Disclaimer: Inu no Mine.
Author's Note: This was originally gonna be a chapter fic, but we've all realized how bad I am at updating those. Eh heh… no, really, in all seriousness, I just don't have time for another chapter fic. Besides, with chapter fics we have to deal with PLOT. Who likes plot? Exactly. We'd all rather just skip to the good parts! So here, enjoy the highlights. ;3
In simpler terms, this'll kinda be like what I did for "Joined by Shadows." A one-shot version of the story. Only this one will be happier than JoS.
Um… yeah. Yea…? I think…?
The Marriage Councilor
Session One: Reminders
Her mother had always warned her of this. Of her meddling, of her perfectionism… of her ideals. "You aim too high, dear," she'd said—not unkindly, but resolute— "At this rate you'll be alone forever. Is that what you want? I mean, I can only imagine what your clients think."
"I'm sure they think better of a single marriage councilor than they would a divorced marriage councilor," she'd replied tartly, twirling the phone cord around and around her index finger.
Of course, this guileless point was ignored. "Darling, you have to realize that you'll never find the perfect man. He doesn't exist. Just like the perfect woman doesn't exist. You need to learn how to accept… well… flaws."
Flaws? She privately scoffed. No. No way. That wasn't an option. No flaw was an option; there was no need to be happy with defects. She couldn't be happy with defects.
Hence her job.
Which she was quite good at, she'd been told.
"Now, Sango-san, Miroku-san," she beamed, pointing her steepled fingers at each in turn. "I feel we've made real progress here. Sango, you've promised to stop hitting Miroku; Miroku, you've promised to stop hitting on women. I think that's a fair trade…?"
Both nodded, looking much calmer than they had two hours previous… when being dragged in by the police. Apparently, making scenes in public was frowned upon.
"And Sango, next time you feel like smacking your husband, what will you do instead?"
"I'll tell him how I feel," Sango mumbled, looking embarrassed. Her cheeks and eyes matched, now: both were a lovely shade of magenta. "I'll tell him that it hurts my feelings when he looks at other women. It makes me feel inadequate… and stuff."
"You don't have to read it directly from the pamphlet," the marriage councilor reminded Sango gently, though not without an encouraging smile. "And Miroku, what will you do?"
The young man's grin was a mile wide. "I'll keep my hands on Sang— er… I mean… to myself." He chuckled nervously, casting his wife an apologetic glance. Her glare lessened somewhat. "And I'll remember how I would feel if Sango started flirting with people in front of me."
"Very good! Now, I think that's all the time we have for today… Sango-san, if you could please let in the next appointment…?"
Sango straightened, clipping on her name tag and reverting back to secretary mode. "Of course, Kagome-san." She smiled, dug her glasses out of her purse, and slipped them on as she and her husband slipped out the door. "And thanks so much for your hel—!"
The young secretary's face darkened—but not in the same way as her giddy husband's. Kagome blanched, shaking her head in exasperation. Fortunately, the door closed before she had to see anymore. Unfortunetly, her ears worked fine:
Well, maybe they needed a bit more work…
But for the most part, Kagome knew that she was good at her job. Heck, some had even called her the best in Japan. Quite the honor… though, not without its burden. Her mother, for example, who was constantly complaining; always asking why, if she had made a career out of making relationships work, wasn't she married? Or dating? Or looking?
She doesn't understand… Kagome thought with a sigh, fiddling with the trinkets and toys on her oak-wood desk. Swirling pieces of swinging plastic, balls that clacked and swung… Most were metallic; they shone brightly in the sunlight that poured through the windows behind her. It made the whole room light up, white walls and all.
Still, it felt so dark, sometimes...
Lonely. Empty. Pointless.
Maybe because she knew her mother was right. She was going to grow old and die alone… because she was too picky. Too cautious. Too used to seeing relationships crumble because of stupid, petty things. Why submit yourself to that? It was so much easier to live vicariously through others happiness, and help others sort out their troubles.
The only problem with that was— at the end of the day— you were still alone.
Session Two: Decisions
The silence after the fight was terrible. It always was: loud, ringing, full of wordless insults… guilt. Regret. Sorrow. Hurt. Tears.
Inu-Yasha lowered himself onto the couch beside his wife—unsure, hesitant, arms crossed as if to defend himself. Kikyo didn't even turn to look at him.
