InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Possession ❯ Twenty ( Chapter 20 )

[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]

Possession 20
Present Day
Inuyasha burst out of the water, gasping. It was a damn good thing that he could hold his breath longer than a human, even longer than an average youkai. He would never have been able to stay under long enough to tear that thing to shreds if he wasn't and these two idiots would be dead for sure.
He'd actually panicked when he'd seen Kagome pulled under, wrapped in the tentacles of a particularly hungry river youkai. The damn things were rare in these parts, but not unheard of. Usually they didn't attack boats either, which was why he hadn't hesitated about taking this route. They tended to feed on large fish, on animals that got too close to the river, or the occasional unwary human or demon that had the piss-poor luck to fall in. This one must have been damn hungry to attack like that.
Hungry or not, it was now dead thanks to his claws. Inuyasha waded to the bank with his waterlogged companions tucked safely under his arms. Shippou was coughing and groaning, but at least the damn brat wasn't fighting anymore. In the confusion, he'd taken a swipe or two at Inuyasha when he'd been trying to rescue him from the monster. The only way to get the disoriented kitsune to subside had been to pop him right in the jaw, knocking him silly enough that he didn't struggle when Inuyasha finally pulled him free.
The priestess was very quiet, probably just stunned. Inuyasha grunted as he pulled them up the bank, water pouring from his clothing and hair. He dropped Shippou hard on the ground, smirking as the soaked kitsune yelped and then lay quiet. Stupid kid, he shouldn't have fought and used up all his air so quickly. It would have been better just to let the beast drag him under and tear it apart when he got his bearings.
He was a little gentler when he put Kagome down, rolling the priestess over on her back so that he could see if she'd taken any damage from the attack. She'd probably swallowed quite a bit of water, but he knew she hadn't been under for that long.
“Hey,” he said, slapping lightly at her cheeks. “You okay, girl?”
Her face was pale and waxy, her lips almost blue. Roughly, he turned her over on her side and shook her, hoping she'd vomit up the water she'd swallowed. Water ran from her mouth all right, but she was limp as a dead fish and he felt that strange sense of panic setting in again. She couldn't be dead; he'd been quick enough, hadn't he?
“Damn,” he cursed, thinking that he was the fool. He shook her again and realized for the first time that she wasn't breathing. He slapped at her face a little harder this time, feeling the darkness at the back of his mind swimming. A nameless fear took hold of him, a desperation that he didn't recognize. He was supposed to save her, protect her, and here he was, failing her!
“Don't give up on me, damn you,” he muttered angrily as he pulled the woman into his lap.
A memory suddenly surfaced in his mind, an old one from many years ago. When he'd been a child, just a pup barely out of diapers, his mother had lived in a village that was near a river. He could just barely remember it, standing near the water with his mother's hand clenched tight in his.
A child had fallen from a boat. He could remember smelling the panic and grief radiating from the humans as they tried to revive her. The desperate father had placed his mouth of that of the little girl, trying to breathe for her even as her family wept and wailed around him. That father's face, transcended in fear, had struck the young hanyou, he could still remember clinging to his mother and crying because everyone else was crying.
Then the little girl had gasped, coughing and vomiting up water as her father sobbed over her and stroked her hair. Inuyasha had thought it was nothing less than a miracle; magic the father must have conjured to bring the child back. Now he was older and he understood things better.
Carefully, he tilted her head back in his palm and covered her mouth with own. He closed his eyes and exhaled into her lungs. Her chest expanded slightly with his breath and then relaxed. Again, he breathed for her, resolving that he wasn't going to let her get away with letting herself be killed. He'd never hear the end of it from that fucking wolf or his kitsune brat if he let this priestess just die on him and did nothing to prevent it.
“Come on,” he whispered, breathing for her again. He didn't know what else to do, if he should shake her or hit her on the back to make her revive. Humans were so fragile, so weak. It was a mystery how any of them managed to survive in such a harsh world, how they kept trying to survive. He would breathe for her until she was able to do so on her own. It didn't matter how long it took.
He pulled his mouth from hers and wiped the hair away from her cheek, his expression more gentle and tender than anyone had seen it in years. “Don't give up,” he whispered again. “Don't let it win, you're tougher than this.”
He was losing, he could feel her slipping away from him and he squeezed the woman tight, gritting his teeth in frustration. “Damn it, Kagome! Wake up!”
Inuyasha felt her stir, her body twitching in his arms and sighed in relief. He leaned back to look at her closely, his face hovering only inches from hers. Her cheeks weren't so pale now; her lips had lost that unhealthy tinge of blue even if they were still pale as a fish's underbelly. He cupped her cheek in his palm, smiling a little as the woman slowly opened her eyes.
“You still here?” he murmured.
