Disclaimer for this story: InuYasha is property of Rumiko Takahashi. All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author, punkish furball. The author, punkish furball, is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. The author, punkish furball, makes no profit from this fanfiction. No copyright infringement is intended.

punkish furball – Hello, all! XD

Words to Ponder:

What time is it? New story time!

I know I'm more of a crossover girl, but I decided to go back to one of my favorite InuYasha pairings in this latest story. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I do. Also, for those of you who haven't seen InuYasha: The Final Act, there are mild spoilers for episode nine, and I strongly recommend you watch the whole thing if you haven't. It's amazing!

Now, without further ado, please begin! X3

Prologue

Koga was pensive as he inspected the kills from each hunting party. Winter was quickly approaching, and there were many preparations necessary to ensure the survival and comfort of his people. Once he was satisfied, Koga nodded his approval, and the hunters dutifully delivered their game to another group of wolf males charged with stripping the meat and collecting the pelts and bones.

Koga resumed his daily rounds, checking on each and every one of his pack mates assembled in the common area of their den. There were mostly females inside attending to their seasonal preparations by sewing together tanned furs and weaving baskets to store rations. Several cubs were close by playing amongst themselves and the mortal wolves within the pack. Only a few males could be seen coming and going with the changing of the guard and border patrol.

The sight of them all made Koga beam with pride. It had taken several years, but the wolf demon tribe's numbers were rising. They were all united under a new age of prosperity, one ushered in with Koga as Alpha. He smirked as he remembered how he was in the days before the merger. He was powerful and immensely loyal to his kind but cocky and reckless. Though a prince by birthright and leader of a prominent eastern tribe by skill and merit, he was hardly what was expected in the one to serve as Alpha to all. He cared for little and only sought the quickest path to power. That led him to purse the shattered pieces of the Shikon Jewel. And that ultimately led him to her.

Sighing, Koga stepped outside of the main cavern and into the cool, autumn air. It's been a few years since he last saw her, but she was always on his mind at some point or another, the human girl who changed his life and took possession of his heart without even trying. Despite himself, Koga chuckled. He would never forget meeting Kagome. He dismissed her at first then she caught his eye when he learned she could see the jewel shards. At that moment, he wanted her. Like anything he wanted, he took her. He threw her over his shoulder and never looked back even when her panicked shrieks pierced his sensitive ears.

After that, the frail, human girl surprised him again and again. For one, Kagome was not as frail and helpless as she appeared to be. She was loyal to a fault willing to literally throw herself to the wolves to let her kitsune friend escape. She stood fearless and unyielding in front of those with the strength and power to snap her delicate bones in two. At the same time, she was compassionate to his people's plight with the Birds of Paradise, saving the same wolves that were taking dibs on her body parts hours before. All of that and more wrapped in a very pretty package was enough to seal the deal for Koga. That very day he claimed her as his woman and shouted in the heat of battle that he loved Kagome for all of the mountain to hear. Of course, he didn't really love her. He didn't even know what love was. He only knew that he wanted her.

Back in those days, Koga thought nothing of going miles off course as soon as he caught the faintest hint of Kagome's scent in the wind. He still wanted her and enjoyed lavishing her with attention while the mutt-face cursed and goaded him into a fight. Then it began to change, slowly until it hit him all at once. Koga realized he was no longer as entertained by the reactions of his rival. He only wanted to hold Kagome's tiny, delicate hands in his rough, calloused ones as though they were the most precious thing he ever held. To see that faint hint of pink light up her rosy cheeks and that awkward but pleased smile she wore when she saw him. To have her careful hands gently caress his heated skin as she cared for his injuries. He knew her focus was on him and him alone during those times, so they were by far his favorite.

