Continuing Tales

Chasing Methuselah

A InuYasha Story
by Sandra E

Part 6 of 13

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Chasing Methuselah

To measure the man, measure his heart.

Mr. Simian, Kagome's stuffed black gorilla, flew across the room.

Pillowcases, rumpled. Lamp, overturned. Alarm clock, broken beyond repair. Message board, askew.

But no phone.

God! Where was her stupid, idiotic, stupid phone?

Frustrated, Kagome hopped off her bed, tossing a very surprised-looking Mr. Simian to a bookshelf with a reckless grunt. Phone, phone, phone. Must find phone, must call-

Kagome froze mid-toss, one hand clutching a stack of recycled notebooks.

She'd planned on calling Miroku, but-

"I don't... I don't know the number," she breathed, curling up amidst scattered papers, pink, fluffy pencils, and various assorted furnishings, most of which had seen better days. Buyo, Kagome's overgrown monster of a cat, poked its head in, pushing the door ajar. With a miserable mewl, he padded over to his owner, managing to climb onto Kagome's lap on his third attempt.

Kagome scratched behind his ear absentmindedly.

What had she done?

Made a spectacle of herself, that's what. Again. After all, she'd deserted her friends, literally fled the premises, practically dived into the well, ran across the shrine's grounds like an absolute lunatic-and had been quite successfully pelted by an incredibly annoying, incredibly humid spring shower-and for what?

Begrudgingly, Kagome realized a certain truth, one that both irked and flustered her.

I was scared.

Which was ridiculous, really. Because, well, come on. Since she'd been so kindly introduced to feudal Japan by a severely neurotic centipede demon (who really should've invested in a bra), Kagome had seen so much. Death threats and mortal peril were-were like... a routine now. She'd quite developed a penchant for graceful poise under duress and-and-and was presumably used to the numerous risks associated with life in the demon-infested warring era.

So, why?

"Nee-chan?" said a concerned voice from the doorway.

Kagome looked up.

"Souta," she murmured inconsolably. No. Not even her helpful little brother could fix this-fix her-at the moment.

Warily, Souta's eyes inspected Kagome's room. With raised eyebrows, the boy slowly approached the disaster area, careful to avoid dozens of glittery thumbtacks. "Um," he began gingerly, tripping over a computer wire, "I'm going to assume you-you found out."

Kagome blinked. "What?"

Souta scuffed his toe in the carpet. "I didn't mean to do it, really I didn't, but-I couldn't help it-please don't be angry-I-"

Baffled, Kagome stood up and tilted her head. What'd he do that was so-wait.


"I'm not angry," she told him desperately, watching with a frown as Souta visibly relaxed. "I'm just looking for the phone."

Souta gaped at her like a very drowsy trout. He glanced around the room-the broken alarm clock, the tangled sheets, the scattered papers-as if trying to assure himself he wasn't seeing things. "The-the phone? The phone that's in the kitchen?"

"Oh! The kitchen!" said Kagome, darting for the door.

"Wait, Kagome!" Souta ran after her. "What happened to your room? Why do you need the phone? Don't you want to know what I did? What's wrong? How come you came home so early?" Here, the siblings were quickly rounding the kitchen corner. "Kagome? Kagome? Nee-chan! What's going on? Should I go get grandpa? Kagome, it's just a phone!"

Finally, after a few agonizing moments, during which she wondered why her own house-where she grew up, where she was still growing up-was feeling so foreign, Kagome located her precious phone, noting with embarrassment that she'd completely forgotten about Grandfather's archaic contraption in the corner.

Her fingers wrapped sheepishly around the gray handle. "I still don't know the number," she said to no one in particular.

Souta leaned on one of the cabinets, trying to catch his breath. "Number? What? Who are you trying to call?"

Kagome pondered briefly whether she, too, had a tendency to ask a million and one question. Nah.

"Just a friend," she said, biting her lip in concentration.

"But you don't know the number? What kind of a friend is that?" wondered Souta childishly.

Kagome winced.

And that was... exactly it. She was heavily aware of a sliver of cognizance, pressing and pushing forward, burning down that last bit of pretense. Up until now, she'd tried to... ignore 'Yasuo Kazuo', grasping at the possibility that perhaps, possibly, maybe, just maybe, he wasn't real. Wasn't Miroku.

So, she'd mentally treated him as a figment of her imagination (though, admittedly, a persistent, annoyingly charming one)-hadn't really asked anything about his life, his current situation, or his feelings in general.

Subconsciously, she'd treated him as a duplicate, as... as a cleverly-made imitation that wasn't quite as important as the original-

She'd treated him the way Kikyou had treated her.

Oh, God.

"Nee-chan?" asked Souta worriedly, grasping her forearms with his chubby little fingers. "Should I go find the phone book?"

