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To Fight For Tomorrow

Chapter Text


It was late. He should've been at his castle, in his bed, if not sleeping then at the very least meditating to prepare for what was to come tomorrow.

But he could not. He was simply too restless.

And what better way for an Inu-daiyoukai to relieve his restlessness than to hunt. To let his demon loose and relish in a kill.

He'd ended up flying for hours before being drawn here, seeking a suitably powerful opponent to vent his frustrations upon. And now, with the world around him illuminated by an almost-full moon, Tōga walked through the tall grass of the meadow he'd found himself in.

He could sense that whatever power it was that had drawn him here was close, yet even as he moved towards it, the daiyoukai's thoughts turned of their own accord back to the source of his restlessness.

He did not really want to take that female as his mate tomorrow. But if he did not, he could not guarantee the security of his position in the West. The Inu-daiyoukai Kingdom of the Sky was too powerful. Their armies too unreachable, fortified from above as they were. It was their undeniable advantage, which meant that if he wanted his new Kingdom in the West to remain on good term with the Sky Pack he now called allies, then he had to cement their treaty by taking the female as his mate.

He thought again about her prideful eyes and the derisive way she'd looked down her nose at him all those years ago when they'd first been presented to one another during the public announcement of their betrothal. The memory of it made his eyes flash with fury once again.

Who did that woman think she was?! Did she not know who he was?! He was Tōga! The great Inu no Taishō! He had carved a bloody swath through Japan in a mere few centuries, claiming a vast territory in the West for himself and his Pack. He would NOT be looked down upon by some crescent-moon bitch!

And yet still he had to take the Sky hime to mate… Hence his current restlessness. The situation was unpleasant, to say the least, but by all the Kami, he was determined to beget an heir upon her as soon as possible, cementing his undisputed position of power.

These were the thoughts that plagued him as he made his way across the meadow. Whatever this strange power was, it was even closer now, yet he couldn't quite pinpoint its source.

He stopped, silver-white hair blowing gently in the midnight breeze. It did not feel like the youki of a demon and yet… He lifted off the ground, floating up into the air to survey his surroundings.

In the distance, across the nearby river, he could see a small human settlement. It was nothing more than a few scattered huts. He took no notice. It was beneath one such as he to take notice of things like anthills, or beehives, or human settlements.

Instead, he focused his senses on the hum of power that he could feel emanating from somewhere nearby.

And then he spotted it. A faint glow coming from further across the meadow, closer to the river. He swooped lower, hovering above the glow for a moment, before landing in the grass beside what appeared to be a well of some kind.

Tōga could hear the faint trickling sound of water coming from within, and when he looked down inside, it appeared as though the water at the bottom of the well was glowing a phosphorescent blue-green.

He blinked a few times. The well appeared to be empty, and yet he could not deny the thrumming power that emanated from its depths.

Curiosity piqued, he jumped lithely over the edge of the well, seeking out the source of this strange power that called to him. But before his body could fully enter the well, a flash of light blinded Tōga and a pulse of power sent him flying backwards, out of the square wooden frame of the well and into the sky.

He hovered there for a moment, growling low to himself, allowing his eyes to readjust to the darkness after the light subsided.

He was still not prepared for what he saw next.

Rising up out of the well, standing on a sparkling column of blue-green water, was a woman.

She was dressed in an iridescent shift-like gown, the fabric clinging to her as though it dripped with water. Her hair was a soft silver-blue colour that cascaded down her back and over her shoulders like waves on the ocean. Pointed ears were decorated with gems of different colours and thin strands of silver and gold chain adorned her neck and chest.

The woman looked up from her perch upon the column of water, locking eyes with Tōga. He unsheathed his sword, So'unga, and hovered, prepared to strike but waiting to see what would happen next.

He did not have to wait long.

"Come, come now, Tōga, Lord of the Western Lands. There is no need for that."

Tōga's eyes widened a fraction at her use of his name. "Who are you?" He asked.

"Me? In many lands I have many names… Amphitrite, Nephthys, some simply call me the Lady of the Lake… But you, Tōga, may call me Lady Nimue. I am the Kami of this well."

Tōga's eyes widened further still. "Kami?"

As powerful as he was, Tōga knew not to challenge a Kami in her own domain. To trifle in such matters was to court the unknown, and no ruler worth his steel would jump into a fray without first assessing his opponent.

Nimue did not answer his question. Instead, she said, "Come down here, Tōga. I would give you a gift on the eve of your mating."

Unwilling just yet to discount her claims of godhood, Tōga slowly lowered himself to the grass of the meadow, settling a few feet away from the well. He didn't yet sheath his sword, though. Instead, his stance remained predatory.

"Come now, puppy," Nimue said. "Put that thing away! What I have come to give you is too important for such nonsense." And before the growl could even form in Tōga's chest at being called a puppy, there was another blinding flash of light.

Blinking away the momentary blindness, he found himself seated on a plush stack of furs and cushions, So'unga sheathed and laying in the grass beside him.

Nearby, Nimue sat on her own plush pile, and a small fire now crackled just to his left, illuminating the slight greenish cast of her skin.

Tōga could not understand what had just happened. "How—?"

She cut him off. "For one such as I, time has no meaning. And yet, we haven't the time to waste."

From the corner of his eye, Tōga looked the Kami over with a wariness akin to respect. "What do you want of me?"

"Tōga, Tōga. Always so direct. Your question is not a difficult one, though you may not like my answer." She paused. "What I ask from you is no less than your life."

Tōga stiffened at her words, instinctively reaching out his hand toward So'unga.

"Stop, Inu no Taishō. I mean you no harm. Moreover, the war to come is not one that you can win by blade alone."

"A war? What mean you by these words? Is the Kingdom of the West under threat?" His voice rose with the repercussions of her words, eyes narrowing to dangerous slits at the idea.

Nimue laughed then. A lilting sound, like water trickling over the pebbles of a creek.

"No, no, my darling pup. The West is quite safe... For now at least."

Tōga was quickly losing patience. He felt the restless ire that had brought him to this meadow returning in full force.

"For now? What does that mean? You speak in riddles!"

Nimue did not answer. Instead, she cocked her head to the side, peering at him. "You dislike the path you are set to embark upon tomorrow."

It was a statement, not a question. Tōga said nothing, but his silence was confirmation enough.

She continued, "Would it soothe your soul then? To know that, for the safety of your kingdom, what will be MUST come to pass?"

Again, Tōga did not like the hidden meaning he felt hung in her words. The idea that his kingdom was under threat while he lounged beside a fire did not sit well with him.

"If you know of a threat to my power you must tell me!" It was a steely command, spoken in a tone that brooked no dissent.

She laughed again. "But of course, my Lord. Did I not tell you that I had a gift to give you?"

He merely glared at this woman who claimed to be a Kami. Kami or not, he did not like being toyed with.

Seeing the fire in his eyes, Nimue's face turned subtly contrite. She sighed. "Tōga, the gift I would give you bares a heavy burden, but for the sake of your kingdom… of your Pack… of so much more… I would see it given to you. It is not a gift I can force upon you, though. You must accept it of your own free will, knowing that from this day until your last, nothing will be the same for you again."

If Tōga had been anyone other than the Inu no Taishō, he may have squirmed uncomfortably at those words. Instead, he turned to look her fully in the face before asking, "And if I refuse your gift?"

"Then your sons, and the sons of your sons, and all youkai from now until the end of all days will perish."

Tōga inhaled sharply, his eyes widening in shock. After a moment he exhaled slowly, disbelief warring in his mind with the magnitude of the words this woman had spoken.

"How do you know this?"

"Puppy…" Nimue's eyes meet his. In a sad but firm tone, she continued. "Have I not just shown you that for one such as I, time has no meaning?"

Tōga's gold eyes shifted between the liquid blue of each of hers. Staring into them, he tried to assess the truthfulness of her words. Finally, as if in acceptance, he spoke again. "And this gift you wish to give me, it will protect my heirs from destruction?"

Nimue clarified, "It will set them upon the path. There are limits to even my power. What you do with the gift I give you – what they then do after that – will determine the inevitability of their fate."

Tōga turned his head back towards the fire, staring into the flames for a long moment. Calmly, he finally spoke. "I care NOT for lesser youkai, nor anyone else for that matter, but if your gift will ensure that my line will continue on… then I accept."

This time her laugh was a rueful one. "Very well, my Lord. Regardless of your reasons, you have accepted and so I will give you what it is I have come here to bestow."

Tōga glanced back at her then, looking from her hands to the furs and cushions around her. "I see nothing. Where is this gift you speak of?"

A soft smile pulled at the corners of Nimue's mouth. "The gift I would give you is two-fold. Come, sit closer by me. I will need to place my fingers upon your brow."

Reluctantly, Tōga shifted himself closer to the Kami. He watched her hand as it rose toward his forehead, stiffening slightly as her fingers crept closer.

Nimue paused just before touching him. In a voice barely above a whisper, she spoke again. "Remember, Tōga, you have accepted this two-fold gift of your own free will. And, as I said before, nought will be the same for you after this."

Tōga blinked once, then gave a slight nod. "I still accept."

He inhaled sharply as her cool fingers touched his brow. Paralyzed, the Kami's blinding light enveloped him again and before he could process what was happening, his mind tumbled over the edge of itself.

Everything Tōga was and everything he would be – his very soul – was suddenly filled with flashing images of things to come.

Memories he had yet to experience, faces he had yet to know. He saw his life… and his death. Yet still, the flashes continued as he witnessed the battles that would be fought long after he was nothing more than a towering pile of bones.

Amongst it all… He saw his sons.

In waves, emotions rose up and crashed over the daiyoukai's unused heart. They stole his breath as the visions unfolded further and further into the future, showing him the utter destruction and devastation that would come should his gift not be heeded.

If felt like a lifetime – ten lifetimes – had passed while he watched the flashing images play across his mind… And yet, he knew it was over in an instant.

When the Kami's fingers left his forehead, Tōga fell forward on his knees, hands in the grass, bracing his panting body.

Somewhere in the back of his awareness, he registered that the furs and cushions, even the small fire were all gone. And from his position on the ground, he could see Nimue's bare feet walking away towards the well.

"Wait…" He whispered on a jagged breath.

Her small feet stopped their forward motion. He looked up at her then and saw that she was looking back at him from over her shoulder.

Tōga tried to find words to make sense of what he had just seen. The horrible gift he had been given. "If I… Can they... Can we be saved?" He found his breath again, composing himself enough to sit back on his heels and look up at her.

She was quiet for a moment as if pondering his question. Finally, she spoke. "As I said before, I can merely set you on the path. What happens next…" She let her words trail off before whispering "I will do what I can to be of aid, as I know there will be… others… who would wish to see our efforts fail."

It was all she was willing to offer him, he knew. She continued her slow pace back towards the well.

Tōga felt weak and lightheaded. The emotions that had erupted within him during his powerful vision had not subsided. It was as though his chest had been cleaved in two… and yet what she'd originally promised him bubbled back up to the top of his mind then.

"Lady Nimue," he called her out by name for the first time. She paused as she reached the edge of the well, waiting for him to continue.

"You said this gift was two-fold. Yet, beyond these visions, I know not what else you have given me."

Nimue stepped up onto the wooden edge of the well, and then up again onto her luminescent column of water. Only then did she turn around, the same blue-green glow emanating from around her now, as well.

She opened her mouth to speak then, and the reverberating tone of her words made Tōga feel weak all over again. He finally comprehended the full power of the being whose presence he was in.

"Great Inu no Taishō, strongest of all daiyoukai, Lord of the West. To you I have granted that which you will need most, to ensure that your steps do not falter on this path that you will walk."

"What—?" He could not finish his words.

She spoke again, softer then, yet still full of power.

"I have granted you the gift of compassion."

And with a final flash of blinding light, she was gone.

Tōga knelt in the grass for a long time. He wondered if it had all been a dream, but the visions in his mind did not fade, and the well too remained where it was in the meadow near him.

Finally, he rose from his knees and walked carefully over to the edge of the well. Peering in, he saw that it was now empty. No trickling noise. No glow. No water at all, in fact. Nothing but a bare patch of dirt remained at the bottom.

Dawn was beginning to lighten the eastern horizon. He scrubbed his hands over his face and went to retrieve So'unga from where it still lay in the grass.

The Kami had been correct. Nothing after this night would ever be the same. The mighty Inu no Taishō allowed himself a rueful smile then. He had accepted this fate and walk this path he would.

Knowing that his mating ceremony was scheduled to begin with the rise of the full moon this coming evening, Tōga lifted himself into the air.

But he did not head west.

Instead, he raced towards the barren wasteland that the weapons-master, Tōtōsai, called home. He needed to commission the creation of two new swords first.

Chapter Text

Six months.

It had been six months since the well had reappeared, delivering Kagome back to her own time.

Six months since she'd watched shock creep over Inuyasha's face when he realized he was being pulled back into the well.

Six months of trying every single day to get back to him.

Six months since… that kiss.

Most nights, Kagome lay in bed crying, unable to sleep, replaying their last moments over and over again. The moment when Inuyasha had found her floating in the darkness. The moment he had pulled her into his arms. The moment he had kissed her with such relief and tenderness etched across his handsome face.

He'd given her the strength to make the one true wish that freed them both from the hell they'd been trapped in.

So why? Why had the well stopped working?

She replayed those last moments over and over again. Dissecting them with a scientific brutality, trying to piece together the reason for what had happened, hoping she could find a solution that would allow her to go back through.

And every night, as the thoughts rolled over and over in her mind, she wept silent tears of longing and frustration against her pillow, eventually falling asleep like that, unable to think anymore…

And that's when the dreams would begin.

The enveloping blackness. The despair. The loneliness. The absolute hollowness of knowing that she was alone. That Inuyasha would not – could not – come for her. The dream would repeat all night long. She'd call out for him in the darkness, but would only ever hear the mocking call of her own echo in return.

"Good morning, Tokyo! Today's weather looks to be sunny but cool with a slight chance of rain in the afternoon.."

Kagome's alarm jolted her out of the dream. She felt as though she hadn't rested at all. But then again, she hadn't really had a good night's sleep since she'd been back.

Dragging herself up and out of the house, she floated mindlessly through another day of high school. She should have been happy. This was what she'd studied so hard for, fought with Inuyasha so many times over. Getting accepted into high school should have been a triumph. But her grades were suffering, she knew, and her friends were worried about her.

"Hey, Kagome!"

Looking down the hallway as she stood in front of her final class of the day, Kagome saw Ayumi, Eri and Yuka walking towards her with three matching too-bright smiles pasted to their faces.

"Hi, you guys." Kagome tried to sound cheery, but her smile didn't quite make it to her eyes.

Ayumi spoke up first. "The three of us wanted to know if we could come over to your place after school and just… you know… hang out and catch up."

Kagome rubbed her arm and looked away towards the floor. "Oh, I don't know. I'm not really feeling in the mood for that today."

All three girls eyed each other silently. They hadn't yet told Kagome what they'd seen. Arriving at her home to find the well had disappeared. Her mother, brother, and grandfather yelling at the ground where it once had been. And then the voice of Kagome's bad-boy boyfriend coming up from under the earth swearing that he was going to find her and bring her back.

When Kagome had finally reappeared at school a few days later they'd wanted to ask her about it then, but Kagome had looked so sad and broken – like a shell of herself – that they couldn't bring themselves to do it.

But the days had run into weeks, and weeks into months, and Kagome's mood had not gotten any better.

And so the three friends had decided amongst themselves that, even if they had to force her, they were going to make her tell them what had happened. They were her best friends after all, and they wanted to help.

It was Yuka who finally spoke the words that all three girls were thinking. "Look, Kagome. We see how sad you are, and we're here for you. We're coming home with you after school today whether you want us to or not!"

Kagome looked at all three of her friends then. Tears began filling her eyes, but she quickly blinked them away when the bell rang, signalling the beginning of the last class of the day.

"Okay," she finally conceded with a slow nod. "I'll meet the three of you back here at the end of school."

"Great! See you then!" said Eri. She continued with a smirk, "And don't even THINK of trying to leave without us. You know we'll just follow you home and barge right into your bedroom anyway."

Kagome did smile then, a half-smile anyway. "I know, I know…" She looked her friends in the eyes, grateful for their constant friendship, before turning on her heel and heading through the door into class.

"Just let me know if you need anything else, girls!" Ms. Higurashi called over her shoulder as she headed back downstairs.

"Thanks, mom!" Kagome called after her.

The four girls were seated around Kagome's bedroom. Kagome sat on her desk chair, faced towards her bed. Yuka had taken a seat cross-legged in the middle of Kagome's pink bedspread, while Ayumi and Eri sat on the floor, one beside the bed, the other under the window, knees pulled up under their chins.

"So…" Kagome looked down at the floor, unsure of what to say. She rubbed her hands over her knees in a nervous gesture.

The three friends shared another look between them. It was Yuka who then nodded to the other two. They'd already spoken amongst themselves, deciding on the tactic they thought would most likely crack Kagome out of her shell, forcing her to talk with them.

"We know what happened," Yuka said bluntly.

At those words, Kagome's eyes shot up from the floor. She looked between the unwavering stares of all three of her friends.

"What…?" She said in a hoarse whisper. "I don't know what you're talking about…" But even as the words left her lips, Kagome could tell that her friends knew she was lying.

It was Ayumi who took pity on her. "We were here, you know. All three of us. We came to look for you when you missed the high-school entrance ceremony. When we got here we found your family crowded in the well shrine, yelling at the bare spot on the ground where the well used to be." Ayumi motioned with her hand towards the window that faced the well shrine. "Then we heard your… boyfriend's… voice coming up from under the ground telling your family that he was going to get you back."

Kagome sat there for a long moment, completely dumbfounded. "But… you never…" She trailed off, processing Ayumi's words. Finally, she looked up. "They never told me."

"And we never asked," said Eri. "To be honest we were just too relieved when you showed back up at school one day, and we figured they must have mentioned something about us being there, and that you'd just come and talk to us about it when you were ready. Did your mom really never tell you we were there when it happened?"

"No," Kagome shook her head. "But I guess I can understand why. We've all been hurting. I haven't talked too much with them about what happened either. Not even with my mom."

Yuka piped up again then. "We want you to tell us everything, Kagome. I mean it, from the start to the finish. No matter what, we'll believe you. You can trust us. And after what we saw and heard that day, I don't think there's anything that you can say that we wouldn't believe. We're here for you."

Everything that Kagome had been holding so tightly inside herself for six long months broke free then. Massive shuddering sobs wracked her body as she slid from her chair down to the floor, hugging her arms tightly around her shaking body as though trying to hold her very soul together.

All three girls huddled around her, hugging her, allowing her to cry out her pain.

When Kagome's tears finally slowed, it was Eri who spoke next. "Are you ready?"

With a slow nod, Kagome dried her cheeks and began. "It all started on my 15th birthday…"

It was late when Kagome finally finished telling her friends everything. They'd taken a break at one point to eat something, giving all three girls a chance to call their parents and let them know that they were staying the night at Kagome's.

Ms. Higurashi had brought up some tea and a tray of late-night snacks before she herself had retired for the night. She'd been planning on reminding the girls not to stay up too late, that they had school in the morning, but when she saw the tear tracks staining Kagome's face, her heart broke. She understood then what the four girls were doing up so late, and if letting them stay up all night would help her poor daughter even a little, then she'd happily let them be.

The four girls sat silently for a while, sipping their tea.

It was Yuka who finally broke the silence. "But… I don't get it. Where are they now?"

"Huh?" Kagome looked at her friend.

"Well, you said that these youkai were practically immortal, that they lived for hundreds of years, right? It's only been 500 years or so since the Sengoku Jidai. If you really are trapped back on this side of the well, why haven't your friends come to look for you?"

"Yeah," said Eri. "I mean Shippō at the very least should've come to find you by now, right? He was only a little kid back then. He should definitely still be around today."

Kagome hadn't even thought about that. Were her friends still out there somewhere? Surely Shippō must still be alive. And Sesshōmaru. Could maybe even Inuyasha be–?

Her thoughts didn't get any further down that track before Ayumi spoke up. "But…" she said tentatively as a shadow crossed her face. "There are no youkai."

Kagome was confused. "What do you mean? Yes, there are. I just told you—"

Ayumi cut her off. "No, I know what you told us, and I believe you. What I mean is that, if you hadn't just told us the truth, if you hadn't fallen down that well, then all of us would've lived our lives believing that there was no such thing as magical creatures. That youkai were nothing more than a fairytale."

All four girls thought about that for a second longer before Ayumi continued. "Kagome, think about it. All those times that Inuyasha saved you when he came to our time, did any of those involve youkai?"

She thought about it. The Noh mask had been possessed by a shard of the jewel in the past before being sealed away. The ghost of Mayu was just that, a ghost. And the mindless youkai that had crashed the school's cultural festival had come back with her as dried foods from the past.

"No," Kagome said finally. "None of the battles Inuyasha fought here were with youkai that had originated in our world."

"So then… Where are they all? What happened to them?" Ayumi asked.

"I don't… I don't know!" The more Kagome thought about it, the more her heart sank into her stomach. Her friends were right. If Shippō, or Kirara, or any of them were still around, then surely they would've come looking for her by now.

It was Eri that spoke next. "What if…? What if something happened to them? Between then and now, I mean."

They were all silent for a moment, considering this. Then Yuka voiced the question she'd been pondering since Ayumi first spoke. "And what if it's not just youkai?"

Three sets of eyes turned to look at her.

Yuka explained, "An entire species can't have been restricted to just our tiny island. I mean, come on. That's unrealistic. We've all read the myths and stories in Literature and English classes. We've seen the movies. All over the world, there are folk tales about youkai-like beings. So, what if youkai were just called youkai here in Japan, but really these beings were… everywhere?"

Kagome blinked rapidly. "You think…? You think they're all real? All the world's folk tales? But some of those stories – some of those creatures described by other cultures – sound nothing like youkai."

Ayumi piped up then. "Well, a few hundred years ago, humans didn't even think that other humans were the same species! I mean, western conquerors thought Africans were so different that they convinced themselves they were another species, right? Only they weren't, of course…"

Eri continued. "If this is true… If all magical creatures are just different types of what we here in Japan called youkai… And if all of them are gone everywhere on earth…" She trailed off, letting her words hang in the air around the four girls.

It was too much for Kagome. "No! I can't accept that! It isn't possible! They can't just be gone. HE can't just be gone…"

Her voice hitched as her tears threatened to pour forth again. She closed her eyes against them, then whispered. "I have to go back. No matter what happens, I have to get back to them."

Ayumi, Eri and Yuka all looked from one to the other. They knew without needing the words that if the well ever opened again, their friend wouldn't hesitate to return to that world and never look back.

"Well…" Yuka began slowly, then continued, her voice firm. "Then I guess we have a lot of work to do."

"Work?" Kagome questioned, blinking a few times. "I don't understand. What do you mean?"

Yuka continued. "Well, if you're planning to go back there, then you can't just sit around here. We need to come up with a plan! Even if what we fear isn't the case – that they haven't gone extinct – what kind of friends would we be if we let you go back there without helping you prepare for the journey first?"

"Prepare?" Kagome felt like an idiot, dazed as she was by her friend's words, but Eri seemed to understand what Yuka was getting at.

"Yeah, Kagome! Prepare. You know, keeping up with practicing your archery, maybe take some sword-fighting classes or some self-defence classes. I know they have a competitive archery club at school…." Eri was getting excited just thinking about it.

Ayumi got in on the fun then, too. "Yeah, Kagome. And we can help you with research! If you're going to go back there you need to be prepared. We can help you research as much as we can about different youkai. We can even help you research other myths and stories from around the world. They might give us a clue on how you might be able to get back!"

Kagome couldn't help but feel her heart swell with her friends' willingness to help her. She smiled. "Well, I guess you're right…" But doubt quickly crept back in. She turned her eyes back down to the floor before saying, "But the well still doesn't work."

Yuka wouldn't let her friend fall back into despair. "You have to keep trying, Kagome! Don't give up. Try the well once a week. Don't stop. And in the meantime, we'll help you. Heck! I've always wanted to take a self-defence class anyway!"

All three girls nodded at Kagome, urging her with their eyes not to give up.

And for the first time in six long months, Kagome felt a small flicker of hope ignite inside her heart.

Chapter Text

It was early March. Mr. Higurashi shuffled about his storeroom, muttering to himself.

He was looking for something important. So important, in fact, that he'd hidden it away long ago. Only now, it seemed, that he'd hidden it away even from himself.

"I know it's around here somewhere…"

He climbed higher up the short ladder that he used to reach the top-most shelves of his storeroom. Stretching on tiptoes, arms above his head, he tried to grab for what he thought was the box he sought. But there had been something resting on top of it, and then something else leaning against that, and before he knew it the contents of the entire shelf was falling down around his ears.

"Gifu? Are you okay?!" His daughter-in-law had come running when she heard the crash. Appearing in the doorway, she surveyed the scene with wide eyes.

"Oh, gifu! What were you doing?!"

Mr. Higurashi stepped slowly down from the ladder. The box he had been trying to reach appeared to be the only one that hadn't fallen off the shelf.

"I was trying to reach that." He grumbled, motioning to the box that sat alone now on the top-most shelf.

"Well, why don't you see about cleaning some of this up, and I'll climb up and grab that for you." She smiled benevolently at him. It bolstered his flagging courage. He knew that if what was in that box was the thing he sought, then that smile might not remain upon her dear face for much longer.

"Alright, yes. You climb. I'll see about this."

Ms. Higurashi stepped lightly up the three rungs of the ladder. Reaching her longer arms above her head, she easily grabbing the box her father-in-law sought.

Mr. Higurashi spent more time watching his daughter-in-law reach for the box than he did actually tidying the mess he'd made, but he couldn't help it. He was nervous. The closer to eye level the box got, the surer he was that it was indeed the box he sought.

"Here you go, gifu. Is this it?"

"Yes, yes. Thank you, my dear." He reached for the ancient wooden box. Carved into the lid was the image of an Inu youkai, crouched as if to pounce. Tail up, head down, tongue lolling out to the side.

"Oh my, look at that!" Ms. Higurashi said, taking in the image on the lid. "That's an Inu, yes? Like… Inuyasha?" She barely breathed the name. Even though it had been nearly three years, the wounds of Kagome's time spent in the Sengoku Jidai were still fresh… for all of them.

"Yes, it is. Though Inuyasha was a half-demon, and so would not have had a true-form such as this."

"Hmmm, I see. Well, let me know if you need anything else, gifu. I'll ask Souta to come and help you clean all this up once he gets home from school in a few hours. I'm sure he'll be back before Kagome. She told me she was staying at the library to study for her last few exams. Can you believe it?! Just a few more weeks and then it'll be official! She'll be a high-school graduate!"

Ms. Higurashi couldn't hide the beaming pride in her voice at her daughter's accomplishment. Three years ago, the idea of Kagome getting into high school had been a tenuous one. But now, to see her daughter here at the end after going through so much… She couldn't help but smile.

But Mr. Higurashi only frowned. "Hai. Three weeks before it's all over."

"What is it, gifu? You're not worried about her exams, are you? You know how good her grades have gotten. She's already been accepted into the university. These final exams are just a technicality."

Mr. Higurashi's frown deepened. He'd hoped to review the scrolls that lay inside the box prior to bringing them to his daughter-in-law. But watching her expectant eyes looking down on him, he knew that now was as good a time as any to begin the conversation he'd been avoiding having for over 18 years.

"Kagome won't be going to University."

"Whaaaat? Gifu, is that some kind of joke? Because if it is, it isn't a very funny one." Ms. Higurashi put her hands on her hips, looking with consternation down at her father-in-law.

"Giri no musume, it is no joke. Please, let us go inside. I think this is a conversation best had over a cup of tea."

Ms. Higurashi eyed her father-in-law for a long moment before consenting. "Okaaaay…. Gifu, what is this about?"

"Tea first, my dear, then we shall talk."

A few minutes later the two of them sat over their steaming cups, the carved wooden Inu box sitting on the table between them. Mr. Higurashi shifted uncomfortably in his seat under the weight of his daughter-in-law's patient stare.

Finally, he cleared his throat. "Did my son ever tell you how long our family has been the caretakers of this shrine, my dear?"

Whatever Ms. Higurashi had been expecting her father-in-law to say, it wasn't that. Caught off-guard, it took her a few moments to reply.

"He said it had been in your family for generations. Hundreds of years, I guess."

"Ah-ha. Yes, well, it's been in our family for just under 500 years to be exact."

"Oh, that's nice…" Ms. Higurashi's voice trailed off, as her mind caught on to what her father-in-law was getting at.

"Five… Five hundred years?!" She whispered, eyes widening at the implications.

"Yes." Mr. Higurashi pulled the carved wooden box towards himself. Slowly, carefully, he opened the lid. Inside lay several scrolls. The ones on top appeared to be much older than the ones that lay further within. All of them looked to be well cared for, though.

"Gifu, are you saying that…" Her voice trailed off as her father-in-law's eyes lifted from the contents of the carved wooden box to lock with hers.

"My son never knew." He began. "He was to be the next in line to guard the secrets. I'd always planned to tell him once I was ready to retire, but after Kagome was born – after he told me the name you both had chosen for her – I couldn't."

"Gifu, you're scaring me. What is this about?"

Instead of answering his daughter-in-law's question, Mr. Higurashi gave her one of his own.

"Did you never wonder why the Goshinboku and the well were both held sacred within the boundaries of this shrine? Not even after both were tied to Kagome's… adventures… in that other world?"

Ms. Higurashi looked down at her cup, not knowing what to say to that. "I- I- I guess I wondered at the beginning, but it just seemed like a coincidence. I mean, the legend of the Shikon no Tama has been a part of this shrine since I first met your son and he gave me one of those silly keychains of yours as a joke."

"Not so silly anymore, are they?" Mr. Higurashi intoned, looking at his daughter-in-law from the corner of his eye.

"No… not so much… anymore."

After a moment, Mr. Higurashi continued. "Did Kagome tell you it was I who told her that if someone were to make the one and only correct wish, that the jewel would be purified and banished from existence forever?"

"What?! No! She never told me that. How did you know that?!"

"It was written…. in here." Slowly, he turned the box toward his wide-eyed daughter-in-law. She didn't reach out to take it though. Instead, she clasped her hands around her cup, trying to steady her racing thoughts.

"Gifu, even if I didn't question Kagome's connection to the sacred tree, and the well, and everything, when Kagome first fell down the well and then returned, I remember that I asked you if you knew anything about what had happened to her and why. I asked you!" Her voice was low but fervent.

"And I lied." He levelled his eyes to his daughter-in-law's with an unyielding look. A look that spoke of the weight of the secret he'd been carrying all these years.

"What's going to happen to her?" Ms. Higurashi's voice trembled as her mind raced with images of all the worst horrors she could imagine befalling her daughter.

"I won't lie to you anymore. I won't keep the truth from you. Not with the little time we have left."

"Little time?! Gifu!" Ms. Higurashi's hand shot out across the table, grasping the hand of her father-in-law, wide eyes searching his for the answers that she feared.

The old man's eyes never faltered. He could not undo what had begun so long ago. He was silent for a few moments, stroking his weathered thumb across the back of his daughter-in-law's soft hand, willing her to remain calm.

Again, instead of answering her question, he asked her one instead. "If you had a chance to spend even one more day with my son, would you take it?"

Ms. Higurashi let out a panicky little laugh. "What kind of question is that? We're talking about Kagome, gifu, not me."

"Yes, we are talking about Kagome, and you know as well as I do that she's still in love with him."

"Are you… Are you saying that she's going to go back?"

Mr. Higurashi slowly nodded. "Yes. And when the time comes, you must not stop her."


"No, my dear. This is imperative. You must not stop her. Even if she has fears or concerns, you must urge her to go back."

It was as if her father-in-law's words opened up a dam in her mind. Question after question began to pour forth.

"Is the well going to reopen? When? Will she be able to travel back and forth again? Will she be locked on the other side the same way she's been locked over here? Will I ever see her again?!"

Ms. Higurashi pulled her hand away from her father-in-law's and brought both palms to her face, covering the tears as they spilt down her cheeks.

Mr. Higurashi let his daughter-in-law cry for a long time. He would not rush her in her grief, nor would he shield her from the truth any longer.

When her tears had slowed enough to catch her breath, she spoke again. "Are you certain? This has to happen?"

"Oh, my sweet child. It has already happened. Don't you see? Her future is our history." He glanced back at the carved wooden box.

Ms. Higurashi turned to look at the box again then, as if with new eyes. Inside it would contain the answers to her questions. "Will you… Will you let me read it?" She reached out her hand.

Mr. Higurashi quickly closed the lid but said, "Yes, I will. But not until after she's gone. And giri no musume, she must go. There is too much at stake."

Ms. Higurashi could sense that there was more that her father-in-law was not telling her, but she was wise enough to know that even if she asked, she would not get the answers that she so desperately sought. Not yet, at least.

"How much longer do we have?"

"Four, maybe five weeks. They counted time in the old ways back then. It's hard to say exactly."

Her voice broke. "That's all?"

"Yes, that's all. But she must not know that that's all. We must continue on as we have always been until the moment comes. And when it does, we must encourage her to go."

"I don't know if I can do this, gifu." Ms. Higurashi shook her head slowly.

Mr. Higurashi looked at his suffering daughter-in-law with sad eyes before he spoke. "Oh, my dear sweet child. Don't you see? You already have."

Chapter Text

It was her.

As he pulled the young woman into his arms he heard himself say, "Kagome. You idiot. What have you been doing all this time?"

His voice was strangely calm, though inside his mind was reeling. 'It's her. It's really her. She's back. Is this a dream? Please, don't let this be a dream. She's back. She's back. She's back. She's back.'

The words repeated over and over in Inuyasha's mind. He wanted to hold her like this forever, but too soon he heard footsteps running towards them.

"Kagome!" Shippō's voice shouted from nearby.

"You made it back!" Sango ran to a halt beside Miroku, voice filled with disbelief.

"It's been much too long, Kagome!" Miroku held each of his daughters in one arm, both girls peering at the woman in the strange clothing with curiosity.

Inuyasha loosened his hold on Kagome slightly. She lifted her head from his chest to look at their friends. "Miroku, Sango, Shippō! It's good to see you!"

"Heeeey!" Shippō was waving at Kagome frantically now. She finally pulled away from Inuyasha fully and ran the distance towards her friends.

'I'm back!' She thought to herself excitedly.

Shippō saw her coming and jumped down from where he sat on Miroku's shoulder, only to immediately bounce back up, launching himself into Kagome's arms.

"Kagome! Is it really you? You came back! I missed you, Kagome! Will you be staying for a while? How'd you get the well to work? I really missed you!" Shippō paused long enough in his string of questions to snuggle himself under Kagome's chin. She ran her hand up and down his small back.

"Oh, Shippō, I missed you, too! And you've grown since I last saw you! Look at you!" She pulled back a bit to look her fox kit up and down. He'd definitely grown.

"Of course I've grown, Kagome! I'm not going to stay small forever, you know. And I've kept up with my training! I've been going back to the Kitsune Inn every few months. I just finished my fourth exam and already I'm at Seventh Senior Rank!" Shippō's chest puffed up with pride.

"Seventh?! Wow, Shippō, that's great! I'm so proud of you! What will happen when you get to First Senior Rank?"

Inuyasha had walked over to join the group of friends. Listening to the two of them talk, it was he that replied to Kagome's question. "That's when the runt will earn his second tail."

Kagome smiled over at him and Inuyasha felt like his heart might just stop beating right then and there.

"Yep! Inuyasha's right!" Shippō continued, "If I can make it to First Senior Rank in less than 5 years, I'll be the youngest Kitsune ever to have earned their second tail!" Shippō looked like he might very well explode with pride at the thought.

"I'm so, SO proud of you, Shippō. You are going to be a great and many-tailed Kitsune warrior one day. I just know it." Kagome nuzzled into his red hair, smiling with motherly affection.

Well, you know…" Miroku chimed in then, "it's not just Shippō who's been busy while you've been gone." He waggled his eyebrows suggestively.

Kagome only laughed. Three years ago his insinuation might have flustered her, but at almost 19 she wasn't as innocent as she'd once been. Ayumi, Eri and Yuka had all had boyfriends throughout high school and there'd been no getting away from the very intimate details all three had felt were absolutely necessary to share with her… no matter how very single she herself had remained.

"Is that so, Miroku? And just who are these two lovely ladies?" Kagome looked questioningly at the two young girls sitting in their father's arms. Both girls looked up at her with matching looks of curiosity mixed with apprehension.

"These are the twins," Miroku replied. "Aki, Yuki, say hello to your oba-sama, Kagome."

"Kon'nichiwa, oba-sama." They chirped in their bright, two-year-old voices. Both girls giving their new aunt tentative smiles.

"Hello, you two! My, aren't you both beautiful, just like your mother. Please, call me Kagome-oba." The girls preened under the praise. All hesitancy quickly forgotten, they smiled at Kagome, wide toothy grins.

"Kagome…" Sango finally spoke then. She'd been all but frozen, watching the scene unfold around her. "It's really you! You're back!"

Sango rushed forward then and Shippō only had a split second to escape from Kagome's arms. Landing lightly on Inuyasha's shoulder, he watched as Kagome was enveloped in Sango's tightest hug.

Kagome closed her eyes against the tears of joy that threatened to escape, but Sango was outright weeping. The two women held each other for a long moment before Sango said thickly, "Sorry! I've always been emotional after my births. I just thought we'd never see you again!"

Inuyasha looked down at the ground. Sango's words too closely mirrored the feelings churning in his own stomach.

"Oh, Sango. I missed you so much! All of you!" Kagome held her dearest friend for a moment longer before opening her eyes again. When she did, she was met with the curious stare of the 3-month-old strapped to Sango's back.

Kagome laughed lightly. "And who might this be?"

Sango pulled away from Kagome and laughed in return, angling her body away from her friend so that Kagome could take a closer look. "This handsome young man is our son, Ichiro."

"Well, hello, Ichiro-kun!" The baby smiled a slight, gummy smile at the sing-song way that Kagome spoke to him. She looked from one to the other of her friends then. "Oh Miroku, Sango. Your children are adorable! I can't believe how much has changed in three years!"

"Ah, yes!" Miroku replied. "Many things have changed here in the village! But come! Let us go and tell Lady Kaede that you have returned! I'm sure she and Rin will be most happy to see you as well!"

Miroku made a gesture as though to usher Kagome towards the village, but Kagome hesitated. She looked to where Inuyasha stood, just slightly behind the rest of the group of friends.

"Actually, Miroku, would you, and Sango, and Shippō mind if I didn't head back to the village quite yet…?" She trailed off, then continued quickly. "I mean, I definitely want to catch up with you all, and see Lady Kaede, but…" She let her words trail off again.

It was Sango who instinctively understood what it was that Kagome wasn't saying. She looked quickly at Inuyasha whose eyes were fixed on Kagome. It was as if his stare might bore a hole through the back of her head.

She piped up then. "Actually, Miroku, it's almost nap time for the children. Why don't we leave Kagome with Inuyasha for a bit? You and I can go and see to the children, and Shippō can run ahead to Kaede-sama's home and let her know the good news. Then we can all meet back at our home for a celebratory dinner. How does that sound, Kagome?"

Kagome smiled at her beloved friend gratefully, "That sounds perfect."

At the look the two women exchanged, Miroku seemed to understand as well. "But of course, of course, my dearest. You are correct, as always. Come Shippō, you have been tasked with the honour of informing Kaede-sama of the good news!"

Shippō grumbled a little bit at that. He did not want to leave Kagome. She'd only just returned! But there was a firmness in Miroku's eyes that belied the good-natured tone of his words, and it told Shippō that no amount of arguing about this would change anyone's mind.

"All right, all right. Let's go. Bye, Kagome." He grumbled again, hopping down from Inuyasha's shoulder and back over to Miroku's.

