Author's Note- An update one what is probably my favorite fic I'm writing at the moment. This chapter is an odd one, the end may be a bit jolting but I assure you all will be well in the end. I could never give those two anything but a happy ending. Feedback is appreciated.
"In More Ways Than One"
In Which a Relationship is Formed and a Relationship is Broken
By Kelly O'Connor
"You can leave now," Kaede glared incredulously at her involuntary escort. "We're there, at the cave. You can leave now."
InuYasha's eyebrows narrowed and he crossed his arms. "Kagome told me to come along, so I've got to whether I want to or not."
"Why? It's not as if you have any kind of obligation to her." The girl leaned up against the stone of the cliff. The silver-haired boy bristled, hesitating to reply. "I think the villagers would be suspicious of you even if you weren't a Hanyou."
"Bah, what do you mean?"
"You come from nowhere, no one has ever seen you before, and you're constantly with Nee-chan during the day…" she trailed off.
"So what!" InuYasha snapped, frustration finally getting the best of him. His voice was harsh and angry. "What the hell does it matter to you what I do with your sister?"
Kaede let out a fearful gasp and leaned further back, positioning her hands in a defensive stance.
"Hey!" The Hanyou growled. Kaede clenched her eyes shut. "I'm not going to hurt you."
Warily, her eyes slid open. Casting one cautionary glance to him, she snatched the jug of water from the ground and stumbled swiftly into Onigumo's cave behind her.
Sighing in relief once her feet found the cool dirt on the interior of the cove, Kaede set about to tending the injured man. "Good afternoon sir," she smiled and sat down next to him. This is better… I think.
"Ah the Miko's sister has come to visit," a coarse tone came from Onigumo. "You seem to have company outside as well."
Biting her lip, Kaede felt uneasiness wash over her in the form of a shudder and a shiver down her spine. And when the wild thief's stray eye met with hers, a thought flickered across her conscious. Even though Onigumo is just an ordinary human… for some reason this seems a lot more uncomfortable than being around InuYasha.
InuYasha kicked the dirt beneath his feet as he paced back and forth outside the cave. What's with that guy anyway? Kagome finds him mostly dead and he hasn't told her a thing on how it happened. Glowering at nothing in particular he paused his movement. Keh, if I were Kagome I wouldn't let a little kid come take care of him alone. She seems to have no problem with him, yet can't stand me. Makes no fucking sense…
Snarling, InuYasha stomped his foot on the ground. "Well the brat had better get used to me 'cuz I ain't going anywhere!"
The shuffling of a jug snapped the Hanyou's attention to the entrance of the cave. Kaede stood there, wide eyed and surprised.
"I heard that…" She remarked dryly. "So, you plan on staying with my sister for a long time?"
InuYasha's face flushed red in humiliation. "Bah! You… you heard what I said!"
"Why?" Kaede clutched the items she held to her chest.
Crossing his arms and attempting to look aloof, the teenage boy replied. "None of your damn business."
"Let's get going," the child brought the conversation to a close.
"Fine with me," InuYasha grumbled.
Heaving deep sighs of resignation, the unwilling pair began their walk back to the village.
The journey was silent, although that quiet spoke a thousand words. Tension hung thick in the mid-afternoon air, and it was quite likely that even a random passerby would have no trouble picking it up. Although it took little time for InuYasha and Kaede to reach the outskirts of the village, to them it felt as if it should have been evening already.
"You can go now brat," InuYasha spoke, gesturing her to the buildings that lay ahead.
"Aren't you going to follow me in? Nee-chan wanted us to go together, right?"
Frowning, the Hanyou shook his head. "Kagome knows I don't like to go in the village. I only went today 'cuz she was hurt."
Kaede appeared confused. "So you're staying with my sister, but you refuse to even go to her home?"
"It's not like that!"
"You're just making your own problems worse…"
InuYasha fell silent.
Puzzled at to why he was suddenly quiet, Kaede put her hands on her hips.
A twig snapped behind her, and she assumed it must have been a villager approaching.
"Oh, don't want someone to see you picking on me, is that it?"
Golden eyes narrowed as he realized that the person approaching came with ill-intent in mind. "Go home, Kaede. Now!"
The girl defiantly remained. "Why should I listen to you?"
"Kaede. Go now. Get the fuck out of here!" He reiterated in a more resolute tone.
The girl opened her mouth to retort that she had no reason to listen to him, but was interrupted when she felt a rough grip on her arm.
"So…you're the sister of the one guarding the Shikon no Tama. It must be my lucky day," the low malevolent voice of the man who'd seized her sneered.
InuYasha cursed under his breath. Shit. He must have snuck up while I was yelling at the kid. Shit, shit, shit!