"…this isn't working," he whispered. He kept his eyes determinedly on the fireplace before him.
She nodded, looking miserable. "I know."
"Do… do we want it to work?"
The beautiful young woman flicked a glance his way, almost shy. "I think so…"
They both considered this, letting the gravity of the situation sink in. It was clear they needed help… professional help.
Well, then, there was only one option left.
Session Three: Disturbances
Being the best was a difficult thing. When you're the best, you always have to be it. No screwing around; no mistakes. You get the hardest cases, and are expected to come out on top.
It was at times like this that she wondered why she hadn't decided to become a truck driver.
"Inu-Yasha and Kikyo Takahashi," Kagome read aloud from the file in her hands, glancing from his scowling face to her scowling face. At the moment, it was hard to tell who's scowl was scarier— both seemed to have black belts in intimidation. And obliviousness … They apparently had yet to realize that they had company, let alone that they were in a counseling office: they were too busy sneering and glaring and hissing insults that they seemed to think no one else could hear. "Met during high school; married for three years. And you've been having trouble for how long…?"
"Five years," both growled, eyes narrowing in distaste.
…she really should have been a truck driver.
"I can't believe you're makin' me see a fuckin' shrink," the male snarled, lip curled. Inu-Yasha, apparently— dressed in ratty jeans and an old turtleneck. Not exactly appropriate for a professional meeting… Obviously he doesn't care about first impressions, Kagome mused, eying his wild ebony hair. It cascaded in savage tangles down his slouched back; he folded his arms and glowered like a toddler. "You know how I feel about them!"
"Well, you know how I feel about your smart-ass remarks, but that doesn't stop you!" Kikyo spat back, spinning away. She was much more presentable—her husband's opposite. Dressed in a crisp dress suit, her hair was neatly tied and her makeup perfectly applied. Even her jewelry matched her clothing, as if it had been bought specifically for the outfit. Hell, if she had to venture a guess, Kagome would bet that Kikyo's bra and underwear matched, as well.
You can tell a lot about a person from their underwear drawer… Inu-Yasha's is probably all rumbled and messy. A much more carefree approach.
Shaking thoughts of underwear from her head, Kagome jotted down a few notes, then waited for her clients to acknowledge her presence. She'd already decided that interrupting them may prove fatal…
"Keh! You're such a hypocrite," Inu-Yasha grumbled. Kikyo stiffened, thin fingers clenching.
"Don't get me started on your faults, Inu-Yasha. I can think of a dozen right off the top of my head; if I were to really get into it, we'd be here all day."
"Well, where else do we have to go? I mean, I'm in no rush to get anywhere… at least, I don't think so. It's hard for me to tell anymore—I'm so used to my life being controlled by you!"
"Only because you have no control!" Kikyo screeched, standing in a rush of fury. "Over anything! That's why your life was in shambles before you met me!"
Violet eyes narrowed in a furious glare; Inu-Yasha stood as well, towering over his wife. "Bellow the belt and a lie. I was doing fine before you—better than now!"
"Oh yeah—now that I think about it, I do see the appeal in failing all of your classes… working at Burger King… eating Ramen every day…"
"Sure beats the hell out of your cooking."
Meanwhile, poor Kagome—who, feeling rather short, had also stood— finally opened her mouth, about to try and calm the raging couple down—
When the couple snapped her a furious glare, pointing sharply at her seat. "SIT."
Then, realizing she'd just taken orders from clients, felt insanely stupid. "What am I, a dog?" Kagome asked, sounding annoyed. It didn't help that she was still being blatantly ignored by Inu-Yasha and Kikyo, who, apparently, would rather come to blows than take a breath and ask for the assistance of the councilor, who they were paying a hefty sum for.
Kagome began wondering if they'd ever wanted a councilor at all. Perhaps they simply wanted an audience.
"God dammit, Inu-Yasha," Kikyo was saying, jabbing a finger into her husband's chest. "You act like such an animal! Sloppy, rude… sometimes I wonder if I married a dog!"
Inu-Yasha arched an eyebrow. "Would that make you a bitch?"
"Clever. Turning this into a battle of wits, are you?"
"You wouldn't know wit if it danced up naked and ripped off your arm."
"Was that a threat, dog-boy?!"
"How the hell do you figure?!"
