From the Ashes
A/N: This is a sequel to Reborn, my Kouga/Kagome fic finished in 2014. Reviewers made me think maybe there was more story to tell, and it's spiraled from there. If you haven't read it, you should before you start this puppy. Reborn is dramatic, long-winded, and sappy. What's not to check out =P?
Chapter One – Reunion
At first glance, Enomoto looked like any other village in Sengoku Jidai; it might even have garnered an illustration in a textbook chapter on life in ancient Japan for its lack of uniqueness. Tucked away in a forested valley to avoid enemies and elements, it was small and discreet, full of practical thatched huts standing close together across a well-worn area, a guise of shelter against dangers in the night. The structures surrounded a central meeting square that brimmed with benches, half-finished projects, and the stamp of feet in the dirt. Leaning towards each other, the huts clung with a grim determination as steadfast as the humans they housed.
But on closer inspection, protective wolves could be seen scouting the village's perimeter in clearly organized and practiced paths. People walked through the square well past dusk, and children didn't cower at their parents' hips in fear of the shadows. Enomoto was special, its destiny changed forever by the arrival of a girl from the future and a youkai prince.
Kagome cited her target, fastened to the trunk of a birch at the other end of the practice field. Drawing her bowstring back to her ear, she notched an arrow above her thumb and let a slow exhale still her body. With her eyes trained on the tree, she released it, watching it fly through the field and land with a satisfying thunk.
Smiling, Kagome lowered her bow, bending to pull another feathered shaft from her quiver, when sounds of stirring from the carrier at her back made her turn her head.
"Shhh," she soothed, straightening immediately.
A mess of black hair, attached to a soft, bobbing face, lifted from her shoulders. Eyelids fluttered open, and a hearty yawn spread a small mouth wide.
Kagome gave a resigned sigh and smiled as bright, blue eyes focused on her. "Good morning," she said softly, waiting to see if her son was waking, or just responding to her movement.
He yawned again and pushed against her back, cementing his return to consciousness.
Her smile turned wry. "No more practice, huh?"
The baby, a few moons shy of a year, scrunched up his features and let out the beginning whimpers of a wail; he was not a fan of the carrier.
Kagome fought back another sigh as she set her bow down and slid one of her arms out of the pack's straps. Falling to a crouch, she brought it to the ground.
The boy was already squirming, knowing freedom was imminent. "Out," he demanded.
Kagome gave him a look. "In a minute Talon. Hold on."
His mother's eyes could be sharper than any arrow, and he stilled instantly.
She lifted him out, still marveling at how different he was from a human baby. Souta hadn't said any words until he was over a year, and hadn't had the self-control her hanyou son was now employing. Itsumi and Reina's daughters had been the same, content to stuff fists in their mouths and gurgle in pleasure far into their second spring. She held him for a moment, knowing he would want to be put down.
The boy rested his cheek against her collar, and Kagome felt her hope flare. Maybe he'd go back to sleep? It wasn't often she was able to eek out a few minutes to dust off her archery skills. The heavenly heaviness didn't come though, and he once more started to fidget.
She set him in the grass and waited until his feet were firmly planted. Though he was already walking and talking, both skills were still rudimentary, and her palm stayed at his back as he gained his balance. Long ears poked from his tangled hair, twitching as he took in the field's sounds – so many wondrous new things to investigate. His ears quivered, hearing something his mother couldn't, and delight split his face.
"Papa!" He shouted, clapping excitedly.
Kagome spun to the surrounding forest. "Where?"
The little boy grinned and pointed to the path leading back to Enomoto.
She followed his chubby finger as a figure crested the low rise. It was a man cuffed in fur, wearing the brown hunting garb of the village. He was tall and tired, and there would never be pictures of him in an assigned reading. Sharp claws, fangs, and a limp tail, heavy with exhaustion, marked him as a creature of legend. His long hair was bound in a days-old fraying ponytail, leaving tapered ears free, and a burden weighted his shoulders that cared nothing for notoriety five hundred years later.
Kagome's heart sped as he looked into the clearing. Eyes as blue as Talon's caught sight of her, and she beamed as his expression lightened.
