Author's Note: This is another one of those random, late-night inspirations of mine that I had a few weeks ago, but only just now got around to cleaning it up enough to be posted. It's AU, unlike most of my one shots, but I don't think you'll have much trouble figuring out what it's about. Enjoy!

Other People

His hands clenched the railing so tightly that the metal was in danger of melting beneath his fingers, his jaw clamped shut into a desperate scowl as his golden eyes fixed upon the steel crested waves that jarred against each other far below him. Behind him the sounds of the cars racing by across the bridge melded into a continuous dull roar, like the sound of a hurricane just out of range. Just one thing left to do, one thing and it would all be over in a flash, the power ripped from his profaned, unworthy hands and put to the will of the waves.

Prying his fingers from the icy metal he lifted his right hand up before his face against the granite grey sky, glaring at it as though it were something foreign, something grotesque with which he was loathe to be associated, even in the smallest way. How could he? He'd made mistakes in his lifetime -- god, he'd made mistakes -- but never had he believed he could sink so low as this, become so corrupted and vile as to do this. Had someone asked him yesterday if he were capable of this he'd have laughed and said "Hell no!" What sort of monster had he become?

A surge of power drove through him, inexplicable, uncontrollable rage, and before he knew it his left hand was fisted in her ebony locks, slamming her back against the wall even as his right hand connected with her jaw. "Don't you dare disobey me again you fucking bitch!" his voice screamed, though he was hardly aware of forming the words.

A whimper of pain sliced through the fog that clouded his brain, and the realization of what he had just done hit him like a wrecking ball. His eyes went wide with shock, tinted with fear, and he instinctively shoved himself backward to slam into the wall on the other side of the hallway with a sharp thump. He watched in horror as Kagome fell to her knees on the carpet, clutching a hand to the left side of her face, her breath coming in sharp, startled gasps, tears brimming at her eyes. A tiny drop of blood could be seen on her lower lip. Then, at last, she turned brown eyes up to meet his, and within their depths he saw the one thing with which she had never, ever looked upon him: fear.

This was no longer his house. It mocked him with its very familiarity, with its hominess, with its comfort. He didn't belong there, not for another second, poisoning it with his very presence. The whole situation felt surreal, like something out of a nightmare or a movie. This was no longer his life. He was no longer himself.

That was all the proof he needed. How could he live with himself knowing that he had hurt her, that he was actually capable of laying hands on her in anger? He had promised always to protect her, but tonight had shown that there was one person from whom he could not protect her: himself.

All it took was a little shifting of his weight, and soon he was falling, tumbling headfirst into the icy black depths of hell, making no protests as the water swallowed him up.

It was all a dream, or something akin to it. It couldn't be real.

This was something that happened to other people. Other people found themselves in this sort of situation -- stupid, weak women who didn't have the guts and good sense to stick up for themselves. Women who'd grown up in slums, who hadn't gone to college and graduated with a law degree, who ran around with guys who were -- to any intelligent individual -- obviously bad news. Other people's husbands came home at two thirty in the morning, smelling strongly of alcohol, and yelled at them. Other people's husbands slammed them into walls and beat them. Not hers. Not Inuyasha.


Kagome sat leaning against the wall in the hall, exactly where she'd been since the moment the rug had been pulled out from under her and sent her world spinning off its axis. She stared blankly into space, her face stained with tears that she hadn't even thought to wipe away.

What now? What was one supposed to do in a situation like this? She had no idea where Inuyasha had run off to, only that he was gone. But then, it seemed to her that her Inuyasha had never come home that night -- only a stranger wearing his face. Part of her, a childish, fanciful part of her, wanted to believe that any moment now the real Inuyasha would appear at the door, take one look at her and go running off in pursuit of the impostor. But she knew better than that.

They weren't themselves anymore, either of them. They were 'other people' now.

He ached -- oh, how that sweet smile of hers could make him ache, in a delightfully painful sort of way, making him want more than anything to capture her lips with his. Not only was she smiling, but she was smiling at him, for him -- and only him -- which made it just that much more enticing. Even the way she ate her spaghetti, twirling it onto her fork with practiced fingers and then placing the fork into her mouth upside down and capturing the noodles with her teeth, struck him as fascinating. Only one woman in the entire world could possibly make spaghetti that interesting.

