Kikyou cursed as she raced out of Ryu's room and down the hallway, snatching up the phone and hissing a breathless greeting into the mouthpiece.
"Kikyou, it's Arin. What's the matter? You sound like you've been running."
Kikyou took a moment to catch her breath before answering. "Hi Arin, I just got Ryu to sleep. He's been so agitated and clingy. Each time I put him down, he wakes up again. He's been asleep for about 15 minutes now. I was just checking on him when you called."
"Is he alright?"
"The fever's dropped a little and he seems a bit more settled, but I'm still worried about that rash." Kikyou sighed then asked hopefully. "Did you find Kagome?"
There was a short pause before Arin replied. "No. I've looked every place I can think of, and there isn't a sign of her anywhere. I'm just about to try the car parks. It's a long-shot, but hopefully I can track her down if I know what vicinity she's in."
Kikyou nodded in silent agreement, a frown etched on her features. "That's a good idea Arin. I really hope that you find her soon."
"Did you call the office?"
"Yes, I did." Her frown deepened as she thought of that disastrous conversation. "And Sesshoumaru Taisho ended up on the other end. And… to make matters worse, I totally stuffed up by blubbering like an idiot."
"Sesshoumaru Taisho?" The surprise in Arin's voice was plain to hear. "How did that happen?"
"I have no idea. I thought I was going to speak to the one Kagome works for… what's his name? Inu… Inuyasha. Anyway, I ended blurting out something stupid and hung up." Kikyou paused, a feeling of worry niggling at her insides. "I just hope I haven't made things worse."
"Kikyou listen to me… none of this is your fault, okay? You've handled everything well as far as I can see." There was a short pause then Arin spoke again. "What are you going to do now?"
Kikyou thought a moment before replying. "Since the fever's settled a bit, I'll wait, but if it starts rising again, I'm taking him to the doctor's."
"I think that's a good idea. In the meantime, I'm going to keep hunting around. Hopefully you'll see me soon… with Kagome."
"Oh I hope so Arin. I'll see you later."
Kikyou stared at the phone after she hung up, her mind running through a list of places where Kagome was likely to be. She tried to get into the girl's mind but just couldn't imagine how she'd be feeling, or what she'd be thinking at that very moment. She couldn't blame Kagome for her fears. It was, after all, a very extreme situation, and not mention, awkward. Sighing, she turned and walked to the small window, leaning out and staring at the rooftops and buildings surrounding them.
"Where are you Kagome? You've got to be out there somewhere."
She tried to push away the little voice inside her head that suggested something awful and tragic, choosing instead the voice of reason that stated logical explanations for the present circumstances. She wondered how everything would turn out, knowing that her cousin had little choice but to admit the truth to Ryu's father. Kagome had always been a level-headed and sensible girl, who cared way too much for others, whilst paying little heed to her own needs. This stubborn refusal to tell Sesshoumaru Taisho about his son had surprised her greatly. Kagome had been all too willing to look for the man when she first knew of Ryu's existence, but once she'd found out who he really was, she'd done a complete turnaround. Kikyou often wondered what truly lay behind her cousin's fears. Although she had to admit that she would also be rather phased if she found out that the father of her child was engaged to a woman like Yura Timaro. With a tired sigh, she rested her chin in her hand and propped it on the window sill to stare unseeingly at the people below that went about their daily existences, all of who were completely oblivious to her plight. As she scanned the weaving mass of bodies, something caught her eye. Parked at the side of her building, in an illegal parking zone no less, was a shiny silver-grey Porsche. She watched curiously as the door opened, waiting to see who would come out. There were not many cars like that at this end of town, and she wasn't the only one to notice. Several passers-by had also stopped to see who would emerge from the expensive vehicle. Kikyou's eyes widened in shock at the first glimpse of silver-white hair, her heart suddenly beating fast as her mind told her that she was imagining things.
