Well, not quite as long as last chapter, but still above and beyond the norm. So I hope you guys are happy. As I promised, there is a healthy dose of fluff and cutesy stuff because this is really the last chance to put non-Banquet related fluff in. And it does get a bit depthy and emotional there and while I liked it, it's possible a few of you might think I'm silly. But you might have thought that already. Special thanks to heka who gave me the inspiration to delve more deeply in what made Sess go back for Rin.
We're about to wrap up here folks, I have it all planned and outlined and stuff. My profile has an edited version of the outline. Chapter Forty will be the epilogue and that's it! So do me a GREAT BIG FAVOR and review. Wouldn't it be great to make it to 1400 before all was said and done? I'm hoping to make it to 1300 on this one, but I'm not the type of writer to hold the update hostage for a certain amount of reviews, so I'm at your mercy. As usual,the most current info regarding updates is available my profile. Enjoy.
Chapter Thirty Seven: Traditions
Sesshoumaru watched intently as his breath ruffled Rin's hair. She was curled in his arms and sleeping soundly. It had taken her a long time to find sleep, but she had finally found it. He had no such luck. Instead he watched her in the darkness; his demon eyes allowing him to see almost as well as he could in the light. His thoughts were shadowy and intangible. And yet couldn't silence his thoughts. Altogether it was a very odd sensation he was having. Bafflement, he realized. For the first time in his life he was truly baffled and bamboozled.
Though he would sooner die than admit it to anything but his most deep, inner self, his brother had been right. Though forgiving Rin had not been easy, it had been simple. Once he accepted it, it had all fallen into place effortlessly. He hadn't planned on it necessarily, and he hadn't expected it to be instantaneous, but it was. Softly, so as not to wake her, he nuzzled his face into Rin's neck and breathed in the sweet smell of his life's Mate. She unconsciously snuggled in closer.
When his brother had left him in his office after barging in and sticking his nose in business that wasn't his, Sesshoumaru had returned to his paperwork diligently. Despite his irritation and refusal to acknowledge the interruption, he eventually he got to thinking about how, even though his brother was a feckless oaf, he had made one valid point. Sesshoumaru had left Rin in a difficult part of town with no warning. Though she was a conniving wench, he was a gentleman and a high profile business man and therefore should handle the removal of her from his life with grace.
Barely an hour after Inuyasha had left Sesshoumaru got up from his desk in one swift movement. Then he realized that Inuyasha had not told him where Rin was. Obviously she had at some point been with Inuyasha and so that meant she could be practically anywhere now. His parent's house, Kagome's apartment, or even that Sango woman's domicile, whatever it may be. He frowned and marched out into the lobby.
Much to his chagrin, Yura handed him a memo the moment he stepped out. It read: "Here's hoping you've decided not to be a jackass. She's still where you left her." in Inuyasha's scratchy handwriting. Sesshoumaru snarled at it absently but continued down to the parking lot unswayed in his goal.
The drive to that dingy restaurant was a mix of speeding to get there faster and procrastinating by going five miles under the speed limit and going the long way. When he finally reached the brick building he noted with disdain and mild horror that his brother and Miroku's cars were parked on the street outside. Just what he wanted; an audience.
Upon entering the shabby building the young boy called Kohaku dropped a plate and ran to fetch a motley crew of his brother, Kagome, Sango, and Miroku. Much to his ire, Kagome began to ream him for hurting Rin. It took a good deal of effort and pride not to respond in turn. Eventually, his brother stepped forward, grabbed Kagome's arm, and told her to take him to see Rin. The authority in Inuyasha's voice reminded him of his own childhood memories of their father. This only served to irritate Sesshoumaru further.
While following Kagome up the cramped staircase his mind sped through millions of thoughts. Would Rin still be the beautiful young woman he used to know or would she be the evil temptress his mind's eye had been busy painting her as? Would his icy composure hold? Would he yell at her again? No, no. It would be fine. He would see she was uninjured, settle some things such as when she'd get her things, and leave. Situation resolved.
Kagome entered the room, said something he couldn't hear over his own mind's voice, and came back out with a look that was both reproachful and hopeful at the same time. But she went back down and left him to Rin. Suddenly he stepped into the room and looked at her, prepared for the temptress within.
The pale moonlight fell across the face of the ethereally beautiful young woman he had come to love. He could see no horns and no hooves anywhere. Instead he saw her tear-stained cheeks and red eyes abound with new hope. His stomach clenched violently. She looked weary, but hope had brought blood to her face and her mouth was parted in breathless anticipation.
Cautiously, yet uncontrollably, he stepped into the light and stood at the foot of her bed. All thoughts vanished from his mind and he stood transfixed by the boiling feeling in his stomach brought on by seeing her, his mate, again.
The pounding of a million different thoughts, reactions, and emotions pressed against Sesshoumaru's temples. He had thought seeing her would renew his plight. Or help him move on. Instead it had reminded him of the love she had for him and the love he had given her, foolishly or not. He stepped forward to the edge of the bed without really realizing it and her lip began to quaver.
Tears formed in her bright brown eyes and slid down her rosy cheeks. And his heart broke all over again. She started to say something but he pressed his fingers against her soft full lips. Her pain was palpable and it sat upon his own with a heavy weight. He slowly sat at the foot of her bed and tried to find himself again among the debris of emotion in his mind.
