AU. Inu/Kag. Mir/San. Everyone's human. Modern day.
This takes place two years after Part 1.
Title is again a reference to T. S. Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.
Disclaimer: I do not own Inuyasha.
There Will Be Time
It had been eighty-four days since filming for the movie adaptation of Measuring Life with Coffee Spoons had begun. Really, saying eighty-four days was just a dramatic way to measure time—it was the equivalent of saying three months. That, however, sounded far less serious to Kagome. When she talked about the movie to her friends and family, she wanted to make sure they understood how long it felt to her.
It had been eighty-four days since she had last seen her boyfriend, Inuyasha, the author of the above mentioned book.
Really, she knew they were lucky that the director had agreed to let him on set as a 'producer.' A lot of authors got zero say in the adaptations of their books. Even so, Kagome hated the fact that he had been gone for eighty-four days, filming in Italy. Italy. The book didn't even take place in Italy!
As if the situation wasn't already bad enough, there was also the fact that the main character was based on Kagome. Which was flattering and sweet and the main reason a relationship had started between her and Inuyasha in the first place, but…
It was just so embarrassing!
Thankfully, the only people who knew the truth behind the front page dedication in Measuring Life with Coffee Spoons were Kagome's family and close friends and Inuyasha's half-brother (who also happened to be his publisher).
As if he knew how down Kagome was feeling, her friend and ex-manager, Miroku, plopped down next to her. She had set up shop at the table by the window nearly four hours earlier. After all the time she had worked in the café herself, just being there calmed her down. The smell of coffee and the sound of milk being steamed could be downright soothing. Today, though, it didn't seem to be working.
"I was flipping through a tabloid this morning," Miroku began casually, propping his chin on a closed fist.
"You would be," Kagome shot at him with a weak grin.
"And I saw some pictures for the movie," Miroku finished smoothly. He paused and leaned forward conspiratorially. "Want to see?"
"Already saw them," Kagome admitted with a bashful look. "The similarity is almost scary, isn't it?"
"Ah, you mean between you and the actress who's playing you?"
"She's not playing me," Kagome corrected immediately, her cheeks flaring up with the usual blush at any mention of 'her' starring role in the book. "She's playing the heroine."
"Who happens to be based on you and therefore looks like you, acts like you, and works the same job as the one you did when you first met the author," Miroku elaborated with a devilish smile. "Face it, Kagome, it's basically a movie about you."
"Anyway," Kagome said forcefully in a peeved attempt to take back control of the conversation, "that actress, Kikyou, really looks like me, doesn't she? I thought Inuyasha was exaggerating when he told me after the casting."
"Well, she fits the description in the book. Which, might I point out again, is based on you."
"She has to wear blue contacts since her eyes are gray, and I heard they had a lot of trouble getting her to agree to the wardrobe—too many pastels, I guess—but other than that…"
Miroku stayed quiet, choosing to study his friend closely instead of responding right away. There was something bothering Kagome that he couldn't quite put his finger on. Even if his lovely wife, Sango, hadn't shoved him toward the table five minutes earlier with a sharp demand to Fix Kagome, damn it, he would have come over to stick his nose in her business anyway. "Who's playing the detective?"
When a slow smile slid across Kagome's face, he was surprised at the sudden lift in her mood but proud of himself for causing it nonetheless.
"Get this, the detective is played by a guy named Naraku."
"Naraku?" Miroku echoed. "Why does that name sound familiar?"
"Come on, you've got this," she encouraged, waggling her eyebrows.
And then it hit him. "No way! Naraku McBadguy the arch-nemesis of Inuyasha the spy?"
"Bingo!" Kagome laughed, recalling their conversation nearly two years ago when she and Miroku had all these crazy conspiracies that could explain why Inuyasha (whose name they didn't know at the time) had been repeatedly coming into the café. "Except his name is Naraku Onigumo. What're the chances?"
"I'm guessing slim to none, but that's pretty cool."
"Yeah," she agreed while taking one last glance out the window. The sun had started to set. She gathered up her things and stood from the table, stopping only to drop a kiss to Miroku's cheek. "Thanks," she said.
"You know what you did," she teased, but she sounded genuinely grateful.
Miroku watched her leave the café with a thoughtful look on his face. He may have temporarily cheered her up, but he hadn't, in Sango's words, 'Fixed Kagome.' Not yet, anyway, but he wasn't about to give up.
