Author Notes: Here it is, the end of Ego & Bias. I still have no idea how I turned a quick little story I wanted to crank by the end of January '14 took this long. For some reason I remembered 'Pride and Prejudice' being shorter and simpler. Anyways, I see this as the end of the adaptation, but I want to add some drabbles to this world later on. Maybe an 'Ego & Bias: Addendum?'… or I could think a better title. I like the Inu+Kag dynamic of this story too much and I already have a few one-shots I want to add on, but don't wait up for them. I wanted to get E&B done so I could get back to my other multi-chap stories. Well, tell me what you think at the end! I had fun writing this world and I hope you had fun reading!
Disclaimer: The Inuyasha world and all characters depicted are a creation of mangaka, Takahashi Rumiko.
Kagome was genuinely thrilled. Today had been one of the most exciting days from the past three years. Three years five months eleven days, specifically. After years of searching and countless calls to every book collector, Kagome had done what she had been starting to think was impossible. Somehow, with a turn of luck she didn't expect, she had found the current owner of the illusive Darwin book.
It had been like any other Monday morning when Totosai, a newer client of the bookstore, came in to sell a book from his collection and put in a request for another one. As Kagome gathered the facts about which specific book he was looking for, she found out that he was purchasing the book for a grandson's birthday. Totosai as an elderly man was admittedly chatty -a trait Kagome didn't mind in her clients. The store wasn't particularly busy, so she enjoyed the conversation. She couldn't remember how, but the discussion turned toward her hunt for On the Origin of Species.
By some coincidental miracle, Totosai immediately recognized the name of the book and new of the exact copy she had been looking for. Kagome questioned her mental stability for a second because she could have sworn she heard angels sing and the sky open up in a ray of light. The greying man who was still on this side of senility recalled how a friend and fellow book collector had been the last owner of the tome. The friend in question had suddenly died six years ago and his entire library had been inherited by his son. The son was a wealthy and busy man who didn't share in his father's passion of books, so he had gathered the books in his house's massive library stacks and nearly forgotten about them.
Totosai assured that the son would be willing to part with the book and gave the name and number to Kagome. With the name and location of the book, Kagome was a woman on a mission. The book was so close she could practically taste it. Not wanting to jinx her luck, she had kept her current lead from her boss. No need to excite the man if it turned out to be false hope.
A quick phone call to the number, she made a conference call appointment with the wealthy and busy son. An agonizingly long two and half hours later, she received a call from the secretary who patched her through to the man with the book. Kagome was honestly a little surprised by how little convincing was necessary to procure the book. The man just wanted to be assured that the copy was going to someone who would truly love it. He also seemed amused by Kagome's long plight searching for the book.
She had a price cap of how much she was allowed to offer for the book, and was unexpectedly below the mark by twenty percent. It wasn't that she pulled the wool over the man's eyes; on the contrary, he seemed to know all too well the value of the book. So instead of quoting something outrageous, he offered it for exact market value. She wished all her transactions ended like this.
That had been yesterday and Kagome had been like a kid on Christmas morning when she went into work. The book had been overnighted and arrived promptly with the delivery man at ten in the morning. The delivery man even made a comment at her eagerness of signing for the package. She knew she was acting ridiculous, but this was a major moment in her professional career.
With her coworker in, Kagome was able to hole up in the back room with the package. She spent an exorbitant amount of time carefully opening the box and found it in a plastic bag. Kagome frowned at the plastic bag -it was a storage method usually observed by novice book collectors. It seemed like the logical way to preserve a collectible edition, but books needed to breathe. The last thing you wanted on a first edition was trapped moisture to be the perfect breeding ground for mold and bugs. Humidity also had a tendency to warp the pages and cause them to buckle. Despite the plastic bag, Kagome was pleased with the packaging that cushioned the travel for the precious tome.
Kagome was uncharacteristically nervous handling the book. Which was strange, considering that it was neither the oldest nor the most expensive books she'd ever dealt with. Granted, the value of the book could buy a house in some real estate markets. However, books had less to do with money and more to do with the history it contained.
White cotton gloves on, she delicately slid the book out of its hunter green leather case with adjoining gold lettering and stitching. The actual book had a matching leather cover and lettering, but had the added detail of an embossed filigree on the front and back cover. There were a few instances of some bumps and wears on the corners, but that was to be expected from a book that was over one hundred fifty years old. The pages were yellowed and held the distinct aroma that accompanied old books. The pages were scribbled and annotated in the quick handwriting of someone who had obviously been studying the material. But the crowning jewel was in the inside cover where the words 'Darwin Cambridge' was hastily written. Francis Darwin, Charles Darwin's son, famously attended Cambridge University and took up the family business of studying botany. Even though Kagome barely understood the difference between osmosis and mitosis, she was giddy over this particular book on evolutionary biology.
She made a thorough evaluation of the book and contacted the previous owner. With the business and financial end of the transaction complete, Kagome was excited to contact the buyer. Having told her boss to get the deposit payment processed the day before, he told her that the buyer had been contacted and was thrilled to find out that the fabled copy actually existed.
Personally, Kagome could have spent hours with the book and studied the pages, not for the content but for the weathered pages. However, she was eager to finally meet the buyer who, her boss informed her, would be coming by the next day to pick up the book in person. On top of the added intrigue of meeting the enigmatic buyer, Kagome was more excited to see the look on the buyer's face. All book buyers had a unique expression when they finally got a hold of the book they wanted. Kagome suspected she was a bad judge of character in the outside world, but in the confines of the bookstore she had faith in her deductive skills. And that was why she could have kicked herself for not following her instincts and avoid Kouga. The bombastic reaction he had toward the Hemingways should have been a tipoff, but it wasn't something she could help now.
Putting the problematic Kouga out of her mind, Kagome had finished her work day excited to start the next one. With enough good mood to topple a cheerleader, she decided to treat herself to dinner and made the pilgrimage across town to Kaede's café. Being early and a Tuesday, she hoped she could secure a meal before the limited quantities ran out. Kagome had already tried on one other occasion to grab dinner, but made the mistake of going on a Friday and completely missed out. But this time, standing in the short line she had a good feeling.
