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To Sleep Perchance to Dream

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She didn’t often venture to this part of town.  It wasn’t forbidden, strictly speaking, but she knew she wasn’t exactly welcome and she couldn’t blame the residents for their prejudice.  Kagome felt the youki equivalent to eyes staring at her as she made her way through the streets. No one was out, but that didn’t mean they weren’t aware of her presence.  She could only pull her aura in so tight and just as she could sense all the youkai around her, they could sense her when close enough. The late hour meant little since youkai didn’t need much sleep.

Despite wanting the cover of a hood, Kagome had rejected the idea, knowing it would really only draw someone’s actual eyes her way.  Looking like you were hiding made you look suspicious and she didn’t want the extra attention. Glancing at the scrap of paper in her pocket once more, she adjusted her route.  Only a few blocks more and she would be at her destination. Every block seemed to stretch inexorably, and she knew her fatigue was starting to wear on her.

The light tinkling of a bell over her head made her wince.  The sound was felt more than heard which let her know it was spiritually entwined.  “Welcome to Kaou’s Dream Shop, what can I help you find?” The smooth, slightly high male voice reminded her of the bell and she took a deep breath.  “Miko,” he murmured. “Your kind is not exactly welcome here.” His tone had changed from salesman to something slightly more conversational. Kagome wasn’t naive enough to think he was actually pleased to have her there, but he wasn’t about to turn out a potential customer.  He’d decided on a more neutral tone instead.

“I know,” she replied.  “This is the only place that offers what I need.”  One delicate eyebrow lifted below a dark, curly tendril of hair as he moved more into the light hovering over the reception counter.

“Oh?”  Delightfully intrigued, a small grin lit his mouth.

Kagome almost regretted her decision to come.  If she weren’t so desperate, she would never have even thought about trying something so dangerous.  “I need to know where my dreams come from.” The look on the youkai’s face became more serious. “For six months I have dreamed of the same man, whom I have never met, and he calls for help.  I need to know how to help him.” The deviousness seemed to leave Kaou’s face and he looked at her intensely.

The little miko before him was clearly in need.  Her dark eyes seemed darker for the circles under them, her face nearing gauntness.  Her skin seemed too pale beneath dark bangs, her lips thin and tinged slightly blue instead of the luscious pink he imagined they normally were.  Were it not for her explanation, he would have thought her a junkie. “Does the man call your name specifically or simply call out for help?”

“He never says my name.  He doesn’t even know I’m there.”

Kaou nodded thoughtfully.  A dream such as she described was much too specific and had been going on too long to simply be a fantasy or a nightmare.  “Every night?” She nodded. “Do you sleep during the day and have the same dream?” Again, a nod. “Hm. More dire than I would have thought,” he murmured, moving around the desk to tower over her.  “You have payment?” The young miko sighed, somewhere between relief and exhaustion.

Her hand reached into the pocket of her coat, pulling from it several ofuda in an envelope.  They were clearly handwritten and beautifully crafted, each one in a little cellophane sleeve.  “There is one for happiness, peace, love, victory and pleasure.” Kaou looked them over as she set them gently on the counter so as not to activate them.  The resale value on any single one was outstanding, and paired with a dream experience, the client would pay even more. Any client would have the option to not only dream their wildest dream, they would truly feel the experience.

“Very good.”  He motioned her toward the back of the shop, the hand behind him motioning toward the front door, his youki activating the lock.  “Your name?”

“Kagome.  Higurashi Kagome.”

“As you know, no records are kept, neither of clients nor their dreams.  Yours is a special case. If something were to go awry...”

“You need to know how to return me.  I know.”

He offered no comforting words.  She didn’t ask for them. Kagome knew what he had to do was dangerous.  Considering her own powers, both of them might be in danger. “Please, sit.”  A soft leather chair sat in a corner of the room, completely unassuming. Kagome felt sleepy just looking at it.  “Now remember, I will only be able to observe and to trace any fate lines I may find. If you feel you are in danger within the dream, I cannot assist you.”  Kagome nodded. “You must restrain your abilities as best you can to allow my work.”

“Yes, I know.”

“Very well.  Please try to relax.”

From the moment Kagome let her head fall back against the soft seat she felt sleep reaching out to her.  The slightly sticky slide of vines circling her wrists and carefully slipping under her skin almost jolted her awake, but she forced herself to remain calm.  Kaou only took small amounts of energy from clients these days. He had many and the monetary gain was much more positive than draining victims. Kagome felt the slightly euphoric sensation described to her a moment later and whatever pain she may have felt was gone.  Only to be replaced by the terror of her dream. “Where are you?!” the now familiar voice called. Kagome struggled with tears as she watched the young man fight against the bonds that held him. Invisible to her, they were all too real to the raven-haired man who had unknowingly been haunting her for months.  “You can’t leave me here!” he cried out again, frustration and fear warring with his clear strength of will.

“I’m here,” she called out to him, as she did every time.  His head seemed to perk in her direction, as though aware of her.  “I’m here!” she shouted louder.

“He cannot hear you any more now than before,” she heard Kaou’s voice.  “There are clear lines of fate, one is far stronger than the others. But more importantly, this is not his true face, not his whole face.”  Kagome startled at the statement. Not his true face? Kagome watched in fascination as spirals of Kaou’s youki spun around the man in her dream.  The deep grey-blue eyes she knew gleamed until they shone a stunning amber. The dark length of his hair bleached light until it was a shining silver-white.  Two animal ears appeared atop his head.

“Hanyou.  He’s hanyou.”

“It would appear...”

“Let me out of here!” the man snarled.  While he had never seemed exactly weak or helpless before, he seemed positively ferocious now.  “Get back here and fight me, coward!” But no one came and he was still unaware of her presence.

“You still do not recognize him.”  Kagome shook her head. She really wished she did.  Aside from the exhaustion dreaming of him every night brought, the fear, he had become more than just a rescue mission.  Seeing him as he truly was... Kagome forced herself to stay on task. “Do you still wish me to find him?”

“Yes.  Yes, of course,” Kagome gasped.  The reason for his question was not lost on her.  Did she, as a miko, still want to find and help this man... this hanyou.  

“The connection could be... removed.”  Kagome’s terrified look and her instinctive move toward the hanyou made it clear that wasn’t an option.  Kaou paused a moment before nodding his understanding and telling her to remain where she was. He planned to follow the strongest line of fate, as that would be the most likely to lead her to why this man was haunting her every time she closed her eyes.

“Where are you?”

His forlorn tone was new and Kagome tried to approach him.  This youki induced dreamstate allowed her more control over her dream than usual, it seemed.  “I’m here, I’m always here,” she whispered. Her hands hovered over his wrist, now finally able to see that ofuda-wrapped chains bound him.  She looked up into the golden amber eyes that looked through her. “You never see me.” She frowned. His face turned her way, as though following his twitching nose, though he still didn’t seem aware of her.  “I always try to reach you but you never see me!” she shouted this time. Kagome felt like she was cracking. For months she had been listening to him shout to be released, worrying over him, crying for him, researching everything she could to figure out who he was.  Not once had he even looked her way. “See me!” she yelled again, banging a fist on one of the shackles that bound him.

The zip of holy power startled her and apparently him.  He let out a gasp of pain and then another of surprise. “Who... who are you?”  Kagome looked up to finally find his eyes on her. She was dumbstruck. “Where did you come from?”

“Here, I’ve always been here.”

“Who are you?” he demanded again.  “Why do you look like... her?”

“I... Kagome.  I’m Kagome,” she murmured.  His nose twitched as he took her in with his wide golden eyes.  “Where are you?” she asked him, unknowingly echoing his constant question.  “I need to find you, let you free.”

“Why would you do that?”  His tone was clearly suspicious.

“You’ve been in my dreams for months.”

“Months...  I’ve been here for years,” he replied with a snarl.  “You look like her, but you smell nothing like her.” Kagome shook her head, she didn’t know what he was talking about.  “Kikyo, where is she?”

“I don’t know a Kikyo,” she replied honestly.  He frowned slightly but said nothing. “Do you know where you are?”

“The forest.  My forest,” he said softly, eyes drifting away from her, becoming unfocused.  “But it’s not mine anymore. Something’s changed. I can’t smell the trees now.”

“What is your forest called?” she questioned, feeling a little more desperate.  Now she was finally able to communicate with him, and he was drifting away from her.  “What is your name?!”

“Inu... Inuyasha,” he started in a murmur, then finished with more strength.  “Inuyasha.”

“Good.  Do you remember anything else about where you are?”

“The sacred tree, Goshinboku.  I’m on Goshinboku.” Kagome wracked her brain for a connection.  A sacred tree should be a pretty obvious clue, but there were several in Japan and at least two within Tokyo’s limits.  He said that he no longer smelled the forest...

Kagome smiled at her ingenious thought.  “Inuyasha, what do you smell?” His attention focused on her once again, his golden eyes pulling her toward him in an unnerving way.

“You,” he muttered, seeming dazed, “I smell you.”  She reminded him that she needed him to focus on where he was.  “Incense. Lots of it. The kind monks use. And... food. Some kind of soup maybe.  I don’t recognize it.”

Kagome closed her eyes to try and piece together what he was telling her.  A shrine maybe? That would explain the incense. But so would a medicinal shop.  Or a head shop for that matter. But if he was confined to a tree, a shrine seemed more likely.  And in a food district. She knew of only a few shrines that were old enough to have had the city grow up around them.  But what if he was nowhere near her? “Where is your forest, Inuyasha? Is it in Japan?”

“Of course it is.  In what used to be Musashi’s Domain.”  Kagome’s eyes lit with excitement. “What?” he asked, concerned.

“I know where you are.  I know where you are!” she cried happily.  So happy that she finally had something to go on in order to end his misery and her exhaustion, Kagome didn’t realize her hands were on his cheeks and her lips against his until he grunted in surprise.  “I... I’m sorry. I just...”

“Keh.”  He finally really seemed to see her.  “Kagome, huh?” She felt a blush rise on her face, but nodded.  Kagome felt the presence of Kaou at her back. It was time to leave the dream.  Inuyasha was not aware of the other youkai but he clearly noticed when she began to back away.  “Oi, where are you going? You can’t leave me here!” The panic in his voice startled her, so like his cry from before. She quickly sought to comfort him.  He leaned into the hand she pressed to his cheek.

“I have to wake up now, but I’m coming to find you, the real you.  Then I can set you free.” His skeptical look made her smile. “I promise.  I’m coming to find you, Inuyasha, I promise.”

“Keh.  Holding you to it,” he said, a tiny smirk twisting his lips.  Kagome fought the urge to touch him again, Kaou’s insistent tugging letting her know she had to leave.

Kagome let out a gasp for air when her eyes popped open.  Kaou was wrapping gauze around her wrists and frowning slightly over the task.  “You made contact with him. Were you not able to before?”

“Never.  Thank you.”  He nodded, standing slowly and walking over to a chest.  Opening the doors revealed many bottles, all filled with liquids Kagome didn’t recognize off hand.  Her brain slightly fuzzy, the bottles could have been koolaid for all she knew. “Where did the line lead?” she asked after a moment.

“To the future.  Unexpected. Most lines of fate that strong within a dream are to the past.  People dream most strongly of those they have loved and lost or who haunt them.  The weaker lines were definitely connected in the past, though I cannot tell why.  If you have never met the hanyou, then you should hold no past connections to him.”  Kagome thought about asking Kaou about the woman Inuyasha had mentioned, but felt a strange aversion.  She didn’t want any more comparisons being drawn between them for some reason, even if it might explain more.  “The Buddhist temple on the eastern side of the city coincides most accurately with the direction the line gave and the clues he gave you.”  He held a map in one hand and a small vial in the other. “Once you have released him from his prison, or whatever must be done, drink this. You will sleep very heavily and without interruption.”  Kagome looked at him quizzically and a tiny smile quirked his mouth. “Dreams are meant to restore you, but you have been sorely depleted. A dreamless night will help.”

“Thank you, thank you so much.”  Kaou nodded as she shakily stood.  Kaou let her look over the map and take a note of the address she was looking for before handing her something else.  Reminded of an after dinner mint, Kagome held her hand up to her mouth in embarrassment. Kaou laughed heartily.

“It is to give you strength.  You are weak from the process and it will boost you until you make it home.”  Kagome nodded gratefully and popped the sweet in her mouth. It tasted strongly of blueberry and another tangy flavor she couldn’t identify.

The night streets seemed less daunting now that she had a goal, had some of her answers.  Kagome made her way quickly to the last bus stop on the “human” side of town. She had to wait nearly half an hour, but it was nothing in comparison to how long the wait had felt on her way there earlier that night.  The night bus driver simply raised an eyebrow at her appearance, but said nothing when she paid her fare and took a seat. Despite wanting to go directly to the temple, Kagome knew she needed to clean up at home first.  

And maybe wait for the sun to come up.


 

Inuyasha sighed softly when the girl disappeared.  He didn’t know for sure how long he had been trapped here, but he knew it had been years at the least.  “Ka-go-me,” he tried the name on his tongue. He liked it. He liked her. Granted, she was the first encounter of any kind he’d had since he’d been thrown into this nightmare.  He might be a little biased. In a never ending cycle, he dreamed that he was shackled to the tree by faceless people, all the while waiting for a nameless woman to come back for him.  His mind had always superimposed Kikyo’s face, as he had last seen her, on the woman who stood just out of scent range, just out of reach.

Suddenly Kagome had appeared, a scent so foreign yet welcome that he couldn’t suppress his excitement.  She’d spoken to him, touched him... kissed him. She was going to let him out. She promised. She had to find him first and, given that he wasn’t completely sure where she was, he was worried she wouldn’t be able to.  Remembering her confidence made him regain some of his own. Surprisingly it didn’t bother him that she looked like Kikyo as much as he thought it probably should. But as he relished the new memory of her face, he pointed out all the differences to himself and realized the resemblance was mostly a vague similarity in face-shape and coloring.

Kagome seemed... more alive somehow.  Even in this nightmare he lived in, Kagome had brought light with her, brought the scents of life.  Her scent had somehow let him smell the place in which he was kept and therefore give her more clues by which to find him.

“She said she knows where I am,” he said to himself with a small smile.  He repeated it in his head as the nightmare began again, the hands too strong to be human seeming to press the shackles tighter.  Until they reached the one on the wrist Kagome had touched. The faceless, voiceless creatures flinched back as though in pain and backed away.  Inuyasha stared in wonder. That had certainly never happened before. They approached again, as though commanded, and again attempted to further confine him.  The coils of chain again seemed to shock them, forcing them back. He was no less restricted, but that small amount of freedom in his wrist gave him hope. Kagome not only knew where he was, she could somehow break his chains.  “She’s going to set me free,” he told the now dark blobs of quivering shadows. They lurked nearby, unable to complete their assigned task and therefore unable to leave. With a wicked smile he crowed out a laugh. “Kagome is going to set me free!”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Kagome sipped her coffee nervously, waiting at the bus stop in front of her apartment.  The next bus was due any minute and it would soon take her across town to catch another bus and then arrive at the temple where it seemed likely she would find an end to her exhausting dreams.  She hoped that helping Inuyasha truly meant freeing him and not simply releasing his soul. Despite the fear, pain and anguish she had continually felt while he haunted her dreams for the last six months, Kagome was attached to him.  Actually speaking to him had only strengthened her attachment. She took a larger sip as her cheeks flushed when she remembered kissing him in the dream. It truly had been a relieved reaction and he hadn’t seemed to mind too much. What if he didn’t remember?  Would she be glad or disappointed? Kagome tried to return her focus to the task at hand. She had to find a way into the temple, figure out where Inuyasha was and then figure out how to get him out.

Kagome was not ignorant of the ways of shrines and temples.  Having grown up on a shrine - or what had been a shrine - and trained some in a few smaller shrines herself, she was aware of the legends that tended to surround the places, especially the older ones.  It was entirely likely that the monks of the temple thought they were maintaining a seal on a mass murdering youkai from the old days. Especially hearing him speak that night, Kagome was even more certain than before that Inuyasha had to have been sealed more recently.  His accent and the words he used made it clear that he was from a relatively modern time, but still probably a decade or more in the past.

When Kagome finally arrived at the temple, she sighed.  This would be no easy task. In preparation for the fake visit she had planned to use as an excuse, she had dressed in her full traditional miko garb.  Lay people were generally not allowed inside the deeper parts of the temple and so she would play the miko card as many times as she had to in order to find Inuyasha.  When she entered the gates, she bowed politely to the first monk she saw and smiled serenely. She had put on a light amount of makeup so she didn’t look quite so ghostly, and luckily the long sleeves of her white suikan covered her bandaged wrists from her trip to Kaou’s.  “Hello. I was informed there was a great tree here, a sacred tree. I had hoped to see it for myself.” The monk stared at her for a long time before waving her along behind him and seemingly going in search of someone higher in the “ranks” to deal with her.

“You are?” questioned the man barely older than herself with stunning indigo eyes and his longish hair pulled into a low tail.  He seemed no older nor more influential than the monk who had left her with him, but he did seem much wiser and more worldly.

“Higurashi Kagome,” she replied.

“I see.  And you would like to visit Goshinboku, I’ve been informed.”  Kagome fought her excitement at hearing the specific name Inuyasha had used.  She had a feeling that she was being tested somehow. She simply nodded, acting as though this was all completely normal.  “You are... not aware of what you will find there.” Kagome gave him a wide innocent look as though she didn’t completely understand the question.  The monk, who had yet to introduce himself, eyed her more carefully. “Your act is unnecessary. He has been mumbling your name since this morning.”  Kagome could not completely cover her shock.

“Pardon?” she squeaked.  Part of her was terrified that her ruse was blown, another was too thrilled to finally know that he was alive and waiting for her.

“Inuyasha has been restrained against that tree in sleep for nearly fifty years.”

