Author's Note: Apologies for the delay, but it is finally here. The final chapter! Congrats to Gribed-Li and YoukaiNeko for solving the murder of Sara Asano. This chapter is double the length of usual chapters, and once you get to the end, be sure to scroll all the way down if you'd like to read a "post credits scene" for Part Two.

Warnings: graphic depictions of a murder scene, past and suggested cannibalism (not main characters) and violence.


Deductions

Part One

Chapter 13: The Game


Inuyasha had never before had to worry about accountability. Why would he have? In what world was Inuyasha – broken and hounded, or scabbed over and useful – accountable to anyone but himself? Still, accountability meant nothing in the face of secrets.

And secrets? Always had a price.

The name Ebisu meant nothing to him initially, nothing more than a name to be found on shipping containers to find Shizu's missing body. Totosai had said the word like a curse, shaking and manic as he scratched at his arms, big eyes wide. He and Kagome had pulled up to the section of the docks the old man had described. The place was a goddamn ghost town, his Google search of Ebisu instantly making clear why. If Ebisu had filed for bankruptcy, it would make sense there was no one around.

"Bankruptcy filing. No one is here to manage anything until bills are paid." Inuyasha looked around, discontent itching his skin. This wasn't right.

Ebisu. Ebisu. The name nagged in the back of his brain like a screaming alarm. He scanned the article once more, trying to find the catalyst for his unease.

"That seems…odd," Kagome replied, picking up on it too. Maybe not the same as him, but she was brilliant. He needed her to ask the questions.

Why dump a body here? The docks had cameras everywhere.

Why dump a body in a container? Totosai had been specific that Shizu's remains were locked inside one of them. Why? To what purpose?

It didn't make sense. It made no sense at—

"Inuyasha—"

His phone vibrated then, irritation flooding through him. Miroku's name flashed across the screen – of fucking course it would be him – before he answered it, a near growl. "Miroku, tell me what the fuck is going on."

"The Hakushin Medical Centre board of directors are clear," the detective answered, sounding exhausted. "We're still following up on alibis."

"We both know the only reason we're following up with them is to make your fucking captain happy. It's a waste of fucking time. What about the office?"

Miroku grunted. "You were right. There's a secondary entrance."

"And?" Inuyasha pressed. "Any evidence?"

"No, but it leads straight to the dumpsters."

"Fucking finally," he yelled. Bingo. Fucking bingo. Inuyasha whirled around, his mind flooded with the crime. It was all coming together. The death of Dr. Tsukuyomaru Suzuki, of Sara Asano, of Jinenji Egawa. The body being stolen from the lab. All due process. All a particular thread, unravelling the web of conspiracy.

Except—

Not here. Not Shizu. Why not Shizu? Why hide the body in a storage container where there were cameras? And there were cameras – he spotted at least three of them watching him alone.

"We're working on the warrant," Miroku assured him. "Should have within the next couple of hours."

"Let Sango do the talking."

The detective snorted, amused. "Have you seen her lately? Trust me, you do not want her doing the talking."

Inuyasha pursed his lips, golden eyes returning to the shipping containers in front of him. Ebisu. Ebisu. Ebisu. He frowned. Why was the name bothering him? A red flag like this would have some sort of track record within his mind, a reason for the alarm. But Ebisu meant nothing to him.

"Inuyasha?"

The sound of his name, laced with concern, brought him back. "Are you going to say anything else useful, or what?"

"That's uncalled for," Miroku replied slowly. "Where are you?"

"The docks."

"Why?"

Inuyasha growled, eyeing the name on the shipping containers still. It felt like a taunt. "I don't have time for this. Get the warrant. Don't fuck this up," he concluded, hanging up immediately before pulling the Google result for the shipping company's bankruptcy filing back up. What had triggered him and why was it so hard to make the goddamn connection? This wasn't like him. This was…hazy. A nagging feeling, rather than the abrupt surety he normally felt when facts were presented before him.

He scanned the article until he froze, gaze stuck on one word: Shichinintai.

Where had he heard of that before? Ebisu and Shichinintai. Ebisu and—

Fuck. Fuck.

The problem with secrets was that no matter what happened, they always came back to bite you. Even if it was on your death bed, the things you would have rather kept buried would find a way to claw out. They would burst from their caskets, crawl from the dirt. Secrets were everlasting that way.

He made the call without hesitation. The bastard answered on the fifth ring.

"Inuyasha," Sesshomaru greeted, flat. "I am—"

"Shichinintai," he interrupted. "I need everything you've got on Shichinintai, Ebisu Shipping and—" Inuyasha swallowed hard, angry. This couldn't have been a coincidence, but if he was right… If Inuyasha was right and this was very much all part of a larger conspiracy, one bigger than he had ever fathomed, then that meant—

"Do not waste my time," Sesshomaru stated haughtily and Inuyasha snapped, unable to control himself. His body felt like it was touching a live wire, electricity shooting through his veins. His heart rate had increased, tremulous, loud in his ears. If he was right—

"Shichinintai, Ebisu Shipping and Horaijima," Inuyasha barked out, giving up the final word. The piece of the puzzle snapping in like a guillotine blade sliding home.

The silence on the other end was poignant.

"Not so much of an asshole now, are you?" Inuyasha growled, looking around. Where was Kagome? They needed to find the body and then go, head straight to City Hall or the goddamn police precinct, he didn't care. He couldn't even think about what would be more efficient. All his mind wanted to process was this burning, wild connection. Impossible, surely. There was no way anyone could have known the full extent of the truth.

Shichinintai, Ebisu and Horaijima.

"Inuyasha," Sesshomaru started, voice no longer that brutal monotone. There was something like a hint of anger there, though that was probably just him projecting.

Where the hell was Kagome?

Sesshomaru continued, unaware of his rising frustration, "What is—"

"Just do it," Inuyasha snapped out, harsh. "For fuck's sake, do this one thing for me. I have to go." He hung up immediately, spinning around in a circle before heading in the direction he'd last seen Kagome. He rounded a bend, the office for Ebisu's management in sight. He frowned, hearing absolutely nothing.

"Kagome?" he yelled, frozen to the spot, the better to hear even the slightest of sounds. The better to find her. But there was no sound. There was nothing. Nothing. "Kagome!"

Nothing. Nothing at all.

Shichinintai, Ebisu and Horaijima. Shichinintai, Ebisu and—

When his cell phone went off again, a growl ripped out from his throat, hands jamming into the pocket of his leather jacket. If it was Sesshomaru or Miroku he was going to fucking—

UNKNOWN, read the caller display.

For the first time in a long, long time, Inuyasha felt a tendril of fear slither down his spine.

Secrets. Even if they weren't secrets he meant to keep – even if they weren't truly secrets at all, more like an omission of facts – they would always, always come back. He'd only known Kagome for a little over a week. Still, their conversation from less than an hour ago replayed in his mind: Don't lie to me. What had he told her then?

Technically I never lied. It just never came up.

Omissions and secrets. In the end, they were one and the same.

The call stopped, Inuyasha too wrapped up in his own head to answer. Seconds later, it rang again, UNKNOWN flashing across the screen. He didn't hesitate. "What?"

"Ah yes," an unfamiliar voice intoned, nearly playful. "The infamous attitude of Detective Inuyasha Taisho."

"And who the fuck is this?" he asked, even though he didn't have to. Even though Inuyasha knew. Because while past and present were impossibly converging together, there was only one potentiality. Only one causation.

The Spider.

"Let's not play dumb. You know who I am." The man's voice was deep, seductive. It made his skin crawl, a voice you listened to as they whispered in your ear and stabbed you in the gut. "I'm you, just not on the side of angels."

"Angels," Inuyasha snorted. "Yeah fucking right."

The man on the other end chuckled, bemused. "Relative," he murmured, voice like silk. "But compared to you, I think you'll agree. We're the same, you and I. Two sides of the same coin. You solve crimes; I create them."

"A consulting criminal," Inuyasha sneered, eyeing the camera above him. It was hung right over the office door, fancy and high-tech. What did he want to bet that it, too, had been hacked just like Sakura Scientific?

"That title is rather pedestrian but I'll forgive you, for the sake of the game."

"The game."

The man on the other end – the Spider – hummed consideringly. "The one you're already playing. The one you started playing the moment you ruined what was otherwise a perfect plan."

"If that's your view on perfection, then you're dumber than I thought," Inuyasha hissed, whirling around. He didn't know why – no one was there, it was just him and him alone. Kagome was gone. Kagome was gone. "What do you want?"

"To play against a worthy opponent," the man answered. "You seem like a possibility. I've been watching you for a long while, Inuyasha. But I've been disappointed as of late. Your little friend, the doctor."

"If you so much as fucking touch her—"

The man laughed, vicious. "Oh, Inuyasha, I don't simply touch anything."

The snarl came from this throat without consent. He heard the creak of his cell phone, his grip too tight. "Where is she?"

"A disappointing question," the Spider hummed. "Where would the fun be in telling you when it's the only leverage I have for our little game?"

"If you hurt her—"

"I'm not even in the country," the Spider laughed. It was a villain's laugh, overdone. Inuyasha bit the inside of his cheek, overcome still by the way his body shivered at the menace within it. "But that's probably worse, for your tiny doctor at least. My associates aren't known for being patient. An irritant for me. I don't like to be disobeyed."

The pink-haired assassin.

But… Associates?

"So that's the game then," Inuyasha snapped. He eyed his surroundings but there was absolutely nothing of use. No footprints, no signs of a struggle. The camera footage would be useless. He hadn't even heard a thing. "I find your assassin or Kagome di—"

"This has nothing to do with your little doctor," the Spider hissed unexpectedly. That was anger in his tone. Inuyasha frowned at his cell. "You find my associates, or they'll find you. Someone will die before the day ends. That's the game."

And then, without ceremony or warning, the Spider hung up.

"What the fuck," Inuyasha snapped, immediately redialling. The line was out of service. "Fuck." He whirled around once more, still to nothing more than an empty container lot. "Fuck."

In the distance, he heard a car approaching. Tense and furious, he remained where he was, mind flying faster than he could control. There was an urge to approach the car, a sense of danger built within it. He didn't know who it could be, though rationally the chances of it being an enemy were low. The Spider said that if Inuyasha didn't find his assassin – his associates, plural – then they would find him. But the game had just begun.

Rationality wasn't sticking though, too lost within the haze of obviousness: Kagome was missing. Kagome was taken.

The pink-haired assassin who killed Shizu, who worked for the Spider and killed the doctor and Jinenji, who stole the body from Sakura Scientific – that person had Kagome.

Not known for being patient.

Inuyasha stared at his cell phone, the black screen holding no answers. He heard car doors and his brain was screaming at him – think, think – but this was a step too far, wasn't it? A challenge had been handed to him and he had no data, no sufficient point of reference to guide him.

Kagome was simply gone without a trace.

Kagome was—

"Inuyasha!" Sango barked, close enough that the consulting detective startled. His eyes narrowed but so, too, did hers. She frowned at him, hand immediately going to the gun at her side. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," he snapped, taking a couple steps back when she kept approaching. That was worry on her face. Concern. The dark circles under her eyes were blaring, even in the fading daylight, but it didn't hide the fact that the woman was taken aback by whatever she saw on his face. "Sango—"

"Don't bullshit me," she replied, low and fierce. "What's wrong? Where's Kagome?"

