Author's note: I began this story several years ago when I was a much less experienced writer. I have now finished revising and combining the old chapters. Chapters 1-8 are the revised ones, and Chapter 9 is brand new. Please enjoy, and do be sure to make it past the first few chapters. They are some of the weaker ones, but the writing gets exponentially better as the story progresses.
Chapter One (Revised)
Sango was tending the fire as Kagome got Shippo ready for bedtime. She stared into the depths of the flames and allowed her thoughts to wander. They had been chasing a shard that Kagome had sensed for a few days now, and it had lead them towards the edge of the Western lands. After a long day's travel, Inuyasha had begrudgingly allowed them to make camp just outside Sesshomaru's territory. As Kagome reminded him, not only were they exhausted, but it probably would not go over very well with Sesshomaru if they showed up on his lands in the middle of the night unannounced. Yes, they were allies in the hunt for Naraku now, but he was still a testy demon.
Inuyasha had replied to her that he "didn't give a damn what that bastard thought. A shard is a shard," but Kagome was having none of it. The argument went on for a few more minutes before it ended with several "SIT-boy!"s and a giant crater in the ground (which conveniently, had made the perfect firepit for Sango to start dinner).
Sango thought for a moment at how Kagome and Inuyasha's relationship had changed over the past year. For the longest time, it seemed clear to everyone that Kagome was madly in love with Inuyasha. Hell, the only person that DID NOT realize it, was the insufferably obtuse hanyou himself. But Inuyasha was supposed to realize this eventually, and then he and Kagome would live "happily ever after," as she was so fond of saying.
But whether it was his determination to fulfill his promise to Kikyo or his single-minded focus on finding the jewels shards, it soon became apparent that even after almost two years of chasing shards and Kagome staying loyally by his side time after time, Inuyasha would never return Kagome's feelings.
And then there was Sango. The mighty demon slayer. The woman with a secret. A secret that she thought would tear their little pack apart.
At the time, she didn't know how to feel. While her heart ached for Kagome, it also wept for herself. Everyone said that those two belonged together; for all their fights, it was plain to see that they cared deeply about each other. Indeed, when Sango had first joined the group, she had always envisioned the two young lovers married with a house in the village somewhere and a hoard of rambunctious blue-eyed silver-haired children.
As time had passed, however, she began catching herself imagining that it was HER Inuyasha married, and that SHE was the one he loved. These wicked thoughts left her trembling with guilt and self-loathing. How dare she have feelings for the half-demon her best friend loved? Her heart was torn between staying loyal to Kagome and her attraction to Inuyasha, but in the end, she decided that she was a friend first and a lover second. She resolved to never hurt Kagome by pursuing Inuyasha's affections.
Ironically, it was because of this that Sango could so clearly empathize with how Kagome felt after realizing the miko's love was doomed to be unrequited by the silver-haired hanyou. Sango's heart broke along with Kagome's, for she too knew the feeling of loving a man who could never love her in return.
As the months passed, however, the tears dried up, and Sango could tell that Kagome's heart had finally begun to mend. She laughed more often and her smiles were genuine. Even little Shippo noticed the difference in Kagome tonight. Right before they were about to lay down to sleep that night, the little scamp ran up to her and hugged her legs.
"Hey Kagome," Shippo said.
The young girl looked down and flashed him a broad smile.
He hesitated, then leapt into her arms and said, "I'm glad you're happy now. It's nice to see you smile again."
Satisfied, the adorable kitsune snuggled into her arms and fell asleep. At a loss for words, Kagome tucked him into her sleeping bag, careful not to wake the little boy. She lovingly stroked his unruly orange hair and thought about how mature her little demon was getting. She sighed to think that he might be growing up too fast because of all he had been through before.
Kagome stood up quietly and looked over at Sango. Without words, they gathered their things and went to take a bath in the springs nearby. Inuyasha was nowhere to be found, so they threatened to beat Miroku within an inch of his life if he left camp. Someone had to stay and watch Shippo while he slept, so it was a good way to make sure the pervert didn't get any ideas about taking a little midnight stroll in their direction.
The girls became lost in their thoughts as they walked, their feet automatically knowing the way. Unbeknownst to each other, the girls were both thinking about what Inuyasha might be doing, and whether or not he was with the undead priestess. Trying not to gag at the thought of him embracing that cold-hearted remnant of her soul, Kagome turned her mind to other issues. Before she knew it, they had arrived at the hot spring.
They were soon settled in, both women quietly sinking into the water and scrubbing their hair with the scented oils that Kagome had brought from her time in the future. As she rinsed the last of the conditioner out of her hair, Kagome decided it was finally time to talk to the demon slayer about what had been troubling her the past few weeks.
"Hmm? Yes, Kagome?"
"Are you still in love with Miroku?"
"What!" Sango sputtered, "No, of course not! I would never fall in love with that letch! The man knows not the definition of the word faithful." She wrinkled her nose and added, "And he is much too… affectionate for my tastes."
They fell back into silence once again, but after a while, the tranquility of the bubbling water was broken by Kagome once again.
