InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Pretending to Pretend ❯ Chapter 4
[ X - Adult: No readers under 18. Contains Graphic Adult Themes/Extreme violence. ]
The following afternoon, against his better judgment, Inuyasha kept his word to meet up with the rest of their circle downtown for an evening of food – and drinks, for the older students – at Tsubaki's Hideout. It was a grungy, casual bar and restaurant popular with the college crowd, but he'd never been before because it was located deep within human territory and while there was no official middle ground between the humans and youkai it did seem to be somewhat more socially acceptable to see the occasional youkai in a human district the closer you got to the border of a youkai town.
Immediately, he could feel the eyes upon him, and even see the eyes upon him from the few who glared in his direction a bit more openly, but he had not arrived with the others and in that moment, even though being glared at like an outsider was uncomfortable, it was something he was used to. He was glad he had spared Kagome the same, should these people have sensed the relationship between them.
While they were working on building up towards a fake romantic relationship, she was most definitely his real best friend, and he knew she felt the same way. She would never have agreed to pretend to be his girlfriend otherwise. Just like Miroku was his close guy friend if he needed to talk to a guy, Sango was there for Kagome when she needed another woman to talk to, but when it really came down to it, Sango and Miroku had each other before anyone else and Inuyasha knew he and Kagome were each other's number one as well. They were best friends, plain and simple, which would be enough to turn hateful people against her if in their opinion the two of them were acting a bit too chummy.
He couldn't help it if to the outside world they looked like something more. While he'd never thought about Kagome that way, and truth be told he wasn't ready to start thinking about having genuinely romantic feelings towards anyone at the moment, he wasn't blind, and knew damn well that whenever he and the others went anywhere together they looked like two couples. They'd been giving off that impression ever since their last year of high school, whenever Kikyou hadn't joined them for whatever the rest of them did. That really should've been a red flag, he realized looking back on it, that even while still considering Kikyou his girlfriend Kagome had become so much closer to him as far as a regular best friend was concerned. Shouldn't your girlfriend also be your best friend? But he'd ended up telling Kagome little things about himself that he'd never shared with Kikyou, and he'd also felt like he could be himself around her because she wasn't fazed by his potty mouth while Kikyou had always, annoyingly, scolded his use of foul language in her presence and he'd ended up trying to watch what he said fairly early on in their relationship.
That should've been two red flags that Kikyou wasn't the right girl for him, on top of all the warnings his friends had tried to give him. He'd been a fool; he knew that now. But even though his heart was still broken, and in no condition to be given to another, the part of it that held platonic love for his friends was thankfully alive and well, and Kagome had definitely been right when she'd said that she was the most logical, most believable choice for his pretend new girlfriend. Most people who'd seen them around for a while who weren't opposed to the notion would probably think it was about damn time they got together.
Let everyone think what they wanted. He certainly wasn't opposed to the idea of openly having people believe he and Kagome were together, or he wouldn't have agreed to let her do it. She was a wonderful girl and under different circumstances, like if he'd never met Kikyou, or had at least met Kagome first, then he could've seen himself actually falling for her instead in that alternate timeline.
Hell, Inuyasha could even admit that, a couple of times over the last two weeks, he'd offhandedly contemplated the possibility of he and Kagome eventually getting together at some point in the future, in this timeline, but besides just not being emotionally ready for those types of thoughts yet, the hanyou knew that Kagome only saw him as a friend, anyway. Guys were usually the ones who tried to say that men and women couldn't be platonic friends without sexual tension getting in the way but he knew that most women would disagree. Girls were perfectly capable of having guy friends and to Kagome, he was her best friend, but nothing more. Right now, though, that was honestly all he wanted from her. If she actually were interested in him romantically he would've had to turn her down, and the last thing he wanted to do was break her heart, so he was glad it was only a stupid what-if that had flittered through his mind and nothing he really had to worry about. They were friends, but as her friend, Inuyasha was still glad he had spared her the experience of being glared at just then, if she had walked into Tsubaki's Hideout with him.
“Inuyasha!” the miko of his thoughts suddenly shouted over the din, having sensed his demonic aura. Standing up to make it easier for him to spot her with all the confusing smells, she waved.
So much for that, then... He sighed, rolling his eyes, as the few people who'd initially glared at him immediately started glaring between the two of them.
