Chapter Three

It was only somewhat surprising to Kagome that the Brown Lizard Tea had been unanimously banned from her home from that day forth. But it had been worth it just to watch her friends drink it.

Everyone had stared at the strangely thick brew for a moment, only Kagome and Houjo actually drinking theirs. The smell emanating from their cups was…odd, and they couldn't quite place or attach that smell with anything pleasant. As well as the fact that Kagome refused to reveal the type of tea they had prepared, going so far as to clap a hand over Houjo's mouth when the boy was about to speak. Also, her armload of freeze-dried lizards seemed to have disappeared someplace.

Finally, Kikyou had done the polite thing and taken a cautious sip. When she did not keel over and die under their watchful stares, the others also took a sip. They faces froze in horror at the taste, immediately spitting it out. Kikyou managed a gracious swallow, and paled, her lower lip trembling slightly.

Inuyasha yelped, fleeing toward the kitchen sink and maxing out the faucet while scrubbing at his tongue, all the while managing to scream out curses in their direction. "Fuck, Kagome! That shit was vile! The hell you give us that crap for? Ew ew ew!" He finished off maturely, clawing at his tongue, his head tucked beneath the faucet, water running directly into his mouth.

Kagome giggled uncontrollably, the rest too busy trying not to remember the taste of the tea to pay Inuyasha much mind. Houjo merely smiled, glad that at least the others were drinking something healthy.

It was then that Kagome noticed that Sesshoumaru was sitting rather rigid, his own cup untouched. She hid a frown. It would have been interesting to see what his expression would have been. She remembered a time when he had been much less aloof. She couldn't quite remember what had changed between them for him to become like that, but since then, things hadn't been the same. He was a veritable frosticle now, at least socially it seemed. Or maybe it was just with them.

He was the older, more mature member of their group. Maybe he was above these childish pranks? Even outgrown them maybe? That thought kind of hurt. Sesshoumaru had become a stranger to them, and she hadn't even realized it until it was too late. But even if that were the case, he still stayed with them, so that had to mean something. Yet, she couldn't shake the feeling that there was something strange in the way he stared at the tea. Certainly it didn't smell that bad.

-:- -:- -:-

Tuesday…

Kagome's backpack slid off her shoulder carelessly, falling to the floor with a thump.

She allowed herself a small moan. She hated Tuesdays for Tuesdays were Math days, the most hated of all the academics. She had just dragged herself home from one of the most grueling exams she had taken that semester. Thankfully, she hadn't been a total goon during the exam, Houjo had helped a lot in the weeks leading to it, but still, she hated math.

She sighed, flopping herself gracelessly onto her couch. She looked about the empty room listlessly. Another thing she disliked about Tuesdays, somehow it ended up that she was the only one who had free periods during the day. Everyone else had classes for the majority of the day, leaving maybe only a sparse hour or two for them to hang out, and only with a few members of the group at a time.

Maybe some brain numbing entertainment would take her mind off that atrocious test. Kagome grumbled, fumbling about her couch for the remote control. Damn those boys for never putting anything back to where they were supposed to go! She jumped off the couch and pulled out the cushions, groping around blindly until her fingers only came into contact with some old bread crumbs and a bag from some chips she had seen Miroku munching on last week. She frowned, next time she saw them, she was going to make them clean her couch!

Stifling a growl of frustration for the elusive remote, she tossed the cushions back onto the couch sloppily. Bah! She'd just turn to damn TV on by hand. She had rolled her body off the couch, and was painstakingly crawling over to her TV when her stomach growled suddenly. "Damn stomach." She muttered. "You're gonna make me fat." She berated her belly, before changing directions and heading toward the kitchen.

Exams always made her hungry afterward.

She gave a soft groan, and patted her belly, tottering into her own kitchen. A soft shuffling sound met her ears. Her eyes snapped open to see her fridge door already open and someone rummaging around in its contents. The shadow it cast revealed two socked feet from the bottom of the fridge door, and a flash of white hair. Kagome brightened. Inuyasha must've gotten out of class early.

Great! She had been itching for something to do.

She backtracked a few steps, and snuck around the kitchen island, crouching on the other end. She grinned. "I-nu-YASHA!" She pounced.

She threw her arms around a startled-Sesshoumaru? She froze. What was he doing here! "Um…hello." She said in a pathetic cover, and disentangled herself immediately. Well…almost. It seemed that her arms were trapped in Sesshoumaru's hands, although she couldn't quite remember when she had entangled herself in his specific grasp. It took a moment for her to figure out that Sesshoumaru was holding her arms where they were.

"Tell me, do you always greet my younger sibling in such an spirited manner?" He asked, almost politely, except he kept a rather strong grip on her arms.

