Epilogue

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Kagome stared into the eyes of her husband, who was standing on her doorstep like the prodigal son. His face was weary, but his eyes were alight with…what? Something she couldn't—or didn't want to—identify.

"Kagome?" he ventured softly.

"I…I…" She was at a loss for words. 'Won't you please come in? Where have you been?! Why did you leave? Did you think of me at all? What about Kikyo?' Instead, she heard the words, "Inuyasha? What the hell happened to you?!"

He flinched. "Kagome…I'm sorry. I—I'm sorry."

She felt the anger bubbling up inside her. "You're sorry? You're sorry? You disappeared four months ago, with no notice, no explanation, leaving me alone with our infant daughter—and all you can say is you're sorry?"

"Pretty much."

As tactless as ever, she could see. Kagome moved to slam the door on his face, but Inuyasha's arm shot out to catch the door. "Kagome."

"Let go of the door."

"Let me inside, please."

"Why should I?!"

"Because I live here." Before she could say a word, he added, "Because it's my house, I'm your husband, and you probably want an explanation."

"I should say so." But she didn't move.

Her husband's eyes darkened a shade and then, using his superior strength, pushed the door open and strode into the front hallway. "Make sure and lock the door behind you, Kagome-chan."

Kagome squeezed her eyes shut, trying to dismiss the mental images floating around her brain: images of how she could torture her husband in the next hour or two. That bastard. He up and disappears for sixteen agonizing weeks, and then just waltzes back into her life? Just like that?

She slammed the door behind her, taking care to flip the locks, and stormed after Inuyasha. He'd gone into the kitchen. Typical male.

Kagome rounded the corner and slammed into Inuyasha's back. She grabbed his shoulder to steady herself and then peered around his broad back to see what he was staring at.

Sora was slapping her hand on the high-chair tray, splatting baby food everywhere. "Feh—feh—feh!" she repeated.

Kagome briefly closed her eyes, understanding the situation. "Inuyasha—this is your daughter, Sora."

"Sora," he said softly, his gaze fixated on his baby daughter. "How old is she?"

"Four months," said Kagome. She then noticed that her hand was still resting on his back. She drew it back quickly, as if she'd been burned. Such a natural gesture seemed out of place and wrong now.

"You named her 'Sora'," he said. "Why?"

Kagome looked up in surprise. He was the first to even ask the significance of their daughter's name. But then again, he was the father of the child. She shook her head. No. That was just Inuyasha's personality. He and she connected so well—that was why she married him. These months without him had been a living hell…

"Funny you ask. Sango and I were just talking about this yesterday. I named her Sora because—" She paused, hesitant to give her reason all of a sudden. It felt so surreal—Inuyasha was here and talking to her! "B-because all of our dates had something to do with the sky. We would watch clouds together, remember? And then you proposed to me…under the sky…" she trailed off and shrugged. "And you weren't here to object, so I went ahead and named her," she said defensively.

Her husband's expression didn't change. He didn't look the least bit guilty. Something inside her stomach twisted, and fear stabbed her heart. Why had he come back? What if it was only to say—goodbye?

She made a small choking sound in the back of her throat. Inuyasha gave her a questioning glance, but she only shook her head. "Something's caught in my throat…"

Kikyo. It had to have been Kikyo. She just knew it. Kikyo was prettier, smarter, and readily available.

"I like it."

Kagome started. "What?"

"Sora. I like her name. It fits her."

"Well, I'm glad you approve," she said bitingly.

Inuyasha ignored her and moved towards his daughter. "Sora," he said softly. "It's me—your Otou-san."

Kagome seethed. Don't respond to him, Sora, she pleaded inside. Refuse him. Show him who raised you for the past four months—tell him who your mother is.

Inuyasha reached for the baby, but Sora pulled back, eyeing him warily. "Feh?" she said.

A ghost of a smile flitted across Inuyasha's face. "That's my baby," he whispered, the emotion heavy in his eyes. "C'mere, you." He leaned closer to her.

Sora recoiled and began to whimper. Kagome moved to pick her up, but Inuyasha stopped her in her tracks with one look. "Stay where you are, Kagome," he commanded, although his voice was gentle.

She swallowed and stepped back. Curse him and his power over her.

"Hey, baby," Inuyasha said softly, slowly moving towards his daughter, who was sitting in her high chair. "It's me: Otou-san." He bent down on one knee, so he was staring her in the eye. Sora looked less frightened now—more curious than apprehensive. "Feh?" she said again.

"That's right: feh."

In spite of herself, Kagome nearly giggled. Those two…they looked so perfect together with their matching hair and eyes.

"Here, baby," he whispered again, holding his hands out. Sora looked at them hesitantly, and then placed her own tiny hands on top of the larger, rougher masculine hands. Inuyasha closed his hands on top of his baby's.

Kagome blinked and studied Inuyasha closely—yes, there were tears in his eyes.

She covered her mouth with her hand, moisture coming to her own eyes. Oh God.

Inuyasha picked Sora up and cradled her on his hip. Sora's eyes widened and she began to whimper. "Okaa," she cried pitifully. "Okaa!"

Kagome held out her arms to take her from Inuyasha, but he ignored her and began to jounce Sora gently. "It's okay," he said. "It's okay. Mama's right there, see?"

"Fehhh," she whimpered, resting her head against her father's chest.

Kagome awkwardly lowered her arms. She felt—excluded.

Inuyasha looked at Kagome, and held out an arm to her. She jumped backwards so fast she knocked over a chair. "Oh, no, mister," she said, straightening the chair and then using it to hide behind. "Maybe you can sweet-talk your daughter into forgiving you, but you're going to have a bit more trouble with me."

His face fell. "Kagome…don't you trust me?"

