Chapter 1: Author's note
It always seemed kinda abrupt how quickly Kagome adapts to the harsh realities of the Sengoku Jidai especially since she was born and raised in one of the most metropolitan cities in the world and probably led a pretty sheltered life up to that point. Similarly, Inuyasha lived his life not knowing any semblance of social companionship and essentially just recovering from being betrayed by the one person he had dared to try to open up to. This series of vignettes looks at a time before things became "normal" to them. I want to explore this idea of "firsts", the first times they experience something and the first times they interact with each other and how they must've felt. There may be instances where I've written a "first" that may not completely jive with the the events of the manga/anime but allow me a little creative license.
BLANKET DISCLAIMER I do not own Inuyasha (the original storyline and characters) but I reserve all rights to the concept and exact words of the following writing as my own intellectual property.
Chapter 2: Eating together
Overcompensating for the weight of the object he thought he would catch, his knuckles knocked into the column of his spine. The thing felt mildly cool but fairly smooth and round under the pads of his fingers. Definitely not a rock.
Drawing his hand forward to peer at it curiously, he found that he was holding a perfectly firm pear. He sniffed. Smelled just ripe enough to eat. The hell?
"Inuyasha!" His ears darted behind, twitching faintly to identify the lilting voice. It's that girl…
"Hey! You want to come down and share with me?" She had almost reached the base of the tree he was perched on, neck craned awkwardly upwards to watch him, a vaguely annoyed crease flashed between her brows when he did not answer her nor made any movement to join her. He darted his eyes away, not looking at her for too long. People tend to react violently when he did.
He heard her little huff as she proceeded to flop down near the trunk, the many bundles and strings of items made dull thuds as they slipped from her shoulders. A golden fruit with speckled markings tumbled out of one of the burlap sacks, rolling towards her legs. He gave the matching fruit in his palm an involuntary grip before slipping off the branch. He crouched low a little ways from her and watched her warily. The runaway pear had now found itself caught between her lips, a little bit of the juice dribbled out the corner of her mouth but was quickly stopped by a dainty press of her fingers. The fingers that clutched his own fruit twitched.
She glanced discreetly at him, allowing herself a quick survey before skipping back to stare at the grass that tickled the bottom of her calves. His eyes were a bit narrowed, watching her somewhat suspiciously. The lines of his body seemed to hover just at the tension required to quickly spring him backwards and away at a moment's notice.
He jerked almost comically when a large white tuberous vegetable was tossed unceremoniously towards his lap, followed by two more of those pears. He swore he heard her let out a tiny snicker.
"Come on Inuyasha, eat with me. This is yours as much as mine." She was looking down toward the rice fields, careful not to add to his discomfort by staring at him. She wondered why he was reacting this way.
Hesitantly, he brought the fruit up to his mouth feeling his teeth pierce the skin and the sweet cool juices flowed forward to coat his tongue. It was kind of confusing, whatever is happening. But the pear was good..
Chapter 3: Eating together (again)
Eating Together (again)
Whatever the hell that stuff was, it smelled damn good. Too good. He was basically slobbering all over himself like a damn dog. It was fucking annoying. He grunted and tried to stuff his hands further into his sleeves, shifting his seat slightly to angle himself away from the direction of the fire. The scent seemed to permeate the air regardless and he glared angrily at the strange girl across the clearing who was fiddling with the weird little pot she used to boil water.
This was the first official day of this cursed partnership he'd been pinned with. They had set out this morning from the babā's village and travelled at less than a snail's pace all damn day. He growled lowly at that dumb pink contraption leaning against a tree not too far away. His traitorous eyes had trailed towards the girl again, his ears twitching to pick up her contented hum. Whatever it was she was making for dinner, it seemed like she was finished preparing it, swirling the chopsticks in the white cups. A low rumble of complaint came from his stomach. Damn it all.
He wasn't a weak human. And sure as hell didn't need their dumb food. There was time enough to hunt something later for himself if he wanted. He was used to eating only when it was available and it was a matter of pride that he could survive weeks without a morsel. His mood darkened significantly as his mind wandered through memories of famine as a child, roaming the scorched countryside with anything that could've been foraged burned to a crisp in the sun. He had learned then to avoid the villages at all cost. The cruelty of humans magnified with scarcity.
The crunch of her footsteps startled him out of his reverie and he fought to keep the surprise from showing on his features. A pale pair of knees bent and settled in his line of vision, the dark green pleats of her ridiculously short kimono pooled around her.
"Here." She offered as a steaming cup of noodles in broth was thrusted in front of his crossed arms. His mouth started salivating in earnest. He moved to stare at her.
This girl was either extremely daft or… He lost his train of thought. Her eyes were bright and steady, holding his gaze with no trace of deceit or condescendence. She made a little jerk with the proffered cup, motioning for him to hold it.
"Hurry up and take it Inuyasha, it's burning my hand." She chided gently.
Closing his fingers around the vessel, he noted how strange the material felt. Like paper but too smooth and much lighter than he expected. Sniffing faintly at the whorls of steam rising from the cup, he didn't find any hint of the acrid bitterness of poison. Kagome had settled down a comfortable distance from him and was stirring her own cup with unconcealed anticipation. The taste of the noodles did not disappoint after the hype of the smell they gave off. The texture was springy against his teeth. He hurried to pile more into his mouth ignoring the scald of the soup.
She had shared her food with him and prepared it even, without any thought to it, almost like it was the most natural course of action. She thought he ate human food, cooked, not raw or dripping blood and with utensils. All the opposite assumptions he was used to being made about him.
He was having dinner with someone.
There was a curl of warmth in his chest that had nothing to do with the hot broth he was gulping down greedily. He ignored it. Flicking his gaze to his left, he caught her tucking a thick length of dark hair around her ear, lips puckered to blow softly at the bunch of noodles she had wound around a piece of shiny metal. Feeling his gaze on her, she looked up at him with a quirk on her lips, and he caught a fleeting glimpse of something like understanding in her eyes.
"Hey remind me to get another pair of travel chopsticks next time I go home ok?" She slurped more of her noodles.
He grunted his assent, making a mental note to do some hunting for their meal tomorrow night.
babā - old woman; impolite suffix to address any elderly woman. This is how Inuyasha refers to Kaede.
Chapter 4: His looks
She kept looking at him.
Kagome knew it was impolite and her mother had raised her better than this but something about him kept drawing her eyes like a magnet no matter have valiantly she struggled to look anywhere but. So she came up with what she thought was the logical solution to her current problem - give herself the chance to stare as much as she could, get it out of her system and be done with it.
Now was the perfect chance. After their latest shouting match, Inuyasha had stubbornly plopped down on the right side of the door, crossed his arms and refused to move. Oh, make no mistake, she tried to get past him. Several times. The last time she even attempted to literally dive out of the door through the bamboo curtain but Inuyasha had intercepted her in a nanosecond and she had bounced off his chest to drop unceremoniously onto the hard, unforgiving floor. It was too bad she couldn't subdue him without breaking Kaede's floor. Obviously, she had yet to make it out of the hut.
Kagome gave a defeated sigh and drew her arms tighter around her knees from her spot beside the fire. Idly looking out the window, she noted the last faint purple glow on the horizon. Evening had set and there was no way she would be able to navigate adequately enough to get back to the well. If only she had a flashlight. If only she had anything really. That made her angry all over again. She just wanted to go home if nothing to get some stuff! Is that too much to ask? Maybe if Kaede hadn't been called out to see an ill villager, she might've added some power to her cause.
Her traitorous eyes trailed back to Inuyasha again. His hands were still jammed obstinately in his sleeves, legs crossed underneath him but he had closed his eyes some minutes ago and leaned back to rest his head on the doorframe. Except the occasional twitch of his ears, he didn't stir. Maybe he was asleep?
Right. Ears. As good of a place as any to start her observations. They lay a perfectly equal distance on top of his head maybe a little close to his forehead than the back, standing alert and upright. Kagome thought they looked like an akita's ears. They seemed to be covered by more like fur than human hair. The insides were a subtle pink, looking soft and welcoming. Kagome winced slightly in embarrassment as she recalled her actions earlier this morning while he was still bound unconscious to the Goshinboku. Well she knew they were soft, very soft actually.
Unconsciously, Kagome shuffled quietly forward a little closer to him to take a better look. Firelight was not exactly the most effective mode of illumination. Inuyasha's hair was thick and lush, pooling generously over his shoulders to rest in glistening streams on the floor around him. It made her kind of jealous how voluminous it was. The colour was silvery grey now in the dimness of the hut but it still reflected whatever light there was in a muted shimmer. In the sunlight it had looked pure white. Not the brittle white that she would sometimes see on older ladies but a vibrant, full colour. She remembered how it had fluttered so softly in the dappled light of the clearing when she first saw him bound to the tree.
Her gaze followed his thick bangs down to trace the contours of his face. He had a boyish look to him. If Kagome had to guess, he probably couldn't be more than one or two years her senior. His cheekbones were strong, the line of his nose long and his jaw was already quite defined. He would likely grow into his features even more as he matured. The tip of an incisor was just visible against his shapely lip. Unknowingly her heart kicked up its pace just a marginal notch. Trailing onwards, her attention wandered from his stubborn chin, down past the shadow of his Adam's apple, to the strong sinews of his neck disappearing into the white collar of the hadagi.
The deep red suikan and hakama billowed over his chest, arms and legs hiding the lines of his form from her scrutiny. Gulping, Kagome was appalled to find herself wanting to know what Inuyasha's body looked like. He was taller than her by about a head at least, and very lean. Most likely muscular as well seeing as he had cut down the centipede youkai with such ease.
Shaking her head at her uncharacteristic behaviour, she returned her gaze back to Inuyasha's face, line of sight safely at his dark brows. When had she taken to ogling a boy like the swarms of fangirls at the school sporting events? It was precisely at this distracted moment that she realized Inuyasha's eyes had opened.
"Are you done staring at me yet?" Inuyasha drawled slowly, one eyebrow raising in question.
She made a few incoherent sputtering noises, feeling her face go hot from the flush that no doubt had swamped her cheeks and neck. Still, she held his gaze, unable to really break the hold his bright eyes had on her.
"No." Kagome managed with a faint air of defiance. If nothing, she was stubborn to a fault and she was not going to lose this battle. She said she would exhaust this sudden fascination of hers and she will see it through to the end.
Silence filled the room again as Kagome pursed her lips in determination and held Inuyasha's eyes steadily. They were generously shaped, the golden irises almost imperceptibly larger than normal with an ombre like spread of colour inward. The rims were a deep umber colour blending into amber and finally to a bright clear honey. His pupils were elongated like a cat's. Abruptly, Inuyasha narrowed his eyes a fraction.
"What do you want wench?" He growled suspiciously. And just like that the spell was broken.
"Nothing! I didn't mean to stare. You know how boring it is in this hut right? Not even a book. Well you know, I was just… uh… just…" She gushed quickly, rambling on as she tried to find some explanation that did not make her sound like some creeper. Wait. What happened to being defiant again?
"Anything else?" He was still looking at her guardedly, trying to interpret her discomfort for any ulterior motives.
She took a deep breath and went for it.
"Um… that is… what are you?" She breathed out in a rush.
Inuyasha's eyes widened for a fraction of a second and to her surprise, dropped his gaze from hers to stare hard at a spot on the wall somewhere slightly behind and to the right of her. His face tightened around his eyes and he gritted his teeth.
"I'm a hanyou." He spat finally, still not looking at her. There was such disgust and bitterness drenched through the low tone of his voice that made her jerk back in surprise. "Half youkai, half human. You happy now?"
"Oh." She squeaked, completely thrown off by the acerbity of his tone with no idea what she had said so wrong. Kagome felt her heart clench involuntarily. Maybe she really had been inexcusably rude.
He let out some sort of grunt in response and made a show of adjusting his posture so that his back was now squarely in front of her but still kept his shoulder connected to the door frame. He shuffled for a few more moments and became still again. At the obvious nonverbal signal for the end to the conversation, Kagome made her way to the small futon Kaede had set out for her in the far corner of the room and laid herself down. Squirming a bit to find a comfortable position, she settled for curling up on her side facing Inuyasha. Her eyes again drawn to the silhouette of his back and the shimmer of hair cascading to the floor.
Confused and a tad irritated by the abrupt dismissal, Kagome still couldn't help but think — are all hanyou this beautiful?
Goshinboku - God tree
Hanyou - half-demon
Suikan - The red upper garment Inuyasha wears.
Hakama - The red pants Inuyasha wears
Hadagi - The white undershirt Inuyasha wears
Author's note: Just quickly before I confuse anyone, the stories in this collection are meant to be stand alone vignettes unless explicitly linked. They will not be in chronologically order, meaning in one story they may not have held hands but in an earlier story they have already experienced it etc. Thanks for reading! Writing this one brought a smile to my face :)
Chapter 5: Carnage
They had somehow walked right into the thick of it with no foreshadow of what was to come. One minute it was a tranquil, weaving path through the rolling hills, the next it was decidedly not. The moment her eye caught on the scene, it refused to let her jerk her gaze away. She froze, the breath stuck painfully in her chest. After that first intake of the suffocating fetor of decay, her body refused to exhale. Suddenly all she could hear was a high-pitched ringing in her ears and her world imploded into a suffocating tunnel focusing solely on the massive of pile of bodies strewn carelessly on the side of the road.
It looked like they had been lying dead for a while since the individual forms were hard to make out. Gelatin puddles of quivering brown-red oozed outwards, hovering with flies and already covered by dirt along the edges. There was a crow perched on one stump that looked like it could've been a hand after the fingers fell prey a scavenger. And she noted that torn piece of what could only be scalp, still trailed a few long strands of brittle hair lying innocuously in the middle of the path in front of her. The colour itself was fascinating. Who knew decay would render the human flesh to this sallow, grey colour. Like if someone left themselves soaking in a bathtub for too long and all their skin turned that wrinkled off-white.
Absently, Kagome thought she should maybe react by throwing up. That would certainly release the iron grip on her stomach, but her body wouldn't listen to her. All she could do was stare, wide-eyed unmoving at the corpses. Her mind was wholly fixated on how the ragged blocks of what she knew was human flesh could look like spongey rubber.
It felt like she'd spent eons staring but still, she couldn't move, couldn't release that breath caught in her burning lungs, couldn't look away. She made a pitiful strangled noise.
"Kagome." Inuyasha shouted as he whipped around to face her. His voice was harsh and rough but there was an edge to it she couldn't quite pinpoint. He sounded a lot like the way he would holler at her to move out of the way of a demon's swipe.
She had half expected a taunting smirk to show up on his face as he threw some petty insult about her being a weakling who can't even handle the sight of a little blood. Instead, his brow was knitted in a grim look, concern and a hint of guilt swimming in the amber depths. In a flash, he was in front of her, deliberately filling her entire field of vision with the familiar red clad chest.
Inuyasha was furious with himself. How the fuck did he not pay attention until they literally walked into an open grave. Yes, the topography of the area obscured the valley and yes, it was downwind from them but really it was inexcusable. Even as he whirled around to try to intercept Kagome, he knew it was too late. She was standing stock still only a few feet behind him, small form uncharacteristically rigid. And when she turned to him, her face was ghastly pale and her eyes were wide in an unseeing, blank panic. He darted towards her.
"Kagome, breathe." He commanded firmly as he clasped his hands on her shoulders. His grip was painfully tight but unwaveringly secure around the fine tremble of her limbs. He drew her gently towards him, trying hard not to let the inner anger directed as his own incompetence show through his hold on her.
And it all came rushing out. Her sobs were hysterical and tore shuddering breaths from her thin frame. The tears fell hot and wet, soaking into the front of Inuyasha's robes. And she reigned her world in tightly, safely into just the confirms of his arms, willing herself to focus only on the rough texture of the fire rat against her face, fisted tightly into her hands. Inuyasha was warm, and the rhythm of his heart and breath was slow and steady. It led her mind back into shaky control.
She didn't trust her voice not to break so she only looked up at him once her cries had died down to quiet hiccups. His golden gaze met hers in sorrowful understanding, without a hint of derision at her breakdown. He gave her arms a soft squeeze and carefully steered her up the hill, away from the gruesome scene behind them.
Chapter 6: Sitting near
She was babbling on enthusiastically about something, the excitement causing the inflection of her voice to go up and down in a pleasing lilt. His ears involuntarily flicked around to chase the happy tones. Inuyasha had no idea what words she was actually saying.
"Anyway, so that's what extinct means." Kagome gushed breathlessly. "So I'm sure that bird I saw is extinct in my time! Like there's a stuffed one somewhere in a museum but definitely not alive!"
She was sitting no more than three handspans away at his side. Easily within swiping distance. She could be dead before she could utter the first syllable of the subduing spell. Kagome seemed to lack the self-preservation instincts of the rest of her kind. He gave a heavy sigh. There was ample work cut out for him to get it through her skull that she should not be in such close proximity with youkai or hanyou alike. Did he not just try to maul her yesterday? Yet, he couldn't help but prod tentatively at the hesitant awe he felt towards Kagome's apparent ease with him.
She had her knees tucked up to her chest and one arm looped around them. The other arm was flung about in animated gestures as she continued with a happy ramble. She was so close he could feel the movement of the air she disturbed as her limbs continued to flit around her as she talked. It wasn't so long ago for him that he had sat with another human woman. But he had to take constant care to keep at least four shaku (1) away or five to be safe. Any closer and her discomfort had been palpable. That's why he opted to perch up on a tree most of the time. Inuyasha shook his head and tried to divert his attention back to the girl of his present.
"It was so blue, Inuyasha!" He was truly trying to put in an honest effort listening but he was blindsided quickly when he turned to face her.
Kagome had caught his gaze the moment he looked her way. Her grey eyes were sparkling with happiness, the corners scrunched in delight. Her smile was brilliant in genuine mirth, cheeks faintly flushed with excitement. And all of that overwhelming attention was directed solely at him. Inuyasha found his mind had suddenly gone a little blank. Floating in the emptiness was the single thought of how breathtaking she was in that brief second.
Wryly, he thought if Kagome smiled like that to any youkai of the male variety, he could probably finish them off in one blow while they were temporarily stunned. Actually, scratch that. She is not allowed to look at anyone like that. Ever.
"Are you even listening to me you jerk?!" Kagome had unfortunately interpreted his silence as disinterest. Just like that her grin dissolved into a small pout as she glared sideways at him.
"Keh." He was able to say that much while keeping his expression from looking too disoriented.
