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“Hiraikotsu!” Sango’s deadly boomerang sliced through the snow, slamming into the ice demon.  Despite the bone construction of the weapon and the immense force behind the attack, the enemy was not taken out of the fight.  Icicles shattered and chunks of fur and blue ichor sprayed the tachi, but the blow only seemed to enrage the demon.  The thing stood on its hind feet, rearing back until it was more than twenty feet tall.  The echo of its roar shook snow from the trees and caused the ground to vibrate.  When its front hooves slammed down again, the earth shook - causing Inuyasha to stumble.

            He braced himself with Tessaiga and held his ground.  His leg throbbed where the demon had slammed him into the side of the mountain.  His back felt bruised and battered, but he stayed on his feet.  Kagome was behind him, fumbling with her bow.  His sensitive ears picked up her muttered curses as her frozen fingers struggled to fit an arrow.  She was afraid, he could smell it.  She was kneeling in the snow - he knew because he had put her there after the initial attack had left her in the demon’s path with a twisted ankle.  

            Out of the corner of his eye he watched Sango catch Hiraikotsu as it returned to her.  One of her arms hung limply at her side.  The shoulder was probably dislocated.  Blood dripped over her eyes from a cut on her head.  She fought without Kirara as the neko was tasked with guarding Miroku.  He had fought well, incapacitated a half-dozen of the demon’s spawn - goat-like creatures the size of small ponies with poisonous fangs.  When the larger demon had appeared and the winter storm grew worse, the monk attempted to use his wind tunnel to clear them a path through the blowing snow and ice.  

            Unfortunately, the storm was not natural, but made by the ice demon’s youki.  As the snow and cold had entered his hand, Miroku turned ashen.  His lips went blue, his breathing grew weak.  He had barely managed to replace his prayer beads and seal the wind tunnel before he collapsed from the evil cold that had entered his body.  Kirara carried him on her back, the fire-cat’s fur would hopefully keep him from death until they could get out of the storm.  Shippo sat with him, helping keep the monk steady and doing his best with small illusions to keep the demon’s attention away from the injured man.

            He had to end it.  Inuyasha knew that.  Even he was beginning to feel the cold  - the humans would be frostbitten soon, if they weren’t already. “Where is it?” he yelled over the wind.

            “I can’t see with all this snow!” Kagome replied.  Inuyasha stepped back beside her and took a deep breath,

            “Wind Scar!” Tessaiga cut through the storm and opened a clear path to the ice demon.

            “In the chest - at the heart!”  Finally! Inuyasha growled and made a running leap to attack the demon.  He sank his blade deep into the thing’s shoulder, landing on its back and wrenching with all his strength to try to throw the demon to the ground and expose its chest so he could retrieve the shard.  Too late, he realized the Wind Scar had worked both ways.  Kagome could see the demon and the Shikon shard it possessed, but the demon could also clearly see Kagome.  It bellowed, ignoring Inuyasha and the weapon buried to the hilt in its muscle and charged the priestess.  

            Naked fear and rage coursed through Inuyasha.  Kagome couldn’t get away.  Even if she could stand on her injured leg, she couldn’t possibly outrun a demon.  Inuyasha’s eyes widened and he abandoned Tessaiga to vault onto the demon’s head.  He seized one massive curled horn and twisted.

            The demon slid across the rock and snow, its feet scrambling to find purchase.  Kagome fitted her arrow and managed to lift it in a ridiculous attempt to defend herself against twenty tons of muscle and fur flying towards her.  The demon brayed and shards of ice erupted from his mouth and shot at Kagome.  Time moved impossibly slow for Inuyasha.  The ground trembled with the force of the demon’s hooves.  Kagome’s blue eyes widened as she loosed the arrow, its purity reflecting on her face and turning the falling snow around her pink.  The shards of ice, not unlike his own blades of blood attack, sparkled as they raced past the arrow towards their target. His arms burned and he gave one last, screaming effort - hauling the demon’s head to the side and throwing it completely off course.

            He was also thrown clear.  Inuyasha had the opportunity to blink once as he sailed through the air, watching a thousand tiny cold blades rip into the priestess.  The last thing he heard before he hit the ground was her scream.

 

***

 

            Sango watched in shock as Inuyasha grappled with the demon.  She could not throw Hirakotsu without hitting her friend, even if her body had been capable of the strength.  The ground trembled again under the huge hooves of the ice demon, and a fissure opened before her.  She would have fallen in, if Kirara had not grabbed the back of her suit in her teeth and dragged her to safety.  

            “Kagome! Watch out!” she cried.  The demon had seen the vulnerable priestess and would trample her to death in moments. Sango couldn’t bear to see it, nor could she look away.  Kagome, resolved to do her best even in the face of unbelievable odds, lifted her bow.  Sango could barely make out her lips moving - commanding the arrow to hit its mark.  A bellow, so low it was nearly inaudible, rent the air and a cloud of daggers - icicles, Sango realized - pressed toward Kagome.  Tears pricked Sango’s eyes.  Kagome threw up one arm and turned her face to shield it from the oncoming attack.

            A scream of pure animal rage cut through the storm and then the demon was turning, falling, sliding away from Kagome to crash into the wall of the mountain.  A red blur flew through the air, landing with a wet crack that could be easily heard even over the storm and the snarls of the ice demon.  Sango held her breath.  

            There was a twitch of black and green and she squinted. Through the blowing snow she could make out Kagome’s hair and green skirt, slowly moving through the snow.  She was alive!  The rush of relief was not long-lived, as Kagome became easier and easier to make out. The pale skin of her face and long legs quickly became blurred with smears of red.  Sango gasped.  The girl must have been cut a hundred times to draw so much blood.  It left a pink trail in the snow as she crawled toward the place where Inuyasha had fallen. The red robes of the fire rat were motionless; the tree he had crashed into was broken in a jagged line behind him. His white hair hung over his face.  

            Sango slung her boomerang onto her back and prepared to mount Kirara and fly to her friends.  Before she could get onto the big cat, the ground under her feet trembled, bringing her to her knees.

            The ice demon stood and shook chunks of rock and dirt from its fur.  One rear leg was completely missing - purified by Kagome’s arrow.  It stomped its hooves, making the ground shift more and shaking rocks and snow loose.  Sango couldn’t risk flying so close to the demon with Miroku, but Inuyasha was still down and Kagome was injured.  She could barely lift Hiraikotsu, and the ravines created by the demon were too wide for her to cross on foot.  She glanced at Shippo, but the poor fox-demon could not speak through the tears streaming down his face at seeing his adoptive mother injured.  Even if Sango was willing to risk him, she did not think Shippo could transform and float to Kagome in time to save her - especially with the gales produced by the storm.  Sango had never felt so helpless. She whispered a prayer and watched for an opening in the fight where she might make a difference.

 

***

 

            “-have to be all right.  You have to get up, Inuyasha. Please!”

            There was an enemy nearby.  He knew that.  He could smell another demon, large - but not as powerful as he was, approaching through the snow. His youki swelled, already knitting his broken spine together. He inhaled sharply.  There was another scent as well - not a demon.  It was close, far closer than anything living should be allowed.  The words returned, distracting him from the enemy and from that other scent.

            “Please, you can’t die. Inuyasha! Please!” A sob interrupted the words and he opened his eyes to a world of whiteness.  The enemy was moving through the storm, coming for him.  It was injured, but the wound had only made it angry.  It would attack.  It wanted to end him. To end the...girl...who spoke to him.  He looked down to find dark hair spilled across his blood-soaked chest.  Slim white fingers were wrapped around his own.  She was weak, injured, and her cries were attracting the ice demon.  He bared his fangs and growled in warning, shoving her away quickly and standing.  She was no threat - he could deal with her later, after he had tasted the blood of his enemy.  He extended his claws and attacked.  

            The blood was bitter in his mouth and on his fangs.  The flesh of the ice demon was hard and cold, but no match for his claws.  He tore into the animal, gouged below the fur and the tissue to reach the soft organs underneath.  The demon tried to trample him, but he was too strong.  He braced his legs and pulled.  Instead of crushing him, the movements of the demon pushed it up and away, leaving him standing still, covered in ichor and clutching the beating heart of the beast.  He grinned savagely.  He was the strongest.  This is my territory. My mate.

            He stopped, his anger still pulsing in his veins and making it difficult to think.  He was strong, he must have a mate. He struggled to remember before the battle.  His mate should be at his back...or guarding their pups...or... Had the thing killed his mate?  Anger surged again from deep inside him.  The ice demon could not tell him what had happened, but the weak girl...

            He turned and stalked to where she lay on the snow.  She did not move and her eyes were closed.  He breathed deeply, inhaling her scent and that of blood.  She was covered in it, hers and his, but she had not attacked him.  No others should be here.  Not in his territory.  Only his pack, his mate, his pups...  He felt his claws lengthen again and a snarl rose in his throat.  He knelt at her side, the blood from the heart clenched in his fist dripping onto her pale legs and strange garments.  He bent to her exposed neck, ready to rip out her throat and taste the warm blood that lay just under the surface.  She smelled sweet.  She would erase the bitter taste of the ice demon and then he could scout his territory.  Hunt. Stalk. Mate.

            So close to her skin her scent flooded his nose.  Sweet and light, her day had been walking in dry leaves, crushing them under her feet.  She had eaten noodles and fish at her last meal, which he tasted in his own mouth as well.  Her cycle had ended only a day or so ago, and her body had not been touched by a male in at least a few weeks.  She was not marked.  He gained the impression of warm sunlight and dusty roads, a campfire with seasoned cherry wood, a young male fox demon, a female neko, and two humans - male and female.  She carried herbs for healing that had the smell of an old human woman, and ointments that were not familiar to him.  The yellow bag on her back belonged to her, but he had carried it recently.  He growled against her skin.  He wanted to bite, to kill, to taste her blood.  But she was not his enemy.  Frustration made his grip on her shoulder tighten, drawing blood.

            A gentle hand brushed against his hair, settling at the base of his ear.  He stilled, wary and ready to sink his fangs into her.

            “Inuyasha,” she whispered.  He looked up and her blue eyes widened.  He smelled a new trace of fear in her, but she did not pull away.  Her fingers rubbed his ear gently. “We can’t stay here, Inuyasha.  It isn’t safe...the snow...do you understand me?”  Her voice remained quiet, even hoarse.  He watched her lips move.  They should have been red with the blood he wanted to taste; red like the blood that seeped from cuts all over her skin.  They were blue. He grunted.  The urge to bite, to attack, was still strong, but he felt something else as well.  He did not want to sort out his instincts - he wanted to act.

            A rumble, this one farther away and larger than any sound the ice demon had made, echoed through the wide pass where the battle had taken place.  He found himself crouched over the girl, protecting her from whatever new threat was coming.  His ears swiveled and he sniffed, searching for the source of the sound.

            His eyes were sharp, and even through the snow - falling thicker every moment - he could make out the human female watching him from across a ravine.  She was squinting and waving, trying to get his attention but most likely unable to see more than his outline in the storm.  He breathed deeply.  She was upwind, and her scent was the same as the faint traces on the girl.  He felt a twinge of surprise to note that it was faintly present on his own sleeve as well.  She shouted, but her words were incomprehensible, even for him, over the growing wind.  She pointed and he looked.

            Far up the mountainside, a cloud was growing.  Snow billowed out in great puffs, leading the edge of an avalanche.  The ravine was too wide to jump, and he did not know the human on the other side - or her companions.  He scooped up the girl with one arm, slinging her over his shoulder, and bounded away into the trees.  He forged a path up and away from the cascading snow as it descended on the pass where they had been standing only moments before.

 

***

 

            Sango lept onto Kirara even as she pointed out the avalanche to Inuyasha.  She could barely see him through the blowing snow, but he must have recognized the danger because he picked up Kagome and jumped into the forest, angling up the mountain and away from the path of the snow, trying to get above and over the crushing weight of hundreds of tons of ice and rock. She followed his example and urged her neko into the air in the opposite direction.  If they all made it out of the storm alive, they would meet on the road or back at Kaede’s and examine their injuries.  Until then...she dared a glance back at Shippo where he gripped a handful of fur on either side of Miroku, effectively belting the unconscious monk down. She swallowed.  When they all made it back...

 

***

 

            The dog demon leapt across the snow, barely touching one sliding, careening boulder of ice before propelling himself up and forward again.  It was minutes before they were out of the dangerous slide of frozen water and rock and he could get his bearings.  He knew this mountain.  Its scent was familiar even if the snow and time had changed the landscape.  This was his territory.  The snow was still falling too thickly to make his eyes much use. He quickly took in his surroundings through his nose.  Orienting himself and tossing the girl more securely onto his shoulder, he took off at a run.

            The cave was untouched since he had left it last, although he was not sure how long that had been.  His scratch marks on the rock were undisturbed.  A waterfall, frozen and suspended as a sheet of ice, covered most of the entrance.  A small hot springs, lacking the sulfurous smell that usually tortured his nose when such things appeared, descended in a trickle from the back and pooled in a deep depression near the mouth of the cave before finally melting a small hole in the waterfall and descending into the frozen lake.  Dry wood was stacked at the very back, as far from the water as possible.  A ring of stones was arranged near the front, clean but for many years collection of dirt.  A nest of tree boughs and leaves had crumbled into mostly dust and dead wood.

            He set the girl near the old nest and scoured the den for unfamiliar scents before starting a fire.  The kindling caught easily from the sparks his claws made on the stones.  His stomach tightened in hunger, and his eyes turned to the narrow shelf high on the wall where he had stored nuts and dried meat.  The storage crock was broken and the nuts had turned to dust - except for one which had rooted and wormed its way through a crack in the rock to the outside.  From the size of the root mass, he guessed it had been many decades since he had last been in the cave. He still clutched the demon’s heart in his claws.  He could eat it...his stomach flipped at the thought of the bitter blood in his mouth again and he dropped the organ on the floor.

            The girl shifted in her sleep, stirring her scent.  Her blood caught his nose again and his stomach rumbled.  He could kill her before he ate her, so that her screams wouldn’t bother his ears.  He stalked closer, until he was poised over her. His hands and feet framed her body and his face studied hers.  The yellow bag on her back propped her up at an odd angle so that when he leaned in her shallow breaths fanned against his mouth.  Her hair was half frozen, half soaking wet - as were her clothes.  As the snow on her melted and chilled her skin she began to shiver.  He growled in frustration.

            She was not his mate.  He could tell she had not been marked - nor had any male taken her - but his scent was covering her.  He pressed his nose against her jaw and was greeted by the image of her chin resting on his shoulder.  He followed the pictures those smells made: down her chest and belly - where she pressed against his back while he carried her.  Her hands smelled of his own - from grasping his fingers or clutching his shoulders.  Her legs were mostly bare and smelled of his fire rat and hakama where she had held onto him. He pressed his nose between her legs and found that even there she smelled of him - but only because he had held her. No deeper scent marked her intimately as his.  His scent was embedded in her clothes and layered on her skin and hair over a long time.  He obviously carried her on his back often.  

            He bared his teeth at the sleeping girl and let out a small gruff in confusion.  She was not his mate, but he traveled with her.  He carried her; he supposed as a human female she was much weaker and could not keep up with him otherwise.  An unmated human girl would only attract trouble.  Her scent was sweet, clean, soothing...intoxicating.  He shook his head.  She didn’t have any bite marks, he hadn’t been carrying her around as food.  She had warned him about the ice demon and the avalanche.  Even if she wasn’t laughingly weaker than him, she was no threat. The demon snarled at the empty cave.  Not mate. Not food. Not enemy.  

            Her eyes fluttered and he stared at her, his face still twisted in ire.  “Inuyasha?” she muttered sleepily.  She shivered and his eyes were drawn once again to the thin, ripped cloth that barely covered her. Dried lines of blood broke as she moved and fresh liquid seeped out. “A-Are you okay? I-I-I-” Her chattering grew so bad she interrupted herself.  A shaking hand moved forward to brush his hair from his face.  She drew in a sharp breath when she saw his eyes.  A tart note of fear entered her scent.  He growled quietly.  He didn’t like that smell.

            “Inuyasha? W-Where is Tessaiga?”

            She was afraid, but her hand did not leave his hair.  She brushed it back further to cup his cheek.  The soft skin of her palm brushed against his markings and a rumble started low in his chest.  Not enemy. Not food. Her fingers were cold, but a warm tingle started where she touched his skin and spread.  It would be foolish to travel with a weak human.

            “Inu-Inu-yasha,” she chattered.  Her fingers delved in his hair to find his ear.  He stiffened momentarily, baring his fangs, but her touch was gentle.  She rubbed hesitant circles in the soft fur at the base of his ear and the warmth grew hotter, seeping down from his ear, to his chest, to...  There was no reason to travel with others, unless they were pack.  She was not inu... “We need Tessaiga, Inuyasha.”  A very strong human might be the lowest in a pack, but she was not strong.  Her fingers were distracting him.  The sensations she caused...he could feel the rumble in his chest growing stronger.  She smelled sweet. He wanted her blood.  He wanted to taste her.  Her thumb slipped around the edge of his ear, gently pressing the thin flesh between the pads of her fingers. A coil of heat pooled in his belly and his eyes flew wide open in sudden understanding.

            Not enemy. Not food. Make mate. That was why he would carry a weak female for so long.  He intended to mate her.  He breathed deep again, sorting through the images of all the scents that layered her.  Her cycle had only recently ended.  He must have waited to mate her until it was done - but then the ice demon had attacked them.  He growled and pressed closer, laying his body along hers and pressing his nose into the curve of her neck.  In that instant, his frustration and ever present rage disappeared - replaced by another base instinct.

            “Inu-Inu-Inuyasha?” She was shivering so badly she could barely speak, and the demon frowned.  He wanted to take her, to mate her, but a human could become sick easily - he knew that.  She was injured as well.  He pulled away to look at the surprise and confusion clouding her eyes.  Her teeth were chattering and her skin was grey with cold. She could not bear healthy pups if she was not healthy.  “We-we n-n-need to go. We n-n-need to find Tess-Tess-T-”  She struggled to sit up further, but the weight of her bag was too much for her in her weakened state. The demon growled.

            She paused, wide-eyed.  He growled again, pushing his face into hers to force her back down.  She could not leave the den.  It was storming out, and she was already in danger from sickness and injury.  He would not let her out until she smelled healthy...and marked.  His claws brushed against her arm and she flinched.  Five perfect holes marred the thin cloth of her shirt, stained with her blood.  He grasped the material in one hand and ripped.  He had injured her, when he shoved her away from him during the battle.  Something akin to sorrow tightened his chest.  A mate was to be protected, cherished.  His was injured - some by his own hands.  He leaned close and sniffed the wounds.  There was no trace of infection.

            “Inu-Inu-yasha?” Her voice was even quieter than before.  It sounded thready and hoarse to his sensitive ears. He looked up to find her eyelids drooping and her eyes rolling back in her head. She relaxed abruptly against the yellow bag and the demon took a moment to reassure himself she was still breathing.  She was alive, but she would not be for long if she didn’t get warm.  He added wood to the fire, although he still kept it small, and stripped off his own wet garments.  He lay them over a rock to dry before gently pulling her arms from the straps of her bag.  He flipped off her shoes and stockings, but ignored the rest of her clothes as he submerged them both in the hot springs.

            The water was nearly scalding after the cool winter air of the cave.  The girl moaned in her sleep, and the demon worried for her safety.  He nuzzled her cheek and neck, searching for the beat of her heart.  Reassured by the slow, steady pulse, he sank lower into the water, leaving only her face exposed to the air.  As the fire began to warm the cave and the color returned gradually to her lips he studied her.  She was beautiful.  Even by a demon’s standards, she was beautiful.  Her dark hair was thick and silky.  He pictured the exotic blue of her large eyes and admired the fullness of her lips.  Her skin was smooth and pale - where it wasn’t marred by thin cuts.  He frowned.  One mate should care for the wounds of the other.  

            A line of blood stretched from the corner of her mouth to her temple, angling across her cheekbone and emphasizing the delicacy of her features.  He pressed his mouth against hers.  In one long, slow lick he traced the cut, cleaning it with his tongue and allowing the healing properties of his saliva to work on her skin.  Her blood was sweet. Sweet and spicy and crisp.  She tasted of a spring breeze across an orchard of apples.  She tasted of sunlight on lilies in cool water.  She tasted of... He found another cut, this one along her jaw.

            By the time he finished all of the cuts on her face and neck, she had stopped shivering and her lips had regained a pink color.  He lifted her to float on her back in the water.  Her clothes were ruined by rips and bloodstains.  Even if she needed them, and he assured himself she would not, they were useless in winter weather.  He slipped a claw under the neckline and quickly reduced both her top and skirt to tatters which he flicked onto the floor.  He considered her undergarments.  Strangely flimsy and delicate, seeing her creamy skin cupped by the lacy things fanned the embers that burned low in his belly.  He cut them away, careful this time to keep the material mostly intact.  

            A growl of pleasure escaped his throat once she was bared to him.  Even with the cuts and new bruises, she was lovely.  Her skin was smooth and taut.  Her muscles were sleek and enhanced by generous curves.  Full, round breasts were tipped with dark pink nipples.  Nestled between her thighs was a neat mound of soft black hair that begged to be explored.  Saliva pooled in his mouth and he had to lick his lips and fangs.  Mate, his mind screamed and he inhaled her scent, clean of blood and dirt from the hot spring.  His hand brushed across her arm and fresh blood welled from the wounds his claws had made.  The reminder of her injury banked his desire and he bent to continue to treat her wounds with his tongue.

            He laved across the holes in her arm, stemming the flow of blood.  His tongue soothed cuts on her shoulders and collarbone, across her chest, under her breasts and down her ribs.  Her belly was mostly untouched - protected as it had been by her legs when she drew them up.  Her thighs and calves had taken the worst of the injuries.  By the time he finished he had licked nearly every inch of her skin from hip to ankle - all but the inches he most wanted to taste.

            His blood raced under his skin as he examined her back and found it unblemished.  Tracing his claws gently down her spine to cup her buttocks he was tormented by the image of her on her hands and knees before him.  He pressed a final kiss to her mouth, unable to resist licking inside for another taste of her, before he draped her over the edge of the pool and hopped out.  He shook himself dry, headless of his own nudity, and checked his fire rat to find that it was still damp.  He opened her yellow bag, hoping that she had a blanket or kimono to keep her warm.  He found another pair of the undergarments, a small towel, and a surprisingly thick bedroll, but no other clothing.  He unrolled her futon and found it to be a sort of bag made of squishy blankets.  Her bag was full of other interesting things.  Some smelled of medicine, others of food; everything was vaguely inky and very her.  The food smelled good, and made his stomach tighten, but the wrapping was strange to him so he left it alone and returned to the girl with her towel.  

            He sat on the edge of the pool and pulled her into his lap, careful to reseal any cuts that opened as he patted her dry.  He squeezed the water from her hair and quickly groomed her with his claws before sliding her into the futon bag.  He slipped in alongside her, pulling her flush against his own body and ignoring the ache in his cock as her bottom nestled against him.  When she woke, he would check her wounds.  If she was healing and had not become sick...

            He growled in anticipation and satisfaction as she murmured in her sleep and pressed back against him.  When she was better he would mate her, mark her, take her as his.  That sweet scent, that taste, would be only for him.  He buried his nose in her hair and closed his eyes.  One ear remained alert, listening for danger.  The other focused on her quiet breathing and steady heartbeat.  They were safe for the time being. My territory. My den. My mate.

 

***

 

            Sango slumped against the wall of the hut, feeling numb.  Kirara curled up on a bedroll with Shippo, both exhausted after flying all night to return to Kaede’s village.  The old priestess was bent over the mat closest to the fire, tending to Miroku.  Sango felt a wave of despair wash over her as she studied his pale skin and shallow breaths.  He had almost died, on the way to the village.  Shippo had cried out that he wasn’t breathing and the neko had landed in a dangerously wooded area at Sango’s urging.  She had listened for breath, and finding none had tried to hear his heart.  It was slow and uneven.  She did the only thing she could think of and pressed her mouth tightly to his - forcing warm air into his body.  She continued for nearly a minute, tears streaming down her own face silently while Shippo cried.

            Finally, the monk took a shallow breath on his own.  They continued on through the night, stopping twice more so that she could force life into his lungs.  She had pushed her will into him as well, doing her utmost to make him live.  Yet...she followed Kaede’s movements as the priestess lifted a warm compress from the man’s chest and recovered him with heavy blankets. ...and yet he might still die.  Sango swallowed hard.  She had never been one to ignore the truth, even when it hurt.  This truth...this truth might kill her as well as him.

            “I’ve done all I can, child,” Kaede said quietly.       

            “Then he’ll...” For all her strength, she couldn’t finish the thought.

            “He may live, he may not.  I have given him every chance I can.  I must rest. You will watch him until morning.  Make certain he stays warm, and wake me if his breathing slows any further.”

            Sango nodded, and Kaede creaked as she stood and shuffled to the little curtained area at the back of the hut where she slept.  The demon slayer crept to the monk’s side, bending to let his breath blow against her cheek and watch his chest rise and fall in the low light of the fire.  His face was still cool to the touch and so she lay down next to him, pressing her body against his through layers of blankets.

            “You can’t go yet, you pervert,” she whispered. “Who will swindle us a room while we travel? Who will grope all the young women’s bottoms? Who will calm the disturbed spirits in every prosperous village we pass? Who will guide Inuyasha? Who will-” her voice cracked and she had to wet her lips and swallow before she continued.   She clutched him tightly, willing her own body heat to pass into him and smother the cold. Tears streaked down her face and soaked the edge of the blanket. Her voice was even softer, barely a murmur in the silent hut, “Whose children will I bear?”

 

***

 

            Kagome awoke to the sensation of something warm and wet, and just a little rough, lapping at her collarbone. “Get off, Buyo,” she murmured, snuggling deeper into the warmth of her bed.  She gradually became aware of a gentle vibration in her chest, and a delicious heat radiating against her back. “Errrm, perfect,” she mumbled, sinking back towards sleep. Another long lick, just on the pleasant side of raspy, wet her skin from her sternum down to her nipple before swirling around the peak and sucking gently. “Ack!” Her eyes flew open and she tried to sit up, but only managed to knock her chin against something hard.  She fell back down, rubbing her chin and wide awake.  White hair, silky and long, draped across her chest and neck.  “Inu-Inuyasha?” she whispered in shock.

            With a gentle flick, the silvery strands flew over his shoulder and she could clearly see him.  He lay behind her, pressed against her back from shoulder to toe.  He was sitting up on one elbow to look at her and...well, to lick her she supposed.  She would have blushed outrageously at the thought, but she was too stunned by what else she saw.  Jagged purple markings outlined his cheekbones.  His fangs had lengthened and swollen in size. His eyes were red, but instead of the bright blue irises that usually accompanied his transformation, his pupils remained golden.  He was- he was- calm. She had no other word to describe it. Well, calm and...aroused. This time she felt the blush overwhelm her and she was intensely aware of the hot, hard pressure of him against her bottom.

            He growled in response to her blush and his eyes dilated.  He leaned forward again, trailing his tongue over her skin and slowly pulling back her sleeping bag to reveal more of her.  She was momentarily too embarrassed to speak by the discovery that not only was she completely naked - so was he.  He continued to lick, finding dark pink injuries, little more than scratches really, and giving them the same attentive treatment as her breast.

            “Inu-” she cleared her throat, trying to hold herself still although she wanted nothing so much as to squirm - either closer or further away she wasn’t sure, “Inuyasha, can you understand me?”  He growled softly and nipped gently at her belly, causing the skin just below her belly button to shiver and gooseflesh to rise.  She took that as indication that he could hear her.  “Inuyasha,” she began and then hesitated when he reached the juncture of her thighs.  He breathed deeply, and for a moment she thought he would lick her there as well.  Her face burned, but she couldn’t help but wonder what it would feel like as well. He took another, deeper breath and made a sound that was both satisfied and hungry at the same time.  Kagome had a split moment of absolute mortification where she forgot that he could rip her limb from limb and instead worried that he could smell her desire.

            “Inuyasha,” she squeaked. “Where is Tessaiga? Did you bring it with us? We need to find-” She cut herself off with a giggle when he licked at the back of her knee.  His head tilted up, watching her with a smile that was less reassuring and more fangy than she would have liked. He finished her legs quickly and covered them both back up, nuzzling his face into her neck and trailing his claws in circles across her abdomen.  “Inuyasha. Where. Are. The. Others.” He stopped, peering down at her with his head tilted in a manner not unlike a puzzled dog. “Sango and Miroku and Shippo - where did Kirara take them?”  He returned to her neck and Kagome sighed in frustration.  She had dreamed more than once of Inuyasha paying intimate attention to her.  It didn’t get much more intimate that what he was doing right then...not without... All that attention, finally on her, and she couldn’t enjoy it.  She had to know what had happened to the others.  And Inuyasha...he wasn’t himself. He wouldn’t even remember this when he returned to himself. Oh God.  That could be the only thing more mortifying that lying still while full-youki Inuyasha licked her - knowing he had done so, and apparently enjoyed it, and hanyou Inuyasha not remembering a thing.

            She needed him to focus on something other than...his lips reached a particularly sensitive spot and he followed with a gentle nip with his fangs.  She moaned - and then immediately blushed again in embarrassment.  He didn’t seem to mind, even made a low vibrating growl - almost a purr - of approval. Focus! “Food,” she blurted.  Thankfully, her stomach took the hint and chose that moment to grumble loudly. He pulled away from her neck and looked down at her with a frown. Oh God, please don’t let him want to eat me. That thought immediately led her to a few things she had overheard her friends from home say about their boyfriends and she blushed again.  She could feel heat pooling between her legs and she no longer had to wonder if he could smell her desire.  He turned towards her waist and sniffed.  His growl - of approval? pleasure? anticipation? - reverberated through her body. The clawed hand on her stomach moved lower, ghosting over her pubic hair to press between her thighs. Some half-crazed hormonal part of her mind was begging her to relax her legs and let him find out how much she wanted him.

            He’ll hate himself if he finds out.  He’ll hate you too.

            That harsh thought was like a bucket of cold water over her head. Once she could think clearly, she knew she had to distract him long enough to come up with a plan to find Tessaiga before he did something they would regret.  Like killing an innocent village. Or biting her. Or laying her back on the hard stone of the cave and testing the needy wetness between her legs for himself.

            They needed to find Tessaiga before he did something he would regret, anyhow.  Inuyasha didn’t want her like that.  If he had, he would have said or done...something over the past three years to indicate that she was anything more than a trusted friend.  No matter how much she wanted him, it wasn’t enough to make taking advantage of him when he wasn’t himself acceptable.

            “We need food, Inuyasha.” When he didn’t seem inclined to halt the progress of his questing fingers she added, “for strength.” He paused then and eyed her speculatively.  His fangs protruded a bit over his lower lip, and his tongue darted out to wet them.  Her reaction was instantaneous; she knew he knew it because his growl was accompanied this time by a feral grin. For a moment she worried that he would abandon the suggestion to find food, but then he pressed his lips quickly to hers.  His tongue delved into her mouth, sweeping the recesses and leaving her in a breathless state before he slipped out of the sleeping bag.  She was too surprised to look away, and he didn’t seem at all concerned by his nudity.  He added more wood to the fire before exiting the cave, only taking the time to step into his hakama, with a stern wuff that she took to mean “stay”.  

            She was out of the sleeping bag in a moment, finding a spot just outside the cave to relieve herself and pulling open her backpack to find her last pair of clean underwear.  Her uniform and previous undergarments, including her favorite bra, were in tatters on the floor.  The bra and panties were salvageable - once she had time to sew them -  but the uniform was more thread than cloth.  She found Inuyasha’s clothes draped over a rock, dry and warm from the fire.  She left the fundoshi and nagajuban and pulled his fire rat haori around herself.  The sleeves were far too long, so she belted them around her waist.  She quickly filled her battered pot with ice from the waterfall and set it near the fire to make ramen.  He still hadn’t returned, so while she waited she examined her injuries.

            Her ankle was still tender, the flesh slightly swollen and bruised.  She remembered tripping after she shot off her first arrow - it hit the only demon spawn she managed to kill.  She didn’t think she could walk on it for long, but it was alright for limping around the cave.  Her legs and arms were covered in long pink scratches.  She remembered the ice demon’s roar - the shards that flew towards her.  She threw up her arm to try to protect her face...and then there was the pain.  The remains of her uniform were covered in blood, so the shards must have cut her badly, but she didn’t seem to have anything worse than an angry scratch.  Even the claw marks on her arm, she blanched at the reminder of how angry Inuyasha had looked, were healing nicely.  She wondered what was in his saliva that had such remarkable healing properties...and why he hadn’t used it before.

            “Baka, he didn’t want to lick you,” she muttered to herself.  The knowledge that he had to be thrown into a primitive demonic state to want to kiss her or touch her put her in a depressing mood.  Focus, she coached herself.  You can moon over him later, after you have saved him from himself.  She had to get Tessaiga.  It was obviously not in the cave.  Although she did notice a foul-smelling pile of demon gore.  She sighed and picked out the shard still embedded in the heart, purifying it before washing and storing it in her vial with the others.  She marveled that even faced with an avalanche, Inuyasha would not give up something he claimed as his own - even if it was a gross, dead heart.  He was a possessive hanyou, that was certain.

            Something sparked in Kagome’s brain and she slowed down her thoughts.  He was possessive.  He didn’t have much, but he refused to part with anything he thought of as his.  His fire rat robe. Tessaiga. Goshinboku and Inuyasha’s woods. Her.  Even her.  He didn’t even really want her, but she was his first: his shard-detector, his friend, even his...lover, now.  That seemed too strange a word to call whatever had happened in the cave while she was asleep.  She was fairly sure they hadn’t actually done anything, but... She shook those thoughts out of her head.  Surely youkai Inuyasha was just as possessive as hanyou Inuyasha, maybe more so.  She just needed to convince him that Tessaiga was his - that someone else might try to take it.  It must have been left behind at the battle.  She gave a little shudder.  The memory of the avalanche was a little hazy, as she had passed out shortly after Inuyasha picked her up, but she figured a few hundred thousand pounds of snow might be a bit much for even him to dig through. Still...she didn’t know any other way to return him to himself.

            Inuyasha chose that moment to re-enter the cave, holding a stick heavy with fish.  She had to force her eyes to stay on his face.  Despite her good intentions, she was very aware of his bare chest - and the knowledge that he wasn’t wearing anything under his hakama.  He split several more sticks and spitted the fish, forcing the ends of the sticks into cracks between the rocks so that the meat leaned over the fire.  She moved gently to stir in the ramen, and Inuyasha hovered over her - watching and sniffing with interest.  She split the noodles unevenly between two bowls, giving the vast majority to her demon friend.  He sniffed cautiously and tested the flavor with the tip of his tongue before shoveling the food in his mouth with a speed that shocked her.  Hanyou Inuyasha had never eaten that quickly, not even at his hungriest.  When he finished he peered in the pot.  Disappointment at not finding more was evident on his face, but he rinsed his bowl and sat down on the sleeping bag behind her without comment.  He pulled her into his lap and rested his chin on her shoulder while she ate.  She was conscious of his eyes wandering between her bare legs, the vee of the fire rat, and the cooking fish.  She smiled to herself, wondering if she was going crazy for feeling proud that she rated in Inuyasha’s estimation as high as dinner.

            “Inuyasha,” she began timidly.  His left hand combed absently through her hair.  His right hand found a spot to rest on her thigh. She had to start somewhere, and there was no time to waste if she wanted to find Tessaiga before Inuyasha did something she would probably not regret.  His claws traced circles on the tender skin above and inside her knee. I would definitely not regret it, she thought. “Why did you not bring your weapon with us?” His hand slowed for a moment and she held her breath, but soon he continued.  “I know you are strong enough to protect us from anything without it-” He interrupted her with a pleased growl and nuzzled her neck.  Compliments are good, she observed. “I worry that someone might try to steal it from you, where you cannot watch over it.”  His claws stilled again, and this time did not start up again.  

            “My territory.” His voice was so gravelly, so deep, it took her a moment to understand he was speaking.

            “Yes.” She crossed her fingers and hoped she was leading him the right way - and not into a youkai rage that would end up with her bloody corpse at the bottom of a frozen lake. “Something bad could come into your territory to challenge you - to take what is yours.”  His arms stole around her, pulling her hard against his chest and tightening almost painfully.

            “Mine,” he growled.  She could hear the building anger in his voice, and she had to will away her fear.

            “Yes,” she agreed.  She ran her hands up and down his arms in time with the menacing rumble in his chest.  It was several long minutes before he relaxed, inhaling against her hair and neck and repeating, softer,

            “Mine.”  

            She nodded again, her heart thudding in her chest.  He shifted her and grabbed them each fish - two for him and one for her.  They ate side-by-side, shoulders and hips touching.  If she shifted even slightly away from him the growls renewed.  She finished her fish and refused the next one he offered, smiling with her teeth well-hidden behind her lips to show she was satisfied.  He inhaled the other five fish, tossing the trash far out the entrance - to the lake below she supposed - before returning to the sleeping bag.  He pulled her back into his lap and resumed the nuzzling.  This time his objective was obvious, his hands intent on finding their way under the haori.  She took a deep breath.  If she didn’t convince him now, she wasn’t sure that she would get another opportunity. Not before...but if she went too far, he might not appreciate the insinuation that someone might take what was his, could take what was his.  She crossed her fingers and hoped youkai Inuyasha remembered more of his regular life than hanyou Inuyasha remembered of his time as a full-demon.

            “You keep your territory safe.”  He growled in appreciation of her compliments and nipped at her earlobe.  Kagome’s breath came faster and she tried to ignore the hot palm that cupped her breast through the fire rat and the nimble fingers that slipped under the hem to dance on her thigh.  “Kouga the wolf would not dare come after me, or Tessaiga, while we are with you.  He has tried before, and you always beat him.  I am sure he won’t come back under the cover of this storm to take what is yours.” His hands stilled and she held her breath.

            “Wolf-cub,” he said slowly. Tension straightened his spine and stiffened his hands.

            “Yes,” she affirmed.  She hoped she was doing the right thing. Inuyasha had fought Kouga once as a full-youkai, hopefully he still hated the other demon. Suddenly she found herself flat on her back on the sleeping bag, Inuyasha’s blood-red eyes inches from her face.  He growled with rage and made a snapping motion with his fangs near her throat.

            “Mine!” he practically snarled. He tugged on the fire rat and it fell loosely to the sides, revealing her breasts.  His forehead butted her chin forcibly, exposing her neck.  His fangs were on her, pressing into the skin, almost to the point of breaking it.

            “Yes! Yours! I will always be yours!” She was panting, and she was certain he could smell her fear.  That wouldn’t be good.  A predator stalks prey.  She didn’t want to be prey.  Oh God, I’m going to die here.  When Inuyasha finds out he killed me, he’ll never forgive himself.  She distracted him the only way she knew how.  She lifted her hips, thrusting against his groin and wrapping one ankle behind his knees. “Yours,” she whispered. His mouth eased fractionally and she snaked her arms around his torso. “Only yours.”  He licked her neck, then bit not quite hard enough to break the skin but enough to hurt.  She took that as a warning.  She needed to tread very carefully.  “I am yours, I want to be yours. Always.” He growled in satisfaction and she pressed on. “Tessaiga doesn’t know it is yours. The wolf-cub will try to take it because he can’t have me.  He wants what is yours.”

            Inuyasha paused above her, but he did not force her to submit again.  She continued stroking his back, running her foot along the inside of his calf.  Her heart was thudding with a combination of fear and excitement and...there was no denying the heat in her belly or the embarrassing amount of moisture between her legs. She even leaned up to press her breasts against his chest and place a wet kiss on his neck. A rumble in his chest indicated his approval, as did the impressive length hardening against her stomach.

            “Tessaiga,” he said the name of his sword slowly, as if it were unfamiliar. “Mine.”

            “Yes,” she was mortified to find herself almost purring as she rubbed against him, but the sensation was amazing.  That combined with his apparent following of her rather crude manipulations was enough to make her almost giddy. She pressed another kiss to his neck, this time licking the skin.

