A/N: Yes, here we are my esteemed readers. Welcome to the first chapter of Unknown, the second part to my Drama Club trilogy. I know a lot of you were waiting for this portion of my trilogy, and I appreciate your patience. Thank you to everyone who has read Unexpected and stuck around. I look forward to a good run for this story. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I do not own Inuyasha. In fact, I own next to nothing since I began pawning jewelry for college loans.
It has been said that all good stories feature a heroic adventure…
It has also been said that any story worth telling is all about getting the girl…
But this is our story, so it continues a little differently…
This is the story of three girls…
That began once upon a time…
And continues in a small attic bedroom…
Kagome Higurashi was the perfect girl.
If you asked anyone who attended her high school, they would all say the same thing. She was beautiful, brilliant, and a great friend. She helped other students with their homework when they were in trouble. She helped sew new flags for the color guard. She baked cookies for the Honors Society bake sale all four years. All the teachers adored her, and four of them had already written glorious recommendations for her college transcripts. She was dating the quarterback of the football team, and one of the richest, most handsome boys in school.
To the world, Kagome Higurashi had the perfect life.
"Kags, what can we do tonight?" asked Sango St. John, Kagome's best friend and neighbor. She lay on her stomach in the center of Kagome's green shag carpet, flipping through an old sketchbook. Music played softly from a stereo positioned on the top of the small desk sitting in the corner of the room.
Sango was about five inches taller than her petite friend, complete with longer limbs and a lithe, almost boyish figure. Her hair, a dark chocolate brown, hung in a heavy plait across her back. She would not consider herself a classic beauty, but she was more than happy being an acquired taste. Sango shifted her lavender eyes from the sketchbook to her friend, who was lounging on her bed across the room.
The bed, which was really a hammock that hung between two of the sturdy rafters that held the roof overhead, was covered in makeshift pillows and stuffed animals were evidence of her progress in embroidery, sewing, and design.
Kagome leaned up on her elbow, a pensive look on her face. Petite, with a lush and feminine figure, Kagome was a true knockout. Her inky hair was unbound and was even darker set against her fair skin. Her eyes, blue and vibrant, glittered with amusement as she looked at her friend.
They were a pair to be seen, not only in looks but also in personalities. Where Sango was loud, blunt, and often aggressive with her words and actions, Kagome was subdued, passive, and cunning.
"I've got work at six," Kagome reminded. "Tonight they're bringing in the new trainee."
"Oh, that's right," Sango snorted. "Old man Montgomery had to hire a new hand when you went down to half-time, right?"
"Yeah. Since I start my tutoring gig tomorrow. Three days a week, with my Fridays off, means I'll be working at the video store mainly weekends now."
"Will that be a problem for your, uh, financial situation?"
Kagome's look was one of cool understanding. "It'll be fine."
Another thought came to Sango, which had her eyes dancing with delight. "What does Hojo think of this new schedule?"
"Oh, he was outraged," the other sighed, flinging herself backwards on to her hammock bed. It swayed with her actions. "Our relationship is strained as it is. He'll never get to see me. I never consider his feelings when I do things like this. Yadda yadda yadda."
Sango snorted, closing the sketchbook and throwing it on to a pile of others stacked neatly in the corner of the room. Everything in Kagome's room had a kind of controlled order, like the girl who lived in it. "What a dick."
"He's just a tad overzealous when it comes to monopolizing my time," Kagome defended.
"Why are you still with him, again?"
Kagome's look was less than amused now. "Because I want to be, and that is good enough for you, Sango."
For all their differences, a bond stronger than blood had been forged the two girls since a very tender age. They had seen each other through the trials and tribulations of teenager-hood, and through things that were not so average. They were fiercely protective and always loving, but Hojo Montgomery was one of their few sore points.
Kagome Higurashi, the girl with the perfect life, also had the perfect boyfriend.
Sango St. John, her not so perfect friend, had a kind of undeclared war waging against said boyfriend.
"Let's talk of something more pleasant," Kagome suggested, forcing lightness into her voice.
Sango would have liked nothing better than to take her friend by the shoulders and give her a good shake. To think Kagome, the smartest person she had ever known, would still be with someone so completely wrong for her was a constant amazement. But for the sake of Kagome, Sango held her tongue and plunged into a happier topic.
