Friday afternoon...


"Hey, Kikyo, wait up," Kagura called after class as Kikyo was just walking out the door. Catching up with her, she shouldered her bag and asked, "Um, you got any plans this Saturday night?"

"No... I don't believe so," Kikyo answered thoughtfully. "Why do you care to know?"

"Well, um..." Thinking quickly, Kagura formulated a story to tell her, "You see, my parents are out of town for the weekend, and I kinda wanted to get out and do something- you up for it?"

"What did you have in mind?"

"Oh, nothing major," she replied. "You know, maybe go to the mall, grab something to eat, maybe catch a movie. That sort of stuff." She tried to pick things that she thought wouldn't appeal to Kikyo, hoping she would turn her down.

But Kikyo just smiled and nodded her head.

"Alright," she agreed. As far as she knew, she had no prior dates with Inuyasha, and Kagome was preoccupied with her new boyfriend. Kikyo thought it might be a nice change of pace to just while away some hours with another girl doing whatever it was girls did when they got together.

Kagura tried not to let her guilt and discouragement show.

"Great," she responded as they prepared to part ways. "I'll give you a call to set when and where to meet."

Turning left in the hallway, she walked away, quickening her pace when she knew she was out of sight. As she was passing by however, the nearby bathroom doors suddenly flew open and a pair of hands shot out, grabbed her, and pulled her inside. Kagura instinctively squeezed her eyes shut as her back slammed against the wall. When she opened them again, she let out an annoyed groan and wished she hadn't.

Yuka Inari stood in front of her with her two friends, hands on her hips, head thrown back imperiously.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" she hissed.

Straightening her uniform, Kagura replied, "Minding my own business until you bitches dragged me in here."

"Don't play stupid," Ayu quipped. "We know you were out with Sesshomaru again last weekend."

"And?" Kagura countered.

"And we told you to stay away from him," Yuka shot back, jabbing her finger in Kagura's face.

Kagura scowled and slapped it away angrily.

"Listen, you bitch, I don't have time for this. Either move out of my way or risk needing another surgery on that piece of copper you call a nose." She balled her fist to show she was serious.

Yuka didn't budge.

"You'd better make time," she responded, "because we've got you down for some ass kicking. We're gonna show you just who you're messin' with."

"We'll just see who learns a thing or two in that department," Kagura retorted. Right now, she really was not in the mood to deal with Yuka and her posse. God, she didn't care if she got in trouble. Three against one? She could always claim self-defense, she reasoned.

They were about to go at it, when a stall door swung open, framing Naraku's grinning form within its posts. Behind him, a girl peeked nervously over his shoulder, one hand clasping her blouse shut.

"Ladies," he sneered. "What seems to be the trouble here?"

In surprise, Yuka pointed a finger at Kagura, "She started it!"

"WHAT? LIAR! You freaks are the ones that yanked me in here."

"Now, now, Miss Orihara," Naraku soothed calmingly, shooting a smirk at Yuka. "I'm quite aware of that. After all, it's very hard to concentrate on making out with all the insults being hurled back and forth. Doesn't make for a very romantic atmosphere."

Romantic? Kagura snorted sarcastically. He called sucking face in a bathroom stall romantic? The guy was something else.

Outside, the bell sounded, diverting everyone's attention from the uncomfortable situation. (Uncomfortable for everyone but Naraku that is.)

"Oh, look," he commented. "Class is about to start. Why don't you girls run along?" he recommended to Yuka and her gang. "Wouldn't want you to be late, now would we?"

Glowering silently at Kagura, Yuka turned to leave, but not before turning her disapproving glare at the girl in the stall who was fixing herself.

"Slut," she muttered and disappeared through the door followed by her two friends.

When they were gone, Naraku turned his attention to the girl behind him.

"You should get going too, sweetheart," he instructed sweetly. "Don't want to get in trouble with your teacher."

Smoothing her hair, the girl grabbed her jacket slung over the toilet paper dispenser and squeezed past Naraku.

"That was fun," she grinned and gave him a quick peck on the lips. "We should do it again sometime." With one last wink his way, she ran out the door to her class.

"And who was that?" Kagura interrogated, crossing her arms.

Naraku just shrugged, "I didn't get around to asking her name. We didn't talk much, if you know what I mean."

"You're unbelievable, you know that? You say you're into Kikyo, and here you are swapping spit with some girl you don't even know." Pig. She couldn't believe she was actually helping him get together with perhaps the only person who might have considered her a friend.

"Why are you so peeved?" Naraku questioned teasingly. "After all, I'm still single... at the moment anyway. But I take it you have good news to help change that?"

Looking away, Kagura mumbled, "Yeah. She said 'yes'. It's all set."

