Moriko knew something was wrong the instant the teacher's phone rang. As Ms. Gourd spoke into the phone and calmly nodding her head, Moriko knew that one of her classmates was going to be called down to the office. Which is why when Ms. Gourd called her name, Moriko was rather surprised. Walking hesitantly to the front of the room, Moriko stood in front of her teacher as she knelt down and whispered softly,
"You're mother is waiting for you in the office, sweetie. Collect your things," Ms. Gourd said gently. "If you haven't finished the worksheet, do it at home, okay?"
Moriko nodded and grabbed her folder and stuffed the worksheet into it. Trotting to the back of the room where the cubby room was located, Moriko grabbed her lunchbox and her backpack. She waved goodbye to her teacher and left the room.
She met her mother in the office, who'd just completed signing the second grader out of school. Kagome turned around and smiled softly. Reaching out a hand, she grabbed Moriko's smaller hand and led her out of the office.
"Mommy, what's wrong?" Moriko asked as she spotted a taxi cab. Kagome didn't answer her as she helped the little girl into the car.
Her mother rattled off an address to the taxi driver and Moriko didn't recognize it. It wasn't their address.
"Mommy…?" Moriko turned curious blue eyes up towards her mother.
Kagome shook her head and offered a watery smile. "Nothing's wrong, sweetie."
Moriko knew her mom was lying but didn't say anything.
About fifteen minutes later the cab came to a stop. Kagome climbed out of the cab first and ushered Moriko out. Moving to the trunk, she pulled out her suitcase. Moriko watched her mother as she shut the trunk and paid the driver his necessary amount of money. "Thank you," Kagome said weakly and quickly moved Moriko to a roofed bus stop to wait while Kagome got her change from the driver.
"Mommy, where are we?" Moriko asked softly as her mother began moving her to a newer looking building than their house.
"…Home…" Kagome's voice was wavering and sad. She sounded like she was on the verge of tears. Unlike their building, this newer apartment complex required a code to get in. If you didn't have the code, you needed to use the intercom to call one of the rooms.
Kagome punched in a room number and pushed the 'call' button. "Hello?" she said feebly, "Kouga, are you there?"
Moriko's eyes widened when Kouga's voice came on, "Hey, come on in; I'll buzz you up."
Seconds later, a loud buzz was heard as the door unlocked and Kagome continued to usher Moriko into the building. Reaching an elevator, Kagome pushed the 'up' button and waited patiently.
"Why are we in Kouga's house?" Moriko asked. Kagome stared at Moriko in barely suppressed surprise.
"What did you just say?"
"Why are we in Kouga's house?" Moriko repeated.
"Kouga is your father, Moriko. You should address him as such," Kagome said crossly as the elevator door's opened. Moving inside, she pushed the number twelve and waited for the elevator to move them.
"Mommy, Kouga is not my daddy!" Moriko protested, tears in her eyes.
"Yes he is, Moriko!" Kagome said with a dark frown towards her daughter. Moriko cowered slightly but did not back down.
"I like Inuyasha better!" Moriko cried out, her blue eyes staring up at her mother hopefully. "Don't you?"
Kagome looked stricken and leaned against the wall of the elevator. Breathing hard, a hand came up and clenched the fabric of her shirt directly above her heart. Moriko noted that there was a ring on her mom's ring finger. Moriko was young, but she knew what that meant. Moriko's eye widened and tears sprung to her eyes.
"You're marrying Kouga?" she screeched out.
Kagome meekly nodded her head.
"Why?" Moriko demanded.
Kagome looked like she was about to have a mental breakdown. The woman had realized her mistake… she should have spoken with her daughter before she agreed to marry Kouga. Tears leaked from her clenched eyes and she collapsed to the ground, leaning against the wall and sobbing silently. She'd made a terrible mistake, but it was too late to go back now. She had to do it.
Moriko watched as her mother began to break down and tears fell from her eyes. "Mommy, don't cry!" she whimpered out. Watching an adult cry was probably the thing that Moriko hated the most. When an adult cried, it meant that they were sad. Adults weren't supposed to be sad. Adults were supposed to make sure everything was okay, everything was happy. Adults weren't supposed to make mistakes. Moriko began to sob, too. "Mommy, don't cry!" she pleaded.
Kagome tried to gain control over her emotions as the elevator came to a stop. Wiping her eyes, she stood up and tried to be strong. But it was obvious she'd been crying. Her cheeks were all blotched and a bright red. Her eyes were puffy and pink. Her lower lip quivered.
"Everything's going to be fine, baby," Kagome promised her daughter and grabbed her hand.
She slowly began walking down the hallway, searching for Kouga's room. Room 1104 was halfway down the hall and on the right. Taking a deep breath and gripping her daughter's hand tightly, she set down her suitcase and knocked feebly on the door.
Moments later it opened to reveal Kouga. "Kagome, Moriko!" He seemed very happy to see the two girls and leaned down to kiss Moriko's cheek. Moriko didn't protest, but she didn't squeal or giggle like she did when Inuyasha kissed her cheeks.
"Hi…" she said softly.
"Kagome." Kouga grinned at her, seemingly ignorant to his daughter's lack of response. He didn't seem to realize he'd already lost his daughter. He leaned in to kiss Kagome, but the girl ducked out of sigh and pretended to lean down next to Moriko.
"Hello, Kouga," Kagome said softly as she fiddled with Moriko's shoes. Untying the laces she forced them off Moriko's feet and set them down near the door. She stood back up and slipped off her own shoes.
Looking around for the first time, Kagome realized that Kouga's apartment was much larger than hers. The living room and kitchen were only separated by a large counter used for serving food. The kitchen was rather large and had room for a large kitchen table (unlike hers). She moved around the apartment, looking it all over.
