InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Nowhere to Go But Up/Demon in the Basement ❯ A Rescue, Rin’s Story, and Pizza ( Chapter 5 )
A/N: All Inuyasha characters and references belong to the creator of Inuyasha, Rumiko Takahashi and published by Shogakukan. Any other characters are more than likely my own creation. If I borrow directly from another story I will do my best to make sure I give credit where credit is due.
To CarmMeldoll, Celt, Alesia1318 and Pitchoune,
Thanks so much for your positive comments! I appreciate the encouragement; always glad to know someone’s enjoying my writing.
First, I LOVE your user handle, lol, and second, thank you for the glowing review! I just about teared up when I read it. I’m so glad you’re enjoying the story. I realize it’s been forever since I updated. Life has been insane as I bust my butt trying to make major changes. I do eventually intend to finish this story, but I also plan to translate it into an original work. I still love writing fan fiction, but I am attempting to start making a little money via my writing mania. If you’d like to beta read for me, just shoot me a message at email@example.com.
You’re review was very well written and I’d love a good set of eyes on my work before it gets published (for content quality and for general proof reading. I’m not able to afford a proper editor at this time). I’m writing mostly paranormal romance/erotica (at least to start with), and eventually this story is on the docketed to be re-worked into something original. It would help a great deal to have someone familiar with the Inuyasha back story to bounce ideas back and forth with as I figure out how to re-construct it as an original piece.
If I can manage the time, I would love to finish this fanfiction version also! We’ll see.
*** A Rescue, Rin’s Story, and Pizza / No. 5 ***
Sesshomaru’s eyes opened, muscles stiffening when he heard a distant sound of splintering wood. He lay there for only a moment trying to identify what it was before a woman’s frightened voice carried his name through the air. Quickly, he rolled to his feet and left the kitchen to investigate. He’d heard that voice yell in both fear and pain during battle; he’d heard that voice screaming at him, but it had never called for him. He stood in the front hall, listening for a moment before he caught the sound of rapid breathing and a pounding heart to his left.
When he entered the sitting room he saw what he assumed to be Kagome’s hands clutching a broomstick braced long-ways over another hole in the floor. “You seem to be wreaking havoc on my house, Ms. Higurashi,” he said. Despite his dry humor, the smell of her fear clawed at his senses; without his consent it accelerated his own heart rate. She wouldn’t have yelled like that if she could just drop down another four feet or so into the basement. He knew first hand this particular human was made of stronger stuff. The smell of her blood hit him in the next instant and he gathered that she was injured.
“Sesshomaru…” she said again, voice unsteady. “I can’t get out… and I can’t… I can’t see the bottom… how deep does this go?”
Then Sesshomaru remembered… the first well he’d had dug for the house only lasted a few years before he’d had a second, much better one constructed on the other side of the property. When he’d expanded this side of the building they’d covered over the old shaft. “It goes down nearly 200 feet,” he said. “It’s a dry well.”
He heard a slightly pained laugh from the hole in the floor. “Right… of course it’s a well…” To herself, Kagome thought, ‘Great… it would be another one of THOSE that kills me after everything.’ Then her insides froze as she heard the floor shift under his weight. He was walking towards her, but the closer he came, the more the wood at the edge of the hole shifted. She couldn’t help the whimper in her voice as she cried out, “Stop!”
The footsteps stopped. Then she heard his smooth baritone speak her name for possibly the first time ever. As far back as she could remember, he’d only called her ‘human’, ‘miko’ or ‘girl’. “Kagome… you say you can’t pull yourself out. Did you desire a witness to your death or did you, perhaps, want assistance?”
“Yes,” she said softly. “But the floor… close to the hole… it’ll collapse.” She had to talk herself into the next words, trying to resign herself to what they meant. “There’s no point in taking you down with me.” She knew demons could survive long falls, but she wasn’t so sure about 200 feet straight down, and he’d only just started recovering from the extreme circumstances she’d found him in.
Sesshomaru drew back for a moment. She was afraid he would be hurt, and was willing to let herself fall rather than risk it? There was an ominous sound from the floor and another wave of her fear hit his nose. This would have to be handled carefully. He got down low and lay on his stomach, carefully moving out across the weakened section of the floor. It shifted and creaked beneath him, and she said his name again in a way that was meant to warn him away. The sound of it made something in his stomach twist and he did his best to ignore it.
“I’m nearly there,” he said firmly.
She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to prepare herself for what felt like an inevitable drop. She’d tried so hard to keep going, to move onward, to build something new of her own and every time she’d gained some ground it would fall out from underneath her. Lately that had become a literal truth and she was suddenly so tired. Almost certain she was about to fall to a dark death, she realized slowly she wasn’t quite as upset about it as she’d should be. “Please…” she whispered weakly. “Just… tell my mother what happened. It doesn’t matter…”
Sesshomaru paused for a moment, hearing an echo of honest despair. She’d always had such will and strength of character, even when struggling. That facet of her character had stayed with him; even through so many years-- so much so in fact, that this struck him as very unlike her. It was an indication that something was wrong inside, something more than just normal human sadness. He’d glimpsed it once or twice, but she kept it well contained.
Rather than answer her, he continued his careful creeping across the floor, his weight distributed over a wide area. Low to the boards like this, he could smell the wet rot that had set in to weaken the material. He would kill Myoga for letting his home fall into such disrepair. If this young woman died because of it, he would bring him back with Tenseiga and kill him twice. The thought made him want to snarl, but he schooled his features to a calmness he didn’t entirely feel as he finally came into her sight.
Kagome’s face was pale and she hung stiffly, her knuckles white where she clutched the broom handle. Warm, brown eyes were wide and they locked onto him, her breath coming in small, shallow bursts. “The right side…” she whispered, as if the sound of her voice would be enough to seal her fate. “Wood is breaking away there… under the broom.”
Sesshomaru examined the area she mentioned and found she was right. He shifted his weight carefully away from that side and towards the stronger part of the floor. There was a particularly loud creak and Kagome’s eyes squeezed shut again. They opened when she felt a strong grip on her left wrist.
Sesshomaru started to pull her towards him, but she went even paler and cried out sharply. He stopped pulling, his eyes moving over her body. That shouldn’t have caused her any real pain. Then he remembered the bruising he’d seen on her left shoulder in the kitchen. She’d already damaged that joint falling into the basement the night she’d found him. If he could grasp her other arm, he could pull her up without further injuring the left shoulder.