Approaching the register, Kagome was genuinely surprised to see Shippou ready to take her order. "What are you doing here?"
"Hey Kagome." He greeted chirpily. "I needed some extra cash for the weekends and Kaede offered me a job."
She raised a brow in surprise. "You actually found time for that?"
"The semester ended and I'm only taking one summer course." He explained. "So what will it be? Muffin? Carrot cake? Cappuccino?"
"Actually, I want the dinner. Is it still available?" She asked hopefully.
"You're in luck." He declared as he deftly typed in the order into the register. "Drink?"
"Water with lemon."
Totaling the amount, Kagome paid and took the receipt. The café didn't have waiters and usually required the customers to pick up their food from the counter, but Shippou told her to grab a seat and he would bring it over when he went on break in four minutes. Dinner and table service? She felt a little spoiled, which indicated that maybe she needed to get out more.
Finding a small two-seater table tucked away in the corner, she took her seat and sipped on her water. It wasn't particularly busy tonight, but she enjoyed her prime location for people watching. The elderly couple by the window were beyond adorable in their mannerisms as the wife reached over and wiped a wayward droplet of sauce from her husband's chin. There was a gaggle of college-age girls who were chatting away and giggling. Kagome also counted five loners who were busily working away on their laptops and was fulfilling the tortured writer stereotype by working in a coffee shop. Even though she was entertained by the various other customers, Kagome inadvertently caught herself glancing around the café looking for a hint of silver hair.
"Here you go." Shippou pulled her out of her observations and set her plate in front of her.
"Thanks." She grabbed her fork and set in, and noticed the small plate with a bear claw on it. "I didn't order that."
"It's on the house." He said while pulling out the other chair and taking a seat with his own cup of coffee. "I remember you talking about these things last time."
"You're going to make me fat." She said while pulling the small plate with the pastry a little closer.
Shippou grinned and shrugged. "Inuyasha won't mind."
"What does he have to do with it?" She asked a little too quickly.
He looked at her a bit confused. "You're dating the guy aren't you?"
Taken aback by the inquiry she faltered a bit in her response. "Who told you that?"
"Sango." He answered simply and as if his reference was a solid one.
Kagome chewed over in her mind the last conversation she had with Sano and shook her head. "She's just speculating." And then she swiftly departed from the uncomfortable topic. "How about you? Aren't you hungry?"
"I get at least a half dozen left over bagels at the end of the night. I'm good for now." He assured and motioned for her to eat.
Taking him up on his offer, she dug into her food -not realizing how starved she was. She was distracted by the book the entire day and had only been able to sneak in a granola bar at lunch before she was rushing to get back to the book.
"You seem like you're in a good mood." He commented while she hummed in delight after her first bite.
The meal was a cornucopia of carbs and protein, and she probably enjoying it a little more than usual. "I've just had the best week at work."
Shippou laughed. "It's only Tuesday."
"And tomorrow is going to be the icing on the cake." She grinned.
"Did you find a super rare book?" He asked, sincerely interested.
"I finally found a book I've been looking for since I first started working." She explained. "It was actually my first request at that bookstore."
"What book? Would I know it?"
She shrugged. "Maybe. It's the On the Origin of Species."
Shippou was ready to comment on it but seemed to think the title over. He tilted his head to the side and furrowed his brows. "That's a biology book, right? It sounds really familiar."
"You probably heard about it in high school when you learned about Darwin." She commented.
He seemed satisfied with the reasoning and took a sip of his coffee. Kagome evaluated the auburn haired boy and compared him to her brother. Shippou was boyishly good looking. His smile was devilish with a slightly prominent canine teeth. He had the kind of face that had girls his age swooning and older women pouncing -as evidenced by the giggling group of girls who stole more than their fair share of glances his way.
There was something about Shippou that told her that he was more settled into adulthood and therefore more calm. Her brother, now eighteen, looked the part of a young man but his mindset was still very much that of a kid. She was surprised the difference a year made. Maybe it was going to college and being on her own, but she could only hope that Souta matured over the next year.
"I'm going to ask you something, and you're more than welcome to say no." She tentatively offered.
Shippou seemed intrigued and sat a little forward in his seat. "Uh oh. This sounds like it'll be a biggy."
Kagome playfully winced. "Not too bad. I'm just wondering if you could meet my little brother."
He let a short moment pass before answering. "Look, I'm flattered, but I'm not gay."
Hearing his rebuttal, Kagome laughed and frantically shook her head. "Neither is my brother. I just wanted you to talk to him because you seem like you have a good head on your shoulders. Anything I say just goes in one ear and out the other."
He let out an exaggerated sigh. "And here I thought you were vying for an awesome brother-in-law."
"Don't worry, you'd be first on my list if it were the case." She quipped.
"But why all of a sudden?" He questioned. "Is your brother interested in theoretical physics or something?"
"No, he just ran into some trouble last week." She sighed. "I think it scared him straight, but talking to someone his own age who is responsible doesn't seem like a bad idea."
Shippou sat back with a smile. "Trouble you say? I'm kind of an expert on trouble."
Kagome shot him an incredulous look. "You go to Central."
"I don't exactly fit my school's stereotype." He admitted. "But I got myself into more trouble than I should have in high school. I don't want to make excuses, but my dad died after a mugging gone bad and I had a lot of pent of aggression. My mom also died when I was still a toddler, so I was sort of alone after that."
"I'm so sorry." She sympathized.
"My aunt barely knew what to do with me, so she signed me up for the Big Brother Big Sister program." He said nonchalantly. "Inuyasha didn't take any of my crap and I pretty much straightened out after I started listening to him."
She perked up at the confession. "That gives me hope. I'm hoping Souta gets through this year unscathed and without an arrest record."
