Chapter Eight: Twenty Bucks
Helen pulled away from Todd as she turned towards Lady Shinsuke, whose eyebrow was raised somewhat peevishly at her. "And who is this…young man?"
Helen's grin faltered slightly. Lady Shinsuke was smiling at her, but it was a smile that did not reach her eyes. It was a very, very, very insincere smile. Whenever Lady Shinsuke looked at Helen, it was always a warm and welcoming smile that graced her lips. For the moment, there was neither warmth nor welcome in Lady Shinsuke's eyes as she stared at Todd, but a covert hostility.
"This is Todd, my boyfriend," Helen said, as she pulled Todd forward. She was, admittedly, quite nervous. Her demoness mother may be tolerant of humans, but having a daughter who was in a relationship with one was going beyond the line. Besides…everyone knew perfectly well whom Lady Shinsuke preferred for her daughter.
Helen's theory was confirmed when Lady Shinsuke gave Todd a charming smile that still failed to reach her eyes. It was, admittedly, a very disquieting look. "Ah, I see," she said. "Your human lover?"
Todd, Alicia, and Andrea blinked at her. Helen bit her lower lip. "Yes," she said, forcing herself to smile.
Kagome and Inuyasha shared a knowing look. Though not quite obvious to Helen's friends, it was quite clear to them that Lady Shinsuke did not like the thought of a human as her daughter's boyfriend. Kagome inwardly groaned, praying this would not turn into a Feudal version of Meet the Parents.
"And who are you, anyway?" Andrea said, raising an eyebrow at the woman, whom she immediately disliked on the spot.
"Oh, me?" Lady Shinsuke turned to her, a delicate eyebrow arched. "I am Helen's birth mother."
"WHAT?!" Andrea exclaimed, her eyes widening. "Hold up! How can you be her mother? I mean, you're…like…twenty-eight or something!"
Lady Shinsuke smirked. "I take that as a compliment."
Alicia and Todd both had the same dubious expressions as Andrea. Helen sighed. "I'll explain everything inside," she said. "Inside, Andrea," Helen repeated, as her friend was about to open her mouth again.
"Oh, good," Lady Shinsuke said, the air of hostility quickly disappearing. "I'm rather tired." She glanced around her. "Now, where is Sesshoumaru?"
The demon in question was leaning against the Sacred Tree, arms folded imperiously as he regarded them with cold eyes. "Sesshoumaru," Lady Shinsuke called out. "Don't dally over there."
Helen tucked her hand in Todd's offered arm as she led everyone into the house. She did not throw Sesshoumaru a second glance.
"My, Helen, and who is this?" Mrs. Higurashi said the moment Helen and Kagome led everyone into the house.
"Cozy," Lady Shinsuke said, her eyes taking in everything around her.
"Aunt H., this is—" Helen began.
"Helen!" At that moment, Hsia came out of the kitchen, a wide grin on her face. "Robert just told me that…" Her voice trailed off when she saw the people accompanying Helen and Kagome. Her eyes fell on Lady Shinsuke. "Oh, friends of yours?"
Helen sighed. Here was the introduction that she was nervous of. "Mom, this is—"
Once again, Helen was interrupted when Lady Shinsuke stepped forward, a pretty smile on her face. "Hello," she said pleasantly. "I am Lady Shinsuke of the Shirogawa clan. I also happen to be Helen's birth mother." There was no mistaking the air of smugness she wore. Her daughter was hers, and this human would do well to remember it.
Kagome and Helen threw each other nervous looks as Hsia tilted her head, a puzzled expression on her face. Then she smiled and extended her hand to the demoness. "It's a pleasure meeting you," she said. Helen inwardly quailed. Hsia's smile was as insincere as Lady Shinsuke's! "I am Hsia Higurashi, the woman who raised Helen."
Helen slapped a hand to her forehead. Kami, this was more than Meet the Parents!
Lady Shinsuke stared at Hsia's outstretched hand, a puzzled expression on her face. "You're supposed to shake her hand," Kagome offered. She was just as nervous as Helen and, admittedly, concerned for her Aunt's safety.
The demoness turned to her, an elegant eyebrow raised. "Shake?" she said, tilting her head. "I do not understand. You want me to make her hand shake?"
"No!" Kagome said quickly before Lady Shinsuke could act. "I mean…um…you do this."
