'How the fuck did that happen?' InuYasha fumed as he grudgingly watched out of the corner of his half-closed eye as Higurashi Kagome stomped across the meadow toward the lone structure in the field: the Bone Eater's Well. It was the link between his world of Sengoku Jidai—the Warring States Era—and her world, the place she called 'modern day Tokyo.' Virtually, the two places were the same. What separated them was that well . . . and roughly five hundred years.
He hadn't meant to start the fight with her. He'd been secretly pleased when she had come looking for him. Standing at the base of Goshinboku—the God Tree—she wandered around the thick trunk, running her fingers along the bark as she cocked her head to the side and stared up through the branches at him. He pretended not to notice her down there—she really hated when he did that—and started his mental count.
'One . . . two . . . three . . .' he thought, pausing a moment between each number.
He was just hitting the thirties when she sighed very loudly and stepped back from the tree trunk. "I'm going back now, InuYasha," she called up hesitantly, her voice clear and thin, carefully pleasant though he could sense the underlying turmoil. She was obviously expecting him to argue with her about her plans to return home.
"So go, already," he growled as he lifted his chin and closed his eyes, one foot tucked under him, the other dangling from the branch where he sat. "Just don't be gone forever. We got work to do, remember?"
He heard her sigh, knew that her shoulders had just drooped as he winced inwardly and stifled a sigh of his own. "I don't suppose you want to come with me?" she ventured in an even more pleasant tone.
"Keh!" he scoffed, lifting his chin another notch. "And why the hell would I do a fucking stupid thing like that?"
In his mind, he could see her expression twist into one of the disgusted affectations that he loved—yet another reason he goaded her temper as frequently as he did. "Because you like to be around me," she stated tightly, her patience wearing thinner and thinner like a wire ready to snap.
"About as much as I like having fleas," he countered.
Kagome made a small growling sound. After a moment, she tried another tactic, her sweet tone back in place once more. "Do you want me to bring you anything? Ramen? Potato chips? Milk Bones?"
That earned her a long-suffering glance. "Keh. I'll pass," he grumbled haughtily, referring to the dog treats instead of the first two options.
"Suit yourself, then, grumpy . . . I'll just bring back pocky for Shippou and stuff for the others," she agreed lightly as she whipped around to leave.
"Ramen!" he hollered after her.
Kagome stopped and wandered back with a happy grin on her face. The grin took on a bit of a wicked edge, and she clasped her hands in front of her. "If you want ramen, you have to come with me," she said.
InuYasha made a face as he snorted again. "Keh! I hate your time, wench," he reminded her. "It's too crowded, too smelly, too loud, too everything."
"It isn't that bad," she argued, her tone taking on the instant defensive undertones he knew well enough. "There are things to be said for progress, you know."
"Yeah," he agreed with yet another derisive snort, "it's stupid!"
"It's not stupid!" she shot back. "At least we have indoor plumbing!"
"No running around, fighting youkai."
"One good thing, wench! The rest of it can go straight to hell."
Kagome sighed again. "Fine, fine," she muttered. "At least boys are taught manners in my time."
"You mean like that one from your school? That ain't manners! That's just pathetic."
"Right," Kagome said mildly as she shrugged off her backpack and rummaged through it. "Admit it: you're just scared of being in my time because you don't understand it."
"Scared? Like hell!" he snarled, quickly forgetting that he'd instigated this little discussion. "I ain't scared of anything, Kagome!"
She dug a tiny white tube out of the bag and yanked the lid free with a small popping noise. He made a face at the vague yet still unnatural smell of the greasy-waxy gunk she liked to smear on her lips. She called it 'chap stick'. He called it revolting.
"That's disgusting, wench," he pointed out as his face contorted in absolute disdain.
Kagome rolled her eyes. "You've got to be kidding," she remarked dryly. "You get youkai guts all over you just about every day, and you're calling me disgusting?"
"That ain't by choice," he retorted in a tone that stated quite plainly that he thought she ought to know as much.
She shook her head slowly before pinning InuYasha with a calculating stare. Breaking into a cunning grin, the miko blinked a few times as she stared up through the branches. "Why don't you come down here, InuYasha?" she coaxed in a tone that he really didn't trust at all.
"I think I'll stay up here, thanks," he grumbled sarcastically. "Anyway, I thought you said you had to go."