Koga wanted to learn more and more about his precious woman until he realized it would never be enough. That first meeting in the village ruins would never be enough. The time they spent in his den would never be enough. Those treasured but fleeting moments they had would never be enough. Koga needed his woman, his passionate, fearless, selfless, headstrong, loving woman, by his side always. Every time they parted, he left a piece of his heart behind, and he could finally say with absolute certainty that he loved Kagome. He loved her so much he would do anything, give up anything for her. And, in the end, he did.

Koga cringed as he remembered that day. His legs felt as heavy as boulders without the presence of the jewel shards, but that was nothing compared to the weight in his heart. Just as he lost his jewel shards, he gave up his claim on Kagome and any hope that she would one day look at him with loving eyes, relinquishing her completely to InuYasha.

Kagome looked up at him, her beautiful eyes shimmering with unshed tears, and he thought for one moment, one brief, wild, and wonderful moment, she would confess that she loved him just as much as he loved her. Instead, she approached him and leaned forward, her eyes closed. He reacted without thinking and pulled her closer with an arm around her waist and a hand resting on the crown of her head. She felt so perfect against him, so soft, so warm, and so very perfect.

"Goodbye, Koga," she whispered, her voice thick with emotion.

For an instant, he thought it didn't have to be goodbye. She willingly came to his arms, put herself in his hands. All he had to do was tighten his grip, and he could take her as he did before and never look back. He could truly and completely claim her as his woman and to hell with everything else.

But Koga knew he couldn't do that. His woman was loyal and didn't break her promises. She still needed to complete the Shikon Jewel, and he was no good to her now. He relied on the jewel shards to boost his strength for too long. He was too weak without them and too prideful to admit it. It was that very same pride that prevented him from joining the group led by InuYasha in the first place. Maybe if he overcame it sooner, it wouldn't have been this way. But he didn't. Regardless of his shortcomings, Kagome still had a mission to complete, and Koga would be damned if he stood in her way.

So he replied, speaking just as softly as she did, "So long, Kagome."

Unable to stay any longer, Koga fled with only a hollowed heart of lead and a handful of memories. For days after he returned the eastern mountains, he did nothing, said nothing. The remaining wolves of his pack thought it was because he lost the jewel shards, and he didn't bother to correct them. Only his two trusted men—and dearest friends—knew the truth, and they held their silence, allowing their leader and friend to grieve his loss alone. There was even talk of an uprising, and Koga still couldn't bring himself to care. It all culminated the day he heard of Naraku's defeat, months after he said his final goodbye.

That day, Koga thought of InuYasha and how his rival would taunt him for his fall from grace. Then he thought of Kagome. He could see her with those tiny fists curled at her sides and those bright blue eyes he adored ablaze with fury.

"What do you think you're doing? You're just going to sit there and give up? The Koga I know would never do this! Where's the Koga who'd risk everything for the good of his pack? Who'd stop at nothing to avenge his brothers even if it meant passing on the duty to his rival? Where is he? Because he certainly isn't here!"

The phantom of his beloved ranted and raved and even threw in a smack or two until Koga finally got off his ass and got back to work. He lost his jewel shards and his woman, but he was still a proud Alpha wolf, and he would remain so.

That day, Koga squashed all resistance and reigned over his pack with more zeal than ever, but he was not the same leader he was before. Meeting Kagome changed him. Loving Kagome changed him. He now knew that strength of the heart was just as important as strength of the body. His rule was absolute but tender and compassionate. Koga strived to be an Alpha his tribe could look up to, one they would gladly follow into battle and fight alongside. A leader who cared for his pack and ensured that they grew and flourished. A leader Kagome would be proud of.

Before he knew it, the scattered and nomadic tribes of the east all united and submitted to his rule as Alpha. Koga took in his brothers and sisters without hesitation whether they came in as packs or as strays. He then realized that the continued division of their packs would only lead to more death and destruction. He didn't want to lose more of his kin at the hands of beings like the Birds of Paradise and the wind witch, Kagura. His pack was more important to him than ever. Together was the only way they would grow stronger and thrive.

