InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity Redux: Fruition ❯ Interloper ( Chapter 23 )
"I think I've found my mate."
Glancing up from the paperwork he was reading through as he tried to balance Emmeline on his lap and to keep her flailing hands away from what he was working on, Ben shot his brother a questioning look. "Oh? Who's that?"
Kyouhei dropped into a chair opposite the wide desk and heaved a very contented sigh. "Charity," he stated simply. "She's . . . She's amazing."
The fountain pen in Ben's hand snapped in half, and he grimaced as the ink flowed out all over his hand. "Damn . . ."
Kyouhei blinked and sat up a little straighter. "Ben? Are you all right?"
He ground his teeth together as he swiveled the chair to drop the broken pen into the trash can. "Never better," he growled, scowling at the dark blue staining his hand and all the papers he had on his desk. Emmeline saw it and lunged to try to touch his hand. "Can you?" he asked, nodding at his daughter.
Kyouhei stood up and grabbed the squirrely baby. "That's a hell of a mess."
"Yeah, that was my favorite pen," Ben remarked, digging through the desk drawers with one hand, searching for something to help him clean up the mess.
Kyouhei carefully settled Emmeline on his lap before turning his attention back to his brother once more. Emmeline pitched forward, only to be caught securely by Kyouhei's hand, and he chuckled when she managed to bite down on his finger and half-chewed, half-suckled for all she was worth as she hummed out a silly baby symphony.
"Anyway," Ben went on with a sigh as he dug a kerchief out of his pocket to wipe his hand on instead, "why would you say something like that? You've known her for, what? Three days?"
"Do you really think that it would take that long?" Kyouhei mused. "I mean, I always imagined that it'd be something you knew instantly, don't you think?"
"No," Ben grumbled, scowling at his hand. "I don't."
"Smart, beautiful, kind . . . I don't think I've ever met anyone quite like her before," Kyouhei went on. "She's just so . . . so warm, so . . . so sweet . . ."
"You should think about getting out more," Ben muttered.
Kyouhei blinked and frowned at Ben. "You don't think she's all those things?"
"She is," Ben allowed, tossing the kerchief down since it wasn't helping and was, in fact, just making the mess even bigger. "She's not your mate."
"I'll admit, I was surprised, too," Kyouhei remarked. "I asked her out to dinner, though, and she said she'd love to go."
"You what?" Ben demanded, inky hand forgotten.
He chuckled, kissing Emmeline on top of her head. "I'd better go get ready," he said. His smile faded slightly as he glanced at Ben and shook his head. "I'll take her to her mama," he said, altering his course and heading for the archway instead.
Ben watched him go as a low growl issued from him. 'She's not his . . . There's no fucking way . . . Damn it!'
'Then why didn't you tell him?'
'What? I did! I told him that there's no way she's his mate, and—'
'Stupid. Why didn't you just tell him that she's your mate?'
Shooting to his feet, he stalked off, refusing to answer that particular question and glaring at his ink-covered-hand. Eddie glanced up from mopping the floor when he strode into the kitchen, only to do a double take as she straightened her back and slowly shook her head. "Okay, where's the rest of that mess?" she demanded.
Ben grunted something entirely unintelligible as he yanked off his shirt—he'd gotten splatters of ink all over it, too—and tossed it in the general direction of the trash can. "Office," he grumbled as he jerked on the water tap and reached for the soap. "Don't worry about it. I'll get it."
She snorted, completely ignoring what he said. "What'd you do? Break your pen on purpose?" she demanded, yanking open the long cupboard on the far side of the refrigerator where she kept the cleaning supplies.
"No," he snapped, cheeks pinking despite the irritation apparent on his face.
She stopped and leaned back, peering at him around the cupboard door. "You still haven't made up with Miss Charity, have you?" she asked.
"I've been trying," he grumbled, scrubbing hard at the ink with the fingernail brush. The bristled turned blue, but the color didn't budge from his skin. "All she does is tells me that it's 'fine', that I don't owe her any explanations."
