"What's the point?" Kenshiro said through the bathroom door. "You're still gonna be as ugly as you always are."

"Shut up, runt."

Kenshiro narrowed his eyes at the wooden door and returned, "Just because I'm not a gargantuan freak like you doesn't mean I'm a runt. Guys like girls to be petite and curvy, not big, ungainly and-"

The door swung open with a whoosh! of hot air, and a tall girl with black hair in a ponytail stood in the doorway, glaring death at him. "Finish that sentence, and you won't have to worry about your size, 'cause you'll be FLATTENED!"

Kenshiro rolled his eyes. "Could ya just hurry up Sakura? Some of us have to use the bathroom for what it's actually for."

Sakura narrowed her eyes at him. "You took a bath last night."

Kenshiro gave her a deadpan look and said flatly, "I gotta pee."

It was Sakura's turn to roll her eyes. She let go of the door and moved back in front of the bathroom mirror to continue applying her make-up, leaving the door open. "Go ahead."

Kenshiro's face flushed and he said, "Not with you in here!"

Sakura tossed a glance at him over her shoulder. "Touto, you're the only boy I know of who's embarrassed to pee around other people."1

Now Kenshiro flushed with more than just embarrassment. "Shut up and just get out!"

Sakura finished applying her eyeshadow and, with a chuckle and a pat on his head (which Kenshiro batted at her for), she exited the bathroom. As she continued to leave, Kenshiro called his parting shot, "And don't call me 'Touto!" His sister just laughed.

Muttering about 'stupid, oversized-freak' sisters, Kenshiro went about his business. He couldn't understand how Sakura could take everything in stride. He was a nervous wreck, barely sleeping an hour at a time before snapping awake. When he slept long enough to dream, it was always the usual strange dreams that had plagued him for as long as he could remember. They'd become less frequent while they lived in Kyoto, but now that they'd moved back to Tokyo, they'd become much more frequent, as well as more vivid. They'd only been back for five days, but already he was getting used to the dreams again.

Now that they were fairly moved in (his room was still piled with boxes, and every now and then someone had to hunt through all the remaining boxes to find something, but the furniture and most of the decorations were in their places), Sakura and he were getting ready for their first day of school. And despite the nervous jitters at the mere thought of going to a completely new school, Kenshiro was excited as well. It was true that he was a rather solitary boy, liking to keep to himself and he wasn't much of one for idle talk, but that didn't mean that he didn't enjoy being around other people, if just for the background noise.

His family had moved from Tokyo to Kyoto when he'd been seven, to live with his grandmother after his grandfather had died. The elderly couple had had a rather spacious house, built on what had been the outskirts of the metropolis at the time. Kyoto had grown to engulf the house, but it continued to sit on its lot, surrounded by apartment complexes and shopping stores. It had made more sense to move in with Baachan in the house, than have her move in with them, when their apartment at the time had barely been able to hold the four family members.

Baachan had died in her sleep just over two months ago, and after the funeral his mother hadn't wanted to stay in the house, with all the memories of her parents. So they'd come back to Tokyo, moved into a new apartment, and now he and Sakura would be started school again. They weren't in the same area as where they'd lived before, so anyone he'd known in elementary school wouldn't be in this school district, and no one at his new school would know anything about him. It was sort of refreshing.

Unfortunately, Sakura would be there as well. He shuddered to think about the rumors she could spread about him before the day was over. The girl had a disgusting habit of making friends as soon as she opened her mouth. She was quite the social butterfly. Everyone marveled at how different their personalities were. Neither one of them ever mentioned the fact that Sakura was really only his half-sister. It was a guarded secret they shared with very few people that Sakura's father had been a gaijin, an Englishman who'd left their mother high and dry when he found out she was pregnant. Kenshiro's father had been in love with her since they'd been in school together, and had offered to make her an "honest woman" by marrying her, and even helping her take care of the baby. Two years later, he'd been born.

