Author's Notes: This is just supposed to be a fun little alternate universe one-shot. It's not supposed to be some award-winning emotional experience. It's just good old fashioned romance and fun from my brain. I was struck by inspiration while watching the DVD of "Cinderella" (no, I'm not ashamed to admit that I bought it, along with "Lady and the Tramp" and "Aladdin"), and since then I've had to write it.
So yes, this one-shot is sort of based on that fairy tale...though not literally, or scene for scene. So it's not quite a parody, but not quite an original either. You can keep that in mind if you'd like, or just toss aside that random fact. I don't care. I figured I'd just explain my inspiration for this. I'm very proud of it, even if it isn't necessarily the most emotional of my pieces. It's fairly long (maybe too long to technically be called a one-shot), but I wanted to keep it in one chapter so that people would just read it straight through without interruption, again because it's meant to just be a pleasant, short, seamless experience.
And I guess that's all there is to say. I'll be updating "Impossible Dreams" again soon, and I'm also almost done with my story outline for "Lord of the West", so I hope to work on that as well. And in the meantime, enjoy this little piece! Blessings, everyone!
Title: Fan Mail
Rating: PG-13 (Just in case anything can be misconstrued as sexual implication, and for a few choice words from Inuyasha's mouth.)
Disclaimer: I don't own Inuyasha.
Once upon a time, in a land not so very far away or strange, there lived a young woman who decided to write a letter that would change her life...
Hey there. Do you have a minute?
The young woman who had been reading one of the gossip columns in her favorite magazine glanced over at her computer as the speakers chimed, announcing someone had sent her a message. In the middle of the screen a large text box had appeared, along with the usual bold red letters she'd come to expect each night from her friend.
Instinctively Kagome Higurashi felt a small smile come to her face as she leapt off her bed, forgetting the magazine as it fell off her lap and crumpled on the floor. Giggling and acting about ten years younger than she actually was, she slid playfully into the rolling chair in front of her computer and immediately began typing a response in her own small, elegant blue font.
Of course I do. It's getting late though...I thought maybe you weren't coming online tonight.
Tapping a few keys, Kagome watched as her message appeared in the text box before sitting back to wait for a response. She couldn't resist sighing slightly in relief as she allowed herself to realize her fears had been unfounded. Shaking her head, she was grateful he couldn't see her face and know just how anxious she had been at the thought of them missing one of their ritualistic nightly banters. No doubt if he did know, he would never let her live it down.
Kagome supposed that was one of the advantages of the computer, especially since she knew she was the kind of person who always wore her emotions on her sleeve, easily read like an open book...or so her friends told her.
Her speakers chimed again, and she blinked out of her reverie to glance back at the screen.
Keh...what kind of hours do you keep if this is late?
Kagome rolled her eyes and immediately typed a response.
Normal hours, thank you very much. Some people have jobs, after all, that require early mornings. And since that's my case, 11 pm is very late.
The speakers chimed.
Not my problem. And besides, my job revolves around late nights. You know that.
Nodding her head Kagome bit her lower lip as she tried to think of a witty comeback, but when nothing came to mind she decided it would be best to just move ahead with the conversation.
Fair enough. But even so, you're later tonight than usual. Why?
The concert ran later than expected. One of my violin players decided to get drunk too early in the day, and then fell asleep and nearly missed the damn performance.
Kagome grinned at that.
That must be frustrating.
Keh. I should fire him.
Then why don't you?
There was a pause for a few minutes, and Kagome found herself checking to make sure he was still online.
Because he's my best friend, and no matter what he does, or how much he pisses me off, I can't bring myself to tell him what I really think.
Kagome was slightly surprised by that answer. He hadn't struck her as the type to be so understanding about anything or anyone. But then again, as she hated to remind herself, she didn't really know him as well as she sometimes liked to think either. After all, just because she was able to chat online with one of the most famous musicians in the country every night didn't mean she really knew him.
She knew better than anyone how easy it was to put up a false front while at the keyboard, where no one could see her eyes or her smiles or her frowns, or hear her laughs or her exasperated sighs. And, Kagome supposed, that was probably why Inuyasha Nakamura, singer/songwriter extraordinaire, even bothered staying in touch. Computers were easy, somewhat anonymous, and safe when it came to talking with others. There wasn't any danger of anyone getting too close.
And at the very least Kagome understood Inuyasha's personality enough to know he avoided close relationships as much as possible. He'd even said as much himself during one of their first online conversations when she'd asked him why he'd never had a girlfriend.
You still there?
Kagome blinked and realized she'd completely spaced out for a few minutes in her own thoughts. Shaking her head, she set about typing.
Something wrong? Usually I can't get you to shut up.
Maybe I should just sign off after that little comment then.
Keh...I was kidding. Can't you take a joke?
Not at 11 pm.
It's actually 11:15 now.
Oh. Then I'd better get to bed.
Already? We usually talk for at least an hour!
Are you saying you'll miss me, Inuyasha?
Don't put words in my mouth.
Kagome smirked at that. Whether she knew him personally or not, at the very least she had to admit that Inuyasha was the only person who could match her wit in an online conversation. Maybe that's why she loved talking to him so much.
Well, that and the simple reality that she had told him more about her inner thoughts, hopes, dreams, and desires than she had ever told anyone else. And while she liked to throw that fact in with the others under the umbrella excuse of "online anonymity", Kagome was beginning to suspect that her reasons were more due to a crush she was developing than anything else.
Well, all sarcasm aside, Inuyasha, I really should get to bed. The kids will be up early in the morning because I promised them we'd go to the fair that's in town.
She was referring to her cousins who she watched for her aunt, a single working woman who needed all the help she could get. It was a silent agreement between the two: Kagome watched the two children, who were both under the age of twelve, and in return Kaguya Higurashi allowed Kagome and her brother Souta to live under her roof free of charge.
Fine. You can go.
Kagome laughed outright at that, but then clapped a hand over her mouth, hoping none of the other occupants of the house had heard. The last thing she needed was another lecture from her aunt about late hours and keeping the children awake, even though to Kagome's knowledge she had never once been the reason for Rin or Shippou staying up past their strict bedtime. Kaguya was just unfortunately the kind of woman who liked to find the bad in everything, and then proceed to turn the bad into a wrong that constituted at the very least a long lecture about manners and proper behavior.
Kagome made a face at the thought. She was certainly grateful to her aunt for all she'd done for both herself and Souta...but at times the thirty-eight year old lawyer could really be a little too self-righteous for Kagome's tastes, with a 'the-world-owes-me' attitude.
Thank you for giving me your permission, Your Majesty. It means the world to me.
Shut up and get to bed, woman.
So now you want me off the computer?
No...I just don't want you being so tired tomorrow that you don't come online at all.
Kagome smiled kindly, for once wishing he could see her expression. As much as was possible via the internet, they had really become very good friends. Good enough that they worried about one another, at least. She worried for him when he was sick or tired or mentally exhausted, and he in turn worried about her when she had a bad day or a fight with her aunt.
It felt nice knowing someone cared so much, even if it was kind of a strange friendship.
Goodnight then, Inuyasha.
She reluctantly turned off her computer and moved back to her bed, yawning to remind herself just how tired she really was. Even though she was sad now, Kagome knew she'd thank herself in the morning when she had managed to get a full night's sleep.
Pulling back her soft pink bedspread and underlying white sheets, Kagome allowed herself to fall face down onto her soft mattress, feeling the springs groan slightly under her weight as she buried her nose into her soft pillow and inhaled the scent of lemon and pine, happily reminding herself that she'd just washed the sheets that afternoon. It was one of the few good things about laundry day, because the rest of the time she just wanted to scream and shout and holler about how much sorting, washing, and folding she had to do, often marveling at how many outfits people wore over the course of a week. Granted, she was washing laundry for four other people besides herself, but even so...
Sighing, Kagome rolled over onto her back, resting a hand on her abdomen and feeling the warm skin of her belly where her white sleeveless top had twisted up and away thanks to all her moving around. For a few moments she just stared at the plain white ceiling of her small room, taking several deep breaths to calm her heart, which always seemed to be racing any more, and also to clear her mind so that it would shut down and allow her to sleep.
Running her tongue over her teeth, she realized she hadn't brushed them yet that evening, and so, with a sigh, heaved herself off her bed and out the door into the adjacent hallway, following it down into the modest bathroom she shared with her brother Souta, as evidenced by the eclectic mixture of male and female hygiene products scattered throughout the counter.
I should clean all this up, Kagome thought as she reached for the white electric toothbrush in the corner, but knew she probably never would. She spent so much time keeping the rest of the house spotless that it was almost nice having a little corner of the world that didn't adhere to her aunt's strict daily inspections.
When she finished rinsing her mouth out Kagome looked up into the mirror, dabbing at her mouth with a small pink towel as she did so.
Expelling a long breath, she noticed the circles beneath her eyes that betrayed how exhausted she always was, even though she tried to pretend otherwise when in the presence of others. Her face seemed to carry so many worries those days...far more than the face of a twenty year old ever should. Even her eyes, which were a beautiful, stunning dark shade of blue, seemed to have lost some of their old sparkle.
But Kagome supposed that couldn't really be helped. After all, while she was only twenty years old she worked as hard as someone twice her age and may as well have been the mother of two young children since Kaguya was so often at work. While most of her old school friends were now in college or moving on to other careers and enjoying their youth, Kagome was trapped, feeling like she would never pay off the debt Kaguya seemed to think she was owed for "all she had done".
Stepping back, Kagome took a moment to run a brush through her long ebony hair, satisfied to see it still looked just as full and vibrant as it always had. Thank God for small favors.
Finally feeling like she'd accomplished an appropriate pre-bed routine Kagome returned to her room and went back to her bed, slipping easily between the sheets. She felt her right foot slide over something on the floor, and looked down to see the magazine she had previously been reading. Reaching down, she picked it up and studied the face on the front cover for several minutes, a small smile curving up the corners of her lips as she did so.
Inuyasha Nakamura, the most famous up and coming adult contemporary singer in the country, smirked up at her from a well-sculpted face framed by a wealth of incredible silver hair the likes of which no one had ever seen before. It was merely one of the reasons he was such a teenage heartthrob, though in Kagome's opinion it was his eyes that really made him unforgettable. Even in a picture they were stunning, their unique amber color even more outstanding thanks to the color of his hair and the sharp contrast of his black eyebrows.
He was, in a word, incredible. And as much as Kagome tried to deny it every day of her life, he was worth the amount of time she spent thinking about him...or rather, the time she spent daydreaming when the realities of all her responsibilities was too much to handle.
Her grin broke into a full smile as she recalled how she had begun her strange relationship with one of the world's biggest celebrities.
It had been almost three years ago, a few weeks before Kagome had graduated from high school, when she was feeling very bitter about life and the fact that Kaguya had made it very clear that she would not be allowing Kagome to go on to college until Rin and Shippou were old enough to take care of themselves during the day without the constant presence of a guardian. She and some of her close friends had just come back from a live Inuyasha Nakamura concert, and her friends had done nothing but gush about how handsome he looked and how beautiful his voice was.
