Familiar Stranger

Author: Ayrith

Status: Canon. Kagome-centric; Kouga/Kagome.

Summary: KougaKagome. Then let me get to know you.


She is small.

Six years old. Tiny. Little fingers and toes and a toothless smile. The wispy tendrils of dark hair curl around her head delicately and her eyes are big and wide. Glossy. Like a bottomless well. She walks awkwardly through the park, making her way towards the swing set.

She is too innocent to suspect anything of the strange man following behind her.

Down the hill, through the grass. Tumble, tumble. Rocks and twigs and wood chips press into her small palms. She makes it to her swing, her favorite swing, grasping it in her tiny hands. She beams. She loves to swing, loves the rush of adrenaline, the soft, teasing wind that strokes her baby curls and kisses her pink cheeks. She loves to sit on the swing and rock back and forth, clutching the silver chain and turning her big eyes to the sky.

She prepares to jump on the swing. She struggles. She frowns.

She can't get on.

"What are you doing?"

She jumps. Turning around, green ribbons twirling, she stares up into eyes. Bright eyes. Blue eyes. Bright blue eyes.

She gestures to the swing. The stranger helps her onto it and begins to push her.

She decides, then and there, that she loves blue eyes.

"Pretty." She whispers, clutching the silver chain in between her tiny fingers.

Her back is turned, so she doesn't see his brilliant smile.

…X…

She is growing.

The big double digits now. Bigger, with ash-grey eyes and long spindly legs. Today is her birthday. She opens her blue presents and eats her blue cake as the morning sky dies red and is born again a light blue. Blue, she thinks. Blue like the eyes staring at her from behind her closed eye lids, like the dreams of a green forest and green earth and tan skin and blue, blue eyes. Glossy. Like a memory, yet not a memory. Like an endless sky. Up and up and away.

She twirls her fingers in her hair, around her blue ribbons, frowning. She knows she's never been in a forest. Never seen flashing pointed teeth.

Never seen a man with a tail.

She ponders thoughtfully, making her way down the street. Following the sidewalk, winding down and around and back again. Left, then right, then green up ahead. The park. Not a forest. Never a forest. Her legs are slim and small, but soon she is running, fast, racing the wind. Her arms spread, her smile is wide, and she crosses the street.

She almost dies. The car is swerving drunkenly, and she is blinded by the pouring sunlight. She would have fallen like a shot dear if it weren't for the man that snatches her up at the last minute and flies her to safety. Flies. She blinks at the ground so far below, far, far, far, but soon it is close again and the grass is tickling her nose. Itchy. She sneezes, grumbles, and then yelps as she is jostled up, shoulders gripped tightly between tan hands.

A pair of hysterical, pained blue eyes stare back at her, and she catches her breath for not the first, and she knows never the last, time.

Memories swim up, churning and frothing, a glint of purple crystal, golden red suns, a water fall roaring and pounding in her head. But she is in love again, with blue eyes, and not even her premonition, not ever his fear, can distill her awe.

Not even.

"What…were…you doing?!" he pants, mouth open and gaping. She is reminded of a dog. He is down on his knees, arms supporting his weight and torso. Not tired, and yet sweat accumulating on his brow.

She blinks. "Running."

With a groan, he collapses to the ground, rolls on his back. His chest heaves heavily, hand pressed to his heart. Slowly, hesitantly, she crawls towards him, stops by his side.

She stares down at him curiously. He is weird man, she thinks.

Their eyes lock.

"Pretty." She says, knowing she has seen him somewhere, before, or maybe even after. After. Later. A forewarning, maybe? A memory to come, perhaps? Maybe she will see him again?

Could-be, may-be, would-be? she thinks.

He blinks, surprised, then smiles brilliantly.

Later on in the day, when she is back home and safe and warm, she is puzzled.

She is almost sure his teeth were pointed.

...X...

She is young.

Very much.

Fifteen years and a bottomless well do not hide the innocence still glinting in her eyes. Her hair is long, no longer braided with ribbons, resting at the swell of her hip. She is beautiful, youthful, the epitome of purity and maybe even longing.

To him, any way.

She is in the past, and she has forgotten. She thinks of him, like she does now and then, as she sits underneath a blue sky spread high above a green forest. Her hands are busy, her eyes buried in a blue text book, but somehow her mind is else where. Thinking. Pondering.

She has met him before, she thinks, puzzled. Or was it after? Later?

She isn't sure which and for some reason, she isn't sure she wants to know.

"What are you doing?"

She jumps in her seat, turns, hair sweeping into her eyes. She knows it is him, but she can't help but be surprised. He seems younger, brasher, then she remembers. She thinks so, at least. She doesn't remember much.

She stares at his tan form, embraced by sunlight and the shades of the afternoon. She bites her lip.

