A/N: No, i haven't abandoned my other stories. After the first hurricane I mentioned in "For the First Time" chapter 1, we were hit with two more. Between them I moved back to my old city. Needless to say, I've been a very busy girl. The next chapter of Makai...Aida is roughly 80 complete. Unfortunately, it's also on my computer which has no power due to Jeanne. This little ficcy was written at work, which is the only access I have to the internet at the moment.
Disclaimer: Inuyasha, et. al. is the property of Rumiko Takahashi. Etc. etc. (these are getting old...)
Winds of Change
Squinting hard against the darkness in her cozy feudal hut, Kagome strained to read the last paragraph of chapter five in her Chinese Women's Issues text. A light gust of wind thwarted her efforts, sending a crimson autumn leaf landing right in the middle of the page.
"All right, I give up." She slapped the book closed, tossing it to the side before arching her back and rising to stand. "Something tells me I'm not meant to study for my midterm tonight." Sighing to herself, the young wife stepped toward the center of the room, coming to kneel before the fire pit to start the cooking fire.
As she stoked the budding flames, she glanced about the room, wishing not for the first time that she had a clock on the wall. Her watch had stopped only the previous evening, and a full day of college classes kept her from getting it repaired. At any rate, she realized, it had to be getting quite late in the evening and her bottomless pit of a hanyou mate would no doubt be at her heels for dinner at any moment.
Speak of the demon...
He'd been gone all day, probably helping the villagers stock up on firewood and bring in the autumn harvest. While he was loathe to be considered altruistic, Inuyasha couldn't hide his tendency towards helping others, especially when doing so won him a smile from his adored miko wife. Still, Kagome wondered just how large a workload had been piled on the hanyou to keep him away from her side for the better part of the evening.
Usually he'd meet her at the well, if not the well house itself, as she returned from her day's lessons. On a rare occasion he'd even shown up at the college, donning the familiar but hated baseball cap and -- always with a grimace -- a pair of sneakers. Trying not to worry herself prematurely, Kagome continued to distract herself with the supper preparations.
With a nose like his, I will have to worry if he doesn't arrive in the next ten minutes.
Vegetables simmering in the pot, Kagome found herself with nothing left to do but wait. Her eyes lit upon a glossy pink book and she felt her cheeks flush with a soft blush. The baby book her mother had none-too-subtly gifted her with on her twentieth birthday. She reached to the pile of books, removing the object of her attentions and flipping to a random page in the middle.
"Mood swings are to be expected from both partners, as the father adjusts to the mother's own volatile hormonal changes. Flexibility and open communication are vital at this stage in the pregnancy."
Snorting indelicately, Kagome rolled her eyes. "Inuyasha's volatile enough as it is," she decided.
Still, she wondered, I'm sure Inuyasha will make a great father... when the time comes.
And time was the issue, of course. At first, he'd been downright infuriating as he kept insisting they were overdue for their firstborn. After all, compared to their neighbors Inuyasha and Kagome were practically old! Yet as time passed, and Kagome found herself immersed in her first two years of college, even the normally immovable hanyou had to admit children would be quite a complication in their hectic lives.
Or maybe, Kagome thought with a grimace, he changed his mind.
It always seemed to come back to this -- to her insecurities and fears. Having not seen Kikyou even once in the four years since her mating ceremony did little to assuage the young miko's nagging doubts; she was convinced that given the chance, Inuyasha would return to her predecessor's arms. Kagome shook her head roughly, as though the motion would banish the dark thoughts from her mind.
He married you, Kagome. Stop being foolish.
But she couldn't help the little devil who responded back, "then why hasn't he brought up children?"
Were they really that busy? True, Kagome did find herself spending large amounts of time on campus, and even more endless hours studying by the picture window. Still, they'd found a rhythm that suited them, and with the help of their friends and her own family, Kagome knew starting a family would be more than manageable.
