They returned through the well in the early afternoon of the next day. Inuyasha, with a purpose and possible fight in the offing, was in high spirits. But Kagome took a dim view of traveling at such a forced pace and was ready to punch Inuyasha in the head for complaining about comfort stops. She had thought they had settled that little issue in her favor some time ago but Inuyasha appeared to have forgotten.
She stomped out of the well house making a beeline to her mother's kitchen and a proper bathroom only to nearly break her neck stumbling over Jaken's legs. He was in human form sitting in a folding lawn chair just outside of the well door.
"What are you doing here?" she demanded and dumped her pack onto his lap causing him to grunt. She continued on her course without waiting for an answer.
Inuyasha followed behind her in human form and paused to look down at the figure in the lawn chair. "What are you doing here?" he inquired with mild interest.
"Waiting for you," Jaken wheezed. "Sesshoumaru-Sama wants to see you and said I couldn't return without you."
"Good, because I want to see him." He started to walk off, feeling in the front of his suikan for his sunglasses. He stopped and turned, his betraying eyes concealed behind dark lenses, "Well? Are you coming? Bring Kagome's bag, we can drop it off at the house."
Cursing, Jaken struggled to his feet, hefting the heavy bag. "What does that girl pack in this thing, rocks?"
Kagome entered the kitchen in a rush noting only vaguely her mother's absence. Following a long-ingrained habit, she grabbed for the stack of mail left on the table to run through while she was in the bathroom. Inuyasha was so impatient at times that she couldn't ever be sure of any other chance to look at it in search of letters to her. She did still get mail at times, and magazines and catalogues she might want to bring back with her.
She sighed as she riffled through the pile; Mama, Mama, Occupant, Souta's 'Jump' magazine, 'Shrine News', bills, Ministry of Education to the parent or guardian of Nishigawa Kagome...the envelope was thick and already open...
Inuyasha was in the kitchen with his head in the refrigerator by the time she came out. Jaken was slumped at the table almost obscured from view by the yellow bulk of her backpack. She tried to speak but couldn't find her voice for a moment.
"Oi, Kagome, where does your mother hide those little packets of shrimp paste?"
She dropped the mail carelessly on the table except for the letter she held in her hand and cleared her throat, "They're not in there, Inuyasha. She keeps them in the cupboard by the sink."
He withdrew his head from the refrigerator and looked sharply at her. "You sound funny, are you all right?"
"I...don't know. All this time and all those crazy stories from Jii-Chan. I actually managed to pass classes without showing up." She flapped the sheets of paper in her hand, growing more distressed by the moment. "All that worry and effort. I tried, I tried to manage things. And now they send me this? What is wrong with them?"
She thrust the papers in Inuyasha's face, causing him to recoil before he took them from her. Kagome spun around and pointed at Jaken, "Don't you laugh! Don't you dare say a word. I better not find out you are at the bottom of all this." With that she dumped herself down in a chair at the table and crossed her arms, her fingers digging into her biceps, to stare stonily at the wall.
Jaken gurgled quietly in what he hoped was a soothing manner and looked over at Inuyasha who was staring at the papers in his hand with a mixed expression of confusion and dawning ire. His lips tightened and Jaken was considering making a run for his own safety when Inuyasha burst out with, "Why do I see my family name and questionable moral values together on this piece of paper? What is this, Kagome?"
Kagome slapped her hands down on the table and jumped up, "Can't you tell, Inuyasha? See this Kanji here?" She stabbed her finger at the page and he stared down at it. "I've been expelled!" She redirected her finger at him and then back at her own self, "You and I, we are immoral people. I'm not fit to be in high school because I married you!"
Inuyasha snatched the paper back and growled at her before withdrawing to lean against the counter. He read the pages from the beginning to the end, pausing to sound out the text when it went phonetic on him. He got the sense of it in a few minutes though and calmed down considerably, "So you were right in what you said before we got married: that stupid school doesn't like married students."
"It's not just the school. It's the whole education system."
He shrugged his shoulders and tossed the pages aside, "Fuck 'em then. You shouldn't give a shit. You did everything right."
With a rush, Kagome was in his arms, her face pressed against his chest. He put his cheek on top of her head and rubbed her shoulders but, Jaken could swear, there was a trace of a smirk on his lips as he rocked her in his arms and made soothing noises.
Under cover of the rocking and murmuring, Jaken ducked down and collected the scattered pages from where they had fallen and ran a sapient over the contents of the first couple. He could see why Inuyasha had been annoyed, the verbiage was official and none too complimentary in tone.