Her eyes were unfocused and glassy; she seemed to be looking through him, not at him. As if she'd already passed into the land of unseen dreams, never to return. Cradling her carefully against his chest as if she were so fragile she might break apart, Inuyasha felt her hand come up to rest on his shoulder, the fingers twisting in his hair. Concerned, he leaned closer to catch the ghost of whisper when she spoke.
“I'm here,” he answered softly. Then she tilted her chin up and murmured something he didn't understand. Her fingers curved around the back of his neck, drawing him down to her and she pressed her lips to his, kissing him. For a moment, he froze in confusion, feeling the woman's mouth warming under his and then he closed his eyes, accepting the gentle kiss.
Warm and sweet, deadly as intention, he wanted to fall into that kiss. He knew he was falling, he knew that he had lost the battle, it was all over. She would draw him inside her and devour him, tear apart the last hanging shreds of his soul and he…did not care…
She could drag him to hell with her kiss and he didn't care. He could almost feel it, the ground opening underneath him, vines curling around his legs, binding him tight to this priestess that he'd already pledged his soul to protect.
To love
“Get away from her, you son of a bitch!”
Something hard slammed into him, sent him sprawling as he fell across the woman's body. Hard hands seized him by his hair and dragged him up before a fist smashed into his face and blood poured from his nose. Shippou hit him again; Inuyasha made no attempt to defend himself as the kitsune's fury split his lips and bloodied his chin.
“You bastard,” Shippou raged, completely out of control. “We almost drowned and you take advantage of Kagome! I'm going to kill you!”
“You can try,” Inuyasha murmured, cracking a bloody smile at him. He wanted to laugh at the expression on the fox's face, his jealous fury made him look insane. As insane as everything around them and Inuyasha spat blood at him and smirked.
“What's the matter, punk?” he husked as Shippou seized him by his haori and cocked back a fist. “Wish you were the one who kissed her instead?”
“You aren't fit to live,” the kitsune snarled, his eyes almost glowing with green fire and hatred.
“Maybe not,” Inuyasha growled back. He surged upward and hit Shippou hard in the face with his forehead and heard the kitsune's nose break. It only took a second, as the will returned to his body and anger replaced the desire to laugh. He sent Shippou flying back with a powerful kick and leapt to his feet as he grabbed a handful of red hair.
“I might not be fit to live but you wouldn't be alive if it wasn't for me,” he said coldly, dragging the struggling young fox back to the river. “I knew I should have let you drown, rat.”
Furious now, he pulled Shippou into the water and shoved him under. “That's okay, I know how to fix that mistake!”
This was fun; he could feel the fox weakening under his grip, his struggles becoming less as the strength slowly drained out of him. “Heh, you were tough a minute ago when you caught me by surprise.”
He wrenched Shippou out of the water, his hand still buried cruelly in the kitsune's hair. The young man gasped, coughing up water but still glaring at him with pure hatred and defiance.
“Tell you what,” Inuyasha said pleasantly, giving the boy a shake that made him yelp in pain. “You apologize and I won't kill you. Sound like a deal?”
“Fuck you,” Shippou coughed, water still pouring from his mouth.
Inuyasha's eyes lit with sadistic pleasure. “You're gonna learn not to fuck with me, brat,” he said, enjoying this more than he had any right to. “Have another drink!”
“Inuyasha, no!”
Her desperate voice made him turn around. The priestess was sitting up, her hair sticking to her face like wet spider webs and he saw a world of pain in her eyes that had nothing to do with her near drowning. Shaking, she slowly got to her feet, her arms wrapped around her body like she was trying to keep her heart from being torn from her chest.
“Let him go,” she said miserably, not looking at him. “Please. He doesn't understand.”
He stared at her a moment before dropping the half-drowned fool. “Just keep him the fuck away from me,” he hissed, wondering why the look in her eyes had the power to make him feel so ashamed of himself. He swore that he didn't know who he was anymore; it seemed like nothing made sense. She kept bringing out these feelings in him that he didn't understand. And didn't want.
One minute he was pissed enough to drown both her and that stupid fox in the river…the next he felt like he should be the one who was protecting them.
What in the hell was going on?
He used to think he knew.
Ten Years Earlier
Anger was coursing through his veins like a molten fire, a tidal wave of devastation. So she thought she could just fall through the well and he wouldn't follow? Her pathetic little wards couldn't constrain a demon like him. Inuyasha laughed, the sound echoing harsh like madness around the still glade.
“Bitch,” he hissed. “This isn't over yet.”
He wouldn't have recognized his own face right now; it was so twisted with hatred and murder. Snarling with fury and desire, yes, desire to hurt, to maim, to tear her into tiny pieces and devour her living heart had transformed him into something beyond a nightmare. He was youkai. More than youkai, he was pure evil and the woman he had chosen was going to learn that in every painful way.
He ran at the well, his breath coming in long, ragged gasps, and threw himself headlong into the ancient portal. She would pay for defying him!
