Meh, couldn't resist. Call me a masochist, since I had absolutely no idea where this was going to go after like a couple paragraphs . . . but I can't leave my public waiting. Watch me bask in applause (NOT). For, you know, the update for a belated V-day oneshot IN APRIL. I'm nothing if not punctual, eh?
Another warning of OOC-ness and slight Kikyou bashing (although less so this time). Also, much much angst on teh part of the idiot couple.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Happy Valentine's Day
The word was breathed out of her lips and into his, its taste the sweetest thing to ever grace him . . . The most sensual truth he'd ever experienced, with a girl he'd met not twenty-four hours ago – or possibly several lifetimes ago . . .
If this was what a kiss from Kagome felt like – pure lightning shooting through his veins – then his mind boggled to imagine what Something More would do to him. She was the antithesis of Kikyou in every respect – how had he survived with a Kikyou of the world when there were Kagomes out there?
No, not more than one. There was only this Kagome.
Kagome. Kagome Kagome Kagome. Ka-go-me. Kagome.
"Kikyou . . ."
And just like that, the spell broke. The sweet truth he'd inhaled was turned sickeningly sour by an accidental moan of a name he'd wanted to expel.
Kagome went stiff as a board and roughly slammed her palms against Inuyasha's shoulders. She practically leaped to the other side of the couch, as far from him as possible. The look on her face was a pained combination of dejected ire, miserable incredulity, a crestfallen vulnerability . . . Inuyasha felt an even greater self-hatred then before claw its way into his gut and chest.
As her face melted of the ire and all that was left was the misery and its friends, Inuyasha watched another poisonous emotion paint itself onto Kagome's pretty face: a just as potent reflection of the crippling self-hatred he was feeling for himself.
Kagome hated herself . . . and it was all because of him.
"Oh god," she breathed. A hand came up and dragged through her smooth black hair.
Shame was a harsh slap in the face for Inuyasha, firm on both cheeks. They stung with their blush, as he really had been slapped. And, judging from the unhealthy pink glow radiating from Kagome's perfect cheeks, she was feeling something of the same. The venomous green monster of self-hatred cackled at the display, eating it up and growing steadily larger with every bite.
"Oh god," Kagome repeated, louder and firmer as she pushed herself up off the couch. Her hands flew to her face and scrubbed up and down before crawling up the rest of the way to clench around handfuls of her hair.
"Kagome, I . . ." He what? What could he say? "I-I'm sorry . . ."
He might as well have informed her then that smooth was his middle name.
Neither of them spoke. The silence cut through Inuyasha to the awful, hateful feelings that were smirking at the rest of him. The monster called self-hatred and the poison called silence met with a handshake and then immediately jumped into a "Rocky"-worthy fist fight, eagerly tearing apart Inuyasha's insides and, he suspected, his heart.
He wanted to throw up.
His nausea increased the next moment when Kagome laughed.
Humorlessly, to be sure, but she laughed. It wasn't the beautiful sound Inuyasha wanted to bottle and keep forever, but she laughed. It sounded like it wanted to morph into a sob, but she laughed.
And as she turned to him with one hand still gripping a fistful of hair and a smile so desperate dripping from her face, Inuyasha sort of wanted to laugh, too.
Humorlessly. Not a beautiful sound. Two steps from a sob.
But he still wanted to laugh.
"I . . . I don't– " Kagome choked suddenly, startling him out of his near-hysterics. He watched her throat move as she swallowed hard, closing her eyes almost angelically.
She exhaled slowly – stalling. "I don't just . . . just fool around with . . ." She trailed off. Her eyes were still closed.
Was this the same feisty, cynical barmaid Inuyasha had met maybe three or four hours ago? The same girl he taken advice from without thinking twice? The same woman he'd shared more with in the short time that he'd known her than most of his friends in as many months? The same sweet, sensual truth-teller that had breathed into his mouth like she was giving him life?
"Fooling around," though? Did she consider it that? Did she think he considered it that?
Under his gaze, her deep gray eyes snapped open with a sudden exhaustion, and Inuyasha felt vaguely queasy.
"You have a girlfriend, Inuyasha," Kagome stated. No emotion in her voice. It was like she was pointing out the rain outside or the answer to a math equation – just telling him bare facts.
It wasn't as if he could deny that, because it was a bare fact. And he couldn't tell her how deep a connection he felt with her, because . . . he had a girlfriend. The fates were against him on this one – sitting in the front row with that little green monster called self-hatred and his poisonous friend silence, watching sadistically as this – not relationship, not fling . . . – whatever he had with Kagome imploded before all their eyes.
"Kagome, what can I say that will make this better?" he croaked helplessly to her, ignoring the jeers and cackles from his audience.
Because it wasn't as if any of that had stopped him before.
She didn't respond to him, but he could hear her deep breathing: in out, in out, in out, slightly ragged from God knows what. She closed her eyes again, shielding him from her exhaustion, only to reopen them and reveal to Inuyasha a look of confusion and sadness that shook him more drastically than he would have thought possible.
"I think you should go," she whispered slowly.
He was too stunned to protest.