            “Mate, mine,” he declared hotly.  She gasped in surprise, mate? Then she let out a muffled shriek when he squeezed her.  He let go immediately, seeing that her wounded arm had been pinned to her side by his bicep.  The claw marks had reopened and were bleeding sluggishly. He made a concerned sound, almost a whimper, before turning her to her side and snuggling in tightly behind her.  He licked across the injuries, resealing them and wiping away any traces of blood.  She was still aroused, although the sudden pain had taken the edge off of her desire.  He flicked the sleeping bag over them both and left it unzipped.  The warmth of his front against her back and the heat of his breath on her neck combined to make her eyes droop and her breathing deepen.  She was drifting off when she heard him growl quietly against her skin, “My territory. My den. My mate. My Tessaiga.”

 

***

 

            “Finally you have seen reason, lovely Sango.”

            The raspy whisper was barely intelligible, but Sango was awake in an instant.  She lifted her head from where she had fallen asleep on Miroku’s shoulder and examined him with hope.  His eyes were open - barely.  Dark circles bruised the skin underneath his eyes and his skin was still deathly pale.  His lips were cracked and dry, but pink. He would live.

            “Do not ever do something so stupid and reckless again.” Her words were stern, but she couldn’t help that her voice broke in the middle, leaving a pleading tone that trailed off into something close to begging.  His eyes widened slightly and the faint smirk on his mouth disappeared.

            “Life is about risk, dear woman. We must defeat evil to live - so we risk our lives.” One hand struggled out of the blankets to wrap around her fingers with surprising strength. “We must love to make life worth living - so we risk our hearts.”

            Sango took a deep, shuddering breath and stared at the monk who had infuriated, irritated, and harassed her into loving him. She had lost so much already, if she gave him her heart and he was not true...but he already had her heart. The aching pain in her chest when she thought he was gone was proof enough that she could not command herself not to love him.

“You are the only risk to my heart,” she whispered.  He smiled widely, the light sparkling in his eyes belying the pallor of his skin. “If you are so reckless with it again - you’ll have more than a slap to worry about.”  He pressed a kiss to her fingertips and sighed, ready to say more, but she interrupted him.

            “As soon as you are well enough, we should go look for Inuyasha and Kagome.”

            “They are not in here?”

            She shook her head, “We were separated by the avalanche. They escaped in the opposite direction of the village.”

            “Avalanche?” he asked incredulously at the same time that Shippo sat up sleepily.

            “Miroku! You’re awake!” He bounded over to the monks side and grinned widely. “You missed all the best parts! There was an avalanche, and Inuyasha ripped out the demon’s heart, and Sango kissed you, and Kagome-”

            Sango looked pointedly away from the curious monk, knowing the blush rising on her cheeks would give her away. “You stopped breathing,” she muttered.  Shippo continued as though nothing odd was happening between the adults.

            “Don’t worry, Miroku. I’ll draw you some pictures so it will be like you were awake for the whole thing,” he said seriously. “Do you think Kagome and Inuyasha are okay?”

            “Inuyasha will take good care of her,” Miroku murmured.  His eyelids were drooping, so Sango tucked his hand back under the blankets and shooed Shippo away.

            “Rest,” she said quietly. “Everyone is safe.”

 

***

 

            Kagome woke to the smell of cooking meat and a wet tongue on the inside of her thigh. “Ahhh-” She fumbled for words, embarrassed.  Inuyasha’s head emerged from the sleeping bag with a self-satisfied smile.  Kagome noted absently that he was still definitely full-youkai.  He frowned when he looked at her shoulder, bared by the loose fire rat.  Kagome glanced down and discovered that although the cuts were almost completely healed - she couldn’t even see some of them - the claw marks on her upper arm were still an angry red, surrounded by bruises.  Only two of the five hadn’t scabbed over, those still bled sluggishly.  Inuyasha gave those wounds careful attention before pulling the haori tight over her breasts and crawling out of the sleeping bag to check on the food.  Kagome adjusted her meager clothes and tried to will her blush away.  Before she could stand, Inuyasha thrust a roasted rabbit leg in her face.

            “Eat,” he commanded in the same gravelly voice that sent a tremor down her spine.  He finished the rest of the rabbit and redressed in his remaining clothes before she could toss her bones outside.  He gestured to the bedding, which she took as an order to break camp.  She had her shoes on and everything back in her bag and was about to put it on when he lifted it from her and secured it on his own back.  He picked her up, one hand under her knees and the other behind her shoulders and they were outside, bounding through the air before she could blink.  The storm had stopped, and the winter sun shone brightly on the snow.

            “Tessaiga?” she asked quietly.  He grunted, but did not look down.  Kagome could only hope for the best and press herself close to him to stay as warm as possible in the cold air.  It took less time that she would have thought to return to the site of the battle.  At least she assumed it was the same place.  The avalanche had transformed the landscape of the wide pass into a treacherous labyrinth of jagged rocks and deceptively unstable snow.  Inuyasha set her down gently on an exposed boulder and sniffed the air.  He crouched on all fours in front of her, his nose tipped up and his ears swiveling.  Kagome tried to remain quiet while he surveyed the area.

            He stood suddenly and ran his claws up her legs and over her arms.  He nuzzled his face into her neck, as though trying to brush his skin against every bare part of her.  She opened her mouth to remind him why they were there, but he plunged his tongue inside - sweeping across her lips and teeth in an almost routine manner.  One hand even slid under the haori, rubbing across her bottom and between her legs, making her squeak.

            “Mine,” he growled against her mouth.  She could only nod, too shocked and far too aroused to do anything else.  He made a vibrating sound of approval before leaping off of the rock to examine the remains of a cliff face and the smooth snow drifted against it.  He prowled back and forth over the snow, then suddenly leapt into the air and dove down with a clawed hand.  He broke what turned out to be a thick sheet of ice that concealed an air pocket.  Inuyasha disappeared down into the hole, only to reappear moments later. Without Tessaiga.  Kagome let out a disappointed breath.

            He beckoned her forward.  She took one limping step onto the snow before he was at her side, lifting and carrying her down into the chamber under the surface.  The ice demon’s body had trapped the air, creating a cavern that smelled even worse than the thing had while it was alive.  Inuyasha set her down close to the body and stepped away. She looked over her shoulder at him, puzzled.  He gave a short wuff of encouragement and nodded at the demon.  There, still buried deep in the fur, was Tessaiga.  Kagome gasped.

            “Yes!” She did a little one-footed dance of joy that left Inuyasha growling. “You should get it,” at his blank stare Kagome cleared her throat, remembering why he had agreed to come after the sword. “Take what is yours before the wolf-cub tries to steal it.” He was on her in an instant and Kagome realized too late the misinterpretation of her words.  His hands found her waist and pulled loose the belt she had made of his sleeves.  His claws dragged across her bare ribs and his mouth seized hers in a kiss that left her ravaged and breathless and nearly forgetting that there was something more important than letting Inuyasha claim anything he wanted. His lips dragged across her jaw to find the sensitive spot on her neck that made her moan.  He growled, the vibration settling into her chest and causing everything below her waist to tingle pleasantly. Focus!

            “Tessaiga,” she said breathlessly. “Get Tessaiga and we can go somewhere warm and...” She pressed her hips against his and slid her hands in the vee of his nagajuban.  The rumbles in his chest increased in volume and his hand found her breast.  She couldn’t help but press into his palm - completely forgetting about the sword or Inuyasha’s very real need to return to himself.  He spun her around and nipped quickly at her neck before abruptly letting her go.  Kagome stood in shock, the fire rat hanging open from her shoulders, her underwear uncomfortably wet.  Inuyasha was breathing hard and the red of his eyes glowed in the dim light from above.

            “Mine,” he repeated. Kagome nodded mutely.  In a graceful leap he was on top of the dead demon and he grasped Tessaiga in his hands - and froze.

            Kagome pulled the fire rat closed and hastily re-tied the sleeves. “Inuyasha?” she asked timidly.

            “What the fuck?”  His voice was back to normal, although he sounded absolutely confused. Kagome could sympathize.  Although she was also frustrated and the tiniest bit disappointed.

            “Inuyasha,” she said, managing a smile. “I’m so glad you’re back.”  He flicked back his hair and pulled out Tessaiga.  He jumped to the ground and stared at her, his expression somewhere between angry, afraid, and something else she couldn’t place.

            “What the fuck is that smell?”

            Kagome froze.  She knew youkai-Inuyasha could smell her desire, and she was very aware of the state of her panties in that moment.  Surely he didn’t mean....  “You killed it,” she managed in a tight voice, “you should know what it smells like, baka.”  His nostrils flared, and Kagome stood absolutely still while his eyes traced her bare legs and his fire rat, the way she was sure her hair was tousled.  She had to force herself not to lick her lips which felt swollen from the violent kisses he had given her moments before.  His gaze finally stopped on her arm.

            “What the fuck is that?” He pointed at the claw marks with Tessaiga.  Kagome had no need to look, but she did anyhow.  The combination of dried blood and dark bruises looked marginally worse in the dim light.

            “That was you saving me from being trampled by an ice demon,” she responded calmly. “And please stop saying ‘fuck’.”

            “I was...I was gone, wasn’t I? I was him?” Inuyasha swallowed hard and looked at the floor.  

            Kagome’s heart twisted in sympathy for him. “You carried me to safety after I fell remember?” She asked gently.  He nodded, still not looking up. “Your youkai pushed me out of the way when the ice demon charged.” He met her eyes, but he still looked guilty - almost beaten. “Besides, he did his best to heal it up afterward.  I think it was a fair deal.”

            “Heal it up? How long was I-” Inuyasha scowled. “How did he heal it?”  Kagome hesitated, she could feel her blush rising, so she turned away to pick up her yellow bag from where he had dropped it and slung it over her shoulders.

            “Your youkai licked me,” she managed coolly.  “You never told me inu spit was good for wounds. I-”

            “Shut up! Stupid baka,” he muttered.  His face was even redder than hers, but at least he had stopped asking about his transformation.  He turned around and crouched down so that she could climb on his back. She settled herself easily in the familiar position and he gripped her legs behind the knees, preparing to leap to the surface. He inhaled, and she worried about what exactly he could scent on her. “I really didn’t hurt you?” he whispered.

            “You really didn’t,” she responded gently.  Then she lightly tweaked his ear. “Your youkai might even be better company. Not once did he call me a bak-A!” Her words ended in a shriek as he vaulted upwards and began running back to the village at a dizzying speed.  She buried her face under his hair, against his neck and breathed deeply of the warm, woodsy scent.  She smiled. Inuyasha was himself.  As long as he didn’t ask her exactly what happened while his youkai was free, then she wouldn’t really be lying to keep certain things to herself. Besides, now she had a lot more than her imagination to keep her company when she was lonely.

Chapter Text

Chapter 2

 

“Say it again.” Kagome narrowed her eyes at Inuyasha’s back and clenched her fists.  She was hot, tired, and dusty.  The weather was unseasonably warm for early spring - hotter than it had any right to be.  Shippo had eaten something bad for supper the night before and had kept her up until far after midnight.  He was exhausted from retching and she had carried him for most of the day. They had been walking since shortly after dawn and the ‘great leader’ had insisted they eat breakfast on the road.  They hadn’t stopped for lunch.  Sango was grumpy that the last demon they fought had left a nick in Hirakotsu. Miroku was being more of a letcher than usual. Even Kirara was on edge. That baka, Inuyasha, couldn’t feel tension in the air if it bit him in the ass.  He turned, a frown beetling his eyebrows, and shoved his hands in his sleeves.  “Say it again,” she repeated. “I dare you.”

“What’s the matter, wench? Your ears not workin’? I said we’d have found a shard by now if you weren’t so fuckin’ slo-”

“Sit.” She didn’t yell.  She didn’t have to.  Before her mouth had closed Inuyasha was face first in the road, a cloud of dust billowing out from his prone body.  She turned to Sango, who was assessing her with a pleased sort of expression.

“Let’s make camp early tonight, and tomorrow you can take Kirara to your village to repair Hirakotsu.”  A muffled sputtering erupted from somewhere near the ground. “Sit,” Kagome repeated calmly. Shippo was sitting up in her arms, wide awake and looking a little afraid. “Shippo, do you feel well enough to try to sniff out some water?”

“Sure thing, Kagome,” he said.  His eyes darted to Inuyasha’s prone form and he got an evil glint in his eye.

“Don’t even think about it.”  The fox demon hesitated, the magic rock given to him by the monkey demons already in his hand. He ducked his head sheepishly and put it away before jumping down.

“Sorry ‘gome,” he called and ran into the woods to search for a water source. She caught movement out of the corner of her eye. Sango’s bottom was in imminent danger - for at least the sixth time that afternoon.

“If you make one more inappropriate touch tonight, Miroku, I will give you some of that modern medicine you are always asking me to bring back,” she paused until she had his full attention.  His grin was wide and his eyes lascivious - clearly remembering the ad for Viagra he had seen in one of her magazines, and her blushing explanation of what it did.  “I will put it in everything you eat, enough so that you won’t even enjoy it anymore, understand?” Her voice sounded sickeningly sweet, even to her own ears.  Sango was looking between the two of them in confusion. Miroku, though, obviously remembered the unfortunate side effects she had described.  He paled, a horrified expression on his face, and nodded meekly.

Mffph, stupid wench! I’ll-”

“Sit.” Kagome didn’t want to hear what Inuyasha had to say, and she could repeat the command that kept his face full of dirt all night if she had to.  With the sun beating down on her hair, her stomach empty, and her feet aching in her shoes it was hard to remember that just over a month ago she had been reluctant to leave the dog-demons side.  It had been almost physically painful for her to lead him out of the den where she had finally gotten the attention she had been craving for three years.  She cursed the heat that began to pool in her belly at the memory.  How she could harbor so much desire for such an idiot was beyond her. “Well, for starters, the other him talked less,” she muttered.

“What was that, Kagome?” Sango was smiling - either at the prospect of repairing her boomerang or of Miroku behaving himself, Kagome wasn’t sure.

“Er, nothing, I- Sit.” Inuyasha’s renewed struggles ended abruptly.

“Found it!” Shippo burst from the underbrush with an excited yip. “There is a clearing by a stream just a ways away, and a little clear pond if you want a bath, Kagome.” His chest puffed up with pride at having successfully found an excellent campsite - something Inuyasha usually did for the group.

“Good job, Shippo,” she praised.  His happiness was a sharp contrast to the aftereffects of his illness. She even managed a small smile for him, despite the exhaustion and irritation warring in her. “Lead the way.” She took up a place at the end of the group, to keep an eye on Miroku.  Just before entering the woods she turned back.  She waited a few beats for the other adults to be far enough away not to hear her,

“If you have something you want to ask me, then ask Inuyasha. I am not a mind reader, and I don’t appreciate you treating me - or the rest of the group - like useless baggage just because you’re in a foul mood.”  He stopped his struggles against the power of the beads; his ears swiveled towards her. She lowered her voice further, “Did you think I wouldn’t notice the constant sniffing? The sideways looks? You snooping through my bag?” The subjugation spell had run its course, but her friend didn’t move. She knew she wasn’t being fair - after all, she had purposefully kept some things from him - but in that moment she let all the hurt and anger that had built up over three years of little rebuffs and thoughtless comments seep into her words, “If you are brave enough to face the truth, Inuyasha, then ask.”

The silence stretched between them, not even broken by the usual noise of insects and birds. After a long minute, Kagome blew out her breath and put as much disappointment as possible into the only response she could manage to such a wanton display of cowardice,

“Sit.” She turned on her heel and followed the others, leaving Inuyasha lying in the road.

 

***

 

“What do you think she said to him?” Sango asked quietly.  For once she could focus both eyes on a situation, instead of keeping one on Miroku’s wandering hands.  She wasn’t sure what Kagome and Miroku were referring to, ‘modern medicine’, but whatever it was, it kept Miroku on his best behavior.  He had only tried to touch her bottom once since they had made camp, and he caught himself before he made contact - throwing a sort of sad, horrified glance in Kagome’s direction and then shoving both hands in his sleeves.

“I do not know.” Miroku sounded thoughtful, and Sango turned to watch him consider the object of their discussion. “It does seem as though our priestess has grown much more adult recently.  I have never seen her respond so calmly to Inuyasha’s...”

“Stupidity?” Sango suggested. “Idiocy? Childishness? High-handed moronic abuse?”

“That last one may be a bit much,” Miroku chuckled softly.  Sango smiled at the pleasant sound and reached out for a bowl of rice and roasted rabbit from Shippo.  The kit was being unusually helpful as well, obediently following Kagome’s instructions and beaming at the new responsibility she gave him.  She studied her friend as she prepared bowls for the rest of the group.  Kagome looked exhausted, but she hadn’t complained nearly as much as she usually did.  Admittedly, she had every right to do so, and it was almost always good-natured, but Sango was also impressed with how maturely she was handling the situation.  She had stayed behind the group to talk to Inuyasha out of earshot, but there had been no screaming or outrageous strings of ‘sits’.  When they reached the clearing, everyone began their usual tasks to make camp, but Kagome had gone a step further and started making dinner as soon as her things were set down and a fire started.  Sango was sure the girl was eager for a bath, but she had put off her own comforts to see to the hunger of the group - which the demon slayer was grateful for.

She dug into her bowl with gusto and searched out the camp to find Inuyasha.  He had appeared after Kagome had started the preparations for dinner with two rabbits, already skinned and cleaned - which was unusual.  Sango almost always cleaned his kills - it made Kagome a bit squeamish.  He waited, head bowed, for Kagome to take them - rather than throwing them on the grass at her feet as was his custom - and then disappeared into the trees.  That didn’t surprise Sango.  Inuyasha often watched over the camp, almost always from directly above Kagome’s bedroll, and rarely participated in the actual making of dinner or setting of camp.  However, on that night he didn’t even come down to eat.  Kagome dished him his usual large helping before making her own bowl.  She set his at the base of his tree and retreated to a place near the fire.  She listened quietly to Shippo’s stories and answered his endless questions, but even the minimal cheerfulness she showed the kit was forced.  

“Has Inuyasha done something else?” Sango was very aware that the hanyou could hear her question to Miroku, as was the monk.  He lifted one eyebrow but played along,

“Other than the usual?”

“If it was just the usual bad attitude, Kagome would yell and stomp off to the well.  This feels less like a squabble and more like...” Sango’s mind drifted, unable to find an adequate description.

“He knows what he did wrong. He feels guilty.”

“Exactly!” Sango glanced around, but her raised voice hadn’t drawn attention from Kagome or Shippo.  She lowered it, to be safe. “He is just taking it.  Like he doesn’t want to argue with her. Like...like...”

“He knows this is a battle he would lose.” Miroku’s quiet statement left Sango shaking her head.

“He doesn’t know that - he is afraid he will lose.”  Sango absently tapped her chopsticks against her bowl.  

“What would frighten our bellicose friend so badly that he won’t risk engaging in the fight?”

Sango sucked in her breath, a sudden thought coming to her so clearly that she couldn’t deny the possibility.  Kagome is going to stay in the future. She paled.  Sango thought of the priestess as a sister.  They had fought side-by-side for three years.  She confided in Kagome as she had in no one else.  No one could replace her in their lives, or their hearts.  She slid a sidelong glance at Miroku, who was watching her intently.  Sango had not yet had a chance to discuss what had happened during Miroku’s recovery from the ice demon battle.  If Kagome stayed on the other side of the well...there would be no one to talk to, no one to worry over such things with, to share her joys, her concerns...who would stand by her as family at her wedding? Who would admire her children? Who would advise her on what - exactly - a lecher like Miroku would expect from a wife?

“Kagome,” Sango called, standing, “Let’s take a bath.”

“Sure, Sango. Just let me get the dish-”

“Miroku will do them,” she interrupted.  The monk agreed in a surprised voice and Sango grabbed her things and Kagome’s yellow bag and marched her out of camp with fierce determination.

 

***

 

Inuyasha was miserable. He sat on a branch high above camp and watched the girls leave with a sour knot in his chest. It was all because of that stupid ice demon.  Kagome assured him that he hadn’t done anything bad while he was a full-youkai - but she was lying. He knew it.  

At first it was easy to ignore.  Sure, his scent had been all over her when he came back to himself.  With Tessaiga in his hand, he immediately found Kagome with his nose.  Before he could even blink he searched out her scent and was flooded with a thousand images - too jumbled and fast to make sense of - that made a picture with all the smells on her.  His scent stood out sharply, deeply. It was everywhere.  His confusion had escalated to real fear when he saw the claw marks on her arm.  He did that. He hurt Kagome.

She said it was an accident - that he had saved her.  He wanted to believe her so badly; his relief that he might have been a full-youkai, but had perhaps recognized a friend and kept her safe...it was so palpable that he could feel it.  Then she said he licked her and he recognized the taste of her skin, her blood, in his mouth.  His embarrassment and relief were powerful and mixed up with the confusion and shadow-memories of his youkai so he let it go.  He followed her lead and fell back into their routine of insulting and irritating one another.  But the guilty, unsure, icy knot of fear kept growing inside of him.

She lied to him about what happened while he was a full-youkai.  She had never done that before.  He had killed, destroyed, attacked his friends and always Kagome had told him the truth.  She forgave him - the baka - but she never hid that from him. If Kagome couldn’t bring herself to talk about it...what could be so horrible that she would lie to him? What did I do?

He wanted to whine, to whimper, to howl in fear and guilt and frustration. Instead he shoved his hands in his sleeves and ignored the scent of his dinner below.  The thought of food had turned his stomach for days.  He thought he might be going crazy.  He needed to know what had happened, but he didn’t want to know - he was afraid of the answer.  Over the last month he had tried to sort through the images from that first long inhale of her scent after he came back to himself, but they were too confused.  He took to sniffing her whenever he thought she wouldn’t notice.  He searched her scent for some remnant of that time on the mountain, hoping his nose could figure out what she wasn’t saying.  He watched her every movement, looking to catch her unawares and see sadness or fear or whatever it was that she really felt about him after...after...after what!?

There was something else in her scent too.  He noticed it on the mountain, and it had come and gone since then.  Something about it was familiar, and whenever it hit his nose he would glance at her and find her staring off into space, or smiling at him, and his gut would tighten and grow hot.  He couldn’t figure out what made her smell that way, and although it had happened before...before the mountain...since that time it was stronger and more frequent.  Maybe he really was crazy.  Maybe being full-youkai for almost a whole day had damaged his head. Maybe he was the baka.

He let his head fall back against the tree trunk with a thud.  He had been reduced to searching through her bag for some clue as to what happened and why she was different now.  Her scent had changed, and she held her temper better.  She didn’t ‘sit’ him as much - and when she did it wasn’t screamed in anger like before.  Well, mostly not screamed.  Then today...

She also knew there was something wrong.  She as good as admitted that she had changed - that she was keeping the truth from him. She called him a coward. She was right.  The sour feeling in his chest was fear.  Fear that he had hurt her.  Fear that he had lost his friend.  Fear that she might get tired of hiding the truth from him, tired of worrying that he would change and do...whatever...to her again.  Fear that she would leave.

“Are you going to eat this, Inuyasha?” Shippo called up hopefully.  The hanyou growled in response.  His stomach was painfully empty, but he doubted he could keep anything down.

“Take it,” he snarled.  Shippo was gone in a flash with the food and Inuyasha was left alone again with his thoughts.  He couldn’t stand the torment.

 

***

 

“Let me help.” Sango piled Kagome’s clean hair on her head and secured it with a simple hair stick.  She rubbed some of the modern, sweet soap that her friend brought through the well onto a sponge and started rubbing Kagome’s back.

“Oh, that feels so nice, Sango.” Kagome’s head fell forward onto her arms and she rested against the rock lip of the pond. “I am so glad that today is ov-”

“Why are you going to leave? What did that stupid hanyou do?” It all came out in a rush, and Sango cringed at how anxious and accusing her voice sounded.  A bird or small animal rustled the leaves overhead but she ignored it.  She felt like her heart was bruised, even contemplating that Kagome might go through the well and not return was painful.

“What?” Kagome sat up so fast water splashed over the edge of the pond.  Her blue eyes were wide with surprise when she faced Sango.

“That is why you are being so nice about everything, isn’t it? You’re finally done with him and you’re going to go home. Permanently.”

“Sango,” Sango felt Kagome’s warm hands on her bare shoulders and shivered. “I am not planning to leave.”  They stared at each other for a few tense moments before Kagome smiled a bitter sort of smile.  “Inuyasha is no different today then he has ever been.  If I have been acting different, maybe it is because I finally realized that there is absolutely nothing I can do to hi-,” she cleared her throat and looked away. “Nothing I can do that will change the way Inuyasha acts.  I’m not going home, Sango,” she repeated.  Sango felt some of the fear in her heart transform into a sad understanding as Kagome brushed her hair over her shoulder.  “I am just trying to accept reality.”

“You don’t think he will ever love you,” she whispered.  The forest was silent around them, and Kagome closed her eyes and tilted her face to the sky.  The sun would set soon, and the little pond was painted with warm orange light where it filtered through the trees.

“Wanting something doesn’t make it so, Sango,” Kagome said quietly.  Sango’s heart broke for her friend.  

“You’ve always been so optimistic. What changed your mind?”

“At the mountain...” Kagome’s eyes remained closed but her face twisted, almost painfully.

“If that hanyou said something I’ll-”

“It wasn’t him.”

Sango blinked. What?

“He was,” Kagome swallowed hard. “When the ice demon threw him into that tree.  It broke his back. There was blood everywhere, Sango.” She opened her eyes and they were wet with unshed tears. “I thought he was dead. I begged him to come back, begged him. And then,” she let out a long breath and sank down into the water so that her mouth was barely above the surface. “He had lost Tessaiga.  His youkai took over and he killed the demon.”

“How did you get him the sword? Your ankle was hurt so badly,” Sango said.  What she wanted to ask was, Why didn’t you tell us he became a full-demon! You were in danger!

“I didn’t.” Kagome’s voice dropped an octave and she whispered into the surface of the pond, eyes downcast. “I must have blacked out, because the next thing I knew I was over his shoulder and there was the avalanche and then...when I woke up he was-” A blush rose on her face and Sango had the wild thought that Kagome wasn’t embarrassed so much as...pleased.  “He was licking me, Sango. Everywhere I had been cut by the ice demon’s attack.  I think he healed me.”

“Inu demons are rumored to have saliva with antiseptic and curative properties,” she said woodenly.

“He was youkai, Sango. Full-youkai. He made a fire and washed off the blood and treated my injuries and found me food and...” Her blush burned redder, and Sango knew her next words were a source of awkwardness as well as excitement. “He kissed me,” she whispered. Sango felt her own mouth fall open.  She wasn’t sure if she was more surprised that Inuyasha had finally given into his obvious feelings for Kagome, or that it had taken the loss of his humanity to do it, or that the youkai Inuyasha could think about anything other than blood and death. “I woke up naked in my sleeping bag with a naked inu-demon and he kissed me like he wanted a lot more than that.” Kagome’s head sank completely under the water and Sango was left stunned.

The youkai Inuyasha had never shown any indication that he even recognized them - much less wanted to do anything other than rend the flesh from their bones.  Certainly, Kagome had brought Inuyasha back to himself once with a kiss - but the demon side of their friend hadn’t really recognized her.  And he had never stayed so long as a full-youkai before...maybe that was what it took to settle his blood-lust.  Myoga had told them that the longer Inuyasha stayed in that form, the wilder and more brutal he would become.  Maybe...

Kagome’s head popped up again and she took a deep breath.  She still didn’t meet Sango’s eyes, but she managed to ignore the heat on her cheeks and finish her story.

“He understands some things when he’s youkai.  I convinced him,” Kagome swallowed, her blush spreading to her neck and chest, and finished the rest in a rush. “I convinced him that I would sleep with him in a really, really hot way if we got back Tessaiga and he rubbed his scent all over me and we almost had sex and he took me back to the ice demon and wouldn’t touch the sword until I promised I was his mate and then he was himself again and he didn’t remember and I-wanted- him-to-so-badly-because-I wanted-it-to-be-Inuyasha-that-wanted-me-and I-still-love-him-but-I-want-him-too-all-the-time-and-sometimes-I-want-the-youkai-back-andI’materribleperson!” Her words came faster and faster the longer she talked, ending in a wail that made it hard for Sango to sort out what she heard.

“You poor thing,” she murmured.  She wrapped her arms around Kagome and held her while the girl cried.  Sango had selfishly worried that Kagome would leave and she would have no one to talk to about Miroku - and other things.  For the last month, Kagome had been suffering and she hadn’t even noticed.  She didn’t feel like a very good friend. “We’ll figure it out, Kagome-chan.”  She rubbed soothing circles on her friend’s back and didn’t even attempt to process all the shocking, wonderful, shocking, maybe heartbreaking news that Kagome had dropped on her.  They could sort it out later, when Kagome was calmer.  The sobs dissipated and Sango smiled, trying to cheer up the priestess.  “I only have two questions. How did you convince him? And was the kiss good?”

 

***

 

I convinced him that I would sleep with him in a really really hot way if we got back Tessaiga and he rubbed his scent all over me and we almost had sex and he took me back to the ice demon and wouldn’t touch the sword until I promised I was his mate and then he was himself again and he didn’t remember and-”

 

Inuyasha flew through the trees, his head swirling around what he had overheard and unable to make sense of anything.  He hadn’t hurt her. He kissed her. He scent-marked her. She promised she was his mate. They almost... Each revelation was more shocking than the last.  If she had said his youkai-self had braided Naraku’s hair, he couldn’t have been more surprised. He kissed her. He scent marked...

Inuyasha looked up from his race through the trees and realized the group was almost out of range of his hearing.  He stopped abruptly and dropped to the forest floor, settling down between two massive roots to stare at nothing in particular. He was so sure that she lied because he had hurt her, but he hadn’t.  She sounded upset when she told Sango - but not scared or disgusted. He kissed her, and she wasn’t disgusted. He kissed her as a full-demon that could have ripped out her lungs without blinking, and she wasn’t scared. Inuyasha growled. That baka. What if his youkai wasn’t trying to kiss her? What if he was just going to bite her tongue out and have her for dinner? Kagome was too trusting.  She would probably just smile and wait patiently for him to build a good roasting pit.

Anger cleared out his brain enough to allow him to think clearly. Kagome was a girl, and human, so she would have made a big deal out of the kiss if she didn’t like it. But...he frowned. She didn’t really sound happy. She sounded...unhappy. Embarrassed. Hell, he was pretty embarrassed too, now that he knew. Confused. He was confused too, so that was understandable. Her voice sounded like a lot of other emotions too - more than he could place - so he concentrated on her scent. It had been easy to find at the pond, since she had just bathed. A little bit of Sango’s dark sakura and shochu smell dusted Kagome, but her spicy sweetness was strong and soothing. She smelled sad when he arrived, when Sango said he didn’t love her. That made Inuyasha’s chest twist in response.

Of course he loved her! He had always loved her. Stupid wench. He carried her when she was too tired to walk. And sometimes he said she was slow just so she would ask him to hold her. He always found her the best campsites, and sometimes when she was homesick he would push the group farther and go off course of their shard search so that she could use a hot spring.  He hunted for her. He even took in the annoying kit because she looked at him with those big blue eyes and smelled like hope and happiness when he said yes.  Stupid wench. She shouldn’t muddy-up her scent with sadness when it was obvious she didn’t need to be sad about that. If she didn’t know he loved her than her nose and eyes were worse than he thought.

The vague camphor smell increased when she talked about how the ice demon had injured him.  It grew so strong, along with the salty smell of her tears, that he had to hold himself back from jumping out of the tree and demanding she stop. He wanted to comfort her, to spark her anger or make her laugh or kiss her, anything to make that smell leave her sweet scent. Then the camphor disappeared.  It was gone in an instant, replaced by that other smell that had been on her so often over the last month.  It was a deeper note of the spice that was always in her scent, but also smoother and stronger.  It coated the inside of his nose and washed over his tongue like a rich sake - creating a burn in his belly that spread through his body and made him aware of every inch of his own skin.  When he smelled it before, he was never sure what she was thinking.

At the pond, the scent accompanied her story of what happened after the avalanche.  He had dim, shadow memories of how she smelled when he first came back to himself.  Images of his mouth at her neck, her blood on his lips, his hands on her thighs and belly. That sake spice was on her then too - when she smelled of him...everywhere. It was how she felt when she remembered his kisses, his...licking.  He blushed just imaging his mouth on hers, his tongue on her...  That scent was how she had felt right before he returned to his hanyou self.  When she stood in the ice demon’s cavern, only half-dressed in his fire rat robe, her hair wild and her lips swollen - she smelled like sake spice then too.

Fuck. He wanted to punch something. He didn’t know anything about women, not really.  The only other female he had ever been physically close to was Kikyou - and when he held her hand she had smelled...controlled. Satisfied. Distant. Kagome smelled happy whenever their hands touched. And if he touched her elsewhere...his blush intensified so that he thought his face might be on fire.  What did that sake spice really mean? Did she smell like that because she liked his kisses? She loved hot springs - always wanted to find one - but she didn’t smell that way when she thought about them. He set those things aside.  It wasn’t a bad feeling, he was sure of that. He could worry about it later.

Kagome was human, and a girl, so she would focus on the kisses.  Inuyasha was half inuyoukai. Kisses were nice...more than nice if Kagome was on the other end...but scent-marking was... Well, he wasn’t really sure what it was.  He hadn’t spent a lot of time around other demons that he wasn’t fighting, so he didn’t have a lot of practical experience with demon customs. Everything he knew about his demon half was either instinct, trial-and-error, or gleaned from long boring stories Myouga forced him to listen to.  Not all demons marked things with their scents, just like not all animals did either.  Some marked their hunting territory or breeding grounds.  Hell, Sesshomaru walked all over the Western Lands to make sure everyone knew where his boundaries were. Others marked their dens.  He had done that himself a couple of times with scent and physical marks. Although he didn’t know why he scratched the same two diagonal lines over a vertical line anyplace he stayed long until the blood-sucker had explained it to him. The Goshinboku and Kaede’s roof both bore the mark. Inus, he knew, and some other demons, also marked their mates.

That was the most important part of Kagome’s story as far as he was concerned. He had scent marked her - he knew the truth of that as soon as she said it.  That day in the ice demons cavern she had smelled of him - everywhere.  He was still blushing, but the heat in his cheeks was fading and pooling instead low in his belly.  He hadn’t run his nose along her that day, but while she rode on his back he got a good idea of where he had touched her.  He was confident there wasn’t much of Kagome that his hands or face hadn’t brushed against.  Youkai Inuyasha covered her scent in his own to warn other males away. Hanyou Inuyasha was a little embarrassed, but he also felt a surge of pride in himself, which was unsettling and confusing.  He was pleased that, even for a little while, any demon that smelled Kagome would have known she was his.

She promised she was his mate too.  He didn’t remember that, and Kagome wouldn’t really know how significant such a thing was, so he pushed that aside.  There was one last thing he needed to consider.  She had said...he swallowed hard and did his best to ignore the rapid hardening in his hakama. They almost had...did...she promised him she would sleep with him and then they almost...  He couldn’t even finish the thought and he was already so uncomfortable he wasn’t sure he could stand up without tearing his pants.  Even as a hanyou, he was strong enough to make any rebuff Kagome made laughable.  As a full-youkai...he frowned. She hadn’t seemed upset or displeased that had nearly happened. Not that day in the cavern nor when she retold it at the pond to Sango.  Her scent was so good! He groaned and threw his head back against the tree, shaking loose a few leaves.  Her weird sad voice was hard for him to figure out, but her scent never lied.  If the spicy sake was a good smell...

He sat up straight.  If it was a good smell, then Kagome needed to tell him exactly what happened on the mountain.  With a lot more detail than she gave Sango. He frowned.  He would need to find a place far from Miroku’s ears for that conversation, and preferably dark enough that she couldn’t see him blush, or tell how tight his hakama would get.  A small smile started somewhere in his chest and itched to split his mouth into a grin.  If it was a good smell, he needed to find a way to explain to Kagome what it meant to be a mate.  He needed to talk to her mother.  He needed to find the rest of the shards and kill their enemies and build a house and-

He shook his head.  He needed to be sure it was a good smell. He scowled. Fuck all. He was going to have to talk to Miroku.

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 3

 

            “So...” Inuyasha began for the third time, and again floundered into awkward embarrassment.  He had let the others sleep in, although he was eager to break camp and get moving.  Once they were on the road, it took him nearly two hours to figure out how to get Miroku to hang back from the group so he could talk to him in private. Sango ended up solving the problem for him, pointedly telling the monk to walk with Inuyasha and give the girls some ‘alone time’.  They walked about twenty feet in front of him, with Shippo racing ahead and circling through the brush on either side of the road - playing at being a scout.  Inuyasha was too preoccupied to yell at the kit for his foolish behavior - scaring up all the game in hearing distance.  He was so distracted he was even having trouble keeping an ear on Kagome.  The girls spoke in low voices, except for the occasional giggle, and Inuyasha only caught snippets of their conversation.  “How, uh...” The monk wasn’t helping things. Inuyasha lost momentum again and had to fist his hands inside his sleeves to avoid punching the smirk right off Miroku’s face.

            Miroku began to whistle, apparently satisfied to watch Inuyasha stew in his own mire of incompetent communication. Inuyasha also had the sneaking suspicion that his friend was enjoying watching him humble himself.  He growled. It shouldn’t be so difficult to ask a simple question.  Except it wasn’t really simple.  Girls - women - females - were complex and confusing.  It was embarrassing too.  Not just because it was private, and it was, but also because Inuyasha felt like it was something he should already know.  The monk was considerably younger than him, even subtracting the years spent pinned to Goshinboku, and he knew a lot about...things. It didn’t seem to help the pervert with Sango, but certainly a lot of girls wanted to be with him.  It wouldn’t take much for him to be more experienced than Inuyasha.

            If his father had lived, or if Sesshomaru were less like a prick and more like a brother - no, Inuyasha shook his head decisively.   He couldn’t imagine any scenario where Stick-Up-His-Ass would ever explain anything as undignified as sex or as personal as mating. The reality was he had mostly raised himself.  He had figured out a lot of stuff on his own, but there weren’t a lot of girls eager to spend time alone with a hanyou...really, just Kagome.  Even Kikyou hadn’t wanted to be with him - only with his human half. Kagome seemed to like his human and his hanyou.  Hell, if he could get a straight answer out of Miroku, he might even find out that she liked his demon.  He took a deep breath and kicked his pride in the gut,

            “How do you - girls - when you’re together...” His tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth and he couldn’t continue.  The monk didn’t seem to need him to finish a sentence.  

He grinned. “My dear friend, when a man and a woman - or a hanyou and a woman in your case - truly care for one another, the man may take his-”

            “Baka!” Inuyasha shouted. He slammed his fist onto the top of Miroku’s head and glanced at the girls.  They had stopped walking and turned to stare. “Ya gonna stand around all day? Legs broken?” He glared at them until Sango raised her brows but resumed her pace.  Kagome rolled her eyes, but followed without comment.  Little Shippo looked like he wanted to ask something, but Inuyasha let out a low snarl that said, Back off. The kit scampered ahead to scour the road in front of Kagome. He waited until he was sure no one was paying attention to them before furiously whispering, “I know how that works, you pervert. I’m not askin’ about that.”

            “If you don’t mind, Inuyasha,” Miroku said with a weak smile, “what exactly are you asking?” He tenderly touched his head where a lump was no doubt already forming.

            “How do ya, er...how do you know when they want that?”  He could feel his face heat up, and he bent his head to let his hair hide the blush.  He tried to take deep, even breaths to calm his racing heart - but anxiety was slowly winning that battle.

            “Generally speaking, not being slapped is a good indicator,” the monk said with a smile in his voice.  Inuyasha gave a low growl of impatience and Miroku turned serious.  “It can be a bit different with every woman.  Some will boldly tell their partner what they like or want.  Most will be a bit more coy, responding gently or even just smiling to indicate their pleasure.  There are a very few who also respond violently, even when they are enjoying themselves...” Inuyasha glanced up when Miroku paused, to find the man staring at the women in front of them - somewhat lower than their heads, a glassy look on his face.   He was finally getting something sort of useful, he couldn’t let Miroku fall into a lusty daydream about Sango’s ass.  He is looking at Sango, right? Inuyasha followed the monk’s eyes but was unable to tell just where his sight rested.  The girls were walking far too close together.  He could very well be looking at...The hanyou slapped the back of his hand against his friends belly to gain his attention.

            “Smiling?” That was good.  Kagome often smiled when she smelled like the spicy sake.  But Kagome was an irritatingly cheerful person.  She smiled a lot. “What about those...gentle responses?”

