Disclaimer: I don't own Yu Yu Hakusho or Inuyasha.
Strings of Destiny by Natala
Early November with Memories of Late October
For the first night in over two weeks Kagome was able to sleep in a real bed. It should have been bliss. Sango had slept instantly on the soft unfamiliar mattress they had pulled out for her. Long into the night, Kagome was wide-awake and staring. Memories flashed through her mind and she wanted to curl up and die. She remembered the battle in all of its hardships.
She remembered Naraku's laughter as he skewered Inuyasha. But Inuyasha hadn't given up. He had dragged Tetsusaiga up as Kagome took out the daggers Souta had given her. She had run out of arrows, and all of them had run out of time. Despite his mocking laughter and his sarcastic comments, they had known Naraku was weakening.
Kouga already lay dead and somewhere distant from Kagome's mind, she had heard Sango crying. Ayame's sobs had turned into harsh angry howls and she had been ferociously attacking Naraku near Sesshoumaru's side. Kagome sobbed in the present and tried not to remember. She didn't want to remember using every bit of power she could dredge up as Inuyasha hung seemingly motionless. How Inuyasha had lifted his sword as she struck, and managed one last strike.
Hours of battle and then there was nothing but ash. She had cried then, cradling Inuyasha in her arms. Three hard years and then it was over, permanently. Kagome sighed in her bed and stood up, walking over to the window. Obviously she wasn't going to get to sleep, not with the bloody images behind her eyelids.
It was funny. Despite the fact that she could still feel Inuyasha's blood trickling down her arms, a part of her yearned to run out of her house and take a bus and find Yusuke. It was a silly impulse, and he was probably terribly mad at her. It felt selfish to want a little comfort of her own when Sango was nearby and she had lost Miroku to Naraku and Kohaku to time.
They had tried the well again. It made no sense to Kagome. It had worked the first time with the jewel whole. It should work now. Of course, she had also been insanely terrified at the time.
The graves sprung to mind and she winced, remembering how they had looked so generic, as if they could have belonged to anyone. Kagome had sat in Kaede's hut for three days after the funeral, healing her own wounds. Funny, she still didn't remember receiving them. She just remembered channeling her powers and remembering all of Yusuke's lessons. It had been terrifying... and a bit of a rush. That terrified her even more.
Kagura had fought, that was clear in her mind. She had fought her own creator, and had lost in the end. Death, she had said as she gazed at them and Naraku crushed her heart in his hands, was the ultimate freedom. She hadn't meant it, and Kagome knew that. She had said it so Kagome would stop looking so horrified and guilty. It hadn't worked.
She still didn't know what had happened to Kikyou. The dead miko had simply gazed at her, whispered, "Guard it well," and walked off after the funeral.
Kagome felt a bit guilty about what had happened when she had healed. She had promised to come back if she could. She couldn't stay with Sango and Shippo. As far as she knew, they couldn't go with her.
"Kagome?" A sleepy voice asked behind her. Kagome glanced around and noticed Sango was gazing at her from the mattress on the floor. "Are you okay?"
"How did you know I was leaving?" Kagome blurted out.
Sango froze and her voice came out evenly, "You aren't as quiet as you think. I ran after you when I realized you were gone. Shippo was behind me you know. If he'd been a little faster, we might have a young kitsune here instead of an older one."
"A lot of things would have happened differently if that had happened," Kagome said quietly. Then she continued, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to bring you here against your will. Your brother..."
"Don't. I grabbed onto you, remember? You had already jumped. Kohaku can - and did - take care of himself. He doesn't - " She paused and grimaced. "-didn't need my pity. But I needed you around. Three years and hundreds of battles... and you were going to leave us for a boy?"
Sango's voice seemed heartbroken and Kagome turned fully around to face her, slightly shocked she would see it that way. "Sango! This is my time. My family-"
"What about us? Weren't we you family? You left their graves and would have left us behind! Don't say it's about your family; you would have left them behind when you were still in love with Inuyasha if he had asked you. We both know itís about your new demon man!" Sango was standing shakily now, her eyes suddenly clear and too bright from being asleep.
"I wouldn't have survived there! I would have died! Even if I could defeat every demon that came along, I would have still watched more people die around me, if not from demons then from old age. Which was what, forty back then? I wasn't going to do it Sango! You're right, I love Yusuke, and you and Shippo are family, and I couldn't watch you both be killed by whatever came next for the jewel!" Kagome shrieked and she found herself trembling. There were footsteps on the stairs and Kagome glared fiercely at Souta's head as he popped in first. He looked startled and swiftly backed out, closing the door behind him.
"If we fought and defeated Naraku, we could handle everything else that came by," Sango said levelly.
