could only hope it was a vein of gold and not a waiting rockslide. "You mean to tell me they've finally caught that double-crossing son of a bitch?"
Miroku clenched his jaw, every muscle trained on looking as casual as possible while he waited for her to continue. Could she… possibly be talking about Inuyasha? Was there something more to his story than Kagome knew? Or was it someone else?
Caught up in her own tirade, Tsubaki seemed to forget the detective was there at all as she murmured disdainfully "Rotten spider… it's high time he got what was coming to him. What an ingrate – not a drop of appreciation for what I managed to pull! You people think spells come easy but let me tell you! Let me tell you…."
"Spider?" The PI caught on the word, carefully avoiding the other information she'd spilled. He logged it all away for future investigating. "You wouldn't be talking about mob-boss Naraku, now would you?" The notorious gang-leader had a taste for theatrics, and he left his spider-mark burned on not only his crime scenes, but his victims and cronies as well. He'd become synonymous with anything eight-legged and crawling.
Tsubaki set startled eyes on the black-haired man, her tone nervous as she replied "… Honey, just who are you talking about? If it ain't him in the slammer, then who are you askin' for?"
"The half-demon Inuyasha. Lover-boy to your colleague Kikyo."
Miroku took careful note of Tsubaki's scoffing dismissal. "Please – lover? He followed her around like a love-sick puppy, I'll give you that, but they were never lovers." Tapping her ashes into the crystal dish, the white-haired woman fixed her gaze on the shuttered window behind her guest, continuing absently "She humored him, and I suppose she could have cared for him. More than any of the other nurses, that was for sure." She blew a cloud of heavily scented smoke into the air, and her lips turned up in a snake-like grin. "'Course that didn't mean much the night he murdered her."
Leaning back in the mildew-scented cushions, Miroku put on his best face of indifference. "Were you working that night? The night he murdered her?"
"Listen here dick, I worked mornin', noon, and night at that insane asylum. My blood, sweat, and tears went into that job, and no one gave a damn." She took a sharp drag from her cigarette and choked, coughing up clouds of smoke and waving them away. "And in walks little miss baby-doll, and suddenly she's an assistant, then a head nurse, and pretty soon they're offerin' her a sweet office job, and she turns it down just so's she can keep up her little 'angel' routine." The cigarette was a mere stump now, and Tsubaki gave it a withering look before snuffing it out in the tray of ashes, setting the holder across the rim. "That bitch had a cherry-topped life handed to her on a silver platter, and she passed it by for low-lifes like your mutt. She got what she deserved."
Tsubaki's eyes fell on the detective, cold and piercing and challenging him to disagree. Miroku merely shrugged. "Takes all kinds, I guess" he said, carefully avoiding the woman's gaze. "Kikyo musta really loved her work to turn down an opportunity like that. Some might call it brave."
"Brave?" Tsubaki scoffed, reaching across the table for an open cigarette box. "And where did that bravery get her, hmm?" A wry grin quirked her lip as she continued "Maybe if she'd been a little less brave, he mighta let her live."
"He? You mean Inuyasha?" Rolling her eyes, Tsubaki draped her arms over the sides of her plush chair and heaved a sigh. Miroku could see her patience wearing thin, and knew he'd have to speed up the interview and risk garnering suspicion.
"Yes, I mean him. Who else would I be talking about?"
"Did you see the confrontation?" Leaning forward, eyes filled with urgency, Miroku waited for the gaudy woman to respond. She realized the implications at once, meeting his gaze head-on with a warning glare. "I didn't see him kill her, and I couldna helped her even if I did. I'm only human."
"Are you indeed?" Miroku mused, and Tsubaki's flickering glance to the wall told him he'd pressed the right button.
"Look if it'll get you to shut up and leave, I'll tell ya what I saw." She lit another cigarette, not even bothering to put it in its holder before taking a puff. "We was both workin' the night shift. Kikyo took a break some time around four in the mornin', and went to meet the halfy in our back room. I left 'em alone for a while – I sure didn't wanna see them shmoozin'. About a half hour later I had my break, and Kikyo hadn't come back, so I went to chew her out. Only I didn't need to: the halfy was already layin' into her pretty hard. He had her up against the wall, shoutin' on and on about something… can't remember what, after all these years – not like I cared to listen in the first place."
Turning in her seat, she draped her legs over the armrest and settled back, twirling her cigarette in lazy patterns. "Anyways, she wasn't havin' it, and I saw her try to leave a couple times, but he just kept pullin' her back. Can't quite remember how it all happened, but he had her pinned and was all over her in seconds. Last I saw, his nasty lips were on her and he was tearin' at her blouse. I didn't stick around for the finale."
