Disclaimer: Neither the characters from the storyline 'Inuyasha' by Rumiko Takahashi, nor the plotline from the movie 'Overboard' starring Goldie Hawn, are mine.
Author's Note: Painted myself into a corner with the last chapter. Had to learn to climb walls to move on with the story.
She had broken her promise to Rin.
Technically, she had only pledged to visit the little girl if Rin's father gave permission first. Yet Kagome knew full well how the mind of a four-year old would operate. Rin would never understand that Kagome was too embarrassed to commit to a social call, and that her Father was too proud to make one.
The last time they had spoken, Kagome had deferred to Sesshoumaru's judgment on the matter, allowing him to decide where and when Rin could visit. But the insufferable, deplorably handsome man had never contacted her to set up a play-date with his daughter, and somehow her arrangement with the four-year old had fallen through, just like her plans to reconcile with him. They remained at an impasse.
It bothered her immensely, and she found herself thinking about the odd pair at random moments of the day, hoping that Rin did not feel too betrayed. When Kagome's father had abandoned the Higurashi family, she had been six, but she still remembered her broken-heart. Somehow, she doubted that Rin would take such a disappearance well either. On the other hand, surely Rin could not miss her as much as a real parent – they had known each other for less than five days!
No closer to reaching a solution on this dilemma, Kagome shook her head, trying to avoid thinking in circles. One way or another, she had to see Rin again. She owed it to the little girl, and besides, she had been counting on her ability to visit Rin to help her see Sesshoumaru too. Deliberately leaving that avenue open, she had assumed it would be easier for the man to get in touch with her for the sake of his daughter, than for the sake of an apology. But summer break was almost over and she had heard no word from the light-haired businessman. Perhaps her final words to him had simply been too harsh.
Clenching her jaw, Kagome returned to sweeping the shrine steps with renewed vigor. Yes, it was difficult to wait for him to call. But that did not mean she would be the first to surrender. Her words had been callous, but then again, the situation had demanded it. She had been duped, taken in, lied to, treated like a house-sitter and a nanny, and he had toyed with her affections, all while thinking she was… that she was… someone else. It hurt to be compared to Kikyou, especially in that respect.
Upon regaining her memories, she had been showered with a bitter collection of snippets from her past. Before, she had spent far too much time obsessing over her similarities to Kikyou, wondering why Inuyasha admired one cousin and not the other. Then, she had seen her situation mirrored in another person's eyes. Suddenly remembering how to feel self-conscious and conflicted, she had recoiled at the thought of being unloved, at taking second-stage to Kikyou yet again. There was no way she could pardon him for such a blatant abuse of her affections without even a reprimand.
It would have been ludicrous to jump into his arms and forgive him right that second. Besides, Kikyou had been standing right behind her, judging her every move, and Kagome had been fully conscious of how bizarre her behavior would look to the rest of the world. If she had seemed too sympathetic toward Sesshoumaru, then it might have given away their relationship.
Not that they had one, really.
What would Sesshoumaru call the night they had spent together – a shameful transgression? Perhaps, a blissful fling? What? It had not been an accident, that much was certain. The instant he had found an opportunity to be with Kikyou, he had eagerly taken it.
But that was not right either. He had tried to tell her the truth, and she had refused to listen. With a sigh, Kagome stopped sweeping once more, hanging her head.
Wandering this well-beaten mental path over and over did not bring her any resolution, but Kagome could not let it go. Kindness was in her nature. In the end, she did not hate Sesshoumaru. Part of her cared about him, even today. Her words had seemed like the only appropriate response at the time, but they bothered her now, and she worried daily about how she should apologize for saying such a thing, without appearing to forgive him, unless he apologized first. The whole predicament was such a mucked up mess that it made her head hurt. How was she supposed to go about forgiving him, if he stubbornly refused to call? Perhaps she had gone too far, and she would have to apologize first.
At this, indignation bubbled up inside of her again. "Apologize?" grumbled Kagome, "Why do I have to apologize to him?"
Swishing the reed broom across paving stones half-heartedly, she realized she had been mindlessly sweeping the same spot for several minutes. A scowl overcame her normally cheerful features, and she stomped one foot in frustration, before deciding the shrine did not need her assistance any longer that day. Obviously, she wasn't doing much good outside anyway.