Inuyasha swallowed, glaring at a spot just above her left shoulder. There was no one behind her but Inuyasha couldn't quite meet her gaze. "She's been taken."

"What?" Sango's hand flew to her holster, fingers twitching. "When?"

"Five minutes ago." But that wasn't right, was it? No. His conversation with the Spider had been…that. Roughly that, not exact, and before he'd been talking to Sesshomaru, then before that Miroku and— Whirling back around, Inuyasha surveyed the ground once more, as if the asphalt would give anything away. It wouldn't. It was just as barren of clues as before.

"Inuyasha—"

Total time that Kagome could have been gone was likely still under fifteen minutes, more probably twelve. The assassin had been a demon – assassins, why the hell would the Spider say the plural? Wasn't there only one? Had he missed someone else? Had he—

"Inuyasha!"

There could have been someone else, he supposed. Kagome had heard two voices at Sakura Scientific, hadn't she? And yet, one set of footprints. One. It should make sense. This should make sense.

It wasn't making sense.

"Inuyasha!" His shoulder was wrenched back and he twisted viciously, clawed hand coming up to shove back his attacker. It wasn't until Sango flew backwards, body skidding along the pavement, that he realized the enormity of his mistake.

"Fuck," Inuyasha hissed, immediately going to her side. He crouched down, unwilling to touch her in case the detective decided to shoot him. "Are you okay?"

"Am I okay?" Sango asked, grunting. The wince that settled across her face as her fingers gingerly touched the back of her head stirred even more irrational fear in him. This was wrong. This wasn't making sense. None of it was making sense. "Damn it, Inuyasha, help me up."

Blinking back to the present, Inuyasha's mouth pressed into a thin line as he gripped her wrist and gently tugged her up. Sango hissed again, shoulders rolling as she shook herself out. "How do you feel?"

"Like I got shoved really fucking hard," Sango groused, pressing against the back of her head again. Inuyasha didn't smell any blood which meant they were lucky; how the detective had managed not to smash her head against the asphalt was a miracle. "It doesn't matter though. We need to find Kagome. What do you know?"

What did he know? "Footprints, none. Cameras here, here and—" He spun around, pointing to a 360 unit hanging off of a nearby pole. "Here. All likely hacked, just like Sakura Scientific. I didn't hear her abduction. The Spider confirmed his associate took her." Associates. Associates. Why couldn't he get that one fucking insignificant detail correct? "That means it's the demon from before, the one who stole the body from the lab, who killed Jinenji and who tried to take Kagome when we were at Ayame's. Demon, pink hair, mask. Extremely fast, silent. I didn't hear him take her."

He had said that already, he had said that—

"Wait," Sango cut in, moving closer, "the Spider? You mean that person who was controlling everything? The one responsible for the hack at the lab?"

Inuyasha rolled his eyes. "Yes, fucking keep up. The Spider contacted me and told me it was a game. Kagome's life is leverage in some goddamn game." He took three steps towards the office before freezing, golden eyes zeroing in once more on the pavement. Nothing was there. Nothing. He knew nothing was there, why was he—

"Inuyasha," Sango tried, but he shook his head roughly, storming towards the Ebisu office.

"The assassin – fuck, assassins – likely have a car, but not nearby. This area is industrial for fucking miles. Easy enough to take her to a drop point and then go. But where would he go? The auto shop was where he murdered Shizu, and now she's here. Kagome was here, maybe she's there. No." Inuyasha shook himself roughly, fingers steepled and pressed against his bowed head as he tried to fucking think. "No, someone of this caliber would never be so stupid. The Spider would never let the game end that easily. Not the auto shop, then. A completely random location? Unlikely. There has to be some kind of significance. It wouldn't be a game otherwise."

A game. Kagome was taken for a fucking game.

Pain screamed down his arm, hand tingling. It was a familiar sensation, long missed and never forgotten. Inuyasha stared at his fist and the dent in the office trailer's metal door. Pulling his arm back, he growled as punched it again, only drawing back to lash out with his other fist. The adrenaline flying through his system was a welcome relief, an old friend. A good crime usually was the only thing that made him feel this way, this tingling, all-encompassing thrill that drove him. But this? This game that the Spider had laid out was a challenge unlike any other and Inuyasha found himself lacking, found his brain tripping again and again.

He punched the metal door until the hinges started to give away.

"Inuyasha!" Sango screamed, voice rough like she'd been yelling over and over. Fear latched into the syllables of his name, just as strong as the arms that grabbed around his shoulders and attempted to haul him back. He didn't move, but the action gave him pause, gave him a second to see his hands cut and bloodied, leaking all over the pavement below.

No signs of struggle. Kagome had vanished without a sound. Inuyasha hadn't be paying attention, had been too consumed with his secrets and the goddamn past.

Fucking Horaijima. How had the Spider known?

Only Sesshomaru knew. Sesshomaru and one other person, one goddamn other person

"For fuck's sake, Inuyasha, what are you doing?" Sango shouted, directly into his ear. She tried to tug him back again, her whole body throwing them backwards. He stumbled slightly, catching them both with a tight expression.

How could he even explain this? How could he look the detective directly in the eye and admit this?

Fingers snapped in front of his face, sharp. Sango's scowl was fierce. "Whatever the fuck is going on, you need to breathe."

"I won't figure it out." The words spewed from his lips like poison. A declaration his body knew and his mind was fighting. "There's nothing. I can't see it clearly."

"Breathe," Sango argued, shaking her head. A hand grabbed at his wrist, holding tightly and shaking him. "Breathe or I'm going to punch you, I swear to god."

Inuyasha shook his head, eyes falling to the cameras around them – dead, useless – and then the ground, also—

The slap on his cheek startled him, head whipping to the side. Sango was still shaking his arm with her other hand. "I will do it again, so help me, just breathe you fucking idiot."

The first breath burned, lungs screaming. Inuyasha winced, squeezing his eyes shut as he forced himself to inhale and exhale, at first matching the detective's pace until he could slow it down further. It took minutes, hours, eons. It took far too long, but he got there. There was no relief. With a stern expression, he glared at Sango, unable to express everything he wanted to in that moment. "You had to fucking slap me?"

"How else was I going to get through the stupid?" Sango demanded, whip-smart as always. "What was that?"

Inuyasha's frown deepened into a scowl, unwilling to attempt what felt impossible. "The Spider has people working for him. We know of one of them: that pink-haired demon whose been attached to this case. I thought there was only one, but the Spider spoke in plural, so there are more. I missed something."

"We'll figure it out," Sango answered immediately, hand shaking his wrist again. "What else did he say?"

"Nothing relevant. Just that eventually we would find his associates and that one of us would be dead."

Sango's magenta eyes narrowed. "Not that you would be dead?"

"No." But that was a valid point. It showed a complete lack of care for those that worked under him, even potentially the demon that had done so much under his command. Was he so careless about those in his circle generally? Or— "He said his associates weren't patient, that they disobeyed. If they kill me, the Spider wins the challenge and proves himself the smarter person. If I kill them, I win, but so does he."

"He'd have gotten rid of those associates who didn't follow orders," Sango finished, nodding. "Then what do we do first? How do we find them?"

Inuyasha looked down, though not at the pavement. His gaze was drawn to where her small hand was wrapped around his wrist still, holding firmly. "You care."

"About Kagome? Obviously." Sango shook him again, face creased in incredulousness. "You think we wouldn't look for her?"

"Not that," Inuyasha retorted, shaking his head. "Of course you'd go looking for Kagome. You're friends with her. You think of her as a friend, and have since that day in the interview room. No, I'm talking about me."

"You? Inuyasha," Sango started, even more confused. It was written all over her face, as clear as day. Her hand tightened on him, unconsciously trying to keep the connection. "What the hell are you talking about?"

"You care about me," he explained, slowly, as if speaking with a child. "Not because I can find Kagome fastest. Not because I'm great at closing your cases. It's me. You're standing far too close for it to be a professional capacity. This is a distance that suggests more. You're concerned, too. There's more wrinkles on your face right now that I've seen in a long time." He stared down at the place where she still touched him, torn between shaking her off and asking her to keep it there. "I'd expect mushy shit like this from Miroku. He attaches way too easily, long before he should. Not you, though."

The slap, when it came to his chest, was just shy of hard. A pulled-back effort, but enough for Inuyasha to meet her gaze again. The confusion on her face was completely wiped away, replaced by shock. "You're an idiot," she stated, point blank. "I mean, you're right about Miroku – he's been whining all week that you've been mean to him and he misses your usual bitchy conversations. Which, one of these days, you're going to explain why the hell you're being so weird to him."

Inuyasha had been irritated at Miroku for going after Koharu when he so clearly loved Sango, and when she loved him back. He had been irritated because he knew if Miroku continued, it would impact their dynamic, and ultimately the working relationship between the three of them.

But then again, was that all it was? Had he been trying to protect Sango, just as much as their dynamic?

He determined, in that moment, that Inuyasha would never voice aloud why he had been mad at Miroku. This was far too important, and far from his story to tell.

"I'm not an idiot," he said eventually, ignoring the way she rolled her eyes at him.

"Clearly you are if you think all I've ever thought about you is some kind of co-worker. Did you really think I'd break law enforcement rules for just anyone?"

There was a lot Inuyasha could say to that, but he kept his mouth shut. Instead, he gently tugged his wrist free and then wiped his hands on his jeans, pressing the cuts into the denim. The sting gave a sharp sort of focus. "I've wasted enough time. At this point, there'd be no way to track Kagome. We need to find out where they would hide her. What location would have just the barest hint of meaning for me to find to play the Spider's game."

Sango nodded. "And how did you want to do that?"

"We follow the only goddamn clue we have," Inuyasha growled, taking a look at the containers once more. "The Jane Doe from the auto shop is here. Shizu. The homeless man that tipped off Officer Nisho met with us earlier. He said he followed the pink-haired man here, and that he saw him put the body in a container." He took a look at their position at the Ebisu office's door, remembering what the old man had said. Carefully, Inuyasha counted, until he landed on a faded green container only a few feet away. "That one."

Sango's brow furrowed, moving towards it. "This one? Are you sure?"

Inuyasha understood why she was asking. The container looked like every other one around it: same age, same wear. There was no sign of any breaking in – no damage to the lock, hinges or the door. In fact, the container had a lock matching the others in the row, looking perfectly inconspicuous.

Too inconspicuous.

"Why hide the body here?" Sango asked.

Another good question. Another reason why Shizu's body being dumped here, at the docks, made no sense at all. "It doesn't make sense," he agreed, eyes narrowing. "There are several places in Hakurei in which you could ditch or eradicate a body without it being found. I initially thought the lake but we had never found the body. It didn't make sense that someone would go to the extent of what took place in the auto shop to leave the body in plain sight. Unless it was a message, but no body ever turned up. So that begs the question: if the body isn't destroyed, but it also isn't saved to be a message found, then what is it?"

The detective shook her head beside him, lost. "A clue?"

"Not far off the mark." In fact, Inuyasha thought, her guess may have been the only thing that made sense.

But Shizu's body had been hidden before Inuyasha had even gotten to the auto shop and forced himself onto the case.

So the clue wasn't for him. It wasn't a part of the game.

What the fuck was the Spider up to?

It took only moments for Inuyasha to use his lockpicks to break into Ebisu's office and get the key for the right container. Sango, grim-faced, took it from him and fit it into the lock, snapping the bolt free. With a shake of her head, she turned those magenta eyes on him, serious. "This is going to be shit, you know that right?"

