AN: Okay, so here's the lovely new chapter, as promised. :3
Chapter Sixteen: Halt and Desist
Inuyasha shot her a slightly vexed look. "Are you deaf? You're going home."
She leapt off the bench, momentarily forgetting her earlier terror. "But the deal was that I would stay for three months! You can't just cut it off like that!"
He fixed her with a stony glare. "I'm doing that now."
"For God's sake, just listen to me!" He was suddenly in her face, gripping her shoulders with his volume turned up loud. "This is fucking serious! It's not about publicity, or trying to hold a grudge! This is your life we're talking about." The grip on her shoulders was ever increasing, and she could only stare up at him in mute wonder. His gaze was warm on her face, and it was a long while before she could speak again.
"Inuyasha…" she breathed. Her heart pounded in her chest. "I thought they were after you?"
The pressure on her shoulders suddenly left, and he moved his gaze deliberately to the right; his voice turned soft. "Go home, Kagome."
"Well, you actually did the right thing for once. Surprising, really."
Inuyasha didn't even bother to spare her a glance, just twitched his silver ear in her general direction, his gaze unwavering on the back of Kagome who was slowly trudging away. "You heard all of it?"
Ayame inspected her fingernails - enough time for Inuyasha to come out of his staring stupor. "Enough."
He gave an irritated growl. "Why are you here?"
"Well, let's see, I dropped by a few days ago, but Sango told me you weren't here, so I went to Kouga's and came -"
"Let me rephrase. Why are you here at all?"
She gave an innocent smile. "Why, can't I visit my old buddy? Catch up with what's going on in their life since we last met?"
"Bull," he scowled.
"Hn. Take it as you want." She dropped the sweet-girl act and locked penetrating green eyes on him. "Word out on the street says that you're being pursued. And not in the good way."
"'Word' is right. Have you kept in touch with them?"
She didn't take her eyes off him. "A little. Mostly just you and Kouga though."
Inuyasha grimaced, the line of his mouth tightening considerably. "How much do you know?"
"Not enough. A blood freak, they say. Out for your blood, in particular. Apparently, that freak doesn't care how many they have to kill to get to you, because the body count is high and still rising."
He heaved a frustrated sigh. "Fantastic. Fan-fucking-tastic!"
Ayame was quiet for a while. "I'm sorry."
"No." Golden eyes cut to hers. "I don't need your pity. I need information."
"I don't have any now, but I'll pass it on to you if I hear anything."
"Immediately. I want it right away."
She inclined her head, a secret smile twitching at her own lips. "Of course. But in order to be so close, I'll have to be staying on the premises."
Eyes widening. "On the premises?"
She never answered, choosing only instead to give a short, mocking bow. "Until next time, then, your Highness." And then she was gone.
"-And that's there all is to it, really," Kagome finished explaining.
"Kagome. Come home now."
"But Mama! It'll be all right if I stay. The security here is so good, and I won't be in any more danger-"
"Kagome, you just said so yourself! There's a murderer, looking for him! Goodness knows what they'd do with you too!"
She grasped the phone tighter in her hand. "But that's the point. They're after him, not me, so surely it doesn't matter whether I stay or not?"
"There is a murderer about." The soft tones of her Mother echoed through the receiver. "You can't expect me not to be anxious about you being there."
She felt tears prickling at the corners of her eyes. I hate making Mama worry. "I know, Mama. I'm sorry. I've thought about that myself. But Inuyasha will look after me." At least, his security will…
There was an uncertain silence. "Well, I still think you should come home. Souta misses you, Ji-chan says he needs you to come back to help out in the shrine, and… the house is lonely without you, Kagome. I honestly don't know how I much longer I can go on like this."
Kagome swallowed against the lump in her throat. "I miss everyone too. And… really, there's only about a month and a half to go. We could arrange to meet someplace. "
"Besides…" She clenched her hand, as if steeling herself. "I want to stay."
Her mother sighed, on the other end. "I… understand. I hope you know what you're doing. It's just… why?"
A nervous smile flitted about her mouth, even though she knew her mother couldn't see. "To be honest… I'm not entirely sure myself."
Sango passed it to Miroku without comment, keeping her eyes on the paperwork in her desk. The sponsorship with Pepsi was nearly finished, and they would probably be signing Inuyasha on again soon…
Again, absent-mindedly she reached out for the purple fountain pen she knew he favoured, drew it out of the pen pot on her desk and handed it to him. There was a letter from some rabid fan girl… Sango wondered how that had gotten through. Must've been one resourceful fan girl to get it here… With a disgruntled sigh, she eyed the love heart that framed the name it was addressed to: Inuyasha. …Or just desperate. She laid it on a table beside her, planning to give it to Inuyasha later. She doubted that he'd open the letter before throwing it in the trash - he never did take declarations of undying love well, let alone from someone he didn't know…
"Playboy magazine?" Her hand stretched automatically to the glossy magazine - before whipping it back. "Miroku!"
