A/N: Welcome all non-canon shippers to my humble tribute for a much-beloved couple deserving some attention. Enjoy!
*As of 2015, Reborn has a little sister! Check out her sequel, From the Ashes.
Chapter I: A Second Chance
The ledge towered high above a raging waterfall, slick with mist. A girl staggered across its wet face, breaking into a run as she fled the horror behind her. Consumed with escape, she raced blindly, skidding along the treacherous terrain. Her foot hit an ill-placed rock, and the cliff's abrupt edge loomed too late. She lost her balance and pitched forward.
Air rushed her face as she fell, streaking tears back to her ears, and roaring water and searing spray assaulted from all sides, swallowing her whole.
The drop was hundreds of feet, and she realized she was going to die.
A snarled curse sounded above, and the girl jerked in surprise. Someone fell with her. Looking up, dark hair swept about her neck, whipping into her eyes. Through its sting, she made out the swish of a thick ponytail, a flash of piercing blue, and the glint of fangs. Long arms reached out and grabbed her, pulling her into a warm chest.
A voice filled her ear, and breath hit her jaw, drowning out the battering winds. "I won't… let you die alone Kagome…."
The ground was almost upon them.
"Kouga…?" She closed her eyes and accepted oblivion.
A deafening crack exploded across her body, and darkness thick enough to suffocate took hold.
Kagome was on her back, convinced she had succumbed to the empty moments before death. Nothingness enveloped her in a sightless, soundless shell; body numb, senses mute, she floated – suspended in a haze of languid half-awareness.
Seconds… minutes… hours… she had no idea how long she drifted until a deep moan pierced the void. It came as a beacon, and her hand tingled into being, responding to its call with a haphazard flop, landing in wet mud. She felt its coolness through the darkness and jolted. Fingers splayed, she grazed empty air, stopping as she hit something warm. Alive.
Another moan accompanied her discovery, courted by the distinct sound of shifting weight. Instead of the barest touch, her hand was suddenly full of strong, hard chest.
A person lay next to her.
Before she could absorb the shock, more movement came. Warmth surrounded her, and a thick smell of wolves, sea, and pine followed, blanketing her coming-to-life senses. Someone had rolled towards her.
Kagome forced her limp hand to rise, spurred by concern and curiosity for her neighbor. Her touch trailed chest, fur, and neck, and elicited another groan.
Silence… and then a rumble of raw, weary voice filled the space between them, asking, "Okay?"
Tears leaked from her still dark eyes; she blinked them open and faced nothing but blur. Despite their lack, she nodded, relief choking up her throat.
An urgent grunt responded. Her neighbor's sight was probably as useless as hers – they hadn't seen her nod.
Before she could force a gravelly reply, the heat grew. A heavy arm moved clumsily towards her, and large, calloused fingers bumped her knee. After a moment, with great effort, they heaved themselves up to grab her thigh, pulling her forward until it was her face, not hand, filled with chest.
"O-Okay?" The voice came again, open fear making it tremble.
Kagome nodded, this time against a decidedly male torso. The arm at her thigh moved to her waist, clutching as if she might disappear.
Instinctively, she moved her own hands up and wrapped them behind the man's neck, huddling close as a gust bore down. In the back of her mind, she gathered her clothes were in tatters and covered her little, but a second draft – biting and personal – pushed any significance of such a state away.
The man at her side bent his head over hers, resting a cheek atop her wet hair. Tightening hold, he pulled away the last space between them until her shivering body was flush with his. "I… protect," he managed.
Kagome heard how the words ground against his throat and made a soft shushing sound through chattering teeth, nudging her face up under a receptive chin. With lips going blue, she brushed against his heartbeat, making the arms holding her jump. "We protect," she mumbled, nosing her way up his neck and feeling herself begin to warm.
He increased the grip on her waist and rumbled agreement from deep in his chest. She understood the sound as if he'd spoken aloud. There was something familiar and readable about him – he was pleased. Even in their predicament, of vulnerability and weakness, both wet, cold, and barely alive, he was pleased.
Kagome found herself smiling for it.
Curious contentment flickered in her stomach as she felt his other hand slide to the small of her back, and butterflies began to flit as his adam's apple moved with a swallow. Her body hurt, and she couldn't remember who she was, or how she'd gotten in the middle of a muddy riverbed, but she realized she didn't care. She wanted this stranger she somehow knew to hold her all day.
But all day lasted only another breath, broken by the abrupt sound of voices in the distance.
The man heard them first, and his pointed ears tensed and perked.
Her body tightened next to his, asking the question her voice couldn't.
"Approach…," he answered. "People… band… ten…."
Gasping back a tremble, Kagome twined her fingers behind his neck, hugging herself closer as dread filled her with alarming speed and strength. After a few moments, she heard them too – snapping off twigs and rustling brush, walking without fear. To her chagrin, she whimpered.
The man heard her distress. Tilting his face to the side, he planted a gentle kiss above her ear, seeping reassurance and affection through the gesture, as if he'd done it a hundred times before. Cracked lips grazed her earlobe, and the gaining footsteps seemed to lose power. "We'll be okay…," his mouth moved against her skin. "Stay with me."
His sentences were coming easier. Kagome nodded into his neck.
The footsteps and voices grew louder, and she could pick out individual words.
"Those two we saw!"
"They're by the riverbed Eichiro!"
A shudder claimed her as the exclamations burst from the trees. Heavy breathing and shocked gasps followed.
Kagome buried her face, tightening hold of the man's neck. "Don't leave me," she whispered.
"I won't—," he echoed her movements. Taut, they lay there, waiting for the worst.
The surprised silence broke as a deep voice boomed out orders. "All right! Don't just stand there! She needs our help! Move!"
Scrambling legs came to life, rushing forward. Kagome felt hands on her arm and cried out in protest, "No!"
"Get her away from the demon, men! Pry his grip off!"
More hands grabbed her, and Kagome felt herself being lifted. The man at her side grunted as his fingers were roughly pulled from her waist. Stark cold punched the breath from her lungs, shocking her eyes open.
Vision blurry and disoriented, she managed to make out four men holding down a fifth beginning to thrash. Long, dark hair splayed wildly as the struggling man snarled, baring fangs. He stretched a hand out towards her and roared in rebellion. Wide-eyed, his own sight came to life.
His gaze, brilliantly blue and desperate, met hers, and they each stilled, lost in a moment of recognition.
The arms seizing her took advantage of her distraction and pulled her back. Their movement roused her, and Kagome reached for her senses, thrusting fingers out to take hold of his.
"KOUGA!" His name came of its own accord, issuing from a murky well of memory and knowledge.
They strained, trying to grab onto each other.
She knew him. Kouga. She couldn't remember how, or from where, but she wasn't about to give him up. "Let me go!" Her words broke in a sob, and she pounded against the arms caging her.
Seeing her tears, Kouga renewed his struggle against his captors. "She needs me you bastards! She needs me!"
"What should we do Eichiro?" asked a young, male voice off to the side. It was obvious their distress did not sit well.
"We'll take them both Hiro," a deep answer, fraught with tension and effort, called across the riverbed. Its large owner was helping restrain the youkai. "None of us can keep this up much longer."
Quick footsteps approached. Before Kagome had time to register new danger or see a clear face, a wet, foul-smelling leaf was pressed over her mouth and nose. She shook her head, trying to rid herself of the obstruction, but the hand holding it was firm.
The world blinked out of focus almost immediately, and she realized with terror she was being drugged.
Her vision swam, and the strength ebbed from her body. Lolling her head back, the last sound she heard was Kouga, screaming her name over and over.