Kagome sighed as she picked herbs for the village's medicinal stock. It had been weeks since she had returned from her era and started to live permanently in the feudal era. And yet still there was no progress with Inuyasha. He hadn't told her he loved her. He had just quietly remained at her side, watching her with those mysterious golden eyes.

She knew he was there, even when she was supposed to be by herself. Like now, for instance, when she was supposed to be picking herbs with Jinenji. The giant half demon was silently picking, always so concentrated on his task. But even though Inuyasha had claimed he was going to help Miroku with a job, she could feel his molten yellow eyes search her.

She knew he was nervous to leave her alone. Ever since their 3 years apart he had been paranoid about losing her again; like she would return to her era or a demon would attack her. But even though he acted protective, nothing had changed. He still acted the part of her friend, her comrade. He didn't kiss her, not since they made the wish on the jewel. He didn't try to hold her hand. He didn't do anything.

Yanking harder, a huge clump of earth came up with her herbs and she groaned in frustration. Inuyasha should know how she felt about him. He knew didn't he? Does that mean that he still loved Kikyo? After all these years? After all her deaths? Was he still unable to hold Kagome within his heart?

Her own heart throbbed at that thought. What if... what if that kiss was merely one of the moment. He hadn't seen her in so long, and she looked so much like Kikyo, that he couldn't help himself. Or perhaps he saw her desperation to see him and took pity on her.

A sick feeling settled in on that thought, her stomach dropping. Pity. What a horrible thing to be faced with. The one thing she never wanted was to be pitied by Inuyasha. She couldn't stand that.

But still she longed for his touch. Those three simple words. His acceptance of her as Kagome, not Kikyo's reincarnation. He claimed he didn't see Kagome that way, that he saw her as a different person, but she wasn't so sure anymore. Especially not that she was forced to don the robes of a miko, just as Kikyo had worn. It was part of her new status in the village, so she couldn't refuse the robes.

The thought of being a replacement Kikyo brought tears to her eyes, and before she knew it salty tears were falling into her basket of herbs. Her blue eyes leaked with so much sadness and frustration she just couldn't take it anymore. A harsh sob broke through her lips and she cradled her face in her hands.

Jenenji made a noise of confusion, then panic as he realized that she was crying. He fretted, his hands up and trying to calm her, before patting her back gently. She still quaked with sadness, so he picked a wildflower and held it out to her. It tickled her cheek and she looked up. A sad smile graced her face, her salty tears still pouring.

"Thank you, Jinenji. Don't worry. I'm fine." She took the flower gratefully, but stood up. Tears would not stop. She had held them in for too long. With enough sense to grab her bow, she started to run. "Sorry I need a walk!" She called to her companion before disappearing into the trees.

Her vision was blurry. She could barely see, but she continued running. She didn't know exactly where she was running to, she just kept going. Her lungs burned and her calves were on fire. But she had to keep going. Her hair streamed behind her, the black inky strands becoming one with the wind.

What a fool she was. She loved a man who's heart was already taken. She had known from the beginning that she was stupid. That he could love no one but Kikyo. But she resolved to stay by his side anyways. It was her desire to see him that had opened the well to this world and allowed her to pass. But still he didn't try to court her.

Fool! She thought again. Her vision was too obscured for her to see where she was going. Her sandles snagged on a tree root and she went crashing down to the ground. She landed hard, but it was almost a relief. She took the time to breath, her lungs desperate for more oxygen. Emotions overtook and she sobbed into the ground, the dirt greedily sucking up the moisture.

Then she realized where she was. She looked up and saw the sacred tree. The place where she had first saw him. He was so beautiful that she could only stare, transfixed. She had seen no one with that much physical appeal before. No one that even caught her eye. But the seemingly dead boy had taken her heart from her in that moment. She didn't want to admit it. But from her first glance she knew she was in love with him.

She saw the familiar crack in the wood where he was shot and slowly got to her feet. She shuffled to the spot and felt it, the spot where she released him. The spot where Kikyo and Inuyasha had tragically parted. Kagome had always thought this tree meant something special to Inuyasha and herself, but she knew the truth. The tree would always be theirs.

Before she even realized it, her fingers were grasping desperately at the bark. She wanted to destroy this tree as much as she wanted it to stay forever. Nails bit into the bark, but they were too soft to wound the tree. Instead the bark cut into her finger tips, the splinters making her bleed. It was a pain she welcomed. It would distract her from her emotional turmoil. She needed to be distracted.

She needed to get over this before returning to the village with him in it. A need to save face was still in her. Inuyasha could never know the pain this caused her.

"Kagome!" A voice she didn't want to hear split the silence, and she flinched. She didn't want to look at him. Show him the water that poured down her cheeks. "Are you alright? I smell your blood!"

"Go away..." She said miserably, dropping her bleeding hands from the tree. His eyes dropped to her hands and she heard him intake breath. The soft sound of his feet approaching sent her into an alarmed state. "I said to go away!"

"Kagome... your hands!" Inuyasha still walked towards her, her body aware of every small motion he made.

"I thought I told you to leave. I don't want to see you." He was going to see her face. He was going to know. Panic took hold. "GO AWAY!" Kagome screamed, but Inuyasha could hear the fear in her voice.

"No." He said simply, still advancing.

"I'll say the word!" It was an empty threat, but she hoped he would leave in fear of the word 'sit'.

"Why did you run off like that?" His voice was gentler than she had ever heard it, and it was almost right behind her.

"Please." She was reduced to begging now, afraid of what would happen if he realized the truth. How much of her heart was devoted to him. Would he run? Would he leave? Would he laugh? Would he be disgusted? Or even worse... would he feel pity?

"No." Inuyasha was right behind her now, her nerve endings completely aware of him. She grew frustrated. Kagome was scared more than anything, scared of his reaction. So she wanted him to leave, and would tick him off to do so. With a pivot of her feet she turned and slapped him, the sound echoing through the forest like a shockwave. Blood streaked his cheek from where her cut finger tips had ran along the skin and it resembled claw marks.

