Artwork by Clear Willow
It had been only a fortnight since he’d seen her last. Touched her last. Fought his way into literal hell to rescue her, and rescue her he did. He watched as she ran to her mother and fell limply into Mama’s embrace. He smiled at this woman, the one he was born for and who was born to meet him, and thought about the life he wanted to have with her. And then, he remembered the tug of the well, the falling, the clawing at emptiness to find his way back to her. Finally, he remembered touching down on his side, knowing it was over.
Kagome was sent to his time by the jewel, for the jewel.
Now the jewel was destroyed.
He’d known that this day was coming, or more specifically, that this night was coming: the night of the new moon. He hadn’t realized how much he’d started to depend on her steady presence as his senses started dulling, his claws started receding, and he was left feeling helpless and exposed. So here he was, 500 years away from her: alone again. He wanted to howl, he wanted to run, he wanted to find a hole so deep he could hide in it and no one would ever find him. He couldn’t protect his friends like this, because he couldn’t even protect himself from the empty helplessness that penetrated to his very core.
“Inuyasha?” A soft, smooth voice pulled Inuyasha out of his spiral: Miroku’s. “Kaede-sama has given us use of an unused hut in the outskirts of the village. Please come and join us.”
“Like I need to deal with you tonight bouzo,” Inuyasha scowled, then turned his back and ran as fast as his human feet could carry him into the woods, to the well.
He climbed down to the bottom and curled himself up as small as he could. For tonight, this was the only place he could be. The place he felt closest to her. He could cry away from prying eyes and rage at how fucked the world was. He could beg her to find her way back to him.
He didn’t know that there were two sets of eyes on him, watching his pain and wishing they knew what they could do to help.
After a month, the routine was set. He went to the well every day, to make sure it was still there, to make sure that that last connection he had to her still sat unmoving, near to the tree she freed him from. Shippō often tagged along with him, looking down the well and recounting his favorite stories from their adventures. At night, the kitsune would curl up and snuggle against Inuyasha’s back. He grumbled, but never told him to get lost… they both needed it.
Then it came again: the night of the new moon. Inuyasha thought that he was getting better, getting past needing her, but when his yōki receded and he was left feeling defenseless against everything, especially the upwelling of emotions, he knew he still needed her . It drowned him.
He needed to flee, to escape, to hide before anyone could see--
“Inuyasha.” A soft touch on his shoulder accompanied the warm utterance of his name: Sango.“Come to our hut with us. It’ll be warm and you’ll be safe .”
Sango didn’t mean safe from demons, but they would be. Sango didn’t mean safe from bandits, but they would be. Sango meant safe to grieve , safe to feel , safe to let himself surrender to the gnawing loneliness that he suppressed while he was hanyō.
“Whatever.” Inuyasha could not bring himself to say the word “yes;” even that touch to his shoulder rippled through his touch-starved body so intensely it pressed on that part of his heart he refused to acknowledge.
Sango understood his ‘whatever’ for what it was, took him by the hand, and led him back to their hut.
“So you’ve joined us Inuyasha,” Miroku smiled brightly as Inuyasha walked through the door, led by Sango.
“Yeah. What of it?” Inuyasha saw the warmth on their faces, the concern, the empathy, the love , and he wanted to push them away. But even more, he wanted to stay and bathe in it.
“We miss her too,” Sango said simply, “So much. I miss gossiping in hot springs with her. I miss talking to her about her time.”
“I miss her kindness,” Miroku added. “I miss that she always knew when someone needed a word of encouragement, or a touch to their shoulder, or even… an osuwari .”
Thinking about Kagome sitting him made Inuyasha smile, briefly. He saw her little nose scrunched in fury, the way she always warmed herself up by saying ‘I-nu-ya-sha’, punching every syllable, just to make sure he knew exactly what was coming.
“I-I…” Inuyasha stumbled over his words, but Sango and Miroku just looked at him, with those loving welcoming looks on their faces and… he felt safe, “I miss her… her touch. She… was the first person who… didn’t flinch when I got close.”
Fuck, he needed to get his human emotions under control or he would tell them everything. Suddenly, an orange bottlebrush tail whipped through the hut, its owner landing on his lap.
“I miss Kagome’s pocky,” Shippō proclaimed, accepting a little pat offered by Inuyasha.
“Kagome taught us many things,” Sango said, putting her hand back on Inuyasha’s shoulder, “ Especially about not judging people based on appearances.”
Inuyasha couldn’t help but smile, couldn’t help but feel the tears threatening to escape his weak human eyeballs. His friends were there, trying to use their love to fill the meteoric hole in his soul that Kagome left.
“I miss her snuggles,” Shippō sniffled. “At night. I miss her curling her arms around me and pulling me close. Like my mom used to do.”
Shit. That was what did Inuyasha in. Thinking about how desperately he wanted to snuggle her, how he wanted to curl his body around hers, breathing her scent and feeling her warmth as he slept. That was the loneliest time. At night. Even with the runt curled up with him. The kitsune was warm, but… he needed to feel the blanket of a body pressed to his, snug and safe. He could feel the tears he hadn’t wanted to cry start to pour out of him.
Before he could so much as react, he felt arms all around him. Both Miroku and Sango had enveloped him in a hug. It was… terrifying. Because it felt so good to feel their warmth and their touch. With Kagome gone, he didn’t know how much he was missing--not until his friends gave him that precious, wonderful thing.
Their acceptance; their touch .
He didn’t know how it happened, and he didn’t care. But that night, he slept, snuggled on a futon with a houshi, a tajiya, and a kitsune. It wasn’t Kagome, and it never would be, but it was something. And right now, on his human night, when he could not push down the howling loneliness, it was everything .
