InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Possession ❯ ThirtyTwo ( Chapter 32 )
[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]
Kagome Higurashi had been born to be a cheerful and kind natured girl. Even as a child in primary school, the other children were drawn to her. Her friendly personality put everyone at ease and even teachers found that they smiled more often when they were in her presence. Not so popular as to cause envy, never unpopular at all, she easily won over everyone she met simply by being herself.
It might have been her willingness to listen, or her helpfulness, or even her sweet and pleasant sense of humor. There was just something about her that was so very good and so very right that a few moments with her felt like warm sunshine. She encouraged those who needed to try harder and cheered on those who were successful, all the time unaware that there was anything out of the ordinary about her at all.
She was wonderfully ordinary and would have blushed had anyone ever said otherwise.
That didn't mean that she was perfect, for ordinary is as far from perfect as the sea is from the moon. She argued with her little brother, daydreamed when she should have been studying, worried over her grades and even grumbled about doing her chores.
Perfectly ordinary, deliciously ordinary…until the day she was dragged through time and found out that everything normal and ordinary about her life was about to be flipped upside down. No, make that twisted and folded, turned inside out as if her existence was no more substantial that that of an origami crane.
Being human and easily shredded, the last thing she'd ever wanted to do was become the heroine in a fairy tale.
And then upon finding out that there were no happy endings, no ever after, and no ride into sunset with a handsome prince…it absolutely was ordinary that she should feel bitter.
Her prince had transformed into a monster at the touch of her lips. The happy ending had become days filled with anxiety and fear. The nights twisted her, wracking her body with a lust that she could hardly understand until she was exhausted and left aching on the floor. Every time he touched her, she felt a little bit of the ordinary inside her die. And a dark bloom, like a bruise, then appeared upon the vine.
But somehow she'd found the strength inside her to keep going, and the fortitude to rebuild her shattered self. Under the pressure of five hundred years, and dead memories so heavy each one still felt like a blow, she'd become strong once again.
Or, more accurately, the shell around her had become strong. Kagome herself had hardened, become brittle as ice rather than wearing away. It had cost her a lot, much more than she could have guessed. Her shell was diamond-hard, glittering and guarded, but inside she was bruised, sore, and still bleeding…
Until there was nothing left of that ordinary girl, and no one left to cry for her.
Kagome bit her lip, stumbling over a tree root and catching herself, the rough bark like slivers in her palm. Once she'd stepped away from the protected village, the darkness had overwhelmed her. No moon or even stars to guide her steps, all light had been blotted out by the malevolent presence that covered the forest like an evil fog.
It had seemed like a fine, brave idea to go racing into the night after Inuyasha. But now, alone, she felt the fear creeping up her back with cold fingers. She couldn't even see her hand in front of her face, how was she going to find him now? Her teeth clicked together in time to the pounding of her heart and her hand holding the bow was slick with sweat.
She was going to die out here. Die alone and helpless, curled up in a ball as some unseen beast devoured her…
Kagome took a deep breath and shook her head. “Stop it,” she muttered, forcing herself to concentrate. She didn't have time to be afraid or to wail silently to herself about being a fool.
This terror…it wasn't hers.
She took another breath and willed herself to be calm, focused. Almost instantly, the terror eased, slipping from her skin like an oily mist. There now, it was getting a little easier to see. Kagome licked her dry lips and kept moving, ignoring the scratches and snags as she pushed her way through the brush. This forest…it was no darker than any other forest at night. There might be monsters lurking out there somewhere, but she trusted fate would keep her safe.
The mist lifted and she suddenly found herself stumbling into a clearing. There was still a haze in the air, shifting and curling around her knees and making each step treacherous. The horror-grief-sadness that had been so thick in the forest was lighter here and Kagome scowled at the trees, wondering which way to go next.
Then the darkness overhead parted and moonlight spilled over the clearing. The haze around her legs seemed to fill with radiance, a glittering mass that was guiding her steps. Befuddled and growing steadily more anxious, she decided that she had nothing to lose by following the mist.
Nothing to lose by falling down a well…
She shuddered, feeling the moonlight trace her skin like ice, like the breath of a ghost. But she kept going, shaking off those ghosts until they fell behind her, disappearing with her footsteps until she felt naked, somewhere between worlds, a woman cast off and searching.
Kagome stopped, realizing that she might keep walking forever and never find him. Since he'd stormed away from Kohaku and Shiori, she'd felt like something was wrong, something was so very wrong it hurt to think about. She didn't have the words to explain to Rin or Shiori, but she hadn't felt like this since…
Closing her eyes, she could almost feel those vines twisting around her ankles again. Helpless and mute, unable to reach him as Kikyou coaxed him into the abyss while she could do nothing but watch. Somehow, her heart had reached him then. She'd made him wake, she'd drawn him back because he wouldn't forget her, wouldn't leave her, would not let her go…
Breath misting just beyond her lips as if the very air had become drenched with her anxiety, Kagome stood very still. Only a few feet away from her was a mass of jyaki that wriggled and writhed obscenely. Her lips trembled, wanting to scream, wanting to bolt away from the malformed and throbbing mess of serpentine bodies with thick tails and bloated, stinking flesh.