“Fi-fifty years?” she asked incredulously.  She sucked in a deep breath in hopes of slowing her racing heart.  “Why have none of the monks released him...?”

The monk smiled gently.  “Miroku.” Kagome nodded at him. “Until recently it has been the belief that Inuyasha was justly confined there, for crimes he had or would have committed.  It is now only the belief among a select few. Those of us who know more of the story and know he was trapped unfairly have attempted to release him, every day as a matter of fact.  Our efforts only managed to further entangle him. Until this morning that is.” Miroku’s eyes twinkled. “This morning one of his shackles... bit back. We were so startled, we didn’t know how to react at first, and so we stood around like idiots and stared at him.  Then he began mumbling.”

“He... mumbles often?”

“Never actually.  It was the first time we had ever seen any sign of life aside from breath entering and leaving his lungs at an agonizingly slow rate.  His heart does not even appear to beat.” Miroku smiled at the perplexed look she gave him. “It has often been the pastime of a young monk to meditate by watching and counting the breaths of the hanyou guarded here.”

“But you said he mumbled...”

“Kagome.  ‘Kagome is going to set me free’ were, I believe, his exact words.”  Kagome openly gaped. “Your arrival here this morning cannot simply be coincidence.  Would you mind telling me what you are truly doing here and how you found out that he was here?”

Kagome remained silent and frightened for another moment.  Tell the truth and gain the monk’s sympathy or tell a lie and maybe get closer to Inuyasha?  She wasn’t sure either one would work, but she did know that she was a terrible liar. “For... six months now, Inuyasha was in my dreams, shouting and begging to be released.  I did not know his name until last night, did not even know he was hanyou. He always appeared human to me before.”

Miroku stared openly at the young miko sitting across from him.  He had asked her to join him in the lecture hall where he often meditated since most of the older (stiffer) monks tended to keep to the large kondo nearer to the living quarters.  She was a lovely young woman, something he was trying to remind himself he wasn’t supposed to be aware of, but she was clearly at the end of her rope. A bit on the thin side, and clearly wearing makeup to hide the pallor of her skin, Miroku could still tell what a beauty she was.  “And you have not been sleeping well.” Her large dark eyes took him in with a calculating look.

“I sleep, but I wouldn’t say I feel rested when I wake up.  Inuyasha has been yelling in my head every single time I close my eyes.”  She smiled a little grimly. “I wish I were exaggerating when I say that.”  Nodding his understanding, and yet completely floored by her strength, Miroku sighed before motioning her to stand and follow him.  He made sure there weren’t any of the older monks lurking about before leading her down the old pathways that led to the far back edge of the temple grounds.  While he felt a little doubtful that this young woman would actually be capable of releasing Inuyasha from his prison, he knew he had to at least give her the chance, and possibly the peace of just knowing she’d tried.

Kagome struggled to keep up with Miroku as they walked at a brisk pace, darting behind building to keep out of sight.  The effects of Kaou’s candy and the large coffee she’d had on her way were wearing off pretty quickly and she was losing steam. “Not too much further,” the young monk assured her from ahead.  Kagome nodded and took a deep breath to regain her strength as best she could.

The rear of the temple was more covered with grass than walkways, and it was clear to her that it had been forested at one point.  Kagome began to smell food, ramen more particularly, as they neared the back wall that surrounded the temple. “Soup. Ramen. He said he smelled soup,” she murmured.  Knowing she was so close seemed to help her flagging energy. Miroku led her up to what simply appeared to be a tall garden gate, but was covered with warning and protective ofuda.  

Kagome let out a small gasp when he opened the gate, letting her eyes fall on Inuyasha in the flesh for the first time.  Vines the size of boa constrictors surrounded his form against the tree, the only truly metal restraints being those at his wrists.  “When you touch them, the vines...”

“Grow faster, cover more of him.”

There was almost no sound in the clearing around the large tree.  Kagome moved closer and was able to finally hear the mumbling coming from the hanyou.  Even closer, she noticed that he looked exactly as he had in her dream the night before, the only difference being how lifeless he looked here.  “Does he ever become human?”

Miroku frowned at the question.  “Not that I have ever seen. You said that you saw him as human when he appeared in your dreams?”  Kagome nodded. “But you knew he was hanyou before you came.”

“Yes.  I was finally able to see him as he is last night.”  Kagome couldn’t help her fascination as she drew nearer.  He did seem almost perfectly still, as though frozen in time - or dead - except for the soft mumbles of her name and some other words she couldn’t decipher.  When she was close enough to touch him, his nose twitched and he said her name more clearly. “I’m here, Inuyasha, just like I promised,” she murmured to him.  He stilled aside from his nose twitching and Kagome smiled a little. “Now to figure out how to get you down.”

Kagome hesitated several times, not sure if she should try touching the vines or not.  All the monks with all their holy powers had only made things worse. What if she did the same?  No, she reminded herself, I have been dreaming about him for a reason.  I have to get him free.  That thought in mind, Kagome softly touched the vine that had begun creeping up toward his face, cradling his head like a mother would her child, but still threatening to cover him.  Kagome wondered if maybe the vines were actually protecting Inuyasha, rather than restraining him. At this thought, the vine slowly retreated. A flash of memory of her dream experience at Kaou’s shop gave her the willies, but she remained firm and slowly found the vines moving away as though conceding their prize.

Once she was able to see more of him, Kagome was surprised - and honestly relieved... Ok maybe a little bummed.  Couldn’t blame her for being curious - to find that his clothing was completely intact as well.  She could feel the faint thrum of youki within the slightly scratchy red fabric which would explain why it still looked pristine.  The one glaring incongruity was the fletching of an arrow protruding out of his chest. “The miko who trapped him there...”

“He said... her name was Kikyo.  Is that right?” Kagome felt her heart race even before the question left her lips, her head swooning slightly.

“You’ve been speaking to him,” said Miroku, incredulous.  Kagome nodded before explaining it was just the night before and only the one time.  “Yes. She was a very strong miko and the story says that they were friends, at the very least.  There is some speculation as to the true nature of their relationship.”

“I see,” she replied softly, staring at the arrow and contemplating what removing it might entail.  Would it hurt him? Would he even feel it as he was? Would pulling it out wake him up or simply allow his soul to move on?  Kagome knew that the only way to find out would be to try, but she feared making a wrong move and dooming the hanyou she’d set out to rescue.  Touching the arrow shaft sent a tingle through her hand, like touching a tiny live wire. Kagome took a deep breath and grabbed it more fully, startling when Inuyasha gasped.  His eyes flew open and locked on her face as the arrow disappeared from her hold. Kagome saw the look of confusion cross his features shortly before she lost consciousness.

Miroku jumped forward to catch the young woman as she crumpled toward the ground.  “Higurashi-sama? Kagome-sama?” he asked worriedly, patting her shoulder in hopes of waking her.  She was even worse than he’d thought.

“That’s not Kagome, that’s...”  Miroku looked up at the now awakened hanyou.  The two blinked owlishly at one another. “Who the fuck are you?!”

Only vaguely startled by the hanyou’s language, Miroku opened his mouth to reply then shut it again, frowning at the girl in his arms.  “I am a monk. Miroku. Miss Kagome came here to let you free. I knew she was in bad shape but...”

“That... that’s Kagome?” Inuyasha’s voice was small, wondering.  Miroku glanced up and saw golden eyes locked on the raven-haired woman who lay unconscious.  “But she looks sick.”

“Apparently dreaming of you shouting at her for months has weakened her,” Miroku said in an admonishing tone.

“Keh.  I didn’t even know she was there.”  Inuyasha shifted in an attempt to step forward but quickly found himself still restrained.  “Damn things! Get these off of me.” His rude delivery only made Miroku scowl at him. “Or wake her up so she can!  Whatever you gotta do, just get me down from here.”

While his words said he didn’t care, Miroku could tell by the look in Inuyasha’s eyes, the way they never strayed from Kagome’s face, and the tiniest of whimpers that left his throat that he in fact cared quite a bit.  And not just because he wanted to be free. She’s clearly had an impact on you already , he thought with an internal smile.

Fortunately - or unfortunately, depending on your perspective - a young monk wandered by the gate at that moment.  Miroku saw the young man’s eyes go wide as he saw Inuyasha and saw the moment he realized what what going on, or at least what he thought was going on.  “Ishi, please get some water for Higurashi-sama. She’s fainted.” Mouth hanging slightly open, he nodded and scurried off, likely to tell several more “senior” monks what was happening.  At least he wouldn’t tell them he was sacrificing a miko in front of the hanyou, which he imagined was what it looked like. Ishi remembered to bring the water back, at any rate. “Now I need you to stand in front of the gate and perhaps dissuade anyone from coming in.”  The young monk didn’t seem thrilled with this plan. “Just until Miss Higurashi is settled.” That seemed to help.

“Monk, wake her up.”

“Please be patient Inuyasha.  She was clearly already exhausted from her ordeal over the last six months.  Using her miko abilities in this much concentration must have taxed her further.”

“Her ordeal?  I’ve been locked up like this for years!”

“In a perfect state of sleep.  Kagome has not gained rest from sleeping since you began hollering in her dreams,” Miroku found himself growling at the hanyou.  The selfishness he was displaying was appalling, especially considering what Kagome had gone through in order to free him. He took up one arm to check her pulse and was horrified to find gauze wrapped around her delicately boned wrist.  Had she attempted suicide to escape the torment of her dreams? Surely she was not that desperate.  Evidently the hanyou had noticed too because he had fallen silent and was staring with intense eyes at the bandages.

Miroku gently lifted the tape before peeling the gauze away.  Two small puncture wounds oozed only lightly and emitted the faintest trace of youki.  Miroku frowned and gently lay Kagome on the ground so he could check her other wrist. He found identical small wounds there as well.  “Kaou. She’s been to Kaou.”

“What’s that?” Inuyasha wanted to know.

“A dream youkai.  He feeds off of his... customers.  Very little nowadays, but he still draws energy from them.  I’ve heard he can trace the origin of dreams.” He rewrapped Kagome’s wrists and again tried to wake her.  “She must have gone to him to find you so she could set you free and free herself from dreaming of you.” Kagome’s eyes fluttered but she did not immediately wake.  “A line of fate must connect you and until she can release you, she may not be able to move beyond it. She must have been very desperate. What she did is very dangerous, especially considering what she needed Kaou to do.”

Inuyasha tried not to show his hurt at the idea that Kagome might want to be rid of him so badly, but he wouldn’t jump to conclusions.  Kagome hadn’t said anything about freeing herself of him. As he and the monk watched her, the young miko finally began to regain consciousness.  Visibly confused, she blinked at Miroku for several moments before gasping and scooting away from him and toward Inuyasha. Her back against his shins, she looked up at him and blinked at him in an equally confused way.  “Inuyasha?”

“You going to finish the job or just leave me here?” he questioned.  Her face, slightly open in wonder, dropped into a scowl at his tone.

“Sure your majesty, I’ll get right on that,” she growled at him, slowly pushing herself to her feet.  Miroku steadied her and handed her the cup of water Ishi had brought. “Thank you.” Both humans glanced at the hanyou growling at them.  As soon as Miroku’s hand left her shoulder, the growling stopped. Testing the waters, Miroku replaced his hand. The low rumble was undeniable.  Kagome lifted an eyebrow at him, apparently unaware of the connection. “I’m fine now, you don’t have to keep touching me,” she said wryly. Miroku dropped his hands and took a step back, giving Inuyasha a look that blatantly said “I know your secret.”  The hanyou huffed at the monk and his upper lip lifted slightly in a snarl.

Kagome handed her cup over to Miroku and stepped up in front of Inuyasha, silencing his irritated mumbling.  She eyed the shackles that bound him, looking at the ofuda and reading the script as best she could. Some of the older ofuda had faded under weather, and the words seemed to blend together with each layer.  All the while Inuyasha was staring at her with those penetrating golden eyes of his, making her nervous. “What?” he almost barked.

“You hush,” she quietly commanded.  “Someone really never wanted you to leave this place,” she said with a sigh, fisting one hand on her hip and shifting her weight.  Staring at the top layer on both wrist restraints, she noticed that they were more or less identical, except his left wrist was missing one.  “Wow. That one must be what shocked me last night,” she murmured to herself. Kagome knew that her dreams of Inuyasha had been more real than anything else she’d experienced before, but knowing that something in her dream had somehow influenced the real world was a little frightening.  She could almost track the changes in sentiment toward Inuyasha’s past as she sifted through the layers. Some were restrictive magic, the goal to keep him chained. Others, especially in the upper layers, were protective.

With eyes closed and hands reaching, Kagome traced the first lines of kanji on the shackle she hadn’t yet touched.  She felt the initial zing of energy but, expecting it this time, she was able to channel it instead of being shocked by it.  She couldn’t absorb it, unfortunately, but she could redirect it to go after the next ofuda which saved her having to use her own power.  She worked in silence in this way for some time, flinching occasionally when Inuyasha sucked in breaths of pain. He wasn’t suffering terribly, but she knew that his youki would draw some of the holy energies as she dissipated the ofuda.  She only had so much control over another person’s reiki and some of the “spells” - for lack of a better term - were twisted or broken and therefore more difficult to handle.

The last ofuda disappeared with a snap and Kagome felt the shackle open.  Inuyasha’s arm dropped a little limply to his side. “Shit, that feels weird,” he commented.  He flexed and rolled his wrist, both of them watching the faint sores fade from his skin. “Way to go, Ka...”

“What is the meaning of this, Miroku?”  Three heads snapped up to watch an older man in monk’s robes hobble angrily in their direction.  He was easily in his seventies and his mobility was questionable. Ishi was peeking around the gate looking apologetic.

“I was afraid of this,” Miroku muttered before opening his arms in a placating gesture.  “This young, and very powerful, miko has foreseen the release of our guest, Sir,” he said with a flourish and obvious theatrical talent.  The older monk was not impressed.

“That monster has been locked up there for nearly half a century for a reason!”

“Watch who you’re calling a monster, geezer!” Inuyasha snarled.

His eyes widened as he truly took in Kagome for the first time. “My word… Kik… Get away from him, child,” the monk called to Kagome, reaching toward her as though to pull her away.  Inuyasha was faster, using his free arm to scoop her up against his chest. “Do not harm her,” the monk begged with hands held up, backing up a step. Kagome found herself startled both by Inuyasha’s reaction and the monk’s.   What exactly do they think the other is going to do to me? she thought a little wryly.

“Why would I do that?  Leave it alone monk,” he growled, tucking Kagome closer to his chest.  “Can you reach the other one?” he murmured in her ear, swallowing back his reaction when Kagome shuddered softly and her scent changed.   Focus , he reminded himself.  Apparently she wasn’t afraid of him, nor was she uncomfortable with his proximity.  He tucked those bits of information away and held her so she could reach the other wrist.  This one took less time, but her lack of concentration meant he received more of the brunt of the energies being released.  “Well that didn’t feel great,” he muttered. He gently let Kagome down, relishing the feel of her against him for a moment longer.  He felt fuzzy and stumbled slightly when he tried to move his feet.

“Inuyasha, you’re...”

“Keh, I’m fine woman.”

“You’re human, Inuyasha.” Miroku stated dryly.  Blinking to clear his eyes, he realized the idiot monk was right.  His vision was not quite as sharp, his hearing was nowhere near as good as usual and his nose felt like it had cotton stuffed in it for all he could smell.  The other monks who had gathered were all staring at him in wonder and Kagome’s hand on his back was the only thing keeping him stable and somewhat calm. His first thought was Human?  But I can’t smell Kagome as a human.  He shook himself out of that and looked over his shoulder at the young woman behind him.  She didn’t appear excited by his humanity, but concerned. Does she not think I should be human instead? he wondered.   Not the same person , he had to remind himself.  As thin and unwell as she looked, Kagome resembled Kikyo far more than she had in his nightmare.

“A-As I intended,” Kagome said with wavering confidence in her voice.  Inuyasha’s blue-grey eyes flashed dangerously at her. She gave him a look that begged his silence.  His scowl deepened, but he said nothing. “Now he is no danger to anyone.” The monks, including Miroku, stared at her agape.

“But...”

“I’ll look after him,” she interrupted.  “No need to worry.” Everyone seemed so stunned by her statement and the release of their long-time captive that no one said anything at first.  She gently nudged Inuyasha toward the gate, skirting around the monks.

“Did you really turn me human on purpose?” he snapped at her in a whisper.

“Of course not, baka!” she hissed back.

“Stop!” the elder monk shouted.  “You can’t just waltz out of here.  He’s been a prisoner here for...”

Kagome rounded on the monk with fury in her eyes.  “I am well aware of that. I peeled every single hateful layer off of his shackles, I fought through every holy barrier ingrained in that metal.  I pulled that spite-filled arrow from his chest.” Inuyasha unconsciously rubbed the spot at the memory. “Did anyone think to ask him for his side of the story?  Did anyone even wonder if the miko’s tale was true?” A lot of sheepish looks met her words. “Of course not. He’s a hanyou, so clearly he must have been at fault.  He deserved his punishment,” she sneered. “This world we live in is filled with youkai, hanyou and humans. The holy community needs to learn the good from the bad, instead of lumping them all together, or we'll destroy ourselves.”  Silence greeted her from all around. It was as though none of them had even thought about it.

There was so little violence between humans and youkai anymore that it was unlikely any one of the monks there had needed to seal or defeat a youkai in years, or even in their lifetimes, but the prejudice remained ingrained in the training.  Kagome knew that youkai were just as guilty of the prejudice toward people with holy power, but she wasn’t a youkai, she couldn’t approach them the same way. It left their world in a sort of… cold war. Neither side openly attacking for fear of what would come after.

Miroku stepped forward, drawing eyes his way.  “Higurashi-sama is right. It was always just assumed that Inuyasha was capable of the crimes he was accused of because of his youkai blood.  No one thought to ask if his human side would temper the supposed drive to do harm. No one thought about whether the core of him was good. The assumption that youkai will always do harm when given the chance is so obviously false now...”