She made a sort of growling noise at the back of her throat. Now that Inuyasha and Kagome had come to a temporary truce of sorts, she was free to banter with him under their scrutiny - unfortunately, this meant she had to put up with his lecherous habits again. She took the magazine and fed it through the paper shredder one sheet at a time, a satisfied expression covering her face at the end.
Indignant. "Hey, I paid good money for that!"
"Good." She went back to working. "I'll just let it hang on your conscious that you wasted a part of a tree's life on your perverted desire to see photos of skimpily dressed women."
He grumbled, before turning back to his computer. Sango watched him suspiciously for a couple of minutes before speaking. "You're not downloading porn again, are you?"
She'd commandeered his mouse before he could finish off his sentence. A couple of simple clicks showed that he'd been playing on Tetris. Innocent.
A small sigh escaped the man next to her, before he gently removed her hand from the mouse and covered it with his own hand. "You should trust me more, Sango."
She flinched as if stung, and she stared into expressive dark violet eyes. A moment passed before she found she could move again, and she tore her gaze away and sat down.
The phone rang.
Sango picked it up gladly, wishing she couldn't feel his eyes on her. "Hello?" She mustered a bright tone, in attempt to clear out the tension in the room.
He watched her curiously as she listened attentively to the other person on the phone. Her mouth formed a small 'oh' in surprise, before she said her goodbyes and put down the phone. Her gaze moved straight to him.
She fidgeted a little. "We have a rehearsal dinner for the wedding tomorrow. I know it's a little short notice, but do you think you could make it?"
His eyes glinted. "Of course."
The first thing he saw was Kagome slumped happily on the couch, remote in her outstretched hand, channel-hopping. "Aren't you meant to be packing?"
She dropped the remote control onto the coffee table and gave him a sunny smile. "Oh, that… Mama says it's fine, by the way."
Suspicious. "Fine… to go home?"
She gave him one of those, 'No, aren't you silly?' looks. "Fine to stay here," she clarified.
He felt like shaking her. "What does it take to get it through your thick head? You're going to get killed if you stay here! How much more of an incentive do you need to get your ass out of here?"
Her smile stayed. "Wow, Inuyasha. That was a big word for you to use. Have you been reading a dictionary lately?"
He felt a low growl rumble deep in his throat. "Bitch. This is no joking matter."
"On the contrary. I find the image of you reading a dictionary very amusing indeed."
Inuyasha stalked over to the couch were she sat. Planting two hands flat on the top of the couch, either side of her head, he leaned forward predatorily. "Go. Home."
Her large brown eyes widened innocently. "Why, Inuyasha, anyone else would think you don't welcome me here."
His only response was to growl louder. "Wench!" He took her by the shoulders and let his voice lower. "Now is not the time to be stubborn."
Dark eyes fixed onto his, her voice light yet filled with determination. "Inuyasha… I'm sorry. I've decided to stay. And nothing you can say is going to make me change my mind."
"Why? Tell me why the fuck you have any reason to stay." He crossed his arms. "What is it? The publicity? You'll have enough of that when you finish the film. Friends? Sango, or Miroku? You can have their phone numbers. Is it this place - the luxury?" He gave her a cold look. "You'd have to go home sometime."
Kagome drew back, genuinely stung. "I'd rather go home if I had to choose between my house and this mansion!"
"Then do it. Go home."
She looked at him tersely. "No." She reached over to the coffee table and flipped open a magazine. It was the one she'd read before, that one where the quiz had deduced (for some inane reason) that her perfect man was -
"Why won't you go home?" Kagome didn't like that tone. It was entirely too slow, too thoughtful and deliberate. She busied herself with the magazine. Right, let's try this again…
And his voice was suddenly by her ear, the words slick as he purred them. "Is it… because of me?"
Kagome shut the magazine rather abruptly, and then wheeled to face him. Her brisk tone brooked no argument. "Yes, it is you, Inuyasha. I don't want to go home until I've solved a few things. Like, why are you so arrogant? Why were you in military school? What kind of dark past do you have that makes it all right for you to have all this and still be a grumpy, selfish, violent jerk?" She gestured around the room, then dropped her arm. Kagome tilted her head, looking at him tiredly. "What happened to you, Inuyasha?"