As they head back towards the village, Sango turned her head and called over her shoulder, "I should have dinner ready just before sunset. Don't be late, you two!" And if Kagome hadn't known better, she would have sworn she'd seen a glimmer of mischief in her friend's eyes.

"Keh." Inuyasha grumbled under his breath. Sango's look hadn't been lost on him, either. He stepped forward to stand beside Kagome as the two of them watched their friends depart from the meadow until they could no longer be seen.

Alone with Inuyasha, Kagome was suddenly intensely nervous. "So…" she began, but instantly trailed off.

Looking down at her shoes, Kagome rubbed at her left arm anxiously. She had dreamed of this moment for three long years. Had been planning for it, working towards it with the help of her friends. But now that it was here, she was petrified. Three years was a long time. What if things had changed? What if he'd moved on? I mean, sure, they'd shared that kiss, but what if it hadn't meant what she'd hoped it meant? They'd never actually spoken openly about their feelings before. Kagome tried to swallow around the lump that was forming in her throat.

"I missed you, Kagome."

It was barely more than a whisper. Kagome's eyes shot up to Inuyasha's, searchingly. Only he wasn't looking at her but rather, up at the sky as though deep in thought.

Inuyasha was oblivious to Kagome's internal turmoil. He was too busy silently berating himself for calling her an idiot the second she'd emerged from the well. Why? Why'd he have to be such a baka around her all the time? For three long years, he'd prayed to any and every Kami that would listen, begging them to reopen the well and let her through to him, or him to her. And now that she was here – now that his wish had been granted – what was the first thing he'd done? He'd called her an idiot. Baka!

"I'm sorry." He finally said.

"Huh?" Kagome was pulled from her anxious thoughts by his words. "For what?"

"For calling you an idiot back there. I didn't mean it. I was just surprised is all." Inuyasha finally looked her in the eyes then, his features contrite.

"You don't have to apologize, Inuyasha. I know you didn't mean it." She smiled a soft smile at him, hoping her words would ease his guilt. "I missed you, too." She paused before continuing, voice thickening with emotion… "So much."

The reality of where she was, of who she was with, and all that had happened in the span of less than an hour, crashed over her in a wave that could not be contained. She started crying then, silent tears that shook her shoulders under the weight of their heavy burden of emotion.

"Kagome!" Inuyasha was struck at her sudden outburst of tears. Instinctively he wrapped his arms around her, tucking her head under his chin and burying his nose in her hair.

He didn't ask her to stop crying or tell her that it was all right. Instead, he just held her and let her cry.

She was grateful for that. Grateful for the warmth of his body pressed so tenderly against hers. Grateful for his scent – like that of mossy earth and windswept hills – surrounding her.

They stood like that for a long time, until finally, her tears began to slow. She pulled back, looking up at him. "I'm sorry, Inuyasha," she said with a short, rueful laugh. "I didn't mean to cry all over your robes like that."

"Keh. It's all right. I sort of… I mean, I think I know how you feel."

Kagome looked up at him then, searching his eyes. "Do you?" She questioned.

The past three years hadn't been easy ones for Inuyasha. His days were filled with watching the world around him move on. Miroku and Sango's happiness – as much as he cared for both of them and their children – was still a constant reminder of what he feared he would never be allowed to have, not with Kagome locked away from him as she was.

And at night? Well, his nights were filled with visions of Kagome. He tried to remember her face, her voice, her scent, the way she laughed, the way her eyes flashed with anger when he'd been a baka to her yet again. In his more hopeful moments, he'd even allowed himself the luxury of daydreaming about what he would say and do if ever they found a way back to each other.

He drew on those daydreamed conversations now as she looked into his eyes, expectantly.

"Kagome, I- I've hated every minute you've been gone. Every second. It's been hell. In my worst moments, I'd replay those last seconds with you in the well house. I'd see you turn around, call out my name." He shuddered, then continued. "But in my best moments… Well, in my best moments I'd think about… that kiss. There's a lot I never got a chance to—"

He was cut off when Kagome promptly stepped forward, wrapped one arm around his neck, the other around the back of his head, and pulled him down into a kiss.

His eyes went wide with shock when he realized what was happening, but he quickly recovered. Closing his eyes, he wrapped his arms around her back and waist, pulling her closer. His heart sped up as he returned her kiss, lips moving slowly over hers, savouring the feel of her as if for the first time all over again.

When they broke apart, Kagome blushed. "Sorry," she mumbled. "I couldn't help it."

"Kagome, you never have to apologize for kissing me. Not ever."

She blushed even brighter. "But I cut you off, you were going to say something?"

"I was? I mean, I guess I was…" He shook his head as if trying to clear it.

"I think you started saying something like, 'There's a lot I wanted to say,' or something…" She was suddenly desperate to hear whatever confession he'd been about to tell her.

"Oh yeah, right." He rubbed the back of his neck in embarrassment, not sure how to casually shift back into bearing his soul to her.

"Well," she suggested, "why don't we go for a walk? Maybe as we walk, whatever it was you wanted to say will come back to you."

"Yeah, sure."

He felt Kagome slip her small hand into his own before threading her slender fingers through his clawed ones. He squeezed her hand lightly and smiled at the sight. 'She's really back,' he thought to himself for what must have been the hundredth time that day.

"How about we walk down by the river?" Her voice dragging him back from his thoughts.

"Sure, whatever you want, wench." He blushed immediately. 'FUCK. First idiot and now wench?! Baka!'

He stammered. "I- I- I- Sorry! Fuck! I'm sorry! I know you hate it when I call you that—" He was interrupted when she placed a finger against his lips, stilling his words.

When he finally stopped sputtering she moved her hand from his lips to instead cup his cheek. "Don't apologize. It's one of the things I missed about being here… with you. I'd never let anyone else call me that…" she shuddered then continued. "But when you say it… I don't know. It feels like home, I guess."

She smiled a shy, lopsided smile up at him.

He exhaled, returning her smile. He brought his other hand up to lay atop the one she'd placed on his cheek, giving it a small squeeze before pulling both hands away from his face.

"So the river then?" He asked.

"Yep! Let's go."

She tugged on the hand he still had threaded with her much smaller one, and the two of them walked slowly down towards the river.

Chapter Text

Inuyasha and Kagome made their way towards the river. It was still early spring, and the air down by the water was cooler than it had been in the meadow. A few of the younger teenage boys from the village appeared to be fishing near the bridge, while a little further along, three women knelt on the bank with their laundry, laughing and chatting as they worked.

Inuyasha instinctively turned Kagome away to walk in the opposite direction – away from the other villagers – before they could notice her presence.

The two of them walked along in silence for several minutes, neither of them quite sure how to restart their interrupted conversation. Finally, Inuyasha blurted out the first thing that came to mind, "You're taller now."

He'd noticed right away when he'd pulled her from the well. There were… other differences as well. She wasn't as lanky as she'd been in his memories. Her hips swelled softly beneath her strange modern skirt, and her breasts… He blushed a deep red, before ripping his thoughts away from the path they'd started travelling down.

Kagome, thankfully, didn't seem to notice his sudden nervousness at the turn of his thoughts. "Yeah, I guess I am. Although, I haven't really grown in the last year or so… Still, I doubt I'd fit into my old school uniform anymore!"

She laughed then, but all Inuyasha could suddenly picture was her as she was now except in her too-tight old clothes from back then. He blushed even deeper and was immediately thankful for the voluminous nature of his robes.

Kagome did notice his blush this time and decided to have mercy on him, changing the topic. "Is it possible that you're taller too? I mean, I thought youkai didn't age the same way humans did, but you look taller and… I don't know… your face is a bit different from how I remembered it in my mind."

She wasn't going to mention that his shoulders seemed broader and his jaw had taken on a squarer, more masculine appearance. It was her turn to blush at the direction of her thoughts.

"Yeah, I think those 50 years pinned to the Goshinboku caught up with me sometime over the past 3 years, though I doubt I'll look any older than this anytime soon." He smirked a bit as he spoke, glad that his changes hadn't gone unnoticed by her either.

"I never did ask you how that worked. I mean, I wasn't expecting Shippō to have grown so much! How old are you anyway? I don't think I ever asked you that either."

"Me? Well, including those 50 years, I'd be…" He trailed off as he made the calculations in his head. "…213."

"213?! Whoa. So if you're so old but look so young, how is it that Shippō's grown so much in just 3 years?"

"Youkai and Hanyou age at pretty much the same rate as humans for the first, uh, maybe 8 years or so. I think it's some kind of survival thing. But then, the older we get, the slower it gets until we reach maturity, and then it really slows down. Or at least that's what Myōga told me, anyway."

"I see…" A shadow crossed Kagome's eyes then. Over the course of her entire lifetime, Inuyasha would never age much beyond how he appeared now… and yet she would grow older and—

She couldn't bring herself to finish the thought. Instead, she looked away, towards Inuyasha's forest in the distance.

Turned away as she was, Inuyasha didn't see the look of sadness that passed across her face. Instead, he spoke up about another change in her that had slowly been tugging on the edges of his awareness, ever since he'd pulled her from the well.

"I think… I think your powers have grown, too."

"Huh?" Pulled out of her burgeoning self-pity, Kagome wasn't sure if she'd heard him correctly.

"The aura of your reiki, I mean. It's stronger now than it was before. I think so anyway."

"Really? That's… I mean, I never even felt my spiritual powers very much when I was back in my ti— In my mother's time." She corrected herself. "But being back here… I don't know. Maybe you're right? I mean, after my full powers were unsealed from whatever Magatsuhi had done to lock them away, I never really had a chance to explore them much before…" She trailed off. "And then, over there, I guess I was too busy training in other things to think about it much."

"Training? You mean like your math tests and stuff?"

Kagome smiled at the fact that he remembered something as silly as that. She'd always hated math.

"Well, yes, but no. I meant other training, too. I joined the archery club at school to keep up my skills and took a bunch of self-defence classes, as well. I even took a couple of introductory katana classes."

She didn't mention anything about all the research that she and her friends had done. Their fears and assumptions from that night two-and-a-half years ago were just that, fears and assumptions. She wasn't about to lay them all at his feet after being back for less than two hours.

Inuyasha just stared at her as she'd spoke. "You did WHAT?"

"Well, yeah. Ayumi, Eri and Yuka encouraged me to do it. You remember my friends, don't you? Well, they thought… I mean, I figured that if— When I made it back here I shouldn't just show up unskilled and vulnerable again, right. I mean, I know you're here to protect me but…" She trailed off feeling her face flush the colour of his fire-rat. She was hesitant to say anything else in the face of his incredulity.

"What is it, Inuyasha? Why are you staring at me like that?!"

Inuyasha jerked her into his arms, crushing her to his body. "Inuyasha, what…?" Her question trailed off with the surprise of his sudden embrace.

Inuyasha couldn't completely keep his tumultuous emotions out of his voice when he said, "You were training to come back? All that time, you never stopped planning to come back?"

"Of course I never stopped!" She said into the folds of his robes, "I never stopped planning or trying! I tried once a week, every week, Inuyasha."

Kagome pulled back slightly so she could look up into his golden eyes. "Did you think I'd stopped trying? That I'd just moved on?" It was her turn to be incredulous.

"No. I mean, I hoped you hadn't. But when you never returned and I couldn't get through either, I… started… losing hope." His last words were barely more than a whisper, as he looked down and away from her eyes, ashamed.

She gave him a slight squeeze so that he would return his eyes to hers. "The only reason I never lost hope was because my friends wouldn't let me."

"What do you mean?"

"Apparently, they'd been there at the well house when it disappeared. I didn't know for the first six months after I came back, and those were…" She closed her eyes against the pain of the memory. "Those were terrible months. Eventually, though, they made me explain what had happened and convinced me not to give up hope, to train and to keep trying the well. If I hadn't had their support, I would have lost hope, too. Three years is a long time. I don't blame you if you stopped trying to get through." She kept her eyes fixed on his, urging him not to feel guilty if he had.

"I- I- never stopped trying. I– Shit, Shippō's probably going to blurt it out at some point anyway, so I may as well tell you myself." He took a deep breath before continuing. "I've been trying the well every three days or so ever since it closed."

Kagome's eyes widened in surprise at his confession. "Every— Every three days!"

Inuyasha blushed at the obvious surprise in her voice. "Well, yeah. I mean, it's not like I was busy or nothin'. I didn't have any math tests to worry about." He said with a lopsided grin, trying to ease her shocked expression. He rubbed at the back of his neck in embarrassment.

Without another word, Kagome grabbed Inuyasha by his forelocks and pulled him into another kiss. Only this time there was an urgency in her touch that hadn't been there before.

This time, when their lips met, Inuyasha didn't hesitate. He wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her in close. Kagome released his forelocks and instead slid one hand into the hair at the back of his head, the other hand cupping the nape of his neck. He groaned slightly when Kagome's small hand fisted in his hair. At his groan she took the opportunity to slip her tongue tentatively inside his mouth, reaching out with her's to taste him.

'Oh, Kami! Did she just—? Fuuuuuuck!' On another groan, Inuyasha opened his mouth fully to her, deepening their kiss. And when her tongue retreated, he followed it back to the velvety warmth of her mouth. 'She tastes like she smells,' he thought. 'Sweet like berries.'

Kagome finally broke the kiss for the simple reason that she needed to breathe. She blushed furiously at her sudden boldness and was immediately grateful that they'd walked so far away from the village that no one else had been around to witness their passionate moment.

'You idiot,' she thought. 'You haven't even asked him about his feelings yet, or told him about yours and yet here you are shoving your tongue down his throat!' She berated herself silently for her brazenness and opened her mouth to apologize.

Inuyasha saw the contrition take over her features and before she could form the words, he interrupted her. "Remember what I said: You don't ever have to apologize for that, Kagome. Not ever. Please." He urged her with his words and his eyes to believe him, as a wide, genuine smile spread over his face. She couldn't help but smile up at him in return.

Linking their hands together again, they walked on, talking about this and that. 'I could listen to his voice for hours,' she thought dreamily. 'Oh Kami, please let this be real. Please let it not be another dream.' She surreptitiously, pinched herself on the leg then, confirming that yes, being here with the man she loved was, indeed, real.

Sighing happily, Kagome wrapping her free hand around Inuyasha's bicep and leaned her head on it as they continued to walk, hand in hand. Inuyasha caught her up on how the village had rallied together after Naraku's final attack. How he, Miroku, Sango, and Shippō had helped with the rebuilding efforts, and how in return they'd been invited to stay and settle in the village. He even regaled her with some of his and Miroku's more impressive youkai-exterminating exploits.

Before long, Kagome noticed that the sun was beginning to sink towards the tree-line. "Hey, do you think maybe we should head back? We've walked pretty far and Sango said that dinner would be ready before sunset."

Inuyasha seemed reluctant for their time alone together to end. He didn't want to go back yet. He wanted her all to himself. There was still so much more he wanted to say to her – things he hadn't yet found the courage to say – but he knew she was right. "Yeah, Miroku will probably tease us like the lecher he is if we're even a few minutes late."

Kagome laughed at that, and the sound of it – hearing her genuine laugh of joy and amusement – filled his entire body with a warmth that he hadn't felt in three long years.

"Yeah," Kagome said, oblivious to her effect on him. "You're definitely right about that! Let's head back. I can't wait to see Kaede-sama!"

She turned and pulled him back the way they'd come… and Inuyasha didn't even care that he would likely have the goofiest grin plastered across his face the whole way back.

Chapter Text

As they'd approached the village, Inuyasha and Kagome were noticed by several villagers who'd all bowed and called out joyful greetings to Lady Kagome and Lord Inuyasha as the two had walked by.

"Whelp, that's it," grumbled Inuyasha, "I bet by morning the entire village will be buzzin' with the news that you've returned. I betcha the Headman himself will come looking for you before you're even done breakfast." The thought made Inuyasha miserable. Just more people he had to share Kagome with. Keh!

"Why would the Headman come looking for me?" Kagome wondered aloud.

"Because you're a walkin', talkin' legend, that's why!"

"Excuse me?!"

Inuyasha explained, "Damned Shippō and Miroku couldn't keep their traps shut after Naraku had been defeated. They'd tell anyone and everyone who'd listen all about our final battle. As though it was anybody else's business!" He was getting worked up all over again at the memory.

"Everyone… and I mean everyone… knows who you are now, Kagome. I've been stopped at least once in every town we've ever gone to for an extermination, just so that someone or another could ask me if I was THE Lord InuYasha and where they could find the great and powerful Shikon Miko!" Inuyasha was practically fuming.

"You've got to be kidding me?!" As he'd spoke, Kagome's face had taken on a progressively more flabbergasted look.

"Afraid not." He grumbled some more.

"But why do they keep calling you Lord Inuyasha?" She questioned.

"It's the bastard's fault." He growled out the words. "Everyone knows who bloody Lord Sesshōmaru is. Lord of the fuckin' Western Lands." He rolled his eyes at that before continuing, "Kaede must have cornered him and convinced him to leave Rin here in the village after the final battle, but he still visits her every couple months or so… And well, people started putting two and two together that we were related…" He said the word with a gag. "And the next thing I know everybody's whisperin' about how Lord Inuyasha is the second son of the Inu No Taishō! Not like I can't hear their damned whispers." He pointed gruffly at the ears that stood at attention atop his white-haired head.

"I can't believe that Sesshōmaru would leave Rin here!" Kagome said with surprise, latching onto the most shocking part of his diatribe. "Those two always seemed so… close."

"I think Kaede said something about it being in Rin's best interest to grow up with her own kind. There's an understatement for ya! I think they're figuring that when she gets older she'll be able to make up her own mind about whether or not she wants to stay here or go back with him. Either way, Miroku's been enjoying the situation way too much – that baka – because no matter how many times I tell everybody to stop callin' me that, they just keep on doin' it anyway!" He flung his arms up in the air in a helpless gesture at his last words.

"I'm sorry, Inuyasha. I know your… relationship… with Sesshōmaru is a sore spot for you." She half-smiled, half-frowned at him in commiseration.

"Let's just stop talking about it, already." He grumbled, crossing his arms over his chest.

"Of course." Kagome was contrite, having obviously hit a nerve. Inuyasha could see the regret on her face and immediately his foul mood was replaced with a desire to ease her burden.

He put his arm around her shoulders, giving her a light, reassuring squeeze before releasing her. "It's okay, Kagome. I've learned to just ignore it."

Kagome smiled up at him, but before she could say anything else her stomach let out an embarrassingly loud growl. She reddened in embarrassment immediately. "Err… Um…. This walking, talking legend may have missed lunch." She smiled up at Inuyasha weakly.

He chuckled and shook his head. "Well then, whatcha waitin' for, wench? Let's go get you some dinner."

And in the fading light, the two of them continued on toward Sango and Miroku's home.

Kaede had held back her tears when she'd finally laid eyes on Kagome's face.

In the midst of treating a sprained ankle earlier that day, Shippō had barged into her hut and squealed at the top of his Kitsune lungs that Kagome was back.

And as astonished as she'd been to be proven wrong – that the well had, indeed, opened up again – she was even more relieved and overjoyed for Inuyasha. Perhaps more than most, Kaede knew how much the hanyou had suffered without Kagome by his side.

Kaede smiled at the young girl from where she sat around the fire in Sango and Miroku's home. She cared deeply for Kagome – as one would a daughter – no less because she was the reincarnation of her beloved sister… But as the evening's celebrations wore on, she began to watch the young Miko carefully.

There was something… different… about the child. Kaede could tell that Miroku sensed it as well. She'd caught the monk giving Kagome assessing looks from over the rim of his rice bowl. Still, it hadn't stopped the Houshi from teasingly asking what exactly she and Inuyasha had been up to all afternoon.

Kagome took it all in stride. "Wouldn't you like to know." She winked, and Miroku wasn't sure what to do with this newly mature, unflappable Kagome.

Kaede smiled again. The sheer joy of their reunion celebration was undeniable, and though she may still have a twinge of concerned curiosity in the back of her mind, she did not let it show on her face.

The rest of dinner was spent in happy conversation, each adult taking turns to either feed, cuddle or play with the younger children. Rin, however, had been slowly inching towards Kagome with a guarded look in her eye. Kagome could tell that the girl wanted to ask her something, and she waited patiently for Rin to be ready to speak.

"Kagome-sama, this Rin hopes it's all right… But since you've been gone she's has been using your strange yellow bag sometimes." She bowed then. "I'm very sorry!"

"You mean my backpack is still here?!" Kagome was genuinely surprised by this.

Inuyasha piped up then, "Don't ya remember? You left it in the village when the final battle with Naraku began. Somehow, it survived all the destruction. Your bow is here too, you know." He added as an afterthought, "I found it at the bottom of the well after I…" He trailed off, not willing to finish his sentence out loud.

After I'd been ripped away from you without even the chance to say goodbye. He thought to himself morosely.

Rin seemed oblivious to the depressing turn of Inuyasha's thoughts, instead continuing with her apology. "Hai. This Rin hasn't been using your bow, but she has been using your bag, sometimes when she goes out to tend Lady Kaede's fields and gardens, and sometimes when Lord Sesshomaru comes for a visit and we go for a walk or a short trip." The child bowed her head again. "Gomen-nasai, Kagome-sama!"

"Oh, Rin! Please, there's no need to apologize. You're welcome to use my backpack any time you need it. And please, call me Kagome-chan. I'd like us to be friends, if that's all right with you…" She smiled warmly at the young girl whose entire face lit up with a wide grin and a strong nod in return.

"This Rin would like that very much, Kagome-sa—" She gulped sheepishly at her immediate mistake before continuing. "Kagome-chan, I mean."

"Honestly, I can't even remember what it was I left behind in that bag…" She trailed off, not really expecting an answer to her musings.

"A comb. Some books. Some of those matches you were always using to light fires. Extra clothes, that strange brush you cleaned your teeth with, the tiny looking glass – thought that got cracked – and a tube of that gooey ointment you'd always put on cuts and things." Inuyasha listed the items off without hesitation, as though he'd memorized them.

He had obviously. They'd been all he'd had left of Kagome after she'd gone.

Sometimes – when he'd known that both Kaede and Rin were away from their hut – he would sneak in and go to the chest that Kaede used to store all of Kagome's things. Reverently, he'd open the lid, looking at each of the items in turn, before picking up the shirt of her old school uniform, the extra one she'd always kept in her bag. He'd inhale her scent deeply. It was the last connection he had to her, the last thing that proved that she'd once been real. But her scent had finally begun to fully fade from the items in the chest in recent months and it was like he'd had to mourn her loss all over again.

But now, she was back! She was back and– He glanced up at her only to find that she was staring at him with a strange look in her eye, one he couldn't quite decipher.

"What?" He asked, suddenly deeply embarrassed. "So I know what you left behind, so what?" He tried to play it off casually.

It was Miroku who took pity on his friend, changing the subject quickly. "Well now, my friends, it is not truly a celebration without a celebratory drink! Sango, my dear, do you remember where I put that fine jug of sake I received as payment for the extermination of that tsukumogami a few months back?"

Sango looked up from where she sat nursing Ichiro to sleep, "I think it's up on the top shelf in the kitchen."

"Wonderful! Now, who would like a drink?"

The sake had flowed and the conversation had relaxed, though Kaede had declined the offered drink.

Inuyasha sat sipping slowly on his first dish – sake had never been his favourite – but the other adults were at the bottom of their second sakazukis when the conversation had turned back to Kagome's time in the future world and what she'd been doing over the past three years.

"…and Ayumi even convinced me to join the English-language Glee Club during our last year of school." Kagome finished.

"Glee Club?" asked Sango, getting up to take a sleeping Ichiro into the other room.

"Yeah, it was a club, a… group of students. We'd get together during the lunch hour twice a week to sing popular English songs. Ayumi convinced me to join with her. She thought it'd be a good way for us to improve our English language skills before grades had to be submitted for our University applications."

"So it was a… singing group?" Asked Miroku. "What did you sing?"

"Well, mostly popular English songs. Things you'd hear on English radio stations 'n stuff."

Miroku could tell that Kagome was feeling the effects of her sake with the way her cheeks were flushed and her words were slightly slurred. A wicked glint came into his eye then. Here was his chance! If she wouldn't rise to the bait before… He wondered how far he could tease her with this.

"Well, Kagome. If you can sing as you say, then you simply must sing for us!"


"But of course! Sing one of these English songs of yours. We have lived all these years in such a humble village, after all. Few singers or musicians ever pass through. I insist. You must sing us a song. Consider it my boon for hosting tonight's festivities."

Kagome grumbled under her breath then – something about having to 'sing for her supper' – but she considered his request.

The songs she'd sung in Glee Club had mostly been ballads and love songs. Sometimes while singing, she'd let her mind wander, imagining she was singing the lyrics to Inuyasha. And now, suddenly, she had the chance to do just that. Surely it wouldn't hurt to sing him a love song. None of them understood English, after all. It wasn't as though they would understand the words she was singing.

Her slightly inebriated mind latched onto the idea with all the bravery that the sake had provided. "Okaaaay…. But it'll be in English. Those were the songs we sang. It's not like you'll be able to understand what I'm singing about."

"Oh, don't worry about that," Miroku assured her. "I'm sure hearing your lovely voice will be more than enough for us to enjoy." He couldn't wait to tease her mercilessly about this in the morning.

Sango returned from putting Ichiro down then. Settling back down beside Miroku, she asked, "What's going on?"

"Kagome has just agreed to sing us a song, my dear!" His smile was filled with amusement and mischief.

"Miroku! Did you trick Kagome into singing? Kagome, you do not have to do that if you don't want to!"

But now, suddenly, the idea of being able to sing a love song to Inuyasha seemed too good to resist. She spoke up quickly. "No, I'll do it. I'll do it. But, like I told the others, it'll be in a different language."

Sango gave her friend a side-eye. She, too, could tell that Kagome was slightly inebriated. "Okay, Kagome, if that's what you really want."

Kagome sat for a moment, gathering her courage, willing herself to hear the notes of the invisible music she would sing along to inside her head. Slowly, she began…

Closed off from love, I didn't need the pain.

Once or twice was enough, but it was all in vain.

As she sang, her voice grew in strength and sureness.

Time starts to pass, before you know it, you're frozen.

Everyone watched Kagome as she sang, her words laced with emotion, though none could understand what she was saying.

But something happened, for the very first time with you.

My heart melts into the ground, found something true.

Then, slowly, the air around the Miko seemed to gain in density and weight, and as the group listened, it was almost as though they could hear the slight sound of instruments accompanying Kagome's voice.

And everyone's looking round, thinking I'm going crazy.

Sango looked at Miroku, curious to know if what she thought she was hearing was just a trick of her imagination, but the look on his face told her it wasn't. Kaede sat silently, studying Kagome as well.

But I don't care what they say, I'm in love with you.

They try to pull me away, but they don't know the truth.

My heart's crippled by the vein, that I keep on closing.

As they all watched, a faint pink glow began emanating from Kagome, becoming brighter and stronger the longer she sang. It seeming to pulse with the beat of her words.

Shippō, who was sitting in Rin's lap, gasped. Both children exchanged a look with jaws gaping open. Even Aki and Yuki had stopped to listen and watch from the corner of the room where they'd been quietly playing.

You cut me open and I keep bleeding.

Keep, keep bleeding love.

I keep bleeding.

I keep, keep bleeding love.

Keep bleeding.

Keep, keep bleeding love

You cut me open

As she reached the chorus, the power seemed to flow out from Kagome in waves that filled the room with a pink haze. None of them could speak, shocked into silence at what the were witnessing.

Trying hard not to hear, but they talk so loud.

Their piercing sounds fill my ears, try to fill me with doubt.

Yet I know that the goal, is to keep me from falling.

As the pink haze swirled around them, the music that accompanied Kagome's words became louder. It seemed to fill the air, pulsing in time with the vibration of power that flowed out of her seated form.

But nothing's greater, than the rush that comes with your embrace.

And in this world of loneliness, I see your face.

Yet everyone around me, thinks that I'm going crazy, Maybe, maybe.

Inuyasha sat bolt upright. 'I- I- I understood that!' He thought in shock. It was as though a translation of the foreign words his ears were hearing was echoing around inside his skull.

But I don't care what they say.

I'm in love with you.

They try to pull me away, but they don't know the truth.

My heart's crippled by the vein that I keep on closing.

It felt as though the music was penetrating his skin, settling right down deep into his soul, into a place where words weren't really necessary but meaning was always understood. Inuyasha looked around the room. The matching shocked looks on the faces of the others in the room confirmed that they were hearing the same thing that he was.

Kagome was mindless to what was going on around her. She'd kept her eyes closed after she'd begun to sing and had yet to open them, not wanting to falter with embarrassment under their stares. Instead, she'd focused solely on the words, on how she felt about Inuyasha, and on how the words made her feel. She sang as though it was just for him, with all the confidence of knowing that he'd never understand her passionate lyrical confession.

And if she hadn't known better, she'd have almost thought that she could hear the music she was singing along to inside her head. Almost.

You cut me open and I

Keep bleeding,

Keep, keep bleeding love

I keep bleeding,

I keep, keep bleeding love

Keep bleeding,

keep, keep bleeding love

The music swirled around them, pulsing with its foreign, future rhythm, the echoed meaning of her words settling into everyone's minds.

Inuyasha's heart clenched tightly in his chest, the powerful meaning of the words she was singing was not lost on him. He felt like he couldn't move, couldn't breathe, as Kagome's body swayed in time with the beat of the song that came pouring out of her very soul. Her hands moving expressively, punctuating the lyrics of the song.

You cut me open and I

Keep bleeding. Keep, keep bleeding love…

She held the note of the last word of the song for a long time, and as she did, the music seemed to fade away, as the rolling waves of power that had filled the room retreat back into her small body.

Kagome finally opened her eyes then, blinking a bit after having held them so tightly closed for so long.

When she finally focused on the faces of her friends around the room she was not prepared for the looks of utter shock that were etched across each of their faces.

Kagome blushed furiously, looking down at her lap. "What? It wasn't that bad, was it?"

Chapter Text

"What the fuck was that?!"

"Inuyasha! Language!" Sango snarled at him, motioning her head towards the two twins who'd gone back to playing once the pretty music had ended. "Girls, come along. It's time for bed. Rin, Shippō, would you help me get the girls ready and settled in bed?"

Kagome ignored all of the movement around her. She just sat staring at Inuyasha, her face etched in shock and hurt at Inuyasha's callous words. She's been singing her heart out for him and all he could say was 'What the fuck was that?!'

Her fists clenched so tightly in her lap that the knuckles began to turn white. Hot tears stung her eyes, but all she could do was stare at him.

Miroku could see the misunderstanding unfolding in front of him. Clearly Kagome didn't realize what she'd just done.

"Kagome," he called her name with a serious tone, hoping it would break through the haze of hurt and anger that she was clearly swimming in.

She turned to look at Miroku. "What?" She bit the word out around gritted teeth and Miroku flinched at the barely contained rage in her tone. He was suddenly very glad that he was not the one who wore her kotodama.

"Kagome," he began again. "I think what Inuyasha means is, why did you not tell us of this amazing manifestation of your powers?"

"My amazing what?" She sobered quickly at Miroku's words, sitting up straight. She eyed Inuyasha cautiously. She could tell he regretted his blunt and unfeeling words, but she was more concerned at the moment with what Miroku was insinuating she'd done.

"I don't know what you're talking about, Miroku. What manifestation?"

It was Kaede who answered her question. "Do ye not know what ye just did, child?"

"Uh, I thought I just sang a song."

Miroku, Kaede and Inuyasha shared a look between them.

"You guys are freaking me out. Did something happen?"

"Kagome…" Inuyasha's voice was soft and contrite. He shifted from his position against the wall near the door and moved to sit beside her. "When you sang, the room filled with an aura of power and we could all hear music playing along with your words."

Her head whipped up and around to look at the others. "Is this true?! You could all hear music?" She was shocked and it made her voice sound frantic.

"Aye, child, but more than that, it was as though we could understand the words of your song, despite knowing nought of the language in which you sang."

"You understood?" Her voice rose to a squeaky height with her sudden panic at Kaede's revelation.

'Oh, Kami. Oh, Kami.' She chanted in her mind, remaining just calm enough to get her next question out. "Did—? Did you all understand the song?"

'Please, oh please, oh please let him say no.' She silently begged, squeezing her eyes shut tight, waiting for a reply.

Inuyasha didn't sing the words but he didn't have to. In a quiet voice, he said, "You cut me open and I keep bleeding… love."

On a groan she shrank in on herself, lowering her entire head into her lap, bringing both of her arms up around her head. But Kaede wouldn't let her wallow in her embarrassment. This was clear proof that her earlier concerns about the girl's powers were justified.

"Kagome, child, when did your power grow so vast?"

Kagome peeked out from under her hair to look at Kaede. "I- I- I don't know! I don't even know how I did that! I just remember focusing on my feelings and singing from— from my… heart." She hid her face in her lap again at that last word, too mortified to even look at Inuyasha.

'She can't even look at me. Damnit! I knew I'd hurt her over the years, but… I cut her open?!' Inuyasha cringed inwardly.

Miroku finally joined the conversation then. "Perhaps a better description would be that you sang from your soul, Kagome. Or rather, from your Four Souls. For the power that emanated from your aura as you sang was very similar to that of the pure, untainted Shikon no Tama. I had noticed upon your arrival for dinner that your aura had… changed… since last we saw you. I believe, Kaede, you noticed it as well?"

Kaede nodded at this. "Aye, I did."

"I- I did, too." Inuyasha chimed in sheepishly, still feeling like a cur. But this wasn't about him, this was about Kagome and whatever it took to help her. He'd sworn to protect her with his life once, even if that death would be from shame alone in this moment. "Remember, Kagome? I mentioned it while we were walking by the river."

"Uh-huh," came her muffled reply as she finally sat up, brushing her hair out of her face. She still couldn't bring herself to look Inuyasha in the eye.

"Come over here, child, I'd like to examine ye, if ye'll allow it." Kaede reached her arm out towards Kagome, motioning for her to come closer.

Kagome sighed and begrudging crawled herself over to where Kaede sat. She folded her legs under herself as Kaede reached out a hand to assess her with the touch of her own reiki.

As Kaede's hand moved slowly above her body, sensing rather than touching, Miroku piped up with another question. "Could this be an effect of Magatsuhi's seal being released?"

"I- I really don't know!" Kagome was at a loss. "Like I told Inuyasha earlier, when I was back on the other side of the well, I barely felt my spiritual powers at all, let alone used them. I'm just as surprised by all of this as you guys are!"

"I fear there may be more going on here than just Magatsuhi's seal." Kaede intoned, eyes closed, still assessing the energy of the girl sitting before her. Finally, she let her hand drop and opened her eyes.

"Kagome, I understand if ye may find this next question… unpleasant… but I need ye to tell me exactly what happened to ye after ye were pulled into the Meidō."

Kagome visibly flinched at Kaede's words. She'd tried so hard not to think about that place. Those three days lost in the dark. She'd buried it so deep that she only rarely had the nightmares anymore. But now, Kaede was asking her to drag it all back into the light.

The scent of Kagome's fear hit Inuyasha's sensitive nose like a slap to the face. In an instant and before he could even think about what he was doing, he scooted up behind Kagome, urging her back into his lap. He crossed his legs in front of her, pulling her small body back against his chest while wrapping his arms around her in comfort.

And if Kaede or Miroku were shocked by the intimacy of the action, neither of them said anything… which, once Inuyasha realized what he'd just done, he was deeply grateful for.

The moment she'd felt Inuyasha's strong arms encircle her body, she'd relaxed back into him. All of her tension instantly melted away in the face of the security she always felt when he was near. She could do this. When she was with him, she could do anything. She didn't have to be afraid of the jewel or the dreams anymore. She was here, back with him again, and if she had any say in it, then by the Kami, she would never, ever leave his side again.

Kagome sighed heavily in resignation before beginning her story.

"It started with a vision. At first, the jewel was trying to trick me into thinking that none of this was real. That I'd never fallen down the well, never met any of you. I was just a normal high school student, but… it wasn't… I could feel that something was wrong. Something was missing, even though I had no memories of any of you. The jewel had stolen those away."

Her voice hitched a little, but she continued.

"It wasn't until I walked past the Goshinboku in my vision that I realized how very wrong the vision was. There was no scar on the tree, no mark from where Inuyasha had been, and it was like my mind rebelled at that. The idea that there was no…"

She trailed off, rubbing her shoulder against her cheek.

"It was enough to break whatever spell I was under, and when the vision shattered I found myself floating in a black nothingness. A complete void. That's when the voice started speaking to me."

She shuddered and Inuyasha's arms around her tightened.

"It began taunting me, trying to get me to make a wish." The tears she hadn't even realized had begun to fall collected at the edges of her jaw, dripping down to wet the sleeves of Inuyasha's fire-rat.

"It told me that the well had been sealed and that if I wished it that the jewel would allow me to return to my world in the future… But… If I did nothing…" a small sob wracked her body. "It told me that I'd spend eternity there in that hell floating in nothingness, alone."

Inuyasha's heart broke at her words. "Kagome…" He whispered into her hair, rubbing his cheek against the soft black strands.

"I didn't want to believe it. I began calling out for anyone who might be able to hear me. I called for my family, for Miroku and Sango and Shippo… And then I screamed at the top of my lungs for… Inuyasha."

She was lost to the memories now. No longer seeing those in the room with her, her gaze internal as she relived her worst nightmare all over again. "The voice kept taunting me. It told me no one would come. That no one could hear me. That I never belonged here at all."

Kaede gasped a little at the pain in the girl's words. Her one good eye crying now in response to Kagome's pain. She looked at Miroku and the somber, ashen look on his face told her that he was not unaffected by the tale either.

"That's when– That's when I almost gave in." Kagome ducked her head in shame. "I was so scared that I could feel my hope slipping away. I wanted to see my family again. It felt like the jewel was giving me an out. All I had to do was open my mouth and say yes…" She was choking the words out past her sobs now. "But that's when– That's when I heard Inuyasha's voice."

Inuyasha stiffened behind her at her words. The reality of just how close he'd come to losing her forever sent a shiver up his spine. He couldn't hold back the tears that fell from his own eyes now, not that he really cared about trying to hide them.

"He– He told me not to make any wishes. To hold on, that he was coming for me. I felt so ashamed that I'd ever doubted that he would!" Her voice cracked as she sobbed again.

"Kagome, don't…" It was all he could say against the waves of his own overwhelming emotions.

"That's when the jewel started taunting me again. It asked me if I wished to see Inuyasha, to be transported out of the void and to where he was. But I just– I couldn't. I thought about all the wishes that had ever been made on the jewel and how none of them had really been granted. My ojīchan had told me once that there was only one correct wish that could be made upon the jewel, and as much as the jewel taunted me to follow my heart and wish upon it for a selfish reason, I realized that the wish ojīchan meant was that I would have to wish the jewel away!"

She shuddered, but her tears began to slow. "But I couldn't do it. I wouldn't. Inuyasha had told me to wait for him, and that's what I would do. Even if it meant waiting in that place forever, I'd decided. I would wait for him to come for me before making any wishes. And so I told the jewel that I had no wish."

Her faith in him filled his chest with an ache so strong Inuyasha thought it might rip him apart. He pulled her even closer, as though he could fold her entirely into his body, settle her deep beside his heart where nothing and no one could ever hurt her or take her away from him again.

"It was almost as though the moment I decided to make no wish, it unlocked some kind of door, because suddenly Inuyasha was there, in front of me!" The joy in her voice was like a soothing balm to all those in the room.

"He— We—" She blushed and faltered in her story, and Inuyasha smiled a small secret smile into her hair at their shared memory of what happened next.

She began again, "Once he'd found me, I knew what I had to do. I told the jewel that I was ready to make my wish. It seemed to hear me, though the voice never returned after that. It began pulsing, and waves of pink-coloured power flowed out around us."

Kaede shifted slightly at those words. 'Waves of pink-coloured power…?' But she said nothing of her suspicions yet.

