The Softest Rose, The Harshest Kiss

"I'm going out," the door slams and Kagome is still sitting on the couch. The soap opera she was barely watching is playing softly in the background. She cuddles further into her covers, the night is cold and she knows that he'll be out for awhile. He's always gone for what seems like forever. She holds her breath until she hears the door open once more, because she's afraid that there'll come a time when the door doesn't open. A day will come when the door slams and her face turns blue, and her lungs scream for air; but she still won't breathe, because he hasn't returned yet.

"Do you want some help?" Her voice is quiet, the question said more to herself than to him. His arm is still bleeding, bruises new and old healing on his skin. His eyes are glossy and unfocused, until they land on her. Now he's transfixed, gold irises melting into chocolate orbs. She looks down at her feet and gentle hands pull at her chin. He's not always this kind, it's nice.

"My arm hurts. Miroku's a twat, can never get a good vein on the first try." He showers and she cleans his wounds, puts a bandaid on and a gives it kiss for good measure. They're both in bed, his head in her lap, and her fingers slowly working their way through his tangled hair. His breathing is slow but even, and finally Kagome feels the pressure on her lungs lift. Now she can breathe.

Kagome thinks he's fallen asleep, but his voice makes her heart jump. "I wanna be better," he says. "I wanna be better for you, for us, but I can't. I don't know how."

His eyes don't open until he feels a tear land on his face. Her eyes are already red and she knows they'll be puffy in the morning. He reaches to collect the moisture from her face, sitting up and laying back down with her in his arms. She's using his shirt as a tissue, but he doesn't mind. Now his fingers are in her hair, running over her scalp and soothing her, his breath fanning over her ear.

"I'm sorry. I'll be better."

The morning sun hits Kagome in the face and she blinks awake. Rolling over to dodge the rays, she notices that Inuyasha's side of the bed is cold. His only nice pair of shoes are missing from in front of the closet, he must have went to work. She occupies her time by watching tv, making dinner, and cleaning up the aftermath. She's not sure when Inuyasha will be home, but she makes him a plate anyway. It's a quarter past ten and the plate filled with chicken and mashed potatoes goes cold. Kagome's in the shower when the door slams. The steam in front of her face clears when she exhales.

She ties a robe around her small frame and goes to meet Inuyasha at the door. He flops on the couch, frustrated at the difficulty he's having getting his shoes off. There's blood dotting the left sleeve of his rolled up shirt, and his skin is pale.

"Could you help?" She wants to scream in his face. She wants to shake him and tell him to stop wasting away. She wants him to remember what life was like before this, when both of them were happy. "Fine I'll do it my damn self." He's still struggling, but she doesn't move to aid him. She doesn't want to help, not anymore, how do you help someone who won't even help themselves?

"When are you going to stop?" Kagome gets mid sentence before the tears well up and she feels like an idiot. 'how many times will I cry about this?' She thinks to herself.

He rolls his eyes and the gesture infuriates her. He's shaky on his feet when he goes to stand, but soon he rights himself. He walks into the kitchen and pulls out the plate of food she hates herself for making. She wants to smack it out of his hands. He doesn't deserve it, he doesn't deserve anything. Not the food she makes him, or the love she shows him, or the brain cells she's lost from holding her breath.

"Answer me! When are you gonna stop?" She follows him into the kitchen and she's seething.

"Don't start this Kagome, I've had a long day. We can talk in the morning." The microwave goes off and she slams the door shut as he goes to open it.

"You're lying. You're always fucking lying. We won't talk about it the morning, because I walk up everyday and you're gone. We won't talk about it in the morning, because you'll be out all goddamn night and I'll be sitting here, waiting for you like I always do!"

"Go outside then, go for a walk, get some fucking friends! I'm not your keeper Kagome, and you're not mine."

His words sting, but she's not ready to back down. They're standing in each others' faces, but she steps closer to him still, now they're nose to nose.

"I can't. I can't go outside, or go for a walk, because I'm afraid. I'm afraid I'll come home and you still won't be here. I'm afraid to go out to lunch and get a call telling me your dead! Don't you understand? You said you wanted to be better, so be better! What am I supposed to do if you die?" Her throat is burning and her nose is snotting, but she keeps screaming. She screams until her voice is raw and she pounds on Inuyasha's chest until her knuckles hurt, because this is the last time. This is last time she waits, the last time she holds her breath.

"I don't want you to die."

