Author's Notes: Thank you everyone who waited patiently for this chapter. Not so much appreciation goes to the people who got impatient and started making demands and threats. (Those people who wrote those reviews may be unpleasantly surprised to find they've been deleted and possibly blacklisted.) So just enjoy the chapter and please don't ask about update schedules and the possible lack of updates in this fic and certain others (including Zero-G) that may be brought on with updating CC. Frankly, it's annoying to update only to get reviews asking why I haven't updated something else. I'm trying my best, so let's just leave it at that.
"Uh oh… looks like she gave him the slip." Sango stretched languidly in a patch of sun as she watched a rather melancholic schoolgirl make her way up the shrine steps.
"Let's face it." Miroku commented. "That dog's a lost cause. She's utterly terrified of him. He'll probably be dead with starvation by the end of the week."
"True…" Sango let her tail dangle off the edge of the wall, swishing the tip in a lazy pattern. At times like these, she could forget about her human woes and just bask in the simpleness of her cat nature. Sunlight, warmth and relaxation equalled the highest pleasure a cat could attain, and Sango's purr rattled loudly in proof.
Miroku, on the other hand, was keeping himself hidden away under the shady overhanging of the nearest bush.
"Are you still hiding from that dog?" Sango drawled with amusement.
"Scabby little mongrel," Miroku seethed quietly. "Took one look at me and then chased me through half the neighbourhood. If the hot dog vendor hadn't peddled past, I would have been stuck up that bleeding tree all day!"
Sango rolled over until she was looking down at her friend. "Was it a human with dogification?"
"Probably." Miroku's tail twitched angrily. "All it did was bark. Normal dogs are slightly more talkative than human dogs. It was most likely a newbie at the dog thing…"
"Oh!" Sango suddenly sprang upright.
"What!" Miroku bounded up onto the wall.
"Look!" Sango cocked her head. "He's back!"
Miroku followed her gaze, expecting to see the black dog that was taking centre stage in their latest entertainment, but almost balked at who he saw. "Is that… is that Kouga?" he hissed.
The human youth that they suspected to be Kouga was making his way down the pavement towards them. Being trawled behind him was a bag full of newspapers on wheels, and today he seemed less nude than usual.
"He's got his old job back." Sango pointed out.
"Good for him." Miroku's tail began twitching again.
The two cats watched Kouga almost menacingly as he toddled closer, dragging his newspapers in his wake. Every now and then, he would stop at a house to deliver a paper then move onto the next. He seemed to be keeping a wary eye on the entrance of the Higurashi shrine.
"Probably still has puppy eyes for the Higurashi girl," Miroku commented loudly.
Kouga suddenly stopped dead, his gaze shooting directly to where the two cats sat. At this reaction, both Sango and Miroku perked up and leaned out curiously. "Oi!" Miroku called again. "Do you speak-a any Cat-anese-a!"
Kouga stared at them for a moment too long before forcing his gaze to move onward. He stopped at the gate of the next house, the house whose garden wall Miroku and Sango had named their own, and delivered the paper whilst studiously ignoring the cats.
"How rude!" Miroku admonished.
"Minimum wage, Miroku." Sango gave an unsubtle sigh. "He's not paid to be polite to people like us-"
Kouga suddenly whipped around. "People like you!" he shouted. "You're just a bunch of cats!"
Sango and Miroku blinked back at him calmly.
"My, my…" Miroku appraised. "He seems to understand us still."
Kouga seemed to bite down on his tongue and then stormed off to retrieve his bag of newspapers, forgetting to deliver one to the current address. He stomped past the cats with his head turned the other way.
"In denile!" Miroku warbled in a sing-song voice. "A river in Egypt-!"
"Shut up!" Kouga snapped, stopping short to turn on the cats. "You're not actually talking – it's all just in my mind!"
"The only things in your mind are a couple of dust bunnies," Sango pointed out honestly.
"And if we're in your mind," Miroku began, "then have you just forgotten that you've been a dog for the past few weeks?"
"I wasn't a dog!" the boy hissed. "I was having a nervous breakdown from stress."
"Oh, the stress of delivering papers? My heart bleeds for you," Miroku shot back. "How about some sympathy here? You may have found salvation, but we're still stuck as cats!"
"You're not cats… you're just figments of my imagination."
"On the contrary – you're just a figment of my imagination," the male cat declared.
