InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Possession ❯ TwentySix ( Chapter 26 )
[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]
It was the strangest thing, to be dreaming and know that it was a dream. Usually her nightmares took the form of such intense images that she felt the terror, felt the danger and fury stronger than she would have if she'd been awake. Waking from a nightmare, she could expect her heart to be pounding, sweat pooling sticky and clammy between her breasts and her muscles tight with escape.
Not this time, this was something entirely different.
Kagome found herself standing on a windswept hill, looking over a battlefield. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of bodies spread across the land in a gory carpet. It seemed the battle had been over for some time and she mused that it was a good thing she hadn't been here to see it.
She felt no fear, nothing at all, only the peaceful sensation of calm. Like a thunderstorm had passed, wreaking damage upon the earth, but here she stood, untouched. Lifting her face, she felt a cool wind touch her cheeks and could almost taste the coming storm.
It was at that moment she realized that she was dreaming, because she suddenly regretted the fact that she didn't have an umbrella.
Smiling faintly, she looked down at the grass between her bare toes. No shoes either, but she still felt this blissful ease in her heart. Nothing mattered, not Inuyasha, not anything at…
A cool mist was floating around her bare knees and Kagome frowned slightly in confusion. Her palm brushed over the short green skirt and she reached up to finger her red school tie.
What the hell, she thought, I haven't worn this in years. Why now?
There was movement at the edge of her vision and Kagome jumped, turning to face the people she hadn't realized were also standing on the hill. She swallowed nervously, her pulse beating a slow tempo in her ears. They didn't see her, didn't acknowledge her presence and she held her breath, waiting as they approached each other.
At least two of them were, she was sure of it. They were beautiful to look at, bright armor, flowing silk and fur. They made the two humans facing them look smaller, dirty and tired, merely mortal in the face of youkai immortality. Surprisingly, the humans didn't seem intimidated by such display of power.
The man stepped forward, his stance aggressive as his hand dropped to the sickle-shaped blade at his side. Kagome frowned, strangely calm inside her dream, recognizing the style of the weapon.
Kohaku used to carry a blade like that…
“We have kept our side of the bargain,” the man said, his voice bitter. “Now you will keep yours and leave.”
“As agreed, exterminator,” one of the youkai answered. Kagome's eyebrows rose in surprise, the voice was low, soft and melodic, but somehow filled with a resonant strength. She hadn't realized it was a woman until she'd spoken, but now there was no doubt. “Our soldiers are weary from battle, we will be glad to return to the West.”
Kagome found herself staring at the youkai, something triggering inside her mind at the sight of them. The woman's face was gentle, the kind of heart-stopping beauty that made her seem ethereal in spite of her armor and weapons. Her gaze drew to the male, who seemed to be holding his anger in check. His golden eyes were fierce, jagged blue markings graced his face and snow-white hair spilled over his shoulders.
It can't be…
The human woman moved forward, wiping her face as she smiled wearily at the youkai. “Inu no Taishou,” she said formally, bowing to the fierce-looking lord. “We are grateful for your assistance today.”
The youkai made a harsh movement with his armored fist. “I don't need the gratitude of a human, bitch,” he said, his voice thick with contempt. “Especially not a filthy shrine maiden.”
Kagome took a step backwards at the hatred in his voice, but the human male took an angry step forward. “Bastard,” he spat, his fingers tightening around his weapon. “Don't you dare insult her!”
“Maketo,” the woman said quickly, putting her hand on his arm. “Not now, they have reason to hate me. Put aside your anger, this truce is too important.”
“Not to me,” the demon lord growled. His hand dropped to battered-looking hilt of a sword as he smiled grimly at the angry human. “We can settle our insults now, if you wish.”
The youkai woman raised her hand, quelling them both with an easy grace. “Husband,” she said, her voice softly chiding him. “Enough blood has been shed by humans and youkai this day.”
Kagome stood quietly, confused as the exterminator and the Inu no Taishou glowered at each other. If that's really Inuyasha's father, why does he hate humans? I thought that he had protected humans, not that…
“It is time for us to part,” the woman said quietly, her hand still on Maketo's arm. “If not as friends, then at least no longer as enemies.”
She shivered at the look in Maketo's eyes, she could see the despair lurking there, the tight control that wound around his body like a frayed rope. She understood that these youkai had come to invade these lands and that somehow out of the bloodshed, they'd made peace instead.
But one thing Kagome understood well, that sometimes wounds were too deep and raw to be healed…or forgiven.
“They are devils,” Maketo whispered, his voice shaking. “My brothers…my wife…my children are now motherless because of these savage animals!”
“We are leaving,” the youkai woman said, reaching for her husband's arm. He growled softly and yanked his arm away from her, striding down the hillside with angry steps.
“There can be no peace between our people,” he snarled over his shoulder, looking back at his wife's face. “Only war. This priestess has poisoned your mind, wife.”
“Forgive him,” the youkai woman said softly, looking at the humans with regret. “He does not change his ways easily. Peace is more difficult for him to accept than bloodshed.”
She turned to go, her long hair fluttering behind her in a soft, pale cloud that was teased by the wind. Kagome found that she was breathing hard, her heart filled with nameless dread. Something was wrong…she could feel it and searched the empty hillside for the source of her panic but found nothing.
“Come, Maketo,” the human priestess said quietly. “We must return soon, the other exterminators are waiting for us.”
The man stood silently, watching as the youkai female descended the hill to meet her husband. “No,” he whispered. “I can't just let him…go.”
No, Kagome thought, her heart hammering in her chest. Don't do it, you've made peace, they're going to leave…
“Look out!” Kagome screamed, her voice lifted by the wind and carried back to her own ears. It rang hollowly, like the ghost of an echo as she watched Maketo draw his weapon.