"I said to leave! Don't you listen?!" The words were a sob, the noise completely broken and scared. "So go away!"

"Kagome..." His face was still soft, despite the fact that she had just hit him. Confusion hit her. Normally this would just make him angry and he would storm off, instead he just looked at her with something like tenderness. And dare she think affection?

"Leave me alone! I don't want to see your face!" She started to run by him, but he grabbed her wrists to keep her still. "I SAID LEAVE!" Her orders were becoming more and more desperate.

"And I said no." Inuyasha looked straight into her eyes, the golden hue of his mesmerizing. She started to struggle, afraid of the way the conversation was going, so he backed her against the tree to trap her. "Get it through your head. I'm not leaving. You are bleeding and crying. I will not leave you alone."

"What if I want to be alone?" Kagome sobbed the words before closing her eyes, pushing tears out and onto her cheeks.

"I would still not leave you. Now tell me why you are crying."

"I can't." The words were a whisper. A confession.

"If someone hurt you I swear I will rip out their..." He growled, his fangs showing. She interrupted him with a shake of her head.

"You are the one who hurt me, Inuyasha." It was a shaky truth, her voice worn and tired. She didn't look at him, just said the words brokenly. He jolted back, shocked.

"What?! When? I didn't do anything!" As always he took the defensive.

"That's the problem!" Kagome opened her eyes, hurt and anger in their depths. "I gave up everything to come back. My family, my studies, my friends. All because I wanted to see you so badly it hurt. The well let me through because of my wish to see you again. And when I get back here we hug. And then nothing. You don't initiate conversation. You don't try to touch me. You don't... you don't kiss me." Sobs broke through her speech before she managed to control herself again. "If you don't like me, just say so. I can't live like this anymore. I can't wait. I know I'm just a replacement for Kikyo. I know you could never love me because I'm not her, but..."

"Damn it, Kagome!" The outburst shocked her into silence. "How many times do I have to tell you?! You aren't a fucking replacement! I just... argh! You make everything so hard!"

And just like that he scooped her up in his arms and began running through the forest at top speed. Kagome flailed in his grip, not wanting him to reject her. She knew she told him to tell her the truth, but her heart rebelled against hearing such an admission. It would have been easier if he had just left her alone.

"Let me go!" She cried, beating on his chest uselessly.

"No." The answer was quick and deadpan.

"At least tell me where we are going!" Kagome shook, her tears drying up but threatening to come back. She hid her face in his fire rat robes, not wanting him to see her.

"To a place where we can't be overheard." He said simply, continuing to pad along the forest floor with inhuman accuracy and speed.

"What do you...?" She began to ask before he came to a halt. Blue eyes tracked her surroundings, trying to figure out exactly where they were. They were farther up the mountain than most humans cared to venture, and the place looked relatively untouched. But it was beautiful. It was a large clear pool of water that was fed by a cascading waterfall. The fading sunlight twinkled on the surface, almost making it into a mirror. The trees surrounding it gave the place a more private feel, and Kagome began to wonder why she hadn't known of this beautiful place before.

Inuyasha slowly released her, setting her easily on her feet. The beauty of the scenery nearly made her forget her nervousness, and her fear. But then his motion of releasing her made her remember and she turned away from him. Without another word he took hold of her hands and started washing them thoroughly in the spring. She had forgotten that she injured them.

"You are so stupid." Inuyasha growled while washing her hands. "What did you think would happen if a flimsy human like yourself dug her fingers into a tree?"

"I don't care." She said dully.

"Well I do. Don't go hurting yourself like this. I don't like it." Inuyasha deemed her wounds properly washed and stood back up to his full height.

"It doesn't concern you."

"Like hell it doesn't!" He pulled her into his arms. She gasped with shock as he held her to his form, the motion gentle but aggressive at the same time. "You are a damn fool, you know it?"

"I don't understand..." She stammered, trying not to give into the urge to clutch onto his robes.

"You idiot girl, don't you get it? You aren't a replacement for Kikyo. You were never her replacement. I don't love you like I loved her."

"I know you don't like me that way! You don't have to rub it in!" She tried to push away from him, but he held firm. His superior strength outmatched hers and she frowned in defeat.

"Let me finish, woman!" Inuyasha growled, causing her to jump. "I said I don't love you the way I loved her, not that I didn't love you! To me, Kikyo was perfect. She was like a dream, so refined and dignified. But you aren't perfect."

"This just keeps getting better and better!" She beat on his chest some to get out her anger.

"I SAID LET ME FINISH!" He bellowed, and she stilled. "You aren't perfect, and it's because of that I love you! Don't you get it?! You are real to me! You are the first person who ever accepted me as I am, a hanyou. Kikyo was a good dream at first, but it became clear that she wasn't who I wanted. All of that time I felt an obligation to Kikyo for the foolish promises I made, but when she finally was allowed to remain dead I was released from that bonds. I didn't feel it would be right to promise myself to you when I was already promised to another! You deserve better than that! You deserve someone who can focus on you alone! But all along my heart was with you, even though you are an idiot. I liked the way you smiled all the time, and how you sang a song sometimes when you walked. And how you saw the good in everything when I couldn't. How you always stuck by me no matter what, even when it could have cost you your life. I like the way you wrinkle your nose when you laugh, or how your voice seems to reach me no matter where I am. And even though you irritated me by being unable to crush Koga or that stupid Hojo's feelings, I was still taken by how kind you were. Don't you get it? I need you. When you were gone I was dying slowly!"

Kagome was silent for a moment, taking in all of his words. "Then why have you been avoiding me?" The words were but a whisper, one filled with so much hurt that InuYasha's heart throbbed.

"Because... Because..." His cheeks flushed, and Kagome knew the look. He was about to call this whole incident too troublesome and run off in embarrassment. He never was good at talking about his feelings. But a sense of resolve took over his features, and he began to speak again. "Because I desired you too much. I waited for you to return for three years... I would even check the well every three days to make sure I couldn't pass... and now that you are finally here... I... I don't want to scare you away."

"Scare me away?" Kagome repeated, aghast.