"Ugh. Never mind." She huffed, a note of irritation in her voice. Scooting back on her feet, she brushed off the pieces of dried grass from her skirt and plodded away downhill towards the village. "I'm sure Kaede-baa-san would be interested."
He leaned back to lie down in the grass, suddenly feeling a little worn. His life before the forced fifty year pause was a series of grim recurring themes, accumulating to the solemn stillness he was about to commit to for the remainder of it. Then the events leading up to the arrow in his chest happened. And now, the kami apparently have decided to compensate by throwing every contrasting thought and emotion at him in rapid succession packaged neatly in a strangely clad girl. He had only been awake for a day, damnit!
"Don't you ever find that the littlest things can make you so happy?" He heard her abruptly call back toward him with a little sigh.
"Yes." He whispered. "I do." So softly that there was no way Kagome could've heard.
(1) Shaku - Japanese unit of measurement roughly equal to 30 cm or 12 inches.
Chapter 7: Catch
He was used to killing things in the air. That was easy. He was also very used to launching himself in the air, to then rapidly change trajectory to avoid getting nailed by something of the nasty variety. That was not so easy. Still manageable though. But catching things, much less alive and screaming things, was most definitely a challenge.
He was fighting a tangle of vines that somehow managed to get a shard embedded in it. And too busy hacking off twenty something of the arms it waved around stupidly, he let one slip from his guard. And that was the one that went swinging merrily towards her. She dodged it, albeit extremely clumsily and found herself tumbling head first over the side of the rocky overhang. Really, what did he expect?
Cursing, he leapt off the rock face in a heartbeat, feeling his toes grip then push off the rough surface, but the point of contact was wrong. He wasn't starting off with as much force as intended. Muttering yet another string of curses, he forced his muscles harder and plummeted downwards. Faster! There can be no other way. There was no way in hell her fragile bones could survive a fall as deep as a mountain tall. Stupid humans.
There was a split second when he thought he wouldn't catch her.
The shiver of dread rolled about midway up from the pit of his stomach when his arms closed around her curled up body. The sudden addition of heavy weight jerked the wind from his lungs. Choking, coughing, Inuyasha fought hard against gravity and gained back his control in the air. She was a trembling ball tucked into his chest, his left arm wrapped almost entirely around her torso. With horror, he discovered that not only was his hand half gripping the underside of her breast where it met her ribs, one of the claws of his other hand had scratched the tender flesh of her thigh in his haste to grab her. He could feel the thud of her frantic heart reverberating through his own ribs where she was pressed so tightly. Then, her arms came painfully tight around his waist, her face burying in a fold of his suikan.
She smelled like panic. She obviously couldn't wait to get away from him. He could already feel her fingers pushing feebly against his arms, working to free herself from his iron grip. His feet had barely skimmed the ground when she succeeded and tumbled unceremoniously onto the grass.
He stood over her stunned as the dread continued its decent up towards his hammering heart. Fists clenching, he braced himself. For her accusing glare for his rough impropriety or for her disgust at having him in such close contact, for touching her.
She managed to turn her blood-drained face to look at him briefly before her attention was rapidly redirected at the ground below her as she emptied the contents of her stomach in violent heaves.
It was enough time to catch the pure gratitude in her dark, dazed eyes. He knelt down beside her hesitating, then gingerly reached to restrain her wild, tangled hair, as the waves of nausea wracked her thin frame.
That was the first time he caught her.
Chapter 8: On his back
To be fair, it would be much easier if someone was in danger, threat of death or they were chasing down a youkai with a jewel shard and every second was of dire consequence. It was not any of those situations right now. They were both painfully aware of what needed to be done and it was... awkward. It was Inuyasha's idea for them to travel on their back since she was a 'weak' human and moved too slowly (even by bicycle) for them to get anywhere at a reasonable pace. And Kagome, being a fairly logical person conceded that he had a point.
Kagome gave a pitiful little hop and managed to sling one leg over Inuyasha's right hip. His hand shot out to secure her thigh. Kagome swallowed nervously, realizing how high her skirt rode up in this position. To Inuyasha's credit, he didn't drop her this time. The previous time he had let out a bit of a strangled sound the moment his hands touched her skin. Bare skin. Somehow, when they were chasing demons around he had not realized what kind of place he had to put his hands when he ran with her on his back.
Ok, so she was completely on his back now. Just kind of sliding down close to his butt. Unannounced, Inuyasha gave a little heave to settle her up higher.
"Inuyasha!" Kagome squeaked angrily.
"Wench..." was the growled reply. It would've had the desired effect if his blush wasn't creeping its way around his neck. "Let's go!"
And there was a moment when she felt gravity pulling them down, but Inuyasha broke it's hold and they shot up into the air. Kagome's arms went around his neck tightly, face buried in a section of fire rat. The hanyou seemed to have set a steady rhythm of a burst of the launch, the long glide, then the light landing and repeat. She peeked up from his shoulder and found herself immediately in awe. The world was a blur of colour, vibrant blue of the sky and the lush forest green. The landscape was spread around them and she could see so far! The wind rushed through Inuyasha's hair, threading it through her ebony tresses to blow behind them like a flag.
It felt like flying. Inuyasha was taking her flying.
He felt her arms give a brief squeeze around his neck in time with the high-pitched squeal of delight so close to his head. His ears flattened automatically to the noise but simultaneously also wanted to hear more of that curiously appealing sound of her glee. Inuyasha arched an eyebrow. From her initial reaction he had thought she would be cowering for a while still, but that was unmistakably a happy noise.
"Inuyasha this is actually really amazing!" He heard her gasp. "You're amazing!"
"Keh." He muttered back. Did she just compliment him?
He felt her let go of his shoulders to bring her arms up straight out on either side of her. Then heard her sharp intake of breath at the feeling of them descending without her holding on. This girl is definitely missing a few marbles. Isn't she afraid of him dropping her? He knew he would never let her fall. But how does she know that?
Suddenly on impulse, he abruptly changed their trajectory spotting more hilly terrain ahead. He ran with short irregular bursts of higher speed, then more powerful jumps and steeper drops. Her little sounds of delight quickly grew to downright laughter ringing out behind him. Inuyasha smirked. The little wench had an interesting sense of fun. He felt strangely proud that he brought her such joy.
They had passed through into wide plains now and he had changed to a smooth, steady gait across the flat expanse. Having her to carry as he ran wasn't as much of a nuisance as he initially thought. She was nowhere near heavy; all it required was a small shift in how he usually balanced his weight. Speaking of the girl, she had gone quiet, having loosely replaced her arms around his neck. He could feel the side of her face resting on his left shoulder. A slight tug at a chunk of his scalp on the back of his skull told him she was probably playing with his hair. Then soon after, that also stopped. His ears flicked backwards, catching the sound of her slow, deep breathing. The girl fell asleep.
Inuyasha had no idea how to feel about this. Angry that she did not think he was at all someone who inspired fear? Or amazed that she trusted him to this degree when he had done nothing to earn her trust?
He sighed. The mighty hanyou Inuyasha, reduced to some human's mount.
Chapter 9: Night time visits (Part I)
Her left leg gave a huge involuntary jerk, rudely bringing to her groggy attention that she was currently perched on the fine cusp of being awake and being asleep. Kagome groaned and curled onto her side, burying her face beneath the blankets. She had a major exam tomorrow and most definitely needed the rest.
Suddenly, a dull thud penetrated the silence of her room, jolting her clear back into the world of consciousness. She froze, straining her ears to capture any more sound coming from the window. There was a short burst of scrabbling noises, like something scratching against the glass. Then a muffled string of suspiciously familiar curses.
Twisting to face the window, her eyes fell on the patch of moonlight that escaped the partly closed curtains. She spied a funny little triangular shape. It twitched. Then abruptly the shadow disappeared entirely leaving an uninterrupted stream of silver light. Kagome grinned despite herself.
Padding softly to the window, she slipped her hand under the curtains and released the lock with practiced ease. As an afterthought, she slid the pane open just a fraction. Just enough to release the frame's tight grasp.
Task accomplished, she crawled back into the inviting sheets and promptly passed out, a lingering smile tugging on the corner of her lips.
A/N: A quick note of thanks for all who've left a comment or kudos! Much appreciated :)
Chapter 10: Night time visits (Part II)
He felt unbalanced somehow.
Jumping high into one of his favourite branches of the Goshinboku, he settled into a lazy lounging position and closed his eyes. Then promptly, about two minutes later, leapt back down to the ground with an annoyed mutter. Inuyasha did not know what to do with himself. What had he done to pass the time all the evenings his entire life before this?
It must be the goddamn side effect of being pinned to a tree in an enchanted sleep. Maybe he just had enough stored up rest to last him the next decade. Must be it. Launching himself into the trees again, he broke into a steady run hoping to burn off some excess energy. The branches were rapidly thinning out to a wide clearing, a low lopsided structure coming into focus. What the hell? Did he not start out sprinting away from the well?
Coming to a stop, he landed lightly on the wooden lip and peered down into the inky depths, absently rubbing his head where a sizeable lump had now receded. He had strictly prohibited himself from doing a repeat of yesterday night's events. The ensuing embarrassment was a grand enough caliber; no need for an encore. He can only pray that Kagome hadn't been awake to bear witness to it.
It wasn't until after the ethereal lights faded from blue back into nothingness that he realized his body had propelled him to Kagome's side of the well without his permission. Damn it all. But since he was here anyway, might as well…
Effortlessly crossing the courtyard in two leaps, Inuyasha landed soundlessly on the tiles outside Kagome's window. He was very careful this time not to ram his brains into that weirdly transparent but very solid material covering the opening. Bringing his palm cautiously up to touch the screen, he was surprised to feel just a wisp of warmer air along the edge. Finding the slightest crack, he wedged his claws in and gave a tiny push. The screen slid open. Without much sound, thank the kami.
He poked his head through the opening and was rewarded with a strong waft of Kagome's scent. She was asleep, all deep breathing punctuated by a soft sigh here and there. Her back was to him, so all he saw was the gentle rise and fall of her small body under the blankets. Inuyasha extricated himself again and eased the window mostly shut. He was getting the hang of this odd contraption.
Still not really sure what to do with himself, he perched on the overhang outside Kagome's room. It wasn't like they were familiar enough for him to creep into her house like that. He really just wanted to make sure she was actually real, that all of this is real. So, he settled for watching the hazy glow of her time at night. Just for a little while. Then maybe he'll go back to the Goshinboku.
A/N: I originally did not plan to write a Part II to 'Night time visits' but here we are per request :) I always write down requests and if the right scenario and the right words pop up in my brain it'll happen. Just some faster than others so fear not!
Chapter 11: Touch
There was a swiggley beige piece of something elusively peeking in and out amongst the generous silver strands of Inuyasha's left forelock. He was going on about about her eating too slow and taking too many breaks and how he was finished ages ago. Kagome had zoned out while munching her snack bar, looking about when she spied the anomaly dangling just at the level of his neck.
"Inuyasha, is that ramen in your hair?!" Kagome let out a short giggle. With a wide grin, she casually reached forward to pick it out.
She was wholly unprepared for him to flinch violently away, left forearm raised and angled upwards to shield his neck and face. She squeaked and snatched her own hand back, raising surprised eyes to meet an equally startled golden gaze. In a flash, it was replaced by his usual angry bluster and furrowed brow.
"What the fuck do you think you're doing wench?" He scowled at her. The annoyance was a little forced, almost as if he was thrown off and maybe even a bit embarrassed?
Kagome pointed weakly towards the piece of lodged noodle, at a lost for how to react. He swiped at it indignantly, leapt to his feet and stalked away.
Inuyasha made a low frustrated noise like a muffled growl, let loose a string of colourful curses and strode away from her.
"Hey jerk! You are all kinds of rude you know!" Kagome hurled back above all the tearing noises he made ripping out the vegetation as he moved forward aggressively.
She noted that Inuyasha probably derived some sort of sick entertainment from their arguments. Otherwise, why did he not just leap into the trees and end it effectively instead of stalking away at a speed she could match with a light sprint? That thought made her angrier.
With a frustrated noise, unknowingly mimicking Inuyasha earlier, Kagome put in a burst of effort and sped up to close the distance between her and the aggravating dog demon. Reaching out, she grabbed his left forearm firmly within the billowing red sleeve.
Inuyasha completely halted on contact with her; his arm was absolutely rigid in her grasp seeing as his hand had clenched tightly into a fist. She felt a coarse tremour in the limb, as if he was meaning to snatch it from her hold only to change his mind a nanosecond later.
There was a noticeable pause in which she held onto him and no one said a thing.
"Keh." Inuyasha eloquently broke the silence with his irritated grumble. And almost gently, he wiggled his arm free from her now slack fingers, her mind too busy making sense of the situation to maintain her hold.
It wasn't until they got to the first village aside from Kaede's that she stumbled upon the clue to Inuyasha's periodic strange behaviour. Well, relatively strange considering his entire being was still an enigma to her.
They were nearing the outskirts of town when they came upon the two men pruning back the brush encroaching too close to the main path. Before Kagome had a chance to open her mouth to call a polite greeting. The first man, tall and heavily built laid eyes on Inuyasha and immediately brought his sickle down in a wide curve over the hanyou. There was no mistaking his intent; the trajectory was right at her friend's neck. She gasped as the sound of splintering wood rendered the air. Inuyasha had raised his arm over his head and the staff of the farming tool had cracked in half, the blade falling to the dirt with a dull thud. Calmly, he moved towards the other human man in mid charge towards him, plucked his sickle out of his hands and promptly snapped it in two as well.
"You dirty hanyou!" The first man managed to sputter. Got to give the man some credit for having guts.
"Not worth my trouble." Inuyasha growled warningly.
She was mute with shock and before she could muster up an indignant defence on his behalf, the altercation was already over. Inuyasha merely turned on his heel and marched back up the road where they had come from. Kagome consciously closed her mouth when she noticed she'd been gaping in surprise at his back. She was sure he was going to start a fight. With a start, she hurried to stumble after him.
Replaying the events from the last minutes in her head, Kagome recalled the move Inuyasha had used. Forearm raised high, angled slightly upwards to allow the tougher outside surface of the ulna to make first contact to deflect harder blows. So that's what he had done with her that time. He had thought she was going to hit him…
When her brain made that connection, her heart became dead weight, dragging her chest downwards. It gave a painful tug. Ripping her eyes from the ground to land on the silhouette of her friend, she couldn't help but notice the slight stiffness of his shoulders and gait. What had his life been like for that to be the first thought to come to mind? Her eyes began to water as she watched the back of his head, the flicking ears, his hair swaying lightly back and forth.
At that moment, Kagome vowed she would make him see that not all human touch had the intent to inflict cruelty or pain. From this day on, she would touch him as often as possible. She blinked once, twice, then felt her face go red.
Thank the kami she didn't say that out loud.
He didn't know if all human girls were this grabby but it seemed like Kagome frequently latched onto any of his limbs that were within reasonable range. For the last few weeks, he'd been forced to train himself not to instinctively jerk away or worse, hurt her with his sudden movements by accident. Habits solidified by time and more often than not, bodily maiming were difficult to break believe it or not. But then again, it's not like he can avoid touching her and still carry her like that on his back day after day. He had no choice in that matter either if he wanted to make any progress with the shard hunt.
To be perfectly honest, he was maybe actually starting to get used to it. Becoming something of a regular occurrence, there would be a small hand grasping at his elbow when she tripped over something, an encouraging squeeze on his shoulder, a slight form pressed against his back as he ran, and sneaky fingers creeping up to skim over his ears when she thought he was distracted. He had slowly conditioned himself not to flinch or move away.
Although Inuyasha had a feeling his new response was most likely specific only to her. His relative ease came from associating her touch with the proximity of her scent. It wasn't like he had anything generally against it. But frankly, aside from his mother, he's never had any good experience with human touch his entire life. Even Kikyou never really had that kind of familiarity with him. Physical contact had seemed to be as disconcerting to her as it was to him. Besides, who would want to touch him, a hanyou? Well apparently Kagome, that's who. The thought was rather pleasing to comprehend.
A light brush of fingers against his arm drew him out of his reverie. Smiling, the girl in question handed him his dinner.
The last kaze no kizu could have probably been better aimed but he did not give a rat's ass about looks right now. He needed that thing dead, and fast. In his peripheral vision he had seen Kagome fly backwards into the grove of trees after getting smacked by a tail of the now-dead youkai. He couldn't even tell if she was ok. Well, truth is, it would've been to his advantage not to send the rock ledge tumbling over himself with Tessaiga. Giving a loud grunt, Inuyasha clawed past the last boulder obstructing his path to open air and jumped out.
A soft gasp came from below him. He whipped around immediately to spy her at the base of the rock pile, hair tangled and face smudged with dirt. There was a loud clatter as she dropped the sizeable stone in her hand and broke into a mad scramble over the broken terrain towards him. Had she been trying to dig him out? And how did she even manage to lift that rock she'd been holding?
Quickly sparing her the trouble, he leapt towards her to land a short distance in front so that she collided with his chest.
"Inuyasha! I was so scared!" Came Kagome's muffled voice, words squeezed out between pants for air. "I saw you get buried!"
Immediately he felt her trembling arms come around him, grabbing at his haori, hands flitting over his torso checking frantically for injuries. Simultaneously, he had her face carefully cradled in both of his palms, amber eyes anxiously darting to and fro until he was sure she was only dirty and not hurt. His claws trailed tentatively through her hair to rest steady against her shoulder blades. His hands were still much more timid than hers but he'd come a long way to let her fingers roam where they will. Both relieved to find no blood, no pained response from either party, he rested his sweaty bangs against her forehead. She let out a breathless laugh.
His thoughts were circling round and round each other, fixating on the same dark theme. He could still smell the traces of human, multiple humans' blood on his hands.
When he felt the familiar warm weight of her arms settle around him, he let out his breath in a shuddering sigh. It hadn't occurred to him that this was what he had been tensely waiting for until he felt the press of her cheek against his. He knew this meant she understood. Her slender arms were firm around his shoulders. Anchoring him to the world. To her.
He didn't realize how heavily he had come to depend on her touch, needed it like nourishment for his soul, comfort for his heart. And the things she said without words, repeated patiently, unwaveringly each time they touched. The "I'm here", "You're enough" and the "You belong with me".
Chapter 12: Tending him (Part I)
She could feel his arm tremble as he turned away and wrenched it out of her grasp, the slight movement seemed to throw him uncharacteristically off balance. He was hunched over and folded into himself, hiding his face under his generous fringe of hair. Kagome cringed when her sight fell upon a large portion of the silver locks matted down with fresh blood, still fluid enough to drip steadily off the tail end past his waist.
