A/N: No real comment. I was inspired. I will be working on other things too, but I won't make any promises. For the moment, the probability of updates are high.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Really.
Rin sat on the floor of the palace, sighing a little as she dragged the thin stick of charcoal lightly across the page. A black, dusty arch followed her movements, slowly taking on a human shape as she twisted and turned the stick in different angles. Once she brought the edges of the line together, she lifted her tool and blew the extra dust from the paper, leaving a smudge of dust. Look to her side, she lifted a second piece of charcoal from the tin beside her and started the process again. Intently, she sketched a steadily emerging figure.
When the outline was done, she moved the first tin aside and opened a second, revealing a tin of pastel sticks. She chose her colors and continued to work, bluring and smudging her portrait into life.
Rin herself was dressed in her paint-splattered coveralls, her hair pulled back and her glasses in place on the end of her nose. There were dark smudges on her face from where she'd pushed a stray hair from her face, and one on the tip of her nose from an earlier itch. She sat in the very center of an old sheet she had converted into a tarp. Several tins of mediums were scattered around her, each labeled by their fillings.
The tarp and everything on it, including the girl, seemed alienated by the surrounding of the room itself. It was furnished by her mother many years ago. Rin called it the palace because it had a princess theme. Everything, from the walls to the bed to the furniture, was furnished in pink and white. The wood was varnished accordingly, the sheets were silk blends, and the wall paper depicted a princess being kissed by a handsome prince.
Nothing in the room, apart from the tools scattered around her, had been picked by Rin. Everything in the room, apart from the tools scattered around her, disgusted her.
She was so focused on her drawing that she didn't hear the knock on her door, or when it opened.
Kouga, a stark contrast to the pink interior of the palace bedroom, stepped on to the pink carpet and smiled. He loosened his tie and closed the door behind him, stepping on to the edge of the tarp. "It looks just like her," he commented.
Startled, Rin jumped and the blue pastel in her hand zagged out of the line. She sighed and dabbed at it with her finger, smudging it away. "Did you knock?"
"Yup. You were in the zone." He walked over to the bed and sat down, smiling. "It's looking really good."
Rin smiled at her brother and looked down at her drawing. "It's a present for her. I never did give her a proper birthday gift."
"Kagome will love it."
Rin turned up the corner of her mouth and then wrinkled her nose. "It's not as good as I wanted it to be. But then again, it's so hard to capture Kagome. She's so mobile, her face is never still."
Kouga laughed. "Kagome is always in flight, like a bird."
She giggled. "Something like that." She put the picture to the side and gave him a serious look. "Thanks for coming to see me."
"Well, you've been gone so much lately, I haven't really seen you." His smile was a little sad. "And I haven't been around much either. There's so much to do with the merger coming and all."
"And the wedding," Rin added with a wane smile.
Kouga nodded, looking a little nervous. "Yeah...and the wedding."
Rin licked her lips and got up from the tarp, wiping her dirty hands on her coveralls as she went to sit on the bed next to her brother. "There's something I've been meaning to talk to you about."
Nodding, Rin had to look at her feet. "Well...one of the reasons I haven't been around lately...it's because, well...I've been dating this boy--"
"You've been dating?" Kouga's normal smirk was replaced by a tight frown and the laughter was gone from his blue eyes. "And you didn't tell me."
"That's why you've been running off to Kagome's every other day, isn't it? Are you even going there, or are you meeting this jerk?"
"He's not a jerk!"
"Then why hasn't he met your family, or once come to pick you up from your home? What, is he scared I'll chase off a fortune-hunter when I see one?"
"I'll tear him to pieces! He thinks he can just waltz into my baby sister's good graces and make off with a fortune--"
"He doesn't know!"
Kouga halted his ranting and looked at Rin. She was gripping the sleeve of his jacket, smudging it with pastel. Her big brown eyes were filled with tears behind her glasses. Moved to remorse, Kouga reached out and touched her face softly. "What?"
"He doesn't know...who my parents are...or you." She had to look away, and move away from his touch. "I haven't told him about us. He thinks that I live with Kagome and that I'm just a normal public school kid with no money."
Kouga was speechless. "Wh...why the hell wouldn't you tell him the truth?"
Rin sniffled and wiped at her eyes. "Because...I don't think he'll like me if he knows..."
He was truly baffled. "You don't think...a poor kid...will like you if he knows that...you're rich?"