It's been three months since that heated argument in the kitchen. Inuyasha sits in his friend's shabby apartment, his head towards the cracked ceiling. He was suddenly fascinated by the droplets of rain falling from the roof and landing into the bucket by his feet.

A rough cough draws his attention, and he watches as Sango goes back for seconds. Another noose, another needle, another sting. Inuyasha sinks deeper into the couch, his mind taking him back to the days when he wasn't doing this alone. He traveled to a simpler time, back to a life more carefree than what he was experiencing now.

"You thinking about her?" Sango takes a seat next to him on the couch. She looks up at him, her eyes dazed and her pupils blown, and for an instant he wonders if this what he looks like to Kagome. "I'll take that as a yes." She snorts.

"Yeah I'm thinking about her; I'm always fucking thinking about her." Inuyasha drags a tired hand across his face. It's that fucking argument that keeps playing in his head. He closes his eyes and he sees her tears. He feels her fists on his chest, her fingers curled tightly around his shirt. She's shaking him and his ears are ringing because she's screaming, practically screeching.

"I don't want you to die."

He hears it over and over again, on a never ending loop of her voice. It's haunting him and he can't escape. He doesn't want to die either, doing this, being this way, it wasn't the one way ticket to hell he was looking for. But he's in hell already and he knows it. Sitting in this shitty apartment surrounded by needles and mice, with the girl he loves sitting at home slowly loathing him for the choices he keeps making.

He laughs at the irony of the situation. He was never into drugs before he met Kagome. He'd always thought they were stupid and that there were better ways for someone to spend their time. He'd see the stoners and the druggie kids hanging around the woods at school, skipping class and getting high, and all he could ever think was - don't you have something better to do?

Then he graduated and met Kagome at his freshman orientation for college. She'd caught his eye from across the cafeteria. She was sitting by herself, earbuds blasting a song he couldn't hear. She was nodding her head to the music, completely unaware of the odd stares she would get. She was so content by herself, unafraid to be alone, and it was this confidence that made him stop and stare.

He blushed when she looked up from her phone and caught his gaze. He went back to pushing around the food on his plate, mentally chastising himself for looking like an idiot, when he heard the chair across from his scrape against the floor.

"I'm Kagome." She had her hand outstretched across the table and he scoffed.


"Well you were staring at me long enough, figured I'd come over and introduce myself."


"A man of few words, I like it. I'm gonna go now, but it was nice to meet you Inuyasha." He looked up at the mention of his name and caught the wink she threw his way. He had half a mind to jump up and follow her, ask her how she knew his name. Then he remembered that they were all wearing name tags and he wondered how many times this girl was gonna make him feel stupid in the span of ten minutes.

That night Kagome found his dorm and convinced him to sneak out, knowing full well they weren't allowed to leave after lights out. She got him drunk off his ass. It was the most fun he'd had in his life and soon enough the two were friends. They exchanged numbers and kept in contact for the rest of the summer, until they could see each other again in the fall.

Kagome had opened a new way of life to him. She'd rolled him his first blunt, let him do a line off her tits during a game of truth or dare, showed him how to properly shotgun a beer. She took him to a rave and let the acid melt on his tongue and soak into his bones. He kissed her that night and she kissed him back, and he realized that without her his life was black and white. Kagome was a light that shined in the dark, the sun that chased away the clouds, and he vowed that he would follow her anywhere.

So when Kagome fell in with Miroku, he didn't question it. When she tied a belt around his arm and convinced him that shoving a needle in his vein wasn't as painful as it looked, he didn't question it. He followed her into oblivion and she left him there. Now he was stuck and she was clean and he wanted to be better. He wanted to follow her.

But he couldn't, he didn't know how.

Inuyasha gets home at eleven and Kagome knows he's angry. She hears it in his footsteps, in the way he slams the fridge and the cabinets. She sits up in bed and waits for him to come into the room. The lamp by the bed is on and she has a book in her lap. It's a book of poems, stories of love and heartbreak, and overcoming.

"You still awake?" He says as he opens the door. He sits on the edge of the bed to begin taking off his shoes. His shirt goes next and he lays on his back. His pants are unbuttoned but still sit on his waist. He runs his hands over his face and through his hair.

"I'm always awake when you get home." Kagome sets her book down and she takes her glasses off. Inuyasha turns his head to look at her. His hands are behind his head now. His eyes are as they always are, hazy, unfocused, but still beautiful.

"I hate you sometimes you know that?" His tone is soft though his words are harsh. That wasn't what she'd expected him to say, but she doesn't interrupt. "I love you so much it hurts, but then sometimes I hate you. I hate you for making me this way, for ruining me and then leaving me to rot. You're a self righteous bitch and sometimes I fucking hate you."

