Author's Notes: Wow, sorry about the long delay, but here you go! Two stories finished in 24 hours. I'm on a roll! ^__^
So thank you to all the lovely readers, and not many thank yous to the people who got impatient and rude, funnily enough, rude remarks didn't motivate me to write any faster. But with DF finally out of the way the writer's block didn't seem so much of a challenge anymore…
Unfortunately there won't be any sequel to Bottled Genius, I don't plan on dragging this out anymore.
So, all that being said and done, let's end on the cheesiest epilogue of all time! ^__^;;
Oh, and by the way, if my name changes soon, don't be too alarmed. I plan on dropping "Rosefire" for reasons more thoroughly explained in my bio.
Happily Ever After?
Life sucked. And that was the end of the matter.
Inuyasha tentatively touched a hand to the wound in his side. When he drew it away, he pulled a face at the sticky, clotting blood that dappled his fingers. He drew in a wheezing breath, trying to see how much his left lung had mended…
Not by very much at all, he discovered, when he immediately broke down in a coughing fit and tasted the metallic sting of blood on his tongue.
"Urgh…" he groaned painfully and slid down the trunk of the tree to sit nestled in its roots. He kept the one hand pressed to his injury while keeping his ears keen on the sound of the village a few hundred metres ahead. He really needed some water to clean the wound on his side, to try and wash away as much of the eroding poison as possible… or at least wash out the taste of the blood in his mouth.
"Stupid Sesshomaru…" He absently wiped a hand across his chin, smearing the blood that dripped down from the corner of his mouth.
Another stupid run-in with his brother and he'd nearly came out of it a corpse. It was getting worse; every time they came across each other, by chance or otherwise, Inuyasha had less and less to live for… what was the point in winning another fight if he had no one to gloat to, nothing to protect, and nothing to wait for? Every day was the same as the last, going no where, while he went everywhere.
He had tried to find a reason and a purpose, but he was still empty-handed. His parents had died a long time ago. His mother's face was blurred with bad memory and he didn't even recall what his father was like at all. No one remembered their son. No one cared about him. Actually… the only person who cared was Sesshomaru, and the only thing his brother cared about was seeing him in an early grave.
"I'm not making much impact around here," Maybe he should burn a few villages down and take down some major demons just for kicks…
Problem was he'd probably lose heart half-way through the fight and lose. Now there was something he could look forward to.
He struggled to his feet and forged onwards, making his way through the crowded trees and closer to the sounds of civilisation. He wobbled onwards precariously, grunting and groaning with the effort it took to keep moving.
The village came into view and Inuyasha dropped down out of sight behind one of the huts on the outer edges of the settlement. He peered around the corner and narrowed his eyes, trying to locate some source of water…
The only one he could find was the little well smack-bang in the centre of the village. The place was swarming with locals, and there was no way he could get to it in his current condition without being seen. The moment they saw him they wouldn't hesitate to drive him out… he looked too much like a demon to sit well with humans. He'd have to wait till night-fall at least to get to it, and by then the poison would have eaten away at his side and done too much damage.
With a soft, annoyed growl he screwed his eyes shut and leant back against the wall. Nothing could go his way for a single minute, could it? Now he would die slowly and painfully… even more embarrassing and pointless than to be eaten alive by some lake monster.
He swore quietly under his breath. The thought of dying a pointless death was more irritating than anything else. Angrily, he lashed out at the nearest thing - one of the pots that had been lined up alongside the wall of the hut he leaned on. It shattered on impact and at the same moment emitted an explosion of blue dust… but it seemed to evaporate into the air like a vapour, unlike any dust he'd ever seen.
The pot-maker in the house behind him must have used very odd clay to make those things…
With his breathing laboured from the anger and the effort it had taken to shatter the pot, he closed his eyes again and tucked his chin into his chest, willing himself to ignore the pain…
But unconsciously he was curling up to prepare to die.
"Demons have no respect for other people's property."
