InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ The Way You See Me ❯ The Way You See Me ( Chapter 1 )

[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]
Disclaimer:  I don’t own Inuyasha.  I will make no money from this fic; I write for my own enjoyment and the enjoyment of my readers.  

A/N – I recently read a couple stories where Kagome was injured, Inuyasha transformed into a youkai and took care of her, and then they had sex and got together.  Don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed those stories.  But this is something different, an alternative plot if you will.  It takes place right at the end of chapter 187 of the manga, soon after the aftermath of the battles against Gatenmaru and Sesshoumaru, but before Inuyasha talks to Totosai about a way to make Tetsusaiga lighter (which quickly leads to the battle against Ryuukotsusei).  

The Way You See Me

Kagome gasped and tightened her grip on Inuyasha’s shoulders as he lurched sideways, her thighs squeezing his hips involuntarily.  He barely maintained his balance, managing to right himself just in time to save the miko from a painful impact with the ground.  Not for the first time, he cursed the ridiculously huge backpack which she insisted on carrying around with her.  

“You okay, wench?” Inuyasha snapped, his irritated tone nonetheless marred by genuine concern.  He felt her nod, her face pressed into his shoulder to avoid being struck by the tree branches he kept narrowly avoiding.  Unfortunately, it couldn’t be helped.  

They had been on their way back towards Totosai’s lair, so he could go ask the old youkai if there was any way to make Tetsusaiga lighter.  As made abundantly clear by recent events, it was absolutely imperative that he be able to wield his sword effectively.  It’s breaking and subsequent heaviness had resulted in a string of near-disasters.  He cringed at the reminder of the humans who had perished by his claws the other day, but pushed those thoughts aside and refocused on the task at hand, which was already proving far more difficult than expected.  

In retrospect, perhaps they should have let this youkai go.  For once, finding shards of the Shikon no Tama was not at the top of his priority list—to say nothing of his current fighting ability, which was questionable at best.  But backing down from a fight was simply not in his nature, so when Kagome had suddenly declared that she sensed a jewel shard, he led his friends into battle without a second thought.  The shard-bearing youkai towered over them, wolf-like in appearance though its original form had obviously been twisted by the jewel’s corrupting influence.  Inuyasha had been fully prepared to work in tandem with his friends, rather than charging in and facing the beast by himself.  But much to everyone’s surprise, when they confronted the youkai, it turned tail and retreated into a nearby forest.  

Which explained why he was currently barreling through said forest at breakneck speed, ‘breakneck’ being the operative word if he wasn’t careful.  This forest was ancient, the trees tall and the underbrush thick.  His enhanced eyes could see well enough in the dim light, but the youkai was surprisingly nimble as it sprinted through the trees, and attempting to keep up with its long strides left him precious little time to react to any unforeseen obstacles.  With his hands occupied and fragile cargo on his back, navigating the maze of rocks, roots, and branches was pushing his agility and concentration to their limits.  His rapidly souring mood probably didn’t help matters.  As much as he hated to admit it, he was far more likely to accidentally injure Kagome in the pursuit than he was to actually catch the damn youkai in these woods.  

Slowing for a moment, he glanced upward, spying Kirara flying above the canopy with Miroku, Sango, and Shippou on her back.  They were so far just keeping pace with their companions on the ground, not wishing to leave the two of them behind, but obviously a change in strategy was in order.  

“Oi, Sango!” Inuyasha called.  “Fly ahead and try to cut this damn bastard off!”  

He missed Sango’s reply as Kagome’s muffled scream echoed in his ears, courtesy of another close call.  But when he glanced up again, he found that Kirara was gone.  

“Hang on, Kagome,” he urged, his mood somewhat brightened by the prospect of finally cornering this thing.  “We’ll catch this bastard soon, take the damn jewel shard, and then get out of this fucking for—”

Reflexes honed by years of surviving in the hostile wilderness enabled him to avoid the snapping jaws which came flying in from the right, seemingly out of nowhere.  His first thought was that the youkai had somehow eluded their companions and circled back around.  But when he sidestepped the attacker, he nearly ran straight into the gaping maw of another of the same creatures.  A quick juke saved him and Kagome, leaving the two enemies to collide into each other behind them, snapping and snarling in frustration.  The sound might have been somewhat satisfying, had Inuyasha’s senses not suddenly exploded with the scents and sounds of multiple enemies in every direction.  

“They’re all around us, Inu—” Kagome started to whisper, before her charge suddenly threw both of them to the left to avoid yet another set of snapping jaws.  Inuyasha knew he didn’t need to tell her to hold on tight.  They’d run straight into an ambush; he had to keep moving, or they were dead.  Clever bastards, he acknowledged, leaping over a creature pouncing from the side and ducking underneath one lunging at their heads.  The big one lures us in here, and the rest of the pack goes after our jewel shards…

Despite the rapidly mounting number of near misses, there was no panic in Inuyasha—nor Kagome, for that matter.  She understood that this was not her kind of fight.  She could use her bow and arrows if he could get them a little breathing room, but right now if she pulled her torso even a few centimeters away from his back, he would likely lose her in his frantic maneuvering.  The margin between life and death was razor thin right now; somehow he needed to widen it.  An old lesson from his youth caused him to look upward for salvation.  It wasn’t a bad idea, he reflected; these creatures seemed to be canine in nature, so they probably couldn’t climb trees very well.  Neither could he, at the moment.  Without his hands free, he had to be very selective about which tree he leapt into.  Out-jumping these long-legged and nimble creatures was not going to be easy, and he would only get one attempt.  

He continued to sprint through the forest, listening to the footfalls of the creatures pounding into the dirt behind and on either side of them.  His senses could barely keep up with processing the enormous amount of information required to keep him on his feet and out of the jaws of their pursuers, but he managed.  The scent of the girl on his back helped him stay calm and focused.  Kagome was afraid, but she did not reek of fear as one who didn’t know her might expect.  She trusted him to keep her safe.  He would make damn sure to honor that trust.  

The forest suddenly broke into a small gully, and across the brief expanse Inuyasha spied the opportunity he’d been waiting for.  It was a mighty tree, thicker and taller than most of its neighbors.  Its lower branches contained few leaves, but appeared sturdy and the upper branches bloomed green, indicating life.  Most importantly, Inuyasha could see a clear path whereby a few strong leaps would take him and Kagome to safety.  His mind processed all of these concerns in a split-second, and he made his decision.  Just before planting both feet underneath him in preparation for their ascent, however, a youkai charged out of the trees almost directly in front of them.  Judging that they could still make it, Inuyasha leapt, but the youkai reacted quicker than anticipated.  Inuyasha avoided the jaws, but could not dodge the paw which swatted them out of mid-air.  As hard earth loomed up beneath them, he twisted his body to take the impact on his front, releasing Kagome’s knees so they wouldn’t smash against the ground.  

The collision jarred him, cutting off Kagome’s terrified scream as she slammed into his back.  Stunned, Inuyasha bounced off the dirt and rolling uncontrollably down the gully.  At some point Kagome was flung away, and the loss of her warmth against his back shocked him from his momentary daze.  He lashed out, digging his claws into the ground in order to cease his momentum.  And none too soon—the youkai obviously had no intention of waiting for him to recover before devouring him.  He raised his head to find a tooth-line maw less than a meter from snapping closed around his head.  A hasty upward slash with his left hand decimated the attacker, golden blades of youki coursing through the creature’s body and tearing it limb from limb.  Its pack mates abruptly backed off at that, obviously surprised by the strength of his strike.  Not for the first time, Inuyasha reflected that even animalistic youkai tended to underestimate him because he was a hanyou.  Not that he was complaining, since the reprieve gave him a chance to check on his fallen comrade.  

He found Kagome lying on her side facing away from him, on the bank of a small forest stream flowing perpendicular to the gully.  In one leap he was at her side, heaving a sigh of relief when he saw the gentle rise and fall of her chest.  She had some bumps and bruises, but seemed to have escaped major damage.  Her worst injury appeared to be a lump on the side of her head, the source of most of the blood he could smell, and also the likely reason why she was unconscious.  Grateful that Kagome was more or less all right, Inuyasha allowed himself the small indulgence of running the backs of his fingers over her cheek before turning to the task of making sure she stayed that way.  

