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The small circle of light didn't extend far into the darkness surrounding the fire. Merrily dancing flames tried to keep the oppressive blackness at bay without much luck as the two tried to hide their ambiguous stares over the small encampment. "Do you think Shippou will be all right?" Kagome finally asked, breaking the silence that had fallen since dinner. Slender of frame, the girl who had grown into a woman before his eyes gazed into the dancing flames, her eyes dulled in her concern over the kitsune pup they had left behind.

"Keh!" InuYasha snorted, wrapping his arms around Tetsusaiga, his father's legendary sword, as he settled back against the thick tree behind him. Crimson haori bathed in shadows, he sat on the outskirts of the light sphere, watching, waiting, pulsing with the night. "He's with Miroku and Sango. He'll be fine."

Kagome shrugged, noticeably recoiling at the hanyou's surly answer. He stifled a sigh. He hadn't meant to make her feel worse. "I know he'll be fine. I'm just used to having him travel with us."

"He's more trouble than what he's worth," InuYasha argued in a stilted attempt to pacify the young miko.

Kagome looked as though she disagreed. In the end, she clamped her jaw tight and shifted her gaze to the side. "I'm just not used to leaving him behind."

Opening his mouth to say something, InuYasha thought better of it and sighed instead. Sitting alone with her hands resting on her bare knees, Kagome looked sad—too sad. "He was having fun with them," he said softly. "Shippou isn't really your pup, anyway."

She shook her head, and he flinched at the hurt in her tone. "I know he's not but he might as well be."

"That wasn't what I meant," InuYasha said, trying to keep Kagome from getting any more upset with him than she already was.

Her eyes took on an angry glow, and she pinned him with a formidable glower. At times like these, when she skewered him to the spot with a simple look, InuYasha was all too aware of the full power she possessed, both spiritual as well as her power as a woman. "You really know how to kick someone when they're already down, don't you?"

"Keh!" he cut in, trying to forestall the argument he had a feeling was brewing behind those fathomless brown eyes. "You're taking it wrong."

Kagome sighed and dropped her gaze back down to her hands in her lap and nodded slowly. She sighed, and her voice was tiny, barely more than a breath, "I know. I'm sorry."

The perverse desire to shake her swept over him, and InuYasha tightened his arms around the sword to keep himself from giving in to the urge. Kagome was behaving strangely. She had been for the last few weeks, come to think about it. He tried a few times but couldn't get her to tell him why that was.

"Better get some sleep," he remarked, trying to change the subject. "We'll be there in the morning."

She nodded slowly and crawled into her sleeping bag. He could feel her gaze on him for a long time.

"InuYasha?"

He didn't look at her. "What?"

". . . I think after this, when we go back to the village . . . I think it's time for me to go home."

That got his full attention. InuYasha's head snapped toward her, his eyes flaring in the dim firelight. "What? I said I was sorry, I said I didn't mean anything by it!"

She rolled over, facing away from him, as though she couldn't stand the sight of him. "It's not that, InuYasha," she said softly. "I think my job here is done, that's all."

"Your job?" he echoed, unable to keep the irritation out of his tone. "Is that what this whole thing has been to you? A fucking job?"

"Yeah," she said, her voice strangely rough. He could hear the tears in her voice even if she wasn't crying. "A job, like any other job. There's no reason for me to stay. The Shikon no Tama is complete, Naraku is gone, Shippou's not mine—you said so, yourself . . . There's nothing left for me here."

InuYasha winced at the frustration in her tone, the pain in her voice. "Kagome . . ."

"Don't make it harder, InuYasha. It's already hard enough."

He got up and stomped around the fire. She stubbornly tried to ignore him. He wouldn't let her do it. Flopping down beside her, InuYasha pulled her onto his lap, sleeping bag and all. "What's wrong with you? Why have you been acting so weird?"

She sighed, trying to pull away from him. He held onto her. "Let me go."

"Not until you tell me what the hell is wrong with you."

"Nothing!" She choked back a sob and shook her head. "Everything . . ."

Pushing the hair off of her face, staring into her eyes as crystalline tears shined in the wan light. "You're not making any sense."

"I know."

Frowning at the hopeless note in her voice, InuYasha shook his head slowly, wishing he could read her mind, know her thoughts. `What is she thinking? Why doesn't she talk to me?' He sighed as she pulled away, her chin dropping, her eyes skittering downward, as though she feared to look at him. "Is this about Shippou? Kagome . . . maybe he is better off with Miroku and Sango. They're going to give him a home. He needs it."

"Don't you think I know that?" she asked quietly. Her eyes sparkled with the tears that didn't fall. Pooling in her eyes like moonlight on the horizon, yet the moisture wouldn't fall, wouldn't comfort. The ache of it welled up in her throat. As if she had already cried out all the tears she possessed, she shook her head slowly, sadly, stumbling off of InuYasha's lap and out of her sleeping bag.

"Kagome?"

She smiled. It was thin and a mere shadow of her usual smiles. But it was from the heart, and it warmed him. He smiled back. "Where do I belong?"

InuYasha's gaze fell away as heat filtered into his cheeks. Normally he'd make some cocky statement. But, looking into Kagome's eyes, he knew, either he said something now or he'd lose her forever. Still, it took a minute longer to gather the right words. It seemed so easy. To him, it was like saying the impossible. "Your place is wherever you want it to be."

"Think so?"

He shrugged. "Of course. Do you . . . want to leave? I mean, really?"

Something cold drifted over her. Kagome glanced up into the skies. The familiar silvery blue snake-like bodies of Kikyou's Shini-dama-chuu—her soul collectors—writhed and twisted like a cynical smile high above. "You'd better go," she said, her voice oddly disengaged from her emotions.

InuYasha didn't move. "I'm not going," he said quietly. "Kikyou doesn't need me anymore."

Kagome sighed. They'd had this discussion a hundred times, and a hundred times, it was the same. "It's not a question of need, InuYasha. I know you still . . . love her."

He didn't confirm it, but he didn't deny it, either.

Nodding slowly, as though she finally understood, Kagome closed her eyes and walked out of the circle of light. As quietly as a shadow sweeps over the land, she disappeared from his sight.

InuYasha stared after her. His heart told him to catch her, to bring her back, to make her understand that he needed her there, as necessary to him as air, as water, as fire . . .

Golden eyes shifted to stare at the beckoning Shini-dama-chuu. `Kikyou wants to see me,' he thought dully. With a sigh, he got to his feet staring balefully at the flying soul collectors the entire time. `I owe Kikyou . . . but Kagome is . . . I . . .'

Before he could think about it too long, InuYasha lit out in a run, sniffing the air for her scent.

 

 

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She wasn't in a hurry. Even if she could see where she was going in the darkness, she wouldn't have run. The night didn't frighten her any more. It held her now with the familiarity of an old friend. The one she'd given her girlish heart to years before, the one she'd die for now . . . A curious sense of resignation seeped over her. `He's with her now.'

`Don't think about it.'

The trees offered her a solitary kind of peace as she wandered. With no actual destination in mind, Kagome thought maybe she'd just keep walking. `Which would run out first?' she wondered. `My will to continue, or the land to walk on?' She smiled at her strange sensibilities. The smile didn't last.

`Where do I belong?' She'd been thinking about it more and more often lately, especially since Sango and Miroku's wedding. What she'd said to InuYasha was the truth. Shippou, as much as it had hurt to see, had preferred to stay with Sango and Miroku, wishing for the stability of a home life that Kagome couldn't offer him. She didn't blame him for wanting that. She, herself, missed it, too.

For so long her life had centered around finding the Shikon no Kakera, to reconstruct the jewel that she had inadvertently destroyed. Along the way, the center of the quest had shifted to Naraku. It had been over a year and a half since they had defeated him. That confrontation was one Kagome wasn't ever going to forget. She relived it all the times, especially in her nightmares. Those nightmares had diminished lately, replaced by another one, a more vivid one, one that hurt her far worse than the memory of destroying the evil ever could.

After that had come the purification of the jewel. The trouble was, no one really knew how to do that. In the end, it had been accidental. Kagome stood with the jewel in her hands, staring at the shining orb as she pondered what to do with it, how to get rid of it so that it couldn't come back, so that it couldn't be used to hurt anyone ever again.

She still remembered how her friends had come close to her. Shippou, the child who had so needed Sakimitama. In their quest, he had found that, and so much more. Shippou's love was bathed in the sacred pink aura. Sango, the youkai exterminator, on her quest to learn why Naraku had so callously slain her entire family, why he turned her brother against them all, had sought Kushimitama. Sango's wisdom was bathed in the sacred pink aura. Miroku, the monk who desired to stand strong in the face of his kazaana, the family curse that might have otherwise destroyed him, had yearned for Aramitama. Miroku's courage was bathed in the sacred pink aura. Then InuYasha, the outcast, the hanyou, the one who neither needed nor trusted a single soul, the one who desperately needed Nigimitama, had come forward to complete the circle around her. InuYasha's friendship was bathed in the sacred pink aura.

As the four souls came into alignment with the jewel, as the four friends stood around Kagome, the light of their souls, the aura of their inner balances had worked together to purify the Shikon no Tama. It exploded in a flash of white light, leaving nothing but a trail of stardust in the air in its wake.

She had been the bearer, the jewel's protector but it was the balance in her friends that was the true balance needed to purify it completely.

Trouble was, even if she went back through the well, there weren't any guarantees, not for her. Flunked out of school, she might be able to test out, if she tried hard enough. She'd all but given up any hopes of being able to actually catch up in any of her classes. At nearly eighteen years old, she was considered too young to get married, even if she had anyone in mind for that, and because of her constant trips into the past, she wouldn't be able to just pick up where she'd left off, either.

`Baka, you! You thought you'd stay here with InuYasha; you know you did.'

She sighed. She had never really thought that so much as she had hoped . . .

Kikyou.

It all came back to Kikyou, to InuYasha's desire to rekindle what had literally died so long ago. He wanted to quicken her clay heart, to make her live on, even if it was only in his dreams.

It didn't matter what InuYasha said. He'd assured her time and again that his feelings for Kikyou weren't the same any more. But Kagome knew what was in his heart. She'd heard him call out in his sleep. It was probably the reason the hanyou hated to give in to the `weak' necessity.

Weeks ago, as they traveled to check in on Jinenji, they'd camped out; just the two of them. Normal enough, it had seemed. InuYasha dropped her bag and stomped off into the forest to find something for dinner. It never took him long.

Ten minutes later, he'd returned with a plump rabbit, cleaned and skinned and ready to cook.

Dinner had been a quiet affair. Kagome was feeling a little pensive. Sango and Miroku had remained in the village to finish the preparations for their wedding. Shippou had stayed behind that time because Kaede, the old village miko, had been a bit under the weather. `Old bones,' Kaede had called it. Kagome had a suspicion it was more like rheumatism.

It had been swelteringly muggy. Kagome had been wearing a pink tank top and khaki colored shorts for the bulk of the day. It had been so hot, though, even after the sun went down. She ended up begging InuYasha to take her to the nearby pond to bathe. In the end, he'd conceded, albeit with ill-grace, and had taken her there.

The cool water had done the trick though. Not five minutes after arriving back at their campsite, she had been asleep, curled on top of her sleeping bag.

She hadn't been sure what woke her. It may have been the wind that picked up suddenly, rattling the leaves on the trees above. It could have been the way the flames of their small fire had flared up with the increasing winds. Whatever it was, though, Kagome had sat up, still feeling groggy, to see InuYasha, leaning against a tree trunk not far away. His head leaned to the side, and he reminded her of the first time she saw him. Pinned to the sacred tree, the wind playing with his hair as though the wind had a soul, and the soul was a woman. She tousled his hair lovingly, caressingly. InuYasha was a creature of nature.

He moaned softly, a sound that the hanyou rarely made. That he did now brought Kagome wider awake, and she crept over to him, knelt beside him.

`Kik . . . you . . .'

Kagome felt her heart plunge to her feet, the blood in her veins running cold. What had she really expected? She sighed, getting to her feet and shuffling back over to her sleeping bag. She had just lay back down when he spoke again.

`Want to . . . die . . . for you . . .'

`InuYasha.'

Burying her face in her arms, Kagome blocked out everything—the sound of his mumbles, the voice in her head that reminded her of that stupid promise that he'd made to Kikyou. `You said that my life is yours . . . and yours is mine.' Kikyou wanted to drag InuYasha to hell with her. Kagome had seen her try. Now, it seemed, InuYasha was almost ready to let her take him.

The whisper of the forest brought Kagome out of her musings. Sinking down on a rock, she willed away the rest of the memory and sighed. If she wanted to be completely honest with herself . . . it was because of his sleepy mumblings that she felt the way she did now. This complete upheaval in her emotions, the feeling that she'd made the wrong choices all along . . .

She'd given it a lot of thought though. She needed to get over InuYasha. Tired of clinging to half-promises and unanswered gestures, Kagome needed to give herself a chance to find what eluded her now. She didn't want to be a vague shadow of the one who would forever remain, in InuYasha's mind, the shiny example of perfection. Because she'd come after Kikyou, or because she was her reincarnation, it all lead to the same realization. He was bound inexorably to Kikyou. She was the one who possessed his heart.

A sudden sound startled her. Instinctively, Kagome reached over her shoulder for her bow and arrows only to realize too late that she'd forgotten them. She grabbed a fallen tree branch and stood, holding the limb like a baseball bat. She might have been foolish to wander off alone. But she wouldn't go down without a fight . . .

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

"Who's there?" Kagome called out. Her voice wasn't loud but she was proud of the way that it hadn't faltered. Tightening her grip, she stood her ground as irrational anger flared somewhere deep, dark, hidden. How dare someone try to sneak up on her, and who was it?

"And just what the hell are you planning on doing with that pathetic stick, bitch?"

The branch fell out of her slack fingers as Kagome blinked in surprise. Her heart sped up to dizzying speeds as InuYasha stepped out of the forest, scowl in place and face shrouded in shadows. Kagome masked her surprise quickly enough and willed her heart to slow. "Kikyou isn't here," she said. Her tone wasn't angry or bitter. It was matter-of-fact.

"I wasn't looking for Kikyou. Have a little faith in me, will you?"

Ruthlessly, Kagome squelched the tiny flicker of hope that kindled at his confession. Refusing to meet his irritated stare, she lifted her face to the sky, eyes closed, and breathed deep. "I'm a big girl now. I don't need you beside me every second of the day. I know you want to go to her. Don't stay here because of me."

"Keh!" InuYasha scoffed, eyes branding her flesh, cutting into her soul like a razor-sharp knife. "You didn't even think to bring your weapon, Kagome, and you say you don't need me?"

Sinking down on the rock she had just vacated, Kagome sighed. "I don't want to argue with you anymore," she mumbled, knowing he would hear her despite her low tone.

"Come on," he said, his voice lowering in accordance with hers. He took her hand and tugged until she stood. "It's late and you're tired."

Pulling her hand away, she obediently followed InuYasha as he led the way back to their campsite. The fire had burned low in their absence. Kagome lay back down, staring idly at the glowing coals. InuYasha sank down behind her, leaning against a tree. He was right. It was late, but she couldn't sleep. With sleep always came the nightmares . . .

Flopping over onto her back, Kagome stared into the sky. Countless stars dotted the heavens high above. Despite her bleak thoughts, she smiled. "Have you ever wondered what it would be like to fly?" she asked quietly.

"Keh. I thought you said before that in your time men can do that."

She ignored the gruff answer. She'd expected as much. After being with him for nearly three years, first during the quest to find the shards of the Shikon no Tama and then later, she was used to his inability to say much of anything in a decent tone. It didn't bother her. It only made the few times that he let his guard down that much more precious to her. "Not like that . . . I mean really fly . . . with wings, like a bird. Sometimes I wish I had wings . . ."

Turning her head to gaze at the hanyou, Kagome gasped softly at the look in his eyes: an unspoken need, a hidden desire, a wish for things that were better left unsaid. At that moment, at least, he felt it, too. She didn't need to hear him to know what he said to her. `I'll be your wings, Kagome . . . if you'd let me.'

It was harder to swallow the lump that rose in her throat as she forced her gaze back up to the skies. The nearly full moon rose in her heart, and suddenly she wished she was fifteen again, with the wonder and the excitement, even the fear that she'd experienced the first time she fell into the well. `A wishing well . . . you were the coin.' She sighed and dared another look at her companion. He, too, was staring at the moon with a strange longing in his expression. `What's changed?' she asked herself. `When did you stop believing in InuYasha?'

She shook her head and blinked back the telling mist that gathered.

She never had stopped believing in him. `I stopped believing in . . . me.'

 

 

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He wasn't sure when the difference in her scent signaled to his mind that she slept. As gently as she did everything in her life, Kagome had simply and quietly stolen away into slumber. In what had become one of his favorite pastimes lately, he scooted closer to her, tilted his head as he stared down at her, a near-smile on his face. `She's like an angel when she's sleeping,' he thought, his eyes soaking up every curve, every contour, every ridge, every hollow of her face. `Her heart is so much like . . .' His smile widened. "Mother's."

What would Izayoi have thought of Kagome? If she had lived, would she have thought that Kagome was as special as he did? Would his mother have seen the things in her that InuYasha knew were there?

She shifted, unconsciously edging toward him. The subtle movement brought her scent closer. He closed his eyes and nearly moaned as it washed over him. Engulfing his heightened senses, tempting him with that underlying scent, the fragrance of her that shot straight through him, slamming him with desire so strong that he'd have to leave her to escape what she did to him, just to find some sort of release. It used to be that a decent swim in a cool pond would do the trick. Lately, though, that hadn't been working, either. He'd smelled that scent more and more often lately, emitting from Kagome like an invisible lure.

She had matured. He frowned. Did she know that?

`Baka! How could she know that? She's not youkai or hanyou. She doesn't know any of that because you haven't fucking told her,' his conscience pointed out ruthlessly.

`She's Kagome. She always knows! She knows me,' he argued.

Still . . .

`You didn't even tell her why you're traveling this time.'

He shifted almost nervously. That was true, he had to admit. He hadn't told her anything. He'd just caught her arm and told her to grab her bag shortly after the wedding. In normal Kagome fashion, she'd asked no questions and had simply ran inside, fetched that monstrosity she called a backpack and had cheerfully hugged Sango then kissed Miroku's cheek before hugging Shippou tight. With a wave and a smile, she hopped onto InuYasha's back just before he pushed off the ground.

With a sigh, InuYasha recalled the conversation he'd had with Miroku the day before the wedding.

"What do you want from her, InuYasha?" Miroku asked as he sat near the small fire in the middle of Kaede's hut.

"Keh! What are you talking about?"

Miroku's look told InuYasha that the hanyou was being obtuse because he could. The monk wasn't far wrong. "You know what I'm talking about. Haven't you noticed anything . . . different . . . about Kagome of late?"

"Different, how?" he asked grudgingly. Sure, he'd noticed how quiet the young miko had been. He thought he'd been imagining things. If Miroku had noticed, though, meant that there really was something to the observation.

Miroku shrugged and flexed his hand, staring with a small smile at the perfect skin where his kazaana used to be. "Almost like she's wishing for something, or waiting for something."

He'd thought as much, himself, he had to admit. Since he hadn't been able to figure it out, though, InuYasha grudgingly asked Miroku, "Something like what?"

With a shake of his head and a soft sigh, Miroku made a face. He started to get up and paused long enough to leave InuYasha with his parting shot. "For having been so adept at hunting Naraku and seeking the shards, InuYasha, your ability to interpret Kagome's needs really sucks."

InuYasha sighed as the memory faded. Kagome's needs . . .?

His gaze shifted back to the sleeping woman. What, exactly, did she need?

 

 

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"You ready?"

Kagome paused in rolling up her sleeping bag and smiled as she glanced up at the hanyou. He was pacing around, as though he was in some sort of hurry to get going. She rolled her eyes but grinned. He was always in a hurry, wasn't he? "Just about. Let me tie this, and I'll be done." Her smile faded, and she frowned as she stared at him. "InuYasha? Are you all right?"

"Keh!" he snorted. "Why wouldn't I be?"

She shook her head slowly as she deliberately took her time tying the string around the rolled-up bag. There was a certain fatigue around his eyes, as though he hadn't gotten much—if any—sleep. "You just look tired, is all."

There was something else on her mind, he realized. Her overly-pleasant tone told him as much. He squatted down to look her in the eye. "Out with it."

`Did you wait till I was sleeping to sneak away to see Kikyou?' Her head didn't move but her eyes shifted to look at him. She swallowed so hard that he could hear it. "I was just worried."

He stared at her for a few moments while she continued to tie the sleeping bag. "You're lying," he said softly. "I know you are."

She didn't deny the charge. "I'll stop when you do."

"What the hell does that mean?"

She shook her head and sighed. "I don't want to argue, InuYasha." Brushing off her hands, she stood and stuffed the bedroll into the backpack. She didn't need to look at him to know that he was furious. Irritation radiated off him in violent waves. She ignored it. "Are you hungry? Do you want me to fix something for you before we go?"

His answer was long in coming, as though he had to control his temper before he trusted himself to speak. "No, thanks."

"Where are we going, anyway?"

InuYasha picked up her backpack and slung it easily over his shoulder. "I wanted you to . . . meet someone."

Kagome frowned. "Who?"

"Just come on, will you? We ain't got all day."

Staring at his back as he marched away, Kagome ran to catch up with him. He was behaving strangely. Come to think of it, he'd been behaving strangely since he'd dragged her out of the village days before. She made a face as she fell in step behind him. It wouldn't do any good to try to get him to answer. The hanyou brought new meaning to the word `stubborn'. His back was straight and proud, and he didn't even spare her a glance as they walked, but Kagome didn't doubt that he was completely aware of their surroundings. She knew better.

Still the questions remained. The look on his face just before he'd turned away, when he'd said that he wanted her to meet someone, was enigmatic, full of emotion that for a moment, she hadn't known what to say. Then he'd reverted back to his usual gruffness, and the moment had been lost.

Just who did he want her to meet?

 

 

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The meadow was quiet, still, broken only by the occasional flutter of wings as birds took flight. Kagome breathed in the scent of the wildflowers that blanketed the land. "It's beautiful," she whispered, trying not to break the serenity that soothed her.

InuYasha smiled almost sadly. Kagome missed the expression. "She's over there."

Kagome turned to gaze in the direction InuYasha had indicated. A lone tree stood in the midst of the meadow. Under the tree was a thick blanket of violets. "I don't see anyone," she said slowly.

InuYasha walked away. He didn't look back to see if Kagome followed. `He's sad,' she thought as she slowly started after him. "InuYasha?"

He stopped and waited for her. She took his hand and squeezed it gently. "Why'd you bring me here?"

For once, he didn't make a sarcastic comment. Eyes bright, shining, he stared at her. Finally he licked his lips nervously and cleared his throat. "My mother . . . she's buried here."

Kagome shook her head slowly. "But why would you—?"

He sighed, cutting her off, and he suddenly pulled her close. "I just wanted to."

`Don't pull away, Kagome,' her heart pleaded. `Just keep this, this moment. Let me keep it . . .'

"She'd have liked you," he said softly, staring over her head. "You're . . . a lot like her."

Kagome pulled away but didn't let go of his hand. He sighed softly, understanding the things that she didn't say. She knew that she was his friend. Friendship was simple to give, and yet it never really seemed like it was quite enough, either. The things that she didn't understand remained unvoiced, unnoticed, forever ignored. It was simpler, wasn't it, to pretend that certain things didn't exit. Admitting to anything made it feel a little too real, and being forced to deal with those things . . . She couldn't, or maybe she simply didn't want to.

InuYasha tugged on her hand, asking her in his own way to stay with him.

`His mother's grave . . .? He doesn't talk about her that often . . . why did he bring me here now? What does it mean? Does it mean anything at all?'

Slowly, in companionable silence, the two walked up the hill to the flower-covered grave.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

InuYasha stared over the top of the cards in his hand, trying to read Kagome’s expression well enough to tell whether or not she was bluffing.

“Come on, InuYasha . . . I’ll have gray hair before you ever make up your mind,” she goaded.

“Keh!” he snorted, eyes shifting back to his hand again.   Three sevens and a pair of fives. . . a full house. Not a bad hand to stand on . . .’ He pushed half of his stack of matchsticks into the middle of her sleeping bag.

Kagome lifted her eyebrows in silent question. “You sure you want to do that?”

“Show your cards, wench.”

She giggled. “You first.”

InuYasha laid down his cards with a smug grin.

Kagome clucked her tongue. “Sorry, InuYasha. Looks like you’re washing the dishes tonight.”

He snatched the cards out of her hand. “You cheated!” he growled, staring at the four kings she held.

“Stop being a sore loser,” she retorted, snatching the cards out of his hand and scooping them together to put them back in the box. Heaving a long-suffering sigh, InuYasha scooped up the few dirty items and stomped over to the stream.

Taking care to roll up the sleeves of his haori so that they didn’t end up soaked in the process, InuYasha made a show of washing the plastic plates and chopsticks. Kagome’s soft laughter sounded behind him. He turned to look back at her. She had gathered her things for a bath, and she looked happy enough as she sank down on a boulder beside him. “Care if I take a bath?” she asked.

He didn’t answer right away, instead concentrating on rinsing the pan and shaking the excess water from it. “Didn’t you just have a bath yesterday?”

Rolling her eyes at the surly question, Kagome grinned. “Yes, I did, but it’s been hot today.” She made a face, wrinkling her nose as she pulled the clingy cotton blouse away from her skin.

He stood and deliberately sniffed the air near her. “You smell fine to me,” he remarked, “but if you don’t trust the one with the nose, then knock yourself out.”

Kagome watched him go, her mouth hanging open even as her cheeks burned. Gaze narrowing on the hanyou’s proud back, it struck her again, how strangely he’d been behaving ever since they left his mother’s grave.

Do you want some privacy?” she asked, hesitating, touching his shoulder as he stared down at the violets that grew so thickly over the small mound of dirt.

When he didn’t answer right away, Kagome turned to leave. He probably wanted some time to himself, she figured. He caught her hand and gently pulled her back. “Stay? She feels a little closer, when you’re here.

At a loss for something to say, Kagome simply nodded. Slowly, as though he expected her to shove him away, he slipped his arm around her. They stared at the grave, both lost in thoughts of their own . . .

It was his idea to play cards, too,’ she recalled with a frown. Normally scoffing at her ‘human’ games, she’d been only too pleased to have the chance to do something to break up the monotony of another evening spent brooding that she hadn’t questioned it at the time.

Making quick work of removing her clothes, Kagome slipped into the cool water with a blissful smile. Nothing ever felt as good as a bath after a long day of traveling. Maybe it was a simple pleasure, but it was one that Kagome relished.

The water only reached her hips in the center of the stream. Minnows nibbled at her toes as Kagome lathered her hair. She giggled softly as she wiggled her feet, sending the tiny beings skittering away only to return when she stopped moving. The sun was sinking fast on the horizon, and her fingers slowed their scrubbing as she stared in appreciative wonder at the diversity of the colors streaking across the sky. She didn’t remember seeing a sunset quite like this back in Tokyo . . .

Two days.’

A measure of her contentment peeled away. ‘You don’t have to do it,’ the voice in her mind said. ‘Do you really want to leave him? What about today? You have to admit, he didn’t seem like he was thinking about Kikyou at all today.

She blinked back a few shampoo-induced tears. That’s what she told herself brought the moisture to her eyes, anyway. She dived under the water, swimming slowly as she rinsed her hair. She could feel the lather rising out of her hair, washing away all the dirt and filth with the ebbing current. ‘If only it were so easy to cleanse my heart.’

I can’t stand it,’ she thought as she surfaced, lungs burning. She gasped, dragging in a deep breath of air. Tossing her hair back off of her face, Kagome wiped her eyes and letting her hands drag in the water as she stared at the setting sun again. ‘I can’t stay here and watch InuYasha choose Kikyou. I can’t stand to see him go with her to hell . . .’

No matter what kind of appearance you have, Kikyou . . . I don't think I'd be repulsed, or hate you.

She closed her eyes against his words, the ones that she’d heard so long ago. Maybe he hadn’t realized that she was there, that she could hear him, but she had, and the memory of it had haunted her for a very long time. ‘Stop feeling sorry for yourself, Kagome!’ she chided herself sternly. ‘You swore you’d enjoy your last couple of days here, before you go back home.

Deliberately taking her time with the rest of her bathing, Kagome methodically scrubbed her skin until it was pink. With a wan smile, she watched the suds drift away down the stream. Finally she turned with a sigh and waded back toward the shore as the irony of the situation finally hit her. With a smile that looked more like a grimace, she sighed, toweling herself off and quickly dressing again. She’s been gone a long time. If she stayed away any longer, InuYasha would probably come looking for her.

She gathered up her things and headed back toward the camp. Dusk settled around her, the subdued whispers of night falling over the forest. The faded shadows seeped into one another, a continuous flow of one form into the next. The rising pulse of the forest surrounded her, the night creatures that didn’t sing in the daytime. She alone stood out, a solitary glow, bathed in her miko’s aura.

Three years of her life had all come down to just two days and the dawning of the full moon.

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

InuYasha stared up at the full moon riding low in the sky.   He frowned, unable to point a finger at the unsettling emotion. It welled up inside him, always seeming to coincide with the nights of the complete moon . . . nights like tonight. For the longest time, he’d been careful. When he had first realized the implications of it, he had avoided being around Kagome. As far as he could tell, she was the only one who affected him this way. He’d never had urges around Sango. With a guilty grimace, he realized that had never felt that way around Kikyou, either.

Hadn’t he realized that the full moon was close before they left on this trip? He sighed softly. He must have forgotten. A vague smile broke over his features, the glimmer of fangs in the thin blue light.   Or maybe he hadn’t forgotten at all.

His mother’s voice had been silenced long ago. InuYasha knew this. Yet somehow, he had heard her today. ‘This girl . . . Fight for her. She’s the one, InuYasha . . .’

Something primeval surged in him, calling Kagome’s name, begging to go to her. InuYasha stifled a moan as her scent came to him. The feelings ascended, spiraling upward, centering somewhere deep inside, something that wanted to possess her. As badly as InuYasha wanted to find shelter in her heart, this other part of him wanted so much more. Love, lust, ownership, submission all warred within him, all centered on her.

She spoke to his heart, his soul. She was everything he wasn’t. Perhaps he wasn’t introspective and wise like Miroku. Maybe he was too volatile and too quick tempered. But Kagome was his balance, his center. She leveled out his shortcomings. ‘Take her!’ a voice in his head hissed.

What?

He didn’t need to see her step into the clearing. He knew she was there. He knew her by scent, knew her by sound; knew her heart, knew her soul. ‘You want all of her,’ his mind whispered.

He fought it. ‘Not this way!

She wants you, too—you know she does. You’ve smelled it on her. She’s ready.’

I . . . no . . . She’s special . . . she’s Kagome.

The voice was silent a moment, as though trying to find a way to refute InuYasha’s arguments. ‘Have it your way, then, but if you don’t act quickly, you’ll lose her.’

Shut the fuck up! That won’t happen!’ He growled low in his throat, trying in vain to stave back the other voice.

Kagome’s words echoed through his head. They hurt. ‘. . . I think after this, when we go back to the village . . . I think it’s time for me to go home.’

“InuYasha? Are you all right?”

Her voice soothed him, plucked him out of his turmoil. He blinked and forced a smile for her. Clad in a pair of what she called ‘boxer shorts’ with a large tee shirt over that, Kagome was bright and glowing, and obviously ready for bed. He sighed.

She fluttered around the campsite like a moth around a candle flame. InuYasha stared from the cover of half shadows. The argument they’d had the night before came back to him. He closed his eyes, bracing himself for her answer and said softly, “Kagome?”

Straightening her back from her task of putting things in her back pack, she turned to face him with a smile. It might have fooled someone else. It cut InuYasha, mocked him. If she thought that he believed her, she was wrong. He knew that sort of smile. She was trying to make him happy even though it was destroying her inside.

“When you said you were going back home . . . you didn’t mean that, did you?”

Her smile faltered, and she sighed. Sinking down on her sleeping bag, Kagome stared into the fire, the flames dancing in her fathomless eyes. The jovial light did nothing to dissipate the sadness of her aura.

InuYasha flinched. She meant it. Of course she did. The last traces of doubt left him as a cold finality sank in.

He shot to his feet and stalked forward, pacing the ground, prowling, circling. His eyes didn’t leave her. If she felt his gaze, she gave no sign as she continued to stare into the licking flames.

“Promises don’t mean a fucking thing to you, do they, Kagome? Nice words when you need them? Tell the half-breed what he wants to hear? Is that it?” he bellowed.

She shook her head slightly as her aura flared, protecting her. “That’s not it, at all.” She shifted her gaze, stared at him through eyes glazed with sadness. “I meant it then . . .”

He hunkered down in front of her, desperation forcing him to reach for her. Holding her upper arms in his hands, her skin warm, vibrant under his touch, he wouldn’t let her look away from him, wouldn’t let her hide. His gaze raked over her face, the heat in his stare trapping her. “And now? What’s changed?”

Her bottom lip trembled, quivered. A tear hung from the corner of her long eyelashes. “Everything!” she rasped out, her voice choked with unshed tears. She shook her head, stubbornly clung to her tainted beliefs. “I can’t be what you want. I’ll never be Ki—”

His body reacted before his mind could protest. Before she could say it, the one word that would escalate the tension, he dragged her into his arms, against his chest, against his heart, against his lips.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Kagome whimpered softly against his lips, clutching fistfuls of hair, of haori . . . dragging at him, pulling him closer yet pushing him back. Indecision mingled with burgeoning desire, a torrent of flames that erupted within.

Her scent engulfed him, intoxicated him, called to his youkai blood, the heated blood of the full moon. Imprisoning her in the strength of his arms, crushing her body against his, youkai domination battled against the human emotion, the desire to protect, to cherish, to soothe. Insatiable lust rose up, hot and fierce, a paradox of wills clashed. His youkai, called out to her, calling to his mate. She would understand. It was meant to be this way. Yet still, the human heart inside him protested. ‘Kagome is special . . . mate of the youkai or mate of your heart . . . choose because you can’t have both.’

She surrendered to him, head falling back as his lips, his fangs, his tongue weakened her resistance. Had she shown him any? Had she ever? The realization slowed him, gave him pause, lent strength to the human blood that fought against the authority of the youkai. He kissed her gently, lulled her with his touch. Her hands loosened their grip, trailed to his face, stroked his cheeks. He wanted her, but he wanted her unmarked, unbroken, unblemished.

“Kagome,” he whispered against her ear, imploring her, begging her, “don’t leave me.”

He felt her pain swell, smelled the salt in her tears, heard the sigh of her closing eyes. “I don’t remember a time,” she finally said, her voice choked, grasping at his heart, digging in, drawing blood, “when I wasn’t with you, and I . . .”

“If you go, I’ll follow you,” he warned. “I swore I’d protect you.”

Because I’d die without you.’

“You don’t have—”

Lips on hers again, silencing her protests, weakening her resistance. Unfair tactic, sure. InuYasha couldn’t stand to hear her say the words. Softness, silken threads of flesh opened to him, invited him. She writhed in his arms, moaned as he drew on her. Her lips swelled, her flesh burned through her clothes, seared his body, branded him as hers alone.

He pushed her back, pinned her down. She accepted his weight without a second thought. Lost in his kiss, unable to think, she reacted on instinct. Pulling at his shoulders, she pressed against him, using her flesh to find what she wanted. The thin fabric that separated her body from his touch was a weak barrier, easily removed. She gasped as he dragged his claws down her body, deliberately taunting her. He pulled away from her to stare at the woman he’d exposed. Her arms lifted to cover herself as a heated flush stole over her flesh. His growl stopped her.

Her eyes burned dark, reflecting the raw yearning that he knew she saw in his own. Lips swollen, eyes half-closed, hands helplessly beside her head, spread eagle, and yet he was compelled to ask. “Do you . . . do you want this? You can’t leave if . . . you’ll be mine.”

Eyebrows drawing together into a frown, Kagome didn’t answer with words. She sat up and reached out, working the bindings of his clothing, her fingers trembling, lingering, as she peeled away the layers to touch the flesh beneath.

His mind screamed out for him to take her. His will resisted for her sake. With a childlike innocence, she stared, daring to touch him as he sat back, hands closing around fistfuls of blanket. Every muscle in his body was tense, tight, constricted. If he trusted himself to move, he would have taken her into his arms. He didn’t dare. If he tried, he’d lose himself to his youkai blood, and though the end result would be the same, the way of getting there would not.

She drew herself against him, her lips seeking out his as her body pressed against him. The shock of flesh meeting flesh was enough to make him gasp. He could feel himself surge against her, and he wrapped his arms around her, shifting their positions, lowering her down again. Hands wandering, mouths exploring, gentle nipping leading to soft sighs, moans. She shuddered under his perusal, claws that ripped apart threatening youkai were graceful and teasing as he discovered her body.

The rosy flesh of her nipples thrilled him. Swirling his tongue around them forced whimpers from deep inside her as another scent, a baser one, assailed him. Instinct told him what it was. She was ready for him. Still he held back. Prolonging her pleasure was killing him. Being rewarded by her body was enough.

Fangs raking gently over the sensitive skin of her breast, he drew her deep, tasted her slowly, growled softly as his fingers trailed lower, dancing over her belly, brushing over the soft curls that beckoned him. Rubbing his knuckle along the searing moist seam, he groaned as she parted her legs further, as she lifted her hips to meet his touch.

She tugged at his shoulders, pulled on his hair, fingers twining in the silken strands, she couldn’t form coherent words. “I can’t . . .” she whimpered.

He relented. Brushing against her body, he dragged himself upward. As his lips fell to hers again, he pressed into her. The shock of the act coupled with the wash of new sensation left his mind scattered. The tightness that cosseted him . . . the unbelievable heat . . . wet and dark and somehow brilliant, she trembled around him, dragging him deeper as a gentle resistance gave way. She winced then gasped, arching her hips off the ground. He leaned down, kissed her, soothed away the impatience in her aura as he gentled her with his lips.

Bracing his knee between her spread thighs, he rocked her gently, soothing her as she quivered. Her body pulsed around him, goading him on as he gave in to the instinct and concentrated on the muffled gasps, the cries that were magnified as he returned the sounds. As if caught in the rushing waves of the ocean, the resonance of his blood surging through him goaded him on, moved him forward. Kagome contracted around him, her head tilting back even further as a sighing moan cut the stillness of the forest.

It wasn’t enough. Content in the pleasure that rippled from her, he held himself back time and again. The urge to plunder gave way to the need to shelter, to provide for her heart before he sought his own peace. She was a rare thing, a gift of true beauty. Someone like her only came around once in a lifetime, and he was fortunate enough to have found her.

She rose against him, her body demanding everything he was willing to give. Skin flushed, she tossed her head from side to side, hair pooling around her like a storm cloud in a bittersweet dream. She wrapped her legs around his waist, her hips grinding against his as she met his rhythm, thrust for thrust. The feel of her body squeezing and releasing around him was driving him mad. It was too much, and yet not quite enough, at all.

His defenses couldn’t take the constant onslaught, the overwhelming need to bind them together. Sensation converged with emotion, twisted upon itself, drawing one from the other into a tangled web of death and rebirth, of need and desire, of yearning and the satiation of the flesh. He buried himself inside her, throbbing, pulsing, thickening, as his heart cried out her name, the echo of the sound coming back to him, only to be lost as his thoughts scattered faster than he could make sense of them all.

Everything ceased to exist around him. Something burned through him, seared him, coursed from him to her as the full moon smiled, and he collapsed against her, over her heart. In the darkness, he could see her smile.

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

She was rubbing his ears. He hadn’t realized that before. He didn’t remember rolling over, or that he’d dragged her with him. Cradled atop his chest, she sighed. It took a moment for the sound to make sense to him. It was one he hadn’t heard from her in a long time. She was happy. He grinned. Then again, so was he . . .

She’s mine now. She’s my mate.’ That thought was enough to make him chuckle, and Kagome lifted her head to stare into his eyes.

“What’s so funny?”

“Not funny,” he corrected. “I just felt like laughing.”

She grinned. “Now I’m really worried, then. You never just feel like laughing.”

He chuckled again, pulling her down to kiss her. “You look tired,” he said, pushing her bangs out of her face.

She sighed. “Maybe.” Her bravado was rendered ineffective with the wide yawn that followed.

Drawing his haori over her to protect her against the cool night air, InuYasha stared over her head at the moon. It spoke to him. He frowned, the ancient language unknown.

“What now?”

InuYasha blinked, puzzled by Kagome’s softly uttered question. “What do you mean?”

She shrugged, nestling closer to him. Her voice was tinged with lethargy when she spoke. “What did you mean when you said that I’m yours?”

“Keh!” He sighed. Maybe he would have to explain this to her . . . “It means exactly what I said. You’re mine: my mate.”

“Your . . . what?

InuYasha could feel himself blushing. Thankful that the light was dim enough to hide the redness, he growled. “Mate, wench, mate! For life.”

“You mean like, married?

“Youkai don’t marry.”

Kagome sat up and turned to glare at him. “You’re not full youkai! You’re half human, and humans do marry!” She waved her hands quickly to stave back InuYasha’s retort. “That’s not the point! I don’t remember you asking me to be your mate!”

He sat up, too. “I did!”

“When?”

“When I asked you if you were sure!”

Kagome’s mouth fell open. “That’s what you were asking? I thought you meant—I wasn’t thinking straight at the time!”

“What would you have said?”

Her expression softened. He flinched. He’d tried to make his voice neutral. He guessed it hadn’t worked. “I don’t know . . . I think I would have said yes.”

Relief flooded over him. He pulled her into his embrace again. She rested her head on his shoulder as he lay back. “I still have to go back,” she finally said. He didn’t miss the sleepiness of her voice.

What? In case you didn’t know, mated means—”

She giggled softly. “Means that I really have to tell my mother, wouldn’t you agree?”

The irritation melted away. InuYasha sighed. “Okay, but I’m going with you.”

“Mmm-hmm.”

Her breathing changed slowly as she surrendered to sleep. InuYasha held her close.

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

The sudden lack of warmth woke her. She wasn’t sure what time it was, but the moon was on the other side of the sky above, and she blinked, trying to clear away the last edges of sleep. “InuYasha?”

The clearing was silent. She stared into the surrounding darkness. The fire rat haori still covered her. She frowned. The rest of his clothes were gone, and so was he.

Where did he go?

Kagome dug into her bag to find some clothes. She shook her head as she dropped the remnants of her pajamas into the fire but couldn’t help the smile that came to her lips at the memory of what had happened to the items. The clothing burned quickly, and she poked at the glowing embers of the fire and dropping on a few logs.

‘Mated,’ she thought with a smile. As odd as the term seemed to her, it somehow fit InuYasha. He’d never been one to stand on convention anyway. ‘Maybe my worries were stupid, after all.’ With a lurch of her heart, Kagome realized something else. ‘He chose . . . me . . . and if he chose me, then maybe he didn’t ever want to go to hell with Kikyou . . . Maybe I was wrong all this time . . .’

After setting the teapot into the edge of the fire, Kagome sank back down on the blankets. Wherever InuYasha had gone, surely he’d be back soon. The sun was beginning to rise, and he always wanted to leave right away when there was enough light to travel.

A familiar cold drifted over her skin. Kagome shivered and looked up out of habit. One of Kikyou’s Shini-dama-chuu circled above, and all at once, her bubble of contentment burst. ‘Surely he wouldn’t . . . not after . . . no . . .’

She stood slowly as InuYasha stepped out of the trees. Seeing Kagome standing there, he stopped abruptly, eyes inscrutable. Kagome swallowed hard, blinking back tears that rose in her eyes. For long minutes, they stared at each other. She tried to read the expression on his face. He tried to hide it from her. A rift seemed to open at her feet, invisible but threatening nonetheless.

“If you tell me you weren’t with her,” she said quietly, “I’ll believe you.”

His gaze fell away, and Kagome’s heart shattered.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

InuYasha stared into the black hole of the Bone Eater’s Well with a dejected expression and a frustrated sigh. It had been four days since she’d crossed over. Had it been long enough? Not wanting to upset her further, he’d stayed on this side of the well, fully intending to give Kagome time to settle down before he tried to talk to her again.

If you tell me you weren’t with her, I’ll believe you.

He’d known then that he was in trouble. It wasn’t so much that he’d gone to see Kikyou, he supposed. More, the timing of it had bothered Kagome, and the hell of it was, InuYasha could understand that. For some reason, she’d always been so insecure when it came to Kikyou, and considering what had just happened before that . . . The hanyou sighed again.

It wasn’t what—

Kagome cut him off with a weak, incredulous laugh as she turned and snatched up her blankets. “You know? Don’t. Just . . . don’t.”

Crossing to her, he caught her hand, forced her to look at him. “Listen to me!” Grasping her shoulders as her eyes welled with tears . . . “It wasn’t what you think!

She shook him off, snatched up her bag, and disappeared into the trees, stuffing her blankets into the backpack without missing a step. He’d had to put out the fire before he could follow her, and he when caught up with her, her sadness had been replaced by anger. He was swimming in dangerous waters, and he knew it. “Kagome?

Her unnaturally soft tone had set off warning bells in his head. “Yes?

He ignored them. “You were sleeping, and I didn’t want to wake you up.”

She choked out an incredulous laugh. “Thanks for thinking of me, InuYasha. I appreciate it.”

I wanted to tell her—

Osuwari!

A small voice interrupted the memory. InuYasha, for once, was glad for the intrusion. “She wouldn’t run home so often if you’d stop upsetting her,” Shippou pointed out matter-of-factly. He ducked over the side of the well to hide. When InuYasha didn’t move to grab him, he poked his head up to gawp. “When are you going to go get her? InuYasha?”

“I heard you, Shippou,” InuYasha replied, his ears drooping just a little more. ‘Damn, baka! How could you be so fucking stupid?

Miroku shrugged, having seen InuYasha chasing after Kagome as she had made a beeline for the well. “What did happen this time, InuYasha? Kagome didn’t even stop in to say hello before she’d gone, and that is strange.”

“I went to see Kikyou,” InuYasha mumbled, half-hoping the monk wouldn’t hear.

Miroku grimaced. “Well now, that was foolish.”

“You don’t know the half of it.”

“Oh? Do tell.”

“Yeah, I’d rather not.”

“You’d feel better if my made a clean breast of things.”

“And you’d feel better if you minded your own damn business.”

“Ah, but your business is far more entertaining.”

InuYasha shot the monk a fulminating glower. Standing up with a sigh, he straightened Tetsusaiga and drew a deep breath before hopping onto the side of the well. ‘Prepare to do serious groveling if you have to, baka,’ he told himself sternly. “I’ll be back,” he called over his shoulder as he dropped into the well. ‘Hopefully sooner than later.’

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

Kagome gripped the side of the toilet as she sank back on her heels, eyes closed as her stomach finally stopped churning. Managing to stumble to her feet, she brushed her teeth, scrubbing so hard that it was a wonder that the enamel didn’t flake off. A quick glance in the mirror confirmed what she’d feared. She looked half-dead. Skin pale, eyes sunken, deep purple smudges underneath, she could only groan at her reflection before turning away.

At least now I have an excuse if InuYasha shows up to drag me back,’ she thought with a sigh as she pushed out of the bathroom and padded toward the kitchen.

“Feeling any better, Kagome?”

She shook her head miserably as her mother got up and dug around in the cupboard to retrieve the flu medicine. She set two capsules down on the table near her daughter then hurried over to the refrigerator to get a bottle of water. “Thanks, Mama,” Kagome said as she forced down the first tablet. Her stomach lurched again in protest of the cold fluid. She swallowed a few more times for good measure before taking the remaining pill.

Her mother’s cool hand came to rest on her forehead, and Kagome grimaced. “You’ve got a slight fever, dear. You weren’t planning on leaving with InuYasha today, were you?”

Hesitating before answering, Kagome made a face and swallowed hard as bile rose again. “Err, no.”

Mrs. Higurashi stopped and stared curiously at Kagome. “Is something bothering you?”

Forcing a wan smile, Kagome took her water and headed for the doorway. “I think I need to lie down again. Thanks again, Mama.”

She’d tried numerous times in the last few days to tell her mother what had happened . . . at least, part of it. With the upset over InuYasha’s visit with Kikyou fresh in Kagome’s mind, she just couldn’t make herself say anything. Then yesterday, when she had finally gotten a better grip on her anger, she’d gotten sick. She set the water bottle on the desk and let herself flop onto her bed with a groan.

Fine time to get sick, Kagome,’ she chided herself as another wave of nausea swept through her. Lying perfectly still helped some. Unfortunately, it also brought on a round of chills. She reached over cautiously, trying to retrieve her blankets without moving too much. It didn’t work. Aches, pains, chills, and nausea all hit her, and she bolted off the bed to the trash can, which was the closest thing on hand, and heaved again.

“Kagome, we need to . . . Oi! You’re sick!”

Wiping her mouth on the back of a shaking hand, Kagome turned slowly, pinning the hanyou with a dark glower. Her retort was cut off when another bout of retching hit her. InuYasha was beside himself. Awkwardly stroking her hair away from her face, he flinched as her small form shook and heaved. Finally she stopped, dragging in deep breaths as she leaned away from the trash can. InuYasha made a face. “I can’t go back yet,” she said, her voice shaking precariously.

“I wasn’t going to ask you to,” he assured her. She gestured at the bottle of water on the desk. He handed it over.

Kagome took a swig of water, swished it around her mouth, and spit into the can. With a sigh of relief, she slumped back against the bed, teeth chattering from the still-present fever. She groaned softly, realizing too late that she very likely threw up the medicine she’d choked down in the kitchen. He noticed her discomfort and dragged her blankets off the bed to wrap around her. “Thanks,” she said, careful to keep her teeth from jarring together. “You should go. I don’t want you to get sick, too.”

“Keh! You can’t make me sick, wench.” His rebellious expression dimmed as he stared at her. She looked away, unable to deal with the concern that had surfaced in its place. “You should be in your bed.”

Kagome shook her head. “C-c-can’t m-m-move,” she shivered.

InuYasha carefully lifted her despite her protests and laid her on the bed. After making sure she was covered from head to foot, he stared at her for another moment then grabbed the trashcan and headed out of the room.

‘Why does he confuse me so much? One minute he’s being thoughtful and sweet, and the next . . .’ She sighed. It hurt to think at the moment. Her head throbbed painfully, and she was afraid that if she moved, she’d have to throw up all over again.

Marching back into her room without the trashcan and with an armload of blankets, Kagome couldn’t help the small smile that broke over her face as he gently spread them over her. “Better?”

She nodded. “Thank you.”

With a sigh, he sank down on the edge of her bed. Staring at her as though he wanted to tell her something yet was scared to do it, Kagome knew what he was going to say before he even opened his mouth.

“Don’t, please?” she begged as she turned her face away. Tears welled up in her heart. They didn’t come to her eyes. Maybe she was too used to it, resigned to it. Whatever the reason, her eyes were hot, dry, aching. “Look, I just got done being angry with you, and right now, I don’t have the energy to fight.”

He didn’t answer but he didn’t move, either. He reached up to feel her forehead. “A little warm. How long have you been sick?”

“Since yesterday,” she replied, figuring it was a safe enough subject. “You didn’t have to come get me.”

“Keh! You’re my mate, remember? Pretty bad if I left you here alone.”

That reminder was something that Kagome didn’t need. Tears sprang to her eyes, and she blinked hard to stave them back. ‘He’s probably regretting that,’ she thought wryly. ‘How would I like it? To be stuck with the reincarnation of the one that I . . . Don’t finish that thought.’

“Anyway,” he went on, as though he was trying to figure out something neutral to say, “we can stay here as long as you need to.”

Another wave of nausea hit though it wasn’t quite as bad as the others. She moaned softly. InuYasha flinched. “Are you warm enough?”

She didn’t answer. Eyes drifting closed and cosseted in the feathery down of sleep, Kagome gave in to sleep.

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

He stared at her for a long time. He’d really done it this time, hadn’t he? In the past she’d always forgiven him, not that there was anything to forgive. He’d tried to explain it to her so many times, but Kagome just didn’t want to listen, and he always ended up feeling like a baka for it.

But this time . . . ‘If only she’d let me explain,’ he thought with a disgusted frown.

She had fallen asleep so quickly, she looked so happy, so content . . .

When Kikyou’s Shini-dama-chuu had swooped into the clearing, InuYasha hadn’t actually considered following them, at first, but the longer he stared at Kagome’s peaceful face, the more he had realized that he wanted to see Kikyou, for Kagome’s sake, so that the tranquil look she had at that moment would last forever . . .

He’d carefully untangled himself from her, hating to lose the warmth, the contact of her body against his. ‘She’ll be fine,’ he assured himself as he dressed. ‘She’s strong. . .’

Sparing a second to kiss her cheek and move her bow and arrows closer, InuYasha ran after the soul collectors, drawn to Kikyou’s barrier.

InuYasha! You’re looking well.”

He didn’t smile at the miko but it was a close thing. Strange how things had changed over time. There used to be a time when InuYasha would have given his soul, would have chased Kikyou to hell, if it would have saved her or offered her some measure of comfort. Now when he looked at her, he saw a friend; someone who understood the boy he was and knew him for the man he had become. “Kikyou.”

It’s been a long time. How are you?”

The melancholy blue light of Kikyou’s barrier shadowed everything with an eerie glow. “Not so bad.”

Kikyou slowly nodded. “How is Kagome?”

She’s good.” The leaves of the trees in the barrier didn’t move; as though everything was suspended—as though time, itself, had stopped. “Is there something you needed?

Kikyou frowned, staring down at her hands before she dared to look at him. Finally she did, and her expression was sadder than he could remember. “Kaede . . . Kaede is dying. Kagome is needed there. They need a miko, and Kagome . . . I think it’s her place. This is what Kaede wants, why she’s trained Kagome from the start.”

Two soul collectors dove in low, dropping souls into Kikyou’s body. InuYasha nodded slowly as he watched their serpentine bodies float away, never near but never far, either. “Kagome agreed,” he said without clarifying.

Kikyou looked shocked for a moment, as though it was something that she hadn’t expected. Then she smiled wanly, sadly, and nodded. “Was there ever a question of whether or not she would?

InuYasha let out a deep breath. He hadn’t realized he was holding it in . . . “I wondered.”

Kikyou’s smile widened, and she stepped forward to brush a kiss over his cheek. “All is as it should be, then. Congratulations, both of you.”

He turned to go then stopped but didn’t look back. “Goodbye, Kikyou.”

He almost missed her answer. “Goodbye, InuYasha.”

With a start, InuYasha blinked and glanced around at the feminine bedroom. Everything was neat and orderly, just like Kagome, herself. The stench of her sickness still lingered in the room but was overshadowed by her more vibrant scent.

He had to find a way to get her to listen. Kikyou was a friend—just a friend. Kagome . . . Kagome was his mate.

Tilting his head to the side, InuYasha frowned as he stared at her face. Being sick for the last two days had taken its toll on her. Her already slender wrists looked even smaller, her eyes sunken slightly, skin frighteningly pale. He leaned in closer to feel her head. Her temperature seemed to be normal again. Why did she still look so sick?

He shook his head. He didn’t really know anything about human illnesses. He never got them, so he hadn’t worried about them, other than once, when Kagome had gotten sick, but she was strong. She’d be fine, right?

With a tired yawn, InuYasha stretched then carefully lay down next to her.

Maybe she’d feel better in the morning . . .

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

InuYasha stared at Kagome as though she had announced that she was flying to the moon and was set to blast off in the morning. “What?

Kagome sat on her bed, hands folded in her lap. Her cheeks were deep pink, and she refused to meet his gaze. “Please, InuYasha. Can we not tell anyone just yet?”

Reining in the perverse desire to smash something, InuYasha drew a deep breath and pinned Kagome with a frustrated glower. “Let me get this straight: you’re my mate, and you don’t want to tell anyone this, including your mother . . . for how long?”

She shrugged almost imperceptibly. “Just give me time to get used to it.”

He wanted to argue with her, but she still didn’t look very well, and InuYasha didn’t have the heart to upset her any further. For the last week, he’d been reduced to standing by helplessly as Kagome had gotten sick over and over again. “Okay,” he agreed though he looked anything but happy about it. “For awhile, anyway, but only for awhile.”

Her smile was wan but from the heart. “Thank you.”

He relented, sinking down beside her. Pushing her hair back out of her eyes, he sighed. “You’re sure you’re feeling better?”

“Yes, I am,” she assured him. “Anyway, I’m sure that the others are wondering where we’ve been. It’s about time we went back, don’t you think?”

“Thought you were staying here forever.”

“Thought you said you’d come after me if I tried.”

He stared at her for a moment then shook his head. “You remember too much.”

She flopped back on the bed, staring up at him through half-closed eyes. He blinked in surprise as he stared at her. Did she realize what sort of vision she presented to him? ‘Baka. Of course she doesn’t.’

“If you don’t want me to go back with you,” she said slowly, “then I can always stay here.”

He growled. The idea of her remaining in her time didn’t sit well with him at all. “Oh, no, you’re not getting off that easy. We’ve got work to do.” Catching her hands and dragging her to her feet, Kagome looked slightly ill for just a second before she got herself back under control. “You okay?”

With a tight smile, she nodded, retrieving her monstrosity of a backpack before she headed for the door. “I’m fine. Stop worrying, will you?”

He didn’t follow right away. Something was still wrong with her. He snorted. The trouble was that he’d heard a few rumors of a dark youkai presence not far from the village. He had wanted to check into it when they went back. Miroku said that the villagers had mentioned that some of their livestock had been disappearing of late. If Kagome was still sick, though, there was no way he was taking her anywhere that had the potential of being dangerous.

He could leave her with Sango, he supposed. Miroku, the slacker, hadn’t done much of anything since getting married. The lecher probably didn’t have the fight in him anymore. ‘I’ll put the fight back into that useless monk,’ InuYasha decided as he strode out of the bedroom. ‘See if I don’t.’

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

“Kagome, we’ve been so worried!” Sango said as she hugged her friend. Kagome squeaked at the unexpected show of affection but hugged the youkai exterminator back. “What did he do this time?”

With a rueful grin, Kagome sighed and shook her head, determined not to lay her troubles on Sango’s shoulders. Besides that, she really wouldn’t have any idea where to start. “I wasn’t feeling well,” she said instead. It wasn’t a complete lie; she had gotten sick. Actually, she still felt a little queasy. That she had managed to hide it from both InuYasha as well as her mother, though, made her feel a little better.

Sango stared at Kagome with a thoughtful frown. “You’ve lost weight,” she said in an accusing tone. “Don’t deny it, either. You didn’t have much to spare, in the first place.”

“I had the flu,” Kagome remarked, hoping that Sango would let the subject drop.

She was saved as Shippou bounded into the hut, hurtling himself into Kagome’s lap. “Did you bring me anything?” The young kitsune stopped abruptly and sniffed, suspicion filtering over his features. “Why do you smell like InuYasha?”

She could feel heat creeping over her skin. Kagome forced a bright smile and a happy tone. “What are you talking about?”

Shippou sniffed again. “You smell just like him, Kagome! If I didn’t know better, I’d swear you were him.” Kagome dug into her backpack and produced a spinning lollipop for the kitsune. Shippou squealed in delight and ran off with the treasured treat, calling back over his shoulder, “Thanks, Kagome!”

Relieved to have ended that line of questioning, Kagome turned just in time to catch Sango’s calculating stare. She schooled her features and waited for the gauntlet to fall. “What did Shippou mean?”

She fidgeted under the youkai exterminator’s probing gaze. “Hmm? About what?”

Sango wasn’t buying Kagome’s feigned preoccupation as the miko dug around in her bag for something. “About your smell.”

Kagome squelched a groan. Sango was too good a youkai exterminator not to realize the implications of Shippou’s words. “Well, InuYasha did take care of me while I was sick,” she said, feeling lame and knowing that Sango could probably see right through her words.

Sango sighed and shrugged. “You’ll tell me the rest of it when you’re ready, right?”

Kagome leaned forward and removed the lid on the pot of food. The smell tantalized her. She’d not eaten much of anything in the last few days, and her stomach rumbled loudly at the impromptu reminder. She blushed as Sango giggled. “Sorry about that.”

The exterminator dished up a bowl and handed it over. “Glad you like my cooking.”

Kagome breathed in deeply with a dreamy smile on her face. Suddenly, though, the smell turned bitter in her nose. With a smothered gasp, she set the bowl aside and stumbled to her feet and out of the hut. Barely managing to reach the tree line before she fell to her knees, Kagome retched piteously.

She hadn’t realized that Sango followed her until she felt the soothing hand on her back. “Kagome? You’re still sick? Do you need to go back home?”

Sinking back on her heels, Kagome drew a stunted breath and wiped her mouth with the back of a shaking hand. “No . . . I’ll be fine . . .” Turning to stare at her friend, Kagome flinched at the unmasked concern evident in Sango’s expression. “Please don’t tell InuYasha. He’s already worried enough, as it is.”

“All right,” Sango agreed slowly as she stared at her best friend.

Kagome nodded, trying to ignore the questions awash in Sango’s eyes. She hadn’t had to speak them out loud for Kagome to understand them. ‘Kagome, are you really fine? Can’t you tell me the truth?

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

“I could be in my nice, warm bed with my nice, warm wife right now,” Miroku pointed out for the fifteenth time in ten minutes. InuYasha rolled his eyes and stared up at the stars. They’d spent the entire day searching for the youkai responsible for stealing the villagers’ livestock, and Miroku was in a bad mood because of it.

InuYasha, himself, wasn’t in a much better one, though his was caused by something completely different. “Enough, already, lecher! Shut up and go to sleep.”

Miroku sat up at that, stabbing InuYasha with a pointed scowl. “I’ll have you know I haven’t ‘lech’ed’ anyone since I got married.”

“Once a pervert, always a pervert,” InuYasha shot back

“I’m a changed man.”

“Right,” InuYasha scoffed. “And I have fleas.”

A sudden sting on his neck made InuYasha slap himself. “Ow!” Myouga the flea youkai moaned pathetically and came away with the hanyou’s hand. Miroku turned away with a marked grin. “Shut up, monk.”

“I told you,” Miroku gloated.

InuYasha shot to his feet and stomped away from the camp. He’d promised Kagome he wouldn’t let the monk bait him. She’d be furious if he gave in to the very real urge to knock Miroku down a few pegs. “Where’ve you been hiding?” he asked Myouga, turning his wrath on the flea instead.

Myouga jumped out of his hand and lit on his shoulder, edging closer and closer in his bid to sneak a meal. “I’ve not been hiding! You wound me, InuYasha-sama!”

InuYasha snorted and let the flea-youkai fall from his palm. “I’ll wound you, all right. What do you want, anyway?”

Myouga hopped back onto InuYasha’s shoulder and managed to draw more blood before he was slapped again. “Ungh!”

“Is it really worth being flattened just for that?”

“InuYasha-sama . . .”

“What?”

“You taste different.”

InuYasha hopped up into a tree just outside the ring of light. “How’s that?”

Myouga gave up on his plight to steal a meal since he’d only get flattened for his efforts, making himself comfortable, squatting on the hanyou’s knee instead. “I don’t know. Your father’s taste only changed after he’d mated, and . . .” The flea trailed off, eyes narrowing suspiciously as InuYasha turned his reddening face to the side. “InuYasha-sama? Have you and Kagome-sama—-?”

“Say it and die, Myouga!” InuYasha snarled.

“But this is cause for great celebration! Oh, what a happy day! Tell me, when did this happen?”

InuYasha gave up. It didn’t do any good trying to keep this sort of thing a secret, anyway, especially from other youkai. They just knew. “Two weeks ago.”

“Two weeks ago, how nice! Two weeks ago . . .” Myouga trailed off and shot to his feet, staring at InuYasha in something akin to astonishment. InuYasha glared. “Two weeks ago? On the full moon? You . . . did you?”

Uncomfortable talking about this sort of thing with anyone, let alone a busybody like Myouga, InuYasha growled before answering. “What does it matter, when? It happened; that’s all.”

Myouga hopped onto InuYasha’s prayer bead necklace. The hanyou had to cross his eyes to see him in the darkness. “It matters, Lord InuYasha! It matters much more than you know! Unlike full youkai, who choose to produce their young at will, hanyous like you are different! In order to protect the blood lines, hanyous are only allowed to impregnate their mates at certain times!”

He had a feeling he wasn’t going to like where this little talk was leading. On the other hand, InuYasha also had the feeling that this was something he’d really better listen to. “What are you saying, Myouga?”

“Your period of vulnerability, InuYasha-sama! Yours is the—” Myouga cut himself off, glancing side to side as though he feared being overheard. Satisfied that no one was listening in, the flea-youkai continued, “—new moon . . . On such a night, you and your lady would produce a human child, like her. The other time is the lunar opposite for you, and the resulting child would be a hanyou, like yourself.”

It took a few minutes for InuYasha’s numbed brain to absorb what Myouga had just told him. “No . . .” InuYasha said slowly, shaking his head in denial even as the torrent of memories of that night flooded over him. The lure of the full moon . . . the words he couldn’t understand . . . True enough, full moon or not, he would have claimed Kagome anyway, but this . . .

“Congratulations, InuYasha! You’re going to be a father? Remarkable . . . I always imagined it would be me, first, though it hasn’t been from lack of trying . . .”

Stifling a groan, InuYasha dared to peek down at the ground where the voice had originated. Slowly, deliberately, InuYasha dropped out of the tree and advanced on the monk, hand resting on the hilt of Tetsusaiga. “Tell anyone about this, monk, and I swear I’ll slice you to bits.”

Miroku’s eyes widened, and he grinned though he did very slowly back away from InuYasha. “I would think tidings of this nature would please you! They don’t?”

