Thanks for all the great reviews, guys! You're the reason I write. ^-^

Quick Disclaimer: Let it be known that I don't condone the drinking of mass quantities of alcohol, but I felt it was warranted in a later scene. Keep in mind please, that in this story both Kagome and Inuyasha are of age (they'll talk about it in this chapter), and are entitled to make their own choices.

Just sayin'. :)

Simple Things

Chapter Two : Dust Bunnies

Kagome stood a little to the left of her original staring spot in front of the West Estate. Instead of being awed by the sheer size of the place, however, her hesitation was caused by its sole occupant.

She had no idea what to expect on the other side of the door, never mind what the rest of the day held in store for her.

She entered the house much the same as on the first day, with Bordeaux following faithfully, but this time there was no note attached to the front door. She clutched her keys in her hand, and slowly shut the door with her foot. She waited, barely daring to breathe.

Bordeaux sat down.

Inuyasha appeared at the top of the staircase, his expression a mixture of cautious hope and expectation. He was halfway down the stairs before he caught himself, crossing his arms and letting his expression harden.

Bordeaux yawned.

"I see you didn't have the good sense to quit."

Kagome shrugged, smiling slightly. "Nope."

Inuyasha thunked down the rest of the stairs, scowling in earnest. "Whatever. It's only a matter of time."

"Says you."

He blinked, staring at the girl for a moment. "Breakfast." He turned and headed into the kitchen without another backwards glance.

Kagome pocketed her keys and followed. Day two with Mr. Grumpy. Here we go.

~~*~~

Breakfast had been a silent affair. They'd eaten quietly, and Bordeaux had wandered off after he realized there were no extra snacks to be had. Kagome had washed the dishes, dried them, and put them neatly away.

Inuyasha had sat and stared at the wall.

Kagome had then proceeded to take full inventory of the kitchen cabinet stock, making a list of things to add to next week's delivery.

Inuyasha had sneezed once, mildly breaking the silence.

The dark haired girl had attempted to make small talk, but Inuyasha's terse grunts had afforded no room for an actual exchange. She was thinking about baking something, just for the excuse to keep busy, but the thick quiet was driving her nuts. She sighed, and turned to face the boy.

"Do you want to talk about the elephant in the room, or should I?"

Inuyasha snorted. "Keh."

"Look. I haven't worked this long without picking up a few things. Youkai play by different rules, I get that. And if it means I have to be caught in some twisted joke, or a power play between you and brother, so be it. But I'm here to work, and I'm going to do a damn good job." She gave a confident nod, and waited for a response. When none came, she sighed and walked out to the study.

Inuyasha "Keh'd" again to an empty room, before his eyes widened in realization. He had forgotten to check for a new fax that morning.

"Well, fuck it."

He stood up reluctantly, and followed the girl to the study. He was starting to hate that damn room. She was behind the desk, a fresh new fax clasped in her hand. Upon his entrance, she looked up and held the paper out to him.

Inuyasha looked at the paper as though it was made of battery acid.

Kagome rolled her eyes, and read it aloud.

"Ms. Higurashi,

You will please fulfill the P.A. duties of your second day by taking the puppy for a walk. The leash has already been provided."

-S.W.

"Excuse me for saying so, but your brother is an asshole."

Inuyasha barked in laughter, surprised. "That's the smartest thing you've said so far."

Kagome grinned. "Thanks, I guess."

They shuffled awkwardly for a moment, smiles slowly fading.

Inuyasha's hands fisted at his sides. He just didn't know what to do around the girl.

The dark haired girl sighed, studying the boy across from her. "Why don't we take care of the dust bunny problem, and then maybe go for a walk? It's such a beautiful day outside that I'd hate to waste it. Plus, I'm sure Bordeaux would enjoy a walk on something other than cement."

He looked up. "Cement? You live in the city?"

"Well yeah. You didn't think I lived out in the Borderlands, did you?" She grinned, and headed off to the lined closet. Inuyasha wandered after her, hating the way he seemed to follow her around. He was no better off than that damn dog.

"Shoot!"

Inuyasha's ears perked up as Kagome exited the closet.

The girl was frowning slightly, and almost bumped into him on her way out. "Oh. Your closet is sadly stocked in the way of magical pest extraction. We'll have to fix that. But luckily, I have my own reserves. I just have to go grab it from my car really quickly. Be right back!"

She walked off, and Inuyasha managed to hold out for an entire minute before following her. He scowled and watched from the front doorway as she rummaged through her trunk.

"You call that a car?"