"I want to die sometimes, you know? I look up at Miroku's fucked up ceiling, the smell of vomit and shit attacking me, and then I think about you. I think about you sitting in here alone, hating me, thinking about leaving me because you don't think I'm trying, and I just want to die."

Her throat is burning by the time he's done. She wants to say something, anything, but she's crying and hiccuping. She can't think. Kagome isn't sure if it was ever his intention to make her hate herself but she does. His words rip her to shreds and she left naked and bare.

"I"m sorry." She whispers. She unfolds herself from the comforter and moves to him. She straddles him and her face is buried in his neck. His arms are around her, and his hands are everywhere. In her hair, on her back, rubbing her hips. She kisses him and it's earth-shattering. Kagome comes up for air first and she wipes the tears from Inuyasha's face.

"I'm sorry," she says again. "I want you to live, I want you to smile, and to laugh. I want you to be happy, I want us to be happy."

"I know." She kisses his face after every breath. His hands are still on her back, she can feel them trembling.

"I love you Inuyasha."

"I know, and I love you."

Kagome wakes up that morning in Inuyasha's arms. She's warm and shielded from the sun. His dark hair falling over her, like a curtain. He's slightly crushing her and lightly snoring in her ear, but she's happy. She's happier than she's ever been and she curls into him as much as she can.

When her bladder can't take it anymore she wiggles from underneath him. When she returns, he's still in the same position as she left him, laying on his stomach, but his eyes open when she slips under the covers. His arm comes around her waist and she rolls into him.

"I missed you," Kagome says, "It's nice to have you here."

"I've missed being here." His voice is raspy from sleep and Kagome melts into him more. This is how they spend the day; wrapped in each other and memorizing each other. They spend the day loving each other, apologizing through languid kisses and soft touches. They argue, they yell and they scream, but they always make up afterwards.

They're healing, and it's everything Kagome's ever wanted and everything Inuyasha never knew he needed. By the end of the day, they're looking at treatment centers. Inuyasha says he's willing to try, and Kagome's filled with relief.

They call the Shikon Health Center, and they tell Inuyasha he can start in two weeks. Kagome cries and so does Inuyasha. Fourteen days tick by like fourteen years and all of the sudden Inuyasha finds himself in front of a small, but pristine clinic. A young woman with short dark hair comes to greet them and suddenly he's sweating.

"You must be Inuyasha. I'm Rin, one of the nurses here. Whenever you're ready we can go inside." Her voice is sweet, and the knots in his stomach only loosen slightly.

"You are going to do amazing and I'm going to call you everyday. I'm going to write to you and next thing you know you'll be home." Kagome's crying, but her voice is steady. She believes in him and even though five months is a long time to be away from each other, it's for the best.

"I'm scared. I'm scared I won't make it." Their foreheads are touching and Inuyasha already feels warm. "Not even half a day and I feel like shit already."

"You can do it. I believe in you." He kisses her one last time and then turns to the young nurse. He appreciates her patience.

"I love you Inuyasha."

"I love you too."

"How you feeling today Inuyasha?" It's been three days. Three fucking days and he's ready to die. He can barely get out of bed without falling on his face. His stomach is in knots as leans over his bed to heave, but nothing comes up. He hasn't been able to eat because he can't keep anything down and the cold sweats are killing him.

"How do you think I'm feeling? I'm feeling like one hit and all this shit ends. I can't fucking eat, I can't fucking sleep, fuck this and fuck her! Fuck her for making me like this!"

Rin comes over and she puts a hand on his forehead. He looks up at her and she wants to cry for him. He looks pitiful, but she knows he's resilient. He's at the peak, and all he has to do is make it over the hill.

"This is as bad as it's going to get Inuyasha. Once tomorrow comes the severity of the symptoms will start to decease." He doesn't say anything to her, just grabs her hand and squeezes for dear life. It's not like Rin to get so invested in her patients. Of course she always wants what's best for them. She never wants to see any of them suffer, but Inuyasha wormed his way into her heart.

Maybe it was the way he held Kagome before he got here. Maybe it was the way he fed off her encouragement, letting her words wash over him and give him strength. He's been cursing her name since his symptoms started, but he loves her. Inuyasha loves Kagome more than his own life, and Rin knows that love like that doesn't come around too often. It's refreshing to see.