The master bedroom was about the size of Kagome and Moriko's room combined and had its own master bathroom. Next door to the master bedroom was a smaller room, which Kagome realized would be Moriko's room. Her room had its own bathroom, too.
Moving to the other side of the apartment, she located a third powder room and a large room, though smaller than Moriko's room, which she decided was a study due to the furniture within its interior.
"Do you like it?" Kouga asked, grinning ear to ear.
Kagome nodded, though wishing she were back at her real home. This place was too big; she liked smaller houses since it offered more warmth and family togetherness. This apartment seemed cold and empty. "It's nice," she said faintly.
Kouga missed the lack of enthusiasm in her voice and began to gush over his apartment. How he'd gotten it at a good price, how he'd found the furniture at a garage sale and gotten most of it for cheap and other such various money saving techniques he used.
"Kagome?" Came another voice behind her and she whipped around to see Ayame standing there, very surprised to see her there.
"Ayame!" Kagome was equally as surprised. "What are you doing here?"
Ayame blushed lightly and glanced at Kouga before glancing back at Kagome. "I've been staying here in Kouga's study until I go back to Jersey to stay with family. There's so much I need to catch up on while I was here, that I forgot to find a hotel to stay in. Kouga offered his place and I happily accepted, since it's always better to stay with a friend."
She shook out her umbrella and slipped off her wet shoes, proving she'd been walking around outside, getting herself soaked.
"Yup, and Ayame's a much better cook than I am," Kouga said with a sheepish smile.
"Good to know I have a purpose," Ayame said sarcastically. Looking at Kagome again and back at Kouga, she grabbed Kagome's hand. "Time for a girl talk; you don't mind, do you, Kouga?"
"Huh? No." Kouga shook his head with a smile. "I have to go take care of some things down at the theater anyway. I wanted to wait until Kagome got here before I left, though." Kouga smiled and waved at Ayame and Kagome. "I'll see you girls later."
"Bye, Kouga." Ayame waved after him but Kagome remained silent.
Ayame waited until she was positive Kouga was gone before charging towards Kagome, grabbing her hand and staring at the engagement ring with a critical gaze.
Turning sweetly to Moriko, Ayame asked, "Moriko? There's a television in your room if you want to go watch."
Moriko nodded her head meekly and left the room, an obvious sag in her shoulders and drag in her feet. Ayame waited for the door to shut before turning back towards Kagome with a glare. "How could you?"
"How could I what?" Kagome demanded, though she knew exactly what Ayame meant. She snapped her hands back and feebly hid them in her pockets.
"You know what! Leave Inuyasha for Kouga!" Ayame said with a glare.
"Mad that I took Kouga away from you?" Kagome snapped back. She knew it was a harsh stab at her friend, but she was already upset and Ayame wasn't helping her feel any better. However, she did regret saying it when she saw the hurt flash in Ayame's eyes.
"No. That's not why," Ayame said with a frown. "Inuyasha's one of my best friends, Kagome. You left him for Kouga. Inuyasha is going to be devastated. He was always a very passionate person, and when he was affectionate with someone, it wasn't because he was flirting. It was because he felt an attraction there. I've seen the way he looks at you and speaks to you… I know that he cares for you. Now, you've left him.
"Kouga's my friend, too," Ayame explained. "So if you do anything to him you'll be hurting him. So, so far you've hurt two men."
Kagome felt tears in her eyes.
"And you're my friend, too, Kagome," Ayame said gently. "I care about you and I know you're hurting deeply from all this. I don't want you to be hurt.
"Moriko's a sweetie, too," Ayame said softly. "And she's hurt."
Kagome felt tears roll down her cheeks as Ayame stormed past her and into her temporary room, slamming the door shut.
The next few weeks were stressful for Kagome. She had to borrow Kouga's car everyday in order to drive Moriko to school (since she couldn't get bus service) and had to constantly avoid any physical contact with Kouga. She knew she was hurting him, hurting Ayame, hurting Moriko, hurting her herself… and the constant image of a broken Inuyasha alone in the apartment continued to plague her mind. She'd hurt so many people in her attempts to find the best thing for Moriko.
Kagome sat at the large kitchen table sipping a cup of tea when she felt a chair scrape beside her. Looking up, she watched as Ayame sat down. She looked tired, with bags under her eyes. Her usual perky hair, done up in pigtails, hung limply down her back and her green eyes seemed lifeless.
"Coffee…" she droned out and Kagome offered her a cup. Taking it happily, Ayame offered a small smile as Kagome poured her some tea. She frowned at it, but accepted the substitute to coffee. "…Tea…" she droned out, in the same monotonous voice she'd used when demanding coffee. Kagome laughed softly.
"Good morning to you, too," Kagome said, trying to sound cheerful.
"Kagome…" Ayame's voice was light and soft, though still laced with sleepiness. She looked at her with blurry green eyes. The jade orbs observed her over the rim of her cup, as if calculating what she was about to say.
"I stopped by the apartment yesterday," Ayame said casually. Kagome gulped. She knew what apartment she was talking about.
"How is he?" she whispered out.
"You tell me, Kagome," Ayame said softly, her eyes closed as she savored the taste of her tea. "How do you think he is?"
Kagome felt the familiar feel of tears coming to her eyes. She batted her eyes, trying to will the feeling away. She had to be stronger than this, she had to.
"He's a wreck," Ayame said with a frown. "Kept speaking in French and trying to make egg salad without cooking the eggs first."
Kagome stared at her, wondering briefly if she was joking or not. "I'm serious," Ayame said, as if reading her mind. Her voice was hard and determined, and Kagome knew she was telling the truth.
"The apartment's dark and gloomy. It's messy," Ayame shook her head. "He's so busy trying to figure out how to make food that he's forgetting to eat."
Kagome felt her heart clenched. Though Inuyasha had been trying with simple things such as Moriko's lunch and breakfast, Inuyasha still lacked the major skills needed to make a healthy and complete meal for himself. He was a horrible cook.
