Inuyasha stared at his wife, struggling to believe the price she'd just set. She couldn't really expect him to let Naraku off the hook.
Being careful so as not to harm her, he stood and moved away, "I can't promise such a thing Kagome! The man attacked you! How could you expect me to just let this go? He didn't just steal a kiss, that would have been insult enough! He left you a battered mess and would have forced himself on you if your friend hadn't stopped him!"
"I know! Trust me, I know!" Kagome stood and moved over to the window, leaning her forehead against the cool glass. "I'm not naive, I saw his eyes, and he enjoyed when I fought back! The more I fought, the more he... he liked it..."
She broke off, closing her eyes and pressing her palms against them to push back the tears. She didn't realize she was shaking until Inuyasha whispered her name and carefully turned her towards him. Burying her head in his chest, the tears and sobs escaped even as she struggled against them. Inuyasha held her carefully, his anger building as she struggled to stop.
"I'm sorry I just... I k-keep dreaming about it.""
Kagome huddled closer, inhaling his scent in an effort to clear away the image of Naraku's smile while he'd held her against the wall. Deep down she understood that Inuyasha had every right to call him out, but despite the rumors she'd heard of her husband's secret duels and brawls, she didn't trust that Naraku wouldn't try something underhanded and she wasn't about to risk losing Inuyasha.
After a few more minutes of being held in his arms, she turned her face up to explain. "I'm asking for this because I hate violence and I don't want the man's death on my conscience."
Inuyasha grunted, "How could it be on your conscience when he was the one who tried to have his way with you? That makes no sense!"
Kagome shrugged, "It doesn't have to make sense Inuyasha, I just need you to promise me you won't do it! I don't need another reason to worry! Can't you see it from my perspective? I was attacked and I'm still barely recovering from it. I have bruises and scratches all over my body thanks to Naraku, plus I have a bruise from your anger on my face; and to top it off I'm pregnant and I'm exhausted!"
Inuyasha nodded and kept quiet while she made her way around him and moved over to her bed.
"The only thing I'm asking is that you don't make me worry sick over you fighting a duel and possibly having to raise our child alone, but no, after all that, it's still too much to ask?!"
"Umm..." Inuyasha stared, still a bit shocked by the emotion in her voice. She had a point about raising the child alone, even though he wouldn't credit Naraku with enough skill to actually kill him, but still, she was a woman, she would worry, and she was pregnant. Doctor Genzai's words came back to haunt him again.
(- … you know better than most the risks women face. -)
He was brought out of his thoughts by Kagome's hand coming to cup his cheek. She'd moved closer when he'd failed to respond and now moved his head down to look into his eyes. The pleading look in hers finally did him in.
With a nod, he carefully slipped his arms around her waist and pulled her into him, lowering his head to rest his cheek against her hair. (- There's more than one way to pay him back. The bastard will definitely be sorry he ever even looked at Kagome! -)
Kagome snuggled close, "Hojo sent me a note saying they were leaving this morning for a visit to London, so at least I won't have to see him any time soon. Let's just be glad for that, please?"
Deciding they'd wasted enough time on Naraku, Inuyasha tilted her head up and felt another sharp stab of guilt. He carefully moved his lips across her bruised cheek, trailing kisses across the tender skin, his voice soft and sad as he apologized for hurting her.
Kagome found herself blinking back tears again but her response was interrupted by a yawn and she gave a sleepy nod and leaned her head against his shoulder instead. They stayed standing that way for a moment before he realized she was half asleep against him and he carefully lifted her in his arms and took her back to the bed.
After tucking her in, he rang the bell pull and waited for one of the servants to respond. He wasn't surprised when Mackie came, having guessed that the man was itching to catch his wife alone and find out what had happened. He was impressed, however, to see that the man knew exactly why the bell had been rung.
"Your food was knocked all over the floor, so it was only a matter of time before you got hungry," he teased his mistress, setting the tray across her lap.
Looking up at her husband, he gave the man a cool nod and explained, "There's enough for two."