All bulbous eyes and slashing teeth, they didn't seem to be aware of her presence. And that was a good thing, her soft flesh would be a tasty meal and she wasn't sure that she could even purify something this corrupt. Naraku had often used the sacred jewel to set monsters against them, but Kagome thought that his imagination must have failed him…for she'd never seen something quite so visceral and sickening before.
She had to breathe or she might faint, might fall to the ground and they'd find her then. Slow and careful, she lifted her right foot and took a step back. Kagome swallowed with a dry throat as the mass shifted again, slippery and sliding as something deep inside rolled over, crimson against the putrid darkness of decaying flesh.
Kagome choked, a small whine of horror escaping her lips as she recognized it…Inuyasha's haori. She started to shake, tiny tremors grew until her body was aching, trying to control her need to rush in there, heedless of the danger, and make sure this wasn't just another nightmare.
She'd had many nightmares, but she was all too certain this time that she was awake, that she was really seeing this. The fire-rat fur was tough, fireproof, and better than poor armor as he'd told her long ago. She watched as long black teeth gnawed at the fabric and suddenly felt anger boiling over inside her belly.
“Bastards,” she whispered, planting her feet as she drew the bow forward. Her fingers might shake, but she could hardly miss her target from this range. They'd be all over her in a moment; she had to do as much damage as she could. If they weren't all destroyed, purified straight to hell, she wouldn't have time for a second arrow before they sank their teeth into her body.
One arrow…it was the only revenge she might have.
Their eyes turned towards her as she drew the string taut, and her teeth bared into a rictus smile. Kagome was prepared to end this nightmare…for once on her own terms.
A blur of white came crashing from the dark edge of the forest and Kagome caught herself before firing. Inuyasha was moving so fast he was like a flare against the dim background of night. His hair glittered like it was made from moonlight itself and his long-sleeved undershirt was so white against his hakama that they almost looked black.
She raised her bow again, sighting instead at the far edge of the mass. Her arrow was a streak of pale fire itself, hitting the ground beneath the enraged horde. Inuyasha was cursing softly under his breath, ignoring her completely as he tore into the wriggling monsters. The purification of her arrow spread out, flaring brightly for just a moment and then Inuyasha was glaring at scattered bodies as if he were only angry that she'd left him nothing else to kill.
Kagome was so relieved to see him, alive and unharmed, that she was actually struck silent and could only beam at him when he turned his angry glare in her direction.
“I said you were crazy before,” he said, almost muttering to himself. “Why the hell did you leave the village, don't you have any…umph!”
She threw herself at him before he could finish the sentence, kissing him as hard as she could, bruising her own lips against his violently as if to prove that he was really safe.
Inuyasha stood still for a moment, and then caught her body against his as if he'd been starving for a taste of her. He sucked at her lips hungrily and nibbled on the tip of her tongue. Kagome let herself fall into him, her arms around the back of his neck and his hands in her hair. His palm held the back of her head tenderly, bending her over his arm and literally sweeping her feet from the ground.
She felt for a moment like that princess in the old fairy tale, or the cover of one of those romance novels that she'd scorned and secretly envied in a lifetime so long ago. Kagome wanted to kiss him from the bottom of her heart, she wanted him to feel everything she wasn't able to say, to express. For once, she was willing to defy the shattered edges of her heart, the bitter frost that didn't want to let her free of the past.
Just for now, she was kissing Inuyasha…because she needed to love him more than she needed anything else.
Their lips parted and Kagome opened her eyes, meeting his tender, befuddled expression. Her fingers stroked the hair away from his cheek and then wandered up to tweak his ear almost playfully.
“You scared me half to death,” she said, her voice light and easy. “I thought I'd lost you when I saw your haori.”
He licked his lips as if sealing her taste away in his memory and then carefully put her feet under her, still holding her close. “Is that why you kissed me?” he asked softly. “You thought I was dead?”
The confusion in his tone made her smile. “No,” she whispered, curling a lock of hair around her finger. “Because you were still alive.”
He didn't smile. “You could have been hurt,” he said, slowly stiffening as he pulled away. “You should have stayed away, Kagome. You should have stayed where you were safe.”
Kagome fisted her hands in his shirt, bowing her head until it rested against his chest. “Safe?” she asked, hearing the words fall like tears while she'd never felt less like crying. “You think I could stand losing you now?”
“No,” she said, shoving him away so she could look into his face. “It doesn't matter, Inuyasha. I'm not going to do this again, I'm not going to stand by and watch you die, and I'm not going to pretend it means nothing. Don't you understand? I know why I'm here.”
His expression shifted, he looked almost afraid, like the words wanted to come from his lips, but he was too afraid to hear them hang in the air, fading away like smoke while the burn of them was too intense.
She didn't make him say it. “I'm here because of you,” she said, letting the simple fact sink into them both. “I came for you. And I refuse to let you leave me behind or push me away.”