"Inuyasha?" She called hesitantly after him, her chest constricting in uneven squeezes.
They had managed to stumble out of the glade where the dismembered carcass of the dead youkai lay splattered over everything. It had attacked out of nowhere without even a heralding smell or aura. She didn't know what kind it was, but her knowledge was anything but vast, seeing as she could still count the number of youkai she had seen so far on two hands. It was serpentine, no eyes but overcompensated for that with ample long teeth and a razor sharp line of hard crests running longitudinally down its body. Absently, her gaze flicked down toward the thin line of red running down the entirety of her forearm. If Inuyasha hadn't pushed her out of the way the second he did...
Snapping her thoughts right back to the pertinent issue at hand, Kagome trailed uncertainly after her new friend. He had made slow progress to where the trees thinned out on the bank of a small stream, taking halting steps. Inuyasha was usually bursts of speed and graceful strides. There was something wrong.
"Inuyasha?" She tried again tentatively as she made small steps amongst the fallen branches and shrubbery toward where he had tucked into a hollow at the base of a tree, facing the trunk. "Are you ok?"
He gave a quiet grunt that sounded a little wet.
Fear having rapidly crescendoed to a sour taste at the back of her throat, Kagome crashed through the rest of the bramble, ignoring the scratches collecting on her bare legs. Dropping to her knees beside him, she placed a timid hand on his left shoulder only to jerk back in shock. Her entire palm was coated in thick red, not just a smear but she had picked up enough blood with that brief contact to trickle down her wrist.
Oh kami. How badly was he bleeding?
"Leave me alone K'gome." He grinded out harshly, still not turning to look at her. If nothing, he was shuffling even closer to the trunk. "Need a few hours... make more blood."
"Let me see."
He didn't answer her. Didn't even seem to move to her eyes. The barely contained worry tore through her as full blown panic. Good thing Kagome was the kind of person that took stress and turned it into something actionable, something she could do, instead of being paralyzed with fear.
"What are you hiding baka?" She scolded quietly.
She grabbed both of his shoulders and firmly but gently turned him around to face her, leaning his back against the tree. Abruptly, bile rose up her throat, hot and sickening, traveling fast to her lips. Kagome clenched down hard on her jaw, swallowing with difficulty. She was not going to throw up; there is no time for that nonsense. Steeling herself, she trained her eyes determinedly on Inuyasha's front, this time willing herself to not get sick with the sight. Kagome have never seen that much blood before. The fire-rat suikan was completely soaked through on the left and now that the blood was starting to congeal, it was finally showing up as a darker burgundy stain. His left cheek, neck and surrounding locks of hair was all covered thickly in the substance. With a violently shaking hand, she extended two fingers to press against the spot just beneath the notch of his jaw on his uninjured side.
There was a beat, then a second, then another, weakly pulsing against her fingers. Kagome let out a breath she didn't know she was holding. Ok, get a hold yourself you idiot. Time to actually be of some help.
Determinedly without a second thought, Kagome got to work on loosening the front of Inuyasha's robes so she could properly survey his injuries. Worry briefly gripped her mind at the way Inuyasha did not make much of an attempt to dissuade her fussing like he usually did. Just below the collar she found the source of most of the blood. It was a small but very deep puncture, gurgling with sluggish flow. Thank the kami it narrowly missed his jugular but from the looks of it, it unfortunately opened into a decent sized artery. Pinching the two sides together with her left hand, Kagome placed the heel of her other palm firmly against the wound and pressed tightly. Her hand slipped around a bit, finding it hard to get a proper grip with the slickness on his skin, so she placed the other hand over top to steady two minutes seemed an eternity to her as she focused on applying enough pressure to stem the bleeding and allow a clot to begin to form. Kagome trained her eyes on Inuyasha's chest, watching it rise and fall slowly as she counted in her head.
Deeming it finally long enough, she dared to peek under her hands and was relieved to see only a vague seep. Replacing one hand firmly over the area, Kagome proceeded to uncover any other injuries with her free hand. A short breath of air was sucked through her teeth as her eyes fell upon his other wound further down on his chest. This one was superficial but it was large and looked ghastly even though it had already clotted some. The skin on the torn edges flopped about in frayed pieces, the pink flesh lay flayed open beneath the darkened gel of his blood. Absently, Kagome thought of the meat on display at the butcher's and gagged forcibly.
Somehow, she managed to get her pack open with one shaking hand and unearthed a bottle of water. Biting down on the lid with her teeth, she twisted with her left hand and unscrew the top. Clumsily, she sloshed a generous amount of water into the open gash to clean it as best as she could under the circumstances. Kagome didn't dare disturb the forming clot by doing anything else, shuddering at the thought of restarting unhindered bleeding. Finally releasing the pressure on the wound at the base of Inuyasha's neck, she was able to quickly unwrap a package of steristripes. Securing the edges of the wound, she pressed one end of the stripe tightly to either side, pulling the gash closed. It was only a matter of a few focused minutes before both of the lacerations were neatly shut. Now she'll just have to rely on his superhuman abilities to heal.
Letting out a shaky breath, Kagome sat down heavily on her heels. Noting the coppery taste in her mouth, she release the inside of her cheek that she'd bitten through. The adrenaline was still coursing through her veins, making her quivery and tense. She raised a hand to rub her brow tiredly and immediately regretted it. Grimacing, she realized that she had just smeared Inuyasha's blood on her forehead. Not that it really mattered, since she had brushed her hair out of her face so many times during the process that there was already dried blood on her cheeks, around the curve of her ears and soaked through her shirt in places. She picked at a few spots distractedly, the dry flakes clinging stubborning to the tiny hairs and make her itch.
After scrubbing her hands in the stream in earnest, Kagome gave up getting all the blood out from under her cuticles and made her way back over to Inuyasha's side. As she took in the sight of his closed eyes and the way the lines bordering his mouth was etched in a slight grimace, her vision began to swim. Dashing at her watering eyes and rubbing away furiously the acrid tingle at the tip of her nose, she willed herself not to cry. Instead, she reached up tentatively to rest her palm on Inuyasha's forehead.
"Inuyasha, can you hear me?" She murmured softy. "How are you feeling?"
"M' ok." He murmured to her lowly, opening his eyes with some effort. She caught a glimpse of the reassuring warm gold before he closed them again with a sigh. Relieved, she noted that his breathing was getting deeper and more even as time went on. The colour of his skin was starting to return as well.
Kagome settled down closer to him, angling them both carefully so that when she started pouring water, it would flow downwards away from them. Pulling a tuft of crusty hair into her palms, she wetted it a bit and began to coax the blood away. The repetitive motion was soothing and as long as she focused on the task, her mind didn't attempt to come up with all the ways things could still go wrong. She picked at the dried bits diligently, transforming lock by lock back to its former silver glory. All the while, she kept half her attention on Inuyasha's breathing, keeping track of its rhythm and sound.
And she waited.
Chapter 13: Tending him (Part II)
Once his marrow had pumped enough red cells into his veins to reach the minimum threshold to function, his senses started waking. He could feel strange textured cloth over where he was wounded, smelling cold-clean, something he had never encountered before. With some effort, he lifted his heavy eyelids to find her small form sitting uncharacteristically rigid in front and a little to the side of him. Bemused, he noted that she held a sizeable lock of his hair captive in her fingers. He wondered if she knew she had unconsciously assumed a position guarding him.
He could've been easily finished off in the mere hour of vulnerability. Even she could've done away with him quickly given a little effort. But he didn't bleed out, wasn't dead.
After a short exchange of terse words, and after Kagome - with great relief - fussed over him some, they had started to make slow progress away from the battle site. He did not want any altercations with carrion youkai. Kagome had put up much less resistance than he anticipated but he loathed to find the reason was because she was as drained as she looked.
She smelled overwhelmingly of his blood, and mixed in so faintly he didn't detect it at first was just a hint of hers. Alarmed, his eyes began darting about her figure to find the source. He scowled when he spied the long thin cut on her right forearm that she neglected to bandage. Aside from his blood, the sharp tang of his sweat mingling with his scent and a trace of fire rat fur wafted from nearly all over her body. The majority was probably transferred while she pressed against his back and from the tumble during their last fight. Her usual soft and pleasant smell was pretty much overpowered. He wryly wondered what conclusion any youkai would jump to with her smelling like he cared about her.
He glanced over to Kagome, who had refused to let him carry her, wearily trudging through the dense ground cover. Unexpectedly, Inuyasha felt a wave of guilt rise in him. With her smooth skin, innocent outlook, Kagome didn't look like one who led a life that's anything but peaceful ease up to this point. And here he was, dragging her through blood and demon guts.
Inuyasha quickly closed the distance between them to steady her. She looked at him with tired eyes and gave a tiny smile.
"I'm glad you're ok Inuyasha". She tells him with a soft voice. He gave her shoulder a gentle squeeze, hoping the silent gesture could still convey his gratitude.
Chapter 14: Reading
Kagome had spent the bulk of this week meticulously gathering data to support her growing theory. Her chemistry teacher frankly would be flabbergasted at the pristine application of the scientific method. On top of noting her observations she also had to pretend that she was doing nothing out of the ordinary in order to not rouse his suspicion.
The subject under study was none other than Inuyasha.
At first she thought that he was just being his usual annoying self, trying to get a rise out of her whichever way he could. That would be the most likely explanation as to why she could feel him hover just behind her shoulder like that while she was trying to read. He wasn't close enough that he was breathing down her neck per se but she definitely got the uncanny feeling that someone was behind her.
Kagome's knee jerk reaction was to, of course, either give him a piece of her mind or osuwari him. The deadline to finish reading the novel in time for the term paper for her literature class was one measly week; it had not been the time to be messing around. But, she wasn't gonna let Inuyasha win so easily if his end goal was to rile her up. So she had bit down on her lower lip and kept reading.
It was soon after that she started hearing those little huffs coming from him. A short grumpy exhale of air so quiet she wasn't sure she heard it at first. Inuyasha probably had underestimated her hearing enough that he let himself make the noise in the first place.
She turned a page. Huff. He repeated himself as she neared the end of that one. Hmm… She quickly skimmed the new page at lightning speed and flipped it over. Another huff. A touch more annoyed sounding this time. Kagome was beginning to understand. Once, when she came across a chapter littered with so much difficult vocabulary, she had to put the book down and fetch some paper to write down the words to look up later. And taking that opportunity, she had snuck a look at Inuyasha to find his brows furrowed in intense focus as he squinted a little at the open page.
So here's her hypothesis. Inuyasha was actually reading over her shoulder. And tonight was the night to put it to the ultimate test.
Kagome waited till they were deep into the latest plot twist. Just when it was about to get good, she whipped around with the grace that usually eluded her other endeavours in life and caught Inuyasha in a state of deep concentration. His lower lip was captive under a fang as he stared at the page. Or where the page used to be.
"Whoa! I didn't expect that! Did you?" Kagome exclaimed triumphantly, alluding to the events of the story but grinning because she'd caught him in the act, so to speak.
She watched in amusement as Inuyasha's eyes widened as if surprised his head had already swayed in response with her statement without his permission.
They were awkwardly silent for a moment.
"What makes you think I can read?" He finally grumbled, the brief disbelief in his golden eyes conveyed his unspoken words. No one thinks I can read.
"Well unless you find my shoulder endlessly fascinating, I doubt you'd be crouched behind me night after night whenever I'm reading." She replied teasingly with a quirk of her lips.
"Keh." He broke away from her gaze to watch the flicker of the campfire, seemingly uncomfortable. Kagome put the book down, spine facing upwards and turned to face her disgruntled companion.
"Did your mother teach you to read Inuyasha?" Came her whispered question. When he looked up, her grey eyes looked impossibly soft in the firelight.
"Yes." Inuyasha replied gruffly, still shuffling on his seat. "Sure threw those bastards for a loop. A hanyou that can read."
Kagome gave a silent thanks to Izayoi-san, the hime that Myouga-ji-san had told her about, promising that she would pick up where she had left off in Inuyasha's education. Not outwardly obvious of course. Inuyasha would definitely refuse if he got the silly idea in his head that it was somehow a weakness. Kagome reached out to clasp his arm but was at a total lost as to what to do next. Her heart gave its familiar sharp clench whenever she thought of the abuse he must have endured his entire childhood. She understood and she knew he knew that but was there anything she could say that he wouldn't mistake for pity and get angry at her?
"You read too damn fast Kagome." He muttered sullenly at last. It was such a classic Inuyasha thing to say and it perfectly diffused the tension of the moment.
Unable to keep her grin from stretching across her face, she launched onto her feet and dove into her pack, closing her fingers on the two slim volumes at the bottom. She had packed them on a whim when she returned to the Sengoku Jidai after writing her term paper yesterday. They were her literature books from several years ago. The vocabulary level was probably closer to what Inuyasha would be comfortable with. But he didn't need to know that. She'll just work him up slowly once it became obvious that they were too easy. And maybe, just maybe, he would share with her his thoughts on his progress.
Still smiling widely, she returned to Inuyasha and stuffed the items into his hands. Kagome watched as his expression shifted from distant and sombre to surprise to a warm look she had no words to describe. He held her gaze for a moment longer then dropped to regard the two books in his grasp with faint wonder.
"These are for me?" He asked quietly.
"Mmhmm." She replied encouragingly, meeting his hesitant golden eyes. "I can carry them of course, but they're yours to read whenever you want."
Not wanting to further embarrass him or drive him away, she crawled back to retrieve her own book, then promptly sat herself much closer to the hanyou, leaning back against his side with a sigh.
She felt Inuyasha slowly relax behind her and heard the rustle of the pages as he opened his book.
"Let me know if there's an unfamiliar word ok? The language has probably changed over time."
She felt him nod against the side of her head. And warmth bloomed in her chest.
Literature was definitely her favourite subject.
Chapter 15: Holding hands
Kagome felt her knees buckle a little when she landed, her legs quivering to keep her upright. Being hurled through strange dimensions via a portal the size of a pearl was difficult to adjust to. She'd thought she was well-equipped with years of practice balancing on a moving train without holding on, but apparently not. Quickly, she straightening up, pretending she didn't just about fall on her face with the hope that Inuyasha hadn't noticed. She wasn't up for dealing with another snide little jab from him. It had been a very emotionally (and physically) harrowing kind of day.
When not a sound came from behind her, Kagome glanced worriedly backwards as the thought that Inuyasha may not have made it out at all surfaced. She found him standing stock still at the water's edge, seemingly staring at the ground. His long hair was shielding his face from view. Following his line of sight, she saw a torn scrap of silk, snagged on a scraggly shrub. It was a beautiful muted pink, embroidered with a delicate floral pattern.
"Hey." She called out very softly at his still frozen form. Somehow she knew he could shatter into a million pieces at that moment if she wasn't careful.
"Inuyasha?" She tried again as she took tentative steps toward him.
Moving around so that she could see his face, she was a mere arm's length from him but still he didn't acknowledge her. Whether he was too fixated inwards or he was choosing to ignore her, she didn't know. His eyes were hard like glittering stones, darkened to umber. He was still staring unblinkingly at the cloth leftover from the Mu Onna who had masqueraded as Inuyasha's mother. He was definitely angry, but of a much more deep seated nature than the kind he usually brandished around at their enemies. But she couldn't really be sure by just staring at him from the side.
Kagome let out a startled gasp when her gaze landed on the fist shaking at his side; the only part of him that was moving at the moment. Thin rivulets of blood slipped through the tightly squeezed cracks between his fingers. Impulsively, she darted out to close a hand around his wrist. The thought he might attack her in his detached state did not even occur to her once. She felt him twitch.
"Inuyasha…" Kagome whispered. "Please don't."
She pulled his arm towards her, sliding her hand down to cup the back of his, ignoring the sticky feel of his blood coming into contact with her skin. Turning his fist to face up, she brought her other hand to his clenched fingers and applied gentle pressure. One by one, she slowly pried each finger open, trying not to shudder as she felt the claw catch as it retracted from his flesh. Then, she bravely covered his now open palm with her own, pressing firmly against the torn skin, blood and all. Closing her fingers around his hand she held on tightly.
After what seemed like an eternity, she finally felt Inuyasha's reciprocating squeeze, the pads of his fingers imprinting themselves into her. He met her gaze. And there was a world of sorrow in his eyes. It made her heart quiver.
"Let's go Kagome." He told her quietly, his voice low and thick with unnamed emotion.
She was surprised when he didn't shake her off to lead the way. Instead their hands remained joined between them, loosely yet undeniably connected as they walked away from the ragged shreds of Inuyasha's past.
It was a long while before he let go of her hand.
Mu Onna - in the English versions this was translated to the "Un-mother". She makes her appearance in chapter 14 of the manga, episode 5 of the anime.
Chapter 16: Cadence
He had thought he would miss the silence. Just the wind howling through the branches, maybe animal calls in the distance, or the hum of insects in summer. Mostly it had been silent. Only his own breathing, his heart, up in a solitary tree top for so many uncountable nights.
The faint crackle and flicker of shadows cast by the fire. The pop of burning wood.
The murmur of quiet voices sharing stories. The light chuckles accenting them. Her laugh, soft like a tinkle, hint of a breath. Especially her laugh.
The rustle of blankets, the foreign crinkle of her strange sleeping fabrics, the shuffling and turning as his rag-tag pack settled in for the night.
The houshi would snore if he overexerted in the day. The taijiya and nekomata usually very quiet. The kit likes to mumble incoherently at his dreams. She was more prone to murmuring.
Then just the wind, rustling the leaves, creaking the branches. But in the backdrop, a constant rhythm of five other sets of lungs. Inhale, exhale, out of rhythm with each other but still not unlike a quiet symphony. The undercurrent of their heartbeats, slow trod of the humans punctuated at quarter beats by the two little youkai.
There was that one particular heartbeat he seemed to always obsessively pick out and trail along with for a time. It was a compulsion he found himself repeating throughout the night. Night after night.
It had crept up on him, evading his attention at first but now as he contemplated from his perch above the campsite, the revelation hit him square in the chest. His house was the wild, the wide sky the roof, the expanse of forest its rooms. But it was to this soundtrack that he returned to weary at night. It was what he has now come to associate with repose. He dared not think about the people involved. Because then he might have to give a name to what they mean to him.
Damn his introspective tendencies every time the moon waned closer to a sliver.