“Move your hands closer to this side of the pole,” he advised.
She shuddered a little as she looked up at the place where the floor was slowly splintering under the right end of the broom. She was afraid if she moved at all it would give way. And in any case, she wasn’t at all certain she could make herself loosen her grip. Her fingers just wouldn’t do it. She started to speak, but at that moment the point became moot. The ancient boards had tolerated all the strain they could and snapped, the broomstick falling away into the darkness with several bits of the floor.
Kagome let out a sharp sob of pain as something shifted in her shoulder painfully. Sesshomaru had still been holding her wrist and he’d tightened his grip to catch her, wrenching her bad shoulder, but preventing her from plummeting into the pit. Sesshomaru could see the agony on her face where she hung against the stone side of the well, and he barked out a firm command. “Your other hand, now.”
It sent another wave of pain through her, but Kagome reached up with her other hand, grabbing onto the strong, corded muscles of Sesshomaru’s forearm. His other hand came down and grasped her with bruising strength and she found herself being hauled up and out of the shaft. Sesshomaru rolled as he pulled her up, tucked her tightly against himself and rolled again several times, his arms caged around her to take his weight and get them quickly onto stronger ground.
Kagome was panting in fear, pain and relief as she opened her eyes to find herself laying half on top of Sesshomaru, looking down into his face. Sharp gold eyes studied her carefully and she suddenly realized his arms were wrapped tightly around her. It was possibly the oddest position she’d ever found herself in… and that included quite a number of strange experiences over the years. He sat up, which put her in his lap and she cried out sharply as the move jostled her bad shoulder, which now felt like it was on fire.
“Where are you bleeding?” he asked, eyes moving over her again, searching for additional damage. Trying to think straight while her shoulder throbbed like her arm might fall off was a challenge and she turned his question over in her mind before she muttered, “My leg… I cut my leg…” Awkwardly, she tried to scramble out of his lap, which only made her shoulder hurt worse.
To her surprise, he wrapped an arm around her waist and had her on her feet in a second, as if she weighed no more than a paper doll. Backing away from him, she limped to the kitchen, Sesshomaru following behind. She leaned against the counter to breathe for a moment. Sesshomaru watched the way she moved, his eyes narrowed on her shoulder.
Standing in front of her, he ordered, “Remove your shirt.”
Kagome stared at him blankly, then turned red. “What? No way, not on your life.”
He looked her over and clipped out, “I suggest nothing improper. You need only take off the outer layer. Your shoulder needs to be tended before the swelling makes it unmanageable.”
Kagome realized he was only talking about the sweatshirt, and she paled at the very thought of trying to get it pulled over her head. She closed her eyes for a second, pointing to a box in the corner. “There should be scissors in there. Let’s just cut it off.”
Sesshomaru didn’t bother with the box. Before she knew it he’d stepped in closer, grasped her collar and used a sharp claw to slice the fabric. ‘Well, there goes a perfectly good sweater,’ she thought with some frustration. His movements were quick and precise as he shredded the cloth, leaving the t-shirt beneath completely unharmed. The remains of the sweatshirt were pulled away and he examined the shoulder from front and back before he met her eyes. “Hold out your left hand.”
She eyed him suspiciously, but did as he’d ordered. He took the hand and felt along the bones in her arm, making sure that everything was as it should be before he met her eyes again. “This will cause pain.”
Kagome bit down on her lip, pulled in a deep breath and nodded once, indicating she was ready. He moved confidently, but all the same she sent up a prayer that Sesshomaru knew what he was doing. With a calculated pull and shove, something made a gruesome popping sound in her shoulder and fire ripped through the joint again. She stumbled and Sesshomaru caught her by the other arm, holding her up until she was steady once more. When she caught her breath she looked up at him, blinking. Her shoulder still hurt, but only with a small fraction of the pain she’d felt before.
He was studying her for a reaction and she found her voice. “That’s… much bette, thank you; for both-- um, I mean, thanks for pulling me out, too.”
Sesshomaru didn’t respond, rather, retrieved his old robe and used a claw to cut a large swath of fabric from it. Kagome started to protest his sudden destruction of the clothing, but he ignored her. She went silent when he stepped close to loop the make-shift sling around her, showing her where to position her arm while he tied it in place. The sling took the weight of her arm off her shoulder, and she said again more quietly, “Thanks.” She decided that one never properly appreciated how much an arm weighed until the shoulder didn’t want to hold it.
Sesshomaru turned away without comment, folding the remains of the robe and tucking into one of the old boots. Kagome sighed and pulled her first aid kit off a top shelf. She opened it on the counter, surveying its contents. This was the same kit she’d carted with them all over feudal Japan, and as a result it was almost a full field surgery case. She’d learned enough about field medicine and basic doctoring to know that Sesshomaru had done exactly the right thing to put her shoulder back into place, and she wondered at it-- not only at his willingness but also his knowledge.
She put a pan in place to catch water from the pump, wincing as she yanked at the handle to fill it. If the water was to be used cleaning the cut on her leg, she wanted to be sure it was as sterile as she could make it. When it was half full, she set the small pan on the grate over the fire, adding small bits of wood to the glowing coals. That done, she took the kit and sat down on the edge of her mattress, waiting for the water to boil.
It was a struggle to get her shoe and sock off with only her right hand, and despite her best efforts, she couldn’t get the leg of her jeans to roll up and stay put. Again, Sesshomaru surprised her. Tired of watching her one-handed efforts, he picked up a towel she’d left folded by her bath things and brought it over. The demon folded his tall frame into a sitting position on the floor between her bed and the fire. She picked her foot up and he slid the towel under it before he rolled the leg of her pants up to her knee.
“Thanks,” she murmured, yet again; grateful that she’d shaved her legs the day before. His only response was a nod. He studied the small gash above her ankle as she pulled a brown plastic bottle from her supply kit. She struggled with the cap, holding the bottle between her knees. This lasted all of five seconds before a clawed hand took the bottle and removed the cap. Without a word, he lifted her foot, settling her heel in his palm to tilt her leg so the gash was turned upward. Kagome winced as he poured the hydrogen peroxide over the cut and scrapes. It fizzed and she bit down on her lip as the discomfort surged, then faded, the solution dripping onto the towel. He washed the wound twice more with the stinging cleanser before replacing the cap.
