"That was good ice cream," Kagome remarked with an impish smile The Hearbreaker's Innocence

Chapter 16

The pile of polished white stone was cold and wet against her back, but it was at the same time a relief of comfort against the sweltering hot summer wind. Every little blade of grass became an itch to her skin.

She breathed.

In. Out. In . . .

Calmness swept over her like an easy, clean shower. Her chest rose and sank in a steady beat.

The bright gleaming moon was tacked in the liquid midnight sky. A slice was welded off, leaving a mark of imperfection in the otherwise circular moon. Kagome studied the vast oily sky, lost in contemplation. It was an obvious fixation point in the otherwise still earth. Everything lay skill, lazy and dry.

Sometimes, if she listened real closely, she could pick up the low humming of fat honey bees, but they'd disappear as soon as she'd found them. She wasn't worried though. Kagome wasn't one to be scared of the bees, after all, she'd once been the queen bee.

The sound of running water in the koi pond had once again stopped, and put on hold to start again tomorrow. Kagome sighed, and waited for her breath to swirl around her face, leaving a light dew. Her eyelids shut, and she waited.

"You're bound to get mosquito bites if you sleep out here."

She woke with a startle. Her skin was jumpy, and she blinked away the sleep hurriedly. In this sudden jolt, heat swam over her.

"Hey," she whispered in the dark, pushing her moist hair black. It coiled against her arms unruly.

In a (Deom Bell producted) movie, Kagome would have a dab of light 'natural' makeup giving her a wide doe eyed look. Her hair would be in perfect rich curls, and she'd fitted into a flawless little white cotton dress. But this was real life. And real life had her dripping with sweat in her loose white cotton tanktop and boy boxers.

"What are you doing out here?" Inuyasha sidestepped next to her, his hands on his hips.

"Can't sleep," She murmured, fidgeting. "You know?"

Wordlessly, Inuyasha wedged himself in the stone pile next to her. Giving both of them enough room space to stretch their arms out. He sighed as he tried to get comfortable, and stared back up at the night sky.

Silence fell around them like a blanket. Kagome pressed both her palms against the earth on both side of her, fumbling with her fingers. She was so aware of his presence.

"I wasn't kidding when I said that about the mosquitoes," his voice was so light and careful that she almost missed it.

"Yeah. I know." She shrugs, studying the hazy dark sky.

"But you don't care." He concluded for her, she could just imagine his eyebrows hiking up in wonder.

"I do," Kagome contradicts as she pulls the bottle of Mosq-Off from her side, "That's why I have this."

Inuyasha looked impressed as he held his hand out, studying the can. "Alright, spray me."

Her arm was high when she lifted the can from his reach. "I don't know . . ." She teases with a smart look, "I don't think they're really interested in hanyou blood. You'll be fine without it."

"You won't be saying that when I come in the next day with so many bites it'll look like I've got a rash."

"It'll be a good look for you, you should try it out first."

"Come HERE," He growls with a slow smile, snatching her wrist. She suddenly bolts up, spine straightening and locking when her eyes widen.

Quickly, she plays it off and busies herself with shaking the can. Kagome demanded, "Sit up."

He bounces up, and sits so that they were face to face. She concentrates on jouncing the bottle evenly, trying to ignore his eyes on her face. Finally, she looks up into his golden eyes, and sticks out her tongue playfully, "Turn."

Within a second she was facing his broad back. She reaches out and pulls her fingers through his silky hair. Setting the bottle aside, Kagome runs both hands through those silver wisps and loosens the tangles. She scoops up the cascading hair, and weaves it over his shoulders while purposely overlook the shiver that radiated from him.

"Here," She fixes the few runaway strands that were caught in his shirt. "Hold your breath."

His shoulders rose up as he intakes a deep breath. She aims the bottle, and it hisses with a thin layer a mist. He shivers again as it makes contact with his skin, and she laughs. Then she was on her knees, choking for breath as the stinging scent plugs her nose. Tears stream down her face while she keeps coughing and laughing.

He turns his head, ready to ask her if she was okay, when a pungent smell hits his square in the face. The bottle was still pointed in his face.

"GAH!" He reaches and knocks the container from his hands, and falls as the mist blinded him.

They both hits the grass as the can drops. Equally blind and out of breath.

She gasps, wiping away the tears from her cheeks. "Sorry. Geez. I'm so—sorry. You shoulda seen—the look. Oh man. The look on your face," She mimicked him, then doubled back in laughter.

He sits straight and smiles at her. Amazed. Dazed. Absolutely surprised by her response.

She huffs, attempting to control her shaking shoulders. "Oh, I'm sorry. It's just—" She holds her arms out, palm forward, asking him for a second.

