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A Promise is a Promise

Chapter 25

Chapter 25: A Promise is a Promise

 

     Inuyasha looked up from his perusal of the wine list. Kagome was staring at him again. As soon as he tried to catch her eye, she blushed and pretended to study her menu intently. What was up with her? She had been acting strange for the past two weeks, ever since the go-kart race.

 

     A waiter appeared at his elbow. Inuyasha ordered a bottle of wine. Kagome might be too young, but he really wanted something to drink right now. Maybe after a few glasses, Kagome might start making sense again.

 

     “This was a great idea, Inuyasha,” Kagome said abruptly. She smiled at him over the edge of her menu.

 

     “Um, this was your idea, Kagome,” Inuyasha reminded her.

 

     “Oh, right.” Kagome laughed a little. She put her menu down, taking time to center it exactly on the placemat. “It’s so nice to go out. Just the two of us. No Shiro, no K—, uh, distractions.”

 

     Inuyasha favored her with a skeptical look. “Something on your mind?”

 

     “Everything’s fine!” She looked down and carefully smoothed the napkin in her lap, before smiling brightly at him. “Why don’t we eat?”

 

     “We haven’t ordered yet.”

 

     Kagome looked at the table in front of her as if surprised that there was no food. She reached into the basket set between them and extracted a soft roll. “Then how about a roll? I’ll butter it for you.” Inuyasha leaned forward and lightly grasped her wrist. He pried the roll out of her hand and dropped it back in the basket. She looked at him with a confused expression.

 

     “I guess I can understand why you’re nervous, Kagome. We haven’t been many places where it’s just the two of us. Don’t worry. I’m sure we’ll think of lots of things to talk about. And Shiro will have a great time with your mother.” His lips quirked up in an amused smile. “I think they were going to make doughnut holes. If she’s not careful, she’s going to spoil him.” When she relaxed, he released her wrist with a pat to the back of her hand.

 

     Kagome laughed and picked up her menu again. “Without Shiro here I guess that we’ll have to do all the talking. What are you going to order, Inuyasha?”

 

     Before he could answer, the waiter arrived with the wine. Inuyasha had nearly forgotten about it, but he was looking forward to tasting it. Ever since Shiro was born he hadn’t had that many opportunities to sample various alcoholic beverages. The waiter didn’t even question Kagome’s right to drink alcohol. He set down the bottle and two glasses and whipped out his little notepad to take their orders.

 

     Inuyasha listened to Kagome order some sort of a pasta dish. He didn’t blame the waiter for thinking that she was of drinking age. In that red dress with the thin little straps and her hair piled up on the top of her head, she looked at least 22 or maybe 23. Speaking of age, Kagome should be turning 19 in a few weeks. It was written down somewhere, more than likely on that mess at home that he called a bulletin board.

 

     “And what would you like to order, sir?” Inuyasha became aware that he had been staring at Kagome, admiring the way the light shimmered on her dark locks. Scanning the menu quickly, he stabbed a finger at one of the items.

 

     “I’ll have that one.”

 

     The waiter meticulously wrote down the order. “Very good, sir. The halibut is an excellent choice.”

 

     “The what?” Inuyasha grabbed the menu back and started looking through it frantically. The thought of eating something as wiggly and floppy as a fish turned his stomach. It reminded him of the time Sesshoumaru shoved a trout down his pants, back when he was a child. “Wait a minute! I changed my mind.”

 

     The waiter sighed and crossed out the previously written order. He waited, pen poised above the pad. “And what would the gentleman care to dine on this evening?” he prompted when Inuyasha took a long time looking over the choices.

 

     Brain spinning with all the fancy names for fancy food, he turned back to the beginning of the menu again. “Do you have anything that used to be a cow?” he asked.

 

     The waiter visibly winced. “How about a steak? We serve a nice filet mignon.”

 

     “I guess so.” Inuyasha sounded dubious. After a moment, his expression cleared and he handed the menu to the waiter. “Yes, that will do nicely.”

 

     “I thought you were used to this kind of food,” Kagome said after the waiter had left with their order. “I mean, you grew up with a lot of money. You should be used to this.”

 

     Inuyasha sighed and leaned back in his chair. “Not really, Kagome. We had our own cook, since Father was usually busy at the company until late. Mother couldn’t boil water without burning it, so sometimes just the two of us would go out to dinner.” He smiled a little, sadly. “But after she died, it was usually up to the cook to feed me. She never asked me what I wanted, so it was eat what was on the table or go hungry. I seem to remember going hungry a lot in those days.”

 

     He lifted his glass of wine and took a sip, frowning at Kagome when she reached for the full glass that had been poured for her by the waiter. She made a face at him and reached for her water glass instead. He put the glass back on the table, idly twisting it around by the stem. “When I was old enough to be invited to business dinners, it was often the same thing. The affairs were catered, the food already prepared. I learned to eat what was available, and never learned most of the names for the fancy dishes.”