“Keh!” InuYasha snorted, stalking slowly forward. “Considering I haven’t gotten to tell Kagome yet, and you know first? And considering she wanted to keep the entire thing a secret for awhile? Well . . . hell no, I’m not pleased!”

Understanding dawned on the monk, and he lifted his hand perpendicular to his nose, closed his eyes, and bowed. “I see. My lips are sealed, then.”

InuYasha glared at Miroku for another moment before letting his hand drop away from Tetsusaiga and stomping back over to the fire. Miroku followed behind, a strange smile lighting his expression. InuYasha chose to ignore it. “Can I at least tell Sango?” InuYasha started to rise up from his crouch, raising his fist and glowering. Miroku relented, holding up his hands in an admission of defeat. “You win; I tell no one.”

Only then did InuYasha relax. For all his faults, Miroku always kept his word. He sighed. ‘How the fuck am I going to explain this to Kagome?

A sudden image of his child, running through the village, playing with other children made him smile. The villagers had slowly begun to accept him. They’d already accepted Kagome. His child would have that, at the very least.

His smile faded at the idea of telling Kagome what he’d just learned. He couldn’t quite muster the bravado to tell himself that Kagome wouldn’t be angry. She’d be angry, all right. He grimaced. He’d be lucky if Kagome only got angry. No, he knew—just knew in no uncertain terms that he was going to die . . .

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Kagome made a face as she swallowed the multi-vitamin. She picked some up the other day just before returning to Sengoku Jidai. Now she was glad she had. If she wasn’t able to hold something down soon, then she’d waste away to nothing. The vitamins had to help.

“I wonder if Miroku and InuYasha found the youkai that’s been causing all the trouble,” Sango remarked as she straightened the hut she called home. Kagome grabbed the makeshift broom and started to sweep the floor. “They’ve been gone over a day already . . . .” she trailed off, pausing to stare at Kagome with marked concern. “Why don’t you sit down? I can take care of that.”

Kagome waved off Sango’s alarm, trying to hide the way her hands shook as she gripped the broom. “I’ll be fine. I feel like I’ve done nothing for the last few days but lie around, anyway.”

That was true enough. After her unceremonious arrival, Sango had insisted that she at least lay down since Kagome didn’t want to go home. It was starting to worry Kagome, too, because she’d never been sick this long before, either. It didn’t make any sense, though. She felt fine when she lay down, but the moment she got up, she couldn’t help but feel nauseous, and most of the time, trying to talk herself out of throwing up didn’t work.

The bamboo mat that hung over the doorway opened. Shippou bounced into the hut followed by Kaede. The old miko came straight to Kagome, her kind old face contorted in a distinguishable frown. “What ails ye, Kagome? Young Shippou tells me ye have been sick this long while.”

“I was worried, Kagome,” Shippou said quietly, staring at his feet. “Please don’t be mad.”

“Oh, Shippou! I’m not mad,” she assured the kitsune.

Shippou peeked up at her. “Really?”

“Really.”

“Kagome,” Kaede interrupted. “How long have ye been sick?”

Kagome sighed, gripping her forehead as she tried to remember when her illness had started. It felt as though it had been forever. “Almost two weeks,” she admitted.

Sango gasped, having not realized just how long Kagome had been sick. Shippou made a small whining sound. Kaede’s eyes widened then narrowed. She wasn’t sure what the old miko was thinking, but for some reason, Kagome shifted uncomfortably under the close scrutiny. “That is an awfully long time to be so ill,” Kaede finally said. “Perhaps ye should return to your era and see one of your ‘doctors’?”

Making a face and waving a hand, Kagome forced a laugh. She’d told them all about doctors in her time. They all seemed to think that doctors in general were akin to miracle workers. “I’m telling all of you, I’m fine! Besides, InuYasha would just get angry if I left, so what’s the point?”

“InuYasha would want you to get better, Kagome,” Sango argued gently. “He cares about you. We all do.”

Kagome made a face and forced a nervous laugh. “I’m okay, really. I promise.”

“Shippou, will ye return to my hut and fetch my herbs?” Kaede asked. Shippou nodded and scurried out the door. Kaede watched him go before turning back to Kagome and leveling one of her no-nonsense looks at her. “Tell me, Kagome . . . have InuYasha and ye . . . joined?”

Sango’s eyes bugged out as her mouth dropped open. “Kagome?”

Kagome twisted her fingers together as her face shot up in mortified flames. She was saved from answering, though, when a huge crash of—something—shook the hut. Villagers’ terrified screams echoed through the open windows, and Kaede gasped as she looked outside. “It is back!” she informed them.

Snatching her bow and arrows while Sango grabbed Hiraikotsu, Kagome ran outside. Pushing their way through the chaotic scramble of fleeing villagers, the two exchanged worried glances. Hefting the giant bone boomerang over her shoulder, Sango’s gaze lit with determination as a deafening growl shook the huts and stirred the trees surrounding the village.

The ten-foot-tall brown oni lumbered forward, lurching to grab livestock and humans alike. Decimating a hut under the clumsy mass of its immense foot, the oni unleashed another earth-shaking roar as it swung a meaty fist at a nearby dwelling. The building exploded under the force of the strike, and Kagome shielded her face from the flying debris. Her stomach turned over as the oni managed to bite a horse in half with its razor -sharp teeth. The animal’s dying screech reverberated in her ears.

Shippou darted out from behind Kaede on the other side of the oni. “Kitsune-bi!” he hollered, hurling a glowing blue ball of foxfire at the oni. The oni growled furiously as it rounded to look for the youkai-child.

“Shippou, no!” Kagome screamed as another shriek rang out. Kirara, the fire-cat-youkai, in her larger form, plunged through the sky, nabbing the back of Shippou’s shirt in her teeth before leaping out of the way of the oni’s swinging arms.

Allowing herself a moment to breath a sigh of relief, Kagome closed one eye as she nocked back an arrow, carefully taking aim.

Hiraikotsu!” Sangoyelled, unleashing the giant bone boomerang at the beast. It hit the oni’s arm and shot back toward Sango. The oni flailed its arm, waving off the attack as though it were of no more consequence than a fly buzzing around a picnic.

Hit the mark . . .’ Kagome told herself as she let the arrow fly. The tip erupted in her shimmering pink glow and whistled through the air, striking the oni’s arm. The fissure of light intensified as the arrow struck true, and the limb exploded in a flash of dust. The oni screamed, casting its dull, vacant gaze around, seeking her out. Spotting her, it yowled again, altering its course as it shuffled forward to intercept her.

Kagome squeaked out a little shriek and ducked to avoid a sweeping hand, sprinting away from the oni as it drew its arm back for another sweep. With a mighty grunt, Sango whipped Hiraikotsu in a wide arc aimed at the oni’s head. Bouncing off the oni’s thick skin and clattering helplessly to the ground, the oni didn’t alter his path as it lumbered toward Kagome.

It lunged for Kagome, swinging its mighty arm in an effort to capture the miko. She ducked just in time to avoid being hit. Slipping on the packed earth, she scooted back in retreat, rolling onto her hands and knees to push herself to her feet as the splintering crash of another hut was laid to waste. With the oni making another mad grab for her, Kagome tried to nock back an arrow and aim on the run, twisting her torso as she hastily took aim and fired. The arrow sailed cleanly over the oni’s head.

She gasped and jerked as strong arms snatched her off the ground as dull realization cut through the panicked haze that engulfed her mind. Glancing up into InuYasha’s angry countenance, she couldn’t help the absolute relief that coursed through her, couldn’t control the tremor in her knees as her body relaxed against him. He uttered a definitive snort as he glanced around to make sure they were out of the oni’s reach for the moment, his glower shifted back to her and stayed there, eyes blazing, every line of his face taunt, drawn. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing, bitch?” he screamed at her as he leaped out of the way of the oni’s swinging arm again.

Kagome grimaced and glanced down in time to see Miroku toss an Ofuda at the oni. Clawing at its eyes, it stumbled, screeching in rage at the momentary blindness from the paper charm. InuYasha set Kagome on her feet and turned as he drew Tetsusaiga. The fang burst out in a flash of yellow light, and InuYasha shot Kagome a scathing look as he slammed the blade into the earth. “Kaze no Kizu!” The flames from Tetsusaiga shot out from the blade, searing a path across the ground. The attack struck the oni, and InuYasha resheathed the weapon as the beast disintegrated with a howl of pain, a flash of light, an explosion of glittering dust, a blast of unnatural wind.

She flinched when he swung around to face her again. The irritation in his expression hadn’t waned at all. If anything, it had intensified. “InuYasha—”

“Are. You. Stupid?” he bellowed. She shrank back, biting her lip and staring in shock as the hanyou’s tirade escalated. He’d never yelled at her quite like that before. “Were you trying to get yourself and our pup killed?

Dead silence. As though everything in the village had ground to a stop, every single living thing seemed to pause in shock at InuYasha’s bellowed question. Kagome’s brain froze. ‘Wha—? No-o-o-o . . .’ She shook her head, forcing a choked, weak, nervous laugh. “Our wha—I’m not—we aren’t—”

His glower cut her off. “Our pup—you are—and we will.”

Kagome felt the world spinning away from her. The shock of his words coupled with the wave of nausea that hit her hard made her sway slightly as her knees threatened to give out. InuYasha must have sensed it, too, because suddenly he swept her up and strode toward Kaede’s hut, ignoring the bulging eyes and whispers of the stunned villagers as he passed.   “I’m fine, InuYasha,” Kagome whispered. “Put me down.”

“Keh!”

‘A child?’ Kagome moaned, burying her face in InuYasha’s haori. Was she pregnant? As much as her mind tried to deny it, she had to admit that it made sense. That was why she kept feeling queasy, why she was unable to countenance the idea of food without wanting to throw up. The sickness wasn’t from the flu, as she had thought. ‘Morning sickness.

“I didn’t know,” she said quietly as he let her feet drop to the floor inside Kaede’s hut.

He sighed. He let go of her long enough to reposition his hands. Moving her hair, inspecting her for any signs of injuries, Kagome held her tongue till he’d satisfied himself that she was unharmed. “What the hell were you thinking?” he bellowed.

Kagome sighed, rubbing her forehead against the dull throbbing that was threatening to escalate into a full-blown headache. “It was attacking, InuYasha! What was I supposed to do? Run and hide?”

Yes!” he thundered.

She shook her head and shrugged in apology. “I didn’t know . . .”

He paced the floor, hands on hips, as though he were trying to work out some of his remaining irritation. Stopping abruptly, he glanced at her, late fear awash in his fierce gaze, and he dragged her into his arms. “Kagome . . . promise me you won’t do that again. You’ve got to live . . . you’ve got to be here.”

“How do you know?” she asked, her voice muffled by his haori.

He pulled her behind him as he strode over to the wall and sank down, drawing her into his lap. “Myouga . . . told me some things I didn’t know.”

Quietly, he recounted everything Myouga had told him. Kagome listened in silence. The information made her head spin. Full moon, new moon . . . . She let her head fall against InuYasha’s shoulder. He pulled her closer.

“You’re sure?” she questioned.

“Keh.”

“Absolutely sure?”

He grunted.

“So,” she said when he finally stopped talking. “I’m really . . . we’re really . . . wow.”

“I wasn’t going to tell you that way,” he grumbled in the tone that she knew. He only used that particular one when he was embarrassed. That thought alone brought a wan smile to her lips. “I just got upset. I saw you there, and the oni . . . and I . . . I’m sorry.”

Fatigue was fast gathering over Kagome. She yawned and blinked quickly, trying to keep her eyes open. She felt so safe when he was near, and as much as she hated to admit as much, she hadn’t slept well in his absence. “InuYasha?”

“Hmm?”

She sighed, wishing she didn’t have to say what she was thinking, but smiled when she felt the foreign warmth of InuYasha’s lips on her forehead.

“I think . . . I think we’d better tell my mother.”

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“I am not sure what to say.”

Kagome shot InuYasha a helpless look. InuYasha sat up a bit straighter in his chair. “It . . . uh . . . wasn’t planned,” he explained, his face reddening under Mrs. Higurashi’s scrutiny.

Her mother’s eyebrows shot up at that. “I should hope it wasn’t. What do the two of you plan on doing now?”

InuYasha looked like he didn’t quite understand the question. It was his turn to look at Kagome for assistance. “Well, in the youkai world, I guess it’s like we’re married,” she said slowly.

Mrs. Higurashi got up and refilled the tea cups before settling back down to address Kagome’s last statement. “You aren’t youkai, Kagome. You’re human. In the human world, you’re not committed to each other at all.” Her gaze shifted from her daughter to InuYasha, who was struggling so hard to keep his mouth closed that his jaws were bulging. “I’m not trying to belittle your heritage, InuYasha. Please understand.”

“Kagome? Is that something you want?”

She was surprised at both his softly uttered question as well as the fact that he would even consider her feelings on the matter. “Well, yeah, but—”

“Then we’ll do it,” he stated.

Mrs. Higurashi sucked in her cheek as though she was trying to figure out a way to bring up something else. With a sigh, she finally sat back and lifted her eyebrows. “There’s something else you need to do, Kagome. You need to start prenatal visits.”

InuYasha looked completely lost. Kagome couldn’t help the flush that crept up her cheeks at the mention of the impending trips to the doctor. “Okay,” she agreed, seeing no way at all around that. If there was one thing that her mother would not let her get away with, it was skipping the prenatal visits.

Her mother smiled wanly and shook her head just a little. “I can’t say that I’m pleased with this situation, but I can’t say that it was completely unexpected, either.”

Kagome tried not to fidget under her mother’s scrutiny and didn’t dare so much as glance at InuYasha. She could tell by the stiffness in his posture that he was fighting the desire to grab her and run, not that she blamed him. She was hard-pressed not to flee, herself. “I’m sorry, Mama,” she mumbled.

Mrs. Higurashi shook her head. “Don’t be sorry, Kagome, and InuYasha?”

“Yes?”

Kagome thought she could see a hint of a smile twitching on her mother’s lips but wasn’t positive. “I doubt I need to ask this, but you will take care of my daughter, right?”

He blinked, cheeks reddening as he sat up a little straighter. “Keh! I already do, don’t I?”

Mrs. Higurashi nodded, casting the hanyou a weary little grin as she stood up to retrieve a small plate of rice cakes off the counter. “Oh, and I fully expect to see this grandchild of mine very often, understand?”

The phone rang, and Kagome breathed a sigh of relief as her mother set the plate on the table and hurried off to answer the call. InuYasha winced slightly as he reluctantly met Kagome’s stare. “That wasn’t . . . that bad.”

Kagome’s expression darkened slightly as she stared at the hanyou. “Did you want worse?”

“Keh! Hell, no! I’m just surprised.”

She was disgruntled enough that, after drinking the tea left in her cup, she muttered, “It was bad enough, thanks.” She intercepted his thoughtful frown and blinked, casting her eyes from side to side around the rim of the cup. “What?”

“Should you be drinking that? Is it safe? For the pup?”

Rolling her eyes, Kagome could only think, ‘Ahh, it’s going to be a long nine months, isn’t it?’ To InuYasha she measured her tone and said, “I don’t think tea ever hurt a baby.”

If his expression meant anything, InuYasha was set to argue with her about the effects of different things on the baby. She cut him off before he could start as a menacing glower surfaced on her face. She pushed away from the table and made quick work of washing both her and her mother’s empty cups. InuYasha stood and slowly approached her. “Are you feeling any better?” he asked, his gaze probing hers for traces of a lie.

“I’m fine,” she answered with a small smile. “As long as I don’t smell food.”

He flinched and suddenly she found herself dragged against his chest in a fierce hug. “I’m sorry,” he rasped out above her head. She tried to pull away enough to see his face but he held her near. “It’s because of me, and . . . I won’t do this to you, ever again.”

She smiled at the guilt-ridden concern behind his words and let herself feel the contentment of just being held in his arms. At least she knew that he cared for her a little bit. She only wished . . . ‘Stop that! You’ll just upset yourself, and . . . and . . . oh, now look what you’ve done! Stop blubbering like a fool, Kagome! Get a grip on yourself!

“Why are you crying?” he asked, letting go of her only to grasp her arms as he bent down to peer into her face. “Are you sick again? What?”

Miserably, she shook her head, unwilling or unable—she wasn’t sure which—to tell him why she was upset. The longer she refused to answer him, the more worried he grew, and finally, he lifted her and strode off toward her room.

“Stop, Kagome,” he begged as he set her on her bed. “Don’t cry . . . please?”

The harder she tried to stop crying, the harder she cried. InuYasha was beside himself, unable to think of what to do, of how to comfort her. She shook her head, trying to tell him that it wasn’t his fault, that she was just being emotional. The words wouldn’t come, and that made her cry even harder.

“What? Was it something I said? I’m sorry! Whatever I did, I’m sorry!” he babbled, stroking her hair, wiping her tears. “Just stop, please stop!”

Her wailing escalated. She didn’t hear the soft knock on her door. InuYasha did. Wrenching the handle, he threw the door open wide, a look of relief flooding over his features as Mrs. Higurashi peeked over his shoulder at her sobbing daughter. “I thought I’d see if everything was all right,” she explained, her voice making InuYasha flinch inwardly.

“I didn’t do anything,” he blurted. “I don’t know why she started crying!”

She patted his shoulder and jerked her head toward the hallway, asking him to give her a few minutes alone with Kagome. He didn’t look like he wanted to do leave but after staring sadly at the weeping girl, he finally he nodded and stepped out into the hallway. Mrs. Higurashi offered him an encouraging smile as he slumped back against the wall, arms crossed over his chest. He’d obviously decided to wait it out right there.

“Kagome?”

Kagome sniffled and sat up as tears still coursed down her face. “Mama?” She glanced around the room. “Where—is—he?” she gasped out between hiccups.

Mrs. Higurashi smiled gently as she sank down on the bed beside her daughter. “He’s out in the hallway. I think you’ve frightened him. Care to tell me why you’re crying?”

Shaking her head sadly and accepting the tissue that her mother offered, Kagome wiped her eyes and blew her nose. “I don’t know why,” she admitted. “I just . . . and he . . .”

Smoothing back Kagome’s hair, Mrs. Higurashi pulled her daughter next to her and wrapped her arm around her. Kagome let her head fall against her mother’s shoulder. “It’s never easy, is it, Kagome? Aren’t you happy about your baby?”

Kagome drew a stuttered breath and swiped at her still-watering eyes. “Yeah . . . I think so . . . I just found out before we came to tell you, but . . . why aren’t you more upset? Disappointed in me?”

Her mother’s gentle laughter soothed Kagome as much as the tender squeeze on her shoulders. “You’ve grown up, Kagome. I’ll admit, I was worried when you chose to keep returning to the past. You’re old enough to make your own decisions, and as much as I’d like to be able to help you, I can’t if you don’t talk to me . . .” she sighed, still toying with Kagome’s hair. “I know how you feel about InuYasha. You wear your heart on your sleeve when it comes to him . . . and I know, too, that he cares about you—very much so. I have nothing to be disappointed in you for.”

Kagome pulled away, idly toying with the tissue in her hands as she tried to put her concerns into words. “That’s just it, Mama,” she said slowly, shaking her head in confusion. “I know he cares about me, but he . . .” She tried to draw a deep breath. Another sob escaped. “Kikyou and he . . . it’s always Kikyou, and I can’t compare with her.”

Mrs. Higurashi sighed and retrieved another tissue from the box. She held it out to Kagome as she smoothed back her hair. “I don’t think he wants you to compare to Kikyou. Sometimes things seem different to us when we’re so close to the situation. Can you be misreading him in this?”

Slowly, miserably, Kagome shook her head as another bout of sobs erupted. “No, I’m not,” she rasped out, her voice thick, almost screechy. “After we . . . I was sleeping, and he went to her. Why? Why would he do that?”

Mrs. Higurashi didn’t look as though she had an answer for that. She sighed and kissed Kagome’s forehead, wiping her daughter’s eyes with a clean tissue. “That’s something you’d have to ask him. I wish I knew.”

“I can’t ask him,” Kagome squeaked as she blew her nose again. “I don’t think I want to know.”

Mrs. Higurashi was quiet a few minutes. She hugged Kagome and soothed her like she used to when Kagome was a little girl and had fallen off her bike, skinned her knees. The poignant memory brought a trembling smile to her lips even as tears welled up in her own eyes. As much as she wished she could make everything better for her daughter, she knew she couldn’t. It was enough to break her heart. “Darling,” she finally said, breaking the comforting silence in the room, punctuated only by Kagome’s sniffles and ragged breathing. “Do you want to marry him? You know I’d never force you to do something like that. If you tell me you don’t want to—”

Kagome rasped out a half-laugh, half-sob. “That’s just it . . . I do want to, because I . . .” She trailed off, eyes puffy, red, staring down at the tissues balled tightly in her fist.

Her mother patted her hands. “I know you do,” she said in answer to Kagome’s unvoiced statement. She kissed Kagome’s forehead again and stood. “Now, I’m going to go call the doctor and make an appointment for you. Is there anything you need?”

She shook her head and forced a weak smile. “No.” She watched as her mother headed toward the door. “Mama?”

Mrs. Higurashi stopped and turned back, a gentle smile lighting her face. “Yes, dear?”

“Thanks.”

The smile widened. Then she opened the door and left.

Kagome got up and tossed out the used tissues before pulling a few more. She stared at the box a moment and, with a sigh, grabbed the whole thing before heading back to her bed.

The door opened slowly, and InuYasha stuck his head in the room. He looked worried, and try as she might, Kagome couldn’t summon up the bravado to smile. “Can I come in?”

The uncertainty in his tone drew a smile from her, though, and Kagome scooted over to make room for him to sit. Closing the door behind him, he did as she bade him before turning to stare at her, questions awash in his gaze.

She shook her head in response to those questions. He looked irritated for a moment before he sighed. “We can stay here as long as you want.”

His offer surprised her. Always so insistent upon returning to the past, that he would concede to her in this warmed her. At least he cared enough for her to think about what she might want . . . ‘That’s unfair, Kagome, and you know it. He’s not entirely insensitive, you know.

“You can’t leave the village unguarded, InuYasha. You know that as well as I do.” She sighed. “As long as I come back for doctor visits, I think it’ll be fine.” She grinned as another thought crossed her mind. “It’s probably better if I spent most of my time back there, anyway. Cleaner air, fresher water . . .”

“Still,” he argued. “You need your mother, don’t you?” His tone was resigned but he still smiled slightly. But his eyebrows drew together as he stared at her. “You need to eat, damn it. You’re losing too much weight.”

She made a face. She agreed with him on that. It had been weeks since she’d been able to eat anything with any hopes of her body not rejecting it right away. “It’s just a phase,” she assured him. “I’m sure it’ll pass.”

Another soft knock on the door, and Mrs. Higurashi looked relieved to see the two of them sitting together and not arguing. “Kagome? I made an appointment for you. It’s tomorrow at ten.”

Kagome nodded as her mother backed out of the room and closed the door behind her. InuYasha’s scowl deepened. “What’s this doctor thing?” he finally asked.

Kagome shrugged. “It’s just to make sure that everything is okay; that’s all.”

He didn’t look convinced. “I’m coming with you.”

The look of alarm on Kagome’s face was overshadowed only by the stubborn resolve in the depths of InuYasha’s stare. “I don’t think that’s a good idea,” she said slowly.

“Argue all you want, wench. I’m still coming with you.”

Kagome sighed. Stubborn hanyou. She only hoped that it wouldn’t turn out to be something that she’d regret later . . .

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“I told you that you didn’t have to come with me,” Kagome remarked somewhat dryly as InuYasha stalked around the small room. Glowering at the slightest sound, hand reaching instinctively for the sword that Mrs. Higurashi had insisted that he leave at the shrine, he snorted in response and kept pacing. This place—this doctor’s office—made him uneasy. Something about the odd smells of the room set him on edge, made him flex his claws. Kagome heard the tell-tale popping of his knuckles and scowled. “No matter what, you cannot hurt the doctor; do you understand?”

“Keh!” He stopped suddenly, eyeing Kagome. He’d been so preoccupied in examining the room they were in to pay any attention at all to the fact that Kagome had changed into what looked to be nothing but paper shaped to resemble a garment. He came closer and sniffed the garment then drew back, away from the acrid stench clinging on the paper. “What’s that?”

“It’s a patient gown. It’s fine.”

His eyes bulged out as he gawped at her. “It’s fucking paper!”

“It’s fine,” Kagome stated again. “Behave yourself.”

“Paper tears,” he pointed out, unwilling to give up the battle.

Rolling her eyes, Kagome sighed and grasped at the remnants of her patience. “InuYasha—”

He pointed at her clothes, folded neatly and laying on the stand next to the examination table. “Now,” he ordered.

“I can’t! And put your hat back on, please?”

“Now!” he insisted again though he complied with her hat request, jerking the baseball cap down over his ears. Sound was muffled, and his ears hurt from being squashed, but it gave Kagome a semblance of peace, so he wore it for her.

No!

“Fucking—”

He was interrupted as a small man bustled through the door. Middle aged with wire rimmed glasses and salt-and-pepper hair, the doctor straightened his lab coat with one hand as he read through Kagome’s file in the other. “Higurashi, Kagome,” he read off the little white label on the tab of the manila file in his hands. “I’m Dr. Uematso.” he glanced up from the folder with a smile. “Prenatal? I see . . . .” he trailed off with a frown and lifted his gaze to Kagome’s face once more. “It says you’re two weeks pregnant, is that right? Are you sure you’re pregnant?” The last question was asked in a very cautious tone. Behind the doctor, InuYasha growled.

“That’s right,” Kagome said calmly, smiling at the doctor. InuYasha’s growl grew a little louder.

“Well, I think we’ll go ahead and have a blood test done. Better to be safe than sorry, right?”

Kagome flashed InuYasha a quick glance over the doctor’s head. Her expression was drawn, tight, her eyes pleading with him to calm down. He ignored the warning look as his growl escalated in volume. “Sure,” she agreed, her voice a high falsetto.

“You think she’s lying?” InuYasha asked, his voice deadly quiet.

“Oh, of course not! I believe she does think she’s pregnant or she wouldn’t be here!” Dr. Uematso turned and eyed InuYasha curiously. “And you are . . .?”

“I’m the pup’s father,” InuYasha snarled, staring daggers at the small man. “Kagome’s mate.”

“InuYasha . . .” Kagome began in a tone that InuYasha knew was normally followed by ‘the word’.

“Don’t even think it, bitch,” he bit out, rounding to glare at Kagome.

Dr. Uematso cleared his throat nervously. “You mean her husband?” he asked, his expression perplexed.

“No, I mean her mate,” he explained again. “We’re not—”

“About that test?” Kagome interrupted, raising her voice to be heard over InuYasha’s increasingly loud tone.

The doctor seemed surprised as he turned to face Kagome again but finally nodded. “Let me get a nurse to draw your blood, then,” he agreed, hurrying for the door.

She watched him go with a sigh before pinning InuYasha with an exasperated glower. “InuYasha!” she complained, hopping down from the exam table. She had to hold the paper gown closed. InuYasha’s formidable frown darkened. “He’s the doctor, not an enemy! Would you please not antagonize him? He’s never seen a youkai or a hanyou before, and this is going to be difficult enough without your hostility!”

He had the grace to flush though his expression remained impassive. “I can’t help it! That bastard fucking insulted you—”

“He didn’t insult me.”

“Keh! He called you a liar! That sounds insulting to me!”

She sighed and turned back to the table. He watched as she struggled to climb up while also trying to hold the makeshift gown closed. With a snort, he grasped her firmly but gently and set her on the table. “Thanks,” she said, her cheeks pinking when he didn’t let his hands fall away. “Humans don’t normally know that they’re pregnant right away; that’s all.”

A young lab assistant stepped into the room with her blood-drawing equipment. Kagome’s eyes widened as she stared anxiously at the apparatus. InuYasha smelled the anxiety in her. Unconsciously, he took another step closer to her.

Kagome looked away as the assistant tied a long rubber strap around her upper arm and tapped against the inside of her elbow to find a vein. Her fear spiked as the needle moved closer to her unblemished skin. InuYasha growled at the technician but pulled Kagome against him, her cheek resting against his heart. Almost immediately she calmed, soothed by his touch. She soothed him, too, as he gritted his teeth and concentrated on not shoving the strange woman away.

The girl taped a bandage to Kagome’s arm and slipped quietly out of the room. InuYasha couldn’t help the small snarl that escaped as the smell of Kagome’s blood hit him. “Why the fuck did they need so much blood?” he demanded as the door closed behind the girl.

Kagome smiled, but it was weak and thin. “Probably do to a blood workup to make sure I’m healthy and everything.”

He sighed. “I don’t like this place,” he remarked. “It scares you.”

She stared at her hands folded in her lap and shrugged. “That can’t be helped. I have to do this.”

He didn’t answer. He’d spent far too much time with Kagome. He knew the smell of her fear. This was off the scale. ‘Stubborn wench. She never admits to being afraid.’ Her anxiety made him wince inwardly. That sort of emotion had never sat well with him. He caught her chin with his index finger, lifting her face to stare at him. The worry in the depths of her gaze bothered him more than he could credit. Ears flattening, he shook his head, wishing that he could fight away her concerns as easily as he could fight the youkai who had come after the Shikon no Tama so many times before.

She tried to smile, but it looked more like a grimace. InuYasha uttered a soft little whine, bending down, slipping his arm around her as slowly, gently, he kissed her. It was the only thing he could think of to get her mind off of the doctor’s office, off of everything that made her sad. Time skittered away, his lips dancing over hers, calming her, gentling her, tempering her fear as it shifted into something else.

Blatant throat clearing drew their attention. InuYasha stepped back just a little as the doctor stared at the chart in his hands. “Well, Miss Higurashi, it seems you were right. You’re quite pregnant, according to the blood tests. Fourteen days, to be exact.”

Dr. Uematso came closer only to stop when he realized that InuYasha stood between him and the patient. Thinking twice about angering him again, the doctor altered his course and sank down at the small desk that protruded from the wall. “Why don’t we take care of your baby’s medical history, then? Father’s race?”

InuYasha shot Kagome a questioning glance. She flinched and made a face. “Hany—”

“Japanese,” Kagome cut in, shooting InuYasha a meaningful look. He didn’t argue though his expression darkened considerably. Since he didn’t understand half of the terms the doctor threw at him, InuYasha remained silent, allowing Kagome to answer for him, instead. The little man finally put his pen away and closed the folder, he gestured nervously toward Kagome. “I need to examine her now, if that’s okay?”

InuYasha glowered at the man a little longer before hesitantly stepping aside. Pulling up a stool and continuing to shoot InuYasha nervous glances, Dr. Uematso asked Kagome to lie back as he pulled some weird metal bars out of each of the sides of the table. A sense of foreboding washed over InuYasha as he saw the doctor carefully prop Kagome’s feet into that metal slings just before snapping on some foul-smelling gloves. He was behaving himself remarkably well, all things considered, but when the little man started to put his hand someplace that, in InuYasha’s opinion, it had no business being, the hanyou snarled and grabbed the doctor, shoving him back against the wall.

“What—the—fuck—do you think you’re doing to my mate?” he ground out in a deadly quiet voice.

Dr. Uematso looked like he was ready to faint. Kagome struggled to sit up, her face bright red in her sheer embarrassment. “No, InuYasha! It’s okay!”

“I was just trying to check her cervix,” the doctor gasped.

InuYasha didn’t know exactly what that meant but he didn’t like the sound of it, either. He shoved the doctor again. “Keep your hands off of . . . her.”

“InuYasha! Osuw—”

InuYasha let go of the doctor and stomped over to Kagome’s side. “Don’t even fucking say it!”

She glared back at him. “Then don’t threaten the doctor and let him do his job!”

They glowered at each other for several long seconds. The wheezing doctor kept glancing back and forth between the two of them. Finally InuYasha gave in with a loud, “Keh!” before gesturing at the little man to continue the examination. The doctor stepped back to the table but only after Kagome forced a smile to assure him that she’d keep InuYasha from attacking again.

“This may be uncomfortable,” Dr. Uematso apologized as his hand disappeared under the paper gown again. InuYasha’s fists clenched as he restrained himself but he couldn’t help the small growl that escaped. Kagome flinched as the doctor checked her and still managed to reach over and slap InuYasha’s gut. He glared at her for a moment before his eyes sought out the doctor of the wandering hands again.

Damn it! Maybe this ‘doctor’ person is Miroku’s reincarnation . . . fucking lecher,’ InuYasha fumed, balling his hands into tight fists as he struggled to keep himself from tearing the man limb from limb.

After a way-too-thorough examination—at least in InuYasha’s opinion—-Dr. Uematso snapped off his rubber gloves and deposited them into the trash can marked biohazard and took his time pulling on a fresh pair. He let Kagome’s legs out of the slings and stepped around the opposite side of the table. “Everything seems fine down there,” the doctor said in a falsely bright tone. He gently pushed on Kagome’s stomach. She didn’t make a sound but InuYasha didn’t miss her slight flinch, either.

“Watch out,” InuYasha grumbled. The doctor shot him a nervous glance as he tore the gown open over her stomach. InuYasha’s eyes flared, casting Kagome what could only be described as an ‘I Told You So’ look. “What the—?”

“I just need to take a few measurements . . . see if I can feel where the baby is,” Uematso declared, pressing gently on both sides of her belly.

She winced.

“Sorry about that.”

InuYasha snorted, jamming his arms together inside the billowing sleeves of the fire rat haori.

“Okay, everything seems fine,” he proclaimed, casting a nervous glance at InuYasha, as though he believed that whatever came next was likely to set the hanyou off all over again. He addressed his commentary to Kagome but continued to stare at InuYasha warily. “I must do a breast exam now, if that’s all right?”

Kagome only nodded. The doctor ripped the paper gown covering her breasts and started feeling around as InuYasha flinched inwardly at her sharp gasp.

As though she knew what sort of mayhem InuYasha had in mind, Kagome’s small hand slipped over his and squeezed. That was enough to keep him from ripping the doctor apart despite the slight growl that he couldn’t quite contain.

Luckily, though, that was the last of the examination. InuYasha growled when the doctor offered his assistance to help Kagome sit up. The man bowed slightly, letting InuYasha help her, instead.

The rest of the visit was discussion, much to InuYasha’s relilef. Dr. Uematso gave Kagome lists of good things to eat, things to watch out for, and things to avoid. InuYasha stood in front of her, blocking her ripped gown from the doctor’s view. When the little man finally left, Kagome heaved a sigh of relief.

Careful to keep his back turned, InuYasha waited for Kagome to get dressed. When she finished, she touched his arm and stepped around to face him, her cheeks still pink, but her eyes sparkling, happy. “Thank you.”

He frowned. “What for?”

Leaning on his shoulder, she kissed his cheek and hugged him. “For coming with me.”

He blushed, slowly slipping his arms around her to hold her close. She didn’t see it or the relieved little smile that broke over his features. “Keh.”

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“You know what sounds good?” Kagome mused suddenly, drawing InuYasha out of the lull he’d fallen into as he methodically sharpened Tetsusaiga’s blade. They sat under Goshinboku surrounded by the echoes of the forest. The air was crisp, fresh, and Kagome had to admit that she was always happiest here, in the past.

He transformed the sword back into its old rusty form and dropped it into the scabbard before answering her. “What’s that?” he asked, almost afraid to hear the reply.

Kagome stretched out on her side, head propped up on her elbow. “I want a thick, juicy steak, medium rare, with everything!”

InuYasha shook his head slowly. Kagome had never been a huge meat eater. Most of the time, she would eat what he hunted though she had never made a habit of eating lots of it. In the last couple of days since she’d gotten her appetite back, though, she seemed to crave meat, and lots of it. “Kagome? You want I should just butcher a cow or something?” he remarked, only half-teasing.

She giggled. “Nah. It’d go bad too quickly.”

“Is that the only reason not to?”

She looked like she had to seriously consider his question. He sighed, hiding his amusement as he turned his head and looked the other way.

A reassuring sense of satisfaction had settled over him in the last few weeks. Something had been missing from his life had finally been found, and InuYasha had to admit it was a nice feeling. When Kagome curled up against him at night, he couldn’t help but feel as though he owned the world. She made everything right, and it was a feeling that he loved. Granted, more often than not, he had to lay awake far into the night, convincing himself that he shouldn’t wake Kagome, didn’t dare disturb her. Until the last few days, she’d been throwing up too often for him to feel anything but guilty when memories of their one night together assailed him, and to be completely honest, he really didn’t know if being with her would endanger the pup or not.

He sighed, staring at her, lying so happily in the shade of the tree. Her skin had regained a healthy glow, and she looked more comfortable than she had in awhile. He could tell from holding her at night that her belly was a little fuller now, a little more rounded. Other than that, though, there were no outward signs that she carried his pup. He supposed she would show it eventually, but for now she looked just like the Kagome he knew so well.

She caught his gaze and smiled. His chest tightened, his body tensed . . . He was doomed.

Pushing herself up on her hands and knees, Kagome crawled forward, wrapping her arms around his neck. With a blissful sigh, she laid her head against his chest. InuYasha kissed her forehead. “Do you want a boy or a girl?” she asked softly, idly toying with the hair on the back of his neck. He shivered. Her touch shot straight through him, and he stifled a low groan.

“A girl,” he answered, murmuring against her hair.

“A girl? Really?”

“What do you want?”

“A boy who look just like you.”

InuYasha made a face. “Keh!” But he couldn’t help his smile at her dreamy tone. “Ready to go back yet?”

“Just awhile longer?” she asked, snuggling closer to him. Every afternoon he brought her here, to sit in the shade of Goshinboku and relax, away from the curious eyes of the villagers, away from the constant worry of Sango and Miroku, who seemed to think that they were just as responsible for the pup as InuYasha and Kagome were. It offered Kagome a semblance of peace as she slowly began taking over some of Kaede’s responsibilities in the village, and it gave her time to just be herself. She never complained, but there were times when InuYasha could tell that the added miko duties she’d taken on were overwhelming her, and added to the strain of being pregnant, too, the quiet afternoons were something that she sorely needed, and in turn, he selfishly guarded.

Even if he hadn’t been completely accepted by the villagers, Kagome had, and that was enough. She accounted for much of the acceptance that he had achieved, and as much as he liked to think he didn’t care, the feeling of belonging somewhere was . . . nice.

She smelled too good, she was entirely too close, too warm, too alive. “What are you thinking about?” she asked, her voice quiet, whispering.

He sighed. “Kissing you.” He frowned. He hadn’t meant to admit that . . .

Her back stifled, her body went stock still. Slowly she leaned back to look at him. InuYasha could feel the flush sweeping over him. She stared at him, into his eyes. The rise of heat in his veins tempered the edges of caution. He reached for her, gently drawing her to him. Her scent engulfed him as he brushed his lips over hers. Plump, warm, the lure of her mouth compelled him. She tasted like persimmons, ripened in the sun . . . She returned his kiss with a fervor that forced a moan from him, the call of his soul to hers. The world was a bright and shining thing, and Kagome was the sun . . .

He pulled away, leaning his forehead against hers, eyes closed, breath ragged. Cradling her face in his hands, his thumbs rubbing lightly over her lips, he tried to slow his rampant heartbeat. She held onto his wrists. It was a long time before either of them could speak.

“Damn,” he muttered.

Her hands idly rubbed his forearms, and she giggled.

Kagome!” Shippou called.

She pulled away, eyes snapping wide open as she turned, arms automatically opening toward the kitsune pup that launching himself toward her arms. InuYasha intercepted Shippou before he barreled into Kagome, easily catching the child’s head. He struggled in InuYasha’s grasp. InuYasha flicked Shippou’s nose, stopping the kitsune before he could speak. “Back off, runt. You’re going to hurt her if you keep doing that.”

Shippou seemed to reconsider his actions as a flush crept up his face. “Sorry,” he grumbled. “I forgot.”

Satisfied that the kitsune wouldn’t do it again, InuYasha let go and sat back, arms folded together under the billowing sleeves of his haori.

“Shippou, what’s the matter?” Kagome asked.

Grabbing Kagome’s hand and tugging, Shippou let out a whine. “It’s Kaede! She’s calling for you!”

Something in the youngster’s tone, something quiet and almost desperate brought InuYasha straight up out of his slouch. “What’s wrong with the old woman?”

Shippou shook his head. “Miroku says there isn’t much time.” Probing green eyes shifted to Kagome. She picked up the pup just before InuYasha swept them both up, cradling her against his chest as he launched them all toward the village. “Kagome, what does Miroku mean?”

He could feel her eyes on him, as though she didn’t have the heart to tell Shippou what the monk was saying. InuYasha kept his eyes on his path but said, “He means . . . Kaede’s dying.”

A whimper escaped Shippou. Kagome hugged him tighter. “Why?” Shippou whined.

Kagome sighed. InuYasha answered before she could. “It’s life, Shippou. We all come into the world, we live, and then we die. If we’re lucky, we touch a few lives while we’re here.”

“Do you really think so?” the kitsune asked.

They reached the village. InuYasha set Kagome back on her feet. She didn’t even spare him a glance as she raced toward Kaede’s hut. He hung back as Shippou shuffled his feet in the dirt, not daring to look at InuYasha. He could sense, though, that the pup wanted to ask him something. “Spit it out, runt.”

Shippou finally dared a glance up at the hanyou, emerald eyes awash with unshed tears. “Kagome’s going to be sad,” Shippou remarked with a shake of his little head.

InuYasha made a face as he sank down on a tree stump. Shippou hopped onto his knee. “Probably, but she understands.” Watching Shippou’s chin drop, InuYasha couldn’t see his face. He could smell the salt in the kitsune’s tears, and he didn’t miss the moisture on the small hand that dashed quickly over his eyes. “Don’t cry, okay?” he said, his voice gruffer than he meant it to be.

“I’ll miss her,” Shippou replied, his voice quaking, trembling. His chin lifted just a little, and InuYasha saw the grim determination on his face. “Youkai don’t cry!” he exclaimed though his breathing still faltered.

InuYasha swallowed hard. Shippou’s show of bravado was for him, and he knew it. Very slowly, he reached over, patting the child on the back. “It’s okay. Youkai don’t cry . . . but sometimes friends do.”

Shippou’s head snapped up, and he stared at the hanyou. Suddenly, he launched himself at InuYasha’s chest, wrapping his arms around him as best he could. InuYasha hugged him back as the child dissolved in tears. He understood how Shippou felt. He remembered how it was, when his mother had died so long ago. Younger than Shippou was now, InuYasha remembered feeling as though he didn’t dare cry, didn’t dare show emotions. Had he ever cried over Izayoi? He closed his eyes. No, he never had . . .

It’s all right,’ he assured himself as he held the weeping kitsune. ‘Just make it all right for your own pup to cry.’

Eyes glancing up at the heavens, InuYasha thought he saw two clouds shaped like hands. They intercepted one another and then disintegrated into the afternoon sky.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“Are you all right?”

Kagome peeked over her shoulder as Sango knelt down beside her. Turning her face forward again, Kagome stared out over the calm pond as the shadows of evening fell. It had been a long day. “Yeah, I’m fine.”

Sango leaned down to talk to Kagome’s belly. She’d made the mistake before of telling both Sango and Miroku that some people in her time thought that talking to a baby before it was born helped. When they’d found out that she was pregnant, they’d both started putting the practice to use, much to Kagome’s chagrin. “And how’s the baby today?”

Kagome rolled her eyes but smiled wanly. “We’re fine, thanks.”

Sango patted Kagome’s still-flat tummy. “Good. We were a bit worried that all the stress wouldn’t be healthy for you.”

“InuYasha said as much, too.” She made a face. Argued was a better way to put it. After seeing how upset she was right after Kaede’s death, he hadn’t wanted her to attend the cremation or burial. Maintaining that it would only upset her more was true enough. Still, Kaede had been a dear friend to Kagome, almost like a grandmother. In the end, she had won the battle, but InuYasha had watched her very closely during the ceremonies, and that had been enough to set her on edge completely.

“Where’s Miroku?”

“I told him I’d rather talk to you alone,” Sango admitted. “You look a little pale.”

“I didn’t sleep very well last night,” she confessed.

“Neither did I, if you want to know the truth.”

“InuYasha hasn’t said a word about Kaede’s death, has he?” Kagome asked.

Sango shook her head. “No . . . he hasn’t said anything to you, I take it.”

Kagome sighed. “It’s starting to worry me, a little. It’s not like him to keep everything bottled up, you know?” She made a face. “He probably thinks I’ll fall to pieces or something, if he shows even a little sadness over her death, but Kaede told me . . . she was happy, and she was tired.”

She got up slowly waited for Sango. The two headed back down the small path toward the village in companionable silence. Following Kagome back to the hut that Kaede had left to her and InuYasha, Sango was surprised as Miroku rushed over to them, barring the path and smiling in a vaguely nervous manner. “Back so soon, ladies? I thought maybe you’d decided to go swimming or something. It’s a perfect evening for that, after all . . .”

Kagome glanced suspiciously from Miroku to Sango then back again. Sango looked as lost as she was. “I didn’t take my swimming suit,” she replied cautiously.

“Houshi-sama, why are you acting so weird?” Sango demanded.

The look of feigned innocence on his face was so transparent they could see right through it. “Weird, Sango? I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Okay, while you guys hash this out, I’m going to go lay down,” Kagome said, pushing past Miroku.

With a hand on the back of her neck, she rolled her head back. She was really tired. As though the last few days had all piled up against her, she was ready to sleep for awhile.

“Kagome! Why don’t you come over? You can take a nap while I make some dinner for you, and you don’t have to worry about it later,” Sango called out, rushing after her.

“Sango? Why are you suddenly acting so strange?”

Sango grabbed her arm. “You’ve been so worried, Kagome! Let us fuss over you for one night!”

Kagome pulled away gently yet firmly. “Thanks, but I’m really tired. I don’t think I’d be decent company.”

She turned to head up the path to her hut but stopped short as the bamboo mat lifted back and Kikyou stepped out. InuYasha followed, and Kagome felt her stomach lurch as she stepped back in retreat. He said something to her, and Kikyou reached out, touching his hair, his cheek. With an involuntary gasp, Kagome turned and ran.

Plunging headlong into the forest, unmindful of branches that reached out to snag her, of roots that extended to trip her, Kagome bounded on. Without a destination in mind, she floundered away. Somewhere in her mind, she heard voices calling out to her. Choking back a sob, Kagome darted deeper into the forest.

How could he?

Pressing the back of her hand to her mouth, stifling the cry that welled up inside, Kagome stumbled forward, unable to stop, as though she could outrun the fears that rose to choke her, the pain that tore at her heart. Catching herself as she tripped over a rock, Kagome stumbled but righted herself and ran faster.

The nights he’d held her, cuddled against him, whispered in her hair, lulled her to sleep as he rubbed her back, the times he’d stolen kisses at odd moments, admitting that it was just because he ‘wanted to’ . . . they were lies . . .

Making due with the living form, the reincarnation of the one he can’t have,’ her mind mocked, ‘you’re a fool, Kagome. Such a pitiful fool . . .

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

“Stop spinning around and behave yourself! You’re making me dizzy, and you’re being a pain!”

The little girl stopped running long enough to stare at the little green man with a distinct frown. Then she noticed something over his head, and her face broke into a wide smile. “Sesshoumaru-sama!” she squealed, hopping up and down, clapping her hands with a wide, gap-toothed grin.

Sesshoumaru stepped out of the forest, sweeping slowly toward his vassal and the little girl, Rin. “I trust you fared well, Rin?” he asked, ignoring Jaken, the imp, for the moment.

“I did, my lord!” Rin assured him happily.

“My lord!” Jaken squealed, nudging Rin aside as he rushed to Sesshoumaru’s side. “You were gone so long this time! I was concerned for your well-being!”

Rin stretched her lips open with her hands, showing Sesshoumaru a new gap in her top row of teeth. “Ook, eye ord! I oft anodda oof!”

He schooled his features to keep from smiling at the human girl child. “So you did, Rin. So you did.”

“What now, my lord?” Jaken asked, trying to regain Sesshoumaru’s attention.

Sesshoumaru stopped suddenly, his head lifting, silvery hair blowing in the late summer breeze. Amber eyes scanning the forest, he narrowed his gaze as he sensed someone approaching. “Stay here,” he ordered as he turned and walked back the way he’d come.

He sniffed the air, drawing a deep breath. ‘It is her,’ he mused. ‘The miko . . . but there’s a different scent to her . . . She smells like . . . InuYasha.

Sesshoumaru smiled vaguely, no more than a slight lifting at the corners of his lips. ‘So . . . he’s finally claimed her, has he?’ His smile faded as he smelled something else, something more subtle, something belying the reek of InuYasha on her. ‘A pup? And . . . tears.’

She burst into view. Sobbing, barely seeing where she ran, the miko sounded like her heart was breaking. Sesshoumaru moved into her path, caught her by her arms. She gasped in surprise and stumbled back. Sesshoumaru didn’t let go of her arms until she had regained her footing. “S . . . Sesshoumaru,” she managed as she swiped angrily at her tears.

“You’ve left the safety of InuYasha’s Forest, miko,” he remarked, tilting his head to the side. “You are not safe here, nor is your pup.”

Kagome shook her head. “It doesn’t matter,” she rasped out. “Nothing matters.” Suddenly she dropped to her knees, arms wrapped over her stomach, shoulders shaking as her weeping escalated.

Sesshoumaru stared. He knelt before her, lifted her chin with his nimble fingers. Her tears sparkled, diamonds in the moonlight. For a moment, he understood why his brother would be so bewitched by a human. “He is coming for you.”

More tears filled her eyes as turned her face away. He watched, fascinated, as tears welled up only to fall over, to cascade like jewels from her. Her pain was palpable. The best he could do for her was to sit and wait. She was resigned to the idea that InuYasha would come to get her. It was in deference to her miko power that Sesshoumaru waited with her.

He knew the edicts. Youkai law dictated that he could not interfere, even as tai-youkai. As InuYasha’s mate, that hanyou was entitled to do what he would with the woman. Whether she survived or not, ultimately, was in his brother’s hands. Though Sesshoumaru had little doubt that the half-breed baka cared for the woman, the pain that radiated from her was telling enough.

InuYasha crashed into the little clearing, swearing under his breath as Sesshoumaru rose to his feet. The miko did not even acknowledge her mate. It was a gesture that was noted by the elder brother. “So you’ve come for her, InuYasha? Do you care so much?”

“What do you think, you bastard?” InuYasha snarled.

Sesshoumaru moved to confront InuYasha, stepping neatly between his brother and the miko. “I know not. If it was the one carrying my pup, do you think I would let her out of my sight?”

He didn’t miss InuYasha’s quick grimace. “Baka! Humans are frail, and your miko is no different. If you break her spirit, she will perish. Don’t you know that?” he asked quietly.

“Get out of my way.”

Sesshoumaru didn’t step aside right away. “Give up on the dead, InuYasha. They make poor bedfellows.” With that, he moved, allowing InuYasha to pass.

InuYasha spared Sesshoumaru a nasty glower as he stalked over to the miko, hunkered down beside her. She wouldn’t meet his gaze. “What do you want?” he asked warily.

Sesshoumaru narrowed his gaze on his half-brother. “I was watching over your mate till you saw fit to come and get her,” he pointed out as he turned on his heel to leave.

“Sesshoumaru . . .” InuYasha called after him. Sesshoumaru stopped and turned to stare at his brother, his eyes expressionless, dark. “. . . Thank you.”

Sesshoumaru didn’t answer as he turned and disappeared back into the forest.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“Kagome?” Leaning over, her face level with her knees, he didn’t think she heard him at first. “Kagome?”

“I can’t even look at you,” she said, her tone low despite the anger, the hurt that she couldn’t hide. It drew blood, inflicted pain deep inside. InuYasha winced, wondering once more how everything had spun so out of control. “Go away, InuYasha. Leave me alone.”

“Will you just let me explain?” he begged, his voice quiet, desperate. ‘Kagome! Don’t be angry . . .

“Explain what?” Her head finally lifted, her gaze piercing him, burning him. “Why should I?”

Grasping for an explanation that she would accept, fighting to find a way to tell her what she had seen wasn’t really what had happened . . . “It wasn’t what you think . . . Kikyou—”

A grow of frustration tore from her lips, as though the very sound of Kikyou’s name was enough to hurt her more. “No!” she shrieked.

He drew back. Had she ever yelled at him like that? “I didn’t know she was coming, and—”

Kagome sat up so quickly that InuYasha recoiled. Stabbing him with a piercing glower, she covered her ears with her hands, as if she couldn’t stand to hear any more, and maybe she couldn’t. “No! I can’t do it! I can’t be second to her, and you . . . you really can’t ask me to be! I can’t—aah!”

She doubled over, arms tightening over her stomach. InuYasha jumped to his feet, sweeping her up as he leapt forward. She whimpered, her body tensing. “Hold on,” he muttered, fear driving him faster, further, higher.

“It hurts,” she whined. “It—oww!”

What have I done?’ He glanced down at her. Her face was contorted in pain. InuYasha flinched. “It’s okay, Kagome . . . It’ll be okay . . .”

“InuYasha . . . the baby,” she moaned. “It hurts.”

“I know,” he muttered, trying his best to keep moving and soothe her at the same time. ‘Damn it, Kagome . . . this is my fault . . .’ She relaxed slightly then tensed again with an exclamation muffled by the fire rat haori. “It’ll be okay . . . I promise.”

The well,’ he thought wildly. ‘She needs her time, her doctors . . .’ She cried out as he landed next to the dry well. The jarring motion unsettled her, and she whimpered again. “Almost there. Just hang on, okay?”

Without a second thought, he jumped into the well as Kagome passed out in his arms.

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

Prowling up and down the length of the hallway outside Kagome’s room, InuYasha had to suppress the desire to destroy something as helpless rage ripped through him. Pausing before her door, InuYasha glowered at the wooden divider, willing it to open. It was in the doctors’ hands now. He’d never felt quite so weak in his life.

This is all your fault, baka! What were you thinking?’ InuYasha sighed, resuming his pacing as his conscience berated him. ‘If Kagome loses the pup, she’ll never forgive you.’ He flinched. If Kagome lost the pup, he’d never forgive himself.

“Why don’t you sit down, InuYasha?” Mrs. Higurashi asked quietly, patting the seat beside her. InuYasha complied because she asked him to. “She’s strong. She’ll be fine.”

Shaking his head, unable to voice the concerns that assailed him . . . InuYasha glared at the door another moment. “What the fuck is taking so long?” he growled.

Hesitantly, Mrs. Higurashi reached out, rubbed his back. The contact startled him yet he found it oddly comforting, too. “Why did Kagome . . . What upset her?”

Shooting to his feet, InuYasha resumed his pacing. ‘How am I supposed to tell her mother what I . . . that I’m the reason that Kagome’s in there?’ He knew she’d be upset if she found out. He’d been surprised enough when Kikyou had stepped through the door. He hadn’t known she was coming. If he had, he would have stopped her. Admitting what happened to Kagome’s mother, however, was difficult, if not downright impossible. With a heavy sigh, he said, “I didn’t think, and Kagome saw—”

The door opened behind him. InuYasha whirled around, glowering at Dr. Uematso as the little man stepped out of the room and pulled the door closed behind him. Glancing from InuYasha to Mrs. Higurashi and back, the doctor stepped toward the woman. It was to her that he spoke. “Kagome is resting. She’ll be fine, I think. The main thing right now, though, is to keep her calm.”

“And her baby?” Mrs. Higurashi asked, her voice tight, worried.

The doctor cast InuYasha another glance. “For now, the baby’s fine. Kagome was having serious contractions when she was brought in. She responded to the medicine well enough, and those are stopped, for now.” His eyes finally lit on InuYasha and stayed. “If all goes well for now, she should be able to go home in a day or two, providing she can remain calm. I must warn you, though, if it happens again, I don’t know if we can stop her labor. Do you understand?”

Flinching at the obvious rebuke, InuYasha nodded.

Mrs. Higurashi laid a hand on the doctor’s arm. “Can I see her?”

“Sure. We’ve given her something to help her sleep. Don’t stay long. I’ll be back to check on her in awhile.” He inclined his head to her and left.

InuYasha reached for the door handle. Mrs. Higurashi stopped him. “I don’t know if it is wise for you to go in, InuYasha. Why don’t you let me check if she wants to see you?”

“Do you think I’d hurt her?”

She shook her head, a wan smile twisting the corners of her lips. “No, and I know you want to see her. But right now, it isn’t about what you want. It’s about what my daughter needs. She was obviously upset with something you did. You’ve as much as admitted that to me. If she wants to see you, then I’ll come get you. Fair enough?”

He wanted to argue with her. He wanted to insist that she move and let him in. He wished that her logic hadn’t made sense. In the end, he nodded and stepped back. Mrs. Higurashi patted his arm before she stepped into the room, closing the door behind her.

‘Baka! How could I be so stupid? How could she not know that the last thing I’d ever do is hurt her?’ InuYasha knelt before the door.

He hadn’t expected Kikyou to come. He should have. Kaede was her sister. Still, it was a shock to him, to look up and find her there. “Kikyou? What are you doing here?

Kikyou smiled sadly. Maybe she would have cried, if she could. “I came to say goodbye to my sister,” she said simply, “and I came to give Kagome this.” She held out her hand.

InuYasha stared at the delicate white prayer beads strung into a necklace. “What is it?” he asked, slowly lifting the necklace out of Kikyou’s palm. “What’s it for?

It will protect her. It will keep her safe.”

Puzzled, InuYasha stared at the necklace. “What do you mean?

Kagome is mortal, and mortals are frail. Surely you don’t wish to lose her too soon, do you?” Kikyou asked softly.

InuYasha shook his head, denying the foreboding of Kikyou’s words. “I will protect her.”

Of course you will. I must go.”

He followed her to the door, stepped outside after her. “Kikyou . . . thanks.”

She stopped and stared at him. She reached out, brushing the hair out of his face, smiling at him in her gentle way.

Then he’d heard Kagome’s soft gasp and had turned in time to see her dart toward the forest.

Kagome . . .

The door opened behind him. InuYasha didn’t look up.

“She wants to see you,” Mrs. Higurashi said, stepping around him and kneeling before him. “She’s tired, though. She said that she wanted to tell you something before she goes to sleep.”

InuYasha stood slowly, trepidation gnawing at his stomach. Something in Mrs. Higurashi’s eyes . . . something of a warning that frightened him . . . He stepped inside and closed the door but couldn’t take the steps to the side of the bed. She looked so small there, wrapped in foreign blankets and staring at but not seeing what lay beyond the window. Her pervasive sadness seemed to fill the room and nearly choked him. The smell of salt, of lingering tears, and the deep-rooted knowledge that he’d failed her again rose up, bitter, vile, detestable. It overwhelmed the stench of the disinfectants, of the cleansers and other chemicals they used to ‘sanitize’ the room. It left him alone, lonely . . . “Kagome?”

“I’m sorry I ran from you,” she said softly, breaking the silence and drawing a flinch from him. “It was stupid. I nearly . . . I’m sorry.”

“Why are you apologizing?” he rasped out, crossing the floor, sinking to his knees beside her. “I let you down, I—”

She shook her head. “You didn’t. I knew how you felt, when we . . . It was wrong for me to think that everything had changed. You can’t change how you feel, and I can’t really hold it against you.”

“Keh! You don’t understand! I don’t feel like that . . . I haven’t, not for a long time.” More tears welled in her eyes. Clumsily, he brushed them away. “Don’t cry . . . please?”

“I’m sorry,” she apologized again.

InuYasha flinched, shooting to his feet. He scooped her up, ignoring the wires and monitors hooked to her, and pulled her onto his lap as he sat on the bed. “Stop apologizing, will you? No more.” He smoothed her hair, wiped her tears. “I’m not good at this.”

She choked out a half-laugh then sighed as her head nestled against his chest. “InuYasha?”

“Hmm?”

“I’m scared.”

Tightening his arms around her and closing his eyes, cursing himself again for what had happened, he tried to comfort her the best he could. “I’m here, Kagome. Don’t be scared, okay?”

Leaning away from him to look at his face, Kagome pushed his bangs back and stared into his eyes. Underneath the sadness was something else, something that amazed him. Her fear was subsiding, and the emotion he could see . . . She trusted him. Even after all was said and done, she trusted him. “Will you stay?”

In that moment, in that place, he would have promised her anything. He nodded. “I won’t leave you.”

She cuddled against him, lulled by the beat of his heart.

“Go to sleep . . . I won’t leave you.”

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“I thought I’d find you here.”

InuYasha leaned to the side, staring down through the branches and leaves of Goshinboku. Kagome shielded her eyes against the sunshine and smiled. He dropped out of the tree, landing before her. She giggled. “What are you doing out of bed?” he demanded in a tone that lacked any real irritation.

“I feel fine,” she assured him. “Besides, I want to go back. I miss everyone.”

A thoughtful frown filtered across his features. Kagome wondered what he was thinking as he took her hands and sank down on the ground. He pulled her gently into his lap and wrapped his arms around her. “I was thinking,” he began slowly, as though he wasn’t sure how she’d react to whatever it was he was trying to say. “Maybe we should stay here . . . in your time. It’s easier on you, and . . .” he trailed off.

Kagome finished his thought in her own head. ‘And Kikyou isn’t here.’ She sighed, wishing she could take him up on his offer without feeling like she was being completely selfish. “Thank you,” she replied. “But you wouldn’t be happy here, would you? The villagers need me, too.”

Without looking at him, she knew that the stubborn expression was back in his eyes, and Kagome stifled a sigh, knowing what was coming. They’d been having this particular argument for the last three days since she’d left the hospital. “You need to rest.”

“I need to help.”

“What about our pup?”

“The baby’s fine,” she maintained. Her eyes widened, and she leaned away to look at him. “The baby—”

He started to stand up, to carry her back inside. “I knew you shouldn’t have been out of bed!” She opened her mouth to disagree. He cut her off. “Damn it, don’t argue with me!”

“InuYasha . . .” she said, her voice soft as she reached up, toying with one of his ears. He stopped mid-step. She knew he would. It was his one weakness.   His eyes drifted half closed but he didn’t drop her. “I felt the baby move.”

That got his attention. Eyes flaring wide, round in wonder, he stared at her, incredulous, amazed. “You felt . . . ?”

She nodded. The odd flutter came again, and she giggled. “Sit back down, and I’ll let you feel it, too.”

Carefully he did. She pulled her blouse up enough for his hand to cover her belly, and he waited. He gasped sharply when the baby moved once more. His hand stiffened over her but he didn’t pull back. “Was that it?” he asked in a whisper. Kagome nodded. He laughed out loud when the baby turned over again. “That’s my pup!”

The wonder in his tone, the tender softness in his gaze . . . Kagome felt tears stinging the back of her eyes. The pride in his expression . . . “InuYasha . . .”

He leaned forward, kissed her softly. She gasped at the feelings that welled up, spilled over. Every emotion in his eyes—it was all there in his kiss; suspended in sensation, no conscious thought, no remorse, no regrets. Kagome accepted what he gave her.

Cradling his face in her hands, she pulled back. He smoothed her hair, touched her cheek. Eyes half-closed, she saw the burn under his lids, “I have something . . . I want to give it to you.”

Curiosity kept her quiet while he dug into his haori and finally pulled out a string of tiny white beads. Iridescent, shining, glimmering, Kagome stared at them. “What are these?” she asked as he dropped them over her head then gently pulled her hair out of them.

“They’ll protect you.”

Something odd about his tone, something almost worried, drew her gaze upward from the necklace. “InuYasha? What is it?”

His smile might have fooled her if he had been able to look her in the eye. As it was, his gaze skittered away, resting on the necklace he’d put on her. “Nothing. I just like how it looks on you.”

“What aren’t you telling me?”

“You ask too many questions,” he mumbled, drawing her close to kiss her again.

He never answered her.

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

InuYasha slapped the bamboo mat aside and stepped outside to sniff the air again. He could smell Kagome’s scent. She was fine, he could tell, and she was close. It didn’t stop him from worrying though. He really should have argued with her a little longer, to convince her not to take on the added responsibilities of the village, at least, not till after the pup was born. Bone weary, she was up from the break of dawn and didn’t get to sleep until well after the sun set. She was too busy taking care of the sick and the injured, seeing to the villagers’ needs and all the while neglecting her own, as far as he was concerned.

He sighed. The last few nights, she’d fallen asleep while he’d tried to get her to eat. He set out with a few mumbled curses, intent on finding her and bringing her home.

Miroku and he had spent the majority of the day building onto the hut. Kagome was used to her modern conveniences, and InuYasha was determined to make sure that she had as many of them as she could. Miroku hadn’t wanted to help, but after a bit of coercion, InuYasha had convinced him. With any luck, they’d have the addition done by the time Kagome birthed the pup.

InuYasha met Kagome as she slowly ambled toward their home. Shoulders slumped, eyes glazed over and dull, she lifted a limp hand to her eyes and sighed. Though he expected a few muttered protests, InuYasha swept her off of the ground and strode toward the hut with her in his arms. She didn’t protest at all, and when he glanced down at her after reaching home, he shook his head. She was asleep.

He didn’t have the heart to wake her, even to eat. Laying her gently on the futon he’d already gotten out for her, she moaned softly and rolled onto her side, hands folded together under her cheek.

Sinking down beside the door with Tetsusaiga in his arms, InuYasha leaned his head back against the wall and stared at Kagome. Five months into her pregnancy, and she still didn’t really look pregnant, to the naked eye. He knew better. From holding her, and from feeling the pup move, he knew the differences in her body.