"What'll it be?" Shippou asked with a grin at his favorite person in the entire world. In the two years since Kagome had started dating Inuyasha and stopped officially working at the café (although she was known to help out around the holidays when the staff wanted more days off), the redheaded boy had graduated high school and started college.
He was the last remaining member of the 'old crew.' Hojo, Kouga, Ayame, and Yura had all graduated college and moved on to bigger and brighter things. Secretly, Kagome was happy, because that meant she could have her adorable pseudo-little brother all to herself. (Souta, her real little brother, was more attached to Inuyasha these days anyway.)
"Coffee, just black," Kagome replied in a distracted voice that was just as alarming as her order.
"Uhm, Kagome," Shippou began, his hoarse voice pitched low so as to not attract attention from the two customers standing behind her. "You hate black coffee. You like fancy lattes with way too many syrups and whip cream."
Kagome blinked back at him, and it was obvious that she was forcing herself to focus. She scrunched her face up in confusion. "Wait, what did I order?"
"Ick! Just… just give me whatever I got last time, Shippou," she said apologetically.
"Sure thing," he agreed with a smile. "And an almond cookie?"
There was an unusual pause, and Shippou could have sworn Kagome's lower lip started to tremble as if she was on the verge of tears. Finally, she shook her head slowly. "No, thanks. Not this time."
Quickly, Kagome handed over enough money to cover whatever drink Shippou could possibly make her and still have enough left over for a good-sized tip. With one last faint smile, she left the counter and found a table in the corner. Shippou followed her with his eyes, his eyebrows knitted together as he tried to understand what had just happened. Finally, he realized that Sango had come out from the back office and was standing at his elbow.
"What is it, sweetie?" (This was hint enough at how weird the exchange was, since Sango was not the type to call anyone 'sweetie,' not even her husband. It was a much more Kagome-like trait.)
"Something's up with Kagome."
"Yeah," Sango agreed, also watching as her friend sat at the table. "Something's definitely up with Kagome."
This time, pictures from the movie set appeared in some semi-respected gossip magazines in addition to the usual tabloids. The captions and article titles were all the same:
Famous Author Has Affair with Leading Lady?
Between five magazines, Kagome counted thirteen different photographs. Inuyasha talking to Kikyou by a trailer on set, Inuyasha handing the actress a plate of food, Inuyasha and her standing way too close together under an umbrella, and one extremely grainy image of Inuyasha and someone who appeared to be Kikyou with their faces extraordinarily close to one another, if not touching.
As calm as could be, Kagome shut the cover of the magazine, ashamed that she'd been tempted enough to look in the first place when she knew it would upset her, and pitched all five into the trash can. She then picked up Buyo from where he was sleeping on the floor and retreated to her bedroom.
"Kagome! This is… ridiculous, okay? You know those magazines are bullshit. Look, I've called nine times already. Nine! Do you know how much this is costing me? Over something this stupid, you know? Jerks pay money to get crap pictures like that just to mess with people. Just pick up the damn phone. Just… please."
Sango rapped her knuckles on Kagome's apartment door. The two women were still close, but they just didn't have as much time to hang out as they'd had when Kagome had been her employee. That was the only excuse Sango had for not noticing for four days that the 'something' that was up with Kagome had gotten a whole lot worse. Finally, that morning, Miroku had stumbled across the pictures of Inuyasha and that Kikyou woman in a magazine in the waiting room at the dentist's office.
"Kagome?" Sango called out, her voice steely but concerned. It was a tone that only she managed to pull off without sounding like a complete bitch.
When her friend opened the door, however, Sango was at a loss for words. Kagome looked…
She was dressed in a pair of jeans and a sweater, she had mascara and lip gloss on, and her hair was brushed to a silky shine. She even had a smile for Sango when she greeted her.
"Hey! Come on in—mind the mess, I've been cleaning all morning. I forgot how much of a packrat I could be," Kagome said with a laugh.
"Hmm?" she asked with another smile, clearing a path to the couch. There were trash bags and cardboard boxes everywhere. Sango peeked inside one labeled 'Charity' and found a bunch of Kagome's old clothes she recognized from their college years. "If you give me five minutes, we can go out for lunch."
"Oh, yeah, sure," Sango replied, befuddled. "That sounds… nice." The brunette hesitated, but in the end, she remembered being subtle was more of her husband's specialty than her own. "How are you feeling?"
Kagome, busy tying her shoes, blinked up at her. "Fine?"
