Author's Note: Again… a semi short chapter that should not have taken long to get out… darn that Snood! Still a transitional chapter.

The Low down: This chapter was fun to write. Well… I had fun at least… in my weird sense of humor sort of way.

Stone Gardens

Chapter 7

Bargaining Power

It was cold. The night wind chilled his skin and there was an eerie quiet all around that put the hanyou warrior on edge. Shadows loomed from the trees, making the whole forest look filled with cloaked figures, all in wait to attack. Inuyasha shook his head to dispel the disturbing thoughts. He was being foolish. The forest was no different this night than any others. He would not jump at shadows.

"Inuyasha!" An arrow sliced through sky and embedded itself into the thick wood. He whipped around to find the voice.

She was there. Staring at him with another arrow already notched. So much hate was in Kikyo's eyes.

She was bleeding heavily.

"Kikyo!" He called, "What are you doing?!"

Another arrow shot at him and he dodged agilely. The demon stared up at his assailant and anger took his heart. She was attacking him with no cause. She who swore to him… she was trying to kill him.

"I should have known." He muttered and glared up at Kikyo. She was rearming now, so he'd have to attack quickly to get the weapon away. Then he'd find out why she was betraying him. Then he'd know for sure that it had all been a lie.

With a predatory snarl and eyes glowing dangerously in the dim light, Inuyasha leapt towards the priestess. But Kikyo was no stranger to danger and the move was not unanticipated. Her arrow was notched on the bowstring and began glowing with a pale violet light.

"Die!" She screamed and let fly the glowing arrow. It moved slowly, brilliant against the dark world, to his eyes. It was so surreal, watching dumbfounded as it struck the mark, right into his heart. Inuyasha fell into the dirt and struggled pitifully to get back on his feet.

"Kikyo…" he muttered as a hand went to clutch his chest as he wobbled for balance. "Kikyo, why?"

A peculiar feeling was starting at his toes and steadily working its way up his legs. He was finding it hard to move and his flesh tingled as though his feet had fallen asleep. He glanced down and saw his flesh was pale, a dingy stony gray. Not only his skin, but also the color of his clothing was also fading to the gray color, and they were getting much heavier.

"Never again, Inuyasha." Kikyo said with a deadly calm as she watched him. The tingly feeling was working its way up to his waist and fingers. He could no longer move his hands.

"Never again will your evil hurt the world."

The words shocked him and he tried to look at her, but he found he could not turn his head. He could not move at all, not his hands, not his feet, not his neck, not anything. His face felt numb and his eyes searched franticly for any answer.

And then there was only dark.

He was trapped. It was too dark, to still, to confined. Inuyasha felt like he was suffocating in the tight nothingness and he began to panic. He concentrated every fiber of demon strength to try to move his unrelentingly still muscles. He wanted so desperately to tear his dark prison with his claws. He had to get out! He couldn't take it! It would kill him to be trapped for one moment longer.

Frantically, he fought the dark and gave a desperate and strangled roar. He was free and he erupted into the night with fragments of stone flying out in all directions. He was under a tree and was confused for a moment.

That was when he realized; he was in the garden in the shrine. The moon was rising over the wall and bathing the area with a pale light. Five hundred years had passed. Kikyo was dead.

"Shit, not again." Inuyasha muttered and passed a hand over his eyes.

A fleeting memory flashed through his mind. 'Can you dream at all?' the girl had asked him not long ago.

"Every fucking day," He growled softly.

'Stay open eyes.'

Kagome shifted uncomfortably in her seat again and tried to focus on the teacher in front of her. Or at the very least, look like she was focusing. Blinking several times and bouncing her leg under the desk, Kagome concentrated on keeping her eyes open.

'This isn't working…' she thought miserably and images of herself sitting through another detention flashed in her imagination.

So this is what staying up all night in a dark library bent over ancient scrolls for weeks would do to a girl. Puffy dark bags under her eyes and a lagging concentration, but she'd do her best to make up for it tomorrow. Yes, she'd finally made it to the end of yet another stressful week and could practically feel the cool softness of her pillow against her cheek.