Somehow, she was surprised that his hand was warm. Something about Sesshomaru-- maybe his stony demeanor, maybe his serious way of communicating with others, always seemed to suggest a certain coolness that she’d half expected would carry through to his physical being. But his skin had been warm where he’d touched her, and her cheeks flushed a little as she remembered that his body had been plenty warm when she’d been laying on him in the other room.
Diverting her thoughts immediately from that strange recollection, she sighed and started to get up, the water over the fire beginning to bubble. “Sit,” he ordered, his voice not exactly harsh, but leaving little doubt that he expected her to follow his direction. As there was no pressing reason not to, she surrendered and let him grab the hot pad and remove the pan, setting it on the floor next to her towel.
She gratefully watched as he continued the work. He dipped a clean cloth into the boiling water and let it cool just long enough so it wouldn’t burn her before he used it to clean the small wound. His movements were quick, precise, and caused her no more pain than was absolutely necessary. She only interrupted him to spray some antibiotic solution over the injury, explaining that it would help prevent infection. He tore open the package of gauze she handed him and wrapped the whole thing in an elastic strip.
“You’re good at this. How do you know about this stuff?” she finally asked, unable to hold back her curiosity.
Sesshomaru sat back a little as he explained. “You used some of this on Rin, once. At the time, I wasn’t wholly convinced you meant her no harm. I observed. And there were times I tended her hurts when they were more than she could handle herself.”
“Rin,” Kagome said, remembering the happy little girl that had followed Sesshomaru around with absolute loyalty. Despite his general disdain for anything human, she knew he’d loved that child as if she’d been his own, and it gave her confidence that there was more to him than most people realized. “What ever happened to her? If you don’t mind telling me…”
Sesshomaru made himself more comfortable and, seeing as he came up with no reason not to, answered her query. “When she reached the age to start looking for a mate I brought her to Kaede’s village. The old woman had spent time with her on previous occasions, and I didn’t know where else I should take her.”
Kagome smiled faintly, remembering the old woman with fondness. “Kaede taught me a lot, too. She was a good woman.”
Sesshomaru didn’t comment on that, so Kagome asked, “Did she…um… find a mate? I bet she was a real heartbreaker by the time she grew up. She was a beautiful kid.”
He nodded once. “She mated quickly and bore two pups.” Sesshomaru’s terminology for marriage and babies made her smile. “You kept checking in on her, didn’t you?”
Something about his face hardened and he said, “Yes. I killed the man.”
Kagome felt her stomach twist and gasped. “What? Why? What happened?” His eyes found hers, and she found she was suddenly certain that he wouldn’t have hurt someone Rin loved without good reason—not out of any sense of humanity, but because he didn’t want to hurt Rin.
There was a pause before he shared the rest of the details. “Once, I visited just after a festival, and Rin had several bruises on her neck. When I asked her about them her answers were unsatisfactory, but the man was away with a hunting party. I said nothing. I returned just after her oldest pup’s seventh summer and the boy was nursing a broken arm. Rin taught her children that I was to be trusted and her mate did not dare say otherwise in my hearing. When I asked the boy,” and now his brows creased as he tried to remember.
“His name was Hiro,” Sesshomaru supplied. “I asked how he’d injured himself, and he informed me he made his father angry when he tried to prevent him from hitting his mother.”
Kagome’s heart broke a little for the young girl she’d known so long ago. “So you killed him…” she said softly. His eyes found hers again and there was a low rumbling edge in his voice as he confirmed. “I did. He knew great pain before he died.”
The young woman looked sad, but she didn’t seem to condemn in his actions. Somehow this surprised him. Humans tended to squawk and yell over the killing of their own—whether it was warranted or not; but it appeared she didn’t entirely disagree with the way he’d meted out justice on behalf of his young charge. Instead of berating him, she simply said, “I’m sorry that happened to her. How did things go after?”
“She found another mate three years later—one that treated her well,” Sesshomaru said.
Kagome smiled then and commented, “He had the first moron to illustrate the consequences of doing anything less.”
Sesshomaru’s mouth twitched at the corners, just briefly, as if he’d considered smiling. “Yes. Additionally, he informed me that no such action would be necessary a second time and thanked me for what I’d done. It was… odd.” Her smile widened with amusement. The demon was clearly bewildered by the man’s response, even now.
“Good,” Kagome said, knowing what the odds were for a young woman trying to fend off a domestic abuser back then. “I’m glad she had you. Were there grandchildren?” If she was a betting woman, Kagome would be willing to bet Sesshomaru had kept tabs on Rin’s family for a few generations at least, and served as a very unique—if perhaps vicious, guardian angel.
He nodded and seemed to search his memory before he told her, “When I sealed myself downstairs, there were 46 men, women and children alive in this region carrying her blood.”
Kagome blinked in surprise. His continued loyalty to his charge had apparently gone on longer than she would have expected. Indeed, the demon was more complicated than one would think at first glance. She wondered idly where they all were now. Thoughtfully, she said, “If you have their names, I bet we could track down those that are around now, if you wanted to. Did they know you?”
Sesshomaru shook his head immediately. “I spoke with none directly after Rin’s grandchildren. I was away for a time on business, and Rin herself was passed on. There didn’t seem to be a purpose in it.”
“But you still kept an eye on them,” she said, sure she was right. He simply nodded once in answer. He’d watched Rin’s decedents, and those who proved work ethic and worthy character had found opportunities often directed their way. As if it were an afterthought, he mentioned, “Curiously enough, several of her progeny have displayed the same unhealthy fascination with demons.”
Kagome let out a surprised laugh. “What do you mean, unhealthy fascination?”
He turned back to her and raised a brow slightly at her amusement. “Five of hers over the years have found and mated demons and half breeds. It’s…” He stopped, trying to find the right word. Finally he settled on, “inexplicable.”
