DISCLAIMER: I don't own Inuyasha. Surprised? So am I.
By: Lara Winner
The mid-day sky was overcast with gray and white clouds allowing the threat of rain to loom over the bustling city. It seemed indecisive, as if it were unsure whether or not to downpour upon the earth. Ironically it matched Kagome's mood.
A gentle breeze blew among the tables that lined the covered patio of La Provaneu Café. Fighting off the urge to drum her fingers on the glass tabletop, she sighed idly watching the people that passed on the crowded sidewalk.
"Kagome dear, sorry I'm late."
At the sound of her mother's voice, Kagome's attention turned to the middle-aged woman who claimed the vacant seat at the small table for two. She offered her mother a bright smile. "That's okay Mama. I only just arrived myself."
"That's good. I was afraid I'd kept you waiting." Anna Higurashi returned her daughters smile. "How did your exam go?"
Kagome winced. "Lets not talk about school right now."
The exam proved to be more difficult than expected. It had taken effort for Kagome to concentrate on her answers, especially since she had not slept the pervious night. There was too much on her mind and the fact that her inaccurate study guide omitted two important sections in her textbook paled in comparison to the state of mind Inuyasha had left her in the night before.
Kagome pushed the thought away refusing to think about him.
The waitress chose that moment to take their order and Kagome was grateful for the distraction. She decided on the chicken salad sandwich and made sure to stress no tomatoes and no pickles. Her mother went with the same and once the waitress was gone their lighthearted conversation resumed.
It had been far too long since she had spent any quality time with her mother. Between school, work, and her mother's fluctuating health it was a rare occasion when they were able to meet for lunch. More often than not Kagome's visits were short afternoon trips to her mother's apartment in Brooklyn. And when her mother wasn't home she was in the hospital receiving her chemotherapy treatments.
For two years Anna Higurashi had been battling leukemia, a type of cancer that affects the blood. So far her fight to reach remission had been an uphill struggle. Due to her weakened state caused by the chemical treatments Anna was often ill and in a delicate condition.
Taking stock of her mother's appearance Kagome was relieved to see that there was a ruddy tint to her cheeks that gave a splash of color to her pale complexion. Her warm brown eyes seemed lifted of their usual exhaustion and overall she didn't seem as frail she normally did.
The food arrived but as they ate Kagome couldn't shake the feeling that wall was not well. Maybe it her was own paranoia concerning her mother's health and, more than likely, agitation over the proposition she was presented with the pervious night. But she still couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong. Her fears were confirmed when her mother became somber and serious quite suddenly.
"Kagome, I talked to your father last night."
"Oh? She stiffened. "How is he?"
"Good. He asked about you. I told him you were doing well."
Anger contorted Kagome features as the resentment she harbored for her father rose to the surface. "Surprise surprise. So what did he want this time? After all, the only time we hear from him is when he wants something."
"Honey…" her mother admonished.
"Am I wrong Mama?" When the older woman looked away Kagome knew she'd made her point. "So why did he call?"
"To inform me that he Souta will be moving back in with me as soon as school is out."
Kagome choked back a curse. She wasn't surprised. It was typical of Keno Higurashi to encounter a problem and then settle on a solution that best benefited himself. But what about her mother? The only reason he had Souta in the first place was because of her mother's illness. If it weren't for that he'd probably never see wither one of his children by their choice.
Kagome sighed angrily, pinching the bridge of her nose and rubbing the tension spots next to her eyes. "Mama he can't do that. What about your condition? I thought that was whole reason he took Souta to live with him in the first place." She said.
"Apparently your brother has decided to get mixed in the wrong crowd. He was indefinitely suspended three days ago for smoking on the school grounds. Now you know this isn't the first time he's gotten in trouble. The only reason he wasn't expelled was because your father did some heavy duty brown nosing. A stipulation issued by the school is that they will not accept him back next year. You're father is tried of dealing with Souta's antics. Can you blame him?"
But Kagome wasn't buying the sympathetic excuses.
"So that's it. He going to drop the problems on your lap knowing that you have your health to worry about? Where the hell does he get off?" She hissed.
"Kagome you know that a big part of Souta's problem is that he doesn't want to live with your father. I'm sure once he's back with me he'll straighten out."