"Diego finally got approval to hold an open mic night at Serpentine," she grinned.
"That's wonderful! He's been crusading for months now."
"No doubt inspired by my wonderful performance at the Homecoming dance," Sango laughed. She covered herself well with arrogance, but Kagome knew that Sango had a fragile ego where her music was concerned. It was a fate common among true artists, Kagome mused, where even when talent was abundant and obvious, it was never good enough for them.
"Well, nearly four months is long enough of a wait, I'd say," she commented. "I take it you'll be first in line to perform?"
"Naturally," was Sango's reply. "Diego told me that it goes over well; he could get the okay to make it a regular thing."
"Me too." They sighed in unison, out of topics to talk about. Then they looked at each other and laughed.
"Oh, I have a question," Kagome said, deciding on a topic. "Mid-terms next week. The highlight of any January. Four half-days in a row. Shall we make use of such free time?"
"Whatever can we do with all those afternoons?" Sango asked, looking puzzled.
"Well," Kagome grinned, "we could always—"
"We haven't in so long—"
"It's like riding a bike," Kagome laughed.
"Think the weather will stay like this?" Sango asked, arching a brow.
"I think so. But I understand your reluctance and fear, seeing as how I beat you every year."
"A challenge?" Kagome laughed at Sango as she leapt to her feet in dramatic outrage. "Higurashi, you have sealed your doom!"
"Ah, you talk a big game Grasshopper, but I have more practice than you." Kagome swung her legs from the hammock and smiled. "I have three brothers, and we go all the time."
"Kagome!" The sound of three pairs of snow boots running up wooden stairs was heard, then a loud knock as the wearers of said snow boots collided with a wooden door. The door promptly burst open and three boys spilled on to the green shag carpet. Kohaku was on the bottom of the pile, Souta on top of him, and Shippou, unscathed for the most part, on the top.
"Kagome," he chirped happily, "will you take us to the park on your way to work?"
"I don't want you guys playing around in the dark," she said in a mother-like way.
"Aw, come on!" Kohaku whined. The newly-turned twelve-year-old was convinced he had reached manhood. "Nothing will happen to us."
"I don't want you at the park, alone, in the dark. That's final." When Kagome put her foot down, it stayed.
Kaori Higurashi, the matriarch of the tight-knit family, worked two jobs and was absent from the household much of the time. When she wasn't there, Kagome was in charge, and she was very used to the kind of responsibility that entailed. As the oldest, and only daughter, in the Higurashi family, her word was law and the three boys knew it.
"What if I go with them?" Sango offered. Though she rarely interfered with the Higurashi order of things, Sango was a common fixture in the home. Since Kagome's first job, a newsgirl at fourteen, Sango had babysat for the three rambunctious boys. There had been times in the past when Sango nearly lived in the Higurashi home, so her voice was recognized and respected as a member of their family. It was a place that humbled her, and left her with a distinct feeling of love absent from her life for a long time.
"Yeah!" Souta piped up. "Sango can take us!" The other boys readily took up the cheer.
Kagome turned to Sango with a weary look. "You don't mind?"
Sango shrugged. "I've got nothing else to do," she said honestly. "Might as well build a killer snowman with my favorite guys."
Breath was held in anticipation of Kagome's answer.
"I guess it's okay then," she relented. Cheers were heard down the block. "But," she said, her practiced voice rising above theirs, "you will listen to everything Sango tells you. I want you back at this house by eight o'clock, got it? Showers, cocoa, and bed. No monster movies." This was directed more at Sango than the boys. "We've all got school in the morning."
"You worry too much, Kagome," Shippou said, hugging her around the waist. "We'll be good."
"Yeah," she grinned, tugging his knit hat down over his face. "Go grab a scarf and carrot for your snowman while I get ready for work."
The boys, tripping over one another, managed to get down the first staircase without breaking their necks. She wondered about the second, but then just shrugged and walked to wear her work clothes were piled neatly on her desk chair.
"I have to hand it to you," Sango commented, throwing herself into the hammock bed as Kagome pulled on a pair of black jeans.
"The way you handle them still amazes me," her friend laughed. "They never listen to me half as good until I'm freaking out and they feel guilty."
"That's because they love you," Kagome said with a kind of sad smile. "I stopped being 'big sis' a couple years ago. Now, I'm more authority figure."