“Let him have bloodshed!” the man screamed. “Let him know what if feels like to have his wife die in his arms!”
The sickle-blade flashed, its long chain uncoiling like a striking snake as it hurtled towards the youkai woman. She turned, one hand already on her sword. Too late to defend herself, she barely managed to turn to the side so that the blade buried itself in her shoulder instead of her skull. The chain rang loudly as Maketo yanked it, the blade flying back into his palm with an easy snap and blood spilled from the woman's body.
“You bastard!” The Inu no Taishou raced to his wife's side, catching her as she staggered and would have fallen.
“I won't miss a second time,” the angry exterminator shouted, raising his arm to hurl the blade again.
The youkai lord snarled and drew his sword, the blade pulsed with angry power as his eyes burned like the red fire of hell itself. His wife's hand came up and caught his sleeve, her fist buried in the soft silk.
“Don't,” she whispered, “I'm fine, husband. Our truce…”
The Inu no Taishou gripped her hand. “No truce,” he snarled. “He attacked you, I will kill him for injuring my wife!”
“Try it,” Maketo shouted. “I'll slaughter you both, just like your soldiers slaughtered my family!”
Before the Inu no Taishou could reach him, Maketo's eyes went wide, staring down at the sword buried in his belly. He gasped as the blade was pulled free, his eyes following the weapon as his blood splattered on the ground. “Why?” he whispered. “For them…”
“I'm sorry,” the priestess said, regret standing in eyes that were too tired to cry.
She brought the sword up again and the Inu no Taishou appeared in front her, his insanely huge blade still hanging in his hand like a threat. She lifted her chin and met his angry gaze.
“I have taken a human life,” she murmured. “Something I had sworn I would never do.”
“But you've killed many youkai with that sword,” he said quietly. “Does it feel any different?” He glanced down at the dead man and his voice hardened. “Is this how humans show their loyalty?”
“No,” she answered, slowly dropping her sword to her side. “He was my friend and he was in pain. But this battle has to end, even if I take a human life to protect a youkai.”
The youkai glared at her. “I need no protection from a human.”
“I could have purified you,” she said, watching his face. “It might destroy me to attempt it, with someone of your power. Instead, I chose to kill him so that you wouldn't have an excuse to start your war again. Your wife lives, my friend is dead.”
“We are in her debt, husband,” the youkai woman said, slowly making her way to where the priestess faced him. Her expression was carefully neutral as she regarded the body of her would-be assassin. “I would not have been able to do the same.”
His eyes softened and he reached out to touch his wife's chin. “Nor I,” he whispered. “Perhaps you are right and it is time to change.” As if to solidify the tenuous peace and acknowledge the priestess' sacrifice, he turned and carefully laid his sword on the ground at her feet.
“If you have need of this blade, you need only call upon it. Inuyoukai honor their debts, even to human priestesses.”
Mist flowed up from the ground, hiding the scene from Kagome. She felt as if she were floating upon it, drifting away and let her body became weightless. Her eyes closed, letting the peaceful calm fill her heart.
Do you understand now, Kagome?
Her eyes snapped open and she stared at the face of the priestess that was only inches from her own. Some kind of recognition filled her, remembering a dark cave and a figure that had turned to stone.
Inuyasha snarled to himself and cursed, leaning against a tree. Fucking bitch, who did she think she was to turn on him like this? Then he immediately felt guilty, it was him that had turned, him that had shown his bastard side in glowing colors. His true self, mean and bitterly jealous that she might give a damn about that stupid wolf. Now that he was here, he wasn't sure what he should do.
Nah, he knew. He should go down to the wolf youkai's camp, grab Rin and just go home. After all, what did it matter to him what happened to that woman? She wasn't his problem anymore, if she ever had been. He wasn't sure if he was angry with her or if he was angry with himself at this point.
He had tracked the strange apparition this far only to lose the trail. Hell, he didn't lose anything, it had just vanished. That puzzled him, he'd been sure that the menace was directed here. Had something quelled it, had he just imagined the whole thing? Inuyasha snorted to himself, wondering if he'd just made it up in his own mind as an excuse to see her again.
Not that she wanted to see him, of that he was damned sure. Why would she? Everything he'd tried to prove to her, that he wasn't some kind of monster with no control of his actions, had been ruined. All because of that stupid wolf, he honestly didn't know what had come over him. And now, shame covering his body like a second skin, he didn't know if he could face her again.
What was it about her that affected him so much, made him desire her more than he'd ever wanted any woman in his life? Inuyasha wasn't given to introspection, but he kept replaying it in his mind, trying to work it out. She was attractive, but so were other women. She was also a bitch, demanding and sharp-tongued as a harpy, but that only intensified his interest.
Sighing, he leaned against the tree. Whatever it was, it was no good for either of them. He should just leave her alone, let the priestess meet whatever fate had in store for her, even it meant leaving her in the arms of a wolf youkai. After all, Kouga was her friend. He, Inuyasha, was anything but that. They'd had sex, his fingertips still burned with desire to touch her again. But whatever else that woman wanted…she did not want him.
Then there was the problem at hand. He was being watched.
Inuyasha growled low in his throat. He couldn't quite sense where they were, but he knew they were there. Fine, let them watch. Personally, he didn't care, as soon as they wanted to do more than watch, he would be ready for them.
Kagome stepped out into the bright sunlight and shaded her eyes. Her body was stiff and she thought she might have killed for a toothbrush, but she felt better rested in spite of her strange dreams. It troubled her; it baffled her that she'd be dreaming of the long dead priestess. Kagome frowned, looking up into the clear blue sky. She was no priestess; she was not Kikyou to be pulled to the will of an ancient ghost. It had nothing to do with her, the jewel was gone, Kikyou gone and she wanted nothing more to do with the world of specters and spirits.