“Enough.”  The older monk’s scowl had only deepened through this whole exchange.  “Your place is clearly no longer with us, Miroku. You may collect your things and escort the miko from the temple grounds.  The hanyou remains here.”

“No!” Kagome and Inuyasha shouted in unison.

“I won’t leave here without him,” Kagome said with conviction.  “He’s human now anyway.”

“My child...”  Kagome shook her head fiercely, yanking Inuyasha closer to her and pulled from deep within herself the last of her strength.  A pink bubble slowly rose around the two of them, blocking off any attempts to come near. The monks were surprised and impressed by her power, taking several steps back.  The barrier wouldn’t harm them, but it wouldn’t allow them to harm her or Inuyasha either.

“Can you hold this very long?” Inuyasha murmured, concern lacing his voice as they slowly made their way toward the gate.  If possible, she looked worse than before.

“I’m hoping I won’t have to,” she replied tightly.  He fell silent to help her concentration, watching her carefully as she struggled to look calm while growing visibly weaker.  The monks on the other side of the barrier were being ordered in different directions but none of them seemed to be attacking.  The elder monk who had banished Miroku was obviously in control and had commanded some of the younger monks to restrain Miroku while he tried to figure out how to deal with Kagome.  “No, no, no, no,” she murmured. “Inuyasha!” He had a hold of her before she even finished calling his name. The barrier dropped out of existence and Kagome fell limply in his arms, her chest heaving for air.  The monks all froze mid step, staring at the now vulnerable pair. Damn, damn, double damn .  Inuyasha wished desperately that he weren’t human at the moment.  He would easily be able to bound over these assholes and get Kagome out of there.  Currently he could barely hold the both of them up. While his hanyou body hadn’t seemed too affected by the length of time he’d spent immobile, as a human he felt off kilter and weak.  He did his best to keep himself between Kagome and the monks moving toward them, but he knew he wasn’t going to be able to do much to protect her.

“Enough,” a deep male voice rang out.  Another monk, several years younger than the other and definitely in better health, stood at the gates.  “Enough,” he said again. The younger monks seemed to scurry out of his way like mice as he moved toward where Inuyasha held Kagome’s barely conscious form against him.  Giving the man his best human approximation of a growl, he held her closer and took a step back. “You have not changed much at all, Inuyasha.”

“Who are you?”

The monk smiled a little.  “I wouldn’t expect you to recognize me now.  It matters not. What matters, and what my brothers fail to see, is the way you rose to the challenge of protecting your priestess without a second thought.”  Again there were a lot of dumbstruck faces around the clearing. Even Inuyasha was a little stunned. “These are not the actions of a monster,” the monk continued, looking over at his fellow elder monk with a slight frown.  “These are the actions of someone who cares for life and for those that have shown him friendship.”

“He was locked up for a reason, Kikyo put him to sleep for a reason,” the other elder monk argued.

“Inuyasha, do you recall what happened?” the new arrival asked, ignoring the furious look he was receiving from his colleague.

His face screwed up in concentration, the hanyou turned human adjusted his hold on his burden and tried to remember.  “I was supposed to meet Kikyo in my forest. We were having a picnic with her kid sister.” He felt like his brain was swimming through a fog.  “There was something wrong, a youki I didn’t recognize. But it was... it looked like Kikyo.”

Kagome moved slightly before speaking.  “Kikyo was a miko, she shouldn’t...” With a look from the monk who seemed to have taken over, Miroku was released and was able to approach Inuyasha, help him help Kagome to sit so he was able to sit himself.

“Kikyo’s passing was more than suspect and the events we have been able to piece together imply that she was in two places at once, as were you.”   Passing .  That meant what he had already suspected was true.   Kikyo is dead . Inuyasha shook his head as though trying to clear it. Kagome’s soft hand on his knee seemed to help.  “It is likely that a youkai tricked both of you into betraying each other. I am not sure of the purpose, but it would seem that it was his or her intention to, barring your death, keep you locked up indefinitely.”

“So much for that plan,” he mumbled.  “So what now, monk? You gonna let us go or are you going to try keeping me here too?”

“If you will allow Miroku to keep an eye on you, I see no reason why you could not reacquaint yourself with the world.  There is much you have missed.”

“Kenji!  Surely you don’t trust that boy to look after a powerful and dangerous inuhanyou with a lovesick miko at his side!”

“Hey I am not...” Kagome protested weakly.  Then her head tilted almost drunkenly as she looked up at Inuyasha with bleary eyes.  “Oh duh. INU-yasha. I’m such a dope.” Since she was so out of it, Inuyasha only rolled his eyes at her.

The monk now presiding over their fate smiled a little.  “Miroku is a very intelligent young man. One that was never meant for the secluded life of a monk,” his tone was almost teasing.  Miroku looked a bit sheepish. “Go, live your life as you should have. Both of you.” Miroku helped Kagome and Inuyasha to their feet.  As they passed him, Miroku clasped hands with the monk known as Kenji. “Make me proud, my son.” Miroku nodded resolutely and lingered a moment longer before following the weak pair.  Inuyasha could hear the two senior monks arguing as they passed younger men standing by, looking unsure of what they should do.

“Who was that guy?” Inuyasha asked eventually as they made their way toward Miroku’s quarters to gather his things.  “Why didn’t he let you stay?”

Miroku mouth twisted in a half smile.  “My father. He always knew this was not the place for me, despite my own power.  I was never really meant to be a monk.”

“Aren’t monks supposed to be... you know... celibate?”

Miroku shrugged.  “That is apparently a guideline and not a rule.  I don’t remember my mother, but my father said it was for the best.”  Inuyasha didn’t really know what to say so he said nothing. He was starting to wonder if he wasn’t really supposed to have been hanyou and that this was for the best.  Between Kikyo hoping to change him and now his current, possibly permanent, state as a human, he was feeling like he’d never had a choice in the matter. That didn’t sit so well.  “We gotta get the wench somewhere to let her lay down. She’s going to collapse on us again.” Miroku nodded.

“Hey, I can hear you, you know,” Kagome snapped weakly.  “My name is Kagome. Ka-go-me.” Inuyasha and Miroku shared a look.  “Not wench,” she added.

Both Inuyasha and Kagome scowled at the now ex-monk laughing at their expense.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

The apartment seemed large to him, but he could tell by the way Kagome stood in the space that she worried he thought it was too small or somehow lacking.  “You live here by yourself?” he asked a little incredulously. He’d been living in a studio apartment in a crappy building along the border between the human and youkai parts of town.  It was a rough neighborhood for humans, but he’d never worried.

Kagome’s building was well kept, but it was not the most desirable part of the city.  She rarely thought about it, but she knew her mother worried about her safety almost constantly.  If she made better money she would move, but for now, this was what she could afford relatively close to her job.  Having an actual living room was a nice plus, and an eat-in kitchen, but now that there were going to be two of them sharing it, she wasn’t sure how they would both fit.  “I know it’s a little snug for two people, but the couch pulls out into a bed, and it’s actually really comfortable.”

Inuyasha stared at her for several moments.  “You’re... really going to let me stay here?”

Kagome’s head tilted slightly and a confused little frown was on her face.  “I wouldn’t just turn you out on the streets. You’ve been out of the game for almost fifty years,” she reminded him.  “You’ll have to learn about this time before you can navigate all this stuff yourself. Not too much has changed, but enough that you might feel a little lost.”  She paused. “I mean, you could see if Miroku has room for you, if you’d feel more comfortable staying with him.” As the ex-monk had quickly found a room in some sort of boarding house, Inuyasha doubted the bouzu had anywhere to put him.  At any rate, he didn’t want to be separated from Kagome.

“Won’t your family have a problem with me staying here?”

Kagome smiled a little.  “Things are a little different now.  Plus, it’s not like we’re sleeping in the same room,” she said with a faintly delirious chuckle.

“Keh.  Couch is fine.”  Kagome just shook her head and yawned.  “You need to lay down,” he said firmly, trying to cover how concerned he really was.

She nodded tiredly.  “Kaou gave me this serum to help me sleep.  I’m a little nervous to take it though. He said I would sleep really deeply.”

In spite of his gut reaction to her taking anything a youkai had given her, he knew she needed the rest.  She looked about ready to drop. “Keh, I’ll be fine,” he replied when she asked him if he needed anything.  He watched her go into her room and fought the urge to follow. He needed to stop acting like a lost puppy, right on her heels anywhere she went.  She left her door open a crack, which made him feel better.

Three days had passed since Kagome had freed Inuyasha from Goshinboku.  Unfortunately for the hanyou turned human, he was still human. He’d been worried before, now he was downright distraught.  This made him the most difficult man on the planet to deal with. Kagome had thrown her hands up at him in utter defeat several times already.  He sulked on her tiny balcony, she tried to coax him to go out somewhere with her and he growled and snarled at her as best he could until she got so frustrated she just left him alone.

All this after he’d nearly had a heart attack when she didn’t wake up right away the morning after she took the serum Kaou had given her.  Inuyasha had gone looking when it was nearing noon and there was no sign of her waking. Twenty hours of sleep was, in his opinion, obscene.  When he jostled her shoulder, she hadn’t reacted. He’d tried again, calling her name and shaking her a little harder. When that didn’t work he’d begun to panic, mind racing over all the possibilities.  What if she never awoke and he was left here, alone, in this unfamiliar time? What would I do without her?  He’d forced himself to pull it together and was about to contact Miroku when she gasped softly.  She was groggy and incoherent for some time, but eventually he was able to get her sitting up and drinking some water.  She’d thanked him shyly, a faint blush on her cheeks and he’d huffed out a “keh.”

Worrying over her had put him in a foul mood and his continued human state had only fueled his worry.  How would he protect Kagome if he was just a regular old human for the rest of his life? How long would his life actually be?  His own mortality had never really come up before and it scared him more than he would have expected. Dying in a fight was one thing, dying protecting someone another.  Dying of old age seemed... slow and painful. He wanted no part of it.

On top of that he hated that he was so dependent on Kagome.  He had always been free to do as he wished, up to a point, and had never relied on anyone.  Kagome was his gateway to the world, showing him new technology, explaining some of the large events that he had missed while sleeping.  Without her he would have been completely lost. And that made him angry too. He’d never been so out of his element in his life and he was pretty consistently an outsider.  Being so quickly attached to Kagome and still being human only compounded the issue.

“Are you going to sulk out here forever?” Kagome asked him from her doorway, arms crossed over her chest and her shoulder leaning against the frame.  One eyebrow was lifted in question and her face told him she was no longer feeling generous toward his attitude. “You know, I’m human all the time. Always have been.  Doesn’t make me throw tantrums.”

“You just don’t get it,” he muttered.

“Then explain it to me,” she begged him, moving to sit in the chair beside him.  Just that small thing made him irritated again. He should have been able to hear her before she came looking for him, he definitely should have been able to smell her with her so close.  Nothing. He could faintly smell the scent of the city, far more polluted than he remembered, and the restaurant in the building next door, but nothing that was distinctly Kagome.

“I can’t smell anything the way I should.  I can’t hear for shit. I use those senses to keep myself alive and now they’re gone.”  Kagome’s dark brown eyes took him in. There was no pity, no mocking in her gaze.

“You’re not in danger like before,” she tried to remind him.

Inuyasha scoffed.  “And if that youkai who got me locked up in the first place is still running around?  What’s to keep him from squashing me like an ant?”

Kagome gave him a half smile.  “I’ll protect you.”

He tried not to, he really did, but the thought of Kagome protecting anyone didn’t exactly inspire a lot of confidence.  He had to acknowledge she hadn’t been at the top of her game the last time he’d seen her use her powers, but she was not exactly the most fearsome miko he’d ever seen.  “And who’s going to protect you?” he asked, chuckling. Apparently she didn’t appreciate his humor. Her frown returned and she sat back in her chair, arms crossing over her chest again.  “Oi, I mean you have a lot of potential, you just don’t know how to use it yet.” Kagome’s head tilted and she shot him a look. “Kikyo trained daily and had impeccable control. I’m sure you could get there too.”

Inuyasha had no idea why, but apparently that was not the right thing to say.  Kagome stared at him in pained shock, her eyes wide. Tears filled them and her mouth opened in a faint gasp.  She nearly tipped the chair over, she was out of it so fast. She was through her bedroom to the bathroom with the door slamming behind her before he could call out to her.  He stood, hesitating a moment before following her. Pressing his human ear tightly to the thin wooden door, he was just able to make out muffled sobbing.

“Fuck,” he mumbled to himself.  Why had that upset her so much? He was just letting her know that he was sure she was capable of a lot if she just put in the effort.  Kikyo had dedicated a lot of time to her training and he would guess that Kagome’s power already outshone what Kikyo could do, she just didn’t have the control or the battle skills yet.  “Kagome?” Softly knocking on the door got no response. He tried again a little louder. Still nothing. With the way her health had been recently, he instantly worried that she’d fainted again.  “Kagome!” He felt the door pop open when he shoved it and came almost face to face with a flushed, tearstained Kagome.

“Get out.”  

He scowled at her, feeling just as stubborn.  “I don’t know what your deal is, wench...”

“Kagome!  It’s Ka-go-me!  Not ‘wench,’ not ‘woman,’ and not Kikyo!”  Startled by her outburst, he took a step back.  He didn’t remember ever calling her by the other miko’s name, but he did have to take a moment to think about it and make sure.  Kagome seemed equally startled and placed a hand over her mouth.

“I know who you are.”  Kagome blinked, fresh tears coming to her eyes.  “Kagome, I know who you are.” He reached out gently and brought her closer by the elbow.  She let him.

“I know,” she sobbed.  “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.  Any time I hear her name I just... I’m sorry.  I’m sure you m-miss her.” Finally able to smell a hint of the fragrance he had been missing, Inuyasha found himself calming.

“Sort of.  I’m still not sure exactly what happened, but I do know that Kikyo herself is the one who put that arrow in my chest.  No youkai could have used a holy arrow to bind me to the sacred tree.” He took in Kagome’s face as she looked up at him, beginning to look more like the girl he remembered from the dream.  Her eyes didn’t have such dark circles under them and her cheeks seemed to be filling out again. She was looking less and less like Kikyo and more and more distinctly like herself. The thing he noticed most though, and kept telling himself he shouldn’t, was how much better her lips looked.  They had seemed thin and nervous before... more like Kikyo’s had always been. He shook off the comparison. Now they were fuller and slightly rosy, healthier.

Inuyasha didn’t even realize he was leaning into her until the phone rang loudly in the other room.  Both of them jumped and pulled away from each other, Kagome’s face reflecting his embarrassment. She stuttered out something about answering and left him standing in the bathroom feeling like an idiot.   What am I doing?  Kagome can’t possibly want that.  But she had reacted positively to his hold the day she released him, when he could still smell her reaction.  “Miroku wants to take us to lunch,” Kagome called from the other room.

“Keh.”

“Sure, we’ll meet you there,” he heard her tell the bouzu over the phone.

 

Kagome hid a smile as Inuyasha tried not to look like he was staring.  She had anticipated a little bit of surprise, possibly some questions on his part, but she should have expected the feigned nonchalance.  The way things had changed clearly fascinated him, but he didn’t want anyone to know. He had initially seemed just as fascinated by the sundress she had chosen to put on for their outing, but had quickly made a point not to look at her if he could help it.  Kagome wasn’t sure if he was offended by the amount of skin showing or perhaps was reminded of the woman he was trying to forget. Trying to keep her spirits up, Kagome relished in the sunshine they were getting and the fact that she wasn’t too tired to enjoy it.

Miroku had asked them to meet him at a small ramen shop that he had found that he swore was the best he’d ever had.  He had suggested, since it was one of the few smells Inuyasha had caught while in sleep, that he might cheer up a little to finally taste some good ramen.

“Higurashi-sama, you are truly stunning,” Miroku said in greeting when they arrived, his eyes obviously appreciative and a wide smile on his lips.  Kagome blushed at the praise and glanced uncomfortably at Inuyasha. He had a deep scowl on his face but she decided she wasn’t going to let him get to her.  He didn’t seem much interested so she would accept the compliment graciously and at least know that someone thought she was pretty. Miroku was handsome and intelligent, if a little eager, and she wouldn’t turn her nose up at a compliment from a nice young man.

“Thank you.  You can just call me Kagome, you know.  The title feels weird.”

Miroku and Inuyasha both seemed flustered by the permission she was giving the monk.  He looked flabbergasted and pleased while Inuyasha was visibly irritated. What’s got his undies in a bunch?  He never once used anything but my given name or wench.  “I… I am honored, Kagome-sama.”  Kagome opened her mouth to protest the change, not quite what she’d hoped for, but decided to leave it alone.

“Um.  Yea.”

The ex-monk pulled out a seat for her and was about to slip into the chair beside her when Inuyasha nudged him out of the way and plopped himself in it instead.  The two men glowered at each other before Miroku gave a sigh and sat across from her instead. “How have things been going? Inuyasha behaving himself?” he asked with a smirk.  Inuyasha glared at the man he never would have thought to be a rival, but quickly realized he should have suspected. At the same time, he wasn’t sure why he was rising to the bait in the first place.  He knew that there was something between him and Kagome. There wouldn’t have been a line of fate connecting them if there wasn’t meant to be something.

The three engaged in stiff conversation until they ordered and received their food.  The fragrance was immediately familiar to his nose, even human, and Inuyasha inhaled happily.  He carefully sipped some of the broth, delight making his blue-grey eyes lighter. He missed the way Kagome watched him with a small smile on her lips, too engrossed in the food experience.

