DISCLAIMER: I don't own Inuyasha or his cute furry ears. I don't own Kouga or his cute furry tail. And I certainly don't own Miroku or his cute… O_O I'm not going there!
Something To Look Forward To
By: Lara Winner
White furry ears flicked back and forth, first one way and then the other, intently scrutinizing every little sound. To the hanyou's confusion only the scampering of small woodland critters and the horrid screeching of the crickets filled the air. It was the same mundane noise that filled the forest every night. There was no reason to explain the unease that kept his muscles tense and ready to spring.
Leaning back against the tree trunk, secure in his lofty perch, Inuyasha allowed himself a moment to cast another annoyed glance at the vacant well. Kagome was late again. He realized he should be used to her tardiness and lack of punctuality, never the less it still managed to infuriate him. If she said she would be back by sunset then the stupid bitch should be back by sunset, it was that simple. Did she honestly think he had nothing better to do than sit around and wait for her to come and go every time she damned well pleased?
Growling softly, Inuyasha crossed his arms, turned his back to the well and frowned as he peered into the pitch black of the trees. Something was off and it had his senses alert and ready for any danger that should present itself. This little factor only set his blood to boiling even more. It was not in his nature to sit and wait for the enemy to approach. The thrill of a hunt was as much of an excitement as the fight that followed. And if Kagome would her hurry up and get her ass moving they could go search for what was giving him this unsettling feeling.
But, as much as it grated on his nerves, Inuyasha knew he would wait for Kagome. He didn't relish the idea of her coming up the well after dark. It was too easy for youkai and other creatures to catch her unawares in the cloak of darkness that shrouded the land. That was why he must remain to protect Kagome not matter what.
As always the hanyou tried to tell himself that the importance of her protection had nothing to do the fear that plagued him at the thought of her being hurt or killed and everything to do with her ability to see shards. That was her only usefulness and consequently it was the only asset that kept their little group ahead of the shard-hunting race. He was well aware that without Kagome's abilities they would never have found a place to begin. After all, Miroku's sensing of shards was pathetic at best and Kaede's ability was hardly much better, not to mention the old hag would only slow them down and would have probably gotten herself killed a hundred times over by now. With these draw backs Kagome was the only logical option.
So why the hell wasn't she back yet? Tilting his head to the starry sky he sighed, "Come on baka!"
A sudden rustling from the direction of the well had Inuyasha turned around in a heartbeat. "Well it's about fucking time Bit-" He began to hiss only to fall abruptly quiet as he found that this new intruder was not the raven haired girl he was waiting for but instead two shinidamachuu.
Twin, eel like soul-catchers slithered though the air dipping down and curling around the base of the well in a lazy dance that Inuyasha could only watch in surprised silence. He stiffened as a chill, remarkably similar to ice water, poured down his spine. He found himself unable to do more than breathe one simple word that was the purpose and the bane of his very existence.
There was no pause for thought or moment to contemplate what he would do. In the blink of an eye all thoughts of Kagome fell to the recesses of his conscious mind as he leapt to the ground and followed the beckoning dance of the shinidamachuu.
The ghostly creatures did not lead Inuyasha far, merely to the Goshinbu tree, where at its base, sitting with her back against the rough bark was the dead miko with her head titled back and her eyes closed peacefully. Kikyo did not bother to open her eyes, instead her lips quirked in a faint smile as she scolded, "I was growing impatient. You should have come when you first felt my presence."
"Kikyo?" He murmured the name again, only this time, the questioning in his tone was unmistakable.
With nothing but darkness and silence hanging between them, Inuyasha felt the familiar pain deep in his chest that always appeared whenever he found himself confronting this shell of a woman. Her pale face was nearly translucent, lacking peach hues and the rosy flush of life. As usual her voice was soft but distant, showing no emotion other than indifference. Even her posture was relaxed and limp, reminding him of a propped up corpse.
Swallowing against the lump that rose in his throat, Inuyasha could only watch her sadly and uncaring of the vulnerable expression that was clearly etched upon his features. "Wha…" His voice cracked from the force of the emotions he kept inside. Breathing deeply, he tried again, "What brings you here?"