She seemed so beautifully hopeful. Rin wanted so badly for him to love her as she knew he did. He looked at her beautiful moonlight face again and something snapped. He realized that no matter what she could do, he would be powerless against her. Homeless she may have been, but she was his Rin and that mattered more than anything. She might have not told him everything, but would he have given her the chance if she did? She had given him herself and there had been a cost but surely it was worth it. He couldn't deny her forgiveness. He suddenly found himself wanted her to forgive him.
Suddenly she smiled beautifully and tears fell anew from her eyes. He wiped one off and sighed as he rolled the sweet, salty liquid between his fingers. Her mouth began to move with a stuttered explanation.
"Sesshoumaru, I am so-" She stammered.
"Hush." He cut her off. Her mouth snapped shut.
The love in her eyes was enough of an apology. After a long moment and an involuntary lurch of his stony heart, he smirked at her and ran a hand through her silky hair. The sweet relief in her expression was so lovely he bent down and pressed a kiss to her mouth. It tasted of bitter tears of sadness and sweet tears of relief. He realized, slowly and perhaps a bit unwillingly, that she had him. If she wanted to ruin him, she could. He was hers. And he didn't wish it any other way. He wanted her with him always. He moved to whisper into her ear.
"Are you ready to go home?" He said softly and lovingly, trying to tell her of his feelings without having to actually spell anything out.
"Please." She whispered back. The bottom of his stomach dropped away and he was once again flying.
He took her hand and led her out to the Porsche leaving Inuyasha looking smug and more self-satisfied than ever and Kagome looking worried but pleased. One thing was for certain, he was not looking forward to dealing with his brother ever again. It was doubtful that one whole day would ever pass again without Sesshoumaru's mistake being pointed out followed by an elaborate recall of how Inuyasha had fixed it.
For all the time they finally got back home till now, lying in bed together, they had not spoken. It was not needed. And frankly, Sesshoumaru wasn't ready or willing to speak of it. Rin seemed happy enough to follow in suit. But he didn't leave her side. They showered slowly together and dried off together and when they lied down in the bed Sesshoumaru had pressed himself against her. They did not make love. It was not a night for sex. But he nuzzled his face into her neck and breathed in her light rainy scent. She cried for a while. And he wouldn't deny her that. But he knew she was crying only now for the shock of it all, not out of sorrow, because she caressed him tenderly as she wept.
Finally she slept, leaving him to his thoughts. But even when he tried to grasp onto that wisp of hate he had felt he couldn't find it. He only found adoration for her. He thought about her homelessness and only found admiration for her bravery. He thought of her admitting it to him and was only grateful for her trust and mad at himself for breaking it. He thought of the fact that he had nearly damned her back to homelessness and shuddered at the thought of her possibly getting hurt. Slowly, very slowly, he sunk into a deep sleep full of dreams about her.
As Kagome was gradually woken by the first beams of the morning sun, she realized she was not in her apartment. It came to her almost instantly that, aside from not being in her apartment, she was also lying half way on top of someone whose arms where wrapped around her. And she was lying on a couch. In Sango's living room. And the person whose arms were wrapped around her was Inuyasha. She instantly froze.
Holding perfectly still, she tried to begin to collect her thoughts. All clothes were on, thank god. Inuyasha began to stir underneath her and she bit her exclamation back to a small 'eep'. His amber eyes slowly opened and looked up at her with an expression that melted her.
"Sleep well?" He asked quietly.
"Yes." She replied too quickly.
Finally she recalled why exactly how she had come to lie across Inuyasha on Sango's couch. By the time Sesshoumaru had left with Rin, it had been 3am and it had been universally decided that everyone should stay, especially since Kohaku's restaurant was in a seedy part of town. After thoroughly praising Inuyasha on his skills in bringing his brother around, Sango, Kohaku, and Miroku had gone back to the bedrooms, leaving Inuyasha and her the soft, wide couch. She hadn't complained. It was an excuse to cuddle with him.
What had he said to bring his brother around anyway? Sesshoumaru was not terribly reasonable about these sorts of things and she couldn't think of anything that might influence him. But he had done it. Thank god. Poor Rin's heart had been broken but clearly so had Sesshoumaru's.
And yet the real million dollar question was what could have happened in Rin's past that was bad enough for him to flip out like that? Inuyasha had said it was because she had formerly worked for one of Oni's competitors, but that didn't strike her as a good reason. If anything they should be grateful to have taken a good assistant like Rin away from the competition.
"Kagome?" Inuyasha rumbled underneath her.
"Yeah?" She responded distractedly.
"Is there something the matter?" He asked curiously.
She looked down at him. His eyes were still cloudy with sleep but sweet concern shown through brightly. She smiled at him, completely derailed by her love for him.
"Nope." She replied genuinely.
He smiled lazily up at her and pulled her tight against him with her head tucked beneath his chin. Kagome sighed in contentment as he ran his fingers through her hair. Nothing mattered as long as she was with Inuyasha.
"I love you." She heard him whisper.
She sat up instantly in surprise. Inuyasha lifted himself on his elbows and when she turned she noticed he had a weird look in his eyes. Love? He loved her? Really? Truly? She stared blankly in shock down at him. The expression in his face quickly turned into a pale anxious look.
"S-sorry. I just… I mean, you know. In a friendly way…" He sputtered.
Kagome suddenly smiled broadly and dove down to wrap her arms around his neck. He gasped lightly.
"I love you too, Inuyasha." She whispered into his ear.
He turned to her with a wolfish grin and kissed her deeply.
When Rin finally woke up, she immediately noticed that Sesshoumaru was not in bed next to her. She shot up with a start. Had he left her again? Did he decide he couldn't forgive her? She leapt out of the covers and began sprinting out of the bedroom. She had to stop him. She couldn't lose him again.