"Open it."

Sango swung open the container door and instantly, his senses were assaulted. The stench of rot was overpowering, making his eyes water. Inuyasha had to control his breathing, forcing himself to take a few steps inside while Sango stood just outside the opening, trying to recover. "Definitely a body in here," she choked out.

"And definitely our auto shop Jane Doe, matching the description of Dr. Suzuki's girlfriend."

Inuyasha stared at the dead body of Shizu Yamaguchi. In many ways, it was exactly what he expected. Her features, though sunken and ashy, were clear enough. She wore no pants and there were massive gashes over her thighs, slices meant to drain her out and torture her. The picture he had painted in the auto shop over a month ago was accurate.

What he hadn't foreseen was the massive hole in her stomach, and the spill of intestines. The missing organs. The bitten flesh. He took a few steps closer, ignoring the stench as he tried to get a better look. The skin was peeling back, separating without moisture, but the ragged edges of chunks torn away were still obvious.

"He ate her."

Behind him, Sango inhaled sharply and then started to cough, choking on her own saliva and the smell that permeated the air. "What?" she gasped out.

"He couldn't wait," Inuyasha explained slowly, more to himself as the picture in the auto shop grew clearer, the last of the details finally asserting themselves. "He was bleeding her out like a pig and was too enticed by it. He split her open and ate her – look, there are organs missing."

"How would you even know? Doesn't that decompose or—"

"You'd still see traces." Inuyasha frowned. "There's probably more wrong with this picture. This is where Kagome would point out the clues."

Kagome, who was with the demon that ate Shizu while she was dying, still alive.

Inuyasha dug a claw into his stinging, cut hands. He couldn't lose focus now. Finding the container and Shizu's body provided some answers, but it really only added questions. There was nothing else in the storage container beside some empty plastic buckets, some scrap metal. There weren't any clues at all, nothing to direct him to finding Kagome.

A dead end.

Taking a breath, Inuyasha pushed past Sango to exit the container, mind whirling. There was only one last point of connection with the assassin, though the chances of it bearing any fruit at all was—

Inuyasha couldn't even think of the percentage. He swallowed hard and waited for Sango to catch up, hands jammed in his leather jacket. He would stain the lining with his blood and he didn't care in the slightest. "Call Miroku. Tell him he has forty minutes before I do something no one is going to like."

"Like what? Miroku's probably not even going to be able to answer, he's trying to get the warrant from the judge—" She cut herself off, and Inuyasha wasn't looking at her, but he could feel the weight of her dagger-sharp glare. "Don't you do what I think you're going to do."

"It's all I have." Inuyasha shrugged with a casualness he didn't feel, the deepest parts of him screaming inside, his bones aching. "Forty minutes. As much time as it takes for me to get there on my bike."

"You drive fast but not forty-fucking-minutes fast."

Inuyasha smirked. "Want to bet?" And then he took off, hearing the echo of Sango's yell as he raced towards his motorcycle. He slid his helmet on, not bothering with the buckle as he started the engine. Forty minutes was still far too long. Far, far too long.

It was all he had.

It was the only remaining lead, the only tangible thread left in which information could be gleaned. Inuyasha had to pull it, consequences with the police be damned. Inuyasha would save Kagome. Fuck the rest.

He raced with a speed that he had never dared to go within city limits. The industrial area was empty, the highway dark with faded lights. Even as he finally wound his way to the outskirts of the city, nearing his destination and taking back roads that would ultimately get him there faster. He pushed his senses as far as they would go, his chest low as he sped over the black asphalt, eating up the kilometres, as if the speed would stop the thoughts racing in his mind, that refused to go away.

The reminder that this lead – this tiny, precious lead – was likely useless.

Because here was the truth, as plain and simple as Inuyasha could make it: he was out of options and he was out of time. He had no data on the Spider's assassins, had no information to pull from. All he knew about them was their speed and deadly delivery, courtesy of Jinenji. There was a sense of bloodlust from the trikelchlorite-covered floor of the auto shop. There was – literally – nothing to base true fact out of, and before Inuyasha realized what he was doing, his motorcycle was slowing over the gravel shoulder of the highway.

Nothing.

But there was one last play.

Turning off the motorcycle and removing his helmet, Inuyasha wasted no time before pulling out his cell phone and dialling. In his chest, his heart pounded. Inuyasha knew what doing this meant, what he'd have to owe, but if it meant that Kagome was found faster—

"Your continued harassment will not speed up the process," Sesshomaru stated blandly. "Therefore, if you've called to demand—"

"Sesshomaru," Inuyasha interrupted, unable to wait. Every second ticked down in his head, a church bell ringing. He could hear how his voice sounded, rough and raw. Desperate. There was no point in hiding it, not with what Inuyasha was about to do. "He has her."

There was an uncharacteristic pause on the other end, a daunting calculation. "Dr. Higurashi?"

"The Spider. His associate. Associates, fuck, I don't know. She was taken from the docks and there's nothing. There's fucking nothing. The Spider called my cell and told me it was a game. Either I die or his assassin does. Kagome's life is in the balance." Inuyasha wasn't stupid, no matter how irrational he was currently being. Even if Inuyasha hadn't breathed a word of the Spider to him, his half-brother undoubtedly knew – either through his spies on Inuyasha or his spies on the country at large. Probably both.

"I am not in the habit of granting favours," Sesshomaru replied. He sounded just like he had in the goddamn fucking SUV limo. He sounded bored, like the whole conversation was tedious. It burned within him, that knowledge that even for this, Sesshomaru would not be swayed. Sesshomaru would not help.

They were not friends. They weren't anything, really. Tied by blood; polluted, as his half-brother would claim.

One last play.

"I'll do fucking anything," Inuyasha hissed into his phone, eyes squeezing shut. "Not just our little tit-for-tats. More than an owing. A goddamn fucking debt. Whatever you want to call it, I will do it. Just find Kagome."

The seconds ticked by, an invisible rope tightening around his neck. It didn't matter, anyways. As long as Sesshomaru agreed, then he'd take it gladly. His half-brother was not a man you gave your life to without having no other options. You would always give far more than you would ever receive.

But this was Kagome. No amount mattered.

"For the doctor," Sesshomaru stated then and oh, Inuyasha could practically see it. The press of his lips, the thinning line as his golden eyes narrowed. Genuine confusion, barely shown on his face just like it was barely detected in his voice. But Inuyasha heard it. Inuyasha knew. "Yet another woman you would throw your whole life away for in the blink of an eye? Is this not pathetic?"

"It's not the same and you know it," Inuyasha answered. He refused to let his voice shake, but his hands weren't getting the message. One last play. He'd deal out all of his cards, even the ones Sesshomaru refused to acknowledge. "I need her."

"You're a fool. Down the rabbit hole again."

"It's not the same," Inuyasha repeated. "It's not."

Sesshomaru made a sound that wasn't quite a scoff, but Inuyasha was in no state to guess at it, in no state to care at all. "Elaborate."

"Because in the end, if Kagome leaves, she'd still be free." Inuyasha rubbed at his face, eyes burning at the roughness in which he pressed against the lids. "She'd be her own."

"And you?"

That, finally, cracked him wide open. Head tilting back, Inuyasha laughed, bitterness clawing up his throat. What did it matter, in the end, just how much Sesshomaru saw? It was likely nothing his half-brother hadn't already guessed, assumed, witnessed first-hand. As long as he got Kagome back.

"It doesn't matter."

Sesshomaru made a noise. "It does."

"It fucking doesn't and you know it," Inuyasha snapped. "Because you already know. I'm not a free man, Sesshomaru. I've never been. Just depends on who's holding the leash. So put me out of my goddamn misery and tell me: are you going to be next?"

Four seconds. Four whole fucking goddamn seconds, and then Sesshomaru hummed. "Thirty minutes."

"Make it twenty," Inuyasha snarled. "I'm not fucking cheap."


Miroku wasn't in front of the house waiting, but Inuyasha couldn't have cared less. The ace up his sleeve had been pulled, and while the last remaining tie to the Spider and his assassin was here, Inuyasha knew the chances were abysmally low.

Still. Sesshomaru had six minutes left on the clock.

Inuyasha stared briefly at the large, painted double doors. Intricate brass rings hung from them, ostentatious and tarnishing from the sun. It suited the house, however, as bulky and oversized as the dwelling was. Not quite a mansion, but certainly far nicer than any other house in Hakurei.

Fitting, for a man of his position.

Inuyasha knocked and once he started, he didn't stop. In fact, he grabbed the brass rings and started to use those, as well. Time was of the essence, after all, and Inuyasha wasn't fucking around. He counted as the seconds slid by, faintly hearing the sounds of irritated footsteps coming closer. He didn't stop his knocking until the door was ripped open, a scowling face in front of him, dressed only in a pair of sweatpants.

"What is going on here?" Mayor Menomaru Seki demanded, eyes narrowing. "Who are you?"

Stupid questions. "Are you alone?" he growled back, careful to keep his body still when every bit of him was screaming to push his way forward, to demand entrance. When the man before him didn't answer, mouth opening and closing without sound, Inuyasha nodded. "You are. Good. That'll make this a lot easier." He pushed his way inside.

The mayor, finally snapping out of his confusion, made the mistake of grabbing his arm. A mistake because it was a weak hold, and a mistake because Inuyasha wanted nothing more than to beat someone bloody. The mayor just couldn't be that person.

Still, twisting Menomaru around and slamming his face into the door that still remained shut felt better than nothing.

"So this is how it's going to go," Inuyasha told him carefully, drawing his head back and slamming it once more when the man tried to speak. "You're going to listen to a story and then you're going to tell me if it's right or not. Got it?"

"I am calling the police!" Menomaru shouted, muffled against the wood.

God, but this man was useless. Clearly terrible in a panic, and utterly full of himself. Tragic, really, considering he had done so well in municipal politics. He was, after all, the youngest mayor Hakurei had ever had. The bar was pretty low, though. "You can't move, dipshit," Inuyasha replied. "How the fuck are you going to call the police?"

To his credit, he struggled again. Sighing, already bored, Inuyasha flung him across the front lobby and into the other wall. Menomaru cried out, surprised, and Inuyasha checked outside once more before shutting the front door firmly. It remained true that Miroku was nowhere to be seen; Inuyasha was going to kill him.

He heard the mayor scramble towards what he assumed was the living room, probably the place he was hanging out before Inuyasha had so irritatingly interrupted. Inuyasha followed him at a more sedate pace, looking around. Ostentatious, indeed. Paintings in gaudy frames lined the walls, presented alongside statues and trinkets that shined under brilliant lights. A glaring display of ego, of high-society. The whole place practically screamed of wealth, the value totalling in Inuyasha's mind without more than a passing glance. What was curious was that despite the ornaments within his home, Menomaru couldn't have been that well off. Sure, he made good money in government, but the shit he had out was leagues above a government salary. Inuyasha's brain buzzed with the thought of all the dirty money and bloody handshakes the man must have made. "Just how many pockets are you in?" Inuyasha asked. Menomaru had only been officially in office for four fucking years.

"Stay away!" Menomaru replied, his shaking hands grabbing at his cell phone.

Inuyasha rolled his eyes. "The cops are already on the way with a warrant to search your property. No point in calling them."

The man shook his head, phone at his ear.