During the two months since Kaede’s death—since that disastrous night—Kagome had been working so hard to take over for the old miko. Trying twice as hard as she had to, Kagome dropped everything in order to do things for everyone else, and it was taking a toll on her. He’d tried before, to tell her what she was doing was too hard on her. He’d tried many times, in fact, but she didn’t want to listen to him, and he didn’t want to upset her again.

And, he had to admit, he missed her. Gone were the days when he had her all to himself. Sharing her with the villagers was grating on his nerves because they were winning. He sighed and closed his eyes. He’d grown accustomed to being the center of her attention, and now . . .

She whimpered softly. InuYasha sat up straight, eyes flashing open. “No,” she breathed. He scooted toward her. “Not again . . . Don’t take . . . InuYasha.”

Gently shaking her shoulder, he tried to wake her. She was having a nightmare. She hadn’t had one of those in months. “Kagome,” he said as he drew her into his arms, cradled her against his chest. “Hey,” he murmured, smoothing her hair, trying to soothe her as she thrashed against him, tried to fight him off in the throes of her sleep.

N . . . No!

“Shh.”

With a smothered cry and a sudden jerk, her eyes shot open. Wild, frightened, it took a moment for her to focus on him. Loosening a broken sob from somewhere deep inside, she clung to him fiercely, as though she was afraid to let him go. “InuYasha,” she whimpered, “she came to take you! She wanted—”

“It’s okay. I’m here. I’m not going anywhere,” he whispered into her hair.

“If she asks you to, you’d go,” Kagome said, her voice resigned, tears thickening behind it.

“Don’t be stupid,” he muttered, tightening his arms around her. “I’m not going anywhere, and she won’t ask me to.” All the things that had been said so long ago came back to him. He flinched. Kagome hadn’t ever understood . . .

Her body shook against him, racked with silent sobs, and with every one, a bit of him felt as though he were dying. Cascading tears, the torrent of a waterfall, and something that belied it all. . . Didn’t she know that her fears were destroying him, too?

She shifted, turned her face, stared up at him in the semi-darkness of the hut. Trembling breaths, tumultuous hiccups, she tried to control her emotions as she blinked back the remaining tears that gathered in her eyes. Rubbing his knuckles against her cheek, he grimaced as her eyes drifted closed for a moment before she stared at him, intensity gathering behind those mysterious eyes. The flicker of the firelight toyed with her features, lending her a honeyed glow, a warmth, a gentleness.

She reached for him, drawing his face down to hers, meeting his lips with her own, kissing him with a hunger, a need that burned him. There wasn’t a battle inside him; the struggle to fight against wanting her was lost before it began. Too long a time, too many nights left wanting, too many promising kisses were broken, and now this . . .

She surrendered as she dominated, gave as she took what she needed. Her lips opened to him, beckoned him, and he swept through her, consumed her. She whimpered; he growled. The shock of her tongue slipping into his mouth . . . he captured her, devoured her, accepted her defeat as he gave up his own victory.

Rising up on her knees, her hands fumbled with his haori. Shoving it off his shoulders, fingers playing over his chest, feeling her way as she stubbornly refused to let go of his lips, her need was a living thing that drove him forward. Delicate pearl buttons on her blouse flew as he tore at them, patience lost in his desire to have her flesh at his mercy. She whined softly in protest but didn’t fight him at all.

He broke away long enough to trail kisses along her jaw to her neck. She let her head fall to the side as he lowered her down. His hands discovered the satin of her shoulders, her breasts, engorged already, with the promise of their child. Her belly drew his touch, the hot flesh stretched taut. Nibbling at her pulse, he soothed her with his tongue, tasting the salt of her skin, deeply breathing the scent of her. He massaged her belly as she ran her hands along his back to hold him close. It wasn’t close enough.

She protested as he moved off her, no coherent words, but her sighs were enough. Slowly she opened her eyes, watched as he removed the rest of his clothing. Her gaze dropped, settled on him, bringing on a need that hurt so desperately that he nearly stumbled.

Her skirt joined the pile of his clothes. He stared with a bemused smile at the white cotton panties trimmed in delicate lace.   A unique mix of innocence and seduction, they were perfect on her. Perhaps it was that mix that slowed him. Hooking the material with his thumbs, Kagome arched up as he slid the garment down her hips, her legs, his claws running lightly against the outsides of her thighs as he tugged them off, leaving her bare, leaving her vulnerable, leaving her beautiful.

He lay beside her, turning her face to meet his with a tender finger. Kissing her slowly, gently, he moaned softly against her swollen lips. He could feel her pulse in that kiss, could hear the blood rushing through her. Slowly massaging her breast as she arched into his hand, he slowed his kisses to calm her. It wasn’t nearly enough.

She rolled toward him, pushed against him, willed his body to hear her own as she moaned softly into his mouth. Wrapping her leg over his hip, feeling him there yet not where she wanted him to be, she cried out in frustration, tugging at his shoulders, demanding. He chuckled softly.

Dragging kisses down her body, squeezing her breasts, teasing her softly, a million little explosions ignited as his mouth fell over her nipple. Swirling his tongue around the hardened bud, the surge of pride at her quiet sighs was a heady thing. Grazing teeth, a rampant need, she clung to him, murmuring his name as she reeled in abject sensation, in the transient wash of tactile feeling. He was in no hurry. The frustrating beauty of the moment sent shockwaves through her, converging together in the center of her, rippling outward until she lay helpless, unable to move, her will gone as he gave to her.

His hands were everywhere, gliding over her skin. She wanted to melt into him, into his touch, into his soul. Her body convulsed under his perusal, every nerve in her calling to him, reaching for him. If he could hear the song that echoed from her, he didn’t show it. Maddeningly slowly, he touched her.

Gathering together the last of her strength, she lifted his head, eyes locking with his. “Make love to me,” she said softly.

As if that was what he’d waited to hear, she gasped as he entered her. Head falling back, fingers gripping his shoulders, she lifted her hips against his, taking him fully, unleashing a cry from him. Gathering her against his chest, against his heart, he surged in her. She wrapped her legs around him, unwilling to let him go. He touched her a thousand times, touched her heart, guided her slowly, whispering things she didn’t comprehend against her lips.

The yearning gave way to need, and the need gave way to frustration. Nearly there yet never quite to the edge, she tried to show him what she wanted. Heat built, relentless, overwhelming. His muscles strained and tight, undulating under his skin as he tried to hold back. Her muscles spasmed around him, gripped him tightly, goaded him further. His lips fell to hers again, a kiss meant to devour. Her body seemed to move with a desire of its own, she drew him deeper, held him tighter, and suddenly she tore her mouth away, calling out into the silence of the hut, calling out to him as she fell.

His cry echoed hers as he pushed against her, pulsing inside her, giving her everything as his body completed hers.

He rolled to the side, carrying her with him, cradling her against him, protecting her and sheltering her as she found her way back to him again.

The sound of their heavy breathing was the first thing that Kagome heard as conscious thought slowly returned. Leaning back so that she could look down at him, she smiled at the unmistakable pride, the unmasked gloating in his smile. “You’re happy,” she remarked softly.

“You make me happy,” he replied without opening his eyes.

She yawned and cuddled deeper into his embrace. “Do I?”

“Go to sleep, wench. You’re exhausted.”

Reaching up, putting her arm around him, she found his ear and idly rubbed. Normally he pulled away when she did it. This time he let her.   An odd growl came from him. She lifted her head but didn’t stop. Not an unpleasant sound, she allowed. It was just one she’d never heard before. Almost a whine but with a sing-song quality, the timber, the pitch was oddly soothing. His eyes were closed, and his chest rose and fell as though he slept. Was it a sound of . . . contentment?

Her gentle smile widened as she realized that it probably was. Had he ever been relaxed enough, even with her, to do that before? She closed her eyes. No, she supposed. He never had.

She hadn’t missed the words he said when he called out, either. ‘Had he meant it? Could he really?

Slowly her hand stopped rubbing though the growling still lulled her as sleep came to claim her, too.

He’d said, “Don’t leave me.”

I won’t, InuYasha,’ she vowed. ‘I’ll never leave you . . .’

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“Come away from that window before you catch a cold.”

“But it’s so beautiful,” Kagome remarked, a soft smile toying at the corners of her lips. “Besides that, it’s plenty warm in here. You made sure of that.”

“Keh!”

She didn’t miss the slight reddening on InuYasha’s cheeks as he turned his head away. He was always embarrassed with her praise, and truthfully, she liked to see him out of sorts that way. She had told him before how men of her time used stuff to insulate walls to keep warmth inside. He and Miroku had come up with their own version of that and had filled the walls with dirt as they’d built up. The effect was the same even if the idea that she was living in a cave had occurred to her more than once, but dirt was readily available, and it did its job, keeping the house snug and warm with the small metal braziers InuYasha had brought back from her time. “And,” he had explained as he had proudly showed her the new additions to the hut, “if the hut catches fire, the dirt should help to put it out.”

Her smile widened. “Surprised no one has come by today,” Kagome mused as she did as he asked, wandering over to him and letting him pull her down into his lap.

“Dunno. Maybe they knew better.”

Her eyes narrowed as she considered his innocent enough words. Turning to stare at him, Kagome just knew he had something to do with that. “You threatened them?”

“Door to door,” he admitted easily enough.

Kagome’s mouth dropped open. “What if there’s an emergency? What if—--”

“Then they can come get you. You’re not needed to rid the huts of mice. They’ve got Sango for that.” Hands splayed on Kagome’s belly, InuYasha grinned as the pup protested the confined space.

Kagome moaned miserably. “Three more weeks,” she said with a sigh, her hands covering his as he continued to stroke her belly. “Seems like forever. It’ll be nice to be able to see my feet again.”

Smiling at her complaints, InuYasha kissed her forehead and then her belly. “You’re not that big, wench,” he growled, teasing. She really wasn’t. Sango, who was just now reaching her fifth month of pregnancy, was already nearly as large as Kagome, who was almost finished.

“Mama said she’s still having trouble getting paperwork for you so that we can be married in my time,” Kagome remarked with a sigh. “That is, if you still want to be.”

“Stupid girl,” he remarked, nuzzling against her neck the way he knew Kagome would be powerless to stop him.

“That’s . . . un . . . fair,” she gasped out, eyes drifting closed.

“Keh!” He sat back and pulled her a little closer. “Unfair is that you still make me crazy, and I can’t have you.”

The pouting tone behind the last statement drew a smile from her as she leaned up to kiss his cheek. “The doctors said that it isn’t a good idea until after the baby comes.”

“I suppose,” he grumbled.

“Come on, InuYasha. You ignored me for the better part of three years. I don’t think a few weeks will be that big a deal.”

“I never ignored you,” he argued.

She giggled. “You did. You rarely showed any interest in me at all until—”

“I showed you interest all the time,” he cut in, indignant color rising in his face. “You just never noticed. Everyone else did, and you think I’m dense. Keh!”

She shoved at him playfully. “You’re horrible, dog-boy.”

He chuckled. “Why don’t you lie down awhile? You’re tired.”

Kagome was going to argue with him on general principle since he was always telling her to lie down, but her wide yawn thwarted her, and she sighed as he carried her back to the newly finished bedroom and set her down. “Now get some rest, will you?”

She did as he asked her to but frowned as he pulled the covers up for her. “Where are you going?”

“I didn’t say anything about going anywhere.”

She started to sit up. “InuYasha . . .”

He relented. “I was going to go check the villagers and make sure everyone’s safe.”

She smiled. “You’re such a softie.”

“Keh!” he called over his shoulder as he marched out of the room.

She closed her eyes then flinched. A sharp tightening around her belly pierced through her idyll. ‘Must be fake contractions,’ she thought with an inward shrug. The slight pressure—--it wasn’t really painful—was gone before she had time to think it over too long.

She was asleep by the time InuYasha poked his head in moments later to tell her he was leaving. He watched her sleep for a minute, a lazy grin lighting the depths of his gaze.

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

The unnerving sound of scraping awoke Kagome from an otherwise blissful sleep. She frowned. Her bedroom was dark. Another pain tightened around her, and Kagome flinched. This one was far worse than the one earlier had been. Something shifted beside her, a whisper of movement. She opened her eyes only to find Shippou snuggled up next to her with Kirara on her other side.

As though sensing that she was awake, the kitsune sat up, rubbing his eyes, and he grinned at her. The moonlight filtering through the rice paper covered window bathed him in enough light to see his shining eyes. “I’ll go tell Sango you’re awake!” he exclaimed, hopping down from the futon with a child’s energy. Kagome smiled wanly as he disappeared through the doorway.

Kirara mewled and stretched then rubbed against Kagome’s arm before she, too, hopped down and ran out of the room.

With a sigh, Kagome pushed back the covers and swung her legs off the side of the bed. She stood up only to fall back again as another painful tightening came, this one accompanied by a sudden hot gush of fluid.

Her mind slowed as it dawned on her: what had just happened. Staring at the shadows of the floor with a sense of rising hysteria, she refused to believe what her mind screamed was true. ‘Oh . . . oh . . . no . . . That couldn’t be . . . it wasn’t just . . . my water . . . broke?’ Stillshe couldn’t quite believe it, tried convincing herself that it wasn’t what she knew deep down that it was. When the next painful wave hit her—--one that made her gasp softly and double over, Kagome knew. Denial might be sweet, but she didn’t have much time . . . “InuYasha!”

The thump of approaching footsteps and the glow of a small lantern came closer. Sango hurried into the room and sank down beside Kagome. The youkai exterminator looked worried, almost frightened. Kagome glanced at her friend and tried to smile. “The baby’s coming . . . Where’s InuYasha?”

Sango grimaced. She rubbed Kagome’s back but stared at the flame in the lantern. “He and Miroku had to go. There was a youkai near, and . . .”

She trailed off when Kagome broke in with a soft whimper. Reminding herself to breathe was harder. “I’ve got to get to the well,” she muttered. “Sango, I need InuYasha.”

“It’s snowing, Kagome. You can’t get to the well. Even if it weren’t, without InuYasha here . . .”

She nearly screamed as another pain ripped through her. It was sheer will that stayed the sound. Unwilling to frighten Sango any more than she probably already had, Kagome bit back the sound and concentrated instead on forcing away the pain.

“What should I do, Kagome?”

Mercifully, the pain passed enough that Kagome could tell Sango to get water, sheets, whatever she could find. “It’ll be awhile. I’m going to try to sleep,” she said, her voice oddly calm, strangely casual. She even managed to force a smile as she crawled back up onto the bed. “I’ll call if I need you.” Sango finally nodded and hurried from the room.

It’s not supposed to be like this,’ Kagome thought wildly. ‘I’m supposed to be in my time, in a hospital, with doctors, and my mother and . . . InuYasha . . . Where are you, InuYasha?

Shippou’s voice drifted to her, soft, quiet, as though he was trying not to be overheard. “You didn’t tell her where InuYasha really is, did you?”

“No, Shippou! I . . . I couldn’t . . . I know why he feels that he has to help her. Still, with Kagome so close to having the baby, I think he should have stayed here instead of . . .”

The dulled sound of water being poured. Kagome braced herself as another wave of pain washed over her. It was nothing compared to the pain that tore at her heart.

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

“Okay, Kagome. Just one more push, and I think you’ll be done,” Sango coaxed gently.

Kagome gasped, cried, pushed. Daylight was starting to filter through the window. The tiny bedroom smelled like sweat, tears, blood. Screwing up her face with her concentration, with her final bits of strength, Kagome pushed.

Sango yelped, somewhere between a sob and a laugh, and moments later, Kagome heard it . . . the wail of her baby.

Bone weary and ready to pass out, she struggled to sit up, to look at the squirming little ball of flesh that Sango softly exclaimed over. “Kagome! Oh, Kagome! Beautiful! Just . . . so beautiful!” Wrapping the baby in a warm, dry blanket, Sango hurried over to lay the infant in Kagome’s arms. Happy tears streamed down Sango’s face. Kagome burst into laughter, shedding tears of her own before shifting her gaze to the baby nestled so close to her heart.

“My . . . daughter,” Kagome whispered. “My Tajiko.”

Tiny hands with little claws, fingers balled into miniature fists, the silvery hair of the inu-youkai heritage was matted to her head. Wee triangles that were her ears still plastered against her scalp, but it was her face that beguiled Kagome. The exact shape, the exact lines of her father. Tajiko stopped crying, as though she knew that her mother held her. With great effort, the infant opened her eyes, unfocused, unready for the light of the bedroom. She blinked once, twice, and Kagome saw that she had his eyes, too. So many nights, she’d dreamed of this child, of this little girl. Kagome saw her all the time. She’d chosen the name months ago, when the first of the dreams had come. The name suited her.

“Let me clean her for you, Kagome,” Sango offered, reaching for the baby.

Kagome let Sango take her as her eyes drifted closed. So tired . . .

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

Kagome awoke later to the feel of Tajiko rooting hungrily for her breast. Sango had put her in bed with Kagome, and the infant was fresh, clean. She adjusted herself and the baby, and watched with a smile as Tajiko latched hungrily onto her, the tiny hands pushing at her, the little mouth perfect. The silvery hair was downy soft, the little ears endearing. Kagome smiled gently as she ran the back of her knuckles along the silky smooth skin of the infant’s cheek. Tajiko sighed happily. The sound soothed Kagome.

A commotion in the main room drew Kagome’s attention. Sitting up without disturbing the infant, Kagome braced herself. InuYasha tore into the room and stopped. He hadn’t expected her to be awake. Staring at her with their daughter in her arms, Kagome didn’t miss the flash of guilt, the pang of regret. “Kagome . . .”

She couldn’t even muster the bravado to smile. She couldn’t look at him, at all. Turning her face away from him, Kagome whispered the only question that had been running through her mind the entire time.

“So . . . How is Kikyou?”

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Kagome’s soft laughter made him feel even worse. His daughter—their daughter. Tajiko. He moved away from the doorway, trying to see the baby wrapped in the thick blankets and cuddled to Kagome’s chest.

“Kagome? I’m so sor—”

“Osuwari.”

She’d said it calmly enough. InuYasha didn’t even try to fight it as he slammed into the floor. Pushing himself onto his elbows, he sighed. “I never should have left, and I know it, but—”

Osuwari.”

“Ugh!”

Tajiko didn’t even flinch.

“I didn’t have a choice! Kikyou—”

Her gaze rose for the first time since he’d entered the room. He almost wished she hadn’t. The anger burning in her eyes was enough to sear him through. “Osuwari, osuwari, osuwari!”

Sango stepped into the room, careful to avoid stepping on the hanyou plastered to the floor. “Kagome, why don’t you let me take the baby? I have a feeling you and InuYasha need to . . . talk.” Kagome let her take the baby, adjusting the blouse to hide herself from his view.

InuYasha sat up quickly, unable to keep his voice lowered as irritation rose to the fore. “Wait! I ain’t gotten to hold her!” he hollered after the retreating slayer.

“If you want one of your own,” Kagome bit out quietly, staring at her hands and averting his gaze, “Why don’t you have one with Kikyou?”

“What?”

“You’ve got better ears than anyone, InuYasha. I know you heard me.”

Cautiously, he sat up, deciding he was better of staying close to the floor in case she decided to use ‘the word’ again. “Will you just let me explain?”

Her head shot up at his softly uttered question, her eyes incredulous, as though she couldn’t quite believe that he’d actually asked her something quite so stupid. “Explain what? Why you weren’t here when your daughter was born? Explain why you felt the need to run to her when you should have been here? Explain why you think I really should have to listen to you explain? Get out, InuYasha! I can’t even look at you right now!”

He stood up slowly, ears flattened against his head, staring at her as she struggled not to cry. She was right, absolutely right. He had no justification to ask her to listen to him. He’d failed her . . . again.

InuYasha stopped in the doorway. “I’m sorry, Kagome,” he said softly before he turned and left. The sound of her sobs in his wake broke his heart. He wanted to go back to her, to make her listen to him. He just couldn’t do it. What sort of fool was he?

Four sets of eyes glowered at him as he looked up. Miroku sat by the fire apparently interrupted during a prayer. Hand raised perpendicular to his nose, he stared at InuYasha with an air of censure. Shippou sat beside the monk slowly shaking his head, as though he, too, thought that InuYasha was a fool. Kirara was even showing her disapproval, eyeing him as though she was considering eating him for dinner. Sango held Tajiko against her chest. The blankets covered the pup so thoroughly that InuYasha couldn’t even see her hair. He stepped toward Sango. She drew away. “You’re a baka, InuYasha! I can’t believe you would do something so hurtful, so—so—-so—”

Miroku got up and stepped over to Sango’s side as Tajiko, sensing Sango’s upset, started to whimper. “Calm down, Sango. It’s not good for Tajiko or for you.”

Sango pierced Miroku with her glare.   The monk backed away slightly. “Take her,” Sango said, holding Tajiko toward Miroku. He accepted the baby as Sango turned to advance on InuYasha, who was irritated enough since he still hadn’t seen his daughter as yet. Miroku sank down next to Shippou and put Tajiko in Shippou’s lap though he didn’t let go of the infant, either. Kirara fell into step beside Sango as InuYasha retreated.

“Sango?”

“I can’t believe you could be so insensitive! You know how Kagome feels, and you knew that she would be having the baby any time, yet you still have to go running off to Kikyou! What were you thinking?”

Miroku hurried over, putting his hands on the slayer’s shoulders, as though trying to placate her. “Sango, darling—”

“Back off, monk,” she growled before jerking away from him to stalk toward the retreating hanyou even more. “As for you . . . .” She stepped up, toe to toe with InuYasha as he came up against the wall. Sango didn’t blink. “If you hurt her again, InuYasha, I swear you’ll wish you were dead.”

InuYasha flinched. “It wasn’t like that.”

Sango sighed though she still looked like she was ready to tear him limb from limb. “Why don’t you go meet your daughter then? Since we’ve all already gotten to do so.”

He didn’t miss the blatant barb, and he winced. “She’s really cute, even if she does look like you,” Shippou added as InuYasha gently lifted his daughter out of the kitsune’s arms.

His friends’ voices seemed to fade as InuYasha sank down on the floor with the squirming infant. He nodded slightly when Miroku and Sango announced their departure.

The infant in his arms was a perfect replica, a tiny hanyou that looked like him but smelled like Kagome, and her face was shaped like hers, he thought. Tiny hands with wee claws, small whimpers as she tried to suck her fist. The little ears were soft, silky, and InuYasha had to blink back tears as her eyes opened and she stared at him. “Tajiko,” he whispered, lifting the baby to cradle against his cheek. Her hair tickled his skin. He closed his eyes, holding her close. “I’ll protect you, just like I protect your mama.” Tajiko sighed softly.

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

Kagome hummed a lullaby as she rocked the infant in her arms. ‘I’d never tire of holding her,’ she thought with a small smile. “A whole day old,” she murmured. Tajiko whimpered.

“You ready?” InuYasha asked as he stuck his head in the room. He took the baby so that she could slip into her coat, kissing the softness of Tajiko’s cheek.

Kagome laid out another blanket and wrapped the baby in it to keep her out of the cold and followed InuYasha wordlessly through the hut.

The cold of the January morning bit into her cheeks. Kagome cradled Tajiko closer to her and didn’t complain when InuYasha swept them both into his arms. “You two okay?”

She nodded. He launched them all forward. They traveled in silence awhile. InuYasha broke it, dropping to a slow walk as they neared the edge of the forest. “She’s beautiful,” he remarked softly.

Kagome nodded. “She is.”

He sighed. “Her face looks like yours.”

Kagome didn’t answer as a familiar sting erupted behind her eyes. She blinked quickly.

“Kagome, there’s something I’ve got to tell you,” he said slowly as they neared the well.

Something odd in his tone set off a sense of dread. He set her down, and she stepped away, silently waiting for whatever it was he needed to say.

“The day Tajiko was born . . . when I went to see Kikyou . . .”

She opened her mouth to stop him. He shot her a defiant look. “Let me say this.”

Her grip tightened on Tajiko. “Okay.”

He reached out toward her but let his hand fall away, as though he didn’t dare touch her. “I wanted to tell you before you found out . . . I brought her back to the village. She’s there. She’s agreed to take care of things until you’re recovered, so you can spend more time with Tajiko.”

Kagome’s eyes skittered away. She felt as though he’d struck her. The air whooshed out of her, and she sank down on the edge of the well. Her heart constricted, causing a pain so deep, so piercing that she wanted to scream. Opening her mouth, no sound would come. Closing her eyes did nothing to block the torment erupting inside her. A sense of numbness, emptiness, filled her. There wasn’t a trace of anger, no bitterness . . . There was just . . . nothing.

He was talking to her. She could hear his voice but couldn’t make out his words. ‘Words . . . I can’t hear him . . . I don’t want to hear him.’ Eyes raising slowly, locking on his face as he spoke to her. The ice that surrounded and protected her from feeling slowly cracked, broke, bled. “Stop.”

He flinched at the quiet anger in her voice. “Kagome—”

“Stop! Osuwari!”

He slammed into the ground, into the snow.

“Don’t come after me! Don’t you dare! I’m not coming back; I’m not coming back ever!

Without a backward glance, Kagome jumped into the well with Tajiko cradled safely in her arms.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“How could he?”

Crystalline tears flowed, cascading down, raining on Tajiko’s blankets like a bitter waterfall. Since Kaede’s death, things had been different somehow. InuYasha had been gentler, kinder, harsh at times when he didn’t know what to say or do yet always showing her the greatest of care. She’d started to think, to hope . . . How could she have been so wrong?

Does this girl mean more to you than I do, InuYasha?

Closing her eyes against that question, Kagome felt a sharp jab at her heart. He never answered Kikyou back then.

The miasma, Kikyou’s arrow that grazed Kagome’s cheek . . . the hurtful words of the dead priestess as she took the Shikon no Kakera from Kagome . . . and later . . .

Kagome stared at InuYasha, who stared sadly at the skies—as Kikyou rose above, swathed in her Shini-dama-chuu. “You still love Kikyou don't you?

InuYasha had been angry. She remembered his words. “Wha—? What are you saying at a time like this?

Kagome’s bitterness, confusion, as she asked, “What are you upset about?

InuYasha’s frustration cut into her, memories hurtful, poignant, unending. “St-stupid idiot!  It's because I remembered about you that I came rushing here like this . . .

By the well . . . he’d made his choice . . . and his choice had been Kikyou then, too . . . “Kikyou came after me, died for me . . . It’s only right that I repay her with my own life.”

Angrily, Kagome dashed away her tears. They were easily replaced by more as her heart swelled, throbbed, but wouldn’t break. ‘He’s making due with you because he can’t have her.’

No . . . !

Baka, Kagome . . . How could you even think—‘

InuYasha . . .’

Kikyou. Kikyou! It always comes back to Kikyou!

The implication that she would fail the villagers was bad enough. He honestly thought she couldn’t handle the responsibilities of taking care of Tajiko and the people she’d come to love? Had he thought so little of her that he’d had to bring in Kikyou? Stifling a sob, she knew it was true. He’d always underestimated her, all along. Maybe in the beginning it had been true enough. She hadn’t known anything about protecting herself, the first time she’d fallen through the well, but over time, she’d learned so much . . . Another sob welled up to choke her. This one escaped, echoing off the well surrounding her, filling her head with her own sounds of grief. Yet he still believed that she couldn’t do it, that she was helpless, unable to fend on her own. She could. She knew she could. She had simply never wanted to.

‘He’ll come after you. He’ll come after you because you took his daughter—his pup.’

Biting her bottom lip as she lit at the bottom of the well, Kagome tried to think. Ofudas never worked. Grandpa had tried those numerous times, and they did little to seal the well. ‘No! I can’t see him . . . I don’t want to see him . . . not now, not ever . . . not yet . . . .

“Tajiko . . . what should I do?” she whispered to the baby. “Your papa will come, and . . .” she choked back a sob, “he’ll find us, find you, even if we hide.” She sighed, cuddling the baby closer. ‘Stupid InuYasha . . . It doesn’t matter where I go, he’d be able to track us. It was a God-send in the past. It’s a hindrance now. Stupid dog senses . . .

She stopped suddenly, an odd thought forming in her mind. ‘Dog senses . . .’ Kagome stormed into the shrine with a stifled sob. Without a word, she handed Tajiko to her mother who gasped in surprise before she ran into the kitchen and began pillaging the cupboards. ‘Curry powder . . . red pepper flakes . . . ground black pepper . . . cumin . . . chili powder . . . garlic salt . . . This ought to do it.

Her conscience clucked at her as she closed the cupboards. ‘Is this necessary, Kagome? It does seem a little underhanded . . . or a lot underhanded, really . . .

With a stubborn shake of her head, Kagome gathered up the herbs, a newspaper, and a box of matches and ran back out of the shrine toward the well-house. ‘Underhanded or not, I just can’t see him yet, and this . . . this has to work!

With shaking hands, she ripped open the seals, glad that her mother always bought the huge economy-sized bottles of everything. Then she dumped all of the herbs straight into the well. “That ought to stop him, if he really thinks he’s coming after us,” she told herself then sighed. Slowly, methodically, she rolled the newspaper and shoved it into one of the empty bottles and lit the end. Satisfied that it would continue to burn, Kagome dropped the makeshift torch into the well. The flame shined up at her like a beacon in the darkness.

Seconds later, the well gave off a spicy scent so strong that Kagome had to put a hand over her face to keep from succumbing to a bout of coughing. ‘That should hold him off,’ she thought with a grimace. Picking up the trash and sparing one last look at the empty well, Kagome turned and trudged back toward the shrine again.

“Kagome? What happened? What did you do with all of those?” Mrs. Higurashi asked, following Kagome into the kitchen as Kagome dropped the empty plastic containers into the recycling bin.

“I sealed it. If InuYasha thinks he’s getting through, then he’s mistaken,” she said stiffly as she washed her hands. Tajiko whimpered.

Kagome took Tajiko and sat down at the table to nurse her daughter. Mrs. Higurashi remained silent, waiting patiently for Kagome to tell her exactly what was going on. After realizing that Kagome really wasn’t going to tell her anything more, her mother sighed and sank down in an empty chair at the table. “Well?”

“It’s blocked, for now,” Kagome muttered.

Mrs. Higurashi shook her head slowly. “No, dear, I mean, ‘Well, I assume this is your little one, and she’s lovely.’ Does she have a name?”

Kagome made a face at the gentle censure in her mother’s voice. “Tajiko,” she replied. “I wanted to come home to have her here but InuYasha . . .”

“You two had a disagreement?”

Kagome shook her head, concentrating on staring that the tiny bundle in her arms. “No . . . not exactly.”

“It’s fine, you know, if you don’t want to tell me what happened.”

She didn’t speak for awhile. Tajiko finished nursing, and Kagome let her mother take her while she adjusted her clothing again. The front door opened and closed. Seconds later Souta sauntered into the kitchen. When he saw the bundle in their mother’s arms, his eyes lit up, and he rushed over to greet the newest member of the family.

“Be careful with her,” Mrs. Higurashi admonished the youth as he slowly took the baby. “You have to support her head.”

“She looks just like InuYasha!” Souta exclaimed softly.

Kagome blinked back some tears and nodded.

“Can I show her to Gramps?”

Kagome nodded again and watched as her brother exited the room with Tajiko.

“She’s just beautiful, Kagome. Do you want me to make an appointment so she can be checked by the doctor?”

“Yeah . . .”

Mrs. Higurashi took Kagome’s hesitant answer as a sign that she was worried about Tajiko’s home birth. She smiled encouragingly at Kagome. “I’m sure it will be fine. She looks very healthy. Did Sango help you? You two did very well, it seems.”

“Thanks.”

“Kagome . . . whatever is troubling you, just remember: I trust in you to trust your own judgment.”

Leaning her elbow on the table, Kagome rubbed her forehead with a shaking hand. “I don’t. I don’t think I trust my judgment any more, at all.”

Mrs. Higurashi leaned forward to push Kagome’s bangs out of her face. Kagome still wouldn’t meet her mother’s gaze. “Do you want to tell me what happened?”

She shook her head slowly, unsure where to start. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to tell her mother. She really just didn’t know where to begin. “He . . . he brought her back, Mama, to the village. He wasn’t there when Tajiko was born, and I was—” cutting herself off, Kagome shot to her feet and wiped her eyes as she drew a shaky breath. “I want to go lay down. Tajiko’s probably tired, too.”

Mrs. Higurashi watched in silence as Kagome slipped out of the kitchen. From what Kagome had said, she had a feeling that it wasn’t some sort of small misunderstanding that had brought her daughter running back home. She sighed and stood, staring out the window at the shrine courtyard as something else occurred to her. Knowing InuYasha and his stubborn streak, the hanyou was likely trying to get through whatever seal Kagome had managed to put on the well.

Grabbing her coat off the rack by the door, Mrs. Higurashi stepped outside into the brisk winter air. Even if she wasn’t sure exactly what had happened between her daughter and InuYasha, she was sure that InuYasha confronting Kagome now would only lead to more misunderstandings.

She had to step back as she pulled open the sliding doors on the well house. The mixture of spices that Kagome had used was enough to choke a human. With her arm over her nose and mouth, Mrs. Higurashi waved her free arm to expel some of the fumes. The curry powder and black pepper burned her eyes, and she could only hope that InuYasha wasn’t quite foolish enough to try to follow Kagome so soon.

A muffled whine broke through her musings, though, and Mrs. Higurashi forgot her concerns as she ran down the steps to the dry well. “InuYasha?”

Another moaning whine drifted up to her. Mrs. Higurashi sighed. “Hang on, I’ll be right back.”

InuYasha struggled to remain conscious in the bottom of the hell-trap. The mixture of whatever it was that Kagome had obviously used to keep him back was killing him. ‘Fucking stubborn bitch!’ he thought with a growl that came out more of a whine. Trying not to breathe too deeply didn’t help. Her stricken face flashed through his mind again, and InuYasha sighed. ‘Kagome . . .

“Here.”

InuYasha hadn’t heard Mrs. Higurashi’s reemergence. He couldn’t even reply to her, though, couldn’t stop her from slipping the odd paper mask over his face, covering his nose and mouth to block out the vapors. It stopped the rising cloud of powders. It didn’t stop the burning stench.

“Can you move, InuYasha?”

He tried. He really tried. Struggling to his hands and knees, InuYasha couldn’t hang on to the stance and certainly couldn’t push himself to his feet, either. “Ungh,” he gasped as he collapsed again.

Mrs. Higurashi sighed. “You can’t stay down here, InuYasha. Kagome dumped spices in here to keep you back. I’ll help you but you’ve got to help me, too. I can’t get you out of here alone.”

Gradually the haze enveloping InuYasha’s mind subsided though he doubted he could move. He could barely open his eyes. The fumes were so thick that they stung him. The glimpse he got of Kagome’s mother, however, made him groan again. Mrs. Higurashi was in as much discomfort as he was though she, too, wore one of the masks that she’d put on him. “I knew she did . . . something,” he gasped, shaking his head to clear the fume-induced stupor. It wouldn’t let up. “I smelled it over there . . .”

“She didn’t want you to follow her, InuYasha, at least, not yet. Can you stand?”

He tried again, pushing himself against the wall and shoving. He swayed for a few seconds before crashing back into the dirt. “What . . . she . . . use?”

He didn’t see Mrs. Higurashi’s grimace. “Spices.”

“Let me get you some water. Maybe that will help.”

He didn’t argue as she scurried up the ladder beside him. He tried pulling himself up on that a few times. His balance was off, probably because of the spices still clinging in his nose, and he couldn’t manage to do it.

It was true enough. When he’d finally managed to shake off the remnants of the ‘osuwari’ she used on him before hopping into the well, he hadn’t missed the odd scent drifting out to him. Like that nasty food he’d eaten before—curry, they’d called it—it burned his nostrils on the other side of the well. Common sense had warned him not to go after her until she’d calmed down and until that smell was gone. Common sense, however, hadn’t held much sway in his mind at the time.

Trouble was, now he was stuck here, at the bottom of the well on Kagome’s side of it, and he couldn’t get out because he couldn’t even stand. When she dumped whatever spices into the well to hold him off, she’d apparently been serious. The spices felt as though they were trapped in his nose, and it made simple breathing hurt.

“Try this,” Mrs. Higurashi said, handing InuYasha a damp towel. He stared at it blankly, his arm feeling leaden, heavy. “Put it over your nose and mouth, InuYasha. It may help to filter out more of the spices.”

He couldn’t. He couldn’t lift his arm enough to make it do what he wanted. Mrs. Higurashi ended up doing it for him. “Is that better?”

Managing a nod, InuYasha opened his eyes slightly. “Is she okay?”

“Kagome, you mean?”

He nodded again.

“Maybe not completely okay. But she will be. Kagome’s strong. You know that.”

“I want her to come home with me.”

Mrs. Higurashi sighed. InuYasha managed to bring his hand up to hold the cloth himself. “Maybe you should give her some time. She’s got a lot to deal with right now. She’s a new mother with new responsibilities, and she’s struggling.”

“Keh! She ran off with my pup!”

“InuYasha? Would you mind telling me what happened that made my daughter want to run off with the baby?”

He felt his face grow hot, and he couldn’t look Mrs. Higurashi in the eye. “I wasn’t there when Tajiko was born,” he admitted softly. “She was so tired lately, and the villagers . . . I went to find Kikyou, to ask her to help Kagome, until Kagome was feeling better, that I could bring Kagome back here so she could take it easy for awhile . . . I didn’t think she’d be so upset with me.”

Mrs. Higurashi shook her head slowly but she smiled, and InuYasha took heart from that. “Did you intend on staying here with her during all this?”

He nodded, a confused frown drawing his eyebrows together. “Yeah . . . I wouldn’t have let her just leave with the pup, would I? There’d be no one to protect them.”

“Did you tell my daughter that?”

His flush darkened. “No. She didn’t give me a chance. She said ‘it’ and ran off.”

“InuYasha, perhaps it would be best if you gave Kagome a few days to calm down before you try talking to her again. She’s too upset to listen to you, and I think you might be, too.”

He sighed and forced himself to his feet. The cloth did much better to intercept the spices than the mask had. He felt a little stronger now. “She and the pup belong with me,” he maintained stubbornly. “She’s my mate, damn it, and—”

“And do you love her?”

He stopped, blinking in surprise as he stared at Mrs. Higurashi with a marked frown. “What kind of stupid question is that? What do you—?”

“If you love her, InuYasha, then maybe you will consider what Kagome needs before you drag her back to the past again? Give her time to calm down, to adjust. Give her time to miss you.” She patted his arm before turning and clamoring back up the ladder. “I’ll let you think about it,” she called down to him. When he looked back up moments later, she was gone.

Do you love her, InuYasha?

He snorted. “What the fuck kind of question is that?” he growled, wishing he had strength enough to tear something to shreds.

If you love her, give her time.’

An almost indiscernible sadness stole into his eyes. He slowly dragged himself up the ladder and stared back down into the empty well. How much time did she need? Would she even listen to him?

Digging his claws into the side of the well, one question kept filtering through his mind: ‘How had everything gone so wrong?

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Has it been long enough?

InuYasha heaved a long-suffering sigh as he stared down into the well. The smell of Kagome’s seal had diminished. He could catch faint traces of the kami-damned spices, which mean that they were probably still fairly strong on the other side of the well, too, but as long as he was ready for it, as long as he didn’t stay in the well too long before getting out of there, it ought to be fine.

Still he hesitated. Six long days had passed since Kagome had taken Tajiko and fled. Every day he sat beside the well, unwilling to leave, unable to do more than worry and wonder and hope. It didn’t make any more sense to him now than it had before. He didn’t know when everything had changed.

Unable to remain angry with Kagome for her rash decisions, InuYasha had taken her mother’s advice. As much as it chafed him to sit idly by, waiting for some sort of signal from Kagome, he also understood that something had shifted in her, something different, something that he couldn’t fix or save her from.

Sango had told him what she knew, what she’d gathered from bits of conversations here and there with Kagome. As much as the woman encouraged others to talk, it seemed that Kagome, herself, rarely did. Unwilling to burden others with her own concerns, Kagome had kept a lot inside—things that InuYasha hadn’t realized were there.

She thinks you still wish to be with Kikyou. She thinks she’s nothing more than a substitute,” Sango explained quietly. Sitting on the side of the well as the sun was sinking behind her, the slayer had seemed sad.

Incredulity manifested in anger as InuYasha stalked back and forth like a caged animal. “Keh! She can’t be that stupid! Kagome’s not a fool!

Maybe not, but, InuYasha . . . you know as well as I do that you’ve never been very clear about your feelings for Kikyou, at least not in words.”

But that’s just plain stupid! If I wanted to be with Kikyou, then I wouldn’t have taken Kagome as my mate.”

Did you ever tell Kagome that?

InuYasha crouched down, unable to look Sango in the eye as late realization washed over him. “I have to tell her? How could she not realize that?

How long did it take you to realize how much Kagome cared for you?

InuYasha sighed. Point taken.

Still, if it bothered her so much, why hadn’t she just told him? The times he’d tried to explain it to Kagome, she always cut him off. She never wanted to hear his reasons.

He also had to admit that bringing Kikyou back to the village was probably not the wisest of decisions he’d ever made. Knowing that Kagome didn’t like to be compared to Kikyou, he’d done the one thing that was guaranteed to upset her, even if his intentions had been good. Then to find out that he’d missed the birth of their child in the doing . . . well, maybe that was what really kept his temper in check. He’d been wrong, dead wrong. Now if he could just get Kagome to listen to him, maybe . . .

Maybe if you started off by telling her how you feel she’d be more likely to listen to the rest of your reasons, baka! Kagome can’t read your mind. She doesn’t know how you feel because you’ve never told her.’

He shook his head stubbornly. ‘I’ve told her how I feel every single day!’ he argued. ‘I tell her when I hold her, when I kiss her . . . all the time! She’s just not listening!

And maybe she needs to hear it, in words, out loud. Some things aren’t as plain to her as they are to you or else you wouldn’t be sitting here beside the well with five hundred years separating you and your mate and your pup . . . baka.’

InuYasha raked his claws against the wood. Enough was enough. Standing slowly, InuYasha hopped onto the side of the well. Surely she’d listen to him now, wouldn’t she? “Keh!” he snorted. She’d listen to him or else . . .

Before he could jump, a new scent invaded his senses. InuYasha glanced over his shoulder in time to see Sesshoumaru light on the ground. Expression blank, eyes inscrutable, InuYasha had a feeling he wasn’t going to welcome his brother’s visit as he dropped back onto the ground and turned to face his sibling. “This had better be good. I’ve got no time to waste on a bastard like you,” he asked slowly.

Sesshoumaru blinked but otherwise didn’t show any change in his stoic expression. “Where’s your mate?”

“None of your fucking business,” InuYasha bit out, hand resting on the hilt of Tetsusaiga. He was itching for a good fight. Just let Sesshoumaru say one thing, and InuYasha swore he’d rip his brother to pieces. “Why do you care?”

Sesshoumaru shrugged. The gesture was almost imperceptible other than a marked shifting of his scent. “I need her aide.”

InuYasha blinked in surprise. Sesshoumaru never admitted to needing anyone’s aide. Why Kagome’s? “You need her?” he repeated incredulously. “Why’s that?”

Surprisingly, Sesshoumaru turned away, as though he was embarrassed to be asking for assistance from anyone. “Rin is ill,” he said finally, “very ill . . . Your miko . . . I thought perhaps she can help her.”

InuYasha sighed. If it had been anything other than that . . . “I’ll get her,” InuYasha grumbled as he leapt onto the side of the well once more. “Wait here.”

Steeling himself for the fumes on the other side by covering his nose and mouth with his haori, InuYasha sighed. Would Kagome listen to him, at least long enough to aide the human child?

The fumes are surprisingly light,’ he thought as he landed in the bottom of the well. Still not wishing to linger in the nauseous gasses, InuYasha lunged for the top, cleanly landing outside the well at the base of the steps. The reason the fumes weren’t quite so bad, he realized, was because someone had brought an electric fan out, and the fan was carrying the fumes out of the well-house, away from him. He stopped abruptly though, arm dropping away from his face. He swallowed hard, willing words to rise before it was too late.

Kagome stared at him warily, hurt masked but not gone from her expression. Tajiko was nestled in her arms, wrapped in a fuzzy pink blanket. Kagome had a huge bag slung over her shoulder, and she stared at InuYasha as though she wanted to turn and run. She didn’t.

“I was going to come back,” she finally said, breaking the silence that had fallen. “I’m sorry about the well.”

“You should be sorry,” he growled with a snort. ‘Knock that off, baka! What the fuck is wrong with you?’ He reached out to take the bag. Kagome let him. “Sesshoumaru needs you. He says Rin is sick.”

Instant concern filtered over her expression. Kagome hurried forward toward the well without hesitation. InuYasha followed her. “What’s wrong with her? Did he say?”

Lifting her easily, cradling her in his arms, InuYasha stifled a groan as he hopped back into the well. Kagome was too close, smelled too nice . . . and it was almost more than his senses could take. Tajiko cooed softly from the folds of the blanket. “He, um, just said she was sick,” InuYasha said, trying hard not to think about the heat of the woman in his arms. The welcoming aura of her surrounded him. He stifled a sigh. Damn, it really wasn’t fair . . .

“Tajiko’s night of vulnerability is the new moon, like you,” Kagome said quietly.

InuYasha blinked in surprise. “It is?”

“Yeah. It happened a couple of nights ago.” She laughed suddenly though the sound of it was missing something, a bit of the warmth that Kagome’s emotions normally possessed. “It was surprising. I laid her down for a nap, and when I went back in an hour later to check on her, she was human—and she cried . . .”

A fleeting glimmer of something passed over her features. Almost pain? Sadness? What could cause her to look so lost? Afraid of what her answer might be, InuYasha didn’t ask.

As they lit in the bottom of the well again, he tightened his grip on them and bounded out of the well.

Kagome struggled out of his grasp as soon as he landed and hurried over to Sesshoumaru, who was sitting on a rock near the place where he had first appeared. “InuYasha tells me Rin is sick. What’s wrong with her?”

Sesshoumaru stood, a faint flicker behind his amber gaze, recognition of someone who could help. “I know not. She is fevered yet covered with odd spots.”

Kagome frowned. “Can you take me to her?”

Sesshoumaru nodded and held out his hand. “This way, Miko.”

“Back off, bastard,” InuYasha growled. “You’re not taking her anywhere. Just lead the way.”

Sesshoumaru stared at InuYasha for a moment then nodded. “Have it your way.”

Sweeping Kagome and Tajiko back into his arms, InuYasha sprinted after his brother through the forest.

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

Kagome frowned as she concentrated on soothing Tajiko without nursing her. It was too cold to expose herself or the baby to the frosty air. But Tajiko’s fussing grew louder, more insistent, and finally Kagome looked up at InuYasha with an apologetic frown. “We’ve got to stop. She’s hungry, and it’s too cold to feed her out here.”

“Oi! Bastard!” InuYasha called out after letting Kagome and the baby down. Without waiting to see if Sesshoumaru heard him or not, InuYasha stripped off his haori and slung it over Kagome and Tajiko. “This should keep you warm enough,” he remarked. “Are you okay?”

She nodded and sat down on a boulder. InuYasha turned his back on her, arms crossed over his chest, obviously standing guard over them while she took care of their child. ‘Tell him, Kagome! Tell him the reason you wanted to come back! Tell him how badly he hurt you, and give him a chance to explain . . . and tell him how much you missed him, too . . .

She sighed as she stared down at her nursing child. ‘I can’t tell him yet. I’ve got to help Rin first. Then . . .

Kagome made a tent of sorts out of the haori while she changed Tajiko’s diaper and wrapped her up again. When she finished, she held out the fire rat to InuYasha. He slowly took it and slipped it back on. He didn’t show signs of being cold. Then again, when did he ever show signs of weakness? She sighed.

Sesshoumaru stopped pacing when he finally saw that they were ready to continue. He didn’t complain and instead waited until InuYasha nodded before setting out again. Once more wrapped securely in InuYasha’s arms, Kagome dared a peek at him. He was staring down at her and Tajiko with a slight smile on his face, his eyes filled with more emotion than Kagome could remember ever having seen there before. He caught her troubled gaze and sighed, his eyes lifting to watch where he was taking them.

“I’m sorry. I really wanted to be there when Tajiko was born.”

His tone of voice was soft, pleading. Kagome let her head fall against his chest, against his beating heart, taking comfort from him, even if only for a short time. Too tired to fight, too sad to raise a defense, InuYasha overwhelmed her and for the moment, she wanted it that way. “It’s okay, InuYasha.”

“I let you down, didn’t I?”

“You didn’t. I understand.”

For some reason, her answer seemed to upset him more. “Kagome?”

“Hmm?”

“Don’t leave me like that again?”

A single tear fell from her eye before she could blink it back. Didn’t he know how much it had cost her to leave him? Couldn’t he see that all she ever wanted was for him to love her, just her?

“ . . . I won’t."

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Kagome closed the door behind herself and headed for the huge staircase that led to the great room below. From up here, she could hear the merry crackle of a fire, the whispering sound of movement. Rin was resting; the fever had finally broken. Kagome had washed the girl so that she would sleep more soundly, applied some anti-itch cream to all the little red bumps that were breaking out on her fair skin, and had left her as quietly as she could. She thought perhaps InuYasha was in the hall below, but when she entered the room she didn’t see him anywhere.

Sesshoumaru didn’t turn when Kagome stepped off the staircase. He made no indication that he’d either heard or sensed her arrival. Staring pensively at the flames on the huge hearth, Kagome could almost feel the sadness in the aura surrounding the powerful youkai.

“Well, miko? Can you help her? Can you save her?” he asked, breaking the silence, his voice calm, cool, detached.

Such an indifferent façade, a controlled demeanor. Does anything ever ruffle him?’ With a soft sigh, Kagome braced her hands on the small of her back and stretched. “She’ll be fine. She’s got what we call chicken pox. Her fever is gone, and she’ll be just like new in a day or so . . . well, except for scratching.”

Sesshoumaru didn’t smile though she could see traces of relief lighting his eyes.

Not for the first time, Kagome wondered again what it was that compelled Sesshoumaru to keep a human so close when, by all accounts, he detested humans in general. She always thought before that it was a bit whimsical to think that he had chosen to keep Rin in his household, under his protection. Staring at the great and powerful Lord of the Western Lands, it struck Kagome again, how incredibly different two brothers really could be. InuYasha was always so fiery, so verbal about the things that he chose to care. Sesshoumaru rarely, if ever, showed any such emotion. Cold, reserved, and yet she could sense an underlying sense of loneliness. She frowned. Could he really be lonely?

His voice broke through her thoughts, his tone oddly amused even if his expression didn’t change. “You wonder why I keep Rin, do you not, miko?”

Caught by her own curiosity, Kagome didn’t disagree. “I thought you hated humans, so yeah, I’ve wondered before.”

Sesshoumaru finally turned to face her. Kagome stared at him, into his eyes, so similar to InuYasha . . . yet so wholly different. InuYasha had trouble hiding his emotions. They showed in his eyes. Anger, frustration, confusion, pain, happiness . . . she always knew because she could always see it. Sesshoumaru’s eyes were blank, cold, measured. “I have never understood my father’s fascination for humans. I thought it simply something my half-breed brother had inherited from him. Weak and pathetic creatures, you humans. So easy to bend, so easy to break . . .”

Kagome’s chin rose proudly. “Humans don’t bend or break nearly as easily as you’d like to think, Sesshoumaru. Humans adapt. Humans accept. Humans endure.”

“Is that what you call it, miko? Your reason for clinging to that fool of a brother of mine? He so clearly loves the other—the clay doll who resembles Kikyou—and still you remain . . . his mate.”

He was mocking her. She knew it. Still his words cut deep, digging at her soul with the callousness of a warrior. “He chose me.”

“His youkai chose you. InuYasha’s youkai is completely separate from his heart, and that heart—that human thing—it chose Kikyou long ago.” He watched her for her reaction. Kagome tried not to give him the satisfaction of showing how deadly accurate his words were. She’d thought the same thing, more or less . . .

He considered her words for a moment. He nodded once at her assessment and went on, “Do you know what I desired, Miko? Inu no taisho. Strong. Powerful. I sought the power of the Tetsusaiga. I wanted to be as strong as my father.” He turned away, swept over to one of the many sliding rice paper covered windows. Drawing it open, he stared at the land.

Gooseflesh erupted on Kagome’s arms from the chill breeze. “I don’t understand,” she admitted softly, rubbing her hands over her arms to warm them. “Why are you telling me this?”

Sesshoumaru didn’t notice the cold, and he ignored her softly uttered question. “I stand in the midst of the winter. I feel not the cold. It is dull, the mere shifting of the wind. I feel not the heat of summer. I care not for the changing of the seasons. I have seen enough of them to last a lifetime or better. Sentimentality is purely a human emotion. This is why my father loved humans. It is human nature to feel things, to express things. It is foreign to the youkai. InuYasha is the same. His human heart dictates emotions. His youkai tries to dull them. You, miko . . . you’re caught between them, but the problem is . . . InuYasha knows this not.” Slowly, deliberately, Sesshoumaru closed the window, turning back to face Kagome, an odd smile lighting his expression. He walked toward her, his gaze fastened on her face, as though he’d never seen her before, as though she fascinated him. “Tell me, miko . . . do I frighten you?”

Wordlessly, Kagome shook her head. Something in his voice, in his movements entranced her.

Sesshoumaru chuckled. It wasn’t an unpleasant sound. He leaned in close, his cheek brushing over hers as he dared to come closer. “InuYasha wa baka desu,” he whispered in her ear.

“That’s not true. InuYasha—”

Slowly he straightened his back, lifted her chin to look at him once more. Her heart thundering in her ears, she wasn’t sure if she was attracted to him or was repulsed by him. “He causes you pain and you still defend him? What is it about him that inspires such loyalty among women? First that miko who came before, and now you?”

She refused to answer that. Sesshoumaru’s laughter, deep, husky, breathy, washed over her like a caress. She shivered, her eyes drifting closed. His lips hesitated over hers, not touching, not needing to touch. “Would you defend me, miko? Would you defend me with the fervor you show your hanyou?”

“I . . . no.”

“Are human hearts so easy to sway? Or has that baka misused yours so that you are willing to fall into another?”

She didn’t think as her mind and body reacted. The slap she dealt him echoed through the room. She stepped back in surprise, wondering if he would try to retaliate at all. He didn’t move. Slowly his head turned back to pin her with an amused smile. “So you do care for my brother. Very well, miko. You may go.”

InuYasha, Kagome! He’s your mate, and Sesshoumaru is his brother! What are you thinking?’ She gasped softly as her mind intruded, and she backed away, her hands shaking, her skin flushed. “Where’s . . . Tajiko?”

Sesshoumaru sighed almost dramatically and flicked his hand toward the stairs. “Your pup is upstairs with her sire. I trust you shall be joining them?”

Kagome didn’t answer. She turned and fled up the stairs as quickly as she could go.

The sound of Tajiko’s crying cut through her confusion. Kagome followed the sound to the end of the hallway and opened the door. InuYasha was trying to soothe the baby without much luck, it seemed. Kagome unbuttoned her blouse as she hurried over and took the child from him.

“How’s Rin?” InuYasha asked as Tajiko immediately stopped crying and settled to nursing.

“Hmm?”

She could feel his eyes on her, probing her face as though he suspected something was wrong. “Rin? Sesshoumaru’s human? The little girl? Is she going to be okay?”

“Oh, yeah, she is. It’s just the chicken pox, nothing serious . . .”

“Kagome? Is something wrong?”

She flinched inwardly then forced a bright smile as she shoved the strained memories of Sesshoumaru’s words and his strange caresses from her mind. “Wrong? Oh, no, everything’s fine . . .”

He didn’t believe her. She could see it in the depths of his gaze. For reasons she didn’t want to dwell on, she couldn’t return his look very long. He sank down on the floor before her, a serious expression on his face. “Kagome? I missed you.”

Tears stung her eyes at his soft words. “I missed you, too.”

He was silent for awhile. He cleared his throat before speaking again. “When you said you understood . . . what do you mean?”

“I understand,” she said slowly, unable to keep the hint of sadness out of her tone, “how you feel about Kikyou. You’ve never lied to me about that, and I . . . I don’t like it, but I can’t change it, either.”

“Kagome, it’s not like that . . . Kikyou’s a friend. You . . . you’re my mate.”

“What’s the difference?” she challenged softly.

He shook his head slowly, gaze serious, brow furrowed in thought. “I’d give anything to save a friend. I’d give my life to save you.”

He looked like he wanted to say something else. He leaned his head against her knees, as though he only wanted to touch her. Kagome reached over, stroking his hair, his ears. That odd sound of content rumbled in his throat again. “What is that sound?” she asked quietly.

It didn’t stop but he did lift his chin to eye her. “I don’t know,” he replied. The rumble stopped as he spoke. He looked as baffled as she was. He stared at the baby still nestled against Kagome’s breast. She was asleep, and slowly Kagome lifted Tajiko to her shoulder. InuYasha reached over and pulled Kagome’s blouse closed before he stood, kissing Kagome on the forehead and repeating the gesture on his daughter. “You amaze me, Kagome,” he whispered, his cheek against her ear.

Sesshoumaru’s similar action flashed through her mind. Kagome swallowed hard and focused her attention on the sleepy infant. Why did he act that way? Why had she reacted to him? She didn’t love him. She didn’t even like him . . . she stared at Tajiko. Her little ears were twitching, listening. She grimaced. Had Sesshoumaru been testing her? Why? What would it matter to him, how she felt about InuYasha?

She dared a glance at InuYasha. Still settled against her, staring down at their sleeping daughter, InuYasha looked so content. Kagome opened her mouth to tell him but couldn’t get the words to come.

The opulent chamber mocked her. Her conscience pricked her. ‘Coward! What are you afraid of? That you’ll upset InuYasha or that InuYasha will blame you for Sesshoumaru’s actions?

She didn’t know the answer to that.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Kagome stared out of the window at the falling snow. InuYasha lay on the futon with Tajiko cradled in his arms. They slept so peacefully that she didn’t have the heart to wake them: their daughter with her tiny fists tangled in her father’s hair. Kagome smiled sadly. Why didn’t she feel as though she belonged there, with the two of them?

The soft knock on the door drew Kagome’s attention, and she glanced at the bed to make sure that InuYasha hadn’t been disturbed before she hurried over to see who was there.

Sesshoumaru, dressed in his flowing white kimono with orange-red accents and black armor, nodded to her. The light filtering through the hallway from the one window on the far end shed an innocent light on the youkai. Kagome didn’t trust him. “I trust you slept well?”

Kagome didn’t move away as she pulled the belt on her robe a little tighter. “It was fine, thanks.”

Vaguely amused by her answer, Sesshoumaru’s eyes seemed to glow in the semi-darkness. “Join me for breakfast?”

“No, thank you, Sesshoumaru. InuYasha wants to leave this morning.”

His eyes seemed to glow as he regarded her, slowing traveling the length of her. Kagome flushed, her arms lifting to cover her chest. She’d never felt more naked in her life, so exposed. She didn’t like it. “Join me, miko. I have a proposition for you.”

“I’m not interested.”

“You will be.”

Taking her arm, he escorted Kagome down the stairs. She pulled away from him but followed. He chuckled softly and led the way to the great room where trays had already been set up for them. She eyed him suspiciously as she sank on her knees. “Awfully sure of yourself, aren’t you?

Trepidation tied her stomach in knots. She stared at the food before her but didn’t touch it. “Not hungry, miko? Surely your pup needs the nourishment?”

“Her name is Tajiko,” Kagome remarked softly.

“Child of the silver and gold,” he replied, his tone cordial despite the underlying hint of predatory instinct. “A lovely name, of course.”

She wasn’t able to play his games. Whatever it was that Sesshoumaru was thinking escaped her. “What is this proposition you think I’d be interested in?”

He nodded at her. “No finesse, I see. You’ve doubtless been exposed to that baka a bit too long. Very well then, my proposition is simple. Leave InuYasha. I will offer you shelter, protection. I’ll even take in your daughter. Rin would love to have her around, I am sure.”

“I’m not interested,” Kagome remarked without even considering Sesshoumaru’s offer. “I belong with InuYasha.”

His movements were a blur. Shooting off his cushion, he strode forward, catching her wrists, dragging her to her feet, against his body. She tried to pull away. He was too strong. “He does not appreciate what he has, and yet you say you ‘belong’ with him? Mean you not that you belong ‘to’ him, miko? Or is it that you fear him? Youkai law dictates your lives. InuYasha may have mated you, but he does not own you. Because of this, it makes things more difficult.”

“Let go of me.”

“Shall I slay him for you, miko? Free you from him? That is the only way you can be free of him—InuYasha must die.”

“You’ve never been able to kill him. You can’t now. Take your hands off me, Sesshoumaru.” She pulled against his iron grip. His skin was cool, trapping her yet not harming her. Hands tightening enough to prevent her escape, but not enough to cause her injury, Sesshoumaru’s eyes narrowed.

“Think you I’ve tried to kill him? Worthless half-breed that he is, I’ve toyed with him this long while.”

“You’re lying. InuYasha has defeated you time and again.” She jerked her arms back. He let her only to bring her up closer against him. Arms held at her sides, her entire body molded against his. She tried again to pull away.

He chuckled. “By all means, miko: fight me as hard as you wish. You are no more to InuYasha than a toy, a filler for the one he cannot have.”

“That’s not true.” She tried to hide the doubt in her voice, the trace of fear that Sesshoumaru’s harsh assessment might be accurate.

He didn’t miss the hesitation, the hint of doubt that lingered. The predatory gleam in his gaze intensified. “But you wonder, do you not? In the night when he reaches for you with his dirty hands, with his miserable intentions, you wonder if you are but a dim substitute in his mind for the one he cannot have.” Kagome whimpered against the harsh words. “Let me set you free, miko. Let me . . . honor you.”

Drawing together the remnants of her deteriorating resolve, Kagome tried again to pull away, to distance herself from the youkai. “Take your hands off me, Sesshoumaru. If I scream—”

“If you scream, I’ll kill InuYasha. You know this. That I’ve let him live this long is simply because it suited me to do so.”

The truth of it was in his gaze, written in the depths of his stare. He might have been toying with InuYasha all along, toying with her—toying with them all—but stubborn belief swept through her, blind faith that InuYasha could save her. He always saved her. He would save her now. “Why? Why me? Why do I matter?”

“You matter to me.”

“I don’t! Let go of me! InuYasha—”

“I offer you a way out, and you content yourself to be nothing more than InuYasha’s possession. Know you, miko, what InuYasha does, all those nights he leaves you to see her? She leaves no scent on him. She is dead. Think you that he doesn’t possess her, as well? Can you really be so naïve?”

“He wouldn’t . . . he couldn’t . . .”

“But he does.”

“No!”

“Kiss me, miko. See the truth, and you shall know.”

Tears welled behind her eyes, blocked her throat. Trying to hold them back, fighting to believe in InuYasha, she shook her head miserably, unable to give words to the thoughts, to the doubts that she’d tried so long to hide. “Why are you doing this to me?” she whispered.

“You deserve far better than him.” His words were soft, low, hurtful, and cunning. “I want to understand you. You need not love. That emotion binds you to him, but it does not bind him to you. You need to be free of it; free of him. I seek knowledge. You seek . . . wings.”

She gasped, drawing back, forcing herself to meet his gaze. How could he know of that, her desire to fly? How could he know everything? “I’m with InuYasha because I want to be,” she maintained, “because I choose to be.”

Staring down into her face, eyes raking over her with a contained brutality, Sesshoumaru leaned closer, lips grazing hers as he spoke, “You chose nothing. It was his will that was forced upon you, his desires, his possession. You made not a choice, miko, not from the day you fell into this world. It’s all been by design. He willed you to come, to bring back his dear Kikyou.   His soul called to yours, and you, silly human girl . . . you answered. Think you that everything is arbitrary? That everything happens on accident? You are not a fool. How could you not know this?”

He let go of her suddenly. She stumbled back only to be caught, brought up against him. One hand on the small of her back, holding her to him, the other at the base of her neck as his lips descended on hers. Kagome struggled against him, tried to turn her face away, tried to fight him off. Her attempts were unrewarded, ignored. A kiss so different from those she shared with InuYasha, Sesshoumaru’s mouth was unyielding, taking, calculated and cold.

He stepped toward her, his knee parting her robe, parting her legs. Kagome shoved him back. Caught off guard, the youkai stumbled. She didn’t wait for him to recover. She ran.

InuYasha was still sleeping. Kagome closed the door softly, leaning her forehead against the frame as the first sob came. She choked it back and moved over to the balcony to slip outside.

The wind was a bitter thing. Her bare feet numbed on the icy stones. The thin silk robe offered no protection against the frigid air. Kagome didn’t feel it. Her body transcended physical pain. The ache that had been ripped open by Sesshoumaru’s words assailed her, one by one, and they tore at her already bleeding heart. With the vindictiveness of the bitter wind, his words cut right through her, sliced at her.

She sank to her knees and wept without a sound, without solace. She’d never felt quite so alone, so lost in a world where she didn’t belong. As though she only half-existed, she wasn’t sure where the other half of her had been left. She felt broken, unsalvageable, unrecognizable. The girl who had thought that by showing InuYasha how to laugh again that she could free him from the ghosts that haunted him . . . Where had she gone?

Sesshoumaru was trying to feed off your fears, Kagome . . . you know this.’

Common sense told her that this was true. Insecurities lent it more credence. Too easy to believe the things she’d already thought at one time or another.

It isn’t just me, if Sesshoumaru can see it too . . .

What do you want, Kagome?

She choked back a sob though the tears ran down her face, freezing in the wind. ‘I want . . . InuYasha . . .

Sesshoumaru’s words came back to haunt her, wrenching her heart, causing more pain, “His youkai chose you. InuYasha’s youkai is completely separate from his heart, and that heart—that human thing—it chose Kikyou long ago.”