The creatures were circling them now, giving Inuyasha his first good look at them.  They were wolves, but obviously bore no relation to Kouga’s pack.  As tall as a man at the shoulder and armed with glowing yellow eyes and oversized jaws lined with enormous teeth, these bastards would turn the ookami and his pathetic pack into little piles of excrement on the ground.  As pleasant as that thought was—and despite his passing amusement at the observation that Kouga and his lackeys wouldn’t smell any worse as said excrement—Inuyasha could tell that he was in trouble.  The wolves snarled angrily as they circled, pawing the ground, more cautious now due to their pack mate’s demise but by no means willing to allow their prey to escape alive.  The stench of their breath was nearly as horrible as their vicious, drooling countenances.  

Inuyasha counted at least a dozen wolves before giving up, and spared a glance at the canopy overhead.  He grimaced.  The branches of the nearby trees stretched greedily over the stream, partially blocking the view from above.  And that was only if the others had realized that he and Kagome had fallen behind and come back to search for them, which was by no means certain.  The bottom line: he was probably going to have to face these creatures alone.  He wasn’t worried about himself; if he was their only prey, he figured he could take them.  He might not emerge from the fight unscathed, but he would walk away and they would not.  With Kagome lying unconscious, however, unable to defend herself even in dire need, Inuyasha knew it was going to be nearly impossible to both protect her and keep his own hide intact.  

Not that it mattered, in the end.  Kagome would survive this, even if it killed him.  Taking a deep breath, Inuyasha waited for the frenzy to begin.  

He charged forward and met the first youkai head-on, dismembering it with the Sankon Tetsusou.  Two others fell to the Hijin Ketsusou, further enraging the pack, as was his intention.  As he dodged and weaved, fighting teeth with claw and youki, he made sure to stay a safe distance away from Kagome, while always keeping one ear turned in her direction.  The pack focused on him for a time, until he estimated that about half of their number had been slain.  He was panting by that time, his clothes soaked with sweat, and his left forearm marred by several nasty bite-holes which bled steadily.  But he was holding his own.  If things continued like this, he would kill all of these bastards and he might just walk out of here too.  

Unfortunately, luck was not on his side.  Early in the battle he had sliced one of the wolves in the front leg, but hadn’t managed to inflict a fatal wound.  Since then, this particular wolf had hung back, observing its pack mates until it noticed the vastly less dangerous morsel of prey lying helplessly off to the side.  Inuyasha heard its footfalls heading in Kagome’s direction, and turned to find the creature limping toward her, pure ravenous excitement in its gait.  He swore violently under his breath.  Killing that wolf meant exposing his back to the rest of the pack, but there was nothing for it.  He managed to break through the pack without being bitten, though he nearly stumbled when one of them raked its claws deep into his back.  For a few terrifying heartbeats, he wasn’t sure if he was going to make it in time.  But his legs proved up to the task, and the injured wolf fell dead barely a couple meters from Kagome’s prone form.  Crisis momentarily averted, Inuyasha spun back to face the rest of the pack, tearing Tetsusaiga from its sheath.  His enemies hesitated briefly in their charge at the explosion of power from the sword, just as Inuyasha hoped.  

It should have been enough.  He should have been able to blow most of the pack away with a Kaze no Kizu.  Any survivors could be dispatched with his claws.  But in the split-second he had been afforded to decide upon a strategy, he had once again underestimated just how heavy Tetsusaiga was since it had been broken.  It took so much energy to wrench the blade onto his shoulder, in preparation for the downswing which would unleash its destructive power.  By the time he had Tetsusaiga was in position, it was too late.  A body slammed into him, jarring the sword from his grasp, spinning him around and knocking him face-first onto Kagome.  And at that point, all he could do was cover her body with his own and wait for the pain.  

It came.  Stabbing, ripping, tearing.  He cried out in agony as the creatures tried to dismember him, their teeth puncturing so deep that not even his fire-rat could save him.  A haze of crimson bled into his vision, as that familiar, seductive heat pulsed through his veins.  The last thing he saw before darkness claimed him was a wolf’s snout, dripping with his own blood, as its owner opened its jaws and moved to clamp down on his head.  

* * *

Kagome groaned as she regained consciousness.  She was lying in an uncomfortable position on what felt like damp earth with little rocks and roots sticking out of it, and had no recollection of falling asleep here.  She opened her eyes and immediately screamed, raising her hands in front of her face and summoning her spiritual energy out of reflex.  When nothing happened, she lowered her hands and discovered that the owner of the terrifying wolf’s head lying a couple meters from her was already dead.  Its yellow eyes were lifeless, and its tongue lolled onto the ground, the decaying flesh having already attracted a few buzzing flies.  Feeling foolish for her outburst, and even more confused over what had happened, Kagome sat up to try to get some answers.  Her temple throbbed fiercely in protest, causing her to clench her eyes shut until her headache subsided somewhat.  From what she could feel with her fingers, she had a nasty lump there, caked with what felt like dirt and dried blood.  Well, that answers the question of why I was sleeping here.  

Wracking her brain, she struggled to remember what had happened before she blacked out.  She recalled riding on Inuyasha’s back as they pursued the large youkai with the shard, only to be ambushed by many smaller youkai.  Inuyasha had nearly gotten them to safety when one of the creatures knocked them out of the air.  He had twisted to bear the brunt of the impact, but she had lost him in the aftermath and must have conked her head against a rock or something, because the next thing she knew, she had woken up next to the corpse of one of their attackers.  An overpowering urge to make sure Inuyasha was all right came over her, and she forced her eyes open, blinking blearily to clear her vision as she took in her surroundings.  

She gasped loudly.  The stream and the banks on either side of it were a strewn with the bodies of wolves, some killed more or less cleanly and some torn into dozens of smaller, unrecognizable pieces.  There was scarcely room to walk without stepping on blood or severed flesh, the sheer volume of the accumulated gore causing it to spread along the ground before it seeped into the dirt.  Kagome raised her hand to her lips, barely managing to swallow the bile in her throat.  There was little doubt as to what had happened here, and the fact that she still breathed was a clear indicator of who had won the battle.  But her savior was not sitting by her side, or better yet carrying her away from this devastation, which caused a knot of cold fear to settle in her gut.  

“Inuyasha!” she called, holding perfectly still as she listened for a response.  It was then that she heard it—the sound of labored, rasping breaths, coming from off to her right.  Heart in her throat, she scampered toward the noise, until at last she spotted a red-clad form lying on the other side of another wolf’s decapitated corpse.  She felt a mild sense of relief as it became clear that Inuyasha was the one making the noise—and therefore that he was breathing—but she hurried around the dead youkai to check on him.  

“Inuyasha, are you—eep!”  

Kagome nearly jumped out of her skin at the absolutely livid snarl which thundered from her companion’s throat.  She stumbled back out of reflex, tripping over an unfortunately placed wolf paw and landing on her backside in a pile of bloody entrails.  None of this registered immediately, however; the only thing Kagome’s stunned mind could comprehend was the pair of tiny white pupils glaring at her, framed by blue irises and obscenely large scarlet sclera.  Her body screamed at her to run, since the ‘fight’ part of the ‘fight or flight’ response was unequivocally not an option.  Instead she remained frozen in place, too terrified to move.  

The owner of those startling, savage eyes quieted momentarily as he drew a breath, but then he snarled again almost as loudly as before.  Kagome snapped out of her momentary stupor, shuffling away on her backside until her posterior bumped into another fallen wolf carcass.  Without thinking, she rolled over the top of the body and flopped down on the other side of it, curling into herself in an effort to calm her racing heartbeat and stave off impending panic.  She swallowed repeatedly, her heavy, shuddering breaths overlaid by Inuyasha’s ongoing growls.  But the intensity of his vocalizations had dropped with her newfound distance, and most importantly, their source did not seem to be moving any closer.  So after a minute or two, Kagome was able to get a handle on her heartbeat and breathing, and begin using the logical part of her brain once more.  She now knew what it felt like to confront Inuyasha’s full-youkai form alone, and would not be disappointed if the occasion was never repeated.  Though perhaps she wouldn’t need to worry about that.  After all, there was no guarantee that she would even survive this encounter…

Kagome mentally berated herself for thinking that way, for even a second.  Full-youkai or no, this was Inuyasha.  And Inuyasha would never hurt her.  

Funny how she wasn’t quite as confident in that assertion as before.  But Inuyasha hadn’t come after her yet, though his constant growls continued to reverberate menacingly in his throat.  That had to mean something, right?  Feeling a little braver, Kagome rolled onto her hands and knees, then peeked cautiously over the top of the wolf carcass.  Inuyasha’s frightening scarlet eyes locked onto her once more, though his growling intensified only marginally, so she managed to refrain from hiding again.  A horrified gasp escaped her as she got her first good look at him.  

