Chapter 1

The Fight

"Why didn't Nezumi tag along?" Izayoi Kichiro asked as he reached over to snag the half-empty bottle of bad sake out of his brother's hand.

Izayoi Ryomaru shot his sibling a scowl as he stuffed his hands into his pockets, hunching forward slightly as he kept walking along the crowded streets of downtown Tokyo. "Do you think we should stop calling her that?" Ryomaru asked with a slightly nervous shrug as the fall wind whipped his long silvery hair into his face. "I don't think she likes it anymore."

Kichiro sucked down a fortifying quaff of the sake and belched as he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "She doesn't care. It suits her. She's sneaky, like a rat . . . Hell . . . do you even remember her real name?"

Ryomaru shot his brother a half-assed grin. "Do you?"

Kichiro returned the other half of the grin. "Nope."

Well, that wasn't entirely true. Ryo remembered her real name. How could he forget? He remembered the day he'd first met the rat- Nezumi- years ago. It was the first day of third grade.

The boys attended the alternative school because their father was one of the founders. A private school that stressed the study of the martial arts for children in addition to the normal school curriculum, Tokyo Academy afforded the children more freedom than standard public schools. To the boys, it had simply meant that they weren't required to wear uniforms. It also meant that their younger sister, Gin could probably hand both of them their asses served up on a silver platter since she had excelled in jeet kune do training . . .

Every year there were a few new students, the timid few who didn't quite fit in that first day because they had moved over the summer or transferred in. Nezumi was one of them. She looked Japanese for the most part, if you didn't look at her eyes. Her eyes were an amazing shade of blue, and depending on her mood, they could freeze you at twenty yards or shine when she laughed. Either way, Ryo figured he'd seen her eyes every shade of blue there was, and some shades that she had to have invented.

But that day . . .

Ryomaru and Kichiro had been separated for the first time in their lives in the third grade. For identical twin brothers, it was a tough thing. During the first recess, feeling dejected and lonely since his best friend was still in the middle of math class, Ryo had wandered down to the playground only to see the new girl in the middle of a circle of three boys from their class. He didn't have to come much closer to hear their taunts, and the taunts made him bristle.


"Stupid Yankee!"

"You aren't Japanese! Go back where you came from!"

Ryomaru realized that the boys were jeering about her obviously mixed parentage. It still bothered him. He and Kichiro were hanyous- half inu-youkai, half human. The youkai traits, like their hanyou ears, fangs, and claws were hidden by a concealment charm their mother had put on them. They'd been told, though, about their father's past and the way he'd been treated in his youth. Izayoi InuYasha was the last person anyone would pity. Told more as a warning to youngsters who liked to get into mischief, Izayoi Kagome had frequently regaled stories of their past. Most of the barely disguised warnings contained the message that with their hanyou strength, it would be far too easy to physically hurt someone without meaning to and for that reason; they should take care to control themselves.

Either way, it didn't sit well with Ryo that this girl would be picked on for something that she couldn't control any better than he could and he shot forward with every intention of making those boys eat their words.

"Leave her alone."

Four heads turned to stare at him. Ryomaru didn't back down. The largest of the boys laughed. "You going to stop us, Izayoi? You going to go crying to your father?"

"I don't need my old man to fight you bakas."

"I'd like to see you try," he scoffed.

Ryomaru stumbled a little when Kenichi, the biggest of them and their ringleader, shoved him. Ryo caught himself and shoved back, hard enough to send the bigger boy sprawling on his rear.

The two others grabbed him, and he struggled, wishing that he could forget the constant reminders of his abnormal strength for once as Kenichi got to his feet and balled up his fist.

"Stop it!" the girl shrieked as she shoved her way between Ryo and Kenichi. "He's smaller than you, and there are three of you! That's hardly fair, you bullies!"

Kenichi looked like he was considering hitting her, but the girl didn't back down. "Go back to wherever you came from! This is between us Japanese people!" Kenichi snarled as he raised his hand to shove her. Her arm was a blur of movement as she brought it up to block Kenichi.

Not wanting to be bested by a girl, Kenichi swung at her. She blocked that, too, before her fist shot out in another streak of momentum. There was a shocking thud just before Kenichi fell to his knees, hands covering his nose and blood pouring from between his fingers. "She broke my nose!" he wailed. When she turned to glare at the two boys still holding onto Ryo's arms even though he'd stopped struggling, it didn't take them long to decide they'd rather not have broken noses, too. They ran as Kenichi staggered to his feet and stumbled away.