"Thank you Mackie," yawning again, Kagome waved him off with a smile, eagerly uncovering the food and sipping the warm milk that had been brought up for her.
Inuyasha joined her and they ate in companionable silence, neither really willing to break the peace that had settled over them. When the food was gone and Kagome couldn't keep her eyes open anymore, she settled down to sleep, surprising Inuyasha by asking him to stay.
"Are you sure?"
When she gave a sleepy nod, he undressed and slipped in beside her, deciding not to pull her against him just in case he might hurt her. It felt odd to be sleeping in the feminine room and it took him a bit to relax as he went over the events of the evening.
(- Damn Naraku to hell! Kikyo was fair game, she was always free to go to someone else, but to try and force himself on my wife! The man is more a fool than I believed him to be. -)
A soft sigh brought him out of his thoughts and he smiled as Kagome slowly curled up against him, her cheek coming to rest on his shoulder, her hand slipping across his waist. Soon after, her warmth and his own weariness caught up to him and he fell asleep, his arms carefully wrapped around his wife.
His rest was interrupted a few times over the course of the night however, as Kagome tossed and turned, unable to keep the nightmares at bay. Having to wake her over and over only added to his fury, and by the time the dawn came and she finally managed to fall into an exhausted sleep, Inuyasha was ready to tear Naraku apart with his bare hands.
"And that, in a nutshell, is what happened Mackie," Kagome popped the last bit of the delicious apple tart in her mouth and sipped her milk.
Mackie had managed to corner her once she'd been settled back into her husband's room and bullied the story out of her. It really hadn't been difficult, Kagome could have had plain biscuits or her favorite apple tarts for a snack[, all she had to do was explain what was going on.
As he'd expected, she sang like a bird.
"Is Hojo to be turned away then?" Mackie grabbed the last one, ignoring her mewl of protest and tossed it in his mouth. She'd had three already, one more was going to ruin her appetite for dinner.
"I don't think so, but he's gone to London with his cousin, so I don't think that we will have to worry about his visits for a good while."
Noticing movement outside the window, Kagome stood and moved to the glass, stifling a giggle at the boy crouching behind a bush. Obviously, Takashi was trying to escape from his tutor's clutches again. "I think I'm going to take a walk Mackie, thank you for the snack."
Stopping to give him a kiss on the cheek on her way out, Kagome was surprised to see Rin about to head out as well. Her sister-in-law was quite well into her pregnancy and the sight of her rounded belly made Kagome touch her own stomach.
"Oh no, don't be too eager to be my size, you'll be here soon enough," Rin smiled and waited for Kagome's shawl to be brought so they could stroll together. "Thank heavens you came out when you did, Sessh was sure to ban me from walking if he knew I was going on my own."
"That just means he cares," Kagome wrapped the shawl about her shoulders and followed Rin out, not too surprised when Rin turned and linked their arms at the bottom of the front steps.
Heading around the house, Rin nodded in agreement, glancing around a bit as they turned the corner. "True, he might be an overbearing snob, but when it comes to someone he loves he's quite soft-hearted. But... here, I thought this spot might have a nice view."
Kagome bit back a grin, knowing exactly where Rin was leading her, "Indeed, it is exactly below our window and I do so enjoy gazing out from there."
Stopping before the exact bush where Kagome had seen Takashi earlier, Rin pulled her skirt aside and gestured for him to come out. "Hurry!"
Slipping in front of his mother, Takashi spared Kagome a grin and allowed the ladies to lead him out to the lake, keeping hidden by walking directly in front of Rin. It was obvious that she'd helped him escape more than once in this fashion and they gave in to a fit of laughter once they were sure they were far enough away from the house.
"By now Jaken will have realized that we are together," Rin chuckled and ruffled her son's hair affectionately.
She turned to Kagome with an equally warm smile, "Don't think I disregard the importance of the man's tutelage, but he is even more stuffy and overbearing than my husband, and I hate for Takashi to be cooped up inside as they would have him all day long."