Kagome hugged her little brother closer, inhaling shakily. "I don't think he's listed. His family moved here just a few months ago."

Souta squirmed, trying to extract himself from her death grip as politely as possible. "Are you-are you talking about that guy that walked you home last week?"

Abruptly, Kagome let go of Souta, who stumbled back slightly as she fixed her eyes on his. "What?"

Souta rubbed his elbows with a pout. "The guy from your school. I recognized the uniform," he beamed. "You know, that guy. The one you were sitting with on the well?"

Kagome's eyes widened. "Yes," she breathed, surprised.

"Oh," said Souta happily. "Then, what's the problem?"

Kagome blinked. Then blinked some more. "What do you mean? I don't know his number," she paused for a second. "D'you mean to say I should call the school and ask for-"

Souta blinked at her. "No," he said, looking at her as if she were the baby of the family, "I'm saying you have his number. He left it with grandpa last week."

Kagome froze. What?

"When you left," Souta elaborated, walking away and waving his hands impassively. "We were curious. I mean, at first grandpa thought you finally told that Hojou guy the truth or something-what with letting him see you jump into the well and all-but I told him that wasn't Hojou-" babbled Souta absentmindedly, rummaging through a cabinet drawer.

"So, then, of course, grandpa panicked and ran outside with his broom, asking your... friend what was going on, and then-" Souta trailed off and grinned triumphantly, pulling out a crinkled piece of paper. Kagome's heart sped up. She knew that handwriting. She liked that handwriting. She liked it a lot.

"And then?" she demanded anxiously.

Souta walked over to her, stuffing the paper in her hands, and shrugging. "I don't know. One moment, grandpa's aiming his broom, and the next, he's talking to the guy about kappa demons and the Go-Shinboku tree and barrier scrolls and Kagome, who is that guy?"

But Kagome had stopped listening. The note on her palm, the one with a certain string of numbers and old fashioned Kanji-

He'd known? No. He couldn't have. But. He'd thought ahead.

Wrinkling her nose in concern, Kagome flinched. Miroku was smart. And observant. And he seemed to know her better than she knew herself. So... he'd probably noticed how badly she'd treated him, how superficial and brief she'd been with him.


Incredibly nervous all of a sudden, Kagome ignored Souta's huffy protests ("Answer me, nee-chan!"), and slowly dialed the number. After three rings-and a hundred heartbeats-the only rational thought going through her head was-

Hang up, hang up, hang up.

Unexpectedly, an older male voice greeted her with a traditional, "Moshi-moshi."

Kagome's throat was dry. "Umm. May I please speak to Miroku-sama?"

Oy! Rude-girl, how about introducing yourself first? Or at least greeting the man properly?

Fortunately, the voice on the other end didn't seem to mind her bad manners. "There's no one here by that name," said the man, though Kagome could've sworn a curious sort of panic was lining his voice, his words coming out in an uncomfortable, succinct rush.

"Wh-oh," Kagome flushed, humiliated and a little frightened. "I'm sorry. I meant to say Kazuo-kun. May I please speak with-"

"He's not home," said the man-presumably, his father-and Kagome's chest constricted almost painfully. She had to see Miroku.

"Can you please tell him Higurashi Kagome called," she whispered, then added, half to herself. "It's kind of an emergency."

The man on the other end was silent for a terrifyingly long moment. Finally, he asked, in a suspicious, worried voice, "Kagome?"

Kagome froze, a sudden thought chilling her to the core. Did-

Did Miroku's parents know?

More importantly, did they believe him?

And, oh... he'd said-Miroku had said he'd missed three years of school. Why? If he remembered it all, and if he hadn't kept it to himself as a child-did his parents-did they...

Why hadn't she asked?

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

"Yes," she said weakly, waiting for a reply. When none came, she shut her eyes tightly. "Higurashi Kagome."

"Okay," said the man numbly. "We'll... I'll make sure he calls you back when he gets home."

Kagome really wanted to ask a zillion and one question-and, of course, apologize, as she'd obviously made a very bad first impression on Miroku's dad-but said instead, "Thank you."

She hung up listlessly, feeling incredibly tired. Could she do nothing right?

"Kagome?" asked her grandfather, as he shuffled into the kitchen, carrying a stack of newspapers. "What are you doing home?"

Kagome rushed to his side. "Jii-chan!" The old man eyed her warily. Quickly, Kagome began pestering him for talking to her friends, and he immediately started defending himself ("It's not impossible for a person to survive the plague, you know!"), so she kindly explained that she just wanted to know more about his conversation with 'Kazuo-kun'.

"Oh, him," said grandpa, nodding approvingly. "Smart boy. Didn't believe me about the Go-Shinboku's curse."

Kagome bit her lip. "What-what else did you two talk about?" she asked cautiously.

Grandpa shrugged, roaming the kitchen. "I tried to sell him one of the Shikon Jewel keychains," he paused thoughtfully. "Smart boy."