He knew he was getting dangerously accustomed this soothing blend of sound to his nights. A part of him struggled valiantly to quell this attachment, knowing it would be the death of him someday. But another part, a much bigger part, rejoiced.
Chapter 17: Love
Kagome couldn't remember how old she was when it first occurred to her to want a boyfriend. She figured it was probably sometime at the start of lower secondary school when the more mature of her classmates began pairing up holding hands, while the shyer ones teased each other about who they secretly liked.
Sure she had a crush here or there that she giggled about and spied on secretly during gym class. A handful had handed her a cute note, or got her a flower or even invited her to the movies once or twice. Somehow they all felt a little superficial; fun but nothing really that poignant. Love, and what it entailed had still largely eluded her.
She thought she would know when she found it. And boy it made sure she knew. Just thinking about it brought a dry, self-deprecating laugh to her lips.
Love wore a face she did not recognize until it hit her with the force of a semi trailer.
The moment she caught sight of his familiar red-clad back, those arms circled so tightly around a woman not herself, the world stopped. And suddenly, in that shadowed grove of trees, the eery glow of the shinidamachu reflecting coldly off the bark, the leaves, Kagome's world dimmed. Just like that. Then came the sharp pang in the centre of her chest, so harsh she caved in a little, as if a physical blow was dealt to her from the outside, but all the while her insides were clutched in someone's invisible fist. It burned, wouldn't let up, and she ground her knuckles hard into her sternum in an effort to remove the feeling. Nothing could soothe it.
She found her eyes fixed to the sight of his silver head, lowered so close to the miko's face. And abruptly her vision wavered, the details blurring. All she could think of was, how could she sink so low? She will not look so pathetic. She would gather what's left of her pride and get out. So she clenched her throat hard, the muscles of her neck burned, the scorching acidity of it raced up into her nose and jaw. She dug her fingernails ruthlessly into her palms, allowing the pain to be her focus. Her tears didn't fall. Not even when he turned to meet her with that indescribable look.
Only when she was safely back in the shelter of her own bedroom, did she let herself go. Somehow, curling up tight on her side, lying on the hard surface of the floor brought her the most comfort. She let the tears seep out hot from beneath her lashes, a continuous leak like a summer monsoon. Her eyes actually hurt, the eyelids long since swollen from the abuse, but she couldn't stop crying. She spent the night like that, drifting off close to sleep but the thoughts still plagued her. Intermittently through the night, she pressed fingertips into the inside of her left breast, as her heart felt like it was beating too irregularly, like she was imploding. Kagome remembered wishing she was in physical pain instead.
The following morning was one of many since that she woke earlier to allow extra time to press a cold compress to her eyes. So that when she went down to greet her family wearing a smile, no swollen eyes would betray her.
She once thought it would be a light, sugar-coated sort of feeling, like the all too familiar fluffiness of shoujo manga. A dashing singer, or a caring senpai, or maybe her very own tuxedo kamen.
But her love was a dark, melancholy thing, a tangle of briars suffocating it with long thorns that drew blood every time she tried to palpate it.
There was nothing happy about this love of hers. It was smothering; it tore her to ribbons and left them scattered on the rocks for carrion to pick off. It had no substance but yet weighed her down relentlessly. But if somehow this bought a smile he so dearly deserved, an undying light in those beloved golden eyes, even if he was looking away from her, she would be ok with it. She would buy his happiness with her tears.
That was how she realized she loved him.
A/N: I find writing darker emotions much harder than warmer ones like the previous instalments. But unfortunately, Kagome and Inuyasha's relationship has its fair share of angst that shouldn't be forgotten, even if they are generally very good together. Let me know how this turned out.
Many thanks for all the words of encouragement and love in the comments/kudos!
Chapter 18: Glow
Really, it should be disconcerting. It would definitely be much more jarring if she didn't have Buyo for most of her life, peering lazily at her from the end of the bed in the middle of the night.
The first time she noticed it, her heart did launch an impromptu race. Her eyes had caught a pair of eery orbs above her for a second before she slammed her eyelids closed, pretending to be asleep, but all senses on high alert. Somehow she had managed to stay still in her sleeping bag while her brain sprinted through the available courses of action. Her bow and arrows were just beside her - if only she could casually worm her arm out to grab it. Alternatively, it would be much more effective to holler for her hanyou companion. But she hated seeming so pathetic.
"Oi wench," Inuyasha's gruff voice had called out harshly to her. "Your heartbeat is waking the dead. It's just me."
Kagome had berated herself incessantly after for being so foolish. Of course Inuyasha's eyes would glow in the night; he was part youkai after all. But honestly, cut her some slack. This was her first camping trip in a world brimming with monsters, most of which inexplicably want her. Only an idiot wouldn't panic when something peers at you in the dark.
But now, it's becoming a comfort she would look for. Her bedtime ritual if you will. Fold the flap down to cover the scratchy zipper, give the sleeping kitsune one more snuggle, then turn her face upwards to scan the trees. It usually isn't a long search. She would soon spy the pair of familiar eyes in the boughs above her. Warm gold, a darker, richer colour at night. Pupils darkly contrasted against the light his irises gave off. A soft brilliance not unlike the embers in the low burning campfire to the side. They would hold each others gaze for a moment, and she can never resist her lips turning up, always faintly smiling at him in the end. She knew Inuyasha would be able to see.
"Oyasumi." Kagome whispered to the sky, as she does every night. Then she turns to curl on her side, slipping a hand beneath the pillow. Even if a frightful dream wakes her, all she had to do was find and lock onto him. Always watching over her, his eyes like a beacon, making him easy to spot.
With those steady, luminescent eyes keeping watch, she would always sleep like a babe no matter where on earth, when in time she was.
Oyasumi - good night
Chapter 19: Defend him
Her eyes were hard and sharp, the normally soft lines of her brows and cheeks drawn rigid and tight. There was no give in those eyes, no room for persuasion, just this cold unmoving judgement. He didn't think she was even capable of looking like this. It didn't suit her. A lick of nauseating unease flicked through his insides. Would she ever direct this look towards him?
Inuyasha swallowed his unease. Bizarrely out of character, he had no idea what to do or say, not even some ridiculously insensitive comment. He could only watch her and maybe she'd give him a clue as to what he should be doing to break the palpable tension of the moment. It seemed like the rest of their group were in a similar frozen state, standing still just within the edge of the forest opening into the village outskirts. No one who valued their life was foolish enough to provoke Kagome when she looked like that.
He had walked ahead with Kagome into the village, while the others had lagged behind a bit. Just as he crossed the village border, he'd been pelted by a torrent of decaying produce, splattered him in the face and hair, dulling his robes with a disgusting palette of browns. He was thrown off momentarily, immobilized by flashbacks of similar scenes of his childhood, of being tied down like a dog by mobs of humans. His insides had clenched at the thought of such disgrace in front of his newfound companions. Before he could recover, Kagome had marched out and blocked him from the line of fire. At the first impact of something mushy and black against her left thigh, there had almost been an audible gasp amongst the villagers and all activity had ceased.
There was a sickening splat as the rotten remains on his sleeve dribbled down to land on the dirt. The sound was deafening in the stillness.
"Again, I asked for someone to explain what you think you're doing. Anyone care to enlighten me?" Kagome's voice was quiet but the tone of it cut his eardrums like knives. He struggled hard to keep from wincing.
An older man gripping a hoe tightly in his hand stepped forward from the rank of uncertain villagers.
"We don't want his kind here. It would sully our holy grounds." He spat, disgust dripping from his gravelly voice while gesturing to the large shrine visible on the hill in the distance. "So girl, get your repulsive animal out of our village if you know what's good for you."
Inuyasha glanced worriedly at Kagome who'd grown even more rigid if that was possible. He was used to this kind of attitude towards his mixed blood heritage. Those ignorant humans weren't worth a bat of his eye. He didn't need any vindication. His number one priority was to get her away and that disconcerting coldness off her face as soon as possible.
"Kagome, it's okay…" Inuyasha managed as he stepped forward to stand closer to her side. She turned to look at him sharply. Her expression still shockingly foreign on the familiar features, but her eyes softened for a fraction of a second as they caught his. However, her message was clear. She was not backing down. He gulped.
"Firstly, do not 'girl' me." She spoke slowly, calmly addressing the humans but her precisely enunciated words cut into the air with precision. "Secondly, he is worth more than you would ever know."
The man fidgeted and snorted in response. The villagers in the background murmured, wondering if she was a miko even in her strange garb. There was authority in her voice they couldn't ignore. Kagome took the time to casually fiddle with the bow she held at her side, running her fingers lightly down the shaft of the arrow held loosely by the same hand. After pausing longer than comfortable, her gaze snapped back to the man and the crowd behind him.
"The kami are watching. It is our actions and not our blood that defines us." Kagome continued quietly.
Then she smiled. A slight upward movement of the corners of her lips. It sent a chill rippling down his spine. Combined with the icy hardness in her eyes she looked absolutely terrifying.
"At the end of your road, pray the kami do not judge the way you claim to in their name."
Fixing the now completely silent villagers a long measured look, she allowed her gaze to momentarily focus on the shrine in the distance. Then, without another word, she spun on her heel and walked steadily past him towards the woods.
Suffice to say, no one dared follow them into the trees. Inuyasha, in one of his rare moments of wisdom, remained quiet. He was just trying to catch a glimpse of Kagome's face. Thinking of how spectacularly she had defended him earlier, he couldn't help but feel a spark of warmth ignite in his chest; one he didn't think would burn out any time soon. But still, it dampened his spirits and made him uneasy at the way the situation had forced Kagome to react. Inuyasha hoped he would never see Kagome's face look so unlike Kagome again.
There was a reassuring squeeze at his elbow. He looked up hesitantly to meet her eyes and actually sighed with relief when he found them their usual warm grey. Her features had reverted back to their childlike softness, matching the genuine smile on her lips.
"Thank you." He whispered, meant for her ears only.
Chapter 20: Priorites
He started off telling himself it was all about the Shikon.
The sooner he could hurry up and find all the pieces, reform the jewel, the sooner he could hopefully right all the offshoots in his life that had veered so disastrously off-course. Fuck his human heart and its preoccupation with deceiving priestesses. He just needed to focus on his goal of becoming full youkai and then maybe his life will start looking up. The unanticipated and highly annoying complication was toting another human girl around; this one not even properly trained and highly prone to attracting trouble.
Inuyasha's arms were starting to burn from the repeated downward slashes he was delivering to channel the deadly bursts of youki through his claws. It seems the more he cut down, the more fucking insects there were. The tatters of wings drifted down around him, raining the fine dust they were coated in. He sneezed violently, then cursed as he jerked to the side to avoid the brightly glowing stream that arched across the sky.
"Watch where you're shooting, wench!" He snarled angrily behind him. But he couldn't help but appreciate how many of the flying youkai she took out with just one shot.
Then abruptly, the whole swarm changed trajectory at once, funnelling away from him. Inuyasha thought he caught a glimpse of the gigantic one that Kagome had said held a large shard of the Shikon between its wings. Wait… oh fuck… that's the direction where the arrow came from.
With renewed vigour, Inuyasha twisted and turned in the air, the sankon tessou making an elaborate net of gold in the sky. He landed a few moments later, as chunks of flesh made impact heavily around him, the paper-thin ribbons of wings fluttering leisurely down behind them. Brows drawn tight, his tense golden eyes darted around the clearing, scanning through the endless piles of grey strewn amongst the dull green of the shrubs of the area.
Why does she wear green of all things, fuck, why not something brighter like his own fire-rat red? Kagome likes to make everything difficult for him doesn't she?
Unknowingly, his heart kicked up a frantic notch. His ears swivelled wildly around trying to catch any slip of laboured breathing. He kept passing the monochrome piles, still nothing but dead youkai and the brown-green ooze that was slowly pooling into rivers. He spun around at a dizzying rate, knowing he wasn't making a logical sweep of the area but too agitated to care. Absently, he noted the twitching piece that was slowly regenerating; they'll come back for the shard later. His nose was still congested with the moth's powder and was having a hard time locating her scent. Fuck. What if she was buried under the goddamn bodies?
Then there was a faint gasp and a soft cry of his name.
"Wench!" He growled, throwing in extra measures of ire to cover up something he wasn't ready to admit he was feeling.
"I can't…" She wheezed where she was pinned beneath a mound of youkai carcasses. Quickly, he shot in an arm and hauled her up firmly, kicking the pieces of flesh aside.
Golden eyes darted anxiously over her form, while his ears twitched to assess her heart beat, her breathing. Inuyasha barely realized his traitorous hands were halfway to their destination, intent on brushing the debris from her delicate shoulders before he snatched them both back abruptly. Whirling around, he jammed his hands into the safe confines of his sleeves and huffed. It was too late though, Kagome had already noticed his motions, a tiny smile forming on her lips.
"Now can you hurry the hell up and find the shard? We don't have all day you know." He griped at her.
Surprisingly, she merely gave him a halfhearted glare and began to pick her way gingerly around the dead insects.
He didn't tell her he'd already located it a good five minutes ago. And had ignored it. He didn't even understand it himself. Since when did she become more important to him than the Shikon no tama?
Chapter 21: Tweak
"That was the single most stupid thing I've seen anyone do!" Inuyasha hissed as he dropped to a crouch beside the dark haired girl dressed in strange clothing. "Did ya get dropped on the head as a kid? What the hell made ya think that was a good idea, wench!?"
Unfazed, Kagome merely rode out his tirade with noncommittal little nods of her head. Her attention was focused on cleaning the unusually sticky secretions on the newly acquired Shikon shard in the shallow water of the stream.
"Inuyasha, will you stop?" She replied tiredly, not bothering to look at him.
"Baka, you threw a stick at the youkai! What the fuck did ya think that would do?" He got even angrier now, his voice a harsh rasp, golden eyes slightly narrowed and flashing.
"I only had to distract it for a few seconds for you to finish it off!" Kagome retorted quickly, looking up finally to glare at him.
Inuyasha was frustrated with his lack of control on the conversation but if he was honest he was even more confused. He'd been dumbfounded by this human girl's unpredictable reaction to him ever since he'd been stuck travelling with her. His usual intimidation tactics have failed spectacularly thus far. Historically, the moment he came into view, the pathetic humans would run the other way. At most he'd only need to add a snarl, brandish a clawed hand to have them cower before him. He had not elicited even a whiff of fear from Kagome since the day he met her and attempted to take the jewel from her.
He leaned in closer invading her personal space to a degree that should be threatening, close enough for her to get an unmistakable display of his demonic features. He began a low threatening growl, curling his lip to reveal the elongated fangs. It wasn't the first time he'd wondered if she was even human. His nose wouldn't lie to him but hell, why wasn't she even remotely scared?
With an exasperated sigh, Kagome turned all the way around to look at him squarely, a mere handspan from his own face. Her big grey eyes were clear and unaffected, meeting his narrowed gaze and reflecting every bit of the intensity back at him.
Out of nowhere, something latched onto his right ear. Two small, dainty fingers cupped the shell, while her thumb moved remarkably gently back and forth along the top edge, disrupting the fur in a pleasant way. He froze.
His ears have not known that kind of touch for a decade. Since he was orphaned, the only contact with said appendages were strictly painful. They were sensitive and obviously a weak spot for a small pup. He couldn't count the times they've been bruised and battered by angry villagers, eager to concentrate their beating on the tell-tale signs of his heritage.
Her fingers had switched to stroking the back of his ear in a wide arc now, while her thumb stayed still, hovering at the tip. He'd almost forgotten he was trying to dominate their fight, mind thoroughly distracted by Kagome's ministrations.
The corners of her mouth were trembling; she was fighting desperately to keep from smiling. All traces of ire had left her eyes, leaving them twinkling, crinkled at the corners. He let out an annoyed grunt and pointedly jerked his head to the opposite shoulder, the edge of his captive ear popping out from the grip of her fingers. Tamping down the jumble of weird feelings in his chest, Inuyasha recovered enough to glare mildly at her.
"Inuyasha, I just want to help." She explained softly, the hand by his head had drifted down to rest lightly on his shoulder. She was clearly in a placating mood today instead of rising to meet his temper head on. "I don't want to always stand around useless on the side."
"Keh." He scooted back onto his heels away from her, jamming his hands into his sleeves.
The tiny smile was still tugging at the edge of her lip as she recognized his subtle acquiescence. Inuyasha watched her return to drying off the shard on her skirt when he remembered something. He sent a warning growl in her direction. Glancing up, she arched a questioning eyebrow at him.
"Leave my ears alone Kagome." He grumbled sullenly.
So much for intimidating her with his youkai features. Those damn ears.
A/N: As we know, the first time Kagome fondled Inuyasha's ears was when he was still pinned to the tree. Assuming Kagome never told him, I would imagine the first time from his POV as this.
Chapter 22: Kill
She almost choked on her own spit that she was nervously swallowing when she noticed that pair of beady, blood-red eyes was staring directly at her. Kagome fumbled backwards, one foot awkwardly after the other in an attempt to get away but still keep her eye on the youkai. Her gaze darted amongst the dense trees looking for a flash of red, instantly dismayed when she found Inuyasha caught in a vortex of advancing demons, tails and limbs of all sorts obscuring her view. Short flashes of ethereal blue in the corner of her eye quickly told her Shippou was likewise occupied quite a far ways from her.
She was going to have to hold her own.
In her moment of shifted attention, the youkai that was hunting her had gained appreciable distance. Its mouth was open, disproportionately long tongue lolling out from between the sharp uneven teeth, spittle flying back. It moved on all fours, the body looking like a wolf but the snout had the bulk of a bear’s. Her hand groped helplessly along her back, fingers finally closing around the shaft of an arrow. Just as she was starting to bring her bow up to notch it, her left foot caught on something, yanking her body back. It was all the opening the demon needed. She heard the sharp snap cutting through the air, the crescendo of a snarl and then the hard impact of something hitting her shoulders. She was falling back, the creature having pounced on her. She didn’t even have the time to scream.
Somehow, her body moved of its own accord, likely driven by the ingrained instinct to stay alive. Her right hand gripping the arrow swung upwards, the head barely had time to glow faintly pink before it embedded itself with a sickening squelch. Right in the vulnerable underside of the youkai’s jaw where it met the neck. The shaft of the arrow snapped hard on impact, the end bearing the fletching splintered into her hand. Kagome hit the ground hard, knocking the breath from her lungs and rolled automatically to the side. The body of the youkai crashed down a handspan beside her.