Watching the boy pull a string from his pocket and use it to make a fishing line with a long stick, the ladies walked on a bit to enjoy the afternoon air. "Not that I don't love how Takashi's attempts to be a miniature version of his father, but I want him to enjoy his childhood as much as possible. He has an old soul, and being alone so much with no one but that silly little man has only caused him to grow up faster."
Kagome agreed with a nod, thinking back to her own childhood. She'd been blessed with loving parents who'd given her an unusual amount of freedom to enjoy her youth. Having Miroku as a constant playmate had made her into quite the tomboy, always climbing trees, racing Miroku or playing ball. Looking at the solemn young man fishing a few feet away, she wondered at his seriousness.
"I do so hope the child will be another boy to keep him company," Rin admitted wistfully. "I love my son dearly but he doesn't know how to relax. I think having a male playmate might be just the thing."
"I am also hoping for a boy," Kagome sighed and admired the resemblance between Takashi and his father. "A silver haired boy with his father's golden eyes."
Rin gave her a sympathetic look, "I suppose Inuyasha is hoping for the same?"
"To be sure it's his?" Kagome nodded, unconsciously touching her fingertips to her cheek, "I am sure you know about Patrice."
"That doesn't give him the right to treat you as he has!" Rin shook her head angrily. "There is nothing more disgusting than a man who would harm anyone weaker than himself. Besides the fact that you are nothing like that horrid girl!"
Taking a breath, Rin tried to explain, "I know it's not the thing to speak ill of the dead, but I truly don't believe that death turns one into a saint. She was a horrible person in life and I cannot help but resent the damage she did to Inuyasha."
"Well, that's certainly true," Kagome agreed. "Although he and I have sort of made up."
Rin sighed and patted her hand, "I noticed this morning, but I hope he did a lot of groveling, and he had better get you a very nice gift, or two, or maybe a few more."
At Kagome's laugh, Rin gave her a grin but quickly grew serious again. "I don't suppose your husband ever told you how I met and married Sesshomaru?"
Kagome shook her head and watched as Rin glanced over to check on her son, noticing her hands rubbing her stomach a little anxiously before she sighed and shook her head. "Let's just say that the circumstances weren't the least bit ideal. Sesshomaru and I met while I was under the care of an unsavory guardian who really treated me as little more than an unpaid, unwanted slave. I had been careless and knocked over a priceless vase while cleaning one day. Well, my guardian swore it was a priceless antique and he had me been beaten quite severely. Sesshomaru was leaving the house after a business meeting with him and overheard my crying from inside a closet I had been locked in."
"How perfectly horrid," Kagome took hold of her arm and gave it a squeeze.
Rin smiled, "It was, at the time, but I must admit that the memory of his voice as he ordered my guardian to open the door and the look in his eyes once he saw me... well, that's something I'll never forget."
Kagome sighed, "It must have been quite heroic."
At that Rin gave a laugh and shook her head, "It was priceless! There I was, looking and feeling absolutely horrid, and this breathtakingly handsome lord simply reached in to offer me his hand and led me straight to the door."
"So what happened?"
"He took me to his home, ordered for his servants to make sure I was well tended and left." Rin patted her stomach lovingly and smiled at Takashi, who was looking to make sure they were all right. "A week and a half later he showed up with a priceless ring, a beautiful violet gown that fit me perfectly, and a priest."
"Just like that?" Kagome blinked, "And you married him?"
Rin gave a nod, "How could I not? He had taken me from my horrid guardian, set me up as a queen in his home, and was promising a future of safety and caring."
"Did he tell you he loved you?"
Feeling a cold gust of wind blow past them, Rin signaled to Takashi to follow and continued, "He didn't really need to say it, it was just there, in his eyes. We hadn't even spoken during the carriage ride to his home after he saved me, but we just sort of formed a connection. As you know, he's not the expressive type, but we understand each other. I'm the social one, he's the silent, steady one, and we compliment one another perfectly."
The picture Rin created was so accurate, Kagome smiled and looped her arm through her sister-in-law's. "Well, I'm glad he found someone who understands him. I'm certain that he must have told you about the circumstances of my marriage to Inuyasha."