Feeling jaded and cynical, Kagome had done nothing but rant that she didn't see what the fuss was all about. In retaliation, her friends had dared her to say such things to Inuyasha's face since she was probably the only person in the world who felt that way, but since Kagome had no way of walking up to the superstar in person and giving him a piece of her mind, she'd settled for the next best thing: a fan letter (or, in her case, a non-fan letter). She'd written in no uncertain terms that she didn't like his voice, that she was unimpressed by his live performance, and that she didn't think he was as handsome and talented as everyone else did.
The next morning, with her friends as shocked witnesses, Kagome had stamped the letter and stuck it in one of the first postal boxes she'd come across, figuring that would be the end of it. Thus she had been stunned when, three weeks later, a letter had arrived for her written by none other than Inuyasha Nakamura himself. He'd challenged her courage and her nerve by saying he wanted to talk to her and try to understand why she disliked him so much.
Feeling offended by his arrogance, Kagome had eagerly written back saying she accepted his request, and a week later another letter had arrived with the screen name for his private online account. That night Kagome had signed on and, after seeing his name on the screen for nearly two hours, had finally mustered up the courage to start a conversation.
Since then they had only failed to talk on a few occasions when Inuyasha's touring schedule became too busy, or Kagome's life too hectic, and otherwise always made time to at least debrief about their days, and, when time permitted, talk about other things as well, so that over the course of nearly three years Kagome had come to learn Inuyasha's opinions on nearly everything, along with a lot of private information about his past (most of which his adoring public did not know).
She'd faithfully kept their relationship a secret per his request, selfishly knowing even if he hadn't asked she probably wouldn't have told anyone anyway. She liked knowing she had a private, exclusive connection to one of the most powerful and famous people in the world, and could only smirk when one of her friends would start gushing about him or do the usual fan-girl type suppositions about his personality.
Frankly, if it weren't for Inuyasha, Kagome thought perhaps she would have gone mad long before that moment. She'd been forced to slowly lose touch with most of her friends as they grew up and moved on from high school, the unavoidable barrier that erected itself once they started college placing them in a world Kagome could not begin to comprehend. And it hurt. Kagome felt like she was trapped in the past, held back by a woman who was being unfair and taking advantage of an unfortunate situation.
Kagome's parents had died in a freak car accident when she was fourteen and Souta eleven, and at the time she had seen Kaguya as a gift from above when the woman had walked into the office of the social worker and promised to take charge of her deceased brother's children. She had saved Kagome and Souta from the potential horror of being separated and sent to strange homes, and given them a place to stay not far from their old neighborhood so they hadn't been required to change schools either. And in return, all she had asked was that Kagome look after her own two children while she went to work.
It had seemed like the perfect solution. Kaguya was recently divorced, and in need of a babysitter, and in Kagome she found not only that, but someone to also cook and clean without requiring a salary. And Kagome had been so grateful she had been willing to do anything at the time.
But as the weeks had turned into months, and the months had begun to blend into years, Kagome's gratitude had begun to fade as more and more of Kaguya's true personality was revealed. She was a cold, ruthless woman in many ways, and dedicated only to her ambitious career. It was no longer a mystery to Kagome why her aunt's marriage had failed, or why her children didn't seem to harbor much in the way of open love and affection for their mother.
She was curt with Kagome, and very easily angered. Her temper was fierce when ignited, and Kagome often found herself on the receiving end of brutal lectures that were insulting, degrading, and often nearly brought her to tears.
And on top of everything else, Kaguya was ruthless and borderline obsessive about her demands when it came to the housekeeping. She demanded a spotless house that was ready to entertain any number of her high profile clients and co-workers at any time, and so when Kagome was not busy watching her two very rambunctious and energetic cousins, she was vacuuming, mopping, dusting, or doing laundry.
Needless to say she was always exhausted, especially of late since Kaguya had a potential promotion in her near future and as such was doing plenty of entertaining to try and charm her employers into making her a partner in their firm. Kagome didn't even want to think about the temper she'd have to deal with if her aunt didn't receive what she felt she deserved.
But then again, Kaguya seemed to think she deserved the world to be laid at her feet...so maybe it wouldn't matter what she received. She'd never be satisfied.
Shaking her head as Kagome heard one of the clocks in the outer hallway ring that it was midnight, she hastily turned off her light and placed the magazine on her nightstand, mentally berating herself for staying up so late, knowing she would have rather continued talking with Inuyasha if she was still going to be sleep deprived.
Just thinking about her friend however was enough to calm her frustrated mind, her bitter thoughts melting away for the time being and allowing Kagome to slip into a deep and much needed dreamless sleep where she didn't have to worry too much about what would be required of her when her alarm buzzed in seven hours.
"Inuyasha, do you think you could tear yourself away from the computer for long enough to look at this schedule with me?"
Blinking as though coming out of a daze (and in a way he was) the twenty-three year old superstar turned to look at his best friend Miroku, who was reclining lazily on one of the many plush leather couches provided for them in the lounge of their hotel suite, holding several pieces of paper in his hands and waving them around to get Inuyasha's attention.
"What is it now?" He all but growled, not at all happy that evening with life in general. First, the man who now had the gall to act like he was being organized had caused their show to be delayed by nearly an hour thanks to another of his womanizing trips to a bar where he no doubt tried to buy another woman a drink and ended up drinking several instead when no one bought his pick-up lines, and then Kagome had only talked to him for a very scattered and worthless fifteen minutes before going to bed.
No...it was definitely not a good day. In fact, Inuyasha was pondering ranking that one up with some of the worst there had ever been, but just as he was beginning to go over the list mentally to determine whether or not it was worthy, Miroku decided to speak again, much to his continued annoyance.
"Sesshoumaru's just added a few things to the schedule that I think you should look at. It's actually pretty exciting."
"Keh." Inuyasha grunted and looked away. "Whatever my brother has added to my schedule is going to be nothing short of annoying and stressful, I can guarantee you that." Why, he asked himself again, had he ever allowed his older half-brother to become his manager?
Because, his inner voice answered, he was the only one willing to give you a chance when you first started out. He's the reason you're famous today.
Fine, then why hadn't he just fired him once he had the fame and the fortune? Why did he allow Sesshoumaru the ability to literally run his life?
"I promise you it's not that bad," Miroku interrupted his friend's train of thought, and Inuyasha decided to get up from where he was sitting and see exactly what the new additions entailed.
Snatching the papers away from Miroku, who barely reacted since his reflexes were still a little slow thanks to his hangover, Inuyasha scanned the pages briefly, noting all the new events that were conveniently highlighted in red. "An extra concert here next month?" He glanced at Miroku, who looked back innocently, and Inuyasha groaned, knowing it was the only way to appease his fan base in the city of Chicago after they were made to wait for an hour to see the performance that evening.
He kept reading. "A benefit concert in Washington, D.C. for one of the First Lady's charities in two months...another benefit concert in six months for an AIDS research foundation..." He narrowed his eyes. "A marathon for cancer awareness? What the hell is that shit?"
Miroku shrugged his shoulders and adjusted his body so he was laying out the full length of the couch, his head resting against one of the arms. He really was a handsome man, with black hair that was always slicked back into a small ponytail at the nape of his neck, his eyes a unique and deep violet. "I don't know. Apparently Sesshoumaru thinks it will be good for us to do something besides sing." He nestled further into the couch and closed his eyes, lifting one of his toned arms up over his head to rest under his neck in a makeshift pillow.
Inuyasha growled. "I don't do marathons."
His friend opened one eye. "I thought you liked running."
"Come on, Inuyasha; it can't be that bad."
"I hate big crowds."
Miroku just shrugged again and closed his eye once more, looking far too relaxed for someone that had nearly screwed over his best friend's musical reputation that evening. "Why don't you give it a chance? I heard those kinds of things can be so much fun people almost get addicted to doing them after a while."
"Keh." Inuyasha just frowned and looked back at the schedule again, noting all the various concerts, benefits, and guest appearances that had been added and silently groaning, already feeling his body protest in anticipated exhaustion. But he forgot to feel exhausted as his eye caught one particular event. "Charity Ball in New York City?"
His heart did a strange, unfamiliar leap in his chest.
Kagome lived in Brooklyn. That wasn't too far away...
A blush came to his face as he realized what he was thinking, but still Inuyasha couldn't resist feeling slightly excited at the prospect of finally getting to meet his longtime friend. He didn't know what she looked like...he didn't know what she sounded like when she spoke...and in the past several months he'd begun to feel a desperate need to change that, not only because he felt strange pouring his heart out over the years to someone he wouldn't recognize if he passed her on the street, but also because, well...he wasn't quite sure why.
Initially, when they'd first started their little online chats, he'd been very happy to keep their relationship as ambiguous as possible. Kagome had at first pestered him to exchange pictures with her...real pictures, anyway, of him doing normal stuff, since all she had to do was buy an entertainment magazine to see his face...but he had ardently refused, knowing if he saw her their relationship would automatically have to mean more than just late-night conversations when he was bored. But somewhere along the way Inuyasha had begun to feel strangely attached to the woman he spoke to on his computer, so much so that whenever she wasn't online at night he felt a twinge of worry, and when she signed off he actually felt slightly at a loss...and all of that had begun to equal the sudden urge and desire to meet Kagome, his mystery woman, in person.
He knew he could just ask for her picture and she'd send it to him, but a small part of Inuyasha was afraid to do so...afraid of the hidden messages she might see in such a request after he had made it so clear to her initially that he was not interested in close relationships with anyone. He still wasn't interested in intentionally creating relationships with anyone, but in Kagome's case, well...their strange friendship had just sort of happened, and he could no longer deny the fact that it meant something to him.
Hell...it meant a lot to him. If Kagome Higurashi were to suddenly stop speaking to him, Inuyasha might very well feel something akin to heartbreak.
The sound of snoring reached his ears, and Inuyasha glanced over at his friend to see that Miroku was passed out on the couch, no doubt for the rest of the night. Rolling his eyes, he turned around and walked into his private room, which looked almost identical to every other bedroom in every other suite he'd slept in for the past several years.
He didn't care. So long as the bed was soft and the sheets were clean and the pillow wasn't too small Inuyasha could have been told to spend his nights in a tent and that would have been good enough.
Glancing at the laptop that was plugged into the far wall, charging, his screensaver (a picture of the band) flitting across the otherwise black screen, Inuyasha promised to be online as early as possible the next evening so he could tell Kagome about his trip to New York City in two weeks. He hoped telling her would be enough...but then again, probably not. She didn't seem like the type to just invite herself to something.
Women...so damn complicated...
And Inuyasha would have worried about it more that night if he hadn't been so tired. As it was, however, Kagome and the problem of subtly getting her to that charity event were the last thoughts in his head before he fell asleep.
The pile of dishes was almost more than Kagome's exhausted mind could handle, and for several minutes after the guests left all she could do was stare. Stare at every dirty plate, cup, spoon, fork, and knife needing to be washed, along with every little stain in the white tablecloth she would have to bleach and clean before the next dinner party Kaguya decided to host.
Sighing, she rolled up the green sleeves of her sweater a little higher on her elbows for good measure and began collecting the dinnerware to take into the kitchen and hand wash, the gold rims on all the white china meaning none of it could go in the dishwasher.
