Author's Note:Shorter Chapter, but working through a bit of a slum. Just wondering how I'm tackling the Inu/Kag dynamic in this story. S'ahrite now.

The Low Down: When I said I was doing a Garth motif in the last chapter... I didn't mean forever. I got lots of questions like 'what's the next garth song?' and I was like... whoa.... too much structure for me! Reba takes over this chapter...

For a Stormy, non-country recomendation: Counting Crows - Basically Anything... but Anna Begins is a necessary for anyone's life, Cowboy Mouth (not country... trust me) - How do You Tell Someone or Jennie Says, Stroke 9 - Don't Worry (freaking awesome!), Eve 6 - Promise. You can't die happily without hearing this song.

Alright end that right now or I'll go on forever. Music is to big a passion.

Cheyenne

Chapter 4

Tough Little Boys

Previously: Kagome rides in place of Sango and discovers her talent for an event no one ever wants to participate in again. Kagome sneaks into the local arena late at night to clear her mind.

The old pick up bumped to a stop outside the abandoned arena. Only hours before, the place had been loud and alive with the crowds. Now everything was still, and not a little bit messy with abandoned soft drink cups and paper food dishes.

The stars were out above the stands, shining down on her as she stepped into the loose sand. It glowed a pale blue in the moonlight and Kagome smiled with private humor.

She gave a quick glance around, just making sure there was absolutely no one around...

She's always lived for tomorrow
She's never learned how to live for today.

And took off running into the sand.

"Kagome Higurashi thunders into the arena!" She called out to the empty stands. She threw herself to the side and spun in a tight circle. "She takes the first barrel without fear!"

She ran across the sand towards her second imaginary barrel. "The girl's on fire! She's around the second!" she called out and spun in another circle.

She ran a few more paces to the last leaf of the clover. "And now here she comes! This just might be a new record folks!" she yelled and ran back down between her pattern to the entrance.

With a grin, she dropped into a slide the last foot and held her hands over her head. "Kagome Higurashi has done it! This girl's a champion! Her brother jumps up and down in pride as she waves to the stands. Guess it runs in the family..." she ended her announcing with a sadder note to her voice.

She sighed and looked down at herself, sitting in the sand and making imaginary announcements. She'd thought she'd grown up somewhere along the line. After all, she'd killed herself over so many text books to get into medical school, not run around in the dirt at night. 'Oh well... back to maturity.' She thought and hefted herself to her feet.

She caught a flash of orange from the corner of her eye and turned to see a familiar poof under the stands, and a pair of big green eyes peeking out at her. She blushed hotly at being caught and Shippo quickly tried to hide, seeing she'd noticed him.

"Shippo?" She ran to the stands to find her friend. "Shippo where are you? What are you doing here?" She peeked under the benches until she found him curled up trying to hide from her.

Shippo looked up at her with tears in his eyes and fear that made her want to cuddle him and protect him from everything in the world. Why in the world would he be afraid of her? Then she looked around the child, seeing a blanket haphazardly crumpled in the corner in the shape of a little bed.

"Shippo..." she said quietly. "Why are you here? Where is your family?"

The child gave her a heartbreaking look and a cry broke from his little chest. Before Kagome knew what was happening, the child launched himself into her arms and clung to her shirt. She hugged him back gently, not needing any further answer.

Shippo was alone, living in the arena, and by the looks of it had been for a while. How had no one noticed? Why had no one asked?

But then again, why hadn't she before now?

She sat stroking his hair while he cried, murmuring soothing words into his ear. When his crying slowed to an occasional sniffle and hiccup, she pulled him away enough to look into his face.

"Want me to tell you something?" She asked gently, and Shippo gave her a feeble nod.

"I was sick." Kagome said quietly. "It was raining, and Momma and Grandpa had to pick up my little brother from his soccer game. Miroku stayed home to take care of me." She unconsciously hugged Shippo tighter.

"He's been taking care of me since." She said gently.

"I thought you were the one who took care of him." Shippo sniffled.

"Only lately." Kagome smiled down at him. "It as really hard, for both, but we knew we needed to help each other. We knew we weren't alone. You don't have to be either."

She saw the tears creep back into Shippo's eyes and he latched himself to her shirt once again. "You'll let me come home with you?" his words were hard to understand with his face buried against her shoulder. "You'll still be my friend? Even though... no one else wanted me?"

