Inuyasha’s life goes to shit on a Tuesday.
“You’re proposing.” It’s not a question. It’s not even really a statement. It’s more… How would Inuyasha describe this? A big, wailing, horrified scream that resonates in his head over and over and over. Like the cackling laughter of every extreme, dramatic villain, where listening to them is a torture that lasts and lingers no matter how many times you try to kill them.
Miroku, for his part, just grins. “Yeah. I am.”
“Proposing,” Inuyasha repeats, because—Because. “As in marriage?”
“Well she got really mad when I suggested having kids first. Something about the order of things, I don’t know.” His best friend shrugs but that grin is still in place, his blue eyes are twinkling, and Inuyasha is seriously about to have a heart attack in a goddamn coffee shop because that would be his life.
“You’re going to get married,” Inuyasha tries again. Maybe if he asks enough, he’ll learn the very truth of it: why someone would want to tie themselves to a person so permanently so young. It doesn’t make sense in his head, no matter how many times he tries to grasp at it. Probably because his life plan doesn’t envision him married for another, like, seven years. “To Sango.”
At this, Miroku looks worried. The grin falters a little, wobbling in place as his brows furrow. “Are you okay?”
Inuyasha nods. “Fine,” he answers faintly.
“You look a little pale.”
His best friend stares at him for a moment longer before nodding, a tiny ah escaping as he comes to some form of realization. Inuyasha hopes he doesn’t share with the class. Inuyasha really doesn’t care.
Miroku opens his big fat mouth anyways. “Your commitment issues are showing.”
“Fuck you.” It’s automatic.
His friend only laughs. “No thanks. That’s what Sango is for.”
Inuyasha doesn’t bother to hide his disgusted expression. He intends to exaggerate it and make Miroku suffer. It’s only fair. His best friend is proposing marriage to his other best friend and Inuyasha can feel the distant chime of warning bells, promising a very different life a year from now. Two years from now. Five years from now, and so on.
Oh god, they all live together. Inuyasha refuses to consider what this means, firmly telling himself that it’s because of the rent payments and not anything remotely close to the abandonment issues that Sango likes to rag on him about. No, he’s not going there. Not today, Satan. “I hate you.”
“You love me.”
“I don’t. This is a betrayal.”
“How can my best man feel betrayed? You should be happy for me, asshole.”
Inuyasha blinks. “Best man?”
“Obviously.” Miroku rolls his eyes. “If she says yes.”
“Of course she’ll fucking say yes,” Inuyasha snaps. “Why do you think I’m so mad?”
“You’re actually mad?”
No. Yes. Inuyasha twitches. “Fuck off.”
Miroku sighs. “At this rate of panic, you’re going to give it away.”
The two of them glare at each other and it’s not until there’s a polite cough that they end the stalemate, their gazes sliding over to Miroku’s co-worker on the other end of the coffee bar. Inuyasha recognizes her but he doesn’t know her name. She’s nice, he thinks. They’ve maybe shared a grand total of four words: here’s your coffee and thanks. Miroku likes her though, Inuyasha knows, because he asks to have his shifts with her as often as possible. Something about working with people who aren’t total assholes.
Inuyasha can’t relate.
“Your shift is over, you know,” the girl says, smiling at Miroku. “It’ll probably be easier to cry manly tears about the future of your life together when there isn’t a counter between you.”
Miroku gasps, mock affronted. “Kagome!” He sounds more delighted than anything else. “Isn’t Hachi supposed to be in though to cover me?”
“He came in like five minutes ago,” she answers, rolling her eyes. “He’s in the back. Go. Get out of here before the storm starts.”
Inuyasha reflexively looks out the big windows of the café. It’s dark, like it always is during this time of year even though it’s barely dinnertime. There’s no snow on the ground but the temperature is hovering just above freezing and every weatherperson and their mother is screaming about the impending snow cyclone of doom that’s about to hit.
“Let me just get his coffee and I’ll clock out,” Miroku says easily, drawing his attention back, but the girl – Kagome – is already at the register, nudging him gently aside.
“Clock out. I have it.”
“But I give him my—”
“Your daily free cup, I know.” Kagome rolls her eyes. “You realize he comes in every day and you two do the same thing every time, right? The bickering? The declarations of masculine bro love? The part where you two yell at each other for five minutes straight promising nonchalance if the other dies?”
Masculine bro love, Inuyasha mouths, horrified, as Miroku cackles and hurries away. His horror must still show because Kagome is barely suppressing a smile, lips pressed firmly together as she watches him. “The usual?” she asks.
“How would you know?”
Kagome raises a brow. “I did just say that you come in every day and do the same thing, didn’t I?”
She has a point, but Inuyasha’s mind is screaming about Miroku’s impending proposal and masculine bro love so he can’t properly compute. It forces him to go into default mode which is, inevitably, a scowl. “Whatever.”
“Fantastic,” she answers, like he’s not a huge bitch. Inuyasha feels an uncomfortable flutter in his chest, which means that the heart attack he swore Miroku was going to cause is actually happening. Delayed onset heart attack. Has to be a thing, right?
“You guys really should head out right away,” Kagome goes on easily. Her tone is friendly, surprisingly not even in the fake customer-service-forced away. Or maybe she’s just really good at hiding it. Inuyasha’s always been shit at figuring out what people really want when they say one thing and mean another. “Did you drive here?”
Inuyasha honestly doesn’t understand why she’s trying to have a conversation with him. “No, I walked.”
“You and Miroku are roommates, right?” The question comes with the proud display of his coffee, the liquid steaming out of the paper cup. She’s not even looking at him, too busy hitting the screen of the point of sale.
For some reason, that makes it easier. “Yeah. Me, him and his girlfriend.”
Kagome grins at that. “I’ve heard stories.”
Miroku is the friendly kind of chatty. Amicable. He gets along with everyone and isn’t afraid to use his looks to sweet talk anyone who dares to give him a hard time. Inuyasha is jealous, only because it’s the absolute opposite of anything that Inuyasha can do. He’s not chatty even if he wants to be, and if someone gives him a hard time it actually requires physical restraint to stop him from punching something or leaving the room in a huff. Sango’s usually the one restraining him, her magenta eyes screaming all the while about something called therapy. Inuyasha is selectively deaf about things like that.
When Kagome continues, he realizes that he probably should have said something there. Like: anything. At all. “Is it hard to live with them? Miroku literally spends entire shifts waxing poetic about her.”
The thought makes him grimace. “We have rules.”
“No waxing poetic about Sango.”
Kagome laughs, her eyes crinkling in what Inuyasha can only assume is genuine amusement. It strikes him breathless, a zap of electricity that has his circuits fried and overwhelmed, wishing for something to ground him.
“Oh my god, did you break him?” Miroku’s loud – irritating, unneeded in this moment, thanks – voice breaks through the fog of Inuyasha’s mind. “Why does he look like that?”
“What are you talking about?” Inuyasha retorts, because this, at least, is familiar ground. Bitching at Miroku about anything and everything has been the foundation of their friendship since they met in high school. “Go away.”
Miroku sighs and in true dramatic fashion, he falls into Inuyasha’s shoulder. “You wound me! Don’t lie. The walk back to our apartment is the highlight of your day.”
He’s very nearly right. It’s only superseded by the nights that he and his friends eat dinner together. “You wish,” he grinds out.
Miroku grins and slaps him on the chest, the thunk of it against his thick coat overly soft compared to his whining voice. “I do wish! I thought we were best friends.”
“Go home,” Kagome interjects then, voice warm. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Inuyasha opens his mouth to say something, anything, because this is his chance. The only problem is that he doesn’t know what to say, and there’s no thread of conversation anymore that he can follow, can use as a crutch to lead to a normal response. Or maybe that’s just his brain, struggling still through the haze of her blinding smile and joyous laugh. God, who the fuck is she and why was she put on this planet to ruin him?
It feels rather rude.
“Yeah, yeah. Come on, Inuyasha. We can bitch to each other about work like an old married couple. Hey – did you want to get takeout for dinner tonight? I don’t feel like cooking.”
“Your cooking is shit.” Another automatic response because Inuyasha is too busy twisting his head to get one last look at Kagome before they exit the shop. She’s not even paying attention to them anymore, focused instead on putting something away. There’s a swoop in his chest, shockingly strong. He tries to remember the last time he felt something like this, if ever.
“Fuck you, my cooking is not shit. It’s how I wooed Sango in the first place. The fucking disrespect I get in this life, I swear.”
Inuyasha squashes whatever feelings are still swirling within him. They’ve never been all that useful before anyways. “You tricked Sango into dating you by using me as the fall guy.”
That makes him grin. “Well, that too. Hey, you were a busy guy! It’s not my fault work kept you late from our roommate dinner dates so often.”
It’s an old argument, so Inuyasha does them both a favour and doesn’t point out that work has never kept him from seeing his friends ever. The only possible perk for working for the family business. It sure as fuck wasn’t seeing his half-brother every day.
“So, takeout? Are we agreed? Sango will want us to cook because of health or whatever.” Miroku nudges his shoulder. “We need to show a united front.”
A united front. The thought leads him instantly to thinking about Miroku and Sango getting engaged, and that leads him to—
Well, nowhere good.
“Whatever,” Inuyasha growls. If this is all he’s going to get, he’ll take it.
So, he doesn’t really forget Kagome’s existence but Inuyasha is really good at repressing things that force him to emotionally deviate from the norm. That swoopy chest feeling? Weird, rude, and highly dangerous. Therefore, Inuyasha puts the whole thing in a small, dark corner in his mind that he viciously stuffs down. When he sees Miroku at the coffee shop the next day so that they can walk back to the apartment together, Kagome isn’t there. An earlier shift, maybe? He doesn’t know.
And, right, he doesn’t care.
So life moves on. It’s fine, really. Miroku hasn’t said anything more about proposing to Sango which is both a fantastic blessing and a sense of impending doom that Inuyasha can’t quite shake.
A week goes by. December is in full swing, which means that holiday music is playing relentlessly everywhere he goes. The fucking phone lines have even been changed from elevator music to some ripped-off version of classic holiday hits. It’s a shame. It’s annoying. Inuyasha passes by a woman in his office that is busy selecting which photo is going to be on her Christmas card and he very kindly doesn’t fire her.
The problem with the holidays, Inuyasha finds, is that business is at its very worst. Some projects are being pushed through even though the timeline is impossible, even though everyone is already fucking off because they don’t want to work anymore. Never mind that there’s still four weeks until Christmas. Inuyasha grits his teeth and makes phone calls and very nicely doesn’t call people names as he gets his work done. It’s a mission and a half but Inuyasha does it. Even if it means working on a Saturday until the evening, his tired feet carrying him the few blocks home. Snow is a staple now which is both repulsive and pretty in equal measure. Thick flakes are falling down even now, as Inuyasha swipes the fob for his building against the reader and takes the elevator up to the seventh floor.
At least he has tomorrow off. Inuyasha dreams of his lazy Sunday, of maybe getting Sango to cook him a breakfast that he can eat at noon and playing video games the rest of the day. He’ll turn his cell phone off. Miroku’s working but he never texts during his shift. Sango will probably be lazing about with him. No one else would dare call him anyways.
Maybe he can convince them to do pizza tomorrow. That would be good, wouldn’t it? Finish off a perfectly lazy day with perfectly cheesy and greasy pizza? There’s a new place around the corner that Miroku keeps whining about trying anyways. It’s the perfect—
Inuyasha is so distracted at first by his thoughts that he doesn’t notice anything’s wrong until he kicks off his shoes. The apartment is silent. Dead silent.
“Shit,” Sango hisses and then Miroku is laughing and Inuyasha doesn’t know what is going on. He leaves his coat on, more curious than anything, and immediately regrets his decision.
Miroku stands in the middle of their shared living room, one of the couch cushions strategically placed in front of himself. Sango is…on the floor behind small table that…doesn’t cover much. Inuyasha immediately glares at the ceiling. “What the—”
“Good news!” Miroku cheers. All Inuyasha can think about is that poor fucking couch cushion and how Inuyasha can never, ever touch it again. “She said yes!”
Inuyasha is so horrified that it takes him a second to understand what the fuck that even means. Then he gets it.
“Fuck,” he shouts, with emphasis. A lot of emphasis. He spins on his heel back towards the hallway, Sango’s half-hearted ‘we’re sorry Inuyasha!’ shout falling on deaf ears. Inuyasha prays he is never able to hear or see anything again, after he leaves this apartment. Actually, better that he gets hit by a car and loses all of his memories. That would be ideal. Best case scenario, 12/10 would recommend.
“You’ll be my best man, right?” Miroku yells.
Inuyasha shoves his feet back into his boots and doesn’t answer.
“Inuyasha! You don’t have to leave!”
He does. He does have to leave. Inuyasha isn’t stupid. He’s lived with Miroku and Sango for six years now and they’ve always been dating in that time. It’s why the apartment rules came into play from the very beginning. There weren’t many of them but the biggest ones went as follows:
- No sex in any shared part of the apartment
- No loud sex when Inuyasha is there
Inuyasha wishes with a burning desire that he could say no sex at all while he’s there, but he’s not stupid. That’s like trying to tell a dog not to wag its tail. Miroku, in this case, is clearly the dog.
Even if they were to go back into one of their rooms, Inuyasha would know. And that’s the problem. At least plausible deniability allows Inuyasha to mostly go to sleep at night and not think about the fact that his best friends are having sex.
Plausible deniability is basically how Inuyasha lives his life, anyways.
Before he knows it, Inuyasha is in front of the coffee shop that Miroku works at. Maybe it’s habit that brought him here, he doesn’t know. But he figures it’s as good a place as any to wait out…whatever it is his friends are doing. He’s…not going to think about it. At all.
The barista in the shop is some guy Inuyasha isn’t sure he’s ever seen before. No smiles are exchanged which is absolutely the best-case scenario as he orders a small coffee and heads for one of the back tables. It’s not incredibly late; it’s just past dinner time, and there are only a handful of people in the shop still. It probably will be open for another couple of hours so Inuyasha takes a breath and pulls out his cell phone. He still has to beat that one level of Candy Crush.
There are soft murmurs interspersed with the occasional burst of laughter. Inuyasha barely pays attention to any of it, distracting himself with dumb games and then checking his work email. There are a couple replies, surprisingly, so he manages to confirm a few details before going back to his games. He doesn’t have social media. For one mind-numbing second, Inuyasha considers loading one of the apps.
No. He’s not that desolate yet. Miroku and Sango haven’t even left him yet to go live somewhere else and play Happy Family.
“You look morose.”
Inuyasha looks up to see Kagome right beside his table, concern etched in her features. Inuyasha is pretty sure you shouldn’t be so concerned for a person you don’t know, but Kagome apparently is. She hesitates for a second before pulling out the second chair at the tiny table, sitting down on it. “Is this okay?” she asks, rather late.
Right. Because Inuyasha has just been staring at her this entire time and not said a word. Again. “Sure,” he answers faintly. He can’t stop himself from saying the next words. “Why are you here?”
By the state of her outfit, it’s clear that she’s just come from shift. Kagome smiles at him anyways. Her not calling out his stupidity is a kindness Inuyasha is grateful for. “I was in the back cleaning up. I didn’t know you were here until I was checking with Bankotsu before I clocked out.”
“Did I what?”
Inuyasha feels himself scowling. He can’t help it. It’s his default state when he feels put on the spot during conversations. This is why he only has two friends and they’re both fucking crazy assholes who have sex in shared living spaces.
No, he is not thinking about it.
“Clock out,” he clarifies. Inuyasha tries not to wince. Even he could hear how angry that sounded. Stupid Miroku and Sango, making him think about gross, disgusting things he absolutely doesn’t want to know about.
Kagome nods. “Yeah, I was about it head home.” She hesitates for a second, and Inuyasha can see the question coming from a mile away. A part of him wants her to rethink that option, wants her to get up and bid him goodbye and just never see him again. It would be easier. Inuyasha’s life would be easier if people just left him alone with his social irritation.
Not awkwardness. Miroku told him long ago that there’s nothing awkward about him. He’s just a ball of irritation or fury. Sometimes both, even if he isn’t actually either of them.
Yeah. It’s confusing.
Sango’s taunt for therapy singsongs in his head.
“I’ve been sexiled,” Inuyasha says, rather abruptly as he tries to dispel the voice of his best friend in his mind. It works, even if only because Kagome blinks at him owlishly for a moment before making a weird expression that’s both a grimace and a smile. “That’s why I’m here,” he adds. Like an idiot. Like it isn’t obvious.
“I thought there were rules.”
“They broke them.” Inuyasha feels his expression twisting without his consent. “He proposed.”
“Oh!” Kagome exclaims. She’s instantly happy, joy radiating from her like a fucking sun. Those eyes crinkle again, smile so big that her cheeks round out and Inuyasha is not oddly endeared by this look at all. “That’s so amazing! I’ll have to congratulate him when I see him on Monday.”
Inuyasha rolls his eyes at her. “Don’t congratulate him! I just told you he sexiled me!”
“Well, at least he has a good excuse.” Kagome gives him a pointed glare. “Don’t you think if the tables were reversed, you’d probably sexile your roommate too?”
Kagome rolls her eyes right back at him. There’s sass there and it comes out with a vengeance when she points an aggressive finger his way. “Don’t pretend you’re better than everyone. You would totally sexile a roommate if the love of your life just agreed to married you.”
“I’ll have to take your word for it.” Inuyasha grabs at his coffee and frowns when he realizes it’s empty.
“Oh, did you want another?”
He blinks up at her, realizing what she’s offering before shaking her head. “No, I’m good.”
“Awesome, but to circle back, you would totally do the same thing.”
Inuyasha frowns. Are they…still talking about the sexiling? “No? I wouldn’t.”
“You would!” Kagome exclaims, heated.
They’re fighting. Are they fighting? Inuyasha stares at her and watches as she works herself up, going on and on about something. He isn’t really sure. He’s definitely not listening because he’s a tiny bit distracted by her mouth but that’s— That’s neither here nor there. Just is. She’s glaring at him now. “What?”
“What?” Kagome lets out a sigh so loud, it would rival Miroku’s at his most dramatic. Maybe this is why they work so well together. “Come on, Inuyasha. Be reasonable.”
“I am.” He shrugs and grabs for his coffee cup again. Fuck, still empty. “I’m not going to meet anyone until I’m at least in my thirties, which means a later engagement and fucking hopefully by then I’d have my own place. Of course, the economy is fucked, so what do I know?”
“You’re not—” Kagome stops then, mouth parted. It’s her turn to stare. There’s nothing attractive about it and yet Inuyasha is still unable to look away.
“Not going to meet someone,” he tells her firmly. “So no sexiling because of a proposal.”
“Oh.” Kagome blinks at him and then seems to rally, her smile coming back just as big as before. It looks genuine and Inuyasha honestly doesn’t know whether it is or if she’s just that good of an actor. She works at a coffee shop. He really can’t discount the second option. “Well, that does make sense then. Sucks to be you, I guess.”
“Hey,” he yells. “Rude.”
She rolls her eyes at him – she does that a lot, but so does everyone else, really – before slowly pushing her chair back. “Well, this has been fun and enlightening, but I should really get dinner before I keel over.”
Oh, he thinks stupidly. Inuyasha watches her get up, hands pushing back at her hair to fall over only one shoulder. A habit, he thinks. Why the fuck is he even noticing this?
“It was good seeing you again,” Kagome tells him. She even seems serious about it. Inuyasha is stunned by the sincerity of it all. “Tell Miroku and Sango congrats for me, okay?”
“Sure,” he says faintly. Dinner, his mind screams. Ask her to get dinner with you. This is a traitorous part of his brain, a part that he’s pretty sure he’s never heard so loudly before. Normally it’s drowned out by the voice that reiterates the life plan he’s been told since he was young.
But Kagome waves and saunters away, and then Inuyasha watches her disappear in the back room only to come out a second later with a coat. She grins while shoving a hat onto her head before leaving.
Inuyasha can feel the scowl on his face deepening. What a strange girl, he thinks, and then feels himself frown more. It’s all probably for the best anyways. Kagome is… A friend of a friend. He doesn’t know her and he’s not going to. Inuyasha doesn’t make friends. He hasn’t since high school, when Miroku basically whined and wiggled his way into Inuyasha’s life through sheer bloody will alone. Sango was…an addition. A welcome one, one he hadn’t expected, but it was all because of Miroku.
Miroku’s always been the social glue for Inuyasha, and this situation proves it. Kagome isn’t anything to him and she won’t be. Maybe they’ll see each other the odd time, but really, what can you gleam from a person with a counter between you?
Besides, his life plan didn’t even account for the two friends he has now. Inuyasha is pretty fucking sure adding a third person would break it.
It’s for the best, he repeats to himself. An hour later, Sango sends him a text message to let him know it’s safe to come back. They have dinner waiting for him.
Inuyasha forgives him but the clock is already counting down in his head. A dangerous tick-tick-tick that seems to haunt him everywhere now that they’re engaged. How much longer does he get to have this?
So, he’s wrong. His life doesn’t go to shit on a Tuesday. Maybe that’s where it starts, but this? This is much worse.
Miroku sighs dramatically at him, head cradled in his hands. “Yes, Inuyasha. Three weeks. We’ll be back before New Year’s though, so we can still celebrate together. We’ll do the Secret Santa exchange then.”
Inuyasha makes a face. “That’s what I care about least.”
“What?” Miroku looks greatly offended. “You mean you didn’t like the ornament Sango bought you last year as a gift?”
Said ornament is still in its box, hiding under Inuyasha’s bed. It’s of three snowmen and has all of their names written on it. Inuyasha fucking loves it but this is something he’ll never admit, not even under the threat of death. “We never exchange on Christmas anyways,” Inuyasha tells him, irritated. “I really don’t care about Secret Santa.”
Slowly, Miroku grins at him. “Ah, I knew you loved me.”
“You?” Inuyasha scoffs. “For three weeks, you and Sango are going to her parents’ place for the holidays. Who is going to make me food? Sango is the only one with any sort of talent.”
Inuyasha raises his eyebrows, waiting.
Miroku sighs. “Okay, that’s a fair point. But it’s not my fault! It’s not like I thought I’d be invited.”
“You proposed to her.”
“So I thought I’d be there during actual Christmas or something. You know, normal couple stuff. Not the whole three weeks.”
“Her dad is going to eat you for breakfast.”
Miroku actually gulps at that. “Yeah, well, Sango will just have to protect me.”
As if on cue, Sango opens her bedroom door, midway through tying up her long hair. “What will I have to do?”
“Protect me from your father,” Miroku answers easily. He’s never been one to pretend he has any sort of self-preservation skill. Inuyasha secretly thinks that Sango enjoys this trait more than she lets on. She’s never been the sort of woman to be the damsel in distress, and there’s something about Miroku that makes her play the role of knight in shining armor far too well.
She snorts. “Yeah right.” Like a liar, because Inuyasha knows she’d die for the blue-eyed moron.
“Sango!” Miroku looks at her pitifully. “Come on! You want to get married, don’t you? Think of the cake! The delicious cake!”
Her only weakness. Sango grimaces. “My dad is just going to make sure you’re not an asshole.”
Inuyasha rolls his eyes. “He’s known Miroku for like five years now. He just wants to be that dad.”
With a sigh, Sango tugs at her hair and comes to sit down with them at their tiny kitchen table. It’s a rickety thing they found at some garage sale, but it’s worked for them since they started living together in their second year of university. Sango taps at it with her nails, perfectly pink, and she throws Miroku a considering glance. “Dad likes you. It’ll be fine, don’t worry.”
“I’m not worried,” Miroku answers immediately. At Inuyasha snort, he rolls his eyes. “Okay, not very worried. Only a moderate amount, but that’s to be expected. Your father is terrifying!”
“He’s basically James Bond and could kill you in a billion different ways. So yeah.” At the twin baleful looks Miroku and Sango throw at him, Inuyasha growls. “What do you want from me? Am I wrong?”
The crazy thing is that he’s not. Not really, anyways. Sango probably knows more than she lets on, but it’s known fact that her father once was in the army, moving up and up until he served under a “covert” organization. The rest is confidential. For a long time, until he retired, they thought he was a salesman for global company. Inuyasha only knows this much because in first year university, when the three of them were becoming friends through shared booze, Sango got ragingly drunk and spilled the beans.
They took a vow of silence the next morning, when Sango freaked out and realized none of them had forgotten what she said. In hindsight, it’s probably what really brought them together.
“Whatever,” Sango says lightly. “What time are you working until today?”
“The usual,” Inuyasha replies. He checks in with Miroku, who is giving his normal moony blue eyes to Sango. “I’ll meet up with this idiot as always before we come back.”
“Cool, I’ll probably be a bit after six.” Sango smiles at Miroku then before patting his cheek and getting up. “Don’t starve until I get home.”
“I’ll miss you all day,” Miroku calls out, like the absolute loser that he is. Inuyasha hates him. When Sango spins around to roll her eyes at them, there’s a blush high on her cheeks. Ugh. Nearly seven years of dating and they’re still gross like this. Inuyasha corrects himself: he hates them both.
Miroku sighs lovingly in the empty space that Sango once stood in. It’s disgusting. It truly is. It’s even worse when those big blue eyes turn to him and say, “You desperately need a girlfriend.”
The only reason Inuyasha doesn’t punch him is because the effort to reach across the table would be far too much.
This is awkward.
Inuyasha stands still by the door of the café. He can feel the cold of winter seeping in, creeping along his bared neck. He tries to readjust his jacket but it’s a nice one, something you wear into the office when you’re trying to look professional. It’s not exactly useful.
Irritated, he stares at Miroku and Kagome whispering furiously to each other, barely seen through the tiny plastic window of the storage room door. Kagome keeps shooting him these odd, unreadable glances that make him both uncomfortable and hot, that strange swooping sensation from before back with a vengeance. He could listen in. Inuyasha’s a half-demon and his hearing is excellent, thank you. But Miroku had pointed aggressively outside and had only allowed Inuyasha to remain indoors with the promise that he would focus his hearing elsewhere. It’s common courtesy and Inuyasha is an asshole but he’s not a raging asshole. So he waits, and doesn’t quite flinch when Kagome looks at him, and stews.