He was so captivated by her that he realized he'd been staring at her for about the past fifteen minutes, not taking so much as a bite of his own food -- which had to be a record for him.

"Not hungry?" Kagome teased indicating the plate of food he'd been toying with during most of their conversation.

"Guess not," he replied, laying down his fork and settling back into the wooden chair, never once taking his eyes from her face.

Her eyebrows rose in surprise at the uncharacteristic response, then lowered a bit as concern seeped into her features. "Well that's a first. Are you feeling alright Inuyasha? Would you rather I went home?"

"No, no, I'm fine," he assured her quickly. "I've just...been thinking."

She cocked her head to the side a bit, unwittingly attracting him even further, and asked curiously, "Thinking? About what?"

"About...a lot of things," he replied cryptically.

"Such as?"

"Such as...this." He lifted his hand from beneath the table to place a small velvet box on the smooth oak tabletop.

Kagome stared at the box, seemingly transfixed as she asked quietly. "Inuyasha, is that what I think it is?"

"I sure hope so, 'cause if it isn't I spent a hell of a lot of money on an empty box," he replied with a smirk.

She tossed him a glare, though the amused smile curving her lips belied her sternness, and he merely grinned back at her. Reaching forward, she took the box gingerly in her hands and opened it to glimpse the simple silver band with a single tiny diamond embedded in it, and couldn't suppress a small intake of breath at the sight.

"I know it's not much, but I knew you hated gold jewelry and--"

"You noticed that?" she interrupted, mildly surprised at his perceptiveness.

"Feh. How could I not? I've never seen you wear anything but silver in nearly a year. Besides," he grinned, "I snooped through your jewelry box last Monday morning while you were still asleep."

"Ah -- now it makes sense," she nodded. "Well, I guess now I've got another piece to add to the collection."

"Is that a yes?"

She smiled. "Of course."

Inuyasha's grin widened as he rose to his feet and crossed to the other side of the table, taking her hand and lifting her to her feet for a kiss. He never tired of her taste, couldn't imagine a time when he ever would, and his arms tightened around her waist as hers linked behind his neck, pulling him closer, deeper.

Then, all at once, something shifted. Inuyasha could feel his blood coursing with rage, his fingers tightening with its raw uncontrollable power, and he knew that everything was different. No longer were they in his apartment, but in a house -- their house -- and the cool, pleasant summer night had turned to one of bitter fall, the granite grey of the clouds outside seeming to seep through the walls and into the very space they occupied.

The rage consumed him, shooting down his arms at the speed of light, and before he knew it his claws were tearing through flesh and bone.

All he heard was a single trailing scream, and then she was gone...


Bright white.

Bright white light.

It bombarded his eyeballs like a thousand needles, flaring and prompting his eyelids to close immediately in protest. When he made to open them again he did so carefully, squinting up into the light until his eyes became accustomed. He could hear a steady beeping sound coming from somewhere to his right, but his muddled brain couldn't seem to comprehend where or what it might be coming from. In fact he couldn't seem to comprehend anything at the moment. All he remembered, all he knew, was a scream -- someone had screamed. But why?

"Kagome," he whispered, his mouth forming the word automatically without the permission of his brain, and once he'd done so he almost wished he hadn't. It brought forth a flood of memories, each image more harrowing than the last, until finally he recalled the eerie feeling of weightlessness as he'd fallen from the bridge, and the brief shock of the icy water before he'd mercifully lost consciousness. Which begged the question...

Why was he still alive?

"Inuyasha," a quiet voice said, and there in the doorway to the hospital room stood Kagome herself, a dark bruise marring her normally smooth cheek. She crossed to his bedside and looked into his eyes with concern and traces of confused hurt -- but to his utter surprise she looked more worried than angry. He would have expected her to be as furious with him as he was with himself, if not more so, and yet here she was, worried. "What happened?" she murmured.

He knew what she meant: The entire story, beginning to end. But could he even understand it himself? Where had it begun?

"Where the hell have you been," Kagome demanded, her face set, her voice low and even.