"And what if Souta doesn't? Then what are you going to do?" She countered, ignoring her mother's hopeful reasoning. "Souta's pulled stunts like this before and it's not as if you'll be home to keep an eye on him. Sometimes the effects of the treatments keep you in the hospital for days. And what if you have another set back? You could be in the hospital for weeks. Souta can't stay by himself."
"I'm going to ask Mrs. Nancy to look after Souta for me and if she can't then I'm sure I'll think of something. What I'm more worried about is school. I'd rather not send him to Roosevelt High." Anna's nose turned up is distaste as she said the name of the public high school.
All right her mother had a point with that. Souta was a very impressionable child and the leniency of a public school environment was not on the top of her list either. But Kagome was at a loss. "Where else can he go? This is the third school he's been expelled from. No private school is going to take him."
"One of the nurses in the oncology ward is a personal acquaintance of the head master at Linfield Academy. The tuition is a bit high but they cater to troubled teens. I'm going to ask Kathy more about it when I go for my treatment next week."
Since her mother mentioned costly tuition… "And that's another thing. How are you going to afford a second person living with you Mama? You've been out of work since the chemo started and the disability check you get is barely enough as it is. You can't do this on your own. Dad is going to help you financially right?"
"Right?" she pressed but the weary look crossing her mother's face set the flamed of rage burning all the brighter.
"You're father's decided that he's not going to support Souta while he's living with me. By court order he has to give me child support until Souta turns eighteen but beyond that we're on our own."
"You have got to be kidding me." Kagome was so angry her hands were shaking. "He said that? I can't believe him."
"Believe it honey. Why do you think I divorced him? The man has no concept of responsibility. But that's okay because I'm not going to ask him for anything. I never have and I never will. I'll work something out, don't worry."
Kagome knew her mother well enough to recognize the brave front she was putting up for her daughter. It was true, Anna had never asked Keno for anything. Having left her self-centered husband not long after Souta's first birthday, she had struggled to single handedly raise her two children. For the first six years after the divorce Keno had avoided paying child support and it was only because of a civil suit brought against him, courtesy of an attorney who knew Sango's father, that he was forced to begin sending money regularly. Still, even if her mother was too proud to ask for help that did not mean it wasn't needed.
Just how far was she willing to go to help her mother?
Kagome willed away the knot of dread forming in her stomach. "I'm going to worry mama because this is not fair to you."
Anna forced a smile reaching across the table to pat her daughter's hand. "Baby its okay. Look I don't want to talk about this anymore." To finalize her statement she changed the subject. "Do you want desert?"
"Sure." But Kagome couldn't let the subject drop without adding one more important detail. "Mama you know I'm here. If you ever need anything all you have to do is let me know."
"You're such a sweet child Kagome but the only thing I want from you is to focus on school and get that degree. I don't want you to struggle the way I did." This time her smile was genuine and it widened as she boasted, "I know you'll make a good shrink."
Kagome smiled back. "You'd be amazed how many people need one."
"I don't doubt it." Anna agreed only to add, "If you'd like I'll be your first patient."
Twin triangles covered in soft silver fur perked forward as the sound of keys jingled just beyond the font door. A second later the lock twisted with a dull click and the front door swung open wide. Inuyasha didn't bother to lift gaze from the computer screen before him. There were only two people who had a key to his apartment and it was obvious from the soft humming and the scent of roses and rain that filled the air that it wasn't Miroku.
"Yo." The intruder upon his privacy greeted.
"It's late. You should call it a night." The young wind youkai stated as she rounded the corner that hid the computer nook from view of the rest of the loft style apartment.
"I know but Sessh wants this proposal on his desk first thing in the morning." Inuyasha explained with a roll of his eyes, though they never left monitor screen and his fingers never paused their clacking on the keyboard.
"Ahh… ever the slave driver ne?"
"You ought to know. You're married to him." He snickered at his brother's wife. "Though I still can't figure out how you made it eighteen years. What's your secret?"
"Its called Prozac and it works wonders. I slip in his food and he doesn't know the difference. Speaking of… I've got something for you." she lifted the nondescript brown bag she was holding.
"Do I smell lasagna?"
Kagura grinned. "It is your favorite so I thought I would be a nice sister-in-law and bring you supper. Do I have to ask if you've eaten yet?"
Again he rolled his eyes. "What do you think?"
"You have to move from the computer sometime Inuyasha."
"And you have an ulterior motive for dinner." He smirked. "Where and when Kagura?"
