A/N: For anyone still interested in this sequel (which follows a very old story), my apologies for the lateness of this update. I had wanted to revise all of Reborn's original chapters to reflect my current writing style before updating this again, but found the task too daunting. I've managed to make it murkily to around chapter 15 in the 2004 tale, but can't quite seem to finish. Note to self – revisions to a story you wrote when you were 19 are NOT a good idea.
Anyway, here's a new chappie, for the few who might care. Sorry again about the delay!
Chapter Three – Battlefronts
Toushi staggered against the door frame, inviting himself in. "Hey guys," he glanced at their state of undress blankly. "Am I interrupting something? I just came to talk," he hiccupped as he plunked himself down in a nearby chair. His eyes, red and bleary, took in the table littered with quills and cinnamon, and he grinned as his muddled mind recognized the gifts. "Hey!" He gave Kouga a thumbs up. "It worked!" A heavy palm slapped his knee. "I told you it would!"
Kouga turned and wrapped his wife in more sheet. "I'm sorry," he mumbled, pulling their thick fall cover from the foot of the bed over her. "Hold on. You're about to see what my entire trip was like."
Kagome bunched the fabric by her chin, looking past to their friend, who was hours-in to drunk, teetering on the verge of a second wind or passing out. Toushi looked up from the table, his grin turning wide and sloppy.
"Liked the presents, eh?" He slurred. His unfocused eyes trailed down her form. "I bet you did! Nice girl like you!" His palm moved from his knee to the table. "Recognizing when her husband is just being thoughtful!" He lifted a hand to slam it down on the wood, but Kouga caught his wrist.
"Talon's asleep," his voice was mild. "And we don't need him waking up," he motioned with his chin back towards Kagome. "If you know what I mean."
Toushi looked between the two of them, and nodded vigorously. "I gotcha buddy. You can count on me," he pretended to seal his lips closed. "It's like I wasn't even here," he pushed out from the table and rose.
Kagome could see the sway in his legs and leaned forward, reaching a hand out. "Don't go Toushi," she urged. "I've missed you almost as much as Kouga."
The other man waved off her sentiment, but his face gave him away, bursting bright red. "I can't stay. I can see you two are making up for lost time."
Kouga shared a look with his wife and sighed softly. She was as good a friend as he. "Sit," he pushed him back down into the chair. "Are you hungry? We had boar for dinner."
Toushi thought for a moment, weighing the option. Kagome rose from the bed and grabbed her dress from the floor. "Come on," she spun her finger around, and he whipped towards the wall without any more encouragement. "You know you want some stew. Talon only had his hands in it some of the time."
Toushi smiled at his view of hard-packed earth. "If he's half the helper Sora and Nori are, I'm in for a treat."
Kagome slipped the blue fabric over her hips, sharing an apologetic look with Kouga as he moved to help her back into the outfit. Giving its lacing a quick tie, he snuck a kiss into her collar, biting enough to break the skin. Kagome swatted him and headed toward the fire pit that marked their kitchen. "Small or big bowl?" She called.
"Big," the hunter swiveled away from the wall. "Why not?"
Kouga took the seat beside him, clapping him on the back. "That's the spirit!"
Toushi leaned forward on his elbows. "You two seem better," he spoke in a drunk's whisper, loud enough to fill the hut, and Kagome's hand faltered over the ladle.
"I told you the red scarf would do it," he continued, oblivious. "That one was the lynch-pin."
Kagome cleared her throat purposefully. "Toushi," reproach filled her tone. "Eichiro's ale doesn't give you the right to be completely tactless," she dropped a clump of cool stew into a large bowl. "Our personal business is our own."
Toushi straightened, and Kouga could tell he was about to speak with the frankness only alcohol could bring on.
"Then why doesn't Talon have a little brother or sister?"
Kagome's eyes widened, a range of emotion splattering across her face. "What?"
Kouga intervened, knowing they had just argued about this. "We haven't been home long enough to make one," he joked. "And with friends bursting in, we're not going to anytime soon."
Kagome set the bowl down on a grate fixed above hot coals a bit too forcefully.
Even under the influence, the man could tell he had erred. "Of course," he stumbled to recover. "I just meant that Reina and I have Nori and Sora, and we'd welcome the company to commiserate," he offered a weak laugh. "You think one is tough, try two."
"What about three?" Kagome snapped, stirring the bowl's contents.