Agony shot through his body as soon as he touched the well, barely getting a fingertip past the threshold before he was violently thrown back. Brilliant light filled the sky and blinded him; every nerve of his body was suddenly flooded with white-hot pain, burning torment. Inuyasha howled in sheer anguished fury, sounding like a beast that had been made mad from torture before its death. He hit the ground hard enough to cave it in, his face buried in the soft, dark earth.
When he came to, he couldn't think, his head was throbbing as if a thousand blows had been rained upon his skull. He tried to open his eyes and get his bearings but the intensity of the pain was so great he vomited, heaving until his body trembled and shook. Just like a lowly human, exactly like a human. His mind cleared suddenly, clouds parting and the clarity of a moonlit night filled his muddled heart. For a long time, he just lay still, breathing deeply and trying to come to terms with what had just happened.
She was gone. He'd never thought he'd drive her away and he never thought that he'd be the one to betray her. After everything they had endured together, for each other, Inuyasha had never dreamed that he'd be the one to cause her pain.
He looked down at his hands in revulsion. The long claws, the way the blood had sparkled on them had excited him only a few minutes ago. Her fear, her pain, they had thrilled him, driven him to the brink of ecstasy. Now like a passing dream, that thrill was dead and cold. He was left alone to face the truth of what he had almost done, the truth of what he had become.
Closing his eyes, he sank to the ground and sighed heavily. He had struck her; he'd struck little Shippou. There could never be forgiveness for what he had done. His intentions hadn't been to become a monster. He'd only wanted to protect them from the demon inside of him. Now look at him, he'd become everything he'd ever hated because he'd made the most horrifying mistake of his life.
The power and strength that he'd desired in his heart, it hadn't been because he was afraid of losing in battle. It was the battle inside him that had always terrified him, made him fear for the lives of his friends. The Tessaiga had made him an equal with the most powerful of youkai, even his always smugly superior brother. But in the end, he feared his dependence upon it to keep his own violence contained. Kagome wouldn't love someone who was a mindless monster.
He never should have tried to make her stay.
Staggering a little, he stood up and looked around. His head was still spinning from the spiritual power that had overwhelmed his youkai strength. The well had rejected him and Inuyasha could only feel gratitude for that. At least something had stopped him before he'd acted on those violent, murderous urges. If he'd been able to follow her…
Unbidden, the vision of what he'd intended flooded his mind with lurid dreams of rape and torture. He shuddered, sickened again and let out a wordless cry of pain. Her family had shown him nothing but kindness! Kagome had never given him anything less than the very acceptance he'd craved for his entire life! Now it was lost to him, slipped away down an old, darkened well to a place where demons no longer walked and monsters like him were only made for fairy tales.
Once upon a time, a girl fell in love with a half-demon boy
“I'm sorry,” he whispered, wishing she were there to hear the words, wishing there was some way he could tell her that this time he wasn't lying. He hadn't meant to lie to her before; the words had come tumbling out of his mouth, his arms tightening around her back until she cried out in pain. Tears pricked at the corners of his eyes, hot with all the shame that burned inside his heart.
“I'm so sorry, Kagome.”
You cry like a little girl…
The voices whispered like poison in his mind, it came from the darkness and made his ears twitch. He was on his feet immediately, searching around him wildly with his heart hammering like thunder in his chest. Nameless panic filled him, knowing the sound of those voices but still trying to deny their source.
“Who's there?” he snarled, his fists clenched and damning anyone who would dare to mock his pain.
You're better off without her…that bitch only slowed us down…
“Us?” he asked fearfully, knowing the voices were too familiar, too intimate to have come from anywhere else but inside his own battered soul. “Who are you?”
Only silence answered him and Inuyasha bared his teeth at the quiet forest, daring it to fight. A light breeze stirred his hair, made the trees whisper obscenely. He was alone, he was sure of it. Unless his grief and self-loathing had truly driven him insane, maybe he was only imagining things.
A dark laugh echoed in his ears so loudly that it couldn't be mistaken. It rolled like thunder in his brain, cracking open the endless sky. It was the sound of his damnation and the sound of his death and Inuyasha was driven to his knees from the overwhelming pain.
“Stop it,” he cried, desperate now. “Just leave me alone!”
Pathetic…you don't even know what you really are…
“I know what I am,” he ground out, clasping both hands to his aching skull. Damn, why did they have to be so loud?
Fool… you're the same as us…
You should have killed her sooner…then she never would have left you…
It was what you truly wanted…
Battering against him, tearing his heart to shreds, it ate at him like a wildfire consuming his body. The harder he tried not to listen, not to see, the more unbearable it became until pain was all that Inuyasha had left. He fought it back; rolling on the ground and flailing as he begged and pleaded with the monsters to leave his mind, just leave him to die if that was his fate.
Give in…join with us…become as you were always meant to be…
“I'll never give in,” he husked, his voice every bit as dry and cracked as his body.
