Disclaimer: I never really got to have a puppy when I was little, and now I don't own "Inuyasha." Life is so unfair....
Rated "R" for Inuyasha's language.
Sango was confused. And somewhat concerned.
Since Kagome had come back from the well this time, she had been... surprisingly quiet. She seemed to be spending a lot of time staring off into the distance, a strange and slightly melancholy expression on her face, and she had not only absent-mindedly given Shippo permission to eat three chocolate bars before dinner, she had been taken aback by his subsequent stomache ache, and had had to have the reason for the kit's illness explained to her.
It was quite clear that something was depressing her friend, but Sango had no idea what exactly that something could be.
This wasn't a look-down-at-her-feet, stare-at-him-when-he's-not-looking, sigh frequently and noticeably, "Given the choice, Inuyasha always picks the dead girl" depression.
Nor was it a stay-up-late-reading-by-the-light-of-the-campfire, white-knuckled-grip-on-her-schoolbook, yell-"Osuwari!"-at-anything-that-disturbs-her-studies-whether-it-has-puppy-dog-ears-or-not, "Oh, God, oh God, I'm going to fail this exam and get kicked out of school and end up working at WacDonald's for the rest of my life" depression.
It wasn't even a stomp-angrily-around-and-mutter, glare-balefully-whenever-you-see-that-cheeky-grin, imagine-his-head-as-the-target-when-you-practice, "Argh! Stupid houshi-sama, gropes anything that moves and doesn't mean any of it, you'd think he'd at least realize when a girl likes him and manage to be serious, not that I feel that way about him. At all." depression.Granted, Sango had never observed Kagome to be suffering from the third type, but she was fairly certain that she would have been able to recognize the symptoms.
Since Inuyasha's idea of helping Kagome would probably be to stare at her, ears flicking irritably back and forth, before yelling, "Oi, wench! What the hell is buggin' you?" and since Miroku's suggestions for cheering Kagome up were likely to be even less useful, as well as hazardous to life and limb (namely his), Sango had to wait until she could get Kagome alone to figure out what was bothering the young schoolgirl.
Her opportunity finally came the night before they returned to Kaede's village, when Kagome announced her intention of bathing in the nearby hot spring after a long, hot day of travel. Before Kagome could do more than turn in her direction, Sango jumped up and exclaimed, 'What an excellent idea, Kagome-chan! A visit to the hot springs would be just the thing after such a tiring day! I'll fetch my things and be there in a minute."
As Sango went to fetch the bathing supplies, she stopped and knelt next to where Miroku was sitting, a peaceful expression on his face, his eyes closed, to all appearances meditating on personal enlightenment rather than, say, contemplating the best ways to sneak up on two young women bathing in a nearby hot spring.
One violet eye cracked open at her whisper, and one eyebrow quirked up inquiringly.
"Can you keep an eye on Inuyasha while we're visiting the hot springs?"
Both of the monk's eyes were open now, and he looked vaguely puzzled. "Keep an eye on him? Sango... do you believe that.. that Inuyasha might try to peek at you and Kagome-sama?"
"Hentai! Of course not!" As much as Kagome-chan might want him to.... "Houshi-sama, haven't you noticed that Kagome-chan has been... not quite herself this trip? I want to find out what's wrong and I don't want Inuyasha anywhere nearby when I ask her." 'And I definitely don't want you to be anywhere near the hot springs, so asking you to keep an eye on him kills two birds with one stone.'
The monk considered for a moment. "It is true that Kagome-sama has seemed.. somewhat distracted this trip, and not in...err.. .the usual ways. And she is far more likely to talk with you than with the rest of us." He sighed, clearly aware of Sango's second reason for asking him to watch the hanyou while the two girls were bathing. "I will ensure that you remain undisturbed."
"Thank you, houshi-sama. And, since it would be hard for you to ensure that while you were unconscious, I strongly recommend that you stop what you're about to do."
"Sango! Your mistrust truly wounds me!"
"That's not all that's going to be wounding you if you don't move your hand."
Once the two girls had relaxed in the hot springs, Sango noticed that Kagome's pensive expression had returned. Seizing the opportunity, she asked, "Kagome-chan? Is something bothering you? You've been so quiet this trip; did Inuyasha do something?"
"Mmm? Oh.. um.. no, no... he didn't do anything."