He and his sister had always had a love/hate relationship, with emphasis on the hate, but when their parents had explained to her that Tousan wasn't her real father, it had made her very insecure. He had always teased her about her physical appearance, but he never once used her lineage as fodder. As far as he was concerned, she was his full sister, blood be damned; she sure got on his nerves full-time. And because she always teased him about being slightly small for his age (only slightly, but that never stopped her), he always teased her for being so tall, almost a head taller than their father, who stood at 5'2".

"Ken-chan! Sakura-chan! You need to get going or you'll be late!" His mother's voice brought Kenshiro out of his musings, and he hurried to finish getting dressed.

"Let's go, Touto!"

"Stop calling me that!" Kenshiro griped. he exited his room, just finishing buttoning his school blazer. Taking his obento box from his mother, he said, "Don't forget to pick up my new uniform please, Kaasan."

"I'll remember, Kenshiro. I love you." She kissed his cheek. Kenshiro made the face of every boy being kissed by his mother. "Kaasan!"

Once out the door, Sakura immediately began teasing him. "You know it's 'cause you're such a runt that they didn't have a uniform in stock that fit you."

"Yeah?" Kenshiro pointedly looked at Sakura's long legs, exposed under the very short skirt. "I bet that was the largest girl's uniform they had, and on all the other girls it falls below the knee."

Sakura swiped her school satchel at him, but Kenshiro easily dodged her. "It's gonna put everyone off their lunches if they have to look at your fat legs all morn - ack!" Kenshiro took off running before Sakura could make another grab at his blazer.

Just another ordinary day for the Nishino siblings.

"Everyone, I'd like to introduce to you Nishino Kenshiro. Nishino-san, why don't you take the empty seat beside Hamasaki-san."

Blushing, Eri raised her hand so he knew where to go. The seat beside her was also the one directly in front of Kagome. Kagome stared at the new boy. He was perhaps an inch taller than herself, with short hair sticking up in thick, stiff spikes. But one reason she stared was because he had followed the trendy boys' fashion of bleaching his naturally black hair to make it grey. However, he'd used too much bleach, making it an almost-white color. The other reason she was staring was the fact that instead of wearing the traditional black boys' uniform, he was wearing a red one.

Looking up when he stopped at his desk, Kagome realized he'd caught her staring at him. Knowing there was nothing else she could do, Kagome nodded in greeting.

Kenshiro nodded back and said, "Yo," then took his seat in front of her.

Kagome sat frozen as class started. That was how Inuyasha always greeted her.

Don't be stupid, Kagome, she berated herself later in class. Boys say 'yo' all the time. It means they're either lazy or impolite, nothing more.

But, hadn't his voice sounded just like Inuyasha's as well?

Don't be stupid, she repeated to herself. You may be going crazy, but you don't have to let everyone else know it. So, she went to work on her English workbook, even though she was sure she was doing it wrong. It was better than staring at the grey-haired boy in the red outfit in front of her.

At break, of course Ayumi and Yuka came over to speak to Eri - and introduce themselves to Nishino-san.

"Oh, uh, you can call me Kenshiro," he'd said, obviously uneasy at all the female attention.

"So, Kenshiro-kun," Yuka said, "Where'd you move from?"

"Kyoto."

"Wow," Eri murmured. "Do you like it in Tokyo?"

Kenshiro shrugged. "We used to live here, 'til I was seven. Just a different district, that's all."

"So, do you have a girlfriend?" Yuka asked. For some reason, Kagome found herself glancing up to see his reaction and hear his reply.

Kenshiro blushed. Damn, this girl was direct, wasn't she? Movement made him look around-

And he saw the girl seated behind him was listening as well. He was looking at her when he answered, "No, I don't." Realizing they might be encouraged by this, he went on, "I'm just not interested in having a girlfriend right now."

He saw the significant looks the three girls shared, and found himself blushing again. "Oi! I'm not like that! Girlfriends are just too much bother."