Half way to tears, Rin spun into the hall still wearing only the shirt and panties she'd fallen asleep in. She made it to the door in a matter of seconds but as she began to twist the knob she was interrupted.
"If you're going out, you may want to consider putting on some pants. Though I doubt the neighbors will complain." Sesshoumaru's coolly quiet voice echoed through the kitchen and out to the doorway.
Rin whirled back around and was greeted with the immensely relieving sight of Sesshoumaru sitting at the table looking over some papers. She released a tremendously relieved breath of air and clutched her pounding chest. Quickly, she ventured a small smile to attempt to hide her silliness.
"Something wrong?" He asked with a furrowed brow.
"Oh. No. I'm fine. I just woke up and when you weren't in bed I… wondered… if you had gone out." She covered for herself even though she knew he had already probably guessed what it was she had really wondered.
"No. I've been here all day. But I got up some time ago. You do realize it is 2pm, don't you?" He asked with a hint of amusement in his voice.
Rin immediately was washed over in embarrassment. Of course he wouldn't sleep in till 2pm, he was responsible. She felt incredibly thick. She smiled more deeply and walked shyly back into the kitchen, suddenly very aware of the shirt and panties she wore. She quietly assembled a bowl of cereal and sat silently in a seat across from Sesshoumaru. He eyed her impassively as she meekly ate a large bowl of some nutritional cereal the grocery delivery service had supplied them with. She dumped a number of spoonfuls of sugar in it before digging in.
"It's not as good for you if you dump all those calories on it." He commented quietly.
"If you'd order some Lucky Charms, I wouldn't need to." She teased. He smiled slightly and she blushed.
Perhaps things would be back to normal already after all. Still, it was embarrassing that he caught her doubting him. She ate silently as he watched her over his papers. He had forgiven her, but that didn't necessarily mean that everything was forgotten.
"Rin?" He said suddenly.
"Yes, Sesshoumaru?" She answered anxiously.
"You know of the Takashi Family Christmas Banquet, do you not?" He continued.
"Ah. Yes, I've heard of it." She squeaked.
"Well, it's on the 23rd. Which is only a few days from now. I'd like it very much if you'd come with me." He said stoically.
"Oh… I mean, of course. I'd love to!" She answered.
Even though she was anxious about whatever horrible things would happen at the Banquet, the idea of attending anything with Sesshoumaru was a wonderful one. He could invite her to hell itself and she would be happy to go with him. Not to mention that this meant he truly had forgiven her. She smiled radiantly for the first time all day.
"Good. I shall make the necessary arrangements." He said in a satisfied tone as he shuffled his papers.
Rin gulped the last spoon of cereal and hopped up to rinse it in the sink. As she bent over the sink she thought she saw Sesshoumaru eyeing her up from the corner of her eye. She jutted her hip out in a casual, if inviting, way as she ran the bowl under the water.
He stood up casually as he set his papers in a neat pile. As she set the bowl down in the drain for the cleaning service she felt his presence behind her as she dallied with the dishes. He suddenly came up right behind her and leaned up against her. She gasped lightly as he ran his hands down her sides and left them to rest on the hem of her panties. She turned to look at him and saw a familiar promising hunger in his eyes.
He quickly pulled her into him, she palmed a handful of dish soap bubbles before he had turned her and threw them at him before he could stop her as she giggled wildly. She giggled even harder as they landed right in the middle of his face. He brought a hand up and slowly wiped them off. A predatory look shone in his eyes and he picked her up and threw her over his shoulders and whisked her away into the bedroom.
"I'm going to get you for that, you know." He growled playfully to her.
"I know. That's why I did it." She responded between giggles.
Inuyasha shifted uncomfortably on his barstool as he watched Miroku guzzle back yet another beer.
"Bars, feh." Inuyasha said quietly to himself.
"Did you say something, my friend?" Miroku asked jubilantly as he lifted the heavy mug to his mouth.
"Nothing." Inuyasha muttered and Miroku obligingly turned back to the young lady sitting on his other side.
Ever since Miroku had turned 21—while Inuyasha had only just turned nineteen—bars had become their default boy's night location. Every time something came up Miroku immediately suggested they go barhopping. Which was all well and good, except for the fact that Inuyasha could not drink yet.
He scratched irritably at the orange ink-stamped mark on the back of his hand. If he hadn't by now smeared most of the letters with his scratching, it would have read "UNDERAGE". At one time he had been able to use his fame to get the bartenders to slip him drinks, but after a few nights of drunkenly sneaking in to his father's house, Inutaisho had made it known that bartenders were not allowed to slip Inuyasha drinks or they would deal with the Great Dog Demon's wrath.
What was even worse was now that Inuyasha had Sesshoumaru's old Lexus; Miroku was free to get thoroughly smashed. And so he was effectively a babysitter these days. Sure, Miroku could have suggested they drink beer at his place, but the lecherous fool enjoyed rubbing the situation in Inuyasha's face. And the perve went on to claim that "there were more girls at the bar". He grimaced but Miroku remained oblivious to Inuyasha's irritation as he attempted to flirt with the faintly interested woman.
Originally the outing had been meant to soothe Inuyasha's soul over the fact that Kagome still didn't remember anything. But it had almost instantly become more about Miroku taunting him about their age gap than it was about consoling him. He tried to remember that the monk meant well, he was just having fun, but watching him swig that tantalizing amber liquid was not helping Inuyasha's temper. Miroku finally set down the glass mug, left the woman to her giggling friends, and turned to him.