Pain had filled him, defined him, and gave him its form. Lightning coursed his veins, torturing his limbs into helpless convulsions. He knew he was blind, darkness had spilled over and filled his eyes, blood crusted his mouth. The only way he knew that he was still alive and not in hell was that he could still hear his own pain-wracked breathing.
“I'd rather die than let you use me anymore,” Inuyasha whispered, unable to fight any more. He was too weakened by their torment, by his own despair. But he wasn't going to let them win.
He wouldn't give in, but it didn't seem like defeat if he was allowed to die. For the first time, he saw himself for what he was, what they had made him. Those voices, those awful voices that had been part of him since the moment the jewel had burst in his palm. The souls of a thousand angry demons had devoured him, fool that he was, and he'd never thought about them until it was too late.
“I won't let you hurt Kagome ever again!”
Fool…you think we'd let you die and take this body with you…no, son of Inu no Taisho, we will not allow you to die…
“Damn you,” he snarled, summoning strength from somewhere deep within his soul. His father's name gave him a fresh burst of rage and he fought their control with every last bit of stubbornness he'd ever owned. He had no power left to fight for his life, but damn them to hell! He would fight for his death!
Wrenching his arms free, he raised his claws to his face and tore at his own skin. He felt the monsters inside him howl with rage as he ripped his own flesh, determined to destroy this body that had been the cause of so much terror. In the still moonlight, blood splattered dark onto the grass in abstract ribbons. He tore out handfuls of his own hair, letting the silvery strands fall around him in shimmering, ghostly cobwebs.
Stop that!
“Why?” he gasped, listening to the eerie sound of his own blood still dripping. “Does it hurt?”
Silence, only blessed silence. Inuyasha dropped to his knees, exhausted and weakened by the loss of blood. It might be damned hard for a youkai to bleed to death but he was going to give it a try. He fell forward on his face, his cheek resting in the soft grass and the scent of his own blood heavy in his nostrils.
This is how it's supposed to be, he thought with dizzy satisfaction. I finally won, I'm finally…free of them.
The soft voice didn't make him stir; even his ears lay flat and limp in his hair. He was imagining that voice, he was sure of it. There was no way she'd come back to him.
Hands pulled at his shoulders, warm hands, and he could smell the salty scent of her tears. He squeezed his eyes shut, willing her to just go away, to just leave him.
Go back down the well, back where it's safe
“Inuyasha,” she said again, her voice broken with grief. “Inuyasha, please! You have to live; you have to stay with me! Stay for me, Inuyasha!”
No, please don't be real. Kagome, you can't be real, you can't be here
He could feel the warmth of her cheek against his back, the softness of her hair as it tickled over his shoulders. There was no way he could let himself die if she came back to him. If Kagome could return, if Kagome loved him so much that she'd forgive even the horror of his crimes against her, how could he leave her?
Slowly, he managed to get his arms underneath him so that he could roll over. It hurt to breathe, it hurt to move and only seconds before he would have been glad to slip away into the abyss. But he couldn't, not if Kagome was here, not if she still needed him…loved him…
“Kagome,” he whispered, saying her name like a prayer, like a plea for benediction. If the gods had been listening, had asked him for his final wish, it would have been to look at her one last time so he could tell her how sorry he was for being such a fool.
His eyes opened when he heard that voice, panic swelling inside him like a flowing river. He had to warn her, protect her if he could, no matter the cost. But instead of warm brown eyes, he saw eyes of amber, ragged white hair flying wild around a gouged and torn face. Split lips smiled at him, blood still staining white fangs and a hideous smile he knew as his own.
He couldn't deny it and Inuyasha screamed his despair in a voice that had no sound, held only the ghost of a defeated, devoured soul.
Present Day
Kagome knelt in front of the tiny campfire, clumsily adding another piece of wood. She sighed heavily as she sat back, feeling every bruise and ache so keenly that they made her want to scream. Her fingers combed again through her still-damp hair and she grimaced at the smell of river water. She felt grimy and exhausted from her near drowning and the back of her throat still tasted foul.
Shippou murmured something in his sleep, scowling briefly before turning over. Kagome smiled to herself, resisting the urge to brush the hair back from his eyes. Poor Shippou, first a beating, then sick all over the place, now she'd nearly gotten him drowned. She found that she still missed the child he'd been too acutely to admit it, but right now she felt weak enough to cry.
He shouldn't have to suffer all of this just because of her. She knew in her heart that Shippou would rather cut off his fingers than leave her alone with Inuyasha, but Kagome reflected that it might have been for the best. He was dear and sweet, jealous as hell, but she didn't want to see him hurt anymore.
“This is my fault,” she murmured, rubbing her temples in distraction. Everything she touched seemed to turn to shit. What kind of idiot was she to have insisted on this journey in the first place? Her first instinct should have been to put as much distance between herself and Inuyasha as possible, damn the well anyway. There had to be an easier way, somewhere out there, there must be a priestess, or a monk, or a mystic that would have some idea how to make it work again.