Rin laughed, "No, he didn't say much actually, just that his brother had finally done something right."
That surprised Kagome and she looked ahead to the house, where Inuyasha and Sesshomaru were riding up the drive. "He actually said Inuyasha had done something right?"
"Oh, indeed, Sesshomaru might be cold and overbearing towards his brother, but he cares for him. Not that he would admit it to anyone," Rin turned to her son, who was already catching up, and wrapped an arm around his shoulder, bringing him to her side.
She kept him there as they walked up to the house and Kagome realized that Takashi had cleaned himself as much as possible and was once again the perfect little gentleman, despite the dirt stains on his clothes. He greeted his father and uncle politely and helped his mother and aunt with their shawls as the party entered the house.
Rin and Sesshomaru excused themselves to freshen up and Kagome was surprised when Inuyasha asked her to join him upstairs. Setting her hand on his arm, she asked about his business with the tenants as they made their way up . Inuyasha explained about the roof being fixed over at Mrs. Wicket's home as he veered away from their room and led her up to the third story of the house.
Kagome heard Takashi being scolded by his tutor and knew the boy was probably sitting stoically but inwardly rolling his eyes. Her attention was caught again as Inuyasha stopped at the room next to the one where they had heard voices and opened the door for her.
She entered and was shocked to see Hiten and Manten waiting at the opposite end of the room. They had been talking quietly by the windows but turned when the door opened. Hiten put an arm out to stop Manten from rushing to Kagome and quietly reminded him to behave.
Kagome smiled happily to see her friends and hurried across the room to greet them, "It's so good to see you! What are you doing here?"
Manten gave her one of his usual child-like smiles and a hug, "Your husband requested we come."
Inuyasha followed her in and explained, "I asked Mackie to take me to their home so I could thank Hiten for saving you from Naraku. While I was there, I couldn't help but notice the furnishings and I was pleased to discover that your friends are talented carpenters."
Kagome nodded, "They are great carpenters, but they're lousy at mending clothes."
Manten laughed, "I try."
Her husband came close enough to wrap an arm about her waist and pull her gently into his side, "I was also up here this morning and I realized how old everything in this room is. The previous owners of the house had no children and I wondered if the furniture was still safe for our baby to use."
Hiten gave a shrug while Inuyasha kept speaking. "After realizing how good their work is, I knew my problem was solved, as long as you agreed to have them create new furnishings for our nursery."
Kagome gasped with delight, casting her husband an incredulous smile, "Really?"
Inuyasha gave a nod and they joined Hiten, who had stooped to inspect the legs of the large crib at the side of the room. Hiten placed a hand on the crib and wiggled it, quickly moving to stand and look into it, "This can barely hold the blanket that's in it now."
Kagome slipped from her husband's side and moved to the pink curtains, "And it is obvious that a girl was the last to be brought to this room, which is lovely, but I would rather a more neutral palette."
Inuyasha agreed with the idea, and after spending a good while going over wood selections and style choices, Hiten and Manten excused themselves and headed home, leaving them in the room to look around and plan some more.
Kagome surprised him by becoming serious and turning to him almost as soon as their visitors were gone, "Did you visit them to confirm my story?"
Moving to her side, Inuyasha set his hands on her shoulders and looked her straight in the eye to make sure she knew he wasn't lying. "I did not go to ask them about that. I went to their cottage to give Hiten my thanks for showing up when he did. I really did notice the quality of their furnishings, and upon learning of their skill, I thought to please you by giving them work. I remembered the rumors of a strange pair of brothers that have always circulated in the area and wanted to help them."
Kagome nodded, seeing the sincerity in his expression, "I'm glad you hired them."
With a last glance around the room, Inuyasha led her to the door and they stood looking into the nursery for a moment. He finally broke the silence, his voice a hesitant whisper, "I knew someday I should have an heir, but truthfully I never thought I'd be happily getting things set up here."
Kagome sighed, her hand unconsciously coming up to her stomach, "I can't wait to spend hours here with him."