After a few moments Inuyasha spoke again, "OK now, Kagome, don't cry."
"I'm not crying."
He made an exasperated sound.
"No, really, I'm not." She leaned back and showed him her face. He made no remark on the traces of tears upon her cheeks. "In a way, I'm kind of relieved," she continued. "It's been hanging over my head for so long, what with the absences and all, I'm sort of surprised they didn't do it sooner. But did they have to be so mean about it? And make me out to be such a total whore?"
Inuyasha began to frown again, "Yeah, that, I don't like."
Jaken cleared his throat hurriedly before the whole thing got going again, "That's all very unpleasant and perhaps such an important person as Sesshoumaru-Sama can get to the bottom of this difficult issue."
"Spit it out, Toad."
"The name is Jaken."
"I know your name. Why does Sesshoumaru want to speak with me?"
"I thought you said you wanted to speak with him!"
Inuyasha released Kagome and stepped over to stand just a bit too close for politeness to the humanized youkai, forcing Jaken to crane his neck to look up at him, "I wanted to speak to my brother, yes. That is why I returned early. I also want to know what you are covering up, you shit."
Jaken's neck was starting to hurt from the acute angle but Inuyasha had backed him up against the kitchen table and he could not step away without a considerable loss of face. He turned a bit pink, "You will find out when you speak to Sesshoumaru-Sama."
"So you are covering something up. You always do."
"I am not..." Jaken began hotly but Kagome's voice intervened. She had picked up the pile of papers again and was flipping through them in a restless manner.
"Jaken, you've been here at the shrine for a little bit. Do you know where my mother went today? I think I should talk to her before I do anything else."
Taken off-guard Jaken responded with the truth, "Oh, she's probably over at Sesshoumaru-Sama's apartment. She's been over there quite a lot the last couple of days."
"What?" Inuyasha and Kagome shouted in chorus.
Jaken, recognizing a tactical error when he saw one, quailed.
"Check. Checkmate in six moves." Sesshoumaru's voice was a study in indifference.
Higurashi-San leaned forward and considered the board. She smiled briefly and sat back, "Ah, 'that is an ending that is extremely difficult for any player to win who has not mastered the theory of it.'"
"Do you care to place a wager upon it?"
"What? When I see your strategy? Would that be fair?"
The front door of the apartment burst open with a crash.
"Mama, are you here? Could I talk with you please?"
"Sama, I could not stop them!"
Sesshoumaru sighed in the briefest of whispers of sound and sat back. Higurashi-San took a somewhat more active interest, looking over with a slight frown at the doorway to the living room as she quietly completed her move, taking out his bishop.
Kagome jittered up, papers in hand and paused, looking down at the game and up at her mother and the youkai, whom she had only just begun to trust, on the other side of the board. She scrolled the empty manila envelope between her fingers and passed the contents of it over to her Mother where she sat at the corner of the big dining table on the dais in Sesshoumaru's capacious apartment in Roppongi Hills.
"Mama, these papers."
"I know what they are, Kagome-Chan and was ready to talk to you about them when you next got home." She looked over the rather crumpled pages briefly before dropping them aside. "It all depends on how you want to handle it. I attended several meetings on your behalf and got nowhere."
"I...They totally insulted me..."
Sesshoumaru interposed, "We can force them to send you a letter of apology, if that is what you wish."
"I..." Kagome was confused.
Inuyasha used her hesitation to bring up his own concern, "Sesshoumaru, what do you know of the talk that's been going on about us?"
Sesshoumaru frowned, "The talk has all been about you."
"I didn't kill all those daemons, did I?" Inuyasha swung his head around and glared at Jaken for support.
Jaken clutched his hat and desperately wished he was somewhere else, "You were always killing daemons, Sama."
Inuyasha flicked his fingers dismissively, "Well, of course I did, I had to."
Sesshoumaru raised his brows. "Jaken," he intoned, "you pay my brother much respect."
Inuyasha made an impatient sound as Jaken effaced himself towards the kitchen, "Sesshoumaru, everybody back home is saying I did all of Naraku's crimes. There are murders of youkai being committed by humans and I'm being held to blame."
"Humans murdering youkai? Do you have proof of this?"
"I do," with that, Inuyasha fished deeply into the front of his jacket and tossed down a partially mummified hand sporting the claws of a cat youkai.