"Miroku, stop trying to confuse him," Sango reprimanded dryly. "He's only a simple creature."
"Wait…" Kouga suddenly glanced uncertainly between the two felines. "Which one of you is Sango and which one is Miroku?"
"I'm Sango." said Miroku.
"I'm Miroku." said Sango, doubling back on her earlier reprimand.
"Ah… thought so." Kouga nodded. "You cats all look the same to me."
The virtually identical cats glared, equally offended.
"Anyway, don't come crying to me that you're still cats." Kouga jabbed a finger at himself. "You should have listened to me and done what I did – but no – you were too good for that! I mean – not that any of that happened, ok!"
And with this speech done and dusted, the paper boy flounced off with his barrage of newspapers. Miroku tutted and wrapped his tail closely about his toes. "Can you believe his cheek? 'Cats all look the same' – bah! How racist! I mean, I can understand how you might make that mistake with humans because they do all look alike, but cats? How can you not tell us apart!"
Sango rolled her eyes and feigned unnatural interest in the moss growing on the wall beside her. She let Miroku rant; he was obviously having a bad day, what with being chased by a dog and all that. It wasn't until she saw a familiar black shadow hobbling down the street towards them that she poked Miroku to interrupt him. "Hey, look."
"Ohhh…" Miroku's temper faded in an instant.
Inuyasha had tracked the girl home using his nose again. She may have given him the slip for the second time, but as long as he had this nose, she could run but never hide. He spotted the two smarmy cats and, encouraged by his previous success, went over to rub it in their faces a little.
"Given up yet?" Miroku drawled.
"And why would I do that," Inuyasha shot back, "when I've already won her over?"
"Won her over?" Sango echoed. "Already?"
"She felt sorry for me and gave me a burglar to eat."
Miroku leaned over to Sango. "I think he meant 'burger'." He stage-whispered in her ear.
"Either way, it won't be long before she's falling over herself to pander to my every whim." Inuyasha sat down and scratched his neck. "And maybe she can do something about these fleas?"
Miroku and Sango inched away down the wall.
"Well, congratulations." Sango praised him grudgingly. "Now all you need to do is convince the rest of her family that you're worth taking on. Then you have to convince Buyo to let you stay."
"Buyo?" Inuyasha snorted. "I could snap him in half with my teeth."
Miroku shook his head sadly. "And that's exactly the kind of attitude that will get you kicked out."
"If you don't get on with Buyo, there's no way in hell the family will bother adopting you." Sango pointed out as she began washing behind one ear. "God, even Kouga had to work to keep in Buyo's good book. That's why we're a lost cause. Buyo won't abide other cats."
"Unless they're female." Miroku added. "Hey, maybe you should try and worm your way into his heart and give him a good word about me."
Sango skewed a glare at her partner. "We had this conversation," she ground out.
"… we did?"
"And how did it go?"
"You said we shouldn't try it!"
"I did?" Miroku frowned, which was very difficult with a cat's facial muscles. "That's not like me… are you sure?"
"Well, obviously I wasn't thinking straight," he concluded. "Go with Inuyasha here and make friends with the fat cat."
Sango make a disgusted noise in her throat and turned to Inuyasha. "Just go on your own and keep in mind what we said. Be nice, be loveable and, if possible, bathe."
"You cats and your hang-ups about smells…" Inuyasha groused as he got to his feet and crossed the quiet road. He left the two bickering felines behind as he made his way up the steps until he was at the entrance of the shrine itself. There was an old man, related to Kagome by the smell of things, who was sweeping up leaves a few metres away, but he had yet to notice Inuyasha.
The spectral dog slid past him with ease and continued through the shrine grounds until he emerged behind the shrine office to where Kagome's house lay. No one was about… other than the obese cat. However, when Inuyasha got closer to the porch, he realised that the feline was actually fast asleep, basking in the sun and unaware that Inuyasha loomed over him. He just continued purring as his dreams took him pleasant places.
Inuyasha didn't bother waking him, as he was more interested in the fact that the front door had been left wide open by some careless individual. He stepped over the cat and entered the house as silently as a trained assassin.
The doors off the hallway were closed and shuttered, but at the end of the hall was a woman working in a kitchen of sorts. Inuyasha didn't recognise her, and since he was focusing solely on the girl 'Kagome', he decided to pass her by as he continued his search upstairs.