Inuyasha wouldn't look at her, his head down until she couldn't see his face, only a veil of white hair and ears that twitched to show his agitation. “But I hurt you,” he muttered. “I hurt you so much, it could have killed you. I…”
He looked up, caught her like a fly in his amber gaze. “I would have killed you,” he whispered. “If you hadn't run away when you did.”
Kagome couldn't breathe; her heart was pounding against her ribs. A nameless fear swept through her body like a fell wind, left her shivering with its chill. In her mind, a dark chasm opened and for a long moment, she couldn't think beyond the realization of what his words meant.
“Inuyasha,” she said, stumbling a bit as she tried to find a place to fit all that fear inside her. “You…remember?”
A heartbeat, an eternity later, he answered. “Yeah,” he said, his shoulders shaking a bit. “Not everything, not much really. Just pieces here and there, of you mostly…of us. When I…oh gods, Kagome.”
He turned away, brushing at her hands as if the touch of her mortified him. She watched as Inuyasha shuddered, his expression sick as he covered his face with his hands. He rubbed at his face, trying to scrub away the memories, but when he was finally able to meet her eyes again…she saw vast darkness and an abiding disgust at what he'd done.
“You tell me not to die,” he said, his voice as rough as if he'd swallowed gravel. “How the hell can I live with what I did to you?”
Kagome stared at him, her lips trembling with the very love and grief she'd had to bury for so long. “You can live with it,” she said, taking his hands in her own. “I did. I lived with it every day after I left. And I still came back to you.”
She laced her fingers with his, looking down at their hands. Hers small and grubby, scratched with the last few weeks of unfamiliar hardship. His were large and warm, calloused and strong and sharp like Inuyasha himself. She smiled to herself, caressing his palms between hers and soothing away his distress as if she were only his confessor, not the woman who had loved him from the start.
“I had to forget myself to live without you,” she said. “You had to forget me to survive. Maybe…maybe that's how it was supposed to be from the beginning. Just once, Inuyasha…can't you believe in me?”
His expression softened, became tender as he cupped her fingers, holding them as if he intended to treasure her touch like a miser would treasure gold. “I don't understand why you'd forgive me,” he admitted. “I remember doing things to you, making you cry, making you plead. I remember…enjoying it, hurting you.”
Inuyasha's voice dropped and he moved closer, pressing his face to her hair. “I remember wanting you so much it made me crazy. Just like it does now.”
Her pulse quickened and Kagome felt her entire body flush when his breath touched her ear. He hesitated for a moment and then leaned in to kiss the skin just below her ear, tracing the curve of her jaw with a feather-light touch. She felt liquid heat like a pool in her belly and she trembled a bit as Inuyasha ran the tip of his tongue across her shoulder and kissed her, grazing her skin with his teeth.
Kagome gasped, surprised when he groaned softly and bit down, just barely breaking the skin and her hands immediately tightened on his arms. Inuyasha stopped immediately, pulling away to stare into her eyes.
His face was worried and tense and as the sweet fog of desire slowly lifted between them, he licked his lips and dropped his eyes. “I'm sorry,” he said, so quietly that should hardly hear him. “I didn't mean…did I hurt you?”
The concern in his voice made her smile and she reached out to touch his face. She'd never seen that look before…shy, but worried, and behind the concern, an edged lust that wanted her so badly she wondered if she'd catch fire just from him looking at her.
“It's okay,” she said, stroking hands over his face, dropping down to caress the hard muscles of his shoulders. “I'm not afraid of you, Inuyasha. I'm not that scared girl anymore…I know what I want.”
He grinned and she saw his eyes sparkle a bit. “Are you sure?” he said, his hands suddenly confident as he pulled her close. His lips hovered over hers, his expression open and gentle as he looked at her so seriously. Something inside him had changed, she wasn't sure how. Kagome hardly dared to question it, but somewhere deep inside her body, deep down in the depths of her soul, she knew this was the real Inuyasha.
Not the angry boy she'd loved, not the demon she'd feared, not the twisted wreck that had somehow survived, and not the man that she'd met only a few short weeks before. He was all of these things, and Kagome felt herself open to him as if she'd been waiting all these years just to say the words.
“I love you,” she whispered, holding his face against her throat as he kissed her again. “I've always loved you, Inuyasha!”
He raised his face slowly, meeting her eyes with a flushed smile. Then his expression darkened and something in his stance chilled her. Inuyasha growled and suddenly spun them around, shoving her behind him as he glared at the dark forest.
“I know you're there,” he snarled, his mouth twisting around the words as he kept his body between Kagome and the unseen threat. “You think I can't smell you, bastard? Show your face!”
Kagome held her breath, squinting at the darkness as if to will something to appear. The hair was standing up on the back of her neck and she could feel tension radiating from Inuyasha like a threat. The muscles of his back were hard as stone and she clenched her fingers in the white fabric of his shirt.
“What is it?” she murmured, “who is out there?”
There was a crashing sound and someone stumbled from the trees. Kagome exhaled in relief when she saw it was only a man and then choked on her own breath as moonlight caught his bloated face.
“Oh my god,” she said, looking away for fear she'd be sick.