At this point, it was becoming clear that Kagome needed to intervene—they were starting to pick up weapons. Unfortunately, by the time she'd opened her mouth, half of the toys on her desk were soaring through the air…
The noise seemed to break the scene. Both Inu-Yasha and Kikyo froze; Kagome gaped in horror at the state of her once-pristine office. Metallic balls and plastic frames and the shards of a broken lamp blanketed the floor; feathers from the pillow Kikyo had raised to deflect projectiles were floating back down to earth, carefree as you please… Five picture frames had been acquainted with the ground, knocked off the wall by the unseen, seismic force of sofa chairs tipping over.
Inu-Yasha swallowed loudly, looking very much like an anxious puppy. Kikyo seemed equally as horrified.
"I, um…" she began weakly, finally turning to face Kagome. "Sorry…?"
Kagome offered a thin, strained smile. "…perhaps we should start with some separate sessions."
Session Four: Talking
"…I can't believe I let you drag me out here. It's freezing."
Inu-Yasha smirked, white teeth gleaming in the watery sunlight. "Stop your bitching. It's better then that stuffy office of yours." He passed her one of the two coffees he'd just purchased from the street vendor; she took the foam cup with a smile of gratitude. "Besides, you look like you need the fresh air." He eyed her pasty complexion none-too-subtly, lifting an eyebrow. "Don't you ever get out?"
"Busy," Kagome answered shortly, taking a sip of her drink. It was still a little too hot; she watched the curling steam disappear into the cloudy sky. A wind blew through the trees, making the branches reach for the clouds… a lovely fall day, all in all. "But we're not here to talk about me. We're supposed to be talking about you."
The young man snorted. "Why the hell should I tell you anything about myself if I don't know you first?"
"… because that's what you're paying me for?"
Inu-Yasha brushed the point away with a wave of his hand. "So, you're like, what, 23?"
"You don't believe me?"
"Your attitude says you're fifty, but your face says you're ten."
"… there's an insult in there, somewhere, isn't there?" Kagome droned, casting him a wry glance.
He just smirked, trekking readily onward. "So didja always wanna be a marriage councilor? I mean, don't you get sick of listening to everyone bitch?"
Kagome couldn't help but giggle, admittedly amused. "I guess… sometimes," she admitted. "But I like helping people more. And knowing I can make someone's relationship better gives me—"
"Warm, fuzzy tingles?"
"—a feeling of accomplishment," she finished with a dry glare, giving her client a reprimanding shove. "Look, if you don't want to know, then don't ask."
"I do want to know," Inu-Yasha defended, taking a swig from his cup. "I just expected a fluffier answer from you." Before she could protest to this or ask him how he figured, he'd moved on. "So I expect you have a boyfriend? Or a husband? Since you're so good with relationships and all. How long have you been together?"
Confused, Inu-Yasha shot her a sideways glance; her eyes were on the trees again, taking in the beauty of the park through which they strolled. It was clear that she was ignoring him on purpose. His brow furrowed. "Hey—"
"That's enough about me, for now," Kagome interrupted with a chipper— and rather fake— laugh. "Let's talk about you. How old are you?"
"28. And before you ask, I'm a martial arts teacher."
"Really?" Kagome's eyes widened with interest. "What level?"
"Black, of course," he replied with a superior sort of lilt, as if insulted that she'd ever assume otherwise. "Tai Kwan Do, Karate… all those sorts of things. And I practice kendo."
"Impressive," she grinned. "Though I bet I could take you on."
"What? A wimpy girl like you? Have you ever even taken a martial arts class?"
"Of course I have," Kagome retorted, in a mockery of his own, arrogant tone. "It just so happens that I reached the yellow-with-two-green-stripes level before I quit." She sniffed haughtily, the very picture of a stuck-up snob.
Then she winked.
And he laughed.
It was a sound that surprised Kagome; he hadn't seemed capable of laughter back in her office, or when Kikyo was around. But now that she'd heard it, seen it, she found that she really liked it: loud, but somewhat melodic… gentle. It made his smile reach his eyes.
"I guess I'll have to stay on my toes around you," Inu-Yasha teased, nudging her mischievously. "Can't let myself be beaten by a girl. My reputation would be ruined."
Is he flirting with me?
Kagome prayed that he didn't notice her scarlet cheeks. Or, if he did, that he assumed the wind was to blame.
"What about Kikyo?" she asked abruptly, clearing her throat and looking away again. Dammit, heart! Stop beating so loudly! "Does she like martial arts…?"