"There's no way I would leave here without you." She said firmly and petted his unruly red hair.

They sat in peace for a long while, with Kagome looking up at the stars and the moon over the stands thinking over her life, and little Shippo snuggling into her shoulder until she thought he had fallen asleep.

Oh she's dying to try something foolish,
Do something crazy, or just get away.

"Kagome?" he whispered, putting and end to that theory.

"Yes, Shippo?" she said gently.

"You should compete..." he said sleepily. "You're better than any one I've seen. But, you know, only with a horse."

Kagome laughed quietly and blushed at the embarrassing memory. She'd have to bribe him something fierce to keep him quiet about that.

"I don't know Shippo." she whispered. "I've worked so hard for so long. I can't just throw that away. I'm not even sure I really want to do this. I've only won once, it might be a fluke."

"That wasn't a fluke, Kagome." Shippo whispered. "And it made you happy, right? Competing? Why else were you playing in the sand just now, pretending?"

"I don't know..." she sighed. "Momentary lapse in concentration, maybe?"

"You looked like you were having fun." Shippo yawned and in a few seconds, drifted off to sleep.

"Yeah..." She whispered and picked him up. "I was." She carried him back to her truck to take him home.

Oh something for herself for a change.

***

Stars were amazing things. So far away, but right in front of your face if you stared at them long enough. They seemed to drown out all the noise of the world, and Inuyasha was perfectly fine with that.

He'd pretty much adopted his place on the front porch. A place out of the house, away from the crazy people he'd become a part of, no matter how reluctantly, and away from all their issues that he didn't need to bother about.

And now, it was a place to come when he couldn't sleep, which was becoming far too frequent. It had been so long... he thought he'd start getting over it.

'Five years...' he sighed and looked out at the stars again. What did he need sleep for anyway? He was doing just fine without it. 'I was asleep for five years...'

He jumped slightly when the door creaked open behind him, but as he turned, he saw only the old maid, Kaede, coming towards him stirring a hot cup of tea. He gave a quick huff and looked pointedly out into the night to show just how much he was ignoring her.

"Good evening, Inuyasha." she said calmly, not noticing or not caring about his efforts to remain aloof. "What keeps you up so late at night. Not still brooding over the argument tonight?"

Inuyasha flinched visibly at the reminder. He'd no sooner come through the door, fighting off that blood-thirsty beast again, when every occupant of the house had found it fitting to attack him with questions about Kagome. Had he seen her? Where had she gone? Did he upset her at all and if so how did he prefer to die?

When they found out he'd willing let her drive off into the night to god-knows-where, they had really exploded. Miroku yelling at Myoga for wanting to put Kagome in harms way for a profit, Myoga yelling at him that if he let anything happen to her, champion or not, he was out on his own, and Sango yelling at them all for being over-bearing idiots and frightening her away.

It had all been complete insanity until the old woman came in and in her own quiet, completely terrifying way, shut them all up.

He would never say it, but she was the only one he thought was sane around this place.

"I won't be held responsible for some hyper-emotional, spoiled girl, running off in the middle of the night. I don't care who she's snowballed." He muttered with a slight pout.

Kaede chuckled, which surprised him and made he stare at her. She shook her head at him with a smile, looking down into her tea as she stirred. "You should not be so quick to judge, Inuyasha." she said with a little mirth.

He huffed and looked away. He took it all back. She was as crazy as the rest of them.

Her voice sobered greatly. "You do not sleep at night, do you? I have seen you pacing the house at all hours of the night. And Kagome says she hears you through the wall. She assumed you did it to annoy her."

"Annoying, self-centered, spoiled, little..." he muttered under his breath.

"I think it may be for some other reason, am I right?" she interrupted his rant.

"What would you know about it?" he sighed.

She waited for his pouting to lessen slightly. It truly was amazing how a grown man could still be so childish, but perhaps that in itself was an oxymoron.

"There is much you don't understand about the girl." she said quietly and sipped her tea.

"Yeah?" he said with sarcasm. "Like what, old maid?"

"Perhaps that is something you had best ask Kagome herself." she said, without response to the insult.

He just grunted apathetically and muttered, "Not like I care either way."

The old woman smiled at him in the dark. "It would seem that Kagome also should not be so quick to make judgements about you either. It seems there is much she does not understand as well."