"Ah…eh heh…sometimes?" She answered truthfully, eyes wide and innocent. She gave her arms another fruitless wiggle.

He said nothing in reply, merely staring at her with that unreadable look on his face. Kagome blushed hotly and turned her head, avoiding his gaze. Why did he have to be so close! Just being near him had made her heart pound a little faster. At this proximity, she was afraid that her heart would leap out of her chest! She hadn't been so physically near Sesshoumaru since they were in middle school.

Time passed slowly to her panicking brain, and the one thought that kept registering was the fact that she was hugging Sesshoumaru, albeit not completely under her own whim. Her arms were wrapped around him! Being held in place by his hands! Hugging Inuyasha was one thing. The boy would flush and stutter, then mutter something about it being embarrassing. It was quite cute. Having her arms encircling Sesshoumaru was something completely different. It was like comparing a handshake with an acquaintance to slapping the president of the country upside the head. It was just something that was not done!

Sesshoumaru was not one to be embraced casually! Especially not by her.

She was probably making a bigger deal out of it than necessary, but she knew that in her heart, her feelings for him were far from faded. Trying to convince herself that it was just a crush that would disappear in time had not worked for the previous several years. Adding this to the melting pot of her confused emotions wouldn't help much either. WHY WASN'T HE LETTING GO?

Then he did.

It was so unexpected that she fell backward against the kitchen island with a yelp. She was on her feet in an instant, rubbing her head with one hand, and the other pointed indignantly in Sesshoumaru's face. "What was that for?" She demanded angrily.

He turned away, ignoring her, but before he had, Kagome could've sworn that she had seen an amused expression on his face. He was just playing with her! What the hell? She'd show him. She stood up slowly, watching his back as he pulled out a few sodas. Then she reached out, pressed her hand against the lever for crushed ice on the fridge door, and shoved a handful of it down his shirt.

He stiffened, his eyes widened unnaturally before narrowing at her.

Hm…in retrospect, she had just potentially pissed off her now estranged friend and was unsure of just how he would react or what exactly he would do to her now. Great going Kagome!

So, she did the rational thing and fled. She made it to the living room before she felt one long arm snake about her waist. Another hand clamped down on her hip and she was pulled to the side. Unfortunately, adrenaline made her rash, and she kicked off in the opposite direction that he was pulling. The opposing forces sent both to the ground, his arms still locked around her.

She landed with a thud and the wind rushed out of her lungs. That gave Sesshoumaru incentive enough to tighten his hold, much like a constrictor. She gasped as she felt his arms wind about her. What the hell was he doing?

"Se-sesshoumaru?" She wheezed, still not fully catching her breath.

He said nothing, flipping her onto her stomach and pinning her there. Then Kagome began to worry. He hovered inches above her, she could feel his breath on her neck, but she couldn't see him. One of his hands held her wrists behind her back, reminding her a little too much of a police arrest. One leg overlapped her legs, holding them still, and she could hear the rustling of cloth. She couldn't begin to imagine what he was doing with his free hand.

But she felt it. She shrieked as his hand slid down the back of her shirt, a fistful of crushed ice clutched in his hand. She writhed, trying to free herself. It was COLD!

She could hear him snicker as he let go. She jumped up, reaching up her shirt to remove the ice before chucking it at Sesshoumaru's smirking face. He dodged it easily. He still held another handful of ice, removed from his own dripping back. That was a lot of ice she had tossed down his shirt. She began to somewhat regret it as the confident flash in his eyes promised that she would find more ice in her clothes if she didn't escape him quick enough.

Truth be told, it had been a long time since Sesshoumaru had acted so…playful. Kagome couldn't recall the last time they had just goofed off with one another. She missed those carefree days.

Sesshoumaru had been approachable once, well approachable to her. Now he was cold and somewhat unpredictable. She never could tell what went on behind those golden eyes of his, what he was thinking or wanting. There had been a time when she had been a pretty good guess at his thoughts and wants…but now…well, at the current point in time, she was running to save her own skin in her own house.

She decided to just go with it if Sesshoumaru was feeling lively. What could it hurt?

-:- -:- -:-

Apparently…it could hurt a lot.

Nothing much happened after Tuesday. Come Friday, Kagome was bored with school and itching to see the movie on Saturday. Her friends were likewise excited. Inuyasha kept grumbling about having to wait a whole week to see the movie. He had actually been ready to slug one of his classmates who wouldn't shut up about the movie, and had taunted him for not seeing it yet.