When he reached her door, he turned around to look at her for the last time – probably ever. She was staring at him without emotion, the sadness and confusion wiped away. This stabbed a bit at Inuyasha's insides (he refused to acknowledge it as his heart), but he swallowed the pain that he told himself was irrational and raised a hand slightly in goodbye. And then he was gone.
Kagome stared at the door where he had just stood until she felt her mask crack. Her brows arched up and tears welled in her eyes, so she squeezed them shut and bit her lip angrily. She felt lightheaded as her knees wobbled and threatened to give out – she let herself drop onto the couch, the exhaustion back. Roughly rubbing her eyes, she tried to wipe away the horrible feeling in her gut.
"I need a drink."
After hauling ass to her kitchen and slumping back on the couch, nursing a beer and telling herself she wasn't really crying, Kagome got mad. She didn't know who she was mad at – Inuyasha, herself, both, whatever – but she knew she didn't like the bitter, burning emotion that gave her heartburn and made her whole world look ugly. She should have gotten used to it by now, but as cynical as she acted – and was, for the most part – she was a hopeless romantic at heart. She still didn't care about over-hyped, commercialized shit like Valentine's Day, it just meant she sunk lower than most people when feelings like this struck.
She tried to convince herself that it was Inuyasha she was mad at. He'd let her kiss him when he knew that he'd be cheating on his girlfriend.
Except that she was the one who kissed him first . . .
Well, okay, but he'd come into her apartment, where he knew they'd be all alone.
Except that she was the one who invited him up . . .
Yeah, fine, but he'd talked to her for hours at the bar and on the street and he knew what he was doing.
Except that she was the one who'd responded to his semi-drunken rambling . . .
Kagome tipped her beer back only to discover it was empty. She grimaced – it figured that someone who enabled drunks for a living would turn to the bottle at the first sign of pain. So she trudged again to the kitchen and pulled out another beer and finally owned up to the truth.
She wasn't mad at Inuyasha. It was her own fault, all of it. She spoke to him first. She invited him up when he was leaving. She kissed him. So that meant that she deserved the pain she was feeling.
But it wasn't supposed to hurt this much, was it? She'd met him only a couple hours ago. A heart doesn't break over a relative stranger; a world doesn't turn as black as Kagome's was when that stranger walks away.
Kagome didn't believe in love at first sight, nor love at first-twenty-four-hours-of-knowing.
She watched in slow motion as her bottle fell from her slack hand and exploded across the floor. The tears she didn't want to be tears soon followed and were just as quickly hidden amongst the rivers of booze and glass. Without bothering to wipe her eyes, she knelt down and began carefully picking up the broken remnants of her drowned sorrow.
She repeated, "I need a drink."
Inuyasha didn't know what time it was exactly when he found himself at Miroku and Sango's, only that it was either way too late at night or way too early in the morning. He let himself in with the key they'd given him and almost made it safely to the couch to crash before he accidentally knocked over a stack of books that caused a loud crash to disrupt the night. He cursed himself half-heartedly and tried to pick up the mess, but he was turned temporarily blind when the bright overhead light was flicked on.
"Inuyasha?" came Miroku's vaguely worried voice, slurred with sleep. Inuyasha looked to the doorway and saw his friend in purple pajama pants and no shirt, rubbing his eyes, and Sango behind him with a hand on her rounded abdomen.
"Wass going on, Inuyasha?" Miroku continued to slur. "What time issit?"
"Are you alright, Inuyasha?" he heard Sango ask, sounding much more awake than her husband.
"I . . ." he started. But he didn't know what to say. He still felt numb. Kagome's dismissal of him – "I think you should go" – continued to ring in his ears. She was making him crazy, even in her absence.
He was so lost in this that he didn't notice Sango approaching until she was standing in front of him – he got the impression that she wanted to get down to his eye level but was wholly unable to. But she offered her hand to him and helped pull him up, before tugging them both down to the couch. She gave a let-me-handle-this look to Miroku, who gladly took the opportunity to return to bed. Then, she exhaled slowly and turned to Inuyasha.
"What's her name?"
Maybe Inuyasha should have guessed that the emotion that would shove him out of his numbness was shock, but he didn't, so all he could do was stare open-mouthed at Sango. Her expression was world-weary and motherly, a sort exasperated affection lining her face. Inuyasha realized that it was probably the face he'd see most often from her, with the baby on the way, but it was still surprising to see such a . . . maternal look on the face of a girl his age.
But that was only a small addition to his shock. How on earth did Sango know about Kagome from just his face? Was he that obvious? Was she guessing?
"What makes you think . . . ?" he muttered, unable to look at her damn sagely face any longer.
He heard her scoff softly. "Only one thing in the world can cause a man to look the way you do right now," she told him, "and that's a woman. So what's her name?"
Inuyasha didn't respond because truthfully he was a bit pissed at Sango's all-knowing wisdom. Was she like this before she got pregnant? He couldn't remember.
And . . . really truthfully, he didn't trust himself to say her name. He wasn't sure what would happen to his face when her name would pass his lips – no matter how small the tick or change, he was sure Sango would catch it and over-analyze it to death.
"Is it because of Kikyou?" Sango asked quietly.
