The Like Letter
Hey there everyone, here I am with my obscenely long one-shot! A thousand thanks to FrameofMind for beta-ing for me, and as a gesture of gratitude, I shall now plug shamelessly. FrameofMind is an amazing author, a master of humor, and really excellent at writing things from an almost movie-like perspective. READ HER STUFF! NOW! (I'm not kidding, either; she really is an incredible writer)
Note: Double quotes ("text") indicate speech (duh), and italics usually indicate thought. FF dot net kind of screwed up my formatting when I uploaded this, so I went back through and fixed it, but if I missed anything (salute)you're on your own!
Japanese Word of the Day: shinsho- letter.
Disclaimer: If I get into an Ivy League, do I get the Inu-tachi as a present?
Two dark-haired girls reacted to that name. The first, tall and elegant, flicked her ponytail over her shoulder, leaving her perch on her desk and ignoring her friends' giggles. The second looked up leisurely from her last-minute math homework, fiddling absentmindedly with a lock of wavy black hair.
His awareness of the other girl disappeared as Kikyo left her friends and came to stand before him. She folded her arms and looked politely up at him. Her eyes were a steely gray, perfectly made up as usual, as she waited for him to respond.
"I…um…" Inuyasha scratched uncomfortably at his own long black hair. "Can I…talk to you for a sec?" Oh crap, he thought resignedly when Kikyo's eyebrow shot up. She's already guessed!
"You already are." Kikyo turned and walked silently toward the classroom door. "Come on," she said tiredly, waving him over to her and gesturing out the door. Inuyasha quickly followed her, trying his hardest not be antagonized by the wolf whistles and less than gentlemanly suggestions that trailed after him. And failing marvelously.
The girl stopped a little way outside the door and turned. Inuyasha turned nervously and shut the door. Okay…deep breath…if you take out your annoyance at those morons on her, you won't have a snowball's chance in hell…is this what asthma feels like?
Shaking the random thought out of his head and trying to steady both his breathing and his heartbeat, Inuyasha turned to face Kikyo. They stared at each other, Kikyo's face unreadable, Inuyasha's very likely breaking out into pimples as the seconds passed. Finally, the shorter of the two sighed and broke the silence. "Inuyasha, I seem to remember that you wanted to talk to me, not hold a staring contest."
"Oh, um, right!" Shit, that's a negative hundred points for me! "I…erm…" No, I had it all planned out last night! How did it start? It went…oh yeah!
"So how are you?" he said in what he hoped was a relaxed voice and what he knew was an unusually high-pitched one.
And cue eyebrow…now! Yes, up, up, up, halting in a perfect arch over her right eye. "Fine. And you?"
"Good…good…I mean, yeah, I'm fine, too. Yeah." Shit, what had come after that?
Kikyo sighed and ran her fingers through her silky tresses. "Look, if you have something to say to me—"
An endless train of profanities chugged through Inuyasha's head as he stammered, "No…no, I j-just said…um…do…d'you wanna go to a movie…on Friday night?" His voice trailed off pathetically at the end, unmistakably killing any hope he'd had of coming off confident and dashing and whatever the hell would impress Kikyo into saying yes.
Kikyo seemed to have the same thoughts, if her stony expression was anything to go by. "Don't get me wrong, Inuyasha," she said in a measured voice. "You're a great guy. You're good-looking, your bad-boy attitude has plenty of girls chasing after you, and you're very brave. Unfortunately, that's not all I'm looking for."
"I want someone who understands me, Inuyasha. And I have him." She smiled at Inuyasha, yet he knew that her soft expression was not for him, but for some other guy who had beaten him to the punch. "Nothing against you, because I know someday you'll make some girl the happiest person in the world. But it won't be me."
"How can you say that without giving me a chance?" he asked angrily, catching himself as he made to grab her shoulder and shake her for emphasis. "How can you know that I'm not what you're looking for when you haven't even looked at me?"
She gave his clenching fists an appraising look before returning her firm gaze to his eyes. "Because you're like this. You're impulsive. You think with your heart. You take things at face value. I almost envy how open you can be, but I don't want it. Do you understand?"
"The hell I do!" he shouted, turning away from her and yanking absentmindedly at his long black hair. "So you say you're refusing me because I've got a fucking temper?"
"No," Kikyo answered with a trace of annoyance. "I'm refusing you because I'm taken and I like being taken."
"Fuck that!" Inuyasha retorted, completely forgetting the polite confidence he had wanted to impress Kikyo with and instead retreating into comfortably familiar rage. "Why can't you just give it a try and see what I can do for you? What can some 'gentle' little wimp offer you that I can't? And you talk as if you're going to marry him! It's fucking high school! How long do you think you can last?"
She hissed out a word under her breath that sounded oddly like, "Men." Her white sandals slapped ominously against the ground as she stormed over to Inuyasha and roughly grabbed the front of his shirt. "Now listen to me," she said in a tone that would freeze Hell itself. Inuyasha stared down at her crackling grey eyes and gulped hard. "You will never insult Onigumo that way ever, ever again." She punctuated her warning with one hard shake that had the shocked and intimidated Inuyasha wobbling on his usually well-balanced feet. "He is not weak, and don't think that you can assume what I do and do not want. And yes, this may only be high school, but, by God, until he tells me to leave him, I'mstaying with him. I'm happy the way things are, and one persistent idiot is not going to change how I feel. Do you understand me?"
Inuyasha nodded, a wise choice. Kikyo gave him a cold, curt nod, released his shirt, and calmly returned the classroom, softly closing the door behind her. The rejected suitor could only stare after her, unable to process anything besides the soft 'click' that had accompanied the door's closing and the sound of Kikyo's sandals clopping their way back to their owner's friends.
"Damn it…" Inuyasha dropped his black and silver backpack on the floor of his bedroom, raking a hand through his hair. He turned to his bed and, giving the ceiling a "why me, God?" sort of glare, fell heavily on top of the unmade covers. Lying there on his stomach, he stared unseeingly at his backpack. How the fuck did I not know? Everyone I asked said that she's been going with this Onigumo motherfucker for a month already.
He twisted and gave his pillow a half-hearted punch. "Shit." Right when I work up the courage to ask her…two fucking years down the fucking drain, because I was a fucking coward. I must look so stupid. And what made me lose my temper like that, anyway? What happened to that self-control I was working on?
With a heavy sigh, Inuyasha wriggled across the bed and grabbed his backpack. "What sort of torture did that Mayuko bitch assign us this time…" He lifted out his assignment notebook and flipped through the many scribbled-upon pages before he finally found the current week. "Something about reading…eh?"
A piece of notebook paper had been folded into quarters and stuck in his notebook. When he opened it, a quick scan of the small, neat handwriting in deep blue ink quickly marked it as someone else's.
Huh. Some idiot must've mistaken my notebook for theirs or something. About to toss it out, he casually read the first line and instantly refocused.
