Happy birthday to me! My birthday present to all of you! Yes, to give truly is better than to receive!

tl;dr AN goes snip. Short version: fic contains ghey.


"Where's Kagome?" Kouga asks, dust still swirling around him from his sprint.

Inuyasha surveys him from his perch on the well. "Home, not that it's any of your business."

"I would've noticed if she was in my den," Kouga says, smirking.

Inuyasha glares at him. Normally, he would be goaded into a fight, but now he is in no mood.

"Where is her home, anyway?" Kouga asks, his voice a bit softer than before, somewhat crushed that he doesn't even know his woman's village, and has to ask the hanyou.

Inuyasha doesn't see any harm in telling him. "Tokyo."

"Tokyo? Never heard of it," Kouga says, puzzled. Not that he had memorized the name of every human village, but still.

"It's the anagram-lover's Kyoto," Inuyasha says snarkily.

Kouga comes closer, leaning on the other side of the well absently. "Is it very far away?" Inuyasha thinks there's something innocent about the way Kouga says that, like a child asking how far away the clouds are.

"Farther than you could imagine," Inuyasha says bitterly.

"Too far to visit?" Kouga pries, enjoying their game.

"For you," Inuyasha says, with some satisfaction. "Not for me." With the shards in his legs, Kouga probably could use the well, Inuyasha reflects, however, he has no intention of telling him about it.

Kouga turns on him. "You don't own her!"

"I could say the same to you, wolf!" Inuyasha snaps. He'd felt too dejected to be fighting, before, but Kouga's brazen claims on Kagome are heating his blood.

"Don't hide her, you coward!" Kouga says, taking a stance, prepared for whatever his words might bring him. "Let her decide if she wants to see me or not! Tell me where she is, mutt!"

"Don't order me around, you don't own me, either," Inuyasha grits out, tossing his hair in annoyance.

"L-like I'd even want to!" Kouga spits furiously. "To think I thought I could have a polite conversation with you!" Seeing Inuyasha's claws creep to Tessaiga's hilt, he speeds off. He wasn't here for a fight, he just wanted to find Kagome.

"Coward!" Inuyasha yells after the fleeing wolf. He slumps down beside the well, feeling more wretched than before.

-

The next day, Inuyasha is baking in the sun, occasionally twitching in the direction of the well, but restraining himself. He'd promised. He doesn't want to look possessive or desperate. He tells himself he isn't like that stupid smelly wolf, doesn't need to hover over her every moment. Kagome will come back to him on her own, even though this isn't her home.

Mostly, he is conscious of the sun. He is convinced it is in league with Naraku. He smolders under his heavy haori, his brow burns, there is a slick wet line down his back, under his hair, and the pink insides of his ears are tanning orange. He could wait under a tree, nearby, but is determined in his vigil. Shippou had brought him breakfast and waited with him earlier in the morning, but left for more interesting things hours ago. The inside of the well looks nice and cool, he thinks, remembers with longing Kagome and her air conditioning, and her showers, and that machine that could make his clothes fresh and clean again.

But that's not his world, not his home. He has no right to burst in on her like that.

"Are you still here?" Kouga says, faintly bemused.

Inuyasha looks around at him, and tries to be annoyed. But it's too hot for that, so he says, "It's where we meet. Not that it's any of your business." Truthfully, Inuyasha feels like a dog chained to a post, told to wait for his master. How rarely masters consider things like that it might be hot, or how long their dogs must wait alone.

"Is it near Tokyo?"

"No, but it's on her way back from there."

"You're always coming back to this spot," Kouga mused. "It can't be because of that old miko, there are other mikos, and better ones at that. I know the taijiya didn't come from here, and there's no Buddhist temple, so it's probably not anything to do with the monk. Your home village, then?" Kouga asks, proud of his deduction. After all, Inuyasha is half-human, any of the villagers here could be his parent.

"It was Kikyou's home, never mine." Inuyasha is annoyed at himself for bringing Kikyou up, but he has wanted to talk for a long time, and it isn't like he could discuss her with anyone else, mostly because of Kagome.

"Kikyou is your mom?"

"No."

"You'd better not be two-timing on my Kagome," Kouga threatens.

"Don't talk about what you don't understand, mangy wolf. Then again, that would probably mean never speaking again, wouldn't it?"

Kouga smiles. "Hit a nerve, did I?"

Inuyasha sulks. "Just go away."

"How can you defend my woman for me, if you let yourself be affected so easily?"

"She. Is. Not. Yours," Inuyasha grits through clenched teeth.