Kikyo opened her eyes, pinning Inuyasha with her cold glare. "Do I need a reason to seek you out?" When Inuyasha didn't take the bait and let her words slide, she smiled. "A wounded man I tended days ago had a shard of the Shikon no Tama in his possession. He has since passed on and I've come to give you the shard."
The hanyou watched her wearily, trying to gauge the honesty of her words. The memories of their previous encounters did not escape Inuyasha and the constant expectation of betrayal still remained deeply rooted in his heart. Unsure of how to interpret her reasoning, he could only ask, "So why bring it to me?"
Soft, crystalline laughter filled the air. "It seems Naraku has made good use of his nearly complete jewel. While he does not fully understand the extent of the Shikon no Tama's power, he has become powerful enough. If we are to defeat him then you must collect the rest of the shards."
With grace and confidence, Kikyo rose to her feet. Lifting her fisted palm, she opened her fingers showing Inuyasha its contents. One lone shard sparkled in the moonlight, it's violet aura glowing with the purifying power that Kikyo radiated. With a flick of her wrist she tossed the jewel shard to Inuyasha. He caught it with a well practiced swipe, taking his eyes from Kikyo just long enough to catch her gift before once again watching her every move.
"Relax Inuyasha. If I had meant to harm you, you would have not made it this close to me." Kikyo stated. With measured steps, she made her way closer to Inuyasha, looking up at him with something akin to warmth glittering in her doe brown eyes. "Until Naraku breathes his last your life is mine. I will not see it ended just yet."
This time Inuyasha was the one with the bitter grin, "And when the time comes?"
Pain flashed briefly across Kikyo's face. Rendering the dog-demon still with her soul-searching gaze, she trailed her fingertips down his cheek, amused when he jerked in surprise. "I killed you once. I do believe that was enough. This time the choice is yours." She whispered.
The hurt that filled Kikyo's poignant expression contradicted her superior, almost snide tone. Inuyasha was hard pressed to tell if she was laughing at him or genuinely saddened. The uncertainty of his role in their situation left him awkward and at odds with the diverse actions his mind and his heart would have him take. The mysterious message hidden behind her cryptic riddles were testing his patience.
"It seems that I'm never truly sure if you want me dead or alive." He growled quietly. "I was… am still willing to die with you if that is what it takes to set you free."
"Such devotion Inuyasha. At one time I lived to hear those words from you but then you did not have the heart to say them. And now your heart belongs to Kagome does it not?"
Guilt twisted in Inuyasha's gut as he floundered for a denial only to find one was not forth coming. How could he stand there and lie? Kikyo's gaze felt as if it could see through to his soul and, from her accurate estimation, perhaps she truly could. Yet had had loved her. Before Kagome and before his rebirth he had wanted to spend his life by her side, protecting her and sharing the feelings of belonging that she had brought to the surface of his heart. He would have given up any and everything just to fulfill her request to become human.
Now Kagome loved him just the way he was and he could not… No, would not trade that for all the power in the world.
Caught by Kikyo's sorrowful gaze he could only whisper, "I loved you…"
"Once long ago you did," she nodded, "and it remains so." Retracting her touch she turned away, facing out into the inky darkness of the surrounding trees. "Yet you have changed. You have grown in so many ways. I see it now when I look in your eyes. There is gentleness about you that had not existed before. You have gained confidence in yourself and what you believe in. You no longer seek approval and acceptance. You've learned to distinguish your enemies and trust your allies. And Kagome has taught you the meaning love."
Swallowing hard, Inuyasha placed his hand on Kikyo's frail shoulder giving it an encouraging squeeze. Her head dipped down tucking her chin against her chest as her bangs fell over her eyes.
"I have also changed." She continued, her voice wavering slightly. "In my need for perfection I could not live and now that I am dead I am tormented by the regrets. I should have been the one to put the life back into your eyes. But how could I teach you to live when I could not myself? You see, Inuyasha, I realize this now. I've had nothing but time to reflect on the complications of our past, my resurrection, and its ultimate meaning."
