Disclaimer: I don't own Inuyasha, and will continue to not-own Inuyasha for the duration of the story.
Author's Note: This is a freshly edited version of this story, as of August of 2009. It's been years since I started it (and a couple of years since I finally got around to finishing it… --grin--), but my affection for this story remains undimmed. In some ways it's sort of been the "bastard stepchild" of my collection, especially since I updated it so infrequently while I was writing it, but the truth is that I really do love it. It wasn't as popular as Alter Ego or Missing in Action, but in hindsight I actually think it's a better story. I don't feel the urge to cringe nearly as often when I read this one (--grin--).
Anyway, I got a hankering to re-read it recently, and I figured I might as well do some cleanup work at the same time. Mostly stray typos and small tweaks, though I've made some slightly more substantial changes in certain places. Nothing major, though—you might not even notice if you haven't read it twenty or thirty times. Enjoy!
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
Chapter 1: Feh
"According to the most recent statistics, Amatext lost a net total of approximately three billion dollars over the last year to internal securities fraud. Three of their board members have officially been indicted, and two others are under investigation. As it now stands, they're just barely limping along—they have no choice but to sell for any price we're willing to pay. That is, unless someone else beats us to the punch," Miroku added, shuffling deftly through the documents on the conference table before him. "If you'd all turn to page twenty-four, you'll see a summary of Amatext's financial statements over the past five quarters. The graph on page twenty-six illustrates their recent market value trends and stock pattern. I've also included a copy of their most recent prospectus."
There was a shuffling of pages as all the members of the board complied with the man's request. All but one, that is—but no one questioned his rebellion; their CEO had never been one for poring over the minute details. He was more of a "bottom line," "big picture" person, at least when it came to running the company—partly because he absolutely hated board meetings. He worked much better when he was alone in his office, in his own little space where there was no one to bother him or drone on at him about prospectuses and financial statements. His leadership had taken a bit of getting used to on the part of the board, who had been used to the meticulously controlling style of his brother—but in the months since Sesshoumaru's death, the board members had become accustomed to Inuyasha's relative lack of organization.
Not that Inuyasha didn't have control of the company—far from it. He just had a very different method of exercising his power. "Alright, alright, let's cut the crap. Miroku, how much is this going to cost us, and how long do we have to wait before we can buy them out and hack them to pieces?"
Miroku's small sigh didn't escape the hanyou's notice, but he let it pass. "There are several offers on the table already. Time Warner has made a bid, as have Disney and Viacom, so it would be advisable to act sooner rather than later. I can have my financial committee run some rough numbers before the meeting on Friday, if you'd like."
"Fine. Okay, were done now—everybody back to work," the hanyou said, getting to his feet and stretching. "Meeting adjourned."
The atmosphere of the room lost its businesslike quality, relaxing into the easy conversation of colleagues as the board members gathered their materials and filed out of the room, heading back toward their expensively furnished corner offices to arrange more meetings and consultations and presentations. Inuyasha rested his elbows on the back of the tall, black-leather swivel chair at the head of the long table and gazed out the windowed wall to his left at the panorama of Midtown Manhattan, listening as the chatter died away down the hall. A frown creased his brow all of a sudden as something registered in his brain, and he called out to the brown-haired man who was just approaching the door, briefcase in hand.
"Wait, Friday?" Inuyasha questioned. "I thought the budget meeting was supposed to have been scheduled for tomorrow?"
Miroku's eyebrows raised at that, and he replied with a bemused sort of half-grin, "Tomorrow is Christmas, Inuyasha—no one's coming in tomorrow."
"Feh," Inuyasha scoffed. "Why not? The meeting isn't until two-thirty—they'd have the whole morning off. What could you possibly have to do in the afternoon?"
The other man chuckled at that, a small note of pity in his eyes. "Oh, I don't know, spend time with families and loved ones, perhaps? Celebrate the season? Play with their Christmas presents? Some people are funny that way—they actually like to spend quality time with their husbands and wives and children."
"Speaking of which," he continued, ignoring the hanyou's less than agreeable response, "are you absolutely sure you two don't want to come over for dinner tomorrow evening? Sango's roasting a turkey—though I wouldn't recommend getting your hopes up on that one. Cooking has never exactly been her strong suit. Nor mine, come to think of it. Thank god for Stouffer's and Pizza Hut."
"No thanks, we'll be fine," Inuyasha replied with a shrug.