Inuyasha was, to put it simply, in rough shape.  ‘Rough’ being the operative euphemism, because without it she would have to start using some truly nauseating adjectives.  Dozens of holes marred his fire-rat, and from what she could tell, his previously white kosode was nearly indistinguishable in color from the rest of his clothing.  Everything had been dyed a stomach-turning shade of dark, blood red.  Inuyasha lay more or less on his stomach, though his torso was turned toward her slightly.  His injuries were as terrible as they were widespread; blood seeped from bite wounds on every part of his body—his arms, his legs, his back, even his buttocks.  Kagome choked back a sob as she imagined how much pain he must have endured.  She hoped that most of his wounds were inflicted after he transformed, so that he wouldn’t remember the pain of receiving them.  But given that he had transformed in the first place, she doubted that to be the case.  She couldn’t comprehend the amount of blood he had lost; a human would have bled to death long ago.  There was a real danger that Inuyasha himself wouldn’t survive this, especially considering the terrifying, raspy quality of his breathing.  His growl contained more than a hint of gurgled liquid, indicating that one or both of his lungs had likely been punctured, perhaps by a broken rib or two.  

Kagome had to close her eyes and take several deep, steadying breaths to take the edge off of the sudden rush of fear which gripped her.  Redirected from her own well-being to that of her companion, it was a dark phantom emotion, teasing her with possibilities which threatened to collapse her into a puddle made of her own tears and vomit.  But she was stronger than that, at least while Inuyasha drew breath.  When she raised her gaze to him once more, this time with a determined light in her eyes, she was ready to start coming up with some real solutions.  

First things first: she had to bandage his wounds.  Right now his injuries bled freely; some well-placed bindings to restrict the flow might mean the difference between life and death.  Even his body could only replace blood so quickly.  Inuyasha was in his full-youkai form, yet he hadn’t made any effort to move toward her.  That was a clear indication of how serious his condition truly was.  She wasn’t sure what he would do if he wasn’t so badly injured, but lying face-down in the mud wasn’t it.  Her heart wanted to believe that he would never hurt her, even in this form, but all they had heard about his full-youkai side was how bloodthirsty it was, and how in once his transformed state he would continue to kill mindlessly and indiscriminately until he died.  

Kagome really, really didn’t want to believe that.  Inuyasha had recognized her the first time he transformed, warning her to stay way.  The last time, he had slaughtered the bandits and gone after Sesshoumaru when the daiyoukai arrived looking for a fight.  Kagome wouldn’t exactly qualify either of those moves as indiscriminate.  The bandits had been allies of Gatenmaru, the moth scum who had spurred Inuyasha’s transformation in the first place.  Before running away and begging for their lives, the humans had slaughtered almost all of the men of an entire village, and they appeared to have other sinister plans for the women, including Sango and Kagome herself.  Inuyasha hadn’t raised a claw against Miroku, who was right next to him as he transformed, and he hadn’t moved to attack anyone else in the group or the innocent villagers either.  

Of course, all of that was circumstantial evidence at best, and could just as easily be explained away as dumb luck, or the timely arrival of Sesshoumaru to draw Inuyasha’s attention.  Still, Kagome chose to have faith in her companion.  Perhaps she was naïve, or her judgment was clouded by her own feelings.  Even so, she couldn’t bring herself to fear Inuyasha, aside from her initial knee-jerk reaction.  She believed in the strength of his heart, and loved him for it.  So she would believe in him.  She wouldn’t be able to completely banish the stubborn doubts, but nor would they prevent her from doing what needed to be done.  

Armed with this newfound state of mind, Kagome began to notice things which had eluded her attention before.  Maybe she was hearing things, but his growling didn’t seem predatory in nature.  Rather, his vocalizations possessed an almost desperate quality, a purposeful intimidation, as though he was warning off someone he viewed as a threat.  He’s acting like a wounded animal, she realized.  It was an apt analogy; Inuyasha was more beast than man in this state.  Now that she really studied his face, however, she noticed that his eyes, though infinitely frightening, possessed an unfocused quality to them.  Clearly, the blood loss was affecting his mental state as well.  Perhaps that was why he didn’t recognize her?  Perhaps it was also the reason he seemed to lack the ability of speech, which he had always retained before.  Both of those thoughts were optimistic, Kagome knew, and possibly foolish as well.  Inuyasha sank deeper and deeper into the darkest side of himself each time he transformed.  It could be that this time, he had simply sunk too deep to ever recover.  

Kagome forcefully repressed that thought.  She believed she could reach Inuyasha, and that at some point he would recognize her.  The trouble was, that recognition had to come from Inuyasha; she couldn’t force him to recognize her.  She didn’t dare use the subduing spell.  It would disturb his wounds and cause them to bleed faster.  And besides, she doubted it would work as intended.  As far as she knew, the spell didn’t suppress his youki; it just yanked him to the ground and held him there for a short while—just long enough for him to swear a few times, usually.  The first time he transformed, the spell had probably been just enough of a shock to his system to snap him back to himself.  But since it was true that his transformation grew more immersive each time, she doubted the spell would work anymore.  It would probably just piss him off, which was something she definitely didn’t want to do.  

What she needed was to patch Inuyasha up, in the hope that it would be enough to help his heightened youkai blood to heal him.  The fact that he was full-youkai was likely helping him stay alive right now, but it would also make it much more difficult for her to approach him.  Still, she had to try.  

She made it as far as standing, but wasn’t even able to take a single step before that threatening snarl stilled her movements again, this time with concern that he would worsen his injuries with his stubborn posturing.  

“Inuyasha,” she tried, to no avail.  “Inuyasha, please stop!”

But he only continued to growl, and Kagome quickly settled back down on her haunches when his breathing became labored.  As a full-youkai, semi-delirious from blood loss, he obviously wasn’t going to let her near him.  Pushing his boundaries would only result in his condition deteriorating even further.  As frustrating as that was, Kagome refused to give up.  There had to be a way to get close to him.  She was wracking her brain for answers when Inuyasha suddenly began coughing, spitting up blood and saliva.  His snarling intensified again, even though she was only sitting behind the wolf carcass, until he was practically roaring his dissatisfaction with her presence.  Most worrisome, however, were his eyes, which now appeared glazed over as he glared almost blearily at a spot somewhere above her head.  Finally, one of his snarls caught in his throat, and he slumped bonelessly to the ground.  

“Inuyasha!” Kagome screamed, terrified by this turn of events and his lack of response to her cry.  Throwing caution to the wind, she hurried over to him and sank down to her knees by his side.  She held her breath until she heard his quiet, raspy breathing.  His lungs moved in short pants now, which she recognized as a very bad sign.  Inuyasha was slipping away from her.  

“The hell he is,” she snapped, determination overriding fear.  “You hear me, Inuyasha, you stubborn jerk?!  You’re not allowed to die on me!”  

Idly she wondered if her uncharacteristic outburst was a sign of hysteria.  Probably.  Not that she particularly cared at the moment.  She stood and located her yellow backpack, then sprinted over to it and slung it over her shoulder.  Returning to Inuyasha’s side, she thumped it down and rifled through its contents, quickly locating the first aid kit.  Then she set to the task of freeing Inuyasha from his upper robes, without jostling him.  Her hands were covered in blood by the time she managed to undo the ties and slip his arms free of the soaked fabric.  

She cringed as she got her first glimpse of his bare back, where the damage seemed to be most severe.  Barely a centimeter of his skin was unmarred by deep claw or bite wounds.  Large chunks of flesh were torn away in places, and the blood flowed down his sides in a constant stream.  Individually, none of these injuries were serious enough to endanger his life, or even hinder him that much.  But there were so many of them, that the cumulative effect certainly was life-threatening.  For a moment, Kagome was stunned into a helpless stupor.  Usually Inuyasha had just a few wounds serious enough to warrant treatment.  Here, his entire back called out for her attention, and she didn’t know where to start.  

Screwing up her courage, she drew on her past experience treating his injuries, some cruel enough to kill a human in moments.  She was not a novice at this.  If it was within her power to save him, then she would do it.  

Pulling one of her bath towels out of her pack, Kagome located what seemed to be the worst wound and pressed the cloth into it, applying constant pressure.  She kept this up for a fifty count, concentrating on the steady pace of the digits passing through her mind.  When she pulled the towel away, she was encouraged to see that the flow of blood had slowed significantly.  The pressure was enabling his youkai healing abilities to clot the wound, much more quickly than a human body could clot an identical wound.  After another fifty count of pressure, Kagome applied a gauze bandage and taped it into place, then moved on to the next most severe wound.  The first bandage had become flecked with red spots before she even finished her next fifty count, but the bleeding from that particular injury was now under control, which was more than she could say for the rest of him.  