She stays with him until his breathing slows and she knows he's asleep. Rin makes it back to her office in time to catch her phone ring. She knows it Kagome before she answers. The girl calls everyday, just like she promised. Rin can't tell her much, due to confidentiality, but tries to ease the girl as much as she can.

"He's stronger than he gives himself credit for." She says quietly. Kagome thanks her and they hang up. She yawns and stretches when her pager goes off. The tiny device alerts her that someone's requesting more pain meds.

It was gonna be another long night.

It's been close to two months since Inuyasha came to the Shikon Health Center. The withdrawal symptoms have long since gone, and he can't remember the last time his body felt so light. He feels strange and not like himself, even though now he's steps closer to the better version of himself he's always wanted to be.

He started group therapy this week, he didn't think there would be such a variety of people here. There's an older woman here named Kaede. She's small with a hunched back and one good eye. She's pushing sixty-five and this is her fifth time at Shikon. She swears this time will be her last, either she'll stay clean and live out the last fifteen years of her life healthy, or she'll die alone and in the dirt.

Then there's Shippo. He's seventeen, been addicted since he was fourteen after his mom introduced him to the poison. He ran away a few months ago when his mom was high as a kite and tried to touch him. She thought he was his old man. He tells the group that he wants to get his shit together, go back to school, maybe go to college if he gets a scholarship. He's got a lot of life to live and he knows it, now he just has to make the best of it.

It's Inuyasha's turn to share, but he's not ready. Rin looks at him encouragingly but it doesn't help. He folds his arms and slouches in his chair. The therapist sighs and tells him maybe next time.

Inuyasha is coming up on his fourth month in Shikon. He's gotten close to Shippo. The kid is a brat, always wanting attention, always playing jokes on him. Even though Inuyasha might give him a bop on the head or two he knows it's all in good fun.

"You can have visits now Inuyasha if you want." Rin tells him one day after therapy. Inuyasha thinks he'd be happier at the news, but he just feels nerves. The butterflies in his stomach are taking flight and trying to carry him away. He wants to see Kagome so badly, it keeps him up at night. Learning to sleep without her was probably one of the hardest things he's ever done. The letters, the calls, the photos, it was just barely enough.

"Is it bad that I'm scared to see her? Part of the reason I'm here is for her, what if she sees me and I'm still not what she wants?" He looks up at the feel of Rin's hand on his knee. She has a soft smile on her face and it eases his anxiety just looking at her.

"I don't think you have to worry about that Inuyasha. Kagome loves you more than you know. She's so proud of all you've done here. If you're not ready she'll understand, but don't torture yourself for nothing."

Two weeks later Inuyasha's sitting in the gardens outside. His palms are a bit sweaty and he can't keep his fingers out of his hair. He was sitting at one of the tables, but he got too restless and has been pacing ever since. He can't stop looking at his watch, 'she was supposed to be here five minutes ago.'

Someone clears their throat and he ceases his pacing. He sees Rin first but he immediately looks to the figure behind her. Her dark hair is blowing in the slight breeze and she looks just as he remembered her. She moves in front of Rin and continues to walk in his direction.

He's frozen until she touches him. Then his arms are around her, squeezing her, molding her body to his and he's afraid to let go. Her hair smells like apples and his sweatshirt now has snot on it, but there are worst things in the world.

"I've missed you so much," she whispers. Inuyasha just nods, the words he's been dying to say caught up in his throat. They pull away and he kisses her. A kiss to her forehead, one on each cheek, a peck on the nose. Each kiss speaking the words he can't say.

I missed you, I love you, thank you.

Visiting hours are almost over and the couple are hesitant to let each other go. Shippo walks over and gives Inuyasha a hard time, per usual.

"Damn no wonder you're trying to get clean. If I had a woman who looked like her I'd kick my habit too." Shippo receives a bop on the head from Inuyasha, and scores a giggle from Kagome. She thanks the teen for keeping Inuyasha company and gives him a kiss on the cheek in gratitude. The red headed teen blushes and Inuyasha nudges him out the way give Kagome one last hug and kiss goodbye.

"Only a few more weeks. You've come so far Inuyasha, I'm so proud." He's embarrassed by the praise, but it's appreciated nonetheless.

Inuyasha's home now. Shippo left Shikon the week before him. He didn't have anywhere to stay and even though Inuyasha welcomed his home to the boy, Shippo wanted to see how he fared on his own.

"I'm not some kicked down puppy, I've made it this far. No turning back now." With everything he owned strapped to his back and Inuyasha's number in his pocket Shippo set off.

"Call me if you need anything, I meant it."

