Cup of Tea by DragonFly

Chapter One

She gazed into the darkened depths of the steaming mug before her. Wonderful aromas filled the corner shop as she continued to pretend to drink her tea. In truth, she was watching the window, or specifically the reflection of a man watching her.

Still an hour from sun rise, Kagome had long since learned the advantaged of arriving early to work. It saved her time in the commute, gave her an opportunity to get a head start on the day and her demanding boss, and most importantly, it helped her avoid running into said boss.

Truly, SesshouMaru-sama was not one to tolerate weakness in any form, but from the first day he stepped into his office lobby and saw Kagome behind his secretary's desk, there's been an automatic dislike and doubt of ability. Sure, she was a temp until the regular person, a woman in her sixties, returned from her annual religious cleansing, and as such might not know all the ins and outs of the job, but it wasn't like she was swarm of annoying mosquitoes hell bent on pissing him off.

Once Kaede felt her soul was cleared from the past year's accumulation of negative chi she'd return and release Kagome from her temporary prison. The truth was she hadn't slept well since the first night, having spent the day trying to appease to her boss and learn the job and adjust to the office space all at the same time. It had caused a headache that stayed for two weeks and was going strong into its third.

The man watching her shifted and she was immediately drawn from her self pity back to the situation at hand. He wasn't a stranger but rather her boss's younger sibling. Well, half-sibling really or at least that was how he'd been introduced. SesshouMaru-sama had never so much as said two words to her outside the sphere of work and then suddenly, in walks his brother one day, and her boss was more amicable towards her than she'd ever thought possible for the man. He'd actually said her name.

InuYasha, as she had come to discover was the sibling's name, had visited her several times since their introduction, even having been kind enough to bring her lunch on several occasions when SesshouMaru-sama needed her to work straight through the day. He was social, outgoing, a little brash and rude at times, but overall a nice enough kind of guy. No one she was overly interested in, since men in general were too much added stress to her currently busy life, but he was a breath of fresh air to her currently stuffy and drab situation.

Across the little caf, she noticed InuYasha rise and head in her direction. It was getting to that time of day when the regular rush began arriving for their pre-workday caffeine boost and she left for the office. When he stood directly behind her, Kagome gathered her things and turned rise.

"Hey," she said, receiving a nod in response. "Haven't seen you in here before."

He shrugged slightly, stepping back and towards the door with her. "I followed you, actually." When Kagome turned to look at him, concern and suspicion written into her expression, he smirked. "I'm not stalking you, Kagome. I need to ask you something before we get to the towers."

Morning traffic was beginning to accumulate as the couple walked, slower than the rest of the flow on the sidewalk, towards a series of business park towers. SesshouMaru-sama's corporation owned the entire technology development and made their headquarters in the most eastern of the glass structures. The coffee shop was half way between the train stop and the front door of Kagome's building.

InuYasha remained quiet after his declaration to Kagome, clearly trying to organize his thoughts. They were neared the main lobby, he slowed even further and then stopped. Looking up at the structural evidence of his brother's and father's ability to make money and progress, the younger man sighed.

"Kaede called late last night. She's not coming back to work for him." Kagome immediately became agitated, obviously with concern for the older woman, and InuYasha put a comforting hand on her shoulder. "She's fine; just decided that the lifestyle at the retreat is more to her liking now. SesshouMaru gifted her with a bonus last night and of course she has her pension, so she'll be fine."

He paused, if for dramatic effect or to again gather his thoughts, Kagome couldn't tell. It was wonderful to hear about Kaede, she was certainly well beyond what Kagome considered as an age when people were entitled to retire and relax for the remainder of life, and she would most likely be around to visit from time to time. The older woman was overly loved in the office, even apparently by SesshouMaru-sama.

It was getting late and she needed to go inside soon. She especially didn't want to be late and then have to explain it was because she was with InuYasha. It was blatantly obvious that the two half-brothers were not one another's favorites. "That's wonderful, InuYasha. I really think Kaede worked hard for that privilege. I hope she's happy."