Inuyasha's hand felt for hers and she clung to him as she looked again, forcing herself to stare at the poor wretch. He was human, and looked like he'd only been dead for a few days. His skin hung on his frame like old laundry except it was moving. Rippling actually, like small beasts were rooting frantically beneath the dull flesh. She could see his eyes roll back in his head as he staggered, barely able to move. His fingers had already gone black, rotting and his mouth worked soundlessly as if he were screaming…only no one would ever hear him.
“Shit,” she heard Inuyasha mutter. “What the fuck happened to it?”
A memory surfaced and Kagome recalled the demon that had nearly killed her when Tessaiga had struck Inuyasha unconscious. That man had been dead longer, she thought, and had nearly been rotting to pieces before her eyes. His skin had looked stiff and waxen, putrid and the color of old clay. This man…
“He's possessed by a demon,” she said, clutching Inuyasha's arm. “He's already dead, but something is inside him, riding him.”
“More than one,” Inuyasha said calmly, his nose twitching. “I'd say there's a few inside, trying to figure out how to work the body.”
She jumped a bit when the possessed corpse lurched forward and clawed at its own chest. Kagome watched with morbid fascination as the monsters inside the body struggled…trying to communicate.
“Hurts,” it said, wincing and its voice sounded congested. “Body hurts, sick…rotten.”
“What do you want?” Inuyasha growled, still pushing Kagome back as they edged away from the thing. “Why are you here?”
“Told us,” it said thickly, slurring now and tried to focus bloodshot eyes. “Told us to find…to find…”
Inuyasha cursed under his breath. “You can't have her,” he bit out angrily.
“Not her…not the woman.”
Inuyasha bared his teeth and growled so hard that Kagome cringed away from him. “Yeah?” he said, sounding eager now. “You after me? You want a taste of what I gave those slimy bastards a minute ago? Come and get me!”
“Inuyasha!” Kagome grabbed his arm and pulled hard. “Let's go! It's slow, it's not going to chase us…there's no point…”
“Fuck that,” he hissed and pushed her back so hard she nearly fell. “I threw my haori at the other ones because I knew they were tracking me. Thought maybe it was you they wanted, might have smelled you on me or something…”
“So what?” she said, her voice sounding weak and lost even to herself. “So what if you…” Kagome stopped when the wretched monster groaned loudly and stumbled and fell, crouching on the ground as spasms wracked its body.
“Hurts,” it repeated. “Need stronger bones, flesh too weak…he said…better…”
“Who said?” Kagome asked as Inuyasha stared at the corpse in bewilderment. “Someone told you to come after Inuyasha?”
“Yesss…” The voice was hardly more than a moan, but the creature looked up at her pleadingly. “Said to bring the dog, the white-haired youkai, to stop the pain. We hurt…we hurt all the time.”
Kagome shuddered as the thing started to crawl towards them. “Please,” it whispered. “You…priestess…help us!”
“I don't know how,” she said, her heart aching for anything so miserable. The man that had once owned that body had probably been murdered by the very demons that were begging her for help. He must have been a farmer, or someone from a nearby village, she thought. His features, twisted in pain and bloated with bile, looked almost familiar.
“Oh god,” she said, suddenly about to be sick on the ground. The world was spinning and she leaned against Inuyasha before he pulled her back a few more feet. “Inuyasha, I've seen him before. He was at Kaede's village, he was one of the men that were with their families!”
Inuyasha didn't answer her, still glaring at the pathetic monster. “Tell me who sent you after me,” he said, his voice hard. “Who told you to kill that man and take his body? Who told you to attack the village, were you coming after me back then? Why take a human body, what happened to your own bodies?”
It howled then, confused or in so much pain it couldn't answer. Kagome felt tears sliding down her cheeks. Kaede…her villagers…how many of them were dead? How many of them had been used as hosts for agonized demons that were driven insane by pain and torn from their own flesh?
“Tell me!” Inuyasha's eyes were feverish. “You're after me, right? Someone sent you to kill me, I want to know why!”
“Not kill.” Slowly, painfully, it pulled itself up until it was kneeling like a human man asking for a blessing. The decaying hands reached towards Inuyasha in pitiful supplication. “Not kill…not kill. To join with us…like before…inside the…”
Inuyasha shouted and grabbed Kagome, who shrieked when the pathetic creature's head was suddenly torn from its body. The sickle-blade cut the air with deadly precision and sliced the corpse's throat apart with a sickening sound.
Kagome was still shaking, more from surprise than actual fear, when Kohaku appeared out of the darkness like a ghost. Tension filled the small clearing, almost visible in the pale moonlight that gleamed off Inuyasha's hair and Kohaku's blade. They confronted each other from across the small clearing and the night was filled with a menacing silence.
“Why did you do that?” Kagome whispered, staring at Kohaku.
He didn't look at her, keeping his gaze on Inuyasha. “They jump from body to body,” he said quietly. “It was stalling, trying to get enough time to attack.”