"Are you tellin' me" Miroku said evenly, desperately pushing back his disgust, "that you saw him attack her – knew he'd try to rape her – and you just went back to work?"
Tsubaki laughed, throwing up her hands and saying "What're you gonna do, put me in jail?" A chuckle escaped her, and the crystal dish rang like a bell as she tapped off her ashes. "Like I said, I couldn't have helped little miss princess even if I'd wanted to. Nurses aren't trained to fight off brutes." Her dark eyes caught Miroku's frown, and she smirked. "It was none o' my business. She was the poor judge of character here. I didn't think he'd murder her of course – I mighta actually called the coppers if I knew what kinda trouble they'd cause for me after all that."
"So where did you go, might I ask, to avoid the 'lover's quarrel'?" The accusation was still lingering in his tone, but Tsubaki only smirked and answered all the same.
"I did my patient rotations. We had a room of invalids who couldn't leave their beds – there was always a night-nurse on duty to change their sheets and bedpans." She sneered, and Miroku wondered how anyone so crass had ever been a nurse. "Kikyo should've been helping, but… well, you know what was up with her." She huffed, but then her eyes grew distant, and she rapped the cigarette holder lightly against her knuckles. "Y'know… now that I think of it, there was something off that night. One of the patients was out of bed."
Miroku's expression turned thoughtful, but there was no reason yet for excitement. "Could have gotten up for a late-night stroll I s'pose."
Tsubaki barked a mirthless laugh, and muttered "Not this one. He hadn't moved from that bed his whole time in the hospital. Burn victim – no working limbs!"
The detective's cool demeanor slipped as his mind called forth a recent memory. He could see the scrawled words on the police report in vivid clarity: 'bed-ridden', 'extensive burns'… it sounded just like…. "You wouldn't happen to remember the name of this patient, now would you?"
He didn't like Tsubaki's knowing smile one bit, and wasn't at all surprised when she simpered out "What's it worth to ya?"
"Well?" the inmate pressed, leaning towards the glass barrier with eyes fixed on the detective; "Did she tell ya or what?!"
"She told me her terms" Miroku responded tightly. "Tsubaki wants complete anonymity in this case, and we can't try bringin' her in for any past charges either. Basically, I have to play things like we never met."
"So what then?" Inuyasha's yellow eyes burned under the stark lighting of the meeting room, his fangs flashing in a snarl. "That ain't much, right? You can arrange all that, can't ya?"
The detective shrugged, his lips pursed. "It puts us at a disadvantage. We can't use her as a witness now, even though she's got some of the best info I've heard yet." Miroku slumped forward, dragging his gloved hand through black bangs as his eyes focused on the dividing wall beside him. "I agreed of course – I could tell saying 'no' wasn't an option at that point. If she didn't try to off me just for askin' too many questions, I'm sure she woulda packed up the second I left and moved across the country. She may do that anyways…." A weary sigh slipped from the man, and he continued "Not that it did any good. She won't say a word more until she has my word in writing. It's like I'm gambling with a rigged deck – my only chance now is to rig one of my own."
"I don't appreciate ya gamblin' with my freedom" Inuyasha muttered, but Miroku waved off the snide reply, his expression falling in a mask of distress. "Your lack of faith in my skill is disheartening. You take me for the kind of chump who throws in his hand when a real high-roller shows up?"
"I take you for a welcher" Inuyasha jibed; Miroku shook his head reprovingly. "Such slander. Ah well, if you're gonna be like that, I guess I'll toss the hot tip I got from Tsubaki and let you and your lawyer settle this yourself."
"So you did get something?!" Leaning across the small table, Inuyasha stared at the black-haired man impatiently. Miroku took his time responding, twirling his pen between gloved fingers and humming absently. "Maybe" he said thoughtfully; "We'll just have to see how it turns out. She told me about a visitor Kikyo had a few days before the attack – a usual guest to the hospital." At Inuyasha's warring expression of suspicion and alarm, Miroku clarified quickly "Kikyo's grandmother. Her only living relative. Apparently they were close."
The prisoner's confusion cleared, his eyes growing distant as he leaned back in his chair. "Old Kaede, huh? I wonder if she's still kickin'."
"Knew her, did you?" At the detective's piercing look, Inuyasha shrugged. "Yeah, she ran the orphanage I lived at. Didn't know she was Kikyo's granny at first…. We musta talked about it at some point, but I don't remember. She was alright, far as humans go."