"Yes! Okay? I want to do... improper things to you. I want to... to... mate with you. And I'm scared if I spend too much time with you I'll lose control and you won't like it. And then you'll head back to your realm, somehow, and leave me. I can't... I can't do that again, Kagome. Without you... I... I'm not myself." He looked away from her, ashamed of his admission. Ashamed to admit that he was afraid of something. Afraid of losing her.

"You..." Tears came to her eyes again. "You are such an idiot..."

"What?" That wasn't necessarily the reply he thought he would get. He was thinking more along the lines of disgust. A hanyou just admitted he wanted to mate with her after all, and humans and demon alike think of hanyou as filth. But instead of disgust this woman started crying and proclaiming him an idiot.

"I was scared, okay?" Kagome burst out, putting her face in her hands. "I was so scared. I risked everything to come back here, just to be with you. And... and... you acted like you didn't care that I was around. All that I could think of is that you changed your mind, or that you never loved me and I misinterpreted everything. Or that I was simply a new Kikyo. And I couldn't stand it. It was ripping me apart! I love you so much and you don't care!"

"Kagome..." His male instincts told him to run, away from the emotional female. But he couldn't leave her like this. Instead he gently peeled her hands from her face, then nudged her chin so that she would look up into his eyes. "I love you. Please don't leave me."

She sniffled a little, trying to stop her blubbering. "I won't... just don't ignore me anymore!"

As a reply, Inuyasha dipped his head to meet her lips with a kiss. It wasn't like any of their last kisses. Not the one in the Castle Beyond the Looking Glass, where Kagome had kissed him to calm him down. Or the one they shared in the abyss of the jewel. Those were all innocent kisses, but this was far from innocent. He took her lips with his own, nipping and sucking on them. She didn't respond at first, stiffening with shock, but finally she moaned and leaned into the kiss. They were both awkward, not having experienced this kind of sensual kiss before, but they both were bold and hungry in their advances.

Inuyasha broke away and took her face between his hands. He stared at her straight in the eyes, gold to blue, with the most serious expression she had ever seen him take outside of battle. "Kagome. Be my mate."

"Your... mate? Koga kept saying something like that but I don't really understand it..." Confusion lit her features.

"Yes. It's like a marriage, but it's much deeper. In youkai culture, when one takes a mate it is forever. There is no breaking it. My youkai aura transfers to you, infusing with yours, and makes you a part of me. It will make it so that you will live as long as I do. A youkai's devotion to his mate is eternal, and last long past death. And I want you to be my mate."

"I... I can live as long as you?" Kagome stumbled over the words, transfixed by the idea.

"Yes. It will be hard for you. We will probably have to watch our friends grow older and die, but we will still be together. We won't really age. It's all I can offer you... I'm not rich... and my lifespan isn't nearly as long as a full-blooded youkai... but I can at least give you this. Please consider it." He still spoke with the utmost seriousness.

"Okay." She said, making up her mind.

"Okay?" He blinked. "Just like that? Really? You had that stupid flea bag on a leash about it for months. I thought it would be harder than just asking you."

"You idiot." She smacked his shoulder lightly. "I didn't love Koga. I had already fallen for you! Of course I would say no to him. But I want to become your mate."

"Really?" A rare smile graced his face, excitement making him seem boyish.

"Really." She said concretely.

"Y-you do realize what the ritual entails, right? To do this I do have to actually mate with you. Thus the name of the bond." He still stared at her, a blush brightening his features.

"I figured as much." She sighed playfully. "If I have to."

"Why you little... If you don't want to just say so! Don't be rude and..." Before he could complete his frustrated rant she pressed her lips to his, her way of revealing her little joke. She threaded her fingers through his silky silver hair and cupped his head to hers, kissing him with a passion she didn't know she was capable of. He groaned in surrender. Inuyasha's hands found their rightful places, one on her lower back and the other threaded through her soft tresses. It was as if time stopped. Inuyasha was overwhelmed by her sweet familiar scent, the same one that haunted his dreams as well as his waking moments.

They parted for breath, both panting by now. Kagome brazenly tugged on his robe collar, wicked intent in her eyes. "So what are you waiting for? Start the ritual, you silly puppy."

With a growl of compliance he took her lips again, this time running his tongue along the seam. She gasped with the sensation of the wet muscle on her sensitive skin, and he used the opportunity to plunge into her mouth. Kagome was a bit hesitant and clumsy on her side of the kiss, having never experienced one such as this before. But soon she got the hang of it and was stroking his tongue as powerfully as he stroked her. She explored his mouth, lingering on his fangs especially, reveling in her powerful hanyou.

He broke their kiss to trail more along her jawline and down the sensitive tendon in her neck. As he reached it, he nipped it lightly before licking the sting away. Kagome whimpered with pleasure, exposing her neck further to his exploits. He reached the folds of her haori and licked along the line of it, from her breast to her collarbone. Then when he started to peel the white fabric away to expose her chest she grew insanely nervous.

"Wait!" Kagome burst out, clutching onto his shoulders tightly.

"What is it? Do you want to stop?" Disappointment and understanding showed in his eyes.

"No, it's not that... it's... well... I've never done this before." The words were said on a shy whisper, her confession almost too much for her.

"I figured as much. I haven't either." He said the words matter of factly, like it were to be expected.

"What?!" Kagome cried. "But Kikyo– "

"And I never did anything. She didn't like to touch me. My youkai blood was impure. Every time we did touch, even if by accident, she purified herself."

Sadness overcame her, her eyes completely heart-broken for him. "That's awful..." She whispered, imagining how he must have felt to be treated like he was dirty.

"Don't make that face, stupid." Inuyasha said, but his hands tightened ever so slightly on her hips and she knew it had hurt him deeper than he would care to admit. All of her nervousness vanished and was replaced by a need to show him that he was great the way he was. That she loved him for being part youkai, and she loved him for being part human. That she loved him. With that thought, she pushed away from him.