“No,” she whispered, willing her words to be true. “He wouldn’t . . . he cares for me.”

You chose nothing. It was InuYasha’s will that was forced upon you, his desires, his possession.”

But if that were true, why did he take the time to be gentle with her? Why did he take the time to make sure she was cared for? Why did he bother to try to make her smile? Even if he didn’t love her, even if he loved Kikyou more, he still allowed Kagome to have some place in his heart, some bit of himself. It had always been enough for her before. She was willing to accept him for what he could offer her.

Vague memories, candid recollections, visions of things she wanted to believe . . . Watching shooting stars with InuYasha . . . the gentle smile that he tried to hide . . . the moments when he’d pull her close and hold her against his heart . . . Did he know how much she cherished those moments? Could he know how much they meant to her? The memories she clung to, the ones that led her back to him time and again.

Those memories dried her tears, soothed the hurt in her soul. With a deep breath, Kagome stood up and stepped back inside. Tajiko stirred, and Kagome lifted her, letting the infant nurse as she stared at InuYasha’s sleeping face. The lines and planes, the mixture of shadows and light all combined in him. In quiet moments like this, it was so easy for her to remember what she felt for him, why she stayed with him. He looked like a boy yet she knew the man, and she adored them both in him. “InuYasha . . . I love you,” she whispered as she smoothed his hair, knowing he was sleeping, knowing he couldn’t answer, calling herself a coward for saying things to him when he wouldn’t remember, things she wasn’t brave enough to say to him when she stared into his eyes.

He sighed softly, ears twitching, and in a muffled voice, he answered, “My . . . K’gome . . .”

She smiled as tears filled her eyes, and she wondered if he knew what he said in his sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

InuYasha stared at Kagome as she nursed the child in her arms. Something bothered her. He could feel it. He could almost smell it. In the seven weeks since he’d brought her back, he was starting to wonder if maybe he should have just stayed there with her instead. Why did she have such sadness, as though there was something that she was afraid to tell him?

She got up to put Tajiko in her bed for a nap. InuYasha stepped over to take the baby to her room. Kagome sank back down with a sigh. He only wished he could help her more, so she wouldn’t be quite so tired.

He put her down in the quiet room, in no hurry as he stared at her. So tiny, so helpless, so precious to him that he couldn’t think of words, he adored everything about her. She sighed softly. The sound brought a smile to his lips. ‘Tajiko is my heart,’ he thought absently, ‘and Kagome . . . She’s my soul.

“Did my old man ever feel like this about me?”

“I know your mother had to have.”

InuYasha started. He hadn’t realized that he had spoken aloud, and he hadn’t heard Kagome follow him. Leaning in the doorway with her arms crossed over her chest, she tried to smile at him. He held out his hand. She came to him and met his gaze for a moment before turning to stare down at the sleeping infant. “She’s really something, isn’t she?” he asked, draping an arm over Kagome’s shoulders.

“She looks like you.”

“Keh! I’m not pretty! She definitely looks like you.”

Kagome flushed at his back-handed compliment and turned her head to look up at him. “When she turned human, she looked so much like you . . . it almost hurt to look at her.”

“Why?”

She shrugged, arms dropping away, shoulders slumping as she turned and left him in the room. InuYasha spared a second to kiss his sleeping daughter before giving chase. “Tell me what you meant, wench!”

Kneeling by the fire carefully stirring whatever it was she was cooking, Kagome studiously avoided his gaze. She sighed softly shook her head as she covered the pot again and set the utensils aside. “Because . . . I still missed you, even though . . . Well, I did; that’s all.”

He sank down before her as she stared at her hands folded in her lap. “We’ve been over this, haven’t we?”

He hadn’t meant for his tone to be quite so sharp when he’d said that. As it was, her shoulders slumped just a little more and her chin dropped lower. “InuYasha?”

“Hmm?”

“Can I ask you something?”

“What?”

He heard her swallow, heard her sigh. “When you’ve seen Kikyou . . . Have you and she . . .?” she trailed off. His gaze narrowed, suspicion dawning on him as she twisted her fingers around and around nervously.

He leaned forward, catching her wrist and dragging her toward him. “Have me and Kikyou what?”

Stubbornly refusing to look at him, he could smell the tears that gathered in her eyes as she stared at the flames under the simmering pot. “When you meet with her,” she whispered. “Have you ever—”

“What the fuck?” he growled, wrenching Kagome’s arm slightly, trying to make her look at him. “What the hell are you asking?”

She jerked away, her hand rubbing the wrist she’d freed from him. She lifted her chin, stabbing him with a piercing glare as she hissed, “I’m asking if you’ve ever been with her!”

His mouth fell open in shock as he stared at her, trying to decide if she was being serious or not. She looked like she was. “No!” he bellowed, unable to control his anger. “What the—-who—-Where the fuck did that come from?”

Kagome recoiled, scooting away from him as he slammed his fist into the floor.   “It doesn’t matter,” she answered, her voice barely above a whisper.

He shot across the floor, grabbing her by the shoulders. She flinched. “It does matter! What are you thinking? You’re my mate, not Kikyou!” He drew a deep breath, trying to control his emotions before he scared her more. “Kagome . . . don’t you know? You’re the only one I’ve ever wanted to have as my mate . . . the only one.”

“Because of your youkai?”

“My what?”

“Your youkai . . . Sesshoumaru said—”

“Is that what this is all about? Something that bastard of a brother of mine said? Kagome . . . no!” Drawing her into his arms, against his chest, InuYasha sighed. “What else did he say to you?”

Her breathing was ragged, tight. She buried her face in his haori, shaking her head as he smelled her tears again. “Nothing,” she replied. He flinched. He could tell she was lying. “Hold me?”

He did.

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

“How does this work again?”

Kagome glanced up from the baby book she was filling in to stare at InuYasha as he turned the camcorder over in his hands, studying the device from all angles. Like an enthralled child, he pushed the buttons and seemed quite happy when the device’s door opened, revealing the video tape inside. He closed the door and did it a few more times. Kagome couldn’t hide her smile. Suddenly, InuYasha frowned as he stared at the lens, and his gaze shifted to lock with hers as his eyes ignited in suspicion. “And you’re positive this won’t hurt Tajiko?”

“You don’t honestly think I’d do anything that would endanger her, do you?” she asked, her amusement at his behavior fading with his question.

“Keh!” he replied. “Not on purpose. Has anyone ever been hurt using one of these things?”

Kagome made a face. “No . . . not unless you count the bakas that do stupid things on purpose.”

Apparently satisfied with her answer, InuYasha set the camcorder down on the table and leaned his chin on Kagome’s knee. “How about you put that up and pay some attention to me?”

Still a bit irritated by InuYasha’s implication that she would do something that might endanger their daughter, Kagome pointedly shifted her legs away from him and kept working on the book.

“How long is your mother going to be gone?” he asked, giving up on getting Kagome to pay attention to him.

She sighed. “Till tomorrow sometime,” she replied. “You said it was okay. You gave permission before I did.”

He didn’t miss the irritation in her tone. Her family had gone to see friends, and her mother had asked to take Tajiko with them. It was InuYasha who had approved the venture, much to Kagome’s upset. Tajiko was the picture of health, and she was almost two months old now. Still, it was the first time that the baby was away from her, and Kagome didn’t like it at all. Judging by the way InuYasha kept glancing at the telephone, he didn’t like it, either.

“That thing will make a noise then, if there’s trouble?” he asked grudgingly, pointing a clawed finger at the phone.

Kagome nodded. “Yeah, but—”

As though it knew that they were discussing it, said phone rang. InuYasha leaped to his feet, drawing Tetsusaiga and getting ready to slash. “No!” she hollered before he could inflict permanent damage. She nearly fell as she scrambled to grab the phone out from under the irate hanyou’s nose. “Hello?”

“What’s wrong with Tajiko?” InuYasha demanded. Kagome waved a hand at him to make him be quiet. “Kagome . . .”

Covering the receiver with one hand, she turned to InuYasha with a frown. “Shh! I can’t hear!”

“Don’t shush me, bitch! What’s wrong with my pup?”

“Kagome? Is everything okay?”

“Hi, Mama, yeah, everything’s fine. How’s Tajiko?”

Mrs. Higurashi’s next words were lost in InuYasha’s tirade. “Is she hurt? Did something happen? Is Tajiko sick? What the hell is going on? Kagome!”

“Osuwari!” Kagome growled in frustration. InuYasha yelped as he hit the floor but at least it grew quiet so she could listen to her mother. “Is everything all right?”

“She’s fine, Kagome. Taking a nap. I just thought you two would like to know she’s safe.”

Kagome sighed but smiled. “Okay. Thanks, Mama. Be careful, and I’ll see you tomorrow.”

She hung up the phone and turned back to face her very irritated mate. Up on his elbows, he was glaring at Kagome with the Evil-Look-of-Death. “Well?” he demanded in a snarl.

Kagome knelt down before him and pushed his hair out of his face. “Everything’s fine,” she assured him. “I’m sorry I had to do that. I couldn’t hear Mama.”

He pushed back from her, face buried in his arms. “It’s completely wrong,” he remarked in a haughty tone, “to do this to your mate. You know that, right?”

“If you’d have been quiet, I wouldn’t have done it,” she replied innocently.

“Keh!” he snorted, jerking away from her fingers. “I think you like saying that word, Kagome. That’s a little twisted, wouldn’t you say?”

She crawled forward on her hands and knees, reaching out to capture one of his ears. He started to pull away then stopped. “I don’t enjoy doing any such thing,” she assured him. “If you’d have just listened and been quiet, I—”

“K-Kagome?”

She stopped and glanced down at him. “What?”

Then she realized. When she’d reached over him, she’d also presented him with a very good view of herself. The loose blouse she wore hung down, and with the v-neck, InuYasha was staring at her lace-covered breasts. She tried to sit back. He shifted his position and reached out to grab her.   She skittered backward, catching herself on her hands and pushing with her feet. He advanced on her.

“Ever wonder what happens when I get sick of being at your mercy?” he asked, his tone lowering as he continued to crawl toward her. As if he wasn’t fast enough on his own, she wasn’t used to backpedaling like this, and she squealed as her hands missed. With a sharp exhalation, InuYasha landed on her.

“Oww,” she moaned after she finally got her breath back. “I think you broke something.”

Eyes alight with the burn of conquest, InuYasha grinned. “You’ll live.”

“You’re so thoughtless,” she shot back, her tone more bemused than she intended as he shifted on her, resting his weight against her in a very nice way. “Let me up. You’re crushing me.”

“Wench. I’m not crushing anything.”

She pushed on his shoulders. He laughed at her inability to budge him. “This isn’t comfortable.”

“Wanna bet?”

“InuYasha . . .”

“If you say ‘it’, you’ll be sorry.”

She made a face. “No, InuYasha. It’s not that . . . I’m . . . well . . . leaking.”

“Huh?” Her eyes shifted downward. His gaze followed hers. Her blouse was dampening in wider circles around her nipples as her milk flowed. When his eyes met hers again, he looked alarmed, almost scared. He caught her hands and dragged her up. “I did break you!”

She laughed as she scampered to her feet to retrieve her breast pump. “No, I just need to pump.”

InuYasha sighed as obvious relief flooded through him. She grinned as she headed into the kitchen to use the breast pump.

Maybe having Tajiko with her mother for the night was a good thing, after all . . .

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“I don’t think I like this,” InuYasha grumbled. “What are you doing?”

“Hold still and stop fussing.”

“Kagome . . .”

“Seriously, InuYasha, you’ll like it, I promise!”

“It’s cold!”

“It’s supposed to be cold. Give it a minute. It’ll warm up.”

“What are you doing? Kago-me?” The last part of her name was hissed as she spread cold gel over InuYasha’s back. He shot off the floor and whipped around to pin Kagome with a pointed glower. “It’s fucking cold!”

“It won’t hurt you. You might like it. Lie back down, okay?”

With one last long-suffering look, he flopped onto his stomach. Slowly, Kagome worked the gel into his back muscles, careful to pay extra attention to the spots where he seemed the tensest. She responded to the noises he made. The muscles in his lower back seemed to be the tightest. She worked the area thoroughly. He sighed, and she could see that his eyes were slowly drifting closed. The only sound in the room was the ticking of the clock.

“You’re all tense. You never relax, do you, InuYasha?”

“Can’t relax,” he replied, his voice tinged by sleepiness. “I gotta protect you, don’t I?”

“Not all the time,” she mused, using the heel of her hand on a particularly tense spot. He moaned softly, drawing a slight smile from her. “I can defend myself, too.”

“But you shouldn’t have to. I never wanted you to.” He rolled over suddenly, catching her wrists and staring into her eyes. Letting go of her, he slowly worked the buttons on her blouse.

“What are you doing?” she asked though she made no move to stop him. That he was actually taking the time to remove the garment impressed her. Normally he got impatient and simply cut her out of whatever she was wearing.

Molten gold churned, undulated, swirled, mixing in the haze of his stare, lost in wonder as he revealed her skin. He sat up slowly, leaning forward, letting his hair brush against her in a tickling caress. “Lay down, Kagome. It’s my turn to take care of you.”

She did as he instructed, gasping sharply as he hooked the delicate bra strap over his claw and sliced it. “InuYasha . . .” she complained though her tone lacked any real irritation. “You really ought to stop destroying all my bras.”

“Just stop wearing them. They’re too hard to figure out.”

She grinned.

He squeezed some of the cold gel out onto her back. She squealed as her body jerked in response to the unwelcome shock. “What?” he teased. She heard the cap click closed and then the dull thud as he dropped the bottle on the floor. “Too cold?”

“Nope.”

He chuckled. “Liar.”

Warm hands worked the gel into her back, soothing away the stress in her muscles, relaxing her, lulling her. “You’re good at this,” she said, her voice sounding distant to her own ears.

“Relax, Kagome.”

“I . . . am . . .”

The gel had lost its coldness and she could feel the heating properties sinking into her skin. InuYasha’s hands were slow, deliberate. She sighed, feeling more at ease than she had in a long while.

A slow lethargy settled over her, a delicious sense of complete surrender. Caught up in the feel of his hands on her body, Kagome relented, letting down the carefully constructed barrier that she had erected after Tajiko’s birth—the one designed to keep her feelings toward InuYasha at bay. How foolish had she been, to think that she could remain detached, remain aloof, when everything about him spoke to her?   The tickle of his hair brushing over her back gave way as the heat of his mouth descended on her flesh. Teasing, calling to her, Kagome sighed as he savored her. Sucking gently on her neck, licking the curve of her ear . . . she shivered as his body covered hers. He held himself up on his elbows, stroking her arms as his merciless assault on her senses continued.

“Do you want me?” he breathed in her ear.

She whimpered but didn’t answer. Words wouldn’t form, thoughts weren’t complete. Need and longing were tactile things, merging in her mind, becoming one, inseparable. Hands brushing against the sides of her breasts, taunting her with fulfillment yet always leaving her hungry, the aching burn licked at her, flames of desire triggering a low moan. She tried to roll over. He pinned her against the floor, his knee between her legs, rubbing against her. She shuddered.

“Say it, Kagome,” he coaxed, kissing her shoulder, pulling her off of the floor, pulling her against him. Her back against his chest, his arm holding her as his thumb flicked over her nipple. Heat shot from his fingers straight through her. She reached behind herself, hands locking in his hair, holding him close as he continued his slow siege on her senses.

“I . . .” her own gasp cut her off as his free hand dragged up the inside of her thigh. Under her skirt, closer and closer to the one place where the heat centered.

“I want to hear you say it,” he growled low, grazing his fangs over her shoulder, along the arch of her neck.

I want you,’ she thought wildly, pressing back against him, willing him to understand. The words were still caught somewhere between her lips and her lungs, as though her body had a will of its own, as though it couldn’t speak, could only feel, could only tremble, could only call out to his body.

He pulled her thighs apart, pushing the barrier of her panties aside, claws grazing against her flesh. She arched against his hand as he toyed with her. ‘Possession,’ a voice whispered in her mind, ‘You content yourself to be nothing more than InuYasha’s possession . . .

“No,” she gasped, shaking her head against the words in her mind. InuYasha’s finger slipped into her, and she convulsed around him, her world shattering. “Yes . . .”

“Stay with me, Kagome,” he whispered against her cheek as she fell against him, her body ravaged as passion took over.   He turned her, lay her down. She watched through half-closed eyes as he removed his clothes, her chest heaving as she struggled to breathe. Her skirt and panties seemed to melt away. She didn’t remember removing them. He cradled her against him, against his heart, and she saw it in his eyes as he stared at her. “Stay with me,” he whispered again.

Kagome nodded. “I’ll . . . stay with . . . you,” she answered, her heart swelling, breaking, shattering. With a look he mended it, gave it back, returned it with his.

Golden eyes narrowing, staring at her, willing her to understand. The words were written in his gaze, even if he didn’t say them. For that moment, she didn’t doubt him at all.

The merging of two hearts, the joining of two souls . . . the completion of the flesh that culminated in the precarious balance. He pushed into her with a low growl, as though he couldn’t control the kaleidoscope of emotion that soared in him. He whispered her name over and over, a chant, a mantra, his salvation.

Kagome clung to him, held to him, her body tossing upon the waves of desire, the brutal yet gentle wild of his passion. An ending, a beginning, a hush, a lull, a surge of power. She rose against him as he broke; a wave against the shore. The power of his body yielded to the softness of her sighs. He allowed her to possess him, to own him, to keep him while she surrendered to him.

Still he drove her faster, higher, a beautiful flow, a discerning balance. He stopped for a moment to look into her eyes. Words had no room between them. They held no sway. Meaningless beyond the tide of emotion, the singular look that they shared. A faint nod was all he needed. He drove them both into the light beyond the pale, gasping out her name, she answered with his.

The ticking of the clock was the first thing to make sense to Kagome. InuYasha lay on his side; eyes staring at her in that unsettling way of his, in that way that made her wonder if he could read her mind. “What are you thinking?” she asked softly, reaching over to smooth back his bangs.

“Sometimes,” he murmured, eyes not leaving her face, “it scares the hell out of me, what you make me feel.” Reaching out, he idly fingered the iridescent prayer beads around her neck.

She smiled, determined not to let glum thoughts get her down, not this time. “Is it close to what you make me feel?”

He looked surprised but then smiled wolfishly. “Damn, I hope so.”

The phone cut through the haze of the moment. With a sigh, Kagome rolled over and hopped up. InuYasha wasn’t nearly as slow. It struck her as amusing, his ready stance with Tetsusaiga considering he hadn’t bothered grabbing his pants.

At least this time InuYasha didn’t interrupt with his demanding questions. Thankful for that, Kagome cleared her throat as she reached for the phone. “Hello?”

The boy on the other end asked for Souta.

“Who is it?” InuYasha asked in a loud whisper. Kagome covered the phone to tell him. Satisfied that his pup wasn’t in any sort of danger, InuYasha leaned Tetsusaiga against a chair.

“He’s not . . . here,” Kagome squeaked out as InuYasha wrapped his arms around her and let his formidable lips drop to her throat again.

“Will you please tell him I called? Thanks.”

The phone went dead. Kagome let it fall from her hand as InuYasha reclaimed her full attention . . .

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Miroku sighed again, staring at the doorway with a longing expression. Sango ignored him and continued sewing. Kagome hid her grin as InuYasha rolled his eyes. Tajiko giggled as she reached for Kirara’s tail, nearly tumbling off her father’s lap. He caught her before she fell. Kagome swallowed the gasp before it came out. Shippou sighed.

InuYasha put Tajiko on the floor. The girl immediately propelled herself toward the fire cat.

“How are you feeling, Sango?” Kagome finally asked, satisfied that InuYasha was keeping an eye on their daughter. “Are you sure you’re okay to stay up? Your contractions aren’t too bad?”

“They’re not bad,” the slayer commented, shooting Miroku a meaningful look. The monk sighed loudly in protest.

“Quit being stubborn and go lay down! I, for one, would rather not see you birth that pup out here,” InuYasha growled. Kagome rolled her eyes.

Sango stabbed the hanyou with a formidable glower. “Houshi-sama,” she said without glancing at her husband, “can you bring my Hiraikotsu?”

“Bring it on, taijya,” InuYasha countered.

Kagome smacked his arm. “InuYasha! She’s going to have a baby, and you’re not helping!”

“Oi!”

Heads turned toward the kitsune youth who was trying to hold onto the wiggling Tajiko. The girl was still trying to get to Kirara though, for the moment, she was being restrained. Kirara ran for the door and disappeared into the night. Kagome swooped up the child and kissed her cheek, eliciting a new round of giggles from the girl. “Come on, you. Time for bed. Say goodnight to Papa.”

InuYasha stood to take her but was sidetracked by Sango’s soft moan. He settled for kissing her silvery hair before Kagome hurried off to put the child to bed. “Damn it, Sango! Get your ass in there—in bed—before you have that pup out here in front of the entire fucking village! Miroku! Do something, will you?”

Miroku shook his head slowly. “InuYasha . . . have you ever been hit by the Hiraikotsu?”

“Yeah, what of it?”

“Then you know why I’m letting Sango decide when it’s a good time to lie down.”

InuYasha rolled his eyes. “You’re such a pathetic monk!”

“The two of you are giving me a headache,” Sango growled, having gotten over the last contraction. She glowered between the hanyou and the monk as though trying to decide which of them should be beaten down first. “I’ll go when I’m ready.”

“Hell’s seven hounds, Sango! Why don’t you act like you’re about to birth that pup?” InuYasha remarked. Crossing his arms over his chest, he glared back at the woman.

“InuYasha!” Kagome hissed as she closed Tajiko’s door behind her. “You’re going to keep your daughter awake all night if you don’t stop it. Sango will know when she’s ready to lie down, okay?”

He didn’t look as though he was ready to give up the argument. “Keh!” he finally said with a loud snort.

Kagome picked up a bucket and headed for the door. “I’m going to fetch water. You guys . . . keep an eye on Sango? I’ll only be gone a minute!”

She marched out the door into the cool night with a sigh of relief. Sango would know well enough when she needed to lie down. At least the men were keeping her mind off her pain. She smiled to herself as she wandered down the path toward the river. ‘A million stars,’ she realized, gazing above her head as she stopped on the small path. The stars didn’t shine so brightly at home. She sighed and hurried along the path again.

It was hard to believe that her own daughter was four months old. The feeling of complete happiness that she’d carried home from her era two months ago had remained. InuYasha had told Kikyou that Kagome able to take care of things, and the other priestess had left with nothing more than a nod and a wan smile. Kagome hadn’t sensed any reluctance from InuYasha as they watched Kikyou leave. Maybe that was the real reason that her happiness had grown.

Sesshoumaru was wrong,’ she assured herself. He was simply trying to upset her, to start trouble. ‘InuYasha was right. Sesshoumaru is nothing but an instigator.’

The gurgle of the flowing water offered her a sense of comfort as she knelt beside the stream. It was a picturesque night, a beautiful evening. Ribbons of satiny reds, of ambers, of gold, oranges and magentas faded in and out of each other, streaking across the skyline, reaching for the night. ‘Such a sunset . . . such wonder . . . have I ever seen so beautiful an evening?

A voice called to her, whispered on the breeze. With a frown, Kagome left the bucket, stepped toward the voice. She couldn’t hear the voice. A draw on her heart led her into the forest. Deeper and deeper she wandered. It didn’t occur to her to question where she was heading. She followed only the voice.

“Miko, you wander far from your home.”

With a soft gasp, Kagome spun around, trance broken. Sesshoumaru stepped out of the shadows, staring at her, hedging nearer but not approaching. “Was it you?”

“I?”

“Did you call to me? Were you the whisper I heard?”

“Did you wish me to come to you?”

“You . . . wouldn’t.”

His chuckle rippled through her, oddly warm, completely unsettling. “For you? I would.”

She narrowed her gaze as she stared at him, light and dark twisting around him, merging in him. She stepped away. “What do you want?’

“Have you reconsidered my offer?”

Kagome frowned. “Offer?”

“To free you from the hanyou, miko.”

“I don’t need to be freed,” she remarked, her chin rising in defiance. “I am free. I chose.”

“You jest,” he scoffed. “You’re bound to him as surely as you could be. Or do you not see it? A powerful miko such as yourself, yet you know not that you’ve been captured like a caged beast. Foolish little girl.”

He advanced on her. She retreated. He flicked his wrist. His glowing green energy whip flashed out, wrapped around her. It held her but didn’t hurt her as he closed in. “Let me go,” she said calmly, controlling the rising trepidation in her voice. “I have to go back.”

Sesshoumaru didn’t touch her. He reached out slowly, fingers idly lifting the necklace, the prayer beads. They glowed with a strange blue light. They burned his fingers. He dropped them with a soft hiss. He stared at her for a long moment, as though trying to decide something. Finally, he nodded. “I see. Miko’s beads. You sought to purify me with that paltry bit of trickery? Tell me. Did you make those?”

“No,” she said slowly, face lowering as she stared at her own chest, at the opalescent beads that rose and fell with her breathing. Miko’s beads? “InuYasha gave them to me.”

He chuckled suddenly, as though something made sense to him. “Of course he did, the baka. Did you ever ask him what miko blessed those beads? Or . . . cursed them?”

She shook her head in denial as Sesshoumaru’s allegation sank in. “He . . . he wouldn’t have.”

“Are you so sure?”

“Yes.”

“Foolish little girl,” he said again, lifting his hand, stroking her cheek with his cool knuckles. With another flick of his wrist, the whip disappeared. Sesshoumaru turned and started away. “Call on me should you change your mind, Miko,” he called back.

Kagome stared at his retreating form. She lifted her hand, grasping the prayer beads, yanking on them, tugging on them, fighting with them. They wouldn’t break. She tried to pull them over her head. They wouldn’t extend above her ears. With a gasping cry, she let go, staring at the burned flesh on her palms.

Sesshoumaru’s words came back to her. What, exactly, had he meant?

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“What the hell took you so long?” InuYasha asked as Kagome stepped through the door. She set the bucket of water near the fire and studiously avoided looking at him. “Kagome?”

She didn't answer and instead poked at the dancing flames with a marked frown before glancing over to the corner where the last of the wood that InuYasha had brought in earlier was stacked. “I need more wood,” she said, her voice vague, as though she was lost in thought. She stumbled back out the door as Miroku helped Sango stand.

“Would you tell Kagome I think it's time?” Sango asked, her voice strained as she clenched her jaws together. Miroku helped her into the extra bedroom.

InuYasha followed Kagome outside, gently taking the wood from her as he stared at her. “Sango thinks it's time.” He paused, frowning as Kagome's eyes stared at the ground, her expression carefully blanked. “You were gone awhile. Did something happen?”

Her eyes finally locked with his, storm clouds gathered behind the smoky depths. “Nothing's wrong. Everything's fine.” He frowned at her clipped tone. “Sango needs me . . .”

There was something wrong with her. He could feel it.

“Can I do anything?” he asked as he pushed back into the hut.

Kagome straightened up from pouring water into the large kettle. InuYasha stepped over and took the heavy thing from her. “I'm going to check on Sango.”

“Kagome?”

She stopped and turned back toward him but didn't look at him. “Yes?”

He stared at her for a long moment. “You'd tell me if something bothered you, right?”

Her smile was thin, weak. A quick flash of something ugly, of some accusation that she wouldn't give voice to flitted over her face. “Of course I would,” she said before disappearing into the bedroom.

InuYasha frowned. She was lying.

“What's the matter with Kagome?”

InuYasha sank down next to Shippou. “I don't know,” he replied. `Why was she looking at me like that? Like I've done something to her?'

Miroku sighed as he stepped out of the bedroom. “Well, gentlemen . . . we're in for a long night.”

 

 

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“Here he is, Sango! He's washed and warm and beautiful!” Kagome said, blinking back tears as she stared into the tiny face of the newest member of the family. She handed the baby over to his mother, careful to keep him wrapped in the warm blankets.

Sango sobbed happy tears as she cuddled her son in her arms. “Oh!” she wailed, “He looks like Houshi-sama! My little Kiyoshi!”

Kagome rolled her eyes and kissed the baby's head. “I'll get him for you.”

“Thank you, Kagome.”

Weary to the bone yet feeling completely invigorated, Kagome opened the door. Miroku shot off the floor, his face peaked and drawn but his eyes bright. “You want to meet your son?”

“A . . . a son?” Miroku waited to hear no more and hurried past Kagome into the bedroom.

“You look exhausted,” InuYasha remarked, unfolding himself from his perch beside the door. “Why don't you go lay down? I'll bring Tajiko to you when she wakes up.”

Kagome stared at him then nodded, vivid memories returning like something ugly from a nightmare. She swallowed the bile that rose in her throat and turned on her heel to walk away.

In the quiet of her bedroom, she sank down, staring once more at the burns on her hands. The blisters had popped earlier. She'd ripped a towel to bind them. The throb in her flesh was nothing in comparison to the ache in her chest. `Why'd he give these to me? Kikyou made them . . . if he knew that they could hurt me . . . why?'

She drifted back to that day, to that moment under Goshinboku. “InuYasha? What is it?

Nothing. I just like how it looks on you.”

Was that the reason he hadn't been able to look at her? Because he'd known? Because . . . Kikyou . . .

Closing her eyes against the pain that welled inside her, Kagome lay down, curled into herself, seeking a comfort that couldn't be found, sought reason beyond the lies that she knew.

Sesshoumaru's words twisted around her heart, drawing more blood with the vindictiveness of a knife, “But you wonder, don't you? In the night when he reaches for you with his dirty hands, with his miserable intentions, you wonder if you are but a dim substitute in his mind for the one he cannot have. He willed you to come, to bring back his dear Kikyou. His soul called to yours, and you, silly human girl . . . you answered. Think you that everything is arbitrary? That everything happens on accident? You are not a fool, Miko. How could you not know this?

How could Sesshoumaru be right? How could he know? And how could she have been so wrong about herself, about her choices, about . . . InuYasha?

 

 

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Naraku's vines shot out from his body, wrapping around her, squeezing her. “Die, miko! You'll never defeat This Naraku!

“Kongousouha!” InuYasha slammed down his sword, shooting the blast that blinded everyone, countless sparkles firing through the air, raining down like tears from the sun

Diamond spears shot out of Tetsusaiga, piercing through Naraku, the villain who wouldn't die. “You fool! InuYasha, bow to me!

Fuck you, Naraku!” InuYasha snarled, “Let her go, you bastard!

InuYasha!” she screamed as Naraku's tentacles dug into her flesh. Dangerously close to losing consciousness, Kagome struggled for lucidity.

Kagome! Hold on!

“Kazaana!” Miroku yelled, unwrapping his hand, standing firm as he drew in countless saimyoushou, the venom closing in on him quickly. Bits of Naraku broke away, and finally the runner that held Kagome gave way. She flew through the air only to be intercepted as InuYasha caught her and the manufactured wind stopped. Miroku dropped to his knees, weakened by the poison flowing in him. “Defeat him, InuYasha!” Miroku gasped. “Before it's too late!

InuYasha set Kagome on her feet near the monk. “Are you okay, Kagome?

She nodded despite the white-hot pain that still gripped her stomach. “I'm fine!

Fiercely staring at her, as though he could see through her lie, he nodded once and turned back to face Naraku again.

“Hiraikotsu!” Sango yelled, unleashing the giant boomerang at Naraku. “Kohaku!” The boy gasped then disappeared. Naraku absorbed him, his evil laughter echoing through the air, in her ears . . . “No!”

The solitary figure across from them stood, her hair blowing loose in the breeze, her body alive with spiritual energy. “Kikyou,” Kagome whispered.

The time has come, Kagome,” Kikyou spoke in her mind. “Now we banish the evil . . . Two women, one soul . . . Two arrows, one mark . . .”

Kagome snatched an arrow from the quiver on her back, nocking it back, aiming for the spider mark, for Naraku's one weakness . . .

The arrows whistled as they flew. They melded into one, they merged, Kagome's pink energy absorbing Kikyou's blue. In a white flash the arrows struck, and the world exploded . . .

“Kagome? Kagome! Wake up!”

“No . . .” she moaned softly, her head jerking from side. “Naraku!”

“Shh,” InuYasha soothed her, holding her against his chest, against his heart. “Naraku's gone. You were dreaming.”

Slowly the room faded as the white light diminished. She was lying on her futon with InuYasha's arms around her. The memory of him hugging Kikyou after the battle flashed through her mind. He'd whispered to her, smoothed back her hair. Kagome had turned away, looking for the nearly complete Shikon no Tama . . . and holding back her tears.

“I'm okay,” she heard herself say, her voice oddly steady despite her turbulent thoughts.

He didn't let go. She pulled away. “How long did I sleep?”

“Couple of hours. You still look tired.”

She swung her legs off the bed and stood. He grabbed her hand, and she winced, jerking back.

He stood. “What's wrong with your hands? What are you hiding?”

Her gaze pierced him, looked right through him, scorched into his brain. “You know,” she said in a flat voice. “You put them on me . . . You let her do this.”

She tried to ignore the confusion in his expression, steeled her resolve against the uncertainty in his gaze. “What are you talking about?” he spat, indignant frustration etched into his countenance.

“These,” she said, flicking the beads with her hand. He had to strain to hear her words. “What sort of curse did you put on me?”

“Curse?” he echoed. “What the hell are you talking about? Those are to protect you.”

“From what? Why did they burn Sesshoumaru?”

Golden eyes narrowed in suspicion, staring at her, unblinking. “When did that bastard touch you? What the fuck—”

“Last night. He wanted to tell me something, and—”

“And what? What the fuck did he say?”

She sighed. “He said the beads are cursed, InuYasha. He said they're cursed, and he said that you knew. You let Kikyou curse them.”

“What? She wouldn't have! She made them to protect you!”

Kagome gasped. She figured that Kikyou made them. To have the information verified though hurt more than she'd bargained for. Her quiet tone wavered, the control over her upset nearly at an end. “Sesshoumaru was right.”

“What the hell did that bastard say to you?”

She waved a hand to cut him off. “Does it matter?”

“Yes, it does.” He caught it and pulled off the makeshift bandage, his breath hissing into his lungs when he surveyed the damage. “What happened?”

She jerked her hand away, flinching as the raw flesh scraped against his claws. “Ask Kikyou, why don't you? I can't lift these over my head. This is what happened when I tried.”

“She wouldn't have put a curse on them! She wanted to—”

Kagome had heard enough. InuYasha had seen for himself what Kikyou's beads had done to her. The proof was there, on the palms of her hands, the burns that the beads left behind. “How can you defend her? How can you stand there and tell me that she never wanted to do anything but protect me? There is nothing to protect me from, don't you see? Don't you care?

Catching her arm as she tried to run, InuYasha whirled her around, made her face him. He gripped her arms, not tight enough to hurt her but firmly enough to make her stay. “Kagome, I didn't . . . I swear I didn't . . . She said they would protect you; that's all . . . Do you believe I would . . . ?” he trailed off, eyes widening in shock as he stared into her face. “You do, don't you? You believe I'd let Kikyou hurt you?”

His hands dropped from Kagome's arms. She slowly walked to the door but stopped before she opened it. She choked back a sob, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand, and her voice was rough, raw, when she spoke. “I don't know what to believe anymore.”

He closed his eyes against her words. When he turned around, she was gone.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

'She doesn't believe you.'

InuYasha pushed off the ground, scanning the skies for any signs of Kikyou's Shini-dama-chuu. `Damn it, Kikyou . . . where the fuck are you now?'

He lit on the ground and pushed off again. Where was she? What had she done?

The memory came back to him, fresh as if it had just happened. Had Kikyou said anything? Something that he'd missed? Staring at the beads Kikyou slowly dropped into his hand . . . “What is it? What's it for?

It will protect her. It will keep her safe.”

What do you mean?

Kagome is mortal, and mortals are frail. Surely you don't wish to lose her too soon, do you?

What the hell was she thinking? How could she believe that he'd ever let her be harmed? She ought to know better . . . she was his heart, his mate, his life. He would die for her . . . and she would believe Sesshoumaru? Why?

The look on her face had hurt him . . . Her anger, her sense of betrayal . . . her quiet voice as the pain swept through her . . . “He said the beads are cursed, InuYasha. He said they're cursed, and he said that you knew. You let Kikyou curse them.”

He hadn't known; didn't she see that? Kikyou wouldn't have hurt Kagome, would she? “What? She wouldn't have! She made them to protect you! What happened?

Always her soft voice, always the sadness in her tone, always the accusation in her eyes, and always—always—the torment deep inside . . . How had he lost her belief in him? “Ask Kikyou, why don't you? I can't lift these over my head. This is what happened when I tried.”

He flinched as his own words came back to tear at him. He'd chosen to defend Kikyou over Kagome. He'd defended his past over his present. “She wouldn't have put a curse on them! She wanted to—”

Quiet anger, the uncertain equilibrium between regret and abhorrence . . . Had he transgressed too far to ever win her faith back? What lay in her heart? Could she believe in him again? Her rage cut him to the quick, more wounding than the memories of the beautiful things precluded his thoughts, clouded his vision. “How can you defend her? How can you stand there and tell me that she never wanted to do anything but protect me? There is nothing to protect me from, don't you see? Don't you care?

And as the last of her words, the last she had spoken, the words that ravaged him, the words he never thought she'd say, “I don't know what to believe anymore . . .

Kikyou. He needed answers, and she was damn well going to give them.

 

 

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`He believes her. After he saw what her cursed beads did to me . . . and he believes her.'

Kagome sighed, trying in vain to block out the despondency the spiteful recollections brought to her. A sob welled up from deep inside, a howl of pain caused by words and chronicles. `I loved him, and he . . . It hurts . . . and yet, I love him still.' Two tears rolled down her cheeks. The rest of them wouldn't come.

Tajiko swung her hand around, wildly batting at a butterfly. She giggled softly. Kagome stared at the downy hair, the wispy strands that captured the breeze. Staring at the village below, the village that didn't need her, Kagome realized that InuYasha had been right. Maybe it had been too much for her, the responsibility, the sheer magnitude of the changes in her life. Powerless to stop any of it, defenseless against the tide of what she knew and what she chose to believe, it overwhelmed her. `This place,' she admitted to herself, `it was created for Kikyou, and I . . . I've never belonged here.'

Images of InuYasha, hair blowing out behind him like a banner, the fierceness in his gaze, the possessiveness in his eyes saw through her, mocked her, lied to her.

Sesshoumaru's words echoed through her mind, the knelling of the funeral bells, as another piece of her died away. “Weak and pathetic creatures, you humans. So easy to bend, so easy to break. Your reason for clinging to that fool of a brother of mine? He so clearly loves the other—the clay doll who resembles Kikyou—and still you remain . . . his mate.

It couldn't be true . . . all the times he held her, all the nights, cradled against his heart . . . words whispered in the dark, did any of it mean a thing?

InuYasha no baka desu.

Tajiko grabbed Kagome's hand and waved it around. It thrilled the child. Such a joyful baby . . . she didn't realize that her mother's world was coming undone.

“Kagome?”

She didn't acknowledge the owner of the voice. She made no indication that she knew he approached. Miroku hunkered down beside her, his gaze wandering over the landscape, and he sat in silence for a long time.

“What will you do, Kagome?” he finally asked.

She swallowed hard, allowing the monk to take the girl off her lap. He played with Tajiko, letting her chew of his string of prayer beads, the last remaining memory of the kazaana he had for so long. Kagome sighed. “There's nothing I can do, Miroku . . . I'm InuYasha's—”, `possession', “—mate.”

Miroku digested that in silence, picking his words carefully, cautiously. “You think he still loves Kikyou?”

“I know he still loves Kikyou. He doesn't deny it.” Shaking her head, Kagome finally brought her gaze to meet the monk's. “Is it wrong for me to want him to choose me just once?”

A grimace as he felt her pain, the miko radiated a sadness, as though her heart had broken, as though her will had been betrayed. “I think he has,” Miroku remarked slowly. “He chose to live, and he chose that for you.”

“That's just it,” she said, her voice no more than a whisper in the wind. “If she asked him to . . . he'd still go with her.”

“Is that what you truly believe? Listen to your heart, Kagome. It won't lie to you.”

Closing her eyes against the fresh agony, Kagome sighed. “How many times can I listen to my heart when it does lie to me? Every day?”

She got up and took Tajiko. Miroku watched as Kagome walked toward the edge of the forest. “Kagome?” he called after her.

She stopped but didn't face the monk again. “Where are you going?”

Her answer was long in coming. It drifted back to him, leaving him more puzzled than he had been before. “I . . . I don't know.”

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

Sankon-tetsusou!”

He sliced through the youkai that barred his path as though they were nothing more than paper. A slight hindrance in his journey, InuYasha didn't spare them a second glance, cutting through them as he moved on, leaving the rent flesh of the dead in his wake. Driven by an intensity that obsessed him, his one conscious thought was to find Kikyou, wherever she was.

The sun was sinking low on the horizon. InuYasha didn't stop. He couldn't think of one time in particular, of one thing that led to this moment. There wasn't a singular incident to pinpoint, no real change in the Kagome he knew. He thought that he made her happy. She laughed for him, she stayed with him, she'd bore him a daughter, the child of his heart. Hadn't he told her that he loved her? Didn't she realize that it wasn't the sort of thing that he said off the cuff? He couldn't remember a time, he couldn't remember a moment, he couldn't remember having said those words to anyone, not until Kagome.

Yet she doubted him, and he couldn't blame her for that, either.

What had Sesshoumaru said to her? What was it that the bastard could say or do that would have made Kagome believe that InuYasha didn't care?

Or was it even Sesshoumaru at all? With a sick feeling that dug in deep, he had to allow that perhaps the doubt had already existed, perhaps Sesshoumaru had exacerbated the situation but was not wholly to blame, either. In the end, InuYasha was the keeper of Kagome's heart. He was the one who had failed.

“Kikyou!” he bellowed, tossing his head back as frustration won the war in his mind. “Kikyou!”

There was no sound to greet him, no relief for his torment. Kagome's face flashed through his head. Her smiles, her tears, her happiness, and her sadness all amassed on him, the weight of her emotions dragging him down. A darker emotion, a cynical confusion, tangled webs of words that should have been spoken . . . `I'll save you, Kagome . . . I'll save us.'

Her heartbeat thundered through his head, her life became his own. For a moment, in an instant, he saw her, wandering and lost, searching for answers that eluded her. `Kikyou,' he realized. `Kikyou, I need you . . . I need your answers.'

Leaping high above the trees, scanning the landscape for traces of her. She'd said goodbye when she left the village. She'd spoken to his mind, her words as clear as if she had spoken them. `Goodbye, InuYasha. You need me no longer. Goodbye . . .'

Damn it, he needed her now, needed her answers, needed to know what she had done to Kagome . . .

“Where the fuck did she go?” he growled.

Wisps of silvery light, bluish, fading. Close enough to see, far enough that he wouldn't be heard . . . `Shini-dama-chuu!'

Kikyou!

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

She wandered without seeing, walked for hours or minutes, days or seconds, she didn't know. Time passed yet stood still, as she tried not to think, tried not to feel. She didn't know where InuYasha had gone. She didn't care.

`You wish you didn't care,' her conscience spoke up. `That's the trouble. You do care. That's why it hurts.'

`Don't think, Kagome . . . don't remember the pain . . .'

Tajiko whined. She was hungry. Kagome sank down under a tree to nurse the baby.

Glancing at the skies above, finally becoming aware of the time, realizing as the sun began to disappear on the horizon what night it was. `The new moon,' she thought vaguely. Gaze dropping to the baby in her arms, Kagome sighed. The new moon . . . the night when Tajiko, like her father, would be human.

`InuYasha . . . Did you ever really love me? Did you ever really care? Is Sesshoumaru right after all? Was I only a dim reminder of the woman you couldn't have?' She moaned softly, willing away the memories that wouldn't leave her alone. She let her chin drop, staring down at the mocking brilliance of the white beads. That was her answer. She couldn't escape them. They wouldn't budge. They wouldn't break. She was trapped.

InuYasha's voice came to her, whether in her mind or on the wings of the air, she didn't know. `They'll protect you.'

Her eyes drifted closed. `They'll protect me,' her mind echoed, `from what? And what will protect me from them?'

Tajiko's body relaxed in her arms. The baby slept against her breast. Kagome snuggled her closer. `So tired . . .'

The white clad figure emerged from the trees. The scent in the air told him all he needed to know.

Sesshoumaru knelt beside Kagome and Tajiko, huddled on the ground. `The miko's pain,' he thought with a frown, `is exquisite . . .' He stared at them for another moment then slowly removed his Mokomoko-sama, wrapping it around the miko and her pup, keeping them warm against the chill in the evening air.

They slept.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

InuYasha crashed through the trees, intent on finding the miko he trailed. “Kikyou!”

The miko stopped short, turning in response to InuYasha’s heated voice. Her smile faded as she noticed the unmistakable anger in the hanyou’s face. “InuYasha? What has happened?”

Not trusting himself within reach of the woman, he stopped short and settled for a scathing, “You fucking tell me, Kikyou! What the hell did you do to those beads?”

Kikyou frowned. “Beads?”

He growled, frustration edging out the will to discuss things nicely. “The prayer beads! The ones you said would protect Kagome! They burned the hell out of her hands! What did you do to them?”

“Burned her? Did she try to remove them?”

InuYasha stomped over to a tree, raking his claws against the wood that crumbled away under the force of his fury. “Did you curse them?”

Kikyou drew back, genuine shock filtering over her features as she stared at InuYasha as though she couldn’t believe he might think she would do such a thing. “What? No!”

“Then why—”

“They aren’t made to be removed, InuYasha, by anyone, not even her. They’re your bond, the manifestation of your promise . . . you did not know this?”

InuYasha stopped flexing his claws and stood stock-still, staring at the miko. “What, exactly, do you mean?”

Kikyou’s smile was pained. “No one can break that bond, InuYasha. So long as you and she have promised, the beads will not be broken.”

“So long as . . . ? How long is that?” he asked quietly, a strange sense of hope welling up inside. He understood what Kikyou was saying. But he had to be sure . . . .

Her laughter was gentle, kind, warm, soothing the edges of his upset, calming him with a reassurance that maybe things would be fine, after all. “So long as you live, InuYasha, then Kagome will be with you.”

It took a moment to absorb Kikyou’s words. “And you’re saying that Kagome will always be with me? That’s why she can’t even remove the beads?”

Kikyou sank down on the ground under a canapé of cherry blossoms. “That’s exactly what I meant, InuYasha. Surely you didn’t wish for Kagome to die a mortal death and leave you to go on alone?” Her smile faded, and she sat up straighter, eyes narrowing as she continued to stare at him. “InuYasha?”

Lost in his inept struggle to understand the magnitude of Kikyou’s words, InuYasha’s voice was distracted when he answered. “Hmm?”

“You’re human.”

“Wha—?” With a grimace as he looked down, he realized that she was right. Sinking onto the ground, he sighed. He’d forgotten it was the night of the new moon. “Damn.”

Human. He used to hide himself in this form. He used to worry that others would discover what it meant, would use it against him. He didn’t really care anymore. Sure it was hard on his ego, to have to admit to being weaker on this night. But what he lost in physical power, he’d come to realize he’d gained in being able to come to terms with emotions.

He stifled a yawn. He’d been traveling much of the day in his compulsion to find Kikyou. He was exhausted, and his human form didn’t help. A soft hum caught his attention, and he glanced up. Kikyou was standing, walking in a slow circle, and the humming sound was coming from her. Slowly she circled around, her hands raised, emitting a bluish light, erecting a barrier around them.

She didn’t look at him until she was finished. “Rest easy, InuYasha. You shall be safe this night.”

He shook his head stubbornly as he stood. “I’ve got to get back. I’ve got to talk to Kagome . . . I’ve got to make her understand.”

“You are human, InuYasha, and there are dangers in the forest. You know this. Kagome’s beads protect her for you, when you are apart. No others can harm her so long as you live. They protect her. They do not protect you.”

“Thanks but I’ll be fine. Youkai don’t frighten me. I can take them.”

Catching his arm, Kikyou scowled at the stubborn hanyou. “InuYasha! Do you really care so little for your family? If not for yourself, then think about Kagome, about your daughter. Do they mean so little that you’d waste your life for your foolish pride?”

Rubbing his eyes, InuYasha finally nodded. He pulled away and sank down with his back against a tree. Kikyou sat next to him. “Why are you still here?” he asked as quiet fell over the forest.

Kikyou sighed. “You.”

“Me?”

“Yes. I wanted to make sure you were taken care of before I leave.” She stared up through the trees, through the barrier, into the night sky. “Tell me why you love her?”

Sleepiness curled around the edges of InuYasha’s vision, and he blinked to stave it back. “She makes me laugh,” he said, his voice soft, and he chuckled. “She gave me the will to dream again.”

Kikyou nodded. “She changed you . . . healed you. I wanted to do that, for you . . . .” Turning to face him, she smiled as her eyes misted with tears. “It’s better this way. She and I share the same soul yet she has powers that I cannot match. I think she was the one who was meant to be with you.”

“Kikyou . . . .”

She shushed him, her fingers coming to rest against his lips as his eyes drifted closed. She swallowed the thick lump that welled in her throat. “Sleep well, InuYasha . . . .” Brushing away a single tear that trailed down her cheek, shining blue in the starlight, the light of the barrier, she smiled gently. ‘When you awaken, I’ll be gone . . . .

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

Moaning softly in the still quiet of the forest, untouched by the wild things that lurked in the dark, Kagome awoke. Tajiko giggled from the distance. With a smothered gasp, she sat up, eyes opening wide, searching the unrelenting dark for her daughter. “Tajiko? Tajiko!”

“Be easy, miko. Your pup is safe.”

Instant relief warred with the shock of hearing that voice in the night. Kagome scrambled to her feet and stumbled forward, toward the man in white, toward his voice. “Where is she?”

“She is here. She woke before you, and I didn’t want her to wake you.”

Taking the child from Sesshoumaru’s arm, Kagome held Tajiko close as she willed her heart to slow. “What are you doing here?” she asked, her tone wary, distrustful.

“I happened upon you. You were sleeping, and since I did not detect InuYasha’s presence, I merely thought to watch over you until you awoke.”   He slowly wandered over to retrieve Mokomoko-sama then turned back to face her again. Eyes glowing in the dim light, he stared at her and Tajiko. “Shall I see you home safely, Miko?”

Kagome nodded as her gaze fell away. “Thank you.”

He started away. She walked beside him. The forest recognized Sesshoumaru. The sounds of the night creatures faded at their approach, unwilling or unable to give threats. Kagome offered not words of her own, and Sesshoumaru seemed content to continue on in silence.

“You’d do well to hide your pup’s night from prying eyes,” Sesshoumaru finally commented, glancing down at Tajiko’s midnight head.

“I didn’t mean to fall asleep in the woods,” Kagome remarked, bristling at his perceived censure.

“I do not mean to offend. I seek to protect your pup from those who would do her ill.”

“I can protect her,” Kagome shot back.

“What of her sire?”

Kagome couldn’t answer that. Deliberately trying not to think about InuYasha, she concentrated instead on where Sesshoumaru was leading her.

He stopped suddenly, a strange look coming over his features as he stared off into the distance, as though he could sense something. He turned the opposite way and strode forward. “Come, Miko.”

Kagome narrowed her eyes as she stared at the youkai’s back. “What was it?” she asked, unwilling to move until he answered her.

Sesshoumaru stopped and shook his head. “Nothing you need to see.”

Something belying his tone sent a shuddering sense of foreboding through her. “What?” she asked again. She turned to stare back in the direction that Sesshoumaru was trying to lead her away from. A throbbing pulse, and angry heartbeat . . . she gasped in surprise, her eyes flaring as understanding dawned on her. “Kikyou,” she whispered. “Kikyou’s there.”

Without looking back, Kagome headed off, toward the call of the barrier, toward the darkness and unknown. Sesshoumaru fell in beside her. She hadn’t heard him move. He reached out, grabbed her arm to stop her. Kagome wrenched it away and stomped off into the night.

She didn’t need to see where she was going. As though drawing her in on invisible leads, Kagome followed the aura, the one she’d never forget.

She saw it from a distance, the shimmering blue barrier. Steeling her resolve, she stepped toward it. Tajiko gurgled softly in her arms.

“Do not do this,” Sesshoumaru hissed in her ear.

Kagome ignored his statement to ask, “I thought I left you behind.”

“A human is still in danger, whether you’re a miko or not.”

She stopped for a moment, turning to gaze up at the youkai. She couldn’t make out his features in the darkness. She could see a glimmer in his eyes. “You can call me Kagome,” she said softly.

He nodded slowly but didn’t comment on that. Instead he sighed and said, “Why do you insist upon seeing what you need not see?”

“Why do you seek to stop me?” she countered quietly.

“I wouldn’t see you hurt any longer.”

“I thought youkai don’t feel human emotions.”

Sesshoumaru’s smile was enigmatic, vaguely discernible. “But you do.”

She looked back at the barrier. Whatever it was, she had to see it.

Stepping closer to the barrier, she saw him. Slumped against the trunk of a cherry tree, petals of the blossoms falling like snow, InuYasha slept. His black human hair fanned out around him, twining with Kikyou’s. His head on her shoulder, eyes closed, relaxed, Kagome felt her heart lurch and plummet, falling helplessly as pieces of it broke away, scattered on the invisible fingers of the winds.   She stepped back and gasped. Sesshoumaru steadied her. She glanced over her shoulder, as though to verify what she had seen before she turned on her heel and ran. She couldn’t forget what she’d seen. The image danced before her eyes, the bright glow in the dark. No matter which way she tried to run, it stopped her, mocked her, ripped at her and left her to bleed.

A strong arm caught her, pulled her back into a sheltering embrace. She choked back a sob, arms tightening around Tajiko, and buried her face in the child’s hair.

“Let me go,” she rasped out, fighting to get away from the youkai.

“Miko, calm yourself,” he commanded sternly but wouldn’t let go. As though the fight was suddenly lost, Kagome felt her body weaken, her resolve to run crumbling as the image intensified before her.

A strangled cry escaped her as Kagome sank to her knees. Sesshoumaru knelt before her, unspeaking, as though he hadn’t the words to say that would mend her shattered heart.

Kagome closed her eyes, willing back the tears, willing away the hurt, the pain. They wouldn’t leave her alone. Always there, ready to rip into her, she cried out again and again in the depths of the forest, called out to the one who had broken her heart. She wanted to rail at him, wanted to scream, wanted to curse him, wanted to hate him. In the end, she could do none of those things.

Time passed with little notice as a strange sense of numbness settled over her. As though she couldn’t cry, as though there was nothing she could do to save herself from anything, she opened her eyes again. The blackness of night was receding. A dull gray world emerged. She lifted her gaze to the youkai who had remained motionless the entire time. He stared at her now with a strangely sad expression lighting the depths of his amber gaze.

She drew a deep breath, willing her voice to be strong. She nodded once at Sesshoumaru. “Take me home, please.”

His eyes narrowed as he scanned her face, looking for signs of her upset. No change in his expression, no glimpse into whatever he believed. He nodded once and stood, offering his hand to help her rise.

InuYasha,’ she wondered as she walked beside Sesshoumaru, ‘what have you done to me?

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Kagome stared into the Bone Eater’s Well with unseeing eyes. Tajiko happily pushed herself around in the grass nearby. The familiar backpack leaned against the wooden wall.

She sighed, sinking onto her knees, hands resting on the ledge, chin dropping onto them. She was going to go home. She had every intention of doing that when she’d hurriedly thrown everything into the bag that she wanted to keep. She had even stopped by Sango and Miroku’s hut to say goodbye, to wish them well. They had both tried to stop her while Shippou had cried.

Kikyou’s barrier . . . InuYasha sleeping on her shoulder . . . Kagome’s heart broke a little more.

Do you mean to stay with him?

Kagome stopped on the outskirts of the village. Sesshoumaru stared at her in the growing daylight. “What does it matter? Why do you care?

He didn’t answer right away, staring over her head, as though there was something he wanted to tell her but wasn’t sure how. Finally he brought his gaze back to her, staring at her as though he could see into her mind. “I wish that you had not seen that, Miko. Will you base your conclusions on what your eyes have shown you? Or will you give the baka opportunity to explain himself?

If I knew what to do . . .

He understood, she realized. Somehow Sesshoumaru understood her reluctance to leave that battled with her desire to stay. Afraid of the answers that InuYasha might provide, the idea of not being with him tore her apart. What sort of choice did she have? Was there even one to make?

I leave you here, miko. Should you require my assistance, I’ll find you.” Kagome watched as he nodded to her in parting. The youkai turned and walked away, leaving her more confused about him than before.

Kagome sighed as the memory faded. What would she do? She’d been set to run, to escape the pain.

What are you thinking, Kagome? Running won’t work. You’ve never been a coward, and even then, he’ll come after you.’

“If I never saw him again, I wouldn’t care,” she muttered stubbornly.

Tajiko whimpered. Kagome turned and retrieved the girl, pulling her into her arms as she sank down on the grass, leaning against the well. “You know Mama’s lying, don’t you?” she whispered to her daughter. She leaned to the side, staring at Tajiko’s golden eyes. “What should we do, Taji?”

Ask him, Kagome . . . You can tell when he lies to you. At least then you’ll know.’

It wasn’t just her. If it had been, then it would be easy to escape back to her time. It would be simple to run., but she had to consider Tajiko, too. Tajiko deserved better. Tajiko deserved a family. She deserved to have her papa there every day, and InuYasha . . . She made a face. InuYasha deserved a chance to make his daughter’s life easier than his own had been. He loved Tajiko. Kagome knew this. To destroy that bond was something that she never wanted to do.

Can you be happy with him?

She shook her head slowly. That wasn’t really the question. The actual question was, could she be happy without him, and to that, she knew in her heart that the answer was that no, she couldn’t be. As much as anything pained her, the thought of being with him was enough to destroy her. ‘I don’t need to be with him,’ she realized with a sigh, a tear, ‘I want to be with him, because being without him . . . It isn’t something I can do. I owe it to Tajiko . . . and maybe I owe it to me, too.’

“Kagome!”

Her back stiffened, her head turned slowly. InuYasha bounded out of the forest toward her. Even from the distance between them, she could sense his anxiety. Oddly, it calmed her. He dropped down beside her, staring at her as though he was trying to read her mind. “I’ll follow you,” he said, his tone belligerent.

“I know.”

“And I’ll make you listen, if I have to,” he went on.

“All right.”

“I mean, you can’t run off before you let me explain!”

“I won’t.”

“You—“ he stopped short, his expression shifting from confrontational to confused. “You won’t?”

Tajiko squirmed off of Kagome’s lap. InuYasha scooped her up and kissed her cheek. Kagome sighed. “I saw you with her,” she said quietly. “You were sleeping . . . I was going to leave. I was going to go home. But I . . .” she trailed off and shrugged. “Can you explain what I saw?”

“I fell asleep,” he admitted quietly. “I had to find her. I had to know why she’d hurt you . . .”

“InuYasha—”

He shook his head, eyes piercing through her whether she looked at him or not. “You said you’d listen,” he grumbled, his face reddening. “And this is hard for me.”

She remained quiet as she fumbled with the folds of her skirt.

“You weren’t supposed to try to take those off,” he said as he touched the prayer beads around her neck. “No one can. The barrier on the necklace stops anyone from trying to remove them, and I guess that includes you. They protect you when I can’t, and they’ll bind us together forever, so I’ll never be without you.”

“What do you mean, forever?”

“Keh! What does forever mean to you, wench?”

“Really?” she asked, unable to keep the hint of wonder out of her tone.

“Really . . . if you want to be with me forever, that is. They were Kikyou’s gift, and I wanted to tell you, but . . . I was scared. You had almost lost Tajiko, and . . . You were upset, and I thought . . .” he trailed off with a sigh and shook his head, disgusted at his own actions. “I should have told you then, that Kikyou made them.”

Avoiding his gaze and concentrating instead on the little girl in his arms, Kagome nodded slowly. “To see you sleeping there, with her . . . it hurt.”

He stubbornly shook his head, dragging Kagome forward, into his arms, into his embrace. “I wanted to come back last night, to explain this to you. I wanted . . . when I turned human, I was so tired . . . pathetic human form,” he growled, frustration etched in his expression.

Kagome pulled back far enough to cast him an ironic stare. “I’m one of those pathetic humans,” she pointed out.

His eyes sparkled as he shifted his gaze down. He didn’t move his head, and he almost smiled. “I like it when you’re pathetic,” he remarked. “You let me protect you.”

“Baka.” She sighed quietly, reaching out to smooth Tajiko’s hair out of her face. Tajiko leaned away and grabbed Kagome’s fingers instead. “I know you love her. You’ve never hidden that from me. I chose to be with you, knowing that I’d always come second. I just never knew it would be this hard to do.”

He snorted. “Keh! Now who’s the baka? You’ve never come second. You’ve never been second. There’s never been a choice.” He sat Tajiko down, letting the girl have her freedom. She squealed with laughter as she swatted at InuYasha’s hand. “I’ll always care about Kikyou. I can’t help it, but that doesn’t mean . . . Kagome . . . don’t you know?”

“No. I don’t know things you don’t tell me.”

He looked away, his face reddening as her words soaked in. “There’s one more thing you need to know.” He flinched when he felt her stiffen in his arms, her body reacting to the sadness in his voice. “Kikyou’s gone. When I woke up this morning, she wasn’t there, and she left you one more thing.”

Kagome leaned away and wiped a tear from her cheek. InuYasha pulled a small clay pot out of his haori and held it out to her. “What is this?” she asked, hesitantly accepting the jar.

InuYasha shrugged. “I don’t know. It was sitting where she had been. I just had a feeling it was for you.”

She stared at it for a few moments then slowly uncorked the top. A silvery wisp of smoke wrapped in a shimmering pink aura rose. As though sucked in by a hidden force, the smoke absorbed into Kagome’s chest as the clay pot crumbled to dust. “ . . . My soul,” she whispered, her hand lifting to settle over her heart. “She really is gone.”

He smiled sadly, watching the dust as the wind picked it up and carried it away. Finally, his gaze fell on Kagome again. She was staring up at the sky, her eyebrows drawn together in a thoughtful frown. “I’m sorry I’m not better with words,” he said softly.

She shook her head. “I’m sorry I’m not better with listening.” He sighed. Tajiko crawled onto Kagome’s lap.

“You listen.”

She offered him a rueful smile and stared at him. The breeze whipped his hair into his face, the startling clarity in his eyes beckoned her. He willed her to understand what he hadn’t spoken. “Sometimes it’s the words you don’t say that I have a harder time hearing.”

Taking her hand, placing it over his heart, he gazed at her. Kagome closed her eyes and sighed letting her head fall against him. Tajiko laughed softly, and Kagome let contentment wash through her, settle over her. It was enough to stay like this. It was enough for her to know that he was there with her because he wanted to be.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 “Are you happy?”

Kagome blinked in surprise and straightened her back, pinning InuYasha with a troubled stare over the campfire. “Why do you ask?”

He shrugged, deliberately avoiding her gaze as he held onto Tajiko, keeping her upright, standing. Kagome slowly came around and sank down on the ground with them. She smiled at the silver heads that looked so much alike. “Suppose you tell me why I wouldn’t be happy?”

InuYasha’s gaze shifted sideways to capture Kagome’s. “Just thought I’d check.”

She ducked her head, a slow smile spreading over her features. Slowly she leaned forward. InuYasha kissed her without letting go of Tajiko. He sighed against her lips. She leaned further forward. Spiraling heat wrapped around her insides, a pleasant unfurling of sensation.

He moaned softly, letting himself get lost in the kiss—so lost, in fact, that he didn’t even realize they had company until a female voice said, “Oh, sorry!”

Kagome pulled away, heat filtering into her face as she turned to look over her shoulder at the intruders. “Kouga! Ayame! Hi!” she greeted, hopping to her feet.

“Feh! Fucking wolf! What the hell do you want?” InuYasha snorted. “Hello, Ayame.”

“I thought I smelled the reek of dog-shit around here. What are you doing out of your forest, mutt-face?” Kouga shot back.

“I brought along an old friend who’d love to get up close and personal with you. Care to reacquaint yourself with Tetsusaiga?”

“InuYasha!” Kagome cut in before the men really did start fighting.

“If they kill each other, would it really be a terrible thing?” Ayame asked with a shake of her head.

At the moment, Kagome had to wonder. She retrieved her daughter as InuYasha slowly got to his feet, as both Kouga and InuYasha exchanged stares filled with such animosity that both Ayame and Kagome rolled their eyes.

“Is this Tajiko? She’s so precious!” Ayame exclaimed.

“Thank you,” InuYasha remarked. Kagome sighed.

Kagome knelt down to greet Kouga’s twin sons, Botan and Haru. The three year-old wolf cubs peeped out at her from behind their father’s legs. The boys stared curiously at Tajiko and slowly came out of hiding. They leaned forward, cautiously sniffing Tajiko, who blinked in surprise at the two youngsters.

Kagome eeped as InuYasha reached over her back, snatching Tajiko out of her arms in one rapid movement. “Oi! Kouga! Keep your runts away from my daughter!” he growled.

Kouga snorted indelicately. “Oh, please, as if my sons would ever be interested in your daughter.”

“Kouga!” Ayame gasped, thinking that her mate was referring to the fact that Tajiko wasn’t full youkai. “Just because she’s hanyou—”

“Who cares about that?” Kouga scoffed. “She’s his daughter! That’s more than enough reason to keep my sons away from her!”

“As if I’d let my daughter anywhere near wimpy wolves, anyway,” InuYasha shot back.

“Why don’t you stay for supper?” Kagome asked, raising her voice to be heard over the contentious males. “We’ve got plenty . . . .”

