A/N: The following is a little dribble that I couldn't get out of my poor brain. It's a lot lighter than the other things I've written…I was aiming for a discovery of young love feel…y'know when things are tingly and cute. It's also set in a few months to one year after Kags fell down the well and ended up meeting Inuyasha. The rating is mainly for Inuyasha's potty mouth.

We all owe Rumiko Takahashi a ridiculous amount of gratitude for creating the wonderful characters of Inuyasha. As such, it's obvious that I do not own them. Sigh.

Oh, and as always, feedback is TREMENDOUSLY appreciated! And for those of you who are wondering (if any are)…I am working on an update for "We Belong"…I promise!


"…" spoken conversation

'…' character thoughts

Youki - a Youkai's power or energy

Mou - sound accompanying a pout

Tajiya - youkai exterminator

Hontou – really

Ojii-chan – grandfather

Nani – what

Houshi/ Bouzo – monk

Osuwari - sit

Hanyou - half demon

Hentai - sex obsessed/ pervert

Oni - ogre like monster

Kappa - water spirits

Baachan – grandmother

Hime - princess

It was yet another strangely peaceful day in Musashi's Domain. For the first time since Kagome's arrival in the Sengoku Jidai, it had become too quiet. Days turned into weeks and still there were no shards to be sensed, no crazed youkai to fight, no visits from Naraku's detachments, Kikyou, or Kouga. Even Inuyasha, who was normally overzealous about shard hunting, gave little argument against Miroku's suggestion that they remain in Kaede's village to wait for news that would give them some direction. "After all Inuyasha, it appears that our enemies are laying low for a while…perhaps we should use this time wisely to regenerate our strength, replenish our supplies, and think of a new strategy." The houshi suggested.

"Fuckin' letch, you just wanna chance to harass more of the women in the village." Came Inuyasha's sullen retort, but then he said surprisingly little more. As the days passed, the group increasingly became antsy and restless –no one more so than Inuyasha- there was a growing feeling of nervous anticipation, a calm before the storm. Everyone was therefore more than willing to set off for a nearby village when rumors of a shard's presence finally reached them.

Kirara, in the process of recovering from an illness that seemed to only affect neko youkai, was unfit to travel and it was decided that she and Shippo would remain behind in Kaede's care. As for Shippou, it took many promises of chocolate in addition to catering to the kit's desire to be given grown up responsibilities to persuade him to stay behind to "look after Kirara and protect the village" while Kagome, Inuyasha, Miroku, and Sango went to investigate the rumor.

The four companions set off early in the morning rather eagerly, each excited for different reasons. Both Inuyasha and Sango were itching to once again test their strength against an opponent, as their warrior instincts were longing for a challenge. Miroku was cheered at the prospect of visiting another village and getting a look at the young women there. While his heart was firmly set on Sango, in his mind it never hurt to let his eyes roam - at least for the moment - since no promises had been made between himself and the reluctant taijiya. As for Kagome, the past two weeks had given her an even greater appreciation for the simple beauty of living in the Feudal Era. Normally her days were spent running to or from a battle…not to mention trekking after jewel shards. The urgency of those trips left little time for Kagome to take in everything she saw before her. Kagome never ceased to be amazed at how the combination of magic, the Kami, and the strange laws of the universe had colluded to transport her back in time with such ease. To think that she was traveling in the past, that the past was somehow part of her present, was still a mind blowing concept.

Kagome couldn't help but sigh in contentment as the balmy breeze played softly with the dense green foliage that bordered the road they were traveling. The sun's rays highlighted the different shades of green in the trees towering over the companions as birds gently called to one another from high perches. Even without Inuyasha's fine tuned senses, Kagome could smell the intoxicating perfume of spring's first flowers in the air. 'This place is so beautiful! It's so hard to believe that all of this will be destroyed one day to build malls and apartment buildings.' She reflected as she softly sighed.

Kagome's musings were cut short as she felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up and a tingling sensation pass through her.

"What is it?" Inuyasha suddenly asked the young miko, almost as though he had sensed Kagome's distress.

"I feel a shard and it's not too far away." Kagome replied, and the group rushed in the direction that she had pointed in, wondering if this could be the same shard they had been told about, since they hadn't even gotten close to their destination.

They had their answer soon enough once they reached a small lake and found a water kappa with a jewel shard embedded in its forehead. It took very little effort to bring down the demon and obtain the shard but what cheered the group even more was Miroku's thoughtful comment, "As I seem to recall, Kaede-sama said that an oni had the jewel shard –not a water kappa- so there must be another jewel shard near the village up ahead." The group eagerly continued on, excited at the possibility of collecting not one but two shards in one day after going so long without any action. And they hadn't been disappointed, although they did end up traveling well beyond the village before they found the oni. While this opponent proved to be more of a challenge than the kappa, it was still no match for the combined prowess of Inuyasha's deadly Tetsusaiga and Sango's hefty boomerang. To top it off, the villagers who had been terrorized by the oni had been so grateful at hearing of its defeat, they had passed on word of another village a few miles up the road that had been recently attacked by a shard bearing youkai.

Although it was well past mid day by the time the group had put the oni to rest and Kagome had purified the jewel shard, the group was in high spirits. Victories, as small as they were, had to be savored. Especially after such a prolonged period of inactivity. The group found a suitable area to break for lunch and Kagome couldn't help but again sigh in beauty at her surroundings. She was filled with an immense sense of happiness…a blissful state of wellbeing. While the Feudal Era was rife with danger, she felt safe and protected amongst her friends. And Inuyasha…well, it seemed that she lived for the small moments she shared with him. The quiet times when he would drop his guard for a moment and let a true smile of happiness grace his beautiful lips, a real laugh escape his mouth. 'Yes Kagome, you are truly a sap...you know you've fallen hard for him.'

"Oi, Kagome, do you have any ramen in that bag of yours?" came her beloved hanyou's voice.

Kagome blushed at the direction her thoughts had gone in and then turned to him with a mischievous look.

"Well Inuyasha…it all depends…" Kagome started, her voice filled with barely suppressed laughter as she hid a container of ramen behind her back and stood up, backing away from the group slightly.

"On what?" Came Inuyasha's growled response as he watched the girl's antics. He could hear her heartbeat speed up and was puzzled by her strange behavior.

"Depends on if you can catch me before I get to the tall sakura tree at the edge of the clearing." And with that, she was off running.

Inuyasha stared at her retreating figure in surprise before instincts kicked in, 'Bitch thinks she can run away from me?' and he raced after her, a predator's grin on his face, leaving Sango and Miroku to gape at their behavior.

Kagome knew that there was no way she'd be able to outrun Inuyasha, that it was foolish to even try. But some inner force was pushing Kagome to tease him, and she knew exactly why. Kagome wanted to see him with a smile on his face. And not the usual cocky smirk that Inuyasha wore so well…but the rare, genuine smile that was so brilliant it never failed to illuminate his features and light up his golden eyes. Squealing as Inuyasha landed in front of her with his ever present arrogant expression, Kagome barely avoided his outstretched hand as she changed directions to go around him and started running in a zigzag pattern towards her destination.