Hey, it's Kagome.-
He let out his breath in a disappointed sigh. For an instant there, he had hoped that maybe Kikyo had come around…
Then, his eyes narrowed and he studied her name more closely. Kagome…of course, Kagome Higurashi, wavy black hair, short, gray eyes, looked a little like Kikyo except…smaller…in all respects…generally quiet, smart, did a partner project with him in Spanish once and somehow intimidated him into actually putting an effort into it. Why the hell would she write to him?
-I know we don't talk a lot, and I don't blame you, especially after I kind of terrorized you into getting some work done on that project on Spanish music. I guess I never really apologized for treating you to an extra-strong serving of my Devil Woman Glare, as my little brother Souta so lovingly calls it, so…well, sorry. But anyway, that's not what I'm writing to you about (this'd be a fairly pointless letter if that were all, wouldn't it?).
Um…well, how to go about saying this…ha, Ms. Mayuko would kill me right now for not "thinking ahead", but I'm really not sure how to say this. I'm kind of writing this in class, so I'm a bit rushed…forgive me if I jump around a lot.-
"Damn it, bitch, just get to the point, why doncha?" Inuyasha muttered impatiently.
-Well, I guess that's a good way to segue into what this damn letter's actually about. So…I'm writing to you (during this positively mind-numbing math lecture) because I kind of heard you and Kikyo fighting out there.-
"WHAT?" Inuyasha gave the letter in his hand a decent human version of a growl.
-Hey, don't growl at me now, or whatever you want to call that weird noise you make when you get mad.-
His mouth snapped shut. "What…how did she…?"
-I tell you now, I think the whole school heard it. You're not very good at being discreet.-
-But anyway, I heard, and I want to tell you that I'm sorry. It was really courageous of you to go up to her and ask her out like that. Yeah, it was a bit stupid to keep pushing her (you know what she's like when she gets mad), but I still really admire your guts and I feel bad for you.-
"I don't need fucking commiseration, bitch," he snarled, feeling humiliation squirm somewhere just above his stomach.
-No, no, this is not a pity letter. I'm not writing this and thinking, "Oh, poor Inuyasha, his feelings are so delicate, and Kikyo just shattered them, and I'm just such a good person that I'll take the time to pat him on the back and say, 'Nice try.'"
I'm writing you because, while I was thinking about how much it must suck to be you, I realized…well, long story short, I like you.-
"So? I don't hate you either."
-I mean, I like you. I have a crush on you. (I know you well enough to know that you wouldn't have understood the first time)-
-While you're still in shock and numbly reading on, I'll take advantage of the little time I have left before you shriek and toss this away from you like it's on fire. I'll admit that your looks play a definite role. I've always thought it's interesting that your hair doesn't make you look feminine. If anything, having it down to your ass seems to make you look even more masculine. Not that you need the help. You're one of the best-looking guys I've ever met; I especially love your eyes (well, how many people do you know who have purple eyes, after all?)
But looks aside, there's a lot more about you to like. As bad-tempered as you may be, you have a really good heart. You're awkwardly kind and occasionally even act chivalrous. Your fiery personality makes you fun to interact with, although your stubbornness and sometimes shocking stupidity can interfere with that, as well as your aforementioned temper.
Looking back on that, I'm kind of cringing, because I'm suddenly criticizing you, but I promise I mean it when I say that those negative traits of yours make you a lot more likable. I'm a romantic and I've always seen myself falling for the kind, sweet guy who understands every little thing about me. But I think about you, and suddenly dealing with rough edges and idiocy and other blockheaded traits common to most men (and oddly emphasized in you in particular) suddenly doesn't seem so bad. In fact, I kind of like the prospect.-
At this point, Inuyasha's mind caught up with his body and ordered it to do just as Kagome had predicted. Because he was finding difficulty breathing properly, he didn't shriek, but he did manage a breathy sort of gurgle as he dropped the letter off the edge of bed with trembling hands. Letting his head poke out over the side of the mattress, he stared down at the letter, which had landed face-up, eyeing it as a child might eye a pet that had just bitten him.
Still, despite his roiling emotions' orders to destroy the letter immediately, his eyes morbidly continued reading. He leaned down to see better, wondering fatalistically what more Life or Luck or God or Destiny or Karma or whatever the hell it was that was responsible for this letter could hit him with.
-By now, I'm sure your right mind has finally regained control of you. Any minute now, you're sure to ask me, "So why the hell are you telling me this now?"-
"Yeah, why are you?" he muttered, scooping the letter back up in spite of himself.
-Well, I imagine that you'll eventually wander across the possibility that I'm asking you out.-
Inuyasha suddenly became uncomfortably aware of the blush spreading over his face. Was she? Was she really asking him out? Why now, when he was fresh off the Whipping Block of Rejection?
Suddenly, his purple eyes narrowed. Was that it? Was she trying to pick him up right when he was at his weakest?
-But I'm not. Nor I am writing this to catch you right when you're vulnerable. I'm not trying to have you jump at me for comfort for being rejected, because it's not fair to either of us. But your hurt feelings and need for comfort did play into my decision to write to you. You see, you just looked so upset when you came back into the classroom that I figured you needed a morale booster. That's all.
Anyway, I've said what I wanted to say. Just remember, especially when you're feeling down about Kikyo or anyone else you may like in the future, you already have someone who feels this way about you. I'm rooting for you. Remember that.
P.S. Oh, also, I'm not writing to you so I can figure out how you feel about me. I don't need a reply from you…in fact, I don't want one, nor do I want any sort of reaction from you at all. You've read this, that's all I care about (and if you hadn't, well, I won't find out anyway). Please don't mention this to anyone, especially me, because I think the embarrassment may be a little too much for me to handle. You can do that much for me, can't you?-
Inuyasha gave the letter one long, measured blink. He brought his hand up tug at his hair again before he remembered what Kagome said about his long, evidently masculine locks. With a blush, he dropped his hand and awkwardly refolded the letter.
What the hell… How was he supposed to react to this? Did she really expect him to brush it off as if it were nothing important? He had never thought of Kagome that way, but a sudden confession from any girl warranted some kind of acknowledgement, didn't it?
'I'm rooting for you', he silently quoted and then smiled weakly. Well…things could have been worse. After a moment of hesitation, he stood, note in hand, and walked over to his cluttered desk. Brushing a few incomplete worksheets out of the way, Inuyasha opened one miraculously organized drawer and gently placed the letter on top of a few photographs.
Kagome could never change his feelings for Kikyo, and that Devil Woman Glare of hers was damn scary…but at that moment, Inuyasha was extremely glad he knew her.
Inuyasha made to un-flatten himself from the wall outside the classroom, then sank back, shaking his head. Oh, come on, you stupid coward, just go in like everything's normal! Never mind the fact that…everyone…heard…
"Okay, remember…someone's rooting for me…crap." That didn't help at all, he thought ruefully, looking down at a very interesting stain on the hall carpeting as he felt a different sort of stain spreading over his own face. Since when do I blush so easily? Agh, it's all that damn Kagome's fault! If she hadn't written me that stupid letter—! Honestly, can she really expect me to just blow it off like nothing? I mean…
Inuyasha passed a hand across his eyelids and felt it brush against his hair. And did she really have to fucking compliment me like that? Maybe I'll feel good about it later, but right now, I'm just really self-conscious! 'Rooting for me'…how 'bout ruining my life, eh, Kagome?