"I… Kagome… about those pic—"
Before Sango could finish her sentence, Kagome jumped to her feet and grabbed her friend with one hand and her purse with the other. "Let's get going! I'm starving."
Feeling defeated, Sango just trailed along in her wake.
"…Kagome? Can you at least pick up your phone just once—you don't have to say anything—or send me a text or something so I know you're okay? I tried Miroku and Sango, but they're not answering either. Shit, I even tried Sesshoumaru, and he hung up on me. You've gotta know this is all a total misunderstanding. If you'd just… if you'd just answer your phone, we could fix everything."
"Go get 'er, tiger!" Sango whisper-shouted encouragingly, giving Shippou a small shove in Kagome's direction. The black-haired girl was reading a book at her usual table, a hot chocolate and a scone on either side of her. When Shippou tried to mention almond cookies this time around, she'd flat out cut him off mid-sentence.
"But what do I say?" the boy demanded, obviously terrified, as he dragged his feet.
Sango gave him another push. "Just chat with her. She's acting totally happy and normal, and it's freaking us out. It's like there never was an Inuyasha, but we all know there was, right?"
"Uh, right," Shippou agreed, quirking his eyebrows at his boss as if he thought she was crazy. With one last dark look from Sango, he stumbled into motion. "Hey, Kagome," he greeted, taking a seat next to one of his best friends and trying to figure out if he was supposed to look friendly or concerned. (In the end, he looked constipated from trying too hard to look both friendly and concerned.)
"Hey, Ship," Kagome chirped cheerily, pushing her scone toward him a couple of inches in a silent offer to share.
Happily, Shippou snapped off a piece of it and popped it in his mouth. Not even bothering to swallow first, he asked, "So, uh, how are you?"
"Why does everyone keep asking me that?" Kagome replied immediately with one of her patented overdramatic eye-rolls. "Work's fine, family's fine, cat's fine. I get to visit you guys at least twice a week, and I saw a good movie—I read a good book—"
When she said 'movie' and again when she said 'book,' Kagome flinched as if someone had shoved or shouted at her. Shippou's shoulders drooped, and he leaned across the table to place his hand over Kagome's.
"You know, those pictures were totally innocent. It was just that bogus headline that made it look bad."
"I know," Kagome said quietly, her thinly-masked gloom finally coming to the surface. "Is there something wrong with me since I won't just sit down and hear him out?" she demanded, her voice almost angry. "But, wait, even before this, things were…"
"Yeah, we noticed," Shippou admitted. "You've been weird for months."
"It's just—" Here, Kagome cut herself off, shielding her eyes with her hand. Shippou didn't think she was crying yet, but she sure seemed close. "He barely called after he left, and he's always leaving for weeks or months at a time to go on book tours, and he gets so freaking crabby when there's a deadline. We've been dating for over two years, and if I even try to mention moving in together, he shuts me down right away."
"None of those things bothered you before he went away to film the movie," the redhead pointed out practically. "In fact, you even told me that you thought it was 'cute' with how stressed and worried he got about making a deadline. I mean, even at his worse, back when he was writing Measuring Life, you guys still had a connection even when he was… Well, he was kinda a prick to everyone else. But not you."
"But now he has Kikyou!" Kagome wailed, startling Shippou, Sango behind the counter, and the three other customers. "She's his age and not almost four years younger like I am, and she's sophisticated and rich and—"
"Not you," Shippou interrupted forcibly, supportively. "So what if she's the same height as you and has the same colored hair? Kikyou's not you. And Inuyasha loves you, right? I mean, Kagome, he wrote a book for you when all you'd done was bring him coffee and smile at him for two months… How many times has he called you since those pictures came out?"
"I don't know," Kagome mumbled evasively. "Like… thirty?"
"I think what the real problem here is," Shippou said wisely, getting to his feet and patting Kagome on the head as if he was the older, smarter one of the two, "that this time when he went away, you realized how much you missed him."
With that, he left Kagome to chew over his words.
"Shooting wraps up in two days. I'll be home in three. You better be waiting at your apartment; we've gotta talk."
When Inuyasha approached his girlfriend's apartment, he did so with the slow, tentative steps of a person about to face a fight they didn't know they could win. He looked exhausted and haggard—mostly from months living out of a suitcase in a foreign country but also from the eleven days he'd gone without hearing from Kagome.
He had to face it: he was a mess.