Sighing, Inuyasha headed towards what he thought was another entertaining room, one that hopefully had stairs. "I don't know why you want them to come," he called out, poking his head in and ah—There. "Since you murdered Sara Asano and all, you're basically just giving them permission to enter. At least with a warrant, you can stall a bit."

He had barely made it to the stairs when Menomaru rushed in, face flushed and angry. His cell phone was in his hand but Inuyasha didn't hear the static hiss of a phone on call. The mayor could have been recording them, but Inuyasha doubted it. Menomaru wasn't that smart, after all, and this was a panicky situation for him. The whole murder thing kind of proved just how bad he was at handling that.

"What are you talking about?" Menomaru asked, which, still dumb.

Inuyasha rolled his eyes and continued downstairs. "The woman you murdered. Sara Asano. For fuck's sake, keep up. Judging from the dark circles under your eyes, you remember her face well enough. You play dirty politics, but you're not exactly cut out for first-hand murder." Inuyasha paused, taking in the room before heading towards the first closed door. "Indirect murder is okay, especially when the end justifies the means. According to you, anyways."

He opened the first door. Storage. Inuyasha poked his head in and saw nothing but bins and shelving units. He backed out.

At a quick glance, Menomaru seemed torn. Anger lined his body, muscles tense. Fight or flight instinct, digging in deep. But the mayor, mid-thirties and full of himself, was too dumb to recognize the best option, a third path that involved answering Inuyasha's questions and not being a little bitch about it all. On top of the anger, though, was the fear. Fear at having been found out by a man he didn't know, who was in his house and looking for—

"Really?" Inuyasha asked then, waving his hand at the sight of a rolled-up rug in the corner. "The laundry room?"

"Get the fuck out of my house!" Menomaru demanded, anger winning out as he charged Inuyasha's way. His punch landed on Inuyasha's shoulder, a dull throb that meant nothing to the detective as he drew back and punched the mayor right back in the jaw, enough force ripping his head to the side and causing him to fall.

"Like I told you upstairs," Inuyasha started, slowly crouching down beside the stunned man on the ground, "I'm going to tell you a story and you're going to confirm that it's correct."

"Who are you?" Menomaru gasped out, blood trickling out his lips. He spat on the ground, hands pressing against the floor as if he wanted to get up.

Inuyasha shoved him back down. "Irrelevant. Do you even listen to people when they speak? I talk, you confirm. Let's start from the beginning, yeah? This is an election year and your polling has been shit. All those pretty promises you made about fixing the Arches and helping the disadvantaged people of Hakurei were lies from the beginning, but come election year, you find out the people that voted for you still remember. So you go to your team and you look at the places that would suit your polling best. You find the Hakushin Medical Centre, a place so busy helping those who need care the most in such a decrepit state and you think to yourself that you've found your flying fucking pig. The one thing that no one is going to believe can happen, but that you'll make happen. You're going to invest in the people of Hakurei by having the medical centre completely renovated, pumping millions into it to give it top of the line equipment, beds, PPE, new wings and additional sponsors to focus on research. How am I doing so far?"

Menomaru stared at him warily and Inuyasha nodded. Good enough.

"Thing is, you can't get million-dollar sponsors without a little glad-handing and promises. And those investors? They want research that serves them. They want shit for themselves – private rooms, top doctors, appointments and shit. None of that fuckery the little people in Hakurei deserve to get, despite the fact that the medical centre is the only clinic in a solid hundred kilometres that helps half-breeds. But fuck them, right? You just need them to think the Hakushin Medical Centre will be for them. It's a voting year. By the time it's finished and the truth comes out, at worst you'll have a PR nightmare to bury. And let's face it: that shit's nothing compared to the goodwill stories your team can pull out their asses. It's a perfect plan. And then comes out Dr. Tsukuyomaru Suzuki."

"You don't know what you're talking about," Menomaru hissed. At least he didn't try to get up. "This is all lies."

"So I'm on the right track then," Inuyasha hummed, disregarding him. "Well Dr. Suzuki becomes a problem. He starts going to the media, bringing to light all the little shit the board of the medical centre is doing. He starts telling the people who would vote for you exactly how underhanded you are. But that's not the worst of it. His girlfriend, Shizu Yamaguchi, is your executive assistant. And now, your enemy and your assistant, together, started to record and keep records of all your little shady dealings. You couldn't even touch the medical centre, or they would destroy you. I haven't personally checked the files – that's what my good friend Detective Tsujitani has been doing, in order to get that fucking warrant for you – but I don't have to. Just looking at your place tells me everything I need to know. So now your only hope for re-election is stopped by a doctor and your assistant, which is honestly just sad. They've got you pinned, and not only can they stop you from winning, but they can probably have you sent to jail, if they uncovered enough good shit. Therefore, you need their blackmail, but things went a little sideways and they ended up murdered instead. Not great, but easy enough to fix. The doctor committed suicide and your assistant? She quit. Didn't give any notice and only told you, her boss. Easy enough to dissuade HR when you're the fucking top of the food chain. Am I getting it right, so far?" Menomaru stared at him, mouth open, and Inuyasha sighed. "This is where you confirm things. It's the only job I gave you."

"Get out of my house," the mayor repeated, voice trembling. "I didn't murder—"

"Oh, no. You didn't directly murder them. You just hired a consulting criminal, didn't you? Tell me: did you reach out to him, or did he come to you?"

"I didn't—"

Inuyasha, long irritated with the man's whining, punched him again in the face. "Do the one job I gave you. The rug rolled up in this room right here will have Sara Asano's DNA, no matter how many times you cleaned it. And I'm sure somewhere else in this fucking house is the trophy you grabbed in a fit of panic to smash her with. You know, it was that magazine in your own fucking waiting area that gave you away. Less than three months ago, you had a rug in front of your desk and twelve trophies lined up on the shelves behind your office chair. But when I looked into the window, there was only hardwood floor and eleven trophies. I come from old money, so I know rich shit when I see it. That rug you had? Expensive as fuck. And you're the kind to brag about shit like that, aren't you? Youngest mayor and doing so, so well. Look at all the things you can afford! Look at your taste! And that trophy? An award for your years of service to Hakurei – which is kind of a joke, honestly – but you wouldn't get rid of that. That would insult your ego."

Menomaru, dazed, shook his head. "Who are you?"

"Inuyasha Taisho." He patted his cheek twice, enjoying the way the man flinched. Good. "So now it's your turn. Am I getting it all right? The fact that you hired the Spider to have the doctor and your assistant killed? Only to be fucked over by a half-breed patient of his – Sara Asano – who didn't believe the cause of death the police gave, who thought the corrupt one was your Director of Economic Development who was on the medical board, Ruri What's-Her-Name, and she came to you for help."

"I didn't mean to kill her," Menomaru said then, wincing. "But she said she had a reporter working on it, and that they had found something."

"When you realized she was dead, right there in the middle of the day, you panicked."

"I had a meeting after," the mayor answered and Inuyasha snorted.

"So you rolled her up in your rug, took that back entrance Detective Tsujitani confirmed, and dumped her in the trash. You'd have your people deal with her later. Only problem was that it was garbage day and by the time you realized it was too late. Hence the Spider tracking her down to Sakura Scientific, where her body was brought after being found at the landfill. Her body was stolen, probably melted somewhere where no DNA could hurt you, and then they took care of the reporter, Jinenji Egawa." With one last pat to the mayor's face, Inuyasha stood up. "So here's the last part I need to address with you, and let me be clear that it's very fucking important you answer my questions correctly: have you met the Spider?"

"I don't know who you're talking about," Menomaru spat at him, reaching out only for Inuyasha to step on his chest. "I don't know."

"The criminal you hired to solve all your little problems," Inuyasha clarified, pressing down. "Have you met him?"

Menomaru was shaking his head before Inuyasha had even finished the question, words slurring. "No. No, I haven't met him. Just this woman. Kagura. But she approached me—"

Inuyasha hummed to cut him off. "And the assassin who did the dirty work?"

"What?"

"The assassin," he repeated through gritted teeth, his calf being scratched at helplessly by Menomaru underneath him. "Pink fucking hair. Have you met him?"

"Once," the mayor wheezed out.

"Where?"

"City Hall." Menomaru dug his claws into Inuyasha's leg, a stupid, stupid mistake. Inuyasha bent back down, hand around his throat to draw pinpricks of blood against the soft skin. "Stop! Let me go."

"Finish your fucking job," Inuyasha replied, holding back on the urge to punch him again. Menomaru was still out of it, not fully back from his previous hits to the head. Another could send him unconscious and then Inuyasha would be fucked. "Why at City Hall?"

"They had come to get the body! I hadn't known about the garbage!" Menomaru yelled, breath coming in short.

Inuyasha's eyes narrowed. "They?" Associates. "Two of them?"

"Brothers," Menomaru answered, nodding. "Demons. One of them isn't humanoid, he— He lives inside the other. I don't know! I didn't ask!"

Inside of him. Two voices, one set of footsteps, like Kagome had said from the very beginning.

But City Hall wasn't where the assassin would bring Kagome, was it? It seemed too…basic. A square peg into a square hole. Could the game be that easy?

No, there was no way City Hall could be the answer, no way that the assassins would choose a place so populated within Hakurei. But was it the Spider's choice, controlling his men, or was it the pink-haired assassin and his brother who were determining the location?

Too many variables. Not enough answers.

Behind him, Menomaru rose. Blood dripped from his nose and a quick glance proved him to be no threat at all. He was weak and even though they were both young, there would be no attack the man could give that would cause any damage.

There was only one last thing to do, then. "Final question," Inuyasha told him seriously, arms crossing over his chest as he watched the mayor sway a little. "Tell me his name."

Menomaru grimaced, hands braced on either side of his head as if to contain the pain. Maybe Inuyasha had hit a little too hard, after all. "Who's name?"

"The Spider's."

"I don't—" The mayor shook his head, then winced some more. "Who the fuck is the Spider?"

"We've been over this. The man you hired. The criminal that planned your little blackmail stealing, who killed the doctor and your assistant. The one who Kagura works for." Inuyasha took a step closer, gratified when Menomaru immediately shrank back. The man deserved no pity after all that he had done. "What is his name?"

"I don't know it."

"Bullshit."

"I don't!"

Scoffing, Inuyasha waved up the stairs dismissively. "You think I don't know your type? It's all name dropping. Those fancy paintings. The pretty statues. The trophies in your office. That goddamn fucking rug, that you kept, because you're an idiot. But as dumb as you are, you know the dark shit in this city probably better than anyone. You'd have gotten the Spider's name, or at least asked around."

When Menomaru tried to shake his head again, Inuyasha growled, fed up.

"Fucking tell me!" he snapped, and his hand shot out to shove at the man's chest, forcing him back to the ground with a power that shouldn't have moved the demon half as much as it did.

"I don't—"

"Tell me," Inuyasha growled, "or the police will find your skull bashed in by that same fucking trophy. Don't worry. I'll make sure to swaddle you in that rug of yours, too." He slapped none-too-lightly on the mayor's face, shoving it to the side until his nose was pressed into the hardwood. "I'll make it all poetic and—"

"Stop," Menomaru choked out, attempting to press back and then heaving in a breath when he utterly failed, Inuyasha's weight too much. "Stop, I—I—"

"You?" Inuyasha barked out a laugh. "Trophy it is, then. I'm on a timeline so let's…just…." Grabbing the man's long, teal hair, he wrenched it back and dragged, barely having moved only a foot when Menomaru lashed out, clawing at the ground fruitlessly in an attempt to slow them down.