“No, we don’t,” InuYasha growled as Kagome reached for Tajiko. He held on. “Catch your own fucking food, unless you’re too damn pathetic to do it.”

A vague idea started to form in Kagome’s mind. She narrowed her eyes as she stared at InuYasha. He was behaving worse than normal, knowing full-well that there was no way Kagome could do a thing about it since he was still holding their daughter.

“You’re such a rude mutt. I don’t see what Kagome ever saw in you!” Kouga shot back.

Ayame sighed. “Kouga, why don’t you take the boys and go hunting? You’ve been saying you’d start teaching them soon, anyway.”

“Feh!” InuYasha snorted, finally handing Tajiko to Kagome. “Leave it to me, pathetic wolf. If we wait for you, we’ll starve.” He headed out of the encampment.

Kouga growled as he ran off after InuYasha. “Come on, boys!” he called over his shoulder.

Both women breathed a collective sigh of relief as the males left the campsite. “I swear . . .” Ayame remarked.

Kagome nodded. “I don’t think they’ll ever get along.”

It was nice, catching up with Ayame. She told Kagome how she and Kouga had been trying to restore the wolves’ territories. It was a welcome visit. Ayame adored Tajiko, and by the time the voices of the males drifted back into the camp, Tajiko had made another friend.

Botan and Haru skipped in first. They ran over to their mother and knelt beside her, resuming their inspection of the little girl.

InuYasha and Kouga stomped into camp exchanging insults, as usual. Kagome took the cleaned rabbits from InuYasha. Ayame caught her eye, and they both shook their heads. At least supper wasn’t going to be a dull affair . . . .

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

The quiet lull that fell over the campsite after Kouga, Ayame, and the boys left was comfortable. InuYasha sat against a tree, legs stretched out with Tajiko on his lap. The little girl twirled her finger in her hair as her eyelids grew heavy. Kagome finished washing up the pan and put it into her backpack, humming a low song under her breath. With a sigh, she turned to face her family, smiling at the image they created in her mind.

“InuYasha . . . .”

“Hmm?”

Kagome picked up Tajiko and put her in the sleeping bag. She didn’t stir. Kagome turned back to face InuYasha with a knowing look. “Tell me . . . you were using your daughter as a shield so I wouldn’t say ‘it’ to you when you were arguing with Kouga, weren’t you?”

An overly innocent look surfaced on InuYasha’s face, and he cleared his throat as he shook his head. “Feh!”

She regarded him for long moments, as though she were trying to make up her mind, whether or not to believe him. He grew more and more nervous. Slowly, deliberately, Kagome lifted her hands above her head, arching her back as she stretched. The blouse she wore rode up, exposing the pale skin of her stomach. She dared a peek at InuYasha. He was staring right at her, his eyes bright, mesmerized. She dropped her arms to her sides and dug through the bag for a nightshirt.

Fully aware of his gaze on her, Kagome took her time unbuttoning her blouse, letting it fall from her shoulders to land at her feet in a whisper. Normally when they traveled, she left her bra on to sleep in. Maybe it was the half moon in the sky; maybe it was the look in InuYasha’s eyes; maybe it was the desire to make him regret using their daughter as a shield. In any case, Kagome slipped off the bra. She didn’t miss his sharp inhalation. Shooting him another quick glance, she smiled to herself to see how he hand his hands dug into the ground, his entire body tense, waiting. Her skirt hit the ground next. InuYasha moaned softly.

“Something you wanted, my mate?” she asked, careful to keep her tone light, teasing.

“You,” he answered without hesitation.

She pulled the large shirt over her head and tied a knot in the bottom of it, at her waist. After folding and putting her clothing back in the bag, she carefully walked toward InuYasha, stopping just out of his reach. He stared at her, his gaze slowly rising, taking her in. She sank down before him, reaching out, lifting his chin. “InuYasha . . . .”

He swallowed hard and started to pull her closer.

She drew a deep breath of her own, half-amazed at her own sudden brazenness, half-wanting to run and hide in embarrassment. “If you touch me, I’ll say ‘it’.”

“How long?”

She leaned in to kiss him. “Until you admit that you used your daughter to keep me from saying ‘it’ when Kouga was here.”

“Okay,” he agreed easily enough, her lips hovering so close yet not touching his. “I did it.”

“And until you promise you’ll never use Taji as a shield ever again.”

He growled. She smiled as she kissed him.

“You don’t play fair wench,” he complained, his voice husky, arms straining as he dug his claws deeper into the dirt.

She trailed nibbling kisses along his jaw, down his neck, teasing him in much the same manner that he normally used on her. “Promise me, InuYasha, and you can move.”

He whined softly. She grinned.

Tongue flicking out, tasting his skin, she deliberately provoked him, reveled in the knowledge that she could bring him to this. He submitted to her as she pushed his haori off his shoulders, her hands soothing yet enthralling him. He nudged against her, willed her to release him from the torture. “Kagome . . . .”

“Promise.”

“Damn it—”

“Promise.”

He sighed to show his frustration. It turned into a groan as her tongue flicked out against his nipple. Her nimble fingers made quick work of untying his pants, removing them. She brushed against him as she leaned forward to kiss him again. He strained against her, trying to get to her despite almost perverse desire to hold himself in check, to not make the promise she waited for. A calculated move on her part, a risky venture at best, Kagome straddled his lap and rose up, her hands on his ears, lightly stroking, idly rubbing.

He captured her nipple through the tee shirt, drew it in, the scorching heat of his mouth searing her skin. A slight tug and the fabric ripped, shredded by the fangs of her lover. A ragged sigh, a husky chuckle, and the heat of his mouth closed over her again, his tongue bathing her, lapping at her, loving her.

She pressed against him, teased him unmercifully, unconsciously finding a rhythm, a dance that drove him mad. Dragging his mouth off of her, a growl of utter frustration spilling from him, he caught her arms in his hands. “I fucking promise,” he rasped out. His arm snaked around her, holding her still. He razed her clothes away with his other. The delicate cotton and lace panties tore away as though they were made of paper, and he brought her down on him hard.

Her gasp echoed through the forest. His hands on her hips guided her, moved her. Helpless to do more than hold on to him, Kagome let her head fall back. He accepted her submission, ravaging her senses until she clung to him. No more than nerves and sensation, he moved her higher, letting her fly again and again. She moaned, she whimpered, she called out his name. Her strangled cries were soothed by his body, by his desire to complete her, to tame her, to love her.

The tremors in her body, the delicious signs of her repletion rocked through her. She took over, her legs lending her strength as her back arched against him, melded to him, and she fell against him as she cried out seconds before his voice rose with hers above the calm of the forest.

She didn’t move as she struggled to breath. Heart beating almost painfully inside her, InuYasha kissed her forehead, her cheek, brought her hand to his lips and kissed her palm. He stretched out on his side under the canopy of leaves with Kagome nestled against his chest, against his heart. Lifting her chin, staring into her eyes, he smiled softly as time intruded once more. “I love you,” he whispered.

She blinked, half scared to believe what her ears had heard. He’d said it before. Both times she’d discarded it. Once in passion, once in slumber, but this time was different . . . . “I love you, InuYasha. I’ve loved you forever.”

His smile widened, and he hugged her tight. “While we’re making promises, then,” he said, his voice softened by the edges of fatigue, “will you make one to me?”

“It depends,” she said with a giggle. His hand trailed over her back, along the curves, resting at last on her bottom as he pulled her firmly against him.

“Promise me, Kagome, that you’ll never doubt me again? When I tell you I love you?”

She leaned up and kissed him softly, smoothing his cheeks with her hands. “I love it when you tell me you love me. I’ll believe you when you do . . . but . . . .” She trailed off, fluttering kisses over his face. “I like it much better when you show me.”

“Do you?”

She nodded as he pulled her close and turned so that he was pinning her down. “Then . . . I should show you . . . .”

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Butterflies darted across the meadow on silvery wings, leaving streaks of color behind in their rapid dance. Tajiko cooed, laughed, swiped at them. Wiggling so much that InuYasha had to pull her out of the baby snuggly that secured her to him, he kissed her cheek then let her down to chase the insects.

Kagome sighed, a contented sound. She leaned against him to offer him emotional support, and InuYasha watched his daughter at play for a moment before kissing Kagome’s cheek and heading up the hill to his mother’s grave. ‘They make me happy,’ he realized as he watched his mate and his daughter. Kagome chased Tajiko as the youngster shrieked in pure joy. He smiled. He hadn’t realized children could crawl so fast. Tajiko amazed him, just as Kagome always did. ‘Maybe,’ he thought as his grin widened, ‘Tajiko is just more remarkable than other children . . . .

“Do you want me to come with you?” Kagome asked as he started away.

He stopped and turned back, the slow smile she loved spreading over his features. “Would you?”

She scooped Tajiko into her arms and caught up with InuYasha. She squealed in delight upon seeing the thick violets covering Izayoi’s grave. InuYasha took the girl and kissed her cheek before letting her down to play in the flowers. Kagome giggled as Tajiko’s little nose wrinkled. “I think the flowers might be overwhelming her,” she remarked.

InuYasha made a face. “Nah. Mother wouldn’t hurt her. She would have loved Taji as much as we do.”

As if in answer to InuYasha’s assessment, a gentle breeze lifted over the meadow, blowing away the scent, dissipating it enough for the tiny nose to withstand.

Hunkering down beside the small stone marker, InuYasha traced over the name etched in the stone with a claw, digging it in deeper. Kagome felt tears well behind her gaze as she watched him. ‘He did that,’ she thought with a small smile. He always had been a man of few words. The one he’d carved into the stone spoke volumes to Kagome. He’d etched in the word, ‘Mother’.

Tajiko hitched herself forward, pulled herself up on InuYasha’s knee. With a shriek of delight, the girl managed to grab a fistful of InuYasha’s hair, and she tugged hard. Letting his hand drop from the stone, he slowly and deliberately turned to face their daughter. “Tajiko,” he said, his voice low, gentle, “you can do that to Papa. Don’t do that to Mama.” He leaned down so that his face was breaths away from Tajiko’s smaller twin version. “That would hurt Mama. We don’t hurt Mama.”

“M . . . mm . . . mamamama,” Tajiko echoed then dissolved into giggles.

InuYasha’s eyes widened in wonder. She didn’t miss the trace of upset, though, either. Upset that Tajiko might have said ‘mama’ before ‘papa’? “Did . . . did she just say ‘Mama’?”

Kagome sighed and knelt down beside her family. “She could have. It was probably just baby-babble though.”

He didn’t answer right away. Tajiko let go of his hair and dropped onto her rear with a hefty sigh before she scooted off into the violets again. InuYasha shifted, spreading his legs and dragging Kagome close. She laid her head on his chest, content to watch their daughter play as she heard the beat of InuYasha’s heart strong in her ear.

“She’s so beautiful,” Kagome mused, staring at the smiling golden eyes of the child at play. So enthralled with everything around her, Tajiko was kinetic, reactive energy in motion. Every little thing drew her attention, and Kagome grinned lazily, watching as Tajiko was sidetracked time after time. InuYasha chuckled softly.

“I still say she looks like you. Come to think of it, she smells like you, too.”

Kagome wiggled closer, nudging his chin up so she could nestle against his neck. “She looks like you, of course. Every little thing about her looks like you. Anyway, does she really smell like me?”

“Sort of.”

Kagome leaned away to stare at the disgruntled-sounding hanyou. “Why did you say it like that?”

He made a face. “She smells like you used to, before you became my mate. She smells like you did when you first freed me from Goshinboku.”

“Why do you say that like it’s a bad thing?”

“Feh!”

His face reddened. Kagome’s gaze narrowed. “What are you saying, InuYasha? I thought you said you liked how I smelled.”

Incredibly, his face reddened even more. “I did . . . I do . . . But I’d prefer if no one else likes the way Tajiko smells.” His expression darkened, and he glared belligerently at Kagome. “And that fucking Kouga better keep his sons away from my daughter or I’ll—” Kagome’s laughter cut him off. Still looking quite irritated, InuYasha snorted. “What’s so funny?”

“You sound like an overprotective father, that’s all.”

“That’s not funny! She’s my daughter, what am I—”

“InuYasha . . . She’s six months old. I think you have awhile before you need to worry about any guys trying to steal your precious baby girl.”

He didn’t look mollified. If anything, he looked more irritated than ever. “Feh! If you had given me a son instead, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

“Oh, it’s my fault that we had a girl, is it? I’ll have you know that I’ve taken enough biology classes to know that it is entirely up to the male, as far as whether or not a baby is a girl or boy. So that would be you. I claim no responsibility.”

He frowned at her for a moment then sighed with a grin that threatened around the corners of his lips. “You do that on purpose, don’t you?”

She slumped back against him, idly toying with the dark blue-black prayer beads around his neck. “Do what?”

“Take away my best arguments.”

“Do I?”

“Feh. Of course you do.”

Gaze wandering to the infant hanyou, Kagome smiled. “It was too much for her,” she said softly. InuYasha looked over her head. “Sleeping in her grandmother’s arms?”

Tajiko lay in the midst of the violets content in slumber. Her silvery hair stirred with the gentle breeze, her skin glowed with healthy color. InuYasha cleared his throat as he stared at the girl. Kagome didn’t miss the huskiness in his tone. “Mother loves her, too.”

“Did you bury her here?”

He sighed, folding his arms around Kagome, holding her tightly against him. “Yeah. No one would help me. It was the best I could do.” He fell silent, content to listen to the birds sing, the guardians of the meadow, the keepers of his mother’s grave. Kagome felt his lips on her forehead, and she smiled. “I learned to write so I could make a marker for her. I thought she deserved that. I came back later to put her name on the stone but . . . I guess I just thought that anyone who mattered would know who she was.”

Kagome wiped a tear off her cheek as she tightened her hold on him. “You amaze me, InuYasha.”

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

The sun was sinking low as Shippou used his foxfire to set the kindling ablaze. Satisfied with the result of his efforts, he puffed out his chest proudly and smirked at the hanyou. “First try! No sweat!” he gloated.

InuYasha rolled his eyes but let the kitsune have his small victory. “At least you’re good for something,” he shot back.

Kagome pulled Tajiko’s door closed and shook her head at the escalating ‘argument’. “It’s good to be home,” she said deliberately loud enough to put the two would-be adversaries in their places.

Shippou ran at Kagome, throwing himself into her arms. She grinned as she caught him. “Did you miss me?”

He nodded. “Miroku and Sango wanted to know when you got home. I’ll go tell them.”

“Bar the door, Kagome,” InuYasha said, only half-teasing as he sank down in his normal pose before the fire. “Do you really think it was a good idea for that hentai monk to have a child with Sango?”

Kagome paused as she put water on to heat. ‘There’s something to be said for the conveniences of ramen,’ she thought before turning her attention back to her mate. “I have every faith that Sango will be quite capable of keeping both Miroku and their children in line, and you’re one to talk. You’ve got a few of those sorts of traits, yourself.”

“Feh!” he scoffed. “I’m not a lecher.”

“No, but you’re rude, argumentative, arrogant, possessive, overly-protective—”

She squealed as InuYasha caught her around her waist and pulled her down into his lap. “You apparently need another lesson in the correct way to treat your mate,” he grumbled as his lips fell over hers. A riot of heat, a delightful torment erupted in her. She sighed and stroked his ear.

“Nice,” he breathed, inclining his head toward her. “More.”

“And demanding,” she added to her running tally of his faults as she pushed herself up to kiss him again.

Dragging his mouth away, InuYasha turned his head to the side and heaved a frustrated sigh. “Damn,” he muttered. “Of all the nights . . . .” She couldn’t help but grin as InuYasha’s hair darkened under her hands. His ears receded and disappeared only to be replaced by very normal, very human ones further down on his head. His claws retracted, and he shot her a disgusted look. “Damn.”

“Is it so hard for you to accept your human side?” she asked with a sigh of her own.

He frowned. “It’s not that,” he replied.

“Then what bothers you so much?”

“I want you,” he answered dejectedly. “And I can’t have you, and—”

She hugged him. “One night, InuYasha. One night isn’t going to kill you.”

“Wanna bet?”

“Are we interrupting?”

Kagome flushed as Miroku held the door open for Sango and Kiyoshi. Embarrassment faded, though, as Kagome squealed in delight, accepting the child from his mother’s arms. “It’s only been a few days, but I swear this boy has grown!” she exclaimed.

“Someone’s got him so spoiled he cries whenever I put him down,” Sango complained with a pointed look directed at her husband.

Miroku grinned sheepishly. “Now, Sango, my sweet! A baby is only a baby a short time, and I can’t help it if he looks so much like his mother that I have to hold him!”

Kagome sank down beside InuYasha, who leaned over to inspect the baby. “He doesn’t! He looks just like you,” Sango retorted with a grin as she checked the water. “He acts like you, too, always grabbing at my hair . . . .”

“Ah, yes. Give him a few years, Sango, and I promise you, he’ll be chasing the village girls instead.”

InuYasha shot Kagome an ‘I-Told-You-So’ look. Kagome grinned.

“In any case, it’s a good thing you’ve returned,” Miroku commented, turning his attention to InuYasha after bestowing a captivated expression on his wife. “There’s been a troublesome presence in a nearby village. A man arrived today looking for the ‘great one who defeated Naraku’—which I took to mean you. He asks for aide in ridding their village of the evil.”

“Well, I can’t do a thing now,” InuYasha commented as he stared in open disgust at the midnight hair that trailed over his shoulder. “We can leave in the morning.”

“We?” Miroku echoed, looking a bit too surprised.

InuYasha grinned a bit nastily. “Since you so graciously volunteered my assistance, monk, then yeah, I meant ‘we’.”

Shippou glanced up from the picture he was coloring to roll his eyes. “Don’t worry, Miroku. I’ll take care of Sango, Kagome, and the children.”

Miroku blinked in surprise at Shippou’s words. Kagome hid her amusement as she handed Kiyoshi to InuYasha so she could make the ramen for him.

“Then they’ll be perfectly safe,” Miroku managed with a straight face, “in the protection of the great and powerful kitsune youkai.”

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“Mama, we’re here!”

InuYasha closed the door behind Kagome as she hurried off to locate her mother in the shrine. “You sure we should do this?” he asked as he caught up with his mate.

Kagome grinned. “Sure! I’ve gotten out of practice with my bow, anyway! I want to come along, and I’m sure Mama won’t mind!”

Mrs. Higurashi came down the stairs with a warm smile and a kiss for each of them. She took Tajiko with an exaggerated grunt and opted to speak to her granddaughter as she led the way into the kitchen. “I can’t believe how much you’ve grown, Tajiko! No I can’t!”

InuYasha made a face at the high-pitched ‘motherese’ Mrs. Higurashi used with the child. Kagome caught the look and tapped his stomach. “Mama, InuYasha’s been asked to help out a neighboring village, and I wanted to go, if you’d watch Tajiko for us?”

Mrs. Higurashi’s smile widened. “Of course, dear! I’d be happy to have Tajiko! Take as long as you need! We’ve got plenty of things to do! I’ll take her to the zoo, and shopping, and the museum, and the summer festival is coming up! I’m sure Tajiko would love that! And Souta’s girlfriend would love to meet her, too . . . .”

“It shouldn’t be that long,” Kagome mumbled. InuYasha snorted as he set down the bag that Kagome had brought along with Tajiko’s things. “Shouldn’t take more than a few days, maybe a week.”

“It’s fine, fine,” Mrs. Higurashi absently remarked. “Take your time!”

“Kagome—”

Kagome put a hand over InuYasha’s mouth to stop whatever he was about to say. “Her clothes are in here, and a few of her other things. Be careful with the shampoo and soaps because she can’t stand too much scent, and—eww!” she gasped, jerking her hand away from InuYasha. He grinned unrepentantly at her. “You licked my hand!”

“That’ll teach you,” he replied. She wiped her hand on his haori. He laughed.

“We’d better go,” Kagome finally said, staring at her daughter for a long moment. She hurried over and kissed Tajiko’s head, smoothing down her hair as she memorized everything about the child. “Be a good girl for Grandma.   I love you.”

InuYasha reached for Tajiko. He kissed her and hugged her tight. Kagome didn’t miss the fleeting look of near-panic that crossed his features before handing her back to Mrs. Higurashi. “I love you, baby girl. We’ll be back soon.”

“Oh, go on! This little one will be just fine! You act as if you’re leaving her forever, and you’re not! Now shoo!”

It was Kagome who, after kissing her mother and her daughter both one more time, took InuYasha’s arm and dragged him out of the shrine. “You sure this is a good idea?”

“You’ve never had a problem dragging me off to fight before,” Kagome remarked, deliberately trying to goad InuYasha out of his state of worry.

“Feh!” he shot back as they stepped back into the well-house. “That was different.”

“How so?”

Golden eyes serious, sparking with a thousand different emotions, he stared at her as they stood beside the well. “We’ve got more to lose.”

She leaned toward him, wrapping her arms around his neck as he bent over to catch her legs. “Maybe . . . or maybe we have more reason to come back.”

“She’s so small.”

“What happened to the big, tough hanyou? What happened to the guy who thought he never needed anyone or anything to be strong?”

InuYasha grimaced. “I met you.”

Kagome softened. “She’ll be fine. My mother will keep her safe. You know she will.”

His ears drooped slightly. The whole idea of leaving their young daughter behind was really gnawing at him. Kagome smiled, a tender expression of understanding lit her gaze as he muttered, “I know.” He sighed again. “Well, let’s go before I change my mind.”

She hugged him just a little tighter.

He leaped into the well with Kagome in his arms.

The familiar sensation of falling was interrupted as InuYasha’s feet hit the ground. Kagome’s grip tightened once more as he lunged out of the well, lighting gently on the earth beyond. He stared around at the serenity of the meadow with a vague smile and an unmasked sadness in the depths of his gaze. “Kagome . . .” he began.

“She’ll be fine.”

He sighed in argument. “I don’t like that there’s five hundred years separating us.”

“It’s only until we defeat that youkai. Then we can go right back and get her.”

He didn’t answer out loud and only shot her a very long-suffering glance.

Kagome giggled as he strode toward the forest. “InuYasha?”

“My mate?”

She flushed at the intimacy of the endearment but smiled. “You can put me down now.”

“Rather not, thanks.”

“Are you going to carry me all the way back to the village?”

“That was the plan, yes, so be quiet. We’ll get there faster if you do.”

“You’re so rude.”

“You’re so beautiful.”

She gasped softly. “You . . . you think I’m . . . . Do you really?”

Her answer was a distinct rolling of his eyes. “Quit fishing for compliments, wench. You’re only getting one a day, and if you miss it, I’m not repeating it.”

“I see,” she said just before she started squirming. His hold on her tightened, and she wiggled more. With a wicked smile, she went for the one part of him guaranteed to get him to put her down.

”Not the ears!” he whined, fighting to hold onto Kagome and jerk his head out of her reach. “Ka—go—-me!”

She sat up straighter and grasped his ear firmly with one hand, using her fingers on her free hand to tickle the fine white hairs.

His laughter echoed through the forest, great gales of laughter that forced the same reaction from her. No matter how hard he struggled, he couldn’t escape her. “Stop!” he gasped. “It’s not—my fault—if I drop—”

“Ow!” Kagome shrieked as she hit the ground hard. InuYasha wound down to a superior grin, arms crossed over his chest as he stared down at his mate where she landed. Kagome flopped backward with a pained groan. “That hurt!” she remarked.

His smile widened. “Did it? I didn’t notice.”

She narrowed her eyes and pouted. “There you go, breaking me again. Are you sick of me already?”

He shook his head and knelt down beside her. “Not at all, wench. There are a few things you’re useful for.”

Deliberately letting his eyes travel the length of her prone body, Kagome felt the instant rush of warmth wash over her. She swallowed hard. “And you say Miroku’s a lecher.”

He sighed, shaking his head at her grumbled assessment. “Shall I carry you back to the village now?”

“You dropped me on purpose so I’d let you carry me, didn’t you?”

He didn’t deny it. Catching her hands, he dragged her to her feet. Kagome gasped as he hefted her over his shoulder so that she hung down his back. “InuYasha!”

“Stop wiggling around or I’ll drop you again,” he warned.

She didn’t listen. “Put me down!”

He loosened his hold on her legs. She screamed as she started to slip before he caught her again. “Told you.”

She grinned despite herself. ‘Incorrigible hanyou,’ she thought. ‘I’ll find a way to get him!’ She couldn’t help wiggling as she tried to keep herself from slipping further. “InuYasha, I’ll get revenge for this,” she warned him. He turned his head to eye her. She gasped when he lightly bit her hip. “Don’t do that,” she whispered as color filtered into her cheeks.

“Do what?”

“Don’t . . . bite me.”

“Like this?” He did it again. She stopped struggling. He chuckled.

“Kagome!”

Pushing on InuYasha’s back so that she could twist around enough to look over her shoulder, Kagome braced her elbows against his back to support herself. “Miroku! Help me!”

Miroku eyed the miko and hanyou cautiously. InuYasha looked way too innocent. He strode around to address Kagome instead. “Kimi’s having pains. Her man worries that she will lose the baby. Can you come?”

InuYasha dragged her back over his shoulder and shifted her so that he cradled her against him. He didn’t wait for Miroku, instead pushing off the forest floor as he launched them both back toward the village.

Kagome frowned. Kimi was a young woman of sixteen and was expecting her first child. She wasn’t due for another five months, though, and if she was having pains, then it was something to worry over. She glanced up at InuYasha’s face. “You and Miroku go on to the village. I can’t leave if Kimi needs me.”

He didn’t argue. The same thought obviously ran through his mind that had occurred to her. What would have happened if they hadn’t been able to get through the well to her time?

He set her on her feet outside Kimi’s hut and kissed her forehead. “I won’t be gone long.” He started away then suddenly stopped and turned back. She understood. He was concerned for the unborn baby, as much as he had been for Tajiko. He understood all too well, the fear of almost losing a child.

She paused long enough to watch him go before turning to step inside.

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

“Kagome? I thought you’d be out here.”

Kagome dried her eyes and smiled wanly at her friend. “I just wish I could have helped.”

Sango nodded and sank down beside her on the riverbank. “You tried. You couldn’t do much more than that.”

Rubbing a shaking hand over her eyes, Kagome sighed. “I know.”

She’d been too late. When she entered the small hut, the smell of it had hit her immediately. Kimi’s water had broken. There wasn’t a way to stop the baby from coming way too soon. It had taken all day to deliver the child who came much too soon. Then to have to tell the mother that there was no way to save such a small one . . . . Tears welled in her eyes again. She was exhausted.

Sango squeezed her shoulders. “Kimi’s strong. She’ll be fine.”

Kagome nodded, wiping her eyes on her blouse sleeve. “I know . . . .” She shook her head, staring over the trees of InuYasha’s Forest at the setting sun beyond. “Where’s Kiyoshi?”

Sango smiled sadly. “He’s sleeping. Shippou said he’d watch over him. I wanted to check on you.”

Kagome sighed. “I’m going to go home. I need to hold Tajiko. Will you tell InuYasha?”

Pushing herself to her feet, Sango nodded and pulled Kagome into a hug. “I will. I think I’ll go back home and hold Kiyoshi, myself.”

Kagome squeezed Sango’s hand before heading down the path that led to the dry well.

How lucky am I?’ she thought as she stared at the ground. ‘InuYasha . . . Tajiko . . . and friends who love me . . . .’ She smiled sadly. ‘I’ve always been surrounded by love, and I’ve never truly appreciated it before.’

She sped up, an overwhelming desire to see her daughter washing over her. Was it selfish, to wish to hold Tajiko and to thank the gods that her daughter had been spared?

Breaking into a run as she came to the edge of the forest, Kagome gasped softly as the man stepped into her path. The moonlight that started to shine bright cast him in an odd blue aura. Pulling herself up short, Kagome stepped back, her heart thundering in her ears at the startling appearance.

He inclined his head toward her, acknowledging her arrival, as though he had expected her to come. She swallowed hard as she stared at him in the dusk. Minutes passed before either of them spoke. He broke the silence.

“Good evening, Miko. I trust you are well.”

She stepped back again, her hand nervously twisting the white prayer beads around her neck. “Sesshoumaru.”

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“Where is your mate, Miko?”

Kagome straightened her back, willing herself to be calm, not to show the youkai any signs of the trepidation that she felt inside at the unexpected meeting. “He had to help a neighboring village. Is there something you wanted?”

Sesshoumaru shook his head slowly, staring off to the west with a narrow-eyed glare. The rising moon reflected in his eyes. He seemed to be gathering his thoughts, and Kagome waited for him to speak. Hesitantly, he brought his gaze back to rest on her once more. “I require aide, for Rin. She is . . . changing.”

Kagome frowned, confused by Sesshoumaru’s words. “Changing? What does that mean?”

Sesshoumaru stabbed her with a penetrating look, as though he thought she was being dense on purpose. Kagome lifted her chin defiantly. “It means, her body is changing. I ask that you explain these . . . changes . . . to her.”

Her eyes opened wide in understanding. “You mean, she’s—”

Sesshoumaru made a noise almost like a growl. “Yes. Will you come with me?”

Biting her bottom lip to keep herself from laughing, Kagome stared at the youkai. “All right,” she agreed slowly.

He nodded.   She followed him to the edge of the clearing. His two headed beast grazed. Sesshoumaru helped Kagome climb on, and they set out.

“The stars!” she gasped softly.

He glanced at her. Face upturned, eyes wide in wonder, Sesshoumaru watched her as she gazed at the heavens. “What do you see up there?” he questioned.

“I see everything,” she replied. “It’s everything, unending . . . so many stars . . . .”

Sesshoumaru didn’t answer. The same skies, the same stars, the same things he’d seen countless nights, thousands of times. Yet it held so much mystery for the miko . . . why?

They traveled into the night. ‘A pleasant evening,’ Sesshoumaru had to allow. ‘When was the last time I took the time to savor anything? The whispers on the wind, the scent of the cherry blossoms in the springtime, the touch of another being’s hand . . . ? So long ago I cannot recall . . . .’

Glancing over, he frowned. The miko slept. She started to slip to the side. Sesshoumaru shot over to her, steadied her. ‘Humans are weak,’ he thought as he sank onto the dragon’s back, supporting the miko with his arm around her to keep her from falling. ‘But this miko . . . even in her weakness, she exudes a quiet strength. Extraordinary.’

Was this what his brother saw in her? Was this what their father had seen in Izayoi? Sesshoumaru stared at the sleeping woman for a long time. He was surprised when the dragon landed on the ground before the doors to his home.

The miko awoke with a soft moan, her eyes blinking quickly, and she gazed around through shrouded eyes. She shook her head and yawned. Sesshoumaru lifted her down. “I’ll show you to a chamber,” he offered.

She sighed. “The same one as before?” When he nodded, she smiled up at him. “Don’t worry. I know my way there.”

He watched in silence as the miko shuffled toward the doors.

 

 

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Kagome awoke to the sun streaming in the balcony doors. Someone had opened them while she slept. She stretched slowly and swung her legs off the futon. An overflowing bowl of various fruits stood in the middle of the ornately carved wood table had been placed, as well. Kagome took a persimmon and stepped onto the balcony.

It was almost noon. Birds soared high overhead calling out to one another mid-flight. Kagome let her head fall back, eyes closed, as she let the sense of peace soak into her. Her hectic life in the village seemed so far away . . . .

She frowned. She was so tired last night when she’d agreed to come with Sesshoumaru that she’d forgotten to tell anyone else where she had gone. She sighed. Best she have her talk with Rin and leave it at that. With any luck, she’d make it back to the village before InuYasha returned. Though she had little doubt that InuYasha wouldn’t mind that she had come here, he would be upset that she hadn’t waited for him . . . .

Suddenly, Kagome smiled. She had a feeling that her hanyou wouldn’t be too upset, if she apologized nicely for worrying him . . .

With a giggle, she turned and headed out of the room to locate Rin for their little ‘talk’.

 

 

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“Sesshoumaru tells me that you’re a little confused on some things that are changing in your body,” Kagome said, careful to keep her tone friendly, open.

Rin shifted uncomfortably. They sat in one of the many private gardens behind the huge castle under a very old magnolia tree. “I don’t understand,” she confessed, her face reddening as she twisted her fingers together in her lap.

“Don’t be embarrassed, Rin. What’s happening to you is a normal part of becoming a woman. You should be proud.”

The nearly thirteen year-old girl’s chin lifted, and she peeked up at Kagome through her thick fringe of black eyelashes. “I should?”

Kagome smiled at the dubious note in the girl’s voice. “Yes, Rin, you should. It just means that your body is changing so that one day you can get married and have babies with your husband.” Rin shook her head, her chin dropping once more. Her shoulders shook, and Kagome realized that she was crying. “Rin? What’s the matter?”

“Lord Sesshoumaru! Please don’t tell him!” she sobbed. “He’ll send me to the village, and . . . I don’t want to go!”

“Did he say he would?”

Rin sniffled and shook her head though the tears kept falling. Kagome dug into her pocket for the white linen handkerchief she always carried. “No, but . . . he’ll think I need to be with humans . . . .”

Kagome reached over and dabbed the tears off the girl’s face with the kerchief. “I don’t think Sesshoumaru will ever send you away if you don’t want to go. He saved you. He’s seen to your needs this whole time. He wouldn’t do that if he didn’t care. He won’t send you away unless you ask it of him.”

“You . . . you don’t think so?”

Kagome smiled and held out the kerchief for Rin. She took it and wiped her eyes, heaving a shaky breath. “They scare me,” she admitted quietly.

“Who?”

“Humans . . . men . . . bandits.”

“Of course they do,” Kagome agreed softly. If her family had been slaughtered by bandits at such a young age, as Rin’s was, she’d probably feel the same way. “Is there anything you wanted to ask me? About . . . anything?”

The girl made a face as her cheeks blossomed in another flush. “I . . . bled . . . .” she whispered.

Kagome tried not to smile at Rin’s obvious discomfort. “That’s natural, too,” she assured her. “You’ll do that once ever lunar cycle. It only means that your body can carry a baby now.”

The look that Rin shot Kagome was very scared. “I don’t want a baby!”

“Well, no, not yet. You don’t have to have a baby yet. But someday you may want one, and you’ll be glad then.”

Rin considered that with a tumultuous sigh. “You had a baby, didn’t you? With InuYasha?”

“I did, and we’re very happy with her. You didn’t get to meet her, did you?”

“No . . . I wish I wasn’t sick when you came . . . will you bring her to visit sometime?”

“Sure.”

Rin seemed to cheer up with the promise of meeting Tajiko. She finally smiled, and Kagome could see that the girl showed the promise of growing into a truly beautiful woman. Her entire face glowed when she grinned, her eyes sparkled, and she was absolutely engaging. Fleetingly, Kagome wondered what life would have in store for the girl.

Rin hugged Kagome before skipping away to bathe. Kagome leaned back against the magnolia tree with a happy sigh.

She smiled to herself as she watched the girl run off. If anyone had ever told her she would find happiness in the form of a surly hanyou with a perceived lack of manners as well as the gentlest nature that he tried so hard to hide, she’d have thought they were insane. Plucking a flower from a bush next to her, Kagome lifted the stunning bloom to her nose and inhaled. Spicy yet light, the scent wrapped around her. She stared at the deep red petals. ‘The same color as InuYasha’s fire rat haori,’ she mused. ‘What a beautiful flower . . . .’ She smelled it again. She’d never seen such a flower before. Maybe she’d ask Sesshoumaru what kind they were, where she could find more of them . . . they’d look pretty outside their hut back in the village . . . .

She yawned and started to rise. For some reason, though, the idea of moving wasn’t quite as appealing as the sudden thought that a nap was more desirable, and for some reason, she felt almost dizzy . . . .

I should see if Sesshoumaru will take me back soon,’ she contemplated as she let head fall back against the tree. ‘InuYasha will return to the village, and I should be there before he arrives . . . .’

An odd feeling of lethargy seeped into her very bones. She couldn’t quite keep her eyes open, the lure of slumber too enticing. ‘Under the magnolia tree,’ she thought, ‘just a short nap, Kagome . . . just a little while . . . and then . . . home . . . InuYasha . . . .

She lay down on her side, resting her head on her folded arm, as her eyes closed and she drifted off to sleep with the red flower in her hand.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Sesshoumaru stared out the window at the setting sun. What was it about the miko that made him look at things differently? He hadn’t watched a sunset in a very long time. He hadn’t looked at the stars in ages, either. He couldn’t remember doing any of those things, and perhaps it was because he had forgotten that they were there.

“I’m ready to eat, my lord!” Rin announced as she bounced into the room. Turning away from the window, he stared at the girl as though seeing her for the first time, as well. Vibrant and happy, Rin grinned impishly and twirled around in the middle of the floor. “Thank you for the kimono! This one is my favorite!”

He didn’t smile though his eyes brightened as he watched the girl dance around, showing off her new sky blue kimono. “Rin, tell me. Know you where the miko is?”

Rin stopped twirling and shook her head slowly. “No, my lord. The last time I saw her was in the garden this afternoon.”

He digested that. Surely the miko wouldn’t have left the grounds. But where was she?

After seeing that Rin had settled down with her meal, Sesshoumaru slowly turned and headed outside.

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

Cradled against him, comforted in the arms that soothed her, she sighed happily, content to let the moment be what it was. ‘I love you,’ he murmured into her hair. She smiled.

InuYasha . . . .’

Quiet, wench. You talk too much.’

Gentle hands under her arms, pulling her up, letting go of her only to capture her, to drag her down against his lips. ‘Where are you, Kagome?

I’m here . . . right here . . . .’

Claws dragging up her skin, igniting her flesh as the gentle whisper of a breeze blew her higher. ‘Hold onto me, InuYasha . . . . Don’t let me fall . . . .’

Shut up and kiss me.’

Yes . . . .’

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

The evening was brisk though not cold. The chill in the air was a pleasant thing after the warmth of the day. Something in the air—the scent of her, the miko . . . . He lifted his chin, breathing deep. ‘She is in the garden,’ he realized. Had she been out there all day?

The sounds of the night spoke to him. What was it about her that awoke him? Parts of him that had been forgotten for so long seemed to come alive in him once more . . . . Had she done this? Was this the reason that InuYasha loved her?

He let her scent guide him, a curious mix of perfume that was wholly the miko’s.   Something wild and yet contained, her fragrance ebbed and flowed with the beat of her heart. The underlying scent of woman, of human, of miko authority . . . she held them all inside her, harnessed within the confines of her soul.

The woman-child slept under the lone magnolia tree. He blinked in surprise as he stared at her. Helpless yet powerful, tranquil yet vibrant, innocent yet knowing . . . Sesshoumaru stared. ‘This is what he desires, that pathetic brother of mine. This miko is a rare thing . . . . Does InuYasha know this?

She moaned softly in her sleep, snapping him out of his reverie. He couldn’t leave her to sleep under the tree. Kneeling beside her, he spared another moment to stare at her, a curious frown contorting his eyebrows. She sighed softly, a vague half smile in the darkness.

He reached for her, careful not to jostle her. Drawing her into his arm to carry her inside, he paused to gaze at her a little longer. Why he took such care, he didn’t know. Something about her spoke to him, called to him, demanded his respect. “Come, Miko. You cannot sleep out here.”

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

Wake up, Kagome . . . I’m waiting for you . . . .

Let me sleep, InuYasha . . . just a little longer . . . .’

You’d rather sleep than be with me? Stubborn wench . . . .’

Swirling scarlet, silvery hair, molten eyes that raked over her. ‘My mate,’ he whispered to her in the mist. ‘Come to me . . . I’ll let you catch me.

You’ll let me catch you? You don’t think I can?

The warmth of his arm, of his body . . . he dragged her closer and closer to him. ‘Come, Miko. You cannot sleep here . . . .

She laughed. ‘How can I sleep when you won’t leave me alone?’ she countered. ‘And when did you start calling me ‘Miko’?

InuYasha smiled as the breeze rippled through his hair. ‘Kiss me, Kagome . . . you know you want to.’

I want to,’ she agreed, reaching out for him. “I want you.”

The touch of lips against hers. A gasp of surprise, of shock. Silky strands of hair under her fingertips as the blanket of heat rushed over.

‘I can’t think, InuYasha . . . . I can’t breathe when you’re near . . . . Just kiss me, that’s all . . . .

A chill shuddered through her as he dragged his lips away. Kagome opened her eyes slowly. Her head felt fuzzy, almost clouded. Her body felt as though it was cast out of lead. She saw the eyes in the darkness, glinting shadows and golden flecks suspended just above hers. The eyes she loved even through the fogginess in her vision. His breath brushed against her lips. She wanted to kiss him again. “Why did you stop?” she whispered.

“Why do you wish me to continue?”

She frowned at his strange tone of voice as her heavy eyelids closed again. Something odd in InuYasha’s voice, something that didn’t seem right . . . . Deeper, smoother, vaguely familiar . . . . She turned to him, her questions fleeing from her faster than she could grab at them. ‘Don’t think . . . just feel . . . .’ It seemed like a good plan. “Kiss me,” she murmured into the night.

His groan was her answer as his lips fell again. Harder, more demanding, he drew her closer against him. Dangerous yet contained, desire flowed over her, eddying around her, pooling against her, rushing like the waves crashing ashore. His kiss deepened, his fangs grazing her flesh setting off delicious tremors of sensation. Arching against him, her hands rose to cradle his face. His skin was strangely cool to her touch.

The tip of his tongue traced the contours of her lips. She let her mouth fall open, and he took his time. A low growl escaped him as he tasted her, slowly, gently, with a deliberate thoroughness that made her want to scream. Kagome let her had fall back. “You do that on purpose . . . please . . . InuYasha.”

“Inu—?”

He pulled away from her, his body tensing against her words.

Something wasn’t right, she realized, her mind still oddly disjoined. Why did she feel so strange? “InuYasha?” she repeated as she forced her eyes open.

In the shadows of moonlight filtering through the boughs of the tree, Kagome watched as InuYasha seemed to fade from her vision. The silvery hair remained, the eyes didn’t change in color. The face that she knew so well shifted slightly. She shook her head, confusion fast overtaking the blurred state of her brain as streaks appeared, and the familiar blue crest on his forehead. “Sesshoumaru?” she gasped, her stomach lurching precariously. “No . . . .”

Eyes intense, probing, he stared at her. “You thought I was my brother?”

She pushed herself out of his grasp, stumbled as she tried to stand. The fuzziness in her mind weakened her. She tried to shake it off. “I need to go,” she whispered, smashing the back of her hand against her lips, forcing away the edges of nausea that turned her stomach. “I . . . .”

“You mean to leave now?” he asked as he slowly stood.

She held out her hand as though trying to warn him off. Sesshoumaru didn’t come closer. “I can’t . . . I—” She swallowed a sob. “Oh, God . . . .”

“Miko . . . .” he grabbed her arm as she tried to dart past him. She swayed on her feet but her eyes were clear. Her body flashed with the power of her aura, and he flinched as her flesh seared his hand. He didn’t let go. “You’re in no condition to travel alone. Surely you must know this.”

“Take your hand off me,” she whispered. The air around her crackled, sparked.

Sesshoumaru let his hand drop. In her eyes, in her gaze, in the stubborn set of her features, he knew. There would be no reasoning with her. Dangerous or not, she meant to go alone. Either he could try to protect her or she would find a way to leave on her own. He sighed. “Take the dragon if you’ve a mind to leave then. Tell him where you wish to go, and he will see you there safely.”

Tears welled in her eyes but stubbornly refused to fall. Sesshoumaru watched, helpless, as she stumbled away.

The taste of her lingered on his lips, the feel of her body pressed against him was excruciating. That fire, that passion . . . he finally understood. That was what bound InuYasha to the miko.

And yet it made no sense. ‘She thought I was InuYasha. Why would she think it was so?

Sinking down under the magnolia tree, Sesshoumaru tried to figure it out. She wasn’t faint enough in mind to have not known who he was when she first kissed him. He knew this to be true. What surprised him most, though, wasn’t the kiss. It was the torrent of emotion that the miko had released in him. He couldn’t remember having ever felt quite as alive as he had when he’d kissed her.

“Father,” he murmured as his head fell back against the tree. Staring into the skies, watching the stars that shined so high above . . . in the distance he could hear the dragon taking flight. He smiled indistinctly, the expression lost in the dark. The memory of the miko’s face bathed in moonlight, cast in shadows, flashed through his head as he closed his eyes for a moment. “Now I understand.”

He opened his eyes and let his chin drop to his chest. The hint of an outline in the dark drew his stare. He narrowed his eyes, slowly reaching out his hand. On the ground where the miko had slept lay the flower.

Sesshoumaru lifted the nefarious bloom to his nose, inhaling the aroma he loved. The bushes were something that stayed protected from humans. He’d told Rin more times than he could recall that she wasn’t ever to smell them. ‘The delusion flower,’ he told himself with a sigh. ‘The miko was under its effects.’

The deceptive beauties could drug, even kill, a human foolish enough to succumb to its guile. He should have warned the miko. In all honesty, he had forgotten that the plants flourished here, in this part of the garden. The flower must have caused her to have visions, and those visions were of InuYasha.

As it should be,’ he thought as he stood. ‘Dream of the one who mated you, little miko.’ He gazed at his home and slowly turned away to walk off into the night, to walk off the lingering effects of the miko’s kiss.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

She stumbled toward the well, her eyes clouded by falling tears. No matter how hard she tried to stop crying, more tears came. She hated herself. How could she have done such a thing? Bad enough to know it had happened, Kagome still didn’t understand how it came to be . . . .

How did that happen? What have I done?’ she berated herself for the thousandth time. ‘I don’t even like Sesshoumaru, and yet . . . no . . .’ she whimpered softly, dropping to her knees, suspending herself on the lip of the well. ‘InuYasha . . . he’s going to hate me . . . God, what did I do?

Another sob welled up in her throat, and Kagome whimpered as pain wrenched her stomach. She leaned to the side in time to vomit. Nothing came out. She’d already thrown up everything she had eaten.

The memory of Sesshoumaru’s lips on hers made her shiver. How would she ever explain to InuYasha what had happened when she couldn’t even explain it to herself? She keened softly, feeling vile, detestable, dirty . . . .

The unnatural fog that had enveloped her mind hadn’t completely gone away. She felt it lingering around her like a hand ready to smother her, like water ready to drown her.

“I thought it was him . . . I thought he was InuYasha,” she whispered quietly, her desperation to rid herself of some of the oppressive guilt ripped at her. The words offered no comfort. ‘You knew, you baka! You knew who he was! You wanted him to kiss you, didn’t you, Kagome?’

“No . . . no!”

InuYasha deserves better than you! You are so much worse! Kikyou was better! At least she never betrayed him, not like you did . . . . You ought to leave him alone before you utterly destroy him . . . .’

Forehead falling against her raised knees, Kagome whimpered, wrapping her arms tighter around her legs, hugging herself and finding no solace. ‘I didn’t mean to . . . I thought . . . How can I tell him?

You have to tell him! He deserves to know what you did, what you are! If he hadn’t stopped, you would have let Sesshoumaru have you, and you know it!

She flinched, her shoulders shaking as sobs took her over again. The cruel voice in her mind was right, if only because she really had thought that Sesshoumaru was InuYasha. She bit back the tears that still gathered and sat up straight. “I’ve got to go,” she said, mustering as much resolve as she could. “I have to tell him . . . and if he hates me . . . that’s no more than I deserve.” Slowly, she forced herself to stand.

Oh, baby . . . Mama really messed up . . . .’

A sudden ache opened up inside her. Kagome forced it away as she jumped into the well. Tajiko could give her the strength she needed.

Her feet didn’t want to cooperate. She made herself climb the ladder out of the well in her time. She felt as though everyone would be able to tell from looking at her, what she had done. Tears filled her eyes again but she blinked them away. It took a lifetime to reach the door, and when she got there, she couldn’t move to turn the handle.

The sun mocked her, shining happily over Tokyo, casting everything in a cheerful aura that managed to dispel some of the smog that lingered over the city. Kagome drew a ragged breath and made herself open the door.

Mrs. Higurashi stepped out of the kitchen and smiled at her daughter before hurrying forward to wrap Kagome into a warm embrace. “I didn’t expect you so soon, dear! Where’s InuYasha?”

Forcing a smile that felt more like a grimace, Kagome shook her head. “He . . . um . . . I had things come up. I didn’t go with him . . . . He’s not back yet.”

Mrs. Higurashi frowned at Kagome’s odd answer. “Did you and he have an argument?”

“What? No, no! I’m just a little tired . . . . Where’s Taji?”

“She’s in the living room.”

Kagome didn’t answer. She headed toward the living room.

Tajiko was staring at the television with a slight frown as brightly colored cartoon characters tried to blow each other up with sticks of dynamite. “Taji!” Kagome greeted, trying to sound cheerful as she swooped up her daughter into a hug and planted a kiss on her downy cheek.

Tajiko whimpered and pushed at Kagome, trying to shove her back. “N-n-n-n-!” the girl whined.

“Taji?”

With a deep breath, Tajiko threw her head back and howled as she struggled against Kagome. Mrs. Higurashi hurried over to see what was going on as Kagome, shocked, watched as her little girl reached for her grandmother in a state of near terror, as though Tajiko didn’t recognize Kagome at all . . . .

Kagome let her mother take Tajiko as a sense of numbed disbelief ebbed over her. “She’s been awake awhile,” Mrs. Higurashi said. “Maybe she’s just tired and cranky.”

Wanting to believe her mother’s words, Kagome reached out to take Tajiko again only to be deterred by the little one’s squalls of angry protest. Tajiko slapped at Kagome’s outstretched hands, and she drew back as tears stung her eyes.

She . . . she smells him on me,’ Kagome realized. ‘Taji can’t smell her papa anymore, because I . . . .’ She backed away, needing to comfort her child, even if that meant she had to leave.

Mrs. Higurashi glanced at her. “Kagome?”

“I need to take a bath,” Kagome hurriedly explained. She turned quickly and ran to the bathroom.

Slamming the door, turning the water on full-force, Kagome sobbed as she tore off her clothes and threw them into the trash can. She scrubbed at her teeth while the tub filled, trying in vain to remove the feel of Sesshoumaru’s mouth, the feel of his tongue, from herself. Listerine didn’t help, either. She could still feel his mouth, could still taste him . . . ‘No!’

Kagome rasped out an incredulous laugh devoid of any real humor as she sank into the nearly-scalding water without even a grimace.

Soap . . . damn it, soap,’ she thought, desperately scrubbing at her skin with the smooth bar. The lather was thick, heavy. It didn’t wash away the feel of being filthy.

You asked Sesshoumaru to kiss you. You practically begged him to kiss you! Wait! Check that! You did beg him to kiss you!

With a soft whimper, Kagome grabbed the wash cloth and started scrubbing her arms, her chest, her neck. ‘I didn’t know . . . I thought . . . .’

‘You thought he was your mate, yeah. Are you really that stupid?

The measly cloth wasn’t working. She could still feel his body against hers. She grabbed the foot brush and started dragging it over her. ‘No! I don’t know!

‘And Tajiko? She knows, Kagome! You can lie to yourself. You might even be able to lie to InuYasha, though I doubt that, too. He’ll smell Sesshoumaru on you, just like Tajiko did. But Tajiko? Six months old, and she knows you’re no better than a whore. You, her mother!

Dropping the brush into the water, Kagome started digging with her fingernails. ‘Taji . . . what have I done?

She lathered her face, dragging the washcloth over and over her skin, trying to wash off any lingering traces of Sesshoumaru’s touch. Nothing did any good. No matter how hard she scrubbed, no matter how violently she dug her nails into her skin, she couldn’t get the traces off of her, the invisible testimony to what she had done.

But worse, so much worse, was the ache deep inside, the knowledge that she had betrayed InuYasha, and that alone was enough to completely shatter what was left of her already-shaky composure.

She didn’t hear the knock on the door as she sobbed quietly, her face buried in the washcloth.

“Kagome? Are you okay? Your mother said you were acting strange.”

She couldn’t look at him, she couldn’t face him. Frightened that he would smell Sesshoumaru on him despite her efforts to scrub herself clean, Kagome still couldn’t fight him as InuYasha drew her into an awkward hug. She sobbed against him as he held her, stroked her hair, tried to soothe her.

“Sango told me about the Kimi. I’m sorry it upset you so much.”

Kagome swallowed hard, squeezing her eyes closed against a vicious stab of guilt. ‘Tell him, Kagome! You owe it to him.’

Forcing herself to lean away, struggling to control the nearly overwhelming urge to dissolve in tears again. “It’s . . . not that.”

He frowned, staring at her face, her arms, her chest. “Kagome? What happened to you?”

“What?”

Gently he reached out, cupping her cheeks in his hands, drawing his thumbs over her skin. His soothing touch shot more pangs of guilt straight to her. She gasped as the fresh pain in her welled up, ugly and dark inside. “You’re all scratched up,” he remarked. “Did you fall?”

She shook her head slowly, unable to stop the tears that slipped down her cheeks, stinging as the salt hit the torn skin. InuYasha flinched. “I . . . .”

He sighed, pulling her back into his arms again. “It’s okay. Just don’t cry, okay? I hate it when you cry.”

“But I—”

He kissed her gently, stilling her voice. Her heart felt as though it was going to explode.   She whimpered, and he kissed her again. “I’m sorry it took so long.”

“No! I have to tell you—”

He sighed. “Unless you’re going to tell me how much you missed me then I don’t want to hear it.”

She dared a look at his face. His eyes shined as he stared at her, the gentleness that he didn’t try to hide from her anymore lent the golden color a light from inside. She choked back a sob. ‘I . . . I can’t tell him . . . not yet . . . .’

He held out a towel for her, and wrapped her up in it before sinking onto the toilet seat and drawing her into his lap. The welts all over her body worried him. Even if she had fallen, it shouldn’t have injured her that badly, and, as far as he could tell, she wasn’t bruised at all.

An odd thought occurred to him as he held her close to his heart. It almost seemed more like she had tried to peel her own skin away. But why? “Why does it look like you did this to yourself?” he asked quietly, rubbing the scratches on her arms. When he glanced at her face, he had to smile. She was asleep.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

The sun was high in the sky when InuYasha opened his eyes and blinked, trying to clear his mind. He smiled as Kagome cuddled closer in her sleep. ‘Almost three days apart was three days too long,’ he thought as he closed his eyes again and tightened his hold on her. There was something to be said for her time, he had to admit. He felt safer here though he wasn’t sure why that would be. In this day and age, it seemed easier to relax and to let his guard down than it was in his own time.

His stomach growled. With a guilty glance at Kagome, he carefully unwrapped himself from her and scooted off the small bed. The welts on her skin were dissipating, fading away as though they were never really there though the thin red lines would take longer to disappear. On her arms were a few deeper scratches that had actually drawn blood. He had a suspicion that she had used her own fingernails to inflict the damage but why? His brow furrowed, the air filtering through the open window stirring his locks, throwing them in his face. He flipped his head once to rid himself of the distraction before kneeling beside the bed.

Why would she do that?’ he wondered again. ‘Why would she rake up her skin like that? And why does she have this odd smell about her? She smells like . . . some sort of . . . flower? and something else, too . . . I know that scent. She smells like Sesshoumaru . . . but it can’t be . . . .’

Miroku and he had been so tired after finally locating and then destroying the spider youkai that had tormented the neighboring village. Though they were offered ample accommodations for the night, they had unanimously decided to start back home since neither of them was thrilled with the idea of being away from their families for that long a time.

Sango had greeted them with a warm smile and a nice hot meal when they’d straggled into her hut.

How’s Kimi?’ Miroku asked, holding his son on his lap and ignoring his food for the time being.

She . . . she lost the child,’ Sango said softly with a sad shake of her head. ‘By the time Kagome got there, she was too far into labor to stop the baby from coming.’ With a sigh, she glanced at InuYasha and frowned. ‘Kagome went to see Tajiko. She was really upset over Kimi . . . perhaps having memories she didn’t need? Anyway, she went there, InuYasha.’

InuYasha pushed his untouched food aside and stood. ‘I’ll be back with Kagome.’

InuYasha!

He stopped and waited as Shippou sped toward him. Launching himself off the ground and onto InuYasha’s shoulder, the kitsune youth seemed quite happy. ‘What are you so happy about, runt?

Shippou’s smile faltered, and he sighed as he wiggled his toes and stared at his hands. ‘I wanted to ask you something,

InuYasha sighed as he stared at the kitsune on his shoulder but kept heading straight for the forest, straight for the well. ‘Spit it out, brat.’

InuYasha resisted the urge to dump the kit when he started fidgeting. Obviously something really was bothering the youngster, and InuYasha was probably going to have to needle it out of him. Ordinarily not such a big deal. But he was anxious to get to Kagome, and forcing the kitsune to talk wasn’t high on his list of ‘want to do’.

There’s a girl . . . she’s really cute . . . .’

Making a face as a flush crept up his cheeks, InuYasha snorted loudly. ‘You’re not asking me for advice? On romance? You’ve got to be kidding, Shippou! Ask Miroku!

Shippou winced. ‘I did! I don’t want to do what he said, though.’

Why? What’d he say?

It was the kitsune’s turn to flush. ‘He said to grab her—

Oh, fucking hell! Don’t do that! If this girl’s smart, she’ll clobber you for that.’

With a heavy sigh, Shippou nodded. ‘And her guardian’s kind of scary.’

Feh! You’re youkai, Shippou. You could take a human.’

Shippou dropped to the ground with a very loud snort. ‘I never said her guardian’s a human, baka! Never mind! I’ll just wait for Kagome. She’s always got better ideas than you two!

InuYasha grinned as he watched the disgruntled kit disappear into the forest before setting out at a run to get to Kagome and Tajiko.

With a sigh, InuYasha leaned forward and kissed Kagome’s cheek. She moaned softly but didn’t stir. He’d let her sleep. She seemed exhausted.

Cocking his head to the side as he pulled the door closed behind himself, InuYasha smelled something tantalizing coming from the kitchen. ‘Follow your nose, InuYasha. Time to put those abilities to good use . . . .

“Oh, you’re awake! Did you have a nice nap?” Mrs. Higurashi asked with a grin as InuYasha stepped into the kitchen. Tajiko dropped the wooden bowl she had been playing with and zoomed across the linoleum to tug on InuYasha’s hakama.

“Baby girl!” he greeted, swooping his daughter up above his head. He tossed her and caught her. She shrieked in delight, and he flattened his ears against the ruckus. Mrs. Higurashi frowned. InuYasha blanked the smile off his face at the gentle rebuke. At least Mrs. Higurashi only frowned at him. Her daughter would have probably said ‘it’ enough times to put him through the floor. He always caught Tajiko. He certainly wouldn’t be careless enough to drop her. Women worried to damn much, that was all. “I slept very well,” he replied, his tone exceptionally polite. “Thanks.”

Mrs. Higurashi accepted the unspoken apology and set a plate of chocolate chip cookies on the table. A quick sniff informed him that the wonderful smell he’d caught earlier were those things. “Help yourself,” Mrs. Higurashi said as she opened the refrigerator and retrieved the carton of milk.

He reached over and grabbed a cookie. Sniffing it thoroughly before he bit into it, he had to admit that it smelled really good. Tajiko must have agreed because she leaned over, waving her tiny hand at the cookie. He held it out of her reach to bite into it. Eyes widening in surprise, he made quick work of the rest of the treat and reached for another as Tajiko protested the disappearance with a frustrated whimper.

InuYasha smirked at his daughter’s show of temper. He grabbed another cookie and handed it to her.

Mrs. Higurashi set a glass of milk on the table for InuYasha and started to turn away. She glanced back again, and gasped, shaking her head as she leaned on the back of a chair with her other hand on her hip. She pinned InuYasha with a frown. “You gave that baby a cookie?”

He swallowed and shrugged. “She wanted one.”

Mrs. Higurashi’s eyes flashed in much the same way that Kagome’s did whenever he said something that she didn’t like. “InuYasha, she’s too little for cookies. She’s not even seven months old.”

InuYasha glanced down at his daughter, who had the cookie in both hands and was busy trying to stuff as much of it into her mouth as she could. A line of slobber dripped from the bottom of the questionable treat. InuYasha grinned. “She likes it.”

After eyeing the hanyou a little longer, Mrs. Higurashi let out a loud sigh and moved off to put the milk away. “Tajiko’s first solid food, and you give her a cookie . . . “ she muttered. “By the way, I spoke with our attorney the other day. He said that he may be able to get your information ready by the end of this month, if you still want to marry my daughter.”

He didn’t miss the hint of disapproval evident in her tone. “Just a ceremony, ain’t it? We’re already mated, and that’s more binding than some human thing.”

“Even still.”

He shrugged. “All right.”

Mrs. Higurashi smiled as she chose a cookie from the rapidly emptying plate. “Is Kagome still sleeping?”

“Mmm-hmm,” InuYasha mumbled as he packed away another chocolate chip cookie. “What’d she do? Stay up too late watching one of those movie-things?” he asked as he lifted the glass of milk to his lips.

Mrs. Higurashi took Tajiko and headed for the sink to wash her very chocolate face. “No . . . she just arrived about an hour before you did.”

InuYasha frowned as he set the empty glass down on the table. “Sango said she came home the day after we left Taji with you.”

She grimaced, as though she was trying to make sense of InuYasha’s statement. Tajiko whined, protesting the cold washcloth. “No . . . she didn’t get in until this morning.” The girl’s fussing grew louder. InuYasha reached for her. “She’s probably hungry.”

“I’ll take her to Kagome,” InuYasha said. “It’s okay, Taji. I’m taking you to Mama.”

Tajiko leaned her head against InuYasha’s chest but whimpered. He took the stairs two at a time and quietly opened the door.

Kagome didn’t look up when he entered the room.   Sitting up with her feet on the floor staring at her hands folded in her lap, InuYasha could feel the sadness, the absolute sense of her upset. “Kagome? Taji’s ready to eat . . . .”

She glanced up at him, and he frowned at the sudden fear that flashed over her features. Gone as quickly as it had come, InuYasha sat down next to her and waited for her to reach for Tajiko.

She did, slowly, almost hesitantly. He didn’t comment. What had happened during his absence?

Tajiko whimpered as Kagome took her with one arm while using her other hand to unbutton her blouse before she cradled Tajiko against her breast. Normally she talked to the pup while she nursed. Kagome remained quiet.

Nothing made sense. Sango had said that Kagome had gone home the next day. Her mother said that she hadn’t come home until just before he’d arrived. Now she acted like Tajiko was a stranger to her, and after her unsettling behavior earlier, InuYasha was ready for an answer—any answer.

“Your mother said you got here this morning just before I did.”

The room was silent except for the sounds of Tajiko’s nursing, and Kagome’s voice was distant, distracted, weary. “Yeah.”

“Sango said you left the day after I did.”

She swallowed hard and blinked quickly, her eyes fastened on the baby in her lap. “Yeah.”

He sighed, grasping for patience before he opened his mouth and stuck in his foot. “So you left to come home . . . and something stopped you?”

Tajiko pulled away, golden eyes blinking solemnly as she stared up into Kagome’s face. “Your half-brother.”

“Sesshoumaru? What did that bastard want?”

She flinched at the heat that had infiltrated his tone at the mere mention of his half-sibling. “He . . . asked me to explain some things to Rin.” She licked her lips and shook her head. “She’s growing up, and he didn’t know how to tell her about the changes in her body.”

“Fucking bastard! He waits till I’m gone, and he comes after you! I should have known he’d do something like that!” InuYasha growled as he shot to his feet to pace the floor. “I swear on all that’s sacred, I’m going to rip him limb from fucking limb!”

He missed the stricken grimace that flitted over her features, didn’t hear the sharp gasp at he dire threats. He saw red, the color of blood . . . . “InuYasha . . . . Please!”

“What the hell were you thinking, bitch?” he thundered, rounding on her in his irritation. “You know better than to go anywhere with anyone! He hates me! He’d do anything to hurt someone close to me, especially my mate! Do you have any idea what he could have done to you?”

An inscrutable look passed over her features. It was gone before he could discern it only to be replaced by a wince, a sudden flash of pain. Anger nudged it aside, and she rose slowly without separating Tajiko from her meal. Eyes flashing, storm clouds forming, she narrowed her gaze at him, daring him, defying him. “I know better than anyone what Sesshoumaru is capable of, and I’m not as helpless as you think I am! I didn’t go for him! I went to help her, and I’m fine! Do you hear me? Fine!”

Tajiko’s terrified screech cut off InuYasha’s retort. Kagome seemed shocked at her own outburst. She blinked quickly then tried to soothe the baby. Mentally cursing himself for losing his temper, for causing the raised voices that had frightened the pup, InuYasha stepped toward Kagome, one hand on her shoulder, the other on the child. Wrapping his arms around them both, growling low in his throat, it took awhile before Tajiko quieted. “I’m sorry, Kagome,” he said, leaning his cheek in the softness of her hair. “Just . . . don’t go anywhere without me, all right?”

She sighed but let her head rest against his chest. “I know you want to protect me. I wouldn’t have gone if—”

“It’s okay. No harm done, right?”

She stiffened slightly in his embrace. Tajiko whimpered. InuYasha turned his head when the soft knock came. Mrs. Higurashi stuck her head into the room. “Is something wrong with Tajiko?” she asked, worry etched into her brow.

InuYasha shook his head. “No, she’s fine. We just had a disagreement.”

“Oh? Over you tossing your daughter around like a soccer ball? Or about feeding your daughter cookies?”

Kagome leaned away as Mrs. Higurashi closed the door behind herself. “What’s this?”

“Wha—? Nothing,” he replied quickly, crushing Kagome against him again. “When do you want to go back?”

She gasped. “You’re changing the subject—and I can’t breathe.”

His grip loosened just a little. “We can stay here awhile, if you want.”

“Since when do you offer to stay here for any length of time?”

“Feh!”