Turning to look over her shoulder to see what course of action Inuyasha had chosen to take, Kagome failed to notice him land soundlessly in front of her. Kagome turned her head just in time to see the bright red of his fire rat robe as she barreled into him full speed, bringing him down to the ground with her on top. Stunned by the impact of the collision and breathless from her running, Kagome didn't even register the fact that she was draped on top of Inuyasha's prone figure. He on the other hand, most certainly noticed. Kagome's cheeks were flushed from her exertion and her breath was coming in pants; the effort she expended in bringing air in to her lungs pressed her breasts that much closer to his chest. With her sparkling eyes and disheveled hair, Kagome looked breathtakingly beautiful…just like she did in the naughty dreams he had started having about her soon after they had met. Inuyasha could feel his body heat up in response to the feel of her on top of him as her scent overpowered his senses. Without fully realizing what he was doing or the reasons why, Inuyasha's instincts drove him to roll so that he was now on top of the still dazed Kagome.

Startled by the new position she found herself in, Kagome could feel herself blushing. She had never been in such a position with a boy before…let alone the boy that she had secretly had a crush on for months now. As her disorientation faded, Kagome realized that she still held Inuyasha's beloved cup of ramen in her right hand. Wiggling her arm in an attempt to free it from where it was pinned by Inuyasha's body, she inadvertently brushed his side, making him laugh before he quickly muffled the sound, an embarrassed blush on his face. Kagome instantly froze to look up at Inuyasha's face, which was only an inch away from her own. 'He laughed…I just made him laugh…maybe I've found a weakness?'

"So, the great Inuyasha is ticklish, eh?" Inuyasha's wary expression only seemed to confirm Kagome's suspicions.

"Keh, you must be crazy w-" Inuyasha's next words were cut off as Kagome, devilish look back in place, intentionally used her free hand to attack his side this time, thus initiating an all-out tickle war. All worries about shard hunting, battling youkai, and defeating Naraku were put aside as the young miko and her Inu hanyou focused entirely on each other. Bodies twined and strained to gain advantage as fingers and claws fought to discover new vulnerabilities on the other. Inuyasha was the first to realize the implication of their movements – Kagome's short skirt had been hitched dangerously closer to her hips, exposing more of her long legs than usual – filling his mind with images that both shocked and excited him. She was magnificent – creamy skin, jet black hair, rosy lips, and twinkling eyes. There was nothing more beautiful to him than Kagome's laugh, so light and true, just like everything else about her.

Shaking his head of such thoughts, Inuyasha grasped her wrists to pin them by her side. He needed to regain control of this situation before his body betrayed him in a way that would change things between them irrevocably. Kagome on the other hand seemed completely oblivious to Inuyasha's plight. Taking Inuyasha's actions of restraining her wrists as an extension of their game, despite her laughter she gasped, "Unhand me…it's no fair…you're trying to take advantage of me."

Inuyasha shuddered as some part of his brain twisted her innocent words into something more hentai. Unhappy with his lack of response, Kagome started to buck up against Inuyasha in an attempt to gain leverage to free herself from his grasp.

"Bitch! Stop moving!" Inuyasha's harsh growl broke through the lightheadedness that Kagome's prolonged laughter had brought on and she instantly stilled. Suddenly, Kagome realized how very close she and Inuyasha were. Kagome could feel his body heat almost scalding her through their clothes, feel the scratchiness of his robes on the bare skin of her legs, and with every breath, take in the woodsy musk of his scent. But most shocking of all for Kagome was the feel of Inuyasha's leanly muscled body pressed tightly against hers.

The sound of Inuyasha's harsh breathing caught Kagome's attention and she glanced up at his face only to see his eyes closed, a grimace twisting his features as sweat beaded his temple. Instantly concerned, Kagome tried to free a hand so that she could feel his face for a temperature. He had seemed fine just moments earlier…had Inuyasha been bitten by some poisonous insect or something?

"Bitch, I told you…don't move!" Inuyasha's growl cut through Kagome's concern and instead ignited her anger.

'Again with the name calling! If we weren't in this position right now, I'd osuwari him but good!' she fumed.

Moments later, Kagome felt the pressure on her hands lighten as Inuyasha fluidly rose to a standing position with an inscrutable expression, before he looked away with a blush on his face. As Kagome moved to sit, she was mortified to realize how far up her skirt had ridden and silently thanked Inuyasha for having the decency to keep his back to her as she straightened her clothing.

When she had righted herself, Kagome looked up to see Inuyasha standing a few feet away, ramen cup safely clutched in his hand. Wordlessly he started back towards the rest of the group, expecting Kagome to follow. The very arrogance of this gesture reignited Kagome's temper.

'Ooh…the nerve of that jerk! I can't believe I keep coming back for this…for him! Can't he be polite just once? Inuyasha can't be entirely ignorant, even if he has lived on his own for so long. It's always "Oi, bitch!" or "Bitch, hurry up!" or "Bitch, what about the shards?"' Kagome's anger rose with each step she took, her eyes boring holes into the half demon's back as she followed him.

'Really, it's gone from bad to worse! First it was wench…now bitch?! Why can't he just call me by my name? Kagome can't be that hard to say!'

Inuyasha was only a few feet away from Miroku and Sango when, as if he sensed Kagome's thoughts, he chose to taunt her further, "Oi, bitch! Hurry it up We need to make it to the village before the youkai with the shards takes off."

Kagome's smoldering temper had needed little reason to flare up and Inuyasha's words provided more than enough fuel, resulting in a round of "sits" that left even Sango and Miroku wincing in pain. It was Miroku who finally dared to intervene as he mildly asked if Kagome could hold off on the "sits" at least until they had fought with the youkai.

"After all, Kagome-same it will be difficult for Inuyasha to fight for us if his back is broken."

Ashamed by her loss of control, Kagome felt angry tears spill from her eyes as she nodded to Miroku and managed to grind out, "As long as he does not talk to me." Nobody doubted that the he in question was the now dirty half demon who was busy yelling muffled curses into the ground. Neither Inuyasha nor Kagome had any appetite for lunch after their argument and the group quickly found itself on the road again.

They foursome traveled on in silence until they finally reached the outskirts of the village they had been told about. The sudden attack by the youkai – a spider youkai – ended up being a most welcome relief from the tension.

'If there's one thing I can't fuckin' stand, it's spider youkai.' Thought Inuyasha as he readied himself for battle. 'Maybe it's because they remind me of that bastard Naraku and that hideous tattoo he has on all of his fuckin' minions.'

'No, I hate something more…that stupid sit command. As if I'm some kind of dog on a leash who needs a master.'

Inuyasha's inner rant stopped as he viciously used his claws to shred the beast. His demon blood was furious at Kagome's repeated and unjustified attack on his dignity back at the meadow. Inuyasha was itching for a good fight and he was more than willing to forego the easy victory that would come with using his Tetsusaiga for a more primal, much more visceral satisfaction.