Her client's face fell. "Not really," he admitted, sounding annoyed. "She thinks stuff like that is stupid, since almost everyone has a gun. Why risk your own body when you can defend yourself with a round of bullets? Just one of the things we fight about..."
They paused for a moment, having reached a footbridge. The small river beneath them bubbled and swirled, gunmetal-gray beneath the equally dark sky. Kagome watched a few burgundy leaves as they floated by; Inu-Yasha leaned his back against the wooden railing and sighed.
"What do you agree on, then?" Kagome inquired a few moments later, voice soft but prying. "Maybe it'll be easier if we start there."
Inu-Yasha snorted, setting aside his coffee and stuffing his hands into his pockets. "Unfortunately, I don't think they'll be much for you to work with…"
"People always say that," she reassured dismissively. The water reflected her small smile, sending it back. "I'm sure there's more than you think."
"All right… well, let's see." He screwed up his face, clearly thinking hard. "We both like Chinese food… and hated this group of assholes from our high school… and think that abortion is wrong."
"So you agree on religion?" Kagome pressed, turning around to mimic Inu-Yasha's stance.
"No. She's a Shinto; I don't believe in religion. I just think killing babies is fucked up."
"Oh." Kagome frowned thoughtfully, drumming her fingers against forearm. Damn. That's not very much... "Well, how about… um…"
Inu-Yasha smiled wryly. "Don't hurt yourself," he drawled, though seemingly amused. "I told you that there wasn't much. Our romance—when it lasted—was really more of a passion thing. That's not to say that I don't love her now, it's just… I dunno." He shrugged, face pinching in an expression of aggravation. "Confusing, I guess."
Kagome mulled over this, taking a long draw from her coffee. "… can I ask you a question?"
"Sure. Provided you don't expect an answer."
She ignored the sarcasm. "Do you like fighting with Kikyo?"
He blinked owlishly at her, apparently questioning her sanity. Kagome pinked, embarrassed. "It's just," she defended, "that some couples like fighting. It, well, turns them on." The pink darkened to cherry. "If that's the case, there might not be anything I need to do."
Inu-Yasha grunted his understanding. As he did so, he propped his elbows against the handrail and leaned into it, glaring at his image in the water. "Well, I don't like it," he grumbled. "It leaves me feeling guilty and stupid and wishing I hadn't bothered opening my mouth. And it seems like all we ever do anymore…"
"Have you tried talking about your feelings?"
"Yeah. It turns into an argument!"
"No need to raise your voice," Kagome reprimanded lightly, toying with the top button of her coat. "It was a simple question. Have you tried promising each other you won't fight?"
He nodded glumly. "It seems we just fight harder, then. And I sorta start to… hate her."
"Hmm." Manicured nails tapped rhythmically against her foam cup; thin lips lowered in a pensive frown. "Well, then, there must be something."
"Something that keeps you from leaving," Kagome clarified, turning to face her client. "I mean, there has to be a reason why you stay, if you hate all the fighting and—sometimes—your wife."
For a full minute, Inu-Yasha said nothing. His gaze lowered, focusing on the grain of the wood. Finally, he took a deep breath. "I… do care about her," he repeated firmly, though softly. "She was the first one to try and get to know me. To understand me… to like me."
Kagome cocking her head, apparently somewhat baffled. "You make it sound like you're a monster," she said, disapproving but kind. "You can't be that hard to like. I mean, you're smart. And loyal. And funny—if not a bit cynical. You're not bad looking, either, and you've certainly got personality."
Arching an eyebrow, the young man flashed his councilor a playful grin. "What, are you saying that you like me?"
Her cheeks—for the umpteenth time— flamed; Kagome inwardly cursed herself. Why am I acting like such an idiot?! "I'm just making a point!" she insisted quickly, burying her face in her scarf. Inu-Yasha watched this from the corner of his eye, a glitter of amusement hiding in his gaze.
"Oh. I see. So you don't like me, you're just talking bullshit."
Horrified by the hurt in his voice, Kagome frantically shook her head. "No! No, I— um… oh shit…"
It started with a snort. Then a chuckle. Then Inu-Yasha was laughing again— throwing back his head, grinning widely, eyes alight. Her splutters of anger didn't calm him in the slightest… and it wasn't long before Kagome was laughing, too.