Chest heaving with exertion, Kagome remained still, her eyes unable to tear away from the gaze of the dying creature. They laid there side by side like a perverse pair of lovers, looking into each other’s eyes. The threatening red glare of the youkai’s eyes had long extinguished, clouded over by pain and distress. She could hear the grating rasps of its breath as it tried to draw air around the arrow in its throat. It let out a pitiful, scared whimper. Shaking, Kagome made to reach her hand out to it but recoiled violently when she caught sight of the crimson liquid coating her own arm, dripping slowly down to her elbow. Somehow she hadn’t felt the thick, warm blood on her skin until now, oozing its way between her fingers.
What was she even hoping to do? Comfort it? When she was the one to end its life? What kind of cruel, sick freak was she?
She watched as the light left the youkai’s eyes. She never had to kill anything other than bugs before. And those unwelcome trespassers were usually dealt with by Kagome’s brother or grandpa. Her meat came in safe, innocent plastic wrapped packages all lined up. They didn’t have a face, or eyes, or terror as death finally caught up to them. Their whimpers didn’t echo around her head.
“Kagome!” A strangled cry came from across the clearing, the voice so familiar but hoarse with emotion.
She lifted up to her elbows to locate him. There was a foreign expression on Inuyasha’s face she had never seen before. Something akin to a wild panic painted across his features. Kagome only had a few seconds to take it in before her vision blurred. The tears spilled over hot and gushing down her cheeks. The only way she knew to purge all the feelings warring inside her.
A/N: Well, here's something to cut the fluff a little (don't hurt me). Let me know how I did, dear readers. Thank you, as always, for your encouragement and support!
Chapter 23: What's in a name?
"Let's go, Kagome."
He dropped it on her just like that. Nonchalant, in those low reverberating tones that were becoming increasingly familiar to her. When she least expected it. She'd spent the better part of the last fortnight berating him about all the abrasive words he'd use instead of her name without much progress. Until now. He wasn't even really looking at her when he said it either, his head turned casually to glance off in the direction of the village.
No '-san', no '-chan', no suffix. Kagome. Just Kagome. No one in her life called her by her given name except her family. Not even her closest friends and certainly no boy had ever called her that intimately. Hojo-kun —the closest she had come thus far to a romantic interest— had always insisted on calling her by her surname even. Inuyasha called her like family would or… like a lover. That thought made her heart quiver funny in her chest.
Kagome found she didn't mind at all. She supposed it should've been considered quite rude and probably might've been a bit offended if some other guy in her time had done the same. But this was Inuyasha. Wild, unbridled, proud Inuyasha. She couldn't imagine him using any honourifics for anyone. A giddy grin stretched itself across her lips. She liked being Kagome to him. Just Kagome.
After all, since she'd met him, he'd been Inuyasha to her. Just Inuyasha.
"That's the first time you've called me by name."
She sounded so happy, so awed that he'd actually said her name. Like it mattered. Like it was important to her that some half-breed would use her name. That surprised him. But travelling with her thus far —hell, just the idea of spending so much concentrated time with another person— had been a barrage of surprises one after the other leaving him feeling constantly disoriented.
Inuyasha would rather gut himself than tell a living soul, but the truth of the matter was, he'd spent more than a healthy amount of time contemplating. Names were powerful things, not only to the person it defined but using it meant something. At least to him. There were two names in his life so far; one he knew like his own blood but never used, the other he dared to utter and later caused his world to come crashing down. Izayoi—Haha-ue's— and Kikyou.
He wasn't sure he wanted this strange human girl to mean something to him, to take up space in his life. But day after day he'd looked into her big grey eyes, feeling the weight of her belief in him palpably like the weight of her body pressed against his back, he'd finally decided. Yes. He was going to take the plunge again.
Damn sentimental human heart. Probably on its merry way to fucking him up hard for the second time.
Haha-ue: an older, reverent form of addressing one's mother. The 'ue' meaning 'above', as in literally above oneself. Less commonly used in modern times.
A/N: This is a request from File 13.
(Also, I am so fond of this scene and will use any excuse to write it...)
Chapter 24: Near death
It was warm.
And he was pillowed on something very soft. It was mostly a pleasant, so very familiar scent suffusing his nose but underneath that he could feel the thick clots of blood in his sinuses, one by one sliding down his throat to join their brethren lower down the tract.
Oh right. His last thought was he might actually die. The son of a bitch had slashed his neck at the very last minute when he had thought he'd taken the youkai down. Is hell really like this then? All soft and warm and sweet smelling?
Inuyasha couldn't tell if he was awake or hallucinating, his vision nothing but pulsating dots punctuating the dark. His limbs were limp, not really responding to his instructions. It wasn't like he struggled too hard though. It was too comfortable where his face was pressed into. Smelled nice too. Smelled like Kagome.
With that thought, he renewed his efforts to fight the enclosing fog that signalled the dawn of unconsciousness. He had to at least make sure she made it out of the fight safely. Focusing on his other senses, he noted some shallow breaths, although he couldn't really tell if they were his own. Expanding a bit further, he could now feel a slender arm circling the top of his shoulders tightly, its palm cool against his right cheek, the other arm cradled the back of his head. With considerable effort, and burning pain rippling down his neck and throat, he lifted his head.
So what he was pillowed on was Kagome's chest. If it was any other moment, he would've flushed a shade to match his clothing but now was not that time. Well, he supposed he could still save the blushing for future recollections of the event. His blurry vision was enough to make out the details of her face in this proximity. Her raven hair was flying in wide angles borne by her erratically flaring aura around her blanched face. Briefly he wondered if he should be worried she'd purify him by mistake. Her dark eyes were impossibly wide but dry, pupils dilated to span most of the iris and she stared straight ahead. The hand that wasn't on his cheek stroked through his hair mechanically. She was in shock.
He tried to say her name and made a dreadful noise instead, a contradicting sound between a rasp and wet gurgle. Guess he hadn't healed enough to recover function of his vocal cords yet.
But still it seemed to do the trick, as Kagome's face snapped down to lock onto his and he watched as her pupils constricted to meet his glazed golden eyes.
"Inuyasha!" She gasped with a strangled noise, a mix of a sob and a laugh. Then the tears rushed out suddenly, spilling down her cheeks.
He found himself folded back into her, his cheek resting on the upper swell of her breasts. Her arms tightened even more around him, her fingers tangled in his hair. She was outright sobbing now, cries muffled by the top of his head, where her face was pressed between his flattened ears.
He sighed and surrendered to the ebbing consciousness which had once again become apparent now that he'd confirmed Kagome's wellbeing. He closed his eyes, shifting slightly to avoid a wet (likely bloody) patch. After all, it was soft and warm and smelled of Kagome. He couldn't think of any better place to recuperate.
A/N: I can't tell if this is 'first time Inuyasha wakes up from almost dying" or "Inuyasha's first close encounter with breasts" ;) Honestly, I just had some fluff I wanted to write. Hope it was enjoyable nonetheless.
Chapter 25: Worry
She banked the fire with practiced movements, tucking the embers deftly against each other. Setting the poker down in its accustomed spot, Kaede glanced discreetly at the flickering shadows on the opposite corner of the room. From this angle, only the folds of the heavy blanket draped over the girl's small form can be seen, and the dark tumble of her hair fanned against the wooden flooring. Not even two feet from her head pooled the generous fabric of a familiar pair of hakama, the red just a little too luminous to be normal. The owner of said clothing had his legs crossed, arms tightly wound in his sleeves against his chest. His face was unreadable and essentially hidden beneath he full fringe of his hair, his attention directed downwards and focused intently on the sleeping visage of the girl in front of him. He sat so still. The only part of him moving were the two ears perched on top of his heading, swivelling about, one alternately focused on the slumbering figure, one keeping track of sounds filtering through the hut entrance.
The elderly priestess's attention drifted down toward the child that was currently being guarded so intently by the hanyou. The foreign girl had tumbled into her life as abruptly as her sister had been snatched away. When viewed from certain angles, Kagome echoed her sister's face but with a softness and belief that her sister never had. Truly, Kagome reminded her more of herself at that age. Kaede gave a tiny shake of her head at her next thought. And to think she had feared for this child's life at the hands of the hanyou Inuyasha only a few weeks ago. So much so that she had resorted to uttering the incantation that sent the kotodama no nenju into formation around his neck. But now it was evident the truth could not be further.
This afternoon, he had crashed through the door of her hut, nearly ripping off the swinging tatami mat in his haste. If she hadn't heard his brash shouts booming across the valley minutes before his arrival, he would've likely stopped her old heart with fright. He had looked almost feral, eyes flashing wildly, silver hair whipping about in his agitated youki. And amidst all this, with contrasting care was Kagome draped over his back, unconscious. He'd yelled a bunch of obscenities then, something about her being an idiot and that she better not die before she cleaned up her mess, accented with many chosen expletives of course. But Kaede had earned her years. She saw the lost look, how he swallowed anxiously between each burst of insult and that his claws flexed and clutched at the fabric of Kagome's sleeve when he set her down on the mat. As if he was afraid to let go.
Kagome had thankfully only gotten a bump and a bit of a nasty scrape on her forehead. She had woken up shortly after they arrived and fallen asleep again after an herbal tea. Inuyasha had remained in the same position since.
Kaede sighed, rising to make her way to her own bedding set up on the opposite.
"Inuyasha, the child is well." She whispered softly in his direction as she passed.
His head snapped up and suddenly Kaede felt uncomfortable being pinned by that piercing, golden stare. In that split second, there was no guard over his eyes, just a flash of worry, almost childlike. But when she tried to look again it was gone, replaced by the usual steady, observing look. They were really both children. Suddenly, Kaede felt old.
After a moment of holding her gaze, he grunted at her in response, and just fleetingly, a small downward jerk of his head. An unspoken gesture of gratitude. He returned his intense gaze back to Kagome and did not look like he was going to abate anytime before she awoke naturally with next morning's sun.
A/N: One of my personal favorites :)
Chapter 26: Protect him (Part 1)
The flare of the hama-no-ya was scorchingly bright, searing though the encroaching blackness over his vision. He could just make out the wind blades crash against the reiki that stood firm and unyielding, sheltering him from harm.
The haze was bleeding inwards from the edges of his vision again. Absently, he noted that he had probably lost too much blood. But no, he needed to fight it. He willed his eyes to clear, if nothing, maybe he could just see her one last time.
The line of her jaw was drawn taut pulling at the delicate structures of her slim neck. He could just make out the shifting shadows on her left cheek and if it wasn't for the blood pooling into his ears he might've heard the grind of her teeth set against each other. Being prostrated on ground like a broken doll did not offer the best vantage point but he could still see that grim focused determination glittering in her eyes.
Fuck. It was not supposed to be like this. He should be in her place, legs wide and firmly planted like hers was. Yet all that was between him and that unfathomably lethal bastard was the fragile body of a human girl. And he can't even fucking lift his fucking arm right now. His claws flexed painfully, uselessly. She should not be throwing her life away to protect him.
Kagome drew the bowstring back with a fluid motion, the tense lines of her shoulder and arms radiating an unyielding certainty. Even though his blurry eyes could still make out that fine tremble in her knees, he could feel her power pulse. She was so strong.
The arrow took. He could vaguely make out the retreating stance of Naraku. The blackness finally flooded his vision in an unrelenting wave and he found himself succumbing almost willingly.
He was safe with her.
Hama-no-ya: arrow imbued with spiritual powers
Chapter 27: Protect him (Part II)
"That's not the first time she's done that you know?" A thoughtful voice came from somewhere beside him.
Inuyasha groaned. This was not something he wanted to hear right now. His damned human heart felt as shredded and battered as his body did. He was torn between a multitude of emotions each pulling in an opposite direction leaving his nerves ridiculously frayed. And guilt. So much guilt. Because of his mess - the shit he was too weak to deal with - every one of the people that was associated with him bore the brunt of the consequences. Especially Kagome. Her arrow could've easily backfired and she would've died a million deaths while he lay there useless. He clenched his fists hard at his side, relishing in the grounding pain of claws piercing flesh.
At least he was alone with Miroku and no one else would hear their shameful conversation. Kagome had left to get more water and to scrub out his bloodstained clothing. Everyone else had volunteered to guard her, leaving the other man here to make sure he behaved.
"Kagome-sama has thrown herself in harm's way for you countless times without a thought for herself." Miroku continued on conversationally as if the subject matter was simply the weather and not life or death. That riled him up.
"Is that supposed to make me feel better monk?" He growled warningly. "I am still plenty able to hand deliver your ass to the Buddha right now if you don't shut the fuck up."
"Is it not an honour and a high testament to one's worth to warrant protection like that?" The houshi continued on unfazed by his threat, making a pointed glance at the blood soaked bandages crisscrossing his torso.
That took him by surprise. Inuyasha made a harsh noncommittal noise in response.
"Kagome-sama threw herself at your unconscious body hoping to shield you from Sesshoumaru too. It was the time you had turned full youkai and was temporarily incapacitated by Toukijin. She did not even have her bow with her. Only her glare and her words. If I even needed another reason, witnessing that alone secured my utmost respect for Kagome-sama." Miroku mused quietly. He needed the hanyou to know the depth of Kagome's devotion to him, even if the girl herself would never say a word in her own defense.
Inuyasha did remember the other times Kagome had fiercely protected him. The image of her resolute face, eyes stubbornly determined yet still sparkling with tears rose unbidden in his mind. The pulsating flash of Tessaiga's barrier transforming her tears into hundreds of shining jewels as they fell from her face. He would never forget. He still could not quite process that it happened in the first place. She had barely known him for more than a fortnight and he had been useless to her as a human.
"At times like those I'm humbled by the fortitude of our dear friends. They may not have been born with a man's strength…" Miroku paused to glance at his friend, then added "or a demon's reflexes, but the pure power of will and belief is staggering to behold."
He had feeling Miroku was not just talking about Kagome at this point, but the taijiya as well.
"We can just strive to live up to their example huh my friend?" Miroku gave a short chuckle and patted him on the shoulder good-naturedly. Seeming to run out of wisdom to impart for the time being, Miroku let it lapse back into silence to Inuyasha's great relief, leaving the hanyou to his own thoughts.
The monk was wrong. He wasn't worth Kagome's life. Why didn't she understand that?
Chapter 28: Gifts
The first time she had them, she was told they were sacred fruits. Given to those with spiritual power, it would give them focus and distill their purity. Kagome just thought they tasted damn good to be honest. Nothing really felt different afterwards when she probed gently at the growing pool of something she'd begun to recognize as her reiki. When she asked Miroku about it, he'd put on that serene expression of his and said that this too is part of the buddha's mystery. But one corner of his mouth had twitched and Kagome had a sneaking suspicion that maybe it was just a secret scheme to keep those tasty little fruits to themselves. Not that there were very many; one each for the two of them. The villagers had been so grateful after they had helped get rid of a youkai preying on the small village and wouldn't let her decline the small tribute. Later, Miroku had told her those fruits were hard to find and harder to reach even if one did find them. They apparently grew on little shrubs on the sides of high craggy mountains that got generous amounts of fog and rainy mist year round.
The next time she had returned home, she had conducted some serious research as to what the fruit was called. But absolutely zero hits. They were so good though! The texture was crisp like her favourite apple variety, with a rich fragrant sweetness like exotic passionfruit, cut through by a hint of tartness, not unlike citrus. Nothing in the modern day documented them, and Kagome hoped they weren't extinct. But if they were rare even in the Sengoku Jidai then the chances of her having one again was probably nil. Turns out though, she was in for a treat.
They had a rough morning after a particularly nasty carrion youkai with a shard ambushed them in the mountain pass. It was an exhausting battle but thankfully everyone emerged with nothing worse than a bad scrape. They had decided a little rest after lunch was in order and Kagome took the chance to attempt to wash the demon guts from her socks in the nearby stream.
There was a burst of youki high up above and speeding towards her. Her gait stilled only a second before resuming her leisurely walk back to the others snoozing under a big tree. She knew the warm feel of that youki like the back of her hand. And sure enough, another few seconds and then came the familiar sound of his soft landing in the short grass behind her. What she didn't expect was for him to rush her.
"Inuya—, wha—" She sputtered as he zipped by her to quickly but gently grabbed her arm, and she felt the familiar prickle of his claws as he tucked something spherical and cool into her palm.
"Hey…" She began as she gaped at him, her words though, soon stilled. Was that a blush on his cheeks? She couldn't really be sure since he had already turned away and resumed a slow saunter just a little ahead of her on the path, arms jammed into his sleeves, ears twitching madly. Pointedly ignoring her.
Curious, Kagome looked down as she carefully opened her right palm. Tucked inside were three tiny lemon shaped fruits, perfectly cheery green, firm and cool to the touch. There were short stems attached to these unlike the last time. And on them were little leaves that looked like shamrocks but more like three delicate triangles joined by the top point.
Grinning, she rushed ahead to catch up with her hanyou companion. She seized one wrist in billowing red and squeezed it gently.
"Awww Inuyasha! Thank you!" She gasped up at him, her eyes brightening mischievously when she noticed that he indeed still sported a little pink on the cheekbones. He was still not making eye contact with her though. But he had given her a present and so Kagome decided to be merciful and not tease.
"Keh." He scoffed at her, with no real irritation.
She shook her head in amusement and directed her attention back to the pretty leaves in her hand, mindful not to bruise them. As such, she didn't notice her companion's warm golden gaze settle on her, proudly memorizing the wide smile that ensued from something he did.
Later on, she would smile fondly every time she came across the sprig of dainty leaves carefully folded into a piece of paper that had faded calculus equations on it and pressed between the pages of her notebook. It was the first thing Inuyasha had given to her, not out of necessity but because he wanted to. It reminded her of how much he actually paid attention to the little things she did and said. To Kagome, it meant so much more than the designer handbags and jewelry her friends back home gushed about.
As for the fruits, although few and in between, she still received them periodically whenever they travelled through mountain ranges. But lately she's been getting other small items too, like a gorgeous amber coloured cluster of quartz crystals, perfect and miniature, about the size of a large grape.
She didn't share with the others, but only because he so obviously wanted to keep it on the down low. Inuyasha probably would like it best if she didn't even acknowledge his gifts herself. But Kagome always did, just briefly and quietly so to not deter him from showing her affection. Maybe some day though it'll be different. But for now, it was their little secret.
Chapter 29: You'll come after me
She focused on her steps creaking through the narrow wooden hallway, following in line with the quiet swish of Miroku's robes. The shoji slid open and their young attendant wished them a good stay before retreating. There was an oddly subdued silence between them, as they each migrated into a select corner of the little room where they were to spend the night. Aside from the light jingle of the rings on Miroku's staff and the muted sounds of the Hiraikotsu being laid down on the ground, there was none of the usual good-natured banter of the rag-tag group as they settled themselves and their belongings.