"That's not true at all," the other girl objected. "They love you totally."
"Sometimes," was all Kagome had to say as she pulled on her maroon shirt, adjusted the shiny nametag, and pulled on a pair of black boots. "I can't spoil them as much as I want to. I have to be firm a lot. Yelling and discipline comes standard. If I don't do it, no one can, and then they'd run wild."
"You don't see it like I see it," Sango said, her voice full of envy. "You're strict because you love them, that's all."
Kagome chose not to reply and instead grabbed her coat. "Do you have to get anything from home?"
"No," her friend replied, knowing better than to pursue the subject.
"Then let's head out."
"This is the horror section," Ayame instructed with a kind of authoritative air about her. The pretty redheaded girl had a flamboyant air and the soul of an actress. Her green eyes, sharp as emerald, surveyed the DVD cases within her reach. "Nothing good except for a few older classics, Chainsaw Massacre, Living Dead, old Dracula movies, stuff like that. Oh, can't overlook some of Hollywood's most notorious sequels. Including the ever-popular Miss Congeniality 2, and of course, the Matrix sequels."
The girl beside her chuckled some and smiled. "You should be a movie critic," she advised. "It would suit you."
"And give up all this?" Ayame asked, looking around the small store with a glitter in her eye. "Never. Now come along, Stasia, I'll show you our impressive Family movie section."
"I quiver with joy," the other replied.
The telltale jingle of the front door bell signaled Kagome's arrival. She shivered loudly as she pulled off her mittens and tossed her coat behind the counter. Shaking snow from her hair, she caught sight of the two other employees of Starland Video. "Hey girls, sorry I'm late."
"No problem," Ayame called with a wave. "I'm just giving our little apprentice here the grand tour."
Kagome snorted. "Don't let her take you to the back. You'll have to listen to her lecture on the decline of quality porn."
"I'm on to something," Ayame threatened good-naturedly.
"On something is more like it," Kagome shot back, walking over to greet them. She appraised the new employee quickly. Sango's height, brown hair and eyes. Pretty and intelligent. One could say Kagome liked her on sight. "Forgive my rudeness," she amended quickly, holding out her hand. "I'm Kagome."
"Anastasia," she replied with a friendly smile. "Stasia for short. Nice to meet you."
"I'm sure Ayame has pumped you full of negativity regarding your new job."
"Hey," the redhead objected. "I have been a perfect angel!"
"About as much of one as she can be," Stasia vouched. "I go to St. Catharine's with her. Believe me when I say I've seen her on her bad days."
"As have I, and yet here we stand. Living to tell the tale."
"Now you're making me sound like Moby Dick, Captains Ahab."
A round of giggles were promptly given, and then the work night began. Stasia was a fast learned, and could manage the register pretty well as long as Kagome or Ayame was nearby in case of a question. Kagome made a few phone calls regarding overdue rentals while Ayame manned the return cart and did her stocking according to opinion rather than the usual standards. Starland was notorious for having its own spin on the category for a movie.
All Ayame's doing of course. Though Kagome had been known to add a hand or two.
"Has anyone even rented this movie?" Ayame called, holding up a copy of the newest Ben Affleck film like it was contagious.
"I don't remember," Kagome called back. "And I would remember that."
"You guys have worked here a while, right?" Stasia asked. It was in between customers. The dead time, as Ayame called it, between nine and eleven, when no one came into the store.
"Two years," Kagome nodded. "I was hired a couple weeks after my sixteenth birthday. Before that, I was a papergirl for two years."
"I've been here a little over a year," Ayame added, wheeling the cart up for her next load of DVDs. "This is my first job, but with the company, how can I go wrong?"
"Ayame, you're making me blush," Kagome grinned.
The redhead winked and chuckled as she gathered her quarry. "It's true, though. Out of all the places I put in applications, and let me tell you, I put out applications everywhere, this was first on my list."
"Why is that?" Stasia asked, an amused smile on her face.
Ayame blinked at her for a moment. "Because of the movies, of course!" Perhaps it was a great secret, but Ayame had not yet given up her glimmer of Hollywood hopefulness. She still had faith in the establishment.
Kagome opened her mouth to comment further on the subject when the loud chiming bells on the door rang and a costumer walked in.