"And so I wished for the jewel to disappear forever. It seemed to crack into a hundred shards all over again. Then it shot out a blinding flash of pink light before it was gone. The void we had been in seemed to glow with a golden light, and the next thing I knew, Inuyasha and I were back in the well house in my own time."

She used her hands to wipe away the tear tracks staining her face. "And I think you guys know what happened next…" She said in a resigned voice

"Kagome," Miroku began. "Those were your exact words? You told the jewel to disappear forever?" Kaede looked at him, aware now that his mind had led him to the same conclusion that hers had.

"Yes… why?" Kagome eyed him hesitantly.

It was Kaede that answered her. "I believe, child, that when you wished for the jewel to disappear the power of the Four Souls that the jewel represented was purified and returned from whence it came."

"Whence it came?" Kagome repeated, refusing to allow her mind to travel down the path towards their logical conclusion.

"Kagome," Miroku said gently. "Is it not true that you were born with the jewel inside your body?"

Kagome stiffened in shock, her mind reeling at the final implications of Miroku's words. And in the blankness of her frozen mind, the words of her 11th-grade science teacher sprang forth from her lips, unbidden.

"Energy cannot be created or destroyed." She whispered the words in horror.

"What?" Inuyasha wasn't sure he'd heard her correctly.

"En– Energy cannot be created or destroyed. It's something I learned in school. Energy doesn't just appear and then disappear. It's always transmuted somehow." Her mind began racing with the ramifications of these thoughts.

It was Kaede that spoke up then. "So, if the Jewel of Four Souls was created from the transmutation of Midoriko's own power combined with the power of the youkai within it…"

"Then when the jewel disappeared, that purified power simply returned from whence it came." Miroku finished.

He locked eyes with Kagome before saying his next words. "It returned back home to your soul, Kagome."

Chapter Text

"Are you saying the jewel isn't gone?!"

Kagome's mind began to race with panic. 'No, no, no, no. It has to be gone. I made it disappear. It can't hurt me anymore! No! No! No! No!'

Inuyasha heard Kagome's heart start beating erratically a second before she began hyperventilating.

"Kagome, look at me. Look at me! Look me in the eyes." He turned her in his lap, holding her face between his clawed hands so she couldn't look away.

"You need to breathe, Kagome. Slow and deep. Breathe with me." He kept her eyes locked with his, urging her to match the rhythm of his breaths.

"What's going on out here?!" Sango asked in a loud whisper as she returned to the other room. She'd encouraged both Shippō and Rin to lay down with the other children, hoping that they'd doze off. It had worked, but clearly she'd missed something while she was gone.

Sango watched Inuyasha calm Kagome while Miroku quietly filled her in on what had been revealed. Her heart went out to her dearest friend as she tried to process everything Miroku was telling her.

Kaede, too, felt pity for how much the child had clearly suffered. She spoke up then, hoping to ease Kagome's fears. "Kagome, child, the jewel is gone. When I examined ye, there was nought about the power within ye that I could sense as being impure or malevolent. Truth be told, the power of the Four Souls has so completely merged with your own aura that if we had not known ye so well before, we would not have sensed aught amiss now."

Miroku nodded in agreement. "Kaede is correct. The power was clearly purified by your wish, but it may be a while before we are able to ascertain the exact extent of your new power."

Inuyasha was having none of it. This revelation had shaken Kagome to her core and all he wanted to do was protect her from any more pain. "It doesn't matter what powers she has or doesn't have. Kagome is still Kagome. Nothing's gonna change that."

Kagome smiled weakly up at him before leaning her head down on his shoulder. Any tiny seeds of doubt that had begun to take root in her over what this might mean for them were banished in an instant by his words.

"I agree with Inuyasha." Sango's voice was filled with conviction. "We shouldn't worry over this. Instead, we should be grateful. Kagome is back with us now, so we have all the time in the world to figure this out."

She hesitated then, "I mean, I think we do… Do we, Kagome? Did you mention how long you'd be visiting while I was in the other room with the children?"

Inuyasha stiffened at Sango's words. He'd been avoiding asking Kagome that question all day, fearful of what her answer might be. Had she planned this to be just a short visit? Would she soon go back to her own time? Would the well close behind her again locking her away from him forever?

Kagome raised her head from Inuyasha's shoulder to look at her friends around the room. "I…" she trailed off. "This isn't a visit." She said finally.

"What do ye mean, child?" Kaede asked.

Kagome had hoped to talk to Inuyasha about this alone before blurting it out in front of the others. She could feel the embarrassment overtaking her as she thought of having to explain to everyone how the instant the well had opened, she'd jumped through without a second thought. No plan, nothing packed, and no return ticket.

'Nope,' she thought with a cringe. 'Not doing it.'

"Kaede-sama," she finally said. "It's been a long day and I'm really tired. Do you think, maybe, we can talk more about that in the morning?"

Inuyasha was crestfallen. Maybe she didn't want to talk about how long she planned to stay because the fact was she didn't plan to stay at all! Because if this wasn't a visit, like she'd said, then what was it? Goodbye?

No! He couldn't accept that. If this was going to be his only chance, then he would have to somehow convince Kagome that she shouldn't leave forever, that he wanted...needed... her to stay here with him. No matter how selfish it was, the thought of losing Kagome again was more than Inuyasha could bear. He knew he wouldn't survive it a second time without losing his mind.

Interrupting his thoughts, Inuyasha heard Kaede concede to Kagome's request. "Of course, child, of course. Would ye like to stay with me this evening? With Rin and Shippō sleeping here, there will be plenty of room."

"Yes, thank you, Kaede-sama. You're very kind."

Kaede got up from her seat then, stretching her old bones and groaning inwardly. She was not as young as she'd once been.

"Well, then I shall take my leave of ye now. I'm sure Inuyasha will be happy to walk ye back to my home once ye are ready to retire for the evening. Goodnight to ye all."

"Of course I'll walk her back," Inuyasha grumbled, then blushed furiously when the sudden thought of Kagome staying at his hut instead of Kaede's came into his mind.

Miroku saw Inuyasha's colour rise and, being the lecher he was, knew exactly what his friend was thinking about. Mischief sparkled in his eyes once more.

"Kagome," he began. "Did Inuyasha tell you that he has a hut now as well?"

"Miroku…" Inuyasha growled his name in warning.

But Kagome paid no attention to it. She was happy to latch onto any topic of conversation that would distract the others from returning to their previous questions about how long it was that she intended to stay.

"Inuyasha, is this true? You have a home in the village now?"

"Yeah," he grumbled. "It's true. When we were rebuildin' the village and had been invited to settle, that's when Miroku and Sango's house was built, and mine, too. It's a little ways apart from the rest of the village though, closer to my forest. I like it that way. Less noise and smells and stuff. I figured it'd be good to have a secure place to spend my human nights."

He didn't, of course, mention that the real reason he'd accepted the offered hut was that he'd hoped that, if ever Kagome returned, that she would be willing to share the small home with him.

"I'd love to see it," Kagome whispered shyly. She desperately wanted to talk to Inuyasha alone before morning, when apparently the headman would be searching for her and Kaede would, no doubt, be looking for answers as well.

Miroku smiled inwardly at Kagome's words. This chance for further teasing was simply too good to pass up! "Well, it's not too late. Inuyasha, why don't you walk her by to see it on your way to Kaede's. Sango and I really should be retiring anyway. Ichiro wakes many times in the night and if we do not retire soon, I fear we will both be quite useless come morning."

"Miroku…." It was Sango's turn to give her husband a warning growl. She knew him too well not to realize the mischief he was up to.

Kagome didn't care, she took the out when it was offered. "Oh, of course! I didn't even think about that. You guys are parents now. Come on, Inuyasha, let's go." She rose to her feet as the others did as well.

Sango stepped forward to embrace her friend. "You don't have to leave, you know. Miroku's just being Miroku." She gave Kagome a meaningful look.

"No, it's fine, Sango, really." She glanced over at Inuyasha and then back at Sango, urging her friend to understand that they still had more to talk about.

Sango seemed to understand. "Alright, Kagome. Then we'll see you both in the morning, yes?"

"Of course you will. It's not like she's gonna jump back in the well while you're sleeping." Inuyasha folded his arms across his chest, tucking his hands into either sleeve. He gave Kagome a quick look from the corner of his eye, gauging her reaction to his words. He needed to confirm for himself that she really wasn't about to do just that, but he couldn't bring himself to come right out and ask her either.

Kagome just smiled and shook her head. "Nope, I'll definitely be here in the morning. See you then!" She waved at her two friends as she and Inuyasha exited the warmth and light of the hut and were immediately enveloped by the chilly darkness of the night air.

Kagome shivered. It was only April and the short skirt and light cardigan she had on were doing nothing to keep out the cool spring breeze. She rubbed her hands up and down over her arms.

"Are you cold?" Inuyasha asked.

"Yeah, a little."

Inuyasha immediately stopped walking. He untied the outer jacket of his fire-rat robes, shrugging his arms out of the sleeves before draping it around Kagome's small form.

"Thanks." She smiled shyly up at him.

'It smells like him,' she thought and her earlier nerves began to return. There was just so much she still wanted to say.

Thankfully, she was rescued from her anxious thoughts by Inuyasha's next question. "So… you still wanna see my hut?"

Did she want the chance to be alone with Inuyasha? Kagome blushed a bit at the wicked turn of her thoughts.

"Yeah, I'd love to see it."

If anything, she thought, the walk would help her gather her courage. She was desperate now to speak the words she'd been longing to say to Inuyasha for almost four years, though she couldn't seem to bring herself to break the silence.

It was Inuyasha who eventually spoke first. "It's just up this next hill, near the treeline."

Kagome looked up to where he was pointing. She could just make out the faint outline of a small hut nestled amongst the trees at the edge of the forest. "I got them to build it up here 'cause it's a better vantage point for keeping an eye on things."

Kagome turned and could see that, indeed, the house sat on higher ground and from the porch, it was likely that Inuyasha would be able to see the entire village laid out before him.

They finally reached the hut then. Inuyasha held the door aside for her to enter.

Moving inside, Kagome hung Inuyasha's fire-rat on a hook near the door before removing her shoes and stepping up onto the smooth wooden floor.

Inuyasha went straight to the fire pit that sat near his kitchen area. Expertly, he unearthed the still-smouldering coals from earlier in the day, using them to help light a new fire, and before Kagome's eyes could even adjust to the darkness in the hut, the room began filling with light and warmth.

Kagome blinked several times, eyes adjusting to the contrast of flickering shadows and light. She turned slowly in a circle then, surveying Inuyasha's home.

There was a small kitchen area to the left of the fire with a good-sized low table for working or eating at nearby. To her right were shelves and a chest, likely for storage, though the shelves were all but empty except for what Kagome assumed were a few containers of foodstuffs. On the far side of the hut, opposite the door, she could see a sleeping area, privacy screen mostly blocking from view what looked to be the edge of a large, rolled-up futon against the wall with blankets piled atop.

It was a modest home, without luxuries… but to Kagome it was perfect. "I love it," she whispered under her breath, as much to herself as to Inuyasha.

He heard her words, of course. "Yeah? I mean, I know it's not much but it's… mine." He wanted to say 'ours,' wanted to blurt out everything he'd had to keep locked inside himself just as Kagome had been locked on the other side of the well.

"Look, Kagome," he began, unable to hold back any longer. "About earlier… That song…" He took a deep breath. "It's all my fault."

"Come again?" Of all the things that Inuyasha could have said about her passionate performance, 'It's all my fault' was not one that Kagome had mentally prepared herself for.

Inuyasha began again, his voice heavy with remorse. "Look, I know I hurt you back then… a lot. Looking back, I could kick myself... but I can't take it back."

"Inuyasha? I'm still not sure I'm following you…"

"You know…" He tried again, "About Kikyō."

Kagome flinched at the dead priestess's name, and the action was not lost on Inuyasha. She hadn't thought about Kikyō in a long time, but suddenly it felt as though her previous incarnation was standing right there in between them all over again.

Kagome sighed. "I'm– I'm not going to lie, Inuyasha. Yes, it did hurt when you chose Kikyō over me. I mean, I know I can never be her and I don't want to be, but–"

He cut her off. "I don't want you to be either, Kagome. Please believe me." He stepped forward, taking both of her hands in his. "I know you think that I chose her over you, but it was never like that. I know I never explained it either. It was just… I felt like it was my fault that she was dead, like I owed it to her to still be there for her. I had loved her a long time ago, and we'd made… promises…. and I just... My honour wouldn't let me walk away from that, no matter…" He faltered before continuing, "No matter how much my heart wished it was free to choose differently."

Kagome's breaths were shallow as she tried her best to hold back the tears stinging at her eyes. "I didn't– I mean, I always thought that you regretted everything. That you wished that she was still alive. That you loved her so much that you couldn't let her go. And that I was just…" She gulped, trying to force the words out. They'd been poisoning her soul for four long years, but she couldn't hold back now. A tear slipped down her cheek as she finally said the words aloud. "That I was just second best."

"NO! NEVER!" Inuyasha practically snarled the words. "Never that, Kagome! I never thought of you as second best. Please believe me. You have no idea how much you mean to me."

Inuyasha grabbed her by her upper arms. His eyes were smouldering with the passion of his words, willing her to feel all he felt for her, to trust that he would never – could never – see her as second best.

After a long moment, he shifted his eyes to look down and away unable to maintain eye contact as his guilt swelled within him again. He was the one who'd made her feel second best after all.

He spoke, his voice quieter than before and once again laced with remorse. "Please believe me. I don't think I could bear it if… If you left again."

Kagome felt weak all over from the intense way he had been staring at her just moments before. It was as though it had released some heavy weight that she hadn't even known she'd been carrying. She felt weightless and oddly separate from her own body.

Perhaps it was this feeling of freedom that suddenly gave her the courage to confess her own secret as well. "I'm not leaving, Inuyasha. I– I think the well is still closed."

Inuyasha's eyes shot back to hers at those words.

She continued, "I can't be sure. I mean, I'd have to try it to be sure… but that's not a risk I'm willing to take."

"What do you mean, 'the well is still closed'? You're here, aren't ya?" Even in his confusion, Inuyasha could feel a small flicker of hope igniting inside his chest.

"I think, this time, it was a one-way trip." She said softly.

"Kagome?" Her name came out as a strangled whisper, his mind reeling at the implications of her words.

Kagome closed her eyes and took a steadying breath before she began to explain. "I– I was in the well house. It wasn't even my usual day to try the well or anything, I was just wandering around and found myself there. I guess I was lost in thought, but as I stood staring down into the well I just– I couldn't bear it anymore. The idea that I was meant to stay in that world, that I might never be able to return here. I felt like it was eating me alive. It was the most wretched existence I could possibly imagine. And in that moment, all I wanted… All I cared about… was to see you again."

She blushed at her words but continued. "The next thing I knew there was a– a breeze blowing over my face and then I could see the sky here on this side of the well! That had never happened before, though I think I knew somehow what it meant, that this was it, my one chance. I can only think that some kami somewhere must have heard my prayers and decided to grant me a single chance to choose. Here or there…. And, well... I choose here."

Inuyasha had turned away from her at some point during her confession. He was trying desperately to reign in his raging emotions. He wanted to squeeze her tight and never let her go, but he also felt like yelling at her at the top of his lungs for being so foolish.

Finally, he was able to speak, though he did not face her. "You mean… You mean you're here forever? But what about your family? Your whole life is back there, Kagome!"

"No, my life is here, Inuyasha. My mom understood that. By some miracle she'd been walking by the well house when it happened and found me right before I jumped. She told me… She told me to follow my heart."

Kagome squeezed her eyes shut tight for a moment before continuing. "I don't think I'll ever go back there – that I'd ever want to go back there – because as much as I know I'll miss mom and gramps and Souta, if the past three years have taught me anything, it's that I would never have been happy over there because this is where I belong."

Inuyasha still stood with his back to Kagome, and she began to worry that she'd upset him with her confession. "Inu– Inuyasha? Is something wrong?"

"No. Nothing's wrong." His words came out low and thick. She moved quickly around to his front, needing to look him in the eye. She touched his cheek, forcing him to look at her. His eyes were filled with both relief and guilt, and it was almost as though she could see the inner battle he was fighting with himself.

Finally, he whispered, "You gave up everything to come back here to a place where it's not safe! You could get hurt, or sick, or attacked, or–" Kagome rose up on her tiptoes and pecked a soft kiss on his lips to halt his words.

"This is what I want, Inuyasha." It was a plain and simple statement of fact. There would be no changing her mind.

A long moment of silence stretched out between them before a thought struck Kagome. "But… why did you think my song earlier had something to do with Kikyō?"

"Well," Inuyasha began, only mildly phased by her non-sequitur. "Weren't the words to your song all about being hurt so bad you felt cut open?"

She took a deep fortifying breath before exaggeratedly smirking and rolling her eyes. Oh Kami, she loved him so much, even when he was being a total baka.

"Inuyasha, is that all you paid attention to? Didn't you hear the other lyrics of the song?"

She hummed the lyrics softly then, in Japanese this time.

"I don't care what they say, I'm in love with you…"

Trailing off, Kagome looked up into Inuyasha's golden eyes – eyes suddenly awash in comprehension quickly replaced by longing. It was a longing that, before now, he'd made sure to always keep hidden from her view.

And all Kagome had time to do was gasp in astonishment before Inuyasha grabbed her in his arms and crushed his mouth down onto hers.

Chapter Text

Inuyasha's lips moved over Kagome's with an urgency that couldn't be mistaken.

Her mouth opened to him on a needy whine. He growled his approval as his tongue plunged into her mouth, seeking out all the secret recesses within.

'Oh, Kami!' Kagome couldn't think. His hands were everywhere all at once: stroking up her back, along her nape, into her hair, then back down to skim across her waist, pressing her closer once again.

She shivered under his hungry touches, returning them in kind. Her hands travelled up over the firm muscles of his chest, across his broad shoulders, then back and up to fist in his mass of silver-white hair.

Kagome finally tore her lips away when air became a necessity, only to trail a line of hot, wet kisses from Inuyasha's jaw down to his neck. She found the spot where his pulse beat rapidly just beneath the surface. He was always so strong, so powerful. For her to be able to touch him in such a vulnerable place was thrilling. Her tongue snaked out to taste the sensitive skin.

"Kagome…" Inuyasha growled her name in response to the feel of her tongue on his neck. He buried his nose in her hair, drowning in her scent. He could feel himself losing control. He'd wanted her so badly for so long, and now suddenly she was his. His cock began to throb.

Kagome instinctively ground herself against the stiffness she felt pressing against her stomach. The gravelly way he'd said her name, sent a wave of heat coursing through her body to pool directly at the juncture of her thighs.

The scent of her arousal hit him like a backhand to his senses. He groaned and before he could think better of it, his hands were sliding down her back, each one grabbing its own handful of pert, round ass.

Kagome shuddered and whimpered at the touch, unable to reconcile that it was, in fact, Inuyasha who was kissing her so fiercely. Inuyasha who was cupping her backside so gently, pulling her in to grind against him some more. At night, back home in her room, she'd often dream of him touching her like this, but now…? Now it was really happening.

"Inuyasha," she whispered his name breathlessly. She reached up and cupped his face, pulling him back to look at her. She needed to see him, needed to prove to herself that yes, this was really real.

Inuyasha brought his hands up to place over each of hers on his face. He looked into her chocolate brown eyes then and saw reflected back the same love and lust he was sure his own eyes betrayed.

And the longer he looked, the more he could feel all his fears and worries evaporating: the fear of losing her… his doubts about whether she actually wanted him in the same way he so desperately wanted her… Even his insecurities about whether or not he was even good enough for her when he was just a filthy hanyou… All of it evaporated under the searing truth that shone in her eyes.

This. This was where they both belonged.

He reached one of his hands out and gently stroked her cheek with the pad of his thumb, bringing his lips down slowly for a soft kiss. She was his. His Kagome.

"I– I love you, Kagome. I think… I think maybe I always have." He rested his forehead against hers, a rueful smile playing across his lips.

"You…?" Her eyes widened. To feel his passion for her had been one thing, but to actually hear him say those words…? Her eyes filled with happy tears and a beatific smile spread across her face.

"Inuyasha, I have loved you so much and for so long that there were times I thought I might die from the ache of it."

His gut clenched at her raw confession. "Don't– Don't ever leave me again, Kagome. I don't think I'd survive it if you did. Please? Will you–? Will you stay with me? Will you… I mean, would you consider… maybe… becoming my mate? My– My wife?"

Kagome inhaled sharply before she began laughing and sobbing at the same time. Her eyes swam with tears that gathered faster than they could even fall.

She jumped up, throwing her arms around his neck before squealing with joy.

Inuyasha slicked his ears back against his skull at the noise but smiled a broad and genuine smile against her shoulder as he hugged her tightly.

"So… Uh… I'm gonna take that as a yes?"

"YES! YES! YES! YES!" She was positively giddy.

He laughed then, too. Her joy was infectious. He swung her up in the air, spinning her in a circle, making her squeal even more, before slowly lowering her back down to wrap his arms around her and pull her tightly to him once more. Her nose pressed against the juncture of his neck and shoulder, his nestled deeply in her hair.

They held each other like that for a while, neither wanting the moment to end.

It was Inuyasha who finally spoke first. "So, I should probably be getting ya back to Kaede-baba's place. She's gonna start worrying if we don't show up there soon."

Kagome pouted a bit at his words. "Yeah," she sighed. "But…"

"But?" Inuyasha asked in a tone slightly squeakier than he'd intended.

"Well, I know I have to go back tonight. It would be rude of me not to… But, I mean, since we're…" She sighed, "…going to be married, I mean, would it be okay with you if… maybe… I stay here tomorrow night?"

She averted her gaze, looking downright sheepish, as a deep blush flooded her face. Inuyasha could only stare at her, mouth gaping open like a fish on a hook.

"You mean…?" He didn't want to say what he thought she meant out loud in case his mind was jumping to conclusions… And at that moment his mind was definitely jumping to some very provocative conclusions.

"Well, I mean, where I come from women live with their boyfriends and intended husbands long before they actually get married. It happens all the time. It's normal, and frankly, I've been away from you for long enough. I could give exactly zero fucks about what anyone else might have to say about it."

"Oh, I'm guessing there'll be plenty of village gossips that'll have something to say about that all right. The legendary Shikon Miko living out of wedlock with a hanyou? Heck, us getting married was gonna be shocking enough as it is!"

"Inuyasha, zero fucks, remember?"

"Kami, I love it when you talk dirty." He gave her a quick but heated kiss.

"I don't know if I'll ever get used to that. You kissing me, wanting to be with me, thinking it's sexy when I swear?! It's too much. I think I might just burst right open and die here on the spot!" She covered her face with her hands, shaking her head.

He chucked at her girlish silliness, pulling her in for a hug. Some things would never change and he was more than glad for it.

"Well, whatcha think it's like for me?" He sobered a bit before continuing. "The second I'd finally been able to kiss you, to touch you… The second I was ready to tell you just how much I loved you... you were gone. And I was here all alone with just the memory of you." He shook his head sadly at the thought of it. "Having you really be here. To hold you like this after only having dreams and memories to hold onto for years? How'd you describe it? 'Burst open and die?' Yeah, that about sums it up." He smirked at her then.

She smirked back and swatted him on the arm for throwing her words back at her, but the sadness in his voice had not been lost on her.

"Those three years apart… They were awful for you too, huh?" She asked.

"More than awful. Never leave me again, Kagome. Promise me. Swear to me that you'll never leave me alone again. Not for as long as we live."

She looked him deep in the eyes. She wanted this so badly that she could feel the truth of it right down to her soul. "I swear it, Inuyasha. There's nothing I wish for more in this world than for us to spend the rest of our lives together."

The moment those words escaped her lips was the moment a rolling wave of pink energy flowed out of her, over her skin, encircling her entire body from head to toe. Inuyasha was forced to release her from his embrace, the power pushing him back.

"Inuyasha?" Her voice was edged in fear. Inuyasha could only stare as Kagome was enveloped in a hazy blanket of pink light.

She could feel the power flowing up and over her body, tingling across every one of her nerve endings. Then the tingling became more like a burning, until the power felt like it was searing into every cell in her body.

"Inuyasha!" She screamed in pain.

"Kagome!" Inuyasha tried to again to reach through the barrier surrounding her, but his hand began to sizzle the second he got too close.

He couldn't touch her, he realized in horror as he watched, not knowing what was happening to the woman he loved.

It felt like her cries of pain went on forever but there was nothing he could do about it. "I'm here, Kagome. I'm right here." He tried to reassure her.

"Inuyasha…" she groaned in painful exhaustion as the power finally began receded back into her body. The second it fully dissipated, Kagome's eyes rolled back into her head, and all Inuyasha could do was catch her before she crashed to the floor, unconscious.

Chapter Text

He ran.

Faster than he ever had before, through gardens and over rooftops. He didn't bother using the road. Instead, making a straight line for Kaede's hut.

When he reached the door he didn't stop there either, barging in before skidding to a halt.

Kaede gasped at the sudden intrusion. She'd been waiting up for Kagome, sipping a cup of mild tea, but when she took in the sight of the young Miko unconscious and cradled in Inuyasha's arms, terror etched across his face, she immediately got to her feet.

"Inuyasha! What has happened?"

Inuyasha's eyes were wild. "I don't know! She was fine one minute and the next…" He trailed off, looking down at her still face, willing Kagome to show him some sign that she was going to be alright.

"Come, place her down over here." Kaede had already made up a futon for Kagome to sleep and was now thankful for her forethought.

Inuyasha placed Kagome down gently before moving back to give Kaede space to work. "Is she gonna be alright?" His voice was a panicked whisper.

"I cannot answer that until first ye tell me exactly what has happened."

"We left Miroku and Sango's and went by my hut so I could show it to her. We were… talking… and the next thing I knew she was surrounded by her own power, only it was like a blanket or a shell. I couldn't even get close enough to touch her. Burnt my hand when I tried. It sounded like it was hurting her. It felt like forever, but I think it was only a minute or so. She kept whimpering and groaning and when the power finally pulled back, she collapsed like this!"

Inuyasha could feel the fear rising within him all over again at the retelling. 'Oh, Kami,' he thought. 'Please don't take her away from me. Not when I just got her back.'

Kaede was worried as well, but her years of training kept her mind focused as she began running her hand above the child, using her spiritual senses to assess Kagome's aura for any signs of sickness, pain, or disease.

Before she could get halfway through the examination, Kagome began to stir. "Wha–?" She said groggily. "What happened?"

Kagome put one hand up to still the pounding in her head, using the other elbow to raise herself up slightly and look around.

"Kagome, child, be still. Inuyasha brought ye here. Ye were unconscious."

And suddenly Kagome remembered. "I– I passed out from the pain, I think."

"Ye were in pain, child? Can ye point out where the pain was?"

"It was everywhere. It felt like every part of my body, inside and outside was on fire." Kagome closed her eyes against the memory, the pounding in her head continued. "Could I maybe get a drink of water?"

"Here, let me." Inuyasha jumped up immediately, happy to be able to help even in this small way. He wasn't used to feeling so helpless.

He filled a cup from the water barrel by the door and brought it over to Kagome. Pressing it into her hand, he searched her face. "How are you feeling now?"

"I don't know. Fine, I guess, except for a pounding headache."

Kaede asked, "Do ye mind if I continue my examination?"

"No, go ahead." After taking a long drink Kagome handed the cup back to Inuyasha who had yet to move away from her side. She lay back down on the futon.

Kaede moved to place her hands again over Kagome's body, guiding them around as she reached out with her senses. "So this pain ye spoke of. It was all over? And Inuyasha said it was caused by ye's own power?"

"Yes, that's right." Kagome nodded.

"That is what has me confused. One's own power should never be able to do its own bearer harm. Did ye feel like ye were being harmed?"

Kagome thought about it for a moment. "Not… really? I don't know. It was hot, burning hot, but there was also this surge of… something. It felt kind of like how I'd imagine a battery might feel if it was overcharged."

Looking at the confusion on Kaede's face over her modern comparison, she mumbled in embarrassment. "Not that you'd know what a battery is, Kaede-sama. Sorry."

"A battery is like a container, but for power. It holds power but can be drained and refilled." Inuyasha tried to explain it to Kaede in the same way Souta had once explained it to him.

"I see… And so that was what it felt like, child? As though ye were being overfilled with power?"

"Kinda, I guess." The idea made her uncomfortable. She wasn't used to having this kind of power, especially after being back in the modern world for so long where her spiritual powers always seemed to be only weakly present at best.

Kaede continued her questioning, "And immediately before it happened, Inuyasha said the two of ye were simply speaking with one another? What was it ye were discussing?"

Kagome reached back in her mind, trying to remember what had happened in the moments before the pain began and had stolen all her thoughts away.

It was Inuyasha who replied when he saw that Kagome was struggling to remember. He blushed as he spoke, "I– I had asked Kagome to be my wife and she'd said yes and–"

"Inuyasha, Kagome, this is wonderful news!" Kagome blushed at Kaede's interruption of genuine happiness for the both of them.

"Thanks, baba. Yeah, we were pretty happy. We were talking about spending the rest of our lives together and I– I remember that that was the last thing she said." Inuyasha was as red as his fire-rat confessing their romantic moment to Kaede, but he continued. "She said she wished for us to spend the rest of our lives together and the next thing I knew she was crying out in pain!"

"Oh… Kami!" Kagome's eyes went wide as a thought crossed her mind.

"What? What is it, child?" Kaede asked.

It was Kagome's turn to blush as she spoke, "When we were walking down by the river earlier Inuyasha and I were talking about youkai and hanyou lifespans. How they age and stuff." She closed her eyes before continuing, "I remember there was a moment when I was… really sad because I realized that Inuyasha was going to stay the same and I was going to… grow old and die."

She couldn't bear to look at Inuyasha as she whispered the words, "Your life was always going to be so much longer than mine."

"Kagome…" Inuyasha didn't know what else to say to that. It was the harshest reality of their relationship. He reached out to touch her hand where it lay beside her on the futon.

She opened her eyes to look at him, the pain she felt at that truth reflected in his own golden depths. "Inuyasha, you asked me to swear to you that I would never leave you alone. That I would stay with you for the rest of our lives… Only, the second I did…"

She trailed off as his eyes widened, understanding where her thoughts were headed.

"You don't– You don't think…?"

No one in the room spoke for a long moment until finally, Kaede broke the heavy silence in the room.

"Are ye saying, child, that ye think ye may have done something to yourself?"

"I think… I think maybe yeah, though what I'm not sure. It's not like I planned it or even thought about it consciously, but–" She sat up suddenly cutting off her own words.

"Kaede-sama, would you please pass me a knife?"

"Whaaaaaatttt? Wench, don't you dare!" Inuyasha knew Kagome well enough to know when she was about to do something crazy or stupid… or both.

"Inuyasha," her voice was firm as she stared him down. "Don't you trust me?"

"Of course I do, but–"

She didn't let him finish, "If you trust me then you'll let me do this."

"No, Kagome, you can't! I'm not just gonna sit here and let you hurt yourself, or worse!"

"Inuyasha, there isn't going to be an 'or worse,' please trust me. Kaede is here and can help me if I'm wrong about this."


"Inuyasha…" She said his name in a tone that sent "sit" flashbacks dancing through his mind.

"You wouldn't." Inuyasha crossed his arms over his chest, sticking both hands in either sleeve of his fire-rat. He turned his face away from her, chin in the air, as though that would be the end of that discussion.

"Aisuru…" Kagome spoke softly this time, pleading with him… And Inuyasha felt all the fight melt out of him when he realized she'd called him her love.

He turned back to her and wrapped his arms around her. "What're ya gonna do?" He mumbled the question into her hair.

"I'm going to cut myself – I'm thinking maybe on my thigh – and we'll wait and see what happens. If it heals quickly then I'll assume that whatever happened has super-charged my cells, giving them the ability to regenerate quickly."

Inuyasha pulled back and cocked his head, not quite understanding what her strange future words meant.

She smiled at him. "What I mean is that if I do heal quickly then it probably means that my ageing will also be significantly slower as well… Just like yours. Cells are just a fancy name for all the teeny bits of your body that control growth, healing, ageing, and all that stuff."

Inuyasha seemed satisfied by her explanation, and he could hear the hope in her words as she spoke. He grumbled and sat back, NOT liking this plan one bit, but willing to try it. If this was true, if she could heal… The idea of having centuries with Kagome rather than just decades made his heart flutter in his chest a bit.

"Kagome, are ye sure about this, child? If it does not heal, ye will have injured yourself needlessly."

"Kaede-sama, just trust that I have a feeling about this, okay? But we should probably dip the knife in a pot of boiling water first. No sense taking any unnecessary chances."

"Boiling water?" Kaede was confused by this.

"Hai, because of the germs. They're something that won't be discovered for another two or three hundred years. Maybe I've mentioned them before? Anyway, they're tiny…bugs I guess you can call them… that live on things like metal knives. When they get into a wound, they are what cause infections. So if you kill the bugs by boiling them in hot water first…"

"Ah, yes, I see. Then they will not be able to cause an infection. How interesting your modern knowledge is, Kagome."

She gave Kaede a rueful smile, "Yep, I'm a regular walking, talking encyclopedia of knowledge… except for when it comes to what's going on with my own power it seems." Kagome shook her head in resignation then. "Let's just get this over with."

"I'd just boiled the pot for tea prior to Inuyasha's arrival with ye. it should not take more than a few moments to return to boiling."

Kaede was right. By the time she had located a sufficiently sharp knife for the task at hand, the water in the pot was boiling rapidly once more.

"Just stick it in all the way to the hilt and hold it there for a minute or so," Kagome instructed.

"As ye say, child." Once done, Kaede walked over to Kagome, handing her the hilt of the knife.

Seeing the knife in Kagome's hand threw Inuyasha into another fit of worry. "Kagome, are you sure about this? I can't stand the thought of you hurting yourself!"

Kagome reached forward and cupped his cheek in her palm. Instinctively, he leaned into her touch.

"I love you, Inuyasha, and I never want to leave you. If I have to grow old and die then I am resigned to that fate, as long as we can be together until that happens." He made a distinctly canine whimper at those words.

"But if by some Kami-blessed miracle I have escaped that fate and we can be together for as long as we both shall live, I want to– No, I need to know. I think that's worth a little bit of pain, don't you?"

He couldn't tell her otherwise. "Okay fine, but that doesn't mean I gotta like it!"

"Here," Kaede interrupted before Inuyasha could try to dissuade her again. "Take these rags and tuck them under your leg to catch the blood. And just in case, I would suggest ye make the cut up and down. From my experience, those sorts of wounds heal more cleanly than a cut that runs crossways."

"Thank you, Kaede-sama." Kagome gave her surrogate grandmother a reassuring smile.

"Alright, alright. Let's get this over with already." Inuyasha didn't think he'd be able to take much more of this.

Kagome took the knife to the outside edge of the midway point of her thigh. She pressed the tip to her soft flesh, felt the prick as it pierced her skin… and stopped.

"I– I don't know if I can actually do this," she faltered, looking at Inuyasha.

"Here." He whispered softly.

"Are you sure?"

"No, but I'll do it."

She let him take the hilt of the knife. The tip never leaving the spot on her thigh where she had already pierced the skin.

She closed her eyes. "Here goes nothi– Ahhhhh!"

Kagome screamed, followed quickly by a loud, hissed intake of breath as the blade sliced a mid-depth gash straight up the side of her leg.

Kagome panted against the pain that shot up and down her leg from the wound. Black spots swam in front of her eyes for a moment and she wondered if she might pass out all over again.

"Inuyasha!" She called out for him instinctively, grabbing for his hand and squeezing it against the pain.

"I'm here, Kagome, just breathe." He gave her hand a gentle squeeze of reassurance.

Kaede shook her head at the obvious pain the girl was in. "And now we wait," she said finally.

Kagome couldn't yet bring herself to look down at the wound. "How long would it normally take you to heal from something like this?" She turned her eyes towards Inuyasha.

He couldn't seem to take her eyes off the bloody gash. He watched as Kagome's blood slid down the outside of her leg onto the rags that had been set there to collect the blood.

He hated the smell of her blood.

"Keh, it would probably close up in an hour or so. Then it'd be a scar after a couple hours and probably be gone completely by morning. It's only when I get impaled on stuff that it tends to take longer to heal." He smirked at her then. "But don't you go trying anything like that!"

Kagome chuckled, glad to ease some of the tension in the air.

"Well, if we shall be here for a while, I will make us some tea." Kaede got up from where she was sitting near Kagome and went back to the kitchen area. She returned several minutes later with a tray with tea for all three of them.

They sat again in silence for a long while before Kagome couldn't take the waiting any longer. If she didn't do something to keep her mind off the waiting she thought she might lose her mind. She mentally scrambled around for something to distract her until a thought crossed her mind, something she had been wanting to ask Kaede about.

"Kaede-sama, how did you convince Sesshōmaru to leave Rin here?"

Kaede looked up at Kagome in surprise. After such a long period of silence, she had not been expecting such a pointed question. She took a moment to reply.

"Ah, yes. Well, it was after the final battle with Naraku. Ye had been pulled into the Meidō and Inuyasha had followed ye in. The Bone-eater's Well had disappeared and the village was smouldering." She shook her head at the memory.

"The poor child was dirty and hungry and tired. I told him that he would be welcome to return to the village with me and allow me to see to her, in case she had any injuries. He did not say much but seemed to consent to my request, though Rin herself seemed… disinclined… to come into the village. Sesshōmaru told her it was what he wished and, as ye all know Rin, she obeyed her lord." Kaede shook her head at that and smiled a small smile.

"I fed the child, helped her bathe, and urged her to rest. She'd inhaled a great deal of miasma and was weak. It was after she'd fallen asleep that I found Sesshōmaru sitting just outside my hut, though I know not where he'd sent the kappa and the dragon off to." She sighed, shifting herself into a more comfortable position.

"I could tell that he did not wish for my company but I'd often wondered, ever since ye both had told me about the small girl following the Inu lord, why it was that he allowed such a thing. I asked him as much. His reply was that Rin could do as she chose. He would not say more than that. I asked him then why she had been reluctant to return to the village, and all he would say was that Rin did not like humans, which was confounding to me, as I did not know of her history at the time."

"Her history?" Kagome interrupted.

"Aye, her family was murdered in a bandit raid on her home village when she was a small child."

Kagome gasped. "Oh, poor Rin!"

"Aye, it was then that the idea came to my mind. I asked him if he did not think it would best if she stayed here, in a village with humans. If she was so alienated from her own kind and knew not what it was like to live in a village that cared for her – where she was safe – was it not in her best interest to learn such a thing, especially amongst other women who would be able to guide her in the inevitable changes that all females face as they grow."

Kaede smiled a small smile remembering Sesshōmaru's face when she had said those words. It was the closest she had ever come to seeing a reaction on the daiyoukai's stoic countenance. He'd almost looked uneasy at the thought.

"I could tell that the idea of leaving her did not sit well with him, so I suggest that she might stay here just until she was old enough to truly choose the life she wanted, and if that choice was to return to him, well…" She let her words trail off. "That seemed to appease him some and he told me he would consider my words."

She gave a small shrug before continuing. "The next morning Sesshōmaru told Rin that she was to stay here in the village with me, that there were things she still needed to learn from humans, and that for her own protection she would be safer here… for now. The poor child was distraught. She looked as though she would bolt after him the second he turned away, but he knelt down to her then and spoke to her softly. He told her that this arrangement was not forever and that she need not fear as much. That he would visit her often and if she was troubled, or anxious, or sad, or any other time… that she could call for him and he would come to her, even if they were far apart… That it was fine for things to be this way for now, as long as she retained her trust in him.*"

"He did NOT say that?!" Inuyasha was incredulous. Clearly Kaede had never told him this part before.

"He did, indeed," Kaede confirmed.

"That's… wow, he really cares for her." Kagome was just as shocked as Inuyasha.