"Did... did something happen at home? Is your family alright?" Sango was appalled that she hadn't considered this possibility earlier. She knew what it was like to lose one's family, and she knew that Kagome was particularly close to her mother, brother, and grandfather. If something had indeed happened to the Higurashis....
Kagome looked startled at Sango's sharp tone, and shook her head vehemently. "No! I mean, yes! I mean, they're fine; nothing happened. I... It..." She sighed.
"Kagome-chan, please, what's bothering you?"
Kagome closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and said, "One of my friends.... well, she... umm... got in trouble, and now she's going to have to leave school."
Sango frowned. She understood that school was extremely important to Kagome, that it was vital for her future in her world, but she still didn't understand what exactly the problem was.
"What happened? I mean, if school is so important, what kind of trouble would make somebody have to leave?"
Kagome blushed. She wasn't entirely comfortable talking about this, and she wasn't sure that the young taijiya would understand—social mores in the Sengoku Jidai were very different, after all!—but Sango was genuinely interested, and she didn't want her friend to worry about her.
"I mean, she's ..um... going to have a baby."
"But... but isn't having a baby a good thing? Unless... don't tell me that the father has abandoned them!"
"Oh, no, no; he's.. I mean, they're going to get married, it's just... Sango-chan, in my time, girls don't get married until after they're done with school, and, and, college. To get married like this, to have to leave school.... this is a girl I've known since we were both kids, we used to talk about what we wanted to be when we grew up, she worked so hard to pass the high school entrance exams and do well so that she could go to a good college next year, and now she's not going to get to do any of that, because she's going to be busy being a wife and a mother, and taking care of the household, and doing the grocery shopping and buying diapers and... and.... " Kagome trailed off, clearly too upset to continue.
While not entirely understanding everything that her friend had said, Sango believed that she had a better idea of what was bothering Kagome. "So, you're upset because this girl, your friend, is having a baby at an age when your society doesn't normally accept such things, and because..."
"And because this will mean that her life is... well, not what she wanted it to be. Not what she planned..." Kagome let out a heavy breath, leaning forwards against one of the rocks at the side of the spring and resting her head on her arms. "I just... she had so much potential, Sango-chan; she could have done so much with her life, you know? And now, she's probably never going to even manage to finish high school, let alone go on to college. Being married, having a baby... Plus... I know that it's selfish of me to think like this, but... I barely get to see her nowadays at all, what with being over here all the time. Her friendship is one more thing that I'm going to lose, because I..." she trailed of, uncertain how to finish without making it sound as if she didn't want to be in the Sengoku Jidai with her friends.
How could she explain what she had felt when she'd heard the news? That it had been more than just shock and worry for Suzume and her unborn child, although that had definitely been there. Even as Suzume had talked about her wedding plans, and her love for her soon-to-be-husband, Kagome had been able to sense the undercurrents of disappointment for a carefully-planned future that would now never take place, and they had resonated within her. Not that she was worried that she would end up pregnant! All things considered, she'd probably never even get her first kiss.
Kagome sighed noticeably. 'After all, given the choice, Inuyasha always picks the...'
"Ah, sorry, Sango-chan... It's just that..." 'I see the way that her future is being closed off because she won't be able to finish school, and I worry that... I miss so much being over here. What if it's too much, and I can't.... ' Cutting that thought of before it could get worse, Kagome hastened to reassure her friend. "It's just that in my time, girls our age are supposed to live at home and go to school and not think about things like marriage and babies for a while. It's going to be such a change for her, and I'm worried that she's going to be so unhappy and end up resenting it."
Sango climbed out of the spring and began to dry herself off.
"Kagome-chan, it is very good of you to worry about your friend. However, I am sure that her husband will take good care of her and the baby, and that she will be very happy with her new family."
Her expression hidden behind her bangs and her arms, Kagome tried to formulate a response to that.
'For Sango, the important thing is that Suzume will have a husband to take care of her and the baby. Some things are so different back here! And I can't think of a way to explain more than I already have. Oh well, never mind; it was good to at least talk about this with somebody. And Sango is right; they are in love, and they'll have the support of their families.... I need to snap out of this and stop worrying, or else I'm going to show up at their wedding looking like I swallowed something sour!'
Giving herself a brisk mental shake, Kagome climbed out of the hot springs, dried off, and got dressed, following Sango back to their campsite.
The next day, Kagome managed to be much more like her old, cheerful self.
