Chapter Nine: Follow Me
Kagome didn't want to move after she landed at the bottom of the well. She was scared to. She was afraid of what she might - not - find.
Standing in the cold dark, she closed her eyes and found herself inhaling the air, trying to catch the scent of anything she'd been familiar with from the era she'd just left, because, what if? What if she got to the top of the well, and he wasn't there? What if it all really had been just some crazy dream, some kind of delerium from a sickness she'd convinced herself she didn't have?
When she finally got tired of trying to give herself a panic attack, Kagome looked up at the opening of the well high above her, and squared her shoulders for the short but tough climb. When she got to the top she heaved herself and her bag over with a grunt, and sat with her back up against the well as she caught her breath. For some reason, that had been the hardest climb out of the well she'd had since the first one. She moved her right knee gingerly after a minute, grimacing as she tugged what she suspected was a pulled groin muscle. Great.
Shaking her head in the gloom of the wellhouse, she made herself move, half-heartedly dragging her bag behind her before dropping the strap with a shrug. She didn't really need it anymore, and she hurt, so she'd come just come back and get it later.
The air outside the wellhouse was cool, but hardly welcoming. She could understand why InuYasha had always complained of it smelling funny when he visited - she could definitely tell the difference now, when she was painfully aware.
Descending the steps to the stone walk, Kagome paused to rub the sore muscle in her thigh. Assuming with the quiet of the shrine, and the time of evening, that no one else was around, she pushed her skirt aside a little to reach the painful spot, and groaned a little when she felt the slight swell. That was definitely going to need icing -
A shift in the air made her go still. A small but strong breeze picked up her hair and threw it back out of her face. Forgetting the pain, she straightened, her eyes straining to pick out any movement in the shadows.
She saw him then, standing there in the darkness, his long, flowing hair like pale moonlight, and Kagome felt such a devastating gratefulness that she barely even realized she was running to him until she was caught in two strong, warm arms and hauled up against a tautly muscled chest with a heart that beat inside even faster than hers.
Kagome closed her eyes and just clung, thinking any moment InuYasha was going to gruffly clear his throat, and make her back off, but the moments drew on and on, and he didn't. That was when she remembered how long it had really been for him, and she grinned a little.
"Wow, guess you missed me more then I thought you would," she teased gently, hands clenching around the soft fabric at his waist. He didn't say anything, and she frowned. Speaking of waist...it seemed a lot higher than where it had been before. Not even thinking about it, Kagome let her hands travel up a little. Was his back wider, too? Had he grown?
Drawing back a bit, Kagome felt her cheeks grow hot. She'd never really noticed it before, but her boobs definitely hadn't brushed against him this far down...!
Her hands moved from his waist to his stomach, and she caught the fabric between her fingers and squinted. It was a simple white denim shirt, button-down with an open-collar, and the fabric was worn soft, but expensive for sure. She felt a chuckle escape her. "Seriously? Are you wearing a contemporary shirt? No way! And jeans? Ha!"
The clawed hands supporting her delicate shoulder-blades moved then, and she felt her heart stop as her eyes fully adjusted to the lack of light, and she was able to make out the dark dual-stripes slashing down the forearms just below the rolled-up sleeves of the white shirt.
Kagome was so surprised she pushed against him, and stumbled back and fell on her bottom, knocking the wind out of her lungs. She squeaked, and flinched, and looked up at Sesshomaru-who-wasn't-InuYasha and felt like she might die of humiliation...but then -
"I - you're supposed to be dead!" Kagome blurted tactlessly, then slapped both hands over her mouth.
Sesshomaru fully looked at her, something like resignation in his unusually dull gold eyes that still managed to somehow glow-in-the-dark.
She watched the muscles in his throat as he swallowed and suddenly couldn't draw a breath.
He couldn't blame her for her reaction. He was supposed to be dead.
Sesshomaru hadn't known such pain was possible. The pain he'd felt hundreds of years ago when he'd died – no, even the pain of his reawakening – did not compare to the pain of her absolute rejection now.
From the look of horror on her face, she obviously did not want him.
His heart, which had stopped at the first sight of her scowling over her reddened thigh, exposed by the raised skirt, finally resumed its pounding, but it bled, the heart he'd sworn long ago would never bleed for a woman.
Sesshomaru set his jaw against the familiar sensation. Unbearable agony slowly turned to fury as he instinctively attempted to defend his raw emotions. His relief at seeing Kagome after so many centuries persisted, however, and aggravated and confused, he crossed his arms over his chest and forced his gaze away from her. Turning his head away from where she stood was physically impossible, he found, for the way she was positioned from her tumble gave him more of an eyeful of her then he'd had in centuries, so he contented himself with pointedly ignoring her - or attempting to, at least.
Before him, the girl lifted a hand to brush her hair from her face, and then stood rather stiffly. She shifted from one foot to the other, obviously uncomfortable in his presence, especially after she'd just thrown herself at him, and then rejected him.
Sesshomaru lifted an eyebrow, but inside he raged – being so near her after so long was making the skin all over his body prickle. He hadn't felt the like since the one night he'd made her his…
Kagome felt frozen from the icy and utter disdain she felt rolling her way from the demon lord.
She didn't miss the surreptitious rub of his hands over his exposed forearms, though. It seemed like he was subconsciously trying to comfort himself, which was just ridiculous – wait, were those goosebumps?
Just then Sesshomaru cut his eyes at her – those gold demon eyes that were sharp enough to draw blood. The pain, and pride, and resentment in that single, frustrated glance almost knocked her over.