She sighed and shook his head. "You don't get it."
"No, I don't."
"Shippou...that's his name, isn't really fond of rich people." She leaned against Kouga, feeling tired. "His mother came from money, and she abandoned him when he was eight. He thinks that all rich people are selfish and soulless."
"So you'd rather lie to him then tell the little shit he's wrong?"
"Don't call him that!"
"I still can't believe you didn't tell me!"
Rin sighed and looked to the floor again. "I'm sorry."
"Didn't you trust me?"
She quirked a smile. "I didn't trust you not to tear him to pieces. You're like a wolf whenever a guy gets near me."
"You're my sister!"
"You're like that with Ayame too."
His face fell. "Well..."
He sighed. "I protect my women."
Rin stood up and kissed her brother on the forehead. "Time is running out, brother dear. And you can't hold on to all of your women forever."
Kouga grabbed Rin's hand in his. "Why not?"
Rin smiled. "Because I'm growing up. Because Ayame's going to leave, and because Kagome is going to marry you. Even though you both hate the idea."
He winced. "I...don't hate the idea." The look Rin gave him spoke volumes and he sighed. "Okay...I'm not exactly thrilled...but it's Kagome. No one had to twist my arm. I've always wanted to marry her."
"Until you fell in love with someone else," Rin reminded.
"Don't use psychology on me, little girl." He grabbed her around the waist and tossed her on to the bed.
Rin laughed and flailed to protect herself. "I'm only telling the truth!"
"Yeah, that's a new thing for you."
They both laughed and Kouga flopped down next to her. "Why are both of our lives always such a mess?"
"Because we're Kasumi children?"
Rin sat up and sighed. "I should get going. I was going to have dinner with Kagome and Sango tonight." Kouga sat up and glared at her. "I mean it!" Rin whined, holding up her hands in defeat. "We were going out!"
"Okay...but I think I might come along."
"I haven't been out in a while, and I need to have a few words with our beloved Kagome..."
"I can't believe that you didn't tell me!"
Kouga had pulled Kagome into the back room and slammed the door, then decided it was a good time to scream at her. His temper was flaring out of control, but Kagome wasn't intimidated in the slightest. She was used to dealing with hot tempers, and Kouga in general.
"Rin's a big girl," Kagome shot back. "It was up to her to tell you she was dating."
"She's my sister and you knew! You knew when we went out the other night! How could you not tell me?"
"It was none of your business!" She stood toe to toe with him and screamed right back in his face. "She asked me to keep a secret, and I did."
"But she's my sister, not yours!"
"She will be! In case you've forgotten, come September, she'll be just as much my sister as yours."
That made him pause, then he saw red again. "Don't use that against me!"
"Stop making such a fuss. So she has a boyfriend. So what?"
"Rin is too young for this."
"She's seventeen. That's old enough for high school love. And so I let her come over here before they went out and she stayed the night with me a few times. What are you going to do, sue me?"
Kouga pointed an accusing finger at her. "Don't tempt me."
She only laughed. "You can't do anything now. It's done. They're dating. So deal with it."
"Kouga, let it go!"
"She's my baby sister..."
"And she's growing up." Kagome reached out and touched his arm gently, looking at him beseechingly. "She's already having a hard time with this, what with her hiding being rich from the guy and all...don't make it worse."
"I just...I'm hurt she didn't trust me..."
"You would have frightened the boy off the second you laid eyes on him."
"Exactly! Then there wouldn't have been a problem."
Kagome laughed and hugged him warmly. "Except that she would have hated you forever." When she pulled back, she smiled at him. "Buck up, okay?"
Sighing, Kouga nodded. "I feel like an old man."
She patted him comfortingly. "No, you feel like a father whose daughter is dating. If this is what happens with Rin, imagine what it's going to be like with your daughters."
He looked up at her seriously. "Don't you mean our daughters."
Kagome's smile faded and she nodded. "Y-yeah..." Then she walked past him to the door. When she opened it, Rin and Sango tumbled inside from where they had been pressed against it, listening in. Kagome sighed and shook her head. "What a sorry sight you two make."
Sango blushed and got up quickly, smoothing out her skirt before helping Rin up. "Forgive us."
She smiled and shrugged. "Sure." Then she turned to Kouga. "Can we go to dinner now?"
"Actually...I think I'll just head home."