"Oi! Bitch! What the hell was that for?"
"Inuyasha!" Kagome ground out through gritted teeth, "I told you three times to stop chasing Shippo around like that!"
"Keh. Brat deserves it, making me almost spill my Ramen..." the hanyou muttered, slowly prying himself up off of the ground as the spell wore off.
Kagome rolled her eyes. "And now the Ramen is cold; are you happy?"
Scarfing down the noodles, Inuyasha shrugged, and managed, "Wrhamn ish Wrhamn."
She decided not to dignify that with a response, instead chosing to finish rolling her sleeping bag with more vigor than the task actually deserved. When she went to finish putting things into her yellow backpack, Kagome paused and turned back to where he was just finishing his morning cup of noodles.
"Oh! Inuyasha, that reminds me; since we're going back to Kaede's village, would it be ok if I went back home for a little bit? We're almost out of supplies, and I could go to school for a day..." 'Or two, if I'm lucky...' she finished silently.
"Feh! What the hell would you need to do that for? You have all of your fucking books right here, don't you, wench? You can study just as well over here, right?" His scowl deepened as she sighed and stood up to face him.
"School is very important, Inuyasha. I can't just show up when there's a test and then not be there the rest of the time! Occasionally, I need to actually put in an appearance in class. So that they don't all forget who I am, ok?"
Her sarcasm was entirely lost on her audience.
"Feh," he muttered again, "Stupid fucking waste of time..."
Realizing from the sparks in Kagome's expressive eyes that he was about to make dirt the second course of his breakfast, Inuyasha backed down slightly.
"Fine, wench. One day. And you'd better come back here on time, or else..."
"Of course!" Kagome agreed quickly, her anger evaporating instantly. After the worry about her future that had been gnawing at her for the past week, the promise of even one day of school seemed even more wonderful than the prospect of a hot shower and a night spent in her own bed.
'Who would have thought last year that I would ever be this excited about having the chance to go to school!'
In the end, the group decided that they would all return to the village to rest for a day, stock up on supplies, and see if any rumors about jewel shards or Naraku's latest activities had reached Kaede's ears since they had last been there.
As Inuyasha raced through the trees, and Kagome rode her bicycle, with Shippo in the basket, Miroku decided to take advantage of his position on Kirara with Sango. For once, however, this did not involve anything that the taijiya could object to.
"Sango? Were you able to speak with Kagome-sama yesterday and find out what was bothering her?"
Twisting slightly so that she could face him, Sango replied, "Yes, houshi-sama. Kagome-chan was merely worried about one of her friends in her own time."
"Why, what's wrong? Was her friend injured in some way?"
Not sure how to explain everything that Kagome had told her, and most definitely not wanting to get into any conversation involving a woman bearing a man's child, no matter what time she was in, with the monk in such close proximity, Sango settled for the simplest possible explanation.
"Well, her friend has to leave school, and Kagome-chan is worried that she won't be able to see her anymore, that her new life won't have space for the people she knows from when she was still in school."
Miroku nodded his understanding. "Ah. Kagome-sama has such a kind heart; it is no surprise that she would miss a friend who will no longer be there."
Sango nodded. "I suspect that Kagome-chan wanted to return home today so that she could spend some time with her friend before she left."
"Mmmm.. undoubtedly..." Miroku said, distracted by the way Sango was now turning, so that all he had to do was move his hand slightly in order to....
Neither one of them noticed a pair of white ears, twitching in the trees above them.
Caught up in the thought of school, a shower, her mother's oden, school, a night in her own bed, and school, Kagome missed the shift in Inuyasha's mood. All through lunchtime, he barely said two words to her, glaring at her over his Ramen. Even Shippo's teasing wasn't enough to distract him from staring at her, his eyes narrowed.
Once the meal was done, Inuyasha cast the empty Ramen cup aside and said brusquely, "Kagome and I will travel back to the well from here; the rest of you can catch up with me in the village."
Kagome blinked, Shippo blinked, Sango blinked, and Miroku paused momentarily in his attempt to discover if Sango would be less likely to slap him if her hands were occupied with lunch.
"Umm... Inuyasha?" Kagome managed hesitantly, standing up and trying to ascertain what exactly had caused the hanyou's odd mood. Usually, he tried to get her back to the well as slowly as possible, and now he wanted the two of them to travel so that they could get there faster? Was it possible that he had noticed her mood, and was trying to give her the extra few hours she would gain that way? It wasn't a New Moon tonight, was it....?