Sango and Miroku watched Inuyasha engage the spider youkai in combat from a safe distance. They stood ready to leap into battle if need be, but wisely sensed that Inuyasha needed an outlet to vent the anger they could sense rolling off of him in waves after being sat repeatedly by Kagome earlier.

'I wonder what set her off like that?' mused Sango. 'She's been trying so hard not to use the sit command on him…and it's not like Inuyasha was any ruder to her than usual. In fact, today, they seemed to be getting along quite well in the meadowPerhaps I'll be able to ask Kagome about things if we can find a hot spring later.' Sango turned to look at Kagome only to smile at the look of awe apparent on the younger girl's face as she watched Inuyasha fight with the spider youkai.

Kagome found some of her earlier anger ebbing away as she became enthralled at the scene in front of her. 'I forget how amazing Inuyasha looks when he fights. Most of the time we're all too busy taking care of multiple enemies…and it's hard for me to notice it then. But he really is a beautiful….creature. The way his eyes glow and his silver hair flies around him, he looks like an angry god. If only he wasn't such an arrogant, rude je-' Kagome's thoughts were interrupted by Miroku's voice.

"My friend, I think you've most certainly sent this unfortunate youkai to the afterlife. Perhaps now Kagome-sama can retrieve the shard so that we can find a place to rest for the night. I'm sure you would like to clean off the blood and that the girls would like to bathe as well."

Realizing that this was her cue, Kagome gingerly stepped into the pulpy remains of the youkai to retrieve the shard, all the while carefully avoiding looking at Inuyasha. Pervert the monk might be -- but he was right – a bath would definitely be in order.

Having set up camp with the others, Sango and Kagome quickly sped off in the direction of the hot spring that Inuyasha had pointed out. Kagome and Inuyasha had continued their silent treatment of the other and even avoided making eye contact, causing an awkward tension to once again befall the group. Her earlier anger had long since faced into a quiet sense of guilt for having sat Inuyasha so many times – especially since Kagome had resolved to herself not to overuse the command. In her mind, sitting Inuyasha could only be justified if someone's life was in danger - either because of his recklessness or in case he turned full youkai. Kagome also felt more than a little sad. Her feelings for the half demon were quite obvious to her. She had resolved to stay by his side, even though he had promised his life to Kikyou and even though her own importance to him was constantly in question. But they had been getting along so well lately. Back at the meadow, Inuyasha had been so unguarded, so carefree and Kagome was sure she had felt something flare between. There had been a split second - before her girlish modesty had kicked in – where she had enjoyed being so physically close to him, she had welcomed the feel of his body bearing down on hers. Kagome pressed a hand to her chest, trying to calm her racing heartbeat at the memory and focusing instead on more comfortable emotions – annoyance and anger. Was it really asking too much that he respect her feelings by not calling her insulting names?

With these thoughts in mind, Kagome stripped off her clothes and followed Sango into the hot spring, moaning as the welcome heat soothed her tense muscles. As the girls washed their hair using Kagome's shampoo, Sango tentatively tried to ease her curiosity about the day's events.

"Kagome-chan, are you feeling better now? You seemed to take Inuyasha more seriously than usual today."

Kagome bit her lip and stayed silent for so long that Sango didn't think she would be hearing a reply from her.

"Mou, he makes me so mad Sango-chan! We were getting along so well earlier…but then he ruined it by insulting me again!"

Sango nodded sympathetically, still unsure as to what specifically had provoked Kagome's anger. She was well aware of Kagome's feelings for Inuyasha – in fact, everyone was – perhaps everyone but the half demon himself. And yet it was clear to Sango and to the others that Inuyasha was quite enamored of the girl from the future. On one too many occasions, Sango had caught Inuyasha gazing at Kagome with an expression of such longing across his usually stoic face that it shocked her. Then there were the days that he would wait by the Bone Eater's Well for hours on end in anticipation of Kagome's return from her world. And the way Inuyasha risked both life and limb to protect Kagome…well, that action too spoke volumes to anyone possessing a heart and mind.

Sighing, Sango gazed at Kagome fondly. She wished she could make the young girl's dreams come true and help Inuyasha and Kagome find their way to one another…but there were so many obstacles to overcome. Kagome was not from their time; she had a family, a life, in a future that her companions could not even begin to imagine. Then there was the issue of Naraku. The hunt for the evil hanyou took precedence over all things at the moment, as his malignant shadow loomed large over any future happiness the companions could even dream of enjoying. And finally, there was Kikyou…

Sango's reverie was broken by Kagome's quiet voice, "Sango-chan, doesn't it bother you that Inuyasha calls you names all the time?"

"Nani?" came Sango's confused reply.

"I mean, he usually calls you 'wench' or 'woman,' right? Doesn't that bother you?"

Chuckling, Sango replied, "Kagome, as the only female demon exterminator who traveled with a group of men to different villages while on a mission, I've heard much worse. We both know that Inuyasha isn't one for manners, after all he calls Kaede-sama 'Kaede-baba'."

Kagome stayed silent for a moment, taking in Sango's words before bursting out, "But he calls me a 'bitch'! At first it was 'wench' but now it's mostly 'bitch' except for that rare moment when he actually says my name!"

Mulling over Kagome's words, a thought suddenly clicked into place in Sango's mind and she replied, "Kagome-chan…he is a dog demon, even if he's only half. After all, a bitch is a female dog, ne?"

Following Sango's line of thought, Kagome chewed on her lip and then said, "But Sango-chan, if that's the case, why doesn't he refer to you or Kaede-baachan that way? Why am I the only one he chooses to say it to? In my time, it's a real insult for a man to call a woman a 'bitch'!"

"I wish I could answer that Kagome-chan. Unfortunately, not even the wisest of the demon exterminators could tell you much about Inu youkai. Their ways and customs have always remained secret…even from us."


"Yes." Sango continued, suppressing her laughter at Kagome's obvious interest in the subject of Inu youkai.

"You know that there are many types of youkai – in a manner of speaking – different tribes. Well, as you can imagine, they all follow their own customs that govern their behavior when it comes to instincts, power, mating…"

"Instincts?" While Kagome was intrigued by the topic of youkai mating, she chose instead to focus on what she thought would be a safer topic of discussion.

"Yes, Kagome. Some youkai are more governed by their blood than others. They can have almost reflex-like responses to a situation that hasn't been processed by their conscious mind. In fact, my father always said that those youkai – the type who evolved over time with powerful instincts – were the hardest to fight against."

After a short pause, Sango added, "And Inu youkai are actually at the top of the youkai hierarchy when it comes to instincts and the call of the blood."

Thinking that Sango was deliberately teasing her, Kagome snorted her opinion, "Oh really?"