Instead she'd chosen the most dangerous option. That was how she'd managed to live her life the past ten years. Never playing it safe, never taking a chance that didn't have a hefty payoff. Never gambling by leaving things to fate if she could manipulate her way through it. If she'd wanted to waste her money on a therapist's opinion, she might have been told that her recklessness was really just a hidden desire for self-destruction.
Kagome snorted. To hell with therapists, she wasn't suicidal. Suicide was in staying here; in losing everything that she'd gained so through such pain and sacrifice. She'd fought and clawed a life for herself on the other side of that well. Nothing was going to stand in her way, she was Kagome Higurashi and she'd survived what would have killed anyone else.
“Oh, bullshit,” she whispered, disgusted by her sorry attempts at boosting her self-confidence. The truth was that she was scared to do anything else, she'd been too scared of more failure and shame to let herself do anything else but succeed. She was too scared now of being stuck here to not grab at the best chance she had for returning.
Obviously some favorable god was looking out for her. She could have returned to an Inuyasha that was still consumed by hatred and sickening lust. One that would have broken her soul into pieces again rather than just dismissing her with contempt.
She sighed again, leaning her forehead on her knees. He hadn't dismissed her; he'd rescued her from that squid-like monster, even breathed life back into her resistant body. You'd think a pure youkai would have known an opportunity when he saw it. It would have been easy for Inuyasha to let them both just drown. Then he could have gone back to his brother and cheerfully informed him that the human and the kitsune had been clumsy and slow enough to get themselves killed.
She didn't think Sesshomaru would have shed any tears over it, why would Inuyasha be any different?
Kagome stood up, shaking out her long sleeves in front of the fire. At least her clothes were finally dry. It wasn't like she had anything to change into; they'd lost all the supplies that Makiko had provided for them. Once again she was going to have to live rough, sleep on the hard, cold ground. It was a damn good thing that the weather was so warm, otherwise she might be looking at making Shippou's tail into a furry warm cloak of her own.
The image of herself wearing Shippou's tail wrapped around her shoulders should have amused her, but Kagome had never felt less like laughing. The kitsune would happily cut off his tail or more if that were what she needed. Ironic, after spending so many years teaching herself to manipulate men, she now found herself trapped between two males like this.
One she didn't have to manipulate because he'd freely give her whatever she asked, simply because she asked it. The other she refused to even attempt. Not because she thought he wouldn't be twisted or swayed by seduction, but that seduction would damn her very soul. It was too dangerous for her to even consider.
Inuyasha hadn't come back; he'd left them alone after nearly murdering Shippou. Again, that was all her fault and Kagome burned hot and cold with the shame of it. Better that she'd managed to convince the fox-youkai that he'd just misunderstood. It had taken quite a bit of careful explaining on her part and it had been awkward to even try to defend Inuyasha's actions to Shippou.
Awkward, the hell. It had been damn near impossible. Even after she'd explained, Shippou had been almost too angry to even look at her. Finally at her wit's end, she's reached over and grabbed one of his pointed ears and gave it a sharp yank to get his attention.
“I know you don't believe me,” she said, proud of her even tone even as the sullen look on his face made her want to scream. “But it is the truth. Not only did Inuyasha save us both from being eaten by that thing, he also saved me by breathing for me. It's common practice where I'm from, I'm surprised he even thought of it on his own.”
“It looked like he was kissing you,” the fox grumbled sourly. Shippou rested his chin on his fist and stared at her with eyes too green and suspicious. “You weren't fighting him, Kagome.”
“Of course not,” she snapped, matching him glare for glare. “I was half unconscious, Shippou! Would it make you feel better if I lied and said that he tried to molest me? Maybe he should have just let me die instead, at least then you could make sure he didn't try to screw my corpse!”
Shippou flinched and Kagome's mouth twisted in amusement. Disgusting and crude as the idea was, it had at least made him see how ridiculous he was acting. Jealous kid.
Not that he didn't have good reason to be suspicious. He'd spent years nursing his hatred, just as she had. Hadn't she jumped to the same angry conclusion when she'd seen Shippou's bruised face? Her first thought had been to accuse Inuyasha, because that's what her heart wanted to believe. It was safe, it was deserved and why shouldn't they both think the worst of the person who had done the worst to them?
Kagome groaned softly and covered her face with her hands. What the hell had possessed her to kiss him like that? Inuyasha knew the truth and that was why she was grateful he wasn't here. She could just see the sadistic glee in his eyes as he told Shippou that it was her, Kagome, who had initiated that kiss. Kissed him like he was a lover returning to her after a long absence, kissed him with tenderness and passion. And that after nearly being drowned.