“So Inuyasha, what are your plans for your future?” Irritated to be interrupted from his lunch, Inuyasha glared slightly at the ex-monk.  Then he thought about the question. It wasn’t that he hadn’t thought about it, just not quite in the terms Miroku was presenting it. “His” future included Kagome, so it was “their” future... right?  He glanced at the young woman beside him.  I can’t assume that.  Kagome might have a...  But wouldn’t she have mentioned someone in her life by now?  He couldn’t imagine that any beau would approve of some strange man living with her if there was one.  He knew he definitely wouldn’t stand for that. That was also assuming he was going to end up human for the rest of his life.  If he somehow got his youki back, there was no way he could subject her to the ridicule associating herself with him would bring.  He felt like his mind was on a seesaw, back and forth between knowing they should have something and knowing they definitely shouldn’t.  “What did you do before?”

“Cars,” he replied.  “Mostly. I did some other handyman kind of stuff once in a while, but mainly car repair, engine rebuilding, that kind of thing.”

“Wow.  I don’t know why that surprises me.”  Inuyasha smirked at the way Kagome’s attention had completely moved away from Miroku and was focused entirely on him.  “My father was a driver.” The tone she said it in made him pause, searching her eyes. “He died on the track when I was ten,” she said softly.

“The pain of loss never goes away completely,” Miroku said quietly, drawing their attention back to the world at large.  Kagome’s smile was a little crooked and she bent back over her food to end the line of conversation. “I imagine that you may be in luck Inuyasha.  Not much about engines has changed in the time you were sleeping. All the electronics, perhaps, but the engines themselves have remained pretty much the same.”

“At least I can rely on that,” he replied a little sarcastically, surreptitiously glancing to make sure Kagome was ok.  Her face was a little blank, but she was listening.

With the rest of lunch feeling awkward and forced, Kagome and Inuyasha left after getting directions from Miroku to the community center where he was staying and an invitation to use the facilities.  Inuyasha followed closely behind Kagome, watching her carefully. “You said you were ten. That’s a hard age to lose a parent.” Kagome slowed her pace and looked back at him over her shoulder.

“That was eighteen years ago.”

“Doesn’t mean it’s any easier.”  He took a deep breath, catching up to her and walking at her side.  “My mother died when I was eight. That was...” He tried to do the math and got stuck while trying to add the fifty or so years he’d been asleep.  “1945. After the bombs hit.”

“Radiation?”

“Not directly, but there was enough misery around here that the flu killed a lot of people who were already weak.  My father died the day I was born, trying to protect us both, and it broke her heart. It’s surprising she lasted as long as she did.”  Kagome stopped walking, taking hold of Inuyasha’s arm. He could see the sympathy in her eyes. While he wanted to get mad, shake off what could be pity, he knew Kagome didn’t pity him, she truly felt his pain.  “I never knew the old man, but the way my mother talked about him, he might as well have been one of the kami themselves.” Kagome’s lips turned up a little.

“Well at least your dad was actually a powerful youkai.  I think all mothers tell their children that their fathers were the moon and the stars.  My mother still talks about my dad that way,” she said with a little grin, turning and pulling him along with her, her arm looped through his.  “He was in a big race. Supposedly THE big race that would really kick off his career.”

“Did he lose control, or was he hit?”

“Both.  Another driver clipped his back end and he wasn’t able to correct.  He spun into the wall.” She took a deep breath. “They said he died on impact, but I could hear him.”

“Kagome,” he murmured, pulling her to a stop this time.  “You might have imagined it.”

“They said it was me screaming.”  Inuyasha didn’t have a good response to that.  Instead he just pulled her into his arms and held her for a few moments.  He remembered clearly the moment he realized his mother was gone. He’d howled and cried for hours, nothing keeping the pain from nearly swallowing him whole.  A servant from his half brother’s house had finally come in to retrieve him, prying him away from his mother’s body and having to knock him out to stop the screaming and snarling.  He’d been more subdued at the funeral, secretly and silently grateful that his half brother had at least given her the dignity of a proper burial.

Kagome sniffed a few times, her forehead resting against his sternum as they stood in an alley.  When she looked up at him, tears clinging to her lashes and her dark eyes deep with emotion, Inuyasha was lost.  He’d already thought he might be, but in that moment he knew it. If only he knew without a doubt that Kagome felt the same.  He sighed, gently bumping his forehead against hers, and then pulled himself away. He did allow himself the pleasure of squeezing her hand one last time before letting go and motioning for them to get moving.

 

Chapter Text

 

A knock at the door roused her from her doze.  Kagome had come home from work and crashed, too tired to do anything.  She’d had a particularly rough day with the kids and Inuyasha had seemed in a bad mood this morning so she’d been dreading seeing him when she got home.  Fortunately he’d made himself scarce, simply mentioning that he wasn’t hungry and not to worry about him. She had a sneaking suspicion that he was messing around on her computer, trying to understand how it worked.  She just hoped he didn’t try to take it apart to see the inner workings. Another knock had her up and moving to the front door of her apartment. “Who is it?”

“Kagome, let me in!”  Her friend Sango’s voice told her something was up.  She opened the door and her friend was storming in without warning.  “Well you at least look better.” Kagome blinked sleepily at her. “You haven’t called me in over a week!”

Kagome instantly felt guilty.  Her best friend had been understandably worried about her and she’d been so tired and busy dealing with Inuyasha that she hadn’t even thought to call her.  “I’m sorry, Sango, I’ve been so busy...”

“Kagome, who’s here?”  Sango’s face became confused at the male voice coming from the other side of the apartment and Kagome’s eyes widened in realization.  Sango knew nothing about how drastically her life had changed in the last week.

“Who...”  Inuyasha came out of Kagome’s room from the balcony where he’d been using her laptop.  “Who is this?”

“Um...  Sango, this is Inuyasha.  Inuyasha, Sango.” The two stared at each other in surprise and vague indifference, respectively.  “Sango is my best friend, Inuyasha.”

“Inuyasha...  Like, the hanyou Inuyasha?  Your parents made an interesting name choice.”

Kagome was stunned.  “You knew about Inuyasha and you didn’t say anything?!”  Sango glanced between them with a baffled look on her face.  “Sango, this is the guy from my dream!” Sango openly gaped at them both.

“I thought you didn’t know his name and you said your dream guy was human.  The Inuyasha from the story is hanyou, this guy is human...” Kagome blushed fiercely at referring to him as her “dream guy.”  Luckily Inuyasha was focused on other things.

“Not supposed to be.  Thanks for rubbing it in,” he harrumphed.

“Inuyasha was hanyou when I released him from the tree. Some of the leftover energy from the monks - and me too I guess - purified him.  So now he’s human.”

Sango took a deep breath as though to settle into the strangeness of the situation.  “Not permanently though.” Both of them shrugged at her. “How long has it been?”

“Too damn long.”  Both women sent him a faint glare.  “Almost a week.”

Sango looked thoughtful.  “I’ve never heard of a hanyou’s youki being suppressed that long.”  Inuyasha sighed, flopping down dejectedly on the couch. “It doesn’t mean it won’t come back.  It was, I’m presuming, keeping you alive and young for... What? Fifty years? You may just have to wait for a trigger.”

“Maybe if you got out and did some sparring, with Miroku or something?  He was trained as a warrior monk.”

“You’ve made all kinds of new friends since I talked to you last,” Sango said with a not so subtle look.  Kagome flushed under her friend’s pointed stare. With a glance in Inuyasha’s direction, she dragged Sango through her room and onto the balcony, closing the door behind them.  “Is he staying here with you?” Sango ask incredulously. Kagome nodded, suddenly feeling nervous. “Kagome, that’s so unlike you!”

“Now wait a second!  He didn’t have anywhere to go.  He’s been asleep on a tree for the last fifty years.  As far as I can tell, all his friends are gone or very old.  He has no family that I know of.”

Sango put her hands on her friend’s shoulders.  “Whoa, Kagome, whoa. I wasn’t scolding you. I’m just surprised.  You’ve never really let a guy into your space like this before.”

“He’s different.”  Sango gave Kagome a look that clearly said she knew he was different.  Kagome sighed. “I don’t know what it is about him, Sango. We just have this connection.  Even in the dream, Kaou said...”

“You went to Kaou?!  Kagome! You could have died!”  Kagome waved her hands at Sango to hush.

“His hearing is still very good!  Keep it down! He’s... protective.”  She took a deep breath and explained everything that had happened since she’d gone to see her before coming up with her plan.  Sango was from a long line of tajiya, and she was very knowledgeable about all kinds of youkai. She didn’t practice youkai slaying herself, but she knew the trade and knew the stories.  Kagome had finally confessed her dream to her friend after months of Sango worrying over her health. She had mentioned Kaou off-hand, but she had never thought Kagome would go through with something so dangerous.  “Kaou said the line of fate between us was very strong. I can’t imagine why it would be if I wasn’t supposed to help him.”

“I only know a little of his story.  There’s a lot of conflicting ideas. Some say he attacked the priestess and she was only strong enough to seal him, not kill him.  Some say they were tricked and it was another youkai altogether that attacked both of them. There’s even some that say they were involved and a jealous monk was to blame, that she loved him so she couldn’t muster the strength to kill him.”

“None of those make any sense on their own.”

Sango smiled a little.  “No, they don’t. As stories often go, there’s probably a little truth in all of them, it’s just a matter of what part is true in which story and how that fits with the other facts.”  Sango looked thoughtfully toward where they hoped Inuyasha was still sitting on the couch. “He doesn’t remember what happened?” Kagome made a face and sort of shrugged. “Shame. It would certainly help clear some things up.”

“The little he remembers doesn’t give any sort of timeline.  He knows Kikyo has to have shot the arrow that sealed him and he doesn’t remember attacking her.  He does know that the thing that tried to convince him it was Kikyo was definitely a youkai.”

“So another youkai tricked them and Kikyo didn’t realize it until it was too late.”

“That seems to be at least part of the story.  We still can’t understand why and if Kikyo did realize it wasn’t Inuyasha, why didn’t she release him?”

“She may never have known.  From what I understand, she died less than a day after the attack.”  Kagome nodded sadly. Part of her ached for Inuyasha’s loss. It seemed as though the two of them had been close, possibly romantically.  The other part of her was horribly jealous and hurt by any mention of the deceased miko. She couldn’t understand it. Even when her best friend in high school had managed to lure a boy right from under Kagome’s nose, she had never felt this kind of jealousy and anger toward another woman.  This kind of betrayal. She had no claim over Inuyasha, and she was very aware of the fact that he had no real interest in her. She couldn’t blame him. She’d done a little research on the internet and she was startled to see how similar she and Kikyo looked. She wouldn’t want to look at someone who shared a face with the person who betrayed her either.  “Kagome, are you two...”

Kagome gave her friend a sad half smile.  “I was just thinking about that. No. I-I look too much like Kikyo and I don’t imagine he’d want to get involved with another miko anyway.”

“But you’re interested.”  Kagome looked away, a flush coming to her cheeks.  “This guy has a lot of baggage, Kagome.”

“I know that.”  She sighed. “He’s not even kind of interested, so I’m not going to do anything.  He’ll get on his feet soon and then he’ll want his own place.” So he can move on and meet another girl , her mind provided snidely.  Kagome tried to hide her cringe at the thought.

“And if it turned out he was interested?  Then what?”

Kagome shook her head.  “Sango, I just don’t think that’s going to happen.  Anyway, he’s still learning the ropes of this time. Computers, cell phones, the VCR...”  Sango chuckled.

“He might as well give up on the last one and so should you.  No one owns VHS tapes anymore, Kagome, except you.”

Making a face at her friend, Kagome glanced up through the sliding door and thought she may have seen the end of a dark tail of hair disappear through the doorway of her bedroom.   Kami, I hope he didn’t hear that .  She was distracted by Sango asking about this monk she had met and trying to get out of her what her plans were to deal with her new roommate situation.

 

For once, the new moon didn’t bother him.  Normally, becoming human made him irritable and frustrated.  Now he was already weak and without his senses, so what did it matter?  “Popcorn?” Kagome asked him, breaking him out of his thoughts. She was less nervous around him, which made him glad.  After the incident a few days before in the bathroom, and the conversation he’d partially overhead from the bedroom yesterday, he had been worried she would avoid him.  Not that there was much space for her to avoid him in. At least he wasn’t camped out on her balcony anymore.

“Sure,” he replied.  She quirked a little smile and plopped down next to him on the couch.  He had been becoming more familiar with the television in the last couple of days, but he hadn’t seen her use the other contraptions attached to it.  Television in color was pretty cool, he had to admit, and the picture was far clearer than he ever remembered. The advances in technology were impressive.  He had only vaguely gotten into using her computer while she was at work the last few days and he had a feeling he had a lot to learn when it came to that machine.

Kagome had decided they needed a night doing something simple and normal, something where there was no pressure on either one of them to really talk or interact.  A movie seemed the perfect option. After dinner, Kagome had set up the tv and popped some popcorn so they could share it. Not having to go out to a theater was a novel experience for him and he found he liked the convenience and the intimacy of watching a movie in her apartment.

As she grew more and more tired, Kagome leaned closer and closer to him.  He wasn’t sure she realized what she was doing. Inuyasha struggled not to do anything she would feel uncomfortable with, but found he couldn’t resist sliding his arm around her shoulders and bringing her up against his side.  There was no one to see, no one to complain that they were being too familiar. It seemed that men and women spending time alone together was nowhere near as taboo now as it had been fifty years before. Inuyasha couldn’t find a single thing wrong with that.

As she fell deeper asleep, she even curled up like a cat into his chest, one of her small hands gripping his t-shirt.  “What am I going to do with you, huh?” he murmured into her hair where he’d rested his nose a moment before. She only breathed out a sigh and snuggled closer.  Inuyasha didn’t realize he was even sleepy until he awoke with a jolt, dawn light shining in his eyes. He felt odd. The young woman in his arms, one leg thrown over his hip, shifted restlessly and he had to take a deep breath to focus on anything but the way her whole body was pressed against his front.  The tingling sensation he was feeling from his toes to the top of his head was not excitement, as he’d first thought. Something was happening. “Kagome...” he murmured, a little bit frightened despite himself. She stirred again, his reaction more pronounced. He felt a growl rumble in his chest as he tried not to move against her.

Him not moving was apparently an invitation for her to do just that.  Kagome’s leg slid against his hip, slight warmth seeping through his pants as she tried to get closer and she whimpered faintly.  He wasn’t sure if she was still asleep or not. He was definitely awake when he felt her lips against his for the first time in the real world.  Soft and slightly parted, her mouth drew him into a kiss his body didn’t feel ready for. He felt like bees were buzzing under his skin, tingles and electrical surges in his blood.  He found himself responding to her kiss as though commanded, his tongue curling against the slick underside of her upper lip. What felt like a tiny static shock pinched the sensitive tip of his tongue.  Kagome jumped slightly, now awake. “What... Kami-sama!” Kagome’s eyes flew open in shock and she stared openly at him. He frowned, not sure why she looked so stunned. “You’re back.”

“Back?” he asked with a wince.  Everything seemed too loud, too intense.  The taste of Kagome’s lips on his tongue made his chest feel tight.  He breathed deeply and found the scent of Kagome nearly overwhelming.  The edge of want on her was sharp and it pulled at his nose, his body. Then, “Shit.  I’m me again!” he said, laughing and grinning. He practically dumped Kagome off the couch as he jumped up to look at himself in the bathroom mirror.  Everything was back to the way it should be. Silver hair, dog ears on top of his head, amber eyes, fangs, claws, the works. He’d never been so glad to be a hanyou in his entire life.

He rushed back to the living room where Kagome was blinking at him, her dark eyes wide and uncertain.  He swung her up into a hug, caught in his euphoria at having his youki and his senses back. Unlike Kagome, he just barely caught himself before kissing her, suddenly worried.  Would she not want him to touch her now that he was hanyou again? He quickly set her down, barely catching the way the smile melted off of her face. She seemed genuinely happy for me.  But being happy for him wasn’t necessarily the same as wanting to be touched by him.  An abomination.

He coughed, turning his eyes away.  “Keh.”

“I... I’m glad you’re feeling like yourself again,” she said softly, the hurt in her voice clear.  Inuyasha wasn’t quite sure how to deal with it. No matter how close they had gotten over the last few days and how much he wanted to keep it that way, he had to let her go.  Kagome was the one at risk for ridicule, hate. That was his fate. But to bring someone else down... Like his mother had been. Like Kikyo had been. No .  He couldn’t do that to another woman who cared about him.

 

Sparring in the rec room at the community center had seemed like such a good idea at the time.  Get out some of their aggression, release some tension and, as a side bonus, train Kagome to better fight any youkai that might attack her.  Now that they were fully in the swing of it, Inuyasha was regretting the suggestion. As always when in battle, he’d taken to insulting and name calling to get a rise out of his opponent. Angry opponents get sloppy.  Kagome, irritated with him over his perceived rejection the day before, took his teasing too seriously and had become even more angry. More angry for her apparently meant less control of her miko energy. He was struggling to keep out of the way of her chaotic bursts of reiki, unable to predict their paths.  She wasn’t hitting anything on purpose, but she definitely wasn’t defending herself all that well either.

“You’re so heartless!” she finally cried, flinging a wobbling blob of pink energy in his direction.  Inuyasha was able to dodge it, darting in close enough to grab her as it weakly hit one of the weight machines and made the weights clink together.  He was stunned to notice that her aura didn’t burn him like he had assumed it would. He’d prepared himself to deal with the burns or being human, but this was a surprise.

“I’m not,” he growled, wrapping his arms around her as he heaved for air.  

Kagome’s eyes filled with irritation and hurt.  “It’s like you don’t care about what happened. There was no thank you...”

His hand was rough at the back of her neck at first, but gentled when he had her close enough.  His breath still left him in harsh pants, matching her own labored breathing. “Thanking you will never be enough,” he murmured.  “What you did for me...”

Kagome’s face slowly softened, her irritation leaving her.  “I had to. But I wanted to.”

Inuyasha rumbled softly before pressing his forehead against hers.  “You could have had Kaou remove the connection. You never would have had to deal with me.”  Kagome shook her head in denial. The part already so drawn to her clawed at him to bring her closer.