Casting solemn eyes at Kagome, Sango sought to assure Kagome of the truth behind her words, "Father always said that this is why so little is known about Inu youkai. In fact, I must confess that initially, part of the advantage for me in joining up with you, Inuyasha, and Houshi-sama was getting to observe an Inu youkai…even a half Inu youkai up close. I had always heard that they are fierce in everything they do. In battle they are a force to be reckoned with and their loyalty to pack and mate are unrivaled….as is their possessiveness. Much of their behavior is governed by their blood...their instincts."

A comfortable silence fell over the two girls as Kagome took in Sango's words, only to be broken by a faint rustling in the bushes by the spring.

As the girls bathed, Inuyasha fought off the urge to inflict serious bodily harm to the perverted monk. He knew that Miroku was itching to leave the campfire in order to peep on Sango and Kagome while they were at the hot spring. The silence between the boys was a forced one – Inuyasha was in no mood to talk while Miroku's attempts at conversation fell on seemingly deaf ears. Not that Miroku hadn't given his very best effort.

"So, Inuyasha, you and Kagome-same seemed to be enjoying yourself in the meadow earlier…" the houshi began with a bland expression on his face.


"What did you do to deserve so many 'sits' in a row?"


"Perhaps you touched her in a way she did not appreciate?" Miroku asked slyly as he grinned at his companion.

This prompted a growl from Inuyasha that only grew in volume as Miroku persisted with his questioning.

"Or perhaps the problem is that you did not touch Kagome-sama as she would have liked?"

"Keh, I'm only going to warn you once you stupid monk, leave it alone!!"

Little did Miroku realize that Inuyasha's thoughts had been running along the same vein…minus the hentai implications…

He and Kagome had been enjoying their little game in the meadow earlier. While Inuyasha was normally careful not to get too close to Kagome or touch her unless her life was on the line, the weather and the cute manner in which she had "challenged" him had undermined his usual discipline. Inuyasha shook his head in disgust. Kagome was always able to undermine his self control and get under his skin. Her scent both soothed and aroused him and he found himself fascinated by the expressions that crossed her face, the emotion that filled her eyes. Fighting with Kagome was something he took perverse enjoyment in – seeing her skin flush, her eyes darken, and her body grow taut - she was breathtaking when she was furious.

And today, Kagome's playfulness had brought out a fierce wave of tenderness and protectiveness for the young miko.

'Keh, who am I kidding? Kagome always makes me feel this way; too many conflicting feelings at once. From the moment she unsealed me…her scent...it called me. I want to be near her in a way I've never felt for anyone else before…not even Kikyou.'

Inuyasha scowled. Thinking of the resurrected miko always left Inuyasha feeling unsettled. 'Kagome thinks that I see Kikyou when I look at her, but they're so different…they make me feel so different.'

'When I first met Kikyou, I wanted to fit in somewhere, to belong somewhere. Her kindness to me took me by surprise...she talked to me…to me…a hanyou. She shared her thoughts with me. We were both so lonely…it felt good to have…a friend. But she was so untouchable. I knew I could never have her as I was…so when she suggested I use the jewel to become human so we could be together, it made sense.'

'But would I really have done it? Could I have given up my hanyou senses and strength?'

Inuyasha shook his head to rid himself of these thoughts. Since being unsealed by Kagome, he often asked himself these questions after everyone was long asleep but never seemed to come to any answer that left him satisfied. Tired of the path his mind had taken, Inuyasha tried to concentrate on Miroku's babbling instead and his ears caught on Kagome's name as the young monk continued his one-sided conversation.

'Kagome.' Her name alone was enough to send a jolt through Inuyasha's body as his mind assailed him with images. Kagome's face flushed with happiness, her fierce determination in battle, the gentle but insistent way she tended Inuyasha's wounds, the way she cried over him when she thought him to be seriously injured. This last thought wrenched a low growl from Inuyasha's throat. Gods, how he hated the scent of Kagome's tears; they moved him to panic…to rage! To Inuyasha, they were a symbol of his failings, since she mostly cried for him or because of him.

Inuyasha could always tell if Kagome had been crying...even when she tried to hide it. Especially on the nights he had been to see Kikyou. Kagome would try to act as if nothing was wrong while Shippo and Sango were only too willing to throw the angry glances she could not bring herself to give him, for her.

'They don't fuckin' understand! Kikyou is part of our fight against Naraku just as much as we are. I know she is not the same Kikyou that lived fifty years ago…but she lost her life partially because of me. She was my first friend…and might have been my…companion if Naraku had not come between us. I owe Kikyou peace if not anything else…she died because of me…for me.'

A quiet voice inside Inuyasha's head murmured, 'But Kikyou wants to take you to hell…and you've all but told her that you'll go.'

'Would I really?!' Inuyasha wondered, not for the first time. Inuyasha's body tensed as if in answer, his blood heating with a survival urge – a desire to live – to defeat his enemy, to claim his woman…

'Nani?!? My woman? My thoughts are echoing that wimpy wolf's too much!'

A spark from the fire broke through Inuyasha's daze and he suddenly realized that Miroku was no longer with him at the campsite. With a curse, Inuyasha sprang to his feet, having scented Miroku's movements along the path to the hot spring.

'How dare that lecher think he can look at my Kagome!' Inuyasha fumed and quickly growled "Oi, bouzo! I thought I told you to stay the fuck away from the hot spring!" Inuyasha's irritated voice carried loudly enough through the air to alert the girls to the monk's creeping presence. The girls realized that Inuyasha's words were meant as a warning – as much to them as to the lecherous priest they called friend – and they hurried to pull their clothes on amidst annoyed squeals.

Inuyasha's eyes flashed red for a moment and he gripped his Tetsusaiga as a strong pulse of possessive fury went through him. Nobody had the right to look at his bitch when she was naked and vulnerable, other than him! When the hastily dressed girls finally rushed onto the path, they found Inuyasha bending over the unconscious figure of Miroku.

"Inuyasha, what happened?" came Sango's frantic voice as she was the first to reach Miroku's crumpled form. The girls' thoughts of punishing the monk were quickly replaced by concern for his unconscious state.

"Keh, he's just knocked out. Fuckin' bouzo doesn't know when he's pushed it too far. I'm gonna' go get clean if you're done at the spring." With that, Inuyasha sped away from the girls without looking at Kagome. Inuyasha was still more than a little shocked at the intensity of his thoughts for the young miko in the past few minutes and wanted to put some space between them.

Working together, the two girls somehow managed to drag the unconscious Miroku back to the campsite where they laid him out on a bedroll. As Sango fussed over him, Kagome gathered her cooking equipment in preparation for dinner. Kagome's thoughts kept circling back to her discussion with Sango…and to her curiosity about Inu youkai. Her attention was suddenly diverted by a sharp sting on her neck. Slapping the offended area, she found herself holding Inuyasha's retainer, Myouga, in her hand.

"Ah, Kagome-sama, still tasting as sweet as always!" the flea demon said as he gave her a flashy bow.

"Myouga Ojii-chan, what brings you here?"

"Why Kagome-sama, I'm looking for Inuyasha-sama of course. I have some youkai matters to discuss with him."