"I will," she agreed as she stuffed the tiny tube of nasty-wax back into her gargantuan backpack. "Are you sure you don't want to come with me? I'll only be gone a day or so . . . ."
"Go, already, will you? All your yappin's giving me a headache."
"I see," she shot back stiffly. "Maybe I'll stay a week or two . . . I do need to catch up on my classes, anyway."
InuYasha ears twitched. He knew she was deliberately goading him. He knew she expected him to yell and bluster and demand that she sure as hell better not think she was staying in her time that long. He knew that she wanted him to go with her with the ruse that he wanted to make sure she wasn't gone forever. Common sense told him not to take the bait. Common sense be damned. "The hell you will!" he bellowed. "Damn it, wench, if you make me come after you, I'll—"
Her laughter cut him off, filling the air like the sounds of tiny ringing bells. "You'll what, InuYasha? There isn't much you can do, if I don't come back right away. After all, you'd have to come through the well to my time to get me, and you ha-a-a-ate my time, remember? You're all bark and no bite, you know."
Face shifting into his signature pout, the hanyou snorted indelicately and shoved his arms together under the sleeves of his haori. "Keh! All right, Kagome, just stay gone a day too long, and see what happens."
Kagome sighed. "My time isn't nearly as bad as you think," she told him. "You just won't give it a chance."
"Do you remember the last time you said something wasn't as bad as I thought?" he shot back.
"You're just never going to let go of that, are you?" she asked with a marked narrowing of the eyes.
"I told you I was sorry for that," she grumbled, knowing that he loved to bring up 'The Curry Incident' to prove his point. "I forgot."
InuYasha snorted. 'Forgot, huh? After the time her mother nearly torched my tongue, she forgot that I can't stand spices like that? Ri-i-ight . . . .'
"I stay here in your time more than I'm home, you know," she pointed out reasonably.
"That's because we had to find the Shikon no Kakera. You remember, the shards of the Sacred Jewel? The one you broke?"
Kagome glared up at him as her cheeks reddened at his blatant reminder. "I know I broke it, InuYasha. You don't really have to remind me."
"That's debatable," he growled.
"Fine," she retorted. "Give me one good reason you won't come with me."
"Got stuff to do."
"What's that mean? You think I'm lying?"
She apparently didn't figure that his challenge deserved an answer because she ignored it. "I don't know why I even bother," she fumed instead. "Stay here, then! I'll just go back to my time—alone—even though I have spent more time here in your era than you ever have in mine."
"That's because my time ain't stupid!"
"Neither is mine!" she argued.
"Just 'cause you say it don't make it true."
"You know I'm right."
"In your dreams."
"You're just being stubborn."
InuYasha snorted. Loudly. "Ain't nothin' stubborn about it. You're just being stupid."
He could feel the spike in her aura as her irritation shot higher. He ignored the obvious warning in it, though. "Watch who you're calling 'stupid', dog-boy."
"Watch who you're calling 'boy', wench."
"All right fine, baka. That fits better, anyway."
"Don't even finish that, InuYasha . . ."
"Ungh!" InuYasha grunted as his body crashed through the branches of Goshinboku, dragged down by a flash of light that erupted from the kotodama rosary around his neck, only to slam into the earth at the young miko's feet.
Kagome planted her hands on her hips and shook her head slowly as she tapped the toe of her scuffed leather loafer while InuYasha peeled himself out of the slight indentation he'd created as he glowered at the girl's pretty face. "Why do you always have to pick fights with me?" she complained.
InuYasha snorted as he spat out some dried leaves and sat up. "Keh! Me? You started it! I didn't!"
"I did not!" she countered as she glared back at the half-human, half-dog-youkai as he shot to his feet and 'keh'ed' again for good measure. Kagome reached out to snag a leaf out of his hair. InuYasha bared his fangs at her. She narrowed her deep brown eyes in silent threat. "Did you just snarl at me?" she asked quietly, disbelief brightening her eyes with a glint that he couldn't ignore.
InuYasha snorted. "Keh! So what if I did?" he demanded, mustering as much bravado as he could.
Kagome's eyebrows shot up as her eyes narrowed even more. The result was even more intimidating when coupled with the way her back suddenly straightened, the way her entire body stiffened as her miko's aura pulled in closer. "Good bye, InuYasha," she said as she spun around on her heel and started to stomp away.