She glanced down at the book, which seemed to taunt her mood. Taking a deep breath, Kagome admitted it to herself for the first time: she was ready for a baby. Moreover, she wanted one. Putting the book aside once more she rolled onto her feet and stared out the front door. She and Inuyasha were long overdue for a very serious talk, and Kagome wasn't going to waste another minute.
He could smell the crisp scent of an autumn chill in the air. It was always the most pungent just before the first cold snap of the season, and brought to mind the few moments of peaceful tranquility he could recall experiencing as an orphaned hanyou child. One would think such temperate weather would encourage more vigorous hunting activity on the part of demon predators, but in fact the opposite was true. Inuyasha had learned early in his youth that on those lazy autumn days, he could walk almost carefree among the whispering trees, free to forage for berries or even lounge by a local stream catching fish.
He'd teach his sons to fish, he thought to himself, and his daughters, too. Kagome would probably throw a fit when he brought a pack of sopping wet pups into their already messy forest hut, but he always loved her best when she was angry. Or when she was happy. Or... anytime at all.
Groaning at his own sentimentality, he rose from his reclining position and gazed out over the hill, beyond the rustling tree canopy and into the small, bustling village below. Dinner time was near. He'd have to return home soon or risk the wrath of his miko and a cold supper. Still, some invisible force pulled at him, kept him on his makeshift, boulder watchtower even as the sun sank lower in the sky.
A noise from behind sent him back into warrior mode. Inuyasha whipped around, hand already reaching for Tetsusaiga as he scanned the tree line with narrowed eyes.
"Always on guard, Inuyasha, even though Naraku is long gone?"
"Not so long," he argued. "Only a year."
Kikyou remained silent at this, standing still at the edge of the clearing.
Yet another breeze blew through the trees and between the pair, though Inuyasha found the chill far less relaxing than he had before the resurrected miko's appearance.
"What brings you out here, anyway?" the hanyou finally asked, cursing himself for his lack of glib response to the woman's sudden reappearance. "No one's seen you or even heard from you in over four years."
"Did you miss me, Inuyasha?" Kikyou asked, her face hiding any emotion the words might have held. She took a step toward him, only to raise her eyebrows in slight bemusement as he took an equal step back.
"N-not exactly. I was just wondering. Thought maybe Naraku did you in again."
"Would my destruction bring you pain?"
Inuyasha found himself at a loss for words. Would it? Would he, even now, feel the old knot in his heart were the woman before him to die? The hanyou pushed his thoughts aside, shaking his head and taking another step back.
"I hear you have taken the girl as your mate," Kikyou continued, ignoring the half-demon's discomfort.
"Yeah, four years ago."
Again silence descended upon them, Inuyasha staring at Kikyou with wary nervousness and Kikyou gazing with faint sadness at her long-ago love. At last she sighed, and redirected her attention to a small pile of colorful leaves on the ground between them. "I used to imagine them."
Eyebrows knitting in confusion, Inuyasha dropped his guard and took a step closer to the miko. "Who?"
"Our children." The miko smiled slightly, her eyes still sad. "We would have four," she continued, "a son and three daughters. They would have your eyes, the girls would have my hair."
"My human eyes, you mean," Inuyasha stated softly.
Kikyou glanced up at him quickly, then nodded her agreement. "That was our arrangement, was it not?"
Without waiting for a response she turned her face up to the sky, taking in its cerulean depths, "I suppose fate was not on my side."
"To answer your earlier question, I've been wandering from village to village in the South. There are so many people... dying and battle-weary... no one knows my true identity. It is not the life I desired; but it is a life."
"What can I-- how can I help you, Kikyou?"
"Does it even matter?"
"Of course it does!" Inuyasha felt his face flush red with indignation while an inner voice screamed at him to remember his vows to Kagome.
Kikyou regarded him from the corner of her eye, finally sighing and facing him once again. "There is nothing you can do for me, Inuyasha. Our time has passed and we must accept that."
"I have," he replied evenly.
"And yet still you seek to rescue me?"
"No, not rescue. You don't need to be rescued and I don't want to be your savior. I just want to know that you are all right."
"I will be," she answered finally.