The sound of a footfall on the stairs behind her drew her attention, and she swerved, broom in hand, to see who it was walking toward the shrine. Even from a distance, however, the person did not have pale hair, or a confident stride, and Kagome bit her lip, trying to swallow her foolish disappointment. Of course, that was not Sesshoumaru. Honestly, after several weeks, she should have stopped watching for him so closely.
And therein lay the problem. She didn't hate Sesshoumaru at all. If anything, the sinking feeling of disappointment in her gut warned that she cared for him altogether too much.
If she didn't get over him soon, she was going to develop a Kikyou complex. All the guys she had ever liked (all two of them) had wanted her cousin instead. Where had she gone wrong? Why couldn't Sesshoumaru like her instead?
Stashing the broom in the supply closet, she strolled into the foyer and sat down to remove her shoes before going indoors. Voices from the living room trickled toward her, and she stiffened, sitting up straight on the wooden planks spanning the floor of the house. Soon, she was sure of it – whoever was speaking in the other room had just mentioned Sesshoumaru! After all, he had a very distinctive, recognizable name.
With a deep breath, Kagome crawled to the door to listen. If the others noticed her presence, then they would stop talking. Her family had been tiptoeing around the cruise-ship incident all summer long.
At first, Kikyou had angrily encouraged her cousin to press charges, but Kagome did not want to and said so, repeatedly. Then, her grandfather had announced quite loudly that he would punish the demon that hurt his family. Unfortunately, he had meant 'demon' in a very literal fashion; it had to be explained to the senile old man that Sesshoumaru was not evil incarnate, and demons did not exist. Her grandfather never listened to such arguments, of course, but it had done the rest of her family a world of good to defend Sesshoumaru's behavior. Afterward, the rest of them had listened to her and respected her decision.
Still, this did not mean they approved. Her mother honored her wishes with a concerned glance, and although she had not discussed her emotions with anyone, Kagome thought at least one person might suspect the real problem. Sealing herself away from her family's curiosity and their overly cautious treatment of her feelings, Kagome had spent a lot of time outdoors, doing chores and basking in the sunlight. Too much sympathy, she decided, was worse than not enough, but surely once school started everything would go back to the way it was.
Now, she was regretting her choice – she wanted to know what they were saying about Sesshoumaru! If she had behaved normally all along, then perhaps her family members would have seen fit to include her in important discussions like this one.
Her cousin had made up with Inuyasha after a month of fighting – or rather, weeks of begging on Inuyasha's part and disapproving stares from Kikyou. Ultimately though, he once again became a fixture at Kikyou's apartment and often came by the Higurashi shrine, eating them out of house and home. At the moment, the two of them were bickering on the couch in what passed for a subdued tone. Even when he restrained himself though, Inuyasha alerted most people in the vicinity to his thoughts and feelings whenever he spoke. Pressing her ear to the other side of the screen door, Kagome could tell precisely what he said, because his voice naturally carried well.
"What, still? No way!" Kikyou exclaimed. "That man can certainly hold a grudge."
Unexpectedly, Inuyasha had some doubts. "Well, I don't know if that is it," replied the boy hesitantly, "It's like he's … I dunno. He's different. Won't talk, even to insult me."
"And that's a bad thing?" inquired Kikyou, mocking astonishment lacing her tone.
Kagome could almost hear the frown in his voice. "It is," declared Inuyasha, "If it means he's going to be all weird. Dad asked me to talk to him, but he refuses to come back to the company. Wouldn't even give me his new number."
New number? Kagome thought rather desperately. A new phone number implied a new address. And if Sesshoumaru moved, how was she ever to fulfill their… her bargain with Rin? She stood up quietly, about to charge into the room and demand confirmation, but just then, Kikyou echoed her question in different words from within the room.
"Yea," he answered, "He plans to sell the house and all his cars, and he says he'll move into a small apartment somewhere close to Rin's school. See what I mean? Weird!"