'Maybe it's just a trick of the light or something.' Unfortunately, he was in the shadows. Her breath hitched when he lifted his head to scan the building, and she quickly scooted back. 'No, it can't be… it can't be him. Please tell me that that face did not look like Ryu's.' She felt as though she was suffocating, a hot flush passed over her body, her head squeezing tightly with the pressure that her thoughts produced. She had the most insane urge to run, but she knew that that was just plain ridiculous, as well as out of the question. She leaned against the wall and passed her hand over her forehead, attempting to alleviate some of the pressure.
"What am I going to do?… What am I going to do?" she chanted quietly as she tried to even her breathing. She nearly jumped out of her skin when a sudden knock sounded on the door, frowning as she tried to work out who it could be. 'It can't be… There's no way he could've…' She moved cautiously to the door, leaning forward to peer through the peephole. She blinked in shock when she caught a glimpse of silver-white hair, moving quickly back from the door as though something horrible was behind it. She chewed on her lip as she stared at it wordlessly, wondering if she could just pretend that no-one was there.
Sesshoumaru frowned as waited. He knew that someone stood on the other side of the door, and wondered why they hesitated to respond. He was almost certain that he'd seen a head disappear through an open window when he first arrived. His feelings of worry increased, and a strange sense of foreboding now joined it. After a moment of thought, he decided to speak.
"Hello? My name is Sesshoumaru Taisho. I'm from Taisho Corp." He hesitated as he wondered if he had the right apartment, but his senses reassured him instantly. "I'm very worried about Kagome. I was wondering if you've heard from her yet."
Kikyou's face flushed red. She didn't know whether to feel embarrassment or guilt at her rude behaviour, even though she told herself that he couldn't possibly know that she was there. She was worried, and uncertain of how to proceed. After chewing her lip for a couple more agonising seconds, she came up with a plan that just might work. 'I'll go outside and tell him that everything is okay now. That Kagome will be home later.' Sending a quick prayer to the heavens, and request for Ryu to stay asleep, she took a deep breath and prepared herself for the encounter. She hesitated for only a moment then reached for the door, opening it slightly and stepping out into the hallway. She pulled it closed behind her then turned to face him.
"Hello. I'm Kikyou, Kagome's cousin." She held her hand out to the man, staring pointedly at his collar as she tried not to show her surprise at his likeness to Ryu. "How can I help you?"
Sesshoumaru watched her closely as he shook her hand, intrigued by the reactions he could sense from her. Her heartbeat was very fast and her body emitted too much heat. Added to her obvious discomfort, it was truly mystifying.
"I was wondering if Kagome is all right."
Kikyou forced a smile, trying to relax her stiff cheeks and cringing inside at the lie she would tell. "She's fine. She'll be home later."
A feeling of irritation passed through him at her false words, but he maintained his calm, telling himself that he couldn't expect her to share family secrets with a stranger. He looked into her eyes, his gaze intense as he tried to make her realise his worry.
"I can understand your reluctance to speak with me, but I'm very concerned about your cousin. If you could ask her to call me…" He thought carefully, adding as an afterthought. "or my brother, I would greatly appreciate it."
Kikyou nodded and opened her mouth to reply when a sudden scream came from within the apartment. She turned her head slightly, a feeling of anxiety passing through her before she faced the man once more.
"I'll give Kagome your message Mr Taisho. Thank you for coming, and I'm sorry to cut it short but I really do have to get back inside." She grabbed the door handle, pausing to watch him as she waited for his departure.
Sesshoumaru hesitated a second then turned, intent on leaving, though he was rather reluctant to do so. He stopped as a thought came to him, reaching inside his coat for a pen and business card before turning back to face her.
"I won't keep you long. I only wish to give you my contact details to pass on to Kagome." He quickly scribbled some numbers on the back of the card then held it out to her.
Before she could grab it, a loud crash came from inside, followed shortly by a horrific scream. Kikyou's heart froze with panic, all thought forgotten except for Ryu.
"I have to go Mr Taisho!"
She flung open the door and rushed inside, throwing it closed behind her as she raced into the tiny sitting room and down the hallway, to the small boy that lay on the floor in a tangle of telephone cords.