"So, Inuyasha, why aren't you having a good time?" Miroku asked with only a hint of glaze in his eyes.
"How could I when I have to watch you get drunk and schmooze over girls?" He muttered angrily.
"Really, Inuyasha, you shouldn't mope. You'll be able to drink soon. Besides, you're usually the one who gets all the girls. I need to have some fun." Miroku plied cheerily.
"You need nothing of the sort. You've got Sango. She's clearly all over you. If anyone needs consolation, it's me." Inuyasha snorted.
"Ah, yes, my fair Sango…" Miroku mused wistfully. Eventually he snapped back out of it. "But of course, you mean your troubles with Lady Kagome."
"My troubles? Don't you mean our troubles? Kagome not remembering is a big problem. If she were in on this… this time fuck up… then we'd be all kinds of better off!" Inuyasha growled.
"Of course. That's very true. But I meant to say that since you love her, it's all the more difficult for you." Miroku said seriously.
"Who said anything about love?!" Inuyasha whispered harshly as he turned red.
Miroku smiled crookedly as he grasped Inuyasha's empty glass and pounded it lightly on the bar.
"Barkeep! My friend here seems to have finished his Dr. Pepper! Get him some more!" Miroku bellowed with clear enjoyment in his voice.
The barkeep irritably threw a glass under the tap and slid a glass full of brown fuzzing liquid down to Inuyasha. He blew out a deep breath before guzzling the sweet drink down. What kind of friend was this asshole? He'd need to seek out some better friends ASAP. Reluctantly he set down the glass and looked back at Miroku with a look of contrition on his face.
"Well, whatever. The point is we need to get Kagome to remember the past." Inuyasha admitted balefully.
"True, very true." Miroku said over his dwindling beer. "Let's look at this logically." Inuyasha frowned at the half-drunk monk ludicrously, but he continued on. "What has brought our memories back? You know, what triggered it?"
"Ah. Well. Um…" Inuyasha sputtered.
"We repeated actions in relationships that we did in the previous cycle. In your case, Rin hit you on the head. A wise action, I might add. In Sango and I's case, it was the… uh… you know… nookie." Miroku pointed out in his irritating sage-like manner. Inuyasha smirked at him.
"Alright. Fine, but why?" Inuyasha prodded.
"Dunno. Doesn't really matter why." Miroku answered. "But I sort of have a theory. I think it has something to do with the relationships we have with each other. Sort of like… history that can't be erased. Sure, the outside world can be changed. The weather, the season, even time. But what our hearts feel… that's unshakable."
"I have no fucking clue what you're talking about." Inuyasha said bluntly. Miroku chuckled.
"No worries. The point is you need to treat Kagome like you did in the first go-round. The rest of us have come around because we interacted in ways we had before. But as you probably haven't noticed, you have not been treating Kagome the way you did back then this time." Miroku lectured.
"I have no idea what you mean. I treat Kagome great! I… I love her." Inuyasha said quietly. Miroku chuckled again in that damn, irritating way of his.
"Exactly, my friend. Do you remember how you treated Kagome last time? You treated her terribly! This time you're all nice and fluffy like a puppy, the exact POLAR opposite of how you were before." Miroku shouted, clearly bemused by this.
"What… I never. But." Inuyasha replied quickly before turning red. "Figures a monastery dropout like you would end up being better at problem solving when you're skunked."
Miroku, as drunk as a skunk as he was, had a point. He was treating her completely differently now. Last time he had treated her like shit. Last time he had harbored feelings for Kikyo and ignored Kagome. Last time, he had been an ass. This time… well, this time he was still an ass, but not to Kagome. He scowled as he scoured his brain for alternative options. Slowly, reluctantly, he realized he had no argument.
"Are you telling me I should be a dick to Kagome?"
"I'm not telling you to do anything. I'm just talking hypothetically." Miroku said quietly as he smirked into his beer.
Inuyasha frowned. Miroku was being difficult about this. Figures. Just like a good friend, the moment he needed advice, Miroku turned into a dense prick. A thousand thoughts, scenarios, plans, and guesses flew through Inuyasha's mind, thoroughly overwhelming him in a quagmire of good intentions. He frowned even deeper and looked back on his slimy friend. Miroku had become engrossed with the thong the woman on the barstool next to him was wearing. He clocked Miroku with his empty soda glass. Clutching his injured head, Miroku turned back to Inuyasha with a dismayed look on his lecherous face.
"Sometimes." Inuyasha seethed. "You are damn near intolerable."
"You sound just like Sango." Miroku replied cheerily rubbing his head absently.
The sun had finally begun to set behind the tall towering skyscrapers and Rin slowly, regretfully peeled herself out of the sheets and made her way to the fridge to find some sustenance. Sesshoumaru returned the tiny smirk she gave him before padding to the kitchen on her naked feet.
Sesshoumaru could remember very few times that he had spent a full day in bed. There were a few days of childhood illness that his father had insisted he stay in bed for and one particular teenage fistfight with his brother had sent him to his bed for a solid day—though Inuyasha was down just as long. But none of those days had been anything to look back fondly upon.
This day, however, he would remember forever. All day he had lied in bed with Rin, alternately cuddling and making love to her. Eventually Rin had fallen asleep, tired for all the exercise, but he had remained awake, tracing her skin with his fingers and taking her scent in, reveling in it. To think he had even attempted to choose a life without this marvelous creature… The thought scalded him.
She returned with enthusiastically with a box hidden behind her naked form. He couldn't help think that he preferred that she hide the box rather than her exquisite form. With a wicked smile she revealed the red rectangular package.