They had arrived late the night before to an exuberantly happy welcome for Kouga and his men. She and Rin had hung back; shy suddenly, as the only two humans present. She was also apprehensive about seeing Ayame again, as she recalled that the young wolf demon had been more than a little jealous of Kouga's infatuation with her.
Her fears were almost instantly laid to rest when Ayame caught sight of her. Eyes wide, she pushed through the milling throng of youkai and caught the human woman by her shoulders.
“Kagome?” she asked incredulously. “Is it really you?”
Hesitantly, she nodded and was utterly shocked when she was pulled into a tight embrace. Slowly, she raised her arms and returned Ayame's hug. “I've always regretted that I never got a chance to thank you,” the woman whispered.
“Thank me?” Kagome asked, gently pushing away. She studied Ayame's face, surprised again when she saw tears in the wolf youkai's eyes. “What…why would you thank me?”
“You saved Kouga's life,” Ayame answered, smiling back at her. “He would have died after Naraku took the shards from his legs. “He told me how you found him, almost dead and about to be devoured by Naraku's demons. Without you, he would have died there. You and Inuyasha saved him, protected him and brought him back to Ginta and Hakkaku so that they could take care of him.”
Grim memories washed over Kagome and her eyes dropped to the ground. It had been right after Miroku and Sango had died, when they were searching, vainly hoping, to find the monk still alive. Instead they'd found Kouga, bleeding and unconscious, but still clinging to life. Inuyasha had carried the wounded wolf until they'd come across his comrades, who were also battered but still searching for their friend.
So much death, so much loss, Kagome remembered the desperation of that night when she'd frantically tried to stop the bleeding, crouching like waiting mourner over Kouga's fevered body. She also recalled the helpless, sick realization in Inuyasha's eyes that there was nothing any of them could do. Nothing other than to hope that Kouga's strength would be enough to let him survive.
Flushing slightly, she remembered how the hanyou had gently put his arms around her, how he'd held her as she quietly sobbed in despair. She was too numb at the time to do more than cling to him, knowing that she'd never see Sango again, knowing that when they found Miroku, he'd already be lost to them. That night they'd pinned their only hope on Kouga's survival, so desperate to save anyone at this point that it was the only thing that kept them going.
Get up, you fucking wolf! Don't you let that bastard win!
Kagome blinked hard, feeling tears forming in her eyes. Suddenly everything seemed to be too much and she would have staggered if Ayame hadn't slipped an arm around her for support. “I'm sorry,” the woman said quietly. “You must absolutely exhausted. We can talk more tomorrow, I want to know what's brought you back to us.”
Kouga snorted, grinning at his wife. “You won't believe the half of it, Ayame.”
She shot him a scathing look. “And you,” she snapped, a twinkle of mischief belying her angry tone. “I suppose you ran these poor women all the way here, not even thinking about how humans need to rest.”
“Honestly, Ayame,” Shippou broke in when Kouga flushed. “We did rest, several times, or we'd have been here sooner…”
“I'll deal with you tomorrow,” she said, pointing a finger at Shippou's nose. “Running off like that, not seen for weeks! I expect that from Kouga,” she raised an eyebrow at her husband, “but you know better than to make me worry, Shippou!”
The kitsune backed away from her annoyed glare, waving his hands to ward off an attack. “It's not my fault, I wanted to bring her here right away! If we hadn't met that bastard Inuyasha in the forest, none of this would have…”
He broke off at Ayame's surprised gasp and Kagome felt the woman's hand tighten on her shoulder. “You met Inuyasha?” she said, looking at Shippou as if searching him for hidden wounds. “Shippou…you aren't hurt, are you?”
“No,” he said sullenly, not looking at her. Kagome felt a tired smile pulling at the corners of her mouth as Shippou's ears started to turn red. “He didn't do anything, he just made us go with him and…”
Rin stepped forward, putting her hand on the kitsune's arm as she smiled disarmingly at Ayame. “It's very good to meet you,” she said politely with a bow. “Please don't be angry with Shippou. Inuyasha only extended Sesshomaru-sama's hospitality to him and he was gracious to accept.”
Shippou snorted, obviously remembering the hospitality he'd received from Sesshomaru's guards. He opened his mouth and then snapped it shut when Rin pinched him hard. “It was a pleasure to host one of our allies,” she said sweetly.
Ayame stared hard at her, obviously not believing everything she heard. “I think there's more to this story,” she said slowly, her arm still tight around Kagome's shoulders. Kagome felt the tremble in the wolf youkai's muscles and realized that Ayame knew everything about what had happened in the past, probably having heard it from both Kouga and Shippou. She swallowed hard and gently pulled away.
“I think we're all very tired,” she said quietly. “Please excuse me, I don't think I can stay on my feet much longer.”
Instantly abashed, Ayame led her inside the den. “You can rest safely here,” she said, her voice soft as she touched Kagome's hand. She smiled and gestured to Rin to follow them. “Our hospitality might not be as fine as Sesshomaru-sama's, but I will see to that you aren't disturbed.”
And no one had disturbed her, Kagome thought, looking around the compound. She must have slept for quite some time. Here and there, she saw wolves going about their business, women tending to children, men working at repairing weapons or tools. Her brow furrowed slightly, wondering why there were so many. As she recalled, Kouga had lost most of his pack to enemies as well as Naraku's treachery.
She turned at her name and saw Ayame sitting near a small fire, Rin at her side. The girl waved happily at her and Kagome found herself smiling back. “Aren't you hungry?” Rin called.
