Another's Name, But My Heart
By Lady of the Ink
Disclaimer: I don't own Inuyasha, but you knew that. I hope. But I do own this plot and all the twists that it takes.
a.k.a. My Happy Ending
Kagome smiled at her mother, offering a small wave as she stepped out the door. The past seven months had strengthened the already close relationship that the Higurashi women shared. It had been on her mother's shoulder that Kagome had cried, her mother's words that had given her comfort, and her mother's advice that had helped her to keep going. She was one of the few people of people outside the castle that knew the whole story behind her time away. The rest of the villagers - her grandfather and Souta included - still thought that she had merely accepted a job there that had since come to an end.
There were too many occasions to count over the recent months that Kagome had found herself giving thanks for her mother. The older woman had listened and not judged, seeming to understand the reasons behind her actions without her having to explain them. While Kagome was sure there were some things that her mother was disappointed in her about, she never showed anything but her willingness to be supportive. She had been sympathetic to her daughter's pain, giving her the time to herself that she needed after her return home.
Mrs. Higurashi had also been the one to say that enough was enough and force Kagome to get back to living something close to a normal life. She had started out slow, urging her to do a few small chores around the house to keep herself busy. The small chores gradually turned into bigger ones, and before she knew it, Kagome was back into the swing of her life before Inuyasha. Yamada had even offered her her old job back, an opportunity for a long-term distraction that she accepted the moment she felt ready to reenter the public eye.
Everything was going more smoothly than she had hoped. She had her mother's support and the comfort of her family, the simple pleasure of being surrounded by people she'd known all her life, and a job that kept her mind off more depressing things. Both working in the bakery and doing the deliveries also put her in a prime position to hear all the local gossip. It was from this source that she learned of Kikyo's removal - with her aunt's blessing - to a convent where she would be taken care of and kept out of trouble. There wasn't so much as a whisper of discontent at the decision, especially since everyone knew of the extreme measures she had used to first avoid her responsibilities and then attempt to reclaim them. While they were all upset at the fact that she had tried to kill Inuyasha in such a dishonorable way, it was the attack on Kohaku, an innocent child, that had really enraged them. Kagome had a feeling that Kikyo's leaving was also for her own protection.
One of the hardest things she had had to listen to was her own part in the story. Of course, no one knew it was her, but it was embarrassing nonetheless. It was all she could do not to blush when she heard the slightly distorted version of her role that was going around. Gossip had the "pretend Kikyo" marked as everything from one of the castle maids to a foreign princess. For a short while, they had even suspected her of being Kikyo's sister, an illegitimate heir to the lands who'd taken the opportunity to get her hands on what would otherwise never be hers.
That one had thankfully died out quickly due to her disappearance. After all, what kind of opportunist would leave behind the position and treasures without taking so much as a trinket with her? In the end, the villagers had seemed to sympathize with the "unknown" girl, wishing her luck wherever she had gone off to. It was heartwarming for Kagome to find that her friends and neighbors didn't blame her, and that they were all good enough to wish well someone they thought they'd never met. It reaffirmed her decision to remain in the village, regardless of the downside of such a choice.
That downside had reared its head when she'd been called upon to make her first delivery inside the castle's inner circle. Although it wasn't for the castle itself, it was close enough to bring a lump to her throat and a cold sheen of sweat to her skin. She had wanted to cry off, but knew that avoiding it would just make matters worse in the end. People might get suspicious if she suddenly refused to go near the castle, and the last thing she wanted was for them to put two and two together. Painful memories and the risk of being recognized wouldn't stop her, she decided, determined to face it like she'd faced every other hurdle that had appeared in her path.
Even with her resolve, Kagome had put off the delivery until it was the last one of the day. The trip there took nearly twice as long as it should have since she dragged her feet with every step in order to delay the inevitable moment when the massive stone building would rise into view, bringing with it memories just barely repressed. It was just as tough a trial as she had expected it to be, but she forced herself to focus only on the task at hand and keep walking.
The building she was directed to was one she'd never seen before. Judging by the pristine condition, she assumed it had been built during the continued spree of renovation and expansion. It wasn't large, smaller even than the home she shared with her family, but its placement and the care that had obviously been taken with its construction showed that its inhabitants were of some importance. Kagome played a horrible sort of guessing game with herself on who it might be up until the moment the door opened and a familiar face appeared.
Sango hadn't seemed at all surprised to see her, a fact that was explained when she confessed to bringing her there on purpose. She had asked Kaede to help her get in touch, and the old woman had confided in Kagome's profession before and after her stint as Kikyo.
What started that day as Sango's sincere thanks for Kagome having stopped her from making a terrible mistake turned into a conversation that lasted for hours. They had talked about a lot of things and found they had more in common than either would have imagined. By the time that Kagome went home that night, she knew she'd found a friend she'd keep for her lifetime.
