InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity Redux: Fruition ❯ Visitation ( Chapter 3 )
The pervasively muggy air hung over the city for the tenth straight day, and as evening crept near, it seemed to tuck in closer, like an invisible blanket that was almost stifling. Stepping outside of the Elle Centrion Tower where she worked in a lab on the fiftieth floor, Charity Inutaisho drew a deep breath as her eyes scanned the area, as her hanyou ears, hidden by the concealment spell that kept them from the curious gaze of humans, flicked and turned, taking in the steady stream of sound that made up New York City.
Sensing nothing amiss, she stepped forward onto the sidewalk, debating momentarily, whether she ought to hail a taxi or walk the seven blocks to her apartment. It wasn't a difficult choice. After being cooped up in the lab all day, stretching her legs was very appealing despite the thick haze of heat that had gathered throughout the day, only to culminate in a massive pall.
The sound of the barking dog ringtone—Chelsea Inutaisho had programmed it in, just for her—interrupted Charity's thoughts, and, flipping back a long strand of raven black hair as she strode purposefully down the sidewalk, Charity fished the cell phone out of her shoulder bag and connected the call as she brought the device to her ear. "Moshi moshi," she said in her native Japanese, her voice as soft and clear as the skies high above as evening descended over the city. The night lights were flickering to life all around her, illuminating the boulevard.
Chelsea Inutaisho heaved a melodramatic sigh. "I need a vacation," she stated flatly, foregoing the customary small talk and greetings that should have been forthcoming.
Rolling her eyes at her identical twin's penchant for the overwrought histrionics, Charity laughed. "I thought you had that huge fundraiser tonight," she pointed out. Chelsea was an event planner currently living in Los Angeles, though she spent quite a bit of time here, too. In the background over the line, Charity could hear the ambient murmur, the dulcet tones of a string quartet.
"The fundraiser's going fine," Chelsea explained. "I just need to get the hell away from Warren; that's all."
"I thought you said you dumped him," Charity countered, her gait slowing as she pondered her sister's claim.
Heaving a longsuffering sigh, Chelsea didn't answer right away. "I . . . did," she explained, choosing her words carefully.
"If you broke up with him, then why do you need to get away from him?"
Her twin heaved another sigh. "Yeah, well, I broke up with him . . . and then I got horny."
Somehow, her sister's flip response just didn't surprise Charity in the least. "So dump him again?" she suggested in what she hoped was a helpful tone.
Chelsea uttered a terse 'hrumph'. "You just don't understand, Chare," she muttered. "What that man can do with his dick and tongue?" Another sigh—this one, laced with a very thick dose of absolute longing. "See, he does this thing where he swivels his hips, and—"
"Information I don't really want or need," Charity broke in, fighting down a livid blush despite the fact that her twin couldn't see her face.
Chelsea relented with a giggle. "Too bad he's about as bright as a moonless night . . ."
"You poor thing," Charity commiserated, her tone caught between consoling and entirely facetious.
Chelsea didn't miss it as she giggled once more. "Anyway, I was thinking Barbados . . . What's your schedule look like a the end of September?"
Letting out a deep breath, Charity slowly shook her head. "Can't," she replied with a thoughtful frown. "There's no way I'll be done with my project by then."
Chelsea snorted. "You've heard the phrase, 'all work and no play', right?"
"It's not my fault," Charity insisted. "Oh, I didn't tell you! I figured out that the vestulus pharosa is loosely related to the sirufalum genticala from north Africa, and—"
Chelsea's indelicate snort cut her off. "You know, don't you, that you're the only one who thinks that plants are even remotely interesting, right?"
"Sorry," Charity muttered. As close as the twins were, it was one of the few things that they just never had seen eye to eye on. She had always been fascinated by living things—plants and flowers and the like—which had led her to get her PhD in botany while Chelsea felt that it was her divine calling to make the world better, one party at a time—her exact words.
"All right, all right," Chelsea relented. "So, what are you doing now?"
Brushing off the twinge of guilt inspired by Chelsea's tone of voice, Charity bit her lip, adjusting the shoulder bag as she waited for the street light to change. "Nothing much. I was just walking home, actually."
"Oh, no!" Chelsea groaned. "When's the last time you went out and had some fun, Chare? Let me guess: the last time I was in town and made you go to Harbor with me, right?"