Looking down at her smile, Inuyasha nudged her out of the room and towards the stairs, "Are you so certain it shall be a boy then?"
"Not really, I mean, we can never truly be certain," Kagome shrugged, "But I can hope."
Inuyasha found himself picturing a laughing baby girl, with her mother's beautiful smile, and grinned. "Well I hope for a girl."
"Oh no, first we must have a boy so that he will take care of any younger siblings that may come later," Kagome explained. "I always wanted a big brother."
Thinking of his own older brother, Inuyasha shrugged and placed a kiss to her temple as they made their way to their room to dress for the evening's meal.
"Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. These are the words given to us by the lord, and I have come to see that there are some who would forget them in our community."
Kagome smiled as her husband laced their fingers together and gave her hand a squeeze. He had mentioned the rumors spread by the vicar's wife and they had decided to keep their heads held high as they went to service. Sesshomaru and Rin were in attendance as well as Takashi. Kagome was surprised by the boy's seriousness during service. While her brother would spend the time squirming and looking around, Takashi stared intently ahead and seemed to be focused on the vicar's words.
Neither Kagome nor Inuyasha missed the glance the vicar had given his wife when speaking of those who had forgotten the lesson. As he continued the service, Kagome relaxed, knowing most of those in the community would be hesitant ostracize the largest landholder in the area. Despite this title and his control over the land, Inuyasha had never tried to push himself on the community. He was known as a fair landlord who cared for his tenants and treated them respectfully.
Of course, there were a few who were loathe to forget his indiscretions, primarily the women of his class. Although Kagome had been accepted with open arms, being as unpretentious and friendly as she was, gossip was always rampant and her husband was fair game. Thankfully her cheek had healed mostly and she had just the faintest hints of bruising left, which had been covered by make up sent over by Mrs. Tillsbury.
After the service was over, they mingled with everyone outside the church, especially since it was Sesshomaru and Rin's first public outing since their arrival. The afternoon saw them lunching at Lady Tillsbury's home and the ladies explained the plans for the local orphanage to the men.
The day went by smoothly and they returned home late in the afternoon. Rin went up to her room to rest and Kagome decided to follow her lead, but then she realized she was not the least bit tired. Moving to her side of the bed, she slipped her hand in the crook underneath and pulled out the mysterious book.
Settling down on the settee beside the window again, she decided to ignore the odd writings and try to figure out the images instead. As she looked through the volume, she wasn't surprised that most of the images were of demons and evil spirits. It wasn't until the writing ended halfway through that she stopped and did a double take.
Lifting the book closer to the light Kagome tried to remember what book she'd seen the illustration in before. "Dante's Inferno?"
Certain she was right, she got up and tucked the book into its hiding spot and hurried downstairs. She was dismayed to find Inuyasha and Sesshomaru in the library but gave them a smile and explained, "I couldn't sleep so I was just going to see if a good book might help."
Inuyasha grinned, "May I suggest, Le Morte D'Arthur? It never lets me down."
A snort was heard and for a moment Kagome would have sworn it had been Sesshomaru who'd made the indelicate noise, until she spotted his angry little assistant standing near a corner a few feet away. The look in Sesshomaru's eyes, however, made it clear he shared the sentiment.
With a laugh, she shook her head and continued on to collection set into the largest wall. "I was thinking of something a bit more fitting for the day, being Sunday and having come from that lively church service just a while ago. I was thinking of.. here!"
She quickly pulled out the book she sought and held it up, "I love how well organized these shelves are."
Inuyasha gave a nod and came to see what she'd picked out, "The Divine Comedy? Didn't you get enough from the service this morning?"
"I happen to find Dante's work quite interesting, if you must know," Kagome gave a shrug. "I'm also curious to see if your copy of this book is as well illustrated as your copy of The Decameron."
Her question was met with a shrug from her husband, who looked at the book in her hands with a blank expression. "I haven't really looked at either of them, now that I think of it. The library was already pretty extensive when we bought the house so I have only added books now and again."
Sesshomaru did make a sound then, coming over to their side of the room, "Why am I not surprised by that?"