"Lucky Charms!" She squealed as she bounded across the remainder of the room and landed in the heap of sheets in front of him.
"I ordered them for you." He said with a quirk of his mouth.
"When? How did you find time?" She queried as she ripped it open and ate a fistful of the sugary cereal with ecstasy.
"I called when you were asleep." He answered. She flushed brightly.
"You mean… you mean that someone came up here? When you and I were in here?" She stuttered as she turned bright red.
"Well, I got up to tip the man, of course. You sleep like a rock." He prodded, amused at her coyness.
"But then… do you think. He knows?" She said as she gestured to the bed meaningfully.
Sesshoumaru smiled a true smile of amusement. She was naïve as they came. He kissed her lightly and tasted the sweet remnants of the cereal in her mouth.
"I'm sure he has a good idea. But I'm afraid it may be too late to worry over that. There have been stories about us in the papers for months. That's what happens when you date a high class businessman such as myself. In fact, there were stories postulating about a match even before we were one." He mused.
"Oh." She replied simply as she felt her hot cheeks.
"Are you upset?" He asked, curious and a tiny bit apprehensive.
"Of course not." She responded with a brilliant smile.
Rin leapt forward so fast she managed to knock him off balance and pin him under her as she captured his mouth in a deep kiss. After a few minutes of passionate kissing she suddenly hopped up, much to his disappointment.
"Whoops." She squeaked.
"What's the… Oh." He said as he realized that hearts, stars, horseshoes, clovers and blue moons, pots of gold and rainbows and red balloons were spread over the king size bed. The box had spilt in their tussling.
"Sorry." She said dejectedly.
"No problem. We'll have the maid come clean it up. Though I assure you I have no plans to leave this bed and I so I'm fairly sure the papers will definitely have a story or two about you and I tomorrow." He said with a growl as he playfully wrestled her back into his arms.
Sticky bits of cereal clung to their bodies as they moved in each other's arms. Sesshoumaru was languidly eating the bits clinging to Rin's stomach when the phone rang. He resolutely ignored it. Eventually it stopped ringing and he let out a satisfied sigh as he began to caress Rin with greater care. And then it rang again, causing Rin to stiffen and make a gesture for him to answer it. Reluctantly, he picked up the receiver and look at the caller I.D.
"Inuyasha. He can wait." Sesshoumaru said dismissively as he dropped the phone over the side of the bed.
Eventually it stopped ringing and rolled over to voicemail, allowing him to resume his ministrations as Rin relaxed again. Much to Sesshoumaru's fury, the phone began to ring again. He let out a feral snarl as Rin once again became distracted. He attempted to distract her.
"Sesshoumaru! What if it's work?!" She chastised.
Irritably, he reached down and grabbed the wailing receiver. Rin looked satisfied that she had found the one thing that would recall him to reality; his job. Unfortunately he had a grim suspicion that it was not work that had forced him to return, but Rin's bidding itself. Either way, he punched the talk button and answered the phone.
"What!" Sesshoumaru snapped viciously over the receiver.
"Jesus, what's got all those bees in your bonnet? Did I interrupt something?" Inuyasha asked, clearly amused.
"Just tell me what you want!" Sesshoumaru growled.
"Fine. I just wanted to know if Rin wanted to go dress shopping with Kagome and Sango tomorrow. I was going to take them down to the shops and out for lunch. I have a suspicion that Miroku will be sleeping off some beer, but we had promised to take the girls shopping. I assume you are taking Rin to the Banquet." Inuyasha explained sharply.
Sesshoumaru growled lowly but with resignation. Rin did need a dress, after all. And it was up to her.
"Rin, my asinine brother wishes to know if you'd like to go shopping for a dress tomorrow with Kagome and Sango. For the Banquet." He said exasperatedly.
"Of course! That'd be so much fun!" She exclaimed happily, clutching her hands together.
Sesshoumaru grinned sardonically. At least she was cute in her jubilancy.
"Rin accepts. When are you coming to get her?" Sesshoumaru asked with grim resignation.
"Eh, we'll see. Sometime in the afternoon. So make sure you guys are done doing it by then. I'll let you get to it." Inuyasha replied mischievously.
Sesshoumaru bubbled with rage as he hung up. Rin was by now a million miles off in her airy imaginations of the upcoming shopping expedition. At least she was adorable in her excitement. And they did have all night to get back to what they had been doing.
The next day, when Kagome got into Inuyasha's car, she immediately knew something was up. Something serious. Something Kagome was sure was not good. That morning Inuyasha had come to pick her up, just as they planned, and Sango and Rin were already loaded into the Lexus when she got down to meet them. Rin was uncomfortably shifting in the front seat as Kagome was forced out of politeness to sit in the back as far from Inuyasha as she was able to be.
Sango gave her an unconvincing grin and Kagome braced for whatever untold horror lie ahead. It couldn't be good. It was worrisome that the very day after Inuyasha had told her he loved her things were so weird, but she'd witnessed worse from him. Sango and Rin chattered with false cheer about the dresses they were thinking about as Inuyasha silently drove his face unusually impassive.
"Is everything alright, Inuyasha?" Kagome asked tentatively.
"I don't know what you're talking about. Feh." He answered irritably without taking his eyes off the road.
Which actually was a bit of a relief, considering the way he normally drove. But it still classified as highly unusual and suspect behavior. Meanwhile Rin and Sango flashed her entirely unconvincing smiles and shrugs. If they thought that this… whatever it was… was fooling her, than they had another thing coming…
"So, Kagome, what sort of dress were you thinking about? I was thinking that something in red would really go well with your skin tone!" Sango said with a suggestive sort of casualness that was entirely suspicious.