Kagome knew to tread lightly here. The issue of a demon falling in love with a human was likely to be a sore spot for him, no matter how rational he pretended to be. His own father had left his demon mother for a human woman, Inuyasha’s mother. As much as Kagome knew Inuyasha’s parents had been in the deepest kind of love, it had to have been difficult for Sesshomaru. After a pause, she said, “I’m glad they found people that made them happy. Demons are…complicated, sometimes scary and dangerous, but some humans are just as bad.”
He eyed her strangely, as if he wasn’t quite sure what to make of her statement, and she said one more thing before she let the issue drop. “You already know I think what kind of person we choose to be is more important than what kind of flesh and blood we’re made of.” He did remember that about her, now that he thought about it.
Kagome winced and rubbed her shoulder where it was beginning to throb again in earnest. The promised swelling was setting in. “I need to take something for this.”
Sesshomaru got to his feet, took her good hand in his and pulled her up easily. She let go of him quickly, trying not to think about how strange it was to hold his hand for any length of time. It wasn’t something she’d ever imagined doing, and it was more than she’d have pictured him offering anyone but Rin. After some struggle, she growled in frustration and surrendered the bottle of ibuprofen to him, showing him where to press in on the little plastic tabs in order to get the bottle open. She took three of the pills and muttered, “Your house is trying to kill me.”
“Perhaps,” Sesshomaru said in a dry tone. “It’s only attempting to defend itself.”
Kagome blinked at him for a second, stunned. “Did you just… make a joke?”
The demon didn’t respond, only turned and walked away, lowing himself to sit on the floor against the wall again in what was becoming his spot. Sesshomaru was cracking wise… she thought. It was a sign of the apocalypse, surely.
Kagome jumped as her phone buzzed on the counter with an incoming call. She opened the screen and saw the contact information for the market. Frowning slightly, she hit the button to accept the call and put the phone to her ear. “This is Kagome…”
Sesshomaru watched the peculiar actions, then realized she was talking to someone else as a voice came through the device. It was the first time he’d actually seen her use the cell phone. The night before, he’d heard one side of a conversation she’d been having with her mother and he hadn’t had the presence of mind to wonder much about it. He’d still been trying to get his head on straight. The telephone had been around when he’d left the waking world, and he’d used one himself, but it had been a long time ago and they had looked and sounded nothing like the tiny piece of tech Kagome now held.
“Kagome, would you be able to pick up some extra hours?” the voice on the small hunk of plastic said. It was a woman’s voice, he thought, though he couldn’t be positive.
Kagome’s brow furrowed but she said, “Yes, of course. Do you need me today after all?” Like she was going to say anything else when it was a brand new job, she thought.
“Yes, I’m afraid Shizu’s come down with food poisoning and I have an eye appointment this afternoon. Could you come in at noon and watch the store until I get back at five?”
“Sure,” Kagome said. “No worries, I’ll be right in.”
“Oh, thank you dear,” Mrs. Ishikawa said, sounding relieved. “You’re a life saver. See you in a bit then.”
Kagome hung up the phone and noted Sesshomaru’s attention. She smiled and came over, putting her back against the wall and sliding down until she was seated on the floor next to him. She manipulated some of the controls on the phone’s touch screen, showing it to him and explaining it as she went along. He made a mildly amused sound in his chest, experimentally scrolling through the little bit of music Kagome had on the device. “Humans do have some aptitude for tinkering… I suppose.”
She grinned and surprised him by bumping his leg with her knee as she said, “Well you guys got the claws and super physical abilities. Humans had to have some kind of compensation for the wimpy bodies we’re born with, right?”
She was teasing him, he observed. He made that would-be amused sound in his chest again and continued to explore the phone. Kagome let her head fall back against the wall and sighed. Driving with one arm wasn’t really advisable, but she didn’t have much of a choice. For just a moment, she entertained the mental image of Sesshomaru trying to drive her beat up old car, and had to stifle a giggle. “I’ll be gone for lunch but I’ll bring some dinner home with me since I’m going into town. Help yourself to what’s here in the meantime if you get hungry.”
She hesitated before she asked, “Are you going to hang around? It could get complicated if you go out in public. Most people these days have never seen anything quite like you… at least, not for real.”
He considered her question, remembering the odd attention he’d gotten from people the day before and he nodded once. “I intend to go over the house and see what the state of the immediate property is…” He gave her a sidelong glance and added, “So long as you’re finished putting holes in my floor.”
She stared at him again. THAT was DEFINITLEY another joke. It looked like Sesshomaru had softened up just a tiny bit between the time she’d left him in the Warring-States Era and the year 1900. “Oh,” she sighed, pretending to think about it. “I suppose so. As much fun as I was having with it, I don’t think I can take much more floor-breaking. They’ll have to haul me out in a body bag next time and my mother will never forgive me.”
Using the wall as an assist, she got to her feet, gathered her things, and told Sesshomaru goodbye. Almost a half hour passed through the drizzling rain before she pulled up outside the grocery market. Kagome walked into the store holding a newspaper over herself in an attempt to keep dry. “I’ll tell you what-- this is the wettest fall I think I’ve ever seen,” she said, tossing the damp paper in the garbage as she came back behind the counter.
Mrs. Ishikawa turned around from where she was stocking the shelves of cigarettes and did a double-take when she saw the make-shift sling. “Kagome, what on earth happened?”
Kagome flushed a little. “It’s not a big deal. Nothing’s broken. I partially dislocated my shoulder this-morning. But I promise, it won’t take long to heal and I won’t let it interfere with my work.” The last statement came out a little rushed as she got nervous that Mio might be angry she’d managed to damage herself right after she’d been hired.
Mio studied the filthy piece of cloth Sesshomaru had used to bind her arm in place and sighed. “Sit down,” she ordered, pointing at the stool behind the register. Kagome did as she was told, watching the old woman disappear into the back of the shop. Apparently, she thought dryly, following other people’s orders is going to be a theme today. The stairs leading up to Mio’s apartment creaked slightly and a door opened, then closed. Kagome looked out the window at the pouring rain and sighed heavily. All she needed now was to lose her job. What else could go wrong?
A minute later, there were footsteps on the stairs again and Mio came out with a bit of blue canvas attached to a couple thin, nylon straps. “I knew I still had this somewhere,” she said. Seeing Kagome’s confused expression, she explained. “I broke my left arm two years ago and I had to use this for quite some time. Let me get that dirty old rag off.”
“Are you sure?” she protested. “It’s probably not necessary. It’ll be better in no time.”