She tries not to notice the way he stares at her mouth, eyes cloudy.

"What are you doing here?" she asks instead of answering, worrying her lip. "You know Inuyasha won't like it."

He snorts at the name, finally looking up into her eyes. He is smug. "Like I care what the mutt-face likes." With predatory grace, he falls to his knees before her, resting a hand lightly on her ankle. "I only care about you."

She tries to ignore the burning of his palm against her own cold skin. She looks away, her expression on the outside tired and sad.

On the inside, butterflies dance in her stomach, but she ignores that too.

"You don't mean that." Her voice is sorrowful. "You say that, and yet you don't even know me."

His hand slides up a little on her leg and she becomes nervous, forgetful, flustered. She jumps at the touch of his fingers brushing her cheek, tucking hair behind her ear. When she looks back at him, surprised, his blue eyes bear into her, drowning her.

"Then let me get to know you." He whispers softly, tenderly.

And then he is gone, wind against her skin.

A moment later, an irate hanyou stomps through the thicket, grumbling and angry. "Kagome!" He doesn't approach her, instead sniffs the air. "I know that bastard was here, which way did he go?"

Kagome doesn't answer, still staring ahead, cheeks flushed.

And somewhere, hidden down-wind and deep in the green forest, Kouga smiles brilliantly.

...X...

She is young.

Somewhat.

Five years has not aged her looks, and yet her heart is wrinkled and almost rotten, broken too many times with just too many pieces missing. Her innocence is gone, dead and buried beside her beloved comrades, along with her soul and her breath and her will. All in the past. She is here now, in the future now, trying to pick up the remains of her life and patch them back together.

So far, she has only pricked her skin a thousand times with memories sharp needle.

"Damn it." She whispers, staring out the frosty window of the café. So cold. She is bundled in jackets and sweaters and shirts, but deep underneath the layers lies a red woven reminder of her hanyou who died trying to save her.

He may have saved her from Naraku, but not even he could protect her heart from shattering into a million shards. And she is too tired; too tired to try and search for the pieces. Too tired to embark on another journey. Not now.

Not ever again.

She cradles her coffee cup in gloved fingers and blows on the steam rising from the coffee. Blow, blow. Drift away.

"What are you doing?

She jumps, shouts, fumbles with her coffee. Hot liquid burns straight through the mittens, and she yelps dropping the mug. With a clatter, it crashes, exploding into a million pieces on the café floor.

She is wet and stained brown as she turns to the voice. When she sees blue eyes, her breath catches, again.

Oh. Oh, Oh, Oh.

It suddenly, finally, hits her. "You were that stranger," she blurts out, dazed and confused. Memories, dreams, swim to the surface once more, of grass and ribbons and swings. "But…but why?"

He doesn't reply, only smiles brilliantly at her, older and wiser and familiar. His eyes dance, secretive as he kneels on the floor, picking up the broken pieces of the mug on the floor.

Oh.

Carefully, secretly, in a small café a block from her apartment, he gathers the shards of her heart together and cradles them in his palm, a promise lurking in his blue eyes. He knows.

Maybe he won't hurt himself patching together her broken pieces.

Maybe.

That night, underneath the cover of darkness, Kagome sheds off the hanyou's haori and hangs it carefully in the closet.

When her head hits her pillow, she falls to sleep, dreaming of Kouga's smile.

...X...

She is older.

Older looking then him, at least. A few more numbers added to her age, a few more years added to her frame. She is tan against the white sheets, sprawled across the mattress in deep sleep. Sunlight pours in, from the window behind them, and she stirs.

Her eyes flutter open, tired, only to find a handsome face staring back at her. Wise. Familiar.

Still young.

He hasn't aged a day since she first met him in the future, there at the café.

Tiredly, sadly, she turns away.

"What are you doing?" He asks, puzzled. She feels his hand pressed lightly into her shoulder, silently urging her to turn back to him.

For once she refuses.

"Why are you still here?" She asks, instead of answering. Her voice is sorrowful. "Why are you with me? Why haven't you moved on? I am growing old." Her hands clutch at her heart, her eyes watering. She wants to know. Needs to know.

Why?

He is quiet. Then slowly, carefully, he grips her shoulders and turns her to face him.

For a moment, she sees the younger Kouga again, the one who was prideful and demanding and egotistical. His voice is no longer as smug as it used to be, but she can still hear his arrogance. "Like I care how old you get. Your still you, aren't you?"

And then her Kouga is back, mature and wise beyond his looks. His voice softens and then he smiles. Brilliantly.

"And…I know you now, don't I?"

Kagome stares into his eyes. Bright eyes. Blue eyes. Bright blue eyes.

It dawns on her. He knows her, has known her. For so long.

She returns his smile, wrapping her arms around him, resting her head against his shoulder. Her voice is happy.

"Yes you do."