“Bullshit.” Inuyasha was smiling, but it wasn't a happy smile. It was the baring of teeth and his eyes were blazing with fury. “It was about to tell us something. Like who the fuck sent it after me!”
Kohaku didn't flinch. “It was lying. I've seen them do it before. The fresher the body, the more likely it will lie and try to get your guard down.”
“And just how long were you listening, exterminator boy?” Inuyasha didn't bother to hide his contempt, still angry about earlier. “Why did you let it keep talking if it was only going to lie? Or did you just step in when it started to say something you didn't want me to hear?”
“Are you accusing me of something?” Kohaku answered in a soft voice. “Why don't you say what you mean instead of blustering uselessly?”
Inuyasha growled low in his throat and Kagome grabbed his hand, reminding him that she was still there, still on his side. Taking a deep breath, she pushed her hair away from her eyes. “That man was from Kaede's village,” she said, watching Kohaku's face. “He's been dead a few days…does that mean they were attacked?”
“Yes.” Kohaku's expression didn't change, but he looked at her soberly. “It was right after you left them. We just found out tonight.”
A frown creased her forehead and she felt Inuyasha's fingers twitch against hers. Kohaku's tone was dead, completely void of emotion. She'd seen how dedicated to his people he was, how they responded to him with unquestioning loyalty. This cold young man, so angry and lost, she wanted to grieve for him and the life he'd chosen. His only happiness was Shiori, and the woman he loved would be reviled if his people only knew that her heritage, and their baby's heritage, was that of a youkai who had fallen in love with a mortal girl.
“Is Kaede-sama…” she began, steeling herself against the answer and the heartbreak that was sure to follow.
Kohaku flinched and suddenly looked human again, not a strange young man made of stone. “She's fine,” he said, and his voice relaxed a bit. “They were able to get away, most of them anyway. A few of the men stayed behind to fight, try to give them a head start. You see what happened to them.”
Horrified, she leaned hard against Inuyasha until he slipped his arm around her back. “How many ended up like that?” she asked, sickened. “How many had to…”
“You see why I had to kill it,” he returned, his voice soft as he finally met her eyes. “Kagome…I can't just let this keep happening. I'll do anything, risk my life, even risk Shiori and my baby being found out, to stop this kind of evil. My…my sister, my father…would have expected it.”
“We should get back then,” Inuyasha muttered, looking away from Kohaku as if he didn't trust himself not to say what was really on his mind. “You've got to be worried about her.”
“I am,” Kohaku said slowly. “Which is why I can't let you come with me, Inuyasha. That thing was after you. As long as you're there, you're putting everyone at risk. I will take Kagome with me, back to the village where it's safe and we can protect her.”
“The hell,” Inuyasha said angrily. “You think I'd trust to you protect her?”
“She'll be safe there,” Kohaku snapped back. “It's not her they're after!”
Kagome folded her arms and glared at them both. “Enough,” she said in a hard voice that had both men staring at her. “I decide where I go and I am going to stay with Inuyasha. I won't leave his side again!”
She held them both still with the force of her gaze and the low, firm tone of her voice. She meant it too, no one would decide where she should go, for her own safety or not. It had been a long time since anyone had expected her to obey passively and two angry, upset men, both intent on protecting what was important to them, were not going to fight over her decision.
Inuyasha's expression relaxed and he gave soft, surprised laugh. “I guess that settles it,” he said, grinning at Kohaku. “You try to make her go, I dare you.”
Sango's brother looked troubled, glancing up to search the sky. “You have to stay under cover,” he muttered. “Don't go out in the open, not now.”
“That presence,” Kagome said softly, catching Kohaku's attention. “It's been tracking you as well.” At his startled expression, she cleared her throat and continued. “Kohaku, do you know what she wants?”
He spun around, his expression naked and fearful. Kagome saw the sweat on Kohaku's forehead, the way his skin had gone white. Even the scars on his cheek seemed bloodless and she thought he looked like she had just called to him from a grave. Her brows knit together in a frown and she reached out a hand without thinking.
“It's okay,” she said, trying to soothe him. “Shiori told me that you know what it is. It took me some time to recognize it, but I think somehow…”
She stopped. Kohaku looked absolutely terrified, out of his mind with fear. Inuyasha stood quietly behind her, just watching them both and for once, keeping silent on his thoughts. He cleared his throat when Kohaku made no move to answer her, only stood frozen, blank terror reflected in his uninjured eye, while the other remained hidden, shrouded in secrets that she knew were better off unrevealed.
“It's Midoriko,” she said, knowing that Kohaku, as Sango's brother, would know how the jewel had been formed. She herself could remember that day, so long ago, when they looked upon the stone face of a long-dead woman, and the battle that had formed a jewel called both sacred and cursed.
Kohaku blinked. “Midoriko,” he murmured, color seeping back into his skin. “I never thought…you really think it could be her?”
“Yes,” Kagome said firmly. “Don't you see, it make sense when you think about it. Midoriko's soul was trapped inside the jewel, just like the demons' souls. Now that the jewel is gone, they've been freed, but they can't rest peacefully. Perhaps that is why they are following you, following me, and following Inuyasha. Anyone who had contact with the jewel…they need our help.”