“Yes,” Mio said firmly. “It’s not as if I’m using it. Now, let me take a look.”
The woman undid the knotted fabric and threw the filthy cloth in the garbage. Kagome winced as Mio poked and prodded, gently examining the swollen area around the joint. “Well, this looks alright. You said it wasn’t a full dislocation? Have you taken anything?”
Kagome nodded and explained, “Yes, I had just taken some Ibuprofen when you called. I don’t think it’s too bad. There was only a partial sort of pop when my friend pushed it back.”
Mio’s eyes sharpened with attention and her tone was scolding. “You didn’t see a doctor? You just let a friend do it? They might have broken your arm!”
Kagome chewed her lip, choosing her words carefully before she said, “He was very careful. Besides, I know how to fix a dislocated shoulder, and I would have known if he was getting ready to do it wrong. It actually went back into place pretty well.”
Mio looked worried, but she sighed and let it go. “Alright dear, if you say so. There’s some Tylenol in the drawer under the register if you need it. Just stay here at the counter and try not to move that arm. If you want to, you can finish stocking these. I have to get going.” Kagome slid the box of cigarettes with the LARK logo towards her and reassured Mio she’d be fine. Privately, she was a little nervous about being left to run things alone for the first time, but she figured she’d muddle through somehow. If she could slay demons she could certainly conquer a cash register, right?
It was a little tricky to get things done at first with only one fully functioning arm, but she fell into a rhythm of sorts. A few hours later, she’d restocked all the cigarettes, put out several boxes of potato chips she’d found waiting in the back hall, and straightened the produce cases. Without much left to do, she perched herself again at her station behind the counter.
She was doodling on a piece of scratch paper as the bell over the door chimed. When she looked up she met bright green eyes and this time, instead of making her nervous, she found she wanted to smile. That was a welcome change for certain. She thought that maybe they could be friends. She’d just have to be careful, that was all. “Hi Tamotsu,” she greeted him.
The fox demon was encouraged by her smile and easy demeanor. His grin disappeared when he saw the sling on her shoulder. Raising a brow, he came over to the counter, gesturing at the blue nylon. “Hey… you broke yourself. What happened? Or was the trouble you had yesterday worse than you thought?”
Kagome glanced down at her arm and shrugged with her good shoulder. “No, I managed to have another accident this-morning. Double-whammied the same shoulder… Looks like that klutz theory is still going strong.” Her lips twitched with a rueful smile, and when he still looked concerned, she added, “I’m calling it quits for now. I’m not trying to do any more work on the place until I can have a crew come in and reinforce the floors. Two strikes was enough. I can take a hint.”
“Good,” he said, emphatically. “I’d hate to hear an ambulance headed out of town in your direction tomorrow.”
She sighed and decided a subject change was in order. “I don’t think I’m up for cooking tonight. Any chance there’s a pizza place here in town?”
It took Tamotsu a moment to process her question. The heating system had just kicked on, blowing a gust of warm air through the vent behind her and carrying a heavy dose of her scent to his sensitive nose. He almost frowned at the trace of another profile on hers. The smell was definitely male, and definitely demon. Tamotsu couldn’t tell any more than that, though.
Maybe when she’d had the shoulder looked at down at the clinic she’d sat next to a demon? Something about that unsettled him. There weren’t that many demons in the village. He thought he knew all of them-- heck he was related to half of them, but he didn’t recognize this scent. And it was all he could do not to frown at the trace of blood and antibiotic ointment. Apparently it was more than just a bruised shoulder she had now.
Kagome wanted to ask him what he’d just smelled. She recognized the signs. Tam had clearly picked up some interesting bit of information. His nostrils had flared just slightly and he’d taken a deep breath, looking for more of whatever had caught his attention. His silver-tipped black fox tail had curled and swished once.
If it had been a sound, his ears would have twitched, either swiveling to the side or forward. If the sound had made him wary or unhappy, the ears would go back and lay down. If the sound made him happy or curious, the ears would turn forward. Uncertainty produced a sort of uneven swiveling sort of movement. She’d spent five years living daily with demons and now she had to pretend she didn’t know why he was suddenly distracted.
She arranged her face in a mildly curious expression. “Did I ask a forbidden question? Is pizza frowned upon here?”
His ears perked up and he focused on her face again, his tail switching to one side. “Hm? Oh, no…yeah, absolutely. There’s a Dominos three blocks over. Mio said you live kinda far out though. They don’t deliver outside the city limits. The old country roads are usually a mess; especially when it’s wet like this.”
“That’s okay,” Kagome said, forgetting herself and shrugging with both shoulders. She winced and put her hand on the sling. “I was going to call it in just before I leave and pick it up on my way home.”
Tamotsu eyed her doubtfully and asked, “How are you driving like that? How the heck are you going to carry pizza boxes and open a door? My spidey sense is tingling…. and it feels like accident number three.”
She arched a brow. “I’ll manage. I got myself here just fine.”
He considered offering to take her and her pizza home, maybe weasel his way into having dinner with her; but something told him it would be too much. If she wanted him there she’d invite him. He wasn’t about to try and push his way into her personal space at home, where she needed to feel in control and safe. She’d only just started to warm up to him on neutral ground. Maybe in a few weeks he might take a shot at a date… maybe.
Tamotsu held up both hands in a placating gesture. “Okay, I stand corrected. May I counter with a possible solution?” At the look on her face he added quickly, “Not because you couldn’t do it, but because it would be easier… and I’m hungry.”
Her mouth twitched and he could tell she wanted to smile. After a moment she did smile and he said, “Order your pizza. I’m starving, so I’ll chuck in the money for a large of my own. They have deal going for three larges at 2800 yen. The other two are yours and you’ll have plenty of leftovers. Then we can repackage your food into something you can put in a bag and carry more easily with one arm—AND I’ll run over and get it, which saves you a delivery fee.”
Kagome almost snorted out a laugh. Leftovers? With Sesshomaru as a dinner companion? Not for long. She smiled in anticipation, wondering how he’d like pizza. She was sure they hadn’t had it here when he’d disappeared over a century ago. “Alright,” she sighed. “You strike a hard bargain. Write down what you want.”