Her mind had been fuzzy from the lack of oxygen, she'd been confused and scared and not really in control of herself. Those were all good excuses if she could just get herself to believe them.
“Stupid,” she berated herself as she stalked around the campfire. It wasn't that late really; she had no reason to expect that Inuyasha wouldn't return by morning.
No doubt he'd be surly and mean-tempered, but both her and Shippou would be in real trouble if he abandoned them now. She had been paying attention when he'd insisted this area was dangerous to travel by foot and now Shippou said that they were far to the north of Kouga's territory. It wasn't likely they'd be able to find their way back to Sesshomaru's fortress either.
Not without a hell of a lot more luck than she was used to having.
And, she reminded herself, that wouldn't get her home. No, she had to find Inuyasha and see if she could make him listen. Shippou had been out of line, but the truth was that they had no reason to trust him either. And maybe, just maybe she could convince him to keep his big mouth shut about that stupid kiss. It would only hurt Shippou, but she was willing to own up to her mistake if it would keep the peace.
Not that she had anything to apologize for. Hell no, she wouldn't even consider it. If that's what he thought he needed, for her to apologize for Shippou's misunderstanding they might as well get back in the river and drown themselves. It wasn't going to happen, not in this lifetime or any other.
Kagome cast a look at Shippou as she headed towards the forest. He looked so much younger when he was sleeping, she could clearly see the face of the child she'd loved and protected. Somehow, she found herself wondering what his life had been like with Kouga. Shippou spoke of the wolf demon as if he was part older brother, part father figure. It reminded her of the way he'd once seen Inuyasha, the way Souta had seen Inuyasha.
She shook her head and smiled to herself, remembering her little brother and his annoying hero-worship. That had shattered once they'd had to tell him the truth. When Souta had realized that Inuyasha was reason his sister had been taken to the hospital, that Inuyasha was the reason she cried out in her sleep and walked around with dark circles under her eyes…
Another innocent person, Inuyasha, she thought darkly. Another betrayal, another heart that replaced love with bitterness. God, I hope it's been worth it to you. I hope that your ignorance has been worth it, the way you've made yourself forget about what you've done.
“You shouldn't be out here in the dark. It's dangerous, go back and go to sleep, priestess.”
His voice startled her and Kagome jumped without meaning to. She tilted her head back to scan the treetops, finally catching sight of him lounging on a branch. Inuyasha had his arms folded in his sleeves, glaring down at her with an imperious and annoyed expression. He looked like he thought he had the right to order her back to her campfire, just dismissing her like a helpless child.
It wasn't going to happen. “I came out here to talk to you,” she began.
“Save it. I don't want to talk to you.”
Kagome made a small hissing sound against her teeth, frustrated as always by his belligerent attitude. “I'm not here to apologize,” she said softly. “But you have to understand…”
“I understand everything,” he said, bitterness falling from his voice. Kagome watched as he slid from the branch, landing in front of her with a soundless grace. “I heard you talking to the brat. Don't worry, I'm not so hard up that I'd fuck your corpse.”
She winced inwardly, realizing that the stupid fool had taken her words literally. He had always taken everything she'd said as serious, taken every situation at face value. It had led them into no small amount of trouble when they'd been fighting Naraku. Time after time they'd walked into traps because Inuyasha just couldn't see what was in front of his nose.
“I didn't mean it like that,” she said flatly, running a hand over her eyes in frustration. “I was just trying to explain to him that you weren't doing anything wrong, that you were trying to help me.”
Inuyasha moved closer, closing the space between them until Kagome had to fight to keep herself from backing away. He made no attempt to touch her, just stared down at her with a cold, angry expression. His eyes glimmered gold in the darkness and she could feel his breath on her face when he finally spoke.
“I noticed you didn't explain to him that you were the one kissing me.”
Damn him, she knew he was going to bring it up. She knew he must have been sitting out here for the past few hours, just waiting for the chance to confront her. Kagome felt her face flush and looked away, unwilling to meet that accusing stare. He didn't have the right to know the truth; nothing he'd done so far would convince her that he was capable of true remorse. He couldn't understand how much seeing that would have hurt Shippou, how much it would have hurt him to known what a weak-willed creature she had become.
“I'm not here to talk about that,” she said softly, finding herself still unable to look at him. “I just wanted to ask you not to tell Shippou, it will only make things more difficult. I'm sure you can understand that.”
Inuyasha scowled and made a huffing sound. “I ain't gonna tell that brat anything,” he said at last, sounding disgusted by the very idea. “I don't care what kind of thing you two have between you. Just tell him that the next time he jumps me like that, I'm gonna pound that redheaded skull of his into a rock.”
Kagome's mouth twitched involuntarily. The threat was real, but he sounded so much like the Inuyasha who had squabbled with Shippou years ago. Over candy, over ramen, sometimes just out of boredom, they'd always been jealous of each other in one way or another. At the time she'd thought it was endearing because under all that animosity they really cared about each other. Then everything had twisted back on her like a striking snake and she'd understood that she'd been so wrong.