They were once again sprawled out across various pieces of furniture and on the floor of Kagome's living room. Sango had prepared some salsa to go with the chips Kikyou had bought. Miroku and Inuyasha were engaging in a soda chugging contest, the latter choosing to shotgun the cans. And Houjo was shyly sitting beside Kagome on the couch as she flipped through the channels. Somehow, it hadn't entered her mind that once again, Sesshoumaru would show up alone. He was sitting in an adjacent chair, neither minding or caring what the others did, nor did he choose to participate in anything. He was just silent, and for the most part, seemed to be ignoring them all.

He also wasn't acting as if anything was different from the norm. No one knew about what had happened on Tuesday. No one had seen him acting differently than he normally acted now. It kind of bothered her slightly, yet at the same time, flattered her. She wished he could be a bit more open with others. He had become such a closed person since High School. Now, he was a walking frosticle of a person, and a playboy one at that.

Kagome frowned inwardly. Somehow, she had come to expect to see the form of another female draped across his. It was rather pessimistic of her, if not rude, to think that way of him, but she chose to blame the jealous side of her for that. She still cared, and that little event earlier that week hadn't stemmed any residual feelings. But, it also hadn't increased her affection either, but rather, made her feel almost guilty.

Her fingers flipped through the channels with increasing fervor, the TV resembling a colorful strobe light.

Houjo really did like her. And she liked him. They had always been companionable and open to one another. But somehow, realizing that she might never be rid of her initial feelings for Sesshoumaru, and that he didn't help much by acting so oddly, made her feel like she was somehow cheating on Houjo. It was preposterous since to be cheating, they would have to be dating, and they were only friends. But she couldn't quite convince herself that Houjo wasn't seeking a bit more from their relationship, and she wasn't quite willing to commit to it yet.

-:- -:- -:-

Miroku burped loudly. He had lost to Inuyasha, but didn't mind it so much. He excused himself to the bathroom as Inuyasha released a victory belch.

He had been distracted by Kagome. The girl didn't realize how transparent she was, or how simple her feelings actually were. She was torn by her wanting to please two people in ways she didn't know how. Kagome had never really been in a relationship with anyone, her friends being the only people she really spent time with.

He stared at his reflection in the mirror a moment before turning on the tap.

Her family was somewhere in the deserts of Egypt, along with her younger brother. Both of her parents were successful archaeologists, with Kagome following in their footsteps as he major was in the same field. Eventually she would leave to join them. But, due to her parents' occupation, they had moved around a lot in the past before settling to buy a home when Kagome was beginning grade school in which she could finish her school years. She had been somewhat isolated by being socially limited in who she knew, and never really met with anyone outside of their circle of friends. As such, she was emotionally stunted in a sense. Her emotions had never matured beyond the point of a child.

Passion, guilt, and love would be painful things for her to learn, especially in teenage years. Miroku himself had gone through a rough childhood after the death of his father, regardless of having his friends. He had been forced to grow up quickly. And despite appearances, he was perhaps the most mature of their entire group. He had easily recognized Kagome's turmoil. She may not have realized it yet, but she was soon to feel a lot worse, being unable to resolve her feelings. She simply did not know how.

The only way he could see to it, was for Sesshoumaru to leave her alone. It was impractical in the sense that doing so would make it impossible for Kagome to completely come to terms with her true affections. She couldn't recognize a crush from love yet. But Sesshoumaru wasn't helping matters either.

Miroku squeezed a bit of liquid soap from the dispenser and lathered it in his hands making them white and foamy before rinsing it off.

Miroku could see it. Hewasn't quite sure what the older teen wanted. He was interested in Kagome, Miroku knew, but Miroku didn't know if Sesshoumaru loved her. He was afraid that the older teen would see Kagome as someone who needed to be kept, as he knew that Sesshoumaru disliked losing things he cared about. If Kagome was to be lost to another boy, even if it was within their circle, Sesshoumaru wouldn't have it.

The dark-haired boy frowned. This wasn't being fair to Kagome, but he needed Sesshoumaru to keep his distance. The white-haired teen simply did not realize how emotionally fragile Kagome was. Things were simply beyond her understanding and mistakes were made too easily. If Sesshoumaru did choose to pursue her, with his distant brand of affection, Kagome wouldn't understand if he cared for her or not. It would upset her, and Miroku cared too much about her to allow that to happen.

He splashed his face a bit with the icy water before toweling his hands and face dry. Re-hanging the towel, he left the bathroom.

He would have to have a talk with Sesshoumaru.

-:- -:- -:-

Kagome all but pounced on Miroku as he exited the bathroom. She slung her arms around his neck with a grin on her face. "So, we're going to see the movie tomorrow, right? Right?"

He smiled in return, patting her on the head. "Uh-huh." He replied.

"What time?" She asked.

He thought about it a moment. "Want to eat before or after?"

"Before." Kagome replied instantly. "We're always hungry in the theater, so let's eat, then we can snack inside too."