Kagome felt self-conscious as she shook her Aunt's hand. The level of awkwardness is too damn high! she thought.
Lady Shinsuke frowned as she watched the miko. "A queer human custom," she commented. She gave Hsia a smile and offered her hand.
Helen watched, inwardly squirming, as the two women shook hands. She could have sworn she saw a look pass between them. She inwardly marvelled at her human mother's ability to stand her ground, despite Lady Shinsuke's mounting demonic aura.
Sesshoumaru, who had been watching the exchange from the back, had braced himself for any one of Lady Shinsuke's dramatic outbursts. It was, admittedly, a trait that she and his dear mother shared. Satisfied that the Eastern Lady was not going to make a scene, he allowed his gaze to shift to Helen whose hand was still tucked firmly in Todd's arm. He glared at the back of the boy's head, willing himself to keep his emotions under check. It was a daunting task.
"Is it just me, or did the tension in the atmosphere suddenly weigh a hundred tonnes?" Alicia whispered to Andrea. Helen threw them a glare over her shoulder.
"Anyway…" Helen said loudly, hoping to break the tension. "Um…I have a lot of explaining to do."
"You most certainly do," Hsia said, raising an eyebrow at her daughter.
"Ehe…" Helen said, feeling the combined force of Lady Shinsuke and Hsia's eyes on her. She turned to Mrs. Higurashi. "Aunt Higurashi, do you mind if we borrow the living room?"
Her Aunt smiled. "Not at all," she said. "Make yourselves at home."
"So, uh…where to begin," Helen muttered to herself once everyone was situated in the living room. She glanced around. Todd, Andrea, and Alicia were kneeling on cushions on one side of the room with Inuyasha, Kagome and Hsia. Lady Shinsuke knelt on a cushion on the other side, while Sesshoumaru stood at the back, leaning against the wall, both arms folded across his chest. To everyone's initial surprise, Souta was sitting cross-legged beside Sesshoumaru.
"Kagome?" Helen said, turning to her cousin.
Kagome sighed as she stood up. "Well, it all started with my cat, actually," the miko said sheepishly. She then began to relate how she had been pulled into the well, and how she'd freed Inuyasha from his seal. Then she explained about the Sacred Jewel, and about Naraku and all the atrocities he'd done, and how they were currently on a quest to find the fragments of the jewel.
"So, where does Hellie fit in?" Alicia asked. Unlike Andrea, who had been hanging to Kagome's every word with open-mouthed astonishment, she looked both intrigued and skeptical.
Helen frowned as she began explaining her side of things. She began with how she'd seen Kagome and Inuyasha go into the Well shrine and not come back. She'd followed them in, and accidentally fell into the well when Buyo scared her. She wisely omitted how she'd met and been kidnapped by Sesshoumaru (who raised an eyebrow at her). Instead, she told them that she'd learned the truth of her heritage from Lady Shinsuke. Admittedly, she saw fit to leave out the parts that included Sesshoumaru (who managed to keep from rolling his eyes at her childish behaviour). She ended with their encounter with Sokoro, and how the demoness was in the Modern Era.
"So let me get this straight," Alicia said, pointing to Kagome. "You're a priestess, Inuyasha's half a dog demon, Sesshoumaru is his older, full dog demon brother, and you're all after some guy named Naraku?"
Kagome nodded. Alicia turned her attention to Helen. "And you're…well not human, like Sesshoumaru. Lady Shinsuke is your birth mother…uh, your demoness birth mother"—Lady Shinsuke looked even more smug—"and currently, some god-like demon is after you and Sesshoumaru. Did I get that right?"
Helen nodded. Alicia let out a low whistle. "Well…um…I have mixed feelings, but I'll get over it," she said. Truth be told, she looked as though she were about to faint.
Andrea, who had been shocked speechless, spoke up. "Oh…my…god!" she exclaimed. She turned to Helen. "You know, you could totally turn your stories into a movie. It'll totally trump Cameron, I'm sure of it!"
Helen gave her a look, and Kagome cleared her throat. "You can't tell anyone about this!" Kagome said. "Everything we've told you should remain secret, okay? Not a lot of people know about the Feudal Era, and I'd like it to remain that way."
Helen turned her eyes to Todd, who had remained quiet all throughout their explanation. He returned her gaze with a small, reassuring smile. Helen smiled back.