He'd never been the person she'd wanted him to be.
Inuyasha saw the woman's expression flicker and for a moment he was struck by the intensity of the sadness in her eyes. It couldn't be what he'd just said, sure he'd love to teach the brat a lesson, but what the fuck could he do? The kid was achingly in love with the priestess and hated him. He didn't go around killing stupid kitsune brats just because they were jealous fools who should have known better.
“Hey,” he said, leaning forward to stare hard at her face. “What's the matter, I said I'd keep my mouth shut. Isn't that what you wanted?”
“Yes,” she whispered. Damn it, why wouldn't she look at him? Didn't he at least deserve some kind of explanation?
He reached out and touched her chin, turning her face towards him. He prepared himself, knowing she'd probably smack him for touching her. Something about the way her hair fell across her eyes, something about the vulnerable way she held herself. The way she seemed to hate him, the way she usually shrank away from him like he was a diseased monster, it bothered him and not because she was a priestess and he was a demon.
She treated him the way a woman treats a man when he's betrayed her right down to her soul. Not just a man who'd hurt her body or scorned her for another lover. She looked at him like it hurt in places and ways that couldn't be seen. When it wasn't covered by loathing and disgust, he could see the pain still branded across her features.
“Gods,” he whispered, stunned by the realization. “What the hell have I done to you?”
Her jaw tightened, he saw the flash of anger returning to her eyes. “Nothing.”
“Don't lie to me,” he rasped, suddenly furious with her. “I get it, okay? I know I did something…terrible…and I don't remember it at all. Just tell me what I did, I want to know why you hate me so much.”
The woman made a bitter noise, almost a laugh but there was no way he could call it amusement. “You know,” she said softly, “there was a time when I would have cared. You don't mean enough to me now for me to put myself through talking about it. Go to hell, Inuyasha. I'm not your fucking conscience.”
Stung, he pulled away from her, his expression shifting from surprise to sick hurt. He had asked, he should have known better. “I see,” he murmured, reaching up to rake his claws through his white hair. “You hate me so much you don't even want to talk about it. I'll leave you alone, priestess. It's probably better if I never remember you at all.”
He turned to go, he really did, thinking that if he'd done that much damage the very least he could do was respect the fact that she didn't want to talk about it. Her hand caught his sleeve; keeping him from pulling away and he glance back at her in surprise.
“Why do you want to know?” she blurted out, her cheeks still slightly flushed.
Moonlight filtered through the leaves of the forest and made designs on her hair. It dappled her pale face with shadows, none darker than the ones in her eyes. It was his past, horrifying as it had to be, and he wanted it. Sesshomaru had refused to tell him any details; at first affecting a disinterest in his brother's past, finally admitting that there was much he didn't know. They'd left it at that, Sesshomaru being an expert at not talking and Inuyasha too confused to know the right questions.
“I look at you and something inside me is moved,” he said slowly, hoping to hell that she could hear the sincerity in his voice. “It's not because you look like Kikyou. When I saw you dragged under water by that river demon, I panicked. I knew I had to save you, had to find some way to protect you.”
“I want to know why,” he whispered, leaning a little closer just to catch the scent of her warm skin. “Something about you…I don't know.”
Kagome closed her eyes, leaning against a tree and took a deep breath. “It's complicated,” she murmured, feeling her heart twist in her chest. “Yes, I knew you before you were a demon. Before I was…hell, I was never a priestess like Kikyou. It was a mistake from the beginning.”
Resting his arm against the tree, his hand just above her head, he was much too close for her to be comfortable. But she didn't feel any threat coming from him, it wasn't like before when she'd seen the angry demon leap up inside him and come after her with blood and murder in its eyes.
“A mistake?” he asked, puzzled and off his guard. “Why? What was the mistake?”
Very slowly, she raised her hand and laid her palm on his chest, right over his heart. “I'm the one who broke Kikyou's spell,” she whispered like an apology. “I'm the one who took the arrow out.”
“You?” he breathed, believing her immediately. A tiny piece of memory flickered across the surface of his mind, something about a centipede and an old woman's voice shouting. For just the barest second, he thought he saw a girl's hand, floating out of the darkness, coming up to grasp at a wooden arrow, the fletching worn and ragged.
“You freed me,” he said quietly, feeling a sense of exultation building in his heart. “It was you.”
Kagome looked up at him, her eyes still so dark and fatal. “I said it was a mistake.”
“Tell me what happened.”
“Why not?”
“Because it's the past,” she burst out, turning away from him. “Because you really don't need to know and I don't want to relive it. Because there's a damned good reason to not tell you!”
“And that is?” he asked bitterly, certain she was playing with him again.
Kagome turned around, her expression completely neutral. “Sesshomaru told me not to tell you. He thinks you'll lose your mind if you're forced to remember it. Is that a good enough reason?”