Sometimes Kagome wished Kaguya wasn't nearly as successful as she was at her job, because if she didn't make so much money the house they lived in wouldn't be so big and require so much time to clean, and they wouldn't be able to afford gold-plated china. But Kagome had learned a long time ago that it did no good to wonder and wish and worry about things that couldn't be changed, so instead she tried her best to keep a pleasant smile on her face as she went about her duties in the house, waiting for the day when Kaguya would decide Rin and Shippou no longer needed a constant guardian.
Once all the dishes had been brought into the large, elegant kitchen, Kagome began to fill the deep basin sink with warm water, squirting a small amount of apple-scented dish soap under the faucet so that by the time the sink was full it was also brimming with pleasant-smelling bubbles. Smiling at the thought, Kagome began to hum absentmindedly as she dipped a plate into the water before pulling it out and attacking it with a firm sponge.
She was about halfway through the pile of dishes when she heard the kitchen door swing open and closed behind her, though she didn't bother turning around when she heard the person speak.
She smiled as she recognized her younger brother, almost eighteen years old and in his senior year of high school. "Hey Souta. How was your day?"
Kagome felt his presence as he came up beside her and absentmindedly grabbing a cup to wash. She moved over slightly so they could share the sink as they began the habitual washing/drying routine. "It was fine, I guess. This senior project is killing me though."
"Yeah, I remember mine; it's a lot of work. But it means you'll graduate with honors, and that looks great on your college applications." Kagome winced slightly as she reminded herself of the fact that Souta was being allowed to go to college while she was not.
Sensing her tension, Souta placed a hand on her shoulder in comfort. "I'm working really hard at work, Kagome...and I'll keep working hard so that you can get out of here and go to school."
Kagome sighed and gave her brother a half-hearted smile. "You need that money for yourself, Souta. As it is you could barely afford to live on your own, let alone pay for me to go to school."
He straightened slightly in determination. "Well then at the very least I'll make enough so you can move out of here, and then at least you won't feel like you have to watch Shippou and Rin and practically be Aunt Kaguya's house servant all the time to earn your right to live in this house." He smiled kindly. "And once you were living on your own, you could get a job and start paying your way through school. You know you'd get plenty of financial aid if you explained your situation."
Kagome felt a genuine smile on her face that time. "Thanks, Souta. I appreciate it. But don't worry too much about me. You need to focus on your senior project, and on all your applications. I'm not completely miserable after all. Shippou and Rin are really adorable children, and I'm glad I can give them the mother figure Kaguya can't."
"Still..." He stopped when the sound of the door opening and closing reached their ears, and this time Kagome had a pretty good idea who it was. All the guests had left, so no doubt Kaguya was coming in to tell her exactly how she wanted the mess she and her guests had made cleaned up.
"Well you can congratulate me!" The older woman announced as she glided elegantly over to one of the high chairs next to the marble island in the center of the kitchen.
"Congratulations," the siblings muttered together as they continued to wash the dishes.
Kaguya eyed them momentarily, twirling a lock of her long dark hair in her hands. "Don't you want to know why?"
Sensing the fact that her aunt was in the mood to brag, Kagome stopped what she was doing and turned around with a bland expression on her face. "Why?" She humored.
"I received the promotion! They'll be signing the official papers tomorrow saying I am the newest partner in the firm!"
Kagome tried to smile since her aunt sounded genuinely happy, but found it difficult to muster up much enthusiasm for the woman that Kagome felt was slowly but surely ruining her life. It was a shame, really; Kaguya was such a beautiful woman, with her curvaceous figure, long midnight black hair, dark eyes, and delicate, high cheekbones, and when she did smile occasionally she looked like she could actually be kind if she really wanted to.
How many times had Kagome tried to love her? How many times had she reminded herself that this was her father's sister, and as such she couldn't be all bad?
And how many times had she also realized that it was a futile battle with herself?
Kagome sighed. "Congratulations, aunt...I know how hard you've been working for this promotion." She turned back around to do the dishes.
She heard the chair shift as Kaguya rose to her feet once more. "Is that all you have to say?" Her voice was sharp, telling Kagome it was time for another lecture. "That's all you have to say after everything you know I've been doing? I've done more than work hard for this promotion, Kagome...and I would appreciate a little more support from my family."
Kagome took a deep breath and tried to focus on the steady circles created as she rubbed the towel over the plate in her hands. "I have been supportive, aunt. I've been preparing the meals for all the parties you've hosted, and cleaning the house for you, and watching the children..."
"That's not being supportive, Kagome!" Kaguya snapped. "That's doing what's already expected of you! I let you live here, an adult, free of charge, and ask very little in return other than keeping up the house while I'm at work. And you act like that's something above and beyond the call of duty?"
The circles became less relaxed, and Kagome immediately put the plate over on the growing stack of clean dishes before she broke something in her frustration. She wanted to say so much...but wisely chose silence instead, and was grateful when she heard her aunt huff and spin around on her expensive heeled shoes, muttering something about making sure everything was cleaned up before she went to bed.
After she'd gone, Kagome let out a breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding and turned to Souta, who was scowling. "Would you put Shippou and Rin to bed, Souta? I need to finish cleaning up."
His scowl deepened, but he nodded. "Sure. And if it's taking you too long, just come and get me, okay?"
"Of course." She smiled at him as he left, but felt it instantly fade once he was gone.
It had been a very long weekend. The day before she had spent nearly seven hours with Rin and Shippou at the fair, and even though they had enjoyed their time together, it was still exhausting trying to watch two little children when all they wanted was to run off in a hundred different directions at once. Then after they'd gotten home Kaguya had announced she had a date coming over and wanted the children out of the house, meaning Kagome had taken them to a movie. And once home she'd had to clean up the dishes and put the children to bed, which had meant by the time she finally made it up to her room it had been well past one in the morning, and Inuyasha had not been online.
That reality was the worst part of all.
She hated not talking to him, even for a few minutes, in the evenings.
Knowing she'd miss him again if she didn't hurry, Kagome hastily finished washing the dishes, taking the soiled table cloth into the laundry room to wash the next day while Shippou and Rin were at school. Rushing upstairs before Kaguya could come and give her some other chore, Kagome securely shut her door and turned on the computer, tapping her foot impatiently as she waited for the screen to turn on.
Where have you been?
Kagome blinked, slightly surprised at the fact that Inuyasha almost immediately sent her a message. He was never that quick. It was almost like he'd been waiting for her...
Sorry, I had a lot of chores tonight. My aunt had another of her dinner parties with her law firm, and there was a big mess to clean up.
Keh, you're not that woman's maid, you know. You're her niece. I don't know why you let her treat you like this.
Kagome smiled, warming at the protective attitude behind Inuyasha's words. She knew he didn't like the way her aunt treated her any more than she did.
I don't have much of a choice. I have nowhere else to live.
You would if you got a job of your own.
Yeah...I'd probably make enough to live in a one-room, cockroach infested hole-in-the-wall.
Aren't you being just a little overdramatic?
Kagome sighed, having already gone over this scenario a million times in her head. It was true; by law she had the right to leave and do what she wanted. The moment she had turned eighteen Kaguya as her legal guardian had held no more power over her life. But at the same time, Kagome had not been able to pay for college at the time, and without a college education getting a job that paid anything of real substance was nearly impossible.
What kinds of jobs are available for someone without a college education, Inuyasha?
And do you have any idea how expensive it is to live in this part of New York? I'd be lucky if I got to live in that hole-in-the-wall with a beginner's waitress salary.
But at least you would be in your own place and living your own life.
Kagome sighed, knowing the logic behind his words but still unwilling to see them for what they were.
It's not that simple.
There was a long pause before he responded, and Kagome couldn't decide if that was because he was laughing at her on the other end or if he was just shocked by her honesty.
You? Scared? You strike me as the fearless type.
Not when it comes to the idea of living in poverty. I really don't see the romance behind it that all the poets do.
They both stopped talking for a while, and Kagome wondered if that's how their conversation would end that evening. But then he began typing again.
I have something to tell you.
Oh? What's that?
I'll be in New York City in less than two weeks.
Kagome felt her heart stop beating momentarily. Was he...was he trying to hint at something? Oh God, she hoped so. The part of her that was becoming as much of a fan girl as everyone else in the world leapt at the thought of finally meeting him face to face.
Shaking her head, she tried to remain calm.
Why? Another concert?
He'd come to New York for concerts before, but not within the last six months, and it had only been within that time that Kagome had really begun to feel the desire to meet Inuyasha in person.
No. Some charity event.
Oh. Are you singing at it or something?
No...it's one of those damn things where the person hosting tries to get as many celebrities to show up as possible to make more money.
Kagome laughed at that.
But you get free food, right? So it can't be all bad.
Keh, nothings free at a charity event, woman. You pay twice as much for everything so they can write a big check at the end of the night for a good cause.
But you have lots of money, so I don't know what you're complaining about.
Kagome waited for him to continue, and felt her heart sink slightly when nothing else came. Perhaps he wasn't hinting at anything. Perhaps he really was just telling her that he'd be in the neighborhood. After all, he was the one that avoided personal relationships, and she supposed she was already getting more than anyone could really hope for out of Inuyasha Nakamura with their nightly online ritual.
Still, she couldn't help what she typed next.
So is there a particular reason why you're telling me this Inuyasha? Or are you just trying to make me jealous that you get to go to something like that?
Don't be silly.
That didn't answer my question.
There was a long pause, and the thought occurred to Kagome then that maybe he was trying to hint at something, but was hoping she'd connect the dots on her own. He struck her as the type of guy who would have all the confidence in the world until it came to dealing with women.
I suppose I was telling you so you could think about maybe trying to come.
When the answer finally came, Kagome wasn't ready for it, and felt something in her chest flip over at his words.
Inuyasha...do you really mean that?
I wouldn't say it if I didn't, woman!
You don't need to get upset, I was just making sure.
What's there to clarify? I think the point is pretty obvious.
She rolled her eyes at that, but chose to ignore it for now, not wanting to get into one of their infamous arguments and ruin the cloud of joy she was currently riding.
Wouldn't I need some kind of invitation or something to come though?
They'd just let me walk in?
Trust me; if you come dressed to the nines and look like you belong, they don't care who you are. And once you got there you'd be with me.
But Inuyasha, I have absolutely nothing I could wear to something like that.
I'm sure you can think of something. Doesn't that rich, no-good aunt of yours have something lying around?
She has more than something, but I would never wear one of her evening gowns. She'd skin me alive.
I'm sure you'll think of something.
Thanks for your confidence, Mr. Money Bags.
I'm not sure I appreciate that.
Good, because I was being sarcastic.
That's what I thought.
And what's that supposed to mean?
You just like insulting me, that's all.
I do not! And besides, you usually start it anyway.
How do I manage that?
Yeah...I think I should go to bed now.
You're a real jerk sometimes, you know that?
Now it's just sometimes? You must be starting to like me. You used to say I was a jerk all the time. And in that first letter I believe you called me a pompous, arrogant, pigheaded fool.
You're still a fool.