"Are you sure?" Rin asked.
He smiled at her and nodded. "Yeah. I should just rest now that I have some free time." Working on autopilot, he placed a kiss to Kagome's cheek and then to Rin's. "Have a good night." When he got to the front door, he smirked at them. "Goodnight, girls." Then he was gone.
Kagome pouted. "He had to call us girls, didn't he?"
Rin hugged her, giggling. "Let him have the last word. At least now he knows and I can relax a little."
"Until you tell Shippou the truth," Kagome reminded.
The younger girl nodded, frowning a little. "Yeah."
Sango, seeing the situation turn down, moved quickly. "Come, aren't we going to be late for our reservation?"
Kagome nodded and grabbed Rin's hand. "Smile for me, Rin. We're going to have a girl's night and gush about girly things. Like boys."
Rin smiled and nodded. "Okay."
Sango waited until Kagome and Rin had gone to the back bedroom to get ready for bed. She listened to them laugh and giggle behind the closed door, putting on their pajamas as they continued the conversation they'd been having all through dinner. Rin had decided to stay the night again. When she was sure neither of them would be coming out for a minute, she went to the kitchen sink and filled a small bowl with water. With the ease of practice, she licked her thumb, placing it first to the tattoo on her cheek, then to the water. Her bond glowed slightly. The water rippled from her touch then an image began to appear inside it.
A dark room. She could make out furniture and a shape reclining on the couch. Her heart beat loudly in her ears as she tried to make out who it was she was seeing. But then there was movement and the figure looked up. Sango gasped, holding her breath as the water suddenly started to boil in the boil. There was a flash of red and the image was gone.
"Sango?" The Jin flinched, turning to look at Kagome. She was standing in the bedroom doorway, a worried look on her face. "Are you all right?"
"Y-yes." Sango swallowed and smiled. "Why wouldn't I be?"
Kagome smiled a little, but looked confused. "Why are you holding boiling water?"
Sango looked down at the steaming bowl in her hands, then poured it down the sink. "I was scrying."
The Jin shook her head. "It's a spell...for when you're looking for something. I was searching for any other Jin."
"Did you find any?" Kagome moved to her side, touching Sango's arm comfortingly.
Sango smiled a little. "I think so. I think...Kagura is awake. But she's trying very hard to hide herself."
"Who is Kagura?" Both Kagome and Sango jumped when Rin popped out of the bedroom. She padded toward them, adjusting her nightgown.
"No one," Kagome was quick to say.
Rin only gave her a deadpan look. "Come on. I already know about the Jin-thing. Let me in the loop."
Sango sighed and moved toward the living room, sitting down on Kagome's ugly couch. "Kagura is another Jin."
"I knew it!" Rin said smugly, sitting down on the floor and pulling Buyo into her lap. "So, she's in the city too?"
"I don't know exactly where she is," Sango admitted. "The spell I cast was just to find any Jin awake. She could be anywhere, really."
"But that means you aren't the only one awake," Kagome said encouragingly. "Isn't that a good thing?"
Sango's smile was a little sad. Kagura wasn't the Jin she had been hoping to find. "Yes, it is."
"Is she in a ring, like you were?" Rin asked curiously.
"Oh no," Sango assured her. "Kagura is attached to the Bangle of the Wicked."
"What's that?" Kagome pressed, shivering a little. "Doesn't sound very friendly."
"It's...well..." Sango paused, frowning a little. "It's...her item was a punishment."
Both girls looked at Sango expectantly and she floundered for a minute before sighing and giving in. "She was not one of the original four to be bound."
Kagome blinked. "How'd that happen?"
Sango smiled a little. "Well...one of the first Jin bound was her lover. When she discovered is, she was furious. Anyone bound...was forced to sleep and leapfrog through time, so...she attempted to break his bond and free him."
Kagome winced. "I bet that didn't go over well."
Sango shook her head, smiling sadly. "Not at all. When the other Jin discovered this, she was caught and...let's just say, they didn't terrible things for a very long time. And then they decided to break one of the Jin's bond and force it on Kagura. She was given the Bangle, but it became an instrument of evil. Only those possessing an evil heart can wear the Bangle and summon Kagura."
Rin frowned, shaking her head. "That's insane? Why give someone with a black heart the power of a Jin?"
Sango only sighed and frowned. "It was meant to be a punishment for all time. Kagura would always be the right hand of the devil."