"You said that already," said Kagome, trying not to grin.

"Why'd you tell him about the well?" asked the old man suddenly. Kagome's smile faded as she scampered off, pretending she hadn't heard him.

Consequently, she spent the late afternoon hiding out in her room, thinking. And trying to distract herself from said activity. She'd caught up on homework, took a long bubble bath, listened to the rain outside, ignored the mess she'd made, waited for her mother to come home and start dinner, and-

-was bored out of her wits. As meager as they were at the moment.

She was half tempted to go back to Sengoku Jidai and spill everything to Miroku, who'd clearly assume she was insane (as if he hadn't already), and send her back home to rest.

And just as she was preparing to pull her hair out, Souta's voice echoed dimly in the hallway behind her closed door.

"That's her room," he said, and Kagome sat up in bed, pulse racing wildly.

"Thanks," said a familiar voice, sounding peculiarly out of breath.

And before Kagome could jump out of her skin, the door to her bedroom opened and-

He was wet. And flushed. And so incredibly worried.

Was he running?

Souta raised a curious eyebrow, but reluctantly forced himself to leave. Kagome stood up slowly, approaching the door and the very apprehensive-looking Miroku.

"What's wrong?" he panted, leaning against her doorway, trying to catch his breath.

He had rushed here. In that evil rain.

Because she'd told his father it was an emergency? He was worried about her?

Something within Kagome's chest loosened most pleasantly. She exhaled deeply, and-


Having tackled him so expertly, Kagome let the words come out in a rush. "Miroku," she mumbled into his wet hair. "We met him. We met Kuranosuke-sama. We met him. Just like you said. He-and we-and-"


Mentally reprimanding herself, Kagome noted with embarrassment exactly what she was doing. And more importantly, what Miroku wasn't doing. She lifted her head slightly to see his face. He was staring up at the ceiling with an incredibly relieved expression softening his features.

For the briefest of moments, Kagome felt inexplicably grateful.

He was here. Miroku was here. And-and why couldn't she decide whether she was happy about it or not? On the one hand, he was alive, he was here, and he was with her. On the other hand, if he was with her here...

He wouldn't be with her there. Especially not now that they'd met Kuranosuke-sama and-

Flushing, Kagome burrowed deeper into his shoulder, tightening her arms around his neck, hoping frantically she could find a way to prevent whatever had happened to him. Will happen to him.

She could feel Miroku's chest beneath her, rising and falling with a sharp exhale. His arms finally wrapped around her waist, slowly, gently, one hand tracing a long line up her spinal column. "I promise you," he said uneasily, "it won't happen for a while. I promise."

Kagome smiled softly against his wet shirt, feeling as though something very heavy, very ominous had been lifted off her chest. She was so relieved, in fact, that she let herself relax against him completely, lulled and mollified by his soothing murmuring and-

"Miroku," she breathed, startled. "If you don't get your hand away from there, I'll-"

She could feel the smirk in his voice as he said, "Kagome-san. I am not now, nor have I ever been, virtuous." And to demonstrate, Miroku arched beneath her (Why wasn't she trying. To. Get. Up?).

His fingers slid lower. "I take pride in that," he murmured quietly.

Kagome gave a soft gasp. Her skin was... tingling with an unusual sort of itch where he'd touched her. Slowly, Miroku nuzzled her cheek, and she could practically taste his next words as a wet lock of dark hair brushed against her jaw. "You know I don't feel the need to defend myself on a regular basis."

His hands slipped lower, lower, sliding and creeping down her hips, trailing continuous, horrifyingly captivating little caresses and-

"Will your friend be staying for dinner, dear?"

Kagome wondered why Satan resembled her mother.

Because this had to be Hell. Why else would Kagome essentially be straddling Miroku with her mother standing in the hallway, hands full of grocery bags?

"I would have knocked," said Mrs. Higurashi helpfully, adjusting one of the bags in her arms, "but..." Ambiguously, she gestured vaguely at Kagome's completely open door. "And, well, you two are practically spilling out into the hallway anyway."

Burning with humiliation, Kagome noted that, yes, they were indeed lying flat across the threshold, their upper extremities poking into the narrow corridor. She was tempted to jump up and say, 'He started it, Mommy!', but Mrs. Higurashi was already walking away with an absentminded little nod.

Kagome blanched bewilderedly. Well. Um. As far as first impressions on each other parents' went... ow.

"You were asking for it," was Miroku's only defense, though his cheeks seemed suspiciously pink.

Lightning-fast, Kagome removed herself from this vile, depraved, deranged... wet, cute-

"So!" she snapped angrily. "You're staying for dinner."

Miroku grinned, sitting up. "Yes, mistress."

Kagome's head exploded.

"Do you mind if I take a shower first?" asked Miroku, raising an eyebrow with completely fake innocence. "I don't want to catch a cold."