“I . . . I’d like that.”

He smiled as he buried his nose in her hair. He knew she wouldn’t be able to pass up an offer to say here, at least for a few days. The rest of the stiffness ebbed out of Kagome, much to his relief. She let him take Tajiko and headed out of the room for her vitamin and a glass of water.

InuYasha gazed down at the drowsy girl in his arms. Twirling her hair with a tiny clawed hand, he stretched out on the bed to get her to nap. ‘Something about the feeling of holding Tajiko on my chest,’ he thought with a wide yawn, ‘always makes me sleepy, too . . . .

It didn’t occur to him that in his rush to soothe both his mate as well as his child, Kagome’s words were lost. ‘I know better than anyone what Sesshoumaru is capable of . . . .’ He never thought to question what she meant.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

You’re a coward. You know that, right?

The starless skies were hued in gray. Lying over the midnight color, enveloping the brisk air, smothering her world in a somber tone that matched the heaviness in her heart, Kagome stared at the night. ‘If I tell him,’ she thought slowly, ‘he’ll go after Sesshoumaru . . . and one of them will die. InuYasha can take care of himself, but if he’s blinded by rage . . . and even if he came out the winner, how long would it take for him to hate himself? InuYasha wouldn’t be able to live with himself, if he killed his own brother, no matter what . . . .

Put a nice face on it, Kagome. Does that make you feel better?

She shook her head. The truth about what had happened that night ate at her like a cancer. Three days had passed since it happened. It felt like a lifetime. She never had been good at keeping things from InuYasha. Sure, she’d been able to avoid admitting her feelings for awhile. She’d even let him think that she didn’t mind so much, the idea of Kikyou taking him with her to hell, at least in the beginning. It had worked, for awhile, until she couldn’t face the idea that he would leave her, the reason she had wanted to run away back then.

But this was different. It didn’t matter to her that she hadn’t been able to figure out why she had done what she had done. It didn’t matter to her that she had a feeling that there had been something that made her lose consciousness. It didn’t matter to her that she had thought Sesshoumaru was InuYasha at the time. She’d done it. She’d chosen it. She’d betrayed InuYasha. Pain welled up inside; pain so fierce, so cutting, that it made her want to shriek until her voice was gone, to smash something—anything—if it would make the feeling that she was nothing go away. How could she be something—somebody—worthy of anything in her lifetime if she could kiss another man and not tell the one she loved?

They already hate each other. If I tell him, it’ll be worse . . . InuYasha wouldn’t forgive Sesshoumaru, even though it was my fault, in the first place because I . . . I kissed him first, didn’t I? Why did I think I could help? I never should have agreed to go with Sesshoumaru. I should have waited for InuYasha to take me to talk to Rin . . . All I did was make things worse . . . .

While we’re making promises, then,’ InuYasha’s voice came back to her, ‘will you make one to me? Promise me, Kagome, that you’ll never doubt me again? When I tell you I love you?’

And he would still love her, if she told him. He’d love her, and he’d curse her, and he’d stay with her for Tajiko’s sake. But he’d never trust her again; he’d never look at her with the same emotion behind his gaze again; he’d never touch her again. It would destroy him, worse than being pinned to Goshinboku by Kikyou’s arrow so long ago because this time it was Kagome, and because this time the betrayal went so much deeper. He’d never forgive her because she couldn’t even forgive herself for it. A tiny voice inside her head whispered to her, ‘It wasn’t your fault, Kagome! You didn’t know what you were doing!’ It didn’t matter. Making excuses wouldn’t sanctify her actions. Ignoring the truth wouldn’t make it go away. Yet she couldn’t quite bring herself to be the reason that InuYasha tried to kill his brother, either.

Two fat tears slipped down her cheeks—tears that she hadn’t felt rise in her.

Tajiko whimpered in the stillness. InuYasha hugged her closer in his sleep. Kagome carefully retrieved their child. She was hungry. Unbuttoning her nightshirt as she settled back onto the windowsill, she let the shirt fall open. She rarely bothered to cover her breasts anymore while she fed Tajiko, at least when they were alone. It made things easier, anyway, she figured as the baby latched on. Golden eyes seemed to glow with an incandescence in the night, Kagome smiled wanly at her daughter. It never ceased to amaze her, the way both InuYasha as well as Tajiko’s eyes seemed to glow in the darkness. Perhaps it was a simple part of their shared youkai heritage, the fire in the depths of Tajiko’s eyes branded her as InuYasha’s child. Those eyes stared up at her, framed with the sootiest lashes. When she blinked, the lashes were so long the covered the tops of her cheeks.

She looks so much like InuYasha—more and more every day, even—it’s like she doesn’t even have a mother.’

Blinking quickly as another tear ran down her cheek, Kagome lifted a hand to brush it away.

“Why are you crying?”

With a soft gasp, Kagome’s eyes lifted to lock with the other set of glowing eyes in the room. Leaning up on his elbow and staring at her with a fierce intensity, Kagome blinked again and forced a smile. “She’s just beautiful,” she whispered, hoping that the lie was enough to cover the truth.

Slowly InuYasha sat up.   She couldn’t see his expression in the darkness. His eyes spoke volumes. “What do you expect? You’re her mama.”

She shook her head as he stood, moving toward her with a deliberate slowness, a catlike dexterity. She recognized the look in the depths of his glowing eyes. Reaching up to draw her shirt closed, he shot forward to stop her. Sinking onto his knees beside her, head leaning against her lap, he watched in silent wonder as Kagome moved Tajiko, offering her the other breast.

His eyes took on a sad sort of expression as he watched her nurse the baby. His ears drooped slightly—a sure sign that something was on his mind. Kagome deliberately pushed aside her own dreary thoughts and reached over to tweak one of those ears. He leaned up just enough to push against her hand, asking for her touch. “What are you thinking about?”

He shrugged. From his muttered, “Feh!” she could tell that he was blushing. His voice was embarrassed, disgruntled, as though he was ashamed of his own thoughts. “I get . . . jealous . . . sometimes.”

“Of who?”

“Taji.”

She felt the instant flush staining her face at his softly uttered confession.

“It’s not because of that,” he said. Though she couldn’t see his face in the darkness, she knew he was blushing. “It’s just . . . when you feed her, you two are so close, and I . . . I feel like I don’t fit in.”

“InuYasha . . . . How could you even think that? We need you.”

“ . . . You do?”

“How could you ever think we don’t?”

He sighed. “Sometimes when I watch you, you’re both so wrapped up in each other,” he explained. “It’s stupid.”

“Don’t say that,” she said gently. “I wish you would have said something sooner. Is there anything we can do to include you more?”

He smiled. She could tell by the way the golden flecks in his eyes shifted. “This is nice.”

“What is?”

“Just being near you and her.”

Kagome lifted Tajiko to her shoulder. InuYasha reached out slowly, fingers trembling slightly, and drew her shirt together, fumbling with the buttons. He stood and scooped up both Kagome and Tajiko before moving over to the bed. He lay down and drew them close, his daughter snug and safe between them. His arms wrapped around Kagome, and he chuckled as Tajiko, rejuvenated from her meal, babbled softly.

The baby sat up, tangling her chubby hand in InuYasha’s locks and tugging. He didn’t scold her. He leaned in closer to Kagome, lying against her back. She felt safe, protected. Pushing away the lingering guilt, Kagome tried not to think about anything else except for the feeling of completion, being so close to her mate and her daughter.

If you don’t tell him—if you keep this from him—it’ll only be worse in the end.’

She flinched inwardly, trying to ignore the inner voice that berated her. ‘I’ll tell him . . . I’ll tell him tomorrow. Just for tonight, let me be happy.’

Tajiko caught InuYasha’s prayer beads. InuYasha didn’t even notice. The glitter of his eyes captivated Kagome, and she reached out to stroke his cheek. “When I get you home,” he murmured as she touched him, “I’ll show you how much I missed—What the—?”

She glanced down to see what had caused the awe in InuYasha’s tone. Her eyebrows shot up, and she stared at her daughter’s hand, still wrapped around the bluish-black bead necklace. Her tiny hand was glowing in the warm pink light that Kagome knew so well. The necklace glowed with the energy, too. “Taji? She’s a . . . miko,” InuYasha said quietly, reverently.

The glow died away, and Kagome turned, glancing from her child to her husband and back again. “Is that possible?”

InuYasha shrugged. “It must be.” He kissed Tajiko’s cheek then suddenly let his head drop back as he laughed.

“What’s funny?” she asked, eyeing the hanyou as though she thought that maybe he’d lost his mind.

He was still chuckling as he tried to explain what he had found humorous. “You know . . . youkai, hanyous . . . we’re impure. To purify a youkai is to destroy it. Mikos have that power . . . Tajiko will have that power. Mikos are the purest, the shrine maidens. Tajiko is both.”

She saw the irony in that, now that he’d pointed it out. “She’s a pure hanyou,” Kagome whispered, smoothing the glowing silvery hair. ‘Strands of moonlight in her hair, the sun captured in her eyes . . . just like her father.’

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

InuYasha was in a bad mood. There wasn’t a real reason for it. He’d woken up with Tajiko tugging none-too-gently on his ears, a string of slobber trailing onto his face, and Kagome nowhere to be found. Tajiko was fussing, obviously hungry, and her diaper stank, as well. He waited for Kagome to come back from wherever she was. After fifteen minutes of whimpering that had finally escalated into the high pitched yowl that InuYasha would have done anything to stop, he had grudgingly given in and had changed his daughter’s diaper.

Not being used to having to change the things, InuYasha hadn’t realized that he needed the towelette-things that Kagome called baby wipes until after he’d removed the girl’s diaper. But the wipes were across the room, and every time he started to turn his back on his daughter, she’d giggled and darted across the bed, precariously close to the edge. In the end, InuYasha had to pick up his pup and take her with him to get the box of towelettes. He’d just turned back toward the bed when the unmistakable wetness had seeped through his haori. It took him a moment to realize what had happened. The devil child had peed on him and then laughed about it.

After finally managing to fasten the diaper around the squirming bundle of hanyou, InuYasha stomped downstairs with the girl in his arms, intent on finding Kagome to let her know what her daughter had done to him. Tajiko babbled, playing with his prayer beads. “Forget it, you,” he grumbled, trying to hold onto his irritation. She grinned at him. He smiled back despite himself.

Rounding the corner and stepping into the kitchen, InuYasha was greeted by the site of his mate sitting casually at the table drinking coffee and laughing with her mother. “Heh-hem,” he cleared his throat loudly.

Kagome glanced at him with a smile that quickly faded as her eyebrows drew together in a confused frown. “InuYasha? Why are you all wet?”

“Ask your daughter, why don’t you? She thought my haori would make a good diaper.”

He could see it on their faces. Both Kagome as well as her mother were struggling very hard not to laugh. InuYasha held Tajiko out to her mother. The baby was trying to shove both her fists into her mouth. “She’s hungry, and there’s not a thing I can do about that,” he grouched. Kagome took Tajiko without a word while InuYasha turned on his heel and stomped out of the kitchen to find something to wear while his haori was cleaned.

In hindsight, that was probably the highlight of his day. No sooner had he given up his haori, grudgingly putting on one of Grandpa’s despairingly small shirts then Kagome had informed him that she wished to go shopping. “Go,” he growled, still not over his irritation that she would have the nerve to be gone when he woke up.

She made a face and batted her eyelashes at him in the way that he hated, mostly because it bemused him enough that he normally went along with whatever she said when she did it. “I was hoping you’d come with me.”

“Feh!”

“Please?”

“Feh!”

Tajiko, in Kagome’s arms, giggled happily. “Papa,” she said.

InuYasha did a double-take. “Did . . . did she just say . . . ?”

Kagome grinned. “See? Taji wants her papa to come along, too.”

He stared at both of them. It didn’t surprise him at all that both of them batted their eyelashes at him this time. He rolled his eyes. “Feh! Fine.”

The shopping trip started out pleasantly enough. He might look pretty damn stupid in a shirt three sizes too small and his fire rat hakama with the much-loathed baseball cap shoved down over his ears. But Kagome wore a very pretty light green dress that he’d never seen before, and Tajiko looked adorable in a deep golden colored dress with a frilly white bonnet tied under her chin, and InuYasha noticed the admiring looks his daughter drew from passers-by. He also noticed a number of admiring looks coming Kagome’s way. For every one she received, he growled just a little louder.

Why are these bastards staring at her like that?’ he fumed. ‘Can’t they tell she’s with me? If I catch one more of them eyeballing her like she’s no better than a piece of meat, I’ll—

Too late. A scrawny youth took a little too much time looking Kagome up and down, and it was a really good thing that Kagome was holding Tajiko because InuYasha moved in a blur, pinning the insolent baka against a building with his forearm to the fool’s throat. “What the fuck are you staring at, bastard?” he snarled in the terrified little man’s face.

“InuYasha!” Kagome gasped, shifting Tajiko to one side and trying to pull him off the unfortunate lad. “Let go of him!”

“Eye my mate again, and I’ll gut you,” InuYasha warned.

“Let him go or I’ll say ‘it’,” she hissed loudly enough that he could hear her but quietly enough that it wouldn’t carry.

“Papa,” Tajiko whined. She couldn’t understand her parents’ upset, and the tension from Kagome coupled with the rage radiating from InuYasha was enough to bring tears to her golden eyes.

“Look what you did!” Kagome growled. “You made your daughter cry!”

InuYasha suddenly dropped the human to stab Kagome with a wide-eyed stare. “What I did? That little bastard was leering at you! I was protecting you, bitch!” Kagome opened her mouth. He knew what was coming. Before she could get the word out, InuYasha swiped Tajiko out of her arms and stalked off down the street.

“I’m so sorry!” Kagome hurriedly told the young man before hurrying off after her hanyous. “That’s low, InuYasha.”

“Feh! He had it coming. He’s fucking lucky I didn’t shred him right then.”

He could feel her glare stabbing him. He didn’t look for verification. “That’s not what I meant, but now that you mention it, that was pretty low, too. You promised!”

Damn wench has too fucking good a memory.’ He shot her a quick glance. Her expression was schooled to blankness. He knew better. “I’ve told you, haven’t I? You can’t say ‘it’ to me. It’s not right to do that to your mate.”

“Well, it isn’t right to go around threatening to gut helpless humans either,” she bit out from between clenched teeth.

“If they kept their eyes to themselves, I wouldn’t have to, would I?”

“InuYasha . . .” she began in the tone that was normally followed by ‘it’.

“Tajiko,” he reminded her, switching the child to his other arm that was further out of Kagome’s reach, just for good measure.

“You’re going to pay for this,” she promised.

He stifled a sigh. Knowing his mate, she would absolutely make good on that particular threat . . . .

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

InuYasha folded his arms over his chest, sticking his hands inside the sleeves of his freshly cleaned haori. Sitting as high up as he possibly could in Goshinboku, he dragged in a deep breath and made a face. His head hurt from the convoluted scents of Tokyo. Coupled with the too-intrusive sounds, it overwhelmed his senses.

He hated this time. But his mate loved it. He sighed, raising a clawed hand to rub furiously at his temple. It only bothered him when he had to be in the throes of it. When he came here and was allowed to remain on the grounds of the shrine, he was better able to control the affects of the various stimuli on his body. Being in the midst of it for so long today, though, was taking a toll on him.

He made a face. Even from out here, he could hear Tajiko’s fussing from inside. No matter how badly Kagome’s time bothered him, he knew that the effects on his daughter had to be so much greater. Being so little, Tajiko wasn’t used to such noise, so much bustle. If it all overwhelmed him, then didn’t Kagome realize what it did to their child?

Kagome stepped outside with Tajiko on her hip. She shielded her eyes against the sun setting behind Goshinboku. He kept his expression carefully blanked but he had to admire the way she stood, bathed in the light of the setting sun, touched by the kiss of the deepening shadows, hip thrust out to the right with his pup balancing comfortably against her side. She stared up at him for a few moments. He heard her sigh in defeat. “InuYasha, Mama wanted you to come inside and try on those clothes we got you.”

“Feh,” he snorted. “They fit fine in the store, remember?”

“But she didn’t get to see. She wasn’t there.”

He narrowed his gaze as he stared down at her. “I’m not a pup, bitch.”

“You’re acting like one. What’s wrong with you today?”

“Nothing.”

She made a face. “Come down here and talk to me.”

“Feh!”

“InuYasha . . . .”

He ignored her. All he wanted was to be alone with his throbbing head.

She sighed. “Osuwari.”

And . . . nothing happened. Not a thing. InuYasha remained perched in Goshinboku, and Kagome frowned. “It didn’t work,” she muttered incredulously. “Why didn’t it work?”

“I dunno,” he grumbled, as perplexed as Kagome as to why the subduing curse didn’t work. A sudden memory of Tajiko holding his necklace and the miko energy that engulfed both her as well as the beads. “Taji . . . could she have removed the incantation?” he asked slowly.

Kagome started to answer. She was interrupted when Tajiko whimpered. Kagome brought the baby to her shoulder, trying to soothe her as Taji’s whimpers turned to soft cries. “I think there’s something wrong with Tajiko,” she called up softly, concern creeping into her voice.

Feh!’ InuYasha thought. ‘The same thing that’s wrong with me. Can’t you see it, Kagome?’ He sighed. “I’ll say. It’s your fucking time.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, there are too many things here, noises, smells, bright lights . . . it’s hard to deal with for me, and I’m an adult.”

She looked as though she hadn’t thought of that. “Is it really so hard for you? To be here?”

He hated to admit to having a weakness—any weakness. But if he didn’t explain it to her, Tajiko would suffer for it, too. He swallowed hard and finally nodded.

Kagome made a sound almost like a sob. He didn’t smell any tears from her. She sighed and bit her lip as she stared up at him. “I’m sorry, InuYasha . . . I never knew.”

“Feh! It wasn’t important before. I can deal with it.”

“But Tajiko’s just a baby,” she finished his thought.   “Why didn’t you tell me this before?”

“Would it really have mattered?” he snapped. “You still would have wanted to come here. Your family’s here, and I understand that.”

“It might have mattered,” she mumbled.

A sudden vertigo swept over InuYasha. He shook his head, trying to clear it, to no avail. His stomach was tied in knots, and he felt, for the first time in his life, like he might actually throw up. With a soft groan, InuYasha fell out of the tree. Kagome screamed his name. It was the last thing he heard as he hit the ground far, far below.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

InuYasha heard voices. They were jumbled together, impossible to discern. ‘Mate . . . .

The gentle splash of water followed by a harsher rush. The cold cloth on his forehead. He tried to turn his thumping head, to moan softly. He couldn’t do either. ‘Kagome . . . .’

Warmth, softness against his cheek. Kagome’s hand? He tried to breathe her in. He groaned as two things came very clear. Smelling much of anything brought on more pain in his head, and because of that, he couldn’t scent a thing.

“InuYasha?”

He let another soft moan escape him. Though she’d said his name softly enough, it had seemed much louder and had hurt, too. Almost afraid to open his eyes, he dared to crack one, relieved to find that the light, at least, didn’t seem to bother him nearly as much as the other things. “What happened?” he whispered.

Her soft sigh made him flinch, ripping through him like storm winds through the trees. Why was sound so magnified? Her hand gently stroked his cheek. “You passed out or something . . . you fell out of the tree.”

He thought it had been something like that. The last thing he remembered was feeling sick, nauseous, and he had heard Kagome scream. “I think it was the noise, the smells . . . . I can’t smell anything right now, for that matter.”

“But you’ve been here lots of times. You’ve gone with me too many times to count. Why is it suddenly so bad? Why can’t you smell anything?”

With a deep breath and stubborn resolve alone, InuYasha forced himself to sit up, immediately collapsing back against the headboard. A small cry escaped her, and she leaned forward in time to cradle his head with her hands before it struck the solid surface. “I don’t know. It’s nothing, I’m sure. I’m fine,” he assured her. She didn’t look as though she believed him, and with good reason. He’d barely managed a whisper, and he felt so weak, as though he couldn’t possibly hold himself up.

She slowly pulled her hands out from behind his head. He managed a small smile of thanks. “I’m going to get you some pain reliever, all right?” He grunted. “No arguments. I know you don’t like taking them, but I think you may need them now.”

He made a face. She’d only managed to get him to take her modern medicine once before. He had to admit that the tiny white pills had worked to dull his pain at the time. But he wasn’t weak. He could deal with pain. It wasn’t a big deal. He was what he was, and he’d lived his life knowing what pain was. He didn’t want to rely on Kagome’s pills in order to deal with his injuries. This time, though . . . .

The warmth on the bed beside him wiggled, and he turned his head enough to look down. Tajiko was curled up next to him. He smiled then winced. If his senses were this overwhelmed, what about hers? Hers were at least as good as his. Yet she seemed unaffected.

The memory of his daughter, holding onto the prayer bead necklace flashed back to him. What had it meant? Kagome didn’t know, either, and the two people who could have answered the questions were both dead now. Kikyou would have known. She’s the one who made the necklace. Kaede would have, too, he didn’t doubt. She seemed to have known just about everything. He sighed. Maybe Miroku would have some ideas. As much as InuYasha hated to admit it—and never to Miroku’s face—the lecher did possess spiritual powers in abundance, even though he no longer was a true monk.

Maybe,’ he thought, ‘if the pills work, maybe I’ll feel strong enough to get to the well and back to the village.’ With any luck at all, Miroku would have some sort of idea as to just what was happening to him.

Kagome hurried back into the room with a bottle of water and something held in her fist. The pills. He grimaced but opened his mouth obediently so she could drop them in. Making a face as he washed them down with a few big swallows of water, he had to control his gag-reflex. She said that the pills were ‘coated’ to help him swallow them and to mask the bitter taste of them. Maybe humans, with their weaker senses, couldn’t taste them. InuYasha could. He swallowed hard a few more times, trying to force that taste out of his mouth.

She sank down on the edge of her bed, idly reaching out to stroke his bangs back off his forehead, her expression concerned as she stared at him. “I hope those help.” Her hand dropped away, and she sighed, eyes falling to stare at the hands she folded on her lap. “Why didn’t you tell me this before?”

“Would it have mattered?”

“Of course it would have.”

He shook his head slowly. “The only thing it would have done was kept you from coming back here so often. Your family’s here.”

“Still,” she said. She cautiously leaned toward him, resting her head against his chest. “Am I hurting you?”

“Feh!” he managed. “You can’t hurt me, remember?”

She leaned up, staring into his eyes. He couldn’t read her expression. She seemed almost frightened? Worried? Almost guilty? A frown drew her eyebrows together. He moved his leaden arm to smooth the lines away with his finger. “When you’re feeling stronger, we’ll go back. Maybe that will help you,” she offered at last.

Resting her temple against his chest again, InuYasha stared down at her raven hair with a frown of his own. He had a feeling that wasn’t what she had wanted to say.

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

“That is most unusual,” Miroku agreed. They sat around the fire pit in their friends’ hut in the village. Miroku had his eyes closed, pondering all that Kagome and InuYasha had explained to him. Tajiko sat near Sango, staring at young Kiyoshi, who was nestled in his mother’s arms. Kiyoshi sucked his fist and stared at Taji with avid interest. Every so often, the boy would swing his hand toward Tajiko’s silvery hair. Taji, luckily, was just out of range.

Shippou sat beside Tajiko with an ever-watchful eye on the girl. He adored her, and Tajiko loved him, too.

InuYasha leaned against the wall behind Kagome, which wasn’t considered odd, thank goodness. He seemed fine to everyone else. To her, though, she could feel his fatigue as if it was her own. She’d wanted him to rest awhile before they came to see their friends. True to his stubborn nature, though, he had adamantly refused.

He had allowed Kagome to do most of the talking in explaining what had happened, both with Tajiko and the prayer beads as well as the ineffectual ‘osuwari’ and InuYasha’s overwhelmed senses. Though he hadn’t said anything about it, she knew that he had worried about his inability to smell anything when he’d awoken after falling out of Goshinboku. As the medicine had numbed his pain, his phenomenal senses had returned to normal, as well.

Miroku opened his eyes and straightened his posture, drawing Kagome back from her reverie. “From what you’ve both said, it’d be my guess that Tajiko somehow removed the curse on the beads, rendering the ‘word’ ineffectual. I wouldn’t wonder, too, if there had been some sort of side effect from the original incantation that had somehow protected InuYasha from having his senses so easily overwhelmed, Kagome.” He stared into the fire for a few moments before going on. “If that is the case, then InuYasha will simply have to become more accustomed to the differences if he wishes to travel to your home with you.”

“Feh! I’m right here, Monk!” InuYasha snarled. “Stop talking about me like I’m invisible, all right?”

Miroku bowed slightly, his hand before his face in typical monk fashion. “My apologies, InuYasha. You’ve had your eyes closed for so long, though, that I had started to think you slept.”

“So Tajiko has inherited hanyou from InuYasha as well as miko powers from Kagome?” Sango asked slowly, pulling her son back a little further when he nearly captured a fistful of Tajiko’s hair. “Remarkable! I didn’t realize such a thing was possible.”

Her husband nodded. “And if Tajiko has spiritual powers enough to remove the incantation at six months old, what sort of power will she possess later?”

Kagome sighed. She had wondered that, herself. InuYasha leaned away from the wall and stared at his daughter thoughtfully. “Can you put the incantation back on the necklace?”

Certain that she hadn’t heard him correctly, Kagome turned to stare over her shoulder at her mate. He was still eyeing Tajiko and didn’t seem to notice Kagome’s incredulous look. “What?”

Finally intercepting the look, InuYasha made a face. “Oh, come on, Kagome! I don’t like the subjugation curse. But if putting it back on the necklace keeps me from being overwhelmed in your time, then what’s the big deal?”

“Even then . . . if Tajiko broke the curse the first time, who’s to say she won’t simply do it again?” Sango asked slowly.

Miroku nodded. “Another thing . . . it may not be wise, letting her run around with that much power, especially since she is so young and cannot control it.”

“I don’t know if I like where you’re headed with this,” InuYasha growled, narrowing his gaze on the ex-monk.

Miroku ignored InuYasha’s implied menace. “Strange, really. As you pointed out, youkai are considered impure beings, while mikos are considered the holiest. Even Kagome has the ability to purify youkai, even if she rarely uses it. How can two contradictory things exist in your daughter?”

Kagome nodded, recalling InuYasha’s amusement over that very thing. “How can we control her powers until she’s older?”

Miroku shook his head. “That I don’t know. Let me think on it. I doubt any harm would come from it for now. Miko powers aren’t normally given to destroy as much as they are to protect. Perhaps if you, as her mother, made her a necklace with a seal on it, it may contain Tajiko’s powers until such time that she is old enough to control them, herself.”

InuYasha was strangely quiet. Kagome figured he’d leap on the monk at the very idea of using yet another necklace to suppress his daughter. She turned her head again to look at him. He was frowning thoughtfully, staring at Kagome’s necklace. “I think you should do it, Kagome,” he finally said without moving his gaze. “Try it, anyway.”

Miroku sighed, drawing Kagome’s attention once more. He looked as though it all made sense to him now. She waited for him to explain what she didn’t understand. “You’re afraid that if Tajiko really did remove the curse on your beads that she can undo the protection on Kagome’s?”

Pulling her closer to him, Kagome felt him nod in answer.

“I can try,” Kagome agreed. “But I’m not putting another subjugation on yours,” she added, stabbing InuYasha with a pointed look.

He snorted. She knew that answer. He was going to argue with her about it later. She sighed inwardly. It was touching that he cared enough to want to be able to stay with her when she went home to visit. Somehow, though, she didn’t think that it would be right, to instill that sort of restriction on him again. ‘Stubborn hanyou.’

“I’ll make the prayer beads for Tajiko. Give me a couple of days,” Miroku offered.

Staring at her little girl, who was content to play with some of Shippou’s kitsune trick toys, Kagome smiled. She’d always thought that Tajiko was a remarkable baby. She simply hadn’t realized exactly how remarkable she was . . . .

The subject moved off of Tajiko when Miroku remembered hearing mention of some new youkai that had recently been sighted by the locals.

Tajiko crawled across the floor and pushed herself into Kagome’s lap. InuYasha absently reached around to include his daughter in the circle of his arms. Tajiko sighed happily and leaned against Kagome, her small hand rising to twirl her hair as she turned just enough to push against her mother. Kagome took the hint and stood up with her child. “Tajiko’s hungry and tired, InuYasha. I’m going to take her home. Are you going to stay here and talk awhile longer?”

He stood up noticeably slower than normal. “We can finish this later.”

They said their goodbyes and headed down the path to their home. InuYasha took Tajiko from Kagome, and they walked in silence.

“Do you need more pain relievers?” she asked as they stepped into their hut. He handed Tajiko to her and moved off to start a fire.

“Feh!” he snorted. In the darkness of the house, Kagome couldn’t see where he was. But his voice had come from close to the floor, so she had a pretty good idea that he was checking the kindling that had already been set out. “I’m fine.”

She sank down on the futon beside her and fumbled with her blouse. She had barely gotten the buttons open and the flap of her nursing bra dropped before Tajiko latched on, attesting to the fact that the girl, like her father, could see better in the dark than she could.

With a wan smile, Kagome settled back and watched as InuYasha used the flint, throwing sparks as his claws scratched over the rock. It hadn’t occurred to him to use two of the stones, as others did. His claws worked just as well, maybe even a little better. The fire was burning within minutes, and he came to them and pulled them into his arms. “This is nice,” he breathed, letting his cheek rest against Kagome’s head.

She nodded and shifted Tajiko to her other breast. “Do you think this means that Taji won’t ever transform to her full youkai state?”

“What do you mean?” he asked, stiffening. He sounded offended. Kagome turned to look at him. He was offended. Why?

“What’s wrong?”

“Hmph,” he answered, letting go and stomping over to Kagome’s backpack. Fishing around, he dragged out a cup of ramen and then filled the water kettle to boil.

Kagome sighed, choosing not to say more until after she’d finished readying Tajiko for bed. InuYasha looked up from his task long enough to kiss his daughter’s forehead before Kagome took her to her room.

“InuYasha,” she said after she came back. “What did I say that bothered you?”

“It wasn’t what you said, wench. It’s what you implied.”

“And what did I imply?” she asked, careful to keep her tone neutral.

“You implied that I’d fail to protect my daughter.”

“I did not!”

“You did! The only time a hanyou transforms is when their lives are in mortal danger. You know that. So saying that there ever would be a time that Taji would transform . . .” he trailed off, scowling as he glowered at her.

“That’s not what I meant,” she countered softly. “I know you would protect her, just as you protect me. I was just thinking that maybe her spiritual powers alone would be enough to counteract such a thing from ever happening to start with.”

“Then say what you mean,” he growled though the hurt look had waned.

“I’m sorry, I said it wrong,” she apologized.

“Kagome . . .”

She was staring at her hands, wondering why it was that she never seemed to be able to say things in such a way that he understood her lately. “Yes?”

He sighed. “It’s been a fucking rotten day.”

Yeah,’ she thought. ‘It has been. All day I’ve been trying to find a way to tell you what happened with Sesshoumaru, but I . . . .’

“I can think of something that might save today from being a complete loss.”

Her gaze slowly lifted to meet his. The burn in his eyes stilled her tongue, squelched her confessions as he reached for her.

I’ll tell him,’ she consoled her conscience. ‘Soon . . . .

Then his mouth fell over hers, and she stopped thinking altogether.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

The oddest sensation awoke Kagome. Tajiko was already busy nursing off her breast, and that wasn’t surprising. InuYasha often retrieved her during the night, allowing her into their bed until morning.   But she also felt lips, tongue, fangs on the back of her neck. The warring sensations didn’t mix quite right, and Kagome wasn’t sure which one she should give credence.

‘Duh!’ her mind kicked in. ‘Your daughter, baka!

“InuYasha,” she said with a soft sigh, a shudder. “Wait till I finish up with Taji.”

He whined, burying his face against her neck, in her hair, his breath tickling her skin. “Feh!”

Though he sounded brash enough, Kagome knew without looking that he was smiling.   He cuddled against her, his cheek on hers, and reached over her shoulder to torture the child’s ears. Tajiko shot InuYasha a long-suffering stare before turning back to her meal with a happy sigh. He burst out laughing. “Picking on your child?” Kagome asked.

InuYasha nuzzled against her throat. Kagome closed her eyes, savoring the feel of him so close to her. “I want you.”

“You mean last night wasn’t enough for you?”

“Feh! I never get enough of you.”

She smiled and helped Tajiko switch breasts. “I’d be nice to stay like this forever.”

“Feeding the pup?” he scoffed. “Don’t you have better things to think about?”

“I meant, like this, with you and her . . . it’s nice.”

InuYasha sighed and squeezed her gently. “You know, until you came along I never slept lying down?”

A mental image of InuYasha sleeping high in the trees flashed through her had. With a pang, she remembered. It was remarkable then, how he always slept sitting against a wall, arms wrapped around Tetsusaiga. She hadn’t realized it was such a habit at the time. “Why’s that?”

“I was never relaxed enough to. I was always on guard, so I slept lightly, and I slept sitting up.”

“I’m glad you feel safe now,” she replied.

“Safe? We’re never safe! You just wear me out, that’s all.”

Kagome flushed and smacked him in the chest. She handed Tajiko to him and rolled out of the bed. “Keep an eye on her, please. I’m going to get her a diaper.”

Kagome didn’t bother grabbing a robe as she headed out of the bedroom. Since she had every intention of crawling back into bed with the fully naked hanyou, she figured it wouldn’t be worth the trouble, anyway. Besides that, InuYasha had a tendency to get impatient, and as a result, her wardrobe was constantly in need of replenishing.

“Um, morning, Kagome. Is InuYasha awake yet?”

With a sharp gasp, Kagome squealed and tried to cover herself. Miroku squeezed his eyes closed and turned his head to the side.

Without bothering to answer, Kagome snatched her backpack off the floor and ran back into the bedroom again. Her face felt as though it was on fire, and she jerked on the first piece of clothing she could reach, which just happened to be InuYasha’s haori.

He was sitting up with the covers draped over his hips while Tajiko held herself up on her knees via InuYasha’s dormant prayer beads. He stared at her in confusion as she muttered under her breath about lecherous monks who were way too stealthy for their own good.

“Kagome? What’s wrong?” he asked mildly.

She pinned InuYasha with a plaintive glare and jerked her head toward the door. “Miroku’s here. He asked for you.” He waved his hand at her. She retrieved his hakama off the floor and tossed them to him. He didn’t get up to put them on. She watched with a bemused grin as he wiggled into them and lay back to arch up, bringing the pants up over his hips. She had to admit. It was a mighty fine view.

He handed Tajiko to her and kissed her cheek before heading out of the bedroom mumbling something about installing a real door very soon.

She giggled as she sank back down on the bed to change their daughter. Tajiko chewed on a washcloth that InuYasha had tied in a knot. For some reason, she’d been doing that a lot lately. It had alarmed her mother. InuYasha said that Tajiko was teething, and that it was because of the inu-youkai in her. Instead of trying to get her to chew on something more ‘normal’ Kagome figured it would be best to take InuYasha’s word on it. He’d know better than she on the subject, right? As much as she wasn’t fond of seeing her daughter gnawing on a knotted washcloth, she figured it really wasn’t any worse than anything else babies used when they teethed.

She took her time dressing Taji in pink overalls with a white lace shirt. She looked like a little flower. Kagome grinned and kissed her rosy cheek. “There, my angel. Want to go out and see Papa and Miroku?”

“Koku,” Tajiko repeated. Kagome giggled and cuddled her closer.

“Mi—ro—ku.”

Tajiko stared at her for long moments then grinned, waving the washcloth as she tried to repeat, “Ki-ko-ku.”

“Close enough,” Kagome agreed.

Kagome sat Tajiko down beside her father and went back to change into her regular clothes.

When she came back out after tidying the bedroom and dressing, InuYasha was heading back that way. “What’s wrong?”

He handed Tajiko to her and took his haori from her. “Miroku said there’s some trouble south of the village. We’re going to go check into it. Stay here, okay? No taking off with anyone?”

She nodded slowly, hearing the teasing quality behind his words yet flinching inwardly just the same.   Miroku handed her a small cloth pouch. “These have been prepared. All you need to do is string them as you meditate over what it is you want them to guard against. With your spiritual powers, I’m sure you’ll have no trouble imbuing the beads with enough authority to carry out your wishes.”

“Thanks,” she said. “Be careful, okay?”

“Feh! Some vote of confidence,” InuYasha scoffed as he headed out of the hut. He stopped and glanced back at her, eyes shining, and she understood that he was telling her that he would be careful.

“Papa,” Tajiko whined, tears pooling in her great golden eyes.

InuYasha sighed and grimaced as he glanced at Miroku, who was trying hard to hide his smirk. The hanyou stalked back into the hut and held his arms out for his daughter. “Papa will be right back,” he assured her. “Be a good baby girl for your mama, all right?”

Tajiko whimpered, clinging to InuYasha’s haori. He shot Kagome a helpless look. She stepped forward and peeled the girl away from his chest. The heartbroken child buried her face against Kagome’s shoulder and sobbed. InuYasha looked torn.

“Go on,” Kagome told him. “She knows she’s got you suckered.” Bouncing Tajiko on her hip, Kagome tweaked her nose affectionately. “Don’t you, Taji? You know you’ve got your papa wrapped around your little finger?”

“Papa!” Tajiko exclaimed with a giggle of delight as she reached out to grab Kagome’s hand.

InuYasha looked offended. “Women,” he muttered as he stomped out of the hut. Miroku did laugh at that.

Tajiko reached for the bag of beads still in Kagome’s hand. She pulled them out of the girl’s reach and set her on the floor with some crackers instead.

She dug in one of the cabinets that InuYasha had crafted for some thicker thread that she brought back awhile ago. With a deep sigh, she sat down with the beads and thread. “I hope this works . . . .”

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

“So tell me, InuYasha . . . you and Kagome seem happy.”

He cast the monk a wary glance as they traveled through the forest in search of the menace. “I guess.”

“You’re not happy with her?”

“What’s your point, Miroku?”

Miroku held his hands up to protest his innocence. “I was simply asking a question.”

InuYasha sighed. He smiled to himself. ‘Happier than I ever though I would be. Happier than I ever deserved to be,’ he had to admit to himself. He never realized that there was anyone on the earth who would accept him completely as he was. Kagome had. Kagome always had. He had forever believed he would always be the outcast, the half-breed. He hadn’t thought he had a place with anyone, anywhere. Kikyou had made him wish for such a thing. But Kagome had given it to him. “Very,” he said at last.

“Very what?”

Rolling his eyes in an exaggerated show of irritation, InuYasha heaved a sigh. “Happy, baka! I’m very happy.”

“That, my friend, is what the love of a good woman will do for you! Take Sango, for example! Just last night she did this remarkable thing with her tongue, and—-”

“You’re such a fucking pervert,” InuYasha growled as he felt his face heat up. “Why do you always have to turn every conversation into something unnatural?”

“I beg to differ, InuYasha. The act of carnal love is very natural, or don’t you and Kagome—”

“Feh!” InuYasha cut in, unable to hear the rest of Miroku’s speech. “Shut the hell up already!”

“About Kagome . . . .”

InuYasha glared at Miroku. “If this is something else perverted—”

Miroku finally looked serious.   “Sango wanted me to ask if something is bothering Kagome. She’s seemed a bit distant last evening, and . . . I noticed it, too.”

InuYasha shot Miroku a quick glance. He looked genuinely concerned. Still, why did InuYasha feel such a reluctance to tell him what he knew? Then again, Miroku was decent at interpreting people . . . . “When I went to get her and Taji . . . I don’t know, she was acting . . . .”

“Strange? How?”

InuYasha waved his hand, as though he was trying to catch the words out of the air, the words to describe what he’d thought when he’d found her sobbing in the tub. The memory haunted him. She’d looked so lost, so lonely, as though she didn’t have anyone in the world to love. The angry red welts all over her body shocked him. “When I got there, she was bathing but her mother said she’d been acting strange. So I went in to see her, and . . . she was sobbing.” For some reason, he couldn’t tell Miroku about the scratches. Why that was, he wasn’t sure. That had worried him the most. Kagome was strong. Why had she done that?

“That doesn’t sound like her at all. Did you ask her what was troubling her?”

InuYasha stabbed the monk with a glower. “Of course I did. She finally told me that she’d gone with Sesshoumaru. He needed her to talk to that human pup he keeps.”

Miroku made a face. “That might do it. Encounters with your brother are rarely pleasant.”

InuYasha had to agree with that. Still . . . .

Maybe,’ he thought as they continued on in silence, ‘I should ask her again, why she was upset enough to scratch herself like that.’

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

Supper was an oddly quiet affair punctuated only by Tajiko’s insistent tugging at the prayer bead necklace that Kagome had fashioned to keep the girl’s miko powers under control. Whining and whimpering, Taji had tried unsuccessfully to yank the offending beads off. InuYasha hid his smile as she rolled onto her back and maneuvered her feet up high enough to catch the necklace in her attempt to break the strand. It held fast.

Finally, fussy and irritable, Tajiko ate her dinner and fell asleep. InuYasha as he cleaned Tetsusaiga by firelight while Kagome put Tajiko to bed when she came back, she dug around in her backpack awhile then moved to sit behind InuYasha. Her hands hesitantly reached around him, tugging on his haori, dragging it down his shoulders.

“K-Kagome?” InuYasha stammered, staring down at her hands that were tugging diligently to uproot the clothing. “What are you doing?”

She didn’t answer as she flipped his hair over his shoulder. He hissed and arched his back away from her as the cold gel hit his back he whined as she slowly spread the cool ooze over his skin. Slowly she began rubbing, soothing his muscles as the burning heat left behind penetrated down to his bones. His head rolled to the side as Tetsusaiga clattered to the floor.

“You seem tense,” she remarked quietly. “You’ve barely said anything since you’ve gotten back. Is something wrong?”

Lulled by her hands soothing away the tightness in his muscles, it took a minute for InuYasha to register that Kagome had spoken at all. ‘Ask her, baka! She’s given you the perfect opportunity.’ He sighed. No time like the present . . . . “Kagome, what happened at Sesshoumaru’s? Why . . . why were you—” ‘trying to tear your skin off;’ “—crying?”

A barely discernable pause in her hands but one that he noticed. “I . . . It’s not important. I’m fine now. Tajiko cried a little when I picked her up, is all. She must have really liked that television show . . . .”

She’s lying . . . . I can smell her anxiety . . . . Why would she lie to me?’ Slowly, he pulled away from her and turned around, staring at her. She was wiping her hands on a towel but even with only the dim light of the fire he could see the redness in her cheeks, the way she gnawed on her bottom lip. “Do you trust me?”

Her chin lifted slowly, her gaze sad, brightened by tears she held in check. She nodded slowly.

A terrible foreboding ran up and down his spine. He braced himself against it and measured his tone to just above a whisper when he said, “Then tell me what happened.”

“I . . . I can’t. I don’t really understand it, and I—” she cut herself off with a miserable sigh.

A single tear spilled over. InuYasha relented, drawing her close. ‘Is it that bad, Kagome?’ he wondered. “All right, you win . . . for now.”

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“Quit being fucking stubborn, wench!”

“For the last time, InuYasha, forget it! I’m not going to do it, no matter how much you growl at me.”

“Why the hell not?”

“Because you don’t need it!”

“Just do it, will you?”

“No, I won’t!”

“Fucking—”

“Fuck,” Tajiko repeated.

Kagome glared at the hanyou. “InuYasha!

“I didn’t tell her to say it,” he argued.

“You didn’t have to tell her to say it! If those beads still worked, I’d so-o-o-o say ‘it’ right now . . . .”

Suddenly, he straightened up, hands on hips, and he smirked at her. “I told you—”

No!

“Fuck!” Tajiko said again.

“No, Taji, that’s not a nice word, and Papa never should have said it around you.” She stabbed InuYasha with a decided glare.

He took his daughter and stomped toward the door.

“Where are you going?” Kagome called after him.

“Feh! Taji and I are going to go spend some time together while you figure out how to redo the fucking spell.”

“InuYasha!” she hollered at his retreating back. “I’m—not—-doing—-it!”

She shook her head as she watched the proud hanyou stomp away through the village. Suddenly, he broke into a run and disappeared into the forest. ‘Goshinboku,’ she thought as she rolled her eyes. Tajiko was safe enough with him. He’d protect her with his life, if it came to that. Still, the idea of him taking her up in that tree . . . . She sank down on the futon to tug on her shoes.

The morning was bright, beautiful, probably one of the last truly nice days before the weather changed into autumn. Kagome couldn’t help the slight smile that surfaced as she greeted villagers but kept walking. If InuYasha thought that she was going to let him sit in that tree with their squirmy child, he was sadly mistaken. ‘Maybe,’ she thought as she headed out of the village, ‘I should put a subduing spell on the beads long enough to make him regret taking her up that tree.’

With a smothered cry, Kagome found herself lifted off her feet, and she was flying, soaring above InuYasha’s Forest, weightless, breathless. She glanced back to see who held her, and she gasped, fighting for her release. “Stop that or I’ll drop you.”

“What do you want?”

“Is that the way you greet one you’ve kissed, Miko?”

She flinched at the reminder. He set her down in a small clearing, well away from the village. Well away from Goshinboku—and InuYasha.   “What do you want?” she repeated, her voice stronger since she was able to put some distance between herself and Sesshoumaru.

He regarded her for long moments in the quiet of the meadow. It seemed to Kagome that even the birds could sense the menace of him, for they had fallen silent. The breeze stilled. It was as though they were trapped in some sort of soundless world, as though time itself had been stopped.

Leaning his head to the side, he continued to gaze at her. His countenance was unreadable, his eyes enigmatic. Finally, he spoke. “Know you, Miko, what happens to a faithless mate?”

“I told you,” she said, her chin rising proudly as indignant color filtered into her cheeks. Her voice shook slightly as the slightest hint of doubt registered. The inu-youkai didn’t miss it. “I didn’t mean for that to happen . . . I thought—”

“Yes, yes, you thought I was your beloved. I know.” He deliberately walked away from her. Kagome followed, silently cursing herself for her own curiosity, her desire to hear what else he wanted to say.

“Just tell me what you want,” she demanded.

He took his time considering her request. Kagome was starting to think he was going to ignore her. Finally he said, “If you tell InuYasha what you have done, it will be his decision, what he does with you. He will, of course, keep your pup. It’s his right. As for you . . . . If he loves you, he may spare you. If he does not, then it’s his right to kill you. But he will not keep you.”

Her knees felt weak. She glared at Sesshoumaru’s back, wishing she could argue his statements yet knowing in her heart that he was telling her the truth. “He . . . wouldn’t . . . .”

Sesshoumaru peeked over his shoulder at Kagome. Pale, shaken, the miko looked as though she was ready to faint. “Wouldn’t he? So you have not seen my half-brother’s propensity toward violence? That sort of betrayal visited upon him by you, his chosen mate, and you think to come out of this unscathed?” He paused, turning to face her once more. “You have not told him, and this is why. You know what I tell you is truth, do you not?”

She may have looked faint. He could smell her fear. But her eyes rose to lock with his, and they alone burned with her resolve. “That’s not why I didn’t tell him. InuYasha wouldn’t hurt me.”

“Then why, Miko? Why not tell him now?”

“Because he’ll . . .” she shook her head slowly, gaze falling to the ground. “It doesn’t matter.”

Sesshoumaru didn’t answer right away. Turning his face heavenward, he stared at the clouds, unblinking. Finally he picked her up again and, in a flash of light, they were flying once more.

“Where are you taking me?” she asked, her tone curious if not a bit wary.

“Back to your village . . . unless you do not care to go?”

Kagome nodded. She said no more until he let her down in almost the same spot that he had snatched her away from. She started to walk away, trying to control her desire to run. Even if she thought to flee from him, there was no way, and she knew it. Sesshoumaru was too fast, and if he had a mind to catch up with her, he would.

“Miko,” he called softly behind her. She stopped but didn’t turn around. “Tell him nothing.”

She couldn’t help herself. Turning to stare at Sesshoumaru, she frowned when she saw his near-smile. “Why? Why shouldn’t I tell him? He deserves to know, and he’s asked . . . .”

Sesshoumaru’s smiled faded and he shook his head. “Then let me be the one to tell him and to draw his ire.”

“But . . . .”

Sesshoumaru was gone. Dissolved into his energy form, the youkai was gone before Kagome could stop him.

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

“I’m waiting.”

“I’m ignoring.”

“Feh! You can’t ignore me.”

“I can try.”

“You’ll fail.”

“I’m still not doing it.”

“Stubborn wench.”

“Baka hanyou.”

Miroku rolled his eyes as he gazed at Sango. “Ah, the sweet words of love, eh, Sango?”

Sango sighed, shifting her gaze between InuYasha, who was sitting in his normal fashion against the wall with Tajiko in his lap, and Kagome, who was stirring the pot of stewed meat and vegetables that boiled over the fire. “You’re not helping, houshi-sama.”

“Just do it, already. You don’t have to use the command, if that’s what’s bothering you,” InuYasha grumbled.

Kagome straightened up, eyeing her mate as though she was trying to read his mind. Tajiko whined as she tugged at her prayer beads to no avail. “I’m starting to think there’s something wrong with you, InuYasha. Why in the world would you want me to reinstate a spell that you hated in the first place?”

He made a face and snorted. “Don’t be stupid.”

She sighed. “Drop it. I’m not doing it.”

“InuYasha,” Miroku cut in as he bounced his son on his knee, “why do you feel so strongly about this?”

InuYasha snorted again. “I have my reasons.”

“It doesn’t matter what your reasons are,” Kagome argued, “I’m still not going to do it.”

His answer was a very long, very loud, very irritated sigh.

Kagome dished up the food and offered InuYasha a bowl. “No, thanks.”

She sat down on the floor before him. “And you call me stubborn! I know you’re hungry!”

He cast her a calculating glance out of the corner of his eyes. “Are you going to put the curse back?”

She narrowed her gaze. “No.”

“Then I’m not eating.”

“InuYasha—”

“Feh.”

Tajiko whimpered and swatted at the bowl. Kagome pulled it away just before their daughter grabbed it. “So you’re not going to eat until I put the curse back on your necklace? That’s what you’re saying?”

InuYasha seemed to have just realized the implications of such a claim. Stubbornness set in his expression, he nodded. Kagome rolled her eyes and set the bowl beside him. “Then you’ll be really hungry, because I’m not going to do it.”

She got up to retrieve her own food but not before she caught the hanyou quickly gaze at the bowl of food. ‘That’ll last about an hour,’ she figured.

“You know, InuYasha, if there was a good reason you wanted the enchantment back on, I’m sure Kagome would consider it,” Sango spoke up, careful to keep her tone neutral.

“I don’t get it,” Shippou piped up as he emptied his bowl and held it out to Kagome for seconds. “You hate the osuwari spell. You always have. Why do you want another one?”

“Feh!”

Kagome handed Shippou his refilled bowl and studiously stared into her own as she ate. When she dared to glance up a few times, though, it was to catch InuYasha staring at his food. ‘Baka! Spiting himself out of sheer stubbornness, and he thinks I’m stubborn?

“Shut up, Shippou! Fat lot you know! The command never actually hurt me. I’m half-youkai, remember?”

Miroku sighed as Shippou darted behind him to hide from InuYasha, who had started to rise with his daughter cradled safely in one arm, leaving a free hand with which to carry out his intended thumpage on the kitsune. “Perhaps InuYasha likes to be submissive to you, Kagome?” he mused, more to irritate than hanyou than because he truly believed his words.

InuYasha growled but did sink back into his customary slouch. “Shut up, Monk.”

Sango shot her husband a knowing glance. “Hmm,” she considered slowly, “the spell did tend to leave him groveling at your feet, didn’t it?”

Kagome rolled her eyes. “That’s just . . . sick.”

“Shut up, Sango.”

“Shu—up!” Tajiko echoed with a shriek of laughter.

Kagome sighed and set her bowl aside to retrieve her daughter before the girl picked up any more of InuYasha’s foul words or phrases. “Come, Taji. Time for bed.”

Tajiko understood her mother and started whining as she twisted her little body to reach back for her father. “Paaaapa!”

InuYasha started to reach for the girl until he intercepted Kagome’s threatening look. “Listen to your mama, Taji.” Still he kissed her head and flinched as she caught a handful of his hair and tried to pull herself out of Kagome’s arms.

“Let go of Papa’s hair,” Kagome admonished. ‘Then again, it probably wouldn’t hurt him, stubborn, pig-headed man that he is, anyway.’

Tajiko whined louder but let go. Kagome settled down on the futon furthest away from everyone to nurse her daughter before bed. Miroku, Sango, and Shippou continued to tease InuYasha about the beads.

Kagome sighed.

Tajiko waved her hand around while she ate, staring up at her mother with those great golden eyes. Kagome smiled.

Then let me be the one to tell him and to draw his ire.’

What had Sesshoumaru meant? It was almost as if he was trying to protect her. But why? Sesshoumaru was heartless, cold, wasn’t he? So what did it matter to him, what InuYasha might do to her?

His groan was her answer as his lips fell again. Harder, more demanding, he drew her closer against him. Dangerous yet contained, desire flowed over her, eddying around her, pooling against her, rushing like the waves crashing ashore. His kiss deepened, his fangs grazing her flesh setting off delicious tremors of sensation. Arching against him, her hands rose to cradle his face. His skin was strangely cool to her touch.

The tip of his tongue traced the contours of her lips. She let her mouth fall open, and he took his time. A low growl escaped him as he tasted her, slowly, gently, with a deliberate thoroughness that made her want to scream. Kagome let her had fall back.

She shivered as the memory faded. Maybe he wasn’t as cold, as heartless, as she had thought him to be . . . . Still, why would he bother to try to protect her?

Mama sad.’

With a surprised blink, Kagome stared at her daughter. ‘Tajiko?

Mama sad.’

Kagome switched her daughter to the other breast and stroked her soft cheek with the back of her hand. ‘Mama’s sad,’ she agreed with a sigh. ‘But not because of Tajiko; never because of Tajiko.’

She could swear that the girl smiled up at her.

A shadow fell over Tajiko, and Kagome glanced up. InuYasha hunkered down and reached for the girl, who had finished her dinner. “I’ll put her to bed.”

Taken aback by his gentle tone, Kagome could only nod as she corrected her clothing and watched him carry Tajiko off to bed.

“Kagome?” Sango’s voice cut into her reverie. “Are you all right?”

Kagome sighed and scooted off the futon to rejoin her friends near the fire. “Yeah, fine . . . .” She stared at Miroku. He was finally eating, having been preoccupied with Kiyoshi earlier while Sango enjoyed her meal. “Miroku . . . is it possible for a baby to think things that you can hear?”

Miroku frowned and set his bowl down. “Anything’s possible . . . I assume you were talking to Tajiko?”

She nodded. “Yes. She’s never done that before.”

Sango nodded. “Father used to tell us that youkai develop much faster than humans. It’s possible that they can communicate sooner, too, and in different ways from humans. Tajiko may not develop as fast as full youkai, but since she’s hanyou, it would make sense if the same went for her, too. Have you asked InuYasha?”

“No. This is the first time she’s ever done that.”

“Done what?”

Kagome glanced up as InuYasha strode back into the room. He sank down in the open space between Kagome and Sango. Shippou spun his kitsune top, much to Kiyoshi’s delight. The baby gurgled with glee as the toy spun in place. “Tajiko was talking to me, in my mind.”

InuYasha looked momentarily surprised. That expression was nudged aside by fatherly pride. “’Course she can.”

“Did you talk to your mother that way?”

A sadness entered his eyes, and Kagome almost wished she hadn’t asked. But he smiled. “Yeah. I think I did that before I could ever talk.”

“I wonder why Tajiko waited until after she spoke, then,” Kagome mused.

InuYasha shrugged. “She hasn’t needed to. You know what she wants before she’s had to ask.”

Surprised by his praise, Kagome was hard pressed not to kiss him. But she knew how much he hated that blatant a show affection in front of others, even Sango and Miroku, so she didn’t.

Sango stifled a yawn with the back of her hand. Miroku chuckled. “I think it’s time we got you home, Sango.” He stood and offered her a hand to help her up. She accepted the gesture. Miroku took the opportunity to let free hand fall to her rear. Sango flushed deep red but didn’t strike the monk.

“Hentai houshi,” she muttered as she lifted Kiyoshi.

“But Sango, it was calling to me! I can’t ignore the voice of such a beautiful—”

“Can’t you stop for five minutes, you pervert?” InuYasha growled.

Miroku winked as they headed for the door. Shippou bounded over to wrap his arms around Kagome’s neck. “I’ve got to go with them, Kagome. Kiyoshi needs me to protect him. He’s only a human, you know.”

InuYasha rolled his eyes but reached over to rub the kitsune’s head. Kagome laughed. Shippou, pleased with the reaction to his claim, scampered out after Sango and Miroku.

Kagome sighed as the bamboo door mat swung closed again before she stood and gathered the dishes to wash.

Kneeling down beside the bucket she used as wash water, Kagome asked as InuYasha’s fangs grazed over her neck, his arm slipping around her waist. The chain reaction slammed through her, and she reached down to steady herself. “Let me finish the dishes,” she said quietly.

“Fuck the dishes.”

“Five minutes.”

“You want me to leave you alone for five minutes? Five whole minutes?”

No,’ she thought as his tongue darted out to flick over her skin. “Yes, five whole minutes.”

“Five minutes,” he allowed, “if . . . .”

Through the InuYasha-induced haze enveloping her mind, it took a few minutes for Kagome to realize that he’d added an ‘if’ to his concession. “If . . .?” she echoed.

“If . . . you agree to put the command back on.”

She sighed, pulling away and turning to look at his face. “Why? Why do you want it back on so badly?”

It was his turn to sigh, and he sank back, bringing his knees up and looping his arms around them. “Because I . . .” he trailed off, shaking his head as though he didn’t want to say whatever it was that he was thinking. “Because I’m supposed to protect you and Tajiko. I can’t in your time, if I can’t keep from passing out.”

There wasn’t a doubt in her mind that InuYasha viewed the fact that he had succumbed to the over-stimulation as a very real weakness. She smiled gently. “Why didn’t you just say that to begin with?”

He flushed and scowled at the floor. “It’s pathetic.”

She considered his words. She should have realized that it was the real reason behind his insistence on the subject. She frowned. “Do you think it’s possible to put a guard against that on the beads without connecting it with a command?”

His expression brightened, as though the idea hadn’t occurred to him. “I don’t know . . . .”

She shrugged. “I’ll ask Miroku about it tomorrow.” She caught his grimace. “Just Miroku, and I won’t tell him why, okay?”

InuYasha finally heaved a sigh of relief. His golden eyes slowly rose to meet her gaze, the light behind them turning from appeased to something far headier. She swallowed but couldn’t look away.

He caught her wrist and tugged her toward him. “I haven’t finished the dishes,” she remarked as she stared at his lips.

“Yeah, but your five minutes are up, wench.”

“But I didn’t—”

“You talk too much.”

“Do I?”

“Shut up and kiss me.”

She did.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“I don’t know, Kagome . . . I don’t really think it was intentional, if that’s what you mean. So far as I know, I’ve never heard of anyone doing such a thing. I mean, would anyone really want to have their senses dulled?”

She considered that then shrugged. “There’s got to be a way.”

The houshi shook his head slowly. “I don’t think so, Kagome. If you want him to have the side effect, you may have to swallow your pride and reinstate the command . . . however, I don’t think the same one would work twice. . . . . Might I offer a few suggestions?” Miroku’s tone was innocent—too innocent.

Kagome glared at the monk. “I don’t think so.”

Miroku sighed dramatically. “I was simply trying to offer my assistance . . . .”

“That’s what I’m afraid of.”

He clutched at his chest with an exaggerated grimace. “You wound me, Kagome! I’ll have you know my intentions here are above reproach.”

Kagome didn’t buy it. The look she telegraphed the monk said so. “Miroku, I know you too well for that.”

“May I make one suggestion?”

She sighed. “All right,” she allowed grudgingly, flinching inside at whatever the monk would come up with.

“Perhaps you ought to consider making it a nice command this time . . . Perhaps then it would take such a stigma off of it for the two of you.”

“That’s not a half-bad idea, Miroku. I’ll consider it.”

Miroku chuckled. “Just to us all a favor? Try not to activate the enchantment in front of us, if you use a more . . . interesting command?”

Any feelings of good-will that Kagome had previously had for the monk disappeared at his last bit of nonsense. She stalked away without another glance at the ‘helpful’ man.

So I can’t just put a protective spell on the beads, after all,’ she thought with a frown as she headed back through the village toward home. Still, she had to admit that Miroku’s suggestion of making the submission spell something that InuYasha wouldn’t hate hadn’t occurred to her. The trouble was, she wasn’t sure what sort of trigger word she ought to use for it.

She sighed. She hated the idea of enchanting the beads again. True, the first spell had come in handy in more than one instance. But now that the power was gone, she wasn’t anxious to put it back, either.

She stepped inside the hut as InuYasha stepped out of Tajiko’s bedroom with the child in his arms. “Mama!” Tajiko greeted happily, squirming to escape her father’s grasp.

Kagome took the girl and kissed her cheek. Tajiko bounced in excitement.

“Did you talk to Miroku?”

Making a face, Kagome nodded. “He doesn’t think a simple protection will work, in this case. He said he thinks it was more of a side-effect then something that was meant to be.”

That smug look surfaced on InuYasha’s face and he practically gloated. “So if you’d have just listened to me before and done it, then we wouldn’t have to worry about it now.”

She knew when she was defeated. After shooting InuYasha a dark look, she slowly grasped the prayer beads in her hand and closed her eyes. She didn’t see the hazy pink light envelop her hand and the beads. She did hear InuYasha’s soft gasp. She felt the tingle as the spiritual energy she emitted soaked into the wooden beads. When she finally opened her eyes again, InuYasha was staring at her with an odd mix of respect and reluctance lighting his gaze.

“Now to say the command,” she muttered with a rueful frown.

“I trust you,” he replied.

She didn’t get a chance to answer. One of the villagers hurried into the hut and bowed. His words were interrupted by heavy gasps as he tried to catch his breath and talk at the same time. “Help! Please! Youkai—”

InuYasha didn’t wait to hear more. He grabbed the villager and dropped him onto his back as he headed out the door.

‘Papa go.’

“Yeah, Papa must help.”

Mama go?

Kagome hugged her daughter a little tighter. “No, angel. Mama not go.”

Tajiko giggled and leaned her head against Kagome’s shoulder. Kagome retrieved her backpack and swung it over her shoulder as she headed outside and down the path that led to Sango’s hut. She was almost there when one of the village men ran up to her.

“My lady! Ito was in the field and collapsed! Can you help him?”

Kagome hurried to Sango’s. ‘Stay here, Taji, be good.’

Mama go?

She kissed Tajiko’s forehead. “Yes, angel. Mama must go. Mama will be back. Sango? Can you—?”

Sango nodded as she took Tajiko from her friend. “Of course!”

Tajiko whined and pushed against Sango. ‘No, Mama! No smell stranger on Mama!

Kagome didn’t have time to reassure the child as she hurried after the young man. “Is he awake?” she questioned as they ran out of the village.

“Nay, my lady! He clutched his chest and fell over.”

Kagome flinched. It sounded like a heart attack, and if that was the case, she didn’t have anything to help him.

It was as she had feared. She didn’t have to get close to the man to know that he was dead. Still she moved the village men aside and knelt beside him. Meeting the young man’s concerned gaze, she shook her head slightly. He closed his eyes for a moment then bowed to her.

She stared at the deceased as her eyes filled with tears. The man wasn’t that old, and his wife and four children lived very near her on the outskirts of the village. She stood up, quickly wiping her eyes. “I’ll go back to the village and tell his family,” she explained.

“Shall I go with you?” the young man asked.

Kagome shook her head. “No. I think it’d be best if I go alone. Can you all bring him in?”

She trudged back toward the village, shoulders slumped as more tears fell. It was a part of life, she knew. Dying meant the end of one cycle and the beginning of another. Still, it was hard to grasp, and it was a facet of life in this era that she hated.

She stopped as she drew nearer the dwelling. Of everything she had to do, telling someone that she couldn’t save someone they loved . . . it was, by far, the hardest part. She dried her eyes and drew a steady breath before squaring her shoulders and heading purposefully toward the hut.

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

InuYasha stepped into the quiet hut with a marked frown. Kagome wasn’t here. He’d made quick work of the renegade youkai. He’d not been gone more than two hours. ‘Maybe she went to go see Sango,’ he thought as he strode out of the hut again.

“Papa!” Tajiko screeched as InuYasha’s scent wafted to her. He grinned. ‘Nothing wrong with my pup’s senses,’ he mused.

She crawled to him. Sango giggled from where she sat in the yard picking through some vegetables. Shippou was occupying Kiyoshi in the shade of the hut. InuYasha lifted her into his arms and kissed her cheek. “Where’s Mama?” he asked the girl.

Tajiko whimpered and buried her face in InuYasha’s haori. ‘Mama go . . . stranger go.

He frowned. “What?” He shifted his gaze over to the youkai exterminator. “Oi! Sango! Where’s Kagome?”

“One of the villagers collapsed in the fields . . . but that was awhile ago. I don’t know where she is.”

Mama smell like stranger.’

Without saying anything, InuYasha turned and headed off through the village, sniffing the air to find his mate. He tracked her to a villager’s hut but was surprised to discover that her scent also led away from there, into the forest.

Mama go . . . stranger smell.’

Did Mama go with a stranger?

Mama smells, stranger smells.’ Tajiko whimpered again and tried to snuggle deeper into InuYasha’s arms.

InuYasha sighed as he headed back toward Sango’s hut. Sango glanced up from her task. “You didn’t find her?”