Eddie snorted indelicately. "Then you're not trying hard enough," she maintained in an entirely accusatory tone. "Stop being a dumbass, and go make her listen."
Sparing a moment to glower at the housekeeper, Ben narrowed his gaze menacingly. "I could fire you, you know," he pointed out.
She rolled her eyes. "No, you can't."
"What do you mean, I can't? I can, and if you don't stop harassing me, I will . . ."
Another snort. "You cannot. You'll never find another housekeeper on earth who will put up with you and your sick towel fetish every damn day—That, and if you did fire me, I'd go draw unemployment, just to spite you."
Ben shut off the tap and gave his hands a quick shake before reaching for one of the pristine white kitchen towels. "Instead of thinking up new and different ways to try to insult me, why don't you tell me how to get her to listen to me, then?"
He could feel her gaze on him, and he didn't have to look to verify it. "Have you tried just saying that you're sorry?"
"Of course, I did," he snapped. "What? Do you think I'm that stupid?"
"Kind of," Eddie shot back. "And I don't mean, I'm sorry, followed by a bunch of bullshit that doesn't matter anyway. I mean, have you said just those two words?"
He opened his mouth to retort, then snapped it closed again. No, he hadn't done that, had he? But it couldn't be that simple, and Ben wasn't fool enough to think it could be.
"Sometimes just hearing those two words goes a long way toward making people sit still long enough to hear the rest of it," she went on. "Quit overanalyzing everything, and just try saying that you're sorry before you lose the best thing that's happened to you in . . . in centuries."
"Hey, sugar. What can I get you?"
Blinking slowly as he glanced up at the tired old waitress, he shrugged. "Beer," he said, slapping a wrinkled and rumpled five dollar bill down on the table.
"Aight," she said, grabbing the money as she sauntered away. "Be right back."
The place reeked. No worse, really, than the places back home, but the unsettling sense of unfamiliarity was enough to keep him on edge. The whole area, he'd found, positively reeked of them—those dogs. Made sense, he supposed, given that the lot of them tended to congregate here. This was considered their domain, their stronghold.
Damn bastards, every last one of them.
The buzz of his cell phone nearly made him jump, and he dug it out of the inside pocket of the beat up leather jacket with a scowl. "Yeah, what?" he answered, careful to keep his voice lowered despite the heavy growl that delineated his words.
"Have you found out anything yet?"
Hecht Unker grunted, completely ignoring the waitress as she slipped the beer onto the table and thumped down his change before hurrying away without a word. "Just got here, damn it. If you were so fucking impatient, you shoulda come out here your-damn-self."
"Just do what we sent you out there to do. You got that?"
Clicking off the phone, he dropped it into his pocket once more and reached for the beer bottle.
He'd heard that they sometimes came in here when they were in town: at least, the younger ones did. The Zelig, he'd heard, didn't actually leave his mansion very often, except for the quick trip to the store and whatnot, but that was all right, too, given that he didn't really want to chance running into that particular youkai . . .
"You had no right! She didn't do a thing!"
"You're wrong, you know," Zelig said, the wind whipping his ponytail into his face, swirling around him like a golden cloud, even in the moonlight. "She did. She killed people—humans—and you know as well as I do that I cannot ignore something like that."
"You didn't even know her!" Hiram Unker spat, eyes shining with a half-mad light. From where Hecht watched, hidden by the bank of bushes off to the left of the two who stood, mere feet separating them on the crest of the hill, Hecht dug his claws into the soft earth beneath his feet, absently thankful for the wind that carried his scent away.
"You don't want to do this, Unker," Zelig said, his voice calm, soft, yet powerful, carrying to Hecht with ease. "You and I both know how this is going to end, so just be smart and take back your challenge. I'll let it go if you do, no prejudice."