Kagome spied his drenched clothes and wet hair. But... informal and... naked...


"You are welcome to join me," he continued wickedly, standing up and tugging his shirt over his head. "If you don't trust me alone in your bathroom, that is."

Kagome spun around so fast she could almost see an entire constellation before her eyes. "No, no. You-go-and-I'm going to... Kitchen?"

She was out of her room before she could even think to tell that evil person where the towels were. Preoccupied, she barely noticed her mother unpacking one of the larger paper bags.

"Kagome, where's your friend?" she asked happily.

Kagome turned every color of the rainbow. "Well, you see... storm. And... um, shower."

Mrs. Higurashi nodded, "I see!"

Kagome, on the other hand, didn't. "You... don't mind?"

Mrs. Higurashi buried her head in the fridge, fidgeting with the fresh vegetables. "If it means you spend more time at home, no," she said nonchalantly, but wouldn't meet Kagome's eyes.

Kagome's breath caught. Can't think about my family now. Completing the Shikon Jewel was her priority. Her duty. Her destiny. Her-

"Hey! Pocky! Thank you, mama!" squealed Kagome, clapping her hands happily.

Her mother smiled pleasantly. "Shouldn't you put his clothes in the dryer?"

Kagome blinked, having reached for a delicious, precious pocky. "Eh?"

"What's your friend going to wear when he gets out of the shower if his clothes are wet? Defeats the purpose, doesn't it?"

Blushing furiously at the image that was refusing to leave her head, Kagome tapped her fingers nervously.

"Friend?" said Grandpa excitedly, poking his head in the kitchen, "Which one? Which one?"

Kagome mumbled under her breath, ignoring her grandfather's yip of delight ("I've been meaning to ask him about protective wards-").

So, naturally, young Kagome-being so very kindhearted (and, also, being so very forced by her mother)-returned to her room with a hesitant sort of spring in her step.

How-how hard could it possibly be? All she had to do was-run in, grab clothes, run out, wait in kitchen for fully-clothed boy. Easy!

Encouraged by the simplicity of her profound genius, Kagome skipped into her room, zooming in on a neat pile of clothes and-

-the very white, very tiny towel.

Towel in front of her. Towel covering a dripping Miroku. Towel, small.

Startled, Miroku turned around, his tanned skin glistening with tiny, glassy beads of water.

Incoherent and aghast, Kagome had planned on saying, 'Ah! Why are you parading around my room almost-naked, you big, nasty pervert, you!', but, mysteriously, her cool reprimand came out as a horridly embarrassed, "Towel!"

Miroku raised a nonchalant eyebrow, one hand gripping the knot in the towel that kept Kagome from exploding. "Right, towel. What's your point?"

Kagome's shoulders slumped in defeat. "I give up."

Miroku chuckled merrily. "Really?" he asked, turning to face her fully. "Take off your clothes, then. Go ahead. And also, jump into bed. I'll join you in a minute."

Kagome's central nervous system shorted out.

Smirking, Miroku walked past her, patting her head condescendingly. "That's what we unrepressed people call a joke. You should really take a page out of my book, you know. And... what the hell happened to your room?"

Kagome switched from embarrassment to anger within a second. "I was looking for the phone!" was all she could say without contacting the Japanese mafia and putting out a hit on Miroku.

Miroku, for his part, looked about dubiously. "What, with a bulldozer?"

Kagome balled up her little fists. "Yeah, uh huh-and-how come you came over so fast, hmm?"

Miroku seemed taken aback, and for a moment, the only sound filling the room was that of their breathing.

Kagome couldn't take it anymore. The questions pooling inside her just... detonated the last of her resolve. "Do your parents know? How is this possible? Does your father think I'm crazy or something? Don't you think this is too much of a coincidence? Why can you remember? Was it the jewel? Did you wish for something like this? What happened? What did you tell my grandpa? Did you tell Yuka the truth? Did-"

And then, Miroku was right in front of her, watching her with such deep, hopeless despondency that Kagome immediately regretted ever opening her mouth.

"So, it does run in the family," said Miroku darkly. "Can't you people ask just one question at a time?"

Distracted by one persistent little lock of dark, wet hair, Kagome looked up. "Fine. One question," she mumbled, wondering if it was healthy for her heart to beat so fast.

"Mm. One question," he repeated, barely a hairbreadth away from her lips.

Kagome had to take a step back. This one question thing... not easy. But suddenly, she didn't really want to know the answers anyway. And as she was pondering several importunate questions, Souta's overly cheerful, overly excited voice reached them.

"Inuyasha! What are you doing here!" he'd screamed happily.

Both Miroku and Kagome froze, exchanging looks of horror. But then, to Kagome's shock, Miroku grinned so wickedly her very soul ached.