"This is exactly what I'm talking about. You have no game face, all you do is react," Kouga says smoothly, pacing easily around Inuyasha.

"Like you're any better."

"I'm always better than you."

Inuyasha nearly laughs. "I still have blood under my claws from the last youkai who told me that. Being a full youkai does not make you better than me."

"I'm not better than you because I'm pure-blooded, I'm better than you because I have sense in my head," Kouga says with satisfaction.

"Keh, hardly," Inuyasha scoffs, not bothering to think of a better comeback.

"Then why are you sitting in this broiling sun, when there's a nice shady tree not twenty feet that-a-ways? If this is really your meeting spot, you couldn't possibly miss her from just over there, even if you're nearsighted, you could smell her clearly."

"I stay put for the same reason you're always running away. You've got a home to go back to, and I haven't. This is where I wait for her," Inuyasha says wearily.

"Your choice, mutt," Kouga says as he leaves, still not understanding.

-

The next day it rains.

The cool water feels good on Inuyasha's sunburn, though his clothes are now a sopping, sticky mess. He tries to run his fingers through his hair to get the tangles out, but wet strands tangle around his fingers, and cling annoyingly. He gives up halfway through, leaving one side of his hair looking almost neat, and the other side ratty. Mostly he twitches water out of his ears, and blinks it off his eyelashes, letting it run into his mouth, salty from his skin, and watches the misty horizon, in a trance.

Shippou has not brought him his meals yet. He is hungry, in a wiry, hollow sort of way, but it does not trouble him much.

Inuyasha sits on the edge of the well, on the corner, to give him more support, with his feet tucked up under him. He hears the raindrops echoing in the well, making a muddy mess at the bottom. If it rains much harder, the well will flood, and Inuyasha will have to be very alert, prepared to save Kagome should she come through in that, lest she drown. He doesn't trust his nose in this weather, with all the scents being washed away, so he listens carefully, unable to see the bottom of the well with storm-clouds covering the sun.

To his surprise, he hears Kouga's approach. There is something unexpectedly loyal about showing up every day, even in this rain. He wants to say something before Kouga does, to show that he heard him coming, but can't think of anything clever, so he goes with, "Hello."

Kouga blinks, shock hitting his face like a pie in a bad comedy skit. He's not sure what surprises him more, that Inuyasha heard him coming, when he thought he was being so stealthy, or that he said something so civil. "Um, hello," he says back awkwardly. He sits next to his rival, and there is almost a companionable silence, both waiting for the same girl.

At last, Inuyasha can take it no more. "What do you want, Kouga."

Kouga is not sure if he should be insulted that Inuyasha used his name, in absence of any honorifics, which is rather personal. It seems an improvement on "mangy wolf," or the like, so he lets it slide. "What I always want," he says in response.

"She isn't yours," Inuyasha says wearily.

"Then you're wrong," Kouga says, bitterly.

"I'm not wrong, Kagome does not belong to you," Inuyasha says with conviction.

"Not about that," Kouga says, waving a hand dismissively though the pouring rain. "About what you said before. Because if I don't have Kagome, I don't have a place to go home to."

Inuyasha raises his eyebrows, mildly surprised, though he tells himself he doesn't care.

"If I don't return with a female, my pack won't let me back," Kouga confesses.

Something about this reminds Inuyasha of something. "I thought wolf youkai only did that if the wolf in question is caught in a homosexual relationship," he says, expecting Kouga to yell at him, righteously furious at being called a pervert.

But Kouga intertwines his fingers in his lap, and studies them, refusing to look Inuyasha in the eye. "Yeah... something like that."

Inuyasha looks at the ground, eyes wide, unsure what to do. An awkward silence passes between them.

"Aren't you going to jump up, and put some distance between us, and tell me not to touch you, or else, and all that?" Kouga says, grimacing.

"No," Inuyasha answers simply.

"You should. If anyone sees us together, they'll say that you're a faggot too. Once your pack finds out, it's not a secret anymore, everyone knows, do you understand?" Kouga spits out furiously. He'd thought he was special, immune, the spoiled prince of a happy clan, loved, and able to do as he pleased. He was wrong. Even though they betrayed him, he'd do anything to win back their favor.

"I don't care," Inuyasha says, sounding oddly old, "what other people think of me."

"You're lucky," Kouga says, almost enviously.

"You must be dumber than you look, to say that," Inuyasha says, spitting raindrops.