"Miroku," she smiled warmly in welcome. "Didn't expect to see you here tonight."
Miroku "Demon" Yuki attended Kagome's high school, and was secretly one of a pair of delinquents who committed frequent pranks against the high school's hierarchy. Most notably, Kagome's boyfriend and his friends.
Demon, as most people referred to him, was tall and considerably good-looking. His hair was dark and straight, scruffy when unbound but usually in a small ponytail. There was also, always, a signature streak of red dye. The combination of his violet eyes and killer smile had the power to charm many of the ladies, but he rarely dated. Kagome was convinced he was involved with a torrid affair with her best friend and neighbor, though neither would ever admit the fact.
His counterpart, one Inuyasha "Grimm" Reaper, Kagome had not yet made acquaintance with, despite her friendship with the other members of the Reaper family. It seemed that fate had a habit of keeping them apart.
"I need a flick," he explained. "Video games and late night game shows hold no sway for me on this night."
"Ah, I feel your pain," Ayame butted in. "Come along, sir. I will find you something masterful."
"I have to see this," Kagome muttered to Stasia as she followed from behind the register.
"Don't leave me behind," the other responded, giving chase.
"I need a new release," Miroku told his tour guide as she led him through an aisle of older dramas. "I've seen pretty much everything good out of the Heston Era."
"Okay then," Ayame nodded. "I will take you to the Wall of Shame."
"I beg your pardon…?"
Kagome stifled her laugh as she took hold of Miroku's arm. "That is Ayame's charming way of saying the New Release showcase on the wall."
"Don't glorify it, Kagome," the redhead told her sternly.
Regaining her composure, Ayame pointed out each film. "Hero. Subtitled, fairly good action and story. Got that surreal martial arts feel, if you're into that kind of thing."
"Saw it in the theatre." Miroku grinned. "Big screen is best."
"Amen," the three girls chorused, then continued.
"Guess Who… Moving on—"
"It's a comedy," Kagome butted in. "But if you are Ayame, and hate Ashton Kutcher with a passion, I suggest a different one."
"I'll rely on your sound advice," the demon commented flirtatiously.
"Then I'd suggest Alexander," Stasia said. Kagome and Ayame turned to look at her, but she only shrugged and smiled.
Kagome grinned suddenly. "I second that. Lots of action, a prevailing story."
"Triumph, failure, courage…" Ayame sighed wistfully. "Not exactly Ben-Hur, but still an interesting couple of hours."
"Okay," Miroku nodded with a grin, taking a copy from the rack. "I'll take it."
"Excellent," Kagome praised, taking the DVD to the counter and letting Stasia ring it up. "Make sure you watch it with your deviant friend."
"Why?" Oh, the innocence.
"Oh, this movie captures the essence of great male friendship," Ayame assured him with a pat on the shoulder. Then she took her cart and return to her duties.
"Well, he's, uh, out in the car. I guess I could get him to watch it with me."
"Good," Stasia said, handing him his receipt and change. "Have a good night."
"You too, sweetie," he said, leaning against the counter and suddenly turning on the charm. "Say, are you new here?"
"Goodnight, Miroku," Kagome said, flashing a grin.
"Okay," he sighed. "'Night, Kags."
He picked that up from Sango a few weeks ago. Kagome smiled as he left. Hopefully he'd pick up on a few other things where Sango was concerned.
"Don't you think that was a tad bit mean?" Ayame called after he was gone.
"What do you mean?"
"We pretty much gave him a gay movie," Stasia seconded. "I hope we don't lose his business."
Kagome shrugged. "It'll be educational." Then she smiled over at her co-workers. "And don't worry about his business. If he holds offense, I'll just tell Sango."
A laugh was shared at Miroku's expense, though he didn't know it.
"Did you get the movie?" Inuyasha asked the second Miroku opened the car door to get inside.
"Yeah. According to the girls, it's supposed to be good." Then, Miroku slid his friend a glance. "Why don't you ever come in?"
"If that bitchy girl is there, you can sure as hell bet you'd never catch me inside."
It was amusing to Miroku that the so-called "bitchy girl" was in fact Kagome, who was anything but in his eyes. Then again, there was just something about his best bud that brought out the worst in people. And sometimes, their best.
"You want to come back to my place and watch this with me?" Miroku asked, cleverly changing topic.