With a sigh, the boy slid down the wall and sat, staring blankly at the other students passing him by. First Kikyo, then this. I really don't want to go in there right now.
He muttered a curse under his breath and then looked up. "Whaddaya wan—ah, hah, um…hi?"
Kagome, one hand perched on her cocked hip, stared down at him. "Hey…what do you think you're doing, sitting out here?" She nodded with a definite air of irritation at the people shoving past her and her large shoulder bag. "You've started a traffic jam."
Okay, calm down. She said she didn't want to talk about it. Stay cool…stay calm…she's just your classmate…we're just going to pretend that letter never—damn it, quit blushing!
"I…um…" Inuyasha quickly looked back down, trying hard to stare at nothing in particular while willing away the blood rushing to his cheeks. "Just…just butt out!"
…crap, shouldn't have said that.
"OW!" Inuyasha drew his legs closer to his body, wrapping protective hands around his now-bruised shin. "Oi, what the hell did you do that for, bitch?"
The girl sniffed haughtily and hefted her weapon, her bag, back onto her shoulder. "I did it to remind you that getting dumped is no excuse to be so rude. Even though you usually are, anyway." She thought for a moment, then offered him her hand. "Also, you being sulky is really weird. As annoying as it is, I'll stick with your short fuse. Come on, or we'll be late to class."
The sight of her hand removed the pain from his mind and re-summoned a mental image of that letter, and Inuyasha flushed again. "I…keh!" He flew to his feet and jammed his backpack back on. "As if I need some bitch to help me up onto my own two fee—ow! Fucking bitch, what the hell is wrong with—hey!"
Kagome stared coldly down at the hand that had prevented her elbow from jabbing a second bruise in Inuyasha's side. "My god, would it really kill you to be nice?" she asked. "In case you didn't know, my name's Kagome, not bitch, so unless you like the nickname 'Puppy', I suggest you learn my name very quickly."
"Puppy? Why the hell would anyone pick 'Puppy'?" Inuyasha snarled, dropping her elbow and scratching his head, the only way he could hide his stupid red cheeks.
Yet even with his arm blocking the view, he could still just barely make out her smirk as she answered, "Because you growl at every little thing, just like a bad-tempered little puppy!"
"Oi, bitch, what was that?"
This time, he refused to react as Kagome's heel ground down on the toe of his sneaker. But he couldn't avoid a small growl when she said, "Oh, don't worry, you'll learn my name soon enough." After a moment of thought, she very casually stood up on her tiptoes and pushed her face uncomfortably close to his. "After all, you certainly don't look all that stupid."
"EH? Um…" Inuyasha fidgeted, his eyes darting left and right as her ash-gray gaze loomed at him from just beyond the tip of his nose. "Wha…what are you doing?"
She gave him a sweet smile. "Testing you."
"Eh?" God damn it all, why was it that he had rarely ever turned this red before today, and yet now, a blush seemed to have taken up permanent residence on his face?
That thought didn't go unnoticed. Kagome's eyes lit up evilly and she reached one hand up to tousle his hair. "Good puppy."
"Hey, bitch, don't—ow—touch!" He jerked away too quickly to stop himself when Kagome tightened her grip on a chunk of his long black, hair. About to shout something at her that would probably have her swinging that shoulder bag of hers straight into his head, Inuyasha choked on his words when Kagome grinned effortlessly at him and absentmindedly swept her hair behind her shoulders, exposing her neck. And now that he could see it, he could tell that it was a very nice neck, too…
"You're a smart puppy, Inuyasha," she said cheerfully, turning and abruptly cutting his perusal of her well-sculpted collarbone short. "I'm sure you'll learn my name someday."
"I—you stupid fucking—you think—don't—ARGH!" Inuyasha let loose a magnificent growl of frustration as the classroom door shut behind her. You think you can just walk away from me like that, bitch? I'll show you!
With that, he stormed after her, slamming the door open and stomping into the room, humiliation forgotten.
"Tell me again, how did I get roped into this?" Inuyasha complained, glaring down at his fingernails. Not that he was a priss or anything like that, but no sane person would ever want a "manicure" like this!
Kagome sighed and cricked her neck. "Because it's your fault that I dropped the geraniums—"
"You're the one who tried to deck me over the head with the tray!" Inuyasha interjected.
"—so the least you could do is help me replant them, Puppy," Kagome persisted. "Besides, being the big, tough, rude guy that you are, should that dirt under your nails really bother you that much?" She wiggled her gloved hands for emphasis.
He sneered haughtily at her. "No one would like having half the earth's crust on their hands."
"Oh, don't exaggerate." Kagome tugged off one glove and shook her finger at him. "Remember, Puppy, honesty is a virtue."
"Damn, I think you really are insan—ack!" A glove smacked into his shoulder, having narrowly missed his face. "What was that for? Swearing? Don't tell me you're a weird, violent woman and a prude!"
"No, that was for acting like a sissy little girl who can't stand to have even one of her nails broken," Kagome responded easily, digging out a hole in the planting tray with her gloved finger. "All of those disgusted faces get really distracting after a while."
"Yeah, well, I guess someone like you would need to concentrate even on the most mundane jobs," Inuyasha snorted, nevertheless slipping the "one-size-fits-all" glove onto his grimy hand. "Why do you like Gardening Club, anyway?"
"Because," Kagome answered brightly, gently placing a flower into a readied compartment, "it makes me happy! I like to think that there's something out there that I nurtured with my own hands. Although it's only in a small way, I've changed the world. It makes me feel a little more confident."
"Yeah, not that you need confidence, after writing that—" Inuyasha snapped his mouth shut so quickly that he could hear his teeth clack together.
Kagome didn't even bother to look up from her flower as she asked blithely, "What was that?"
"Fuck off! Er, no, wait, I take it back!" he corrected when she raised a threatening fist. It wasn't that he was scared of her per se…he just had a common human aversion to pain. Nothing cowardly about that, right? "I meant…nothing important." Completely forgetting about the dirt, Inuyasha gave the back of his neck a nervous scratch. Idiot! Don't go blurting it out like that!
Kagome treated him to a skeptical stare (Is she laughing at me? Or is she embarrassed?), then turned back to her work. "Okay, whatever you say, Inuyasha. Anyway—" she sat back on her heels and pursed her lips at the somewhat restored tray of geraniums—"how 'bout this? You keep helping me until we finish the tray, then I'll clean up and you can head home. Even if it was mostly your fault, I still feel bad for keeping you after school like this."
"Yeah, yeah, keep talkin', woman," Inuyasha muttered, ignoring the small clod of dirt that suddenly exploded against his shoulder. "Well, hurry up! I wanna go home!" he said bossily.
