The young man grabbed her forcefully. "Nobody comes after me, or she gets it!" he cried. Kagome found herself whisked off her feet by the casino robber, who darted through the crowds with her half hanging from his back.
"Let me go!" she cried at him, but he didn't even slow down. He was fast, she noticed. Almost as fast as Inuyasha could be when running at his highest speed.
"No can do. You're my only ticket out of here."
They dashed through out of the casino and down a number of streets. Finally, they reached an underground parking lot and no matter how hard she struggled, he didn't put her down before they were safely hidden behind cars.
"I don't think we were followed," he said.
"I wish we were." She hesitated, considering her choices. "I'll scream."
"Look, I didn't try to rob the casino, or anybody, ok? It was just... bad luck."
"No, you didn't rob it at all."
"I was there for a prank."
She snorted. "Yeah, right."
"Honestly. It's what I do. I have an international pranking company."
For some reason, Kagome felt too relaxed for this situation. She leaned her head back against a car. "Oh? Fancy yourself a professional kitsune now?"
"What?!" he asked, startled. He started studying her intently.
"What?" She frowned at him. "It's what fox spirits do, right? They trick people. You're claiming to be a professional prankster. Hence, professional kitsune. Sheesh. Nobody ever gets my jokes."
He relaxed somewhat. "Yeah, well. Something like that. I was actually after the big guy from the blackjack table. His cousin asked me to do something nasty to him. I didn't really get the reason, it was about broken cars, or a childhood trauma, or both. Anyway, I was trying to get him to look as if he were cheating."
"What?! He could get in real trouble for that."
"You called me a kitsune, remember? They aren't always nice. I do vanilla pranks, too, but sometimes people want something more dangerous."
"That's just wrong, it's hurtful, you shouldn't do it!"
"You're such a miko." She jumped slightly. He misunderstood her jumpiness. "Want it all pure and nice? It isn't. The world is a nasty place of greys. Nothing can purify all that."
Kagome studied him intently. There was something there, something... "Don't you tell me how the world is. I'm thirty-three. I'm old enough to be your..." She stopped, considering him. He looked quite young, but there were some marks of age, if one knew where to look. A bit of hardship here, some grim determination there... "Your older sister." And not by much, her mind added. He snorted.
"Right. Anyway, sorry about the bother. The casino theft wasn't supposed to come into it. Me turning out to be the bad guy even less so. Here, I'll give you my card, drop by the office sometime for compensation."
He took out a greeting card from one of his pockets and offered it to her. She took it. She glanced at it, then stared at it, then turned pale, then gaped, then swallowed because the world seemed suddenly too small.
"What?" he asked.
She looked at the card again, breathed in, breathed out, her heart pounding against her chest.
"What?" he asked again.
"I..." she started. "I..."
"Hire me!" she decided suddenly.
"Somebody," she said, regaining her youth's fire. "Somebody needs to keep an eye on you, Shippo!"
"Hey, lady, that's not how..."
She grabbed his ear. "I didn't spend all that time with you and Inuyasha back then, teaching you things, just so you can become a crook!"
She headbutted him and remembered why that was a bad idea when it hurt. "Shippo!" She let him go. He stared at her, trying hard to realize what was going on.
There was another silence. "Kagome!"
"Kagome!" He hugged her tightly. "I never thought I'd actually find you, I can't believe that after all this time, you and me, we, I mean, yay, I mean, wow, I mean..."
She hugged him back in return. But before she could actually really, really understand what was going on, she heard approaching footsteps. "Change your shape. Now."
He did, transforming ever so slightly. She climbed to her feet, saw the casino security guard and dragged Shippo to his feet. "Sir!" she cried to the man.
"Is that the robber, miss?"
"No, this is my savior. The robber went that way." She pointed in a random direction and was relieved to see some doors there. The guard thanked her and ran in that direction. She turned back to Shippo. "You're hiring me. You need someone to look after you."
A corner of his lips twitched. Studying him better, she saw that he had grown up a lot and underneath the exterior was a young man who had had hundreds of years to gain a lot of experience over her. He was charming and smooth. He had gained an elegance and a mystery that had not even been hinted at before. But she would not be defeated. She would show him that Kagome hadn't stood around doing nothing all these years, that she had made use of her every second and her decades were enough to balance his centuries.
"Hired indeed," he replied.