"It's sad, really," Ayame said lightly as she stared out the window. "When I opened the front door, he nearly dashed into me. He thought I was you." She glared at Kagome and the said girl gulped. "He'd hate for me to tell you all this, by the way. He hates being dependent on people, especially those who rejected him…"
"You did," Ayame said crossly, cutting her off. "You may want to be with Inuyasha, you may care for him but the truth is that you left him. You left him for a man you don't love." Kagome lowered her eyes. "I know you don't love Kouga. Inuyasha knows it, too. He knows it's some damn 'obligation' you've got in your mind that you need to marry him. I think everyone but Kouga knows. How would you feel, Kagome, if Inuyasha suddenly decided to marry me because he felt it was an obligation? What if he didn't love me at all and loved you with all his being but still he refused to stay with you and instead married me?"
Kagome bit her lip and felt a stray tear leave her eye. She angrily wiped it away.
"He loves you so much, Kagome, and you're hurting him."
Kagome lowered her head and stared at her coffee cup filled with peppermint tea. She nodded her head. "I know, I know! I know that I'm hurting him… and… I love him so much… I just…"
Ayame leaned back in her chair and let out a sigh. "So why won't you go back to him?"
"I just… can't," Kagome said with a frown. "I've already agreed to marry Kouga."
"So?" Ayame demanded to know.
"I remember all these movies I've seen where in the end the girl would leave the man she was engaged to and go with the other guy she loved. Every time that happened," Kagome said lightly, moving her finger along the rim of her cup. "I would get angry with the girl for hurting her fiancée because she left without considering his feelings… when I was younger, I was a spoilt brat. I would always put myself before others. When I got out into the real world, I began to realize my selfishness and tried to think of others before myself."
Ayame nodded her head, listening closely to what Kagome was saying.
"So…even though I don't love Kouga… I can't leave him. It would destroy him. Like you said the other day." Kagome fidgeted when Ayame snapped her gaze towards her. "I would hurt Kouga. I don't want to hurt him…"
"So, you put Kouga's needs before your own?"
"Yes…" Kagome nodded, her eyes painfully staring at the woodwork on the table.
"And you put Kouga's needs before your daughter's?" Kagome felt her heart clench. "Kouga's needs go before Inuyasha's needs?"
Kagome openly began to cry and she rested her forehead against the table. "I don't know!"
"So, in the end, you do choose Kouga over Inuyasha?" Ayame said darkly.
Kagome shook her head. "No! I… I…" She continued to sob, her shoulders racking. "I can't make everyone happy!"
"But still, you choose Kouga's happiness over Inuyasha's happiness?" Ayame said darkly.
"He's the father of my child… I've known him for years. He deserves a second chance," Kagome listed the only reasons to stay with Kouga. The very reasons she was using to try and convince herself.
"No, Kagome. Inuyasha is Moriko's father," Ayame said with a dark frown. Kagome lifted her head a fraction. "He's a good father. He takes care of Moriko. Kouga's not ready to be a father. Why do you think he didn't spend a lot of time with her? Why do you think he never asked you to marry him until after he came back from Italy?"
Kagome's shoulders stiffened.
"Kouga's had way more than a second chance, Kagome," Ayame said crossly. "This isn't his second chance; this is more like his fifth chance… he's done things to you way before Italy, and you still took him back. You may think Kouga deserves a second chance, maybe he does… but he does not deserve your happiness, your daughter, or you."
"You can!" Ayame stood up, knocking over her chair and slamming her fists into the table. Kagome snapped her head up in alarm. "You're just afraid, aren't you? You're afraid that he won't take you back! You're afraid of what will happen if you refuse Kouga!"
"Or is it that you're staying with Kouga because he's got enough money to support you?" Ayame hissed.
Kagome stood up and ran from the room, her sobs echoing through the apartment. Ayame stood there, fuming for a brief moment before calming herself down .Realizing what she'd just accused Kagome of, she frowned and ran after her.
She found her in Moriko's empty room (the girl was at school, after all) weeping on her bed. She was clutching her daughter's pillow and snuggling close to her daughter's stuffed dog.
"Kagome…" Ayame felt horrible, making her friend cry like that. Moving towards her she hesitantly sat down on the girl's bed. "Kagome, I'm sorry. I didn't mean it."
Ayame sat silently as her friend cried. About ten minutes later, Kagome sat up, her eyes puffy, and attempted to wipe her eyes. She sniffled and felt a few more tears leak from her eyes. Kagome was rather emotional lately, Ayame noted. 'This is really wearing thin on her…' Ayame realized.
The redhead placed a comforting hand on Kagome's shoulder and pulled the girl close, holding her tightly in her arms. "It's going to be okay, Kagome."
"No it's not," Kagome wept out, "A lot of what you said about m-me is true! I just don't know what to do. I don't want to hurt Kouga and I don't want to hurt Inuyasha."
"Kagome… you need to put your needs and wants before anyone else's now. Don't think about other people's feelings," Ayame said gently. "Listen to your heart, your feelings. As lame as that sounds, Kagome, you need to be selfish again. You need to do something for yourself. No one else."
"Ayame…?" Kagome sat up, wiping her eyes. A thought struck the girl's head and Ayame looked at her curiously. "Do you speak French?"
"Oui." Ayame raised an eyebrow. "Why?" She was slightly confused and agitated by the sudden subject change.
"You said that Inuyasha was speaking in French when you went to check on him…" Kagome said slowly and closed her eyes. "What was he saying?"
Ayame lowered her eyes. "A lot of random things, but mostly he was repeating phrases like 'I love her', 'the love', 'I love you', 'she's my little piece of paper'…" Ayame gave Kagome a confused look at that. "He'd mumble incoherent words, just random words in French… why?"