"Aye, it would appear so." Kaede was silent for a moment before finishing her tale. "I could sense that he stayed nearby for a few days. I expect he was wary of her actually calling out for him, or perhaps he wanted to make sure that she was indeed safe and settling in. Finally, after Inuyasha had reappeared with the Bone-eater's Well, Sesshōmaru left the area. I can only assume it was because he trusted Inuyasha to protect her, should the need arise."

A scowled "Keh" was Inuyasha's only response to that.

"Since that day, he has come and gone from the village as he pleases. He will usually visit Rin once a season – as well as on her birthday – for a few days at a time. Sometimes he will take her for a short trip, but he brings her gifts each time, regardless."

"When is Rin's birthday?" Kagome asked.

"At the end of the autumn, a few weeks prior to the solstice."

"Ah," she murmured in response. Then another thought crossed her mind. "Actually, my nineteenth birthday is next week! It's… It's also the anniversary of the day I released Inuyasha from the Goshinboku." She blushed a little and gave him a happy smile, joyful tears coming to her eyes at the memory.

"Inuyasha, do you think, maybe, that it could also be our wedding day? It kind of seems fitting, doesn't it?"

He took one of her hands between both of his, cupping it and gently stroking the pad of his thumb over top. "Yeah… Yeah, it does."

Kaede smiled at the young couple. "I concur that it would be a most auspicious day, and it should be more than sufficient time to prepare the village for the festivities." If any two people deserved to be happy, Kaede thought it was these two.

"Thank you, Kaede-sama." Kagome smiled up at the old woman for another moment before her attention was drawn back to the pain in her leg… Or rather, to the lack of pain, to be precise.

She gave a small gasp, reaching her hand toward the wound, before pulling her fingers back. It was still obscured with blood. "Kaede, would you pass me a wet cloth? I think…."

Kagome didn't finish. Kaede was passing her the cloth then, and she was tenderly wiping the blood away from the edges of her wound.

When finally it was cleaned, all three of them peered down at her leg. It was still an angry shade of red, swollen and sore, but the wound itself was closed… surely an impossible feat if her body still behaved like that of a mortal woman.

"Well," she smiled weakly down at her leg and then up at Inuyasha, whose jaw had dropped open as she'd been wiping the blood away and had yet to move from that shocked position. "I guess that settles that. Inuyasha, it looks like you're gonna be stuck with me for a long, looooonnnnng time."

Chapter Text

Relief. Fear. Joy. Elation. Unease. More fear. More joy.

Kagome watched all of these emotions and more play across Inuyasha's face in response to her words. Finally, she had to ask him. "Inuyasha? Are you okay with this?"

"Am I okay with this? Wench, you just–" Inuyasha closed his eyes, shaking his head, trying to steady himself. He couldn't believe she was even asking him that question. "In less than a day I went from being alone and pissed at the world to not just having you back, but you agreeing to be my mate and then fucking changing yourself so you can stay with me forever?! And you're asking me if I'm okay with this?"

It was too much. Inuyasha gathered Kagome up off the futon, pulling her into his lap. He folded his arms around her – not even remotely caring whether or not the move scandalized Kaede – before mumbling into her hair, "It's too good to be true, ya know? Like there's gotta be a catch."

Kaede chided him at that. "Inuyasha, do not wish ill tidings upon yourself. Do ye not think that 50 years of betrayal and battle have earned ye this miracle?"

Kagome turned slightly in Inuyasha's embrace to look at the older woman, "Kaede-obaasama, I couldn't have said it better myself."

She turned back to him, "Inuyasha, I have no idea what's going on with me or these powers. I don't know why the well opened up when it did or why it suddenly let me back through after all these years. Something tells me there may be more going on here than we know, but I don't even care. I'm just gonna be grateful for the blessings we've been given."

She gave him a blindingly bright smile before continuing. "I'm gonna marry the heck out of you, Inuyasha, and thank the Kami for it every single day for the rest of our lives together."

Inuyasha couldn't help the smile that spread across his face at her words. "You're right, wench, you're right. Whatever happens, we'll figure it out together."

"We always do," she smirked.

Kaede cleared her throat, aware that the two young lovebirds had likely forgotten about her presence in the room. They both blushed when they turned to her.

"Yes, well, as exciting as this day has been, I think it is time for it to end, don't ye? I for one would like to retire to the comfort of my bed sometime before the cock crows."

Inuyasha and Kagome looked sheepishly at each other before looking at Kaede, but the old woman already knew what they were thinking. "Inuyasha, I'll expect ye will wish to stay here where ye can keep an eye on Kagome, yes? That is understandable."

Inuyasha blushed even deeper. "Keh, I'll just sit over there by the wall and keep an eye on things. It's not like I need sleep the way humans do."

Kagome shook her head and smiled at his gruff attempt to hide his embarrassment. Heaven forbid he be called out for having feelings or anything.

"Well, this human definitely still needs sleep. Thank you again, Kaede-sama, for allowing me to stay here."

"Of course, child, of course. I left a sleeping kosode for ye just over there on top of that chest. Goodnight to ye."

Kaede rose stiffly and walked to the side of the hut where her futon was hidden behind a privacy screen.

"Here," Inuyasha murmured, shifting Kagome off his lap and back onto the futon before moving to retrieve the garment that Kaede had pointed out to them.


Inuyasha stood and walked over to the wall nearest Kagome. He pulled Tetsusaiga from his sash before sitting himself cross-legged, sword propped upon his shoulder.

Kagome smiled at the sight. 'Some things never change,' she thought.

She looked down at the sleeping kosode in her hand, then around the small hut. There wasn't anywhere private to change since Kaede had already gone to bed behind the only privacy screen in the hut.

She looked over to Inuyasha who was still watching her from where he now sat.

'I wonder what he'd do if…' She smirked a little before lifting her hand to the button that held her pink cardigan closed. She released it, shrugging the garment off before folding it to place beside her on the futon.

Surreptitiously, Kagome glanced at Inuyasha. He had cocked a brow, but nothing more.

Raising up on her knees then, she reached for the zipper on the side of her skirt.

"Kagome, what–" Inuyasha hissed in a loud whisper before a finger to her lips and a slow shake of her head cut off his words.

Slowly, she undid the zipper that kept the skirt in place, allowing it to fall and pool at her knees. Then she lowered back down to the mattress, shifting her legs to the side so that she could slowly slip the skirt down her legs and over her feet.

Inuyasha's throat was dry. He was sure his eyes were popping out of his head, but he couldn't look away.

Once her skirt was off, Kagome slowly folded it as well, setting it on top of her cardigan. Next, she pulled her legs up, bending her knees to remove her socks one at a time.

From that angle, Inuyasha could just make out the small scrap of pink fabric covering her womanhood. A teeny whimper escaped him before he could stop it.

Again, Kagome looked up at him. She blushed slightly but put the finger back to her lips, shaking her head "no" again.

All Inuyasha could do was gulp and clear his throat. His eyes seemed incapable of looking away.

Kagome noticed. 'So he likes what he sees,' she thought. Smirking down at her lap slightly before schooling her features.

Slowly, she raised herself up on her knees again, giving Inuyasha an unhindered view of her panties. They were pink, Inuyasha noticed, but there was a pattern on them as well. Small hearts in a lighter pink scattered across the surface with a tiny bow that sat just below her navel.

For a moment he wondered what sort of pervert had invented such a provocative garment, but that's when Kagome reached for the hem of her camisole, lifting the fabric up over her head before letting it fall on the futon beside her.

Inuyasha thought he had died. 'This is itThis proves it. I've died and this whole day has been a dream because there's no way that this could be real.'

If he'd thought those panties were provocative, the matching… whatever it was covering her breasts… made his head spin. It was made of the same pink-patterned fabric, only the bow on this one was nestled between the curve of her breasts.

This had seemed like a good idea at the time, but now that Kagome was mostly naked in front of Inuyasha she suddenly found herself intensely nervous. She plucked up a smile and finally made herself looked up at him… and promptly stopped breathing. The blatant hunger she found etched across his face made thoughts, breathing – almost anything other than starting back at him at that moment – impossible.

'Mine. Mine. Mine. Mine. Mine.' The word slammed around inside of Inuyasha's head. His grip on Tetsusaiga tightened as he willed himself to calm down.

They stared at each other for another long, heated moment before Kagome finally took a deep shuddering breath in. She looked away, reaching for the sleeping kosode, pulling it up over her shoulders. She tied the obi tight before picking up her camisole and folding that as well, adding it to the pile of clothing she'd already made.

Without another word, she lay back down, facing away from Inuyasha. She smiled to herself, though still not quite ready to look at him again after that.

Instead, she whispered quietly, in a voice she knew he'd be able to hear. "Goodnight, Inuyasha."

"Goodnight, Kagome," came the slightly strained reply.

And not for the first time in his life, Inuyasha was thankful he wasn't a human that needed a lot of sleep… because there was no way he'd be able to sleep after that.

Inuyasha was alerted to the fact that it was morning by the scampering footsteps of a certain kitsune approaching.

He'd been in a light doze but immediately stood and exited the hut to waylay Shippō before he could wake the two women.

"Oi, Shippō, you can't go in there."

"Morning, Inuyasha! Why not?"

"Because Kaede and Kagome are still sleeping, that's why. We had a late night."

"You did?" Shippō gave Inuyasha a distrustful look. "You sure you're not trying to keep Kagome away from me? Because I'm warning you, Inuyasha, she's not gonna like it if she finds out. You know she likes me better than you!"

"Keh, I highly doubt that." Inuyasha blushed at the memory of Kagome in her undergarments.

"What is that look for, my fine friend?" Miroku was approaching down the road from the direction of his home, Rin walking beside him. He'd been tasked by his wife to walk the young ones home and to check on how Kagome had fared her first night back.

"Nothin'" Inuyasha grumbled, putting on a scowl instead, hoping it would have the desired effect of getting the monk to drop his line of questioning.

"Inuyasha thinks that Kagome likes him better than she likes me. You tell him Miroku. You know it's not true. Kagome always used to let me cuddle with her in her sleeping bag at night. She never yelled at me or hit me, but she was always "sitting" you, Inuyasha. You were always mean to her and you guys were always yelling at each other! She definitely likes me best."

By the time Shippō was done his rant, Inuyasha was fuming. "Oh yeah, you lousy runt? Well, if Kagome likes you so much better than she likes me, then why did she agree to my mate last night?"

"Really?! Inuyasha-oniisama? You and Kagome-chan are getting married?!" Rin squealed in delight.

"Uh, yeah." Inuyasha flushed as red as his fire-rat but he was suddenly worried. He was pretty sure that if Kagome was going to SIT him for anything it would be sticking his foot in his mouth and announcing their plans to wed, without her.

"Congratulations, my friend, though something tells me that this was not precisely how you intended on letting us know." Miroku's eyes sparkled with humour, but he kept his benevolent monk's smile firmly in place.

Inuyasha rubbed the back of his neck in embarrassment. "Uh, yeahhhhh…. About that… Can you not tell Kagome–"

"Not tell Kagome what?" Came her voice from behind him.

He turned to find Kagome dressed again in her modern clothing, standing in the doorway, arms crossed in front of her chest, an eyebrow cocked in question.

She was clearly annoyed that he was trying to keep something from her.

'Fuck.' He thought with a cringe. 'I am in such deep kuso.

Chapter Text

"M– Morning, Kagome." Inuyasha stammered nervously.

"Don't you 'morning Kagome' me, Inuyasha. What were you four talking about?" Her hands move to rest on her hips, the toe of her shoe tapping out an impatient beat.

Both Rin and Miroku seemed disinclined to make the situation any worse, but Shippō, who had initially been shocked into silence by Inuyasha's snarky reveal, held no such qualms.

"Is it–? Is it true?" He whimpered at Kagome.

"Shippō…" Inuyasha growled in warning at the same time that Kagome asked the kit, "Is what true, Shippō?"

"Inuyasha said that you guys were gonna– Mmph!" Shippō couldn't finish. Inuyasha had lurched forward and grabbed him, clamping his clawed hand firmly over the kit's mouth.

It didn't seem to stop Shippō from struggling and trying to talk, as a great deal of mumbling and grumbling erupted from behind Inuyasha's hand.

"Inuyasha…" Kagome had hand enough. "SIT BOY!"

Shippō was thrown aside right before Inuyasha's face slammed into the ground.

"Now that is something I never thought I'd be lucky enough to see again in this lifetime!" Miroku laughed outright, shaking his head at the sight.

"Kagooooome?!" Inuyasha tried to sound incredulous around a mouthful of dirt.

Kagome was instantly mortified at what she had done. "Ack! Inuyasha, I'm so sorry! I don't know what just came over me! Kuso! Please, forgive me! Here, let me take those damned beads off once and for all!"

"NO!" Inuyasha almost looked panicked at the idea.

"'No'? But why?" Kagome was absolutely shocked that he would refuse.

"Because…" He grumbled, crossing his arms in front of his chest.

"Because why?"

"Because I said NO that's why! Look, wench, these beads have saved both our asses more times than I'd like to admit, and if the price of that is that sometimes you're gonna SIT my ass when I've been a baka, then fine. So you leave them be!" He practically snarled the last words.

Kagome could only stand there staring at Inuyasha in shock. In a huff, he finally turned away from her, nose pointed to the sky.

Miroku cleared his throat, reminding the arguing couple about their audience. It also reminded Kagome about why she'd SAT Inuyasha in the first place.

Sheepishly she cleared her throat. "Now, Shippō, you were saying?"

"Inuyasha said that you two were gonna be mates! Can you believe that, Kagome?!" He was sure that Inuyasha would get SAT at least three more times now for making up such stories.

Kagome was immediately livid all over again. "You–? You told them? Without me?!"

Inuyasha cringed.


He slammed back down to the ground again.

"Wait," Shippō was confused. "You mean, it's true?!"

Kagome wasn't paying attention to the kit. She was still glaring at the small crater in which her fiancé lay. "I change my mind. You totally deserve to keep those beads on for the rest of our lives!"

Inuyasha knew he'd fucked up. "I'm sorry, Kagome. I'm sorry, okay? I didn't mean to. It just slipped out before I could stop it."

He slowly climbed back to his feet, but he couldn't bring himself to look at her. "I'm sorry." He softly the words again, softly this time.

Miroku took pity on his friend. "Kagome, it truly was an accident on his part. The second the words were out I could see that he wished to take them back."

Kagome sighed and looked at Inuyasha who had inched up closer beside her, if still not looking at her.

"It really was an accident?" She asked him.

"Yeah…" He mumbled before continuing. "Look wench, I promise. I won't tell anyone else. Sango still doesn't know yet, and there's the headman and the rest of the village, too. I'll keep my trap shut and you can be the one to tell everyone else. Deal?"

Kagome was still disappointed by she could tell that Inuyasha was sorry. She wouldn't torture him anymore.

"Fine…" She said with resignation.

He looked over at her with hopeful eyes. "So, you forgive me?" He sidled even closer, taking her hands in his.

Kagome's heart melted at the tentative yet tender touch.

"I'll always forgive you, Inuyasha." She blushed and smiled up at him, love shining in her eyes.

Rin sighed dreamily. "Oh, Inuyasha-oniisama, Kagome-chan, this Rin is so happy for you both!"

Kagome smiled a genuine smile at the girl then. "Thank you, Rin-chan. I'm very happy as well."

"You are?" The question came tentatively from a very sullen-looking Shippō.

Kagome looked down at the Kitsune. He sat on the ground, arms crossed over his chest in a striking imitation of Inuyasha.

"Yes, Shippō, of course I am. I would never have agreed to marry Inuyasha if I didn't love him very much."

"But he was always so mean to you."

"Maybe. But you know Inuyasha, he's kind of mean to everybody." She smirked, giving the kit a wink.

"Oi, wench, I'm standing right here you know!"

Kagome only turned and stuck her tongue out at him over her shoulder before continuing her conversation with the fox-boy.

"He may be gruff and grumpy, but he loves me and I love him." She paused when Shippō remained sullenly silent. She knew her kit so well and instinctively understood the real problem.

"But that doesn't mean that I love you any less, Shippō. No matter what happens, I will always be here for you. I told Inuyasha last night, but you should know, too, that I'm not leaving anymore, Shippō. I won't be going back through the well again. I plan to stay here with you and Inuyasha and everyone. So you see? This is a good thing. Can you be happy for me, Shippō?"

Shippō was silent for a long moment, considering Kagome's words.

"Can I still cuddle with you at night?"

Inuyasha let out a strangled sound from low in his throat, and Kagome blushed a bright red, though Shippō wasn't sure what it was about his question that had made them both react so strangely.

It was Miroku who finally answered the kit's question, a sly look in his eyes. "I do not think so, Shippō, for you see, you are no longer the only one who wishes for that honour."

Miroku was the first to leave the small gathering, returning home to eat his morning meal with his wife and children, though not before swearing to Kagome that he would not speak a word to Sango about their announcement until Kagome herself had had the chance to do so first.

And just as he'd waved farewell, Inuyasha let them know that he needed to go as well. He had to do a quick perimeter patrol of the village and the surrounding area, but he promised to be back before the morning meal was ready, promising to bring back a few fish to contribute.

With that, Rin, Shippō, and Kagome went inside. They found Kaede already awake and sitting in the kitchen area attending to the pot that would soon hold their breakfast soup.

Rin sat beside Kaede, offering to help her prepare the vegetables, while Shippō when over to a corner of the room. He always kept a small ball in his jacket for times like this. He tossed the ball up in the air and caught it, settling in to wait for his breakfast.

Kagome moved to tidy up her sleeping space, before joining the older woman near the fire.

"Anything I can do to help?" She asked.

"Aye, child, ye may wash the rice and prepare it for the pot."

"Of course, Kaede-sama."

As Kagome went about her assigned task, Kaede watched her. Still marvelling at the strange turn of events that had not only brought the young woman back to this world, but had changed the course of the child's entire life so utterly, and in such a short amount of time. She wondered what the future might have in store for the girl. She was a Miko and yet had not been trained as such. Kaede knew that, up until now, Kagome had survived on the instinctual use of her powers, alone.

"Kagome, child?"

"Yes, Kaede-sama?"

"Have ye given any thought to what you would like to do with yourself now that ye are to live here permanently?"

"You mean, besides marrying Inuyasha?" Kagome smiled cheekily at the older woman.

Kaede returned her smile. "Aye, child, besides that."

Kagome paused in her washing of the rice, drying her hands on the towel beside her, before putting a thoughtful finger to her lips.

"Well, I expect I'll have to learn how to take care of a home here in this world, though I have no idea what that entails. I expect I'll have to rely on you and Rin and Sango to teach me what I don't know. Then there's my training. I kept it up while I was gone and I'd like to continue. I tend to practice with bow and arrow three times a week, plus a couple days of mock hand-to-hand defensive combat… and I try to do a basic sword kata once a week as well."

"My goodness, child, I had no idea ye'd been training throughout your absence!"

"Oh, hai. I wanted to be ready the second the well let me back through."

It was Rin who spoke up next, she'd been practically bursting with questions since she'd heard that the older girl had returned, and it seemed like now she might just have a chance to ask what had been on her mind for almost three years. "Kagome-chan, Inuyasha-oniisama had once tried to explain to this Rin what your other world beyond the well was like. Is it true that you have come to us from a future time?!"

Kagome could see the amazement written all over Rin's face at the very idea of it. "Yes, it's true, Rin. My family are the keepers of the shrine that guard the Bone-eater's Well and the Goshinboku. Everything you see here around you will one day become a massive city. Everywhere you look there will be buildings as tall as the sky, roads paved in a sooth, rock-like substance called concrete. It's a world filled with all sorts of mechanical and technological wonders that you can't even imagine. But in the middle of it all, our family kept the well and the sacred tree safe."

"Wow…." was Rin's only response. Shippō had inched closer to listen to Kagome speak, as well.

Kagome smiled at the girl's wondering face, but she was not prepared for the girl's next question.

"And where is Lord Sesshōmaru's kingdom? Is it nearby your great city?"

"Lord– Lord Sesshōmaru's kingdom?"

"Hai! When I travelled with Lord Sesshōmaru, Master Jaken would often talk to this Rin about our Lord's plan to establish a vast kingdom and rule over it once another century or so had passed. I know that I will not live to see such a wondrous sight, but I was wondering if you would tell this Rin all about it. Have you ever visited?"

Kagome was suddenly very uncomfortable. She had not mentioned to anyone anything about the fears that had taken root in her after that fateful night when she and her friends had realized that it something must have happened between now and then.

Something really bad.

She'd hoped to ease into trying to solve this mystery, but it looked like, perhaps, fate had other plans for her.

"Uh, Rin-chan, before I fell through the well and came to this time I had never heard of Lord Sesshōmaru."

Rin looked utterly confused by Kagome's words, as though they could not possibly be true.

"He doesn't have a kingdom in the future, Rin, not even the kingdom he has now in the West. In fact, there are no youkai anywhere in the future at all."

Rin's jaw dropped open at her words, but she continued. "Youkai are thought of as myths. Fairy stories that parents make up to scare their children. The only person I knew who actually believed they were real was my grandfather. He always believed though I have no idea why. He used to tell me tales of the Shikon no Tama when I was a child, but before I came here, I thought someone had totally made it up all."

Everyone in the room fell silent. The shock written across their faces was unmistakable.

"But– But– that is not possible. My lord is… dead?" Rin said the words in horror, her hands rising to cover her distressed face.

"What about me?!" Shippō said suddenly. "In 500 years I'll only be 508! I should still be alive. What about Kitsune, Kagome? There are still Kitsune in the future, right?"

He was worried that he might already know the answer to his question.

"Oh, Shippō. I'm so sorry. No Kitsune either, and I don't know what happened to you. If you were still out there somewhere you never came looking for me." Her voice was sad.

"I woulda come, Kagome." The young boy sniffled. I woulda come…" He trailed off, a tear slipping down his round cheek.

"Kagome, why did ye never mention this to us before? All the times that you and Inuyasha travelled back and forth to that world, I assumed that it was as this one was. Are ye truly saying that there are no youkai or hanyou anywhere in your entire world?"

"Yes, that's what I'm saying Kaede-sama. But it's not just youkai and hanyou." Kaede gave her a questioning look.

"I mentioned that I barely felt my powers when I was back in that world, and I meant it. Where I come from there are still Monks and Mikos, but none of them have the kind of… magical… spiritual powers that we do here in this world. Not even my grandfather has even an ounce of spiritual power in his entire body, and he's been the guardian of our shrine his entire life!"

Kaede gasped at that. "These revelations are most disturbing, child. For things so ancient and unwavering to be gone so quickly..."

The older woman looked at Kagome for a long moment before continuing, "And it leads me to believe that your sudden return to this world has not occurred by coincidence."

Chapter Text

Kagome sighed at Kaede’s words. “I know. It’s a thought that’s been creeping around my mind since yesterday, too. I told Inuyasha that even the way the well opened for me yesterday was… different… than it ever had acted before. As though it was… offering me a choice.”

Kagome gazed at the fire, her eyes unfocused, remembering the way the clouds had looked at the bottom of the well. The breeze that had come up from that sky to brush against her face, inviting her to choose. That life… or this one.

Finally, she continued, “This isn’t the first time no youkai in the future has occurred to me either. It began worrying me a while ago when I was still stuck on the other side of the well. My friends and I, back there, we talked about it a lot. We even did some research.”

At that moment, Inuyasha appeared in the doorway of Kaede’s hut with a small basket of fish in tow. “Are you talking about school stuff again? I brought the…”

It was then that he took in the worried expressions on the faces around the fire and immediately dropped the basket of fish, moving quickly towards Kagome.

He knelt down beside her, grabbing her gently by the upper arms, turning her to look at him.“What is it? What’s the matter? Has something happened?”

He looked from Kagome to the ashen faces of Shippo and Rin, and then to the worried frown of Kaede face. “Someone better start talkin’, and FAST.” He growled.

Sighing under the weight of her words, Kagome filled Inuyasha in on what the four of them had been talking about prior to his arrival.

Finally, once caught up, she continued with her story. “From what we could piece together, at some point soon something is going to shift. Before a certain point in time the stories about magical creatures were written as though they were true recountings, things that were possible, that could and often did happen.”

She shook her head sadly before continuing, “But then afterwards, they began to be written and described more as superstitious fiction. It seemed to coincide with a period that the Western Continent called “The Enlightenment” or “The Scientific Revolution” – beginning about 50 years from now – but that’s all we were able to discover.” She shrugged helplessly before continuing.

“We did a lot of research, reading stories, myths and legends from all over the world and as far back in time as we could find them. But after the Enlightenment, the human population exploded and what I would call ‘modern history’ began, and then… that was… it.”

Kagome hung her head in defeat as she finished. The room was silent for a long time before Inuyasha broke the silence.

“So we’ve got just under 50 years then,” he said quietly.

“What?” Kagome wasn’t sure she’d heard him correctly.

”I said, we have 50 years to figure this out. And we WILL figure this out, Kagome. I just got you back and I’m not about to sit back and lose you again in a measly 50 years. Whatever’s coming we’ll stop it. If we could stop Naraku, we can stop this.”

His voice was sure, his eyes firm, but Kagome still had doubts. “But we don’t even know where to start! Back then we had the shards to guide us, but now…?”

“Now we have your power, Kagome.” Kaede interrupted. “I said before, child, that I do not think your return to us or the changes ye are facing have occurred by coincidence. Whatever is happening is most assuredly being guided by the strings of fate.”

Both Inuyasha and Kagome thought about this for a moment.

“She’s right, you know. As much as I like the idea that you came back just to be with me…” He smirked at this, “…I ain’t so stupid as to think that that’s the only reason that some Kami somewhere granted our wish.”

“Indeed,” Kaede intoned. “I am happy for ye both, truly, and mayhap we will not get the answers we seek yet, but I do believe that one day very soon, ye will both be called to a duty even greater than the one ye took on to vanquish Naraku.”

Breakfast was eaten in a somber silence after that, each person around the fire in Kaede’s hut caught up in their own thoughts.

Finally, after the dishes were done, the food put away, and the children sent out to play for a bit before attending to their chores, the mood in the hut seemed to improve a bit.

Kagome finally put voice to her thoughts. “I’ve decided I’m not going to worry about this. Inuyasha is right, we’ve got 50 years to figure this out. That’s a long time.” Her eyes were fiery, her stance determined as she continued. “It may not feel like we know where to begin now, but as long as we keep our eyes and ears open, we’ll catch a lead eventually.”

“Very well said, Kagome, child. I agree with ye. Ye must not let this new challenge interrupt your life or your plans. Ye must live each day as the gift it has been granted to ye, and all too soon enough our next course of action will become clear. In the meantime, though…” She smiled at the young couple. “I believe we have a wedding to prepare for.”

“Speaking of! Inuyasha we should probably go over to Sango and Miroku’s and catch them up on everything that’s happened since we left them last night.” She shook her head then, realizing just exactly how much had happened.

And I made Miroku promise me that he wouldn’t say anything to Sango about the wedding until I did, so we better get going if I want him to keep that promise!”

“Keh, you know Miroku. He’s probably dying tryin’ to hold it in!” He smirked at the mental image of Miroku, sitting under his meditation tree, cheeks puffed out, filled with air, face going red, all to try and keep the secret in.

Inuyasha snickered under his breath.

“What’s so funny, you?” Kagome questioned his amusement.

“Nothin’, nothin’. Let’s get outta here. Kaede-baba we’ll see ya later.”

“Aye, yes, about that. Kagome, child, will ye return to me later? I have something else I’d like to discuss with ye.”

“Of course, Kaede-obaasama. I’ll see you later.”

The couple stepped out of the hut and into the bright sunshine. The air was warm for early April. “It looks like it’s gonna be a perfect day,” Kagome mused aloud.

“Yeah, perfect.” Inuyasha wasn’t looking at the sky, he was looking at the beautiful woman that he still couldn’t believe was standing beside him.

Mental images of Kagome’s little performance from the night before invaded his mind then, and he flushed bright red from neck to hairline before coming to a sudden stop in the middle of the road.

It was still fairly early, most villagers still inside their homes preparing for the day, so Kagome wasn’t sure what could have made him turn so red in the face.

“Inuyasha, what is it?”

“Uh, last– last night…” He trailed off, his eyes unintentionally flicking from Kagome’s face, down to her breasts, before coming back up to her eyes and then looking away with a gulp.

And suddenly Kagome was well aware of what Inuyasha was thinking about.

She could feel her own embarrassment rising at the memory of how bold she’d been, but she squashed it down. They were getting married, for Kami’s sake, and a sneaking suspicion had grown in her over 24 hours that, though she was still a virgin, growing up in the modern era had exposed her to more than Inuyasha had yet to experience.

“Um, Inuyasha…?” Kagome had to be sure. She didn’t want any awkward secrets between the two of them.

“Yeah?” He still wouldn’t meet her eyes. She took his hand and pulled him over to the side of the path, away from any prying ears that might soon be passing by.

Finally, she spoke quietly, “I’m– I’m still a virgin. Are– are you?”

“Keh.” Was all she got in reply and when she looked at Inuyasha’s face, even though she hadn’t thought it was possible, it had turned even redder.

She knew what she had to do. She brought both her palms up to cup his cheeks, turning his head to look at her before kissing him a soft, sweet kiss on the lips.

Finally, she spoke, “I kind of hope you are. I mean, I know that men are supposed to be experienced in this kind of thing, but I figure that experience comes to everyone with enough practice.” She smirked a little at the word before continuing. “When I was back in the future I had plenty of guys ask me out on dates–” Inuyasha growled at this, but Kagome wouldn’t be deterred.

“BUT I never went on a single one. And do you know why? Because I was waiting for you, Inuyasha. And if maybe you were doing the same thing, saving yourself for someone that you loved, then I think maybe we’re both lucky to be giving each other this gift and experiencing it together, don’t you?”

To Inuyasha, it felt like all of his insides had melted out of him to puddle at his feet, leaving behind a warm, blanketing glow from Kagome’s words. He had no idea how she was always able to do this to him. One minute she soothed him in a way he’d never known, and the next she causing him to catch fire and burn brightly.

“Kagome, I want you… badly… and no one else. Not ever. But part of me is worried. How will I keep control of myself?” He spoke softly then, “I don’t ever want to hurt you, Kagome.”

Kagome could feel him retreating, but she wouldn’t let him. “Whoever said I wanted you to control yourself, Inuyasha?” She gave him a sultry look.

He gulped. “But– But, my youkai side–“

Nope. She wasn’t going to let him finish that sentence. “I have nothing to fear from any side of you Inuyasha. Don’t you remember how it was me who was able to calm you down and bring you back from the brink, even when you couldn’t do it yourself? And now…”

She tiptoed up to give him another lingering kiss. “Now I can heal. Now you really can’t hurt me. And I never want you to think you have to hold a part of yourself back from me. I love all of you, Inuyasha, and I fear none of it. I want your passion and your inexperience and your love, and I want to give you mine in return. Is that okay?”

She could feel Inuyasha trembling with emotion under her fingers as she continued to cup his face, though he was looking down now, hiding his eyes behind his bangs. It took Inuyasha a long moment to collect himself enough to speak, and when he did, his voice was thick and gruff from his rolling emotions.

“Kagome, I don’t know what I did in this life or the last to deserve to have you in be with me, but by all the Kami, I love you more than my own life. I– I– accept your gift, and I swear to protect you and cherish you and be here with you until my very last breath.”

It ws Kagome’s turn to get choked up on her emotions. “Oh, Inuyasha, I– For so long I’ve dreamed about hearing you say words like that to me.” She was crying now, happy tears. “You are my strength, Inuyasha. The fire in my soul. I don’t think I could ever live in a world without you.”

And as the spring birds flew overhead, calling their mating calls to one another, Inuyasha kissed his mate with such passion and love that none of the few villagers who passed by and saw them could stop themselves from smiling at their obvious joy at being reunited.

Chapter Text

As Inuyasha and Kagome approached Miroku and Sango's home they were greeted by the familiar, staccato rhythm of axe meeting wood.

"What the heck?" Inuyasha seemed completely confounded by the sound coming from around the side of the house. He moved towards it rather than to the door.

"What's the matter?" Kagome questioned.

"I think Miroku's chopping wood."


Rounding the corner they found Miroku standing beside a small pile of split logs. As he paused to wipe the sweat from his brow, Inuyasha used the momentary silence to call out to him.

"Oi, you musta been desperate if you resorted to chopping wood!"

Miroku looked up to see his friends approaching and laughed. "Well, well. Welcome, my friends. I am merely seeing to my husbandly duties."

Inuyasha snorted at that. "Husbandly duties that you usually avoid like the plague." Jerking his thumb in Miroku's direction Inuyasha turned to Kagome. "This lazy monk usually tries to get me to do his wood-chopping, or else will trade already-chopped wood for blessings and other monk stuff with the other villagers."

Miroku tried to look affronted, "Inuyasha, my friend, you wound me. Should I not receive compensation for my holy works?"

"Ha! And yet here you are, axe in hand. Did it work? Were you able to keep yer trap shut?"

"If you are inquiring as to whether or not I gave any of your secrets away to my lovely wife, then the answer is no." He smiled sheepishly before continuing, "I have been much too busy with very important, very loud work to do much talking, as you can see."

Kagome laughed at that. "Well, thank you for your valiant efforts, Miroku. But we're here now. Do you want to take a break and come inside with us?"

"Of course, Kagome, of course. What kind of host would I be if I ignored guests to my home?"

Inuyasha smirked at him, "Better to ignore your husbandly duties, eh, Monk?"

Miroku's eyebrows waggled suggestively when he answered, "I assure you, Inuyasha, my… ahem… husbandly duties are one thing that I never ignore."

Kagome was laughing at the two of them as they entered the house. "Kagome, there you are! What's so funny?" Sango asked.

Sango sat at a low table, sorting out what looked to be small packets of seeds, a sleeping Ichiro strapped to her back.

"Oh, you know," Kagome replied. "Just Miroku being Miroku." She smiled at her best friend.

"Ojisan! Ojisan! Up!" Aki came running from where she and Yuki had been playing in a sunny patch by the window. She launched herself at Inuyasha fully expecting him to catch her before she collided with him. He hoisted her up gently till she was at face level with him. "Hey there. You being a good girl for your Okaasan this morning?" Aki's eyes widened a little as she nodded solemnly at Inuyasha before breaking into a wide smile and hugging him around the neck.

"Chichiue, up me, too?" asked Yuki, joining them at a more leisurely pace. She waited for her father to lift her into his arms before putting her small head down on his shoulder.

Kagome watched the two men. They were two of the most fearsome warriors in the region, if not the country, and yet they held the sisters so gently that her heart clenched painfully watching them. She shook her head, eyes growing misty before whispering, "Look at us. Look at them. Did you ever think, back when we were hunting for shards, that we would ever actually make it to this?"

Sango came up behind her dearest friend, pulling her into a hug, her own eyes misting over at Kagome's words.

"Oh, don't get me started! If I think back too much…" She trailed off shaking her head. "But we're here now, and you must tell me. How was your first night back?"

Kagome glanced at Inuyasha, who glanced her way at the same time, a small smile on his face.

"It was… eventful… though I don't think I'll be staying at Kaede's again tonight." Kagome said with a small smile.

Sango pulled back from her friend's embrace to look at her face in question, "Oh, no?"

Kagome's small smile turned into a full-fledged smirk as she said, "Naw, I think I'd rather stay in my own hut with my husband-to-be."

"Your…?" She paused for a split-second before understanding lit her eyes.

"Eeeeekkkkk!" Sango squealed in delight, causing Inuyasha to flinch and slick his ears down against his head. She paid him no attention, instead launching herself at her dearest friend for another tight hug… which was rudely interrupted by the wail of an affronted Ichiro who appreciated his mother's squeal about as much as Inuyasha did.

"Oh dear," said Sango on a laugh. "Kagome will you help me lift him out of the wrap?" Kagome moved to Sango's back, retrieving the fretting baby and placing him in his mother's arms.

Sango moved to sit down by the fire with Ichiro, motioning for the rest of them to join her as she said, "I'm so happy for you both!"

She looked across the fire at Inuyasha then, locking eyes with him. She would not say aloud how especially happy she was for him. How she'd watched him suffer without Kagome these three long years and how she was so proud of him for having the courage to confess his feelings to Kagome. Sango hoped her eyes would convey her message, and as a smile of embarrassment mixed with pride spread across Inuyasha's face, she thought maybe it had.

"Congratulations, Kagome, Inuyasha! This is truly auspicious news!" Miroku smiled his too-bright smile at the couple, hoping to conceal his slightly delayed reaction, but immediately Sango was suspicious.

"Miroku, did you know about this and that's why you were out there chopping wood?" She narrowed her eyes at her husband, watching as a slight flush crept up his cheeks.

"Oh, don't be angry at him, Sango, I swore him to secrecy. I wanted to tell you myself." Kagome broke in.

"I figured something must have been up when he said he was going out to chop wood. That man usually avoids physical labour at all costs!" She smirked at her husband then.

"You wound me, dearest!" Miroku mockingly held his hand over his heart.

Sango gave him a very unladylike. "The truth doesn't wound, husband of mine. It merely stings a little."

She winked at Kagome and the two of them laughed before she continued, "But back to the good news… You must tell me everything, Kagome!"

Inuyasha and Kagome shared a look at Sango's words… one that she didn't miss.

"What? What is it?"

They looked at each other again. Inuyasha gave a small shrug, as though leaving it to Kagome to decide how much she was ready to say.

Sango didn't miss that either. "Inuyasha, Kagome, whatever it is you're holding back, you better tell me right now." She growled a little. "If something is going on, Miroku and I want to know."

Kagome smiled at that. Sango hadn't changed either. "I guess I should just start at the beginning right? Well, when we left here, Inuyasha took me over to his hut…"

Aki and Yuki had quickly tired of the grown-up talk, going back to their patch of sunlight to play, and Ichiro had happily nursed his way into a deep slumber as Sango and Miroku listen to Kagome explain everything that had happened last night and this morning.

When she was done, there was a long moment of stunned silence.

Finally, it was Sango who spoke, "Are you saying you're immortal now?"

"No, I don't think so." Kagome shook her head, "I mean, youkai aren't really immortal just…less mortal. I could still die–"

"You ain't dying, wench," Inuyasha growled from where he sat.

Kagome rolled her eyes at him. "What I meant was that I'm not so fragile anymore. I'm harder to kill, less likely to age, like Inuyasha… but it's still possible for me to die."

Inuyasha didn't think this explanation was any better and scowled at Kagome, letting her know his opinion on the topic.

Sango ignored Inuyasha, "Still, Kagome, this is incredible."

"Indeed." Miroku who had been silent up till now, finally spoke, "Truly, Kagome, your new power is remarkable. And I am happy for the two of you that this accidental manifestation has granted you this wondrous, blessing."

He paused for a moment before continuing, "I wonder…" He trailed off again.

"Wonder what?" Inuyasha questioned, not liking the sound of that.

"We have seen and experienced too much in our lives to live under the pretense that there is such a thing as coincidence in this world. Why did the well allow Kagome to pass through now? Why not before, or sometime in the future?"

Kagome shivered slightly at Miroku's words. "Kaede said something similar, as though my being allowed to return was not an accident."

"I don't care what it was. Accident or not, you're here now and you ain't going anywhere." Inuyasha crossed his arms over his chest.

Kagome could tell he was worried. He only ever got this belligerent when he was worried about her. She shifted closer to where he was sitting, lightly placing her hand on his knee, silently letting him know that she here with him.

"What has me most concerned is this disappearance of all youkai that you spoke of," Sango said in a low tone so as not to wake the babe in her arms. "It's unnatural. It worries me that someone or something could be so powerful as to erase an entire species, and not just from our island, but from the whole world?!" She shuddered, "What can we possibly do in the face of that kind of power?"

Miroku chimed in, "And it is not just youkai and hanyou. To think that even human Monks and Mikos will be affected… It is as though the very fabric of heaven and earth shall be rewritten."