At this, Inuyasha felt a surge of guilt. He hadn't thought of Kikyou since he'd accidentally let her name slip back at Kagome's. His girlfriend hadn't crossed his mind once during his entire walk home. But he became angry when he realized a moment later that all of this was because of Kikyou.
She was the one who had made him start stressing about Valentine's Day in the first place, which led him to Kagome's bar, which led him to Kagome, which led him to talking with and then kissing Kagome. Which led him here.
And then his mind was back at Kagome, which did smart a bit. He was still angry at himself for all of it and god damn confused. Did Kagome push him away because she wasn't actually interested? That seemed most probable, but what about all her "barmaids tell the truth" talk right before the kiss? Didn't that mean something? It had to, right?
Inuyasha contemplated asking Sango for a woman's opinion, but he knew that if he did he would have to explain the whole night to her and, as he said earlier, she would read way too much into it. Because . . . there wasn't anything to read at all . . . was there?
"Hey Sango . . ."
"Yeah?" was her cautious reply.
"What did you think of Miroku the first time you saw him?" Inuyasha asked, slightly embarrassed. "Was it . . . I don't know . . . love at first sight? Or something?"
He turned to see her giving him a very curious look, something that read like Are you high? He was ready to mumble a "never mind" if it meant she'd stop looking at him like a crazy person, but apparently he needn't worry.
"The first time I saw Miroku," she mused – she wasn't looking at him at all now, not that he blamed her. She rubbed her bloated bump absently. "Well, I thought he was pretty cute, but in sort of a douchebag-y way. Because, you know, he tried to grab my friend's ass, and then two minutes later he tried to grab mine."
Inuyasha rolled his eyes; that sounded like Miroku.
"So no, I wouldn't say it was love at first sight, but he did get my attention in a way I haven't forgotten to this day," she told him with a smitten smile taking form on her lips. "That asshole." But her tone was affectionate and teasing and Inuyasha felt sick.
"Are you avoiding my questions?" she asked, the endearing smile gone without warning. It threw him off.
"Um . . ."
"Is this about Kikyou?" she repeated earnestly. "I can't help you if I don't know what's going on, Inuyasha. Help me help you."
It was Kagome's truth serum, he knew it. That was what made him spill his guts to her at the bar, and on the way to her apartment, and so on and so forth, and it was what made him tell Sango now. Although he gave her the vaguest details he could that he knew could actually help, Sango followed patiently and quietly, nodding and reacting in all the appropriate parts. She didn't say a word until he'd finished, but then she just frowned at him.
"You forgot one detail."
"Her fucking name, idiot."
In the midst of his paranoia – suck on that, truth serum – Inuyasha had purposely left out Kagome's name, afraid she . . . did yoga with Sango or something and they were best friends there because they were both the most bendy. Whatever. He didn't want to risk Sango having an aha! moment and being all, "Wait, it was that girl? Wow, didn't think she'd stoop that low. Next week's class is gonna be awkward." (Inuyasha didn't think to consider that with Sango's current state she wasn't in much shape for yoga.)
Sango seemed to take his silence as reluctance – which is sort of was – because she let out another maternal sigh and said, "That's okay, you don't have to tell me."
Tentatively, but sincerely, he replied, "Thank you."
They sat quietly for some time before Inuyasha built up the courage to ask her, "So what does it all mean? What did I do wrong?"
"You mean besides the obvious?"
Sango nodded vaguely. "Well, the ex's name surely did not help the situation. And the fact that you kissed her– "
"She kissed me, though!"
She rolled her eyes. "The fact that you kissed her back," she clarified, "might suggest to a person that you are callous and flippant – er, not that you are," she added after catching sight of his deflated puppy look. "I'm just saying, it might have been wiser to slow things down a bit. She was probably just embarrassed to be kissing a guy she'd just met. Maybe she was afraid you thought she was a slut."
"But I didn't," Inuyasha insisted. "Why would she think that after all the talking we did? I mean, I – it's like I've known her for years, you know?" He sighed. "What does that even mean?"
Sango shrugged and said, "Memories from a past life?"
"Oh yeah, I bet we were lovers back in Feudal Japan or something. Try to be serious."
They were silent again. Inuyasha kicked his shoes off to kill time. Then, Sango attempted to push herself off the couch, to Inuyasha's semi-surprise. She struggled a bit, trying to support her back and belly.
"You want some hel– "
"No, I got it."
Once she was safely balanced, she turned to Inuyasha and gave her final two-cents. "You and I both know that your relationship with Kikyou has been dead for months now," she stated, "and from what you've told me about this girl, she probably knows that too. But it's scary to feel that much that quickly; that's why your mystery girl pulled away." She started for her and Miroku's room, and turned again at the doorway. "Cut your ties with Kikyou before you see this girl again, and then you can kiss her without regret. I promise."
He stared at her retreating back as she mumbled, "Try to get some sleep, lover boy."
In addition to the list of people that tell the truth, he mentally added Sango's name and pregnant women in general.
Within a half-breathy laugh, he said it again. "Thank you."