She lifted her hands to her breast and gently parted her haori, exposing a red under layer. She slipped the white haori off of her shoulders, aware that Inuyasha was watching her with shocked eyes. Her hands slid down to her belt sash and she slowly pulled the bow loose. He was unable to look away from her seductive display. Her hakayama sagged off of her hips and fell down her legs, leaving them completely bare. With her hakayama out of the way she was able to remove her haoris easily. She used her toes to skillfully peel off her socks as she stepped from the pool of fabric on the ground. All that was left was the underclothes from her era. She wore them mainly out of comfort and habit, figuring she'd have to transition to the classic bindings when they wore out.

Slowly she closed the distance between them. Running her hands lightly along his clothed chest, she looked up at him through coy lashes. "I accept all of you, Inuyasha."

He lost control then. He smashed his lips to hers, gripping her ass to pull her against him. On her stomach she could feel his hard length, pressed between them and covered by cloth. Inuyasha ravaged her mouth then moved on to her neck like before, before dipping his head and sucking on a heavy breast through the bra. She moaned, the sensation new and exciting as she dropped her head back. With a growl of frustration he reached around her body and fidgeted with the latches.

"How in the hell do you work this stupid thing?" Inuyasha snarled, impatient now. Kagome chuckled a little, finding amusement in his frustration. She reached around her back and unhooked the bra, the supportive fabric falling down her arms to be forgotten on the grass. His breath hissed as he sucked it in, taking in her glorious form.

A shaky hand reached forward to cup on her globes in his palm, then he massaged it, causing Kagome to let loose another noise of pleasure that just excited him more. While he teased a nipple with his hands, careful to use the pads so she didn't get hurt by his claws, he licked the other nipple once more and sucked hungrily. Her soft body arched against him, the pleasure causing her writhe. He suckled that breast while massaging her other breast deftly, making sure to give one breast the same pleasure as the other.

Then, when she was shaking with desire, he started to move down. He dropped to his knees and wrapped his arms around her lower back, holding her stomach to his face. Kisses were placed all along that soft flat belly of hers, his tongue briefly dipping into the navel. Her hands found his head and threaded desperate fingers through his hair. Then he began to go deeper, his claw gently running along her skin until it reached her hips. Inuyasha's wet tongue darted out and laved along her pantyline, making her shudder and call his name. That naughty claw hooked under the fabric and pulled it down, the panties dropping uselessly at her ankles.

She was bare to him then. And completely beautiful, he thought. Kagome's body was flushed a pretty rose color, her lips slightly swollen from being kissed. There was a little bit of puffiness to her eyes from crying earlier, but it didn't detract from her beautiful face. Those blue eyes watched him with hooded lids, filled with desire and wonder. Her breasts were soft and heavy, the nipples erect. A glistening mound of curls was all that hid her womanhood.

His shaft was so hard it was almost painful. The sight only hardened him further, even though it should have been impossible. Inuyasha had dreamed of this moment for so long. He had always desired her, back when he first saw her bare in the springs. He couldn't take a good look, since he was merely responding to her scream, but the image was burned into his mind all the same. His mind eagerly procured that image every time her presence made him so horny he couldn't stand it anymore, and he escaped after everyone was in bed to pleasure himself. And now she was his for the taking. His inner demon told him to push her onto all fours and take her. But he wanted to make it special for her, not just take her as his youkai instincts demanded he do.

So he hooked one of her legs over his shoulder to give him access to her most private of areas, supporting her with a hand to her lower back to keep her balance. Then he gently stroked her folds with one hand, once more mindful of his claws. Kagome groaned, her head lolling back and exposing her creamy neck.

Mark her. Mate with her. His inner demon urged. Not yet. He growled at it, wanting to give her pleasure.

He teased her opening, circling it, dipping inside briefly with a careful claw, and she responded enthusiastically, twitching her hips with each ministration. One of his claws briefly brushed her nub and pleasure rocketed through her body, causing her to tighten like a bow string. He took note of this, realizing that it was the center of her pleasure, before once more teasing her opening.

Kami-sama. He thought, taking in the state of his soaked hand. She's so wet. She smells so good. I bet her taste... That thought was accepted eagerly and he dipped his head to suck on her bud. She cried out, her supporting knee giving out and tumbling her to the grass. He used his hand on her back to make sure she fell softly, supporting most of her weight. This position was a lot more agreeable, and he situated himself between her welcoming thighs.

Going back to work on the new center of his world, he gently poked a finger into her opening, and then went a little deeper, causing her to buck her hips up to meet him. His mouth closed once more onto her clit and he inserted another finger to stretch her. Her answering moan caused the animal in him to growl, the vibrations causing her to cry out. He continued to growl against her womanhood, pumping his fingers gently in and out so as not to hurt her with his claws. Then he added a third finger to prepare her for his girth. His freehand reached up and pinched a stiff nipple. All three of those motions at once sent her to the stars, her body tensing as she climaxed. Inuyasha didn't let her juices go to waste as he eagerly lapped her up.

Yes. She tastes perfect. He thought, confirming his suspicions. Kagome's chest rose and fell as she panted, her lids heavy. She looked well pleasured, but they weren't done yet. She knew that and her eyes met with his. He refused to look away as he brought his wet hand to his mouth and licked away every trace of her liquid. It turned Kagome on again instantly, and she started to wonder if she was too wanton.

"Kagome..." he whispered, the name like a secret or a prayer, before he kissed her. The kiss was tender this time, cherishing. She could taste herself in his mouth and it was so erotic she felt the pressure of need building again. Absently she wondered when he would find his own release. Desperately she wanted him to come, for her to be the one who gave him pleasure.

"Your clothes." She said, the tone an order. He smirked before slowly peeling off his fire rat robes and laying them carefully on the ground. Effortlessly he picked up his woman and lay her across the fabric. It would not do for her to get dirtier than necessary. Her eyes watched him as he shed his layers of fabric, setting Tetsusaiga within reach, and finally peeled off his pants. Such a lean form was deceiving because she knew of his strength, but it was still toned to perfection. He was a pleasant bronzed color that clashed a little with his beautiful silver hair. Fuzzy ears twitched in anticipation as his eyes of gold carried nothing but desire for her. Kagome's eyes trailed down his chest to the proud erection he sported, the muscular length jutting out proudly from his crotch.