"You think it's funny," Inuyasha accuses.

She smiles. "I do."

He says nothing except to give her time to recollect herself. And he thought she looked so . . . alive. In that choking laughter that bubbles from her voice, and tears streaming down her face like a little kids. And heck, that ridiculously oversized T-shirt.

"Hey, I never got to tell you. But I had a really good time over icecream the other day." He spoke abruptly, the words tumbling out of his mouth like fluid.

"Yeah? I'm glad. Because I did too."

"I think we should do it again."

"Maybe," She left it open and falls back into the grass so she had a good view of the sky. He follows and crashes down next to her.

"The way you think, it's interesting."

"How so?"

"Everything to you should be black and white. Because you think gray areas are a waste of mind. You hate and love Deom Bell, the person you are, and the person you could be. You fear the future and the past. And mostly, you can't place me, can you?"

"You think you're so smart," she sneers. "Like you've got me all figured out. You don't know me."

"Don't I?"

"Here's how I see it. You think you're such the rebel, so you mess with my mind. You're trying to create your own little gray area in my head, and I'm not going to have any of that."

"Yes?"

"What?"

"Yes."

"I don't even know what that means," She snaps.

He just grins angelically.

She sighs, letting him get away with his little remark. He's such a boy.

Kagome analyzes the sky. "It's pretty, isn't it."

"It's too light. You can't even see the stars."

"Well, what else would you have expected from Deom Bell, the city that wakes at night."

"Deom Bell, where memories are made."

She adds, "Deom Bell, where the only thing brighter than the sun is moviestar smiles."

"Deom Bell, where nothing costs under 50 bucks."

"You're silly," She giggles, rolling her eyes.

"And you're in a good mood tonight."

She considers this, and looks over at him. His eyes were shut and his arms were laced across his chest. "You know what, yeah, I am."

"That's good," He peeks under his lashes, catching her staring back at him. "Would I sound like a jerk if I asked you why?"

"I don't know," she bit back, "You always sound like a jerk anyway, so, I suppose you could go ahead and ask."

He nudged her with his elbow, and they turned to face each other on the ground. She blinked subtly, and dropped her voice to a whisper.

"I think that . . . maybe . . ." She looked away.

Inuyasha waited for her words.

"I'm really excited for tomorrow," Kagome twisted her head back and smiled widely. "I've never actually been on a cruise or anything, but . . . I think it'll be really fun. And geez, your own private island? It's gotta be unbelievable, because everything the Taishos do are unbelievable, right?"

He said nothing, except to study her face intently. His eyes focused on her with such intensity that it felt as if he was boring straight through her being.

Suddenly, he broke into a warm grin. "It's so great! You're going to absolutely love it. It's—the whole thing—I can't even put it into words. I think. The island, it's beautiful!"

The excitement blazing in his light eyes were obvious, and he looked so silly gesturing wildly like a plain lunatic. Kagome couldn't help laugh as she watched him in his craze. It was so rare for her to see him act so passionately about anything. It bewildered her, and at the same time, entertained her endlessly.

His hands flew up, and he chuckled, "God, I'm such a dork!"

"NO!" She grasped his arm in reassurance and cried, "You're just ridiculous! That's all. And now I can't wait to go."

"I hope you like it. I really do." Inuyasha had a kind smile on his face. It was impossible to break away from his gaze. They soldered her to him, and she lost her breath.

"Anyway," He fell back on his head, and stared back at the vast skyline. "Did you start packing yet? Gotta get up early tomorrow . . . not that that seems to be happening now. Hahaha."

"What are you talking about?" She asked. "I've got all day tomorrow to pack my bags."

"All day? Hardly. More like we're leaving first thing tomorrow morning at 7:30."

"No." Her face froze. "Are you serious?"

He had that look on his face as if he'd found this whole ordeal to be very funny, with an adorably mischievous look lingering in that crooked smirk. "Really Kagome, would I lie about such a thing?"

"I—I—" She stuttered, lost in thought. This news took her off guard. Then she finally snapped. "I have to go pack!"

"Like, now!"

"NOW!"

"Let's go then."

"Now?"

"Yeah, NOW!" He grabbed her hand and jumped back on both legs, tugging her up as well. His eyes glinted impishly, and he placed his arms around her and guided her through the yard in a rush as they sidestepped the rocky landscaping.

Kagome was reluctant on this action, "Do you realize that it's, like, three in the morning right now?!"

"It's great, isn't it?" A flush of excitement rushed to his face as he peaked down at her through his impossibly long lashes. Her heart skipped a beat, and she stared, mesmerized. Inuyasha tugged her through the yard in a rush while laughing away.