There was a long pause, and Kagome couldn't help the smile that came to her lips as she stared at the screen, imagining his face on the other end of their conversation, hopefully smirking in that sexy way of his that she saw in all his photographs. The thought alone was enough to make her insides melt. She couldn't help but wonder if a picture could stimulate such a reaction, what would the real thing do to her?
Good night, Inuyasha.
Good night, Kagome.
Four days. That was all the time remaining before the Charity Ball where Inuyasha would finally get to meet Kagome, his mysterious friend. And though he hated to admit it, he was actually starting to get nervous.
They hadn't really spoken much about the upcoming event during their little chats, but Inuyasha could tell it was in the back of her mind simply because she seemed to constantly be talking about what it would be like to spend a day with him, in person. She kept rambling on about all sorts of plans, from taking him to Coney Island to going shopping on Fifth Avenue and making him pay for all her things. He groaned to think about how that comment had started a rather extensive argument when he had accused her of befriending him only for his money. She had retorted by reminding him that he'd started their friendship, not her, and when he'd tried to remind her that she'd sent the initial letter all she had to do was remind him of the fact that she'd hated him at the time and it was he who had chosen to respond.
She certainly had a point there, and honestly Inuyasha still wasn't sure to that day what had compelled him to respond to that particular letter. It wasn't like he never received hate mail of some kind or another...and he certainly received enough fan mail to more than balance out the negative letters...but for some reason her words had grabbed him, had really stung, and he'd done the only thing he could think of to fight back: he'd copied the return address she'd so thoughtfully put in the corner of the envelope, and sent back his own retort, hoping to scare her away or...something. But he hadn't expected her to simply write back and say she was quite happy to talk to him more about her opinions.
And damn, did she ever have opinions about everything.
Still, Inuyasha's initial annoyance upon discovering that fact had quickly faded to fascination as he learned more and more about Kagome Higurashi's mind. She had so many incredible ideas and opinions about life, but more than anything he admired the fact that she still seemed so kind even after everything that had happened in her life, from losing her parents to being unfairly taken advantage of by her selfish aunt. He wished he could be so forgiving and selfless.
"You know, I think I'm actually starting to get excited for this charity thing," Miroku commented from his vantage point at one of the suite's large windows that provided a dizzying view of the drop to the streets of New York. The window itself merely stared straight across at another sky scraper, and while Inuyasha and Miroku both felt they were high enough, the reality that their suite rested on the fortieth floor, and was the top floor, and still could barely see the top of most of the buildings around them was disorienting.
It was one thing about New York City that Inuyasha always had a hard time getting used to. The noise, the traffic, and the simple fact that you couldn't go anywhere without either requiring a hefty stair workout or an elevator if you had a tuxedo you didn't want ruined was all so different from anywhere else he had ever been. Frankly, one of the few things Inuyasha found he could appreciate were the large crowds constantly walking all the various boulevards, meaning he could easily get lost in a crowd.
New York City was one of the few places where he could put on a baseball cap to cover his noticeable hanyou ears, stuff his recognizable silver hair mostly down the back of a jacket, put on a pair of sunglasses to hide his amber eyes, and move about without much trouble. In almost every other city it seemed like someone still managed to recognize him, and perhaps in the Big Apple people still did, but they were so accustomed to seeing celebrities walking their streets that it was no longer a novelty.
Whatever the reason though, Inuyasha greatly appreciated it, and that fact alone was enough to outweigh all the things he didn't like about the big city.
It was rare that he could go anywhere any more without being noticed, and Inuyasha found that he missed the days when he had been just as anonymous as anyone else. He had always attracted attention to himself thanks to his mixed blood and shockingly different physical features, but before he had been a celebrity most of the attention had been in the form of points and stares, which were easily ignored. But now when someone recognized him he was practically mobbed by screaming fan girls who wanted to touch his hair or the small, fragile dog ears atop his head.
That always brought forth a growl. He didn't like the idea of being seen as some kind of public puppy on display for anyone who wanted to pet him. It was bad enough that in the modern era hanyous were even rarer than the few demons that were left, but his adoring fans only made that reality even worse.
Inuyasha Nakamura, the world's most famous hanyou musician. How he hated that title whenever he saw it in a newspaper. Why couldn't he just be someone with talent, where his origins didn't matter? Why did society always insist on categorizing people, or giving them sickening nicknames? Celebrities could never just be people; they were punks, or rebels, or conformists, or...the list went on and on.
If he'd ranted about it to Kagome, she probably would have just responded that it was the price of fame and added some sort of sarcastic remark that would have made him chuckle in spite of himself.
"Hey, what are you thinking about?"
Inuyasha blinked and realized he'd been glaring harshly at the fish tank in the center of the suite, one of the tropical fish gulping and staring back at him. It was an odd experience. "Nothing really..."
Miroku chuckled. "That was an awfully long time to be spent thinking about nothing, my friend."
"I've just got a lot on my mind." And to accent his point Inuyasha pinched the bridge of his nose with his fingers. That much was certainly true. His hectic schedule combined with the ever-growing nerves over the possibility of seeing Kagome for the first time were enough to make him snappish at anyone who even glanced at him the wrong way.
And that damn fish wasn't looking away, either...
He heard Miroku sigh. "Well that's nothing new. Anything you want to talk about with me? Maybe I can help."
"And why's that? We're best friends, Inuyasha. We've known each other for how many years? Since way before you were famous, that's for sure." He grinned. "I don't think it's so unreasonable for me to be able to help you."
Glancing down at the white carpeted floor for several minutes in silence, Inuyasha finally swallowed and looked back up at his friend. Did he dare say something? Was it finally time to talk about the strange relationship he had with a twenty year old woman who he had never met before?
"Do you think...um..." He blushed and rubbed the back of his neck. "Do you think it's possible for people to form really deep friendships over the internet?"
"What?" Miroku was clearly struggling valiantly not to laugh at that question, thinking it was a joke. But when he saw that his friend was serious, he sobered immediately. "I don't know, Inuyasha...why?"
"No reason...it's just that...well..."
Miroku straightened from where he was leaning against the window and took a few steps forward, uncrossing his arms as he did so. "Have you met someone online?" He could hardly keep the mockery from his voice, and Inuyasha started blushing as he heard the reality of his relationship with Kagome mentioned out loud for the first time by someone other than him.
"Then what is it?"
"I mean, I've sort of met someone online, I guess, but it didn't start out that way. I wasn't intentionally looking for something is what I'm trying to say."
"Okay..." Miroku studied his friend for a few minutes before smiling in assurance. "Well I guess that explains why you and your computer are inseparable every night. I have to admit I'm relieved to hear it's because of an actual person, and not because you've developed some strange addiction to internet porn or something like that."
Inuyasha snorted. "You're a real pervert, you know that? How did you ever get engaged? Or better yet, why are you still engaged? Why hasn't she dumped you yet?"
"Because my woman understands me, Inuyasha," Miroku replied sounding very wise. "And besides all that, it took me three years to convince her that marrying me wasn't a bad idea. Do you honestly think I'd just let her walk away now that she's finally wearing a ring?"
The hanyou couldn't help but smirk slightly at that. "No, I guess not." He frowned again and noticed for the first time how late it had become by the darkened sky, the stars completely hidden by the bright lights of the city. It was beautiful, he had to admit, in its own way...though Inuyasha was old-fashioned in that he preferred open country where he could see the stars, hear the crickets, and take a deep breath without fear of inhaling a lungful of smog.
"So...this online friend of yours...is it a boy or a girl?"
Inuyasha felt his eye twitch in irritation. Kagome was not an 'it'. "She is a woman, Miroku." And why was he suddenly so defensive of her? He chalked it up to simply being the first time he'd talked about her with anyone other than himself. It did feel kind of strange, like suddenly Kagome Higurashi had become much more than just an anonymous friend.
The hanyou groaned, seeing himself slowly crossing that line between acquaintance and close friend...a line he usually tried to avoid at all costs, though he supposed he'd probably already crossed it the moment he asked Kagome to come to the charity ball.
"What does she look like then?" Miroku asked, the eagerness in his voice barely veiled.
"I...don't actually know."
"So it's one of those mysterious relationships, eh? That can be fun. Does she know who you are?"
"Yes!" Inuyasha felt his temper wearing thin. Maybe this hadn't been such a good idea after all. He wasn't sure Kagome was worth the weeks of teasing he was now going to endure.
Miroku couldn't suppress his grin. "And do you at least know her name?"
"What is it?"
"Keh, like I'd tell you. You'd look her up and hit on her like you do every other woman we come across."
"Inuyasha, I'm engaged."
"Like that ever stopped you before?"
The friends went silent for a time, each lost in his own thoughts. The sounds of sirens below reached his ears, though Inuyasha ignored the blaring noise as best he could. Finally Miroku spoke again.
"How long have you, um, known her then?"
"Almost three years."
"What!" Miroku snapped his head up in shock. "Three years? You've been talking to this girl for three years but don't know what she looks like? And more importantly, you've been talking to this girl for three years and are only now telling me about it?"
Inuyasha knew the hurt on his friend's face was more for show, and so just rolled his eyes before looking away, crossing his arms. "It wasn't any of your business, and besides, it hasn't been until recently that I've even felt like my relationship with this woman has become anything of importance."
"But Inuyasha," Miroku seemed to wake up out of his shock, "I can hardly get you to stay in touch with me for a few weeks whenever we go on vacation...how did this girl keep you interested for three years?"
To be honest, Inuyasha had often wondered that himself. He was horrible about keeping in touch with anyone. It's why he had so few friends. Most people preferred some form of communication from time to time, especially in the age of emails and cell phones where it wasn't that difficult to stay in touch, and since he wasn't particularly good at that most people lost interest fairly quickly. He hadn't spoken to any of his old high school friends in years, and every girl Miroku had tried to set him up with over the years had quickly annoyed him with their frustrations that he never called them.
And yet, in spite of all that, somehow Kagome had not only managed to get him to talk with her on a regular basis, but she had actually made it so he now often waited for her, rather than the other way around.
"She's just different than most people I've ever talked to I guess," Inuyasha finally replied, trying to shrug it all off as though it wasn't important. But Miroku's comment had unsettled him.
What was it about Kagome that was so fascinating to him anyway? Could a relationship really be built on the fact that neither had ever met? Did it matter that he'd never actually seen her face, heard her voice, or caught the scent of her favorite lotion or perfume?
The sudden chime from within his room caused Inuyasha to spin around so quickly he nearly fell over, and without a word to Miroku he quickly moved into the bedroom, shutting the door unceremoniously in his friend's face for a little privacy, though by now Miroku could probably guess his reasons for disappearing.
Glancing at his watch, he was surprised to see that it was only 8:30. Kagome was usually never online this early since her cousins didn't go to bed until nine, and she had to watch them until then.
Inuyasha, are you there?
He immediately set about typing a response, his clawed fingers expertly moving over the keys like any child of the technological age.
Yeah; how'd you get on so early?
Not easily, and I don't have much time...but I have some bad news.
The hanyou felt himself freeze at that. She didn't even try to banter for a little while. Whenever she was so straight to the point he had learned the news was usually more than just 'bad'. Still, he numbly found himself typing a response, somewhat afraid of her answer.