Inuyasha shivered and bit and sent him a hard amber stare. "That sounds so wrong."
"What do you mean?"
"It's like you want to make out with me or something."
"Grimm, is there ever a day when you can curb your homophobia?"
Miroku chuckled. "Shouldn't you get some rest tonight, anyway? What with the tutoring thing after school, it's not like you can skip."
Inuyasha grumbled incoherently for a moment. "All I can say is, this tutor better be worth the aggravation I'm going through for this."
Kagura Hart sat on the hood of her green Sundance, a school newspaper spread open on her lap as she read the typed print with great intensity. Kagura, a tall, willowy young woman of eighteen, reread her own words with a sense of disgust and satisfaction. Disgust that she published something so trivial, and satisfaction at the response it received. It went to show that no matter what it was she wrote, she got rave reviews. A writer could be worse off.
Casually, she brushed a piece of black hair from her ruby-red eyes as she saw her stepsister walking toward the car at a leisurely pace.
"Hey, Sango," she greeted, flashing a grin as she folded up the paper. "How was your day?"
"Pretty good," the other responded, taking off her backpack and throwing it into the backseat of the car before climbing into the shotgun seat. "Yours?"
"The usual. Where's Kagome?"
"Tutoring starts this afternoon," Sango reminded. "Hojo is taking her home."
"Ah," Kagura grinned. "I can see where that would bug you. Though, I must say, sometimes it's quite amusing how much you despise him."
"I took my side a long time ago," the brunette replied indignantly.
Kagura snorted in a very unladylike manner. "I still can't believe you seriously took sides in that stupid feud!"
"It's not stupid! This town was founded on conflict!"
"Not that conflict," his sister insisted. "This conflict was brought about because of business."
"No, it's a feud between blue-blood snobs and honest working people." Sango pouted with a sigh. "Sometimes I think you favor them."
"I take no sides," Kagura replied.
"Even though you're dating a Reaper?"
"Because I'm dating a Reaper." Kagura pulled out of the school parking lot and shook her head slightly. "May I remind you that he takes no sides in this ridiculous affair either."
Sango sniffed deeply. "I can't understand the two of you. We're talking about justice and equality."
"No, we're talking about a rivalry," the elder corrected. "Honestly, it's people like you and Inuyasha who keep the fight going. If the pair of you, and Hojo, would just let sleeping dogs lie—"
"Never!" Sango announced dramatically. "The Montgomery family tries to control everything in this town simply because they are descendants of the founder! The Reapers just want to help give back to the community."
"In the course of your great crusade," Kagura sighed, "a power struggle over almost every business in town has ensued. Montgomery verses Reaper. And you and your little friends have to go shaking up trouble in school, on top of it."
"I know where my loyalties lie," Sango shot back.
"I am loyal to myself and those I love," Kagura said coolly. "I couldn't care less about this war."
"One day you'll have to take a side," Sango said cryptically. "You'll see."
"The day I take a side is the day I grow my hair out… again."
"And destroy the look I gave you?"
"That's my point."
And thus the matter was settled.
In the back of the school library, there were six small rooms built of soundproof glass for studying. Each held a small table, with a computer, and each could only be opened with permission from the librarian. Currently, all six rooms were being used for the school's new tutoring program.
Kagome sat in the first room, her backpack propped against the table as she searched the web. Her partner was late, so she had nothing better to do than check her e-mail. Considering she had no computer at home, it was rare that she could simply fool around. And what did she care? She was being paid by the hour whether her partner showed up or not.
In a kind of secretive action, Kagome looked around at the other rooms to either side of her. The other tutors were so engrossed in their work, none bothered to look at her. It was safe.
Kagome maneuvered the mouse and typed in a web page that she knew by heart. It took a few seconds before the familiar star and moon background popped up. Kou Higurashi was scrawled across the heading in gold block letters. There were links to a bio page, information, a gallery of his work, and a guest book. Kagome clicked the gallery, to check if anything new was placed up.
The screen blinked to a yellow background that suddenly filled with tiny thumbnails of larger, famous paintings. Paintings that hung in galleries all over New York, Los Angeles, and even a few in Europe. Scrolling to the bottom, Kagome noticed a new entry she had not seen before.
