This chapter is brought to you by Chaos Baked Goods. 'Tis the season for evil brownies.
"Not everyone has it," Noi explained. "And most of the ones that do take their medicine, so they don't end up like—"
"Like that woman we saw on the street," Inuyasha finished.
There was a beat. Kagome flexed her fingers against what she assumed was Noi's bedspread. By now, she could see the two of them moving in ripples, but the world was still the color of dust.
"How'd they keep it from spreading?" asked Inuyasha.
Noi shrugged. "I don't know. People aren't stupid."
"If there's medicine for this, then why doesn't she take it?" asked Inuyasha.
"It probably has side effects, Inuyasha," Kagome answered. "Even in my time—" She stopped. Suddenly, she could see the coin from the apartment in the hidden ruin.
Five hundred and thirty-sixth year of the Tai-Oni.
Even if Naraku had counted his reign from the day they'd disappeared, that put them well into the twenty-first century.
"What?" asked Inuyasha. She could see more clearly now, bright yellow eyes pushing out like lamps against the gray, staring at her with familiar cantankerous weight.
"What does she mean, her time?" asked Noi. "According to the legend—"
"Kagome's time is where she's from," Inuyasha growled an explanation. "It's where she goes when she goes home."
"Inuyasha," she said carefully, "I think we are home."
It hung in the air like a secret.
"Kagome..." she could hear him breathe carefully. "I think just this Noi moron lives here. I mean... There's none of your stuff here or anything."
"Actually I do have a set of Ema's clothes in the dresser. She left them one night."
Kagome didn't quite have to see what happened next.
"OW! I didn't mean it like that!" Noi keened. "A prophet gets no respect anywhere, not even in his own house."
"Inuyasha, no hitting the guy who's letting us stay in his house!" Kagome snapped back.
"Hey, it's your underwear he snatched!" Inuyasha shot back.
"I'm sure it's not what you think," Kagome held up both hands in what was probably Inuyasha's direction.
"Yeah, I didn't snatch them," Noi stammered. Kagome blinked back some of the gray in her sight, enough to see Noi shrug his head toward the floor. "She just ...forgot to come back for them, all right?"
"Wha-wha-what?" Kagome stammered.
She heard another of Inuyasha's thin growls and then a choked squeak.
"Inuyasha!" Kagome started.
"Why'd you say those things about Kagome, asshole?" Inuyasha's voice clicked. "Or Evva or whoever!"
"Inuyasha, maybe if you loosen your grip a bit."
Another thin growl and then a gasp. Kagome blinked again and colors began to take shape.
"So you're worried," Noi graveled out, "that since Ema slept here I must have had untoward designs on her person?" He gasped again. Kagome could just see that he was crouching, out of breath, a hand slapped against each knee. "And that since I am so devilishly irresistible, then that no woman could resist me?"
"I'm sayin' that for you to keep her underwear under your bed i'n' anything like irresistable." Inuyasha crossed his arms.
Noi frowned. "Uh-Under my what?" Stiffly, he turned to a block-shaped blur that slid open just the way dressers were supposed to and pulled out a small bundle of neatly folded cloth. "Ema's things are right here. They're not—"
Inuyasha reached down, his bare claws screeching against the strange cloth. Mostly-human fingers worked their way under the mattress and pulled something free. Kagome's eyes had cleared enough for her to see that it was made –barely– of black cloth, with what looked like metal thread glinting near the hem. She felt her cheeks heat. "Maybe you should put those down," she suggested.
"Those, ah..." Noi scratched the back of his neck. "Those aren't mine..."
"Oh no?" Inuyasha cocked his head, well, cockily. "Whose are they, then?"
"If you must know, they're yours."
"Gyah!" Inuyasha shotputted the little black blur into the far wall.
"What?" asked Noi, regaining his confidence. "They're not as comfortable as you always swore?"
"I..." Inuaysha stuttered. Color was seeping back into the world but not enough for Kagome to see the pink that she could hear rising on his cheeks. "I don't wear these!"