He shook his head, unwilling to voice the concerns that Tajiko had presented. “Can you watch Taji awhile longer?”

Sango nodded slowly. “InuYasha? What’s wrong?”

Papa go, but Papa be back with Mama, okay?

Tajiko’s eyes filled with tears. Her nostrils quivered, and she looked like she was ready to cry. ‘Papa go,’ she replied.

He kissed her forehead and handed her to Sango. “She went into the forest,” he admitted. “I’m going to go find her.”

He bounded off, following Kagome’s scent.

Mama smell like stranger.’

Damn it, Kagome, why does Tajiko say that?

The ability to project their thoughts was a youkai trait that often was given up once the ability to speak out loud was learned. Often times the pup used it only to speak to their mothers, to ask for whatever they needed. That Tajiko was using it to speak to both him as well as Kagome showed just how smart she really was.

But why did it upset her so badly? And why did she say it that way?

InuYasha sniffed and launched himself forward. Kagome seemed to be near Goshinboku. Why would she be there?

Mama smell like stranger.’

The only time that someone would change scent was when there was some sort of intimacy involved . . . . ‘Stop being a baka,’ he scolded himself with a grimace. ‘As if Kagome would do something like that.

Mama smell like stranger.’

“Feh!”

He stopped suddenly. There she was, curled at the base of the God Tree, sleeping, he could tell. Her scent said as much. But he also smelled tears, and that was enough to temper his irritation. He breathed deeply. Kagome smelled the same as always.   Why had Tajiko been so insistent that Kagome smelled different?

With a smothered gasp, Kagome awoke and sat up, eyes darting about wildly. When they finally settled on him, he was shocked to see more tears well up, fall over. She stood and hurled herself into his arms as she sobbed.

“What’s wrong?” he asked, trying to figure out what would have caused her to be so upset.

She shook her head but kept weeping. He held onto her, resigned to let her tears run their course before he’d get any answers.

Gathering her up in his arms, InuYasha bounded into the tree. Kagome didn’t respond, and he wondered briefly if she even realized that he’d moved with her. Wrapping her in the generous folds of his haori, he rested his cheek on her hair while she finally wound down to sniffles and hiccups. “What happened?”

She leaned away and dragged in a deep breath punctuated by stuttering sighs as she wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. “One of the villagers died in the field today, and his wife . . . . She was so sad, and . . . . They have a little girl, you know? She’s about the same age I was when my father . . . .” She sighed and shook her head. “It was stupid.” Kagome swallowed hard and blinked as another wash of tears welled up. “I just kept thinking that she was really going to miss her Papa.”

Her voice broke as the tears spilled again. InuYasha flinched and drew her back into his arms. “Can I do anything to make you feel better?” he asked, and hating that he had to ask, hating that he didn’t know what to do for her.

“Just holding me is fine,” she whispered. “Thank you.”

“I can do that,” he murmured, holding her close again.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Kagome sank back against the stone wall, staring with a vague smile at the water cascading before her face. She loved this place, and InuYasha knew it. “InuYasha?” she called, knowing he wasn’t far away.

“Aren’t you finished yet?”

“Nope. Why don’t you join me?”

“Feh!”

“Are you sure?”

“Feh.”

She scooted over to peek out from her place behind the waterfall. The shallow water barely reached the swell of her hips. Because of that, it was always warm and inviting, except in the winter months.

She looked to see what InuYasha was doing. He was sitting on a rock facing away from her with his legs crossed and his arms wrapped around Tetsusaiga. She grinned. He was much too predictable. “What do you think is going to attack us here?”

“You never know,” he hollered back. “I’d rather be safe than sorry.”

“It’s a little lonely back here. Alone. By myself. Unaccompanied.” No answer. “Unprotected.”

“You’re fine. Hurry up.”

He’s got to be the most unromantic being on earth,’ she thought with a sigh. Here they were, in one of the most beautiful spots that she’d ever seen, without their daughter, and all he could say was ‘hurry up’.

Casting the hanyou another consternated glance, Kagome made a face. “Ahh!” she screamed. “A fish youkai! It’s going to eat me!” She splashed around for good measure.

She peeked again. He hadn’t moved.

“Don’t you even care that I said there was a youkai after me?” she yelled.

“A fish youkai wouldn’t be able to do much other than bite your big toe.”

She sighed again and sank down in the water, letting it cover her face almost to her nose. “Fine, InuYasha!” she hollered. “See if I let you come anywhere near me in the next hundred years!”

“What are you hollering about?”

“Nothing,” she grumbled then sighed. Giving up on the dream of getting any sort of attention from her mate, she waded over to retrieve her bathing supplies. The roar of the falling water soothed her injured mood, and Kagome concentrated on washing her hair.

How could he not know what she had been thinking? she fumed. She had been blatantly obvious with her hints, hadn’t she? She made a face. Hints never worked with InuYasha, and she knew it. He was too blunt for his own good, and because of that he never seemed to catch on to her hints.

She sank underwater to rinse her hair. When she resurfaced moments later, she gasped as hands reached around her waist, pulling her back against a very strong chest. “So where’s this fish youkai?” InuYasha mumbled against her neck.

“Fish? Youkai?”

“Mmm . . . the one that was trying to bite your toe off . . . the one you were screaming about?”

“Oh . . . g-g-g-gone.”

One of his hands moved up, cupping her breast. Kagome swallowed hard as her head fell back against his shoulder. “Thought you were keeping watch,” she whispered.

“I’m watching. Everything looks . . . good . . . .”

“Just ‘good’?”

“Ask me how it feels,” he said. He pulled her around, bring her up against his chest. She gasped again as his body pressed against hers.

“You’re going to have to work harder than that,” she complained though her tone lacked any real conviction.

“What sort of work did you have in mind?”

She shrugged as she pulled away from him. Her skin felt as though it was reaching for him. She held back. “Will you wash my back?”

He heaved a sigh. “Give me your washcloth,” he muttered.

She grinned as she handed him the washcloth and body wash. His hands trembled as he rubbed the cloth over her back. She could feel them twitching. His breathing was harsh, rasping, hitting her wet skin in a hot rush and instantly cooling, leaving her shivering. He didn’t stop with her back. Carefully lathering her, slowly spreading bubbles across her flesh, he shook as he dragged the rough cloth over her shoulders, across her chest, massaging her breasts. He swallowed hard, gulped for air. Kagome leaned on his shoulders, using him to support herself as her knees threatened to buckle under her own weight.

He caught the back of her leg, pulled her knee up so that her leg was draped over his shoulder. A low growl escaped him as he peeked up at her. His eyes were burning, jewel-like, mesmerizing . . . . A reckless mix of longing and absolute marvel covered his features as he lowered his head, flicking out his tongue against her.

She almost fell as his tongue invaded her, plundering, drawing, taking, and giving. Her body shook, quaked, lurched under the assault. His arms wrapped around her, supported her, cradled her against his mouth. Her release rocked through her, and she felt as though she was falling into him, out of herself only to be snapped back again as he carried her higher and higher.

She pushed him down in the water as he pulled her forward, dragged her down, burying himself in her as he growled again. Her head fell back as he lifted her slowly only to drop her back into place with a savage thrust. She whimpered, moaned, reveled in the consciousness of sensation, the mounting torment of the soul unfulfilled. Whispered words that went unnoticed, cries that echoed and faded, entreaties to each other, to the gods, he tortured his body with hers. She sheltered him, protected him, held him closer than she held her own heart.

A torrent of emotions, an unfurling of feeling, she took pleasure in him, and she gave it back. He howled against her breasts. She whimpered against his throat. He held her as they drifted back, two lovers with one soul.

“What’s on your mind,” he whispered against her temple, holding her as close as he could.

She closed her eyes, an unsettling sadness coming over her features. She leaned against him and sighed, but the sound was stilted, almost a sob though she didn’t cry. “Why do you hate your brother?”

He seemed surprised by her question. Kagome got up and retrieved the shampoo then moved behind InuYasha to wash his hair. He rarely let her since he hated smelling like flowers. But this time, he didn’t fight her on it. “I don’t hate him,” he admitted with a frown. “I mean, I just never had a reason to like him, I guess.” Her fingers soothed him, massaging his scalp in a really nice way. He closed his eyes, savoring the feel of her hands in his hair. She was careful to keep the suds out of his ears. He grinned. “Why the interest in that bastard, anyway?”

“I just wondered. As often as we’ve talked about your past, you don’t normally say much about him.”

“Feh! Because there’s nothing to say about him. He’s never done a damn thing for me, not that I ever wanted anything from him, anyway.”

He does care,’ she realized as he leaned forward to rinse his hair. ‘He feels that way because Sesshoumaru hasn’t ever seemed to care about him.’

“But you knew him when I first saw him. Did you meet him before?”

InuYasha sat up, shaking his head to get the water out of his ears. He sighed as he mashed his ears down. Something about water in the ears always made them itch . . . . “I met him before I got pinned to the tree. He told me I was a fool for . . . for watching Kikyou.”

Kagome thought that over as she worked conditioner into his hair. “I wish it had all been easier for you,” she said softly. “I can’t imagine what it would be like, to feel that way about your own brother.”

He rinsed his hair and sat back up, staring pointedly over his shoulder at her. “Can we talk about something else now?”

She looked like she wanted to say something else. Retrieving the body wash, InuYasha made a face as she squeezed a generous amount onto her wash cloth. Still he let her put the cloth to him, figuring it was a small price to pay if it made her happy. He’d get rid of the smell in a few hours, anyway. “When I was at Sesshoumaru’s castle—when I went with him to speak to Rin—I—”

“Feh!” he snorted, cutting her off. “I don’t want to talk about him anymore, Kagome, not now. Can we just . . . not?”

“But—”

“No.” He sighed, trying to summon up a semblance of patience that he really didn’t have. “We just shared something really special, and I don’t want to ruin it by talking about that bastard, okay?”

She smiled. He could tell it was for his benefit. Her eyes were unusually bright as the afternoon sunshine reflected off the water and pooled in her gaze. He couldn’t tell by looking at her whether she had tears standing there or not but he could smell them. She turned away to gather her bathing supplies together and headed for the shore. As she stepped through the curtain of water, he saw her dash her hand over her eyes.

He stood up and followed her, standing under the rush of water to rinse the last of the residue from his body. By the time he reached the shore, Kagome was already dried off and dressed with her hair wrapped in a pink towel that made him grin.

She held out an extra towel. Whatever it was that had been bothering her seemed to be gone now. Her smile was genuine, and she leaned up on her toes to kiss his cheek.

He ignored the towel and stepped closer before shaking off the excess water. Kagome shrieked—he knew she would. “InuYasha!”

“What?” he asked innocently. She retaliated by grabbing his ear and tickling the fine hairs. He tried to duck away but she had too good a grip on it. “Kagome!”

“Beg for mercy!”

“Ungh!” InuYasha hissed as the prayer beads absorbed the command. The familiar tug hit him, and he ended up face down in the sand. Kagome’s sharp gasp filled his ears, and he grinned despite himself. By the time the effects of the submission wore off, though, he had schooled his features back to irritated, and he pushed himself up to pin her with a frown. “You could have warned me that you were going to do that,” he remarked.

She flushed. “I forgot I’d reactivated it,” she admitted as she dropped to her knees before him. “I’m sorry! Are you okay?”

“Feh.” He sat up. “It takes more than a puny subduing incantation to hurt me, wench.”

She didn’t look appeased. He stood and retrieved his clothes and sword. ‘Beg, huh?’ he thought with a grin then made a face. ‘It could have been worse. She could have said, ‘Go to hell’.’

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“Speak?”

“Feh.”

“Play dead?”

“Feh,” InuYasha scoffed as Tajiko giggled, clutching her father’s prayer beads in one hand and her own in her other. “As if Kagome would say that to me, in the first place, monk.”

“Roll over?”

“Feh.”

Kagome grinned as she bounced Kiyoshi on her knee.

“Fetch?”

“Feh.”

“Shake?”

“Feh! Like I’d ever do that, Sango!”

“Down?”

“Feh.”

“Stay?”

“Feh.”

“Walk?”

“Feh!” He thumped Shippou, much to Tajiko’s delight. She squealed with glee.

“InuYasha!”

“I’ve got Taji!”

Kagome heaved a sigh as Sango plucked Tajiko out of InuYasha’s grasp. “Hey!”

“Beg!” Kagome said. InuYasha smashed into the floor.

Beg?” three voices echoed in unison. Sango looked like she was shocked. Shippou looked smug even though he was busy rubbing the new lump on his head. Miroku grinned outright.

“Beg has merit,” he allowed thoughtfully. “Nice, Kagome. Good choice.”

InuYasha sat up with a frown. “That was low,” he commented.

“So was what you did to Shippou,” Kagome shot back.

He stretched out on his side, head propped up on his hand.  “Yeah, yeah. The kit had it coming.”

Sango let go of Tajiko. The girl scooted across the floor and used her claws and InuYasha’s haori to pull herself up on her knees. Kagome got up to hand Kiyoshi to his mother and retrieve her backpack. She rubbed InuYasha’s ear in passing. He caught her hand and stopped her long enough to telegraph her a heated look. She smiled shyly as he let go.

“I think that’s our clue to leave,” Miroku announced loudly. Sango grinned.

Shippou hopped up and skittered over to Kagome. “See you tomorrow, Kagome!” he said as he hugged her. Kagome ruffled his hair and gave him a quick squeeze. Shippou dropped to the floor and ran out behind Sango and Miroku.

“Thought they’d never leave,” InuYasha remarked with a snort as the bamboo mat fell back over the doorway. “Nosey monk.”

Kagome caught Tajiko and headed for the futon to feed her. InuYasha followed, letting his head rest on Kagome’s knee while she set about feeding the baby. ‘Mama smell Papa,’ Tajiko thought happily, twisting her finger in her hair.

InuYasha intercepted the mischievous smile Kagome sent him. He lowered his head against her knee and grinned. ‘Taji safe,’ Tajiko remarked.

“Tajiko safe,” InuYasha answered. “Papa will protect Tajiko and Mama.”

“Will you?” Kagome mused.

“Feh, wench. What do you think?”

She giggled and rubbed his ear. “You always have protected me.”

“Damn right.”

Mama Papa happy.’

InuYasha raised his head, staring at Kagome over the pup in her arms.   “Yeah, baby girl,” InuYasha said softly, golden eyes shining, glowing gently, “Papa very happy.”

Kagome flushed and smiled. “Mama, too.”

Tajiko sighed. ‘Taji happy.’

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

Kagome stared at the fire. Glancing at her watch, she sighed. InuYasha should have been home hours ago. Now well past midnight, she tried to shove back the worry, the fear that something had happened to him.

Tajiko dozed in her arms. With InuYasha gone, Kagome hadn’t thought to put the baby to bed. Needing the comfort of having their child near, she let Tajiko fall asleep against her shoulder and though her arms were cramping and weary, Kagome had no intention of putting Tajiko down.

Where was he?

A villager had come to InuYasha earlier in the afternoon to ask for help with a centipede youkai that was running rampant in the fields. InuYasha hadn’t hesitated and had left immediately.

That was hours ago. It wasn’t like him, to simply disappear without telling her. If nothing else, he would take her back to her time to stay until he could return. No, there hadn’t been any mention of staying away. Still . . . .

Somewhere around two in the morning, Kagome lay down on the futon, cradling Tajiko close and resolved to stay awake until InuYasha came home.

She didn’t feel her eyelids getting heavy. She didn’t notice as her eyes closed. ‘Be safe, InuYasha,’ she thought vaguely as sleep threatened to claim her. ‘Hurry home . . . .’

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

“And he never came home?”

Kagome shook her head once with a jerk, as though her body hadn’t wanted to answer, as though her voice had been unwilling.

Miroku sat back with a frown. “The villagers said that InuYasha took down the youkai with a single sweep of Tetsusaiga. He should have been home soon after.” Stabbing the monk with a marked glare, Miroku grimaced and relented. “I guess you already knew that, right?”

Kagome sighed as Sango rubbed her back and handed her a cup of tea. “I’m sure it’s nothing. Perhaps someone else required his aide. As much as InuYasha blusters, you know he’d always help anyone who asked.”

“Maybe,” Kagome agreed, watching her seven month-old daughter as Tajiko chased Kirara around the small hut.

Miroku stood and headed for the door.

“Where are you going?” Sango asked, stopping her husband before he stepped outside.

“I thought I’d ask around the village,” he replied. “See if anyone knows what could have delayed InuYasha.”

Kagome sighed. There was something unsettling about InuYasha’s absence, something black and terrible. If only she knew why she felt it was so.

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

Two days.

He’d been gone over two days. Kagome stood in the doorway staring at the setting sun. She’d refused her friends’ offer to stay with them until InuYasha returned. For some reason, she wanted to remain here.

‘Mama scared?”

Forcing herself out of the doorway, Kagome turned to lift Tajiko into her arms. “A little,” she admitted. It wouldn’t do any good to lie to the child. She was far too perceptive, even at her young age, not to know a lie when she heard one.

Tajiko whimpered and tried to nudge her head into Kagome’s shoulder. ‘Taji scared . . . Papa gone.’

“Papa will be home soon,” Kagome tried to assure the child as she sank down on the futon. “Soon.”

Papa gone . . . Taji not safe.

Kagome winced. “No, angel. Mama will keep you safe.”

The child whimpered again.

InuYasha, where are you?

Papa comes home?

“Soon, Taji, soon.”

Papa comes home!

“What?”

Papa!

Kagome looked up as the bamboo mat rustled in the doorway. Tajiko squirmed out of her grasp and scooted across the floor to tug herself up against InuYasha’s legs.

InuYasha!

“Welcome home,” she said, slowly rising to her feet. She couldn’t help the irritation that gnawed at the edges of her nearly overwhelming relief as she saw him standing there. Relief won out, though, and Kagome started forward to throw herself against him before she could even summon up the anger to demand that he tell her where he had been.

The look in his eyes stopped her. Sad, hurt, angry, InuYasha gazed at her without blinking as unrelenting foreboding gripped her heart. He didn’t speak for a long while but did stoop to pick up Tajiko before returning his fathomless eyes back on Kagome again.

“Why, Kagome?”

She shook her head slowly, as though trying to deny the emotion in his expression than the question he had asked. “What?”

He drew a deep breath, leaning back against the doorframe as he blinked once, holding his eyes closed a second longer than he had to. “Why would you let him kiss you?”

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Kaze no Kizu!”

The burning waves pulsed away from Tetsusaiga, engulfing the centipede youkai. Seconds later, the acrid stench of burning flesh engulfed him, and InuYasha lifted his sleeve to cover his nose against the mind-numbing odor. The centipede dissolved quickly. InuYasha dropped his arm away as the black dust that remained of the youkai blew away in the wind.

The villagers gathered around to thank him. He mumbled his acknowledgement and turned away to sheathe his sword and hide his flush. He’d done this a thousand times, saved the fields from youkai of one form or another. It never ceased to embarrass him, to accept their thanks and praise.

Luckily for him, it was a lesser-youkai. Since the villagers were used to seeing InuYasha take out the beasts that plagued their village, they spent less time marveling over InuYasha’s hasty dispatching before they headed out, muttering over how ‘lucky’ they were to have such a powerful ‘guardian’ in their village.

InuYasha shook his head as the villagers dispersed. Sinking back against a tree stump, a vague smile surfaced, tugging at the corners of his lips, deepening the golden color of his eyes. An easy sense of contentment filtered over him, and he marveled at how strange it felt to be happy.

The same claws that had branded him an outcast for so long, the same ears that had driven him from village to village in his youth, the senses that helped him to track and to destroy were the things that had earned him the grudging respect of those he offered protection. He stared thoughtfully at his razor sharp claws, and his smiled widened. Kagome loved his claws. Whenever he stroked her with them, she shuddered. Pulse pounding, heart racing, breathing stuttered and erratic, the claws that were able to wipe out foes were the same ones that brought his mate pleasure.

And Tajiko? The smile widened even more. His pup, his blessing, his silver and golden baby girl. She brought to bear a desire to shelter, to protect, to nurture her in such a way that InuYasha hadn’t really gotten to have. His mother had done the best she could. Without the protection of his father, however, Izayoi had failed, in the end, and had left InuYasha alone to live or die. As a child he’d wandered, lost and alone, though occasionally Myouga would pop up to suck InuYasha’s blood and to generally make a nuisance of himself.

So it had been, for years. In the beginning, he’d searched for a place to belong, for someone who’d accept him, for anyone who would take him in. The first days, he remembered, he’d watch a family of humans nearby. The mother was always hugging her children, letting them draw comfort from her. She’d reminded him of his own mother. She’d brush the dirt off his knees when he fell, would wipe the tears from his cheeks when he cried. Then too, he remembered the fear on the woman’s face, as he’d stepped cautiously out of the forest. The woman stared at him in horror, and her words were as clear in his mind as they had been that day, “Youkai! Help me! Spare my children!”

He flinched. Why did those words from the nameless woman still bite him? How did they have the power to hurt him now, so many years later? Doubtless the woman had died long ago, victim of illness, of time, of circumstance. It was the last time InuYasha had tried to approach a human for protection.

But the youkai he’d encountered were always so much worse. Cold by nature, unable to grasp the range of human emotions, InuYasha had been warned by his mother so many times to avoid drawing their notice. She had been right. There had been too many times that he’d run away, escaping by dumb luck or by managing to crawl into small places where the youkai couldn’t reach him. There had been a couple of times that he’d been knocked out, times that he hadn’t had the chance to run or hide. One of them—a bear youkai—had rendered him unconscious with a swipe of her mighty paw. When he awoke, the beast lay dead at his feet. He never had figured out what had happened that day, nor later, when he had been attacked by a snake youkai. Trailing after a familiar scent—one he’d only come to realize later belonged to Sesshoumaru—the snake had ambushed him. He had never been clear on what happened then. He woke up later with a stabbing pain in his neck but otherwise no worse for wear. The snake, like the bear from before, was dead by his feet.

With a shake of his head and a heavy sigh, InuYasha snapped out of his reverie and pushed away from the tree. ‘What are you standing around reminiscing for?’ he berated himself. ‘Your mate and your pup are waiting for you, and you know you’d rather spend time with them than standing around here remembering things best left forgotten.’

A shift in the breeze stopped InuYasha in his tracks. With a low growl, he paused, hand on Tetsusaiga’s hilt, and waited.

Ah-and-Uhn, Sesshoumaru’s dragon youkai, lit on the ground, blowing great gusts of wind from their two heads. Jaken sat up straight and proud and condescended to glare down his nose at the hanyou. “InuYasha,” he said, his tone as pompous and arrogant as that of his master. “Sesshoumaru-sama sent me to fetch you. He says it is urgent, and that you should come right away.”

InuYasha let go of Tetsusaiga to cross his arms over his chest while stabbing the toad-imp youkai with a bored glower. “And he thinks I’ll just drop everything and hop to it? Fuck him. You can tell him I said that, too.”

Jaken huffed in righteous indignation, puffing his chest up further and basically looking pretty damn stupid, in InuYasha’s opinion. That said, InuYasha turned to head back toward the village. “How dare you insult the great and powerful Sesshoumaru-sama!” the beast sputtered. InuYasha ignored him and kept walking. When Jaken finally noticed that he was getting nowhere, he sighed and shook his head. “My lord said that, should you refuse to answer his summons, I am to tell you that in doing so you will be dishonoring both your great youkai father as well as Sesshoumaru-sama, and should you dishonor them, then you shall then forfeit your mate and offspring.”

That stopped InuYasha. He whirled around to face Jaken as fire ignited behind his gaze. “Are you threatening Kagome?”

Jaken flinched. “Not I.”

InuYasha clenched his fists. “What does my ‘great and powerful’ brother want?”

Jaken, relieved that InuYasha didn’t seem to be trying to kill him off, shrugged. “I do not know. I only know he has asked for you to come.”

Damn it! I hate letting Sesshoumaru think he can demand that I do a fucking thing, but he’s cold-hearted enough that I know he would make good on whatever threats he’s making—or he’d at least try. As if I’d let him hurt Kagome or Taji in any way . . . . Not while I’m breathing . . . .’

“I’ve got to tell Kagome,” he growled, jaw clenched tightly.

Jaken shook his head. “Sesshoumaru-sama was insistent that you come straight away.”

“He’s pushing his fucking luck—”

“Your mate and child hang in the balance, InuYasha . . . .”

Damned if that toad wasn’t enjoying himself, too,’ InuYasha thought darkly as he stomped over to the two-headed dragon. InuYasha hopped onto its back and grabbed Jaken by the skull, maneuvering the little beast over the ground before letting go. Jaken squawked as he landed in the dirt. “Fucking fine, then! You go to the village and tell Kagome. I don’t want her worrying.”

Ah-and-Uhn took flight, growing smaller and smaller in the sky as Jaken screeched, hopping from one foot to the other in his righteous indignation. “I’m not that dirty hanyou’s messenger!” Jaken fumed and he stomped down the road. “What do I care if his bitch worries over him or not?”

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

The sun was just starting to set as the dragon lit on the ground outside Sesshoumaru’s castle. InuYasha grimaced. He hated this place. Their father’s castle. It should have been his home, too. InuYasha didn’t remember ever stepping foot inside the immense structure until recently. What should have remained a reminder of family honor was lost to him.

The bastard had best make it quick,’ InuYasha fumed as he strode toward the front doors. Arms outstretched, he didn’t bother knocking. The double doors gave to him, banging open with an obscene crash as InuYasha stormed inside.

“You made good time . . . little brother,” Sesshoumaru greeted without turning away from the window where he stood, gazing over the gardens behind the castle. “So good of you to come.”

“It was my understanding that I didn’t have a choice,” InuYasha stated flatly. “So fucking get on with it, will you? I’m not staying here long enough for your stench to rub off on me.”

Sesshoumaru didn’t move though InuYasha didn’t miss his brother’s soft sigh. “How is the miko? I trust you’re seeing to her needs?”

“Kagome’s not your concern. What do you want? Surely you didn’t go to the trouble of summoning me here just to ask me how Kagome is?”

“On the contrary,” Sesshoumaru remarked casually as he finally turned to face InuYasha once more, “that is exactly why I summoned you.”

InuYasha frowned and shook his head. “What? Why do you care?”

Sesshoumaru took his time flexing his claws and staring at InuYasha out of the corner of his eyes. “There’s something your miko has been remiss in telling you . . . something you ought to know.”

Flexing his own claws, InuYasha heard them crack as he tried to control his rapidly skyrocketing irritation. “Spit it out. It ain’t like you to beat around the bush. Why now?”

“Very well. I kissed her.”

InuYasha’s eyes flared wide as his mind slowed and he grasped at understanding that was quickly failing. “What?”

“I asked her not to tell you. I thought I should be the one to do it. It was, after all, my mistake.”

Mistake? You . . . . Why would you . . . ? You bastard! I’ll fucking kill you!” In a flash of light, InuYasha stepped forward and drew Tetsusaiga, brandishing the full-fledged fang inches away from Sesshoumaru’s throat. “Give me one good reason not to slit your fucking throat,” InuYasha growled, his voice raw, low.

Sesshoumaru chuckled. It was enough to stay InuYasha’s sword for the moment. “Is she worth killing for?”

“Damn right.”

“Is she worth having your own brother’s blood on your hands for?”

InuYasha’s voice shook as he tried to control it. The blood in his veins flowed hot, angry, singing the ancient words of the youkai that was borne in him. He resisted. “Ask me again, bastard,” InuYasha hissed, jabbing the point of the fang into his brother’s neck enough to draw blood but not enough to kill.

“Baka! Worthless half-breed! How is it that you deserve the purest of them all?”

“Because she loves me.”

“And in the name of her purity you would cut me down?”

Hells yes.”

Sesshoumaru didn’t even wince as Tetsusaiga dug deeper into his neck.

“No!”

In a blur of blue silk, the child, Rin, flew down the stairs and smashed herself against Sesshoumaru. Small body quivering yet bravely staring at InuYasha through a haze of unshed tears, the girl didn’t blink, didn’t move. “Don’t hurt Sesshoumaru-sama! InuYasha-sama, please!”

“Move aside, Rin,” Sesshoumaru ordered quietly.

“No, my lord! If you die, then I die with you!”

And in that moment, in her eyes, InuYasha saw Kagome, as she had so many times, begging him to spare a life, to save a soul. As much as he wanted to tear Sesshoumaru apart, the little girl without the sense to stay out of the way . . . . Tetsusaiga dropped to his side just before he shoved it back into the sheath. “Stay away from Kagome,” he growled as he turned on his heel and stalked out of the castle.

He traveled all night to get back to the village. By morning he was half-way there. Rage so black that it scared him, shook him, engulfed his heart. He tore down numerous trees in his attempt to quell his anger. It did little to pacify his emotions. When he bothered to stop to rest, he couldn’t get the image out of his head, of Kagome in Sesshoumaru’s embrace. He forced himself to move on.

Kagome wouldn’t have . . . she . . . no,’ his mind reassured him. ‘I should have fucking killed the bastard when I had a chance! Damn him! And damn that girl, too!’

Bone weary by the time he stepped into the village as the sun set on the second evening, InuYasha stared at the hut that he called home for a long time. One question made him move. One question led him forward. One answer he had to have. He stopped in the doorway, leaning on the frame, staring at the woman, watching the child in her arms. Everything looked the same, he realized as Tajiko zoomed across the floor to pull herself up on his pants leg. Kagome was slower to rise. He could see the emotion warring in her gaze.

Papa! Papa home! Taji safe! Mama safe!

InuYasha lifted his daughter. Holding her close, he stared over her head at Kagome, trying to read her expression, trying to read her mind.

“Why, Kagome?” he finally asked, his voice husky, barely a whisper.

She shook her head slowly, as though trying to deny the emotion in his expression than the question he had asked. “What?”

He drew a deep breath, leaning back against the doorframe as he blinked once, holding his eyes closed a second longer than he had to. “Why would you let him kiss you?”

She gasped softly, hands flying to cover her mouth. Her eyes brightened, and he could smell the rising tears. She blinked them away as though she didn’t deserve to let them fall. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I wanted to tell you . . . I tried to tell you . . . .” She sighed as her shoulders dropped, her chin fell to her chest. She clutched her hands before her, and slowly she shook her head. “I thought . . . I thought he was you . . . .” Suddenly she choked out a half-sob, half-laugh, blinking her eyes quickly as she lifted her chin but gazed to the side. “That sounds stupid, doesn’t it? I don’t know what happened . . . I fell asleep under a tree, and I was dreaming that you were there—” she trailed off and shook her head. “There’s no excuse. I betrayed you. I’m sorry. I’ll leave if . . . if you want me to.”

He sighed. It hurt to look at her. It hurt to see her in pain. He shifted his gaze to the girl in his arms. ‘Taji . . . .

Papa sad.

Yeah. Papa sad.’

Tajiko’s golden eyes shifted to stare at her mother. ‘Mama sad, too.’

InuYasha blinked quickly. ‘Yeah. Mama sad, too.’

Round baby eyes gazed up at her father, unblinking, so old in such a young face. ‘Papa sad, Mama sad makes Taji sad.’

Baby girl . . . .’

Papa love Mama?

He leaned his forehead against Tajiko’s downy hair. ‘Papa adores Mama.

Tajiko whimpered, sticking her fingers in her mouth. ‘Then Papa and Mama happy.

He closed his eyes. ‘I wish it was that easy, baby girl.’

Love easy, Papa. Mama smells Papa.

“I’ll get my things,” Kagome said quietly, turning on her heel she made to flee. InuYasha caught her hand, pulled her back around to face him. Tears welled up in her eyes but she refused to let them fall.

“Wait,” he heard himself saying despite the lump in his throat that threatened to choke him. “You promised.”

She looked confused and shook her head. “InuYasha?”

He shook his head stubbornly. “You promised, Kagome . . . you promised you’d never leave me.” The tears she held back finally spilled over. He pulled her against him, closing his eyes, refusing to let his own tears fall, too. “I don’t know what to think but I . . . I can’t let you go, either.”

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Papa sad.’

Kagome sighed and glanced in the direction that Tajiko stared. InuYasha sat high in Goshinboku, perfectly still, lost in thought. ‘Papa sad, but Papa loves Taji,’ she thought, trying to distract the far-too-perceptive child.

Taji love Mama and Papa.

She smiled despite her grim thoughts. ‘Maybe I should have gone home anyway,’ she mused. ‘InuYasha can’t even look at me, and the few times he has, he looks like I broke his heart . . . . I did, didn’t I? How could I be so stupid?

Papa adores Mama. Papa says.’

Kagome desperately wanted to believe that . . . .

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

InuYasha stared over the treetops without seeing anything. Any youkai could come lumbering up, and he probably wouldn’t have noticed. It was a good thing that there hadn’t been any spotted in the area in the last few days though the fight might have been a welcome distraction, too.

I kissed her . . . . I asked her not to tell you. I thought I should be the one to do it. It was, after all, my mistake.

I fell asleep under a tree, and I was dreaming that you were there . . . .’

There was something missing, something that neither of them had said. Kagome was telling him the truth. He’d always been able to tell if she was hiding something from him. Still, Kagome was smart. Sesshoumaru couldn’t have tricked her into thinking that he was InuYasha. How, then, had he fooled her?

Three days since he got home. Three nights when he hadn’t slept a wink. Unable to do more than sit and stare at Kagome, she seemed so far away from him even when they shared the same room.

Does she love me?

He’d always felt her love before. As though a wall had been built between them, InuYasha couldn’t hear the whisper of her heart to his anymore. Words he desperately needed to hear, voices that he wanted to believe.

Kagome . . . .

He dropped out of the tree, landing lightly behind Kagome and Tajiko. He flinched inwardly at the uncertainty in Kagome’s gaze, as though she feared what he would say to her. He picked up Tajiko and settled her on his shoulder then reached down for Kagome’s hand. Hesitantly, she took it, and he pulled her to her feet.

“I . . . uh . . . wondered if your mother would mind watching Tajiko so we can talk?”

She looked surprised at his words. She nodded slowly and fell in step beside him as they headed for the clearing and the Bone Eater’s Well. “She’d like that, I’m sure.”

They stopped beside the well. InuYasha handed Tajiko to Kagome before sweeping them both up in his arms. He heard her sigh as she snuggled slightly closer to him. He closed his eyes and leaped into the darkness.

Odd how everything looks the same,’ InuYasha thought as he set Kagome back on her feet at the bottom of the well-house stairs. As though his entire world hadn’t been shifted beyond belief, he stared at the courtyard, at the shrine in wonder. Kagome drew a deep breath. Was she thinking the same thing?

They didn’t speak as they slowly walked toward the doors. He opened the door for her. Kagome shot him a quick glance before she stepped past him. ‘Grandma,’ Tajiko thought happily. ‘Grandma play Taji.’

Mrs. Higurashi heard the door close and stepped out of the kitchen. Her face instantly spread into a smile, and she dried her hands on a dishtowel as she hurried forward to greet them. “Kagome! InuYasha! What brings you by?”

“Mama, we were wondering if you could keep Tajiko overnight?”

“Well, I’d love to! But we were going to go to see the Yakanumas . . . unless you don’t mind if I take her? We were going to be gone all weekend . . . . They’d love to see Tajiko again, though.”

Kagome shot him a questioning glance. InuYasha frowned. Why was Kagome being so . . . meek? “So, two days?”

Mrs. Higurashi shook her head. “More like three, if that’s all right.”

Quite honestly, that was a bit too long, in InuYasha’s opinion. He stifled a sigh. He really did want to talk to Kagome, though. Finally, he nodded once. “Taji be good girl.”

Tajiko whimpered and held her hands out toward her father. He took her and kissed her cheek. ‘Papa and Mama be back for Taji.

Tajiko’s whimper turned into a pout as her eyes filled with tears. ‘Taji stay Papa. Taji stay Mama.’

Taji stay Grandma. Good girl.’

He caught the puzzled look on Mrs. Higurashi’s face. ‘Taji talk Grandma,’ he admonished.

Tajiko stared at her father for another moment before turning to look at her grandmother. ‘Taji go bye Grandma?

InuYasha hid his grin as Mrs. Higurashi’s eyes widened in shock. “Did she—?”

Kagome obviously caught the exchange, too, because she was smiling, as well. “She can talk to you, in your mind.”

Taji want cookie,’ the girl remarked.

InuYasha made a face and quickly glanced at Kagome, who was giving him a rather knowing look. “You be good, baby girl.” He kissed her head.

“Be good,” she repeated out loud and turned to open and close her hand—classic ‘bye bye’. He blinked in surprise.

Kagome kissed Tajiko’s cheek. “Love you, angel,” she said, smoothing down Tajiko’s silvery locks.

Tajiko leaned toward Kagome and plopped an open-mouthed, slobbery kiss on her cheek. InuYasha smiled. Kagome didn’t wipe it off.

“Oh! I forgot her things!” Kagome gasped, shooting a panicked look at InuYasha.

Mrs. Higurashi shook her head. “That’s fine, dear. I’ll pick up whatever she needs.”

“Are you sure?”

“Get out of here, you two! Tajiko and I will have lots of fun, won’t we?”

Fun!’ Tajiko squealed.

InuYasha could tell from Mrs. Higurashi’s face that it would take awhile for the woman to get used to Tajiko’s way of speaking in her mind.

At least it had served to lighten the tension between them, InuYasha realized as they headed back toward the well. Kagome was still smiling slightly, and that was good enough for him.

They didn’t talk as they passed through the time slip. No words passed as he scooped her up and settled her against his back. They traveled without a real destination. InuYasha figured he’d catch their dinner, if it came to that. Kagome rested her cheek against his shoulder, and he knew when she fell asleep against him. ‘She still trusts me,’ he thought with a slight smile. ‘No matter what, she still trusts me . . . .’

The sun was starting to sink when InuYasha reached a small clearing near a quiet stream. He carefully settled Kagome against a tree trunk and made quick work of starting a fire. After staring at her for long minutes, he bounded off into the forest to find something to feed his mate.

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

Kagome awoke slowly and stared around at the clearing. Where was she? Where was InuYasha?

She put another log on the fire and rinsed her face in the stream.

“Sorry,” InuYasha said as he stepped out of the forest. “I only caught this.”

She glanced back and smiled. He had a fat hare ready to cook. He looked irritated, and she knew it was because normally he brought back a few different varieties of meat. “That’s fine,” she remarked. “I’m not very hungry, anyway.”

He shot her a look. “You’re still nursing our pup,” he stated in his ‘Don’t-You-Even-Think-About-Arguing-With-Me’ tone. “You’ll eat.”

She sat down with a sigh, staring at the fire with a meek frown. “Okay.”

InuYasha set up a makeshift spit for the meat and sank down next to her, surveying his accomplishment with a discerning eye. The stars were starting to come out and the moon rose slowly.   He made a face. “Full moon,” he said quietly.

Kagome didn’t answer right away. When she did, her voice was barely a whisper. “That’s what started it. The full moon.”

He sighed. “Can I ask you something?”

“Sure.”

“How did it . . . happen?”

She shook her head, staring into the fire as though she was looking for answers, too. “ . . . I don’t know. I talked to Rin, and I got tired, I guess, and I lay down. I must have fallen asleep because I had this dream . . . . It was so real. You were there, and . . . .” She swallowed hard, drew in a ragged breath. He didn’t look at her. He didn’t have to. He could smell her tears. “And I told you to . . . kiss me, only I guess it wasn’t you at all—” She smothered a sob with the back of her hand.

InuYasha had heard enough. With a curt nod designed to let her know she’d answered his question, he got up and slowly walked away.

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

Kagome watched him go through her tears. As much as it had hurt her to tell him, it had to be so much worse for him to hear. ‘How could I have done such a horrible thing? I love InuYasha . . . there’s never been anyone else in my heart . . . so why? How could I mistake Sesshoumaru for InuYasha?

She wanted to follow him. She wanted to tell him how much she loved him. She wanted to hear him say that he still loved her.

She couldn’t move.

She got up and turned the hare and sank back down as the chill air permeated the thin fabric of her blouse. She shivered.

With a moan, Kagome realized something else she hadn’t thought about before InuYasha and she had set out on this little adventure. It was about the time of evening that she normally nursed their daughter, and her breasts were reminding her of that. They didn’t hurt quite yet but they would by morning, she was sure.

Still she couldn’t find it in her to look for him. He needed some time to think or he wouldn’t have left her.

Lulled into a semi-haze by the dancing flames, Kagome watched the meat. When it was done, she choked down as much as she could, washing it down with a drink of water from the stream.

InuYasha still hadn’t returned.

Her eyelids felt gritty. Kagome let her forehead rest on her raised knees. ‘Just rest my eyes,’ she thought with a sigh, tightening her arms around her legs for warmth. ‘Just for a moment.’

Five minutes later, she was asleep.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

'Ow.’

Kagome’s first thought as coherence returned was that she really hurt. The second though was that she was nice and warm. She shifted and made her third realization. She was nestled in InuYasha’s arms. Cracking open an eye, Kagome saw that he had removed his haori and it was blanketing her, keeping her warm, and as comfortable as she was otherwise, certain parts of her were . . . just not. Her breasts were so full of milk that she really thought she might be dying, and every time she breathed in, she felt like she was going to scream.

She shifted again and groaned as her body protested the movement. InuYasha leaned to the side to look at her. “Something wrong?”

“Nope, not a thing,” she said, careful to keep her tone as normal as she could. Given the circumstances, she wasn’t surprised that he saw right through it.

“All right. Now suppose you tell me what is wrong then?”

She sighed. “It’s nothing. I’ll be fine.” He leaned over more, which caused unwelcome movement on her part, and she gasped as a new round of pain shot through her breasts. “At least, I’ll be fine if you’d sit still.”

“You’re not making a damn bit of sense.”

She couldn’t stop the soft whimper that came out when he moved yet again. Her arms smashed against her chest didn’t help. They hurt when she breathed. With a grimace, she remembered that Tajiko had been too tired at lunch time and hadn’t done a good job nursing.  Kagome had thought that Tajiko would make up for it when she had her supper. She’d forgotten all about that.

“Did you eat?” she asked, hoping to change the subject and get her mind off of her current predicament.

InuYasha sighed. “Yeah. You didn’t eat enough, though.”

“I did,” she argued. “I ate all I could.”

“Feh! You have to think about yourself and Taji. You know that.”

Silently cursing the hanyou for reminding her, Kagome stifled a sigh and tightened her arms over her chest. He looked almost amused as he stared at her. She forgot for the moment that her breasts were near screaming as she gazed back at him. She reached up slowly, smoothing the hair out of his face. He leaned into her palm, and Kagome blinked back relieved tears. “I’m so sorry,” she said softly. “You’ll never know how sorry. I’ve wished I could go back and undo it all. I never wanted to hurt you.”

His eyes glowed brightly. She saw the tears standing in his eyes though they didn’t fall. “I believe you.” He turned his head enough to kiss her hand before nudging his cheek against her again. “I believe in you.”

She sat up and kissed his cheek. He pulled her close, hugging her tight. She gasped and jerked away as her sore chest pressed against him. “We have to go back,” she said through gritted teeth.

“We will, as soon as the sun comes up.”

She shook her head then moaned. “No, InuYasha. We really have to go home.”

He didn’t answer right away. When he did, there was a note of worry in his tone. “It’s the middle of the night, Kagome. Why don’t you go back to sleep, and we’ll go back as soon as the sun comes up?”

“I’ve got to go home!” she pleaded, ignoring the tolerant tone in his voice. “I didn’t feed Tajiko!”

He frowned. “She’s fine. She’s with your mother, and you’re the one who always tells me—”

“I hurt!”

“Did something bite you?”

Narrowing her gaze as she glared at her mate, Kagome had to wonder if he was being dense on purpose. “From not feeding Tajiko!

Sudden understanding seemed to dawn on InuYasha, and with a sharp curse, he leaped to his feet and dragged Kagome onto his back. She yelped, unable to help herself as her breasts flattened against his back. With a wince and a whimper, she flinched as she felt milk seep through her bra and blouse and into InuYasha’s shirt. He either felt it or smelled it because he let her down gently and turned. “You can’t travel back like this, can you?”

She was near tears. Stumbling to her feet, she hurried into the darkness near the stream. Uncaring as to what InuYasha was thinking or even if he had followed her, Kagome tugged at her blouse and then her bra. She leaned forward and splashed the cold water against her breasts. It did nothing to alleviate her ache. Too sore to apply any pressure at all, she crossed her arms over herself and rocked slowly back and forth, biting back tears as she berated her own stupidity in not remembering to grab her breast pump.

InuYasha’s hands slowly rose to rub her back. Though his touch soothed her, it didn’t help her pain, and she whimpered softly. “Is there anything I can do?” he asked, his voice concerned, almost panicked.

“Get Tajiko?” she responded, only half-joking.

“I can’t leave you here alone,” he said sadly.

“I’ll be all right,” she assured him, closing her eyes as she tried to will her mind off of her discomfort. “I just hope this doesn’t make me dry up.”

“Dry up?” he echoed. “What do you mean?”

She sighed. “In the books, it says that if your body thinks it’s making unnecessary milk, it could dry up.”

“What will you feed Tajiko then?”

“Well, I hope it doesn’t come to that,” she remarked dryly.

“Come back over to the fire,” he coaxed gently. “You’re getting cold over here.”

The idea of moving wasn’t one that Kagome welcomed. But she supported her chest with one arm and retrieved her clothing with the other hand before InuYasha lifted her to carry her back to the camp. She made a face as she stared unhappily at her bra. The idea of putting it back on was enough to make her want to sob. InuYasha dragged his haori over her, and she settled herself against him, thankful that he seemed to understand.

“Get some sleep?”

Kagome made a face. “Okay,” she agreed though she doubted she’d be able to do anything of the sort.

He ran his claws lightly through her hair. She loved that he was trying to soothe her. Closing her eyes, she tried to go back to sleep. It didn’t work. She didn’t even have to move, she realized as another twinge hit her, drew a whimper from her.

To her surprise, InuYasha whined softly. She opened her eyes to find him gazing down at her, an agitated expression etched into his features. “InuYasha?”

“You’re in pain,” he whispered. “I can’t . . . .”

She forced a smile. “It’s okay,” she tried to reassure him. “I’ll be fine.”

“Damn it!” With a low growl, InuYasha pulled the haori off of her. She only had a moment to wonder just what he thought he was doing before his mouth fell onto her breast, gently drawing out the milk and with it, the pain the engorgement had caused. There was too much comfort behind his touch, too much tenderness, too much of a purpose to the movement of his lips and tongue. It wasn’t a sexual touch, and Kagome slowly relaxed as he drained her.

When he finally pulled away, Kagome was nearly asleep. She could feel his gaze on her, and she made herself wake up enough to say, “Thank you.”

“You don’t hurt anymore, right?”

She shook her head just a little. “I’m fine now.”

He sighed. “Good. We’ll get your pump-thing tomorrow.”

She couldn’t help the drowsy smile that surfaced as he pulled the haori up and tucked it around her. “You didn’t like my milk?”

He grunted but didn’t answer.

Sleep drifted over her. Welcoming and friendly, she reached out to embrace it. Somewhere in the darkness, she heard InuYasha’s whisper as he wrapped her more securely in his arms, “I loved it.”

She was smiling as she fell asleep.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

InuYasha didn’t try to hide his horror as he gaped in open-mouthed reservation while Kagome pumped her breasts. She caught the look and sighed. “I have to get it out of me or I’ll end up hurting all over again,” she explained. “You’ve seen me do this before.

He shook his head, his cheeks growing redder as he snorted in response. “I think I’d know if I’d ever seen you do that before.”

She had to give him that. She had felt too self-conscious to do this in such an open manner before, she supposed. Somehow, after he’d helped her last night, though, she didn’t figure it would be such a horrible thing now.

She hid the amusement that she was sure he wouldn’t appreciate. When she woke up, they’d been laying on their sides, as usual. He was curled around her. The odd thing wasn’t that he was snuggled so tightly against her. In their bedroom at the hut, he always slept this way. What struck her as remarkable was that he was sleeping at all, not to mention so deeply. Normally he didn’t when they were out in the forest, or if he did, it was such a light slumber that he’d instantly come awake at the slightest movement or sound.

He hadn’t even moved when she turned over to stare at him other than his arm tightening around her and his soft whine. It was a rare thing, to watch him while he slept. Kagome was content to do it. ‘How can I help but love him?’ she thought with a smile. ‘I can’t remember a time when I didn’t . . . and I don’t want to imagine a time when I can’t.’

He pulled her closer and nestled against her, burrowing against her neck. “K’gome,” he mumbled. She giggled, stroking his hair, idly toying with his ears. The moment was passing, and she knew it. He’d be awake before long, and a well-rested InuYasha, she knew, meant perpetual movement, as well. With a deep breath and a muttered, “Hmm?” InuYasha sat up, blinking quickly, and looking completely baffled about where they were. “I was asleep?”

Kagome reached for her bra and struggled with it while trying to remain under the cover of the haori. She made a face as her breasts signaled that it was her daughter’s breakfast time. InuYasha missed the expression, and she sighed. ‘At least it isn’t nearly as painful as it was last night,’ she mused as she donned her blouse. She made a face. The white material was stained quite noticeably. ‘Guess there’s no help for that.’

“Let’s go,” he growled, obviously irritated at himself for having actually fallen asleep. Kagome got up with an inward sigh and held out his haori. He reached for it then noticed her blouse. “You wear it.”

With a sigh, Kagome snapped back to the present and unhooked the pump from her mercifully empty breast. She glanced at InuYasha as she stood up to clean the pump and discard the milk. He eyed the liquid in apparent suspicion. “What are you doing with that?”

“I have to dump it out,” she explained.

He followed her. “So you did all that to throw it away?”

“I had to,” she explained reasonably. “Tajiko’s not here, and it’ll be rotten by the time she is. She doesn’t need it, anyway. I’ll make more.”

He didn’t say anything as she discarded the milk and washed the apparatus and set it aside to air dry. “Are you hungry?” she asked as she turned to face InuYasha once more.

“No,” he said as his stomach growled.

Kagome grinned. InuYasha flushed. “Not hungry, huh?”

He made a face. “Maybe a little.”

She headed over to see what her mother had left in the refrigerator. “You want eggs? There’s sausage, too . . . oh, and some soup . . . .” She heard the crinkle of plastic as he rummaged around in the cupboard. Straightening up, she shook her head as he dragged two cups of ramen out of the cupboard.

“These’ll do.”

“That’s hardly a nutritious breakfast,” she commented dryly, knowing that there would be no talking him out of it. He was like a bloodhound. He could sniff out ramen if there was any to be had anywhere in a ten mile radius.

“Feh! I’m not the one nursing a pup. These are fine for me. You, though, you need to eat.”

“I need a bath,” she argued, making a face as she stared at her rumpled and stained blouse. “Ugh!”

“Get your bath,” he agreed as he dragged a measuring cup out of the cupboard and filled it with water. She’d showed him once how to use the microwave. He did it now with practiced ease. Amazing, really, how quickly he learned things. “Then you eat.”

She rolled her eyes but didn’t complain as she headed out of the kitchen to take that bath before InuYasha changed his mind.

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

InuYasha watched her go with a slight frown. She wasn’t eating well. He’d noticed that she was noticeably skinnier when he had gotten back from his encounter with the devil he called a brother.

He dug into the refrigerator for the eggs, sausage patties, and soup she’d talked about before. He made a face as she sniffed the meat.   ‘Spicy,’ he thought with a grimace. ‘Ungh!’ But he also knew that she liked it, and it was meat, after all. As long as she ate it . . . .

Though he rarely had to, since Kagome seemed to like doing it, InuYasha did know how to cook. Perhaps it was a trait inherited from his long dead mother, but he never had cared for raw anything. He stared at the cooking stove and sighed. He’d used it before a couple of times. It still baffled him, though, exactly how the thing worked. Open fires he was used to. This thing . . . . He sighed again.

The phone rang, and he cringed, flattening his ears against his head as the unholy contraption trilled into the quiet. After the fourth ring, he heard the answering machine catch, and a voice that sounded like Mrs. Higurashi only distorted greeted the faceless caller.

“Kagome? I was hoping you were there . . . .”

Kagome’s words came back to him. ‘Mama will call if there’s anything wrong.’

InuYasha lunged for the phone. “Oi! What’s wrong with my pup?”

“InuYasha?” Mrs. Higurashi asked, her voice faint, distant. “Nothing’s wrong at all. I wasn’t sure where you and Kagome were going to be, so I thought I’d take a chance and see if you were there.”

He glowered at the phone for a moment. “So nothing’s wrong?” he asked again.

“Not a thing. Why don’t you say hi to Tajiko? Here . . . “

An indistinct shuffling gave way to a child’s breathing. “Taji?” he said slowly.

“Papa!” the girl hollered happily. “Papa! Mama!”

He moved the phone away from his head slightly. His pup’s exuberance was enough to deafen him. “Mama bath,” he explained. A sharp pang twisted in his gut. She was too far away for the mind-speech to work. “Papa loves baby girl.”

Tajiko squealed with glee. InuYasha winced.

“Are you two staying there till we get back?” Mrs. Higurashi asked, obviously having taken the phone from the child who was now whining in the background.

“I don’t know,” InuYasha remarked as he stared at the uncooked meat and eggs on the counter.

“Well, I left food there, in case you did decide to stay. There’s some money on top of the refrigerator, too, if you should need anything. Why don’t you take Kagome to a movie or something? It’s been awhile since she’s been out, and you two could probably use a date.”

InuYasha frowned. “What’s a date?”

Mrs. Higurashi’s laughter was gentle, soft, like Kagome’s. “A date is when you take your girl to a movie and dinner or something. I suppose they don’t date where you come from?”

“No . . . .”

“Well, think about it. It might be fun for the both of you. Oh, no! I’ve got to go! Tajiko is mind-speaking with Souta, and he seems to be in shock . . . .”

“Okay,” InuYasha said as the other end clicked. He dropped the receiver back into place and rummaged through the cabinets to find a pan. He grinned. ‘Smart pup,’ he thought as he set the pan on the stove top and turned the dial to ‘med’. He’d have to have a talk with her, though. Couldn’t have his pup mind-talking to strangers, now could he?

The sausage was frying nicely, the eggs were cooked through, and InuYasha had just added boiling water to his ramen when Kagome shuffled back into the kitchen. Her eyes widened in shock, and she stared at InuYasha with a look of surprised admiration in her gaze. He hid his smirk at the pink towel she had bundled atop her head and gestured at the table for her to have a seat.

She did. He set a glass of milk down before her and waited. “What?” she finally asked when she figured out that he wasn’t moving away, even to check on the food in the pan.

“Drink it,” he demanded though his tone was gentle.

“I will.”

“Now.”

She looked like she was going to argue with him. But she sighed and drained the cup without coming up for air. He grinned and dumped in more. This time he put the carton back in the refrigerator and then flipped the sausage patties, trying not to breathe too deeply. The spices in the sausage were making his eyes water as it was.

“You never told me you could cook,” she remarked mildly.

“You never asked.”

He dished up her food and set it down before retrieving his ramen and settling across from her. “Your mother called.”

Instant alarm surfaced on Kagome’s face. “Why? Is Taji—?”

“She’s fine.”

They ate in silence awhile. InuYasha peeked at Kagome. She looked like she was having difficulty eating, and that didn’t surprise him. He’d made her four eggs and six sausage patties, but he really did want her to eat all of it. She’d managed one egg and two patties. Now she was pushing her food around listlessly, as though she didn’t want to eat any more but didn’t want to hurt his feelings, either. “Did I overcook it?” he asked mildly.

She started and blinked, her face registering a guilty conscience just before she ate another bite of egg. “No, it’s fine . . . there’s just a lot of it, is all.”

“Eat it, wench. You’re wasting away, and you were already too skinny to start with.”

Her cheeks reddened as her gaze fell onto her plate. For a moment he thought that he had made her cry, and he flinched. ‘Stupid baka! Why don’t you ever think before you say stuff like that? It’s no wonder she kissed Sesshoumaru if you—

“Why are you growling like that?” she asked, pinning him with a marked frown.

He blinked in surprise. He hadn’t realized he was growling. “Nothing,” he replied. ‘I’m still going to kill that bastard, just see if I don’t! I fucking swear, I’ll tear him to pieces. Then he’ll keep his fucking lips off my mate . . . .’

“I feel like a cow being fattened up,” she grumbled as she let her chopsticks drop. “’Better feed the cow or she’ll go dry’.”

Why don’t you take Kagome to a movie or something? It’s been awhile since she’s been out, and you two could probably use a date.

He sighed. It wasn’t as though he didn’t want to take Kagome on a ‘date’. He just didn’t understand exactly what they were. Dinner and a movie? Movie . . . movie . . . oh, the things that Kagome liked to watch all night. He made a face. He’d watched a movie or two with her. They were always ones with strangely sad songs and men who acted like women. He snorted then sighed. Still, if Kagome would like that . . . .

“InuYasha?”

He blinked and let his gaze focus on Kagome. She was eyeing him in a worried way, as though she thought he was thinking about something she wouldn’t like. He sighed again, taking his time while he deliberately straightened his haori and tugged at his prayer beads. “You mother said she left money, too, and that I should take you on a date.” She wasn’t quick enough to hide her surprise but she tried. He frowned. “What? I’m not stupid! I know what a date is.” He grimaced inwardly. ‘What the hell am I saying? I have no fucking idea what a date is . . . or why I’d even have to take Kagome on one. She is my mate, after all . . . .’

“You want to take me on a date?” she asked, her voice quiet, awed. He smiled at the understated hope in her eyes even as he felt his face grow warm. “A real date?”

Why were his palms suddenly sweating? Why did it feel like his heart was going to explode? Did he really have to tell her? He cleared his throat, willing the words to come. He cleared his throat again. “You want to? Go on a date, I mean?”

She didn’t answer right away. It took him a moment to gather his courage enough to glance at her. She was smiling slightly with her fingers fluttering over her lips. Her cheeks were kissed with pink, and she looked like she understood exactly how he felt. She looked like she was feeling that way, too.

“Oh . . . okay,” she agreed slowly, her voice barely a whisper.

A rush of relief flooded over him. He didn’t know why he’d felt so reluctant to ask her. Had he really thought she would say no? ‘Yeah,’ he thought absently. ‘I did . . . .

Dinner and a movie?’ He sighed. Stealing a glance at Kagome, he winced. She looked so happy, so hopeful . . . what if he screwed it all up? ‘And a trip through the well,’ he decided as he stood to discard the empty ramen cups. ‘I really need to talk to Miroku.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“A date?”

“Yes, monk, a date.”

Miroku sank back with a thoughtful expression as Kiyoshi blew raspberries and waved his small hands in the air. “I’ve never heard of such a phenomenon,” Miroku admitted. “Tell me more. It sounds fascinating.”

InuYasha made a face and snorted. “Feh! If I could tell you more then I would be here asking, now would I?”

Sango emerged from the hut with a bucket of dirty dish water. She headed over to dump it while InuYasha continued to glower at Miroku. “Dinner is easy enough. Is she going to cook for you?”

“She always cooks for me,” InuYasha grumbled. “In her time, though, they have places that’ll do that for you.”

“Ah, like an inn?”

“No . . . places where they do nothing but cook.”

“She calls them . . . restore-ants,” Sango supplied. “Is this a men-only conversation?”

InuYasha considered it then shook his head and scooted over to invite the youkai exterminator to sit. “Yeah, that’s it. Restore-ant. Anyway, that I can do. It’s the movie part I’m not so sure of.”

“What’s a movie?” Shippou asked, landing on InuYasha’s shoulder.

“A moving picture,” he explained.

Shippou, having seen Kagome’s pictures of her mother and brother and grandfather seemed to understand. “Those can move? How come none of the ones Kagome brought with her moved?”

InuYasha didn’t want to describe the differences between moving pictures and the ones that Kagome had shown the kit when he didn’t really understand it, himself. He lightly thumped the kitsune’s head and turned his attention back to his friends.

Miroku shook his head slowly. “What is it about this ‘movie’ you don’t like?”

“They’re boring,” he said with a snort. “All weepy and weak. I can’t sit through that!”

Sango grinned. Kagome had told her about movies, from time to time. Still, InuYasha really seemed distressed over the entire thing . . .

“Is there something else you could do? Surely a date doesn’t mean you have to go to this movie?”

InuYasha considered that. “I don’t know. Kagome’s never really said much about them. Not to me, anyway.”

“Well, no,” Sango agreed. “She wouldn’t have . . . . It would have sounded like she wanted you to take her on one.”

“She said yes,” InuYasha growled, offended at the implications of what the slayer had said.

Sango laughed. “I didn’t mean it that way, InuYasha! I meant that Kagome wouldn’t have told you about these ‘dates’ if she thought you’d feel obligated to take her on one.”

Digging his claws into the dirt, InuYasha growled. “That’s crap! If Kagome had said she wanted to go on one of these before, she could have told me.”

“And then she would have sat through the entire thing wondering if you were there because you wanted to be or because you thought she expected it of you,” Miroku pointed out reasonably.

She wouldn’t,’ he argued in his head. ‘Kagome knows I don’t do a damn thing I don’t wanna do . . . .’ A sudden flash of Kagome’s excited face raced through his mind, and he flinched inwardly. ‘All right, so I do things because I think they’ll make her happy . . . like this date. Damn.’ He glanced back at his friends. Sango was still grinning. He glared. “What the fuck is so funny, Sango?”

“Calm yourself, InuYasha,” Miroku admonished. “We’re only trying to help. Perhaps you could ask Kagome what she would like to do. She knows the things that are available in her time, not to mention what would constitute a ‘date’.”

“That’s true,” Sango put in. “She did mention before that she had gone on a couple of dates with that boy from her school.”

“She what?” InuYasha snarled. “Who?”

Miroku made a face. “It doesn’t matter, InuYasha. It was a long time ago, when you were still involved with Kikyou.”

“I haven’t been involved with Kikyou since before she died the first time,” he growled. “What the hell are you saying?”

“So you never chased after Kikyou and left Kagome worrying?”

InuYasha had to remind himself that he had willingly sought the monk out for advice. “Kagome knows that wasn’t what I was trying to do, and that’s not the point. Are you going to help me figure this out or what?”

Sango smiled. “Just do what’s in your heart, InuYasha. How hard can that be? Maybe you ought to let Kagome decide what you should do. She’d know what you’d enjoy, and I doubt she’d drag you anywhere she didn’t think you’d have fun, too.”

InuYasha blinked in surprise as he stared at Sango then glared at Miroku. “Thanks, Sango. You know your husband’s pretty damn useless, right?”

Miroku made a face. “That’s not true! Sango found me very useful last night.”

“There’s a child here!” Shippou remarked loudly.

Miroku sighed. “You might as well learn some of these things early, Shippou, and—”

“Not me, baka! Kiyoshi!”

“Oh? Well, he has to learn, too . . . .”

“Did you forget what it feels like to be slapped, houshi-sama?” Sango asked tightly.

InuYasha chose to slip quietly away while the argument escalated. He had enough to worry about with being sucked into their fight.

He stared at the well with a thoughtful frown. ‘A date.’

He ought to just tell Kagome that he had no idea what she was expecting. Another flash of her hopeful face made him abandon that scheme though. He wasn’t sure why he suddenly cared so much, but he did. He just wanted to know that she still loved him.

He could slay a thousand youkai without batting an eye. He could leap into the night with her and not break a sweat. He could make sure she had food every day and all of the necessities she might ever need. But this date? This scared him stupid.

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

Kagome blinked in surprise as she stared at InuYasha. Dressed in the clothes her mother had purchased for him, he kept shifting from one foot to the other with a dark scowl as he stared helplessly down at his jeans and sneakers. The white cotton dress shirt he wore reminded her very much of the shirt he wore under his haori and still had the tell-tale lines from being folded in the package. He looked even stranger since he had the black baseball cap tugged down over his ears, and he was so preoccupied that he hadn’t even noticed that she was in front of him.

“InuYasha . . . .”

He glanced up at her and snorted. “I feel like a complete ass,” he remarked tightly.

“We don’t have to do this,” she offered with a bright smile. “We could just stay here and make dinner, see what’s on television . . . .”

He sighed. “Do you want to go out?”

She shrugged. “Not if you don’t want to. It’s enough for me that you offered.”

For some reason, he looked like her offer had irritated him more. “Feh. Come on.” He grabbed her hand and dragged her toward the front door.

“Where are we going?” she asked as they stepped onto the sidewalk.

To her surprise, he glanced up and down the street. No one seemed to be paying attention. He grabbed her and leaped. “Where are you taking me?” she asked, glancing down to make sure no one could see them. Satisfied that they hadn’t been spotted yet, she leaned closer to him. “InuYasha?”

He didn’t answer but she didn’t miss the slight smile on his face. He landed atop one of the many buildings, and he flinched.

“What’s wrong?”

He peeked back at her. “Damn shoes.”

She grinned. “You’re not going to tell me where we’re going, are you?”

“Nope.”

She heaved a plaintive sigh. He ignored it. Leaping from building to building with his knowing smirk, Kagome’s curiosity was gnawing at her. No matter how many times she bugged him, he wouldn’t talk. She finally gave up and enjoyed a view of Tokyo she wasn’t often afforded.

“The theatre?” she asked as he set her on her feet.

“You don’t want to be here?” he asked. He shuffled his feet almost nervously.

Kagome tried not to smile. “No, it’s not that. Why did you choose this theatre?”

“You didn’t want to go to the movies?”

She bit her lip, trying not to laugh. The last thing she needed to do was embarrass him when she could tell that he really was trying. But . . . . “This is a theatre.”

He shook his head slowly. “The newspaper said that movies are shown in theatres, right?”

She couldn’t help the smile that surfaced. She had tried to hold it back. She just couldn’t. “InuYasha . . . this is an opera theatre.”