She clicked, and the screen was suddenly filled with the enlarged painting. Kagome stared at herself. The painting was outdated, or at least the subject was. She looked thirteen or so, her features still young and her eyes still eager. She was sitting on the bench that used to be in the studio, the room in the attic that was no her bedroom. The lighting was perfect.
Or maybe it was just that her father was so talented.
Kagome, a painting by Kou Higurashi. She read the small paragraph of text at the bottom of the screen. A Christmas present for my only daughter.
Kagome clutched the mouse a little too hard in her hand.
Then the door opened, the sound making her frantic to click the x on the top of the page. Once she was sure the website was gone, she looked up to see who had entered her tiny, soundproof cubical. And her blue eyes widened marginally.
His eyes were equally wide when he zeroed in on her. This time there was no trench coat, no hat, and no sunglasses, but she still knew him by sight.
Kagome leapt to her feet and they both pointed to each other at the same time.
"Video store bitch!" he exclaimed.
"Late rental dick!" she responded.
"You're the one who's tutoring me!" he asked in alarm.
"There must be some kind of mistake," Kagome said rationally, thinking quickly.
But no, there really couldn't be. Her hand groped for the small envelope that Principal Schemata had given to her when assigning study partners. She had been paired to Inuyasha Reaper. The silver hair, the amber eyes, the almost angelic masculine beauty… there could be no mistaking a Reaper brother.
The mistake had been her anticipation of a nice, normal person to tutor.
"My mother's just throwing me to the wolves, now!" he complained, looking at her with a degree of disgust she didn't think she deserved at all.
"I am not a wolf," she replied crisply. "I am a tutor."
"In my experience, there isn't much difference."
Kagome narrowed her eyes in annoyance. "If I am a wolf, then you must be a sheep, considering you're so afraid of me."
"Who says I'm scared?" he snarled. Kagome was struck by the thought that he was more wolf-like than she was. If she didn't know better, he looked as if he was going to raise his hackles at her.
"No one," she said coolly. "You just seem… agitated."
"Fuck yeah I'm agitated. I got stuck with you!"
"Judging by the source, I'll take that as a compliment."
There was a tense second between them when Kagome stood head-to-head with a young man almost a foot taller than her, refusing the back down.
Kagome Higurashi did not instigate fights with delinquents. Kagome Higurashi was a good girl, who did everything right and never got mixed up with this kind of person. Not that she thought he would hurt her—Sango would never associate with someone like that, and she knew the family too well to believe the invisible middle child was a kind of abuser, but simply because he gave off a foreboding and intimidating aura. And she suddenly couldn't stop herself from making an affront to this show of authority.
A present for my only daughter.
The words crackled threw her, sparking her nerves. It was why she was on edge, the damn painting. Her father had made her defensive, secretive. It was her father's fault.
Kagome suddenly broke eye contact and looked down. "I'm sorry," she apologized. "I shouldn't have said something like that. I hope this won't affect our task at hand."
Inuyasha blinked, totally thrown off. Just a second ago, he had stormed into the room, ready to take on the world and anyone else who got in his way. This whole tutoring thing was a play on his pride.
His brother didn't need it. Rin was a smart kid. But his mother worried about his getting into a good college, so she signed him up for a tutoring program. During senior year! Not only was this cutting into the time he should be spending on fine-tuning his new motorcycle, it was taking up valuable time he could be using for things other than sitting in a library with her.
The obnoxious, sarcastic girl from the video store. The girl who made renting video games a punishment. The girl he could never get out of his mind for long.
And just a second ago, she was staring into the belly of the beast with no fear, and now she was the submissive, polite tutor. It was throwing him completely off his game.
"Your tutoring," she explained. "Mid-terms are next week. I'm supposed to help you prepare."
Then she did something even more unexpected. She smiled. Inuyasha only blinked again.
"I'm Kagome," she introduced herself, holding out a hand. "Kagome Higurashi."
He looked at her hand suspiciously. "Sango's friend?"
"That would be me."
He shook her hand warily. "Grimm Reaper."
"It's a pleasure to finally meet you, Inuyasha."
He winced. "I prefer Grimm, if you don't mind."
"Actually, I do mind," she responded, moving back to her chair.
"Of course you do," Inuyasha sighed, collapsing into the other open seat.
It was going to be a very long afternoon.
A/N: I hope you like it. Remember to review!