Miroku comes out, a massive grin on his face as he rounds the counter and bounds towards Inuyasha. There’s no other way to describe it. Part skipping, part speed-walking, part…smug hip moving? Kagome, on the other hand, looks exasperated and defeated. “Goodbye my good friend!” Miroku calls out, waving and not even bothering to look at her.
Kagome watches them with what can only be fond exasperation. Inuyasha wishes now that he had said fuck you to Miroku and had just listened in. He doesn’t even bother to wait until they’re properly outside yet. “What the fuck was that all about?” he demands, shoving his bare hands in the pockets of his coat.
“Nothing. I have to talk to Sango first.”
Alarm bells ring dangerously in his mind. Inuyasha is no fool and knows his best friend is cunning, even if he puts it behind dramatic pretenses. The man gets his way with everyone. “Tell me now.”
Inuyasha scowls. There are very few constants in the world, but Miroku refusing to budge on something until he’s done whatever pre-requisites he’s had to do is one of them. He has an iron will that makes even him – usually unwavering in the face of stupidity – crack like an old, battered statue. Trying to goad Miroku on now would only make it worse. He’d get more indignant, make Inuyasha wait it out longer and longer. He’s better off just changing the subject.
But Inuyasha doesn’t really like talking about things so instead, he remains quiet.
Miroku grins. “Don’t worry, you’ll like it.”
That’s bad. That’s really, really so bad. The last time his best friend had told him that, he had given Inuyasha a cat to babysit for a week. To this day, Inuyasha has no fucking idea who the cat was owned by, why Miroku had the cat in the first place, and why, if they all lived in the same fucking apartment, that he couldn’t just take care of it.
Inuyasha had taken care of a cat that scratched him like his blood was holy, and the monster was carving out sacraments to raise some deity of furriness.
“Miroku, just tell me now.”
No pride is worth this, but it sticks in his throat anyways. Internally he is screaming, wailing, begging for some sort of answer. Inuyasha knows it’s going to be bad. Miroku’s plans are always bad and yet he always comes out on top, like the master schemer that he is. But his mouth won’t open on a plea and instead the confliction twists his mouth into a scowl, his body humming with frustration.
“Inuyasha,” his best friends says then, patting him on the shoulder all friendly-like. “When have I ever done you wrong?”
The cat, for one.
That time he drove Inuyasha’s car into a cement post.
That time he promised to be the designated driver before smashing seven shots in a row and puking all over Inuyasha’s lap in the cab ride home.
There was the one morning in which the apartment rules were created, back in university when he caught Sango and Miroku having sex on the couch because – and this is a direct fucking quote – he thought Inuyasha would be too miserable with his life to come out of his room.
For flare and variety, there was also that time he was forced to wear female leather pants on a dare…
Miroku must see the ghosts of his past decisions flashing through Inuyasha’s eyes because he winces a little. Like he rightfully should, the fucking dick. But the friendly shoulder pat somehow turns into a one-armed hug and this is so, so much worse.
“Look, forget the past,” he declares, with all the gusto of a man about to jump off a ledge and onto the blade of a sword. “I promise. You’re going to love this or I, Miroku Tsujitani, am not your best friend.”
“You’re the worst fucking friend.”
Miroku blinks at him, openly in shock, before he turns to face his fiancée and says, with all the affront only a total fool could convey, “Maybe I miscalculated.”
“You think?” Sango shoots back because she has more than two braincells to rub together. Unlike someone—
“But I thought this would be great,” Miroku says. It’s worse because there’s legitimate sincerity in his voice, like he truly believes his plan is fine. That there’s not a single thing wrong with it. That inviting a co-worker that the rest of them barely know to stay in his room while he’s out galivanting his love for Sango at her family’s place during the holidays is truly a great fucking idea. “Kagome needs help and it’s not like we’re using my room. It’s only for a week anyways.”
Only a week. Ha! Like that makes a difference. “But I’m still here,” Inuyasha argues. How is this not making sense or getting through Miroku’s thick, idiotic skull? “I still live here!”
“It’s not like the three of us share one bedroom and you were hoping to have the mattress to yourself now that we’re gone,” his best friend counters. He has the nerve to sound like he’s talking to a particularly dim-witted child. “It’s an apartment. She’ll take my bedroom – not like I’m ever in there anyways – and you’re share the communal spaces like you do with us. One week. No big deal.” He looks to Sango then and even with his back turned, Inuyasha knows the facial expression he’s shooting her way. Raised eyebrows and big, pleading blue eyes.
Sango caves instantly, as expected. This is why Miroku wanted to talk to her first, before telling Inuyasha. He wanted back-up. Master fucking schemer. “You work five days a week,” she tries then, shrugging. “And I’m sure she works scattered hours like Miroku does. You’ll probably barely see each other.”
“That is not the fucking point.” How is this a difficult concept to understand? Inuyasha doesn’t like people. Inuyasha doesn’t want to interact with other people. It’s bad enough he let these two morons wiggle their way into his heart. Sure, Kagome seems nice but live together nice? Whole other ballgame.
Miroku sighs loudly, tilting his head back to stare at the ceiling like the universe has personally wronged him and dealing with Inuyasha is his burden to bear. It’s fucking insulting. “Her apartment is flooded,” he says, repeating the same details from earlier. “It’s a basement apartment and her landlord is a huge asshole. Her place has carpet. The whole place needs to be ripped apart and dried and put back together again.”
Okay, so that sucks. Inuyasha isn’t a complete monster. He crosses his arms though because this is the kind of shit that Miroku shouldn’t be able to pull. He can’t just make a decision like this and not ask them first. That’s not okay. “You should have come to us first.”
“My cell phone is in my locker at work because I’m an upstanding, model employee,” Miroku responds, in the same tone that one implies fuck you. “And she was crying! You know what I’m like with women when they cry!”
It’s Sango’s turn to sigh. “You’re an idiot.”
“But I’m your idiot,” he reminds her. Miroku shouldn’t be so fucking happy when he says it.
Sango shouldn’t be so fucking pleased that that is his response.
God, they’re both the absolute worst and Inuyasha hates them. With a glare, he spins on his heel and heads into his bedroom. He slams the door shut; serves them right. Inuyasha has no idea why they’re his friends. It wasn’t because he searched them out, that’s for sure. No, no. This is a punishment of some sort. It has to be. Should have just stuck with the fucking life plan.
Yes, Kagome is nice. Yes, Inuyasha could stomach sharing the apartment for a week. But at what cost? They’ll have to look at each other and make awkward conversation. Inuyasha still remembers their only two interactions and she basically said ten words for his every grunt. And that had been him trying.
No, this wasn’t going to work.
There’s a knock at his bedroom door. It’s brisk and proper, not an idiotic song. Sango, then. “Inuyasha,” she calls out. There’s only the slightest hesitation before she continues, doing the thing she always does best: whips them into shape. “You’re going to let her stay, alright? It’s one week. You’ll survive.”
Inuyasha says nothing. That’s acquiescence and they both know it. Years of friendship will do that to you.
“And,” Sango goes on, “Miroku will never make a household decision like that again without speaking to us first. I told him he’s an absolute moron and that he’s being punished.”
Snorting, Inuyasha rips open the door. Sango is leaning against the jam but she backs up a little when she sees him, her magenta eyes warm and familiar. She’s not smiling, but she seems happy. She always seems happy – has, since they all became best friends under a sworn pact to not tell the world her father is James Bond.
Inuyasha wonders what feeling happy like that all the time must be like. He’s not sure he knows.
“What’s the punishment?” he asks.
Sango shrugs. “No sex for a week.”
That draws another snort, meaner. “As if you’ll hold to it,” Inuyasha complains. It hurts him to say – but he does, because this is important – “You’re a bigger freak than he is.”
It works. Sango turns instantly bright red, mouth opening in shock. She doesn’t know how to respond, which is fine. Inuyasha knows she had no leg to stand on. He’s watched them the entirety of their relationship. He’s heard them whisper things they forget he can hear while drunk and loose and horny.
Inuyasha has long been scarred for life but it’s great fucking blackmail material, if nothing else. “Miroku does my chores this week. If he doesn’t do them, he can’t go with you on Friday.”
“Vicious.” Sango’s shock turns into glee. “I get to tell him though.”
When he shuts the door in her face, it’s only because he doesn’t want her to see him smile.
Sango and Miroku are leaving in three days. In a perfect world, Inuyasha would be happy for them. A part of him is. His two best friends are in love with each other and they’re getting married. The other part of him is selfish, and hates this. Miroku has been his best friend since they were fifteen and stupid.
Well, Miroku’s still stupid. But.
And he’s known Sango since their first year of university. They’ve been tight for years, the only people he trusts.
If they get married, they’ll want—
Inuyasha brushes off the snow from outside, feels flakes melting in his hair and dripping onto his neck. The café is warm and the scent familiar, coffee beans and sweet milk clogging up his senses. It’s so strong that it takes him a moment to assess the room: the couple quietly talking in the corner, the sound of steamed air squealing from the frother. He hears Miroku’s familiar gasp of exclamation and it’s a toss up as to whether it’s because Inuyasha just arrived or something else interesting had happened. With Miroku, it’s always a toss up.
Then another voice sinks in. Inuyasha is startled to realize that this, too, is now familiar.
“There he is,” Miroku cheers. He’s leaning on the counter, staring right at him with his head in his hands, admiring.
Inuyasha scowls. “What is wrong with you?”
“Just missed your face, is all.”
This. It’s this kind of insanity that dug under Inuyasha’s skin when they first met at the lockers of their high school. Miroku had been absurd to the extreme and Inuyasha had been bewildered, too confused to stop the teen from grabbing his sleeve and dragging him to a shared class. He hadn’t even gotten the option to disagree.
“Isn’t it a pretty face?”
The question jolts him back to the present, where Kagome is standing with his friend, eyeing them both skeptically. She wipes a rag on the counter idly. “You’re asking me?”
Miroku waves a hand at the room, a broad sweep. It clearly points out, who else?
His scowl deepens. “Aren’t you done your shift yet?”
“Nope.” His best friend at least straightens up, the adoring look shelved for something far more normal. “Five more minutes. Enough time to get your coffee because I am your best friend.”
“Not lately,” Inuyasha snaps.
Miroku clutches as his chest and staggers back, the fucking drama queen. “You wound me, Inuyasha. How could you hurt me so, after all these years we’ve shared together?”
There’s no point in getting angrier at him. He’ll just play it up like usual. A sigh escapes him, tired. “Whatever.”
Kagome steps between them then, her hand pushing at Miroku’s shoulders until he moves. “Just clock out,” she tells him. “I think Hojo wants to talk to you in the back anyways about a shift change.”
“But his coffee—”
“I’ll get it,” she assures. There’s another gentle push. “Go.”
Miroku grins at her and Inuyasha feels a pang, right in his chest. Miroku is dramatic and friendly with everyone, but very few people actually know him. There’s a wall. One time, when drunk in high school, his best friend had tried to explain it while rubbing his face against the carpet, too tired to move from his sprawl on the floor. “It’s simple,” he slurred, batting hazy blue eyes up at him. “I’m a chameleon.”
Inuyasha had blinked. It took him a moment to place what the fuck a chameleon was, and then even longer to understand what the fuck that even meant. “You change colour?”
“I adapt,” Miroku corrected. He waved an empty beer bottle around, leftover amber drops falling. “I see what people are like. I know what they look for in—in other people. So I become that person.”
This, at the time, had baffled Inuyasha. Inuyasha didn’t even know how to properly be himself. How could he know and then be someone else entirely? It seemed far too complicated, far too implausible. “You lie?”
“No.” Miroku frowned, considered his words for a moment before he broke out into unrestrained giggles. “Yes. Kind of? It’s me. I’m me. But I’m not all of me.”
This made even less sense. It had taken another couple of years before Inuyasha had finally understood, at least a tiny bit better. Miroku was charismatic and cheerful and the perfect person for everyone he met. But the problem was that it was never really him. It wasn’t until they were in university that Inuyasha truly understood it, watching his best friend interact with new strangers. He was different with them all, his smile there but never quite reaching his eyes.
The tiniest tell. The tiniest bit of Miroku that Inuyasha had had all to himself, and then had happily shared with Sango.
Now, in the warm café, Inuyasha sees that he shares this smile with yet another person.
Who is this Kagome girl?
He’s uncomfortable as he crosses over towards where the cash register sits, Kagome plugging in his usual order without even looking at him. She’s not smiling, but there’s nothing unhappy in her expression. She’s simply working, spinning around with a flourish to head towards the coffee. This is where he should say something. This is where he should ask about her apartment, or if she needs anything before she temporarily moves in. Or, or, or—
“Here you go,” Kagome says, not unkindly.
“Thanks.” Even that single word gets a little stuck, comes out a little strangled. She only gives him a smile.
Now, his brain thinks at him.
Now, it hisses when he doesn’t immediately listen, getting frustrated.
Is he staring? He’s staring.
Miroku bursts through the storeroom door and that’s it, time is up. Somehow this is what drives him to speak, the words tumbling out awkward and stilted. “You’re moving in.” Not a question. Not even really a statement. Inuyasha basically just growled at her some nonsense and now he has to suffer the consequences.
Kagome’s smile freezes, forced. “Just temporarily? Miroku said he talked to you guys, that it was okay. Was it…not okay?”
She gives out second chances like she does smiles. It’s unnerving. Inuyasha nods. “No, it’s fine.” That probably isn’t very convincing, if her smile is any indication. “Is your stuff okay, at least?”
It takes a second, but Kagome nods, seemingly back to her usual, content self. Maybe she really is just good at the customer service act. “Most of it. Some furniture isn’t going to make it but—” She shrugs. “I’ll make do.”
“Do you…” Inuyasha straightens his shoulders. “Do you need help?”
Her laughter is bright, crinkling her eyes as she shakes her head. “No, it’s okay. And I promise I won’t take up any room next week.”
That wasn’t a concern, but before Inuyasha can open his mouth, he catches movement from the corner of his eye. There, leaning against one of the plexi-glass walls by the counter, is Miroku. He’s staring at them both, blue eyes twinkling in contentment. “Isn’t this nice?”
Grabbing his coffee, Inuyasha turns away. “Fuck off.”
“How is that any way to speak to your best friend?” Miroku yells, even though Inuyasha is already at the door, pushing it open. Snow blows in, the chill of winter reminding them all of what’s to come. Miroku catches up to him and punches him in the arm, nearly making him spill his coffee.
Before he goes, Inuyasha takes a look back inside.
Back towards Kagome.
She’s not looking at them, but she is smiling. Inuyasha wonders again, knowing it won’t be the last time:
Who exactly is this Kagome girl?
Friday dawns and Sango is about to lose her shit.
Every year, she leaves during the two-week holiday period. It’s the only time that she takes the four hour airplane trip to see her family, who live on some elegant estate in the middle of absolutely nowhere. It means that she has to pack well, and years of doing this has made the task simple.
For Miroku? Not so much.
“The car is one minute away!” Sango yells. She turns desperate eyes to Inuyasha, like there’s some magical way that he can fix this. “Didn’t I tell him the plan? Didn’t I tell him the plan like thirty fucking times?”
Inuyasha shrugs. He is so not touching this with a ten-foot pole.
“Miroku!” she hollers again, loud enough to make Inuyasha wince with his sensitive hearing. Sango notices but all she does is absently pat his shoulder in apology. “The car is here. If I have to pay a waiting fee because you’re not prepared again, so help me.” She’s holding on to her suitcase with a white-knuckled grip. Inuyasha has known her for years and knows that there are few things that Sango can’t handle. Tardiness is one of them. It’s honestly a miracle that this alone wasn’t the reason their little group fell apart. Miroku and Inuyasha are notorious for being…well, extremely tardy. All the time.
Prime example: Miroku, huffing and dragging what looks like a suitcase and a massive duffle bag, large enough to fit a small child. He’s struggling under the weight of it, which means that Inuyasha isn’t even remotely surprised when his best friend tosses it right at him.
“You’re stronger,” Miroku pants, bending over at the waist. “I’m here. I’m ready. Oh god, I’m going to die.”
“My father won’t kill you.” This is only the sixth time Sango’s had to say it.
But Miroku shakes his head. “No. No, I’m going to die just getting to the lobby, thanks.”
That makes Sango roll her eyes so hard, her body actually turns with her. She spins around, dragging her suitcase out. The rolling sound is overly loud in the cramped hallway but it’s only eight in the morning, a still reasonable hour. Miroku gives Inuyasha one last, dire look.
“You’ll remember me, right?” he asks pathetically. “When I don’t come back, you’ll mourn my loss, won’t you?”
“Follow your fucking fiancée,” Inuyasha grumbles, shouldering the heavy bag and grabbing his own set of keys. “She may actually leave without you if you don’t hurry up.”
Miroku whines, takes a deep breath and then bolts. It’s vaguely gratifying, so Inuyasha hides his smirk as he locks the door behind himself. The cab is waiting for them out front of the apartment building, but the driver looks only bored as he helps Sango put her bag in the trunk.
“Okay,” Miroku says then, blue eyes wide. When Sango goes to take his own suitcase, he clings to it for a solid five seconds before letting go. “Okay, so, this is fine. I’ve done everything I needed to do.”
“Sure.” Inuyasha honestly doesn’t care one way or the other. Best friend or not, Miroku normally finds a way.
“I gave Kagome my key.”
“And your number so she can use the building code. She’ll still need fob access since I lost mine like a year ago.”
He means two years ago, which is why Inuyasha has to meet him at the coffee shop most days. “Okay.”
“And you have to be nice to her.”
Inuyasha sighs. When the driver comes to take the bag he’s holding, he waves him off to do it himself. The bag is actually heavy as fuck. Inuyasha has no idea how it’s going to clear customs. There’s one hundred percent going to be a fee. “I’m not an asshole, no matter what you think.”
“She’s a good friend of mine,” Miroku insists, like this is more important than it actually is. “Inuyasha, this could be your third friend.”
“I don’t need more friends, Miroku.”
It takes a second for Inuyasha to realize that his best friend is whirling around on him, poised to do something dumb like hit his shoulder or whine dramatically on it, when he stumbles. Slides, is more like, his long arms windmilling comically as he slips on the sidewalk. Inuyasha catches him, mostly. Miroku is in a weird half-up, half-crouched position with his head only a few inches from the ground.
Sango skids around the car and nearly slips herself. “Shit, Miroku. Are you okay?”
Bursting out into laughter, Miroku lowers himself properly to the ground and rubs at his face. “Fucking winter.”
“At least you’re escaping it,” Inuyasha comments lightly. “If you ever leave.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Miroku sighs. He makes grabby hands at Inuyasha until he reaches down to help him. Finally on his feet, he gets in and grins. “Don’t miss me too much!”
“Like I would.”
Sango laughs from the other side. Her smile is far more gentle and kind, even thankful. Probably because Inuyasha is an official wrangler of Miroku’s shenanigans, and without him there’s a good chance they never would have gotten down to the cab, never mind inside of it. “We’ll call you when we land.”
He nods. “Have a good flight.”
They finally leave. Inuyasha watches as the cab drives away and thinks to himself that this was both the longest morning of his life, and the shortest. His friends are gone.
Because they’re engaged and this is going to be his life soon.
“Shut up, idiot,” Inuyasha growls to himself, whirling around to go back into the apartment. He has to get ready for work. Just because his friends are abandoning him doesn’t mean he doesn’t have to work a job.
Sometimes, though, Inuyasha wonders.
He wonders about a different life while he answers phone calls and responds to what feels like an unending wave of emails. They just always come, without fail, no matter what he does. Inuyasha blinks aggressively at his computer monitor.
What if he just…did something else? Something different? Something that wasn’t a part of the plan? He’s always scoffed at people who take a year to travel the world and find themselves, but as someone who definitely hasn’t done that and has had his life more or less set since he was a teen, it feels…silly, that he hadn’t. Like he missed something kind of important, even though thinking about leaving now makes him shudder.
He pretends not to hear. With Sesshomaru, it’s best to play ignorant. His half-brother is really the worst kind of person to talk to.
A single, pointed rap on the door. “Inuyasha,” Sesshomaru repeats. His voice is the same as always: level, cold and calculating. How does saying a name sound calculating? Well, glad you asked. Just little to this asshole speak for five seconds and you would know. Because even though his older half-brother’s face doesn’t give much away in emotion, he manages to leak it all out through specifically placed syllables and enunciation. Like a douchebag.
Inuyasha’s phone rings and he answers it, not even dragging his eyes away from the computer monitor where he’s trying to make sense of the numbers in this fucking Excel document. Is that a fucking note or is it a formula that just failed? “FANG Wealth Management, Inuyasha speaking,” he says, with all the bland politeness that he can muster. He squints his eyes. No, no that’s definitely a fucked-up formula, for fuck’s sake—
“Inuyasha,” Sesshomaru says. Only this time, it’s coming from the phone.
He hangs up.
It’s a predictable twenty seconds until his half-brother looms on the other side of his desk, golden eyes focused, like if he stares hard enough, he can determine exactly why Inuyasha’s a failure so he could report it to their dad. Well, joke’s on him, Dad hasn’t been around for eight months.
“If you’re looking for the Ogami file, I already gave it to Jaken to leave on your desk,” Inuyasha tells him. He refuses to look away from the computer, stabbing away at his keyboard to fix the work that shouldn’t have been broken in the first place. The formula completes and—
It’s still #REF!, so fuck him, he guesses.
“This isn’t about the Ogami file,” Sesshomaru states. “We had a meeting.”
“You had a meeting,” he corrects breezily. “I declined my invite.”
“It was a one-on-one.”
“We need to discuss the restructure.” There’s a tiny uptick in the word ‘need,’ a tell that Inuyasha delights in. It means his half-brother is getting close to storming out, the greatest joy of his life. “You have responsibilities.”
Responsibilities. Right. Those.
Sesshomaru takes in his expression and does what he does best: makes shit up to put Inuyasha at even greater fault. The usual. “Running away like a child will not resolve anything. In fact, your delay on this matter will cause severe harm—”
“We fucking help people move money around,” Inuyasha bitches. “We’re not doctors. What harm am I causing? A two percent decrease in efficiency?”
He gets that familiar golden glare, the one that sends everyone else in the whole of FANG Wealth Management into a tizzy. It sends Inuyasha to a bar, to drink away his sorrows.
“Look, I have other shit to do. I’m free tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow is Saturday.”
“I’m only free at eight.”
“In the evening?”
Today must be his lucky day. It has to be, because Sesshomaru actually stalks forward and places his hands down on his desk. The looming becomes far more threatening, his steely-eyed gaze now a glare that could freeze souls. “Eight a.m.”
Why didn’t he take the fucking year off? “Fine,” Inuyasha grouses. “Put it in my fucking calendar.”
“Do not cancel.”
“Do not cancel,” Inuyasha mocks. He stabs away at his keyboard again – because it’s a far more appealing option than looking at his half-brother’s face – and is disturbingly pleased when the formula finally works. “Thank fucking god.”
It takes a moment for him to realize that Sesshomaru hasn’t moved. In fact, he’s looking directly at his monitor, studying the charts. “This is the Bouma file.”
“Yep.” He says it as annoyingly as possible, makes sure to smirk smugly too. If Sesshomaru is the Lord of Assholes, Inuyasha’s the fucking King. “Pro bono is just so rewarding.”
There’s a long pause. Inuyasha absolutely does not eye his stapler, in case Sesshomaru finally has the mental breakdown Inuyasha’s been waiting for since they were precious children and tries to kill him. “Pro bono.”
“Yes,” he replies, making sure to enunciate with the same level of condescension. “It means free of charge.”
When his half-brother leaves his office, Inuyasha can practically feel the waves of fury lashing out at him, an ice-cold burn. He doesn’t say anything though and he realizes six minutes later when his personal assistant Rin books their one-on-one meeting for Monday at seven, instead of eight a.m.
“Bastard.” Inuyasha accidentally hits his mouse with slightly more enthusiasm than the acceptance warrants. The rest of the day goes by smoothly. Or, rather, as smoothly as it could go when your scheming, manipulative, asshole of a half-brother is your boss.
Miroku and Sango call, as promised. It’s only a quick FaceTime, confirming they both have made it. Sango looks about ready to pull out her hair as she tries to navigate them through the airport – apparently, they had recently moved the pick-up location for rideshares and she was not pleased about it. Like usual, Miroku is being overly dramatic, providing a retelling of his conversation with the flight attendant who thought Sango was far too hot for him.
“I was both very insulted and extremely pleased,” he admits. “Because she is the hottest woman I know and it’s good that people see that. But—I’m not a gremlin, am I?”
Beyond his office wall, where the floor-to-ceiling window separates him from the rest of the main office, he watches as Jaken peeks up from his desk to glare at him with those beady, hate-filled eyes.
Inuyasha cheerfully waves and continues talking to his friends.
“Hey, wait, has Kagome called you yet?” Miroku asks suddenly. He nearly drops the phone, his blue eyes wide for a moment before he cackles. Actually cackles.
“No,” he replies. He has to look away from his phone or he may get a bit of vertigo. “Why, is that weird?”
Miroku shrugs. “Probably not. Her shift could have run long. Make sure she settles in okay, alright?”
“Yeah, yeah. Look, I have to go. Jaken is about to come in and headbutt my kneecaps so I’ll have to text you later.”
“Okay. Sango, say bye!”
He hears the call, but it’s faint and fairly frazzled. Probably best if Miroku focuses on her anyways. She’s always stressed going to her parents so it’ll be best if he can help keep her calm until they arrive and she can enjoy herself. He checks to make sure his phone is on loud so he doesn’t miss Kagome’s call – he’s not a monster – and then goes back to his spreadsheet.
He gets so lost in it that he barely notices the time tick past five. It’s not until Rin pokes her head in with an impossibly happy smile and wave goodnight that he realizes he can leave. It takes him another twenty minutes to finish up what he’s doing, and then he takes his time getting bundled up. What does he want for dinner? Miroku and Sango won’t be around, so probably pizza again? Something easy. He can pick it up before going back to the apartment.
And then he steps outside, the world white and blustering and freezing, and Inuyasha decides that no. No, he will place an order for delivery because that extra two blocks will absolutely kill him. It’s times like these that he wishes he drove to work. He could, but it just doesn’t make sense. Parking is a nightmare in the city and their apartment really isn’t that far. A twenty minute walk is nothing. A voice in his head that sounds suspiciously like Sango screams that he needs to dress more appropriately with his outerwear.