There was a long pause, and Inuyasha was getting the uncomfortable feeling her bad news involved him in some way. His worst fears were proven true when she finally did respond.
I can't go to the charity event on Saturday.
It was a simple statement without pretense or drama. And yet, at that moment, Inuyasha felt like his entire world had collapsed around him.
It was only then, reading her words as he felt his heart rate slow and nearly stop, that he realized just how much he physically needed to see her. God help him...it was like his brain was catching up with his heart and recognizing that while he was starting to develop more than just friendly feelings for Kagome Higurashi, that meant their simple anonymous relationship was no longer good enough.
Inuyasha was shocked to realize that he wanted her to become a physical being in his life, with a face and a scent and a voice. He wanted to have living proof that she was real, and not some wonderful dream his lonely brain had conjured up one evening. And, more than anything, he suddenly had the possessive desire to show her off to all the people who dared to say he was unable to care for anyone other than himself, or that no one could really care for him in return.
But now she couldn't come...?
He felt numb.
Inuyasha? Are you still there?
There was a tone of uncertainty in those words, and Inuyasha managed to rouse himself just enough to assure her he hadn't abandoned their conversation.
Yeah. But why can't you come?
It's my aunt.
He growled at the mention of the one woman that always seemed to be giving Kagome cause for trouble and misery. If he ever met the woman...well...he just hoped he didn't.
What the hell is the bitch making you do now?
There was a pause, and he wondered if maybe he had been a little too blunt. But then his speakers chimed again.
Well you remember how I said she was just recently made a partner at her law firm?
They are apparently representing the people putting together this charity event, and now that she's a partner she's going, and said I have to stay and watch the kids since she doesn't want to hire a babysitter.
Inuyasha growled at that and started typing furiously.
It's one fucking night! Eighty bucks at the most! And from what you've told me, your aunt's not poor, so it's not like she can't afford it!
It's just how she is, Inuyasha.
And you'll just roll over and take it, like always?
What's that supposed to mean?
Just that you shouldn't let her treat you like this, Kagome! You're twenty years old, for heaven's sake! Most girls your age are in college and looking towards their careers.
I know damn well what people my age are doing! You don't have to remind me! I'm well aware of what I'm not getting to do!
Inuyasha winced slightly at that. He hadn't really meant to turn the conversation into another argument.
Look Kagome, I didn't mean it to sound like that.
Its fine, Inuyasha. But I have to go. Rin and Shippou need to get ready for bed.
He sighed. She was angry with him. She was only ever that blunt when she was angry after all.
Will you be on later tonight?
I don't know. Maybe.
Ugh...she was really pissed. She only ever played the 'maybe' card in their relationship when she wanted him to stew over something stupid he said until he was torn up with guilt. And damn it all, it worked...a little too well, actually.
And then she was gone, and Inuyasha was left feeling very empty and frustrated. "Damn it all!" He swore loudly as he threw himself out of his chair and back into the main living room of the suite, where Miroku was not so subtly trying to listen in on anything in the room.
"Don't fucking talk to me!" The hanyou snapped, and the black-haired man simply nodded and stepped away, watching his friend storm out of the suite with a loud crash as he slammed the door behind him.
Sighing, having grown accustomed to his best friend's erratic behavior somewhere in the first year of their relationship, Miroku just shook his head, wondering what could have possibly put his friend into such a foul mood so suddenly.
Knowing he would get skinned alive if Inuyasha caught him, but still unable to resist his curiosity, Miroku slowly padded into the hanyou's dark bedroom, flipping on the main light and illuminating the simple space that contained a bed with white sheets, a recliner, and a desk in the far corner where Inuyasha's laptop was currently 'sleeping'. Recalling their earlier conversation, Miroku walked up and flipped on the computer, seeing the textbox still open from the conversation he had obviously just been having.
Hardly able to believe his luck, the man immediately began scrolling up to the beginning of the conversation, not stopping until he reached the end, thrilled to discover this was probably Inuyasha's mystery woman. But he was also shocked. Inuyasha had invited her to the charity ball? That meant two things: he really liked her because he usually avoided women like the plague, and this Kagome lived in the area.
Looking at the brief conversation again, trying to find some clue as to where she lived but finding none, Miroku sat down in Inuyasha's rolling chair and rested his chin on his hand as he puzzled over what to do. Suddenly he wanted to do everything he could to get this Kagome woman to the charity ball, not only for Inuyasha's sake, but also for his own since he knew he'd never sleep completely until he'd met the woman who had successfully managed to get something close to an apology out of the stubborn hanyou.
But how could he find her? And how could he get her to the ball without this aunt of hers knowing? Especially since it looked like she would be there as well?
He shrugged. That wasn't really a problem. Once there he doubted Inuyasha would let anyone, especially a bitchy woman, tell him what to do, and if he wanted Kagome there then no one would be able to tell him she had to leave.
Casting his eyes about without much purpose, Miroku finally noticed something sticking out of the corner of the red laptop case resting against the leg of the desk on the floor. It looked like a letter, and since Inuyasha wasn't one to read letters that often, let alone carry them around with him, Miroku couldn't stop himself from reaching down and pulling it out to study.
His eyes opened wide.
He couldn't believe his luck.
The envelope looked old and worn out, clearly having been folded on more than one occasion since there were random, uneven creases everywhere, stains on the yellowed paper from being carried everywhere. But that wasn't what caught his attention. Instead, Miroku found himself staring intently at the return address written neatly in the corner.
Pulling out the letter, which was dated sometime almost three years earlier, Miroku began to read, almost immediately laughing out loud at the insults that were written in the letter, along with the attacks on Inuyasha's personal and moral character. It was almost too perfect.
And more than that, suddenly the answers were falling into place.
Folding the letter up once more and putting it back into the old envelope, Miroku looked once more at the return address, wondering if Kagome still lived there now. Grinning, he reached for the nearby phone and quickly dialed a ten-digit cell number while continuing to stare at the envelope in his hands.
"Hello?" A female voice answered after three rings.
"Miroku, what's wrong?"
He grinned upon hearing the voice of his fiancée. "Nothing's wrong. I have a favor to ask. Can you come to Inuyasha's room in say an hour?" If Inuyasha couldn't get the courage to do this himself, then his best friend would just have to do it on his behalf.
"Did you write down everything I said?" Kaguya called out as she grabbed one of her fancy white ermine coats, throwing it around her shoulders before fluffing her long dark hair once in the hallway mirror.
Kagome sighed, knowing Inuyasha had a point when he said the woman could easily afford a babysitter for one night. "Yes, aunt."
"Good; then I expect it to all be done by the time I'm back. I don't want to come back to a dirty house."
The doorbell rang then, and Kagome watched as her aunt moved and opened it, revealing an elegantly dressed chauffer who offered his arm to lead her down the front steps of their house and to the waiting limo that the firm had sent for her use that evening. The scene was too much for her, and Kagome just stood up and walked away, headed towards the kitchen where she needed to start fixing dinner.
As she filled a stainless steel teapot with water and set it on the stove, Kagome felt her mind wandering, and without meaning to she thought of Inuyasha. They hadn't spoken since that night four days ago when she'd told him she wasn't coming to the ball. He'd wounded her pride with his words, but mostly he'd stung her with the truth.
He was right, of course. She shouldn't just let Kaguya walk all over her and treat her like some sort of servant, because she was not. She was Kaguya's niece, the daughter of her brother, and had no right to be taken advantage of.
Still...Kagome knew part of it was that she was afraid of what would happen if she decided to strike out on her own, having meant it when she'd told Inuyasha that she was afraid of poverty. She couldn't help it. Her parents had been moderately wealthy, securely moving about in upper-middle class society, and even though she was more of a maid than a family member in Kaguya's house, she had still been practically living in the lap of luxury for the past several years since her aunt had taken in her brother's two young children.
After getting used to such a life, the prospect of trying to start over with nothing was not appealing, and so Kagome stayed even though she knew she shouldn't...even though her pride rebelled every step of the way.
The teapot began to shriek, and Kagome mindlessly pulled it off the stove, setting it on a potholder on the counter while she put a bag of noodles in a nearby pot before filling it with the boiling water and placing it back on the stove with a lid. Dinner would be simple that night, but Kagome wasn't really in the mood to experiment with her culinary skills like she usually did.
"Kagome? Can we watch television?"
Glancing over at the little girl in the doorway who was just barely eleven with waist-length black hair and warm brown eyes, dressed in a pair of blue jeans and a yellow t-shirt, Kagome couldn't help but smile slightly. No matter what their mother did to her, Kagome could never dislike the children. "Sure, Rin. Let me get the remote."
Rin clapped her little hands together in excitement and followed Kagome out of the kitchen and into the living room, full of expensive furniture and coffee tables, a few elegant paintings on the otherwise white walls, the blue carpet soft and clean thanks to the fact that Kagome had vacuumed earlier that day.
She saw Shippou, the younger of the two, jump off the couch as well when he saw that his sister had been successful in her mission, his jade-green eyes sparkling with excitement. He looked absolutely nothing like his mother or Rin, so Kagome could only assume he resembled the father Kagome had never met with his shocking wealth of red hair framing his innocent eight year old face.
Standing on tiptoe, Kagome reached into the cupboard beside the large-screen television and retrieved the remote used for turning it on and managing the channels. "What do you two want to watch tonight?" She asked as the screen came to life.
"Can we try and see mommy?" Rin asked, and Kagome nodded mutely as she flipped the channels until she found the one she was looking for, where one of the entertainment shows was covering the arrival of all the famous guests at the charity ball taking place downtown. Her mouth went dry as she thought about the fact that she could have gone...could have moved about in his world for one night...
And then she saw him appear out of his limo, a scowl on his face and his eyes sharp as he dared anyone to talk to him like he usually did at red-carpet events, and Kagome could no longer hold back the tears that had been pooling behind her eyes for the past four days, ever since she'd had such a huge fight with Kaguya.
It had been the worst fight Kagome could ever remember having with anyone. She had ardently insisted she'd also been invited to go to the premier, and Kaguya had scoffed at that, wondering how 'a nobody' like Kagome could get invited to something so prestigious, and Kagome had not been able to articulate her relationship with Inuyasha Nakamura because she knew her aunt wouldn't believe her if she did.
In the end she had relented when the children had walked in to see what the noise was about, not wanting to scare them. But matters had only been made worse when Inuyasha had said what he did later in the evening, and ever since she'd felt her heart slowly breaking, the cracks filling with bitterness and regret for having allowed Kaguya to treat her so cruelly for so long. She couldn't help but wonder if perhaps she'd put her foot down earlier maybe her aunt would be less inclined to take advantage of her?
No...she probably would have simply kicked Kagome and Souta out of the house for good, throwing them back on the mercy of the legal system.
"Kagome? You're crying!" Shippou exclaimed as he looked up at the woman who had come to mean so much to him, feeling very distressed to see the tears falling down her cheeks as silently sobs wracked her body.
Blinking, Kagome tried to wipe her eyes, but the tears just kept coming, and in the end all she could do was turn away so the children wouldn't see her distress. "Don't worry, Shippou...it's alright."
