Disclaimer: Any self respecting lawyer would realise that this is a fanfiction and therefore, I do not own Inuyasha.

"…" – speech

'…' – thoughts

- change in scenery or time

-

One More Time

-

It would soon come.

The final battle.

There hadn't been a formal declaration, but everybody knew that this would be it.

This would be the last time the shard-hunting group would ever come face to face with Naraku and his detachments. After this fight, only one group would walk away victorious and with their purpose still intact.

Naturally, the atmosphere among the six was tense. All day they had travelled, desperate to reach Kaede's village to gain some much-needed rest for the last haul.

"Inuyasha, couldn't we stop for a little while?" begged Kagome, glancing worriedly at Shippou, who was nestled in the basket of her bicycle. Never before had he endured an entire day's worth of travelling, from sunrise to close to sunset with no stops in between. "It couldn't hurt, right?"

The half-demon glanced back at the girl from the future, but for once, he didn't yield to her plead. "It's just a little further." He, too, looked at the fox kit. "We'll be there before sunset."

Miroku had been keeping unusually quiet for the entire day, occasionally sneaking looks at his covered palm. Whenever one of the others caught him glancing at it, they knew what he was thinking and quickly looked away. Of course, this final encounter with Naraku would be his last chance to rid himself of the Kazaana. And if he didn't succeed, it was certain that he would be killed in that fight anyway.

If they didn't defeat Naraku, then all of them would die.

Kill or be killed.

It was certainly a depressing thought.

Sango too, had been more silent through the journey. In fact, there had been very little talking amongst the group, each person thinking about their fate and what would happen. The demon exterminator's gaze was downcast and it didn't take one who could read minds to tell what she was thinking about.

Kohaku: her little brother. This battle could very well decide his fate, and either way the outcome would be, chances for him didn't look good.

On the one hand, if Naraku won, then he would take the shard from Kohaku's back to finally complete the jewel and the boy would die.

On the other, if they won, then his fate seemed no better. They could delay it, but eventually, inevitably, they would have to remove the fragment that was keeping her brother alive. However, the one thing that was good about this would be that Kohaku would die a free soul. He will not have been possessed by Naraku and he would have his memories back.

Though that in itself was a debatable issue…

Kirara looked worriedly up at her mistress and rubbed against Sango's legs. "Mew?"

"Kirara?" Heads turned to glance at the girl. "No, it's all right. I can walk on my own."

"Miao." Stopping, the fire cat transformed into her larger form in a flash of light. She nudged Sango firmly, telling her to climb on. The exterminator hesitated.

"That's not a bad idea," commented Inuyasha grimly. "It'll get us to the village a lot quicker."

The group shared one look before Miroku moved automatically to take his spot behind Sango and Kagome walked to Inuyasha. When everybody was set, Kirara took to the skies while the dog half-demon sped along the ground, the girl's pink bicycle carefully carried in one hand.

Not soon, the familiar group of huts came into view and every heaved a collective sigh of relief. Here, at least, would be a brief moment of calm before the storm. Touching down in front of the old miko's hut, Kagome slid off of Inuyasha's back and removed Shippou from under her arm, where he had been dozing.

However, just as she moved to walk into the inviting warmth of the hut, a clawed hand on her shoulder stopped her. Turning around, the teenager's surprised glance hit the hanyou's serious face.

"I need to talk to you."

His face held no expression, not even the fiery arrogance he had portrayed to everybody since day one of the shard hunt. She could read nothing from his solemn golden eyes when there would usually be something there.

Kagome blinked at him for a while before giving a small nod and handing Shippou off into Sango's arms. "I'll see you guys in a bit."

Sango shot the pair a curious look before offering a small smile. "Take care, Kagome-chan."

Miroku, however, seemed to know that something was up and bowed to the surprised girl. "Good luck with whatever Buddha sends your way, Kagome-sama."

Slightly unnerved, the girl frowned and was about to ask the monk what he meant before Inuyasha cut her off. "Let's go." Abruptly, he swept the teenager into his arms and shot off for the forest named after him. Kagome gave a startled squeak and instinctively locked her arms around the hanyou's head, burying her face into his chest.

After the initial shock had worn off, she raised her head slightly to look up. 'What's gotten into him?' Inuyasha stared determinedly ahead as his gait continued to quicken. Soon, they had passed the entrance to the forest and were quickly speeding deeper within. Kagome looked to the side and her curiosity deepened.

Why were they headed towards the bone-eater's well?

Perhaps Inuyasha needed something from her time? But if so, why hadn't he asked?

A thought grazed the edge of her mind, but Kagome brushed it off.

No. He wouldn't do that.

He'd already tried it once, and it didn't work, so…

But the seed of doubt had been planted, and the girl's anxiety grew.

What the heck was wrong?

Not soon, they slowed and just as Kagome had guessed, they had reached the clearing where the bone-eater's well took residence. The hanyou stopped just metres away from the dark opening and gently lowered the girl onto her feet. When that had been done, Inuyasha stared dismally down the depths of the well to the dirt ground. The entire forest was silent, as if holding its breath.