His words stabbed at her heart, but she didn't waver. "After you ran off four months ago, leaving me alone with an infant? I had to dip into our savings account, Inuyasha! I've been living off peanut butter sandwiches and rice! I was so worried that money would run out, that Sora would grow up in a single-parent working-mother home…"

"You should have known I would come back…" He moved towards her.

"Stay away." She scrambled backwards until she was pressed against the wall. "You have no right to tell me that—what was I supposed to think? No, note, no call, and your secretary, Miss Perfect, disappears the same day as you. What a coincidence, huh? Or did you already know that?"

"I knew."

"Say what?" She gaped at him. Was he just going to come out and admit it? "How did you know?"

"Because I was with her."

The rock dropped into the bottom of her stomach and she slumped against the wall. Oh my…god… "You…you cheating—I can't believe you! You come back to tell me you're leaving me? Is that it?"

"No."

"Then why the hell did you come back?" she cried.

"Because you're my wife. Because I love you."

"How can you say that when you just came back from a lover's tryst with Kikyo—"

"Kagome!" Before she could blink, he was in her face, his eyes heavy with emotions. "Don't make assumptions. I can't handle that right now."

Shocked, she stared up at him, her eyes filling with tears. "Inuyasha…" she whispered brokenly.

His own eyes were glassy. He deposited Sora in her high chair and wrapped Kagome in his arms, burying his face in her hair. "Kagome," he mumbled, "I wish…"

Cursing her own weakness, but reveling in the feel of being in his arms again, she said, "What do you wish?"

-

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I wish I could make you understand… He pressed a soft kiss against her neck and stroked a strand of hair behind her ear, just like he always did.

"What do you wish, Inuyasha?" her voice had become sharp.

"You wouldn't understand…you would take things the wrong way."

"What can possibly be worse than what I'm conjuring up in my mind? Did you have an affair with her? Did you?"

"Do you really have that little faith in me?"

"Faith?I had faith in you when you pledged to love me for better, for worse, and later that night when you promised to never leave my side… what happened to that?"

"Demons," he whispered, pulling her closer. "Demons from that past…"

-

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What is he talking about? Kagome began to shudder, her small frame shaking with sobs and she clutched Inuyasha's shirt. "I don't understand," she said brokenly. "You don't know how much I missed you, how much I needed you, how much I want to believe that you didn't leave me for someone better—"

She wanted him to leave. She wanted him to stay. She wanted him to hold her like this forever, to tell her that everything was all right… She wanted to take back the past four months. How could she just forgive and forget? What if he tried such a stunt again?

"Why can't you just tell me, Inuyasha?" she begged. "I'm your wife! Your fucking spouse, damn it!"

Inuyasha's shoulders began to shake, but not with tears. "Language, Kagome-chan," he said between laughs. "I leave for a couple months and look what happens to you."

"Don't you dare preach to me about language, you pot!"

"Pot?" This made him laugh harder.

"The pot called the kettle black," she explained in annoyance. "I always did claim my intelligence rubbed off on you," she added as an afterthought, under her breath. "You leave and get stupider."

"Ain't no such word as 'stupider.'"

She gave him an incredulous look. "I rest my case."

"Koishii," he whispered affectionately, pulling her closer. "I missed you…"

"You what?" She pulled away and stared into his eyes incredulously. "You dare tell me you that you missed me when you were with…with…her?"

"Yes."

She glared at him. "I cannot believe your gall, Taisho Inuyasha."

"Keh, woman, you knew what I was like when you married me. I haven't changed."

"I didn't expect you to leave me to have an affair."

"Kagome. Stop it. I did not have an affair."

"Then why did you leave? Why can't you tell me?"

"Because you wouldn't understand."

"You said that already! What wouldn't I understand? Just tell me!"

"No." He let her go and walked towards the bathroom hallway. "I'm tired. I'm going to take a shower and then a nap. You want me to wash the baby while I'm at it?"

Kagome gaped at him. The way he spoke, it was as if he'd never left and nothing had ever happened. "I gave her a bath already, thanks," she said coldly. "And you can take your shower elsewhere until you decide to tell me what's going on."

"I left because of unalterable circumstances. Yes, I was with Kikyo. No, I wasn't cheating on you. End of story."

"I don't think so—" She moved towards him, but he put her back in her place with one look.

"I do think so," he said, still glaring.

Oh, no you don't. I am NOT going to back down because of that "warning death glare" of yours. "Yeah, well, tough." She stalked up to him and poked him in the chest. "Do you even love me anymore, Inuyasha? Because I will not stand—"

He suddenly tugged her close to him, his lips covering hers in a kiss that gained intensity as the moments passed. Tears leaked out of her eyes and flowed down her face, the salt mixing with their kiss. When they finally broke for air, Kagome's eyes widened. Inuyasha's eyes were watery as well. "Kagome," he whispered, caressing her face, "I will always, always love you. I can't tell you what happened right now… Maybe I will, eventually. But never doubt my love for you."

"Do you love—her—as well?" she couldn't help but ask.

Something flickered in his eyes, but he just shook his head. "No. I do not."

She was silent for a moment, but eventually stepped out of his embrace. "I guess that's good enough for now. Go take your shower; we'll finish this discussion over dinner."

He shrugged and disappeared into the bathroom.

Kagome bit her lip. Looks like it's going to be one of those days…

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Inuyasha closed his eyes and savored the feel of a hot shower. The water felt so good… He pulled his long hair off his back, letting the water cleanse is as well. Kagome always had loved his hair. It was almost as long as hers—only thicker and with more of a bluish tint in the light. He'd missed the feel of her fingers threading through his hair at night.

He blew out a breath. How could he explain himself to her? No matter what way he phrased the words, it would still shock her. She'd be hurt. That was inevitable.

He groaned and rubbed his temples. Why did life have to be this way? Why was it that all the stupid things he'd done back then were coming back to haunt him in unalterable consequences?