A pair of little arms went around her waist, and Kagome looked down to see Rin hugging her tightly. Shippou joined her, attaching himself to her leg, and in spite of herself Kagome felt warmed by their attentions.
"You know, you don't have to lie to us Kagome," Rin stated simply, sounding much wiser than she should have for her age. "We know something's bothering you. You've been acting strange since your fight with mama."
Why did children always have to be so perceptive? Kagome wondered as new tears sprang up in the corners of her eyes. "I guess I am a little sad," she finally replied, resting her hands on their heads as she did so, hoping to transmit all the love she held for them in her heart. They and Souta were her reasons for living since she had no other family.
"Why are you sad Kagome?" Shippou asked, looking up at her with his innocent green eyes.
"I..." But before she could finish, the doorbell rang. Blinking, Kagome glanced over at the dark mahogany door and moved forward, fiercely rubbing at her eyes to remove the red tearstains, though she could see in the hallway mirror that she wasn't having much success.
Who would be coming to the house? No one ever came to visit except for Kaguya, who was away that evening...
Kagome blinked stupidly when she opened the door to reveal a woman who looked about her age smiling kindly, clutching a large bag in her hands, a large black garment bag slung over her shoulder. The woman had dark brown eyes and incredible long brown hair that was currently pulled back behind her head in a fancy braided twist that fell to her waist. Pink mascara highlighted her eyes, and she wore a long green jacket over what looked like a very formal silver gown.
"Um...can I help you?" Kagome sniffled in spite of herself as her nose started to run. She sounded so pathetic!
"Yes!" The woman replied brightly, smiling down at Shippou and Rin, who had both appeared behind Kagome to see who was at the door. "Are you Kagome Higurashi?"
Narrowing her eyes slightly, Kagome still found herself nodding her head. "...Yes. Why? Who are you?"
The woman inclined her head slightly since she couldn't extend her hand to shake Kagome's in greeting, her smile brightening a little more. "My name's Sango, and I'm here to get you ready for the charity ball."
Kagome blinked, all tears vanishing as she tried to process what she was hearing. Had this woman lost her mind? Was she even there? Or had Kagome finally lost her mind and was now seeing things? "Excuse me?"
The woman laughed, the sound light and kind as she shifted the bags in her hands to a more comfortable position. "I know it sounds crazy, and I promise I'll explain everything, but could I perhaps come inside first and get started? We don't have a whole lot of time."
"Um..." Kagome could hardly process a single thing she was hearing, but still found herself opening the door wider and allowing the woman to step inside, only then seeing the large white limousine parked out on the street with a chauffer leaning against the front.
What was going on?
The woman called Sango immediately removed her tall silver heels, leaving them by the door where Rin gushed over them in awe, hanging the garment bag on a nearby coat rack along with her green jacket, which easily slipped from her shoulders as well to reveal a halter-top, low-cut silver gown that hugged her curves in all the right places before falling off her hips to the ground in folds of elegant fabric. There was no back to the dress, the fabric dipping low on her back to reveal well-toned muscles, her arms defined as well, telling Kagome the woman must spend hours at the gym every day.
She was, to be frank, a stunning sight to behold.
Once she'd set her bags down, Sango turned around and clapped her hands together. "Alright then, I suppose we should get started. Have you showered this evening?"
"Um..." Kagome seemed incapable of forming coherent sentences. "Yes?"
The other woman laughed lightly. "Good, that's one less thing we need to do. And I see you're letting your hair dry straight; perfect. That will make styling it that much easier."
"Styling it?" Kagome was utterly lost.
"Well yes! You can't go to the charity ball like you are now." Sango laughed again and shook her head as though that were obvious.
"But..." Kagome felt her shock slowly begin to fade. "I'm not going to the charity ball."
"Of course you are," Sango called back over her shoulder as she bent down and began rummaging through the large white bag, pulling out a makeup kit, a set of curlers, hair spray, gel, enough bobby pins to style an army, several kinds of brushes, and a pair of elegant heels, which she set next to her own on the floor. Turning back around to face Kagome now that she was armed with her tools, Sango smiled again. "But we have a lot of work to do first."
In spite of herself, Kagome found a grin forming on her own lips. The woman's energy was contagious, apparently. "And who are you again?"
Without pause Sango moved towards the kitchen, where she proceeded to plug in the curlers, setting up her work station at the large kitchen counter. Kagome didn't even want to think about what Kaguya would say to that. "My name's Sango, and I'm the fiancée of one of the members of Inuyasha Nakamura's band." She looked up and winked. "I'm also one of Inuyasha's head bodyguards."
That would explain her incredible physique.
But Kagome had stopped processing much after she'd heard Inuyasha's name. Did he have something to do with this? "Did Inuyasha send you?"
Sango laughed. "Heavens no! That man wouldn't have the courage to do something like this if his life depended on it!" She walked back into the hallway and partially unzipped the garment bag, pulling out a long white bathrobe, along with some lingerie. "Frankly, he'd probably skin both myself and Miroku alive if he knew what we were doing...and he still might, but I hope he'll be happy enough that you come to not care about how you got there." She handed Kagome the white robe and undergarments. "Here, put this on and then we'll get to work."
The robe was incredibly soft, and Kagome had no complaints about wearing it, though when she put on the lingerie she couldn't help but wonder why she'd need such a racy, strapless push-up bra. Sango just chuckled when she asked and promised she'd understand eventually.
Setting up a chair, the woman motioned for Kagome to sit, and she silently obeyed, still having a hard time processing what was going on. "How did you find me then?"
"Miroku, my fiancée, decided to do a little snooping a couple days ago after Inuyasha stormed out in some kind of tantrum. And he found a letter with your address on it."
"A letter?" Kagome was stunned. Had Inuyasha really kept those first couple of letters? The thought made her feel strangely warm.
Sango smiled and began brushing out Kagome's hair, opening the lid of the curlers box as she did so. "Yeah; then he proceeded to call a friend who is a genius with hacking computers, and somehow he managed to pull out several of the online conversations you and Inuyasha have had over the years...or at least the ones he had after he bought his new laptop...and we both realized how much you coming meant to Inuyasha. So we decided to help."
"You hacked into our conversations?" Kagome felt herself blush. "Those were meant to be private."
"Oh I know," Sango replied, taking the first curler and twirling it into Kagome's hair before fastening it with a bobby pin. "And believe me when I say that there were a few times I forced Miroku to not read a conversation that was obviously very personal for one or both of you...but even so, I'm glad we saw what we did. Inuyasha never mentioned you before, but now that we know what's going on we want to do all we can to help."
"Why?" Kagome couldn't help closing her eyes, enjoying the sensation of someone taking care of her for once. It had been so long since that was the case.
"Because we both love Inuyasha dearly in spite of his personality. And because, well, your story touched us both. I mean," She secured another curler, "To do what you've done after loosing both your parents...I'm seriously in awe."
"It's not that spectacular."
"But it is! And the fact that your aunt would still not let you go to the charity ball tonight is so awful! So I guess you could say I'm now officially your fairy godmother, Cinderella." She leaned over Kagome's shoulder and smiled kindly. "And tonight we're going to pull off a miracle."
It was so absurd and so wonderful all at once, and Kagome couldn't resist laughing. "So do I have to be back by midnight then?"
"Oh God no. That would be so awful. Frankly, once you're there I doubt Inuyasha will let you leave a second before he does."
"You think?" Kagome blushed at the thought.
"Well let me say this: he feels something for you. He usually doesn't care much about anyone anywhere...but the fact that he's been talking to you for as long as he has, and the fact that he asked you to the ball at all in the first place tells me you're special to him."
Kagome blushed. "But we've never met! I mean, he doesn't even know what I look like..."
"That doesn't matter. He probably knows more about you and your heart and mind than most people in the world do, and the same goes for you with him. The rest will just work itself out."
It was a comforting thought, and Kagome found herself clinging to it desperately as she patiently allowed Sango to work on her hair, gently rolling each curler into place and letting it sit while she started on her makeup. Several times Rin and Shippou walked in and smiled, Rin fawning over Kagome and how beautiful she was going to look, Shippou just blushing shyly around Sango.
Finally, after nearly an hour, Sango stepped back and admired her handiwork, making a few slight adjustments to the hair and makeup before nodding her head in approval. "Perfect." She turned around and went into the hallway, retrieving the garment bag and coming back in. "And now for the final touch." Hanging the bag up on the handle of one of the cupboards, she dramatically unzipped the front and slipped the black cover off the hanger. "Tada!"
It was the most beautiful gown she had ever seen. Strapless, the top half of the gown was off-white and covered in delicate, subtle sequins that glittered and flickered in the light, casting various colors over the gown and making it seem to be all colors at once. The fabric bunched at the waist before expanding and cascading into a large, voluminous skirt that swept away in an old style that reminded Kagome of old England. As she reached out and touched the fabric, she felt layers and layers of fabric, giving the skirts body and mass, the top layer nothing more than a thin layer of shimmering satin covered in the same sequins as the top, somewhat transparent and revealing the yards of fabric underneath, making it seem like the dress went on and on, folding in on itself forever in a wealthy sea of crushed ivory and sequins.
She couldn't speak. No woman could wear such a gown and not feel like Cinderella.
"Sango, I..." She gaped a few times like a fish struggling to breathe. "I can't wear this."
The other woman had a delighted smile on her face as she watched Kagome's carefully controlled reaction, seeing the young woman desperately trying not to lose her composure and allow herself to hope too much. "Why not? I think it would suit you beautifully."
"But...it must have cost a fortune! I could never pay you back!"
"You don't have to, because it's already been paid for, and not by me."
Kagome turned to look at the woman beside her, one of her hands still mindlessly fingering the incredible fabric of the gown. "Then who...?"
Sango's grin turned into an all-out smile, and she looked in that moment like a ten year old giving away a present she'd picked out herself. "Your brother, of course."
"What?" That was hard to believe. "How could Souta possibly..."
"I told you I've been doing well at work," A familiar male voice stated, and Kagome spun around to see her younger brother standing in the doorway, his arms crossed as he leaned his shoulder against the dark wood panel. "And when I got a phone call from Inuyasha Nakamura's best friend saying my sister has captured his attention, I couldn't help but want to contribute something."
"But Souta...this dress...you...your college fund..."
He waved her protests aside. "I didn't have to go anywhere near my college fund. This is all my personal savings for spending. And I don't care about that. So what if I can't eat out with friends for a couple months? Your cooking's fine anyway." He smiled at her. "And you deserve to have a good time, Kagome."
Feeling tears in her eyes and not wanting to ruin her makeup, Kagome chose to simply smile at him, afraid that if she spoke she would lose all control. She could hardly believe what was happening.
"Is this a dream?" She finally asked once Souta had left to give her some privacy while Sango helped her into the dress, zipping it up and showing it was a perfect fit.
The other woman stood up and smiled at her. "No...It's very real. And as such I expect you to enjoy yourself tonight and not worry about anyone besides yourself."
She smiled, feeling like a princess in that incredible gown, spinning around and feeling as the voluminous skirts followed her movements a second later. There were many things that were expected of her, but Kagome Higurashi felt that Sango's expectation was the first she would be happy to oblige.
