InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Possession ❯ TwentyFour ( Chapter 24 )
[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]
Kagome had always been a good student, at least until her extracurricular activities put a serious dent in her study time. Her grades were above average, certainly not the highest, but she worked hard and had always been proud of her accomplishments.
She ran through the darkness, branches and twigs slapped her face…
When she'd come home from her adventures for the last time, when adventure had left a bitter taste in her mouth, her solution for the trauma was to throw herself into her schoolwork with blind dedication…and naked ambition.
He wasn't far behind her now, she could feel him breathing on the back of her neck. He was going to catch her for sure…
It wasn't so simple. Hard work and dedication weren't enough to stop the nightmares. After she'd lost the baby, no one wanted to talk to her. There were whispers when she walked the halls and other girls just turned their eyes away from her. She was hardly the first teenager to have made the mistake of getting herself pregnant, but her painfully public miscarriage was the topic of gossip for weeks.
His body slammed into hers, knocking her to the ground. Kagome twisted under him, fighting desperately. She'd lost her last chance, she'd never gotten to the well to use Kaede's sutras, she'd never escaped him, but she was trapped now…
Kagome learned to ignore the rumors, the whispers. She'd gotten good at pretending in a remarkably short time. The face she showed to her classmates and teachers was bland and pleasant, even her mother and brother seemed to be fooled. Or they just knew better than to question it.
A scream died before it crossed her lips, cut off by the way his teeth were buried in her throat…
The nightmares, the ones that made her cry in her sleep and wake feeling like her body had been fighting secret battles. If anyone noticed the dark circles under her eyes, they assumed that it came from staying up late and studying. Sometimes it was the truth, as studying brought her no bad dreams.
His curses flooded her ears as the sharp claws tore away her clothing. She was begging him now, pleading for her life. He couldn't even hear her; she understood that the rage had seeped into his brain. He was lost to her; she was lost to herself and knew that she was always meant to die like this…
Twisting the in darkness, sobbing against the night, over and over she fought that last battle. It had nothing to do with survival or her family, it had nothing to do with the child she'd lost, her fear and pain were simply to deep to be escaped.
She wasn't fighting him now, she was too hurt. Pain was a never-ending experience for her, rising and falling in waves of intensity. She could feel her own blood slicking between her legs, his vicious thrusts weren't meant to pleasure either of them. This was destruction; he wanted to tear her soul from her body. His claws gouged at the soft flesh of her inner thighs, her vulnerable breasts…
Why had she survived at all? Why hadn't the demon killed her? Was there a higher purpose to her life; was there a reason that the universe had made such a decree? That Kagome Higurashi should live and suffer for the sins of them all.
Hands around her throat, squeezing so hard she could feel her windpipe crushed. He shouted with joy when the blood bubbled between her lips, drove himself with excited savagery between her legs. She wished she'd die already, lose consciousness, pretend that she'd never existed…never loved him.
Still loved him…that was the nightmare that didn't fade away at dawn.
Left broken, left to die, pain surging in her body like a flood, betrayal trickling crimson from her lips. This was how it ended; this was the way it should have ended. The cruelest part of a nightmare is that one wakes from it. And Kagome had prayed…over and over…that this time, she'd not awaken at all.
It was an old nightmare, but one that had always made her heart pound. Kagome twitched, instantly awake and hearing nothing but her own harsh breathing. Her first instinct was to fight down the panic, feeling her limbs like cold and frozen blocks, unable to move as the pain and terror of her dreams still held her prisoner within his arms.
She was warm and comfortable, curled on her side with one arm tucked under her head. Opening her eyes, she felt confusion that she couldn't see clearly before it occurred to her that it wasn't her eyes playing tricks. It was dark, only a blurry outline of something solid before her eyes. It always took her a few minutes to convince her battered heart that she really wasn't on the verge of death, that the agony and fear were only a nightmare.
She was still alive. She was still Kagome Higurashi and she had survived.
But for what purpose…
She was contemplating that, just as she was contemplating what the hell she was doing outside, curled up in the pre-dawn darkness of a chilly morning, when a warm hand caressed her bare hip. It trailed sensuously over her skin, the lightest touch of claws tickling her, and she felt a warm breath against the back of her neck.
“You're awake,” he murmured, his face buried in the back of her hair as his arm tightened around her waist. “Good…I've missed you.”
“Missed me?” she whispered fearfully, her breath catching in the back of her throat. No, it couldn't be, she'd been so stupid. The memory of what she'd done with Inuyasha flowed over her body like a warm tide; she could see it all so clearly. The way she'd pushed him on the ground, determined to have him on her own terms. Not that he'd fought her, oh hell no, Inuyasha had been more than willing to let her do whatever she wanted and what she'd wanted was only…
His palm stroked her belly before approaching her breasts. Kagome lay perfectly still, terrified that if she turned around now she'd see the glowing crimson eyes, the overlong fangs. His touch was gentle, cupping her breast and a finger making lazy circles over her nipple, bringing it to a hard point almost immediately. She heard him growl softly into her hair, his hold growing possessive as he became more aroused.
She was utterly terrified…and couldn't say a word.
Inuyasha didn't seem to notice her anxiety; either that or he misinterpreted it as acceptance and excitement. Kagome willed herself to move, to push him away, but her body was made of sand and she fell through his touch at one grain at a time. Her body stayed utterly passive even as her mind beat a frantic rhythm of fear against the back of her eyes. His mouth was on her now, hot and demanding, kissing her throat right where she was the most sensitive.
Kagome let out a tiny squeak of protest when Inuyasha turned her over on her back, sliding on top of her as he did so, his mouth taking over hers in fiery hot kiss. His lips forced her own to open for him, his tongue was a dance of invasion, but his hands were gentle and deft, searching between her thighs to find what he wanted.
“Wait,” she gasped out, breaking his kiss by twisting her face away from him. She just needed to breathe; she needed to think about this before it went any further. She knew what she'd done, but now…no, she hadn't been thinking clearly at all. Her hands pressed against his shoulders, trying to put a bit more space between their tangled bodies.