She just had to make it through this last class without drifting off and landing herself in detention for another few hours. 'Just concentrate, Kagome,' she instructed her weary mind. 'Focus on school! Nobunaga... big warlord. Conquered lots of stuff... Jengoku Jidai... about five hundred years ago... that's when Kikyo...'

Kagome sighed and slumped a little lower in her desk. Her mind was back on it again. 'That's when Kikyo sealed Inuyasha in stone. I've been trying to figure out this dumb spell so long it's all I can think about.'

It was a binding spell, she'd been so proud when she'd figured at least that much out. But of course when she'd told Miroku of her wondrous discovery, he'd just given her that little "and what about it?" look.

'Why am I doing this any way? Anything I find, Miroku already knows. He tells me more than I can ever tell him. ' She thought miserably and went back to pretending to pay attention in class. So all she knew was what Miroku had already told her: it was a binding spell, it had to be removed by the one who cast it with the same sort of magic, which of course Kagome had no hope of ever learning, or the stipulations of the spell had to be met, which she had no way of knowing what they might be as the only person who knew the spell conveniently died right after casting it and never wrote it down.

It was all so confusing, Kagome had to fight the urge to bang her head against the desk in effort to force some answer inside it. Because there just had to be an answer.

Somehow, she had broken at least part of the spell without knowing it, so there simply had to be a way to break it completely that they just weren't quite seeing. It felt so close, just out of her mind's grasp like lyrics to a song you know you know but just can't quite remember.

Kagome had never been more thankful for a school bell in all her life when her frustrated thoughts were interrupted and the class picked up their belongings and head for the door.

"Whew!" Kagome let out and fell back against the wall as soon as she was safely out of the room. Having successfully evaded staying after school after another sleepy day, she felt she deserved feeling proud of herself and let out a dreamy smile. The day was over, finally, and she was home free. She could even squeeze in a much-needed nap before dinner without worrying about anything. Then she could relax for the weekend.

"Higurashi!" She glanced to Hojo walking up to her with a sweet smile, which she returned and pushed herself back off the wall. "Tired?" he asked with a little laugh in his voice.

"Just ready for the weekend." She smiled.

"Yeah, really." They turned and walked down the hall, which was quickly emptying of homeward bound students. "Me too. Though you seem like you've been working pretty hard all week."

"It shows huh?" She laughed a little nervously.

"Only a little. Extra credit assignment?" He asked.

"Well," she thought, "You could say it's just extra curricular stuff."

"I see." he nodded. "Keeps you pretty busy huh?"

"You could say that," she agreed.

"Are you busy tonight?" he asked suddenly.

"What?" Kagome said confused.

"I was wondering if you'd like to go see a movie with me."

"Tonight?" she repeated him.

"Yeah, unless you have something else going on."

"No." she stammered a little bit, "Nothing's really going on tonight."

"Great." He smiled sweetly, "Then I'll meet you at 8:00?"

Kagome felt the start of a blush forming at her cheeks and her heartbeat was quickly becoming more obvious in her chest. 'Why not?' she thought.

"Sure." She smiled

The sun had set a few minutes earlier, leaving the skies a dusky warm purple color with just a hint of the brightest stars peeking through. The air was cool with a soft breeze making the rose blossoms sway in the wind and the willow branches twirl. It was without a doubt the perfect time of day. It was serene, calming, quiet... kinda.

Because next to her was an engrossed hanyou sucking up noodles in a chicken broth with the most stomach turning slurps man had yet known.

"You know, it's not going anywhere, right?" Kagome said disapprovingly.

"I'm hungry, wench," the gluttonous hanyou said between messy slurps. "You don't have to stay if you have a problem with it."

She was about to reply with a snide remark of her own with the most pitiful yowling announced the arrival of a fat, calico blob streaking across the stone path and launching himself into her arms.

"Buyo!" Kagome's eyes snapped up fearfully while Inuyasha looked at her curiously. "Get back here! Mom said I have to give you a bath. You smell!"

Kagome had no time to think. Soon after her cat, her little brother ran into the garden chasing the fur-ball, but skidded to a stop in seconds.