He mentally yelled at himself for attracting her attention, never mind the fact that he'd interrupted his own private viewing of the way her jeans hugged her butt. Shut the fuck up, self! She's just one damn human girl, and way off limits. Get a hold of yourself.

"Aha!" She pulled a tote bag from the trunk, and closed the top. She eased past his stance in the doorway. "Yes, I call it a car. She sees me through."

He snorted. "If you say so. I thought only guys referred to their cars as women."

She shrugged, setting her tote down on the wood floor of the study. "I guess I never thought about it."

"Hn." He watched her pull a small bag of green leaves out of the larger tote. "What's that?"

She smiled over her shoulder. "Mint."

"Mint? What the hell? Do you need your dog for this too?"

She shook her head. "Nope. Would you mind closing the door?"

He grumbled, but did as she asked. She opened the windows as far as they would go, and returned to pick up a handful of mint. "Dust bunnies of the youkai variety are similar to real bunnies, in the sense that they both hate a few things; namely mint, thyme, and chives. I've found fresh mint to work the best, plus it leaves the room smelling nice. Silly but true."

She crushed the leaves into her palm with her other thumb, and Inuyasha's nose was assailed by the fresh scent. He sneezed, twice.

Kagome giggled, but ignored the glare from the boy. She cupped her hands around the newly crushed mint, whispered a quick word, and breathed into her hands. As she let the greenery fall from her palms, a soft wind stirred the herbs into small eddies.

Inuyasha watched as the small wind swirls quickly grew larger, and started to roam around the room. Small gray flecks were pulled into the wind, until three perfectly gray mini-tornadoes had formed.

Kagome whistled a single pure note, and the swirls flew out the window, bursting apart in the garden sunshine. She took a deep breath, and grinned. "Whew! I need a drink."

"Liquor or otherwise?"

Kagome blinked. "Was that a joke? Did you just make a joke?"

He turned away quickly, but not before she caught the hint of a smile on his lips. "Don't get used to it."

"Sure, sure. It's a bit early to be drinking though." As she trailed him to the kitchen, she saw his ear twitch at her remark.

He grabbed two bottles of water from the fridge, and tossed her one. "I didn't take you for a drinker."

"Didn't say I was. Guess you'll never know, huh?"

"Keh." His golden eyes sparked dangerously, entranced in their playful banter. This is unexpected, he thought. "How old are you, anyway?"

She took a swig of water from the bottle, and leaned on the counter. "Does it matter? How old are you?"

Inuyasha snorted. "I asked you first."

"I'm twenty-two. And you?"

"Twenty-four. Supposedly."

Her eyes widened. "Supposedly? Don't you know?"

He shrugged, nonchalant. "I'm not in the habit of celebrating birthdays." He looked uncomfortable at her shocked expression, and cleared his throat. "So, how do these damn annoying pests keep getting into my house?"

"Well, the dust bunnies are more common than you think. Humans have them as well, minus the magic. Regular dust clumps pick up magic, usually from youkai residents, and bam! You've got a youkai dust bunny. They're harmless enough, except for the tendency to aggravate allergies and eat books. They usually form in rooms that see little to no use."

She gave him a meaningful look.

"And the ugly green things? The gremlins?"

"Those are a little different." Her eyes glanced to the side for a moment, unsure. "They're not actually living creatures. They form from feelings of strong hatred, and sorrow. They feed on it, and cause more annoyances to 'eat' the bad feelings."

Inuyasha looked around the kitchen, feeling suddenly trapped. "Grab the mutt. It seems like I feel like taking a walk after all."

~~*~~

They walked in silence for half an hour, but unlike earlier, tense silences, this one was peaceful. Bordeaux was more animated than Kagome had ever seen him, prowling through bushes, chasing squirrels, and being a general dog. Every once in awhile though, he would pause, and keep one eye on Kagome. A true companion, he was always nearby.

Kagome herself was taken with the beauty of the forest. Everything was so alive. She found the tension easing from her shoulders, more carefree than she'd been in days. She was even starting to think that her new job would actually work out.

Inuyasha as well had an air of general relaxation. But ultimately, it was he who broke the silence. "Why don't you keep a collar on that dog?"

Kagome shrugged. "He doesn't need it."

"Isn't that illegal? Cities have laws against that stuff."

"That's true. He's registered, has all his shots, and does indeed have a collar. It's mostly for appearances. If we take a walk in the city, he has to be on a leash or people freak out. Probably because he's so big. But honestly, I hate them." She sighed. "It just doesn't seem right."

Inuyasha snorted in agreement. "Yeah."

"What was that quip in the note from your brother, anyway? About leashes, this morning, when he kindly suggested a walk."

