Love and Obligation

By Pareathe

A/N: Wow...never thought I'd see the day when I'd be back here on FF.net...

At any rate, since people haven't been able to find me since leaving, I'm posting this sweet, non-hentai InuYasha fic I wrote up not too long ago. I hope you guys enjoy, and for those who haven't been able to find me when they do a search, this should fix it right up. ^_^ No joke, I really didn't drop off the face of the Earth...yeah, I know that's infinitely disappointing to some, but... *shrugs*



Disclaimer: Roses are red, violets are blue, InuYasha and its characters belong to Takahashi-sensei and not me so please don't sue

Special thanks to FloralBlackMoon and EmberMaxximus for beta-ing

Part One

It was finally over.

How long had it been? A year? Fifty? More than that? Hell, he couldn't even keep track any longer. After a while it had become a blur, all the fighting and chasing and running and dodging and more fighting...

He was tired, and for a man who was half demon, that was saying something. The chase for the scattered pieces of the Shikon no Tama had taken its toll on his body, mind, and spirit. But most of all, it had done a major number on his once impenetrable heart.

When did things get so screwed up? He knew on the surface things were supposedly back to normal. Miroku and Sango were just waiting on him to decide what he would do. If he chose to stay and wander aimlessly, they'd already agreed to join him; if he chose to follow Kikyo into death, they planned to work as a pair, exterminating vicious youkai and battling spirits which refused to rest peacefully. Plus they'd already promised to care for Shippo.

Then there was option three, one he never thought he'd consider again. Not after the first time.

Become human. Not youkai, risking his soul and everything he cherished, but a normal, weak human. Well, that, and one last trip through the Bone-Eater Well.

To Kagome.

He let his fingers run over the smooth surface, amazed once again that the damned thing was a perfect as ever. There was no sign it had ever been broken into a million little pieces and spread all over the place, no evidence whatsoever of everything he and his comrades had endured to get the thing back. It was almost like it was mocking him, just by being whole.

He could feel its power, could even sense the ongoing war within the stone. Good versus evil, battling beneath the flawless exterior, both vying for his will.

He would only use it once. He'd already decided that much. But what did he really want? It was a thought which had plagued him more and more as time had gone on. Did he really want to become a full-fledged demon? Was he really ready to die, just to satisfy his conscience?

For the fiftieth time that day, he wished Kagome was there. He seemed to think better when she was next to him.

But she's not here, he reminded himself.

And now that the Tama was whole once again, she couldn't come back.

He smelled the woman coming, heard the lumbering footsteps before they stopped beside him.

"You haven't made your wish yet?" Kaede asked.

Nosy woman. "You want to get rid of me, eh?"

She shrugged, then sat down. "No, I've gotten used to you. You're welcome to stay as long as you want," she replied. "You look like you could use someone to talk to."

"You think so, huh?"

"I do." She watched him carefully with her good eye, patiently waiting as she always did. She let the moments pass in silence. "Perhaps you wish to be alone," she muttered after a while. "In that case," she began as she worked to heft herself up.

"What should I do?" he asked suddenly, his eyes locked at a point in the distance.

Kaede sighed, situating herself comfortably once again. "That's for you to decide, Inuyasha. You're the only one who knows what's in your heart. The only advice I can offer is that you listen to it very carefully, then follow what it tells you."

It was easy for her to say. Her heart wasn't being pulled in two different directions. Sure, it had been easy to say the decision was made back when he didn't have the power to make it yet. Those days seemed so far off now. He'd been Kikyo's avenger and Kagome's protector, but because of him, Kikyo had suffered. So had Kagome. So had everyone else he'd taken along with him. Who the hell was he to command the power of the Shikon no Tama? As far as he could tell, he'd brought nothing but misery to everyone.

Despite that, Kagome had given it to him. No warnings, no pleas. She'd simply placed it in his palm, closed his fingers around it, covering them with hers, and told him to be happy.

"Kagome trusts you to do what's best," Kaede mentioned, making Inuyasha jerk his head up to meet her knowing gaze. "She wouldn't have given you the Shikon no Tama otherwise."

"Why didn't she just keep it," he snapped angrily.

The old woman chuckled throatily. "I thought you wanted it."

"Of course I did. It's just..." He closed his eyes, sighing when all he could make himself see was Kagome's face when she'd said goodbye. Wide eyes shining with tears she wouldn't let herself shed in front of him and a small, sad smile.

It all seemed so...final. But wasn't it supposed to be? They'd never see each other again, and she'd obviously accepted that fact. So why couldn't he do the same?

He knew why. "I don't know what I want anymore," he admitted in a growl.

"Well, in that case," Kaede stated as she stood back up, "perhaps you should stay here until you've figured it out. And I meant what I said," she added. "You're welcome in this village now."

Inuyasha's lip twitched upward, ever so slightly. "You sure you want a hanyou holding the sacred Shikon jewel in your village? I damn near tore the whole town up last time."

Kaede patted him on the shoulder and grinned. "That was a long time ago. You've changed a great deal since then, Inuyasha." The smile faded, leaving Kaede's gaze to become serious. "Remember that too. Remember it well."

He gave her a stiff nod. Thinking it all through was the least he could do; he owed them that much.

Once Inuyasha was alone once again, he tried to clear his mind and focus his thoughts. For the first time in his life, he wanted to do what was best. For everyone, not just himself. He let himself wonder for a moment whether things had just become so complicated, or if they'd been this way all along, and he'd been too blind to see it.

He was pretty sure he knew the answer to that one.

He wasn't getting anywhere, and patience had never been his strong suit. "Damn it, how am I supposed to know what to do?" he hissed softly. "Kagome was the thinker, not me."

He jumped to his feet, frustrated and wanting nothing more than to fight something at the moment, so he started walking toward the forest. He let his mind wander aimlessly as his feet carried him deeper into the woods without any particular direction in mind. Still, he wasn't surprised when he found himself at the well. It certainly wasn't the first time he'd been there since Kagome had left him.

Is that what's bothering me? That Kagome left me here, alone?

He wasn't alone, of course, but it sure as hell felt that way, now that she was gone.

He sat down on the edge and let his feet dangle down. He knew he couldn't get through anymore; he'd already tried. He wondered where she was at that moment. Was she back at school, taking one of those damned tests she always griped about? Or was she at home, sitting at the small desk in her room? Was she thinking about him at all?

He cursed, squeezing his eyes shut as his fingers found the beads hanging around his neck. Kaede had offered to remove them, but he'd told her he'd gotten used to them, that his balance would be off now if he didn't have them on. Thankfully, she didn't mention how weak of an excuse it was. She'd simply nodded and left him alone.

The truth was that they reminded him of Kagome, and he wasn't ready to lose that. Not now, probably not ever.

He shouldn't even be here. He should be back at the village, waiting for Kikyo to come for him. Sure, he cared about Kagome, but he had a responsibility to Kikyo. Didn't he?

"C'mon, Kagome, help me out here," he pleaded to the empty shaft below. "What should I do?"

*~*To Be Continued*~*