It would be hard to miss the silver-haired, red clad, dog-eared young man with a wad of noodles hanging down his chin. Sota's wide brown eyes darted quickly to his sister, standing with her hands up and a frightened expression, and then right back to the unusual stranger blinking at him in confusion.

"Sota," Kagome began nervously, "Don't freak out." She looked to Inuyasha hoping for some help but he just blinked back up at her and slurped up his noodles. "This..." she said irritably, "is Inuyasha."

Sota ran up to them and looked the hanyou over with intense scrutiny. "You look just like that statue!" He said.

"He... was the statue." Kagome muttered.

"For real?!" His little brown eyes got five times bigger. Kagome was as good as forgotten while he stared up at the stranger. He was the single coolest being Sota had ever seen in his young life, from the bare feet to the fuzzy ears on top of his head.

"Are those real?" Sota reached up to grab at the twitching appendages.

"Back off!" Inuyasha barked as little hands shot up at his head. He jumped away from the child and snarled, ears pinned back against his head.

"Sota!" Kagome chided her brother and grabbed his hands, "That's rude. Yes they're real, but you can't just grab them."

"Oh, sorry." the boy smiled at Inuyasha, again leaving him confused. "What is he doing here?"

"He's under a spell." Kagome explained, glancing at Inuyasha to come back forward, "He turns back to stone in the morning and has to stay in the garden to turn back at night."

"Wow." Sota's eyes glowed in wonder. "How did you find that out?"

"Miroku told me." She said.

Inuyasha huffed and crossed his arms moodily. "Even if the idiot won't tell us anything else."

"So Miroku knows too!" Sota ignored the sour attitude of his new object of admiration, "What about Mom and Grandpa?"

"No, and Sota that's what we need to talk about." Kagome pulled him back facing her. "You can't tell them."

"Why not?" He asked.

"You know how Grandpa is, first thing he'd do would try to exorcize him or ship him away during the day." Kagome said, "And Mom may be understanding, but how do you think she'll react to a demon in the garden? I just think the less people who know about this, the better."

"But maybe Grandpa could help, like break the spell or something."

"I've already been working on that, me and Miroku both stay up trying to find any information. If Miroku doesn't know, I doubt Gramps will just spout out the answer." Kagome sighed, not noticing the surprised flash across the hanyou's face.

"So that's why you're so tired and grouchy all the time," he smiled.

"I am not grouchy." Kagome snarled at the kid.

"So you want me to keep this secret..." An unwelcome gleam came into the boy's usually warm brown eyes, which now sent a shiver down her spine. It was a look that Kagome recognized all too well and that seldom meant any good for her nerves.

"This is so cool!" People from the streets looked up at the mysterious, child-like voice ringing high over their heads.

Inuyasha was imagining the satisfying splat the boy would make and the relief it would be to his abused hearing, but only gritted his teeth. He landed absently on a passing city bus, much to Sota's delight.

"How can you do that?" He beamed up at the demon, "It's so awesome!"

Inuyasha looked down, confused, at the amazed child. "I'm a demon, kid." He said slowly.

"So all demons can do that too?"

"Well, not all, but a lot." He said. Shouldn't this be more frightening to a kid? The village children he'd once seen had always been terrified…

"Wow," Sota said, "Man! Why couldn't I have been born a demon?"

Inuyasha smiled for the first time since even he could remember. "You might not like it so much if you were. People would fear you and then hate you for just being alive." He said bitterly and forced away the quick smile.

"Not all people." Sota shrugged. "I don't hate you, and neither does Kagome."

"But you'd still turn me in and have me chucked from the garden when I was stone." He spat back.

"No I wouldn't!" Sota protested hotly. "I just said that so you'd come hang out with me. I wouldn't really have done it. It's called blackmail, I do it to Kagome all the time."

"You wouldn't have…" Inuyasha said hollowly.

"Nope." Sota grinned.

"You were just…"

"Yep." Bigger grin.

"Maybe I'll just let you drop." He huffed and leapt off the bus, now coming to a stop. He landed on a particularly brightly lit building with tall banners of strange titles.

"So where are we now?" He asked and let the boy get off his back.

"Oh this is just the movie theater." Sota said. "New shows come out here and people sit and watch. It'll be like a year before they get to TV."