Watching the sentimental half-demon, a smile tugged at Miroku's lips. "I hope she and you were on good terms," he began, "because she may be our best bet for finding out what really happened. She spoke to Kikyo not long before the day of the murder, and she may have heard about any shady characters who could've framed you." Inuyasha shrugged again, avoiding the detective's piercing gaze and picking at his sleeves. Understanding he'd reached his limit of conversation, Miroku added "No need for you to worry over it though; I'll have it settled and you'll never hear the details. You just keep working on those people skills with our lovely lawyer so they don't toss you out the court room." He smirked, his blue eyes growing distant as he rambled on "She and I will look into the Kaede angle, and we'll see what we can make of the case… of course, I'll need to meet with her often to keep her in the loop. Perhaps over coffee, or maybe we could find a nice restaurant to sit down and really hammer out the finer points."
"You better not be doin' no kinda hammerin' with her at all, ya hear me lech?" The detective's amused grin did little to mollify the bristling prisoner. "I mean it – any meetings ya have with her, they better include me, dammit!"
"Hmm, you enjoy my company that much, Inuyasha?"
"I look forward to it 'bout as much as a stint in solitary. You been hittin' the bottle too much if you think I trust ya within' five feet of Kagome." Miroku laughed heartily, the frown on Inuyaha's face growing more annoyed at the sound. "I hope dear Kagome returns from her trip soon then, for both our sakes." Miroku rose from his chair, gathering his files and chuckling to himself all the while. "Murdering the detective assigned to your case wouldn't look too good for the court, now would it?"
"Quit makin' it so tempting then" Inuyasha growled, standing as well to signal to the guard outside that he was finished. The detective was unfazed, giving the half-demon a jovial wave as he left. As the guard secured his cuffs and escorted him out, Inuyasha slipped deeper into the surly mood that'd plagued him all week. The visit with Miroku was a welcome change of pace, though he'd never admit to it, but it wasn't enough. Every hour passed by in a dirge of loneliness, echoing in the empty hollows that had burst into being the moment his lawyer left his cell. He hated the feeling.
Anger roiled through him as he remembered how she'd left, his mind's eye calling up in perfect detail the moment when she'd thrown him that kiss. She had no right to do that – she had no right to toy with his heart and raise his hopes and make him feel things that he'd sworn never to feel again. All the same, he couldn't stop remembering. He couldn't shake the elation brought by her scent or the ache caused by its absence. Despite knowing how this would all end, knowing he didn't stand a chance in hell at ever gaining that woman's affection… he couldn't keep his heart from pounding at the sight of her face.
'Damn you, Kitten' he thought bitterly, the term truly one of endearment as it painted a million pictures of her sunny smile, her sparkling eyes, her midnight curls; 'I just wanna be free, not have my heart broke all over again.'
The evening passed by in sluggish routine of weights, dinner, and mess-hall cleanup, and by the time the lights were turned out in his wing of the jail, Inuyasha knew it'd be another restless few hours before sleep finally took him. A resonating click of a lock and heavy creaking of metal hinges filled the silence of his prison wing several times as the night guard came to check on him, the hulking form of the demon bull pausing before the barred door of his cell before turning and trudging back to the main halls. He gave Gyu-oh a passing wave as he left the first time, ignoring him every time after as he feigned sleep.
Folding his arms behind his head, Inuyasha glanced from his cot to the tiny window in his cell. The moon was peeking from behind a cloud, no more than a sliver, and Inuyasha grimaced. Tomorrow would be a rough night. Glaring at the disappearing moon, the half-demon called up Kagome's smiling face, and once again thought of whether or not to tell her. This went beyond safety, beyond trust: if he could prove to her, at least to her, that he was guiltless beyond a shadow of a doubt… perhaps he'd be able to stand life in this hell just a little more. He wouldn't let her tell a soul, but maybe sharing the burden of truth would finally let his heart rest. At the very least, after all she'd done so far to help him… he owed her this much.
Kagome fairly skipped her way through the prison door, biting her lip to keep from humming as she showed her license to the guard and signed in. It had been over a week since she'd seen her favorite hopeless case, and the young lawyer was itching to share the little bit of the hope she'd found on her trip home. Following her surly escort down the narrow hallway to the visiting room, Kagome fought the army of butterflies waging war in her stomach. She'd done a fair job all week of keeping her thoughts focused on the trial, but with Inuyasha just a few walls away, her other feelings refused to be silent.
What if he asked about that kiss? What if she'd offended him? What if he thought she was just a silly little girl and kicked her off his case? It wouldn't be the first time he over-reacted like a five-year-old. But then, she'd been able to talk him down before, hadn't she? Rolling her shoulders and straightening her back, Kagome set her gaze firmly ahead of her, trying to feel as confident as she hoped she looked. Maybe he'd forgotten her little slip-up, and they could carry on like mature adults. It was worth a try.