Sesshoumaru, who had seen their brief exchange, fought the urge to place a hand on the hilt of his sword. He was finding it even more difficult to keep himself from doing anything rash. He wanted to be rid of his feelings for Helen, but it seemed the harder he tried to let them go, the more tenacious they became.
"Well," Alicia spoke up again. "What do you plan on doing about this Sokoro person?"
Helen unconsciously rubbed her forearm. "Uh…"
"Leave that woman to Sesshoumaru and I," Lady Shinsuke said. "When Sokoro brings a Creation into this world, it leaves her weakened for a while."
"Wait," Helen said, her eyes finding Sesshoumaru for the first time. "You're…you're not saying you're going to hunt her down, are you?"
"Obviously," Sesshoumaru said. The ice in his voice was sufficient to make the room temperature drop.
Lady Shinsuke smiled. "I know you worry about Sesshoumaru and I, but rest assured, with Sokoro weakened, we are more than a match for her." They couldn't help but notice the way she emphasized Sesshoumaru's name.
Helen bit her lower lip. She had seen how Sesshoumaru had nearly lost to Sokoro, and, to be honest, she was worried for the both of them. Sesshoumaru had hurt her before, but that didn't mean she wanted him harmed.
"I want to help," Helen said quietly.
"Inuyasha and I will help, as well," Kagome offered.
"What?" Inuyasha said. Kagome threw him a glare. "Fine."
"You would only be a burden," Sesshoumaru said, holding Helen's gaze. For a moment, he remembered the way she'd caressed his cheek with blood-stained fingers after Mabo had nearly killed her.
"How would you know?" Helen snapped, glaring.
He raised an eyebrow at her, and was about to retort when Lady Shinsuke beat him to it. "Sesshoumaru is right," she said, raising a hand, her tone imperious. "You will stay out of Sokoro's way, as will the both of you." She looked pointedly at Inuyasha and Kagome.
"What?!" Inuyasha said, jumping to his feet. "Are you saying I don't have what it takes to take that woman down?"
"You are only a half-demon, Inuyasha," Sesshoumaru said icily. "What could you possibly accomplish?"
"Something tells me we should get out…fast," Andrea said, tugging on both Todd and Alicia's sleeves.
"You're being such a jerk!" Helen snapped, glaring at Sesshoumaru. "They're only offering to help!"
"Half-breeds should know when they're help is a hindrance," Sesshoumaru said quietly, cold eyes boring into Helen's.
Helen seemed to bristle at that. "Will you stop it with your prejudices against half-demons?" she said, aggravation in her voice. "It's not Inuyasha's fault that he is what he is, and frankly, he doesn't give a damn, so why should you?"
"Half-breeds are worthless," Sesshoumaru countered. "Nothing but abominations with tainted blood."
"Say that again!" Inuyasha snarled, drawing out Tessaiga. "I'll show you what a half-breed can do!"
Kagome's eyes widened. Was she going to end up homeless in one night?! "Inuyasha!" Kagome pleaded. "Just ignore him!"
Alicia and Andrea slowly stood up, dragging Todd with them. "Uh…if you guys don't mind…giant swords are sort of not our thing," Alicia said sheepishly.
"Big words coming from such small vermin," Sesshoumaru hissed, drawing out Ryuko, and glaring at his brother.
Holy hell! Kagome thought. A vivid mental image of the city in ruins suddenly flashed through her mind.
"Stop it!" Helen snapped, getting between Sesshoumaru and Inuyasha. She threw Sesshoumaru a look of deepest disgust. "From what I've heard, Inuyasha has beaten you a fair number of times, and you still look down on him? He was only trying to help!"
"Stay out of this," Sesshoumaru said coldly. He didn't need his feelings for her getting in the middle of his judgement.
Inuyasha scoffed and, much to everyone's surprise, he sheathed Tessaiga. "Forget it, Helen," Inuyasha said. "He'll never change his opinion on half-breeds." He turned to his brother. "With that 'pole-up-your-ass' attitude, I'm not surprised Helen went for a mortal instead of you."
In the blink of an eye, Sesshoumaru had Inuyasha pinned against the wall by his throat. Everyone gasped as Sesshoumaru narrowed his eyes dangerously at his brother, who didn't even bother struggling.
"Sesshoumaru!" Helen and Kagome exclaimed. Lady Shinsuke stood, realizing that the demon lord's temper had finally decided to get the better of him.