Inuyasha blinked confused, not admitting he had no clue what any of those things were. People would approach glass windows receive a small ticket, and then go inside the building together. There were couples there, each of them smiling, and many times the girl would be latched onto the male's arm.

He noticed one boy, standing out front alone and holding a small bunch of flowers. "Why doesn't that guy go in like the others?" he pointed.

Sota looked around for who he meant and saw the same boy; he looked kind of familiar. "He probably is just waiting for his date," he said simply.

Again, the hanyou mused over the strange word, until a familiar scent entered his mind. He looked up quickly and saw Kagome rounding the corner. She was out of breath, like she had run the whole way. 'Why's she in such a rush?' he thought. Maybe she'd come to find them, but how did she know where they were? He was about to jump down and ask when she went straight to the boy with the flowers.

"Sorry I'm late." He heard her say between breaths.

Huh? Late? He leaned over the building's edge slightly to get a better look

"It's all right." The boy smiled and handed her his bunch of flowers.

"Thank you." He saw her cheeks flush with color and the boy held his arm out to her as he started leading them to the window.

'What the fuck is going on!?' He though and leaned out even further to watch them.

They got the ticket thing like all the other couples had and went inside the glass doors. They were quickly moving from his sight, but he tried to follow them as far as possible. Maybe if he leaned just a little further…

"Inuyasha, watch out!" a shout came from behind and grabbed at his robes. It was enough to make him jump.

He lost his footing and plummeted through the air towards the promisingly hard ground. He pulled his body around at the last moment so he wouldn't land flat on his back in time to see a large metal box rushing to meet him.

The foul smell didn't register until it was too late.

"Good night, Inuyasha!" the boy waved and snuck in the house through the back door.

The demon gave a growl in return. His arms were crossed over his chest, his teeth bared dangerously in the moonlight, and a murderous glint sparkled in his eyes.

"Jeez you stink!" a disembodied voice spoke at his shoulder.

"Fuck off." He said simply.

"Did you go swimming in a dumpster or what?" Miroku faded into view and picked at a piece of rotting romaine in his hair.

"What do you want?" Inuyasha sighed and rubbed his eyes to soothe the pain behind them.

"Just finding out how your night went." The angel smiled as another sigh ripped from the hanyou's throat. "Not so well, huh?"

"Weren't you there?" he shot back.

"Well," Miroku shrugged, "Bits and pieces. You can be hard to keep up with when you feel like it."

"What parts did you see?" the hanyou glared at him.

"A swan dive that could win you the gold medal." Miroku laughed. "You know, you fall like a cat."

"I do not!" he screamed and lunged at the angel with his claws. They passed through air as Miroku disappeared and reappeared on the garden wall.

Their banter was interrupted as a signature call "I'm home!" rung out through the shrine, followed by the closing of a door.

" I also saw you craning out to watch Lady Kagome and her young male escort." He prodded, "You didn't seem very pleased by the sight."

"When am I ever happy to see that wench?" Inuyasha huffed.

"Oh is that all it was?" Miroku said with his hand on his chin, looking very thoughtful. "I've seen quite a lot in my time and was certain I had learned to recognize jealousy when I saw it, but maybe this once in so many hundreds of years I made my first mistake…"

A satisfied hanyou smiled as an unforeseen paving stone clunked the monk's head and sent him off the wall with a thud.

With that, Inuyasha took off across the grounds to the high tree outside the house, and particularly outside Kagome's bedroom window.

That wench was going to get it. He'd let her have it for using him as a cart horse for her insane relatives while she went out on a "date" with some idiot of a boy. He'd scream at her so much her ears would pound just like his had done from her brother's screeching.

"Goodnight, mom!" Kagome called from the door, entered in her pajamas and flipped off the lights.

She slipped in her comforting sheets and sunk happily into her pillow. The air was cool and her bed was warm. It only took moments to drift into a sweet slumber. She never noticed the pair of gold eyes peering in at her from the tree outside her window. They watched her breathe in and out in peace.

"I'll yell at her tomorrow." He mumbled and jumped out of the tree.

Next Chapter: Ruthless Game