Author's Note: Err.. well... Holidays. Moving. Rabid plot bunny attacks. Not necessarily in that particular order And a chapter that really needed to be in the story, but refused to play nicely with the other chapters and actually get written. Sigh...

Disclaimer: If I did own Inuyasha, I would have used him to help haul my luggage recently. Alas, I do not.

Rated "R" for Inuyasha's language.

The sun rose grudgingly over Higurashi Shrine, its rays slowly reaching Kagome's window and attempting to wake up the sleeping teen.

She promptly pulled a pillow over her head and attempted to ignore the light, her mother's calls to breakfast, and and Buyo's decision that the patch of sunlight on her stomach made a perfect cat pillow.

Yesterday had been a bad day. A very bad day. In fact, on a scale of one to surprise math test, yesterday had ranked a solid "Hojo shows up at the shrine with yet another strange herbal remedy only to be told that Kagome is still in bed with a pesky case of hoof-in-mouth."

Kagome wasn't sure she could get up to face today's problems when she still didn't know how to handle the ones she had left over from the day before.

Wincing as Buyo performed yet another adjustment in search of the ideal position for some very important napping, Kagome finally gave up and got out of bed...

...and promptly went into full-out panic mode when she looked at her clock and realized what time it actually was. Her mad dash into the bathroom, back into the bedroom, down the stairs, into the kitchen, and out the door effectively kept her from thinking further about any of her non-punctuality-related problems.

Then, on the way to school, she caught sight of her reflection in a window and stopped, staring at her uniform. Her school uniform. The one she insisted on wearing back in the past, no matter how weird everybody they encountered thought it was, no matter how many stares or comments it caused, no matter how impractical it really was to run around the countryside fighting monsters in a short skirt, because being able to look down and see her uniform meant remembering the other side of her life, remembering that she had priorities and goals that looked beyond re-assembling the Sacred Jewel or defeating Naraku.

Because it made her remember her future, in more ways than one.

Kagome sighed and turned away, her panicked run slowed to a trudge.

How could she hope to explain to her friends in the past what school meant to her? Sure, she complained about it. A lot. Vigorously. But that didn't mean it wasn't vitally important, and for Inuyasha to just summarily decide that she must have been lying to them all...

She shook her head. She loved the stubborn, prickly hanyou, really she did, but sometimes, Kagome was fairly sure Inuyasha's brain was broken or something. His ability to jump to conclusions, especially where her life was concerned, had lead to fights before, but this was definitely the worst one yet. Even the times he'd flown off the handle regarding Kouga had been easier for her to deal with; she could kind of understand why Kouga's repeated declarations that she was his woman would annoy Inuyasha—they certainly annoyed her, and part of her occasionally found his jealousy endearing, even if the rest of her wanted to beat him around the head for being an idiot who was incapable of believing her denials.

She sighed as she reached the school courtyard. Under other circumstances, she would have enjoyed seeing Inuyasha's blush as she explained exactly why her friend was leaving school. He could face down a horde of the worst demons Naraku could throw at them and not loose his cocky attitude, but there were some areas that his poor male, teenaged brain couldn't handle withouth making even his ears tinge faintly red.

This time, however... Kagome had been shocked by Inuyasha's anger, by his absolute unwillingness to let her finish a sentence of explanation. And her shock had turned to sickened fury when Inuyasha had bluntly not only accused her of shirking her responsibilties to him, their friends, and their quest, but had pointed out that Kikyo would never have acted that way.

'Of course,'' Kagome thought with a mixture of annoyance and sadness, 'Kikyo was perfect, completely devoted to her duties. Never mind that she's the one who calmly gave our jewel shards to Naraku without a thought for the consequences. Never mind that, frankly, deciding to take a super-powerful magical jewel that countless demons were after and go wandering around alone in an isolated meadow at sunrise could be considered to show a certain lack of common sense. As far as Inuyasha is concerned, Kikyo can do no wrong. Unlike me.'

Frankly, at this point, she had no clue how she was going to handle the situation. By the end of their argument all she'd cared about was getting away from the conversation, from the look in his eyes, and had spoken straight from the aching, defeated feeling in her stomach, with none of her usual fire. She wasn't sure if it was better to allow herself a couple of days to enjoy school while she had the chance, or head back that afternoon to thoroughly "Osuwari" him into listening to her explanation before continuing their quest. The first might give her a much-needed chance to catch up and cool down, but it would also allow Inuyasha to get used to the idea that she was not going back to school, and she had a nasty feeling that that was awfully close to lying to him.

