Important A/N: Because of the new rules, I have decided to repost this fic minus the song lyrics. This fic was inspired by the song 'The Rose' sung by Bette Midler. For the original version please visit my account on MediaMiner. There is a link on my profile page. Thank you for reading.
Disclaimer: I do not own Inuyasha.
"Kagome! Everything's going to be all right now. You'll see." Inuyasha knelt beside Kagome's battered form, cradling her gently in his strong arms. One of Naraku's tentacles had struck her even as he was being purified by her arrow. Now, what was left of him bubbled and fizzed in globs of putrid flesh scattered about the clearing.
Inuyasha tenderly brushed the hair out of Kagome's eyes, leaving a red smear on her pale skin.
"You promised," He whispered. "You said that you would always be with me." He hissed through his teeth and pressed one clawed hand against his stomach. His wounds weren't closing like they should. The bleeding should have stopped by now.
Inuyasha's ears flicked forward, catching the faint whisper from the girl in his arms. Her eyes fluttered open. Inuyasha would have laughed with relief if he could have found the energy. Instead, he settled for smiling.
"Did we win?"
"Yeah." Inuyasha's face lost its smile, but Kagome didn't see. Her eyes drifted shut again as a wave of weariness swept over her. Strangely enough, there wasn't much pain. She knew that she had been injured badly, but couldn't summon the strength to be concerned.
Sango knelt in the middle of the battlefield, lost in grief over the death of Kohaku. Her beloved younger brother managed to break free of Naraku's control for one crucial moment. He had thrown himself at Kanna as she strove to capture Sango's soul in her mirror. The mirror tumbled from the child-like youkai's grasp to shatter on the hard ground, releasing the souls trapped inside. Naraku repaid his betrayal by removing the shard embedded in his back that kept him alive. Kohaku died moments later, bleeding to death in his sister's arms.
"Is everyone okay?"
Inuyasha looked down to see that Kagome's eyes had opened again. Brown eyes stared back into his gold ones with a depth of maturity and suffering that no girl her age should ever know.
"Miroku lost his arm. The one with the wind tunnel in it." Inuyasha swallowed hard against the dryness in his throat. He lowered himself to sit fully on the ground, blinking as Kagome's features wavered in and out of focus. "Naraku tore it off to prevent Miroku from using the wind tunnel against him. And the runt got his leg pretty mangled. Don't know if he'll ever be able to walk normally again."
"I remember the first time I saw you." Kagome lifted her hand to lightly touch one of Inuyasha's furry white ears. "I thought those ears were the cutest things I'd ever seen."
"Feh! Demon's aren't cute!" Inuyasha's words were rough, but there was no bite in his tone and he made no move to dislodge Kagome's gently stroking fingers.
Kagome tried to giggle. The sound lodged strangely in her throat, coming out as a gurgling gasp of air. Her hand fell to the ground. Inuyasha frowned. He didn't like the way her breath rattled, or how her scent was starting to change.
"Stay with me," Kagome pleaded. "Just for a while. I'm so tired."
"We need to get to the village. Kaede can fix up our wounds with her smelly medicines and poultices." Inuyasha wasn't aware of when he lay down. The blood still flowed sluggishly from a slash on his scalp. He blinked to clear his vision. It felt so good to be still and rest. "All right. Just for a while."
"Do you remember when I taught you to dance?" Kagome cuddled close to Inuyasha, the only spot of warmth in a world that was growing increasingly colder.
"How could I forget?" Inuyasha smoothed his hand over Kagome's hair. When did it get so dark? Or was it his eyes playing tricks on him? "That was the most embarrassing thing I have ever done." A single snowflake drifted down out of a slate-gray sky.
Clearer than the squawking of the carrion crows was the sound of Kagome's voice saying, 'Just follow my lead, Inuyasha. You'll do fine.'
"Why did I agree to this again?" Inuyasha scowled at the girl in front of him.
Kagome rolled her eyes. "Quit being such an old stick-in-the-mud, Inuyasha. If you'd just relax, you might surprise yourself and have fun." She held out her hands to him.
Inuyasha regarded her hands as if they might suddenly turn into snake youkai and bite him. Kagome sighed and grabbed one hand, dragging the other one to rest on the curve of her hip.
"Come on! And 1-2-3. Turn with me, Inuyasha. That's right! You're doing it!" Inuyasha stumbled after Kagome, trying to follow her lead. He lifted his eyes from watching his feet to look into Kagome's face. Her smile was radiant. Inuyasha's heart grew lighter just seeing her joy and he found himself falling into the rhythm of the dance.
"What is this dance called again?" The question slipped out before he noticed.
"It's called a waltz. It's an old dance. I learned it from my mom's friend who has a dance studio."
They spun around the glade. Inuyasha unconsciously tightened his hold on Kagome. Her hand felt so small and delicate in his, he was almost afraid to grip it too hard. At some point, he released her hand to slide both of his around her waist. Their energetic circling slowed, turning into more of a sway until they were barely moving.