Kagome didn't know she'd fallen asleep until she woke up the next morning to the sound of her cell phone blaring angrily next to her head. Before she could swear about fucking loud ringers, she remembered her night . . . and Inuyasha . . . and the beers that had followed. So maybe the ringer was at normal volume and she was just reclaiming her title of Princess Hangover (now where did she put that crown?).
The phone continued to chirp and buzz on her bedside table – she figured the annoying little fucker wouldn't stop until it was answered, so she flipped it open and croaked, "Hello?"
"Kagome-san," came the monotonous voice of Kanna, one of Kagome's coworkers from The Shikon.
Kanna worked day shifts mostly, and she was – what was a polite word for it . . . robotic? Frigid? – er, antisocial, so Kagome wasn't that close to her. It surprised Kagome that Kanna would call her, and that she would have her number at all.
"Oh, uh, Kanna, hi." She sat up in bed. "What's up?"
"As you might know, I am delegated to work the day shift at The Shikon today," Kanna said in her clear, unchanging voice. "However, I am afraid I have fallen ill and am unable to come into work. I am calling to ask if you– "
"Yes, I'll cover your shift." It wasn't the first time a "sick" coworker had asked Kagome to cover for them, nor would it be the last. Sometimes she went for it, sometimes she didn't. But Kanna wasn't the type to faked sick to get out of work – she was working her way through medical school, Kagome had heard – and besides, Kagome really could have used the distraction today. "What time are you supposed to go in?"
"I work the lunch shift," Kanna told her. "Eleven."
And right now it was . . . ten forty-five. Great.
"Ah, fuck . . ."
"I am sorry to have not asked you sooner, Kagome-san, but my illness came on quite suddenly."
She sighed and threw back her covers, balancing the phone between her ear and shoulder. "No, Kanna, it's fine. Just . . . you get better, I guess."
"I shall. Good day, Kagome-sa– "
"Oh, wait, don't hang up yet!" Kagome nearly shrieked (which she immediately regretted, as Princess Hangover was not a fan of loud noises, nor of moving for that matter). She was struck by a dreadful thought barely a second before Kanna said her goodbye. "Hojou-kun isn't working with you today, is he?" she demanded as quietly and politely as she could.
There was a pause on Kanna's side of the line, followed by some shuffling and what sounded like a man's voice – Kagome dismissed it as the TV. Then, Kanna replied, "No, I do not believe so. Is he not out of town with his girlfriend this weekend?"
After a mini-implosion in her brain – Hojou had a girlfriend? . . . the fuck? Since when? – Kagome found herself and mumbled, "Oh, yeah, sure. I . . . forgot. Okay, well, feel better. Bye."
But right before she hung up, Kagome distinctly heard the man's voice again, this time clearly saying, "Come back to Papa Naraku, Kanna, you naughty little barmaid."
Then: "That lying bitch!"
She got dressed and left for The Shikon, not sure why she was still covering for "that duplicitous skank who just wants to fuck her nasty boyfriend all day," but covering all the same. Most likely because she did need that distraction – serving lunch to people and hair of the dog to alcoholics meant she didn't have to think about Inuyasha.
With only a grunt of "Kanna's sick" to her boss, she stepped behind the bar and proceeded to put on a face that had don't fuck with me written all over it. The boss raised his eyebrows but said nothing.
At slow, lonely half hour dragged by with few customers coming into The Shikon – Kagome wasn't sure if she was surprised or not that there weren't more singles in there getting drunk at noon on a Saturday. Probably they were getting drunk at home. The chef from the kitchen – a stout man named Myoga – slipped her a grilled cheese sandwich after a little while, and she smuggled them both a quick shot of something strong (she wasn't really paying attention to what, exactly, but she knew it burned as it went down) before hurrying back to her post and pretending she wasn't drinking on the job. She counted all the bottles on one shelf and had nearly banished you know who from her mind completely when a customer walked in and sat down right in front of her at the bar.
She grinned. "Is it me, or are you more pregnant than the last time I saw you, Sango?"
A dry glare was the only response to dignify her comment. The pregnant woman sniffed, "You don't usually work days on the weekend. Anything I should know?"
Sango was a regular at The Shikon, obviously not for the drinks, but the company. She came in for lunch every Tuesday and Thursday – the days Kagome worked afternoons instead of nights – without fail, and ever since her first visit she and Kagome had been close friends. Kagome was very calm about all her weird pregnancy quirks, having a younger brother that had just recently become a father (she was a very gushing aunt). She proved to be the best female friend Sango had ever had (having grown up with her father and brother and then being quite the tomboy over the years). However, they barely ever saw each other outside of The Shikon – conflicting schedules and all that jazz – so they had to squeeze as much time together as possible into their bi-weekly visits.
Kagome sighed and slumped, resting her elbows on the bar and letting her chin fall into her hands. "No, just my 'sick' coworker crapping out on me," she answered Sango sleepily. "You should have heard the nasty shit I accidentally caught her boyfriend saying before I hung– " She cut herself off when a long yawn broke through.
She saw Sango eye her curiously, so she said, "What?"
"Nothing. What's wrong?"
The chick sure was getting maternal all of a sudden.