Wordlessly she flipped herself around, so that her ass was up in the air for him to see. "This is how you do it right? In the youkai realm." She had seen some demons having sex in the woods by mistake once, and they were in this exact position. In the back of her mind she acknowledged that this position appealed to their animistic instincts.

Inuyasha's nostrils flared, his eyes briefly flashing red with the hint of his demon. But he shook his head and gently turned her around before sinking onto her form. Question lit her gaze as she wondered why he rejected her submission.

"Demons do that because they simply want to mate, not love. I want to see your face, Kagome." His lips met with hers and her heart fluttered at his words. It was a gentile kiss, a loving one. She knew in that moment just how deeply Inuyasha cared for her. "This will hurt you know." He said it almost painfully, as if he himself were being hurt.

"I know." Kagome lifted her hips and ground herself against his hardness, a pleasant gasp escaping from his lips. "But please. Inuyasha. Make my daydreams a reality."

Even at her goading he couldn't be persuaded to take her roughly. Instead he reached between them and positioned his shaft at her opening. With a slight motion of his hips, the head was in, stretching her. The sensation was beyond anything he had felt before.

Miroku had schooled him on the importance of taking it slow with a virgin to harm her as little as possible. At the time it embarrassed him and irritated him, and he tried to make the monk stop. But Miroku insisted that he would need to know how someday. He was probably predicting this very moment with an untouched Kagome.

So he took it slow, let her get used to the invasion by entering and exiting her just past the bulbous head of his cock for a few strokes. She arched at his motions, delighted with the electricity it sent through her. Encouraged he entered a little more, his girth stretching her. He paused, sweat beading on his brow and upper lip. This was harder than any battle he had ever fought.

Eventually he pushed in a little more and encountered a small barrier. The barrier of her innocence. "Hold onto me..." he instructed. Kagome slowly wrapped her arms around his strong shoulders. When he was sure she was ready, he pierced her hymen.

Pain sliced through her body as she felt that part of her tearing. She whimpered, clutching Inuyasha tightly. It hurt, just like Kagome had been told it would, the ache filling her loins. She squeezed her eyes shut and waited for the pain to pass.

Inuyasha smelled blood. He knew she would bleed, but it was unsettling. Every time he had smelled her blood before fear lanced through him and his heart felt like it would explode from his chest in panic. This time his heart was out of control for a different reason; stress. Kami-sama, it was so stressful to take her this way. To worry about her. But it felt beyond any of his expectations. Inuyasha saw her reaction, her pain, and whispered comforting words, kissing her all around her face. Finally she relaxed.

"You doin' okay?" He asked, a tenderness apparent in those words.

"Move, please." Kagome groaned, arching her hips for better penetration. The pain had melted away into something beyond comprehension. She wanted him in her, all of him. She wanted him to claim her. Inuyasha saw this in her gaze and let lose a growl of surrender. Sliding all the way to the hilt, he still had enough sense to massage her bud as he slowly thrust in and out.

Pressure slowly increased within her loins, that indication of ultimate pleasure. She cried out, desperate for release as she rode with him. The motions of her hips sent him over the edge and he began pumping into her with earnest. She matched him stroke for stroke, causing his pleasure to skyrocket. Inuyasha pinched her clitoris in thanks and it sent her barreling towards oblivion, her inner walls milking him. But he wasn't done yet, youkai stamina was fierce and he continued to move within her, angling her so he could go deeper. His thrusts were almost frantic, and Kagome heard him let lose a growl, his restraint being tried. But it only added to her pleasure, the thought of him losing control, and she felt herself build up again.

Inuyasha knew he was reaching the end. Instinct drove him at this point, his demon desperately wishing to make Kagome his forever. He didn't want to tell her how. But now he supposed he had to to give her a warning.

"Kagome." He grunted. "This is really going to hurt. Worse than before."

"Do what you have to..." She moaned, her throat exposed.

His fangs longed for her, and he obeyed with her consent. He found the sweet spot his demon practically purred at and bit down at the exact same time they both came to climax. White light flashed in their vision and Kagome screamed in both pleasure and pain. Inuyasha's seed jetted into her and he continued to suck on her bite, keeping the blood at bay while his aura slowly soaked into her. Finally he had marked her as his own.

He pulled back and licked the wound tenderly, causing it to heal. The ritual was over, the bite mark proof of their bonding. Kagome panted underneath him, completely exhausted from three orgasms and the bond. Inuyasha collapsed to the side of her, also tired. Emotionally and physically. He pulled his mate to his side, allowing her to use his chest as a pillow to sleep. She closed her eyes and slumbered. Inuyasha grabbed tetsusaiga from it's perch nearby and kept a firm grip on it before lightly nodding off. In a place such as this it wouldn't do to fall asleep unguarded, so he only allowed very frail sleep.

Inuyasha allowed Kagome rest, knowing her body was adjusting to it's new sexually active state. But he also knew with his aura infused into her that she would have a much easier time healing now, and it wouldn't be long before she felt good as new. He started drifting in and out of consciousness, extremely aware of his mate's slightest movements.

Finally she awoke, her dark lashes fluttering open. She had a shocked expression on her face, as if she was unsure about who she was snuggled up to, but relaxed when the memories of the night hit her. And then, of course, stiffened again in embarrassment. She was his now. Completely.

"Good morning, beautiful." A deep rumbling voice drew her attention and she looked to her mate in wonder. Her hand reached up to feel the scar at her neck. To confirm that she was really his.

"Ah." She said on a sigh, content. "Good morning to you, too."

"If you are feeling up to it, we should probably bath in the spring then head back. They must be worried about you." Inuyasha absently stroked her raven hair, as he did many times through the night. He did it almost without thinking, unaware he was making such an intimate gesture.

"I'm sure I'm fine." Kagome willed herself to sit up, wincing at the dull soreness in her womb, but seemed mostly fine.

"Kagome."

"Hm?" She looked to him in question, only to be surprised by his lips gently brushing hers. Then he took her hand and led her towards the water. The water was warm with the summer heat, and it allowed them to comfortably sink below the surface. Before she was even all the way in InuYasha was washing her furiously.

