Author's Notes: Well this little fic was kinda spur of the moment inspiration that I just had to get on paper. It's an entrant in the livejournal "inuyasha_fanfic" community's contest, and I actually started with the prompt to "write about two people discussing the Shikon no Tama post-final battle with Naraku"… and then my muses went off in an entirely completely different direction- but I like it, so I kept it.

It's written from Kouga's point of view and has implications of Kouga/Ayame, InuYasha/Kagome, Sesshoumaru/Kagura and Rin/Kohaku, so if you have an issue with that, then this is your chance to turn back and find something else you'd rather read. These two sections I posted are the story in its entirety and I plan on keeping the end there. In the future I might write a short sequel, but for now, this is it all. I'm posting it in two pieces because, even though it's just a one-shot, there is a "break" in the middle between two lines of thought that I felt was significant.

That being said- read, review and enjoy ^^

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After the Dust Clears

~A Promise is a Promise~

It was over. Finished. Completed.

Naraku was dead. The battle…was won.

And even though, it hurts my pride to admit it, with some help- I avenged them. My tribe. If only I could have killed that scum with my own hands. Without needing any help from…that stupid inu-koro… but, she was right. Kagome was right. None of us. Whether it was him or whether it was me could fight Naraku alone.

I still don't see why I couldn't have gone after that bitch Kagura too. Controlled or not, it was her hand that slew my men. But Kagome's voice stopped me. Said to let it go and I listened. I listened because, it was her.

Ginta and Hakkaku murmured something about being glad that Kagome-neechan stopped me. I shot them a glare. What was it with those two thinking that I couldn't take on inu-koro's brother? Hmph. So what if he's a full youkai, so am I. Those two worry too much- damned wimps just don't know when it's a real man's fight. I can take him and that wind-user.

Kagome was busy attending to that weak hanyou's wounds. I was still fine. And I still had every intention of avenging my men completely- with my own two hands.

With a scowl set in place, I began to storm across the ravaged field towards where they stood.

Even inu-koro kept looking over at the strange gathering every once in awhile himself; his eyes narrowing as he watched his elder brother kneeling besides the crumpled form of Naraku's detachment. The only detachment that was still alive, and not for long if I had my way.

As I neared them, I could hear the small human girl speaking.

"Sesshoumaru-sama, is she going to live?"

The youkai looked up, regarding the question in silence, then turned his gaze back down to the one he held in his arms.

The kimono she wore was stained red, blood spilt when she turned against Naraku during the fight.

I don't know why, but as I neared where they stood. I began to felt awkward. Like, I was out of place in an area that was meant only for them. Just inu-koro's elder brother, his servant, the human girl and that woman... it was somewhere only they belonged.

Vaguely, I registered my companions yelling out to me. Warnings, protests… they wanted nothing but my safety and were certain that one more step forward would assure my death. Then another voice mingled in. It was Kagome now, telling me to turn back.

"Kouga-kun! Don't!" It echoed out like it was the only sound across the field.

I stopped, and looked back at her. The breeze whipping my hair into my face and rustling up the dust left in the area.

There she was. Calling out- to me…but I wasn't blind. I could see how she held the injured hanyou in her arms. I could see the difference in her eyes when she looked at him over me. I'd known it, perhaps even from the start…that I'd lost to him. My pride just wouldn't admit it. And even now, I only admitted it to myself.

So there I stood. The middle of the tattered field. The one I could never have begging me to spare the one I hated most.

I'm not sure if like Ginta and Hakkaku, she feared the interference of the elder inuyoukai. I'm not sure if she felt like she owed Kagura something for risking her life to turn against Naraku during the battle and fight alongside the rest of us. I'm not sure why she wanted the clearly weak and injured woman to remain alive. And I'm not sure she realized she was asking me to abandon my duty to my tribe.

I bit my lip in determination; I had no reason to listen to a woman who'd chosen another man over me- a hanyou nonetheless! Turning back towards the three gathered around the woman, I stormed forward.

The human girl took a step back, leaving me looking down at the youkai and the one who held her.

His eyes narrowed, meeting with mine. An unspoken, "What do you want?" uttered from him to me.

I spat, "She owes me her life in payment for all my men she killed." I retorted, bitterness seeping through my pores and into my words like venom.

His brow moved in thought, yet he said nothing. Then, after a moment, he laid her form down and took a step back. I smiled cockily; he knew the way debts were paid. A life for a life- that's the way of the tribe.

I stepped up to her side, her red eyes slowly forcing themselves open as she looked up at me. She was still alive, just barely hanging on.

Grasping the hilt of my sword, I prepared to draw. Ready to in one single blow avenge my men and settle the score.

It was then, that he chose to speak.

"It's rather pathetic to kill someone who's already so weak. But if that suits your ways, ookami. So be it."

My hand shook on the hilt, partially wanting to agree, partially wanting to attack him for saying it.

Looking up at him, I glared. I was a full youkai too, and he had no right to boss me around.

Quickly, I drew the sword, the blade going to her already pale throat in a mere second. A hush fell over everyone on the battlefield. All eyes were on me as I leveled my blade, watching as the light flickered off the silver surface.

"….Get stronger so I can kill you- bitch." I cursed, leaving a light cut on her throat to make my point.

I made my way back over to my companions. My mind in deep thought, and my hand still clutching my sword.

"I'm sorry." I thought, looking up to the sky, "But there's no pride in killing someone when they are already down. I want proper vengeance. I promised them that and a promise is a promise."

The ball of anger my heart held for Naraku settled back into the same place it'd had always been. The same self-hatred that I couldn't have killed that bastard myself or that I couldn't have been there to protect my men. But I would avenge them… I will never be at peace until that woman is dead. Dead like my tribesmen.

"Kouga-kun," The voice finally broke through my thoughts, and I looked up to see Kagome's worried face peering into mine.

"Kagome?" I said hopefully, even though my mind knew it was hopeless.

"Please, Kouga-kun…I…I don't want you to get hurt."

I smiled warmly, safely securing my sword to my side and clasping her hands in my own, "Thank you Kagome, but I'll be fine."

"I know…you want to get revenge, right Kouga-kun?"

I couldn't lie to her, and my shoulders sagged a bit as I replied, "It's just the way it has to be."

"Then Kagura is dead. You just killed her. Her blood's on your blade to prove it," Kagome said firmly.

Blinking, I looked at her in confusion, "But I didn't…"

"Kouga."

I knew when she dropped the term of endearment, she was extremely serious.

"The Kagura you want to kill, is gone. She died along with Naraku. All that's left is the one that wants to live freely. The one who fought with us against him. The one who helped us even though she knew it could cost her life just to do so. That's not the woman you wanted to kill."

I looked back towards the body, as it was once again being held by the elder inuyoukai.

"What's she to him? Is that why? You're afraid he's going to kill me?" I retorted quietly.

"No. Kouga-kun, I don't know what happened between Kagura and Sesshoumaru- but there's no use you thinking that you haven't fulfilled your promise to your tribe- because you have. Their spirits were set free the moment you helped us defeat Naraku."

I thought things over. Finally, I turned back to her, "Okay Kagome."

She waited and I released her hands as I walked over to the center of the field; stooping to gather a handful of dust into my hands.

Opening my hand and letting the wind catch the particles and blow them away, I said to myself firmly, "The wind-user Kagura, is dead. Naraku, is dead. My tribe, has had its vengeance."

And deep inside, I felt those words ring true. I had finally avenged them.