“What's the matter?” he murmured, leaving soft kisses on her cheeks and eyelids. “Not ready for me yet? I can help you out with that.”
She just looked into his face, studying him with a tiny line between her eyebrows. His eyes were golden, warm like sunshine, his expression was tender and a silly little smile pulled at the corners of his mouth. No, the mad demon hadn't returned, it was the same man she'd bedded. The same one that was ignorant of the depths of how he'd wronged her, but she knew deep inside a heart once betrayed that he could so easily wrong her again.
“I know what we did last night,” she began, wishing her voice didn't sound so uncertain, almost like a child's confession. His eyes sparkled at that; smiling wider now as he snuggled into her body like she was everything warm he'd been waiting for. The tender expression hadn't faded; his fingers traced the line of her cheek with a gentle caress, coaxing her to him once again.
“Yeah,” he whispered, kissing her throat again. “I remember too, you were unbelievable.”
He sighed softly against her slightly open mouth, the tip of his tongue glided across her lower lip. “What have you done to me?” he asked, breathing harder now as his gaze darkened with desire. “What kind of spell is this, priestess? I can't think of anything but you. It was killing me inside, I thought I'd go insane from wanting you.”
Her hands clenched in his hair, her arms were trembling as her body threatened to betray her. It would be easy to give in and drown for him. He sensed her resistance was evaporating and pursued her, his hands and lips wreaking havoc on her weak body. It was much like being murdered; his touch seemed to strip away every shred of identity that she'd clung to for all these years.
“I'll take you home with me,” he said, breathless and passionate. “Don't worry about anything, I can take care of everything you need.”
Kagome stared up at the sky; it was slowly becoming lighter, the stars fading like memories that had never been real. She was trapped here, well and truly trapped. Her life, her home, it was all gone. Once again she'd managed to lose everything and now…all she had left was Inuyasha. Under the circumstances, would it be so terrible for her to let him have her? She'd be safe in this uncertain world, he was strong and could protect her, provide for any children they might have…
It was like someone had poured ice over her body and Kagome gasped, trying to twist away from him now. She couldn't, she could not go through that again. Thinking on the subject of children had awakened the nameless fear at the back of her mind, the deep and dirty secrets. Give a child to a monster like this? Not knowing if he would one day turn into the beast that had nearly killed her?
“No!” she cried, pushing him away. Inuyasha growled in response and shoved her hard, pinning her body with his weight as he caught her wrists when she would have struck at him blindly.
“Damn it, bitch,” he snarled, frustrated by her sudden attack. She stared at him, lost for a moment and was startled to see fresh blood on his face where her fingernails had torn at him. She had gone from aroused half-acceptance to full blown resistance so fast that he'd never seen it coming. Suddenly the woman was tearing at him, writhing like a she-demon and trying to drive that knee of hers into his groin.
“Get off me, you bastard,” she snarled. Inside her head, her mind was frantic.
No no no you don't get to I won't let you. I will save my baby!
“Didn't you hear me?” he shouted, pinning her wrists against the hard ground while she glared up at him with hatred. “I said I'd fucking take care of you!”
“Liar!” she spat, too angry with herself to think about what she was doing. “You just want to use me again, you son of a bitch!”
She was a fucking lunatic, he decided, bitter anger filling him. The woman had thrown him on the ground and fucked him half-senseless, totally overwhelming him with just her passion. If he had half a brain left in his addled skull, he'd just get up now and leave, never fucking look back. Let that rat of a kitsune look after this crazy bitch; let it be somebody else's problem.
If only it could be that easy. Her face was twisted in fear and rage, dead pale with spots of red mottling her skin like a disease. And he didn't give a damn what she looked like or even if she was batshit insane. Something about her made him feel whole, made the darkness that lived where his memories should be go quiet. This was the woman he'd been waiting for all of his life, he'd dreamed of her face, her scent, never daring to hope that she might be real.
“Calm down,” he ordered, trying to restrain her without hurting her. It was almost impossible; she was strong and full of fire, the same body that had held him so passionately was now at war with him. And he couldn't think of what he'd done wrong, why she'd suddenly turn on him like this. But she was going to hurt herself if he didn't put a stop to it.
Inuyasha rolled off of Kagome and wrapped his arms around her. He couldn't think of a better way to keep control of her without injuring her and held her tight against him, resting his forehead against her back. She slowly calmed, her breathing sounding less panicked and frantic and he sighed heavily.
A mistake, he'd damned well known it would be a mistake to fuck her, but at the same time, she'd made him helpless for her. That naked vulnerability in her eyes last night, coupled with her aggressive desire, had made her more than a sane man could resist. And he already knew he wasn't exactly sane himself.
“There,” he said, wanting to soothe her. She shrugged like she wanted to get away from him and reluctantly let her go. Kagome sat up, pushing her hair back and rubbing her face, covering it with her hands so that he couldn't see.
I'm done with crying over you...
“You want to tell me what your problem is?” he asked, his voice gentler than his words. She refused to look at him, but pissed as he was, he knew better than to touch her right now. She'd probably go crazy on him and they'd be right back where they started.
“My problem is you,” she said in a flat, harsh tone that left no argument. Kagome drew her knees up to her chest and hugged herself. “I don't want you to take care of me. I'm not going to let you make me into your fucking whore, Inuyasha.”
For a moment, he couldn't breathe and red swam in front of his eyes. Years ago he would have leapt to his feet and screamed at her for that, but now he controlled himself. Flying into a rage wouldn't solve their problem.
“Okay,” he said bitterly. “I fucking get it.”
“No, you don't,” she snarled, turning on him. His hands clenched into fists where he'd rested them on his legs, sitting across from her like an accusation. Kagome smiled, a twist of her lips that held no humor. “You don't get it and you can't get it.”