Sesshoumaru stood and looked at the door that stood slightly ajar, wondering what he should do. He still held the business card, but was reluctant to bother the woman again. She obviously had her hands full. With a sigh, he made the decision to quietly enter the premises and leave it somewhere for them to find. He stepped hesitantly forward and pushed the door open, pausing as his eyes were drawn to the woman, who crouched on the floor, comforting a child that was presently hidden from his view. She had her back to him and didn't even realise that he was there. He quickly turned to look around the room for somewhere to place the card then stopped, his gaze riveting on something that struck him so familiar.
'Where have I seen that chair before?' he wondered as he gazed at the rather tattered recliner that sat no more that two feet from the door. A strange feeling crept over him when his eyes lifted to take in the rest of the room, his flesh raising with goose-bumps as the familiarity of it struck him. He delved through his memories for an answer, coming to a mind-numbing halt when it suddenly hit him. 'The dream…' His body flushed hot and cold, his mind grasping at facts, attempting to sort them into some form of logical explanation. 'It… can't be' he thought as his head presented a rather incredulous option. His eyes narrowed as he turned slowly to look at the woman kneeling on the floor. Memories of events and conversations raced through his mind, all seeming to point to one conclusion. Inuyasha's strange words and the manner in which he carefully avoided him, Kagome's recent emotional outburst, not to mention the strange conversation and even stranger behaviour of the woman Kikyou. 'It can't be.' It was all too incredible. He found his gaze glued to the woman's back, his breath held as he waited to see if his suspicions were correct. His chest felt as though it was laden with an unbearable weight, his heartbeat ceased to sound. He was held like a statue, caught in cataclysmic moment that was sure to change his life forever.
Kikyou continued to coo and cluck as she comforted Ryu, completely oblivious to anything but his needs. After wiping the tears from his tiny face, she lifted him up into her arms, holding him against her in a comforting embrace. It wasn't until Ryu stiffened that she suddenly became aware of the presence behind her.
The breath was knocked from his body, leaving him dazed and reeling. He stared at the golden eyes that were focussed upon him, stunned at what he was seeing. He couldn't pull a single thought from his mind, but only stand there and look on in utter disbelief, a host of sensations assaulting his senses. Without realising it, his feet moved forward, as though beckoned by some irresistible pull from that tiny face, which was a replica of his very own.
Knowing the futility of her actions but unable to stop the panicked movement, Kikyou quickly lowered Ryu further down into her arms, attempting to hide him from the man she now knew stood behind her. Her heart thumped madly as she wished silently to herself that it was just all a bad dream. With a feeling of dread, she turned her head, the words already spilling from her lips.
"Please Mr Taisho, as you can see, I really have…" The words died a quick death as she realised his close proximity.
Sesshoumaru felt like a man under a spell, disorientated and unable to pull himself from its bind. He tore his gaze from the child and looked at the woman, staring unseeingly at her stunned and ashen face. Time seemed to drift into endless moments of silence as their eyes locked, both unsure of what to say or do.
Kikyou's heart thumped madly against her ribs. She found it impossible to draw the breath she needed to fill her aching lungs. Every nerve in her body electrified, every muscled tensed. She groped in her mind for something intelligible to utter into the awkward silence that filled the room. Then suddenly, he spoke.
"Can I see him?"
The depth of emotion in his voice stirred something inside her. The expression in his intense golden eyes made her heart ache. She couldn't believe the incredible likeness between him and the young boy she had come to love so dearly. As though drawn by some invisible force, she found herself turning towards him, watching his face intently as Ryu was once again revealed to him.
Sesshoumaru's eyes lowered instantly to the child in her arms, his heart beating at an incredible pace. He couldn't describe the feelings that fluttered inside his chest as he reached hesitantly to stroke the child's small cheek, almost afraid that this too was a dream.