"Inuyasha! What in the world has gotten into you?" She asked, annoyed that her bath time was being treated as such. He paused.

"Uh... I have a feeling you'll get angry or embarrassed if I tell you." He avoided her gaze.

"If you tell me I stink I swear I will s– "

"No!" Inuyasha cut her off before she accidentally said the dreaded 'sit' word. "No, it isn't that at all. It's just..." he sighed with the effort of trying to say the words. "You smell good, actually. That's the problem. If demon males happen to be downwind on our way back, they will smell the sex on you and come to claim you."

"What?!" Kagome looked at him shocked. "They can smell that?"

"Well.. yeah. Better than other smells actually. It's a mating instinct."

"Won't they be able to tell I'm taken?"

"Yes. They won't give a shit. They'll try an' fight me to take you." He continued scrubbing, making sure to get between her legs. The intimacy was startling and she blushed, but Inuyasha seemed to be intent on his task of keeping her safe. When he deemed her clean enough, he dunked himself in the water and did a quick wash. "'Kay. Let's head back before Sango starts cutting down trees in a rampage to find you."

Kagome and Inuyasha dressed. She trained her eyes on the ground, embarrassed at their sudden closeness as a couple, but couldn't help sneaking a few peeks at his defined body. Like always, she found traditional clothing a lot more troublesome to put on. She frowned at her quiver of arrows, an unsettling feeling taking her stomach.

"Inuyasha... I dropped my bow at the sacred tree." For some reason, now that she realized it was gone, she felt more naked than she had without clothing.

"We'll grab it on the way back." Inuyasha crouched and held his arms out so she could climb on his back. It was a familiar position for them, since it was the primary way they traveled. She complied, and as soon as she got her bearings they took off into the forest. Inuyasha was really quite considerate of her, and took her to the sacred tree to retrieve her bow just as he had said. Returning to that area reminded her of the way she had hurt her fingers. But upon inspecting her hand, she realized that the wounds were gone. She wondered if it was an effect of the mating.

"Inuyasha...?" Kagome ventured as they neared the village.

"What is it?" He asked, focusing on the terrain in front of him.

"Is it okay if I tell everyone? About us?" Kagome fidgeted a little with her hands on his shoulders, and she could feel him tense at her words. But she knew he was shy, and didn't like to openly advertise these things.

"They'll notice anyway, with the mark." She raised her hand to her neck as if she had forgotten, but still she wasn't satisfied.

"Yes, but it could be any youkai's mark, right? Even Koga's?" She found that she needed him to say the words. That he was proud of her as a mate.

"Stupid. Go ahead and tell them. I don't see why you would hide it to begin with." Kagome could see the blush on his cheeks and giggled, then tugged playfully at his fuzzy ears. This caused him to stumble and almost fall. "Don't do that!"

"Whatever you say. Whatever you say!" She teased, getting in a few last pets before dropping her hands again. An odd sense of contentment came over her, and she hugged herself close to his back. But it didn't last long, because just as he had predicted she could hear Sango calling her name. Soon she was within sight, and Inuyasha slowed himself to a halt in front of her.

"Kagome! Thank goodness you are alright. Jinenji told us you ran off, and when you didn't return Miroku and I started to worry." She was still a beautiful maiden, her long straight hair cut carefully in a hime style and her brown eyes framed with red eye-shadow. Sango offered a relieved smile at her as she dismounted from Inuyasha's back..

"Feh. You know I wouldn't let anything happen to her." Inuyasha almost seemed offended that they even bothered to worry with him around. Kagome was top priority to him, after all. They should know that.

"Which is why we weren't even worried until she had been gone for a good couple of hours." Sango sent a pointed look at him, causing Inuyasha to scowl and cross his arms. "What took you guys so long anyways?"

"Sango." Kagome stepped forward and took her hands. "A wonderful thing has happened."

"What do you..." Her eyes drifted down to Kagome's neck and she drew silent. "Oh. OH. With Inuyasha."

Kagome blinked. "You just assume it was him?"

"Well, yeah. I mean, he would not be nearly this happy if you got mated to someone else. He'd be breaking down the village. Besides, you guys aren't necessarily subtle about your affections."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Inuyasha growled, refusing to stray too far from Kagome's side.

"Are you kidding me?" Sango raised a brow at him in disbelief. "Every time Kagome was in danger you went on a rampage. And you attempted to kill her other suitors more than once. As for Kagome, well the way she acted about Kikyo was telling enough!"

"Don't drag me into this!" Kagome wailed, unconsciously shifting close to Inuyasha as well. Sango saw this and smirked, amazed that they didn't see it themselves sooner.

"Oh, we shouldn't be arguing. Let's go tell Miroku, Rin, Shippo and Kaede the news. We can have a small celebration tonight. I'll send Kohaku out to get some good sake."

Sango hurried off in excitement, glad her dearest friends finally decided to get their affairs in order. Kagome and Inuyasha just stared at her retreating form, slightly uneasy about how happy Sango was. It would mean that this mating would come to be a big deal, and their friends might just demand something else. Like a wedding.

Inuyasha was still a little excited about the mating himself, but he wasn't about to let it show. Instead his cheeks pinked a little and he scratched nervously at his nose. Kagome glanced up at him shyly, obviously thinking the same thing. Her meek look caused his heart to throb. So, with only a slight bit of hesitation, he took her hand. Shock registered on her features, since she usually would have to make the first move on such public displays, but her hand tightened instinctively around his.

"C'mon, Kagome. Let's go get this over with. However those idiots decide to celebrate, at least I have you to keep me sane." He tugged on her arm encouragingly, a silent assurance that he would try to keep her sane as well. A small smile played at her lips and she allowed herself to be pulled deep into the familiar embrace of the village.

They reached the hut that Sango and Miroku now inhabited with their 3 children, and peeked inside. It was a cozy space, the two twins sleeping peacefully in the corner of the room, hands clasped. Miroku sat in the middle of the floor, cradling his new son while his chubby hands reached lovingly for his smiling face. He sensed their presence and looked up to the doorway with those kind monk eyes.