The guard left her in the empty waiting room with a passing remark that her client was being informed of her arrival, and Kagome sat down in her usual wooden chair at her usual cubby, sitting up straight to keep her air of professionalism. She didn't notice the way her neck craned to catch a glimpse of Inuyasha's as he entered.
Minutes passed by like hours, and Kagome's guarded features were beginning to slip into a frown, when a commotion down the hall had her neck craning even further toward the invisible source of the noise. There was shouting from multiple voices, and the pounding of several sets of feet, and it all seemed to be coming closer and closer to the room in which she sat –
Until a figure crashed through the door, stumbling into the room to stand heaving in the middle of it, and it took Kagome's brain a minute or so to put together the acres of sweat-glossed, flushed brown skin, blue boxers, scraggly white hair and perky dog ears and place a name to it – at which point her brain helpfully shut down.
Oblivious to his lawyers gawking state and the still shouting guards quickly closing in, Inuyasha nearly laughed in excitement, taking in her lovely scent with each rapid breath as he all but shouted "You came back!" He could hardly believe it; not that he'd really doubted her, not with that calming voice in his head all week that sounded an awful lot like her, whispering that she'd never break a promise to him. But it had been so easy to fall back into old habits of assuming the worst, of thinking he'd never catch a break, never be happy, never have a friend again… yet here she was. She'd come back. Just like she'd said she would.
He stared at her for a few happy seconds more, before the guards rushed in behind him in an angry clamor. The one who'd been sent to fetch him whacked him upside the head with his night stick, and despite the weak arm on the human, it managed to leave an ache. The hit shook Kagome from her stupor across the divider from them, and she called an angry "Hey watch it!" but was sharply ignored.
"What's the big idea runnin' off, Halfy?" The guard sneered, brandishing his stick once more. "I oughta lock you in solitary for a week!" He toyed with the cuffs at his belt, and Inuyasha's attention wandered to the wall. He'd heard it all before. "You're just lucky you ended up where we was takin' you in the first place, of it'd be stir. You got five minutes" the guard snapped, ignoring as Inuyasha opened his mouth to object "and then you're on mess hall cleanup till lights out. No sneakin' table scraps either." With a shrug of his shoulders he motioned the other guards out of the room, Inuyasha growling at them as they left.
He couldn't stay angry for long though, and with their distraction gone, lawyer and convict were free to focus on each other: one with open relief, and the other… absolute mortification. It took Inuyasha longer than it should have to realize that Kagome's eyes had said goodbye to his face and were roving up and down from his ratty tennis shoes to the towel draped over his shoulder like a matching pair of marbles. Her own face was red enough to rival a tomato, and the heady scent of her nervousness filled the room like a sauna, making the half-demon's already spinning head whirl even worse.
It hit him, rather belatedly, that he'd run out in the middle of lifting weights, not bothering to shower or change or anything he usually did in his excitement at hearing she'd arrived. A flush crept up his neck to realize he'd run in sweaty and nearly naked to see his drop-dead gorgeous lawyer, and he hadn't said anything in the way of explanation since. Come to think of it, she hadn't done anything but gape like a trout either. Rallying his confidence and shoving away his hurt pride, Inuyasha told himself 'what right she got to be offended by my body, huh? So I came straight from workin' out, so what? She don't gotta act like she ain't never seen a man before. I ain't so different from anyone else.'
Steadying himself with a quick breath, Inuyasha buried his frown under a cocky grin, hand on his hip and posture full of arrogance as he teased "See somethin' ya like, Kitten?" Her hazel eyes snapped to his so fast that he nearly bit his tongue off as his mouth closed on the final word. He hadn't meant to let that slip – he'd meant to tease her, sure, but he hadn't meant to call her by that name. That special name. That name he only called her in his mind, on the edge of sleep, with her scent on the edge of his memories and his better judgement out for the night. She wasn't supposed to know.
Her red face melted into absolute and utter embarrassment, eyes darting this way and that, anywhere but him, mouth gaping and spewing half-formed words that she didn't have time to think about between trying to find a place to rest her gaze and finding something to do with her nervous fingers. Inuyasha watched her frenzied state with growing amazement. He'd only meant to snap her out of that weird staring thing she'd been stuck in. He thought she'd be mad at being called 'Kitten' – most broads didn't take to being called diminutives like that, especially high-class ones like her. But not only wasn't she mad… she was flustered. Inuyasha watched her fan herself, tugging at her collar and looking pointedly away from him, and the revelation nearly floored him: he'd been right! She did like what she saw!