"You sure you're not wearing some now?" asked Noi.
"I'm not and I'll prove it!" Inuyasha's hands were at his waist, scrabbling. "How do you open this thing, again?"
"Don't!" Kagome squeaked.
"Come now, Ema," Noi answered with false calm, "some men just won't rest until their names are cleared. Although I have to tell you, Se—"
A shrill sound broke off whatever he'd been about to say next. Kagome felt more than saw Noi's whole body stiffen. The blurred-out pits of his eyes flicked from Inuyasha to herself and back.
"It's coming from the door," whispered Inuyasha, right arm creeping upward as the onyx on his wrist began to gleam.
"Put that away!" Noi hissed. The door shrilled again and suddenly Kagome found a hand at her collarbone shoving her backwards.
"Hey, watch it!" snarled Inuyasha.
"Be quiet!" seethed Noi. There was a sound of a door opening and another shove. The world went dim again, this time from something light and flimsy and not quiet wooden swinging between her eyes and the lamp.
And she wasn't alone. There was barely room for one person in here, crushed against boxes and cloth. Two was positively crushing.
"Mwhr are we?" Inuyasha asked quietly, making a sound like spitting out a sweater.
"I think we're in his closet," answered Kagome.
"I don't know." Noi's dark warnings about curfew stirred a chill beside Kagome's spine. "Maybe—
The shrill noise stopped and she heard the sound of Noi's apartment door squeaking open. There was a light murmuring, with words she couldn't quite make out.
"Yes!" came Noi's answer.
Another series of murmurs, shorter this time.
The door swung shut.
"I'm really not wearing one of those things, you know," Inuyasha said quietly. "I would've seen it when I went to—"
"Inuyasha, I don't need to—" Kagome's stomach tightened and her spine went stiff. "Uh..." she uttered quietly. "Is that your hand?"
"Is what my hand?"
Kagome wiggled as well as she was able. No matter which way she twitched, she couldn't—
It was moved again. "Eeep!" Definitely a hand.
"I think so," Inuyasha answered.
"Well move it!"
"I can't. Why do you think it's there in the first pl—"
Noi pulled the closet door open again and Kagome blinked heavily in the new light.
"What was that all about?" demanded Inuyasha.
One rusty eyebrow shot up. "What is this about?"
Kagome plucked up Inuyasha's hand and moved it out of the way.
"Oh that. Yeah that was me," said Inuyasha.
Noi gave half a sigh. "Look, the point I was trying to make earlier before we discovered Se's new aversion to his own fashion sense—"
"They are not mine," growled Inuyasha.
"—the two of you have both spent the night here before." Something quirked near the top of the steadying blur that was Noi's face. "At the same time, I might add."
"Wha-wha-whaaaaat?!" Inuyasha started. By now she could see the light glinting – yellow instead of gray – on the gauntlet on his wrist.
"Inuyasha..." Kagome blinked again. "I think he means we were asleep."
The clouds passed and Noi's eyes cleared the blur. "Of course. What else would I mean?" He gave something like a laugh. "But it certainly makes me wonder what's on your mind."
"Lay off," Inuyasha snarled back. Kagome smiled, making out the scowl on his face. "And you never answered my question, anyway. If there's medicine for Kagome, how come she doesn't get any?"
"Inuyasha?" Kagome asked, a dark thought rising in her heart. "We passed people in the street on the way here, right?"
His eyes focused on her, the first unblurred points since that afternoon, two points of cracked gold glass in the pale cloud of his face. "Yeah," he answered. "They didn't look sick."
Kagome shook her head, "Did they look scared?"
Inuyasha shrugged. "They didn't look anything."
She turned to Noi, "That's the problem, isn't it? The medicine does something else to them, doesn't it?"
Noi's face swirled and cleared, and the world came back into focus.
"I think," Noi said slowly, "that I'd better stop at the beginning.
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