InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity Redux: Fruition ❯ Surprises ( Chapter 4 )

[ X - Adult: No readers under 18. Contains Graphic Adult Themes/Extreme violence. ]
~~Chapter Four~~
~Surp rises~

~o~


"May I help you?"

Blinking in surprise at the older eagle youkai opened the door, Charity took a step back in retreat.  "Oh, sorry . . . I'm Charity Inutaisho . . . Is this . . .?  I mean, Ben . . . Ben Philips is expecting me . . .?"

The woman nodded as understanding dawned on her, and she opened the door wider, gesturing Charity inside.  "I'm Eddie, Ben's housekeeper.  He mentioned that he was expecting a dinner guest.  Come right in; come right in."

Stepping past the woman into the formal entry hall of the townhouse, Charity slowly glanced around as her footsteps echoed against the marble floors and wall panels as the foyer space stretched straight up, spanning three stories where it arched into a dramatic cathedral ceiling, complete with a dramatic and intricate crystal chandelier suspended overhead.  A gently winding staircase of the same sand-tone marble rose off to the right; a high arch edged in ornately carved marble shades darker than the paneling led to what looked to be the living room off to the left.  From her vantage point, she could see the warmth projected from that room, decorated in brushed golds, muted greens, and shining dark wood trim.  Thick, overstuffed furniture was arranged near a hulking  fireplace, but the room wasn't overly furnished, either, giving an airier feel to the space, despite the choice of darker hues.

Shifting her gaze again, she smiled at the huge bank of windows straight ahead through another generous arch that overlooked a private garden beyond.  She really wanted to head straight for that garden, but that would be rude, all things considered.  She had never actually been inside Ben's house before, and she had to admit, it was quite a revelation.

"Ben's upstairs . . . I don't think he'd mind if you go on up.  Is that for him?" Eddie asked, gesturing at the bottle of wine still clenched in Charity's hands.

She took the wine and hurried away through the arch with the wall of windows.  "I'll just let this breathe a bit," she called over her shoulder as she disappeared from view.  Left all alone, Charity drew a deep breath and slowly, hesitantly, headed for the stairs.

When she got to the top landing in the wide great room that overlooked the foyer below, she frowned, realizing too late that, other than the vague 'upstairs', she really had no idea just where Ben was, either.

"Ben?" she called, raising her voice just enough for it to carry.

Down a hallway she saw the light spilling from an open doorway, and she cautiously stepped forward as Ben's voice drifted back to her.  "In here."

Quickening her pace, she wasn't entirely sure what she expected to find.  If she had stopped to think about it, she might have actually wondered if entering the more private reaches of the townhouse was really a good idea.  She couldn't help but to feel as though she was intruding, even if Ben had invited her.  The same marble carried over up here, yet it didn't give a cold or formal kind of air.  Maybe it had something to do with the sparse paintings that adored a few of the walls or the few but fabulously luxurious area rugs: the large one in the middle of the great room and a matching one that ran the length of the hallway beyond.  She didn't stop to examine anything, but one of the paintings, she could tell as she passed, looked like one of Cain's distinctive works.  Drawing a deep breath—she wasn't sure why she felt as though she needed to steel her resolve—she stepped into the doorway and blinked, shaking her head at the strange sight that greeted her.

Sitting in the middle of the floor of the airy and spacious room with pieces of some kind of furniture spread around him, he looked entirely unlike the Ben she'd come to know, which might have been because of the clothes he wore—black sweat pants and no shirt.  Had she ever seen him wearing anything but the countless suits—impeccably tailored to fit, of course?  'N . . . No,' she mused as her eyes lingered on the bared expanse of very blatantly male skin he'd exposed.  No, she hadn't . . .

'Do you think he'll notice that we're staring?'

'Oh, uh, what . . .?'

'Cherry, he's going to if you keep it up.'

'Keep up . . .?'

Her youkai voice sighed.  'The staring; the staring.  I mean, I agree with you.  He's . . . hot, isn't he?  Is that even the right word?  I mean, just look at him . . . and just what in the world is he doing?'

'The . . . uh . . . oh!  Oh, yeah . . .' Blinking quickly, she forced her eyes to move, but when she noticed the two infants, sleeping in tiny bouncer seats on either side of him, the scene fell into place in her head.