"You sure? Taro would love to see his god-parents," Miroku coaxed, already knowing he wouldn't get anywhere. It was no use trying to get Inuyasha to do anything these days, least of all anything that might come under the heading of "fun."
"Nah—I'll probably end up having to come in to the office to get a few things done tomorrow afternoon anyway. There are still a couple of clauses pending from Sesshoumaru's will that haven't been taken care of, and I might as well take care of them when no one's here."
The Chairman nodded resignedly and turned to go. "Alright, if that's what you want. But honestly, you should try to…" He turned back to find Inuyasha scowling out the window again, and deflated. "Nevermind." No sense in beating his head against a brick wall, and Inuyasha's skull could rival the Great Wall of China these days.
But Inuyasha was curious. "What?"
"Nothing," Miroku sighed, exasperated.
"No, I should try to what?" he pressed, defensiveness creeping into his tone.
Apparently he wasn't going to be satisfied with that—not that he ever was. "I was just going to say that you ought to at least make an effort to relax and enjoy yourself every once in awhile. Go out, have fun, maybe even take your wife somewhere."
"I do! Just last week, I was in Sacramento for a meeting with the head of—"
"No, that's not what I mean. I mean really relax, have a conversation or two with the people around you that doesn't revolve around business, see if you can actually make contact with other human beings on a non-professional level."
"Feh—I talk to you all the time."
"Right—but when was the last time you and I just went out for a drink?"
"Hey, if you're lonesome, don't pin it on me!"
Miroku rolled his eyes, but chose to ignore the jibe. "When was the last time you really spoke to your wife?"
"This—" he started, but broke off—no, that had been sort of a fight. "Well there was—" But no, that one had lead to that stupid fight about the cottage cheese… "Oh what the fuck do you know anyway…" he ended with a grumble. "So what if we fight a little? Doesn't everybody? You don't have to make a federal case out of it."
Miroku raised his hands in front of him with a shrug. "Whatever you say, Inuyasha. I'm just giving you my opinion."
"Yeah, well, you're an idiot."
"Whatever you say, Inuyasha. Merry Christmas," he said, strolling out of the room into the hallway, out of sight.
"Feh," Inuyasha mumbled.
Several hours later, Inuyasha was hunched in a miserly fashion over a stack of documents that had recently been faxed in from their Denver office regarding a requisition for a redirection of personnel—or some other damn thing. Truth be told, his gaze was sliding right through it as though it weren't even there. The more he tried to focus on the neat, occasionally smudged little black letters, the more they seemed to run together, resembling a great grey verbiage soup, of which he could make no sense whatsoever. Finally, he gave up, pushing back in his chair and pressing the heels of his hands against his tired eyes in an effort to relieve the tension headache beginning to form just behind them.
Outside, the sky was a dull shade of grey, clouds hanging low overhead and dropping tiny flaked tears silently to earth. What was it about this time of year that seemed to make the whole world so damn happy, and him so damn miserable? It was as if everyone else was blinded by the whiteness of the snow, and he was the only one who could see the clouds from whence it came—not to mention the messy, disgusting brown mush that it became when it reached the city streets. Snow was cold and wet and made it hard to drive or hail a cab. It caused accidents and frostbite and avalanches and gave people pneumonia. Christmas meant he had to try to figure out something new to buy for every single person he knew, had to fight through crowds of people doing their holiday shopping and walk down icy, slippery sidewalks freezing his ass off just to buy gifts that would most likely be returned or exchanged in three weeks anyway. It meant dragging a tree up to his penthouse apartment and dropping sticky pine needles all over his expensive carpet; it meant going to all the trouble of pulling out boxes and boxes of decorations and putting them up all over the place, only to take them down again once the season was done; it meant running into those damn bell-ringing Santas on every street corner (couldn't they at least vary the rhythm a little?) and being hit up for spare change; it meant people going on vacation and leaving him short-staffed, then coming back and wanting to show him a million pictures of their kids all smiling in front of famous landmarks and Christmas trees surrounded by people he didn't know; and most of all, it meant Christmas carols. God, how he hated Christmas carols. Every year, starting the day after Thanksgiving, he found himself bombarded with the same tired repertoire of melodies, all chanting cheerily about snowmen and Santa Claus and Jesus. Now, if someone would only have the presence of mind to write one about the overcrowded shopping malls and the sticky pine needles and the damn Salvation Army, that would be the Christmas carol for him—but everyone else was busy being blinded by the snow.