"Inuyasha. Kagome. How nice of you to stop by." He stood up, taking his young boy with him, and padded over to them. "Sango was making quite a fuss, wondering where Kohaku went. I believe she went to chase him down before he left..." He trailed off and focused on Kagome. Miroku's brows furrowed. "Kagome there is something off about your aura..."

Kagome blushed and shifted around, avoiding eye-contact. Inuyasha did an imitation of that. Miroku's eyebrows now rose, and his eyes followed their arms down to their linked hands. Confusion was replaced with a wide, knowing grin. He checked her neck to make sure, and the grin spread farther.

"Congratulations, you two." He said, patting Inuyasha on the back. Inuyasha scoffed and twitched his ears to cover up the lingering embarrassment. "Kagome, would you mind holding Hirohito? I want to have a word with your... ahem... mate."

"Oh, I would love to!" The words bubbled out of her throat as she disengaged her hand from Inuyasha's to take the small, warm bundle. While she led herself deeper into the room, Miroku roughly pulled Inuyasha outside. Inuyasha's eyes followed his mate until the wall blocked his vision, before he grumpily turned to Miroku.

"What is it?" He growled, obviously annoyed to be separated from Kagome.

"I can't believe you did it!" Miroku had that look on his face, the one that was a prelude to his lecherous behavior. "I know how youkai mating rituals work, which means that you slept with Lady Kagome! How was it? Was she a screamer? Moaner? Silent? Was she good?"

Inuyasha flushed, first with absolute horror that he was even asking that sort of thing, then in complete aggravation. He smacked his fist into the back of the monk's head, causing him to stare at the ground with a predictable sigh. "If you know anything about youkai mating rituals, you'd also know that when a youkai does choose a mate he's particularly fond of he doesn't share. Seriously, Miroku. You have Sango. Why would you even ask that?"

"Of course I would ask that! I'm married, not blind!" Miroku rubbed at his head indignantly. "Only a fool would overlook Lady Kagome's beauty."

"You better be a fool, because male youkai are really territorial, and you might not get let off easy." Inuyasha's eyes narrowed and he folded his arms in his haori sleeves. Honestly. Sango should have tamed the lascivious monk by now.

"Hai... hai...kill joy...at least tell me when you are going to show her." He started to shuffle inside.

"Tonight, I think." Inuyasha followed him, eager to return back to his woman. It was almost like a dream now. He had never thought things would progress so quick, and he was definitely willing to wait until Kagome came to him. But here he was, mated. Happy. His eyes eagerly locked onto her form, and he sucked in a breath.

She was beautiful. Her long raven hair draped over her shoulders as she gazed lovingly down at Hirohito. Her blue eyes sparkled with joy as she wiggled her graceful finger playfully at him. The child was held tightly against her bosom, as a true mother would, and he waved his pudgy hands in the air whilst trying to capture her temptation. A soft smile graced her features, showing off brilliant straight teeth. He couldn't miss that adorable dimple that threatened to show on her cheek, but never quite completely appeared. Beautiful light laughter filled the room, quiet enough not to wake the girls, as the baby chuckled delightfully back.

Kagome looked just like a mother.

She looked beautiful.

Briefly he wondered if Miroku's heart felt this warm when he looked at Sango interacting with a child. And for the first time he understood their desire to have a lot of children. He could just imagine Kagome with a small bundle they made, cuddled close to her chest, singing a peaceful song. In his mind the child looked like her, except for the tell tale soft ears of a dog as their children were bound to have. It was a sudden shock to realize that he wanted that with her. Now that Naraku was gone, he could have that.

He hoped that the scene in front of him proved that she had similar hopes for the future. Right now he only wanted to sit by her and admire her from a close distance. He wanted to get used to the fact that she was his to love exclusively, and vise versa. Deep down, he just knew it was a desire to be near her. To smell her sweet scent and feel her lively warmth. Inuyasha had missed her more than he cared to admit, and he admitted to missing her desperately.

So, going on his purest instincts, he padded up to her side and plopped down. She turned that bright smile on him, and he found the corners of his lips ever so slightly turning up in response. How long had it been since he genuinely smiled? Before their time apart, to be sure. But now, he found himself so contented, he couldn't care less if his enjoyment showed on his face.

"Do you want to hold him?" She asked, tilting her head towards to kid. He hesitated. He was after all half demon, so he was a danger to those around him. He looked up to Miroku, almost seeking permission, and he nodded encouragingly.

"O-okay..." Inuyasha felt his chest tighten with nerves as she carefully maneuvered Hirohito into his arms. He took extra care to be gentle with him, scared that he might break. It was cute, in a weird way. The little boy giggled up at him, reaching for his ears, drawn to the fuzziness like all children. His big brown eyes were curious and joyful, causing Inuyasha's heart to melt, despite his hard exterior.

"Aren't babies adorable?" Kagome asked, leaning onto his shoulder to watch Hirohito. Once more his mind drifted to the thought of having this with her. A child they could call their own. A family. He had never had a family before, not the warm and fuzzy kind that you look forward to seeing everyday. He had a brother and a mother. His brother, obviously, wasn't really in his life other to torment him. As for his mother... he wondered if perhaps Kagome could be that kind and gentle to her children. Tuck them in. Sing to them. Make them feel loved wherever they went. Inuyasha wasn't the most loving type, and didn't express emotion quite as openly as others, but he wanted to try. He wanted to give that feeling of being cared about to Kagome, and any future spawn they might have. And most of all, he would protect them. A couple of times during their journey he had allowed Kagome to get injured or kidnapped. He vowed to never let that happen again, and to protect her until their dying day.

"Inuyasha?" Just the sound of her voice saying his name pulled him from his thoughts. "What are you contemplating so hard?"

"Oh. I was just thinking...that having a few pups would be nice." He blushed and looked away, holding Hirohito snugly to his chest. The deep timber of his voice resonating through his body sent the child into a slumber pretty quickly. Kagome looked at Inuyasha in shock.