'It's a . . .' she thought absently as she watched him scowl at the paper leaflet in one hand, a screwdriver held loosely in the other.  He didn't seem to notice her as she lingered in the doorway.  So busy, concentrating on the assembly instructions, he turned his head just enough to use his shoulder to nudge his glasses back up his nose.

"Ben . . .?" she said at last, breaking the silence while careful to keep her voice down, lest she wake up the babies.

He glanced up at her and smiled as the screwdriver fell from his grasp, thumping dully on the thick off-white area rug he was sitting on, and he dropped the booklet onto the floor.  "Charity, hi," he greeted, pushing himself to his feet and stepping around the pieces scattered on the floor with a cat-like dexterity.  "Sorry . . . I lost track of time," he admitted.  "They delivered the cribs a couple hours ago, but I didn't think to ask them if they came pre-assembled.  Guess I should have."

"Cribs?" she echoed, shaking her head in confusion as she stared in abject bemusement at the youkai's bared skin.  For a man who spent an awful lot of time, stuck behind a desk, he was in absolutely remarkable shape, and, while she'd seen other men without their shirts before, there was something entirely different about Ben, too: something wild and brilliant that he wore like a second skin, that he owned in such a way that it was almost an afterthought.  Strong, sinewy muscles that were a little bit larger than she would have thought, given that he was a panther-youkai, there was something almost overwhelming about his presence, even if she knew well enough that he wasn't trying to intimidate her in the least.  No, she never had seen a shirtless man quite like Ben, and of the ones she had seen in real life, she figured that it didn't count when most of the other men she had seen were related to her . . .

"And a changing table," he added for good measure, oblivious to her line of thought as he jerked his head toward a still-sealed box that was currently leaning against the far wall.

Shaking herself mentally as her cheeks heated slightly, dragging her eyes off Ben's chest, she raised an eyebrow in question.  "Why do you have babies?"

Sparing a glance over his shoulder at the still-sleeping infants, Ben shrugged.  "Zelig was challenged, and the man's mate gave birth to them shortly after.  She asked Zelig to find them a good home, so I'm keeping them."

"You're keeping them?" Somewhere in the back of her mind, she realized that she was sounding more and more stupid every time she repeated what he said.  Too bad her brain just wasn't up to making sense of anything at the moment.  Stepping around Ben, she carefully navigated the pieces of the unassembled crib to kneel beside the babies.  So tiny, so sweet, they slept as though there was nothing in the world that could hurt them.  Rosy cheeks, tiny fists with claws that were so tiny, so delicate, they were almost transparent, they were . . . they were . . . 'Beautiful . . .'

Ben made a face, but the smile returned almost immediately as he crossed his arms over his chest and pivoted on his heel to face Charity once more.  "Uh, yeah.  Well, until we're able to find a good home for them, anyway . . ."

She shook her head.  "So it's only temporary?"  Then she giggled and waved a hand dismissively.  "I don't know if I could do that," she allowed as she gently reached out, rubbed her index finger over a tiny, tiny fist.  "They're so sweet . . . I think I'd get too attached to give them up to someone else."

A sudden flicker of emotion surfaced on Ben's features, only to disappear as quickly as it had come.  She didn't see it since her gaze was still fixed on the infants.  "Y-Yeah," he agreed as the light of amusement faded slowly from his eyes.  "Only . . . temporarily . . ."


-==========-


"I was surprised when Chelsea called," Ben remarked as he held out a chair for Charity, noting the ever-present scent of clean air, of wind that rippled through fields of wheat and that sun-baked brown that was as comforting to him as it was inviting.  She slipped into the seat, and he helped her move it into place at the heavy oak table as she shot him an uncertain little smile that he returned.  It struck him, not for the first time, exactly how beautiful the woman truly was.  Black hair as dark as the deepest part of the night when shadows could easily shift into something frightening, there was a calm about her that beckoned him, an easy familiarity that he'd noticed before.  But it was the heightened sparkle in those startling amber eyes of hers that lingered in his mind.  One of the first things he'd ever noticed about her was the way that every single thought she had, every emotion, was always there, shining through her eyes . . .

She cleared her throat almost nervously as she spared him another quick glance while he sat down in the chair next to her at the end of the table.  "Oh, uh, a-about that," she blurted, shaking her head as though she were trying to refute something.  "I didn't know she was going to do that.  I really didn't mean to intrude.  I'm so sorry . . ."

Ben chuckled as he shook out the linen napkin and slipped it onto his lap.  He'd ducked into his room long enough to pull on a shirt before scooping up the babies in their seats and escorting Charity to the dining room.