Inuyasha cracked open one eye slightly and gazed at the sandals on the feet of someone dressed in priest robes. Great… a human priest… an even worse way to go than to die slowly of poisoning - to be purified by some hot-shot low-ranking human Houshi. Way to be kicked when he was down!
"If you're going to kill me, Monkey, make it quick." Inuyasha ground out, closing his eye again. "I'm on a tight schedule."
"Tempting, believe me," The priest shifted slightly, as if stretching out a few cramped limbs. But he had yet to make a move to slap some purification spell on him. "Well, after that rude awakening… what would you say if I were to tell you that you could have anything you wished for, right now."
"I'm not in the mood to be tortured by your stupid, human mind games." Inuyasha retorted hotly. "Perhaps a day when I'm not dying."
"Humour me." The priest ignored his pained grimaces. "What would you wish for, if you could wish for anything in the world, hanyou?"
He'd wish for a purpose in his life. He'd wish he was completely demon so that he'd be free to rampage as he wished. He'd wish that he was human so he could fit in with them and live the quiet life…
No… above all things, he'd wish for perfect strength… strength to smack the pretty face off his brother. Inuyasha smirked painfully. "Well then, I would wish to be the strongest Hanyou in the land. Yeah… I wish I had ultimate strength and the power to do practically anything I want."
"Really?" The monk sounded amused.
"Humoured?" Inuyasha wrapped his arms more tightly around himself. "Now get lost and leave me in peace."
"Not without a little parting gift." His tone of voice made Inuyasha look up at him slowly. "You want ultimate power? Then that is what I will beseech you with. You shall have ultimate power… and the shackles that come with it."
Inuyasha tore himself awake with a choked gasp. For a moment, he felt paralysed; thorn-like pricks of pain riddled his chest, and he didn't know where he was… until the imagery details began seeping into his awareness. He realised he was right where he'd fallen asleep.
On top of the oil tank. With a cat on his chest.
He relaxed quickly. He didn't often have nightmares like that nowadays, but they were still enough to get him tensed up and moody. Strangely, his conscience seemed intent in not letting him forget his screwed up past. He'd fixed said past, but that didn't stop it from haunting him…
So what he'd had nothing to live for? So what he'd been a slave? Well, now he was free, and he didn't plan to end up alone so easily again. He had Kagome after all. It was doubtful that she'd let him out of her sight for more than five minutes anyway…
"Get off, Buyo." he grumbled. The enormous cat had practically been clinging to his ankles the moment it had waddled in the front door. Apparently, the Higurashi family had left the animal back with a friend's family in the city as cats were renowned for wandering home to their original stomping grounds; and rather than risk taking the cat and have it roll its fat tummy across thirty miles of motorway traffic, leaving it behind had been the safest option. But of course, Buyo was no ordinary cat. Besides being obese, he had also waddled across thirty miles of traffic willingly to rejoin his old family in a new stomping ground. Just how it had known where to go had baffled everyone…
The moment he'd seen Inuyasha, it had been love at first sight. So now Inuyasha was enjoying the worse half of a love-hate relationship.
Inuyasha sighed and pushed the bloated animal off his chest (lest have the air crushed out of him) and right off the oil tank's edge….
Another strange thing about Buyo was that he never quite managed to land on all four paws. More like he faithfully landed on his back with a thud each time he fell from a height… which, disturbingly, happened a lot.
"I didn't do it - he jumped!" Inuyasha barked automatically, sitting up to face his accuser.
"What?" Kagome stepped over the flattened feline with a peculiar look. She obviously hadn't seen the crime…
"Oh, nothing…" he contrived innocence as he hopped down from the top of the tank to ground-level. "Did you want something?"
"Well, dinner's nearly ready… oh, hello Buyo!" Kagome bent down to scoop to concussed cat into her arms, letting it dangle as she hooked her arms under his front legs… he was simply too large to hold the normal way. She proceeded to baby-talk him. "Who's my fatty, fat cat, eh? Yes, that's right! You are!"