Charity remembered that last outing at the trendiest—and noisiest—new night club in the city, and she made a face. She'd ended up with a headache that had lasted at least three days from the excursion, but Chelsea had loved it, of course. Sometimes, being inu-hanyou held distinct disadvantages, and loud noises tended to be worse on some than it was on others. Just like her father, Charity was one of the ones who seemed to have a lower than normal tolerance for too much noise. None of her other sisters or her younger brother, Mamoruzen—Gunnar—seemed to have a problem with sound. "I'll pass on that, thanks," she muttered.
Chelsea heaved a sigh. "So what do you plan on doing then?"
"Well, I bought a new book," Charity said. "The latest in the Fishers series."
"Kami, no," Chelsea grumped. "Absolutely not! You can't go home and hole yourself up with a book, Charity, not even the Fishers—not on a Friday night! How are we even sisters?"
Breaking into a soft laugh, Charity hurried across the wide street. "Bye, Chels," she said, raising her voice to be heard over her sister's continuing tirade about exactly how boring she thought Charity's social life really was.
Dropping the phone into the bag once more, she sighed.
'Okay, so Chelsea has a point,' she thought wryly. Even though she tended to like quiet evenings at home with a good book or movie, it probably was a rather sad thing to do on a Friday night in New York City. The thing was, Charity really just wasn't that good at the whole mix and mingle game. She'd tried a few times, and she'd failed.
'So you don't like going clubbing. Big deal,' her youkai-voice stated. 'Chelsea does have a point though.'
'Not you, too,' she thought with an inward snort.
'Come on, Cherry. A book and a dried up TV dinner really doesn't sound all that appetizing, now does it?'
'It's one of those microwave pot pies,' she argued. 'Those aren't too bad, you know.'
'Yeah, well, they're not too good, either.'
She didn't bother to respond to that.
The cell phone interrupted whatever rebuttal she had been about to formulate, and with a frown, she dug the device out once more and connected the call. "Did you butt-dial me?" she asked in lieu of the proper greeting.
Chelsea laughed. "Nope," she replied. "I did, however, make dinner plans for you, so you can put the book away for Monday night."
A trill of trepidation raced rampant up her spine, and, sparing a moment to brace herself mentally, Charity counted to twenty before she trusted herself to respond. Given that Chelsea's idea of dinner plans and hers might well be as different as daylight and dark? She sighed inwardly. "What did you do to me?" she asked, her voice dropping in pitch as the very distinct apprehension that had already taken full root crumbled away into a pit of bottomless dread.
Chelsea's amusement rose in direct proportion to the foreboding that wrapped around Charity's gut. "Well, he said that he can't really go out tonight—something about houseguests—but Ben said that you're welcome to come over and have dinner with him."
The air rushed out of Charity in one mighty 'whoosh', and she stopped abruptly, unmindful of the people behind her who might not have appreciated her sudden halt, eyes flaring wide, literally feeling the blood draining out of her face at her sister's cavalier statement. "B . . . Ben?" she echoed dumbly.
Chelsea laughed. "Yes, Ben. Ben!"
"B-B-Ben?" she squeaked. "As in, Ben Philips? That Ben? You . . . You called him?"
"He's expecting you within the hour." Chelsea laughed again. "Thank me later, Chare!"
The line went dead, and Charity groaned, lifting her hands to smash over her face with a low groan and ignoring the dull thump as the cell phone smacked deftly into her nose.
'Ah, Ben . . . Well, now, that's a name I haven't heard you mention lately.'
Face screwing up in a blatant pout, Charity made her feet move as she continued along the sidewalk once more. 'That's because there's nothing to talk about,' she reminded herself—reminded her youkai-voice. 'Never has been, never . . . never will be.'
'And just how do we know this?'
She sighed, feeling her shoulders slump as she bit her lip and frowned at the concrete beneath her feet. 'Because I'm not stupid,' she muttered. 'I've given him plenty of opportunities to notice me, haven't I? And he hasn't, and since he hasn't, then it obviously means that he's just not . . . not interested. He's interested in . . . in her . . .'
'That's what you assume, but you could very well be wrong.'
'I'm not wrong . . . I saw them, remember? I saw them a few times . . .'