"Alright then, let's meet at 11:30 for some lunch. We can see the midday matinee that way." Miroku did some quick calculations in his head. Lunch and the movie. He had offered for it to be his treat, and he could easily afford it. Not a problem.

"Great!" She chirped happily. Then shrieked as she felt a hand run down her back, too far south for her liking. She slapped him hard.

He was still grinning as his head was slammed into the wall.

-:- -:- -:-

Kagome plopped back down on the couch with a huff. Houjo gave her a worried look. He leaned in toward her. "Are you alright?" He asked softly.

She flushed slightly. "Yeah. Just Miroku being Miroku."

Houjo's mouth made a nice 'o'. Even he understood that as he had accidentally been felt up once by the boy's 'cursed hand.' It was not too memorable, as Kagome had been fleeing and decided to shield herself behind Houjo, and the monk's descendant had simply missed. But Miroku had been so scandalized that he hadn't tried to grope anyone for days afterward. Sango promptly referred to it as Miroku's kryptonite, and had tried, fruitlessly, to try to get him to grab Inuyasha, just to see the results.

Kagome gave a tiny giggle in remembrance. She had never seen Miroku's eyes so big before. He looked as if he had somehow caught the plague, and poor Houjo. The brunette had simply not understood the black-haired boy's irrational fear, too rigid himself from actually being groped. Miroku had been catatonic for a few minutes, giving Sango ample time to doodle on his face, before settling back down on the couch beside Kagome. Kikyou had done the wise thing and snapped a few shots of the boy, then tucked her digital camera into her purse and sat on the other side of Kagome. It would be good blackmail to use against Miroku if he ever got his head into any hair-brained schemes or cons that required any of the girls' participation.

Inuyasha suddenly yelped in impatience at Kagome's constant channel surfing and dove for the remote, which Kagome chucked at his head. He caught it with his face, grumbled, and pointed it at the television in time to see Sango slip a DVD in with a grin.

Kagome leaned onto Houjo slightly. His body was warm and soft, and gave Kagome an almost lethargic feeling. It was comfortable. Perhaps it was bold of her to do so, in knowing that Houjo was actively pursuing her, but he did like her, and she had convinced herself that given time, she could like him back in the same way.

-:- -:- -:-

When the movie finished. Kikyou stood with a stretch and a grin and made her way to Kagome's rather extensive DVD library and slipped in another disc. They took a moment to wait for Sango as she bustled in the kitchen to make some popcorn. Inuyasha was on the phone dialing the local pizza place. And Kagome was asleep against a blushing Houjo's side.

Miroku took his chance, and with subtle gesture towards the only man who would notice, motioned him into another room. Sesshoumaru followed in silence, only mildly curious to what the dark-haired teen would want with him. They had not exactly been very conversational toward each other in the current or recent past.

He closed the door behind them then Miroku turned his violet eyes to meet flat golden ones. He frowned slightly. "What ever it is you're doing, Sesshoumaru, I'd like to ask you to stop." He said seriously.

"What am I doing?" Sesshoumaru dead-panned, sounding almost innocent.

Miroku's frown deepened. "I think Kagome could be happy with Houjo, so I'm asking you politely to leave them alone. You haven't had any interest in her for all these years. Now, you're acting like a child who's lost a toy they haven't played with in months, wanting it back. I don't want you to play with her feelings. She deserves better than that."

Sesshoumaru said nothing in reply, his face absent of expression.

Miroku's level gaze never left Sesshoumaru. He waited for a response. He knew what he had said, what he had implied, and how insulting the older man would find it. He was being blunt, perhaps too much so, but he was telling Sesshoumaru, straight-out, what needed to be said.

The white-haired man smirked suddenly. "Who ever said that I never had any interest in her?" He asked casually before leaving the room.

Miroku could only stare, shocked, at the place Sesshoumaru had just vacated. What had he meant by that? His face contorted. Damn that man! This was just a game to him! He ran out of the room in time to see Sesshoumaru, coat slung over his shoulder, bent over Kagome, whispering something in her ear. Houjo had left to get a drink, and so, no one else noticed when Sesshoumaru slipped from the house, a startled Kagome left behind.

Miroku ran up to her. "What did he say?" He asked, worried. Shit, had he just made it worse?

Kagome blinked. "He said that he was coming with us tomorrow." She replied, surprised. She wondered what had changed his mind so suddenly.

-:- -:- -:-

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SM: Finally an update. Hooray...(snore) So tired...so lazy...But I'm writing. This turned into a Miroku drabble like midway, but I think I got my point across. Miroku thinks too much. (dizzy) I need to take some time off work.

Also, all news updates will be posted on my livejournal. The link is in my profile. Thanks to all who read and review this! Love ya!