But Inuyasha was ready. "What the fuck do you care? You probably got home about ten minutes before I did anyway. And what I do on my time is my business, not yours."

"I come home at one o'clock in the morning to an empty house, and you say it's none of my business! I was worried about you, Inuyasha -- you could have gotten into an accident on your way home, or--"

"Yeah, well I didn't, so you can sleep safe and sound knowing that I'm right there beside you, alive and well. But like I said, what the fuck do you care?"

"What do I--" her face lowered into a scowl as she wrinkled up her nose and took notice of the strong stench riding on her husband's breath. "Inuyasha, are you drunk?"

He grinned cockily. "Very. And not for the last time, goddamnit. Good night, Kagome Takahashi. See you next week."

Try as he might he couldn't pinpoint a cause, any particular of catalyst for what had happened. Every thread he pulled seemed to lead to another, each event and condition a slow transformation, the cause of which was another equally complex situation.

"When do you think you'll be home?" Inuyasha asked, the receiver wedged between his ear and shoulder as he shuffled through a stack of papers that had been piling up on the counter.

"Not until late -- the prospectus for Harrington's was late getting in, so we're only just now getting a chance to go over it, and it has to be taken care of by Friday," Kagome replied wearily.

"Dammit, can't it wait? I haven't seen you in about a week and a half--"

"I know, Inuyasha, and I wish I could make it," Kagome interrupted, her voice somewhat strained with lack of sleep, "but I can't leave my new associate to fend for herself, and this is a very important client. We've been through all this before. I'm a partner now, Inuyasha, and that comes with responsibilities, alright? I'm doing the best I can, but I can't deal with them and you at the same time."

"Well fuck me for wanting to speak to my wife every once in awhile," the hanyou snapped.

"Stop it -- just stop it. I do not have time for this right now."

"You mean you don't have time for me."

"Goodnight, Inuyasha."

And all he heard was a dial tone.

He hadn't realized until now how far they had strayed. It was like finding himself suddenly in the middle of a strange wood without ever having had an indication that he was truly lost. Could he find his way back? Could they retrace their steps and recapture what they had lost.

"I don't know," he began quietly. "I honestly don't know what happened. I never wanted to hurt you Kagome, I swear. If I could take it back somehow I'd do anything to avoid it--"

"I know you would, Inuyasha," she said, giving him a small smile that nonetheless gave him hope. She ran a soothing hand down along his arm and laced her fingers with his, sighing and gazing at their joined hands sadly. "How did we get here?" she murmured, echoing his own thoughts. "How could something that was so right once go so wrong without our even realizing it?"

She brought his hand to her lips and placed a tender kiss against his knuckles. Then she took a deep breath, as though gathering her nerve for something. "Just answer me this: Did you try to kill yourself?"

There was a brief silence that nonetheless seemed to stretch on into an eternity. "Yes."

"Why?" she asked quietly.

He averted his eyes, unable to meet her penetrating gaze. "Because I wanted to protect you -- even from myself."

She nodded slowly, acknowledging this. "Inuyasha, I want you to know that I don't blame you for what happened. I was angry at first -- angry at you for doing what you did, and angry at myself for letting you -- but I've had a lot of time to think these past few hours, and I've begun to realize that it wasn't all your fault. I am at fault as well, for not realizing what was happening to us and doing something to stop it before it went too far. But before we go any further I need to make something perfectly clear: Don't ever do that to me again. I'm not just talking about your hitting me, though you should know better than to do that by now, and you should know that I won't allow you to turn me into one of those women who's afraid of her own husband--"

"I know -- it will never, never happen again, I swear," he interrupted.

"But if you kill yourself," she continued seriously, a note of pain in her deep blue eyes, "I'll never forgive you. As long as we're both alive we can work through this -- but don't you dare bail on me like that again. Do you understand me?"

"Yes," he murmured.

"Good. Now," she whispered, leaning down to press a kiss softly to his forehead, "let's see if we can't get back to being who we were before..."

A/N: Well, what do you think? I'm still not entirely sure about the ending, but it's a hell of a lot better than it was before I fixed it. Oh, and just in case you're wondering, this is a oneshot. I have no plans whatsoever to expand on this story at this point in time.