He returned to planting with renewed vigor, digging out holes that, while not as neat as Kagome's, were perfectly serviceable. For a few minutes, they continued like this in a silence that could almost be called companionable.
And then it happened.
Inuyasha reached out for a geranium just visible in the corner of his eye. He wrapped a hand gently around the delicate stem. But it wasn't the stem that he gripped. Not a thin, slightly fuzzy stalk, no. No, this "stem" was much larger than he had expected, yet small enough to fit in his hand…it was soft and smooth…it was warm…and it wiggled.
Drawing back his hand as if the "stem" had burst into flames, Inuyasha cringed away and almost fell quite ungracefully to the ground. "I'm…I'm sorry! I didn't mean to, I swear!"
Kagome stared back at him, one eyebrow raised. "Um…" She looked down at the geranium that Inuyasha had reached for and missed, instead grabbing her hand. "That's…okay…"
"I just…I didn't mean anything by it!" Inuyasha babbled, wondering frantically if Kagome really didn't care, or if she was just much better at hiding her embarrassment than he was. "It was an accident! I didn't…there was no…you know!"
Shit, way to keep it cool, moron, his mind coolly observed. In response, Inuyasha gave himself an invisible shake and forced himself to look directly into Kagome's soft gray eyes. He knew full well that the damage had been done (as was evidenced by the return of that evil, warm sensation in his face), but surely he had some dignity left to salvage…right? "I…um…" He cleared his throat. "Sorry."
Neither moved for a few seconds, before the corner of Kagome's mouth gave a funny twitch. "It's…"—she returned shakily—"…I don't…" Now her cheeks were flushing, too, and her chest was shaking…a good sign?
Inuyasha watched as she struggled to re-establish control of herself as her shoulders began to quiver slightly. And now her chin was wobbling…and there went her mouth, all twisted…like it was trying to hold something in…
Definitely a very bad sign, Inuyasha decided, panicking as her face contorted. She's not going to…oh fuck, fuck, fuck, don't tell me she's going to start getting girly and emotional on me now!
"Wait, I didn't mean—godammit, Kagome, tell me you aren't going to cry! Come on, hit me, scream at me, do something, just don't get weepy on me! What the hell did I say?" He waved his arms frantically in her general direction, that calm, observant part of his mind asking sarcastically if he thought that the waving could somehow cast a "get-happy" spell on her.
Kagome's eyes were oddly expressionless, but she continued to quiver slightly as Inuyasha continued to turn himself into a sentimental wimp. He was a natural athlete, very strong, but he crumbled like clump of flour at the face of a crying girl. "Kagome, look, just…just don't cry on me! Come on, please?"
Those ash gray eyes widened for an instant, then squeezed shut. Oh crap, Inuyasha thought frantically. OhcrapohcrapohCRAP!
Kagome's shaking stopped momentarily.
And then she burst into laughter.
…the fuck? Inuyasha stared numbly at the girl in front of him, who was rocking slightly and clutching her stomach, so caught up in mirth that she was wheezing for breath and quickly dissolving into tears.
But certainly not the tears he had been expecting.
"My…my god, Inuyasha…" she gasped, pressing a hand to her chest in a vain attempt to regain her breath even as the laughs kept coming. "You…em…embarrassed…I couldn't… then you …so freaked out…I can't…"
Her only partially successful tries at coherent speech snapped Inuyasha out of his stupor. "What the fuck are you laughing at, bitch?" he roared, straining to somehow suppress that blush that had temporarily receded in his panic.
But, surprisingly, Kagome hardly reacted, sending him a half-hearted glare before erupting into giggles again. "Sorry…I can't…help it…"
That totally dumbfounded him. She was still laughing? After he'd called her a bitch? What on earth had he said that could set her off so much? Was it the "please"? Or maybe just the way he had caved? Or how he'd looked while frantically waving his arms around? It wasn't that funny, was it?
Yet the instant he tried to picture himself flailing around as madly as he knew he'd been doing, Inuyasha had to stifle a snort. Well, maybe a little funny…
No! Don't give in! She's laughing at you, don't forget! He growled at the thought. "I mean it! What the hell is so funny?"
Kagome managed to compose herself enough to respond without relapsing into a fit of laughter. "Well…just you…you were so embarrassed when you grabbed my hand! It was like I'd caught you with your hand in the cookie jar or something. And your overreaction was just so amusing, and I tried not to laugh, but you just ended up making things even funnier. I'm sorry but…" She shook her head with a broad grin, again trembling from the effort of holding back still more giggles. "…it really is great being around you when you get like that," she said honestly, grinning at him.
It was as if she had thrown a heating pack the size of a TV into his gut. Pleasantly warm, but still with the shock value of a punch to the stomach. He could feel the heat spreading back up to his cheeks as he mouthed wordlessly at her. First the letter…then this…shit, did someone upstairs think that he liked coronary failure?
It's Inuyasha. So…um…how are you?-
-Hey Kagome, you know that day I tried to ask Kikyo out? Remember that letter you gave me?-
-What's up? I'll deny this if you ask me about this later, but I actually kind of enjoyed Garden Club last week. Can I come to the next meeting? It's weird how for the past few weeks, I've been spending a lot of time with you. Ever since you wrote me that letter.-
-Kagome, I found one of my mom's old books called A Rainbow at My Feet, and it's all about flowers and gardening and stuff. I was wondering if you wanted to borrow it.-
-Look, I know you asked me not to, but about that letter…-
Inuyasha growled impatiently and crumpled up what had to be his tenth attempt at responding to Kagome's letter. How was it possible that writing a simple note could be so hard?
But then again, he thought, ripping another sheet of paper out of his notebook, it really isn't that simple. How do I tell her how freaked out I was when I read her letter? Or how happy it made me at the same time? How can I say that even if I don't like her back—he blushed, remembering his reaction when she had approached him the day after he'd received her letter—I'm really glad that, since then, I got to her know her better?
Why the hell am I glad anyways? He tapped his pen lazily against the ominously blank sheet. She's a violent bitch, a prude…and she has really bad taste in nicknames.
With a sigh, Inuyasha crossed his arms and leaned them on the desk. Resting his head on his forearms, he had to admit, But she's more than that.
Violent as Kagome Higurashi was…she was also forgiving. He had never been the social type…in fact, he was the type of person who people generally dismissed as an antisocial punk (well, the first half was for the most part true). But she didn't seem to mind. She didn't seem to care that some people, including a few of Kikyo's posse, looked at her askance for associating with "that punk boy", or that he himself treated her as if she were a parasite, a fly buzzing around his ear. Kagome didn't seem to care. True, Inuyasha was a few bruises worse for the wear, but in the end, she treated him like…like she cared.
"I'm rooting for you". How much courage must it have taken for her to say that? How much thought must she have put into that decision to simply say that she was on his side? How much heart did it take to see her crush pining after other girls and to encourage him in his pursuit?
A lot more than I can spare, he thought ruefully. Even now, he couldn't think about Kikyo, and thus Onigumo, without a resentful growl. The crushing hurt and shame had dulled, largely thanks to Kagome's letter, but he still felt left behind. Rejected. Unwanted.