Session Five: Tissues
"Let's see… uh… Chinese food… hatred for this group of guys who attended our high school… and a belief that abortion is wrong."
Well, at least they're consistent. Kagome smiled, supportive, as she gingerly lowered herself onto the couch next to Kikyo. Kikyo returned the expression warily, too proud to admit she was uncomfortable. "All right… at least there's something there that you agree on, right?"
"Yeah. Right." The reply was less hopeful than Kagome would have liked; rather, it sounded flat and sardonic. "Listen, Higurashi-san, you get points for trying, but don't be stupid. Chinese food is, in no way, a basis for a relationship."
"So you're just giving up?" Kagome frowned, brow furrowing. "Why bother coming here, then?"
Kikyo shifted, obviously feeling awkward, and started nibbling delicately on her bottom lip. "…it's not that I don't love him," she breathed, looking away. And Kagome realized—with a pang of self-consciousness—how very beautiful the young lady was. Graceful. Elegant. Much prettier than she could ever be.
She quickly pushed the thought away, irritated with herself.
"I just," Kikyo was saying, lacing her long fingers together, "I just… I just don't think I can take any more of this. I'm tired. I love him, but I'm tired. Whatever we do, whatever we talk about, we end up fighting. I don't want to live my life always on my toes! I…"
To Kagome's surprise, her client's eyes were welling up with tears—large, crystalline crocodile tears. Within moments they were cascading down the woman's porcelain cheeks, making her lovelier than ever. Kikyo's chin trembled; Kagome offered her a box of tissues.
"Thanks," Kikyo mumbled, plucking a Kleenex from the box and dabbing her eyes. It hadn't even been half a second and she was already reverting back to her composed, closed self. "And I apologize for that; I'd promised myself I wouldn't cry."
What is she talking about? She barely leaked
"It's perfectly fine to cry if you feel sad," Kagome assured, pretending not to notice the disgruntled look her client cast her. "Keeping your emotions bottled up is bad for you. In fact, maybe that's why you're having so much trouble with Inu-Yasha…? Maybe, if you expressed yourself like this more often…"
"It's not that easy," Kikyo snapped, balling up the tissue and throwing it into the trash. "I… I don't know if I want to, anymore. I care about him, I do, but… maybe it would be better if we weren't together."
Kagome straightened, taken aback. "What do you mean?"
"I think he's seeing someone else," Kikyo replied dully, curling and twisting her hands. "The past few weeks… he's seemed so much happier. And when he looks at me, it's like he isn't seeing me." The young woman sighed, twisting so as to stare out the windows. Outside, snow was swirling downward, blanketing the winter-frozen earth.
"Maybe he's feeling better because of counseling?" Kagome suggested, trying to ignore the stab of fear in her heart. Has she realized…? "It's been long enough; maybe it's finally working."
"Maybe…" the young woman agreed blankly. It was an obvious lie, though. "Or maybe that's just what I want to see. So I won't feel so guilty…"
Oh my. Kagome gaped, leaning forward, not sure she heard right. "Kikyo-san…?" she murmured, shocked. "Are you saying that—?"
"I haven't done anything," Kikyo swiftly interrupted, shooting her councilor a thorny glare. "But I… there is this guy who works with me at the Sunset Shrine. And I sort of…" She blew out her cheeks, head lolling forward. "I don't want to hurt Inu-Yasha," she whispered, eyebrows knitting together. "But I don't know how much more of this I can take."
Session Six: Call
"How did you know?"
"…by the sound of it, or by the wavering nervousness?"
"A little of both. Plus, I have caller ID."
"So what's up? You don't have to cancel our session on me, do you? 'Cause I'm not sure I have time to reschedule it. Besides, aren't I your favorite c—?"
"This isn't working, Inu-Yasha."
"…what? What do you mean?"
"I mean… I… we can't do this. We can't keep seeing each other."
"What?! Why?! It's not like we're—!"
"But you know as well as I do, Inu-Yasha, that it's going to turn into that! When was the last time we actually talked about your problems? You and your wife? We discuss everything in the world except what we're supposed to be discussing! It's like we're not even having sessions anymore—they're closer to paid dates! You realize that, don't you?! I'm not the only one who sees that, right?"
"I… I'm going to refer you to another councilor, Inu-Yasha. I'll keep seeing Kikyo, but… I can't risk seeing any more of you."