"Why would something be wrong?" But the moment it dropped from her lips, Kagome was reminded that something actually was wrong. She had ignored it until now, burried it under her boredom, but she was still angry about letting herself get wrapped up in Inuyasha. She faintly remembered crying herself into a semi-drunken, restless, dreamless sleep the night before, but she still refused to acknowledge that man as the cause of it.
She realized Sango was waiting for an answer, and not answering looked very suspicious. "Just didn't get much sleep last night," she mumbled.
If she was expecting Sango to reply with something along the lines of "Neither could I, tell your mum thanks for me," as was their usual zinger, she was greatly mistaken. Her pregnant friend peered into her tired face with crazy serious concern. Kagome felt slightly nervous, because Sango's eyes seemed to be rummaging through her brain, which was not good.
"What's wrong?" she asked again. "And don't tell me nothing. You look horrible. Something's up."
Kagome rolled her eyes so she didn't have to look at Sango and laughed awkwardly. "Thanks for your glowing compliments." A quick peek at Sango revealed that she was not swayed.
"Look, I'm fine. Nothing a few day's distraction won't fix. Okay, Mommy?"
Again, Sango was not amused. It unnerved Kagome how serious she was being. She realized that cracking jokes would not ease the tension today, and that her round friend would not be leaving until she got answers.
All of a sudden she felt a soft pressure on her hand and looked down to see Sango's covering it. Surprised, she flicked her gaze up to the woman's face and the pure concern splayed across it made Kagome want to cry.
"I met a guy," she heard herself confessing. "Last night. But I messed up. He has a girlfriend."
Sango nodded slowly. Continue.
"And I don't know what to do!" she nearly cried. "I mean, I've never felt that way about someone so strongly or quickly before. I'm . . . I'm scared." She looked up and was once again surprised by Sango: this time the pregnant woman held an odd, slightly confused expression, almost like she was having déjà vu. "What it is?" she asked.
Sango took a moment to respond, and then it was only a shake of her head – she looked a bit like she was shaking her confusion away. "Nothing. Go on."
Kagome hesitated slightly. "I . . . I kissed him," she admitted shamefully, "and he kissed me back. And I – well, let's just say I have no doubt we wouldn't have stopped at kissing if he didn't . . ."
"Didn't what?" Sango questioned with oddly unsettling calm.
"He blurted out his girlfriend's name," she whispered with the clear-as-day hurt she was still feeling.
She managed to explain the whole thing in under ten minutes, impressing herself, but unfortunately feeling an instant replay of all the lovely emotions for last night. Thankfully not to the same caliber, or else there would have been one mess of a barmaid for Myoga to clean up, but enough for the many bottles behind her to look mighty enticing. Sango listened to her story with the same eerie calm that Kagome was beginning to become suspicious of. She wondered how Sango was remaining so serene – she'd expected at least some shock on her behalf – but then again, the emotions of pregnant women were completely unpredictable.
Except . . . it was almost like Sango had already heard the tales from last night. This wasn't just the attitude of the worldly, you-can't-shake-me-with-your-crazy-misadventures lady Sango often gave the Kagome the impression of.
"And then I told him to leave," Kagome finished, "and I ended up getting drunk alone and crying until I fell asleep. I feel like such an idiot." She drummed her fingernails on the bar anxiously. "I shouldn't have asked him up to my apartment when he was going to leave . . . I shouldn't have talked to him at all at the bar . . . I shouldn't have even come in last night. Did you know I was just covering for Ayumi last night? She sprained her ankle last week and we've all been taking turns covering her shifts. What if it had been someone else coming in for her last night? Would Eri or Yuka have taken Inu– him to their apartments?" She stared at the long strip of wood in front of her and tried in vain to will her tears away, just like last night. "Was I not that special after all?"
She felt Sango squeeze her hand, but she didn't look up from the bar because . . . well, because barmaids don't cry.
She sniffled. "What?"
"Kagome-chan, look at me. No, look at me," Sango added when her friend still didn't move her eyes from the the bar. Finally, Kagome gazed at her with obvious embarrassment at the tears she was probably denying were there. Sango almost wanted to laugh, not at her friend's anguish, but at how wrong she was.
She hoped Kagome appreciated how much she was holding back here.
"Sweetie, trust me when I say that your guy thinks you are very special," she said, "and he's probably thinking of you right now, counting down the hours until he can break up with his girlfriend so he can see you again. I have no doubt that he would not have gone home with Eri or Yuka, because Eri and Yuka – let's be honest – are about as bright as two-watt bulbs. You got his attention because you're smart and funny and beautiful and – and . . ."
"And what?" Kagome prompted, still sniffling a bit.
Sango smiled, giving off that déjà vu vibe again, continuing to exude Knowing. Kagome didn't even try to understand it.
"Maybe it was fate, you know? Maybe it was his lonely soul calling out to yours."
And maybe it was Sango trying to bullshit Kagome out of her funk. Which it did – she snorted loudly and ladylike.
"Ah, she laughs!"
"Shut up," she chortled. She wiped away the tears she didn't need anymore and made a mental note to send Sango some flowers. "I don't even believe in fate. And I'm not lonely. You know that." She found herself smiling at the pure ludicrousness of the statement.