Kagome carefully moved the lightly snoring bundle from her chest. Luckily, she had wrapped Shippou in one of her blankets earlier in the evening when he had fallen asleep despite Inuyasha's grumbles that youkai don't get cold. It was the only reason the innkeeper assumed, on his initial swift appraisal, that he was a human child. She laid him gently against the sleeping Kirara, making sure to tuck a corner of the blanket around the kitten's form as well.
"Yes, we have vacancy tonight," The older man started off politely enough. But as his eyes roamed over the windswept group and alighted on the tense hanyou hovering behind her, the man's eyes narrowed, lips clamped down to a thin line. "if you leave that outside. It isn't welcome in this establishment."
Kagome swallowed again, trying to clear that persistent lump from her throat, playing the events of just a few moments ago over in her head. The innkeeper had turned and entered the building without so much as another condescending look their way. She had been livid and poised to storm in there to give the little man a piece of her mind when she felt familiar clawed hands close over her wrist, anchoring her firmly in place. Inuyasha had then reasoned with uncharacteristic calm for her to go ahead with the others into proper shelter for the night, keeping Shippou and Kirara hidden. The sight of his face, those deep lines framing his eyes, the set of his brow and jaw had frozen the fiery retort halfway up her throat. She had forgotten how Inuyasha looked when he had first awoken from the tree. That hard, cruel way his eyes and face were set, that made him look so much older and worn. She'd forgotten how he'd gradually lost that look as they travelled together, having it meld into the, at times arrogant, but generally good-natured handsome face she'd come to love. But it was the weirdly quiet, almost emotionless voice he used to convince her to stay at the inn that broke her heart.
She knelt down and began to rifle through her backpack for her sleeping clothes for the night, setting them down on the wooden floor in a pile. The shutters gave a loud clatter as a particular strong gust of wind surged against the small building. The temperature had dropped significantly earlier in the day and those with youkai senses in the group had predicted a snowstorm. It was for this same reason that Inuyasha had wanted so badly for her to quietly stay put for the night.
The others still did not make an effort to talk, and for this Kagome was secretly glad. Her eyes were blurring again and that was usually a good predictor of her voice wavering if she tried to speak. All she could think of was Inuyasha out there somewhere in the cold the entire night. Although he was much too proud to ever tell her explicitly, she could read between the lines. He had told her enough for her to conclude that since his mother's death he had spent all those years alone, wandering the wilderness, rain or shine until the day he got pinned to the Goshinboku.
She gave an honest try, she really did.
But to hell with it all! Kagome gripped her hands into fists, angrily swiping away the few rogue tears that escaped from the corner of her eyes. With a fierce determination, she grabbed at all the things in her backpack she didn't need for the night and slammed them down beside the pajama pile. The commotion caused her friends to look up startled but thank goodness, did not wake Shippou.
"Kagome-chan, what…" Sango began softly but closed her mouth as she quickly deduced what her friend was about to do.
She watched as Kagome took a huge armful of the clothing she had been starting to pack for winter travelling behind the small privacy screen in the corner. The next few minutes was filled with shuffling and mutterings as she changed. The warm clothing from her era was indeed made with heavier materials but just as strange. Kagome had explained it was special gear for outdoor activities and had to be worn in a certain order to maximize the effect.
Kagome emerged almost twice her normal size but looking sufficiently armed for the weather. She pointedly ignored the gaze of her two friends and retrieved her backpack, slinging the bow and arrows across one shoulder.
"Kagome-sama, perhaps it is not wise to go after Inuyasha." Miroku finally reasoned softly. "With his youkai capabilities I'm sure he will be unharmed for the night."
Kagome shot him a look, noticing that Sango was shaking her head in resignation in the opposite corner.
"Sango-chan, Miroku-sama, look after Shippou-chan for me?" She asked quietly in response.
"We will." Sango assured her, her large eyes wide with unspoken worry. "Be safe."
"Don't worry!" Kagome chirped, her mood suddenly lightening. "You know Inuyasha won't let me get very far before he comes yelling my head off."
With a small, impish smile at her friends, resembling more her normal demeanour, Kagome slipped out of the room.
Brr! It was really quite chilly out! The wind had picked up, but no snow. Zipping up her jacket all the way and drawing the tabs to cinch in the hood to keep out the breeze, she felt much warmer. Closing her eyes briefly, it only took a second or two to find the feel of the youki she knew like the back of her hand. It was warm, fiery brightness in her mind's eye. Smiling, she made her way towards the eastern exit of the village where the forested hills lay.
Kagome's mind wandered as she walked steadily, not surprisingly to the subject of the hanyou she was currently on a mission to find. Now that she seriously thought about it, ever since she'd met him, Inuyasha was never far from her anymore. If she was here in Sengoku Jidai, he never really left her side for very long. And when she went home, she'd feel secure knowing that he was back at the village with Kaede and the others. The thought of him out there alone, clearly ostracized was not right. Not when he had them now. Not when she spent so much effort trying to get him to understand he belonged and was wanted.
As predicted, she counted five steps beyond the village gate before the familiar youki suddenly sped towards her. Grinning, she counted another ten seconds before…
"Woman!" The familiar irritated voice of her hanyou bellowed above the wind. "What the fuck are you doing out here?"
"Looking for you." She replied cheekily, unable to stop the wide smile spreading across her face as she took in the blur of red and silver coming to a stop in front of her.
"It might snow, baka!" He continued on, berating her halfheartedly as she knew he would. "I'm a youkai, my body is tougher than yours!"
She nodded distractedly through his usual speech, while his voice was gruff and his words were a little sharp she'd figured by now there's no real bite to them. Instead, she noted happily that his face had smoothed out and eyes a warm honey again, unlike how she had left him last, at the entrance to the inn,
"Well, where are you going to sleep, huh? Did you even think this through?" He continued to grumble, exasperated at her lack of response to his griping.
"Where you were going to." She said simply, eyes smiling up at him, all the trust in the world shining in the warm grey depths.
She grinned again as he stepped up close to her, his intense gaze roamed approvingly over the modern winter gear she sported. His fingers lightly patted the puffy hood that covered the sides of both her cheeks.
"Plus, I have my sleeping bag, emergency blankets, heating packs…"
He had no idea what those things were besides the first item, but her softly rambling voice provided a comforting background. Automatically, he crouched down to let her scramble onto his back. A little clumsier than usual with her dressed like a dumpling. As he launched off into the night towards the place he had originally chosen to stay by himself, the thought hit him rather suddenly. He was no longer alone. Not in the sense that he had company but for the first time in his life since his mother died, he now had someone who cared enough to keep track of his whereabouts at all times, who would be concerned if he left. If no one else, this one human girl, Kagome will always notice and come after him without fail.
Chapter 30: Play
"Inuyasha, come on! We need an even number for the teams to work out!" Kagome called up to him, foot tapping impatiently as she craned her neck to look at him.
He grumbled and muttered about wasting time hanging around Kaede's village instead of shard hunting. Just for a few more moments until the of risk looking over eager to join subsides. He didn't catch the knowing smile she hid behind her hand as he jumped down from his branch before even finishing his sentence.
This, like many instances, got their start because he opened his big mouth. For reasons he would rather not acknowledge, he had crossed over to her time on the third day of her stay and followed her to school. There he saw a bunch of humans, Kagome included, run around on a large slab of stone after a ball that was bouncing off the floor, into hands and then thrown about. He then made the mistake of pestering her about how her 'school' was just an excuse for her to play games. They argued. Shippou overheard. Kagome explained all about her 'physical' class, the sport she was playing and now here they were.
Inuyasha trudged after Kagome, hands jammed into his fist to play the part of reluctant victim. He couldn't help but peer around the spacious little clearing she had chosen. Curiously, he watched Shippou sweating as a pink ball hoisting Miroku mid-way up a tree, who was busy fiddling with something. Sango, which to his surprise was wearing her taijya gear and on her way back to the ground gracefully perched on Kirara. There was a mildly lopsided hoop of reeds tied to form a rough circle on her tree.
"Ok," Kagome began, clapping her hands together once. "Since it would be an obvious advantage to have youkai abilities, I'm going to even out the groups. Inuyasha on one team, Shippou and Kirara on the other."
Watching as everyone nodded their assent, his heart swelled as he thought about how easily they agreed a hanyou was equal to two full youkai, albeit Shippou was a kid but just the principle of it was so foreign.
"Whoever draws the shorter stick will be on Shippou and Kirara's team." Kagome further explained, holding out a little bundle of sticks, from which Miroku and Sango both picked from.
Kagome whooped and slapped Sango's hand - an odd futuristic gesture she had taught them weeks before. Turning around she gave him a playful wink, which he was sure made his face go pink. Miroku, meanwhile was crouching low to the ground, seemingly already strategizing with his team.
A few minutes later, Kagome appeared at his side, hands raised to finish tying up her hair in a long tail from the top of her head. It was a hairstyle she rarely wore but one he recognized her sport in her time. Same with that ridiculously short pair of tight hakama. Oh kami.
And then they were off, the familiar shapes of his pack darting in and around each other. Shouts and good-natured taunts exchanged amongst bursts of laughter. Since Kagome had already explained the rules of the game over their morning meal, everyone was eager to start playing. He watched the strange ball being bounced along the ground, less easily than on the slab of rock material at Kagome's school but still passable. Sango was lithe and nimble, her life's training easily lending a hand in this new activity. Kagome whizzed along beside her, the two of them effortlessly passing the ball between them, avoiding the stumbling Miroku. Kagome was actually really good at this. Inuyasha smirked evilly; they were definitely going to win.
A boisterous victory call came from the far hoop as Sango sent the ball through the reed circle.
"Awww… how come they get Inuyasha, Sango and Kagome?!" Shippou pouted loudly.
"Dear Shippou, if I didn't know better, I would think you're implying something about my abilities." Miroku calmly interjected. Then, with a competitive glint to his eyes, he whispered something into his teammates' ears.
The next round had the two girls breathing hard, trying to intercept the ball currently in possession by the other team. Kirara in her large form and Shippou, transformed into a creature surprisingly similar to the fire cat but with a fox tail and his own face, was keeping the ball aloft and out of reach from the two humans in hard pursuit below.
For a split second he saw as he did as a pup, when the ball was deliberately kept from him, soaring far above the reach of his stubby arms. It was everyone else playing against him. And since that one time of foolishly thinking he would be welcome to play, he only lingered behind the trees watching the children his age laugh and run with each other. He remembered memorizing the details of each game and had tried to set it up to play by himself in the forest. How bitter that longing was to a young child. When that didn't work, he had asked haha-ue how to get friends. He got her tears instead. But at this instant he suddenly realized he had finally gotten his wish. This mismatched rag-tag group of people, each as bizarre as him in their own way, were his friends. Friends. He liked the thought of that.
"Hey!" Kagome's mildly peeved voice interrupted his thoughts, his eyes automatically locating her waving figure trying to get his attention. "A little help over here would be nice!"
He let his lips curl up in a soft smile, fang peeking out. Then he caught Kagome's eye and saw the tender answering look she sent him as she took in his expression. He found that he didn't mind her somehow knowing where his thoughts had wandered to.
"Keh." He pretended to scoff, resisting the urge to grin as he bounded towards his teammates. "What would you do without me?""
Immediately spotting the blur of purple and black stealthily advancing towards his hoop, Inuyasha smirked and made to (gently) body slam the monk.
Haha-ue : a reverent and somewhat antiquated term to call one's mother
Chapter 31: Doubt
Kagome watched her finger draw a path across the apple of her cheek in her reflection. Then she pinched both her cheeks a little. She sighed, noting that they still have that chubby childlike look to them. She was perched up on top of the counter by the sink, sitting on her knees, nose pretty much touching the mirror.
The world was ruthless to teenage girls. Everyone seemed hell bent on telling them exactly what was undesirable about them and what to do about it. From their bodies, to their hair colour to their jawline. For goodness sakes, it's a bone. You can't lose weight from a bone.
She had always been strongly of the opinion of not changing your looks on a whim though. The industry marketed to girls barely out of childhood, preyed on them with glossy ads in pages of magazines, gaudy billboards and signs around every corner. Even if it's permanent, if it has some health risk, then all in the name of beauty! But she wasn't ignorant enough to gloss over the fact that she was naturally gifted with what some of these ads promised — one of her classmates had even grudgingly told her that once.
Her lips had always been healthily coloured, almost obnoxiously so, to the point that she never bothered to use any lip tints but she couldn't help but notice that Kikyou's features were much more subdued than her own. Kikyou's lips were a very pale pink, only a slight shade different than her skin. It made her look porcelain and delicate. And well, Inuyasha obviously found that complexion attractive. That's why when that lady stopped her on her way home from school today, somehow she fell for it and impulsively blew a week's allowance on one measly tube of liquid.
She turned the dainty vial of nude (barely) pink in her hand. It was a shade that was apparently all the rage right now.
She hated that these thoughts, such petty things had taken residence in her brain. Why should she care what any one, let alone a boy, especially a boy, thought of her face. But now, all of a sudden there was a boy. And a girl. Well, more like a woman she suddenly found herself inferior to in so many aspects. Looks included. She had never really had a real reason to doubt herself before. Or feel inadequate. She hated the new feeling. Hated even more that she would care what he thought of her.
The muffled sounds of Inuyasha banging out of the well-house and making a fuss about leaving for the Sengoku Jidai filtered in under the bathroom door. Pursing her lips determinedly, she carefully dabbed the product on. The result was quite pretty, but definitely very different to her usual colouring.
When she had emerged into the courtyard with her massive backpack, she had tried to meet Inuyasha's gaze casually. She prayed he wouldn't sense her nervousness and that she would find something in his eyes. Maybe lighting up a little in male appreciativeness; that's only if he ever noticed her face at all. She did a little mental victory dance when his eyes instantly honed in on her mouth but then her heart fell flat when his brow suddenly creased and his own lips drew down into a frown. That was definitely far from the effect she had hoped for.
"Kagome," He moved towards her determined, eyes still glued to her lips. "You don't look so good."
She glared. And tried really hard not to tear up. But before she had to chance to actually do so, the back of his hand made light contact with her forehead, effectively stopping the angry words that were just about to come out of her mouth.
"Are you sick?" He asked her quietly, sounding almost gentle. She heard him try to take a subtle sniff in her direction as his other hand eased the strap of the pack off her shoulder.
Kagome backed away slightly, meeting the poorly concealed worry in his golden eyes, and gave him a tiny smile that made him furrow his brows even more in confusion.
"Uh…" She blurted out nervously and flapped her hands in a placating motion. "I, uh, forgot something. And I haven't washed my face yet. That's right, uh, I'll be right back out!"
As her words tumbled out in quick succession, she darted back inside, up the stairs and shut herself in the bathroom again.
The dummy. Inuyasha thought she was sick. But how would he know anything about cosmetics, let alone the hottest trends in the future. Of course he would associate her pale lips to her being ill. Smiling again, and this time feeling much better for some reason, Kagome grabbed her wash cloth and made to wet it.
A/N: Here's another attempt at a less-than-fluffy 'first' for Kagome. I remember how that insecurity felt with the first boy I loved. It's still something I think we all struggle with to some degree. But notice how I couldn't resist making it somewhat lighter in the end? ;)
Everything happened so fast and totally without his permission that it wasn't until he was trying to puzzle out why she was looking searchingly at him with those big, dewy eyes that his sluggish brain finally caught up.
What. The. Fuck.
Eloquent, yes. But apt. It was certainly too late to take it back gracefully, so he crossed his arms tight across his now, strangely bare feeling torso and keh'd. Out of the corner of his eye, he watched her rub the fabric curiously between her hands. The luminous red cloth a stark contrast against the ebony of her hair.
Why the hell did he go and do that? The fire-rat clothing was literally the only thing he owned. It's his armour for fuck's sake. And surely, this youkai they were hunting was not of the kindly variety, so giving away his suikan was probably the stupidest thing he could do. It was something he had never shared, worn like his own skin. He had been self-preserving and withdrawn his whole life, that's how he'd stayed alive for so long. He certainly did not care about the human wench. Must be more of her trickery.
It wasn't much later that he was flooded with a foreign wave of of relief, seeing her slender body dwarfed by the swathes of crimson cloth. Most importantly, unharmed by the flames that had swallowed her just minutes before.
Maybe it wasn't his brain that was slow.
Suikan - the upper 'shirt' part of Inuyasha's robes.
A/N: Couldn't resist writing this. Inuyasha giving Kagome his fire-rat is probably one of my favourite things. Because it is almost all he owns and because it's his own protection too.
Nominated for 'Best Ficlet' - Feudal Connection, Q2 2019
(If you're confused about the date, it's because I'm editing older chapters of 'Firsts' and posting on AO3. I'm almost caught up!)
Chapter 33: Dressing up
He doesn't know how she always ends up getting her way. He's a growling and fang-baring feral hanyou one minute and then the next he's docile putty, led around by the delicate hand surrounding his wrist. Pathetic.
The latest torture consisted of trapping him in her strange futuristic clothing...that he put on of his own accord. Goddamnit. The fabric on his torso felt too smooth, too pliant. It made the fine hairs of his skin bristle. And why is everything so damn tight? Was she trying to slowly suffocate him? He could see the shape of his arms! And the hakama encased his legs, making it pull when he tried to take a step. He had never worn anything other than his fire rat before. And he never wanted to again. The worse was the hat. That was the fucking worse. His ears were mashed against his skull, muffling his hearing.
"Wench, what the fuck?" He growled for the umpteenth time that evening, picking irritably at the tight sleeve around his elbow.
"Inuyasha don't you dare tear a hole in that." Came Kagome's unimpressed voice from the corner where she was ruffling through a box in her closet.
His arm dropped limply to his side. The tone of her voice was edging dangerously close to an osuwari level. Looking up at the reflection in Kagome's mirror, he followed her movements carefully with a golden intensity as she moved around him. He had to fight down a shiver that was sparked by the soft tips of her fingers grazing the sides of his neck as she gathered his hair gently. Her hands smoothed and then secured the bulk of his hair behind his back. He watched as she came around to his front, her face in serious concentration as she seemed to criticize his appearance. Her fingers came up again to comb through the signature locks of hair framing his face, and then with a final pat, smiled.
"You look good." She chirped happily, her eyes meeting his and her lips quirked in amusement.