Okay, so maybe there was more hurt there than he would admit, but even so, being near Kagome suddenly made it seem like nothing like that mattered. When she dragged him, by the hair if need be, to Garden Club, that Onigumo wimp suddenly didn't exist. When she smacked him across the head or gave his shins a particularly painful kick in exchange for a rude word, the Kikyo who avoided his gaze whenever he glanced her way simply vanished. When she laughed at him or managed to con him into laughing with her, the frustration evaporated, shriveled away, like a mud puddle in July. She was his comfort, his escape, his happiness when there was nothing to be happy about.
Kagome Higurashi…was his friend.
There was something singularly shocking about that fact. Kagome Higurashi…for months, years even, she had been an acquaintance…a vague memory…not even close enough that they greeted each other in the hallway. But now, she was suddenly a constant presence in his life. Somehow, in the past three weeks or so, he had become extremely aware of her…so aware it was almost painful. He felt her presence the instant she walked into the room; when she was gone, her absence was so obvious he could practically hear it, taste it, smell it. He almost regretted leaving school, watching her mount her pink bike and ride blithely away. He could very nearly say that he looked forward to school, knowing that she would be there to greet him with her smile, her temper, her always open face.
How can I put that into words? How do I tell her how much I value her friendship? How can words fully express how much I wish we could be this close forever?
Two weeks later, Inuyasha still hadn't been able to write a satisfactory letter. This one was too cheesy, that one didn't say enough, but this one said too much, and that one didn't say anything at all. The building pile of failures in his rarely-changed garbage can attested a bit too strongly to what he was already painfully aware of: he had never been good with words.
Now his hand, as if still attempting to draft a successful reply, lazily scribbled all over his math notebook. He wasn't paying an ounce of attention to his notes or to the teacher, or even to gorgeous spring morning just outside the window. Instead, he was solely focusing on Kagome.
It was amazing. How was it possible that in little more than a month, his life could have changed so drastically? Where were the days that he had spent staring at Kikyo, dreaming of her smile, wondering if they could ever really be together, biting his nails at the thought of losing her to some other guy?
Inuyasha smiled lazily as Kagome leaned forward and squinted at something on the board. It was almost cute how she adamantly refused to wear her glasses, even though she could barely read the board from even the front row.
How had it happened? How had his unexpected friendship with Kagome wrought such a sweeping change on his life? How was it that Kikyo and Onigumo hardly mattered anymore? How had Kagome invaded his life so completely that all he could think of was what tidbits of his life he could relate to her that would make her laugh, what flowers she would most love to plant, what he could possibly do to just keep her smiling?
Inuyasha turned and glanced at Kikyo. She sat up straight, listening intently to the teacher, occasionally leaning over and copying something into her notes before looking up again. No way to deny it, she was still gorgeous. Perfect. The ultimate desire.
A sudden movement at the front of the room drew his attention back to Kagome. She had set down her pencil and was quickly gathering her hair into a ponytail. Flashes of soft, tanned skin winked repeatedly at him at her hands deftly confined those wavy black tresses. It was true: Kagome's figure had nothing on Kikyo's. Any sane guy could attest to that, as could, well, anyone with the ability to see at all.
But Kagome was warm. Tangible. The ultimate friend.
And the fact that no sculptor could ever create a neck as fine as hers certainly didn't hurt…
Lord, what'm I thinking? he thought lazily, already too familiar with such thoughts to bother fighting them. After all, friends or not, Inuyasha was still above all a guy; a little physical attraction wasn't exactly unexpected. Kagome bruised him almost daily, so surely he was allowed to gawk a little as payment.
As if she felt his gaze trained so intently on the back of her neck, Kagome turned slightly, and Inuyasha could see her soft gray eyes searching out his. Once they had made eye contact, he smirked and tapped his eyelid. In response, Kagome stuck out her tongue and turned back to the front of the room while Inuyasha laughed silently. Idiot, he thought idly. She'll only make her eyes worse if she keeps straining them like this. What's the problem with wearing glasses, anyway?
But that neck of hers was still begging for attention, and he readily complied, following the curve from shoulder to ear over and over as the teacher droned on. No problem at all, right? It's normal…right?
"Yeah?" She looked up from the petunias, rubbing her nose with her wrist, careful to keep the dirt-covered glove away from her face.
"I…um…" Inuyasha cricked his neck nervously, glancing around the small plot of dirt at the entrance to the school. The Garden Club had split up today, each group of two or three sent out to beautify some small, dull corner on campus. It was amazing how much open ground a high school really had, Inuyasha thought absentmindedly, thinking of the groups that had trudged out to the outer borders of the football fields with their trowels and petunias.
He shook his head. Focus, idiot! Don't go messing things up again!
Taking the trowel out of Kagome's hand, he set it on the ground and looked seriously into her warm, ash-colored eyes. "Look…I've been trying to for weeks…but I can't do it."
She cocked her head and slowly sat down on the grass. "…what?"
"You see…" Unable to hold her gaze for very long, Inuyasha stood. Pressing a fist against his mouth, he muttered, "I'm sorry…you didn't want me to, but I have to say this." He turned toward her, suddenly afraid. He didn't understand—nor did he care—why he was so scared that she would interrupt. All he knew was that if he didn't speak up now…well, who knew when he'd find the courage again?
"Your letter…" he began, then faltered. Shit, real smart fucking way to start. He blundered anxiously on as Kagome's expression, at first so confused, changed. There was no word for it. Something about her face… changed, just imperceptibly shifted. And he didn't like it. "You asked me not to talk about it, but I can't!"
Kagome stared back at him, the confusion slowly fading and making way for an oddly blank expression that made Inuyasha's neck prickle. "I can't just forget about it, Kagome! I'm sorry, but I can't keep it up. I know I'm not polite or gracious or anything like that, but even I know that I have to thank you. That letter was probably the only reason why I had the guts to come back to school the day after. That letter…" He felt his face flush. "…it made me happy. Right when I thought life sucked absolutely, that note just showed up and…"
Inuyasha ran a hand through his hair, vividly remembering Kagome's comments on that particular asset. "I can't explain it. Just the letter itself. It was so embarrassing, but I was really grateful." Now, he forced himself to stare steadily into Kagome's unexpressive eyes. "But even more than that, I'm really grateful for…for what's happened because of that letter. If I hadn't read that, I would have just pushed you away the next day. But I did read it, and it was so…I don't know, but I couldn't just brush you off, no matter how much I wanted to."
"Inuyasha…" Kagome began to say, her forehead wrinkling slightly, but Inuyasha floundered on, refusing to let himself be stopped now.
"And suddenly, I didn't want to. Brush you off, I mean. I don't know what happened, but suddenly…I didn't mind you so much anymore. I started to appreciate your company. I don't know what's happened to me, Kagome. In a little more than a month, you've changed me. All of a sudden, Kikyo, Onigumo, they don't matter as much anymore. All of a sudden…all that matters is you. I…"
For crap's sake, how much blood could his cheeks take before the rising blood pressure gave him a stroke or something?