Her youkai-voice sighed, but didn't argue with her. 'So what are you going to do, then?'
Making a face, Charity sighed. She ought to just bite the bullet and call Ben, explain to him that she had nothing at all to do with what Chelsea had planned and back out of it as gracefully as she could. After all, he had houseguests, didn't he? Just how brazen must he think she was to just insinuate herself into his plans, anyway . . .?
Her youkai sighed. 'I think we should go,' the voice prompted. 'It's just a dinner, right? Besides, even if we're not interested in Ben anymore, you have to admit that he really is a nice man. Who says you can't just be friends?'
'Just friends . . .' she echoed thoughtfully.
She supposed her youkai-voice had a valid point. After all, as much as she might have liked for something to have developed, it wasn't really his fault if he wasn't attracted to her in the same way that she was. So there wasn't a good reason to cancel, even if her initial reaction was to do exactly that.
With a deep breath that was almost a sigh, Charity stepped inside a small but nice wine store, deciding that she might as well pick up a bottle of something so that she wouldn't show up, empty-handed.
The best course of action, she figured, was to go to this dinner, and hopefully, she'd have the chance to let Ben know that she was sorry for the intrusion—and to throw her well-meaning but entirely irritating twin under the bus for it all.
Refreshing her grip on the bottle of wine, Charity descended the stone stairs of the understated but graceful Philips townhouse and bit her lip as she used her free hand to smooth the simple black dress that wasn't too fancy, but wasn't too casual—absolutely perfect for a laid-back dinner with friends—or so her youkai-voice had assured her. She wasn't entirely convinced, but she hadn't bothered to change since she was running a little late for the hour timeframe that Chelsea had mentioned. It'd have to do.
Stepping up to the curb, she lifted her hand to hail a taxi, murmuring the North American youkai general's address as she closed the door and settled back against the seat, wondering yet again, just why she was going through with this in the first place.
Damn Chelsea and her penchant for doing whatever occurred to her, and who cared about the consequences? It wasn't the first time that the woman's impetuousness had landed Charity in a sticky situation, and she was sure that it wouldn't be the last, either.
She sighed, wondering exactly how much of a social faux pas it would be if she just told the taxi driver to turn around and drive her right back home.
The last time she had actually seen Ben had been at her second-cousin, Evan's wedding a couple weeks ago, but even then, she hadn't had occasion to speak to him then, either, and that was probably just as well. The few times she had seen him, he'd been talking to other people with that easy grace, that ready smile that she . . .
'That you, what?'
'Nothing,' she insisted tightly. 'Nothing at all.'
'You know, it's pretty bad if you can't even admit things to yourself,' her youkai-voice pointed out.
Charity frowned. 'It's not a big deal,' she argued. 'Let it go.'
''Fess up: it bothered you to see that woman—Myrna. You hated seeing her, hanging onto his arm. You hated seeing him laugh at the things she was saying to him, and you really, really hated, watching him dance with her, too . . .'
Wincing inwardly at the deadly accuracy of her youkai's words, she pressed her lips together in a thin line and tightened her grip on the wine bottle in her hands. Sure, she'd seen Ben a few times before that, but most of those times, he hadn't been alone, and a couple of the times, he had been with Myrna Loy having dinner or coffee, and in the end, she hadn't bothered to approach him then, either . . .
At those times, she'd tried to convince herself that she simply hadn't wanted to disturb them since they'd seemed to be deep in conversation. She'd tried to tell herself that it wasn't surprising that the two of them were together, considering Myrna worked for Cain Zelig and so did Ben. That's what she'd wanted to think, and a part of her might even have believed that.
Until the wedding, that was. Seeing the two of them . . .
"Suppose you tell me why you're being so quiet?"
Blinking as she leaned away far enough to meet her grandfather's amber gaze, Charity smiled, unleashing the single dimple that was carved deeply into her right cheek. "Am I?"
Sesshoumaru Inutaisho quirked an eyebrow without missing a step of the slow waltz on the dance floor that had been created just for the wedding reception. "Between you and your twin, it wasn't often that we were able to get a word in edgewise, if I recall."
She laughed. "We were pups then, ojii-san," she reminded him as she wrinkled her nose. "I don't talk that much, do I?"