Sango smiled at her smile, and maybe at something else too. Her Knowingness didn't fade as her smile grew, nor when she pushed herself off her bar stool with only a slight struggle. She chuckled a bit at herself and looked up at Kagome.
"Yeah," she said with much mirth, "I know."
As she made her leave, Kagome wondered if Sango was being sarcastic.
But mostly she was thinking that once the baby was born, her friend should give it a go as a barmaid.
"You sure you'll be okay?" Miroku questioned dubiously as Inuyasha packed the last of his things and prepared to return to his apartment and finally end things with Kikyou. Miroku still thought that if his friend was fond of his man parts that he would hide out until tomorrow, but he knew that Inuyasha was not one to be stopped once started.
"Of course not," the stupidly stubborn Inuyasha replied, in no way reassuring Miroku of his safety and in fact only making him warier of letting his friend run headfirst into the dragon's lair. "But it'll sure as hell be worth it."
Miroku blinked. "Yeah, I guess. Hey, where'd Sango say she was going again?"
"Some place for lunch, I dunno." He zipped his duffel bag up. "Shouldn't you at least listen when your pregnant wife tells you where she's going by herself?"
"Because you're the relationship expert here," Miroku scoffed. Inuyasha half-flinched. "Ooh, wait, too soon?"
Inuyasha hitched the bag over his shoulder and said, "A little bit, yeah."
A bit of awkward male-bonding silence ensued before Inuyasha smiled slightly at his friend. "Thanks for letting me camp out here."
Miroku smiled back. "You know you're always welcome. Thanks for not being a dick this time around."
"I try." He was walked to the front door and they said their final goodbyes before Inuyasha was, so to speak, thrust from the comforting warmth of the womb and into the harsh ugly world of break ups and love connections with bad timings.
Wait . . . love connections?
Fuck that, he thought as he started walking toward bad news. He wasn't that nervous as he made his way to Kikyou – at least, nowhere as nervous as last night – but he'd be spewing bullshit if he said that when he took in the familiar building that housed that woman his stomach didn't just about turn to stone and drop to his toes. As he climbed up the stoop and then up the stairs to the apartment, he found himself scrambling to think of what to say, because even though he wanted to be free of Kikyou more than he'd wanted anything in a while (certain barmaids not included), he didn't want to be more of a prick about it then he knew he'd already be.
He wanted to say that he didn't drag his feet while he walked down the last hallway that separated him from Kikyou, but he did. He went over last minute break up lines in his head, but all of them sounded horribly insulting or way too lame to get a point across. How was he supposed to keep Kikyou from crying while also telling her he didn't want to be with her anymore and protecting his groin (why hadn't he worn a goddamn cup?)?
To put it simply, he knew that he just couldn't have it both ways.
It surprised him to find the door unlocked, but Kikyou was often careless about those things. He ducked his head into the room before stepping in, checking for his girlfriend (like a coward). After breathing a sigh of relief at the empty room, he relaxed slightly and walked all the way in–
"Inuyasha, is that you?"
He sincerely did his best not to look guilty as he prepared himself during the last three seconds before Kikyou stepped into view, as radiant and scary as ever. She had on the smugly benevolent look she always had after visiting her sister, because (in Inuyasha's opinion) being around a good person like Dr. Kaede made people like Kikyou feel holy by association. She seemed more relaxed than usual, though, and sort of . . . smiley. Weird.
She didn't seem to notice his attempts at innocence – or he'd done a good job at hiding his guilt, which he highly doubted – as he slowly set down his duffel bag (careful not to make any sudden movements, of course). She was shuffling through mail, barely eyeing him suspiciously at all, as was their usual custom after he crashed at his friends' house and she at her sister's. Inuyasha began to grow wary.
"Hey, why didn't you answer you phone?" Kikyou, not altogether with hostility. On the contrary, she seemed almost cheery. "I called you like, ten times or something until Kaede took my phone away. So where were you?"
Oh god, she was cheery: she was smiling at him and everything. Not to say that she never smiled at him anymore, because she did, but not like this. This was a smile he hadn't seen in a while . . . probably not since they'd started dating, actually. Inuyasha felt an old, ignored part of himself, previously tucked away with other good memories, pluck almost painfully at the sight of that warm, familiar smile. He was reminded of why he'd wanted to be with Kikyou way back then.
All at once, part of him wanted nothing more than to stay with Kikyou, the Known and familiar. Screw risking it with that new chick, that part of him said, why ruin a perfectly good relationship for a girl whom, the last time he'd seen her, was sort of throwing him out of her apartment. It would be so much easier to just stay with Kikyou. Sure, they'd had their rough spots together, but the enemy you know is better than the enemy you don't, right?
"No. You can't control who you like."
". . . and Kaede said that you should totally come with me the next time I visit her, but I told her how you–"
Inuyasha looked to Kikyou's face when she broke off from the babble he was barely paying attention to. She looked . . . not worried, but a bit sad, frowning in a surprised way. As if she was reading his goddamn mind, she said, without a shadow of a doubt, "You're breaking up with me."
He opened his mouth briefly – to deny it? To say that he "hoped they could still be friends"? He didn't even know, so he closed his mouth with shame he was surprised at, and brought his gaze to the floorboards.
