AN: You don't know how much fun writing this has been. I'd like to think my writing has improved over the course of this fic, which was really why I started writing fanfic in the first place (though this story was never meant to be taken seriously, I just wrote it for fun:o). It's been one hell of a ride, but here's the final chap…
Chapter Thirty-Eight: To the Nights
The sun was setting by the time the group of three, the two foxes and the resurrected miko, reached the others. Shippo, who had finally let go of his death grip on Kagome's neck, jumped from her shoulder into the middle of the 'camp'—mainly the rest of the group around a small fire in the forest—alerting the others' attention.
"Hey, the little fox is back," Yusuke said as he saw Shippo.
"He was gone?" Kuwabara asked.
While Shippo normally would have responded to Yusuke, saying something along the lines of, 'I have a name, you know', he was far too excited to do that. Instead, he jumped around happily, even jumping onto Inuyasha and pulling his dog ears, while exclaiming, "she's back! she's back!"
"Who's back?" Sango asked as she stood up and moved closer to the small kitsune. She and Hiei had long since come back to the others after she had dried her eyes.
Kagome squeezed Kurama's hand tightly before letting go and rushing toward the closest of her friends. Sango's back was to her, so she hugged her from behind. "Hi Sango," she said since it was the only thing that came to mind.
Her eyes widened considerably, though she wasn't seeing anything in front of her while her mind raced. "K-Kagome!"
"In the flesh," the formerly dead girl said with a grin while Sango spun around to make sure her mind wasn't deceiving her. A small "oomph" escaped Kagome as Sango hugged her at the same time she was assaulted from behind by an over ecstatic ferry girl. Kagome laughed while she hugged them back as best she could.
After a few long moments, they finally let go, letting Kagome take in the rest of the group. It was then that she saw something that surprised her. Keiko was sitting only a few feet away. She had known about the promise Kura had made, but to actually see them alive and gazing at her…
She sprang forward to give the other girl a hug, which started a whole cycle with Kagome just hugging all of her friends that she had missed terribly. She was just so happy that she could actually see and feel them again. She even hugged Hiei, who looked very startled as she did. His face showed how awkward it was to him, which made a few of the others laugh quietly (knowing that if they laughed louder Hiei would send a death glare their way, or worse).
Kagome ended with Inuyasha, pausing not too far from him. His eyes were disbelieving as he stretched out a clawed hand and gently brushed her cheek. "…Kagome?"
She only had a chance to nod before he was suddenly embracing her. After a startled moment, she hugged him back just as closely, squeezing her eyes shut. She had missed this. She had missed all of them.
Kurama stood a few feet away, watching Kagome with every move she made, as though if he took his eyes off her she would disappear again. When Inuyasha let go of her, he more or less, gave her to Kurama, not releasing Kagome's hand until she was safe in Kurama's arms. He gave Kurama a meaningful look before he let go. Kurama met his gaze, nodding slightly in return.
When everything was settled down, the entire group—all together again after such a long period of time—sat around the small fire they had made that warmed them from the night's cold air. Kuwabara sat very close to Yukina just as Yusuke sat next to Keiko, her head rested on his shoulder. Even though Kuwabara was so near to the koorime, for once Hiei did not give him one of his famous I-will-kill-you-you-fool looks. It seemed as though he didn't care at all because at that time, his eyes were only for the slayer across from him. Only the fire lay between them.
Meanwhile, Sango seemed very intent on staring into the fire, watching the wood burn and crack. Once and awhile she would chance a glance upward, only to meet Hiei's intense eyes through the flames as they flickered. She'd blush crimson and look away.
Sango could not bring herself to meet his eyes for long. He was alive and she was more than happy, but… every time she glanced at him her cheeks started to burn as she blushed. Averting her attention seemed so much easier.
Fine time to get embarrassed, she thought, after all we've been through…
But… where could they go from here? Had things… changed?
Kurama's arms encircled Kagome and she laid her own hands on top of his. She loved the feel of him, especially the feeling of safety she got when she was in his arms. She wanted nothing but to stay with him like this forever.
Only light conversation took place the entire night. Soft joking and teasing, lovers keeping each other close. No one mentioned anything about the next day. They were very careful with avoiding the subject. They had all been so focused on getting out the whole time they were stuck, none had stopped to realize that when they did, the two groups would part once more.