 

     “You poor thing.” Inuyasha looked up sharply to see that Kagome was wearing the same expression that she had worn earlier. The one that creeped him out and made him wonder what was going through her head. He was saved from having to say anything else by the arrival of the waiter with their salads.

 

     Inuyasha picked through his salad, his mind obviously elsewhere. When the waiter arrived with the main course, he surrendered the plate of mangled greens without hesitation. The steak thingy was actually pretty good, and Kagome seemed to be enjoying her pasta. She kept sneaking looks at him and sighing. Maybe she was sick? She hadn’t bugged him about Kouga or tried to pry into his private life once in the past week. Surreptitiously, he reached into his pants pocket, checking to be sure that the little box he had put in there earlier hadn’t fallen out.

 

     He cleared his throat. Kagome looked up at him, a fettuccini noodle hanging out of her mouth. “What do you think about Shiro?”

 

     Kagome took the time to chew and swallow before answering. “He’s a sweetie and I love him dearly. Why?”

 

     “That’s good.” Inuyasha smiled and his hand crept back to his pants pocket. Noticing what he was doing, he curled his fingers into a fist against his thigh. “He really adores you.”

 

     “I’m glad. Was there something else you wanted to say?” Kagome prompted when he didn’t continue.

 

     “Um, yeah, I was wondering if you liked spending time with him.” He kept his head down, drawing random patterns in the mashed potatoes with his fork.

 

     Kagome looked at him quizzically. “Do you need me to baby-sit more often?”

 

     “No, no, that’s not what I meant.” Inuyasha fell silent, groping for the words to express what he wanted to say. He reached into his pocket, his fingers closing around the little box. “I was just wondering, that is, if you wouldn’t mind, I mean you like spending time with me and Shiro, would you--“

 

     “Would you care to order dessert?” Inuyasha jumped when the waiter appeared at their table. The half-full wineglass teetered and tipped over, soaking the white tablecloth. Muttering something under his breath that earned him a disapproving look from the waiter, he righted the glass and tried to mop up the spill.

 

     “Why don’t you order something, Kagome?” He looked up to see her brown eyes dancing with laughter. Mercifully, she wasn’t laughing out loud, but she would probably tease him for weeks.

 

     “I really shouldn’t.” She patted her stomach. “My waistline, you know.”

 

     “We can share.” He turned pleading eyes on her. “Please, Kagome? I can’t order something if you won’t eat any. And I really want some chocolate.”

 

     Kagome caved in quickly. Who could resist the puppy eyes? “Okay. How about the double chocolate fudge cake?” The waiter nodded, took their finished dinner plates, and left.

 

     “Double chocolate?” Inuyasha raised an eyebrow at her.

 

     “If you’re going to have something chocolate,” Kagome said, “you might as well get your money’s worth.”

 

^**^

 

     Stars shone down from a clear sky. An owl called out with loud hoots, the ghostly sound echoing through the trees around them. Kagome sighed and tightened her grip on Inuyasha’s hand. He responded by pulling her closer, so that their legs almost brushed as they walked.

 

     “I love the park,” Kagome stated, for no other reason than because she felt supremely content at the moment. Inuyasha made a low sound of agreement. They walked until they came to the cleared area around the playground.

 

     ‘How sweet,’ Kagome thought. ‘Inuyasha wants to come back to the place where we first kissed.’ He led her over to the swings and released her hand long enough to hold the swing steady so that she could sit down. He sat down in the swing next to her and reached for her hand, linking his fingers with hers.

 

     “I love this place.” Kagome pushed gently against the ground, setting her swing in motion. “It has such special memories.”

 

     “Did you come her often as a kid?” Inuyasha kicked his swing into motion to match hers.

 

     Kagome shot him a puzzled glance. “Sure. But I was thinking about something more recent.”

 

     “I bring Shiro here sometimes. Is that what you’re thinking of?” Inuyasha had this clueless look on his face. Kagome decided to try one more time to jog his memory.

 

     “Think hard, Inuyasha.” Kagome waited until she had his full attention. “It was something romantic. And the best day of my life.”

 

     Inuyasha’s face creased in thought. Suddenly, he turned to her and his expression was horrified. “You didn’t bring another boyfriend here, did you?”

 

     Kagome felt the urge to bang her head against a tree, or maybe smack her oblivious boyfriend a few times. “No. I’ve never been here with another boy except for my brother, and he doesn’t count. Don’t you remember? This is the place--“She abruptly stopped. If he didn’t remember, then what was the point? “Never mind. This is just a special place to me.”

 

     Inuyasha still looked mystified, but didn’t pursue the conversation. She tilted her head up to watch the stars twinkling in the vast night sky. Bats flitted erratically through the darkness, chasing down their own supper. Or was it breakfast?