He loved his wife so much that it hurt. If he told her the truth, would he lose her love?

His heart squeezed painfully. No. He couldn't stand that…

A growl rose in the back of his throat and he gripped the soap bar so hard that it split in two. "I am in…such…deep shit."

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Kagome turned the knob on the stove and hefted the pot of noodles off the stove. Truth to be told, she was getting sick of peanut butter sandwiches. Peanut butter was a wonderful western invention, but there was such a thing as overdoing it. Sora was babbling nonsense from her high chair, and from the sound of the water rushing through the pipes, Inuyasha was still in the shower. She'd have to go pound on the bathroom door and inform him that he'd been in there for over half an hour and unless he wanted to donate this month's salary to the water bill, he'd better get out soon.

She shook her head. This felt so…weird. Weird to have him home again after so long, weird to have to go through the daily "get-out-of-this-shower-now" routine…

Lost in her thoughts, she halfheartedly stirred the noodles in the pot. Was Inuyasha planning to tell her his…secret, she supposed it could be called, over dinner? Or was he planning on just picking up where they'd left off? Yeah, if that's what he thinks, he's sure got another thing coming…

Suddenly she felt a nip on her neck and two arms slide around her waist. She yelped in surprise and jerked her ladle backwards, causing the pot to tip over and the noodles to spill out onto the floor in a cascade of yellow.

"Oh for love's sake—ouch!" She'd tried to right the overturned pot and burned her hand in the process. Massaging the burnt hand with the good one, she moaned in pain. "Owww…"

A pair of strong, tanned hands trapped her own and rubbed gently. "I'm sorry," Inuyasha said, looking remorseful. "I'd forgotten how jittery you get when you're deep in thought."

"S'ok…" she mumbled, her cheeks warming. What his touch did to her…

"And now I've ruined supper," he sighed, looking despondently at the noodles strewn across the floor. "And I'm starving too…"

"Sorry, Inuyasha," she said. "Looks like it's gonna be ramen tonight."

He visibly brightened. "Oh good!" he said in relief. "You don't know much I've missed it in…" He trailed off.

"The past four months? What, did you forget your credit cards? Inuyasha, it's only 20 yen—you could pick up change off the street and buy ramen."

"Mmm," he said noncommittally, ambling over to the cabinets and pulling out a few cups of the noodles and popping one into the microwave. "Can Sora eat noodles yet?"

"I've just started her on baby food," Kagome said incredulously. "Of course not!"

He gave her a look that clearly said he was going to get her back for that comment.

The microwave beeped and Inuyasha snatched the cup out of the interior, giving it a longing look, but handing it to Kagome. "Here," he said. "Eat. You look like you've lost weight."

She glowered. "Still as tactless as ever. And it's your fault I've lost weight."

He wore the look of a chastised puppy and looked away. The beeping of the microwave saved him from comment and he immediately ripped the top off and dug into the noodles.

Kagome sighed. Not going to apologize, huh? She made her way over to the table and sat down, crossing one leg under the other per usual and began to eat her dinner. Inuyasha remained standing, leaning against the counter while shoveling noodles into his mouth.

Every so often Kagome would glance at him out of the corner of her eye. More than once she caught him rubbing the antecubital portion of his arm absently. Curious, she watched him with undisguised openness. There was a small purple mark right below the crease where his arm bent…

She straightened. "Inuyasha—is that an IV bruise?"

He started and stared at her with wide eyes. "How did you—?" Then, as if just noticing his habit of rubbing the bruise, scowled and tugged the sleeve of his shirt over it.

Food forgotten, Kagome jumped to her feet and stalked over to her husband. "It is," she accused after pulling up his sleeve. "You were in the hospital. Why?"

His face darkened, and it looked as if he was struggling with inner turmoil.

"Why did you lie to me? You told me you were with Kikyo?"

"I was."

A horrible thought struck her. "Did she…give birth? To a baby?" Possibly yours?

He looked at her knowingly. "No."

Breathing a sigh of relief, she pressed, "Then what happened? Why were you in the hospital? Were you injured? Inuyasha!"

He jerked his arm away. "Don't worry about it, Kagome."

"Don't tell me not to worry about it! I'm your wife! I worry about you!"

His tortured gaze met hers, and his eyes shimmed with an unknown emotion. "Kagome…"

"Just tell me. How bad can it be?"

He'd apparently reached the end of his fuse, because he stormed out of the kitchen and slammed the door to the bedroom. Kagome simmered and yelled, "Fine, then! Be that way, asshole!"

A muffled shout emanated from the bedroom. Kagome rolled her eyes and returned to her noodles, nearly choking on them when she finally noticed Sora's wide-eyed gaze. She smiled and finished her ramen quietly. Furious as she was at Inuyasha, a tiny piece of her was reveling in the feeling of their familiar fights again.

Her smiled disappeared and she stared down into her cup. "But…will we make up this time?" she whispered to herself.

-

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Kagome listlessly pushed the down button on the clicker, finally stopping on a channel playing old PVs. It was close to eleven o'clock now; Sora had been put to bed, and Inuyasha still hadn't emerged from the bedroom. So she resigned herself to sleeping on the couch. It was comfortable, at least.

She flipped over onto her back and pulled the blanket more snugly around her, wondering if Inuyasha was asleep yet. She wasn't ready to go into that room and sleep in the same bed as him again… not with him acting the way he was. It would feel wrong. She couldn't just erase the past four months.

Sighing regretfully, she closed her eyes and tried to fall asleep. The couch wasn't as comfortable as she'd expected.

Why had Inuyasha been in the hospital? Surely he wasn't there for four months… and even if he had been, wouldn't someone have contacted her? Things just didn't add up.

A pair of legs appeared in front of her. She started and looked up to find Inuyasha's slightly sleepy face peering down at her.

"You didn't come to bed," he stated.