"…What's l'amour mean?" Kagome asked curiously. She had a feeling of what the answer would be. Out of all the things Inuyasha called her, he'd called her l'amour the most. She just didn't know what it meant.
"It means 'the love'," Ayame said and observed Kagome's reaction.
Kagome frowned. "Why did he call me 'the love' instead of 'my love' or something?"
Ayame shrugged. "I don't know. Don't ask me."
"Ayame…" Kagome had a feeling she wasn't going to like the answer to her next question. But, she had to make sure. "How do you say 'I love you' in French?"
Ayame smiled faintly and glanced out the window. Raking her fingers through her hair, Ayame swallowed before speaking. "Je t'aime. Though it literally translates to 'I like you', the French use it to say I love you, instead."
Kagome felt a small tear roll down her cheek. He'd known that he'd loved her for so long and he'd been telling her so. She just hadn't been listening well enough to realize it. And now she'd lost him.
"Kagome…" Ayame sensed Kagome's distress.
"I wish I could go back and say no to Kouga."
"Why don't you just call it off?" Ayame asked earnestly.
Kagome shook her head. "I can't. Only if I was positive Kouga wouldn't be destroyed like Inuyasha is now…"
"Okay, Alex, I'm going to tell you for the last time." Kouga rubbed his temples as the young actress faltered in her line. The girl's big brown eyes stared at him as she hesitantly fingered her black hair. Fiddling with a strand in front of her eyes, framed by glasses, the girl stared expectantly at her director. "You're angry in this scene, not sarcastic and cynical. Though the two can play together, in this scene you're just barely containing your rage."
The actress named Alex nodded her head.
The stage door flew open suddenly, causing the cast and crew to jump in their positions. The actors and actresses watched in mild fascination as a girl with bright red hair and raging green eyes stormed towards their director.
"Ayame…?" Kouga asked in surprise as Ayame marched towards him.
"You little bastard!" Ayame screeched and grabbed his shirt collar. Kouga paled as Ayame began to drag him away towards the stage door. The door slammed behind him.
The other director of the play watched with wide eyes before clearing his throat. "Alex," he addressed the young actress who was still staring at the stage door. "That was an excellent example of rage. Go with that."
Alex nodded feebly.
"Ayame, what are you doing?" Kouga yelped out as Ayame shoved him into a dressing room. Shoving him onto a couch, Ayame put her hands on her hips and tapped her foot on the wooden floor, glaring at Kouga darkly. "What is going on?"
"Kagome doesn't want to marry you," Ayame said without preamble.
Kouga blinked in surprise. "What?" he stammered out.
"Kagome doesn't want to marry you," Ayame repeated.
"I heard you the first time. What I meant is what gave you that stupid idea?" Kouga scooted down the couch when Ayame made a move to sit down next to him. She crossed her arms and glared at him. "What?"
"You're being an ass, Kouga," Ayame said snippily.
"If you'd tell me what the hell is going on, maybe I wouldn't be so much," Kouga suggested with a small snort.
Ayame glared at him some more before taking a deep breath and rubbing her temples. "Do you know what happened this morning?"
"No," Kouga said with a deep frown. "I have no idea. Why don't you tell me?"
Ayame gave him a cross look that quickly shut his sarcastic mouth. She let out a sigh. "I spoke with Kagome, Kouga. Guess what I found out?"
Kouga didn't answer. He knew that Ayame was going to tell him anyway.
"Thanks to your stupid guilt trip, she's under the impression that your feelings are more important than her own!" Ayame's voice raised an octave. "She feels that it's her obligation to marry you."
Kouga stared at her in surprise. He hadn't expected the redhead to tell him that and he felt her cold green eyes boring into him like drills. "She does?" he whispered out.
Ayame nodded her head curtly. "She loves Inuyasha, Kouga. She doesn't love you."
Kouga stared at her in surprise and Ayame realized how much this was hurting him. The look in his blue eyes was proof enough. He hadn't known he was guilt tripping her, he hadn't known that she felt obligated to marry him. The knowledge was obviously crushing him. He bowed his head and sucked in a deep breath.
"She… thinks she has to marry me?" Kouga said weakly. Ayame's hard look dissolved as she scooted closer to the man and wrapped her arms around his shoulders. Resting her chin on his left shoulder she let out a sigh. "Why didn't she say anything?"
"She didn't want to hurt your feelings," Ayame snorted.
Kouga shut his eyes and took in a deep breath of air. "Ayame… why are you telling me all this? Why can't she tell me?"
"She wants to be with Inuyasha, Kouga," Ayame said softly, trying to be as comforting as she could with the harsh reality her words brought the man. "But she won't go unless she's sure you're okay with it."
"So you've come here to tell me to go talk to her and tell her it's okay for her to leave?" Kouga said softly. He felt Ayame nod her head. He let out a sigh. "But I do love her…"
"Kouga…" Ayame felt a small stab in her heart when Kouga said this. She lowered her eyes and squeezed him tightly. "She doesn't return the feelings. You have to let her go with the one she loves and hope for the best. You can't hold her against her will. It would be a loveless marriage."
"I know… I just…" Kouga took another deep breath, trying to soothe his jumbled nerves.
"I know," Ayame said softly, cutting him off. She continued to hold him tight. "But please, Kouga. Do it for Kagome. This is what she wants…"
Kagome looked up when she heard a door open and close. Shuffling of feet met her ears and she stood up, placing down the book she'd been trying to read. She looked around the corner and was slightly shocked to see Kouga.
"Kouga, what are you doing home so early?" Kagome tried to sound cheerful. After all, this would be how every day would be spent. Kouga coming home and she greeting him. He was going to be her husband, whether she liked it or not.