His sister-in-law laughed as she moved back out of sight and toward the kitchen. "Your place tomorrow night. I'm leaving for Denver in the morning and Sessh has a banquet to attend at the Yacht club. Would you mind keeping her over night?"
The "her" being referred to was Inuyasha's twelve-year-old niece, Rin. It wasn't odd that Kagura would bring Inuyasha dinner but it was almost a given that when she did his nonexistent child care skills were needed. It was well thought out bribery, nothing more and nothing less.
He frowned at the computer. "What happened to Carmen? I thought she took over brat-sitting responsibilities?"
"Are you kidding?" came a sharp bark of sarcastic laughter from the kitchen, "I wouldn't trust her with my laundry much less my daughter." her voice turned cajoling, "You are her favorite Uncle, you know."
"I'm her only Uncle." He shot back.
"She adores you."
"Yeah yeah yeah. I adore her too. What's your point?" he remained un-phased.
"It's been nearly month since you've spent any time with her and she misses you."
"Shit!" Checkmate. There was nothing Inuyasha could say in defense of Kagura's argument because it was the truth. He hadn't seen Rin close to a month. "You are evil you know that?" Then proceeded to mutter under his breath… "Using the poor kid's feelings to-"
"Then you'll do it?"
Kagura chuckled at her victory. "I knew I could count on you."
"Might as well stamp sucker on my fucking forehead." He berated loud enough for his sister-in--law to hear. The only response he received was the soft clatter of dishes and utensils. But for all Inuyasha's grumbling there wasn't a thing he would deny Rin, or Kagura for that matter.
Of course if Inuyasha had known the next thing Kagura was going to demand of him he might have changed his mind about that.
"Call your mother Inuyasha."
"Huh?" The order was so far out of left field that Inuyasha blinked. Then he nearly jumped when Kagura rounded the corner once again without a sound.
Seeing his stricken expression Kagura leaned one shoulder against the wall and laughed. "She's been hounding me with sadistic precision for the past five days. She's worried that she hasn't heard from you. She's tried your apartment but a certain someone who shall remain nameless refuses to answer his phone. She would pay you a visit but that would mean actually being chauffeured from Long Island and that is simply too much effort." When he growled she lifted her hands in supplication. "Hey her words, not mine."
For the first time Inuyasha looked up from the computer monitor. "Do I have to?"
"To give me some peace of mind, yes you do. She's not that bad … all the time."
"Yeah she is." He snapped. "Fine. I'll do it tomorrow. As you can see I'm in the middle of something right now."
"No you're not. It's time to eat. Come on." she tugged on the sleeve of his shirt and like an obedient child, which was exactly how he felt, Inuyasha followed her to the kitchen. They took seats opposite each other across the island counter that doubled as a table. Bracing her chin on her laced fingers, Kagura waited until Inuyasha had a mouthful of lasagna before saying in her mothering tone, "Inuyasha there is a reason I came to see you tonight. Quite frankly, I'm worried about you. You've been holing yourself up in here since-"
"Don't say it. I know what you're thinking and I'm fine Kag, really. I've been busy. The merger with SonicVision has had me up to my eyes in depositions, charts, fact analysis… hell you name it. Once the deal is finalized you'll see more of me. I promise."
Kagura wasn't falling for his bullshit like he had hoped. "No good. You were fine the day before Kikyo left."
Did she have to bring up Kikyo?"Damn it! Can't you let it go? I told you I'm fine!"
"That's a bold-faced lie and you know it. This is me you're talking to and I know better." She leaned forward daring him to look away. "Why are shutting everyone out?"
"I'm not. It's just…" there was no use in fighting her. Even he knew when to give in. "Fuck! I feel like everyone thinks I'm a big joke. And you what they're right. I am a huge joke. I can't get my goddamn shit together no matter what I do. Gods, she screwed me over and I let her. I saw it coming but I kept telling myself that she gave me her word, she wouldn't bail on me. And she did. That fucking bitch!"
Oddly enough it felt good to vent. He was pissed so why pretend otherwise?
"You still love her don't you?"
Inuyasha bristled, his eyes flashing. "I don't know what the fuck love is anymore. Kikyo turned me around so many times," he shook his head sadly. "I couldn't trust her. I wasn't any more faithful to her than she was to me. I guess… the first time I caught her lying, it…. it changed something inside of me, I don't how to explain it." he trailed off miserably.