"Honestly, there's no need for this!" Hsia and Lady Shinsuke said. Both glanced at each other with narrowed eyes. You stole my line! they both thought.
"It's true, isn't?" Inuyasha said, smirking at his brother. He gripped Sesshoumaru's hand, trying to pry his brother off him. "She doesn't want you! You're second fiddle to a human! And that is just so sad!"
"Why the hell are you dragging me into this?" Helen snapped. "And stop insulting him, Inuyasha!" If you like your head on your shoulders!
Inuyasha inwardly gulped when his brother's eyes turned blood red. Shit, he's scary! Alicia, Todd, and Andrea thought as they backed against the wall, ready to leap out the window.
"Sesshoumaru, put him down!" Helen said. She glanced at Lady Shinsuke, wondering if her mother could restrain a rampaging Sesshoumaru.
Sesshoumaru squeezed. Inuyasha's eyes widened in surprise as he struggled against his brother's iron grip. "You will learn to hold your tongue, half-breed," Sesshoumaru hissed venomously. Inuyasha's words rang true, and the blow to his pride was devastating. Second fiddle to a human.
He glanced at the boy, Todd, who seemed to freeze where he stood. That Helen could choose this weakling over him was insulting. He turned back to Inuyasha, who continued to struggle against his hold. He inwardly scoffed as he released the hanyou, who fell to the ground, coughing.
"Sokoro is none of your business, little brother," Sesshoumaru said coldly. "And you will do well to remember it."
"Everyone needs help, Sesshoumaru," Helen said softly, drawing his full attention. "Even someone like you." She wanted to reprimand him for what he did to Inuyasha, but thought better of it. She had a feeling that—despite the icy demeanor—his temper was still at boiling point.
"You will stay out of it," Lady Shinsuke said, frowning at Helen.
"We want to help," Helen said slowly. "Inuyasha, Kagome and I."
"This is not your fight, Helen," Lady Shinsuke said. "If you want to help, then help her." She gestured to Hsia, who, for once, agreed with Lady Shinsuke.
"I can do both," Helen said, crossing her arms. Actually, in light of the Sokoro crisis, planning a wedding seemed silly; but she wasn't about to tell Hsia that.
"Sokoro is none of your concern," Sesshoumaru told her. For an instant, the image of Helen lying broken and bleeding on the ground flashed through his mind. "You will only get in the way."
"You can't tell me what to do!" Helen snapped.
I think I'm going to need two aspirins after this, Kagome thought, feeling a demonic headache coming on.
"Enough!" Lady Shinsuke's loud voice reverberated with command, and the silence that followed was total. She turned to Helen, Inuyasha and Kagome. "I shall allow you to assist. However…should she"—she gestured to Hsia again—"require your assistance in any way, you shall put her first." She made a mental note to ensure that Hsia kept them busy with the wedding.
Helen was about to protest, when Lady Shinsuke held up a hand. "No more, Helen," she said. "You have my stubbornness. I do not want to know what it feels like to argue with myself. I have never had a headache, and I think arguing with you might give me one."
Helen crossed her arms, embarrassed at having been chastised. Lady Shinsuke glanced around the room. "No one has anything else to say?" she asked. "Good."
"Y'know, I'm worried about you," Todd said later that evening. It was just before dinner, but he had decided—and it was a wise choice—to decline the invitation to eat, saying that he would return to the hotel and eat with Robert. Helen had secretly told him that it would not be a good idea to stay for a long period of time in the same place as an aggravated Sesshoumaru…especially since he was part of the reason for the demon lord's aggravation.
"Why?" Helen asked. She walked with Todd towards the shrine steps, her hand held firmly in his.
They stopped in front of the torii gate, and he turned to face her. "Did you see that guy back there?" he asked. 'That guy', obviously meaning Sesshoumaru. He sounded neither scared nor nervous—he sounded determined. "The way he pinned Inuyasha to the wall in less than a heartbeat? The way his eyes turned red?"
"I've seen worse," Helen said darkly. For a moment, she remembered how Sesshoumaru had nearly killed her himself last year, when she had said too much and—for want of a better word—pissed him off. He never really did apologize for it…though, she didn't expect him to, anyway. How on earth did she ever come to love him?
Wait, love? He was in the past, Todd was the present. Loved was the better term.
Todd stared at her and frowned. "I don't want you anywhere near him," he said quietly. "He's dangerous."