In the bathroom mirror, Naraku redid his tie.

"Good," he declared.

"Ha! I still don't see how this stupid plan is going to work," Kagura retorted. "How is one fake date supposed to convince her to dump the guy she really likes?"

Naraku rolled his eyes, "Puhlease, Kagura, don't be so puerile. I've kept my eye on the happy couple all week- it's nothing but infatuation, puppy love." He smirked at his reflection, "I'll enjoy breaking that illusion."


"So what did you wanna do this weekend?" Inuyasha asked as he drove Kikyo home after having dropped off Kagome.

"What would you like?" she asked back.

"Uh... well, there's a new movie coming out Saturday that I kinda wanna see- supposed to be a really good horror flick. How about it?"

Kikyo didn't really like horror flicks, but if that was what he wanted...

"What time did you wish to go?"

"Well, it's a horror flick," he repeated. "So we should definitely catch a late showing- like 8 maybe?"

"Oh..." Kikyo faltered. "Saturday night... I'm afraid I won't be able to."

"Huh? Why not?"

"Well, Kagura invited me out, and I've already promised to join her."

"Oh..." Inuyasha tried not to sound too disappointed. She didn't have many friends, and he knew he shouldn't begrudge her a chance to make some, but he couldn't help it. The more time she spent with other people would mean the less time she would have to spend with him- and he was afraid that this Kagura chick would be just the first in a long list of people just waiting to take her away from him. And then it would be like with Kagome all over again.

"We can still plan an outing for Sunday," she tried to suggest. "Perhaps a picnic at the park? The weather is set to be warm- perhaps the last one of it's kind before spring arrives again."

"A picnic?" Inuyasha was doubtful. A picnic was definitely not his idea of having fun.

Catching the strange look on his face, Kikyo amended, "Or perhaps not..."

"No," he reacted quickly, noting the hint of disappointment in her voice. "I mean, if you really want to, I guess I can live through a day of pollen and itchy grass..."

Kikyo sighed inwardly but gave him a small smile.

"No," she replied. "It's alright if you won't enjoy it. We can do something else, if you'd like." Like see that horror flick.


Saturday night, Naraku spotted Kikyo right where he knew she would be- sitting by herself in front of a crowded coffee shop and looking around expectantly as streams of people on various outings flowed past.

Smiling confidently, he strolled over.

"Well, fancy seeing you here," he remarked coolly as she looked up, startled by his unlooked for approach.

"Oh, Naraku," she greeted. "What a coincidence..."

"Are you waiting for someone?" he asked, motioning to the empty seat across from her.

Kikyo frowned slightly and glanced at her watch for the tenth time that evening. It was nearly 7:30, half an hour after Kagura was supposed to have met her.

"Yes," she replied. "I was to get together with a friend, but she seems to have been delayed. I hope it's nothing serious."

"She hasn't called you?" he inquired, feigning surprise.

"I don't have a phone..."

"Oh. Well, in that case, here." Digging into his pocket, Naraku pulled out his cell and handed it to her. "Give her a call," he suggested. "Maybe something's come up."

"Oh, thank you." Dialing Kagura's number, Kikyo waited until someone picked up.


"Kagura, it's Ki-"

Kagura didn't let her finish.

"Kikyo! I tried to get a hold of your house, but no one was answering," she told her. "Where are you?"

"At the coffee shop," she answered, a little confused.

"Oh, damn. I'm really sorry," Kagura apologized. "But something came up. My parents came home a day early, and they're making me go out with them for dinner. I'm afraid I can't get out of it..."

"Oh..." Kikyo tried not to be too disappointed. "That's alright," she replied. "I understand- things take us by surprise sometimes."

"Yeah..." Kagura felt really guilty, but there wasn't a whole lot she could do about the situation. "Listen, I'll make it up to you, ok?" she promised- something she rarely did to anyone. "We can go out next weekend, if you're still up for it."

"Yes, that might be nice," Kikyo replied, then added, "Listen, I've borrowed this phone from someone, so I cannot stay long. Have an enjoyable dinner with your family, and I will see you Monday morning."

"Yeah, you do the same. See you later." They hung up, and Kikyo gave Naraku his phone back.

Sighing a little, she rose to her feet.

"Well, thank you for allowing me to use your phone. My friend is unable to make it, so I suppose I should head home now."

"What?" he exclaimed. "But the night is still so young, you can't possibly be thinking of wasting it at home."

She shrugged. She had nothing else to do- Inuyasha was already out with Kagome and the others to see his movie, and she didn't know which theater they were at.