There were two rooms up here. One door open, one door closed. Fortunately, the girl's smell seemed to emanate from the room with the open door, so he picked his way towards it, glad that the floor coverings muffled the clicking of his claws.
"…a pulse of silence suffused in a moment…"
Kagome cupped her chin in her palm as she gazed at the tree covered hill outside her window.
"…hell's tears fall through a rent and wounded heaven…"
Her eyes turned towards the clear sky and its open blue expanse.
"…crimson blood stains my face…"
With a groan, Kagome dropped her forehead down onto her 'creative writing' homework. No matter how hard she tried, she just didn't understand what the poem meant or signified. Something to do with religion? War? Death? With the last line omitted, Kagome didn't have a clue what to think of it.
Well, it was ok for now. The assignment didn't have to be in for two weeks… but that was one week to figure out the meaning and then another week to prattle on for a few pages about her theories.
Maybe I should go cheat and look the poem up online to find out what it means… Kagome mused, twiddling her pencil between her fingers. This plan of action would mean a trip to the library, and since it was probably too far to make the trip that afternoon, Kagome decided to go tomorrow instead.
Might as well just relax tonight…
With a great yawn, Kagome sat up in her chair and stretched her arms far above her head. It hadn't been a wonderfully planned move, as she suddenly found her pencil tumbling from buttery fingers and her textbook flopping onto her lap. Kagome gave a dispassionate grunt and reset her books and papers before leaning down to rummage across the floor for her pencil – going by touch rather than sight.
Her fingers met something rather wet and snotty.
"Buyo…?" Kagome guessed immediately, twisting around to see where her fingers were.
They were, of course, halfway up a monster dog's nostrils.
There came a certain point in fear where the fright was so great that it transcended fear, shock and horror, until there was no fear, shock or horror to be felt. Kagome reached this point the moment she locked eyes with the dog, suddenly finding she was too paralysed to even dream about screaming and running out of the room.
A small, petrified segment of her mind was already wondering why the dog hadn't eaten her yet.
"What… are… you… doing here?" Kagome whispered breathlessly. "I thought you'd leave me alone once I gave you food!"
The dog cocked its head and gave her an expectant look. This was where Kagome realised her fatal mistake. In giving the stray a burger, she'd inadvertently given it the impression that she would give it more food sooner or later.
"No… no, no!" Kagome stood up and flung out her arms. "I can't feed you! You're huge – you'll cost a bomb! Plus, Mama really won't want a dog as big as you hanging around. Go find someone richer with a bigger house!"
The dog dropped the pencil carefully on the floor before looking up at her again, imploringly.
"Stop that! No puppy eyes, you old hound!" she snapped and jabbed a finger at her door. "Go on – get out!"
The dog's only response was to lie down. It looked up at her from the floor, giving an uncanny impression of someone prostrating themselves… or simply saying "Make me!" Kagome had an inkling that perhaps this dog knew more words than just 'food'.
If it had been any other kind of dog, Kagome might have prodded it with her ruler to make it leave… yet she still didn't trust this one not to turn around and bite her hand off. The only remaining option was to hop around the room, waving her arms in an effort to motivate the dog. However, this did little more than elicit a stupefied look from the black dog.
Kagome gave up her interpretive jazz dance and planted her hands on her hips. Downstairs she could hear her mother moving around the kitchen, and outside her window she could hear Souta talking to Grandpa about his day at school. There was little to no chance of sneaking this enormous creature out of the house undetected. Even if the dog was safe to manhandle, Kagome never had, and never would, possess the strength to shift that hound's rear.
It was time to test just how sophisticated this animal's language skills were.
"Ok, look…" Kagome sighed, pretending to admit defeat. "If you go outside and wait by the door, I'll bring you some food in five minutes."
Inuyasha wasn't fooled for a moment. "You're just trying to kick me out," he accused quietly, remaining on the floor. "Give me food, and then I'll go outside, you silly bitch."
It was a shame the girl couldn't understand. If she could speak dog, then maybe she would have been tripping over herself to bring him food… or maybe – just maybe – she would have smacked him around the ear for the 'bitch' comment.
"Fine – I'll go down to the kitchen and get the food now if you'll just go outside and stay outside." Kagome pointed emphatically at the door. "You're too big to hole up in this house!"