After nearly falling three times on ice because his ‘winterized’ dress shoes can’t catch a grip, he’s inclined to agree with her.
He penguin-shuffles the rest of the way home, doing his best to avoid people on the cramped, snowy sidewalk. The snow has actually stopped but the wind hasn’t, blowing cold and harsh across his face. He can feel his ears turning into icicles, no matter how hard he tries to press them into his head. A hat. Fuck he needs to get a hat.
Almost there. Almost there. Sweet fucking lord, it’s cold. How does anyone survive in this country? Why does he live here? He fucking should travel the world, but only go places that are warm. Warm and wonderful and without snow. There. That’s a plan he’s never had before, one that sounds disturbingly impulsive.
He tries to picture Sesshomaru’s face as he hustles under the large overhang of the apartment’s front doors. It does nothing to stop the wind and his hand actually hurts when he takes it out to press the fob into the pad—
He pauses. Inuyasha has made it his life mission to interact with no one in their building. Not a soul. That’s Miroku’s thing. So the fact that someone knows his name is probably bad. Right?
But then he actually looks to see who’s spoken and it’s Kagome, face so red it looks painful, even with her hood up. Fuck, is she…shaking?
“Why are you outside?” he asks. Then he gets a good look at her. “Don’t you have gloves?”
It takes all of three seconds to realize when Kagome winces and shifts, never putting her weight on the one foot. Then he sees two large suitcases by her side, both absolutely covered in snow and her jeans are actually wet on the one side which means—
“Did you fall?” he goes on. Like an idiot.
“T-there’s ice-ce-ce right in f-front,” Kagome explains. It looks like it takes real effort for her to even get that out.
Inuyasha barely spares the area she’s gesturing to with a glance, knowing for a fact she’s right. Miroku had slipped on it this morning and the conditions have only gotten worse. “How long have you been out here?” he presses. Also like an idiot. “Wait, let’s get inside. What the fuck happened? You didn’t call me.”
Now he just sounds mean. Kagome winces again, trying to move her two suitcases without, somehow, walking. Inuyasha rolls his eyes and grabs at her bags, getting them out of the way. It leaves Kagome more hands to hobble with, which is fine until they get properly inside and there’s not nearly enough carpet runners to deal with the melted snow everywhere and Kagome’s one hop away from falling on her ass and dying.
Miroku’s words haunt him like the plague he is. Make sure she settles in okay, alright?
So far, not looking too hot. Literally.
There’s one option and one option only. “Look,” Inuyasha says, and his voice is growly and rude-sounding and he knows this but it’s his fucking default, okay? “You’re going to die and then Miroku will murder the fuck out of me. So I’m just going to carry you.”
Kagome, one hand clutching uselessly at the wall and the other held out for balance, just blinks at him. “W-what?”
“I’m going to carry you,” he repeats. He tries to harness Miroku’s general niceness to people he doesn’t know. He’s pretty sure it absolutely doesn’t work.
“Uh, ok-kay.” But Kagome frowns then, so distracted that she puts down her foot and actually gasps with the pain. “Ow, oh g-god, that sucked. Okay. W-wait--! No, wait, my bags. We c-can’t leave my bags down-n here. They are lit-terally the only th-things I have because the rest of my s-s-stuff is in s-storage and if someone steals them, I’ll have no c-clothes or money or anyth-thing.”
…What? “We’re not leaving your bags here,” he tells her, frowning. “Why would we leave your bags?”
“Oh.” If her face wasn’t so red from the outside, he’s pretty sure she’d be blushing. “Oh, you’ll c-come back down to get me. Obviously. S-sorry.”
“What?” Is he not communicating in the same language as her? “No. I’m going to carry you and the bags to the apartment.” She just stares at him, which makes him huff out an exasperated breath and point at his very obvious canine-like ears. A clear demonic trait, if his golden eyes and silver hair weren’t dead fucking giveaways. “I’m a half-demon. Your shit is light and you’ll be lighter. Now can you climb on my back?”
It takes far too long to get her situated because for some reason, she’s hesitant to touch him. Inuyasha has to growl and wrap her arms around his neck tighter, ignoring the wet slop of snow from her boots rubbing off on his dress pants. Whatever. That’s what the washing machine is for. He grabs her bags and heads towards the elevators.
Two people stare at them. Inuyasha glares back.
Behind him, Kagome is suspiciously silent. Silent enough that it sets off alarm bells. She’s always been chatty with him at the café, the…three times they spoke. Four times? And she’s friends with Miroku, who honestly doesn’t stop talking. This has to be abnormal, right?
“So,” he starts. Closes his mouth and then opens it again on a breath. He’s going to say something. He’s going to say something. “What the fuck happened out there?”
Maybe not the best.
“Ah.” It’s barely a whisper, a tiny shock of noise. “Well, it’s kind of embarrassing.”
He wants to say: you didn’t call me and why were you outside for so long and why the fuck didn’t you just call me? Instead, he buries those questions and settles for a grunt, hoping she’ll keep going.
“I f-fell at the front and I’m pretty sure I sprained my ankle,” Kagome says. Her arms clutch around his neck. “I had my phone in my hand, kind of badly because I was dragging the suitcase. I dropped it.”
Another grunt. Speaking at its finest.
“It broke,” Kagome goes on. See? They’re so good at this communication thing already. “And died. So I had no way to call you or Miroku. And Miroku had texted me the building code so I couldn’t get in. I was going to wait for someone to enter so I could at least be inside but you were the first.”
The first. Does that mean…? “How long were you out there for?”
“I don’t know,” she answers, arms tightening again on what Inuyasha recognizes is a full-body shiver. “I didn’t have my phone on so I couldn’t see the time.”
Of course. Obviously. Inuyasha wants to smack his head into the nearest wall. Or door. By a happy miracle, they’re finally in front of the apartment. Inuyasha lets go of her bags to get the keys but he feels Kagome shift a little, like she’s trying to get down. He wraps his arms around her legs, growling. “Hold the fuck on, will you?”
“What? We’re here. I’m fine.”
“You can’t walk, idiot. Let me help.”
“No,” Inuyasha stubbornly persists, holding tighter. “Just fucking wait, will you?”
Kagome sighs but does as she’s told. Inuyasha hurries through getting the door open and them inside, kicking off his shoes in a way that’s sure to ruin them so the girl doesn’t get any stupid ideas about letting go just yet. He staggers into the living room until they’re at the couch, leaning down so she can easily drop off.
“Stay here,” he tells her.
“But my boots,” she tries, feet hovering over the fake hardwood. A droplet of slush falls and she actually twitches.
“The floor will live.”
“My jacket is covered in snow.”
“So will the couch.”
Kagome crosses her arms. “You’re being really difficult. I’m fine. I promise.”
This is a game of chicken if there ever was one. Inuyasha narrows his eyes, overly familiar with the concept. He’s lived his life with Sesshomaru, who dares him on a daily basis to keep breathing. An overly nice girl like her? Child’s play. “Put your foot down then,” he orders, haughty. Inuyasha watches as she suppresses a wince, lowering only one foot and not the bad one. “The bad one.”
“Put it on the ground.”
She puts the toe down before she grimaces, and the idiot actually makes it so that most of her foot is touching the floor before she gasps out, hands lifting her leg up. “Oh god, oh god, that hurts.”
“Idiot,” he repeats out loud, then at a higher volume to be heard: “Stay there.”
Inuyasha heads back to the hallway, shucking off his jacket and locking the door. His phone vibrates just as he goes to remove it, Miroku’s name flashing on the screen. He doesn’t read it – can’t read it, because it’s going to ask about Kagome and Inuyasha knows very well that she’s on the couch with a hurt ankle and it hasn’t even been twenty-four hours. So. He ignores it and heads towards the kitchen, gathering the assorted ice packs like a small frozen army. Sango had purchased them in bulk after an accident involving Miroku and a ceiling fan and a tennis ball.
“What are you doing?” Kagome asks. She can see him from the living room, this shared part of the apartment an open space. She’s tiny though, maybe an inch shorter than Sango, and she has to crane her neck to try and see where he’s hunched over his armful of ice packs.
It’s not worth answering, but he realizes that maybe he should have said something all along when he realizes that Kagome’s trying to take off the boot from her bad foot, face contorted in pain.
“Will you wait five seconds?” Inuyasha snaps. “You’re worse than Miroku.”
“That is an insult,” she retorts immediately, gaze sharp. Ah, so she’s not just all smiles and friendliness. There’s a spark in her. “And what else am I supposed to do? Just melt all over your apartment?”
“Uh, yeah,” Inuyasha replies, frustrated. “I thought that was implied.”
“I ignored it.”
Kagome takes a breath and goes back to holding her leg awkwardly in the air. She really can’t put any pressure on it. “I just need to get this off.”
Inuyasha dumps the ice packs on the small table by the couch and then runs back into the kitchen to grab the paper towel. This time, Kagome’s not doing anything stupid, but that’s not really saying anything. Rather aggressively, he rips up a few squares to lay on the ground and then grabs for her other foot. Her boot comes off easily, Kagome only slightly losing her balance at Inuyasha’s manhandling. She grunts in disapproval but doesn’t say a word.
A spark, but she’s still too nice. Inuyasha doesn’t know what to do with her. Miroku would just…yell at him. Whine. Clutch his chest and be all dramatic about how Inuyasha was such a brute, how could he treat his best friend in such a cruel way? And Sango would just straight up kick his ass, but she wouldn’t be as dumb as Kagome is now, putting the state of the apartment over her own well-being.
“Alright,” he says gruffly. Inuyasha stares at her hovering, boot-covered foot for a second before he goes to gently hold her calf. He hovers for the barest moment just a second prior to touching her, his golden gaze flickering upwards to see if any more disapproving glares will come. Kagome’s just wincing though, expression tight. “Yeah, this is going to suck,” he says.
“Just do it.”
Inuyasha nods, thinks about Miroku, and says without any filter: “Just what every guy wants to hear.”
He doesn’t know what the fuck possesses him to say it. This is unchartered territory on a whole new planet. A whole new galaxy. But the back of his mind is screaming that Miroku is undoubtedly going to kill him for not making Kagome’s move-in easy or smooth. He should have realized something was off when he never received a call. Regular people would have worried, right?
But Inuyasha has never had to care about anyone outside of his parents and his friends, and all of them were very much far away.
The joke makes Kagome burst out into laughter though, her eyes nearly closed in mirth as she throws her head back. He uses the moment to grab at her boot, sliding it off. Immediately there’s a gasp of pain, but Inuyasha is trying his best to be gentle and slow. Not exactly two words he’d ever have previously associated with himself but—Whatever. Maybe Kagome can press for it to be written on his gravestone or something.
“Ow, oh god, shit,” Kagome hisses out, tight with pain. When the boot finally comes off, she takes in a massive breath, chest swelling. “Oh my god it hurts.”
“What did you do?” he asks again, even though he knows. But the evidence seems so much worse than the simple slip and fall that she explained. The boot must have been keeping everything contained, but even still it’s obvious her ankle is swollen. Her sock doesn’t hide anything.
Kagome whines anyways. “I fell!”
“Well that’s pretty fucking clear.” Inuyasha sounds a little hysterical, doesn’t he? This is…less good. “Okay, fuck. Should we go to the hospital?”
“What?” She looks horrified by the very suggestion. “No! This has to get better. I have work tomorrow.” Inuyasha eyes her swollen ankle before leveling a look at her. His expression isn’t any one in particular. It’s just…a look. Kagome knows though, given the sudden slump in her shoulders. “I have to go furniture shopping, too.”
“Yeah, that’s not happening.” Standing up, Inuyasha drags the small table a little closer and tosses a pillow onto it. Gingerly he puts her foot down but Kagome makes another pathetic sound, forcing him to let go. “If it’s this bad,” he starts, “then we probably need a hospital.”
“No, it’s fine.” Kagome looks pale, even as she says it. “It’s fine. I can rest it; I just need a second.”
She needs a solid couple of minutes but eventually, Kagome manages to get her foot to sit on the cushion. Her bottom lip is tucked under her teeth, bitten and swollen. Inuyasha shakes his head but says nothing. He’s not her mother and not even her friend. If she doesn’t want to go to the hospital, he can’t make her.
Maybe he should talk to Miroku after all. If anyone could whine and annoy someone into going to the hospital, it would be him.
With a sigh, he gives her the ice packs to put on her ankle. He gives her a tea towel to wrap around them and her ankle both, to keep everything somewhat balanced. Kagome’s struggling to make it stay but Inuyasha can’t help. He puts her boots at the front and goes back to his cell phone. There are now seven unread text messages. Five are from Miroku, but the other two are from Sango. He checks those first.
[Sango: How’s it going?]
[Sango: Can you PLEASE answer Miroku or else I’ll murder him before my dad even gets the chance]
[Why is he so worried abt her?]
It seems strange, how fond Miroku is of her. The friendliness and the smile and his attention towards her. Inuyasha finds it almost weird, even though he knows that Miroku is so grossly in love with Sango that whatever he feels is without a doubt platonic. But it’s weird though, isn’t it? Sango must know whatever it is that’s going on, because she does get jealous. If she’s not jealous of Kagome, then…
[Sango: TEXT HIM PLEASE]
Inuyasha huffs. Whatever. If she’s not going to tell him then he’ll just badger the fuck out of Miroku until he explains. Or Kagome, but maybe she doesn’t know. Maybe she just thinks Miroku is that nice of a guy.
[Its all fine]
He lies like a lying liar, but Miroku isn’t here so fuck him.
[Kagomes here all good]
[Miroku: WOW SO YOU DO LIVE]
[Miroku: WHAT THE HELL]
[Miroku: WHyyy TAKE SO LONG????]
This isn’t worth answering so he just ignores it, opening up the app to get the nearby pizza place to deliver. Inuyasha adds on a couple small pizzas that have simpler toppings, just in case Kagome is picky. He should probably ask what she likes. A normal person would do that.
Inuyasha really doesn’t want to. He just…needs a moment still, and ordering food seems like an easy enough thing to do alone for two more minutes.
When he gets back to the living room, Kagome is buried in the couch, her coat off. She’s only wearing a black t-shirt underneath, clearly still in her barista attire, and she’s shaking.
“Why would you take your jacket off?” Inuyasha asks, incredulous. “What is wrong with you?”
“It was uncomfortable trying to get situated,” Kagome argues, brow furrowed as she gestures towards her ankle. “And I wasn’t cold right away! It just happened, probably because of the ice.”
Of course. Inuyasha stares at her and wonders what the fuck he’s gotten himself into.
Kagome seems to see this, or at least is able to witness his expression and guess well enough from it. Maybe Miroku’s been telling her stories about him. He wouldn’t put it past his best friend. “Look, I know this isn’t exactly a great way to start—” She cuts herself off and waves a hand between them, and then blushes brightly. “Start sharing the apartment, I mean. You probably think I’m crazy.”
“No.” He crosses his arms, forces down all the other things he wants to say like why are you blushing like that and what has Miroku told you exactly? Shaking his head, he focuses. “Miroku fell on that same patch earlier. I’m going to complain to the board.”
“Oh god, no,” Kagome whines. “Don’t do that.”
“it’s their responsibility.” He rolls his eyes at her continued distress. “And I ordered pizza.”
“Oh.” Kagome twists around for her jacket, fumbling for the pockets. “How much do I owe you? I might have cash? Or if you have a laptop I can borrow since my phone is broken—”
Inuyasha groans and walks away. “Do you ever stop talking?”
“Stop being so nice!” he snaps irritably. “It’s fine. It’s bread with tomato and cheese. It’s not fucking caviar.”
“I can be nice if I want to be!” Kagome retorts instantly, face screwing up in an expression that has to be anger. Or something close. Agitation, maybe. Frustration, definitely. “And don’t tell me to shut up.”
Inuyasha goes into his bedroom, grabs what he wants, and stomps back into the living room. Kagome opens her mouth, eyes on the bundle in his arms, but before she can get a word out he uses his speed to wrap the multitude of blankets around her, until she’s barely more than a face buried in a pile of softness. “There,” he grits out. “Now you don’t have to be cold.”
Big brown eyes stare up at him, blinking in confusion. Inuyasha huffs and thrusts his cell phone into her hands, too. “Text whoever you have to. Probably Miroku because he’s losing his mind. Just… Do whatever. I’ll bring your suitcases into your room.”
“You don’t have to,” Kagome says, softly.
Inuyasha snorts. “What, are you doing to do it?” He scowls at her when she defiantly opens her mouth, undoubtedly about to say something idiotic yet again. Stupid, silly woman, like fuck.
Surprisingly, she backs down. Her fingers loosen their grip on the edges of the blankets wrapped around her to take his cell. “Thanks,” she murmurs.
“Please, for the love of god,” Inuyasha sighs, “don’t mention it.”
So, Inuyasha thinks to himself, later that night in bed. That could have gone better.
He closes his eyes and listens. He has amazing hearing, but with the sound of the city outside his window and the hum of the apartment building surrounding him, it’s only his imagination that makes him think he can hear soft breathing in the other room.
Tomorrow is Saturday. A whole day alone.
It’s fine, he tells himself. Totally, absolutely fine.
It’s not fine.
Inuyasha wakes at the same time every morning, routine hammered into his skull so that no matter how tired he is, his body wakes. It’s not that bad of a deal, but it can be annoying, especially on a day like today when he doesn’t particularly want to hang around the shared area of the apartment.
Miroku will actually murder him if he’s rude and then Sango will give him the sad eyes and then he’s just doomed forever and ever.
None of these thoughts stop Inuyasha from taking his time. He changes into soft sweatpants and a t-shirt and spends far too long staring at his face in the mirror, looking for only god knows what. He takes a shower, letting his muscles relax under the heat. His hair is up in a bun because it’s Saturday and he’s not spending any time dealing with the disaster that is maintaining his hair. That can be for tomorrow, maybe.
He drags his feet as he enters the kitchen, immediately going to the coffee maker to get it started. The familiarity of the routine grounds him a little. Yawning, he starts the machine and then grabs his cell phone before collapsing on the couch. Everything is blessedly silent, even Miroku’s bedroom, so he lets himself relax into the cushions. He’s in the middle of watching some video when he hears the uneven sound of footsteps, struggling to manoeuvre. Inuyasha glares at the ceiling and debates what he should do.
Nothing. He doesn’t even know her. They had three conversations before yesterday, and then there was the fuck-up that was yesterday. Inuyasha isn’t going to get up and knock on her door – on Miroku’s door, what the fuck – and check on her.
That’s creepy. Inuyasha wonders if a human could hear what he hears right now, the sounds of Kagome clearly struggling on the other side. If Sango were sitting here, and she heard this, would she check?
Well, yeah, obviously. But he’s not Sango.
Inuyasha sighs and sends her a text.
[I hope you and miroku are miserable without me]
Suddenly, the door opens and Kagome hobbles out. It’s definitely a limp, but it had sounded far worse when she was hidden on the other side. Still, she winces at him. “Please don’t judge me.”
Of course he’s fucking judging. “You should go to the hospital.”
“It’s fine,” Kagome insists. She moves towards him, collapsing on the only armchair that’s directly beside him. It’s the closest place to sit so Inuyasha doesn’t let himself feel special. “I just need to keep icing it and leaving it up. It feels better than yesterday.”
“Uh-huh.” He makes sure to sound as skeptical as he feels.
Kagome glares at him, her brown eyes flashing in the morning light that’s seeping through the windows. Inuyasha gives himself a moment to internally panic – because who the fuck notices shit like that? – before surrendering to the fact that this is happening. It’s a Saturday morning and he’s sitting with a complete stranger who has a fucked-up ankle and doesn’t want to listen to him and yeah. This is it. This is his life for the next week.
She tilts her chin up then, and Inuyasha realizes that this entire time they’ve just been staring at each other. Kagome, at least, looks a little aggressive about it, like she’s daring him to make a comment about her poor life choices. Inuyasha finds it horrifically attractive.
He looks away first but makes sure to roll his eyes so she doesn’t think she’s won. “Do whatever you want.”
“I will.” There’s a long pause, quiet and thrumming with the potentiality of what will come next. It doesn’t take long. “I texted my manager last night with your phone and told him I couldn’t come in though.”
“So you have some semblance of intelligence.”
“Hey!” Kagome yells, though she pouts more than glares. “It’s too early for you to be so rude.”
The coffee maker beeps, piercing. Inuyasha gratefully uses it as an escape and ignores the voice in his head that sounds suspiciously like Miroku laughing at him. To drown him out, he calls back to the living room, “Do you want any?”
“Coffee?” Somehow, the way she says it sounds cute. Cute. What the fuck is wrong with him? “Sure. I’ll take coffee as long as you have sugar.”
Inuyasha is pretty sure they do, somewhere. In Miroku’s cupboards probably, since Inuyasha doesn’t use it and he sure as fuck doesn’t bake anything. He resigns himself to the fact that Kagome is going to try to get up from the couch if he doesn’t bring her the stuff, which would only be bad because it’s only a matter of time before her hobbling makes her trip and fall and brain herself on something sharp. Then she’ll die. Then Miroku will murder him.
He’s shocked when he sees an actual ceramic container of sugar in the first cupboard of Miroku’s he opens. He gets it out and pours two cups. Without even looking, he can hear the way Kagome is shifting the couch, about to stand. Is this woman for real? Doesn’t she know when to fucking quit?
“Fucking sit down,” Inuyasha grumbles, retaliating with a glare of his own when she shoots daggers at him. “I’m bringing it over.”
“I can do it myself.”
“Uh-huh,” he replies, rolling his eyes. He drops her mug down on the table with the sugar and crosses his arms. Kagome, to her credit, is starting to look uncomfortable under his judging. Good. The girl clearly has absolutely no common sense.
She looks deeply unhappy as she mumbles out a thank you, dark brown eyes focused on the mug. They had moved the table close enough yesterday to prop up her foot that she can reach it with a bit of bending. She’ll be fine. She looks bendy.
Inuyasha blinks, scowls at himself and whirls around.
“Hey! What was that?” Kagome demands to his retreating figure. “I said ‘thank you!’”
“Not everything is about you,” he points out, even though this kind of was. That little tidbit will come with him to the grave. He grabs his own coffee – nothing in it because he likes it to be as black as his soul – and then scowls some more as he digs into their freezer for the ice packs. A couple of them aren’t that cold, but he finds a big gel one that they hadn’t used yesterday. Inuyasha tosses it to her when he sits down.
On the very far side of the couch.
He turns on the television and prays for normalcy.
Five seconds tick by. Ten. The apartment is quiet. Inuyasha feels like she’s staring at him. Is she staring at him?
He takes a peek and yep. Yeah. She’s staring at him. There’s a strange expression on her face, one that he can’t parse. It’s not something he’s ever seen on Sango’s or Miroku’s faces. His ability to read facial expressions is about as good as his ability to carry a conversation with a stranger.
Not fucking good.
“What?” Inuyasha demands hotly. It comes out in a bark of frustration because this is his apartment, damn it, and he’s not going to spend the week feeling uncomfortable.
Kagome actually startles a bit at his tone, looking chagrined. She turns her dark eyes towards the ice pack still in her hands. Fat lot of good it’s doing there instead of on her massively swollen ankle. Idiot. “Sorry,” she says suddenly, into the uncomfortable silence between them. Her hair falls down over her shoulder, briefly masking her face in a curtain of black. She tucks it back behind her ears and sighs. “I’m not good at this.”
It’s Inuyasha’s turn to startle, only he’s not cute about it. He shoots her a look so incredulous that Kagome actually huffs out a laugh, finally reaching forward to put the ice pack on her ankle before grabbing at her coffee. She has to struggle a bit to put in sugar, but the familiar movements seem to calm her. It only infuriates Inuyasha. It’s not like he’s waiting for her to elaborate or anything.
“I live on my own,” Kagome says slowly, like each word is a careful choice. “I usually have to do everything myself. To not do it myself feels like I’m being burdensome.”
Inuyasha rolls his eyes. “Big word, bad excuse. You should have gone to the hospital so just take the damn ice pack if I give it to you.”
For a long moment, Kagome stares at him in an incredulous sort of shock. That’s what he thinks it is, anyways, until she shakes her head and laughs. “Miroku wasn’t lying about you at all.”
Not exactly a great feeling, knowing that. “What the hell was he saying?”
“That you’re mean but you’re mean for a person’s own good.” Kagome’s still chuckling a little as she says it, eyes crinkling just enough that her side profile makes him feel things. Odd things. Swoopy things. Like when they were first talking in the coffee shop a couple weeks ago. “You’re still a jerk, though.”
Inuyasha has to force himself to look away from her. He grabs the remote because there’s little else to serve as a distraction and changes the channel.
He scowls at the TV.
“Thanks. For helping me. And taking care of me.”
Taking care of me. Inuyasha feels himself burn up, an explosion that starts in his gut and expands, relentless, until his fingertips tingle. “Whatever,” he says, though it sounds strangled.
“Miroku also said you’re a big softie on the inside.”
“He’s a huge fucking liar,” Inuyasha interrupts then, some sports show playing in the background. He hates sports but this is far too distracting. “I don’t even know why you talk to him.”
Kagome shrugs. “We have a lot in common.”
“Uh-huh.” Inuyasha wouldn’t actually know, but it feels better to remain defensive. It’s not like he knows why they’re friends: why Miroku gives her a real smile and why Miroku had invited her to stay here while her apartment was getting fixed. These are things he wants to know but isn’t sure how to ask.
“We do!” she insists, smacking him lightly on the arm. “And everything he’s told me so far has been completely true so I can’t think of him as a liar. Look how clean his room is! I’ve never known any guy to have a clean room but he was right! His is practically spotless.”
Well, if he’s feeding her bullshit like that. Inuyasha groans and sinks back into the couch. “You’re gullible as shit. Miroku isn’t clean. He’s a fucking disaster. The only reason his room is clean is because he doesn’t even use that room anymore. His clothes are there and that’s it. Miroku and Sango share her room. Have been for a long ass time.”
Kagome raises a brow at him. “Isn’t that weird?”
He lets his slow sip of coffee give him just a few moments to debate how to properly answer that. There’s the truth, and then there’s the truth. “Not really,” he settles with, somewhere in the middle. “I’ve been watching those two be grossly in love for nearly seven years. It’s just how it is.”