"Why don't we do something?" Naraku suggested. "I was also supposed to meet with someone, but unfortunately, like you, I have been abandoned for sake of better company," he bemoaned dramatically.

Kikyo couldn't help but give him a small laugh.

"So how about it?" he persisted. "Why don't we two cast-offs get together and snub the rest of the world with our contentment? I've got reservations for two at Signori Luigi's- you like Italian, right?"

"How did you guess?" she asked.

With a knowing smile, Naraku replied, "I have my ways..."

Since she had nothing else to do, Kikyo accepted his proposal. What was the harm in it? she reasoned with herself. They were almost friends, after all.

They went to the restaurant, and she had a lot of fun.

Naraku was knowledgeable of just about everything, and they never lacked for a topic of intellectually satisfying conversation.

He told her a little more about himself- that he was an only child and that his father was a UN diplomat currently away at some far off foreign land negotiating peace. Naraku shared a lot of her interests- art, fine music, literature of every genre. He had read Marx's Communist Manifesto and found his view's naïve- a society in which everyone was equal, was, in Naraku's opinion, not only unattainable, but also ridiculous.

"I prefer the Darwinian law of nature," he stated loftily. "That only the strong flourish, and the weak are either subjugated or eradicated outright."

Kikyo just laughed, thinking it was a joke.

Afterwards he convinced her to go with him to see a production of Faust which he also had tickets for, explaining that was the original plan for his original date.

"To think a man would sell his soul for earthly pleasures," she commented while sipping coffee later on.

"Money and power beyond your wildest dreams for an insubstantial idea? I would have done the same," Naraku answered.

"You don't believe in souls?" she asked.

"What I believe is what I can see- the here and now. This existence is the only one I care to concern myself about."

Stirring her drink thoughtfully, Kikyo remained quiet. She wasn't all too sure herself whether she believed in souls or not, but she relied on the belief of an after life, clinging to it as the single Hope of her life. That was where they all went when they left her, wasn't it? Some haven that was momentarily out of her reach. Kikyo couldn't bare the thought that they weren't at least waiting for her, that Father and Mother were gone for good. That she would never see either again. That she would never have the chance to make amends. The guilt would crush her otherwise.


She ended up not seeing Inuyasha all weekend.

Sunday morning, Inuyasha called to tell her that to take advantage of the nice weather, his father was forcefully taking him and Sesshomaru out fishing for some "quality family bonding". Even through the phone Kikyo could feel the sarcastic quotes surrounding the words.

She wondered why Inuyasha was so antagonistic towards his family. His father seemed amicable enough, and Sesshomaru, though somewhat aloof, was not at all actively malicious. Why couldn't they get along?

Sometimes when she was over and any pair of them happened to be in the same room, she could feel the awkward tension that would suddenly arise. Was there some sort of rivalry between them?

Kikyo never had siblings, so she couldn't speak from experience, but she didn't think it was normal for such enmity to exist between brothers, or between a parent and child.

Then she thought about her own mother, and stopped.

Shaking her head, she dismissed the idea. She had her reasons for that rift, so she supposed Inuyasha would have his as well, and if he wanted her to know then he would tell her. As she didn't want to share her family problems, however, she wouldn't ask to avoid having to tell.

Kikyo spent the rest of the day cleaning the house from floor to ceiling and then straightening out the yard constantly filling with fallen leaves. She didn't think about the matter any further.


When Monday morning came around, Kikyo was in a cheerful mood, her birthday- a day she always dreaded for some unnameable reason- having come and gone without incident.

Since she had some business at the library, she left earlier than usual for a quick visit before class. After she was through, she gathered her things and went to meet Inuyasha and everyone else by their usual spot in front of the school.

"Hello, everyone," she greeted with a smile and started to approach Inuyasha, but stopped, picking up the uneasy energy of the group.

"Um..." Kagome looked nervously at Kikyo and then Inuyasha, then said, "I should get going. I've got some, um... thing I gotta do... Sango? Miroku? Wanna come with me?"

"Uh, yeah..." Miroku replied with the same uncertainty. "Let's go help, Sango."

"Yes... let's," she agreed, and all three turned and left.

Inuyasha stared at Kikyo pointedly.

"Is something the matter?" she asked tentatively, like someone treading their way through a path riddled with landmine.

"So," he began tonelessly, "I heard you went out with some guy Saturday night..."



"W-what?" Kikyo was caught off guard by the shade of accusation underlying the simple statement, and she had to take a step back and stare stupidly at him for a second, unable to fully comprehend the meaning of his words.

"You told me you were going out with a girl Saturday," Inuyasha replied calmly, assuring himself there was a simple explanation to it all. "But now everyone's saying you were out with some senior... Kikyo... is it true?" he asked, almost pleading with her to lie and say 'no'. That it was all a mistake. He would have willingly believed her rather than hear the truth he feared she would give- that she no longer liked him. That she wanted to break up. That she had found someone better.