"Yes…" Kagome said cautiously. "I do like red."
Whatever it was they were hiding, she was probably better off just going with it since they were so terribly obvious. The truth was liable to smack her right in the face if she just kept going.
His fool of a half-brother had shown up bright and early to claim Rin for the day. Sesshoumaru was reluctant to see her go, but he knew he was being silly to feel so. She had spent the entire day and night with him in bed the night before. And she'd be back with him by tonight as well. He sipped from his mug of black coffee and rummaged through his feelings.
Not an easy job, even on a good day. But he realized, for once, it was a good day. Easy or not. And he did have feelings, easy or not. Love. Fine. But eternal love? Was it even possible?
He dredged deeply through his memories. He remembered his mother's beautiful façade and cold heart. He remembered first meeting warm, vivacious Izayoi before his father had even divorced his mother. The first feelings of betrayal hadn't come for some time after that. He had been very young, after all. But when his mother passed away… he had begun to question it all.
How his father had left his mother. And for an unpolished waitress at that. And then Inuyasha had come along… He shifted position restlessly.
Was love possible? Sure, his father certainly still seemed to be under Izayoi's spell, but did that mean that he would still be under it in ten years? He had once loved his first wife as well. What had happened to that? Was it wise to mix love in with the rest?
It was going to be a long day, he realized as he shrugged his coat on.
As they walked down the sidewalk, Kagome glowered. Sango was walking by her side with a falsely reassuring smile on her face. Inuyasha was walking swiftly ahead of them, refusing to acknowledge their presence, especially hers, and Rin was behind them, staggered with adorable bedazzlement.
Sango kept a running commentary on various dress styles as they marched down the street. Kagome was impressed. She knew for a fact that Sango wasn't at all interested in fashion and yet the woman was going to great lengths to discuss it animatedly. Kagome obliged her by occasionally nodding, in awe at the woman's gumption.
Whatever was going on was clearly Inuyasha's doing, but Sango and Rin were obviously in on it. Sango kept trying to distract her and Rin refused to maintain eye contact with her. Eventually they reached the dress shop they had been intending to go to. It was a ritzy place that sold any number of top tier formal wear.
Rin, elated as usual, began swirling through the shop as she stopped to admire various gowns. Inuyasha promptly picked a seat near the door and began to… sulk, apparently. Sango remained close at hand as Kagome walked up to Inuyasha. Time to do some prodding.
"Inuyasha?" Kagome asked sweetly.
He looked up suddenly his normal self but he realized it quickly and ducked his head back down.
"What?" He asked impatiently.
"What color dress do you think I should wear?" She asked petulantly, trying to pull him out of whatever it was he was trying to do.
"Uh, why should I care?" He snapped somewhat believably. Kagome was beginning to get a bit irritated.
"I've found my dress!" Rin proclaimed loudly through the store.
She came twirling happily to the front of the store with a lovely pink and white dress with geometric flowers. It was strapless and came out in a large puffy gown to the calf, with a large silky ribbon separating the top from the skirt. Kagome had to admit it suited to Rin. Sango flooded the girl with compliments as the clerks took her to get fitted for it.
Sango dragged Kagome around the store with rigid amiability. Eventually Sango became attracted to a short fuchsia dress that reflected the girl's edgier vibe. Reluctantly, Sango went with another clerk to get measured and fitted.
Kagome slowly and irritably circled the store, gazing desolately at the various dresses. Just when Kagome was at the pinnacle of her precipice, she heard someone clear their throat from behind her. She whipped around to see Inuyasha leaning up against the wall next to a mannequin that was wearing a floor-length red satin dress. Her breath caught.
"This… is a nice dress." He said reluctantly.
Kagome smiled mischievously. Whatever was going on, it wasn't the end of the world.
"Yeah, I like that dress too."
Fat, wet clumps of snow fell to the earth. Luckily, the city's warmth had it melted before it could accumulate. But the overall effect was one of appropriate gloom. Cemeteries are meant to be gloomy, Sesshoumaru thought.
It was a long walk through the sprawling cemetery as he passed the mausoleums and entered the section of larger memorial stones. Eventually, he came to a stop in front of one particularly bleak white marble obelisk with only two words written on it. "Inui Takashi", the marble read.
Sesshoumaru had few memories of his mother and even those weren't necessarily pleasant. So this wasn't, by definition, a sad trip. But it was one full of reflection. Why this was even a pertinent stop evaded Sesshoumaru. And so he stood only a few minutes in front of the cold stone that marked his mother's final resting place. He had turned to walk back towards the Porsche before the cold had even begun to work its way through his gloves.
Sango was probably about ten seconds away from an aneurysm. When Inuyasha had explained to them this morning his plans for Kagome, she had immediately begun to have a mental breakdown. "I have to be an ass to her. And you guys have to act like its normal." He'd said. Sango scowled viciously and the poor woman that was pinning the fuchsia dress to her leapt back in fear that she was the cause of Sango's glower.
"Did I prick you, miss?" The woman asked timidly.
"No. Sorry. It's not you." She apologized sympathetically.
It was not the sewing woman's fault that Sango was perilously close to having a Grand Mal Seizure. Slowly, anxiously the woman returned to fitting Sango's bodice. But Sango found herself glowering all over again.
She peeked out into the other room. Kagome was holding the same red dress she'd worn to the Banquet last time up to her and pretending to model it for Inuyasha. He was trying very, very hard to maintain his jackass-ery. Unfortunately, Kagome had already slid past his barrier and he was smirking shamelessly.