"I always thought Inuyasha was more of a window person," he said, smirking.

Frozen, Kagome mumbled. "He usually is." Those were... those were Souta's footsteps coming closer to her room. And Inuyasha's footsteps. And-

Kagome pounced, trying to stuff Miroku into her closet.

Miroku chuckled, pried her fingers off his forearms, and cocked his head. "Kagome-san. Inuyasha's a hanyou. Dog. Half-demon. Nose. Futile."

Kagome blanched, then tried to inconspicuously step on Miroku's foot. "Well, you don't have to look so happy about it, you know!"

Miroku shrugged, his face suddenly unreadable. "He'll have to find out eventually anyway."

Kagome felt the color drain from her face. She wasn't quite sure why the prospect of Inuyasha coming face to face with Miroku was so disconcerting. Miroku and Inuyasha were friends. They were pals, buddies, chums! And besides, it wasn't like Kagome had been doing anything... wrong.

Except, Miroku was in her room, in her time, wearing a very small towel, and she was-

Still holding onto him.

"Just get in there!" she whispered desperately, pushing against his chest and trying so very hard not to notice how smooth and firm his skin was. "Please."

His features softened. Kagome held her breath. Inuyasha and Souta's footsteps were so dangerously close.

"Fine, but you are hereby notified that I'm going to be looking through your collection of panties," said Miroku with an amused grin.

Thankful he was finally cooperating (and that she didn't keep any of her underwear in there), Kagome quickly slid the closet door shut, then leaned against it with a relieved sigh.

Which quickly turned into a squeal of surprise as her bedroom door burst open, and Inuyasha stalked into the room.

"Kagome! Who told you that you could just-" began Inuyasha with a roar, then froze, sniffing the air. Kagome was certain he could hear her heart about to explode. "What's that... smell?"

Kagome twisted her hands nervously. "Um, dinner?"

Inuyasha narrowed his eyes. "Smells like-"

"Bell peppers and beef!"

Inuyasha eyed her suspiciously. "-the monk," he finished.

Souta looked puzzled. "Hey, nee-chan, wasn't there a-"

"Souta! I think I hear Mama calling you! Go! Go now!" said Kagome, ushering her little brother out of the room, and slamming the door behind him. Instantly, she plastered a big, fake smile on her face, then spread her arms wide, as if the gesture alone would prove her innocence. "So, Inuyasha. What's... up?" she finished lamely.

Inuyasha was still sniffing around the room, dangerously close to the closet. Kagome could just picture it. Inuyasha thrusting his hand into the closet, pulling a naked Miroku out, Miroku raising a nonchalant eyebrow and saying, "Hello, Inuyasha! Has Kagome shown you her purple panties yet? Aren't they lovely with the little hearts and bows and all?"... and then the world going boom.

Wait. What?

"-see if you were sick again or something," Inuyasha was saying. Kagome tried to pay attention. So far, no explosions. No dead ex-monks. No enraged half demons.

"So, are you?" asked Inuyasha.

Kagome blinked. "Am I what?"

Inuyasha's nose twitched irritably. "Are you sick, idiot?"

Kagome considered the idea for a moment, then daintily walked over to her bed, hoping to distract Inuyasha. Quickly, she snatched Mr. Simian, and crushed the stuffed animal to her chest. "Oh, Inuyasha, I'm so sorry, but... I think my fever came back."

She was lying to Inuyasha. She was lying to him.

"Always something," grumbled Inuyasha, heading for the window, but pausing distrustfully beside the closet.

"W-what do you mean by that?" asked Kagome hastily, standing up and nervously digging her fingers into Mr. Simian's plushy tummy.

"Howdy, pardner!" screeched Mr. Simian helpfully. Inuyasha jumped.

"So, you want to learn how to count, do ya?" continued the gorilla blissfully. "Can you find... number one?"

A soft snicker came from somewhere deep to the rear of Kagome's winter clothes. Inuyasha's head snapped up menacingly.



Flinging Mr. Simian at Inuyasha, Kagome quickly plastered herself against the closet door, spreading her arms protectively.

"What the hell is going on?" growled Inuyasha, baring his fangs. "What are you-"

"Hey, little buddy, are you still there?" interrupted Mr. Simian perkily. "C'mon! Play with me! Can you find... number one?"

Growling and flushing, Inuyasha extended his claws and ripped poor Mr. Simian to shreds. Kagome's eyes watered as her bottom lip trembled.

"Oh," was all she could say, completely forgetting about the situation, and kneeling to pick up Mr. Simian's severed head. "I got him when I was seven," she whimpered miserably.

Inuyasha averted his eyes guiltily, but continued grumbling anyway. "Look, are you coming back or not? I don't have time for this."

Kagome sniffled. "No," she said.


Mr. Simian's rusty batteries rolled across the floor.