            “A caress to the back of the neck.  A soft touch of the cheek or hand. Closed eyes, parted lips, she leans in with warm, fast breath-” Inuyasha had definitely lost him to a fantasy.  He growled low, knowing he was being irrational but unable to stop himself. If he is thinking about Kagome I’ll rip his guts out.  Inuyasha was never going to learn anything if he had to compete with a soft backside for Miroku’s attention.  He seized the monk’s robes at his neck and waist and took two leaping strides, bounding into the air and settling them a good twenty feet in front of the girls.  Shippo had to backpedal hard to avoid being stepped on.  Inuyasha made a sharp snap with his teeth and the kit raced back to the females.

            “Focus, houshi,” he snarled.  He took a few moments to count to ten in his head - Kagome did it aloud sometimes to reign in her temper.  It worked about half the time.  While his mouth was clamped shut, Miroku resettled his robes; he took the short flight with his usual calm demeanor and waited. Inuyasha finally sucked up his courage and got down to the real question, “What does it smell like?”

 

***

 

            Miroku blinked. What does sexual interest smell like? He wasn’t sure why the question surprised him. A human boy who asked how to tell if a girl liked him would want to know how she would smile, what she would say, if she would bat her lashes.  Inuyasha was half dog-demon.  Their culture, although older and certainly in many ways more civilized than the human world, relied on a great deal on non-verbal communication.  Especially for inus, he would guess that their excellent sense of smell would be more reliable to them in many ways than words or even actions.  He took his time thinking over a response, trying to give the situation the gravity it deserved.  At over 200 years of age, Inuyasha wasn’t a boy.  Even by demon standards he was old enough to have taken a mate, according to Sango.  Any other inuyoukai would have probably experimented, as human boys do, with females by the time he reached that age.  He would have also had the often clumsy experience of a parent giving him ‘the talk’, or the exaggerated tales of an older brother or friend, to guide him.  Because of his orphaning and mixed heritage, Inuyasha had been denied both.  Miroku frowned, he had long ago realized that his friend was only half as brash and rough as he probably would have been if he had not lived under such an unlucky star.  His questions regarding women were just another example of what he had been forced to miss out on.

            “Inuyasha, I think I know what you are asking - but before I answer, please try to remember that my nose is nothing like yours.  I am not sure I can know even a quarter of the information you gain in one sniff with an hour using all my senses.  I need more information if I am going to tell you anything useful.”

            The hanyou didn’t look at him, but he didn’t whack him on the head either.  They walked in silence for a few minutes, and Miroku patiently listened to the birds and watched the clouds while Inuyasha sorted out his words. “Spicier than usual - and hot like sake.”

            What? “Excuse me?” Miroku asked politely. Silver hair completely blocked his view of Inuyasha’s face, but his ears were swiveling and twitching like crazy.

            “She smells like...when she’s thinking about...that...her smell is the same, but...also with a scent like spicy sake.” He was quiet for a moment and Miroku turned that information over in his head, absently noting that he could almost hear the need in his friend’s voice. “It is deeper sometimes, when she’s been...after...it dulls all the other smells in my nose and is hot in my lungs. It’s thick and sweet and makes me- keh...she smells like clean water and warm sunshine and water lilies after a heavy dew.  When she is excited she smells like ume.  Her happiness smells like crisp apples and her anger smells like fresh ginger. Her sadness is salty and numbs my nose with camphor.  When she thinks about us...alone together... she smells like all those good things but softer, and above her scent is a sweet smoke that teases my nose.  When she thinks about my hands on her skin the smoke thickens and coats my mouth like syrup.  It’s heavy and hot; when I breathe deep...I can’t think of anything but finding the source and lapping it up.”

            Inuyasha trailed off and Miroku had to swallow to get his own mind on track. Great Buddha.  Inuyasha was the farthest thing from a poet - but listening to him describe Kagome’s scent was one of the most enticing, exciting, arousing things the monk had ever heard.  And he had been to some pretty debauched places.  If hearing about it was a turn-on, he couldn’t imagine what actually smelling it was like for Inuyasha.

            “How-” he cut himself off and cleared his throat to get rid of the huskiness.  “How do you know she is thinking about that, when you smell the-the-”

            “Sake. I didn’t know for certain, but yesterday she was talking to Sango - about that - and-”

            “That wouldn’t have been during their bath, would it, Inuyasha?” Miroku couldn’t resist a small tease, and Inuyasha took the bait.

            “I was just protecting them, baka! I didn’t look!” He was furious and embarrassed, but he managed to keep his voice low.

            “How does Sango smell, when they talk about me?”

            “Don’t push it, houshi,” Inuyasha growled.  Miroku laughed wistfully.

            “Another time, perhaps.” He turned serious again, and began with the air of a scholar, “You understand that I can only guess at what Kagome feels.  If you want to be certain you will have to ask her yourself.” At the glare Inuyasha sent him Miroku shrugged, “That is, of course, up to you. It would seem that emotions you like - even anger -” he winked at the hanyou.  Miroku well knew the pleasant aftereffects of a women incensed. “Those emotions may smell good to you. Whereas those you do not like smell bad, or at least not good.  I cannot smell emotions the way you seem to, Inuyasha, but I can tell you what the effects of a woman’s desire smell like.” He leveled a frank gaze at his friend. “Do you know what I mean when I say effects?”

            “Don’t be stupid,” Inuyasha muttered, equally embarrassed and insulted.  Quieter, with his face turned away, he added, “Wet. Heat.” His voice lilted up just enough at the end to make it almost a question.

            “Correct,” Miroku nodded and managed not to smile. “It is unique to every woman, but it is usually musky, often mildly pungent.  It is salty, sometimes overpoweringly smelling of the ocean. It is powerful and...” Miroku couldn’t help but smile at a fond fantasy, “a taste that is worth acquiring.”

            “A taste that-” Inuyasha cut himself off before he could form a question and snapped his mouth shut.

            “I know that may not be as helpful for you.  I would also say that when aroused, human women often lower their eyelids and wet their lips.  They become warm, pinking their skin and often fanning themselves or tugging at their clothing.  Some will shift their weight, even unconsciously, to press their legs together and-”

            “She moaned,” Inuyasha interrupted thoughtfully.  His eyes were half-closed and his brow furrowed, as though he were struggling to see something far off. She moaned? As in, Inuyasha actually did something to Kagome that made her moan?

            “Moaning is good,” Miroku somehow managed a calm tone, but his mind was racing to figure out when his two friends would have had enough privacy to get to the moaning stage of foreplay. Not at camp. There was definitely nowhere that they had camped that both Inuyasha and Kagome could be gone that long - at the same time - that he wouldn’t have noticed.  The village was out too.  Kaede’s hut was far too small and the walls too thin.  The only place they were ever really alone was at the well, and he doubted Kagome would agree to that level of intimacy outdoors in daylight.  Not that his hanyou friend struck him as an exhibitionist - the opposite actually.  He would probably tear out the eyes of anyone who saw Kagome in a moaning state.  They spent adequate time in the future together...he cast that possibility aside as well.  He knew Kagome lived with her mother, grandfather, and younger brother.  He doubted their home had much privacy - even if it was as large as Inuyasha told them.  He would have to consider it longer. If Inuyasha had found a way to get his love interest alone, perhaps Miroku could...

            “She sounds upset, but she smells so good.” Inuyasha’s frustration was clear, and Miroku couldn’t hold back a chuckle.

            “Ah, that is what makes women so intriguing.  Just when you think you have the puzzle solved, it takes another turn.”  Inuyasha frowned at the monk, but didn’t respond except to jump up into the trees to keep pace with the group.  Miroku continued walking, silently contemplating just how long Inuyasha had been holding out on him - how long had he been secretly wooing Kagome? She didn’t seem like the type of girl to get to the moaning phase straight away, despite her clothes. And where on earth were they doing it?

            A gruff voice interrupted his thoughts from the trees just ahead of him, “Sakura blossoms and shochu, but for you it is almost always yuzu.”

            It took Miroku a moment to figure out what Inuyasha was referring to.  When he finally did, he grinned, then frowned, “Sweet or tart yuzu, Inuyasha?”  He had always enjoyed the tart citrus fruit, but the sweeter variety was like an addiction for him. He stopped walking to listen to the trees, but the only response he received was a distant, “Fuckin’ Hentai”.  

 

***

 

            Kagome had awoken to the rather pleasant sensation of being completely rested.  Her sleeping bag was on a cushioned carpet of thick grass, the air was crisp and clean. The sky was blue and dotted with puffy white clouds.  Inuyasha had already stirred the fire and set fish to cook by the time Kagome got up.  Miroku, Sango, and Shippo had also slept in and they took their time over breakfast and breaking camp without a single harsh comment or barked order to get moving from the hanyou.

            Shippo was in a fine mood, still proud of the new responsibility Kagome had given him and feeling good about his elevation in status to somewhere behind Inuyasha as the scout and protector for the group.  Her warning to Miroku was fading, but still strong enough that when Sango ordered him to walk with Inuyasha, he fell back into step a distance behind the girls without complaint.  The two girls linked arms as they walked, both feeling better after bathing and talking the night before.

            Kagome leaned her head back, closed her eyes, and took in a deep breath.  A perfect day. She tripped on a loose stone in the road and Sango had to catch her.  They both giggled. Kagome glanced over her shoulder to see Inuyasha completely preoccupied with Miroku, who looked like sugar wouldn’t melt in his mouth.  She narrowed her eyes and whispered to Sango,

            “Are you sure you love him?”

            Sango blushed and stuttered, “Well, I- I-”

            “No, no,” Kagome patted her arm and smiled. “Of course you do, I know that. It’s just...I never thought you would let yourself, you know, be with someone.”

            “It is...” Sango searched for the right word, “risky. What we are doing - this quest? I have to do this, I must see it through.  And I trained my whole life for demon-slaying. Being with someone else,” she swallowed hard, “love? That isn’t anything I prepared for.  I don’t have the skills for that, and Miroku isn’t a sure thing like Hiraikotsou.  He might not return to me.” She whispered the last words with a trace of fear.  Kagome shook her head instantly - firmly.

            “Miroku isn’t risky. He’s just like your boomerang.  Hiraikotsou is your companion, it always returns to you.  You rely on it because you always know what to do with it.  You smash it down and it destroys your enemy. You throw it and it hits your target.  Miroku is predictable too - you just don’t know what to do with him.”

            Sango stared at the younger woman, wondering at her certainty. “Do you?”

            “I wouldn’t! I mean, I don’t-” Kagome fumbled, blushing. “I have an idea of what you should do with him. If you want, I could, erh, I mean...”  Sango’s blush had grown as well, so that her whole face was dark red.  She couldn’t help her own curiosity though either.

            “What?”

            “I don’t...I mean...People in this time don’t seem to talk about...things...as much as in my time. I mean, not that it is okay for girls like me to, you know, do stuff with just any guy - or talk about it publicly, but...” She had to stop before she choked on her own awkwardness.  She took a deep breath, counting to ten and very conscious of Sango’s curious, red-faced stare. “I don’t know how much you know about that, or what you think might be inappropriate for an unmarried woman to know. I...I don’t want to shock you, or make you think I’m...I’m the kind of girl that...”

            “It’s okay, Kagome-chan,” Sango said softly.  “I know things are different in your time. Would you...”  She left the question hanging, and suddenly Kagome felt more comfortable.  This was just like when Mama explained to her why Yuka’s older sister got married before she finished school.  It was foreign information to Sango; Kagome just needed to be honest about what she knew and didn’t know.

            “Miroku wants you Sango, that’s obvious.”

            “Miroku wants anything that feels soft and squeals when he pinches it,” Sango muttered darkly.  Kagome giggled.

            “That may have been true once. Haven’t you noticed how long it has been since he asked anyone to bear his children?”

            “He asked me yesterday. Twice.”  They looked at each other, then over their shoulders at Miroku and Inuyasha.  Inuyasha looked uncomfortable. Miroku looked like he was dreaming about Sango’s butt. Both girls burst out laughing.

            “Yes, yes,” Kagome agreed through gasps for breath. “But when was the last time he asked someone else? And it has been months...actually, more than a year since I have seen him grab anything other than you, Sango.”

            “He makes up for it with ogling.” The demon-slayer frowned, but she didn’t disagree.

            “Considering where he was at when we met him, just looking is a pretty significant improvement for Miroku.  Besides, are you going to tell me you have never seen another man and thought he was attractive?”  Sango pursed her lips, as though trying to keep in a smile, and Kagome grinned.  “Last time we were traveling with Sesshomaru’s group, I got up in the middle of the night to get a drink from the stream,” Kagome confided. She lowered her voice and continued, “Sesshomaru-sama was standing in the water - bathing.”  Kagome was satisfied to see Sango’s eyes widen and her mouth fall open.

            “You saw Sess- he was naked?” Sango whispered.

            “Well,” Kagome said wickedly, “the water covered up everything below his...hips.”  She knew she was grinning but she couldn’t help it.  Sango had the most perfectly horrified, completely scandalized, inappropriately interested look on her face.  She risked another glance over her shoulder to make certain Inuyasha’s ears weren’t twitching her way. “For a minute, I wasn’t sure if I should apologize and beg him not to drown me in acid, or wipe the drool off my chin and ask if he needed help washing his back.”  Sango let out a strangled gasp and her hand flew up to her mouth. She took a few shallow breaths, and then whispered,

            “Better than Inuyasha? Because I’ve seen that more than once, and...you’re pretty lucky.”  Kagome tried not to dwell on the mixture of pleasure and sadness that erupted at the compliment.

            “Let’s just say it is a good thing that he’s got such a chip on his shoulder or he’d have women lined up eager to do things that are illegal in public.”

            “What kind of things are illegal in public?”

            “Ah, let’s save that for another day.” Kagome cleared her throat. “If Miroku lived in my time, and one of my friends wanted him to come to heel, they would-”

            “Come to heel?” Sango interrupted.

            “To act they way she wanted him to,” Kagome clarified. “She’d use the carrot and the stick.” At Sango’s blank look, Kagome smile.  “It’s psychology.  Punish bad behavior - you’ve got that down.  Grabbing your butt, at least when other people can see,” she winked and Sango blushed again, “earns him a slap.  That’s the stick. Although, most girls in my time don’t physically punish their boyfriends. Well,” Kagome said thoughtfully, “not with weapons...that I know of. Anyhow, you should also reward good behavior.”

            “The women in the future seem to treat their men like ill-trained dogs,” Sango noted in consternation.

            “Pretty much, although they try to be a little more subtle about it.”

            “You should have no problem then right?” Sango was teasing, Kagome knew, but she couldn’t help a wince of pain.  She knew all too well how youkai-Inuyasha responded to positive reinforcement; and unfortunately, she also knew how disgusted hanyou-Inuyasha would be at the idea.  Sango must have noticed the wince, because she immediately apologized. “Oh no, Kagome, I didn’t mean it like that! We’ll fix it, I promise!” She threw dark glance over her shoulder at Inuyasha, “Even if I have to beat some sense into him.”

            “I think I have the stick part covered,” Kagome smiled, “Thanks anyway Sango-chan.” There was a sudden flurry of movement behind them and then a flash of red and purple sailed overhead.  Sango had one hand on Hirakotsou before Inuyasha landed, cursing a wrinkled monk.  Miroku and Inuyasha continued walking down the road as though nothing had happened, although Shippo raced back to them with Kirara right behind him.

            “Kagome!” Shippo whined, jumping into her arms.  Kirara launched herself at Sango. “Inuyasha is being really mean!”

            “Oh? What did he do that was so awful?” Kagome raised one brow.  She could clearly see that the hanyou had snarled at Shippo - but to be fair, the kit hadn’t been paying attention and had almost been stepped on.

            “He snapped at me!”

            “Snapped?” Shippo ended Kagome’s puzzlement with a demonstration of tiny, sharp teeth clicking shut. “Is that all?”

            “All? That’s a lot! For fox-demons or inuyoukai it’s like...like...well it’s yelling pretty bad!”

            “Shippo, you should have been paying more attention, you could have been hurt.” Before he could complain that she wasn’t taking his side, Kagome continued, “Inuyasha could have been nicer though too.  Why don’t you take these,” she pulled a sucker and a felt mouse on a string out of one of the many pockets on the yellow bag, “and you and Kirara can play behind us - away from Inuyasha - for a while.”  Shippo seized the gifts and took off after a quick nuzzle to her neck.

            “That was...different,” Sango commented.

            “I finally asked Mama for advice.” Kagome sighed. “You wouldn’t have thought it would take me three years, but I guess I finally got tired of the bickering.  Mama raised two children, so I figured she would know how I should deal with these two.”  Kagome smiled at Sango’s giggle.  Inuyasha, despite being older than the rest of the group combined, really did act like a little boy sometimes.  “She said distraction is often easier and more productive than mediation.”

            “If it keeps them from yelling at each other, and you from having to ‘sit’ him into a crater, I’m all for it.”  Sango cleared her throat and rejoined their arms, leaning in close and speaking low, “What’s the carrot?”  Kagome grinned, despite the blush rising on her cheeks and lowered her voice as well.

            “Well, that depends on you, dear Sango.”

 

***

 

            Inuyasha kept pace with the group from the trees, occasionally jumping to the opposite side of the road.  He had a lot to think about, and there had been more than enough of Miroku looking at him with that weird, glazed pride in his eyes for one day.  Between the monk’s knowledge and his guesses, which Inuyasha had to admit seemed pretty good, it was likely that Kagome...that Kagome...Inuyasha had to take a deep breath and steady his pulse before his heart raced out of his chest.  Kagome probably liked him.  He shook his head, of course she likes me, baka.  Kagome was his friend, and she was always worried about him.  Except when she was sitting him into an early grave, she was nicer to him than anyone had been since before his mother died.  

            If the sake spice was a scent for good feelings, then Kagome felt good when she thought about him...about them together.  That was more than just friendship.  If she smelled happy-good smells when she thought about what happened on the mountain...  Inuyasha tried to mesh together the brief story she told Sango with the glimpses of memory left from his youkai and the first flash of scent in the ice demon cavern.  Her mouth on his...his tongue on her shoulder...his hands between her legs...

            Thwack. Inuyasha shook himself, disoriented for a moment. “Inuyasha?” Kagome’s voice called up, anxious. “Are you alright?”

            “Keh, I’m fine wench. Keep moving or we’ll never get there!”  Irritated mutters drifted up, but he listened to the group walk on.  After a few moments, he stood and rubbed the knot forming on his head.  The tree had a crack almost two feet long running down the trunk.  He blushed, embarrassed even though no one could see. Even thinking about it - things he didn’t even really remember - was distracting enough to make him forget what he was doing.  Today it had just been a tree...but tomorrow...

            What if that happened in battle? What if caught her scent at the wrong moment and he ran into something more dangerous than a tree? What if it was Naraku - or worse, what if Sesshomaru caught him off guard? Never gonna happen, he growled to himself and took off after the group.  Kagome was not a liability.  Or at least she wasn’t one he was willing to live without.  He knew that, had tested it without success.  Even if it would have been better for her safety to stay in the future, far away from him, he wasn’t strong enough to deny her if she wanted to come back.  And she always wanted to come back.  

            Inuyasha set aside the puzzle of her scent for a moment, difficult as that was to do, and thought it over.  She always wanted to come back.  No matter how dangerous it was, how dirty and uncomfortable she got - and that meant a lot where Kagome was concerned, how scared she was or how much he hurt her, she always came back - always wanted to come back...to him.

            He jumped down from the trees to walk behind the group, keeping an eye on Shippo and Kirara and one ear on Kagome and Sango.  He had a lot to think about. And, soon, he would have to talk to Kagome about it.  That made him scowl.  There weren’t many things he could think of that he wanted to do less than talk to Kagome about her feelings. Maybe he could just-

            “And men like that?”

            Inuyasha almost broke his ear, it swiveled so fast at Sango’s whispered inquiry.  Inuyasha glanced down at Shippo.  The kit’s hearing was almost as good as his. Thankfully, he was absorbed in a game he was playing with Kirara, laughing and dragging a toy mouse out of the neko’s grasp.  He returned his attention to the girls just in time to hear Kagome’s response.

            “I’ve never done it myself, but Yuki’s boyfriend practically moans every time.  It isn’t as overt as some of the other...things...I told you about, but it gets the job done.” Inuyasha felt the now-familiar heat start to pool in his belly and focused all his considerable senses on Kagome.

            “And you really think if I do that to Miroku, he’ll want to behave himself?”

            “It’s not a sure thing, Sango, but I think he’ll try a lot harder.  And if that helps his behavior, you can always try the thing with his ear.”

            “I’ll have to work up to something like that...it just seems so...” Sango trailed off with a red face.

            “Slutty?”  Sango giggled nervously at Kagome’s comment and Inuyasha thought his eyes would bug out of his head.  Did they seriously forget he could hear them? “You love him Sango,” she finished seriously. “I wouldn’t do that with just anyone either, but, you love him. If you want him to act like a one-woman man instead of a lust-crazed hentai, you might have to try the carrot.”

            “What if I want a lust-crazed one-woman man?” Sango asked.  Both girls burst into laughter, which didn’t subside until they broke through the forest and could see their destination - a prosperous village - in the valley below.  The group started down the steep road, and Inuyasha didn’t even complain when Shippo jumped on his shoulder to ride.  He was too busy thinking, What was the thing with his ear? Kagome better not do it with anyone but him! And what the hell did a carrot have to do with it?


Chapter Text

Chapter 4

 

            “This doesn’t feel right,” Sango repeated.

            Inuyasha grunted, he knew exactly what she meant.  Even from halfway down the hill, he had recognized something was wrong - Sango had too.  She changed into her slayer suit, and Miroku was on guard.  Kagome didn’t sense any shards though, so they continued on, walking cautiously.  A hundred yards from the village, the eerie feeling on the back of his neck intensified.  The wind blew across them.  Although he was unable to get any scent from the village - at least they wouldn’t be able to smell the group either.  It was quiet. No men working in the fields; no women hanging clothes out to dry. No children played outside the huts. There was something else too...it took Inuyasha a moment to place it, and Sango echoed his thoughts aloud.

            “Where are the animals?”  There weren’t any. No cows or goats in the meadow, no chickens scratching in the yards. Not a single dog lazed in the spring sunshine or barked at their approach.

            “Stay together, keep your ears open,” Inuyasha commanded.

            “Where are you going?” Kagome had a trace of fear in her scent and her eyes were wide, but she was calm.  Her hand rested lightly on the sleeve of his fire rat, and for the briefest moment, Inuyasha wanted to ask her to run, to hide, to wait for him somewhere quiet and safe.  He shook his head and scowled. He didn’t even know for certain there was still a threat in the village - and Kagome had survived much more dangerous situations than anything that could possibly have happened in the sleepy little valley. Mostly because he was always there to save her ass. Keh, as if the stupid wench would listen anyhow.

            “I’m gonna sniff around. Shippo,” he snapped his teeth quietly and the kit stood at attention, “stay with Kagome. I don’t want to have to chase all over the place ‘cause she does somethin’ stupid and gets kidnapped, ‘k?” Kagome snorted, which Inuyasha ignored. “You’re in charge of her.”  Shippo puffed up with pride and Inuyasha took off, almost missing the pleasant happy scent Kagome gave off.  He called her stupid and she got all happy? Women were confusing.

            He circled the village, staying low in the tall grass that surrounded the rice fields.  Even moving carefully to stay hidden, he made it to the outermost hut on the downwind side before the tachi had cover more than a dozen yards.  His first inhale and his eyes widened. Fuck. The smell of blood was thick and almost overpowered by the acrid scent of burned flesh. He crept forward to the nearest hut and scaled the side quickly.  Lying flat on the roof he could look down on the village.  The animals were all dead.  They had been charred, some beyond recognition, and piled inside the remains of two nearby huts.  The roofs had been torn off and cast into the rice fields.  Goats, dogs, geese, even a cat were thrown together like garbage.

            He sniffed again and caught the faint smell of humans.  There were many of them, all gathered in one place.  The smelled of fear and sadness, pain and faint traces of anger.  They were unwashed.  The animals had been killed a day or more ago.  Inuyasha wondered what would make humans kill their source of food - their pets - in such a manner.  Disease came to mind, and he stood up in fear.  Kagome and the others were headed into the village.  If the disease could be spread... He leapt from roof to roof, completely forgoing stealth, and raced to where the humans were.  He had to know if the sickness was still among them. He couldn’t let Kagome or the others...

            He stopped on the roof of the largest house, the headman’s house, and looked down.  Sitting in the courtyard were men, women, children.  The old and the young sat, not huddled together in sadness or lying on the ground ill, but in perfect rows.  Inuyasha’s mouth fell open in surprise.  Their heads were bowed, many resting on their knees, and they all were completely silent.  Three groups had been arranged into rectangles, each person exactly spaced from the next: men, women, children.  The back rows contained the oldest - several even older than Kaede. They gradually grew younger towards the front, until those in the groups of men and women were barely old enough to be called such.  The children were arranged the same way, with no concern for gender; the oldest at the back were on the brink of adulthood.  The very smallest child, closest to Inuyasha, was hardly more than three.  What the hell?

            As he stared, the youngest child began to weave slightly, finally slumping over into the girl next to him.  Her head came up slowly.  Blinking, she looked around.  When her eyes fell on the boy they widened and the fear in her scent blossomed into terror.  She did not speak, but she pushed and shoved at the boy to make him wake up, to force him to sit up on his own. Inuyasha frowned, the boy was exhausted, so was the girl. What the fuck was wrong with these humans?

            “Ah, child.”  Inuyasha fell into a crouch as a new scent, milder - the youkai almost completely concealed - emerged from the house. He breathed deeply and his eyes narrowed. Kasha-demon. “You are destroying the order I have created here.  I know how much you villagers like order, don’t you?” Not a single head was lifted, except the girl, who began to cry silently, still trying to wake the boy next to her. “I am just trying to help you gain perfection.  That won’t be possible until we weed out all of the bad blood - will it?”  The Kasha-demon stepped into view. The youkai was tall, almost as tall as Sesshomaru, and his skin had a faint orange tint.  Thin black lines streaked his cheeks, neck and forehead, flowing into long black hair that hung to his waist.  His ears were slightly pointed, his fingers tipped with deadly claws.  From under his fine robes twitched a sleek tail.  The color of it shifted and wavered, and it took Inuyasha a moment to understand it was on fire.

            “Come child, if you cannot be part of the perfection the village seeks, then you must be weeded out.” He seized the unconscious boy by his clothing and opened his mouth to reveal vicious fangs.

            “Fuck no!” Inuyasha yelled.  He jumped down among the children, scattering those nearest him and raising the level of fear and anxiety in the crowd.  The heads of most of the adults remained firmly on their knees. “Oi! you want to see some blood? Let’s find out what color yours is!” He drew Tessaiga and leveled it at the Kasha.  The cat-demon’s red eyes narrowed and he bared his teeth in a feral snarl.  He tossed the child down, bowling over several others, and flicked his tail in annoyance.  

            “You are interrupting me, inu. This village is most important to me and I can’t have you disturbing the work that must be done here.  If you leave this place now, I will not kill you.”

            “Stop runnin’ your fuckin’ mouth and get on with it!” Inuyasha charged, and the Kasha reacted quickly, parrying the blow from Tessaiga.  They dodged and lunged, but Inuyasha couldn’t seem to get more that a scratch on the nimble fire cat. Each blow made the circle of their fight wider.  The children pulled away from them, but the adults would not move.  They’re gonna get themselves killed! He took a minor blow to his hip.  It would bruise, but it didn’t hinder his attack.  He had to move the fight away from the villagers.  He grinned. “That all you got? I know pups that hit harder than that!”

            The Kasha snarled and rushed him, and Inuyasha allowed an opening.  Both fists slammed into his chest and pushed him backwards.  He crashed through the wall of the hut and skidded to a stop, digging his claws into the wooden floor.  A pile of bodies was stacked neatly on one side of the fire pit.  Pale, cold limbs had been drained of blood.  The bottom of the pile was mostly adult men - probably those who had tried to fight the demon when he came to the village.  The top was...Inuyasha felt bile rise in his throat.  The top was mostly children, particularly young children. Babies.  They, too, had been drained of blood.  The demon followed him inside.

            “What right - you evil fucker! I would have let you run away,” he pointed one clawed finger to the pile, “but now I’m gonna cut you down for this!” The demon smiled, and Inuyasha felt sick again.

            “This is what they asked for. You see?” He nodded to the other side of the room.  Laid out on a futon, covered with a silk kimono, was a young woman. The body had been washed and scented, flowers and candles were arranged around her in memoriam. “They thought she polluted their bloodlines. So they flogged her to death.” Inuyasha stared.  Something strong was trying to break through the smells of death, fear, and decay that blanketed the room.  He loved her.

            “They killed your woman, so you murdered their children?”

            “They didn’t want her child born among them - tainting them.  If they seek to be so pure, I can only assist them.”

            “It won’t bring her back,” Inuyasha said quietly.  The Kasha was wrong. He would have to die for what he had done in the village, but Inuyasha knew what drove him...he had seen it before, lived through it. The way other humans treated his mother once they saw her hanyou child. The way some humans, some demons, spoke to Kagome because she stayed by his side.  If they were together, if he ever mated her...a tendril of fear twisted around his heart. Inuyasha shook his head. Kaede’s village would never do that to Kagome.  Hell, they would never do that to him. The Kasha's eyes blazed in anger, red leaking into the whites and signaling his loss of control.

            “You wouldn’t know!” He screamed, and came at Inuyasha again.  He couldn’t get Tessaiga up in time, and took the blow to the stomach. Claws raked across his belly and a fist slammed into his sternum.  He crashed through the second wall, rolling over himself on the ground outside.

            “Inuyasha!” Kagome’s cry was louder than it should have been.  He had spent longer than he thought studying the villagers and speaking with the demon.  He needed to finish things quickly before Kagome was in danger. The fire cat followed him outside, still snarling and spitting.  Inuyasha attacked.

 

***

 

            Kagome entered the village behind Sango, and a shiver raced down her spine at the eerie stillness around them.  Shouting in the distance broke through the quiet, and she could make out Inuyasha’s rude taunts.  She exchanged a glance with Miroku and they all began to run - worried about what their friend had gotten himself into.  A crash sounded ahead, and Kagome felt her heart pinch a little.  He would be okay...he would be okay. A second, louder crash sounded and the wall of the largest house in the village exploded into splinters and a cloud of dust. A figure in red flew out of the house, rolling across the ground before shaking off dirt and raising his weapon.

            “Inuyasha!” she couldn’t help but cry out.  A tall demon, striped like a tiger and hissing at the hanyou, followed him outside.  His clawed hands dripped with blood and his eyes burned with hatred.

            “Kirara!” Sango called and the neko transformed to carry her into the air.  Miroku pulled a few slips of paper from his bag, readying his sutras.  She dropped her yellow bag and fumbled with her bow and arrow, hoping that Inuyasha would move out of the way so that she could aim - and also praying he would end the demon so she wouldn’t have to.  Inuyasha was fighting with his usual aggressive-explosive energy, but the tiger demon was too fast for such tactics.  He dodged Tessaiga easily, only taking minor hits from Inuyasha’s fists or claws.  All the while, his own deadly weapons slashed through the air with pinpoint accuracy, taking advantage of every opening Inuyasha gave him.  Thin lines of blood quickly appeared on his belly and arm, his upper thigh, even his cheek.  With a grating snarl, the demon charged, catching Inuyasha’s belly with his shoulder and driving him back directly towards Kagome and Miroku.

            “Kagome!” Kirara swooped down and Sango and Shippo pulled the monk and priestess out of harm’s way just as Inuyasha’s next attack obliterated the spot where they had been standing.  The neko circled the village, setting down in front of the destroyed headman’s house.

            “Go, Sango!” Kagome shouted. “Shippo and I will wait here, help Inuyasha!”  Sango nodded and Kirara took off again.  Miroku grabbed Sango’s waist and prepared to launch his seals from the sky.  Kagome knelt behind the crumbled remains of the wall, trying to regain her breath and ready her arrow again.  She was having trouble keeping track of the battle - both Inuyasha and the tiger demon were moving too quickly for her human eyesight to follow.

            “Kagome-okasan?” Kagome turned to Shippo in surprise.  He almost never called her mother, only when he was sick or very afraid. His eyes were wide in fear and he was having trouble forming words. “Ka-Kag-Ka-” He pointed behind her, and Kagome turned to see a pile of bodies stacked inside the house.

            “A, kamisama,” Kagome whispered.  She turned Shippo away and pressed his face to her white blouse.  There were children among the dead - babies. They had been... She didn’t realize she was crying until the warm tears fell onto her hand and dripped onto the red skirt she had been so eager to wear that morning.  She couldn’t help but think now how it looked less like a modern miko’s garb and more like blood.  The battle was still raging behind her, but she couldn’t concentrate over the deafening sound of her own pulse in her ears.  Who would do this? Who could do this? Kagome felt a burning sort of anger welling inside her.  The tiger-demon...  A chunk of plaster fell on the other side of the hut, and Kagome swung her bow around to face whatever was still in the house with the corpses.  A little girl, perhaps four, crouched near the fire pit.  Her face and clothes were filthy.  Huge shadows bruised the pale skin under her wide eyes. Kagome lowered her bow slowly. “It’s alright,” she said softly.  The anger from only a moment ago was washed away with sadness for the little girl.  “I won’t hurt you, imoto.” She set down her bow and held out her hand. The girl shook her head and looked back over her shoulder, then toward the far side of the room.  Kagome followed her gaze.  A body lay on the floor, prepared for an honorable burial.  It had been a young woman, very beautiful.  Her dark hair was smooth and silky, spread out around her face.

            “Nechan,” the girl whispered in a dry voice.  Fat tears rolled down her face and she turned back to Kagome. “Sister made me promise not to tell about Kasha-sama.  Our otosan...  Papa found out she was going to have a baby and he was mad, mad, mad.” The tears kept coming, but the little girl crept closer. “He hit her - she cried so much! But he wouldn’t stop until he said the baby was dead. Why would he kill Nechan’s baby?”

            “I don’t know, imoto,” Kagome said softly.

            “Nechan died, and then Kasha-sama came back and he was mad too.  Everyone was angry and Papa made the men fight Kasha-sama...but he, he -” The girl started breathing fast and Kagome finally left Shippo to gather her up.  She stiffened at first, but then slumped against the priestess’s shoulder, gripping her hair and sobbing.  “We all had to sit so still, to make us perfect like Papa wanted Nechan to be.  If we moved, Kasha-sama would- he -” Kagome glanced at the bodies.  She could guess what Kasha the tiger demon had done to the village that had killed the mother of his unborn child.

            “Come with me, imoto. I want you to meet Shippo.  He is a very nice boy, and he likes to play hide and seek in the nice, safe forest. Don’t you, Shippo?” Kagome tried to convey the huge responsibility she was asking of the little kit in one glance.  The fox demon gulped, glanced at the dead, and nodded - squaring his shoulders.

            “Take my hand, imoto. We can go find some cool water and nice berries to eat.  Would you like to play with my spinning top?”  Kagome was so proud of the little fox-demon she could have burst.  She set down the girl and would have straightened, but the child refused to let go of her hair.

            “Can my ototo come too?”

            Kagome nodded, and the girl pointed back towards the hole in the back of the house. A little boy, no more than three, was slumped against the rubble there.  Kagome picked him up, without looking.  Her eyes were completely focused instead on the villagers frozen in the courtyard.  A knot of ten or so children, ages five to a couple of teenagers, huddled near the house.  Adults, all but a single old man, sat completely still in rows, perfectly spaced.  Their heads were bowed, and they did not respond to anything.  One woman sat completely still - even though a young girl was tugging on her clothes and hands, begging her ‘mother’ to sit up and hold her.

            “What happened here?” Kagome wondered aloud in a horrified voice.

            “That tiger demon,” the old man answered. “When our headman found out his daughter was pregnant, and she admitted to the father - that Kasha - he went crazy.  He was always a stubborn, intolerant fool, but he went too far.  He ordered his own daughter flogged, refused to stop until she miscarried - over two hundred lashes. When the demon returned to find his lover and child dead... The Kasha decided to give our headman what he wanted - a pure village.  He killed anyone who tried to fight him, anyone who spoke up or attempted to leave, anyone who moved...” The man’s voice trailed off.

            “We must get them up.  You have time to escape into the forest while my friend is fighting the demon, but you must hurry!”

            “They won’t come, miko-tono,” the man said sadly.  “They won’t move for anything.” Kagome was torn. How could they not save themselves? But the proof was before her eyes.  The mother still refused to acknowledge her sobbing child, and the other adults had not moved.

            “Take the other children. You,” she pointed to an older boy, nearly twelve. “Pick her up and come with me.”  She walked back through the house with purpose, ignoring the bodies and instead pulling an undamaged basket to a kame.  She piled whatever food was inside into the basket and pressed it into the arms of the oldest girl. The girl was staring, wide-eyed and hollowly, at the dead. Kagome slapped her. “Pay attention!” She softened her voice once the girl had focused. “The young ones need your help.  My friend will help you find a safe place in the forest.  Go with him, take care of the others.”  The girl nodded and Kagome led the group back to Shippo.  “Use your nose, Shippo.  Take them as far as you can before nightfall, somewhere with clean water.  If you can’t make it safely back to the clearing where we stayed last night, stay the night with these villagers. Can you do that?”

            “Hai, Kagome.” Shippo nodded and gave Kagome’s leg a quick hug.  He took the hand of the little girl.  “Come on sister, let’s go.”  He peeked out to make certain the battle had not returned near the ruined house and darted around the corner.  The children followed in a silent line, with the old man bringing up the rear.  

            “If you hurt my friend the fox demon...” Kagome warned.

            “I am an old man, and have seen too much of the world to think that our headman Ginche is of the right path.”

            “One more thing,” Kagome stopped the man before he could leave, “which one is Ginche?”

 

***

 

            Sango yelled over her shoulder so that Miroku could hear, “We have to do something! He’s going to lose!”

            “The demon is too experienced for him,” Miroku agreed.  “Put me down and I’ll see if I can distract him to allow you a clear shot.”

            Sango urged Kirara into a clean dive, and Miroku jumped off before she could touch down.  The demon-slayer soared up into the air again, circling the small area of the village that had been destroyed by Inuyasha’s battle with the Kasha.  Sango had fought such demons before.  They often ate the souls of the evil dead, carrying them to hell before spitting them up.  Their tails were living flame, and they fought with the grace and speed of their tiger namesakes.  Sango had never heard of one attacking an entire village, especially a taiyoukai of the Kasha’s power, she couldn’t imagine what had happened to make this one so vicious. A beat of fear strummed in her blood when Miroku stepped closer to the battling pair and prepared to enter the fray.  She pushed it aside and readied Hiraikotsu. Battle first, reward later - if he manages not to do anything stupid.

            From the corner of her eye she saw movement.  Sango turned, and watched Shippo lead a scruffy band of children out of the house Inuyasha had crashed through and out of the village, away from the violence. She frowned, wondering where Kagome had gotten to.  The children vanished out of sight, then an old man appeared, hobbling in their wake.  Miroku’s staff jangled below her, the sound amplified by his holy power. “Demon!” he called. “I call on you to abandon your evil ways and leave this village!”  Sango almost rolled her eyes.  As if that would wor-  The battle broke off abruptly, each combatant drawing away from the other and standing to one side of Miroku.

            “Hiraikotsu!” she yelled as soon as she had a clear shot.  Her boomerang sailed through the air and caught the Kasha in the shoulder as he tried to dodge.  He snarled, his arm hanging brokenly from the socket.  Her weapon returned to her and Sango prepared for another throw when Miroku’s diversion was interrupted - by another diversion.

            “Kasha-sama!” Kagome’s voice rang out loud and clear in the empty village.  Her face was set in angry lines and pink sparks of power trailed behind her.  She carried her bow in one hand, the other was dragging an older man by the ear.  Sango’s eyes widened in surprise.  How did she manage to- “Kasha-sama!” Kagome repeated.  She came to a stop even with Miroku, less than twenty feet from the demon, whose arm was already knitting itself back together. “You have been wronged by this man!” She gave a sharp tug, and with a howl of pain the man fell at her feet.  “He killed your mate - your unborn child - and he should be punished.”  The demon growled; Sango and Kirara landed on Miroku’s other side.  She slid to the ground and reached for Hiraikotsu. What in the world was Kagome thinking? The demon moved toward Kagome and Inuyasha raised Tessaiga and cursed,

            “Leave her the fuck alone!” Sango wondered that Inuyasha had the energy to yell.  Blood dripped from almost everywhere on the hanyou; his robes were torn and his breathing was quick and heavy.  One of his hands was twisted awkwardly, as though it had been broken. Sango cringed and prepared to strike.  Inuyasha wouldn’t last long if the demon turned his attention back to the fight.