“Of course she is,” Ayame laughed, seeing how Kagome's eyes lit up at the mention of food. “I have some stew left over from breakfast, some grilled fish that were caught this morning and some berries.”
Gratefully, Kagome accepted the meal, barely managing to thank Ayame for her kindness before digging in. For some reason, she remembered Kouga throwing a whole boar at her feet after announcing that it was for her. She grinned to herself, glad that whatever else, Ayame seemed to believe in cooking food…at least for humans.
“Do you like it?”
“It's delicious,” she answered truthfully. She glanced around, noticing that no one else was eating and smiled sheepishly. “I guess I must have slept right through your morning, Ayame.”
Laughing, the youkai shook her head. “I expected you would,” she said in a teasing voice. “We get up with the dawn here. But I told Kouga and Shippou that I'd have their heads on a stick if they didn't let you sleep.” Her expression softened. “You've had a rough time of it these past few weeks, haven't you, Kagome?”
“I'm fine,” she began, but Ayame waved her silent.
“Shippou told me everything,” she said quietly. “You can't go back to your homeland, that must be terrible for you. Your family must be sick with worry.”
Kagome glanced away, thinking of her mother and Souta. She'd missed her grandfather's funeral, disappeared from the house without a trace. She knew that her mother must have some idea where she'd gone. All her things left behind…clothing, laptop, and cell phone…it seemed like a dream to her now, her real life. Her career, school…Scott…
She started, realizing that she hadn't thought of her murderous ex-husband in days. What was he doing now, was he wandering around Tokyo with a gun in his pocket, still searching for her? Had he…had he gone to the house after she'd vanished down the well…her mother…
“Hey,” Ayame said abruptly, seeing Kagome's expression fluttering between despair and defeat. “I'm sorry, I didn't mean to…”
“It's okay,” she said brusquely, furious with herself. Over the past few days, she'd been totally preoccupied with herself, with Inuyasha…she'd barely spared a thought for what her mother and brother must be going through. They knew, or they thought they knew, what she might be facing on the other side of that well. Since she hadn't returned…they probably thought that she was dead.
This time she wouldn't be coming home…not ever…she was trapped all over again. Her eyes burned and she realized that tears were streaking her face. All her self-control seemed to vanish and the next thing she knew, she was sobbing like a lost child into Ayame's lap.
“Kagome,” Rin murmured, her own eyes shining with sympathy. “Oh Kagome, I never thought…and I was so vicious to you. Please stop crying, I'm so sorry.”
Ayame stroked her hair, her hands soft. “It's okay,” she murmured. “Go ahead and cry, it's nothing to be ashamed of, Kagome.”
“Yes it is!” Kagome burst out, shoving herself away from Ayame's sympathy, sympathy that she so did not deserve. “I have a lot to be ashamed of,” she said raggedly. “I'm not crying for myself, I'm crying because of the hell my family must be going through. What I'm putting them through because of what I've done. I've always been selfish, pretending that I knew what I wanted when I was just so damn focused on running away I didn't care anymore.”
Rin and Ayame stared at her, but Kagome felt like she was going to burst if she didn't say what she had always been afraid to admit. “Everything that happened, it was my fault,” she said, her voice hardened with self-loathing. “I was the one that shattered the jewel. You thanked me for saving Kouga's life, but if he hadn't had those damn shards in his legs, Naraku never would have come after him in the first place.”
“Kagome,” Ayame said sternly. “You are not to blame for that. Naraku…”
“I brought the jewel back!” Kagome shouted, scrambling to her feet as she raked her fingers through her hair. Her face was mottled with red from her tears and her fury, her eyes were wild. “Every horrible thing Naraku did…the innocent people that were murdered, he did it to get that cursed jewel that I brought back into this world!”
She took a deep breath. “And all those times I lied to my mother, my grandfather, told them I was doing something noble in trying to stop Naraku. It was all a lie; I was doing what I wanted…because I wanted to be with Inuyasha! And when we finally won, when Sango and Miroku had been slaughtered by that monster…Inuyasha took that jewel I'd brought back through time and it destroyed him!”
Slowly, Ayame got to her feet, her gaze steady as she stared into the heart of Kagome's pain. “I think,” the woman said calmly, as if Kagome had only been complaining of the weather, “that you're making too much of yourself.”
Kagome blinked, staring at the woman as Ayame approached slowly, as if trying to soothe a wild creature that had reason to bolt. “Kagome, we're all selfish sometimes. And we all make mistakes as well. But you're a fool if you think you can pack up all the blame for everything that Naraku did and keep it for yourself.”
Sighing, Ayame looked tired. “I admit I was jealous of you when we first met. I saw the way Kouga looked at you…I can still see it if I look hard enough. I've seen your reflection in his eyes when he looks at me and that is something that I've learned to live with. Because I'm selfish too…and I love him anyway.”
“Ayame,” she whispered, ashamed. The girl that the wolf demon had been had been replaced by a strong woman, and now Kagome couldn't help but find herself the one being diminished by comparison. Kouga and Ayame had put their ruined lives back together…what had she done? Become a success in the corporate world by lying and using her body like a tool, neglecting the family that had stood beside her when she needed them. Taking the love of what had been a good, decent man and twisting it heartlessly until he was ready to kill her rather than let her go.
Warm hands settled on her shoulders and Kagome looked into soft green eyes. “Your reasons might be selfish, but sometimes good comes from that too,” Ayame said gently. “You taught Kouga how to be kind, you protected Shippou when he couldn't protect himself. Just because you broke the jewel does not make you to blame for what Naraku did to gain it.”
Kagome looked away, she couldn't face Ayame's kindness, not now, but the hands on her shoulders tightened until she lifted her gaze. “You are not responsible for what happened to Inuyasha either,” Ayame told her firmly. “I know…he did something terrible to you. I suppose you had to find a way to make yourself think that you deserved it.”