She repeated this process until Inuyasha’s entire back was covered in bandages, and two towels were saturated with blood.  She also treated some wounds on his chest and wrapped bandages around his left forearm and both of his upper arms.  By that point, he seemed to be breathing easier and her concern that he would suddenly die on her had mostly subsided.  With his body no longer hemorrhaging blood, his innate healing abilities appeared to be taking over.  They truly were remarkable, she reflected.  Broken bones mended themselves, and internal bleeding stopped itself without surgery.  She would probably never know if her intervention had actually saved his life, but staunching the flow of blood had obviously helped.  Inuyasha wasn’t out of the woods yet, but he did seem to be on the mend.  

There were, however, still wounds which required her attention.  His hakama was not as heavily damaged as his suikan had been, but his lower body needed to be bandaged as well.  Trying to ignore both the heat in her cheeks and the butterflies in her stomach, Kagome untied his hakama and gingerly lowered the garment.  His fundoshi put his backside on full display, but her acute embarrassment gave way in favor of genuine sympathy.  One of the bastards—yes, bastards—had taken a chunk out of his right buttock.  She treated this wound in the same manner as before, glaring pointedly away and trying to forget just where her hands were pressing.  But she couldn’t help but marvel at the fascinating contradiction between the softness of his flesh and the lean hardness of the muscle underneath.  She was truly grateful that Inuyasha’s wounds tended to heal without scarring; it would be a real shame to mar such perfection.  Perfection which she hoped to view again in the future, under different circumstances.  Needless to say, Kagome’s cheeks were flushed a fairly intense shade of pink by the time she finished.  

Treating his legs was easier, though she did heave a huge sigh of relief once his hakama was safely back in place.  She left his upper robes off, since neither one of them would be terribly embarrassed by him being topless, especially with his skin covered by so many bandages.  His kosode went into the discard pile with the towels; the white cloth wasn’t self-mending like his fire-rat and would never come clean.  Finally, when she felt that there was nothing else she could do, she arranged Inuyasha on his side so he wasn’t lying on any bandages, and placed his head in her lap.  

She sat there with him as the sun slowly lowered toward the western horizon, running her fingers through his hair and occasionally caressing his cheek.  His ears twitched when she dared to tentatively stroke them, but he didn’t seem to mind her touch.  Eventually a soft, pleasant-sounding growl began to reverberate in his throat.  The gentle rumble made her smile, sounding suspiciously like a purr, though she knew better than to ever say that to his face.  It also put the last of her lingering worries to rest.  If Inuyasha was well enough to purr, then he was going to be all right.  

By the time the sun started to sink below the trees, Kagome was beginning to feel the effects of a stressful day, and the recession of a major adrenaline rush.  Her attention wandered, and she didn’t notice the sudden tension in Inuyasha’s jaw as it rested against her thigh.  She did, however, notice when he snapped his head to the side to glare up at her with those glowing scarlet eyes.  Any trace of delirium had vanished from his gaze, as he stared at her with an unreadable expression.  

He moved so quickly.  One moment Kagome was kneeling on the ground, and in the next he had grabbed her by the throat and slammed her onto her back.  When her head stopped spinning, she found herself gazing up into a visage so frightening, and listening to a snarl so menacing, that she should have been shaking in abject terror.  Oddly, she felt no fear.  Yes, there was the surge of adrenaline as her body recognized the peril it was in.  But Kagome felt strangely detached from her physical form, from her rapid heartbeat and sweating brow, and from the five razor sharp claws just barely pricking into the skin of her neck.  It was as though something far deeper was going on here, something which rendered all of those physical reactions moot.  

This was Inuyasha.  He hadn’t hurt her yet, though he’d had ample opportunity since he’d woken up.  She trusted him.  If he didn’t fully recognize her on a conscious level, then she needed to give him a reason to try.  If he still viewed her as a threat, then she needed to prove that she was nothing of the sort.  

“Inuyasha,” she whispered, closing her eyes and tilting her chin up, fully exposing her vulnerable throat.  

The growling ceased abruptly.  After a few moments of silence, Kagome opened her eyes and turned her head to look at him.  Inuyasha was not a master of many facial expressions, even in his hanyou form.  He mostly subsisted on scowls, frowns, and the occasional smirk.  Unguarded expressions of genuine peace or happiness were rare indeed, though she had begun to see them more often as their time together grew.  The expression which full-youkai Inuyasha wore now, however, could only be described as one of absolute confusion.  He leaned in close, inhaling deeply through his nose, sampling her scent with great care, perhaps for the first time since their reunion.  He repeated this process several times, and when he sat back, Kagome caught a glimpse of something in his gaze for which she had been hoping ardently—recognition.  

If she expected him to whisper her name and revert back to his hanyou form, she was disappointed.  He did, however, pull back into a squat and remove his hand from around her throat.  He continued to observe her warily as she slowly pushed herself into a sitting position, rubbing her sore neck.  There would be a light bruise there and perhaps a few cuts, but nothing serious.  If that was the extent of the injuries she received in a confrontation with full-youkai Inuyasha, then she was about to prove the entire world wrong.  She couldn’t suppress her smile.  Inuyasha cocked his head to the side at her expression, as though he didn’t understand its significance, but if anything his posture only relaxed further.  He glanced around and sniffed at their surroundings, which Kagome recognized as scanning the area for danger.  He obviously didn’t detect anything out of the ordinary, but if he had, she had no doubt that he would protect her.  

“Inuyasha?” she inquired, drawing his gaze once more.  Deciding to test their new boundaries, she slowly raised her hand toward him, holding it palm up about halfway between them.  He shied away at first, baring his teeth.  Then he evidently got over his reticence, leaning in and sniffing her skin, reminding Kagome very much of a skeptical canine.  Having apparently reassured himself that she was not a threat, he pulled away and plopped down into a sitting position.  Kagome winced at his startled yelp, a reminder of the nasty wound on his backside.  It was then that Inuyasha finally noticed the bandages covering his torso and arms.  He snarled at the foreign coverings, raising his claws as if to tear the offending material away from his skin.  

“Wait!” Kagome cried, lurching forward and grabbing his hand in both of her own.  As she gazed at Inuyasha’s stunned expression, it occurred to her how bold her action was—reckless even.  Even though he apparently recognized her, making sudden moves—especially when they involved grabbing him—was probably not very smart.  But fortunately Inuyasha was comfortable enough with her to not react instinctively.  Instead he raised his forearm to his nose and sniffed the bandage there, his intent curiosity rather than destruction.  Kagome didn’t really expect him to comprehend what the bandages were, and would have settled for grudging acceptance of their presence.  But the next time he raised his gaze to meet hers, there was something deeper in his scarlet eyes.  Was she crazy to believe that it was…gratitude?  Or at least a silent acknowledgment that he understood what she had done for him.  Then he glanced quickly away, some distant forest sound which only he could hear drawing his attention.  The mysterious emotion lingered in Kagome’s subconscious, the memory of his gaze dominating her thoughts for several minutes as miko and youkai sat together in companionable silence.  

The rather insistent call of nature broke Kagome from her musings.  Inuyasha’s gaze snapped to her when she stood, and he barked a short growl at her as she moved away.  Kagome froze for a moment, frowning in consternation.  She wasn’t quite sure what to make of that vocalization.  It almost sounded like…he doesn’t want me to leave his sight?  As pleasant as that thought was, she tried not to get her hopes up.  The intensity with which his eyes followed her retreating form, however, made that task somewhat difficult.  Eventually she squatted behind a large tree, being careful to hold her arm out to the side so Inuyasha could still see some part of her.  If she was right about his state of mind, she didn’t want him to feel the need to stand up and chase after her.  

His body was at full attention when she emerged from behind the tree, his back ramrod straight to enable him to see over the wolf carcasses between them, and both ears pricked forward.  Even at a distance and in the dimming light, Kagome could see him relax as she began picking her way carefully back to his side.  It was rare for Inuyasha to show such open concern; usually he tried to hide it behind feigned indifference or insults.  She couldn’t help the pleasant flutter in her belly at the obvious display of care for her well-being.  The real Inuyasha could learn a thing or two from this particular side of himself.  And that was one thought which she had never in a million years expected to entertain, even in jest.  It was amazing how things could change in just a few hours.  