"I don't like the sound of that," Kagome said quietly.

Inuyasha had had enough. Worry was beginning to creep into Kagome's scent and he didn't like it. "Look, we've got 50 years head start, and we know it's coming. That's gonna be our upper hand. Sooner or later something's gonna slip and when it does, we'll be on it because we're ready. We won't fail. We can't, not when there's so much at stake."

Kagome smiled up at him, basking in the strength of his conviction, and allowed herself to be hopeful. "Inuyasha's right. Whatever the reason I'm here, whatever's coming, it doesn't matter. We're together again. We've got this."

Sango looked at Kagome, "We're family now, all of us who went through the battle with Naraku together. It's a bond that will never be broken." Then a hardened look came into her eyes, as she glanced down at her sleeping son, "And nothing and no one will ever threaten my family and get away with it."

"Pack," Inuyasha said the word quietly, almost to himself.

"What was that?" Kagome wasn't sure she'd heard correctly.

But Sango had heard. She was Tajiya and knew what it meant. "I– We are honoured, Inuyasha."

Kagome was still confused. She looked between Inuyasha and Sango. Inuyasha seemed a bit embarrassed, but Sango spoke in explanation. "Pack is the foundation of Inu-youkai culture. It's like family…. only more. It's an unbreakable bond."

Kagome understood then. She looked up at Inuyasha before speaking. "Like all of us."

Inuyasha looked around the room at the faces of his friends and their children, at the smile of the woman he loved. Myoga had explained Pack to him when he was young, and it had intrigued him. After he'd lost his mother he'd had no one, and when he'd finally gotten up the courage to seek out his brother for the first time, Sesshōmaru had rejected him instantly. Bitter, he'd given up on the idea of Pack after that. He was hanyou, after all. Tainted. Not belonging to one world or the other. He'd always been on his own. But now…? Now he wasn't alone anymore.

He smirked at Kagome before finally replying to her words, "Damn right."

Miroku looked around the room, taking it all in as well. Finally, he gave an exaggerated sigh, shook his head, and looked at Kagome, eyes filled with mischief and teasing. "Well, Kagome, I must say, you have been back with us for only one day, and yet already our fates have turned. I would say that it was truly astonishing… if I didn't know you so well." He smirked at her.

Kagome gave a sharp bark of laughter at that, before returning his teasing smirk, "I know, right? Did you guys miss me, or what?"

Chapter Text

Kagome and Inuyasha stayed with Miroku and Sango's till after lunch. But eventually, Kagome remembered that Kaede had wanted to speak with her and had asked her to return.

"I think it's time we should be heading back to Kaede's," she said aloud to the room.

"So soon?" Sango didn't try to hide the disappointment from her voice.

"Yeah, Kaede wanted to talk to me about something and asked me to come back."

"Ah, okay, well, will we see you tomorrow?" Sango asked hopefully.

Miroku smiled at his wife. It had been hard for her to be without her closest friend all these years. If for no other reason than the happiness that Sango felt at having Kagome returned to her, Miroku wanted to celebrate the young Miko's return.

"Of course, Sango!" Kagome moved to give Sango a swift hug and a reassuring smile before she and Inuyasha waved at the rest of the family, calling out some quick goodbyes before heading out the door and back into the street.

But the walk back to Kaede's was nothing like their earlier walk had been. Now it was the middle of the day and life in the village was in full swing. Men and women came and went along the dirt road, as children ran and played in front of the homes that they passed.

And here and there, Kagome could also see small groups of men and women huddled together, speaking in hushed tones. She sighed, clearly the gossip and whispers of her return had spread like wildfire.

Sure everyone was very polite, calling out greetings to the great Lord Inuyasha and Lady Kagome, but it was the slack-jawed staring that really did Kagome in, until the now-legendary Priestess began feeling very much like a freak on a side-show stage.

'I've walked through this village hundreds of times before,' she thought. 'But it was never like this.'

Before, she'd been something of an oddity, with her strange future clothing and the fact that they all knew she was Kikyo's reincarnation. But this? The unadulterated awe at her very presence was just too much for Kagome. It felt wrong.

"Who's that, mama?" Kagome heard a little girl ask as she pointed toward the pair.

"Hush, child, and do not point!" It was an older woman, likely the child's grandmother spoke. "Ōji-sama and Miko-hime will hear you!"

Inuyasha could smell Kagome's discomfort as he watched her shrink in on herself. He stopped walking.


"Come on, Inuyasha, let's just hurry and get back." She tried to grab his hands and hurry him along, but it was like trying to hurry a mountain. He didn't budge.

"Hey." He said again, trying to get her attention enough for her to look at him.

"What?" She finally looked him in the eye.

"Remember what I said yesterday? You just gotta ignore it. You can't let it get to you. You're still you, just like I'm still me. It doesn't matter what they think."

His gaze bore into her, willing her to accept the truth of his words.

"I know it's just… When I came back, I wasn't expecting everything to be so different, but now I have all of this new power and the people here think of me as some kind of living legend… But I didn't ask for this." She signed before continuing. "Last night, in your– our hut, when I said that I didn't care what the villagers said or thought about us, I guess I was expecting anger or bigotry. I wasn't expecting this."

She waved her hand as though to encompass everything, then gave Inuyasha a small smile before continuing, "Sometimes I forget that you're a prince."

He growled at that. "I ain't no prince."

"But you are, Inuyasha. It doesn't matter that your mother's family cast you out or that your brother rejected you. You've always carried yourself with the nobility and honour of the royal houses that bore you. That sense of honour and the strength behind it is just one of the many reasons why I fell in love with you. Not because it makes you a prince, but because it makes you you."

She was thoughtful a moment before continuing. "Part of me always wondered if that was why, after a while, Sesshōmaru stopped trying to actually kill you. Maybe, hanyou or not, he realized that you were an honour to your father's blood."

Inuyasha really wasn't sure what to think of Kagome's words. He felt pride swell within him at the faith she had in him, as though seeing himself through her eyes for the first time. And he wasn't so dense that he hadn't noticed the change in Sesshōmaru , but he hadn't really given much thought as to what might have been behind it.

He shook his head though, "I doubt it. I think any change in that bastard has more to do with Rin than it does with me."

Kagome considered this. "Maybe. Maybe not. Or maybe it's a bit of both–"

"Lord Inuyasha! Lord Inuyasha!" Kagome was stopped from saying anything else by a man's voice approaching. She looked up.

"That man, he looks familiar…"

"He should," said Inuyasha. "That's Rikichi, the village headman. I'm sure you met him at some point during the hunt."

Kagome thought back. Yes, she had met this man several times, though she hadn't known he was headman at the time. In fact… "I think– I think he was there when I came out of the well the first time."

"That would make sense," Inuyasha agreed. "That's kinda his job, after all, overseeing stuff."

Inuyasha couldn't say he liked Rikichi much, though he was an honourable man who held his position in the village with great respect. He knew that Rikichi valued Kaede's wisdom and experience and had often followed her lead when it came to dealing with their Pack during the shard hunt – heck, it was probably why he had invited them all to settle here – but a headman was still a headman. It was their job to uphold the traditions and laws and to oversee the smooth proceedings of life within a village. Inuyasha knew from his decades of experience that it usually meant that most headmen were, if not closed-minded, then at the very least very conservative in their opinions… And Rikichi was no exception.

Finally reaching them, he stopped and gave them a bow and a good-natured smile. "Good day to you, Lord Inuyasha. I see that the rumours are true and that the great Lady Kagome has returned to us!"

Rikichi had been there in the field beside the well when the great Miko had been pulled into the Meido. He'd seen the Bone-Eater's Well disappear only to reappear several days later. When he'd asked, Lord Inuyasha had said that the Miko was safe, but the headman still had many unanswered questions, and it was his job to be informed in all things that affected his village.

Rikichi began, "May I ask, Lady Kagome, how did you escape the Meido? We thought you lost to the underworld!"

Kagome glanced at Inuyasha. She wasn't impressed by these pointed questions. The villagers knew that she travelled through the well. However, they didn't know that she travelled through time, and she wasn't about to explain one of the most painful experiences of her life to an all-but-total stranger.

"Well… Inu– Inuyasha saved me."

"I see, I see. And where you have been all these years."

Kagome seemed taken aback by his bluntness. "Uh, me? I've been… home… with my family."

Rikichi pressed on. "Your home? Is that where the well takes you when you jump into its depths and disappear?"

Inuyasha started to growl. He knew exactly why Kagome was hesitant to answer Rikichi's questions. "Look Rikichi–" He began, but Kagome cut him off with a gentle hand on his arm.

"I thank you for being concerned about what happened to me and where I've been, Rikichi-san, but all that matters now is that I am fine and I am here… and here is where I intend to stay." She hoped that the finality of her statement was enough to stop the curious headman from asking any more unwanted questions.

Her statement seemed to catch the headman's attention, "Is this true, Lady, that you will be settling permanently in our village? What a blessed event this is! I would ask for your blessing that we might prepare a great feast in celebration of your return if you would allow us."

Kagome gathered her frayed nerves. After this morning's announcement fiasco, she was the one who'd demanded she be allowed to announce their engagement to everyone else. She glanced at Inuyasha before clearing her throat and continuing.

"Thank you, Rikichi-san, for the kind offer and for your warm welcome. But might I suggest that you delay your offered feast for six days?"

"Eh?" Rikichi seemed confused. "Why delay?"

"Well, in six days time, it will be my 19th birthday. It will also be the anniversary of the first time I ever set foot in this village, the day I released Inuyasha from the Goshinboku… and… well… Inuyasha and I have chosen that to also be the day of our wedding."

Rikichi was dumbstruck at her words. He'd known that the hanyou lord and the young Miko were close comrades and travelling companions, and he'd sensed that Inuyasha had sorely missed the girl when she hadn't returned even after the well had reappeared, but he had not been expecting this.

"But… But…" He stammered. "You are the Shikon Miko!"

"Yes?" Kagome didn't see his point.

"Mikos do not marry." Rikichi shook his head.

After the stress of his earlier questioning, Kagome found his presumptuous statement highly annoying. "Oh yeah? Well, this Miko has every intention of marrying."

Rikichi didn't seem to take the hint, "But is not your power tied to your…ahem… purity?"

Kagome felt her face turning red, though not in embarrassment this time. She could have the patience of a saint, but when she came to the end of it? Well, the number of Inuyasha shaped craters that lay scattered around Edo could attest to what usually happened next. None of this was any of his business, but somehow he was weighing in with an opinion about her love life?

'Oh, HELL no.' she thought.

The power of Kagome's aura swirled around her slightly, just enough to lift her hair and give her body a shimmering pink glow.

She began, her voice rising in pitch the longer she spoke. "I don't see how that is any of your business, Rikichi-san, headman or not. And even if it was, even if being with Inuyasha meant that I'd lose every drop of power that I have, I'd still make that choice a thousand times over! He is the only reason I returned to this place and I intend to marry him six days from now, whether you like it or not!"

Her aura swirled even more, the pink glow would likely now be visible to anyone, whether they had spiritual powers or not.

"Kagome…" Inuyasha tried to warn her what was happening, but his throat closed when he looked at her face and realized that her eyes had been engulfed and were also glowing a bright pink.

Kagome glared hard at the man who had insulted her. She felt a bit weightless, as though she might, at any moment, start floating up off the ground. It was almost as though she could look inside Rikichi… look right through him.

"Kagome!" Inuyasha finally grabbed her arm, singeing his hand slightly. But it was enough to release her from whatever strange trance she'd begun falling into.

She panted, taking a few deep breaths, before biting out the word, "What?"

Inuyasha gave her a strange look before Rikichi finally recovered from his shock enough to speak. He broke the silence with a faltering voice. "It is as you say, Lady Kagome. I apologize for any offence I may have caused. Good day to you both."

Rikichi turned and quickly walked away from the couple. The young Miko was clearly even more powerful than the stories of the final battle with Naraku had ever let on. He had never in his life experienced a reiki aura of that much intensity and power. No, Rikichi would not make the mistake of questioning her or her authority again. Better to have her as a powerful ally and member of the community than as an enemy, curiosity be damned.

A number of people had stopped with curiosity to watch the exchange between the great Miko and the headman, but they hadn't expected this. They all silently stared at Kagome, as though none of them were willing to even breathe.

Finally, as her rage subsided, she felt their combined gazes on her and began to squirm uncomfortably, looking around at the gathering crowd.

After a moment more, she looked at Inuyasha, and in a quiet voice only he could hear, she asked, "Why are they staring at like that? I wasn't that rude was I? Do you think it was something I said?"

Chapter Text

Kagome looked around once again at the faces in the small crowd that had gathered. She noticed that as her gaze fell on each person, they were quick to shift their eyes away. None of them would look at her. Finally, she looked at Inuyasha, the unspoken question in her eyes.

He had been watching her while she looked at the crowd – his own eyes filled with worry and confusion – but when he saw the hurt hidden within her chocolate-coloured depths his instinct to protect and soothe her kicked in.

He stepped forward, wrapping an arm protectively around her, before turning his own eyes on the gathered villagers. He spoke to them, firmly but in a tone not overly harsh. "Nothin' to see here, folks. Better get moving."

The villagers all knew a command when they heard one, and the group quickly began to disperse. Once they were out of earshot, Inuyasha turned back to Kagome, looking at her for a few moments.

"Kagome," he began. "What was that?"

"What was what?" She seemed confused for a split second before fear and regret overtook her features. "Did I do something again?"

Kagome raised her hands to cover her face, and all Inuyasha could do was pull her into his embrace."Don't worry, you didn't do nothin' to Rikichi… except maybe scare the shit outta him a bit." He smirked at the memory.

Kagome removed her hands from her face to clutch at handfuls of Inuyasha's robes. She looked up at him. "I know I was pissed and that I can be… intimidating… when I'm angry…" Inuyasha rolled his eyes at that. "…but the villagers seemed nervous to even look at me!"

"Well," Inuyasha began tentatively."It wasn't so much what you said to Rikichi as how you said it."

"What do you mean?"

"Kagome, the aura of your reiki spiked so hard your eyes were glowing."

"My eyes?" Reflexively, she brought her hands up to touch her face.

"Yeah, your whole body was glowing, but your eyes… I couldn't even see their colour or nothing. They were just all pink and glowing." He sighed. "I'm sure that's what scared the villagers more than you telling Rikichi to stick his opinions where the sun don't shine."

Inuyasha felt Kagome slump against him. "Inuyasha, this is awful! How could I scare a human like that! They all must think I'm a monster now!"

He knew that passers-by were giving the couple embracing in the middle of the road more than a few incredulous stares, but he didn't care. He pulled Kagome in tighter.

"I don't think they could ever think you were a monster, Kagome. I'm the monster here, remember? You? You're the fucking Shikon Miko."

She pulled back a bit to swat at him playfully. "Don't you dare talk about my man that way! He's not a monster!"

"Yer man, huh?" He grinned wickedly at her words before leaning in close to her ear to whisper. "I ain't no man, koibito, and you'd best remember that."

She gasped as his words and the hot breath on her ear that accompanied them sent an erotic shiver down her spine. She tried to draw in a steadying breath but, held in his arms as she was, all she could do breathe in the scent of him – that scent of mossy earth and windswept hills – and she felt her knees buckle underneath her.

Inuyasha felt her footing waver and grasped her more firmly against him to keep her from falling. He could smell her reaction to his words and it made him smirk even more in masculine pride. His Kagome wanted him, and badly if the way her heart was pounding was any indication.

"Inuyasha," she said in a throaty whisper and he groaned in response, which elicited a series of small gasps from onlookers that his sensitive ears did not miss.

He looked up. They were beginning to draw a crowd again but for an entirely different reason this time.

He stepped back from Kagome and heard the tiny whimper that escaped her as a result. He smirked again. "Come on, wench, we can't dawdle in the road all day, ya know. The old baba is waitin' for us."

"Wha–?" Kagome fuzzy, desire-laden mind took a moment to process his words. Then she blushed. "Oh yeah, right."

She smiled up at him meekly, before slipping her hand around the arm he offered her, and the two walked on towards the elder Miko's hut.

"Kaede-sama? Are you here?" Kagome called from the doorway to the old woman's home.

"Aye, child, I am. Come in, come in."

Kagome stepped in, removing her shoes and looking around. "Where are Rin and Shippo?"

"I sent them out to the fields to do some weeding in my gardens, though I have little doubt that it is Rin that is doing the weeding while Shippo gets himself into mischief." Kaede shook her head at her words. "Still, I do not like sending Rin outside the village proper without someone with her. Sesshomaru would be… displeased… if aught were to happen to her."

Inuyasha, who'd also stepped inside, scoffed at that before grumbling, "That's an understatement."

Kaede ignored the grumpy hanyou, instead directing her next question to Kagome. "Have the two of ye eaten yet?"

"Yes, we ate lunch with Sango and Miroku." Kagome smiled at the elderly woman.

"Aye, I figured as much. Well then, come sit by the fire and I shall make us some tea. I have something I'd like to discuss with ye."

"Discuss?" Kagome asked.

"Aye, but come. Sit first."

Inuyasha and Kagome took a seat side by side across from Kaede around her crackling fire. They watched as she made the tea and handed them each a steaming cup.

After a few sips, Kagome spoke first. "Kaede-sama, you seem very quiet this afternoon. Is something on your mind? You said you wanted to speak with me."

"Aye, child, that I did. I wanted to ask ye a question."

"What? What is it?"

"I wanted to ask if ye'd given any thought to what ye would like to do now that ye are to live in the village permanently."

"Like to do? Kaede-obaasama, didn't we talk about this already this morning? I told you that I planned to turn our hut into a proper home and that I wanted to continue training and–"

Kaede raised her hand to still Kagome's words. "Aye, child, you mentioned all those things, but what I wanted to know is if you had ever thought about training to be a Miko."

Inuyasha interjected at that. "Huh? Ain't she a Miko already?"

"Aye, she is, by birth and by power… But by knowledge of herbs, of healing ways, of making barriers and performing exorcisms she has had little experience."

Kagome thought about the elder woman's proposition for a moment, before she remembered Rikichi's words from earlier that day.

She spoke quietly, "Kaede-sama, Miko's don't marry."

Kaede sighed with the weight of all her years. "Aye, it is true that most Mikos do not marry. However, child, ye are no ordinary Miko. It is unlikely that your powers will fade after marriage."

"But Rikichi didn't think–"

Kaede interrupted her words. "Ye have met with Rikichi already?"

Kagome sighed and looked down at her rapidly cooling cup of tea. "Yes, we met him in the street on the way back here. He asked me so many questions and then when I told him that Inuyasha and I were getting married…" She trailed off, flinching at the memory.

"That bastard had it coming, Kagome. Who does he think he is anyway?" Inuyasha practically snarled the words in response to Kagome's sadness and discomfort.

"So the meeting did not go well, then?" Kaede sighed again. She had been hoping to talk to Kagome about this, and to Rikichi as well, prior to the two of them meeting.

"If by 'didn't go well' you mean Kagome made him shit his pants, then yeah. Yeah, it 'didn't go well.'" Inuyasha grumbled, crossing his arms over his chest.

"Inuyasha!" Kagome shouted, feeling her cheeks flame in embarrassment and anger at his insensitive words.

Kaede didn't like the sound of that. "What happened between the two of ye?"

"Well," Kagome began. "He was asking me all these questions about where I'd been the last three years. It really annoyed me, but I let it go because he offered to host a feast to celebrate my return. I asked him if he'd postpone it for six days until the wedding, but then he started telling me how Miko's don't marry and that I was supposed to be pure and I just… snapped I guess."

She covered her face in embarrassment before continuing. "Inuyasha says I let my aura spike really powerfully and my eyes…" She trailed off, but Inuyasha picked up and finished the story for her.

"Her eyes were glowing pink, baba. And her aura crackled around her. I'm sure the villagers could see it. I had to grab her arm to snap her out of it. Burned my hand a bit, too."

"What?!" Kagome's head shot up and she grabbed the hand that Inuyasha was indicating to Kaede. She pulled it close to her face inspecting the calloused palm. The pads of his fingers did seem a bit redder than usual…

"Don't worry, Kagome. It didn't really hurt, and it's already almost gone."

Kagome ran a finger over the inside of his palm. The idea of hurting him make her heart break. She whispered, "I'm sorry, aisuru. I never meant to hurt you."

Inuyasha didn't like hearing the pain in Kagome's voice. All he wanted to do was make it go away. "Hey," he placed one clawed finger under her chin, forcing her head up to look at him. "I know. Just like I'd never hurt you. It's fine, see?" He held up his hand again. "It barely even stung."

She let out a sigh of resignation before turning her head back to Kaede. "I don't know about this, Kaede-sama. I feel as though maybe I'm not cut out to be an official Miko."

"Nonsense, child! You more than anyone should know that what fate asks of us, has little to do with what we think we are capable of. Ye have been given the gifts of both immense power and an honour-bound heart filled with compassion. If ye wish to train as a Miko, I would not let Rikichi's words, nor anything else, stand in the way of that. I would take ye on as my apprentice for as long as ye wish to be."

"Kaede-sama…" Kagome was speechless at her mentor's passionate words.

"Do not make your decision right now, child. Think upon it, discuss it with your intended, and when ye are ready, you may let me know of your decision."

Kagome nodded. She was going to say something else, thank the old woman for everything she'd done for her, for always being there for her over all the years, but she never got that far.

Instead, two young figures came rushing into the hut.

"Kaede-sama!" shouted Rin breathless from the run and her obvious anger. "Shippo is getting on this Rin's nerves! He almost set one whole section of the garden alight with his foxfire!"

"Hey! It wasn't my fault! You were the one who said you were getting chilly and wished you'd worn a warmer kimono! I was just trying to be helpful!"

The two children glared at each other but were interrupted by Kagome's laughter. They both turned to give her disgruntled looks, which made her, with effort, stopped laughing.

Finally, when she'd caught her breath a bit, she gave them both a sheepish smile. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry! It's just…" And her smile grew wider as she looked around the room. "It's just, I'm so happy to be home!"

Chapter Text

The rest of the afternoon had passed rather uneventfully. Kaede had asked Kagome if she would like to stay the night again in the elder Miko's hut but hadn't seemed surprised when Kagome told her she'd be staying instead with Inuyasha.

"Well then, at the very least, the two of ye should stay and sup with Shippō, Rin and I, for I suspect that Inuyasha's stores might still be… lacking… at the moment."

"Keh," was Inuyasha's grumbled response to Kaede's words. "What do I need stores for when I can just go hunt up some meat whenever I'm hungry?"

"As ye say," Kaede conceded. "However, humans cannot live on meat alone. Ye will be needing to be acquiring more than what ye currently have."

Inuyasha didn't like feeling like Kaede was schooling him on how to be a good mate to Kagome. Defensively he spat out, "I know that, you old hag. I'm planning on taking Kagome to market day to get her what she needs." He concluded his words with a deep scowl.

The older woman sighed with the patience of her many years. "Inuyasha, I meant no slight. I'm merely offering you an additional reason to eat your evening meal here with the rest of us."

Kagome interjected then, attempting to smooth things over between her mentor and her love. "Of course, Kaede-sama, of course. Inuyasha knows that's what you meant. Don't you, Inuyasha." She gave him a pointed look.

"Keh," was the whole of his response.

Kagome moved then to help Rin and Kaede with their preparations for the meal. Shippō had gone out into the yard, presumably to practice some new Kitsune trick he was perfecting for his next ranking exam, and Inuyasha just sat near the wall, Tetsusaiga propped up on his shoulder, watching the women go about their work.

Kagome let her mind wander as she washed and prepared the rice for their meal. She thought about everything that had transpired over the last day and a half. All the revelations, everything she'd learned about the new extent of her power. She felt joy at her return, but fear, too. Fear for what the future might hold.

She looked up then, letting her eyes travel around the room to settle on each member of her family… Her Pack. Kaede was cutting pieces of dried fish into smaller chunks to add to the stew. Rin was singing happily to herself as she chopped up vegetables. Kagome paused to listen to the words of the girl's song…

In the mountains, in the breeze
In the forest, in my dreams
Lord Sesshōmaru, where are you
Jaken is serving under you, too
I will wait for you
On my own
Please return to me
Waiting all alone.

"That's a beautiful song, Rin. Did you make that up?" Kagome asked quietly after listening to the girl sing for a few minutes.

Rin blushed slightly at being caught singing. "Hai, this Rin made it up when she was still travelling with Lord Sesshōmaru. My Lord would sometimes leave this Rin alone with A-Un for a while and while I would wait, I would sing."

Kagome watched a wistful smile played around the girl's lips at the memory. 'Pack,' Kagome thought again before an idea came to her.

"Rin, would it make you happy if we invited Lord Sesshōmaru to the wedding?"

"FUCK NO!" Inuyasha shouted from across the room. He'd been listening to their conversation and was shocked that Kagome would even suggest such a thing.

"Inuyasha!" Kagome chided him sternly. She'd seen the light of hope ignite in Rin's eyes at the thought of a visit from her Lord, only to have it change just as quickly into one of disappointment after Inuyasha's harsh bellow.

"Are you crazy, wench? That bastard wouldn't be caught dead at a human celebration like a wedding. And at our wedding?! I think he'd probably rather run himself through with Bauksuiga!"

Rin sighed and nodded at Inuyasha's words. 'He's probably right,' she thought.

Kagome could sense sadness and resignation in the girl. Still, she'd told Rin that she wanted the two of them to be friends, and it was her job as a friend to cheer the younger girl up. Besides, whether Inuyasha – or Sesshōmaru – liked it or not, Sesshōmaru was family. He was Pack. And in the back of her mind, she wondered if Rin might be the key to finally ending the feud between the two brothers once and for all.

"Be that as it may," She began again, glowering at the hanyou before turning to Rin, "I still think it would be nice to at least extend the invitation to him."

Rin looked up into her new friend's eyes with ill-concealed excitement at the thought. Kagome smiled at her before continuing. "You may as well invite Jaken and A-Un as well since it seems as though where Sesshōmaru goes, they always follow."

"Kagome!" Inuyasha shouted in annoyance. He wasn't sure what the fuck she was up to, but he had no intention of allowing… whatever it was… to continue… That is until Kagome turned her head and shot him that look that sent the fear of all hells through him.

He snapped his jaw shut before any more of his disagreement could be voiced. After three years, he was in no hurry to be SAT three times in one day.

She softened her look then, grateful that Inuyasha got the hint, Kagome murmuring quietly in a voice she was sure he could hear, "We can talk about it later." She wanted to explain her reasoning to Inuyasha in a more private setting.

It was Rin's squeal of happiness that finally broke the tense moment between the couple. "Truly, Kagome-chan?! You would let this Rin invite her Lord and friends to the wedding?"

Kagome nodded her head, smiling sweetly at the girl.

"Thank you!" Rin continued, launching herself at her new friend and giving her a tight hug. "It isn't likely that my Lord will actually attend, BUT if he did this Rin could wear one of the beautiful Kimonos that her Lord has given her! She rarely gets a chance to wear them. They are much too beautiful for weeding in the garden! It would be nice to show her Lord her gratitude for his gifts by wearing them for him to see!"

Inuyasha tried one last time to use logic to convince the two females of the insanity of their idea. "And just how exactly are we supposed to invite him to the wedding? It ain't like I'm about to leave you here alone, Kagome, and go hunt the bastard down!"

He glared at Kagome, daring her to not see reason, but it was Rin who replied to his words in her usual, cheery tone. "Oh, don't worry about that, Inuyasha-oniisama. This Rin will see to inviting her Lord."

Kagome arched an eyebrow at Inuyasha before turning to smile at Rin who was making her way back to the table at which she'd been chopping. Rin sat down, content to hum to herself while she worked, idly taking inventory of her many beautiful kimonos, trying to decide on which one she would wear for her Lord.

After dinner, Kagome said her goodbyes to Kaede, Rin and especially Shippō, who had attempted once again to convince her to take him with her so that they could cuddle together while they slept. The suggestion, however, had earned him a low, warning growl from Inuyasha, which the canine kit seemed to understand, for he gulped audibly before quickly jumping down out of Kagome's arms, letting the subject drop.

Stepping out into the dim light of dusk, Kagome took the arm that Inuyasha offered her, and the two of them walked along in contented silence for a while.

That is until the reality of where they were headed began to kick in.

Kagome was torn. She wanted – desperately wanted – to be with Inuyasha, but she was also nervous. She'd never made love before, obviously. What she needed was a distraction, something to calm her nerves as she gathered her courage.

Finally, an idea popped into her head.

"Hey, Inuyasha?"


"Do you think…? I mean, if it isn't too much trouble… Would you be willing to take me up to the hot spring? I could really use a bath!" And in that moment she realized that her request wasn't just a distraction at all. She'd been back in the Feudal Era for the better part of two days and hadn't had a chance to clean up or change her clothes or anything in all that time.

"Sure, of course." Inuyasha was relieved at her suggestion. He too had begun to get nervous as they'd walked back through the village towards his hut, and was grateful for the short reprieve… Though now, at the mention of the hot spring, he had images of a very naked and wet Kagome haunting his mind. He shifted slightly at the tightening of his hakama.

"Okay, great!" Kagome's excited words interrupted the erotic turn of his thoughts. "Then do you mind if we head back to Kaede's for a sec. You said I left a bunch of stuff there, yeah? Maybe there's a change of clothes I can still wear. And I should probably grab that sleeping kosode that she lent me last night."

"Yeah, good idea." He conceded, leading the two of them back the way they came.

It only took a few minutes for Kagome to pop in, explain why she was back and then return with her yellow bag packed with all the items that had been kept all these years in a storage chest in Kaede's home.

"Ready?" Inuyasha asked as she stepped back out into the growing darkness.

"Yep! Ready!" She smiled up at him.

He immediately bent down, giving her his back, and she smiled as she clamoured up and wrapped her arms around his neck.

Once she was securely in place she whispered. "We haven't done this in three years."

Inuyasha could hear the smile in her voice. "I know," he said in a slightly husky voice.

In the last few months of their battle with Naraku he'd found it more and more difficult to carry Kagome on his back like this, Her arms around his neck, her breath in his ear, his hands grasping her firm but smooth thighs. It reminded him of feelings he wasn't sure he should be having toward the young Miko. Feelings that he couldn't stop from growing strong each day. But now? Now it was downright torture.

His hands squeezed her thighs slightly of their own volition, eliciting a small gasp from the young woman. At the sound, he growled a bit again – not in warning this time, but in desire – before taking off down the dirt road through the village, quickly passing into his forest, and heading in the direction of the closest hot spring that the villagers often used.

Kagome laughed a joy-filled sound as they flew across the landscape. She'd missed this! "Faster!" She squealed. "Higher!"

Inuyasha shook his head and chuckled at her obvious joy before complying to her requests. He launched himself into the trees, jumping high up into the air, before landing back down on the path that led towards the hot spring. He then ran a few paces, before launching into the trees once again, repeating the process.

Kagome held on tight, laughing and squealing the entire time. Her heart felt so light, so free. 'This is where I belonged,' she thought. 'I haven't felt this right in three years.'

Finally, as they approached the hot spring, Inuyasha slowed to a lope before stopping altogether, allowing Kagome to slide down off his back.

"That was amazing! Even better than I remember!" She smiled up at him, eyes filled with love and gratitude. "Thank you." She said softly.

Inuyasha returned her soft smile. He ran the back of one clawed finger down the side of her cheek before smirking. "For you, wench? Any time."

Kagome could feel herself being drawn into his eyes. The way he looked at her… Oh, Kami! It sent a surge of heat rushing through her entire body.

Inuyasha suddenly stepped away from her then, clearing his throat as he dragged his eyes away from hers. "Uh, didn't you say you wanted a bath?"

Kagome shook her head slightly, trying to right her thoughts. "Yes, that's right," she said a little shakily, before continuing in a steadier voice. "Okay, let's see what all is in here still."

Kagome slung the bag down off her back and bent down to open it up. She rummaged around inside, finding the things that Inuyasha had listed off before, including the toothbrush and comb.

"Hey!" She exclaimed, "I've got some pyjamas in here!" She pulled out a pair of red flannel sleeping shorts and a plain grey v-neck t-shirt. "I remember these," she said happily as she unfolded them. "I wonder if they'll still fit…" She held them up, eyeing the garments as if to gauge their size.

Inuyasha had moved to sit at the base of a nearby tree. He spoke in reply to her musings. "Keh, even if they don't, ya still got that sleeping kosode that Kaede-baba gave ya." And immediately, of their own accord, images of Kagome stripping off her clothing to get into that very sleeping kosode the night before returned to his mind.

In vivid detail.

He realized she was likely wearing the same pink-patterned undergarments under her future clothing right now, and the thought made him squirm uncomfortably in his seat, hakama getting tighter by the second.

He looked up to see that Kagome had taken her little bundle of items with her over to the edge of the pool. It was dark by now, but his youkai eyes could still see her clearly, though more in shades of grey rather than full colour.

She placed her items down on one of the boulders that edged the spring, before stepping behind it to remove her clothing. He watched as, one by one, her garments were folded and piled atop the boulder. The rock was tall enough that he couldn't see her body behind it, but her head still peeked out from above. Every once in awhile as she disrobed he saw her glance in his direction, and he was sure that if there had been enough light to see colours that her cheeks would likely have been in full flush.

Finally naked, she turned away from the boulder, instead ducking down and sliding her lithe body into the warm water with a small splash.

Inuyasha let out the breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. He leaned his head back against the tree.

He knew Kagome wanted him, knew that she intended to sleep in their hut even before their marriage ceremony. What he wasn't sure about was whether or not she wanted to… consummate… their relationship before the wedding. He wasn't quite sure how he felt about that either. He loved Kagome with all his human heart, wanted her with all the possessiveness of his youkai soul, but he would not dishonour her. She was the thing most precious to him in all the world and he swore he would always treat her as such.

He sat there musing over these thoughts for a while before the sound of Kagome's voice calling out to him from the hot spring broke his reverie.

"Inuyasha?" She called out in a hesitant, questioning voice.

"Yeah?" he replied, loud enough for her human ears to hear him. He heard Kagome's voice call back to him then, though it took Inuyasha a long moment to process the meaning of her words.

"Would you…? I mean… Do you want to… join me?"

Chapter Text

Kagome stepped behind the boulder that she'd set her things down on. She wasn't sure why she was suddenly feeling so shy, especially considering her boldness of the night before.

'Maybe,' she thought, 'it's because I knew nothing could happen last night. But tonight…'

She turned her eyes towards the man she loved with all her heart. He had settled himself at the base of a nearby tree and seemed lost in thought. Slowly she began undressing, carefully folding and placing her clothing on top of the large rock that shielded her body from the neck down.

She thought she might have seen him looking her way once or twice, but it was so dark that she had a hard time telling for sure exactly where his eyes were trained.

Finally, she turned and lowered herself down to the edge of the hot spring before sliding fully into the water. The warmth began seeping into of her bones and muscles immediately, making her sigh in contentment.

She held her breath and ducked down under the water, allowing her hair to float at the top while she tried to gather her thoughts.

Why was she so nervous? She couldn't quite understand this sudden and irrational fear that had been building in her since they'd left Kaede's hut. Breaking back up above the surface of the water, she ran her hands over her face and through her hair before finding a smooth rocky ledge to sit on.

She needed to think.

'Come on, Higurashi!' She chided herself. 'Snap out of it! The last thing you want is for Inuyasha to read more into your nervousness than there is!'

Sighing, she leaned her head back against the edge of the spring, looking up at the stars. She would never get over how much brighter and clearer they were in this time or how, in just a few hundred years, this magical view would be gone forever.

Time was so fleeting. Did she really want to waste any of it after dreaming and praying for three long years for the chance to come back here? To be with him?

No. No, she didn't.

She sighed, closing her eyes. So then what was her problem? She had been dreaming about this. And almost undoubtedly so had he.

She sat up straight at that thought. Could that be the cause of the nervousness niggling at the back of her mind? Was she worried that the reality of their being together might not compare to all the dreams they'd both been harbouring for so long?

The honest fact of the matter, after all, was that they had been apart for longer than they'd been together during the year of the shard hunt. Still, she sighed, she knew she loved him, knew she wanted to be with him, to be his wife, his mate, and his family.

But, what did that mean to him exactly? She realized that she knew almost nothing about Inu-youkai culture and customs if today's lesson on Pack had been any indication. Kagome knew that Inuyasha wanted to be her mate, but were mates really the same as wives? Youkai and hanyou must make love in the same ways that humans did, she reasoned, or Inuyasha would never have been born. But… where there any differences or… preferences… she should know about?

Suddenly, it all felt so much more complicated than she'd originally thought. No wonder she was this nervous.

But did it have to be so complicated, she wondered? Did any of these things really matter? Wouldn't they figure it out together as they always had? She loved him after all, and she knew now that he loved her. Maybe it really could be so much simpler than she was allowing it to be. Maybe all she really needed to do was reach out and touch him, hold him, and yes, to talk to him.

Really, all she wanted to do was love him. And let him love her. She opened her eyes again, looking up at the stars. She straightened her spine, steeling her resolve before opening her mouth to speak.

"Inuyasha?" She called, though her voice sounded hesitant, even to her own ears.

"Yeah?" She heard his voice call back to her from his place beneath the tree.

"Would you…? I mean, do you want to… join me?"

There was silence for a long moment. Then Kagome thought she heard movement coming toward the spring, and she held her breath.

The moon was a little over half full as it shone overhead, having recently risen just barely past the tops of the trees that surrounded the spring. It was enough light to give Inuyasha an ethereal glow as he approached the hot spring and came fully into her view.

He was still fully clothed, but when she raised her eyes to look at him, she did not see fear or nervousness there. Instead, it almost seemed as though there was a war waging within him. His eyes flashed between hunger and guilt.

"Inuyasha?" She asked again in the same tentative voice. "We don't have to… I mean, we could just…" She trailed off, looking down at the reflection of the moon's glow on the service of the water. She didn't want to force him to do anything he didn't want to do.

After a few moments, she heard the rustling of cloth, which drew her eyes back to her hanyou.

Inuyasha had already untied his obi and removed Tetsusaiga, which was now leaning against the same boulder that Kagome's things had been placed upon. He pulled his suikan and kosode out from where they were tucked into his hakama but rather than untie them, he simply pulled both up and over his head.

He stood there then, bare chest glowing under the moon's unearthly light.

Kagome felt as though she couldn't breathe. The sight of him, Kami! She'd seen him without his shirt in the past when she'd tended to his wounds, but he'd definitely changed since then. His shoulders were broader, his muscles more defined. Gone was the sinewy boy she'd known. Before her stood a man, a warrior, and all she could do was stare with blatant hunger surely etched across her face.

"Kagome…? Are you sure you want me to join you?" He wasn't a fool, his youkai vision allowed him to see the desire in her eyes, but he wanted to make sure that it wasn't clouding her judgement – that this was really what she wanted – before they both did something that couldn't be undone.

He watched her face as she nodded slowly, unable to take her eyes off his bare chest. But the nodding motion seemed to help her gather her thoughts. She spoke then, still staring at his chest, "The water is nice, and I don't like being so far away from you. Even if– I mean, I don't mind you seeing me naked or anything. I guess I wanted to talk to you. Maybe ask you a few questions?"

Inuyasha was satisfied enough with her answer to realize that her invitation had indeed been genuine. He reached for the ties on his hakama, as he felt a slight flush rise to his cheeks, thankful in that moment for Kagome's poor night vision because it was unlikely that she would notice. He bent down then, untying the ties around each of his ankles as well, allowing the hakama to stay down on the ground as he rose up, stepping out of them before stepping down into the water.

'By all the Kami! He's gorgeous!'

Kagome raked her eyes upward from his trim calves, settling briefly on the nest of sliver hair that framed his manhood, then continuing back up to his face. All she could do was stare in awe as he stepped silently into the water, barely making a ripple as he entered, owing to the grace of the predator that he was.

Inuyasha moved forward across the spring from where he had entered and found a spot to settle, closer – but not too close – to where Kagome was sitting.