They got the order worked out and Kagome waited until the single customer in the store made their purchase and left before she made the call to the pizza place. It was almost 4:30 p.m. when Tamotsu got back, carrying three large pizza boxes, as well as a fourth box that smelled suspiciously like dessert. Kagome’s stomach rumbled and she realized that between one thing and another she hadn’t had any lunch.
Tamotsu went back into the break room where he did as promised and packed her pizzas into several smaller takeout containers. They stacked easily in a large plastic bag, which he brought back out to her. Kagome glanced around the empty shop a little guiltily before she reached into the bag, flicked the top box open and pulled a slice out to nibble on while she waited for Mio to get back. She needed to take some of the Tylenol anyway, she rationalized, and she couldn’t do that on an empty stomach.
Tamotsu grinned and muttered, “Yeah, me too.” Without hesitation, he invited himself back behind the counter, opening his own pizza box on an empty shelf. Once he’d grabbed a big slice of his own dinner-- or rather, his first dinner, he pulled a stool out and sat down. He intentionally left a good three feet of space between them so she wouldn’t feel like he was trapping her in the little corner. Sure enough, a moment later he was glad he’d been conscious of the issue, because Kagome eyed him a little uncertainly before she relaxed and took another bite of her pizza.
He watched her pop a few small pills from the Tylenol bottle with some water and asked, “So what did the doc say? How long are you in the sling for?”
She shook her head and finished chewing her last bite before she explained, “I didn’t go to the clinic. This is actually Mrs. Ishikawa’s old sling. She took one look at me when I walked in and did the ‘mom’ thing.” She smiled a little and added, “She’s really nice. It’s not major, so I expect a week or two might be enough.”
Tamotsu looked concerned again, but he had the good sense not to be pushy. Instead, he just offered, “Well, if you keep ice on it and don’t move it around too much it’ll heal faster. I should be free to come in and help with freight again next time.”
Kagome looked pensive for a moment and her teeth worried her bottom lip. The wheels were turning but she’d apparently decided not to say anything. He tried a new tactic and just stared at her with an inquiring look until she broke. Happily, he found her particularly susceptible. She caved within 15 seconds and admitted, “I don’t have any ice.”
“Just soak an old dish towel in water, seal it in a Ziploc bag and put it in the freezer. That works great,” he suggested.
When she still looked doubtful he said, “Seriously, I have a friend that actually does ring fights in the city sometimes for extra cash. That’s what he does every time he takes a pounding.”
Kagome raised a brow a little incredulously. “Well, your interesting taste in friends aside, I’m afraid I don’t have a freezer.” She eyed the drizzling rain out the window and said thoughtfully, “Maybe it will get cold enough outside tonight. There was pretty heavy frost the other morning. I’ll leave some water out.”
Tamotsu looked confused. “Don’t most refrigerators have at least a little freezer compartment for ice cubes?” She started to get that tight, uncomfortable look again. He could almost see her muscles stiffen up and realized he’d stepped on one of those conversational lines without knowing it. Kagome thought for a second about how to answer him and raise the least possible number of questions.
“The house has some issues right now and I don’t have power yet. Freezers don’t work without electricity.” There… that was the truth. He need not know that even if she had power, she didn’t have a refrigerator or a freezer, and she expected it would be some time before she could afford either.
Now he looked surprised. His eyes moved over her from head to toe for a second before he asked, “Aren’t you freezing without any heat?” He wasn’t feeling the cold yet in the slightest, but he knew a human woman would be. His sister’s friend Cari had started wearing her winter coat a month ago. He knew to watch the humans for these signs and make sure he mimicked them at the right times, the better to blend in.
Kagome shook her head though and seemed to relax a little. “I’m okay. I’m only living in one room of the house right now and it has a big stone cooking pit. It’s actually pretty nice. Electric heating is never as comfy as a fire.”
Well, she had him there, he supposed, but where had she found a house with a stone fire pit? Or had she meant a regular fire place? He was just thinking it through and trying to decide how to ask about it when the bell chimed and Mrs. Ishikawa walked in. She took in the sight of Tamotsu, sitting comfortably behind the counter, and the immediately guilty expression on Kagome’s face as she glanced at the man beside her—perhaps wondering if she would be in trouble for not keeping him on the customer floor.
Mio just smiled and asked, “How’s the shoulder?”
Kagome blinked, slowly registering that she wasn’t in trouble. “Oh, good, thank you. The sling is actually much easier to deal with.”
Mio made a ‘hmph’ sound. “Well, I should think so. What was that your friend used? A bed sheet?”
Kagome flushed and admitted, “It was a strip from an old shirt, I think.”
Tamotsu’s ears twitched in interest. He? Who was this he? At his confused look, Mio said, “It’s a good thing you had a friend show up last night if you were going to hurt yourself again today. I’m glad you weren’t out there all alone.”
Tamotsu was glad too, but did it have to be a ‘he’ friend? And what did the old lady mean last night? Was the guy staying with her? He knew he didn’t have the right to be so nosy, but he threw caution to the wind and asked, “You got a friend staying with you when you don’t have any electricity?”
Kagome opened her mouth to answer, but Mio interrupted. “What? No power?”
Kagome closed her eyes for a moment, letting out a long sigh. People acted like she was doing something absolutely insane, and she wondered if any of them had a concept of how new residential electricity actually was in the grand scheme of things. There WAS life without it.
“Yep,” Tamotsu said, oh so helpfully. She shot him a look that said, ‘thanks a lot.’ He just grinned and grabbed another slice of his pizza off the shelf behind him. “We were just talking about how she’s going to take a bag of ice home with her to use on that shoulder so it doesn’t swell up like a football.”
Actually, Kagome thought, that wasn’t a bad idea. There was a big ice cooler outside the front of the shop, but she’d forgotten about it. If she left the bag outside, it might even still have some frozen stuff left tomorrow morning. Mio gave her a penetrating look. “But you’re warm enough?”
Kagome nodded, knowing the woman was only trying to be kind. “I have a stack of firewood handy. The place is actually pretty cozy.”
Mio sighed and said, “Alright. Well, go ahead and clock out. I’m sure you want to get back to your guest. I’ll see you on Sunday for the short shift—noon to six.” Kagome’s brow furrowed and the old woman said, “That’s right. You’re off tomorrow. You were supposed to have today, but I called you in, and I want you to rest that shoulder.”