"At what cost? Don't you think there was enough blood caused by the jewel? I have to guard it Sango. Better here than there." Kagome closed her eyes and leaned back against the windowsill. Now she was tired, and drained as all of the anger trickled out of her hands.
"Fine. I think you're deluding yourself. You've always been led by your heart." Sango sank back down and snapped her eyes close. Her shoulders were tense when Kagome opened her eyes and she knew perfectly well the other wasn't asleep. Wearily, Kagome decided she didn't care. She slipped back into her bed, and tried to sleep, tried to forget that the instant she sunk into unconsciousness the memories would haunt her.
Yusuke glanced up the shrine steps and looked back at his friends, who seemed particularly anxious this morning. Especially Botan, who was looking around expectantly. The anxious look on her face had him making himself turn away. It just wasn't possible that she could know something he didn't. She already said the end of the scrolls was when she appeared to go to the last battle. Koenma had even been sympathetic and let him see them. It hadn't helped. They didn't tell him anything he didn't know.
He lifted one foot and put it down on the first step. It seemed an impossibly long climb. The top came only after what seemed like hours. He frowned and almost shifted automatically into a defensive position as he saw the demon sitting in front of Kagome's house with another young woman. He assumed she was some friend of Kagome's who had come over. That didn't seem right somehow, because the demon wasn't wearing an illusion. Yusuke didn't dwell on it.
Botan's hand on his arm stopped him from attacking, but the girl's hand had gone to a sword on her hip. The demon wasn't even gracing him with a glance. He was staring expectantly at Botan, a smile hovering on his lips.
"Well, Shippo?" Botan asked wearily. The demon laughed and stood gracefully, pulling something from his pockets. A few somethings actually. Yusuke tensed, but they turned out to be four scrolls. Yusuke watched as they were thrown into the air. Botan gave a small shriek as she dove to catch them.
Kurama's hand shot up as one passed him by, and even Keiko ended up with one. Botan had another. Yusuke was staring down at the last that unfurled in his hands. This had no writing on it at all, but a picture. A picture of Kagome with a jewel in her hands, whole and shining. The breath caught in his throat.
"Around the corner, kid. By the God Tree," the demon said as he glanced up numbly. Yusuke didn't even snarl at the smug smirk on his lips. The scroll dropped from his hands, caught by a previously unseen fire apparition. Yusuke never saw it happen.
Kagome was sitting on the roots of the God Tree, both hands pressed against it. She glanced up at the sudden flare of youki around her and the presence that swirled around her. She glanced up hesitantly into angry and relieved eyes. She waited as he battled with himself. For a second she almost thought he was going to walk off. Then he crouched down to her present eye level and simply stared at her.
"Were you hurt?" He asked gruffly.
"Somewhat. It's healed now." She watched him carefully and he glared at her when she twitched away from his probing hands.
"Where?" He asked insistently.
"It doesn't matter. It's healed now," She repeated softly, but she let him poke and prod her anyway. Finally, getting tired of it, she added, "A couple will scar. Are scarring I guess."
"Was it worth it?" He asked, taking his hands away. She heard all of the meanings in that question and shivered at the intensity.
"No." She closed her eyes under the onslaught of memories. Her heart clenched with pain. "Too many dead. Too much blood, all for..."
She swallowed, her throat suddenly dry and her voice failing her. She opened her eyes to catch a brief glimpse of an unguarded Yusuke, yearning and angry and looking helpless. He didn't know how to help her. She didn't know how to help herself. But hesitantly she reached for him, touching his shoulders. His hands went out and she was pressed tightly to his chest before she had even realized he was moving.
She let some of the tension seep out of her shoulders and quietly began to cry. She was still grieving, and there was too much relief and emotional pain. She didn't dare keep it inside. Not now, when she finally felt safe. She hadn't felt safe in weeks. Yusuke held her, and she knew later, maybe today, maybe not for days, he would be angry with her again and he would yell and argue and curse, but right now she was grateful for whatever emotion made him able to simply hold her.
Kagome had been back for two days when Yusuke finally did confront her on the whole thing. She had been sitting in the training area, her legs crossed in front of her and her eyes closed. The jewel around her neck glowed faintly to those with the senses to see it. The sight made Yusuke pause in midstride. His jaw tightened as he recognized the jewel for what it was. That damn Shikon no Tama.
Kagome's eyes opened suddenly, automatically fixed on him. He almost stepped back a stride. That wasn't normal at all. But she smiled faintly at him and climbed to her feet and it was all right again. He lifted one elbow up, showing the basket on his elbow. "Picnic?"