Now that she'd said it, Kagome wasn't sure what she should do. Hoping to get some kind of affirmation, she turned to Inuyasha. His expression was troubled and he slowly lifted his gaze to hers.
“You think they need help?” he asked quietly. “Maybe they only want revenge.”
Kagome swallowed hard and bit her lip. Revenge? Upon Kohaku or herself, that didn't make sense. But Inuyasha…those demons had been ready to tear him apart, that possessed corpse had seemed desperate to get at him. But why would they…
“You could be right, Kagome.” She turned to look at Kohaku and was relieved to see him looking decisive again. “If it really is Midoriko, she's still trapped with those demon souls.” He took a deep breath, shuddering. “I think we can all feel how much pain she's in.”
“Yes,” she breathed, feeling Inuyasha's fingers twitch against hers. “We've got to help her, Kohaku. If her presence is leading these attacks, they won't ever stop until we're able to lay her to rest.”
“I knew you'd understand,” Kohaku said, and she suddenly felt uncomfortable when he looked at her with an intensity she'd never seen before. “And you'll be the one to do it, Kagome. I knew that was why you were here, after so many years, who else could it be?”
Her mouth was dry, but Kagome nodded like she knew what she was doing. “I'll…I'll try, Kohaku. I don't know how to…”
“No, I'll take care of the how,” he answered. “If you and Inuyasha will help me, will just go to talk to her…”
“The old woman.” Inuyasha's voice was quiet, subdued as if he was forcing himself to speak. “The one you think will send Kagome home.”
She felt dizzy just thinking about it. Home, a week ago she would have done anything, paid any price, just to get back to where she belonged. But what about the price, what if going home meant a one-way trip and she'd never see Inuyasha again? Could she live with that?
Could she teach herself to live without him…again?
“I'm not going home,” she said, each word falling from her lips like promises kept in blood. “I've made my choice. I came back here for a reason and this is it.”
Slowly, she turned to look at Inuyasha. “I told you I was sure,” she whispered.
He reached out to touch her face. His hand was shaking and she wanted to throw her arms around him, sob into his chest like a lost child, but he only stroked her cheek. “Don't,” he whispered, “not for me, Kagome. Not when I'm going to…”
“Then I'll have you for as long as I can!” The fierce tone of her voice couldn't be mistaken. “Don't you understand? I'm not going to lose you!”
Kohaku cleared his throat, she heard him shuffle his feet as if he were unsure if he should be listening. “Help me,” he said softly. “Kagome, Inuyasha…help me save her. I'm tired of killing, and I'm tired of watching good people die. It has to end…it has to end now.”
“Oh Kohaku,” she murmured, her eyes stinging. Sango's brother, what else could she do? “We'll help you in any way we can.” She felt Inuyasha's hands on her shoulders, warm and steady. With him at her side, she could do anything.
Anything at all.
As Kohaku had said, it was dangerous for Inuyasha to return to the village. The demons had twice attacked him, twice tried to lure him out where they could overwhelm him, not just kill. Kohaku said that he couldn't take that kind of chance again…there were too many innocent people at risk.
“I'll go back alone,” he said quietly and then gave Kagome a half-hearted smile. “Shiori will worry if I don't let her know what we're doing. And I think Rin and Shippou would fight their way across the forest if they thought you two were in danger.”
She'd been worried about that, what Shippou and Rin might do if they didn't return. “Is he going to be okay?” she asked, concerned that Shippou might not have recovered from the effects of Kohaku's barriers. “He won't like being told not to come after us.”
“Brat,” Inuyasha muttered to himself. “Both of them, stubborn brats. When I get home, I'm having that brother of mine lock Rin in her room for a month.”
She grinned at him, happy to hear him sounding more like himself. “Does Sesshomaru have room for Shippou? I don't think Kouga and Ayame can sit on him much longer.”
Inuyasha snorted and then chuckled. “Can't hurt to ask.”
She felt so much better, she felt like they were actually going to do some good. Instead of just selfishly trying to get home, or abandoning herself to whatever fate intended, Kagome was happy to be taking action. It felt like the old days, when they'd been so determined to stop Naraku.
It made her miss Sango and Miroku even more, to the point where she felt her eyes stinging again when Kohaku had to leave.
“There are caves just to the south of here,” he explained. “You should be safe there until I get back. I'll try to hurry, but if I'm not there by noon tomorrow…”
Kagome laughed, shoving the young exterminator gently in the direction of his wife. “Go see Shiori,” she said, her whole body smiling at him. “Give her my love and tell Rin and Shippou we'll be back soon. Inuyasha and I can take care of ourselves for a day or two.”
Inuyasha had grinned at that and Kagome licked her lips as she returned his smile. Maybe it was pure selfishness, but she was desperately grateful to have him to herself. She wanted him, oh god, she wanted him! But even more than that, she wanted to talk to him.
She wanted to answer his questions, tell him everything he'd forgotten. Kagome wasn't going to dwell on the past though, or hurt them both by filling in the painful details. She wanted him to hear the good things that he'd done, how many times he'd fought for the innocent or the weak, people like Shiori and Kohaku, when they'd been children.