He felt her hands on his shoulders, turning him gently to the side. There was a thin, blue tie securing his silver hair at the nape of his neck. The blue matched the colour of the modern haori he wore.
Inuyasha took in their reflection again. Kagome was smiling at him in the mirror, her dress complementing his outfit, but a pretty fabric she doesn't usually wear to his era. Other than the shade of his hair, he could pass for a normal boy in this time.
"Let's go! I can't wait to see the exhibit!" She babbled excitedly as her hand closed around his, dragging him out her bedroom door.
Inuyasha threw a last look at the mirror showcasing their retreating forms. Whatever clothing, in whatever era, the two of them always looked like they belonged together. It still surprised him to discover this time and time again.
A decidedly comforting surprise.
Chapter 34: Killer
Warnings: graphic depiction of violence in this chapter
Kagome's right palm hit the ground forcefully to support her weight, her fingers sloshed in the rapidly congealing puddle under Inuyasha. Both her arms shook visibly as she took unsteady breaths, sawing in and out of her chest in beat with her pounding heart.
She had felt his pulse beneath her fingers, he was alive. And that was all that mattered.
Shakily, Kagome raised her head. Dread had already settled in her gut knowing already what she would find. But she had to see it with her eyes. And acknowledge it.
Severed body parts, heads with bulging eyes frozen in expression of terror, and dark splotches decorating the dirt in a macabre motif. The bandits' mutilated bodies were strewn all across the field.
All very dead and very human.
"I did this?"
She hovered at his side, hands awkwardly fluttering but not touching him, although she desperately wanted to. She wasn't sure how he would react in this state and he definitely did not look like he could handle any more. Inuyasha could barely walk, dragging each step painfully using Tessaiga as a crutch. She was used to seeing his body broken and as much as that wrenched her heart it was nothing compared to watching him now.
His brows were drawn tight, his clenched jaw and pursed lips making hard lines crease the corners of his mouth, aging him by years in an instant. His normally brilliant golden eyes were dulled, hollow yet bleeding anguish as they took his surroundings. Bodily wounds healed, especially aided by his demon blood. But this… this, she was wasn't so sure.
"If you get too close, you'll be killed!"
They were not wrong to think that. There was blood smattered in his long silver hair, drenching his robes, dried in an ombre pattern from his claws down his forearms. Though his fangs had shrunk, red smeared the corners of his mouth. He would look objectively menacing. And yet… yet that blood wasn't all from the bandits. A good amount of it was his, spilt to save her and their friends once again. The men had made very clear what they would do to her and Sango; death seemed like a mercy in comparison. And Inuyasha had prevented that from happening.
But she couldn't pretend they were evil youkai. They were despicable men, no doubt murderers and rapists, likely would've been put to death in her time but they were completely human.
"That's a monster!"
Even though the movement was minute, she saw it. He'd flinched, ever so slightly as if physically struck. She'd spent countless hours watching him, memorizing his every flicker, every hint of expression so she could read him better. Inuyasha was not a man of words, so she would learn his language. And what he screamed silently now was crushing her chest with the enormity of it. All of that loathing was directed inwards. Inuyasha was in so much raw pain, the kind Kagome felt hopeless against.
Her feet was already steadily bringing her closer to where he was by the river bank judging by the loud splashes. Kagome clutched the towel in her hands tighter, steeling herself as the thoughts raged in her head. Before she could hope to comfort Inuyasha, she needed to make peace with the fact that the day she fell down the well, the world stopped existing in solely black and white.
She, Higurashi Kagome, loved a killer.
A killer who was also incredible, brave, and generous to those needing help, who would trade his own life for her safety without a second thought, who loved with every fibre of his being.
If she was to love him — really love him, Inuyasha, then she would have to acknowledge this head-on. No euphemisms, no shying around it. He was wild, lethal and capable of so much destruction. But beneath the claws, the raw power was his kind heart, still unwavering and true when his past experiences could easily have destroyed it many times over.
He was not wholly human and yes, he was a killer. And he likely will be as long as he lived; to live in this era.
But he was definitely not a monster.
A/N: This scene is from anime episode 52, manga 185-187 where Inuyasha turns full youkai and slaughters Gatenmaru and co. Wouldn't you be a little shocked if you see the love of your life severing people's heads?
Although dark, I think this ranks high on my favourite pieces to write in this collection. Curious on your thoughts?
I'll follow up with a VERY fluffy chaser shortly :)
Chapter 35: First kiss
Kagome didn't think she would ever be anywhere as beautiful as this. Or feel as blessed. Fulfilled. Safe.
Sunlight filtered through silver, to become a muted bright white, never harsh; it suffused her entire being. All around her it glittered where the light peaked through, as dazzling as diamonds. When the breeze sifted through, the sparkle changed locations, winking silver and pure light. It cocooned her so snuggly and pooled around her shoulders to become a dim halo against the grass underneath her.
Long fingers curled around the base of her skull, intertwining with the hair at her nape, his palm resting warmly just under her ear. His lips were impossibly soft, moving so slowly, gently across hers. He seemed hesitant but it did not prevent him from continuing his languid explorations. She could feel one of his fangs timidly graze her and sighed contently. Her chest was full to bursting with warmth. She felt so completely whole.
She was being kissed while enveloped in glittering stars.
A bubble of pure joy burst forth from her to bounce over his mouth where they touched. She couldn't help but smile against his lips, halting their movements.
"Oi, Kagome… what's so funny?" Inuyasha grumbled lowly, his face mere inches from hers. His right hand still braced his weight near the the side of her head.
They had been arguing about something she couldn't remember anymore, and she had started a shoving match that had then escalated to a tumble. In short, that's how Inuyasha ended up hovering over her when she landed on her back. And then he had leaned forward, his hair falling all around her and kissed her.
Looking into his golden eyes, Kagome was dismayed to see a hint of uncertainty in their depths with his last comment.
"I'm just so happy, Inuyasha!" She explained hurriedly. And the smile on her face was so earnest, her eyes bright with mirth that he couldn't stay miffed at her for long. His expression took on a tender look.
With her hand that was still pressed on the back of his neck, she gave a little pressure, urging him to come towards her again. Noticing a break in the curtain of his hair around her, she gave the area a little brush, and again her world was light and silver and Inuyasha.
"Don't ever cut your hair, ok?" She murmured against his lips as he closed the distance between them once more.
It was the first time they kissed when there was no threat of death or similarly grave repercussions. Kagome thought this first kiss was perfect.
A/N: Here you go folks! As promised :)
Chapter 36: Meet the parents
"Kagome's still at school."
Inuyasha simultaneously leapt out of his own skin and back out the window. If only one voluminous hakama leg didn't get snagged on a window frame. He may or may not have also made an embarrassingly high squeak.
"Uh…" He grunted as his fingers fumbled uncharacteristically at the fire-rat that had snagged on the wood. How mad would Kagome be if he just said 'fuck it' and tugged and if say, a structurally integral part of her family's house came loose with his pant leg?
Kagome's mother waited serenely in the doorway of the bedroom while he struggled, seemingly noticing the inner turmoil plaguing the inu-hanyou. Wow, great first impression Inuyasha. Way to go. Well, technically not first meeting, but the last time he'd seen the woman, he'd dragged her daughter out and through the well minutes after meeting her. Defeated, Inuyasha figured he probably shouldn't bolt and stepped back in to properly face the human woman. His own mother taught him better than that.
"Inu…yasha-kun, is it?" She smiled kindly at him. Damn, she looked like Kagome, or well, Kagome looked like her. Whatever.
"Just Inuyasha is fine." He answered her gruffly, bowing stiffly just a touch in greeting. "Kagome's okaa-san."
"Just okaa-san," She chuckled, his unease clearly not as well hidden as he seemed to think. "If you're comfortable with that."
Inuyasha on the other hand was a little out of his depth. What the hell was he supposed to say? He's never met anyone's parents that weren't screaming their heads off and clutching their children like he was going to eat them all instantly. Is it ok to call her okaa-san? Would Kagome osuwari him?
Smiling gently still at his wide golden deer(er… dog)-in-the-headlights expression, Kagome's mother took pity on the poor boy. Turning to head downstairs to the kitchen, she called casually to the still frozen hanyou she'd caught sneaking into her daughter's room.
"We just finished lunch, but I can make some ramen if you like."
One fluffy ear perked at the sound of that.
"Er… yeah." He mumbled, trailing after her. "Thank you… uh… okaa-san."
"And after that, if you don't mind, you can help Jii-chan with the temizuya repairs while you wait for Kagome. Some of the shingles on one end are loose. It worries me when he climbs up so high."
That was fair he supposed. Food for labour. He could deal with that. Smiles instead of screaming. He could also deal with that.
Temizuya is the place at the inner grounds entrance of Shinto shrines for visitors to purify themselves (hand and mouth washing). In bigger shrines, it's a small structure with a roof over a basin with running water and ladle-like things to scoop water up to wash.
Chapter 37: Jealousy
It was this rolling, seething thing deep in his gut. Coiling around his insides, churning through him, making the acid rise in his throat. He'd had the pleasant experience of being impaled many a time but nothing quite compared to this kind of burn. As it slithered through him, it whispered malicious thoughts to him, repeating them until almost to the point of overwhelm, fuelling the already raging fire of insecurity.
You knew this all your life. You knew it. And now it's time for her to catch up, wake the fuck up and know it too.
You're nothing compared to a full youkai.
See how easy it is for that fucking wolf to waltz into your life and steal her. Call her 'Kagome, Kagome, Kagome' so familiarly. (It was only ever supposed to be you that gets such liberties with her name!) And she goes 'Kouga-kun!' Fuck. At least it wasn't 'Kouga', like it's 'Inuyasha'. Who knows how long that would last?
That fucker has done shit-all for her. Haven't carried her, hunted for her, kept her warm, bled for her… Yes, said some pretty words (loudly, to a lot of people… in no uncertain terms). Told her he loved her. Fuck. How was he to compete with that? He didn't even know he wanted to before today!
Having her by his side had been so natural and justified. It just was. That he'd forgotten how not his Kagome actually was. She wasn't his. He didn't know if that realization disturbed him more than the fact that he'd actually, wholly but somehow unconsciously always wanted her, thought of Kagome as his. And he was with her. That was all.
And now, the possibility of a full youkai winning her over was very real.
He found her deeply asleep the second time the returned to her era that day. Her features were lax and soft, hand curled slightly below her cheek. Ashamed, but not enough to deter himself, Inuyasha bent down to sniff at her carefully. It wasn't like he hadn't been desperately sorting through the scents on her person the moment Kouga fled. But he had to be sure. The feeling was still writhing through his insides, triggered immediately by even a somewhat related thought.
She had washed herself with her modern day amenities and the fucking wolf's scent was completely gone from her. Thank the kami. He could pretend nothing's changed. He didn't know what else to do. He wasn't full youkai. He couldn't declare anything remotely like the wolf without tripping over his tongue like an idiot. He didn't even know what he felt about her. Only that he didn't want to be without Kagome.
Gently, as to not wake her from her nap, he reached for her hand, slipping his clawed fingers within the half circle of hers, and gripped them gently. His other hand skimmed across her forehead, knuckles ghosting along the apples of her cheek. He trailed his fire-rat sleeve against the fabric of her futuristic kosode for good measure, not daring to touch her anywhere else, but wanting to leave a trace of his own scent.
This'll have to do for now.
A/N: There you have it. I'm a sucker for the head-canon thing with the scent marking etc. Couldn't help myself.
Chapter 38: Erase
WARNING: this chapter contains non-consensual touch, intention of rape and description of a panic attack.
[Comment or email me (address on profile) if you have questions prior to reading.]
PLEASE SEE CHAPTER NOTES FOR WARNING BEFORE READING
She'd known the moment she closed her eyes that night, it would all catch up to her. How her body had felt like lead, limbs all dead weight dragging on the floor. A perverse doll at the disposal of her craved captor.
Shuddering hard, feeling like she was going to be sick, Kagome freed herself from the sleeping bag, carefully readjusting the snoring kitsune and got to her feet. She wasn't going to be able to sleep at this rate and if she was going to puke, probably best to not do that all over her bedding. The banked fire was still big enough to warm her where she chose to sit down, drawling her knees against her chest, wrapping her arms around and buried her face. From the sounds of it, all her companions were already asleep, and if she was lucky, Inuyasha would be too. Or at the very least, not acknowledge that she was up.
Behind her closed lids, the images from earlier in the day welled up again. The wide, deranged eyes had made his intent crystal clear. Sweaty, dank fingers had grasped her chin, stroking crossing her jawline leaving a sticky residue as they made their way down her neck. He was close enough for her to feel the sickly hot breath fanning across her face. The same thick fingers dug into her left collarbone, pulling back the neckline of her uniform. Then she had felt the undead man nudge apart her knees to settle his leg between them. She knew what he was going to do to her and she still strained to move.
Kagome's breathing became erratic and shallow, until she was gasping soundlessly trying to draw air into her burning lungs. Her vision blackened from the periphery, as if draining into a single pinpoint in the centre. She had never been touched intimately and now her first time would be Mukotsu. All she could focus on were the pictures her mind drew up, of what would've happened to her if Sesshoumaru had not showed up.
"Kagome!" The low call of her name was urgent and harsh but the voice that uttered it was as familiar to her as her own.
She felt herself being swept up, an arm under her knees, the other pulling her tight into his chest. With the cold rush of the night air and they were up and high into a tree. She buried her face into the crook of his neck, feeling the heavy silk of his hair as the hanyou settled against the trunk with her cradled in his lap.
Kagome didn't want to meet his eyes. He had known. She saw the twitch of his nose when he had lifted her when he'd found them, knew what he could smell on her skin. She had watched Inuyasha's eyes cloud over with a storm of anger, concern, and self loathing. Saw his jaw clench and brows tighten and knew that he blamed himself for what nearly happened to her. She couldn't even look him in the eye when she had asked to take a bath as soon as it was safe. She'd scrubbed her skin raw.
She was jerked from her thoughts when she felt his hand tentatively touch the side of her cheek, where it had scraped repeated against the rough wooden floor when she'd laid immobile on her side.
"Is this ok?" He whispered so softly she could hardly pick up the sound. She nodded a little against his chin.
His fingers were gentle, as always, in sharp contrast to the image he tried so hard to portray. She could feel just the slightest skim of his claws as he brushed the injured apple of her cheek over and over. Shivering, Kagome grabbed the back of his hand with hers, felt him stiffen, then relax again. And slowly, slowly, she drew his open palm across her jaw, trailing the pads of his fingers over the curve and under, down her neck, across her collarbone, even as she heard him inhale sharply. He made no move to pull back, just tiny, barely perceivable flexes against her skin. She held him still, resting both their hands just above her heart.
He seemed to understand what she was doing. Erasing the awful sensations in her memory, replacing it with his.
"I'm so sorry Kagome." All of a sudden, his arms locked around her, squeezing so tight it was almost painful. She felt him bury his face into the crown of her head, inhaling in a shudder.
She could only shake her head mutely as much as she could in his embrace, tears threatening to fall. It wasn't his fault, she tried to convey.
They remained like that for a long time.
"Stay with me?"
He nodded into her hair, and rearranged them, so she was curled on her side, head tucked into his shoulder, one hand brushing down her arm over and over in a soothing rhythm. The night breeze blew warm and gentle, rustling the leaves.
And she slept without nightmares.
A/N: Hi all, I was uncertain about posting this one because I feel like I have no 'right' to write about this topic. But I was always disturbed by how easily the manga, and especially the anime glossed over the fact that Kagome was almost raped by Mukotsu.
If this is too much, do let me know.
This is a fictional imagining of the aftermath of that scene in the context of the series, I am by no means trivializing rape, please reach out to local assault crisis lines if needed.
Chapter 39: First impression
When he opened his eyes again it was early spring. Even in the shrouded forest canopy his keen eyes could pick out the individual new leaves, still pale green out of the bud. When he'd last been awake it was late summer and the last thing he saw was the blur of wooden shaft, feathered fletching and the deadly metal tip that shot clean through his heart half a second later.
A scent, scuffle and commotion.
Then unceremoniously, a small, female body flopped onto the forest floor on the far side of the clearing.
The eyes that met his were wide, startling blue and terrified. Kikyou's face. But a small part of his mind pointed out that those eyes were rounder, the apples of her cheeks plump like a child's, hair wild and free, curling about her shoulders. She showed more emotion than Kikyou ever did in the time he'd known her, and this human's strange attire bared more skin than he'd ever seen on a woman.
Kikyou would be the easiest explanation, and anger, the safest. So he went with that.
When he opened his eyes again it was almost light. The sky was a faintly glowing hue, slowly chasing away the darkness. Still nestled securely within his arms was a small, human female, one hand curled loosely around a handful of his suikan. He shifted a little so he could see her face; she had a habit of burying it into the base of his neck, her nose always finding its way past the vee of his inner kosode in her sleep. The tousled curls of raven black mingled messily with his silver hair, as if every part of his body wished to surround her. Her jawline is not as sharp, lips fuller and slightly lax in sleep. This was a girl that never looked solemn, mouth never pulled thin and severe. There was one dimple that sometimes made an appearance on her left cheek, especially when she smiled as he pressed his lips on the fullness of her other cheek. This was Kagome's face. She still looked like a child, reared in safety and comfort. And he would do everything in his power to ensure she remained so.
It wasn't a perfect record but he's been trying to make her face the first he saw every time since that fateful day he awoke pinned to the Goshinboku.
Chapter 40: Loss
"I need to go home today."
It was a statement, not a question.
"What the fuck?" Inuyasha sputtered out, clearly unhappy. "You were just home a few days ago wench!"
She didn't say a single word in response. No argument, no flashing eyes and enraged brows. Just looked up at him and held his gaze with her deep, dark irises for a moment. Her face seemed uncharacteristically emotionless, reminding him of someone he couldn't quite put a finger on right this moment. But it threw him off guard, the lack of fire. Usually she laid on him just as much, if not more heat as he gave her. Her stubborn ability to stand up to him was part of what made her so irresistibly interesting.
When he had a chance to gather his wits, she was already a speck on the horizon having borrowed Kirara for a ride back to the well.
Cursing up a storm, he did the only thing available to him.
He followed her.
Apparently following her meant tracking her scent (and her family's) across her strange world. It's particularly challenging to pick out the subtle hints beneath the overwhelmingly obnoxious stench that was all the modern inventions. Not to mention that sound was not at all helpful to the hunt in her time. But nothing proved too much for his superior senses. Sure enough, he found the little entourage climbing steadily up a hill. Criss-crossing the hillside were well-trekked paths leading from one headstone to the next. That was something that didn't change with the centuries.