"What are you talking about, granny." He huffed and spun to her with surprise.

"An old woman sees these things, Inuyasha." Kaede smiled wisely. "I can see, very clearly, a young man trying to hide from his past."

"Maybe you're just losing your sight in your old age." he muttered.

"The funny thing about running from a past," she continued, "It always seems to have a way of catching up with you." She watched him shift uneasily in the dark. "But you should not be so hard on Kagome for what she does not know, Inuyasha."

"If she didn't have any interest in finding out," he said quietly, "It's not my problem."

"Maybe you haven't given her much of a chance." Kaede said. "Tell me, if she had asked, was there anything she could have said that would have made you tell her?"

He didn't answer her.

"I'll take that as a no." she said with a sigh and stood up once more. "If you ever do wish to discuss what is on your mind, Inuyasha, I seldom sleep in the nights as well." And with that she returned to the warmth of the house.

He didn't look at her as she left, but kept his eyes fixed out to the main road. He didn't need to talk to the old woman about anything, and was offended she had pried into his life this much. He didn't need to talk to anyone about what happened back then. It had been years ago. He was past it.

She didn't need to know about Cheyenne.

And he surly didn't need to talk to her about the girl. It's not like she was anything of importance to him, other than a general pain in his side, but definitely nothing worthy of discussion. So what if he didn't know everything there was to know about the girl? He didn't want to! He didn't want to know why she felt compelled to just drive away in the middle of the night.

And above all he didn't want to know what was taking her so long to come back.

Headlights coming up the drive caught his attention and he heard the soft rumbling of the pick-ups engine. He jumped up and walked down the steps, until he started to feel like a dog running to meet a vehicle at a gate.

Welcome back scowl...

The truck pulled to a stop and Kagome stepped down from the cab. But something was strange; she looked like she was holding something.

He stepped inside, hiding in the shadows, and watched her enter. She didn't go upstairs, as he first expected, but stopped in the living room, laying her bundle on the couch pillows and wrapping it in a blanket. He couldn't stop the curiosity and came closer.

Then he saw. She had brought back the kid from the rodeo, and was watching him with tender affection. She brushed the hair away from the kid's eyes, smiling gently. It was all so peaceful.

"So you finally came back." he said in the darkness and hid the smirk when she jumped violently. "Your brother and the rest almost tore my head off for letting you leave."

"Sorry..." she muttered quietly, and he was grateful for the dark hiding his surprise. She wasn't paying attention to him though, still just watching the kid.

"Where did he come from?" Inuyasha stepped closer to them.

"I went to the arena," she said, "and he was there all alone. I couldn't just leave him without anyone to take care of him. He doesn't even have a family... and no one even noticed."

"Maybe he just didn't want to tell anyone." Inuyasha found himself looking at the kid as well. "Maybe he didn't want sympathy."

"Some things, you should be able to see without having to be told." Kagome said sadly. "Like someone needs your help, or just needs a friend."

She gave a sigh and brushed his hair once more. She had gone out to think, to sort out her problems, and this little boy had forced her to put them back in perspective with the rest of the world. Darn the cute little snot.

"Look," she smoothed the blanket over Shippo and smiled as he cuddled into its warmth. "We didn't get off to a good start, and I understand you don't like me much."

"You can say that again." he muttered quietly, but not enough for her not to hear and debate hitting him upside his head.

"The point is," she continued, "we're going to have to be working together for a while right? So, I'd like to make things better between us and maybe try to be friends."

"You're kidding, right?" he looked at her skeptically.

"No." she smiled. "And to show you just how serious I am..." she suddenly looked very grave. "I'm sorry I left you in the dirt at the arena and that Koga attacked you."

"Attacks..." he amended quickly.

"But anyway," she smiled, "I've squashed my pride a little. So what do you think? Try to be friends?"

He gave her a shrug. "Whatever." he said and turned back up the stairs.

Kagome sighed and sat tiredly on the couch, careful not to disturb Shippo. She figured that was about as close to a 'yes' as she was ever going to get. So claiming a momentary victory, she grabbed her notes from the floor and went upstairs to do that last bit of cramming before the morning exam.

Why did she want to be a doctor again?

She doesn't want to leave, she's just wondering
Is there life out there?

Next Chapter: Amarillo by Morning