"I didn't need your help," she informed him in a tone so icy that it matched her bright blue eyes.

"Feh!" Ryomaru snorted, irritated that she didn't even bother to thank him for trying to help. "Never mind, then!"

"They were bigger than you, if you didn't notice," she went on. "They'd have flattened you!"

"Not hardly," he retaliated, cheeks pinking in indignant anger. "I could have done that." He stood in silence a moment then finally, grudgingly, asked, "So where did you learn to fight like that?"

Scuffing her toe in the dirt, she was still scowling when he finally looked up at her. "My dad. He's a black belt in tae kwon do."

Ryo nodded. "I'm Ryomaru."

"I know. I'm Deirdre . . . but I hate it," she admitted with a consternated frown.

"What do they call you, if you don't like your name?"

She shrugged. "My cousin used to call me Nezumi."

"Rat?" Ryo echoed dubiously. "And you like that better than Deirdre?"

She shrugged again.

The bell toned indicating the end of recess. Ryo turned to leave but stopped and glanced back at the new girl. "Come on," he muttered. "If you hang out with me, they'll leave you alone."

She looked like she wanted to argue with him. In the end, she returned to the school beside him, and they'd been the best of friends ever since.

"Earth to Ryo . . . where the hell is your head?" Kichiro demanded as he waved the bottle in front of Ryomaru's face.

Ryo snorted and snatched the bottle back. "Never mind," he grumbled as he downed a swallow of the liquor.

"Well, answer my question," Kichiro griped as he grabbed for the bottle but missed when Ryo whisked it out of his reach.

"What question?"

Kichiro snorted. "I said, do you think Nezumi's a lesbian? She's never dated anyone . . . she never wears dresses . . . she's a mechanic . . ."

"Shut up."

"Think about it! That would explain a lot, you know?"

Ryo stopped and shot his brother a very rare glower since it wasn't often that he was truly irritated with him. "I said, shut up," he growled. "That ain't even funny."

Kichiro rolled his eyes. "I wasn't trying to be funny," he pointed out. "I've been wondering it for awhile. I should ask her. I mean, if she thinks we won't like her because she likes girls, that's just stupid. You like girls, and I don't hate you."

"Shut the hell up, bastard! Nezumi ain't a lesbian!"

Kichiro frowned. "Why are you getting so mad? It's just Nezumi . . ."

"'Just Nezumi'? What the fuck does that mean?"

Kichiro narrowed his golden gaze at his twin. "Calm down, baka! I was just wondering, that's all! I'm cool with it! Kami!"

"You mean Uncle Yasha hasn't leashed you two yet?" Inutaisho Toga drawled as he stopped beside Kichiro with his mate, Sierra, beside him.

Ryo and Kichiro continued the stare down without acknowledging their cousin's existence. "If you say it again, I'll make you eat those words," Ryo promised as he cracked his knuckles.

"Right," Kichiro countered. "If you think you can . . ."

Toga stepped between the brothers, gently but firmly pushing them both back. "Knock it off, bakas. Uncle Yasha will have your asses if you start a fight out here."

Ryo didn't bother to answer that as he turned and strode away.

Just why did Kichiro's stupid commentary bother him? Ryomaru shook his head as he tipped the bottle to his lips again. 'Because . . . she's one of our best friends, that's why,' he reasoned as he turned the corner and dropped the empty bottle into a trash bin.

Ryomaru made a face as he headed into a small liquor store. Honestly, she was probably his best friend, other than Kichiro. He told her just about everything, with the exception of the details of his heritage. He didn't think she'd freak out or anything, but his parents had said that it was information that was best not to be shared until he chose a mate, and that wouldn't be happening for a long, long time.

Grabbing a bottle of sake, Ryomaru paid for it and left the store, absently noting the way the girl behind the counter had eyed him. If he turned back around and asked her, he was pretty sure he'd be able to get himself a date . . .

Ryomaru opened the bottle and kept walking.

'All right, Kich has a point,' Ryo thought as he drank. So far as he knew, Nezumi never had mentioned any guys, ever. That didn't make her a lesbian though . . . even if she did wear oversized clothing that hid every bit of her body, and even if she was a mechanic. Fact was he'd been forced to call her a few times when his car broke down. That was one of the reasons he was walking now. The sports car he'd bought more for looks than anything else was, once again, in the shop. He could have used his motorcycle but toting Kich around on that . . . well, Ryomaru would rather not.