"I was one smartass comment away from a stint in juvie." He reminisced, sounding as if he was glad the experience was behind him. "Only reason I got out of it was a really good lawyer."
Surprised by the all too familiar similarity between Shippou's story and what happened last week with her brother. "A public defender?"
"Actually the public defender I first got almost landed me in legit adult prison." He explained. "But I used Inuyasha as my one phone call, and he sent over his super lawyer who somehow got my punishment down to an insane amount of community service hours."
The tales of the two rebellious boys were a little too parallel to ignore. When she had called Miroku to thank him for sending Myouga after that night in the police station, he went along with it but seemed to know little on the topic. But now that Shippou was talking about his experiences as a teen, Kagome had her suspicions.
She tried to keep her tone casual with her next question. "What was the lawyer's name?"
"Myouga Nomiyama. I send him a Christmas card every year since." He answered after a sip of coffee. "He's actually an old family friend of Inuyasha and general counsel at his company."
Kagome felt her heart skip a literal beat. Inuyasha, the man who she had gone out of her way to not give the benefit of the doubt, was turning out to be a shadow guardian angel. Without taking credit for his deeds to help the lives of his friends, he was working for his own conscience. He had every right to let people know that he was pulling teens out of trouble and mending relationships, but he didn't. And because he didn't, it made the acts seem all the more selfless to Kagome.
"Crap. My fifteen minutes are up. I have to get back to work." Shippou grumbled as he glanced at his watch. "Enjoy the rest of your meal." Kagome thanked him distractedly and he wondered about that but quickly added, "Bring your brother by next time. I close most nights here."
She nodded with a grateful smile and watched him walk away. Her mind was a wind storm of contradicting thoughts. The jackass that she knew as Inuyasha was turning out to be one of the more caring people she'd ever met. Thinking on the time he spent with him, she couldn't deny that the silver haired man snuck into her thoughts more often than she cared to admit.
Inuyasha challenged her in ways no one else ever had, and subconsciously Kagome knew she also found their arguments stimulating. No one kept her on her toes or caught her off guard like Inuyasha. Was this the famous spark everyone seemed so hell-bent on finding?
Kagome visibly jumped a bit and looked up from the dinner that she couldn't remember finishing. Kaede stood next to her table chuckling at her reaction.
"Hi Kaede." Kagome greeted.
"What has you so in your head?" The older woman questioned.
"I'm just a little distracted." She replied vaguely and then motioned to her empty plate. "I'm glad I secured one of your dinners tonight."
Kaede smiled. "Just call ahead next time. I can keep a plate aside for you."
"And miss out on the thrill of the chase?" She joked. "And you don't owe me any favors."
"Anyone willing to keep up with Inuyasha deserves a guaranteed meal once in a while." Kaede commented.
Kagome furrowed her brows at the wording. "I don't know if I know what you mean."
"Don't be coy with an old woman." She admonished in good humor. "I hear you two are dating."
Kagome's eyes visibly widened and she waved her hands in front of her. "We're not dating."
"Oh?" The woman said knowingly. "I have it on good authority that you two are together."
Kaede was saying this as if to inform Kagome of the facts. The woman sounded so certain, that Kagome wondered if maybe she was dating Inuyasha and didn't know it. She quickly chased away the doubt in her mind. "Whose authority?"
"Sango and Shippou both told me on separate occasions." She revealed.
Kagome frowned. "Well, Shippou heard it from Sango, and Sango is making things up."
Kaede chuckled quietly. "If you have Sango's stamp of approval then you'd do Inuyasha some good."
"I think she just wants to find another couple to double date with." She reasoned. "I think I've lost any chance with him."
The older woman quickly grabbed onto the last admission. "Do you want a chance with him?"
Realizing that she said the last bit out loud and not in her head, Kagome blushed. How was it that every conversation she had these days always led back to Inuyasha? She seriously considered Kaede's question and didn't know how to answer. So instead, she decided to avoid it. "I've been completely wrong about him."
Letting the young woman avoid giving a proper answer, Kaede nodded. "Well that's mostly his fault, isn't it? He's not the best at first impressions. But I promise you, he has a heart of gold."
"Don't worry, I know." Kagome said with a sigh. She got the feeling that she owed Inuyasha more than she ever expected to. "He pretty much has the pick of any woman out there. I'm sure I was only a brief lapse in judgment."
Kaede observed the young woman for a long moment. Kagome felt she was being read all too well. Even though she probably had other, better, and more important things to get to, Kaede took the seat Shippou previously occupied. There was something about the woman that had Kagome trusting her. There was a grandmotherly touch to her that had Kagome knowing she couldn't tell a lie to the old woman.
Kaede discreetly motioned with her eyes toward the bakery area in the back where Kikyou was busily moving about. "You see my niece over there?"
Kagome glanced toward the beautiful young woman and she immediately remembered how envious she was of the other woman's porcelain-like skin and silky hair. Kagome had spent the better part of her life battling her combination skin and mop of unmanageable hair that never quite listened to her.
Getting a nod in acknowledgement from Kagome, Kaede continued. "She's shy to a fault and has a tendency to come off as a bit cold, but she's incredibly kind and caring. She started out helping me in this shop as a teen and eventually surpassed me as a baker. She's the one who keeps this place afloat now and manages the business better than I ever did."
Kagome wasn't quite sure what to make of Kaede's sudden turn of conversation, but responded. "She sounds perfect."
Kaede raised a brow at the evaluation, but continued. "She used to date Inuyasha."
Kagome eyes widened at the revelation and she looked back to the stunning Kikyou. "They would make for a very attractive couple." She admitted.
"And you know Inuyasha, he's very accomplished in his own right even though he acts like an idiot sometimes." Kaede added. "They were never really friends as children, but went through life knowing each other. Everyone thought they would be a good match and so it was no surprise that they started dating during their first year of college. But they broke up within a two months."
Kagome wracked her brain to recall the brief and unmemorable interaction between Inuyasha and Kikyou back on Valentine's Day. There had been nothing hostile about the air around them, but she could be wrong.