A few minutes had passed, and still, no words were said.

"Hey, Inuyasha?"

There was no answer.

"What's wrong?" She walked up to him, placing a hand on his shoulder. "Why are we here?" Clothing rustled as the half-demon turned and gazed solemnly at her. "Inuyasha?"

Kagome stared hard into his eyes but found nothing. Why couldn't she read him?

His golden gaze softening, the hanyou raised a callused hand and brushed the edge of her jaw. Slightly taken back by the gesture, the girl frowned but quickly got over it. She placed her hand over his. "What's up?"

He still made no response but only took their hands and entwined them. Surprised, Kagome looked at his face to see him staring at their clasped hands. There was a deep, subtle softness in those pools of amber and she found herself mesmerised.

But this was irregular…

What was up with him?

"Kagome."

It was a single word. A soft whisper. Just her name, but spoken with such intensity that it had an untold force behind it. His voice lacked the usual gruffness and for a moment- a split second, she could see a flash of emotion in his eyes before it disappeared.

He dropped her hand and looked away.

It fell limply to her side.

"What's wrong with you?" she demanded of him. "What's going on?"

Instead of answering her questions, however, the half-demon chose to straighten his mouth into a line before staring at her hard. Once again, Kagome was startled by the stoniness in the golden orbs.

"You know that it's either us or him this time." He didn't need to say anymore for her to know that he was talking about Naraku. "We have to get rid of the bastard or we're dead."

Cautious and curious about where this was going, she nodded. "Yeah…"

He paused before continuing and stared up into the sky. Grey clouds were gathering- the perfect atmosphere for such grim words and what he had come to do. An ironic smirk crossed his face before it faded away. "And that this will be our last chance to complete the jewel."

"Yes." Where was this going? "So?"

Inuyasha let out a breath. "You also know that our chanced of winning are small…"

"Don't say that!" She shook her head. "We're going to defeat him. I know it!"

He stared at her with a half-humorous expression. "If we could have killed him, we would have done it by now."

"But-"

"It's been four years, Kagome!" She stepped back from the forcefulness of his words. "Four fucking years, and the only time we got close to killing him was because of Sesshoumaru. Naraku's been playing us for fools. He could have killed us any time he wanted, but he didn't." His jaw was tight. "He used us to find the rest of the jewel shards."

"Inu-"

Again, the hanyou cut her off. "I'm going to do whatever I can to kill him." Finally, his gaze met hers. "Even if I have to go down with him."

The words where like a death knell to her heart. "Don't say that!" When he made a move to interrupt her, Kagome shook her head and moved on. "You're not going to die! We can do this. We can beat him without losing anybody. We've come close to killing him before…" She shook her head hard. "Don't say that."

Inuyasha waited until she was done before wording his thoughts. "Don't kid yourself." He stared off into the trees. "You know how much I hate the bastard. I'm going to kill him, no matter what." His fists were clenched. "He messed up my life too many times to get away with it."

And suddenly, just from the look in his eyes, Kagome knew what this was about, at least partially. "You're thinking about her, aren't you?" Her voice was soft but doggy-ears caught every word and he stared at Kagome, startled.

"What're you talking about?"

She shook her head and a sad laugh escaped her lips. "You always get this look in your eyes when you talk about her, Inuyasha." She stared at the ground, unseeing. "You want to kill Naraku so badly because he messed up what you could have had." She paused before adding, just so he got her point, "Fifty years ago." The half-demon made a noise at the back of her throat but Kagome raised a hand and looked up. Her expression was one of defeat. "I know this is for revenge… for her… but it doesn't matter. You still won't die."

She stared determinedly at him.

Inuyasha made no sound and she knew that she had at least been partially right.

Lightning flashed.

Rolling his shoulders, the half-demon continued with what he was doing. "The point is, when I'm fighting Naraku, I won't be able to… protect you."

Thunder rolled.

The cold feeling in her chest grew. Kagome shook her head. "You just mean that I'm a burden to you." She laughed hollowly. "I get it."

He frowned. "Stop twisting my words around, woman!" Seeing her flinch, the hanyou shook his head and softened his tone. "That's not what I mean."

She looked at him sullenly. "So what is it?"

Letting out a long breath, Inuyasha stared at her firmly. "I'm not going to let you get hurt, and if you fight, you will."

"So, what?" Kagome looked at him in dread. "I'm just going to be sitting in Kaede-baa-chan's hut while my friends are fighting for their lives?" She shook her head. "No way, Inuyasha. No. Way."

Lightning lit the sky and thunder soon followed it.

Staring at her form, the hanyou felt an unusual feeling start deep within him. He finally gave in and snatched the girl into his arms. "Stupid girl." His voice was gruff with a foreign emotion. "Stop worrying about others and start thinking about yourself."