Humming, Kagome also sinks back into the couch. She drinks her coffee without complaint and after twenty minutes, she removes the ice pack to let her foot acclimatize back. Inuyasha watches sports, because why the fuck not. He doesn’t think about how this is both the weirdest weekend ever and not really that weird at all. Would it be like this with other people, or is it Kagome that makes co-habiting simpler?
Somehow, he thinks it’s just Kagome. The way she smiles, maybe. Or the way she keeps talking to him just because she’s interested, not that he’s an obligation.
Inuyasha hides a wince and downs the last dredges of his mug.
Monday morning seems both better and worse.
Inuyasha stares down at Kagome’s wrapped foot with disdain. “You’re an idiot if you go.”
“First of all, I need a job,” she retorts, fierce and firm. “Second of all, I need to pay bills. Third of all, you don’t get a say.”
Grunting, Inuyasha grabs for his winter coat to put on. The two of them are crowded in the hallway. Apparently, Kagome has a double shift, from early in the morning to the evening. Her foot is definitely better after two full days of rest but it’s not completely healed. Her hobbling is minor now but Inuyasha catches the way she still favours it. Standing behind the counter at the coffee shop isn’t going to do her any favours.
But whatever. It’s not his call.
And then Kagome continues. “Besides, this apartment is way closer than mine. The walk is only a couple of blocks and it’s not that bad out today. It’s probably good to walk on it.”
“That’s a terrible idea.”
Kagome shrugs. “I have to work.”
Inuyasha isn’t pleased. He’s not pleased about a few things, but mostly at the way that Kagome doesn’t even seem bothered. She’s hurt and worried about going to a minimum wage job. It’s the same shit that Miroku pulls when rent is coming up. “Take a cab at least,” he throws out there. Kagome hasn’t even tried to put her boots back on. He’s honestly not sure if she’ll get the bad one in at all, considering how wrapped it is.
“I’m not going to take a taxi for two blocks,” she refuses. “That’s a waste of money. Besides, I don’t have time to wait for one to arrive.”
Miroku would say the same thing.
Maybe it’s because he’s thinking of his best friend, rather than his brand new stranger-roommate, that he opens his mouth and suggests, rather bitchily: “I’m going to fucking carry you then, you idiot.”
“Yes,” Inuyasha insists. He struggles to tug his hair out from under his jacket, moving the strands of his bangs into his eyes which is just—the best feeling ever. Wonderful. It makes him even more irritated, so when Kagome steps in closer to him to try and intimidate him – as if – he growls at her.
It gets the job done. Kagome stops, blinks and then just stares. There’s a strong likelihood she’s never been growled at before.
“I’m carrying you,” he repeats, final. He pats at his staticky hair, tries not to scream, and then makes sure he has his keys. “Are you ready or what?”
“Uh.” Kagome is bright red and avoiding his gaze, but she’s shoving her boots on. The flinch when she gets to her bad foot is minimal but Inuyasha wouldn’t put it past her to try and hide it. “Yeah, I’m good.”
He bends down slightly and instantly wraps his arm around the leg with the bad foot. Kagome hops on easily enough and she weighs practically nothing. It’s easy to walk out the door and lock up, heading towards the elevators.
It’s like Friday evening all over again, only this time Kagome’s not shaking with cold.
“So.” Kagome squirms a little. “Where do you work?”
“FANG Wealth Management,” Inuyasha replies automatically. “I manage accounts.” A lazy way of saying he runs the entirety of their customer loyalty division. That’s not all that impressive though. It’s no Sesshomaru ascension, from minor assistant to CEO. Inuyasha is…well, his title is fancy but there’s no point in even breathing it out loud. It sounds ridiculous and pompous, too silly for something that Inuyasha was groomed to do since he was a teenager. He always worked summers at his dad’s office, always came in during those last years after school, too, and helping out. In post-secondary, Inuyasha was at the office or at the lecture halls, learning.
It was always going to be this way. He was always going to work for his father’s – now Sesshomaru’s – company. He was always going to do this, follow the grand life plan. He was always going to work a nine-to-five and be… Well, this.
“Oh. That’s really cool. You must work out of the gold building, then, right?”
The gold building. Yes, his office windows are tinted gold. His father loves the colour. Apparently, the gold in the windows actually help with like heating or something. Inuyasha doesn’t know. “Yeah, I work there. It’s fine.”
“Fine?” Kagome laughs, delighted and so, so close. Inuyasha shivers but that’s only because the elevator has finally reached the lobby and it’s a much cooler temperature. “FANG is one of the largest money management companies in the country. You must be smart.”
Well, that or the nepotism. Inuyasha scowls and rushes out the door. The winter morning slaps him in the face, the wind worse than he expected. Immediately he feels Kagome burrow down behind his head, her warm breaths puffing across the back of his skull.
“Hold on tight, okay?” he tells her, because he’s not actually an asshole.
Kagome laughs again. “I hurt my ankle, not my arm. I’m pretty sure a jog around the block isn’t going to— What!”
Inuyasha leaps into the air. It’s a bit unorthodox, and a little rude to grounded passerby, but it’s certainly not uncommon. Demons tended to use up spaces that the humans couldn’t, and bounding between buildings is a very quick way of getting where they need to go. Kagome is clutching at him tightly – so, so tight and so close – and when he hops casually off of one building, she whines a rather loud, high-pitched keen.
His knees barely need to bend to take the impact as they land right in front of Kagome’s coffee shop. “We’re here.” When Kagome doesn’t move or say a word, Inuyasha sighs and walks inside. Normally he walks to work like everyone else, so he has a couple minutes to kill. Two baristas he’s not familiar with look at them in open curiosity, mouths agape.
At least that seems to spur Kagome into action. She squirms and gets down, only stumbling slightly when she puts weight on her bad foot. She leans against one of the nearby tables for assistance and glares at her co-workers, who are ignoring the customers waiting in line to stare at her. Maybe this is exactly why Miroku only wants to work with Kagome. If he had idiots like this with him, he would never survive a single day.
“Thank you,” Kagome says then, stealing his attention back.
“When do you work until?”
If she’s thrown off by the question, she doesn’t show it. Instead, she frowns. “Five-thirty.”
Inuyasha nods and heads towards the café doors. “I’ll see you then.” It must click then, what he means by all of this. Kagome makes a sound, but it never fully comes out before he interrupts. “Don’t fuck up your ankle more.”
And then the winter takes him, cold and dreary as always. Inuyasha heads towards his office building and tucks his face into his scarf. It’s not nearly warm enough but the cold clears his head, takes away the scent of the familiar coffee shop and the press of whatever the hell Kagome shampoos with. It’s a distraction, is what it is, and Inuyasha doesn’t need to get distracted. Not when he has an eight a.m. meeting – he got it changed back, thank god – with the worst person in the world.
Sesshomaru is sitting in his office chair when Inuyasha arrives. He nearly walks back out.
“Inuyasha,” his half-brother chastises, although the tone sounds bored more than anything else. “The Ogami file.”
Why the fuck is this what needs to be discussed so early in the morning? Inuyasha groans and does walk out, heading towards the kitchen. There’s free coffee there, as well as gossipy mothers who like to talk shop about their family plans and romantic dates. These are the kinds of things his half-brother abhors, which is why Sesshomaru has never stepped foot into the office kitchen.
It’s only like sixty-percent hiding.
Six minutes later and now officially late to his meeting, Inuyasha wanders back to his office. Sesshomaru isn’t there, which is a fucking win if there ever was one, but he sees a bright yellow post-it note sitting square on his monitor. It reads: Send me the Bouma file.
Inuyasha frowns, confused. Sesshomaru doesn’t do pro bono work for shit. If he wants the file, it’s for another reason. Probably not a good one.
After the meeting, he spends the entire rest of the day completing the Bouma file and then taking great pains to ensure it’s sent out and handled correctly. Once finished, he hides the paperwork where he hides all of the pro bono files he manages, and then leaves. Even if Sesshomaru finds it, chances are pretty low for him to fuck anything up for the family.
The thought nearly causes him to whistle as he wanders outside. The evening is far calmer than the morning, the wind barely noticeable. It is cold, but far more muted than the last few days have been. He first imagines just how happy Miroku is going to be about the walk home when he remembers that his best friend is away – away for three weeks – and that he’s going to the coffee shop to get Kagome.
Is this weird? Inuyasha thinks it’s probably a little weird.
Kagome, however, doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, her face is pale when he finally steps foot inside of the shop. In her hands is his usual coffee, a lid securely in place. She’s leaning on the counter closest to the door and – yeah – she’s definitely not putting weight on her foot.
“You’re an idiot,” Inuyasha tells her immediately.
“It only started getting bad the last hour,” Kagome argues, thrusting out his coffee so that he either takes it or drops it all over himself. “Don’t bother being a jerk about it.”
“I really don’t see how that—”
“Inuyasha,” she snaps. Surprised, he looks at her and sees not rage in her dark brown eyes, but pleading. Something akin to desperation. “I’m in pain and I’ve lost my gloves and can we just— Can we just go?”
He scowls, but that’s the response he would make no matter what she said or did. Instead, Inuyasha squats a little so that she can climb on. It’s more of a struggle because of the coffee in his hand and her actual distress, but they manage it. Inuyasha doesn’t even dare to look at the remaining barista in the room, but he can feel the gazes of other patrons in the shop.
Is this weird? He asks himself the question yet again.
Miroku and Sango would know, probably.
The walk back is leisurely. Kagome doesn’t say a word and Inuyasha sips from his coffee, his other hand wrapped around the leg with the bad foot. She seems okay with clinging, if a little tired. This is another moment, he thinks, where he could say something. Anything.
Nothing is forthcoming.
He wracks his brain but doesn’t manage to come up with anything that isn’t about her work – which she probably wants to avoid talking about – or about her apartment. Which, Inuyasha assumes, is another area of stress for her. What else does he know about her? She’s good friends with Miroku but that’s—Well, a lot of people are, technically. But what about— “Have you met Sango?”
Kagome perks up a little behind him, her face shifting to the side rather than taking the brunt of his hair. “Sango?”
“Yeah.” This is a reasonable question. She clearly knows Miroku well, but Kagome’s never mentioned Sango. At least, not in a way that’s beyond Miroku’s waxing poetic about her. “At the coffee shop.”
“She’s come in a few times when I’ve been there,” Kagome answers. “She seems really nice. It’s always been around lunch so it’s way too busy to chat. But you can tell when she’s there because Miroku goes from chatty to, like, galaxy-levels of charming.”
The thought makes him grimace. “God, they’re so gross.”
There’s a tiny peal of laughter, right in his ear. “They’re cute! You can tell that she’s just as in love with him as he is with her.”
That stops Inuyasha short. He pauses, only partway up the path towards the apartment building. “Really?” he asks, trying to twist his head to better see her. It’s only a side glance, but it’s enough to tell that his confusion is making her confused.
“Yeah? Why, don’t you think so?”
Inuyasha shrugs and then carries back on to their destination. “I guess.”
“You guess? Wait, what does that even mean? You said they were both gross about their feelings! Why are you startled by this?” Her questions get more and more high-pitched, like she’s uncovered some sort of secret that’s more disbelieving with each second that passes. “It’s so obvious.”
“She’s always more subdued,” Inuyasha replies with another shrug. He ditches the emptied coffee cup in the trash and automatically wraps his arm around her leg to help her. Near immediately, Kagome relaxes. Maybe she wasn’t as comfortable clinging as he thought. “Miroku just states his feelings and Sango usually yells at him.”
Kagome hums thoughtfully. They’re in the elevator now and the sound echoes slightly to Inuyasha’s ears. “What does she say though? I don’t know. Every time she looks at him, she’s blushing like crazy. And she can only look at him, you know? Like no matter how ridiculous he’s being, she just can’t remove herself from him.”
“See, you say blushing. I say flushed with anger.” Inuyasha snorts. “Sango is always telling him off.”
“But, like, seriously?” Now Kagome’s starting to sound worried.
“What does that mean?” Inuyasha retorts. “Sango is always saying one thing with Miroku and doing the other. Miroku didn’t even tell us first about you moving into the apartment. He just agreed, told Sango, and then the two of them told me. It’s completely against the roommate agreement! Sango was going to hand out the punishment since she’s the only sane one between the three of us. And do you know what she was going to punish him with? No sex.” The reminder has him snorting again. “As if that’s going to do anything. That’s basically just foreplay for them.”
Inuyasha opens the apartment door when they arrive and he doesn’t realize that Kagome hasn’t said a word until he lowers down a little for her to hop off in the hallway. He frowns at her, poking at her coat. “Hey! Don’t you agree?” When she finally looks back up at him, he can tell that she’s barely holding a smile in, that her cheeks are moving to hold back laughter. He scowls at her. “Seriously?”
“I think maybe you’re missing the signs,” Kagome tells him gently. She pats him on the shoulder, a kind version of his poke. “Clearly Sango’s in love with him.”
“I wasn’t disagreeing with that.”
“And she clearly shows it.” Kagome raises her eyebrows at him, a challenge. “Why are you surprised by this?”
The question makes him blink and Inuyasha struggles to get back to the original conversation they were having. How did it even get to this place? And what is he arguing in the first place? It takes him a moment but Kagome doesn’t seem to have any issue letting him work it out. She merely leans against the wall, unzipping her jacket and taking off her hat.
She’s so comfortable already, he realizes. Three days in. She’s fine. How does that even make sense—
“I saw there’s food in the fridge,” Kagome tells him, breaking that runaway thought. “I can cook something, if you’re fine with that.”
Inuyasha blinks again, like a fool. He nods, scowls, and then rolls his eyes when Kagome laughs straight to his face. Like he’s endearing rather than just really bad at communicating. Well, not communicating. Inuyasha can make his point clear very quickly with Miroku and Sango. That’s different. He’s comfortable with that. Used to it. Kagome, on the other hand? She’s an unknown variable that’s hopped right into his safe space and made herself fit, however temporary. She’s argued with him and thanked him and ignored him and actively sought out his company.
It’s a disaster.
This is a disaster.
“I’m going to make a call,” Inuyasha tells her then.
Kagome shrugs and he – very calmly – removes his outerwear and boots and then heads into the privacy of his bedroom. When he makes a FaceTime call with Sango, he’s sitting on his bed in the corner, tucked around a bunch of pillows. It’s not a nest and it does not make him feel better.
When Sango’s face lights up on the screen, it takes only a second for her to frown at him. It’s almost a new record. “Why are you hiding in your Corner of Sad?”
“What?” Inuyasha hisses. He’s pretty sure Kagome can’t hear anything, but he rather be safe than sorry. “I do not have a Corner of Sad.”
“You do!” The yell is partially muffled, made clear when Miroku pops his face in by smushing his cheek into Sango’s. “Ah yes, there it is.”
Inuyasha groans and closes his eyes. “Why did I want to talk to either of you?”
“Clearly you miss us,” Miroku answers. “We miss you, too! How is everything? How is Kagome? Is she any better? Did she go into work? She texted me that she got a new phone.”
Sango laughs and pushes his face out of the frame. “Let him breathe.”
There’s grumbling but thankfully, Miroku doesn’t come back. Inuyasha is vaguely grateful. “Everything is fine,” he says then, because he has to move past this or he can’t talk about what he wants to talk about. Which is…
Which is what, exactly?
“Good.” Sango’s not really smiling, but he knows that expression after years of living together. “And is her ankle actually any better?”
He makes a face. “If it was, she probably fucked it up again.”
“So she went to work.”
“Like an idiot.”
“Hey!” The muffled shouting comes back and then the phone whirls, hands covering the lens until he hears Sango complaining and sees Miroku’s unhappy face. “Don’t call her an idiot, okay? I’d do the same thing.”
“I call you an idiot,” Inuyasha replies, not making the connection.
“But I know you,” Miroku presses. His blue eyes are overly earnest, like he’s trying to push across some sort of extremely important message. “And you know me. Why do I go to work even when it’s probably a bad idea?”
Inuyasha frowns, considering. They don’t really…talk about it, all that much. Not because they can’t, or they’re worried, but because it’s been something the three of them have known for years. Something that Inuyasha has known for longer. Miroku doesn’t come from money. In fact, his guardian is in debt up to his eyeballs, and has been for a long time. The fact that Miroku made it through post-secondary alone is a miracle of working himself to the bone, cramming his studies every free second of the day, and relying on Sango and Inuyasha to ensure he’s eating and sleeping with something resembling normalcy. Most times they don’t succeed, but over the years it’s gotten easier to notice the patterns, and to fit themselves within it. Miroku would never accept money; not Inuyasha’s, whose money is inherited from his father and his father before him, and not Sango’s, whose money comes from…well, probably redacted top-secret missions involving bad things.
The point being that Miroku works because he has to. Because he has to scrape and claw his way through and refuses any handouts. He pays his portion of the rent and utilities, pays what he thinks is his portion in food though Sango and Inuyasha have long worked out a situation to hide that. And Miroku sends money back, every month, to the man who raised him after his father died.
“You have to work,” Inuyasha says finally. A poor way of saying it.
Miroku, however, just stares at him some more. “And so because Kagome does the same thing as me…” He purposefully trails off, big eyes going somehow even wider.
It clicks and Inuyasha feels a little stupid. Hadn’t Kagome basically outright told him this, just the other day on the couch? That she and Miroku had a lot in common. How she wasn’t used to anyone being there to help?
“There you go,” Miroku drawls, but there’s nothing mean about it. He shifts and Sango is back in the screen, watching him. “Now that that’s out of the way, how have you been?”
Confused, Inuyasha wants to say. Unsettled. Kagome has come into his home and made a space and Inuyasha’s not even really bothered. Hasn’t been after the first hour of her being inside the apartment, when they were just staring at each other awkwardly. “I’m okay. Sesshomaru’s being a real asshole.”
Both of his friends groan, just like he knew they would. It’s such a familiar response that Inuyasha feels better automatically. He talks to them about his day and then when he can smell the cooking creep through the cracks of his door, he begs off.
“Only a couple more days,” Sango tells him kindly, like she saw him making a side-eye at the door and put two-and-two together. It’s not her fault she’s doing math with the wrong numbers.
He agrees anyways and says goodbye.
It should be weird, right? He asks himself this over and over again. He asks himself in the morning when Kagome rushes off for the opening shift. He asks himself when he comes back to the apartment and she’s already there, or worse, when she comes back much later when he’s curled on the couch and watching TV. She’ll disappear into Miroku’s room, change into sweats, and then comes out to join him. Sometimes they talk. Sometimes they don’t.
It should be weird, Inuyasha tells himself. So why isn’t it weird?
That’s the weirdest part of it all.
Thursday has always been Inuyasha’s day to cook. Normally, he makes something super basic and that’s the end of that. Inuyasha wasn’t lying when he said he couldn’t cook for shit.
The problem is this: Sesshomaru was being extra weird at the office, asking for yet another pro bono file Inuyasha had been working on, and there’s still no reasonable explanation for any of it. Inuyasha could ask and that would likely solve the problem. However, that would mean talking to his asshole of a half-brother, which is never a solution.
Therefore, he’s stuck in an awkward place where he has to avoid Sesshomaru staring at him between glass walls or sending Jaken, the little green toad of irritation at him during all hours of the workday.
And do his work, plus the pro bono work. That, at least, is the easy part.
The not-easy part? Thinking all of these things while trying his very best to not absolutely burn the vegetables he’s sautéing.
Inuyasha swears and removes the pan, but it’s smoking like crazy. In fact, the entire apartment is covered in smoke and it’s a complete miracle the fire alarm hasn’t gone off. Swearing some more, he rushes towards the windows to open them, hating himself when the first few blasts of cold winter air destroy the sanctity of their apartment.
And of course, because life hates him, the front door opens.
“Uh,” Kagome starts, only nominally louder than she usually is when calling out to him. “Are you okay?”
“It’s fine,” Inuyasha snaps. It’s not fine.
He’s stretched awkwardly across the couch when Kagome makes an appearance. He thinks he hears her make some sort of noise – probably laughter – before turning to survey the kitchen from afar. It doesn’t look too bad. It doesn’t look great, either, though. In fact, there are so many scattered dishes and half-cut foods on the countertop, the entire thing is full. There isn’t an inch of space. What’s worse is the stovetop where the still smoking pan is sitting.
At least the rice hasn’t blown up yet. Always a bonus.
Kagome seems to be doing the same thing as him. Her dark brown eyes meet his own gaze, and she grins again in that adorable crinkly way she has, eyes practically shutting with the force of her smile. “Not much of a cook, I take it?”
It hurts to admit it, even though usually Inuyasha’s the first one to do so. “Not really.”
“Give me a minute and we can cook together!” Kagome disappears into Miroku’s bedroom and Inuyasha automatically grabs at his cell phone, ready to open up takeout options. It’s only then that what she said hits him.
Well, there’s that weird feeling in his chest again. Inuyasha sneezes.
He tries to tidy up but it’s pretty clear the moment Kagome comes in that she knows exactly what to do. Inuyasha explains what he had been attempting to make, and she nods along and starts cutting up what’s remaining of the fresh vegetables they can still use. It’s easy, in the same way it’s easy with Sango in the kitchen. Inuyasha listens to Kagome start to talk about inconsequential things: what a customer said at work, how she misses the summer and sunshine, what her mother is up to. He’s never been one for talking and Kagome doesn’t seem to mind at all, going on like she had back in the coffee shop their first real day interacting.
“It’s just harder around the holidays,” Kagome murmurs, staring at another one of the pans Inuyasha pulled out from under a cupboard. She – rather than him – is waiting for it to heat up. “Mom always tries to make a big deal out of it. I tell her not to, or to just focus on Sota and Grandpa. I have enough here.”
“How far away do they live?” Inuyasha asks, by far the easiest question that’s ever come to mind. Maybe prolonged exposure to her has left him the ability to better form a conversation. He guesses only time will properly tell, though he has severe doubts.
“Five hours, give or take.” Kagome grabs the bowl of freshly cut vegetables and pours them into the pan. “I don’t travel back that much.”
“But you will for Christmas?”
“Christmas Eve, probably. My work schedule comes out tomorrow so it depends on what shifts I get.”
Inuyasha leans against the countertop, watching her cook. “Have you done all your shopping yet?”
“Most of it.” Kagome twists around to give him a scrunched-up expression. “Like I said, Mom tries to blow things out of the water so I may have to go and shop some more if she has like six presents to my one.”
“Are they useful gifts at least?”
“Yeah, but that’s really not the point.” Kagome sighs. “I just wish she would worry more about herself, you know? She’s always been like this.”
Inuyasha shrugs. “My parents are the opposite, I guess. They travel most of the year so I rarely see them.”
Kagome frowns. “Don’t you work for a family business?”
“Dad transferred title to my older half-brother who’s the absolute worst.” Inuyasha scowls just at the thought. “So now all he does is go places with my mom. I get a lot of postcards. I don’t even know where you find those anymore. Who sends postcards?”
Laughing, Kagome turns around and taps at his legs. Inuyasha has one moment to panic before he realizes she’s pushing him out of the way to grab at the tongs hidden in the drawer underneath him. Right. Obviously. “You’re mad about the weirdest things.”
“I get shiny postcards on my birthday,” Inuyasha grumbles, because he feels like she’s not getting it. “Like the foil on it makes them better.”
He rolls his eyes. “That’s not the point.”
“Was is the point?”
Good question. Inuyasha balks and stares at her, watches the way she shifts from foot to foot like a dance as she stirs or adds some seasoning. Her ankle seems better, at least, but a part of him grows distracted, wondering if he should have just pressed for takeout so she could sit down.
Right. There was a question. He can’t remember anymore.
Kagome must see his blank face because she sighs dramatically, reminiscent of Miroku at his most annoying. “You always seem to avoid getting to the point. This is the second time!”
“The point of what?”
“Exactly!” Kagome waves the tongs at him. “You’re lucky you’re pretty, or people would start to get upset.”
The first thing he thinks is: are you getting upset?
Followed by a far worse: you think I’m pretty?
Concluded, in even worse fashion, by the thudding of his heart in his chest. The feeling is back, that strange swoop that sends his body into tingles. Like a flutter, almost. A weird roaring in the bloodstream, like he’s suddenly hot on the inside and his skin doesn’t know what to do with it.
He hears Miroku’s laughter in his head and very stubbornly changes the topic.
Friday night is—
“I don’t know how I’m going to fit time to make it all the way across the city,” Kagome muses, mostly to herself in aggravation. “I was supposed to go on Tuesday but someone wouldn’t let me go anywhere.”
“Your ankle was fucked up,” Inuyasha snaps, not even bothering to disguise his irritation. He takes it out on the lettuce she has him ripping up for god only knows what purpose. “You know that it was better after the day of rest.”
“Yeah but now I’m screwed,” Kagome argues. “How am I going to get the new furniture I need? I mean, I can deal with my stuff on the floor for a few days at my apartment but if I can’t make it tomorrow, then I definitely can’t go Sunday because I’ll need to move all my stuff back. I’m working straight shifts until Wednesday, which means there earliest I’ll have anything delivered is Friday.” Groaning, she slumps against the kitchen counter. “I should have just gone on Tuesday. My ankle would have survived.”
Inuyasha very much doubts that. He communicates this with a look, which Kagome promptly ignores with a dismissive wave of her hand.
“I’ll figure it out,” she says then, exhaling heavily. “I always do. Maybe I can have someone cover the last half of my shift tomorrow. Give me more time to get across the city.”
“Or,” he starts, voice still clouded in annoyance from the conversation, “you could just stay another fucking week. It’s not like Miroku’s going to be back or anything.” He tosses the last lettuce leaf into the bowl and then tosses out the unusable thick stem-bit-thingy. Whatever it’s called. That done, he turns around to ask what she’s going to make him do next when he notices Kagome’s just smiling at him, soft. Like he did something pleasantly surprising.
The insides of his body light up like a fucking Christmas tree.
“Really?” Kagome asks, sounding almost shy. “You…wouldn’t mind if I stayed another week?”
“No.” His face is scowling again, but Inuyasha seriously can’t control that.
“That would be—Honestly, Inuyasha, that would be great.” Kagome’s small smile blooms, and his metaphor is getting destroyed because she’s no longer a flower but the fucking sun. Her eyes are crinkling again in joy and Inuyasha doesn’t even know what the fuck to do with that. All he did was offer for her to stay in Miroku’s dumb room for another week. It wasn’t like he was paying for a vacation or something.