“Because I can't remember?” he demanded. Hell, it wasn't his fault. He didn't even know what had destroyed his memories; obviously there was something more to what had happened between them. “Just tell me then, I want to know how bad it really was. Did I kill someone you cared about?”
“Yes,” she hissed, her eyes on fire. “You killed everything I cared about because you were a selfish bastard. You lied and pretended to be something you weren't and by the time I figured it out, it was far too late.”
Pain crossed his face; old pain that he was sure had something to do with shame. Just like everyone else, he'd probably let her down. He didn't remember being a liar; he didn't remember a damned thing beyond Kikyou's arrow. This strange woman and her burning eyes, this bitch that pulled at his heart one moment and gouged it out the next, what the hell did she want him to do?
Apologize? She'd already told him not to dare apologize for what he couldn't take back. And she knew his apologies to be meaningless, how could they be sincere when he didn't even know what he'd done. He'd be apologizing for a stranger and she left him with no way, no way at all to tell her how it felt.
“I just wanted to tell you,” he said quietly, meeting her eyes. “I wanted you to know that you weren't alone. You gotta be scared; no way to get home, your well didn't work. Shit, Kagome.” He was desperate now. “I wasn't going to force you take me up on it!”
She sat quietly then, a sad figure huddled against the darkness of the ground and the ever-lightening sky. Inuyasha leaned closer, drawn in yet again by her manner and reached out to stroke her cheek. When she didn't flinch away, he was encouraged enough to take her cold hand in his, letting their fingers twine together while she wouldn't look at him.
“You can't save me,” she said abruptly. “Don't think that you can.”
He grinned at that, challenged by her yet again. “Don't expect that I'd want to save you, crazy woman. Quit putting words in my mouth.”
She raised her eyes and looked at him. “What are you going to do then?” Kagome asked, her voice light and unconcerned. “Are you going to go back to Sesshomaru now and tell him that I really was full of shit and that everything I told him was a lie?”
Confused, he wondered why she'd bring that up now. “I don't understand,” he began.
She laughed at him, a hard sound that was at odds with her quiet manner. “Wasn't your brother was convinced that this was some kind of ruse on my part, like I was trying to lure you into a trap? Well, the trap seems to have failed; I had my best chance to get you killed at the village. Now my secret is exposed and the well doesn't work. Isn't that what you've been thinking about?”
It wasn't, but she was leading him in circles. Kagome smiled faintly, a smile so positively dark and fatal it should have sent shivers up his spine. Her pale hand came towards him, touched his cheek. “Maybe he was right,” she whispered in a voice that seemed to come from the grave. “Maybe you were right. Did you see those wards that were placed on the well, Inuyasha? You recognized them, didn't you?”
“Some kind of sealing sutras,” he muttered. He hadn't given it much thought, as the spells had no power in them. “The kind a human priest would use to constrain a youkai.”
“Not just to constrain,” she murmured. “To kill. To utterly destroy.”
He surged forward, seizing her by the shoulders. “Is that what you were planning?” he demanded, sensing the truth in her words. “You were trying to kill me by getting me down that well?”
“Actually, no,” she answered quite calmly. She was beyond him now; he could feel her fading from him and dug his fingers into her arms. “I was reasonably sure that the spell was dormant. But I could have been lying to you the whole time and you should have been looking for a trap, Inuyasha. Why didn't you?”
She took his breath away. “Who are you?” he murmured, pulling her against his chest and tipping her chin so he could look into her eyes.
“What does it matter? Are you going to kill me?” she asked like it made no difference to her if she lived or died. “Is that what Sesshomaru told you to do if you discovered it was a trap? Or did you just want to fuck me first?”
Suddenly, he was able to see himself from her perspective. The hated youkai, the monster that betrayed, the beast that couldn't control himself. It made him feel vaguely ill, that she wasn't that far from the truth. If it had been a trap, he would have killed her without hesitation. And as a demon, yeah, he might have wanted to screw her before he killed her.
It was the nature of what he was…but it wasn't him.
“You're a sick, crazy woman,” he murmured, hating the way the scent of her still made him weak. He hated that he couldn't just get up and leave her here.
Kagome leaned her head against his chest. “If you believe that, then you should get away from me while you can.”
“Is that what you want?” His arms tightened around her. “I'm not stupid, you wanted me last night. You wanted me every bit as much as I wanted you.”
She shook her head and he growled, ready to push her on her back and prove that she wanted him. Kagome didn't move, didn't react when he buried his face against her throat, kissing her and grasping her roughly enough to raise bruises from her pale skin. Her lips were cold against his, frustrating him as he tried to find that heat she'd held before. He wanted to burn her with his kisses, make her believe that what he'd said was real.
“It meant nothing to me,” she said quietly, passively. “You mean nothing to me. This is so pathetic, Inuyasha. I only fucked you to prove that there's nothing you can ever take away from me again.”
Her words were vicious, eating at every insecurity he'd ever felt. He crushed her body against his and felt no reaction, as if she could absorb all of his pain and anger and never let it touch her soul. Furious, he shoved her to the ground, knowing that he could make her feel something, if not pleasure or want, then pain and punishment would have to do. The red rage was rising in his blood, angry at her, wanting to make her pay for what she'd done
…pay for imprisoning them, for killing them and trapping them in that hell of nothingness…
“So, it's to be rape after all,” she murmured as he grasped her thighs to pull them apart. “Go on, Inuyasha. Be what you are, hate me…use me. But don't you lie to me and say you give a damn. I know who you are, so don't treat me like you're someone else.”
Sickened, he pulled away and put his head in his hands. Inuyasha squeezed his eyes shut in despair; he didn't know what he was doing anymore. Unbidden images of her face flashed before his eyes. Kagome laughing, waving to him, running through a rainstorm and holding a silly yellow bag over her head. He shuddered violently and saw Kikyou, her sober face lighting in a gentle smile when she spotted him, a blush when the back of her hand brushed his.
Kikyou bleeding, her face set in harsh lines of pain as she raised her bow and aimed at his death with her arrow.