Inuyasha's eyes hardened, and Kagome felt as though she could visibly see his demeanor of calm drain away. "Same old bullshit."

She wanted to kick herself for ruining the peaceful air. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable. But I have a feeling that the jabs aren't going to end anytime soon. And, well… I realize that you're half dog demon."

He smiled, verging on a grimace. "The ears kind of fucking give it away, right?"

She nodded, suddenly noticing that they had stopped walking. "I just…" her hands fidgeted nervously, "I just feel like you should be able to relax in your own home, you know?"

Inuyasha sighed as his ears drooped, looking more sad than angry. "Tell me about it." His gaze traveled past Kagome, to look on a sunshine lit meadow. It was the first break in the trees they'd seen since they'd started the walk.

She nodded her head towards the space, grinning. "Come on, why don't we get a bit of sun?"

Inuyasha frowned. "Speaking of goddamn leashes…"

She paused, confused at the harsh tone of his voice. "… Pardon?"

He shook his head. "Never mind. Go ahead. Give that dog a run for his money. I'm going to head back." He turned away without waiting for an answer.

Kagome watched him walk away, his shoulders slumped in a way that made her heart ache. She was missing some big piece of the puzzle that was Inuyasha, but for the life of her, she couldn't quite figure him out.

She returned to the house a bit later, a tired and happy Bordeaux at her side. She came in through the back sitting porch, hearing loud and angry music thump down through the ceiling, presumably from Inuyasha's room. She grinned, wryly. Now that I can understand, she thought.

She realized they'd missed lunch on their walk, so she set about doing a light cleanup before making dinner. She looked at the living room for the first time that day, amazed at the snack and ramen wrappers that littered the room. Is this how he eats when no one cooks for him?!

Inuyasha joined her, just as she was picking up the last wrapper. She leveled the wrapper at his nose, watching his eyes crossing in confusion. "Is this how you eat?'

"Huh?"

She threw the wrapper in the trash bag she carried. "Inuyasha… do you know how to cook?"

He snorted. "Are you blind? I can cook ramen. It's good enough."

She smooshed her face into her palm. "Oh dear."

"What?"

"Come on, it's time for a cooking lesson."

He shook his head, and planted his feet. "Oh no. I know how to work a microwave. I'm fine."

"Just, come on! I promise learning won't hurt too much."

He heaved a huge sigh and grumbled, but followed her nonetheless.

Kagome pulled a small pot from one of the lower cabinets, and displayed it to Inuyasha. "This is a pot."

He rolled his eyes. "Oh, ha ha. Funny."

She grinned, and pulled a couple of spices from various cabinets. Deliberately not looking at him, she made herself busy. "First things first. Could you boil some water, please?"

Inuyasha hesitated, feeling strangely disconnected from his own kitchen. Goddamn bitch making me do women's work. He frowned, but filled the pot with water. He stared at the stove for a minute, shooting glances at the girl to see if she was going to poke fun at him.

She however, was concentrating on dicing chicken, and paid him no mind.

He huffed, and placed the pot on top of the stove. He turned the dial until the flames ignited, and dialed them back until they were at a more reasonable level.

Kagome had to struggle to hold back a smile. Success!

The time passed quickly, with Kagome asking Inuyasha for help here and there. She made sure to work slowly and deliberately, so he could see what she was doing, without actually looking like he was paying attention. It was a system that worked perfectly.

When they were finished, two heaping bowls were filled with ramen (drained of water), grilled chicken, and fresh vegetables. Kagome finally allowed her grin to break out, and nodded her head proudly. "This looks good!"

Inuyasha snorted. "Keh. It can't be that much better than regular ramen."

Kagome rolled her eyes at his denial. "You'd be surprised at what a few extras, and cutting out the microwave can do."

"Keh."

"Come on, don't you want to taste your work?"

"I already know what it tastes like."

"Oh for goodness sake!" She tossed her hands up in the air. "Just sit down and-"

WHUMP.

"What the fuck, bitch?!"

Kagome blinked, wondering why Inuyasha had just thrown his own face into a tiled floor. "Are you ok?"

He growled, and slowly pulled himself off the floor, noticing one of his Italian marble tiles was cracked. "What the hell did you do?!"

Kagome sputtered for a moment, absolutely confused. "Me? I didn't do anything! I just told you to sit and-"

WHACK.

"You bitch! Stop fucking doing that!" He snarled, clawing at the tile. He heaved himself upwards, but it took a minute for him to make any progress, almost as though an invisible wall was pinning him to the floor. He scrambled frantically, claws gouging deep marks in the tile. His sudden lack of control scared him. When he was finally standing, his eyes were blood red.