True, very true. But what was to stop the girl from slamming the door in his face, refusing him food, and then calling the dog-catching people to come and chase him away? He was going to have to take an awful lot on faith here… and perhaps it wasn't a good idea to piss off the one person who might possibly be able to help him.
"Whatever. You better not be lying, girl." Inuyasha slowly rose to his feet and stiffly padded his way out of the room, followed by an anxiously tiptoeing Kagome. The dog loped down the stairs and made his way through the hall towards the main door. Just as he reached the step, he turned and looked over his shoulder to be certain the girl was keeping up her end of the bargain – and sure enough, there she was, fumbling around the kitchen behind the other woman. The other woman, presumably, was her mother.
Inuyasha moved to sit patiently on the porch.
Buyo was still there, snoring his chubby little heart out and purring so hard that it sounded as if something had come loose inside of him. Inuyasha discreetly rolled his eyes at the typical laziness of all cats and reached out with one paw to prod the cat in the belly.
The cat snorted. "Urk – what…" He blinked owlishly as he looked around for the perpetrator who'd disturbed his nap. When his eyes landed on Inuyasha, they narrowed considerably. "Oh no… it's you again."
"You don't sound so happy to see me."
"Why should I be happy to see scruff like you sneaking around?"
Inuyasha bristled. "I'm not sneaking." Well, not anymore.
Buyo yawned arrogantly and flicked his tail in annoyance. "I don't know why you're bothering," he said at last. "You seem to be under the illusion that Kagome will take any scurvy little mongrel with a bad case of mange under her wing. She does have standards, you-"
"Here you go, fella."
Both cat and dog jerked around to see Kagome standing behind them with a plate of mashed up chicken. "Leftovers from last night," she explained to Inuyasha with a shrug. "I'm sure you can make do with that."
Buyo froze. "Kagome – no – Kagome, what are you doing? You'll just encourage him! Stop it!"
Either Kagome didn't hear him, or was simply ignoring him. She placed the saucer of chicken down on the porch before Inuyasha and slipped back inside, closing the door in her wake. Buyo was left to glare at Inuyasha balefully as the dog wolfed his food down with a hint of irony.
The chicken was gone in a matter of seconds, and then Inuyasha lifted his head, smacked his lips, and gave Buyo a haughty sneer.
"Well, I hope you're happy." Buyo sneered right back and slunk away across the porch, his belly close to the floor… or just closer than usual.
Inuyasha shook his mane and gave his fleas a good scratch, happy in the knowledge that his stomach was slightly fuller than it had been. He was done sucking up to the human girl… at least for today, so now he could afford to make some time to himself.
From her bedroom window, Kagome watched him trot away until she was satisfied the old black dog was gone. But honestly, the way that cat and dog stared at each other, anyone would think they were holding a conversation.
The schoolgirl pushed away from the window with a mild sigh and moved to lie down on her bed. She stared up at the glow-in-the-dark moons and stars she had stuck to her ceiling when she was a child. They were still there, reminding her of happier times, even though their glow had been diminished somewhat over the years.
Perhaps she was feeling the loss of her father today… or perhaps she was still missing Beau? Or maybe it was simply the daunting poem that was getting her down?
However, she could always rely on someone to make her bad day worse.
Kagome knew who the caller was the moment her phone starting singing the Funeral March. She had different tunes for each of her friends and family. Yuka was the Blue Danube, Ayume was the Birdie Song, and Hojo was Tubthumping, which Kagome found all rather appropriate. Likewise, the Funeral March went quite nicely with the person who was calling her now, so she ignored it and closed her eyes. He would undoubtedly call back again in a few minutes and then leave a few dozen messages on her voicemail, wondering where she was and if she would like to go to the cinema some time. Messages to which Kagome would carefully avoid answering. If he ever caught her on the street, she would simply say that she'd lost her phone. Again.
Why was it that she always attracted the ones who were hardest to shake off?
She'd attempted to lose this particular piece of work by telling him that she already had feelings for a certain ginger-haired teenager by the name of Hojo. But that hadn't deterred him.
Where was Hojo anyway? Kagome pondered. She hadn't seen him in school that day, and the only reason Hojo would ever miss a class was if he'd been sold into slavery by his parents and was stuck down a Mongolian mineshaft somewhere. Or perhaps Mr Funeral March had done just that to rid himself of competition.