Kagome doesn’t seem to think so. Instead, she nudges him playfully with her arm. The contact is small and quick, just a press of her fist against his shoulder. He doesn’t even move from it.
Still, he feels bowled over. Inuyasha stares at this woman in his kitchen who now flits towards the oven and he feels. He feels a lot of things, but one emotion is far more embarrassing than the rest.
This is a crush. He has a crush on her.
“I hate you,” Inuyasha hisses to Miroku that night, when he’s positive Kagome’s asleep in the other room. “Why would you do this to me?”
His best friend looks at him like he’s grown another head. “What have I done this time? Why are you sitting in your Corner of Sad again? I’m not even in the same province as you.”
“Exactly,” he snaps. “That’s how annoying you are, that you can put me in a position where I start to like some random stranger you loaned your bedroom to, you absolute jerkoff—”
“Wait! Wait, waitwaitwait.” Miroku’s eyes are so wide, face so alight with glee, that Inuyasha’s pretty sure the man will explode. “You said ‘like!’ Like as in like-like. You like Kagome!”
“Shut up!” it’s not a hiss so much as a commandment. “Shut up, you dick. Stop talking so loudly.”
“Oh my god,” Miroku breathes. “Sango needs to know. Sango! SANGO!”
Inuyasha ends the FaceTime call and then turns off his phone. If he was smart, he’d change the locks before they even came home.
Some-fucking-how, some-fucking-way, Inuyasha gets roped into going furniture shopping with Kagome on Sunday.
She smiled at him. That’s how.
To be fair, the furniture shopping isn’t that big of a deal. Kagome seems to know vaguely what she wants. She compares a few different models, opening and closing different drawers and cupboards and she hums consideringly to herself. “What do you think?”
“About what?” Inuyasha asks because even if he knows why he ended up here, he doesn’t know why Kagome wanted him here. Thinking about it makes his body do that dumb swooping thing again. It’s horrible.
“The dresser.” She points at the one they’re standing in front of, and then another dresser that’s a little ways down. It’s one they had studied in-depth earlier, and by ‘they’ he means ‘Kagome.’ “Which do you think would be better?”
Scowling doesn’t seem to turn her off, which is both a blessing and a curse. Inuyasha feels his face doing it anyways. “How would I know?”
“Because you have eyes?” she retorts, rolling hers. “I’m not asking you about which will go in my room better. I’m asking what you think about the dresser itself.”
Inuyasha can’t believe this. He glares at her a second, realizes how futile this is, and then sighs despairingly. “The first one,” he groans, waving at it. “Bigger drawers. What the fuck are these two, thin top ones going to do for you? Nothing.”
“It’s kind of cute though.”
“Kind of useless.”
Instead of getting angry, she laughs. Kagome rarely does what he expects her to do. “Yeah, okay. You win.”
They finish up in what Kagome assures him is record time. With the order placed for delivery, Kagome carefully folds up her order confirmation and then bundles herself back up. Her scarf is wrapped so tightly around her, and so high, that Inuyasha can only see her eyes in the small sliver between the fluffy material and her knit hat.
Outside is cold as fuck.
“I really don’t know how you convinced me to come outside in this frozen fucking tundra,” Inuyasha complains while they wait for the bus.
Kagome shoots him a look and distracts him with a story about a hilarious customer from Saturday. Her hands waving around with every word keeps him, oddly, warm.
The same cannot be said for her.
It’s a long trip back that feels even longer because the snowfall has devastated the roads. The plows have yet to come out and everyone is traveling at a snail’s pace. The bus is only minorly warm and Inuyasha can feel the way Kagome shakes underneath her jacket, the line of her body pressed against him in the too-close seats. When she leans a little closer, Inuyasha doesn’t say a word. It feels wrong, somehow, to do that. It’s like walking a high-wire, he thinks. This newfound knowledge that he finds Kagome attractive and interesting is a fall he’s not sure he wants to make. Falling would mean a crash, and whether he’d fall into the earth or into a net is entirely left up to Kagome. Kagome, who doesn’t know.
Maybe doesn’t know.
Inuyasha sneaks a glance at the top of her head and wonders if the way she’s pressing against him could be construed as cuddling.
When they finally make it into the apartment, Kagome immediately disappears for her room. “I want soup!” she yells through the wall. “Order me soup!”
Takeout, Inuyasha can do. He drags himself into the living room and turns on the television. There’s some sort of baking show already on, so he leaves it to place a delivery order. He gets some soft bread rolls too, and is debating if he should order another side when Kagome pops back out. She’s wrapped up, head to toe. Her sweater is overly large, covering the majority of her sweatpants. The slippers on her feet are frankly horrifying to look at, brightly pink and fluffy.
Kagome points a stern finger at him. “Don’t bother.”
“Wasn’t going to say anything.”
“I meant thinking.”
Inuyasha snorts. Good fucking luck with that. “Food should be here soon.”
“Great.” Kagome sits beside him, not on the other end of the couch, but also not that close. There’s a normal amount of space between them, space that Inuyasha can’t help but to analyze.
Maybe he shouldn’t think after all.
“Is this all that’s on TV?” Kagome whines, reaching across him to grab the remote. Inuyasha doesn’t even get a moment to enjoy the press of her body against his. She’s there and gone within the blink of an eye. “There has to be some sort of movie. It’s Sunday.”
“I think you have too much belief in our basic cable package.”
“You have Netflix.”
Inuyasha shrugs. “If you want to browse, go ahead. I’m not stopping you.” He plays with his phone instead, periodically checking the delivery order to make sure there’s some sort of progress. He’s too easily distracted, still, even after the long day. In fact, he can’t stop raising his gaze from checking out Kagome, who is curled up tightly on herself and shivering as she sorts through a variety of trailers for movies.
On a particularly violent shiver, Inuyasha growls and gets up. “Why are you so cold?” he demands.
“It was cold out!”
“The apartment is fine.”
“My bones feel cold, let them be,” she pleads, looking up at him pathetically as he goes into his room. “Hey! Where are you going? I need help picking a movie!”
Inuyasha doesn’t think about what he’s doing. He just does. He grabs the hastily folded blankets that he had tossed onto his office chair from last week – when Kagome had first arrived, frozen and chattering – and brings them back to the living room. Kagome’s not even looking at him, too engrossed in her Netflix options. It isn’t until Inuyasha takes one of the blankets and wraps it around her like a cocoon that Kagome startles, looking around her.
“What are you doing?”
“Stopping you from dying,” Inuyasha drawls. “Again. It’s a full-time fucking job.”
Kagome smiles at him. He dumps another blanket around her shoulders, angry with it. She’s always cold; it makes absolutely no sense. Today hadn’t been great but it hadn’t been that bad. And what’s Inuyasha to do about that? Just sit there and watch her suffer without doing anything? Well ha to that, because Miroku would murder him and Sango would make sad eyes at him and Inuyasha would be haunted by the fact that he’s apparently a huge asshole.
He sits back down, still irritated for reasons that he refuses to look into. Crossing his arms, he settles back onto the couch – is he closer than before? – and glares at the television.
“Inuyasha.” Kagome isn’t switching the movies anymore. It’s just the same trailer, going on and on annoyingly in the background. “Inuyasha.”
“What?” he snaps, giving her the side-eye. He gave her blankets. Wasn’t that enough? What more did she need from him?
Opening her mouth, Inuyasha shoots her a proper glare and watches as she backs off a little. It’s only for a moment though before she’s leaning into his space, closer and it’s so much better.
Inuyasha isn’t really breathing but this is definitely, one-hundred percent better.
“You don’t have to take care of me,” Kagome murmurs softly. She’s so close that her eyes dance left and right, trying to take in his entire expression. This is closer than he’s maybe ever been with anyone and his entire body feels like it’s screaming, flailing, unbelievably happy. “But thank you.”
And what the hell does he say to that?
Maybe Kagome’s looking for some kind of response. Either way, the moment between them sits, a stretch of eternity. Like a rubber band, it pulls and pulls and Inuyasha tilts his head, golden gaze flitting to her lips. They were already so close, what more would it take to—
His phone goes off, loud in the quiet room. Kagome jumps, leaning back and getting caught in the blankets. Inuyasha can only stare at her, the flush on her cheeks and her lips. Still her lips.
But then his phone goes off again. And again.
“Food’s here,” he realizes, grabbing his cell phone to let the delivery guy into the building. For lack of anything else to do – anything that would be proper to do – Inuyasha gets up and heads towards the kitchen. They’ll want bowls and cutlery and maybe glasses. Has he even had anything to drink today besides coffee?
Kagome’s the one to go to the door when the delivery person arrives. She lays it out on the counter and then the two of them quietly grab what they want. Inuyasha notices right away that she’s not stepping in close, not like she had been when they cooked together. It’s almost like she’s avoiding him, keeping a berth between them that didn’t exist before.
She still smiles, though. She still offers him the extra cutlery with a gentle ‘here’ and offers to carry his cup to the living room table. She asks if he cares what they watch, and when that’s a clear no, she picks something at random.
They sit on their own ends of the couch. That much, Inuyasha is certain of.
Over an hour later, he has no idea what they watched, the credits rolling though he can’t recall a single plot point, a single character or event.
Kagome stands up, tugging the blankets with her. She whines a little in the back of her throat, exaggerated. This is for show, Inuyasha realizes. This is… This is like what Miroku does when he needs to get his way with someone. “I’m exhausted,” she breathes, shooting him another smile. A small one. Not the eye-crinkling one. Not the one he’s used to. “I’m going to crash, if you don’t mind?”
“No,” he responds, and then waves a hand at her when she goes to grab the dishes. “It’s fine, I’ve got it.”
Hesitation only stops her for a moment, but then her expression shutters and she stands up. That smile is back, and it’s not real. Inuyasha hates that he knows after a week that it’s not real.
“Thanks,” she murmurs softly. “Night, Inuyasha.”
Maybe he notices her smile so much because he’s always staring at her lips. The thought doesn’t make him feel any better.
“Tell me what happened,” Sango demands. The wry twist of her mouth suggests that she’s reading from a series of cue cards rather than actually interested herself.
“Nothing,” Inuyasha replies but he sounds strangled. He sounds like he was just seconds away from making out with Kagome on the couch. She seemed…interested, right? That’s what that was?
Or maybe not because the second the takeout showed up there was a very clear bit of space between them on the couch that hadn’t existed before. Was he projecting? Was his crush just blowing things out of proportion and Kagome hadn’t wanted to kiss him but the moment had been there, Kagome at a loss to get out of it?
Oh god. He can never come out of his room ever, ever again.
“Inuyasha, you need to breathe,” Sango says firmly. It’s sharp enough to steal his attention back and he blinks at her with golden, owlish eyes. “Are you okay?”
He’s absolutely not okay. The furthest thing from okay. He— “Almost kissed her.”
“Almost…?” Sango’s confused face is instantly swung away, the phone stolen from her. Miroku is there suddenly and ah, yes, there’s that glee again.
“You two almost kissed? When? Where? How! Inuyasha, I know we accidentally did it to you the one time but please don’t have sex on my bed. You’re a better man than me, okay? But seriously, tell me—”
Inuyasha hangs up and promptly screams into his pillow.
Eventually, his luck has to run out.
“Inuyasha.” It’s the only warning he gets before his half-brother steps into his office. He had without a doubt used his speed to make it inside, which Inuyasha finds both hilarious and irritating beyond measure. Who knew Sesshomaru would stoop so low?
“I’m busy,” Inuyasha states, pointedly glaring at his monitor. The spreadsheet before him is a mess of code and angry red cells. Such is his life.
“I’m sure.” Of course, Sesshomaru makes it sound like he’s anything but. It’s annoying. It’s more annoying than anything in the world.
Why does he work here? The thought crosses Inuyasha’s mind like a bullet, electric and burning. It makes him blink, sure to himself that this couldn’t have been the first time he’s thought this… Right? It’s not possible. With all the bitching that Inuyasha does, this has to be a thought that’s popped into his mind before.
And yet, Inuyasha is positive it’s the very first time.
The realization makes his stomach swoop, and not in the happy-tingly way it does with Kagome.
“This is a reminder,” Sesshomaru says then, dragging him back to reality with his monotone speech. “You need to submit your festive lieu time unless you want to work over the holidays.”
Irritation shifts into rage so quickly that Inuyasha can’t even stop himself. “How long have I worked here?” he snaps, beyond caring of his tone. “How many fucking times have I submitted a festive lieu form? It’s a lieu form, not the fucking blueprints to a bomb. I’m not an idiot, Sesshomaru.” He makes sure to put in every ounce of maliciousness that Sesshomaru directs at him regularly, in his passive aggressive way.
He’s done. Absolutely done. Everything that’s going on and his half-brother corners him because of his festive fucking lieu form. Not over any of the pro bono work that he’s been doing. Not over any of the billable files he’s submitted to Sesshomaru day after day after day.
His fucking festive lieu form.
“You’re certainly acting like one,” his half-brother replies. He has the audacity to sit in the chair opposite of Inuyasha’s desk. He even steeples his fingers together. “We’re in an office.”
Well. If it’s going to be like that.
“Fuck you and your office,” Inuyasha answers, so angry that it comes out overabundantly cheerful. He saves his file – it’s a mess and a half but whatever – and then grabs his coat. He’s out of his chair within seconds, cell phone clutched tightly in his hand as he walks out.
Out. And then out-out. Out into the stairwell, and then down, down, down until he hits the lobby. Out the front doors. The golden glass of the office reflects off the blinding white snow.
Sesshomaru doesn’t chase after him. Inuyasha hadn’t really expected him to, but somehow it makes me angrier. So much angrier.
He heads towards the café on autopilot. He doesn’t even feel the cold. The entire time, Inuyasha keeps thinking over and over in his head: why do I work there?
Because it’s his dad’s company? That was probably the start of it. Ease into the workforce with a guaranteed spot that most of his peers after post-secondary didn’t have the benefit of. He’d been working there every summer since he was a teenager, every spare moment even while he was still in school. He had just…always been there.
It had been the life plan.
There had always been a plan.
Inuyasha stops at the door to the café, holding the handle. He doesn’t like the plan. Not anymore.
There’s a happy wave that comes from inside, and Inuyasha has to squint to realize that it’s Kagome. Of course it’s Kagome. Who else would it be?
“You’re off early!” she greets as he steps inside, brushing loose snow flurries off of his jacket. “Good day?”
“Something like that,” Inuyasha replies. Kagome’s already making his drink, he can tell, so he waits by the counter and thinks.
Thinks about the plan he’s always followed.
About the plan he was pretty sure he was always going to follow.
And thinks about what plan he’d maybe like to do instead.
“Here,” Kagome says, unbearably kind. She’s always kind. Even after they almost kissed and nothing happened. Even though they never talked about it. They’ve just…continued. Easy as breathing. When he goes to grab the cup, Kagome’s hand touches his lightly, stopping him. “You okay? You look…”
There’s no end to the sentence but Inuyasha doesn’t need one. He shrugs. “Ever have a mid-life crisis?”
“At our age, it’s a quarter-life crisis,” Kagome tells him sincerely, dark brown eyes earnest as anything. “And I’ve had at least two. Most of them while standing in this very spot.”
A moment of bravery overcomes him. It’s strange and terrifying, but Inuyasha doesn’t feel it until after, until after he twists his hand so that he can grab at the fingers that were holding him. The touch feels so warm after the winter chill from outdoors. Refusing to look at her, he shrugs again. “I think I’m having my first.”
There’s a second of silence and then the fingers intertwined with his own squeeze gently. “Well then. Why don’t you sit down and I’ll bring you a cookie or something?” Inuyasha scowls automatically but Kagome only laughs. “Trust me, they help.”
He doesn’t know if he believes her but Inuyasha has always believed in the life plan. Now that he’s discarding the plan – or at least thinking about it – maybe this is his moment to take a chance on something else. “Okay,” he tells her. He lets their fingers squeeze one more time. “Okay.”
He goes to sit down.
Time passes but Inuyasha is too busy thinking. Abstract things, mostly. His thoughts primarily circle around the confusion he feels; confusion about why this is bothering him now, and why he so bothered at all. It’s been years. Years of working for his father’s company, and years of working under Sesshomaru.
Months, though, of doing the pro bono work, after he realized how little of it was truly being done. Almost a year, if he counted properly. At first, it had been a way to stick it to his brother while doing something that felt different.
Inuyasha glares into his coffee cup, long empty.
The chair across from him grates along the tiles as it’s moved. Kagome sits down across from him, her brown eyes kind. She doesn’t reach across the table to touch him and Inuyasha is absolute in his desire for her to do so. “How are you feeling?” she asks, casual as anything.
Inuyasha knows it’s forced. For some reason, the effort doesn’t bother him. “Fine.” It’s not really a lie. “Fucking tired.”
“Yeah, well, me too.” Kagome grimaces and gestures down at her black outfit. “You can’t see it but I’m covered in coffee.”
“I can smell it.”
Her grimace turns to a full-on shudder. “Why did you have to tell me that?”
Inuyasha feels the corners of his lips tilting upwards, against his wishes. “I thought you knew.”
“I suspected,” Kagome corrects, wagging a finger at him. “But ignorance is bliss. My shift is pretty much over, but do you want another coffee before we go?”
He probably shouldn’t. Inuyasha craves it anyways. Kagome laughs and gets up, without being told. He marvels at the fact that she knows without him even saying the words. She disappears behind the counter and squawks at something one of her co-workers say. Inuyasha isn’t paying proper attention, but he does pick up the ‘please stop talking, oh my god’ she desperately hisses out.
She comes back several minutes later, bundled up in her jacket and hat and scarf with his coffee in hand. There’s a frown on her face as Kagome pats at her pockets ineffectually with her free hand.
“What?” Inuyasha asks.
Kagome sighs loudly. “Nothing really. I just lost my gloves again.”
He eyes the storeroom door. “Would it be in the back?”
“No, I already did a full sweep. That’s why it took so long.” She pouts at the floor and Inuyasha ignores the way his eyes zero in her lips. “These are probably the fifth pair I’ve lost this winter.”
“It’s only been snowing the last month.”
Kagome shoots him an aggrieved look. “Why do you think I’m so mad?”
With a snort, Inuyasha takes the coffee and lets her lead them outside and away. It’s cold – it’s always cold these days – but the coffee keeps him warm and Kagome chatters on about her day. Considering he had a sort of numb breakdown earlier, Inuyasha wonders if it’s weird to feel content again, all of a sudden. He hadn’t been happy in the coffee shop, thoughts whirling around in his head again and again and again. A cyclical disaster, replaying the misery. Reaffirming that tomorrow, he would go into the office and do it all over again.
That he didn’t want to.
That he was shocked by this knowledge.
That he was shocked by his shock, with an uneasiness clawing at his insides that he didn’t realize until now.
When they get inside the apartment, Kagome kicks off her boots and sighs once more at the little stand where she normally puts her gloves, along with her hat. “I’ll have to buy another pair.”
“You should get those string ones,” Inuyasha tells her with a smirk. “You know, the ones they make for kids?”
She points a faux-angry finger at him. “Just for that, you’re doing the dishes tonight.”
“In the end,” Sango announces, smiling, “Miroku survived.”
“Barely,” Miroku whines.
“My father didn’t kill him.”
“It was so close, Inuyasha. Why didn’t you come, too? At least there would have been someone to hide behind.”
On the screen, Inuyasha watches as Sango rolls her eyes at her fiancé. “You hid behind me.”
“Not well,” Miroku grumbles, the duh implied. “You’re small!”
Sango shakes her head, but she looks endlessly fond. Inuyasha has no idea how she does that. “Whatever. Look, it’s almost dinner so we should probably go. But I’ll send out the Secret Santa link, okay?”
“Sure.” Inuyasha twists on the couch so that he’s laying down, rather than tucked into the side. The apartment is far too silent and he’s not really sure what he’s going to do once his friends hang up. “Just don’t let Miroku touch it.”
“Hey!” he complains. “Last year wasn’t my fault!”
“It totally was,” Inuyasha growls, making sure his glare is mean enough to make it through the screen. Miroku is always so much more blasé about his attitude when he’s far away. Probably because the threat of getting punched is no longer a possibility. “You rigged it so you got Sango. Again. For the fifth year in a row.”
“There are three of us and I’d like to state that I didn’t rig it.”
Even Sango turns to glare at him.
Inuyasha is about to scold him some more – because Miroku needs at least several a week to stay in some semblance of order – when he hears the front door unlock. Kagome must be back from her shift.
“Hey,” Miroku whispers, only it’s not quiet at all. “Is that Kagome?” He must have noticed Inuyasha’s distracted glance away.
He doesn’t like where this could lead. “Yeah,” he says slowly, “she just got back.”
“I grabbed some groceries,” Kagome calls out loudly. A few seconds later, her smiling face comes into view, arms laden with what looks to be twenty bags.
Inuyasha swears and stands up to help, awkwardly holding his phone still. “What the fuck are you doing with all that?” he asks, incredulous. “Do you think we starve here or something?”
“We eat way too much takeout,” she counters, not giving him a chance to help. She flops the bags down on the counter and there are several loud clangs as food rolls and cans hit the counter. It’s only then, free from the weight of her outing, does she notice what he’s doing. “Are you on the phone?”
“Kagome!” Miroku screams.
Inuyasha hates him.
“Oh.” Rolling her eyes but still – of course – smiling, Kagome comes around and presses herself up against Inuyasha. His brain short-circuits, golden eyes going wide as she fits herself in front so she’s a warm presence along his entire front. The front.
The most dangerous place for her to accidentally notice something if something did, in fact, come up.
“How was work? Is it boring without me? Has Hachi cried yet from missing me so much?”
“Fine, yes and no,” Kagome answers with ease. “How’s your trip?”
“Amazing!” It looks like Miroku nearly drops the phone but then suddenly Sango is fully in the frame, Miroku’s one hand waving up and down her like he’s presenting in a magic show. “Sango protected me from her terrifying father so the chances of me getting shot are only like seventy percent now.”
Sango looks absolutely pained but Kagome only laughs. She clearly doesn’t know just how legitimate of a threat the whole shooting thing is. “Ignore him,” Sango tells her.
Kagome presses back into Inuyasha’s chest and he has to shift his grip on his phone to not drop it. If she notices, she doesn’t say a word, instead focused on the screen before her where Miroku is trying to bring himself back onto the screen. It’s like he’s never heard of turning the phone sideways. “I have to wonder what he talks to you about all day,” Kagome says, sounding genuinely pleased. “Because literally my entire shift is just learning about you.”
As expected, Sango instantly blushes, her magenta eyes going wide. “No, he doesn’t.”
“Your birthday is May 9th and you grew up with a pet cat named Kirara which made Miroku foolishly try to buy you a cat for your birthday in university until he realized he was allergic—”
“Are you kidding me?” Inuyasha interrupts, horrified on her behalf. On the screen, Sango is so red and her mouth is just hanging open. “Miroku, what the fuck?”
“Well what else am I going to talk about?” his best friend asks snidely. “You?”
“Fuck off,” Inuyasha protests, automatic. “Seriously, the both of you hang up. Go get dinner or whatever. Isn’t it late for food?”
Unhelpfully, Kagome tilts her head up to look him in the eye. It makes her lean against him that much more. He didn’t even know such a thing was possible. “I’m having dinner now.”
“You just came from work.” Inuyasha looks back at his friends, so far away. Sango seems a little better and Miroku is grinning so unabashedly at her that it makes him want to gag a little. “You two should just go be gross somewhere else. Please.”
“Sounds like a great idea,” Miroku replies. “Oh, and speaking of great ideas! Kagome, join our Secret Santa! Maybe that way when I get Sango again no one can accuse me of rigging it.”
“You’re not even controlling it this year!” Sango argues, but her voice is far too high-pitched, clearly not back to normal from Kagome’s little speech. She swats at Miroku’s face until he’s out of the camera’s view before paying attention to them again. “But yes, Kagome should join.”
“Sure,” she says easily. “What do you need from me?”
“Just text Miroku your email. It’s done online.” Miroku valiantly tries to come back into view but Sango shoves at his face, keeping him out. “Anyways, we really do have to go. Inuyasha, we’ll talk later this week.”
Grunting, Inuyasha shakes his head at his best friends. Kagome just beams all the larger and waves. She’s so fucking endearing.
Stepping away the moment he ends the call, the sudden loss of Kagome’s warmth makes him frown. It’s a silly feeling so he heads towards his bedroom. It’s not hiding.
Inuyasha plays on his phone for twenty minutes before he realizes that he is, in fact, fucking hiding and is so horrified with himself that he goes back out into the living room. There, Kagome is curled up on the couch, wrapped in one of his blankets and watching television. An empty bowl sits on the table in front of her, water glass half-full. Laughter rings from the television, a comedy show that Inuyasha is pretty sure he’s seen before.
He’s not hiding, remember?
Inuyasha sits down on the couch, careful to make sure he’s not awkwardly pressed against the arm of it. This isn’t hiding and nothing about this is awkward. They are temporary roommates and he’s maybe quasi-held her hand while she talked him through a quarter-life crisis and he maybe almost kissed her.
But it’s fine. This is fine.
They watch the show. It’s still fine.
Inuyasha’s leg is itchy. Weird as hell, but whatever. He scratches, shifting on the couch to readjust and get comfortable again. Kagome’s blanket – his blanket – is maybe brushing up against his forearm a little more than it was before. But that’s okay. It’s fine.
An hour later and maybe it’s not so fine.
Staring at the television so hard his eyeballs hurt, Inuyasha tries not to be obvious as he stretches a little. Just a teensy, tiny bit. And if he relaxes back into the couch a little closer? So much so that her leg is pressed up against his and Kagome is nearly tucked into his side?
Then Kagome opens her mouth. Because of course. “Is this weird?” she asks, making his greatest current nightmare come true.
Inuyasha feels his entire body do that swooping, belly-flop feeling again. He hates it. He hates feelings. He looks at her anyways, because Inuyasha is pretty sure any other option is impossible. “I don’t know. Is it weird for you?”
Her entire face scrunches but still she turns more towards him, her leg partially on top of his, a hand on his bicep. “I asked first!”