"Is this some kind of joke? Is this why you're really here, you deceitful, lying, bitch?"

Kagome's mouth fell open, shocked at the intensity of his anger. She was uncomfortably reminded of another pair of red eyes, though those were feminine. What's going on? "What are you talking about?"

Inuyasha snarled violently again, and for the first time since her new assignment, Kagome felt the sharp stab of true fear in her gut. I thought it would be different this time… that I'd be safe. Just when it looked like she and Inuyasha could get along… Visions of Yura swirled through her minds eye, an unnecessary reminder of the harm youkai could inflict. Her hands started to shake, and her body turned ice cold.

Inuyasha grabbed the front of her shirt, and pulled her up to his eye level. The tips of her feet were barely touching the floor, and Inuyasha's face was painted with brightly burning anger. "Tell me the goddamn truth! All of your niceness was just an act to get me to drop my guard! Why did my brother really fucking send you here?"

Kagome shook her head back and forth, tears slipping from her eyes. She could feel the beginnings of a panic attack coming on. "I don't know what you're talking about! I didn't… I didn't mean to do anything!" Bordeaux, where are you? Help!

Inuyasha felt hot with rage, uncaring that his claws were beginning to tear through the girl's shirt. He felt betrayed, and even worse, he felt a fool. How could he have been so blind?

A low growl pierced the air, steadily rising in volume. Bordeaux had arrived, stalking forward with teeth bared. This was not a warning. It was a flat out threat, backed up with intent, and jaws to match. Inuyasha snarled back at the dog, amazed at the ferocity burning in the dog's gray eyes, yet annoyed that he was getting painted as the bad guy. "Stay out of this, mongrel."

Bordeaux howled, a chilling sound in the otherwise warmly lit kitchen. Kagome began to struggle, desperate for air. She felt like she was drowning. "Please," she rasped, "I don't know what happened. Please put me down."

"Shut up, you fucking miko scum!" He shook her hard again for good measure, boiling with anger he hadn't felt in years. I can't handle this shit again. Fucking mikos.

Bordeaux had had enough. He snarled, and launched himself at Inuyasha, sinking long teeth into the hanyou's arm. Inuyasha barely flinched, and watched with detached fascination as blood started to trickle down his arm, staining Kagome's shirt.

For one moment in time, the trio formed a grotesque picture. An enraged hanyou versus a frantic miko, an outmatched dog desperately attempting to protect his master, while blood dripped steadily and started to pool on the floor.

But with the pain came clarity. Inuyasha blinked, and took a good look at the girl he held in the air. Her eyes were squeezed shut, breath coming in frantic little gasps. What kind of threat did she really pose? She looked about ready to pass out. He unclenched his fist, dropping her harshly onto the floor. He shook the dog off, feeling a layer of skin detach from his arm in the dog's mouth.

Bordeaux snarled violently again, but walked slowly over to Kagome. He gave the girl a cautious sniff, one eye watching Inuyasha with a creepy intensity.

Inuyasha took a deep breath, and stared at the pair on the floor. Something is very fucking wrong here. As his pulse slowed down, the gold returned to his eyes… along with a massive headache. He swooned for a moment, feeling lightheaded. Shit, he thought, looking down at his arm. Blood loss.

His blood pressure bottomed out, and his eyes rolled into the back of his head. He hit the floor with a thick sound, smearing the blood that had pooled around him.

Kagome was still gasping for air, trying to control her own panicked reaction to his quick bout of violence. Calm down, calm down, you're fine, you're just fine. Breathe. She opened her eyes, noticing that Inuyasha had passed out. She stood up shakily, observing the scene as though she was very far away. She turned, intending to go to her car. She took a few steps, and stopped.

Bordeaux was sitting next to Inuyasha, giving his head a good sniff. All signs of aggression were gone.

"Bordeaux," she called softly, her voice sounding like she had just gargled chalk, "Let's go." She took a few more steps, waiting for the dog to fall in step next to her.

But he never did.

Bordeaux whined softly, and Kagome turned around in time to see him lick Inuyasha's face. He's never that affectionate to anyone but me. What the hell? She snapped her fingers, trying to catch the dog's attention. "Come on Bordeaux! Let's get out of here!"

The dog gave her a sorrowful gaze, and lay down amidst the blood, right next to Inuyasha.

Kagome fingered the phone in her pocket, debating between bolting for her car, and calling Miroku. But she couldn't leave Bordeaux behind… and why was he so intent to stay next to someone he'd just attacked?

Kagome grimaced, and started to look for a first aid kit. "Bordeaux, I hope you're a better judge of character than I am."