Kagome felt her eyes go wide as a sense of déjà vu swept over her. "Inu-" her voice was muffled by his shoulder.

"Naraku's going to target you. He's going to hunt you down." His breathing quickened from emotion. "I promised you I wouldn't let you get hurt."

The girl stiffened.

No.

He wouldn't dare do that again, would he?

"Inuyasha…" She attempted a warning tone, but it came out inarticulate. "What are you thinking?"

"Kagome…" The half-demon suddenly spun around so that she was closer to the mouth of the well. "I'm… sorry…" Her eyes widened as, almost in slow motion, she was tipped over the edge of the well. "But it's the only way…"

Her horrified gaze directed upwards to the rapidly shrinking opening, a scream tore from the depths of her soul. "Inuyasha!"

The girl stared at the face of the hanyou and saw his mouth move, forming three short syllables, but they were drowned out by the loudest roll of thunder yet.

And then all went black.

Kagome shot up from bed.

A hand pressed against her rapidly beating heart, the girl looked around her to see her familiar room. The rain lashed into her room through the open window and the girl hurriedly got up to close it. Deed done, she rested her forehead against the cool glass and stared outside.

It'd been a dream.

A roll of thunder interrupted the noise of the rain.

Azure eyes closed and a sob tore from her throat.

She ripped herself away from the window and fell upon her small bed, clutching the pillow as she whimpered into it.

Oh gods.

Why today?

Why did she have to have the dream today?

The dream that had plagued her ever since he'd thrown her out of the feudal era for good.

Rising, the girl stumbled over to her mirror and studied her face. Red eyes and mussed up hair stared back at her. But otherwise, she seemed to be completely normal. Nobody could guess, just from looking at her, the heat-ache she was going through.

She was one year older.

One year older from that day when he…

Him…

Inu…

She squeezed her eyes shut.

It hurt to say his name. It hurt to even think about him. Every time his image filled her mind… it reminded her of what she had lost. A year ago.

Kagome sat on the edge of her bed morosely, letting the tears fall freely onto her lap. The events of her dream had happened exactly a year ago today. She was now twenty years old, but still, she remembered.

She could still remember waking up to find herself at the bottom of the bone-eater's well in the modern era.

She could remember climbing out and jumping back in… but nothing happened.

She could remember repeating the action so many times her feet had become numb.

She could remember digging with her hands in an attempt to go back.

She could remember searching for the shikon shards she usually wore around her neck to find the jar gone. He'd taken it. And without them, she couldn't get the bone-eaters well to let her go back.

And then after that had been the shock. The shock of realising that never again, would she ever see her friends again. That never again, would she venture through the beautiful fields of the past. That never ever again, would she see him…

Kagome sniffled, ignoring the rain pounding against her window.

She could remember the hate that followed the shock before that dissolved into depression. Her family had tried so hard to make her leave her room, and finally, after weeks, she finally went out to see the outside world. Slowly, she grew to become re-accustomed to modern life. Once again, she went out with her friends, though school had long since ended for her.

Houjo had continued to ask her out, and though her heart still hadn't changed, she had eventually given in and now…

Kagome stared at the ring on her finger.

She squeezed her eyes shut and attempted to stop her tears.

Oh gods.

What had she done?

Why had she accepted?

Well, that was actually quite obvious. Houjo came from a prosperous family and had shown an interest in her ever since the ninth grade. It was unlikely that anybody else would want her, or so Kagome thought, and so she had accepted his proposal even though it was killing her inside.

If he'd ever found out…

The girl punched the pillow with all the energy she could muster.

Why couldn't she forget already?

Why couldn't she forget about him and move on?

By the end of tomorrow, she was going to be a married woman and she was still thinking about the past? Why?

But that too, was obvious.

It was those three words.

Those three words she'd seen been formed on his lips.

She didn't dare to think that they had been what she hoped. But still, they had prevented her from moving on.

Kagome fell back onto her back and rolled over onto her stomach, burying her face into the pillow.

Damn him!

He had to go and do that! He could be dead- in fact, he probably was by now, but still, her heart couldn't let go like her brain had told her so many months ago.

She stopped thrashing and gave herself up to sobbing into her pillow. So absorbed in her grief was the woman that she didn't notice it when her door gently squeaked open and somebody entered.

The person looked sadly at the distressed Kagome and moved to sit at the edge of the bed, next to her. Startling at the sudden shift in weight, the girl looked up to find…

"Mama?"

Mrs. Higurashi smiled gently and smoothed the hair away from her daughter's face. "Kagome. What's wrong?" Her tone was soothing as she stroked Kagome's cheek. "Why the tears?"

She sniffled and sat up to lean against her mother. "I had a nightmare."

The elder woman's gaze was understanding. "The same one?"

Kagome hesitated before giving in. Her mother could read her anytime. "Yes."

"Honey, don't you think these dreams mean something?" She rubbed the girl's back. "They've become more frequent since you accepted Houjo-kun's…"

"I know." Kagome shook her head sadly. "But so what? He's dead, and I might as well marry Houjo."