It was a full forty-five minutes before Inuyasha exited his newly former apartment building. He had two other bags in addition to his duffel now, and he'd be returning next week to retrieve the rest of his things. He shielded his eyes against the blood red setting sun and turned in the direction of Miroku and Sango's once again, smiling a little bit sadly as he reflected on what just happened.
Kikyou had take it surprisingly well. She hadn't thrown anything at his head or crotch, as he'd predicted, nor did she even scream at him that much (once or twice here and there, but that was to be expected). She had been very calm as they'd gone through it all for those forty-five minutes; so calm that Inuyasha had almost wished that she would scream and throw things. That would at least have made him feel less guilty.
But no, she had been perfectly level-headed about the whole thing – except when she'd started crying.
Inuyasha had been speechless, having only seen her tears a few times during the whole two years they'd dated. He had never been very good with girls and their tears, especially when he was the cause of them. As an added bonus – and he actually wasn't sure if this made it better or worse – she'd been smiling while she cried.
"You've met someone else, haven't you?" she'd whispered, those lonely crystal tears trailing down either cheek in a way that made her look even more like a priceless porcelain doll.
Inuyasha had felt too guilty to look her in the eye when he'd nodded. "Just yesterday. I didn't mean for it . . . I mean, this wasn't supposed to happen on . . . on Valentine's Day . . ."
And, in addition to the horribly sad smile, Kikyou had laughed too, a soft little chuckle. She'd made no move to wipe away the tears, although a few sniffles were heard. Inuyasha had chosen not to say anything more until she spoke to him first.
She'd surprised him with her next question. "Is she beautiful?"
Flashes of Kagome's smile, Kagome's hair, Kagome's skin, Kagome's eyes, Kagome's lips and eyebrows and legs and laugh and words had come before him, and he'd struggled not to grin hugely, out of respect for Kikyou.
They'd talked more, made some sort of awkward peace and the agreement of Inuyasha to come back for the rest of his stuff, and then Kikyou had smiled again – tired now and a bit watery – and that was their goodbye. Somehow, though, it fit, so Inuyasha didn't question it.
He reached his friends' house and managed to put down his bags before Sango and Miroku descended upon him and badgered him about what happened. He took in a deep breath and prepared to give them the whole story, but . . . he couldn't. Maybe it was his last favor to Kikyou or something else corny like that. He looked heavenward – why? She wasn't dead – and nodded a bit. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Miroku make the he's-lost-it hand gesture at Sango, who pushed his shoulder affectionately.
"We broke up," Inuyasha heard himself telling the two simply. "It went as well as it could. It's cool if I stay here until I find an apartment?"
They nodded – seemingly in shock.
Was it really that surprising that he hadn't returned with, "She cried. I cried. She threw things. They hit me"?
Well, maybe it was. It still surprised him a little bit, truth be told. Perhaps Kikyou knew she hadn't been exactly ideal as a girlfriend, and to make up for it she'd been ideal in break up. He supposed that made some sense. Probably.
Without warning, a dangerous finger jumped out and flicked him on the forehead like he was a little dog. He bristled upon impact, understandably, and then glared harshly at Sango, the owner of said dangerous finger. She held the haughty expression of someone who Knew Something You Don't Know and was enjoying the fact that you were ignorant.
Inuyasha raised an irate eyebrow in silent question to the pregnant woman.
She raised an eyebrow back and giggled. "Isn't there someone you should be meeting right about now?" she asked.
"Um . . ."
Eyeroll. "A certain barmaid, perhaps?"
She wasn't sure she had ever seen him run that fast out of her door.
Miroku stared after his departed friend with confusion, then turned to his obviously in-the-know wife and said, "Wait, what barmaid? Am I missing something?"
Sango kept a straight face as she beckoned him closer. "Let me tell you a story . . ."
It was nearly dark when Kagome looked to the door again with open agitation. She told herself she wasn't expecting anything – anyone – and yet every time she heard it creak open, she was that much more disappointed to see another single person looking to get smashed and not . . . him.
She felt a swift poke in her tense spine from Yuka, one of her only other free coworkers that night and previously mentioned two-watt bulb. Forcing a smile, she turned to Yuka and cheerfully barked, "What?"
The bulb made a face. "Geez, Kagome, loosen up. You've been snapping at people all day – you're starting to scare away the customers."
Kagome blushed with guilt. "Yuka, I'm sorry," she mumbled. "I've just had . . . other things on my mind, I guess."
Yuka's eye caught sight of something behind Kagome and she gave a sly, suspicious grin. "Well, cheer up, 'cause your boyfriend's here."
Without a single thought, Kagome whipped herself around in a complete 180 to look at the door, hoping beyond hope that it was the one she wanted – only to feel herself deflate completely when she saw Kouga, the possessive frequent customer who liked to pretend he and Kagome were an item and whom Kagome couldn't stand.