"I didn't think you would want that."

"Stupid. Why would you think that?" He narrowed his eyes at her, wondering if he should take it as an insult or not.

"Well..." She gently brushed some fine hair from Hirohito's forehead as she spoke. "I just know that you have always hated being a half-demon, and hated your human half especially. I didn't think you'd want to have more hanyou kids. Especially with a human, like me."

"Hey." He wound one arm around her shoulder, still securing the baby with the other. "I would love any pups we have, no matter what they are. And I wouldn't want to have pups with anyone than you. Don't think dumb things."

Kagome smiled at him, completely appeased, and rested her head on his shoulder just as Sango entered the room. She paused as she took in the sight and smiled as well. Kagome and Inuyasha both blushed simultaneously, but when Kagome went to move away Inuyasha held strong. They had nothing to be embarrassed about. They were mates.

"Ahem... well... this might be a good time to talk to you, anyways." Sango walked over to Mikoku and nudged him with her elbow. "Do you want to ask them?"

"Yes, of course." Miroku cleared his throat. "Well, in the unlikely event anything ever happened to Sango and I, we would want the kids to live with you two. Would you put our hearts at ease and give us an answer as to whether or not we can count on you to adopt them if they wound up alone?"

"What about Kohaku?" Inuyasha interjected before Kagome could gladly agree with an unnecessary burst of enthusiasm. "Wouldn't you rather they stay within the bloodline?"

"Kohaku is still young." Sango said with hesitation. "Besides, he wouldn't be able to care for them like you two would. Inuyasha would make an excellent father figure, and Kagome would be a caring mother. There are no one more suited to be their adopted family."

"Well if you put it that way..." Inuyasha looked a bit uncomfortable at their praise. Kagome searched Inuyasha's face, reading his opinion on the matter, before replying.

"We would never allow these guys to be orphans. They are always welcome in my home." She gently took the sleeping Hirohito from Inuyasha and stood up with him. Her feet migrated to where the girls slept and she gently placed the baby beside his sisters to sleep for the night.

"We would want the same." Inuyasha murmured, catching the attention of his friends.

"The same what?" Miroku asked, his arm naturally resting on his wife's waist.

"I'm sure Kagome would agree..." he looked to Kagome for confirmation, who nodded. She understood what he was going to say, and concurred. "If we have pups... and something were to happen to us, we would want you to care for them."

"Sesshomaru may not be young, but I wouldn't leave my children with him." Kagome added, taking her place next to her mate again. "We wouldn't trust anyone but you two with them."

Sango wore a warm expression as she regarded her best friends. "We wouldn't leave your children orphans either."

"My only hope, if that does happen, is that they learn more from Sango than the perverted Monk over there." Inuyasha said the words sarcastically, the syllables like knives to Miroku's self-esteem.

"The same philosophy I use when interacting with my children!" Sango exclaimed, glad to be on the same page with Inuyasha for once.

"Hey!" Miroku added, indignant. Laughter filled the room.

"Inuyasha, where are you taking me?" Kagome glanced around anxiously as she stumbled along behind him. He had her hand in his and was towing her along at a brisk pace.

"You'll see."

"That's not cryptic or anything..." She grumbled. He continued to pull her deeper into the woods. She trusted him, though, and let him lead her. Eventually he came to a stop and pivoted to face her.

"Okay, now close your eyes."

"What? Why?"

"Can you just do it without questioning me for once?" His sigh of impatience amused her a bit and she let her eyes drift closed. He waved his hand in front of her face a few times to make sure she wasn't peeking before taking her hands and leading her a bit further. He stepped to the side to allow her a clear view but kept one of her hands prisoner. "Okay. You can open them."

Her eyes fluttered open. Once she took in what he wanted her to see she let out a small gasp of astonishment. Before her, surrounded by wilderness, was a house. It was built very sturdily, but elegantly. It was larger than most of the huts in the village, with at least four to five rooms, a kitchen, and an entry way. Off to the side was a fenced off area with a rather large garden. The sunlight filtered through the trees on to the garden so that it received plenty of light. A well for water was situated nearby as well. There seemed to be a bath house built in.

"This is...?"

A blush lit Inuyasha's face as he scratched nervously at his nose. "W-well... you were gone for three years. I had to keep myself busy somehow."

"You built this?!" Her mouth fell open in absolute astonishment.

"Yeah." He seemed to want to leave it at that, but grew anxious. "I... well while you were gone I had a lot of time to think. And if you ever returned, and we did mate, I wanted us to have a place to live. A good place. Close to the village, but far enough away that it was our own space. S-so... I... uh... I started to build a house. I added to it every day you were gone. I finally finished it a half year or so ago, but I had started to lose hope you'd return. I let it get a little run down. But when you came back I fixed it up again and..."

"Inuyasha..." Kagome's eyes started to water.

"Why are you crying?"

She wiped at her face and smiled through her tears. "It's so perfect. I'm just... so happy..."

He pulled her into his arms and she cried into his chest.

"We can start a new life, Kagome." The timber of his voice calmed her and she relaxed against him. "Everything can be put behind us. Naraku. Kikyo. The sacred jewel. It doesn't matter. We can start a new chapter here. Just me and you. We can be happy."

"Inuyasha..." She wrapped her hands around the collar of his firerat haori and pulled him down for a kiss. He stiffened in surprise at first but then gave as good as he got. After a few minutes, the kiss got more heated and they both became breathless. Kagome broke away first. Inuyasha watched her face with hungry eyes. "Why don't we go and break this place in?"

"You can't mean...?"

"Make love to me. In our house."

"Kagome..."

"You don't want to?" She cupped his cheek with her hand, her touch gentle. Cherishing.

"I do. I really do, but.." He let out a sigh. "You are probably still sore from the mating. We should wait until you are healed."

"I'm fine. I hardly feel it." She bit her lip before continuing. "I want this. You. I want... I want for us to be together."

"Damn it." Inuyasha growled and lifted his new mate into his arms. Long strides carried them to the door. He let her inside. This is where they would start anew. This is where all of those fights, everything led up to. This was their destiny. This was home.