She swallowed. "No."

He eyed her with mild curiosity. Oddly enough, he didn't look mad. "Why not?"

"I… it would feel weird… you being back again…" She shrugged. "I didn't feel…comfortable."

He yawned widely. "'Kay." Then he shuffled back in the direction he came from.

Kagome felt mildly indignant. Okay? He was supposed to insist that he couldn't sleep without her and didn't she know how much he'd missed her while he was away?

She flipped over on her stomach and pulled the blanket over her head to hide her tears. When had things gone so wrong?

She shrieked as a sudden weight fell upon her. She pulled the blanket off her head and sat up to find Inuyasha lying next to her. He'd apparently jumped over the back of the couch to end up beside her…

"Inuyasha, what do you—"

"Hush." He pushed her down so that she was flat on her back and pulled her back against him, so that the two were spooned together with his arms around her waist. "I know you're mad at me right now, but right now… I need you with me."

She closed her eyes and leaned back into his warmth, treasuring his words. He did need her. He did love her… right?

He pressed a kiss to the back of her neck and sighed contentedly, his breathing becoming regular as he drifted off into sleep.

Kagome lay awake for quite a while after that, just savoring the feeling of being in his arms again. Gods, she loved him. She loved him so much. But why wouldn't he open up to her and tell her the truth? Was it really so bad that he'd leave her to imagine the worst?

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Kagome woke to find herself still trapped in Inuyasha's arms, although during the night she'd shifted so she was underneath him. So that's why she'd been so warm during the night…

She studied his sleeping form and ran her fingers through his hair, just like she used to. He was back—he was really back. Right now, she didn't care what kind of secrets he was keeping from her; he was back with her, where he belonged, and that was all that mattered.

A soft cry from Sora brought her out of her reverie. She sighed in annoyance and pulled her hands out of her husband's hair. She shifted, trying to slip off the couch without waking Inuyasha, but in response, he only tightened his embrace.

"Going somewhere?"

Kagome startled and looked up into his dark grey eyes. "I didn't realize you were awake."

"Like I could sleep through your hand ministrations."

She blushed. "Sora's calling…"

He pressed a soft kiss to her mouth. "Let her be for a bit. Crying's good for babies."

"Oh really?" she said. "And what makes you the expert?" She tried to keep her voice from shaking as he trailed kisses down her neck. Did he know what effect he was having on her?

He winked at her before capturing her lips again. Yes, he knew. Baka.

Inuyasha gently pulled away, letting her break for air, and studied her. He brushed his fingertips across the skin of her face. "I missed you," he breathed.

"Me too," she whispered back, shivering slightly at the look in his eyes. "I—"

The ringing of the doorbell cut off her confession. Inuyasha growled in frustration. "Who the hell is visiting at this hour?"

"Inuyasha," she chided, giggling at his expense. "It's probably Sango, wondering what's happened to me."

"Oh. Then let her wonder. You can visit her later." He leaned forward.

"Hmmm…" At the moment, she was tending to agree…

The doorbell rang again. And again. And again…

"Grahhhhh," Inuyasha grumbled and gave her one last quick kiss before hopping off the couch and opening the door. A look of confusion passed across his face. "Who the hell are you?"

So it wasn't Sango.

"I'm looking for a Taisho Kagome?" a confused voice replied. "She called about a broken air conditioner…?"

Kagome rolled off the couch and shuffled towards the door, running a hand through her tangled hair. "I called for service, Inuyasha," she said. "Thought they were supposed to come…yesterday…"

She stared at her old high school friend, Hojo, clad in his blue Air Conditioner Japan uniform. Blue cap and all. "Hojo-kun?"

"Higurashi?" he said in surprise, his eyes lighting up. "What are you doing here? I thought this was the house of Taisho…Kagome…" Realization dawned on him and his gaze shifted over to Inuyasha. "So you must be—"

"Taisho Inuyasha. I repeat: who the hell are you?" He instinctively moved in front of Kagome.

That's my Inuyasha, she thought in amusement. The Great Protector.

"An old—acquaintance," Hojo stammered. "I didn't realize… I mean, I didn't know you'd married…"

Kagome blushed. "Sorry, Hojo-kun, but the wedding was very small. And you were still at college over in Europe…"

"Ah." He inclined his head. "You are happily married, Higurashi?... I mean, Taisho-san?"

Kagome rested her hand lightly on Inuyasha's back to quell his growling. "Yes, Hojo." She paused. "I mean…well…yes…" Dang it, who would have thought that question would be so complicated?

"All right, trip down memory lane is over. Go fix the air conditioner and go back where you came from." Inuyasha moved to close the door, but apparently thought better of it. "And next time, don't come so damn early."

He slammed the door shut.

"Inuyasha," Kagome scolded. "That wasn't very nice."

"Keh, he was ogling at you. I don't like men ogling at my woman."

"Oh yeah? What would you have done about it had you not been here?"

"That's beside the point."

"I think it's completely relevant!"

"This conversation is finished."

"It is not, you hypocrite! I'm getting sick and tired of your jealousy attacks when it's obvious—"

His eye was twitching. "Jealousy attacks? I'm your fucking husband, Kagome."

She pointedly raised an eyebrow. "Too bad you couldn't remember that a few months ago."

She suddenly found herself inches away from his face. "Kagome," he said softly, yet menacingly, "not another word. Are you still mad at me about that?"

"Am…am—I—" she spluttered indignantly. "Of course I am! What did you expect when—"

He held her chin in his hand and placed his thumb over her lips. "I said I'm sorry."

"And I said that you can't make things 'all better' with just a word."

"Then what do you want from me?"

That stopped Kagome. "I…don't know." I just want to know that you do love me, only me, and that you didn't leave because of Kikyo.

He snorted softly, but his eyes were sad.

"Inuyasha—" She swallowed. "How long are you planning to stay—this time? Or are you…back for good?"