Kouga let out a choked cry and broke into a run, hair and tail flying out behind him. Crossing the field in a blur, he scooped her up into a fierce hug, burying his face by her ear.
"I've missed you," he whispered, circling her waist with eager arms. "Two weeks is too long."
Kagome wrapped her own around his neck. "Agreed," she mumbled, surrounded by his smell. She'd missed the daily infusion of pine. "We've run out of spoons. There was no one to do dishes."
Laughter hit her neck. "How are you?"
"Now?" Kagome squeezed. "Better."
He nosed his way through her hair, planting a kiss into her collar. "I'm sorry."
She shook her head against him, swallowing down sudden emotion.
Kouga kissed again. "How's Talon?" Lips tickled her skin.
"He's becoming immune to naps," Kagome smiled.
Another laugh. Clutching tightly, he savored her hips in his hands. His journey had been protracted and lonely; a fortnight in an empty tent had been excruciating.
A small bark, more yip than anything, came from the surrounding grass. Someone had heard his name. Kouga withdrew and leaned past Kagome. "Hi little me," he called.
The boy wriggled in place, almost losing his balance. "Papa!"
Kouga released his mate and bent down, extending his arms out. "Come give me a hug. You've gotten so big."
Talon rushed through several unsteady steps, too excited to be hesitant. Kouga surged forward and caught him before he tumbled. Lifting him up, he kissed a soft baby cheek.
"No more naps, huh?" He grinned.
His son grabbed a handful of brown tunic. "No!"
Both parents laughed.
Kagome stepped up to the youkai, taking his hand. "How was your trip? Did Sen find what he was looking for?"
Kouga's smile fell. "No," he eyed Talon's ears – miniature versions of his own – and cleared his throat. "He still tries to fill… you-know-who's… place with exploration."
She squeezed his palm. "Did Ayame notice?"
Kouga lifted his chin as the boy buried himself under it. It was his favorite place. He could hear the rumble of his father's words and feel his adam's apple move. "She was her usual self," he spoke over wild hair. "But I knew this trip bothered her. We were only supposed to be gone a week."
Kagome nodded. "I know. I had no idea our spoon reserve would be so depleted."
Kouga's look turned apologetic. "Sorry."
She waved him away. "Don't worry," she touched the arm cradling the baby. "You're just in time to face the era of no naps with me."
His grin grew. "I look forward to it," he glanced at the small form in his arms. "Oh," his tone was teasing. "You mean with Talon."
She joined his smile. "It's good to have you home," she stretched up on tiptoes, and he craned down to meet her.
They shared a kiss, exchanging words without their son picking out a sound. Their conversation through contact had only increased over the years.
A pair of amber eyes watched from deep within the woods, staring at the reunion in silent fury. Wrapped in red haori, the hanyou couldn't look away, biting back a snarl as the girl leaned into Kouga to draw out their kiss, reeking of relief and love.
Inu-Yasha was far stronger than he'd been a year ago, thanks to the shikon-no-tama. Easily able to mask his scent and ki, he was invisible to the distracted wolf youkai and his priestess wife.
"Kagome," her name tumbled from him, little more than whisper. A glimmer of sadness touched his mouth before the sword in his hand started pulsing. He could feel the throb all the way up his arm. It polluted his blood, pouring darkness into his insides, and the grief slid off his face as his features hardened.
The couple pulled apart and shared a warm, secretive grin. Kouga cupped Kagome's face, thumbing her cheek, and Inu-Yasha let out a low growl as her smile widened.
The young woman bent to retrieve her bow and quiver, slinging both over her shoulder. Kouga grabbed up the carrier one-handed, and they turned for Enomoto without looking back.
Inu-Yasha stayed where he was, wrestling inwardly. Dense branches and thick summer leaves hid the war in his flushed cheeks as emotions he hadn't felt in months surged up, waking his puppeted senses.
Wasn't that the girl he had loved?
Tessaiga pulsed again, more violently this time, and the arm holding it jerked and spasmed.
No, Inu-Yasha shook his head. She was the priestess who had ruined everything – burned his world until only dust, easily-blown away, remained. He thought of her smile for Kouga.
She would have little to smile at soon.