            “Kasha-sama!” Kagome commanded his attention and Sango was forced to look as well.  The girl glowed faintly pink with righteous anger.  Her bow had been fitted with an arrow, and she aimed it at the demon.  “Ginche should be punished, but you have done great evil this day.” She pulled back her bow and whispered. Sango was too far away to hear her, but she knew well what the young priestess was saying, “Hit the mark.”  Kagome closed her eyes when she loosed the arrow, so she did not see what Sango did.  The arrowhead pulsed with the energy of her pure spiritual power, flying straight and true towards the Kasha.  The taiyoukai was quick, but not enough to completely miss the projectile.  It embedded itself in his shoulder, and the tiger-demon let out a scream of pain as Kagome’s power began to purify him.  He did not slow, however, and before Sango could blink, the demon had appeared at Kagome’s side, snapping her bow and drawing her against him with his injured arm.  She screamed, and the Kasha snarled at her even as he seized her arrow and yanked it from his body.

            “Kagome!” Inuyasha bellowed.

            The flesh of the Kasha’s hand sizzled and burned where he touched the shaft of the arrow.  It fell to the ground and Sango stared in fear and awe at the gaping wound left in his shoulder.  Kagome had purified part of him, and the hole was clean through - cauterized and smoking.  He turned to face Inuyasha, and the readied Tessaiga, with a psychotic grin.

            “You think you know how I hurt, inu? You think you have felt my pain?”  The hand of his wounded arm wrapped around Kagome’s throat, choking her enough to end her screams, but not enough to kill her.  The strength in his arm was diminished, but still more than enough to prevent escape. He raised his uninjured arm and his claws gleamed in the sunlight. “You, hanyou, are what this man,” he kicked at the cowering form of the headman, “would scrape from this world.  He would end your kind - even before mine - for sullying the human bloodlines, for representing the union he believes to be unnatural.  You know what it is to have them hate you, fear you, shun you and the humans who would be with you. But still you would fight for their lives?” The Kasha threw back his head and laughed.  The sound shook Sango’s spine and made her stomach quiver.  He was mad - driven crazy by the loss he had experienced at the hands of the villager.  He continued in a whisper,

            “I smell you on her, little inu.” The demon turned his head into Kagome’s hair and inhaled deeply.  Inuyasha growled in anger and warning, but the Kasha only smiled. “You do not know my pain, but you will.”  He struck quickly, his claws flashing over Kagome and away before she could scream.  The sound stuck in her throat, but Inuyasha responded for her as blood welled in four long slashes across Kagome’s belly.  

            “No!” A primal scream of rage, sounding like it had been ripped from the hanyou, hurt Sango’s ears.  “Fight me, you fucker!” The Kasha continued to smile, and slashed again.  This time he relaxed his hold on Kagome’s neck, so that her scream of pain added to Inuyasha’s howl. Sango wanted to cry in frustration. There was no way any of them could attack without hitting Kagome, and the demon was gaining pleasure from drawing out Kagome’s suffering - from watching Inuyasha suffer. Her red skirt hung in tatters, the color hiding the blood from the injury on her thigh until it dripped past the hem to curl over her knee and spatter to the ground.  Her white blouse was almost completely soaked, giving the appearance that the girl wore a red vest. The Kasha raised his claws again, this time rending Kagome’s sleeve from her arm.  

            “No more, please, stop - please,” Kagome whispered. Sango could see the tears streaming down her face, but she wasn’t looking at her own injuries - her eyes were on Inuyasha.  His face was a mask of agony. Sango had never seen him look so...broken.

            “Hush, my dear.” The demon pressed a kiss to Kagome’s hair and grinned at Inuyasha. “I can’t stop until he knows what I feel. I’ll make him like me, and then these humans will suffer for their crimes.”  Sango was horrified at his words, but Kagome’s eyes closed.

            “I can’t let you do that to him,” she said quietly.  The demon looked confused for a moment, then he screamed.  He tried to drop Kagome, but she gripped his wrist where he had squeezed her throat.  Her hands glowed with a dark pink magic, her spiritual powers washing out from her in a wave of purification.  The demon thrashed and tried to pull away, even slashing at Kagome’s back in an effort to make her let go.  Her face remained peaceful, if sad, and the glow intensified.  In a sudden burst of light, Kagome fell to the ground, surrounded by a pile of orange ash.

            “Kagome!” Inuyasha cried out.  He was at her side in an instant, although her power had not completely faded.  He gathered her to his chest, headless of the danger of purification, and dropped Tessaiga to the ground to stroke her cheek. “Why’d you do that? Stupid baka,” Sango couldn’t see his face, but she could hear the tears in his voice. “You should have stayed safe.”

 

***

 

            Inuyasha bent his head close to Kagome’s face.  Her eyes were still closed, but her breath came easily against his cheek.  He blinked hard to keep the tears from falling and flicked up her shirt to examine her wounds. The were not overly deep, but they were long and still bleeding.  It would be difficult for such wounds to close on the soft skin that stretched with every movement. He traced lightly around the worst of the four, his own claws gentle on her skin.  Her eyes fluttered open.

            “Inuyasha?” she sounded confused. Then she let out a little shriek of fear. “What are you doing? I could purify you!”

            “Baka,” he growled lowly, his heart was still racing from the fear he had felt when the Kasha grabbed her throat, “you couldn’t hurt me if you wanted to. You’re the one who looks half-dead. Don’t you ever do something so stup-”

            “Get your hands off of her, you filthy demon.”  Inuyasha looked up, caught off guard.  The old man Kagome had dragged outside struggled to his feet.  He stank of sweat and excrement. His ear was purpling where she had pinched him.  “I killed my own child before I would let your kind sully this village. Let that priestess go so that she can suffer punishment and be cleansed of your defilement.”

            “Watch your mouth, old man,” Inuyasha snarled. He didn’t like the way the headman spoke about Kagome, and the look in his eyes was worse.

            “Get out, demon, or she will watch while you are put down like the feral animal you are.”

            “You and what army?” Inuyasha snorted.  The man grinned, a sickening, power-mad smile that pierced Inuyasha with a sliver of dread.  His ears twitched. He had been so focused on Kagome that he hadn’t heard their approach, but behind him stood the remainder of the villagers.  He turned slightly, still cradling Kagome - ready to make a quick escape with her if necessary.  Twenty or thirty villagers shambled towards them. They were armed with pitchforks and hoes, broken lengths of wood and kitchen knives.  He heard Miroku draw in a sharp breath,

            “Great Buddha,” he whispered.  Sango’s knuckles cracked as she tightened her grip on Hiraikotsu.  Kirara growled. Inuyasha could smell Kagome’s fear, stronger and more pungent than it had been while the demon held her at his mercy. What is wrong with this girl? The thought was fleeting, but he already knew.  Her scent was laced with the camphor of sadness as well as fear.  She was afraid for her friends, but much more so for the villagers.  She knew that no weapons they might wield would make them a match for the tachi.  Inuyasha felt a bitter sort of pride.  Pride that she knew his strength and ability to protect her, and bitterness that the fools would throw away their lives on the poisoned words of the headman.  

            “We will leave this place in peace,” Miroku said calmly. Can’t he see they don’t want no peace? “Allow us to leave and we will not bother you again.”

            “Peace?” The headman laughed, and looked down at Inuyasha, “There is no peace as long as your kind walks this earth.  You have corrupted women and holy men.” He spit on Miroku’s robes. “Surrender to us and accept your punishment,” he demanded.  Inuyasha gently let go of Kagome and stepped in front of her protectively.

            “Fuck. Off.”

            “Kill them.”

            The villagers raised their weapons with cries and shouts of anger and charged the group. “We have to incapacitate them!” Miroku yelled.

            “Inuyasha, get Kagome,” Sango shouted and whacked two crazed villagers with the end of her boomerang.  Inuyasha heard her, but he was busy with the three women who had edged around Miroku to charge at him with fish knives and a board covered with old nails. He swiped one weapon aside and yanked the board from that attacker, throwing it far over the nearest huts.  The third woman got by him and buried her blade in his ribs.  Inuyasha hated to hit women, but he would have made an exception if Kirara hadn’t jumped into the fray.  She bounded onto one woman and swatted another away with her paw.

            “Inuyasha!” Kagome’s frightened cry spun him around.  The headman had her by the hair, dragging her - kicking and crying - away from the group.  Inuyasha’s blood ran cold when he saw the man’s destination - a flogging pole with a whip hung on display.  The wound in his side pulsed, and for the briefest moment, time stood still for the hanyou.  He felt his blood draining from many wounds, pooling in the dirt at his feet.  He saw the long smears of red on Kagome’s pale legs, the stains on her shirt, the tears on her face.  The headman wrenched his fist and Kagome cried out in pain, the sound hit his ears like a knife, stabbing him as though her pain was his.  

            Her scent overpowered him. Clean and sweet like lilies and sunshine.  Camphor and salt from her sadness and tears. Bitter melon from her fear. She smelled like campfire smoke and her flannel nightshirt. Traces of Shippo and Sango. And him.  He smelled his own scent on her where he had brushed her hair from her face while she slept, and where he had held her only moments before. She was his.

            She cried out again and Inuyasha could feel Tessaiga calling to him where the blade lay on the ground.  Sango, Miroku, and Kirara fought behind him, but the sound faded away under the heat balling in his chest and putting pressure behind his eyes. She was his.

 

***

 

            Kagome could barely keep her eyes open - the tugging pain in her scalp was so great.  She clawed at the hand that had her hair, but Ginche only grunted - ignoring the deep scratches left by her nails.  She kicked her legs and dug in her heels trying to slow his progress.  She watched Inuyasha fight off the villagers, and Kirara knocked the women away.

            “Inuyasha!” She called for him to help her.  There was nothing she could do against the headman. He was evil, but he wasn’t a demon. Her powers were useless against him, her strength - even if she hadn’t been wounded - was no match for his.  Inuyasha turned and locked his gaze on hers.  She stared into his eyes, trying to memorize the golden glow and praying he would be in time to help her.  Ginche tugged again, and she couldn’t help but cry out in pain.  Something in Inuyasha’s face twisted.  He took a deep breath, and then he changed.

            Red bled into the whites of his eyes and his irises took on a blue tone.  Vibrant purple markings appeared on his cheeks and his fangs grew, protruding over his lower lip.  His claws lengthened.  With one hand he seized the hilt of the knife in his ribs and slowly pulled it out.  It fell to the ground and the full-youkai did not pause, but surged forward.  Kagome gasped, and then she fell to the ground - the pressure on her hair gone.  She sat up quickly, pulling a weight from her black tresses.  The severed hand of Ginche fell into her lap and she screamed.  Her voice drowned out the delayed shriek of pain from the headman.  She looked up.

            Inuyasha stood over her, one hand wrapped around the man’s neck, the other buried in his guts. He growled and snapped at the man. Ginche flinched, his body expelling all its fluids in pain and fear. Then the light dimmed from his eyes, and Inuyasha flung the body away.  The demon Inuyasha turned slowly, blood and gore dripping from his hands.  His eyes, so familiar and yet so alien to Kagome, surveyed the scene with a bloodthirsty smile.  Then he howled.

            Silence fell over the village.  Sango stepped back from the fight, one hand on Kirara, the other clasping Hiraikotsu, her mouth open in shock. Miroku knocked one last man over the head with his staff, then noticed Inuyasha.  He spoke quietly, calmly,

            “Back away slowly, Kagome-chan.” The demon leaped over her and growled at the monk.  He crouched, baring his teeth and laying claim to his prey.

            “Shhhh, Miroku,” she said.  She knew her voice was shaky, but she kept on. “I’m all right. The villagers need to back away, or he will attack.”

            “Kagome, you know he is not sound-”

            “Do what she says, Miroku,” Sango interrupted.  She was afraid, Kagome knew, but she purposefully turned her back on the wild, savage demon dripping with blood. Kirara, with a small whine, did the same.  They faced the villagers and prepared to defend Kagome and Inuyasha.  After a moments hesitation, Miroku did the same.  The villagers, for their part, seemed disorganized.  Without the headman to channel their rage, they couldn’t manage a coordinated attack.  Fear, rather than hatred, was ruling the mob. Watching your leader get gutted will do that, Kagome thought with an inappropriate urge to giggle. She cleared her throat and tried to ignore the pain from her wounds.

            “Inuyasha,” she called softly. The demon did not respond, but continued to growl and bare his teeth at the villagers.  Kagome reached out and gently touched his back. The demon had her arms in his hands and his teeth at her neck in an instant.  “Inuyasha,” she breathed slowly, trying to control the flutter of fear in her stomach. It is still him. He has been this way before and it was alright then. He didn’t kill you, he- Without any further though a lick of heat curled in her belly and Kagome did let out a surprised and nearly hysterical laugh.  Nearly unconscious from blood loss and facing worse than 1:1 odds that she was about to be eaten and she still wanted him. Baka, you want him when he is sweet, or an ass. Human or Hanyou. Demon or - She didn’t get to finish that thought as youkai Inuyasha started a low rumble in his chest.  He pressed his nose to her skin and drew in a deep breath, and then licked her.

Chapter Text

Chapter 5

 

            The demon focused on his enemy.  The smell of blood was thick in the air, and although he had no memory of how he had been injured - he knew the man dragging the human girl away from him was responsible.  He tensed and his muscles responded effortlessly, surging forward.  His claws cut through muscle and bone to sever the hand that held the girl.  She was dead weight and he would deal with her later.  He wrapped one hand around the enemy's throat, letting his claws sink in enough to draw fresh blood.  The human’s eyes grew wide with fear and the inuyoukai snarled in sanguine pleasure. He thrust his other hand straight into the man's belly, twisting and gouging until he reached the spine.  With a jerk, he pulled out the entrails, satisfied as the life seeped out of his enemy.

He tossed the corpse away and turned.  A crowd of armed humans fought against two more of their kind and a neko. This was his kill. His battlefield. He was the strongest, the alpha. He lifted his head and howled.  It was a sound of triumph and dominance. They would know his superiority and cower beneath his feet.  Then he would kill them too.  

            Silence fell over the village.  The human female stared at him, reigning in her neko. She smelled of shock, adrenaline, and a trace of fear. The male - he bared his teeth at that one, marking him as first prey for the scent of holy power on him - knocked one last man over the head with his staff, then turned to the demon, careful to not give his back to the villagers.  His emotions smelled the same as the woman, but much more tightly controlled. He spoke quietly, calmly, to the female on the ground,

            “Back away slowly, Kagome-chan.” The demon leaped over her prone form and growled at the monk.  He crouched, baring his teeth and laying claim to his prey. The wounded girl was already his.  Her blood smelled sweet, almost distracting him from the minor threat posed by the armed humans.  They could not claim her. He would kill them and save her for last, letting that delicious red liquid wash over him and wipe away all other scents, tastes.

            “Shhhh, Miroku.” The female behind him spoke.  Her voice was shaky, and contained a wiff of bitter fear, but not nearly as much as she should have felt.  Other emotions overwhelmed it. The demon growled lowly; she would know fear before he was done.  “I’m all right. The villagers need to back away, or he will attack.”

            “Kagome, you know he is not sound-”

            “Do what she says, Miroku,” the other female interrupted.  Then she deliberately turned her back on the demon. The neko, with a small whine, did the same.  The inuyoukai was swamped with the unusual emotion of confusion.  The two humans...their smells whispered to him...they arranged themselves into a line of defense between the villagers, himself and the woman.   Fear in the mob was quickly drowning out the rage of their attack.

            “Inuyasha,” the girl called softly. The inuyoukai growled louder. The villagers should fear him...but so should the other two, and they didn’t - not enough to keep them from turning their backs on him. Their scents... He shook his head, wondering if they underestimated the threat he posed. That would be their last mistake. He pushed their strange smells away and prepared to strike.

            A gentle touch on his back startled him.  He turned on the girl in an instant, reminding his prey of her place.  He seized her forearms in his hands and forced them to the ground. He clamped his teeth around her neck - not yet drawing blood, but close.  Submit.   “Inuyasha.” She feared him...but she also feared...for him?  Her scent was intoxicating; he wanted to draw it in deeper, to pull it into his lungs and drink her, filling his mouth with her taste and her scent. Heat and light. Clear water and white flowers. He tensed, eyes growing wide. He knew her. He knew that scent and remembered the taste of her skin - her blood. The female was his...his...he inhaled against the flesh of her neck.  The bitter taste of fear and the sharp pungency of pain. Something else, under her scent, smoky and spicy, grew stronger and punched him in the gut.  Heat spread through his body and sent liquid fire straight to his groin.  Mate. He immediately removed his teeth, a rumble of excitement, pleasure, dominance growing in his chest. He dragged his tongue along her smooth skin and confirmed what her scent had already told him. She was his, the female he wanted to claim. She had offered herself to him...

            He frowned, inhaling again. His scent was on her, but faintly - as though they had not touched for more than a day.  His ears twitched, keeping track of the tense stalemate between the villagers and the familiar humans.  She was the one...mate...why did she not smell like him? He traced his nose quickly over her, noting her injuries and forming images of the scents that layered her.  The female and, more faintly, the male at his back. The fox kit, he remembered that smell from before. Several strange soaps. Rabbit and noodles. A Kasha-demon. He snarled as he scented that in the wounds on her belly.  He paused to sniff the air.  It had been there recently, but only the smell of the taiyoukai’s blood remained. He continued cataloging her scents, ignoring her gasp of shock when he pushed aside her garments to inhale against the thin material between her legs.  Her arousal was strong, and varied, as though she had been excited several times recently without completion.  His scent was notably absent.  He snarled and stood.

            His mate. He wanted her, would mark her. She had promised...been eager in her response... His scent was so faint on her. Even the human male’s presence was more recent. A threatening growl erupted from deep in his chest, targeting the human who had touched his female.  The man turned slightly, keeping an eye on the restless villagers.

            “Inuyasha,” he said slowly, evenly. “My friend-” The demon cut off his words with a ferocious growl.  Time had passed since he remembered finding the female. He knew that from the weather and the angle of the sun. If she had turned to another...if the human had touched what he claimed as his own... Rage that had banked while he breathed in her scent returned with gale force.  His claws lengthened and sharpened, his sight tinted red with his fury.  The human brought his paltry staff and a few slips of paper into a defensive position. The inuyoukai laughed darkly. Nothing would keep him from ripping out the eyes that had looked on what was his. From flaying the skin that had touched her.

            Heavy breathing behind him alerted him to her struggles to stand.  She was injured, and agitating some of her wounds with her movements. The scent of renewed blood loss hit him and triggered a sharp pull of...concern? He shook his head and focused on the human before him.  He would take her elsewhere, after they were all dead, and determine if she had willingly tainted her scent with that of another male.  

            “Inuyasha,” she said softly.  Her voice was soothing, familiar.  He shook his head to get the sound out of his ears. Her hand connected gently with his robes and he stiffened, but knowing she posed no physical threat to him he did not react in any other way.  Her hand ran up his arm to his shoulder and she leaned heavily into his side, trapping his hand between her hip and his own leg.  If he twitched his claws, even a fraction, he could sever the artery in her leg. She pressed her cheek against his chest and her scent grew stronger. The fear...and the arousal. “Inuyasha, they aren’t they enemy. Sango and Miroku and Kirara are our friends.” Her words were meaningless.  The man had weapons raised against him. Both he and the woman smelled of fear.  “Inuyasha,” she breathed against the hollow of his throat and the heat in his belly intensified.  He wanted her, but her scent... “Inuyasha, we’re hurt. We need to get away from here. We need to get somewhere safe, where our enemies can’t reach us while we heal.” Hurt. Yes, they were both injured. The other female and the holy man also bore signs of battle.  He breathed deeply.  He had not fought them.  His blood was not on their weapons, nor was theirs on his claws or fangs.

            “Inuyasha, I want to leave with you. Please, take me from here. Heal me, Inuyasha.” He felt the warm, wet pressure of her tongue on the vee of skin barred by his fire rat.  She licked the deep cut that was already closing by itself. She was trying to clean his wounds. The red faded from his vision and his rage diminished.  She tipped her head back to look into his eyes, and the demon was nearly overcome with the desire to take her, to hide her away and see to her injuries, to make her his.  “I am yours, Inuyasha. Miroku and Sango are yours too. Your friends...your comrades...your...pack. I. Am. Yours.”  He breathed deeply. She stood on her toes and licked him again, this time on his chin. The wholly inu expression of affection and submission satisfied his instincts and soothed his desire to maim and kill.  He pulled his arm from between their bodies and secured her tightly against his side.  His ears still focused on his surroundings; he captured her mouth with his.  He tasted her sweetness and spicy arousal.  His blood was still on her tongue and it made his body hum with anticipation.

            “Miroku,” she called softly as soon as he released her mouth.  She was breathing heavily and the demon was pleased with her reaction. “Bare your neck, you too Sango.”

            “Kagome, that is a sign of-”

            “I know,” she interrupted the other female, still speaking softly, but firmly.  She pressed her lips to his jaw again and continued. “Do it.”  He watched, suspicious but intrigued, as first the man, then the woman, tilted their heads to the side, baring their jugulars to him.  Even the neko rolled her head slightly, accepting his position as the alpha.  He acknowledged them with a short wuff. “Withdraw back to the place we camped yesterday,” his female directed the others. “Shippo will meet us there.  Whatever you do, don’t make any threatening moves towards him - and don’t touch me.”  Her voice was growing quieter, and the demon worried that her injuries were worse than they appeared.  He needed to see to her.  He looked to the others, she called them ‘pack’, and they nodded shallowly and began backing away from the villagers.  The male put away his sutras and grabbed the familiar yellow bag.  The woman mounted the neko - keeping her weapon ready to defend, as his rear guard, against attack.

            “Inuyasha, can you follow our scent? Back the way we came...” Her voice was growing weaker, and he frowned down at her.  Her eyes were sinking closed, her face pale. “By the stream...we’ll be safe...with the others...” She fainted, and without a thought he picked her up under her knees and shoulders and began racing away from the village.  The other two retreated behind him.  Like a pack.

 

***

 

            “Explain to me again why he looks like he’s going to kill me every time I smile?”

            “You’re baring your teeth, Miroku,” Sango said in a quiet voice. “Youkai are highly evolved, but he is still a dog.  Teeth are his weapons. Stop brandishing your weapons at him.”  Miroku nodded and shifted a tiny bit, trying to ease the ache in his back.  He had taken a blow from a heavy manure shovel during the fight with the villagers, and sitting still for more than two hours while youkai-Inuyasha watched them was not helping it. If Inuyasha were himself, he would really laugh it up that I got hit with a shit shovel.

            “I’ve either got to get some medicine on my back or lie down. I think I might have some cracked ribs,” he complained softly.

            “Do not lay down.” Sango cautioned. “Prey lies down. Beaten opponents lie down.  Kagome called us pack.  We are subordinate to the alpha, but we don’t lay down.”  She began to move slowly, and Miroku was very aware of Inuyasha’s attention as he tracked her movements.  Shortly after arriving at the clearing they had discovered that Inuyasha did not like excessive movement from either of them. Especially towards where he and Kagome were sitting. Especially from Miroku.  It had only taken a few warning growls and snapped teeth to make that lesson clear. The monk had no intention of going anywhere near the full youkai.  Although, aside from his generally bad attitude about having anyone approach him, Inuyasha had behaved decidedly...not psychotic.  It had not escaped the monk’s notice that the demon’s eyes, although surrounded by red, retained the golden irises of the hanyou. When Kirara touched down in the clearing, Inuyasha was already sitting with his back to a tree on the far side of the fire ring.  Kagome was still unconscious, and he cradled her with surprisingly gentle movements against his chest.  He had laid his fire rat over her, but it did little to hide the fact that underneath she was soaking wet - and completely naked.

            When they first arrived, the demon was licking her. Long strokes of his tongue across the cuts on her arm and over her shoulder to the top of her breast where the haori covered her.  Miroku couldn’t help the warring emotions of fear for his friend’s safety and stirring lust that sight had instilled in him. Inuyasha had immediately narrowed his gaze on the monk and snarled.  Miroku was rather forcibly reminded that Inuyasha’s nose picked up all sorts of emotions - including arousal.  He backed away and sat down with Sango and Kirara; Inuyasha calmed down. Two hours later, it was starting to get cooler, the pain in Miroku’s back had gone from throbbing to fiery agony, and even Sango’s stomach had started to rumble.  Inuyasha, unfortunately, still showed no signs of reverting to his hanyou state.  Sango had managed to set Tessaiga within about five feet of him before his warning growls had her backing away, but the youkai made no move to reach for it.

            Miroku watched Sango’s careful movements as she walked to Kagome’s bag, halfway around the fire, and opened it.  She slowly withdrew the future girl’s sleeping bag and held it out towards Inuyasha.  The demon nodded and made a wuffing sound low in his throat.  Sango stepped forward and unrolled it so that the open end stopped a foot short of Inuyasha.  She backed away again and returned to the bag, this time removing Kagome’s pot and ramen.  The demon sniffed the air and gave an appreciative sort of noise, which Miroku took to mean he was also hungry.

            “I’ll get the water,” Miroku offered.  He managed to stand without crying, but his movements were stiff.  From the expression on Sango’s face, she knew he was in pain.

            “I can do it, you stay here,” she said.  Miroku shook his head.

            “You make camp. He’ll be more comfortable with you here. He can still hear me at the stream, and the further away I am from Kagome, the better - I think.” Sango nodded and Miroku continued.  “I’ll bring back some firewood too, if you’ll set out my bedroll for me?” He grimaced, “I don’t think I can bend over to unroll it.”

            “Of course,” Sango’s face softened. For a moment, Miroku thought she might say something endearing, but she firmed her mouth and handed him the pot instead. With his injury and their need for caution around the youkai, it took twice as long as usual to set up camp and make supper.  When the monk returned with water and an armful of firewood Inuyasha had slipped Kagome into her sleeping bag.  She lay still on the ground next to him, pressed up to his leg.  The demon rested his deadly claws on her head, gently stroking her hair.  Tessaiga remained untouched. Gratefully, Miroku settled back onto his bedroll while Sango got the fire going and made dinner.  They spoke quietly while she stirred ramen.

            “How long, do you think, until Shippo gets back?”

 

“If he isn’t here before dark, he won’t come until morning,” Miroku answered.  “Shippo knows how to take care of himself - at least for a couple of days. It might work in his favor. I’m not sure how Inuyasha would deal with another demon in camp.”  The inuyoukai’s ears swiveled in their direction, but his eyes remained focused on Kagome.

            “He seems to be alright with Kirara, but a male kit might not sit well with him.  I’m not sure exactly how inu pack dynamics work - but the fewer males around to challenge his authority, the better.”

            “Is that why he doesn’t like me?”

            “Maybe,” Sango shrugged and tested the noodles. “It could be too that he smelled you on Kagome.  You had to hold her pretty close while we were on Kirara.  If he thinks of her as his mate, he won’t appreciate another male’s scent on her.”  Miroku knew his eyes were ridiculously large, but at least the surprising information helped keep his mind off his back.  That and the fact that a half-insane youkai might leap over the fire at any moment and tear out his throat.

            “He thinks of her as his mate? How can you tell?”  Sango paused, and she colored in an adorable manner.  

            “Don’t tell Kagome I told you,” she whispered. Neither the sleeping Kagome nor the wary youkai paid her any attention. “When they were on the mountain, he behaved at lot like this - only...more.  I guess she ah, she - helped him in his belief that they were mated...or would soon mate.” Sango’s cheeks were bright pink and Miroku wondered how much more graphic the story had been when Kagome told it.

            “That explains a lot about Inuyasha over the last few weeks,” he said instead. At Sango’s raised eyebrow, he risked a quick glance at the demon and went on, “He has been really confused about her ‘niceness’ and I guess she has had something new in her scent.  He described it to me, wanted advice, and-”

            “He wanted relationship advice from you?” Sango snorted.

            “And I told him she was probably aroused,” Miroku finished as though he hadn’t been interrupted.

            “You said - he asked...” Her blush intensified. “Well, I guess you aren’t as clueless as I thought.”  Sango dished up the ramen and carried two bowls to Inuyasha.  She stopped when he growled, this time within arms reach of the demon, and set down the food before returning to the fire to get food for herself and Miroku. They ate quietly, side-by-side, and then Sango did the dishes, brought more water and firewood into camp, and pulled the first aid kit from Kagome’s bag.  She settled behind him with a dish of water, a clean cloth, and the kit.  “Let me see your back,” she commanded.  If Miroku hadn’t been in so much pain, he would have enjoyed the situation a great deal more - despite the threat of dismemberment-by-inu.

 

***

 

            The inuyoukai watched the two humans from the corner of his eye, preferring to track them with his ears.  They spoke a great deal, but after he had explained they shouldn’t come near his mate, they remembered their place and readied the camp to make her more comfortable.  She was his mate, he felt sure again.  While he removed her destroyed clothes and cleaned her wounds, he searched her scent thoroughly.  He wanted her. Perhaps even more now than he did when he last remembered being with her.  His nose also brought up dim memories of the time since then - although he wasn’t sure why he couldn’t remember more clearly.  Such lapses had happened in the past, sometimes for long periods lasting years, but his most recent loss was the most frustrating.  Since their time on the mountain she had ridden his back. Made his food. Cooked his kills. He had watched over her while she slept. She had also argued with him, challenged him.  She would be a good mate for an alpha. He was proud he had chosen her.  Despite her humanity, she was not afraid of him.  Her strength would be passed on to their pups.

            The scent of the human male on her was superficial - constrained to her hands and the sleeves of her clothing.  The other female, however, had the holy man’s scent in quite a few places.  When she brought him the sword, and then the futon, he could smell the man on her hands and shoulder. The one time she turned her back on him, he was very aware that the male had touched her ass. Recently and often.

            His mate said they were pack.  He thought about it while he waited for her to stir, or for the time to arrive for him to treat her wounds again.  The female was an excellent warrior, despite being human.  If they were part of his pack, she was his beta.  The male was her mate, although the woman wasn’t marked and they didn’t smell as if they had been together recently.  He didn’t know if humans marked their mates - but was satisfied that the man would not have any intentions towards his female.  And the woman was clearly strong enough and aggressive enough to keep him in line.  

            She had said they were pack, and he had smelled their scents on her, and himself, before.  The only prominent smell that was missing from camp was the fox kit.  Even through the blood that had soaked her blouse she smelled of the little youkai.  It was especially strong between her breasts and on her neck.  He had to wash her thoroughly there and spend considerable effort with his hands and tongue to replace that scent with his own.  He had no memories of the fox demon, but he felt a distant stirring of worry that he wasn’t with the group.  The female brought him food, and after they ate she cleaned up the camp and prepared to see to her mate’s injuries.    The male disrobed to his waist, and the female washed his back - already purpling with bruises - and gently rubbed a strong-smelling ointment into his skin. The demon flashed his fangs briefly in satisfaction when he caught wind of their arousal.  It was right that the beta should mate and have pups - to make the pack stronger.

            His mate stirred next to him, dividing his attention from the beta pair. “Inuyasha?” She mumbled.  He leaned over her, sniffing her face to make certain she remained free of sickness.  She sat up slowly, trying to push the blanket-bag down around her waist and groaning in pain.  He growled gently. She shouldn’t move if her injuries pained her.  He determined he would tend to her again after she ate.

            “Kagome,” his beta called softly, “I don’t think you are dressed under your sleeping bag.”  His mate’s movements stopped at once, and he became amused by the embarrassment in her scent.  

            “Do I have any more clean clothes?” she asked.  Her voice was stronger than he thought it would be, and it gave him hope that she might be healing quickly. Perhaps even that night he could...

            “The only thing you have clean is a pair of -” she glanced at her mate and flushed, “undergarments. Your uniform is in there, but it is still filthy from that snake demon we killed. And your jeeenz,” she pronounced the word carefully, as though it were foreign to her, “I don’t think you are ever going to get the squid-demon ichor out of them.”

            She sighed, and the youkai took note of the gooseflesh rising on her shoulders.  The beta male was still awake, so it would not be appropriate for her to be naked.  He pulled his fire rat from the low branch where he had hung it to dry and handed it to her.  “Oh...thank you, Inuyasha,” she flushed and her eyes were cast down, but he could smell the surprise and pleasure in her voice.  She struggled briefly to cover herself before pushing out of the bag.  He growled when she tried to stand. His mate. “Inuyasha, I have to...I need to...” He smelled her distress and quickly carried her to a private spot in the woods. She seemed to have trouble at first, which he couldn’t understand while he watched her, but eventually finished, washed her hands and face in the stream, and he carried her back to camp.  He noticed the attention of the betas on his mate and narrowed his eyes.  The male seemed to be claimed, but...

            He turned Kagome in his arms and backed her against a tree, bracing his arm behind her so that the scratches on her back wouldn’t brush against the bark.  Swiftly, with only hurried attention paid to actually healing her, he licked each of her wounds.  The tree and his body shielded her from sight as he opened the fire rat and placed his hot mouth on the long cuts on her belly.  They were healing quickly, but he used the opportunity to rub his face and hands across the rest of her skin.  He cupped her breasts and brushed his fingers over her nipples.  He circled her ribs, ran his hands down her back and over her ass.  He dipped his nose into her belly button.  He licked the claw marks that wrapped around her thigh and rubbed his face on the tender skin on the insides of her legs - and across the soft hair at their apex.  Her breathless gasps and rising arousal were obvious to him - and drew out a growl of satisfaction - but he knew that the wounds on her leg and belly would make mating painful for her.  He finished scent-marking her by running his palms from her ankles to her hips.  He rewrapped the haori and allowed her to clumsily tie it before carrying her to her bed roll and settling her in his lap.  He handed her the bowl of noodles and relaxed with one hand on the back of her neck and the other stroking the soft skin of her unblemished thigh.   He took in a deep breath; her scent was completely covered with his.  No demon, or human male, could mistake her as unclaimed. The betas stared at him wide-eyed. His eyes fell half-lidded and he gave them a fangy smile of satisfaction. His mate. His pack.

 

***

 

            Kagome had difficulty swallowing her ramen past the embarrassment clogging her throat and heating her face enough to make her eyes tear.  Inuyasha had...had licked her, touched her, before.  She had told Sango about it - but now her friend knew. Sango had seen him... Great kami, Miroku had seen him put his hands and mouth all over her.  She couldn’t look up.  Even if they had closed their eyes out of respect - and she doubted the lecher had - there was no way they hadn’t heard her moans. If there was any doubt about what had replaced killing in the youkai’s one-track mind, she was pretty sure that doubt was gone.

            Inuyasha’s hand on the back of her neck was nice, warm, soothing. The hand on her thigh, though, grew increasingly bold as she made headway with her dinner.  It took Kagome halfway through the meal to realize that Inuyasha was only waiting for her to eat before he moved on to...other things.  Since he clearly had no problem touching her in front of an audience, she didn’t have much hope that it would bother him to mate her right there in camp. A, kamisama, please just let the earth swallow me right now!

            “Why won’t he take the sword, Kagome?” Sango asked quietly.  Kagome let out a shaky breath in relief.  Thank you, Sango. Let’s just pretend nobody licked anybody.

            “I’m not sure.  He wasn’t interested in it as a weapon before.  He only took it when he thought someone else might take what he thinks is his.” Inuyasha growled quietly and his chest began to rumble in a low, purring vibration. Kagome tried not to think about what that sound, seeping right through her back, was doing to her insides.  It was difficult to ignore the melty-goo feeling in her belly, but she continued, “I guess he doesn’t feel like it is in any danger right now.” Kagome managed to meet her friend’s gaze.

            “That’s...not bad news.”   Sango appeared surprised at her own conclusion.

            “What do you mean?” Miroku’s question turned Kagome’s attention and she found him half naked, sitting beside Sango.  His back was black and blue.

            “Are you alright, Miroku?” she asked in shock.

            “Fine,” he smiled slightly. “Sango put some of your muscle ointment on it.  Although,” he smirked, “I tried to get her to lick it better, but she didn’t think she would be nearly as effective as Inuyasha is for you.”

            “Why - you!” Sango blushed and spluttered before slapping the monk.  Kagome could feel her own blush rising, but she refused to take the bait.  It was all the licking and touching that was distracting Inuyasha from killing them.  She wouldn’t let Miroku make her feel any more disconcerted than she already was.

            “Would you like me to see if Inuyasha will care for your injury too?” she asked sweetly.  The demon’s chin lifted from her shoulder, and Miroku blanched.

            “Eh, no, thank you, Kagome-chan. Sango,” he swiftly changed the topic, much to the demon-slayer’s amusement, “you were saying something about Tessaiga?”

            “Indeed.” Sango grinned, careful to keep her teeth behind her lips.  “If Inuyasha doesn’t feel he needs to hold the weapon to protect it, it means he doesn’t see us as a threat - at least not to Tessaiga.  It seems that he believes Kagome’s assertion that we are his pack - at least to a certain extent.” She turned curious eyes on her friend. “What made you think of that?”

            “After, ah, after the mountain...” Kagome had to clear her throat to continue.  Inuyasha’s claws had slipped under the edge of the haori, and she determined to make her ramen last as long as possible. “When I went home, I did some research.  There isn’t much in my time written about inuyoukai culture and customs, so I kind of combined what I found out about youkai and dogs.  Inuyasha is our leader, and youkai-Inuyasha is most definitely an alpha male.  The only youkai or dogs that would be allowed into close, non-combative contact with an alpha are a mate, children, and pack members or trusted allies.”

            “That was really smart, Kagome,” Sango admired.  “Inuyoukai do live in packs, although it is usually no more than two mated pairs and their pups.  Taiyoukai extend that pack to include a lot of others.” A thoughtful look came over her face, “I suppose he looks at Miroku as a beta, although it is strange that he would be so aggressive towards his second-in-command.”

            “Ally.” Youkai-Inuyasha’s gravelly voice brought the conversation to a grinding halt.  He sniffed, and gestured with a lazy claw at Sango. His attention shifted to Miroku, “Mate.” Kagome couldn’t help it, a snort bubbled out into giggles, which became full gales of laughter.  That made the wounds on her back and belly hurt.

            “Ow! Oh that’s- ow! HA-ha!” Inuyasha dropped his hand back to her neck and rubbed, rumbling in a concerned manner.  Sango was smiling, but also blushing profusely. Miroku looked back and forth between the girls.

            “What?”

            “He thinks-” Kagome took a couple of deep breaths to calm down. “Inuyasha decided that Sango is his second-in-command. He thinks she is the strongest, most capable warrior after himself.”

            “Of course,” Miroku nodded, surprising Kagome with his willingness to admit Sango’s physical and technical superiority in combat. He smiled with a suggestive sort of leer, and ruined her good opinion of him, “I am most satisfied with my new position under Sango.  As her mate, I am sure she will make me quite happy.” Sango gasped and slapped him again, but Kagome was more concerned with Inuyasha.  He didn’t seem to like the discord between the other adults.  The vibration in his chest had taken on a new tone, louder and more threatening.  She knew it would break into a real growl and even more aggressive action if things didn’t calm down the way he wanted them.

            “Knock it off guys,” she said sternly.  They both quieted and turned their attention on her. “Dogs will run off pack members who cause trouble.  I don’t think youkai like it much either.  So cool it.  If he thinks you are a couple, I suggest you act like it.  Sango, stop hitting him.” Sango folded her hands in her lap with a frown. “Miroku,” her words wiped the smile off of his face, “stop antagonizing her.”  Silence fell over the camp, disturbed only by the return of Inuyasha’s deep purr.  Kagome took tiny bites of her ramen, and Miroku shifted, groaning and wincing.  

            “I don’t think I care anymore if it makes me look weak.  If I don’t lie down, my back is going to break.” The monk spoke quietly, but the pain was obvious in his voice.

            “Isn’t the medicine helping at all? Can’t you last until he falls asleep?” Sango was worried.  Kagome bit her lip.