Myouga's words set Kagome's thoughts in motion once again, 'Maybe I can get more information about Inu youkai out of Myouga Ojii-chan while Inuyasha is bathing…'

"Myouga Ojii-chan, Inuyasha is actually washing up at the hot spring right now. But while you wait for him, may I ask you something?"

"Of course, child." Came the flea's kindly response as he made a show of seating himself in the palm of Kagome's hand.

Kagome quickly called out to Sango, asking her if she'd mind continuing with the dinner preparations. After assuring Sango she was only heading over to the opposite edge of the clearing, Kagome walked to what she deemed was a good distance to ensure privacy.

"Yes, Kagome-sama?" the flea demon prompted.

"Myouga Ojii-chan, I was wondering…you've known Inuyasha for a long time, right?"

"Why yes, I was present at Master Inuyasha's birth, when his father declared my position as his youngest son's retainer. I've been with him on and off ever since then. The longest time w were apart was while Master Inuyasha was sealed…" he finished sadly.

Not knowing how much longer Inuyasha would be away, Kagome steeled herself and decided to be direct with her questioning, "Ojii-chan, why does Inuyasha feel the need to insult me so much?"

"Insult you, Kagome-sama?" came the flea's confused response.

"Yes! He calls me 'bitch' and -"

Myouga's excited voice interrupted Kagome, "Does he really? How wonderful! How wonderful indeed! Tell me Kagome-sama, when did he begin doing this?"

"Ojii-chan?! Why are you acting as if it's a compliment?" asked a miffed Kagome.

Seeing Kagome's disgruntled look, Myouga chuckled and said, "Kagome-sama, you are aware that Master Inuyasha is part Inu youkai, are you not? It is very normal for male Inu youkai to refer to their women as 'bitches' because for them, they are."

Pieces of her earlier conversation with Sango filtered back to Kagome and she asked, "You mean, because Inuyasha is part dog demon…the term 'bitch' just refers to the opposite sex and isn't meant as an insult?"

"Yes." Came the amused flea demon's reply.

"But I've never heard him call Sango-chan or Kaede-baachan a bitch! In fact, I think I'm the only one he's ever used that term for!" Kagome's temper started to rise with her exasperation - the tiny flea demon was obviously finding great humor in her words.

"I should hope so, Kagome-sama! A male Inu youkai with any honor would not think of all women as deserving of the title. It is usually only used to denote closeness in the pack and great respect for the male's alpha female or mate. Male Inu youkai don't put any honorific above this."

"Nani?!" came Kagome's shocked whisper as her eyes widened at the flea demon's words.

"Really. The designation is usually made on a very instinctual level…."

'Instinct again…I really need to find out more about this instinct thing!' thought Kagome as she tried to process the bombshell that Myouga had just laid on her. 'Could it be that Inuyasha really has not been trying to insult me all along?'

"You know Kagome-sama, Master Inuyasha's father, the great Inutaisho-sama never used the term 'bitch' until he met Hime Izayoi-sama, Master Inuyasha's mother."

"What about Sesshomaru's mother?"

"That union was purely political – carried out as part of an alliance between clans. Lord Inutaisho was always respectful to his first wife, but he referred to her as 'Lady'. The title of 'bitch' belonged to Master Inuyasha's mother alone."

Fighting a sense of giddiness that threatened to overtake her, Kagome nervously asked, "Ojii-chan, in your time with Inuyasha before he was sealed, did you ever see his interaction with Kikyou?"

"Hai, but it was mostly from afar. Her aura was not very welcoming to a lesser demon like myself, so I could not get too close." Myouga replied with a small frown.

Kagome took a deep breath, hoping to hear the answer she wanted, "Did…did you ever hear Inuyasha call Kikyou a bitch?"

"No, Kagome-sama I did not. But again, I could not stay too close to them when they were together." Myouga's voice trailed off as a look of deep thought crossed his face. He quickly continued upon seeing the disappointed look on Kagome's face.

"However, Kagome-sama you should know that Inu youkai mate for life. The term bitch is one that is neither given nor taken lightly. The male is almost helpless against the instinct to recognize his alpha female as such. Surely you must have noticed how protective Master Inuyasha is of you…does he not provide for you when your supplies run low, shelter you from the elements, and keep you safe from harm? And now maybe you'll understand why he can't stand for you to visit your own country so often…it's painful for an Inu youkai to be parted from his bitch."

The look of pure relief and happiness that lit up Kagome's face was only echoed by her loudly squealed words moments later, "Ooh, you've made me so happy! I could give you a kiss!"

At the word kiss, a newly recovered Miroku shot up and asked, "A kiss for me Kagome-sama?" as his hand moved to stroke Sango's bottom.

The cry of "hentai" followed by a slap punctuated the night.

"Fuckin' letch, you'll never learn, eh?" came Inuyasha's amused voice as he came into view, all evidence of his previously filthy state having been washed away by the river.

Kagome found herself entranced by the way the campfire turned his golden eyes into twin pools of fire and his silver mane into a shimmering halo around his head. 'Silver and gold…Gods, he's so beautiful!'

Blushing Kagome ruefully scolded herself, 'Hah…you're so lovesick for Inuyasha that you'd think he looked good even if he was covered head to toe in mud.'

Giving herself a mental shake, Kagome looked down at Myouga and whispered, "Ojii-chan, please don't tell anyone what we were just talking about."

The flea demon swelled with pride at having his Master's lady trust him with her confidence. After all, he wasn't keeping anything important from Inuyasha and in fact, judging by the miko's reaction to their conversation, he had just helped his young Master out.

"You have my word, my Lady." Myouga murmured as he bowed low to the woman he was now sure would be his Master's future mate before he hopped off in Inuyasha's direction to talk about the "business" that had brought him to the group in the first place.

The rest of the night passed in a blur for Kagome. She was oblivious to the questioning glances that the rest of her companions threw her way and was much quieter than usual. Kagome fastidiously avoided looking at either Sango or Inuyasha directly. She was afraid of what the two would see in her eyes.

After finishing up with dinner, Kagome prepared for bed, foregoing everyone's company in yet another break from her usual behavior. She was so absorbed in the task of spreading out her sleeping bag that Kagome almost jumped in the air when she heard Inuyasha's gruff voice behind her, "Oi, bitch, you feeling ok?"

Kagome looked up and blushed a bright red before she looked away quickly; she had not realized how close Inuyasha had been standing next to her.

"Y..yes." Kagome stammered. "I'm just tired. Good night everyone!" she choked out before diving into the comfort of her sleeping bag.

Even through the thick material of her bedding, Kagome could feel Inuyasha's intense gaze trained on her. She only hoped that he would mistake her racing heartbeat as a byproduct of being startled by him and not the fact that they had just been so close…it would have been so easy to reach out and touch him…

Kagome's face turned crimson again and a light sweat broke out along her skin at the very thought. Cursing her body's strange response to Inuyasha, Kagome tried to focus instead upon her conversation with the flea demon.