“You pushed me away yesterday,” she whispered, her hurt returning.  

The scent of her upset was cloying, and Inuyasha struggled to keep his instincts to fix everything in check.  “Not because I wanted to,” he admitted, glad when her scent softened slightly.

“Then why?”

Inuyasha sighed, but kept her close to be surrounded by her scent.  He could read her much more easily that way than by trying to read her face.  “Everyone that ever cared about me has had their lives destroyed because of me, then died.  I can’t... couldn’t watch that happen to you too.”

“It wouldn’t.  It won’t,” she told him.  Her easy certainty made him feel more sure himself.

“Kagome...”   A soft shuddering breath left her and it was enough to put him past his tipping point.  His hand at the nape of her neck, he pulled her mouth against his, finally tasting what he had craved from the moment she appeared in his nightmare, had barely had a hint of within it and had been seeking ever since she woke him.  Kissing her while human just wasn’t the same. Her scent didn’t fill his nose the same way and he couldn’t taste her as well as he could while hanyou. Her hands rose to his shoulders, gripping him to her almost desperately. He felt like she would climb him if necessary to keep in contact.  Enabling exactly that, his free hand slid under her thigh, lifting her against him at the same time he pressed her into the wall. A soft groan left her and her fingers tangled in his hair, tugging on it roughly. A stronger growl left him at the aggressiveness in her passion.

“Inu...” she murmured when his mouth left hers to nip her throat and slip his tongue over the light marks he left behind.  Inuyasha found his hips pressing into the cradle of her thighs, his body seeking what he had not even thought to yet. Her fingers skimmed against his spine as she pulled his t-shirt out of his hakama.  He groaned into the hollow of her throat, tongue darting out to slide over the nearest ridge of collar bone. The door opening behind him froze them both, yet neither moved to part. “Go away Miroku,” Kagome said much more evenly than he thought himself, or her, capable of.  Inuyasha pressed his nose against her cheek, closing his eyes to try and calm himself down.

“Sorry,” the other man said in a stunned voice.  “The priestess in charge of the center is here to see you.”

“Right now?” the inuhanyou asked, startled.  He slowly released Kagome to slide down the wall, but kept himself between her and the man at the door.  Partially a possessive move, Inuyasha couldn’t deny it was also a stall to get himself under some kind of control.  Kagome’s eyes looked up into his, almost drawing him back in. “Keh. We’ll be out in a minute.”

“Inuyasha...”

“I said a minute!” he snarled. Miroku put his hands up in a conciliatory gesture before leaving the room and closing the door behind him.

“Oops,” Kagome whispered, a mischievous gleam in her eye.  Inuyasha smirked in response. Letting out a deep sigh, he ran his fingers through her hair one more time before he backed away from her. Her hands reached for him but he shook his head.

“If I don’t stop now, I won’t be able to.”  He saw her nostrils flare and her pupils dilate in response to his suggestion.  He barely swallowed a growl. “Let’s go talk to this priestess.”

The pair found an older woman speaking in soft tones with Miroku in the courtyard.  She seemed familiar to Inuyasha, but he couldn’t pick out why. She was dressed in miko garb, her black and steel gray hair was pulled back in a traditional miko style.  She looked formal, serious and comfortable all at the same time. “When Kenji told me, I didn’t quite believe it.” Inuyasha’s head tilted in confusion. This priestess had long proclaimed his innocence, claimed to know the real story, but he couldn’t recall meeting her.  Her mouth turned up in a faint smile. “You don’t recognize me, do you Inuyasha?” she said with a laugh, as though reading his mind. “I was younger, and much smaller then.” He took a deeper sniff to catch her scent and felt his face stretch in surprise.

“Kaede?  You’re Kikyo’s kid sister?”  Kaede’s smile turned wry.

“Certainly not a child anymore, but yes.”  Inuyasha was floored. This was his first real reminder of how much time had passed.  Kaede had been... five, maybe six when he was imprisoned. Now she was grown and well into middle age.  It was startling and a little overwhelming to see. Kagome’s hand on his arm was the only thing keeping him anchored.  “You must be Kagome,” Kaede said with a small bow. “I am so glad to finally meet you. Kenji’s letter didn’t quite do you justice.  Your aura is quite strong.” Kagome could only bow in response, surprise stilling her tongue.

“Kaede-sama and my father have long been friends.  They were both around when you were trapped, Inuyasha.”  The pair could only stare at Miroku. Inuyasha did not miss the faint inflection in Kaede’s scent when the monk spoke.  Something like sadness, but covered with something else. He pushed the thought aside to focus on what she was saying.

“Let us sit and you can ask any questions you have and I will try to tell you anything I remember.”  Inuyasha couldn’t think of anything specific he wanted to ask, at least, not anything that he really felt ready to hear the answer to.  After a short awkward silence, Kaede clearly felt the need to get the conversation going. “This place is a safe haven, as you have seen, for people of all races and kinds of power.  We have fought to keep a foothold in this part of the city because of the mixing of youkai, human and those of holy power.”

“I thought they didn’t like mixing,” Inuyasha put in.

Kagome made a soft noise.  “It isn’t exactly voluntary anymore.  People go where they can afford and, without the restrictions that used to exist on who could live where, humans and youkai have begun overlapping in their choices of where to live.”

“There are definitely still places that are severely segregated, but they are less volatile because there is less youkai/human interaction,” Kaede supplied.

Inuyasha contemplated this change.  When he was growing up, his mother had been forced to live on the very edge of what was considered “human” territory because the landlords there tended to be looser about following the laws and allowed her to live there with her half breed son.  Now it wasn’t like that. Inuyasha mourned for the life of hardship his mother had to lead because of him. She never would have let me think that way , he reminded himself.   What she did, she did out of love .  Inuyasha found his eyes straying to Kagome.   She would smack me if she knew I was pitying her for her choice.  He wasn’t entirely sure if he was thinking of his mother or Kagome in that moment.

Miroku interrupted his thoughts with a soft cough.  Kagome hadn’t noticed him staring, but apparently the bouzu had.  Inuyasha glared at him but turned his eyes away. “The center not only provides a safe place for everyone, we do outreach in the community as well.  There are several youkai on staff here that help us reach those in the youkai communities that are not as opposed to integration.” Kaede smiled. “We have not yet found many hanyou who are willing to work with us.”  There was an obvious pause in which everyone looked to Inuyasha and he sat there, blinking innocently.

“What?”

“Nothing, Inuyasha,” Kaede replied with a small grin and a shake of her head.

“Why bother with all this?  People will figure it out, or they won’t.  Things are definitely not like they were in the Sengoku Jidai or even later.  Youkai aren’t running around eating everyone and miko aren’t running around sealing youkai without asking questions...”  To their credit, the others didn’t wince as they watched his words sink in. “Usually.”

Kaede took a deep breath.  “There is a prophecy that surrounds the birth of a new era, a step further toward peace.”  Her voice turned a little soft. “The legend states that a hanyou will be born who will meet their destiny.  A person of great holy power. Their union will bring forth into the world a child, one of youki and reiki in perfect harmony.  The balance of powers that no one thought could coexist before. The sign that this silent war is not necessary.” The inuhanyou, miko and houshi all sat in silence, taking in what the older miko was telling them.  “It has long been my belief that whoever sealed you, Inuyasha, feared that this prophecy would come true when your relationship with my sister changed.” Inuyasha caught the way Kagome flinched out of the corner of his eye.  He had never made it clear to her what his relationship with Kikyo was really like.

He scowled, sitting back and crossing his arms over his chest.  “They wasted a lot of energy. Kikyo and I would never have fulfilled any prophecy.  Especially when she wanted me to become human,” he said, trying to remain matter of fact and not sound bitter.  The three holy people he sat with all looked stunned, Kagome in particular.

“I did not realize that it was still an issue for her.  But I imagine that was why it was so much easier to trick the both of you back then.”  Inuyasha only nodded. It might be embarrassing to admit, but the old miko was right. Had he and Kikyo been as close as, perhaps, the unknown youkai was worried about, they would not have been so easily fooled into thinking they each had been betrayed by the other.  Inuyoukai relied very heavily on scents and once the imposter was close enough, he knew it was not Kikyo. The fact that the thing wearing Kikyo’s face had been emitting youki was only icing on the cake. But by then, it seemed, the youkai had already fooled Kikyo and set in motion the events that followed.

Clearing her throat, abruptly breaking the awkward silence, Kagome spoke up.  “So the hanyou and the person of holy power could be anyone. It just so happened that Inuyasha and Kikyo were... close... at the time and someone maybe thought they were the ones.”  Kagome bit her lip and flicked her eyes to the inuhanyou at her side. It could be us.  She flushed slightly and tried not to think that way.  “More hanyou have been born in the last twenty years than in all of history before that.”

First pulled in by the scent Kagome was giving off, Inuyasha was shocked back into reality by her factoid.  “That still can’t be that many,” he scoffed.

“Several hundred, I believe.  That’s nothing to sneeze at.” Inuyasha was startled, but fought not to show it.  There were hundreds of others like him out there? And no one had tried to kill them like they had him when he was little.  Most of them probably had at least one parent living, if not both. Obviously things had changed even more than he’d thought.  “As far as the prophecy goes... I was under the impression that hanyou were sterile.” Kagome said softly, shooting an apologetic look in Inuyasha’s direction. This time he couldn’t hide his stunned look.  He’d never even thought about the possibility of trying to have children as a hanyou, he never thought he’d have the chance, so he felt he shouldn’t be that surprised. It was still a slightly painful realization, even not having planned on it before.

“Many have come to believe that.  There are a few, very few, hanyou who have mated with youkai and there have been children of those unions.  If a hanyou has been with a regular human, no one has made note of it. It could be that the child had such a low level of youki as to be negligible.  It would be easy to blend in among the mostly human population.” Kaede seemed to think about it a moment longer. “It could be that the union of two people with power, reiki or youki, is the trigger that allows for the physical unity that would not normally occur.”

Kagome watched the expressions on Inuyasha’s face and found herself feeling near tears.  He seemed so surprised. That he had maybe wanted children of his own and was now being told - by a silly human girl - that he might never have the chance, broke her heart.  It was only what she had read, not what she knew to be absolutely true, but it pained her to see the loss in his eyes. His golden gaze locked with hers again and he muttered something she didn’t quite catch before gently wiping away the tears clinging to her lower lashes.  “So this... prophecy. If things have changed, no one should still be trying to prevent it from happening, right?” he asked, still staring into her eyes.

Miroku cleared his throat with a glance at the elder miko sitting in amused silence.  “I wish I could say that was the case, but I know my father and Kaede-sama have been keeping an eye on some of the holy groups who are opposed to the integration of youkai into the rest of human society.  There are some groups of youkai who are equally opposed, but we do not have access to watch them in the same way.” It took a moment for Inuyasha to process what the ex-monk was saying before he could pull his eyes away from Kagome.  “There is a good possibility that all the hanyou that have been born are being watched by at least one of these groups and that any one of them could try to prevent what they see as undesirable.”

“So no single one of them is safe?” Kagome breathed.

“I would guess not.  There haven’t been any open attacks on hanyou or their families for over ten years, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t happen.”  Miroku shrugged.

Inuyasha felt conflicted.  Part of him still felt that the best thing he could do would be to remove himself from any contact with Kagome to keep her safe.  At the same time he couldn’t imagine leaving her to be protected by anyone else. He wouldn’t trust anyone else to keep her safe. She might not have to BE protected if I leave her alone.  While his mind thought this reasoning was good, his gut instinct and his youkai half clearly thought otherwise.

“I can’t imagine the families of hanyou and the hanyou themselves don’t know they’re in danger.  Unless this prophecy isn’t well known...” The uncomfortable looks that met her statement made Kagome sigh.   “In no way would I want to discourage anyone from pursuing a relationship with someone they care about, but I think that all hanyou should know the risk they might be taking without realizing it.”

“What about people with holy auras, aren’t they at risk?” Inuyasha wanted to know.

Kaede and Miroku shared another look.  The pair were so obviously worried about one another.  “I am sure that they could be, but since hanyou still hold a somewhat precarious status in society, it is more likely that they would be the target and not anyone with reiki.  That is why what we do here is so important. We want to reach out to those hanyou, to warn them, educate them, but so many of them stay hidden.”

“Hanyou get the shit end of the stick, that’s for sure,” Inuyasha grumbled.

Kaede motioned for the others to give them some space and he hesitated to let Kagome leave with the letch.  Miroku was a good guy, but he was basically living out his teenage years in his late twenties when it came to women.  Inuyasha didn’t trust him to keep his hands to himself. But Kagome definitely won’t let him get away with anything , he thought with a smirk.  “I am sorry that no one was able to release you before now, Inuyasha.  You didn’t deserve to have all those years stolen from you.” Despite feeling like he had missed out on so much, he couldn’t help feeling grateful for what he’d woken up to.  “My sister was... too weak to release you before she passed.” Inuyasha flinched at the old pain in her voice.

“What happened to her?”

“The other youkai that tricked you both wounded her severely.  The wound released miasma into her body hours after the injury itself.  By the time she realized what it was doing to her, she was too weak to cleanse the miasma in her blood and she was too stubborn to ask for help,” Kaede almost growled.  Inuyasha was surprised by the vehemence in her tone. As far as he’d known, Kaede did nothing but idolize her older sister. “She was too far gone, even once she knew it had not been you, to release you from the tree.”

“Keh.”

“Iwao did not help matters.  He tried to convince her to fight against the contaminant on her own, as if she had to prove her purity, and continued to blame you even when it was obvious that she no longer did.”

Inuyasha tried to remember anyone by that name.  “Who?”

“You met him the day you awoke, though you knew him then too.  He is the monk who did not want to let you leave. He was very obviously in love with my sister and jealous of your relationship.”  Kaede paused to take a calming breath. “He was always vocal about not letting you near the temple grounds when you were not around.  If it had not so obviously been a youkai that attacked you both, I would have had my suspicions about him.”

“Sounds like you still do.”  Kaede sighed. “So what about now?  Do I need to make myself scarce? I doubt news hasn’t spread about me not being a tree ornament anymore.”

The older miko eyed him carefully.  “No matter what, if you are near her, there will be assumptions. But, if you choose to pursue what is so obviously in your heart, then you must be watchful.”  Inuyasha gaped like a fish, mouth moving without sound coming out for several moments. Kaede smiled a little. “The affection between you is obvious to anyone paying attention,” she said with a faint chuckle.  “Do not let your relationship with my sister, no matter what it may have been, keep you from what is so obviously right. Kagome was able to release you for a reason and the connection between you is strong.”

“Do you think she’s Kikyo’s reincarnation?” he asked bluntly.

Kaede’s face became thoughtful.  “It is possible. It might explain why she was able to remove the arrow when no one else could.  However, she is very different from my sister. I loved Kikyo very much, and losing her was painful.  Kagome is everything my sister should have been. Lovely, intelligent, strong and kind.”

“Kikyo was that too.”

Kaede’s face again became wistful.  “Yes, but her heart was not open to all people the way that Kagome’s so clearly is.  My sister was not accepting and understanding in the way that Kagome is. Her training made her rigid in her beliefs. My sister could never have loved you as fully as Kagome surely does,” she finished in a soft whisper for the hanyou’s ears only.  Inuyasha was stunned. He knew from the moment he smelled her that Kagome was very different from Kikyo, he just hadn’t realized how different and how incredibly important that was.

As if feeling his sudden need to be near her again, Kagome returned with Miroku in tow.  “Are you sure you would not reconsider, Kagome-sama?” The glare she shot him made it quite clear she had no intention of even considering anything he had suggested a first time, let alone a second.  Inuyasha fought down a growl, Kagome’s hand on his shoulder a balm for his irritation. If he didn’t understand the bouzu’s sudden feeling of freedom, he might have killed him already. As it was, he was severely tempted to string him up by his toes and make it clear that he was never to touch Kagome again.

Riding on the coattails of that thought was the need to touch Kagome himself and make sure any iota of the bouzu’s scent was gone.  He couldn’t get close enough in public to really tell if Miroku had touched her, so he wanted to get her alone so he could tell and possibly do something about it if he had.  “You are both welcome here whenever you wish. Don’t hesitate to use the resources provided here.”

“Thank you,” Kagome said softly, her face holding some sort of odd emotion Inuyasha couldn’t place.  Kaede seemed to understand perfectly and reached out to grip Kagome’s hand. “I’m sorry,” Kagome whispered.

“No need for apologies, child.  You are your own soul and your own woman.  Don’t ever regret that. If it is so, I truly believe my sister would be very proud to be a part of the person you are.  Accept it and continue on your path.” Kagome’s gentle smile calmed his unwarranted anxiety and he tugged her elbow to get her moving toward home.  He needed her to himself, and soon, or he was going to... I don’t know what’s wrong with me.  I need to be surrounded by her scent, only hers .  He tried to shake off the feeling but found himself lifting Kagome onto his back and practically racing toward her apartment at breakneck speed.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Almost the moment they were inside Kagome’s apartment, Inuyasha had her in his arms and propped up on the back of the couch.  She moaned softly at the press of his hips into hers. “Dammit woman, what are you doing to me?” he wondered breathlessly. He felt Kagome’s smile against his cheek before he claimed her lips again.  He felt desperate for something. He knew what his youkai half was desperate for, his instinct to cover any other male’s scent, but there was something else, something deeper. Kami, I want to mark her.  Never having felt the urge before in his life, it nearly overwhelmed him in its intensity.  He wanted to imprint his scent into her skin, let his youki twine with her aura until they were inseparable.  His youkai was clawing at him to make her his and never let her go.

He’d never felt this kind of intense want, the need.  Kikyo had inspired a desire for companionship and a need to prove himself.  But he’d never really felt desire for her physically and certainly not with the strength of a punch in the gut.  He had only kissed Kikyo once, and her reiki had burned him in response. He’d assumed it was him, that her aura felt threatened by his youki and that by changing that about himself, he could finally have and feel the affection they both wanted.  Kagome’s reiki had yet to respond to him.