Numbly he reached for the wooden chair in front of him, forgetting his sweaty state as he plopped down into it and continued to watch with wide eyes as Kagome calmed herself down. She was glancing across at him every so often now, her cheeks still stained red, and Inuyasha couldn't fight the wide, fang-showing smile even if he wanted to. His lawyer pursed her lips to keep from smiling back, but he could tell. "Y'know…" he began, unable to do anything but grin, "I hate to break it to ya, but this can't become a regular thing. I'm gettin' cold."
She turned to face him with hands to her hips and face screwed into a frown, but it didn't last long as a snort of laughter broke her façade, and she doubled over, pulling out the chair and falling into it. Tucking her black hair behind an ear as she laughed, Kagome gave him a nervous smile and dared at last to meet his eye. "What on earth are you doing?" she said a little breathlessly. "Trying to give me a heartattack?"
"Course not!" He answered, moving to lean back and lace his arms behind his head – at least, before he noticed his lawyer's gaze following the lines of muscle and the bright flush warming her cheeks. He hastily righted himself and tugged the towel around his neck, for lack of anything better to do. "I uh… you took too long comin' back is all, and I wanted to see ya. Besides, you rather I make ya wait while I finish my workout and shower and all that? You already chewed me out about that at our first meeting." His nervous smile was enough to snap Kagome back from her absent-minded ogling, and her eyes found a very fascinating wood grain pattern instead.
"Right, so… anyways, I talked to my grandpa while I was away." Her gaze flickered up to his again, and finding some inner strength, secured his curious yellow eyes. "We may have found a loop-hole. I think I can prove your innocence without ever needing your alibi."
The half-demon was silent, fixed in place by that avid stare of brown and green. He didn't speak at first; in fact he wasn't even sure what he wanted to say. Kagome watched him patiently, but there was an eager light in her countenance, and he realized what she'd done for him. Inuyasha knew he was being a difficult client – hell, he'd been difficult for everyone who'd ever met him since the day he was born – but Kagome had met him halfway, respecting his wishes to find a way around his alibi, and going the extra mile to make a case without that crucial element. It meant more than that though, much more: it meant she believed him. She believed he was innocent even though he couldn't, wouldn't give her proof that he hadn't murdered Kikyo.
And there was only one way he could think to repay that trust.
The door behind them clicked open, and the jangle of keys heralded the entry of the guards coming to escort him out. Rising to his feet, Inuyasha leaned towards the glass and said softly to the girl on the other side "Come by tonight, after sundown. Come to my cell."
Kagome's wide-eyed stare and confused "Huh?" were less than encouraging, and as the guards mumbled impatiently behind him, Inuyasha's request became more urgent. "Just do it, alright? Come back later tonight, and I'll have more information for ya. Just tell 'em you needed more time with your client or some crap. Pull your lawyer card." She raised a skeptical eyebrow at him, but then he gave her a pleading look, adding quietly "It's important. There's something I need to tell you" and she all but melted on the spot.
Inuyasha stepped back, the guard cuffing him and pulling him toward the door, but he gave her a nod as he turned to go, and Kagome returned the gesture resolutely. She'd be back tonight, just as she'd returned today. He could count on her. A calm, peaceful smile made its way onto the half-demon's face as he was led back to the gym, his thoughts for once a quiet sea.
He completely missed his flushed lawyer fanning herself once more as soon as he turned to go.
First of all, as with every chapter with every one of my fics... it's been an eternity. I know this and I'm sorry. I've had life, school, other crap, you know how it goes.
Second, the oh so lovely InuKag fluff in this chapter was inspired by the AMAZING art of Nokaninja over on tumblr - I'll have a link to the art on my tumblr page, but this site is horrible about including links, so unless I find a good way to include one, you'll have to find it over there. But the image of Inuysha coming in mid-workout and calling Kagome 'Kitten' for the first time was all thanks to Nokaninja's art (I already asked if I could include it in the fic and was happily granted permission! :3) so please check out Nokaninja's tumblr and bask in the amazing art!
Third, as usual the chapter title is an old 30s/40s song, and not only is it ironically descriptive of events in the chapter, but the song itself is also very fitting of Inuyasha and the fic and it's adorable and everyone should look it up. (Fools Rush In by Tony Martin)
Anyways, THANK YOU so much everyone for your continued support, and your reviews and faves and follows! It means the world to me! And thank you for your patience between chapters! I'm still here and I'm still writing, just... not as often as I'd like. But you guys give me the motivation to keep going!