She raised an eyebrow at him and he stared back, a cocky grin forming when she rolled her eyes and walked toward him. "We'd better go before Sango realizes you're here."
Yusuke shot an angry glare toward the house as Kagome hooked her arm through his free one. "Why does she hate me so much, anyway?"
"She doesn't hate you, precisely. She just sees you as the reason I tried to abandon them." Kagome stared at the ground when she spoke and missed the sharp look he shot at her. He mulled over it a minute.
"Was I?" He asked as they reached the stairs, and tried not to look like he was paying particular attention to her answer.
Kagome pursed her lips and sent him a searching look. She was hesitating on answering and he wanted to shake her. It wasn't such a hard question to answer. He heard her sigh softly, and it hung in the air between them when no words followed it.
It wasn't until they had reached the park entrance and he had long given up on her answering as the silence stretched between them that she finally answered. "Maybe. At least in part it was. I had other reasons, but Sango doesn't believe me. Says that my heart has always led me. Which is true. But I had to come back here. I didn't belong there anymore than they belonged here."
Some of the anger he had still been festering slid away as he gave her a warm sidelong glance. "You really abandoned them?"
"Basically. Well, Shippo and Kaede anyway. Miroku and Inuyasha had already been buried. Sango heard me leave and followed me." Yusuke nodded at the answer, one question answered. He had pieced together who had died already, but how Sango had fallen through he hadn't know and the scrolls hadn't said.
"I'm guessing she didn't want to be here?" Yusuke asked dryly, knowing how angry the taijya was since she had appeared. Except when she was with the kitsune, it seemed. The kitsune made him uneasy. He wasn't the expected little kit that Kagome had known. He was an adult demon, who was apparently of formidable strength. Nothing like him or Hiei, but strong enough that Yusuke didn't like him hanging about Kagome's property. Never mind he had been there for weeks and Yusuke hadn't seen hide nor hair of him. That just made it worse.
There was a strange demon that had been stalking his girlfriend for weeks, and he hadn't even noticed. And Kagome just accepted him as one of the family as if he hadn't grown over five feet since the last time she had seen him. Yusuke wondered a bit savagely if all kitsunes had to be so damn tall.
"She didn't even want me to be here. But she says she'd rather have followed me here than have died without knowing how my life went. I don't know..." Kagome sighed and Yusuke watched her eyes grow worried. "I just can't believe she's happy with giving up her brother."
"Seems to me she had before the battle, hadn't she? She'd expected him to die without the shard," Yusuke pointed out and watched Kagome's face grow troubled. She didn't speak and Yusuke stared forward again, tugging them off the path and toward a few trees that would provide shelter from the wind and cold for their late year picnic.
He could feel Kagome's eyes on him as he set up the blanket and brought out food and smirked where she couldn't see it. They might both know why he had really done this - he wasn't a picnic kind of person - but he wasn't going to be the one who squirmed with impatience. This was all her fault and she could worry about what he was going to say as long as he wanted her to.
When he had finished taking everything out - as slowly as possible - he sat opposite her and watched her stare at him nervously. He wasn't going to be the first to break.
"Yusuke-" She began and he resisted the urge to smirk, "You don't really want to have a picnic."
"Nah, but it got us away from your friends and family without all of them acting like guard dogs for ya." Silence fell surrounding his statement and Yusuke waited. Now his patience was beginning to wear thin as well as she just stared at him with unreadable eyes.
"So?" She asked finally.
"That was a damned foolish thing to do," He hissed immediately back. "What the hell were you thinking?"
"I was thinking exactly what I'd been thinking since long before I met you - Naraku needed to be killed and it was then or never!" Kagome said fiercely and Yusuke glared.
"That's not what I meant!" He snapped in frustration. "Why didn't you tell one of us? We could have helped you! There had to be a way we could have gone through! If Inuyasha could, then we damn well could have found a way for me to go through!"
"There was no time! We had a lead and if we had waited any longer than those couple of weeks, things would have fallen apart! It wasn't your fight, Yusuke!" Kagome's hands bunched into fists on her thighs and the biting wind wasn't able to chill either. Paltry things like weather didn't faze them. The shadows of the trees shifted oddly with the wind.
"Like hell it wasn't! I was training you for it! You could have at least let me find something to give you to help! Koenma has plenty of weapons in his safe in Reikai." Yusuke's fingers dug into the soft earth beside the blanket as he kept his youki from flaring along with his anger. This wasn't a time to pit his youki against her purifying energy - he would win that, but probably lose the argument by default.
"Oh, that's a great idea. Give the miko cursed demonic weapons to use against the evil demon who would just be thrilled if he managed to get his hands on them! Do you want to erase history?" Kagome threw at him bitingly.