“No,” he murmured, fighting the memory as it threatened to overwhelm him. He started to shake, tremble really, his hands clenching on his legs and his breath rasping in his throat as he fought to control himself. Nameless terror gripped him, his mind twisting down a long and violent path, shattering his resolve. What kind of monster was he, what had he done to make them hate him so much…
Another memory swam before his eyes, battering him with its vividness. A woman wearing armor, her long hair matted to her face as she swung a sword, cutting him, hurting him, shredding his limbs as he tore at her, hungry for her blood. Darkness surrounded them, filled the confines of the small cavern, but madness and hate were pulsing like many hearts within his chest. Then the taste of blood filled his mouth as he finally caught her, eating into the soft flesh of her body, ripping, shredding, devouring…
Inuyasha screamed as a blinding hot light filled him, pain like nothing he'd ever imagined, like nothing that could be felt by a single body. Then everything went dark. When he recovered, he found himself face down on the ground, his nose in the dirt as if he'd made no attempt to catch himself as he fell. He rolled on his side and rubbed his aching forehead.
He didn't have to look around to know that the woman had gone.
It wasn't a hot spring but it was all she had. Resolutely, she stripped off her clothing and dropped it on the bank before stepping into the chilly water. Kagome shuddered; her flesh almost ghostly pale as she moved into the stream, her nipples like hard ridges as she instinctively covered her breasts with her arms. She was so cold, but it had nothing to do with the temperature of the water. The ice was all inside her and she blinked hard to fight the tears that were already falling.
There had been a number of times over the past few years when she hadn't liked herself, when she'd been disgusted by what she'd been willing to do. Those times left bitterness in her mouth, repulsion for her own behavior that was quickly shunted to the back of her mind. Self-reflection wasn't a luxury she usually afforded to herself for just such a reason.
It made her sick what she'd just done to him, so sick that she could feel the bile in the back of her throat, every bit as sour as her guilt. She slowly sank to her knees, letting the water rise over her shoulders. In a few hours, after the sun was properly high in the sky, this water might be warmer and more welcoming to her tired body. But she wasn't interested in comfort, not when she hardly deserved it.
Taking a deep breath, she submerged and listened to the sounds of water rushing past her ears. This was something she'd missed, the way it felt to swim a clear running stream, a living stream that didn't know or care what she'd done and would absorb her tears like they were nothing more than droplets of a guiltless rain.
Kagome stayed under until her lungs were begging for air and then stood up in a single fluid movement. Water streamed from her hair and body as she gasped, taking greedy gulps of fresh, clean air to dispel the feeling that she was corrupted.
Yes, what a mistake it had been to sleep with him.
She didn't have a choice about what she'd done afterwards, it was too much, too close and the fear still rode her like the demon from her past. She scrubbed hard at her face and arms, washing herself until her skin became pink with her efforts. So dirty, so filthy, what a mess she'd made of her life. It disgusted her, this weak, pale body with its unrepentant desires, its lusts.
Inuyasha didn't know who she was, probably didn't care either. She was just a woman that he'd lusted after and now she'd rejected him as callously as she knew how. He'd never know that she did it for both of their sakes, so that they didn't have to walk that same dark path again.
“Damn you,” she swore softly, watching as the forgiving water ran down her body and back into the stream. Maybe it would carry away sins, she really didn't believe it. Her hands clenched into fists, her slim arms shaking. “Do I have to fuck up everything around me?”
“Don't you think that's a bit harsh, Kagome-sama?”
She screamed when she saw him sitting on the bank, full out screamed and stumbled backwards, falling on her ass with a resounding splash. Miroku laughed, his voice joyfully amused at her clumsiness. Angry, she sat up in the water with her arms wrapped around her breasts.
“You scared the hell out of me,” she snapped, resenting like hell that his ghost would choose this moment for a visitation. “Don't you have any sense of decency, Miroku?”
He raised an eyebrow. “Not that I recall, or actually, not that you recall, Kagome-sama. Are you surprised to see me now?”
She didn't answer, turning her back to him as if she had any business being modest in front of a hallucination. “I shouldn't be,” she replied with a nasty edge to her voice. “You were a pervert when you were alive, Miroku. I shouldn't be surprised that you'd still spy on a naked woman even when you're dead!”
“Who's spying?” he returned, his voice blissfully calm. She shot him a dirty look over her shoulder and had to fight back a grin when he smiled. Miroku rested his chin on his fist and his eyes twinkled with mischief. “As a living man I had to resort to spying on lovely maidens when they bathed, at least now I have no such need for secrecy.”
Well, he had her there. Kagome sighed and pulled herself out of the water. She draped her white priestess clothes over her shoulders and ran her fingers through her tangled hair. “Why are you here?” she asked quietly. “Is this where you start giving me advice?”
“What advice do you require, Kagome-sama?”
Kagome looked down at her hands and sighed. “I slept with Inuyasha, Miroku. It was a huge mistake.”
“Why do you say that?”
Angry, she jumped up and waded half naked over to where he was sitting on the bank. “What do you mean why? Are you really Miroku? You know what that son of a bitch did to me!”
“Then why did you sleep with him?”
Kagome groaned and covered her face with her hands. Her legs were going numb in the water and she was trembling with the chill of the wet hair streaming down her back. “I don't know,” she said, her breath hitching like she was about to start crying again. “I honestly don't know.”
Miroku raised a hand and passed it over her cheek. She shivered at the strangeness, he seemed so real and yet his fingers passed over her skin like they were no more than smoke. “I think you can do better than that, Kagome. You didn't used to be so good at lying to yourself.”
Stung, she turned around and climbed out of the water. It wouldn't do her any good to catch a cold and she started to towel her legs and lower body with her hakama. Then she dressed herself, not saying a word while Miroku waited patiently. At last, she turned and found she was able to face him.
“There's a lot of things you don't know about me,” she said quietly. “I'm not the girl I used to be, I don't have that innocence anymore. I already know that things don't always work out for the best.”