"Kikyo…" He gasped painfully.
"And all answers are found with Kagome." She confirmed quietly. At the feel Inuyasha's fingers tightening her cold hand lifted to cover his in a gesture of comfort. "Don't you see it?"
"See what?" He cried, alarmed and dismayed. "I don't understand. What are you trying to tell me?"
A small, sad smile curled the corners of Kikyo's mouth. "Think Inuyasha. We loved each other ne? Yet it was borne of loneliness and desperation. Trust did not exist between us nor did unconditional acceptance. I offered you an escape from your sheltered world and in return you were my escape from my duties. Our wish upon the Shikon no Tama would have been tainted with selfishness. It would have reflected in our life together and our lack of trust would have led to the inevitable end of our relationship."
"There was no room for growth, at least not together." She explained. "However Kagome is wise beyond her years. I do not know how may times the soul we share has been reborn but it is clear that she is far more centered than I was. Even now, burdened by hate and anger, I can search our soul and find purity and wisdom."
Inuyasha took in her words, letting them crash over him in understanding before speaking. "So you're saying that we would've fucked everything up anyway?"
The hanyou's brow creased in a frown. "And what if this is a second chance for us?" He countered.
"The dead will share the same fate." Kikyo snapped echoing Bankotsu's solemn words. "I should never have been brought back to this world. I did not want to return for I was already alive inside Kagome. In this decrepit existence our soul is divided. I am empty inside kept alive by only a spark of the fire that once burned in my heart. But I am selfish enough to want to live, if only to have my revenge against Naraku. And yet the gathered souls that I consume do not curb this inner longing to be whole."
Kikyo's hand slowly fell away as a despondent sigh crossed her lips. "It calls to me. If I feel it then she must too. Soon the time will come when I will return."
Gently turning Kikyo to face him, Inuyasha could only stare into her hollow eyes fighting the emotions that were leaving him raw and bleeding. Hesitantly he asked, "What does all of this mean?"
Collapsing against Inuyasha's chest, she wrapped her arms around his waist resting her cheek against his thudding heart. Tonelessly, she replied, "Once my task is done there will be no place for me in this world. My soul must move on… alone."
Inuyasha's eyes widened then shifted to where their bodies met. After only a moments uncertainty he brought his arms up to hold her protectively. "I will not abandon you." He growled softly. "Kagome will have to understand…"
The words trailed off as a sharp, piercing pain shot through his chest at the thought of hurting Kagome. It nearly robbed him of breath as he realized it was as much for himself as it was for her. Deep in his soul he knew would never want to say goodbye. To live without Kagome would be impossible but to die would make the pain irrelevant. For a split second he almost resented the woman in his arms and the obligation that bound him to her.
As if Kikyo felt it, she stiffened in his embrace. "You love her," She said, her voice even and once again devoid of warmth. "and we are one in the same. To follow me to afterlife would be pointless Inuyasha. My soul is no longer there. If I wish to keep you with me then I must give you to Kagome."
Inuyasha froze, his heart pounding. "What!?!"
Reluctant grace filled Kikyo's movements as she slowly pulled away from the startled hanyou. A hint of malice tainted with sadness wove through her words like a fine thread as she asked, "Are surprised to feel relieved or are you dismayed to find that you are not?"
Golden eyes narrowed beneath a disgruntled frown. "Keh, that's what you would like to think right? It would give you another reason to hate me." He accused, unable to keep his anger checked. "I'm not sure what you expect of me Kikyo. In one breath you curse me and in the next you seem softer, almost like the way you once were…"
"And it is that softness, that kindness that lures you to Kagome." The dead miko proclaimed confidently. "The feelings you share would be much simpler if I were to die Inuyasha. Even you do not have the audacity to deny that. It is the truth and I do not seek to resent you for it."
"No! You're wrong." he growled, caught between wanting to run very far away and feeling the desperate need to bring to light everything they had been avoiding since her resurrection. "It is simple. You are here now and you were with me first. I can not be with Kagome. I've known that all along."