Yusuke was saved from having to answer by a dozen demons throwing themselves from out behind the trees. Yusuke vaguely noticed that Kagome was as unsurprised as he was and was rolling onto her feet in the same instant he was. "About time," He mumbled.
"They were taking a long time about it," he heard Kagome say, and there was still anger beneath the surface. He bit off a growl. She had no right to be angry with him.
"Give us the-" The demon blinked in surprise as his companions on either side were destroyed by the furious miko in front of him. Behind her, Yusuke decimated the other nine.
The demon swallowed but courageously - or as Kagome though, stupidly - attempted to continue. "-Shikon no Tama, or we will-"
Yusuke's fist punched through his head and with a flash of ki. He stared down at the demon, feeling much more relaxed and after it fell he pushed at it with one foot thoughtfully. "Huh. I didn't even know there were that many demons in this area. Hiei must be losing his touch."
Kagome gaped at the fallen body and then scowled in Yusuke's direction. "That was my demon!"
Yusuke grinned at her smugly. "Really? 'Cause I thought I was your demon."
Kagome stared at him for a few seconds where she had to wonder why she had to fall for the only boy in this time that could be put in a good mood simply by giving him something to kill. She sighed and let the thought and what was left of her anger drift away, turning to clean up the wreckage of their picnic. That argument had been going nowhere quickly and she had almost been relieved to feel the demons at the edge of her senses. A thought occurred to her and she glanced up at Yusuke who was still looking at her with a grin on his face. "That'll probably happen more often now. It's back and this time, and it's not hidden anymore. Nothing will keep out those really determined to get a chance at it."
"I wouldn't be too sure of that. Once I tell Hiei, he'll be glad to up his patrols." Yusuke shrugged carelessly. Hiei could handle what was thrown at him, and if all of those seeking that jewel were as weak as these demons had been, those who slipped by wouldn't be a problem.
Kagome glanced up from her clean up and smiled sadly at him. He really didn't understand what guarding this jewel would mean. Even in this time where most demons were in Makai - it wouldn't stop them from coming, and she was sure there were still a few humans about who would believe in the jewel, and be glad to have their hands on it.
"Leave all that. The animals will clean it up. I have to call Koenma to clean up these bodies." Yusuke flipped open the communicator and grimaced as Koenma's annoyed face appeared on screen.
"What is it Yusuke?" Koenma asked brusquely.
"We had a bit of a problem," Yusuke said and shifted slightly. His skin itched and he frowned but didn't look away from the communicator. It was probably a response from being near the ashes of one of Kagome's kills. If she had used too much energy there might still be some left over and that would make any demon tense. They would have to work on that.
"Some demons came for the Shikon no Tama and we killed them." Yusuke shrugged at Koenma's startled face.
"So you need someone to clean them up?" Koenma asked. "Where are you?"
Yusuke glanced up automatically to look at the bodies and to remember exactly where they actually were. Except there were no bodies, only a smiling miko with the remains of their picnic tucked away in a basket. She was leaning against a tree and watching him. When he looked disbelievingly from her to the ground, she laughed. "You taught me how to use my powers, you should know that a few dead demons aren't any problem. And ashes make less of a mess than bodies."
"Never mind Koenma," Yusuke said without looking back down at the communicator. "Everything's fine here."
"What? Yusuke, you just said-" The communicator closed with a snap.
"Ya know, I'm kinda hungry," Yusuke said conversationally. "And since we had that picnic ruined, let's go to my apartment and I'll warm something up. Too cold for a picnic anyway."
Kagome quirked an eyebrow and generously didn't point out that it had been his idea - albeit an idea meant to hide his true goals. Instead, she picked at a different part of his statement. "You can make something without burning it?"
He pretended to be offended. "Hey, I'll have you know I've cooked all of my meals for years!"
"So you ate them cold then?" Kagome teased.
"I can do more than make instant ramen," He said pointedly.
"Hey!" Kagome protested. "That's not fair." She pushed down the grief that stirred at just talking about instant ramen and pretended to pout.
"What's not fair about it? I bet-" And he grinned, knowing she'd have to agree, "That I can cook oden and you'll like it."
Kagome considered it for a moment. But only for a moment. Oden wasn't that hard to make either, but she would never pass up a chance to have it. "Let's go to your place."
Once again Kagome put her arm through his and they left the park, the ashes of the demons blowing away and leaving no trace that a battle had even happened.
No review responses thanks to the new reply features, which I didn't use much for last chapter, but I will use from now on whenever possible. So sorry if I didn't reply to you from last chapter, but I will this time. And a note - I suggest no one else decide to call me lazy. I don't like it and if anything it makes me write slower.