But going back this afternoon meant that she'd have to face him with her heart still bleeding from their argument, her emotions bruised enough that she wasn't sure where to even begin a conversation with him.

Well, she was fairly certain she knew what the first word or ten would be, but after that, she had no idea how to continue...

'Inuyasha, I understand that Kikyo was devoted to her responsibilities, but you've got to understand that school is an important responsibility for me...'

'Inuyasha, I really wish that you'd stop using your dead ex girlfriend as a model that the rest of us fall short of...''

'Inuyasha, I know that the quest is important, because we need to find any remaining jewel shards and defeat Naraku so that you can go traipsing off to Hell with that re-animated clay pot who once tried to kill me...'

On second thought, staying at least another day was sounding better and better.

"Kagooommeeee" A trio of squeals rang out across the courtyard as her best friends.. well, her best friends in this time... dashed up to her and started peppering her with questions.

"Have you gotten over your scurvy"

"Do you need the notes for math"

"Did you get Hojo's message about going to the movies next weekend"

"Was that the reason you kept breaking out into those weird rashes last month"

"How about English? We have a test coming up, you know."

"Or are you still involved with that loser boyfriend who keeps running back to that other girl"

'Just stay perfectly still and don't answer, and maybe they'll go away...' Kagome told herself.

Of course, it didn't work.

Giving up, Kagome finally said, "I'm fine, math and English notes would be nice, and no, I haven't talked to Hojo recently."

'And that "loser boyfriend" and I had another huge fight, which I can't talk to you guys about...'

Sighing, she let herself be led into the building by her friends, all chattering away like magpies.

Math class was manageable; Kagome hadn't missed any tests, and there weren't any coming up in the next week. The subject was difficult enough to require total concentration, which she was glad of.

While they were waiting for the arrival of their English teacher, Eri leaned over and whispered, "Kagome! Are you feeling well enough to go to WacDonald's after school?"

Knowing that Eri and the others just wanted a chance to get her alone and gossip, Kagome managed a faint smile. She really wasn't sure that she'd be up for another gossip session that seemed bound to revolve around her, but... she didn't get to see her friends that often.. .or eat ridiculously unhealthy junk food...

"Sure, I think so," Kagome finally said, just as the teacher came in.

The unit for this month focused on American literature, an attempt to get the students to connect with the subject.

'Suzume used to talk about studying in America...' Kagome thought wistfully, remembering her friend's exuberance about it, how she'd collected brochures from American universities.

Kagome had traveled farther than any of her classmates could possibly imagine, had seen things none of them would have encountered outside of their dreams. Or nightmares. But still.. There was so much that she still dreamed of in this world, so many things that she wanted to be able to do, someday...

The English teacher was bland and harmless, trying valiantly to make a classroom full of teenagers understand that there was more to English than baseball, McDonald's, and Coca-Cola. Kagome admired his admittedly doomed efforts..

"Miss Higurashi!"

... that is, she admired them when they didn't involve calling on her when she was thinking of something else or hadn't prepared anyway because another English textbook had gotten dissolved in a puddle of demon spit.

Kagome jerked to attention. "Yes, sir?"

"Good of you to join us, Miss Higurashi. We are currently discussing the American poet, Mr. Robert Frost. Please read the poem out loud for the rest of the class."

Standing and flushing slightly, Kagome began,

Some say the world will end in fire;
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.

Kagome paused...

Consuming lust, burning twisted and covetous, greedily willing to sacrifice humanity for a chance at possession...

But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To know that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Young love, pure and passionate, forever frozen in a moment of agony and betrayal, transmuted into an ice-cold determination to never again lose the one it had longed for, lost, and depised...

She read slowly and carefully, trying to not only pronounce all the words correctly but to convey the emotions of the poem while not being overly affected by the images it brought to mind.

When she'd finished, the teacher said "Thank you, Miss Higurashi, for an excellent reading. Now, can anybody tell me what the poem means? Miss Higurashi?"

Kagome blanched. "Um..It.. it means that both love and hate can be... can be destructive... That they're really not that opposite from each other..."

"And can you think of any examples?"