"Inu-Yasha? Are you still there? Inu-Yasha, please, talk to me—I'm sorry about this. I swear to God, I am. And please, understand that if the situation was different, I'd—!"
"I won't talk to anyone else."
"I won't talk to anyone else. I won't see anyone else. I want you, Kagome. You or nothing."
"In— Inu-Yasha, please, you do need help if you want to make it with Kikyo."
"What if I don't want to anymore?"
"Dammit, Inu-Yasha! Don't say things like that! Please don't make this any more difficult than—!"
"You want to see me, too, don't you?"
"It's a fucking yes-or-no question, Kagome!"
"Y—yes, of course I do, but we can't! That's just the way itis, Inu-Yasha. Please, for everyone's sake, try to accept that!"
"…but I'll miss you. I'll miss you too God dammed much!"
"…please don't come down to the office anymore, Inu-Yasha. I… I won't be able to stop myself if I see you again."
Session Seven: Surrender
Her back hit the edge of her desk with a silent thump.
"No… No, I can't, Inu-Yasha," Kagome whimpered, adverting her eyes and leaning back—farther, farther— willing him to leave. Dammit, why didn't you stay away?! "I can't! We can't!"
"Why not?" he demanded, amethyst eyes shimmering through the darkness. When had he gotten here? How? Her office had been closed for nearly an hour; outside, the midnight moon was rising. The world was nothing but shadows and slippery slivers of silver… "Dammit, Kagome! You feel it too, I know you do! You said you do! So why not?!"
"Because you're married!" she hissed, azure eyes swimming with tears. We can't have this. "You're married… and I'd ruin that marriage! I'd ruin myself! I'm your councilor; my job is on the line!"
Inu-Yasha snorted, leaning forward and trapping Kagome body between his arms. She squirmed, panted… gaze flicking rapidly between Inu-Yasha and the side wall. "Is that all you care about…?" he asked, in a cold imitation of the sugar-sweet, wheedling voice she used during sessions. She scowled at him, eyes narrowed in an infuriated glare— though it was admittedly half-hearted. "Is that it? Your job?"
One look at his face told her what he thought: she was spouting bullshit. "For being a councilor of the heart, Kagome," Inu-Yasha drawled, lashes half-lidded and oh-so-very sensual, "I don't think you know very much about romance. I mean, have you ever even had a boyfriend?"
"Yes!" Kagome insisted emphatically. "Of course I—!" But she instantly deflated when he cocked a suspicious eyebrow. "…once. In college."
He chuckled—low and amused. "That's what I thought. Which brings me back to my original point… Kagome, how can you teach something you've never learnt?"
Once more, the young woman glowered—so distracted by her indignation that she didn't notice when Inu-Yasha took a step closer; didn't notice how their chests met; didn't notice the strong hands that looped around her back. "It's not like I haven't been in love before," Kagome spat, finally staring him square in the face. "I do love. In fact, I— I…"
"You love me," Inu-Yasha filled in quietly, lips curled upwards in a knowing sort of smile. It was the kind of haughty smirk that she'd grown used to seeing on his face— it made an appearance at least once a session. As usual, its condescending vibes irritated her. Still, his eyes were shining tenderly… affectionate and warm. Full of devotion. Reassurance. Promise.
Kagome forced herself to look away. "Kikyo loves you."
"But so do you." It wasn't a question.
She swallowed loudly, allowing herself to be lowered… gently laid upon the desk. "…yes."
He smiled; it was nearly ethereal in the blackness. She could feel his fingers ghosting up her thigh, across her belly, tracing her breasts and collar bone… Her gasps of pleasure were met with his purrs of approval. After a moment, he—again— made to move closer…
"I love you, too."
And this time, she was the one to pull him down: curling, twisting, wrapping around him, their lips meeting in a breathless, desperate kiss.
Down they stayed.
Session Eight: Failure
Kagome's ballpoint pen tapped rhythmically against her desk, filling the silence; everyone waited with baited breath, though they knew what was to come. It wasn't easy… but it needed to be said.
The councilor took a deep breath.
"They say that opposites attract," she began delicately, lowering her pen and folding her hands. She cast each Kikyo and Inu-Yasha a glance, long and measured, full of sincere regret. "However, psychologically, that's a lie. People like people who are like them. And, unfortunately, I think there may be a little too much friction between the two of you at the present time."