For the first time, Kouga actually thinks of Inuyasha as a person, and thinks what his life must have been. He is ashamed of himself as he does this, hanyous are to be despised, and shunned without mercy, not looked on with compassion. It was just one of those rules he accepted without question, since it didn't affect him. But actually being on the outside for once is making him re-examine his values.

"You shouldn't—" Inuyasha begins, but stops, looking at Kouga uncertainly. He thinks for a moment he saw Kouga cry, but that's stupid, it has to be the rain, he decides. "You shouldn't let them control how you live your life, or how you think of yourself. You should just find that... man, and do what you want," Inuyasha finishes awkwardly. It's very different from what he had originally intended to say.

"I can't," Kouga says. "Don't tell me how to live, what do you know about it?"

"Nothing," Inuyasha says flatly.

"So this isn't your village," Kouga says, eager to change to subject.

"That's right," Inuyasha says, also relieved for the change of topic.

"Where is your village?"

Inuyasha sighs. "I grew up a bit west of here," he says, gesturing vaguely, "it was a bigger village than this one. At least it seemed big when I was there. It might be smaller to me, now."

Kouga doesn't miss the hurt in his rival's eyes, and for once, doesn't triumph in it, not when it's so close to his own. "Your pack should have protected you."

"Pack, what pack?" Inuyasha snorts. "My father's dead. My mother died, too. My mother's family disowned her, and conveniently blamed me for it. My half-brother can hardly see anything past his own perfect nose, I'd say he hates me, but I'm not sure he even feels anything. Who cares, anyway, I don't need them, any more than they need me. Don't talk to me about family, look at all the good yours did you."

"They love me," Kouga says with conviction, "they just want me to come back with a woman. Then everything will be okay. I'll be cured, and things will go back to the way they were."

In the twilight after sunset, the clouds clear, and they watch the stars come out together in silence. Inuyasha wonders if Kagome can see the same stars, but then considers that the stars are probably nearer to him than she is.

-

The next day is the sort that humans like. Lukewarm, open, with a few big fluffy clouds drifting high and lazy on a gentle breeze. The air smells like pollen and woodsmoke, with a whiff of damp hanyou.

Kouga had watched his rival sleep part of the night before, if it could be called sleep. Inuyasha had spent the night clinging to the lip of the well, rather than sink in the cold mud, lightly dozing, his ears pivoting at every sound. Sometimes Kouga swore he had one eye half-open, but when he called his name, Inuyasha made no response, other than the slight pricking of his ears.

Now Kouga creeps towards the well, his feet sinking slightly in the soft ground, pushing up little puddles, dying his white foot-wrappings a murky greenish-brown. He can tell that Inuyasha's seen him, but both seem reluctant to say the first words.

He peers into the well, just to have something to look at, and catches Inuyasha tensing. He thinks it's because he's standing close to him, thinks that everything he said yesterday is finally sinking in. The openness between them formed in the dark companionship of the storm seems to have evaporated in daylight. It shouldn't hurt so much to be rejected by a sworn enemy, but it does.

At the bottom of the well, there is a pool of brackish water, sparkling merrily like a clean thing. Kouga turns away.

"She hasn't come yet, has she?" Kouga says, somewhat rhetorically.

"She won't go with you anyway, you should know that," Inuyasha says. "Why don't you ask Ayame or something, isn't she still fawning over you?"

Kouga makes a bitter little sound, halfway between a laugh and a snort. "She doesn't want me anymore. Not after everything my own wolves have been saying about me."

"There's loyalty for you."

"Inuyasha, there's such a thing as being too loyal," Kouga says seriously, catching the startled look in the hanyou's yellow eyes. He thinks it's cute for an instant, but pushes the thought away, angrily. "Does Kagome even know you do this for her?"

"Don't give lectures on things you have no comprehension of, you'll embarrass yourself," Inuyasha says defensively, riled by use of his name.

"It's a little late for that, I'm already shamed."

"I was born shamed, and I don't whine on and on about it," Inuyasha snaps. "I'm sick of hearing 'Oh, poor me, my pack's a bunch of turncoat scumbags, and I fancy the menfolk.' Just don't let them treat you that way, you're a grown man, you don't need anybody! I'm not your mommy, it's not my job to pat you on the head, and tell you you're a good boy. Do something about your problems!"

Kouga tenses, in mute frustration, as Inuyasha vents. It isn't fair, he thinks, I am trying, that's why I'm looking for Kagome. Moreover, he is furious to hear his pack insulted that way, even after everything they've done. He clenches his fists, and something in him snaps. He kisses Inuyasha.