“You didn't destroy him,” Rin said softly, her small voice almost forgotten as the two older women faced each other. “He's not that monster anymore, Kagome. I…I know you don't believe me, but it is the truth.”
“He could turn on you, just like he turned on me,” Kagome said, unable to keep the bitterness from her voice. “I used to believe with all my heart that he'd never hurt me, that he'd always protect me. What will you do if he does that to you? Will Sesshomaru forgive him for that…or will he hunt him down and kill him like a sick animal that needs to be destroyed?”
Rin was silent, looking down at her hands as they clutched each other until her knuckles turned white. “He won't do that,” she answered, her voice almost hidden behind her hair. “Inuyasha is already dying and Sesshomaru-sama…” She looked up at Kagome with pain-filled eyes. “Sesshomaru-sama knows that Inuyasha doesn't have much time left.”
Shock blew through her body like a foul wind, chilling her in spite of the warm sun. Kagome closed her eyes, Rin's words should have made her feel something…instead she felt numb. In her mind, a dozen different images presented themselves like individual stills from a video, images that she had once banished to the back of her mind because she didn't want to feel anything when she thought about Inuyasha.
Him sleeping the first time she saw him, pinned to a tree with a single arrow. Inuyasha cursing at her as she sat him, Inuyasha arguing with her over a jewel shard. Him in pain after a battle with his brother, him looking wretched with self-loathing after he had transformed into a full-youkai and slaughtered those human bandits. Inuyasha's face, intense and close to her own, as he slowly lowered them to the ground and pushed her legs apart…
“Dying?” she managed to ask, clearing her throat as some of the memories made her short of breath. “Rin…are you sure?”
Miserable, the girl nodded. “I lied to you,” she said quietly. “I let you think I came after him just because I was jealous. I overheard Sesshomaru-sama telling Jano-san about it, about how whatever the jewel did to Inuyasha…the Tenseiga couldn't completely heal him. He was sick for so long, and he recovered, but Tenseiga just could not save him. There's nothing more that can be done.”
Rin smiled bleakly, her expression so fragile that Kagome wanted to drop to her knees and hold her. “Sesshomaru-sama let him go with you, thinking that maybe if he was able to help you, some of his pain might ease. Maybe if he can remember some part of what was good in his life, it will give him some peace when he eventually dies. I followed him because…I didn't want him to die without someone who cares about him.”
“Does he know?” Kagome asked. Rin shrugged, looking away from her as if guilty for telling this secret, embarrassed for caring so much.
“I don't think so,” she answered quietly. “Sesshomaru-sama thought it would better if he didn't know. I'm not sure he's right.”
It was too much to take, not all at once like this. For the years she'd wished for his death, for the moments in between when she'd just needed him, Kagome felt like it was closing in around her. Fate had pulled the strings tight, bringing them together, but for whatever reason she could not define.
And damn it, she didn't want to know this. How could she look at him and not be thinking of his life measured out like grains of rice, slipping slowly between her fingers. Her dream still hung heavily in the back of her mind, a priestess and a demon facing each other across a chasm of doubt and betrayal, bonded with a sacrifice and their own pain.
“I think I need some time to myself,” Kagome murmured, noticing that her hand was shaking as she drew it across her eyes. She tried to smile reassuringly at Ayame, tried to offer some comfort for Rin, but she was feeling the weight of her past too keenly and wanted solitude.
Turning away from their concern, she wandered towards the edge the compound. Rin and Ayame let her go; each of them wordless with desire to comfort what couldn't be comforted.
Before she realized it, her wandering had taken her outside the wolf demons' camp. As if she'd been intending it from the beginning, she found herself climbing a hill, her eyes focused on the summit as if that was where she'd find answers...or salvation. But Kagome knew better and felt a bitter smile creasing her lips. She'd given up hope of salvation in favor of survival and nothing that had happened to her in the past few weeks or the past ten years could change her mind.
Inuyasha was dying, shouldn't that make her glad? That he wasn't going to escape from what he'd done, that in the end he would be paying for his betrayal...that should have made her crow with victory. Instead she felt a sad emptiness in the place where her heart once would have grieved or rejoiced.
You wish that you could save him...
"I do not," she muttered under her breath, feeling the wind pulling at her hair. Sighing, Kagome wiped her forehead and looked around. Behind her was the wolf youkai camp, nestled quietly against the curve of the river. Ayame had told her that they'd made their home in the caves that ran along the river, the entrance masked by a waterfall and easily defended.
It would be a strong place to make a last stand, she thought, looking over her shoulder at the open plain that was bordered by thick forest.
They'd come from the forest, creatures skilled in concealing themselves. The caves had been the last place they could find to hide the frightened women and children, their best, last, hopeless chance at making a stand. Most armies would have chosen the open plain, chosen to show their masses instead of slipping from the forest, a smaller force than she'd expected, but no less deadly.
Kagome started, coming out of a daydream. She spun around and stared hard at the forest edge, trembling, almost willing the soldiers to come from its shadows. Her fingers were twitching for a sword that she did not wear, had never worn, and fists tightened. Why did she remember an invading youkai army that concealed itself in a forest before attacking? Why did her hand long for the hilt of a sword?
It's not me, she thought stubbornly. These are not my memories...
That's when it hit her, why this place seemed familiar. The forest, the caves, the curve of the river. They were an undeniable pattern in her mind, a memory that had awoken to be more than a dream, less than nightmare, but still...
This was the same hilltop where Midoriko had confronted the Inu no Taishou. This was where a priestess had slain a man, freeing him perhaps from his own grief and strangely, touching the heart of one rumored to be heartless in battle, merciless in his revenge. By showing him how far she was willing to go in order to put an end to the death and the killing.