            “What if...” She met Sango’s eyes and tried to communicate how sorry she was for even suggesting it.  “Inuyasha slept laying down with me -because he thinks I’m his mate,” she finished quickly. “If Sango...”

            “That is an inspired idea, Kagome-chan.” Even in so much pain he can barely sit upright, he still has the energy to be a pervert.  

            “Hentai!” Sango spat.

            “Not just the stick, Sango,” Kagome murmured.  Her friend heard, and paused.  Kagome continued louder, “It is getting dark, and we’ll all need to sleep anyhow.  It’s better if you both stay over there, and Sango if...” she swallowed hard, “if Inuyasha wants to, erm...you can keep Miroku from looking?” Sango nodded in understanding, but Miroku didn’t even utilize the opportunity to make lewd remarks.  He was already lowering himself to lay on his stomach, his face turned towards Kagome.  Sango moved her bedroll within slapping distance of his; once she laid down she would block Miroku’s line of sight to Kagome effectively.

            “Kagome?” Miroku was squinting at her through the darkness.  It had gone from twilight to full night quickly, and the fire was small enough that from where she was sitting Miroku and Sango were in shadow.  She assumed that she and Inuyasha were not well illuminated for their friends, either. “Why are you glowing?”  Kagome’s face immediately flushed bright red.  She knew Inuyasha could smell her arousal, but surely Miroku couldn’t see how warm and...other things...she felt. A big part of her enjoyed Inuyasha’s attention - her hormones certainly didn’t care that he wasn’t precisely himself.  Her happiness felt like a glow on the inside - she prayed to all that was holy that it wasn’t actually visible.

            “She is,” Sango agreed with concern.  Kagome caught the demon-slayer’s eyes and Sango quickly explained, “Pink. I didn’t see it before in the daylight, but your skin is pink - like your arrows.” Pink like my - purification! She had to get away from Inuyasha.  Why he hadn’t noticed immediately, she wasn’t sure, but if her powers were coming to the surface, he was in danger.  She dropped her bowl and lurched from his lap.  The demon was far faster than Kagome, and caught her with a clawed hand on each hip.  His growls, first of concern and then of warning grew louder and more urgent as she continued to struggle.

            “Let me go, Inuyasha!” she cried desperately.  I can’t hurt him! “I don’t want to hurt you, let me go!” The demon snarled and finally dragged her to the sleeping bag, pressing her against the ground with the weight of his body and baring his teeth in a demand for submission.

            “Don’t fight him, Kagome - relax!” Sango yelled.

            “You must control yourself, Kagome-chan.” Miroku’s calm voice broke through to her. “Think of what will happen to Inuyasha if your powers are unleashed.” Kagome wanted to cry.  She knew what would happen, had seen it when her arrows hit their mark. When her powers formed a barrier that burned youkai. She would not cause Inuyasha that pain. She squeezed her eyes shut and did her best to will the power away.  Inuyasha would be burned, she might even kill him, she couldn’t...she wouldn’t...  An angry snarl scared her into opening her eyes again.  Inuyasha’s face was right above hers, close enough that hot breath puffed against her skin.  His fangs glistened, ready to snap and bite.  His eyes...his eyes were no longer golden, but bright blue.

            “Good job, Kagome,” Miroku continued, and the demon’s attention snapped to the monk.  Sango and Miroku drew in sharp breaths. “Great Buddha,” Miroku breathed, “it’s the purification!  Kagome! Let go, let your power release!”

            “I can’t,” she wailed. “It will hurt him!”

            “It wasn’t hurting him before! I think it was helping.  Let your power surround you!”

            “I don’t know how,” she sobbed.  Tears were streaming down her face, but she didn’t know what to do.  Her power was difficult, at best.  The most she had ever managed to control with accuracy was coating an arrow with purity. Even if she knew how to surround herself with the pink light, she couldn’t do it, not even to save herself - or even Miroku and Sango - if she knew it would kill Inuyasha.

            “Take a deep breath, Kagome.” Miroku instructed.  His voice was calmer, although the inuyoukai was still snarling, pinning her down and bruising her hip and arm where he held her. “Think about Inuyasha. Think about how you feel about him. You love him Kagome.” She managed one breath, then two. She did love Inuyasha, although it was difficult to hear it said out loud - especially in front of him, even if he wasn’t himself.  She opened her eyes and stared at his face, tipped away from her towards Miroku. “How does it feel to have the one you love finally hold you? Think about your time on the mountain...when he kisses you…” Miroku’s voice faded to a low hum and Kagome remembered how it had felt when she first realized that youkai-Inuyasha wanted her.  His tongue on her skin, his smile when he looked into her eyes, the gentle way he touched her skin, the barely controlled passion in his hands...and his hakama.

            Kagome opened her eyes to a deep rumbling from Inuyasha’s chest. The purr was back, and his nose caressed the line of her jaw. He traced her lips with his tongue and met her gaze with his red and golden eyes. His golden eyes. She smiled in relief.

            “Just like when you were trapped in the ogre’s belly, except now you have stabilized his youkai state without the help of a shard,” Sango stated with a trace of awe in his voice.

            “It is your power that is keeping his youkai from driving him insane with bloodlust. Instead he has been ensnared by another kind of lu-” A slap echoed in the camp.

            “The carrot, Sango, the carrot,” Kagome murmured as Inuyasha found her lips again and pressed her mouth open to taste her.  She reacted boldly this time - she might never get the opportunity with hanyou Inuyasha - and traced his fangs with her tongue.  The youkai growled with pleasure and encouragement and pressed his own mouth against her harder, echoing the action with his hips against hers.  The grinding motion made her belly and thigh hurt where the tiger demon had broken the skin, but she ignored the burning pain to focus on the heat between her legs.  Inuyasha pulled back, trailing his lips across her cheek and down her neck to nip lightly at the juncture with her shoulder. “Sango,” Kagome gasped. “Would you-”

            “Time to close your eyes, pervert,” Sango said to Miroku.  From the corner of her eye Kagome watched the demon slayer turn Miroku’s head to the opposite side and cover his ear with her hand as she lay down beside him. Her eyes drifted shut again and Kagome lost herself to the heady sensation of Inuyasha, over her, against her, pressing into her and wanting nothing but her.

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 6

 


Kagome wanted to wring every moment of pleasure she could from her time with youkai-Inuyasha.  The hanyou had made it crystal clear, on many occasions, that he wasn’t interested in anything more than friendship with her.  Even after Kikyou was put to rest, he never expressed interest in Kagome. Certainly he wanted her with him, he cared for her, but she knew that on Inuyasha’s part it was a deep friendship - his first friendship.  She couldn’t deny him that, even though her heart broke a little each time she gave him the opportunity to take things further - and he turned away.  She loved him. She would do whatever it took to make Inuyasha happy - even if that meant denying what she felt and burying it deep down where he would not be bothered by it.  The Hanyou doesn’t have to know what the Youkai did.

Kagome threw herself into the kiss.  She traced his fangs, probed his mouth, and battled for dominance with his tongue.  His growls and purrs were like a drug; she wanted more and she didn’t think anything could have torn her away.

“Mate,” he rumbled in her ear. Then his lips were on her jaw, his fangs scraping against the column of her neck, drawing a line of hot shivers to her collarbone.  He paused there to lavish attention on her skin with his tongue.  Kagome forced herself not to give into the urge to lie back and let the sensations wash over her.  I’ll never get this opportunity again. She tugged his obi loose and pull his nagajuban from his hakama.  She slid her hands under the fine white cloth and reveled in the sounds of pleasure he made.  His back was hard and sculpted with muscles.  She traced his spine and let her hands drift over his ribs to press against his chest.  With a violent blur of movement the demon stripped off that piece of clothing to allow her better access.  While her hands and eyes traced the planes of his chest and stomach, he found the belt on the fire rat and tugged it open.  A feral, hungry sound was ripped from his throat when her skin was bared.  Kagome had never known she could feel so wanted.  

His hands traced over her breasts while his mouth followed a path down her sternum and across her belly to meet the rapidly healing wounds there.  Between his long, slow licks across the injury and the teasing ministrations of his claws, Kagome had trouble focusing.  Her hands fluttered to his shoulders, useless while her brain short-circuited - overloaded with the wet, faintly rasping sensation of his tongue, the gentle pressure of his squeezing palms, the curling edge of excitement when his sharp claws trailed across her skin.  Her eyes closed and her fingers traced his shoulders to his neck, where they met the beads of subjugation.

Kagome felt like she had been slapped.  Her body was still begging for his touch, as was her heart, but her mind couldn’t let her sink back into the whirlpool of pleasure he created.  This was Inuyasha.  Youkai, human, or hanyou, this was her friend. She loved him. How could she...what kind of person… She wanted him. Had wanted him since the day she first saw him pinned to the tree.  Even then, in fear of her life, she couldn’t help but reach for his ears to see if they felt as soft as they looked.  Her need, her love, had grown every day since then. His had not.

Suddenly, Kagome was overcome with the with knowledge that she wasn’t seizing an opportunity - she was manipulating her friend.  How is this different than a boy taking advantage of his drunk date? Inuyasha didn’t want her this way, and even if he did - might someday - ever - he had the right to decide when and where.  She was desperate enough to let him...do things...to her with Miroku and Sango no more than fifteen feet away. She felt a wave of shame wash over her.  She would never have thought she was the kind of person who would do that. Her hanyou certainly wasn’t. Inuyasha was acting on instincts, and she was abusing his state - no better than a date rapist.

Her eyes welled with tears and she struggled to keep them from falling.  Inuyasha made a noise of concern, looking up at her from his place over her stomach.  “It’s okay,” she whispered.  She smoothed one hand through his hair, finding his ear and rubbing the base gently.  His eyes nearly closed and he purred again.  His tongue returned to her skin, tracing her belly button and leaving a trail of kisses and gentle nips as he moved lower.  With her free hand, Kagome reached behind her.  The movement stretched the scratches on her back painfully, but she bit back a cry and felt around until her fingers closed on Tessaiga.  The blade was bare, Inuyasha still had the sheath in his obi. The rusty old sword hummed in her grip and she squeezed her eyes shut, simultaneously wanting the moment to never end, for things to go on as they were - and for none of it to have ever happened.  She gently pinched the thin skin of his ear to distract him; as soon as he moaned, she jerked Tessaiga forward and slapped the sword against his bare back.

Inuyasha immediately stilled.  He was breathing heavily, air bursting against her belly in hot puffs in contrast to her own lungs which seemed to have seized up.  She knew his hair would hide his expression from her, but she couldn’t look at him.  She didn’t even have the emotional energy to feel embarrassed that the hanyou’s eyes were inches from her naked body and he no doubt smelled her strong arousal - could probably taste it in his own mouth.  She was too preoccupied with the weight in her heart, growing heavier with every second that he didn’t say anything.

“Ka - Kagome?” he stuttered quietly.

“Inuyasha, I-” And then he was gone. Nothing but a breeze that signaled his passing was left behind.  She couldn’t help herself, the tears began to fall and she wrapped the fire rat around herself tightly, opening her sleeping bag and pulling it up over her head to muffle the sobs that she knew would come soon enough.

“Kagome-chan?” Sango called softly. “Are you alright?” The hesitation, the obvious pain in her voice - sympathy, even pity - for Kagome made the priestess cry even harder.

“Go to sleep Sango,” she managed.  By the time she stopped crying, she felt hollow, as though nearly everything inside had been scooped out, leaving nothing but the dead weight of her mangled heart behind.

 

***

 

Inuyasha ran. Tessaiga was clenched so tightly in his bare fist he could feel the rusty blade biting into his skin. The pain was distant, overshadowed by the numbing throb in his head. He couldn’t think, couldn’t even sense his surroundings, he was so overloaded with images and impressions. Kagome’s bare skin. The sight of it, the feel under his hands. The taste of her blood in his mouth. The taste of her. Her scent. Fuck. Her scent. The breathy sound of her voice. Her tears. The rapid beat of her heart. Her fucking scent. Her tears.  His legs moved faster, his heart pumped harder, and his breathing became painful.  He couldn’t stop. If he stopped, he would have to think about it. Think about what all those things meant. Think about what he had done. With Kagome.

Dawn was approaching when he finally collapsed against a tree, his knees drawn up and his back against the trunk.  Below him, life began to stir on the forest floor, and in the trees around him.  The sky grew lighter, but he didn’t look up.  He had left them all far behind, and the further he had gone, the less he felt like he could ever go back.

She was his friend. His first friend - his only friend for a long time.  Kagome had stayed by his side for years, despite the danger. She wanted to be his friend.  Unlike him, she made friends easily - everyone liked Kagome - but she still came back to him.  She could have stayed in the future and lived a much more comfortable life, but she wanted to be with him.  All she had ever asked was that he let her. He hurt her, he knew that. Over and over again with little insults and demands on her and her time. In bigger ways too. When he promised to go to hell with Kikyou - but they were past that. They had a friendship that had weathered all of that and he would do anything to protect it - to protect her.

If he wanted more, he ignored it.  He loved Kagome; he had loved her for years, maybe forever. But he buried that deep down inside himself because he knew she deserved more.  Even if she sometimes seemed like she might want more from him, he couldn’t allow himself to believe it.  If he did, he would no longer be able to deny himself.  If she rejected him…or worse, if she accepted him because she didn’t want to hurt his feelings - because she pitied him…  

Only a day ago, he had been teetering on euphoria, believing - for the first time - that Kagome might truly feel for him a fraction of what he felt for her.  He was struggling with how to ask her, how to find out for certain that she might want more from him. That she liked him, maybe even… Then there was the battle in the village, and he was injured, but nothing that wouldn’t heal in a couple of days.  The headman grabbed Kagome and was dragging her away from him.  He remembered watching, knowing that Ginche intended to hurt her - because she was with him. Because Kagome had the purest, kindest heart he had ever known, and didn’t make distinctions between youkai, human or hanyou, that man wanted to hurt her, punish her, even kill her.

Inuyasha had seen Ginche’s intent and felt a possessive rage unlike anything else he had ever known.  He had felt his youkai clawing to the surface.  He let out a shaky breath that stirred the young leaves around him.  He had never lost control before unless his life was in imminent danger.  He never even remembered transforming, and any memories he had of his time as a full-youkai were murky and fleeting.  When he had heard her terrified scream, saw the blood on her clothes, the tears on her face - the headman had his hand fisted in her hair, hurting her, in that moment - for the first time - he felt his youkai as if it were a living thing.  Separate of his own fear for Kagome and anger at Ginche, he had felt a snarling, possessive rage that promised to protect her with a power greater than his own.   He could have reached for Tessaiga.  The headman stood no chance against even a hanyou. Inuyasha could have killed him before he could do much more than take another step. Instead, he let that other part of him take control. He loved her. He had to use everything he could, every weapon available to him, to save her - to keep her from harm.

He let his youkai take control. Inuyasha curled in on himself in shame.  The thing that made him lose himself, that attacked and killed and enjoyed bathing in the blood of his enemies.  That thing would enjoy bloodletting his friends just as much - he wanted it to take over so that Kagome would not be in pain or fear for a second longer than she had to be.  His love for her had overridden his reason, his sense.  He put everyone in jeopardy - most of all Kagome herself.

That was the worst of it.  He clutched his own ears to try to block out the remembered sounds, to inflict pain on himself that would begin to try to make up for what he had done. Miroku and Sango had not been hurt by his full-demon self. He had smelled and heard them in the camp and they were injured, but nothing serious.  Kagome though...he swallowed and dug his claws into the sensitive skin of his ears, drawing blood.  He didn’t think he had hurt her physically, but the truth was even worse.  His youkai apparently had the same base feelings for Kagome that he did as a hanyou.  He knew better than to force the attentions of a lowly half-breed on someone like her, but his youkai had...had… Inuyasha felt a whine trying to escape.

When he came back to himself, Kagome was naked. His hands were on her breast, her hip. The blood from her wounds was in his mouth and his tongue was on her belly, working its way to her… Her scent was...amazing, drugging, thick and spicy and hot. She was crying. Inuyasha raked his claws down his sensitive ears, drawing out a cry of pain.  She was crying. He had pinned her to the ground and done things to her that should only be done to a mate.  She didn’t want that, and he didn’t want for her to suffer through an experience that should have been, could be...everything to him.  He loved her, and so he urged the most dangerous creature he knew out of its cage and had almost raped Kagome.  For all the intimacy the youkai inflicted on her, he had as good as violated her.  Him. Inuyasha. Raped his best friend. The woman he loved. Kagome.

A day ago he wanted to tell her he loved her. Ask her to mate him. Build them a house near the Goshinboku outside of Kaede’s village. Instead he had…there was nothing he could ever say, ever do, to apologize.  Kagome would forgive him, he knew that; she always did.  He didn’t deserve it.  He didn’t deserve her: not her love, not her friendship, not her attention.  He didn’t deserve to be near her - he couldn’t be trusted with even that. He couldn’t be trusted with Kagome.  I’m not even fucking good enough to protect her.

Inuyasha howled.  He felt like his heart had been crushed - and he had done it to himself.  All of the pain, the shame and agony and absolute fury he felt for himself filled that sound.  The forest around him grew silent.  The birds stopped singing, the deer and rabbits held still in the underbrush.  Squirrels paused in the trees. Even the insects were quiet. The sound of a heart breaking stopped nature itself. Then, Inuyasha cried.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 7

 

 

            Kagome sat quietly in the well house and stared at the portal to her home. Inuyasha’s fire rat was neatly folded in her lap.  Mama Higurashi had washed it weeks ago and set it on Kagome’s desk, waiting for the dog-demon to come get it.  He had not.  Souta stopped asking after his hero by the end of the second week Kagome was home without interruption.  Grandpa didn’t say anything, but she was aware he muttered things to himself about ‘ungrateful demons’ and ‘ill-trained dogs’ while he swept the steps. Mama never asked.  She knew her friends worried that something was wrong.  They thought she was too quiet at school, they wondered why she never wanted to go out shopping or to grab something to eat.  She even turned down Hojo’s gifts and requests for dates, firmly and without any inflection or hesitation.  It didn’t bother her that they all seemed suspicious that she was finally succumbing to one of the horrible diseases her grandfather made up.  It didn’t matter, because it might as well be true.

            She finished the school year and graduated with respectable marks.  She hadn’t seen her friends since then.  Mama and Gramps had been good about telling them she wasn’t feeling up to visitors, and they eventually stopped calling. She had sent in her delayed application to University - because Mama set it in front of her with a pen and Kagome didn’t care one way or the other.  She cleaned up and organized around the Shrine for Gramps and helped Mama with chores.  She even helped Souta with some of his homework, distantly surprised that she had learned enough with her sporadic attendance to be useful. That was the most she had felt in the four months she had been on the future side of the well.  It was difficult to have any emotions at all around the black hole in her chest.

            The morning after...that morning, she had woken up to find Sango and Miroku had already made breakfast. Inuyasha had not returned.  They waited until midday when Shippo got back, and then Kagome led the group back towards Kaede’s village. No one questioned her, no one argued or suggested they wait for the hanyou.  They walked slowly because of Miroku’s back, and it took them nearly two days to make the journey.  Shippo once brought up her scent, said she smelled funny - and a lot like Inuyasha.  Sango had quickly distracted the kit and he didn’t bring it up again.  It didn’t matter.  That innocent comment was like the killing blow to her already mortally wounded heart.  She had lost him. She gave up the most important friendship she had ever had..for what? A few kisses, caresses, and his scent? Kagome wanted to die.  As soon as they reached the village, she told Sango to take her time fixing Hiraikotsu, that she needed to spend some time at school.  She went to the well, without even stopping to say hello or goodbye to Kaede.

            She returned home in the middle of the afternoon and went straight to her room - ignoring the wide-eyed glances from the tourists in the courtyard and her grandfather’s flustered cover-ups about ‘crazy fashions’ and ‘youth these days’. She stayed in her room for the rest of the day and all of the next, refusing to acknowledge her mother’s knocks.  She lay on the bed, hugging his haori around her and staring at the window, praying that he would come. Wishing she could see him again, even if he never forgave her. Mama finally jimmied the lock after Souta left for school.  She sat beside Kagome, but she didn’t ask what had happened.  She just sat there, being with her daughter.  Then, finally, she said, “I’ll draw you a bath”. That was the end of that. Mama washed the fire rat. Kagome scrubbed off a week of the feudal era and the last of Inuyasha’s scent. She returned to school and avoided the well house, but she left her window open.

            He didn’t come.  Four months had passed and he didn’t come.  Kagome hadn’t died, as she thought she might that first morning, the morning after. She often wondered if that might have been an improvement.  If people actually died of a broken heart, it would be less painful. She got up in the morning to help make breakfast, and Mama came downstairs with the fire rat in her hands and the shard bottle, on its necklace, nestled on top.

            “Do you know,” she said conversationally, as if she hadn’t just punched Kagome in the stomach by bringing those things out, “the morning of your father’s car accident, he left the house a little late.  I used to obsess over it, I still do sometimes, thinking that if he had been on time he might still be with us.”  She put water on to boil and set out things to start soup.  “He was late because he woke me up with kisses and then we…” She blushed slightly, but not in embarrassment.  Kagome had the impression that she was happy and a little more in love with her deceased husband, just remembering him.  “On the way out the door I told him I loved him.  He kissed me, and grabbed my bottom and laughed. He said I couldn’t possibly love him as much as he loved me.”

            Kagome felt a twinge of awkwardness at hearing of intimacy between her parents.  At the same time, an envious, longing sort of sorrow seeped into the hollow space in her chest.  “It took me a long time to think of it that way, but I can’t imagine a better way to say goodbye to a loved one.  I would give almost anything to have him back, to have just one more moment with your father.  But if that was the last one I could have, it was a good one.”  Kagome had to turn away from the counter to keep her mother from seeing the tears stream down her face.  

            “I don’t know what happened over there, Kagome,” she continued softly. “I understand if you don’t ever want to tell me. But at some point, you have to let go of your fears and regrets and live with your decisions.” A warm hand was pressed against her back and Kagome had to restrain herself from turning and laying all of her sorrows on her mother.  “If you can never see him again, you have to find something else to fill that hollow spot in your heart.  Remorse and guilt will only make that hole grow bigger, until there will be nothing that could help it heal over.”  

            Her mother gave her space, going on with preparations for breakfast as if nothing happened.  Kagome stared at the fire rat.  Inuyasha wasn’t dead, but if she never tried to make things right, he might as well be.  If he couldn’t forgive her, she would have to find a way to recover.  Cutting out Sango, Miroku, Kaede and Shippo would only cost her more friendships.  She needed them now, more than ever because they might be the only people who could understand what had happened - and still think of forgiving her.  They might even be able to help her forgive herself...or at least move on.  Without giving herself a chance to reconsider, she grabbed the vial and the haori and went to the well house, shutting the door behind her.  Then she hesitated, sinking down onto the steps.  This would be it. Once she faced him, there wouldn’t be any more room for hope.  Until that moment she wouldn’t have thought there was even a spark of faith left in the strength of her friendship with Inuyasha.  It was there, though. A tiny, almost-dark ember that smoldered inside her with belief that she could do something to bring him back to her - to repair the damage she had caused. If she confronted him, it would hang on that moment, and it would be all too easy for that light to be snuffed out.  It already hurt so badly…

            Kagome shook herself and squared her shoulders.  She had a job to do. And she needed to apologize. Inuyasha would be right to never forgive her...to...she swallowed...hate her for what she had done. But if any hope existed, she had to take that chance.  She couldn’t move on until it either blossomed, or was extinguished. She pulled the necklace over her head and swung her legs over the edge of the well, pressing the fire rat against her chest.  She had made a lot of mistakes, terrible things she could never take back, but she wouldn’t let her cowardice hold her back any longer.  She fell.

 

***

 

            “Did you find it?” Shippo asked excitedly.  Sango shook her head and caught Miroku frowning.  The kit wandered off in disappointment, no doubt looking for other children to play with.  Since Kagome had left, they had often gone out to follow reports of demons in the area or investigate leads on shards.  Every time they arrived, the demon would already be dead.  Any shards were carefully contained in a box of fine demon-wood, designed to contain the evil of the tainted jewel.  Without Kagome, there was no way to purify them, but the boxes seemed to conceal their existence from other demons.  Sango had a collection of twelve boxes neatly hidden in Kaede’s hut, waiting for the young priestess to return.

            “More reports of an inu-youkai,” Miroku murmured quietly.  Sango answered him in a low voice as well, aware that they needed to keep their suspicions and concerns to themselves.

            “We don’t know it’s him,” Sango insisted, again.  They had had the same discussion so many times, she was tired of it.  Tired of seeing what Kagome’s absence did to Shippo and Kaede.  Tired of missing her friend.  Tired of wondering if Inuyasha had snapped.

            “A silver-haired inu-youkai with a battered sword that saves villages and slaughters even extremely powerful demons? You really believe it isn’t him, Sango?” Miroku sounded tired too, and Sango felt bad for arguing with him.  He had been on his best behavior for weeks, and now he had to put up with her unrealistic attitude as well.  She hefted Hiraikotsu and he flinched, which made her flinch.  The carrot, Sango, she reminded herself with a twinge of regret that Kagome wasn’t there to talk to.

            “You’re right,” she said apologetically.  She brushed her fingers across the back of his neck, just like Kagome had instructed.  She watched in quiet amazement.  She had only tried that a few times, and he always had the same reaction.  His shoulders and mouth relaxed and the tightness at the corners of his eyes eased.  She threaded her fingers through his hair where it was pulled into a ponytail and lightly scratched. “I’m sure it is Inuyasha.  It is just frustrating - I know for you too - why does he feel he has to do this all on his own? We are here, we can help him. Even if Kagome doesn’t-”

            “That’s the problem.” Miroku subtly leaned his head back into her hand, shaking slowly to move her fingertips across his scalp. “She isn’t here, and until she tells him the truth, he’ll go on thinking that his youkai forced her, and they’ll both be miserable.”

            “Amazing what a little bit of truth could do for two people,” Sango said quietly, and then blushed.  Miroku was looking at her with wide eyes, as though something had just dawned on him.

            “Do you have any truths you need to share, dear Sango?”  She blushed harder, withdrawing her hand and changing the subject,

            “Should we try looking for him again?”

            “What would be the point? He has no problem avoiding us, and even if we did find him, I doubt he would listen to our side of what happened - or believe it if he did.  At this point, I’m beginning to doubt he will even believe Kagome.”

            “If she ever returns,” Sango whispered.  It was the first time she had admitted her fear, and sadness almost overwhelmed her at the thought of never again seeing the sister of her heart. Miroku rested his hand lightly on her shoulder and squeezed.  

            “Soon. I am certain she will come back soon.”  Sango smiled and leaned her head into his shoulder, pleased that Miroku was being so considerate and caring and not grabbing her-

            “Hentai!” she spat, and slapped him across the face.  Her bottom tingled where his hand had squeezed it and she fought not to rub at the recently offended area.  Miroku was smiling, even with the red handprint on his face, and Sango had to remind herself - training a dog takes time.  Then she smiled sadly again, wishing Kagome would return.

 

***

 

            Inuyasha sat in the Goshinboku and tried to sleep.  It had become more and more difficult, of late, as the numbness in his heart had begun to wear off and be replaced by a constant, stabbing pain.  He missed her. More than anything in the world, he missed Kagome.  He missed her scent and her smile. He missed how her warm cheek felt against the back of his neck, how smooth her legs were in his hands when he carried her.  He missed her laughter when she played with Shippo and the contented sort of grace that came over her after she and Sango had a long talk in the springs. He missed her face. He missed her presence. Fuck. He missed her.

            He had spent a week trying to make himself suffer physically as much as he was suffering emotionally - as much as he was sure Kagome was suffering.  He picked fights with every demon he could find, killing any who were too stupid to run away. Then he had found himself in Bokuseno’s forest.  He made his way to the tree without even thinking about it, and slept among his roots for nearly two days.  The tree demon tried to speak with him, many times, but he could not force his ears to listen.  On the third day, Sesshomaru had appeared.  Inuyasha had felt grateful.  He drew Tessaiga with satisfaction, knowing that his older brother was strong enough to do what needed to be done - to exact justice for what Kagome had endured. To remove the threat his uncontrolled youkai posed to everyone around him.

            “You summoned this Sesshomaru for this...pathetic thing?” Sesshomaru ignored Inuyasha and directed his words to Bokuseno.

            “I fear greatly for your brother’s life, young lord.”  Inuyasha snarled and sliced the air with his sword, desperate to get on with the fight.

            “Half-brother,” Sesshomaru corrected automatically.  Inuyasha lunged and the taiyoukai easily stepped out of range, not even drawing his weapon. “He is disgusting, and injured, but he will live. That is good. It is this Sesshomaru’s right to end the hanyou’s life - it belongs to no one else.”  Inuyasha attacked again, and again he was disappointed.  The older demons continued their conversation as if he was not there.

            “It is not his body that is in danger. His youkai is unsettled - can you not feel it?”  Sesshomaru paused and considered Bokuseno’s words.  Inuyasha hefted Tessaiga again, spitting insults and trying to incite an attack. Sesshomaru ignored him, but a faint - almost imperceptible - trace of curiosity came into his voice.

            “He carries Father’s fang, but his blood is ready to seize control.” He met Inuyasha’s eyes, and spoke almost conversationally, “Why is this, hanyou?”

            Inuyasha knew his youkai was clawing at him to let it out.  It missed Kagome - maybe even as much as his hanyou self did - and it had no misgivings about what had happened between them.  It wanted her, or barring that it wanted to draw so much blood that it would drown out the memory of her scent. It didn’t occur to him that anyone else could sense it.  If Sesshomaru knew how he had lost control - wanted to lose control - perhaps he would end things for Inuyasha.  He fell to his knees before his brother and the great tree, Tessaiga still clenched in his hand.

            “Tessaiga isn’t enough anymore,” he whispered. He closed his eyes, surprised he could still feel shame at what he was about to do, and begged, “Sesshomaru-san,” nothing could make him call the asshole sama, “please. I am a threat to the Western Lands.” He took a deep breath then, almost unable to do what needed to be done.  He thought of the scent of Kagome’s tears, and tilted his head, baring his neck to his brother. “Kill me.”  He waited, for what seemed like an eternity, before an irritated wuff reached his ears.

            “It is not a worthy kill if you lie down to die, hanyou.  You are only half inu - but even you should know not to disgrace our father with such pitiful actions.”

            Inuyasha saw red. Pitiful? Disgrace? Sesshomaru was treating Inuyasha’s personal hell - and Kagome’s victimization - like poor manners at a dinner party.  She was his….his everything.  If Sesshomaru wouldn’t avenge her, Inuyasha would kill him and find someone else with the strength and decency to end his life.  He felt that other self within him for the second time. A clear resounding sense of anger, a surge of gleeful bloodlust that agreed with his decision to end Sesshomaru for even speaking of what had happened to Kagome, flooded Inuyasha’s senses.  His fangs lengthened and his claws sharpened.  His sense of reality dimmed, but did not darken completely.  Instead of taking control of his body, his youkai seemed to share it with his hanyou mind.  They were in agreement.  The asshole would die.

            Sesshomaru’s eyes widened a fraction of an inch as full-youkai Inuyasha charged him - wielding a transformed Tessaiga. He moved away in a blur, but was unable to completely avoid the attack.  A long line of blood appeared on the white silk of his kimono.  Inuyasha raised his sword again, baring his fangs in a snarl, but a strong root wrapped around his ankles.  Branches twined around his arms and legs.  Sesshomaru stepped close, examining him.  He drew Tokijin, and Inuyasha relaxed.  His demon still thrashed in fury, but Inuyasha accepted that his brother would kill him, and so, once no longer acting in concord, Tessaiga was able to subdue his youkai.

            “You are willfully drawing upon your full strength,” Sesshomaru noted.

            “No shit, asshole.  That is the fuckin’ problem.  Get this over with before I kill - before I kill...people.”

            “This may be the beginning of your redemption, hanyou. Perhaps your blood is not as weak as this Sesshomaru thought.”

            “Redemption?” Inuyasha couldn’t help the broken laugh that escaped him. “Ain’t nothing that can redeem what I did.” He closed his eyes, thinking of her.

            “You have killed humans?” Sesshomaru asked, almost idly.

            “Ain’t none of your fuckin’ business,” Inuyasha snarled.

            “He spoke in his sleep,” Bokuseno interjected. “He called out for Kagome.”

            “You killed the priestess?” Sesshomaru’s surprise was great enough that it showed on his face. His eyes widened fractionally and his nostrils flared.

            “No way, asshole! I could never -” Inuyasha was outraged, but it was his youkai that flared in anger.  The hanyou felt only shame and guilt. “What I did was worse.” He whispered, but an inuyoukai’s hearing was too excellent to miss his words.

            “Hn,” Sesshomaru responded.  Suddenly, the hanyou was overcome with the need to tell someone, to have someone know his crimes and offer him the revulsion he deserved.

            “I attacked her,” he said desperately. “I tried to...he...my youkai tried to mate her.” Inuyasha shuddered with the whispered confession. “She cried.” His admission was met with silence which stretched so long that he finally had to open his eyes and look up to see his brother’s face.  Sesshomaru was considering him.  There was no disgust, no congratulations for utilizing his youkai, no indifference.  The great taiyoukai seemed to be...taking his measure. “What the fuck?”

            “Crude,” Sesshomaru noted. “But that is most accurate. Why did the inappropriately dressed priestess not purify you?”

            “I- I-” Inuyasha paused for a moment, struggling to remember.  His recollection of his most recent change was clearer than any before, perhaps because he had summoned it.  What was it that Miroku said...she was glowing? “I think...she might have tried.” Inuyasha frowned. That couldn’t be right. No fuckin’ way Kagome used her powers on me, soft hearted wench. And if she had, I’d be dust. Sesshomaru gave an absent nod, then leaned in close to the hanyou’s face.

            “Since you are so eager to leave this world, This One will find your priestess and ensure that her needs are taken care of in your absence.”  The effect was instantaneous.  Inuyasha lost himself fully to his youkai, which bucked and lunged, trying to escape Bokuseno.  He snarled and snapped, trying to reach the taiyoukai that would harm Kagome - that threatened to take advantage of her. My mate. Mine! Sesshomaru straightened. “Calm yourself, young one. This One has no interest in what is yours.” It took several long minutes, but gradually his youkai receded.

            “Stay the fuck away from Kagome, asshole,” he warned.

            “Indeed.” Sesshomaru turned to leave, but Bokuseno stopped him.

            “You cannot leave him in darkness, young lord.  If left on this path he will cause great destruction, and bring dishonor on your house.” Sesshomaru paused, his back to Inuyasha, and remained still for what seemed, to the hanyou, hours.  Finally, he sighed.  With his back still to his brother, he spoke,

            “This Sesshomaru will tell you what it means to be inuyoukai. You will remain quiet. You will not interrupt.  Your questions, if brief and not entirely ill-conceived, shall be answered at the end.” Sesshomaru waited for objections, and hearing none, settled himself on the ground, his side to Inuyasha so they did not have to look at one another, and began,  “Inuyoukai know their mates from the first scent…”

            After the longest, most embarrassing, most illuminating conversation of his life, Inuyasha left Bokuseno’s forest with more knowledge about himself and his kind that he had ever thought to possess.  As the information came courtesy of Sesshomaru, he was reluctant to admit, even to himself, how much he appreciated the lecture.  He had much to think about, and he did it while patrolling a perimeter around Kaede’s village.  He listened for rumors of shards and kept his ears open for other youkai.  The village and Inuyasha’s forest had never been so well protected.  He scouted the surrounding villages as well, never straying more than half a day’s travel from the well, and collected shards from the demons he killed.  After the first three, he returned to Bokuseno and had boxes crafted from his wood to contain the tainted shards until her return. He left them where Sango and Miroku could find them, but he did not speak with his friends.

            Sesshomaru’s lecture had given him a lot to think about, as well as the ever growing hope that, perhaps, he had not hurt Kagome the way he thought.  Perhaps her sake smell meant exactly what Miroku had said. Perhaps he was more inu that he had ever thought and his youkai had known from the beginning what she was to him.  Maybe her powers felt the same way. Perhaps Sesshomaru was right, although it pained him to agree with his self-righteous brother, and his youkai had only paid...intimate attention...to Kagome because he knew she wanted it too. Perhaps Kagome did like him, maybe more than liked him, and what had happened in the camp - and whatever had happened on the mountain - she had enjoyed as well.  Every time he allowed himself to consider the possibility, a warm, light feeling blossomed in his chest - replacing the stabbing pain of his heart.  Then he would wonder why she hadn’t come back yet - and the pain would return.

            He wouldn’t go get her. He had determined that for himself. Kagome was never happy when he came to her time to drag her through the well, so he would stay in the feudal era.  He would wait for her to return, as patiently as possible - no matter how it hurt, and when she did he would know that she was at least willing to listen to his explanation.  When she returned, he would follow her scent.  He would apologize and use his nose and his youkai - carefully controlled - to listen to her. To listen to Kagome. Not her words, but her actions, her tone, and her scent. Another stabbing pain speared his chest and he leaned his head back against Goshinboku. Kami, he missed her.

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 8

 

 

            A breeze blew across Kagome’s face as she pulled herself panting, out of the well.  The cool scent of trees and grass from Inuyasha’s forest was welcome. The future made me lazy. Kagome’s arms burned gently from the exertion, but it also felt good to push herself physically after so many months drifting through life.  She was still hesitant about confronting Inuyasha, but she hadn’t realized how much she needed a purpose, a goal.  And she missed her friends.  Her heart felt, if not exactly light, at least less pained thinking that soon she would see Kaede, Sango, Shippo, and Miroku.  Hopefully, everyone would still be in the village when she arrived, and not off hunting demons.

            She felt guilty about that as she started down the path to the village.  It was her job, her duty, to find the shards and purify them.  Although she was sometimes more of a hindrance than a help in an actual fight, she had always been determined to work alongside her friends to correct her mistake.  She had broken the Shikon jewel; she would make certain it was purified and made whole.  Sango and Miroku would not have sat around for four months waiting for her to return, she was certain.  They would have continued their quest to find the shards.  Kagome hoped everyone was okay, and that running away like she had hadn’t been too detrimental to the quest.  Sango would understand. Miroku could be made to understand. Shippo…

            Kagome’s steps faltered for a moment.  She had been so wrapped up in her own pain, she had not thought about what her absence might do to the little kit.  He had lost both his parents, violently, and Kagome had been friend, sister, and mother to him since that time.  She wished she had brought something from the future for him - some small gift to beg apology for any pain she had caused him.  She squared her shoulders and kept going.  Shippo had an incredibly generous heart, he would forgive her if he was mad.  And she would do her best to make it up to him.

            Her thoughts became anxious as she neared the village.  What if Inuyasha isn’t there? What if he is?  The villagers working in the fields stopped and stared as she walked down the path.  A few belatedly waved or called out surprised greetings, which she returned.  By the time she passed into the village proper, she was feeling self-conscious.  Women had stepped out of their huts and stopped their washing to watch her pass.  It felt eerily similar to the first time she had walked through the village. Kagome tugged on the blue skirt she wore, wishing that she had thought to come after dark so that her return would not cause such a stir. She smoothed a hand over her hair and clutched Inuyasha’s fire rat to her stomach to calm the weird twisting feeling that urged her to run back into the well and forget about the plan before she had to face all of the people she had disappointed.

            “Ka-Kagome?”  The priestess looked up. Sango stood outside Kaede’s hut, her mouth hanging open in shock. Kagome managed a smile and a weak wave, and then Sango was flying towards her.  The slayer gripped her friend in a fierce hug which left Kagome gasping for breath. “I was so worried for you, Kagome-shimai,” she whispered.  “Are you alright? I missed you so much!”  Kagome pulled back, embarrassed of the tears on her cheeks, only to find Sango crying as well.  They both let out shaky laughs.

            “I missed you too, Sango-shimai.”

            Miroku followed behind Sango and offered a wide, welcoming smile. “It is good to see you again, Kagome-chan,” he said.

            “Where are Shippo and Kaede and...everyone?” She couldn’t quite manage to ask what she wanted to ask, and she had to look away from Miroku’s shrewd gaze.

            “Shippo went with Kaede to the next village over.  Their priestess married and moved to her husband’s village this spring, so Kaede has been caring for their sick as well.  Shippo has taken to helping her carry supplies,” he answered.

            “You mean that he can’t wait to pull his tricks on a village that hasn’t seen them yet,” said Sango dryly.  