Thinking back, Kikyo recalled Saturday night and almost breathed a sigh of relief.

"Oh," she responded, "you must mean Naraku-"

But before she could get any further with her explanation, Inuyasha exploded incredulously, "NARAKU? You ditched me to go out with that... that... JACKASS?" All his restraints fell away as he recalled the upperclassman's infamous reputation as a lady killer, but he couldn't believe Kikyo would actually go out with someone like that. Then again, Inuyasha couldn't believe that Kikyo agreed to go out with him either.

Around them, students turned to gawk at the scene, roused by Inuyasha's loud voice.

"Inuyasha," Kikyo tried to admonish, lowering her head in embarrassment. "Please keep your voice down... Everyone's beginning to stare." She hated drawing attention.

"So?" he demanded. "Let them. I wanna know- is it true you two have been together since you moved here?"

Her head snapped back up, "What?"

"They're saying this isn't the first time you two have gone out, and that you've been sneaking out behind the parking lot during lunch."

For a second, Kikyo couldn't speak. Who? Who were spreading these rumors about her? And why was he believing them?

"Do you mean to accuse me of something?" she asked, forcing her voice to remain calm.

"Tell me they're lying," he implored. Please...

But how could she?

Kikyo had met Naraku behind the parking lot once, on that day she had felt ill and left class early. She had accompanied him, too, to help him find a gift for his friend's sister, and they had gone together to that exhibit at the art museum. She had never thought anything about those outings, but she couldn't deny they occurred.

What really bothered, her, however, was that Inuyasha went along with it, that he demanded an explanation from her. Why should she have to defend herself from such allegations? How could he think she would do something like that? Didn't he know her better?

In the end, she stayed silent.

He took it as an admission of guilt.

"You know what," he said, his voice low, drained of energy, "it doesn't matter. Have a good time with your new boyfriend."

Spinning around, he stalked off up the front steps.

Kikyo's head was reeling. Had he just broken up with her?

"Inuyasha-" Her cry was cut short by the pride strangling her voice.

Don't you dare call him back, a little girl's voice hissed fiercely in her mind, and she could distinguish the bitter tears it held back. He won't listen. They never listen...

Around her, students stood stunned speechless by what they had just witnessed.

Kikyo bit back the stinging in her eyes.

Don't you dare let them see you cry. Don't you let them see you hurt. To deny being hurt was to avoid being hurt.

Kikyo numbed her mind, shoved away the thoughts clamoring for her emotions. Quietly she forced her legs to move, to follow his path up the steps in an even pace, unhurried, unhindered. She went to class and focused her attention instead on the mathematical formulas the teacher wrote on the board, ignoring the stolen glances her classmates kept throwing her way.

They wanted to see if she would break down and cry. They wanted to see her crack open. They wanted a fault they could point their finger to and shake their heads over.

"What a pity. She's not so perfect after all," they would murmur. "No wonder he left."

She was determined to disappoint them.


Inuyasha stared broodingly at the still water littered with fallen brown leaves.

He had stamped down the length of Hall A right through the backdoor, and now he was sitting at the edge of the koi pond, skipping class. Who even cared anyway? He had thought Kikyo had, but obviously he was very mistaken.

Inuyasha held back a longing sigh.

Why did he ever let himself like her in the first place? Who had he been kidding- thinking she could like him like that. Didn't he already know no one ever did?

But he had thought she was different. That she understood him. That she could be trusted.

But as in everything else in life, he had been sorely mistaken. She had been seeing someone else all along.

Inuyasha wondered why she had even agreed to go out with him in the first place.

She probably felt sorry for him, he thought in irritation. She probably just saw what a pathetic loser he was and decided to be nice, because Kikyo was like that.

Angrily, Inuyasha grabbed a nearby rock and flung it at the water. It soared across the surface of the pond before immediately sinking somewhere near the middle, scaring and scattering a group of fish.

He felt hurt, but he didn't want to feel hurt, so he got outraged instead.

Who needed her pity? In fact, who needed her, period? He was nothing more than a sick science project to her- another good deed she could have made into a plaque to display proudly in a glass case along with every other one of her perfect, impossible accomplishments.

Inuyasha had been perfectly fine without her, and he would be so now. What did he care, anyway? No one else did.

He continued chucking rocks at the water.


When Kikyo walked into her fifth period literature class, she fixed her eyes on her desk, deliberately avoiding Sesshomaru sitting behind it. Like in their earlier class, she wouldn't bring herself to meet his eyes- not after what she had told him last week, that she would never hurt Inuyasha. Now she had, and like everyone else in their gossip filled school, he already knew.