"Naraku!"

Inuyasha paused, eyebrows raised. Letting go of the mayor, he stood up, looming until his shadow covered the man's face. "What was that?"

"Naraku," Menomaru slurred, red eyes wide. "That's all I know! That's what I was told. Naraku!"

Smirking, Inuyasha headed towards the stairs. The clock was ticking, so much wasted time already when he needed to find Kagome. At least, in this, he had a name.

Because if the worst happened—

If Kagome—

Inuyasha leapt up the stairs in a single bound, pausing only for a moment as a thought occurred to him. "If you want my advice, I wouldn't run." He looked down at the trembling man, chin bloody and face flushed. "You're too egocentric to listen to me, but there it is all the same."

"I can't go to jail," Menomaru panted, head shaking, a new mantra for him to repeat over and over. "I can't."

"There are worst things. Trust me."

There was nothing left for him there. As he walked back to the front door, the expensive items that he could tick off and calculate without effort dulled. The shine had faded with the veneer, worn with the mayor's admittance. Before he even reached the door, his cell phone vibrated in his pocket. Heart stilling, Inuyasha cursed his foolishness as his half-brother's name appeared on the display. He answered just as he stepped into the darkened night. "Where?"

"I will give you the location," Sesshomaru started, an edge to his voice that already had him on alert, "but I am going to ask again: is she worth it?"

"Where the fuck is she, Sesshomaru?" Inuyasha hissed, glaring up at the night sky.

"Is she worth it?"

"Of course she's goddamn worth it," he snapped. "You think I'd sell my fucking soul to the devil if she wasn't?"

"The devil." Sesshomaru made a small sound, barely audible. If Inuyasha had been in any other frame of mind, he'd want to unpack it, to prod at it. All he wanted right now was to jump on his motorcycle and save Kagome. "Despite everything, you still think I'm the enemy."

A game. Just another fucking mind game. Inuyasha growled, unable to stop himself, "Will you prove me wrong?"

"No." At least he had the balls to admit it. "This man you're after, the one you called the Spider, what does he know about you?"

Inuyasha shook his head. "This is not the goddamn, fucking—"

"Answer or get nothing."

His entire body seized, anger flooding through his system so violently that Inuyasha had to catch himself before smashing his phone onto the road, destroying it. Inuyasha wanted to murder something. He wanted to rain ruin down on the planet just to watch it all burn. Carefully, controlling his exhale, Inuyasha held his phone before his face, lips tantalizingly close to the microphone. "When I see you next," he murmured dangerously, "you will regret ever having made me wait."

"Noted."

Son of a

"Assume the Spider knows everything," Inuyasha answered finally, keeping his own ace up his sleeve. "He thinks we're made the same, working for opposing sides."

For a moment, there was silence. Deafening, horrible silence, the kind that roared in Inuyasha's ears. Then: "Sakura Scientific."

Inuyasha hung up the call and sent a text message to Miroku and Sango before he even considered the implications. The implications, he realized as he jammed his helmet on, that the assassins had taken Kagome back to the very place she had ruined all of the Spider's plans. How obvious and yet he had failed.

They did not intend to keep her alive. This fact was not new, but it punched through Inuyasha's chest like the snapping of ribs, jagged and piercing into every soft bit of him.

Underneath him, his motorcycle roared to life.


Unlike the first time Inuyasha made his way to Sakura Scientific, the parking lot was dark. There were no cop cars with blinding lights rotating, or groups of people standing around doing not much of anything. In the sky, the moon was waning, a sliver of a crescent that barely illuminated the ground beneath his motorcycle. There were three cars in the parking lot, and by the loading dock, an older black sedan that was perfectly unremarkable had the trunk not been left propped open.

Inuyasha didn't carry a gun – he wasn't a part of the police department and frankly, his body was far more of a weapon than anything they could have ever given him. Still, the memory of fighting the pink-haired assassin crept into his mind, the dawning remembrance of his quickness, his lightness of foot. There had been power in his punches, the strain of it unnoticeable behind his mask.

He would have to be faster, stronger. The kind of knockout hits they had never wanted in the dingy basements and warehouses Inuyasha used to fight in, letting the adrenaline and rush build and build until he could stop himself no more.

But there were two of them. Menomaru's words had been clear, despite his glassy eyes. Two of them, and yet Inuyasha had only ever seen one.

He gritted his teeth, running through the lot until he reached the back door. This time it was properly locked, unforgiving, so he went to the loading dock instead and forced the sliding door to part under the strain of his muscles. It gave way far too easily. Inuyasha could have guessed at the number of times it had been done before, could have paused to look at the clamps and see the wear. Instead, he took a deep breath and tried not to choke on the seeping chemicals that filled the lab.

But there was something else.

Blood.

Tangy and metallic, the familiarity of it sent Inuyasha's heart pounding. He bit the inside of his mouth until he bled, letting the pain ground him and keep him silent. It was too difficult to discern direction with the chemicals, but there was only two different ways to go. He went deeper into the lab, familiar steps from the last time he'd been inside.

The bodies were visible instantaneously. His heart stopped for only a moment until he took them in fully, neither of them Kagome. They laid only a few feet away from him, face down and reaching out. Blood pooled around their faces, thick puddles that continued to grow. Both had gashes and cuts, torn and bleeding through their lab coats, but the obvious cause of death was the severe chunks of flesh missing from their necks.

He stepped forward, ready to assess, before he froze.

There was a noise to this kind of silence.

The absence, the complete lack of sound, was near screaming in his ears. His eyes rose from the dead bodies on the ground to the far side of the main lab. The lights flickered, an omen. Pink hair twirled as the assassin spun around, head tilting his way. Kagome was nowhere to be seen.

"Where is she?" Inuyasha demanded. Nothing could have kept his voice level, not with the coppery smell of blood that curdled in his mouth, thickening his tongue.

The mask was still in play, but the demon's voice rang clear. "Take your eyes off us and you'll see."

A bet. A warning. One that Inuyasha had to take.

It was, as he knew, a trap. Inuyasha barely had a moment to scan the familiar laboratory before the assassin leapt into the air. His speed was formidable, as quick as Inuyasha remembered, and he was hardly able to dodge in time. His shoulder collided with the wall in his haste, a dull throb that he had no time to acknowledge before ducking to avoid yet another slash of the assassin's hands.

"Your leader wants you dead," Inuyasha snarled, arm shooting out to protect himself from another blow. He needed to stop defending himself, needed to attack. The other demon was far too quick, pink hair flying as he moved sinuously and easily around the various equipment and tables laid out. "Why would you be loyal to him?"

Another punch, a kick. Inuyasha leapt over the table, golden eyes watching the way the assassin crouched. There wasn't even a hint of excitement in his eyes, of calculation or hatred. The demon before him looked nearly blank, a puppet to be moved. Inuyasha narrowed his eyes. Us. The demon had said us, even when Inuyasha was only looking at the one. Which meant—

"We are loyal to no one," the demon said eventually, unmoving. "Not anymore."

Us. We. Two, together. His mind discarded the known fact, tripping on something else, something that wasn't right. Off. The demon was speaking but he was so blank. The mask hid his lips. The mask—

Without warning, the assassin launched himself over the table. Inuyasha moved out of the way of his blow, shifting on his heel and dealing an attack himself. His first punch landed, the second blocked, and Inuyasha had to flip backwards to avoid a slice of the man's long nails against his neck before he leapt back into the air and tackled the assassin's stomach. They rolled, Inuyasha's nails sinking into the flesh of the man's face, clawing at his mask, while blows were dealt to his lower stomach.

Blood rose in his throat. Inuyasha spat it out, shoving the demon away and rolling back onto his feet. He needed to remain on the offensive, to drive the demon back somehow until a mistake was made and Inuyasha saw an opening. He was incredibly fast, so his best bet was to drive the man—

Inuyasha froze, eyes landing on a prone figure spread and bleeding on one of the office desks towards the corner of the room.

Kagome.

"Kagome!" he shouted, and then there was movement in the corner of his eye, too fast to stop. Inuyasha dodged just enough to avoid being blinded, pain searing along and down his cheek. He kicked out, barely catching the assassin but giving himself enough room to push against the wall and jump, flying to the table in the middle—

Searing pain stabbed around his ankle, like twin slices curved around bone, and he didn't land so much as collapse. Inuyasha twisted, but the assassin wasn't there, was instead closer to Kagome than before like a guard dog chained. His mask had been loosened from the struggle but other than a few stray pink hairs, the demon looked entirely unaffected by their fight.

Inuyasha ignored the piercing pain as he properly stood, assessing his opponent in a way that was achingly familiar. How many times had he been bloodied and half-dead, facing a brand new fighter in a cage all for the thrill, for the rush?

But there was no rush now. Inuyasha gritted his teeth and braced himself. "She's not a part of our game."

"Not a part of his game," the assassin clarified, and the red flags that had been waving in his mind before blared in full-out alarm. Off. Something was off. Just like that time at Ayame's before Inuyasha had managed to miss an attack and he— "But she is a part of ours."

His chest didn't move in time with his words, his breathing.

Inuyasha felt the shooting pain of his ankle, and yet the demon was already on the far side of the room. A mistake. They had made a— "What the fuck have you done?" Inuyasha hissed, keeping them talking, but his eyes narrowed, watching, waiting.

"Ah, trying to read us?" The taunt grated on Inuyasha's nerves, hands clenching, ready for a strike that never came. Instead, the assassin blinked slowly before his hands reached up to remove the mask that covered the lower-half of his face. It was just the humming of the lab, the smell of blood, and then the slow creeping horror as the assassin slowly opened his mouth, stretching wide as if—

"Too bad you haven't already figured it out."

Behind him. The voice was—

Inuyasha spun around, body twisting out of the way as his senses registered the oncoming attack. Pain lanced through his side but it was nothing compared to the distraction of what appeared to be a beam of white; a pale, spindly demon moving so fast it was difficult to see. Inuyasha grabbed his waist, knowing without looking that his leather jacket was sliced clean, blood seeping through it. The coppery tang of it could be tasted on his tongue. "Fancy trick. If you hadn't given yourselves away already, I might have been dead."

The demon – a non-humanoid, perched on the edge of a table and tilting his head at him – grinned. It was startling how much he looked like his brother, faces and hair near identical. The creature was smaller though, disjointed. His human face was a shocking horror to the body it was attached to. The demon licked his lips, blood dripping from the mantis-like sharp arms that propped his body. "Who says I wanted you dead so quickly?"

"Your trajectory," Inuyasha replied. "Pretty sure you meant to dig through my stomach. That, to me, equals dead."

In the corner, still by Kagome, the other demon remained stone-faced, mouth agape. It was like he was waiting for a signal, for a go-ahead. One had control over the other, even if their movements were autonomous. "It doesn't matter," the creature-like demon went on. He moved across the metal table, his two arms click-click-clicking over the surface. "You'll die soon anyways."

He expected a surprise attack to come from the humanoid at the far side, but instead it was the creature that launched itself at him, knife-sharp arms raised. Inuyasha jumped out of the way but was caught, mid-air, and tossed bodily into the ground by the blank-eyed demon. Inuyasha twisted, leg forcing separation between them before he landed a punch. He reeled just in time to avoid another attack from the creature, flipping himself backwards and into a table. It was a relentless onslaught; the two demons were lightning fast and strong, their attacks wild. It was only the fluidity that saved Inuyasha, their predictability just enough to see their openings and slide through. The drive to go on the offensive was overwhelming, but any time he managed to get his bearings there was another slice to legs, his ribs, his face. Inuyasha managed to kick the pink-haired creature across the room but it left him open, left his back a red and bleeding target for the humanoid to tackle him into the wall.