“Ah,” Miroku said, looking up at the sky. “So you've lost your faith because your life didn't turn out as you planned. Perhaps that is understandable, but what has been lost can always be found again if you look for it.”
She snorted derisively. “Don't bullshit me, Miroku. I suppose you're going to tell me there's some greater purpose in the well leaving me here stranded? I'm not particularly proud of some parts of my life, but damn you. It was my life and I fought like hell to make it. I don't deserve this.”
He looked at her, a silent intensity building in his eyes. “Are you asking for my pity? Don't you get tired with being so angry all the time? Do you think that you've sacrificed more than Sango, than Kohaku? Or perhaps myself? You were naïve, but you were also compassionate.”
“Your point?” she asked wrathfully.
Miroku's expression was utterly calm. “Don't you think that you should spare a bit of that compassion for yourself? You're not a monster, Kagome. This isn't some kind of cosmic punishment. You are every bit as worthy now as you were back then, maybe even more so because now you've felt and suffered and endured.”
“Stop it,” she whispered, turning away.
“You aren't here because you're being punished,” he said quietly. “None of us can escape what fate brings us. This isn't about you or Inuyasha.”
“I can't love him,” she muttered, ashamed to find that that lack was within herself. “I can't just let it all happen again.”
The monk sighed, staring down at his hands in contemplation. “It doesn't matter how you feel about Inuyasha. This isn't about second chances, Kagome-sama. Inuyasha will meet his fate no matter what you do as even now his time is more limited than you might guess. The Shikon no Tama was not known for being gentle when it grants a wish, nor was it known to bring happiness.”
She looked over his shoulder, her eyes troubled. “The jewel is gone. I saw it explode when he used it.”
The ghost of a dead monk sighed, shaking his head ruefully. “I can see you've never really thought about it,” he said patiently, as if he were speaking to a child. “The Inuyasha I knew never would have wished to become a monster. It might have been easier to convince yourself that what happened was all due to that, but you'd be missing the greater truth.”
Kagome eyed him with suspicion and then smiled sweetly. “If you're going to haunt me, Miroku-sama, at least do the me the courtesy of not confusing me by speaking in fucking riddles!”
He laughed uproariously at that, holding his sides and shaking while Kagome seethed. “It's not funny!” she shouted, wishing he were real so she could grab him by the ears and shake him. “That son of a bitch lied to us, Miroku! He was only after the jewel, don't you get it? He didn't give a damn about you or me or Sango and Shippou! He only wanted the power and when he had it…”
She took a deep breath, determined to not fall into tears again. “And when he had the power,” she said, her voice shaking, “he did whatever he wanted. He used all of us just to get to the jewel!”
Miroku's expression was grave, ironic for a ghost, she thought. Almost sadly, he smiled at her again. “The Inuyasha I remember wasn't capable of such deception. Think about it. To carry on such a lie for two years would have required much cunning. Many things Inuyasha might be, cunning and deceptive were not among them.”
She might very well explode now. “Are you defending him?” she shouted, waving her fists like a mad woman. “He fucking told me so, Miroku! Right after he defeated Naraku, right after I saved him from being dragged off to hell by Kikyou!”
“I'm not saying he doesn't lie,” Miroku said quietly. He looked into her eyes, such pain and trust and love shining there, and Kagome stared at him. “The question is what he was actually lying about.”
Shippou was startled out of a sound sleep by a horrid stench. He rolled over, covering his nose with his hand and sneezed violently. Thick smoke washed over him and he glared up at Inuyasha, who had just dropped another armload of pungent green leaves on their smoldering fire. The kitsune sneezed twice more and felt his sinuses swell shut in self-defense.
What the hell are you doing?” he demanded angrily.
“Stupid,” the inuyoukai muttered, turning away. “I'm just covering up our scent, there's a lot of hungry demons in that forest and you know, kitsune stink like fresh meat to them.”
Growling softly, Shippou got up and edged away from the smoke. “And dog demons stink like fresh shit, what's your point? You afraid of something out there? Or is there something you're trying to hide?”
Inuyasha sighed. He honestly didn't know why he was trying to hide it. On his way back to the village he'd caught a whiff of Kagome's scent and known she'd gone to bathe. Probably to get rid of any traces of him on her body, he'd thought angrily. Then he'd seen the leaves and started pulling them without thinking. When he'd returned and found that Shippou and Rin were still asleep, he'd dropped the mess of them in the fire knowing that the smell would effectively eliminate any traces of sex.
“Just shut up,” he grumbled at the annoyed fox demon. “Quit acting like such a baby, I should have done it last night.”
The kitsune grumbled to himself and stalked away to the hut, obviously intent on checking on the woman. He was back in moments, his face flushed with angry accusations. “She's not in there,” he snarled, coming over to stare right into Inuyasha's face. “What did you do with her, why isn't Kagome in that hut?”
He shoved the fox away from him and glowered. “I didn't do anything,” he lied, knowing that the truth would really sting the lovesick Shippou. He should have been bragging about it now, that's what she would expect, but his pride was more than a little sore. It might be fun to gloat about fucking her to the snotty little fox, but the last thing he needed was for that woman to come prancing in and tell them the rest of the story.
It meant nothing…
It had meant something to him; it had meant a hell of a lot more to him.
You mean nothing…I only fucked you to prove that there's nothing you can ever take away from me…
That heartless bitch. He swallowed the rage that wanted to leap up inside him and made a show of flopping on the ground. “Don't worry about her,” he said, his eyes closed against Shippou's glowering anger. “I saw her heading to the stream, said she needed a bath.”
Rin had been listening quietly, wondering when either of them might notice her existence again. Everything was about Kagome, it was always about her. She sat up, rubbing her grubby hands together.
“A bath sounds like a good idea,” she murmured.
Shippou spat at the smoldering fire. “Yeah, so this territory is so damn dangerous that you want to hide our scents, but you let her go off by herself? I don't believe you for a fucking minute.”