When Inuyasha walks back into his old apartment, it's weird. Everything is the same, from the couches, to the dinning room table, to the bedroom him and Kagome have shared for the last two years. He remembers his therapist words about getting back into a routine. He has work on Monday, the only person who knew exactly why he went away was his boss.

He'd have to come up with a plausible lie for his coworkers, some way to explain why he'd been gone the last five months without telling them he was in rehab.

He takes a long shower and lets the hot water melt the tension from his muscles. He jumps a bit when the curtain pulls back, but it's only Kagome so he welcomes her to join him.

"Didn't mean to scare you. I can leave you alone if you'd like."

"Been alone enough already," he reaches for the shampoo and begins to lather it in her hair. It's the one that smells like apples, his favorite. "Just have a lot on my mind is all."

"Thinking about work?" He nods and tells her to rinse. He goes for the conditioner and begins working that through her hair. His fingers gently pulling at the knots and tangles. "You nervous?"

He nods again and after she rinses it's his turn. "I'm afraid to run into people, people that could ruin everything I've worked for. I don't want to have to explain why I went away."

"You can call me if you're ever feeling overwhelmed. Rin gave you her number too, don't forget that you have people in your corner Inuyasha." They spend a few more minutes under the gentle sprays until the water runs cold, soon they fall into bed.

Its two in the morning when Inuyasha's cell rings. Kagome shakes him until he rolls over to answer the obnoxious device. He has half a mind to ignore the call, but he figures giving the asshole a piece of his mind will be a bit more satisfying.

"Hello? Who is this?" Only the sound of labored breathing greets him, "listen it's the middle of the damn night, I don't have time for games."

"Inu-Inuyasha...I...I need help." Inuyasha sits up and swings his feet off the side of the bed.

"Shippo? Shippo where are you? What's going on?" Kagome's up at the sound of the teen boy's name. Inuyasha already has on a pair of sweats and he's throwing a t-shirt over his head. Kagome follows suit and throws on whatever she can. They're both out the door in minutes, but Shippo still hasn't said where he is.

"I'm...I fucked up. I'm sorry," the line goes dead and Inuyasha panics. He hits redial twice before someone answers, a girl this time.

"Go to Sengoku Hospital if you want to see him, the ambulance just came for him. I'd hurry if I were you."

Inuyasha and Kagome burst through the emergency room doors, both out of breath and looking haggard. The nurse at the desk is startled at their abrupt entrance, but there's no time to care.

"We're looking for a boy named Shippo, he's seventeen, red/orange hair, came in not too long ago?" Inuyasha fires off at her. The girl at the desk is young, all she can do is stare. Clean or not, Inuyasha was never one blessed with patience. His fist come down on the desk and the girl squeaks out her surprise.

"I don't have all damned day! Where is he?!"

"Umm...are you family? Only, uh, family can see him."

"Yes! I'm his brother, this is my fiancee, now let us in!" Kagome gives him a not so subtle elbow in the ribs and his glare intensifies, "please?" He says through clenched teeth. They're sent to room 325 and the elevator couldn't possibly move any slower. There's a doctor leaving the room and when he looks up he's met with the frantic stares of Kagome and Inuyasha.

"How is he? Will he be alright? Can we see him?" Kagome asks in quick succession.

"I'm sorry, are you both family?"

"I'm his brother, this is my fiancee. Please, can you just tell us what's going on? Shippo called me and the next thing I know I'm being told he's here."

The doctor, who introduces himself as Dr. Suikotsu, looks a bit suspicious. Though he figures if the couple in front of him have come this far, they must care for the boy. He explains to them that Shippo overdosed. His heart stopped twice and he needed his stomach pumped. They were allowed to see him, but only for a short while. They were advised that he might not be conscience and that he needed his rest.

The two walked in and each pulled up a chair by the boy's bedside. The steady beat of Shippo's heart monitor easing Inuyasha's anxiety only slightly. As annoying as the sound was it was the only thing that told him Shippo was alive.

"Fucking idiot." He whispered, grabbing the boy's cold hand. "Don't scare me like that again, or I'll kill you for real." Inuyasha feels Shippo's hand return a squeeze. The boy's eyes are bleary and unfocused, but he's smiling. Inuyasha wants to scream, wants to shake the boy until his brain turns to mush, but settles for releasing the breath he didn't know he was holding.