But for tonight, none of that matter. Tonight, tomorrow did not exist and they would stay frozen in the moment.
The entire group was crowded in the Higurashi shrine, just in front of the well that led to five hundred years in the past that was home to a few of them. And they were doing the most dreaded thing.
They were saying goodbye.
"You be good to her," Kagome murmured to Yusuke as she hugged him, referring to Keiko. "Or else you'll be hearing from me and it won't be pretty."
Yusuke laughed. "Now that fear has struck my very soul from your words—I will."
He was mocking her. "You better," she said, sticking out her tongue at him. He only made a face at her in reply, making her laugh as well. Though somehow, happiness wasn't entirely in her laughter as it seemed… sad.
Shippo hugged Botan tightly before jumping onto Inuyasha's shoulder. The hanyou let out an annoyed "feh", but said nothing else to the kitsune. Shippo, however, did enjoyed how he looked slightly embarrassed when Botan hugged him, before she hit him over the back of head, telling him to go easy on Shippo. Shizuru and Miroku's goodbye was humorous as she wound up hitting him because of his lecherous deeds, though her lips betrayed her, trying to turn upward in a smile. She gave him a few words in advice before moving toward Keiko and the others.
Kagome was the last to step away, moving away from Yusuke and effectively stepping away from the rest of his group too as she went to stand by Inuyasha and the rest. By then she (and mostly everyone else), had said goodbye to everyone. Except one last person. The one person she didn't want to say goodbye to.
Kagome looked back at Inuyasha and the rest, while Sango, who stood beside her, followed suit. Inuyasha, understanding their want for privacy, told them sharply not to take too long, though it was obvious the sharpness in his voice was hardly real. He jumped into the well, taking a few items and a protesting Shippo with him. Miroku did much the same, giving them a small nod, before picking up Kirara and hurled himself over the edge and into five hundred years in the past.
Sango let out a shaky breath she didn't know she was holding as she turned away from where Miroku had disappeared and looked over to Hiei, standing off to the side. He obviously wasn't much for big groups of people or goodbyes, that much was a given.
Giving Kagome's arm a small, comforting squeeze and ignoring Yusuke and the others as they speculated, she slowly made her way over to him, having to say one last farewell. As Sango walked toward him she was thinking of what to say, but words escaped her once she stood in front of him.
When the silence stretched between them, she finally decided to say the first thing that came to mind. Anything to end the silence.
She unfastened the sword from her waist and handed it over to him. "Here," she told him. "This is yours."
He took the sword from her and unsheathed it, inspecting the blade. "Hn, you haven't taken very good care of it." She could feel her annoyance growing as he continued, "the blade's gotten dull and there are blood stains on it." He sheathed it again with a snap as the hilt met the scabbard, nearly making her jump. Nearly.
He tossed it back to her. "Keep it."
("Ooh, a token of his affections," Botan whispered to the other girls. She stood far enough away that she couldn't hear them, but saw what was happening. Keiko and Yukina looked surprised, while Shizuru smirked).
Sango blinked in surprise as she caught it, then smiled, understanding. Her grip tightened on it before strapping it to her waist once more. "Thank you."
Again, an uncomfortable silence stretched between them. What could be said? There had been so much confusion between them and doubts still remained in their minds.
Hiei silently wished the others were not around as they said their goodbyes. He did his best at ignoring them, though it was not entirely working. The baka would never let him live it down, but…
Surprisingly, Hiei raised a hand up and touched her cheek, feeling the smoothness of it, then cupping the side of her face in his hand. It startled her since they had never had causal, gentle touches before. This seemed different now.
Lightly, she put a hand to his cheek as well. By now she knew every inch of his body, but still even the slightest touch sent thrills throughout her. She let her hand caress his warm skin before letting her arm drop lamely to her side and let her head fall downward.
She could think of no words to say, since no words seemed to give what she was feeling justice. Sango felt tears slide down her face and trickle onto Hiei's hand while silently she cursed herself for being so weak, especially in front of him. He moved his hand from her cheek to her chin, forcing her to look down at him. When she still wouldn't meet his gaze, his grip tightened and she finally met his eyes. And was it there that she saw a certain… tenderness?