"Poor thing," Kagome lamented. "What a terrible existence."
Sango nodded, but then smiled. "She always said...it was easier to be the devil's servant with hope in her heart, than a doomed angel." The Jin looked at her lap and shook her head. "Kagura never had worries over her own soul. She knows that...she's damned. So she finds it easier to live without a conscience."
"You sound like you know her very well."
"Oh, yes...I knew her very well. She is the one who made me a Jin."
Kagome and Rin both looked at her with wide eyes. Sango knew the questions before they asked her, so she began before they could. "A Jin can only be made a Jin two ways...they are tricked, or they agree to the bond of their own free will. I was not tricked. I knew what I was getting into."
"Why did you do it?" Kagome asked, reaching out to take Sango's hand. "You said...that you made a mistake."
Sango nodded and sighed, though the memory still caused her great pain. "My mother died when I was very young, so my father raised my brother and I alone. We were both heirs to a great line of hunters, as I was telling you. Kohaku, my little brother, was always very gentle. My father...he still believed that we would both be great hunters...but I always knew that Kohaku wouldn't have the will for it. We received a job one day, to kill a very powerful enemy. My father brought Kohaku...mostly to show him what we did, for him to get some experience, even though I didn't want him to come. When we fought the creature...it was very strong."
Kagome stroked Sango's hand soothingly, sensing the Jin's pain. Rin sat quietly, petting the kitten's head and feeling her heart go out to Sango. "It's okay," Kagome told her. "You can take your time."
Sango shook her head. "The creature killed my father," she said flatly. "In my rage, I became careless and was injured. Kohaku came to my rescue and the demon poisoned him." Her tone was very flat.
Kagome sighed and lowered her head. "I'm sorry, Sango."
The Jin shook her head. "I was able to save him and kill our bounty...but Kohaku never recovered. He was dying slowly. For almost a year he was sick and in agony...but I couldn't bring myself to end his pain."
"He was your brother...you loved him," Kagome said softly.
"Yes, I loved him. I loved him more than anything and...I just couldn't let him go." Tears pooled in the corners of her soft lavender eyes.
"Did he die?" Rin asked softly, placing her hand on Sango's knee.
Sango shook her head, taking a deep breath to steady herself. "N-no. No...he didn't die. Because Kagura came to me. She had seen me slay a demon and she knew that Kohaku was sick, so she made me an offer. She could use her power to save his life if I gave mine in return."
Kagome stroked Sango's hair gently. "And of course you agreed. He was your family. So you let her make you a Jin and she saved him?"
Sango nodded. "Yes. My life as a human ended, but my brother was healed."
Rin smiled. "So, the story has a happy ending, right? You were able to save him."
"Yes...I saved him."
Kagome hugged Sango, and Rin shuffled so she could do the same. Sango cried a little as she returned their embraces. "Oh, thank you...I don't know why...I still get so emotional over things that happened so long ago."
"Anything that has to do with family makes you emotional," Kagome said, smiling brightly. "You know enough about us to know that's true."
Sango laughed. "Yes...that is true."
After a while, they ate junk food and watched television. Then Kagome sent Rin to bed, getting ready to follow herself. She paused first, going to Sango and hugging her again. "You're not alone, Sango. You have us now. I know we're not your family, but we still care."
Sango returned the embrace gently but then pulled back from Kagome. "Oh, you're wrong about that, Kagome." She took the girl's hand that wore her bond into both of her hands, looking at the ring. "When I became a Jin, and even after I was sealed, I served only one family. My family."
Kagome furrowed her brow. "What do you mean?"
Sango smiled wistfully and touched Kagome's hair. "My brother had one green eye and one blue. And he was the first of your line to possess the bond now called the Ring of Innocence. Every generation that ring has passed on, going from child to child. And all of it began with my baby brother."
Kagome's eyes widened from the realization. "So...Kohaku was my ancestor?"
"And so am I," Sango said with a smile.
"You're quiet today."
Kagome looked up from her lunch and smiled at Inuyasha. "Sorry."
He smiled back at her and shrugged. "Nothing to be sorry about."
"I've got a lot on my mind."
"Feel like sharing?"
She toyed with the spoon in her soup and then shrugged. "I just found out that my roommate is actually my cousin. I didn't know that I had any other family, but it makes me wonder if the rest of my family knew and...decided not to tell me." She looked up at him with a small smile. "They tend to do that."