Kikyou's eyes went from one to the other, watching their reactions. Ryu's awed glance roved the man's features, his fingers clinging tightly to her clothes. She sucked in a breath of sheer amazement when he suddenly lifted his arms, leaning forward in a silent plea. She had never known him to take to anyone he didn't know, but he seemed determined to have this man's attention. Kikyou marvelled at his small determined features, and the confidence he seemed to exude, as though he knew the man and was comfortable with his presence.
Lifting his eyes from the tiny hands that extended towards him, Sesshoumaru looked pleadingly at the woman who held him. 'My child' he thought, as another wave of unreality washed over his senses. He saw her hesitation, before her quiet words pierced through the confusion that hazed his mind.
"I've never seen him do that before. He's usually funny when he first meets people." Her heart softened at the man's expression, his longing clear for her to see.
"May I?" His voice came as no more than a whisper, his emotions making it impossible to speak.
He watched as she gave a little nod and held the boy out to him. Time seemed to stop as he tried to make his limbs obey his commands. He saw his arms extend, his hands gently wrapping around the small frame and lifting it up against him. He gasped as a small fist wrapped around the hair that strayed over his shoulder, watching with rapt attention as the child carefully studied the strands.
"What is his name?" he asked, eyes glued to the small phenomenon in his arms.
Kikyou smiled, unable to remain unaffected by the touching scene. 'This is right. This is how it should be.'
"Ryushiro, but we call him Ryu."
A smile tugged at his lips as he watched the change in the boy's expression when his eyes lifted from the hair in his hand and looked up at him. The awe that held the little features brought a lump to Sesshoumaru's throat and caused a strange ache in his heart. In a motion that was instinctual, he pulled the small body against him, breathing deeply as the knot in his chest tightened further. He swallowed convulsively, attempting to dislodge the lump that sat firm in his throat. He couldn't name half of the emotions he felt at this moment, only the one that made him struggle with the tears that burnt at his eyes; overwhelming joy. One that he had never felt in his life. He blinked and brought his attention back to Ryu, who was now fidgeting as he tried once again to look at his face. Sesshoumaru could not help the smile that lit his handsome features, his eyes softening as he accommodated the silent request. He lifted his son higher, enough so to allow him access to his face.
Kikyou felt tears sliding down her cheeks, wiping them absently and wondering when they had started falling. Her gaze remained focused on the pair, watching as her nephew lifted his hands to run over his father's face. 'Why did she wait so long?' she wondered as she took in the man's awed expression. It was obvious how moved he was to discover his son. Taking a deep breath, she wiped away another trail of tears and cleared her throat.
"Perhaps you'd like to take him into his room for a while." She smiled at Ryu, who turned to look at her. "I'm sure he'd love to show you all his toys."
Ryu's face brightened at the suggestion, and he turned to look at his father expectantly. "We play cars?"
Sesshoumaru nodded silently, still unable to find his voice. He moved like a man in a dream, following the woman into a tiny room that held two beds, one much smaller than the other. This was obviously the room that Kagome slept in, and the same one from his dream. He looked around, another lump rising in his throat. A confusion of sensations and feelings swarmed him, leaving him baffled as to what he really felt. His attention came back to his son, who was now tugging impatiently on his shirt. He smiled when he spotted the racing track that was assembled in the corner of the room, a feeling of déjà vu making his senses reel. With a gentleness that belied his large frame, he settled his son on the floor next to the controllers and sat cross-legged beside him.
Ryu smiled then handed him one of the devices. His little face took on a serious expression as he set the cars on the track and switched the power on. He gave his father a nod then set his blue racer in motion.
Kikyou smiled from the doorway, knowing that the pair had already forgotten her. She watched as Ryu expertly moved his car around the track, still marvelling at his incredible abilities. Sometimes it was hard to believe that he was not even two years of age. He did things that were way beyond the capabilities of one so young. With a sigh, she turned and made her way to the kitchen to fix some tea. She was happy that Ryu seemed to have perked up somewhat in his father's company. The panic that she'd felt earlier had receded, leaving her much calmer, and greatly relieved. She hummed softly as she began to prepare the tea, wondering what would happen when her cousin finally came home.