No one mentioned that night again as the next month passed, though Shippō snuggled closer than ever to Inuyasha afterward. The hanyō tried to grumble, tried to excuse, tried to shrug it off, but he couldn’t. The night he was at his most vulnerable, his friends were there to protect him.
So as the next new moon approached, he paced. He knew where he wanted to spend that night, when his yōki receded and the emotions flooded back to him, but… but… what if they thought it was weird? They were married, and he was a hanyō after all. And when he was a human, he was virtually a grown man. Maybe he could make it tonight. By himself. Maybe he could go spend that night in the well like he sometimes did, talking through the dirt, through time itself, to her.
“Come on in, Inuyasha,” Miroku’s amused voice cut through the night.
Was he really pacing outside the front of their hut?
“I… I wasn’t…” Inuyasha stuttered, caught in the act, realizing he couldn’t lie. “Fuck.”
“Just get in here,” Sango’s voice came next. “Shippō already claimed his spot.”
Inuyasha ducked through the screen, and snuggled into the futon with them, thankful to his friends for not making him ask, and not making him feel weird for needing what he needed: love and reassurance on his human night.
“It’s Uncle Inu night!” Kin'u squealed as she toddled around the hut.
“Now girls, you know what we’ve told you about keeping Uncle Inu’s secret,” Miroku warned, unsurprised to hear a little “keh” come from just outside.
“Uncle Inu snuggle night!” Gyokuto joined her sister in the chase, waiting for the hanyō-turned-human to appear through the screen.
Inuyasha usually waited until the twins worked off some of their after-dinner before entering, as they adored climbing on him and poking at his human ears, fascinated and disappointed that the doggie ears they loved so much were gone.
He hated it.
Okay, so he lied. He loved it--seeing these precious girls running around and jumping on him, completely free of fear. ‘Uncle Inu’ was their family , and now, they were his family.
He still desperately wished the person he most wanted as his family would find him again.
He would wait 500 years to be with Kagome, if he had to. He hoped he didn’t have to, but if it came to it, he’d find a way. It gnawed at his soul, missing her. But… well… at least on his loneliest night, he now had the other part of his family.
“Where’s the runt?” Inuyasha entered the hut at last, much to the delight of the girls.
“Kitsune test,” Miroku answered, only to be drowned out by the exclamations of two happy twins stampeding toward the hanyō-turned-human.
“Uncle Inu!” the two barely paused their advance before climbing up both of his arms.
He lifted them up, not as effortlessly as when he was hanyō, but effortlessly enough that they giggled and kicked their legs out shrieking for more. Inuyasha rolled his eyes, but as always, he indulged them. He couldn’t help it.
It made him think of his Kagome, ripe with his child, their family .
It had been a long time since he cried on a human night, but it always seemed to be just below the surface.
“Okay girls, mama is exhausted and needs her rest. You can play with Uncle Inu tomorrow,” Miroku commanded, looking over at Sango’s swollen belly. “Now is bedtime. We have to be quiet, because Uncle Inu needs us.”
“Okay.” the girls both popped off of Inuyasha’s arms and circled around the futon, “But we wanna snuggle Uncle Inu tonight!”
Inuyasha laughed and settled onto the futon, only to immediately be swarmed by the cuddles of the adorable twins. Fuck, he was in love with them. For nearly three years his friends had taken care of him every human night. He was family. Not protector. Not convenient bodyguard. Family.
They were the only reason he made it that long without Kagome.
Three years and a week had passed since the well seemingly closed off forever. Except it hadn’t.
The last week had been… the best in his life. He remembered catching the scent he would never forget on the wind. He remembered seeing a hand sticking out of the well, grasping for his. He remembered kissing her, and he remembered making her his wife as fast as the headman would let him.
“Inuyasha?” Kagome looked at him as he paced; it was the first time in three years he would spend the night of the new moon here, in his own hut, as a human.
Something was itching at him, but he couldn’t figure out what. Like he was missing something. But… he had his Kagome. He had her love. She was his wife . Sango and Miroku had spent the evening with them laughing and drinking and trading stories of their lives.
The twins had pouted, but they’d accepted that their “Uncle Inu snuggle nights” would need to come to an end for a while, because “Aunt Kagome and Uncle Inu will want special time to try to become a mommy and daddy too.”
Inuyasha blushed when Miroku said that, but… he was not wrong.
Delicate arms roped around his midsection. “What is it, anata?”
“I feel like… something…” Inuyasha leaned against Kagome, trying to figure out what his mind was trying to tell him.
Suddenly it hit him: the absence of orange bottlebrush.
“I’ll be right back.” Inuyasha stepped out of Kagome’s embrace to open the screen of the hut. “Come on in, runt.”
Shippō was sitting just outside, looking up at the sky, alone. Since Kagome had returned, Inuyasha had been… territorial, especially at night. He’d completely forgotten about the ball of fur that had immediately taken to sleeping with him starting nearly the day after the well closed, the same ball of fur that had been kicked out of both the beds he got snuggled in.
“You… you sure Inuyasha?” Shippō looked apprehensive, but with a single additional motion of Inuyasha’s fingers, in he came.
“Yeah runt,” Inuyasha grinned.
Sure, this would not work all the time, because Inuyasha and Kagome needed a lot of alone time , but they could get that without robbing the kitsune of the touch he needed too.
“Get in Shippō!” Kagome patted the futon she’d already returned to, a bright smile on her face.
Inuyasha settled in, holding Kagome to his human chest, breathing in her scent with his human nose, playing with her hair with his human hands, like he’d dreamed about for the past three years. Shippō snuggled up against his back, like he always did. It was… perfect. Because everyone needs snuggles, whether they are human, hanyō, or yōkai.