She caught herself, and on her own will, ran after him. They slid across the porch and inside the house, where they were greeted by silence. The glassy house was cool, quiet, and dark.

Inuyasha fluidly locked the sliding glass door behind him, and set the security code.

"Paranoid much?" She joked easily.

"Well you never know . . ." His voice floated out the dark. She spun to face him, and there was a strange look in his eyes. The setting was too dim for her to recognize it.

She shrugged it off, determined to let the feeling pass.

"It's much too quiet," She whispered.

He motioned for her to follow as he headed up the swirling stairs. As a hanyou, his movement was composed and fast. While her clumsy human steps were shamefully embarrassing with the loud rackets she was making on the linoleum floor. The sound was deafening.

"Sorry," She mock-whispered in a subdued giggle. He grinned.

They sped across the hall and into her room. Instead of turning on the light and ruining the mood and this serenity, Inuyasha crept over to her window and flung the curtains open. A glow from the city light was cast upon the room.

She sighed and plopped down on her bed, letting it jounce her up and down.

There was a big sloppy smile pasted on his face, and his eyes were absolutely twinkling as he sat himself next to her with a dramatic bounce. She turned to look at him, and his brilliant eyes stared right back at her. They laughed simultaneously.

And for a second there, Kagome wished it could be as easy as this.

Never in Deom Bell.

He must've seen the disappointment in her eyes too since he suddenly slipped his hands over eyes and grabbed her back up, breaking the mood. She felt as if she was going to melt from his touch, his hands hot against hers.

"C'mon," he urged with forced enthusiasm as he pulled her towards the closet. "We've got a lot of work to do?"

Her eyes slipped to the glowing red alarm clock on the oak table by her bed. It flashed 3:57 A.M. Inuyasha ignored her as she made a remark about the time, shooting her an amused look and telling her to take out her bags while they were at it.

While she hunted for her old packing bags, Inuyasha slithered into her commodious closet, quickly being peppered with a serene girly scent that could only belong to Kagome. He took a deep breath, trying to hold the smell in before she caught him. Ad he did so, the hanyou surveyed the surrounding.

The shelves were neatly stacked with black and gray apparels. On the right side hung the oversized band shirts she'd brought from home. On the opposite half of the space were the bright and colorful garments Sora gifted her with since she'd arrived—the more packed side. Despite this though, he realized she still had less than half the clothes even he or Sora had.

"HEY!" The lights soon flickered bright as Kagome came to stand beside him.

He winced, adjusting to the change from the darkness. Well, at least this degree of illumination was more appropriate for human eyesight.

Behind her, she lugged two empty suitcases. With an eventful smile, she inquired, "What should I pack?"

Inuyasha shrugged, starting to rummage through her clothing with practiced indifference. "You know, the essentials." His hands worked rapidly and deftly across the row of t-shirts. With a gentle tug, an old-school rock&roll band t-shirt fell off the hook, then he threw it back to Kagome. "This'll be good."

She nodded, tossing it into the bag. She began to follow his lead. "Sora would love to be here right now. I don't think she'll mind packing for me too much . . . not that I'd exactly wear the things she'd pick out for me."

"But you trust my taste?" He teased.

"It's much more . . . subdued. Appropriate."

He dipped his head once. "You know Sora. The princess and her beauty sleep."

"How about this?" She cut it, holding a raggedy dress—if that's what it even was—that was strategically hacked in on the right places. No doubt it was Sora's pick. And it must've been new too since Kagome never sighted it before—it was pretty hard to miss. Kagome's always finding new things in her closet which Sora continuously slips in, probably hoping that she wouldn't notice.

"Darling," Inuyasha forged a fake nasally accent. "That's much too you."

Kagome fell back in a peal of laughter.

It was then that he removed a hideous baggy dress from the rack and held it towards her. The whole cloth was plaid yellow and red, running up and down in a horrible design. It looked like something that would be on the Oscars worst dressed list, and resembled something like an extended version of a Scottish kilt. It was a puffy, shapeless thing. The only attribute slightly redeeming about it was the way it cinched at the waist, creating somewhat of a figure.

"Oh god!" Kagome exclaimed. "Whoever made that should be shot!"

"You should wear it to the island."

"In that? You've got to be kidding. What occasion would I have for it?"

Inuyasha pressed the garment against his body, and tipped his head up in a snotty fashion. He imitated, "Hello, my name is Kagome Higurashi. I am the queen, bow down to me! I'm much too elegant for this place . . ." With that, he went on and on before being intercepted by Kagome, who snatched the ugly dress from his clutch.