Kikyo's eyes sparkled for a brief second before her docile expression returned, marred only by her condescending smirk. "It is in your nature to be loyal and while an endearing trait, it is also a foolish one. I am pleased to know you still care for me but it is an unnecessary endeavor to try and hold on to it. That is the final thing that I have learned. I will no longer live for yesterday."
When Inuyasha looked as if to protest, Kikyo averted her eyes demurely and continued. "My past, my life as it was, is nothing more than a memory." She explained with grim conviction. "I can not keep it with me a moment longer. The little time I have left will serve one purpose and that is revenge. My need for it will dictate the small portion of my soul that I possess."
"You and I are after the same objective. That is the only thing we share."
The finality of her revelation was clearly apparent. Instead of suffering an onslaught of hurt at her neat and tidy severing of their mutual obligations, Inuyasha felt a traitorous calm settle over him as the true meaning of her words came to him. A great weight was been lifted off his shoulders and the part of him that still grieved for the woman before him refused to acknowledge it but the rest of his soul took it for face value and embraced it whole-heartedly.
Unsure how to respond and torn between relief and heartache, Inuyasha's lips quirked in a pained grin. "So this time it really is goodbye?"
"Hai Inuyasha." Kikyo agreed with a curt nod of her head. "We are allied to retrieve the Shikon no Tama. Naraku will seek me out and when he does I may need your assistance. Until Naraku breathes his last your life belongs to me. Be sure to remember that."
The hanyou flexed his claws, the cracking of his knuckled loud against the night's silence. "I swore to protect you and I will keep that promise."
"Good." Replied Kikyo, and with that the twin shinidamachuu flocked to her side curling around her waist in an affectionate manner. Without looking back she turned away disappearing into the surrounding darkness. Just as the ebony foliage began to engulf her she paused, cocking her head to one side but not turning around. Her indifferent voice carried sweetly over the space between them as she asked, "I only wish to understand how Kagome has healed you in ways that I could not?"
Inuyasha swallowed hard, feeling the familiar lump of guilt rising up in his throat, choking his words. The only thing he could bring himself to say was, "I wish I knew but I don't." and with that Kikyo vanished into the night.
Despite his feelings for Kagome and the uncertain future that loomed before him, Inuyasha knew that Kikyo could not be replaced. Leaning against the tree at his back he closed his eyes and let his fists clench. It stung to know that this was it, that the past would be buried from this moment on. It was inevitable and he knew that, but somehow he kept pushing it aside not wanting to face it. And now that he was free the prospect of moving on felt… nice. Even knowing that Kikyo and her memory would remain with him in his heart forever.
Whomever said that pleasure and pain walked the same path must have had a similar choice to make, he decided. Given time the hurt would fade and eventually become another memory, but for right now, he could live with it knowing that there was hope for tomorrow. Kagome would understand and she would give him the space he needed. He hated asking it of her and he knew better than to expect it but it was the truth. She would be there and that was enough to know for right now. There was plenty of time to work out the rest later and he intended to make sure of that.
As if the hanyou's thoughts were telekinetic, the sudden scent of spring flowers tapered with subtle chemicals filled Inuyasha's nose alerting him to Kagome's presence. Then like ice water pouring down his spine he realized that Kagome's scent had been circling the air for the better part of his encounter with Kikyo.
Not wasting another second, Inuyasha tore through the trees and brush half-expecting Kagome to be furious or at the very least in tears. It was uncanny how she knew when he was with Kikyo. He wouldn't have to say a word, Kagome could simply look at him and he would know by the look in her eyes that she was well aware of where he had been and that he was not alone.
Reaching the clearing his gaze landed on the well and he breathed a sigh of relief seeing the small form sitting on the edge of the well facing away from him. Kagome's profile was clear in the moonlight and her posture did nothing to belie her mood. He sniffed the air again but there was no scent of tears. If Kagome wasn't upset then she was most probably angry so Inuyasha braced himself to hit the ground. But to his surprise Kagome remained staring into the night as if unaware of him.