'How about ex-girlfriends trying to drag you down to Hell?' Kagome thought, but she said, "Um.. well, I... " 'Or selling your soul and letting your body be devoured by a horde of demons...'

She shook her head. "I'm sorry; I can't really think of any..."

"How about a guy who gets ragingly jealous and violent but keeps cheating on you anyway?" Eri piped up brightly.

Kagome was sure she was blushing hard enough to burst a blood vessel.

Well, at least if that happened, she'd have a legitimate medical reason for missing school...

Fortunately, the teacher didn't seem to notice. He merely smiled and said, "Well, that's a very... emotional situation, I'm sure.. but it isn't exactly what Mr. Frost had in mind."

Willing herself not to turn and glare at her friend, Kagome relaxed slightly as the teacher began to call on other students who, presumably, didn't have to deal with the same haunting memories of the dead that she did.

'Although,' she thought, 'It's not the memory of the dead that I mind so much as their tendency to show up and make personal remarks. Or try to kill Inuyasha. Or me.'

Fortunately, none of the other classes brought up any unhappy memories having to do with Kikyo, Inuyasha, or Suzume, for which Kagome was extremely grateful.

Of course, that didn't mean that she wasn't able to get distracted perfectly well by herself.

'... and if I go to the store after WacDonald's but before going home, I can stock up on ramen... he might actually listen if I can distract him with shiny new ramen... Didn't they come out with some new flavors just last... Ack! Focus! Your one day at school in you can't remember how long, and you're thinking about ramen. Think about the here and now, Higurashi, not the.. not the here and then...'

As she walked down the hallway after the final bell, Kagome was so caught up in trying out conversational strategies in her head that she almost missed the voice calling her name.

"Higurashi! Higurashi?" said a clear, young male tenor.

Kagome wondered if Hojo would notice if she suddenly lept sideways into the nearest storage closet. He was a perfectly nice boy, and she always felt bad about having to lie to him, let him down, or stand him up. Which didn't mean that she wouldn't do it. And, since she felt bad about it, she had decided that the best strategy was to consciously avoid him whenever she was in school and ignore him whenever possible.

This, unfortuntately, looked like it was going to be one of the times when she couldn't ignore him.

Slightly breathless, obviously having run down the hallway to catch up with her, Hojo said, "Higurashi! I'm glad your back; is your colic all cleared up, then? I was going to bring something for it, but I didn't realize you'd be here today."

"Uh.. um.. yes, thank you, Hojo, I feel fine now..." Kagome said, certain that her face was now bright red. 'Well, except for the fact that I am going to have to kill my grandfather...'

"Great! So.. um.. would you like to go to a movie on Saturday? Um... if you think you'll be well enough then."

"I...uh..." 'I'll be back running around during the feudal era of Japan, "Thank you Hojo, but I think I'll be..." 'trying to find the splinters of a mystical jewel I'm responsible for shattering and defeat a terrible, evil demon. "That is, um, they're thinking of running some more tests, I think, this weekend. To, err, see if they can figure out what was causing the..." she winced, "colic."

"Oh," Hojo said, sounding a hair less cheerful. "Well.. um.. maybe next weekend then, Higurashi?"

Kagome managed to give him a smile that was sweet and sorry at the same time.

"We'll see," she said, "Call the shrine on Saturday morning, and we'll see."

Giving her a broad grin, like he'd just gotten a perfect score on his college entrance exams, Hojo said, "Of course, Higurashi! I'll see you... I mean, I'll talk to you then!"

Watching him walk back down the hall, a spring in his step, Kagome closed her eyes and sighed.

Hojo was everything she ought to have been interested in; his family, his prospects, his dedication to his school work.. the way that he clearly felt about her. She even knew that he was good looking, and he was certainly polite and popular. Unlike some people she could... ..She cut that thought off before it could get much further.

In a way, she mused, Hojo represented everything that she was giving up by spending her time in the past, by deciding that that world was, for now, more important than this one.

Although she wasn't sure that he would make a good example to try to prove to Inuyasha that she was taking her past responsibilities as seriously as her present ones.

Grabbing a snack with her friends turned out to be less traumatic than she had feared. Although they gave her boyfriend advice that ranged from humorous to violent without detouring towards helpful, it was nice to take a break and catch up on gossip with them.