But to her credit, if Kagome noticed the nasty looks and quiet mutterings by a few people around their group she didn't show it. At least nobody from their circle had any major problems with Inuyasha. The couple of people who had had changed groups last semester, after the first day in fact. True, not everyone in their group was all that thrilled with the idea of having a hanyou among them, but they at least outwardly kept their opinions to themselves, for the most part, at least. Kagome didn't count her encounter with Abi, Yura and Kagura yesterday because they had been polite enough at the beginning of the year, and were only starting to act bitchy now because Kikyou had roped them into her own private little sub-clique. It was only natural that they would turn against their ring leader's ex-boyfriend. Kagome was relieved that Kikyou had not shown up for this gathering, and hoped that it meant the evening would pass without too much drama.
As Inuyasha approached the back corner of the restaurant and the large group of tables that had been taken over by their martial arts circle, he exhaled the breath he hadn't known he'd been holding as he also realized that Kikyou was, in fact, not among them. Since reiki auras had a tendency to blend together and Kagome and Miroku's auras combined were so powerful, he hadn't been able to sense from the parking lot whether or not his ex was in the building; there were far too many overlapping scents for his nose to do him any good. Her bitchy friends were here, he noticed right away, but that was no big deal. He'd expected to see them, he just hadn't been looking forward the the prospect of having to make nice with Kikyou while out in public. He wouldn't have put it past her to come along just to fuck with him, especially after her confrontation with Kagome and Sango yesterday, but on the other hand, maybe it was because Kagome had told her off that Kikyou had shied away, afraid of being humiliated, herself, when his friends came to his defense.
“So glad you could make it!” Kagome exclaimed cheerfully as he maneuvered himself around the tables and squeezed down into the empty chair Kagome had saved for him, which was thankfully located between herself and Miroku, Kagome on his left with Sango sitting over on Miroku's right, while Suikotsu sat at Kagome's left.
She'd known he wouldn't want to sit next to anyone else, and that thought had Inuyasha grinning a little as he glanced her way and nodded his thanks before picking up his menu.
While college students typically joined groups such as their martial arts circle to socialize, and usually everyone became close friends, it was understandable that Inuyasha didn't feel quite as sociable when he knew most people didn't really want him around. He liked some of the people in their circle well enough, the ones who didn't have a problem with him, but even his close friendship with Kagome, Miroku and Sango had taken about a year to fully develop. He'd only known these people for around four months before Kikyou had ripped his heart out; nobody could really blame him for not feeling too social after that.
Of course, some people would prefer it if he never came out to socialize, at all.
“Didn't think you'd show,” Renkotsu said while Inuyasha continued to look over the menu, his tone carefully neutral.
Flicking an ear in Renkotsu's direction, the man sitting on the other side of the table but not directly across from him, instead sitting two seats down, across from Sango, Inuyasha glanced his way for only a moment and replied with “I said I would, didn't I?” before averting his gaze back down over the selection of food.
Tsubaki's Hideout was a burger joint, and he had to admit, even with as much as he loved ramen, a western style burger and fries sounded really good about then.
“And we're definitely glad you did,” Sango chimed in, sitting forward a bit to look past Miroku and meet Inuyasha's eyes with a nod before shooting a quick look at the man sitting across from her, as if daring him to say anything further.
“Definitely,” Jakotsu agreed with a whimsical sigh, the effeminate man sitting to Renkotsu's left.
Renkotsu shot Jakotsu a glare while Inuyasha snorted in amusement. Jakotsu had made his attraction to Inuyasha known since day one, and even after Kikyou had none-too-politely told Jakotsu to back off, the hanyou was taken, that still hadn't stopped the man from flirting. It didn't bother Inuyasha one bit. While Jakotsu was playfully flamboyant, the man was actually a decent guy. During their first training session after summer break, when Jakotsu had approached and told him he'd heard about the breakup, he had not only not tried to hit on him afterwards but had sincerely offered his condolences. He'd gone back to playfully flirting after that, but Inuyasha knew Jakotsu knew he didn't swing that way and was only doing it to get a rise out of him, and not the perverted kind. It worked, too, as Inuyasha couldn't help but smile at Jakotsu's silliness, and in his mind Jakotsu was one of the ones who could potentially become another good friend the more he got to know him.