"The hell you will! Don't you fucking look down on me! You, who dare to look down on us all, bringing your damned hanyou of a son before us—You, who think that we won't care! Then you think you can judge us? Condemn us? You don't know shit, Zelig! Damn you!"
He dashed forward, claws outstretched, his anger nudging aside any reason that he had. Zelig sidestepped him easily, not seeking to engage the irate cougar-youkai, but not discounting the threat he posed, either.
'He . . . He doesn't want to fight Hiram, at all,' Hecht thought as he gritted his teeth, as he watched his uncle lunge time and again—and miss, time and again, too. It wasn't that Zelig was weak, no, he simply didn't want to fight . . .? And why? Wasn't the tai-youkai supposed to be the toughest of them all? And if he possessed that kind of strength, what would stop him from using it to ensure his victory?
This time, Hiram lunged, but Zelig made no move to avoid him as his arm flashed out, as he caught Hiram by the throat and shoved him so hard that Hiram fell back, rolled a good twenty feet before he stopped himself, before he slowly pushed himself upright again. "Go home, Hiram," Zelig stated once more, his tone deathly quiet as a teal glow erupted around him, tossing his hair that had come dislodged from the low-hanging ponytail he'd worn. "I won't ask you again. Take back your challenge, and live to see another day."
The howl that stared low in his throat escalated as Hiram shot forward once more, his body pulsing, morphing, limbs starting to elongate as he closed the distance between himself and the tai-youkai. Zelig heaved a sigh—Hecht had to wonder just how he could hear that—and he stretched out his arm, hand open wide, palm up, as a flicker of teal light sparkled and grew. Then he threw it at Hiram's feet, and the light erupted as Hiram was caught, suspended in motion, as tendrils of smoke rose from his body. A moment later, Hiram's body disintegrated, exploded in a flash of light and wind and dust, and, as the light died away, Zelig shook his head, let his arm drop to his side as he bowed his head and closed his eyes for a moment.
Hecht had run away then, refusing to stop until he'd reached home. His father was waiting for word, and he'd told him what he'd seen. Well, most of it, anyway. There were parts of it that he hadn't been able to put into words, things about it—about the Zelig—that he just didn't comprehend—like why he'd bothered to give Hiram a chance to back out—not once, but twice. It didn't make sense.
He'd been raised to believe that strength was everything—the only thing—that mattered. If you had that strength, that power, then the world would bow to you. To give it away? To offer a compromise? That was weakness, wasn't it? And if that really was weakness, then why? Why was the Zelig the one who walked away from it?
All he knew was that, as Hiram's kin, the Zelig had no right to take those babies. His mother had said that she'd take them in, that she'd bring them up the right way, and she'd asked Hecht to come here, to find out just where the twins were. They should be with their own kind, shouldn't they? That really was the bottom line.
In order to take them home, though, he needed to find out just where they were. He'd half-hoped that the Zelig still had them in his care, but he'd asked around enough to find out that the Zelig's mate was pregnant, and if that was the case, then surely he hadn't taken the babies home with him.
Too bad this area made him uneasy. All he could really do was to hope that he could get the information he wanted sooner rather than later, because he couldn't help but to feel as though it was a bad idea to stick around longer than he needed to . . .
'So, tell me exactly why we're doing this . . .?'
'Because . . . He asked, and he's nice enough . . .'
'And that's our criteria these days? Some random guy asks you out, and you say yes because he asked? Are we really that bad off, Cherry?'
She sighed inwardly. '. . . Kind of . . .'
Which was true enough, she figured. Despite her initial reaction to Ben's younger brother, she had discovered to her welcome surprise that he had been nothing but pleasant and easy to get along with since—and, she had to admit—he was a pretty good distraction from everything else that she didn't want to think about, too.
Sparing a glance at the man walking along beside her, Charity pulled her jacket a little closer against the chill in the early November evening air. He'd offered to hail a taxi for the ride home, but the restaurant they'd decided upon was only a couple blocks away, so it seemed kind of stupid to do that when it was just as simple to walk the distance.