"Come on, wench. We don't have all day! Grab your damn bag and let's get going!"
At her continued silence, Inuyasha said, "Keh!," walked over, and grabbed her bag himself, handing it to her and turning so that she could climb onto his back.
They reached the well in what seemed to Kagome like record time, her hair and Inuyasha's whipping in the breeze as the hanyou traveled by leaps and bounds.
When they got to the well, he dropped her unceremoniously and turned to face her, an angry scowl on his face. Before Kagome could do more than open her mouth, Inuyasha ground out, "You bitch—I can't believe that you fucking lied to me like that!"
"I..you...what?" she stammered out, completely at a loss.
"'Oh, Inuyasha; I have to go back; I can't miss out on school; that's the most important thing in my time...'" he whined in what was clearly intended to be an imitation of her own voice.
"But.. .but... school.. school is important; I have to..."
"Don't give me that bullshit, Kagome; I heard Miroku and Sango talking—I know all about your friend."
"But... but what does Suzume have to do with..." Kagome was still very confused, and the pure anger radiating out from Inuyasha's eyes was only making her more nervous.
"If she can do it, bitch, then so can you."
Kagome's eyes widened, and she had to swallow before she could formulate a response.
"Do... do... it? Umm.. Inuyasha, what exactly do you..."
"Leave school, idiot." He crossed his arms, a lofty expression on his face. "If your friend can do it, then so can you. Then you can focus on what's fucking important, like finding the Sacred Jewel shards!"
She blinked, not entirely sure where to start. Kagome had no idea what Inuyasha had overheard, and neither the monk nor the taijiya were around for her to ask.
Taking a deep breath, she started her explanation. "Inuyasha, the only reason why Suzume is leaving school is..."
"I don't care how the hell she did it, wench! I just want you to do the same thing, so that you won't keep having an excuse to run out on your responsibilities! 'And me.' said a small voice in the back of his head.
Kagome was rapidly developing a headache. Her voice strained, she closed her eyes and tried again.
"Inuyasha. First, I am not lying about how important school is. Second, I am not running out on anything by going there. Third, I don't think that you ..."
"Kikyo wouldn't have pulled this kind of crap."
That simple sentence stopped Kagome cold and made all the blood drain from her face. Inuyasha couldn't possibly have just... he did not just say...
Feeling a twinge of guilt at the sight of her pale face, Inuyasha nonetheless kept going with his tirade.
"Kikyo understood her responsibilties. Kikyo knew how important the jewel is; she wouldn't have kept holding up a quest just so she could go running back to school."
Part of him knew that bringing up the miko's name was an underhanded tactic. However... 'Kagome always acts like she doesn't have a choice, but how fucking important can it be if people can stop going? She should be here with m- .. with us, dammit! Whenever she's gone, I always... I feel... It's not right that she leave like that all the time! She belongs with m- I mean, she has responsibilities here, and if this is the only way to remind her of that...'
Inuyasha's words echoed in Kagome's head, erasing anything that she might have said. She couldn't believe that... How could he think that she would...
She couldn't deal with this right now. She had to get out of there. She couldn't just stand there with him, after having been reminded yet again.... She had to get away, as far away from him as she could.
Five hundred years sounded about far enough.
Kagome swallowed, and picked up her backpack. Biting her lip, she took a deep breath, and turned to face Inuyasha.
"Fine. I... If that's what you really want, Inuyasha, then... fine."
And she jumped through the well.
Author's Note: Hmm... Inuyasha should really learn to pay more attention to what Kagome is trying to say to him, shouldn't he?
General Note: Suzume is supposed to be a couple of years older than Kagome, ie, she is finishing high school and applying for college, rather than preparing for her high school entrance exams the way that Kagome is.
-chan: A suffix used for children or between close friends, usually female.
Hentai (noun): Pervert.
Houshi: A respectful term for a Buddhist monk.
Miko: Shrine priestess.
Osuwari: "Sit, boy!" The Japanese "sit" command used exclusively for dogs. Or disobedient hanyous. ;-)
-sama: A suffix used to connote respect or that the one addressed is of higher rank; often translated as "lord" or "lady."
Taijiya: Demon Slayer/Exterminator; Sango's job.