Yuka gasped at that. "What do you mean, 'too much bother'?"

Kenshiro gave her a flat look and said, "I have an older sister, and I know exactly what she's like. Girlfriends are too much bother."

"You can't base every girl on what your sister is like." Everyone was surprised to hear Kagome speaking, even Kagome herself.

Kenshiro looked at her for a long moment, then asked, "Do you have a boyfriend?"

The other three girls' eyes widened, and Ayumi gave a muffled gasp. Kagome's eyes went flat as she said simply, "No."

She ignored the four after that, turning back to her homework. It was just a stupid question, she didn't understand why it had upset her so much. The guy didn't even know her, how could he have known what a sensitive subject he'd hit upon? Kagome sighed, doodling in the margin of her workbook.

Kenshiro couldn't help but fidget as class started again. What did he care about the weird girl behind him? Kagome, was her name? He knew he'd hit a nerve with his earlier question - that had been his intention, after all - but he got the distinct impression that he'd hit a far bigger nerve than he'd meant to. While he was always pissing females off (with the female quite often being Sakura), he didn't like truly upsetting them. If he'd known her better, or even if he'd known the full extent of his infraction, he would have apologized. But since they'd been sitting right next to her, her friends couldn't tell him what was wrong, even if they'd been inclined to.

So instead, he just sat silently in front of her, halfheartedly taking notes and trying to ignore his niggling conscience.

It had been a long, trying day, and all Kagome wanted to do was to go home, curl up on the couch and veg out watching television. She packed her books into her school satchel and left the room before her friends could delay her. She continued to discreetly hurry out of the building; since she'd blatantly refused to go out with Hojo, he'd tended to keep his distance from her, though he still considered her a friend, and sometimes stopped to ask how she was feeling. But no one stopped her, and the further she got from the school, the more she relaxed.

"Hey, Kagome! Oi, wait up!"

Kagome paused, gritting her teeth and cursing in her head. What the hell did he want? Giving a small shake of her head, she continued walking. If he wanted to talk to her, he could bloody well catch up with her. Hopefully though, he wouldn't want to go to so much trouble.

No such luck, however. Kenshiro came jogging up beside her. "I asked you to wait for me," he said, sounding a little peeved.

Kagome ignored his gripe, instead asking him, "Why aren't you wearing one of our school uniforms?"

Kenshiro shrugged and answered, "My mother's picking one up today for me. They didn't have one in my size in stock, so I had to wear my old one. Why?" It was such a strange question; what did she care what uniform he wore, unless she was one of those sticklers for being part of the group, uniformity and conformity and all that.

Kagome shrugged. "Red's not really your color." This, of course, was a complete lie; it bothered her for reasons she'd rather not think about to see this boy wearing a red blazer and red pants. She wasn't sure which was more disconcerting, that he had grey hair to make him look even more like Inuyasha, or that his uniform looked wrong on him because it didn't have the billowing sleeves and legs of the old fashioned haori and hakama. He looked just enough like the hanyou to make her upset, and just wrong enough to make her even more upset. The boy just bothered her.

They walked in silence for a few moments, Kagome doing her best to just ignore him. And then finally -

"'M sorry."

Kagome whipped her head around to stare at him incredulously. "Excuse me?" she asked faintly. Was it so obvious that his presence bothered her? Had one of her friends told him about Inuyasha, what he looked like perhaps?

Kenshiro shrugged. "I said I'm sorry." He sighed heavily. "I'm not sure what it was or why, but something I said upset you during break. I didn't mean to, and I'm sorry that I did."

Kagome was speechless. He didn't even know what he'd done wrong, but he was apologizing to her. How could I have thought he was like Inuyasha? He would never have apologized outright, even if he had known what he'd done. "Oh. Um..." She tried to think of something to say to him. "Well, you're forgiven. You don't know me, so of course you wouldn't know what would upset me."

Kenshiro shrugged again. "Still, I should have been more polite."