"Kagome. You're making this sound as though it's a final resort." She looked at her daughter kindly. "Why did you agree to it if you don't want to do it?"

The girl stayed silent.

Why, indeed?

"You should marry Houjo-kun only if you have feelings for him. I've told you this before." Mrs. Higurashi gently wiped the tears from Kagome's cheeks. "I don't want you doing anything you don't want to." She smiled. "I want my only daughter to be happy. I know this is old advice, but follow your heart. It's not too late to change, Kagome. I know you're a strong girl." She rose. "Would you like some hot chocolate?"

The girl sniffed and nodded numbly. Her mother always found some way to make her feel better.

The woman smiled and walked out of the room, quickly returning with two mugs of the steaming liquid. "Here. Be careful, it's hot."

Kagome couldn't help but smile a little at the warning she had heard hundreds of times before. She accepted the cup, murmuring a soft thank you and began to sip the sweet drink.

Mother and daughter drank in silence with only the noise of the storm for music. Soon, nothing remained in the mugs and Mrs. Higurashi quietly collected them. Before she left, she turned back and looked at Kagome. "Think about what I said, okay?"

Kagome nodded. Her mother smiled tenderly and began to leave through the open the door. "Mama?" She paused and looked back. "Thank you."

Mrs. Higurashi placed the mugs down onto the floor, walked to the bedside and kissed her forehead. "Of course." She smiled again and patted Kagome's head. "I have a feeling everything will work out just fine. Now get some more sleep."

And bending down to pick up the cups, she left the girl to fall into a dreamless slumber.

Morning soon arrived and Kagome stirred as sunlight streamed from her window to kiss lightly upon her face. She groaned and rolled over. But there was no escaping waking up as her digital clock suddenly erupted into a loud stream of American rock.

Kagome cursed softly and rose, mussed up, rubbing her eyes lazily. She glanced at the clock and groaned again.

"Who set my alarm for this early in the morning?"

Shaking her head, the girl's mind immediately alighted upon an answer.

"SOUTA! You brat!"

Tossing the covers aside, Kagome jumped out of bed and quickly hurried over to her brother's room. Even though he was already thirteen years old, he still acted like a little kid, pulling lame jokes like this one…

Hopping into the kid's room, the girl began to relentlessly tickle her younger brother. With such a rude awakening, Souta had no time to argue as he was reduced to giggles in seconds.

"H-hey, sis! Hahaha. S-s-stop i-it! W-what did I d-d-do?"

"Stop playing innocent, squirt. You set my alarm to five o'clock on purpose." Kagome didn't stop tickling until tears were streaming from her brother's eyes. "Now what do you say?"

Souta continued to squirm. "I-I'm… I'm s-sorry! I'm sorry!"

Satisfied, the elder sibling stood up and nodded. "Good."

He mustered a watery glare at her and stood up, inching towards the door. "But… you deserved it!" Sniggering madly, Souta made a dash for the door and quickly ran out of it, his sister in hot pursuit. However, just as she was about to catch him, the preteen had locked himself in the bathroom.

Kagome blinked at the door before sighing and trudging back towards her room. "Twerp."

On the way, she bumped into an old man. He blinked sleepily at her. "What's all the noise about? Are you trying to slaughter a pig?"

Kagome smiled. "No, Grandpa. It was just Souta. But you were close."

The elder Higurashi shook his head at his granddaughter. "Next time, make sure he doesn't make so much noise. They must have heard him in feudal Japan."

Those few words had a massive effect on Kagome. She stiffened and she began to chew her lip. Realising his mistake, Grandpa Higurashi patted her back. "Ignore me, Kagome. I'm just a senile old man."

"No you're not." She sighed and kissed her grandfather on the cheek. "It's early, Grandpa. You should get more sleep."

"I'm lucky to have such a caring granddaughter." A yawn broke his face and he stretched. "I think you're right." He padded back into his room.

Kagome let out a breath and trudged back into her room. Her family was great. It was supportive, and it helped her to recover, but they just didn't fill that gaping hole left in her heart when she'd been forced out of the feudal era. She'd give anything to get them- her friends- back.

Slowly, the girl opened her closet and stared at the pure white dress within. Houjo had insisted on a western wedding, but Kagome's heart had always been set on a traditional one.

Whatever.

It wasn't like he was her dream husband anyway.

She let out a morose laugh.

Sighing, she ran a hand over the smooth fabric. It really was a beautiful dress- one of the best that money could buy. But… it just didn't seem right.

The whole thing.

The whole wedding didn't seem right.

The ceremony was going to be held at a church so nearby that they were going to walk there. Her friends had all been invited, as had many of their schoolmates. Houjo had been popular all throughout high school and his parents were of a high profile, and so it was going to be a huge event.

But Kagome just wanted it to stop.

She could feel the tears beginning to gather again and sighed, brushing them away irritably. Why did she have to be so emotional?