She'd made him believe in her.
"What the hell are you doing out here alone? Don't you have any brains?"
It was odd, she thought as she turned to face him. Odd that it didn't startle her to have Inuyasha suddenly at her side.
She smiled at him; saw his eyes narrow suspiciously as they both knew she had no reason to welcome him with that smile. Neither of them were fooled...they both knew it was no welcome.
"Been spying on me, Inuyasha?" she asked, turning away from him and staring out over the landscape. "I'm not surprised."
Pissed, he swore to himself under his breath. "I wasn't spying," he muttered. "I was waiting for the right time."
Her eyebrow arched mockingly. "Waiting for what? The chance to be an asshole again?"
So I had that coming, he thought ruefully. "Nah," he said, rubbing the back of his neck. "Just figured I wasn't going to get a warm welcome down there. I told you I'd be back for Rin."
His easy answer didn't fool her. "Just Rin?" she asked almost wistfully. "What about me?"
Inuyasha snorted, not about to be drawn into a trap by this woman. "What about you, bitch?" he asked sarcastically. "Like I give a damn what happens to you. I get it already, you don't want to be anywhere near me."
For some reason, his angry tone pulled at her. Kagome watched him carefully, able to read him now as she always had before. He flushed suddenly, turning away from her gaze. "Quit staring at me like that," he said bitterly. "I'm not gonna try anything, you don't have to be scared."
Scared? She smiled thinly, realizing that the tables had turned for them both. Now he was the hesitant one, scared almost to look her in the eye. Maybe screwing him like that had been a better idea than she'd thought. She hadn't intended it that way, but she could see something behind his eyes now. Something more complex than anger, deeper than just desire. She had him nervous, afraid to make the wrong move...like he had with Kouga.
"I'm not frightened of you," she said quietly, remembering a priestess' strength on this same hilltop. The wind picked up suddenly, relieving the heat of the sun and sent her tangled hair around her face. She closed her eyes and sighed heavily. Then, thinking as she was of Midoriko, she opened her eyes and gave him a serious look.
"Would you mind doing something for me, Inuyasha?"
Oh, he was suspicious of her now, not that she'd ever meant for him to be. "It's nothing dangerous," she said mildly, wondering herself why she wanted to do it. "Come on, follow me."
She led him up the rest of the way, to the crest of the hill. Looking around as she turned slowly in a circle, she was surer than ever that this was the place. Could the fact that it was real also mean that the dream itself was real? If so, why the hell would she know of it? She knew the story of Midoriko, how she had died and how she had formed the jewel. That she might have met and made a truce with Inuyasha's father was a mystery she'd never even heard rumors of.
"Here," she said, turning to face east. Inuyasha looked puzzled as she gestured to him, asking him to stand in front of her. Yes, that was where his father had stood; with a youkai woman he called his wife. A woman that was not Inuyasha's mother, but perhaps Sesshomaru's...perhaps she was not, but that wasn't the piece of the puzzle she wanted to investigate.
"So?" he drawled, folding his arms and glaring at her fiercely. She grinned, realizing suddenly how much he looked like that ancient warlord. His ears twitched at her smile, he took a half-step back as if unsure that she might attack him.
"Now," she said, straightening her shoulders. "Draw your sword."
Inuyasha smirked and shook his head. "This useless piece of shit?" he sneered. "I don't need it, especially not for someone like you. If you've got some crazy idea of challenging me to a fight..."
"I'm not challenging you to anything, stupid," she snapped, glaring at him. His eyes darkened slightly and with a low growl of annoyance, he whipped the battered katana from its sheath. Inuyasha took a step forward and waved the tip under her nose as if to test her.
"What kind of game are you playing now, bitch?" he growled. "I don't fucking trust you."
She was actually a bit disappointed, thinking that maybe the blade would remember this place. Still, the compulsion was upon her just the same and she looked him right in the eye. "Put it on the ground," she murmured. "At my feet, like you were offering me your loyalty."
"My what?" he asked incredulously. This wasn't funny, it seemed like she meant it and he had no idea why. He could feel the trap closing in around him, he was sure of it. Even if he did feel like shit about what had happened, he wasn't so far gone that he'd trust this...or would he?
Silently, he knelt, placing his father's blade at her feet like an offering...or a promise. He hoped to hell that Sesshomaru never caught wind of this; he didn't know how he'd ever explain that she had some kind of power of him. Inuyasha flushed, feeling suddenly humiliated by this simple act. He just put the damn thing on the ground, but something about Kagome's bearing, as if by placing that sword on the ground he'd placed all of his burdens upon her.
Then her face fell as she looked at the quiet blade. Had she expected something more, he wondered. It was as if she expect the sword to change somehow and almost...at the very back of his mind he could see Tessaiga transforming. A dazzlingly bright blade, blinding with power as it grew beyond it's sleeping form. Then the image was gone from him and Inuyasha felt like he'd been grieving for a lost friend...one who knew him well and would be missed.
"You've seen it before," he said quietly, unable to keep a hint of bitterness from his voice. "When?"
"In a dream once," she whispered. Kagome looked up and he caught his breath at her expression, so open and vulnerable it could have broken his heart. "In your hands...I saw it many times."
"I...don't remember," he said, suddenly wishing he had something more to offer her. The words fell between them, useless and Inuyasha saw the open expression in her eyes close and again her face became unreadable to him.
"Never mind," she murmured as she turned from him. "I don't know what I was expecting, if anything. Maybe nothing, because there's nothing to remember.
"Kagome," he breathed, saying her name like a plea. He felt like he'd failed her and understood all too well that it wasn't the first time he'd let her down.