She closed her eyes, letting the tears squeeze out from her closed lids, and did one of the hardest things she had to do in her life. She took a step back, away from Hiei and his touch, making his hand drop away. She opened her eyes, wanting to be able to see him for these last few minutes, so that she could always summon him in her mind, though she doubted she could ever forget those ruby red eyes, boring into her soul.
She had to go back, they both knew it. Her and the rest of the group still had Naraku to fight and had to put the Shikon no Tama back together. Sango had to find out what happened to her brother and what might happen to him in the future. She had to know. And she just could not stay in the present. This was not her time; her time was five hundred years previous. Now she had to go back there, to her home. No matter how much it hurt.
Now that she took that finally step back, she could not go back to him. If she did… she knew she would not leave. She wouldn't be able to leave him. Sango had lost him once already and desperately did not want to lose him again, but now… now it was time for her to go.
He could merely watch as she took a step back, never taking her eyes off him and he could only do the same. She took the steps slowly backward to the well, still not looking away from his face. He wanted more than anything to stop her, to reach out and grab her, or say anything that would make her stay, but that would be selfish. She still had a lot to resolve in the past and he could not stop her from doing what needed to be done.
Finally she turned around when she reached the well, making her lose sight of Hiei. Her heart ached as she did. She swung her legs over the edge, her heart racing in her chest.
Sango sat there for a moment, about to disappear to her own time, possibly forever. Then suddenly she turned back to look at Hiei, who watched her intently. She found her voice again, but only one question came to mind that she knew she needed the answer to. Otherwise, she would never be at peace, never knowing the truth.
"Hiei," she called. When he looked at her questionably, she continued quietly, "…would you die for me?"
She couldn't just come out and ask it, but this way… Only they knew the true meaning to her words, though some of the others could probably guess its meaning. Ryu had said it to Yuki... because he loved her. Her chest tightened considerably when he didn't answer right away.
"Fool, don't you already know the answer to that? Or did you not pay attention to what happened in that damn house?" Her eyes, however, were intense and he knew she would not be satisfied with anything but a straight answer. "I would," he responded, though his voice was quiet as he looked away.
The tight feeling in her chest was swept away. "Yeah, me too," she told him with a warm smile, her eyes sparkling. And that was the first time her words rang true. What started off as pure hate had grown to respect, then slight friendship and finally, love.
Maybe if she was able to come back… maybe one day she would return. She was not even sure if she would be able to come back; since the house altered reality, it might have altered it just to get her to the present, just like it had sent that first demon to lead the group to the house. Still… Maybe, just maybe… one day she'd come back and return… to him.
Hiei could not help but smile slightly in return. The smile on Sango's face was the first real smile she had ever given him and it made her more beautiful. Tears gleamed in her eyes and she closed them, taking in a deep, shaky breath as she tried to control all the emotions she was feeling. Just like that, with her eyes closed, his crimson eyes burned into her memory, she fell backward into the well, gone to him, maybe forever.
Kagome watched Hiei and Sango's goodbye before turning to Kurama, who waited patiently in front of her.
Not able to take such a meek goodbye as Hiei and Sango's, she ran to him, throwing her arms around his neck and brought him as close to her as she could. He hugged her tightly in response and for awhile that was just how they stayed, holding one another. Kagome closed her eyes as she took in the deep scent of roses.
"I don't want to go," she whispered to him as the tears began to prickle in her eyes.
"Then don't," he told her, hugging her tighter. He kissed her neck, then kissed his way up to her lips while her tears fell freely.
"I have to," she murmured. "I once made a promise to Inuyasha. I broke the Shikon jewel and now I have to put it back together. And then there's Naraku. He can't get away with everything that he's done and I'm going to be there to help stop him."
She moved her head back so she could look into his emerald eyes, those emerald eyes that she loved so much, and saw that the begins of tears were forming in his eyes too.
"I lost you once, I don't want to lose you again," he told her. While his grip got no tighter, he held her firmly in place, his arms locked around her.
"This isn't forever, it's just for a while," she told him softly. "Just until we defeat Naraku. And I can see you when I come back to see my family and times like that. This isn't farewell, it's just a temporary goodbye."