Kagome froze at the metallic sound made by her right foot settling on something manmade.  She gasped as she realized what it was.  Tetsusaiga!  Though half-buried in the mud, the sword’s familiar form was unmistakable.  She bent down and picked it up, turning it over in her hands as her mind raced with possibilities.  She could end this right now if she wanted to.  The ‘osuwari’ command might not cause Inuyasha to revert back to his hanyou form, but it would certainly subdue him long enough to bring him into contact with the sword which sealed his youkai blood.  And she was no longer so worried about his injuries that she would hesitate to subdue him once, or deprive him of his heightened full-youkai healing abilities.  Inuyasha might be a little worse off physically, but he would recover all the same.  

Physically…  Kagome frowned.  The thought of forcing the reversal of Inuyasha’s transformation left a sour taste in her mouth.  It didn’t take her long to figure out why.  

‘You don’t have to force yourself to stay beside me.’  

That afternoon, sitting beside Inuyasha as he attempted to deal with the aftermath of slaughtering Gatenmaru’s bandits, had been eye-opening for Kagome.  For him to speak those words to her showed just how fragile his mental state was right now.  He tried so hard to hide it, had even tried to verbally deny it to her face.  Inuyasha was afraid.  This brave hanyou, who had never met an opponent he didn’t believe he could beat, was terrified.  He feared that his youkai side was the one enemy he would be unable to overcome, and the potentially catastrophic consequences if he failed.  He doubted his own strength, his ability to control his own body and youki, something which had always come relatively easy for him.  And he wondered if deep down, he truly was the monster most of the world saw when they looked at him.  

Subduing Inuyasha and shoving Tetsusaiga into his hand would only prove that she saw him the same way, as a monster who needed his dead father’s help in order to control his bloodlust.  And nothing could be further from the truth.  She trusted him, and believed that he could control his full-youkai side.  But before that could happen, Inuyasha needed to believe that he could do it.  What she had before her was an opportunity, Kagome realized, a chance to restore Inuyasha’s waning confidence, his faith in himself.  And she would not squander it in order to take the easy way out of this situation.   

Decision made, Kagome set her jaw in determination and marched the rest of the way to Inuyasha’s side.  Fishing a water bottle and another towel out of her backpack, she cleaned the mud off of Tetsusaiga.  Inuyasha observed her for a few moments but then lost interest.  He continued to focus most of his attention on their surroundings, making sure nothing dangerous crept up on them.  Finally Kagome judged that the sword was as clean as it was going to get, and took a deep breath before turning to Inuyasha with her most winning smile.  


The tenderness of her voice drew his gaze, avid interest alighting in his eyes.  All traces of wariness were gone, and Kagome’s heart warmed at the affect she could have on him in this form.  This Inuyasha was so honest, but she doubted if he could feel all of the emotions his true self grappled with.  It wasn’t so bad, being with him like this, but she wanted her hanyou back.  

“Do you remember Tetsusaiga, Inuyasha?” she asked, holding the sword out to him.  He leaned in close, sniffing the blade curiously, but did not touch it.  He recoiled and growled softly, as if there was something about the blade which spooked him, but he didn’t understand what it was.  Kagome quickly pulled the sword back and set it on the ground a couple meters away from him.  

“I’ll leave it right here, okay?  If you ever want to transform back, all you have to do is touch it.”  

Inuyasha continued to eye the sword warily, but one of his ears flicked in her direction, indicating that he had heard her even if he hadn’t understood her words.  After a few moments, he evidently decided that the sword was not much of a threat, and once again turned his attention to the forest around them.  Kagome grew quite encouraged as she watched him for the next several minutes.  He would periodically glance at the sword, and then those glances turned into intent stares lasting a half dozen seconds or more.  Yet he never made any effort to move away from the sword.  There was definitely something going on in that youki-clouded mind of his, and Tetsusaiga was a big part of it.  But crucially, when he did decided to reclaim his sword, it would be his own decision.  

Satisfied that she had done all she could for Inuyasha, Kagome set about seeing to her own comfort.  Unfortunately there wasn’t much she could do in that department.  Her clothes were covered in dirt, blood, and other unmentionable fluids from her earlier frolic in wolf entrails.  This uniform was going straight into the discard pile with Inuyasha’s kosode and the towels.  It would never come clean, and she didn’t need her mother worrying about what might have happened to her if she brought something this soiled home.  She thought about changing now, but she was sweaty and filthy from head to toe.  There was no sense in putting clean clothes on a dirty body, but her odds of getting a bath tonight were slim to none.  

She was also too exhausted to build a fire, and she wasn’t sure how Inuyasha would react to that anyway.  Hungry nonetheless, she rifled through her pack and thanked the Kami upon discovering that Inuyasha and Shippou hadn’t eaten all of the ninja food yet.  Potato chips were not a nutritious dinner, but they were certainly better than nothing.  

Kagome had to giggle at her companion’s sudden and unexpected reaction as she opened the bag of chips.  If she thought her ‘sweet’ voice had drawn his attention before, this was on a whole new level.  An oni could have marched over and sat on him, and he wouldn’t have noticed.  Kagome didn’t need telepathic powers to know exactly what he was thinking.  

‘Snatch bag.  Devour good-smelling food.  Let the wench each pine cones.’

Obviously, Kagome was having none of that.  She decided once again to test their boundaries, pulling the bag away and adopting a stern expression.  

“No, Inuyasha.  You need to share with me.”  

He growled at her, but she recognized it as one of annoyance and demand rather than threat.  He also made no move to overpower her and take the chips anyway, which he could easily do.  But she didn’t want to strain his patience any more than necessary, so she quickly plucked a few chips from the bag and held them out to him.  He took one sniff before opening his mouth impossibly wide and munching the chips down in one bite, lightly nipping her fingers in the process.  Kagome cried out in surprise and pulled her hand back, laughing all the while.  The absurdity of this situation was amusing to no end, but Inuyasha was already staring at her expectantly, like an obedient pooch waiting impatiently for another treat.  Rolling her eyes, Kagome fed him again, this time holding the chips so that he wouldn’t need to accidentally munch on her fingers.  She snuck a few chips into her own mouth as he was savoring his mouthful.  

This pattern continued for several minutes, until the bag was empty.  Inuyasha ate more than his fair share, but Kagome didn’t mind.  Especially when he stuck his face in the bag and proceeded to clean the inside with his tongue.  It took her mirth a long time to wind down after that.  Once it did, a chill swept through her, goose bumps erupting over her skin.  The night was getting colder, and her clothes were still damp.  She didn’t want to get the inside of her sleeping bag dirty, but fortunately she had an old blanket in the bottom of her bag which her mother didn’t care if she brought back.  She dug it out and wrapped herself in it, settling herself on the ground as comfortably as she could and using the bag itself as a pillow.  It wasn’t totally dark yet, but she was tired and she trusted Inuyasha to keep watch.  

Ten minutes of grunting, shifting, and shivering later, Kagome was finally forced to confront the truth.  Despite how exhausted she was, sleep was not going to come easily under these circumstances.  She sighed.  It’s going to be a long night…

She heard Inuyasha shuffling toward her, as if in reply to her miserable exhalation.  She found him gazing down at her with an unreadable expression.  Another shiver passed through her, though whether from the cold or the intensity of his stare she couldn’t be sure.  Finally he snorted, and Kagome imagined that he would have rolled his eyes at her if he possessed the ability.  Then he did the most surprising thing of the entire day—he scooped her up and deposited her in his lap, wrapping his arms around her and tucking her head underneath his chin.  

A burning sensation in Kagome’s lungs reminded her of her need to breathe.  Her heartbeat thundered in her chest as she contemplated this new development, her face flushing hotly at their intimate position.  But then Inuyasha began rumbling that contented purr of his, and she felt herself relax.  Once she got over the initial shock, being held in his embrace was anything but unpleasant.  She certainly wasn’t cold anymore.  He leaned back against the bag so they could rest more comfortably, and she positioned the blanket so it would cover both of them.  Then she settled herself against him, careful not to press too heavily against his wounds.  She rested her cheek on a patch of bare skin near his heart, loving the way his arms cossetted her.  Over the day-to-day monotony of traveling and hunting jewel shards, scattered special moments shone through in her memories.  Kagome had a feeling that this would come to be one of her favorites.  With a delighted smile, she allowed Inuyasha’s steady heartbeat to lull her toward slumber.  