"Alright!" She smiled, rolling her eyes, and tossing the heap of dress into the suitcase.

0.0

"Ohhh," She groaned against the first ray of light that seeped through her curtains. Shuffling her feet on the bedspread, she hid her face under the comforter. Her big cotton shirt twisted around her body.

Kagome's eyes flickered a bit before suddenly snapping open. "Crap."

Next to her bed stood two packed suitcases, lined in a perfect row. She tried to recall the things that'd happened the day before, but it was too overwhelming of a thought to dissect first thing in the morning.

Somehow, she'd falling sleep curled on the ground someplace close to Inuyasha in the closet while they were packing.

Her head rolled to both sides as she surveyed her room. It was clear she obviously wasn't in the closet or even on the floor for that fact. Her bed cushioned her body as she turned, the comforter moving with her. The alarm clock read 7:08.

A burst of feeling she couldn't place overcame her as she thought about the idea of Inuyasha carrying her to her bed after she'd fallen asleep. The thought was comforting, yet disallowing at the same time. Kagome tried to push it out of her head, but kept on returning back to it.

She jammed her eyes close, seeking for a few more minutes of sleep. The bright daylight shot through her lids, urging her to wake up.

Slowly and grudgingly, Kagome overcame the sleep and peeled herself from the bed. Placing a hand on the old suitcase, she withdrew, contemplative. Fully packed, how perfect.

Dashing into the bathroom, she took a quick hot shower and got dressed in a simple emerald green tanktop and white tennis skirt. She was still piling her hair in a messy bun when she stumbled down the stairs.

The house—per usual—was dead quiet. There was no one roaming around, it was a ghost town. A fear loomed over Kagome that she might've missed everyone while they'd left for the cruise.

"Hey, you're up early."

Kagome slid across the kitchen to the dining room where the voice originated from. It had caught her off guard to see someone who looked slightly like Inuyasha. Her heart gave a start, but then she did a double take and laughed at her silly mistake. Of course it was only Sesshoumaru.

He was dressed to perfection in the morning, like the rich bachelor he was clamored to be. He looked like a much matured, refined version of Inuyasha, but there was something dead and cold about his eyes. Not at all like those amused ones of the hanyou.

Sesshoumaru looked clean and prim, with the calm, easy expression on his face like he was on top of the world. It didn't seem to fit the situation though, with his sitting at the breakfast table, a magazine in one hand, and a glass of orange juice in the other. With a platter of microwavable pancakes and sausage placed in front of him.

"I didn't have time to get ready, I thought I was later," she admitted, frowning.

He laughed, like that had surprised him. Then with motioned sarcasm, he checked his gleaming watch. "That's news to me. You're about a few hours ahead of the schedule. Join me for breakfast?"

She glided towards him, studying the box that lied next to him. "Microwavable breakfast? I didn't think the Taishos ate anything of such sort."

"I just about live on that stuff!" He chuckled, tapping on his plate. "When you're touch and go with the house, they're pretty much daily living. There's a whole pile of them in the fridge. God, I don't know what I'd do if we didn't stock up on them."

Kagome went around to grab a box and heat it up. Sesshoumaru didn't lie when he said they'd stocked up on them. There must've been a lifetime supply of those stuff in the fridge.

She spun around and studied him eat. She wasn't going to lie, at first she'd assumed that talking with the enigmatic Sesshoumaru Taisho might get a bit awkward, but he was a great conversationalist.

"Well, for someone who didn't have time to get ready, you look fantastic."

The way he drawled those last words out and that lewd smirk on his face, Kagome couldn't help but blush crimson.

Before she'd had time to respond, the microwave chimed ready, and she removed her steaming breakfast. Sesshoumaru put his paper down to watch her settle directly across from him. She looked cautiously at the food, then checked with him with a scared glanced.

"Well, go ahead. It's not that bad." This he said with an expressive eye roll and that same smirk.

She dug in, and shrugged. "Hmm."

"I didn't lie, did I?"

"I didn't expect you to lie either, Mr. Taisho."

"Do I look like my father?"

"Excuse me?"

"Mr. Taisho."

"Oh," She looked alarmed at her mistake, before seeing that loud joking look on his face. "No, I suppose you look more like your mother."

His eyes widened.

"I kid!" She laughed. "Sorry, bad joke?"

"Not at all." He shrugged, leaning forward to return to an article there was in his magazine.

She was so busy focused on dissecting her food that she didn't notice that sudden recognition his had on his face as he was overcome with an idea. Sesshoumaru looked over Kagome carefully, examining her critically. He folded his magazine over, contemplative with thoughts.