"I'm not sure if I've died and gone to heaven 'cause Kagome's here, or if I'm in hell 'cause you're here." His voice is raspy and dry, so Kagome feeds him ice chips. They laugh and soon a nurse is back to check his vitals. Dr. Suikotsu shows up again not long after. He tells Inuyasha and Kagome that Shippo will need to stay for at least the weekend.

They come back everyday until he's released and they take him home. Inuyasha never grills him about what happened that night. Only pats his back every now and then and gives him a sympathetic look. Kagome showers him with all the affection that he can stand. The apartment only has one bedroom, but Kagome does the couch up nicely and lets Shippo know he's allowed to stay for as long as he wants.

It's a Thursday night when Inuyasha comes home from work. He toes off his shoes and lets the appetizing aroma of pasta sauce lead him into the kitchen. Shippo's helping Kagome with dinner, and Inuyasha allows a small smile to crest upon his face at the sight.

"You hungry fat ass? Guarantee this recipe Kagome and I found will knock your socks off." After spending the next ten minutes trying to ring Shippo's neck, Kagome finally gets her boys to settle down. They sit at the table and Shippo shares that he wants to enroll in the GED program at the local community college. Kagome congratulates him and tells him they'll need to find time to formally celebrate.

"You know, I've been with you guys almost a month and I haven't thanked you yet. You guys didn't have to take me in, you didn't have to come to the hospital, and you didn't have to answer my call."

"Oh Shippo." Kagome's got tears in her eyes as she reaches over to fold Shippo into her arms.

"You both deserve to know what happened that night, I appreciate you not forcing it out of me."

"Relapses happen Shippo, you don't have to say if you don't want." Kagome assures him. Shippo looks to Inuyasha who's been silent through this entire exchange. Inuyasha nods his head in encouragement. If Shippo is ready to talk, then he's ready to listen.

"I'd been out of Shikon almost two weeks, bouncing between shelters and friend's apartments." The boy twirls some pasta around his fork to distract himself. "I went home, to see my mom, it's been close to six months since I last saw her." He chokes up and Kagome lets him lean against her.

"When I walked in the first thing I noticed was the smell. I don't think I've ever smelled anything that horrible in my life. She was just sitting there on the couch, like she always is. Except she didn't look how I remember. She was bloated and her hair was limp, and her skin was pale and wrinkled. There were maggots and flies and I was sick on the floor. She's dead. My mom is dead."

Shippo's crying and so is Kagome. Inuyasha moves from his seat across the table to envelope them both in his arms, and that's how the stay. Huddled together, taking comfort from each other.

2 years later...

"Aww come on Rin, I'm not a baby! Stop cleaning my face!" The petite girl giggled at Shippo's adorable pout, as she continued to wipe cake from his face. After successfully obtaining his GED and completing the computer science program at the local community college, Shippo finally graduated today. He looked good in his red and gold robes, diploma in hand. The nearly twenty year old had come a long way in his short life, and there were people in his life that he needed to thank dearly for getting him to this point.

"Say cheese!" Kagome snapped several photos in which Shippo tried and failed to look annoyed.

"Kagome, your son is trying to singe my nose hairs!" The sixth month old babbled happily to his father's dismay. How such a tiny child could produce such a foul smell was beyond his comprehension.

"That a boy Koji! Assert your dominance!" Shippo barely had time to laugh before Inuyasha was chasing after him, baby Koji outstretched and giggling; all too happy to be apart of the fun.

Kagome could only shake her head at the antics of her boys. It was amazing to see how far they'd come, how much they'd overcome. She thinks of the struggles, of the tears, of how many times she thought she wouldn't make it. She jumps when strong arms come around her, but the soft kiss placed on her temple soothes her.

"Don't think too hard or your face will get stuck like that." Inuyasha says.

"What'd you do with Koji?"

"Rin's got 'em. The womans' a nurse, no smell alive that could bother her now." The couple laugh and they enjoy the rest of Shippo's party. It's small, very small, just the five of them and a couple of Shippo's friends from school, but there's no other way they'd rather things be.

Koji is down for the night, when Inuyasha finally crawls into bed behind Kagome. She turns into him and everything is right in the world. Kagome dreams of wedding bells and Koji walking down the isle to give mommy and daddy their rings. She dreams of flowers and sparkles and white dresses. It's nice to dream, to look to the future and see more than tombstones.

It's nice to finally breath.

Not sure where this story came from but I enjoyed writing it. Nice to finally feel like writing after so long.

I was debating on whether to end the story on a happy note or have everything take a turn for the worst, as you've read I went with the former.

Thank you to those who read this, thank you to those that favorite it, and thank you to those who chose to review it.