Inuyasha supposed it was a matter of time before he had to confront all the shit Kikyo had put him through. He didn't like thinking about it because then it made his realize just how blind he was when it came to her. For years they were on again off again and it always narrowed down to Kikyo's inability to keep her word.
But what did it matter now? She was somewhere down in the Bahamas with Naraku the pool boy…
Fingers snapped right in front of Inuyasha face jerking back to reality.
"You can't stay in this funk Inuyasha. You've got to lift your chin up, move on and for mercy's sake don't give the tramp the chance to do it again."
"Okay I'm an idiot but I'm not that stupid. I knew what I was getting into this time around. She left me yet again and this time she fucked me over in a major way. If you think for one second that I'm going to let her live that down… you don't know me at all." he growled.
"You say that now but remember, you were going to marry her. If you had your doubts then why did you ask her?"
He was so tempted to tell the truth and say 'for the money, why else?' but Kagura didn't need to know that. It was safer for her to dwell on his mixed up emotions. He really didn't feel like hearing the lecture on patience that she reserved solely for discussion about his inheritance.
Yet it was also the truth when he ducked his head with a listless shrug and confessed, "Because I thought that this time would be different. She said she'd stay and I wanted her to mean it."
Seeing that there wasn't much else to be said, Kagura tapped a manicured nail on the forgotten plate of lasagna. "Eat up. It's getting cold."
Sipping on a steaming cup of tea, Kagome stared sightlessly off into the distance. Her mind was a whirlwind starting with the bombshell her mother had dropped on her at lunch.
When it came to dealing with her father she was not the least bit surprised that he could throw everyone's life into an upheaval and still get a decent nights sleep. The man was callous and shallow. In fact she was impressed that he had kept Souta for a year and a half. She had expected him to turn tail and run long before now. But expecting it didn't take her away her anger. It simmered under the surface and it boiled with the need to tell the man that had sired her exactly what she thought of him. Sometimes she was ashamed to acknowledge that they shared the same blood.
So for her mother's sake Kagome had spent all afternoon pondering what she could do to assuage the impending problems that lay ahead. There were so many to consider but the most prominent was that there was not going to be enough money to go around. Just Souta's education alone would put her mother dangerously over budget.
Kagome had tried so hard to find an option, something that had been over looked or not considered as a solution but in the end her traitorous thoughts kept straying back to an easy way to earn five million dollars…
And for Kagome it was just one more offense to add to Inuyasha's growing list. It was fair enough to say that her concentration had been obliterated. Long after Inuyasha's departure she had continued to turn the odd conversation over in her mind.
The jerk had the nerve to suggest they get married. At first she had been shocked. His proposal made no sense and it was the last thing she expected to hear come out of his mouth. But she quickly caught onto Inuyasha's reasoning as he explained the situation further. Marriage was his only way to gain independence. It was quite ironic that he should have to give up one form of freedom to gain another.
Kagome did not envy his position at all and she was not indifferent enough to say that she couldn't sympathize with his frustration. Even though she knew little about Inuyasha, it was glaringly obvious that he was a proud person. To be forced into depending on another was something that did not sit well with him. She could understand that. Even respect it.
But that did not make it okay for him to barge back into her life after she had fought so hard to forget him. He was a mistake. A lapse in judgment. A one night stand. There was no possible way she could live with herself if she took him up on his offer. That would put her on the same level as those social piranhas that hunted for rich husbands like vultures after fresh meat.
But even more than self-respect, Kagome's main reason was her romantic heart. She had always envisioned her wedding to be something special. Ever since she was a child it was something she'd dreamed about. She scribbled in her diary plotting out every detail down to the color of the flowers she would have in her bouquet. And Inuyasha wanted her to throw that away for an impromptu marriage that would leave her with nothing but regrets.
Regrets and a shit load of money.
It had taken the better part of the night and a considerable lack of sleep to quell the temptation presented. She had to admit it would be nice to work for leisure and have financial security for the rest of her life no matter what. With that kind of money she could afford to move her mother out of Brooklyn and into a nice flat in Chelsea. She could send Souta to college and alleviate her mother's medical debts…
But as wonderful as it sounded she knew it was too good to be true. Five million dollars was a small fortune. Only in a fictional story did that kind of money fall into an unsuspecting person's lap. Either that or the person was incredibly lucky.
It made her wonder if she should play the lottery.