"It was an amicable split." Kaede answered as if reading Kagome's mind. "On paper, they logically made the best couple but it didn't work. They're both incredibly interesting people –they just made for a dull couple."
"Dull?" She repeated confused.
"Incredibly dull." Kaede qualified. "You could hear a pin drop in the awkward lapses in their conversations. They stuck it out for as long as they did because I think they suspected that they were each other's common-sense choice partner." Kagome remained quiet, not sure what she could say in response. "But relationships aren't common sense."
Kaede didn't comment further on the topic and continued on with polite conversation for a few minutes more before going back to the kitchen. Kagome was left to her thoughts and untouched bear claw. On the way home with the pastry in tow, she was a bit lost in her thoughts. The excitement of finding the illusive book was trumped by all her interactions with Inuyasha and about Inuyasha playing over in her head.
When she arrived at her apartment, she called Miroku to ask about the lawyer. Miroku spent the first ten minutes of the call adamant that he sent the magic-working attorney. However, he folded like a house of cards and admitted that Inuyasha had sent Myouga to rescue her little brother out of trouble.
Kagome had a difficult time falling asleep that night. She wanted to blame it on finally getting a hold of the book, but she knew better. She contemplated writing a long letter of apology to Inuyasha attached to a basket of muffins, but thought better of it. She was obviously getting a little delirious as the lack of sleep gnawed away at her nerves through the night.
She felt nowhere near refreshed when her alarm clock blared in the morning. Estimating approximately forty-two minutes of sleep, Kagome schlepped her way around the apartment and somehow got herself dressed and ready for work. Even though the excitement for the book remained tingling below the surface, she struggled to stave away the exhaustion from her bones.
As the opener for the store in the morning, Kagome knew she was free from interacting with other people until her coworker, Kagura, came in for the start of her shift two hours after the store opened to the public. Getting into the slightly dusty store, Kagome made a straight line for the back room. These earlier than usual mornings were never a cakewalk but the lack of sleep was taking more of a toll than she expected. She nearly sung in glee at seeing the coffee machine having been cleaned by the closer last night. She was going to buy Kagura a box of donut holes for just that small favor.
As the coffee machine percolated away, Kagome's mind wandered a bit. The routine to get the store ready was mindless enough that she always used the time to get herself ready for the day. There were a few commissions for books she had to research on and the daily store keeping to attend to. Maybe it was getting back into her professional environment that whipped her back into shape, but she was able set aside any distracting thoughts from the night before.
The rest of her morning churned away per usual with the walk-in shoppers being at the usual low on a Thursday. Granted, there never really was a rush in the small bookstore aside from the slight influx during the holiday season. However, today was the big day. The culmination of over three years of dead-end leads and false hopes summed up to this day.
To say she was nervous and excited would be an understatement. Kagome felt like a little kid before a field trip. She even had a restless night and bubbling enthusiasm to prove it. Her coworker Kagura came in and covered the floor while she ducked away to the back room. The high value books, like On the Origin of Species, were safely locked up in the store safe. It was also store policy to keep the safe locked unless there were two or more people working. There had been only three occasions in the bookstore's decades-long history when the safe was opened without at least a second person present. So Kagome knew that opening the safe when she was alone to just bask in the glory of it would not have gone over well with her boss.
Kagura had chuckled at Kagome's anxious delight to study the book before it needed to be passed off to the new owner. Kagome made careful notes of the condition of the book for future reference. This was a task she completed for all books, but more thorough notes were made for the high valued tomes. Even though it was unfortunate, some owners didn't treat their books as well as they should and when it came time when they wanted to resell it, the books showed more wear and sometimes decreased the value. It broke her heart, but it wasn't exactly something she could prevent. However, she did make it a point to warn the new owners.
Kagome didn't realize how engrossed she was with her task until Kagura popped in to the back room. "Kagome, your client is here."
Looking up from the book, she frowned in response. "They're early."
"What time was he supposed to get here?" Kagura asked while glancing down at her watch.
Kagura grinned and shook her head. "He's actually five minutes late."
Eyes widening she whipped her head back to the clock behind her. She cursed internally that her desk faced away from it. Glancing down at the book she knew she had about another half hour of proper notes she wanted to make. "Stall him."
Kagura raised a brow at the concentration and speed Kagome threw into her note taking all of a sudden. "For how long?"
"Five minutes." She answered distractedly.
Kagura laughed at the way Kagome was thoroughly absorbed in the book. "This one is hot. I'm going to try to get a number."
Kagome barely registered the comment as she worked at warp speed through the final few pages and back cover. Finding out that the mysterious buyer was male was the first tidbit of identifying fact she learned about the mysterious buyer. If she wasn't so busy with the book, she would have probably wondered more about the man but there were more important things at hand.
When she made the final notes about the book -and she was glad she had extra time since even the back inside cover had writing in it. She hurriedly corralled the pages with her handwritten notes and set them on her laptop to be typed up later. She was never one to cut it this close with a client and it just made her nervous.
Carefully sliding the book into its own leather case, Kagome carried it toward the sales floor. However, just as she opened the door that led out to the store she froze in her step at hearing a familiar voice. It was as if her life was turning into a sitcom and she was the butt of every joke.
Opening the door fully to confirm her suspicions, she heard and saw the tail end of the conversation between Kagura and Inuyasha. "Well, give me a call if you have a free night."
Inuyasha seemed casually cool by the offer from Kagura. While the two of them finished up their flirting, Kagome was trying to process what was going on. She was a firm believer that a person was only allotted so many coincidences. Currently, her life was bordering on ridiculous. How was it that she was running into people at all the most unexpected places?
As if on cue, Kagura and Inuyasha both turned toward her. Kagura nodded toward her and announced, "The bookworm emerges."
Kagome would have usually made a comment back at her usual jibes, but now was not the moment for friendly office banter. "Inuyasha?"
He at least had the decency to also be surprised. "Kagome? This is your store?"