She was nearly asleep when his contented rumbling abruptly ceased.  He sat up straight, quickly rousing her to full wakefulness.  Her first thought was that he sensed danger, but when she pulled back to glance up at his face, she realized that this wasn’t the case at all.  He was staring intently at something on the ground next to them, and a glance over her shoulder confirmed her suspicions—it was Tetsusaiga.  One of his arms pulled away from her, his hand reaching hesitantly for the sword.  When his clawed digits were mere centimeters away from the hilt, he pulled back, seemingly unsure of himself.  

“It’s okay, Inuyasha,” Kagome encouraged, raising a hand to cup his cheek, running her thumb along the jagged purple marking there.  “Go ahead and take it.  Come back to me.”  

He met her gaze one final time, then grasped Tetsusaiga’s hilt firmly.  Kagome both felt and saw the change come over him, as his rampant youki receded.  His eyes snapped closed as an entire lungful of air escaped him in a rush.  His fangs shrank back to normal size, and the markings on his cheeks faded before disappearing entirely.  Kagome waited until his eyes opened again, revealing those amazing golden orbs she loved so much.  

“Welcome back, Inuyasha,” she greeted with a brilliant smile.  

“K-Kagome?  What happened?” he asked, glancing frantically around the stream bank.  “Where the hell are we?”  

Kagome could see what was happening.  Inuyasha was confused, and a confused Inuyasha tended to be cranky and closed off.  She was not about to let that happen if she could help it.  She used her hand which was still on his cheek to gently turn his head back around to face her.  His eyes widened and his cheeks pinked as he comprehended their intimate position.  

“It’s okay, Inuyasha.  What do you remember?”  

He frowned in consternation, then his mouth dropped open and he leaned over to sniff at the nearest carcass, confirming that these were indeed the wolves which had pursued them before.  

“I remember chasing that big bastard with the shard, and then being ambushed by these little fuckers,” he declared with a growl.  Then his gaze snapped to the side of her head, and he raised both of his hands to gently part her hair and inspect the lump caused by the blow which had knocked her unconscious.  

“I’m all right, Inuyasha,” she assured him.  “Just a bump on the head.  I haven’t even been dizzy.”  Inuyasha sniffed and prodded the wound a couple more times, but eventually he let the matter drop and continued his story.  

“You…you were unconscious,” he recalled.  “I couldn’t fight them all with my claws.”  And keep you safe at the same time, Kagome heard, though he didn’t actually speak the words.  “I tried to use Tetsusaiga, but it’s so damn heavy…”

“And then you transformed and protected me,” Kagome finished.  

Inuyasha scoffed at her.  “You mean transformed and slaughtered the enemy,” he amended derisively.  

“No,” Kagome replied firmly.  “I mean protected me.”  

“I think you hit your head a little harder than you’re letting on, wench,” Inuyasha muttered, though there wasn’t as much bite to his words this time.  

“Do you remember anything else?” Kagome prodded, hoping for an affirmative answer for a variety of reasons.  Inuyasha frowned, then squeezed his eyes closed in concentration.  She could see the strain on his features, as though he knew there was something there, but found it incredibly challenging to actually recover the memories.  Finally his eyes snapped open, his face paling as his features shifted into an expression of absolute horror.  And when he reached up with a shaking hand to tilt her chin, exposing her neck, Kagome knew exactly which moment he had remembered first.  

“I’m fine, Inuyasha.  You didn’t hurt me.”  Even as she spoke them, Kagome could tell that those words had fallen on deaf ears.  

“Look at me, Inuyasha,” she demanded, more forcefully this time.  That didn’t work either.  Inuyasha leaned away from her, refusing to make eye contact, his arms slipping to his sides.  A sudden chill crept up Kagome’s spine, which had little to do with the cold evening breeze caressing her back.  Inuyasha didn’t push her away, but she knew that would come soon.  His jaw was tightly clenched, his breath coming in short pants and his throat working constantly to hold back rising bile.  The light in his eyes, his will to fight, was fading rapidly.  In his own mind, his worst fears had just been confirmed.  In reality, the exact opposite was true.  She just needed to prove it to him.  

Moved by compassion and determination, Kagome locked her arms around his neck, pulling her body flush against him.  Inuyasha gasped in surprise, but his hands settled at her sides, as though to push her away.  

“I’m not letting go, Inuyasha,” Kagome declared fiercely.  “Not until you listen to what I have to say.”  For a moment she feared that he was going to forcefully separate them, but then his arms dropped to his sides again in silent acceptance.  It was probably only fear of injuring her further which stilled his hands, but that was fine for her purposes.  

“Good.  Let me tell you about my afternoon,” Kagome continued, much more gently this time.  “I woke up in a battlefield, with bodies of dead youkai all around me.  I had a few bumps and bruises from tumbling down the hill, and a lump on my head.  But other than that, I was perfectly fine.  I went looking for you, and found you lying in a pool of your own blood, fully transformed.  You were…really beat up.  For a while I…I…”  She had to pause briefly to regain control of her emotions, but it was at least clear that she had Inuyasha’s undivided attention.  

“I wasn’t sure you were going to pull through,” she continued.  “You had lost so much blood, and your eyes were glazed over.  You seemed pretty delirious.  I think that’s why you didn’t recognize me then.  You kept growling at me to stay away.  You must have sensed my spiritual energy, and saw me as a threat.  Then you passed out, and I patched you up the best I could.  When you woke up…you pinned me to the ground,” she confessed, choosing her words very carefully.  “But Inuyasha, think about this.  You woke up in your full-youkai form with a miko right next to you.  And you didn’t kill me.  I think you recognized me deep down, even if you didn’t realize it yet.  That’s the only explanation for why I’m still alive right now.  And then you did recognize me on a conscious level!  After that, you were just like a more primitive version of your usual self.  You watched for danger, you looked out for me, we ate dinner together, and…you warmed me up when I was cold,” she finished quietly, blushing at the memory.  

“Do you realize what this means, Inuyasha?” she asked in a tone of wonder.  “You recognized me and took care of me in your full-youkai form.  Then you reclaimed Tetsusaiga and reversed your transformation, all on your own.  Everyone is wrong about you.  Myouga, Totosai, all of them.  Because if they were right, and you really were a mindless killing machine…then I would be dead right now.”  

Kagome sighed in relief upon completing her story without stumbling over her words.  She had done all she could do; it was up to Inuyasha now.  She hoped her theory about his memory was correct.  His first recollection seemed to be the moment when he consciously recognized her, so he should remember everything after that point, right?  If so, he was probably pouring through those memories at this very moment, likely searching for anything which would contradict her words.  Inuyasha was not one to let go of self-loathing easily, when he felt that he had failed someone.  But even if he couldn’t remember, she trusted that he was intelligent enough to accept the truth after she laid it out for him.  

Inuyasha said nothing for a long time.  He just sat there in quiet contemplation, as Kagome ran her hand over the tense muscles of his upper back in what she hoped was a soothing manner.  When the change came, it came swiftly.  His body slumped, and Kagome could practically feel the gratitude and relief flowing out of him.  His arms encircled her torso, clutching her tightly to him, and she had to blink back tears as she returned the embrace.  They remained that way for several minutes, giving and receiving comfort in silence.  

When Inuyasha finally pulled back, Kagome was surprised to find a serious expression upon his features.  Then he grabbed the first aid kit off the ground and once again raised her chin with his fingers, and she understood.  She wore a contented smile as Inuyasha very carefully cleaned the five ‘puncture wounds’ on her neck, if they could even be described as such.  They were more like pinpricks, but this was more for him than it was for her.  If he felt the need to take care of the wounds in order to forgive himself for inflicting them, then she would let him.  She did, however, stop him when he pulled out a full roll of gauze, and instead selected five very small band-aids, handing them to him with an eyebrow raised in amusement.  Inuyasha scowled, but complied with her silent request.  He probably would have liked to cover the bruise encircling her throat as well, but in Kagome’s opinion there was no need for that.  She wasn’t ashamed of it.  

It was only when the five claw marks were cleaned and covered that Inuyasha’s expression visibly lightened, allowing a tentative smile to turn up the corners of his lips.  Then he glanced away out of embarrassment, reaching up to scratch the back of his neck.  Kagome took that as her cue to resume her previous position, cuddled against his chest.  Who knew when the next opportunity to sit with him like this would arise?  He was so cautious with his affection.  When moments like this did come around, however, Kagome knew they really meant something, to both of them.  She was delighted when Inuyasha’s arms settled around her again, hesitantly at first, then more confidently when she sighed in happiness.  She could have remained that way all night, but sadly, it was not to be.  