"Higurashi, you don't think Inuyasha would mind if I borrowed you for a bit, do you?"

"Huh?"

"For a favor." He added with a teasing wink.

What he had hoped to be a pleasing smile came out terribly frightening, something he needed to practice more on. Dismay dashed across Kagome's features as she bit her bottom lip.

He seemed suddenly aware of how forward he was, and how close he was leaning towards her. Sesshoumaru straightened out his body in a casual manner and rocked back on his chair. "I mean, I would've asked Sora for her help if she wasn't so busy these past few days. I don't bite, I swear."

She squirmed and took a breath. "What are you asking here?"

"Just a favor. Nothing much."

"I need more details."

"I'll release the details if you agree to it."

He was challenging her. And she would've argued more with him about it if the curiosity hadn't overridden her.

"Deal. Now talk."

He widened his eyes, surprised by how easily she'd caved in. Now he was doubtful of the task he was about to do. Perhaps Kagome hadn't been the right choice after all?

0.0

"Scent."

"Something . . . sweet? Not sugary, or flowery. More like a berry kind of sweet."

"That's helpful," Kagome rolled her eyes, strolling past a few clothing stores. She turned to Sesshoumaru and said, "C'mon. I need more here."

"That's all I can give you! And don't tell me that's not enough." He laughed, outraged.

She adjusted the dark brown shades down over her eyes so they were covering half her face, growing uncomfortable by the stares she'd received from the townspeople. Sesshoumaru had driven them nearly an hour out of Deom Bell to a hip, trendy, up-and-coming town for the request he'd asked of her. Not only because this was the best area for shopping, but also—and she knew this despite his protest against it—so they couldn't be recognized together. Sesshoumaru's hottest-bachelor position was somewhat controversial already in Deom Bell, and the last thing he needed was to add more fuel to it.

There were street vendors set up in neat rows by the strips of stores on either sides of the street. The window displays truly were fabulous, yet nothing was coming to her. She wanted something original and perfect.

"Now give me a description of how she looks."

"Tall, skinny, fair-skinned."

"I need more."

"Red hair, green eyes."

He sure didn't sound like he was in love with this girl. Or at least as in love as Sesshoumaru could be with any girl.

"Now tell me again why you want to pick out the 'perfect' present for her?"

"It's easy. I want her to want me. And to do that, I have to get her a random, I mean spontaneous present that says, 'I care.'"

"Which you don't."

"Of course I do! If I didn't care, then I wouldn't be wasting my time in this god-forsaken hellhole of a town looking for a damned present."

Said like a true rich brat.

Kagome narrowed her eyes, growing even more impatient with his attitude and condescending tone towards everything. It was clear that his intentions wasn't right in the first place. He was the kind of man Kagome wouldn't want to date even if he'd bought her a million 'personal & caring' presents.

They continued meandering around the town square in search for that special gift as Sesshoumaru gave her more insight on the girl.

She was apparently from a blue-blood family, moving to Deom Bell to put more funding into their bank accounts. The kind of the family that's already had thousands of buildings and college wings named after them. A shame though, because they refuse to mingle with the New Wealth—namely, families that recently built their fortunes like the Taishos.

A well bred, all around nice girl. Ivy-league trained, enjoys horseback riding, and has connections in all the high places. Lastly, she refuses to take a second look at Sesshoumaru Taisho.

"How about that dress?" Kagome pointed to a curve-fitting gold vintage dress at the entrance of an antique store.

A lacy dazzling dress with a modest front, but a low-dipping back. Classy and fun. She could see some old starlet wearing it to an award party. Someone with light skin, a swan neck, and sophisticated hair piled up her head. It was breathtaking.

"Oh God no!" He spat with a weepy frown.

Kagome ignored his comment and like a pendulum on a string, was drawn to the apparel. There was something about it that talked to her. It was different, unlike anything she'd seen before. And right then and there, she wanted it so bad. There was an urge to just reach for it and run.

He stopped walking and did a double take of the girl being pulled towards the store front. She was dazed, and he was amazed to see anyone so in love with a dress. A simple dress at that, not even anything worth a cent.

She reached out to touch the fabric before suddenly being scolded by a snarky old lady. "That dress is not for sale!"

Just like that, she was snapped out of her trance. Red crept up her cheeks, and she stumbled back in embarrassment. Kagome glanced down at her palmed, surprised at herself. Quickly, she checked back with Sesshoumaru, and muttered a low "Sorry" to the storekeeper.

Angrily, Sesshoumaru glared at the old hag before guiding Kagome away from the store. He couldn't help but catch her stealing one last look back at the dress.

"Sorry," She repeated again.