She stared off into the distance like a woman entranced and made him helpless. What could she have been expecting from Tessaiga, his father's sword? His father's useless sword, a blade of power that was somehow sealed to his sons. Inuyasha knew that it was dangerous, standing here with her, but he welcomed the danger as something familiar and close.
Kagome didn't move, letting him come to stand behind her, almost as if he were waiting for her to dismiss him. When his hands touched her shoulders, she didn't flinch away or turn to confront him. Instead she closed her eyes and let herself enjoy the almost-caress. By rights, she shouldn't enjoy it or let him dare to think he might comfort her. She was truly lost, if he were dying, when he might be the only thing worth staying for.
Her skin seemed to warm up under his fingers and Inuyasha leaned close to her scent wash over him. His pulse was speeding up just from being so close her, his chest nearly brushing her back, watching her hair stir with his every breath. He didn't know why she was allowing this, but he wasn't quite fool enough to speak and ruin it.
His hands moved from her shoulders, lightly stroking her arms, the rough fabric of her clothing rustling slightly against his claws. When he dared to stroke aside her hair to reveal the nape of her neck, she only arched her back and murmured her assent. Inuyasha whispered into the back of hair, moving slowly to kiss the sensitive place just below her earlobe and just behind the curve of her jaw. She sighed...let herself melt...and leaned back into him.
Kagome felt his smile against her neck and hissed slightly when his hands crept around to cup her breasts. The palms of his hands were almost unbearable as her nipples stiffened in response. Still more unbearable, his mouth lavished the side of her neck with hot kisses, nibbling at her shoulder and then back up to her ear.
She let her head fall back so he could continue, one his hands left her breast to turn her face towards his, breathing heavily as he ghosted a kiss across her ear. That's when she grabbed for his wrists, pulling him away from her so she could turn in his arms.
Inuyasha gasped into her open mouth, his tongue searching for hers as Kagome abandoned herself, lost in the taste of him. What did it matter, she thought wildly, what did it matter if she wanted him in spite of everything he'd done? This Inuyasha, neither raving monster or half-demon, was so far gone from the boy she'd first met. It wasn't that boy that she wanted, although she held his memory deep within a hidden shine inside her heart.
It didn't matter, not anymore and she fisted her hands in the sleeves of his haori like she wanted to tear it off. Urgent now, she returned his kisses aggressively, as if to prove to herself how much it didn't matter. He wasn't the boy she'd fallen in love with, she wasn't that innocent girl. Now she was a woman without a home to return to and he was a man who didn't have a future.
They only had now...and the thought made Kagome furious with desire, his touch and his lips holding her tight against him while they crashed together between the waves of need and dark secrets.
He broke away from her kiss, pushing her back when she surged against him. "Not here," he muttered, pulling her close again to nuzzle her throat. Kagome moaned and hung weakly in his grasp when he suddenly lifted her.
I don't care...please god, let me not care anymore...
He swung her up in his arms as he strode down the same hill that his father had once charged in fury. Kagome hooked her arms around his neck and hid her face against his chest. Her eyes stayed closed, letting the scent of him invade her senses. It took her back, he smelled like sweat and desire, reminding her of all the times she'd lost herself before.
If she'd known, if she hadn't been so fucking terrified...would she have stayed with him to the end. Could she have somehow...eased...the inevitable ending to their sad fairy tale. Would he have died in her arms?
Would he have taken her with him...would she have gone...if only once he'd told her that he loved her too?
They entered the shady coolness of the forest and Kagome trembled, not from fear but anticipation as he set her on her feet. "Here," he said roughly as if speech was almost too difficult. "I want you now. Kagome…"
She reached for him, hands shaking as she wound them into his long white hair, the silver strands tangling around her fingers as she wanted to tangle her body around his. "Yes," she hissed, kissing him fiercely and nearly drawing blood when she bit his lip. Inuyasha grabbed her shoulders, forcing her away and holding her, his eyes glinting strangely as he stared down at her.
"I need to be sure," he whispered, his voice husky as his expression softened. "I need to be sure that you want this."
"I do," Kagome murmured, pressing her body against his and sliding her hand between him. Inuyasha hissed raggedly as her hand found him, hard and ready for her and she wrapped her fingers around him. "I want this, can't you tell?"
He moaned, his eyes closing as she started to work him slowly through the tough material of his hakama. "Say it louder," he gasped, his fingers digging into the soft flesh of her upper arms. "Say it like you mean it, say you want me, Kagome!"
"I want you," she said fiercely.
He grinned, his eyes glinting at her. "It's me you want?" he asked softly. "Not that goddamn wolf or anyone else? You're sure…because if you aren't...I can leave right now. You'll never have to see me again. If that's what you want."
She tipped her face up, staring at him, wondering at the intense tone in his voice. "I don't want Kouga or anyone else," she snarled, glaring at him. Maybe she should have left him then, but the fire had pooled in her belly and she needed him right now. With every throbbing ache between her legs, she needed him!
"Good," he shot back, just as fierce. “That's what I fucking wanted to hear!” Kagome gasped as he pushed her into a tree, already tearing at her clothes. She twisted her arms from her sleeves, urgent to have her flesh against his. It was raw and primal, left her no room for misgivings. Now she didn't want to think, she just wanted to feel him inside her body.
He pushed her back as soon as she was naked, frustrating her again when she wanted to hold herself against him. Inuyasha stared down at her with greedy eyes, his expression raw with desire. “You're so beautiful,” he murmured roughly, tearing his eyes up to meet hers. “I must have been some kinda idiot to have ever driven you away.”
Wordless, she reached for him, taking his face between her hands and bringing him to her. “Shut up,” she whispered. “Don't talk about it.”