~~*~~

Inuyasha awoke to a peal of thunder, wondering why his head felt like it was made of shattered glass. He blinked, willing his vision to focus. When it did, he discovered his arm was bandaged, and he was laid out on the living room couch. He was also encased in a barrier.

"Morning, sleepy head." Kagome's tone was anything but friendly. "Or should I say, good afternoon, you freaking psycho."

He bolted up, immediately regretting the action. "What the fuck is this, bitch?"

The girl scowled. "I made a mistake apparently, believing you would be any different. This," she indicated the barrier, "Is for my own protection."

Inuyasha snorted, and lay back down. "Whatever. That's my line."

Kagome laughed sourly. "Right. Because I'm the one who attacked you."

"Your dog sure as hell did."

"Because you looked like you were going to kill me!"

He turned his head to glare back at her. "Because you fucking slapped me with a spell!"

"I did not!"

"Oh yeah?" Inuyasha could feel his anger slowly rising again. "Then what the fuck would you call it?"

Hesitation and confusion clouded her expression, and she paused before answering. "I don't know what to call it. I'm still not sure what happened. I've never done anything like that before."

Another scathing remark was ready on his tongue, but he never said it. His nose detected no lie in her words, and more than anything, he wanted to believe that it had been simply an accident. The past day and half with her had been comfortable, calming even. Unfortunately, past experiences stood in the way of an easy truce.

He sighed. "Why go through the effort of bandaging me up if you're only here to kill me?"

Kagome gasped in horror. "What? Is that why you think I'm here?"

Inuyasha closed his eyes. "Isn't it? It wouldn't be the first time."

She stood up, affronted, right next to the edge of the barrier. "What makes you think I'm even capable of such a thing?"

He waved a hand towards the barrier. "That, for starters. Whatever magic that was in the kitchen. You're a miko, after all."

"Not a very good one!"

Inuyasha snorted. "Whatever." His tone was jaded beyond recognition. "Just tell me what you want, then get the fuck out." Another peal of thunder boomed through the house, and the soft pat of rain started to sound on the roof.

Kagome sighed, and sat back down in a nearby chair. "I don't want anything. In fact, I just wanted to get the hell out of here, but apparently, Bordeaux disagrees."

Inuyasha blinked, noticing for the first time that Bordeaux was in the barrier with him, lying right next to the couch. "What the hell?"

She shrugged. "I don't know. He's never left my side before."

Inuyasha scowled at the furry gray mass on the floor next to him. "Damn dog, make up your mind. You either hate my guts, or you don't."

Kagome flipped her phone over in her hands as they sat in silence for a few moments, wondering why she even still cared what happened to Inuyasha. While he had been unconscious, she had tried to figure out what exactly transpired in the kitchen. But unfortunately, she came up blank. Whatever had happened, it had triggered a very scary reaction in him. She flipped her phone over again, the plastic casing clicking slightly against her ring.

Inuyasha gave a long-suffering sigh, his ears tweaking every time her ring made contact. Click click. Pause. Click click. "It helps if you actually dial a number, bitch."

Kagome leveled a glare back at him. "I've tried that already, baka." She walked over to the window, and pulled the curtain aside. "It's really starting to rain hard outside. I can't get a signal."

Inuyasha's nose twitched, sensing a build in electricity. "Lightning's on its way as well."

"How can you- eek!" With a loud crack, a bright flash of lightning interrupted her.

"Told you."

She blew the air out of her cheeks, and looked back at the boy. All the life seemed to have left him. Granted, he was bruised and injured, but his whole demeanor was that of someone who had given up… on everything. His mood swings were starting to give her whiplash. She toyed with her phone a few more times, but one question still nagged at her.

"You had the chance. Why didn't you hurt me?"

Inuyasha stopped the incessant tapping of his foot against the armrest of the couch, caught off guard. He snorted in response, saying, "Look at you. Some little slip of a girl. You couldn't really hurt me."

"Why should that matter?"

Inuyasha growled, annoyed at having to talk about the inner workings of his own mind. "Well, fuck bitch. Would you have been happier if I broke your neck?"

"At least that would make sense."

He laughed, a cold sound devoid of mirth. "Probably." His laughter died off, and he stared at the ceiling. "I guess it's just one more thing I can thank my fucking human side for."

Kagome pocketed her phone. Miroku, I'm going to kill you for putting me in this situation. She glanced at Inuyasha, noting his demeanor was back to normal. It was easy to forget that he was half-human, with his shock of white hair, bright golden eyes and dog ears loudly proclaiming her was anything but. She dissected the confrontation in the kitchen over and over again in her mind, picking up new details she had missed in her panic. "Did you know your eyes turn red?"