"I'll go back when my fever goes down," said Kagome, trying to fill the toy gorilla's head with its spilled stuffing. "Tomorrow afternoon."

Inuyasha watched her for a long moment. Then, to Kagome's relief (relief?), the hanyou climbed out the window, leaping gracefully into the rainy sky and disappearing out of sight. Kagome kept picking away at Mr. Simian's parts for a while, quite neglectful of the rustling sounds behind her.

"So..." said Miroku, who'd clearly dressed while she was mourning her little toy, "...I'm guessing Inuyasha couldn't find number one?"

Kagome giggled through her sniffles. "Shut up."

Miroku knelt down next to her, straightening out his shirt and running a hand through his wet hair. "Go help your mother," he said. "I'll take care of this little guy."

"Mr. Simian," said Kagome, forcing herself to ignore the fact that Miroku now smelled like her favorite shampoo. "His name is Mr. Simian."

Miroku grinned. "Clever. Anyway. Go. I'll be there in a minute."

So, she did.

And upon entering the kitchen, Kagome was ambushed by a slightly hyper Souta who wanted to know if "Inu-no-oniichan was staying for dinner." And also, whether he'd killed "nee-chan's new boyfriend." Kagome decided to ignore her brother for the rest of the week. Unfortunately, she couldn't ignore the eyebrow her mother insisted on lifting ever so subtly.

Still flustered, Kagome had managed to persuade her mother into bringing Miroku something to wear, and was now waiting for him with her arms crossed over her chest. She spent the better part of five minutes wondering why she wasn't... overjoyed that Inuyasha had come to see her, though her mind persistently kept slipping to poor Mr. Simian's horrified little button eyes and-

"Hey," said a soft, silky voice in her ear. "You still have that one question."

Kagome started.

In a dark blue yukata, Miroku looked like... like Miroku. The hair was shorter (Why was she missing that stupid ponytail all of a sudden?) and less untidy, but like this-he really did look the same. How?

"Did you tell Yuka we aren't dating?" she asked, surprising both herself and him. What the-? Why'd she waste her one question on something so... petty? Trivial? Shallow?

"No," was all he said as he walked past her to greet Grandpa.

Feeling oddly relieved, Kagome circled the rest of her family suspiciously, listening in on random conversations. One of them seemed to involve the recent confederation between Miroku and her grandfather whereby they were conspiring and inventing new, horrible diseases to inflict upon Kagome, and coming up with the best way to broach the news to poor, unsuspecting Hojou-kun.

Mrs. Higurashi, who hadn't been aware of the sheer extent of madness her daughter was surrounded with, asked innocently, "Won't young Hojou realize there is no such thing as the Green Pox?"

"Oh, no," said Miroku helpfully, flashing Kagome's mother a charming, sparkling smile. "Small pox. We should be fine until he realizes we live in... well, Japan. Right, Higurashi-jii-chan?"

Mrs. Higurashi blinked wildly, then quickly zoomed in on a quickly-retreating Grandpa. Kagome scowled. She finally realized exactly how Miroku died.

Death by Kagome.

Eventually, Kagome had been given a knife (unwise decision) and a bowl of bell peppers to play with while the rest of the family prepared for dinner. So, it was during one particularly fun dicing session ("Take that, Jaken!") that she'd finally spotted Miroku. He'd evidently dried his hair and was currently answering a multitude of Souta's questions ("What's your favorite band? Have you played this game? What about this one? Did you like this one? Isn't racing stupid? What kind of manga do you read? Is my sister failing Geometry?), which made Kagome grin despite her firm resolution to remain serious while that pervert was in her house.

She still couldn't believe Miroku had forced her to lie to Inuyasha.

Okay, so, technically, he hadn't forced her-he actually didn't mind if Inuyasha found out, but-

That-that was beside the point! Miroku was obviously evil. Very, very evil.

And coming towards her.

Kagome stiffened awkwardly, glancing at him out of the corner of her eye. She suspected he was coming over to apologize. And help her slice these stupid, boring peppers. And as he slowly kept advancing, Kagome decided to decline his help. Because she could. And because-because he'd stopped barely an inch away from her, and was staring at her quite oddly.

"Kazuo-kun," she gritted out sweetly. "Last time I checked, I wasn't paraplegic. I don't need your help."

Miroku grinned, just as sweetly, though his eyebrows were arching rather wickedly. "I wasn't offering to help you, Kagome-kun," he said with such innocence Kagome wanted to smite him with the nearest available skillet.

"I was merely trying to get past you to retrieve your grandfather's soup plates," he continued smoothly, voice laced with honey. "Unfortunately, you're blocking my way," he leaned in closer to whisper, clearly unnoticed by her useless family. "Have you gained weight, perchance?"

Fuming dangerously, Kagome tightened her grip on her big, sharp knife. "Of course," she said, saccharine-sweet. Cleverly, she ran the blade across a large bell pepper, and blinked up at Miroku with a pout. "I am eating for two now, after all."