He flinched and looked away, although his hand remained holding her face. "I don't know," he said quietly.

Kagome started. "You don't know?" she whispered accusingly. "You don't know?! Why are you even here, then? Why torture me by coming back and then ripping my heart out again by leaving? And what the hell is it that you need to do, anyhow?"

He looked like he was struggling with something, for his face was etched in pain. Then he said, "A child."

"…Huh?"

-

-

She looked so confused…

"A child needs my help."

"A child?"

"One of my coworker's kids. The girl was—is—sick. That's why I was gone."

"You preformed surgery on her, did you?" she said sarcastically.

"No. I gave her bone marrow."

This stopped her. Kagome's eyes widened. "She had… cancer?"

"Leukemia," he said quietly.

"And you donated bone marrow?"

He swallowed. The truth was coming out… "Yes."

She slowly expelled a breath. "So that's why you had an IV scar."

"Yeah."

"It took you four months to donate marrow?"

"The first month was testing and preparation. I got… well, kind of sick after the operation, so I was kept in that nut house for a while." He'd actually become so sick that he was delusional for a while… but she didn't need to know that.

"You were sick? Why didn't anyone contact me?"

"They…" Because I told them I was her husband. I'm sorry, Kagome, but you can't realize how much people look down on an unmarried woman with a child, despite their protests to the contrary. I was trying to protect her. "I don't know."

She bit her lip.

He clenched his hands into fists. Kagome, Kagome, I don't want to hurt you. Goddammit. It was years ago that I fucked up so badly—it was a stupid decision. Why is it that she has to suffer?

"Okay," she said, her shoulders relaxing. "So you might leave again to go back and help her?"

"If the transplant didn't work," he said.

"You'd do it again?"

"Well… if her body rejects my marrow, there's not much else I can do." Just stay with her and comfort her while her child slowly dies.

"So you'll be going back just to support his family?"

Her familyHis nails were digging into his palm. "Pretty much."

"As I thought." She took a breath. "All right. I understand, Inuyasha." She turned away and walked towards the kitchen.

"O-oi! Kagome! Where are you going?"

"Kitchen," she replied, without turning around. "Sora most likely needs a bath."

He jogged to catch up with her, and caught her by the shoulder. "What's the matter?"

"Nothing." Her head was still turned.

"Don't give me that—you're mad. What'd I do now?"

"It's more of what you did," she said, finally whirling to face him, her eyes full of tears.

He gulped. Damn, he'd made her cry! "What I did?"

"I'm not as stupid as you think I am," she said, the tears spilling over. "You got caught in your own lie. I thought you said you were with Kikyo."

"I was."

He could almost see the wheels turning in her head. "How old was this child?"

"Six years old."

"Oh." She sounded relieved; he knew she was thinking that it couldn't have been his and Kikyo's child if it was six years old. Kikyo had only been working for him three years. Then came a more sympathetic: "Oh—six years old?" There was the Kagome he knew. "The poor baby. Is Kikyo close to the woman?"

"Mmmm," he answered noncommittally.

"The woman must be so grateful that you were a match for her child."

"Eh…"

"Especially since you're not related to the child or anything. It's close to a miracle that they tested you; did you volunteer, or were you recruited?"

What was with that look in her eyes?

"You know, it's funny," she continued, "a couple of days ago I got a letter from the Cancer Institute for a Taisho Inuyasha. After reading the first line and deciding that it wasn't my husband they were talking of, I tossed it into the junk mail stack that I throw away. Only this week, I didn't get a chance to throw it away because my air conditioner broke and I was preoccupied with trying to get ahold of a repairman to fix it." She turned and walked towards the desk built into the cabinets near the entrance of the kitchen. "Shall we take a look at this letter?" she called over her shoulder, rummaging through the stack of mail.

Inuyasha didn't answer. He felt like he was on trial.

"Here it is!" she chirped, pulling the letter out of the envelope. "It's a letter of thanks and a hospitalization bill for the two months of treatment after your bone marrow transplant to none other than…" Her eyes hardened and she looked up. "The child of Taisho Inuyasha and Sasaki Kikyo."

A heavy, oppressive silence fell over the room. To Inuyasha, it sounded like the banging of a gravel sentencing him to death.

Kagome tossed the letter onto the table and stalked out of the room.

Deep, deep shit, Inuyasha thought.

-

-

Kagome stared out the window, tears slowly trickling down her face. Inuyasha and Kikyo had a child. They'd had a child—since before Kagome had even met Inuyasha.

What bothered her was that Inuyasha had never—not once—told her about this. If he'd confessed that he'd messed up as a kid (since he had apparently been eighteen when he and Kikyo had down the deed), she would have forgiven him and married him in a second, regardless.

But the fact that he hadn't even bothered to tell her, and then hired Kikyo as his secretary—what was Kagome to think? He denied having an affair with the woman…but what if he still loved her? What was Kagome's place in his life? He claimed to love Kagome, but what if he loved Kikyo more? A terrible thought struck her, and she whispered, "He's lied to me once—what if he's lying about loving me?" She shook her head, causing the tears to scatter. "No—it didn't sound as if he was lying. He sounded to…sincere."

But what if he had been lying?

She slowly rose from her place on the bed and opened the door.

It was time to visit Sango.

-

-

The clicking of the keys on Miroku's keyboard and the soft muttering of the ten o'clock news were the only sounds in the household. The kids were asleep, the runaways tucked in the guest room, and the dog sleeping on the floor. All was well…

And the doorbell rang. For the third time that night since nine o'clock.

Miroku groaned and banged his head on the keyboard. "Sango!"

"Yes, Miroku, I'll get the door." She didn't move from her place on the couch.

It rang again. And again.

"Sango—dearest—"

Grumbling, Sango got to her feet and meandered towards the door. "It's okay, Miroku—you just write that article of yours."