Kagura turned back and forth between Kagome and Inuyasha. Raising a brow, she asked the obvious question. "You two know each other? Kagome, I thought you said you didn't know the client."
"I didn't." Kagome said dumbly. She didn't exactly know how to explain what was happening.
Kagura, however, had a few cheeky comments to make but was called over by other customers who were browsing the store. She frowned at her inability to meddle where her coworker didn't want her, but she dutifully left the pair to attend to the other customers.
Inuyasha looked confused, but seemed to process the situation quicker than Kagome. She instead stood still with white gloves on and the book in hand. Knowing full well that she looked like an idiot, she tried pulling herself together. "You're the client?"
"This is your store?" He questioned again.
"Yeah, I mean, no. I just work here." She fumbled over her answer as her mind tried to catch up to the situation. From the corner of her eye she could tell that Kagura was headed back in their direction with the customers in tow. To stay out of their way, Kagome motioned for Inuyasha to follow her to a small alcove off to the side where a counter height table was cozily nestled among ceiling-high book cases with glass cabinet doors. It was her favorite section of the store where the collection of rare, but not necessarily expensive, books were stored. It was also where client meetings usually took place as it was more private than the counter that outlined the rest of the store.
Carefully placing the book on the table she gestured for Inuyasha to stand next to her. She didn't know exactly how else to act aside from treating him like a typical client. Offering him a spare set of white cotton gloves, she moved on to carefully slide the book out of the leather case. Setting down the book with the front cover facing upward, she started her usual explanation of the book in question.
"This is a presentation copy of the first edition of the Origin of Species published in 1859. It originally belonged to Charles Darwin and later to his third son Francis Darwin." She slowly opened the book and turned to the front free endpaper. "There were 1,250 printings of the first edition and twenty-three presentation copies. However, Darwin never signed them himself; instead, his clerk had 'from the author' written on the endpaper." She turned to the title page and pointed to '92' written faintly in pencil in the top right corner. "This is the catalog number that shows that this book actually did belong to Darwin himself because it was part of the 'Catalogue of the Library of Charles Darwin.'" She flipped back a few pages and showed a quickly scribbled 'F Darwin Cambridge.' "It's believed that Francis used this copy during his studies at Trinity College of Cambridge University. The annotation made in the pages later contributed to the revised editions Francis published of his father's works."
Inuyasha, who at the beginning of her explanation fumbled with the white gloves more than he should have, listened carefully with rapt attention. At her pause, he pulled himself out of his gawking stare. "Can I get that in writing later? I don't think I can remember all that."
Kagome nodded. "Don't worry, I don't send you off with a book in hand and only a pat on the back."
He considered her and the book for a long moment and finally voiced his thoughts. "Sorry, I just can't get over that fact that you actually found this thing and that you were the one looking for it."
"Did you know I was your book broker?" She suddenly asked frankly.
"Not until a second ago when you came out of the backroom." He confessed. "Small world."
The casualness of his tone threw her off a bit. "So it was you this whole time?"
"Whole time? I was the one who put the commission in; if that's what you mean." He furrowed his brows. "You've been the one looking for it for three years?"
If it had been months ago, Kagome would have judged his words to be a snide remark on the amount of time she took to finally hunt down the illusive tome; however, now she knew better. His comment was just a simple question and nothing biting.
"I had been working here for a month as a sales associate and attending to walk-in customers -which is what Kagura does." She started to explain.
"The woman you were flirting with earlier." She explained with a pointed look. "Anyways, I wanted to actually take on a commission and mentioned it to my boss. I should have known better when he was all too quick to pawn off this commission to me. It was my first one too."
"I wasn't flirting." He protested mildly. "Anyhow, he warned me that it would be a while before this book was found. He just said he had the best man on the job."
"Less man and more girl fresh out of college." She commented.
"I still can't believe you found it." He said while awe slipped through his voice without meaning to.
"I've never not found a book and you were about to make a liar out of me with this one." She said. "You almost ruined my perfect record."
"Were you going to give up?" He asked.
Surprised by his question, she thought it over and then shook her head. "No, I wouldn't have."
He gave a crooked smile at her response. "Well, then it wouldn't have messed up your perfect record."
Oh that smile. She was sure there were many a girl knocked over by that smile and she would probably have been no exception if not for sheer will and pigheadedness. "A few more months and you would have canceled your commission." She stated surely.
"Oh, really?" He said amused by her assertion. "I wasn't exactly in a hurry. I could have waited out a few more years. I mean, once you hit year three of the search I figured it would be a few more."
"You would have waited?" She asked a bit disbelievingly.
"Anything worthwhile is worth waiting for, right?" He replied as if quoting something someone told him a long time ago. And there was meaning heavy in his words but the way he said it was light. "Also, what the hell do I know about book finding? For all I know, I was asking for the Holy Grail."
Inuyasha proceeded to carefully go through the book after receiving nonverbal permission from Kagome to touch it. It was odd to think that someone who owned something needed consent to handle it, but Inuyasha got the feeling that the book belonged less to him than it did to her. Kagome had spent years on the search for this tome and probably knew every crease and scribble in the margins. He couldn't help feeling a bit like an intruder as he looked over the pages of his own book.
Kagome observed him observing the book. She had played over this moment hundreds of times in her head, but none of them involved the client being so young, handsome, or so very Inuyasha. Granted, she didn't know of Inuyasha's existence until only a bit back, but her first interaction with him at Kouga's party all those months ago indicated disinterest in books if anything.
As she scrutinized his movements a little too openly, she was careful in the tone of her next question. "Why did you keep your identity hidden?"
Turning up from the book, Inuyasha shrugged. "You think I get a fair market value when people know my name? Your boss knew who I was, I just asked that the less my name is mentioned the better."
What he said made sense. She couldn't know on the contrary, but maybe if she had known it was an outrageously wealthy client like Inuyasha she would have been more liberal with the authorized funds. But she wanted to clarify one point with him. "I don't work on a percentage commission. It's a bracketed fee based on the value of your book."