Miroku's eyes quickly widened, then narrowed with what Kagome could vaguely identify as... no. No, she couldn't quite identify it, after all.

Which was okay, because his right hand seemed to have reached out for her anyway, bypassing the counter and the cutting board, and zooming in on her fingers. Kagome felt a curiously uplifting tug near her heart, and glanced at their linked fingers.

"I-I was kidding," she said, mortified. "Taking a page out of your book and all that..."

Miroku smirked, and reached behind her with his left arm, stretching across to grab the saucers.

"You do know we slept together, right?" he whispered in a slow, luxurious drawl, then quickly let go of her hand and flounced off, shouting, "Here are the soup plates, Higurashi-jii-chan!"

Promptly, Kagome's fingers slipped down the blade. She stood there, watching the small cut fill with blood, and trembled with embarrassment, shock, and-and something incredibly, fabulously unfamiliar. With an appalled frown, Kagome straightened, finished chopping the peppers, then quickly washed out her cut, mentally reminding herself she-

-needed to ignore Miroku's comments.

Stupid, stupid, lying comments.

She was halfway to a successful revenge strategy (and two steps away from her usual seat at the table) when Mrs. Higurashi lightly patted Kagome's elbow, and said in a pert, delighted voice, "Won't you be a good hostess and sit there tonight?"

There turned out to be-

Next to Miroku.

Huffing, Kagome sank down on the mat, noting-with rising panic-the very thick, very traditional, very intimate, quilt lining the low table. Oh, dear God, no. Not with Miroku around! Not when they were sitting so close to each other! Not when he could just slip his hand under the quilt at any given moment during their innocent little dinner and grope her in front of her fami-

"Ooh! Oden!" she shrieked happily, forgetting all about the boy next to her.

"What-?" began Miroku, blinking at her, but Souta shook his head.

"She won't hear you for another minute or so," he said, wrinkling his little nose.

Kagome's grandfather seized the opportunity almost immediately. "You know, the legend of this here kettle-"

By the time Kagome had finally decided to pay attention, Miroku and Grandpa were engaged in what sounded like a heated discussion over the relevance of water-sprites' mummified remains in blah, blah, something, blah, blah.

She was bored. And annoyed with her Grandfather. And her brother. What were they thinking, monopolizing Miroku's attention like that? Miroku was supposed to be paying attention to her, and-

Kagome choked violently. No. I didn't just...

"So," said Kagome's mother as Miroku patted Kagome's back to relieve her wild coughing. "Why haven't you told us you were getting a tutor?"

Kagome blinked. "What?"

Kagome's mother poked a soggy riceball. "Kazuo-kun here told us all about it. How he's helping you with certain subjects?"

"Did he now?" asked Kagome, glancing at Miroku with an ominous glare.

"Yes," said Miroku with a polite little nod her mother seemed to find adorable, "Kagome-san is very smart. She just needs to... get over her small pox, and she'll be back in the 96th percentile in no time."

Kagome's grandfather looked about, tapping his chin. "Small pox, yes, yes. We really ought to find a cure for that."

But Kagome wasn't paying attention. She'd fixed her eyes on Miroku's. "You-you really think so?"

Miroku's lips quirked upwards. "What?"

Kagome scooted closer excitedly. "You really think I could be in the 96th percentile like you and-"

"-actually, I'm in the 98th percentile-"

"-and maybe I could even-what?"

"Hm?" Miroku raised an amused eyebrow.

"You're in the 98th percentile?" asked Kagome, eyes sparkling.

Miroku popped a mushroom in his mouth. "Well, I was top of the class, but somehow, I've been spending... a lot of time worrying about y-" abruptly, Miroku cut himself off.

Kagome felt inexplicably warm. "What?"

Miroku shifted awkwardly and Kagome noticed, horrified, that her entire family was staring at them with interest.

"Nothing?" he said, scratching the back of his neck.

Kagome stared at him with an earnest expression.

Miroku sighed deeply. "Well, it's just... I'm here now and you're not and-well, I remember. Feudal Japan isn't exactly Disneyworld, is it?"

Kagome couldn't help but smile brightly. It was strange, this foreign little affection spreading its talons through her. Miroku narrowed his eyes at her.

"Stop that," he said.

"Stop what?" asked Kagome innocently, though her face had started to ache from all that grinning.

"Stop," gestured Miroku vaguely, "that."

"And if I don't?" she asked playfully.

Miroku raised a defiant eyebrow, pausing thoughtfully, and Kagome knew, with undeniable certainty, that she. Was. In. So. Much. Freakin'. Trouble.

"Kagome," said Mrs. Higurashi, hiding a smile behind her hand, "please behave at the dinner table. You're making your guest uncomfortable. And your family, as well."