The charity ball was an absolute snore.
Inuyasha could honestly not remember a time when he had been so bored in his entire life. He was surrounded by pompous, arrogant millionaires casually throwing money around and trying to impress the media with their generosity, and all the hanyou wanted to do was walk out the door and go get a hot dog from one of the street venders in the city. But leaving would be in bad taste, and he'd never hear the end of it from Sesshoumaru, so he decided against it, grateful that Miroku and the rest of his band were also forced to hang around.
It seemed like most of the youth of the city had chosen not to attend that particular social event, because Inuyasha found for the most part that the average age was ten years older than him, meaning there were very few people he felt inclined to speak to, much less dance with. So while the dance floor was filled with couples he stood to the side with his arms crossed, leaning against a pillar that stretched from the floor to the ceiling of the elegant ballroom.
The few young women that were there had already mustered up the courage to ask him to dance, and he had already politely turned them down, knowing he wasn't in the mood to dance with anyone unless her name was Kagome Higurashi; and that wasn't happening any time soon.
A hand suddenly appeared under his nose holding a glass of wine, and Inuyasha took it without thinking, tipping it back slightly and drinking nearly half the glass at once, grimacing at the bitter taste in his throat. He didn't even like wine...so what was he doing?
"Would it kill you to smile?" Miroku asked, sipping from his own glass before glancing for at least the hundredth time at the far entrance, which was framed by ivy and spring flowers, as that was the theme of the evening. The decorators had actually done an admirable job of turning the giant area into an Eden of greenery and pleasant-smelling flowers, the dance floor itself covered in crushed pink, yellow, and white rose petals that left their scent behind.
"Maybe," Inuyasha grunted in reply, finishing off his glass and feeling a slight ping in his forehead from having drunk it so fast. He never had been one to hold his liquor very well. He saw Miroku glance at the entrance again and rolled his eyes. "Would you stop that Miroku? You're driving me crazy."
"Stop what?" The man wore an innocent expression.
"Looking at the entrance to the ballroom like you're expecting someone incredible to walk through the door at any moment."
"Well I am," he replied, being partially honest. "Sango should be arriving soon, and she is incredible to me."
Inuyasha rolled his eyes again. "Why is she late?"
"I already told you; she got a call from a friend she hasn't seen in a long time, and wanted to stop by and say hello."
"Just before a charity event like this?" Inuyasha raised an eyebrow skeptically.
Miroku just shrugged his shoulders. "Believe what you like; she'll be here soon, I hope. I want to dance."
Inuyasha just shrugged his shoulders to say he didn't really care before directing his attention back towards the dance floor where a faster waltz was being played. The evening was never going to end, was it?
His sharp ears began to detect surprised murmurs, and Inuyasha wondered who was arriving so late. After all, the ball had started almost three hours ago. Whoever this person was seemed to have a horrific misconception about the concept of fashionably late.
The whispers gained momentum, and Inuyasha grew slightly irritated, about ready to ask what all the fuss was about when he heard Miroku exclaim happily. "Sango!"
"Sango?" Since when had she ever made such an entrance as to spark such controversial whispers? Inuyasha turned to look at the woman approaching them, trying to decide what was so extraordinary about her that particular evening, but could find nothing.
But then, glancing over her shoulder as there was more movement at the door, Inuyasha's heart nearly stopped.
A young woman was standing just outside the doorway looking very unsure of herself, and very alone as she bore the steady gazes of the rich and the famous who had stopped dancing to evaluate the newest arrival.
Her gown was absolutely stunning. Inuyasha had never seen anything like it. The large skirt that glittered and sparkled in the lights of the ballroom reflected the colors of the flowers around her, making the ivory hue of the gown soften into a thousand different shades of pink, yellow, red, and orange. The bunched fabric at her waist drew attention to her perfect hourglass figure, and the strapless top left nothing to the imagination as it revealed ample amounts of creamy white skin. Her hair was curled and resting atop her head, tiny ringlets falling down past her ears in varying lengths, some barely reaching her chin while others fell clear past her shoulders, the style drawing attention to her well-shaped swanlike neck. Her face was open and honest and beautiful, her dark eyes seeming to be windows into her very heart and soul, and she wore a large glittering necklace of shimmering diamonds at her neck, along with teardrop earrings hanging from her lobes to complete the look.
She was fantastic.
Glancing around, she seemed to be looking for someone as she would start to take a step into the room, but then stop herself short each time. She seemed so adorably nervous and yet confident all at once.
Her eyes swept about the room before she froze as she spotted him, and when their eyes met Inuyasha felt his entire world fall away. He knew who she was. He had never seen her before in his life, but he knew exactly who she was, and would have known even if she hadn't been dressed in that gown of ivory and shimmering diamonds. There was just something in her expression that called to him, strangely familiar and yet unfamiliar too.
Without thinking Inuyasha began to walk forward, never taking his eyes off her, and she in turn waited patiently for him to reach her, her body language suggesting that she was still very unsure of herself in such an unfamiliar setting.
Coming up so that he had to look slightly down to keep her gaze locked with his, Inuyasha reached out an unsteady hand and held it out for her to take. She flicked her gaze at it momentarily before looking back up at him and, with a smile, placed her small fingers in his protection. The trust in her eyes was going to be his undoing, he knew, and Inuyasha found himself swallowing nervously.
No one had ever looked at him like that before.
Like he was some kind of god on earth.
Sure his fans would scream his name when he walked down the street, and reach for him, and he'd even seen several girls start crying in joy when he'd look their way...but none of them had looked at him with such absolute trust, or admiration, or even adoration as Kagome had in her eyes at that moment.
"Kagome Higurashi," he whispered her name, and Kagome felt her entire body tremble at the sound, his deep voice rocking her all the way to the floor and back. She had known he would be even more handsome in person, more captivating, and more seductive...but she still had not known just how much more until that first moment when she'd seen him standing across the room.
He was, in a word, incredible; everything she'd imagined in her mind combined with all the magazine pictures and television interviews.
"Inuyasha Nakamura," She replied, watching his eyes flicker slightly at the sound of his name.
He was about to say more when he suddenly became vividly aware of hundreds of eyes trained on his back, and, glancing over his shoulder, Inuyasha saw all the couples on the dance floor, as well as the others at their tables and scattered around the room, watching and waiting for something to happen. The reporters all had their cameras ready, the questions clear in their eyes, though curiously enough none of them had snapped any pictures yet.
"Would you, um..." He cleared his throat after it squeaked in an uncharacteristic show of nervousness. She just smiled at him, and his heart melted a little more. He felt like he'd known this woman all his life. "Would you like to dance?"
Kagome glanced at the lavish dance floor for only a second before nodding, telling Inuyasha she had probably been hoping he'd ask, and so he immediately led her out to the center of the floor, putting a hand on her waist as he'd been trained a long time ago in some ballroom dancing class, using his other hand to hold hers. He was surprised when Kagome in turn expertly picked up her skirts with her free hand, and together they began to move effortlessly around the dance floor, everyone forming a circle around the pair to watch, whispering and speculating about who the strange girl was.
Inuyasha was pleased and stunned to realize that Kagome was an expert dancer, her feet gracefully matching his, her body easily allowing his to guide her, her eyes locked with his so she wouldn't become dizzy as a result of all the spinning and turning.
"I thought you weren't coming tonight," He finally commented when he felt the music and the conversations around them were loud enough that they had a certain amount of privacy.
"I didn't think I was either until about two hours ago."
He raised an eyebrow at that. "What do you mean?"
Kagome giggled, the sound pleasant. "Well, that woman over there, Sango? She just showed up at my door with a dress and makeup and jewelry she'd borrowed from a store, and said I was going to the charity ball. She and your friend Miroku apparently arranged everything...they even called my brother a few days ago to explain what was going on so he could watch Rin and Shippou." She sighed happily. "I honestly feel like Cinderella right now, going to a ball in my magic coach."
Inuyasha almost said she could have easily been Cinderella in her dress, but chose not to. He'd never really been one to lavish people with compliments. Still, he smiled and found the expression genuine as he looked down at the woman in his arms.
How had he lucked into her? How had he managed to read her letter almost three years ago, out of all the fan mail he received? And what was it that had inspired him to respond to her letter, and none of the others?
At the time Inuyasha knew he had simply been offended, and thinking she was a nuisance. She had wounded his pride and delivered a steady kick to his ego with her curt words, and all he'd wanted was to give back a little attitude himself. He'd never planned on forming a relationship with her, nor had he dared to hope that Kagome Higurashi, the woman who knew more about his deepest, darkest secrets, would have turned out to also be the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.
He'd never been one to believe in fate...but suddenly Inuyasha was having a very difficult time denying the possibility that it existed.
"What are you thinking about?"
Her soft voice drifted to him over the music, and Inuyasha looked down to see her staring at him intently. He responded without thinking. "That the day I read your letter was the best day of my life."
She blinked in surprise, and Inuyasha could have kicked himself for being so lame as to say something like that. But then Kagome just smiled brightly, and it was as though the entire world had come to life in a new prism of color. "The day I wrote that letter was the best day of mine." She giggled. "I suppose I owe my friends a thank you, since they're the ones who dared me to write it in the first place."
"Is that so?"
"Yes...they didn't like the way I kept complaining after we went to one of your concerts, so they said I should tell you how I felt instead of telling them, since they adored you."
Inuyasha raised an eyebrow. "So you really hated me that much?"
"Not really," Kagome shrugged. "I was bitter about everything at that point since my aunt was saying I couldn't leave for college like everyone else. You were an easy outlet for my frustration."
"So...did you mean any of what you said in that letter?"
She gave him a coquettish smirk. "Some of it."
He frowned. "Like what?"
"That you're arrogant."
"Keh...if I'm so arrogant, why did I respond to your letter? If I were arrogant wouldn't I just ignore my fans?"
"But I wasn't one of your fans then, at least not according to the letter you got from me." She smirked. "Admit it, Inuyasha; you responded to me because I wounded your overstuffed ego."
She sounded so sure of herself, but then again Inuyasha figured that was because she knew she was right. Three years of nightly online conversations had meant they were given the opportunity to lay out everything within their hearts, minds, and souls for each other to see...and at this point Inuyasha felt he knew Kagome just as surely as she felt she knew him.
Again he marveled at his luck in stumbling across her. Out of all the people in the world he could have met...of all the letters he could have responded to...hers had been the one to spark his interest.
And if fate was involved in that, Inuyasha decided, then he owed fate at the very least some backstage passes at his next concert.
"Inuyasha?" She sounded somewhat shy now.
"I...I'm sorry for ignoring you the past few nights."
He was surprised, and blinked momentarily before looking down at her. "Whatever...I shouldn't have said what I did either, about you and your aunt. I had no right."
"No...you weren't wrong about what you said," Kagome finally replied, looking away. "I don't need to allow her to treat me the way she does. I've just been so...so afraid."
"Of what? Does poverty really frighten you that much?"
She nodded sheepishly. "Well, that and the idea of not having any family. Kaguya may be cruel, but she's still family, and she and her children are all I have left in the world besides Souta. I guess some part of me is loath to lose that."