"Keh! Took you long enough." He muttered, trying to come across annoyed but failing miserably. Kagome didn't budge. With cautious steps he approached the quiet girl, unsure what to do and not in the mood to play games trying to finding out. Feeling a spark anger rise since Kagome was obviously ignoring him, without thinking he snapped, "Go ahead! Sit me, yell at me, start crying and make me feel like shit. Go on! I know, I deserve it right? So get it over with already!"
The tired, weary tone in which Kagome said his name had Inuyasha wishing he could take back his outburst. She wasn't angry and she wasn't sad, instead something was different about her. Something was off. Alarm ignited in his blood and raced through his veins sending his heart to pounding in his chest.
Slowly Kagome turned to ace him, one hand clutching her chest and a peculiar expression on her face. "I know you were with Kikyo but… she felt… she…" A frown marred her brow as she tried to find the right words, "I don't how to describe it but I felt her. It was pulling…" Her words trailed off as she rubbed her chest absently. "It's never been that powerful before."
Instantly his alarm shifted to worry. "Are you okay? You're not acting right."
A tiny smile curved Kagome's lips. "I'm fine. You sound like you want me to get angry."
"Well you usually do." He reasoned in exasperation. "You don't even give me a chance to explain. We were just talking okay. Nothing happened, I swear. You do believe me right?"
"Keep it up and I am going to think something did happened." When Inuyasha nearly sputtered Kagome chuckled. "You know, something came to me just now. While I was sitting here waiting for you I suddenly realized exactly what Kaede's been trying to explain to us. Kikyo and I are connected."
"Whatever you two were talking about hurt Kikyo and I know because I felt it." Kagome said softly. "It's like before now she was blocking whatever this is. Because we share the same soul it's understandable that we would be connected but she's not hiding anything anymore."
Unable to help it, Inuyasha looked once again out toward the pitch-black forest. To know that Kikyo was still able to feel and to care, even if it was only a portion of what once burned in her heart eased the restlessness that was churning inside of him. Kikyo was right. The only way to truly keep him with her was to give her blessings with Kagome. Looking at Kagome again he asked quietly, "That's why you're not mad?"
"That and…" Kagome dropped her gaze to her fisted hand. "and because I'm tired of competing with her for your attention. I'm me, Kagome Higurashi, and that's it. I care about you but I'm not going to worry anymore or throw a tantrum when you leave. It's not my place."
Feeling that her words sounded too much like a goodbye, Inuyasha tried to control his rising panic. He absolutely could not loose her too. His obligation to Kikyo was one thing but he was freed from that now. If Kagome turned her back on him too then… then… "Are you leaving now? Is that what you're saying?"
There was no stopping the questions once they formed in his mind. He couldn't even feel embarrassed over the desperation obvious in his voice. Don't do this Kagome. Please don't do this…
Kagome's head shot up, her clear gray eyes wide and startled. "No, gods no. I'm not leaving." Realizing his distress her expression softened. "I asked you if I could stay by your side because you're my friend. I'm not going to abandon you like that. Besides, I haven't lost hope yet. I'm just not going to think about that right now." And then almost as an afterthought she added, "and neither are you."
"Really Inuyasha, at this moment we need to focus on the Shikon no Tama and try to figure out how we're going to defeat Naraku and all of his offspring. That's more important right now than anything else. Maybe one day after all of this is over we'll talk about this again, but for now," she smiled, "I'm tired so lets go to Kaede's okay?"
Not waiting for his response Kagome grasped his hand and led him away from the well. Her grip was tight, steady and reassuring. Feeling a slight smile play on his lips, he curled his fingers around hers tightly secure in the knowledge that tomorrow was another day and the future was something to look forward to.
A.N.- This fic goes out to Maily, a fellow I/K lover! I was tired of Inuyasha hurting Kagome and I was tired of seeing Kagome cry about it and I was tired of Kikyo getting away with being a psycho bitch and I was long overdue in finishing this so… this is the result. I hope you enjoyed. Forgive any ooc behavior but you know how Inu gets when Kikyo is around. Don't fret, I know there wasn't much sap in this but I am working on a I/K lemon… *_~
Thanks for reading! Luv you guys!!! *_*