The hanyou sought refuge in a nearby tree, which, curse it, wasn't actually that nearby. The wind was not in his favour that day either, so much of their soft murmured words were lost in the drone of her world. After a few moments, he saw Kagome's mom, brother and grandfather move away from the grave after another series of bows. A gentle squeeze of the girl's shoulder and she was left alone, head still bowed. He watched the humans walk slowly under his perch seemingly heading back towards the gate at the bottom. It took more of his superhuman abilities than he would ever admit to not yelp in surprise when Kagome's mom, while passing under, unexpectedly looked up and caught his gaze squarely. But she smiled warmly at him and bobbed her head a little in greeting before swiftly catching up with the rest of the family.
He took that for the permission it was. Not that he needed it, mind you.
He alighted silently just a few steps beside her. Other than a minuscule tilt of her head towards him, it didn't seem like she was startled the least by his appearance. She was still wearing the same heavy cloak she had worn when he last saw her, it being a blistery autumn day in the Sengoku Jidai. But what bothered him was that she was hunched over, almost folded in on herself, both arms wrapped tight around her torso. The Kagome he knew wasn't like this.
Awkwardly, Inuyasha shuffled from foot to foot, fingers twitching with the barely restrained need to touch her.
"He died six years ago today." Came Kagome's voice in a whisper. Her watery, grey eyes still trained steadily on the kanji engraved on the stone. A man's name. Her surname.
He grunted, hoping she'd understand he wanted her to keep talking.
"It was a Saturday, he'd needed to drop by work for the morning." She faltered, voice going hoarse with tears she was trying to hold back. "I didn't even pay attention when he said goodbye, Souta and I was playing a game. I didn't know. Papa never came back."
He gave in, because fuck it. She'd comforted him before. When he'd just slaughtered a good handful of humans. He'd be an ass not to return the favour. He circled his arms around her shoulders, much like she had with him before, long red sleeves trailing across her front.
"We never know," He began lowly, voice gruff with hesitancy. He's not great with this kind of stuff. "That's why you gotta make the most of everything yah? He knows how you feel."
After a long silent moment, a shuddering, broken laugh from her that sounded more like a strangled cry.
"Who are you and what have you done with the real Inuyasha?" She teased feebly, reaching back to grip a corner of a velvety ear and tugging a little. A tiny smile, finally, finally graced her lips. He squeezed her tighter.
A/N: Stay safe everyone, and grounded in the moment. The present always has something beautiful to offer. Much love!
Chapter 41: Laughter
Kagome stomped along the path, kicking a few stray pebbles viciously down the hill but it wasn't helping. It was completely childish and she was probably overreacting but she was pissed. Renewing her efforts, she crossed her arms in front of her chest reminiscent of a certain hanyou and stomped harder. Said hanyou was uncharacteristically —and might she add, annoyingly— nonchalant about the whole thing, placid even. He was sauntering along beside her, relaxed and easy as they made their way back into the woods in search of a place to camp overnight.
"I don't get it, why aren't you even a little mad." She glared at her friend, daring him to give her a reasonable explanation.
"Keh." He shrugged lazily. "Happens all the time wench."
From her periphery, she noticed one corner of his mouth kept twitching upwards.
"Hey, I was defending you too, mister!" Kagome whirled around, jabbing a frustrated finger into his shoulder. "He called you a half breed! After we helped out his village too. How can you be so chill about it?"
"Heh, and he called you short." Inuyasha snickered quietly, golden eyes flashing at her in amusement.
"Whose side are you on, baka?" Kagome growled, and sped ahead, lower lip sticking out ever so slightly in an increasingly more prominent pout.
"Well I mean you did give him quite the tongue lashing there." He drawled teasingly from behind her. "Bastard ain't gonna forget that one anytime soon, that's for sure."
"What was it? A dumb—"
"Inuyasha, don't make me say it…" She warned darkly, prepared to sit him into oblivion. She was trying not to take it out on him but if he so insisted, she was only happy to comply.
Under her withering glare, he threw up both hands in surrender but the teasing gaze and aggravatingly amused smirk on his face said otherwise.
"Well, if I wasn't so mad, I would've come up with something better to call him!" Kagome whirled back around, resuming their slow stalk uphill.
"Oh yah, like what?"
"Like, like..." She wracked her brain; man, she sucked at this. "Narrow-minded piece of—piece of— toe fungus!"
A loud snort came from beside her
"Or," She tried again, doubly, triply annoyed now "Stupid, ungrateful prune on a stick!"
Wholly unexpectedly came an entirely different sound in response. Nothing she'd ever heard before coming from the hanyou. A rich tenor chuckle, a bubbling string of remarkably carefree sound bursting forth from his throat. Gaze darting to his face in disbelieve, she saw his head tilted, fangs peeking out, eyes scrunched up into happy semi circles, creasing the corners in endearing lines.
Kagome was stunned speechless, suddenly forgetting she was angry, just watching him laugh like she'd just said the funniest thing in the whole world. Moreover, he was laughing with joy, not a smirk, not a taunt, not a jeer. And it made her simultaneously elated that somehow, she was the cause of this, yet sad she'd spent over a month with him twenty-four-seven and haven't seen him really smile once, let alone laugh.
It was hard to watch for long and remain down and soon she found herself grinning in response to his rare good mood.
"I think you should leave the insults to me, wench." He gave her an amused look as his chuckles died down.
There was a flash of something deep and endearing in his gaze that made her breath catch.
"Kagome?" One clawed finger tapped lightly on her forehead, jolting her back to the present. She shook her head and offered him a blazing smile.
"Let's go!" Tugging at his sleeve slightly, she motioned onwards. They still needed to find and make camp before it got dark, having refused to stay in the village after the headman's obvious distain for them.
"You're not mad anymore?" Inuyasha trailed after her, a bit confused by her rapid change in mood.
She was already plotting how to make him laugh again. Sometime soon.
Chapter 42: Rendevous
Man did he feel like a proper bastard.
He wanted so desperately to hide behind the asshole gimmick, the 'fuck you, I'm the hanyou Inuyasha, I go where I want, answer to no one' banner he loved to brandish around. But the thing is, it's not true. He didn't want it to be true anymore.
He didn't hide who he was from them. Haven't had to since that fated waking from the Tree. And the thing is they accepted that, definitely told him off when he overstepped but he didn't hide anymore. The thing is, it felt so good to just be and accepted for it.
But tonight, he hid. Hid from them, so he could go to her. And then with her, he could now see with a shocking clarity how he had always hid. Swallowed his words, stilled his demeanour to be what she desired. He'd desperately wanted to belong with her that he was prepared to ultimately hide his demon blood forever. And that realization sent a paralyzing chill through his insides.
Now it was her between the two worlds, belonging to neither. Neither dead or alive. And it was his turn to belong solidly to one for once. And he'd be damned if he didn't offer her the same reprieve as she did him once. He owed it to her.
He stood stock still. Entire body taut with tension, and just stared at her. The poised face that should be familiar, but wasn't. Should be endearing, but wasn't. The perfect straightness of her hair, the crease-free fall of her robes. And for once he truly saw the distance between him and Kikyou, the distance that wasn't just a matter of how many parts human blood. The silence stretched on. Palpable and stifling. It wasn't the comfortable kind where Kagome leans against him—
See? There he goes again. Only a fucking asshole would start comparing the two.
A slight tilt of her head dismissed him and he leapt away, ashamed to be fleeing from her, ashamed of sneaking away from the group. From Kagome. He picked up speed, flying soundlessly through the dense forest, heart pounding from more than the physical demands of running. It was the dead of night. Who knows what could happen, what would be tempted by the convenient human snack that'd wandered into these parts. He would never forgive himself.
Kikyou had wanted him to go with her. That much he understood even if she did not voice it aloud. There was nothing stopping him from leaving the ragtag group. Kotodama or not. He could get up and go. But the thing is… he wanted to stay. Wanted to be part of the mismatched pack that somehow had been gifted to him. He wanted to stay with her. For as long as the well would allow before it snatched her away to her own time.
Slowing considerably as he neared their campsite, Inuyasha silently entered the ring of flickering light cast by the low fire. He desperately hoped she would be asleep. He could just sneak back into a nearby tree and pretend nothing happened.
Who the fuck was he kidding?
The rustle of her bedding grated disproportionately against his ears as she lifted herself up to her elbows. Her hair was slightly mussed, impossibly dark and curled around her shoulders. And her face— familiar, treasured. Her soft cheeks were marred with still damp tear tracks. His chest clenched painfully.
He slowly approached. He owed her something too. Perhaps he didn't necessarily break her trust, but he knew he broke something.
His jaw hinged open and closed wordlessly. He swallowed with effort, trying to give sound to the words sticking like wet sand to his throat. The smell of salt stung, the knowledge that he was the cause of it stung worse.
"I'll come back, you know." His gruff tone sliced like a knife through the night. Fuck, he was a bastard and an idiot.
A nod. She didn't meet his eyes.
For the first time, he felt her raise the foundations of a wall between them.
He didn't want that. God, he didn't want that.
Chapter 43: Home (Part I - A home, a future)
It wasn't until he flopped over and his questing limb was met with cool bedding instead of warm curves that he began to stir. Blinking lazily awake, he squinted at the sunlit room. Judging from the intensity of the light, it was well into morning.
This, was definitely a new development. By new development, he means more of a new skill? He used to be a lousy sleeper. And it saved his life more than he could count. He could never sleep more than a couple of hours consecutively, woke with every little sound, and certainly always at dawn. It wasn't until the last couple of weeks that he found that he could indeed sleep very well, could sleep in even, given the right conditions. These included warm bedding smelling a heavenly mixture of his new mate and himself. Oh and also some uh— nocturnal exercise.
Speaking of, where the hell did Kagome go?
Although he would rather endure pretty extreme forms of mutilation than admit this out loud, truth was, he still had moments of sheer panic, thinking she'd disappear from his life again. He wasn't sure he could survive mentally intact this time if he'd found out Kagome's return was just some fever induced delusion.
He quickly spotted her upon exiting their little dwelling. His wife was huddled on hands and knees a few measures from the hut, sleeves tied up and out of the way with a length of cloth. The pile of dirt she was unearthing steadily built up beside her as he watched her in silence a little while longer. His wife. It was hard to believe, harder still to say. Part of him was afraid that if he fully believed it, somehow, it would be taken from him. But here he was, an inu-hanyou, with his beautiful, incredible miko wife. It was something he'd never dared dreamed, and frankly been told he could never have. If he wasn't even fit to exist as a hanyou, how the hell would he be allowed to have a wife? The three years she'd been gone, he'd let himself half believe she could be back, and if she were to come back that nothing would've changed and she would agree to live with him. The act of cutting the timber, fitting each log, building the house that would be the home he could offer her, and then slowly filling it with small items he imagined she would use; it gave him hope, a reason to keep living while she was gone.
And now it was all true. This was his home, with her. Somewhere to come back to night after night. It was something he haven't had since he was a very small pup.
His chest tightened and his nose felt tingly.
"Oi," He called, voice unexpectedly hoarse. He cleared it quickly, tried again. " Oi, Kagome. What are you doing?"
She glanced up over her shoulder and sent him a tender smile. One he had missed so dearly for so many long years.
"Ohayo. Did you sleep well?"
He scoffed in reply, traitorous cheeks heating for no good reason. Stupid thoughts, stupid reasons for sleeping in.
She ignored him, instead returning her attention back to the ground. Fishing something out of the fold of her robes, she dropped it into the ground and began to replace the soil, patting firmly as she went.
"I'm planting a tree Inuyasha." She explained, voice very soft. "I think it's a nut from the Goshinboku. I went looking for it yesterday. Jii-chan had a lot of old sketches of the flowers and fruit of the Goshinboku. And even if it isn't, I think any tree would be nice."
She got up, dusted off the knees of her hakama and turned to glance at him with a tiny smile tugging at one corner of her lips. Then turning back to look at the spot newly marked with a big stone, she continued.
"I think it would be nice for it to grow up with us, you know? Watch over us throughout the years and over our—" The last part was so softly spoken it would be inaudible for human ears. Which he wasn't.
In a blur, he rushed to close the distance between them, chest now aching something fierce, eyes feeling hot. He gathered her tight into his chest, one arm around her shoulders, the other around her middle, and mashed his face into her hair, breathing erratically. Kagome just smiled, and put her own arm on top of his, stroking the hand that was clutched around her. The other she held up to soothingly comb through what she could reach of his hair and one fuzzy ear. She only squeezed comfortingly when warm liquid leaked onto her scalp where his face was pressed, and thankfully did not comment.
After a long moment, Inuyasha lifted his silver head from where he'd nestled it, his arms loosening around her just a fraction. "Woman… the ideas you get…"
"Not 'woman'—" She admonished, slapping at the arm wound snug around her middle. "Wife. Now repeat after me, Inuyasha, wife."
He growled, nipping her neck playfully though still making no effort to release her.
"Make me some breakfast, wife."
Ohayo - a greeting used in the morning. Similar to 'good morning'.
A/N: Hope you enjoy the warm and fuzzies. One of my favourite quotes is: " to plant a tree is to believe in tomorrow".
Chapter 44: Home (Part II - Present)
He had spotted it this morning when he delivered her back to her room and she tore around in a frenzy getting ready for school on time for a "tesuto". As a result most of her clothing was pulled out of the closet and into a heap on her bed in an attempt to locate the other clean and pressed school uniform her mother always had on hand. The set she wore to the Sengoku Judai predictably gets covered in youkai guts or blood or if they had a mild visit, mostly wrinkled with just a little dirt.
For being such an unobtrusively coloured thing, it stuck out like a sore thumb in the sea of bright colours and foreign textured fabric that were Kagome's clothing. After he had seen her safely to the funny building where she spent most of the daylight hours cloistered when she was home in the future, he made a beeline back to her bedroom to investigate.
Fishing out the neatly folded garment he found it to be slightly coarse but well-made, a warm wheat colour befitting of the natural fibres of which the fabric was woven. It was decidedly not from her time, and not Kagome's. It was a male's hadagi, that he was certain was made by the same hand that fashioned the one he currently wore. The one they had traded for last market day with fresh meat he'd hunted and some rare cooking herbs Kagome had gathered deep in the forest of his namesake. His old one had been shredded beyond recognition during the previous fight. He still vividly remembered her proud little smile, having bartered for something successfully.
"Ugh, why did I have to make such a big mess this morning?" Came an exaggerated groan from the bed bringing him swiftly back to the present. He turned to find her half buried, little tumbling piles displaying her effort at reorganizing her closet's contents.
"Hell if I know wench."
"Inuyasha…" Narrowed grey eyes shot him a withering glare. "You're not helping."
The head of raven hair bent down again, observing the clothing still not belonging to a pile. Inuyasha bit his lip. He had decided not to ask her. He was going to keep his damn mouth shut. She would osuwari him for snooping around her things. He wasn't going to ask her. He wasn't—
"Oi, Kagome, why do you have another hadagi?" Oh shit…
Surprisingly instead of the wrath he expected, her head snapped up, then her face coloured prettily and she yanked her gaze away.
"Oh um…" She murmured, nervously rubbing the sleeve of a random shirt between her fingers. "Well I thought the one we found fit you well, and you're bound to shred yours up again, so I thought there's no harm in having a back up."
She stopped her rambling to dart a brief look at him, then away again to a safe point on the floor.
"I assumed you didn't have a place to put things, seeing as— I'm sorry!" She slapped a hand over her mouth. "Oh, I'm so sorry Inuyasha, I didn't mean that…"
Right. Humans have that funny need to keep materials hoarded up in their little dwellings. Not unlike some animals and their dens. Blurry images of an ornately carved chest filled with coloured silks that smelled like his mother rose unbidden to his mind's eye. Youkai on the other hand had no need for such, their nature was nomadic and immaterial. Too bad he wasn't fully a youkai. That miserable hole of a cave, hidden half way down the wall of a gorge. That one little object wrapped in a scrap he'd torn off his fire-rat. The thing he had retrieved when he'd dared kindle the hope he would have a new home fifty years ago. The morning of the day he had planned to wish on the jewel.
Shaking his head to clear the unwelcome thoughts, he turned to see Kagome still fidgeting uncomfortably on her bed. He moved to crouch down on the floor beside her, hands dangling idly between his knees and looked up into her worried face.
"Baka, it's fine. Don't freak out over it." He was wholly surprised at the low, gentle tone his own voice made.
"You can keep your stuff here. I have lots of space!" She gave that quirky embarrassed smile of hers, flapping a hand at him in hope of diffusing the perceived awkwardness. "Actually, you probably don't need things anyway, silly me!"
"Actually I do." He muttered, thinking about that cave that held his childhood treasures. The inexplicably interesting and precious items that had captivated his young self.
"You do?" For the second time, Kagome snapped up to look at him, her lips parted in surprise.
Embarrassed, he looked away quickly, hating himself for letting more stupid words spill out of his mouth. What? Was he going to tell her that all he had hoarded up was a collection of brightly coloured rocks? She was silent for a moment and he could feel her eyes studying the top of his head. He looked up again when he felt the bed move as she swung her legs over onto the floor. Her hair swayed gently around her shoulders as she padded to her closet. Turning to face him again, her hands clasped together in front of her, she fixed him with a soft smile.
"Well Inuyasha, that shelf is yours ok? You can put your stuff here if you want." She patted the place when the hadagi was tucked. Her eyes were earnest and bright with that familiar glimmer of understanding and an emotion he wasn't sure he was seeing. "You're with me. So my home is your home."
He met her eyes in an unspoken response and her smile blossomed.
He wasn't sure if she truly knew what she was offering to him. He was with her though. That part was undoubtedly true. As for the other part, he didn't want to think about that yet. Now was not the time. But he had a feeling there would be a time, a time in their near future.
Hadagi - The white undershirt that can be seen peeking out from under the fire-rat.
A/N: In the anime, Inuyasha apparently had been holding on to his mother's lip tint, which he then gave to Kikyou. That's the reference in this chapter. Although, if I recall correctly, did not happen in the manga.
I was going through my older files when I found this one under an 'untitled' document. It's interestingly linked to the same theme as last chapter. And to make it even more confusing, Part II occurs chronologically before Part I. Sorry! But I think it actually gives it an interesting flavour to read it like this, in this order. In any case, tell me what you think!
As always, I so very much appreciate your readership. Reading your comments/reviews make my day.