Kagome sighed as she fingered the charm on her wrist, frowning at the tingling pulse that seemed to emanate from it. 'Why haven't I noticed this before?' She just couldn't make sense of it, just as she couldn't understand half of the strange circumstances that surrounded her at present. One thing she was certain of was the fact that she desperately needed to speak with her grandfather. Another sigh escaped her as she tried to remember back to their many conversations in the past, searching for some hint to the mysteries that now baffled her. She knew without a doubt that the talisman was more than just decoration, and that her grandfather's superstitious ramblings were far more than an old man's idiosyncrasies. Releasing another sigh, she raised her hands and rubbed at her temples, frowning slightly as she tried to still her thoughts. For hours now, she'd sat in this little temple shrine that was located on the other side of her neighbourhood, and searched her mind and heart for the answers that eluded her, finding herself no closer to a reasonable explanation than when she'd first entered the place. Why she had to begin with, she still couldn't figure out. Her more rational side told her that she was only delaying the inevitable, while the slightly less lucid portion of her brain told her that she needed to make some sense of her scattered thoughts, and what better place to do that than in a temple shrine.
'You know what you have to do Kagome. Sitting here thinking isn't going to change anything, or solve any of your problems.' Taking a deep steadying breath, she stood and faced the doorway, once again smiling at her choice of refuge. It reminded her so much of her childhood home that she couldn't resist its lure. She cast one last look around the small building then made her way to the exit, hoping that she could find the strength to do what she knew was right. 'This is going to be the most difficult thing I've ever done in my life, and I'm scared, so scared that it's all going to go horribly wrong somehow.' Pushing aside her melodramatic thoughts, she made her way outside, blinking rapidly as her eyes adjusted to the bright glow of the afternoon sun. She felt a little guilty at having disappeared for most of the day, but she really did need the time alone to think. So much had happened in the last couple of weeks, and at a speed that left her reeling. The short time of solace was like a soothing breath of air, a tranquil moment from the frantic roller-coaster ride that had become her life. 'That ends now.' She looked determinedly ahead, steeling herself for what she had to do. 'What I should've done a long time ago.' With that final thought, she made her way down the shrine steps and along the sidewalk, heading for the car park. As she rounded a corner and turned into an alley that lead to the huge lot, she suffered a strange sense of foreboding, her skin raising with goose-bumps and the hair on the back of her neck suddenly standing on end. She paused in her stride, wondering what had brought it on. After a few seconds, she continued on, her steps quickening as she made her way through the multitude of cars that lined the ground floor, frowning as the feeling of dread increased. She paused mid-stride when she spotted Arin standing beside her car. She appeared to be writing something; something that must have troubled her greatly, if the frown she wore was anything to go by.
Arin signed the note, intent on leaving under Kagome's wipers before she went on her hunt. She stilled when she saw her friend coming across the car park. A sigh of relief escaped her and she scrunched the note up, walking quickly around the car towards her.
"Arin? What are you doing here?" Kagome watched her expression intently, trying to push down the niggling feeling that ate away at her insides. "Is something wrong?"
"It's Ryu. He's sick, and Kikyou doesn't know what to do with him. She wants to take him to the doctor's but she thought it would be better if you were there."
Kagome's eyes widened. "What's wrong with him? He was fine when I left this morning. His fever was almost gone."
Arin sighed. "It started again shortly after you left, and that rash he has is even worse than it was before."
"Oh no." Kagome suddenly felt panicked. "How is he?"
"When I last spoke to Kikyou, he was sleeping and his temperature was stable, but she said that he's fussed for most of the day. He must be really uncomfortable Kay."
"This is all my fault." She fished through her bag for her keys, quickly moving to the car and opening the door. "Thanks for coming to look for me Arin. I'm sorry to put you through this."
Arin shook her head emphatically. "Kay, you know that you guys mean the world to me. There's nothing to apologise for. Just go home and see your son."