Kagome had been happy to give up her day off for some extra hours on her pay check. Having a demon house guest was going to come with a cost. However, she knew when to pick her battles, so she sighed and bowed her head respectfully. Mio went into the break room and returned with a large purple umbrella. She smacked Tamotsu in the side with it until he got to his feet. “Here, take this and help her out. It’s raining more than it was earlier.”
Tamotsu thought he’d seen the old woman wink just as she’d turned away from them, but he wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth. Kagome started to protest but he whispered out of the corner of his mouth. “Come on, let’s go. You want me to get my butt kicked? Call me a pushover, but around here I take my marching orders and go with it.”
That got him an amused smile and he congratulated himself on a job well done as she clocked out. He helped her carry her things out to the car, holding the large umbrella over them both. Once she was tucked into the driver’s seat, he ran back to the ice cooler and grabbed a large bag of the cubes. Opening the back door, he set it on the floor board and spoke over her shoulder, “Get your friend to carry it in for you, okay? You bought dinner, he can make himself useful.”
Kagome let out a small laugh. “Thanks. I appreciate it. Tell Mio I said thanks again, too.” He shut the door and gave her a salute under his umbrella, watching her pull out and drive away into the rain. He was still wondering about this guy she had staying with her and hoped that her use of the word ‘cozy’ had been strictly in the platonic sense. She didn’t smell like she was spending a great deal of time physically close to anyone, and that at least reassured him.
When Kagome finally got the front door open, she had to set the bag of pizza down a second time to get the kitchen doors open. The fire had died down, but she saw with some appreciation that Sesshomaru had kept the coals alive. She set the food on the counter before carefully balancing a few logs to catch in the fire pit. There was apparently no Sesshomaru here, and the house was quiet when she’d come in. Had he left again after all? She thought he must be here somewhere. She could feel his power resonating, a strong, quiet presence somewhere not far off.
She went back out for the ice, closed the front door and left the bag of frozen cubes by the back entrance to the garden where chilly air seeped in along the track of the sliding doors. Once she’d returned with her supplies, she scooped a few handfuls of the ice into a plastic bag, wrapped it in a dish towel and held it to her shoulder. ‘Gods bless Tam,’ she thought. The wash of coolness felt wonderful. Though she was sure she hadn’t done any permanent damage, the muscles and tendons were definitely enflamed.
Kagome sighed and leaned her good shoulder against the wall, just standing there for a moment with the ice. She felt a shift in the low hum of Sesshomaru’s energy and opened her eyes a moment later to see a tall, silver haired man with glinting gold eyes surface from the dark study at the other side of the room. ‘That should be creepy,’ she thought, absently. But somehow it wasn’t. He stepped into the dim, watery moonlight that shone through the single door she’d cracked open, his eyes falling to the place where she held the ice to her shoulder. He seemed to examine the sling and gave a slight nod of approval.
“So,” she started. The house was silent except for the patter of rain on the roof. Her own voice sounded loud to her ears. “You like pizza?”
He blinked at her, clearly waiting for more information. What in the hells was pizza?
She smiled, as if at her own private joke. “I brought dinner, if you’re hungry.” He nodded once and she turned back to the kitchen. Sesshomaru followed and closed the doors, seeing she’d restarted the fire. Immediately he smelled the rich, fatty scent of cheese and warm bread… and some kind of spicy meat he couldn’t identify.” Kagome flipped open the lid of a stiff paper box. “I present to you now, one of the best things to hit Japan in time you were gone.”
He looked down at the – what had she called it? Pizza? It looked good, if perhaps a little insufficient on the protein side of things. She pulled out a triangular wedge of the bread and started nibbling at the end. He watched her for a moment before he did the same, testing it before he decided it was acceptable. It was no side of beef, but it would do. Kagome watched him in return, as if waiting for some kind of reaction. “Well?” she finally asked. “What do you think?”
He nodded once, trying to communicate that he found it acceptable and appreciated the gesture, but that this pizza wasn’t something he was going to get excited about. She rolled her eyes, but still looked amused. “You would be the only person on planet earth that doesn’t love pizza.”
Sesshomaru simply swallowed the rest of his slice and picked up another. Changing the subject, he eyed the sling again. “This didn’t hamper your work?”
As Kagome shook her head, he realized he didn’t know what it was she’d apparently found paying work doing. Clearly she wasn’t out fighting demons anymore, or trading on her miko powers. Indeed, he could barely feel her magic most of the time now; it lay quiet, as if it were never used and mostly forgotten. Finding himself curious, he asked, “What is it you do for your employer?”
Kagome took a quick moment to appreciate the strangeness of the scene. She was standing in her kitchen, eating pizza with Sesshomaru while he asked her about her job at the grocery store. Who ever said the Fates had no sense of humor? It was almost hilarious. All she needed now were a priest and rabbi walking in with a case of beer.
Pulling herself back on task, she swallowed her food and explained in terms that he’d easily understand. “I help out at the local food market. My boss is a really nice older woman, Mio Ishikawa.” Lifting her bad arm slightly to indicate the sling, she added, “She clucked over the bit of your robe and gave me this.”
Sesshomaru didn’t appear to take offense at the fact that the old woman had found his work lacking. He’d simply used what he’d had on hand. Kagome could feel the Tylenol kicking in, and she finished her slice of pizza quickly so she could put the cold compress back on her shoulder. As she held the ice in place she leaned against the counter and asked, “So what did you find? I had an inspector come through and he said the house was in pretty good shape.”
Sesshomaru glanced pointedly down at her sling and she let out a rueful laugh, “Yeah, I know—he said it was safe… so I’m willing to bet the rest of his diagnosis was spotty.”
The demon considered the matter for a moment before he explained that all of the flooring beneath the southeastern quadrant of the house, as well as one of the big support beams would have to be replaced, and much of the upper level dismantled and rebuilt. “I will pack away the contents of my study and store them with everything else of any importance downstairs for now.”
Kagome cringed and said hesitantly, “That all sounds very expensive. I’m afraid it’s probably going to take some time to save that much money.”
Sesshomaru gave her an odd, almost annoyed look and she raised one slim, black brow. “What?”