"A rather difficult task to accomplish when people keep coming to the door at all times of the night," he muttered. "First a distraught Kagome with a nearly hysterical Sora, begging to use the guestroom for a night; then that little redheaded kid next door who's apparently run away from home again; who is it going to be now?"

"What's that you said, honey?" Sango called.

"Just talking to myself. As usual."

Sango opened the door and stepped back in surprise. "Oh…Inuyasha…"

The tall, dark-haired man pushed her aside and closed the door behind him, kicking his shoes off into the pile with unneeded force. "Kagome's here, isn't she," he said, staring at her shoes.

"Um…" Sango cast a desperate glance towards Miroku, who was suddenly furiously typing away at his computer in the living room. "Not exactly—"

"Sango." He stared her in the face. "Where—is—she?"

"In the…guest room?"

Inuyasha moved towards the hallway that would lead to the guest room, but Sango forcibly grabbed him by the arm and slammed him against the wall. "Oh, no you don't, mister," she growled. "Not after you worked Kagome up into this state she's in. Since I can't hear her sobbing anymore, I imagine she cried herself to sleep. You are not going within ten feet of her until you tell me what's going on."

"I really don't believe that's any of your business, woman."

"Don't speak to my wife like that," Miroku said, leaving his computer to aid his wife in restraining his furious neighbor. "You tell us what's going on, and we'll decide whether or not you can see Kagome."

"I can see her whenever I fucking like, dammit," Inuyasha growled, his eyes snapping. "I have to explain things to her!"

"And you didn't think of this before?" Miroku asked blandly.

"She stormed out of the room before I had a chance to say a word!"

"You must have really made her mad, then," said Sango, a scowl coming across her face. "You know, I've just about had enough of you causing Kagome so much pain. You're such an insensitive bastard—"

"Sango." Miroku cut her off. "Now is not that time to be hurling accusations."

She drew in a few deep breaths, obviously trying to control herself. "Fine. Explain."

"I don't have to tell you anything." He threw Sango and Miroku aside and stomped towards the guest room.

"Stop!" Sango cried, sprinting to catch up to him and blocking his path. "Don't wake Kagome. You can tell her your side of the story in the morning—just let her sleep for now."

"But—"

"She'll probably be more open to listen in the morning, too. You think she'll appreciate being dragged out of a fatigue-induced sleep?"

"No," said Inuyasha grudgingly.

"So," Sango said reasonably, "get some sleep and talk to her in the morning. You'll probably feel better after a few hours of rest, anyhow."

"Keh."

Miroku patted Kagome's husband on the shoulder and led him to the couch. "You're welcome to stay here for the night—you don't mind if I stay up till all hours of the night trying to finish this article, do you?"

"Whatever," came the sullen answer. Inuyasha flopped onto the couch and listlessly trained his eyes on the television. "Uh…sure you don't mind me being here?" he asked gruffly.

"Not at all," Miroku replied cheerfully, returning to his computer.

At least he has some semblance of manners, Sango thought. She yawned widely and trailed into the bedroom. May as well get a couple hours of shut-eye before Miroku came stumbling into the room at four a.m. like a bumbling fool.

-

-

It was one of those mornings where nothing feels right. Kagome woke up slow, since it was a cloudy day and the sun didn't shine through the curtains, and with a crick in her neck. Where was she? Disoriented, it took her a minute to remember where she was. Oh yeah—Sango's. I wonder if Inuyasha's still at home? Or did he take a hint and leave?

Moaning, she turned and covered her face with a pillow. Inuyasha…

No. Stop.

Sora. Where's Sora? Her eyes landed on the baby sleeping in an old cradle of Sango's. Her baby's steady breathing confirmed that she was still asleep. Sleep on, my baby. I pray that you never marry. Maybe I'll insist you become a nun. A hint of a smile crossed Kagome's face. No, the minute her daughter became a nun, she would inevitably fall in love with a monk, or maybe the gardener of the abbey. Such was how fate liked to throw things around.

Kagome sat up straight and carefully climbed out of the bed, stepping over the redheaded boy who was softly snoring in the sleeping bag that was placed next to her cot. She ran a hand though her messy hair and quietly slipped out the door, hoping breakfast and a nice, long talk with Sango would clear her muddled head.

She followed the noises of a breakfast preparation and found herself in the kitchen. Miroku was busy frying eggs at the stove. "Morning, Kagome-san!" he greeted her. There were purple bags beneath his eyes, but he seemed chipper.

"Morning," she grunted, shuffling toward the table and taking a seat. She then realized that she was still in her pajamas—or rather, a pair of sweatpants and a tee-shirt that she'd borrowed from Sango. Oh well; she was completely covered, so she was safe from Miroku.

Kagome yawned and let her gaze wander around the room, looking at nothing in particular, until she spotted something in the living room.

Inuyasha. Sleeping on the couch.

She yelped and jumped out of her chair. "What is he doing here?"

"Huh?" Miroku turned and looked in the direction she was staring. "Oh…well…" He stopped, figuring that any explanation was, at this point, pretty much futile.

Kagome ran back into the guest room, stuffing the few belonging she'd brought into her bag, carefully lifted Sora into her arms, taking care not to wake her, and then tiptoed out of the room and into the hallway. A quick look into the living room proved that Inuyasha was still asleep. She breathed a sigh of relief; she wasn't ready to face her husband yet.

"Miroku," she whispered, poking her head into the kitchen. "Tell Sango thanks and that I'll call her later."

Miroku looked uneasy. "Kagome…are you sure that running away is the right thing?"

"I wasn't asking for a lecture," she snapped. At the hurt look on her friend's face, she immediately regretted her hasty words. "I'm sorry, Miroku-kun, I didn't mean to yell at you. But as long as I run, Inuyasha will follow, ne? And if he gets tired of chasing…I'll know that his life isn't true. See?"