"Hn." He nodded his head to say he understood, and the pair fell silent for a time, continuing to dance to the next several waltzes before Kagome finally declared that her feet her killing her and that she needed to take a break. They made their way over to where Sango and Miroku were smiling happily at one another, and Kagome gratefully took a seat in one of the chairs.
"So it would seem you owe me a debt of gratitude," Miroku finally commented, looking like he'd had one too many glasses of wine as he swayed slightly on his feet.
Inuyasha rolled his eyes and crossed his arms. "Yeah right; you can consider this payback for nearly costing us that entire concert in Chicago. Besides, I'm not sure I appreciate the fact that you took the liberty of snooping through my room, Miroku. Some best friend I have."
Miroku just shook his head. "Actually Inuyasha, that's what best friends do. They stick their noses where they don't belong and in the end that means everything works out for the better."
"Keh, yeah right. I should still fire you."
"Well if you do, can it wait until tomorrow? I'm enjoying myself."
From her vantage point Kagome saw both men smile at one another, and she knew in that moment no matter what Miroku may or may not ever do, Inuyasha would always forgive him. So the hanyou had been wrong twice in saying he didn't like close relationships, since he'd not only unintentionally developed one with her, but he was also apparently very close with his best friend.
"I can't thank either of you enough for helping me come here tonight," She finally commented, gazing with longing out at the dance floor, tapping her foot in rhythm with the compound meter of the waltz, counting in threes in her head. "I can't imagine anywhere I would rather be, but I could not have dreamed a couple hours ago that this was possible."
Sango looked down at Kagome and gave the woman one of her kindest smiles. "After hearing about your situation, Kagome, I couldn't just leave it be. I was happy to help; and I'm grateful I was able to meet you as well. I hope we can be good friends." She sighed. "I don't have that many, given my job. Most women are put off by the idea of me being the head of a security team, and most men seem to have a problem with just being my friend."
Kagome smiled and nodded. "I'd like to be friends, Sango." Her eyes darkened sadly. "I don't have that many either."
They were about to say more when suddenly Kagome heard a very familiar voice call out to her from across the banquet hall. "Kagome Higurashi! What the hell are you doing here?"
Knowing it was only a matter of time before her aunt spotted her, Kagome mentally prepared herself for the rather public display that was inevitably going to come as she rose to her feet and fiddled with her hands, forcing her head up in pride. She watched as Kaguya made her way purposefully through the throngs of people on the dance floor, several of the dancers stopping to see what all the fuss was about.
Inuyasha watched the scene unfolding with a frown, and without even thinking moved to Kagome's side, unsure of what to do, or if it would even be appropriate to interfere, but knowing at the very least that he would do his best to offer his support if Kagome needed it.
"I thought I told you to stay home and watch the children tonight," Kaguya hissed when she finally reached them, holding a glass of wine in her right hand, her elegant strapless purple dress matching her dark purple eye shadow and silver lipstick.
"You did, aunt," Kagome replied steadily, refusing to feel intimidated.
"Then why are you here? I hope you weren't stupid enough to bring the kids with you."
"They're at home, aunt, with Souta. He offered to watch them for me."
Kaguya hissed and took a sip of her wine. "I didn't ask Souta to watch them, Kagome, I asked you. It's the principle of the matter. You need to do as you're told. And besides, I don't trust that brother of yours with them. He's only seventeen after all."
Kagome bristled at the implied insult. "Souta is quite capable, I can assure you, and need I remind you of the fact that you had me watching both Rin and Shippou when I was only fourteen?"
The two women glared at one another for several minutes in silence before Kaguya spoke again. "I expect you home in the next thirty minutes, and I expect the house to be clean when I get home later tonight."
"I don't need to go home, aunt," Kagome retorted.
"You will do as you're told!" Kaguya sounded frustrated now. "After all I've done for you Kagome, you can't be bothered to heed this one request? I thought your parents would have taught you better manners than this!"
Seeing Kagome was struggling, Inuyasha decided to screw etiquette and spoke up from behind her. "From what I've heard, madam, Kagome does more than just a little to help you, and if it were up to me to decide, I'd say she's more than repaid you for all you supposedly did for her when she was younger."
"Inuyasha..." Kagome breathed his name and turned to give him a gratified smile, though he didn't look down, instead focusing on the woman across from him.
"And how did you come to know my niece Mr. Nakasura?" Kaguya challenged. "She hasn't mentioned you to me at all. Is that something else she's been doing behind my back?"
"What Kagome does with her own life is none of your concern," Inuyasha snapped back. "You are not her mother, and are no longer her legal guardian either. And if you really had done anything for her out of the goodness of your heart, then you would have let her go to college instead of keeping her as your own personal chief cook and bottle washer."
Kaguya opened and closed her mouth several times in a sign Kagome knew meant she was furious. "How dare you speak to me that way? Celebrity or not, you will treat others with respect! I am a partner in a very prestigious law firm, and have more of an education then you will ever receive, boy! I will not be talked down to!" She flicked her gaze back towards Kagome. "And you will go home. Now."
"No she won't." Inuyasha was firm, and without thinking he placed a protective arm around Kagome's waist. There was something about her that called to his soul, and he'd be damned if he let something he considered to be precious be treated in such a way. "And I don't think she'll ever be going home with you again."
Kaguya paused at that. "I beg your pardon?"
"Inuyasha?" This time Kagome just looked confused. He looked at her briefly, his face a mask, though she could see his eyes soften slightly, and she decided to trust him...to trust the man she had gotten to know so well over the past few years, even if their friendship had been a strange one up until that moment.
Clearing his throat, Inuyasha moved ahead before he lost his nerve. "Kagome is going to come and work for me, and she is also going to start going to college. She doesn't need your charity any more, if anyone can even call what you've given her charity. And neither does her brother, since I'm told he has a college fund set aside for his use that none but him can touch."
Now Kaguya just looked utterly stunned, and took a long draught from her wine, finishing it off, before looking back at Kagome. "You would abandon me Kagome? After everything I've done for you, you would just abandon me? I'm a single mother with two children! I need help!"
"And you have more than enough money to afford a babysitter," Kagome replied. "And even a cook if you want. You don't need me Kaguya. I'm just convenient."
There was a deadly silence, and then Kaguya straightened her back and glared. "Fine then. Screw you, you little wench. But I'm warning you," she pointed her finger at Kagome accusingly. "When this little thing you've got going with your superstar boy toy doesn't work out, don't you dare come back to me and ask for my help."
"I wouldn't dream of it," Kagome replied, refusing to be hurt by her aunt's cruel words.
Kaguya just huffed some more before spinning on her heel and storming away.
Kagome slowly turned to look up at Inuyasha, unsure of what she should say or do next. "Um...I suppose I owe you a thanks for that," she finally said shyly. "I certainly didn't mean for you to feel obligated towards me. And...you don't have to keep your promise and give me a job either. I'll understand."
"Keh, don't be silly woman," Inuyasha replied gruffly, uncomfortable with all of the gratitude she was showing him. He quickly took her hand and spun her back out onto the dance floor. "But now that I think about it, what can you do?"
"Um..." Kagome frowned. "I'm good at cleaning, I guess, and doing laundry."
He huffed. "You're not being my maid, so think again."
Kagome grinned at that. "Well...I guess I'm a pretty decent cook, or so my brother and cousins tell me."
That seemed to catch his interest. "Is that so?"
"Yeah; actually, come to think of it, I used to cook all the dinners for Kaguya's parties, and they all seemed to enjoy my food too."
Inuyasha nodded. "Well that could work then."
She gave him a guarded expression. "What could work?"
"You could be my caterer. My personal chef."
"Excuse me?" Kagome blinked, not sure if she liked the idea of being anything akin to a servant of Inuyasha's.
"Oh calm down," he replied gruffly. "You'd get paid to do it, and just think, you could probably get into any culinary school you wanted after working for me for a year."
She gave him a pointed glare. "Who said I wanted to go to culinary school?"
He shrugged. "No one, but if you're good at it, and you enjoy it, why not? You could own a restaurant some day or something."
Kagome blinked and swallowed the comment she had been about to make. She'd honestly never thought of that before. Cooking was just something she did...but if she actually thought about it, it always did seem to relax her nerves quite a bit, and she loved seeing people smile as they ate things that she spent time preparing.
Maybe it wasn't such a bad idea after all?
"Well...for now, at the very least I suppose I could try being your private chef." She smiled at the title. It actually sounded kind of prestigious.
"Good; because I wasn't gonna let you say no."
He grinned arrogantly down at her, and Kagome felt her insides melt, along with her instinctive flare of anger. God...he was so handsome! She didn't think it was right or fair for anyone to be as handsome as he was.
"You're gawking, Kagome," He teased, and she blinked, blushing furiously as she looked away. He smirked. "Do you like what you see?"
Her eyes flashed, and Inuyasha felt something stir in his gut at the fire behind her gaze. "Don't think too highly of yourself. After all..."
But he cut her off as, without warning, Inuyasha lowered his head and captured her lips in a kiss. She gasped against his mouth, surprised and a little stunned, but then, after a few seconds, he felt her slowly begin to relax and even twine her arms around his neck, both of them ceasing to move, unaware of the couples around them smiling knowingly, and ignoring the flashes from the reporters and their cameras.
He finally lifted his head, and Kagome gazed up at him with a dazed expression. "What was that for?" She finally managed to ask.
He grinned, clearly proud of himself for kissing her senseless. "To get you to shut up, what else?"
"You jerk!" She smacked him across the shoulder, but then grinned mischievously. "So then if I were to start talking too much again, you'd..."
"You're already talking too much." And he kissed her again, and this time she was ready, meeting his passion with a wave of her own. It all seemed so surreal; the idea that she was kissing Inuyasha Nakasura, one of the biggest superstars of the day and one of the most sought-after bachelors in the world...how had she managed it anyway? Kagome didn't know. In all honesty, he'd kind of just fell into her lap unintentionally.
Still, she wasn't complaining. And while she had no idea if what they had would last, she knew she'd enjoy it in that moment. She'd spent too much time living for other people, doing what they wanted and needed and expected of her. Perhaps at last the time had come for her to think of herself for a change.
Kagome liked that idea.
She smiled slightly into the kiss without thinking, and Inuyasha groaned. "You'd better not be laughing at me," he grunted, pulling away enough to rest his forehead against hers.
"Why? Is that just a macho thing?"
"Then maybe I should just laugh because of that."
"Do you always have to try and make me look and feel like a fool?"
"You know you do."
She grinned at him, the expression one that Inuyasha knew did not bode well for his future in terms of his mental stability, and yet suddenly that thought was thrilling rather than intimidating. Maybe close relationships weren't so horrid after all...at least, not when they were with Kagome Higurashi.
"So..." She put a hand on his chest and played with one of the buttons on his tuxedo shirt. Glancing up at him coyly, she winked. "Are you going to be online tonight?"
He didn't know why, but for some reason Inuyasha found that comment incredibly funny, and without thinking he threw his head back and laughed, genuinely laughed, for the first time in public. Definitely would put a strain on his mental stability...but who cared? Inuyasha had always been someone who enjoyed a challenge.
And they lived happily ever after...eventually.