There were rebels and upstarts who resisted Koga and the changes he brought particularly those regarding humans. Koga put an immediate end to the consumption and meaningless slaughter of mortals and all unprovoked attacks on their villages, a decree unheard of to wolf demon kind. The punishments were harsh for those that disobeyed, and Koga issued every one personally. The majority of the pack didn't care. Whether they acknowledged them or not, humans were insignificant and insignificant they would remain. However, the opponents of the law believed the wolf prince elevated the filthy, mortal race to equal standing with his own kind and would not tolerate him disgracing their pack. The rebels were strong, but Koga was stronger and would not yield. Those who managed to escape punishment migrated from the east to join other packs.

As his pack expanded, Koga was ambitious but careful. He knew the expansion wouldn't go unnoticed by the other regions for long, and that was exactly what he was hoping for. He sought a unification of his people that was lost centuries ago but knew he would either succeed or die trying to make it happen. This division was no longer acceptable. The wolf demon tribe would no longer be regarded as vicious, man-eating barbarians but the proud, noble race his ancestors intended. Whether he was Alpha or not didn't matter.

As Koga expected, the council of Wolf Elders comprised of a pair of wizened and powerful wolves from each region took notice of his pack's expansion and called him for an audience. He normally didn't care what the old wolves had to say, but he needed their support to make such a revolutionary move a reality. The wolf prince's argument was simple. His actions were an honest attempt to unite the wolf tribes as they were in the past, and his changes were for the greater good of their kind, not to shun the ways of old. He had many supporters among his original pack and the former Alphas who joined their packs to create a single eastern tribe. The rebels were also allowed to have their say, but their numbers were few.

After hearing evidence from both sides, the Elders decided that the proposed unification was key to the continued existence of their kind. The only decision left was to decide who would be Alpha.

On the wolves' ancestral lands in the northern region under the order of the Elder Council, the battle for absolute dominance was held in accordance with the traditions of the ōkami, a tournament where the strongest male would conquer all. Many Alphas from the northern, southern, and western packs contended for the supreme position, but Koga was the only champion from the east. It was a fierce and relentless battle that was waged from early dawn and well past nightfall, but Koga won. No longer was he a cocky leader from the east but the true and rightful Alpha of a newly united wolf demon tribe.

With his throne secure, the real work began. Koga quickly appointed his final challenger as his Beta, an older white wolf from the north called Iwao, which no one contested. He was reluctant at first but accepted his new position and his Alpha's resulting friendship. After that, Koga returned to his home in the east bringing his pack with him. The mountain was expansive with numerous, naturally formed caverns, an abundance in surrounding resources, and plenty of game to hunt, an ideal setting for the tribe of nearly 500 wolves. Those that refused to submit to Koga as their Alpha only numbered a few dozen and convened to the far south. As long as they did not interfere with his pack in the east, Koga saw no reason to pursue them.

For five years, Koga ruled with his Beta and trusted subordinates, defending the newly formed tribe from all threats and opposition while they prospered. Also, though he was not the eastern lord, his new position was the equivalent to that level of nobility, and he was required to attend certain political gatherings. Of all the duties that came with being Alpha, Koga hated that one the most. Even so, it was worth all of the frustration to see every new union that resulted from the merger and every new life they brought. Koga was proud of every newborn cub the tribe was blessed with, the future of his pack.

Tired of the cold, open air, Koga returned to the main den and retreated to his private chambers. Only he as Alpha, Beta Iwao, other tribe nobility, and mated couples within the pack were allotted their own personal dens. All unmated wolves lived in larger, communal caverns throughout the mountain separated among males and females. Cubs dwelled in their parents' den until they came of age to join the older wolves but often spent the hotter months in shared dens under the watchful eye of a few females. The mortal wolves that the demons commanded gathered in the common den or shadowed the ones they imprinted on. There were several that followed Koga but refrained from entering his den out of respect. That space was for their Alpha and his future mate.