To his surprise, Helen chuckled. "I can handle him, don't worry about me," she said, grinning. "My mother is with him, he'll behave."
"You mean like the way he behaved with his little brother back there?" Todd raised an eyebrow at her. "I'm just worried, that's all. And…to be honest…this whole thing is new. Demons, magic…those are the stuff of fiction." He raked a hand through his mane of messy hair, a habit when he was nervous.
Helen inwardly tensed. She could sense that Todd was actually nervous about it all and that, in turn, made her on edge. She looked down at her feet. What if he couldn't handle this secret? What if he decided to leave her after all?
"But…" Todd said as he tilted her chin up, so he could look into her eyes. "It's not something I can't handle." He gave her a small smile as he cupped her cheek.
Helen smiled at him, holding his hand to her cheek. "You have no idea how much that means to me," she said quietly. "That you understand, I mean."
Todd raised both his eyebrows. "I love you Helen, of course I understand you," he said softly. "I don't care if you have two heads, I think you're fine just the way you are."
Helen closed her eyes. She wanted to say those three simple words back. She'd been with him for six months now. He had been there for her during the Great Depression. He understood her completely and, unlike someone, he didn't mind showing that he cared. But…
She couldn't say them. Not yet, at least. The last time she had given those three words to someone, he had thrown them back in her face, and sent her away.
She slowly opened her eyes and gave Todd a soft smile. "Thank you," she said quietly.
Todd smiled, then leaned forward to kiss her on the forehead. "Good night," he said softly.
Helen watched him go. She wrapped both arms around her as the wind blew softly around her.
Sesshoumaru did not like what he saw.
He was sitting on the roof, his eyes fixed on Helen and that worthless mortal as they made their way towards the torii gate, hand in hand. He took a breath, willing his emotions to calm down. Truth be told, eavesdropping was beneath him. In fact, spying on them was beneath him. Unfortunately, reason no longer seemed to own him, at the moment.
Emotions were quite bothersome. And yet…his desire to be rid of his feelings for Helen was becoming less of a concern as of late.
He turned his attention back to the pair. He found himself amused when the boy, Todd, spoke of him. He may have been capable of hiding the fear in his voice from Helen, but there was no fooling him. He knew the boy feared him, as he should.
"I've seen worse," Helen suddenly said, her expression dark.
Sesshoumaru narrowed his eyes. There was no doubt in his mind that Helen had seen him at his very worse. For an instant, he remembered that he had very nearly killed her last year. To his surprise, he found himself appalled at his actions.
He drowned out their conversation as he let his thoughts wander to that moment. Helen had taunted him about Kagura—of all things—and he had lost his patience with her. He had retaliated. He stared at his clawed hands, a frown on his face. He was not a fool—he had hurt her innumerable times in the past, and yet…
She had always returned to him, always forgiven him. For a moment, he marvelled at her capacity to forgive him. Anyone else would have just left, but she had stayed. She had stayed until the end, until he had decided that he could not give himself over to his emotions, the emotions that had, admittedly, frightened him. He could not bear the concept of willingly surrendering everything to her—his power, his life, his very being.
And so, he had done the only thing that he could: he'd sent her away for the final time.
But it seemed that Fate liked to mock them both, for here she was again.
"I love you Helen, of course I understand you," he heard the boy say. He looked down at them. "I don't care if you have two heads, I think you're fine just the way you are."
Sesshoumaru stared at Helen. For a moment, he could see what the mortal could not—the confusion and hesitation in Helen's eyes before she closed them. He waited for her response.
"Thank you," she said at last, as she opened her eyes. He felt pleased. She had not replied with those three words, three words that she had given to him last year without hesitation.
To his chagrin, the boy leaned forward and kissed Helen on the forehead. In that brief instant, he decided that he hated the boy more than he hated Toshimaru—which was unfortunate for the mortal. As much as Sesshoumaru wanted to be rid of the pest, he could not simply kill the boy. Helen would not forgive him for it.
"Good night," the boy said as he left.
He watched Helen wrap her arms around herself as the wind blew softly around them. She turned around and made her way back to the house, when she stopped and looked up at him.
For a moment, she looked surprised as she held his gaze. And then a look of sadness seemed to veil her eyes as he heard her sigh.
He wanted to leap down, and draw her into his arms. He wanted to wipe the sadness from her eyes.
Helen tore her gaze away from him as she entered the house.