Kouga shrugged vaguely and walked to the kitchen. Opening the fridge, he popped open a can of Coke and gulped it down very quickly, barely pausing for breath. Kagome watched him curiously as he wiped his mouth and gently shook his head.
"Kagome, we need to talk." The way he said it left no room for arguments and Kagome felt a shiver run up her spine.
She nodded her head. "Okay, but in the living room."
Kouga nodded his head, tossed the empty can into the sink and followed after her. Kagome sat down slowly and Kouga followed suit, though Kagome noted the amount of distance he put between them.
"Kagome…" Kouga began, wetting his lips and staring at the ceiling for a brief moment. How was he going to put this?
Kagome waited patiently, not speaking a word.
"Are you happy?" he finally managed to say.
Kagome blinked in surprise and quickly stammered out, "Of course. This apartment is wonderful and I know that-"
"Kagome," he cut her off with the cross way he spoke her name. Kagome stopped speaking and bit her lip. "Tell me the truth."
Kouga snapped out a hand and grabbed one of hers. Kagome yelped in surprise as he lifted the hand to his eye level and observed the platinum ring there. With a small, reassuring smile to Kagome, Kouga reached out his other hand and gently began to remove the ring.
"Kouga!" Kagome exclaimed. "What are you doing?" she gasped out as the ring moved completely off her finger and into Kouga's palm.
Kouga sighed softly and lifted his blue-eyed gaze to look at her. "Kagome, I'm so sorry I've done this to you."
Kagome's eyes widened in surprise. "What are you talking about?"
"I've made you miserable," Kouga explained. "I unknowingly guilt tripped you into a marriage you don't even want."
"Kouga, I can't-"
"Shut up, Kagome," Kouga said crossly and Kagome was wise enough to keep her mouth shut. Kouga stood and pulled Kagome up with him. He smiled at her. "Kagome, I love you. I want you to be happy. I know now that as long as I hold you in this engagement you will never truly smile again."
"I want you to be happy, Kagome. That's all I care about now," Kouga said gently and lowered his eyes. "I hate to do this, to take away my ring and to let you go… but I know that I cannot trap a beautiful bird in a cage and expect her to sing."
His words touched her and she felt a stray tear come to her blue eyes. She sheepishly wiped them away and offered a watery smile. "Kouga… I don't know what to say…"
"Don't say anything," Kouga said gently as he reached out a hand and hesitantly brushed her bangs away from her glowing blue eyes. "I'll always be here if you need me… remember that, Kagome."
"Yes." Kagome nodded and took a step back towards the front door. She nodded again, tears of happiness streaming down her cheeks. "Kouga, thank you. Thank you so much."
Kouga smiled softly, successfully shielding his pain as Kagome turned her back on him and left his apartment. It would be the last time that he would ever see Kagome like this again and he felt his heart clench. For a brief moment he thought about calling her back until a familiar saying filled his mind, a saying Ayame had told him earlier:
'If you love someone, let them go. If they don't come back to you, they were never truly yours…'
Kouga sighed sadly.
Kagome took a deep breath to soothe her thundering heart. She'd never been more scared in her life, she realized. It didn't seem like such a bad thing, really. All she was doing was standing outside of an apartment she'd lived in for the past decade where the man she loved awaited inside. Plus the fact that she wasn't sure of the said man's reaction when he opened the door. Kagome's heart took another leap. She was terrified. Kagome gulped and balled a fist before knocking feebly on the door.
Kagome took another deep breath of air before knocking again. Still no response. Growing agitated, Kagome touched the door handle. A wave of familiarity flooded through her and she twisted the handle. Shocked, and very relieved, to see the door was unlocked, Kagome slipped inside.
"Ayame…" mumbled a voice from the next room over. The kitchen. Inuyasha was right there in the kitchen. "Put the cabbages inside the toaster," he drawled out. Kagome raised an eyebrow as Inuyasha began to speak long fluid sentences in French. Not understanding a word, Kagome cleared her throat.
The French phrases came to a sudden halt and silence filled the apartment. Moments later the sound of breaking glass echoed through the silent apartment and Inuyasha appeared in the hallway, his violet eyes wide.
"Mon couer?" he asked in surprise. His mouth flopped open and shut tightly multiple times as he struggled to speak but no words came out.
"Inuyasha…" she said again, feeling more tears spring to her eyes. She'd been doing a lot of crying lately, and like all the other times, she wished she wouldn't.
"You're really here…" he murmured out, this time in perfect English. Kagome marveled at the way his voice could sound so different in the languages. When he spoke French, his voice dropped an octave and his words were murmured softly yet sharply, if that was possible. When he spoke English, however, his rich, deep voice held just the right amount of emotion that Kagome felt she knew what he was really feeling every time. However, now his voice was masked in his disbelief and she felt her heart race in her chest again.
"Yes…" Kagome whispered as Inuyasha moved forward, reaching out fingers to brush her bangs away. Dazzling violet eyes, dim with his anguish and turmoil, observed the teary blue eyes tenderly.
"But, why?" he asked.
Kagome observed him some more. His button-down shirt was wrinkled and dirty, and Kagome was sure he'd worn it for many days straight. His hair was unruly and falling down his back in tangled knots instead of silkily pulled back into a pony tail. His face was unshaven and there were large bags under his eyes. He looked as pathetic as Ayame had told her he was. Yet she said nothing, for at that moment she was just glad that he was even there. She wouldn't care what he looked like, just as long as he was there.
Kagome darted forward and wrapped her arms around his chest. Burying her head in his shoulder, she began to cry all over again, her whole body shaking with the force of her sobs. Inuyasha blinked in surprise as she tightened her hold on him. He clenched his eyes shut and took a deep breath before wrapping his arms around her as well. Floods of emotion overtook him and he felt his knees go weak. He felt as if perhaps he'd collapse at any moment, but after all the days he'd spent alone the familiar presence of Kagome around him supported him.