"Eeww, you were carrying that the whole time?"
"Kagome, of course I was, how else was I.."
"That is so, just... Eew, no wonder you were smelling funny."
Inuyasha colored and bristled but Higurashi-San was delicately holding her nose and using the tip of her king piece to knock the gristly object away from the chessboard, "Really, Inuyasha."
Sesshoumaru showed no such compunction and plucked up the severed hand for a closer examination, "This was cooked and cut off afterwards." He plucked at the remains of the wrist, "Oni-binding spell threads from Tibet. Clearly human-make."
Inuyasha extended his hand, "I know that. So, there is talk?"
"Don't think you are getting this back, little brother."
"You fuck-head. Fine, keep it. Bet you I can find another if I go back and look."
"Fool, this is evidence. There are papers in my study."
"So?" Inuyasha waggled his empty hand. "Give that back then."
"Please don't," Kagome said unhappily, "Inuyasha, they really will think your are behind it if you keep such a thing. It's just suspicious."
"It smells terribly," Higurashi-San said firmly. "There must be some decent way of getting rid of it."
Sesshoumaru flicked her a look and raised his voice slightly, "Jaken."
The sliders to the pass-through from the kitchen promptly opened, "Sesshoumaru-Sama."
"Come out and take this and put it on ice," Sesshoumaru held out the hand without bothering to look around.
"Not in your freezer, Sesshoumaru, that would ruin the unit!" Higurashi-San was shocked but adamant.
"See to it, Jaken, as the lady says," Sesshoumaru sounded indifferent.
Inuyasha sighed in irritation, "Fine, keep it. What papers?"
"The copies are on my desk. Take only the pink copies; they are for you."
Inuyasha started towards the study door.
"Kagome, go with him, make sure he gets the right thing."
"Mama? Sure, I'll get them, but what about my school?"
"I think this might just count a little more dear. Don't worry; it will all work out."
Within moments, there was an almighty crash from the study and Inuyasha's voice bellowing, "What the fuck!"
They could hear Kagome's voice expostulating, "Inuyasha not here, we'll go back to the shrine and read over them slowly, there must be some mistake!"
"Like hell there is!"
They could hear Kagome dropping her voice, "What about Jukuryo-San. That's his stamp on the copies; let's ask him."
Within an instant, Inuyasha was back out in the living room, Kagome in tow by a wrist and a bundle of pink papers balled up in his other hand. He paused as he hauled Kagome past the table, "We're going to Jukuryo."
"Take Jaken with you."
"What?" That brought Inuyasha up short for an instant as he scanned the couple at the table. Kagome's eyes were still turned back as she was swept out of the room to the accompanying shout of, "Jaken! You are coming with us!"
The apartment door slammed with a crash upon Jaken's startled protests.
Higurashi-San insisted on doing the dishes. It seemed crazy to her. Here she was in on of the highest rent districts in Tokyo in an apartment the kitchen of which was easily twice the size of the old kitchen at the shrine, that roomy old kitchen with its yellow walls and echoing plumbing. And she was with a man who certainly wasn't human. She sniffed a bit and turned away from her thoughts to busy herself with the few bowls on his kitchen counter, moving the richly colored earthenware in her hands under a stream of water in the sink.
"Woman, I let my servants do my dishes; it keeps them busy."
Sesshoumaru was directly behind her and reached past her hip to place his hand on the edge of the bowl where she held it under the running water. She looked down at their hands entwined under the flow of running water and didn't move. His fingers were very little less slender than her own, the nails long and almond-shaped, like those of an ancient prince. The only true incongruence was that of the tendril of color wrapped about the wrist.
He moved to take the bowl from her, "I'll hold it as you scrub then, the water is pleasant."
His voice rumbled and yet still hit a tenor note. She could feel the brush of his clothes, the warmth of his skin. She suffered from a fleeting wish to turn to him and do something shocking; expose herself, maybe, or proposition him.
She fumbled the rag a bit and wiped the bowl with a couple of strokes. But her attention to the task was poor and he twitched the rag from her hand, laying it aside on the counter.
"Leave it, woman," he insisted again and tugged at her wrist. She turned to his pull but kept her face down-turned, searching for her own balance. "Woman."
"Perhaps I'm a bit tired and I'm misinterpreting things," she spoke uncomfortably. "No doubt Kagome is still upset. I should go and be with her."
"She is with the one she wants to be with the most right now. She does not need her mother to hold her hand anymore."