Just then, the phone rang and Kagome hurried over to it before the ring bothered anybody. "Hello?"

"Kagome-chan!"

She sighed again. "Hey, Yuka."

"I can't believe it! You're getting married today, oh Kagome!" Her friend squealed.

"Yuka, it's five in the morning. What are you doing up?"

"I just couldn't sleep! I was too excited.!" Her overly energetic voice was too much.

Kagome rubbed her forehead. "You're not even the one getting married. Why don't you get back to sleep?"

A pause.

"Kagome, are you okay?" Yuka's tone had diminished and she was sounding concerned. "You don't sound too well. Is your rheumatism acting up again?"

Rheumatism: the one disease that had stuck from her shard hunting. Kagome shook her head and rolled her eyes.

"No. I'm just fine. A little tired, but fine."

"Oh… Then get some sleep, Kagome-chan. I'll see you in a few hours when we get made-up!" Her friend's bubbly voice returned. "I'm just so honoured I'm one of your bridesmaids! Bye!"

Emotionally exhausted, Kagome hung up the phone and plopped down on her bed. Her mind began to wander and unbidden, a thought entered her mind.

If this had been her dream wedding, what would it have been like?

Lazily, a smile crept over the girl's face.

She would have had a simple wedding Kimono, of course. Sango would have been by her side and all of the friends they'd made during the shard hunt would have been invited. That, would mean it would have had to be held in the feudal era, but there would have been some way to get her family there…

And her groom… would have been a certain silver haired hanyou…

With that thought, Kagome drifted off into the land of slumber, a smile on her face and a blush on her cheeks as she envisioned her dream wedding.

The euphoria of her dream had long since worn off and had been replaced with a depressed gloom as Kagome's mother was dressing her up.

They had already finished with the make-up and hair appointments, during which her overly energetic friends had given her repeated hugs. They had squealed over every aspect of the married life, from the honeymoon, to what they would be doing on the honeymoon- something Kagome really didn't want to think about.

Now, Grandpa and Souta were already at the church and it was just Kagome and her mother here, getting her dressed up in the puffy wedding gown.

As Mrs. Higurashi straightened the final few folds of cloth and removed the last pins, she took a look at her daughter's sullen expression in the mirror.

"Are you sure about this, Kagome?"

The girl almost started before shrugging half-heartedly. "It's too late anyway."

"It's never too late."

Kagome stared at her mother's reflection. "…What?"

"I told you that I want my only daughter to be happy." She adjusted the hem of the dress and straightened. She looked at her daughter and glowed with pride. "You're so beautiful."

The girl cast her eyes away. "The dress is uncomfortable."

"And it's not only the dress that doesn't feel right, huh?" Her mother helped her down from the stool. "I remember, when I got married, the Kimono didn't feel too good either, but I didn't care." A far-off expression floated over the woman's face. "I was too eager to finally become the wife of the man I loved to really be aware of anything else."

Kagome studied her mother's expression sadly.

"I remember that later, when I tried on the kimono again, it was horrible, but during the wedding, I hadn't felt a thing." She blinked out of her reverie and squeezed her daughter's hand. "Remember, Kagome. Do what you think is best. Souta, your grandfather and I will always be behind whatever choice you make." Mrs. Higurashi carefully opened the door and stepped to the side. "It's time to go."

The girl started towards the doorway, but as she passed the window, she looked outside and saw the Goshiboku.

She paused.

Eyes still on the tree, Kagome spoke to her mother, "Mama, why don't you go ahead? I'll go later."

"You know your way?"

"Yes."

"You won't get lost?"

"No." Seeing the expression on her daughter's face, Mrs. Higurashi smiled and encased Kagome into a hug. "Mama…"

"Kagome." She backed off, a tear slipping down her cheek. "Do what you think is best." Her voice was barely above a whisper. "Your family loves you."

The younger girl nodded, unable to speak.

Mrs. Higurashi headed towards the door and paused. "What shall I tell Houjo-kun if his bride doesn't arrive?"

"Tell him…" she bit her lip. "Tell him that she's sorry, that he's a great guy, but she had to follow where her heart leaded."

Her mother nodded and wiped her eyes. "We'll miss you, Kagome." And then she was gone.

Kagome cast another glance at the god tree outside of her window before hurrying out of her room. She quickly ran down the stairs and ran out of the open door- a deed not made any easier by the high heels she wore. Determinedly, the girl strode across the shrine grounds to stop outside of the small fence enclosing the tall tree.

Biting her lip, she glanced up at the sheer height of it and carefully stepped over the low barrier. She walked up to the large scar in the bark and touched it gently.

Here…

Here was where she had set him free.

A sudden hope lighting in her heart, Kagome stood cautiously on the roots and touched her forehead to the cool bark. What she wanted to do… had only happened once, and that had been a years before. This time, she didn't have any shikon shards to help her, but nevertheless, the Goshinboku was a time tree, and hopefully…

Hopefully… it would work.