The following weeks had proved that prediction as their friendship grew stronger each time they met. Kagome learned that Sango had settled in while Kohaku continued to recover from his injuries. Since they had no expenses while living there, she had also been able to take a break from her job and just enjoy spending time with her little brother. And although no one brought it up directly, Kagome had a feeling that there was another man occupying some of those newly free hours as well. On the days when Miroku joined them for their conversations, she had noticed a decided charge between the two that seemed to hold more meaning than the priest's habitual flirt and grope routine.
At first it had been a little difficult for Kagome to be witness to their growing closeness, but she had adjusted to it as she had everything else. Now, so many months later, she felt only happiness when she saw them together; well, that and humor when Sango had to remind Miroku of his place with her palm.
As her home vanished into the distance behind her, Kagome felt a smile of anticipation rise to her face. She always had a good time when she made plans with Miroku and Sango, but this day promised to be even better than the others. The sky was clear, the weather was warm, and she just had a good feeling that couldn't be explained.
After stopping off to retrieve her contribution to the picnic from Yamada, Kagome headed to the agreed upon meeting place. It was a small section of garden not too far from Sango's new home. Although it was inside the courtyard, it was isolated enough that they wouldn't be interrupted and Kagome didn't have to fear recognition.
She found a blanket already spread out and waiting. Setting her basket down on the edge, she scanned the area for her friends. Seeing no one, she was just about to go looking for them when a ball of brown fur came hurtling at her. Almost faster than she could brace for the impact, Shippo threw himself into her arms, latching onto her in a hug as though he never wanted to let go.
Knowing that his arrival meant the others were near, Kagome dropped onto the blanket, hugging Shippo back warmly. She always missed the kitsune cub when she was away from him, although he seemed to miss her more. Even if it had only been a day since their last meeting, he greeted her as though it had been weeks instead. She couldn't blame him; after all, the poor thing had been orphaned, dragged across the land and left in a strange place where he didn't know anyone. Even she, the person who had promised to be there for him, had wound up abandoning him to loneliness.
It always brought tears to Kagome's eyes when she thought about their reunion. Sango had explained that he was having a hard time dealing with her disappearance and asked if it would be all right to have him there for Kagome's next visit. She had agreed, feeling guilty over not having suggested it herself. She wanted to see him, but she just hadn't felt ready for all the explanations she would have been obliged to make. It had been a painful experience, with both of them in tears by the end, but they'd reaffirmed their relationship by the time they parted ways.
Shippo had been the first one to break the unspoken taboo and mention Inuyasha's name. It had come up when he asked about the day she left.
"I was so worried about you after you got hurt. At first, Inuyasha wouldn't even let anyone else in the room to see you. We just had to sit outside and wait. And then I did get to see you for a few days, but then you just disappeared! It was the same time that Kouga left and I thought that maybe you decided to marry him and never come back and I wouldn't ever get to see you again . . ." His voice turned into more of a wail than words at that point and Kagome had gathered him close.
"Shippo, why would you think I would marry Kouga and never come back?" she'd asked gently, slightly confused by his fears.
"Be-because that's what he s-said you'd do! While you were h-hurt, he kept going around, telling everyone t-that you were his wo-woman and that he'd b-be able to take better care of you. T-then you l-left with him and . . .and . . ."
"Oh, Shippo." Resting her chin lightly on top of his head, she'd rocked back and forth. "I left because it had been a long time since I saw my family. Things here were very complicated, and I needed time to work them out in my head. I never meant to make you hurt like this, and I hope that you'll forgive me."
"B-but Kouga . . ."
"Kouga might have wanted me to go back with him, but that wasn't what I wanted. In fact, that's why I walked with him when we both left, to tell him that. He's a nice person, and I'd be glad to be his friend, but I don't think I'd ever marry him. And nothing could make me stop seeing you, okay?"
He'd pulled away enough to study her face as though searching her features to make sure she was telling the truth. Apparently satisfied with what he found, he smiled and hugged her again. Since then, he had become as much a fixture at the get-togethers as Miroku was. Once Kohaku was well enough, he had begun joining them too, making each time like a little party.
Voices approached from around the corner, including one calling Shippo's name. Bouncing off to meet Kohaku, with whom he'd become fast friends, Shippo left her alone on the blanket. Kagome leaned backwards, bracing herself with both arms. She closed her eyes, pleased to feel the warmth of the sun on her face and the cool breeze across her skin.
There was a rustle of fabric as someone took a seat beside her. Kagome smiled without opening her eyes, already knowing who it was.
"How was your visit with your mother?"