"For fuck's sake," Inuyasha spat out, throwing his head back and hearing the distinctive crunch of bone. He spun around, but the humanoid was too strong, his hands shoving at Inuyasha's chest before he landed a blow against Inuyasha's throat. It felt like his lungs had fled his body, mouth wide open as he tried to gather air that sent shockwaves of pain throughout. His bones ached. His hands were slippery with blood. He kicked, too feeble, against the demon and wondered if playing dead was the next best move.

The creature reappeared on the other demon's shoulder, their pink hair blending together, before a decision could even be made. "Oh yes," he whispered, "we are going to eat you alive."

And then the arms holding him loosened, and Inuyasha had a split second to see Kagome, to see her hands still holding the handle of a bone saw, too close, too close—

Inuyasha tore himself away, using the split-second of surprise to grab at the smaller demon and slam him into the wall. He spun around, using every bit of his strength through rasping breath to push down, to then shove the demon towards the ground. Crouched over it, blood blinding his eyes and his silver hair near pink itself, Inuyasha grabbed at the creature's smaller head. He slammed it into the floor, listening to the demon's cries as he did it again, again, againstill, living, still fighting, still

Hands were around his throat, but Inuyasha didn't let up, didn't stop the hammering of the other demon's skull. The weight on his back tried to swing him but there was another cry – Kagome, alive, alive – and then the pressure was gone. Inuyasha felt the body in his hands fall limp, and so he smashed its head yet again, until he was sure the demon was out cold. Inuyasha twisted, saw the humanoid staring dully at his twin on the floor, blood gushing from his shoulder. The saw was so much deeper than it had been before – a lightning quick glance of bloodied human hands nearby, Kagome's hands, shaking – and Inuyasha launched himself at the other demon, delivering an upwards kick that sent him flying backwards and unconscious.

"Oh my god," came the whispered horror and Inuyasha, coiled tight like a spring about to explode, spun around one last time to capture Kagome around the waist and haul her towards him. "Oh my god, he was going to kill you," Kagome murmured, and there were hands pressing at his chest, his stomach. The scent of blood was overwhelming.

"I'm fine. I'm—" But Inuyasha couldn't finish that sentence because Kagome's hands grabbed at his jaw and pulled him down, sealing her mouth over his in a breathless, desperate kiss before she pushed him back.

"You're cut, you're—" Kagome stopped herself, mouth shutting with a click before those dark brown eyes raked up and down his body. "You're bleeding everywhere."

"Just a few slices," Inuyasha assured her, voice still hoarse from the attack to his throat. "I'll be okay. Give me a day."

"More like two. Three," Kagome muttered, shaking her head in exasperation and Inuyasha just couldn't leave it like that, "because you never sit still. You're the worst patient."

But he'd had enough. Kagome was before him, dishevelled but appearing fine. There were cuts to her stomach, but through the shirt he could tell they were shallow, the bleeding stopped. His hands shook with the last vestiges of adrenaline as he cupped her face, drawing her back to him. "Does it hurt? Are you hurt?"

"Me?"

"You."

Her dark eyes watched him for a moment before a slow, tremulous smile broke out. "I'm pretty sure I have a concussion for real, this time."

"Then you need—"

But Kagome grabbed at him again, kissing him, and Inuyasha felt all of the terror that had gripped him over the last few hours flee in a devastating rush. She was here. She was with him. She was mostly okay and Inuyasha wouldn't have to go it alone. Not again. He wouldn't have survived if he had to do it again.

"I'm sorry," she whispered against his lips, and there was the shaking.

Inuyasha scooped her up, carrying her to a nearby table and letting her rest against its countertop. He shook his head even as she tried to reach for him again, but those words had to be corrected. "Don't be a fucking idiot," he told her, kissing the breath out of her because he couldn't not. She was here. She was alive. She was here. "Don't fucking say anymore stupid—" Another kiss, he was like a dying man himself, aching with everything he almost lost, "Stupid shit, I swear."

Kagome laughed, head tilting back and immediately wincing with it. "My head."

He had to call Miroku and Sango. She needed medical attention. Inuyasha hated the feeling of stepping away from her, even though the two pink-haired demons still laid motionless on the floor several feet away. He patted at his jacket and realized that his phone had fallen out, had to have during the course of the fight. "Where the hell is it?"

And, as if on cue, his cell phone started to vibrate.

Inuyasha found it easily enough, near the entranceway towards the lorry doors. The phone was only cracked in the corner, a small spider web creeping across the screen.

The caller ID read UNKNOWN. He answered.

"The better man won," the Spider said in greeting, the malicious tone almost melodic. "Although, to be fair, I hadn't let them eat for days. I'm surprised they didn't just devour your little doctor when they had the chance."

"You're so fucking lucky they barely touched her," Inuyasha hissed, stalled only in his burning and bright anger by a familiar hand pressing against his back, Kagome's worried eyes on him.

"Lucky." One word and the derision dripped from it. "I've never been lucky at anything, Inuyasha. That's not what builds empires."

Spider webs, creeping everywhere. The red threads that spanned across his wall at home, connecting the man on the phone with him to so much corruption and death. It would not continue. Inuyasha could not allow it to. "Empire or not, I'll destroy you."

"The side of angels," the Spider sneered, "will not be kind to you."

"I don't need the kindness of angels."

"Not even in a game you're inevitably going to lose?" The question was direct, cruel. "Because that's all this is to me, Inuyasha. A game. They're all games. People are far too stupid to understand the things we can. Even your little doctor isn't smart enough to stay away. It's going to get her killed, you know."

"Naraku," Inuyasha growled quietly. "If you so much as look at Kagome, I will ensure that you don't live to even consider touching her."

The Spider hummed, suddenly and strangely pleased. "You know my name."

"I know a lot of things."

"Not enough. Not enough to win this game, Inuyasha." The Spider laughed, a malicious sort of amusement. "Let me make you a promise, hm? I am nothing if not a man of my word."

Inuyasha narrowed his eyes. He looked up around the lab, seeing all of the cameras that remained. Hacked again, without a doubt. They were being watched and this was very much all a part of the Spider's plans.

This was still a game. A game after a game after a game. Now that they were caught in his web, Naraku would refuse to let them go.

"I've been told," Inuyasha started, "that when it comes to hunting down criminals, I'm the best. What makes you any different?"

"Let's not confuse me with a common criminal," the Spider snapped, words like a knife. No more was the lilting melody, the deep valleys of his voice toying and taunting and playing. "You may be a worthy opponent, but you are not a match for me. Not with that doctor by your side. And I promise you this, Inuyasha: someday soon, I will watch as you rip yourself to pieces, again and again and again. I will have you tear strips of flesh from your bones while your little doctor can do nothing but cry, and I will be right there looming over you so I can watch the light leave your eyes."

Inuyasha smirked, a bravado he didn't feel with the cloying smell of blood surrounding him and his adrenaline draining away. With a tilt of his head, he stared at the nearest camera and flipped it off. "Good fucking luck."

When the line went dead, he wasn't surprised.

He also wasn't surprised when a familiar gait came from the hallway they stood by, leisurely and measured. Inuyasha bit back a groan and a curse.

Kagome moved more firmly to his side, her hands clenched. "Inuyasha?"

"It's fine," he grumbled. "Or, you know, mostly."

Sesshomaru approached them with four men following in plainclothes, as stone-faced as ever. His light grey three-piece suit was shockingly clean compared to the rest of their surroundings, his hair immaculate, as if he wasn't waltzing his way into a crime scene. Inuyasha took another breath, smelled blood, and wished he could strangle his half-brother. "Alive, I see."

There were several things Inuyasha wanted to reply with, but none of them were worthwhile. None of them were possibly even true. He looked at Kagome beside him, still alive and breathing, and bit down on his tongue.

"Are they dead?" Sesshomaru asked, his cold eyes flickering towards the area where the bodies of the assassins lay.

"No," Inuyasha replied. "Just unconscious."

His half-brother hummed, flicking his hand in their direction before the men at his back fanned out, guns appearing as if materializing from thin air. "This will be taken care of."

Of course it would. Inuyasha had little doubt. "How did you get here so fast? Miroku and Sango aren't even here and I texted them the location."

"I had them waylaid," Sesshomaru answered. For a brief moment, he looked at Kagome before his lips pursed and he returned his stare to Inuyasha. "Due process, of course."

"I could've used their fucking help," Inuyasha replied. "So nearly killing me was worth it?"

"Cockroaches don't simply die."

He was trying to rile Inuyasha up. The thought entered his head as quickly as it filtered through, processed, the reason still a glaring blank space. He frowned but Kagome, nearly vibrating at his side, pushed forward and smacked a bloodied handprint onto his pristine suit. "How dare you. Playing with his life like that! How could you do that to—"

"Let it go," Inuyasha interrupted immediately, feeling only the slightest remorse when he wrapped his arms around her and tucked her into his side. "It's fine."

"It's not," Kagome hissed and she was fighting him, trying to break free like hand-to-hand combat with Sesshomaru was something she was willing to take on. "He's your family. He should be protecting you from—"

A gunshot rang out, a silenced sneeze that echoed in the laboratory like a curse. Kagome's body tensed and Inuyasha turned, only to see the plainclothes circle in tighter around the body of the humanoid demon. "Sir," one of them shouted, and Inuyasha watched the way the man's shoulders remained slumped, casual, easy. Not taken aback. Not on high alert. "Sir, the demon woke up and reached for my gun."

Kagome pushed away from him, rushing over. She was a doctor. She was meant to keep people alive. Inuyasha, even from his vantage point, could see that the demon was long dead, blood pooling under his skull and body lifeless. It had been the demon Kagome attacked with the bone saw, the weapon deep in his left arm and the man—

On the dead demon's left side.

Inuyasha whirled around to stare at his half-brother but Sesshomaru was as difficult to read as ever. When their eyes met, there wasn't a trace of guilt or shame. "You weren't trying to rile me up," was all Inuyasha said then, because what more could he do?

"What would be the point in listening to more of your despairing commentary?" his half-brother asked, but it was a weak volley, a continuation for the sake of doing so.

"Why?" Why kill one of the demons? Would it not be better to keep them alive, to ask the questions needed and use them against each other to find out more on the Spider? Maybe the Spider wasn't Sesshomaru's target. Maybe, after doing the research he needed for Inuyasha, Sesshomaru had learned of the humanoid's seemingly lack of ability to speak.

Maybe it was to remove redundancy. Be efficient.

Sesshomaru's golden gaze bore into him for moments before it dropped, zig-zagging across the lines of his body as he mapped out what was surely all of Inuyasha's bloodied places. It made his spine tingle, and Inuyasha always knew his half-brother was dangerous, but this was— This was something else.

"Your detectives will be here within a minute," Sesshomaru stated then, spinning on his heel. "And I have more pressing matters to deal with."

"Bullshit," Inuyasha called out but it didn't matter. He was already gone.


It had taken three days for everything to settle down. Three impossible, horrible, wretched days in which Inuyasha refused to sleep. Couldn't sleep, more like. His body was fueled by nothing but exhaustion and the pastries from Myoga's café that Kagome kept shoving down his throat. Mostly unwilling.