He watched her, the droplets of water that clung to her face and shoulders sparkling under the light of the moon. Her long wet hair, pooling and floating around her on the surface of the water. She was mesmerizing.

"You're so beautiful." He heard her whisper quietly, her eyes and chin lowering in embarrassment at the admission.

He scoffed at that. "I think you've got it the wrong way round, wench. You're the beautiful one."

"Do you ever think that maybe– Maybe I'm not the way you remember? Or the way you dreamed about?"

He didn't like the sound of that. Nervous that she was regretting her decision made him speak in a harsher tone than he intended, "What do you mean by that?"

She looked up at him then, quickly realized how her words might have been taken. "No! No, I mean… I just know how long I've dreamed about you. Being back here. Being with you. I figure you must have dreamed about me, too, but I guess I'm… worried… that plain old Kagome can't live up to the legend of the Shikon Miko that you remember."

"Kagome…" He moved from where he was sitting to settle instead right beside her, shoulder to shoulder. He snaked his right arm out to wrap around her shoulders in a half hug, bringing her head over to rest on his shoulder. "What would ever give you such a stupid idea?"

She laughed a little at that. Even when trying to comfort her, Inuyasha was still Inuyasha. But when he continued she indeed had to wonder if he really was the same brash hanyou she'd met all those years ago.

"Kagome, I don't love the Shikon Miko. I love you. The you who taught me how to trust people. How to make friends. How to laugh and enjoy life. How to care, and share, and defend others. How to listen to my conscience and follow my heart. You are the girl I protected with everything I had. The girl who did the same for me when no one had ever given a shit about me before. You allowed yourself to be scarred for me, burnt for me, bled for me… just as I did for you. That's the dream I kept in my heart all those years. And you're the same person now as you were then."

He smirked down into the wide, wondering eyes that were staring up at him. "Heck, I think I may love you even more now than I ever did then."

"Oh, Inuyasha!" Kagome was so overcome with emotion that she couldn't say anymore. Instead, burrowing her face down into his chest, bringing her right hand up to rest on his chest, right over his heart, relishing the feeling of hard muscle hidden under smooth skin.

He pulled her closer and kissed the top of her head, and in the intimacy of the moment, he allowed his own concerns to have a voice as well.

"I guess I was worried, too."

"About?" She asked innocently.

"Well, I may not be human, but I know enough about 'em to know that… mating… with one's mate before it's official ain't really something that women do."

When Inuyasha felt Kagome stiffen in his arms, it was his turn to backtrack and clarify, realizing how his words could be misunderstood.

"All I mean is that I don't want you to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or that you don't wanna do. I can understand you wanting to stay with me in our hut – heck, I want that, too – but if that's all you want until the wedding then I need you to know that I won't dishonour you by trying to make you–"

She raised the hand she'd had over his heart up to his lips, stilling the flow of words. Suddenly, Kagome was very aware that they were wrapped in each other's arms and both very naked.

She leaned up then, kissing the underside of his jaw where it met his neck and heard his gasped intake of breath.

She smirked against his neck as her lips hovered above the skin before finally whispering, "Shut up and kiss me, you baka."

Chapter Text

"Shut up and kiss me, you baka."

Inuyasha felt the hot breath of Kagome's words against his skin and it sent a shiver of lust racing down his spine.

He'd been trying very hard to stay on his best behaviour, to ignore the fact that he had his arm around a very wet, very naked Kagome. He'd already decided not to ask more from her than she was willing to give, but her words…

They were his undoing.

The desire-laden growl that ripped from Inuyasha's throat made Kagome gasp almost as much as suddenly finding herself straddling his lap did.

Kagome looked up at him from her new position. She could tell he was panting lightly. His lips hovered mere inches away from her and she couldn't seem to take her eyes off them. Lifting her hand, she ran a wet thumb across the firm fullness of his lower lip.

"Inuyasha…" she breathed his name, barely above a whisper.

He growled again, softer this time, the sound coming from deep in his throat. With one fluid motion, his hand shot up to captured her wrist, using it to pull her even closer until the taut peaks of her nipples brushed sensually against the hard planes of his chest.

Kagome moaned at the sudden friction, wriggling just enough to feel Inuyasha's growing erection press more fully against the apex of her thighs. She looked up into his golden eyes, molten and glowing with his need for her, right before she found herself captured in a crushing kiss.

Inuyasha let go of Kagome's wrist, instead using one hand to angle her head and deepen the kiss while the other lowered into the water to anchor the small of her back, holding her pressed firmly against his achingly hard shaft.

He felt powerless to control the lust raging through him. In the back of his mind, Inuyasha knew he was probably being too demanding, too rough. He knew that he should be gentle with his Kagome. She deserved for him to be gentle…

He broke the kiss then, panting heavily. "I– I don't want to hurt you, Kagome. But I can't… I've heard that for women it hurts the first time."

Kagome's passion-glazed eyes tried to focus as she let his words sink in. Finally, she smiled shyly up at him, his concern for her making her feel even more cherished at that moment.

"You don't need to worry," she finally said. "It's pretty common for girls who have an active lifestyle to lose that barrier long before they… lay with a man." Kagome blushed slightly before continuing. "Getting in more battles than I can count and riding hanyou-back all around Japan for a year would definitely fall into the category of active."

Kagome smirked then. "You won't hurt me, Inuyasha. So now, where were we?" And with that, she bucked hard against him before deliberately grinding her hips against his shaft.

"Fuuuuucccckkkk!" He groaned, eyes sliding shut at the intense reminder of their current position. He lifted his hips in response, following her body as she moved. "Kami, Kagome, I want you."

Kagome brought both of her hands up to cup his face, urging him to open his eyes and look at her. She wanted him to see the truth of her words as she spoke. "I want you, Inuyasha. Now. Badly." Her words sent another wave of heat shooting through his body and he moaned as Kagome began trailing hot, wet kisses across his jaw then down the side of his neck.

She gave her own little growl then, nipping Inuyasha with her teeth before using her tongue to soothe the sensitive skin of his throat. It drew a needy, almost-canine whine from him in response. He encircle both her hips with his hands as the grinding of their bodies against each other under the water began to pick up pace.

Inuyasha could feel his youkai clawing at him just under the surface. He knew he wouldn't let it take over, but he didn't want to fight it either. Instead, he let it guide his instincts as, under the water, one of his hands wrapped around her backside, fingers inching toward her soft wet folds while his other hand moved to hold his shaft, helping to position himself at her entrance.

Kagome's hands slipped from his face to cling to his shoulders, whimpering and mewling at his touch. In the back of her mind, she realized that Inuyasha had never touched her so intimately before. No one had, except for her own questing fingers on nights when she'd been so hollow with loneliness, missing him with every part of her soul.

As though reading her thoughts she heard him growl with possessive ferocity, "You're mine now, Kagome. Do you understand? No one will ever touch you like this. Only me."

He trailed one clawed finger over her opening, making her shiver.

"Only you. Please, Inuyasha." She rubbed herself against him like a cat. Drawing herself up she whispered against his lips. "Please…"

And with one swift motion, he brought her down to meet his waiting tip before thrusting his hips up, embedding himself fully in her tight heat.

Kagome threw her head back and screamed at the feel of him entering her for the first time, nails digging into the skin of his shoulders.

He leaned forward then, capturing one tight nipple in his mouth, nibbling and sucking as he brought his hands back up to her waist, lifting her so that he retreated almost fully before bucking up and pulling her back down against him again.

"Ah! Inuyasha!" Kagome's questing hands flitted across his shoulders before tangling in the hair at the nape of his neck.

She forced his head back up from her breast so she could kiss him then, thrusting her tongue into his mouth, mimicking the motion of their bodies beneath the surface of the water.

Despite her lack of leverage, Kagome still ground and bucked down to meet his powerful thrusts, the intense friction against her rapidly tightening bundle of nerves had her gasping and writhing.

Still, she needed more. Whimpering she finally released his lips only to duck her head down into the crook of his neck, pulling him tighter against her.

"Please, Inuyasha. I need…"

Inuyasha was almost mindless to everything but the feel of her tight heat clinging to him as he drove himself into her over and over again, but he finally registered her whimpered words.

"What, koibito?" He whispered huskily. "Tell me what you need."

"More!" She practically shouted the word. "Faster. Harder. Oh, Kami, I need– Fuck!"

She swore as Inuyasha redoubled his pace at her words, slamming into her with all the speed of his demonic heritage, causing waves of water to slap against their sweating bodies.

Kagome felt as though she was teetering over the edge of a cliff, held their suspended for a moment before her entire world exploded around her.

"Inuyasha!" She screamed his name and came apart in his arms, the muscles of her sheath contracted around him, hips writhing uncontrollably.

Trembling, she clung to his body as the aftershocks continued with each new thrust of his hips. She couldn't help but murmur a soft chant of "I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you," as he continued to move within her.

Feeling her muscles squeezing him and hearing her words of love made Inuyasha lose any last shreds of control he may have been holding onto. He stood quickly, turning to lean her back against the bank of the spring as his thrusts increased in speed even more, becoming almost frantic.

Suddenly the tightening coil of heat in his belly snapped, driving him over the edge. He thrust hard into her once, twice, before his eyes flashed red momentarily and he roared a gravelly, guttural "MINE!" leaning over and emptying his seed into Kagome's trembling body.

Overcome, his knees gave out. He caught himself on his forearms as he fell atop her, burying his nose into the crook of Kagome's neck, his length still twitching inside her with the aftershocks of his release.

They stayed there, tangled together against the edge of the spring for several long minutes, revelling in the feel of each other. Finally, Inuyasha pulled out of her body with a groan, helping Kagome up onto the bank of the spring, before hoisting himself up out of the water to join her where she lay. He wrapped his arms around her soft body as the warm mist coming off of the hot spring helped to keep the chill of the early spring evening at bay.

The moon had risen higher into the sky by this point and it glinted off the hilt of Tetsusaiga sitting just off to the side. A memory of something Myōga once told him burned suddenly through his mind.

He sat up quickly, reaching over to grab both Tetsusaiga and his red obi from where it lay in the pile of his clothing beside the spring.

"Inuyasha, what–?" His sudden movement coupled with the fact that he had grabbed Tetsusaiga set off every warning bell in Kagome's head. She sat up, whipping her head around, peering through the darkness, trying to find the threat.

Inuyasha looked back at her and realized what she must be thinking. "No, it's alright. There's no threat." He said with a half-smirk.

"Then what…?" Kagome began to question, though it trailed off as Inuyasha withdrew Tetsusaiga from its sheath, willing it to remain a battered old blade rather than taking on its demonic transformation.

"Myōga made me memorize…" Inuyasha trailed off, laying the unsheathed sword in the grass beside where they sat. "He taught me the Inu mating ceremony. Taught me what an Inu did when he selected his mate."

Kagome's eyes went wide, but she stayed quiet, waiting to hear what Inuyasha would say next.

"Would you–? I mean, I know it's not the same as a human marriage, and we will still have one of those, but… would you be willing to perform the ceremony with me?"

He looked down at the red obi he held in his hands, afraid to look her in her eyes. His rational mind knew that Kagome loved him, had given him her heart and her body. But this was different. She was a Miko, pure. To participate in a youkai ceremony…

His thoughts didn't travel any further as he watched her hand reach over and settle atop his in his lap. "Just tell me what I have to do." She said in a sure tone.

His eyes snapped up to hers. 'By all the Kami! Even in– Even in this she would accept me without question.' He felt his heart clench painfully.

"What did I ever do to be worthy of you?" He shook his head softly, turning his hand to capture hers where it lay atop his, gently rubbing his thumb back and forth along her palm.

"That's easy." She said with a smile in her voice. "You loved me."

Inuyasha looked her in the eyes then. Saw all the love, acceptance and joy that shone there. He smiled at her. A true smile rather than one of his usual smirks.

She returned his smile, asking happily. "So? Tell me what I have to do already!"

He cleared his throat around the lump that seemed to be forming there. "Well, first we tie our left hands together like this."

He took her left hand with his, wrapping his obi over and around their wrists until their two hands were tied together, palms up, though not so tightly as to restrict movement.

"Next, I'll run the blade across our palms, just enough to draw blood. Then we clasp our palms together, allowing my blood and youki to mingle with your blood as you repeat the words of the bonding oath as I say them."

She nodded, seeming thoughtful before asking. "Did your mother and father do this?"

"I don't know. I don't think so. I'm pretty sure the old man was already mated to Sesshomaru's mother."


"Besides, Mother was human. As much as I know she loved him, there aren't a lot of humans who would accept or even understand a youkai ritual like this."

Kagome nodded again. She'd seen enough prejudice and hatred during her travels through Feudal Japan to understand that her future-influenced acceptance of his differences was the staggering exception rather than the norm.

"Alright, I'm ready." She finally said, flexing her palm to draw the skin taut so that the blade could run across freely.

Inuyasha looked at her soft palm glowing in the moonlight. He mumbled, "I'm sorry I have to cut you again, but at least this time I know for sure that you'll heal."

She chuckled softly. "I'd do it even if I couldn't heal, you baka."

Inuyasha leaned down and placed a kiss into the middle of her palm before picking up Tetsusaiga.

Refusing to think too much about the fact that he was about to hurt Kagome, he slid the blade across both of their palms. Wincing at the hissed intake of breath she issued at the pain of the cut.

Swiftly he turned his palm so that their hands and blood were pressed together. He willed his youki to enter her wound, allowing his demonic aura to halo her own human aura, marking her as his mate, as he began speaking the words of the oath.

"Upon this night."

She repeated, "Upon this night."

He looked deep into her eyes. "Upon this moon."

Kagome could feel his aura spiking as his youki pulsed against her palm where their blood mingled. "Upon this moon." She repeated.

"I pledge thee my protection and loyalty."

Kagome's eyes filled with happy tears. The full reality of what was happening suddenly dawned on her. "I pledge thee my protection and loyalty."

Inuyasha couldn't seem to keep his own voice from shaking then, as he watched the tears slide down her face. He continued thickly. "I pledge thee all rights that would belong to my mate."

Kagome lifted her free hand to cup his cheek and repeated. "I pledge thee all rights that would belong to my mate."

He leaned into her palm, Turing his face to kiss it gently before he spoke, "I pledge these things upon my blood."

"I pledge these things upon my blood."

"From this day until my last."

"From this day until my last." As she spoke the final words, Kagome felt a sizzling jolt of power rush from where their palms were joined up and through her entire body, and she knew that the bonding was complete.

Inuyasha looked down at where their hands were still joined, then back up to Kagome as she let out a joy-filled giggle. He felt his face break into a huge grin and he laughed out his own joy before pulling her still-naked body into his lap and enfolding her in a fierce embrace.

She squeezed him back, all but vibrating with how happy she felt.

Inuyasha couldn't contain it. He threw back his head and howled with joy. Kagome could only giggle even more at that, turning her head to kiss his elongated neck.

Finally, he lowered his head, nuzzling her hair, and whispered in a reverent tone that Kagome was only just able to make out.


Chapter Text

Rin hurried down the path that led from the rice paddies outside the village towards Inuyasha's forest.

She'd begged Kaede to let her go alone, promising that she would be careful and that she wouldn't be gone long. Kaede should stay and prepare breakfast. Rin would be back as quick as she could.

The truth was, she wanted to do this alone.

She'd never called for him before. Never tested the promise he had given her three years ago. And if she was going to try, she wanted to do it on her own, just in case.

In case he didn't come.

In case his words had merely been to placate to the distraught child she had been.

She didn't want anyone else to see her disappointment if this didn't work.

Slowly she made her way down the path. The clearing he would always meet her in was not so far away. Only a few more minutes. She could see the break in the trees up ahead already.

Stepping into the open space, she looked around. The sunlight was only just beginning to peek over the tops of the trees in the surrounding forest and so the dew on the grass was still thick and damp against her bare feet, having yet to burn away.

Rin could hear birds calling to each other as she walked across the clearing toward the 3 trees that stood alone near its centre. The middle one was his. It was where she always found him sitting when he came for a visit.

She could almost picture him now. One leg folded in front of him, the other bent, claws casually draped over his knee. It tugged at her heart a little. She missed her Lord greatly. Missed travelling with him. Missed Jaken and A-Un, as well. But as she'd gotten older, she'd begun to understand why he had left her with Kaede. Just because she tried to remain happy and positive, she wasn't as naïve as some still took her for. She was already 11, after all, and had helped Kaede with nine births already since she'd come to live in the village. Eventually, she'd come to realize that her Lord had been right, as he usually was. There were still things she needed – and truth be told, wanted – to learn from humans.

Still… she missed him every day.

Sitting under the shade of his tree, she thought about her Lord. He'd told her that all she had to do was call for him and that he would come. She wasn't sure how that could possibly be true, but she wanted to believe it was.

And so Rin closed her eyes, conjuring up the image of her Lord's face in her mind, holding it there before calling out.

"Lord Sesshōmaru, can you hear this Rin? Please come."

She hoped she'd called loud enough that he would somehow hear and come. She hadn't wanted to scream in case it disturb any of the farmers who might be out early, working in the nearby fields.

She settled back against the tree to wait, hoping it wouldn't take too long. For a while she watched the bees buzzing in the grass nearby, looking for the sweet nectar of spring flowers. Then, tilting her head up, she watched the sunlight wink down at her from between the new green leaves of the tree above her. Eventually, she began humming to herself, counting the small puffy clouds as they blew past in the sky above. Finally, sighing heavily, she closed her eyes. Had he heard her? Would he come? Should she try calling him again? Had she waited long enough?


Her eyes shot open, immediately landing on the imposingly tall figure standing at the far edge of the clearing.

"My Lord!" She squealed with delight. 'It worked! He came!'

Scrambling to her feet she ran to him, halting in front of him only a moment, bouncing on the balls of her feet, before throwing her arms around his waist in a hug.

After a moment she felt his large come to rest on her back and knew he did not begrudge her the hug.

"Rin, why have you called for this Sesshōmaru? Is something the matter?"

Stepping back from her Lord she smiled up at him. "No, my Lord, nothing is the matter."

He raised an eyebrow at her in question, saying nothing more, but Rin never needed his words to know what her Lord was thinking.

"I did have a reason to call you, my Lord. An important one," she nodded, clasping her hands together in front of herself for emphasis.

Looking towards the tree she'd been sitting under, Sesshōmaru began to move away, "Come, Rin. We will sit. You will tell this Sesshōmaru your important reason."

"Hai, my Lord!" She agreed, happily skipping behind him back over to the tree. She allowed her Lord to take up his usual position against its trunk, while she sat in front of him.


Rin chewed her lip for a moment. She had two things she wanted to talk to her Lord about, but she wasn't sure which one to speak of first. Nor did she wish him to think that either reason was a trivial one for her to have called him away from his duties.

She must have been quiet for too long because her Lord spoke her name again.

"Rin?" Likely no one but she would have recognized the light tone of impatience that was creeping into his voice.

She sighed before raising her chin to look directly into his eyes. "This Rin has one thing she wishes to ask her Lord and another she needs to tell him. She was just trying to decide which one to speak on first."

The slight incline of his head was all the indication she needed to know that he accepted her words.

Buoyed by that, she continued. "My Lord, do you remember Kagome-chan?"

Sesshōmaru looked closely at Rin for a moment before stating, "The Miko."

"Hai. Two days ago, Kagome-chan returned to the village and everyone is very happy, but who is happiest of all is Inuyasha-oniisama. He has asked Kagome-chan to be his wife and she has agreed."

If he was surprised, he did not how it, instead saying, "This Sesshōmaru does not see the importance of his half-brother taking a mate."

After his dismissive tone, Rin had to take a deep breath before working up the nerve to continue, though she didn't meet his eyes this time.

"Well, my Lord, Kagome-chan asked this Rin if she would like to invite her Lord and Master Jaken and A-Un to the wedding and… Well… This Rin said yes."

This time, when she took a quick glance up to his face, Rin found both eyebrows raised in an expression as close to surprise as ever she'd seen on her Lord's face. It made her pick up her pace, not wanting to lose her nerve.

"Kagome-chan said that Sesshōmaru-sama and Inuyasha-oniisama were family, and that it would be nice to invite you, and she wants to be friends with this Rin, and she thought it would make this Rin happy, and it would make this Rin happy to see her Lord and her friends, and this Rin could wear one of the pretty Kimonos you have given her and–"

"Rin." His tone had her cutting her rambling words off instantly.

"This Sesshōmaru has no desire to attend such a human gathering. It is beneath him."

Rin's shoulders slumped but she nodded and sighed. "Hai, that is what I told Kagome-chan, that you would not attend, but she told me to ask anyway."

The clearing fell into silence for a moment as Rin fought back her disappointment. At least she had gotten to spend a few extra moments with her Lord.

Watching her from the corner of his eye, Sesshōmaru finally spoke again, interrupting her melancholy.


"'And,' my Lord?"

"You said you had one thing to ask this Sesshōmaru and another thing to tell him."

Rin shook her head as if to clear it, remembering what it was she had wanted to tell her Lord. "Yes…" she said slowly, her shoulders slumping all over again.

"What is it, Rin?"

"My Lord," she began tentatively. "I did not tell you this before. I was not sure if I believed it when Inuyasha-oniisama told me–"

He cut her off. "Have you been keeping secrets from this Sesshōmaru, Rin?"

There was an edge to his tone that she did not like and Rin cringed internally a little. "Not… exactly."

He gave her a hard look and she continued quickly. "Rin was going to tell her Lord right away when she knew for certain it was true! And– And now she does know!"

He was losing patience. "Speak plainly, Rin. Now."

"The well, my Lord. You remember that it reappeared when Inuyasha-oniisama returned from the Meidō, ne? Well, that's– That's where Kagome-chan has been all this time."

"Inside the meidō? Impossible." He turned his head away, all but scoffing at her words.

"No my Lord, not inside the meidō. On the other side of the well."

He turned his head back to her, levelling her with a questioning look.

"My Lord, the Bone-eater's Well allowed Kagome-chan to come here from the future. From 500 years in the future!" She waved her hands expressively as if to emphasize the point.

"Inuyasha-oniisama rescued her from the meidō and sent her home to her time before the well forced him to return here. Before that, they had both been able to come and go as they pleased between the future and now. It was only after the battle with Naraku when the well disappeared and reappear that it stopped working. That is why she has been gone so long. She was not able to return, nor was Inuyasha-oniisama able to travel there any longer."

Sesshōmaru stared at her, a blank but penetrating expression on his face. It urged her to continue.

"Two days ago, the well let Kagome-chan back through. And Rin asked her if what Inuyasha-oniisama had told her was true, that she had come to us from the future, and… Well… She said yes."

Sesshōmaru's face did not give away the speed at which his mind was moving. He had known that the girl was the dead Miko's reincarnation, and after it had disappeared and then reappear with his half-brother, he had suspected that the well wise likely connected to her somehow. But if ever a piece of information had genuinely surprised him, it was this.

"The Miko is from the future." He stated it, but Rin nodded as though he had asked a question.

"Hai! Both she and Inuyasha-oniisama have told this Rin a little bit about that place. The vast cities and strange machines, the stone roads and buildings that touch the sky, but…" She trailed off.

He would admit he was intrigued. "But?"

"But she told me something frightening about her world."

The idea of something frightening Rin did not sit well with him. His lips turned down in the slightest of frowns.

"My Lord," she continued after a moment. "Kagome-chan was telling Kaede-obaasama and Shippo-kun and I about her world and– And– And it's not there my Lord!" Her voice cracked a bit with her last words.

Sesshōmaru smelled the salt of the tears she was trying to hold back. As little as he liked the idea of Rin being frightened, he liked her tears even less.

"What is not there, Rin?"

Rin looked up into his eyes before beginning again, her words coming out hitched with the tears she was trying not to spill. "Your empire, my Lord. The empire that Jaken-sama told me about."

She sobbed then and the words came tumbling out, no longer able to hold them back. "There is no empire, no Western Lands. There is nothing there my Lord, not even you! Nor any other youkai or even hanyou! Nothing! No one! Only humans! Lady Kaede thinks Kagome-chan has come back to warn us!"

Rin did cry then, covering her face with her hands. She could not bear to look upon the Lord who should have been still living in that future but wasn't. The idea of her Lord dying was too much for her to take.

For Sesshōmaru the child's words, combined with the scent of her fear and tears, felt very much like she'd dumped another buck of cold water over his head all over again. His mind raced. He knew Rin would never – could never – lie to him. But could his brother's Miko be lying? Could they be trying to trick Rin into tricking him? He dismissed that thought as well. The young Miko had always been disgustingly pure of heart. Pure enough to pierce the Jewel in the final battle with Naraku. She was most likely telling the truth. And what did his half-brother know of these things? If the Western Lands were in jeopardy and that weak half-breed had been keeping it from him… Sesshōmaru's blood seethed at the idea.

He came to the logical conclusion. There was no getting around it. He would have to speak with the Miko and his half-brother.

And if it would make Rin happy… He sighed internally.


"Yes, my Lord?"

"Cease your tears. It is good that you have told this Sesshōmaru."

Immediately Rin stopped crying. She dried her cheeks with the sleeve of her Kimono. She knew he was waiting for her to be calm.


"Yes, my Lord?"

"This Sesshōmaru will attend the human wedding."

"Really, my Lord?! Oh, this Rin is so excited!" She clapped her hands together in joy. "The wedding will be in 5 days and Jaken and A-Un must come, too, if my Lord will allow it!"

Without another word, Sesshōmaru rose to his feet, moving away from the tree. Rin knew that he was leaving. She did not need him to say good-bye, but a thought struck her and she called him back.

"My Lord?"

He paused in his step, turning his head only slightly to look at her from the corner of his eye, an indication that he had heard her.

"How did you know that this Rin was calling for you?"

Sesshōmaru was silent for a moment. His father's fang pulsed lightly against his hip, and he raised his hand to rest on the hilt.

"Tenseiga told me. Your life is bound to the blade. When you call the sword will tell me, and I will come."

Rin watched as her Lord lept into the sky, shooting quickly beyond the clouds in a flash of white light.

Once he was gone from her sight she allowed herself a small smile.

'He will always come.'

Chapter Text

Inuyasha could feel the filtered light of dawn against his eyelids even as he drifted in that space between sleep and waking.

He didn't want to wake just yet. Didn't want to return to the harshness of reality. Not yet. Not when he'd had the most incredible, gut-wrenching, heartbreakingly wonderful dream.

Kagome had returned, and they'd… He groaned internally. He'd often had dreams like this over the past three years, though none had been as vivid as the one he'd had last night. It was almost as though he could still smell her scent surrounding him, like sweet berries and… sex?

His eyes shot open as the hazy fog of half-sleep lifted and his eyes settled on the tousled head of glossy black hair that lay beside him on his futon.

He felt his heart stop beating as memories of the last two days returned to his consciousness.

It was no dream.

His beautiful, loving, sexy, perfect Kagome lay there on her stomach beside him with one of his arms and one of his legs draped protectively over her naked body.

His heart quickly thudded back to life, picking up speed and racing away, keeping pace with his thoughts.

She was his.

Images of what had happened between them at the hot spring returned to his mind in vivid detail, sending a wave of heat directly to his groin. He remembered the sight of her panting and whimpering in his arms as she'd bucked against him, calling his name.

Nothing. None of the dreams he'd ever had on lonely nights when he'd missed her more than air itself had compared to the reality of being with her. Of being inside her.

And then afterwards when she'd taken him as her mate in the traditional Inu ceremony, no questions asked… Just as it did then, his heart clenched painfully at her unconditional acceptance of him.

She was his.

He reached out with his senses, touching the edges of her aura. It was as it had always been – the shimmering spiritual energy of a powerful Miko – except now, along its edges there was something else, a halo of his youki permeated it, encircled it, protected it.

Most youkai – and certainly all canine youkai – would be able to recognize it for what it was. It marked her as his mate.

She was his.

Of its own accord, the arm he had across her body tightened, causing her to mumble slightly in her sleep before turning and curling into him, bringing her face under his chin.

He tightened his hold even further, spreading the fingers of his clawed hand across her small back, resting his cheek on the top of her head.

Was this how every morning would be for him now? Waking to this, his most-cherished dream come true? If it was, he would count himself the luckiest hanyou ever born.

She murmured sleepily against his neck again, "Mmmmm. You smell gooooodddd. I missed how you smell."

He chuckled lightly, smirking into her hair. "You sound like an Inu."

Kagome inhaled deeply. "Mmmmm. Morning."

"Good morning."

She spoke softly then, "This is real right? Please tell me it's real."

He hugged her tighter, rubbing his cheek against her hair. "It's real, koibito."

He smelt the salt of her tears only a second before he felt their wetness on his skin.

"Hey! Hey, Ka– Kagome, why are you crying?" He pulled back from her, anxious to see her face.

Her radiant smile beamed up at him. "Because I've waited almost 4 years for this moment and now it's here."

He felt his own eyes misting slightly, blinking he leaned in for a gentle kiss before she could recognize the moisture, hoping to instead show her with his lips that he felt the same way.

Her arm came up and snaked around his back, drawing him closer to her, pressing the naked length of her body into him as she parted her lips, deepening the kiss.

He groaned into her mouth, allowing his hand that had been on her back to travel down, palming the sweet roundness of her backside.

She gasped, breaking the kiss, her hips wriggling against his rapidly hardening length.

"Aisuru, will you love me again? I want to feel you. I want to know this is real."

She tilted her head back, looking into his eyes as she spoke. She didn't care how it sounded. Didn't care if he thought her needy or wanton. All she cared about was feeling his arms around her, his flesh heating hers.

Inuyasha blinked a moment at the hunger in her words before he scented her arousal. It curled around his senses causing a guttural growl of lust to rise up in his throat. Leaning over, he pressed Kagome back into the futon.

His long silver hair fell around them as he leaned down to kiss her again before his hands began travelling up and down over the silky softness of her skin. He couldn't seem to get enough of her. His claws traced the outline of her collarbone before skating down to cup one of her round breasts.

His mouth followed the path of his hand then, down the long column of her neck and across her collarbone. He dusted his lips across the upper swell of her breast before letting his tongue snake out to trace a circle around her tightening nipple.

Kagome gasped and squirmed, unable to escape from the pleasure he was giving her, not really wanting to even if she could escape. Her seeking hands tangled in the mass of his silvery hair, creeping up towards the ears that had been the first thing that ever drew her to him.

She slid the soft cool tip of his ear between two fingers before skimming it up and down, using her thumbs to softly trace circles against the pink skin of his inner ear, the same way his tongue was tracing circles around her nipple.

He shuddered at the feelings her fingers were producing, and like the dog he was, a needy whimper escaped his throat. If he had been anywhere other than settled between her legs, tongue lapping across one then the other of her nipples, he would have rolled over on his back, belly up, begging him not to stop.

Instead, he moved lower, kissing a trail down the centre of her abdomen, following the musky scent of her arousal to its source. When he reached the nest of fine black curls that hid her sex, he pressed his nose against them, inhaling deeply.

The pressure of it caused Kagome's hands to fall away from his ears, instead fisting in the blankets at her sides as her hips bucked up in reaction to his touch.

"Damn, Kagome, you smell so fucking good."

All she could do was whimper as his nose followed the scent of her, trailing down along the line where her thigh met her sex. Then back up to trace the same sent trail along the other side.

It was intoxicating, the musky scent of her essence, but he was unsure if he could – if he should – do what his instincts were telling him to do now. He was suddenly scared to offend her with his animalistic youkai desires.

This is… until she spoke.

"Oh, Kami, Inuyasha, please!"

His groin hardened even further at her words and his own voice came out husky, "What do you want, koi?"

He couldn't stop himself from pressing his nose through the nest of her curls again, and when the tip of it skimmed across her pearl she cried out and her hips bucked wildly forcing him to still her with both hands on her hips.

"Do you want me to taste you, Kagome? Is that what you want?" There was a note of amazement in the gravel of his voice.

Her eyes were squeezed shut. The sight of him there between her legs was too much. If he didn't put his mouth on her soon she thought she might die. "Oh Kami, yes! Mmmmmm, please."

She whimpered and writhed but he held her firm and he smirked against her core knowing that he was the one who affected her like this, would be the only one who ever affected her like this.

The possessive thought made him bolder and his tongue snaked out to lick one long straight line from the bottom to the top of her opening, tasting her slick heat for the first time. She gasped and began panting in reaction.

He groaned, his eyes rolling back a bit. "Shit, Kagome, you taste even better than you smell. I could get drunk on you. I could stay here all day."

She thought she might go mad, a shudder raced through her body, every muscle tensing in anticipation. She felt the familiar heat pooling in her core.

Her scent spiked even further and it urged Inuyasha on. He growled his hunger against her sex as he began laving her slick heat with his tongue, growing bolder as her plaintive whimpers continued to assault his sensitive ears.

His tongue dipped inside before returning to swirl around the sensitive spot that seemed to elicit the keenest wails from her writhing body.

Kagome was on fire. Never ever in her entire life had she thought something could feel so good. The same coil of heat that had wound around her the night before began pulling at her again, dragging her closer and closer to the edge until she felt one of his fangs lightly graze against her swollen clit and she shattered, screaming his name.


He pinned his ears back against the sound, knowing what it meant, but unwilling to stop his ministrations until he felt the last of the tremors skate through her body.

Then slowly, slowly, he moved his body upwards. He didn't think his length could get any harder until he saw her face, skin shimmering with a fine layer of sweat, colour high on her cheeks, eyes glazed over with passion and love as she returned his gaze.

She was the sexiest fucking thing he had ever seen. And how he'd ever lived without being with her like this before now seemed completely unfathomable to him.

She was his.

Reaching her mouth he gave her a searing kiss that allowed her to taste her own passion on his tongue. She whimpered against his mouth, wrapping her arms around his neck, clinging to him as though he was the only thing keeping her from drowning.

He felt the same way. His control was all but gone and so, like last night, he allowed his instincts to guide him.

She'd told him she wanted all of him, and all of him was what he would give her. He remembered her pleading words from the night before, begging him to take her in the way his demon had always wanted.

His hands found the soft mounds of her breasts, cupping them, teasing her nipples, eliciting another gasp from her that broke their kiss.

He took the opportunity to lean into her ear. "I'm gonna take you now, mate, and it's gonna be good. Are you ready?"

Her voice was a breathless whisper, "Yes."

He growled again, low in his chest, as he lined himself up with the source of her heat. Then with a single thrust, he was inside her.

His body took over then, one arm holding her body tightly to his chest, while the other hand held his body weight, he thrust into her over and over, his growls growing in volume to match Kagome's cries of pleasure.

Kagome clung to the rock hard body she was held so firmly against, hands tangled in Inuyasha's hair, all she could do was squeeze her eyes shut tight and hold on as his powerful motions drove her closer and closer to the edge all over again. And when her body finally erupted, all she could do was sink her teeth into his shoulder, muffling the scream of pleasure that erupted from her throat.

The feel of her teeth on his skin sent him over the edge and with a snarl he fell into the searing hot pleasure of his orgasm, filling her with his seed.

He released the tight hold he had on her body then, allowing her back to rest once again on the futon, using both arms now to brace his weight as he eased out of her slowly and collapsed half on her, half beside her on the futon.

They were quiet for a long time, each facing the other, she on her back, he on his stomach, smiling as they allowed their breathing to calm.

Finally, Kagome giggled before cracking a big grin. "That was definitely real all right."

He laughed then too, pulling her closer to him, leaning over to kiss her soundly.

They lay like that for a while, relishing the feel of simply being with each other… Though eventually, Kagome's mind began to wander.

"I need clothes."


"Well, I can't keep wearing the same clothes I've been wearing for the past two days. At the very least, they need to be washed before I start stinking to high heaven. And even then, I'm still going to need more clothes. The ones in my old bag don't really fit anymore."

"I could run down to Sango's and see if she's got something to spare for a few days. Then we can head over to the market village this week and pick up some things like clothes and… I don't know… maybe some stuff for the house?"

"Truly, Inuyasha?" Kagome's eyes gleamed in excitement at his willing offer… Until a cloud passed over her thoughts. "But… what about money? Won't we need money to buy things?"

"Keh. I've got money."

"You do?!" Kagome sounded bewildered by the very idea of it. The Inuyasha she'd known three years ago had had his sword and the clothes on his back and that was it. To think that he now not only had a hut for them to share but money, too? The look on her face was incredulous.

"Oi, don't act so surprised, wench! I told you Miroku and I have been doing exterminations all over the region. We don't always get paid in coin, but when we do, Miroku makes me take some. He always said that, since he always took the food and goods for Sango and the kids, that the least he could do was give me half the coin. At first, I fought him on it, of course, but then I figured… if you ever came back… maybe we'd need it." His last few words were mumbled as he ducked his head to hide his slight embarrassment.

Kagome put her palm to his cheek, urging him to look at her. "You never gave up on me, did you?"

His eyes rose again to meet hers before he spoke and the determination she saw there would be etched in her soul forever: "Never."

Kagome's eyes misted with tears all over again and she leaned up to give him a sweet, lingering kiss before pulling back, "Thank you for thinking of me."

Inuyasha blushed a bit but said nothing, merely rested his forehead against hers. He'd always had a hard time receiving a compliment or a kind word. Kagome fought back the urge to giggle or comment on his very kawaii blush, instead saying, "Well then, yes. If you've got money then I'd love to go to the market with you this week and see about getting some things. But… don't go bounding off to Sango's just yet. Stay here with me a bit more?"

He nodded and drew her back down to snuggle against his chest.

He could feel her fingers begin tracing random shapes across the muscled planes of his chest, before another thought came to her mind, causing her to stiffen slightly before letting out a heavy sigh.

"What? What is it now?"

"Sorry, it's just… Kaede is waiting for my answer."

"Oh." Inuyasha didn't know if he could help Kagome with this. "I think– I think you have to decide what it is you want, Kagome. If you want to train as a Miko then don't let some weak-minded human's opinion stop you. But it's up to you. Only you know what you want."

"I want you."

He smirked a bit in masculine pride. "Besides me, mate."

She laughed a bit before thinking about it. "Well, after we get our home set up more comfortably, I want to get back into my training schedule."

"You mentioned that yesterday. What sort of training are we talking about here?" He questioned.

"Oh, were you not there when I was telling Kaede's about it? Well, I've been

practicing with my bow and arrow three times a week over the past year, plus I'd go to my mock hand-to-hand defensive combat class twice a week… Though now, I don't know, maybe Sango will spar with me? Maybe if we can ask Rin to babysit…" She trailed off in thought before continuing. "And then there's the basic sword kata. I'd usually do that once a week with Souta. It kinda became our Saturday morning thing."

After finishing her rambling account she glanced up at Inuyasha's face, only then realizing that his jaw was gaping open in utter shock.


"Combat? Kata?" Inuyasha was incredulous and more than a little unsettled by the idea of his Kagome swinging a sword or sparing with another fighter.

She seemed to sense the direction of his thoughts. "Don't you dare go getting all chauvinistic on me, Inuyasha. You don't begrudge Sango her training, do you?"

She had him there. Still, this was his Kagome. His mate. His to protect. Did she really feel like she needed to protect herself? That he couldn't protect her?

"I'm the one who's supposed to protect you. That's my job." His voice was gruff but soft.

Kagome softened at the vulnerability she heard there. "Oh, my big strong koinu." She smiled a little when he scowled at being called a puppy. "I will always look to you to protect me. But you can't deny that there were times when if I'd had the ability to protect myself even just a little bit more it would have prevented a lot of disasters. And That's all I want, to be able to hold my own, to protect myself and one day to protect our family, until you can arrive and protect all of us."

"All of us?" Inuyasha repeated her words in a whisper, his tone hopeful though laced with anxiety. His golden eyes searched hers.

Kagome smiled again. "Well, I know that neither of us are very experienced, Inuyasha, but I assume you do know how babies are made." She smiled at him slyly and he said nothing, though his earlier flush returned at her teasing.