Looking over at him, scuffing his feet as he walked, hands clasped behind his back with his shoulders hunched, and his lips pursed out, Kagome couldn't help but be amuzed. He obviously wasn't any more comfortable apologizing than Inuyasha had been-

Stop that! He's not Inuyasha, she admonished herself harshly. Inuyasha's dead. You'll never see him again. Get used to it. It had been a while since she'd had to berate herself for being reminded of the hanyou. It had to be because Kenshiro looked so much like him, she reasoned. This didn't make her feel any better, however.

Her good mood completely vanished now, Kagome decided to just ignore Nishino-san. Hopefully he'd take the hint and leave her alone. Or more likely, he'd just get bored. As long as he left, she didn't care.

Ten minutes later, and Kenshiro didn't seem to have any intention of going away. Kagome was getting fed up. Finally, she heaved a sigh and asked, "Don't you have to go home?"

Kenshiro looked over at her and flashed her a smirk. "Trying to get rid of me? For your information, I am going home. I live in the apartment complex just past the Higurashi shinto shrine."

Kagome came to a dead stop, staring at him. He took a few more steps before realizing she wasn't still with him. He stopped and turned to look back at her. "You... you live by the shrine?" she asked faintly.

Kenshiro nodded. "Yeah, you know it?"

Kagome stared at him for a long moment, debating what to tell him. She really didn't want him to know where she lived, but she supposed she had to tell him. For one thing, eventually, he would learn her last name, and there weren't any other Higurashis in this school district. More directly, if he was determined to walk home beside her (as he seemed to be doing), she would have to go up the shrine steps with him right there. Even Hojo wasn't that oblivious. And this guy didn't strike her as the oblivious type, anyway. Sighing, she answered, "Yes, I know it. I'm Higurashi Kagome. My family lives at the shrine." So long as he didn't begin stalking her, she couldn't exactly see the harm in telling him (other than the fact that she didn't want him to know anything personal about her, for some reason.)

Kenshiro blinked, nonplussed. "Oh. So... what's that like?" At her confused look, he clarified, "Living at a shrine. That's gotta be different."

Kagome shrugged as they resumed walking. "Not that different, really. Jiichan takes care of the shrine and the grounds, and any visitors who are interested in the old legends of the place."

Kenshiro nodded. "That's cool. I gotta admit, I don't observe as many of the rituals as I probably should, but when I saw the shrine after we moved, I thought I oughtta start using it, since it's right there anyway."

There went her hopes that he wouldn't start stalking her. It's not enough I have to see him every day at school, Kagome thought, now he's gonna be showing up at the shrine. Though, being raised at the shrine, she sort of took it for granted. If she wanted to pray to her ancestors or ask for their blessing, she just crossed the courtyard. A lot of people had little shrines in their home, but it wasn't the same atmosphere as one got at the shrine. Kagome resigned herself to the fact that she would be seeing Kenshiro quite often.

When they reached the shrine steps, Kenshiro bid her goodbye and watched her jaunt up the steep stairs. He stayed there for a few moments, just looking up at the gate. He'd been serious when he said he'd visit, but not completely truthful about his reasoning. Oh, he'd been neglectful in his faith, sure, but it was more than that. As soon as he'd seen the quaint little shrine grounds, he'd felt a pull to it, as if it were calling him. Something about the area stirred something inside him. It was a bit like how he felt upon waking from one of his dreams, as he tried to grasp at the elusive images and feelings that had been evoked.

His eyes wandered over to look at the tall, ancient oak tree on the grounds. Yes. The place called to him.


1: Okay, first of all, Touto is a version of "otouto", the Japanese word for 'little brother'. Like shortening 'okaasan' to 'kaasan', it just makes it more intimate, but in this case, Sakura is using it to emphasize "little brother", to piss Kenshiro off. I use the Japanese words for family in this, but otouto is one of the less-familiar ones in fanfiction, so I felt I should give an explanation.

Please tell me what you think! I'd really like some feedback on this story.