            “Your lack of faith in his good intentions is most disturbing, Sango,” Miroku said with a concerned expression.  Sango turned back to Kagome.

            “I’ve seen the results of enough ‘good intentions’ to- ack!” Sango whirled and slapped Miroku.  His hand was still on her bottom when the hit connected.  “Hentai!”  Kagome smiled.  It was good to be home.

 

***

 

            Inuyasha was nearly asleep, exhausted after killing five demons in the last two weeks, and three of them had shards.  It was good that they were collecting so many, so quickly, but he worried that not even the boxes provided by Bokuseno would be enough to keep so much evil from being drawn to the village.  He had seen Miroku put a sutra on the last one, and hoped the monk did the same for the others.  Still, attacks were coming closer to home, and until Kagome came back to purify them…

            He settled into a more comfortable position in his tree.  The sharp pain in his chest was dependable, if not desirable.  She would come back...eventually. Kagome was herself, and she couldn’t not forgive him - no matter what he had done.  His heart twisted again and he closed his eyes and tried to relax.  He had to believe that she would return. She told him she would stay by his side as long as he would let her, and Kagome did not break her word.  She was kind-hearted to a fault and didn’t know how to refuse a friend - even if they treated her poorly. Or if they were stupid, perverted pieces of wolf-shit.  He snarled a little, half- asleep and moments away from rest, at the thought of Kouga. Kagome was his, and she knew it. She would come back.  Inuyasha finally drifted to sleep, dreaming of his conversation with Sesshomaru.

            “This Sesshomaru will tell you what it means to be inuyoukai. You will remain quiet. You will not interrupt.  Your questions, if brief and not entirely ill-conceived, shall be answered at the end.” Sesshomaru waited for objections, and hearing none, settled himself on the ground, his side to Inuyasha so they did not have to look at one another, and began,  “Inuyoukai know their mates from the first scent. When a female is suitable for mating, our youkai will be drawn to her.  In her first heat, her scent will change and call to males that are strong enough.  A male will only scent one female in his lifetime, but a female’s scent may call to many males.  She will respond to the one who is strongest, the one she wishes to mate…”

            Sesshomaru did not face him throughout the entire awkward recitation of scent-marking, courting customs, mating rituals, and a clinical - and surprisingly graphic - description of how to pup a female so that she would desire to engage in such activities again.  Inuyasha decided that pretending it was not his brother was the only way he could have possibly avoided thinking about the fact that it was Sesshomaru...speaking about that...and being helpful.  He was grateful for the Western Lord Asshole’s aloof manner.

            “You may ask concise, intelligent questions now - insofar as you are capable of it.”  For once, Inuyasha ignored the insult. He dug his claws into the earth and thought back to what he knew of his experience with Kagome.  The images were fleeting, but the impressions were absolutely burned onto his brain.

            “She, ah, the female is only aroused by the one she wants to mate?”

            “Hn,” Sesshomaru replied, which Inuyasha took to mean ‘yes’.

            “What does it smell like?” Sesshomaru seemed to hesitate over that question, and the hanyou leaned forward anxiously.

            “It is intoxicating,” he finally said, quietly.  “Her scent is like a fresh sakura blossom, drenched with spring rain and concentrated into a drug that dulls my senses and makes my youkai burn with need.” There was something in his voice, his choice of words, that struck a cord in Inuyasha. Sesshomaru was not just repeating information like a schoolteacher to a particularly dull student...he knew. This was what he had wanted to know, what Miroku, simply by being human, had been unable to tell him. “It is sweeter and more addicting every time the male smells it.” He gave an almost imperceptible shrug that ruffled his mokomoko.

            The dream turned from Bokuseno’s forest to Kagome: that moment when he came back to himself.  His youkai was forced down and he was left with the impression of anticipated satisfaction, rampant lust, and snarling disagreement with himself for caging the beast. Kagome’s scent overcame him. Clean, like a mountain stream. Softy sweet, like water lilies on a sunny day. Ume and crisp apples and faint ginger. Thick, heavy rice wine syrup. His eyes flew open and he breathed in through his mouth and nose. Spicy, hot sake flooded his system and sent a flare through his already overheated body. He felt drunk, drugged. The tip of his nose rested against soft skin. His eyes were inches away from creamy, pale smoothness.  It was her - what he had wanted for three years.  The dream diverged from reality, and he said her name with conviction.

            “Kagome.”

            “Inu-yasha,” she moaned.  He looked up at her face, taking in the sight of her bare body along the way, and met her half-lidded eyes.  Her lips were parted and dark red from his kisses.  “Please,” she begged.  She had one hand in his hair, her fingers rubbing the sensitive skin of his ear. With her other hand she reached down to touch his face.  Her purification sparked on her fingertips, and jolted him with an arc of electric awareness.

            Inuyasha sat up too quickly, tumbling half-awake off the branch and barely righting himself before he landed on the ground.  Something had woken him up.  There was a flash of recognition, and he sensed power, like… He sniffed the air with tightly leashed excitement. He could have sworn the well opened.  The wind was in the wrong direction, blowing towards the time portal rather than bringing its scent to him.  He trained his youkai on the area, feeling for the disturbance always caused by the magic of the well when Kagome returned.  There was nothing.  It might have already closed, but…

            He shook his head. The dream had been so real, he was still half-aroused. He was imagining Kagome where she wasn’t, because he missed her so badly.  Every hour she was gone made it that much harder not to go to her. To listen to her voice, smell her feelings, to look at her and watch for what his brother had told him he would see.  Then he could explain things to her, and he would feel blessed if he didn’t completely fuck it up. Once she knew though...then he could show her what he felt.  Lord Stick-Up-His-Ass had given him some surprisingly good ideas for how to do that.  As if he needed more ways to fantasize about Kagome. Fuck. He settled between the roots of Goshinboku and closed his eyes again.  He knew he should wait. He would wait. Hopefully, the dream would return, minus Sesshomaru, and since he was already on the ground, maybe he wouldn’t wake up before it finished.

 

***

 

            When Kagome finally worked up the nerve to ask where Inuyasha was, Sango looked angry.  Miroku was the one who answered, although he cautioned her against approaching the hanyou alone. Assuming he was hanyou. “We haven’t seen more than a flash of red and white since you left us, Kagome,” he said. “We know he has stayed around the village.  There have been reports of an inuyoukai killing demons, protecting other villages, never more than a day’s run - for him - from the well.”

            “Why didn’t he...you haven’t - he doesn’t…” Kagome trailed off, unsure what to ask.

            “We tried to track him down and speak with him,” Sango answered somberly. “Inuyasha is incredibly powerful, even for a hanyou, and he has stayed hidden for longer than we have been alive.  He didn’t want us to find him.”

            “He hasn’t been lazing around though,” Miroku said with a smile.  They were sitting around the fire pit in Kaede’s hut, and Miroku stood to open a cabinet where the old priestess stored herbs.  The medicine had been removed, instead it was filled with a stack of small wooden boxes, all sealed with a sutra.  “We’ve been saving them for your return.”  Kagome concentrated, and was shocked to find the smallest glimmer of recognition.

            “Shards!” she whispered. She knew her eyes must have been ridiculously wide, but, “There are so many! And how did you keep them hidden? I can barely sense them even now that I know they are there.”

            “The boxes do a great deal to mask their presence.  I have never seen wood like it before. My sutra is just an extra precaution.  As for the number, Inuyasha has been collecting them, we are fairly sure.”

            “Whenever we heard reports of an evil demon in the area, we would arrive to find stunned villagers speaking of an inuyoukai, and at least one box.  It was always placed on the path that would lead us back to Kaede’s village.  He wanted us to find them.” Sango paused and placed a gentle hand on her friend’s shoulder. “He’s been waiting for you, Kagome, I’m sure of it.”  Kagome could not stop staring at the shard boxes.  He had done all that, alone, while he was waiting for her. It was wonderfully sweet that he had protected Kaede’s village and… She frowned. He had killed all those demons. Alone. He never asked for help from Sango or Miroku. He didn’t come get her. He faced all those demons alone. Baka.

            “Let’s get these taken care of,” Kagome said, pushing back her sleeves and pulling out the shard vial from under her blouse.  “Then I have to find a hanyou and give him a piece of my mind.”  With every shard she purified, Kagome got a little more upset.  Inuyasha could have been seriously injured, he could have been killed.  She nearly boiled over when Miroku casually mentioned that one of the shards had been reclaimed during a new moon.  He attacked a demon with a shard while he was human? Idiots and their pride! Inuyasha’s ego is big enough - he must store it in his head, his brain certainly isn’t using the space.

            She had worked herself into a self-righteous anger that allowed her to ignore the fear, guilt, and humiliation that threatened to keep her feet glued to the ground and instead go look for the hanyou.  With twelve new pink shards in her vial, she set off into Inuyasha’s forest, making her way to the Goshinboku, with the reasoning that it was a good a place to start as any.  Inuyasha would hear and smell her from a mile away, and when he came to lecture her for wandering into the forest by herself, then she would let him have it.  After she sat him a few times to get his attention, she would explain to him why ignoring help in life-threatening situations was not a smart idea.  Then she would…

            Her thoughts faded away as the God tree came into view.  Leaning against the trunk, tucked between two massive roots, was Inuyasha.  Her heart beat once, hard.  She wondered if it had been working at all the last four months, or if it had been waiting to see him again.  He looked exhausted, which might explain why he hadn’t woken up during her noisy stomp through the forest.  There were dark circles under his eyes and deep lines at the sides of his mouth. His hair was windblown, and his nagajuban was dirty.  Stains, some of his blood, some she didn’t want to identify, darkened the white cloth.  There was a long tear in one sleeve, which surprised Kagome.  Inuyasha’s clothes were of demon-make; they had always repaired themselves in the past.  He was on his own in keeping them clean, but they grew with him and had no need for patches.  His hakama were filthy as well, although, being made of the fire rat they were in better condition.

            She clutched his haori and crept forward slowly.  The breeze had died down, and the forest was quiet around them.  She held her breath as she finally kneeled before him, less than a foot away from his crossed legs.  He looked terrible...and beautiful. Her chest ached seeing him again, and she was ashamed that she wanted nothing so much as to lean into him and kiss him. Take advantage of the poor man while he is asleep, huh? That is what got you into this mess in the first place! She knew she should be ashamed, but the pleasure, the absolute rightness of being near her hanyou again overshadowed it.  She smoothed the folded fire rat in her lap and determined to wait for him to wake up.  He obviously had not had a good time while they were apart either.  He could enjoy his rest, and she would be there to make certain nothing bothered him.  When he woke...then she would explain. Apologize. Grovel. Beg for his forgiveness.

 

***

 

            Kagome was floating on her back in the water, his tongue was dancing on her skin. Inuyasha could feel a groan building in his throat.  She tasted so good. He traced across her collarbone, down her chest, over the slope of her breast, finally pulling her pink nipple into his mouth.  She was sweet and perfect; the texture smooth and slightly pebbled.  He laved his tongue across the surface and reveled in her moan, “Inu-yash-a.” He inhaled deeply and she smelled...worried?

            The dream ended abruptly and Inuyasha inhaled again. Kagome was there and she was worried, even afraid, sad, and a little bit...angry? He opened his eyes and his heart beat once, hard. She was sitting on the ground, well within reach.  Her head was bowed and her hands were occupied with smoothing over the fire rat in her lap. Kagome is here. He took another deep breath, sorting through her scent in the back of his mind while his attention was focused on her. Fuck, she smells good. Her skirt was blue, but short like her school uniform. How the hell did she get prettier? Her feet were tucked to the side, in a pair of the white tennis shoes she sometimes wore at the shrine. Flowers. Sunshine. Ume and bitterness and apples. Camphor. She smelled like everything. She smells like Kagome. She had bathed that morning, her hair was still damp and lightly scented with her future soap. She wasn’t doing anything but sitting there and it was still so much better than his dreams, because it was real. His heart lurched again.  She had come back, just like she promised she would. She came back to be with him.  Even if she might think he had done…

            He swallowed and sat up slowly.  She came back, because Kagome was the best person he had ever known.  No matter how she felt about it, what he had done, she still came back.  He had been waiting for almost four months for that moment, for his opportunity to say...everything. He needed to apologize. He needed to tell her why he wanted to do it again. He needed to smell her, dammit. He needed to hold her and bury his nose in her neck and inhale Kagome. He needed to feel her next to him and actually hear her, scent the truth, when she told him she wanted to stay, that she forgave him, that she maybe even wanted to...to be with him.

            “Inuyoukai know their mates,” Sesshomaru had said. He knew her. He knew what Kagome was to him, to his youkai, to his heart. He knew what he wanted from her. If she didn’t want the same, if Sesshomaru was wrong or if humans didn’t have the same reaction as youkai…he had to know either way.  If she wanted less...he would take whatever she would give.  It would hurt like hell, but it was better than being without her.  Either way, if he never asked… Grow a pair you fuckin’ coward. He snarled.

            Kagome looked up at the sound and her eyes widened.  “I, ah, Inu...yasha.” They stared at each other for what might have been the longest minute of the hanyou’s life.  Her eyes were so blue, bluer than he remembered. She’s so fuckin’ beautiful.  He opened his mouth to speak, but she beat him to it. “I’m sorry,” she blurted.

            “I didn’t- wait. What?” She was sorry? He frowned. This was his apology, dammit.  He’d been working up the right way to do it for months, and she had to go and ruin it. Baka. Kagome’s hands fluttered in the air nervously and the smell of ume and bitter herbs increased.

            “I know I shouldn’t have, and you probably hate me forever, I’m sure you’re embarrassed - kamis know I am - and I took advantage, and I shouldn’t have, and you aren’t responsible for what happened so I hope you don’t feel like anything is your fault and you didn’t hurt anyone but I still should have done - but I couldn’t the first time and I tried but Tessaiga-” Inuyasha’s head spun, and he wondered if she had learned not to breath while she was away. She took advantage? “-and I wanted to do more and it felt so good and I have loved you so long but you never wanted me and I felt so awful because Miroku could see us but I-”

            “You love me,” he interrupted. Inuyasha felt  like he had simultaneously been kicked in the head and handed an endless bowl of ramen.  Her rambling abruptly ceased. His eyes found hers, and she was blushing hotly, but her scent was changing too.  The bitter herbs and ume were even stronger, but something else was rising beneath that. Like steam from hot rice wine. A shot of excited hope flared in the empty hollow of his chest.  He tried to tamp it down. Of course she loved him, she had said so before. The important thing was if she loved him, or just loved him. “You...wanted to do more?” He held his breath, then nearly slapped himself for his stupidity. Hard to scent her if you don’t breathe, baka.  He sniffed deeply, watching her face and trying to understand what she really meant, underneath her words.

            “I, ah-” She looked away and muttered to herself.  Of course, with his hearing, Inuyasha didn’t miss her words, “Coward. Just tell him. He’ll either hate you or he won’t.” Hate her? He couldn’t hate her. Kagome could tell him that she had decided to mate Kouga and wanted him to babysit their pups and he wouldn’t be able to hate her.  Of course, he’d rip off that stupid wolf’s balls and feed them to him before he let him touch Kagome, but he couldn’t hate her - even if she wanted the mangy -

            Inuyasha took a deep breath, again.  He let her scent calm him down before his wild temper got him too angry to listen and instead he ended up doing something stupid. Like accusing her of wanting to have sex with Kouga and then marking her right there in the woods.  Marking her..right now… His teeth on her neck...his hands on… She was his.  A rising tide of youkai made him shake his head and force his demon back down.  The one thing he seemed to agree with his youkai blood on would only get him into trouble right now.  He needed Kagome to say it first.  He needed her to understand what had happened.  Then he could...with his teeth...and her throat…

            “I’m sorry I took advantage of you, Inuyasha.” Kagome’s formal, stiff words interrupted his train of thought. “The first time, on the mountain, was to calm down your youkai. But the second time was inexcusable, I should not have used you for...that. Gomen, Inuyasha.” She folded her hands together and bowed, as deeply as she could from a sitting position.  She remained folded over, and it took the hanyou a moment to process what she said and realize she was waiting for him to accept her apology. Camphor and salt had creeped into her scent and slowly masked the ume and sake.

            “Fuck, Kagome, what the hell are you sorry for?”  She stiffened and slowly rose. Fuck yes, he thought with satisfaction.  Her face was still salty, but the smell of sadness was dispersed with biting ginger as she narrowed her eyes at him. I must be crazy to love that smell so much.

            “You stupid-” she cut herself off and an expression that Inuyasha had never before seen on Kagome washed over her features.  Shame. He felt his ears lay down against his will and a whine rose in his throat.  Kagome should never feel that. He wrestled with himself, trying to find a way to shake her out of it without making her angry. “You don’t remember anything, no, of course you don’t.” She closed her eyes and the sad smell returned, even stronger. “When I gave you Tessaiga, in the camp...when you woke up we were...you were…”

            “Licking you,” he supplied.  Heat flared in his belly at the memory, but he was more interested in the way her blush intensified and the smell of sake grew stronger.

            “Yes.” She sounded like she was strangling herself. “Your youkai...even on the mountain...he recognized my scent, I think.  He - you, ah, he sealed my wounds. He seemed to think…you and I…” She waved her hand between them in a vague gesture. “We needed to get Tessaiga back, but he wasn’t interested in anything but…” That smell, he hoped more than anything in the world it was arousal, grew stronger as Inuyasha listened to her telling of his time as a full-demon.  He had hazy memories, images, of some of that time, but as she talked they became clearer.  It was almost as though his youkai could remember for him when she spoke.  “I promised him...some things…”

            “I understood you? You could talk to me?” Inuyasha was almost distracted from his goal by that revelation.  His youkai had never listened to anyone before. The way Miroku had described him during a transformation, Inuyasha had assumed that he couldn’t understand - that he was little better than an animal in that form.

            “He, you, seemed to.  He didn’t speak much, but when I, ah-”

            “I talked?”

            “You sort-of...barked and growled a lot. You didn’t use many words: mine, territory, den, ah...mate.”  She hurried on before he could ask her about that last one.  Inuyasha was still reeling from the discovery that he wasn’t completely senseless as a full-youkai.  “I tricked you into going after Tessaiga. I promised…I promised-I’d-have-sex-with-you,” she finished in a rush.  Her face was beet-red and her eyes were screwed shut.  “You were very...handsy, but then when you got your sword back…”

            “I didn’t remember,” he finished quietly.  He felt a twist of guilt. If she didn’t want him, then what he did was… Inuyasha still wanted to know how Kagome felt about the idea of being with him, but he was also awed by her willingness to do anything to keep him safe.  She had bargained with everything she had to...she had bargained with a blood-thirsty youkai. “You-” he began furiously, but she out-talked him.

            “Then after the village, you were pretty much the same way. You seemed to kinda recognize Sango and Miroku too, so I told you they were pack.” Inuyasha blinked in surprise. How did she know-? “You healed me up again, and then you got, er...you seemed to remember...what I said.” She let out a shaky breath and met his eyes. “I, I’ve wanted you for a long time, Inuyasha. When you acted like you wanted me too, I didn’t care that it wasn’t - that you weren’t thinking clearly. I could have stopped you sooner. Tessaiga was right there. I let you stay like that, even though I know you don’t like losing control of your youkai, just so I could be with you.” Her voice dropped to a near whisper, “I just wanted you to kiss me...to want me. A, kamis, Miroku saw you licking me and I didn’t even care!” She covered her face with her hands and mumbled, the shame and sadness strong in her scent, “I am so sorry, Inuyasha.  I understand if you can’t forgive me, if you...hate me.”

            Inuyasha couldn’t stand it anymore.  He reached out and yanked her into his lap.  She jerked against his chest with a startled yelp, but didn’t fight him.  Her ass settled between his legs, her hip pressed against his groin.  Her shoulder rested against his chest, and he tucked her head under his chin.  He folded both of her hands in one of his own and pressed them against him.

            “You got nothin’ to be sorry for, baka,” he said quietly. “Don’t you be feeling bad over something that I wanted too.”

            “But you-” she tried to lift her head and he snapped his teeth at her.

            “Shut up, wench. It’s my turn to talk.” He took another deep breath, his nose pressed into her hair, and sighed at the peace that washed over him. “You think I let you follow me around lookin’ for shards ‘cause I just love to listen to you yap at me? You think I let you sit me, that I go outta my way to find you hot springs, that I don’t kick that little runt all the way to the mainland ‘cause we’re friends?”  

            “We’re not friends?” Camphor and salt exploded in his nose and he could feel her taking a deep breath, preparing to sob. Stupid half-breed!

            “Fuck! No! That’s not what I meant, Kagome! Of course we’re friends, you’re the first friend I ever had. My best friend,” he finished quietly.  She still smelled sad, but she was sniffing, instead of wailing. “I protect my friends, Kagome. But I sure as hell ain’t gonna carry Miroku or Sango around on my back. I do things for you ‘cause you’re more than my friend. I, eh, I-” he swallowed, mentally trying to kick himself into finishing what had to be said.  His ego came to his rescue. “Keh. I love you, stupid wench. I got all...handsy,” he pronounced the unfamiliar word carefully, “‘cause I wanted to.  I guess it don’t matter if I’m hanyou, human, or full-youkai, I want you.”  He squeezed her gently to emphasize his point and pressed a kiss to her hair. “I don’t remember exactly what happened when I lost Tessaiga, but I do know you sure didn’t make me do anything I didn’t want to. When I woke up…” He paused and tried to get ahold of himself before Kagome realized just how much he wanted to reenact his time with her as a youkai - preferably without any clothes. “I had your blood in my mouth. You were right there, naked, and I could smell you… Fuck, Kagome, I didn’t know what had happened or how far it went.  All I knew is that as a youkai I had finally gotten where I’ve wanted to be for three years.”

            “Licking up my blood?” she squeaked.  He let out a surprised bark of a laugh. To hell with controlling himself. He’d been doing that for three years and it had screwed things up so bad that he might have scared off his mate - his Kagome.  Hiding behind his anger and pride was over. If he wanted to have what his youkai wanted, what Sesshomaru had so...strangely...described, what he wanted, Kagome… then he had to tell her. There could be no room for misunderstandings. He let his voice drop an octave and leaned down to her ear.

            “Between your legs, Kagome.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 9

 

 

            “She’s been gone a long time,” Sango said.

            “I’m sure Kagome-chan is fine.  I think we have ample proof that Inuyasha will not hurt her, no matter what condition he is in.”  Sango glanced at Miroku where they sat in the shade, watching Shippo furiously color a ‘welcome back’ picture for Kagome with the last of the paper from the future.   Kaede had begun preparing a large meal once Sango told her that Kagome had come through the well.  The old priestess was confident that Inuyasha would be dining with them that evening, and so wanted to have enough food ready.  She waved off Sango’s offers to help and instead insisted that she and Miroku keep Shippo out of trouble.  It had taken a serious talk and a small bribe to keep the kit from going after his okasan as soon as he realized she had returned to the Feudal era. The kit sat a good twenty feet away, where the light was better, carefully selecting his crayons and working on his drawing.  Miroku had given him the idea, and Sango was grateful that the monk had taken Shippo’s concern so seriously.

            In fact, since the groping while Kagome was with them, he had been very well behaved.  He was leaning back against the tree and keeping one eye on the kit and the other on the village, watching for trouble.  Sango knew her bottom was within reach, but he had not even glanced her way. Carrot and stick.  Since Kagome had returned, Sango was feeling happier, and much braver about the plan. She stretched her neck and legs, using the motion to move marginally closer to him.

            “I don’t think he would physically hurt her. I am more concerned that he is still having trouble with that delayed reaction he has between speaking and thinking.  I don’t think she can take it if he is his usual insensitive self. Kagome looked even worse this morning than she did four months ago.”

            “You may be right,” Miroku frowned.  “I think Kagome-chan has lost some weight. She did not look healthy.”  He rattled his staff decisively. “If Inuyasha cannot manage to be more than himself, then I will take it up with him. Painfully.”  Sango wanted to kiss him, he was being so…good. Positive reinforcement, Kagome had said.  Step one was gentle ministrations to the back of the scalp.  That had taken her a while to work up to, and she had only managed it a few times, but it definitely gave results. She never would have guessed that scratching a man’s head would feel so nice to him.  Step two was the ear thing.  She could feel herself blushing just thinking about it.  Step three had been…well, she wouldn’t consider step three without discussing her progress with Kagome.  

            Miroku had one hand on his staff and the other rested on his bent knee.  Sango kept her eyes on his hands while she casually leaned next to him, sliding her hand behind his neck.  He took in a sharp breath, but otherwise didn’t acknowledge her fingers as they loosened the tie holding back his hair and kneaded his scalp.  

            “How long do you think it will take?” She worked hard to keep her voice even, but she was excited and nervous.  Miroku’s eyes had fallen to half-mast, and his head leaned into her hand.

            “Difficult to say. I suppose,” he paused and Sango could almost hear a moan struggling to free itself.  His head tipped forward, allowing her access to a particularly tight knot on his neck. “It depends on how long they spent avoiding talking about it and yelling at each other before they got to the truth.”

            “Great Buddha,” Sango borrowed one of Miroku’s curses, “if we are waiting for that, they might be out there all night.”  

            “There is always hope for a man who has the love of a beautiful woman to strive for,” Miroku answered.  

            Shippo jumped up with his picture and called over his shoulder to them, “I’m going to color with Kaede-baba, I forgot some of my crayons at her hut!” He was off at a dash and Sango double-checked the placement of Miroku’s hands.  She was gratified to see they were still in plain sight.  She blushed, even though no one could see them.  Step two.  She leaned in next to his ear. She wet her suddenly dry lips and used the lowest, most promising voice she could manage.

            “I hope so. If a man cannot improve himself for such a prize, there really is no future for him.” Her breath was hot against his ear, she knew, because he shivered slightly.  Sango prepared herself, gathered her courage, and continued, “However, what would Buddha say of a man who learns from his mistakes and ends a practice of bringing ill-fortune to such a woman?”

            “Karma,” Miroku whispered.

            “Just so,” Sango agreed.  Her tongue dipped into the shell of his ear and he shuddered, this time unable to hold back a moan. “Shouldn’t such a man strive to be better, so good things will be visited upon him?” She ended the lesson with the one part of step two which she had told Kagome she wasn’t sure any woman in the feudal era would do - certainly she didn’t believe any had been so bold with a man they weren’t married to.  She gently took his earlobe in her teeth and tugged.

            She made sure she was gone before Miroku could open his eyes or do something perverted to ruin the moment.  The goal was to give him something to think about, not an opportunity to try to take advantage of her.  Unfortunately, as she ran back to Kaede’s hut, she realized she hadn’t asked Kagome what to do if she wanted to take advantage of him.

 

***

 

            Kagome was in shock.  She didn’t have any other word to describe her state of mind.  Inuyasha had told her he had been wanting to have sex with her for three years. Three. Years. When he said it, his voice was so low, so...filled with promise...she felt every word like a volcanic eruption between her legs.  Right where he said he wanted to be.  She wasn’t even blushing.  Distantly, she realized she should be. He certainly was, but she was so completely, absolutely, out-of-the-blue surprised by his confession that she couldn’t even manage embarrassment.  Although his cheeks were red, his voice remained low and rough.

            “Kagome,” he said. She had leaned back as far as he would allow to stare at him. “Kagome, did you hear me, wench?”  It was a testament to her condition that she didn’t even register what he called her.

            “You just…” Her voice faded away. She was speechless.  She rewound what he had said.  He wanted to have sex with her. He was jealous of his youkai. He loved her. She blinked. He loved her?  

            “Kagome?” Inuyasha sounded worried, but Kagome couldn’t concentrate over the warm, comforting weight that was settling in her chest. What is that?

            “You want to...just have sex?” Her chest felt tight, and she absently glanced around the Goshinboku, looking for a good place to lie down.  She wasn’t sure if once she was horizontal she would pass out  - or beg Inuyasha to prove what he said.

            “Just sex?” His brows furrowed and he snapped at her. “Bitch, I said I loved ya! Inuyoukai don’t just have sex.” He was angry and that caught her attention.  She returned her gaze to his face to find his lip stuck out petulantly and his eyes glowering at her. “We mate.” His next words were grumbled so low she had trouble hearing him. “When we find a female who wants us.” Kagome felt like she was drowning. He had said everything she had ever wanted him to say...but he was angry with her. Something was wrong with her chest, but she couldn’t stop to think about it because Inuyasha… One fang protruded over his lip, biting into the soft skin.  He looked...nervous.

            “What-” She cleared her throat and tried again. “What does that mean?”

            “What? I mean, eh, it’s...it’s mating,” he finished lamely.

            “But it isn’t just about sex?” Finally she could feel a blush beginning to form on her cheeks.  It was almost a relief to know she was still herself, despite the fact that she seemed to be living in one of her most well-worn fantasies.  Well, except for him calling her bitch and wench.  That might be the only thing that kept her grounded.

            “The asshole said inus-”

            “You talked to your brother about us?” Kagome knew she was screeching, but she couldn’t help it.  Inuyasha’s ears flattened against his head and he had a pained look on his face.  It wasn’t entirely from the sound.

            “Keh. Don’t tell anybody. He made me swear I wouldn’t.” Inuyasha shuddered. “Not that I would want to. Sesshomaru is…”

            “I can’t even imagine,” Kagome finished for him.  A shiver of horrified fascination passed through her.  She had a mental image of Sesshomaru teaching her health class and felt a hysterical giggle trying to break free. Another thought struck her, “Did you tell him about me?”

            “Hell no!” His anger softened and he lowered his ears like he was expecting to be smacked on the nose. “He pretty much guessed.” Kagome couldn’t help it, the giggle burst free and she collapsed against Inuyasha’s chest helplessly.  “Kagome?”

            “That has got to really get under his skin,” she laughed again, and the tension in Inuyasha’s face relaxed. “He is so uptight and stuffy. First he has to deal with your manners, and then to get a miko in the family? His noble demon image is going to be permanently tarnished.” Her laughter slowly died out as Inuyasha leaned closer, his eyes intent.

            “In the family? Does that mean you will - you want to, eh, mate me?”

            Her face flamed, but she held his gaze. “Does that mean you, you want to, ah, want to marry me?”  Inuyasha frowned and shook his head.  Kagome felt her heart drop to her stomach.

            “Bah, marriage is for humans.  They don’t live very long. Mating is for demons. It is for our whole lives.”  

            “So,” Kagome felt breathless. Her heart started beating again, far too quickly. “Til death do us part? No prenup, huh?” He didn’t even question her strange language, but nodded solemnly.  

            “Me and you, for as long as we live. If one dies, the other usually doesn’t last very long.”

            “Is that why your mom…?”  Inuyasha nodded sadly.  

            “I didn’t know for sure until Sesshomaru told me about the bond. She held out as long as she could. I guess some demons can live on after a mate, especially if they have pups. She was only human though.”  He tensed, looking sad and a little afraid. “If we do...and I die…”

            “I don’t think that is the first thing you should worry about, Inuyasha,” she said gently. “Even in my time, I would only live another sixty or seventy years. That isn’t even half of your life so far, and how much longer will you live?” She touched his face sadly. “I don’t think I could do anything that would shorten your time-”

            “Baka.” He rolled his eyes. “It’s a bond. We share a life.  I might not live as long as a full-youkai, but any years I have will be yours too.” He gripped her a little tighter and grew serious. “So will you?”

            “Will I what?” she asked. She knew she was grinning, but she couldn’t help herself.  He growled, sending a delightful shiver down her spine.

            “Will you mate me, Kagome?”

            “Will you marry me, Inuyasha?” she countered.  He frowned.

            “Keh, whatever.”

            “Keh, whatever,” she repeated.

            “Listen, wench,” he pressed his nose into her face and pointed at her with one claw, “that ain’t-” She cut him off with a kiss.  His lips were just as warm and soft as she remembered.  His mouth was open, so she took advantage with her tongue, tracing his fangs and teeth. He didn’t move for a moment, completely taken aback.  Then, with a deep rumble, he gripped her hair and angled her mouth for better access.  Kagome thrust one hand into his hair and gripped his nagajuban with the other.  She felt alive for the first time in months.  Her heart thumped in her chest, in time with the jubilant chant in her head: He wants me. He wants me. He wants me.

 

***

 

            Inuyasha wasn’t sure if he wanted to tear out his hair in frustration or beg Kagome to answer him.  “Will I what?” she said.  She was smiling, and her scent was happy, but if she wanted to say yes she should have just said it.  He ground his teeth together and pushed back his anxiety.

            “Will you mate me, Kagome?” He had asked. He felt a sort of strange sense of accomplishment and a wellspring of nerves.  If she said no...she wouldn’t say no.  If she said she needed time...he could give her time. He would wait forever, or at least a few days.

            “Will you marry me, Inuyasha?” Wait, what? He basically knew what that entailed, but he had never actually seen a human joining ritual before.  If Kagome wanted that, though, he would do it.  He shrugged.

            “Keh, whatever.”

            “Keh, whatever.” She shrugged too, but she was grinning and her eyes were sparkling.  It was as if she were teasing him.  His frustration rose quickly.  He needed an answer, dammit, and she needed to stop playing around.  She needed to understand how serious mating was.

            “Listen, wench.” He put his face over hers, forcing her to meet his eyes and letting her know he was in charge of the conversation.”That ain’t-” She kissed him. Her lips were soft and full, better than Inuyasha remembered from the one brief time she had done it before.  This time she was bolder. She thrust her tongue into his mouth, tracing his fangs. Lust pooled in his belly and his youkai rose near the surface; the beast was in perfect agreement with him. It pushed him to act more daring than the hanyou would have by himself.  He used her hair to force her head back further and dipped into her mouth for a taste.  She was perfect.  Hot and sweet, and every wonderful scent that had ever hit his nose.  She tasted like Kagome, but even better. She tasted like his Kagome.  A growl of appreciation rumbled in his chest and his hand drifted up her side to cradle her ribcage,  directly under her breast.  He could feel the heavy weight of her against the joint of his thumb. He brushed across her gently, and the soft moan and spike in her scent nearly sent him over the edge.

            He wanted to take her right then, to bend her over the roots of Goshinboku and rip away her clothes.  He wanted to take her, mark her, mate her. His youkai was panting in agreement - urging him on and rattling at its confines, eager to escape and make good on all the promises Kagome had made.  Inuyasha pulled back with a groan.  He only managed to get a few inches from her mouth before he was forced to stop by his youkai.  He fought with his instincts for a moment.  He could feel a heat building behind his eyes and he could not tear his gaze away from the juncture of her neck and shoulder - where he would mark her.  His nose pressed against that spot on her neck and he knew his grip had to be hurting her hair, but she didn’t protest so he didn’t stop.  He breathed deeply against her skin. His tongue snaked out of its own accord and traced her pulse, beating wildly.  The hum of her blood matched his own, and he felt his heart quicken, racing in excitement and anticipation.

            “Inuyasha,” she moaned.  Whatever scrap of self-control that had been holding him back snapped.  He growled against her, brushing his fangs against the thin skin at her throat.  He was two beings in one body, and they both wanted Kagome.  He twisted quickly, laying her on the forest floor, one hand still tangled in her hair, and settled his weight on top of her.  With a quick motion of his claws he ripped apart her blouse.  She made a small sound of distress that he quickly silenced with his lips at the hollow of her throat.  Her skin was milky smooth and smelled clean from her future soaps.  Under that smell was her - sweet, floral, and spicy. He dragged his tongue down her chest until his progress was halted by the lacy obstruction of her underclothes.  Inuyasha had seen them before, in her laundry, and they always inspired a throb of need in him.  His youkai had the same reaction, followed by the impatient drive to leave the flimsy material in shreds along with her blouse. He snapped his teeth in frustration.  The hanyou knew Kagome would not be happy.  The youkai couldn’t wait to feel her heat around him while she smelled of angry ginger.

            His free hand caught under her knee and dragged it up, parting her legs and allowing him to settle more firmly against her core.  She gasped, drawing in air in a long, mewling sound that set his skin on fire and urged him on.  His hand followed her smooth thigh to her hip, pushing up her skirt as he went.  His claws encountered more of the lacy material and he pushed his face between her breasts, snarling in frustration.  He wanted more. He knew she wanted more. Her scent, fuck, her scent was calling to him, begging him to claim her - just as his asshole half-brother said it would.  His youkai pulsed against the thin barrier of control afforded by Tessaiga and… He frowned.  The haze of lust cleared slightly and he gained the impression of something else, something powerful, resting just against his skin.  It was cool and soothing, like water on a hot day.  The sensation was so slight, he almost missed it.  The youkai surged forward, not caring why the hanyou had stopped, only wanting to continue.  Inuyasha’s alignment with his youkai slipped and the hanyou seized on the strange power, instinctively pulling it to him to wrest control from his more primitive half.  Instantly, Kagome writhed beneath him.  Her back arched and her hips ground against his.  He sucked in a breath.

            “A, kamis!” she cried, eyes closed and mouth open in pleasure. Inuyasha was stunned. Even her hot, wet core pressing against his hakama wasn’t enough to distract him from the discovery that an unknown power was working between them. They had experienced too many brushes with malevolent magic to ignore such a concern, even if he really, really… She wrapped her calf around his thigh and used the leverage to pull him harder against her.  The sound she made… Inuyasha bit down hard on his own lip to allow himself to focus.  He tried to push the power aside, but it fought him, and Kagome’s eyes snapped open. His lust exploded like an inferno, his claws snagging in the narrow strap of her underwear and his mouth lowering to her breast.  For a moment, he lost all sense of time and place and his youkai reigned. His fangs drew a thin line of blood on her shoulder, just below the spot that would be marked, before he lapped it up to the accompaniment of her excited trembling. Kagome’s skirt was irrevocably removed, the fabric over her breasts shoved down.  He captured one pink nipple as it sprang free, suckling and pulling her flesh into his mouth as if he was starving.  Kagome thrust both hands into his hair, pinning him to her and panting.  The demon growled in pleasure, eliciting a squirm and a breathless moan from his mate.  He allowed the hanyou a tiny bit of influence, as if to say, this is what we all want, so we will take it.

            Hesitantly, Inuyasha reached out with his senses and pulled the power in again.  His need for her didn’t diminish, but his urgency cooled.  His youkai was still present and eager to sample everything a mate had to offer, but the demon was willing to let the hanyou set the pace as long as Kagome remained with them - underneath them.  Slowly, painfully, he levered his weight onto his forearms and took a deep breath.  Her scent flooded his nose and lungs and he had to close his eyes against the sight of her swollen lips, parted as she whispered his name, and her bare breasts, thrust high and crested with tight berries still wet from his mouth, or risk losing any ability to think under the drugging influence of Kagome.

            “Mate,” he whispered.  His gravelly voice did not sound like his own, and the siren below him only moaned in response. Inuyasha had to clear his throat to try again, “Kagome. Ka-go-meh…” he trailed off into a groan as she freed her other leg from his weight and wrapped it around his hip. “Bitch, we gotta stop,” he ground out.  She stilled with a soft, achingly sweet sound in the back of her throat that had him snarling in dissatisfaction.  “Kagome, there’s somethin’ else here.  Magic that’s workin’ on my youkai. We can’t…” she shifted again and his eyes snapped open in frustration and unmet need.  “If you keep doin’ that - fuck! Stop!.”

            His sharp tone must have sunk in, because she relaxed her legs, although she kept her hands in his hair.  The dreamy haze cleared in her eyes, replaced with hesitant concern. “Is it...hurting you?”  Inuyasha frowned and tried to concentrate on the strange power again.  It was spread so thin, and so pervasively, he wasn’t sure where it ended and they began.  He felt it out with his senses; it was vaguely familiar.  It pulsed gently, like a…heartbeat. His eyes went wide and he listened.  Kagome’s heart beat in time with the surge of the power between them.

            “It’s - it’s you,” he stuttered.  

            “I know.” Her simple answer had him sitting up in surprise and...hurt? What the fuck is she keeping from me?

            “You know,” he repeated slowly.  Kagome sat up as well, suddenly preoccupied with adjusting what was left of her clothes.  A blush painted her cheeks and, despite himself, Inuyasha felt his cock twitch in response.

            “It is my reiki.  Miroku and Sango noticed it before, when you...at the camp.  If I think about something else other than...you know...it...stops.”

            “Well fuckin’ quit it before you purify my ass!” There wasn’t much anger in his words, he was too stunned.  