Kagome flushed.

Unfortunately, the reason for her sudden change in color had very little to do with her mother's words. Because-

Because Miroku's fingers were tracing light circles underneath the quilt. On her leg. Bare leg. Skirting the hem of her dress.

Swallowing, Kagome didn't know whether to say something, or reach down and pinch him (but what if she missed and touched something... um, inappropriate?), or-

"Hmm," said Kagome's grandfather suddenly. "Feudal Japan, eh?"

Both Miroku and Kagome froze.

Quickly, Miroku looked at her with a sheepish glance. Kagome winced. She'd forgotten. Her family-they didn't know. No one knew. She'd been keeping it a secret. She'd been keeping Miroku a secret. She'd-

-been keeping him to herself.

"So, she's really told you everything? All about the-the...?" asked Kagome's grandfather. "I didn't think she'd ever tell anyone but us," he paused, frowning. "You must mean a lot to her."

Kagome sighed in relief, then immediately tensed. Wait! "Uhm, jii-chan..."

But the old man kept on track. "And it's very nice to see my only granddaughter has found herself a nice young man like you. Such impeccable manners!"

Miroku grinned, and Kagome gasped. His fingers-again-on her skin.

The rest of the dinner went by in a hectic blur. Kagome was trying to concentrate on her precious Oden, and not on Miroku's hand (which she swore to sever once they were left alone), and soon, the table was cleared and the dishes were done and Miroku was kicking Souta's ass in some first person shooter game.

And before she knew it, it had already gotten very late. So late, in fact, that Souta was ordered to bed ("No, please! Just one more game! I'm sure I can win this time! He was cheating! I know he was!"), and Miroku was preparing to leave.

So, as they were standing outside, in the chilly night air, Kagome found herself squirming. She'd clearly forgotten to feel very vindictive as Miroku still had all his limbs. And those limbs... Hff. What was her problem? Miroku was now a part of modern Tokyo. And he was her friend. So, she knew he was familiar with the whole 'I should hug you when I say goodbye' thing.

After all, she'd always hugged Yuka and Erri. And even the bookish Ayumi would often suffer from Kagome's overly enthusiastic affection. But somehow... she couldn't bring herself to-to hug Miroku. At least not when she was thinking rationally. Which she was at the moment. So-

Miroku grinned, poking her shoulder. "You're not going to tell them the truth?"

Kagome didn't have to ask. "Everyone else already thinks we're together, so... no."

Miroku laughed, turning away from her. "That's not what I was asking," he said as they began descending the stone stairway.

Kagome frowned. "Then what-?"

Miroku stopped abruptly, and faced her from a step below. "You won't tell them who I am?"

Kagome flushed, but shook her head. "No."

He watched her for a moment, then asked softly, "Why?"

Kagome averted her eyes. It was odd, but... today, now-she was finally accepting him as one person. As the same person. Not as a reincarnation, not as a monk, not as Kazuo, not as Miroku. Not as anyone. Just-him. Why ruin her newfound tranquillity with some longwinded explanation that ridiculed every science law in existence?

"Because it doesn't matter," she said honestly, hopping down the stairs ahead of him. "You're you."

The following morning, Kagome was sorely tempted to do what no student in his or her right mind would ever think of.

She wanted to ditch Sengoku Jidai and go to school.

Uh huh.

Alas, as she'd promised Inuyasha she'd return, Kagome packed a few supplies-not many; not many at all, which would give her a relatively valid reason to go home sooner-said goodbye to her sleepy family, and slowly walked to the well.

She was so busy counting the steps between the shrine and Inuyasha's tree that she almost missed it.

On the well's hatch, sat a lone silhouette.

Heart pounding, Kagome came closer, reaching out a hand to snatch at the oddly-shaped shadow. And when her fingers slowly wrapped around it, she-


In her hands now rested a very happy-looking stuffed gorilla. Its plushy tummy was white and not black, like the late Mr. Simian's, but-Kagome immediately fell in love with it. Only later, when she'd already made room in her backpack for the little toy, did she notice the small card that came with it.

Play with me.


Still smiling brightly, Kagome tucked the note into one of the books she was taking with her, hoping fleetingly Inuyasha wouldn't come across it during one of his random 'Where's the RAMEN!' raids.



The smile faded.

Inuyasha. Inuyasha. Kagome nodded to herself.

She would. She would stay with Inuyasha. Forever. Because Inuyasha needed her.

A gentle, chilly breeze whispered and fluttered and swept through her hair as she swung her legs over the well's brim.

Inuyasha needs me.

Hesitatingly, she slid off the cold stone surface, feeling as though she was diving off a very dangerous brink, one she knew she could never ascend again.

But I...

I need-

"Play with me," echoed a soft, warm voice.


Chasing Methuselah

A InuYasha Story
by Sandra E

Part 6 of 13

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