He checked his watch once again with frustration. "We only got an hour left if you don't want to miss the cruise."

"How about jewelry?"

"No no no. That's the last thing to get her. My family owns half the jewelry chains in the world, remember?"

"Oh right." She stopped walking to think for a bit. As the side of her eyes, she catches a flicker. Before she could react, Sesshoumaru's already grabbed the young girl running headfirst into oncoming traffic. Demons, better reflexes.

A little human girl in two messy braids and stained pink princess dress. A raggedy teddy bear hugging against her side and a melted scoop of icecream sitting on a cone in the other hand. Her big runny eyes searched Sesshoumaru with fear and she hugged her bear tighter in a chokehold. As if in response, the plushie yelped, 'I Love You!'

"Got it."

0.0

Two plastic ten-feet model bears stand rotating around the entrance. A faint smile is drawn upon their faces with two huge white circles for eyes.

Build-A-Bear.

Kagome smiled, ushering Sesshoumaru into the entrance.

"Oh come on, this is so ugh. Embarrassing." He hunches his shoulders over and hides his face, trying to look less prominent among all the little children crowding the space. As he speaks, they all turn to stare at the youkai in amazement.

"Sesshoumaru," Kagome speaks in a bossy tone, "It doesn't get anymore caring, and personal than a build-a-bear, okay? Now do you want me to go over the process with you?"

"No, I got it just fine."

"Make sure you record her a message."

"That's just creepy."

"But perfect at the same time," She grins, and waves him away into the store.

It was truly a funny sight as the children part way for him. He was much too old and tall to be in there, but hey, a task that's not meant for the faint of heart. Plus, a bear was a sweet and cheesy gesture for a gift, but a message to remember.

And it was no lie he looked like a child pedophile in there.

She sat down on a vacated bench near the store and sipped her strawberry smoothie. There was still another fourty-five minutes for them to make it back on time. So she relaxed and reviewed everything that's happened in the past twenty-four ours. Unfortunately, it was information overload.

What was going on with Inuyasha? The thought of him made her very confused and sad at the same time. It felt like she was running out of time. Before, it felt as if time couldn't go by fast enough, now she felt like she needed more. What if she never saw him ever again after this summer?

She was snapped out of her thoughts by a little jingle that rang in her ears. Digging through her purse, Kagome came up with Sesshoumaru's cell phone. He left it with her earlier in case he needed to reach her. Should she answer it? Caller I.D. read: Sora

"Hello?"

"Hey, are you still at home?" A male voice sounded on the other line. "I'm calling from Sora's cell, mine's out of battery. Can you bring the charger when you get here? Sora says to get your ass out here on time so we don't have to wait."

Kagome was terribly confused. "This isn't Sora, is it."

Silence.

Then, "Kagome? Is this Kagome?"

"Inuyasha?"

"What are you doing with Sesshoumaru's phone? Are you with him right now?"

"Uh, he's busy right now."

"Where are you?"

She paused, not sure how to best explain this situation. "We're out."

"Out doing . . . ?"

"I can't explain right now, but I'll tell him you wanted your charger."

"Hey, I—"

"Bye."

With that, she stood up and tossed the phone back in her bag. Kagome stepped inside the toy store and searched for the distinguished silver mane. Nothing. She pushed past a couple of rowdy little kids towards the back of the store, but still couldn't find the youkai.

A wave of dread washed over her. Had he left her here? Sesshoumaru certainly wouldn't be above doing that, yet it's unlikely he would do so. She'd helped him out, right? Maybe he thought it was such a bad idea and so humiliating that he'd just ditched her. Didn't sound too unlike to him.

She searched the store once, twice, three times for him. Still nothing. She panicked.

In her head, she was trying to do the math. It would take more than a day to walk back to Deom Bell. Hold on, she had Sesshoumaru's cell phone. She could still call her Inuyasha or Sora and have them drive her back. But the ride would take a little over an hour, so by the time they get back, the ship would have left already. Oh what was she going to do?

"Higurashi?"

She jumped as he crept up behind her.

"Jeezes! You scared me! I looked everywhere for you, where did you go?"

"I had to go get something. Are you okay? You look frantic."

"I thought you left me here."

He roared with laughter, like it was the funniest thing he'd ever heard. She turned red with chagrin.

To take the attention away from her, she inquired, "How did it go? Did you get her something great?"

He held up the Build-a-Bear package.

She reached for it, "Can I see?"

Sesshoumaru smirked. "No. It's personal. Anyway, I didn't leave you, I had to get the car. Let's get out of here."

0.0

"Hey, thanks for helping me out."