“I don't care what you believe,” Inuyasha growled, still lying prone on the ground with his eyes shut. “I ain't her fucking bodyguard, stupid.”
At least Kagome had remembered to take back their belongings when she'd left the demon hunters, Rin thought as she rummaged in her small pack. Yes, this was good, she had remembered to pack soap and a comb for herself. The girl glanced up at Shippou, who was trying to start a fight and then back at Inuyasha, who was patently trying to avoid one.
“Someone needs to watch out for her,” Shippou said, looking quite distressed at the idea of Kagome alone and naked in the forest. “She's not used to taking care of herself, if something attacks her…”
”Believe me, that woman ain't helpless,” Inuyasha grunted, rolling over on his side. “She's tougher than you, runt.”
Shippou bit back the angry insults that wanted to pour from his mouth and scowled at the forest. “I'm going to go after her,” he said decisively. “Someone should be there if she needs us.”
“Oh the fuck you are,” Inuyasha snarled, sitting upright and glaring death at Shippou. “You're not that worried about her. You just want to spy on her, I bet. Gods, you're an obvious little fucker, you know that, Shippou?”
Rin sighed softly, getting to her feet. “Actually a bath sounds really good to me,” she murmured. It wasn't like they'd hear her anyway.
“You think you're gonna stop me?” Shippou shouted, not backing down as Inuyasha got to his feet. “I'd like to see you fucking try!”
Inuyasha snorted, folding his arms over his chest while he looked at the fox with contempt. “Kid, it would be a waste of my time. Now be a good little brat and sit your ass back on the ground. If you're really so frightened for your precious priestess, I'll go fucking check on her myself.”
“Oh you gonna stop me now?”
“Shut up, both of you!” Rin shouted, loudly enough to be heard all way back at Sesshomaru's fortress. They turned to stare at the girl, watching in dumb shock as she shouldered her pack and gave them both a look that could have melted stone.
“I'm going to go take a bath,” she informed them. “When I see Kagome, I'll ask her which of you two assholes should come and check on her.”
Inuyasha whistled softly as Rin stalked away. “Now what's her problem?” he asked, scratching his head. “That kid's been a bad mood since before we left.”
Shippou flushed, looking at the ground. As much as he hated to admit it, he knew what was bothering Rin. She'd seen the way Inuyasha looked at Kagome, and it bothered her every bit as much as it bothered him when he saw Kagome looking back. But he wasn't going to tell the son of a bitch, hell no.
“Beats me,” he muttered, forgetting their argument and sitting down upwind of the smoke. “Guess we're just fucking dense.”
Rin was swearing softly to herself as she walked towards the stream. They were idiots, both of them, and she wasn't going to forgive them for it any time soon. Did they have any idea how stupid they looked, both of them drooling over the same woman? Especially Shippou, she would have thought he'd gotten the hint already. Kagome would never see him as anything other than the child he'd been and for him to keep staring after her with that look of longing just turned her stomach.
It had given her a painful perspective on how Inuyasha probably saw her. She sighed, running her fingers through her hair as she walked. No matter what she did, he wasn't going to see her as a woman. Or rather, he wasn't going to see her as a woman that he'd consider going to bed with. But she was comfortable with him, he was her friend and he'd…he'd listened to her when everyone else at home had just dismissed her as Sesshomaru-sama's little pet human.
She knew that most of the pureblooded demons saw her that way and there were probably a few of them that thought it to be highly inappropriate that she lived there at all. Of course, none would dare make a remark like that in Sesshomaru's hearing, not without risking bodily injury anyway. She was tolerated, she was indulged just the same, and while she'd gotten used to getting her own way most of the time because of it, and no one really seemed to see her.
Except for Inuyasha and she'd worshipped him for that. He didn't treat her with amused indulgence or taxed tolerance, he treated her like she was a real person in spite of her youth and he never talked down to her. They were both outsiders, they were both somewhat unacceptable. But over the past few years, Inuyasha had seemed to gain a place at his brother's side while Rin was just pushed back into a corner.
As she'd grown older, her feelings for him had changed, maybe because there was no one else in the fortress that she could even consider thinking of in that way. Inuyoukai males had grown wary of her as she'd matured, even if they'd thought she might be desirable there was no way in hell they'd approach her. She was a human, she was too young and she belonged to Sesshomaru-sama, even if he saw her as only his ward and under his protection.
Inuyasha wouldn't worry about something like that, but it didn't make any difference. It wasn't that she was human, or at least that wasn't all of it. To him, she'd always be a child and no matter how hard she'd tried to show him that she wasn't a child, he pushed her away just the same.
So it hurt like hell when she saw the way he looked at Kagome, with a dark desire almost burning in his eyes. And it pissed her off when she saw Shippou doing the same; only instead with a stupid lovesick want. He was such an idiot to follow the priestess around like that and Rin became more uncomfortable when she realized how everyone had probably thought just the same about her.
As she pushed her way through the forest, following a small and almost forgotten path, Rin considered that it wasn't even Kagome's fault to be at the center of this. She hadn't quite been able to put aside her jealousy, but at least she finally believed the woman's story. The priestess had looked so utterly lost and despairing when Inuyasha had pulled her out of the well, almost helpless with grief. Rin's kind heart went out to her, knowing how it felt to suddenly lose everything.
It was obvious to her from that moment that Kagome hadn't been lying. Not anymore than she'd been purposefully trying to steal away Inuyasha's affection.
Rin snorted to herself. As if she'd ever had his affection to be stolen from her.
She must be getting near the stream now as she could hear the sound of running water. Rin followed the sound until it grew louder and then stopped in surprise when she heard a raised voice.
“That sounds like Kagome,” she murmured, pushing her way through the brush. She knelt on the ground, edging aside the thick leaves so that she could see what was going on. It was a strange enough site; the priestess was standing next to the stream, waving her fists in the air as if she were arguing vehemently with someone.
“I will not!” Kagome shouted, pointing an accusing finger at the empty side of the bank. “It's none of his business what happened! I'm not going to tell him about anything!”