"Souta still does, he still needs me." It was a feeble protest and they both knew it.
"Souta can be very well entertained by others. That is one thing that can be easily managed. What I am interested in is you." He allowed his hand holding her wrist to slide up her arm as he reached to turn off the faucet. She watched it as if she were watching the graceful advance of a snake.
"I wish you weren't."
He turned his head, "Why? What is there to fear?"
That brought her eyes up to his. She stood for a moment looking at him, measuring. "I am a human woman, no longer truly young. Our association will create confusion and difficult feelings all around. I am not sure where my responsibilities lie." She paused then, frowning at him. He was smiling, just a bit.
"Why do you frown, Shrine Woman?"
"Because you smile."
His smile at that became broader, more predatory, and she would have stepped back had he not caught her chin and kissed her on the lips. She was frozen in time, his mouth unexpectedly warm on hers. His lips firm and yet gentle. A quick buss and nip from him and their mouths were open, tongues like butterflies. He drew back a bit at last and Higurashi-San found herself following his movement, eager for more. His smile grew into an outright grin.
"You said will." He drew out the word 'will' with emphasis. "My Shrine Woman does not lie. You cannot deny me now."
Her eyes widened and she gave a faint exclamation as she realized he had her cornered in more ways than one.
His grip wasn't painful. Not ungentle, but 'no' wasn't going to be the answer either, really, when all was said and done. But what was being said? He murmured, "My Shrine Woman," as if she were a prize before laying his mouth over hers again and she was caught.
But then, so was he. Sesshoumaru didn't know quite what he expected but the woman in his arms was like nothing he had ever held before. Her mouth almost burned him, her hands were tentative and she pulled away from his kiss stiffly with a shove at his shoulders.
"You're afraid of me," he said.
She turned her face away, blushing, "I've never done this before."
"Oh, come now. Although I pride myself in my ability to terrify humans I do believe you are a mother of two."
She licked her lips and dried her hands on a towel. "Please do not laugh at me. You know what I mean. This will never work."
"I'll never tell and you don't seem to be running for the door. Perhaps I should ravish you." She stared back at him with narrowed eyes and a set mouth. He sighed a little and stepped towards her, "Not running yet, Shrine Woman?"
"Maybe, but I think you'll like it."
She smiled and shook her head but he drew her to him and kissed her again. She found herself sliding into his arms, hands pulling at the fabric at his shoulders even as she felt him gently tugging at the buttons down the back of her dress. One by one they popped open and she could feel the cool air along her spine before the warmth of his hand replaced all that. He was pressing at her spine, guiding her out of the kitchen.
"Where are we going!" Her voice trembled a bit.
"You have to ask?" He sounded amused. Within moments they were in his room, large bed on a platform, city lights twinkling outside the window, "Shrine Woman." His voice was husky, " I think you should help me undress."
Her hands seemed to move on their own, revealing the smooth-rolling planes of muscle and bone that defined him. His shin was smooth and pale in the shadows, a heat emanating from it that surely would melt snow. His height leaned over her, the curtain of his hair nearly cloaking how much larger he was than her. He gave the faint rumble of a chuckle as she ran her hands over him changing to a mutter as she reached certain places.
Her dress was falling off her shoulders, sliding to the floor. He helped it, pulling slowly down as it caught at her hips. She dropped her head and blushed, she was slender enough but she could not be fine enough for him. She felt the flush creeping over her skin under his gaze. What if he turned away?
He gave a low laugh and swept her up to follow her on to the bed. Her dress made a rapid descent to her ankles and she had to kick a bit to get it off. He laughed again and knelt up over her, dealing with the undergarments with ruthless speed. She was startled and tensed at the exquisite stretch and burn of his entry, as if, after so many years she was virgin again.
He paused, "I do not mean to hurt you."
"It's all right, I don't care." She slid a hand up over his shoulder, beneath his hair. He shifted in response, on his elbows over her and kissed her, forcing his way into her mouth even as he invaded below. She let him, opening wide in both ways to let him take all he wished.
That seemed to be the right thing as he made a sound-a low inhuman moan of need and she clutched at him as he moved within her. At the peak, he cried out hoarsely, clutching at her hips in his turn and straining against her in a way that made her body clench against his in a completely visceral reaction. She could scarcely breathe, let alone speak when it was done and was oddly surprised and touched to find him trembling and surging against her body again before he pulled her back over the edge with him.
... There was no going back after that.