"And what about Inuyasha?"
Sango felt her heart clench in dismay. "I do not know what you are talking about," she said, gaze averted. "Inuyasha is my friend. I do not think of him… that way."
Kagome smiled knowingly at her and said, "you don't have to lie to me Sango. I see the way that you look at him when you're sure no one is looking. And besides," the miko added quietly, "I see the way you look at him when he leaves. You look at him like your heart is breaking… The way I used to look at him."
Sango could not keep the shame and disbelief from spreading across her face. She had never meant to be so obvious about her affections. She had been determined to take that secret to the grave with her. Her head hung low, she replied, "I am so sorry Kagome. Because of our friendship, I tried to keep myself from loving him, but I could not help it." She raised her head and pleaded with Kagome for understanding. "But I have never once acted upon it. This, I swear to you. You are my dearest friend and the closest thing I have ever had to a sister. I could never betray you like that!"
Kagome embraced her. "Don't beat yourself up about it Sango, what could you have done? Love is a powerful force, whether we want it or not. And besides, Inuyasha is just a dear, dear friend to me now. I have come to accept that my place at his side is not one of romance and was never meant to be so."
Sango stared at her with a mixture of disbelief and joy in her normally calm brown eyes. "But, I thought…"
"That I still loved him?"
"Well, yes. Everyone thinks so, really."
Sighing, Kagome said, "Well I used to love him, you know that. But honestly, how much can a girl take of being compared to someone else? Call me crazy, but I just couldn't stand waiting around for him to take me seriously as myself. In the back of his mind, he will always be comparing be to Kikyo, and that's not fair to either one of us. When you truly love someone, you have eyes only for them."
Seeing that Sango still doubted her, she added, "I promise you Sango, loving Inuyasha doesn't mean that you've betrayed me. He still has a place in my heart. It's just no longer the one it used to be. I just want you to be happy, and no matter what, you will always have my love and support."
A look of relief flashed across Sango's face. "Thank you, Kagome, for understanding," she said. The tears welled up in her eyes as Sango realized how much she owed this small, slip of a miko.
"Hey, us girls have to stick together, ya know?" Kagome teased.
Laughing merrily, the two young women got dressed and headed back to camp. On their walk back home, they were both a bit quiet, and they were so lost in their thoughts about what had just occurred between the two of them that neither was truly paying attention to their surroundings.
Needless to say, they were both a bit startled when they heard a loud crashing sound coming from the direction of their campsite.
"Goddammit!" they heard a loud and furious voice say. "Where the hell are they monk? Why the hell would you let them go this late at night?!"
Instantly, they both relaxed as they recognized that voice: Inuyasha must have come back from his 'visit' with Kikyo. Sango groaned inwardly. Now they would have to put up with his temper tantrum for the rest of the night.
Her irritation grew as she thought to herself about the unfairness of it all. "Why does he always have to get so pissed off when he was the one sneaking behind our backs and going to see Kikyo?" Her step faltered a little at that thought. She didn't want to see him, didn't want to see the guilt in his eyes as he made excuses.
But she couldn't let him know how she felt, so she would just have to grit her teeth and bear it. "And Kagome wonders why I always look like I am in pain... it is because of that damn fool hanyou," she thought ruefully.
As if on cue, Inuyasha jumped out of a tree in front of them and promptly started screeching at the top of his lungs. "Where the hell have you two been?! You shouldn't be out here all by yourselves. What if something had happened to you? Then I'd have to rescue you weaklings all over again."
"We can take care of ourselves just fine Inuyasha," Sango snapped coldly. Inuyasha looked surprised; it was usually Kagome that protested at the weakling insult. And what was up with that voice of hers? It sounded like she had been hanging out to much with Sesshoumaru.
At the thought of Sesshoumaru near Sango, he felt a slight surge of something akin to jealousy, but he dismissed it as a reaction to his bastard half-brother's name. Instead, he concentrated on the matter at hand.
"It doesn't matter; you can't just take off without telling me!"
At Inuyasha's comment, Sango felt like hitting him over the head with hiraikotsu. She opened her mouth to yell at him when Kagome beat her to it.
"Well if you weren't always sneaking off doing Kami-knows-what with Kikyo, then maybe you would have noticed that we were leaving in the first place!"
A silence fell, and Inuyasha looked absolutely shocked and replied half-heartedly, "I wasn't with Kikyo." He recovered his defiant attitude and added, "but even if I had been, it would have been none of your business wench!"
Kagome stood there a second in disbelief before saying, "Let's go Sango." Sango immediately began following her back to camp. But just as they left the clearing, she threw one last glance back at Inuyasha.
He was just standing there with his hair swaying gently in the wind. He didn't seem to register the fact that they were leaving, he just looked as if his world had come crashing down on him.
"He probably had never intended on telling them about his visits to Kikyo," Sango thought. She turned away sadly at the idea of him lying to her, and walked out of the clearing.
But if she had lingered just a little bit longer, she would have seen how his eyes grew suspiciously watery as he whispered to himself, "what have I done this time? Forgive me…"
End of Chapter