Inuyasha eyed the animal warily. Buyo made sounds that no mortal cat should make… "So… weren't we supposed to be having dinner with your ex-dad?"
"Uh huh." Kagome nodded. "The loser chickened out. Looks like we're going to have to drag him to court if we want any money out of him."
"If you want, I could just hold him upside down and shake him…?" Inuyasha offered, folding his arms.
Kagome actually considered for a long moment before shaking her head. "Nah, we can squeeze more out of his wallet if we sick a judge on him."
Inuyasha shrugged. "Fair enough."
"Oh - but when you meet him, your gang name is Inuyasha, you belong to a heavy metal band, carry loaded guns around in your pockets, and have lured me into crack cocaine abuse." Kagome told him with a perky smile. She swung the cat in her arms. "Oh - and every Friday night, you take me along to a threesome with… uh… your twin brother!"
Inuyasha blinked at her. "Not another one of your weird fantasies, is it?"
"Trust me, the judge will take more money off him if the abandoned family is a wreck." Kagome explained. "If they think that I fell in love with a no-good loser when dad left, they'll be more sympathetic and automatically hate him as much as we do!"
"I see." Inuyasha cocked his head. "Who says you didn't fall in love with a no-good loser anyway?"
"Oh, Inuyasha…" Kagome nudged him - with difficulty considering she was holding a cat roughly the same size as toddler, who also happened to be craning to paw Inuyasha. "You earn your keep… despite not being able to grant wishes for me anymore."
"And how do I do that?"
Buyo's ear flicked as Kagome's gaze trailed away, thinking hard. Inuyasha's ear twitched, unconsciously mirroring the cat in his annoyance. Eventually, Kagome came back. "You chop wood faster than I've ever seen!"
Inuyasha gave a cocky grin. Anyone could chop wood… but no one could entertain Kagome as much as he could… especially when the shirt came off. Obviously, her thoughts were running along the same tracks as his as her cheerful expression smoothed into something a little more coy. "You're not that fast at everything… are you?"
She was lucky her mother had no idea of the things she said when Mrs H was out of ear-shot.
Inuyasha stepped forward, deliberately invading personal space as he reached out to grab her upper arms, squeezing gently. Poor Buyo was pretty much squashed, judging by the muffled mewl he made. "Kagome… let's ditch the cat and go somewhere a little more private for a little… fun, yeah?"
Once more, Buyo proved to be nothing more than consistent in his ability to land with a thump on his back.
"Come on… come on… just get it in… come on… ohhhh! Yes!!" Inuyasha collapsed on the bed. "Do it again!"
Kagome sighed, swamped with boredom. She perched her elbow on her knee and her chin in her palm. "You know, when you said 'fun' I thought you meant something a little more… fun."
"What, aren't you having fun?" Inuyasha sat up quickly. "Look, I'll get it and you can try again."
He bounced off the bed and ran across the room. He dove into the waste-paper basket and pulled out a scrunched up ball paper, then quickly ran back and deposited it in Kagome's lap. "There you go."
With a cocked eyebrow, Kagome picked up the abused ball of paper and threw it… for what felt like the hundredth time. But for the ninety-ninth time, it just bounced off the rim of the wastepaper basket and tumbled on the floor.
Inuyasha fetched. Kagome threw. He fetched. She threw. He fetched. She threw…
She giggled as the paper ball was dropped in her lap again. It was actually a piece of chemistry that she'd been working on, but having messed up the chemical formula for calculating the atomic mass of Silver Nitrate, it was fair 'fetch' material. "You're such a puppy, Inuyasha." she told him with a grin.
"What?!" He gave her a dirty look.
"Come here." She patted the bed beside her. Inuyasha obediently sat down next to her. With a smile, Kagome got up on her knees and shuffled behind him. Pushing his hair to the side, she rested her chin on his shoulder and wrapped her arms around his chest, absently scratching his tummy the way he liked. Inuyasha made a soft sound and let his own head fall back against her shoulder. Her smile widened, happy in the knowledge that she was allowed free reign to hold him whenever she wanted. No more walking on eggshells.