More than anything  - more than her body, her acceptance - Inuyasha wanted Kagome to stay by his side forever.   Is that just selfish possessiveness? he wondered as he nuzzled her throat.  He didn’t want anyone else to have her. He wanted the bouzu to know she was with him and only him.  He didn’t want to give any other hanyou the opportunity to meet her and fulfill that stupid prophecy.  Kagome belonged with him, wanted him, loved him. He gasped loudly as both the realization hit him and Kagome’s delicate touch on his ear sent a bolt of electric heat through his system.  Kagome loved him. As he was. The truth of the conviction filled him like a fine sake buzz and he blinked at her. “What’s wrong?” she whispered, gently touching his cheek.

“Nothing,” he replied.  “I just... I can’t believe you want me.”  His whispered words brought tears to her eyes and she used both hands to cup his face, bringing him in for a soft kiss.

“Even when I only dreamed of you, when you were human, I wanted you, wanted to protect you.  Now...” The fire that lit her eyes, the growl in her voice made him shudder, his mouth seeking out hers once again.  Her moan matched his pleasured growl. “Inuyasha, please...” He didn’t need to hear the rest to know what she wanted.  He peeled off his suikan, his t-shirt quickly following suit. His fingers sought bare skin under the back of her top, pulling it over her head a moment later.  He hissed softly at the feeling of her bare skin against his own.

Kagome felt like she had electricity running through her body.  Her skin tingled everywhere and she felt flushed and needy. This was far more intense than any heavy petting she’d been involved in before.  She’d had a few boyfriends, none very serious, and nothing had ever moved past a slightly eager make-out session. Eager was nowhere near a strong enough word for what was happening between them now.

Inuyasha’s hands under her thighs let her know that things had gone from “more than eager” to “intense.”  He lifted her to set her legs around his hips and carried her to her bedroom. Kagome felt nervousness try to creep up on her, but she pushed it down.  If things got out of hand, Inuyasha would stop for her, she knew it. She trusted him and he would know the moment she felt uncomfortable anyway.

Her comforter was soft under his hands as he leaned over her, pressing down against her welcoming body and finding her mouth waiting for his.  Her fingers wove into his long hair, roughly pulling him against her. He complied without complaint. Inuyasha slid his thumbs into the fabric of her pants, catching hold of everything and pulling down.  Kagome merely whimpered at the change in temperature. Pulling at the tie on his own hakama while trying to kiss Kagome proved more difficult than he had expected, and he had to pull away from her just long enough to focus on the knot.  “Wait, I...” He paused at Kagome’s gasp. He took her in - hair tousled, skin flushed and lips kiss-swollen - and all he wanted to do was let his instincts take them to the next step. But she had asked him to stop and he couldn’t say he was surprised.  He’d expected this all along. “Are you sure about this?” she asked in a whisper. “I just... don’t want you to be with me because you feel like you have to.”

“Have to?” he asked disbelievingly.

“You know, the prophecy or whatever.”

“Fuck the prophecy,” he growled, letting his hands fall to either side of her and leaning a little menacingly over her.  His hakama dropped of their own accord, forgotten anyway. “I knew nothing of the prophecy a few hours ago when we were in the rec room.  If I’m going to be with you, it’s going to be because it’s what I want and what you want.”

“Of course it’s what I want,” she retorted.

Inuyasha shook his head.  “Being with me is a lot more than just this one time, Kagome,” he told her firmly, now a little glad she’d pulled him out of his lustful haze long enough to explain things.  “You want me, you gotta be ready to have me forever.” Kagome said nothing, simply staring at him with a raised eyebrow. “Like centuries forever.”

“And?”  Inuyasha was a bit baffled.  Kagome understood that being with him meant bonding with him for life, being by his side forever?  He doubted that. “You think I haven’t done my research, that I don’t know inuyoukai mark their mates, bonding them body and soul for eternity?”  He gaped. “The internet is a truly wonderful thing,” she replied with a smirk. Her face turned serious a moment later and he watched her eyes scan his now completely naked form.  He knew he should feel vulnerable or embarrassed, instead he just felt his blood inflame at her hungry look. “I only want to make sure you don’t feel some obligation to the world or... or to...”

“Kagome,” he murmured, lifting her chin with a finger and looking her straight in the eye.  “I meant it when I said there was nothing like that between us. We may have wanted things to be that way, but she wanted me to be human and I just didn’t want to give up being... me.”

“That you even thought of being anything but exactly as you are makes me sick,” she said vehemently.  Her hands brushed over his shoulders, down his arms, fingers tracing over his claws. “You’re perfect.”

“Keh.”

“I mean that.”  Inuyasha found himself grinning.  “Come here,” she said with a laugh, pulling him down and rolling on top of him.  He cradled her against him, sucking in a breath when her heat came in contact with his sensitive flesh.  Looking up at her, he found her glowing, not only from the soft orange light of the sun setting, but also from her own aura.  As he had discovered before, her energy didn’t really hurt him, certainly not the painful burn he should feel.

“You gonna purify me?” he asked teasingly.  Her head tilted, confused. “You’re glowing, Kagome,” he said with a laugh.  She looked down at herself and her eyes went wide. A soft pink glow was covering her from head to toe, like a faint shield.  Inuyasha could only feel the slight tingle of her reiki brushing against his youki, not dissimilar from the familiar texture of his rough firerat suikan brushing his skin.  She moved to get off of him as quickly as possible, obviously afraid that she was hurting him. He only gasped at the sensation of her inadvertently moving against him and held her arms to keep her in place.  “Stop, you’re fine,” he told her.

“But I’m...”

“Not hurting me,” he interrupted her firmly.  “Has this never happened before?” Kagome flushed more naturally under the soft pink glow.  “You’ve never done this before.” She quickly shook her head. “Good, neither have I.” She looked down at him, clearly stunned.  “What did we just talk about?” he growled playfully, turning the tables on her to pull her underneath him and gently press himself against her.  “Marking a mate is serious stuff,” he explained while distracting her at the same time with kisses on her pale exposed skin, particularly the hollow just above her left collarbone where his mark would most likely go.

“Of course it is,” she gasped and pressed up against him when his fingers gently teased her through her bra.  “It’s just not that common for a guy your age to...”

“Most guys my age aren’t hanyou born in the early 1900’s who were imprisoned in sleep on a tree for fifty years, are they? Not much opportunity for sowing wild oats.”

“They also aren’t ridiculously handsome either,” she retorted, snagging one fluffy white ear and gently rubbing it between her fingers.  Inuyasha growled, shifting against her and making it clear that what she was doing was having a strong effect on his state of arousal. His hand reached for her bra, clearly ready to do something drastic.  Kagome forestalled any damage by sitting up and removing it herself. Inuyasha noticed the way her scent changed, a faint tinge of nervousness that hadn’t been there before. Is she worried about what I’ll think of her or what I might do? he wondered.

“I won’t hurt you,” he said softly, nosing her cheek and gently nipping her ear.

“I know that.”  So her hesitation was based on what he thought.

Inuyasha gently nudged her until she lay beneath him.  He wasn’t quite sure what to say. He couldn’t fathom Kagome thought of herself as unattractive, but he knew that a woman’s self esteem could be a fragile thing, especially in this day and age.  The internet was wonderful for finding information, but he had been initially startled by how quickly he had been inundated with images of the “perfect woman.” Kagome more than fit the bill, but on top of it she was all real, something the pictures of the models in the ads couldn’t claim.  “You said you think I’m perfect.” Her wide dark eyes lifted to his, uncertain and nervous. “I don’t think there’s a word for you,” he murmured, leaning down to kiss her. Kagome laughed softly, returning his kiss and allowing the tension to flow out of her.

A growl of pleasure rolled in his chest when she reached down to touch him, timidly and gently at first and with more confidence and pressure when it was clear he liked it.  Kagome’s scent rose in the air as pleasuring him seemed to please her. Inuyasha didn’t want there to be any doubt that she was enjoying herself - as well as prepared for him - and carefully used his knuckles to touch her in return, brushing the backs of his fingers against the raised peaks of her breasts, delicately pressing where she directed him between her thighs.  He was astounded by her reactions, soft gasps, tiny whimpers. She even whispered his name.

Almost at the point of bursting, Inuyasha was relieved to feel Kagome tugging him toward her, her heat slick and welcoming as he pressed into her.  She was tight, there was no denying that, and he worried slightly as the pink haze on her skin seemed to intensify. Kagome’s face was tight with something between pleasure and pain.  “Are... are you alright?” he murmured, his own voice tight with the effort to restrain himself. He didn’t want to hurt her and yet his body was screaming for movement. She nodded quickly, but he noticed she wasn’t breathing.  Leaning down made her wince, but he pressed his forehead to hers and whispered for her to breathe with him. She let out a shaky breath and then took another. Repeating it, Inuyasha leading and Kagome following, she eventually relaxed enough for him to move forward just a little.

“Well that was unexpected,” she murmured.  “I mean, I heard it could hurt...”

Inuyasha felt guilt well in his chest.  “I should have been more careful.”

Kagome smiled slightly, brushing her hand over his cheek.  “I have a feeling you’re a little more... ahem... well-endowed than your average human.”  He felt his lower half twitch at the reminder and they both gasped.

“I can stop,” he whispered, knowing it was a lie.  He could, theoretically, stop if he had to. But every single fiber of his being was fighting to sink in a little deeper, seek the movement he craved, find the release he knew lay at the end and create the bond so desperately wanted.  He barely held back his sigh of relief when Kagome shook her head, making an effort to relax further. Knowing the relaxation would only help so much, Inuyasha gently caressed her, pausing when it seemed to be too much. For both of them.  Her body squeezed him in the most amazing way, but he could tell it was hurting her a little. Leaning down, he pulled her into a soft kiss, truly tasting and exploring her and letting her do the same. So wrapped in the taste and feel of her lips against his, he barely noticed that he could go no further forward.

There was no mistaking the feeling of her walls clamping down on him and the brush of the deepest part of her against the most sensitive part of him.  

He grunted aloud with the strain to hold back his release, a rumble in his chest following quickly after.  “Holy shit,” he murmured, clenching his teeth.

“Am I hurting you?” she asked, looking down to see if her aura was reacting to him in any way.  “Oh my...” she breathed as she finally saw exactly what was happening. The look in her eyes made Inuyasha shudder with the urge to move.  Kagome shifted her hips slightly to better accommodate him and he let out a rough breath at the ripple of pleasure that shot up his spine and nearly kicked him in the head.  He felt lightheaded.

Kagome watched in fascination as the emotions passed over Inuyasha’s handsome face.  He was being so gentle and careful for her benefit and she wasn’t sure how to show how grateful she was.  He was slowly rolling his hips against hers in an attempt to get some of the friction he needed without actually moving enough to cause her discomfort.  As a byproduct, he was actually lessening the pain she felt and bringing her closer to the release her own body was reaching for. Gripping his shoulders, she was able to carefully respond to him, but hissed when he took that as an invitation to try more movement.  He whined an apology in the back of his throat, nuzzling her. Returning to the previous action made her sigh with pleasure and again try to move against him.

“Kagome, I can’t hold this much longer,” he whimpered, golden eyes closed tightly.  Hearing he was close made her body heat and she felt a zip of pleasure skip up and down her nerves.  She whispered for him to tell her again. “I’m gonna lose it,” he warned her, a slightly harder press of his hips making her cry out, clenching more tightly along his sensitive length.  He hissed out a curse, again fighting to hold out for her. “Kagome, I need you to cum for me,” he pleaded, “You’re going to make me...” He groaned as her body responded to his request, rippling over him as she let out a soft gasping whine.  

He was able to move just enough to set off his own release, hot jets of his seed pouring into her.  His fangs lengthened slightly and he found the spot above her collarbone without trouble. Her back was arched, easily presenting the delicate curve of bone and the silken skin above it.  The sensation of her reiki twining with his youki prolonged their combined release and the initiation of their bond washed over him like a tsunami. Kagome clung to his shoulders, the scent of tears catching in his nose.  Too overwhelmed by the joining, Inuyasha couldn’t muster the strength to ask her what was wrong.

“Inuyasha?” he heard her murmur.  He turned his ear in her direction, not having the strength to turn his head.  “I love you,” she breathed, as though afraid to say it aloud. Another wave of pleasure shot through him and he felt another, smaller, release tighten his lower half.  Kagome moaned, her body tightening around him as if to welcome and demand anything he had to give her.

“Mate,” he breathed.  He wanted to say it. He needed to say it.  Somehow it wouldn’t move past his lips. He was able to twist his head around and look her in the eyes and from the look she gave him, he knew she knew the truth.  “Mate,” he said again, relief in his voice.

Kagome didn’t want to lose the closeness they were sharing, but her hip joint was beginning to cramp rather painfully.  “I’m sorry, can you maybe...” she shifted and they both hissed at the friction. It was very quickly obvious that he wasn’t budging for some time.  Carefully, trying not to worsen their predicament, Kagome moved her leg just enough to relieve the cramp. “How long, do you think?” she questioned gently, not wanting to embarrass him.

“Another few minutes maybe,” he sighed, resting his head on her shoulder.  “I completely forgot. Are you ok?” he asked, concern lacing his voice. She nodded, turning so she could press a kiss to his hair.  “I wasn’t even sure if... if it would be a problem or not. I know for a full inuyoukai...” He tried to push down the sense of self-loathing.

“Well I would say you’re all inuyoukai in that department,” Kagome teased, making him laugh.  Which turned into a moan for both of them. As things stood now, he couldn’t move if he wanted to, but that didn’t stop his body from reacting sharply.  “You had better get tired soon or we’re going to be at this for days, and I know I won’t hold up under that.”

“You’re making it worse just by talking, woman,” he teased her in return.  She stuck her tongue out at him. Several moments later he felt his lower half relax some, allowing him to pull back.  Kagome sucked in a breath and then sighed her relief when she was able to adjust her hips to relieve the cramps. Inuyasha’s senses were on high alert the moment he smelled her blood.  “Shit, shit, shit,” he growled, lifting her and carrying her to the bathroom. He ran warm water in the tub and set her in it as gently as he could. He couldn’t hold back the whimper that rose in him at the sight of the water turning faintly pink.

“Inuyasha, don’t...”

“I can’t believe I didn’t think about how much damage I could do,” he interrupted her, obviously kicking himself.

“It’s not that bad.”

“Planning on walking any time soon?” he questioned her harshly.  She scowled at him. “Didn’t think so.”

“Now wait just a minute!  I expected this, so don’t go getting all pissed off at yourself.  I’m not made of glass.” She watched his ears flip backward to muffle her shouting.  “Inuyasha, this kind of thing happens to a lot of woman the first time, regardless of her partner or the size of his...”  Inuyasha lifted one brow at the way she seemed so confident until she hit that word. “All I’m saying is that it would have happened no matter who I was with.”  She rolled her eyes at the deep growl that rolled threateningly in his chest. “As if I would have been with anyone else.” She got a “hmph” out of her mate.

“I should have made sure you were ready,” he murmured.

“Inuyasha,” she said softly, touching his cheek to turn his eyes to hers.  “I honestly don’t think anything you could have done would have made it any better.  I enjoyed it, so did you, I’m not weeping...”

Inuyasha perked at this last comment.  “No, but you were crying. I did hurt you!”  He was surprised when Kagome’s face flushed, not with anger but with embarrassment.  “What? What is it?” he murmured, lowering himself into the tub to sit with her pulled back against his chest.  Kagome muttered something even he couldn’t understand. “Couldn’t hear you.”

“I was just... really happy.  I was overwhelmed. I couldn’t help it.”  Inuyasha hid his smile in her hair, squeezing her to him in a hug.  They sat in the warm water for a little while longer, until his nose wasn’t assaulted by her blood anymore, and then got out to dry off.  Inuyasha lifted her again, relishing the closeness it allowed him. He was able to pull the sheets back and help her under them as he slid in after her.  He grinned in the dark when Kagome turned over so she could cling to his side, one arm flung over his chest. As they drifted off, he leaned down to kiss her hair, whispering the words he had so desperately wanted to say earlier.  Kagome let out a tiny breath of a laugh and nuzzled his sternum from where she lay on his chest. Inuyasha let his fatigue take him off with her, the warmth of her beside him the most comforting thing he’d ever known.


 

Kagome woke feeling terrible.  Her head was pounding and her joints all ached.  It wouldn’t be the first time she’d woken up with the flu - small children were germ factories after all - but this was different.  Her brain felt fuzzy, unfocused in a way she had never experienced. She could barely recognize her own room, her sheets felt like the were too heavy and the light seemed to come from everywhere at once.  “Disoriented?” Kagome blinked slowly, trying to identify the voice. It was female, low in pitch and volume. She was finally able to sit up and struggled with the idea that she didn’t have a mirror that close to her bed.  “Not a mirror,” she said to herself. But it wasn’t herself. It took her another moment of processing to understand that she was looking at a woman who had a very similar appearance.

“Who…”  Another breath and an epiphany later she realized who she was looking at.  “Kikyo?” The other woman nodded a little. “What are you… How are you here?”

“Here is not really a place,” the other woman admitted, “more of a plane of existence.”

Kagome felt the effort of blinking as she stared at the woman in front of her. “As much fun as the existentialist talk is, my head is killing me.  What are we doing here?” Kikyo smiled a little. She was lovely, Kagome was able to admit, and it bothered her that she was able to admit it. She had been feeling overwhelming jealousy toward this woman for weeks.  A jealousy she hadn’t been able to understand or explain. That she might still hold a very large part of Inuyasha’s heart pained her.

“I wanted to apologize for that.  It was my jealousy you were feeling, not your own.”  Kagome’s eyes widened. “You have grown closer to him than I ever was in such a short period of time.  What little there is left of me within you felt hurt that he could become so fond of you just as quickly.”