Kikyou heard a rustling in the brush behind her, followed by a soft gasp washed out by the wind in the clearing. The hanyou's mate was watching, though Inuyasha was unaware.
"Do you love her, Inuyasha?"
"With everything that I am," he replied easily.
Nodding, Kikyou digested his response but offered no reply of her own. "I will return to the South, now."
"Will we ever see you again?"
"No, I believe not. My life in this world ended fifty years ago. There is nothing left here for me." The miko spared another moment to gaze at the hanyou before her, finally turning away to exit the clearing.
"Good bye, Kikyou."
And then she was gone.
With everything that he is. That's what he'd said, wasn't it? Yet Kagome found herself paralyzed by indecision. She'd come in toward the end of the meeting, as Kikyou lamented her lot in life. The younger miko wondered just how many similar meetings had occurred in the four years of her married life.
The wind shifted suddenly, from a southern direction to the east. It carried Kagome's scent like a gentle messenger to Inuyasha's powerful nose, alerting him to her presence.
Unable to hide any longer she stepped into the clearing, hands clasped demurely before her and eyes shimmering with tears of confusion. Inuyasha's bright smile faded when he saw her.
"H-how many times have you met with her?"
All at once it made sense, and Inuyasha had to struggle to contain his growl of frustration. "It was the first time since our mating ceremony." When she still appeared unsure, he approached her, gripping her arms and pinning her with an intense gaze. "She came out of nowhere, and all we discussed is where she'd been and what I've been up to. I promise."
"I believe you."
It was obvious she didn't.
"Kikyou's returning to the South; we'll probably never see her again."
Good, Kagome thought angrily, but then flinched at the cattiness. "I just came to tell you dinner is ready," she finally spoke, unwilling to reveal the true reason she'd sought him out.
Sensing the usual wall of indifference in her mood, Inuyasha wisely dropped the subject, and released his wife's arms to let her lead the way home. A particularly sweet-smelling gust blew past them, reminding him of his original daydreams. Without thinking, he blurted out, "when do you think we'll have pups of our own?"
Kagome froze in place, her heart thundering in her chest so loud she knew he could hear it. "P-pups?" Turning around to pin him with a shocked stare, she willed her pulse to calm. "I thought maybe you'd changed your mind about that."
"I was just waiting for you," he answered with slightly frustrated confusion. "You kept saying you wanted to wait until your schoolwork slowed down. I thought it annoyed you that I kept bringing it up."
That was true enough, Kagome had to admit. There were times when she'd all but shouted at him to drop the subject. Still, that stopped almost a year ago, shortly after the destruction of Naraku. Was he really just deferring to her the entire time?
He was fidgeting in the silence between them, and she realized he was waiting for some kind of response from her. "I guess it did when I first started," she agreed. "Still, I've been thinking about it a lot lately."
A suspiciously hopeful look crossed Inuyasha's expression. "Do you want to have one now?"
Biting her lip in a nervous gesture, she nodded slowly. "Yes."
It was as though a dam broke; the sudden rush of his body toward hers as he swept her up into a whooping embrace. He spun her around until they were both quite dizzy and they fell onto the leaf-littered ground. He kissed her deeply, leaning over her to shelter her from the glare of the setting sun.
"Really? Are you sure?"
"Hai," she replied with a soft smile.
Another touch of his lips to hers, this time a more tender show of thanks than the passionate elation of before. For the longest time, neither could speak; their words were shared in intimate gazes while ahead of them the red sun dipped below the hills just beyond the village.
"You know my body's not ready just yet, right?" Kagome breathed when she felt the light graze of a clawed hand on the bare skin of her stomach.
"I'm not stupid, wench," he groused good-naturedly. "It'll be another week at least. But that's no reason to stop, is it?"
Her instant response was to push him to her side and clamber on top of him, grabbing his soft, furry ears in an affectionate massage. "Nope, no reason at all," she agreed before leaning forward to capture his lips again.
Just south of the clearing where the young mated pair tussled in the leaves, Kikyou offered up a silent prayer on the evening breeze.