& #8220;We need to get out of here.  It’s not safe.”  

Kagome grimaced, knowing he was right and hating it.  The real reluctance in Inuyasha’s tone provided some comfort; he apparently didn’t want to separate any more than she did.  But the area was starting to stink to high hell, even to her human nose.  They were lucky no youkai had shown up to investigate so far, but it was only a matter of time.  Inuyasha wasn’t in great shape to fight another battle, and she wouldn’t be able to see much at all once twilight ended.  So with one final, reluctant sigh, she slowly clambered to her feet.  Inuyasha held her hand to help her regain her balance, and then when he was ready, she grabbed his wrists and heaved him to his feet.  He wobbled slightly, still affected by blood loss, but was able to stand on his own.  He didn’t protest, however, when Kagome slipped underneath his arm and put her hand around his waist, telling him to lean on her if he needed to.  It was a lot of weight to bear, between her bow, her pack, and her hanyou, but she would manage.  

“How far do you want to go, Inuyasha?”  

“Not far,” he grunted, his voice a little strained.  “Just away from all this shit.”  

“Okay.  I can’t see too well, so make sure I don’t trip over anything.”  

He snorted in amusement.  “That’s asking a lot, with as clumsy as you are.”  

Kagome harrumphed, recognizing the teasing for what it was.  “Well, if I fall then you’re probably coming down with me.  So I would do my best if I were you.”  


Kagome grinned and shook her head at his typical response.  The banter was encouraging though, because if he was feeling well enough to engage her in conversation, then he probably wasn’t about to pass out again.  She was sure being on his feet made him somewhat dizzy, but he seemed to have healed enough to be able to handle it.  It would take him at least a day or two to recover fully, and with any luck nothing else would attack them in the meantime.  Joining up with the others would obviously help as well, a thought which caused Kagome to gasp.  She had been so focused on Inuyasha all this time…

“What’s wrong?” he asked, sensing her distress.  

“The others…do you think they’re okay?”

“Keh.  If they weren’t, then that big bastard would have come back and finished us off by now.  They’re probably looking for us.”  

Inuyasha’s assurances made her feel better, since he was obviously right about the large youkai with the jewel shard.  Miroku couldn’t sense shards, per se, but he could sense heightened youki.  If Sango had disabled the beast, then perhaps Miroku would have been able to pinpoint the general location of the shard before the creature’s body reformed.  It was a reasonable hope, to be sure, so Kagome decided to latch onto it.  She had faith in their other friends as well.  

It was slow going, walking upstream along the bank.  But finally they made it beyond the outskirts of the battlefield, and Inuyasha could stop giving her directions on where to place her feet to avoid tripping over dismembered youkai parts.  Walking in the dim light still required a lot of focus, so she almost missed Inuyasha’s experimental sniff in her direction.  When he spoke, she didn’t need to look at him to know that he was smirking.  

“Hey, Kagome?”  


“You really need a bath.”  

“I know, Inuyasha,” she replied, trying and failing to suppress a grin.  

“Seriously, you stink like you swam in wolf guts.”  

“Yeah, well you don’t smell so great yourself.”  

“Maybe not, but at least you don’t have a heightened sense of smell.”  

“Hmph.  You’ll just have to find me a hot spring then.”  

“Keh.  Or toss you in the first pond I see.”  

“You would not!”  

“Wanna bet?”

“I bet—whoa!”

Whatever clever reply she was planning to make was cut off as Inuyasha stumbled.  She just barely managed to keep them upright, but only by pulling him toward her and bending her knees so he could lean against her for a moment.  

“Who’s clumsy now?” she teased once he had regained his balance.  To her surprise, Inuyasha didn’t reply.  She glanced up to his face to find him blushing hotly.  She gulped, knowing that whatever came out of his mouth next, it wouldn’t be good.  


“Y-Yes?” ; she stuttered, unnerved by his overly casual tone.  

“Do I…have a bandage on my ass?”  

Kagome’s face immediately flamed to match her companion’s.  She cleared her throat several times before trusting herself to answer.  

“Yes…I believe you do.”  

“And you…never mind,” he amended, refraining from asking the obvious question.  Awkward silence settled between them, leading Kagome to reflect that at least Inuyasha had been unconscious during the operation itself.  Forgetting for a moment that he’d been full-youkai at the time, she could only imagine how awkward it would have been to do it while he was awake.  If she had to actually ask him to lower his hakama so she could bandage his behind…

She giggled at that thought, and when Inuyasha turned to glare at her as if she had sprouted another head, her mirth escalated into full-blown laughter.  The hanyou shook his head, but couldn’t hide his amused grin.  

“You know,” Kagome observed once her laughter had wound down, “we’re probably lucky this didn’t happen sooner, with how often you get injured.”

“Keh.  Remind me to never let it happen again.  I don’t like things munching on my ass.”  Kagome giggled again at that, leading to a brief, companionable silence.  

“Sorry you had to deal with that,” Inuyasha muttered somberly out of the blue, as if having to touch him in that manner was such a terrible thing.  As though she wouldn’t be spending much of the foreseeable future imagining what his bare backside looked like sans injuries.  

“That’s okay,” Kagome replied brightly, hesitating for a moment but continuing before she lost her nerve.  “I didn’t mind.”  

She had intended that statement to sound casual, with perhaps just the barest hint of suggestiveness.  But she wasn’t an expert in flirting by any means, so she couldn’t be sure it came out exactly as she wanted.  She wondered if she hadn’t let the jovial atmosphere run away with her, and said something which would cause Inuyasha to recede into his shell for the remainder of the evening.  The hanyou did stumble a bit, and when she dared to glance over at him she found him staring at her in shock, his jaw dropped open slightly.  He quickly recovered, turning his head away with pinking cheeks.  But though he was embarrassed, he didn’t seem upset.  His eyes retained their happy glow, and his lips hinted at the beginnings of a genuine smile.  The ensuing silence was anything but uncomfortable.  

Minutes later, as the twilight faded and Kagome was just about to ask Inuyasha whether they were far enough away from the battlefield to stop for the night, the hanyou stopped in his tracks and stood to his full height, his ears swiveling in the direction of some distant sound.  Kagome stood stock still and held her breath until he turned to her with a grin.  

“I hear Sango calling us.  Quick, call back and see if Kirara or the runt can hear you.”  Kagome did just that, only to have Inuyasha duck away from her with a curse.  

“Damn, wench!  Not right in my ear!”  

“Sorry,” she apologized sheepishly before resuming her calls.  When she paused to breathe she heard Inuyasha muttering something about ‘loud wenches trying to make me go deaf,’ but she ignored him.  Her giddiness at the prospect of reuniting with their friends turned into joy at the hanyou’s announcement that he saw something flying toward them in the distance.  

“Kagome?” he asked seriously, causing her mood to immediately sober.  

“Yes, Inuyasha?  Is everything okay?”  

“Yeah, just…what happened today…can we keep it between the two of us for now?”  

Kagome frowned as she tried to deduce the reason for his strange request.  A dozen possibilities quickly came to mind, and she couldn’t really settle on one.  He didn’t look like he would answer her if she asked him either.  But she supposed his reasoning didn’t really matter.  What happened today was special, to be sure.  Maybe he was still processing everything, and didn’t want to have to answer a hundred questions.  As long as he wasn’t ashamed of his actions while transformed—which didn’t appear to be the case anymore—then Kagome decided she was willing to respect his wishes on the matter.  She did hope that he would be willing to share the day’s events with the others eventually, perhaps after he had found a way to make Tetsusaiga lighter and there wasn’t so much uncertainty regarding his full-youkai transformations.  

“Sure, Inuyasha,” she replied, earning a relieved smile from the hanyou.  


That settled, they both turned and waited for their friends to arrive.  Shippou didn’t even wait until Kirara touched down before leaping to the ground and barreling into Kagome’s chest, much to the hanyou’s displeasure.  But the miko simply hugged the young fox, understanding how worried he must have been.  Sango and Miroku weren’t far behind.  

“Kagome-chan, Inuyasha, are you all right?”

“We’re okay, Sango-chan.”  

“What happened?  How did you wind up way out here?  We almost didn’t come over this way to look for you.”  

“Some friends of that big bastard we were chasing ambushed us,” Inuyasha replied haughtily.  “I took care of ‘em.  Did you get the shard?”  

“Right here,” Miroku answered, fishing the tiny gem out of his robes and handing it to Kagome.  “It was quite a challenge to locate it without Kagome-sama’s abilities, but we managed.”  