InuYasha's ears flattened at her entirely too-pleasant tone that was completely at odds with her very apparent pique. He tried to ignore the desire to dart after her. As much as he hated to admit it—and never to the girl in question—he hated when Kagome was truly angry at him, especially when he actually had started the fight.
'Keh! Who cares if she goes back to her era?' he fumed, trying not to wince as a sudden emptiness settled over him; the same emptiness that Kagome always left when she passed through the time slip. 'I don't need her, anyway, not really. She just gets in the way, and then I have to save her. Trouble—save—trouble—save . . . It's a vicious cycle. Pathetic human.'
Still, as hard as he tried to convince himself that he meant what he said, a part of him couldn't help but miss her, too, and the more he tried to ignore the sudden feeling of melancholy, the more acutely he felt the emptiness. Leaping back into the protective shelter of Goshinboku, the hanyou flopped against the tree trunk as he jammed his arms together under the generous cover of his haori sleeves with a loud snort and a telling drooping of the ears.
'See if I go after her! I won't, not this time! Not till she admits that her time ain't so great . . .'
'InuYasha no baka,' Kagome thought with a scowl as she fell through the gentle light and space of the time slip. 'I'm not going back till he comes to get me, and then he can apologize for always putting down my era.'
Feet touching down on the solid ground as the darkness above closed in on her, she sighed. "Right, Kagome. He'll apologize about the time that pigs start flying. Irritating, stubborn dog-boy! Why does he always have to argue with me? If I didn't know better, I'd swear he likes it or something . . ."
Her voice echoed off the cold stone walls surrounding her, and Kagome wrinkled her nose. With a heavy sigh as she swung her backpack over her shoulder, she reached for the ladder and started the long climb out of the well.
She should be used to InuYasha's constant picking. She'd put up with it for nearly a year, since the day she first fell through the Bone Eater's Well on her fifteenth birthday. InuYasha tended to be brash and surly, disagreeable and grouchy, but he also had his moments. Kagome winced as she braced her hands on the ledge and hoisted herself out of the darkness.
'Okay, he does have his moments. I just wish he'd choose to have them more often.'
Jogging up the stairs and sliding open the well-house doors, Kagome squinted as she stepped outside into the bright sunshine. Everything looked exactly the same as it had two weeks ago—the last time she'd come home. The shrine grounds were neat and tidy, as always. The flowers bloomed in the bed around Goshinboku as the ancient tree's branches swayed in the gentle afternoon breeze. It simply wasn't a day that lent itself to gloomy thoughts or feelings of anger. Too bad that's exactly where her thoughts were. With a sigh, Kagome brushed off her bleak thoughts and pulled the doors closed before skipping down the steps and striding toward the shrine.
'Pocky, of course, for Shippou . . . Sango didn't really ask for anything, but I know she loves the body wash. I'll get her another bottle of that. Miroku . . . I should get him some ointment. He's been slapped more often this week than he has in a long, long time.'
"Because he's a fucking pervert," InuYasha's assessment echoed in her head.
Kagome frowned. 'No, there's more to it than that . . . something's bothering Miroku. He hasn't been this bad since Sango joined the group . . .'
Just last night, she'd seen the monk staring at the horizon with such a pensive, foreboding expression. She asked him if something was wrong, and for once, Miroku hadn't tried to hide his obvious concern. "It's getting worse," he admitted quietly, violet eyes scanning the horizon as he refused to meet Kagome's gaze.
She didn't ask him what he was talking about. She didn't have to. The way he clutched his right hand—the soft click of the prayer beads that sealed the kazaana closed . . . There was nothing Kagome could do. Grasping his shoulder just to let him know he really wasn't alone felt like such an empty gesture, but it was all she had to offer him. "We'll get Naraku. We'll find him."
"Of course we will," he agreed, an edge to his voice, as though he didn't really believe her; as though he were simply humoring her.
Suddenly it all made sense. Miroku's behavior wasn't some resurgence of lechery. Maybe . . .
'Maybe he knows . . . If the kazaana is spreading, then . . .'
Deliberately cutting off her train of thought, Kagome quickened her step as she neared the back doors of the shrine house. 'I can't stay. Miroku . . . He might not have that long . . .'