Kagura didn't talk to her- in fact, no one did. She had spent lunch holed up in the library again, and afterwards, there was no group waiting for her outside her Spanish class. She and Sango avoided eye contact.

The other students whispered around her- being that day's hot topic- and she pretended not to hear anything, but she could feel their stares anyway, just as right now she could feel the force of Sesshomaru's eyes on the back of her head.

Probably trying to see if he could make it explode, she mused sardonically. She kinda wished it would.

When she shifted uncomfortably in her seat, however, his gaze left her as he turned it to focus on the lecture notes up on the overhead projection.


Like everyone else on campus, Sesshomaru had heard of the supposed breakup between the girl and Inuyasha, but he hadn't bought it at first. It seemed too unbelievable the way those two acted around one another- it had their father picking out names for grandchildren.

But then she had walked into their first class together and affirmed the rumors. Outwardly she seemed to be normal enough, but he could detect the slight irregularities in her actions. She walked just a step slower than usual, her pace forcedly calm, calculatedly even. Instead of sweeping the room with her eyes when she first walked in, she kept them fixed on the single point of her destination. Her listless hand took incomplete notes. She was out of focus.

He wondered what had happened, and during lunch, Kagura told him.

It all centered on Naraku.

Sesshomaru nearly rolled his eyes- whether in annoyance or disappointment, he couldn't really be sure. He never thought Inuyasha was so stupid as to believe a bunch of idiotic rumors. Especially where that girl and Naraku were involved. There was obviously something more to the story than mere appearance, and he aimed to find out what.

Whether they got along well or not, Inuyasha was still his brother, and Sesshomaru would not allow someone like Naraku to exploit someone who could be connected to him by blood or otherwise.

After class, he waited for Kikyo to leave and followed her.

Quietly he walked with her to their last class, but waited until they were outside and out of earshot from passersby before asking, "What really happened between you and Naraku?"

Kikyo looked up, surprised, having dread the sound of his voice. She didn't know what he had wanted to say, but she was sure it wasn't going to be anything pleasant, and she had never expected it to be understanding.

Glancing away, she murmured, "It was merely a misunderstanding- a coincidence. I was supposed to have met Kagura, but she could not make it, and I came upon Naraku instead whose plans with another had also just fallen through, so he asked me to accompany him instead."

"And why didn't you refuse?"

"What reason had I to decline?" she asked back. "I had no other plans for the night, and I never thought..." Kikyo's voice wavered on the last word, and she stopped abruptly. Lowering her head, she closed her eyes tight and brought a hand to her mouth, willing the tears to stay away.

He turned to wait for her.

She lowered her hand and opened her eyes, having regained control of her emotions, but she didn't look up.

Calmly she told him, "I never thought anyone would infer such circumstances as the rumors are implying between us. It meant nothing to me."

"Did you tell Inuyasha this?"

Kikyo stayed silent for a moment. She could no longer understand why she hadn't, and then he had walked away and she couldn't bring herself to call him back. To plead for his return.

She had sworn she would never let herself fall into that situation again, open herself for rejection like that. Even Inuyasha wasn't enough for her to break that promise to herself.

"No," she whispered silently.

Sesshomaru said nothing more as they continued on to Biology.


Near the end of class, Kikyo kept glancing at the clock above the board apprehensively, fearing the dismissal bell. She was at a loss as to what to do after school since she usually went home with Inuyasha and Kagome.


Kikyo hadn't spoken to her all day, and she wondered how her cousin would take the news and the rumors. She and Inuyasha were best friends, after all, while she and Kikyo had not spoken to one another in the past five years before her move to town.

Either way, Kikyo was not ready to face her yet, either.

When the bell finally rang, she gathered her things without hurry, stopped by her locker, then made her way across the picnic grounds to the library, pulling her scarf tighter around her as a cold wind blew.

It was a particularly blustery day and dark storm clouds were quickly piling up in the horizon.

Kikyo hoped the rain would hold for at least another hour or two. She hadn't brought an umbrella, never anticipating the need for one, and she didn't want to go home soaking wet. Her grandmother would worry.


At home in the kitchen Inuyasha slammed cabinets open and shut to the accompaniment of booming thunder and the rain heavy rain pounding the glass of the windows and french doors.

At the table, Sesshomaru's eyebrow quirked in irritation as he flipped a page of the newspaper, an empty plate of madeleines in front of him along with a mug of rich hot chocolate to tide him over before dinner.