Before Kikyou could do more than nod in agreement, Kagome had slid the door open abruptly. Trying to feign surprise, so that the couple did not know she had been spying on them, the blue-eyed college student gaped at Inuyasha and laughed. "Oh! Inuyasha! I didn't know you were here!" she tittered. "Hey, sorry to bother you two, but I need to know if I can borrow your car for the afternoon, Kikyou?"
Judging by the blank expressions she received, she was uncertain how well she had pulled off her little deception. But that didn't really matter one way or another. The most important thing was getting to Sesshoumaru's house before he moved out; his half-brother had implied the sale was not finalized yet. Perhaps there was still time to visit, before she lost his address and had to actually ask someone for the information, thereby proving how much she wanted to see him. Focused on her task, Kagome failed to think about how completely ridiculous her logic sounded, even to her own mind.
Her brown-eyed cousin merely nodded and rose to rummage around for the carkeys in her purse. "Do you want me to drive you somewhere?" asked the elder cousin.
"Oh no!" Kagome exclaimed, "I just have some errands to run, before school starts, and it might take all afternoon, you see."
Raising one brow, Kikyou mildly held out the keys. The excuse sounded slightly forced, but then, Kagome rarely asked for any favors. Everyone deserved assistance from time to time, no questions asked.
With a broad smile, Kagome grabbed the keys and went to gather her things, bidding them both good day.
Sure enough, there was a moving sign at his old house. Kagome got a tad bit lost on the way there, but eventually recognized a few of the landmarks she had seen on her drive home once before. Parking the car at the curb, she knocked on his door, but received no answer. It seemed like no one was home.
So, having always been the reasonably stubborn and impulsive type in both her affections and activities, Kagome decided to sit down and wait. Depositing herself on his doorstep, hours passed, and her stomach began to rumble as she wondered where in the world Rin and Sesshoumaru had escaped to. Hopefully, they were coming back tonight. Inuyasha had said that his brother was planning to move, not that he already had done so.
Finally, as evening light settled over this street of peaceful houses in an upper-middle class neighborhood, she saw a car pull up into the driveway. It was not the same car she had seen before; it was plain white, more economical. Already, from within the front seat of the car, Rin was pointing at her and speaking rapidly to her father.
Although she could not discern his expression on the opposite side of the vehicle, Sesshoumaru nodded, so as soon as the engine turned off, the little girl tumbled out of the car and across the lawn toward Kagome.
But this warm reception on the part of the four-year old simply made Kagome feel guilty. Rin had obviously not forgotten about her, and seemed glad to see one of her old playmates. A remorseful sensation clenched at her, and she forgot for a moment why she had taken so long to stop by their home.
"Hello," Rin waved, "We're moving!"
Apparently, Rin had decided this was the pinnacle of excitement. Kagome smiled and agreed with the little girl's assessment. "Is your room all empty looking?" she asked curiously, wondering how close to finished the packing must already be.
With a lively nod that caused her fluffy ponytail to bounce merrily atop her head, Rin offered to show her the state of the inside of the house. Not so unexpectedly, her father stopped them. Stepping carefully around Kagome to open the front door, he ushered his daughter inside, instructing her to pick up some more of her toys and place them in the back of the car.
Both adults recognized this for the busywork it was meant to be. But neither of them seemed to know what came next. He stared at her from the doorway, a slight frown marring his otherwise starkly handsome face, as he fished around for a proper way to begin the conversation.
"Why are you moving?" Kagome volunteered, after a while.
"I don't have enough money to keep the house," explained Sesshoumaru rather abruptly and awkwardly. Then, as if remembering his manners, he motioned that she should follow him indoors and have a seat. "Or rather – I would not within the year, if things remain as they are. By selling, that money can now be put toward other things."
So surprised was Kagome by this revelation, the barren interior of the house never even phased her. She entirely forgot to glance around at her surroundings, opting to stare dumbly at Sesshoumaru's retreating back instead. He observed her discreetly, as she plopped down on the sofa – which was still waiting for the movers to take it away, like the rest of the large furniture.
"I never really expected you of all people to be in financial troubles."
A wry smile was her only reply. He perched uncomfortably on the edge of the couch, and she grimaced internally. Refusing to sit beside her, acting like she had cooties, that was not making this any easier on either one of them. Maybe, if she scooted to one corner of the seat, rather than sitting directly in the middle, he would join her on the sofa.