“I told you I don’t know,” Inuyasha scoffs, leaning forward to get in her face about it because if this is going to be some sort of fight then he’s absolutely ready to fucking—
Kagome grabs his face with none of the gentleness he expects from her and closes the distance between them. It’s one second of confusion followed by an absolute eternity of white noise in his mind. It’s all autopilot: Inuyasha’s hands wrap around her waist and tug and Kagome’s in his lap, blanket twisted and falling between their bodies and off of the couch. It’s slick lips and harsh pants and when Kagome grinds down into his lap, Inuyasha pulls away to groan because fuck.
“Bedroom?” Kagome asks and holy shit, she sounds wrecked, all breathy and warm. Her lips are swollen and her cheeks are flushed. Inuyasha is helpless to stare and only stare until Kagome makes a small wounded sound before kissing him once more, licking inside his mouth until it’s like she’s everywhere. Her hands in his hair, on his neck, curving down his chest to rest low on his abdomen. The press of her palms is a burning trail of heat but it’s nothing compared to the way her ass is pressing down against where he’s desperately hard in his jeans.
“Bed,” Inuyasha tries, repeating it again impossibly while they’re kissing and then once more when Kagome breaks away to take in a shuddering breath.
She nearly falls when she backs off of him, legs sea-wobbly, and Inuyasha would be impressed if he, too, didn’t feel a little unmoored. His hands find her hips, turn her, and then he’s all but racing them into his bedroom. The whole place is an utter disaster, but Kagome doesn’t even bother to look around. She spins so fast he nearly crashes into her, and then her hands are tugging at his shirt.
“Off,” she tells him. “Get this off.”
And then it’s a completely different kind of race. They don’t even bother helping each other. Kagome’s hair falls in a messy nest around her as she whips off her black t-shirt, the one that smells of coffee and frothing milk. She’s wiggling out of her pants next, not remotely graceful, and Inuyasha finds that so fucking hot that he only manages to remove his own shirt and unbutton his jeans before he’s on her, pushing her into the mattress and climbing on top.
Kagome smiles, because of course she does. She smiles and cups his jaw and then kisses him again, deep and consuming. Her legs twine around his hips, tugging him down, and Inuyasha nearly whites out when his cock presses against the swell of her stomach, the friction of his boxer-briefs just enough to set him on edge. Inuyasha is already dangerously close. It’s as embarrassing as it is truthful, so he’s grateful when Kagome pushes at his chest, pushes him up and then to the side. It’s a tumble, Inuyasha trying to grasp at her to keep her close and Kagome doing everything she can to move him.
He’s flat on his back, staring at the ceiling, when he realizes his mistake. Kagome straddles him, dark brown eyes watching him as she pulls her long hair into a ponytail.
Inuyasha closes his eyes. Dangerously close doesn’t even cut it anymore.
Maybe she gets it, because she’s laughing then, falling into his chest like she belongs there. Inuyasha is helpless but to tug her close, to press her up against him so that he can feel every way that they fit together perfectly. He unlatches her bra, lets her remove it before he licks at her swollen nipples, taking them into his mouth and sucking so that he can hear the way she keens.
His cock, rock hard and leaking against his stomach, grinds against Kagome’s hips as she rocks against him. It’s the sweetest kind of torture, worse than the breathless moans as he rakes his hands across her body, the swell of her hips. When Kagome pulls away, Inuyasha lets his palms drag across her flesh, watching as she smiles yet again before kissing her way down his body.
Already, his breaths are coming short. She tugs at his jeans until they come off, his boxer briefs following, and oh shit. He knows what’s coming and his hands fist in the sheets, clenching while he closes his eyes and remembers to not be embarrassing.
Too late. Kagome doesn’t even tease or linger. She swallows him down, as much as she can take, and Inuyasha makes a sound that he’s pretty sure has never left his mouth, previous sexual encounters be damned. He feels like a live wire, sparking and ungrounded, and for some crazy reason he actually thinks seeing her will help.
He watches her mouth slide down his cock, shiny with spit, and fucking ascends. Oh, how incredibly wrong he was.
“Kagome,” he says. And wow, desperation thy name is Inuyasha.
She takes her time pulling off. He wants to grab her hair and drag her back up, but he’s not sure he should. Instead, he holds on and prays to last because there’s a really high probability that he will not. The intense desire for her to keep touching him and stop touching him is incredibly confusing, yet his dick is so fucking hard Inuyasha may just pass out from that.
So, there’s a lot to potentially be embarrassed about.
“Kagome,” he rasps again, pushing at her shoulder ineffectually until she gets the message. It’s maybe worse to watch the way she comes up, the way his cock slides free and leaves a trail of saliva in its wake. Kagome wipes at her mouth with the back of her hand and Inuyasha hears a noise from somewhere far away.
It’s him. The noise is him.
“Come here,” he growls and Kagome does.
In the back of his mind, Inuyasha is pretty sure it shouldn’t be this easy. He knows that hook-ups are never really as exciting as the movies make it. The first time with anyone is always strange, a struggle between your own release and theirs, when you know nothing about what they like, what they want, why they crave the things that they do. But Kagome is fluid, her hands roaming and searching even as Inuyasha flips them over. She lifts her hips as he tugs off her underwear and then when he comes close again she pushes at him, pushes until he’s falling back once more, until he’s staring at the ceiling and then the curtain of her bangs.
“Stuff?” she asks and Inuyasha has to really, really think to process that.
“Drawer.” There’s a solid fifteen seconds of anxiety when Kagome checks them because Inuyasha can’t remember the last time he bought condoms, but it must be fine. One is tossed onto his chest and then Kagome is back, straddling him and stroking him, and Inuyasha’s going to need a fucking minute here.
He doesn’t get one. It’s practically a battle to roll the condom on, Kagome more in the way than out of it. She seems to take some form of perverse pleasure from it though, the way her dark eyes are sparkling at him with something he can’t yet read. Inuyasha barely has it on, thinking to himself that he has to attempt to reciprocate at least, when Kagome pushes him back down – which, hot – and then climbs on top of him and just—
“Oh fuck,” he wheezes.
Kagome tugs on her ponytail to tighten it, like she’s not currently sitting on his dick, and then leans forward. He’s can’t stop the hitch of his hips, the way he thrusts up into her when all she’s trying to do is kiss him. It’s that dangerous first-time hook-up thing, the not-knowing thing, but Kagome gasps with her lips against his. Nothing about their kisses after are truly kisses, not in the ways that probably matter. It’s all breathy pants and slick lips, Kagome making high-pitched ahs every time he lifts her and pulls her back down. Finesse isn’t even a thing in existence. It’s a sprawl, so messy and all over the place that it’s its own kind of perfect. She whines his name as he pushes at her, presses her back so that he can watch, can see the way she takes his cock again and again.
Thoughts are fleeting, no more than the gasps he lets out. The prayers of more and fuck and yes, shit, Kagome—
And it feels a lot like he’s slipping, free-falling somewhere that he hasn’t yet been. Inuyasha has had a perfectly set and planned life and in absolutely no way was something like this in the equation. It’s heady. It’s dangerous. This feeling of something different, something unattainable for him and him alone.
“God, there,” Kagome hisses, and it’s not a sexy voice but there isn’t a single thing about her that’s not hot as hell. It’s too much, this slippery slide of his thoughts turning against him. It’s too much. She’s too much.
When he makes her come, clit throbbing from the rhythmic presses of his fingers while he fucks into her in earnest, Inuyasha has no thoughts. Not a single one. His own climax crashes into him, vicious, whiting out everything to pleasure and nothing more.
Kagome has fallen against his chest, face pressed into his neck like she belongs there. He can feel her pressing her lips against his sweat-slicked skin, not-kisses that trace the line of his neck and shoulder.
It’s one of the last things he feels, one of the last things he remembers. After he tosses the condom, Kagome has already burrowed down in his blankets but she makes way the second he comes back, pressing right back into his space like he had never left.
More lips across his overheated skin, brushes that slide like the tracing of a finger.
“Kagome,” he murmurs, with nothing else in mind.
“Inuyasha,” she replies in kind.
He wraps his arms around her and closes his eyes. What else is there to say? To do? To think? Inuyasha is pretty sure he couldn’t form a proper sentence right now to save his life. He’s always been a sleeper after sex anyways. It’s a powerful force, dragging him under.
Kagome and I just had sex. It’s a single fleeting thought. A sentence that he didn’t think himself capable of.
Kagome and I had sex.
His eyes open wide, unseeing to the white ceiling above. Tiredness is only a concept, now.
Inuyasha needs to call Miroku.
The next morning, Miroku groans, loud and long. His eyes blearily blink at him on FaceTime. “Inuyasha,” he mumbles, clearly not awake if his…well, his everything is to go by. He’s pretty sure his best friend isn’t even wearing a shirt. “You know it’s really fucking early, right?”
“It’s eight a.m. on a Thursday,” he hisses back. “And this is an emergency.”
His best friend groans again, more of a whine, and there’s a grumble that’s muffled on the speaker. Great. So Miroku is still in bed, shirtless, and there’s Sango with him. Not unexpected exactly, but his best friend is a dumb idiot, and he twists the phone just enough to see Sango and she’s—
“For fuck’s sake,” Inuyasha growls out. “Why would you answer the phone naked?”
Sango shouts, and Miroku averts the screen back to his face just time for Inuyasha to see her whack him across the forehead. “Miroku!”
“What? It’s not like he saw anything. You keep the blankets up to your ears!”
Inuyasha pretends to gag. “There was shoulder.”
“Oh, the horror,” Miroku mocks. Inuyasha doesn’t have the care or time to explain that it’s different when it’s a bare shoulder on a naked woman versus a bare shoulder on a naked woman who is your best friend. She’s like his sister. Inuyasha wants absolutely no part in that. “So what is this big emergency because, like you said, we’re kind of naked and now both awake.”
Inuyasha glares at him. “I hate you so fucking much.”
“Then hang up,” Miroku responds cheerfully and he would – Inuyasha would – but this is very much an emergency. DEFCON 5, even. Wait, is five the bad one? Or is that one?
“Kagome and I had sex,” he blurts, eyes immediately checking his closed office door. No one will be in this early, but the whole situation has him feeling off. Panicked.
There’s a massive, loud squawk on the other end. Miroku sits up so fast that the blankets covering him drop, hair in complete disarray from its usual tied-back style. “What?” he shrieks.
“Stop being so loud,” Inuyasha grits.
“Holy shit.” Miroku smiles slowly, but it grows so large Inuyasha actually grimaces. “My dreams have come true. My best friend fell for my best work-friend. The universe listened to my prayers.”
On second thought, why the fuck did Inuyasha think talking to Miroku at all was going to be effective?
“Wait,” he hears Sango call in the background. “Inuyasha and Kagome are dating?”
“Oh my god.” Miroku is literally flushed with excitement. “Are you dating?”
“Uh.” Inuyasha scratches his nose. “I don’t know?”
“What do you mean ‘you don’t know?’” Miroku screams, loud enough to make Inuyasha wince and turn his face away, like his best friend could actually spit at him from the force of it. “Do not – Inuyasha so fucking help me – do not tell me you ran out on her after having sex!”
“What? No!” Inuyasha growls. “I’m not a fucking dick.”
Sango snorts in the background. Inuyasha is gravely offended.
“Then how don’t you know?” Miroku presses, ever-stuck on this very problem. “Did you just grunt at her afterwards? Turn caveman-like?” He blinks then, hard, like a thought has just occurred to him. “Wait, was the sex that good that you’ve been totally mute all morning until you called me?”
Inuyasha rolls his eyes. “Wow.”
“Wow is right,” Sango chirps from the background, clearly unimpressed. “That was gross, even for you.”
“Well, I had to ask,” Miroku states, defensive. “He calls me and then doesn’t say anything!”
“We just haven’t talked about it yet,” Inuyasha sighs. “Fuck off.”
Miroku pouts. “Then talk to her. Don’t call me back until you do.”
There’s very little satisfaction in hanging up on him, but Inuyasha does it anyways. Too bad the image of his best friend glaring at him with mock-sadness etched on his features haunts him for the rest of the day.
When the Secret Santa email comes in at lunch, Inuyasha taps it and barely manages to not groan out loud.
Because of course it’s Kagome.
The thing is: Inuyasha barely remembers the morning. He’s not a morning person, not at all, and Kagome had to get up for the opening shift, which was always an ungodly hour. He remembers something brushing against his forehead and the shift of the mattress. It had been quiet after, until he heard the click of the front door and the jangle of the locks being put into place.
So it’s not like they really had a chance to talk.
Now, walking back to the apartment where Kagome should already be, Inuyasha is torn between racing home and dragging his feet. He doesn’t know and he wants to know. It’s a paradox that makes him irritated, the familiar sensation bringing a scowl to his face. He trudges through the lobby, takes the elevator, and glares at the doorknob like it’s liable to bite him given half a chance. Which. Ridiculous. Inuyasha is better than this. Truly. It was just sex. Great sex. Phenomenal sex. Inuyasha hadn’t expected Kagome to be like that at all. Not that he had really— And not in a bad way, shit. Good way. Kagome is amazing. She’s stunning and comfortable with herself, with her space and her strengths. She admits weaknesses. She is—
She’s way better than him, for one.
Inuyasha takes a breath and unlocks the door. Immediately he can hear the television on low in the shared space. There’s even the faint smell of something cooking, something Inuyasha doesn’t recognize. Normally he would call out a hello, but today he remains silent, firmly in his scowl as he tugs off his shoes and unloops the scarf around his neck.
What the hell is he going to do? What is he going to say? Was it a one-time thing? An often thing? Friends with benefits? Dating? They hadn’t exactly talked before or after. It had just happened. Like ‘oops, I slipped’ and somehow, he’s here, standing frozen in his own fucking hallway because the girl he likes is only a few feet away and that’s terrifying.
The decision is taken out of his hands when soft footfalls come closer. The apartment is small enough that it doesn’t take long for Kagome to see him, her face that same friendly smile from the first time he met her. He thinks it’s a little more forced though, now that he looks, and Inuyasha realizes with a pang that Kagome does have a smile that doesn’t shine through, and until now it’s never been directed at him before.
Not even that first day.
Not at all last night.
“Hey,” Kagome says first, because of course she speaks first. “You’re back.”
I am, he should say. Where else would I go, a snide part of him wants to ask. Of course, runs through his mind. All are options. All are available to him. Inuyasha tries to grasp on to speak them like he does in every situation, finding them all lacking, finding himself lacking. There’s still a scowl on his face and Kagome is smiling at him still, like that’s okay. Like that’s fine and not a weird trait Inuyasha has.
Slowly, the smile slips a little, faltering. “Inuyasha? Is everything okay?”
But the last word is barely out of her mouth as Inuyasha surges forward, a little bit of extra speed in his haste, and he blurts the words “I want to date you” before he cups her jaw and kisses her.
There’s not even a moment of hesitation. Human as she is, Kagome’s hands immediately grab at his forearms, his sides, pulling him closer just as he pushes her back into the wall. The thud is overly loud, or maybe that’s his heartbeat, and he’s licking into her mouth and swallowing down her tiny noises like a starving man.
They make it to the bedroom.
He wants to say that it’s weird how not weird things are. Inuyasha has dated here and there over the years, mostly in university and then only sporadically once he graduated. He’s never really found anyone that got him, basically. Inuyasha isn’t stupid; he knows what he looks like. It makes hook-ups easier, but once they realize Inuyasha’s bluntness isn’t thanks to overwhelming arousal or alcohol, they tend to find it off-putting. Or whatever. Inuyasha hasn’t really sent out a survey asking.
And yet, none of these things bother Kagome. In fact, the rest of the week is spent much like the first one, where they share the space and cook and talk and watch TV. The most recent benefit is the sex, which is often and mind-blowing, but that’s…it.
“Delivery went fine,” Kagome tells him one evening, leaning against the counter as she scrolls idly through her phone. “Now it’s just trying to get all my stuff out of storage. I’m dreading it already. I mean, the landlord finally fixed everything but I need to clean it top to bottom. Whatever contractor he hired was gross. There’s dirt and stuff everywhere.”
Inuyasha grunts. “Do you want me to help?”
“What?” Kagome pauses in her phone scrolling to make a face at him. “No. It’s fine.”
“I can help.”
If Miroku was here, he’d say something along the lines of ah, your do-everything-by-myself issues are making themselves present again. Or whatever. He has no fucking idea what you’d call it. “You’re being difficult.”
Kagome rolls her eyes at him and Inuyasha takes a moment to debate whether he’s rubbing off on her already. Mentally, or whatever. Physically he definitely is. “Shush, it’s fine. It’s a couple days of cleaning and a bunch of unpacking. I can do it between shifts or whatever. It’s not like I have to have it up and ready. No one comes over.” There’s a second where she pauses, dark brown eyes flitting up to him. “Well, I guess you will but I’ve seen your bedroom.”
“Wow,” he shoots at her, deadpan. “Ouch.”
The grin that takes over her face is slow, but it makes her eyes crinkle and Inuyasha is fucking hopeless against that shit. “Why don’t you just stay?”
Kagome blinks at him. “What?”
Well, no backing out now. Thanks subconscious. Great planning. “I mean, you could sleep here and prep your own place. When it’s ready, you move back. You only have two suitcases so that’ll be easy to fix. It’s not like Miroku or Sango are back until the end of next week anyways.”
And so it’s decided, simple as that. Easy.
And yet, Inuyasha isn’t complaining. He’s many things but an idiot isn’t one of them. In fact, Inuyasha is extra pleased by his own genius Saturday morning, when he’s fiddling with the coffee maker and Kagome stumbles out of his bedroom, wearing one of his pull-over sweaters he only ever wears at home and some underwear.
Inuyasha stares. Suddenly, he’s not very interested in coffee. At all. Fuck coffee, in fact, because his caffeine intake is probably too high and this is a much, much better way to wake himself up. In fact—
“Any for me?” she asks, ending it muffled on a yawn.
He scowls because – you know – default, and then picks her up around the waist and tosses her onto the couch. Kagome’s laughing before she even lands, her long hair wild and scattered everywhere. It’s a mess. She’s a mess. But she’s so fucking hot that Inuyasha is seconds away from combusting. He rucks up his sweater, enough to expose the tops of her thighs and then tugs down her underwear so fast it’s a wonder he hasn’t ripped it.
“Inuyasha!” Kagome cries, a little punched out sound of surprise that breaks into a gasp the second he goes down on her. He’s half hanging off the couch but there’s something about being in this larger, open space, with the sunlit windows and soft morning glow. There’s something about making her back arch here, making her shudder and plead and wrap her legs around his head that makes him happy.
No wonder Miroku and Sango love fucking here.
He gets it now.
Is it possible to fall in love in two weeks?
Inuyasha watches her cook lunch, still in his oversized sweater but now wearing leggings. It’s not a loss. Actually, there’s something comfortable about it. Far-seeing, like Inuyasha can overlay this image again and again and again for future days, spread out before them. Months. Years.
Ha. No. Silly.
He goes to try and help in the kitchen and she smacks him immediately with a wooden spoon, fast enough that Inuyasha didn’t even have time to flinch away. “Out,” she orders.
Inuyasha doesn’t go far, simply leans on the counter and continues to watch her move.
He’s so fucked.
Kagome has the evening shift at work so a bit after lunch she disappears into Miroku’s bedroom, changing into the usual all-black attire. She kisses him goodbye, quick and easy, and Inuyasha has no choice but to reel her back in to kiss her again, deepen it, steal her breath away.
“I’m going to be late,” she says.
“This isn’t fair,” she says.
“Inuyasha,” she says.
She keeps kissing him anyways.
It’s not until she’s left, flushed and beaming at him with those eye crinkles, that Inuyasha collapses onto his bed. It doesn’t take long for him to call Miroku.
“This is all your fault,” he tells him, because it needs to be fucking said.
“Hello to you, too, bestie.” Miroku’s blue eyes are twinkling. He’s literally the worst. Inuyasha kind of misses him. “How’s it going? Are you in your Corner of Sad again?”
“What? No. Fuck you.” Inuyasha flops the phone down on the bed, uncaring that it’s mostly just a view now of his chin. Miroku can fucking deal. “Nothing’s going on. Work sucks. The usual. What are you guys doing?”
Miroku laughs. “If you think you’re going to be able to change the subject on me like that when I know you and Kagome have been—What do the kids call it these days?”
“Please don’t,” Inuyasha pleads.
His best friend ignores him. Of course. “You sent me a text message that you sorted it out at least. I’m still kind of pissed you didn’t call me.”
“I’ve been busy.”
“Uh-huh.” Inuyasha doesn’t have to look down at the screen to know he’s being stared at. There may even be some eyebrow wiggling happening. “Kagome’s been texting me, you know.”
That gets his attention. “What?”
Miroku hums. “Mhmm. Had some interesting things to say.”
Narrowing his eyes, Inuyasha debates asking. For like two seconds. He really needs to fucking know. “And?” he snaps.
“She said you nearly set the oven on fire.”
“For fuck’s—Miroku,” Inuyasha growls out. “Don’t be a coy son of a bitch.”
“Coy?” He snorts. “When have I ever been coy?”
“Always.” He doesn’t scream it. His voice is just…slightly raised. Very slightly. Like a tiny bump. A road bump. What are those things called— Fucking— Speed bumps.
Wait, no, those fuckers are huge.
“Calm down,” Miroku admonishes him, which is fucking rich. “She just repeatedly thanks me for letting her stay there. Actually, just this morning I got a very length message of thanks.” He grins. “Want to tell me why?”
“We had sex on the couch.”
“Wh— Inuyasha!” Miroku yells, scandalized. “No living room sex! That’s part of the rules!”
“You broke them less than a month ago!”
“That was engagement sex, that was different.” His best friend narrows his eyes. “Shit, I didn’t think you’d actually just tell me. Is this a casual thing? Tell me it’s not a casual thing.”
Scowling, Inuyasha flops onto his back. It means that Miroku has the same view of the ceiling as he does. That’s fine. He doesn’t really want to look his best friend in the eye for this, even if it is through a screen. “No.”
After a pregnant pause, Miroku screams, gleeful like the Wicked Witch of the West after she flew off with her monkeys from hell. “IT’S HAPPENING!”
“YOU HAVE A CRUSH.”
Inuyasha snorts. He fucking wishes this was still a crush. The crush thing was so last week, before he had even kissed her.
“What was that?” Miroku asks, because he’s a little shit.
“Don’t lie to me.”
“Not a lie.”
“It was so a lie. Don’t make me get Sango.”
“What would Sango even do?”
“Yell at you. Make that disappointed face. You know, like that time when we blew up the butter in the microwave.”
Wincing, Inuyasha tries to forget. “You don’t need to call her. It’s nothing, seriously. Everything is good. I think. I mean, Kagome and I are having…” How would he even describe this? A good time? He wants to say they’re serious. He wants to tell his best friend that he thinks this is actually a thing worth having, that even in a short amount of time he feels like this has permanence to it. Weight.
But Miroku hasn’t been his best friend since high school for nothing. He must hear it because he sighs, and not in the sad way. “So this isn’t a hit-it-and-quit-it. I’m glad. I’m not going to lie; I was hoping for this a bit.”
Inuyasha rolls his eyes. “No fucking shit.”
“But,” Miroku interrupts, “I was worried it’d be more of a sex thing.”
A sex thing. Inuyasha makes a face at the ceiling. God, why does Miroku say shit like that? “Yeah, well,” he grouses, grabbing at his cell phone so that he can look his friend in the eye. “Give me some fucking credit. I’m trying not to fall in love with her.”
Miroku looks, in that moment, far too smug. “And how’s that going for you?”
“Fuck you,” comes his automatic response, a knee-jerk reaction. Begrudgingly, unhappily, Inuyasha sighs his next admission. “Not great.”
When his best friend laughs, all delighted giggles, Inuyasha scowls. Still, he feels a warm wave swoop through his stomach and spread out. Out to his fingertips, his toes. It’s a familiar feeling, something wrapped up in association with Kagome. It’s a good feeling.
“It will hurt.”
Kagome raises an eyebrow at him, frozen for only a moment before she spurs back into action, waving the comb aggressively in his face. “Do you see how long my hair is? Do you think I’d hurt you?”
The question is a fair one but Inuyasha is still uneasy. A memory of Miroku drunkenly combing his hair after falling into a pond late one night in university still haunts him to this day. There are scars, likely on his head that you cannot see. But just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
Inuyasha remembers. He can never forget.
The day has been a lazy one so far, an easy Sunday. Kagome had worked the opening shift and then came back reeking of coffee and syrupy sweetness. Inuyasha had all but dragged her into the bathroom, stripping them down while he sucked bruises into her throat, Kagome a writhing mess underneath him. He stopped only to push her into the shower stall – a tiny thing that they barely fit in – and proceeded to take her apart under the spray.
They had kissed, light-headed and soaking wet. Inuyasha feels something like contentment sit in his chest.
Now, mostly dried off, Inuyasha just has to deal with his hair.
Kagome waves the comb at him again. This time, however, her dark eyes are soft. She’s looking at him with something that Inuyasha could put a name to, if he wanted. Right now, it feels a little too early and a lot too much. “I promise.”
A scowl comes across his face before he can stop it, but Inuyasha whirls around and sits down on the ground by the couch, his body bracketed by her warm, bare thighs. She’s wearing one of his t-shirts this time and Inuyasha would be upset about all the extra laundry he has to do, only—
He’s very much not upset.
Kagome separates his hair, pushing a fair amount of it over his shoulders. It’s wet, dripping down his bare chest in tiny, cool droplets. He leans further backwards, taking the towel still with him to the strands so he doesn’t end up cold. “My mom used to do this for my dad,” she says, out of the blue and overly quiet. The television, playing softly in the background, nearly drowns her out.
“He has long hair, too?”
“When they were younger, yeah.” Inuyasha can feel Kagome hold up chunks of his hair, can feel the barely-there pressure of a comb running through his locks. There’s no pain. It’s almost laughable that he thought there would be. “He cut it when Mom was pregnant with me. I think she missed it. After he passed, she packed up all of his things almost immediately. I was pretty young still, and I think she just needed some semblance of sanity. Like, if she didn’t see things to remind her of him, it would make the reminders that were inevitable a little more tolerable. I don’t know.” Kagome sighs. “We never really talked about it. But I remember always seeing a comb on my mom’s dresser. My dad’s comb. And it was always out, even years later.”