It wasn't that she didn't find him attractive – with his roguishly charming smile, clear-as-day blue eyes, and tall, built frame, he was a force to be reckoned with when it came to conquering women. That, and his undeniable charisma at their first meeting, had made Kagome say yes to a date with him way back when. They were about three or four dates in before Kagome had let him under her shirt, but his attitude after that was what had made her realize what a tool he was. To him, Kagome was now his "woman" and any male that tried to look at her was a rival in need of . . . "straightening out."
Dealing with Kouga was always draining at best, and today of all days Kagome was not in the mood. She turned to Yuka to ask her to cover for her while she took her break, but the stupid bitch was already gone, leaving Kagome all alone for Kouga to see.
And he did – she could tell because, even out of the corner of her eye, his disarming bright white grin grew noticably. He was probably about ten feet away from her when Kagome started feeling the exhaustion that usually accompanied Kouga's visits. Not for the first time, she considered getting a restraining order, but once again ended up feeling kind of sorry for the guy. Clearly he had never been told "no" before Kagome, and the poor guy lived in a bubble. It was a little bit sad.
"Kagome! Where is my woman!"
But mostly annoying.
She pretended not to hear him, instead fleeing to a group of underage-looking boy (whatever, their fakes were given the okay by Yuka) and getting them another round of shots. However, that little parasite followed her on the other side of the bar, still calling for her with that stupid grin on his face. Finally, she grimaced in resignation and threw her fake smile on again.
"What is it, Kouga?" she managed to say in an almost-civil tone. "I'm a little busy right now." Except that she wasn't, really, and she knew Kouga wasn't blind.
The big lug smiled larger, a little smarmy at this point, and then produced a great bouquet of red roses. "I just wanted to wish you a happy Valentine's Day, Kagome," he nearly purred.
To say Kagome was surprised was an understatement. Despite her distaste of Valentine's Day, this was actually quite sweet, especially considering she hadn't let him touch her in . . . a few months by now, wasn't it? She accepted the pretty flowers wordlessly, still greatly surprised – was it possible that Kouga actually liked on her a level beyond her lips and tits?
"Thank you, Kouga," she said sincerely. She was touched, although she was absently wondering where she would put the flowers for the rest of the night. "Really, this is very sweet of you. I . . . oh, uh, I didn't get you anything."
His pretty boy smile turned lewd now, and he leaned closer to her over the bar as he murmured, "Well, I was thinking there was something you could do for me in return . . ." And as if the comment itself and trailing off suggestively didn't get his point across, he gave her a full body onceover and even waggled his eyebrows.
Now this, Kagome wasn't surprised by. However, she was surprised that she hadn't seen that coming. Men like Kouga didn't give women beautiful bouquets unless they were after nookie. Grand romantic gestures weren't performed by the asshole Kougas of the world for the Kagomes. It just didn't happen. As the tool kept talking, Kagome sighed heavily at the bouquet.
"Maybe it was fate, you know? Maybe it was his lonely soul calling out to yours."
But . . . Kagome wasn't lonely. She'd told Sango exactly that.
"Yeah. I know."
Well, sometimes she was lonely. But everyone had their blue periods, right? She wasn't the only person in the world to occasionally feel alone. She was a happy person – cynical, maybe, but definitely happy. She wasn't lonely, and especially not when it came to men and love.
. . . Love?
The door opened again; Kagome looked up as a reflex.
And her eyes widened.
". . . and if you're not busy later, I was thinking we could hang out at my place. I mean I know you get off at– hey, Kagome, what are you– wait, where are you going?"
She barely heard him as she walked around the bar, her feet going forwards almost without her controlling them. Feet came for her, too, and at that she could barely contain her smile.
Speaking of grand romantic gestures . . .
There were too many things she wanted to say, she didn't know how or where to start. She settled with, "Hey."
Inuyasha's beautiful golden eyes seemed to glow with their smile. "Hey."
All her feelings from last night – all the laughter and joy and sadness and loneliness – yes, goddammit, loneliness – came rushing back. Her ecstasy subdued with this. Inuyasha might have still have had a girlfriend – no, wait, would he come to her if he has still with his Kikyou? He wouldn't, would he? She wasn't sure she dared to hope anymore. She knew she wouldn't be able to deal with the . . . the loneliness anymore. Sango was right. She was lonely. She was a lonely soul, calling out to another. And she sounded like a hippie.
Swallowing the lump in her throat, Kagome whispered, "Are you . . . you know? I mean, did you . . . did you see her?"
He stared at her for a while like it was the most obvious thing in the world. Then, a slow, self-conscious, lanky smile took place and he nodded.
Kagome could have melted.
"Yeah. Yes. Yes, I did," he told her. "We're okay." He seemed to get a bit nervous then, because he began babbling cutely, much to Kagome's pleasure. "So, you know, now we can – I mean, only if you want to. I would totally understand if you didn't, 'cause, I mean, after all that . . . you know. I mean, I probably wouldn't want to be with me after that. Not, you know, that I'm suggesting you want to be with me, because it's totally cool if you don't, but–"
"Yes," she stated plainly.
Then she simply stood on her tallest toes, pulled on his collar, and kissed him.
It wasn't clear whom, exactly, this next came from, but as far as sensual truths breathed into the mouths of lovers go, it was okay.
"Happy Valentine's Day."
Yeah, in fucking April. Suave me, eh?
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