"I value our friendship beyond anything I ever could have imagined, Kagome. I mean…" He rubbed a hand across his face. "Just…thanks. For the letter. For your friendship. Everything. Thank you."
His audience didn't answer. Kagome simply stared up at him, looking as if she were doing some very fast thinking. The silence grew heavier and heavier before Inuyasha blurted out, "Look, I'm not good with words, okay? I've actually been trying to write you a letter for two weeks, but none of them came out right."
Suddenly, Kagome jerked her gaze away from his face and stared at his feet instead, her fingers digging anxiously into the grass. "…there was a reason why I didn't want to talk about that letter," she said softly.
"Well—sorry, but…I couldn't just leave it…I'm not trying to embarrass you or anything—"
"That's not the problem," she said, her voice suddenly as blank as her face. Inuyasha shivered involuntarily. Kagome, expressive Kagome…how bad could this news be if she refused to show her emotions to him, of all people? "That letter…you didn't have to respond to it." She sighed heavily, sending another unsure shudder down Inuyasha's spine.
"It was one big lie."
Inuyasha blinked uncomprehendingly at her. Kagome, always honest, always open, always caring…that letter, that confession, that symbol of their precious friendship…a lie?
"What…what do you mean?" he asked, trying to hold onto his cool. Hadn't he done this once before? Hadn't he stood like this, looking down at the most precious girl in his life, torn by utter disbelief, praying that he had heard wrong?
"I mean"—Kagome looked up at him again, her eyes blank, cold, like silver gilt painted over a precious metal—"that I lied. I don't 'like' you, Inuyasha. I felt sorry for you…so I wanted to make you feel better." She stood and picked up her trowel. "That's all."
Inuyasha felt something tear inside him as Kagome turned and began to walk away. "Wait, Kagome—"
She halted, a soft breeze playing with her hair and offering cruelly tantalizing glimpses of her neck. "I'm sorry, Inuyasha." Although Inuyasha couldn't see her face, he could picture her eyes closing tiredly as her head sank. "I'm sorry."
"Hey, Dog Breath."
Inuyasha grunted sullenly, staring blankly around the empty classroom. "What?"
"Why've you been moping around like a lost puppy for the past few days?" asked Koga, one of Inuyasha's former "friends," even though the two of them couldn't stand each other. Koga had always looked down on Inuyasha for some reason or another, and Inuyasha hated the arrogance that oozed from every one of Koga's corded muscles, from every hair in his customary black ponytail, from those ice blue eyes that had half the girls worshipping the idiotic bastard.
Idiotic he may have been…but Koga wasn't stupid either. "What makes you think I'm moping?" Inuyasha asked roughly, turning to look at Koga's detestably rugged face. "Since when have I ever been in a good mood, after all?"
"Never," came the easy reply from a third young man. This one, Miroku, was easier to stand. In fact, he had been Inuyasha's closest friend before Kagome had come along (but since he'd never been the social type, that wasn't saying much), but Miroku was too much of a ladies' man and a con artist for Inuyasha to really like. But being a con artist had made this particular pervert very observant.
Why did I have to choose these guys of all people to hang around with? Inuyasha mentally complained. Koga had unquestionable instincts, and Miroku was sometimes too perceptive for his own good. Too bad he'd never been able to stand stupid people, or else he could have gone to them for company and not have had to worry about this sort of confrontation.
Of course, if he'd had the choice, he would have instantly gone to Kagome, but given the circumstances…
"Inuyasha," Miroku continued, ignoring the irritated expression that had taken root on his friend's face, "you've never exactly been Mr. Happy-Go-Lucky. But you've never sulked around for days like this before. I mean, I would have expected that when Kikyo rejected you, but now, it seems like there's no reason. It's natural for us to be curious."
Yeah…when Kikyo rejected me, I had every reason to get depressed and all…but I didn't, not for long. Because Kagome was there.
At least, I thought she was.
He still couldn't understand. Those words that had pushed back all the hurt and embarrassment had all been false. An illusion. That letter that had become a valued symbol of hope and friendship with the most wonderful girl in the world was fake. It had become something ugly. He felt no sense of happiness when he looked at that letter now. Just betrayal. Disappointment. That awful, sick feeling of being left behind.
"No reason?" he finally asked, smirking at Miroku and then at Koga. "You don't see a reason?"
"No," Koga answered bluntly, taking a chair and sitting backwards on it, leaning casually against the backrest. "You've been so damn happy with that Kagome girl lately, and suddenly, you act like the whole world's come crashing down around your ears."
Miroku tugged thoughtfully at his wisp of a ponytail. "This is how I expected you to react to Kikyo's rejection," he reiterated. "But, unless your reaction time is totally shot, no, I don't see a reason at all."
"Yeah…rejection. But my reaction time is perfectly fine, monk," Inuyasha said offhandedly, using the nickname that contrasted so perfectly with Miroku's shifty personality.
Both other young men blinked at that, before a comprehending light clicked on in Miroku's eyes. "Wait, you mean she…you mean it's like Kikyo all over again?"
"Eh? Kikyo? What, you tried to ask her out again, Dog Breath?" Koga looked confusedly from Miroku to Inuyasha.
Inuyasha snorted. "Of course not, Wolf Turd. I forgot about her a long time ago."
Placing a thoughtful finger to his chin, Miroku nodded slowly. "But it's different this time, right Inuyasha?" he asked understandingly.
"…yeah. I didn't think it'd be real big, because I wasn't asking for anything…I wasn't saying anything huge either…but it turned out pretty fucking bad." With a heavy sigh, he planted his elbows on the desk and pressed the heels of his hands against his eyelids. With Kikyo, he had lost hope…but Kagome had been there to cheer him on. And now…he had lost that hope…he had lost her smile…he had lost his closest, most treasured friend, and no one was there to catch him.
'Just like Kikyo all over again?' No…it was so, so much worse.
Had it been pity all along? Every laugh, every smile, every bruise, every flower…could all of them have stemmed from pity? Had he been nothing but a burden on Kagome this whole time? Could all of those adorably skeptical looks she had given him really have been silent pleas for him to leave her alone?
Was he just stupid?
Koga was asking him something, but he tuned it out, a skill he had forged out of years in this annoying motherfucker's company. Instead, he reached out for his backpack and opened it.
What am I doing? he thought as he drew out his assignment notebook. Even if the situation was similar, did he expect some other random girl to appear and comfort him again? It wasn't like the confrontation between him and Kagome had been very public. So what was he hoping for?
"—og Breath! Hey, Dog Breath! I know you aren't fucking deaf!"
Inuyasha snapped to attention. "What's your problem, Wolf Turd?" he snarled at Koga, slamming the notebook onto his desk. "Can't you tell when I'm trying to tune out your loud, stupid voice?"