There were many she-wolves who eagerly sought the honored position as Koga's mate and Alpha female of the pack. He was their leader and a prince, sure to provide exceedingly well for his chosen female and produce strong and healthy cubs. At first, Koga kept the females at bay with errands and excuses. He was the new Alpha of a large pack, and they understood he had much work to do. The she-wolves gladly stepped aside and admired him from afar until one of them could rightfully be called his.

However, as his pack began to settle, it became harder for Koga to hide his lack of interest in the ōkami females. Most unmated she-wolves were exceptionally beautiful but just as burly and tanned as their male counterparts. The body Koga pictured by his side was lithe and soft with supple curves covered in taut skin of ivory sparsely covered in barely noticeable freckles, innocently hiding her strength. The locks of every raven haired female didn't possess a certain luster and silky texture. The depth and tenderness he craved was absent in those with eyes of blue. Loud, boisterous laughs couldn't compare to the soft, bell like giggles he longed to hear. No female, yōkai or human, could ever compare to his ideal in body, mind, heart, and soul. Koga shook his head as he fell back on the fur pallet in the center of his den. He knew exactly who he was looking for and knew he would never find her here. Even if he did, she wouldn't be his to claim.

About a year ago, he sent scouts to Edo to check on Kagome's wellbeing who didn't know of his prior claim on the mortal priestess. They reported seeing her grabbed in traditional miko attire leaving the village in Edo with a half demon dressed in red and a human child from a hut that they obviously shared. That was all Koga need to hear. He knew this would happen. Any right he had to one day call Kagome his own was dissolved as soon as he renounced his claim, but his heart still dropped at the thought of Kagome and InuYasha together feeling just as heavy as it did the day he left her. He knew he couldn't bear to see her for himself despite how much he longed to.

Still, Koga quietly wished the woman he loved and continued to love all the happiness she deserved and hoped she thought of him fondly if she did at all. That alone gave him comfort.

-O0o0O-

Kagome laughed at her hanyō friend as Rin's active chatter went in one dog shaped ear and out the other. Sesshomaru's ward was quickly approaching her 13th year, but she was just as bubbly and energetic as ever.

"Okay, you two," Kagome called out, jerking her head in the direction of the village they called home, "The sooner we get back, the sooner we can eat."

"Coming, Lady Kagome!"

Rin excitedly rushed forward leaving Kagome to wait for InuYasha to catch up. It wasn't long before he arrived by her side.

"You could have said that sooner, ya know," he grumbled.

Kagome giggled. "And ruin all the fun? No way!"

InuYasha snorted. "Fun at my expense."

"The best kind there is!"

InuYasha rolled his eyes before he slung a playful arm around Kagome's shoulder, and the two of them resumed their walk together. This time two years ago, he would never imagine his life would be like this. Happy and free with Kagome by his side and Sesshomaru's brat in tow.

Two years ago, InuYasha was only content. He became the protector of the village in Edo and occasionally took side jobs from travelers who heard of his success against Naraku. The only time he was truly happy was when Miroku, Sango, or Shippo came to visit. At the time, all three arrived months ago so Kaede could aid with the birth of Miroku and Sango's firstborn. The couple had married and moved into the old slayer's village after the defeat of Naraku, eager to rebuild and start a new generation of slayers from the ruins. There were many new inhabitants, most of them young and inexperienced but eager to learn. Right now, their settlement lacked an experienced midwife, and they didn't want to risk the elderly miko's safety transporting her so far away from her home.

The pair left their home with Kirara, leaving Kohaku in charge during their absence, and picked up Shippo along the way from the kitsune school they discovered during their travels before arriving in Edo. The child was due in spring, so, after Sango recovered, the couple will be ready to travel home with their newborn without much difficulty. They shared Kaede's hut with Rin who had been living with the old priestess for a while but was uncharacteristically reserved and quiet. She was still afraid to live amongst humans who once shunned her and face her beloved Lord Sesshomaru should she fail.