'Could Myouga Ojii-chan be right? On some instinctual level…am I way more important to Inuyasha…more than just his shard detector or friend?' Kagome could not disguise the happiness that flooded her body at the idea. That the boy who occupied so much of her thoughts, who could make her heart overflow with just one smile, and turn her stomach into a mass of butterflies could deep down be just as affected by her?

And then Kagome had a more sobering realization, 'Could this be a way for me to keep Inuyasha alive…to keep him from going to hell with Kikyou?' A look of determination crossed her pretty face – today's revelations were important to her on so many levels. While Kagome delighted in the idea that her feelings for the good looking half demon might be returned, she was even more excited at the idea of possibly saving his life.

Kagome understood and respected Inuyasha's feelings for Kikyou, even though time and again her own heart had been trampled by his actions when the resurrected priestess came near them. After all, she reasoned, if someone was to ask her to forget about Inuyasha and her feelings for him in a blink of an eye, she would never be able to do so. Inuyasha's loyalty and sense of duty were certainly things to be admired...and truthfully, were part of the reasons that Kagome had grown to love him so much. However, Kagome drew the line of understanding Inuyasha's situation at the very notion that he deserved to die…that he had to sacrifice his own life to atone for Kikyou's death.

As Kagome's mind raced in a myriad of directions, Inuyasha kept his eyes fixed on her prone figure. He was more than a little puzzled by her behavior. Inuyasha could hear her heartbeat speed up only to calm down moments later; while he detected anxiety in her scent, he could not sense any fear or sadness. Settling against the trunk of his perch for the night, Inuyasha kept his eyes on Kagome's covered form until he heard her heartbeat and breathing slow into the pattern of sleep.

In an effort to get comfortable, Kagome had twisted in her bedding, dislodging her covering so that once again her face was visible from the sleeping bag. Seeing Kagome's features relaxed and her lips turned up in a slight smile, Inuyasha couldn't help but reflect on how beautiful she was. Kagome had always been a pretty girl, but through her travels she had gained a new grace that only added to her charm. She was by turns a creature who soothed and frustrated Inuyasha. At times, she possessed a maturity that seemed well beyond her years…and a kindness towards others that knew no bounds. And then at other moments, Inuyasha was reminded that Kagome really was little more than a child by her own time's standards.

Assured that Kagome was resting peacefully, Inuyasha finally closed his eyes even as he kept his ears trained in the night air for any activity that might threaten his sleeping companions.

After hastily breakfasting and clearing camp, the group found themselves on the road leading towards Kaede's village. Just like the day before, the companions again traveled in silence. Sango had given up on trying to get answers from her young friend about her strange behavior from the night before, and resigned herself to Miroku's company. Kagome for her part was still thinking about yesterday's conversation with Myouga. Inuyasha too was quiet; Kagome's behavior of yesterday had left his pride feeling bruised. He could not understand why Kagome had sat him repeatedly after they had…been so close in the meadow earlier in the day. In fact, Inuyasha could not recall the last time Kagome had sat him; he could admit to himself that when she did use the stupid command on him, he usually had it coming. But yesterday, Kagome had decided to unfairly hammer him into the ground for absolutely no reason as far as he could tell.

Suddenly a distinct scent caught his attention, sending all of his senses into overdrive. "Kagome, stay behind me!" he snarled before pushing himself in front of her in a protective stance. Seconds later, Inuyasha himself was knocked over by the arrival of his half-brother.

"Inuyasha!" Kagome cried as she watched the hanyou get thrown to the ground. Ignoring both his growled warning to stay back and Sango's attempts to restrain her, Kagome darted forward, intent on reaching Inuyasha's side. Quicker than she could blink, Sesshomaru had Kagome by the throat.

"Inuyasha, it appears that you don't have what it takes to discipline your bitch. Even here, you betray your origins as a half-breed." Came the youkai's cold voice as he surveyed the rest of Kagome's companions.

Kagome's instant retort in defense of Inuyasha was cut short as Sesshomaru increased the pressure he was applying to her throat.

"Sesshomaru!! I'm your opponent!" bellowed an enraged Inuyasha as he saw a look of pain flit across Kagome's face. "Unless you've taken to hiding behind women to keep from getting hurt."

Inuyasha was furious. His system was being flooded by adrenaline and the primal urge to rescue his bitch. Even with the fully transformed Tetsusaiga in his hand, Kagome was shocked to see that Inuyasha's amber eyes were bleeding to the crimson of his youkai form.

Unexpectedly, Kagome found herself being tossed at Inuyasha by Sesshomaru. The half demon easily caught her with one arm and cradled her form protectively to his hard chest. Quickly sniffing her over for injuries without taking his eyes off of his half brother, he quietly asked, "Kagome, are you ok?" More shaken than anything, Kagome simply nodded as she rubbed her throat.

"Bastard, what are you playing at? If you're here for a fight –" Inuyasha's growl was cut off by his older brother's bored sounding voice.

"I am not interested in whether your inferior blood is thirsting for defeat today. Tell me, where is the hanyou called Naraku?"

"Nani?!" Everyone gaped in astonishment – the vicious Lord of the West was not here to fight Inuyasha for his sword or over the hanyou's right to exist? Was this a joke?

"This Sesshomaru will repeat the question one last time. Where is that creature called Naraku?"

"We don't know." Came Kagome's hoarse reply. "Things have been quiet...too quiet."

"The undead miko – would she know?"

Kagome flinched in response to Sesshomaru's reference to Kikyou, something that reignited Inuyasha's anger.

"We haven't seen her for a few weeks now." Snarled Inuyasha, the violence barely restrained in his voice.

'Why am I even talkin' to him? Why isn't the pompous bastard fighting me?' Inuyasha's blood was still thrumming at the danger that Kagome had been in.

"Then you have nothing to offer one such as I." And with that, Sesshomaru was gone.

The four companions looked at each other with equally stunned expressions before finally coming to their senses and resuming their journey to the village. Kagome was slung across Inuyasha's back; he refused to let her walk on her own. Inuyasha's demon blood demanded nothing less than Kagome's compliance…it was still furious that she had deliberately disobeyed him and in so doing put herself in harm's way in her attempt to reach him.

Kagome could sense Inuyasha's anger as she clung to his back. How could she not? His muscles were tensed and bunched underneath her while his adorable ears were flattened against his skull. Then of course there was his aura; while Kagome was still learning how to use her miko abilities, even she could tell that Inuyasha's youki was fluctuating with his riled emotions.

And for once, Kagome had to admit she wasn't upset with Inuyasha for being so angry with her. In the past, situations like this would leave her furious at him for failing to see that her "reckless" actions stemmed from being concerned for him – after all, it's not like she had a death wish. But with Myouga's words still bouncing around in her head, Kagome couldn't help but feel her heart warm – Inuyasha really cared about her…he really worried about her. Rubbing the sore skin around her throat once more, Kagome spoke softly, knowing that only Inuyasha would hear her words, "Inuyasha, I'm sorry...I should have listened to you. But I just wanted to be sure you were okay."

