A Walk With Fire
by DQBunny

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DISCLAIMER: Both Inuyasha and The Firetripper do not belong to me, but are works written by Takahashi Rumiko. I'm just borrowing their respective characters for a little while.

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Part Two

"Are you ready?" Inuyasha walked into Kaede's hut.

"Just a minute." Kagome checked the box of items that she planned to take to Suzuko. She straightened and smiled at him. "I wanted to mention that you're being awfully good-natured about this."

"Huh?"

"Our passing messages back and forth to Suzuko-san and her parents." Kagome closed the box of medicine and gifts that had come from the Takanis. Nearly a year had passed since the first visit they made to the village. Every month, Kagome and Inuyasha made the trip to Suzuko and Shukumaru's village to deliver mail from the future and pick up a new letter from Suzuko.

Kagome also forged a strong friendship with the Takanis, who hadn't breathed a word to anyone about their renewed contact with their daughter - nor the young woman who was enabling it. She usually spent several hours during her monthly visit with them explaining the past and narrating Suzuko's life and some of what happened to herself.

Through it all, Inuyasha hardly complained. It unnerved Kagome somewhat. He was still the same stubborn hanyou when it came to everything else. But, when it came down to Suzuko, he never said a word. He and Shukumaru usually chatted when they visited the village, but they hadn't become friends in the way Suzuko and Kagome had. While Suzuko wasn't Sango, Kagome knew that she shared a unique bond with the older woman.

Inuyasha folded his arms over his chest. "It's no big deal."

"It is too a big deal. It means a lot to me." Kagome pushed the box into her backpack and headed out the door. Inuyasha followed. He paused at the edge of the village so she could climb on his back.

They traveled for awhile before Inuyasha spoke. "You know...it just made me think, that's all."

"Hmm?"

"What if it was you? What if you go through the well one day and can't come back?"

"If that happens, it'll be when we use the Shikon no Tama." Kagome rubbed the jewel in her fingers. "I don't see us using it for awhile. There's really no need to."

"Even so...what if you were stuck here and couldn't go home? What would you do?"

She considered this for a moment. "Well, it's been something I've thought about off and on since I was 15. If that happens, I'll be sad for awhile, but I will get on with my life. I've just learned to appreciate the time that I do spend with my family." She leaned her head against his. "What would you do if I was stuck in my time and couldn't come back?"

His grip on her legs tightened. "Keh. That's a stupid question. I'd wait for you, of course."

"You would?"

"Don't sound so surprised, Kagome. I'll find a way to get back to you, I promise."

She threw her arms around his neck and hugged tightly. She wanted to say something back to him, but her throat was too clogged to do so. Instead, she leaned her cheek against his head and whispered, "Thank you."

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"Are you sure you don't mind this, Kagome-san? I know that this is out of your way."

Kagome shook her head and smiled. "I am honored to have such a task entrusted to me," she said, then bowed to Suzuko. "I know that your parents take comfort in this."

"As do I." Suzuko gazed at the photograph of her parents that Kagome brought back with her from her first trip from the future. "As happy as I've been with Shukumaru, the only thing I've regretted was not being able to tell my parents good bye." She patted her rounded stomach. "They will be glad to hear of a fourth grandchild on the way."

She handed Kagome the latest letter and a package. "Would you give these to my parents the next time you return to the future? It's my school uniform...most of it at least. I kept the scarf for a keepsake. That and Shukumaru's shirt will be passed to our children."

"Is everything all right, Suzuko-san?" Kagome narrowed her eyes at the older woman and tried to asses her. So far, her pregnancy seemed to be progressing as normal. Both the village midwife and Kaede had looked in on her at various points over the pregnancy. Kaede meeting Suzuko had been a fun trip in and of itself.

"Everything is fine, Kagome-san. I just...I just wanted to go ahead and give my parents some happy memories, that's all. We've almost lost these things twice to fire and invasion, and I want them to be safe in case something happens again."

"Of course." Kagome tucked the letter and package in her backpack.

Suzuko followed Kagome out to where Inuyasha waited with Shukumaru. She embraced her quickly. "I enjoyed our meal today. I look forward to seeing you next month."

"All right!" Kagome beamed at her. "By then, the baby should be here, right?"