No more obstacles.
"You remember when they said that forty percent of people ended up miserable…?" she asked offhandedly.
"Mm…?" That sound taped off into a low rumble that sounded suspiciously like a happy puppy.
"How do you think we ended up?"
"People don't fall into categories, Kagome." he replied in that usual dismissive manner of his. "Everything goes on… we may yet end up miserable."
"So you think we're in the top seven percent so far?" Kagome cocked her head.
Inuyasha cracked open an eye. "I doubt it."
Kagome stopped her ministrations on his belly. "Huh?"
"Well… we're not all that happy, are we?" He turned slightly in her arms. "I mean, you're still living in this godforsaken place while your beloved Shrine falls into disrepair. Your father is still evading his monthly children-support bills."
"I'm still expelled from school."
"With no friends."
"No decent plumbing…"
"And you just wasted all the wishes that could have gotten you out of such a hairy situation." Inuyasha snorted. "You ain't getting them back now…"
Kagome's nose wrinkled. "Wow, my life still sucks!"
"Not just yours!" Inuyasha informed her. "You heard Sango complaining, didn't you? The moment Miroku got Wishbringer-ism lifted off him, he's been endlessly groping her. I think he was making up for lost time after being forced to slap himself for so long… and then there's Shippo. The last time Sango and Miroku saw him, he was plastered against the airplane window because the guy sitting next to him only happened to be the widest man in the country. Not exactly a happy ending for him either! Not that I really care about that squirt or anything…"
"Yeah…" Kagome sighed. "And then there's Onigumo. I doubt he's very happy trapped up inside Mount Hakurei with only his thoughts to accompany him…"
Inuyasha went oddly still. It aroused Kagome's suspicion. "What's the matter?"
"He's not thinking anymore. He's dead." Inuyasha told her simply.
"Oh…" Kagome frowned. "I thought you said he was immortal…?"
"I asked a little favour of Shippo…" He shrugged. "I dunno… after experiencing all the joys of sensory depravation for myself, I kinda felt a little sorry for the guy."
"So you committed euthanasia." Kagome paraphrased.
"I spared him an eternity of misery, that's all…" He glanced at her. "Plus I didn't want any chance of him coming back as Naraku again either."
"Well… fair enough." Kagome looked down. "But you know… this doesn't exactly sound like the happy ending I was hoping for."
Inuyasha pulled himself out of her limp arms and turned to her fully. "Who says it's the end? Your Grandpa's already considering selling this place to move back to your Shrine anyway, so I don't know what the big deal is."
"What?!" Kagome gaped at him.
He blinked back. "Maybe that was your birthday surprise…?" he winced. "Ok – forget what I just said. Your Grandpa isn't planning to sell this goldmine and move back into the city."
A grin spread across Kagome's face, unrestrained and gleeful. "That's brilliant! Does this mean I get to go home?!" She hooked her arms around his neck as he nodded with a vague 'oh well, blew that one out the water, didn't I?' expression. "You're not upset are you…? I mean… you like the quiet here, don't you? What if you don't want to move into the city?"
He rolled his eyes and scoffed. "Wherever you go, I'll go, I don't care. You could move to the summit of Mount Everest and I'd still go with you… to supply you with blankets, if nothing else."
Kagome smiled and leant forward to place a soft kiss on his lips. "Thank you."
Inuyasha frowned slightly as they drew apart. "For what?"
"For 'Happily ever after'." She sighed a contented sigh as she glanced towards the stack of homework given to her by Hojo. "Or close enough."
"You know, you still had one wish left that you didn't use." Inuyasha told her. "If you still had it, what would you wish for?"
"Um… Kagome tapped her chin thoughtfully, then grinned. "I'd wish that we were together… forever."
Easily granted. Inuyasha smirked and planted a kiss on her lips. One of many that were to come. "As you wish."
AN: About damn time!