She took pity on him and took his hand, placing it on her abdomen. "One day, Aisuru."

His eyes met hers again as he tried to breathe around the lump in his throat. The image of Kagome round with his pup in her belly made his limbs fell weak. It had been a dream he'd never allowed himself to acknowledge, never allowed to get that far, what with her trapped beyond his reach. But now…

He gave her a lopsided smile, replying in a voice that was hoarser then he would have liked. "One day."

She wrapped her arms around him, pulling him into her embrace as they allowed their hopes and dreams for the future to swell in the air around them.

After a while, Inuyasha sighed in resignation. "I probably need to feed you, wench, don't I?" They'd been lying there for a while and the sun had long since fully risen.

"Hai. Just something simple. I know we need supplies. Maybe just some rice and fish?"

"Sure. I can go down to the river and catch some while you start on the rice."

They rose then, Inuyasha dressing in his usual fire-rat, Kagome deciding to instead just put on the sleeping kosode that she'd gotten from Kaede.

"Maybe on the way back up the hill you can stop by Sango's and ask her for some clothes?"

"Yeah. I can do that."

Walking across the hut, Inuyasha reached the doormat first, holding it aside as he stepped out onto the porch. However, he stopped short almost immediately, his body tensing.

"What? What is it?" Kagome tried to peer around his shoulder, surveying the clearing in front of their home.

"I smell that bastard brother of mine, but I think the scent is fading. He's come and gone already."

"Maybe that means Rin has already invited him to the wedding."

Inuyasha turned to look at her, making a face that let her know just how disgusting he found that idea.

Kagome sighed, "Inuyasha, I know you don't agree with my desire to invite Sesshōmaru to the wedding, but just hear me out."

She moved out from behind him to lean against the wall of the hut beside the doorway.

"Sesshōmaru is family," she began, and almost immediately she could feel Inuyasha preparing to bellow a strong negative to that statement.

She raised her hand to still his words. "Hear me out, remember?"

He exhaled angrily, though "Keh" was all he said as he nodded his assent.

"Sesshōmaru helped us during the final battle with Naraku. He saved you when you fell unconscious and were being dragged into the underworld after Naraku's mirror Tetsusaiga left those adamant shards of miasma embedded in your back. And then there's Rin. She's part of our pack now, too. Don't deny it. I know she is. She calls you her big brother. And she is pack to Sesshōmaru, no matter how much he might try to deny that, too. We all know how much he cares for her. I think… I think that the reasons that originally set you two against each other aren't really reasons for continuing with this feud. He has acknowledged that Tetsusaiga is yours, has given up his need to best you or the memory of your father. How else would he have been able to harness Bakusaiga? Look, you both are strong, proud Inus… But I think that pride is what's also keeping you from being brothers."

Inuyasha was silent as he leaned against the wall on the opposite side of the doorway from which Kagome stood. When he was young he had hoped to find a brother in Sesshōmaru, but with that bastard's quick and total denunciation of him as a worthless, weak, filthy half-breed those dreams had quickly gone up in smoke. Still, he couldn't deny that there was a small amount of truth in Kagome's words.

He spoke honestly, having turned it over in his mind. "I don't think this is a bond that can be mended, Kagome. I don't think he'll ever see me as anything other than a filthy half-breed, but I do see your point in bringing peace to the pack. And like it or not Rin belongs to both of us, meaning that both packs are one. I'm willing to be civil and allow him to come to the wedding as long as he doesn't do anything stupid to piss me off."

Kagome walked across the space between them before leaning up to place a gentle kiss on his cheek, "That's all I can ask. Thank you, Aisuru."

He smirked down at her. "Oi, don't think it'll be so easy, wench. You owe me for this."

"Oh, yeah?" She cocked an eyebrow at him. "And what do you want from me in return?"

His eyes traced a lazy line from her face, down the curve of her body that was only barely covered from his view by her light sleeping kosode.

"Oh, I'm sure I can think of something."

She laughed then, swatting him playfully. "Baka! Get out of here. Go get me some fish!"

And then he was gone, faster than her eyes could register, though the sound of his laughter could be heard floating on the morning breeze.

Chapter Text

The rest of that day and the next passed in a hazy blur for Kagome. Though, truly, they'd had the best of intentions.

They were going to go visit their friends…

Going to talk with Kaede…

Going to ask Rin what Sesshōmaru's response had been…

Going to clear the air with Rikichi…

But… Kagome sighed and stretched languidly, trying not to disturb Inuyasha who was still asleep beside her, despite the fact that it was already past dawn.

She smiled coyly to herself. 'My poor worn-out koinu.'

He looked so innocent, sleeping as he was on his stomach, hair falling over his face, arms crossed and folded under his head making a pillow.

The pair had barely left their futon – let alone their hut – during the past two days. Sure, they had occasionally emerged in search of food or for a trip to the hot spring to get cleaned up, but otherwise…

"Think of it as our honeymoon," Kagome had said the night before as they lay in bed, coming down from their most recent of many, many lovemaking sessions.

Inuyasha had leaned up on his elbow to peer down at her. "Our honey what now? Is that some strange future thing?"

"It's not strange, Inuyasha! You've been enjoying it, haven't you?"

"Enjoying what, woman? You ain't making any sense. We don't even have any honey!"

Kagome had giggled at that. "No! A honeymoon doesn't involve actual honey. It's just the name that people use to describe those few days or weeks after a couple gets married. You know, when they go away just the two of them for, ahem, some alone time."

She'd waggled her eyebrows in a very Miroku-esque fashion then, which had caused a roar of laughter to erupt from the hanyou.

Once he'd finally caught his breath he'd tried to reply seriously. "But we ain't married yet."

"Pfft. Technicality. Besides, we are mated."

"Yes, but the villagers don't know that."

"But we do and ours are the only opinions that matter." Inuyasha had given her a skeptical look but had stayed silent. He knew there were likely going to be consequences for their ill-thought-out decision to hide out in the hut… or as Kagome liked to call it, their 'love nest.'

Not that it had been so much a decision, he'd mused. More like an unavoidable necessity, like needing water or air. He just hoped that, when they did emerge, the repercussions would not be too much for his Kagome to take. He was used to the whispers, cold shoulders, and condescension of humans. He's beloved mate was not.

"Still don't know what the hell any of this has to do with honey," he'd grumbled under his breath, leading Kagome to dissolve into a fit of giggles. He'd pulled her close, silencing her laughter with a kiss, and before sleep overtook them they agreed that they would have to return to the real world the next day.

And so now, as the morning light brighten the privacy-screened corner of their hut, Kagome stretched again, rose as quietly as she could, and began dressing in the clothing that Inuyasha had borrowed for her from Sango.

She had yet to actually wear them, of course. She'd spent most of her time in either her simple sleeping kosode or else in nothing at all. That second option being Inuyasha's preference, he'd told her teasingly.

"Oi, after years of being sat for looking, whether it was on purpose or not, I'm sure as hell gonna enjoy the view now."

The memory brought a smile to her lips as she donned the simple spring yukata. It was a pale green colour with sleeves that faded to a soft pink that matched the colour of the obi and maekake that completed the outfit.

"What are you smiling about?" Kagome was pulled from her thoughts by the sleep-gruff voice of her mate.

"Oh, just that I'm finally getting to put on clothes again."

"Keh, don't act so pleased about it, wench!"

She stuck her tongue out at him playfully before continuing, "Well, clearly I've worn you out and you need a break, so maybe it's a good thing that we have to get dressed and go into the village."

"Worn out?!" He growled. "I'll show you worn out." In a flash, he was in front of her, predatory.

Reflexively, she stepped back until she was flush against the wall. Her breath caught in her throat.

"Do I look worn out to you, Ka-go-me?" His hands came up to brace the wall on either side of her head as he dipped his face down to nuzzle at a spot right behind her ear, one he'd discovered she found particularly sensitive.

Kagome was overwhelmed by the sheer presence of him and it took her a minute to find her voice. "I definitely take it back," she whispered. It was all the coherent thought she could manage before Inuyasha's fangs gently grazed her earlobe.

Gulping, she raised her hands between them and attempted to push him backwards. "Okay! You've made your point! But if you don't stop we're never going to leave this hut and then I'll starve to death and we'll miss our own wedding." She chuckled breathlessly as she spoke.

Acquiescing, Inuyasha stepped back, though the predatory gleam didn't leave his eyes until he turned to the wooden chest that held his fire-rat, pulled it out, and silently began getting dressed as well.

For Inuyasha, being with Kagome like this for the past two days – touching her, tasting her – had literally been his wildest fantasy come true.

It was no secret to those that knew him that he always suppressed his emotions, kept them hidden under a mask of anger and gruff indifference. In the past, it had been a necessity of self-preservation until decades of practice had made it part of his very nature… And even though he'd been unable to stop himself from falling in love with Kagome during the year of the shard hunt, he'd always kept his desire for her under tight control as well, fearful of the possibility that he could lose himself, overcome by the power of unbridled youkai lust.

But Kagome had accepted all of him. She welcomed him into her arms and her bed, had shown no fear, urged him to allow his instincts to guide him without judgement or shame… and slowly her acceptance of him, her reminders of her ability to heal and the fact that he couldn't hurt her, had allowed him to accept himself in a way he'd never been able to in the past.

It was as though he no longer feared the savage beast that slept just underneath the surface of his mind because he knew that his youkai had accepted Kagome as their mate as well.

Inuyasha was lost to these thoughts as the couple dressed in silence. Finally ready, they stepped hand-in-hand out of their hut and into the damp coolness of the spring morning air.

It wasn't until Kagome broke the comfortable silence that they spoke again. Her thoughts had turned toward the day ahead. "I have a feeling Miroku and Sango have been running interference."

"Yeah, you're probably right. There's no way the runt would've stayed away from you this long without being forced to."

"I was thinking more about the villagers, and Rikichi and even Kaede. Nobody's been by at all. We'll have to thank them. Maybe we can have them and the children over for dinner once we have more in the hut than just rice and miso." She smiled ruefully at that.

"Tomorrow. We'll go to the market tomorrow," Inuyasha nodded decisively. He didn't like relying on others, even his pack mates, for help when it came to providing for his Kagome. As it was the couple would have to beg breakfast from one of them when they arrived in the village.

"Great! I'll get Sango to help me make a list of things we'll need, but let's go to Kaede's first. I want to tell her what I've decided and we should ask Rin about her visit from Sesshōmaru."

Inuyasha growled low in his chest at the mention of his brother's name. Kagome just swatted his arm and gave him a look that told him very clearly that since he'd already agreed to be civil about this, she wasn't going to let him take it back now. Still, he allowed himself one final "keh" before squeezing her hand slightly.

They continued past the rice paddies, down the path that led into the village. It was then that Inuyasha noticed an unusual amount of activity happening in the village for it being so early in the morning. Getting closer, he realized that it was preparations for their celebration that had so many villagers up and about at such an early hour.

Still, it wasn't until they reached the first few huts of the village proper that an odd feeling of tension began setting off warning bells in Inuyasha's mind. Instinctively, he tried to let go of Kagome's hand but she stopped him.



"Don't Inuyasha. I'm serious." She squeezed his hand where it was threaded with hers before wrapping her free one around his bicep, cuddling in close.

She wasn't a fool. She too could feel the tension permeating the village but was trying her best to ignore it. She was doing a pretty good job, too… That is, until they entered the open area at the centre of the village and saw a small group of men and women gathered near the base of the watchtower.

It was apparent to Inuyasha that the group had seen the couple coming because the tone of their conversation lowered to hushed whispers when they approached. Still, Inuyasha was able to hear every word…

"If she's been with him in his hut for the past two days there's no way she's still a Miko. Her purity is destroyed."

"Would it not have been in a few more days – after their wedding – either way? You cannot begrudge them a few days when they have been separated for this many years."

"I still think there's some unnatural trickery at play here. Perhaps he has spelled her? How can she possibly love him? Yes, he is an honourable hanyou and he protects us, but look at him. He's inhuman and she is a Miko."

"Do you not remember how inseparable the two were three years ago? I cannot think that anything is amiss. Perhaps they honestly do love one another."

"But then where has she been all this time? If she truly loved him would she have left for so long?"

"Don't let Lady Kaede hear any of you talking like this. You know how protective she is of the two of them, and she assured my chichi-ue that their relationship was genuine and that Lady Kagome is still a Miko, regardless of her decision to marry."

"I can't believe that! Everyone knows that Mikos don't marry. That their powers desert them when their purity is compromised."

"Apparently Lady Kaede doesn't think so. And that's exactly what Rikichi-san got taken to task over by the young Miko herself. I wouldn't let her hear you question her purity. You didn't see her eyes. Her whole body glowed with her power, but her eyes… I would not want to be a demon who got in her way."

"And yet she's marrying one."

Inuyasha looked down at Kagome from the corner of his eye. By the look on her face he knew that even if she hadn't heard everything, she'd heard enough.

He drew her closer, wrapping a protective arm around her waist while trying to make sense of what he'd overheard. Clearly the village was divided. Rumours about the two of them had spread like wildfire over the two days that the pair had been sequestered.

As they continued to walk it became clear from what he overheard that half of the villagers were very happy for the return of the legendary Miko and did not begrudge their hanyou protector her companionship, while the other half had less than favourable opinions about the pair and their decisions.

Adding fuel to the fire were those villagers who had witnessed the scene between Rikichi and Kagome three days prior. They spoke of how her eyes had glowed and that her seething anger could be felt right down in the depths of their soul. One brash young man was overheard suggesting that he be appointed to save the innocent Miko from what must be a fate worse than death, for if her eyes had glowed in the way being described, then surely her fragile soul was being devoured by the evil power of the hanyou's influence.

Inuyasha couldn't stop the warning growl that began low in his chest then. It grew in strength vibrating the very ground beneath his feet with its intensity. Kagome saw fear fill the eyes of the young man when he realized he'd been overheard and quickly turned Inuyasha away from the confrontation, using the hand on his bicep to rub up and down, soothing his barely contained rage, urging him to continue walking rather than run across the street and rip the head off the young man's shoulders.

She hadn't heard as much of what was being said. Most were doing a good job of keeping their voices low enough that her human ears could only pick up snippets… but she got the gist: there was a new level of insecurity surfacing about her, the mysterious Miko that had disappeared for years only to reappear unexpectedly and all but threaten their headman before disappearing for two days to live in sin with a hanyou lord.

Kagome sighed deeply as they approached the red torii gate that towered beside Kaede's hut. She kept her head down, afraid to meet the eyes of anyone else. And the closer they got to Kaede's door, the more she couldn't help but worry that – now that she knew what the villagers thought of her – her answer to Kaede's proposition was not going to go over well.

Inuyasha could sense her anxiety growing. He stopped short a few feet from their destination.

"Kagome, look at me."

She did, raising her chin just enough to peer up at him through her lashes. They both knew there was an audience watching them, and so he spoke in a voice low enough for her ears only.

"Don't let them get to you. You're stronger than this. What we do or don't do is up to us. Zero fucks, remember? It's not about them, it's about you. What do you want to do?"

Kagome raised her chin some more, looking him full in the eyes as she thought about his words. What did she want to do?

The answer came quickly. She wanted to prove to the villagers that she was not powerless because of her relationship with Inuyasha. That he had not put a spell on her. That she could still be a powerful Miko because he was not tainting her. That he deserved their respect. Was worthy of his place amongst them. Worthy of their genuine friendship. Above all, she wanted them to see that their love was real and true.

A plan began to form in Kagome's mind, but she needed to think more about it and see if Sango was willing to help. Before she could do that, though, they needed to talk to Kaede and Rin.

The fire of determination reignited in Kagome's eyes. Inuyasha was right. The villagers didn't get to decide their fate, they did. She gave him a sharp nod and a quick kiss of gratitude, before pulling him along with her into Kaede's hut.

It was time they got on with the rest of their lives.

Chapter Text


Shippō was the first to notice when Inuyasha and Kagome entered Kaede's hut, promptly jumping up and launching himself at his adoptive mother.

Kagome, for her part, did her best to shove the stress of her walk through the village to the back of her mind. She didn't want to worry Kaede, Shippō, or even Rin about it… not when she was already working on a plan.

Instead, Kagome put on her brightest smile for the fox kit and replied in as chipper a voice as she could muster, "Hello, Shippō-kun. Did you miss me?"

"Of course!" Shippō replied, slightly indignant that she would even ask that. "But stupid Miroku wouldn't let me come visit you! He said that you were very busy, but he wouldn't tell me with what! What were you doing, Kagome?"

Kagome's face flamed and she heard Inuyasha make a strangled coughing sound behind her. Her mouth opened and closed a few times as she tried unsuccessfully to think of what to say to the 8-year-old in her arms.

When nothing came, Kagome looked from Shippō to the others sitting by the fire. Rin had ducked her head and was focused with all her might on the task of washing rice, cheeks pink with a slight blush. Beside her, Kaede chuckled quietly, shaking her head as she watched the scene unfold. Kagome's pleading eyes locked with those of the elder priestess, spurring Kaede to speak and rescue the young couple from their embarrassment.

"Shippō," Kaede called. "Ye should not call Miroku stupid, nor should ye be pestering Kagome so early in the morning. I am sure neither she nor Inuyasha has eaten yet. Is that correct, child? Have ye come to break your fast with us?"

Kagome exhaled the breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding. "Ha- Hai, Kaede-obaasama. Arigato."

She set Shippō down on the floor as she bowed to the elder priestess before continuing, "If it's not too much trouble, Inuyasha and I were hoping we could eat here with you. We plan to go to the market village tomorrow, but I'm afraid we've used up what little we had in our hut."

"Of course, child, of course. Come, sit by me. Ye can help slice the pickles. Inuyasha, the water barrel behind ye is getting rather low, would ye aid an old woman and take it to the river to be filled?"

"Yeah, yeah, baba." Inuyasha's face seemed to be returning to a normal colour, and his eyes softened as he looked towards his mate. "Kagome, I'll be right back."

Kagome gave him a smile and a nod as he picked the barrel up, hefting it onto his shoulder before stepping back out into the street.

Rin too seemed to have recovered from the awkward moment. She smiled at Kagome as the older girl sat down. "That's a pretty colour on you Kagome-chan, though it's strange to see you not in your odd future clothing!"

"Thank you, Rin-chan. Inuyasha borrowed it from Sango for me. I didn't bring anything with me when I returned, so it looks like I'll be wearing more traditional clothes from now on. Speaking of, that's another thing we'll need to pick up tomorrow, a few pre-sewn kimono, yukata and kosodes that I can wear until I learn enough about sewing to make my own."

Sufficiently chastised by Kaede, Shippō had been sitting in the corner sulkily spinning one of his tops against the wooden floor. He perked up, though, at this second mention of the market. "Can I come with you guys, Kagome? Please! You've been back almost a week and I've barely spent any time with you at all!"

Shippō's large green eyes were pleading and Kagome felt a stab of guilt. Youkai or not, she'd left the poor boy alone for three long years. He'd still been so small when she'd been forced back through the well. And now…

He was right, of course. She and Inuyasha had been so wrapped up in each other that she'd all but ignored her poor kit since returning. But she also remembered the conversation she'd had with him in front of Kaede's home the day she and Inuyasha had announced their intention to marry…

Now was the time to prove the truth of her words. She smiled kindly at the boy. "Of course, Shippō! I'd love it if you came with us. And you too, Rin, if you'd like."

Both children squealed with delight at the invitation, but Kaede's voice immediately cut through the exuberance. "If ye are to go to the market, Rin-chan, ye will stay close to Kagome and InuYasha, yes? Ye must not wander off."

Rin sighed and stopped herself from rolling her eyes. "Hai, Kaede-obaasama, this Rin knows."

Kagome caught the tone of frustration in the younger girl's voice and filed it away to ask about later before Rin's attention once again returned to her.

"Really though, Kagome-chan, this Rin is so excited! She hardly ever gets to leave the village anymore and never to go to the market because Sesshomaru-sama always brings this Rin whatever she needs."

Rin's words reminded Kagome of something. "Speaking of Sesshomaru, Rin. Inuyasha mentioned that he scented him the other day. Was he here?"

"Hai! This Rin called for her Lord and he came."

Kagome's brow furrowed in confusion. "Called for him?"

"Hai…" Rin quickly looked back into the pot of rice she was stirring and Kagome could tell there was more to the story than what Rin was willing to say, but she wasn't going to push the girl to explain exactly how she'd been able to call for the daiyoukai. Instead, she asked the question that she most wanted to know the answer to.

"And did you have a chance to ask him about the wedding?"

Rin's eyes popped back up to Kagome's and the younger girl was immediately bursting with excitement again as she replied. "Oh, hai! And you will never believe it, Kagome-chan, but this Rin's Lord said YES! He will attend the wedding! Isn't that wonderful?" The 11-year-old girl squealed that last word with all the exuberance of her age, and Kagome couldn't help but grin.

"Yes, that's definitely good news! I'm glad that he is willing to come."

Shippō, ready to get back to the much more important topic at hand, walked over and plopped himself down in Kagome's lap, demanding her attention. "Do you think they'll have any sweets at the market?"

Kagome laughed at the hopeful tone of his voice. "Oh, I'm sure they'll have something good to eat, and if you're a very good kitsune I might just convince Inuyasha to buy you a treat. BUT only if you promise not to practice any of your tricks on anyone during our trip. For once I'd like to travel without getting into trouble!"

Kaede laughed softly at Kagome's words. "It did seem as though wherever ye went trouble always follow ye, didn't it, child?"

Kagome returned the laugh, "I'm not sure if it followed me or the vial of jewel shards I carried around my neck. Either way, I'm looking forward to a nice peaceful adventure this time."

"Keh, ain't nobody getting anywhere near my mate, that's for damned sure."

Inuyasha's perturbed voice from the doorway drew everyone's attention as he slowly lowered the full water barrel back into place, careful not to spill any of its contents.

Shippō sent an annoyed glare at the hanyou, fully of the opinion that Inuyasha had been hogging all of Kagome's time, which Shippō didn't like one bit. "She's not your mate yet, Inuyasha! The wedding's not for another…"

Shippō's voice trailed off as Inuyasha's youki reflexively spiked in response to Shippō's denial of his rights to his mate, causing an answering pulse to flit lightly across the edges of Kagome's aura.

Kaede froze in the middle of dishing the breakfast into bowls, eyes snapping towards Kagome when she felt the youki pulse across the young Miko's aura.

Kagome shifted under her mentor's sudden, penetrating look. She had felt… something… tug at her just then when Shippō spoke. Almost like a yearning in her heart pulling her toward Inuyasha…

"Oh. Nevermind." Shippō mumbled sullenly, eyes downcast.

Kagome looked from the boy to the older woman, and then to Inuyasha where she was caught off-guard by the blazing fire of possessiveness she saw in his eyes. Until her eyes widened as it dawned on her what that feeling a moment before must have meant.

Rin watched the entire scene play out in total confusion. "What?" She finally asked.

Shippō grumbled a glum response. "She's his mate already."

Those words seemed to unfreeze the three adults in the room. Kaede again began ladling soup into bowls and Inuyasha moved from where he was still standing beside the water barrel to join Kagome sitting on the floor.

Kagome floundered for words in the uncomfortable silence. "Oh, well, uh, yes… But we're still having the wedding as well. We, uh… We…"

She trailed off. What was she supposed to say? Kaede wasn't a fool. She obviously knew what she and Inuyasha had been doing alone for the past two days.

So then why the look?

Inuyasha's words seemed to mirror Kagome's thoughts and she felt him stiffen as he all but sneered out, "Keh. Don't look so surprised, baba."

Kaede sighed, regretting now that she'd allowed her astonishment to get the better of her. "I meant no disrespect, Inuyasha, and I apologize. Ye are correct. It should not have surprised me so. Ye respect the honour of your mate by binding her to ye in the youkai way… Though I confess I did not anticipate it as something the two of ye would do."

Kaede bowed her head slightly in apology, "Forgive an old woman. I congratulate ye both."

Kagome wondered if she might be missing something, but her need to smooth things over won out. "Thank you, Kaede-obaasama. Truly, Inuyasha and I are very happy." She smiled reassuringly at the old woman, holding out her hands in a silent offer to help hand out the breakfast bowls of rice, soup and pickles.

The hut fell into a slightly uncomfortable silence then as everyone ate, and in the quiet Kagome's thoughts returned to her and Inuyasha's less-than-pleasant walk through the village that morning. She hadn't intended to speak, but before she could think better of it Kagome felt the words tumbling from her lips.

"Kaede, does this–? I mean, would you still want…? I know some of the villagers are concerned about my… purity. Does my mating with Inuyasha concern you as well?"

Kagome cringed, ducking her head, afraid to see what might be lurking in Kaede's eyes, and Kaede felt a stab of guilt, that the girl would even feel the need to ask such a thing. She spoke with a voice softened by understanding.


That single word urged Kagome to look up at her surrogate grandmother again.

"I was merely surprised that the two of ye – being human and hanyou – would partake of such an ancient daiyoukai ritual…" She signed before continuing. "Though the more I think on it, the more I realize my own error. Hanyou or not, Inuyasha is his father's son, and ye his chosen mate. Give no more heed to this old woman's momentary foolishness."

Kaede levelled her one good eye at the young woman and could see the hesitancy that still lingered on Kagome's face. It urged her to continue. "And before ye ask, yes, my offer to train ye as a full Miko still stands."

Kagome searched Kaede's face and found only gentle acceptance and affection there. Slumping slightly in relief, she put down her breakfast, scooted closer to the older woman, and threw her arms around her in a tight hug.

"Thank you, Kaede-obaasama," she whispered.

It was not in Kaede's nature to be overly emotional, yet she allowed herself this moment of indulgence, returning Kagome's embrace and resting her cheek against the young woman's hair.

After three years Kaede had almost forgotten how freely this strange girl from the future gave her forgiveness and open-hearted affection. Kagome was the one who had burst into their lives and captured their hearts. She who had brought them all together, thrusting Kaede into the role of matriarch to this unlikely family.

So when Kagome finally pulled back from their embrace and gave her mentor a watery smile it reminded Kaede once again of the gift she had been given. And after decades resigned to the lonely life of a shrine maiden, it was one that Kaede would never take lightly.

"Can I take this to mean that ye wish to accept my offer then, Kagome-chan?"

"Yes!" Kagome chirped happily. "Though I don't think I'll be ready to begin until after the wedding, once I've settled in a bit more… If that's alright with you, Kaede-sama?"

Kaede nodded. "Of course, child, of course. Take whatever time ye need. It will give me the chance to procure some more Miko robes for ye to wear during your training and duties."

Kagome smiled and nodded at that, happy that Kaede accepted and truly supported them. Still, she felt the weight of the situation. "I appreciate your kindness, Kaede-sama. I just hope that the villagers will accept me as readily as you have."

Kagome's words earned an angry "Keh" from Inuyasha who had been watching the overemotional women with a look of disdain on his face, despite the fact that his throat had tightened more than he was willing to admit.

He crossed his arms over his chest, plunging both of his fists deep into the opposite sleeves. It caused Kaede to look from Kagome to Inuyasha, understanding dawning on her features. "I take it your journey here this morning held some… unpleasantness?"

"Baba, has anyone ever told you that you've got a real knack for understatement?" Inuyasha glowered at the old woman but Kaede just sighed.

"Inuyasha, we all knew that this might happen, especially after Kagome's confrontation with Rikichi-san earlier in the week." She paused to put the kettle on for tea before continuing. "It is true that once Rikichi-san confirmed that the intended welcome home celebration was instead meant to be a wedding feast that tensions in the village unfortunately rose."

Inuyasha's expression became even darker. He snarled, "You mean that once the narrow-minded fools in this village heard that their precious Shikon Miko was going to marry a dirty hanyou their holier-than-thou gossip lit the village up like a fucking bonfire."

Rin and Shippō winced at Inuyasha's vicious words. They'd been keeping quiet, trying to stay out of the adults' conversation as they ate their meal, but Inuyasha's vitriol was too much for even them to ignore.

Kagome stared at Inuyasha in openmouthed shock for a moment before her jaw snapped shut with an audible click and her eyes flashed in fury. "Inuyasha! If I ever hear you say the words "dirty" and "hanyou" in the same sentence again I'm going to S-I-T you so hard you'll be scrubbing mud from Brazil out of your robes. Then you'll really be dirty."

Inuyasha gulped at the indignant retribution that shone from his mate's eyes. In that moment he was sure that wherever this Brazil place was, it was somewhere that he never wanted to visit.

Instead of backing down, however, he rose his chin a little further into the air. "Wench, you can't deny the bullshit they put you through just to walk from our hut to Kaede's."

"Us, Inuyasha. They put us through."

Inuyasha scoffed at that. "I could give less than half a rat's ass about the opinions of humans who don't like me, but I'm not about to let anyone disrespect. my. mate."

There was a hard bite to Inuyasha's last words, one that spoke of pain and suffering and a fate far, far worse than death… And Kaede knew – especially after the sanctification of the mating bond – it was a promise that Inuyasha would never hesitate to keep if ever he felt that Kagome was threatened.

She cleared her throat, hoping to draw the attention of the young couple who had seemingly fallen into some kind of glaring match. "Inuyasha, Kagome, please. Enough of this."

Kagome blinked a few times and sighed. She looked to the older woman and then back to Inuyasha, before closing the distance between her and her love to lay her palm on his cheek and press her forehead to his.

"I'm sorry, koi. I know you only wish to protect me, but I think that maybe you were right, what you said outside before we came in. This is what I want and whether they accept me – accept us – or not is beside the point. I'm not training as a Miko for them. I'm doing it for me. Besides…" She paused for a moment to pull back and look around the room. "I think I've got a plan that just might sway even the – What did you call them? Narrow-minded fools? – into seeing just how completely wrong they are."

Inuyasha didn't like the sound of that. "Wench…"

There was a warning in Inuyasha's tone, but Kagome ignored it. "Oh, relax, Inuyasha! It's nothing to worry your pretty little head over."

Inuyasha could only sit there sputtering in indignation at being called pretty while Shippō guffawed loudly and Rin and Kaede tried their best to hide their laughter behind their cups of tea.

Kagome allowed herself a momentary smirk but regaining her composure enough to caution Shippō. "I'd stop laughing if I were you. Remember, if you want any sweets at the market tomorrow it's Inuyasha's good side you're going to have to be on, not mine."

"What?! You invited the runt to come too?!"

"Of course! And Rin. I thought it would be fun!" Kagome smiled at her hanyou, completely ignoring the look of shocked indignation that overtook his face."

"Do I look like a fucking babysitter to you?"

Thoroughly insulted, Rin spoke up then. "Inuyasha-oniisama! This Rin does not need babysitting."

"Yeah, and neither do I! I go all by myself to the Kitsune Inn all the time. I can handle a measly human market." Shippō sneered at Inuyasha in a surprisingly good imitation of the elder hanyou.

"Fuck! Fine! You both can come. Just don't let Sesshomaru find out I took you out of the village, Rin. I'd rather not have that bastard breathing down my neck next time he's here."

"Inuyasha-oniisama, you know this Rin does not keep things from her Lord… But when he comes to the wedding I will show him that I am just fine and I'm sure he will not mind. I am getting bigger, you know!"

Inuyasha just grumbled under his breath something about how his ass of a brother had better not start shit on Kagome's wedding day or he'd soon find Tetsusaiga up his lily-white ass.

This elicited another round of giggles from the fox kit who's mischievous nature was thoroughly enjoying this conversation, but it was Rin's turn to look indignant.

Her eyes flashed. "That's enough, Inuyasha-oniisama! This Rin's Lord is the most wonderful, most honourable person that she has ever known! He would never do something as disgraceful as that!"

Kagome could only stare at the young girl who so resolutely defended her youkai Lord. There was something about the look in Rin's eye that stirred a memory in Kagome… of a 15-year-old girl and a hanyou that everyone scorned…

"Kaede," Shippō's voice pulled Kagome back to the present. "Some of the boys were gonna go down to the river to fish this morning and they invited me along. Can I go?"

"Aye, ye may, but be on your best behaviour, Shippō. There is enough tension in this village as it is." Kaede gave the boy a hard look and Shippō could only gulp and nod. Then the old woman turned her eye to the girl beside her. "What about ye, Rin? I do not have any pressing chores for ye this morning–"

"Actually, Kaede," Kagome interrupted. "I was going to ask Rin to come along with Inuyasha and I. We're headed over to Miroku and Sango's to talk about our trip to the market and I was hoping that maybe Rin would be willing to come and help watch the children while we did some planning?"

Kagome looked hopefully at the younger girl and was relieved when Rin smiled happily back at her. "Of course, Kagome-chan. This Rin is happy to help. After all, you didn't have to invite this Rin to the market but you did!"

"You ready to head out now?" Inuyasha questioned, getting antsy from all this stupid sitting and talking.

"Not yet. We should help Kaede clean up from breakfast." Kagome reasoned.

"Don't worry about that, child. Go on. Ye have plenty to do and I am not so old that I cannot wash up a few pots and bowls on my own." Kaede assured her.

"Okay, well, see you guys later!" Shippō wasn't about to wait around for anyone to ask him to do anything. He bounded out the door and was gone.

Inuyasha too was already standing by the door as well. "So? Are we gonna go or are we gonna go?" He ducked his head through the door mat and was gone.

Kagome and Rin shared a look and laughed a little before both getting up to followed Inuyasha out into the street, waving goodbye to Kaede as they went.

Chapter Text

Their walk through the village was easier on Kagome this time around for the simple reason that she knew what to expect and had steeled herself to ignore it.

And while the curious looks and speculative stares continued, thankfully the whispers had died down since most people were too busy with the day's work to really mill about in idle gossip.

Inuyasha had been worried about Kagome after the way she'd seemed so defeated on their approach to Kaede's that morning. But now? Kagome walked with her head held high, hand tucked rebelliously in the crook of Inuyasha's elbow for all to see…and Inuyasha had never been more proud of his Kagome than he was in that moment.

Of course, he still took the opportunity to glare murderously at anyone he heard speaking about them, or who happened to look their way for even one second longer than he thought appropriate.

Kagome's my mate, dammit! He thought. It's well within my rights to intimidate anyone and everyone who threats her happiness!

He cast her a sideways glance, frowning slightly. She gave up everything to be here with me. The least I can do is make sure that she never regrets that choice.

Thankfully, Rin's chatter was doing a good job of helping to keep Kagome distracted as well, which Inuyasha was grateful for. The girl seemed to be an unending fountain of sound, going on and on about everything from which kimono she wanted to wear to the market tomorrow, to whether or not it might rain during their travels.

How the hell does Sesshōmaru put up with it? He thought, and not for the first time.

Sango and Miroku's home was nestled in a part of the village roughly halfway between Kaede's hut and Inuyasha's place on the hill at the edge of his forest. As they approached, Rin ran ahead to the front door.

"Knock, knock!" She called through the doorway.

"Rin, is that you?" Came Sango's voice from inside.

"Hai, Sango-sama! This Rin is here with Inuyasha-oniisama and Kagome-chan!"

Sango peeked her head out the doorway, Ichiro cradled in one arm and a knowing smirk settled firmly around her mouth. "Aha! I see the happy couple have emerged."

Inuyasha averted his eyes and half-turn away, but Kagome took the teasing in stride, smiling at her best friend. "Yep! I figured we needed to make an appearance at some point before the wedding. Also, we were on the verge of starvation, so…" She shrugged and winked at Sango. "Otherwise, who knows when you would have seen us again!"

Sango just laughed at that and nodded while Rin and Inuyasha stood there, Rin a little – and Inuyasha more than a little – uncomfortable.

Willing himself not to blush – he was a mated man, dammit! – Inuyasha cleared his throat before asking, "Where's Miroku? I ain't in the mood to hang around a bunch of giggling women."

Sango replied, "He's out back, under his meditation tree, but when you find him can you tell him to come in? I need his help to feed the girls. It's harder to make them sit still and eat when this little one is awake and demanding haha-ue's attention." Sango nuzzled her cheek to that of the babe in her arms and chuckled softly at the suckling, smacking noises he made in response.

"Oh, this Rin can help with that, Sango-sama! After all, that is what she is here for!"

"Is it?" Sango asked, shooting a questioning look between Rin and Kagome.

It was Kagome who replied. "I asked Rin to come along to help watch the girls. I need your help with some…things…and thought having Rin's helping hands here would give us the chance to talk more freely. I hope that's alright?"

"Of course!" Sango gave Rin a big smile. "Rin, if you can convince those two hellions of mine to sit still and eat their rice and drink their soup then I think I have a couple of the manjū I was making for the wedding feast with your name on them."

Rin's face split into a wide grin at the offered reward. "That's a deal!" she exclaimed before ducking through the doorway, heading inside to where Inuyasha could hear Aki and Yuki squealing with delight at the sudden appearance of their youngest aunt.

"Keh," Inuyasha shook his head at the sound. "I'll head around back then, see what that lazy hōshi is up to. You still want me to bring him in?"

Sango nodded and began, "Might as well–" But was suddenly cut off when she caught the surreptitious look and wide eyes that Kagome was directing her way.

Quickly recovering, she continued. "But not right away. I need to ask Kagome several things about the wedding and I doubt that either you or Miroku would enjoy being subjected to the details of that conversation. Why don't you keep him company out back for a while and we'll come get you when we're done with all the boring women's talk."

Inuyasha knew a dismissal when he heard one, but honestly, he was happy for it. There was a teasing light in Sango's eyes – one she'd picked up from her hentai husband over the past three years – that Inuyasha wanted nothing more than to avoid…at least for a little while.

So instead of replying he gave the two women a short nod in acknowledgement before turning on his heel and heading around to the back of the house.

Sango turned back to Kagome, motioning for her to enter as she held the door mat open and asked, "What was that all about?"

Kagome looked a bit sheepish as she ducked through. "Well, honestly your cover story is close to a part of it. I need your help and advice on making a list of things to get at the market tomorrow."

Sango nodded. "I figured the two of you would need to head out to the market village at some point. I'd be happy to help." She paused before continuing, "But boring the men isn't the only reason you didn't want Inuyasha to bring Miroku in, is it?"

Kagome's sheepish look only intensified. "You're right, there's something else I want to talk to you about, but let's stick to the market list first. Rin and Shippo are going to be coming with us and I want to be prepared with my full list in hand. I doubt Inuyasha plans to give me much time to dawdle over the merchants and their wares. You know how he hates crowds of humans."

Sango nodded knowingly and the two women spent the better part of the next hour with their heads bent over a small scroll, discussing those things that Sango believed would be most useful and necessary for setting Kagome and Inuyasha up comfortably in their new home together.

When they were done, Kagome looked down at the list and gulped, feeling more than a little overwhelmed.

They needed garden tools, more bowls, cups and serving trays, cooking utensils, knives, ladles, spoons and chopsticks, pots of various sizes, a bigger kettle, a laundry tub and bathing basin, at least one more large storage chest, a few extra blankets, 4 bags of rice, dried fish, miso, and any root vegetables that they could find at this out-of-season time of year. Then there were the yukata and kimono that she would need to select, plus some extra fabric to use for learning how to sew in the hopes that she could one day learn to make and repair her and Inuyasha's own under-kosodes.

Putting the list back down on Sango's low table, Kagome whispered softly in trepidation, "I don't know the first thing about being a feudal housewife!"

Now, by this point, Rin had successfully gotten the twins to eat their breakfast, wiped their hands and faces, and tidied their hair, before leading them outside to play. Knowing this, Sango was less guarded with her reply to Kagome's words.

"Kagome, Inuyasha didn't wait three long years so that he could have a housewife. He was waiting for you. I'm not sure how much he told you, but that man missed you terribly. Miroku and Shippo and I were seriously worried about him at first. Those first few months…" she trailed off, a haunted look in her eye, remembering her friend's suffering.

Kagome took a deep breath, trying to dispel the tears that threatened to gather at the reminder of how much her beloved had suffered without her. Finally, she found her voice. "He… He told me. We spent a lot of the past two days talking when we weren't–" Kagome cut herself off abruptly, suddenly realizing just what she'd been about to say out loud.