"Absolutely. I'll let you hold him or her all you want," Suzuko promised. "Please wish my parents well? And thank them again for the presents. I believe they're managing to successfully spoil their grandchildren from 432 years in the future." She grinned. "And add that I love the baby clothes."

"I will!" Kagome waved as she and Inuyasha started down the road that lead back to the village.

They chose to walk part of the way this time, stopping for lunch next to a creek. Inuyasha caught some fish and Kagome roasted them over a fire. It paired with the onigiri that Suzuko sent with them.

"What's that?" Inuyasha asked, pointing at the package that stuck out of Kagome's pack.

"Suzuko-san's school uniform. She wanted to give it back to her parents. She kept Shuei-kun's shirt and the scarf we brought back to give to her kids." Kagome licked the rice off her fingers. She grabbed another ball and hesitated before eating it. "It just seems strange. Why would she send it back?"

"Maybe because her folks are lonely." Inuyasha grabbed a stick and poked at the dying fire.

"Perhaps. Somehow though, I have a bad feeling about this." Kagome gazed back at the road. "Maybe we should stay a few days, Inuyasha. Just until the baby's born."

"Don't you have that paper or something due soon?"

"Yeah, but..."

He sighed. "If you don't go back, all you'll do is whine about how much you miss school."

Kagome scowled at him. "I do not whine!"

"Yes you do!"

"No, I don't! Not since we were chasing Naraku at any rate."

"Keh!" Inuyasha grabbed a fistful of dirt and threw it on the fire, extinguishing it.

She rolled her eyes and packed up the rest of the food. "Still, I wonder," she commented when they were back on the road, "what if Suzuko-san was given a choice?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well...what if she was given a chance to return to her own time? Do you think she would take it?"

Inuyasha shook his head. "From what you told me, she had that chance to remain there. Instead, she came back here with Shukumaru. Not everyone gets a choice the way you do, Kagome. Didn't you just say that if you were stuck back here that you'd be sad and life would go on? I didn't ask for my mother and father to die, or for Naraku to kill Kikyou, or for Sesshoumaru to be such an ass. But those things happened. And life goes on."

He gazed at her. "If you had to choose between your time and now, what would you choose?"

"I guess it all depends..."

"What would you choose?"

"I'd have to think about it, okay?" Kagome sighed. "It's not an easy decision to make."

"And, likewise, I'm sure it wasn't easy for Suzuko-san either."

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A week passed before Kagome managed to find the time to schedule a visit with the Takanis. Right before she left the shrine, she remembered that she left the package that Suzuko had given her at Kaede's hut. She went back through the well and ran into her friends outside of Kaede's. Inuyasha wasn't with them, she noted. He'd kept his distance since they had their discussion about her choice on their way back from Suzuko's village, and she hated that. She would have to deal with him when she got back.

"Kagome-sama, you're back already?" Miroku asked from his perch outside of his and Sango's hut.

"I left the package for Suzuko-san's parents in the hut. Is it still there, Kaede-baa-chan?"

"In the basket near the futon, Kagome." Kaede replied, not looking up from where she was sorting herbs.

"I'll get it!" Shippo rushed inside and shortly returned with the cloth-wrapped package.

Kagome accepted it from him. "I wonder where Inuyasha is?"

"Kagome."

She turned around and nearly stumbled back at the look on Inuyasha's face. His head was lowered and his golden eyes filled with sorrow. Her breath hitched as she wondered what happened. She dropped the package and moved to him. "Inuyasha?"

He took her elbow and escorted her away from Kaede and the others. Shippo started to chase after them, but a warning glare sent him scurrying back to Miroku's side. Inuyasha led her out of the village into the forest, until they were out of sight of the others.

They stopped and he fumbled for the words. "Kagome..."

She frowned. Whatever he had to say, she knew it was something that she wouldn't like. "Just say it. What happened?"

He dragged in a breath and stared at the ground. "I just got word from Suzuko and Shukumaru's village. They sent Takao, but I intercepted him. You didn't need to hear it from him." His eyes rose to meet hers. "Suzuko died two days ago in childbirth."

Kagome's hand flew to her mouth and her vision clouded. "No...you're joking, aren't you?"

"Kagome..."

"You have to be joking. You're making this up!"

"Kagome..."

She burst into tears and he pulled her to him, helpless to do anything but hold her. She sobbed openly into his hakama as he alternatively patted her back and ran his claws up and down it, cursing everything that fate threw at them.