Inuyasha grunted in response. His blood, his instincts were somewhat appeased by Kagome's uncharacteristic acquiescence but they still were making demands of him that he had no right to act on. They wanted her utter submission, an acknowledgement of his dominance, of his right over her. In truth, these feelings sent both a heady thrill as well as a frission of uncertainty through Inuyasha, 'What the hell?! I have no right to think like this about Kagome! I need to get myself under control.'

Oblivious to Inuyasha's inner turmoil, Kagome found herself being lulled to sleep by his smooth gait and the feeling of security she experienced in his presence. She woke up only when the arrived at Kaede's hut. After climbing down from Inuyasha's back, she turned to thank him only to see his retreating figure leaping towards the forest.

'That's just fine. I wanted some privacy to talk to Kaede-baachan anyway.' Thought Kagome as she entered the hut with Sango and Miroku.

"Kagome! You're finally back!" came Shippo's childish voice as he launched himself into her arms.

Chuckling at the kit's enthusiasm, she ruffled his hair. "Hai Shippo, did you miss us?"

"So much! But I stayed with Kirara and took real good care of her. You can ask Kaede-baachan! Gomen, but I have to take Kirara for her afternoon walk now. Kaede-baachan says that we need to make sure that Kirara builds up her strength again."

"Of course, Shippo! I can tell you've been very responsible while we were away. Tell you what, when you get back, you can hear all about our trip, okay?" Shippo's enthusiastic reply was enough to make all the adults in the hut chuckle.

The two were joined by Sango who had been quietly talking with Kaede in the back of the hut. "Shippo, would you mind if I joined you and Kirara on your walk? I'd like to hear how she's been doing. After all you were the one in charge of looking out for her while we were gone."

Shippo's large eyes glowed with pride and he answered in his best imitation of an adult voice, "Sango-chan, I will give you a full report." as the three exited the hut.

Miroku was the next to leave, saying that he wanted to take a bath when everyone else was distracted and less likely to peep in on him. Kagome just rolled her head at the irony of her lecherous friend's words.

'Now's my chance to ask Kaede-baachan about Kikyou…' thought Kagome as she made her way over to where the older woman was busy grinding herbs into a paste.

"Kaede-baachan, make I ask you a question?"

"Of course child, what is it?" the older miko replied kindly as she wiped her hands and turned to look at the young girl sitting next to her.

"Did…did you ever overhear any of the conversations that Kikyou had with Inuyasha…back when…back before Naraku, I mean before Onigumo?" asked Kagome as she started blushing.

The older woman looked astonished for a moment before she quickly composed her features, 'Kagome has never been so bold about asking about the two of them…I wonder what this could mean?'

"Hai. Even though I was but a child, I accompanied them on their outings quite a few times. Kikyou-onesama would also tell me about the times when it was just the two of them."

At Kagome's surprised look, Kaede continued, "You see, Kikyou-onesama was always very proper and mindful about her miko duties and reputation. She knew that the villagers would become suspicious about her friendship with a demon, even a half demon, so she kept me around as chaperone as much as to make sure I did not get into any mischief. The times that I could not accompany them, she would return to our hut and tell me about their outings."

"I see." Kagome nodded as she thoughtfully chewed on her lower lip. Kaede's words made sense enough to her. Kikyou's actions sounded exactly like what she'd expect from the former guardian of the shikon jewel.

"What is it ye wish to know child?"

"Kaede-baachan, how did Inuyasha address Kikyou?" The blush was back on Kagome's face.

Pausing for a moment, Kaede closed her good eye as if recalling past events, "When Inuyasha spoke to her, he called her Kikyou-sama and then Kikyou…as he does now."

"Did he ever call her bitch…even as a joke or insult?" Kagome asked quickly in a soft voice. Her heart was pounding loudly in her ears and the knuckles of her hands were whitened as she fisted the material of her skirt. Kaede's answer…it would either spell disaster or the greatest relief…

Oblivious to Kagome's rising anxiety, Kaede slowly replied, "No young one. I believe the only one I've ever heard him refer to that way is you."

Kagome was helpless to stop the reflexive 'Yes!!' that echoed in her head. If she had been alone, she surely would have done some silly sort of victory dance. For once, she had come out ahead of the walking clay zombie known as Kikyou…well, the newly resurrected Kikyou, at any rate.

Incorrectly misinterpreting Kagome's silence for upset, Kaede hastened to add something that would make the young girl feel better, "Kagome, ye must know that despite his rough ways, the young hanyou cares about ye very much. He acts differently with ye than he ever did with my onesama."

Kaede's words peaked Kagome's curiosity, "Different? How?"

"With Kikyou-onesama, Inuyasha was himself but not. As he got to know my onesama, he become more formally polite in her presence – as if he was trying to make and keep a good impression with her. He cared naught for my opinion so he was more open with me…brash, rude, and wild…the way we see him now. I remember that his behavior puzzled me as a child. My onesama would talk about how she felt free and relaxed in his company but yet it seemed to me that for him it was the opposite. Only now that I have had the chance to see how Inuyasha acts around ye, can I say that my childhood observation was correct."

"So you're saying that Inuyasha cared about your sister to the point of acting different? Being more polite?" Kagome's heart broke at the thought. This was yet another reminder that Inuyasha was so willing to give up parts of himself for the dead priestess.

"No, child. Ye misunderstand. I don't doubt that Inuyasha cared about Kikyou-onesama – to what extent I can not rightly say. But I do know that he did not act like his real self around her. Not the way he does with ye child. With ye, Inuyasha is learning to accept himself…his strengths and his weaknesses. The only thing he still hides are his feelings for people, but otherwise, he no longer hides who he is."

"And he shouldn't!" Kagome burst out hotly. "It's not fair! People put him down all the time for what he is, just because he's a hanyou…they don't even bother trying to get to know who he is!"

'Ahh, child and this is part of the reason you've tamed our wild half demon, is it not? With your easy acceptance.' thought Kaede as she fondly regarded the indignant girl in front of her.

"Child, with ye by his side, Inuyasha is much stronger…both on and off the battlefield."

Kagome blushed again at Kaede's words, but felt a strange contentment blooming in her heart. It had been confirmed…somehow she, Kagome Higurashi, had a claim on Inuyasha that not even Kikyou had.

Glancing down at her watch and taking a peek out the window, Kagome realized that there was just enough time for her to make a quick trip to the Shrine and visit her family so that she could return before sunset. "Kaede-baachan, thank you! When the others return, could you let them know I've gone home for a few hours. I want to restock my supplies before we head out on another hunt."

Surprising Kaede with a warm hug, Kagome grabbed her bag before making her way to the path that led to the Bone Eater's Well. She had not caught sight of Inuyasha yet, but if things played out as they usually did, Kagome had no doubt that she would see him before she reached the well. Kagome continued to walk slowly, replaying bits of her conversations with Sango, Myouga, and Kaede.