"I'm so sorry," she whimpered out when her sobs died down. "I shouldn't have left you. I should have stayed… I should… I should have…"
"Shhh, sweetie," Inuyasha's gentle voice whispered out and Kagome's words fell silent. She'd left him alone, she'd abandoned him even after he told her he loved her… and yet, here he was, tenderly comforting her with affectionate words and soft rocking (she noted how he was swaying back and forth)… he didn't seem angry. She'd expected him to be. She'd been angry when he'd left for California and then came back. Yet… he just seemed so relieved. "Everything's going to be okay," he murmured and Kagome believed him.
"I love you," she said suddenly, tightening her hold on his buttoned shirt. He stiffened in surprise and Kagome thought that perhaps she'd gone too far too soon.
"I know you do," he whispered out, expelling all of Kagome's thoughts of regret. He pulled away so that he could look her in the eyes. His forehead rested against hers and their noses bumped for a short moment as he looked into her eyes. Kagome found herself lost in the dark lavender gaze. "What are you doing here, Kagome?" Inuyasha murmured softly.
Kagome wetted her lips and softly, embarrassingly, told him all the events starting from her first meeting with Kouga to when Kouga took back his ring. Inuyasha listened silently, nodding in the right places, frowning in the right places and smiling gently when the time proved appropriate. He was a good listener, she noted with a somewhat surprised expression when she finished and he was still silently thinking. She never really expected Inuyasha to be the type to listen, since he carried himself in a certain way that suggested he believed himself to be always in the right and needn't listen to others.
It was a long moment before he spoke again and his words warmed her unexpectedly. "Then, you're staying?"
Kagome bowed her head when she heard the poorly concealed hope in his voice. He pulled away slightly and fiddled with his fingers as if they were the most interesting thing in the world.
Kagome smiled faintly. "If you'll take me back…"
Inuyasha's face perked up and Kagome swore to herself she'd never seen a happier expression on anyone's face. He took her into his arms and held her tightly. When it came time that Kagome needed to breath, Kagome lightly patted his shoulder. Getting the hint, Inuyasha set her down, yet his hands still rested calmly on her waist.
Kagome felt a wave of disbelief wash over her. "You'd take me back…? After all I've done to you?" Her blue eyes met his.
He smiled. "Of course, l'amour." Kagome was reminded of the odd pet name and wondered again why he called her 'the love'. "You're everything to me. I love you. I'll always take you back…" His grip tightened on her waist and he looked at her seriously. "Just…" His voice was soft as he tried to hide the pain in his voice. "Don't run away from me again…"
"Never," Kagome promised as she stood on the tips of her toes and brushed her lips over his. "I promise…"
Kagome was grateful when he moved his hands to her shoulders and leaned down to press his lips against hers. He was so tall that it was hard to reach his lips on her own. His lips claimed hers and she melted into his hold, feeling the weight of the world lift off her shoulders.
When she pulled away, she marveled up at him. His eyes were misty. "Are you crying?" she whispered out, amazed.
"No," he said quickly and blinked his eyes. In a moment the look in his eyes was gone. He smirked down at her and Kagome raised an eyebrow. "I was chopping onions."
"Liar." She gave him a look, but he continued to smirk. Usually, she hated seeing that smirk because it was followed shortly by his inflated ego and conceited attitude. However, she was glad for the sight of his cockiness… it meant that things were going back to normal… hopefully.
"I'll show you." He grabbed her hand and started dragging her to the kitchen like a little kid who'd just tied his shoes for the first time. He seemed rather proud of himself, too.
Kagome watched as he slowly navigated her around the kitchen table and lead her to the counter, making sure she didn't stand near the broken cup he'd dropped when she'd come inside.
Sure enough, there were onions on a chopping board. But Kagome was still skeptical. When he was in the next room over and it had been at least ten minutes since he'd cut them, how could they irritate his eyes? She didn't say anything as another thought occurred to her. "But you don't cook."
Inuyasha seemed rather flustered and embarrassed by that statement and he smiled sheepishly. "I try my best, l'amour."
There was that word again. Kagome frowned. "Why is it that you call me 'the love'?"
Inuyasha only seemed mildly surprised when she asked the question and his smile widened. "So you finally got that translated, huh?"
"But, why?" Kagome insisted.
"At first when I called you it, it was a simple slip of the tongue on my part. A mistake. I'd meant to call you 'my love' not 'the love'. But I figured since you didn't know French, you wouldn't notice…" Inuyasha shrugged. "That's the sensible answer. I can tell you the wickedly sweet yet very cliché and lame reason, too."
Kagome giggled. "Let's hear it."
"Well, my darling," Inuyasha said with a giant wave of his hand as he swept his arms around her and held her close. He tilted his head back and gave her a rather dramatic look. Carrying himself the way only an actor could, he said with a great flourish, "It is because you are the love of my life! L'amour de ma vie!"
Kagome laughed at his melodramatic moment as he released her in order to tiptoe around the kitchen like a deranged ballerina. Her lips curved into a smile as she followed after him, though she walked. He stopped suddenly and his face lost the delighted look and instead became serious.
"You really won't leave me?" he asked.
Kagome had a feeling she'd be answering that question for a little while before he'd leave her in peace.
"Inuyasha…" Kagome said slowly. "Just give me a second chance."
Inuyasha smiled and nodded, grabbing her hands. "Fine, but only because you gave me one, too."
"Je t'aime," she whispered out, trying out the French phrase for the first time. The words fumbled out of her mouth and didn't sound nearly as beautiful and fluid as when Inuyasha said it, but it sufficed because his eyes widened before he broke out into a wide grin.
"I see you've gotten that translated, too."
"That's it, though," Kagome said with a shrug. "But what's 'mon couer'? You called me that when I came here…"
Inuyasha continued to grin sheepishly. "It means 'my heart'. You see, Kagome, when you say them in English, it sounds really lame, but when its in French is sounds all exotic and sexy."