Kagome nodded and climbed into her car, quickly starting the engine before turning to face her friend. "What are you going to do now?"
"I have to go to work and pick up some things, then I'll be straight over."
"Okay" Kagome attempted a smile. "I'll see you when you get back."
Arin reached out and squeezed her shoulder. "Don't feel bad Kay, I'm sure he's going to be fine. You haven't done anything wrong, okay?"
Kagome's face fell. "Then why do I feel so bad?"
Arin gave her a sympathetic look then smiled. "You'll feel better when you see him. Try not to worry too much."
"Easier said than done."
After a quick farewell, she drove her car out of the parking lot and into the afternoon traffic, her mind already working frantically over what could be troubling her son. She traversed the busy streets, her movements automatic as one thought after another raced through her head. 'Is there no end to all these problems?' she wondered as she passed a broken-down car that was in the process of being pushed off the road. The streets passed quickly and she soon found herself on the road that housed their little flat. She was so busy trying to get around the mass of people that decided to walk out in front of her that she failed to notice the silver-grey Porsche parked outside the front of the building. It wasn't until a few moments later, when she walked alongside it that she realised it was there. Her steps faltered, her mind questioning its sanity. She stood gaping at the vehicle, unable to comprehend the meaning behind its presence. 'It can't be. It must be someone else's.' She turned and made her way inside, her steps halting as panic seized her. 'He's here? Why? Why is he here?' The words poured into her brain as she started up the flight of stairs towards the tiny apartment, hoping that by some miracle, things weren't the way they appeared to be. Her mind was numb with shock, a feeling of disbelief firmly gripping her senses. She tried to think of what she could say, what she would do, if he was indeed there with her son. Another wave of panic hit her and she paused outside the door, breathing deeply to quell the overwhelming fear that threatened to choke her.
Sesshoumaru smiled, his hand reaching out to stroke the soft cheeks of his sleeping son. He moved carefully from his position on the bed, sliding his legs off and turning back to cover the boy properly. Their game of racing had not lasted long before the child's condition made itself felt once again. He'd taken him to bed, with the agreement of reading him a book. Now, looking down at his small and innocent features, many questions came to mind. 'Why didn't she tell me? I've had a son, all this time, and she didn't say a word.' His mind still reeled from the shocking discovery, a feeling of unreality taking him over. Amidst the warmth and affection that he felt for the boy, a feeling of anger stirred deep inside him. 'How long did she intend to keep him from me?' He bent and kissed the small forehead, studying the tiny features for a moment longer before rising and making his way reluctantly from the room. He had questions, and someone was going to answer them. He found the woman Kikyou in the kitchen, working quietly at the counter. She turned and jumped when she saw him in the doorway.
"Oh, you startled me. I didn't hear you coming." With a smile, she grabbed the tea that she'd just prepared, placing it on the table and gesturing for him to sit down. "Please, make yourself comfortable."
Sesshoumaru moved quietly to the table and reached for a chair. He froze when his senses picked up a familiar presence at the door. He turned his head and watched it intently, his heartbeat stilling as he waited for it to open.
Kikyou looked at the strange man with a frown, wondering why he suddenly found the door so fascinating. She waited patiently for him to sit and was dumbfounded when he continued to stand and stare at the entry with such intensity. She was just about to ask what troubled him when she heard the sound of a key turning in the lock. Her heart jumped when she realised that her cousin was home. The air seemed to suddenly thicken with a feeling of impending doom as the seconds dragged by.
AN: Hi all, it's finally here, after a lifetime of waiting. I wasn't going to end it there, but I figured that it would drag out too much if I included the Kag/Sess confrontation. So unfortunately, that comes next chapter. Sorry to rush off, but I'm still in the process of catching up with things. I've created a Yahoo 360 page to let my readers know what I'm up to. I'm still working on my msn page, and will send out notices when it's done. I'm hoping that some time in the future, I'll find time to create a web page so everyone can have access to it. Well guys, I hope you all enjoy the chapter. I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Til next chapter.