The look he gave her was one of misery. The sudden sinking feeling in her stomach prompted her to ask: "What's this have to do with me?"

InuYasha rubbed his forehead, as though her headache had decided to jump the distance between them to reside in his head for a moment. "He's going to have you replace her."

The way he worded it was temporarily lost in her extreme elation as the prospect of a full-time job with benefits and retirement and everything. It was almost a dream come true except for the fact her prospective boss was a nightmare.

"Really?! Oh Kami, InuYasha, he wants to hire me?" She turned away to do a little dance, unfortunately too quickly to catch the panic rising in InuYasha's expression. He grabbed her by the arm, swinging her about to face him.

"You don't want this, Kagome. Trust me. This offer is not a good thing for you." His face was serious and the tone of his voice too tense for her ignore.

"But... why?" Why wouldn't her having a good job, steady income, and a cold, proud, arrogant employer be good? Was there something InuYasha neglected to tell her, like his brother was an axe-murderer in his spare time?

"When SesshouMaru's mother was dying she asked him to promise her something. At her funeral he stated to everyone that he'd do what our father couldn't; marry a woman and remain faithful," he said as though it was a confession.

"If SesshouMaru-sama announced it to a room of funeral goers, then his promise would hardly be a matter of corporate security", Kagome mumbled in consideration.

He noticed her lack of understanding at the urgency he was trying to convey. "Kaede is a councilor of sorts, to help SesshouMaru find that girl, that one who will help him keep his promise. She left because you're that woman."

Kagome inhaled sharply, her brows drawn in confusion. It was inconceivable that her boss even thought of her when she wasn't standing in his way, let alone as a prospective bride.


'Disbelief' was the name of the emotional game now.

"SesshouMaru-sama hates me," she said, reinforcing it when InuYasha began shaking his head. "Hey! I'm shocked out of my socks that he's even going to consider me to replace Kaede. The other is totally unbelievable."

The hand gripping her shoulder tightened. "He's doing it to get you close so he can court you. Kami, Kagome, that's why he's been acting so protective over you."

The way his brother had reacted recently whenever InuYasha was around worried him, but the new development with Kaede leaving and Kagome staying, it down right terrified him. In InuYasha's eyes his brother was a sick and twisted individual, completely incapable of real or genuine emotion outside the nearly demonic instinct he had to be a success. He wouldn't care who he stepped on or what condition it left them in, SesshouMaru would do anything to keep promises and succeed. Especially at the expense of their father.

"What are you talking about? He's not protective, he's a slave driver," Kagome said, a slight snort of sarcasm in her voice.

He wanted to shake her silly; she could see it in his eyes. Instead InuYasha leaned closer and lowered his voice another notch. "Working you through lunches, demanding earlier mornings and later evenings, weekends... He's keeping you within arm's reach." He waved his free hand behind him in the general direction of the residential section of the tech park, saying, "next it will be a place at one of the apartment buildings within the development."

Kagome scoffed, "like I can afford..."

"He'll make it so you can. Kagome, this is not something to take lightly. He's trapping you!" InuYasha was hissing out whispers and really starting to dig into her. She needed to diffuse him and fast, before he hauled off and carried her away. For her own good, of course.

"Okay," she began, her voice as calming and normal as possible, "not that I'm actually considering or anything, but why the, well, extreme concern?" Maybe he was jealous?

InuYasha seemed to visibly relax before letting her go and shoving both hands into his pockets. "If he acted anything like our father he'd at least be doing this out of love, but it's for revenge. He's getting back on behalf of his mother's humiliation." She must have looked like she didn't quite understand him. Sighing slightly, InuYasha finished, "he wants to demean my father's image by fulfilling the one obligation he failed in."

Sunlight reflected off glass of the building behind him, drawing her attention back to the time. "I need to get inside." She saw the muscles in his jaw tighten briefly, then loosen and drop. He looked briefly like a wounded puppy dog.

Kagome walked around him and began towards the doors. "Kagome," he sounded a totally defeated and so she slowed, turning partially. His back was still to her. "Be careful."

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