His own, dark silver brows drew together in thought for a moment before he declared, “You will not be supplying the finances to rebuild my property. I had considerable resources in 1903 and I was careful to ensure not everything was put at risk in other hands.”
Kagome still looked puzzled, then apprehension spread through her features as she remembered the case of glittering gems. “You mean the stuff in the basement?” He nodded once.
“If nothing is left of the wealth I had invested in other endeavors, I expect the price of gold and silver has only gone up as demand has increased.” Demand HAD to have increased, and exponentially if the size and opulence of the structures in the city were any indication. That, coupled with the obvious population boom in the area virtually guaranteed it. It was just good, basic economics.
Kagome was frowning again, more thoughtfully this time, and mused curiously. “I wonder what happened to your other property. You said you had a lot of money invested? That can’t just have disappeared. Maybe we could find out. Somebody who’s very successful today might have you to thank for their start-up capital… if there was any way to prove it.”
Now she was speaking of things that interested him. It wasn’t so much the money, as it was the game of strategy that was wealth management. It was like war; just as cut-throat but much cleaner… well, sometimes. Without explaining himself, he started towards the kitchen door, clearly expecting her to follow. Kagome grabbed a flashlight and trailed behind him into the dark house, carefully skirting the section of floor where she’d fallen that morning. She could hear him moving about in the dark study and turned the flashlight on.
Carefully, she angled the light to the wall so it wouldn’t blind his much stronger eyes, but he immediately turned to look at the surface it illuminated. A strange mix of thoughts flickered through his face before it went flat again and he turned back to the cabinet she’d opened with the real estate agent. She came over to stand beside him, but was distracted by the silk screen painting mounted on the cupboard door. The design she’d so admired before caught her attention again. Now, she glanced with a new perspective from Sesshomaru to the curling, flying figure in the painting. “It’s a dog demon…” she said softly, mostly talking to herself. The creature hadn’t looked quite right for a wolf, because it wasn’t a wolf. It was an Inu Yokai like Sesshomaru.
He glanced at her, not realizing at first what she was talking about. When she tapped the painting with a careful finger-tip he told her, “One of my house servants was an artist. He did the work on the upstairs doors as well. I plan to have them restored.”
Pulling in a breath, he focused again on his task. He pulled out several of his most recent ledger books and a handful of scrolls in which he’d recorded copies of the contracts he’d left in his vassals’ care in his absence. He’d known he would be out of commission for some time and it seemed a waste to just let his money sit gathering dust, as he himself was forced to do. He explained to Kagome that these contained the information most likely to help any investigation they might attempt. “It’s a place to start, at least,” she said thoughtfully, paging through one of the dusty books
“What about all the blue prints I found in the corner?” she asked. When Sesshomaru gave her an odd look, she flushed pink and explained sheepishly, “When I bought the house they told me it was all mine. I didn’t know it was yours. You’re lucky I didn’t throw any of it out right away.”
After a second he explained. “Some of the blueprints are future proposals I was in the process of approving; others are records of my own properties. There were almost a dozen buildings directly under my ownership in 1903, and another 14 that I controlled indirectly; though…” he added, sounding not quite certain, “I saw none of those still standing when I visited Edo.”
Kagome blinked, a little stunned. “Yeah,” she muttered, then corrected him gently. “And the city’s known as Tokyo now. If you call it Edo, people are going know what you mean, but they’ll think you’re crazy or really eccentric. Anyhow, there’s no way that much money and real estate disappears. I just hope that whoever was responsible for this house didn’t do the same thing with the rest of your assets.”
Sesshomaru’s face hardened and he said icily, “One of my first goals must be to locate Myoga and flay him to within an inch of his insignificant life.”
Kagome found herself stunned all over again. “What? Myoga? He was still around?” He’d been old 500 years ago. The flea demon she’d met in the Warring-States era had to be 1,500 years old or more, at least. She’d liked the old flea, despite his tendency towards cowardice. He was extremely loyal to the house of Taisho, and she couldn’t imagine him selling off Sesshomaru’s home, especially if Sesshomaru himself was incapacitated within it.
“Pests and vermin somehow manage an inexplicable durability,” he muttered, “Though I had thought he could be trusted to do better than this.”
Coming back to the here and now with a thump, she said, “Let’s find out what happened before you sentence him to death or dismemberment. There might be a reason behind whatever he has or hasn’t done.”
Something in her voice alerted him to a change and gold eyes shifted in the dimness to look at her. It might just have been the strange way the electric light threw shadows across her face, but she suddenly looked extremely tired. He had to remind himself that she was human and could not function as he could. Humans needed at least three times the amount of sleep he did, and being in pain only wore them out faster. She was to be granted some consideration in the face of all she was doing for him.
“You will need rest,” he stated. She looked like she might argue, but then didn’t seem to have the strength. “Actually, I think I might actually go to bed early, if that’s alright,” she said. “I was going to try and soak in the spring, but maybe I’ll just do it tomorrow. Hopefully it will quit raining.”
She turned away from him so as not to bother his eyes and pulled up a weather report on her phone. “Looks like we’re in luck,” she said with satisfaction. “It’s going to get a little warmer again. It’ll be cloudy, but at least it’s not supposed to rain.”
Sesshomaru stared at the device in her hand and didn’t quite manage to stifle his interest. “It communicates over long distances, plays music, paints pictures and predicts weather…”
Kagome smiled and put the screen to sleep before she held the phone up. “Yep, not bad for a bit of human tinkering, right?”
He made that affirmative noise in his chest and she went back to the kitchen to get ready for bed. While she went to the bathroom to change and brush her teeth, Sesshomaru got the noisier work out of the way before he sentenced himself to a period of quiet activity while she slept. Clearing things out of his way, he carried the wooden desk from his study into the front hall where he could wipe it down and put it to good use.
He needed a surface to work on, and they might use it for a dining table as well, until other arrangements could be made. Kagome stood in her flannel pajamas, watching him carry three large cedar trunks into the front hall as well. In the face of her curious expression, he explained. “My current clothing is unacceptable. Something in these may have remained in usable condition.”
“Of course,” Kagome said, mentally smacking herself for not having thought of it. That was something else they’d have to deal with. Somehow, they were going to have to figure out a way for him to fit in, and especially to learn that ‘invisible demon’ trick all the others seemed to utilize these days.