It took a moment for him to answer. "Yeah… I know."

"It was really scary."

He tossed an arm over his face. "Whatever."

"If I drop the barrier, do you promise not to try and kill me?"

He grinned. "No."

"Damnit, work with me here! I can't leave until Bordeaux gets over his crush on you."

"Not my problem."

She took a deep breath; ready to yell at him some more, but another harsh crack of lightning silenced her. She shuddered, humiliated at her own fear of storms. The stress of the day seemed to bring out all her fears at once, all of which could be traced to a certain hair demon many years ago. She wrapped her fingers in the hem of her shirt, telling herself to get over it.

Inuyasha warily watched her from the couch, noting the tight clench of her body. He groaned, and sat up slowly. "Drop the barrier and get your dog, bitch. I won't touch you."

Her eyes skittered around nervously, her tension mounting as the storm howled heavily outside. "You swear?"

"Yeah, I fucking swear."

She dispelled the barrier, and sat as far away from him as possible.

He rolled his eyes, and huffed at the dog. "All right, Bordeaux. Go comfort your woman."

The dog gave a soft "wuff" and walked happily to Kagome. He snuffled her ear, gave her nose a good lick, before turning in a circle, and laying his weight on her leg.

"Thanks." It didn't escape her notice that he'd used the dog's actual name for once. I guess I'm not good enough for that honor yet, she thought.

"Keh. You want to tell me why you're suddenly such a wuss?"

"You want to tell me what the deal is with that rosary?"

Inuyasha started, realizing that the beads were once again in plain view. What the fuck… "Nope."

"Then I guess I had better be on my way."

Inuyasha yawned. "Fine. Told you it was only a matter of time before you quit."

"Looks like it." She stood, grabbed her keys, and headed for the door.

Inuyasha heard, rather than watched her walk to the door. He waited for it to click closed, but the sound never came. After a minute, his curiosity got the better of him. He turned to see her standing in the open doorway, staring out into the rain. "What's the matter, bitch? Miss me already?" he sneered.

She turned to face him, rain falling through the open door, her expression wooden. "My car's crushed. A tree fell on it."

Inuyasha blinked. "Well, shit."

~~*~~

Ringggg, ringggg, ringggg. Inuyasha tapped his foot impatiently, cursing all known technology.

Ringggg, ringggg. He angrily snapped his spare phone shut. "Fucking Seshoumaru. He always picks up." He looked back out the window, hating the heavy rain. It must really be bad weather for a call to not reach overdressed half-brother. Bastard had the best damn service available. His eyes touched on Kagome's little blue geo, the remains not more than a twisted blue heap with a huge fucking tree on top. The loud cracks of lightning had been closer than the two had thought, and her car was an unlucky bystander.

Unfortunately, it also meant that she was stuck in the damn house with him until they could call for a car. And none of the fucking calls will go through. He scowled.

There had been a good ten-minute stand off after the discovery of the car, with her standing in the gaping doorway, getting soaked. He had made some crack about her car being a piece of shit anyway, and she'd looked close to tears.

He'd gone upstairs, trying to get as far away from her as possible. But after an hour, his stomach started to protest. Dinner had, after all, gotten postponed. He tiptoed downstairs, feeling like an idiot for sneaking through his own house. He made it safely to the kitchen, noticing that the blood had been cleaned up. She must have done it whenever she cleaned up that damn dog. One lonely bowl sat on the counter, a symbol of the simpler tone of the early day.

He stuck the bowl in the microwave, grinning. Wonder what she'd think of that, after all her talk about 'real' cooking. He quickly scowled, abruptly cutting off the fond tone of his thoughts. Damn bitch.

He sat down resolutely, determined not to be impressed with he was about to eat. After one bite though, it became apparent that this spiced up dish was much better than his regular stock of ramen.

"Tastes better, doesn't it?"

He jumped, the fork falling from his hand into the deep bowl. He sneered, refusing to look at her while he rescued the utensil. "I still microwaved it."

He heard a chair scrape against the tile, in the corner of the kitchen. "But you still cooked it."

He snorted, and continued to eat in silence for a few more minutes. His eyes kept shooting to the broken tiles, a firm reminder that they were no longer on friendly terms. But she still cleaned up… He slammed the fork onto the counter, glaring daggers into his ramen. "You didn't have to clean up, you know."

She rolled her eyes. "I know."

"Then why'd you do it?"

"Because… we were almost on friendly terms. And it's my job."

Now that surprised him. Why should she care if they were friends or not?