Kagome laughed, "Right, Inuyasha. Whatever you say." She silently agreed with him, but, she knew her lack of enthusiasm would push his buttons.
Inuyasha pouted lightly and Kagome moved forward, gently kissing his chin.
"I love you," he whispered out and Kagome closed her eyes, glowing with happiness. She wrapped her arms around him and melted into his embrace. This was the way she wanted to spend he rest of her life: in the arms of Inuyasha, in her stupid crummy apartment waiting, for Moriko to come home from school.
"Oh my God!" Kagome squeaked out and Inuyasha jumped in surprise as she began to dash around the apartment, searching for the phone. "I've got to call the school!"
"Why?" Inuyasha asked with a furrow of his brow.
"Moriko doesn't know I'm here! I need to call the school and tell them to tell her to ride the bus home!"
"You can do that?" Inuyasha asked, laughing softly at the woman's frantic scurrying as she located the phone (in the cradle, where it always is).
Half an hour later, after all the chaos had died out, Kagome and Inuyasha walked to Moriko's bus stop silently. He smiled gently at her, still grasping the fact that she was back with him and wouldn't be leaving. His hand grabbed hers tightly and she smiled back up at him shyly.
They only had to wait for a couple of minutes before the bus that carried Moriko appeared around the corner and stopped in front of them. Moriko was the first of the children to get off the bus. She was smiling brightly, her beautiful blue eyes shining happily as she jumped off the bus's last step and dove into Inuyasha and Kagome's waiting arms. "Daddy! Mommy!" she whispered out as she wrapped her stubby arms around Inuyasha's neck. "Daddy, I missed you!"
"I missed you too, sweetheart," Inuyasha said comfortably. He ran his fingers through her hair.
Other children filed off the bus, all staring at the three stupidly before trotting off to find their parents. Hikari, Moriko's friend and old classmate, got off last and looked like she was about to say something snide and witty before locating her nanny and walking slowly over to her. Hikari hadn't been coming over a lot lately due to the fact her father had finally given her therapy. She spent most of her afternoons talking to multiple psychiatrists.
Kagome smiled at the sight before her: Inuyasha holding Moriko tightly and Moriko holding him tightly. She smiled at the scene. A daughter in her father's arms. Nothing else.
'This is my family,' she thought proudly as she kissed her daughter's cheek. She led the way back to the apartment. 'The most important people in my life…'
Beautiful blue waves lapped on the shore, white foam forming as the waves broke. A loud squeal erupted from the water as a ten year old girl splashed in the clear Mexican water. A short ways off sat a small two year old child playing in the sand and holding a plastic shovel proudly. His pudgy cheeks, pained rose from the glowing sun, dimpled into a bright smile as he happily picked up a piece of shell.
Trotting to a working woman, building a sandcastle, the boy watched as she turned her head when he grasped his mother's arm. "Sa!" he said proudly and showed her the seashell.
"Isn't that beautiful," the mother said, her blue eyes twinkling brightly as she took the shell from the boy and held it up to her eye level, making a large show of staring at the shell, like she was testing it for its perfection. "Thank you, Akio, sweetie."
"Ye!" Akio Higurashi bubbled proudly and waddled away. The little toddler, though the age of two, was not a large talker. He'd only started speaking about two months ago and still he didn't speak much. At first his mother and father had been fearful of a mental illness, but had been reassured that their son was just a late bloomer. At times the parents were very happy for the silent toddler.
"Hey," came a silky, deep voice behind the older woman. She looked up from where she was working on the sandcastle and smiled as her husband of three years sat down beside her and handed her a strawberry margarita. "That's coming along nicely," he motioned to the sandcastle.
"Thank you," she said with a smile. Sparkling blue eyes met with beautiful lavender as she took a sip of her drink. "I have to admit, Inuyasha," she said with a small smile, "I was rather hesitant about coming down to Mexico for the holidays… but it's certainly worth it. The kids are really enjoying it." As if it were a cue, their ten year old daughter screeched happily as she used her body to surf a wave into the shore, where her little brother was laughing happily at his sister's antics.
"Aren't all my ideas fabulous, Kagome?" Inuyasha gushed proudly and smirked arrogantly.
Kagome gave him a withered glare. "I can name a few that aren't."
"Oh yeah? Name one," Inuyasha said, holding up a finger to prove his point.
"Let's see…" Kagome tapped her lips as she pretended to think. "That thing, for example," she pointed to his shoulder, where a small tattoo had been inked in. "I can't believe you got that. What kind of example are you going to be setting for Moriko and Akio?"
The kanji on Inuyasha's arm was small and nearly undetectable. Inuyasha snorted. "Relax, Kagome. Besides, it just says 'Akio'. That's a positive influence."
"You only did it because you lost a bet with Miroku," Kagome said crossly. "Besides, getting a tattoo with your son's name on it is not a positive influence."
"You're right, I need to get one that says 'Moriko', too," Inuyasha said as he looked at his other bare shoulder. "Do you think I should do it on the other shoulder?"
"I think you're an idiot," Kagome said crossly. "Get those thoughts out of your head."
"Don't give me that look," Kagome said with a serious note, though a smile played on her lips.
"Keh," he snorted, but his grin never left his lips.
Inuyasha and Kagome Higurashi had gotten married in the May following Inuyasha's proposal, just before Moriko's eighth birthday. He'd proposed on Christmas Eve and given her a simple ring with no diamond on it. "Diamonds are bloodstones," Kagome had told him with a smile about three weeks prior when they'd been shopping for Moriko's Christmas presents. "Do you know how many people die everyday just so some girl can wear a rock on her finger?" Their wedding had been simple, with only twenty guests.