Inuyasha buried his nose in Kagome's hair, taking a deep sniff. 'She smells like life,' he decided. Dancing was making him dizzy, or was that Kagome's scent?
"Maybe we should stop?" He suggested, but made no move to loosen his arms. If anything, he tightened them a little more.
"We are stopped," Kagome pointed out. A hint of pink spread across her cheeks and she placed her hands flat on his shoulders as if to push him away.
"No," Inuyasha closed his eyes and pulled her closer. "Just stay like this for a little while."
"You can't dance with your eyes closed."
Inuyasha sighed and kept them closed. "If I open them, then this will all have been a dream. And I don't want to wake up just yet."
"What happened to Kikyo?"
Kagome's voice jolted Inuyasha back to the present. He opened his eyes, not aware until just then that he had closed them. Sluggish thoughts swirled in his brain, not making any connections.
Who was Kikyo?
Oh, the hell bitch.
"Naraku found a spell to counter the one that gave her life. She turned to dust and all the souls used to animate her have been freed." Inuyasha felt that he should have cared more that Naraku had twice destroyed the woman he had once loved.
Kikyo was dead. She had been dead for over fifty years. Only Urasue's spell had given the illusion of life. It was the one in his arms now who held his soul in her small hands.
"I'm sorry, Kagome."
"For letting a dead girl come between us. You brought me to life that day at the Goshinboku. Kikyo only promised death."
"Inuyasha," Kagome breathed. A fine layer of snow covered the destruction on the battlefield. It settled onto their clothes and skin, melting more and more slowly.
Inuyasha turned his head, focusing with difficulty on the face of the girl next to him. Her eyes glimmered with an emotion he would once have been afraid to name. He lifted his hand to skim the backs of his fingers against the softness of her cheek. "You are my forever."
I think I love you.
Many hours later, what was left of Kouga's tribe reached the site of the last battle. Kouga had been badly wounded just days earlier in a fight with one of Naraku's puppets. Only now was he strong enough to make the journey.
The tribe circled the clearing. Looking. Sniffing. They found the survivors huddled together for warmth, a look in their eyes of people who have seen into the depths of hell and survived.
Inuyasha and Kagome lay where they had fallen. Side by side with their fingers entwined together. On Inuyasha's face was an expression of complete peace. Something that had always been missing from his life. Kagome, his chosen one, nestled at his side.
Kouga lost it then and howled his grief to the skies. The pack took up the song and spread it to every creature within hearing distance. By morning, everyone would know.
"What should we do?" Ginta asked, tears running freely down his face. The rest of the pack gathered around the dog that had won their respect and the miko that had won their hearts.
"We will take them home."
Miroku, numb with grief and exhaustion, made a faint sound that might have been a protest.
"To their home. To the place where they first met."
Kouga gazed at the couple with sad eyes, any anger he had once felt for Inuyasha crumbling to ashes.
"You did it, dog turd. You won."
Shippo stood before the Goshinboku. A stray breeze tugged at his hair. Lifting his face into the wind, he sniffed, smelling the fresh scents of green growing things. Spring had come to the land once more as it had for the past ten years since Inuyasha and Kagome had been laid to rest beneath the sheltering branches of the tree.
"Little Kohaku has grown so much. He's almost eight now. And such a big help. Miroku always says that he doesn't know what he'd do without him."
Shippo stared into the branches of the tree instead of at the mounded soil at its base. Sometimes, he would swear that he could hear them arguing among the leaves. His adopted mother and the grumpy hanyou that he had always secretly considered a father figure.
The Shikon no Tama, the source of all the problems, was gone. No one knew what happened to it. Naraku had absorbed the completed jewel into his body during the final battle. Miroku felt that when Kagome's sacred arrow struck, it purified the jewel as well as Naraku, causing it to disappear.
Without the Shikon no Tama, the well had ceased to function. Kaede had written a letter that she sealed with a touch of her own miko power. It should have survived until Kagome's time. Her family deserved to know.
He closed his eyes and bowed his head. "The baby is a real joy. Everybody adores Kagome. She has a smile and a kiss for everyone. Nobody can stay mad at her for long."
"I really should be going. I promised Sango that I would watch the children while she made dinner." He opened his eyes and stared at the small bush that grew, shading the two graves.
Nobody planted it. After that first hard winter had finally broken, it just appeared like any normal plant. Bright red flowers shone vividly against the green leaves. Kagome had showed him a book once that was filled with pictures of plants and flowers from around the world. He remembered this one.
Carefully, Shippo reached out to touch one of the flowers, mindful of the sharp thorns. He shaped the name silently.
Limping slightly, Shippo turned and began walking the well-worn path that led to the village.
Food for thought:
If it weren't for caffeine I'd have no personality whatsoever!