They'd enjoyed a very nice dinner, and then they'd walked another block to the theater to see The Longing of the Ten, a romantic drama that Charity had been wanting to see. The movie wasn't nearly what it was hyped to be, which was fairly disappointing over all.
Kyouhei sighed, though his expression was still congenial enough. Hands deep in the pockets of his flawless evening suit, he had clubbed his golden brown hair back in a low pony tail that hung over his shoulder in a careless sort of way. It struck Charity once more, just how pretty the man truly was, which amused her, considering she'd always believed that there wasn't really anyone on earth that could possibly rival her brother in that department, and, judging from the very appreciative looks he was garnering from random females in passing, she wasn't the only one who thought so . . .
"There's someone else on your mind, isn't there?" he asked as they drew to a stop at a crosswalk. He didn't sound very upset by the idea, but he did look a little sad.
"Wh-What?" she stammered, grimacing inwardly at the apparent inability to hide her own feelings.
He chuckled softly as the light turned green and they started across the intersection. "I must admit, I'm a little jealous," he said. "Can't get your mind off the girls, can you?"
"The girls," she repeated, willing her heartbeat to slow down to a manageable level once more. "Y-Yeah . . . I mean, I'm sure they're fine. They're with Ben, after all . . ."
"I have to admit, I'm not very used to being around babies," Kyouhei admitted.
"But they seem to like you well enough," she pointed out. "They haven't screamed at you or anything . . ."
He laughed. "Have they screamed at other people?"
Charity made a face despite the smile that she couldn't suppress. "Actually, yes. They didn't like Cain-oji-san very much . . . That was why Ben offered to take them in, to start with."
"All right," Kyouhei allowed with another chuckle, the breeze lifting his bangs, tossing them around with invisible fingers. "That explains how Ben came to have them. Where do you fit into the story?"
She sighed, scuffling her feet against the pavement below, and for a moment, she watched in fascination as her shoes connected with the rhythmic rise and fall of the shadows beneath her: the misshapen silhouette that was forever just slightly askew . . . "I . . . I had dinner with Ben the night he took the twins," she said. "I just . . . I couldn't leave them alone, I guess . . ."
"Dinner with my brother," he mused. "Are you and Ben—?"
"Uh, no," she hurried on to say. "It . . . It wasn't like that . . . It was just . . ." She winced, unsure why she was trying to explain anything, in the first place, and yet, she couldn't quite help herself, either. "My sister . . . I mean, I guess I should say that I've known Ben for awhile—casually, you know? Given that he works for oji-san, then I guess you could say that he's always been around. Anyway, my sister got it into her head that I needed to get out, so she called Ben and set up the whole dinner . . . Which sounds so much more pathetic when I say it all out loud, doesn't it?" She managed a wry little laugh, but gave up after a moment as a heavy sigh slipped out of her, too. "That's really all there is to it. We're . . . We're friends: just friends . . ."
Kyouhei sighed, too, and Charity glanced up at him, only to find him staring at her out of the corner of his eyes. "Damn shame," he finally said when she shook her head in confusion.
"Why do you say that?"
"Because," he replied with a simple shrug. "If it were anyone but my brother, I'd have to fight him for you."
She could feel the flush steal up her cheeks as she quickly looked away. "N-No," she stammered. "I mean, you're wrong, and—"
His laughter, soft and gentle and entirely friendly, cut her off. "The heart wants what it wants, Charity," he told her. "And for what it's worth? Ben's a lucky, lucky bastard."
== == == == == == == == == ==
Evloner ——— Silent Reader
Athena_Evarinya ——— WhisperingWolf ——— Monsterkittie ——— Amanda Gauger ——— inuyashaloverr
OROsan0677 ——— lovethedogs
Final Thought from Ben:
A damned date …?
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.