It was just like Inuyasha to lecture them about not screwing the façade up and then immediately screw it up himself. And later he would just blame it all on her. Rin didn't have to worry. Inuyasha didn't expect Rin to be of any help. Nor should he. But he would expect Sango to be fixing this whole thing. That was the problem about being there for someone: Eventually, they'd expect you to do a repeat performance.
Finally the nimble-fingered—and by now, very nervous—seamstress had secured the dress skillfully across Sango's curves and gestured for Sango to take a look. Sango smiled approvingly to her, but it occurred to her that it was harder to be excited about a dress you had already worn in past/future. She happily stepped down from the platform and went out to show Kagome and Rin the dress.
When she pulled back the curtain, Rin was already out, spinning in the same pink and white dress she'd had last time. Sango had to admit it suited her well. Kagome was holding the long red dress triumphantly and when Sango's seamstress waved to her she obligingly followed back into the fitting room. When Kagome was securely out of earshot, Sango grabbed Inuyasha by the collar.
"What do you think you are doing?" She hissed.
"What the hell are you talking about?" He spat back. Rin stopped twirling and stared at them blankly.
"You made us act like fools all the way over her only to resume your lovesick ways the second she gets you alone! Need I remind you that this whole debacle was your idea in the first place?" Sango whispered in a deadly tone. Rin resumed her twirling.
"I wasn't acting lovesick!" He protested.
"Whatever! It's not my love that you're gambling with, so do as you please." She declared as she crossed her arms over the fuchsia dress.
Inuyasha stood there for a moment, struck dumb by her accusations. Rin finally came to a rest in a nearby chair, trying to regain her equilibrium. After a few minutes of her staring him down he shifted his weight and said:
"That dress looks really pretty on you Sango." He said.
Sango burned red with anger. She balled her fists and tried very hard not to punch Inuyasha. What were those mantras Miroku had tried to teach her?
"Yeah, Sango. It's real pretty. I didn't get a chance to admire it so closely last time. But it really makes your eyes look brown." Rin added.
Her resolve crumbled sluggishly. Damn them, damn them all. Damn the philandering monk, damn the irrational and insane half-demon, damn Kagome and her errant memory and damn Rin and her adorable theatrics. And damn her unending love of them all.
Just as Sango was reaching normal blood pressure levels, Kagome stepped out from behind the curtain. They all let out various awed noises as they saw the way the heart-shaped neckline clung to Kagome and how the red brought out the creaminess of her skin.
"'Gome, you're… beautiful." Inuyasha said breathlessly, which summoned a mighty blush across Kagome's whole body.
Sango sighed deeply. Today, it seemed, was a lost cause.
The Takashi estates looked decidedly bleak with only soggy snow to cover the landscape. But it was an appropriate depressing shade for an appropriately depressing day. He left the Porsche in the front drive and walked crisply up to the door. As he had predicted, his father was home, but Izayoi was off tending to the Banquet's preparation.
He entered the foyer with grim resolution and snapped the door closed behind him.
"Inuyasha, home already?" His father's voice called out from the kitchen.
Sesshoumaru frowned as he strode into the kitchen. His father was bent over a boiling pot of ramen. It was shocking that his father hadn't already known by scent that it was him.
"No." He said simply. "Is it your senses that are going soft or is it just your mind?"
"Oh, Sesshoumaru, my son. I wasn't expecting you. And I'm not going soft, I just happen to be making Ramen and it is all I want to smell." Inutaisho chided.
"Isn't it wonderful that you've made yourself so weak over some noodle-based product that costs less than gum?" Sesshoumaru mocked.
"Hey, don't knock it till you've tried it." His father said as he held out a bowl of it for Sesshoumaru to take.
"No thank you." He said simply.
For a moment, they stood in somewhat companionable silence as Inutaisho finished cooking. It would be utterly incorrect to say that Sesshoumaru and his father got along wonderfully, but they did well enough most times. Sesshoumaru took in the peaceful atmosphere as his father began to set the dishes in the sink.
Finally, Inutaisho turned around and looked at Sesshoumaru as he leaned against the marble top. Sesshoumaru was, as ever, impressed with his father's omniscience when it came to knowing what people wanted and needed. His father already knew he needed to talk.
"I went to the grave of my mother this morning." Sesshoumaru stated simply.
"I see." Inutaisho said stoically, showing no hint of surprise.
His expression deepened and took on a bit of a reflective quality.
"Yes." Sesshoumaru replied, scrabbling for the next conversational step.
"Are they keeping her grave in good condition? Because if they aren't, I'll have to complain…" Inutaisho began to muse to himself, prying Sesshoumaru's thoughts from him skillfully.
"No, it was well kept." Sesshoumaru answered, once again bringing his father back to the task at hand. Unfortunately, words still eluded him. Luckily, his father was already several steps ahead of him.
"It's been a long time since Inui died. I know it sounds silly, but sometimes I miss her." Inutaisho mused. This immediately got Sesshoumaru's attention. Seeing this, his father continued.
"Yeah, I know. It sounds silly. But I did love your mother. Very much." Sesshoumaru looked up and then quickly back down again. "She was a beautiful, smart, ambitious, and refined woman. And I valued her advice greatly."
"Then why is it that you left her?" Sesshoumaru found himself asking involuntarily.