A slight quirking of his lips, a marked brightness in his gaze were the only outward signs of the Inu no Taisho's amusement, but the slight fluctuation in his youki attested to it, too. "Not as much as your twin, no," he allowed. "Coral doesn't speak enough. Chelsea speaks all the time. You and your sister, Cassidy are the happy mediums, I suppose."
Her smile widened as she closed her eyes for a moment, savoring the comfortable sense of well-being that her grandfather always inspired in her. All too soon, though, the song ended, and he nodded, stepping back with a slight bow.
Charity giggled as another song started, as Chelsea grabbed Sesshoumaru's hands to dance.
Making her way over to the side, Charity's smile faltered as she caught sight of Ben, standing beside Cain. His gaze rose to lock with hers, and he offered her a smile. She was about to return the sentiment when Myrna Loy stepped up beside the youkai general and slipped her hand up under his forearm in a blatantly possessive kind of way. She said something to him—Ben had to lean in to hear her—and his smile widened at whatever she'd had to say.
Charity frowned, accepting a glass of champagne from a passing waiter before slipping into a seat at an unoccupied table nearby. Gaze fixed on the two youkai, she felt herself sigh as Ben gestured then led Myrna toward the dance floor.
Shaking away the lingering memory, Charity shifted on the uncomfortable vinyl covered bench seat.
She really shouldn't have been surprised, should she? After all, Myrna Loy really was a beautiful woman. Tall, gorgeous, with the kind of looks that were often considered 'California Girl', she always looked like she could have easily stepped right out of the pages of Vogue. Maybe it was her hawk lineage. Maybe it was the way her light brown, almost golden, hair always seemed perfectly contrived into a mass of what could only be described as 'bed hair', the loose curls falling around her in a cascading stream of light. Maybe it was the startling directness in the woman's golden eyes, eyes that weren't quite dark enough to be considered brown but weren't as startlingly golden as many of the Inu no Taisho's clan. What did it matter, really, when Charity couldn't profess to having any of those traits herself. Always a little more on the mousy side, a little less noticeable, she wasn't tall but she wasn't short. She wasn't stick skinny, but she didn't possess the curves that men seemed to crave. She wasn't any of those things, and, at best, Charity figured that the reality of the situation was that she was a little more forgettable overall, and Ben?
If she were to be completely honest with herself, she would have to admit that they looked perfect together, Myrna and Ben, like some kind of fairytale prince and princess, and that was the realization that had really struck Charity that day. Despite the woman's sordid background, she'd managed to capture the upstanding general's full attention, and didn't that just figure?
'But you know, Ben's always been friendly to us, too,' her youkai pointed out gently. 'Maybe that's all there is to it . . . Maybe he's just being nice to Myrna, too.'
Charity shook her head. 'Of course he was,' she replied. 'He's a general and a really sweet man. Why wouldn't he humor the daughter of the current Japanese tai-youkai?'
'And since when do you sit around, feeling sorry for yourself? I raised you better than that.'
Breaking into the barest hint of a smile at the complete and utter censure in her youkai's voice, Charity sighed. 'I'm not . . . I'm just being realistic; that's all. I'm not commanding like Coral or outgoing and friendly like Cass. I'm not outrageous and fearless like Chelsea . . . I'm not any of those things, and that's okay. I just wish . . .' Trailing off as the taxi pulled to a stop. Leaning forward to hand the fare over the seat, she murmured her thanks before climbing out of the vehicle and straightening her skirt once more as she straightened her back, as she stared up at the imposing edifice: Ben Philips' townhouse.
Feel free to let me know what you're thinking so far ... It helps to encourage me to keep posting!
Moshi moshi: common Japanese telephone greeting.
== == == == == == == == == ==
Silent Reader ——— sutlesarcasm ——— Halfdemon
Athena_Evarinya ——— Kindra ——— kds1222 ——— Toby ——— minthegreen ——— TimeWandrer ——— NyteAngel
lianned88 (from chapter 1 … I missed you; I'm sorry!!) ——— lovethedogs
Final Thought from Chelsea:
Charity can thank me later!
Blanket disclaimer for this fanfic (will apply to this and all other chapters in Fruition): I do not claim any rights to InuYasha or the characters associated with the anime/manga. Those rights belong to Rumiko Takahashi, et al. I do offer my thanks to her for creating such vivid characters for me to terrorize.