Inuyasha heaved a sigh and collected the documents spread across his desk, shoving them into his briefcase and clasping it shut. He shut down his computer and moved about the office gathering his coat and gloves and any other work he thought he might have a chance to get to that evening, and then grabbed his briefcase and headed out into the outer office, locking his door behind him.
His secretary had already left for the day, as had many of the other employees, so the halls were relatively empty as he made his way swiftly to the elevators. As he passed by the door to what had once been his brother's office, he paused only briefly, peering thoughtfully at the finely engraved brass nameplate that had yet to be changed, even though its owner had been dead for nearly three months. He'd have to remember to have the janitors get a move on that one. No sense in letting such a roomy office go to waste.
The elevator let him out on the street level and his shoes clicked softly on the marble floor, echoing in the empty lobby as he crossed and exited through the great revolving doors onto the street. His chauffer had taken the night off—Christmas Eve, of course, as Miroku and others had so helpfully reminded him throughout the day. He reached for his cell phone to call the car service—but then thought better of it, slipping his phone back into his pocket with a grumble. It would probably take forty-five minutes for the guy to show up, with the snow and the holiday and everything, and he wasn't inclined to hang around waiting. He'd have to walk over to Sixth Avenue and hail a cab.
Hunching his shoulders and turning up the collar of his dark overcoat, he squinted his eyes against the bite of the wind as he set off down the street. Everywhere around him, there were people rushing home for the holidays—families smiling and laughing, toting shopping bags filled to overflowing with brightly colored boxes as they made their way to the homes of friends and relatives, smartly dressed executives picking up last minute gifts for their significant others, couples young and old headed out for romantic dinners at upscale restaurants, or just out for a stroll and ice skating in Rockefeller Center. Inuyasha merely scowled slightly and shrugged deeper into his overcoat, fixing his gaze straight ahead and wondering once more why he was the only one who seemed sane enough to be feeling the cold.
The sound of a spare few coins rattling inside a pitifully rusty tin can met his ears, and he narrowed his eyes suspiciously at the scruffy, scraggly-haired old man who sat slumped against the wall of the building, wrapped in a worn down jacket that looked older than dirt (and quite possibly made from it), giving him the most pathetic, helpless 'Tiny Tim' look he'd ever seen.
Feh. Probably some drunken pervert who lost all his money in Vegas after a binge—either that or some bored middle class guy trying to cheat me out of a couple of bucks, just for the hell of it. Either way, it's not happening. He marched straight past the man, not even giving him a second look.
He flagged down a cab amidst the stream of traffic headed uptown, sliding precariously on a patch of ice as he ducked into the relative sanctuary of the back seat. "Fifty-seventh and Park," he muttered, fiddling with the heating vents so that they were pointing at him more directly. The cab smelled faintly of overcooked vegetables and some kind of spice he wasn't familiar with. He cast an irritable look at the driver, then another at the radio, which was producing some garbled combination of sounds that vaguely resembled music, but the cabbie didn't seem to take the hint.
When they arrived at his apartment building, he wasted no time in passing the driver a few bills—just enough for a one-dollar tip—and climbing out, hoping the stench of cabbage wouldn't cling to his clothes for too long. He didn't bother to acknowledge the doorman who opened the wide glass door for him, too busy sniffing his sleeves crossly and hunting his pockets for his keys. When the elevator opened at the top floor, he finally found himself outside the door to his apartment, much to his relief.
He unlocked the door and stepped inside, shrugging off his overcoat and suit coat. Laying both over the back of the leather couch, he tugged off his tie as he headed for the bar to fix himself a nice scotch on the rocks. That was when everything changed.
There, lying on the black marble countertop, in plain sight, was a piece of paper covered in neat, curly black writing that could only belong to one person.
After our fight this morning, I took some time to try to think things out so that we could talk more about them when you got home. Of course my first thought was about how to remind you of exactly what we'd fought about, since I knew you wouldn't remember by the time you got home. Then it occurred to me that I really had no idea when you would be home, though I knew it wouldn't be any time before eight o'clock.
Inuyasha glanced at the time on the nearby microwave—it was half past eleven.
That was when I realized that something was really wrong here, something that won't be fixed by my reminding you of our fight and your feeding me one of your ready-made apologies and promising that it will never happen again—until the next day, when it does. I don't know if it's you or me or the pair of us together that's the problem, but I've been thinking about this for awhile now, and I know that whatever it is, I can't just sit by and let this be, day after day. Not anymore. Maybe we've always been a mistake, and it's only now that I'm realizing it.