"Meditating, I see," a voice said behind him. Only two people could sneak up on him. One was his dear haha-ue, and the other…
He glanced over his shoulder. Lady Shinsuke stood behind him. She was still dressed in her kimono. She looked very human, in his opinion.
"Perhaps," he replied.
Lady Shinsuke sat beside him, crossing her legs gracefully beneath her. "I see you look at her often," she said quietly.
Sesshoumaru stiffened, allowing no expression to show. Frankly, he felt that he had been rather discreet on that part.
"You know," Lady Shinsuke said, looking up at the stars. "I am not wholly blind to all the hurt you put her through in the past."
He turned his gaze to her. He suspected that she was not. "By all rights," Lady Shinsuke went on. "I should have your head on a spike. Not that I'm threatening you, or anything of the sort, because Takeida agrees with me."
He blinked. This was awkward.
"But I am too fond of you, Lord Sesshoumaru," Lady Shinsuke said. "To me, you are what I would have asked for in a son. And besides…" She turned her gaze to him. "I cannot deny that Helen loves you still."
He raised an eyebrow at her. "She seems content with a mere mortal."
"I am her mother," she said. "I know…and I have a feeling that you know it to be true." She stood up, looking down at him. "Don't disappoint me." She leapt gracefully from the roof, and out of sight. He turned his gaze back to the stars.
If anyone had ever told Kagome Higurashi that she would have two demons, a hot-headed half-demon, and two chatty American teens over for dinner, as well as her aunt, she would have said that life was just one big sitcom.
Unfortunately, her life was real, in every sense of the word.
Everyone—with the exception of Sesshoumaru—were seated around the table in the kitchen. Helen, Hsia, and Lady Shinsuke were seated at one side, with Helen in-between them. Kagome, Inuyasha, and Alicia were seated at another, while Andrea took the head of the table, with Souta beside her. Her grandfather and mother were seated at the other end.
"Everything smells wonderful, Mrs. Higurashi!" Alicia complimented as she eyed the food on the table. Mrs. Higurashi—considerate hostess that she was—had prepared a western-style meal for her guests.
"Itadakimasu!" Kagome said cheerfully, picking up her knife and fork.
Lady Shinsuke blinked as her violet eyes jumped from one dish to another. Unlike some demons, she was quite tolerant of human food, and even enjoyed it on occasion. The food in front of her was strange. She raised a dainty eyebrow.
"What's the matter, don't like human food?" Inuyasha asked. His mouth was partially full, and he held a fried chicken leg in one hand.
"Inuyasha!" Kagome reprimanded.
"I'll have you know, I happen to enjoy mochi," Lady Shinsuke replied. She delicately lifted a piece of fried chicken and held it close to her narrowed eyes. She tilted her head as everyone glanced at her queer behaviour.
"Uh…" Helen said. "That's fried chicken."
"I am completely aware of what a chicken is," Lady Shinsuke said as she set the piece on her plate.
"That was fried," Helen went on. "It's really tasty, try it." She gave her mother a smile.
Lady Shinsuke picked up the fork beside her. She bought it close to her face, and narrowed her eyes at it. She then turned her gaze to the dinner knife beside her plate and frowned. "You use weapons as eating utensils?" she said, turning her attention back to the fork.
They couldn't help it—they chuckled.
"Here, let me show you," Helen said as she showed the demoness the proper way of using a knife and a fork. To her credit, Lady Shinsuke was a quick learner and, soon enough, was using both knife and fork as though she were a paragon.
"By the way," Kagome said, when everyone finally dug in. "Has anyone seen Sesshoumaru?"
Helen froze, fork midway to her mouth. "I haven't," she lied, a little too vehemently, giving her cousin a flat look. For an instant, the look in Sesshoumaru's eyes as he looked down on her from the rooftop flashed through her mind, and she immediately pushed it aside…albeit with difficulty. What was he doing on the roof in the first place? she thought.
Kagome returned her cousin's look. "I wasn't asking you specifically," she pointed out.
"I was just volunteering an answer," Helen said defensively.
"Touchy, touchy," Inuyasha said, grinning.
Helen glared at him. Alicia and Andrea glanced at Helen before leaning towards each other. "Why do I get the feeling that she still likes him?" Alicia whispered, her hand cupped to Andrea's ear.
"I know," Andrea said tragically. "Though, looking at Sesshoumaru, you really can't blame her."