She closed her eyes.

'I want to see… I want to see him.'

She breathed in deeply.

'I want to see him… Inuyasha… please!'

She hoped and wished with all of her heart, but when she opened her eyes, nothing had happened. Not so much as a breeze rustled the branches of the tree, and for a moment, a fear struck her. She stepped back.

What if he had died?

She pushed that thought out of her mind and instead, set her mind and soul to believing that she could do it. She'd done it before, after all. She hoped beyond hope, that he was standing near the Goshinboku, and that she would be able to reach him. She touched a hand to the scar.

'Please. I just want to see him.'

"Goshinboku… I want to see Inuyasha!" She shouted, and for a moment, a dead silence followed her words. Her open palm pounded against the age-old trunk. Azure eyes opened, but she only found the usual empty shrine grounds surrounding her. Tears gathered and slipped down her cheeks. Sadly, the girl curled up into a small ball at the base of the tree. "I just want to see him." She began to whimper. "Please…

"Just…

"…Just one more time!

"One more time!"

It wasn't working.

Why wasn't it working!

Kagome hugged her legs to her chest and the tears continued to fall. 'Just once,' she prayed, 'I just want to see him just once… please!'

But still, nothing happened.

A broken laugh escaped her lips. Of course it wasn't working. What were the chances that it would? The girl leaned sadly against the tree and swore to herself, that no matter what, she would stay here. She would stay right here, by the tree, where she had first met him.

This was the closest she could get, so here she would stay.

Tears watered the dirt, and in a soft, broken voice, Kagome began to talk.

"For a month after I came back, I thought I'd hate you. I thought I'd resent you for throwing me away- for tearing me away from my friends. But then I found out that I couldn't." She laughed morosely. "I couldn't hate you. Never." She sighed and rested her chin on her knees. "You stupid idiot. I wouldn't have cared if I'd gotten hurt in the fight. At least I would have been with you, but now…" She broke off into a hiccup.

Her eyes closed. "I'm supposed to be getting married today. Remember Houjo? He proposed. I accepted. The wedding will be in an hour. In an hour, they'll come to get me." She shook her head. "But I won't leave. They can do what they want, but I'm going to stay here."

Kagome lapsed into silence and closed her eyes, leaning back into the tree. She could almost feel her heart breaking and the tears continued to roll.

The silence was absolute- not even a bird dared to chirp- but then-

"What's with the tears?"

A sad smile touched her lips. "I must be going crazy. I'm hearing things." Her mind was making up voices that couldn't be there.

"Why would you be hearing things?"

And the voice sounded exactly like… him… but it couldn't be… could it?

She didn't dare open her eyes.

If she did, and found out that nothing had happened… that she really was imagining things, she wouldn't be able to take it.

But then she felt something… something on her cheek where nothing should be. "C'mon. You know I hate it when you cry."

Slowly, hesitantly her eyes open. She didn't dare hope- but… but…

Oh gods.

Her mouth dropped.

Her eyes widened.

It… it couldn't be…

But it was.

There, right in front of her… there he was! Crouching… golden eyes stared into her own… but it couldn't be! She couldn't believe it…

That is, if it weren't for the fact that she could feel his hand cupping her cheek and his breath on her face…

She stared at him before breathing softly, "Inu…yash..a?"

He chuckled softly. "Hey."

A bubble of joy rose up in her, and suddenly, with a squeal of delight, Kagome threw herself at him. Laughing like she had never heard him laugh before, he caught her and stood up, twirling the both of them around. Finally, when she had grown dizzy from the spin and from the sheer delight of finally being able to see him again, he gently set her on the ground. Unable to restrain herself, Kagome approached him and did what she had longed to do for years.

Leaning up, she firmly pressed her lips to his and inwardly rejoiced when he returned the kiss immediately. His arms wrapped around her frame as her hands rested gently on his shoulders. She couldn't get enough of him, but at the same time, she knew he wasn't really there. This was just some sort of dimension created by the tree, and however real it seemed, they weren't in the same time.

They broke apart.

Inuyasha stared solidly at her. "Where have you been this past year?"

The familiar, wonderful feeling of indignation bubbled up and she scowled at him. "What do you mean? You're the one who took my jewel shard so I couldn't come back. You idiot! Do you know what I went through!"

He smirked at her. "That's more like the Kagome I know."

Anger faded away and she laughed again, a true sound that hadn't been heard by the world for a full year and studied him carefully.

He looked the same as before- the same silvery white hair, the same golden-amber eyes. His facial features hadn't changed, and the wonderfully cute dog-ears twitched atop his head. He still wore the same red outfit of fire-rat fur that felt softer than it ever should. Even the rosary was still around his neck.

It was really, truly him.

Her Inuyasha.

He grinned at her before tugging on the material of her dress. "What's with the weird getup?"

"Didn't you hear? I'm getting married." She inwardly grinned at the sudden look of consternation on his face.