 

     “The stars are so beautiful,” she murmured. “Look there! It’s Orion. You can see his belt right there.” She pointed to a close grouping of three bright stars.

 

     Inuyasha followed the line of her finger, staring blankly at the bright twinkling lights. “Where?”

 

     “Right there!” Kagome stabbed her finger upwards. “And over there is the Big Dipper and there’s Centaurus.”

 

     “If you say so.” Inuyasha let his eyes drift across the sky. “There’s one of my favorites... the Dead Dog.”

 

     Kagome peered at the section of stars Inuyasha was looking at. “I’ve never heard of the Dead Dog.”

 

     “It’s a very important one,” Inuyasha said, turning his head to grin at her. “It’s right up there with the Big Pineapple and the Frog Prince.”

 

     “You’re making that up!” Kagome slapped his arm lightly and frowned at him.

 

     “Maybe I’m just seeing constellations that nobody’s thought of yet.” Kagome didn’t have an answer for that one. She shut her mouth and they swung together in companionable silence, just admiring the stars.

 

     “I wonder if Kouga ever looks at the stars,” Kagome said out of the blue. Beside her, Inuyasha tensed slightly. “He spends all that time racing around on a little dirt track. I just wonder if he could be looking at the same constellations that we are.”

 

     “Who really cares?” Inuyasha grumbled. Kagome could hear the pout in his voice. Her hand flew to her mouth as if to stop the words that she had already said.

 

     “I’m so sorry, Inuyasha,” She apologized. “I didn’t mean to bring him up. You’re still the best.”

 

     Inuyasha narrowed his eyes in suspicion. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

 

     Heat crept into her cheeks. How embarrassing. She goes out of her way to reassure Inuyasha that he doesn’t need to be jealous of Kouga, and the first thing she does is put her foot in her mouth. Kagome was glad that it was dark so that Inuyasha couldn’t see her blush. “Nothing. I just don’t want you to feel threatened by Kouga.”

 

     “Is there a reason I should feel threatened, Kagome?” Inuyasha shot to his feet as a thought occurred to him. “Has that poaching wolf in sheep’s clothing been bothering you?”

 

     “Of course not.” Kagome stood up and faced Inuyasha, trying to make her voice as soothing as possible. “It’s just that after what Miroku said-- “She stopped and her hand flew to her mouth again, but it was too late.

 

     “Miroku.” Inuyasha echoed her flatly. “And what has Miroku been telling you?”

 

     Kagome looked down and started to fiddle with the angel charm bracelet on her wrist. “He just told me how you two didn’t get along when you were younger and that Kouga was a big show-off.”

 

     “I am going to strangle that idiot.” Inuyasha balled his hands into fists. “No, strangling is too good for him. I’ll castrate him first, and then I’ll strangle him.”

 

     Startled by the violence in Inuyasha’s tone, Kagome looked up into stormy violet eyes. “Why are you so mad at Miroku? I asked him to tell me why you and Kouga hate each other.”

 

     “And I told the pervert to keep his damn mouth shut about my past.” Shocked, Kagome could only stare. Inuyasha never swore. Raising his young son had taught him to keep his language clean. “My life is not an open book!”

 

     Kagome felt her spine stiffen at Inuyasha’s unreasonable tone. “Pardon me for being concerned about you! I would think that you would want to share details of your past with me at least!”

 

     “There are some things you were not meant to know.” There was a note of finality in his voice, warning her that the conversation was over. Of course, Kagome chose not to heed that warning.

 

     “I have a right to know! You shouldn’t keep these secrets from me!  Don’t you care about me?” Kagome’s voice rose until she was shouting.  And because she was angry, she said things she didn’t mean.  “Kouga wouldn’t keep me ignorant like this!  Maybe I should just ask him to tell me what happened!  I’m sure he’d tell me everything!”

 

     “Is that right?” Inuyasha’s voice turned cold. “Well, why don’t you go cozy up to him? I’m sure he’ll love to tell you all about how his life sucked from day one and I had everything handed to me on a silver platter.”

 

     “Inuyasha, that isn’t what I meant.” Kagome rested her hand on his arm, but he shrugged it off. She set her mouth in a hard thin line and stepped away from him. “Fine, you big spoiled baby! I was trying to let you know that you have no reason to be jealous of Kouga. But if you’re that insecure, then maybe I don’t want to be around you anymore. Maybe I want someone with a little more confidence in himself... and in me.”

 

     Turning his back on Kagome, Inuyasha crossed his arms over his chest. “You keep prying into my life and you expect me to trust you? I knew this wouldn’t last. Kouga already has you wrapped around his little finger, and you’ve only seen him a few times!”