"It's fine," he assured her.  "I'm rather glad she did."

Charity blinked in surprise, pausing mid-bite to stare at him for a moment before resuming her task of chewing and swallowing before she responded.  "You are?"

He nodded.  "I . . . I enjoy spending time with you," he admitted.  Somewhere in the back of his mind, he could feel the slight heat of a blush slipping into his cheeks.

What was it about her that had the power to rattle him so much?  It wasn't the first time he'd realized such a thing, but it was unsettling, just the same.

She didn't respond right away as she carefully pushed the food around her plate with her fork.  He'd noticed her habit of doing that before.  It must have been a nervous kind of habit while she considered what she wanted to say.  "I do, too," she finally murmured without lifting her gaze from the plate.  "I, uh . . ."

The sudden fussing of a very unhappy cub interrupted Charity before she got a chance to get out whatever she was trying to say.  Ben started to get up, but she stopped him with a hand on his, and he shot her a cursory glance.  "I'll get her," she said as she stood up and whirled around to unfasten the infant and to carefully lift her from the bouncer seat.

Nadia stopped crying almost instantly as Charity cooed at her, slowly wandering back to the table while Ben stood and came around to help her sit down once more.  The infant seemed happy enough, just to be held for the moment, though Ben figured it wouldn't be long before she was ready for her next bottle, but he figured that it could wait for a little bit, anyway.

"She's just gorgeous," Charity commented quietly as she let the baby wrap her little fist around her index finger.  "Her eyes are just beautiful . . . Are they identical twins?"

"Yeah," Ben replied, setting back in his chair once more.  "I can hold her if you want to keep eating," he offered.

"Oh, no," she said, smiling down at the infant who blinked those large golden eyes at the hanyou woman.  "What's her name?"

Ben smiled.  "That's Nadia, and her sister is Emmeline."

"What pretty names," Charity mused, snuggling the baby close.  "So these are your houseguests, huh?"

Ben chuckled, fully enjoying the sight of Charity with Nadia in her arms.  "Yes," he allowed with an offhanded shrug.

'You know, she looks damn good with a cub in her arms, doesn't she?'

Ben smiled at his youkai-voice's casual assessment.  'She . . . She does . . .'

'Well, you know . . . She always looks damn good.'

'That, too . . .'

His youkai sighed.  'And just so you know?  Those old reasons that you used to rattle off about why you shouldn't make a more direct move to gain her attention?  They don't really work anymore.'

Ben made a face at the reminder.  How often had he said as much, at least, to himself, over the years, really since the first time he'd noticed her?  Too young, too naïve, too, well, everything . . . Those were the things he'd told himself back then, more than twenty years ago when he'd first met her at one of Gin Izayoi's benefit soirees.

Gin had re-introduced them since it was the first time he'd seen her since she was little more than a child, running around the Zelig estate with her hair up in pigtails as she chased her brother, Gunnar around the yard with the other children of that generation.  The young woman that was presented to him that night at the benefit was only nineteen years old—no longer a child—which had been shocking to him, and yet, she wasn't quite a mature woman, either.  Caught in that difficult and uncomfortable area somewhere between the two extremes, she had smiled shyly, had acquiesced easily as he'd danced with her, but it was the foreign and entirely welcome draw of her that had, at that time, forced him to take a step back, not because he wanted to do so, but for her sake.  A girl her age?  She should be out there in the world, he reasoned, starting to live her life, gaining the experiences that would mold her into the person she would one day be, and as fascinated as Ben was with her at that time, he also knew, didn't he, that he was much too old for it not to matter in the long run.  He'd had a chance to live, to succeed and to fail, to do all those things that had formed him into the man he was, but she . . . She hadn't, not back then . . . All in all, it had felt like the old saying, right person, wrong time.

And that's what he'd told himself about her over and over again . . .

"I'm just surprised . . ." Charity said, snapping Ben right back to the present.  She didn't seem to have taken note of his preoccupation, and that was just as well.  "I mean, I would have thought that oji-san would have taken them home with him," she clarified.

"He pinched them," Ben lied glibly.

Her mouth dropped open and she shot him a look.  "He did not!" she blurted as a giggle welled up in her and spilled out.

He laughed, too.  "Okay, no, he didn't.  But they were crying when he got here.  Said that they'd been crying since he'd left the hospital with them.  They cried the whole trip here from Chicago."