Kouga shot her a glare. He could see she was irritated at him for sharing their problems with Toushi, but she did the same thing with Reina and Itsumi. It's just that her confidants didn't have the same taste for ale his did. And now wasn't the time to bring up Reina's pregnancy.
"So what brings you over tonight?" He had to get his best friend talking about something other than the inner workings of his own marriage. "Shouldn't you be at home celebrating your return with the girls?"
Toushi nodded. "I'm headed there now. You guys are so close to the lodge, I just wanted to drop by and say hi."
Kagome continued to stir the soup, keeping her words just inside her mouth. Why would Toushi go and see another family before he reunited with his own? She knew the answer without asking. His fondness for alcohol had grown from habit to necessity over the years. The stores were all kept in the hunting lodge, and Kouga had mentioned they'd run out of ale early on their journey. Kagome shook her head, unable to hide her disappointment; Toushi's priorities were obvious.
Kouga saw her annoyance and felt his own resurge. Toushi had cause to drink – his wife carried another man's son. "Is Sora excited for her birthday?" He grasped for small talk. "It's coming up pretty soon."
Toushi grinned. "You bet. You'd think turning four was the biggest milestone ever. She can't wait."
The stew began to steam above the hot coals, and Kagome grabbed it with two squares of leather. Bringing it over, she set it before him. "Here you go," she mustered a smile and motioned to a basket of spoons on the table.
As Toushi reached for one, she met Kouga's eye and fingered his shoulder. They battled for a moment, wanting the other to see their point of view.
He has a problem.
Yeah. Her name is Reina.
You always take his side.
Kouga sighed aloud. We don't need to make their fight our own.
Kagome straightened. You're right. According to Toushi, we have plenty of those ourselves.
Kouga frowned as his best friend sat back down and dove into his bowl, grinning through his first mouthful.
"Delicious Kagome," he spoke with the spoon still between his teeth.
She couldn't force another smile and settled for patting his arm "Glad you like it," she headed back to the fire pit, walking with stiff steps.
Kouga watched her unhappily, knowing he was in for one more 'bump' this evening.
Kouga snapped awake. It was too early for the sun, and the room was still dim in the gray before morning. What had woken him? He started to sit up, but stopped as he felt Kagome's arm and face on his chest. Her breathing was slow and even against him, her hand curled on his stomach, and he relaxed back into the bed. In the shadows, he watched her sleep, features slack and peaceful in content. The mouth that had kissed with such passion last night was parted, and a bit of drool wetted his skin. Since having Talon, Kagome slept heavily. Kouga smiled and kissed her forehead. They had talked after Toushi left and had eventually resumed their pre-visit status.
He listened for his son, and heard the tell-tale exhales from the annex. It was a new event, Talon sleeping through the night, and he savored the quiet sounds of his family.
Outside, a figure with a heaving chest peered from behind the hunting lodge. It was a stranger dressed in red, armed with a long, rusty sword. Inu-Yasha ordered his speeding heart to slow, fearing Kouga would hear it despite his new powers of stealth, cursing inwardly at his own carelessness. He had slipped through the patrol of circling wolves easily enough and had approached the priestess' home with lethal intent. Now that Kouga had returned, he could exact his revenge.
When he had grabbed their door and looked in, none of Tessaiga's influence could have steeled him for what he saw. The woman – his woman – was asleep in the arms of another man. The sheet had been down around her waist in the warm night, and her bare chest was pressed against Kouga's. The strength had bled from his limbs as he stared at her closed eyes and splayed hair.
The youkai had stirred, and he'd dashed away, too disarmed to lunge forward in surprise. Inu-Yasha leaned back against the lodge, trying to let his face cool. Tessaiga throbbed from his hip, and he shut his eyes, fighting against it. He didn't want to lose the image of her. Kagome.
The sword began to rattle in its sheath, and Inu-Yasha clamped a hand on its hilt to quiet it. Instantly, miasma surged through his fingers up his arm, infecting his whole body. He stiffened, trying vainly to combat against it, but it coated his mind, choking off all independent thoughts.
Leave, Tessaiga demanded. Before you're discovered.
"I… want… to be," Inu-Yasha gritted out. The sword flooded him with rage that wasn't his, doubling him over as it wracked his insides, blinding him with pain.
Go, it ordered. Now.
His legs moved against his will, springing out from the building and heading for the village border. They ran through the surrounding forest, carrying him far from the only one who could save him from his torment.