"What?"

"Houjo-kun proposed."

"And you accepted?" He was practically burning.

"Yeah…" She smiled shyly at him. "But if a better offer came up…"

Inuyasha snorted. "Then you'd better get rid of the wimp right away."

Kagome nestled her face into his chest. "There's so much I have to tell you… and that you have to tell me."

"No shit."

"How are Sango-chan and Miroku-sama? Shippou-chan? What happened to Naraku? How about-"

"Whoa." He silenced her with another firm, but gentle kiss. "One at a time. We beat Naraku. I'll tell you about it later. Miroku and Sango got married and they're working on their second kid. The runt…" He drifted off and a slightly guilty expression stole over his face.

"What about Shippou?"

"He, well… he hates me. Because I made you go." The hanyou sighed. "They all miss you."

"Do you?"

He looked at her sharply. "What?"

Curious eyes stared at him. "Do you miss me?"

"…"

Exasperation built up in her at the lack of answer. "Just say it and I'll forgive you."

"Fine. I missed you every day since you were gone. Every day was hell without you. Happy?" He mock-glared at her.

The girl beamed at him. "Good. Because you put me through hell too." Suddenly, the smile slipped off her face.

Inuyasha's arms tightened. "What's wrong?"

She looked off to the side and frowned. "They're looking for me." Her gaze locked onto Inuyasha. "Houjo and his friends… they're coming!" She began to panic. "I don't want to marry him!" She cut herself off as something fell around her neck. "Huh?"

The half-demon let her out of his embrace and rested his hands on her shoulders. "Come back soon, Kagome."

"Inu!"

He stepped back from her and began to fade away. "Come back soon." He smirked at her. "Don't keep me waiting, wench."

"Inuyasha!"

She hurried forward, but then everything went dark.

Kagome opened her eyes to find that she was still curled up at the base of the Goshinboku.

"Had it been a dream?"

Shouts echoed across the shrine grounds. "Kagome! Kagome! Where are you?"

Well, if that part had been true, then…

Her hand searched around her neck and found…

"The Shikon no Tama!"

There it was, a full jewel once more on a simple string of shell-like beads. She gasped and glanced up. It hadn't been a dream!

Her breath escaped in a whisper. "Inuyasha…"

"Kagome-chan!"

She grimaced. "Oh no. It's Houjo."

They still hadn't seen her because of her position underneath the god tree, but any moment now, they would get closer and then…

There was no time to go and get any of her things. If she was going to go back, she had to go back now. Licking her lips, Kagome inched upwards, careful to keep against the trunk of the Goshinboku. Slowly, she removed the high heels and left them by the tree. Taking in a deep breath, she shot off from the tree and sprinted as quickly as she could towards the well house.

"Kagome-chan! Where are you going?"

Oh no.

He was getting closer. The girl cursed the thick folds of the wedding gown and continued to run. Up the small steps she went and she was quickly approaching the well house, but still, it wasn't fast enough.

"Kagome! What's gotten into you? Your mother said-"

Kagome didn't need to look back to know that Houjo was gaining and that the entire search party was now on her tail.

Almost there…

Finally!

She quickly pushed back the wooden door of the well house and leapt down the stairs to the dirt ground. She heard a tear as her dress caught in some part of the railing, but that didn't matter.

Nothing did, but to get to the well before they caught her.

"Kagome!"

Aw crap.

She turned around and smiled impishly at the panting man. "Hey Houjo. Were you looking for me?"

"What are you doing here?" He looked around the well house. "Come on, we're getting married, remember?"

"Kagome-chan!"

"Kagome!"

She looked up to find all of her friends gathered around the entrance.

The girl looked back at Houjo. "I'm sorry, Houjo, but you're really not my type. You're nice and all, but… my heart belongs to somebody else." Her hand grasped the jewel around her neck.

"What are you talking about?" A sudden smile broke his face. "Oh, Kagome. It's just the wedding jitters. Come on, let's go. It'll all be fine later." His hand reached out for her as she pushed back the lid of the well. He froze. "You're not thinking of jumping… are you?"

She was on the verge of answering when a commotion brought her attention to the entrance of the well house.

"Sis! Hey, you people, let us through! We're her family!" A familiar voice cut through the mutterings. "Sis! Kagome!"

"Kagome!"

Said girl looked up again to see three familiar faces. "Mama! Grandpa! Souta!"

The three ran up to her and all encased her in a hug. "We're going to miss you, Kagome," cried her grandfather. "When your mother told us where you were going…"

"Do you really have to go?" His brother whined at her.

Her mother, however, simply smiled and stayed silent.

Kagome grinned happily and ruffled her brother's hair. "Don't worry, squirt. I'll be all right, and you guys will be too."

"Are you going to see Inu-no-nii-chan?"

"Who the heck is Inu-no-nii-chan?" Houjo pushed the family away and stared at Kagome. "What are they talking about? Where are you going?"