"I know, it's nothing against you." He chuckled at her defensive tone. "Only that I ended up paying sixteen percent above market value for my apartment just because the seller heard I was interested."
Even though she could have done without the three years mystery, she could understand his sound reasoning. But something nagged at her from their first conversation.
"I thought you didn't like rare books." She confronted.
"I have nothing against books." He said offhandedly as he continued to study the book.
"I know that now. I mean, I saw your office." Kagome acknowledged. "But you had a few choice words to say about Kouga's first edition Hemingways."
"What I said when we first met, I..." He began as he left the book alone for a moment. "I don't actually believe that. I was just trying to keep you clear from Kouga."
Her brows furrowed in confusion. "You didn't even know me then."
"No, but I don't like the way he treats things in his life like some kind of trophy. Everything is for show to him." He revealed. "All his past girlfriends were just human trophies and you seemed like you were going to fall into his trap."
She let a long pause fall between them. "I'm worth making into a trophy?"
He laughed at her question, but decided not to respond. Any compliment he paid to her was usually misconstrued and he wasn't wanting another argument again.
"I almost fell into Kouga's trap and my little brother got dragged into it." She waited for some kind of reaction from him on the topic, but he had a better poker face than she realized. So instead, she took a deep breath and faced him straight on. "I can never thank you enough for what you did for Souta."
His unreadable face cracked at the expression of gratitude. "Who told you?"
And that was as much confirmation as she needed. "Shippou let the story of his savior slip and mentioned Myouga by name."
"That little snitch." Inuyasha grumbled.
She couldn't claim to know Inuyasha very well because she honestly didn't. She hadn't given herself or him a chance to get to know each other. However, her limited interactions with him told her that he didn't take compliments well. He seemed always to play down all the good things he did and seemed almost embarrassed by his own philanthropy.
"I also wanted to thank you for fixing Miroku and Sango." She said earnestly.
He seemed uncomfortable with the praise and frowned in reaction. "I was the one who broke them up."
"You had your reasons." She assured, letting him know that she understood his motivations. "You're going out of your way to straighten out the lives of the people around me and you're doing it without trying to get credit for it."
Inuyasha was honestly surprised by Kagome's sincerity. Their previous meeting at Miroku's birthday was the first time that antagonism had left the air between them. It was still a foreign activity to be so civil with each other, and that also didn't seem right. What he liked about her was that she didn't take any of his crap. There was still an inkling of that spitfire still within her, but she seemed to be trying to temper it down in front of him. And that was why Inuyasha was sure he wasn't wrong about her.
"You have to know," he began nervously. "I did it for you. All for you."
Kagome's eyes widened at his confession. It was by far and away the last thing she expected to hear from him -especially after what she said to him outside of Kaede's place on Valentine's Day. She had convinced herself that his interests had already moved on to the next girl and she had already been an insane afterthought that he wrote off the moment he left her on that sidewalk.
She was ready to respond, but was interrupted by Kagura popping into the alcove. "Sorry to interject, but I have a walk-in here who wants their book authenticated."
Kagome pulled herself out of her stupor. "I'll be with them in ten minutes."
Kagura nodded and disappeared as suddenly as she had appeared. Alone again, it was undeniable that whatever moment was there before was gone. Instead a blanketing awkwardness cloaked them.
"Sorry, you're busy." Inuyasha apologized uncharacteristically and obviously embarrassed for saying what he said earlier.
"No, it's fine. You're a client." She mentally kicked herself after seeing him slightly wince at what she called him. Kagome had instantly boiled down everything between them -or not between them- by making this a purely business relationship. But there was a time and a place and this wasn't it. "I'll get your paperwork from the back."
It was only a matter of minutes by the time she had Inuyasha's paperwork in order and his book carefully wrapped ready for transport.
"Do I have to handle the books with gloves every time?" He asked as he held the packed up book.
"You can do what you want with the book, it's yours now." She said but also added, "But the oil and acid from your hands can degrade the book over time."
"No touching then." He confirmed.
Seeing that he was ready to leave and that the other client was beginning to hover closer and closer, Kagome felt words suffocating her to say something. But there were too many ears and not enough time.
"I guess I'll leave you to it then." He said after a long pause between the two. "Thanks for finding my book."
"I hope you think of us again when considering your next rare book purchase." She said automatically.
The all business tone to her voice had him tilting his lips down a bit in a frown and he gave a curt nod. "Thanks."
As he walked away and out of the store, Kagome stood frozen in place. There was a book to appraise and so many more things to attend to in the store but she couldn't make a move in any direction. Why had she acted the way she did with Inuyasha? All she needed to do was tell him... tell him what exactly? Did she have anything to tell him?
"I could have cut the sexual tension with a knife." Kagura said and let out a low whistle.
Kagome narrowed her eyes at her. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Sure you don't." She mocked. "And that's why he left out of here like a sad little puppy because you didn't give him the time of day."
"He..." Kagome started and didn't know what she wanted to say.
Kagura rolled her eyes. "Kanna should be here any minute now. She can do the authentication."
"I don't see why I can't-" Kagome started confused.
"Because you're going to be too busy running after that guy." Kagura chided. "At least grant him the decency of your phone number for god's sake."
Kagome frowned. "This is some pep talk."
"I'm shoving you in the direction of the hottest guy to walk in the store in a year." She remarked mockingly miffed. "I'm not giving you extra encouragement. If you don't want him, I'll take him."
Kagome peeled off her white gloves quickly gave them to Kagura. "I want him." Without much more prompting she raced out of the store.
Only a few short minutes passed since Inuyasha had left the store, but he wasn't within eyesight. Kagome felt a little more than foolish as she stood right outside the store not sure in what direction to continue. This wasn't a movie, Inuyasha wouldn't be only a short walk away and for her to run into his arms. How was it that she was stuck in a bad romantic comedy all of a sudden? Even though the triteness of the situation killed her, she hoped it was on her side. If this was some kind of romcom, then all of this might still have a chance of ending well.