"It's not fair," Kagome sobbed. "Her parents...they just found out she was alive again! She's got three children. Shukumaru-san. It's just...it's not fair, Inuyasha!" she beat at his chest weakly. "It's not fair! She died in childbirth! If she'd been in the modern time, it wouldn't have happened this way. Why did they come back? Why?"

"Because they were happy."

She pulled away and stared at him.

"Don't look at me like that. You're telling me all the time that I need to be happy. Weren't they happy? Didn't Suzuko-san die happy?" His voice gentled. "Takao said the baby survived. It was a girl. They named her after you, Kagome."

That brought on a fresh wave of tears as she buried her face in his hakama once more.

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Kagome took the uniform and the final letter to Suzuko's parents the same day, insisting on going alone. She cried once again with them and they clung to the photograph Kagome had taken of a pregnant Suzuko with Shukumaru and their three children.

She took the train across town and walked through her neighborhood just as the sun started to set. She reached the park near her old junior high and sank onto one of the empty swings.

She was amazed at how sad she felt over Suzuko's death. We were all lucky for the most part, to come out of the War of the Shikon alive, she thought. Suzuko and Shukumaru had the chance to live in the present and to be happy. Why didn't they?

"Shukumaru grew up in the Sengoku Jidai and loved it here," Suzuko's words came back to her. "So we chose to live here and we've been happy."

'You're telling me all the time that I need to be happy. Weren't they happy? Didn't Suzuko die happy?'

Kagome considered Inuyasha's words. She was happy, but she had a chance at so much more. Thanks to her, Suzuko could keep a relationship with her family. But then, she died before she could even fully enjoy it. She would never see her children grow up, never see her baby daughter's face...all because she chose to live in a time that didn't have the technology she needed just to get through a simple childbirth.

'If you had to choose between your time and now, what would you choose?'

What if she had to choose between remaining in the future without Inuyasha or be in the past by his side? What would she choose?

It was no question. She would remain by Inuyasha's side. Her future wouldn't be a future without him in it. She loved her family, but...she loved Inuyasha as well.

Suzuko had chosen Shukumaru over her family. Did it mean that she loved them any less? Of course not. Both parent and child realized that there would be a day that the child would leave home with a spouse and possibly not come back. It happened a lot more in the upper class Sengoku Jidai than it did now.

Suzuko had chosen happiness. Kagome pumped her legs and started swinging. Would she be happy without Inuyasha?

No.

Would he be happy without her?

She didn't think he would be.

'I'll find a way to get back to you, I promise.'

Tears rolled down her cheeks as she remembered Inuyasha's vow. Sometimes, sacrifices had to be made in order to be happy, Kagome realized. Suzuko made those sacrifices and it resulted in an early death. But, she lived 18 happy years in the past. Was it better to only have a few short years of happiness than a lifetime of loneliness?

Kagome knew there was only one answer to that. It was the answer she'd known all along.

She saw him coming down the sidewalk. He'd left his baseball cap behind, but she couldn't bring herself to get angry at him. Instead, she pumped her legs faster and swung higher.

Inuyasha walked onto the playground and stared at her. "What the hell are you doing?"

"Catch!" Kagome let go of the swing just as it crested and flew toward him.

Inuyasha raced forward and caught her in his arms. The momentum propelled him backwards until he landed on the ground, on his back, with Kagome on top of him. "What the hell did you do that for?" he wheezed.

She kissed his nose. "Do you know that I'm happy to be with you?"

He sucked in a breath, still reeling from her sudden landing. He noticed the dried tear tracks running down her cheeks and the dazzling smile she wore. Finally, he was able to smile back. "I'm happy with you too."

She kissed him, briefly but full of emotion. Then, she pulled back and got to her feet. She held out her hand. "Let's go home, Inuyasha."

He gave her a bemused expression, then relaxed. Placing his hand in hers, he got to his feet. Then, hands linked, they headed home.

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AUTHOR'S NOTE: See? I said this wasn't a very long story. I hope everyone enjoyed this little tale about Kagome meeting the Firetripper. For more information about the original Firetripper tale, check out Certain information I had to make up for this story, including a last name for Suzuko and Shuei and then what happened to them after the original story ended. This fic is meant to fall in the same timeline as "The Twilight Struggle" and takes place two years before that story begins.