Scanning the shelves, he reached up to pick out another book and handed it to Kagome, "I am rather surprised my brother has this, but it's quite good, if you haven't read it yet."
She gave him a smile as she took it and nodded, "I read Monsieur Voltaire's work last year."
Sesshomaru surprised her by bowing his head and turning to the door, calling over his shoulder as he left, "A woman gifted with a sound mind and a good memory as well, tread carefully brother, those are the worst sort."
As he and Jaken left the room, Inuyasha ignored him and took the books from Kagome' hands, setting them on a nearby table and tugging her down on a sofa with him. He meant to spend some time talking, but she surprised him by reaching over and grabbing the Divine Comedy off the table. Her eagerness to scan the pages caught his interest and he bent his head to watch.
"Are you looking for something?"
She nodded, "As a matter of fact, I am, I'm looking for any missing images."
Flipping through the pages quickly, she tried to remember the image in the book upstairs and surprised him by turning to face him. "Do you remember what level of hell those who had sinned for lust went to?"
Inuyasha shrugged, "Second level."
Kagome turned to the correct section of the book and quickly found the page where the image had been cut out. "I knew it!"
That comment made him even more curious, "How did you know that copy of the Divine Comedy was missing an illustration?"
Kagome hesitated a second, not sure if she wanted to tell him about the other book she'd found. Thinking he'd probably find her odd for investigating the morbid couple who'd lived there before, she shrugged casually and gave the first answer to come to mind.
"The Decameron was missing an illustration too."
Granting him a peck on the cheek, she stood before he could say more and made her way to the book shelf again. "I had plenty of time to look through your selection here while you were gone, and I couldn't help but notice that a few of the books had a page missing here or there, it's rather strange."
"That sounds odd, I haven't torn a page from a book since I was four and my governess gave me a stern lecture for ruining a favorite novel of hers." Inuyasha rose to join her beside the shelf. "But then again, I have heard strange stories of the previous owners of the house. Indeed, it was these rumors that allowed me to buy the property in the first place."
"Really?" Kagome turned and gave him a grin, secretly hoping he'd tell her more. "Anything I should worry about?"
"Not really, but if you're curious there is a small collection of personal books and such on the last shelf over there," Inuyasha pointed her in the right direction and shook his head at her eagerness to learn more. "Has someone told you what happened here?"
"Lady Tillsbury told me the whole story," Kagome hummed and scanned the few journals he'd pointed her towards. "I think these are hers."
Inuyasha followed her over and pulled one out, "It's certainly not a man's, going from the style of writing, and while I find the whole tale rather odd, I don't suppose it could hurt to read this if you like."
Kagome took it and turned back to the rest, "I'm more interested in finding the history of the property itself, including the failed mining attempts."
"Ah, I see..." Inuyasha plucked the volumes from her arm and bent to put them back, "If this is going to be a treasure hunt, then I am going to have to forbid it. I have no wish to encourage you to look for something that has been a constant source of trouble since I bought this place. Not to mention that the caverns are dangerous and I don't want you near them again."
"But that's not fair," Kagome argued as he led her from the room, "I'll take Mackie with me if it makes you worry less."
"Oh I don't plan on worrying about this," Inuyasha grinned, "I'll just make sure he understands the danger and he won't take you either."
"No," stopping to turn and face her, he was surprisingly serious as he looked down into her eyes. "People have been seriously injured Kagome and I won't have you risking yourself."
"No buts Kagome," Inuyasha became surprisingly stern. "I really can't stress how dangerous those caverns are. I don't want you anywhere near them."
Seeing the concern in his eyes, Kagome gave a reluctant nod and allowed him to help her up to their room. Although her mid-day nap was made much more pleasant by the presence of her husband's arms, she subconsciously made a note to look into the journals later.
(- There has to be something there- I can feel it! -)
Ok so not the most exciting update, but an update at last! I promise the next will be up much, much sooner!
Sorry to have let the story just sit for so long. That was not my intention and I'm really looking forward to continuous updates.
Thanks so much for the continuous love & messages guys!