Turning to the right was the way to Inuyasha's apartment while the left was the offices of his company. It was still the middle of the day and he probably had hours left in the office. But he had a priceless book with him and that wasn't something you left lying around the office. Turning to the right she sped down the street and toward the path she and Sango last took to his apartment.
Her kitten heal wasn't conducive to running, but neither was her pencil skirt and blouse. Kagome wasn't about to let her wardrobe get in the way of an event that had been culminating for six months now. Turning the corner at the end of the block, she felt hope well up when she saw a shock of long silver hair.
"Inuyasha!" She called out before she realized it. The street with the milling lunch crowd peered to look at her as if she were crazy, but she couldn't bring herself to care.
Hearing his name shouted at him, Inuyasha stopped and turned. The expression on his face was a cross between surprised and wary. When Kagome reach him, she was panting for breath. She swore to herself that she was going to be hitting the gym starting tomorrow. Book hunting was obviously not a legitimate form of exercise.
"Whoa, whoa. Deep breaths." He took her by the shoulder and had her step inward from the middle of the sidewalk toward the side of the building to be out of the way of other people. "Did I get forget something at the shop?"
Catching the majority of her breath, she faced upward and fully into his eyes. "No. I- I have something I need to ask you."
He waited patiently because of her sense of urgency. When she saw that he wasn't going to prompt her further, she steadied her nerves. Just as she was about to say something, she realized she didn't know what she wanted to ask. Wasn't it just a second ago when she has so much to say to him? Why was her mind blank now? Why couldn't she think of the right thing to say? Kagome was not known to be short on words.
Feeling the heaviness of the pause between them, Inuyasha finally spoke up. "Don't worry about it. Maybe you can shoot me an email."
Her hand shot out reflexively to grip his jacket sleeve to prevent him from turning away. She had no doubt in her mind that her eyes held desperation in them at his attempt to leave. So instead of freezing on what to say, she blurted out a question she was used to asking. "Why this book?"
He let the question settle in his mind and tilted his head at her. Inuyasha wasn't a book broker and didn't know if this was something that was essential to know, but the emotion in her tone told him that he couldn't avoid answering it.
"It's not for me. It's a gift." He responded truthfully.
She was taken aback by his answer. That was not what she expected to hear -especially for something that cost the amount that it did. It was obviously going to someone who he considered important to him. Or the only other possibility was that he was just a very generous giver.
"You put in a three plus year commission for a gift?" She said disbelievingly.
Her tone had him smiling. "It's a gift for my mother."
"Mother." Kagome repeated blankly.
"She's a doctor." He explained. "Actually, I come from a long line of doctors. Both my parents, my brother, both sets of grandfathers, and at least one great grandparent."
"You broke tradition." She stated.
"Against my father's wishes." He admitted with a smirk. "It was like World War III in our house when I told them I wanted to pursue other interests. Even my brother said I was being an idiot." Kagome didn't know quite what to say at this revelation, as she didn't expect to learn so much about Inuyasha especially like this out in public. Yet he seemed unfazed and continued. "My mom was my only ally and finally talked the old man into letting me not go to med school. She gave this crazy reasoning that Charles Darwin had ten kids and only one followed in his footsteps."
Kagome frowned at the last bit. "Then wouldn't this be the last book to get for her?"
"She reasoned that if the father of evolution can be a doting father to nine kids who didn't follow in his insanely famous footsteps, my dad didn't need his ego inflated by me following his." He said.
"So you got your mother the book written by the one son who did take up the family business?" She sounded incredulous.
Inuyasha laughed at her tone. It was the first sign of the old Kagome he'd heard in a while. Kagome wasn't meek and apologetic like she'd been the past couple meetings. She was ballbuster and kept him in check.
"My mother is also a fan of the Darwins, she's a medical geneticist." He explained and watched her as she seemed to process the news. "Does that answer the question you sprinted here to ask me? Is that all you wanted to ask?"
"Yes." No, she mentally screamed at herself. "That's all I needed to know."
He waited for a second longer and gave a shrug. "I guess I'll see you around then."
As he turned to walk away, Kagome felt regret bubbling up the moment she lost eye contact. She could reason that there would be other chances, that she could even call him that night; but Kagome was tired of waiting and running.
She reached out her hand and grabbed his arm to swing him back around. Locking eyes with him she fisted her hand around his tie and pulled him down to be level with her. He seemed surprised more than anything, but that was an expression she was willing to deal with.
Stretching up the rest of the way, she threw caution to the wind and pressed her lips to his. He was immobile for only a split second before he reacted. Inuyasha brought his right hand to finger through her thick hair and his left went to her waist with the book still in hand. She felt the rigid spine of the book pressing into her back and the whispered comments from people passing by. Kagome didn't care about the prying eyes of strangers and brought her other hand up to rest against his chest.
She had never been one to enjoy public displays of affection, but she was more than willing to make an exception. However when she felt him lightly nibble on her bottom lip and aiming to deepen the kiss, Kagome felt a smile tug on her lips but pulled away. Still within his arms she caught her breath while staring at the expanse of his chest. It was one thing to make out with the guy, and a whole other to actually talk to him.
"For that," he said. "I'll buy a book from you every day."
Kagome laughed and appreciated his attempt at humor. Peeking up at him, she could tell that he had most definitely enjoyed the kiss as much as she had. "That most definitely wasn't all business." She said in reference to New Year's Eve. "I don't go around chasing clients and assaulting them."
"Well, I volunteer next time the urge arises." He grinned at her.
Rolling back on her heals, she allowed space to open between them. "I've wanted to do that since I met you."
He let his left arm fall away from her but slid his right hand to gently circle her left wrist. He raised a brow at her comment. "You hated me back then."
"Doesn't mean I didn't want to jump your bones." She admitted.
"I could have been part of hot angry hate make out sessions this whole time?" He asked in mocked stun. "You, me and the sidewalk. This brings back some memories."