Holding Kaede up by the collar of her yukata, he grinned wickedly. "This should be easy. A jewel for your life. I'd say it's a fair trade. Although actually, considering the power the Shikon no Tama holds, I'd say I'm getting the better deal."
"Get your hands off her!" InuYasha growled furiously, cracking his knuckles for emphasis.
The bandit flinched momentarily, fretting over the possible strength of the Hanyou before him. Confidence in his own abilities overcame those doubts though, and he sneered to himself.
Hanyou maybe, he's also nothing but a scrawny looking kid.
"Heh, nice try kid. Like I'd listen to you. Hell, even this brat doesn't listen to you."
"I said, let her go," InuYasha's tone was steely and full of contemptuous honesty.
The man didn't seem to heed this warning either and instead began to turn towards the village. "Let's go see if we can find your sister and get her to hand over that pretty jewel of hers."
Keeping Kaede's position in mind, InuYasha lunged at him. His claws sliced lightly, as if in forewarning, into the man's shoulder. The man winced, his hold on the young girl faltering as she dropped to the ground. Quickly, InuYasha positioned himself between the two. "Don't you lay a hand on her."
Shrugging off his current injury, as if it was inconsequential, the man rushed forward in hopes to recapture his hostage. Catching the bandit mid-lunge, InuYasha gained a tight grip on both of his wrists. "Get the fuck out of here and I'll let you go." The ill-willed man felt sweat began to drip across his brow as he instinctively nodded, the grip the 'kid' maintained on his wrists was more than enough warning of what he was capable of. He had not anticipated that a Hanyou would be so insistent on protecting a little human brat.
"Shit, a damn jewel isn't worth all this trouble anyway," the bandit excused lamely.
InuYasha scowled, amber eyes severe. "And you damn well better promise to never come back to this village," he finished, loosing his grip on the wrists of the man.
The older man nodded briskly, his own eyes flecked with panic. Quick as he could get his feet beneath him, the bandit began scampering off into the forest.
"And just so you know, I don't take promises lightly," InuYasha shouted in the direction of his retreating figure. Once the silver-haired boy knew that the thief was far enough away, he turned around to meet Kaede's gaze. "Oi, are you all right?" He asked gruffly, but with obvious concern.
The girl nodded in confirmation. "Thanks…" she whispered.
"I said thank you!" Kaede exclaimed louder. "Why were you so easy on him?"
InuYasha blinked, perplexed. "Easy on him? What did you want me to do? I saved you and made him leave, isn't that what I should've done?"
"I just figured," lowering her voice, she tapped her fingers together; "I thought you were going to kill him. I guess… I couldn't have gotten angry if you did..."
The teenage boy made a sound in the back of his throat. "Do you think I'd do things like that?" he ventured, disgusted.
Kaede shook her head fervently in the negative. "No! Just since… he was attacking us…"
InuYasha gazed up to the sky, shielding his eyes from the onslaught of sunlight. "He left, didn't he? He promised not to come back."
"It's not my job to judge whether people live or die," he clarified succinctly.
Standing up, Kaede moved her arm towards InuYasha, wavering for an instant. Hesitance gave way though, and she placed her hand on the Hanyou's forearm.
"That sounds like something my Nee-chan would say…" the girl gave him a tentative smile.
InuYasha made a sound in the back of his throat, eyes widening and mouth opening slightly in surprise. "Really?"
Kaede gazed at him with inquisitiveness, curious as to his reaction to what she'd said. He certainly seemed flattered, honored even, by being compared to the Miko. Although from what little she knew about the teenager, there was no way he'd divulge as much. Continuing her investigation, the young girl discovered other things she'd refused to see before. He was only a boy, the bandit had said as much, but it was true. In fact, she thought, he could easily be perceived as even younger than her sister. Her hand remaining on his arm, Kaede bunched the fabric of his fire-rat in her grasp, reflecting her deep thought.
"Oi, what are you doing?" InuYasha interrupted her musings.
"Huh?" She glanced upwards, snapped out of her reverie.
"You ready to go back or what?" He queried. "I bet Kagome's getting worried…"
"You'll… walk me back?" Kaede's expression turned to one of astonishment.
"Bah, you think I'm about to let you go back alone after what just happened?" InuYasha countered as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.
"Thank you," the child pronounced, a smile flickering across her countenance.
"Hmph, the village is that way," he pointed ahead and tugged her arm to come along. "Come on."
"It's not my job to judge whether people live or die…"
Walking directly in front of the boy called InuYasha, unafraid of being incapable to see him behind her, Kaede wondered… what had possessed her to ever consider him a threat.
"Will you stay?" Kagome requested once InuYasha had returned with her sister in tow.
Pausing to contemplate the offer, he shook his head. "I will for a while I guess."