"There is no trouble, per se. I have savings, I simply choose not to eat through them. It is difficult to know how long I will be without work," he said, as she shifted into a new position.
Rin came barreling down the stairs, distracting her from the subject, and by the time the little girl had slid out the front door, Kagome looked back only to realize Sesshoumaru had taken a seat on the other half of the couch after all. She felt inordinately pleased with herself, but tried not to show it.
"Inuyasha said he was offered a position at your Dad's company. Um… weren't you?" pondered Kagome, hoping this was true, otherwise it would just bring up a painful issue for no reason.
"Yes," he replied flatly. Nothing further was offered though, and Rin returned through the door, forgetting to close it as she clambered upstairs once more.
Silently, he rose to shut the front door, and the sensation that Kagome was pulling hen's teeth overcame her. What was one supposed to say in a situation like this? Was this as agonizing for him as for her?
"So, you're not going to take the position?"
Without looking back at her, from the front hallway, his voice drifted toward her softly, so softly that she wondered whether she was meant to hear it or not. "I wouldn't work for that man for all the money in the world," he intoned darkly.
It seemed beyond what Sesshoumaru would normally say – out of character, almost. Earlier he had seemed so devoted to working hard and pleasing his father. Maybe, it had been very traumatic to be fired. She chewed on the tale she had overheard from Inuyasha about his Father's choice of punishment for both his sons. It was no good. She had to ask. "Why?"
With a quiet sigh, he regained his spot on the couch and gazed absently at the empty spaces on the walls where picture frames had been removed. But if anyone deserved an explanation of his actions, she did. So he continued. "When I was young, I believed that hard work and good grades were all it took to get ahead in this world. I thought that others would see my commitment, and this was why I had been offered a position in Touga's enterprise."
Catching his drift, she murmured, "But then, Inuyasha…"
"After you… this…" swallowed Sesshoumaru thickly, avoiding her eyes, hastily reordering his statement, "Afterward – it quickly became clear that such credentials mean nothing. To the rest of the world, working for one's parents directly after leaving the university simply means a person has no real talent or skill."
"That's not true!" Kagome protested, her sense of justice flaring up at the mere thought of it. "You just haven't been looking very long. Finding the right job takes time, more than a month."
Golden-hazel-eyes stared at her suspiciously. The objection had been so warm and encouraging it made him wonder what she meant by it. Only Rin ever seemed to have so much faith in his abilities. Like the opinion of his four-year old, however, the words of the lovely lady at his side were not based on very many facts. How would she know anything about it? Employers did not hire because of blind faith; they wanted results.
"Of course," he agreed blandly. "It will likely take a very long time indeed. I have no references, and I was fired from my previous position. Even if I should somehow pass a first round of interviews by failing to mention this trivial little detail, there will never be a return phone call. It merely startled me to learn I cannot obtain a first interview."
Discouragement gripped her, as she heard Sesshoumaru relay this without any passion at all. It was as though he had already resigned himself to the facts. "Why don't you ask your Father for a reference?"
"Because he refuses to give one."
"What?!" came her scandalized squeak. "Why would he do that?"
"Hn," he snorted, amused by her outrage. "Why would he, indeed? My Father intends for me to return. It has taken three people to fill the position I left."
Well, there was a gratifying silver-lining at least, Kagome noted grumpily. Really though, it was hard for her to believe Touga's affrontery. The old man definitely had something coming to him. She began thinking of ways to encourage Sesshoumaru's Father to give him a recommendation. For instance, it was already clear that visiting his granddaughter could be used as leverage…
"But that isn't what I really want to talk to you about," the young man said beside her, interrupting her plans and schemes. "…Kagome…"
Shivering slightly at hearing her name roll off his tongue for the first time, she settled down immediately. The darkness of twilight spread over the living room window, and she heard Rin sprint by another time, as she rather breathlessly waited to hear what he had to tell her. It occurred to her that this apology was taking an awfully long time, and eventually she started to sweat.
Maybe he was waiting to hear her apologize first? Sesshoumaru merely looked pensive, or perhaps frozen in place. Abstractly terrified to the point of mental blankness might have also been a good description. She had often felt such a vacuum open up in her mind when she had something to impart to other people; for instance, public-speeches always did that to her.