Then how come her words still hurt so much?
"Temporary," he agreed, though the sadness that swept through him was almost overwhelming.
"Don't look at me that way," she said to him. Her words were meant to be teasing, but they came out choked upon seeing the vulnerable look in his eyes. She was the only one that he would show any vulnerability to. "I have to finish my mission and you have to help Yusuke with whatever is thrown his way."
"And when you come home for school, I'll be able to visit you afterwards," Kurama commented. That is, if I don't happen to be on a mission at that moment…
"We'll be together soon," she agreed.
He released one arm from around her as he tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear. When his hand came back, it held a single red rose in it. He offered it to her.
"Couldn't find a quarter back there?" Kagome asked through choked laughter, though the laugh didn't sound exactly happy, mixed instead with sadness.
She took the rose from him gently, their hands brushing. He let her go reluctantly and she backed away slowly, turning toward the well. Then when she was halfway there she turned abruptly around and ran to him, throwing herself at him once again. She kissed him passionately as her tears spilled from her eyes, lingering on their joined lips so Kurama could taste the salty sweetness. He felt her need and felt his own as well. He kissed her deeply, wanting her tears to stop, when at the same time knowing they would not.
"I love you, Kurama," she whispered to him when she finally removed her lips from where they were against his. "You know that, right?"
"Of course," he said as he leaned his forehead against hers. He closed his eyes. "And you know, no matter how much time has passed, no matter what happens," he opened his eyes to be staring at her from inches away, "I will always love you."
"Of course," she replied, repeating his words.
He held onto her hand as long as he could as she began to step back, until she was too far and his hand dropped from hers. Without another glance back, Kagome went to the well and jumped in, knowing that she would see him again soon.
There was silence for awhile. No one really moved as they just watched the well where their friends had disappeared.
Finally, Yusuke broke through the quiet atmosphere. "So… what do we do now?" He asked while stuffing his hands into his pockets.
"We go home," Kurama said quietly, "and live to fight another day." He turned to Yusuke with a small smile on his face. "You, my friend, are still a Spirit Detective. We'll have plenty of fights to come and a lot of things to do for this world."
"So just like that, it's over? They're going back to fight the demons of the past, and we're fighting the demons of the present?" Yusuke asked, annoyed at the way things turned out.
"That's how it was before, why should it be any different now?" Hiei answered, his voice not having the annoyance that Yusuke's had held, but it did hold his distaste of the idea. Those that did not know him well would not have noticed.
They had all learned from their experiences in that house, as horrible as it may have seemed at the time. Hiei had learned to love, rather unwillingly at that, while Yusuke had finally expressed his feelings toward Keiko. Kurama had fallen in love for the first time, finding someone who could fill the loneliness inside him. Sacrifices were made, whether out of love or friendship, and lives were lost and others were saved. But now everything was back to normal—as normal as a Spirit Detective's life could be. Now, it was time to do what they had always done before. Fight the good fight and go home with the world safe once again.
Kurama would always remember Kagome, no matter what happened in the future and whether he saw her or not, just like Hiei would remember Sango. After so long stuck together and so many emotions and events shared, nothing could replace them in their hearts. And that went for everyone else. The two groups would be close, some closer than others, in their memories for the rest of their lives. Bonds had been formed that could not be broken. Looking back on it, even with all the pain and suffering that happened… they had learned and grown from their experiences.
Kurama sighed and repeated his words once more.
"Let's go home."
AN: Hey, guess what! There's a sequel to this story! And it has been started! Go, go read it now!
You don't understand how much fun this story was to write and in the end, though there are some parts I think are bad and don't like, I'm very proud of it. And also because it's the first story I've finished so far. :) Thank you for taking the time to read this story. It means a lot, especially if you enjoyed it.
Special Note: Thank you to everyone who has read this story, whether you reviewed or not. All of you, you make it all worthwhile. The reviewers- some of you have been with me since nearly the beginning, others are new, but you all are amazing and thank you so much for your kind words that kept me going and brightened up my day. (And special thanks to those that helped me out with my bad grammar/spelling) (laughs) I'm going to miss you all!