“It’s… probably because he sees you when he looks at me.”  Kikyo shook her head. “Why not? It would make sense.”

“No.  What he sees is the compassion I never had.  I was raised to fear and hate youkai. I was trained to bind and destroy them.  No matter how much Inuyasha showed me it was different, that he was different, that always sat in the back of my mind.”  She sighed, looking away. “No matter how much I wanted to, I could never have been to him what you are. The mate of a hanyou.”  Kikyo let out a slightly self-derisive laugh. “I was not strong enough to be what he needed, what you both will need to be, all because I thought I was so strong on my own. Because I selfishly wanted him to fit into my idea of love and marriage.”

Kagome tried to process everything the other woman was telling her.  “And what is it we need to be strong for exactly?” Kikyo’s brown eyes almost looked sad.

“Your way will not be easy, but you already knew that.  I wasn’t even strong enough to accept him for himself. Already you have taken on more than Inuyasha would ever have let me.  He knows you have the inner strength.”

Trying not to feel exasperated, Kagome waited to hear more.  Nothing. “You’re being very vague,” she finally said.

Kikyo’s soft smile made Kagome swallow an irritated growl.  “Even I cannot predict the future. Just know that what you do from now on will shape the future in ways no one can guess.”

“No pressure then,” she replied wryly.

“Have faith in him and in yourself.”  Kagome felt the pain in her head begin to recede.  “Goodbye, Kagome. And congratulations.”

“Thank...you,” she responded to suddenly empty air.  “Wait! For what?” Then exhaustion swamped her, forcing her eyes closed and her limbs to feel so heavy she had no choice but to sink back into her pillow.  It felt like only a moment later that she opened her eyes again, only a faint residual ache in her body letting her know she hadn’t completely imagined the pain in her dream.  But was it really a dream? She wasn’t entirely sure. What she did know is that she felt like a huge weight had been lifted off of her chest and her mind. Maybe Kikyo really had been holding on and this was a sign that she was finally at peace.

“Kagome?”  She finally heard the soft whimper of Inuyasha’s voice in her ear as he held her.

“Inuyasha?  What’s wrong?”  

He blinked at her in the dark, his eyes catching the light from the bathroom.  “You were whimpering in your sleep and I could smell you were in pain.”

Kagome shook her head, one hand coming up to pinch the bridge of her nose.  “I just had this… dream.” Again she couldn’t shake the feeling that it hadn’t been a dream.  “Maybe it was real, like when I saw you.”

“Kagome?  What did you see?”  She couldn’t help smiling at the jealous tone in his voice.  He was afraid she was being visited by other men.

“Kikyo.  I guess she needed to… say goodbye.”  She felt Inuyasha stiffen beside her, his grip on her arm becoming almost painful.  Squinting at him in the dark, she could see his face was a frozen mask. “She told me that she was sorry for making me feel her jealousy.  I guess that’s why I kept feeling so irrationally upset every time her name came up. She was sad that we… bonded so quickly.” Kagome took a deep breath, seeing that Inuyasha was still in shock.  “She told me we needed to be strong, together, for whatever comes our way.”

“Did she say?”  Kagome shook her head.  “That would have been helpful.”

Laughing a little, Kagome rested her head on his shoulder.  “I complained too. She said we would shape the future in ways no one could guess.”

“Oh, no problem,” Inuyasha huffed.

“My thoughts exactly.  She just smiled at me when I tried to get her to explain.”

Inuyasha sighed deeply.   Well I guess it’s a good thing I marked her already or she might have been scared off after that. He looked her over again, trying to make sure she was alright. The scent of pain was fading and she was more relaxed than even a few minutes before.

“She congratulated us.”

Inuyasha winced.  “On mating?”

Kagome hummed uncertainly.  “She didn’t say.” She lay back on the pillows and he followed her down, leaning over her to watch her face in the dark.  “But that was probably it.” He frowned, noting the way she sounded unsure, like maybe she thought something else was going on.  “Let’s get some sleep,” she murmured eventually, clearly halfway there already.

“Keh.  Night Kagome.”

“Night ‘Yasha,” came her yawning reply.

 

Chapter Text

 

The alley smelled of must and the dumpster at the closed end.  Clearly the two restaurants nearby both used the dumpster, the scent of old fried food and rotting vegetables cloying in the narrow space. It was nearing midnight, but the streets were still bustling with activity. Two figures stood near the brick wall of one restaurant, just out of the circle of illumination cast by the security light on the corner of the building. The cliche of the meeting spot was not lost on the taller of the two figures. He resisted the urge to sneer at the sniveling man who deluded himself into thinking he was confronting him. “He has been released.  How could you let…”

“Do not blame me for your own folly, old man,” his dark voice hissed in response.  “I handled my part of the bargain. Wounding Kikyo and making sure that she sealed that half breed mongrel.  Keeping him there was your responsibility.”

The shorter of the two men barely suppressed the shiver of rage that tripped down his spine. “Kikyo was not meant to die,” he reminded his companion.

A scoff. “Her loyalty to the mutt and her stubbornness were not within my control.”  His tone was dismissive, cold, which only infuriated the shorter man more.

The two stared at one another in mutual hatred.  They had originally been bound together by a common goal. One that had supposedly been accomplished but now seemed to be coming unraveled.  “I have made it known that the hanyou is free and that he is currently human.”

A bark of laughter rung harshly between the brick walls. “You truly are a fool if you think that is permanent.  A hanyou, while weaker than a youkai, is at an advantage. They can and will regain their youki when purified. His humanity will not last, if he has not already returned to normal.”  The human man let out a furious breath. “Again, your lack of knowledge in these matters is a hindrance. Educate yourself so that no further mistakes are made. We cannot afford for them to fulfill the prophecy while you fumble around.”

He spluttered indignantly. “I tracked her soul.  I warned the mother to keep her…”

A snarl of fury curled the darker man’s lip and interrupted his excuses.  “And what good did that do? You should have killed the girl’s parents and taken her instead of risking her finding him.  Once she was within your reach, and so weak, you should have killed her.”

He balked at the very idea of killing another human, an innocent human who had not done anything to earn an early death.  “The girl is needed.”

“Only for your own ends.  Now everything is at stake because you are faint of heart.”  He let it sink in a moment. “Find what I am after and I will grant you what you seek.”

“Yes, of course Naraku-sama.”

 

Inuyasha watched as his mate bustled in their small kitchen, an apron tied messily at her hips and her hair knotted on top of her head.  She had made a big stink about him sitting down in the living room while she cooked, not letting him “interfere” at all. While he appreciated the thought of him “taking a load off” he was not good at it in practice. His foot kept swinging as he sat on the couch and his nose was twitching. The scent of whatever she was making smelled familiar, but he couldn’t pinpoint it exactly.  What he did know was that it smelled amazing and his stomach was rumbling in anticipation.

He bit back the gut reaction to bolt into the small space when she squeaked in surprise.  “Kagome?”

“The oil just popped a little.  Caught my hand. I’m fine.” He frowned, but remained in place, knowing she would scold him if he tried to go in there and stop her.  His woman was nothing if not independent, something that alternately charmed and infuriated him. When she was done, he was more than glad he’d waited.  “There. Chicken Karaage.” The hopeful look on her face was undeniable and the inuhanyou leaned over to kiss her, just because he couldn’t help the urge.

“Smells amazing, Kagome,” he murmured.  He grinned at her pleased flush. She waited for him to try a bite before she finally relaxed.  “Hot damn. Kagome, this is really good!” It took everything in him not to scarf the whole plate in front of him like a starving animal.  Kagome nibbled on her own, too caught up in watching him enjoy it to focus on eating. “What’s all this for anyway?” he finally asked.

Her eyes widened and her mouth opened in surprise.  “Y-You don’t know?” She was a little taken aback by the innocent and confused way he blinked at her.  

“Uh…”

Kagome jumped out of her chair, startling him with the sudden movement, and went to the cupboard above the sink.  Inuyasha barely kept his mouth from dropping open in shock when she pulled a small cake from inside and set it in front of him on the table.  She leaned over and kissed his cheek. “Happy birthday, Inuyasha.”

The inuhanyou glanced at his mate, the cake and then up at the calendar hanging by the phone.  He was a little overwhelmed. Kagome had put in the effort to make a homemade meal and get him a cake for his birthday, a day he hadn’t celebrated since his mother was alive.  Part of him shied away from accepting the acknowledgement, part of him was touched by her thoughtfulness. “I… How did you know?”

“Kaede-sama remembered.  I thought it might be too much for you to go out, but I wanted you to know how…”  She was cut off by his lips meeting hers roughly, long fingers twining in her hair as he pulled her into his lap.

“Thank you, Kagome,” he whispered, kissing her again after a breath.  She only smiled giddily and relaxed into his hold. Her scent drew his nose into the curve of her neck, the combination of food smells, while pleasant, were a little overpowering.  He wanted a moment of just her. “This is probably the best birthday I’ve ever had,” he told her honestly. Kagome shifted in his arms, twisting to try and get a good look at his face.  He gave her a wry grin. “Growing up, my mom tried to celebrate it. It’s not like we could invite anyone over for a party. Even if someone would have come, we barely scraped up enough to eat some months.” He paused, taking a few calming breaths to soothe the ache that rose in him at the memory of what his mother had been forced to suffer through.  “She would save up to get me a small treat or a gift and we would just eat together. I… This is perfect Kagome,” he assured her, hands cradling her cheeks as she faced him with tears in her eyes. “Don’t cry, Mate. You’ve made it so I can actually look forward to my birthday.”

“I’m so sorry for what you went through, what your poor mother went through.”  She sucked in a breath and scrubbed at her eyes a moment. “But I’m also so grateful for her strength to raise you in spite of everything being against you.”  She turned shy suddenly.

“What?”

She flushed slightly, embarrassment filtering into her scent.  “I… Sometimes I pray to her. Thank her,” she whispered, as though speaking the words too loudly might cause him pain.

Inuyasha froze, golden eyes wide as he stared at his mate’s bowed head.  He was struggling to process what she’d just told him. “For what?” he finally croaked out.

“For having you.  Loving you. For making it so I could meet you.”

“Kagome…” His heart felt full to overflowing. This woman repeatedly showed him what it meant to be loved, what it was like to have someone love him in spite of all the reasons others had come up with to reject and dismiss him.  “She would have loved you,” he murmured finally. Kagome gave him a shy smile and hugged him to her instead. They snacked on the remaining chicken from the warmth of each other’s hold, then fed each other bites of the cake. While tempting, he hadn’t smashed any of it on her cheek, the look of warning on her face enough to stall that idea.  They did laugh quite a bit though. Trying to get the soft, crumbly cake from the plate and between each other’s lips with just their fingers proved more challenging than one would think. Eventually they snuggled on the couch after cleaning up, dozing off with the faint sound of an old movie in the background.

 

“So there’s not much to do in this part of town except this.”  Miroku was too enthralled by their surroundings to be bothered overmuch by his companion’s words.  “Miroku?”

“Huh?  Oh, sorry.  I have not experienced this before, so I am taking it all in.”

The small bar was full of people of all backgrounds.  Youkai and humans alike stood around tables or sat in booths, talking, laughing.  There was music in the background, but with all the voices, it was difficult to discern what kind or what they were singing.  Miroku grinned as a pair of female youkai walked past with drinks in their hands, tossing him a curious look, but nothing more.  “I still can’t believe you lived in a temple your whole life. You’ve never been to a bar before?” Miroku smiled and shook his head.  He watched as a young human man approached the pair of female youkai who had passed by earlier, obviously striking out on gaining an invitation to join them at their table and sulking back toward the bar stools.  

“Ouch.” Miroku couldn’t help wincing at the rejection, knowing at least a few of those would be in his future should he make a similar attempt.  He knew he had minimal experience with women in general and even less with the art of flirtation and courtship.

Hachi nodded in sympathy.  “You’ve really never dated a girl?” he whispered conspiratorially.  Miroku scowled a bit before he could stop the reaction.

“From what you told me the other day, neither have you, Hachi.”  The tanuki turned sheepish, rubbing the back of his neck.

“Yea, well…”

“I’m sorry, my friend.  That was insensitive of me,” the ex-monk sighed.  The new friends shared an awkward moment before they were startled by their table getting bumped.

“Oh, pardon me!” one of the two women gasped.  Miroku wasn’t sure, but her tone seemed… exaggerated?  She had dark hair and ruby colored eyes, shrewd if anything.  Miroku was instantly suspicious, but he gave her a charming smile anyway.  “I didn’t spill anything, did I?” she asked, motioning to their beers. Both men shook their heads and fully expected her to move on.  “Would you mind if we sat with you? There aren’t any other tables left.” Her youki brushed against his senses in an intentional probe, one he was able to pretend not to notice.  “I’m Kagura, this is my sister Kanna.” The still silent one of the pair looked up at her name, her almost black eyes startling in and of themselves. The empty quality to them made them all the more unsettling.  

Where Kagura was dark, Kanna was light. They appeared to be near negatives of one another.  Kagura was flirtatious and exuberant while Kanna was painfully quiet and reserved. Miroku participated in the conversation on a surface level, watching their interactions with his companion.  Somehow the topic moved to how few sealed youkai were left in the different shrines and temples around the country. “With the changes in the law, they try to negotiate a lot more before locking anyone up.  I think it’s a good thing,” Hachi said.

“I heard that inuhanyou from a long time ago got out of his seal.”

Hachi was not typically what you’d call a bright man, but even he saw the lead for what it was. Miroku mentally praised him for not immediately looking to him.  He knew that Inuyasha’s freedom was a sore point for some and that openly showing association with him might bring trouble. “Oh, yea. I think I did hear something about that.  Lucky guy, I’d say.”

“I heard a human woman got him free. A miko.”

Miroku fought his startle response at Kanna’s contribution to the conversation.  “Huh. I heard it was a bunch of monks,” he supplied. “Can you imagine waking up after so long and having to catch up with all the changes?”  Miroku was able to redirect the conversation to all of the technological advances over the last few decades, all talk of the hanyou in question fading.  When their beers ran out, Miroku offered to go get another round, even offering to get the ladies a drink. Kagura eyeballed him a moment, but refused and mentioned they were probably going to go to another club.

“She seems shy, but Kanna loves to dance,” she said with a smirk.  As there was no overt invitation, Miroku made sure not to appear interested so they could end this farce.

Once they were gone, Hachi glanced at the ex-monk at his side in concern.  “That whole thing was weird.”

“I agree.  They were definitely fishing for information, trying to see if we knew anything.  We should head back…” he murmured, still watching the people moving around their table in the loud bar.   And warn Kagome and Inuyasha, he thought.

When he got back to his apartment, he immediately called the number Kagome had provided.  He was not exactly surprised to hear Inuyasha’s gruff voice answer the phone.

“Inuyasha, it’s Miroku.  Can you talk for a few minutes?”  The inuhanyou grunted an affirmative, muffling the receiver a moment to inform Kagome who was calling at such a late hour.  “I was out with one of the youkai who lives at the boarding house. We had a somewhat… interesting conversation with two female youkai.”

“Bouzu, I’m not much interested in how you picked up broads at a bar.”  Miroku started to retort until he heard a loud “woomph” and Inuyasha’s muffled cursing.   Pillow.  Serves you right.  Kagome’s tone in the background was adequately irritated. “Alright!  Women. I don’t wanna hear about you hitting on women at the bar. Happy?”

Obviously not the target of the snarky riposte, Miroku ignored it.  “I am speaking of a pair of women who just so happened to express interest in you and your release from your seal.”  He waited while Inuyasha conveyed this information to Kagome before going into more detail. He explained the odd vibe he’d gotten, the way Kagura had been seeking more information.  “I think she suspected I knew you at the very least.”

“Shit.”  He could almost hear him wipe a tired hand over his face.  “Thanks for the heads-up. I’ll make sure to keep a closer eye out.”  The two men didn’t realize the identical faces of concern they made when hanging up.  Inuyasha slumped onto the couch beside his mate, ears drooping with his mood.

“So someone’s looking for you?” Kagome murmured, placing a calming hand on his chest.  Inuyasha sighed roughly.

“It’s just as likely they’re looking for you.  Maybe to unseal other youkai?”

Kagome hummed noncommittally.  “Could be they were connected to whoever planned the whole set up fifty years ago.”  The inuhanyou nodded, thoughtful. “Come on. Let’s get some sleep. We won’t figure it out right now.”  

Despite agreeing, he was up most of the night, holding Kagome close while his mind sifted through every single memory he had of that day he’d been pinned to the tree.  Any scent, sound, color… Anything that struck him as different or odd. Nothing was really coming to him. He’d been so caught up in his very shaky romance with Kikyo at the time, trying to show her that he didn’t have to change for them to be together.  He cringed at the memory of trying to kiss her and his lip burning on contact. It had been both painful and humiliating. Yet another reminder that he was less, not enough. He couldn’t have the normal things most youkai or humans had. At least not with the one he’d wanted at the time.

Looking down at Kagome nestled in the crook of his arm, he grinned despite himself.  He had it now. He had what he had never dreamed possible. Love. He was loved and treasured in a way that took his breath away sometimes.  Kagome never shied away from him, never hesitated to show him how she felt. She brought out a protectiveness and affection in him that not even Kikyo had been capable of.   Sorry, Kikyo, he sent up silently. You never needed or wanted me like this.  The deceased miko had been too stubbornly detached.  Staunchly separate for reasons he didn’t entirely understand, refusing to show weakness to anyone.   Even me, who she said she loved.  But he got the loneliness that she felt, the need to connect to someone else who understood what it was like to be different and apart.  So maybe Kikyo hadn’t loved him to the same depth that Kagome did, but she had loved him in her own way. He could be grateful for that, he supposed.