“I'm glad you decided to join us, too,” Bankotsu said then, just trying to be nice. He was sitting on Renkotsu's right, across from Miroku. “Believe me, I've been there, but you can't let a broken heart rule you the rest of your life.”
“Yeah,” Inuyasha readily agreed. He doubted Bankotsu's heart had been quite so thoroughly destroyed, but then, the whole point of the ruse was to not let anyone know how broken he really was. He appreciated that the man was at least trying to be civil.
It was more than he could say for the skank sitting directly across from him. Yura absolutely reeked of sex, and for him to notice it so strongly in a place like this it was like she'd just banged a few guys immediately before coming here. He knew it was really none of his business what she did and she could fuck every guy at their school for all he cared, but for her to then be crinkling her nose at him in disgust as she was in that moment while she pretended to study her own menu, as if he wouldn't notice...
Feh, whatever, bitch.
He knew why she was disgusted by him. He knew Kikyou had told her, and it was embarrassing as hell, but he was not about to let her know that.
“What do you recommend?” he asked Kagome then, since she'd put her menu down a few minutes ago.
“Stickin' to your own kind,” some random patron muttered from the next table over, although it was thankfully uttered quietly enough that it'd been meant for that patron's friend's ears only and nobody but Inuyasha had heard it among their group.
Used to ignoring such things, knowing that if he tried to defend himself he'd just wind up getting kicked out of the restaurant, he kept his fake smile plastered firmly in place while waiting for Kagome to answer.
“It's so hard to decide,” she stated truthfully. “But I think I'm gonna go with the Old West burger.”
Inuyasha nodded, acknowledging her choice. It was hard to decide, but he had his choice narrowed down between Kagome's and one other.
“I think I'm leaning towards the Big Kahuna burger, myself,” Suikotsu chimed in, just trying to join in on the conversation to be nice.
“Both good choices,” Inuyasha agreed, since Suikotsu's selection was the other one he was trying to decide between.
Inuyasha liked Suikotsu well enough. He also seemed like a decent guy, and he was studying to become a doctor. He'd joined their circle merely as a stress reliever but their little college was his first stop on a long list of higher education before becoming a surgeon.
He was also sitting between Kagome and Mukotsu, who'd made uncomfortable googly eyes at Kagome last semester, so anyone who protected Kagome, whether they directly knew it or not, was an okay guy in his book.
For the next few minutes most people at their table engaged in mini conversations that excluded he and the others, but Inuyasha was honestly all right with that. Even when Suikotsu started chatting with Mukotsu, Abi and Kagura, he wasn't offended. Instead, he, Kagome, Miroku and Sango merely started up their own mini conversation, as well.
“So you up for us coming over this Sunday to help you with your arm throw?” Inuyasha asked Kagome. “I know you work at your family shrine on the weekends, but there's really no room in any of our apartments to practice judo, anyway. The shrine grounds would work much better.”
Mildly surprised, because when he'd said he'd help her yesterday she had presumed he'd only said it for show and it would really only be Sango helping her – and in fact that could still be the case, so she would be sure to get clarification later once they were alone – Kagome answered, “I'm sure I can find the time to squeeze it in. Sounds like fun!”
“It doesn't bother you, going onto shrine grounds?” Kagura's cousin Byakuya asked, genuinely curious. Sitting between Kagura and Yura, directly across from Kagome, he hadn't been able to help overhearing.
Since he hadn't meant anything rude by the question Inuyasha decided to give him a completely honest answer. Shrugging, he said, “It depends on how hostile the shrine is.”
That earned Kagura's attention, as she broke off her conversation with Abi.
“Shrines are not hostile,” she spat rudely, as if personally offended even though, as far as Inuyasha knew, they were not members of a shrine family.
Before he could even try to defend himself and explain what he'd meant, Kagome beat him to it.
“Actually, some shrines are very hostile, towards youkai that is. Some even have wards set up that forbid all youkai entry, as if simple youki would actually taint the holy grounds.” She snorted, showing just what she thought of that idea. “Fortunately, most shrines these days comprehend the fact that youki is merely another form of spiritual energy, different from reiki yes, but not necessarily in an incompatible way. There are definitely dark versions of youki, like jyaki or shouki, but reiki can also turn to the dark side pretty easily and be used for black magic, so I don't see the logic in automatically condemning one form of energy over the other.”