Helen's eyebrow twitched. Really, did her friends think that she was shallow enough to go for Sesshoumaru's looks alone? If I remember correctly, even I don't know why I love—loved—him. What am I thinking? She shook her head. Inuyasha and Lady Shinsuke both wore smug looks as they looked at Helen.
"Poor Todd," Alicia said.
"Ally, I know this is really rude, but twenty bucks says she breaks up with him," Andrea whispered.
"You're horrid. Twenty bucks says they're still together by the time we go back to America," Alicia countered, ever the loyal one.
"I can hear you, you know!" Helen screeched, giving her friends a glare. She was acutely aware that both Inuyasha and Lady Shinsuke, the only ones who could hear the two's whispers, were both wearing the same amused expressions on their faces (which was saying something).
"Oh, right, super demonic hearing," Andrea said. She took out her iPhone, typed in the word, 'deal?', and showed it to Alicia. They both shook hands.
Helen's eye twitched as she leaned her head against her palm. Can demons really get headaches? she thought, making a mental note to ask Kagome for an aspirin.
"To answer your question, Kagome," Lady Shinsuke said. "I cannot sense Sesshoumaru's presence. I think he may be looking for Sokoro." Though she knew perfectly well that he was still on the roof, 'meditating'.
Helen's eyes snapped to her. "On his own?" she said. Though she tried to hide it, there was no mistaking the concern in her voice.
"No need to worry about him," Lady Shinsuke said, though her tone indicated that she wanted Helen to worry. She waved a hand dismissively. "Sokoro weakens for a while after bringing a Creation into this world. He will be perfectly safe, no need to fuss."
"I wasn't worrying," Helen said, scoffing, as she crossed her arms, her food forgotten.
"I can almost smell that twenty bucks, Alicia," Andrea said, winking.
"Wait…" Helen said slowly, as realization dawned on her. "Sokoro…would she go after anyone aside from me and Sesshoumaru?" The thought of Todd alone with Robert at the hotel while Sokoro ran lose somewhere made her stomach tighten with worry.
"I highly doubt it," Lady Shinsuke said. "Her main focus would be you, Sesshoumaru, Toshimaru, and Lord Susanoo. She may be capricious of nature, but that woman always has her eyes on the prize." She leaned back in her seat. "As was the case when she tried to seduce Lord Inutaisho."
Inuyasha spat his soup. "WHAT?!" he asked, eyes wide with surprise. "My old man?!"
Lady Shinsuke shrugged. "Takeida was extremely angry, of course," she said. She placed a finger to her chin thoughtfully. "If I recall correctly, before we sealed her on the moon, she slapped Sokoro. Hard."
Kagome had no doubt that Sesshoumaru's mother had been the jealous type. Like mother, like son, she thought. If that's the case, I wonder if she was ever jealous of Inuyasha's mom?
"Is that why she was flirting with Sesshoumaru when they fought?" Helen said, trying to sound nonchalant.
"Someone sounds jealous," Inuyasha said, grinning.
Helen glared. "I have no reason to be!" she said. "It's just that…how are you supposed to fight properly?!"
"She sounds defensive," Souta said to his mother in an undertone. Helen shot him a look.
"Twenty bucks," Andrea said again, rubbing her fingers together.
"I can't believe you guys!" Helen snapped. "How could you make a bet on me?"
Andrea shrugged. They were in Kagome's room, helping the miko move in two more cots. Due to Lady Shinsuke's arrival, new sleeping arrangements had to be made. Mrs. Higurashi had gladly given said demoness her own room, while she and Hsia would be bunking in Kagome's room. Souta would be staying with his grandfather while Sesshoumaru still kept the boy's room (which Souta thought was still the coolest thing in the world).
Helen let out a long sigh. "How much did you bet?" she asked flatly.
Alicia looked up sheepishly. "Twenty," she said.
Helen slapped a hand to her forehead. "Twenty," she repeated, disbelieving.
"Truth be told," Kagome said as she sat on the cot. "Helen, I've been wondering…are you really over Sesshoumaru?"
"We've been through this before," Helen said, pinching the bridge of her nose. She could sense the demonic headache coming along. "I. Am. Over. That. Jerk."
"Then why are you so defensive?" Kagome said.
"Do you want me to break up with Todd?" Helen snapped.
Kagome raised her hands. "No, I actually think he's good for you," she said. "But…I want you to be happy Helen."