"Not really."

She shrugged. "Never mind. It doesn't matter, I guess. I'll be at my house if you need me."

"All right… Take care, Kagome."

She nodded and picked up her shoes, rather than bothering to put them on. Miroku opened the door for her, and she left in a hurry. Frowning, the purple-eyed man locked the door and shuffled back to the kitchen, pausing to look on his sleeping friend on the way.

He did a double take when he looked at the couch. Hadn't Inuyasha been on the couch a minute ago…?

Maybe he was in the bathroom or something…

-

-

Kagome shut the door and unceremoniously deposited her bag onto the floor. "There's no place like home," she muttered sarcastically.

"Welcome back, Dorothy."

Kagome started so violently that she nearly dropped Sora. Inuyasha rushed forward, arms extended, ready to catch his falling baby—but froze when he realized Sora was safe.

They stood like that for what seemed like eternity, staring into each other's eyes as if they could communicate by thoughts alone.

Finally, Kagome said: "How did you get here so fast?"

"Keh, at the pace you were walking home a sloth could have beat you."

Can't he answer a single question without insulting me? She opened her mouth, a retort ready to fall off her lips, but closed it when she saw Inuyasha's eyes. It was his defense mechanism: he hid behind rudeness when he was scared or nervous.

Like the day he proposed to her:

"Kagome…er, I'm not exactly sure how to say this… I mean, I never thought that a clumsy, temperamental bitch would come to mean so much to me, but—damn it, Kagome, I'm in love with you."

"Kagome?"

"Eh?" She jerked out of her daydream.

"Will you just let me have my say… please?"

It was the "please" that did it. Inuyasha never said please to anyone.

"I'm listening," Kagome said coolly, picking up her bag and walking towards the bedroom.

"No." Inuyasha grabbed her shoulders and spun her around. "Please, look at me when I'm talking."

Damn his expressive eyes… She swallowed. "Fine."

He closed his eyes for a moment, but then opened them with resolve. "Kikyo and I dated all throughout high school.

"She and I were from different ends of the spectrum. I was from the higher-up middle class, and she was rock-bottom poor. Both her parents were alcoholics that abused her, and would rather see her dead—literally. She was a mistake baby, so she was never wanted in the first place. My mother was horrified that I was seeing such a girl, and insisted that I break up with her. Naturally, being the age where I tried to defy every order my parents ever gave me, I became only that more determined to stay her boyfriend.

"Unfortunately," he continued, "as time passed, I became more and more attached to her…and she tended to use this to her best advantage. She was a sweet girl, honestly, but you can't blame her for most of her actions, considering her background." He took a deep breath, trying to quell his emotions. Kagome could barely contain hers.

"One day… Kikyo came to school bruised—all over. She told the teacher she'd gotten into a fist fight, which nobody questioned, since Kikyo was… 'trash' anyway." He spat out the word 'trash.' "I finally pulled the truth from her: her father, in his drunken haze, had tried to force himself on her—"

Kagome smothered a gasp.

"—and then beat the crap out of her when she refused. Sonofabitch," Inuyasha cursed. "I was about ready to go murder the man, but she stopped me."

-

"No, Inuyasha!" she said. "He'll kill you!"

"Not if I fucking kill him first!"

"Stop! I can't take…anymore violence. Please…"

"Kikyo," I whispered, pulling her into my arms. "Please, let me help you."

She was silent for a minute. "There's only one way I can think of."

"Well…?"

"If I get…pregnant…he'll go into another rage and throw me out of the house. I know he will—he's called me a whore more times than I can remember," she said bitterly.

I held onto Kikyo for dear life, positive that if I let her go, I would run to her house and strangle that bastard with my own hands.

"Inuyasha," she said, looking into my eyes, "don't you see? If he kicks me out of the house, I'm free. We graduate in less than a month. I've been accepted into a good college—I can raise my baby in peace."

"Without a father?"

She shrugged. "I'd rather she didn't grow up with a father at this point. Not that you're anything like my dad, Inuyasha," she rushed to assure me, "but you shouldn't be saddled with the responsibilities of being a parent now. You need your freedom; I understand. Please…I just need your help making a baby."

"Kikyo…" I stared at her helplessly. "People will talk…"

"They talk already! They call me a slut, a whore, trash—how much worse can it get? I can live with the talk."

"Do you really want your child to have to grow up with that?"

She pursed her lips, but shook her head with steely resolve. "I've decided, Inuyasha. You can either help me or not; it doesn't really matter. I can pick any guy off the street willing to sleep with me without any consequences."

That did it. There was no way in hell I'd allow that to happen. "I'll do it."

I'd never seen such a bright smile spread across Kikyo's face. She hugged me with all her strength. "I love you, Inuyasha."

I buried my face in her hair. "Kikyo…"

-

"The minute I accepted her offer, I regretted it. The minute we finished the deed I regretted it. Like she said she would, Kikyo waited until it was certain she was pregnant—not that there was much of a chance; we used no protection whatsoever—and then told her father. She received the beating of her life with that news; miraculously, it didn't affect the development of the baby.

"We graduated and went to our respective colleges. In the beginning, we'd make a point of seeing each other every weekend, but then tests and research papers and new friends started getting in the way… by the time we reached our senior year, we saw each other for about an hour each Christmas. By then, her daughter, Sayo, was three years old, and knew me as 'Uncle Inuyasha.' Around that time I was starting to feel really guilty, and I offered to marry her, and to give Sayo a family."

"Wait," Kagome interrupted softly, "was that the time that you broke up with me for a few days, saying you had some personal problems to work out?"

Inuyasha ducked his head. "Yeah."

Kagome blinked away the tears that threatened to escape.

"You see how torn I was? I was already seeing you, which was tearing me apart, because I felt that I should be loyal to Kikyo…and falling in love with you was like betraying her."