For a long moment, they stood in silence. This was a question he'd always had, and yet had never asked. At first because he had been too young, but then later because he feared what the answer might be. Inutaisho slowly lowered his head, and shook it slowly before walking a few steps forward and putting his hand on his eldest son's shoulder. Sesshoumaru was once again shocked by his father's ability to know just how to affect him.
"Son, the thing about love is that it is tricky. Sometimes logic fails us in understanding it. You have to follow your heart. It knows you better than even your brain does." Inutaisho said to him, his gruff words slapping against him like waves crashing on cliffs.
Eventually, Sesshoumaru's mind reentered his body and he found himself still standing in the kitchen, his father's large hand clasping his shoulder. Was the way his father felt about Izayoi the same way he felt for Rin? If he had been married when he met Rin, even to a woman he loved, would that have been enough to stop him from falling in love with her? For the first time in his life, he was able to place himself in his father's shoes. And Izayoi's shoes. And for once, he could honestly say that he wasn't sure if he could blame them or not.
The car ride back to the hotel was a lot less tense than the ride had been on the way to the dress shops. Inuyasha had reluctantly given up the façade of being a jackass. Kagome had slowly weaseled him out of his grim mood and on the way back he didn't go a full ten minutes without smiling. Sango was clearly irritated at this change of pace, but Rin didn't feel the same way.
It was true that the whole jackass-ery plan had been an arguably logical method to get Kagome's memory back, but Rin wasn't honestly sure if she thought making Kagome miserable in doing so made it worth it. Because it was possible she wouldn't remember in time and she'd end up miserable and confused instead.
They had tried, at least for a little while, to hamper Kagome's plans to soften Inuyasha up, but ultimately, Kagome triumphed. It was impossible to keep walls up against someone that intoxicatingly personable.
At least they all had dresses now. And they were the exact same dresses they'd had last time. Rin ran her hand absently over her dress' silk, remember the way it had looked, torn and ruined, after Naraku had kidnapped her. Worry was thick in the air. Not only her own, but Inuyasha and Sango's as well.
"Come, come." Naraku hissed into the darkness.
"Coming, master." A hollow, fearful voice replied anxiously.
Kohaku stepped into the light and shuddered before the tall furred half-demon. The light was an eerie, sick green. Kohaku carefully focused on the ground and tried not to examine the green orbs around him too closely. Many looked like they might contain… something… or someone.
"This way, boy." Naraku barked into the darkness.
Tripping over various thick roots and debris, Kohaku stumbled ahead blindly. When he turned in the corridor he noticed that it was even bright here. Ahead of him, giving Naraku's tall form a chilling shadow, laid a row of luminously bright green orbs. Almost all of them were empty. That is, except for the one in the middle. It was filled with… with…
"Lady Kikyo!" Kohaku gasped.
"Right you are, and smart as whip." Naraku cackled menacingly as he creeped back to the edge of the shadows surrounding Kohaku. "Unfortunately for you, you still owe… quite a debt." He hissed into Kohaku's ear.
"I'll get you the money, I swear… just don't hurt my sister!" Kohaku pleaded as he fell to his knees in the damp soil of the cave floor.
"Oh, Kohaku. You are so naïve. It practically breaks my heart." Naraku whispered evilly in the darkness. "But it's too late for that. I'm afraid now I demand something entirely… different of you."
"What is it? I'll do it, just don't hurt Sango!" He pleaded in the darkness.
"Do you see those empty orbs next to lovely Kikyo?" Naraku purred as he suddenly forced Kohaku to face the venomously green glowing receptacles.
"Yes." Kohaku whispered.
"Well, we're going to fill them. And you are going to help me." Naraku hissed vilely.
He leaned heavily on the countertop as he watched the sun set slowly behind the skyline. Sesshoumaru wasn't yet worried. He had, after all, sent Rin off with Inuyasha. He'd be lucky if she came home before midnight. But he waited restlessly nonetheless.
It had been a long day. A day of remembering, forgetting, and learning. And he had few such days. He pulled the velvet box out of his pocket and flipped it open to examine the exquisite diamond inside. Would it be wrong to give his love the doomed ring of his mother? Or had this ring, in fact, been intended for her all along? He traced the hard lines with his claw and thought of his mother. But as the multicolored light flashed in the gem's depths he was reminded of his radiant Rin. He heard the elevator lurch up to their floor and he slid the velvet box back into his pocket.
He smiled languidly as he watched Rin walk in the door with a dress carefully hidden in a bag behind her back. She smirked at him mischievously. Effortlessly, and naturally, he returned her quirky grin.
"What sort of dress did you pick out?" He asked playfully.
"That's for me to know, and you to find out." She said before sticking her tongue out at him.
For once, he was patient, because he knew he would eventually find out what her dress looked like. And he knew he'd enjoy the sight even more for the suspense. He waited for her to carefully tuck her dress away in her room and rejoin him with an innocent smile in her eyes.
"Did you have an enjoyable afternoon?" He asked as she stalked over to stand by him, leaning her hip against the countertop and coyly running her hands over a dishtowel.
"Oh yes. Kagome and Sango looked lovely and Inuyasha behaved himself. For the most part." She said softly, toying with him with already expert skill. He caught himself running his tongue over the gap between his teeth where he had given her his fang.
"Were you sad to leave them, then?" He prodded.
She smiled up to him with that gorgeous smile of hers and he nearly broke his mask of apathy.
"I wouldn't really say that. I guess you could say I was looking forward to coming home." She replied, blushing and looking down.
"I've been looking forward to you coming home as well, Rin." He said, before sweeping her off her feet and carrying her to the very center of their little kingdom, their bed.
Next Chapter: Fame, Fortune and Familiarity