Kagome stirred in her sleep as she was wont to when she was overtired and he rumbled gently to encourage her back into deeper sleep.  Again she shifted, flipping onto her other side. She murmured something he couldn’t understand and nuzzled into the crook of his elbow.  “Warm,” she breathed.

Inuyasha sighed at how her trust in him warmed his heart, his very soul.  He kissed the back of her head and rolled so he could spoon her, clinging to her.  “I love you,” he mumbled against the nape of her neck. Kagome made a soft contented noise under her breath and wiggled back until she fit into every nook of his body.  The inuhanyou smiled dreamily and was finally able to drift off with his mate.

 

Chapter Text

 

Kagome sighed, leaning back on the bench and enjoying the fresher air that seemed to pervade the inner green space of the community center.  She had found herself spending a lot more time there than she would have expected. The preschool where she worked was off for the week and she felt rather sluggish on top of the lethargy that came from not waking up for work every morning.  It probably didn’t help that Inuyasha had kept her up late almost every night. She smiled slightly and stretched her arms over her head.

While her overly rambunctious inuhanyou was in computer classes at the center, she had invited Sango to join her for lunch.  Sango had happily accepted the invitation and they were going to a little American food place around the corner. Usually only a guilty pleasure, Kagome found herself looking forward to a hamburger in a big way.  She didn’t generally crave meat, certainly not red meat, but today she couldn’t wait. “Hey you.” Kagome turned and smiled.

“Hey.  Long time no see,” she replied, standing to give her friend a hug.  Sango laughed.

“You are absolutely glowing.  I’m glad you’re sleeping better.  I was getting really worried about you!”  Kagome gave her a small dreamy smile. Sango’s eyes widened and she grabbed hold of the smaller woman’s shoulders.  “You aren’t sleeping better, are you?!” Kagome’s smile only got bigger. “Higurashi Kagome! You told me there wasn’t anything going on between you!” she whispered, poking her in the ribs as they turned to walk toward the restaurant.

“Well there wasn’t.  Then there was.”

“Kagome-sama!”  Both women turned to see Miroku jogging across the green space.

“Who’s this guy?” Sango asked out of the side of her mouth.

“Miroku, the one who left the temple... Miroku, what’s wrong?”

The ex-monk stopped in front of them, panting a little. “Nothing.  I just saw that you were here and... May I ask who this radiant flower is?”  Sango glanced behind her before she realized he was looking intently at her. She gave him a slightly incredulous look.

Kagome hid a grin.  “Hoshimori Miroku, this is my dearest friend, Yamamoto Sango.”

Miroku took Sango’s hands in his own, bowing over them dramatically.  “It is a true pleasure to meet you, Yamamoto-san,” he crooned, making direct eye contact with Sango and giving her his most sincere smile.  Sango looked stunned and blinked at him several times.

“I... it’s nice to meet you too,” she stuttered out.  Miroku’s grin only grew. “Um... Kagome and I were just going to get something to eat...”  Kagome saw the moment her friend realized her statement had sounded like an invitation. Her brown eyes flipped to hers and Kagome shrugged.  She didn’t mind Miroku joining them. It meant Sango couldn’t drill her about her relationship with Inuyasha. Not that she was hiding it, she just didn’t have all the answers to the questions she knew her friend would be likely to ask.

“I would not want to intrude...”

“Not at all,” Kagome cut in with a grin.  “You’re welcome to join us if you’d like.”  Sango shot a desperate look in her direction.

Knowing it had been a very long time since her friend had dated, she figured it wouldn’t hurt for her to meet a handsome, intelligent, eligible bachelor.  Sango had always been very tightly wound when it came to her heart. Kagome couldn’t fault her for it, but she knew that Sango wasn’t doing herself any favors by brushing off every offer for a date that came her way.  “I would be honored to escort two beautiful women to lunch,” Miroku said with a small bow. Kagome barely swallowed a snicker. Miroku was definitely trying to catch up in the romance department and his template seemed to be old school romances with bowing princes and damsels in distress.  In some ways, he was behind Inuyasha when it came to interacting with the modern world.

Lunch ended up being more fun than Kagome could remember having had in a long time.  Miroku was very obviously trying to woo Sango and her friend was not having it. Well... she seems interested, she just doesn’t want Miroku to know that.  Kagome smiled softly, mostly staying quiet while the two discussed the tajiya business versus that of a “career holy person” and why both had never been much interested in their expected family trade.

“You are sure that your family does not have anyone else of power in it?” Kagome grinned and shook her head at Miroku’s incredulous tone.  “I am quite surprised.”

“Not the first time I’ve heard that.  But if I’m…” She paused, glancing over at her best friend who had not exactly been let in on the tidbit that she was likely Kikyo’s reincarnation.  “I’m the only one in my family, don’t tell my gramps.” Sango laughed, not catching onto the tension in that brief moment. She teasingly told Miroku about Kagome’s grandfather, who had been trying to teach Sango youkai extermination techniques since the moment he heard she was from a line of tajiya.

“He thought he could share a few pointers.  It was cute,” she explained. Kagome sat back and watched the two subtly (on Sango’s side at least) flirting with one another.  It made her realize that she and Inuyasha had never really gone through this phase. They had bypassed many of these earlier dating phases.   Or did we?  She thought back on the nights snuggled up on the couch watching movies or the occasional early morning chats on her balcony.  Maybe they hadn’t missed the steps, just took them two at a time.

As they were walking back after lunch, Kagome happily sated after her large burger - which both of her table mates had sat stunned while she ate - the other two were still talking animatedly when Sango’s hand suddenly snapped out, catching Miroku’s wrist in a nearly bruising grip.  The ex-monk blinked at where Sango’s far more delicate looking fingers wrapped around his larger wrist in a surprisingly unbreakable grip. “I do hope that wasn’t going where I think it was.” Miroku tried to look serene, which was ruined by the blush on his cheeks.

“I believe you misunderstand me, Sango-san.  I was simply...”

He didn’t get to finish as a deep growl was heard rolling behind them.  All three whipped around, staring at the unfamiliar youkai who stood with his eyes locked on Kagome.  Sango instinctively moved closer to her smaller friend, watching the male panther youkai with an evaluating look.  “Where is it?” he growled.

“It?  I’m sorry, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”  Kagome sounded calm, but her face showed how confused she was.

The panther snarled.  His eyes were intensely green, sleek dark hair on his head.  If it weren’t for the pure anger on his face, he would likely have been considered very handsome.  “The filthy half-breed mutt whose scent is all over you.” Kagome simply blinked at him in disbelief.  “Your aura glows like a lighthouse, miko. Better to destroy the weakling before it gets another chance to have a go at you.”  Miroku, who hadn’t known for sure that she and Inuyasha were intimate, glanced uncertainly at her before hardening his features.  It seemed fairly obvious that this youkai was aware of the prophecy and wasn’t a fan. “I don’t plan on killing a reiki bearer, let alone a female one, but if it keeps any spawn of a weakling like that out of the world...”

“Watch how you speak about my mate,” Kagome growled, surprising even herself.

“Mate... Kagome?” Sango murmured.  The panther youkai snarled at them and took a step forward.  Kagome had a barrier up around the three of them before they could blink.  Visibly startled by her strength, the furious youkai backed up some. He hadn’t thought she would be much of a challenge…  “You might as well move on. We don’t want to have to report you.” The youkai bared his teeth at Sango.

“Keep looking over your shoulder, miko,” he said, turning on his heel and striding off, long black tail flicking behind him.

After a short while, the trio finally breathed and Kagome lowered her barrier.  “Are you alright, Kagome-sama?” It took her a second to realize he was asking because she was shaking.  She nodded, but Sango had to keep a hand under her elbow as they walked back toward the center. Halfway there she had to pull herself aside and lose the hamburger she’d eaten so enthusiastically in an alley.

“This is not good,” Sango whispered to Miroku as she held Kagome’s hair and rubbed a soothing circle on her back.

“It isn’t,” he agreed.  “I...”

“What the fuck is going on?  Kagome, what’s wrong?” Both Sango and Miroku were startled by the abrupt appearance of the worried inuhanyou.  “Mate?” he whimpered, gently pushing Sango aside so he could hold her himself.

Once Kagome got her breathing under control, she let Inuyasha pull her against his chest.  “I’m alright. Just a little upset stomach.” She missed the way the other two frowned, but Inuyasha didn’t.

“What really happened?”  Miroku stepped in to explain, trying not to rile the already concerned hanyou.  “He threatened you and you’re gonna try to tell me you’re alright?” he questioned her.  Kagome only buried herself further in his arms. “Look, thanks for helping her out, but I’m taking her home.  Now,” he told Sango and Miroku. Neither one could come up with an argument before he was gone.

Kagome stayed silent as they made their way back, still reeling from her stomach responding so violently.  She’d never felt so frightened of anything before, so she understood that it might have affected her overly full stomach. Isn’t that a defense mechanism for some birds? She thought in a slight daze.   Some documentary about an island…  She didn’t think the panther had any intention of following her around, but he might tell others to look for Inuyasha.  Her brown eyes flew up to his face, watching him as he navigated the rooftops. For all the childish pouts she had seen in the first few weeks of knowing him, this serious face showed her that her mate had some hardened edges she hadn’t really seen yet.

“What’s the look for?” he asked without breaking stride.

“I just...  I don’t want anything to happen to you.”

“Me?  I’m not the one who was just threatened by a youkai.”  Kagome frowned, clinging to his shoulders a little more tightly.  “Kagome, he really freaked you out, didn’t he?” he murmured, slowing down and nuzzling her cheek.

Kagome hugged him even closer.  “He said he didn’t want to kill me, he wanted to go after you.  I couldn’t...” A sob cut her off. “You have to be careful, do you understand me?” she whispered desperately.

Inuyasha sighed as they landed on her balcony, sliding into her room.  He locked the door, pulled the curtains and took her back into his arms.  “Kagome, I’m not going to let anything happen to you.”

“Not me, you!”

Inuyasha rolled his eyes since she couldn’t see.  “I’m not going to let anything keep me from protecting you, how about that?”  She didn’t respond verbally, tugging his face down to plant an intensely fear-driven kiss on his lips.  He could feel her desperation and struggled with the way his youki spiked in response. His youkai wanted to assert dominance, not over her, but over her fear.  Unfortunately his youkai tended to get a little out of control and the last thing he wanted to do was scare her more. A growl rolled in his chest as he gently lifted her onto the end of the bed, kneeling between her knees and resting his forehead against her stomach.  He tried to let her scent fill his nose and soothe him. Kagome’s hands found his ears, not helping his control any. “Kagome...” he breathed against her.

“You’re afraid to let yourself be you ,” she murmured.  “I will never be afraid of you.  No matter what happens, I will never be afraid of you.”  Inuyasha still fought his youki down even as his body relaxed and his youkai half purred at the level of trust his mate had in him.  She’d never seen him the way he could be, had never seen the beast he could become.

He hadn’t lost himself to his youkai for a long time.  Even before he was trapped, it had been over a decade. But that had been a situation in which his life had been in danger.  This time it was Kagome who had been in harm’s way. Unacceptable. He felt his fangs lengthen slightly at the thought of the big cat threatening her and he snarled at himself for his weakness.   I should have better control than this!  Kagome gently touched his cheek, bringing his eyes to hers.  “Careful,” he growled. She only looked him over and smiled softly.

“You don’t want to hurt me,” she stated.  He knew fear shone in his eyes at the very thought.  “Then you won’t. You have to believe that as much as I do.”  She showed him what she believed by kissing him again, pulling him into her arms as he moved forward into her kiss.  He hovered over her on the bed, tasting and exploring her mouth. Her heels pressed into his ass, pushing him down into her embrace.  She gasped against him when the hard ridge of his arousal met her heat.

“Mate,” he snarled, gently mouthing her neck and the mark that made her his to soothe his youkai half.  His tongue swept out to taste her, lingering on the pulse beating solidly in her throat. Her fingers found the fly of the jeans she'd talked him into wearing, freeing him from their constricting hold. He sighed in relief while peeling her out of her clothes, shimmying out of his pants as Kagome struggled with his shirt. "I wanna be gentle, but..."

"Shut up, Inuyasha," she growled, pulling him down against her and introducing his tip to her heat. He grimaced at the pleasure before groaning as he slipped into her. She didn't let him hold back for even a moment, lifting her hips up to meet his if he hesitated.  He barely kept himself from pounding into her, the feel of her heels against him grounding him, giving him a limit in range that kept him from being too rough. When his release washed over him, he bit his own lip to stifle a howl. Kagome was hardly a beat behind him, not bothering to muffle her cry.  He panted into her neck, intermittently licking and kissing her soft skin as he came back to himself. Kagome was gripping his shoulders tightly to keep him close and it warmed his soul that she so clearly wanted him despite his glaring flaws.

“I love you,” he murmured in her ear.  Her grip tightened for a moment.

“I love you too.”  He took a deep breath and was finally able to pull free from her, cuddling her against his chest as they curled under the sheets.  He soothed her to sleep then, knowing she needed the rest after everything she’d been through that day.

With her resting more or less peacefully in his arms, Inuyasha allowed his mind to drift to the problem they were faced with.  It was clear that this panther bastard had smelled him on Kagome and had assumed, however accurately, that they were together. While it had been exactly as he’d feared, he was a little surprised it had happened so soon after they had taken that step.  What surprised him further was Kagome’s ability to protect herself. While she’d become vulnerable afterward due to the shock from her initial fear, in the crucial moment - from what Miroku told him - she’d easily protected herself and her friends from a potentially dangerous youkai attack.  Now had it been a human, he didn’t know if the situation would have ended the same.

Inuyasha had to acknowledge his gratitude that the monk and slayer had been there to defend Kagome when he had not. Both of them, despite veering off from their family paths, still had the skills necessary and had been willing to use them.  He cursed his need to take the required classes to acclimate him to the technology of this time so he could properly support his mate. She’s staying inside the center next time.  His heart couldn’t take another jolt like the one he’d felt when his nose picked up on his mate’s fear-filled scent and that of a raging big cat nearby.  He would not let anything take her from him.


 

Sango sat dumbfounded for several moments, opening her mouth as if to say something and then closing it again.  She finally let out a shuddering sigh. “So you’re maybe…”

“Probably.”

“Fine. Probably Kikyo’s reincarnation and you’re just… fine with all this?  And Inuyasha is fine with it?” Kagome looked up, sheepish. “And on top of it there’s some crazy old prophecy that says you two are... what?  Going to pop out the savior of the world? And there are youkai and humans alike out there who want nothing more than to keep you apart.” The miko winced.  “Baggage, my ass. Kagome, this is a moving truck full of baggage.”

While she understood that her friend was a bit shocked and that it was indeed a lot of information to take in at once, she did not appreciate the borderline disparaging commentary on her relationship.  “Sango, slow down. I know it seems like I jumped into this without thinking. I knew about his lifespan, the mating bond, the prophecy and even the fact that I am probably the embodiment of his dead ex before I let things go this far.  My eyes were open.”

Her friend blew out a long breath and shook her head slightly.  “I’m not trying to tell you what to do, Kagome. I just want you to be careful.  I don’t want to see you hurt.”

Kagome smiled and nodded goodnaturedly.  Sango was like the best combination of the sister and the overprotective older brother she’d never had.  Always looking out for her physically weaker friend yet encouraging her to continue her miko training when she’d wanted to give up.  “I know you don’t. Obviously I don’t want any of us to get hurt. I just… I really love him, Sango,” she whispered. “I can’t even say ‘it just felt so natural’ because us being together seemed to happen even with both of us trying to deny it.”

“Like fate?” Sango teased.

Kagome chuckled.  “Something like that.”

“And this prophecy?”

“I don’t know how much I really believe.  But obviously, there are those out there who believe it enough to be dangerous.  Inuyasha wants us to lay low and not broadcast our relationship too much, just to be safe.”  Kagome shrugged. “I don’t love it, but if he thinks that’s best, I’ll respect his decision for now.”

The taller of the two women gave her friend a musing look for several moments, trying to decide what she wanted to say.  “I think you suit one another, actually. You balance each other out. You needed a little livening up!” Her mischievous grin left no question as to what part of Kagome’s life she’d felt needed more excitement.

“Sango!” Kagome giggled, playfully tossing a pillow at her friend.  The two laughed and teased one another, Kagome bringing up the flirting happening at lunch the other day.  She was glad to see turnabout was indeed fair play as Sango flushed and stammered about how Miroku had made her laugh.  “He’s still learning, but he’s very suave.”

Sango rolled her eyes.  “He has all the subtlety of a freight train!”  Kagome couldn’t help cackling.

“Poor Miroku.  But you’re right.”  Kagome lowered her head and gave Sango a sly look.  “I’m sure he could figure out this whole romance thing with a little coaching.  Some practice?” She barely held in her laughter as she could almost see her friend trying to think through that scenario.  When it came to a natural conclusion, Kagome would see that too in the way Sango’s ears turned red. “Why Sango, are you thinking of something dirty?”

The spluttering and denials that followed were more than enough evidence in support of the accusation and the pillow fight that followed wore both of them out.  “Ne, Kagome?” The miko hummed that she was listening as they both lay on the floor, catching their breath. “What did your mom say? About you being mated and everything?”

Dark brown eyes flew open and she sat up so fast, her head spun for a moment.  “Oh kami…”

“Kagome, you haven’t told your mom yet?!” Sango nearly shrieked.

“Told your mom what?” came a deep voice from the front of the apartment as Inuyasha walked through the front door.  Kagome just sighed and dropped her head into her hands and sighed. I can’t believe I forgot to at least call Mama.

“Hooo, boy.  I’m gonna go.  You guys have a lot to talk about.”  Sango slunk out of the apartment and tossed Kagome one last sympathetic look before shutting the door behind her.  Kagome could tell by the angle of Inuyasha’s ears that he was feeling anxious.

“What’s wrong?” he asked, a concerned lilt to his voice.

Kagome turned to face him and gave him an overly bright smile. “Soooo... you ready to meet my family?”