He didn't say another word, crushing her to him and devouring her lips as if he were starving for her taste. Inuyasha groaned, reaching down to free himself from his hakama, pulling her to him as he kicked his clothing away. She was so hungry for this, needing him so much, she hardly knew what she was doing as she tore at his haori, desperately trying to find his flesh.
“Hold on,” he muttered as she tried to drag him to the ground. Smiling faintly at the naked lust in her gaze, he pulled off the haori and spread it on the forest floor before carefully lowering them. His fingers slid between her legs and Kagome gasped at that light touch.
“Now,” she moaned, arching her back as he touched her.
“Not yet,” he whispered, his breath hot against her ear. Kagome shuddered, her fingers digging into his shoulders and swore loudly when his mouth trailed down her body. Lightly, he nipped at her breast, sucked hard and flicked the tip of his tongue against her stiffened nipple.
“Oh god!” she cried out, almost coming right then and there. Urgent, she pulled at his hair, begging him to stop playing with her. Chuckling, he only moved to her other breast and teased it until she was ready to scream at him. Then he let his weight rest on her and trailed a single claw down the inside of her thigh.
Panting, she wrapped her arms around his neck when he moved to kiss her, taking his tongue inside her mouth and sucking it. His soft growl was the only answer she needed and pushed her hips up in a brusque demand.
“You make me insane,” he whispered, burying his face against her shoulder. “I don't know why, but you do it.”
Then he shifted and thrust hard into her, Kagome cried out in pure relief, her body wrapping around his like a vice and pulling him in even deeper. This was what she wanted, this was what she needed and Kagome threw her guilt and remorse into the wind, abandoning herself to him in this moment.
His shoulders were like stone under her aching fingers, the long, clean line of his back slippery as he moved fast inside her. Kagome thrashed and twisted, mindlessly meeting every hard thrust, crying out his name between gasps. He tore his mouth away from hers and pulled one of her legs up, his claws digging into the soft flesh of the back of her thigh as he drove himself into her.
Sweat was stinging her eyes, her fingernails digging into his arms as he moved even faster, frantically bucking against her hips until she had to clench her teeth to keep from biting her own tongue. It was too much, she was going over the edge, she was going catch fire, feeling the back her hips chafing against the rough haori beneath her.
“More,” she hissed, raking her nails down his back, his sweat like salt on her lips. Groaning, he suddenly dropped his weight on her, sliding his arms under her shoulders to support her as he rocked hard into her body. She didn't need to breathe, she didn't need to move, all she needed was to ride this wave until it crashed, threw them both helpless on the shore.
“Hold onto me,” he growled harshly, his fangs glinting from behind a grimace. She wrapped her legs tight over his hips, her head thrown back as she gasped for air and he rode her brutally for just a few moments before his entire body seized in a sudden spasm of release, a cry tearing loose from his throat like it had been buried deep within his soul.
Her body tightened, the spring wound tight and then something inside her snapped, the white-hot burn of her climax making her twist, the muscles in her hips and back convulsing as she let out a wail that peaked and then faded away into ragged exhaustion. Her legs twitched, falling away from him heavily and she stared up at the bright sky between the leaves and tried to draw air into her aching lungs.
After a moment, he moved to the side, afraid of crushing her as she kept gasping for breath. Her heart was pounding, the inside of her mouth tasted like copper and she felt as weak as a newborn, but the warm glow of after-sex made her body tremble deliciously. Now that was what she'd been craving, needing so badly that it had starved her soul. For all the lovers that she'd left wanting, none had ever made her lose control. Only Inuyasha…
She sighed deeply and smiled when she felt his hand trace her cheek and turned to look at him. To her surprise, his eyes were serious and ever so slightly sad. “I really thought you hated me,” he said softly. “But you can't share something like that with someone you hate.”
“Are you so sure?” she whispered, her voice barely a husk. “What if you're wrong?”
Inuyasha glanced away, his jaw tightening with some strange resolve. When he looked back at her, she caught her breath at the golden intensity in his eyes. “Then I don't care,” he said roughly. “You can hate me or kick me away, but I'm going to keep coming back. You're the one I want, damn you.”
“And that's all that matters?” she asked, reaching out to touch his face. “It's not that easy…you don't know…”
“I know enough,” Inuyasha answered, his voice still quiet with resolve. He leaned close, pulling her on top of him and stroking the hair back from her eyes. “I want to know the truth. If you just hated me, I could deal with that. But when you look at me, I see more than that. Just give me a chance.”
She was scared to death, everything that she'd wanted from him, would have sold her very soul for, was now being offered. And could she do it, knowing the truth and knowing that it didn't matter. He was going to die, Rin said soon, but how soon. A few months, a few years…how could he even dare to offer this to her now when he didn't even know?
And their past lay burned behind them; she might never make it home. He'd betrayed her and used her and torn her soul apart, he'd broken her into pieces so small that she'd thought she'd never be whole. Could this be why she'd been dragged back in time, just to have these few short moments of a happy ending that had never been?
Did she deserve it…if she should let go of the past and pretend that it had never happened? Kagome swallowed hard, her hair falling into his eyes and knew that he was still waiting for an answer.
“I don't know,” she said, her voice trembling just ever so slightly. “You don't know what you're asking…”
“Then maybe you should tell him!”
Kagome found herself flung to the side as Inuyasha sat up, glowering at the forest. “Seen enough, you little bastard?” he shouted angrily. “Don't you fucking get it, she doesn't want you!”
Choking, Kagome reached for her clothes, instinctively covering her breasts. His eyes were vivid in his pale face as he stepped out of the brush. Kagome felt a sick twist in her stomach, realizing he'd been watching…that he'd seen everything and her body flushed with shame.
“Shippou,” she whispered, horrified.