But that was just preposterous.
The funeral march continued to drill through her mind…
"Do you ever think about… time?"
The male cat lifted his head off the wall and twitched his tail. "You mean like rosemary and stuff?"
Sango pinned his head back down to the bricks with a paw to continue washing his ears. "No, I mean the past, future and present," she said between licks. "I mean, if this very instant is the 'now', then what really is 'time'? 'Now' becomes the past in a matter of seconds… but then what constitutes 'now'? How long is 'now' considered to be? A day? A minute? A tiny fraction of a millisecond? And how long does it take the future to become the present? When you think about it… what if our perception of time is wrong? What if it's not linear and it just goes in a big circle and all these moments are recycled until nothing exists but the present. There is no past, there is no future… just what we perceive…"
"Awesome," Miroku purred. "Did you see how far that flea jumped? That little blighter isn't coming back any time soon…"
Sango bit into his ear, hard enough to make Miroku yowl and dash a paw at her nose. He kept his claws sheathed. "What was that for?" he hissed.
"You're not listening to me!" she accused. "And you didn't tell me you had fleas."
"I was listening, I just don't get it!" he snapped back. "Besides… I can't help it that fleas are sexually attracted to me. I have very sweet blood. And anyway, what brought this 'time' nonsense on?"
Sango settled back down, crouched in a tense ball. "You realise that cats don't live as long as humans, right?"
"Of course," Miroku blinked at her, puzzled.
"How long do you reckon we've been cats then?"
Miroku closed his eyes and thought hard. Any onlooker would assume that he'd fallen asleep sitting upright, but any cat knows that to work out difficult mathematical problems, one must close one's eyes and snooze. Eventually, he roused and twitched his whiskers. "Three or four years, maybe…"
"Try six months," Sango responded flatly. "We both got turned on the day of the Autumn Equinox… but that was over six months ago, Miroku! I saw the date at the newspaper vendor's today. We've only been cats for half a year!"
"Seems longer," he said slowly.
"Exactly…" Sango sighed miserably and curled into a ball. "We're growing older with every month, and the rest of the world stays young. We'll probably die before we find a way to turn ourselves back. And what if we do get turned back in a couple of years when we're old cats? Will we be pensioners when our friends are still going to college?"
"There's no point fretting about it, Sango," Miroku comforted, curling up next to her so their ears touched. "We'll find a way to get our bodies back. Remember Kouga?"
"I'm surprised you do," she retorted.
Miroku ignored her. "He understands us. Maybe in time he'll be able to help us."
Sango sighed. "He thinks he's crazy." She thought for a moment. "I think he's crazy."
"But he got turned back. If we hound him, maybe he'll tell us how it happened?"
"That's what we're using the monster dog for, isn't it?" She peered at him. "Hopefully, if the same thing happens to him, we'll know it's not just a fluke. And maybe he'll be able to explain it better than Kouga…"
"Possibly." Miroku blinked towards the shrine. "And here he comes now."
Sango followed his gaze to spy the gaunt black dog hobbling down the shrine steps towards the road. Judging by his pleased swagger, she could guess that he'd been successful in whatever he'd set out to accomplish.
"Quite the charismatic fellow, aren't you?" Miroku called to him. "What did you get off her this time?"
"Chicken," the black dog responded.
"Oh," Sango sighed mournfully. "I love chicken. Didn't bring any back for us, did you?"
Inuyasha sat down. "What have you done for me lately?" he shot back and began scratching enthusiastically at his ear with a hind paw. He let out an audible groan of irritation as the pesky fleas evaded him.
"Uh…" Miroku shifted on the wall. "I wouldn't sit there if I were you."
"Why not?" Inuyasha asked, looking down at the tarmac road on which he'd positioned himself.
But the cat's reasoning soon became apparent as a large metal carriage suddenly came belting around a street corner. Loud music poured from its windows, an obnoxious sound that gained volume as the vehicle bore down on Inuyasha. For a moment, he was too stunned and bewildered to move. His canine mind had gone blank in shock.
"Humans don't always stop for animals!" Miroku yowled. "Get out of the way, you stupid dog!"
Sango's fur stood on end. "What's the matter with you!"
The resounding scream of a dog seemed to merge with the shriek of tyres, making a noise that sent shivers down every creature's spine for a mile.
/end chapter lalalalala…