"Good; it was nice seeing her. I told her she has to come visit more often, and bring Grandpa and Souta with her. I think they'd get along well with Kaede and Kohaku and Shippo. Grandpa's always talking about old remedies and he needs to get out of the house more. Kaede could use the company, too, now that Kikyo's gone."
Her companion grunted, leaning just close enough that their arms brushed. Kagome's smile widened as she felt the small action, knowing what it meant. Sitting up straight, she opened her eyes to look at Inuyasha, who pointedly looked in another direction. Giggling at what she now knew to be his well-hidden sense of shyness, Kagome scooted over until she was leaning right up against his side. Barely a moment passed before she felt his arm rise up to curl around her waist.
With a contented sigh, she allowed her eyes to close once more. Even after two months of being married to Inuyasha - as herself this time - Kagome still found being by his side a simple pleasure she never wanted to lose. He might never be the kind of person who wanted to hold hands in front of other people, but knowing that he wanted to be close to her was enough for her.
Her mind drifted back to their first meeting after she had left the castle. She had been doing her deliveries when a flash of red out of the corner of her eye caught her attention. When she had turned to see what had caused it, it was gone. The same thing had continued on through the morning, making her more and more frustrated every time that it happened. By the time her last delivery had been made, she was ready to scream with the strain of wondering what he was doing.
She'd stormed off to the closest secluded area and called his name, knowing he would hear her. Such a long amount of time passed without a response that she'd feared he would ignore her. Just as she was about to give up and head back, the branches of the tree in front of her rustled and Inuyasha leapt lightly to the ground.
They'd spent some more time just avoiding each other's eyes while surreptitiously sneaking glances at one another. The moment stretched on until something inside of Kagome just snapped. Marching up until she was just a few inches from Inuyasha, she let loose with every thought that had been bothering her since she'd realized he was following.
"Is my still being here a problem? Did you come to ask me to leave?" Tears were running down her cheeks but she didn't bother to brush them away. Let him see the pain that he was causing her through his actions. Let him be the one to feel bad for a change. She was tired of wondering and hurting and fighting so hard to be strong . . .
He stepped closer, his hair brushing her arm from the movement. Kagome gasped, inadvertently looking up into his eyes. What she saw stopped all the thoughts in her head and stalled the breath in her throat. By the time he opened his mouth to speak, she felt more like a statue than a living, breathing person.
One question. That was all that he asked and all that it took to make Kagome's heart jump in her chest. Her answer had begun a pattern that lasted through the next weeks. Every morning she would catch small glimpses of him following her as she made her deliveries. When she was finished, they would meet at the same place for a few moments. That first conversation was the one and only time they discussed things with brutal honesty, but it had been enough. The relationship that had started with such bad omens began to change into something else. They were no longer people with secrets from each other, but survivors reaching out for the one person who knew exactly who they were and what they wanted.
With the feelings that had already existed finally allowed to be embraced, it was no surprise that they'd wasted no time in righting the wrong that Kikyo's plot had set into motion. The wedding had been small, just family and close friends, but it was the most perfect day that Kagome knew she would ever have. Standing in the church with Inuyasha was a memory that she would always hold close to her heart. The pain of everything that it had taken to get to that point only made the final reward that much sweeter.
The others were in view now, Kohaku and Shippo running ahead of Miroku and Sango as they drew closer to the waiting couple. In the last moment of privacy that they would have before being bombarded with company, Inuyasha shifted his head to rest on her shoulder.
"Do you regret me?" he asked in her ear, his voice little more than a whisper. The words were an echo of the past in more ways than one, not only the words they'd parted on but also the ones that had brought them back together. She remembered what he had looked like standing before her that day in the forest, defensive and vulnerable at the same time. But it was his eyes that had said the most, drawing her into their golden depths with the hints of hope and pleading
Snuggling deeper into his arms, Kagome answered him in the same way that she had that long ago day, the same way that she had every day since, and the same way that she always would. "I could never regret the best thing to ever happen to me."
A/N: And there you have it, the actual ending of "Another's Name But My Heart". I certainly hope you all like it better than the last ending, and that you've all enjoyed reading this fic. I want to take a moment to thank everyone that read and reviewed. Your comments meant a lot to me and were what kept me inspired a lot of times. Thanks for sticking with this for all 35 chapters and I hope you'll all come and take a look when I start my next Inuyasha fic. Until then, thanks for reading!
Extra Author's Notes 12/29: For the five people that have asked this for this chapter alone, I'm going to mention again that Rin and Sesshomaru moved to their own fic. It's called "Field of Innocence" and is currently at chapter 4, with a new chapter every two weeks. I mentioned this several times in several different sets of author's notes. I didn't forget about them; I just came up with a plot that was too big to work as a subplot for another story. If you want to know what happens to them, please check it out in that fic.