Following their wedding, where Moriko was there flower girl, Inuyasha had filed for a name change. Instead of being Inuyasha Takahashi, he changed his name to Inuyasha Higurashi, taking on his wife's name. At first Kagome had been hesitant to let him do this, for it was rather unorthodox for a man to change his name and the woman to keep hers.
"Takahashi means nothing to me," Inuyasha had said with a rather serious and genuine look on his face. "It's the name of the father I never knew, the name of the man who left my mother alone. I do not wish to carry on such a name. Besides, it would be much easier for me to change my name instead of you changing yours. If that happened you'd have to change Moriko's name, too, since she'd be the only Higurashi."
Following all that chaos of weddings and name changes, several months later the couple received a new surprise. Their first child together, Kagome's second child, was a beautiful little boy. They named him Akio, the light one, after Kagome's great grandfather. The child was born on April twenty-first, making him a Taurus. It was expected that the little boy with have an attitude just like his father due to a Taurus' stubborn nature and loyal attitude.
Shortly afterwards, Inuyasha and Kagome had filed another legal document. Only this time, it was in order for Inuyasha to adopt Moriko. In doing so, the government would identify Inuyasha as Moriko's father. In order to do this, they had to have consent from Kouga and Kagome, since they were the parents. Kagome happily accepted, but Kouga was hesitant. Finally, after weeks of persuading the man in Italy (he was taping the second part of the trilogy) he gave consent and Inuyasha became Moriko's father legally.
With their combined income, and Inuyasha's new job as a drama teacher, they were able to move out of New York City. They settled in a small suburb outside of the city in a modest little house. Despite Inuyasha's small income they were still able to afford the house.
Now, the family of four had left the United States in order to enjoy a seven day holiday in Cancun, Mexico.
"Mommy, Mommy!" Moriko trotted to her mother. Even at the age of ten the girl still called her mom 'mommy'. "Look what I found!" she held out a large shell arrogantly. Akio babbled behind her, obviously disappointed that his sister's shell was bigger than his own.
"Ma!" he whined as he grabbed for his own shell, still in his mother's hand. He looked at his shell and then his sisters, comparing the sizes. Moriko continued to beam. "Ma…!" he whined and began running away to find another shell. As he did, he fell into the sand and whimpered before bursting into tears.
Before Kagome could move, Inuyasha was already up and cradling the little boy in his arms. "Akio," he said softly into his son's ears as he rocked the kid. He continued to cry. "I think you need a nap; you're cranky."
The child sniffed, shook his head and continued to cry. Inuyasha sat back down in the sand, bouncing the toddler in his arms and leaning him against his shoulder. He stuffed a hand into the pocket of his swim trunks and fished out a small orange hat. "You drop this when we first got on the beach, Akio," he said quietly as he placed the child-sized hat over his son's mop of black hair.
The child sniffed and buried his head into his father's shoulder. "Da..." he whispered out, recognized his father as the comfort he needed.
Moriko sat down next to her mom and showed her the shell. "Isn't it pretty, Mommy?"
"Yes, it is, Moriko," Kagome said with a smile as she took the shell from her daughter and looked it over. "It's very rare to find such a large shell that's this complete. Especially on the beach of a hotel resort." Kagome looked at Inuyasha, who was watching her silently, a smile on his face.
"I'm going to keep it!" Moriko announced.
"Make sure that you pack it in very tight, Moriko," Inuyasha said from his position next to Kagome, Akio still in his arms. "If you don't, it will break on the plane ride home."
"Yup!" Moriko nodded her head and tenderly placed it next to her mom, as if afraid it would break if she wasn't careful to set it down. "I'm going back in the water!"
"Don't go too far, sweetie," Kagome called as the girl galloped into the water, laughing happily.
"Preteens," Inuyasha snorted.
Kagome eyed him and leaned over, taking Akio from his arms and cradling him against her. She smiled at Inuyasha as one of her hands reached out and touched his cheek. "Men," she said, in the same tone he'd just used. He pouted lightly and she ran her thumb over his bottom lip. "Can't live with them, can't live without them."
"I think we could all live without preteens and teenagers," Inuyasha said as he leaned against her gentle touch.
"Agreed. But we have no choice," Kagome said with a light shrug.
Inuyasha leaned in and kissed her softly, his lips lingering on her bottom lip. She smiled into the gesture and happily returned the kiss, her eyes drifting shut. "Yuck," came a small child's voice and they broke apart to see Akio making a face. His face was scrunched up, his lavender eyes were flickering with his disgust, and he was sticking out his tongue like he'd eaten something gross.
Inuyasha continued to smile at her as he stood up. "I'm going in the water," he said finally. "Moriko's getting too far out. If I'm with her, it will be fine."
Kagome nodded and watched him walk into the water fluidly, barely fazed by the pounding waves as they crashed into him.
"Sand!" Akio gushed as he squirmed from his mother's arms and grabbed his plastic shovel and pail, ready to continue making the sandcastle. Kagome laughed, patted her son's back and began helping the toddler.
As she worked, she watched her husband and daughter play in the ocean's waves. Despite all the hardships she and Inuyasha had faced, she was the happiest woman in the world. Staring lovingly down at her son, who continued to pat sand into the bucket even when it was full, she whispered out,
"I wouldn't trade this for the world."
Author's notes: (flops down onto the ground) Wow, glad that's over. I'm really going to miss this universe of Inuyasha and Kagome. I just loved their characters…onto the next story though. You might see Inuyasha's characteristics from this story in others though, you never know.
I'd like to thank every single one of my readers and reviewers for their support in these stories and all my others stories. I love you all to bits.
From Chapter Three (I realized I forgot to put up the link!):
Colored version of an earlier drawing:
Inuyasha and Moriko:
Inuyasha and Kagome's reunion:
completed on December 24, 2004 (Merry Christmas)