It is a messy kiss, completely unplanned on both sides, and neither really knowing what to make of it. Inuyasha allows it for an instant, then decides he doesn't like it, and pushes Kouga away.

"What the hell was that?" Inuyasha demands.

"I was doing what you said. Fixing my problems," Kouga says, short of breath but triumphant.

"What?" Inuyasha shouts. "How does that help anything? You don't just kiss people for no reason, that doesn't solve anything!"

"It shut you up for a moment. I couldn't think with all the noise you were making," Kouga says, grinning.

Inuyasha opens his mouth and closes it a few times, as if too many words tried to be said at once, and they'd gotten jammed.

"Ah, sweet silence," Kouga says cheerfully. Victories against Inuyasha are rare, and he intends to enjoy this while it lasts.

"Y-you idiot!" Inuyasha stammers. "You did it all wrong!"

"I what?" Kouga asks, pointing his hand at his chest like a surprised squirrel.

"Kissed! Everything! Here, let me show you how it's done," he says, grabbing Kouga's shoulders determinedly, and steeling himself, before kissing Kouga full on the lips. He kisses long and thoughtfully, prying open Kouga's yielding mouth, and caressing with his tongue.

He pulls back and swallows, flushed, and Kouga licks his lips.

"There," Inuyasha says, "I proved my point, you can't kiss worth beans, now never touch me again."

"Actually, I thought you were a bit too forceful," Kouga mutters.

"That's great, coming from the man who drooled all over my cheek a moment ago," Inuyasha says in annoyance.

"That wouldn't have happened if you had let me take a breath! Was that supposed to be a kiss or an assassination?" Kouga rants incredulously. "If the people you kiss have the habit of suffocating, maybe you should take the hint!"

"You—I—Don't—Stop being stupid, you mangy wolf! It was a good kiss!" Inuyasha struggles to say.

"You liked it then?" Kouga asks, changing tactics.

"Wha—No!" Inuyasha shouts, aghast. "Unfair!"

"Ha!" Kouga declares. "You did enjoy it!"

"Sh-shut up!"

"You like me!" Kouga says, grinning wildly. "I've seduced you, and you want my hot nasty manlove!"

Inuyasha's eyes widen in shock. "You rat bastard!" he fairly shrieks. "Take that back! You're gross, and I think you have fleas, and... who wants you, anyway!"

"Well you do, appa—" Kouga begins, but luckily for his health, he is interrupted.

"Inuyasha, you big dolt, are you still waiting there?" a voice calls out. "You're going to get fleas that way!"

Inuyasha shoots Kouga an I-told-you-so look.

"Is that the monk?" Kouga hisses urgently. Inuyasha gives a curt nod. "Oh," Kouga says, "That's bad. That's very bad." He looks around for a quick place to hide, and happens to notice that they are in a small field, with no immediate cover, although they are sitting on one big honking well. "Sorry," he says brusquely to Inuyasha, before tackling him, and knocking them both into the well.

-

"Ugh," Inuyasha gulps, five hundred years later, "What smells like feet?"

Kouga scratches around his ponytail in an undignified sort of way. "My foot, I would assume." They are lying quite tangled together, having fallen in a jostled heap. It seems that the well only makes nice floating landings for pretty heroine types.

Inuyasha pushes at an unnamed-and-better-not-to-ask-Kouga-body-part, and grunts, "Oh, that's just peachy. Mind telling me what it's doing in my face?"

Kouga scrambles to his feet, and laughs when he sees his muddy footprint on Inuyasha's cheek. "I always knew I'd walk all over you, muttface, I just never thought it would be like this," he says, snickering uncontrollably.

Inuyasha makes an ugly face at Kouga, and rubs at the muddy spot, spreading around more than removing. Then the moment comes that Inuyasha would have been afraid of if he hadn't been distracted. Kouga looks up.

Suddenly he isn't snickering anymore, his eyebrows go up, and somewhat in, and he is scenting the air in little desperate whiffs, like a frightened rabbit. "Inuyasha, where are we?"

Inuyasha freezes, unsure what to do. He'd tried to be good, honest, he'd kept vigil over the well for her, and tried to do everything right, but now he worries that Kagome might tell him to sit for this, and he'd be lapping at her hands, still not good enough.

Briefly, he considers trying to kill Kouga. It is not a pleasant thought when entertained seriously. The actual fighting would be difficult--much as he hated to admit it, the wolf could fight. He would almost certainly receive wounds himself, and maiming was not unthinkable. Not that this has ever stopped him before, but he realizes that as much trouble as Kouga's caused him, and as much as he wishes him gone, he doesn't want to kill him. He pushes the thought aside.