“You look pretty beat up, Inuyasha,” Sango observed, eyeing the bandages on the hanyou’s bare chest since he had never put his suikan back on.  

“Keh.  Just flesh wounds, taijiya.  I’ll be healed by morning.”  

Kagome rolled her eyes and stifled a groan.  Count on Inuyasha to drastically understate his injuries.  But she was too tired to fight with him right now; that argument could wait until morning.  It was enough that both Miroku and Sango gazed at him dubiously after his claim, even if Inuyasha pretended not to notice.  

They decided to travel a little farther upstream before making camp.  Miroku and Sango set up a fire, their vision aided by light provided by Shippou and Kirara.  The fire-cat seemed only too happy to finally be able to transform into her smaller form and sleep; it had been a long day for her especially.  Since Inuyasha wasn’t up to hunting, they shared a meager meal from what was left of Kagome’s supplies.  It wasn’t much, but the food gave the miko enough energy to decide that she didn’t feel like going to sleep dirty.  She asked Sango to help her bathe in the stream, thanking Inuyasha for guiding them upstream of the battlefield instead of downstream.  The hanyou only smirked and declared that he was glad to hear that she was bathing.  It surprised her that he was willing to tease her like that in front of the others, since usually he became more reserved once it was no longer just the two of them.  Not that she was complaining.  She flippantly informed him that at least one of them would no longer stink, and told him only partially in jest that she still expected him to find them a hot spring for a proper bath.  After listening with some satisfaction to his ‘keh’ response, she ambled off to the stream with Sango.  

The water was cold, and the air almost as chilly, but it felt so good to scrub off the layer of sweat and grime coating her skin.  Sango helped her wash her hair, as she sat on a smooth rock in the middle of the flow.  Kagome was really enjoying her bath, despite the cold, until Sango spoke hesitantly.  

“Kagome-chan…did something happen today?”  

The miko sighed.  Sometimes her friends were too observant for their own good.

“Something did happen, Sango-chan, but Inuyasha doesn’t want to talk about it.”

“Why?  What did he do?!” the taijiya demanded, turning Kagome to face her, worry and anger clouding her features.  

“Nothing!” Kagome retorted, before taking a calming breath to gather her thoughts.  “Sango-chan, what happened today…was definitely a good thing.  I think Inuyasha is just taking some time to process everything.  We’ll tell you all of it when he’s ready.  I hope you’re willing to respect his wishes, at least for a little while.”  

Sango looked like she wanted to argue, but finally nodded her assent.  Her eyes said it all though.  Inuyasha, you’d best get over this reluctance of yours pretty quickly, Kagome reflected, or you’ll have an angry taijiya to deal with.  But that was an issue for another day.  Hopefully Totosai would be able to help Inuyasha make Tetsusaiga lighter, and this whole mess would blow over.  After today, that idea didn’t seem so outlandish.  

It was a shivering but happy Kagome who walked back into camp some time later.  Inuyasha was still where she’d left him, lying topless on a blanket next to the fire.  His eyes were closed but his ears followed her every footstep, so she doubted that he was deeply asleep.  She wished he could get some real rest tonight, but out here in the wilderness he probably felt compelled to remain somewhat alert.  Given their interesting day, she couldn’t say she blamed him.  

After stepping behind a tree to change into a warm set of pajamas, Kagome bit her lip for a moment, then nodded to herself in resolve.  She moved her sleeping bag next to Inuyasha, not so close that they were touching, but much closer than they usually slept even when they were indoors.  Inuyasha didn’t say anything about her proximity, but she didn’t miss the tiny upturn at the corner of his lips.  Warm and content, Kagome slipped into slumber as soon as she crawled into her bedding.  

She was rudely awakened some time later by an insistent poking against her cheek.  She opened her bleary eyes to find Inuyasha gazing down at her, the offending finger retreating back to his lap.  She nearly gasped at the gravity of his expression, the profound sincerity in his gaze.  



“I…I wanted to tell you something.”  

Kagome could only nod.  Emotions swirled within her, making her feel lightheaded, excited and terrified at the same time.  Inuyasha stared at her for a long moment, then spoke softly, but intensely.  

“You…you’re a strange girl.”  

Disappointment crashed over Kagome like a bucket of ice water.  She had to bite her tongue to keep from screaming the ‘osuwari’ command over and over again.  It was only the sight of the bandages on his chest which stopped her.  Gritting her teeth, she snarled some furious words back at him, doing a fair impression of his full-youkai form in the process.  

“Inuyasha, what the hell are you talking about?  You woke me up just to tell me I’m weird?!”  

The hanyou’s eyes widened in alarm, his jaw flapping helplessly as though he couldn’t comprehend how things had gone so horribly wrong.  

“That’s not— I mean— Ah, screw it!”  

And that was that.  Inuyasha was closing himself off again.  Opportunity for meaningful conversation thrown into the fire and incinerated.  Kagome’s anger melted away in an instant as she realized her mistake—an understandable one to be sure, but still a mistake.  


In desperation she struggled to reach for him and nearly tore the zipper off of her sleeping bag in the process.  He stared at the joining of their hands, her two smaller appendages wrapped around his larger one.  It momentarily stopped him from turning away, but his expression was still guarded, old fears of vulnerability and its terrible consequences darkening the normally brilliant glow of his stunning amber eyes.  

“I’m sorry, Inuyasha,” she apologized, her eyes pleading with him to understand.  “Please…tell me what you were going to say.  I…I want to hear it.”  

He frowned, studying her, waging a great internal debate over the span of a few seconds which seemed to stretch for hours.  For a few heartbreaking moments, Kagome didn’t think he was going to share.  Then he finally spoke, his voice battered down to barely above a whisper, and she found that she couldn’t breathe if she tried.  

“I meant what I said.  You are a strange girl.  But I didn’t mean to insult you.  I just…I guess…dammit,” he swore, frustrated and embarrassed by his inability to find the right words.  A glance at her earnest expression seemed to firm his resolve.  

“Kagome, you’re…different.  Nobody else sees me the way you do.  The way I look through your eyes is…unique.  Nobody else would have stayed with me today.  Nobody else would have bandaged my sorry full-youkai ass, or tried to talk me out of my transformation, or fed me fucking potato chips!”  Kagome beamed at the reminder, earning a brief smile from Inuyasha.  

“I guess what I’m trying to say is…thank you, for believing in me.”  

Kagome was sure her heart was about to beat out of her chest.  To an outsider, his words might not seem like much.  But it had likely taken Inuyasha all evening to gather the courage to say them, and she could clearly see how meaningful they were to him.  She could feel nothing but honored.  

“It’s easy to believe in you, Inuyasha,” she replied lovingly.  “You make me believe, just by being yourself.”  

He stared at her with something akin to wonder in his eyes.  Then his gaze dropped to her lips, and for a fleeting moment Kagome thought he was going to kiss her.  But in the next instant he seemed to realize what he was doing, and tore his gaze away, flushing madly.  And when his eyes snapped up to glance longingly at the tree branches overhead, Kagome knew the conversation was over.  But that was okay.  Inuyasha had bared a piece of his heart to her tonight, and in return, she had shared some of her feelings for him.  She hoped he would remember this, the next time he doubted himself.  Because she never would.  

She would, however, take pity on her embarrassed hanyou this evening.  Feigning a yawn, she released his hand and rolled over, curling back into her sleeping bag.  Inuyasha’s relief was a palpable thing, even though she could no longer see him.  He didn’t reply immediately when she bade him a soft goodnight, but eventually she heard the words returned to her, a whisper on the breeze.  

Kagome found it difficult to return to slumber, and lay for some time simply listening to the sounds of the night, and the quiet breathing of the man beside her.  Inuyasha drove her completely crazy at times, but moments like this reminded her why she had fallen in love with him in the first place.  No matter what calamity came to destroy what they loved and fought for, he was the one thing she would always believe in.  

The End

A/N – So I think this fits pretty well into the canon storyline, which was my goal all along.  Inuyasha goes on to defeat Ryuukotsusei, in a battle in which he transforms but maintains enough awareness and control of himself to reclaim Tetsusaiga.  

It was not my intention to bad-mouth the rest of Inuyasha’s friends, including Myouga and Totosai.  They don’t see him as most of the world does either; they obviously don’t have prejudices against hanyou or anything like that.  But in my opinion the way Kagome sees him is unique.  The two of them share a special bond, even at this stage of their journey.  That’s what I decided to focus on for this story.