Sango didn't miss her friend's slip nor her sudden blush, which prompted Sango to tease, "I'm surprised the two of you found time to doing any talking at all!"

She laughed at the shocked look Kagome gave her. "What? I remember what Miroku's and my first days together were like." Then, directing a faux-imperious look at Kagome, she continued. "Besides, with a husband like Miroku and after three children, I'm hardly the blushing maiden I once was."

Kagome could only blink at her friend a few times before laughing ruefully and shaking her head. "I guess I'm not the only one who's relaxed about these sorts of things."

"Indeed." Sango smiled and joined in her friend's laughter before shooting Kagome an assessing look. "So…how was it?"

Kagome's laughter came to an abrupt stop when she registered her friend's question, eyes widening a bit. "Sango! Are you asking me to kiss and tell?!"

"Kagome-chan, first of all, I am absolutely sure that the two of you were doing much more than kissing. And second of all, you and I both know that we spent most of our alone time during the shard hut discussing both my husband and your husband-to-be, so if you think that now that we're older and supposedly more mature that I suddenly wouldn't want you to share, then you've been away for far, far too long!"

Kagome could only smile briefly at the friend she'd missed dearly before her eyes lost focus, gaze turning inward in memory. "Sango it was…" She sighed, shaking her head. "It's hard to put it into words. The way he holds me, the way he touches me, the way he lets his instincts guide him when we make love…" She trailed off, a shiver of lust creeping across her skin at the memories.

"So our shy, self-conscious hanyou was able to get over himself then?" That had been Sango's biggest worry for her friend, that Inuyasha would let his reserved personality and inherent distrust of his youkai half get the better of him.

"Well, I'll admit that at first, he was tentative, but the more I reminded him that I'm a lot less fragile now, the more…ahem…open with his affections he became."

Sango only nodded, urging her friend with her eyes to continue, but Kagome hesitated. She didn't want to get into all the details knowing that not only might Inuyasha still be within earshot, but that he likely would not appreciate her sharing any of the details at all!

Still, there was one thing she wanted to share.

Holding up her hand, Kagome allowed her aura to come to the surface of her skin, extending outward to wrap her in a glow of pink power. Then, with a slight nudge from deep within her heart, she urged the shimmering halo of Inuyasha's youki within her own aura to flare into view as well.

Sango's eyes widened as she saw the flash of crimson skitter across the sparkling pink of Kagome's aura. "Is that–?! Is that what I think it is?!"

"I guess my answer would depend on what you think it is, Sango-chan."

Sango rolled her eyes at her friend's flippant retort before narrowing them with a questioning look, "You and Inuyasha have completed the full daiyoukai mating bond, haven't you?"

Kagome's smile lit up her entire face at the memory. "Hai, we have. And, Sango, the ceremony was so beautiful… So romantic…" Tears began gathering in her eyes again at the memory. She had to give herself a moment before continuing.

"Sango, when I returned I could only hope that Inuyasha might care for me in the way that I had begun to believe he did before we were separated. But this?" She held up her hand again in illustration. "The bond we share now? The love I know that he has for me? Sometimes I still feel the need to pinch myself just to prove that all of this is real. And other times…" She paused to smirk. "Other times, I've been known to ask him to prove it to me in other ways." She gave Sango a lecherous look of her own.

"Oh?" Sango raised an eyebrow in a look very reminiscent of her husband. "Do tell."

Kagome opened her mouth but then closed it again, considering for a moment before speaking, "I don't want to say too much, Sango, but I will say this. Inuyasha reminded me the other day that while he's a man, he isn't really a man…and, Kami, am I glad for it. Sometimes he looks at me like he wants to devour me whole. Other times the way he growls and howls–"

Sango's sudden guffaw cut her off. "I thought I heard howling coming from your part of the forest once or twice!"

Kagome cringed a little at that. "Oh, Kami! I hope you're the only one who heard that…or at least the only one who put two and two together. I'm dealing with enough poor opinion of us as it is," she ended with a huff.

"Ah, so you've caught on to the nonsense going on in the village, have you?" Sango's face hardened as she asked the question, her eyes glinting like the warrior she was, despite the gentle hold she still had on the babe now asleep in her arms.

"Yeah…" Kagome replied sadly. "Sango, you should have seen the way they looked at us as we came into the village this morning. And the things I overheard them saying!" She shuddered a bit at the memory before frowning. "I'm sure Inuyasha was able to hear much, much more than I was."

Sango's own frown only deepened. "Yes, after Rikichi, Miroku and Kaede began assigning duties for the upcoming wedding festivities, and word got out that it was Inuyasha that you were to wed, it didn't take long for some in the village to start protesting…loudly. Though they were smart enough never to do it within my own earshot." She scowled threateningly at that before continuing.

"Miroku has had a number of villagers come to him at the Shrine, trying to convince him to do something, as a holy man, to prevent this tragedy as they've taken to calling it." At that, Sango let out a low inu-like growl, succeeding impressively well for a mere human.

"What?!" Kagome whisper-yelled, trying her best not to wake the sleeping Ichiro.

Sango continued. "He's been doing his best to let the villagers know that this isn't some mistake and that Inuyasha hasn't coerced you into this marriage, but with the two of you out of sight for the past two days rumours have unfortunately spread."

"Why?!" Kagome yelled much louder this time, causing poor Ichiro to frown and squirm in his sleep. Kagome saw the boy's reaction and lowered her voice again. "Why, even after all this time, can't they see that Inuyasha and I are meant to be together?!"

Sango's face changed then, from embittered to considering. "That's the same question that's been rolling around in my mind over the past two days as well, Kagome-chan, and I think… I think that part of the problem is that they don't necessarily know the whole story. I mean, a few, like Rikichi, know that there was some magic with the Bone-eater's Well involved, most know that you are Kikyo-sama's reincarnation, and all know that you are the one that released Inuyasha from his imprisonment upon the Goshinboku, but other than the stories of our battles and adventures during the shard hunt, none of them really know how the two of you fought for each other, bled for each other, protected each other, cared for each other." She paused a moment to let her words sink in before continuing.

"It's really only those in our pack that truly understand the depth of your commitment to one another. We who understand just how in love the two of you have always been. Miroku told me once that he believes that you and Inuyasha are bound by the red thread of fate and that, no matter what, it has always been the Kamis' will for you to be his and he yours… But for those on the outside our pack looking in, especially as a tajiya, I can understand how hard to believe this truth it might actually be for outsiders."

"Well…" Kagome began hesitantly, "what if there was a way for me to make them understand…without having to tell everyone everything?"

Sango was confused. "Kagome?"

"I– I think I have a plan, Sango-chan, and I'll need your help to…practice...but if it works I think it might be just the thing to resolve any and all concerns that the villagers might have about my feelings for Inuyasha, his for me, about the strength of my Miko powers as a married woman…all of it."

"You know I'll do whatever I can to help you Kagome-chan. Always. But if such a plan is possible, why do I get the sense that you do not want Inuyasha to know about it? Is this the reason why you sent him outside with Miroku?"

"Hai…" Kagome replied a bit hesitantly.

"And why is that?" Sango questioned, equally hesitant.

"Well, I'm not exactly sure how Inuyasha might react."

"How I might react to what, woman?"

Kagome whirled around to find Inuyasha standing in the doorway, and as she locked eyes with her mate, she couldn't help but let slip a soft "kuso" under her breath.

Chapter Text

Miroku sat motionless under the boughs of the tall sakura tree that stood at the edge of the clearing behind his home. He'd felt the approach of powerful youki and reiki long before he'd heard the voices of his friends drifting towards him from where they stood speaking with his wife.

That's why Miroku wasn't at all surprised to hear Inuyasha call out to him a few minutes later, despite the fact that he'd kept his eyes closed in a semblance of meditation the entire time.

"Oi! Miroku! You sleeping over there?"

Miroku didn't bother opening his eyes. "Inuyasha, my friend, I am a Monk and as such, it is important for me to practice the art of clear-mindedness."

Inuyasha smirked at Miroku's words. "Oh yeah? Well, I guess you're right. If anyone I know needs to clean out his filthy mind, it's definitely you."

Miroku finally cracked one eye open in order to shoot his friend a scathing look. "You wound me, Lord Inuyasha, I would think that a noble of your rank would have better manners than that."

Inuyasha scowled, which caused a wave of triumphant glee to wash through Miroku's chest.

"I told you: Don't. Call. Me. That." It was all Inuyasha could do to get the words out between his gritted teeth.

Taking in his friend's rigid stance – hands balled into fists at his sides, eyes flashing with restrained malice – Miroku couldn't maintain his "serene Monk" mask. He gave in and let out a loud guffaw.

"Oh, my friend, really, some days it is just too easy."

Inuyasha growled as Miroku got to his feet. "Too easy, eh, Monk?" He drew his sword, willing it to stay in its katana form. "Maybe that means I've been too soft on you."

Miroku shifted his footing and raised his shakujō into a defensive position before speaking. "We haven't done this in a while. Tell me, where is Kagome?"

Inuyasha brought his sword down fast and Miroku raised his shakujō even further to block the blow before spinning around and thrusting the sharp end of his staff toward Inuyasha's stomach.

The two men had spent many days sparing like this over the past few years. It had actually been Inuyasha who'd first approached Miroku with the offer to train him after Sango became pregnant with the twins. He knew that Miroku felt less prepared for battle without the wind tunnel, no matter how eternally grateful he was that his family's curse had been lifted. After some discussion, the two men had settled on working to improve Miroku's melee skills since he still had his spiritual powers and thus his ability to launch distance attacks.

"Kagome went inside with Sango and Rin, and I wasn't about to sit around with a bunch of giggling women." Inuyasha jumped back out of the reach of the approaching weapon before somersaulting over Miroku's head, preparing to bring his sword down across the Monk's back.

Miroku spun around in time to bring his shakujō up to the side, parrying Inuyasha's thrust. "Giggling you say? Now tell me, my friend, what exactly might our women have to giggle over?" He let a reduced blast of spiritual energy shoot from the mudra he formed with his left hand. It pushed Inuyasha back enough for him to regain his footing and his defensive stance.

Inuyasha shot Miroku an approving nod at his tactic before glancing away, trying to avoid the Monk's question. "Don't ask stupid questions, Monk. It doesn't suit you."

A sly grin spread over Miroku's face as he stepped forward, ready to take the offensive at his friend's moment of distraction. "Would you rather I be a bit more direct?" He suddenly bent low in an attempt to use his staff to sweep the hanyou's feet out from under him.

"I'd rather you drop the subject altogether, you pervert!" Inuyasha lept in the air before Miroku's staff could connect, bringing the butt of his sword down toward the back of Miroku's head.

Miroku ducked and rolled just as Inuyasha launched himself into the air, coming up in a crouched position a few feet away, his shakujō held across his chest. "Oh, my friend, if that's what you were hoping for then truly, after all these years, you don't know me at all!"

Landing lightly, Inuyasha turned back to Miroku, raising Tetsusaiga in front of him… And Miroku's laugh was almost a cackle of glee as he watched the embarrassed flush spread across the hanyou's face. Honestly, it had been years since Miroku had seen his friend in such a state. Not since Kagome had been lost to him through the well, surely.

His laughter settled into a smirk as he stood from his crouch, a battle plan forming in his mind before he spoke. "Fortunately, it seems as though I've won the bet."

Inuyasha began circling Miroku, confusion overtaking his face. "Bet? What bet?"

Miroku circled as well. "The night Kagome came back after the two of you left, I wagered with Sango that before the week was out you'd have Kagome in your bed."

At his words, Inuyasha snarled and took an ill-thought-out swipe at Miroku that left him off-balance. Miroku had to force his face not to break into a triumphant grin before he continued.

"Now, to be fair, Sango didn't think it was a bet she could actually win, but she did think that maybe, just maybe, you could keep your hands to yourself until the wedding, at least. Though, I'm sure she's in there giggling with Kagome right now about just how wrong she was."

Inuyasha came to a screeching halt at that, his eyes wide and unblinking as he stared in disbelief at Miroku's words… Which, of course, was the exact reaction that Miroku had been hoping for. It gave him the perfect opening to deliver a roundhouse kick to Inuyasha's gut, causing the off-balanced hanyou to land sprawled on his back without enough time to even realize what had happened before Miroku had the point of his staff at Inuyasha's throat.

Miroku finally let his grin stretch across his face. "It appears, my friend, that I have finally won one of our spars."

Inuyasha could do nothing but blink up at Miroku, dumbfounded for a moment, before finally noticing that he was on his back with a weapon at his throat. With a resigned sigh, he rolled his eyes and Miroku knew that his friend had conceded defeat.

"It's only because of you and your hentai wife! I can't believe the two of you were placing bets on Kagome and I! And before I'd even asked her to be my mate?! What do you take me for?"

As Inuyasha got to his feet, scowling and brushing the dust off his robes, Miroku's face shifted from self-satisfied to thoughtful.

"Honestly, Inuyasha? I take you for a man who'd been deprived of the one thing even more vital to you than the very air you breathe. I take you for a man who's been blessed by the Kami to have that one thing now returned to you."

Inuyasha looked like he wanted to sputter out an embarrassed retort, but Miroku held up his hand. "We all know what being without Kagome-chan these past three years has been like for you. There's no use in denying it anymore, Inuyasha, especially since it is now equally clear to the entire pack just what having her back means to you now as well."

Miroku paused, considering, before a wry smirk crossed his lips. "Well, I should say the entire pack minus Shippō."

At Miroku's obvious ability to see right through him, Inuyasha cringed, feeling exposed in a way he hadn't in a long time. Looking for an excuse to change the subject, he cleared his throat sheepishly before latching onto Miroku's last words. "Keh, the runt mentioned that you were stopping him from coming up to the hut the past couple of days."

"Yes, whenever I sensed his youki sneaking this way through the village I'd intercept the rascal and remind him that he was to wait until Kagome came to him."

Inuyasha could only imagine just how much of his time over the past two days Miroku had invested in corralling the kitsune. "How the heck did you manage that?!"

Just then a squeal resounded through the clearing as Aki and Yuki caught sight of their favourite uncle, launching themselves at Inuyasha's legs.

Miroku looked up to see Rin following close behind.

"Apologies, oniisama! The twins are getting very fast!"

Inuyasha bent down, using each hand to gently pry each girl off of each leg before lifting them to sit in the crook of each elbow. "Feh, don't worry about it, Rin. I was just thanking Miroku here for a favour he did for me."

Inuyasha levelled Miroku with a grateful look over the heads of his daughters. It was a look that Miroku completely understood.

Just then Aki tugged on Inuyasha's sleeve to get his attention. "Ojisan come to play?"

Inuyasha's eyes softened as he looked down at the girl nestled in his left arm. "Not today, wakai senshi. Otousan and I need to talk and then I gotta go find your obasan inside."

Aki's lip had already begun to pout before Inuyasha had even finished speaking. Rin, of course, saw and stepped in. "Aki-chan won't you come with Yuki-chan and I over to the sakura tree? If we collect enough blossoms we can use them to make a magic potion!"

"What kind?" Asked Yuki, always intensely curious about all things magical.

"Well," Rin began, "what kind of potion do you want to make?"

"Potion for more cuddles!" crowed Yuki at the same time as Aki shouted "Potion for me have claws! Rwar!" while giving Inuyasha her best "wicked youkai" face.

Inuyasha couldn't help the huge and genuine grin that spread across his face at the twins' antics. Meanwhile, Miroku and Rin were both trying desperately to keep their laughter in "laughing with you" vs "laughing at you" territory.

"All right then, akachan, let's go! Who will get there first, hmm? Shall Rin-oba beat Aki-chan and Yuki-chan to the tree?"

"No!" Both girls shouted in unison as they squirmed their way out of Inuyasha's arms and made a mad dash for the same sakura tree that Miroku had been sitting under, Rin jogging along behind, her happy laughter floating along on the breeze.

Inuyasha watched after them for a moment, a feeling he could not name stirring momentarily in his chest before he felt Miroku's hand settle on his shoulder.

"So, my friend, what else is there that you wanted to discuss?"

"Huh?" Inuyasha replied, stirring from his silent reflection.

"You told Aki-chan that you needed to speak with me, so I assumed that there was something else that you wished to discuss."

"Oh. Yeah." Inuyasha cleared his throat, trying to arrange his thoughts. "I, uh… I was wondering if you needed anything at the market."

Miroku cocked an eyebrow at his friend's words. "Are you offering to transport goods for me, Inuyasha?"

"What? No!" Was Inuyasha's hasty reply before he continued. "I– I was actually hoping you needed something at the market because then you could come with Kagome, Rin, Shippō and me tomorrow."

Understanding dawned in Miroku's eyes. "Ah, yes I see. I did wonder if the two of you would be heading to the market prior to the wedding. From what I remember, your hut is, shall we say, minimally appointed." He gave Inuyasha a knowing look.

"A hut's a hut. It's not like I needed all sorts of shit to fill it with." Inuyasha huffed, walking slowly in the same direction the girls had just run in.

Miroku followed his friend. "And yet I take it that Kagome and Sango are inside discussing exactly what…ahem…items to fill it with right now?"

"Feh." Inuyasha scowled at that. "I'm not stupid. I know the wench needs more than just a roof over her head and some meat in her belly like I do. Heck, I could go without the roof even, but she's human and I want to make sure she gets every single damned thing she wants from that market tomorrow." He paused for a moment, continuing in a softer voice. "But you know what it's like in those kinds of places for someone like…me."

Inuyasha didn't need to spell it out for the hōshi. Market towns were always hit and miss for them when they travelled for extermination jobs. Sometimes they'd be full of people giving him that Lord Inuyasha shit. Other times the villagers just figured that he was the Monk's Inugami. And sometimes…the worst times…it was all they could do to get out of town before the scowling merchants banded together to run the "youkai filth" out of town.

Miroku knew all of this and spoke frankly to his friend. "I understand, Inuyasha. I would be happy to accompany you and the rest of the pack to the market tomorrow. In truth, Sango mentioned the other day needing more linen for kosodes and swaddling for Ichiro."

Inuyasha's "Keh" and a nodded of gratitude was all the acknowledgement Miroku needed, though when Inuyasha's eyes shifted down and away he knew that the hanyou had another request to make.

"What is it, Inuyasha? Is there something else you need of me?"

"I, uh, I wanna get Kagome something. You know, for the wedding."

Miroku smiled. "Do you mean a gift? Of what sort were you considering?"

'Dammnit, hōshi! Why you always gotta ask so many questions? I dunno, okay! Something! I wanna get her something…pretty." Inuyasha blushed at that last word, his bluster failing him. "Look, I'll know it when I see it." Inuyasha huffed in embarrassed exasperation. "Are you gonna help me or not?"

Miroku answered with a genuine smile. "It would be my honour, Inuyasha. Of course."

Rin who had honestly been trying not to eavesdrop, despite the fact that the men were walking her way, gave up the pretence and spoke. "If you'd like, Inuyasha-oniisama, this Rin can help to distract Kagome-chan when the time comes so that you and Miroku-sama may make your purchase without her seeing!" She smiled up at them when they looked at her in surprise, quite pleased with herself for coming up with such a sneaky idea.

Inuyasha was still considering Rin's offer when he suddenly felt a pull in the centre of his chest, followed by a pulse through his youki. His eyes widened as his hand rose to his heart. "What the–?"

Miroku had felt the pulse of youki as well. "What was that?" He asked in confusion.

"I– I think Kagome touched our bond. I wonder if everything's okay."

"Touched your bond?" Miroku questioned, still confused.

"Yeah…" Inuyasha seemed to flounder, but of all people, it was Rin who swooped in to his rescue.

"Inuyasha-oniisama and Kagome-chan announced this morning that they have already bonded as mates. Is that not so, oniisama?"

Miroku seemed impressed by this announcement and looked to Inuyasha for confirmation.

Inuyasha nodded before he spoke. "I performed the bonding ceremony with Kagome three nights ago. And while we may not yet be married in the human way, we have spoken the Inu oaths, spilling blood and sharing youki. She is my mate now, just as I am hers."

Miroku clapped Inuyasha heartily on the back. "It would seem that congratulations are in order then, my friend! Come let us head inside. I would congratulation Kagome-chan on your union as well!"

Miroku gestured for them to head back towards the house and Inuyasha exhaled the breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. After Kaede's initial reaction to their bonding, Inuyasha hadn't been sure what to expect from the Monk, but he was glad that Miroku was, once again, proving himself a true friend.

He nodded in agreement as he moved past Miroku toward the house. "Yer right, we better head in. Who knows what those womenfolk are up to. If I'm not careful they'll have planned for me to be lugging home half the wares for sale at the market tomorrow!"

Inuyasha shot Miroku a wry smirk before calling back over his shoulder. "Rin, Miroku and I are heading in to talk to the women. We'll let you know when we're leaving." Rin just nodded and waved her hand dismissively from where she sat with the girls under the tree. Each twin had a small pile of gathered blossoms in front of them and were discussing the magic words required for their incantation.

Inuyasha was, in fact, in quite a good mood as he'd approached the house… That is, until he heard Kagome speaking inside.

"Well, I'm not exactly sure how Inuyasha might react."

Instantly annoyed, Inuyasha stepped through the doorway.

"How I might react to what, woman?"

Chapter Text

"How I might react to what, woman?"

At the sound of Inuyasha's voice, Kagome whirled towards the doorway, eyes widening.

And Inuyasha distinctly heard her softly breathed kuso just as Miroku stepped into the house behind him, making his way over to sit beside Sango.

Something was definitely going on. "Wench…?"

"Noth– Nothing, Inuyasha. It's nothing." Her eyes darted around evasively.

Inuyasha crossed his arms over his chest, hands stuffed into the opposite sleeves. "Weeeeennnnnchhhhh?" He questioned again, more insistently this time.

Kagome cringed at his tone before sighing in resignation. "Inuyasha, Sango and I were just talking about what's been going on in the village…you know…their reaction to us getting married? And, well, I'm just trying to make a plan for how best to deal with it, that's all."

Inuyasha's eyes narrowed at her words. He had yet to move away from the doorway or uncross his arms. "Yeah, you mentioned something about a plan back at Kaede's and you didn't want to tell me about it then either… And it's for damn sure that you're no less reckless now than you were three years ago, so you're gonna tell me exactly what you're scheming up in that sneaky head of yours, woman."

Kagome averted her eyes. She had no intention of telling him what she was planning because, frankly, she wasn't even sure if she could actually do the thing she was hoping to be able to do. That and the fact that she was sure he wouldn't like it either way. He'd most definitely try to talk her out of it no matter how sure she was that it was their best chance for dealing with…well…everything.

Sighing heavily, she folded her hands in her lap and looked up into Inuyasha eyes… Eyes that were still aggressively glaring at her. Finally, she spoke in a soft voice.

"Inuyasha, do you trust me?"

His glare faltered. He hadn't been expecting that. Some of the tension he'd been holding in his body melted at her words. "You know I do, Kagome, but–"

Her voice was firm as she cut him off. "No buts, Inuyasha. Do. You. Trust. Me?"

"Of course!" He all but shouted in frustration.

"Then trust me now and don't ask me to tell you what it is I'm thinking of doing. Just… Just let me try, and trust that I would never do anything that I thought would put you or myself in danger. Trust that I love you and that I want to fix this for us… for you."

"For me? What do you mean for me?"

Kagome rose, walking over to where Inuyasha still stood in the doorway. She could hear the sounds of the girls and Rin playing out in the yard, could feel the eyes of Miroku and Sango on her back, but right then none of it mattered.

Inuyasha watched her approach, eyes wary as she reached out a hand to cup his cheek. She felt it when he unconsciously leaned into her touch and doubted very much that he even realized he was doing something so intimate with an audience.

This stubborn man that she loved so much, she needed to make him understand. Softly, she began. "You've worked so hard, koi, to make a place for yourself here in this village. The people here respect you… Or at least they did before I came back."

He started to sputter out a retort but she stopped him by moving the hand on his cheek, to settle her fingers over his lips instead. "Do you forget that I heard that woman call you Ōji-sama the other day? You can't deny it, Inuyasha, you hold a very important place in this village, and yet now…" She trailed off, sighing heavily before continuing. "The last thing I ever wanted when I came back was to cause you to become an outcast all over again!"

Inuyasha sighed as well, suddenly seeming to realize where they were: standing in the doorway, their friends watching them carefully, trying not to intrude. He reached up to remove Kagome's fingers from his lips. Squeezing her hand gently, he held it within his much larger one as he pulled her along with him, stepping up onto the raised wooden floor.

Once he had Kagome resettled in her place by the fire, Inuyasha spoke softly. "Do you really think I care about any of that? Do you think I give a fuck what these people think of me?"

She stared into the fire, answering him just as quietly. "Yes, I do."

He looked at her with shock in his eyes. She continued, her voice low but fierce. "Inuyasha, all I've ever wanted is for you to be happy. For you to live and be happy. And I'm so glad that I get to be a part of that, but I also want this village to be a part of that, too. I want us to be accepted in the same way that you already had been before I returned. And if I can do something to make that happen, then I am going to do it…whether you like it or not. It's my right as your mate to protect you, Inuyasha. You would do no less for me."

Once finished, Kagome refused to meet his eyes. Inuyasha could only stare long and hard at this girl-become-woman who had so completely captured his heart. What could he say to that impassioned speech? She was right; he would do no less for her. And the very fact that she was so adamantly putting his well-being above everything else…? But hadn't that always been her way, even during the shard hunt?

Not for the first time, Inuyasha wondered what he possibly could have ever done to deserve her love and devotion.

"Kagome…" He exhaled, the rest of the fight leaving his body.

At her name, Kagome finally looked up into the apologetic eyes of her mate. She waited to hear what he would say.

"I'm sorry. I do trust you, you know. With my life." He all but whispered.

"I know. And I'm sorry, too. I swear I'm not keeping it a secret to hurt you."

He reached over to squeeze her hand again. "I know." He gave her a small smile and knew he was forgiven when she returned it, scooting closer to lean against his shoulder.

After what felt like an appropriate amount of time, it was Miroku who finally cleared his throat, causing the couple across from him to sheepishly reawaken to their surroundings.

Cringing a bit, Kagome spoke. "Sorry about that, you two… Though, honestly, I can't say that it was the first of our arguments that you've ever been forced to witness and I doubt it'll be the last."

She cast them both a wry but apologetic look and Sango chuckled quietly at it, shaking her head as she spoke. "Well, at least you didn't sit him through my floor! As for the rest, don't give it another thought. We're pack, remember?"

She handed the drowsy-but-now-awake Ichiro over to his father before stretching out the cramped muscles caused by sitting immobile under her son for so long. Finally, reaching over, she moved the kettle onto the fire. "I'm making some tea. I think we could all use it."

Miroku nodded his agreement. "Indeed, especially considering we still have much to discuss."

"What's there to discuss? I already told the wench that I trust her to do whatever the hell she wants." Inuyasha huffed indignantly.

Miroku shook his head. "You misunderstand, my friend. I am glad the two of you have resolved your quarrel, but there are things regarding the upcoming celebration that we have been waiting until you…ahem…emerged in order to discuss with you."

This piqued Kagome's curiosity. "Like…?"

"Well, for one, we've been managing any questions that have come up regarding your preferences for the wedding feast."

Sango chimed in. "Oh, and Myōga turned up yesterday."

"He did?!" Inuyasha seemed genuinely surprised by this. He'd rarely seen the flea over the past three years, not since things between he and Sesshōmaru had settled into something of a truce.

"Hai," Sango continued. "Apparently, Tōtōsai sent him."

Inuyasha was even more surprised by that. "Tōtōsai?! What did that old windbag want?!"

Miroku spoke up then. "That was the question we had as well, though Myōga seemed unable to answer it sufficiently. Apparently, Tōtōsai had felt a strong call from Tetsusaiga a few nights ago and had sent Myōga to find out what the blade had been used for that was powerful enough to get the old smith's attention."

Kagome looked at Inuyasha. "A few nights ago… That was when we…" She trailed off, but Inuyasha continued. "Our mate bonding." He looked across at Miroku. "I used Tetsusaiga to complete the ceremony."

Miroku nodded at Inuyasha's words. "Yes, I agree. That is likely what it was, though we did not know it at the time. And since I would not allow Myōga to um, interrupt, your reunion, I instead decided to employ him for another errand."

"You sent him on an errand?" Kagome asked.

"Yes, Myōga agreed to be our messenger. I've sent him to inform our friends and allies of your return, as well as of your and Inuyasha's upcoming nuptials."

"Allies? What allies?" Inuyasha had a hard time naming many other allies that weren't already in the room with him.

"Well, Hachi of course, and my Master, Moushin. Kohaku should be present and he'll bring Kirara with him. Then there's Jinenji and his mother, as well as Ayame and Koga, after which I told Myōga to return to Tōtōsai and inform the old smith as well."

Inuyasha had stopped listening. "You invited the wolf?!" He all but roared.

Kagome was equally astonished that Miroku would do such a thing. "Miroku…" she started hesitantly. "While Koga is a friend, do you think it's wise to invite him to our wedding?" She shot her friend a look that amounted to "What the hell were you thinking?!" in direct opposition to her deceptively mild tone.

For her part, Kagome was trying very hard not to envision all the worst possible reactions that Koga might have to the news that she had chosen Inuyasha over him.

Sango seemed to sense her friend's unease. "Fear not, Kagome-chan. Koga and Ayame are now happily mated and have been for over two years now. And while I'm sure he will be glad to hear of your return, I do not believe that Koga will cause a scene if they were to attend."

Kagome exhaled in relief over what she had begun to believe would've been an unavoidable confrontation.

Inuyasha just scoffed. "Keh. Took the mangy wolf long enough to come to his senses. Spent so much time chasin' what wasn't his that he couldn't even see what was."

Kagome blinked a few times at his words before shooting Inuyasha a teasing smirk. "Why, Inuyasha, I think that's one of the most romantic things I've ever heard you say!"

Inuyasha just gave Kagome a sidelong look of disgust for even thinking of pairing "Koga" and "romantic" in the same thought.

Miroku just laughed at them both. "Yes, well, Myōga seemed quite pleased with his assigned task and assured me that he would be able to inform everyone with plenty of time for them to make the journey here for the ceremony."

Kagome clapped excitedly as the full reality of the situation dawned on her. Not only was her wedding to Inuyasha happening in a mere three days, but all of their friends would be in attendance as well!

"Oh, I'm so excited!" She squealed before doing a little happy dance in her seat that had Sango giggling, Miroku grinning, and Inuyasha trying unsuccessfully to hide the amused adoration from his gaze.

But just as suddenly as it had begun, a thought occurred to Kagome that had her stopping her celebration in its tracks. "But… more than half of them are youkai or hanyou! We're having enough trouble with the villagers as it is. What will they think when they hear we've invited them all to the village?!"

She frowned and the others were still trying to come up with a way to reassure her when Inuyasha suddenly raised his nose to the air and sniffed… Which was almost immediately followed by a sharp knock on the doorframe outside.

"Hōshi-sama? Tajiya-sama?" A voice called.

Kagome's head shot toward the doorway before turning back to look questioningly at Sango and Miroku. "Is that…Rikichi?!" She hissed.

The low growl that had begun to rumble from Inuyasha's chest was confirmation enough for Kagome, even as Sango rose from her seat to greet the headman at the door.

"Rikichi-san, good morning. Would you like to come in? We were just about to have some tea."

Rikichi stepped through the doorway and glanced around the room. His gaze was met with curiosity from the Monk, anxiety from the Miko, and downright hostility from the hanyou lord.

He swallowed thickly. Part of him was glad to find the Miko and her intended there. Things in the village were getting out of hand and he knew he was partially to blame. Regardless of his personal opinions, it was his duty as headman to ensure that peace was maintained within the village.

He cleared his throat, moving to sit with them by the fire. "Gre– Greetings, all. I came to speak with Miroku-sama and Sango-sama regarding the upcoming festivities, though I am glad to see you both here as well, Lord Inuyasha, Lady Kagome."

Inuyasha scoffed at that and shot Rikichi a look that told him exactly how little he believed the headman's words.

Then, before he could speak again, Rikichi watched in wonder as the Lady Miko reached out to place a comforting hand on the hanyou lord's knee. The two shared a look that spoke volumes with no words at all. She with worry and love in her eyes, he with protective concern and deep affection in his. It was the first time in a long time – aside from their brief encounter in the street – that Rikichi had actually seen the pair together… And even then, he thought, had he ever really looked at them?

Three years ago, the two had come and gone from the village often with little fanfare, always in the company of the rest of their troupe, or else with Lady Kaede. He had been more suspicious of them then than anything else. This was the girl that had appeared so mysteriously in Inuyasha's forest, who had power that could not be accounted for considering her lack of training, who had turned the great Lady Kikyo's sealing arrow into nothing more than dust in mere seconds. And Inuyasha, the great and terrible demon who had burned his village to the ground, who had been whispered about in secret since before he was born… Had he ever taken the time to see them for more than what they appeared to be on the outside? He didn't think so. And in that moment, as he really watched the pair, perhaps for the first time, he realized that there was much more than meets the eye about these two now-legendary warriors.

Sango handed Rikichi a steaming cups of tea then, breaking him from his reverie. He sighed deeply, allowing his headman mask to fall to the wayside in that moment. The sound drew everyone's attention as he set his cup off to the side and promptly lowered his forehead to the floor, bowing deeply.

"My Lord, My Lady. I must ask you once again for your forgiveness. Truly."

The two couples shared a look of shock amongst themselves. If they'd expected anything from Rikichi's sudden arrival, it wasn't this.

It took her a moment, but Kagome finally spoke. "Rikichi-san please, I'm the one who must ask your forgiveness! It was never my intention to use my power in such a manner!"

Rikichi rose from his bow, shaking his head. "No, Lady Kagome, you had every right to be upset with me for insulting you so thoughtlessly."

Kagome looked as though she wanted to protest, but Rikichi held up a hand to still her words. "Lady, please, I must say something, if you would permit me."

She closed her mouth and nodded for him to continue.

"When I met you in the street three days ago I saw it as my chance to gain answers to questions that had long been festering in my mind… But I did not consider your feelings, nor those of Lord Inuyasha, when I spoke so carelessly of my ill-formed opinions." He paused, sighing again. "And now I fear that our confrontation in the street is part of what is feeding the ill-will and discontent amongst my people."

The couples watched him closely but said nothing, which urged Rikichi to continue. "It is my duty as headman to know about and be prepared for anything that this village might face. And I must admit, I felt ill-prepared for the final confrontation with Naraku. Then, when the well disappeared and reappeared, I knew that there was yet more that I had not been informed about. It was a perceived slight on my part that I allowed to get the better of me when I questioned you so callously in the street. And so I must apologize. While I would rather you felt comfortable enough to tell me the things that I believe it is my duty as headman to know, I do not wish to gain that knowledge at the expense of the trust and protection that your group has so graciously bestowed upon all of us who live here in this village."

Kagome didn't know what to say to that, and she could tell that Sango and Miroku were at a loss as well… which is why she was truly astonished when it was Inuyasha who finally spoke up.

"Rikichi-san, my mate and I accept your apology. I know more than most what it's like to be burdened by the duty to protect, yet you carry yours with honour."

Kagome watched Inuyasha speak. This was a side of him that he rarely showed to others: the thoughtful, well-spoken prince that he hid under all the layers of brash and hardened outcast. She felt pride swell up in her chest and decided to keep silent, allowing him to take the lead.

Inuyasha continued. "You're wise to desire an understanding of the well, and while we can't tell you everything, we can tell you that yes, it was by the well that Lady Kagome was returned to me… But it's not something you need to worry about. Her journey here was the final one. The well no longer works."

Inuyasha paused as if considering something before he spoke again. "You should also know that my Lady retains her powers despite the fact that she's now my mate… And it's not just because she's powerful in her own right, which she is. Kagome also holds the power of the vanquished Shikon no Tama."

Sango gasped at this. "Inuyasha! Are you sure it's wise to–"

Inuyasha held up his hand. "Rikichi leads this village and deserves our respect. If I were him, I'd be furious to find out that something like this had been kept from me, even if no one thought it might ever be a source of danger."

He looked at Rikichi again before continuing. "Which it isn't. You were there that first day, Rikichi. You know that the jewel came out of my mate's body. So it shouldn't be a surprise to you to know that when she purified the evil that lived within the jewel she also purified the jewel's power, which allowed that power to safely return to her soul. And while this information is a closely guarded secret, it's still important for you to know, since Lady Kagome and I have every intention of residing in this village."

Rikichi sat in stunned silence as the hanyou lord spoke. The magnitude of this confession was not lost on him and the trust his words implied was humbling.

Catching his eye, Inuyasha fixed the headman with a hard golden stare before continuing. "And you should know, too, that if I ever find out that you have betrayed our trust, there will be no second chance for you, Rikichi. I will hunt you down and kill you."

If you had asked the headman before this moment whether he thought he knew the hanyou protector of his village, Rikichi would have answered in the affirmative… but now he wasn't so sure.

He had only ever seen the Shogun of Edo once. And only briefly as he and his entourage had passed Rikichi, travelling on the same road. Still, Rikichi remembered the Shogun's eyes as they had locked briefly with his own. Eyes that held the same look as those currently peering across the fire at him. It was a look of unquestionable strength held in check by duty and honour. The look of someone who knew that they had the power of life and death resting firmly within their hands and it was simply a choice of whether or not to ever to use it.

In that moment Rikichi understood what Kaede had always seen in the hanyou and his compatriots. Youkai or no, he finally understood just what an honour it actually was to have them all residing in his village.

Unbeknownst to Rikichi, Miroku was having similar thoughts from the corner where he sat cradling his son. It wasn't lost on the Monk that less than an hour ago he had been teasing his friend over the royal title he'd been given by the people of the village… and yet here he sat, for all intents and purposes, every inch the Lord they called him. He, like Kagome, had only ever seen this side of his friend rarely and almost not at all during the three years that Kagome had been gone. He wondered, and not for the first time, what the Kami truly had in planned for their pack, considering the troubling fate that was supposedly set to befall them in 50 years' time.

Rikichi spoke up then, returning Miroku to the events unfolding around his fire. "My Lord Inuyasha, you have honoured me with your trust, and I swear upon the souls of my ancestors that I shall never give you cause to question that decision. You and your Lady Miko are welcome here for as long as you wish to grace us with your presence. It is the people in this village who should be honoured that you have chosen our home as your protectorate and residence. I will do everything in my power to see that the animosity that has been growing amongst the villagers is stopped at once."

Sango spoke up then. "That may not be so easy, Rikichi-san. You know as well as I that the hearts of men, once set, are not always easily swayed… and I do not think that you wish for your village to become a battleground of brother against brother."

Rikichi shook his head in sad agreement. While he wished to right the wrongs done, he knew that Sango-sama was correct. He was just about to say as much when the Lady Kagome spoke up.

"Rikichi-san, I too accept your apology and thank you for your words. I know that you know that Sango-chan is correct. The problems in this village go deeper than just what's happening on the surface. For them to have so readily turned against Inuyasha even after he has devoted the last three years to their protection speaks of the prejudice that most humans still harbour toward all youkai. And before you say it, yes I know that most youkai, especially lower youkai, are dangerous predators that must be dealt with. But higher youkai and daiyoukai are not necessarily like that."

Kagome could tell that Rikichi was considering her words, which urged her to continue. "You should also know that there will be several youkai attending the wedding as invited guests. I would like you to prepare the villagers for that. Assure them that those that are coming are of no threat to them… but leave the rest to me."

Rikichi gave her a questioning look. "My lady? What do you mean?"

"Inuyasha and I will be taking Shippō and Rin to market tomorrow to hopefully help ease the tensions around the village a bit. And you must continue to do what you can to assuage their fears, speaking up in defence of Inuyasha… But leave the swaying of hearts to me, because, so help me, one way or another this problem will be resolved before the sun rises on the morning after my wedding."