For some time now, Kagome had only been too aware of her growing feelings for Inuyasha. Kagome had been attracted to the half demon on sight, 'Who could resist those ears?' she wondered with a smile. Everyday spent in his company had wedged him that much deeper into her thoughts…into her heart. But it wasn't until the day she had seen Inuyasha with Kikyou under the God Tree that Kagome realized that she had fallen in love with him. Even though she was only a teenager, Kagome was sure that her feelings were real…much more than a crush…much more than the result of hormones. As devastated as she had been to hear him promise his life to Kikyou, Kagome had felt a new determination grow within her. She would find satisfaction in making Inuyasha happy…and not because she was some spineless doormat who wanted to be used. No, Kagome would do it because she loved him…and seeing him happy, knowing that she was the cause…well, that would be a reward in and of itself.

Having come to that decision, Kagome had returned to the Feudal Era and asked if she could stay by Inuyasha's side, despite knowing his feelings for Kikyou. Since then, Kagome had resolved to only think of Inuyasha as a friend…it wouldn't be fair to either him or herself to expect more out of the situation as it was. But it was an impossible task right from the beginning, 'Like trying to trap a moonbeam with your hands.' She mused to herself. Each moment spent in Inuyasha's company gave her new reasons to admire him – his courage, his strength, his determination, his kindness when he thought nobody was looking…

'Yes, everyday, I fall further for him." Kagome thought as a wry smile played on her lips. 'But now, maybe even if Inuyasha doesn't realize it, some part of him feels the same way for me too.'

Seeing the well in the distance, Kagome paused to look around. 'No Inuyasha yet. But I'm sure he'll fly out at the last minute to stop me. I can't sit him...now that I think I understand a bit more…' Myouga's words came back to Kagome, "And now maybe you'll understand why he can't stand for you to visit your own country so often…it's painful for an Inu youkai to be parted from his bitch."

The well was now only twenty feet away and Kagome slowed her gait even further as she fiddled with the straps of her backpack and absently kicked a rock out of her path. 'I know how our arguments usually run when it comes time for me to leave…but what can I do to change it this time? Myouga said that a dog demon can't stand to be parted from his bitch.' Kagome blushed at the thought. It would still take some time to get used to the term being used in a positive way, but she was surprising herself at how easy it had been to accept the situation so far.

In light of Myouga's revelation regarding the symbolism of Inuyasha's "pet name" for her, Kagome came to another decision. She knew that if she tried to talk to Inuyasha about his feelings for her, she would only complicate matters for the emotionally conflicted hanyou. Instead, Kagome decided to keep the knowledge of his instinct-driven term for her to herself for the time being. She was a patient girl and would continue to wait for Inuyasha's brain to catch up to where his heart was already headed…to her. 'No, to his bitch.' Kagome corrected herself with a grin.

'So, does this mean that Inuyasha wants me to stay with him just as much as I want to?'

Kagome's musing was cut short by her collision with a hard body. Just as surely as she felt gravity pulling her towards the ground, she knew that Inuyasha would keep her from falling. 'He always catches me.' Kagome thought as she sighed happily.

She looked up at Inuyasha's narrowed amber eyes and patiently waited for him to make the first move, to start the conversation.

'Girl, keep your temper in check and your hands to yourself.' Kagome admonished herself as she delighted in the way her skin tingled at Inuyasha's closeness.

For his part, Inuyasha was puzzled by Kagome's actions. He had been watching her from the moment she had entered the clearing and slowly made her way over to the well. Was she looking for him? Why wasn't she being her usual sneaky self? 'Bitch thinks she can just leave?' grumbled his inner youkai. And so Inuyasha had deliberately planted himself in her path; to his surprise, she didn't seem to notice until she ran into him.

Oh, the way she smelled! The way her skin felt against his palms as he prevented her from falling…the way her eyes sparkled and her cheeks bloomed a soft rose…

'Have I just been staring at her?' Inuyasha thought frantically. 'Why is she just looking at me? She's not saying anything…not trying to sit me…not trying to run by me to get to the well…'

Adrenaline started coursing through Inuyasha's system as he prepared himself for the inevitable fight…the usual battle of wills. But something was not right…he didn't detect her usual resistance…and his senses were going into overdrive trying to figure out what was wrong.

"Inuyasha, I'm sorry." Kagome said softly as she grabbed his hand to tug him to walk with her.

"Nani?" With just her touch and apology, Inuyasha's youki retreated and his panic subsided.

Stealing a glance at Inuyasha's face, Kagome suppressed the urge to laugh. His confused look was priceless and his blush was utterly adorable. "I just want you to walk with me as I head over to the well." She explained patiently.

"Keh." Came Inuyasha's customary response in the face of uncertainty. 'What kind of trick is this?' Inuyasha's befuddled brain was turning in circles as Kagome kept a tight hold of his hand and with every breath he took in more of her sweet scent.

Having reached the well, the couple stopped and Kagome seated herself on the well's lip as she turned to face Inuyasha, bracing herself for the tirade that was sure to come. She did not have to wait long before Inuyasha started.

"Where the fuck do you think you're going?"

"Inuyasha, I just wanted to see my family and get more supplies. We're out of ramen and I promised to get Shippo more chocolate for staying behind with Kirara."

"Bitch, we've got more shards to find…how are we supposed to do that if you keep running off?!" came Inuyasha's frustrated growl.

Kagome took a deep breath to keep the reflexive angry words that she was used to shouting back at him, in her mouth. Looking at Inuyasha closely, behind his rude tone she thought she detected another emotion. 'Could that be sadness?' she wondered.

In a gentle voice, Kagome replied, "Inuyasha, I promise, I'm coming back tonight. Tell you what, why don't you come and get me before sundown? That way you and everyone else will know that I'll be back for sure."

Immediately she saw some of the tension leak away from Inuyasha's rigid form as he looked away from her.

"Keh, whatever bitch."

Kagome was suddenly overtaken by a feeling of giddiness, 'He called me bitch twice now…I must be insane, but hearing him say that to me…makes me feel…so…happy! Ha! Take that you zombie-woman…I'm his bitch…not you!'

Riding high on the wave of happiness, Kagome turned to Inuyasha with a mischievous look and in a sweet voice said, "Oh, Inuyasha?"

The hanyou gulped and closed his eyes…he recognized the tone in her voice all too well. He was going to be sat.

"About calling me a bitch…" her voice trailed off and he heard a faint rustling as Kagome shifted her position.

Suddenly, Inuyasha was shocked to feel her warm breath ghost his skin before her lips lightly touched his cheek in a chaste kiss.

Inuyasha's startled eyes flew open and he looked into the flushed face of the girl in front of him.

"Only for you." Kagome murmured as her eyes sparkled and the blush deepened before she dropped into the well, leaving a completely speechless hanyou behind.

A/N: I owe Trusuprise a HUGE amount of gratitude for her comments on this story. Can't believe how quickly she got back to me. My head is still spinning. People, go read her stories on this site if you haven't already!