She wanted him to know that he'd never been a murderer, or a monster, or something that deserved hatred and loathing. Only she, Kagome, could fill in those lost pieces of his memory. It was the jewel that had made him do those things, either he'd been seduced by its power, or become too fearful of his own weakness, but the reason didn't matter.
It was the jewel and the angry souls inside it that had ruined the person Inuyasha had been meant to be.
This is what I've always wanted, to become pure youkai.
She refused to believe that.
I never wanted to be only human, Kagome.
Maybe not. But he hadn't wanted to become that monster either. His betrayal had shocked her down to her very soul, had torn apart everything she'd known, everything she'd believed about herself. And for years, she'd punished herself for believing in him, for loving him, for not seeing Inuyasha for what he really was.
Only to find out…she was right all along.
Now, warming her hands over a small fire inside a tiny cave, she wanted to prove it to him. Prove to Inuyasha that she was right about him; prove that her heart and her body had never betrayed her because he was the man she'd always loved. And the man that he was meant to be…deserved a second chance.
Kagome had told him that he shouldn't dare apologize to her for what had happened. Now she was ready to let him apologize to her all night long until both of their bodies gave out and they could slide together into unconsciousness.
She licked her lips again, anticipating. If she had anything to say about it, this would be a very good night for apologies.
Sighing, she wrapped her arms around her knees. Inuyasha's still damp haori was spread out on the floor next to her, drying slowly. He'd insisted on scrubbing the stench out of it and she'd agreed as soon as the smell had wafted towards her. It definitely would have interfered with her plans for a romantic encounter.
Smiling, she reached out and stroked the sleeve of the red haori and thought about all the times she'd worn it. The first time, heading down the well to confront Yura of the Hair. He'd been gruff, but even then protective. Times after that when it had sheltered her from attack, or kept the rain off her head. It was strange how a piece of clothing had become so intertwined with all of her memories, good and bad. Just like Inuyasha himself, they were part of her.
Kagome stood up to shake the now slightly damp haori, the rough material like a familiar friend. And she'd been so frightened when she'd seen him wearing it, just like he'd been enraged to see her dressed like Kikyou. He'd attacked her then, in the corridor of Sesshomaru's fortress, and nearly forced himself on her out of hate and pain.
Had he really wanted to hurt her? She'd seen so much shame in his eyes…
“No,” she murmured, holding the haori close like a lover. “I'm not going to think about that.” Slowly, she drew the fabric around her, pulling it close like a veil to keep out those angry memories. She pressed a sleeve against her cheek and just wished again that she could start over, they could start over…somewhere in the past.
Blushing, she turned to face him, her face turning almost as red as the fabric she'd been nuzzling. His eyes lit up, surprised, and he slowly walked towards her, a string of fish for their dinner dangling from his hand like an afterthought.
“You missed me that much?” he asked, unable to keep the grin from his voice.
“Don't let it go to your head,” Kagome answered, feeling a bit foolish. “I'll have you know I'm very fond of this haori.”
“Is that so?” Inuyasha dropped the fish next to the fire and moved closer. Kagome caught her breath as he approached, the firelight reflecting in his eyes and turning them bright. He stopped, only inches from her and stared at her so seriously that she thought her heart might stop.
“I'll give it to you,” he whispered, his voice sending a sensuous thrill up her spine. “You have to promise to wear it just for me.”
“I promise,” Kagome said, barely able to hear her own words over the pounding of her pulse. His hands were slowly moving to the ties of her hakama, loosening them just enough that they started to slide from her hips. Satisfied, he stood still until she shifted and let them drop.
“And this,” he murmured. Fingers steady and sure, he gently opened her top, his hands like warm promises themselves as he caressed her. First her waist, gliding his fingers over the swell of her hips, then across her torso as if mapping each and every inch of her skin. She was ready to scream by the time he reached her breasts, and then she nearly whimpered as he only passed over the rigid points of her nipples and moved the warmth to her shoulders.
“Kagome,” he whispered, moving to kiss her neck. She stiffened slightly, realizing that her top had slid to the ground, nestling around her feet with the hakama. He trailed his fingertips under his haori, holding her close to him with feathery touches. His palms rested on her on her hips again, his thumbs moving in slow circles on either side of her pelvis.
Shaking now, not from fear, but from pure desire, Kagome slowly pressed herself into Inuyasha's embrace. Their bodies fit together, arms and elbows all sliding into place and the weight of his haori made her knees go weak. He caught her as she sagged against him, utterly his, and finally where she needed most to be.
Carefully, he pulled her down, settling her across his knees as he knelt, unwilling to let any part of her bare flesh touch the rough cave floor. Kagome arched her back, her thighs on either side of his and wasn't surprised when she found that he had loosed his hakama just enough to ease past his hips.
No words now, she slid over him and bit her lip as he entered with one, slow thrust, and then pulled her down to rest against him. They were both breathing a little too fast and he rested his head on her shoulder. She sighed in his ear, kissed his cheek and he started to rock forward slightly, just enough.