He was shocked, stunned that his brother would keep something like that from him. The youkai lord had insisted that it would be better if Inuyasha recovered his past naturally, not forcing it or trying to use Tenseiga to fill in the missing portions. But he'd never expected the reason behind it.
“Sessh told you that?” he whispered, quite horrified that the darkness inside him still had such power. It was the wild beast that was kept inadequately chained. Over the years, his brother had trained him to control himself, soothed the nightmares and reinforced the bond between them. Now that Inuyasha no longer reeked of impure hanyou blood, Sesshomaru said that there was no reason he couldn't reach the same potential as any natural youkai.
Kagome cursed herself silently, realizing that she was beginning to feel sorry for the bastard. Damn Sesshomaru anyway, he should have told him there was a reason. Instead he'd let them walk out of the fortress knowing that sooner or later, Inuyasha would have questions. Her lips curled bitterly, thinking that there was still the possibility that Sesshomaru intended him to find out this way.
She was startled when she saw Inuyasha grin at her. “Just like Sessh,” he said, shrugging off his brother's deception. “He's got his own reasons for everything. I'll pry it out of him when I get back, but until then, I'll have to trust he was right.”
“You trust him that much?” Kagome asked doubtfully.
“Yeah, he's my brother.” Inuyasha's eyes narrowed suspiciously, reading her disbelief. “What the hell do you know about it?”
She couldn't resist, she had to tuck just a seed of doubt under his skin. “More than you,” Kagome said lightly. “For instance, has he ever told you how he lost his arm?”
Inuyasha flushed and Kagome made a soft clucking sound with her tongue. “Too bad,” she said, smug and secure again. Her moment of compassion for him had passed and she was angry that Sesshomaru had allowed his brother the bliss of ignorance while she had to carry the past on her back like a mule.
“The Sesshomaru I knew didn't have your best interests at heart,” she said sweetly. “The next time you see him, you should ask him why. And ask him who cut off his arm and why, you'll find it absolutely fascinating.”
Kagome gasped when his hands came down on her shoulders. His fingers flexed in tacit threat, not piercing her clothing or skin, but she could still feel the sharpness of his claws. Inuyasha glowered down at her, not letting her drop her gaze this time or avoid his angry questions. “How do you know about it, bitch? How do you, a human priestess, know anything about Sesshomaru? Don't you lie to me!”
She clamped her mouth shut and twisted her face away from him. “To hell with you,” she muttered. “You deal with him yourself.”
“Why do I know you?” he asked, tugging her closer. Kagome froze, her pulse speeding up and nervous tremors making her ache. His face nuzzled the top of her head and she heard him inhale deeply. “I know your scent, your face. I'm not asking for you to tell me everything, there's just the one question I want answered.”
Don't, she thought furiously, her hands trapped between their chests. Don't ask me about that.
“The fox said that we fucked,” Inuyasha said, his voice rough and dark. “Is that the truth? Tell me, priestess, were we lovers?”
Kagome hissed softly when the tip of his tongue flicked against her earlobe. She squirmed as his hands moved slowly down her backbone, coming to rest on the swell of her hips. She looked up; the stars were so very bright, the sky so clear. Nothing like her mind, which was muddled with the confused signals being sent from her nerves.
“You haven't answered,” he whispered, sucking at the skin of her throat and planting burning kisses along her jaw. “Why do I know what you want, why do I know that you'll melt if I touch you like this?” His teeth nibbled lightly at her collarbone and Kagome moaned, reaching up with both hands to grasp his shoulders.
She wasn't pushing him away. Why wasn't she pushing him away?
“Tell me,” he breathed, his breath hot as he moved to press his lips to the curve of her breast. “I can hear your heart pounding, I can hear the blood racing in your veins. As much as you hate me, something in you wants me too.”
“No,” she whispered, her hands making knots of his hair. “I don't want you, Inuyasha.”
“Shut your lying mouth,” he hissed, covering it with his own. Kagome fell into the kiss, letting him pull her up against him, her body going limp as he crushed it to his own. One hard hand held the back of her neck; the other was fisted in the back of her clothes. He ground his hips against hers, barely letting her breathe through the intensity of the kiss, his tongue attacking her own.
He tore his mouth away from hers, leaving her gasping. “Maybe you'll tell me when you're ready,” he murmured, his eyes touched with crimson. “Until then, keep your secrets and your lies, priestess. I'll have the truth out of you one way or another. Then we'll finish this.”
He pushed her away and bounded off into the dark forest. Kagome raised a trembling hand, wiping at her swollen lips. So that was it. That was what was bothering him so much. Something in him had sensed that they had been more than just casual companions. When she'd taunted him about knowing more about him than he knew about himself, he'd retaliated by proving that he knew her as well.
She had a feeling that it was only going to get worse.