"Good, I'm glad," she moved to sit next to the Hanyou. Kaede looked unfazed, and for that Kagome was very relieved. "So you two solved some of your differences." Both the child and the teenager nodded. "A-ha, I knew it would work!" The Miko grinned in triumph.
"Neh Kagome," InuYasha changed the subject, not wholly up to discussing the situation with the bandit. "How's your ankle?"
Glancing down to the injury, she shrugged. "It's much better. I went out today for a while, but rode a horse. It isn't bad… so I think it will be good as new within a couple days."
"Oi, you better be careful."
Taking a deep breath, Kagome closed her eyes. "Neh, Kaede… could you go outside for a bit so I can talk to InuYasha alone?"
"Yes Nee-chan," Kaede shook her head in the affirmative and stood up, brushing her yukata off.
"It won't be long… okay?"
"Okay…" The girl pushed open the flap of the hut and stepped onto the village's dirt path, leaving Miko and Hanyou alone.
"Huh? What is it?"
Laying her hands on her lap, Kagome glanced down in nervousness. "I spoke to the villagers once you and Kaede left."
"Oh…" InuYasha looked downwards as well.
"I told them what happened this morning, with you and I down by the stream," her voice was low and apprehensive.
He bristled. "And…?"
"They didn't really say anything, but I told them everything was okay…"
"Kagome," he initiated, tone firm and staunch, "do you have any idea what they were saying about us when I came into the village with you today?"
"I know it wasn't nice but…."
"Not nice?" The silver-haired boy snapped. "Kagome, I wouldn't even think to repeat some of the shit they said!"
"But I talked to them, and I'm sure they'll come around soon…"
"You think that just because you told them everything was okay, they're going to believe that?" He crossed his arms.
Kagome glanced up. "Well I hope they will. It's worth a try at least."
"Why would they?" He pounded his fist into the floor. "Bah, maybe they'll pretend as much. You're the Miko of the village, so they have to at least make believe they trust your words."
The dark-haired girl looked taken aback. "InuYasha, do you really believe that?"
"It's true, isn't it?"
Kagome opened her mouth, but no words came out.
"They have to believe you, you're fucking perfect in their eyes," He snarled. "Their precious faultless Miko couldn't possibly do anything wrong!"
"InuYasha take that back!" Kagome choked out.
"It's the truth. You know it is," the Hanyou gritted his teeth, "It'd all be fake, just doing it out of a damn obligation to respect you. Not like they won't say the same things they did before behind our backs."
"How do you know that?" She shouted, voice cracking.
"How do you know I'm wrong?" He retorted.
Gazing down, she wiped her eyes to stop the progress of oncoming tears. "I guess I could just hope…"
"What the hell did you tell them anyway?" InuYasha groused.
"I told them that… you were my friend." She looked up, eyes twinkling with wetness.
A heavy silence fell among the pair, although Kagome was confused as to why. InuYasha scooted away immediately and turned to face away from her, hurt flickering across his features.
"A friend, huh?" His voiced wavered.
Gauging his reaction, she wondered if he had a different perception of the word friend than she did. Then again, before me, what was a friend to him? Kagome let a smile cross her lips. "A friend you know, like someone you spend time with and you really like being around," she paused, "Definitely not what the villagers think we are!" She waved her hands, embarrassed. No, definitely not what the villagers think. He would never take advantage of me like that. Although I do feel much closer to him than any other friend I've had…
"Is that… all I am to you?" He replied sounding wounded.
Voice catching in her throat, Kagome found herself unable to respond. What…is he getting at?
Before the Miko could formulate an answer, she heard the flap of the hut pushed open. "Nee-chan… I came back because I heard yelling."
Kagome and InuYasha both looked down to their hands in shame.
"It's all right Kaede, we were just talking and got kind of loud," she explained.
"Oh…" It doesn't look like that's what happened.
"Don't worry about it kid," the boy reassured her.
Their nonchalant attitudes were false, and Kaede thought even the blindest of idiots couldn't have missed it. "I'll cook dinner now, InuYasha you can stay if you'd like." Kagome offered, as if she were asking a casual visitor.
"Keh, fine, it's not like I have anything better to do."
An awful excuse, it's the one he gave me the first day we ate lunch together. Back when… we really were strangers. Setting about to lighting a fire in the pit that lay in their hut, Kagome peeked in InuYasha's direction. Somehow… this got more out of hand than I could have ever imagined.
"I see you as someone just like me, a fellow human being, InuYasha. Not a youkai, nor someone who could be one or the other, not anything different from what I am."
"I can't believe you could be so foolish. You love him, do you not? The Hanyou?"
"Is that what this need to be around her means? These feelings are… that I care for her?