Kagome understood. She could see where he was coming from… but was it too much to want to own her husband's entire heart, and not just a part of it?

"Four months ago, I was up watching late watching whatever on TV, when the phone rang. You were already asleep—you did that a lot when you were pregnant, remember?—and I didn't want it to wake you up. I was barely coherent when I answered it…and at first, I didn't know who it was, because Kikyo was crying so hard. When I finally deciphered that she was trying to tell me that Sayo was dying of leukemia, I hung up the phone and in the next breath jumped in the car."

He took a deep breath and went on, "Apparently, Sayo had been battling cancer for over a year already…and she hadn't told me. I was furious with her, and we bickered for hours before she told me that the only hope of saving Sayo now was to undergo a bone marrow transplant. Kikyo wasn't a match. I think that hurt her more than anything—that she couldn't help save her own daughter that she'd gone through so much pain to have and raise. The first month was spent doing tests and preparing me for the transplant. Like I said, I'd gotten sick after the operation, and was unable to even move at times.

"But, Kagome—" He hesitantly stroked her cheek with the back of his hand. "Believe me when I say that a day didn't go by when I thought of you, that I wished I could be here by your side…"

"Inuyasha…" Kagome bit her lip and covered his hand with her own, entwining their fingers. "I gave birth to Sora the day after you left. The very next day. I think the shock and worry pushed me into labor. I had to deliver her all by myself; convince the doctors that yes, I did have a husband, no I didn't know where he was, but yes, I was legally married; I had to call Miroku to drive me home, since Sango was busy taking care of her own kids. For four months I've raised Sora by myself—without you. She's our first child, Inuyasha! I wanted this to be…special. Not to mention that I've never done this before—I was scared out of my wits!"

"Kikyo went through the exact same situation," he said quietly. "I wasn't about to abandon her a second time."

Kagome dropped his hand. "Just who is it that you care about more, Inuyasha?" she yelled. "You hired Kikyo because you felt sorry for her, isn't that right?"

His eyes darkened, but he didn't deny it.

"You can't try to please two women—it's not going to work. What are things going to be like at work when Sayo gets out of the hospital? You two have a bond, you can't deny it. Am I…" She struggled to say the words. "Am I really only second best?"

"No!" he shouted, making Kagome jump. "No, Kagome… this is why these past months were so hard for me. Kikyo couldn't understand that I loved someone else; she entertained the notion that she was the only one I could love. I spent the better part of our time together trying to make her understand that while she was my first love and that she'd always have a special place in my heart… that you, Kagome, were my wife, and the one woman that I couldn't live without." He roughly pulled her into his arms, avoiding crushing a now wide-awake Sora. "I love you so much it hurts," he said, resting his head on top of hers. "I can't live without you, Kagome. Please, believe me."

"What if she tries to take you away from me?" she asked, her voice trembling.

"She won't."

"How can you know that?"

There was a moment of silence. "Because she's dead."

Kagome's head shot up so fast that her skull cracked against his jaw. "Ouch!" he grimaced.

"She's what?" Kagome nearly shrieked.

Inuyasha heaved a sigh and looked away, his eyes full of pain. "She…died. A few days after Sayo's operation."

"Of…of what?" Kagome searched Inuyasha's face for any glimmer of untruth. "How can she be dead? You've been talking about her like she's alive! And how could you have not mentioned this before now?"

"You didn't give me a chance. And there was no real opportunity to announce it before now. She died of STDs. She'd been…sleeping around for a while."

Kagome couldn't have spoken if she'd wanted to. It was just too much to take it at once…

Inuyasha's breathing was ragged, and Kagome could tell he was trying to hold back tears. Inuyasha never cried—"crying is for pansy-asses."

"What happened to Sayo?" she eventually managed.

"Still in the hospital. I got my mother to go stay with her, albeit reluctantly. She's still horrified at what I did; but she can't deny her own flesh and blood."

"Did the operation work? I mean, is she going to be okay?"

"Thankfully, yes. But what kind of trade is that? The daughter for the mother?" Inuyasha's voice shook with anger. "It isn't fair."

"No," Kagome said softly. "It isn't."

They stayed quiet for a minute, drawing comfort from each other. Kagome couldn't stay mad at him… not really. Uncertainty still lingered within her, but after his numerous assurances of love, he at least deserved another chance.

And she did love him—oh, Kami-sama, how she loved him.

She took a deep breath. Could she do this?

Yes…she could.

"Inuyasha…when Sayo's better, bring her here. We can raise her—together."

Their eyes met and Inuyasha sucked in a shuddering breath and brought his lips down onto hers, drawing her into a passionate embrace. "Kagome," he whispered onto her lips, "Arigato."

"Always, Inuyasha." Always.

"Kagome." His voice suddenly began urgent, alert. He looked her straight in the eyes. "I love you."

"I know."

"And you're okay with—?"

"Inuyasha." She laid her fingers on his lips. "I know what I'm doing. You're here—you love me. I don't see the problem."

He sighed and pulled her back into his embrace. I think…I'd be content to stay like this forever.

Kagome sighed and nestled her head in the crook of his neck. I just want to stay like this…for all of eternity…

They stood like that for an indefinite amount of time, in each others' arms, with the knowledge of each other's love.

And that was enough.

-

-x-

-

— Koishii: beloved

Author's Notes: Hmm, I hope this didn't seem too soap opera-ish to you guys. o.0 Yes, this is the end. Yeah, I know it's abrupt…but I really couldn't think of a better way to end it. I thought it was best to emphasize that love forgives, love sacrifices, and love never dies.

Sorry for taking so long to post! But better late than never, ne? Hope you enjoyed it. Review, please, and tell me what you thought of this! Big thanks to all who reviewed AGD originally—I love you all! Later, minna-san…