Smiling at the miko sitting beside him, Inuyasha cleared his throat a little, suddenly finding a lump in it he had to swallow, before meeting Byakuya's eyes and adding, “The Higurashi shrine actually has charms around the property that block wickedness, specifically, so in the event of a demonic attack it would work well as a safe zone, the barrier projected by the wards protecting the grounds from evil youkai, or kuro miko and houshi for that matter, who might be in league with a youkai rebellion, but friendly youkai and hanyou without darkness in their auras would be able to enter.”
“Cool,” Byakuya answered, actually finding the subject rather interesting. Kagura shot him a nasty glare at his comment, but Byakuya merely shrugged.
He'd never met a hanyou before Inuyasha, and while he didn't personally believe that humans and youkai should be involved romantically, he understood how most youkai were peaceful and would fight on the side of humans against a rise of evil youkai trying to take over the world. And he hadn't even thought about the possibility of evil miko and houshi helping the youkai, but it was true that such a thing could theoretically happen. That Kagome's family had taken both good youki and bad reiki into consideration when designing the wards on their shrine grounds was good thinking in his book, and he said as much in that moment.
“How can you possibly...” Kagura started to argue, before getting nudged by Abi, the other woman sitting at Kagura's right.
“Just ignore him,” Abi murmured, earning an eye roll and sigh from Byakuya that Inuyasha and Kagome (among others) couldn't help but notice, even though hanyou and miko tried to pretend like they hadn't.
Of course, Byakuya didn't care that they'd caught on to his displeasure with his cousin. He was glad to let the miko sitting across from him know that if it ever came to a choice, he would be on her side before the other miko in their group. He and Kagura used to see a lot of things eye to eye before she'd gotten sucked into her little sub-clique led by that Kikyou chick. As far as he was concerned, they were all supposed to be friends, their entire judo circle, and if Inuyasha's presence bothered her that much then she should've just quit the group at the beginning of the year like a couple of other people had. Don't wait half a year and then decide you have a problem. And she hadn't even liked Kikyou at first. Not until after she'd broken up with Inuyasha and revealed she'd only been using him for his money. He'd heard all about it, whether he'd wanted to or not, and while Kagura had seemed almost relieved when she'd explained to him why she was friends with Kikyou now and what all she'd learned about the miko, Byakuya honestly felt sorry for the hanyou.
Just because he didn't personally believe it was right for humans and youkai to interbreed didn't mean he was going to be a total dick to Inuyasha because of it. It wasn't his fault his parents had made him, and as he was getting to know him he considered him a decent enough guy. Byakuya still believed in marrying your own kind, but he didn't necessarily see anything wrong with humans and youkai being friends. It was better than staying enemies, wasn't it?
It couldn't be an easy lot in life, he realized, being neither human nor youkai. It would be easy for him to say that Inuyasha shouldn't live in the human district, that he should be with the youkai, but it didn't escape his understanding that most youkai probably didn't want him, either, and even though hate crimes were illegal they did happen on rare occasion. He was probably safer in the human district.
Kagura hadn't thought that what Kikyou did was particularly cruel since women used men for their money all the time, and reluctantly, Byakuya could see her point, even though he didn't agree with her assessment of using men in such a way not really being cruel. She considered it a win/win situation since the men got something out of it in return, but that only applied if the men knew their women were using them for their money and didn't care. But while he personally thought that Kikyou was a heartless bitch for using Inuyasha in such a way he could at least still see how it hadn't really been worse than another woman using a human man in the same way. He'd been a victim, but not necessarily because he was hanyou. Had he met with Kikyou's 'approval' then she wouldn't have broken up with him, regardless of his youkai blood, and from getting to know Kikyou a little better, Byakuya would bet that that woman would've broken up with a human man just as easily if his body hadn't 'measured up' to her expectations. Kikyou was a shallow gold digger and her prejudices were literally skin deep, so while she'd definitely still been cruel, Byakuya would bet it hadn't been the worst the hanyou had ever faced in his life. While he was sure that finding out the woman he'd loved was only using him and was too disgusted by his body to touch him was a special kind of pain that differed from total strangers telling him he had no right to exist, Inuyasha had clearly already gotten over it, undoubtedly coming to the realization that Kikyou was just a bitch and he shouldn't take whatever she'd said to heart.
