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The song of different birds played through the air, their symphony a celebration of life for all to hear.  Two white ears flicked at the sound, focusing first on the chirpings  coming from the shuttered window, then back to listen for the sounds within the small hut.  Golden eyes opened sharply, focusing through the fading darkness, to scan the room, taking in the embers of the fire, the first stream of light peeking through the bamboo covering the door.   The white-haired man’s body was otherwise still as his ears isolated out the sounds, searching desperately for one that would tell him it was real, that here was a chance that she was sti…

He heard a shift of movement against the bedding and his heart stuttered.  He closed his eyes, his nose subtly sniffing the air, hoping to confirm the identity of the body next to him.  He was still afraid to hope: he had had this dream too many times, turning to find the one person he longed for beside him, reaching out to touch her beloved face, only to have it fade in the morning light, leaving him once again alone.  On the days he had woken to find another near him, it had always been the fox kit, cuddling close out of loneliness. 

For three years Inuyasha had dreamed, longed, ached, and, yes, cried for her to return.  Kagome.  The adorable, beautiful, frustrating, annoying… and oh-so-loved Kagome.   The days without her had been endless, the nights torture—the nights where he couldn’t see her, couldn’t smell her—the soothing smell of vanilla and rose that was so uniquely Kagome.  He would never forget that last moment he had been able to see her after the defeat of Naraku: her family’s arms around her, her raven hair shining as her brown eyes had filled with tears, the moment when the smile on her face faded into shock and fear as she faded from his view.  

She had others who cared for her, who loved her just as much as he did, and she had been where she belonged.

Didn’t make it any fucking easier on him.

She had left behind her yellow bag, that damn fucking bag that seemed to hold everything and nothing at the same time.  Inuyasha had taken it, hiding it from the others, kept in a protected space because it was the last bit of her that he had. The bag was infused with her scent, the clothing she had left in it; even covered with yokai guts and blood, it had helped him through the first dark months… until the scent had faded even from there.  He had kept the bag, continuing to treasure it and all its contents, as proof she had been there, proof that she had been real.  He held her scent in his memory, engraved into his heart, and when the future seemed dark, he would call it up, let the memory curl around him, and think of finding her again 500 years in the future.  It would suck, but he would wait. He would do anything to be with her again.

That had all changed six short months ago.  

Inuyasha had been sitting with Sango and Miroku, surrounded by their family, desperately trying to hold back the jealousy that he felt, watching his friends marry and begin a family, secure in the knowledge that they would have an opportunity to grow old together, something that had been so cruelly denied him, when suddenly, the scent of vanilla and roses had teased him, too fresh to simply be his memory tormenting him.  Without hesitation, he had foisted Sango and Miroku’s twins onto Shippo and taken off towards the well, the last place he had seen her, desperate, and yet also terrified, to know if she was there, or if her scent  was an illusion.

When her hand had grabbed his, he had nearly wept with joy, hiding his emotions (as always) behind the gruff demeanor… hell, he had called her an idiot, (what the fuck had he been thinking?).  

If she thought he had been protective before, it was nothing compared to how he was after she had gotten back.  It wasn’t that he didn’t think she couldn’t take care of herself; no. It was something deeper, something more instinctual than that.

He was terrified that one day she wouldn’t be there anymore.  That the well would steal her back, take her away from him.

And there was no way in hell he was letting that happen.

If Kagome entered a hut without Inuyasha, he was standing right outside the door, his gaze fixed on her, his features tense until she was close again.  When she had first returned, he took to keeping guard just inside the front door of Kaede’s hut where Kagome was staying, watching her during the night to make sure she didn’t fade away.  After two months, he had finally eased from that position, moving (at Kaede’s insistence) to sit in a tree overlooking the window of the hut. Before he had agreed, though, he had grabbed Kagome’s futon and set it up just so, right in the perfect line of his tree, so he could  watch over her at night from a respectable distance.

Inuyasha had wanted to destroy the well the moment she came back, and it had taken several (more than several if he was honest) oswari’s for him to finally listen to Kagome, who insisted that even though she understood how much he hated and feared the well, it couldn’t be destroyed in his time without preventing her from ever being there in the first place.

That stopped all attempts to destroy the fucking thing… though he did growl every time they had to even go into visual range of it, and he always kept a tight hold on Kagome’s robes.

He knew he had wanted Kagome by his side from the moment he got her back, bound to him in every way he could, but he had forced himself to take it slow… Sango had pointed out that in the three years he had changed (well, not that much), and it was likely that Kagome had changed as well.  He had taken several months to get to know the new Kagome, to fall in love with her all over again.  And then he asked her the question he had been burning to ask from the moment she had returned, the moment he had caught her scent, to be his and for him to be hers, forever.  

And god, the moment she had said yes… he had pulled her tight against him, his nose buried in his hair.  If anyone but Kagome commented that there seemed to be the shimmer of liquid against her hair, he would have punched them, but Kagome knew.

She always knew.

Kaede had led the ceremony, binding them before the eyes of humans the night before.  There, before their friends and adopted family, Kagome had removed the kotodama to present to the gods as an offering for their union, asking for their blessing on a marriage between a human miko and a hanyo.   When he had made her his wife in the privacy of their own home, his yoki had demanded that he complete the full mating ritual, but Inuyasha had hesitated, a lingering fear in his throat that had held him back.

It was that same fear that now paralyzed him, making him afraid to turn around.  It was the first time in six months he had slept during the night, lulled to sleep by the scent of Kagome and the bone-deep contentment and relaxation he had felt after their night together.

What if he turned around and she wasn’t there?

Inuyasha’s golden eyes closed, his hand reaching for his necklace, his link to Kagome…

Only his neck was bare.

The beads were gone….

The beads were gone!  

Could that… could it really be?

He sat up carefully, turning his face finally to see the most beautiful sight he could imagine.  Kagome draped over the futon, her small frame curled facing him under the furs he kept for warmth, her raven hair spread across the pillow, her breathing light and even.

Inuyasha quickly turned and lay down again right next to her, staring at her, a small whine breaking through his lips. Kagome’s brown eyes began to blink open, and she gave him a small, tired smile.  

He couldn’t help himself.  He placed a hand at the back of her neck, cradling her head as he pressed his lips against hers, reassuring himself that she was there, finally, finally accepting that it wasn’t a dream, a fantasy created to further break him.

“You’re still here,” he whispered against her lips, his voice breaking with emotion.

“I’ll always be here,” she whispered back as she caressed his cheek and touched her forehead against his.  

Inuyasha drew her into his arms, holding her tightly against his chest, his face buried against his hair as he let the waves of emotion flow through him, relief, love, joy.  She was here, his one person, his love, his life.  He would be able to be here with her every day, see her every night, wake up with her.  

Kagome’s hand trailed up his back, and the feeling of her nails against his skin sent a wave of pure need through him, his body hardening against her.  Kagome let out a small sound and shifted, and he groaned at the feeling of her moving against him.  He drew her up before sealing mouths together, his tongue slipping through her lips to dance against hers.  

He could breathe again.

She was still there.