The look on his face told her that he didn’t understand, and the slight flush on his face told her that he was getting offended at her humor.

She took his hand and pulled him toward the glass ceiling. She pointed far below at the stage. “Real people will come out and perform.”

Realizing his mistake, InuYasha sighed as his face reddened even more. “Come on. You can show me where this other place is, the one we were supposed to go to.”

Kagome stared at him for a minute then sat down. “I’d like to stay here,” she remarked, patting the roof beside her.

He thought she was humoring him. She could tell he did as he slowly sat down, too. He sighed. “This is your night, Kagome. You don’t have to stay here because you feel bad.”

She reached over and took his hand. “I don’t feel bad.”

He looked like he was going to say something else. Then his eyes widened and he hopped up again. Kagome watched as he strode around the skylight and retrieved her backpack. “What did you bring?” she asked.

He sat back down. “Dinner.”

She blinked in surprise but rolled her eyes as he dragged out the prerequisite cups of instant ramen and a large thermos. He dumped water into the noodles and set them aside. “You brought me ramen?” she asked in surprise since he’d been so adamant that ‘ramen’ wasn’t nutritious enough for her.

He half-smiled. “One night of ninja food won’t hurt you.”

They ate in silence. Kagome only ate half of hers, which was fine. InuYasha was happy to finish it off after asking her about ten times if she was sure she didn’t want it.

When the lights went down in the theatre below, InuYasha watched with avid interest. He seemed surprised that the entire thing was music, and Kagome smiled as he leaned his head to one side, listening intently, eyes wide with an awed expression on his face.   He looked up once and pulled her close after realizing that she was a little cold. They watched the rest of the opera without speaking. After it was over, he sat still, watching as the people filed out of the theatre, until the lights were dimmed and then extinguished.

He didn’t move his head but Kagome could feel his eyes on her. “That was beautiful,” she said quietly, her eyes still moist from the last song.

“It wasn’t so bad,” he remarked as he got to his feet. “Let me take you home.”

“Can we walk?”

“Down there?” he asked, peeking over the side of the theatre.

“Sure.”

He shrugged and lifted her. He hopped down in the alley and let her drag him toward the street.

“I had a really great time,” she said as they walked side by side.

“Feh! Better than your other dates?”

She heard the twinge of jealousy in his tone and wisely hid her smile. “Much better.”

He sighed. “Bet none of your other dates ever got confused about theatres,” he grumbled, shuffling his feet as they stepped onto the overpass bridge.

Kagome stopped and stared at the city before looking back at InuYasha. He looked irritated. “I enjoyed myself.”

The look he shot her argued that point. She smiled. “I had good company.”

In the dim light of the spaced streetlamps, she could discern the vaguest hint of a flush. “Feh.”

She sighed. Something wasn’t right, she realized as she stared at him. Maybe it was the ever-present layer of smog that lay over the city. Maybe it was the wan moonlight, so pale in the face of the lamps. The shadows seemed so much starker. She couldn’t see his eyes. Slowly she reached over and tugged off his hat then flung it over the side of the bridge.

“What’d you do that for? Aren’t you worried that everyone will see—?” he didn’t finish his sentence but he looked up and jerked his head to indicate the word he hadn’t said.

She stepped forward, pressing her body against his and reached up to rub his ears. “I don’t care who sees your ears, InuYasha. I love all of you, especially your ears.”

“You do?”

“I never stopped.”

“You didn’t?”

Her gaze fell to his lips, and she giggled. “Now who talks too much? Shut up and kiss me, will you?”

He didn’t have to be asked twice.

 

 

 

 

 

Review Q & A

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Angelstars (MMorg):

Oh me, oh my…what more can I possibly say that you're other reviewers have already praised you for?! I have a few memorable moments from the last three chapters (which I had to painstakingly wait to read until after work..) one of them being poor Kagome's painful engorgement; I think I have only read one other fiction, within the InuYasha genre, where InuYasha has fed from her. This portrayal, however, was written under different circumstances. I felt her pain (not that I have experienced something like that before), but still, the mere thought of it only makes you feel all the more sympathetic. The other being, the cute bundle of joy; Taji, she is adorable and her innocent understanding is to die for, I see now why InuYasha is so proud of his baby girl. I still love the whole idea of telepathy, and the fact she can not only speak to her mama and papa, but her grandma and uncle!! I could only imagine the look on poor Souta's face as she spoke to him in baby talk via his mind! Lol. I am looking forward to finding out how their "date" goes and the unfinished drama where Sesshoumaru-sama is concerned (and of course his feelings toward our miko) Speaking of Sesshoumaru, someone reviewed saying he was OOC? - eh, hard one to address, especially if said reviewer was a dub viewer, I have watched a few and must admit I prefer the sub and Sesshy's original Seiyuu; Ken Narita. Your characterization of him is similar to the way he speaks in the manga… that's my opinion. But, I am guessing your Sess is based on the American dub? (Unless you understand Japanese with no aid of subs of course) As the subs don't really give us the same effect. Example would be how he addresses himself in third person "This Sesshoumaru…" I'm ending my mindless ramblings now… see you next chapter!

 

Yes, well, tending to go manga here, though I do think that Sesshoumaru’s English VA does very well, and I love David Kaye, in general, anyway. There simply isn’t anything that really translates from ‘This Sesshoumaru’, but yes, I do use that one from time to time, probably more so in Purity than I have thus far here.

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made (FFnet):

HI its me again thank you for explaining me well I was wondering if you have any lemon chapter since you cant write it here can you send the 25-45 to me if its to much don’t I can live w/o them its just your stories are great and most people on here tend to not know how to write a well story like you but I would appreciate it a lot thank you

 

Hmm. They are available on MMorg, and many of the good folks there who have left reviews on the matter have been posted in my A/N’s. That’s about all I can tell you since I don’t have an email address for you. However, while I normally will send a chapter here and there, I cannot possible bundle up over half of the fic to email it. Working off dialup is never fun…

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Dreaming-Sensations (FFnet):

InuYasha is so sweet sometimes! By the way what does OOC stand for? Happy Writing!

 

OOC stands for Out Of Character… And yes, I think he can be *sometimes*

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DemonAngel-0666 (FFnet):

wow sorry I haven't reviewed in a while just caught up on all the chapters...I love your story I’m really into it...it draws you in and won't let you out until its finished lol...anyways update soon I would really love to read more:)

 

Eeeehhhhh I’m workin’ on it! Lol! And thanks!

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phrisky  (MMorg):

I love your story but I’d have to disagree with wanting to see more Sesshoumaru I think that he could only do more damage if he is in more and I hate it when Kagome is so heartbroken!!! It makes me wanna just jump into the story and explain everything (hehe I guess that’s the point though huh.... lol) well I gotta go .... Keep righting and I cant wait to see what’s in store for the next chapters!!!! Thanks luv ya ::phrisky::

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SakuraBaby (FFnet):

Ah! This is the best story I have ever read. You know how to add spice and sugar to your story and I just adore that. So um I was wondering is Kagome pregnant again? You don’t have to tell me but I think it’s a great idea if she gets pregnant again. Well update soon!

 

Oh, wow … errr, no. Tajiko is only 7 ½ months old. Kagome’s not pregnant. Sorry!

Chapter Text

Kagome sniffled and wiped her eyes with a heavy sigh. InuYasha sighed, too, but his stemmed from relief that the movie was over than from dreamy enjoyment. She hit the button on the remote control to stop the movie and stood up. “I’m going to get a glass of water. Do you want anything?” she called over her shoulder.

InuYasha was examining the remote control and shook his head before realizing that she probably didn’t hear him. “No, thanks,” he called after her.

She stumbled back into the room with a bottle of water and grinned as she watched him poke buttons. He succeeded in changing the channel and jumped then noticed that she was back with a nervous twitch as he dropped the remote back onto the table. “You want to watch something else?”

“No,” he said, trying hard not to look aghast at the suggestion and failing.

“We can go back, if you want. Mama won’t be home until tomorrow, and I know you’re more comfortable in your time.”

“Feh,” he snorted, idly playing with his prayer beads. “It’s not so bad.”

She stared at him for a few moments, remembering his reaction to the opera the night before. She never would have guessed that the churlish hanyou would ever have enjoyed such a thing. She’d loved it, and whether he admitted it or not, she knew that he did, too. The look on his face during the opera had been attentive, as if he couldn’t believe that there was such a thing. What was he thinking at the time? There was a sadness in his gaze as he had watched the story unfold, and yet the gentleness in his expression had caught her off-guard. He intercepted her stare and shifted his eyes from side to side. “What?”

Sinking back down on the sofa beside him, Kagome laid her head on his shoulder as her arms slipped around him.   “You didn’t like your new clothes?” she asked quizzically.

He heard the teasing note in her voice but made a face just the same. “Hell, no. How men can stand those ‘jeans’ is beyond me. You can’t even breathe in them, let alone fight.”

With a giggle, Kagome remembered how he’d made a beeline for the bathroom to change back into his normal clothing after they’d gotten back to the shrine. When he’d reemerged, though, the hint of vulnerability was gone, and with it came the surlier attitude. He’d then proceeded to tell Kagome that she was tired and had all but forced her to go to bed. ‘Overprotective, sure. But that was a little much, even for him.

“I had a really good time last night,” she said softly.

He didn’t answer. Stealing a peek at him, Kagome saw the quick wince. He really did think she was just saying it to make him feel better. She straightened up, letting her hands rest on his shoulder. “No one’s ever taken me to the opera before.” Her gaze fell to her hands, and she sighed. “Not since my father died. He took me a couple of times.”

“So you . . . you really did like it?”

She nodded as a wan smile broke over her face. Looking back, she remembered something else he’d said, something she had nearly forgotten. “He said that all fathers do special things just with their daughters. What’ll you do with Taji?”

The considered her question then shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ll think of something.” Buoyo the cat hopped into his lap and rubbed against InuYasha’s chin. Kagome shook her head as the hanyou rough-housed the old cat. Buoyo stared at him in a tolerant manner as InuYasha grabbed the cat’s tail and dragged him around in wide circles.

“I don’t know why he puts up with you, InuYasha.”

“Rrrrr,” InuYasha growled, ignoring Kagome’s commentary as he continued his assault on the cat. Buoyo blinked slowly. “He likes it.”

Kagome rolled her eyes and got up to make lunch. If he did it once, he’d done it a thousand times. Eventually Buoyo would have enough, and then he’d slice InuYasha’s hand, leaving a disgruntled hanyou yipping and quickly backing off. ‘He just never learns . . . which could be why I adore him.’

She was stirring in the last of the ingredients for the soup when it happened. With a loud ‘yipe!’ followed by an irritated growl, Kagome shook her head and continued to stir. Moments later, Buoyo sauntered into the kitchen looking quite pleased. He rubbed against Kagome’s calves and meowed at her.

InuYasha wandered into the room a few minutes later. His hand sported angry red streaks, perfectly spaced the width of Buoyo’s claws, and he was staring with a frown of concentration on his face at some papers he held. “Kagome, what are these?” he asked, holding the stack of documents out to her.

She put the lid on the pot and washed her hands before taking the papers and inspecting them. ‘Morisamuki InuYasha,’ she read. ‘Tree of the Brave Forest . . . . It fits him.’ He was still staring over her shoulder at the papers she held. “It’s the paperwork we needed,” she explained.

“What is it? That’s me, right?” he asked, pointing at his name. “What do I need the papers for?”

For some reason, she couldn’t quite meet his gaze as a warm flush crept up her skin. “We needed you to have an identity here, remember? So we could get married.”

The look of understanding that surfaced was immediate, and he nodded slowly. “Married, huh? Human version of being mated, you mean?”

“Yeah,” she agreed. Technicality, she figured. She felt married from the first time they’d been together. Still, that last lingering doubt surfaced. Marriage would cement it, if it hadn’t already been a done deal.   In the eyes of the youkai, they were already joined. In the eyes of humans . . . . “Unless you don’t want to,” she muttered as she stuck the paperwork on the refrigerator. For reasons she didn’t want to think about, her stomach was tied in knots as she waited to hear what he’d say. This was his last chance to turn her away. After what he’d found out about her and Sesshoumaru, she really couldn’t blame him if he did.

He frowned. “If my name is Morisamuki, what will yours be?”

Careful to keep her tone neutral, Kagome stirred the soup. “The same, if we get married.”

“Morisamuki Kagome,” he mumbled.

She turned off the burner and grabbed two bowls out of the cupboard. ‘Say something, InuYasha!’ she thought as she dished up the soup. ‘Yes or no, or . . . just something.’ When she turned to set the bowls on the table, he was gone. Sinking down in a chair, Kagome sighed and blinked quickly, trying to ignore the burn behind her eyelids. ‘There’s your answer, baka. He can’t get over that, and I . . . I can’t really blame him.’

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

The only sound in the room was the steady tick of the clock on the nightstand. Kagome stared at the wall. So deep in her abysmal thoughts that she had lost track of time long ago, she sighed again in the quiet room. Idly watching the shadows creep across the wall, she wondered where InuYasha was.

I deserve this,’ she thought with a wince.

Absolutely. What did you expect?

I . . . don’t know. I thought he’d say something though.’

Like what, Kagome? You kissed his brother, and he knows it.’

She turned her face into the pillow with a low moan. ‘But he’s kissed me since then, and—

But he hasn’t touched you since then, either, has he? For God’s sake, the other night, he wasn’t even interested in doing anything other than ridding your body of that milk, and that was ultimately more for Tajiko’s sake than for your own.

Why was it that she could be her own worst enemy? She buried her head deeper into her pillow as though she was trying to escape the voice in her head, the voice of her conscience. ‘Shut up!

Truth hurts, Kagome? I’m sorry . . . you should have known . . . you can’t keep secrets from him. Why would you even try?

Just leave me alone? Shut up and leave me alone! Don’t think . . . don’t think about it, don’t worry, don’t feel . . . . Don’t care . . . .’

But you do care, baka. You know you do. That’s the problem, isn’t it? You care and he doesn’t.’

He does . . . and he cares about Tajiko . . . .’

. . . and maybe he’s keeping you around until his daughter is weaned. Ever think of that? He could take her away from you then. You heard what Sesshoumaru said . . . . Everything is up to InuYasha.

‘No! He wouldn’t! He wouldn’t do that, not to her, and not to me!

Just like you wouldn’t betray him? With his own brother? Baka.

“Kagome? Are you sick? Why didn’t you eat?”

She shook her head miserably, unwilling to lift her head, unable to look him in the eye, to meet his gaze. “I’m not hungry,” she muttered, wishing he would go away, willing the pain in her heart to wane so she could breathe again.

“You’ve got to eat. You don’t look like you’ve eaten a damn thing in over a week! Are you trying to make yourself sick?” he growled. She felt the bed sink just before he put his hand on her shoulder.

“No,” she whispered, closing her eyes against the jolt that shot through her at his touch.

“Then why haven’t you been eating?”

She sighed and sat up, needing to put a little distance between them. She pushed herself back against the wall and hugged her knees tight. “How was I supposed to choke down food when I didn’t know where you were?”

“Feh! I told that nasty little toad-thing to tell you that Sesshoumaru wanted to see me.”

She shook her head. “He didn’t. Anyway, when you came home, I . . . .”

He stretched out next to her, his cheek against her leg. He wrapped his arms around her legs as though he were trying to hug her. “Taji needs you, and I need you . . . we need you, but we need you to eat. Don’t you understand?”

She stared at his head for long moments. She wanted to reach out, to rub his ears.   He’d let her, wouldn’t he?

She didn’t. “Okay,” she agreed softly. “You’re right.”

Scooting off the bed, Kagome headed for the door. InuYasha hadn’t gotten up but she could feel his gaze on her back. ‘I’m being completely selfish,’ she thought with a grimace as she hurried down the stairs. ‘Tajiko does need me. I can’t give up now.’

She dug the untouched soup out of the refrigerator and stuck it in the microwave to warm. ‘And if I love InuYasha, then I’ll fight for him.’

She cut herself a thick slice of bread and sank down at the table with her soup, choking down bite after bite even though she felt as though she was about to throw it all back up. She’d already won one battle for InuYasha. Kikyou had gone on, and InuYasha had remained. She’d fight this one, too, and she’d win.

With fresh resolve, she polished off the soup.

I just wish I knew how hard this war is going to be.’

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Kagome stared at InuYasha’s straight back. He sat in the doorway gazing at the sunset. He hadn’t moved in awhile. Tajiko, content to sit in his lap, sighed happily and tugged at his prayer beads.

He’d been preoccupied ever since they’d returned home awhile ago. She could tell he was thinking about something. She only wished she had a clue as to what it was.

Taji hungry.’

Kagome shook herself and stepped forward to take the girl from her father. “Hungry, huh? You tired, angel? Grandma said you didn’t sleep very well.”

Taji want Mama. Taji want Papa.’

The baby settled to nurse, twirling her hair around her chubby little finger. Kagome figured that she would have to stop that habit, eventually. But if it offered her comfort now, then Kagome wouldn’t stop her. “Grandma said you surprised Uncle Souta.”

Taji sighed. ‘Taji talk Souta. Souta talk loud.’

Kagome grinned. She could imagine her brother’s shock when the tiny girl started mind-speaking to him.

All too soon, though, Tajiko’s eyelids grew heavy, and her small mouth broke away from Kagome’s breast. Content to hold her while she slept, Kagome didn’t move to put her to bed right away. Smoothing Tajiko’s hair away from her face, marveling at the softness of those silvery strands, Kagome smiled tenderly as she stared at the girl. Her hair was getting quite long already, well past her shoulders and curling softly at the ends. Those black eyelashes were still impossibly long. ‘If her eyebrows were silver, she really would look exactly like an angel.’ Lifting the sleeping child to her shoulder, Kagome closed her eyes as she held her daughter close, breathing in the sweet smell of her, feeling a tremendous peace settle over her. ‘That doesn’t matter. She is my angel.’

“Let me put her to bed,” InuYasha said softly. Kagome opened her eyes as he took the girl. She whimpered softly. He cuddled her as he headed back toward her room.

She watched him go with a slight frown. She wanted to know what was on his mind. Why did he seem so pensive?

He reemerged from the small bedroom with a smile on his face though his eyes still seemed troubled. “I missed her.”

Digging around in her backpack, Kagome sighed. “I did, too. It seems like she grew while she was gone, didn’t it?”

“Not that much. She wasn’t even gone three days.”

Kagome ripped open an energy bar and nibbled off a bite. “Still. I’m glad she’s home.”

InuYasha wrinkled his nose at the food Kagome was eating. She had picked them up at a health food store. They were supposed to be balanced nutrition and perfect for nursing mothers. InuYasha said they smelled funny and hadn’t wanted her to eat any of them. But she had given him a pointed look and said that she wanted to eat them for Tajiko, and he had relented though only after sitting down and reading the label thoroughly with a dictionary of common food terms beside him.

He sank down before her. She tweaked his ears. “Want a bite?” she asked, offering him the bar.

He made a face and jerked back. “No, thanks.” For good measure, he watched her eat more of it with a marked scowl. “How can you eat that?”

“It’s not so bad,” she replied. “They put dates in it for sweetness.”

His distaste became more apparent the more she ate. It was all she could do not to roll her eyes. ‘He gripes if I don’t eat then he does when I do . . . . Make up my mind, will you?

They had eaten a late lunch today, and it was well past dinner time when they’d gone through the well to come home. She wasn’t hungry, but she didn’t want to skip a meal, either. He, on the other hand, probably was. “You want me to make you something to eat?”

He shook his head and sighed. “No . . . .”

Little warning bells clanged in her head. InuYasha only used that tone when he wanted to say something that really bothered him. Maybe he was finally ready to talk about why he’d been so quiet the last couple of days. She shoved the empty wrapper into a plastic bag in her backpack and settled back to listen.

He raked his claws over the floor. Kagome steeled herself. He only did that when he was really worried or irritated. Either one didn’t bode well. Still she waited.

“I don’t think we should get married in your time,” he finally said, glowering at the floor as his claws scraped.

Kagome swallowed hard, fighting down the pain that swelled in her chest. “I understand,” she forced herself to say and was oddly proud of herself for not allowing her voice to waver.

“You do?” he asked, glancing up at her.

She jerked her head in response and swallowed the thick lump in her throat that tried to choke her. “Sure. I mean, it was bad enough, what happened. But then I kept it from you, and . . . saying that I’m sorry just isn’t enough, is it?”

His frown was back but this time he looked more confused than angry. “What?”

Anger nudged aside the hurt, indignation that he would actually make her spell it out to him. “This is all about what happened with Sesshoumaru, isn’t it?”

His eyes widened in surprise and he sat back, as though that thought hadn’t even occurred to him. “Why are we talking about that bastard?”

“Why else wouldn’t you want to marry me?”

“I never said I didn’t want to marry you!”

“Yes you did!”

“Did not!”

“InuYasha, you just said—”

“Feh!” he hollered. “I know what I said, bitch! I said I don’t think we should get married in your time!

She blinked, her anger fading as quickly as it had come as she stared at him. “What do you mean?”

He wasn’t quite as ready to lose his own irritation, and he scowled at her. “I mean, if we get married in your time, then we won’t really be married here.”

She considered what he said but shook her head slowly. “Not following,” she admitted, rubbing her temple slowly.

He growled in frustration, scraping his claws against the floor again. She ground her jaws together as the sound grated against her nerves. “Kagome . . . if we get married in your time, when we come back here we won’t be getting married for another five hundred years.”

Sudden understanding filtered over her, and Kagome’s mouth rounded in wonder as she said, “Ohh . . . .” The truth of his statement occurred to her, and she shifted her eyes to lock with his. “I didn’t even think of that.”

He sighed and let his forehead drop into her lap, shaking his head slightly from side to side. “Why can’t anything ever be easy?” he complained.

Kagome smiled. “Is this what you’ve been thinking about the last couple of days?”

He sat up and nodded. “Yeah. I wasn’t sure, and I didn’t want you to worry about it, too.”

She made a face. “It’s better than what I thought.”

“What did you think?”

She shrugged, trying to make light of it even though the thought still hurt. “I thought . . . I thought you didn’t want to marry me anymore.”

“Feh! And why would you think a fucking stupid thing like that?”

“I told you why! I thought you couldn’t forgive me for kissing—”

He shot forward, wrapping his long fingers around her upper arms and forcing her to look at him. “That was his fault, not yours. He said as much! I don’t know what sort of crap he did to trick you, and honestly, I don’t care! He’s never coming near you again, so stop thinking that I blame you! You’re my mate, damn it, and I love you!”

Her heart thundered in her ears as she stared at him. Though he yelled at her, she didn’t doubt for a moment that he meant it. She made a sound low in her throat that could only be considered a growl as he dragged her off the futon and against his body.

His mouth fell over hers, intercepting her growl. It was lost between them as he overwhelmed her. She hung on to his haori, afraid to let him go, unable to do more than to let him drive her even as an odd sound filtered to her. Growing more insistent, the sound was something that she needed to answer. “InuYasha . . . .?” she whispered, trying to pull back. Suddenly the noise made sense, and she summoned the last of her resistance to move away.

“What now?” he growled, glaring at Kagome until the sound broke through his haze-engulfed mind, too. “Damn!” he hissed as he hopped to his feet.

Kagome didn’t trust herself to move. Her fingers were trembling as she fumbled with the buttons on her blouse. InuYasha seemed to have his emotions back under control as he slowly emerged from Tajiko’s bedroom with the whining child. Kagome winced at the words that Tajiko kept echoing over and over, ‘Papa yell Mama . . . Papa yell Mama . . . .

“It’s okay, angel baby. Papa’s not angry.”

Papa yell Mama . . . .’

InuYasha shot Kagome a pained look over Tajiko’s head as he handed Kagome their daughter. Kagome worked to calm the girl’s upset as InuYasha paced the floor. “Why don’t you come over here and show her that you’re not angry?” she asked softly.

InuYasha hesitantly came to them and knelt beside them. “Papa’s sorry, baby girl,” he whispered.

Tajiko’s great golden eyes stared at him without blinking. ‘Mama . . . .

“Shh, it’s okay, Taji. Papa’s not mad at Mama,” Kagome said and added for good measure, “and Mama isn’t mad at Papa.”

Tajiko whimpered and burrowed closer to Kagome. Finally, she reached out and grabbed InuYasha’s finger. ‘Mama loves Papa?

Kagome nodded. “Yes.”

Papa love Mama?

InuYasha smiled slightly. “Yeah.”

Tajiko sighed. Kagome felt her relax in her arms. InuYasha eased visibly, too.

Taji safe. Taji happy.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“Well, I can see you two have thought this through. I only wish I could find a way to argue your logic. I think you may be right.”

Kagome pursed her lips, eyebrows drawing together as she glanced at InuYasha. “I’m sorry, Mama.”

Mrs. Higurashi smiled. “I only wish I could see you get married, but I understand.”

“Oi!” InuYasha broke in, jerking his head away from Tajiko.

“Did she bite again?” Kagome asked, masking her smile behind her cup of tea.

InuYasha snorted. “Pup’s got good teeth.” The girl blinked in surprise as she stared at her father. InuYasha tweaked her nose with his index finger. “Not so hard,” he admonished though his tone was gentle. Those huge golden eyes filled with tears, and she whimpered. “I know that didn’t hurt,” he remarked. Kagome didn’t miss the slight flinch that crossed his features.

Mrs. Higurashi and she exchanged knowing looks. “Have you two given any thought to what you could do about getting married then?”

“Miroku’s a monk,” Kagome said slowly. “He could perform the ceremony back then, so we’ll be married.”

“Married? By that lecher? Feh!”

“Mama,” Tajiko whimpered, struggling to get away from her father.

Kagome reached over to take her. “No more biting, Taji. Hurt Papa.”

“Feh!”

She shook her head. “You’re not helping, InuYasha.”

He looked like he wanted to argue. He folded his arms together and closed his eyes.

Taji sorry Papa hurt,’ Tajiko whined. Kagome couldn’t hear what InuYasha might have said back but Tajiko whimpered again. ‘Taji love Papa.’

Kagome could only figure that InuYasha must have forgiven her, because suddenly the girl was squirming to get back onto her father’s lap.

“Mama, can you pick up some blank tapes?” Souta asked as he wandered into the kitchen with the camcorder.

“Certainly, dear. I’ll get some later.” Turning her attention back to Kagome and InuYasha, Mrs. Higurashi sighed. “I’m sure it will be for the best. I just wish I could see my girl get married.”

“Tape it,” Souta said. He blinked quickly and glanced up at Tajiko. “No, you. I can’t get a cookie for you. Kagome would clobber me.”

Tajiko pouted.

Kagome frowned. “Do you think we could?”

“Could what?” Mrs. Higurashi asked.

“If we charged the battery, do you think the camcorder would work in the past?”

InuYasha groaned, imagining the uproar the gadget would cause. “Do you really think that’s a good idea?”

Kagome sighed. “Well, I suppose . . . .” Her expression brightened and she sat up straighter. “We could always get married twice . . . once here and once there.”

“Let’s try taking the cam-thing,” InuYasha cut in quickly.

Grandpa shuffled into the kitchen and stopped to give Tajiko a rattle. Tajiko blinked. Kagome recognized the look as the same one that Tajiko got on her face when she was mind-speaking. “Aaieee! That baby just . . . . It’s the sign of the youkai!”

InuYasha shot out of his chair with Tajiko in his arms to glower at Grandpa as Grandpa whipped out an ofuda to stick to Tajiko. “Do it and die, old man!”

“InuYasha . . . .”

“I’ve got the baby!”

Kagome sighed. “I’m never going to believe you when you promise me anything,” she pointed out.

He made a face. “Tajiko can talk to people in her mind. It’s nothing to worry about. You’re not going crazy . . . well, no crazier than you already are.”

“InuYasha!”

“Baby!”

Kagome narrowed her eyes. ‘Just you wait, InuYasha . . . .’ she thought as she eyed him.

Tajiko giggled. ‘Papa trouble.’

“Absolutely, Tajiko.”

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

“I still think it’s bad luck for sure to let Miroku perform the ceremony,” InuYasha insisted yet again as he sat on the bed.

Kagome shook her head slowly and put things away. “Well, since we have to forego the purification anyway, then what does it matter if a non-practicing monk is the one who performs the ceremony, anyway?” She sank down on the edge of the bed and shrugged. “Besides, did you see how happy he was when you asked him?”

“Feh! I only asked him because you ‘beg’ged me.”

She grinned at his intended teasing. “That reminds me . . . .”

“Hmm?”

“You promised me you wouldn’t use Tajiko as a shield against the word.”

He shook his head. “I promised I wouldn’t use Tajiko to keep you from saying the other word.”

“I see.”

“K-Kagome?”

She paused as she slowly unbuttoned her blouse. His eyes were wide, staring. She sat on her knees, looking directly at him. “Let’s do this again, okay? You can’t touch me until you promise not to ever use Tajiko as a shield again—and mean it.”

“I promise.”

She giggled. “Now you can’t touch me until I believe that you’re sorry for using her as your protection twice today.”

“Damn it—”

“I like this. At least you can’t shred my clothes.”

He growled at her and gulped as the blouse fell off her shoulders. Next to be discarded was her skirt. He whimpered slightly. She smiled. “I’m really sorry,” he blurted. “Can I move now?”

She shook her head. His whimper escalated into a whine. She leaned forward and scratched his ears. He started to reach for her. “Beg,” she whispered. He hit the bed face first and groaned.

Lifting his head slowly, he pinned her with a tortured look. “Mikos are supposed to be good and kind,” he explained. His eyes glowed dangerously, and his hands were clenching the blanket tightly. “But you . . . you’re worse than any youkai I’ve ever cut down.”

She sat up and unfastened her bra, letting it fall next to his head. He dropped his face back down into the blanket with a loud sigh. “Would you cut me down? Or would you rather make love to me?”

“Damn it,” he growled, his voice muffled in the bed. He sat up slowly. Kagome took her time pushing off his clothes and tossing them onto the floor. “Are you convinced yet?” he finally asked.

“Not particularly.”

“I’m going to die.”

“You’re not going to die.”

“That’s what you think.”

“Are you pouting?”

“Feh!”

“Are you?”

“Fucking—”

“I believe you now.”

“Thank the gods!” he growled as he launched himself at her.

Kagome’s giggles quickly turned into moans as InuYasha made good use of the hands that he hadn’t been allowed to use before . . .

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“Well, I gotta hand it to you, Monk. You got through the whole thing without ‘lech’-ing once.”

He nodded toward Kagome who stood surrounded by the villagers and their well-wishes. InuYasha’s eyes glowed a mellow golden color as he stared with a slight grin at his mate—now his wife. Dressed in a simple white silk kimono with her hair pulled up and fall flowers woven into the ebony strands, he had to admit that Kagome had never looked lovelier. Tajiko was dressed exactly like Kagome. She leaned her slivery head against Kagome’s shoulder. InuYasha’s smile widened.

“InuYasha! I’m hurt!” Miroku remarked. “What did you think I’d say? ‘I now pronounce you hanyou and miko. May I now grope your bride?’”

InuYasha snorted. “I wouldn’t have put it past you.” He strode forward toward the gathering.

“What are you doing?” Miroku called after him.

InuYasha spared him a glance but didn’t stop moving. “Rescuing her. Those villagers are a little too close.”

Miroku chuckled as a hand slipped into his. “It was a lovely ceremony, houshi-sama.”

His smile widened as he stared down at Sango. “Not nearly as lovely as ours.”

Sango giggled. “Well, no, of course not.”

Kiyoshi laughed and reached for his father. He took the child and nodded toward InuYasha and Kagome. “Think they’ll be happy?”

Sango sighed. “I think they make each other happy.”

“Like us?”

“Maybe not quite as happy as us.”

Shippou leaped onto InuYasha’s shoulder. He said something to the hanyou who retaliated by thumping the kitsune in the head. Kagome shook her head slowly. “InuYasha!”

“Tajiko!” he stated hurriedly to stave off the begging that he was about to get.

Miroku sighed. “InuYasha will never learn.”

Sango smiled as Kagome took a slow step toward InuYasha, who was trying to backpedal away from her. She rose up on her toes to kiss the hanyou, and even across the distance, the youkai exterminator heard Tajiko giggle. “I don’t think Kagome minds.”

InuYasha looked completely bemused by the time Kagome pulled away. She took her daughter and started to turn back to talk to the villagers longer. To Miroku’s surprise, InuYasha reached out and caught Kagome to kiss her again, apparently uncaring that they were the center of attention. “No, I don’t think she minds, either.”

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

Mrs. Higurashi sighed as Kagome stopped the video tape. She wiped a tear from her cheek and smiled at the couple as Tajiko crawled around the floor. “That was lovely,” she remarked. “And I’m so happy I’ve finally gotten to put faces with the people you care so much about.”

Kagome grinned. Sango had been nervous at first. When Kagome had asked her to tape the wedding, Sango had looked more frightened than she had when they faced down Naraku so long ago. ‘I don’t know what to do with that,’ Sango said dubiously, eyeing the camcorder as though she was afraid it would bite her.

There’s not much to it,’ Kagome explained, showing Sango how to record, how to pause, and how to stop. ‘Easy as one, two, three.’

Sango hesitantly took the camcorder out of Kagome’s hands and examined it. ‘And whatever I see here,’ she said as she stared at the flip-out LCD display monitor, ‘is what will be filmed?

Kagome nodded. ‘That’s pretty much it.’

Sango’s eyes were wide, sparkling. ‘For you to trust me with such an honor . . . I don’t know what to say!

Alright, already,’ InuYasha cut in. ‘Will you do it or not?

I’ll do it!’ Shippou volunteered, itching to get his tiny hands on the device. InuYasha reached over to thump the kitsune. ‘Kagome!

InuYasha . . .’ she warned.

You didn’t say anything about not hitting him,’ InuYasha reminded her.

It should go without saying,’ Kagome argued.

Feh!

We’ll negotiate that later.’

InuYasha hadn’t responded to that but he did flash her a look that brought a flush to her cheeks.

Mrs. Higurashi lifted Tajiko. “It was a lovely wedding. I assume you will be leaving Tajiko with me for the night?”

“Oh, Mama, you don’t have to. I mean, Tajiko’s not a problem,” Kagome assured her.

Mrs. Higurashi shook her head and grinned. “I didn’t think she would be, and she is my granddaughter.” She was cut off when someone knocked on the door.

Grandpa hurried out of the room to greet the visitor. Souta got up and followed.

“Mama,” Kagome said slowly, picking up on the undercurrent in her home. There was something going on, she was sure. They were hiding something.

“It’s for Kagome,” Grandpa announced.

Kagome shot InuYasha a glance. The hanyou was frowning. He stayed her with a hand on her arm as he got up to see who the guest was. Mrs. Higurashi sighed. “You’d better follow him before he frightens off your driver.”

“What?”

With a shake of her head, Mrs. Higurashi grinned. “I should have known he’d be cautious. My mistake. Anyway, you two need to go.   Your grandfather, Souta, and I have made some special arrangements for you. Now hurry before InuYasha terrifies the driver into leaving without you.”

Mrs. Higurashi’s assessment wasn’t far off. InuYasha was glowering at the meek driver with his hand on Tetsusaiga’s hilt. Kagome was also amused to see that InuYasha had the presence of mind to grab a baseball hat before heading to warn off the visitor. She wouldn’t have minded so much, if anyone had gotten a good look at her hanyou’s ears. But that he had hidden them for her benefit was enough to make her smile. “Back, wench,” InuYasha growled when she laid a hand on his arm. “Who are you, and what do you want?”

“InuYasha, this is your wedding present from us,” Mrs. Higurashi hurried to say, then turned to the stunned driver with a low bow. “I’m so sorry. I should have warned you that my new son-in-law is a little overprotective of my daughter.” She turned back to the couple and smiled. “He will take you to the Century Hyatt. We reserved a room for you.”

“But I haven’t packed!” Kagome gasped and turned to hurry to her room.

Souta thumped down the stairs and handed Kagome her backpack. “Here you go, Sis. Congratulations.” Kagome blinked back tears as she hugged Souta and took the bag. “I’ll let that pass, since you just got married,” Souta grumbled as he pulled away from his sister’s embrace.

With a giggle, Kagome hugged her grandfather, who slipped four ofudas in to her hand. “Post these around your door to ward off any evil spirits, my child,” he admonished.

“Feh!” InuYasha snorted.

Grandpa, mumbling about ‘youngsters having a complete lack of respect’, stomped off toward the living room again.

Kagome turned to hug her mother. “Thank you, Mama,” she whispered.

Mrs. Higurashi cupped Kagome’s cheek in her hand. “Just enjoy yourselves. I packed everything you’d need for the night for both of you, and don’t worry about a thing. Everything’s taken care of, and don’t worry about Tajiko. She’ll be fine.”

Taji go bye Mama? Go bye Papa?

Kagome kissed Tajiko and held her up so that InuYasha could do the same. ‘Be good, angel. We’ll be back tomorrow.

Tajiko whimpered but let Mrs. Higurashi take her. “Go on, you two, and InuYasha? Stop glaring at your driver.”

InuYasha snorted again but relaxed his expression. Kagome rolled her eyes and dragged InuYasha out of the shrine, pausing only to wave at her mother and daughter, who stood in the doorway watching them go.

She caught InuYasha’s dubious expression as he stared at the car parked on the street. Kagome realized a little too late that, though he’d seen cars before, he’d never actually been inside one since he much preferred his own method of travel. “We can send him on and walk,” she whispered to him.

He stared at the car for another moment then sighed. “Come on before I change my mind.”

“I love you.”

He snorted as he waited for her to climb into the car before he would. “You’d better.”

She didn’t miss his smile.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

InuYasha shifted in his seat again and smoothed his slacks without trying to be too obvious in his distaste for the modern apparel that he’d been coerced into wearing. Black slacks and that white shirt-thing he’d worn the last time, InuYasha tried not to frown as he pulled his baseball cap further down over his ears.

“Are you sure you can stand this?” Kagome asked. She noticed his fidgeting, he supposed.

He grimaced. “Feh!”

She took his hand and squeezed it. “We don’t have to stay, if you don’t want to,” she offered.

“But you want to,” he said but tugged on her hand to bring her closer. “Are you happy?”

Her eyebrows lifted at his softly uttered question as his eyes assessed her. She smiled at him and leaned closer to kiss his cheek. “Yes, I am.”

Strangely, the weirdest thing, in his opinion, wasn’t that he and Kagome were completely joined. That had happened so long ago that a little wedding ceremony wasn’t going to change anything. The oddest thing had been hearing the people at the hotel call him Mr. Morisamuki, and in turn, hearing Kagome referred to as Mrs. Morisamuki. He’d always been just InuYasha, and Kagome had always been just Kagome. Yet it seemed right, for them to share a name. He wasn’t sure why he felt it so strongly when it hadn’t even occurred to him before. It was perfect. Maybe there was something to be said for human marriages, anyway.

He stole a glance at his mate. Hair pulled up off her neck into something she had called a ‘chignon’, he stared at the gentle arch, the hollow where he could see her pulse flutter. She was leaning her head slightly to the side, and it was all he could do, to keep himself from reaching for her. Something about her neck had always been a lure to him. He sighed softly.

When she had come out of the bathroom after changing into the dress she wore now, he had very nearly demanded that she change back into the more modest kimono she’d worn since the wedding. This dress, though longer than her school uniforms had always been was somehow more seductive than anything. Fitted to her as though it was made to her—something called lycra, she had said—the velvety black material clung to her form without being overly tight, and the wide vee neckline that extended up to just rest on the edges of her shoulders didn’t cover nearly enough of her skin. In fact, the only thing that covered any of her flesh above the swell of her breasts was her necklace. The opalescent beads swirled with the color of the dim seating lights that ran along the edge of the banister railing they were seated behind.

With a smothered whine, InuYasha dragged his gaze off of her, clenching his fists as he forced himself to remember that they still had all night in that monstrosity that the bellhop had taken them to in the hotel. The woman at the check-in counter had said that Mrs. Higurashi had booked a ‘luxury’ suite, and he wasn’t sure exactly what that meant, other than the room—actually, more like a small house than a single room—they were shown to was huge. Kagome had looked around slowly, obviously impressed with her family’s gift. InuYasha had located the bedroom.

It was Kagome who had found the tickets lying on the table in the living room area. She looked so happy, so excited, when she showed them to him that he’d agreed to go even though all he really wanted to do was grab her and kiss her and make her forget everything in the world other than the two of them. She had changed into that dress quickly after talking him into donning the clothes he wore now, and they had eaten in a private dining room in one of the hotel’s restaurant, Kakou before the driver had appeared once more to take them to the opera theatre.

Okay,’ he thought with an inward grimace, ‘it’s not so bad.’ He had enjoyed the opera from their skylight seats the last time. Kagome had said it was an Italian opera before. He hadn’t understood exactly what she had meant but then he didn’t have to understand what they’d actually said. The music had been enough.

The lights dimmed. InuYasha sat up. Kagome reached over and pulled his baseball cap off. He shook his head slightly as his ears perked up. Tugging her just a little closer, InuYasha settled back to watch the opera.

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

Kagome sighed and kicked off her shoes as InuYasha closed the door behind them. She peeked over her shoulder with a small grin before turning to face him. “I can’t believe Mama remembered.”

“About your father, you mean? Taking you to the opera?”

She nodded and stepped forward to hug him. “It was so long ago, I didn’t think she would.”

He kissed her forehead then sighed. “I gotta get these clothes off before they kill me,” he grumbled.

Kagome giggled as he let go and headed off to change. Something was different about him. She’d noticed it first in the theatre during the opera. As though much of the tension that he carried with him every day was removed, he seemed so much more relaxed, gentler. He talked gruff, he seemed grouchy, he used foul language without a second thought. But in those moments when he smiled at her in the dim theatre, when he held her hand, cradling it as though he feared she would break, she could almost feel the tension slip out of him. He had watched the opera with rapt attention, and it didn’t seem to matter to him that he couldn’t understand the words they sang. As though he could sense the very emotion in the music, he’d possessed an almost child-like wonder as he watched and listened.

She smiled as she ambled toward the small kitchenette to retrieve two bottles of spring water from the honor bar and marked the beverages on the little card before following InuYasha into the bedroom.

He was staring out the window, arm raised, elbow braced on the frame. His other hand was on his hip and while he’d discarded his shirt on the floor, he still wore the slacks. “What would I have done if you hadn’t fallen into the well that day?” he asked quietly though he made no move to face her.

“I didn’t fall,” she argued with a half-smile. “Mistress Centipede grabbed me.”

“Sure she did. You’re such a klutz.”

Recognizing his teasing for what it was, Kagome lifted the water she brought for him and held it firmly against the small of his back. He hissed as the shock of the icy cold bottle made contact with his skin, and he turned to face her. “I slipped,” she assured him with a raised eyebrow.

A knock on the door interrupted the moment. InuYasha grimaced and, after stabbing Kagome with a long-suffering look, he strode past her, pausing long enough to grab his baseball cap before he left the room.

Kagome set the bottles down on the nightstand and opened her backpack. A flimsy package wrapped in pink tissue caught her attention, and she lifted it out slowly. Her mother’s writing was on the tag: ‘For your wedding night. Love, Mama.’ Kagome hesitated for a moment then tore off the paper. She smiled even as a blush rose to the surface of her skin as she stared at the present.

InuYasha’s voice drifted back to her. “What is all this?” the hanyou demanded.

The answering voice was too muffled to make out. Kagome glanced down at the gift again. ‘If I hurry,’ she thought as she rose to her feet . . . .

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

InuYasha closed the door and turned to survey the delivery. A huge rolling tray laden with dishes covered with shining silver domes, and in the middle was a small silver bucket with a bottle of something shoved down in layers of ice. The man who had brought the tray said that it was compliments of the hotel and congratulations on his marriage. He frowned. How did everyone know that he and Kagome had gotten married?

Slowly he stepped toward the cart, lifting one of the silver domes and sniffing. He made a face. Whatever it was smelled fine. He didn’t pick up any traces of poison or anything that would hurt them. But whatever it was had smelled spicy. He dropped the lid and moved on to the next.

Satisfied that there wasn’t anything dangerous on the cart, InuYasha finally lifted the bottle out of the pail. He sniffed at it. It was sealed with wax, though, and he couldn’t make out anything. The label revealed nothing. He couldn’t understand what the strange lettering said. He could read well enough. But this seemed like it was a whole different language. With a frown, he turned back toward the bedroom. Maybe Kagome knew what it was.

“Oi, Kagome, what’s this? I don’t—”

His words died off as he glanced up only to look back in shock. He nearly dropped the bottle. He stared, transfixed. Kagome sat on the bed, legs curled demurely to the side, and she smiled at him.

He couldn’t breathe. During the time that he had been in the other room, she had changed out of the dress that he had thought was bad enough. ‘No,’ he realized as he stepped closer to the bed, ‘that is worse . . . .’

Delicate white satin that barely extended to her upper thigh, the little bit of fabric was just enough to tease him. Shoulders revealed, breasts barely covered, the flimsy strings that help the dress on her might as well have been nonexistent. Her nipples poked at the material, and he stifled a groan. He supposed that the pink sheer fabric that she wore over that could be considered a robe of sorts. He thought the reason for those was to cover up. This one did nothing of the sort. All he wanted to do was rip that off of her. He held back.

“You don’t like it?” she asked softly, worry causing her to bite her lip. He couldn’t answer out loud. He blinked as he stared and managed to nod. “Who was at the door?”

He had to clear his throat a few times before he could answer her. He finally remembered the bottle in his hand and he gave it to her as he forced his eyes away. He could talk to her much easier if he wasn’t staring at her dressed like that. “They brought food and that. What is that?”

“Champagne.”

“What?”

She handed it back. When she leaned forward, he could see down her nightgown. He gulped as he took the bottle. “You drink it. Well, I can’t, since I’m nursing. You could try it, if you want, but it might mess up your senses.”

He wrinkled his nose and set the bottle on a nearby table. “Your time is strange.” He caught sight of her again and grinned. “Some things are okay, though.”

He watched as Kagome rose on her knees and crawled toward him. She straddled his thighs, hands grasping his hair as she leaned in to kiss him. He held her close, trying to resist the desire to rip the bits of clothing from her. She leaned back, eyes closed. He tightened his arms around her and kissed her gently, tasted her, nibbled at her. With a soft sigh, her head fell back, and she submitted to him.

She shuddered as his fangs brushed against her throat, gasped as his tongue flicked out to sample her flesh. He wanted to dominate her but wanted to submit to her, as well. He settled for both as he brought his hands up to her shoulders, hooking the delicate straps and pulling them down. He freed her breasts and growled as he turned and forced her back on the bed. As his mouth fell over her, she arched up, hands sinking once again into his hair.

He drew on her, licked her, tugged her, marveled as she writhed under him. Reduced to whimpers and half-words, Kagome lifted her hips against him. The taste of her, the scent of her, the sounds issuing from her convoluted, descended on him, swirled in his head, engulfed his body and mind. Instinct was tempered by his will to please her. He kissed her then, gently, softly, a kiss meant to soothe her. It pushed her further.

Leaning up on his elbows, he stared into the fire in her half-closed eyes. Rubbing her cheek with his knuckles, he gazed at her, memorized the ridges and hollows, the way her lips were parted, the soft hiss as she gasped for air. “I love you.”

“Show me.”

“Beg.”

She smiled. “That’s my line.”

With a sigh, he pushed himself off the bed and stood at the end. She watched him as he unfastened his pants and let them fall to the floor. The gown she wore was bunched around her hips. Careful not to tear it, he slowly slid it down. She arched her back to help the removal, and he tossed the flimsy bit of fabric to the floor.

He kissed her ankle, stroked her calf, kneaded her skin in his hands as he moved closer and closer to the place where her heat converged. She gasped as he kissed the back of her knee, she whimpered as his fingers massaged her thighs. He licked the vale of her hipbone. She whispered his name as he flicked his tongue into her belly button. She dragged at his shoulders, scratching him with her fingernails. “Beg, Kagome,” he murmured as he trailed his tongue between her breasts. “It’s not that tough.”

“Please,” she moaned as he kissed the indent between her collarbones. “InuYasha . . . .”

He pinned her down with his weight. “What’s your hurry?” he whispered in her ear, nibbling her earlobe. She unleashed a sharp whine. “We’ve got all night.”

“Yeah?” she countered, her voice ragged, husky, breaking. “Then we can do this again.” She leaned up to kiss his neck. “But for now . . . please . . . ?”

Her gasp was shocking in the stillness of the room. He cradled her face in his hands as he filled her. She pushed against him, her body trembling with her need.

Beauty surrounded him. She was his air, his reason, his sanity. Enough for him to know she loved him, he moved against her as she whispered things to his body, things to his heart, things that didn’t have to be spoken to be heard. More than just a physical act, more than a simple satiation of flesh, Kagome enveloped him, comforted him, and drove him nearly mindless with so many emotions that he couldn’t contain them all any more than he’d be able to keep this one moment forever.

He surged against her, gentle as a summer breeze, as wild as a hurricane, loving her was as vital to him as air, as water. He willed her to understand what he felt, and somehow he knew that she did.

She mumbled his name over and over with incoherent half-words, unfinished endearments that came and went as quickly as the tides. He might be the one dominating the act, but she was the one who dominated his heart, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

She was close. He could feel the tremors erupting in her, coursing through her as she held him. Her body demanded. He nudged her closer and closer, and finally he filled her, gave her everything he had to give, gave her his heart and soul as he gave her his body. She took it, held it, cuddled and soothed it, and then she gave it back.

The sound of their ragged breathing was the only thing to break the contented silence that had fallen over the bedroom. InuYasha held her close. Kagome heaved a shaky sigh. Her smile trembled with her ragged breathing. When she finally opened her eyes, they were full of tears.

“Don’t cry,” he begged quietly. “Why are you crying?”

She shook her head and sniffled but laid her head against his chest, over his heart. “I feel so peaceful,” she finally said. “I’m not sad. I don’t know why I’m crying.”

“Does it feel different to you? Being married?” he asked as he idly rubbed her back.

She leaned up to kiss him before answering. “Not really. It just feels complete.”

He understood what she meant. The profound changes had happened after he had taken her as his mate long ago. “It’s not so bad.”

Her answer was cut short by a huge yawn. InuYasha chuckled and pulled the coverlet over her. “Go to sleep, wench. Pathetic humans can’t take much of anything, can you?”

“Mmm. If I weren’t so comfortable right how, I’d show you,” she argued, her voice already groggy.

“Take a nap,” he relented, careful to stifle his own yawn. “I’ll wake you up in awhile.”

“M’kay.”

He followed her in sleep just seconds later.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

InuYasha leaned back on his elbows in the pile of leaves that Tajiko and Kagome had managed to scrape together. Tajiko enjoyed trying to crawl through them, and Kagome didn’t seem too concerned as the girl burrowed into them. “Oi! Wench!”

Kagome shot him a dark look but stepped over to him anyway. “Beg, InuYasha,” she said sweetly just before InuYasha ended up with a faceful of leaves. He came up sputtering—and grinning.

“Didn’t we already talk about this before? How it’s completely wrong to do that to your mate? The one you claim to love?”

Kagome sat down with her back against the Bone Eater’s Well and pretended to think. “Hmm, maybe. Was that before or after you broke your promise about using Tajiko as a shield?”

InuYasha sighed and shook his head. “Damn, I think I lost that one.”

She nodded in agreement. “You did.”

Tajiko giggled. “Mama . . . Papa!” She lunged at InuYasha. He caught her and kissed her cheek. ‘Papa happy, Mama happy, Taji happy.

“Why didn’t the others join us?” Kagome asked.

InuYasha made a face as he lay back and lifted Tajiko into the air. “Sango was busy trying to knock Miroku’s head off, and Shippou was keeping an eye on Kiyoshi.”

Kagome flinched and stretched out beside InuYasha. “She’s still upset about that?”

InuYasha blinked innocently. “Well, I dunno. Having pups that close together? I guess I could see why Sango’s upset.”

Kagome narrowed her gaze suspiciously. “That was almost sympathetic. All right. Where’s the real InuYasha? What did you do with him?”

He flushed but grinned. “Shuddup, wench.”

“InuYasha . . . .”

“Tajiko,” he reminded her.

She sighed and got up to retrieve her child. “You’re really going to pay for that.”

“Promise?”

She shook her head. “There is something wrong with you. I wasn’t sure before, but I am now. There’s got to be something wrong with you if you like when I say beg.”

She giggled as InuYasha smacked into the leaves again. “Wench!” he muttered, voice muffled by the ground. “You’ve got till this wears off before I make you regret saying that.”

Kagome didn’t wait to hear more. She took off running, much to Tajiko’s delight. She was nearly to the forest path that led to the village when Tajiko stiffened, and she stopped. ‘Stranger come. Taji smell stranger!’ Kagome whirled around in time to see InuYasha sit up then slowly get to his feet.

She gasped as Sesshoumaru’s energy form flashed, leaving the youkai standing between her and InuYasha. Even across the distance, she could hear InuYasha’s warning growl. “Get Taji out of here, Kagome,” he called out to her.

“Stay, Miko,” Sesshoumaru countered. He stepped toward Kagome. She backed up a step. InuYasha shot forward. Sesshoumaru stopped him when he drew a single flower out of his sleeve. He extended it to Kagome. She stared at it with a frown. “Do you remember these blossoms? You should. It was under the influence of one of them that we . . . kissed.”

InuYasha’s eyes widened as understanding dawned. “You fucking bastard! You drugged her with a delusion flower? I knew that smell!  I couldn't remember what it was!  Damn you!”

Sesshoumaru pinned InuYasha with a glare. “This Sesshoumaru would not stoop to such trickery, baka. I would have warned her against such a danger if I had known. I knew not where she had taken Rin to speak.”

“Like I’d believe you!” InuYasha snarled. “And you have the fucking nerve to come back here?”

“Leave us, Miko.”

“Inu—” Kagome began, unwilling to leave when the two brothers were staring at one another as though they were going to tear into each other.

“Go, Kagome. Take Tajiko home.”

Kagome bit back a sob and nodded once.

Papa come!

Kagome pulled the girl back. She was struggling to climb out of Kagome’s arms. ‘No, angel. Papa will come soon.’

Papa!

She flinched as she heard the metallic clang, the clash of metal meeting metal. The reverberation of the impact echoed out around her. The trees bent away, as though they, too, were frightened.

Kagome broke into a sprint as Tajiko shrieked.   ‘All of this because of me . . . because of that flower!’ She sped out of the forest and into the village, headed straight for Sango’s hut.

 

 

<<<   >>>

 

 

InuYasha tightened his grip on Tetsusaiga as he tried to shove back the black rage that rose up to choke him. Sesshoumaru said nothing. “Tell me why, you bastard! Tell me why you’re so interested in Kagome!”

“It matters not, InuYasha. The miko chose you.”

“Damn right she chose me! What the hell? Why her?” InuYasha didn’t wait for an answer. Leaping forward, he lunged at his brother, cleaving a clean arc with Tetsusaiga. Sesshoumaru blocked the blade with Tokijin. The ring of the swords was deafening. InuYasha gritted his teeth, heaved Sesshoumaru back. Sesshoumaru stumbled but didn’t fall, didn’t falter in his defense.

“And you win once more. How does it feel, InuYasha, to be the golden one? The one who matters?” Sesshoumaru countered, lips tightening into a flat line as he shoved InuYasha back.

InuYasha lunged forward and swung Tetsusaiga again. Sesshoumaru hadn’t been expecting the movement. InuYasha caught the spikes of his shoulder armor. They cracked and fell away. Sesshoumaru blocked the blade before InuYasha succeeded in taking his head off. “What the fuck are you babbling about? I’ve never mattered to a single person, not until Kagome! Now you tell me why you want her!”

“Haven’t you?” Sesshoumaru hissed, knocking Tetsusaiga to the side and stepping back. “They’ve always cared more for you, and you have appreciated nothing!

’They?’ ‘They’, who?”

“Our father . . . the miko . . . .”

“Father?” InuYasha echoed. “I never even knew Father! You—”

Sesshoumaru unleashed a blast of energy from Tokijin, sending InuYasha flying backward. The hanyou landed on his feet, and he stood slowly, readying Tetsusaiga before him. He waited.

“You never needed to. You lived because of him.”

“I lived because I could run and fit into small places where youkai couldn’t get to me!”

Sesshoumaru’s cold eyes locked on him. “You lived because Father entrusted me with making certain that you did!”

“You went after Kagome because of Father?” InuYasha asked slowly as suspicion ebbed over him.

“Baka! I pursued the miko because of who she is! You had her yet you constantly ran behind the undead one. You chose the miko as your mate because you couldn’t have the one you wanted.”

“You don’t know shit!” InuYasha bellowed.

Sesshoumaru shot over, grabbing InuYasha by the throat, lifting him off the ground. “I know that everyone you claim to care for ends up dead, InuYasha. My father died for you, for your pathetic human mother! Your mother died for you! You killed the first miko with your carelessness. Will you now kill her reincarnation?”

InuYasha clawed Sesshoumaru’s hand. It didn’t bother the youkai in the least. “I’d never hurt Kagome, and I’ll never let you touch her ever again!”

“Why does she matter to you?” Sesshoumaru asked quietly. “Because your youkai chose her to whelp your pup?”

“Fuck you!”

“Why?”

“None of your business!”

Why?”

“Go to hell!”

Why?”

“Because I love her!”

“Do you?”

Sesshoumaru let go of him so fast that InuYasha didn’t have a chance to digest what Sesshoumaru had said as he fell to the ground.

“InuYasha!”

Both men’s heads turned as Kagome’s voice rang out in the clearing. “Stay back!” InuYasha ordered. She didn’t listen as she sprinted to him.   “Stubborn wench,” he growled as he stuck Tetsusaiga into the earth and used it to push himself back to his feet. “Where’s Tajiko?”

“She’s with Sango. What happened?”

“This Sesshoumaru has wasted enough time with the likes of you.”

“Damn it!” InuYasha bellowed as Sesshoumaru dissolved into his energy form and rose from the meadow. “Get back here!”

He glared at the sky for long minutes as Kagome looked him over for injuries. “He didn’t hurt you, did he?”

“Feh! As if he could hurt me.”

She stared up at him with a thoughtful frown. He deliberately avoided her gaze. Much of his initial irritation was gone, and he really didn’t want to understand why. “InuYasha?”

He shook his head, forced a smile to reassure her. After a moment she smiled back even though she didn’t look as though she believed him. “I think he cared about you, however much he can care about anything.” Staring at her, he was unable to hold onto his anger at his brother. ‘How can anyone not love her?’ She hugged him. He sighed.

He took her hand and started back toward the forest, sheathing Tetsusaiga as they walked. Tajiko was upset. It would be best to get her as soon as possible.

“What’s bothering you? Really?” Kagome asked quietly when he didn’t speak.

InuYasha stared down at her. “Something he said. He said that our father asked him to watch over me when I was small.”

Kagome digested that in silence.   “It makes sense,” she finally allowed.

“How?”

She scrunched up her shoulders and stared at the ground as they continued on. “Well, he’s always known where you are, hasn’t he? How many times has he just showed up for no reason right when you needed his help?”

“Feh! I’ve never . . .” he sighed. “Yeah. That’s what I thought, too.”

She stopped suddenly, turning toward him, pushing his hair out of his face with her gentle fingers. “I wish your childhood had been better. I wish your mother had lived long enough to show you how wonderful you are.”

He felt his face grow warm, and he pulled her into a hug, leaning his cheek against her head. “Promise you’ll never leave me?”

“Why would I leave you? I love you.”

She was everything to him. She was the torrent of emotion, the wash of gentle awakening. She was the beginning for him, a new life. There were so many things he wanted to tell her, so many things she needed to hear. In the end, the only thing that mattered was that she was here, with him, and she wasn’t going anywhere without him, ever. He tilted her chin up, stared into her eyes. His eyelashes fluttered down as she rose on her toes to meet him halfway, lost in a kiss that was backed by a lifetime of love that he promised her alone.

“I love you,” he whispered. Kagome smiled.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Kagome smiled as InuYasha sauntered into the room with a child in each arm. Tajiko hung off her father’s neck. The eight year-old girl dropped to the floor and hopped onto the bed. Six year-old Ichiro was the next out of his father’s arms. His silvery hair glinted in the sunshine filtering through the window.

InuYasha sank down on the side of the bed and carefully handed Kagome the newest addition to their family. Less than a month old, Moriko opened her golden eyes and blinked as she tried to focus on her mother and father at the same time. Her eyes crossed, and InuYasha burst out laughing. Kagome slapped his knee as Moriko rooted for Kagome’s breast.

“Mama, can we go see Grandma today?” Tajiko asked as she pushed Ichiro down. Ichiro squealed with laughter. InuYasha flattened his ears against the sound. Kagome winced. Moriko’s face screwed up like she was going to sob. InuYasha shot Tajiko a stern look, and the child immediately stopped bouncing. Ichiro clamored back up on his knees and grabbed Tajiko’s hand, pulling her off the bed.

“I don’t know, Taji. Are you going to behave?”

“Yes, Mama!”

“Scram!” InuYasha called over his shoulder.

The two ran out of the room. “And leave Kirara alone!” InuYasha hollered.

Kagome laughed at her disgruntled hanyou. “You’re the one who wanted more kids,” she teased.

“Can’t you use your miko power to make them sit down for five minutes?”

“You wouldn’t harness your children, and you know it.”

He sighed but crawled onto the bed to wrap his arms around her and peek over her shoulder at their youngest daughter. Moriko grasped InuYasha’s index finger. “Was Tajiko ever this little?”

“She was,” Kagome reminded him gently. “Ichiro never was.” She made a face. Ichiro was the largest of the three children at birth. Kagome had really started to wonder if the boy would even come out. At last he had with a howl to match his size. Kagome had known then that the boy was destined to be exactly like his father, and so far, he was.

“I’ve got something for you,” he said, gently pulling his hand away from their daughter.

Kagome grinned but looked curious. “What?”

InuYasha snorted. “Be patient.”

She pouted just a little.

InuYasha sat up and pulled an envelope out of his haori. He held it out to her. She took it slowly and let him lift Moriko out of her arms to cradle her tiny silver head against his shoulder.

Kagome opened the envelope and stared at the two opera theatre tickets. InuYasha rolled his eyes when he intercepted her teary gaze. “And with the waterworks?” he grumbled, using an expression that he’d picked up in Kagome’s time. “I thought you’d be happy.”

She nodded and let him pull her into his embrace. “I am,” she assured him as she wiped her cheeks. “How did you get these?”

“Your mother helped me.”

“She did?”

“Don’t you want to go?”

Kagome reached up, turning his face with her hand. She kissed him. He growled. Moriko whined. “I’d love to go with you.”

He nuzzled against her nose. “Kiss me.”

“You’re as demanding as your children.”

“More.”

She giggled as he kissed her.

Tajiko tore into the room. “Papa! Ichiro’s stuck!”

InuYasha sighed as he pulled away from Kagome. “Stuck?” he echoed as Kagome took the baby. “Stuck where?”

Tajiko grabbed his hand and dragged him toward the door. “Come on, Papa!”

Kagome could only imagine the rest of it. She settled back in bed with a happy sigh. “I give them thirty seconds,” she remarked. Moriko cooed.

She didn’t even try to hide her smile as Ichiro stomped past the doorway to his room.   He shook his head as came back in and sat down again. “Shippou was showing him foxfire, and it scared him. He backed up onto Kirara’s tails, and Kirara yowled. Ichiro thought that she was coming after him so he scrambled onto the roof and got himself stuck.”

“I figured it was something like that.”

InuYasha pulled Kagome into his arms. Moriko babbled. “We should probably stay away from Sango and Miroku for a few days,” he finally commented.

Kagome leaned away and dared a foreboding look at her mate. “Why?”

InuYasha’s chuckle was downright nasty as he pulled Kagome close again. “Let’s just say they’re going to have to add on to their hut . . . again.”

Kagome gasped, eyes wide as she stared up at InuYasha’s face. “No . . . .”

“Yes.”

“This will make six children!”

“Poor Sango. She does have the youkai exterminator’s village to repopulate . . . .”

Kagome made a face. “That is so not funny, InuYasha,” she remarked but smiled.

Tajiko ran into the room and climbed up beside her parents. She snuggled close to both of them and kissed her new baby sister.

Ichiro stomped into the room, as well. Kagome tried not to smile as the boy scampered up and settled back with a snort against the wall with his legs crossed and his little hands folded together in the arms of his indigo haori. With his silver hair and golden eyes in his solemn little face, there was no doubt whose son he really was. Kagome leaned back and kissed InuYasha’s chin. “You tweak his nose?”

InuYasha’s answer was a sigh and a slow nod.

“You know, I used to wonder if it was your youkai that had chosen me as your mate, like Sesshoumaru had said,” Kagome said softly.

“I wondered about that, myself,” he confessed.

Kagome glanced up at him. “What was your answer?”

He grinned. “I battled one side or the other in me my entire life. You’re the only thing both halves have ever agreed on.”

“Really?”

“You’ve always accepted me the way I am, and what I am is both youkai and human. You were the choice of my youkai blood and my human soul.”

She kissed him again. “And you wonder why I love you.”

He shrugged. “I stopped wondering why a long time ago. It was enough for me that you do.”

Tajiko laid her head against his thigh. InuYasha stroked her hair. Ichiro, apparently tired of his forced exile, ferreted his way between InuYasha and Kagome to rest his head on his mother’s lap.

InuYasha grinned as he stared at his family. “I do, too,” he said softly.

“Hmm? You do, what”

“I love you. I love all of you.”

“You talk too much,” Kagome said with a giggle.

“Feh.”

“Shut up and kiss me.”

He did.

 

 

 

 

 

~~~The End~~~