Kikyo stared, open mouthed, at the younger woman Kagome winced mentally, but kept her own gaze steady. "This is just a suggestion, but… I think some time apart would do you both good. Perhaps, after you've both matured some, you could try again, but…"
"…you want us to get divorced?" Kikyo paraphrased, sounding stunned. Her fingers tightened in her lap.
"I never said that," Kagome corrected gently. "There are other ways to spend time apart. One of you could live with a friend for a while, for example. But, to be perfectly frank, Kikyo-san, I think a divorce would be in everyone's—" specifically my— "best interest. To make a clean break while you still care enough to stay friends will help with the healing process. Unless you disagree…?" She waited for a moment, as if expecting one or both of the Takahashis to chime in. Unsurprisingly, neither did. "I can refer you to some private councilors if you wish, particularly good in this field, or you can try another marriage councilor…?"
The pair exchanged long, meaningful glances; Kikyo's hand slipped into her husband's. Then she shook her head. "…no, thank you. I think…maybe this…"
Inu-Yasha gave Kikyo's hand an encouraging squeeze. After helping her up, he turned to Kagome with a slight bob of his head. "Thank you for your help, Higurashi-san." Kikyo was quick to murmur her agreement. Then she smiled, handed Kagome her last, neatly-folded check, and walked calmly out the door—pausing only to cast her soon-to-be-ex husband a confused look, wordlessly asking why he was lingering behind.
He signaled that he'd be a minute. Kikyo nodded and vanished with a wave.
Shoulders tensing, Kagome looked up from the paperwork she had been pretending to complete. "Yes?" she prompted, offering a tight smile. It was because of him, after all, that her perfect record had been tarnished… and she couldn't help feeling mildly bitter about that. Still, it was hard to stay mad at him when those beautiful violet eyes were on her…
Inu-Yasha grinned, albeit somewhat uncertain, as he lowered himself onto the edge of Kagome's desk. "I, uh, was wondering if we could continue our sessions, now…?"
The pen's tip broke with an ominous snap; she pinching the bridge of her nose in frustration. "Oh, come on, Inu-Yasha!" Kagome all but growled. "Don't you think it will look kind of suspicious, seeing as how you just broke up with your wife?"
He cast her a funny look. "What are you talking about?" the young man asked, in a tone that made it clear he thought she was crazy. "Of course it won't. I'm getting divorced. I need counseling in this time of trauma, or else I might strangle a moose, or something."
Huh? She quirked a delicate eyebrow. What is he…? "Wait— which kind of counseling are we talking about, here? The paid-date kind or the actual, text-book style sessions?"
"The latter, obviously," Inu-Yasha scoffed, rolling his eyes at her stupidity. "Unless, that is, you want to have the paid-date kind… or maybe to just go out on a date. Preferably one that doesn't cost me three hundred thousand yen per hour."
Torn between exasperation and exhilaration, Kagome dropped her chin onto the back of her laced hands, piercing him with a flat, but probing stare. "…are you asking me out or not?"
"Only if you say yes. Remember, I'm in a very fragile state right now, seeing as how I just got dumped, and all." He grinned impishly.
And, despite her best efforts, Kagome felt a matching smile form upon her lips. "Call me later tonight and we'll set up an appointment for you."
Session Nine: Acceptance
Although butterflies spent the rest of the day fluttering through her system, Kagome was, eventually, forced to buckle down and—blegh— work. Life wasn't all fun and games, after all—there were things like taxes and checkbooks to consider.
Still smiling widely from… earlier events… she began rooting around in her purse, fishing out the checks and receipts. Check, receipt, receipt, check, receipt…
She paused when she came upon a personalized check, one decorated with balloon flowers and stars. The last one she'd gotten from Kikyo—still creased neatly down the middle, so that it took up half as much space as it should. It would get lost in the stack of other checks in its current condition… Shrugging nonchalantly, Kagome unfolded it with the intention of putting it in the appropriate pile—
When she noticed something.
A note scrawled in pencil beside the signature line:
Take good care of him.
Startled, Kagome stared at the message. Stared for a long, long time, her eyes wide and unbelieving. Take good care… but how did Kikyo know? Why wasn't she mad? Was she too busy with the man she had feelings for? Or maybe she knew it was better this way…?
Kagome smiled, placing the check aside. Don't worry, Kikyo-san. I will.
With that, she left her checkbook and stood to call her mother.