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The Silver Linings by ECCougarBeta

Dirty.Thirty.

Dirty. Thirty. 
Those two damning words on April 1st of this year was the worst thing written on her calender. She had the day off - but there was a sucker punch to this. Where she had the day off, she definitely didn’t have the funds to do anything memorable. Standing in the dismal gray apartment, she looked around with a scowl, trying to determine how she would cook the goose that was her  birthday. Surely there was something to do. Kagome had tossed her thick hair up into a messy bun upon waking, slipped into some sweatpants and a tank, and saw the day it was on the calender. Now she felt obligated to do something. Kagome took a couple steps and was in the kitchen where her cell phone was charging overnight. She had a problem playing around on her phone at night, making it that much harder for her to sleep. As though she didn’t already have problems with sleeping. Kagome slipped the phone off of the wireless charger and read the messages from family and friends wishing her a happy birthday.

Since moving to Kashiwazaki in search of her own adventure, things hadn’t gone as... Smoothly as she hoped. Her friends had all wished her luck. Everyone had been moving on to colleges, or temp jobs. Which was Kagome. Originally, with the promise of there being work with the new hospital that had been commissioned for the outskirts of the town, she had accepted a job working for the current hospital’s administration office. With the influx of people on top of those that already lived in Kashiwazaki, the jobs ran dry quickly, and to make better use of the money, they had paired Kagome down to minimal hours. Instead of working full time, she was now waiting to hear from the temp office she’d signed up for a week ago for something a little more stable. Her apartment was paid up for the year - she had put more and more money towards it, and the owner of the little building was very kind to her. However, she still had other bills to pay, like lights and water, phone services. And temporary was barely helping make ends meet. 

Now, the obligation of her birthday had arrived and she wondered if perhaps she should go about just lying about what she did for the day. Mama would be asking for sure. Kagome tapped her lip as she put down her phone, chewing on her nail. Why should she have to explain herself to anyone? The pressure to fit into a normal society had been trained out of her the second she landed in the Feudal Era. She quickly pinched herself. There would be no more depressing thoughts today. It was bad enough she went into her thirties with nothing more to do than drink orange juice from the carton in a pair of sweatpants and a sweat stained tank top that needed to be washed. Kagome sighed again, and listlessly wandered the apartment for a few more minutes before reaching into a cupboard and pulling out a can of soup she had cleverly purchased to hide her stash in. Taking a quick tally of what she had, she set some money aside and grabbed her keys. Before she stepped outside, she switched her tank top with a cleaner tee shirt and snatched her wallet and phone. 

As she made her way down, she said hello to her elderly neighbor and the building owner, who were talking animatedly outside. Strolling down the sidewalk on this gray April day, she stuffed her hands in the pockets of her sweatpants. Her face felt heavy despite the empty feeling in the pit of her being. Living on the outskirts of the town made for quieter living, but for some reason it put her nerves on edge to be so close to the mountains. It was why she’d chosen to get out of the stuffy city but stay close enough to the seaside she could see it from a rooftop. The walk to her local liquor store was twenty or so minutes, so it was at least a trip outside the house. The old man that ran the shop she preferred to go to had plenty of imported alcohols, most of them being whiskey from the Americas or British Islands. The cheapest bottle would be just fine, and hopefully the burn from a bottle might give her a little mood boost. 

She entered the store, meandered until she found something cheap enough she could afford it, bought her bottle and headed back home with the brown paper back. As she was headed that way, she took a peek around noticing only a single black sedan parked on the street across from the store. The windows were darkly tinted, but she didn’t notice any shapes, and assumed she was alone on the street. She unscrewed the cap of the Beam bottle she had purchased and took a couple hard swings. Her throat was on fire and she almost sputtered it back up, but she steeled herself to swallow and shook her head, exhaling hard. 

“Dammit!” She hissed as the burn slowly made a warm path to her stomach. Her cheeks flushed and she screwed the cap back on. “Well, at least I won’t be bored today. Happy Birthday to me!” 
She hummed merrily, a new pep in her step. 

~*~

Sesshoumaru rarely found himself anywhere near the mundane townships that edged the maps of Japan. Usually he preferred to be tucked away in the more demon populated mountains, or islands undiscovered that kept to the old ways. But here he was, perusing sites per the Ministry as a consultant for the newest government funded human hospital they wanted to build in Kashiwazaki. The day had  been obnoxiously long, and as it was, Jaken was currently haggling noisily with an old man at a liquor store over the price of the only top shelf bottle of gin he stocked. Not that paying twice the price for Sakurao in this tiny town was anything worth getting upset over. Sesshoumaru just wanted to hurry up and head for the heli-pad before they closed for the night and they would be forced to rent a house again. He didn’t get homesick, but he was more interested in drinking at home. The town was even beginning to wind down, and only a single lone woman walked the street with a bottle purchased from the store. 