"Look. I don't know what it is that you think I'm here to do, but," she sighed, exhausted at the day's events, "I'm just me. Kagome. And I've been hired to clean your house. The end. No ulterior motive. No schemes." She shook her head, even though he couldn't see it. "And I don't like the feeling of being hated."

He laughed at that, pushing the bowl away. "That's life. Get used to it."

"But it was going so well! I was… never mind."

His ears perked up, and he looked over his shoulder at her. She was slumped forward, shivering, staring at the table as though it would fix the whole mess. He sniffed, catching the scent of tears. Damnit… don't cry on me, bitch…

She sniffed quietly, obviously trying not to attract attention. "It was almost fun." Her words were so quiet, that if his hearing hadn't been youkai enhanced, he wouldn't have caught them. He could plainly see that she was still soaking wet, however, and shivering.

He growled, and stomped off to his room.

Kagome watched him sulk off, wondering what to do. She didn't feel safe, per say, but… it was Inuyasha. Somehow, for one quick moment, she'd threatened him and taken away his control. After that, he'd had a prime opportunity to deal her real damage, and he hadn't. She'd never heard of a youkai, or even a hanyou doing that.

"Catch."

She looked up, getting a wad of fabric to the face. She stuttered, and grabbed the lump. It was a sweatshirt and linen pants. "What…"

"You're dripping wet, and shivering. Go fucking change, idiot."

She blinked, taken aback at the gesture. Why would he… She walked off to the bathroom in a daze.

Inuyasha drummed his nails on the counter, trying hard not to think at all. He frowned, and dumped the rest of his meal in the trash, his appetite gone. After all the fucking drama of the day, what he really needed was-

"Can I take you up on that drink?"

She'd changed, looking far more appealing than she had right to in his oversized red sweatshirt. The pants were a bit too long, so she'd rolled them at the cuffs.

"Keh. If you want."

He grabbed a bottle of sake and two shot glasses from a low cabinet, taking a seat across from her at the table.

He filled the glasses, and handed her one. She stared at it for a moment, a wry grin twisting her lips. "Since I'm losing my job anyway..." She held it up it mock salute, and tossed the liquid back.

Inuyasha followed suit, watching her from the corner of his eye. She took a shot decently, for a girl. He poured another, sliding hers across the table.

"Thanks for the clothes."

He nodded, and tossed the drink back.

Kagome did as well, making a face at the taste. She hesitated as he poured a third. "Hang on, I'm going to need something else to wash this down." She nicked a bottle of soda from the fridge, and poured herself a glass. "Do you want any?"

He shook his head mutely, swirling the clear liquid in his glass. What am I doing? Now we're fucking drinking buddies? This is too damn weird.

He waited for her to take her seat, before slamming his third drink. Kagome took a breath, and followed again, taking a healthy swig of pop directly after. She looked up, unexpectantly catching an intense gaze from Inuyasha.

She blinked, wondering what was going on behind those golden eyes. "What?"

Inuyasha growled, breaking the eye contact. "What the hell are you doing out here in the borderlands, anyway?"

She shrugged, toying with her empty glass. "It was my assignment."

He snorted. "Bullshit. You could've turned it down."

"I almost did."

His clicked his nails on the tabletop, intrigued, and hating that his interest in the girl still persisted. "But?"

She slid her gaze to the bottle, and plunked her glass down next to it.

He took the hint, poured another round, and threw it back with her.

"Whew." She took another sip of soda, alcohol warming her much quicker than a simple change of clothes could. "But… I guess I wanted to prove something to myself. And to help Miroku."

He blinked at the unknown name. "Who's he? Some halfwit boyfriend?"

Kagome laughed. "Hardly. He's my boss, and a really good friend."

Inuyasha grunted in response. "So your 'really good friend' sent you out into the borderlands with just a dog? Some friend."

She frowned, and tucked a piece of hair behind her ear. "No… he offered me the job. Said someone had specifically requested me, and that a full background check had been run… he assured me it would be safe." Rain continued to pour heavily on the back porch, showing no sign of letting up.

Inuyasha's eyes widened at the news that someone had requested Kagome in particular. Seshoumaru, that twat. What's he up to now… "He was wrong. The borderlands are never safe."

"I'm finding that to be more and more true."

Her bitter tone said more to him than anything else. "You've been out here before."

She nodded, sliding her glass forward. "Last one, for now."

He nodded, and joined her for one more drink. She slammed the glass down with much more force, past recollections making her eyes hard. "I wanted to make new memories, so the old ones wouldn't haunt me so much."

For once, he was silent. He let her continue on.

"Yura… that bitch. She was one of my first clients. I was much younger, only eighteen at the time. Miroku and I were new to the business, and didn't really know too much at that point. We'd heard stories of course, but she was wealthy, and we jumped at the chance to make a name for ourselves. There was no way to know, of course…"

He watched as her hands started to shake.