He shrugged as he wandered down the street that led to Nezumi's apartment building. It wouldn't hurt to see if she was finished with it even if he couldn't take it home tonight since he was drinking. That was a serious drawback to having an inu-hanyou father. InuYasha could always smell liquor on his sons within seconds.

Wincing as he jarred his shoulder against a light pole, Ryo shook his head. 'Fuck! I think I'm drunk . . . oi, that rhymed . . . didn't it?' He frowned. 'Maybe not . . .'

Stopping in front of the twenty-five story apartment building, Ryo made a face. 'Damn . . . why can't she live on the ground floor?'

With a sigh, he stumbled toward the building, set to climb the twenty-five flights of stairs to his friend's apartment.


Mitako Deirdre- Nezumi to her friends- cut through the plastic film on the frozen dinner and carelessly tossed it into the microwave, pausing long enough to make sure that it was right side up before she slammed the door and set the timer.

Shuffling off toward the bathroom, she unhooked the clasps on her denim bib overalls, holding the overly-large clothes in place until she closed the door behind herself. Letting them fall with a clink as the metal clasps hit the polished hardwood floor, she sighed and winced at the collected grease and grime that had accumulated on her face during the day.

The shapeless white tee-shirt followed the overalls onto the floor just before she turned on the faucet to wash off some of the accumulated filth. 'Washing up before my shower? How sad,' she thought with a wan smile as she scooped some industrial hand scrub out of the large bucket beside the sink and rubbed her hands together.

It was later than normal. Her normal routine consisted of coming home, cleaning up, eating, and spending the rest of her evening watching a movie or reading a good book before going to bed. Tonight, though, she had stayed late at the shop in the hopes of finishing the repairs on Ryomaru's transmission. 'I should have known he'd blow it up . . . he doesn't ever check anything in that car . . .' She shook her head. Normally she checked his car at least once a week to make sure that all the fluids were full enough, to make sure he didn't forget to have the oil changed, that sort of thing.

Nezumi turned on the shower taps before unbraiding her hair and letting it fall to the middle of her back. She scratched her skull with a wince. She loved being a mechanic. It was the only thing she had ever really wanted to do. She didn't particularly like being dirty, but it came with the territory.

The sensible white cotton bra and matching panties fell away, and she paused long enough to stretch before stepping into the steaming shower with a tired sigh. 'I ought to tack a baka charge onto Ryo's bill,' she thought with a wan smile as she lathered her hair. 'That'd serve him right . . . maybe next time he'll check the transmission fluid before he has to shell out the big bucks again to have it replaced . . .'

Trouble was, even if she did that, he wouldn't notice or care. Ryomaru had been raised too close to money, she figured. Even now, he had a job working for his uncle, Inutaisho Sesshoumaru that was basically just a reason to hand over money to him, in her opinion. At least Kichiro had a real job. He'd decided to attend college and was a surgeon. Ryomaru, it seemed, was content to be a first-rate playboy.

She'd known Ryomaru and his twin, Kichiro for too long. Both of them were more concerned with playing than anything of real value. Neither of them really knew how to be serious, either. She had a feeling it was because of their hair. She'd never seen anyone else with silvery hair like theirs, aside from some other members of their family. It was absolutely uncanny. It also brought girls clamoring around the two thicker than bees to honey, and if it wasn't their hair, it had to be their eyes. Golden. She'd never seen golden eyes like theirs before, either . . .

She shook her head as a frown edged aside the little smile that had been gracing her lips. 'Friends.' She sighed. It used to be enough, the close bond she had with them, at least, with Ryomaru. Kichiro was a good friend, but Ryomaru . . .

There was a quiet sense of respect, a weird understanding. She didn't have to explain things to him, like why she wanted to be a mechanic. He always understood without her having to tell him. She wasn't sure why, since they were absolutely identical, but for some reason, she always knew which one was which. There was a certain quality about Ryomaru, something that he rarely showed anyone else. The same flamboyant guy that cracked jokes and always had another girl to tell her about had a softer side, too- one that liked to watch sunsets, loved to run through his father's forest.