In fact, Kikyou was a special kind of bitch, since Inuyasha getting over their breakup seemed to bother her for some reason, which Byakuya personally found highly amusing. What the hell did she care if Inuyasha wasn't moping around like a beaten puppy? A normal woman might've even felt guilty at the sight of their ex being totally crushed after a bad breakup, but to Byakuya it was almost as if Kikyou wanted Inuyasha to be miserable, since seeing him having a good time always seemed put her in a sour mood, and that was something Byakuya definitely didn't approve of. He knew why Kikyou had been so angry during their breakup, thanks to Kagura blabbing it to him, because supposedly Inuyasha had kept his 'differences' a 'secret' from her, but in Byakuya's mind Kikyou was definitely not the victim here and had no right to want to keep hurting Inuyasha over something he as a fellow man could definitely sympathize with.
Byakuya was pulled from his wandering thoughts when their waitress came by and started taking everyone's order.
“I'll have a Big Kahuna burger,” Inuyasha ordered when it was his turn.
Yura snorted quietly, as if amused by a private joke.
“What?” he asked, annoyed but sarcastically trying to both look and sound as innocent as possible, which earned a quiet snicker from Sango. “It looks good,” he added, which was completely true.
“Oh nothing,” Yura waved off.
Inuyasha didn't understand, at first, because he didn't get what was so amusing about him ordering a burger called the 'Big Kahuna'...but then it dawned on him. It was what he hadn't ordered, instead.
“Did you expect me to order the Big Dog burger?” he asked, everyone else at the table starting to pay a little closer attention while their waitress fidgeted nervously as the scene unfolded before her.
Yura snorted again, trying hard not to completely crack up, which earned quiet snickering from Kagura and Abi although Byakuya sent a meaningful glare Yura's way that she ignored.
Inuyasha, meanwhile, rolled his eyes upward as if begging the kami for patience, and he was even more grateful now that Kikyou hadn't tagged along. He was just about to attempt brushing it off as a stupid joke, saying something along the lines of 'Ha ha, good one,' when Kagome came to his defense in the best way possible.
“Well, you know what? I actually think the Big Dog looks great. In fact, going over all the available choices I think it's the best option available, so that's what I'm going to order.”
She met and held the waitress' gaze, her fake smile plastered firmly in place. It took the waitress a moment to catch on and snap out of it, but then she dutifully jotted down Kagome's order, having already written down Inuyasha's prior to Yura's interruption, and then taking Suikotsu's and Mukotsu's orders she went on her way.
Before the awkward silence could build in her wake, Jakotsu had the perfect stress reliever.
“You're gonna have to let me know how the Big Dog is, girl,” he said, speaking loud enough for Kagome to hear from her place five rows down. “I've been wanting to try it myself for months now,” he added with a wink.
Sango and Kagome both giggled as Inuyasha blushed, unable to help themselves, but even despite the heat he could feel rising up his face Inuyasha chuckled a little, as well. Since while they were technically still 'just friends' they were supposed to be building up towards their fake relationship, he figured it would be appropriate enough to reply with a teasing, “I'll make sure she gives you a full report.”
That earned even more laughter, including from Suikotsu, Bankotsu and Byakuya, and as Yura huffed quietly to herself, annoyed that what she thought was the perfect joke had been ruined, Inuyasha's lips curved upward in a genuine grin of triumph. Not everyone was for him, but neither was everyone against him, and it was that latter realization that he was still finding more and more astonishing with each passing day.
Even though he would never forgive Kikyou for the pain she'd put him through, one thing he was, begrudgingly, grateful to Kikyou for was the way she'd initially helped him to open up and trust other people when they seemed to want to make friends with him. While it'd turned out she'd just been using him the whole time he had inadvertently met genuine friends as a result of her mind games, and thanks to them being there for him in his time of need, his ability to open up to others hadn't been completely destroyed with her betrayal.