"I don't really hate you," she blurted out, "I was just angry. Very angry. But I shouldn't have said that."
However, this simply confused him even more than before, and it clearly drove the carefully collected words right out of his head. Mouth open with surprise, he blinked at her and suddenly reached into his jacket, brusquely withdrawing a sheet of paper and thrusting it toward her. Kagome grasped the folded pages in front of her, but searched his gaze rather than open the letter.
"It's a written apology."
Tucking the pages into her pocket, unread, she smiled. Technically, if he had written it down, then he had already apologized long before she arrived at his house. He had simply failed to let her know about this vital piece of information. Typical male Inuyasha or Sesshoumaru-type behavior. One day, the half-brothers might actually realize how alike they actually were.
"Ah! It's okay, I forgive you," she informed the increasingly astounded man. "I wanted to tell you that … um… I understand."
Growing more timid by the second, she uncrossed her legs and dropped her hands to rest uselessly on top of them. "Yes, I understand. That is, I know what it is like to have unrequited feelings for someone else. To love someone who doesn't love you back."
"What are you talking about?"
"Because…" she stammered onward, certain that the blush on her cheeks must glow in the darkness, "You're in love with Kikyou."
"No," growled Sesshoumaru irritably. "Not her. You."
And just like that, she realized what he had ineptly tried to tell her once before, when she was leaving this very room with Kikyou. The frantic pace of her heart increased, even as it felt like all the little pieces of it had fallen back into place. Kagome stared at him unabashedly, never quite having expected such a result.
The silence instantly made him uncomfortable though and Sesshoumaru started to rise from his seat. "I'm sorry," he said without giving her a chance to reply, "That was inappropriate. It was not my intention to make you uncomfortable. Please…"
Meanwhile, the gears in Kagome's mind had been spinning very fast. When he apologized, yet again, for the wrong thing, she decided to take a leaf from Rin's book of maniacal, underhanded, child-like tactics. Grabbing his arm, she tugged it toward her and gave him an impromptu hug as he stumbled, causing them both to land in a heap on the center of the couch. Rin was still the master of flying hugs, but Kagome was bigger and she decided this counted for something too.
"I missed you too," she grinned into his hair. "At the risk of sounding repetitive, perhaps we could make a fresh start, and get to know one another for real this time."
And slowly, ever so slowly, she felt his form relax, breathing out into her embrace. In the portal to the living room, Rin skittered to a halt, holding a third pass of toys destined for the car, but unable to move for fear the vision before her eyes would disappear.
Sesshoumaru pulled back to look her in the eyes. "I…" he promised reverently, "I'd like that very much."
Without a doubt, Kagome felt that beginnings were much better than endings.
Before, her opinion of Sesshoumaru had been skewed by Inuyasha and his biases. Then, her own memory had prevented her from forming a clearer picture of him. Yet even viewing him through a distorted lens, she had formed an attachment to this caring father and private, hard-working husband. But this time, she vowed there would be no such impediments within their relationship.
Closing her eyes, she leaned forward to press a feather light kiss on his lips, which he returned for a moment before a girlish giggle disrupted their concentration. Rin stood watching them from the entrance to the room. A frustrated father glared at his daughter firmly, but the four-year old simply ignored his unspoken reprimand and dropped her toys on the carpet so she could clap her hands together with glee.
"Does that mean," Rin asked slyly, "That I can call you Mommy again?"
A/N: Huge thanks to all my readers for patience. Thanks for reading!
I am considering an epilogue, but rather than drag the story out with matters like 'does Kikyou approve?' or 'does Touga come around?' I thought it might be best to end it here. All that other stuff is important too, but those are all external stumbling blocks to a relationship. The most important issue to conclude was all the lying and misinformation between Kagome and Sesshoumaru.
Special thanks, for thoughtful and consistent reviewing, to the following: My sister in law, Ami Mizuno1; DarkAngelRakell; Edahj; kyekye; kyska; llebreknit; Miss Selah; raspberrysorbet; serasvictoria666; serenityrain2233; Sheri-chan; Teslyn; unigu3s0u7.