She made a face as she rinsed the suds out of her hair and off her body. She wasn't sure when she'd first noticed that her feelings for Izayoi Ryomaru had changed. She figured it was about the same time that most other girls discovered boys for the first time. It was just that when she did, she'd discovered Ryomaru right under her nose, as it were, and she'd never been able to see past him. Once, in the past, she had come close to telling him. They'd been on a school camp out in his father's forest. He'd crept into the tent she shared with three other girls to wake her up, to have her watch the sunrise with him.

"It's really something, isn't it?" she asked softly as the sun peeked over the horizon.

"Mother makes the old man watch them all the time with her. I used to think it was . . . mushy . . ."

"Too masculine to watch a sunrise?"

Ryomarugrinned. "The old man told me that it was a way to give thanks for the things you have."

Hearing Ryomaru, who respected his father more than anyone else in the world, say those words . . . Nezumi smiled, too.

She shrugged, lost in the tent of an oversized green sweatshirt. "Maybe . . ."

He picked individual blades of grass and tore them into tiny bits. "Listen, uh . . . I wanted to ask you something."


A slight blush washed into his cheeks as he studiously avoided her gaze. "There's this girl . . . I really like her . . . but she doesn't really pay much attention to me . . ."

Nezumi blinked quickly and pulled her knees up against her rapidly beating heart. "Okay," she murmured again.

"She makes me feel . . . I don't know . . . different . . . do you know what I mean?"

She swallowed hard. "I . . . yes . . ."

He grinned. "Really? Good . . . then you do."

She opened her mouth to tell him, gathered her courage to blurt out the truth of her feelings. She felt dizzy, light headed. She took a deep breath but Ryomaru continued before she got a chance. "I was wondering if . . . if you'd go to the spring dance with me . . . you know, so I don't have to show up alone? I thought I could see how she acts then . . . ?"

Swallowing her disappointment, she could only pray he didn't see any of the emotions that shot through her right then as she shifted her gaze back to the horizon and slowly nodded. "Okay," she muttered for the third time.

Ryomaru's grin was her reward. "Thanks! I owe you one."

She watched him get up and walk way with a bounce in his step, and she never tried to tell him how she felt again, especially after she'd walked home that night, after the dance. Ryomaru had gotten the girl to notice him. That relationship lasted about a week.

She'd done a lot of stupid things in the past, trying to get him to notice that she wasn't just 'one of the guys'. Once she'd even worn a dress to school, which was a complete failure since it was one of the days that Ryomaru skipped with Kichiro. She didn't even want to guess what they'd done that day, but when they showed up the next day, they both had tired circles under their eyes and could barely stay awake in classes.

'Face it, Nez. You're just no good at those girlish games.'

She sighed and shut off the tap. Her mother died just before her father brought her to Tokyo. Kate Barber Mitako was an Irish-American. Nezumi's father had met her while working for the American branch of the Japanese-based company. After Kate died, Yoshi had applied for a transfer back to Tokyo and had packed up Nezumi without a second thought. He was a good man but rarely home, and he knew next to nothing about raising a child, especially a girl. What she'd learned was mostly from books, television, or Ryomaru and Kichiro.

Besides that, she'd seen the kind of girls the twins dated: stupid girls with nothing in the attic but a whole lot stuffed into the staircases, so to speak. Staring at her reflection in the mirror, Nezumi stifled another sigh. 'Why would he notice you? You're nothing like those girls . . .' And that was a good thing, right?

So why did that make her want to cry?

'Stop that!' she scolded herself. 'Life goes on, so get over it!'

Wrapping herself in a fluffy blue towel as her hair dripped down her back and onto the floor, she wrinkled her nose. So exhausted from the extra hours she'd put in, she'd forgotten to grab clean clothes.

Shivering just a little as the cooler air outside the bathroom hit her, Nezumi stepped into the hallway.

"You got any salt around here? This is nasty."

Whirling around with a soft gasp as her face exploded in a dark flush, Ryomaru glanced up from the microwave dinner- her microwave dinner- with a grin that faded the moment his eyes locked on her. The chopsticks in his hand fell with a loud clatter onto the counter as his eyes grew wide in shock.

Ryomaru straightened up and struggled to find his voice. "Oi! You're a girl!"

Cheeks growing even hotter, Nezumi reached back into the bathroom to grab her robe since it was closest. "What? You thought I just got a sex change in the bathroom, Ryo?" she snapped as she jerked the belt closed.

"Feh! No, but you never looked like a damn girl before," he retorted as he grabbed his sake bottle and drank straight from it.