His golden eyes watched her darkly. "Well, you've obviously been wanting to get that off your chest." The hard, tight line of his mouth told her he was downright pissed - something she'd guessed he would be once she finished her little speech. "What happened to me? More than anything your little schoolgirl imagination could cope with. But have you even considered that there are things in people's lives that like to be hidden?"
"Surely you've been in the spotlight so much that you're used to prying." She raised an eyebrow.
He picked up the magazine on Kagome's lap, flicking through it with a contemptuous finger. "To a certain extent. I've been surrounded by it since I was born, of course." He got to the main feature of the magazine: an 'exclusive' interview with Inuyasha himself, and several glossy pictures accompanying alongside. The metaphorical cherry on the top seemed to be a huge centrefold poster, which he unfolded rather quickly and uncaringly, revealing a sleepy eyed Inuyasha wearing loose jeans and a rather crinkled shirt that was unbuttoned a little further than appropriate (or absolutely right, depending on type of fan girl). He thrust the poster closer for Kagome's examination. "This is what fame means, little girl. Your successes, your wrongs, shoved in your face. All the fucking time." Inuyasha pushed the poster to Kagome, magazine and all, leaving her to fumble a little before gaining a hold. He pointed a finger to himself. "What happened to me? Fame. You don't like it, then drop it. Get out. Don't do the film. The way you're heading, it's straight for the gold, little girl." He offered a cruel smile, flourishing a complicated, mocking bow to her, and then sweeping out the room.
They met quite often, after that. He would often be in the way of the path she walked around the school; whether willingly or unwillingly, she never knew, but there was always a quiet air of expectancy that hung around him.
At first, she would see him and approach him with a smile, and he would respond with a quick glance in her direction and then grumpily tolerate her presence, her chatter and small laughs.
"What are you mourning for?" Fingers skimmed the black fabric that covered his shoulder, and then dropped to pluck at the black jeans.
"Nothing." He tried to swat the inquisitive fingers away.
"Oh, I get it. You wear them to make yourself look like a bad-ass, right?"
When he said nothing, she crowed with laughter. "I'm right, I'm right! Oh, my…" Leaning back to study him, a smile quirked her mouth before she coughed and smoothed it away, giving an appearance of true seriousness. "But you know what? You're missing something."
He gave her a deadpan look.
"No, no, I'm not joking!" She pushed her face close to his, disregarding the way he flinched back slightly, and then she waved a finger around his eyes. "Shades. You need proper shades. That, my friend, is the thing that completes every bad-ass's look."
She brought the shades in the very next day, then cajoled him to put them on and pose.
"Can I take a picture of you?"
He dropped the pose immediately. "No."
"Please? You look so handsome, and such a bad-ass." A smile tugged her lips.
"No." He avoided looking into her eyes.
"Please." She touched his arm. All traces of a smile were gone. "I just want a memento of this. I'll never show it to anyone else."
He felt her pleading gaze on him. And slowly, he straightened up, and took his pose.
Kagome nibbled on her bottom lip as she tried to stand still to get her dress fitted. Swathed in a silky caramel fabric, she did her best not to move much - lest she catch her foot on the excess material… and send herself falling onto the seamstress working at the bottom of the dress.
Oh, Inuyasha… There had been a split second's worth of eye contact he'd made, before he'd walked out - and it was the look of regret that needled her. And his talk… There'd been a sort of compliment he'd given her, hidden among the bitter words, as twisted as it was.
"Is something wrong?"
She glanced at Julia. "Oh, uh…"
Julia's lips were clamped around a couple of pins, and it made her speak with a rather muffled voice. Nevertheless, her meaning got through. "It's just that you groaned a moment ago."
"I did?" Kagome slapped her forehead with a mental hand. Duh… otherwise she wouldn't say that… "It's nothing." She watched Julia work for a little while longer, pinning and unpinning at the light fabric. "Julia… how long have you worked here?"
Julia stopped working long enough to glance up at the younger girl. "About five years, maybe? Why do you ask?"
"So… you were here ever since Inuyasha was twelve?"
"Yes." The other woman concentrated on the material again, missing Kagome with a thoughtful expression on her face. "Julia… what happened to Inuyasha's parents? Someone as young as him would have a guardian still, surely?"
She paused. "They died, both of them." Slanting a strange look at Kagome, her hands weighed the soon-to-be dress in her hands. "I'm surprised you don't know about it… there was a lot of media coverage on it, you know. There were… rumours, also."