Kagome tore her eyes away from the view out the window and turned to look at him. She gave him a lazy smile and shrugged.

"How do I thank you?"

"No need," She traced her name on the window screen. "You could pay more attention to the road. No car accident today would be good."

Sesshoumaru smiled. "I got an idea."

"I don't like your ideas," She joked. "Remember, I'm the idea maker here."

"You'll like it." And he flipped out his cell phone, and called up a number. There was a short conversation in which Kagome missed half of what they said. She hadn't paid too much attention to it either.

It was quiet again. She spoke to the dashboard, "Are we almost back in Deom Bell?"

"Yeah, we're close."

"Good, I'm tired already."

"Are we tired for the cruise? That's not good."

She didn't answer, because she instantly recognized the direction they were taking. She was familiar this part of town, just outside Deom Bell. It's been a while since she'd been here.

Deom Bell was the center of the film industry, outside of that, to the west were château and houses. Nightclubs and the party scene dominated the east. And of course, what was Deom Bell without grand malls and shopping?

That's where they were right now. Movie stars and everyday residents dotted the place with bags in tens and twenties clinging to their arms.

"Are you going to burn a little more cash?"

"Something like that."

He parked the car right outside the store, something no one did, so it drew a lot of attention. On the storefront was a few words written in elegant ink. Taisho & Co.

She checked the time the radio made out. "Let's go, we don't have time. Can't you do this some other day?"

"It won't take long at all, Higurashi. Besides, this is the part I need your help with the most."

A man appeared in front of them within a second. Very fancy yet effortless at the same time—much like Deom Bell in general. He greeted Sesshoumaru kindly with respect.

"We had to close down the store to the general public as soon as you phoned in. It was difficult, but we were able to do it anyway." He smiled pleasantly, but there was a deeper meaning behind those words. Bonus.

He nodded, very frequent with this business. "Look around Kagome. If you had to pick anything as a gift, what would it be."

She blinked, dazzled. The whole store was glittering, there must have been trillions of dollars of jewelry in here. Not only that, but the security was extremely tight. The lighting was overly bright and the glass counters were immaculate. Stones and crystals of every size and shape took up the space.

"Well," she breathed, taken away by the store. "It would have to depend on what her taste is."

"What is your taste?"

"There's just . . . so much. I don't know. Wow."

"Perhaps I can help?" He beckoned the store manager, and nodded. The man knew exactly what to do. He disappeared behind the counter and appeared with delicate piece of silver.

Sesshoumaru politely led Kagome towards the adornment. She could make out a sliver of silver necklace, specked with clusters of pearls and diamonds. They reflected light on every facet, it was nearly blinding.

Simple, yet extravagant.

"It's from Playthings, the new line that's to be released next summer by Taisho & Co."

Kagome looked up at him, "The one that Mr. Taisho's be frustrated about for the past month?"

He had an unreadable expression, "Yes. It hasn't been perfected yet, but I thought you'd like it."

"I think she'll love it." Kagome smiled, referring to the girl who he bought the present for.

"It's a token of appreciation. For you."

Her eyes bulged, she nearly had a heart attack. Kagome took a cautious step back, not able to take her eyes off the glittering object.

Finally, she found her voice to speak. "Is this your idea of a joke?"

Sesshoumaru hiked up one eyebrow, looking shocked. "Are you saying I can't thank you for what you've helped me do?"

"No!" She yelped, outraged. "You can't! At least, not like this. I mean, a 'thank you' is enough. You-you-you just don't do thing like this. God, what is your problem, Sesshoumaru? Do you just randomly give away trinkets like this if you're in a good mood? Or what?"

"Or . . . what?"

"I DON'T KNOW!" Kagome directed towards the young store manager, who jumped slightly when she spoke, "Take that away right now. I don't even want to see it."

The man trembled at her words, and send an accusing look towards Sesshoumaru, whose eyes widened twice their normal sleepy size as he shrugged, sending the store manager away just as Kagome ordered.

He rubbed his temples, looking tired and bemused. Giftgiving has never been this hard before. "Higurashi, just take a damn gift, alright? It's been a long day, and I don't need this right now. Look, we gotta get on the insipid cruise in, what, give or take fifteen minutes? I don't even see what the big deal is. A D-list celebrity comes in and picks up about a handful of jewel every time they walk into this store, and you won't even accept a simple necklace. It's not a big deal, okay?"

Without a word, he strode over to the nearest counter and beckoned for the silent saleslady standing in the background. Gesticulating wildly and pointing out a few things, she obediently unlocked the glass case and retrieved a silver necklace. He held it within his hands and examined it.

"You must take this," He slid behind her, and captured her neck within the silver lace.