"Keep you out of the loop?"
She nodded and sighed, leaning on her elbow. "It sucks."
"I bet." He took a large bite out of his sandwich and chewed slowly. "You should ask. And if they knew, you can throw a fit."
Kagome laughed. "I usually do, and they say that's the reason they don't tell me anything."
Inuyasha rolled his eyes. "Families."
"You never talk about yours," Kagome said softly. "Apart from your brother."
He suddenly got quiet and looked to the side. "Not much to say, really. I don't have any other family. Both my parents are dead."
Kagome frowned and reached out to touch Inuyasha's hand. "I'm sorry."
"Oh, don't worry about it." He turned his hand over and laced their fingers together. She blushed and he smiled. "I didn't know my dad. He was gone when I was a baby, but my mother died when I was fifteen. I had to take care of myself after that."
"That's terrible," she said, her eyes full of compassion.
He fidgeted in his chair, getting a sudden jolt of guilt. Here she was, giving him compassion and honesty and he was lying to her from the get-go. "I do okay. And now I've got Shippou, so it's okay."
"Shippou?" She suddenly felt a lightbulb go off in her head. "I don't think you ever told me his name before."
Inuyasha blinked and shrugged. "His name is Shippou. Why?"
Kagome shook her head and laughed a little. "My friend Rin is dating a boy named Shippou, that's all. It was just a funny coincidence."
Inuyasha's mouth dropped open as he stared at her. "Your friend...Rin?"
Kagome only blinked at him, her brow furrowing. "Yes...my friend, Rin."
"My brother's girlfriend is named Rin."
Kagome stared at Inuyasha. Inuyasha stared at Kagome.
"It could just be...a big coincidence."
"How many people do you know named Rin and Shippou that are dating each other?"
She blushed and shrugged. "We don't know for certain."
"I just don't see how it's possible. Shippou goes to public school, and that's where he met her."
Kagome winced. "Rin goes to public school...because of the art program there."
Inuyasha paled. "Art? So it is the same girl. My brother and your friend are dating."
"This isn't good," Kagome sighed, leaning her forehead on her hand. "My guess is that Shippou hasn't told her he's rich, has he?"
Inuyasha blushed and looked away from her. "No...he hasn't."
"Rin hasn't told him either. She's really a Kasumi, but she goes by her mother's maiden name."
He looked at her with his mouth gaping. "A Kasumi? Shit, he aims high."
She giggled. "So do you. You're dating a Higurashi."
"But that's not why I'm dating you."
Kagome colored prettily and looked down at her lunch, smiling. "But that's not why they're dating, either. If neither of them know the truth, they can't like each other for money."
"It really has to be young love."
"That's so tragic..."
Kagome looked up at him with a frown. "When they finally do tell each other the truth, they'll either both forgive each other, or be furious that the other lied. And...Rin tends to have a temper."
Inuyasha winced. "Shippou, too."
She wrang her hands. "What should we do?"
"I don't know about you, but I'm staying out of it."
"You can...do that?"
He shrugged. "Why not? It's not really any of our business. They'll find out sooner or later."
"What I want to know is how in the hell Shippou's dated a girl for two months and not realized she's a Kasumi."
Kagome blushed again, sighing. "She pretends to live with me at my apartment."
Inuyasha looked up at her, then frowned. "You've been helping her lie?"
She shrugged. "I just...wanted to help her. She really cares about Shippou...and she's petrified that he'll break up with her once he finds out who her parents are."
"But she's lying to him."
Kagome suddenly felt defensive. "Well, he's lying too! This isn't all her fault."
"Yeah, but he's never deliberately lied. He's never brought her to a fake place and claimed her lived there."
Kagome glared at Inuyasha. "How do you know? Do you go on dates with him?"
He floundered. "No...but I know he wouldn't do anything like that."
"Well, he sounds like a saint, then." Kagome got to her feet and fished a twenty dollar bill out of her purse, tossing it down on the table. "I think my lunch break is over." Then she turned and headed for the door.
"Shit! Kagome, wait!" He got up and grabbed the bill, hurrying to the register to pay. Kagome took the opportunity to flee from the dinner. Inuyasha followed as soon as he was finished, but only arrived in time to see her get into a cab heading back to the office.
He kicked himself the entire walk back.