Even during her final, Kagome had found it hard to block the proposition from her mind. The pros and cons of Inuyasha's offer raged a silent battle inside of her, lurking in the foreground of her thoughts. And then fate decided to add its own irony by leaving her no other choice.
Blinking back tears of frustration, Kagome set the warm mug down on the coffee table and took a deep breath. She wouldn't be a horrible person if she agreed to marry Inuyasha, right? It would strictly be to help him get his inheritance so he could in turn help her financially. It wouldn't be a normal marriage. And absolutely no sex. He would have to respect that and agree to abide by he terms or the deal was off.
Still her stomach continued to do somersaults in a near panic. Could she really do this? She didn't even know Inuyasha. They were practically strangers.
You slept with him remember. He's not a stranger.
Kagome was on the verge of an utter meltdown when her roommate chose that moment to burst through the door cheerily calling out, "Anyone home?"
"Yeah I'm here." Kagome waved from her seat amidst the plush cushions of the couch. It was a much-needed distraction and one she readily embraced when Sango motioned her forward.
"Oh thank god! Kagome can you help me with this stuff?"
"Sure." But upon reaching the front door and peering into the hall she gaped at the ridiculous amount of shopping bags that littered the hallway. "What the… Did you buy out Bloomingdale's or something?"
Sango clicked her tongue disapprovingly. "Now I am officially convinced that you do not listen to a word I say. I told you yesterday that I was going to do some last minute shopping for my upcoming vacation." Ignoring the man and woman passing at the far end of the hall she squealed, "Three weeks in the Caribbean!"
As a one year anniversary gift Miroku was taking Sango on a tour of the Caribbean. Kagome wasn't sure she'd ever seen her friend so excited. "That boy spoils you." she teased picking up as many bags as she could carry.
Following with her own armload Sango grinned, "You say that like it's a bad thing."
"Hmph." Kagome snorted in a very unlady-like fashion. "If only we were all so lucky."
"And what about you Kagster? I heard from Miroku that a very charming hanyou has been asking about you."
"Really?" Kagome felt queasy. "How nice."
As Sango closed the front door and secured the looked she looked at her friend with a shrewd eye. "Okay why don't you sound enthused. I thought you were interested."
I was before he turned out to be a pretentious prick…"I was… its just…" she floundered for a legitimate excuse, "Hey! Didn't Miroku say that he's on the rebound and that he's still hung up on his ex? They were engaged remember?"
"Yes but that was before, when you first met. Now he's single and you're single. What have you got to lose?"
My pride…"I'm not so sure about this." I really don't have a choice… "Sango how much do you know about Inuyasha?"
The girl paused from rooting around in her shopping bags and looked up curiously. "What do you mean? As in his family or in general."
"In general." Kagome knew that if she were going to seriously consider Inuyasha's offer then she needed to give him the benefit of the doubt. If she was going to go that far then she just as well get a second opinion too
"Let's see, I've known him for a few years now. I can't say that we were personal friends but he and Miroku have been partners in crime since childhood so I've heard a lot about him. He seems okay, he kind of stand off-ish at times and he's a grump, there's no denying that."
Kagome waved a hand impatiently. "I know all of that. What I'm asking is if you think he's trustworthy? And responsible? Is he the kind of guy that's going say one thing to my face and another behind my back?"
Sango cocked her head and smiled. "Inuyasha is a decent guy. More often than not he's acts chauvinistic but Miroku has a lot of respect for him and I trust his judgment."
That wasn't exactly what Kagome was looking for but it would do for now. The only way she would get the answers she wanted was to find them out from the source herself. That thought made her frown.
Noticing Kagome's distressed expression, Sango reached over and nudged her playfully. "Hey relax. All I'm saying is that it wouldn't hurt to talk to the guy. Its not like I'm telling you to marry him."
Kagome managed a weak smile. "Right."
Oh Sango, if you only knew…
A.N. – Now we're getting to the actual plot.
Okay for future reference Souta and Kohaku are fourteen while Rin is twelve. As you've noticed Kagura and Inuyasha have a pretty close relationship and you will find out why later in the fic. Also the deal with Rin will be explained later also.
Keep in mind that Sango does not know anything about Inu and Kag's night together and neither does Miroku.
On that note I will leave you with the mental image of Naraku dressed in a pineapple print shirt, shorts, flip-flops and surrounded by pool supplies.