I've gone to my parents' house for the holidays, and I'm not sure exactly when I'll be coming back—I'm not sure if I'll be coming back at all. Maybe that would be the best thing for both of us.
For a long time, Inuyasha did nothing but stare at the page, letting the words and letters mesh themselves into soup as he'd done with the documents at his office earlier that evening. His jaw muscles tightened convulsively as he tried desperately to keep a handle on his emotions. But no matter what, two little words just couldn't seem to blend in: Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas indeed. There was another lovely thing to add to the list of reasons to hate Christmas.
All at once, the damn broke loose. He crumpled the paper in his fist, tearing at it ferociously until it was no more than a mangled collection of paper scraps, and then rounded on the nearest object he could find—a menacingly cheerful little ceramic Santa Claus—and hurled it against the wall with a glorious crash and a growled curse. It was followed by a reindeer and two wise men, a piece of which ricocheted off the wall and smashed into the tree, sending a symphony of little glass balls cascading to the floor in delicate pieces as well. He tore the cushions off the couches and threw them around the room—"Goddamn—" heave "—wench!"—kicked tables, scattered books from the shelves, knocked over lamps, until at last he threw his head back and screamed venomously, "Merry fucking Christmas to you too, bitch!"
Eventually his temper subsided somewhat, his breath coming in heavy gasps, his gaze twinged with darkness and malice and loathing—though of whom, he couldn't be entirely sure. He stormed over to the bar, foregoing a glass and snatching up an entire bottle of Macallan thirty-year-old scotch whiskey. Taking it back with him to the disheveled couch, he dropped to a seat, kicked off his shoes and flipped on his top of the line flat-panel screen TV with a vengeance, resolving to get drunk off his ass in the shortest amount of time possible.
"…had a very shiny nose…and if you ever saw it…you would even say it glows!" the television sang cheerily at him, and he scowled darkly at the clay-mation figures moving about the screen. He took a giant swig of scotch in defiance of the television's overt Christmas spirit and changed the channel.
"…the perfect gift for that special someone! It's still not too late! All stores open till one on Christmas Eve, for the last minute shopper!" He changed the channel again, grumbling a few choice profanities and something about shoving it up that special someone's ass.
A few more swigs of alcohol and what seemed like a hundred channels later, it was becoming clear that Inuyasha wouldn't even be able to escape Christmas on television. By that time, however, he hated the idea of standing up even more than he hated the idea of Christmas, so he finally settled on a channel that was playing something that struck him as the most acceptable thing on at the moment.
"…if they'd rather die, then they'd better do it, and decrease the surplus population," came an irritable, crotchety old voice. Finally, a kindred spirit.
"Uncle, you don't mean that!" a younger man protested.
"Yes he does," Inuyasha put in bitterly, not particularly caring that the man in the television couldn't hear him. He downed another deep gulp of amber liquid, relishing the warmth and calmness it seemed to be bringing to his body. At last, he could feel it really taking effect.
The images on the television set became blurrier and blurrier with the passage of time and the steady consumption of liquor. Soon, he was just barely aware of the noise in the room, his eyelids drooping heavily and his head nodding and jerking as his body drifted toward unconsciousness.
"God rest ye merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay…For Jesus Christ our sa-avior was born this Christmas day…to save us all from Satan's pow'r when we were gone astray…o-oh tidings of co-omfort and joy, comfort and joy…o-oh ti-idings of co-omfort and joy…"
The next thing he knew, Inuyasha awoke to the chime of a bell.
A/N: Edited this chapter a little more extensively than some, because it's always bothered me that I had Inuyasha taking the subway home (--grin--). Even when I first wrote it, I knew there was no earthly reason that the millionaire CEO of a media conglomerate could possibly have for taking the subway—but I wanted him to walk by the homeless man, and I couldn't figure out how to get him to do that if he had a car or a cab waiting for him at the curb. Anyway, I finally figured it out—he's in West Midtown. Not only is that area home to a lot of media-related businesses, but it's an area with big, wide avenues, and long, narrow, light-traffic cross-streets. If you're trying to catch a cab around there, you head for one of the high-traffic avenues to increase your odds—giving Inuyasha a perfect excuse to walk by the homeless man without taking the subway.