To make matters worse, she had started drinking straight from the bottle, and was walking in a stained pair of pants that insisted she was some kind of transient and had bargained away what little money she probably had for a bottle of booze. Sesshoumaru snorted distastefully and looked towards the liquor store. Jaken was still fussing with the old man. He would give the frog one more minute before he went in and paid for the liquor himself. It seemed beneath him to go into a store just to by a bottle of overpriced gin, but he was ready for the bottle. Humans had become unreasonably stubborn as time went on. He missed the days of blood and carnage. The warring period was a wonderful, shining time of gore and revelry. Even if that time was when he had more discipline than his current days. One could argue his patience had grown exponentially in fifteen hundred or so years, but it hadn’t been an increase in stability so much as a flexibility as time had progressed that allowed for a longer reign.

His father would certainly agree. Once Touga returned from China and explained his absence (albeit poorly), he had suggested a partnership starting a consulting agency with the developing human government. While the humans were tentative to make any deals with demons, they did want a better way to exist. Clearly the bloodshed was not working for them and the eventual treaties sufficed with both of them. There was still the occasional issue, but part of the corporation the Taisho’s had built was a consultation company with Sesshoumaru also holding the title of Arbitor. 
He mediated the problems the demon community had with the humans as they grew and encroached on sacred lands. If anything, the esteem he and his father had built with the humans hadn’t gone unnoticed, and the Eastern, Northern, and Southern demons had smaller corporations built with the same intentions. The two humans who had been assigned ministers as well as their vice ministers met on a fairly frequent basis, if only to ensure the success of both communities living harmoniously with one another. The beginning had been rocky. Much blood had been spilled in the name of peace; but it had eventually been accomplished. 

Sesshoumaru looked at the store front again. Jaken was still shouting at the old man. Moving from the car to confront the small demon, Sesshoumaru couldn’t help the sigh of irritation as he massaged his temple. He would be searching for a home to stay at tonight. There was no way with how long this was taking they would make it on time across Kashiwazaki to the helicopter pad atop the pre-exhisting hospital. He opened his door and was hit with an unusually familiar scent. He stood from the car, sampling the air, frowning in the direction of the transient woman before walking over to the store front. He pulled the money for the gin out of the gold money clip he kept in his pant pocket and entered the store, frightening Jaken, who bowed deep at his entrance.

“My Lord Sesshoumaru! My Lord I’m terribly sorry for the delay this silly fool of a shop owner insists we pay so much more handsome a price for a bottle we have gotten for far less at other shops as though he thinks -”
“For your trouble.” Sesshoumaru slipped the amount he’d seen on the bottle as well as a handsome extra before turning the way he came to follow the scent that intrigued him. The old man blinked after him, then turned a smug grin on Jaken who blathered on after him, snatching the bottle from the counter with a scowl at the shop keep. 
“My Lord, where are we going?!” He shouted. 
“You will watch the car and await for us to come back.” 

Jaken sputtered, but didn’t argue, plodding off to the sedan as he mumbled under his breath.
Sesshoumaru ticked an eyebrow at him, but walked along, following the odd scent that piqued his curiosity. Surely it couldn’t be the transient woman..? The scent oddly enough was not unclean, but it did have its own... Musk. This scent was a familiar pure scent, one that he only caught in shrine maidens. Hilariously enough, it was also mingled with the scent of cheap over handled whiskey. He’d seen it in monks - it had been a while since he’d seen it so poorly hidden in a priestess. Sesshoumaru walked along for five of so minutes and found the scent was beginning to fade as rain moved in. His nose tipped up in the air, scenting once more for the trail and deciding it was not worth his time to pursue. Perhaps he was simply living in the past. If he hadn’t known any better, he would have said it brought back very old memories that had long been buried under paperwork. 