"Both of you shut up," Miroku ordered before Koga could reply. "Inuyasha, I think listening to Koga may for once benefit you. Something just fell out of your notebook." He nodded at the floor.
What the fuck?
Inuyasha looked down in disbelief. 'Just like Kikyo'…if only Miroku knew…
It was a half-sheet of paper, laying face-down on the ground, "To: Inuyasha" written very neatly in that wide, loopy lettering that most girls seemed to write in. The designation stared innocently up at him, enticing him to read.
But he didn't.
How could he, after all, with everything that had happened? Was he going to fall for this kind of thing again? Fuck no.
"Don't you think you oughta read it?" Koga asked, eying the note curiously. When Inuyasha shrugged and looked away, he took it as a cue to pick the paper up and quickly scan it. His eyes opened wider and wider before he grinned roguishly. "Hey, Dog Breath, I think this might interest you." He began to read. "'Dear Inuyasha, it's me, Kikyo.'"
The letter was out of Koga's hands and under Inuyasha's intense scrutiny in a matter of milliseconds.
It's me, Kikyo. Look, I realize that things have been a bit tense between us for a really long time now. Although we were never close, we never really had to deal with this awkwardness before. So…I was wondering if you'd like to come with a few of my friends and I to a movie tomorrow night. Just to patch things up a bit, because I did feel kind of bad turning you down the way I did.
But I should warn you that Onigumo will be there.
So it's your decision if you want to come or not, but I'd like it if you did. Think of this as extending the olive branch. I didn't want to hurt you. And I don't want this uneasiness between us to continue.
So call me and let me know if you're on for tomorrow night. My number's in the directory, and the movie's on at 7:15. It's called Wandering Souls. I hope to hear from you soon.
Inuyasha slowly set the letter down on the desk. For crap's sake…God must really have something against me, he thought ruefully. First one, then the other. What am I, a swing?
"You know, Inuyasha—"
"ACK!" He jumped away from the voice that had spoken almost directly in his ear. Clinging onto the desk for support, he glared at a grinning Miroku. "Don't read over people's shoulders, moron!" he growled.
"But reactions like yours are so addictively amusing," Miroku responded gaily. "Anyway, I think this a good opportunity for you. Now's your chance to patch up your pride by wooing Kikyo away from this Onigumo guy!"
All thoughts of strangling his almost-friend faded at such a prospect. Was this…did he have another chance? Was this some way to try and make up for all the crap he had gone through because of Kikyo and Kagome?
Was this his new escape?
Onigumo was everything Inuyasha had expected and more. Polite, kind, understanding, soft-spoken, and in every other way the nicest fucking bastard a girl could ever hook up with.
He was also mind-numbingly boring. Inuyasha's several attempts to find some equally bored male company in that chick flick they had seen had failed miserably, as Onigumo seemed to actually enjoy it.
No wonder Kikyo liked him so much. All girls were suckers for this stupid sentimental type.
Inuyasha sullenly watched as Kikyo snuggled next to her boyfriend across the table from him. My god…right in front of me, and right in the middle of a busy diner.
A hand touched his arm, and he looked at its owner with as neutral an expression as he could manage. This Tsubaki pal of Kikyo's was perhaps the most annoying woman he had ever met. The moment she had laid eyes on him, she had latched onto him, like a leech with the strength of a body builder. His arm, his shoulder, his back, his hair (and quite possibly his ass, although he really didn't want to think about that), it didn't seem to matter to her. So long as she was touching him somewhere, she seemed happy.
He sighed. He hadn't decided to come because of Miroku's quite predictable advice. Inuyasha had given up on Kikyo a long time ago. But he had been desperate for something to distract him from all thoughts of Kagome, and when the chance had come, he had taken it.
But is it honestly worth it? Looking down at Tsubaki's flirtatious eyes, Inuyasha swallowed a dismissive sneer. Hell, no.
"So, Inuyasha," Kikyo suddenly said to him. She leaned toward him, Onigumo's arm draped lazily across her shoulders. "What've you been up to?"
He shrugged, using the motion to pull away from Tsubaki. "Not much. Tried Garden Club a couple times, avoided doing my homework…just stuff."
A brief silence followed before Onigumo offered, "Yeah, now that summer's coming, it seems like life is one big drag."
"Oh, yeah," agreed a short red-haired girl who sat to Inuyasha's left. Botan…was that her name?
"I feel so dead all the time, you know? Like I just don't care anymore, I just want the school year to end." No, this was Botan, the girl with the bluish-black hair. The redhead was her twin sister Momiji. Hadn't Miroku chased after those two at some point this year?
"Mm-hm. It's like nothing matters. I just go out every night and think, 'Screw homework.'" Tsubaki glanced at Inuyasha as she said this, as if she were watching him for his approval.
"Totally! My grades are going down the tubes, but I don't understand how some people can stand to care this late in the year!"
Inuyasha steeled himself for the hundredth time against the urge to groan and bury his face in his hands. This was why he couldn't stand stupid people. They just said the same thing over and over again…either that, or they simply talked about nothing. In fact, this mob of idiots (Kikyo excluded, thought the part of his mind that was still attracted to her) was doing both! It was maddening!
He looked up at the sound of his name and felt the blood leave his face. Kagome!
She looked curiously at him and his companions. "What…what are you doing here?" The look she was giving him said far more than her hesitant words. I didn't know you had the patience to deal with people like these, her gray eyes commented.
"I…" Abruptly, he pushed his chair back and stood, startling Tsubaki, who had been reaching up to play with his hair. "Um…excuse me," he muttered in Kikyo's general direction.
Silently questioning his self-preservative instincts, Inuyasha grabbed Kagome's arm and, ignoring her surprised squawks, dragged her outside. He halted just outside the door, staring up and down the lamp-lit street once before turning back to Kagome.
She crossed her arms and frowned at him. "What was that all about?" she asked, looking for all the world as if nothing had changed between them.
Inuyasha tugged agitatedly at a lock of his hair. "Kagome…I have to ask you something."
Her expression softened, and she slowly uncrossed her arms and instead linked her hands behind her back. "…oh."
"I, um…" Inuyasha looked awkwardly through the window at Kikyo's friends, all discussing some immensely interesting bit of news with very excited expressions on their faces. Idiots, he thought automatically, before turning back to Kagome. "I don't get it."
"Don't get what?"
"If it was all lies…why…? Why were you still so…why did you still act like my friend?"
Kagome shook her head, and Inuyasha noticed, even in the poor illumination from the streetlights and passing traffic, that her cheeks seemed to have darkened. "If you're asking if I was acting out of pity, I wasn't. I did like you, Inuyasha. It wasn't a crush, but I wanted to help. So I did what any decent person would do: I offered comfort."
Inuyasha looked away, afraid to see that hesitant smile of hers. This conversation was about to go somewhere dangerous…he didn't know exactly where, but now was definitely not the time to lose it. "So you felt sorry for me."
She hesitated before answering, "…well…yes. But Inuyasha, I genuinely wanted to help you. Not just sympathize with you. I wanted to make it better. You know how I am."