While it was painful, if he could actually do it all over again he couldn't honestly say that he would change anything. It was easy to say in a fit of anger that he wished he'd never even met Kikyou, but if he really hadn't met her then he would've most likely never befriended Miroku and the others, either, unless after Miroku had told Kagome about the shy hanyou in his class she would've made it her own personal mission to break through his walls, which he wouldn't put past her had the situation been different, but as it was, Inuyasha was grateful that things had happened the way they had, and he would take the bad with the good, since it meant having his friends. While he was pretty sure he disagreed with the old adage that it was better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, because a part of him really wished he didn't now know what he was missing since he knew from first hand experience that longing for something you wanted but had never had wasn't nearly as painful as actually getting it and then having that happiness ripped away, taunting you with the prospect of never having it ever again, if he could change anything about what'd happened with a wish all he would really wish for was that Kikyou had really loved him, had not been using him and had not broken up with him. With that not an option, he would learn to live with the pain. He had been miserable before Kikyou, after all, it had just been a different kind of misery, of complete isolation and loneliness, and he never wanted to feel that way ever again, either.
Thanks to his friends, he never would.
The rest of the evening thankfully passed by fairly uneventfully. The food arrived in a timely manner and was delicious, and conversation among them remained fairly neutral. A few more people from neighboring tables continued to gripe about him, and twice a couple actually entered the establishment, saw him, and then turned around and left, but miraculously nobody actually started a scene and he wasn't asked to leave. He might have been, had he attempted to eat there alone, but he would not over analyze the situation. Nobody from the staff even spat in his food, so as far as he was concerned the night was a success.
Once everyone headed out into the parking lot Inuyasha was just about to say his goodbyes and get in his car when inspiration struck.
“I know you two had plans after this, so if you want, I can take Kagome home,” he said to Sango and Miroku, before glancing Kagome's way and adding, “If you don't mind, that is.”
Of course, Miroku and Sango had no such plans, Sango actually having planned on just going to bed alone in her own apartment that night since she had an extra early morning with something her father wanted her to do.
Even if she and Miroku had had plans, though, that wouldn't have stopped them from being able to drop Kagome off at her own apartment first, but Inuyasha's friends were getting pretty good at improv and knowing it was a part of the 'plan' Sango immediately chimed in with, “That would be wonderful,” before also turning and meeting Kagome's eyes. “Is that all right with you, Kagome?”
The miko could only hope that Inuyasha thought her sudden increase in heart rate was due to being surprised by the on the fly improvising and fearing she might blunder something if she wasn't as quick on the uptake. As it was, the idea of being alone with him for a few minutes during the drive home was giving her stomach all sorts of butterflies, but in a good way, even though she wished she could tamp down the rising heat she could feel on her cheeks. Knowing at this stage they were just supposed to be 'friends' but also knowing that they were working on building up to their fake relationship, Kagome figured her natural reaction worked just fine for their purposes, if she were supposed to be pretending to be falling in love with him.
Oh what a tangled web we weave...
“Yeah...that'd be fine, if you don't mind,” she finally settled on answering, trying to throw some actual acting into the mix as she looked up at him shyly through her lashes.
There were lots of witnesses as everyone had piled out of Tsubaki's Hideout at the same time, not that they were the center of attention, but she'd noticed at least a few curious sets of eyes glancing their way, so she was actually really proud of Inuyasha for having thought of this because she honestly hadn't, and they would've missed a golden opportunity.
“I offered, didn't I?” he replied with a gentle smile.
Trying to figure what would be the most appropriate reaction to that statement, as a friend who was developing stronger feelings but unlike in real life wasn't trying to hide said developing feelings, she answered simply with, “Oh yeah,” while continuing to look bashful. She then turned quickly to address Sango and Miroku, as if flustered by her reaction to Inuyasha, before stating, “See you tomorrow guys.”
“Goodnight,” Sango answered cheerfully before getting into her boyfriend's car, she and Miroku pulling away.
Kagome walked with Inuyasha through the parking lot to his car, most of their classmates going their own way at that point although she could feel at least a couple of sets of eyes still on them. She didn't dare drop the act, not that she really felt like she was acting all that much to begin with. Actually, it was starting to feel like 'dropping the act' was the act. As soon as she and Inuyasha were truly alone, safely driving down the road, she figured they would probably start talking about their plans for tomorrow in regard to 'the plan,' scheming and plotting and maybe even coming up with a remedial script to follow, all the while she'd have to pretend that she wasn't in love with him and was really only a good platonic friend but nothing more.
When first we practice to deceive... she continued in her mind with a mental sigh. For Inuyasha.
She was doing this for Inuyasha, and for him, she would endure anything.