~*~

A few hours later, after multiple shots of whiskey straight from the bottle, Kagome was dancing around her apartment enjoying the sweet sound of her own radio. The room was warm, and her hair piled atop her head was starting to come loose. She had turned the tv up a little more to drown out any other sounds and was dancing to some of the J-pop when someone knocked loud enough to catch her attention. She stumbled over to the door, nearly tripping over her welcome mat as she shouted through the door.
“Who is it?”
“Its us Kagome! Happy birthday!” a familiar trio of voices trilled. Kagome yelped with happiness and quickly unlocked her door.
“Hey guuuyys!” She slurred merrily. The group of girls giggled and hugged Kagome.
“We wanted to surprise you!” Yuka laughed as Kagome lead her into the apartment. 
“I brought Sambuca from my trip to Greece with Tenshi!” Eri called, waving around a clear bottle sloshing with liquid. 
“Kagome where are the cups! We’ll pregame and then see about crashing a local hotel’s pool!” Ayumi called, walking to the kitchen and opening cupboards. 
“Guys!” Kagome called, pausing the music and muting the television. “Guys. Girls.. I just wanted to say..” 
Tears started at the back of Kagome’s eyes before she even knew she was crying. All of the loneliness and the struggle of the last ten years weighed on her. The pain came swarming back like a thousand stinging bees and spilled over her cheeks as two molten rivers. “I’m so glad you came.” She croaked weakly, knees wobbling as she sat hard on her chair. All three cheery faces turned to concern, tutting and cooing over her.
“Don’t cry Kagome! We’re gonna have a great night! We’ll make it a real dirty thirty for you!” Eri soothed. “Lets have fun and celebrate how far you’ve come! We’re all so proud of you!”
Yuka nodded vigorously. “You made it out of that awful time and here you are! You are making it on your own, and we’re all here for  you! Don’t think about the past, try to go on to the future Kagome! It promises to be fantastic!”
Ayumi was quiet, but her hugs made the trembling in Kagome’s arms and legs temper. 
“Go get the drinks ready, Yuka and Eri! Make mine a triple!” Ayumi shooed. Once the other two were gone, Ayumi knelt in front of Kagome. Due to  her quiet pensive nature, Ayumi heard more of Kagome’s issues than the other two. She knew a little more than most, but not the whole story. All she remembered was the withered mess she had come to pick up at the shrine at her mother’s behest when it was apparent the well wouldn’t take her back. Ayumi had seen the mutilated shambles Kagome had been left in, barely able to speak for the following year as she sorted through a myriad of emotions that left her nearly insane as she tried to remember everything that had happened to her. 
Ayumi stroked her cheek and kissed Kagome on the forehead. 

“Its a pretty hard marker in time, isn’t it? It slaps at honestly the worst times. Don’t worry, Kagome. Its normal. Its okay to need to grieve again.” 
Ayumi pinched her cheek, making Kagome laugh through the unexpected tears and slap her hand away.
“Now come on Kagome! Lets celebrate hard enough you won’t remember why you cried in the first place!” She insisted, pulling Kagome up with her toward the kitchen.
“Shots of sambuca! C’mon! Lets get this party started!”

~*~

Blessedly, Yuka had connections in the hotel business, so the three drunken girls had a place for their noisy shenanigans. The cab driver dropped them off before a posh hotel with a swimming pool and Yuka checked them in. They made their way to a large suite and dropped off their things before changing and bringing all manner of contraband down to the pool side with plastic cups to serve it in. Kagome practically fell into the pool to the joyful shrieks of the girls, and was quickly followed by the others. They splashed one another and swam until they were tired, and once they were settled in the sauna, they poured another round of drinks, talking about their lives and what had changed since then. 

Yuka, being the one responsible for their current lodgings had answered questions regarding how she got to the managerial position she had accepted upon graduating. Her prowess with numbers and customers had set her apart from the would be competition for the position and her beauty had certainly gained a few favors. She had tenacity for the business and enjoyed it. Eri was a touch more flighty, having given in to a fling with a rich young man who flew her all over the world. She was sharp and witty, with a degree in philosophy and art; honestly, she should have been curating for a museum somewhere with her knowledge, but apparently she made lovely company for the man she was secretively dating. 

Ayumi had decided to make use of her attentiveness and had a well earned degree in psychology, and was using her degree to aid children needing therapy. She could handle adult clients, but her sweet nature put her closer to children than it did the scathe of adults. It was during her years in college Ayumi had assisted pulling Kagome out of the depth of her despair that had determined her path.
“Seriously..” Yuka leaned into Eri. “You gotta gemme some of that sexy rich booty. I mean, I can only get so much from the hotel industry, andits frowned upon to sleep with your customers.”

Eri snort-laughed hysterically, making a few other heads turn as the light of day waned into dusk. 
“I can’t help you on your love-front, you silly billy bean! Love will find its way when its ready to, you know that!”
Ayumi laughed with the slightest swagger. “For all  you know, it is here in this pool tonight!”
“Hear hear to finding love in the pool!” Eri called. Yuka sniggered and swished over to the side where Kagome was pouring for another round. 
“Whattabout you, Kags? So you moved, have an apartment of your own. Hospital Administration in the cards for you?”
Kagome scowled. “I dun wanna talk work. Its been  harder than I thought fighting off the people that are already here. Apparently, a buncha people wanted to move from the old hospital that's here already to the new hospital and they -” Kagome made air quotes sarcastically, “’Lost my paperwork in all the hubub.’”
Her three friends booed at the prospect.
“So now I have to go back down to the temp office once they re-receive all the crap I filled out for a new interview session, which is stupid in my opinion.” 
She sighed heavily before throwing back her shot of the black licorice tasting beverage and pouring another. “Whatever. We came here to drink and have fun! Can we have some music?”
Yuka nodded enthusiastically, grabbing a portable speaker and connecting her phone after a few curses and tries. All the girls whooped when a heavy bass started to pump and they danced in the spa, drinking enough to forget any troubles they might have had.

 

INUYASHA © Rumiko Takahashi/Shogakukan • Yomiuri TV • Sunrise 2000
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