 

     “I’m going home until you grow up! And maybe if I see Kouga I’ll take him up on his offer of coffee.” Kagome spun on her heel and marched away.

 

     Inuyasha stood stiffly, listening for the sounds of Kagome’s returning footsteps. Already he was regretting half of the things that had left his mouth. He waited for Kagome to come back and apologize. Of course he would accept. Relaxing his rigid stance, he reached into his pocket and closed his fingers on the box that he had almost forgotten. A faint sound from behind him reached his ears.

 

     “Kagome?” He turned eagerly, ready to forgive her and maybe be forgiven. The park was empty. It finally hit Inuyasha that maybe he had, with his harsh words, driven away the one person that he cared about as much as Shiro. And this time, he didn’t know if she would come back.

 

^**^

 

     The door slammed against the wall with a loud bang, knocking several pictures askew. It was a good thing that the occupant was home and that the door wasn’t locked. Inuyasha was so mad that he might have put his fist through the thin wood if it hadn’t opened right away.

 

     “Miroku!” he roared. He needn’t have bothered; Miroku came running at the first crash. His hair was damp and he was clad only in boxers with a towel draped around his shoulders.

 

     “Inuyasha! What a surprise!” He ducked the blow aimed at his head.

 

     “This is all your fault!” Inuyasha pursued Miroku into the living room and swung again, but missed when Miroku lost his balance and tumbled over the back of the couch.

 

     “What did I do?” Miroku panted and scrambled out of the way.

 

     “You had to open your big fat mouth and blab about the whole rivalry thing between me and Kouga, didn’t you?” Inuyasha had Miroku cornered, but he wasn’t swinging his fists anymore. “And now Kagome won’t talk to me. She’s mad and it’s all your fault!”

 

     “What are you talking about?” Miroku had a bewildered look on his face that gradually cleared as he put two and two together. “Oh.”

 

     Inuyasha’s shoulders slumped and he allowed Miroku to guide him back to the couch. He sat there, staring at his hands, while he listened to Miroku rummage around in his room. A short while later, Miroku came back into the room, still barefoot, but wearing jeans and pulling a shirt over his head.

 

     “Okay, why don’t you tell me what this is all about?” He lowered himself onto the other end of the couch, trying to force his hair to lie flat with one hand.

 

     “Kagome and I went out on a date tonight,” Inuyasha admitted.

 

     “Congratulations!” Miroku gave him a hearty slap on the back. “So what went wrong?”

 

     “Everything was going great.” Inuyasha wasn’t paying attention to Miroku anymore. “We had a nice dinner and I had almost worked up the courage to... ” His voice trailed off and he reached into his pocket to extract the little box that he had been carrying for days.

 

     Miroku seized the box, popping the lid open to reveal a simple Black Hill’s Gold ring with a pattern of green and pink leaves intertwined. “I knew that you would propose, Inuyasha! You two belong together!”

 

     Inuyasha snatched the box back, snapping the lid shut and shoving it into his pocket again. A hint of pink crossed his cheeks. “It’s not an engagement ring, you pervert. It’s a promise ring. If we were back in high school it would be like going steady, not ‘let’s get married.’”

 

     “But it’s an important step,” Miroku insisted. “It’s telling the girl that you like her enough to consider marriage.”

 

     Inuyasha collapsed against the cushions. “What does it matter? Kagome’s mad at me now. She’ll go running to Kouga like all the girls eventually did. And it’ll break Shiro’s heart.”

 

     ‘Not to mention your own,’ Miroku thought. Aloud, he said, “Where is Shiro, anyway?”

 

     “He’s staying the night at Kagome’s house. Just because she’s not talking to me is no reason to keep her from being around Shiro.”

 

     “Did you try to talk to Kagome?” Miroku asked. “She’s probably just as upset as you are. I bet the two of you could work things out if you tried.”

 

     “What would be the point?” Inuyasha said again. “She practically told me that she was going to go out with Kouga for coffee.” He made the last word sound like something slimy and disgusting.

 

     “Kagome loves you.” Miroku’s voice was soft, all playfulness gone. “It was just a misunderstanding. Talk to her. Give her the ring.”

 

     “Why would someone as wonderful as Kagome want to be with someone like me?” Inuyasha didn’t look at Miroku; it was more like he was thinking out loud. “I can’t give her anything, just a full time job as a babysitter while I’m at work all day. Kouga can show her the world, without cares or responsibilities. What could I give her that would be any better?”

 

     “You could give her your heart,” Miroku said. “You can trust her to make the right choice. You can stop being held back by the insecurities of the past. You can talk to the girl and let her know how you feel.”

 

     Inuyasha nodded as if to himself. “I’ll do it,” he promised.

 

^**^

 

Food for thought (courtesy of koishii Ookami):

 

I don’t suffer from insanity, I enjoy every minute of it

copyright: The Literary Dragon 2004