The collage of murder and the Spider's red threads still littered the living room wall.

Miroku stared at it with something like horror before he turned big, blue eyes on Inuyasha. "You look like a serial killer with stuff like this."

Beside him, Sango sighed. "Really? I'm trying to catch Kagome up and you're distracted by Inuyasha's decorating habits?"

Miroku pouted at her. "I hadn't seen it in its full glory. I didn't realize Inuyasha was sending you updates."

"Because I asked."

"We're supposed to be partners."

Kagome laughed, hands covering her face as she shook her head. "Is this how it's always going to go?" Vaulting over the couch, Inuyasha sat down beside her. The warmth of her body seeped into his side as she leaned into it slightly, a sweet reminder before she sat back up and looked at the two detectives on the neighbouring couch. "It was the mayor, then? All of this was because of him?"

"Mayor Menomaru Seki," Miroku confirmed. "Inuyasha caused a huge issue when he completely went against procedure and tipped him off that he'd been found. By the time we got to his house with the warrant, Menomaru had taken off. Ran for the hills."

"The trophy and the rug were still there though," Sango intervened. "Koga and his team have already confirmed that the blood on both matched Sara Asano. Not that it matters at this point, since we found Menomaru's dead body two cities over. It's been ruled an overdose."

Inuyasha scowled and shook his head. "He has no history of drug abuse."

"We know."

"And that's going to be let go."

Miroku looked just as unhappy, but he nodded. "All evidence that CSU found determined it was a suicide. His entire life was over, what more did he have to live for?"

Inuyasha glared at the red threads on his wall. The Spider had an answer for everything, had a way to tie up every loose end.

"I can't believe this was all done to get re-elected," Kagome stated, turning to look at Inuyasha.

"It wasn't originally supposed to be murder," Inuyasha answered. "He needed the medical centre to work out because the Arches were never going to get done and he needed a strong enough story to keep his voters happy. He wanted Dr. Suzuki out of the picture, wanted the blackmail out of play, but he didn't necessarily want him dead. The Spider said his assassins were disobedient, impatient They probably took Shizu first, thinking she would be easier to break, but while torturing her they got a little carried away. Without her for leverage, the doctor wouldn't give them anything. He had to die, at that point. No blackmail could be released if they were both dead."

"The mayor couldn't have been so stupid to assuming that hiring criminal to take people out meant anything other than murder," Sango stated balefully. "What did he fucking think?"

Inuyasha shrugged. "It's irrelevant. Maybe no one would have been dead if the Spider had sent anyone other than the brothers. Kageromaru and Juromaru were wanted by the feds for years."

"Either way, this whole thing is a mess," Sango stated. "Shizu pulled a lot dirty information on Menomaru. She had access to nearly everything he touched, it looks like, and anything remotely shady was put on that encrypted USB Miroku was working on. From the initial look at the files, there's enough evidence that even if the mayor hadn't murdered anyone, he'd have been put away for a long time."

"And then Sara didn't believe the story of her doctor committing suicide," Kagome murmured, nodding along with the timeline. "Which led her to working with Jinenji. They found out what Dr. Suzuki was trying to protect the Hakushin Medical Centre from – the board of directors pressuring him to give in – and so she went to the mayor because it wasn't him working with the board, it was one of his subordinates. The director named Ruri we were supposed to meet."

Inuyasha nodded. "She thought she was doing the right thing, going to the top. But it was the mayor all along. He panicked and killed her. There's a secret entrance to his offices, built primarily for emergency use. But with his new assistant out front and more meetings on the way, he had to use it to dispose of her body immediately."

"And then the Spider got involved again, trying to clean up his mess. Stealing Sara's body from the lab so we wouldn't find trace evidence linking her to the mayor. Killing Jinenji, who knew Sara's death would have been connected." Kagome looked ill, while the rest of them remained static, quiet. While all of them had seen more than their fair share of death, it was the first time Kagome had to truly deal with the horrors of motivation, and how tenuous and blurry the line between good and evil was.

"The case has been closed, and the situation at the docks has been passed over to Major Crimes," Miroku said then, almost delicately. "Inuyasha was right – a lot of the video footage there was scrubbed. From the little we could get back, we were able to see a man resembling the owner of Ebisu Shipping taking Shizu's body and dumping it into the container she was found in."

"Ah yes," Inuyasha murmured, "the miraculous video you managed to recover."

"Inuyasha says it's fake."

"Because it is. The assassins killed her and took her to the docks. Totosai confirmed it."

Sango huffed out an irritated breath. "I believe you, but Totosai is back in the wind and we have no way to track him. Without his official statement, the only evidence we have points to Renkotsu Sugita. The video doesn't lie."

"The video is doctored," Inuyasha snarled, but pulled himself back and glared at his wall instead. "Whatever. I've made my thoughts perfectly clear to your captain."

"He's been brought in, as far as we know," Miroku interrupted instead. "I think they'll be filing charges, soon."

God, so fucking stupid, all of them. Sometimes, Inuyasha wondered what the fuck these people did all day, if their only purpose was to follow the easiest trail and do the least amount of work to close a case. The owner of Ebisu had zero ties to Shizu. Why would he have killed her at all?

The video was doctored. The Spider was purposefully taking Renkotsu and his company out of the equation, all the while toying with Inuyasha and his past.

He still hadn't told Kagome. He would, though. He would.

"We've asked to be updated, but we'll see how long that lasts," Sango said, sparing a quick glance at Miroku before patting him on the knee and standing up. "Which reminds me that we should go, or our captain will be even more pissed at us."

Inuyasha grunted. "Good. Go away."

The look Kagome shot him was unimpressed. He happily glared right back, at least until Miroku snorted and flicked at his head. "Ah yes, the benefits of having a partner."

He hummed, neither agreeing nor disagreeing while the two detectives let themselves out of the apartment. Kagome turned more and more exasperated as the seconds went on, but she didn't move from her spot by his side. If anything, her hands wandered towards him, skimming along the lines of his jeans and the sliver of skin between it and his rucked-up t-shirt, trapped on the couch cushion. "I know what you're thinking."

She raised an eyebrow. "Do you?"

"You think we're rather rude for letting Miroku and Sango make their own way out the door."

Kagome's answering smile was quick. "That's easy, though."

"And you're thinking that this is the first time in the last few days that you haven't had a headache."

"Also easy."

He shrugged. "You're debating if sex on the couch will be comfortable enough."

Her smile turned amused. "Leather isn't the best."

"We can get new couches."

"We can."

"You're happy this case is finally closed. That it's behind us."

She smiled. "I think that would be obvious."

Inuyasha leaned forward, getting as close as he dared. "You want to know what was in the files Sango gave me when she first got here."

That, finally, got a reaction. Kagome's mouth parted in surprise, eyebrows raising. "You weren't even looking at me when I noticed."

"I'm always looking at you," he replied, shaking his head. "It's more cases, but they're all boring. I think I solved one of them just by looking at it. Not worth our time."

Kagome hummed, capturing his lips for a moment before sitting back. Her fingers traced along the small bit of skin she'd found still, soothing. "You said no?"

She should have already known the answer to that. "I don't answer dumb questions."

"You haven't said no," she corrected. Kagome tilted her head, those dark brown eyes imploring even without the lingering question between them.

Inuyasha shook his head. "We're partners. You have a say. That's obvious fact."

At the very least, she had the smarts to not say the things Inuyasha knew she wanted to. The I nearly got us both killed and the are you sure still? Kagome knew that voicing those out loud would have him rolling his eyes. Not uttering them was only a balm, a soothe over the sting. The realization of her trepidation made him rub at his face, hiding away from her for a moment before letting it go.

Sesshomaru's words rang in his ears, but Inuyasha hadn't lied once to his half-brother on that fateful evening. He did need her. He needed her a lot. Far more than he was willing to admit to out loud, and far more than he'd let his brain process.

Still. If confirmation was what she needed…

"Kagome," he started, taking his hands away so that she could do more than see, so she could observe. "Tell me what I'm thinking."

"I'm not you," she replied instantly. "I can't do that."

"You can."

For a moment, Kagome looked rather mutinous, like the fact he was pushing her to do it was making her mad. The expression shifted, faded, and then disappeared entirely as she readjusted her position on the couch to crowd closer to him. Those dark brown eyes watched him, assessed him. Her intelligence showed in the sparkle of her gaze and the tightening of her lips, the way she moved to hit all his hotspots and seek out his tells.

Inuyasha hadn't lied to her earlier. He never would. Not again.

He was always looking at her.

"We're partners," she confirmed, unnecessarily. A hand pushed at his shoulder until he was sitting properly on the couch. Kagome followed, straddling his thighs and reaching for his hands as they encircled her hips. "You want us to always be partners."

He swallowed. "That's easy, though," he murmured, a whisper of her own words.

"It's not," Kagome argued, hands squeezing his. "Not with all that's coming. Not when you know the Spider is still after you, and after me." She hesitated before firming her jaw, a decision made. "You feel bad that you're not telling me to back off."

Close, but not exact. Inuyasha wanted to keep her safe, and the thought warred with knowledge that he also wanted her by his side. That need of his again, clawing to the surface.

"You won't tell me to back off."

"Also easy."

Kagome smiled. She let her hands rake up his stomach, along his chest. Everywhere she touched trailed warmth and fire. Inuyasha tugged her closer, made her fall just enough that her hands squeezed his shoulders before releasing completely, before she looked at him with fond exasperation and cupped his jaw.

"You're a menace."

He smirked. "Not what I'm thinking."

"You're… You—" She paused then, her hands tightening the slightest amount. Inuyasha wanted to show her just how much she had to remain by his side. What did the doctor see, when she stared at him in such a way? This was why he'd always want her to ask the questions, would always want her to give answers to the things he couldn't yet connect. In her eyes was disbelief, her body held so still. Her eyes bore into him, demanding and a little scared. When she spoke, it was barely more than a whispered, "Inuyasha?"

Either Kagome was deducing the truth of his need entirely, or she wasn't deducing it at all. He had a feeling it was the former, and his initial response was a fear born out of old wounds and never-forgotten betrayal. But right now, in this moment, she wasn't leaving him, wasn't pulling away. Maybe this kind of trust between them would be okay. Inuyasha couldn't voice it, and she seemed unwilling, as well.

Maybe it was for the best. Inuyasha would be by her side, regardless. There was no other way forward. "Isn't it obvious?" he asked.

"That's insane," Kagome argued immediately. "That's not…rational."

"What part of me is rational?"

"All of you," she shot back, eyebrow raised. "You're the most rational person I know."

"The most logical. Not rational."

"A distinction without a difference."

Inuyasha scowled and pulled her in tighter so that they were flush together. He stared up at her, mind whirling. Whatever was between them was there, a partnership wrapped in everything else. Nothing would be able to top it, nor come close. "I'll prove it to you," he declared.

"How logical of you," Kagome replied wryly, squeaking the moment after when he lifted her and tossed her onto her back. The couch was far too small to do anything on, but Inuyasha nipped at her stomach, rising only to hover over her chest, dive toward her neck to suck a mark he desperately wanted to show. "Inuyasha."

He hummed, letting his mouth slide up to kiss under her jaw, her cheek. "Yes?"

"Are you going to prove it to me with sex?"

Unable to help himself, he snorted. "We had sex before. What more could that prove?" Inuyasha bit at her jaw again, listened to the way she gasped. Her back arched, body pushing up towards him. The things he wanted to do to her.