Then, without warning, he felt it. He didn't know how or why, but InuYasha ran with a single destination in mind. He swore he would never approach it again, but, as soon as he sensed the ancient magic, he ran to the Bone Eater's Well. Then, he smelled it, an intoxicating cocktail of vanilla and tiger lilies and ran faster. InuYasha didn't stop until he passed the well and arrived at the sacred tree. There he saw a familiar girl with a familiar yellow bag over her shoulders. At the same moment he entered the clearing, she turned to him.

InuYasha could only brace himself as Kagome sprinted to him not caring that she dropped her backpack. She threw her arms around his neck as he caught her around the waist, twirling her around as they both laughed and cried. When they tumbled to the ground, InuYasha finally got a good look at her. Her hair was much longer and her face lost some of its childish roundness, but her eyes, though full of tears, still had that spark of innocence and everything that was uniquely Kagome.

While on top of him, Kagome pressed kisses to every part of InuYasha's face she could reach as she lovingly stroked his ears. InuYasha could only hold her tighter. He couldn't remember feeling so complete and so loved. Kagome finished her blubbering and her kisses with one final peck on his nose before she rested her forehead on top of his, grinning from ear to ear. InuYasha snorted but returned her smile.

When the two of them stood, Kagome went to her fallen bag with InuYasha close behind her. He curiously noted what she brought. Instead of the usual mountains of junk food and stacks of textbooks strewn across the grass, he saw albums and journals, small mementos he recognized form her home, and panties. Piles and piles of unopened, plastic packages of panties in various closers and designs. Kagome blushed and haphazardly stuffed them back in her bag. When he asked, she told him in a huff that he might live long enough for western civilization to introduce their undergarments to Japan, but she was not going without.

In that moment, it finally hit him. Kagome was here to stay. The girl from the future chose to live in an era that wasn't her own, and he knew because, of all the modern comforts she could have chosen not to live without, she chose panties.

The two of them returned to the village, walking together as though Kagome never left. They arrived at Kaede's hut where there was more laughter and more tears. Shippo hugged Kagome around the neck while she cooed and fawned over Sango's pregnant belly with Kirara curled in her lap. Miroku sat beside his wife but couldn't contain his mirth as he gazed at his long absent friend. InuYasha rolled his eyes only to blush with Kagome cheekily recounted their emotional reunion.

Kaede was the one to begin the questioning, and everyone was curious to hear how Kagome was able to return when the well ceased to work. Sobering, she started to speak. Kagome was distraught for several months after she was forcibly transported to her own time, refusing to see anyone for days. She sat at the bottom of the well, sobbing and pleading with any deity that would listen that she could return to the era she left behind as she dug at the tightly packed earth until her fingers bled. Every night when Kagome collapsed from exhaustion, her mother dutifully climbed into the well and dragged her child from the cold, cruel shaft. She gently washed away the dirt clinging to her skin and tucked Kagome into bed, knowing she would have to perform this ritual again the following night.

Finally, when she cried all her tears and finished her grieving, Kagome began to move on with the unwavering support from her family. She started to speak quietly with her mother and brother and tend the shrine with her grandfather, slowly mending her fractured heart.

Due to her many absences, Kagome was forced to undergo homeschooling. She didn't mind. Her mother and grandfather were excellent teachers, and she was able to focus on her schoolwork to fill the gaping void of activity in her life. She set her own pace and completed as many lessons as she wanted at once. Her days typically ended with her slouched over her textbooks and notes.

Eventually, Kagome was able to leave the house and reconnect with her friends but decided not to enroll in high school. When the time came, they decided to all sit for the same university entrance exam. Kagome was interested in their nursing program. Her acceptance letter was still waiting on the kitchen table, unopened and forgotten.