However, he was still a man. One of those manly men, he assured himself, who faced the music whether he'd like the outcome or not. Okay, so maybe he could have reacted better or said things differently in his (many) messages. He could have flown home early or called the magazines and demanded a retraction.
Instead, Inuyasha had just sat it out halfway around the world, because, well, he wasn't as good at fixing things as he was at breaking them.
So he knocked on the door and waited (im)patiently as he heard Kagome's steps on the other side. When she opened up, he was almost bowled over by how small and vulnerable she looked. In an oversized sweater, shorts, barefoot and with her hair pulled back, but—
At least she wasn't crying.
To keep himself from throwing his arms around her until he fully understood the situation, Inuyasha crossed his arms against his chest. Then, realizing how that might make him look defensive, he awkwardly uncrossed them and held them firmly at his sides instead.
"Hi," he said.
"Hi," she said right back. Carefully, she asked, "So, did anything happen between you and that actress?"
"No, of course not. Nothing."
"Okay?" he asked, surprised.
"Yeah. Okay," she repeated, taking a step forward and successfully closing the yawning chasm he had thought was between them. And in that sweet way she had of making affection seem easy and normal instead of awkward and difficult (like he always did), she looped her arms around his neck and dragged him down to meet her in their first kiss in one hundred and twenty-five days.
"Hey, Kagome!" Shippou greeted cheerfully from the register, waving excitedly at his friend as she came through the front door of the café. The redhead was gangly but tall enough to see over the heads of his long line of customers.
"Hi," Sango greeted as well, sweeping past with her arms full of drinks that she dropped off at various tables along the way. "Eri quit this morning, and of course Yuka and Ayumi copied her. We're officially back down to just me, Miroku, and Shippou. I don't know if you've noticed, but Miroku couldn't make a drink if his life depended on it. That's why he's in charge of the money."
"Is this a thinly-veiled attempt to get me to help out?" Kagome called after her, a little upset that her friend hadn't asked her about the past week. (Which had been spent holed up in her apartment with her boyfriend.)
"I would love you forever," Sango promised, now sweeping past in the opposite direction with an armful of trash to dump in the wastebasket.
"Say no more," Kagome said, but the café co-owner was long gone.
Under the counter was a spare apron like there always was. Kagome quickly put it on and tied it tight, bumping into Miroku until he got the hint to step away from the espresso machine. Grateful, he retreated to the bakecase and retrieved any orders Shippou called out instead.
It took over thirty minutes, but eventually, finally, the café settled down.
"I almost miss this," Kagome confided with a laugh, leaning against the counter and swiping crumbs off the counter into her cupped hand.
"Don't tease," Miroku warned, "or we might just hire you back."
"Just put up another flyer on campus," Kagome suggested, grinning. "College students flock here."
"I suppose you can have your drink on the house today," Sango told her in a (fake) strained voice, as if it took all of her power to allow this. "A caramel-chocolate-hazelnut latte?"
"Yep," the girl answered while untying her apron. "Oh, plus a coffee, just black, and two almond cookies."
"Kikyou! Kikyou, over here!"
"Kikyou, is it true that you're engaged to your co-star, Naraku Onigumo?"
"Are you pregnant?"
"An anonymous tip says you and Naraku eloped last month!"
"Seriously, are you pregnant, Kikyou? Tell us!"
Kagome squinted against the barrage of blinding flashes and shuffled closer to Inuyasha, tightening her grip on his hand. While all the other stars and important movie people were waving and smiling and chatting with reporters on the red carpet, Kagome and Inuyasha were just trying to get through the crowd as quickly as possible. Inuyasha had even resorted to glaring at any member of the paparazzi who tried to ask him a question about his career or Measuring Life with Coffee Spoons.
"See, this is why I refused interviews and never released a picture my first six years of writing," he muttered to Kagome, tugging her along faster. She was having trouble keeping up due to her four-inch high-heels and long, beautiful-but-oh-so-annoying gown. Every time a reporter called out to her with a question (mostly about her relationship with the Inuyasha Taisho), she resorted to just an embarrassed smile and wave.
"Then why did you put your picture on Measuring Life?" Kagome asked, relieved that the building entrance was now in sight.
"How else were you going to figure out who I was?" Inuyasha pointed out with a roguish smile.
Famous Author Proposes to Long-Time Girlfriend at Movie Premier
"Now that," Kagome said to herself with a pleased smile, "is a headline worth reading."
The End of Part 2