Finally finding what he had sought, Inuyasha grabbed the bag of barbecue chips and a can of soda from the fridge and plopped down onto a chair across from his brother. Mumbling incoherently to himself, he tore open the whole bag and most of the chips spilled out onto the table and floor, but he didn't even notice as he took a handful and shoved them into his mouth, grinding down on them angrily. He reached for the can of soda, but ended up knocking it off the table instead. Growling in annoyance, Inuyasha swiped it back up and flipped the tab open, sending a spray of sticky liquid right at Sesshomaru, drenching his paper and part of his perfectly smooth hair.

Inuyasha just smirked and downed what remained of the drink.

With inhuman placidity and patience, Sesshomaru wordlessly folded the newspaper and left to clean himself, shooting a last parting glance at his brother busily punishing the potato chips for unknown crimes. He was so predictable, hiding his hurt and anger on petty displays of destruction.

After Sesshomaru had taken a shower and changed, he went back downstairs to a chorus of cursing.

"Where the fuckin' hell is it?" Inuyasha was yelling at no one in particular while tearing the cushions off the couches in the family room. "A house full of fuckin' servants, and no one knows where the fuckin' remote is!" He kicked a throw pillow across the room.

Looking across the room beside the TV, Sesshomaru found the object of his obsession, cast in shadow, but otherwise in plain view.

Sesshomaru decided he had enough of this.


"What the hell do you want?" Inuyasha snapped distractedly as he lifted up one of the sofas in search of the 'elusive' remote. "Can't you see I'm busy?"

He let it crash back down, grabbed a nearby cushion, and flung it carelessly.

It hit Sesshomaru square in the face.

This time Inuyasha froze as his brother snatched at the pillow and threw it on the floor, a noticeable scowl printed on his face.

Spanning the room in one quick movement, Sesshomaru caught his right arm and locked it behind Inuyasha to pin him down onto the cushioned littered floor.

"OW! What the hell do you think you're doing, you asshole?" Inuyasha demanded when Sesshomaru sat on him, rendering him immobile. "GET OFF!"

Sesshomaru twisted his arm some more.

"OW! Dammit, Sesshomaru! What the hell you trying to do? Break my arm?"

"Gladly," he replied cooly, "if it will put an end to you breaking everything else."

"Dammit," Inuyasha cursed. "Leave me alone."

"No. This little temper tantrum has gone on long enough," Sesshomaru declared, and seizing the nearby telephone receiver, he shoved it into Inuyasha's face. "Call her," he ordered.

"WHAT? What the hell are you talking about?"

"Don't play stupid, Inuyasha," he reprimanded harshly. "I'm not in the mood to play your idiotic games. Call her now."

"This has nothing to do with you, you bastard," Inuyasha complained vehemently. "GET OFF! What do you care, anyway? This is none of your business."

"I, dear brother, would like a return of peace and normalcy in this house, and if that means reconciling you with your idiotic sophomore romance, then so be it."

"Kikyo is not idiotic!" Inuyasha snapped back, trying to wriggle free. "I'll kick your ass for saying that."

Whacking him over the head with a pillow, Sesshomaru shoved the phone in his face again.

"No, but you're acting just like one. Call her," he repeated. God, if love made you this illogical, Sesshomaru was certainly glad he'd decided completely against it.

"NO! Why the hell should I?" Inuyasha demanded. "She doesn't wanna talk to me, anyway.

Sesshomaru had had enough.

"I told you to stop being an idiot," he growled dangerously. "After everything she's done for you, you don't think she'd care to explain herself?"

With a snort, Inuyasha retorted, "I wish she would."

"Then call her."

At last, Inuyasha stopped struggling, and went quiet, thinking about Sesshomaru's order.

Should he really call her? Could he? Inuyasha really did want to...

Finally he muttered, "Fine."

Sesshomaru released him, and he pushed himself up, rubbing his arm. For someone so refined, Sesshomaru sure had a strong grip.

"Well?" he shot once he had retrieved the phone from the floor. "You gonna stand there, or what?"

Determining that Inuyasha was good for his word, Sesshomaru departed to give him some privacy.

Inuyasha dialed Kikyo's number and waited while the phone rang.

"Yes?" an old woman's worn voice answered. It was her grandmother.

"Um... h-hi," he stammered. "Is, uh, Kikyo home?"

"Kikyo?" Kaede repeated, a little confused. "But it's Monday- should not she be with you?"

What? Inuyasha was speechless. Kikyo had never showed up after school, so he had both assumed that she had merely gone home on her home or with Kagome and Kouga. Did Kaede mean she wasn't there at all? That she hadn't seen her all afternoon? But where the hell was she then?

Growing a little concerned with his silence, Kaede inquired, "Where is my granddaughter?"