Inuyasha sits in stunned silence. What do you even say to that?
“Sorry,” Kagome murmurs. “I didn’t mean to make this depressing. It was a long time ago. It’s just—I don’t know. Brushing hair is a thing in my family, I guess.”
There are implications there. Inuyasha dares to twist his body, just enough to catch a glimpse of Kagome’s soft expression and her tiny, tilted smile. “Do you miss him?”
“Sometimes,” she admits, brow furrowing. It’s the last thing he sees before he turns back around and then he feels the comb, rising higher and higher through the locks of his hair. “I guess I miss the idea of him. I was three so I don’t really remember. But when there were school days where you celebrated your dad, I felt it then. Just a little. My mom moved in with my grandpa after dad passed away, so he kind of took up the mantle. He’d like you, I think. My grandpa. He’s a little crazy.”
Inuyasha snorts, unable to stop himself. “So because he’s crazy, you think he’d like me?”
“If you helped him with chores, then he’d fawn all over you.” Inuyasha feels the teeth of the comb slide through the back section of his hair, long and easy strokes that feel far too good. “And since you’re a half-demon, he would make you do all the heavy lifting.”
“If you can carry me all the way to work during a snowstorm in the middle of winter, I think you can lift a fifteen-pound box,” Kagome tells him dryly.
Inuyasha rolls his eyes, even though she can’t see. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
She hums, easy as anything. One of the sections she had pushed over his right shoulder is pulled back, and the process begins again. “You work for your dad’s company, right?”
“Yeah. Well, my half-brother’s now. Dad’s just on the board.”
“And you like it?”
There’s a weight to her question, overly light, like Kagome knows she’s treading delicate territory. She speaks casually enough that Inuyasha could bypass it like a joke, or scoff and change the subject. She’d never call him out, he knows. Still, he remembers the honesty of her own words and this isn’t—This isn’t tit-for-tat, but it feels like a world of their own, this tiny bubble in the shared living space of his apartment. “Some days,” he answers eventually. “I think I used to. Like it more, I mean.”
Humming, Kagome focuses on a section where there can only be a knot. He feels her fingers deftly pull at individual strands. “What changed?”
“I don’t know.” Inuyasha wants to say something cheesy, something impulsive: you. But that isn’t the truth, is it? Inuyasha’s always toed the line of the company mandate ever since he started working there full-time after graduation. In the last year, he’s been doing his own thing, carving his own path with pro bono work that no one else seems to want to do, even if Inuyasha’s pretty sure that’s the only work they should be doing. If he’s honest with himself, this has been a long time coming, thrust into the spotlight once his rose-coloured glasses were removed.
Once Kagome had entered, making Inuyasha uncomfortable for things he never thought he’d want at this point, for things he never promised himself on the life plan that had been laid out since he was young.
“I guess,” Inuyasha says slowly, “it kept getting worse. And I guess I had a limit. I don’t know.”
“Things like that don’t always have to have clear-cut answers,” Kagome admits, soothing. The comb is back, running through his hair in gentle presses. “But it’s good that you know, at least. What are you going to do?”
“Nothing.” But even that, Inuyasha isn’t sure of. Maybe that’s also a lie. Inuyasha’s honestly unsure anymore. With a hefty sigh, he shakes his head and feels the tiny tug of the comb in his hair. “I don’t know.”
“Well, you don’t always have to.” Kagome takes the final section of his hair and for the last several minutes, they sit in comfortable silence. There’s some sort of comedy show on the television but Inuyasha has no clue what it is. He’s pretty sure it’s not remotely funny, if the lead character is anything to go by.
When his hair is finished, Kagome pronounces him tangle-free and gently runs the towel across his hair. She tugs him onto the couch and it’s as easy as breathing to let her pull him in, to lie down partially on top of her as they lay on the sofa and pick something new to watch on Netflix.
It’s a lazy Sunday and he has nowhere to be.
Which is why, an hour later, Inuyasha scrunches up his nose at the sound of knocking. It’s not from somewhere down the hall either. It’s… It’s his door. Someone is at his door.
Kagome, thankfully, is still asleep. Apparently she sleeps like the dead, or maybe her shift just really tired her out after the early morning start. Either way, Inuyasha gently picks himself up from the couch, scratching at his bare chest as he blinks his eyes awake. Whoever is on the other side of that door is going to suffer. He was napping and he had been happy, damn it. Who the hell would bother him on a Sunday at five? That’s like—That’s like—
Whipping open the door, Inuyasha makes sure to give the intruder the deepest scowl he can manage from the bowels of his resentment. If they couldn’t take the heat then they should have known better than to knock on his—
“Inuyasha,” his mother greets sweetly, beaming at him. “You are home.”
He blinks. This can’t be happening. “Mom?”
“You weren’t answering your texts,” his father says, as if that is any explanation for them just showing up at his door at five o’clock on a Sunday evening.
“Dad?” This is not good. This is very not good. “What are you guys doing here? Aren’t you supposed to be on a plane somewhere to—” He can’t even remember anymore. They travel so often and to so many places that Inuyasha lost track somewhere three years ago. He wishes he was joking.
“Well, we were unexpectedly in town,” his mother starts gently, voice so much softer than his father’s naturally commanding tone. “Our flight got cancelled because of the snow and since the airport isn’t too far away, we thought we’d come by to say hello. Maybe get dinner with you?”
“We tried calling,” his dad reminds him, though it’s not without any heat. “You weren’t picking up.”
“I was sleeping.” He goes to rub at the back of his neck, uneasy, only to feel the absolute mess that is his hair, air-dried and mangled by him sleeping on the couch. He must look like a disaster, even bare-chested. Worse yet, his parents are still standing awkwardly at his front door, Inuyasha barring entry because—
Oh shit, because.
“Give me, like, two minutes,” Inuyasha blurts out, even though he has no fucking clue what two minutes is going to do for him. He sure as hell isn’t going to come up with a plan that quickly. He can put Kagome in his room though, and that is definitely for the best because he’s pretty sure she’s not wearing anything besides panties and his—
He swears that his heart actually stops for a second. First, he sees his dad blink hard, like he’s startled. Then his mother, so short and at a bad angle, moves past him just enough at the sound of the stranger’s voice to see—
Kagome, in all of her stunning, post-nap glory with her long, fluffed up tresses. Wearing only his red t-shirt.
Standing in the hallway with her eyes barely open.
“Oh, hello there, dear,” his mother greets, ever polite.
Inuyasha watches as Kagome slow-blinks, just like his dad had, and then takes in the scene in front of her with wide-awake eyes. Her hands grip, white-knuckled, on the ends of his t-shirt and she bolts.
“I guess you were sleeping,” his dad says then, laughter clear in his voice. Inuyasha wants to die.
Somehow, some way, they end up at dinner.
The four of them.
Kagome still hasn’t fully lost the blush gracing her features. In fact, Inuyasha’s pretty sure he can’t look his mother directly in the eye, which is unfortunate because his mom seems so utterly delighted that it’s become her mission.
Inuyasha still wants to very much die.
If pressed, he couldn’t exactly say what happens. His dad is his usual self, a calming presence that is no less prominent every time he opens his mouth. He has a charm and charisma about him, something that never really passed down to either Sesshomaru or Inuyasha. They look like him, though, with their matching silver-white hair and golden eyes. Sesshomaru has similar demonic markings whereas Inuyasha took on more of the demonic traits of their type, his dog ears and canines more readily on display.
“Oh please,” his mother says, ducking her head to try and catch Kagome’s gaze. “Call me Izayoi! And don’t worry, honestly. I was actually disappointed that up until now, I’ve never been able to embarrass Inuyasha about anything.”
“That’s not fucking true,” Inuyasha grumbles, immediately chastised when she throws him a look that clearly speaks: language. Right.
“Besides,” she continues on, “it’s not like that’s never happened to me. Toga and I were caught so many times in much more worrying situations.”
Oh god. Oh god.
“Please no,” Inuyasha whispers, even though Kagome straightens up like she’s delighted by this information. “I don’t want to hear it. It’s bad enough that today even happened.”
“You may as well just accept it,” his father says, solemn with the knowledge of what’s to come. “Your mother will do anything to make Kagome feel welcome, even if that means embarrassing us all into an early grave.”
His mother slaps his dad on the shoulder, eyes never leaving Kagome, but Toga simply smiles down at her like she’s speaking his love language. It’s almost comical, the height difference, with his father’s looming presence beside her. His arm, wrapped around the back of her chair, looks more like a wall compared to her tiny frame. Inuyasha does…not want to think of the implications.
When dinner arrives, Izayoi automatically puts more vegetables on his father’s plate. His dad, in turn, refills her wine glass the second it gets a little low. It leaves her flushed by the end of dinner, Kagome in a similar state even though she’s consumed maybe half of that, and the two of them are giggling away at things Inuyasha absolutely doesn’t want to know about.
The waiter comes back later to take away their plates, but his dad stops the man before he removes Izayoi’s, letting him know that she’s not finished even though his mother is still deep into a story about Inuyasha as a child; probably that time he got lost in the forest and thought he’d become Tarzan. He’d be horrified, only Kagome’s laughing freely and his mother looks so fucking proud—
Inuyasha pays, his father glaring at him all the while, and Kagome excuses herself for the bathroom before they leave. In his head, the countdown is already on. Four, three, two—
“I can’t believe you’ve been hiding her from us!” his mother exclaims, barely a hushed whisper the second Kagome’s disappeared. “Inuyasha, she’s so sweet.”
He can’t look his mother in the eye. He may die. “It’s new,” he tells her, knowing that she’ll see beyond the scowl on his face as he stuffs his credit card back into his wallet. “I haven’t been hiding her. It’s—It’s new.”
“Well, I like her,” Izayoi announces, in that soft and lovely way she has that puts everyone at ease. Even Inuyasha, used to her tricks, can feel the tension draining out of his shoulders at the full-force of her expression. “And she likes you so much.”
His instant reaction of you think so? gets swallowed down immediately. Instead, he rolls his eyes. “You like everyone.”
“I do not,” his mother says, at the same time his dad chuckles and shakes his head.
“He has a point,” Toga admits, staring down at her with that same fond expression he’s always wearing. Inuyasha has always seen it, has always known what it meant. He thinks, out of left field and like a sledgehammer to the head, that Sesshomaru probably saw this too, when he was young. That it probably made him feel the opposite of what Inuyasha is feeling right now, which is a sort of settled sense of rightness, of family. Izayoi is not Sesshomaru’s mother, and he’s never let her try to be even a shadow of one.
“Well,” his mother says primly, giving Toga a look that suggests what she thinks of that particular betrayal. “Since we won’t be travelling anymore, we were thinking of doing the family dinner early. This week instead of next. Would you be free?”
Inuyasha nods, can already see by the way his father shakes his head that this is something long decided, probably the moment their flight was cancelled. “Just us?”
“And a few friends,” Toga says, which means more than likely a big party. “But you should come early, stay with us. Your mother was disappointed that you weren’t going to fly out to see us over the holidays anyways.”
“Toga, that’s guilting him,” Izayoi chides, smiling at Inuyasha. “We knew you had to work.”
“I think he can get away with not working over the holidays—”
“What your father means is that he misses you—”
Kagome’s familiar frame grabs Inuyasha’s attention and he latches on to it with desperation. He even goes so far as to wave, which is silly because she clearly knows where they are and this is actually a somewhat nice restaurant. He looks like a fool. She must see something in his face though because she’s already laughing a little, hiding it in a bitten smile as she sits back down. “What did I miss?”
“Absolutely nothing,” Inuyasha tells her immediately. Under the table, her hand pokes at his knee and he smirks at her, inordinately pleased.
“Shall we?” Toga suggests, breaking the moment. When Inuyasha looks at them, Izayoi is smiling at him all pleased, even while his dad is gathering her coat to help her into it.
Inuyasha feels more than he sees Kagome pause herself, but when he turns to look at her Kagome is already moving, pushing her chair in and pressing against him to get moving. They say their goodbyes outside. Kagome is dragged into a hug by Izayoi and a handshake with his dad. Inuyasha is forced to hug both of them, at the same time even.
It’s so embarrassing.
“You guys are the worst,” Inuyasha grumbles, resting his head on his father’s shoulder, his mom pressed in close between them.
“We love you,” Izayoi tells him simply.
He misses them fiercely in that moment, even though they’re right there. Inuyasha isn’t the first to pull away.
His parents had driven, having planned to leave their car in the airport parking garage during their week-long vacation. Inuyasha had already waved them off driving them back to the apartment; it’s late and Inuyasha needs a minute to be distracted, to take the time to get himself home and focus on that before the quietness of the apartment can make him think.
“They’re so in love.”
The statement pulls him from his thoughts. Inuyasha feels Kagome’s hand wrap around his arm, tucking herself close to his side. “What?”
“Your parents,” she says, gesturing with her head towards them, who are walking hand-in-hand in the parking lot. “They’re besotted with each other.”
Snorting, Inuyasha shakes his head. “Who even says that?”
“I do,” she responds sternly. “And it’s not to be used lightly. But them? That’s besotted material right there. Your father looks at your mom like she hung the moon and the stars.”
Yeah, he did. Inuyasha remembers it with a pang. “They’ve always been like that.”
“Really?” Kagome makes a considering noise and Inuyasha isn’t sure if it’s good or bad. He waits it out, deciding that he’ll never be able to guess, not yet. Not when they’re barely only three weeks in. “Do you mind if I ask why you’re so weird about Miroku and Sango getting married then?”
To her credit, she doesn’t back down. Kagome just clings to his arm tighter, like she’s afraid he’ll pull away. The thought had crossed his mind, but Inuyasha likes the feel of her too much to let go. “Don’t tell me you’re not. Miroku mentioned it and even you’ve mentioned it, kind of. In an offhand way. You think they’re too young.”
“Aren’t they?” he asks, brow furrowed. “Dad didn’t meet my mom until he was in his mid-thirties. He had already had Sesshomaru and was divorced. Don’t you need time to figure out your life, before you pick a person?”
There’s a moment of silence, but Kagome doesn’t seem judgemental. If anything, she seems to be weighing his words, like she’s fitting them against a mood board of his psyche, matching it to what she already knows. “Sometimes, yeah, you’re right,” she answers, slowly. Carefully. Her hand clings tighter. “But I think sometimes you can pick a person, and then figure your life out together.”
“What if you don’t have the same wants, in the end?” Inuyasha asks. “What if the whole thing was for nothing?” He thinks of the plan, of the outline of his life that he’s always known. Of the job he’s always worked towards. It had been so simple, in the beginning. Graduate with a degree and work for his dad’s company. Work his way up. Find someone once he was successful and then—Well. Whatever came after. Family, if they wanted it. A life of travel, maybe, in between meetings and emails and familial obligations. It’s something that Inuyasha has always known and worked towards his entire life.
And what does it mean now?
They’re standing on the sidewalk outside of the restaurant, with the stars overhead and the sounds of car horns blaring in the background. Kagome’s beside him, a warm and comforting presence. He hadn’t planned for her. Or, if he had, he planned for her years from now. When he was happy with his work. When he was satisfied.
But he’s not. Satisfied, that is. Not at work. He’s not fulfilled, not really. But Kagome is here and that helps. Miroku and Sango are here – even if not physically, not at present – and that has always helped.
He guesses that he never really planned for them either. Miroku had just sort of pushed his way into Inuyasha’s life with his dramatics and smiles and friendly shoulder hugs. That had been years ago and yet the two of them were still best friends, sharing an apartment and being as close as friends could be. That hadn’t been part of the plan and yet.
And yet, Miroku and Sango had exclusively been – up until recently – the best part of his life. The space has opened up a little, made some wiggle room for another person, but they were still there.
Something to think about, maybe.
“Do you think that they won’t make it?” Kagome asks, hushed. It’s a mean question but she doesn’t demand it from him. She asks like she’s scared, quiet and resigned.
Immediately, Inuyasha shakes his head. “No. Miroku and Sango will be together forever. They’ll have three kids and Sango will be scary efficient in whatever she wants to do and Miroku will make her happy every day because he’s made that his life goal since the moment he laid eyes on her.” He makes a face then. “They’re pretty gross.”
Kagome doesn’t say anything, just hums.
“I don’t—” He hesitates for only a second, then blurts the rest out. It’s now or never, and the latter isn’t an option. Not anymore. “What we are. It’s not too young. It’s not rushed or hasty or any of that.”
“We haven’t even known each other three weeks,” Kagome tells him, but he can hear the smile in her words, in the way she presses just that little bit closer. She lets her hand slide down his arm until their palms are touching. She’s cool, hand a little frozen from the night. Their fingers lace together and Inuyasha looks down at her. He wonders, briefly, that if anyone saw them now, would they compare his expression to his father’s when he looks at his mom?
Inuyasha knows the answer.
“Dad said he knew Mom was the one after one conversation, when they spoke for an hour about the pros and cons of the colour red in an outfit.”
Kagome laughs, breaking the tension away swift and sure. “Now that’s a little fast.”
Before, Inuyasha would have agreed. He always thought that story was completely ridiculous, thought his father unnecessarily out-of-character for sharing it the way that he did. Toga was always proud, like the fact that he found Izayoi at all had been a feat worth celebrating. One hour was all it had taken, and Inuyasha thought it was rather silly to hedge your bets like that, not knowing the future, especially after you had already been burned.
That was before.
Inuyasha hums and strokes his thumb across her skin. He orders them a rideshare from his phone. They don’t stop holding hands.
It’s the last day before the company shuts down for the holidays and Inuyasha is losing his mind. For reasons unknown, a whole host of meetings that normally would be scattered throughout the week have all shifted to that day. Nothing difficult, but a lot of talking. Inuyasha isn’t fond of talking most days. Now, his jaw hurts a little from the effort.
It’s with one particular client that Inuyasha nearly snaps. Nothing important is even happening. He’s just talking, going on and on about some upcoming project that has zero relevancy to Inuyasha or his job. In fact, the man is actually making it a billion times worse, because Inuyasha has a meeting with their C-suite team in less than two minutes, and he still has to end the call and go up three levels to the other floor where the conference room sits.
“Mr. Tanaka,” he cuts in, the moment there’s any semblance of a pause. “Unfortunately, I’ll have to cut this short as I have another meeting but feel free to email me any additional notes if needed.” It won’t be needed. If Mr. Tanaka sends Inuyasha anything, it’ll go straight into the trash. “Have a great day.”
And then he hangs up, because it’s three o’clock already and he still hasn’t left his office. Fuck.
Inuyasha races up the stairs – faster than the elevator – with his laptop clutched under his arm. A few eyes on the upper floor follow him, but no one dares to say anything as he storms by, opening the door to the conference room and making a beeline for his usual seat at the—
Looking around the room, there’s only Sesshomaru seated at the far end. No one else is there.
His eyes narrow. This entire day was a trap. “Oh fuck no,” he says.
“Jaken,” Sesshomaru commands tonelessly, golden eyes staring at a point just behind him. Ah, so the little fucking toad gremlin was hiding behind the door. Figures. Fucking figures.
“I’m not doing this,” Inuyasha snaps. “I have work to do.” But the moment he spins around, Jaken throws a ruler at his face and then heads for the door, shutting it firmly closed.
“You bring out the worst in him,” Sesshomaru states, like Jaken throwing a ruler at his face is excusable in any situation.
It’s not. “He’s just pissed because he doesn’t like how I talk to you.” Inuyasha has known this for a very long time, ever since Jaken sent him a very long, heavily worded email about respecting one’s better, and family, and yadda yadda. A bunch of bullshit Inuyasha hadn’t read.
“Sit down, Inuyasha.”
Automatically, he sneers but there’s no point in running away. If Sesshomaru went to all this trouble to get him into a meeting, then something must be up. With a heavy sigh, he spins around and drops into a nearby seat, laptop close by. He keeps his scowl firmly in place. “Well, you have me. Now what?”
“I have a proposition for you.”
For the second time in as many minutes, Inuyasha narrows his eyes. “For me.”
His half-brother has always been a blank slate. A man built for silences, built to wring out dark secrets without saying a word. In many ways, he’s the opposite of Inuyasha in entirety. His father once said they were fire and ice. Inuyasha is loud, blunt, sure to cause an explosion or two as he makes his way around. It’s not that he’s not careful, it’s just that at times he doesn’t care. And nor should he have to. They work with clients who are so far up their own asses, it’s a wonder they see anything at all. Sesshomaru is silent, but just as deadly. You fuck yourself over, in the end, no matter what happens.
Inuyasha has learned from bitter, bitter experience.
Here, in the conference room, his half-brother is no more expressive than ever. His eyes are focused, mouth lax. Like he’s assessing, and not particularly interested in the details. “I looked over the pro bono files you’ve been working on.”
“Are you fucking—”
“And the ones you’ve completed in the last six months.”
Inuyasha grits his teeth, beyond infuriated. It’s not like Sesshomaru has no right. Of course he does. He’s the fucking CEO. However, he’s never given a shit about pro bono work before and Inuyasha has always, always done it without acknowledgement. Better to ask forgiveness than permission – or neither, when it comes to Sesshomaru – but Inuyasha’s work has always been his own. This feels nearly like a violation. “Why the sudden interest?” he asks, but it’s a lot kinder than most of the things he wants to say.
As expected, Sesshomaru ignores him entirely. “Your work on the pro bono cases far exceeds the level of skill you apply to our paying clients.”
Oh fuck no. Over his dead fucking body. “You did not,” Inuyasha growls out, “call me in here just to bitch about my performance. Are you shitting me? I do double the work of any other fucking senior advisor, and my percentages are top three every fucking month. You can’t tell me my work is lacking.”
Sesshomaru’s nostrils flare, the tiniest amount but the largest tell. He’s annoyed. Good. Inuyasha gets a wave of smug satisfaction at the realization. “Do not misunderstand me,” Sesshomaru tells him, like a command. What a prick. “You work has always been adequate.”
Adequate. Inuyasha snorts.
“My statement claims of workmanship above and beyond,” he continues, bored. “It’s obvious your passion lies there.”
His passion lies—
Inuyasha scowls and glares at the table. It’s not like he didn’t know this. Well, he figured it out barely a week ago but still. How fucking dare Sesshomaru figure it out, too? What an absolute bitch.
For whatever reason, Sesshomaru seems to feel compelled to talk. Inuyasha would say that he was nervous, but this is Sesshomaru, so that’s probably not even an option. “You and I do not get along.”
Inuyasha rolls his eyes. “No shit, but that’s not new.”
“No. It’s not.”
Not ever, really. Not that Inuyasha can really remember. It had started young, whenever it had started. Sesshomaru was ten years older than him, had never really been around. The problem lay more in the times that he was around, when he would say cruel or cutting things to Inuyasha and then continue on with his onslaught towards Inuyasha’s mother. There was resentment there, deep and powerful, and while Sesshomaru seemed to still respect their father for reasons unknown, he had never been in favour of Inuyasha or his mother.
Age brought forth maturity, but it didn’t mean the two of them ever really settled things. Inuyasha felt owed, felt that his mother was owed. Sesshomaru would never apologize and likely felt he never had to.
And their father… Well. His father loved his mother, had tried his best with Sesshomaru despite the circumstances, and tried to make a semblance of family that was certainly overreached.
“There’s a job offer,” Sesshomaru told him then, oddly quiet. “A colleague of mine is extending his business, specifically for cases that involve low-income or government-funded work. Pro bono work. He needs someone to lead it. Executive level. If you’re interested, I would recommend you.”
Inuyasha blinks, processes. Did he…hear that correctly? “What?”
His half-brother doesn’t glare, because such an action is below him. Still, it comes close. “Take the break to form a decision. I’ll expect an answer first thing upon our return.”
“You—” Inuyasha shakes his head. “You want me out of the company?”
Sesshomaru is definitely glaring now. “Your position in the company is, and always will be, secured. But you have proven to be best suited towards a specific avenue of our field and opportunities to lead such a division at such a young age are few and far between. I’m providing an option. Do with that what you wish.”
It sounds almost – a little bit – like Sesshomaru is complimenting him. Like Sesshomaru is trying to further his career, push it to a place that Inuyasha would enjoy.
That Inuyasha would be happy in.
Not the planned-out path, where he worked for his father’s company forever until he died. This would be different. This would be new. This would be—
“Really?” The question comes out a little quieter than he intended, a little more vulnerable.
Sesshomaru can undoubtedly read the emotion, but either he doesn’t care enough or he doesn’t want to bring it up. Instead, he inclines his head. “Answer me when we return. No earlier, no later. Now go, I have other business to attend to.”
Standing up in a state of what can only be shock, Inuyasha for once does as he’s told. He passes a beady-eyed, evilly glaring Jaken as he goes to the stairs, not even caring.
Strange, how life works. How the moment he started to think about what he wanted in life – the moment he started to act on those wants rather than disregard them – things started to…change. Like his actions and will meant something. Like the pre-determined path was a foolish, childish thought that wrongfully stuck with him all along.
The answer is going to be yes. Inuyasha knows this.
He picks up his phone and texts Kagome. It’s only to say hello, but she’s yet another part of this weirdly wonderful change in his life. He wants to keep going in that direction.
So he acts. He sends the text.
And when it chimes in response, Inuyasha is definitely not foolishly smiling.
In four days, Kagome is moving back to her apartment. Tomorrow they’ll be separated, off to see their families for their respective celebrations. It sits heavily on Inuyasha’s chest, a lead weight. He thinks Kagome feels it too, her body draped against his side. She’s wearing one of his sweaters again, wrapped up in his blanket. They’re watching television and Inuyasha is—
“It’ll be weird when you’re not here.” The words are out of his mouth before he realizes he’s going to say them. It feels vulnerable, raw. The weak underbelly of his feelings that Inuyasha isn’t fond of recognizing exist.
But Kagome just smiles, eyes crinkling when he meets her gaze. It’s like him just looking at her makes her happier, and that’s a thought that terrifies him as much as it pleases him.
Her hand finds his and she laces their fingers together. “You’ll be glad to be rid of me, I’m sure.”
The thought makes him flinch, obvious. He’s always so obvious with her. Kagome sees it, because of course she does, and her smile softens into something a lot more kind. She shakes her head, tugging on his hand like a distraction.