She frowned thoughtfully as she shifted Nadia to snuggle against her shoulder.  "Maybe they sense the disruption . . . Maybe they sensed that their mama wasn't there."

That thought had occurred to Ben, as well, but he wasn't versed enough in the actual physiology and mentality of youkai infants to make an educated guess.  Even so, he figured that it might have something to do with the underlying instincts—something that each youkai was born knowing.  They may not have perceived Zelig to be a threat, per se, but maybe there was simply something about the tai-youkai's demeanor, maybe the regret or sense of guilt that he might have felt, that had caused the infants to react to him in such a way.

Charity sighed and slowly shook her head as she reached for her fork and took another bite of the wonderfully grilled steak on her plate.  Taking her time while she chewed, she seemed to be considering something.  "But . . . But how will you ever give them up?" she asked at last, setting aside the fork in favor of gently rubbing Nadia's back.  Then she sighed.  "I'm sorry.  It's just that they're just so small and helpless and . . ."

Frowning thoughtfully, Ben pushed aside his plate and considered what she said.  It was what would be best for the twins, and that was what was important.  Youkai children did not grow up in a one parent environment.  It just didn't happen.  Given that it was impossible for one mate to survive if the other died, it was kind of an all-or-nothing situation.

Gaze shifting to the side, falling upon the still sleeping Emmeline, Ben's frown deepened as he got up and retrieved her from her seat before returning to the table once more.  She yawned and stretched, but didn't wake up.

Even if it was possible, Ben couldn't do it—couldn't just keep them.  He was busy most of the time, as it was.  Between handling his duties as Zelig's head general, not to mention the responsibilities of managing Zelig's art, he had a full-time gig: one that often led to him being away from home for days or weeks at a time.  Trying to fit the twins into that kind of schedule . . . It wouldn't be fair to them, now would it?

No, what the girls needed—deserved—was something that Ben didn't have to give them: stability and the full and undivided attention of two parents.

Glancing up long enough to catch Charity's shy smile, he returned the expression as he settled Emmeline against his shoulder.  "I can't get over how adorable they are," she said.

Ben chuckled.  "They won't be nearly as adorable if I don't get those cribs put together," he joked.  "Don't suppose you know anything about furniture assembly . . .?"

"Not really," she admitted.  Then she shrugged.  "I can read instructions, though."

Ben snorted.  "Good, then, because I'm pretty sure that the ones that came with it are written in Greek."

Her laugh was soft, gentle, soothing, and it sent a sudden and entirely pleasant ripple right up his spine.  "I'd be happy to help you . . . Uh, if . . . If you want, that is . . ."

"I'd love that," he assured her.

As if on cue, a sudden screech interrupted the conversation.  Nadia, apparently, had decided that she was tired of just being cuddled.  "Oh, are you hungry?" Charity crooned softly to the upset infant as she patted her back and stood up.  "It's okay!  We'll go find you a bottle, won't we?"

Before she had a chance to go far, though, Eddie breezed into the room with two bottles ready to go.  She handed one to Charity and set the other on the table beside Ben.

"Thanks," he called after her as she retreated toward the kitchen once more.

The housekeeper waved a hand over her shoulder and kept moving.  Charity settled down, and the crying was thwarted by the bottle.


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A/N:
Just mentioning, I'm posting this story the same way I posted Purity and Chronicles: without a beta.  If you see mistakes, please feel free to let me know so I can fix them.  A lot of times, I don't catch my own mistakes because I know what should be there, so my brain convinces me that it is.  Sorry for any grammar/spelling mistakes ahead of time.  I hope you're enjoying the story, and let me know you are if the mood strikes you!

Oji-san: uncle.  In this case, Charity's referring to Cain.
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Reviewers
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MMorg
Silent Reader (I shall try … I'm stupidly excited about this one!) ——— Heaven-Lee NSI (*sniffle*  Thank you!) ——— Halfdemon (I'm glad  you're enjoying … Charity is such a sweet woman, she's a lot of fun!) ——— CatLover260 (lol possible, but she was too distracted by shirtless Ben lol)
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AO3
WhisperingWolf ——— Athena_Evarinya ——— kds1222 ——— NyteAngel ——— minthegreen
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Forum
lovethedogs ——— lianned88
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Final Thought from Charity:
Babies!!!
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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.

~Sue~

Chapter 3
Chapter 5
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