And, briefly, considers simply telling Kouga. Like, "Yes, Kagome is from the future, Tokyo is Edo's future, and the castles here are pillars of glass and steel, all in a row. She doesn't belong with us, we're just a game to her, hands-on study for her important tests in her important world." Even in his mind, the words choke him. He bites them back.

"I—I don't know what it is, Kouga. A spell laid by Naraku, probably. Hey, why don't we try falling down the well again, and see if it takes us back?" Inuyasha lies, shaking a little, nervously.

If Kouga catches the lie, he doesn't let on. He turns to Inuyasha, frowning. "Do you smell that?"

"I'm not sure," Inuyasha says noncommittally, knowing perfectly well what Kouga smells.

"Stupid hanyou senses, of course you don't," Kouga mutters.

This is too much for Inuyasha. "I think you killed my sense of smell with the stench on your feet!" he cuts back. "I'm amazed I'm alive after that!"

"Just shut up already, you blithering idiot," Kouga lashes at Inuyasha. "Kagome's been here, I'm sure of it, her scent is just hanging all over in the air here. If this is Naraku's doing, that's even worse."

"I thought you didn't fancy her?" Inuyasha hedges hopefully.

"That doesn't mean I want Naraku to kill her, what kind of person do you think I am!" Kouga says, offended. Inuyasha says nothing, so, surveying the situation, Kouga pushes upward, kicks against the inside of the well, gaining momentum, and leaps free. Inuyasha follows, trying to get close enough to Kouga to pull him back into the well, but Kouga seems angry with him, and besides, it's too late, now that Kouga knows, he can jump in any old time. Cursing, Inuyasha follows an awestruck Kouga out of the well house, and into the world.

The sound and stench of cars assaulting Inuyasha's senses reminds him that there are people here. People who might not be able to "handle" seeing a youkai. He remembers Kagome telling him something about dissection and men in white coats he has no desire to meet. The hair just makes him look like a punk, and his claws can be chalked up to bad hygiene, but something must be done about his ears. He musses his half-combed hair over his ears as best he can, but it slides off, obeying inconvenient things like the grain of the hair, and gravity.

"What are you doing?" Kouga asks him, squinting in confusion.

"Ah, listen, I may actually know something about this place," he says, wilts slightly, and continues, "and I hear there are fierce and unreasonable taijiya here, so we have to hide that we're not human, you know?"

While Kouga tries to make sense of that, Inuyasha feels guilty. His lies are just getting worse and worse, it's an insult to Kouga's intelligence to expect him to believe it.

"All right, fine," Kouga says, puffing his chest out. "But if any of them try to exterminate me, I get to kill them, no more playing nice."

"Fine, fine," Inuyasha mutters, taking back what he'd thought about Kouga's intelligence before. Can't insult what was never there, he thinks, which amuses him immensely. Kouga is probably wondering what he's smiling over, but he doesn't care.

But that still leaves him with the problem of his ears. He takes his haori off, and wraps it around his head in a makeshift turban. "How do I look?" he asks Kouga hopefully.

"Like a total imbecile," Kouga says, trying not to laugh.

"Lovely!" Inuyasha declares. "I have no idea why I just asked your opinion, I mean, who wears fur with leather? It's gouache."

Kouga pouts. "I was just trying to be manly, and wear all the helpless creatures I killed! You know, he-man, grr? Or maybe you wouldn't know, I mean, considering you strut around in an entire outfit of pink."

"It's a soft red!" Inuyasha explains, outraged.

"Right, Pink Boy, keep telling yourself that," Kouga sniggers.

"I'll have you know that this is the famed Robe of the Fire Rat, it's not pink, it's legendary!"

"Mutt. It is a pink jumpsuit. Accept."

Out of the corner of his eye, Inuyasha sees a visitor to the shrine staring at them like they just crawled out of one of Kagome's "rocketships." Snarling in annoyance, he yanks Kouga's headband over his ears, thoroughly enjoying the resulting yelp.

"What the hell!?" Kouga demands.

"The disguise is complete!" Inuyasha declares triumphantly, adjusting his not-pink turban. "We're sure to pass for normal, now."

"Then let's go!" Kouga says enthusiastically, taking off at breakneck speed. Inuyasha reaches a hand out too late, and gets a handful of dust.

Oh, there's going to be some explaining to do, he thinks grimly.


(Conclusion, next.)