Inuyasha thought quickly in order not to worry the old woman who was obviously not aware of the fight.

"Uh, it's nothing," he lied. "I dropped her off earlier at, um... Kagome's but I thought she would be home by now. Sorry. I'll try over there." Not waiting for a response, he quickly hung up and dialed Kagome's hoping that by some miracle, Kikyo was actually over there.

"Hello," Kagome answered on the third ring. "Higurashi residence."

"Kagome, it's me."

"Oh, hey, Inuyasha," she replied. "What's up?"

"Have you seen Kikyo?" he asked apprehensively.

"Um, no... I haven't seen her since this morning..." Kagome had heard the rumors of the breakup, but she never ran into Kikyo at school, and afterwards she never called to talk about it, and Kagome had never picked up the phone either, feeling a little awkward being caught between her best friend and her cousin. She had decided to just wait it out until they got back together.

"You mean she didn't catch a ride with you and Kouga after school?" he asked.

"Um, no... Why? Is something wrong?"

For a second, Inuyasha debated on whether to tell her or not, but finally he revealed, "She's... she's not at home, and her grandma doesn't know where she is either- I've already called, and I told her she was over at your house."

"What? Oh, crap... This isn't good- have you seen what it looks like outside?"

"Yeah, I know! That's why I'm worried."

"Where do you think she could be?"

"How should I know?" he asked, exasperated. "I thought you'd know."

Thinking for a minute, Kagome finally suggested, "Well, she didn't come over here, but maybe she's at someone else's house... or hanging out with one of her friends. I'll ask around, you should too."

"Like who?" he wanted to know.

"Well..." Kagome had to think some more. She didn't know any of Kikyo's other friends. Or if she even had any. Then she said, "I think her and that Kagura girl kinda know each other. I'll look up her number on the school directory, and you should ask... ask... ask Sesshomaru," she blurted.

"Sesshomaru? What would he know?"

On the other end of the line, Kagome shrugged, "I dunno, but him and Kikyo have some classes together, don't they? And they talk sometimes, I think. Maybe he saw something, or maybe she said something to him that might help. Anything's better than nothing right now, Inuyasha. Just ask."

They hung up.

Kagome was right, he decided. As much as he hated to ask Sesshomaru for help, he really couldn't be picky right now as to who to go to.

Kikyo- where could she be?

Jogging up to Sesshomaru's room, Inuyasha knocked on the door and opened it before anyone could answer.

"Sesshomaru," he said hurriedly. "Quick- you and Kikyo have the same sixth hour, right? Did you see where she went after school?"

Sesshomaru frowned at his frantic brother.

"Next time," he remarked, "I'd appreciate you waiting for me to answer before you burst in here."

"Yeah, yeah. Would you just answer?" Inuyasha replied irately. "Did you see her or not?"


"She's missing, and no one knows where she is. Kagome thought you might. So do you or not?"

The announcement caught Sesshomaru's attention. Missing? No wonder Inuyasha was so agitated. He on the other hand, wasn't too worried- in any case, she would probably be home soon for dinner to keep her grandmother from worrying.

Then again, he thought, at best she would be soaking in very cold weather. And at worse... There were, he conceded, other less pleasant possibilities...

"Calm down," he admonished. "You'll get nowhere unless you think straight."

Following his instructions, Inuyasha sat on the bed, trying to keep his feet from tapping a hole through the carpeting.

"Now..." Sesshomaru began. "If you were her, where would you go?"

"God!" Inuyasha cried. "If I knew that, I wouldn't have come to you. This is all my fault- If I'd never yelled at her this morning, she would have come over, or I could've driven her home, or..." He beat himself up for being so mean. If anything had happened to her, Inuyasha would never forgive himself.

"Stop it!" Sesshomaru snapped. "It's useless to think about what you could have done or should have done. It's too late for that. Focus on what you intend to do now."

With his hand between his hands, Inuyasha nearly cried. He was so worried.

"I don't know," he groaned. "I don't know, I don't know..."

"Keep quiet then," Sesshomaru retorted. "And watch your feet- that rug is an antique."

Inuyasha did as he was told, and Sesshomaru concentrated for several minutes.

If he was that girl, where would he go? She had been rightfully upset with Inuyasha's conduct and the rumors... Most likely somewhere quiet, away from prying classmates and questioning friends and family. Taking in the proximity of the school to her house, plus the distance of the city proper, and the time she would expected to be home by her grandmother, he came to the natural conclusion.

"The school library," he deduced.

"What?" Inuyasha looked up, startled by the sudden comment.

"Check the school library. It's Monday- it won't close until six. She may still be there." It was already five-thirty.