It was utterly silent in the cave, except for the lazy crackling of the fire and a soft gasp now and then. Inuyasha cupped her backside with both hands, moving her up and down to meet his body. She just kept her arms around his neck, holding on, but not asking anything. She could only give now, all parts of her reveled in just giving to him what he wanted and letting the rhythm build faster as the urgency between their bodies needed answer.
Opening her eyes, she watched his flushed face, and became fascinated with each grimace and gasp. It was like she was seeing him for the very first time, his expression was that naked. Trembling, she stroked his cheeks with fingers until he swore softly and slammed her hips down against his own. The muscles of her thighs clenched when she felt him spill inside her and a glorious tension suddenly released all at once.
It made her dizzy and she didn't know how long they stayed there, clamped desperately around each other, but she felt him stir and reach up to stroke her hair and slick the sweat down the bare skin of her back.
“You dropped your haori,” he whispered. “You promised to wear it for me.”
Kagome hugged him tight, smothering him against her chest until he laughed. “Ask me again,” she said, silly with him. “Ask me for anything you want and I'll give it to you, just ask!”
His body went still under hers, still plastered together with sweat and the musk of their lovemaking. “I have something to ask,” he said, sounding more like a lost child than a man who had just made love. “I want to ask, but I don't have the right.”
Sensing how serious he was, Kagome pulled back to look at his face. Inuyasha met her eyes without flinching. “What is it?”
“Tell me everything,” he whispered. “Everything that happened to you after you left. I've got to know…why you still love me.”
She caught her breath, memories of the past ten years like a speeding train in her mind. “It's not important…” she began.
His arms tightened around her waist. “It's important to me,” he muttered. “I keep seeing you, falling down the well. You were running from me, I was going to…hurt you.”
“I don't want to tell you what happened,” she whispered into his hair. “It's in the past now, it's over…you'll only be…”
The words caught in her throat and Kagome felt tears sliding down her cheeks. For so long she'd kept this to herself, her secret pain, the one thing that no one else could share. It was hers and hers alone! Like the baby had been hers alone to mourn and weep for. She could see herself, seventeen years old and sobbing in a hospital bed at night.
Her mother tried to share the pain, but she'd shut her out. Her brother hadn't understood, only shouted and screamed for Inuyasha's blood over what had been done to his sister. Her grandfather…tears burning now…had held her hand and said…said…
It was fine to grieve, jiichan told her. Fine to grieve and fine to be angry. But once the fury and pain passed, she would still have her own feelings to deal with.
Her feelings for Inuyasha.
And so she'd sealed her heart in a tiny casket, welded it together with hate and bitterness, blaming herself for this loss when deep inside, like a festering black sore, the grief for her baby had never truly healed.
“When I left you,” she said, her voice shaking and breaking like glass over stone. “When I left you, I was pregnant. I had a miscarriage…I lost the baby. It's all my fault.”
“Kagome.” Inuyasha's voice sounded rough. “Kagome, don't blame…”
“It's my fault!” she cried, throwing her arms around him and sobbing hysterically. “I lost your baby and I'm so sorry! Please forgive me, I wasn't good enough, I wasn't strong enough. Maybe God took her away because I loved you more than I loved anything else.”
Words she'd never said, only screamed in the darkness of pain…
“It was punishment,” she said, the words wracking her as Inuyasha held her on his lap. “It was punishment because I broke the jewel, I wasn't strong like Kikyou! I wasn't able to stop you and my baby died because I wasn't good enough!”
She'd never said the words out loud. Not to her mother, not to any therapist or doctor who might have been able to soothe her, or convince her that it wasn't her fault. She'd carried the guilt and the blame alone because that was her punishment, and that was what she deserved.
She couldn't save Inuyasha and she didn't deserve to have his child.
“Kagome, Kagome,” he murmured, rocking her like a child. Only moments ago, their bodies had rocked in passion, now he held her and comforted her. She cried until her eyes were so swollen that she couldn't see, and only noticed she was warm when she realized he'd pulled the haori around them.
“I'm sorry I wasn't there for you,” Inuyasha said, rocking her against his shoulder. “I should have been there. If I hadn't fucked up, you wouldn't have had to run away and bear this all by yourself. Oh Kagome, I'm so sorry. I love you so much and I beg you to forgive me for not being there to hold you when you needed me!”
A heavy weight lifted and Kagome felt something inside her break. For the first time, she had cried out to him all of her loss and her pain. Now the deep dark center of her soul, the twisted and withered place where she'd hoarded all of her self-hatred, had been set free. She could feel her whole body lightening, filling up with peace, and light flowing over her darkness until she finally sighed.
The shell had been broken. The pain…like tight cords around her heart…was gone. Kagome brushed her hair back from her face and met Inuyasha's eyes. Like travelers lost in a desert, their thirst had overwhelmed them until they knew only desperation. Finally, like cool water to their parched souls, they were able to find solace in each other, sharing each sip from the same cup, and together they grieved for their losses and made love until they were both too exhausted to cry.