"Mm. You don't know about them either?"
Kagome felt slightly sheepish as she defended herself. "I was too young to pay much attention… but I just felt a little curious today…"
It incited a tutting noise from Julia. "That'll get you into trouble one day, you know."
Like enough people haven't told me… "So can you tell me?" She tried hard to put on a 'fan girl' enthusiast expression. "I'd love to know more about Inuyasha."
The seamstress sighed, then put down the pins to speak clearly. "Inuyasha's parents died when he was eleven. Apparently, one of the kitchen help were rather careless and left the gas on the gas stove on, and when the chef tried the light the stove next morning - well, I'm sure you can guess what happened."
Her breath caught in her throat. Inuyasha… "Where was Inuyasha when it happened? He couldn't have been in the house."
Julia shook her head. "No, he was abroad in America, taking acting lessons. His parents recognised he had talent."
Kagome tried to fit the pieces in, absorbing the information. "What about… the rumours?"
"There were too many. The Takahashi name is too famous without stirring any gossip. But the biggest ones were about whether if his parents' death was planned, and well, the other was whether if Inuyasha was actually in America. But there were photos of him in Hollywood, so that stopped."
"Oh." Kagome nibbled on her bottom lip. "Wait - you said Inuyasha's parents' deaths were planned… you mean murder?"
"It is a rumour." There was rebuke in the seamstress' voice, and Kagome winced. "Rumours aren't to be trusted, no matter how compelling they sound."
"Well… what happened afterwards? Did he have a guardian, afterwards? Who took care of him?"
Julia began picking up the pins again. "There isn't much left to tell - he was taken in by his brother. And then he grew up, and started his own career, and… the rest you know."
Later, when it took too long for her to find him, he began to search her out instead. She never questioned why he bothered; instead, she simply graced him with her usual warm smile and accepted his company.
They were sitting on the wall again, when she'd opened up her briefcase. "I had these developed last night. What do you think?"
He took them and shuffled through slowly, silent as he gazed down at them. "…They're all to do with nature."
"Yes." She swung her feet idly. "I do take pictures of people, it's just that here, I haven't found anyone willing that I want to photograph."
When he stayed quiet, she gave him a small look sideways, and smiled. "Don't worry, I don't hold it against you. I just think it's a shame. But it is your choice." She picked out another photograph in her briefcase. "Ah, I forgot to show this one too." He accepted the small, glossy photo she offered him.
"See how the shades make you so much better?" A small giggle.
His question cut across her laugh. "Why do you take photographs?"
There was a pause before she spoke again. "I have a lot of reasons to. But for me, the purpose of photography is to capture a beautiful moment." She took back the photo he was holding. "Beauty is fleeting. It doesn't last forever. That's why I take photos – they're mementos."
He looked at her. "Is it because I'm unusual?" He gestured to the silver hair, and his golden eyes.
She gave a small laugh. "Well, it helps, of course. I won't deny it. But – as clichéd as it is – beauty comes from within, no? It's hard to explain, but for example-" she held up the photograph of him posing moodily with the dark sunglasses, "-if I took a picture of the prettiest model in the world, but she was ugly inside – it couldn't compare."
"…I'm not… the best example of beauty, you know."
"I know." She smiled. "But you're not ugly either."
"Sango, Kagome!" Rin brightened when she saw the two women headed her way. "You came! I'm so glad."
Sango, just looking at the younger woman felt her mood lift. "Of course! We couldn't miss your rehearsal dinner, could we?"
Kagome smiled. "You look lovely, Rin. Where's-"
"Kohaku? I don't know, actually…" She nibbled her lip anxiously. "I think he's in the bathroom." Rin's gaze fixated on something over Kagome's shoulder. Oh! Inuyasha!"
"Oh, yay," Kagome muttered.
"And Miroku, at your service." A charming grin was offered.
"Hey." Inuyasha strolled up towards them and gave casual smile, lifting a hand to be shaken – instead, his sleeve was seized upon.
"Oh, uncle Inuyasha, I've heard so much about you! It's so amazing to finally meet you!"
Kagome looked down at the sleeve tugging. "Uncle-"
"-Inuyasha?" Miroku raised an eyebrow. "Inuyasha, you have a niece?"
"What? No!" Golden eyes widened. "Fuck. Wait. But that would never-"
"Rin, it is time to sit down."
The girl abruptly loosened her grip on Inuyasha's sleeve, to look behind her. Her eyes lit up at the sight. "Yes – but let me introduce you first-" she walked over to stand beside the owner of the voice, "-this is my father, Sesshoumaru."