Helen stared at her, at a loss for words. "I am," she said. She sat beside Kagome and stared at her feet, Alicia and Andrea momentarily forgotten. "Todd cares about me Kagome. He makes me happy, he really does."
Then why can't you look me in the eye? Kagome thought. She sighed, and put on a smile. "I'm glad to hear it!" she said as she stood up. "I really think Todd is such a nice person, you know."
"He is!" Helen said brightly, giving Kagome a smile.
"He's pretty good on the track team, too," Alicia offered.
"And he puts up with Hellie!" Andrea added.
Helen glared at her. "And what do you mean by that?" she said, lobbing a pillow at Andrea.
"Hey!" Andread said as the pillow hit her on the face. "That!"
Kagome and Alicia laughed as Helen threw another pillow at Andrea, who managed to dodge. At that moment, there was a tentative knock on the door.
"Come in!" Kagome called. To her surprise, Lady Shinsuke entered the room, both her hands clasped behind her. She was still wearing her kimono. Helen planned to take her to the mall tomorrow, to get human clothes for her.
"Hey, Lady S.!" Andrea said, waving cheerfully. She still wasn't too fond of the demoness, but she could try—for Helen's sake.
The demoness looked taken aback at the familiarity. "Hello, human," she said.
"It's Andrea," she corrected.
Lady Shinsuke smirked. "It's Lady Shinsuke," the demoness quipped.
"Anyway," Helen said, interrupting Kagome and Alicia's chuckles. "What brings you here, Mother?"
"There was an annoying contraption making such a bothersome ring downstairs," the demoness said. "There was no one around to silence it."
"That was probably the telephone," Kagome said, inwardly marvelling that such a demoness could be so technologically handicapped. "I didn't hear it ring, though. I'll go answer it!" She immediately leapt off the cot.
"You needn't bother yourself, I bought it over," Lady Shinsuke said as she held out the telephone receiver that she had hidden behind her back.
Kagome's eyes bugged out when saw the telephone wire that had been neatly severed. "I…I need an aspirin. Now," the miko groaned.
Helen sighed as she stared up at the ceiling. It was quiet. Everyone had gone to sleep, with the exception of Lady Shinsuke who had said that she didn't need sleep, and that she would be meditating in order to find Sokoro. Sesshoumaru was probably awake as well, though Helen had no idea where he was. Probably in the Shrine grounds. Inuyasha had fallen asleep in the living room, while watching Aibo.
Helen turned over in her bed. Why was it that people seemed to think that she wasn't over Sesshoumaru? She had Todd, for Pete's sake! And she was happy with him. He was kind, understanding, and he cared about her, despite the secrets that she kept from him. She knew that he was having a hard time accepting her secrets, but who could blame him?
Don't lie to yourself, the annoying little voice said.
-I am! Helen insisted. Todd is everything that Sesshoumaru will never be!
That's because you're not giving him a chance.
-Excuse me? I gave him a lot of chances last year! A lot of chances to break my heart! Her eyes widened in surprise as she sat up in bed. A torrent of memories suddenly came raging at her, of the times Sesshoumaru had hurt her again, and again. And she had forgiven him again, and again.
You know what Sesshoumaru is like. It takes him forever to just trust someone. How long do you think it takes him to finally admit that he cares about you?
-Why should I wait that long in pain? I deserve to be happy too, you know!
Yes, you're very happy. Was it just her, or did the little voice sound sarcastic?
"I am," Helen whispered to herself as she lay back down and buried her face in her pillow.
She didn't sleep.
Firstly, yes, I am still very much alive. I've been very busy over the years, but not quite as busy now, so expect regular-ish updates from me in the future!
Second, I've gone through all the stories I've ever written, and let me tell you guys this…I cringed. I absolutely cringed when I re-read my older stories. The writing was in very poor style, some characters were OOC (especially Sesshoumaru), I had typos (I actually used 'loose' instead of 'lose'! Kill me now!), there were redundancies. Yeah…cringed. One good thing about re-reading all the stories, though, starting from the very first one you wrote, is that you can actually see yourself improving. I'm very happy on that point.
I cannot promise to re-write those stories (that would take several lifetimes xD), but I can promise you guys this: I will improve my writing, and make it even better : )
Last, but not the least, I want to thank you all for reviewing, for following, and for putting this story in your favorites! Your reviews really mean a LOT. So thank you : )