            “I can’t, you baka!” She crossed her arms under her breasts, causing the ample flesh to plump and make a tempting distraction for him.  The deep furrow between her brows and her frown were all that kept him from ignoring the threat of burning pink magic to bury his face between those soft mounds.  “It goes away when I think about it too hard or when I stop thinking about...you and...and that.” Her blush intensified. “I tried making it go away last time and your youkai went crazy. Whatever is making you understand things like mates and packs in your full-youkai state has something to do with my reiki.” He tried to interrupt and she talked over him. “As much as I have enjoyed the crazed-for-Kagome-sex side of you, I’d rather not be accidentally turned into a pincushion while we are doing it!”  Kagome sat, mostly naked and fuming, while Inuyasha tried to get her words sorted out.  

            He had turned full-youkai before, long before he met Kagome, or even Kikyou.  He never remembered what happened, only saw the aftermath of his feral demon.  Then came Kagome.  Her voice and touch helped bring him back to himself.  And if she was right...he sat back on his haunches, filing away the image of Kagome’s splayed legs and wet panties for further thought later.  If her reiki was helping to keep him balanced, keep his youkai from overcoming and poisoning his hanyou body...he wouldn’t have to worry about Tessaiga so much. He certainly wouldn’t need to take the blade to bed with him, which is what he had planned on doing once he decided to mate her.  She could be the answer to his fears that he would one day be lost to madness in his bloodlust.  Inuyasha met her blue eyes.  They were filled with hurt and anxiety, and a little bit of anger.  She smelled of the same, and the sharp ginger brought a twitching grin to his face even while the slowly fading scent of spicy sake hardened his groin. She was perfect for him. Hell yes, she was his mate. Kagome is fuckin’ mine.

            “So do it more,” he said in a low voice.

            “Excuse me?” The chill in her tone would have frozen a human man in his tracks.  Good thing he wasn’t human.  He still sat between her legs and he placed one fist on either side of her hips. He leaned forward, bringing his face closer to hers, and smiled.  She sucked in a breath and spicy sake vapors teased his nose.

            “Do. It. More.” He added a last word just to make her scent kick up. “Bitch.”

 

***

 

            Kagome wasn’t sure if she wanted to hit him...or strangle him.  First he kissed her like it was more important than breathing. Then he ripped off her clothes and made her wetter than she would have ever believed possible. Then he accused her of trying to purify him. Talk about a mood killer. Some hysterically angry part of her brain tried to imagine how she would win every bad boyfriend contest - ever - from that point on.

 

And he forgot my birthday,’ Eri would say.

He looked at another girl’s ass - while we were kissing!’ Ayumi would screech.

He asked to watch the game after we did it instead of cuddling,’ Yuka would complain.

My boyfriend ruined my panties in less than two minutes, then yelled at me for attempting to fry his ass into the next life.’

 

Future Girls: 0

Kagome: Winner, winner, chicken dinner.

 

            “Let me make sure I know what you want,” Kagome purred.  His eyelids drooped and his mouth parted. “You want to forget about this little...misunderstanding...and we can just pick up where we left off?” She glanced meaningfully at his crotch, trying her best to ignore the way her mouth watered and her cheeks flamed at the sight of the wet spot on his hakama - and the severe strain the material was under.  Good thing it’s demon cloth.  She caught his gaze again and leaned close enough to breath against his mouth. “Or maybe a little...lower?”

            “Hell ye-” Kagome smoothly interrupted his vehement confirmation.

            “Inuyasha,” she practically hummed, “oswarii.”

            For a split second, Kagome was supremely gratified to see the look of shock and horror flash across his features before the subjugation beads yanked on his neck and pulled him down.  Then she was swiftly reminded of how they had been sitting.  Inuyasha’s face hit her chest and she was pushed to the ground...with his nose magically forced between her breasts.  They were both absolutely still for a moment.  Kagome struggling to breathe after the air was knocked out of her, Inuyasha holding perfectly still rather than fighting the effects of the necklace as he usually did.  She sucked in her first lungful of air and a vibration ran through her chest. It rumbled again, and a rather nasty suspicion had her beetling her brows and frowning.

            “Are you laughing?”  Inuyasha only shook harder, the beads keeping his face pressed into her flesh.  The motion sent a tingling wave of pleasure through her - centering around the place where her splayed legs met.  He seemed to be aware of the effect on her. No doubt he can smell it, the jerk.  A hot, vaguely raspy tongue darted out and stroked the pale flesh across her sternum.  Her face was on fire, she knew, but she would be damned if she let the idiot know it.  She might be in love with him. She might want to strip him naked and lick every inch of his skin. She might want to have him do things to her she had only seen in movies her mother didn’t know she had watched.  But she sure as hell wasn’t going to let him think that meant he could act like an ass.  “Baka,” she muttered and she slapped him upside the head.

            Kagome was fairly confident that the effects of the ‘sit’ had worn off long before Inuyasha managed to remove himself from her person.  When he finally got off of her, she immediately scrambled back and drew up her knees to her chest.  She scowled at him, but he didn’t seem to mind.  That only irritated her more.  “What?” she snapped.  He smiled a lazy sort of smile. One that promised many things and sent a shiver down her spine.  It felt...delicious.

            “If I had known they could be used for somethin’ other than poundin’ me into the dirt,  I might not have tried to remove the beads so many times.”

            “Don’t worry, you’ll be kissing the ground again in no time.” Kagome was still angry, but she was also still aroused.  His tone and rough voice were doing melty things to her insides, and his eyes, while not full-demon red , were tinted with pink.  She wondered about his level of youkai and how directly that corresponded to his confidence. Especially where she was concerned.  Without a word, he snagged her arm and pulled her back into his lap, settling against the trunk of Goshinboku and circling his arms around her bare skin.

            “Hell, Kagome,” he responded with a chuckle, “I’d be worried you’d damaged your head if you didn’t sit me. But,” he tipped her face up with one gentle claw and met her eyes with a serious gaze, “it damn well better be for good reason from now on. ‘Cause I know you, and I can make sure you’d rather have me face first on top of you.”  His cheeks were pink, she noted, but his smile exposed his fangs and his eyes were like liquid gold - hot and full of rich promise.  

            “Maybe,” she squeaked, then cleared her throat and tried again. “Maybe we need to cool off a little?”

            “Keh,” he huffed.  He looked put out for a moment, then a devilish glint sparked in his eyes.  It made Kagome wary. “I’ll take you to the springs - you probably want to wash up before we go back to the village.” She nodded, relieved and strangely disappointed.  She scolded herself for being so fickle.  She wanted Inuyasha. A, great kamis I want him. But it had been less than an hour since they admitted their feelings.  Common sense dictated that jumping into the sack and immediately pledging eternity to each other was probably not a good idea.  She nodded to herself and reached for the discarded haori. They should at least wait a couple of days. Inuyasha stretched with her, keeping his mouth close to her ear. “You can wash me up too.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 10

 

 
            Miroku ate his simple lunch of rice quietly while Shippo and Kaede talked about the meal she was preparing for Kagome’s return and how long it would take the idiot hanyou to apologize.  Sango joined in the conversation occasionally, but remained strangely brief in her comments.  Her behavior was more demure than usual as well, her hands folded neatly around her nearly full rice bowl and her eyes cast down.  He could certainly understand if she was having difficulty eating.  He could barely swallow, and what he did remember tasting had the flavor of sawdust to his distracted mind.

She had...and then she said...but then she...with her tongue… Miroku had traveled for many years, and he was told that he was an experienced and more than competent lover.  He had never, ever, in all his time, with all of the varied and beautiful women he had enjoyed, been left as confused, throbbing, and delightfully un-satisfied as Sango had made him less than an hour ago.  He was still forced to sit with his staff across his lap and his robes carefully arranged to conceal the state the slayer had incited. For three years he had lusted after that woman.  Sometime during their second year together, he had begun to fall in love with her.  He hadn’t even realized it until Inuyasha brought it up some six months ago, but he had even lost interest in other women.

            Certainly, he enjoyed a beautiful face, but he couldn’t help but compare it to Sango’s and find it wanting.  His eyes still traced the curve of a woman’s backside when it was presented to him, but none seemed as lush as he would have once found them.  Although his hand still itched to hold firm flesh and breathe in the soft female scent, he found that there was only one bottom he couldn’t resist.  Only one scent that called to him.  Only one body he wanted to bear his children.  He didn’t even ask other women anymore.  There wasn’t any point.  Sango was the only one for him.  She had ruined him for other women - and he had never even kissed her.

           He traced the curve of her cheek with his eyes and admired the strength of her muscles, sleek and smooth, and the softer swells of her body that made his mouth water and his cursed hand twitch.  He had prepared himself to wait years for her. He had long ago steeled his patience and come to the understanding that this was the greatest test Buddha could set before him.  He would find a woman whom he could love with all his heart - one who was more than likely too good for him - and she would spurn his affections.  He had determined that he would outlast her.  Continue to shower her with kindness, compliments, and whatever tokens of his interest she would allow - or he couldn’t restrain - and eventually she would be his.  That had been his plan.  Inuyasha called him an idiot, but Miroku ignored that easily.  After all, the hanyou was his friend, but he was a shining example of how not to attract a woman’s love.  In fact, Miroku generally tried to do the opposite of whatever Inuyasha did.  The half-demon’s love life was a cautionary tale to any man who wanted to feel the warm, wet grasp of a woman. Ever.

            He had made all of those determinations, set his course, prepared himself daily with meditation to restrain himself from all but the most irresistible of temptations.  Then she started touching him.  The first time, he immediately responded in delight with a caress to her bottom.  He wasn’t sure exactly how much time had passed before he woke up from Hiraikotsu’s blow, but he was alone when he opened his eyes.  The second time, she managed to come up behind him while his hands were full of packages he was delivering for Kaede.  The priestess had been feeling the age in her knees, and he had several villages to visit.  Sango thrust her hand into his hair and dragged her nails along his scalp with just enough -  Miroku took another bite of rice and covertly readjusted himself.  It happened a few other times, usually when his hands were busy with some task for another - Kaede, Shippo, or Sango herself.  If he pretended to ignore her, the heavenly sensation of her fingers on his skin would last for several long minutes.  If he mentioned it, she withdrew.  If he reacted by displaying his interest...well, he was quite familiar with the sting of her hand on his face.  It was puzzling not because her actions and words were not compatible, that was usual for women in his experience.  What ate at him was that he could not figure out what prompted her bouts of...intimacy.

            Until the morning under the tree.  Finally, finally she told him. She wanted him to be a better man.  She was rewarding good behavior.  If he hadn’t been consumed with plotting ways to show her his absolutely finest qualities and actions, he would have been mildly insulted that she was treating him not unlike a disobedient puppy.  Slapping him on the nose when he jumped on her, and scratching his belly when he heeled. Inuyasha would have gone through the roof, as Kagome said, if he realized someone was training him in such a manner.  Miroku was more concerned with how he could speed up the process.  

            Perhaps a picnic lunch for which he packed her favorite foods and sat on the opposite side of the blanket...or he could spend an afternoon occupying the village children with stories and a game of tag, giving their mothers a little respite...or he could ask Kagome to bring some of Sango’s favorite bath things from the future - that may be construed to mean he thought of her bathing. Which was true, but unlikely to warrant reward.  Kagome could bring more of the polish Sango favored for her boomerang.  The monk nodded to himself.  Now that he understood the rules of this new game, he intended to score many more points.  Sango didn’t know it yet, but he was going to ensure they both won. Soon. Repeatedly.

            He caught her eye and smiled.  She returned the gesture hesitantly, but he must have been a bit too revealing of his ambition, because her smile wavered.

            Kaede noticed as well, “Sango are you feeling well? You look half-scared to death.”

 

***

 

            Inuyasha couldn’t wipe the grin off of his face.  His back was to Kagome at her insistence, and so he released his boundless satisfaction with a happy expression that he would have never let anyone else see.  He had the feeling he looked like a lovesick puppy, but he didn’t really care.  She wanted him. Kagome wanted him.  She loved him, and she would mate him.  His entire life had been nothing but disappointment, pain, and loss with brief interludes of something that he had thought was happiness.  Having experienced Kagome, he knew that what he had felt before wasn’t happiness, it was simply the absence of misfortune.  He had mistaken tolerance for love...Kagome shown him the difference. He shook his head and moved to stuff his hands in his sleeves before he remembered he wasn’t wearing his haori.

            Out of the corner of his eye he could see it draped across the flat rock where Kagome had left it.  Her undergarments were set out beside it.  The ‘pant-ees’ were wet from a brief rinsing. His grin split even wider remembering the reason they needed washed.  A soft splash sounded behind him and his ears twitched, following Kagome’s motions.  She had cursed at him the entire way to the springs, tugging on his hair to get his attention until he picked up enough speed to make her clutch him with her arms and legs.  The feeling of her wrapped around him almost made him stop and find a secluded spot where they could finish what had been started.  Through an immense effort of will he kept going.  He deposited her on the bank of the springs, carefully searching nearby sounds and scents to make certain they were alone.  She raved for a few moments until he calmly turned his back and told her to take her time.

            “Inuyasha?” Her tentative voice pulled him out of a pleasant fantasy in which her family went on vacation and he and Kagome were left alone in the future for an extended period.  No little brothers, protective parent-figures, or annoying kits to interrupt them.  If he could get Kagome alone where he wouldn’t have to endure the monk’s lewd stares or lecherous comments…

            “Keh?”  He started to turn and face her, but her shriek halted the movement and flattened his ears against his head.

            “Don’t look!”

            “Bitch, just say so instead of bustin’ my ears,” he growled.  He faced away again and muttered under his breath, improving his mood again, “Not like I haven’t seen it anyhow.”  Thankfully, she must not have heard him.

            “Please don’t call me that.” She cleared her throat and Inuyasha could practically taste the tension in the air. “I just wondered...do you - I mean, did you…”  She smelled anxious, and he wanted nothing so much as to clear it from her scent. “Did-you-ask-me-because-you-lost-Kikyou?” She spoke so quickly, he almost missed what she said.  Once he sorted it out, he was livid.

            “Kagome,” he spun around, no longer caring about her modesty, “I love you, not like I loved her.” She deflated and he snarled, “Listen, Bitch! I loved Kikyou the way you love a warm bath after walking in the rain.  She was a relief for all of the things that had happened before.” He was angry - unreasonable, he knew.  He couldn’t help himself.  After all that he had done and said, she still doubted… He snarled again, at himself the second time. Why shouldn’t she doubt, baka, you haven’t earned her trust - not with this! “I love you.” He stepped forward into the springs, the warm water lapping at his bare feet and the hem of his hakama.  He smelled the salt and camphor of waiting tears and made a wuffing noise to get her attention.  When her gaze met his he continued, “I love you the way you love air, or water.  I need you.  I love you the way you love a part of yourself, because you are here in me.” He touched one claw to his chest and stepped further into the water, not dropping his eyes.  “I love you because you are Kagome, there is nothing else like you, and without you, I am empty.  I’m less than half, less than hanyou, I am nothing because you are what makes my heart beat. You make me draw breath.  When you were gone-” He dragged in a long, shaky breath and his anger evaporated in the memory of that hollow, pained feeling in his chest when he realized she had left.  “When you were gone, I stopped breathing.  My heart didn’t beat again until you returned.” He was chest deep in the water when he reached for her, pulling her against him so he could bury his face in her hair. “When you left, I died. When you said you loved me, I came back to life.”

            She was breathing hard, but Inuyasha couldn’t see her face where it was tucked against his neck.  He concentrated on her scent instead.  Lilies covered in dew.  He inhaled and savored the base of her scent.  Ume and apples. Fading camphor.  No sake or ginger.  He frowned. It was a start, but he could do better. He would do better.

            “You need me like water or food, huh?”  Her words were teasing, but her questioning tone made him smile into her hair.  They both needed proof.  He would give it to her every chance he could.

            “More,” he growled softly.

            “More than ramen?” She giggled and his smile grew wider.

            “Well-” he laughed when she slapped at his arm and then grew serious. “More than ramen. More than anything or anyone I have ever known, I love you, Kagome.” He was proud that his voice didn’t waver even a little as he said the words that had been hidden in his heart, even from himself, for so long.  He ran a gentle claw through her hair and splayed his hand against her back where he held her to him. He had been so focused on reassuring her, he almost forgot she was naked. She sighed against his neck.

            “I love you too, Inuyasha,” she murmured.  His claws traced her spine and he was gratified to feel her shiver, despite the heat of the water.  His feet were flat on the bottom of the spring, but Kagome’s dangled just below his knees.  He was the only thing keeping her above water.  Her hands on his shoulder and nagajuban.  His arm around her shoulders and his palm on her back.  Her leg twining around his thigh.  Her leg- Inuyasha blinked.  His youki began to stir along with his renewed desire and he glanced back to the shore where Tessaiga rested near his haori.  If she was right, she could calm him without the sword. If she was wrong...well, by her own admission she had enjoyed what happened while he was full-youkai.  Inuyasha scowled and snarled at himself.  If you touch her and I don’t fuckin’ remember it, I’ll let the houshi sutra you for a month. His youkai seemed to understand, as it purred back but did not attempt to take control.

            “Guess I might as well take a bath, too,” he stated.  Kagome pulled back so quickly, she bumped her head on his chin.  

            “You shouldn’t be in-” she began. He struggled to hold back a laugh at her blush and wide gaze.  She had obviously forgotten where they were and that she was naked. Her eyes widened further and she plastered herself against his body with a strangled shriek. “Hentai! Turn around before you get out!”  Inuyasha ignored the command to run his hands down her back again, throwing caution to the wind and pressing gently to bring her hips in closer contact to his.  He bit back a groan, unable to decide if he would rather she pulled away so he could see all that smooth flesh in the clear water, or if he wanted her to press even closer.  The groan escaped and he gave in and ground against her.  If she was any closer he’d be inside her...which seemed like an excellent idea.

            “Will you mate me, Kagome?” He rubbed his nose against her cheek.

            “Not if you don’t start acting better!” she snapped.  He slid his hand around to her hip and pressed down while he bucked his own hips upward.  She moaned as her head fell backward, exposing her neck.  He was cursing the thick fire rat material of his hakama even as he managed to whisper in her ear.

            “Will you mate me, Kag-o-me?”

            “Yes,” she answered breathlessly.  The last knot of tension unraveled and Inuyasha bent his head to nuzzle her neck.  She said yes. She said yes. Kagome said yes.  A heavy, warm weight settled in his belly.  Inuyasha had time. She loved him. She would be his mate. Inuyasha had time to show her how much he loved her. How much he wanted her.  He would prove to her that he would be a good mate.  She would never want for anything, but him...and he would give that to her at every opportunity.

 

 

***


            Kagome couldn’t help the smile that kept breaking out.  Inuyasha’s lips pressed against her neck, applying pressure and then nipping at the sensitive skin there.  She was deliriously happy.  His tongue followed his teeth before he pulled her flesh into his mouth and gently sucked.  She was also a little delirious, in general.  A shaft of heat shot straight to her belly and she moaned. The hand on her hip shifted, cupping her bottom and squeezing.

            “A, kamis,” she murmured.  It felt so good.  Her skin was on fire, and the only thing that could put it out was his mouth and hands.  But when he touched her, kissed her, hell, yes, sucked on her flesh the flames only grew higher.  She wanted, she needed, and, thanks to a modern education, she knew exactly what would make the ache between her legs ease.  She wrapped both legs around his hips and forced him to grind against her.  She was naked, and although the fire rat wasn’t scratchy, the slightly nubby texture dragged against her skin and pulled a gasp of pleasure from her.  Inuyasha growled in response and the sound, pressed as he was against her, vibrated her chest and sent tingles down her spine.

            “You are mine,” he whispered against her skin, then his mouth found hers.  His tongue swept deeply and took her breath, again.  He tasted like her toothpaste - did I leave some in the Feudal Era? - and something darker and earthier that drove her wild.  She thrust back with her own tongue, trying to let him know how much she wanted him.  Their teeth clicked together - how embarrassing - and Inuyasha growled and took her lower lip between his fangs.  He gave her a quick bite, then soothed the abused skin with his tongue. She sought his mouth again frantically and thrust her hands into his hair to find his ears. She wanted his lips, his tongue, his breath hot in her mouth.  She wanted his hands on her ass and her breasts. A, kamis, between her legs - she wanted him, and she would have him this time. Forget caution and common sense, Inuyasha was hers.

            “I am yours,” she whispered against his skin. She found his ears and firmly gripped the base of each appendage between her fingers.  His eyes closed and his head tipped back, his mouth open and a deep vibration rumbling in his chest.  She rubbed and squeezed, lightly scraping her nails through the silky soft fur. “And you are mine,” she growled.  He met her eyes.  They were no longer just pink, but glowed red around his golden irises.  His fangs were enlarged and his claws felt longer against her skin.  She shivered in excitement and anticipation.  This was her hanyou, her Inuyasha.  They were both finally free from the silence and isolation they had imposed on themselves, and she would take advantage of it.

            “Mate.” His teeth snapped quietly near her outstretched throat, and then Inuyasha seemed to regain some of his self-control.  Kagome almost whined.  They had both been so shy, so reluctant to move things forward.  She wanted this. Wanted no more barriers between them.  She had felt guilty about using his youkai for her own pleasure before, but now that she knew Inuyasha wanted her too… She could feel herself growing wetter.  They were pressed so tightly together that the spring water couldn’t wash away her desire.  She needed him, but she needed him to remember too.  She gnashed her own teeth in frustration. How do I control the beast and still keep the hanyou wanting, willing - Kagome almost bit herself in surprise as a thought occurred to her.  She searched for her reiki, splitting her concentration between the sensation of Inuyasha’s impressive hardness against her core and the holy aura that protected them both.

            “Kagome, if I can’t stop myself this time...I don’t know if I can pull away in time.”  He was panting into her skin and she barely listened as she found the thin, malleable layer of purity that covered her body.  “I will mark you, I need to mark you.  Kagome,” Just a little more. “Kagome,” She pressed a bit more power into her need, thinking only of how she wanted to be with Inuyasha. “Bitch!” he snarled.  Kagome ignored him, which was only possible after years of listening to him yell. “Focus! You need to mark me too, Kagome.  Say you hear, say you - “ Kagome released a last wave of power into her aura and..nudged. The effect was instantaneous.  Inuyasha broke off what he had been saying and stiffened.  His claws dug into her flesh, drawing blood, and his head fell back.  His neck strained, corded with muscle as he struggled with himself.  Kagome was not left unaffected.

            Where she had been on fire, the release of her power fanned a conflagration.  Her hips bucked against his, splashing water around them and forcing his claws deeper into her hip and shoulder.  The thrum of her pulse between her legs grew to a roar.  She was overwhelmed with the scent of him, woodsy, clean, and musky, and the scent of them, together. Hot, sweet, spicy, and thick.  Her hearing sharpened and she could make out the pounding of his heart over her own.  She shifted against him again, rubbing the tips of her breasts against his wet nagajuban and her aching core against his crotch.  Electricity exploded wherever she touched him, making her back arch further and driving her need to a feverish pitch.  She couldn’t remember why she wanted to fuel her reiki.  She could barely remember her own name.  There was only him, and what she needed him to do, before she died from wanting him.

            With a snarl he had her on the soft grass at the bank of the spring.  She shivered in the air, much cooler than the water, when he moved away from her.  She didn’t have time to acknowledge the ache of his departure before he was back again.  His skin slid against hers and Kagome gasped in surprise and pleasure.  He was naked.  Her legs wrapped around his waist of their own accord and she sought his mouth with hers.  Eyes closed, she reveled in the taste of him, the urgency in his kiss and touch.  His hands were everywhere, tracing her skin, caressing and drawing errant sparks of electric heat whenever he hit a sensitive spot.  She grasped his hair in one hand, pulling it over his shoulder to bare his jaw and neck to her lips.   Her other hand trailed over the hard ridges of muscle in his back to the slope of his ass.  Her fingers dug into the flesh, squeezing and pulling, demanding more pressure and a new angle where he lay heavily, pressing into her belly.  Kagome ached, and there was only one thing that would fill her.

 

***

 

            Inuyasha rocked against Kagome’s soft flesh and groaned.  The woman was killing him.  His youkai, even under the increased influence of her reiki - and he quickly realized she had done that on purpose - was snarling to be free.  He still had control, not that it was doing him much good.  He wanted her.  Fuck, yes, he wanted her.  His cock had never been so hard - and he had a very active fantasy that involved Kagome on all fours on a fur pelt, her lips red from sucking on him and her desire dripping down her thighs.  He opened his eyes to find hers closed, her mouth open on a silent moan.  The pale column of her throat was exposed to him, her breasts swollen and thrust into the air, begging for his touch. Fuck, yes, he wanted her.

            She needed to understand though.  He had to get this right the first time, Kagome deserved that.  And if the asshole knew what he was talking about, he might only get one chance to blend his youki and her reiki.  Thinking of Sesshomaru was enough to put a damper on his desire, and he pulled back, cupping her cheek with one hand.  

            “Kagome,” he whispered.  He thought he whispered, but it came out as a rough growl. “Kagome,” he tried again.

            “Please, Inu-” Her pink tongue darted out to wet her lips and Inuyasha was almost undone. “Please, Inuyasha,” she moaned.  Her eyes fluttered open, only to nearly close again, leaving narrow slits of dark blue that smoldered at him. “I-I need-” She moaned again, trying to buck against him.  Her hands both drifted to his ass, pulling and kneading.  Inuyasha nearly howled.  Instead he sank his fangs into his own lip and snatched her hands away.  He pinned them above her head, aware that he was being too rough - that she would bruise - but unable to gentle his touch.

            “Bitch, listen for a second!” Her eyes focused and he was drawn in by how large the black center was, almost devouring the blue.  Her cheeks were flushed and a spike of ginger heightened the spicy sake that filled his nose.

            “Stop fucking talking,” she spat, rocking against him again.  Her eyes widened, as if she only realized what she said after she said it.  Inuyasha couldn’t help a dark chuckle.

            “You’ll have to watch your mouth, Kagome.  Spend more time with me and we can find a better use for it than swearin’.”  He pressed a quick kiss to her lips, blushing slightly at his own boldness.  He pulled back again, satisfied by the dazed look on her face.  “Kagome, I am going to fuck you, and it is going to feel,” he leaned in to her ear and traced the shell with his tongue before lightly biting the lobe, “-amazing. Once I am inside you, you’ll forget about everything but how good it feels, how much you want me to move, to touch, to drive as deep as I can.” With each word his voice grew lower and rougher, less to heighten her desire than as an indication of his own slipping control.  This is important, baka, stop turnin’ yourself on! He shook his head and continued, “I’m going to mark you, Kagome.  I’ll bite you, right here,” he licked the spot where her shoulder met her neck and they both shuddered. “It will hurt, but it will also feel so good, bitch. The mark is for my mate, and you need to mark me too, do you understand?”  He felt a hesitant nod and lifted his head to press his forehead against hers.  Her smell was growing stronger, so that it overwhelmed everything else around him.  He could feel her wetness pooling, rubbing against his balls in a way that was so erotic he was faintly surprised he didn’t finish right then.

            “I- I think so,” she whispered.  Her breath was hot on his face, and he closed his eyes to breathe her in.  Her tongue on his lips startled a growl from him and returned his gaze to her face. “Should I…should…” He felt a gentle pulse of her power and she rocked against him again, squeezing with her thighs and pressing his cock in a mock thrust against the dimple of her belly button.  He slammed his teeth together to keep from fucking her senseless and waited.  Her moan faded. “Should I bite you, too?” Thank every funckin’ kami this side of hell, she gets it. He nodded against her forehead.

            “Put some of your reiki into it, if you can. Kagome, I don’t know how slow...I need to…” He couldn’t put it into words.  Her hands folded over his and she squeezed.  

            “Yes,” she said simply.  That one word released the chains he had put on himself and he lost everything he was in her.  He slipped both her wrists into one hand and trailed the other down her side while he kissed her.  Lips, tongue, teeth, fangs. He imprinted himself on her mouth, face, and neck.  His hand found her breast and his claws traced the full globe before he filled his palm and fondled her.  She was panting his name breathlessly, begging for attention, and he gave it to her, pulling her nipple into his mouth.  He suckled on one tip, then the other, reluctant to leave the ripe fruit but eager to taste the scent that had tantalized him so long.  His hand proceeded his mouth across her ribs, where she let out a ticklish giggle that blended into a moan.

            His fingers trailed down her hip, slick with sweat and blood.  The scent of it brought excitement with only a tinge of guilt.  He marked her. She was his.  He let go of her hands, which immediately found purchase in his hair, drawing a growl from him. His mouth found the wounds - five perfect holes, one directly over the bone, the other four arching in a crescent moon across the curve of her ass.  He dragged his tongue across each, drowning in the taste of her blood.  The concentrated scent of Kagome filled his mouth and nose.  Only the ever-heightening smell of her arousal encouraged him to move on, rather than spend an eternity worshiping the taste of her.  His claws danced down her thigh, catching the back of her knee and pulling her leg up and out. He copied the movement with the other leg, and inhaled deeply, closing his eyes in pleasure.

            She was intoxicating.  Drugging.  The scent of her was strong, pulsing with the beat of her heart.  A thousand images of Kagome flooded his head as he lowered his nose. Kagome, climbing out of the well with a smile just for him.  Kagome, proudly showing him her bicycle so that she wouldn’t slow him down. Kagome, teary-eyed and covered in sadness when he was injured. Kagome, leaning against him under the new moon. Kagome, mad as hell and sitting him. Kagome, begging him to let her stay with him. Kagome, saying she loved him.  He opened his eyes to see a neat triangle of black hair that concealed the one sex lesson that Sesshomaru had stressed.  Lord Icicle had repeated himself and actually, well, not smiled, but his mouth was less straight.  That place was the secret to making Kagome ignore all other men and have her begging for his touch...repeatedly.  Inuyasha had paid attention, and he had endured the worst brotherly moments of his life - that comparison included near-death experiences - to learn how to please his mate.  He would put the knowledge to good use.

            He slid his hands under her ass, mindful of his claws, and tilted her to give him better access.  Her scent intensified, “Inuyasha?” she called, both hesitant and excited. He growled in response, less to her question and more to the sight that greeted him.  His one lesson in anatomy had been brief, but descriptive.  Inuyasha had not expected the real thing to be so beautiful.  He was at a complete loss for words.  Her skin was pink, and where it parted around the place he was throbbing to test, the flesh was flushed with blood and heat.  Moisture dripped from her slit, and he could not wait to taste it.

            With a long, slow swipe of his tongue, he caught every drop from bottom to top.  Spice, smoke, sake, and salt exploded in his mouth and lit his senses on fire.  Heat shot straight to his cock, and where, mere seconds ago, he thought he couldn’t get harder, he was proven wrong.  A guttural sound was ripped from his throat, “Ka-go-me.”  She responded only with a tightening of her hands in his hair and a mewling whimper that drove him mad. She tasted like heaven, like pleasure and sin and everything wonderful he had never before had.  She was better than he could have ever imagined.  He did not hesitate, but thrust his tongue forward, searching for more of that delicious, heady moisture.  Her thighs clamped around his shoulders and her hands tugged his hair painfully.  Distantly, he could hear her calling his name, whispering incoherently.  None of that mattered.  This was Kagome. This was the essence of her, the taste, the scent, the feeling of his woman. His mate. His Kagome.

            He tilted her hips further with one hand, angling her better so that he could press his mouth closer, dig deeper with his tongue to search out the best thing on earth.  He managed to keep the presence of mind to follow his lesson with the other hand.  His claws trailed across the inside of her thigh, teasing the flesh and gently thrusting through the soft hair until he found the sensitive nub hidden there.  One claw delicately raked across the nerves, and Kagome screamed.  The sound was loud enough to lay his ears back, but he grinned against her.  The pad of his thumb took the place of his claw, rubbing circles designed to torture.  He paused to withdraw his tongue and dip his thumb into her wet heat, earning him a whine of displeasure.  He quickly bit off the claws down to the quick on his first and second fingers, before returning his thumb to work.  Her back arched and her mouth opened in a pant.  Inuyasha was mesmerized.  Her taste still on his tongue, his cock throbbing with need, he was helpless to do more than watch his beautiful Kagome while he pleasured her.  Slowly, gently, he slid his first finger inside her.  Up to the middle knuckle, and he was forced to stop. Fuckin’ kamis, she was tight.  Sweat beaded on his face and back from the strain of holding back.  She was moaning, interrupted only occasionally by a half-mumbled attempt at his name.  He pressed his thumb against her bundle of nerves and she responded with a strangled scream and a rush of moisture that slipped his finger in to the joint.  He flicked the same little nub with his claws and she arched up, tauter than her bow string.  Her inner walls rippled around his finger and he almost finished himself then, without even being inside her.

            She collapsed back to the ground, panting, and he knew he had to bring her that again.  He brought his second finger to join the first, and even with the slick rush from her orgasm, it was difficult to work his way in.  He bent his mouth to her body, running his tongue over her engorged nub and pulling it into the suction of his mouth.  He thrust his fingers slowly at first, but quickly picked up speed as the motions of her hands in his hair became more frantic and her scent intensified.  Finally, he hooked his fingers up and pressed her flesh against the smooth side of a fang with his tongue.  

            “Inu-Yasha-ah!”  

            He pulled himself up her body before the violent tremors wracking her could cease.  He pressed his mouth to hers, knowing she would taste her own lust on his lips.  He circled her shoulders with one hand, and with the other aligned himself to her.  He worried he wouldn’t fit. He worried he would and that he would never want to leave that sweet channel once he was inside.  Inuyasha shook off those thoughts and thrust his tongue into her mouth.  His cock copied the motion, gaining several inches before he was forced to stop to allow her to adjust.  She was wet enough. Fuckin’ hell, fuckin’ kamis, just...fuck she was perfectly, amazingly, made-just-for-his-cock wet enough.  And tight. He had never imagined anything could feel so good.  He knew it could hurt her. He breathed deeply, but couldn’t smell anything distinct past her lust and his own.

            “Kagome,” he ground out.  He glanced down to find her staring at him wide-eyed. “Does it - I’m tryin’ not to - fuck! Does it hurt?”

            “No, not exactly,” she said slowly. “It’s just, you’re…” She blushed, and Inuyasha felt something tender and warm trying to push up beside all of the hard, heavy instincts that urged him to pound into her.  “I wasn’t expecting you to be so...big,” she whispered. She closed her eyes, and Inuyasha didn’t need to take in her scent to know she was embarrassed.  She needn’t be.  There were few other things she could have said to make his pride swell almost as large as his cock. He bent his head to pull one dark pink nipple into his mouth.  Once she was squirming again and a new rush of excitement eased his passage, he let her breast slip from his mouth and returned to her face.  He pressed a firm kiss to her mouth and slipped one hand behind her shoulders.  His arms were quivering with tension, but he gripped her hip and tilted her - drawing a gasp of pleasure from both of them.  

            “Tell me if it hurts.” He kissed her again, longer. “I don’t know if I can stop, but I will try.”

            “Please, Inuyasha,” she pressed her lips to the underside of his jaw, licking the sweat from his skin and prompting him to growl in satisfaction at her sign of submission. “Please.” She hooked her ankles behind his thighs and pressed.  His control broke.  With one thrust and an exultant shout he was seated to the hilt.  He did not stop to allow her time to adjust, but continued the motion smoothly, pulling almost completely out before returning with enough force to make her breasts bounce against his chest and wring a cry of surprise and pleasure from her.

            It was enough for him.  His fingers dug into her ass; he was sure he had broken the skin, but he didn’t care and neither did she.  His youkai was encouraging him with a snarl, provoking his instincts and drawing his eyes to the soft joint of her neck.  He was still in control though, and he increased the pace, determined to make her cry out once more before he finished.  He pressed his face into her neck, licking at the skin where a bruise was already forming and applying suction.  She fell apart.  Crying out his name, her body gripped him tightly and he felt his own release coming.  He thrust once, twice, and then as his balls tightened and he pressed as deeply as he could and sank his fangs into her neck.  Her blood in his mouth. Her tight passage milking his cock.  Electricity filled his veins and his youki exploded in a pulse of aura that centered on the places they were joined together.  He might have blacked out then, if not for the fleeting pinch of her own dull teeth on his neck.  The bite was insignificant, but her reiki followed and as Kagome’s power filled him, clashed and blended with his own youkai, his cock pulsed again.  

            She cried out against his skin, barely keeping her hold on his neck, as a powerful orgasm washed over her in time with his own.  The power faded gradually, along with the last trembles of her inner walls and the final twitches of his cock. Inuyasha lay panting; breathing hard through his nose and unsure if he could unclamp his jaw, much less loosen his arms from around her.  He licked around the puncture marks and forced his fangs from her skin.  Four perfect holes, and the two crescents of his teeth, were outlined in blood.  He laved over them in long strokes, lapping up the blood and sealing the wounds.  Kagome released as well, although she managed no more than a half-hearted dart of her tongue before allowing her head to fall back to the grass.  Inuyasha finished his ministrations on her new mark and levered himself onto his arms to see her face.  

            She was nearly asleep, skin flushed and an exhausted smile on her lips. He pressed a kiss to her forehead and rubbed the side of his nose against hers. “You are mine, Kagome.” She smiled faintly, but didn’t open her eyes.  Inuyasha lay back down on his side, rolling her with him and pulling her top leg over his hip to keep them joined.  He brushed her hair out of her face and pulled the fire rat over them both.  He was almost asleep himself, his nose tucked into her hair, when she finally responded.  Her whisper was hot against his chest,

            “I love you too, Inuyasha. Don’t forget who you belong to either.” Her smile against his skin warmed him, finally filling up the hollow place in his chest that had been empty for so long.

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 11

 

 

            Kagome awoke to the distinctly uncomfortable sensation of sore muscles and rapidly drying liquid on her thighs.  She blinked, confused for a moment at the tanned skin and hard muscle inches from her face, and then realized it was Inuyasha she was staring at. The very naked, very close chest of her hanyou friend. Lover. Mate. That brought on rapidly growing embarrassment as she realized why exactly she was so sore, and what the dried substance that made her skin itch was.  She eased her leg off of his hip, wincing as her muscles protested the movement.  Tensing, she placed her palms against his warm skin and prepared to push.  An irritated wuff puffed against her hair and Inuyasha’s arms tightened around her.  Kagome frowned.  She tilted her chin up and noticed the slant of the sunshine through the trees. She really needed to wash up, she kind of had to pee, she was thirsty, she desperately didn’t want to have to discuss that with the hanyou before she had a chance to put something on and…the tilt of the sunshine…

            Her eyes widened.  Kagome struggled to remember when work in the fields would be completed at that particular time of year. “A, kamis,” she murmured.  It was late into the afternoon.  Soon, the men from the village would be coming to the springs in groups of two or three to bathe before returning to their huts for dinner. It might be only a few minutes… “Inuyasha, wake up!” She winced at her own shrill voice as the hanyou growled and shifted against her.

            “What the fuck?” His voice was low and rumbly, and it started something low and warm in her belly, despite his foul language.  Kagome gave herself a good shake and ignored her growing blush.  They didn’t have time for that.

            “We fell asleep, baka,” she managed to lower her pitch. “If we don’t get out of here soon, the men-”  Inuyasha interrupted her by sitting up, pulling her with him and into his lap.  She was able to get her first look at his face since they, since she had… Kagome blushed, but she couldn’t help but feel a tenderness as his ears swiveled, searching for anyone who might be about to interrupt them.  His nostrils flared, taking in scents that she could only imagine.  His hair was silky and clean, tossed over his shoulders casually to reveal his strong chest and the pillar of his throat.  Kagome’s eyes widened.  At the base of his neck, just where it joined his shoulder, was a dark red crescent.  Exactly the size and shape of her teeth. The bite she had made had already healed, but rather than the smooth flesh that normally appeared when his youkai healed an injury, a scar remained behind.  Equal parts horrified over having left such an injury, and strangely satisfied for the same reason, Kagome reached out one hand to trace lightly over the half-moon scar.

            Inuyasha’s arms instantly tightened around her and his half-lidded gaze met hers.   “Don’t, wench.” His lips parted and when his hot breath fell on her skin she shivered. “Not if you want to leave anytime soon.”

            “I didn’t...is that-?” A single fingertip followed the scar again, of its own volition.  The second time she felt a throb of heat in her own chest answering the pull that she knew Inuyasha felt. “Oh!” Her surprised gasp was cut off by his mouth.  She sank into the searing kiss for a moment before the sensation of water on her legs brought her back to reality. “Inuyasha?”  He had carried her into the spring and smoothly set her on her feet.