“Who is she talking to?” Rin wondered aloud, seeing as Kagome's attention was focused on empty air. She watched as the priestess' shoulders sagged and a look of old grief passed over her face. Kagome rubbed her eyes, seemingly almost defeated, but Rin couldn't tell what the cause of such despair might be.
“I don't care,” Kagome muttered, almost too low for Rin to overhear. “It was a mistake, one I can't let happen again. I don't think I can control myself…I know Inuyasha won't be able to fight it either…”
It was too much for her to keep quiet any longer. Rin stood up and pushed her way through the brush, leaves sticking out of her hair as she emerged. “Kagome,” she called, anxiety coloring her tone. “Are you alright?”
The priestess looked startled, almost falling over and then glaring at Rin through a mop of wet hair. “Were you spying on me?” she demanded.
Rin stopped short; the tone in Kagome's voice was dangerous. “Um…” she said, guilt making her cheeks flush. “No, I wasn't spying…really. I came to find you, Inuyasha said that you were here and…”
“Oh he did?” Kagome spat, planting her hands on her hips and looking around. “Is he spying on me too? That's just sickening, I can't even take a bath without someone trying to watch over me.”
Rin suddenly realized that Kagome was trying to distract her from the fact that she'd been holding a conversation with thin air. “Who were you talking to?” she blurted out.
Kagome paled. “I don't know what you're talking about.”
Pursing the matter, Rin stepped up to the edge of the water and looked around. “I swear I heard you talking, no, yelling at someone, Kagome. Did they leave? Was it someone who used to live in this village?”
The other woman turned away. “Rin,” she said quietly, seeming to fight back some strong emotion. “If you were listening, did you hear anyone talking to me? I mean, did you hear another voice?”
Rin shook her head. “No, I…” She darted forward as Kagome sank to her knees. “You're not okay, I should get Inuyasha.”
Kagome held up her hand. “No, he's the last person I want to see. I had just hoped that maybe…maybe you'd heard something and I'm not losing my fucking mind.”
She was at a loss on how to respond. “So, you were talking to someone? I thought maybe, you know, you were just thinking out loud. I do that sometimes myself, especially when I'm confused. Sometimes it does help to yell and shout, just to get rid of the frustration. I can understand that, Kagome. It doesn't mean you're losing your mind…”
She was babbling now and Rin became acutely embarrassed as Kagome didn't answer, just kept staring down at her clenched fists. “Did…” she hesitated, “did you really think there was someone else here?”
“Of course not,” Kagome murmured, almost to herself. “He's long since dead, how could it be him?”
Rin shook back her hair and took Kagome's arm, helping her to stand. “Never mind,” she said blithely, thinking that now they had a crazy woman on their hands. “I won't tell anyone. It will be our secret, you don't have to explain.”
“Why are you being so nice to me?” Kagome asked, just the barest tinge of suspicion in her voice. “I thought you hated me.”
Rin had the grace to blush. “I don't hate you,” she confessed. “I was just angry…and jealous too. I'm sorry; I think I made things harder on you by acting like a selfish brat. I remember you from years ago, when you were always so kind to me.”
Grinning, Kagome took her hand. “I thought you'd forgotten about that,” she said, remembering the times when she'd encountered the little girl who followed Inuyasha's brother. “A lot of things happened, Rin. Bad things, you aren't the only one who blames me for it.”
“What really did happen between you and Inuyasha?” Rin asked quietly. Now that she'd decided she didn't hate Kagome, she was extremely curious. The rumors had run the fortress for years, rumors that Kagome was the one who'd used the jewel, cursed Inuyasha to insanity and almost death. Growing up, it had been easy for her to believe, but this woman wasn't the evil priestess of those rumors. She was just a woman, a scared and hurt one at that.
“I don't know if I should tell you,” Kagome muttered, pulling her hand out of Rin's. “You probably wouldn't believe me.”
“Let me try,” Rin pleaded. “I want to know the truth.”
“I know,” Kagome answered softly. “I think we all would like to…”
It came suddenly this time, a feeling of terror and rage, rustling like a poisoned wind in the trees, blowing across their faces like the smoke from a pyre. Kagome's eyes widened in realization as she saw Rin's face suddenly go pale with fright. She didn't hesitate after that; she grabbed the girl's hand in her own and pulled hard.
“Run,” she hissed, “can't you feel it coming?”
It wasn't like before, it wasn't the overwhelming grief and pain that haunted her dreams. It wasn't a feeling of inconsolable agony, it wasn't the sensation of a soul that had been torn apart. This was pure fury, absolute hatred and lust for blood that Kagome could feel like hot breath on the back of her neck.
She dashed into the forest blindly, her hand so tight on Rin's that her fingers were numb.
“Son of a bitch!” Inuyasha shouted, surging to his feet. He spun around, staring off into the forest with a dawning horror in his eyes. Yeah, the burning leaves had covered their scent all right, but it had also masked what was writhing in the forest. His nose didn't detect anything unusual, but there was no mistaking the sudden panic that had clawed its way into his heart.
“What is it?” Shippou demanded as he got to his feet and followed Inuyasha's gaze. “Something coming?”
“They're in trouble,” Inuyasha snarled. “Come on, you stupid fox!” Shippou didn't question him further, only set out at a run to keep up as the faster demon took the lead and plunged into the forest with panic riding his back like a monster.
He could only pray he'd make it to them in time.
“Keep up with me, Rin!” Kagome shouted as she ran. She didn't let loose of her death grip on the girl's hand, hauling her along by main force as they ran to escape the horde of demons. She'd gotten a good look and seen slavering jaws, mad crimson eyes. Again and again, she cursed herself for not being smart enough to have brought a bow, wishing that at least Rin had such presence of mind.
Was she stupid? What kind of priestess was she supposed to be that she would forget to bring along the only kind of weapon she could use? Rin didn't answer, stumbling blindly after her as they fought their way through the forest.