Without bothering to ask how he figured that, Inuyasha ran to his room for his keys, completely forgetting his jacket.

Sesshomaru nabbed him by the collar on the way to his car, and took his keys.

"What the?" Inuyasha was flabbergasted.

"I'll drive," Sesshomaru informed him. If Inuyasha got into an accident driving like crazy in this rain, Sesshomaru was sure he'd never hear the end of it from their father. He almost shuddered imagining the endless lectures he was bound to get.

They took his car and he drove carefully down the slick streets even as Inuyasha fidgeted impatiently in the passenger seat.

"Come on, come on," he urged. "You're driving like an old woman."

"I'm driving," Sesshomaru corrected, "like a someone who is sane."

As they neared the school campus, however, Inuyasha waved his hand frantically.

"There she is!" he yelled, peering out the window into the rain. "It's Kikyo. Hurry up! She's getting wet!"

Sesshomaru nearly rolled his eyes again as he pulled over to the curb. They were about a half a block from the school entrance- plenty of time for her to already get thoroughly wet.

With total disregard for his own dryness, Inuyasha jumped out of the car to meet the shadowy person making her way down the sidewalk in the opposite direction, unhurried, seemingly indifferent to the rain and the cold, her head bent down a little, wrapped in nothing but the thin scarf she wore.

"Kikyo!" Inuyasha called out loud and ran up to her. She looked up and would have stepped back in surprise had he not thrown his arms around her in a tight embrace.

"Inuyasha?" Confusion laced her voice. Wasn't he supposed to be hating her, or something?

"God, I'm so glad you're alright," he nearly sobbed into her hair. "I've been such an ass- I'm so sorry."

Eh? Now Kikyo was even more bewildered. He was sorry?

"Inuyasha..." She pulled back a little, wanting to explain. "What happened this morning..."

"I know, I know," he replied. "I'm really sorry, ok? I shouldn't have said those things- I should've ignored the rumors."

"No," she corrected. "It's true- I did spend time with Naraku Saturday night, but it was only by coincidence of circumstance. I wanted to tell you, you have no need to worry- there is nothing between Naraku and I. We are merely casual friends-"

Shaking his head, Inuyasha proclaimed, "No, you don't even have to explain. I should've known you wouldn't do anything like that. I was just being stupid- please forgive me?"

In response, she kissed him, and after recovering from the initial surprise, he gave her a deeper one.

From the car, Sesshomaru looked away.

Idiots, he thought. Standing in the rain and getting wet- they could have just as easily talked in the car where it was warm and dry, though he would have had to put his foot down at making out.

Sesshomaru shook his head, thankful he had inherited some sense from his mother- it surely couldn't have come from their father- and honked the horn to speed them along.

"Yeah, yeah," Inuyasha responded, turning to glare at him.

"Who's that?" Kikyo asked.

With a snort, he replied, "Sesshomaru drove me to find you. Come on- before he gets his panties in a bundle."

Leading her to the car, he opened the door for her and slid in after in the back.

"You know," Sesshomaru said, addressing Kikyo as he shifted the car back into drive. "You could have waited inside the library."

"I could not wait for the rain to diminish," she answered, then sneezed. "My grandmother would worry if I do not return home soon."

He just frowned and didn't comment on the fact that now both of them were getting the car seat wet.

The next day, they were both absent from school with a cold.



Naraku was in a very pleasant mood that evening, staring out the sliding glass doors and into the heavy downpour, a crack of lightning every illuminating the smug smile implanted on his face every now and then. From the sofa, Kagura was very tempted to whack him over the head with something. God, he was creepy when he smiled like that.

"You know," she commented dryly, "you just embarrassed her in front of the whole school. If you really liked her, you would've just left her alone."

"Hmph. I think it should be considered a favor that I severed her ties with that infantile nitwit she's been wasting her time on."

Infantile? Kagura's lips screwed into a half sneer. Naraku was the one playing all the games.

She didn't interrupt him though, and he continued, "Besides, it's not as if I meant for those rumors to spread all over school. Saturday night was merely a glimpse of what she could have were she with me- I never intended for some busybody to see us and arrive at such conclusions, but alas..." He shrugged nonchalantly. Turning from the window, he crossed over to the couch and sat at her feet, throwing his arms over the back in ease.

"Never the less," he conceded, "it did produce a most desirable effect. And I'm sure it won't take long for that little bump in her reputation to recover once she's with me. I'm sure no one will deny she made the right choice."

Kagura just rolled her eyes and returned her focus on the magazine in her hands. She couldn't believe Naraku would actually get away with the whole thing. Though her own freedom was hanging on the balance, a part of her had secretly hoped he'd fail. It was really too bad he didn't.