She had to admit, sitting and letting their chatter wash over her was kind of.. relaxing. Nice to be able to giggle with them about the latest pop stars, and school scandals, and not about strategies and tactics and possible hiding places for Naraku or locations of more jewel shards.

Walking home, Kagome decided to give herself until tomorrow to go back to the Sengoku Jidai. Maybe by then Inuyasha would have calmed down enough to listen to reason. Maybe by then, she would have gotten over her hurt enough to talk reasonably in the first place.

And, most importantly, maybe by then Kagome would have figured out what exactly the heck she was supposed to say. She'd been thinking about the issue all day, thoughts of Suzume's disappointed face, Inuyasha's angry expression, running through her mind.

She was working so hard, harder than anybody on either side knew, to keep the two halves of her life in balance, to concentrate enough to fulfill her responsibilities in both without losing either. She couldn't give either one of them up.

Kagome frowned. 'Is that what it's about? Giving something up? Kikyo.. Kikyo was willing to give up being a miko, to give up everything she had trained for.. Inuyasha was willing to give up his dream of being a full demon—he was even willing to give up being a hanyou... They were willing to give up the most important things in their lives for each other...'

There was an annoying little voice in the back of her mind that was trying to point out that Kikyo had wanted to live a normal life, that the duty of protecting the Jewel was not something she would have been sorry to sacrifice, but Kagome told it to go think about algebra for a while.

'Is that what Inuyasha needs to hear from me? That I'm willing to sacrifice for the quest? How can he not know... doesn't he understand... Well, of course he doesn't, Kagome; what on earth in that time could be compared to school and how important it is? They don't have entrance exams, or college... Granted, they have things like demons that are worse. Welll, probably worse.'

Having something concrete to latch onto as the cause of the hanyou's anger helped to make the issue clearer.

'All Inuyasha can see is that I keep coming back here; he doesn't see that I keep leaving here to spend time there, that I'm actually spending more time back there than I am over here... if I can explain that to him...

I wonder if Shippo could make a set of drawings about it...'

When she entered the house, her grandfather was sitting at the kitchen table with a pad of paper and a pen and what she really hoped was not in fact a full set of medical dictionaries. Every so often he would give a gleeful chortle and add something to the list that he was creating.

He appeared to already be on page three. Kagome wasn't sure she wanted to read what diseases she was sceduled to come down with over the course of her next trip through the Well.

Souta was busy playing video games in the living room. He'd gotten another new one, and Kagome idly wondered whether this one was going to involve as much noise and violence as the last one.

By which she meant Souta yelling at the screen and occasionally throwing pillows or snack foods, not violence and noise in the actual game.

The realization that it wasn't just school that she was missing out on, that it was her family, and their lives, and all the little things in their daily routines that she had gotten so used to over the years, hit her suddenly in the pit of her stomach. How could she measure that? Or explain it, to someone who had never really had a family of his own, who had spent years holding everybody at a snarling, scoffing distance?

"Kagome!" her grandfather said, finally noticing that she was home. "I didn't realize that you were here. I was just.. um... making some notes for your future travels. There's a wedding at the shrine this evening; if you could help with some of the preparations, I would really appreciate it.

"Of course! Just give me a chance to do some homework and packing first, ok? I'm going to be heading back through the Well tomorrow, and if I get everything taken care of tonight, I can leave sooner."

"Fine, fine," he replied absently, his attention already back on the books he was leafing through.

Kagome headed upstairs and dumped her backpack on the floor. Ok, so homework and packing weren't the first items on her agenda.

Before anything else, she was going to sit down and make a list of examples of ways in which she was taking her responsibilities to the jewel quest seriously so that she could show Inuyasha and he wouldn't annoy her about school again.

Or possibly a list of ways in which she was giving up things in the present.

Or a list of all her responsibilities, past and present, with color-coding and scheduling that made it clear how much time she was spending in each...

She groaned, shoulders slumping slightly. How was she supposed to fix this if she couldn't even figure out what lists she should be making?

Picking up her pencil, she took a deep breath and got out a pad of paper.

Maybe she should just start with a draft, and figure out what to call it later on.

'Item 1: Suzume is leaving school because she's pregnant and getting married, you idiot, not because she wants to...'

Japanese terms:

-chan: A suffix used for children or between close friends, usually female.

Hentai (noun): Pervert.

Hanyou: Half-demon.

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.