“I’m teasing,” she says gently.
Inuyasha rolls his eyes to save face. He’s pretty sure it doesn’t work.
“Trust me, you can’t get rid of me that easily.” Kagome snuggles deeper into his side, not making eye contact. Inuyasha stares at the top of her head, feels the way his heart flips in his chest. “Besides, you have a much nicer TV. And more streaming options. I’ll be here all the time. You’ll want to get rid of me.”
Growling a little, Inuyasha tugs at her hand in reproach. “Shut up.”
He can feel her smile pressed into his skin, lips brushing against his shoulder. Inuyasha doesn’t try to stop himself from tipping her over, getting them both tangled in the blankets as he kisses away her stupid, dumb words. There are things he wants to say, things he wants to tell her. The words just never come out right, if they even make it to his tongue at all. But this, he thinks, is one way to communicate.
Kagome cups his face and holds on tight.
Somehow, Inuyasha is pretty sure she knows.
They separate for the two days. It’s filled with family and friends, a mixture of those he wants to see and wishes never came. There’s tons of drink and food, presents exchanged with smiles and hugs. Inuyasha spends a lot of it by his mother’s side, ignoring the rest of them, especially Sesshomaru. A part of him doesn’t know what to say, not yet, though he knows the answer is going to be yes.
None of those little bits of stress matter though, not when he gets messages first thing in the morning, the notification a happy trill as he blearily opens his eyes.
[Kagome: Morning, Inuyasha.]
He feels his lips turn up, barely even awake, and sends a message back.
Inuyasha has never used an emoji in his entire life. And yet.
Silly, right? Well, he’s pretty sure he’s long past that, now.
The first night that Kagome officially moves out – the day before Miroku and Sango are due back to arrive – she spends it in his bed.
So really, the whole thing is anticlimactic.
“What?” she asks the next morning, popping bread into the toaster. “Did you think that suddenly you weren’t going to see me anymore?”
“No,” he retorts, rolling his eyes. “It’s just— You’re supposed to be at your place.”
“Supposed to be, huh?” Kagome whirls around in his kitchen, sliding up to him so that they’re nearly touching. Her hip is cocked against the countertop, expression coy. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I moved out and everything. The only stuff that’s here that’s mine is a backpack with a change of clothes. You know. Because I decided to sleepover at my boyfriend’s place.”
Kagome’s wearing his sweater. She always wears his sweater. Inuyasha fucking loves it. Maybe more than he should.
Maybe he’ll put it in her backpack to take home. An excuse, you know? To go to her place and get it back.
“Your boyfriend’s pretty lucky.”
Kagome shrugs, and the coy look turns into something a little more wicked. Then, without warning, she drags his sweater up and off of her body, letting it fall to the ground with a soft whoosh.
Inuyasha, faced with a now pretty-much naked Kagome, blinks.
“No,” she corrects with a grin. “Now my boyfriend is lucky. Staying over at his place has nothing to do with luck. He’s just fun to be with.”
Inuyasha makes a sound that he’ll never admit to, and then picks her up to take to his bedroom.
The toast, when they re-emerge, is burnt to a crisp. It’s nearly the best thing Inuyasha’s ever tasted.
Life with Miroku and Sango returns with such swift normalcy, Inuyasha doesn’t even have a moment to feel strange about it. On the one hand, it feels like his three weeks with Kagome didn’t exist. On the other, he sees her nearly every day – whether at his place, hers, at the coffee shop or through FaceTime. Inuyasha still has time off so even with Kagome busy at work, they find the time. He’s pretty sure that even when he goes back – even when he tells Sesshomaru to recommend him for the other job at the other company – they’ll still make it work.
“I can’t believe I suffered without this for three weeks,” Miroku announces, blue eyes glued to the television screen. “I swear. I would be a much better cook if I had Chef Suzuki yelling at me.”
“I could yell at you,” Sango says easily. Her feet are in Miroku’s lap, the two of them stretched out on the sofa. Inuyasha’s sitting in the chair like he normally does, comfortable. It’s the easy comradery they’ve always had together in their shared space. He watches his two best friends, clearly pleased to be home and pleased to be relaxing, and he thinks: this. He wants this. He wants this with his friends, and he wants Kagome by his side. He wants to have their own couch, their own way of touching that’s easy and relaxed.
A lot of things. Things he hadn’t ever thought of before.
He’s thinking them now.
“I think I’m going to marry her.”
Two things happen simultaneously. One: Miroku turns so sharply, arms flailing and knocking into Sango. Two: Sango, hearing this, had grabbed the remote to mute the television and then promptly was rolled onto the floor, Miroku’s disjointed thrash sending her flying.
“You okay?” Inuyasha asks Sango, worried.
“Are you okay?!” This is screamed. This is one-hundred percent screamed, in a sort of high-pitch octave he’s never heard from Miroku before. His best friend is staring at him like he’s some alien, sent to kill them. “Did you just say what I think you said?”
“You’re going to propose to Kagome?” Sango yells, just as loud but not nearly as high-pitched. She’s still on the floor. No move is made for her to get up.
Inuyasha shrugs, aware of their attention and feeling a little uncomfortable. Maybe he should have kept that thought to himself. “Well not now. Not any time soon.” He’d need at least a year to find the perfect ring and save up enough money for it. He’d want to meet her mom first, make sure he could win her over. Hopefully he could win her over. God, what if she hates him? “In like…a while.”
“A while,” Miroku repeats. “Holy shit, you’re fucking serious.”
Inuyasha now feels overly uncomfortable. He should have realized what such an announcement would have done, but in reality it had been easy, thinking of something so simple with Kagome. And now that it’s out there, out loud and in the minds of his best friends, he feels—
Scowling, he crosses his arms. “Stop making it a big deal.”
“I really think I’m making it an appropriate deal,” Miroku shoots back, unrepentant. Sango just laughs. “I mean—” And here he sniffles, all fake and overly dramatic, “In three weeks, have you worked through the worst of your commitment issues?”
Oh, for the love of— Inuyasha remembers back all the way to that Tuesday in the coffee shop, when Miroku had first told him he was going to propose to Sango. He had dragged Inuyasha for his commitment issues right in front of Kagome. Still, he can’t let this stand. “What commitment issues?” he demands.
“He means the issues in which any time you remotely get kind of close to someone, you break things off,” Sango says. Sitting up, she detaches from her fiancé just to stare at him with those magenta eyes. “I love you. You’re my best friend. But do you know how many hearts you broke in university?”
“You’re exaggerating,” Inuyasha argues. “And besides, what would the point have been even? Even if I had dated someone seriously then, it’s not like it would have led to—” He breaks off at the twin looks from both Miroku and Sango, because yeah. Fair point. They are engaged. Clearly the dating-since-university thing worked for them. “You’re special.”
“Commitment issues,” Miroku repeats, though it’s oddly gentle. His hands grab for Sango to pull her back to him and Inuyasha rolls his eyes. “Did you work through your abandonment issues, too?”
Sango nods sagely. “Like if we leave you again for three weeks you won’t sulk the whole time and be a clingy child?”
“First, that’s fucking rude,” Inuyasha replies. He had done no such thing. “Second, what are you talking about? You just got back. You don’t get to leave here again.” He smirks at Sango, watches the way her face switches from expression to expression until it finally lands on exasperation.
That, at least, he’s familiar with.
Ever since their third year of university, after The Pink Drink Incident, Inuyasha, Miroku and Sango haven’t done anything special for New Year’s Eve. What was at first an act of self-preservation quickly turned into what were undoubtedly the best nights to ring in the New Year ever. They would hang out in their tiny apartment off-campus, drinking from the same bottles as they played ridiculous board games and watched television and yelled at each other angrily during Mario Kart.
This year, it’s both the same and different. Inuyasha sits on the couch, pretending to be on his phone while Miroku and Sango playfully argue in the kitchen. Miroku’s trying to steal the appetizers again while Sango attacks him with a spoon and yells at him to wait for Kagome. Somehow, this makes Miroku want to try even more, because at times he can be an absolute gremlin.
Inuyasha gives it another twenty seconds before they’re making out and he’ll have to throw a pillow at them.
A speaker is playing on the counter separating the living room and kitchen. It’s brand new, a present Sango brought back from her parents. Some sort of playlist is on in the background, unfamiliar music filling his ears. It’s nearly drowned out by a squawk as Miroku narrowly misses getting slapped on the forehead.
“Sango! How could you?” he yells, dashing around the counter with his fiancée close behind. Inuyasha has all of three seconds to prepare before Miroku leaps over the tiny living room table and wedges himself in the tiny crack between Inuyasha and the couch. To emphasize, it’s tiny, which means Inuyasha gets bowled over and elbowed in the gut, twisted around so that he’s somehow lying on top of Miroku.
He’d say this has never happened before, but that would give Miroku far too much credit.
“Son of bitch, ow,” Inuyasha growls, fruitlessly trying to get away from his friend. He clings like a limpet, or maybe a leech, those long fingers of his digging in the moment there’s even a semblance of space.
Sango wags the spoon at the both of them, somewhat threatening. “Inuyasha can’t protect you forever.”
“Why would I need protection from you, my sweet?” Miroku asks, though the moment Inuyasha snorts and tries to pull away, he clings even harder.
It reminds him then, swiftly and like a kick to the gut, how Sango is right. Inuyasha can’t protect Miroku much longer – or her, in the same line – since eventually the two of them will move out. They haven’t talked about it, haven’t even breathed a word of it. But Inuyasha isn’t stupid. They’re engaged and they’re happy, and he’s sure they’re going to want a – dare he say it – family. Which means a bigger place, a house. And Inuyasha can’t follow them there.
Before, when Miroku had first told Inuyasha he was proposing, the thought had nearly paralyzed him. A sort of bone-deep fear that had lodged itself within him, even while his mind tried to push it back, to compartmentalize, to repress. He didn’t have to worry about them gone because it wasn’t happening yet, and so Inuyasha would avoid it.
Now, half-lying on top of his best friend while the other best friend threatened them both with bodily harm via spoon, Inuyasha doesn’t avoid it. Just yesterday, Miroku and Sango had said he had abandonment issues and he had joked back with them, let the moment settle. But there isn’t fear clawing up his throat now, or an internal screaming that takes away his ability to speak. So Inuyasha scowls, makes sure that Miroku can see it, and then opens his mouth. “When you two move out, you are so fucked. I give you a week before she attacks you.”
There’s a moment of stillness, the clinging in Miroku’s arms turning to a frozen hold. Then, his blue eyes widen and he gasps, shocked and affronted with maybe a little bit of delight thrown in there, too. He’s a mixed bag of emotions and Inuyasha admits that this is probably why they’re friends at all. “Ye of little faith! How dare you assume I would be in such dire straights.”
“Example A,” Sango says, using the spoon to gesture at them. “He’s right, you know. Inuyasha can no longer be your emotional support human.”
“I really think it’s the other way around,” Miroku grumbles. Somehow, he buries himself deeper into the wedge, hiding his face back behind Inuyasha’s shoulder. The clinging is starting to feel like hugging. Inuyasha is…not sure what to do with it.
From above, Sango smiles at them. “I’m pretty sure this is exactly the position you two were in when I first met you. Good to know that some things stay the same.”
Inuyasha rolls his eyes, remembering the freshmen party they met her at. She’s probably not wrong.
The door opens, a faint click that only Inuyasha picks up over the noise of the music. He had told Kagome in an earlier text message to walk right in and within moments, she’s peeking around the hallway to spot them. Instantly she looks confused. “Have I missed something?”
“Just Miroku,” Sango admits, waving her hand. “Being his usual self.”
“Oh, that makes sense then.” Kagome leans on the back of the chair, head in her hands. “Are you guys going to cuddle like this all night or what?”
“Maybe,” Miroku says, but he pushes Inuyasha away so suddenly that he very nearly falls off the couch, precariously perched as he is. “Did you bring the alcohol?”
“More than you can handle,” Kagome retorts. She gestures towards the kitchen. “In there.”
And so, as Miroku makes a beeline for the alcohol and Sango follows, Inuyasha heads over towards Kagome. She’s waiting patiently, head tilted back and still slightly slumped over the chair. He leans down to kiss her, as easy as it’s always been and it’s not until Miroku catcalls that he feels her lips tip up in a smile, breaking their kiss.
“Fuck off,” Inuyasha tells him and then kisses her again, because he wants to.
“Inuyasha, let Kagome breathe so we can exchange gifts,” Sango calls out, and the only reason he doesn’t swear at her, too, is because she’s still holding that wooden spoon. He’s seen Sango throw things over the years; her accuracy is deadly. Probably thanks to the whole secret-agent-as-a-father thing.
Kagome’s gift sits wrapped on the table by the bag of drinks she brought. Inuyasha has to go into his room to get his, and Sango does too. They separate, leaving Miroku and Kagome to laugh about something. There’s that swooping feeling in his chest again, expanding, and Inuyasha shoves it down as he grabs the tiny gift bag he had stored in his closet. He’s not nervous about his gift, not really. There’s only so much you can do with a $25 limit. But the strange thing is that it feels… Well, the gift wasn’t exactly random. It nearly means something.
Does mean something.
To Inuyasha, at least. Respect to a memory, to the start of them. Or whatever. He’s not a fucking poet.
“Okay!” Miroku shouts, the moment he gets back. Sango is already standing by his side, leaning against the counter with an exasperated expression on her face. It doesn’t take long to find out why. “As proof that I never rigged the Secret Santa exchanges of the past, I’m going to present my gift first!”
“You didn’t organize it this year,” Sango mutters, rolling her eyes.
“Besides the point.”
Kagome makes an exaggerated thinking face. “Actually, you know what? I think I remember last year you going on and on about redoing all of the system’s blackout measures so that you could get Sango… What was it? Those earrings she wanted?”
“Ah ha!” Sango declares.
Miroku doesn’t even flinch. He smiles amicably. “Sounds fake. Now, as I was saying. Inuyasha! I am your Secret Santa!”
He blows out a breath. His best friend looks so pleased but the box in his hands in huge, which probably doesn’t bode well for him. Before his nerves can get the better of him, he shoves the gift bag into Kagome’s hands. “This is for you.”
“Oh!” Kagome blinks at him with those big dark eyes and smiles, the eye crinkling one. His heart kind of stops working but that’s okay. It’s fine. “Thank you. I guess I should give this to Sango then.”
They all start exchanging and Inuyasha slowly opens the wrapping paper with his claws. Miroku, even with his own gift, keeps sneaking glances Inuyasha’s way. His excitement is clear, practically vibrating out of him. As much as this is a fun thing that they tend to do together, it’s just a small gift. Unless Miroku is pulling some kind of prank, which—
Inuyasha opens the box and sees, nestled in the middle, a watch.
A nice watch.
A really nice watch.
“What the fuck?” he growls, immediately glaring at his friend. He glares at Sango too, but she’s too busy speaking with Kagome to pay them any mind. “What the fuck did you do?”
“I only paid twenty-five dollars,” Miroku says, putting up his hands in what’s supposed to be a placating gesture. Instead, he looks like he trying to do jazz hands because of all his fidgeting. “I swear. Twenty-five. Ask Sango.”
“You can’t give me this,” Inuyasha presses, eyes drawn back down to the watch. It’s a brand that he recognizes, something he’s seen people at the office wear from time to time. Inuyasha has a couple watches, given to him by his parents over the years for big occasions. This is from Miroku though. This means…a lot more, coming from him. Which begs the question: “Why the fuck would you spend this kind of money?”
“Let me reiterate that I only spent twenty-five dollars.” Miroku looks so sincere in that moment that Inuyasha actually freezes, completely at a loss for what to do. “The rest was gifted to me, kind of. I won a bet against Sango’s father. That’s not the point. The point is that I want you to be my best man at my wedding, right? And I knew you were going to say yes, and you would have said yes no matter what. But Inuyasha.” And here, Miroku pauses. He puts his own gift down and steps forward, hands going to Inuyasha’s shoulders and standing maybe a foot apart. Between them, the weight of the watch is even heavier. “You’re my best friend. In the whole world. And I tried to think of what to get you to officially ask you to be my best man. So this is it. Two birds with one stone, because it was more cost-efficient and you know I’m all about that coupon lifestyle.”
Inuyasha opens his mouth and then closes it again, words stuck in his throat. This is maybe the most they’ve ever talked about their friendship seriously. It’s always been Miroku, overly dramatic and draped across him, clinging or whining or making big declarations about their everlasting bond. “But this is too much.”
“Not when I paid twenty-five dollars.” Miroku lets go of one shoulder to flick him on the forehead. “Sango’s dad paid for the rest.”
He grunts, still unsure.
Miroku grins, knowing that he’s starting to win. “Inuyasha. My bestest best friend. Platonic soulmate. Will you be my best man and stop me from fainting or crying ugly man tears while I marry the hottest woman on the planet?”
Oh god. These are a lot of feelings. “Okay,” he breathes out.
“He said yes!” Miroku squeals, immediately backing away to fist pump into the air.
To the side, he hears Kagome sighing out something along the lines of: “There’s that masculine bro love for you.”
Inuyasha just stares at the watch, knowing what it means that Miroku even wanted to spend this much. He doesn’t doubt that somehow, he finagled Sango’s father into doing his evil bidding, but this is still—
He only gets distracted when Kagome sidles up to him, pressed against his side in a wall of warmth. Her hand is on his hip and she leans against his shoulder, looking at the gift. “This is really nice.”
“He’s an idiot,” Inuyasha says, default once more. He’s probably scowling. He’s not sure what to do about it because this isn’t really a moment for it.
“You know,” Kagome starts, amusement in her tone. “I never told you before because I remembered how you reacted the first time we spoke about your epic bromance with Miroku, but when he’s not waxing poetic about Sango, he’s like… Waxing poetic about you.”
Inuyasha scrunches up his nose, his entire body tingling. This is too much. Too many feelings. Is this what it’s like to want to cry? Is that what the burning sensation is? Awful. Fucking terrible. “Literally never say that again.”
Kagome laughs, delighted and then instantly a field of red covers his vision. He knows what it is before they’re even far enough away to make sense of. His gift to Kagome.
A pair of gloves with a long string attached to them, which she can thread through her jacket to ensure she never loses a pair again. He had them specifically made so he’s a massive hypocrite about the twenty-five dollar limit. Still, they don’t look like anything outrageous. They look warm and homemade, soft and red with big white hearts on the backs of them. The string between is red, and Inuyasha isn’t a symbolic man but he also knew what he was doing when he had them made.
“These are perfect,” Kagome tells him warmly, beaming. “I can’t believe you found these! And in an adult size too!” She pushes up onto her tiptoes and kisses his cheek. It’s so simple, so fluid, like she’s been kissing his cheek for years instead of the couple weeks they’ve been together. Inuyasha catches her gaze as she settles back, still smiling at him, wrapping the long red string around and between her fingers like the lifeline they are.
I think I love you, is a thing that almost comes out of his actual fucking mouth. Inuyasha feels his face heat up and he turns away abruptly, sure that if he’s not looking at her, she won’t be able to tell. Surely the universe can give him that.
Sango, thankfully, takes all of their attention with her declaration for drinks and food.
The night continues on in much the same way as it always does on New Year’s Eve: games and television galore, filled in with drinking and music and unstopped laughter. There’s a fourth voice in all of it: Kagome’s own giggles and her eye crinkles and her swatting hands. The difference is there but barely noticeable and Inuyasha relaxes into it as the minutes tick on.
They ring in the New Year and Inuyasha thinks that maybe what’s up ahead isn’t so bad after all.
Inuyasha’s life goes to shit on – you guessed it – a Tuesday.
“Coral.” It’s not a question. It’s not even really a statement. This can’t be happening. It literally cannot be happening. No, he won’t let it. Absolutely not.
Miroku, the asshole, keeps up his unrepentant grin. “Yeah. Coral.”
“You’re making me wear a coral suit to your wedding?” And yes, his voice has gone back to a growl, but it’s also a little high-pitched, and in the background, he can hear the familiar choked laughter of Kagome. She’s currently making his drink, pretending to give them a bit of space to talk. It’s fine. It’s honestly better that she’s hearing this horrible, horrible situation first-hand so he doesn’t have to be put through the indignity of saying it again.
“It’s the colour scheme,” Miroku tells him, blue eyes wide in sincerity even as he keeps that smile. “And you’re my best man! The bridesmaids are wearing coral, too, and it would look really weird if we didn’t match.”
Inuyasha’s face melts into an expression that has to be pure horror. This is a joke. It has to be a joke. There’s no way—
And then his best friend bursts out into giggles, a fit so strong he falls over the counter with it, tears streaming down his cheeks. “Your face! Kagome, didn’t I tell you? I can make him believe anything.”
“You were in on this?” Inuyasha demands, feeling utterly betrayed as his girlfriend comes back and hands him his coffee. “You?”
“I was sworn to secrecy.”
“But you’re supposed to be on my side!”
“Hey!” Miroku interjects. “She was my friend first! And—And, I was the reason you two even got together so when it comes to priority, I am number one.” He slaps Inuyasha in the chest. “Get used to it.”
Inuyasha glares at the hand still on him. “I will punch you.”
That, at least, is a real enough threat that Miroku pulls back, still laughing. “You are too precious, Inuyasha. I love you.”
“I hate you.”
Miroku, if anything, grins wider. “No, you don’t.” He whirls around before Inuyasha can so much as dispute it again, waving to Kagome. “I’m clocking out now! Bye lovebirds!”
“You’re going to walk right by me in five minutes,” Inuyasha retorts, rolling his eyes. This doesn’t seem to bother Miroku at all though, who disappears into the back storage room like an incoming tornado. Only instead of destructive high-winds, it’s too much inane chatter. “I don’t know what you see in him,” Inuyasha tells Kagome solemnly, shaking his head.
Kagome leans on the counter, a clean cloth in her hand even though she’s not doing anything with it. “He’s been your friend for way longer.”
“I was young and dumb.” He sighs. “Ready for tonight?”
“You mean am I ready to join my very first official dinner with your roommates?” Kagome’s dark brown eyes are warm and so, so amused. Inuyasha doesn’t know how he amuses her so much, but he’ll do anything to keep that expression directed his way. “You know I’m already friends with them, right?”
“Miroku hardly counts,” Inuyasha argues. “Sango is the one you’re going to have to charm. I’m sure you did at New Year’s but this will be different. I know her. She’ll have questions.”
Kagome shakes her head at him. “Sango and I already text like everyday. We have been since they came back from vacation and were, uh, welcomed home.” By ‘welcomed home,’ she means scarred by Inuyasha and Kagome in the middle of an enthusiastic make-out session on the couch. He had lost track of time. To this day, he’s still smug as fuck about it. At least they had still (mostly) had their clothes on, unlike some roommates he knows. “My Secret Santa gift to her was a coupon to give me the shovel talk.”
“The shovel talk,” Kagome repeats, slowly. “So that I don’t—”
“I know what the shovel talk is,” Inuyasha interrupts. Is he the only one thrown by this? “You and Sango talk?”
“Every day,” Kagome repeats. “You didn’t know?”
“How would I know?”
“She was pretty excited by the gift of a shovel talk,” Kagome admits, shrugging. “I thought for sure she’d tell you all about it.”
That did not happen. And now, Inuyasha is pretty upset that he hadn’t gotten a rundown of it. Oh god, wait, Inuyasha had blurted out his proposal thoughts to Miroku and Sango before the Secret Santa exchange, which meant that maybe her shovel talk was a bit—
“Uh,” Inuyasha starts, unable to stop the scowl from crossing his face. Kagome keeps looking amused at him. “How did that shovel talk, uh, go?”
“Pretty well, I think.” Kagome pretends to wipe at something and then tosses the cloth over her shoulder. “You know she just wants you to be happy, right?”
This was getting uncomfortably close to feelings territory, which Inuyasha tries to avoid at all costs. “Yeah, whatever. Was the shovel talk weird in any way? Like did she say something…?” At Kagome’s blank stare, Inuyasha shakes his head and grabs his steaming cup of coffee from the counter. “Never mind. It’s fine. Don’t worry about it.”
He’s oversold it though, far too obviously. Kagome’s dark gaze narrows on him. “Why? What would be weird about it?”
“Nothing, I swear!”
“No!” Miroku whines, draping himself dramatically over Inuyasha’s shoulder. “You can’t be fighting already! The two of you were my only hope in understanding the value of true love.”
Inuyasha rolls his eyes. What a fucking idiot. He hip-checks his friend away, ignoring the knowing smile that gets shot his way. “Go away, Miroku.”
“Fine, fine,” he says, sniffing. “Well, I’ll just be off then. Walking home alone by my lonesome now that my best friend has chosen someone else over me.”
“Go away, Miroku,” Inuyasha repeats. The first time his best friend had pulled his stunt, he had felt the smallest amount bad. Like, a tiny amount. Because he didn’t leave Miroku to walk back to their shared apartment alone all the time, just once a week. But it was still a change and usually Inuyasha was the one bothered by that.
By the third time, Inuyasha really didn’t care anymore.
Predictably, Miroku smiles and launches himself into the snowy outdoors.
“So, going to tell me why Sango would have been weird during her shovel talk?” Kagome asks, brow raised and arms crossed when he goes to look back at her. Her shift is ending early, within the next hour, and the plan had been for the two of them to walk back to the apartment and have dinner with Miroku and Sango, a true little family.
Now, Inuyasha thinks that maybe he should have escaped with Miroku when he had the chance.
“It’s nothing,” he tries again, hating the way she reaches across the counter at him to get at his hand. She’s never been overly publicly affectionate before at work, but Inuyasha sees her tactics and knows her battle strategy. She will not win. “It’s nothing! I would tell you if it was immediately important.”
He ends up reaching back to give her his hand, because he’s kind of an idiot where Kagome’s involved.
She laces their fingers together and beams at him, one of those eye-crinkling smiles that he loves so much, and inwardly he screams. Inuyasha isn’t going to tell her now, but it’s only a matter of time before he admits it: admits that he loves her, admits that he wants to spend the rest of his life with her.
“You promise?” she asks.
Yeah, Inuyasha thinks to himself. She’s going to know the truth soon enough.
“Promise,” he echoes back, and when she lets his hand drop, his fingers come back warm, tingling. The swooping feeling in his chest comes back with a vengeance. This time, Inuyasha embraces it and holds it close.