It was a very skinny piece of ornament, as thin as a thread. It reflected rays of light with the diamond encrusted dusting. Other than the occasional sparkle, it's hardly visible to the eye.

"I—" she started, obviously flustered. She touched her fingers to the lace, it was cool beneath her fingertips.

"I don't want to hear anything. Let's go, or we'll be late." With that, he placed a hand over her shoulder and guided her out the door.

0.0

By the time they arrived back at the Taisho Mansion, there was only one other car in the driveway, as if waiting for them to pull into the vast ground. And it no surprise—it was Inuyasha.

Kagome slid out of the passenger seat and said, "Just let me go around to get my suitcases. It'll only take a minute."

"I'm counting down the seconds, so you better hurry" Sesshoumaru chuckled, turning up the radio while he waited for her.

It was then that Inuyasha intercepted her path, an unreadable expression on his unruffled exterior. This took Kagome by surprise, and her hand unknowingly crept up to the string around her neck.

"Sesshoumaru!" He growled, an edge under his voice. "You go ahead, she's coming with me! I'll take her from here."

His head swiveled around in recognition, and astonishment slid around his eyes. Against expectations, he launched himself out of the car, not even bothering to use the door—and leaving the motors running, meaning that it'll only take a second—he procured a bag from the backseat. With his collected runway walk, he moved towards the couple.

Inuyasha's face was stoic, his body as rigid as stone. It seemed that he was bracing himself for something. Yet as Sesshoumaru neared them, it wasn't his brother that he confronted, rather, he shoved the bag in Kagome's open hands and muttered a few words to her.

The hanyou snarled, placing his hands over Kagome's arm territorially as he escorted her back to his car. "I got your bags," He murmured under his breath.

Kagome followed him, her fingers clutching tightly against the plastic bag. It was only when they took a seat was were safely out of the boundaries of the Taisho property did she allow herself to steal a look at the item that Sesshoumaru placed in her hand.

From the flimsy wrapping she pulled out a smooth satin fabric in gold. She ran her hands over the eyelet trimmings. It was the same dress that she'd been caught admiring earlier.

"I thought it wasn't for sale?" She whispered to herself, utterly overwhelmed by this touch of consideration from Sesshoumaru, the coldest and most mysterious member of the Taisho family.

As if in disbelief, she quickly pushed the garment back in the bag and nudged it behind her feet. She refused to acknowledge it again until it was safely hidden in her suitcase.

"Hey, why'd you come back?" She turned to the unusually quiet Inuyasha. "I thought you were already gone with Sora, ready to board the ship?"

He stole an easy glance at her, a secret smile on his face. "Cell phone charger. I'm not going anywhere if I can't contact anyone."

"I don't see what the big deal is. I mean, I never even had a cell phone."

"Cell phones are a must have in this household. Practically a law."

She seemed to ponder over this for a bit. "Is it also a law to be as mysterious as possible for the Taishos?"

"Mysterious? How so."

"So many secrets."

"None that can't be explained."

"Inuyasha," She smiled swiftly to the rearview mirror that she faced, "You yourself are another story."

"If you want, I'll publish a novel of my life and sign it for you."

"That'd be nice. Why don't you get on that. And then we can compare notes."

She studied his face as he kept an eye on the road. A safe driver—wonder what that says about him? He looked conflicted, and she knew.

"You can ask, you know." She spoke, her voice chipping. "I know it's been on your mind."

"And you'll be sure to answer?" He grinned that hearbreaking grin in disbelief. It seemed perfect on his face, like it belonged. How many hearts had he broken with that one look?

"I don't know," She said teasingly. "You're too curious, and we all know that curiosity kills the cat."

"Which is why I'm a dog."

"He asked me for a favor this morning. And what can I say, I'm a good person, so I helped him." She explained, sure to keep it brief and as hole-riddled as possible.

"The favor being . . .?"

"That I can't say."

"It's unlike of Sesshoumaru to ask for 'favors'." He had that annoyed look again, like he can't quite figure it out.

"Maybe you don't know him as well as you think."

He didn't say anything in response to that, and Kagome didn't try to explain either. She knew he had a lot on his mind, and she left him to figure it out himself. It was good to have some quiet time to think.

They drove by the tranquil countryside just out of Deom Bell. The lush emerald grass and clear blue sky flying by in strips. Kagome looked out the window, trying to take a photographic picture of everything in her memory. When Inuyasha spoke, it made her spring from her seat.

"That's a pretty necklace."

He wasn't even looking at her, his eyes trained straight to the unwinding road. Almost as if he wasn't even addressing her.

"I know."

23