Nezumi wrinkled her nose at the accusing tone in his voice and stomped past him into the kitchen to dig a glass out of the cupboard. It was one of the few things she couldn't stand. It drove her insane to watch someone drink out of a container like that. Before she thought about it, she grabbed another glass and plunked them both down in front of him. "You ate my dinner, so the least you can do is share," she remarked.

He stared at her another moment before splashing liquid into both glasses, which he promptly ignored as he raised the bottle to his lips again. Nezumi was faster, swiping the bottle away and shoving a glass in his hand before he got a chance to take another swig. Satisfied with his look of contrition- a shrug and a cheesy grin- Nezumi narrowed a warning glare at him. "Don't make me take this with me," she warned him as she set the bottle back on the counter and headed off to get dressed.

"Kich says you're a lesbian."

That stopped her in her tracks. She gasped and whirled around yet again to stare, drop-mouthed, at Ryomaru, who was casually drinking his sake as though he hadn't just made that last statement. "Wh-what?"

Ryomaru shrugged as he dumped more sake into his empty glass. "Kich says he thinks you're a lesbian. Me? I think you've got too damn nice a body to be one." Tilting his head to the side, an odd light entering his gaze, Ryomaru wandered toward her, unwrapped his index finger from the glass to lift her chin. "Tell me he's wrong."

"You're drunk," she muttered, pulling away from him and turning to leave once more.

He caught her hand. "I'm not drunk," he snorted. "I'd know it if I was."

She rolled her eyes and jerked the glass out of his hand. "You'd think so," she muttered dryly as she drained the glass, wincing as the sake burned a path into her empty stomach. She made a face. "Ugh! I hope you didn't pay good money for that."

He chuckled. "Want more?"

She squeezed her eyes closed. "No, thanks." Tugging her hand free, she strode off toward her bedroom, closing the door behind her.

'A lesbian?' she thought as an indignant flush washed over her skin. Pulling a fresh pair of panties and a clean bra out of the bureau drawer and dropping them on the bed, she snorted as she rummaged around for a tee shirt. 'Just you wait, Kich . . . you're so going to pay for that . . .'

Dropping the robe and the towel, she sat down on the edge of the bed and was just sticking her foot into her panties when Ryomaru smacked the door open. "Ryo!" she shrieked as she scrambled for her robe and tried to cover herself at the same time. "Get out!"

The sound that came out of him was something of a gasp with a little whine and a rough growl, all mixed together. If he heard her, he didn't give any indication as he stumbled toward her, stepping on her robe and dropping to his knees before her. "Damn . . . why the fuck did you hide this?" he growled quietly as he gently grasped her wrists, pulled her arms away from her chest.

Before she could answer, before she could think of much of anything since he was just too close, much too close, he dropped his cheek onto her lap, his eyes still staring into hers as his breath hit her in a violent shockwave to her system. 'Move, Nezumi! Move now!' her mind screamed. Her body wouldn't do it.

"Kami, I can smell you," he mumbled, his gaze falling away, raking over her as she gasped.

She opened her mouth to tell him to stop, tried to tell him to leave so she could get dressed. Words were stuck behind the sharp pain of her heart. It felt like it was trying to escape, and it whispered to her. 'One night, Nezumi . . . just one . . . you've loved him forever, remember? You've always loved him . . .'

He sat up slowly, eyes piercing hers as his gaze returned. Fire banked in his stare, and he didn't let go of her wrists. "Have you . . . ever been kissed . . . Deirdre?"

And maybe that was it; perhaps that was where she lost her battle, and he won his. The sound of her name from his lips . . . she shook her head 'no' just as he leaned in, eyelids fluttering closed, as his lips fell on hers.


Nezumi: Rat. The boys use it as a nickname for one of their female friends.

I wasn't planning on uploading this yet BUT… I've had a really rotten birthday, and… well… torturing InuYasha's Purity twins… well that's just too good to pass up. This fic will not be updated till Purity 2 is finished … (You've been warned. LoL!)

Final Thought from Kichiro :

You mean she's not a lesbian … ?

Blanket disclaimer for this fanfic (will apply to this and all other chapters in Forever): I do not claim any rights to InuYasha or the characters associated with the anime/manga. Those rights belong to Rumiko Takahashi, et al. I do offer my thanks to her for creating such vivid characters for me to terrorize.