They weren't going to make it, she thought grimly, realizing that Inuyasha and Shippou were too far away to hear their screams. She turned suddenly, driving them forward in a new direction. Maybe they could make it to the river, not that it would save them. She could only hope the demons might lose their scent in the water if they threw themselves in.
She hoped to hell that Rin could swim…
She hoped the monsters couldn't smell their blood through the water. She hoped she didn't have to drown in order to escape being eaten alive.
They burst out of the forest at a dead run, Kagome panting as her legs pumped frantically. She had the advantage of adrenaline fueled by pure terror. Damn that ghost of a monk, he'd come all this way to warn her about something, but he'd never mentioned there might be a mass of demons about devour her!
“This way,” she gasped, trying to lengthen her stride as she made for the river. Rin nodded, squeezing her hand and helping her along when Kagome might have stumbled. They might have run faster if they'd let go of each other, but Kagome was too terrified that the minute she let go, she'd hear Rin's scream as the bastards caught her and stand helpless and watching as the young girl was torn into pieces.
If they were about to die, they'd die together. Kagome had quite enough of surviving only to grieve for those that had not. The river was within sight, just down a low, sloping hill that nestled against its curve. They might have a chance here; she remembered the water was deep and the current swift.
She remembered that because she'd once jumped in to save a drowning child. Inuyasha, of course, had been more interested in the jewel and the demon bird that was trying to flee with it. At the time, she hadn't thought about what she was doing, just acted on pure instinct to save the little boy. And then she'd scolded Inuyasha like a harpy, honestly not comprehending how he could have not understood that the child's life had to be more important than any silly old sacred jewel.
Now she understood the nature of demons much better and also understood how very wrong she'd been to think that one of them would stoop to save a mere human life.
“Look out!” a harsh voice shouted right over their heads.
Rin screamed and dragged her to the ground, Kagome skidded face first in the dirt as something fast and strong went right over their heads. The women rolled over each other, finally coming to stop and lying prone on the soft grass. She heard Rin whimper fearfully and stared in shock as dozens of furry bodies hurtled over their heads.
Wolves? Here? Wolves?
She heard shouting then and rolled over on her belly to watch as human-like figures appeared from the far side of the forest, just in time to engage the multitude of monsters that was tearing towards the river. The wolves surged like furry tide, attacking the monsters and tearing into them with sharp teeth. Dimly, Kagome realized that Rin was still crying softly, her hands over her eyes as if the sight of the beasts had frightened the life out of her.
“Shhh,” she said, putting her arms around the shaking girl. “You're okay, we're okay.” She kept watching as the wolf youkai joined their animal companions, mopping up the carnage with a brisk efficiency. There were only a few of the human looking ones, she thought, noticing how they seemed to be directing the wolves in what was becoming a one-sided battle.
“Good job, boys,” a deep voice called out. Kagome raised her face from the ground in time to see a pair of legs come to stand in front of her. “You women got lucky,” he said as she stared at a bare knee. “We've been tracking that mob since it crossed our border, never thought they'd find humans to make a meal of in these parts.”
She sat up, one hand still resting protectively on Rin's hair. “Kouga?” she whispered, afraid to even wonder about the coincidence of meeting him here.
“You know me?” The dark haired wolf youkai cocked his head to the side and for a long, fear-drenched second, Kagome replayed her first meeting with Inuyasha and wondered what she'd do if yet another person didn't remember her.
“Hey, how do you know my…” Kouga stopped, staring down at the woman as his eyes went wide. “No…it can't be. Fuck! Kagome, it can't be you!”
Timidly, she nodded and was suddenly lifted off the ground by a pair of strong hands. The wolf demon set her on her feet, still looking right into her face as if he couldn't believe what his own eyes told him. Then he moved closer to her and sniffed hard before giving a joyful shout.
“I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me!” the wolf crowed happily. “It's really Kagome, I don't fucking believe it.” He swung her around and grinned down at her. “What the hell are you doing out here by yourself?”
Foolishly, she blushed and ducked away, remembering the way he'd always held her hands. “Trying not to get eaten,” she said ruefully. He blinked at her as if that answer couldn't possibly explain everything and then he frowned.
Wearily, she sighed and tried to smile. “There's more to it than that. Shippou can tell you, right now I'm just trying to get it through my head that I'm still alive.”
“Shippou?” he said, comprehension dawning on his face. “So that's where the little shit has been. I've been looking all over hell for that kid. Just goes off and does whatever he wants, doesn't say a fucking word to me and then…”
He broke off, seeing as how Kagome was having a hard time holding back a grin. “What's so damn funny?”
“Nothing,” she said, starting to laugh. His expression lightened at the sound of her laughter and Kouga put her hands on her shoulders.
“Damn, I sounded just like my old man,” he said with a chuckle. “Now I know what I must have put him through.”
“I should thank you,” Kagome said with a shy smile. “Taking care of Shippou like that, I never would have expected it.”
He blushed, grinning at her praise. “It seemed the least I could do,” he said. “I couldn't just leave the runt to make his own way after all you did for me.”
Kagome was startled when Kouga pulled her into a rough embrace. “I know what happened,” he whispered in her ear. “Gods, I'm so sorry, Kagome.”
“It's okay,” she said, hugging him tightly. “It's good to see you, Kouga-kun.”
He pushed her back to grin down at her. “So, what the hell are you doing here now?” he asked. “Shippou told me about the well.”
“Well,” she began. “It's the strangest thing, but…”
Her words were cut off when she was suddenly torn away from Kouga by a violent hand. Kagome was flung back, landing hard on her ass and had to duck as a blur of red swept in front of her.
“Get your damn hands off of her!”
“Inuyasha, no!” she screamed as the inuyoukai launched himself at the wolf. Caught completely off guard, Kouga struggled as an enraged Inuyasha buried sharp claws in his throat and lifted him off the ground.
“Give me a reason not to kill you, bastard,” he snarled, his eyes flashing with crimson fire. “Just give me a fucking reason!”