Strengthening her mind wasn't enough for Kagome to seek solace. She developed her archery skills and her miko abilities though meditation and trial and error. It was difficult and frustrating, but she refused to let go of her only tie to her past life of lore and adventure.

Even though Kagome tried to move on for her sake and her loved ones', she kept her yellow backpack inside the well house, packed and ready. She stuffed it then emptied it and stuffed it again, constantly changing its contents. It was slight, but she had hope that the well would one day open and she could return to the Feudal Era. And, that day, it did. With a quick goodbye, she left the future behind with no methods or intentions to return. She knew her family would understand and would miss them dearly, but her true home was here.

When her tale ended, Kagome asked questions of her own. She was elated to hear everything her friends achieved in her absence. She longed to see the new slayers' village Sango and Miroku descried, eager to replace the image of a desolate settlement where Sango's kin rested with one of life and prosperity. She praised Shippo when he showed her his latest tricks and fox magic even when he singed InuYasha's eyebrows. She did the same for Rin when she realized the girl now resided with Kaede, applauding her for having the courage to try and make a life on her own. Rin's response was shy, but she scooted a little closer to the kind, older girl she remembered.

There were only brief updates on Sesshomaru and his ever present vassal, Jaken. He was still doing as he pleased and visited the village often to check on Rin's wellbeing and leave her gifts. After hearing about the daiyōkai, Kagome asked about Koga and his wolf pack. Like her other friends and allies, the wolf prince was never far from her thoughts while she was in the modern era. She often wondered what became of him.

InuYasha snorted, saying he knew nothing about that mangy wolf and was glad he never smelled his stench again. Miroku was more helpful answering her inquiries. He heard during the trip to Edo the roaming tribes of the ōkami consolidated into a single pack in the eastern lands and no longer plagued human settlements like they did before. He never saw the wolf demon in person but also heard Koga had risen up and became the pack's leader. Kagome smiled as she listened, happy he accomplished so much and his life turned out so well.

Soon after her return, everything settled into some semblance of normality. Kaede took Kagome under her wing, blending her traditional teachings with Kagome's modern knowledge as she officially took the title of miko. Sango and Miroku eventually returned to their home after Sango gave birth. They promised to visit more often, but Kagome wouldn't hear it. They had a life of their own and, not one, but two newborns to love and care for. She wouldn't dare disrupt their lives for her sake. Shippo also left to return to his training. Kagome couldn't deter his pledges to return even if she tried.

InuYasha and Kagome eventually moved in together, and Rin joined them. The child found comfort and confidence in her newfound friendship with the older girl. They studied the art of healing together with Kaede's instruction, and Kagome began teaching Rin how to read, write, and perform simple calculations. Sesshomaru was pleased with his ward's progress under the guidance of the young miko and allowed the living arrangement to continue.

The relationship between Kagome and Sesshomaru was simple mutual respect until the lord decided to train her in the ways of battle. Kagome was nothing short of stunned at the offer until the daiyōkai explained his ward would not be put in danger by their travels, and he refused to teach the half breed who was too much of a lost cause to learn. Kagome had no choice but to accept although she eventually learned to enjoy her sessions with her diligent sensei. Sesshomaru was a demanding teacher, and he accepted no less than his namesake, absolute perfection. Slowly but surely Kagome learned how to fight hand-to-hand and wield short blades. Her first greatest achievement was when she knocked Sesshomaru on his impeccable butt. He only smirked as he rose to his feet and roughly propelled her body several feet away, chastising her for celebrating her victory too soon.

Their conversations afterwards were refreshing especially the lord's dry comments on InuYasha that lacked the disdain they possessed before. InuYasha was still convinced they were secretly plotting against him.

Everyone waited on baited breath for Kagome and InuYasha's bond to change and turn more intimate, but it never did. The two of them realized due to their lack of experience they confused the closeness of a great friendship with that of a great love. The embrace they shared on their reunion was between the dearest of friends not lovers, and they couldn't be happier to have their best friend by their side.