"Then how are you going to prove it?" Kagome pressed, though her hands wrapped around her neck, toyed with the strands of his hair. "What's going to convince me, Inuyasha?"

"I'll cook for you."

A moment of silence – expected – and then Kagome made a strangled noise. "You— What?"

"I'll cook for you." A moment's thought. "And eat it."

His head was jerked upwards, sharply, tugged by his hair. Kagome was staring at him in wide-eyed incredulity. "You know how to cook?"

Cooking was really just science, Inuyasha thought, watching as Kagome's expression softened the longer she stared at him, the more she really looked. He wouldn't tell her that Inuyasha hadn't cooked a single day in life, but if acquiescing to something that drove her to protect him would finally get her to understand, he would happily concede.

Besides, the chance for counter sex would be far higher that way.

"While I cook," Inuyasha went on, trailing a hand up the soft curve of her stomach and tugging at the shirt there, "you can take a look at the case files Sango left. If you solve one of them before I finish making dinner, we'll raise the stakes."

"And that would be?" Kagome breathed out, eyes blown.

Inuyasha smirked. He kissed her, pressed her into the couch, and when she started to tear at his clothes, there was nothing difficult about his deduction that they would need move things quickly upstairs.

"You're intelligent," Inuyasha murmured in her ear. "I'm sure you can figure it out."


THE END?


Notes from Witchy:

First and foremost, this story would not exist without noyourenotreal. The prompt absolutely took me away (and still has left me somewhere, lost, in the ocean). It's part of the reason I can't let this story go, or these characters.

Second, I cannot give enough thanks to all of you who have left feedback and kind words. I was initially very scared of writing and publishing this - Sherlock mysteries are not to be fucked with lightly - but all of you have been so incredibly kind. Thank you. I truly hope you enjoyed this story.

If you would like to get a sneak peek into Part Two, read below. If not, as always, I'll end with this:

Feedback is love.


THE MYSTERY CONTINUES IN PART TWO

REVELATIONS

Inuyasha was disappointed in himself when his elevator chimed at half-past midnight, and he hadn't expected it. Five days after everything – after Kagome's capture, the arrest of Kageromaru and the deaths of Mayor Menomaru Seki and Juromaru – his half-brother stood in the middle of his apartment, attire impeccable despite the late hour with his suitcase in hand. Seated on the kitchen counter as he was, staring passively at his giant wall of murder, Inuyasha paid him no mind other than a sparing glance.

"How is Dr. Higurashi?"

The question, strangely, was also surprising. Inuyasha frowned. He did not like the way Sesshomaru was throwing him off-balance, twice now in so many minutes. "What do you care?"

A pause before an acknowledging hum. Ah. Back on even ground then.

"She's fine," Inuyasha answered anyways. "No more headaches. We've already taken on another case for HPD."

All of that went ignored. "Caring for her is a mistake."

Irritation clawed up Inuyasha's throat, burning stronger with every passing second. He glared daggers at the wall, refusing to give away too much. "Fuck off."

"Inuyasha."

"She's not Kikyo," he bit out, words final. "So I'll tell you again: fuck off."

Sesshomaru exhaled noisily. If Inuyasha hadn't known better, he would have said it was a sigh. "Has she noticed yet?"

"Fuck off."

"Have you told her?" Sesshomaru pressed, finally closing the distance between them. He didn't dare do anything as pedestrian as sit on the counter, but he stood against it, back straight and perfect, like the rest of his façade. "Have you told her what exactly you think of love?"

It took everything Inuyasha had to not flinch. They hadn't, not explicitly. It was in so many ways yet another lie by omission. He didn't want to have the conversation and so he pretended that there wasn't one, that he didn't have to explain. But Inuyasha had never been equal in love, had never been a true partner, and despite everything— Despite everything, this wasn't much different.

Inuyasha would always need more and give less.

"She isn't Kikyo," Sesshomaru professed then, shocking him. Inuyasha had to restrain himself from wide-eyed shock at the admission, watching quietly as his half-brother placed his suitcase on top of the counter. What could he even say to that?

Apparently, Sesshomaru wasn't done. "Kagome is not Kikyo, and yet your pattern remains the same."

"What the fuck would you know about it?" Inuyasha sneered. "You've never been in love."

"Love." The disdain was clear in the word, golden eyes mocking even if the rest of his face was placid. "So soon?"

"Deflection is rather pitiful, coming from you."

Sesshomaru's lips twitched up, the barest curl of amusement. "Love is a state like any other. One doesn't have to experience it to manipulate it."

That, at least, was true. Inuyasha went back to his murder wall, suddenly tired. "What do you want, Sesshomaru?"

With a flick, a manila folder was pulled from his suitcase, handed over without flourish. "You were right."

"I'm always right."

Sesshomaru said nothing, hand held out until Inuyasha finally took it. Only a moment was needed to scan the report, connections made obvious in concise, typed print. He had known all along, but the confirmation burned through him, mind whirling.

Ebisu, the name of the shipping company whose containers were where Shizu's remains had been found, was owned by a company called Shichinintai. Inuyasha had found out that much from a Google search. What Sesshomaru had found confirmed far more: that Shichinintai was connected with Horaijima, and by extension, his past.

Inuyasha sighed. "Some of the guys gave him the codename of Bishamonten. It was a joke. A way to talk about the guy when you didn't know if he was right around the corner. No one really knew where the name came from," he said eventually. The words curled around him, mind racing as he remembered. "To the public of that shitty, tiny town, he was a hero. Yet the minute the sun set, you couldn't turn your head without seeing something that man owned, something he had taken, something he controlled. Like fucking Jekyll and Hyde. He started with underground fighting and eventually took over the entire fucking town of Horaijima."

"His real name is Suikotsu Hirata. Did you ever meet him?" Sesshomaru asked.

Inuyasha swallowed a reflexive sneer. He refused to let his half-brother learn any more of that time in his life than he already had. "Once or twice."

"Suikotsu's businesses are also owned by Shichinintai, if you look hard enough." Look hard enough, which meant one or two dead bodies and a wielding of all the power Sesshomaru had. Even Inuyasha hadn't been able to find something online or through his contacts. Google had only connected Ebisu with Shichinintai, not Suikotsu or his underground fighting ring.

"Who would have thought," Inuyasha groused, "that they'd be fucking arrogant enough to give themselves the names of the Seven Gods of Fortune. Ebisu and Bishamonten: two of the seven lucky gods."

"This isn't a coincidence," Sesshomaru stated. He turned slightly, gaze impassively checking over the wall of scraps and red string. "The Spider dumped the body of Ms. Shizu Yamaguchi into the storage container of the business partner to your old underground fighting ringmaster."

"He's trying to bait me." Inuyasha's nose scrunched, disliking the word choice. Bait seemed too simple for whatever the Spider had up his sleeve. No, bait was far from the correct word. This was a show. A dazzling display of his connections and knowledge. Somehow, the Spider knew of Inuyasha's fucked-up history in the tiny town of Horaijima, where he fought for the thrill of it and had been deeply, horrifically betrayed and left for dead. Had it not been for Sesshomaru, Inuyasha would have surely died that night.

And the Spider knew of this. It was too much of a coincidence to be a lie. The Spider had practically put up a neon sign that stated he knew of Inuyasha's business, and that he was toying with him, finding his worth. He had Kagome taken, had instituted the game where Inuyasha was to kill his own assassins.

"The man who owns Ebisu, Renkotsu Sugita, will be placed in custody shortly. Major Crimes is keeping me apprised."

Inuyasha scoffed. "I've told them time and time again: that video is doctored. Pretty fucking amazing coincidence that the only footage of the docks they were able to recover is of a man who looked a lot like Renkotsu, unlocking the storage container and dragging in a tarped-up body. Couldn't get a good look at his face, mind you, but the evidence is damning enough." He shook his head, irritated beyond measure. "A wild goose chase to lead the cops astray. If you hadn't fucking killed Juromaru, you could have pressed the other to talk. We could have proved it was them that brought Shizu's body to the container. Not him. The Spider is setting him up."

Sesshomaru gave him a hard look. "He wouldn't have talked anyways."

Also likely true. Inuyasha scowled at his wall, dropping the report aside. "Whatever the Spider's game is, he's playing it well. He lost a battle, but I'm pretty fucking sure there's a war on the horizon we don't know about."

"Hm." Sesshomaru reached into his briefcase again, pulling out yet another folder. This time, the colour was a stark red, stamped in thick black ink over and over with the word Confidential. Like a big red folder was subtle, in any way. "I'm calling in my favour."

Inuyasha closed his eyes. "No. It's been five goddamn fucking days. I'm not flying to some other country to solve some bureaucratic murder nightmare so you can continue to rule the world from your desk. Give me another two weeks at least."

The folder was shaken once, a physical demand. "You won't be leaving the city."

That caught his attention. Inuyasha eyed his half-brother before taking the folder, movements slow. He didn't want to seem eager but he was curious. Sesshomaru calling in his favour so soon meant something, a show of hand. Inuyasha wanted to know what it was.

The first page was nearly entirely redacted. Only the title stood out: OPERATION SAIMYOSHO.

Frowning, he flipped the page. And then the other. It was a mess of connections and half-followed leads and so many deaths in so many different ways, even he had trouble keeping it straight. There was no discernible pattern, not right off the bat. Immediately, he looked up at his living room wall and connected the dots.

"You want me to get the Spider."

For a long moment, his half-brother remained quiet. He turned, and Inuyasha wondered if it was the late night or just his imagination, but Sesshomaru appeared to slump. His shoulders curved in, his spine resting against the counter. The two of them remained in silence, both eventually doing nothing but staring at the murder wall.

"He poisons everything he sets his sights on," Sesshomaru said, quiet and matter-of-fact. "It cannot be caught until too late."

"You've been trying," Inuyasha realized then, oddly pleased by this failure.

"We've tried to lure him out but his right-hand is too efficient."

Inuyasha hummed. "Kagura."

"Indeed."

Silence again. Thicker than before. It was broken yet again by his half-brother, a strange occurrence by itself, stranger still that he grabbed the red folder from Inuyasha's hands and closed it. "Moments before I arrived here, I was provided with a name. We believe it to be the Spider's, though my sources are tracking down confirmation."

Inuyasha snorted. The ace up his sleeve was finally gone. "Naraku." At his half-brother's impassive glance, he made a sweeping gesture outward. Even in the late hour, Sesshomaru did not look amused. "You're welcome."

"Source?"

"The man himself, you fuck."

Sesshomaru's lips pursed the slightest amount, irritation radiating off of him. Nothing pleased Inuyasha more. "Be serious, for once in your life."

Staring the living room wall, Inuyasha let his gaze rest on the outline of a black and red spider, sitting directly in the middle. Everything connected to it. Everything came from it. "But haven't you heard?" Inuyasha asked. "This whole thing is just a game. One game into another game. Eventually, someone is going to lose."

It was part of the reason he was unable to sleep. The words wouldn't leave his head. Over and over, they taunted him. Naraku was so close and yet incredibly out of reach. How could you take down a spider when you could only touch the very edges of its web?

But now, there was a reason. Now, there was a way for Inuyasha to get to the very centre.

"I cannot protect you," Sesshomaru stated quietly. "There is a reason I'm requesting you take on this favour."

Corruption at the highest levels. Death around every corner. Inuyasha understood perfectly. Slowly, the detective smirked.

"The game, Sesshomaru, is on."