            “If you are gonna wash, be quick.” In the blink of an eye Inuyasha sank beneath the water and then burst forth again, droplets of moisture clinging to his lashes and hair.  He strode from the spring, heedless of his nudity, towards the crumpled pile of clothing left in the grass.  Kagome couldn’t tear her eyes away from the musculature of his thighs...and his backside.  He shook, a great deal like the dog he was, and cast a smirk over his shoulder.  “If you don’t want to wash, that’s fine.”  He drew in a deep breath and let his eyes wander over her naked body.  Kagome only stood knee-deep in the water, and his inspection left a trail of delicious fire and an awkward blush in his wake.  “I like my scent on you.” His own cheeks were flushed with embarrassment, but his voice was low and husky.  Kagome couldn’t even manage to cover herself under his obviously pleased scrutiny.  “I like it in you, bitch.”

            A flare of anger at what Inuyasha considered a term of endearment pulled her out of a lust-induced trance.  She opened her mouth to use the subjugation spell, but the quick twitch of his attention towards the path that led to the village reminded her they could be interrupted at any moment.  Kagome sank down into the water, washing as quickly and gently as she was able.  “Call me bitch again, baka,” she muttered, “and I’ll S-I-T you all the way to America.  I don’t care if it damages your naked bits.”

 

***

 

            Inuyasha couldn’t help the grin that kept escaping him as he bounded through the trees, circling the village so that they could approach from the far side, closest to Kaede’s hut. Kagome was his. Finally. His.  She told him she loved him, she accepted his mark. Fuck, she had marked him.  The toothy smile broke out again with a surge of pride in his woman.  She had not only bitten him, just as she was supposed to, but she managed to use her reiki as well.  It had worked even better than Sesshomaru had guessed it would.  Even as he dropped to the forest floor and continued running, he could feel her holy energy circulating in him.  It did not blend with his youki, but the two were twined together. Like a twisted ladder, the opposite forms of power were pulled together, supporting and holding one another so firmly that nothing could pull them apart.

            His hands tightened on her thighs.  Like us, he thought and another wave of content happiness washed over him.  He had been feeling a lot of those since he woke to find Kagome looking up at him.  He shifted his grip, allowing his palms to slide further up that he ever had before.  Where months ago he would have held onto her knees, now he felt confident in his right to smooth his claws along her thighs, to cup her bottom.  She drew in a sharp breath as he did exactly that, and he was forcibly reminded that she wasn’t wearing any undergarments.  Both of those items had not dried as quickly as his haori. Rather than let the damp fabric chafe against her skin, she had tucked them into the sleeves of the fire rat before she tied the belt at her waist.  He squeezed gently and grinned again at her exhale and the punch she landed on his shoulder.

            The scent of anger flared again and Inuyasha breathed deeply of the hot ginger.  He loved it. Loved every aspect of her scent. Loved her.  She had been anxious, smelled uncertain at the springs, so he had purposefully infuriated her.  It hadn’t occurred to him that she might ‘sit’ him, even though they had just been - done that, and he was naked; apparently she disliked ‘bitch’ more than he thought. He sighed, but there wasn’t any real irritation behind it.  He would have to tell her what he knew about inuyoukai as soon as they had a chance, not that he knew as much as he should, or he’d no doubt end up doing something on instinct that had her shrieking and throwing a fit. He enjoyed her anger, but since he had taken the opportunity to taste her other emotions, he planned on experiencing those scents in a much more intimate way than a ‘sit’.  

            She had one hand on his shoulder and the other fisted in his hair.  Her thumb brushed against the base of his ear and he stifled a groan.  Her voice tugged at his need.  “Please, Inuyasha,” her words were low and throaty, “stop.” Feeling her lips against his hair made him - stop? His ears drooped.  She doesn’t want my touch? Certainly, he knew Kagome was mad.  Hell, he could smell the anger coming off her in waves.  He hadn’t thought that meant...Kagome got mad all the time, she always forgave him and came back to him. They had mated, so she couldn’t leave. No matter how mad she got, no matter how stupid or stubborn he was, she couldn’t leave him.  He wouldn’t let her.  His hands tightened reflexively and she let out another gasp.  

            Inuyasha stopped running abruptly, forcing Kagome to clutch at his shoulders and hips or risk whiplash.  He dropped her and spun in one fluid motion, catching her arms and pulling her close so that they were face to face.  She had mated him. He told her how serious that was...forever, eternity serious.  She knew. She said she loved him. She didn’t get to change her mind.  He growled. “You’re mine, Ka-go-me.”  Her eyes widened and a trace of anxiety entered her scent.  Somewhere deep inside Inuyasha felt a twinge of guilt for frightening her, but his own fear of rejection and pain pushed it aside. “I touch what is mine. You will carry my scent, always, and you won’t leave me. You can’t leave me.” He could feel a whimper trying to escape, but he quashed it. “Just ‘cause I pissed you off, you can’t leave. I wouldn’t let you even if a mate bond could be-”

            “What are you talking about?”  Kagome’s blue eyes were wide and confused.  Inuyasha stopped, mid-tirade, and frowned.  He sniffed.  She still smelled angry, but also worried and uncertain.

            “You - you said to stop, but I-” He shook himself.  What the fuck do I got to be guilty about! She’s the one who did the...thing...with her reiki! I wasn’t at the spring makin’ myself harder than Tessaiga. She can’t do that and then act like she doesn’t want me! “There’s nobody here to see, so I’ll grab your ass if-”

            “Inuyasha,” she said firmly.  The hanyou paused.  That was the tone she used before a sitting.  He braced himself, feeling undeserving and more than a little hurt that she would want to subjugate him when they were already joined by their blood and their power. She sighed. “You baka. I wanted you to stop running so we could talk before we get to Kaede’s.” She lightly slapped the side of his head.  “Although, since you brought it up, no, you don’t get to grab my-” she blushed, “-bottom whenever you want just because we mated.”

            “We are mated,” he stressed in a quiet voice.  He searched her face, looking for any sign that she was trying to leave him.  She looked irritated. Hell, she smelled irritated, but not really angry - the ginger wasn’t hot enough.  And she hadn’t ‘sat’ him. “Why?”

            “What! Well, because- I-” she sputtered. “It’s perverted and-”

            “Why did you want to talk?”

            “Oh, right,” she glanced away, and Inuyasha had to grab her chin to force her to meet his gaze.  He truly did not understand her.  He loved her. He was certain he would die without her. But figuring her out was far beyond his capabilities.  He hated to admit it, but he might have to actually ask her things and listen if he wanted to know what she thought.  “I just...before the others find out that we...I wanted to ask about, you know, what happens next.”  He stared at her for a few long moments. What the fuck? They were mated. Next they would have more of the best thing he had ever done, and he hoped that the incredible pleasure of being inside Kagome didn’t kill him, have pups and live together forever. Obviously. “I mean...is there like a ceremony or anything? Do we get married? Can we get married? Where will we, ah, sleep while we are hunting for shards? What happens if I get pregnant before we find them all? Are you going to be more crazy than usual if I am pregnant and we are chased by a youkai? Would birth control even work on hanyou sperm? Can I call Sesshomaru ani? Will he kill me for that? Is it weird that he isn’t as scary now that I know he talked to you about this? Can you keep Miroku from being - well, himself - without killing him? What about Mama? Will you-”

            Inuyasha had to clamp one palm over her mouth to stop her chatter.  It seemed once she got started, like so many things with Kagome, she couldn’t stop.  Fuck, women worry about a lot of shit.  Her eyes were still wide, and her nostrils were flaring.  She was no doubt trying to catch her breath after all those questions.  He would acknowledge that some of those things they should probably talk about, a couple he hadn’t really considered.  She was worried about their future. Their future. Together. That meant she didn’t want to leave.

            “I built a house.”

            Silence.  Inuyasha waited for Kagome to understand what he meant.  The house was for her and their future pups.  It was, of course, near the well and Goshinboku.  Actually, he was pretty sure he had built it right where her Grandpa’s guest house for visiting priests was in the future. They would stay there, rather than at Kaede’s, whenever they weren’t hunting shards. Inuyasha figured they only had a few more to get before the jewel was whole again, considering how hard he had been working while she was gone.  If she got pupped before they were done - he felt a surge of lust, pride, and a tiny bit of fear at the thought that he would be happy to try as many times as possible - then she could stay in the village with Kaede and Miroku, wait, not with the lecher’s fuckin’ hand, with Kaede and Sango while he and Miroku finished the quest.  He figured she might want to do one of the human marriage things. He had even thought to bury a yuino gift for Mrs. Higurashi under the Goshinboku, rather than carrying it through the well, to ensure that the coins and other items inside would pass the kar-bon dating test that Kagome had told him about.  

            “Okay?”

            Inuyasha frowned. She didn’t look okay. She looked confused. Kagome always needed so many words.  Everything had to be explained as if she couldn’t just look around and see what was going on.  He sighed. “We’ll sleep in a tree, or on the ground if you want - when we’re hunting shards.” He narrowed his eyes. “But that kit ain’t sleepin’ with us.” Kagome just stared at him, and Inuyasha was nearly overwhelmed with a mounting sense of frustration. He built the house. They. Were. Mated. There wasn’t much else to talk about.  He watched her carefully until she finally closed her eyes and heaved a ridiculously long sigh.

            “Is the house for us?”

            “Yeah.”

            “Will you go back to the future with me to tell Mama?”

            “Yeah.”

            “And we’ll be married?”

            “Keh. If you want.”

            “Inuyasha-” Kagome broke off with a strangled sound that slowly morphed into a chuckle. “I think all this time-travel has damaged my brain cells. How on earth did I fall in love with someone who can’t carry on a conversation unless he is trying to get into my pants?”

            “You aren’t wearing pants,” Inuyasha said in confusion.  He immediately clicked his mouth shut when she glared at him.

            “That isn’t the point,” she snapped.  “Listen up, baka, because I am going to speak very clearly and I don’t want any confusion.”  He nodded, doing his best to suppress the shiver of fear her glare inspired. “I do not know anything about mating, or youkai sex, or how inu treat their wives, mates, whatever. You will have to tell me - exactly tell me what to expect. If we need to talk to someone else, Myouga, Bokuseno, or even,” she shuddered, “your brother.” He opened his mouth to automatically correct her to say ‘half-brother’ but was cut off. “We will do what it takes to make this work, because I love you. I mated you because I wanted to, and I would do it again, even if you do act like a baka.  I will never leave you, Inuyasha. I might not always agree with you. I might not always want to do...that… I might not understand why you do things sometimes. But I will always love you.”

            Inuyasha digested that for a few moments. She loved him. He knew that, and he supposed he couldn’t blame her for not knowing all that mating entailed.  Hell, he hadn’t really known until Sesshomaru tried to humiliate him to death.  He considered her serious expression and her scent. Maybe he had overreacted, but they really did need to talk about the ass grabbing. That was not up for negotiation.

 

***

 

            Sango considered Miroku with a narrow gaze.  The monk was up to something.  He had been watching her since he returned from the tree where she...she… Sango shook her head to clear away the blush that was gathering.  Miroku was an extremely intelligent man.  It was one of the most attractive things about him.  Unfortunately, he usually put it to the most devious uses. All afternoon he had been staring at her, staring and, well...smiling.  Miroku was good-natured, he often smiled but this...there was something about the way his lips parted when he caught her gaze, the way his eyes glowed with...something.

            She finally took the mending she was doing for Kaede to a secluded spot in the garden, right at the edge of the forest, to get away from his gaze.  She kept her back to a tree and paused in her work often to glance around her.  It was taking three times as usual for her to finish the sewing, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that Miroku was up to something.  And when he got sneaky, it never boded well for her.  She was so worried about some sort of ninja attack on her bottom, she was startled into nearly slapping Shippo when he popped out of a neat row of sweet peas.  

            “Whoa!” Shippo threw his hands over his head and rolled into a ball to avoid Sango’s upraised arm.

            “Oh, Shippo! I am so sorry, I thought you were- well,” she blushed in embarrassment, “I thought you were someone else.”

            “Sheesh, Sango, you need to relax.  Nothin’ is going to attack us in the village, not with Inubaka out there.” The kit rolled his eyes and dusted himself off.  He thrust a bouquet of flowers into her lap. “These are for you.”  They were half crushed from the kitsune’s fall, and a wide strip of paper circled the stems to keep them together. “The pervert said he’s sorry.” The kit snorted, “he didn’t say what for and I don’t want to know, okay? Anyway, he was worried you wouldn’t take them from him.”

            “What did you get for this,” Sango asked absently as she fingered the blooms.

            “Ha-ha,” his laugh was much darker than Sango had come to expect from the kit and she looked up to find an expression of evil glee on his face. “That is a secret, but don’t walk too close to Inuyasha next time we leave the village.”

            “You think we’ll all go together next time?”

            “‘Course we will,” Shippo answered confidently. “Kagome is back. She’ll have him flat on the ground in no time and then she’ll really give him a working over.”  He nodded in satisfaction and then turned to go.  Over his shoulder he called, “Oh, and he wrote something on that paper. See ya later, Sango!”  She waved absently and slowly unrolled the rice paper from the stems.  An origami dove had been concealed between the two and fell onto her lap. Beautiful kanji had been inked onto the paper:

 

A bird flies sweetly

on paper wings. Telling all

of my love for you.  *

 

            Something inside Sango’s chest warmed and softened. The sensation was only tempered by the little voice in the back of her mind, whispering, What is that lecher up to?

 

***

 

            “So it’s like, a - a good title?”

            “Keh. That’s what I been sayin’.” Inuyasha rolled his eyes at her and offered her his hand to help her over a fallen log. “Ya don’t hear me callin’ just anybody bitch, do ya?”

            “You do understand that is an extremely rude word in my time, right? And actually among humans here as well?”

            “Pfft. We ain’t in your time and I ain’t human. You are my bitch.” Inuyasha looked away and shoved his hands into his sleeves. “Unless ya don’t...if you…” Kagome hid her smile behind her hand.  His insecurity was adorable and terribly sad at the same time. She tucked her hand into the crook of his elbow and leaned her head on his shoulder as they walked.

            “I love you, Inuyasha.” She could feel the tension in his muscles ease with her words. “Although I don’t suppose I’ll ever get used to it, I’ll try not to get so mad when you call me - that.”  They walked in silence for a few minutes until Kaede’s village came into view. Kagome’s nerves suddenly returned. Inuyasha must have been able to tell, because he folded his hand over hers.

            “They’ll be happy for you, Kagome,” he said softly.

            “They’ll be happy for both of us,” Kagome responded.  She stretched on her toes to press a kiss at the corner of his mouth. “Even if they weren’t, it wouldn’t matter, Inuyasha. You are mine now, and you know how stubborn I can be about something I want.”

            “Keh.” He didn’t answer, but tugged her to get moving again.  Kagome could see the softness in his eyes and the twitch of his lips, however.  Why didn’t I say something sooner? All those years I could have been with him, but instead I was so caught up in the attitude he uses to protect-

            “You’re mine, bitch. So don’t think you can get away with your antics anymore. My mate won’t be -”

            “Inuyasha.” Kagome saw red, and she barely managed not to use the beads of subjugation. “I am trying really hard not to lose my temper with you, baka.”  His ears were lowered, no doubt in preparation for a ‘sit’.  Kagome caught sight of Sango sitting not too far away in Kaede’s garden. Maybe I need to use less stick, too.  She tugged her panties from the haori with a blush and dangled them in front of Inuyasha’s nose.  She didn’t have to worry about losing his attention, although she tried not to think about what he could smell on the brief material to make him flare his nostrils and lean towards the scrap of cotton and lace with such an intent look.  “As long as you want to keep the beads, I did promise I would try not to use them. But you need to remember, I have a few things you need to be in my good graces to get. So don’t. Piss. Me. Off.”

            At his slow nod she smiled and moved to put away her underwear. In the blink of an eye they had disappeared from her hand and Inuyasha was tossing her onto his back to ride the last hundred feet to Kaede’s.  “Keh. Just so long as you remember who is in charge here.”  Kagome gave in and rolled her eyes, content that he couldn’t see her.  His claws slid up her legs, but stopped just shy of her bottom.

            “Yeah, I’ll try to remember that.”



* Thanks to wikihow for Miroku’s poem.

Chapter Text

Chapter 12

 


            Kagome leaned back against Inuyasha’s chest and yawned.  The dinner Kaede prepared had been wonderful.  There was plenty to eat, which was good because she hadn’t had lunch and Inuyasha, as always, was starving.  Shippo launched himself at her as soon as he knew she had arrived - and promptly announced to everyone that she smelled like ‘Inubaka all over’.  With a great deal of blushing on both their parts, and a proud smirk on Inuyasha’s, they informed the group that they were a mated couple.  Kaede offered them congratulations and a blessing.  Sango blushed and gave Kagome a teary hug.  Shippo pouted and insisted she would take the hanyou’s side from now on - to which Kagome promised she would always defend him as long as he deserved it.  Miroku leered and made lewd insinuations.  He spent most of the meal unconscious due to simultaneous blows from Inuyasha and Hirokatsu.

            Kagome snuggled deeper into the warmth of Inuyasha’s chest and let out a contented sigh.  It had been awful - those months away from him.  There were times when she contemplated any means to get away from the emptiness that filled her in his absence.  She tightened her fingers on his and smiled, turning her face into his nagajuban and whispering, “Totally worth it.”

            “What’s that?”

            She grinned and leaned back to see his face, careful to keep her balance on the limb they sat on.  She wasn’t really concerned about falling from the Goshinboku; Inuyasha had a hold of her, and he would always keep her safe. His eyelids drooped a bit, but he didn’t look tired.  A fang protruded over his lower lip in a sweet doggy-smile.  He was so exotically beautiful. All of the pain she had been through, wondering if he loved her, waiting for him to get over Kikyou, even the months isolated in the future, they had been worth living through as long as she got Inuyasha in the end.  And she had him.  Instead of explaining that, she said, “The dinner.  I thought it would be much more awkward, but it feels good that everyone knows. And they are all happy for us.  I knew they would be, but still...it’s nice.” She gave him a one-armed hug and squeezed their hands where their fingers were laced together.

            “Keh. It would have been worse if the monk were awake.” Inuyasha’s eyes narrowed. “I’ll make it clear before we set out again that he needs to keep his hands and eyes to himself.”

            “And his perverted comments?”

            “He better!”  Kagome giggled at his adamant insistence and he gradually lost his scowl in place of a small smile. He stroked her hair with his claws.  “There is a rumor of a shard to the east, but it can wait for-”

            “We can go,” Kagome interrupted. “As long as you don’t mind eating breakfast with Mama so we can tell her the news.  And I need to grab my bag.  We can leave right afterward.”  She knew he was probably shocked that she was willing to go without a fight, but there were few things that could ruin the good mood she was in at that moment.  She would end up going on the hunt anyway, and leaving right away would make Inuyasha happy.  If he was happy, then she would be too. Well, for the most part, anyway.  She required a few other things as well.

            “You’ll want to talk with her. We’ll leave the day after tomorrow,” Inuyasha said decisively.

            “Oh? Think I can’t help but blabber? It will take me a whole day to run out of things to say, huh?” She managed to make her tone sound insulted, but she was struggling not to laugh at the chagrin on his face.

            “Noooo, I didn’t-”

            “It’s okay,” she kissed the corner of his mouth gently and chuckled. “I do talk a lot, and this is something Mama will want to discuss in-depth. I was just teasing you.”

            “Keh, I knew that.” Inuyasha hrrumphed and Kagome pressed a second kiss to his jaw, then a third, before he relaxed. “You can get some more ramen while we are there.”

            “Hmmm. Yes, I need supplies.  I’ll see if I can get into the clinic, too. For, ah,” she blushed and ducked her head into his chest.  It didn’t seem to matter that she had seen him naked, and vice versa, and that they had done things together that, well...really great things together.  She still couldn’t look him in the eye and talk about contraception. “That medicine to make sure I don’t get pregnant right away.”  They sat in silence for a while until Inuyasha’s halting words broke it.

            “You don’t mind, do you?”

            “Mind what?” she asked sleepily.

            “That our children will be half-breeds, less than that even.”  Kagome couldn’t help herself, she slapped him across the chest - hard.

            “Do not ever call our children that again, Inuyasha no Toga! They won’t be less than anything!” She lost some of her anger looking at the shocked expression on his face.  He really is worried that our children wouldn’t be accepted.  “They’ll be perfect,” she whispered. She smiled gently and brushed her fingers over his cheek. “You better get used to it, because I won’t let anybody talk down on a hanyou - not even you.”

            “You think you can tell me what I can call myself?” He growled, a teasing tone in his voice that warmed her heart.

            “Nobody talks bad about my mate,” she growled back and snapped her teeth at him.  She laughed, right up until she found herself crushed against his chest.  Her legs dangled on either side of the branch, her pelvis snug against his.  His arm forced her breasts tight against his chest, his hand clenched her hair and forced her head back, revealing her neck.  She barely had time to let out a shocked gasp before she felt his teeth on her mate mark.  The pinprick of his fangs and his hot breath sent a spear of hot pleasure from the scar straight to her core.  She couldn’t help but moan.  

            “Another lesson, bitch,” his voice was gravelly again, and it sent ripples of anticipation dancing across her nerves. “Don’t snap your teeth at me unless you want to challenge my right.”

            “Right to what?” she said breathlessly.  She thought she could guess, but the way he grazed her skin with his teeth and his tongue darted out to caress her mark had her thoughts growing hazy.

            “To dominate you, to make you my bitch, my mate. You are mine Kagome, but if you challenge me, my instinct will be to force you to submit.”  He withdrew his teeth and pressed his forehead against hers.  She was pleased that his breath seemed to come just as hard as hers.  “I don’t want to hurt you, Kagome.”

            “You would never hurt me, Inuyasha. No you, not your youkai, certainly not your human.” He grunted with derision and she licked his jawline in the sign of submissiveness he had taught her. “I love you. I love the way you make me feel, the way you touch me.” She pressed another kiss against his jaw and steeled herself against the blush that was blooming on her cheeks - just considering her next words. “I want to make you feel this good too. If you want to prove you are the alpha, then do it.” She swallowed hard, and tried to steady her suddenly husky voice. “Prove to me that ‘bitch’ is more than just a crude word, Inuyasha. If you want me-” She didn’t get a chance to finish as his hand wrenched her hair and he bit down on her mark.  She could feel the blood welling around his fangs, but the pain was distant and easily ignored in favor of the rapidly coiling heat in her belly.  She squirmed against him, whether trying to get closer or move away she wasn’t sure.  He made a noise of rebuke and wrapped his free arm around her waist, pulling her hard against him.  The bulge between his legs pressed against her naked flesh just as another wave of heat flared from her mark.  The dam holding back her desire, her pleasure, broke and her back arched.  Her vision grew dark, and she was only vaguely aware of the withdrawal of his fangs.

            She did not get an opportunity to recover, as the cool night air washed across her skin.  The fire rat sagged to her elbows and her breasts were exposed.  Her nipples tightened painfully and gooshflesh rose on her skin. “Inu-” she started, but finished on a gasp.  So good! His mouth latched onto her breast and his fingers found her heat.  He had to pull her off of him to make room for his hand.  If she hadn’t been preoccupied with gripping his hair to pull his mouth closer to her abused flesh, she might have been embarrassed at how tightly she was grinding against him.  His nails had already started to grow back from the trimming he gave them earlier, and she shuddered in excitement as the deadly claws skimmed over her most sensitive flesh.  They dove into the hair on her mound, quickly finding her clit and Kagome lost a few moments to the blinding pleasure of smooth claws and calloused fingers against that bundle of nerves.

            “A, kamis!” Her scream was muffled by a lack of oxygen as his knuckle found its way into her slick heat.   Kagome wanted to die. She was flying, sinking, drowning, being pulled and pressed from every direction. She was more alive than she had ever been and every sensation was centered on the feel of her mate. His fingers, his mouth, the press of his muscular arm against her naked back under the haori.  He released her breast with a wet ‘pop’ and his claws slid out of her hair to replace his teeth on her tormented nipple.

            “Don’t snap your teeth at an inu, Kag-o-me,” he growled.  He flicked her with his claws - both her clit and her nipple, and she came again.  Stars exploded behind her eyes and she moaned into his hair as he pulled her close.  The thud of his feet hitting the ground brought her back to reality and she stared at him dazedly.  He pulled the fire rat roughly from her, flinging it on the ground and forcing her to follow.  Her legs trembled and she found herself on all fours, Inuyasha behind her and leaning over her. She realized through the haze of a fading orgasm that he was naked and she had a moment to wonder where his hakama had gone before he pressed his erection against her swollen flesh. She blinked over her shoulder to find his eyes rimmed in red. He was still very much in control of his youkai; he had chosen to follow his instincts.  “When your mate demands submission,” he continued the lesson, pressing his mouth close to her ear, “give it.”

            His tongue flicked out to trace her ear and he followed it with his teeth on her earlobe. His bite was hard enough to draw blood, but the wound was immediately soothed with his tongue.  She moaned, torn between begging him to stop, to let her apologize for the teasing and make love to him, and urging him on.  His claws trailed down her spine to squeeze her bottom, deadly points raking lightly against the cleft of her body.  She shuddered, awash in delectable sensation that bordered between intense pleasure and near pain.  Even as a full-demon, Inuyasha had never hurt her - at least, not in any way that didn’t also have her begging for release.

            “Shouldn’t...shouldn’t…” Her voice trailed away as his lips found the joint of her shoulder and his free hand found her breast.  He kneaded and sucked, pulling the thin flesh of her neck into his mouth while his fingers played with her nipple. She moaned, “Shouldn’t submission be earned?”

            He growled, the rumbling vibration seeping from his chest into hers and sparking another rush of liquid between her legs.  Kagome’s arms shook with anticipation, but she didn’t have to hold herself up for long. “Bitch,” he murmured.  He left her breast to lay his palm flat between her shoulder blades and press her to the ground.  Her cheek lay against the warmth of the fire rat, but his fingers tracing her lower lips kept her bottom high in the air. Less than twenty-four hours from losing my virginity and I’m already begging him, she thought wildly.  His chest left her back and she was left bereft for a moment until she felt his breath on her inner thigh. Totally worth it.

 

***

 

            Inuyasha stared at the soft petals of Kagome’s cunt and had to lick his lips to keep from drooling.  She was playing a dangerous game. She taunted his instincts, called out his rights.  He knew she was teasing, but his youkai responded to that light in her eyes, the scent of her arousal as she challenged him to ‘make her’... She was his fate, his mate, the only thing that could balance his two halves, not just suppress his demon blood like the seal of Tessaiga, but give his blood full reign and still keep his sanity intact. Inuyasha had wanted Kagome for three years, and if she was willing to let him dominate her as he chose and brand her body with his, then he damn well would take advantage.

            He breathed in the spicy sake scent of her and practically barked in need.  His tongue slipped out without any direction from him and traced her, catching every drop of the sweet, salty liquid she made just for him.  Fuck, he wanted her.  He wanted her when he woke up beside her at the spring, smelling his mouth on her breasts and his seed on her legs.  He wanted her when he carried her through the forest, smelling the hot ginger of her anger and feeling her naked ass in his hands.  He wanted her as they walked and spoke of youkai customs and instincts. As she blushed and stammered and tried to make him feel more comfortable while she asked how often they would fuck and when he would pup her. He wanted her as they sat side-by-side in Kaede’s hut, listening to well wishes and suffering teasing glances, smelling her happiness of ume and apples. He wanted her as they sat in the Goshinboku and looked at the stars.  He knew she was sore, knew with great satisfaction that she had been a virgin. He thought she would want to move slowly and so had curbed his desires as best he could and held his mate, his Kagome, while lust and instinct combined into an inferno that demanded to be quenched with the sweetest liquid he had ever known.

            She wanted him too. She told him to take her and he didn’t - couldn’t - wait to ask if she had second thoughts.  This was Kagome. His tongue darted out again and he drank in the sounds of her moans alongside the nectar he licked from her thighs. This was Kagome, and Kagome was his. He would prove his worth as a mate to her. He would imprint himself on her - not just his mark, although that was the most important, but his scent, his seed, his youki and aura.  Kagome and any who came into her presence would know she was his, now and always.  

            Dormant for hours after making a decisive claim, his youkai rumbled inside him in agreement.  His aura spread out, blanketing the forest around them and calling to her reiki.  She responded, by thought or instinct Inuyasha didn’t know or care, and made an eager, mewling sound that called to his cock.  Her own aura exploded, casting a pink glow around them.  He could feel their energy pushing against each other, not battling, but testing.  Hers caressed his skin, calling his passions and instincts out further.  As before, the release of her power brought her to the edge of something immense.  Inuyasha grinned against her flesh and growled, his nose pressed into her slit to inhale her scent and his lips around her sensitive nub.  She screamed.  The sound bounced against the twin barrier created by their auras and rebounded on his ears.  The high pitch was painful, but Inuyasha could not help the fierce satisfaction that filled him.

            He gripped her thighs and stood on his knees behind her, no longer willing to wait to feel her around him.  “Bitch,” he repeated, tracing her spine with his tongue, “you have more than earned it.” He thrust forward in one quick surge.  She is so fuckin’ tight! He growled and slammed his claws into the earth on either side of them, rather than risk seriously hurting her.  Her muscles clamped around him, holding his cock captive in the only prison he never wanted to escape.  

            “Inu - Inu- Inu-” she panted.  He could smell the faint edge of pain on her, but it was quickly drowned out with the smoky musk of her desire, or was that his? Their scents blended together so that he couldn’t tell where her spicy sake and sweet flowers ended and his own earthier essence began.

            “Fuck,” he ground out.  The game had started as a way to teach her the fine line between teasing and challenge. A hot, satisfying way to share her amused joke and quell his own raging lust. Buried in her wet heat, he had trouble remembering why he shouldn’t just pound away at her until he came - and then keep going until he could do so again.  His balls were full to bursting and if anything, his cock was getting harder.  She is so fuckin’ tight! Inuyasha forced his claws to relax their death grip on the soil and dragged them along the haori.  Breathe. Breathe.  Each time he inhaled, her scent coated his nose all over again, and this time it wasn’t just her reaching into his lungs to intoxicate him and down to his groin to stoke him.  He had already been with her, in her, and that scent made him even more eager to claim her again. Her hips twitched and he gripped her, hard, trying his best not to pierce the skin again. “Kag-o-me,” he bit out warningly, “don’t move or I’ll…”

            “Please tell me you’ll finish me,” she whimpered. He was lost.  He pulled out of her achingly constricted passage and slammed in again, packing her full of his cock and drawing out a mewl of pleasure and pain.  He licked her shoulder in sympathy, but he couldn’t stop himself from withdrawing again. “More, please...I need… Yes!” His fingers found the juicy little berry between her legs and he flicked. “A, kamis! Yes, Inu- Inuyasha!” He leaned over her for better access and strummed her flesh with an accuracy born of careful examination during their first time.  She writhed and twisted, still looking for a release that he held back until she had built up enough frustration. Not yet, he snarled to himself, trying to check his own thrusts so as not to finish them both.  His claws circled once more then he pinched her gently. She bit off another scream and bucked back against him, but he refused to speed up his rhythm. “Please, please fuck me you-”

            He gave a feral grin, satisfied that she had finally reached her pinnacle. “Submit,” he managed to rip the word from his own clenched jaws. She whimpered and moaned, unable to speak under the dual onslaught of his hands and cock.  Finally, when he thought he would have to give up any pretense of the game just to bring them both over the edge, she tossed her head to the side in an obvious display of her vulnerable neck and his mate mark on it.  “Yes,” he snarled. His finger dipped low to collect some of her moisture and then he traced her again, this time with the speed and pressure he knew she wanted. Within in seconds her back was arching and her walls spasmed around him.  He straightened and grabbed a secure hold on each of her hips, pumping into her with abandon.  His release came before hers was finished, and they sank to the ground in a boneless heap.

            Inuyasha took a moment...or three, to get his breath back and lever his weight off of her so that she wouldn’t be crushed. He lay down on his back in the cool grass and pulled Kagome onto his chest.  Her damp skin was rapidly cooling, and he pulled the fire rat over them both when he felt her shiver.  Her breathing grew slow and even, and she settled against him, wrapping her arms around his chest and pressing her breasts against him. Satisfied though he was, he felt his cock twitch when her warm breath puffed against his own mate mark.  He smiled slowly, ignoring the blush on his own cheeks and determined to allow her at least an hour’s sleep before he woke her again.  Perhaps the next time, now that his instincts were sated, he would allow her to sit up in his lap. Perhaps he would even move them indoors. He pressed a kiss to her hair and grinned outright, recalling her abandon when she was close to completion.  It’s a good thing the barrier went up; no one would ever believe that Kagome can cuss as well as I can.

 

***

 

            “You’re sure he got the message?”

            “He’d have to be an idiot not to understand,” Sango rolled her eyes and blushed.  Kagome had linked their arms together, and for once they strolled at a leisurely pace rather than being rushed by a grumpy hanyou.  She spared their leader a glance.  Inuyasha walked at the front of the group, steadfastly ignoring Miroku’s winks and obvious throat-clearing.  Shippo sat on the monk’s shoulder, occasionally glancing back at the women.  He often grinned, and Sango knew he was excited about whatever surprise he and Miroku had planned for the inu, but Sango also knew he looked back so often to reassure himself that Kagome was still there.  He had been badly affected by her prolonged absence and it would take time for him to trust that she would not leave without word again.

            “You were using step two though, right?”  Sango nodded at Kagome’s quiet inquiry, feeling her face heat up even further.  “Well, then as much as I hope he gets it, you can’t always trust that a man is paying attention when you have your tongue on his ear.”

            “Have you…” Sango wondered out loud.  Both women glanced at Inuyasha, his furry ears flicking and rotating madly, no doubt unable to avoid eavesdropping on them.  Kagome turned so red Sango was worried her hair might catch on fire.

            “Later,” the priestess whispered, “when we can talk alone.” Inuyasha glanced over his shoulder at her pointed comment.  Sango was caught at the edge of a smoldering stare between the new couple.  For a moment, she was filled with a tense mix of embarrassment, envy, and a twist of desire that had her wondering if she could ever receive such a glance from her own beloved - without having to interrupt it to smack away an offensive hand.

            “He sent me flowers,” she announced quietly.  Kagome raised her eyebrows and smiled, and Sango felt a rush of girlish pleasure that was unfamiliar and rare for the slayer.  “It came with a poem.”  She studied the monk’s back to make certain he was occupied before she withdrew the carefully folded rice paper from her sleeve.  Kagome read it quickly, sighing with romantic longing that stroked Sango’s pride.

            “It’s beautiful.”

            “And there was this,” Sango continued.  She displayed the little origami dove, and had to quickly hide it again when Kagome’s squeal of excitement made the others turn and stare.  They waited impatiently for the males to return to their pace and other interests before continuing.  “So what do I do now?”

            “Well…” Kagome drew out the sound. “You could tell him how much you liked the gift and ask him to walk with you after lunch. We are getting really close to the stream we usually stop at. Or,” the miko smiled wickedly, despite her continued blush, “you could move on to step three.”

            “Step three!” Sango squeaked.  The others stopped walking again and turned to stare.  Sango was very aware that she had probably never squeaked before in her life.  She turned her face to study the trees and smoothed her hair self-consciously while they waited for the group to begin moving again.  “I don’t think I can do step three,” she confided.

            “It’s up to you, Sango.  I know that isn’t probably something that...well, I...I mean, your time is more...conservative than mine.  But if you do plan on-” Sango followed Kagome’s sharp glance to Miroku.  The monk had bent his head to allow Shippo to whisper in his ear.  “If you plan on marrying him one day, hopefully soon, then the only way you should feel bad about this is if you make yourself feel bad.”

            “It’s…” Sango bit her lip in trepidation. “You promise it is nice - he’ll like it?”

            “Dear sister,” Kagome’s eyes twinkled. “He’ll love it.  And it can be nice for you too, trust me.”  Sango took a deep breath and considered Kagome’s opinion.  Despite being older than the priestess from the future, she trusted Kagome to be knowledgeable on many things that were unfamiliar to her.  More than that, she trusted her friend, the sister of her heart, to advise her on matters that only women could talk to one another about.  Matters which she could bring up to no one else.  She had no mother, no other sisters, no other female friends.  She had always respected Kagome’s future-knowledge as well as her guidance.  She followed Kagome’s gaze to the inuhanyou who led them.  Especially now that she has...experienced so much first hand.  Sango blushed at the thought, both eager to speak with Kagome alone and so flustered at the pending conversation she could barely move.  Perhaps she should continue with the plan.  She hadn’t needed the stick, as it were, for more than two days.  Miroku had been behaving himself admirably.  She only needed to muster the courage to -

            “Hey mutt! Where’s my woman?” Koga appeared in the path, just a few feet from Inuyasha, in a swirl of dust.  “Oh, no,” Kagome sighed.  Sango stared blankly for a moment, before recognizing the low deadly growl rumbling from Inuyasha.  The wolf youkai didn’t seem to notice it, nor the way Inuyasha’s hands were splayed - claws rapidly extending.  He spotted Kagome and waved. “Kagome, are you ready to leave this dog turd and become my mate?”

            “You better do something quick before-” Sango didn’t get a chance to finish warning the priestess before Inuyasha snarled and leaped at Kagome’s persistent suitor.  His claws slashed and his teeth snapped, circling the youkai until he faced the group. His eyes had turned pink, and his fangs stuck out over his lip.  Sango sucked in a breath, she had never seen Inuyasha transform so readily.  Koga seemed to always step just out of reach, turning and taunting the hanyou.

            “This is ridiculous, someone is really going to get hurt,” Kagome huffed.  Sango turned to stare at her in shock.  Although there was a trace of real concern in her voice, the miko sounded more irritated than anything.  Exactly how accustomed has she become to Inuyasha’s youkai?

            “What’s the matter, dog breath? Finally figured out she wanted me all along?” That would be Koga’s last mistake, Sango was sure.  Laying claim to the mate of another youkai was almost always a challenge to the death.

            “My mate,” Inuyasha snarled.  He lunged, claws extended, to rip Koga’s adulterous heart from his chest.  

            A cascade of acorns fell on Inuyasha’s head.

            Sango stared, completely dumbfounded.  The feeling didn’t last long as Shippo began laughing so hard he tumbled off Miroku’s shoulder and rolled in the dust.  Sango’s mouth fell open in shock.  It had all been a kitsune trick.  She noted rather numbly that it had been excellent, magic far beyond what Shippo’s latest attempts had revealed.  He must have been practicing.  Inuyasha did not seem to appreciate the little prank nearly as much.

            “You little fucker,” he snarled.  The red had mostly disappeared from his eyes under the wild onslaught of tree nuts, but his anger was still palpable.

            “EEP! Kagome!” The kitsune ducked behind the miko and Kagome rolled her eyes, again.  

            “Shippo, if you can’t take the consequences of your own tricks, you shouldn’t pull them,” she admonished.  Sango was surprised, again.  Kagome hardly ever took Inuyasha’s side in such arguments.  Miroku started. Shippo whined in fear. Inuyasha was overcome with a pleasantly surprised smirk.  Kagome sighed. “Sango, why don’t you and the others get a fire going and we can break early today. Inuyasha,” she interrupted his protest before he could make any sound, and, again to Sango’s consternation, did not ‘sit’ him. “I think we need to have a talk. Privately.” The hanyou got a gleam in his eye and nodded sharply.  As Kagome turned off the path to walk with her mate into the woods, she whispered to the slayer, “Training takes time.”

            Sango considered her friend’s words and sly wink carefully as the slayer followed the monk to the clearing ahead.  Kagome and Inuyasha still fought like little children, she surmised that they might always do so, but they were also both happier and more confident and centered than she had ever seen them.  I want that.  She called to Shippo to gather wood and strode past Miroku, calming declaring her intention to wash up and ordering him to get fish for lunch.

            She was at least twenty feet in front of him before she heard the monk start moving.  “As you wish, dearest Sango,” he answered in a strangled voice.  Sango couldn’t restrain her triumphant grin, although her face felt like it was on fire.  Her hand was warm too, but that was less from mortification and more from the ghosting sensation of Miroku’s backside when she had squeezed it.