Ahead of the pair, Rin stopped and turned around, her hands cupped around her mouth.

"Hurry up or you won't get any!"

"Coming!" Kagome replied and laughed as she and InuYasha trotted to join Rin at Kaede's hut. The priestess always had a hot meal waiting for them on their return to Edo.

"With voices like that, it'll be a wonder if you two ever marry," InuYasha muttered.

"Shut up! Not all of us have super powered, doggie ears!" Kagome countered, reaching up to give one a playful yank.

"Whatever. Just don't come whining to these ears when you're a dried up, old maid like Kaede!"

"I'll be in good company! A shriveled old maid with her shriveled old dog by her side!"

"Someone's gotta keep an eye on you! You'd break both hips before nightfall!"

Kaede sighed as the squabbling pair approached her home to join her and Rin. What she heard of their conversation had her thinking. The half breed retained his youth and boyish good looks while Kagome blossomed into a beautiful woman of 21 years. They were also very well known for their quest to complete the Shikon Jewel and their accomplishments after that. Needless to say, both attracted the attention of many would-be suitors.

InuYasha had a few admirers among the village youth but was completely unaware of them. Kagome was the only one paying attention to the young maids and tried without much success to coax InuYasha to do the same. She loved her crude, violent, and abrasive friend with a thirst for adventure exactly the way he was but believed he would happy to settle down and start a family once he met the right woman.

As for Kagome, she too was oblivious to her potential suitors or lack thereof. InuYasha was viciously protective of her and discouraged any of the village men from pursing her as well as any visiting outsiders. Kagome may have meddled in the hanyō's personal life, but InuYasha was overstepping his bounds even if he meant well. Kagome would have objected if she noticed his behavior, but the dedicated miko had a habit of forgetting herself in her focus on others. She would likely take Kaede's position as head priestess when she passed with InuYasha assisting her as the village protector.

Kaede let out a tired sigh. Something had to give or the two of them would really end up growing old and gray together.

When InuYasha and Kagome arrived, they placed their bundles in an unoccupied corner of the hut next to Rin's. They acquired medicinal herbs for the upcoming winter from the gentle hanyō Jineji. Kagome spent time training under him as well.

"Come in, you two," Kaede wryly said, "Preferably before autumn ends, and the snow begins to fall."

Rin giggled and handed servings of stew to Kagome then InuYasha as they took their usual spots. Once Kaede joined them, they began one of their usual, good-natured discussions.

After he finished his meal, InuYasha's ears swiveled, and he looked out the window to see the sun already set.

"Hey, it's late," he announced, "We're staying here for the night."

"InuYasha! You just can't invite yourself to sleepover in someone else's house!" Kagome scolded, "It's not like we have that far to walk home!"

"It is alright, Kagome," Kaede interjected, "Besides, in the morning, he'll already be here to patch my roof." InuYasha's ears twitched and stood straight up. He was not expecting that.

She added, "After that, you can help store food rations for with the other village men."

"All that for a decent meal and a night's rest in your place?" he asked, "You pull bigger cons than the monk."

"Sounds like a fair trade to me," Kagome quipped, looking at the half demon with a smirk.

"And at least you'll be well rested for all that work in the morning," Rin helpfully added.

InuYasha rolled his eyes at the two human girls and slyly plucked a piece of meat from Kagome's bowl.

"Hey!" she cried and latched onto the morsel before the hanyō could plop it in his mouth. The two tugged and pulled until Rin grabbed the meat directly in the middle and joined their struggles.

Kaede chuckled. Perhaps there was no harm in Kagome and InuYasha living as they do for a while longer if her home could be filled with such laughter and warmth for another winter.

-O0o0O-

punkish furball – I hope you all enjoyed this first chapter. There's much more to come! Until next time, TCB! ^.^

(edited 06.17.2014)