"She locked me in her cellar for three days. The weather had been bad on the drive up, and it stormed like hell the whole time I was there. After my first day of work, she locked me up before I could leave. Slapped me around a bit. And the cellar… it was covered in skulls. She had a fascination with hair, and had decided that she wanted to add mine to her collection. But it had to be my whole head." She shuddered.

"I still don't know how I made it out of there alive. I begged, pleaded, and screamed. Something worked. Miroku showed up with the police on the third day, frantic. They found me half starved, covered in bruises and lacerations, and in shock. It must have all been a game to her. She let them take me away, saying something like my 'miko energy was tainting the collection'."

Kagome shook her head, lost in dark thoughts. "It was hell. There was this whole network of hair that kept me from moving, and it felt like razor sharp steel… it could easily cut skin, I found that much out. At night, the skulls… she would come down at night and brush my hair, whispering terrible things. The skulls would come alive, and crowd around her, like rats. Her eyes were bright red, and you could see them even in the dark."

Her grip tightened on the glass, and she looked up with a forced smile. "I got home, and chopped my hair off. My mom found me in the bathroom, with a pair of scissors, just hacking off my hair. It was a long time before I slept." She turned to look away from Inuyasha's scrutinizing gaze. "I guess I thought that if my hair wasn't pretty, I'd be safe. That's actually how I got Bordeaux. He helped me get my first good night's sleep in months." She smiled finally.

Inuyasha flipped his glass over, calling it quits on the booze. He shook his head in wonder at the girl before him. "Yet you still fucking came back out here…"

She shrugged. "Stupid, I guess. A couple years have passed, I got the confidence to grow my hair long again, and I wanted to prove that not all youkai are bad. Or at least, that I could handle myself around them. It's kind of crucial to the business. And," she tossed her hands up, "The money was sorely tempting."

He snorted at that. "Money talks."

She nodded in agreement. "Especially when you don't have much of it. This job was supposed to help me finish school…"

At her downcast look, he felt a pang of guilt. He'd just fucked up her plan to overcome past fears by proving youkai were unsafe, and making her forfeit her job in one go. That was one for the records, even for him.

He flipped his glass back over, tempted to give the bottle another go. Kagome noticed his motion, and grinned, sliding her glass next to his. "I can honestly say that I never expected this to happen, though."

He poured another round, and they drank. He could feel his limbs grow heavier with another shot of alcohol pumping through his system, and allowed a small grin to sneak onto his lips. "What, drinking with a hanyou?"

She grinned back despite herself. "In a sense. Brawling with a client, then losing said client's employment, and finishing the day with a heavy dose of alcohol- with client."

Inuyasha blinked, processing her words. "Technically, I haven't fired you yet."

She paused. "Technically, I haven't quit yet."

They paused for another beat, before simultaneously reaching for the bottle. Inuyasha brushed the top of her hand, and he jolted back as though he'd been shocked. Her skin was even softer than it looked…

He cleared his throat, and poured another drink apiece. There was no denying it now. He was getting good and toasted.

Kagome took her drink, and fumbled with her placing of the cup. "All right," she stated. "I told you a story I never expected to tell. Your turn."

"Keh! So?"

"Soooooo," she drawled, "You need to tell me what's up with that rosary you keep trying to hide."

Inuyasha tsked, and automatically fingered the beads around his neck. "You shouldn't even be able to see the damn thing, first of all."

Kagome leaned her cheek in her palm, watching the way his cheeks flushed. Granted, alcohol was playing a heavy part in making someone who almost killed her hours earlier look appealing, but stranger things had happened. Their current conversation, for starters…

Inuyasha groaned, and rolled his head back. "I'm gonna regret this."

He poured another shot, sloshing a bit over each glass. "Basically," he started, before gulping the shot, "This fucking thing…" he tugged on the beads, "Is a collar."

Kagome blinked, and downed the contents of her glass. "Bleh! What do you mean?"

He stared hard at the table, unable to meet her gaze. "I'm trapped here. Sealed to this house… I can't leave."

"But, earlier today…" She stumbled over the words, trying to wrap her mind around the bomb he'd just dropped. "We went on a walk. You left the house."

"Barely. That clearing that you found? That's as far as I can go. Trust me," he growled, "I've fucking tested it."

"How long?"

"How long have I been stuck here?" He hesitated, and poured another shot. She nodded at his offer, and they drank again.

"Since I was five."

~~*~~

Chapter two, fin! Click that handy review button, and tell me what you thought, minna-san!