"Yeah…yeah, I do." Inuyasha couldn't stop a slightly wistful smile from crossing his face. "It's funny…I never thought I'd be able to really open up to people, just because I'm not that type of person. And then you came along."
Slowly, unsurely, he turned to face Kagome. "All of sudden, you were always there. I don't know how it happened. But Kagome…you've become the most important person in the world to me. I know I generally treat you like an annoying pest, but I…you're the best friend I've ever had."
Suddenly, he shook his head and grinned ruefully. "Then again, maybe I'm wrong again. I only gave you a chance because of that letter…so does that mean that our friendship is false, too?"
"Inuyasha…" Kagome touched his arm hesitantly, and he marveled at how natural the gesture seemed, especially compared to Tsubaki's wanton fingering. "I…I know that I hurt you a lot when I told you about that letter. But there was one thing in there that was definitely not a lie." She paused then turned his face so she could look him square in the eye. "I really am rooting for you, Inuyasha. I was from the very beginning, and I still am."
Inuyasha looked down at her anxious gray eyes for one long moment before closing his own violet orbs. "It doesn't work like that," he whispered. "I know you're rooting for me, because that's just how you are. You always care. But…that letter really meant something to me, Kagome." He opened his eyes again, wondering how much hurt perceptive Kagome could see in his eyes. "And it was a lie."
There was a really odd expression in her eyes now. The only thing he could compare it to was that strange look she'd had in her eyes when she had told him the truth about the letter. But it was still drastically different. That one had been distant; this one was warm. That one was unfamiliar; this one was nothing more, nothing less than the Kagome he had come to know so well. "You know…" she began softly.
That dangerous ending was coming closer. He could feel it. Maybe he didn't have Koga's instincts or Miroku's natural insightfulness, and certainly not Kagome's intuition, but he had gut feelings of his own that rarely led him wrong. "First, Kagome, just let me make something clear. I've been avoiding you. You've been avoiding me. And I hate it. Whatever you're about to say, I don't want to lose you. You're my best friend. You give me hope, you give me happiness. I don't want to lose that."
They were on the edge of that risky finish now. Kagome's wide, surprised eyes, the soft set to her face that told him that he for once hadn't said something horribly wrong, the simultaneously relaxed and tense sensation in his chest…all of them whispered that to him. 'You're getting closer,' they seemed to warn. 'Watch out.'
Slowly, Kagome smiled at him. "I don't want to lose that either, Inuyasha." She looked down at the ground, her bangs shadowing her face, although Inuyasha could still hear the tenderness in her voice as she continued, "You're special to me, too. You've become important. Maybe too important."
A thoughtful silence stretched between them before she went on, "When I said that letter was all lies…well, it was written as all lies. But after I started to get to know you better…the more I thought about what I had written…the more I started to think that it was the truth."
Kagome looked up at him again and gently raised her hand. Inuyasha felt his breath catch as she began to wrap a lock of his ebony hair around her finger. "Not feminine at all. It makes you more masculine," she reminded him, grinning as she studied the slick black hairs.
There was something different…something dangerous behind her soft smile this time. That same kind of dangerous that had shadowed this whole conversation. But suddenly, Inuyasha wanted dangerous. He didn't want to watch his step; he wanted to close his eyes, cover his ears, step blindly into that danger. Because there was something at the heart of that danger that he suddenly desperately wanted.
She let the hair unwrap itself and dropped her hand. "I can say this honestly now, Inuyasha…or maybe I was honest when I first said it, but was just too stupid to realize it. Now…you really do have someone who feels…'this way' about you."
This was the risk, this was the menace at the heart of their honest words. The truth.
Inuyasha couldn't speak as Kagome stepped back from him, not blushing or embarrassed anymore, but just Kagome. The truth…the truth was too much for such trivial reactions. Whatever that letter had been intended to be…it was the truth now. And now was all that mattered.
"I'll see you tomorrow, Inuyasha," Kagome said softly, turning to leave. That tearing sensation shot through him again as Inuyasha watched her walk away. One step…two steps…three steps… But this time, it was different. Something else was tearing…his own lies were breaking down…
She was walking away. And he was letting her.
"Kagome!" he shouted, running after her. "Kagome!" He grabbed her hand. "Kagome…" She looked back at him.
"I…that letter…Kagome, do you remember what you said about dealing with…with negative traits or whatever? Do you remember?" He unconsciously pulled her closer to him. "You said you liked the prospect, remember?"
She smiled and looked at the passing traffic. "I remember…and it's still true."
"Yes, it's true…it's true for me, too."
Kagome blinked. Inuyasha blinked. What had he just said? Not even he knew. But the way he had said it…could he really have meant…
The poorly lit blush that suddenly exploded across Kagome's face was answer enough for him. Yes, he thought as they stared bewilderedly at each other. Yes, I really meant that. That's the truth, Kagome. I want to deal with you. I want to deal with you forever.
"You…" Kagome mouthed wordlessly at him for a few seconds before a beam slowly crept across her face. "You positive?"
"Yeah." He was still holding her hand, and used that to pull her just a little closer. "I 'm positive. More positive than I've ever been in my life."
She gave his hand a squeeze and suddenly smirked. "Should I take that as a reflection of your certainty or of your cheerful personality?"
The question threw him off, but only for a moment. He turned away and dropped her hand, but not before squeezing it back. "Keh."
Kikyo stared through the window, riveted by the drama playing out before her. Both Kagome and Inuyasha were expressive enough that she could more or less figure out what was going on, but she still found herself cursing the lack of sound.
"You think he's figured it out yet?" Momiji whispered, leaning side to side to try to see around her reflection.
"No, not yet…no wait!" Botan smacked her sister's hand in an unnecessary call to attention. "Look, she's walking…yes, he's going after her!"
Onigumo's arm fell from Kikyo's shoulders to her waist, and she gently touched his hand. "I think this is it," she murmured to him.
His breath ruffled her hair slightly as he leaned toward her and spoke. "Is he telling her now…yes, she blushed, he's done it!"
Only Tsubaki and Onigumo didn't squeal happily as a huge, very obvious stain spread across Kagome's face, although the latter did give his girlfriend's waist an excited squeeze. "It's going to happen…they just got closer…hey! He's leaving her!"
Tsubaki smirked at the window. "See? You were all totally wrong. I knew they wouldn't hook up. Oh look, poor rejected Kagome's chasing after him—ack!"
Kikyo smirked back at her friend and turned back to the table, giving Inuyasha and Kagome the little privacy she could provide them. Kissing in the middle of the street…really, what were they thinking?
I told you, Inuyasha, she thought, leaning into Onigumo's embrace. I told you that someday, you'd make some girl the happiest girl in the world.
'Someday' is here.
So there you have it, Inu and Kag have hooked up! I'm running out of time, so no author's notes to lengthen the twenty-seven page story today! Goodbye for now! And thanks again to FrameofMind!
Oh, one quick thing: to readers of Tsunagari, I'm finally working on chapter three, so that should be out soon enough.