Kagome slowly edged back until she felt the familiar wood behind her. "I really am sorry, Houjo. Maybe someday, you'll find your perfect bride, but it's not today." She sat on the edge of the well. "I really have to get going. My friends are waiting… He's waiting." And with that, she leaned back.

"Kagome!"

She felt a tug on the hem of her dress and heard a tear before a familiar, wonderful blue light encased her.

Amidst the shocked screams and murmurs, a single voice broke through to reach the falling girl. "Bye Kagome! Tell Inuyasha-nii-chan I said hi!"

Houjo rushed to the edge of the well and glanced down. "Kagome! Are you all right? Kagome!" The well was empty. He turned around and confronted her family. "What happened to her? Where did she go?" Hysterical, the man shook Souta by the shoulders. "What did you do to her!"

A hand on his shoulder lifted his gaze to glance at her mother. "Kagome is where she belongs."

He was speechless, but then three girls surrounded him. "Yuka… Eri… Ayumi… You three were her best friends… where is Kagome?"

They made no sound but looked at Souta instead.

"Souta-kun… tell us."

"Did she-"

"-go to see that-"

"-rude, two-timing, selfish-"

"-spoiled-"

"-nasty-"

"-violent-"

"-jerk?"

He grinned at them through his tears. "Yup!"

Kagome was lying flat on her back on something that smelled wonderfully familiar. It wasn't exactly a good smell- the scent of earth and decay, but to her, it was great.

"I made it."

She looked up to see a window of sky instead of the roof of the well house. The cheerful chirping of birds' song filtered into the deep well.

"I really made it."

Slowly, the girl sat up and tucked a loose tendril of hair behind her hair. A thick cloud of happiness surrounded her, almost making her delirious. This was real. This really, truly, was real. The Shikon no Tama hung from around her neck, glinting in the dim light.

"Oi!"

Her head shot up.

There he was. In the flesh. For real.

Inuyasha jumped into the well and stared at her intently. "Took you a while, woman."

"I had some unresolved issues." She grinned and happily wrapped her arms around him. "I really missed you."

"Mm." She was suddenly swept up into his arms and with a powerful leap, they flew out of the well and onto the grass outside. "You're heavier that before."

She smacked him on the arm. "It's the dress."

"Sure." He rolled his eyes, but she could see the unrestrained happiness they held. It warmed her soul to know the reason of that ecstasy…

Kagome gave in to desire and tilted her chin upwards, bringing her lips to gently touch his. It began a soft and gentle kiss that soon turned far more passionate. She made a noise of satisfaction from the back of her throat and sighed when it was over.

"I'm home."

He nuzzled her neck much in the fashion that a puppy would and inhaled her scent deeply. "Welcome back, wench. Let's go back to the village. They'll all have a heart attack when I show them who's back."

She smiled but before he had taken a step, there was something she was dying to know. "Hey, Inuyasha?"

"What?"

"You know that day you threw me down the well?"

He glanced down at her uncomfortably. "What about it?"

She licked her lips. "You said something, but I couldn't hear you. What was it?"

He frowned in thought. "'I'm… sorry… but it's the only way'?"

"No." She shook her head. "After that."

The frown deepened before a light blush spread over his face. "Oh… uh… nothing." He coughed. "It was nothing."

"Inuyasha…" She glared at him and tugged at the rosary he still wore. "I can still say it."

He scowled at her. "Just like you- the first thing you do when you're back is to 'sit' me."

Kagome let her eyes widen innocently. "Please?"

The half-demon sighed.

"Please, Inuyasha?"

He grunted. "Yeah, yeah…" He grumbled something that was inaudible to human ears.

"What was that?"

The hanyou sighed. "I said 'I love you', all right?"

"I love you."

He glared at her. "That's what I said."

"No, I mean, I love you too."

A small grin spread over his face, growing to match the one on hers. "So you won't be marrying this Hono guy, right?" He started off towards the village.

"I told you that I wouldn't if I had a better offer."

"Keh. And what would count as a better offer?"

Kagome sighed contentedly and snuggled into his chest. "I'll tell you later. After we go see Miroku-sama, Sango-chan, Shippou-chan, Kaede-baa-chan and all the others."

Inuyasha walked in silence for a while before: "It really is great you're back." His voice was soft and barely audible and as simple as the words were, she knew that he meant every one of them.

She smiled. "It's great to be back."

-

(One of the) Longest… oneshot(s)… ever.
'Time tree' is taken from the first Inuyasha movie.

Edit: I've decided to remove the second and third existing installments since this oneshot can stand on its own. It's just taking too much time to finish what should have been relatively short. In time, I will resume work on the rest of the story, and once the whole thing's done, I'll post the other chapters too. –Feb/07/05

I've decided to remove the second and third existing installments since this oneshot can stand on its own. It's just taking too much time to finish what should have been relatively short. In time, I resume work on the rest of the story, and once the whole thing's done, I'll post the other chapters too.

Till next time…

Ja!