"I don't remember kissing you last time." She pointed out.
"You're right. Last time, you shot me down because believed Kouga's lies." He remarked.
She narrowed her eyes. "And you broke up my cousin with the only girl he's cared about in years."
"He didn't exactly have the best track record." He defended.
"He's your best friend." She argued. "He deserved the benefit of the doubt."
"That's why I got them back together." He disputed.
Feeling the tension rise between the two, Kagome stopped herself from responding again. Letting out a sigh, she shook her head. "I may not hate you and I know you're actually one of the good guys, but I'll never not find you infuriating."
"Same to you." He admitted calmed a bit and decided to change the subject. "You know, Kaede called me last night. She said she saw you at her place. She was a little cryptic about it but she made it sound like you wanted to tell me something."
Kagome blushed a bit at remembering her conversation from yesterday and what she disclosed to the old bakery owner. "Like what?" She feigned innocence.
"I don't know, you tell me." He exhorted. "I was going to call you, but I didn't want to come off as the pushy guy who can't take a hint. I can take rejection only so many times."
He was right, she realized. Inuyasha despite being brusque had been honest with her so far. While she dodged her own feelings and kept up her guard, he had put himself out there asked her out. If the kiss was any indication she had a good shot with her next question.
"Do you want to get dinner with me sometime?" She asked a bit nervously, realizing that her wording was very similar to Inuyasha's from back in February.
He seemed momentarily surprised, but gave a grin knowingly. "Are you asking me out on a date?"
Her nervousness melted away by his mocked smugness. She gave him an exaggerated eye roll and then smiled. "My treat."
He considered her offer and shook his head. "How about lunch?"
"Lunch?" She repeated surprised by the counteroffer.
"Yeah, did you pack today?" He asked causally.
"You mean now?" She let out an incredulous laugh.
"What, are you busy?" He questioned.
"Well, my lunch break is coming up." She glanced down at her watch to confirm the time. "Let me go back and let Kagura know and get my bag."
"My treat." He copied her previous answer. "And you can use my phone to call the store."
"I don't need you to pay for my lunch." She disputed lightly.
"Yeah, yeah. I am woman hear me roar. I can pay for my own meals." He chuckled. "It's just lunch."
Kagome raised brow at the suggestion. "You're a lot more spontaneous than I realized."
"I've got to try sweeping you off your feet." He said with a smirk.
"And not the other way around?" She looked up at him confused.
"I was swept a long time ago." He quipped. "I have some catching up to do."
Kagome let his words sink in and riffled through the memories of the past few months. In what world had her behavior led to a good-looking secretly kind millionaire being even remotely attracted to her sharp tongue and foul attitude?
"You know," she said aiming to set him straight. "I like you. I really like you. Some might say I'm smitten."
He perked genuinely curious. "Would you say that?"
"Jury's still out, but I'll let you know." She smiled up at him.
"So how about lunch? Are we on?" He asked and reciprocated the smile.
"Maximum ten dollars." She stipulated. "And I get it next time."
"I know just the place." Hearing her relent to the suggestion he nodded pleased. Taking her hand he guided her down the block. "Also, thanks for taking the pressure off."
Following him, she wondered aloud what he meant. "Pressure? What pressure?"
He grinned back at her. "You've already agreed to the second date. No need to try to impress you."
"What, were you going to make balloon animals and spin plates or something?" She jested.
Inuyasha laughed. "I knew I was doing something wrong. No wonder you rejected me, I needed to go to clown college."
"God no." She answered strongly. "Clowns are terrifying."
"Got it, no circuses." He confirmed and stopped in his tracks. A look of worry crossed his face. "Miroku is going to kill me."
Kagome tilted her head. "Why?"
"For taking out his baby cousin." He said as if the crime were obvious.
"On a date, not taking out to kill." She laughed at his expense. "And I was under the impression he was trying to push us together."
"To be friends." He clarified. "He's going to demand to know my intentions."
"This is not the Georgian Era." She argued.
"The what?" He asked confused.
"Jane Austen era." She clarified. "Anyways, I don't need permission to date people."
"Yeah, but there's a bro code." He explained.
"I'm pretty sure that has more to do with sisters and not cousins." She smiled and shook her head. "In that case, you need to watch out for Souta."
"Your little brother?" He seemed unthreatened by his name.
"He's going through this protective streak because of Kouga." She said nonchalantly. "I also grew up with my grandfather in the house who thinks I should join a convent and become a nun."
Inuyasha seemed to seriously contemplate the implications of her statement. "I have three male family members to get through?"
"My feminist instincts are yelling at me even at the suggestion." She shrugged and offered him an out. "I might not be worth the trouble."
Feeling her hand try to slip away, Inuyasha firmed his grip and stared at her with an uncharacteristically serious expression. "You're worth it."
A smile tugged at the corner of her lips. She mentally took note that she caught herself smiling frequently with him around. "I don't know how you can be so confident about that, but I'll try my best."
"Don't try. You act weird when you try." He charged. "I rather you yell at me than try to be polite."
Not exactly what every girl waits to hear, but Kagome appreciated it. It wasn't the first time that her outspokenness got her into trouble and straight out of relationships. If Inuyasha even remotely liked that about her, well, that was a step in the right direction.
"Be careful what you wish for." She said a bit sing-song.
He laughed. "I think I'm up for the challenge." With that, Inuyasha guided Kagome along by the hand toward the restaurant and their first date -at last.
Kagome: Elizabeth Bennet
Inuyasha: Fitzwilliam Darcy
Miroku: Jane Bennet
Sango: Charles Bingley
Souta: Lydia Bennet
Shippou: Georgiana Darcy & Colonel Fitzwilliam
Kaede: Lady Catherine de Bourgh
Kikyou: Anne de Bourgh
Kouga: George Wickham
Hojo: William Collins
Ayumi: Charlotte Lucas
Myouga: Uncle Gardiner
Kagome's Mother: Mrs. Bennet