Kagome was stunned – what was affecting him so badly that he was showing it visibly? It was so strange to see the emotions just pouring out of him like that - that, and the sight of him in those clothes, with what she finally noticed was the fur pelt he always carried on his shoulder, was so strange! And he was huge! He seemed, like, twice as tall and wide as he'd been before, and she knew it was an exaggeration, but heck, it couldn't be by much! Who'd have thought Sesshomaru wasn't done growing back in the day? Even his pelt had two seperate tails, now, it seemed. Wow. He was undeniably hot, alright, but she felt like somebody was going to cue the 'Twilight Zone' theme at any moment. Was this even real?
"A-are you okay, Sesshomaru-sama?"
He started at her words, and then clenched his fists and dropped his hands from his arms. He took a silent step back from her, and then another.
Kagome's mouth fell open. Was it her? Was she actually giving him goosebumps?
Sesshomaru lifted his chin. This willful brat. She was persisting in staring at him as if he had dared give her an immoral compliment of some kind. The fur of his pelt ruffled in irritation.
"I'm so sorry I threw myself at you like that!" she blabbed, twisting her hands together. "I just – Inuyasha told me before I left that you had died, I didn't know – I mean, I was just so glad to see you! No, no, I mean, I was so glad to see InuYasha, I thought you were InuYasha and….ohhhhh," Kagome groaned.
Sesshomaru made no comment. At least she realized was just making this situation worse by trying to explain.
Attempting to distance himself, Sesshomaru reverted to form. "You do not have to explain – this Sesshomaru accepts your apology for your unsolicited contact with his person."
"Wha - ?" Kagome frowned. Was he accusing her of groping him or something? Wait - he was leaving!
The great demon didn't answer.
Her head whirling, Kagome watched Sesshomaru walk away, and knew with a terrible - and wonderful - certainty that everything had been real - including the sneaking suspiscion she'd tried so hard to repress...the fact that she had feelings for Sesshomaru. Impossible, but deep feelings.
Kagome let out a long, heartfelt sigh as she felt the beginnings of a frown-headache coming on.
Life with InuYasha had always been crazy and unpredictable, but who'd have known this would have happened? How could she have fallen in love with his brother? She didn't even know him - and what she did know, it was kinda' hard to like!
InuYasha watched his brother walk off, his graceful stride belied by the fact that his hair was starting to billow around his tall form in what he had come to think of as Sesshomaru's exterminating-demon mode.
It was little wonder, really. After all, the great reunion definitely hadn't gone off at all as he'd - sort-of - planned. Aw, well. Relationships had never been his strong suit.
Casting a quick glance at the openly bewildered Kagome, he leapt down from the roof of the wellhouse and onto the roof of the next outbuilding, and the next, until he caught up to his brother.
Sesshomaru didn't even acknowledge him as he continued to walk/glide his way to the shrine steps.
InuYasha sighed, and then clapped a hand on his brothers shoulder. "Well, I say we give up now, 'cause it looks like you're totally boned, bro."
Sesshomaru slid him a frosty glance filled with bitter offense, but it was the glimpse of barely-hidden insanity in his eyes that made InuYasha swallow and drop his hand. "Just kidding! Okay, so it didn't go so well. Doesn't mean anything! She was just surprised - "
"She was disgusted." Sesshomaru bit-out.
"No way, she was nowhere near disgusted - couldn't you smell it? She was just surprised, is all. You gotta' remember, she thought you were dead, since even before she left."
"You should have revealed yourself first," Sesshomaru said flatly. "She was obviously expecting you. My appearance was only a disappointment."
InuYasha shook his head. He had thought of it, to be honest, but he'd been worried seeing him first might make her have some kind of mother-bird reaction.
"Go and see her."
InuYasha frowned at his brother. He didn't look like he was taking this well.
"Sesshomaru - "
"Tomorrow, InuYasha." Sesshomaru turned, and was gone.
InuYasha caught up with Kagome pretty quickly. He had his doubts about revealing himself, but aside from spying on her at the shrine every so often, he really hadn't talked to her in five-hundred years, and he truly missed her.
After the inevitable hugging and shouting, and fond tugging of his ears, Kagome led him to a stone bench and urged him to sit with her. He commented on her limp, but she blushed and waved it off.
"So? What's happened since I saw you last?" she half-jokingly asked. "It's been a long time for you, huh? You, um...you have had some company over the years, right?"
"There's no one, Kagome," InuYasha said, with a wry smile at her attempts to ask if he had someone.
Turning bright red, Kagome gave a little laugh, waving her hands. "Oh, I, um, you know, just being curious!" She laughed nervously again and then went abruptly silent. She looked at him closely.
"Wait. You've been alone all this time, InuYasha?"
InuYasha wanted to hug her again. "No, I haven't been alone." He tilted his head back on his shoulders and looked up into the night sky. "Why, at last count, I think I've been godfather or guardian to about a hundred of Miroku and Sango's offspring."
Kagome's jaw dropped.
InuYasha laughed at the look on her face. "Not all at once, dummy. They only had seven kids."
"S-seven?" Kagome choked.
"Yeah, and then their kids had kids, and their kids had kids, and so on. You know," he frowned, "I mighta' been wrong about that number..."
"Heh," Kagome said with a weak smile. She couldn't believe Sango had had so many children - but then Miroku had always seemed the amorous type. She supposed it wasn't all that unusual back in the day to have that many children, what with all the dangers lurking around, like fire and disease, and war...
"Did they - were they happy? They didn't...they didn't die too early, did they?" she asked with dread.
InuYasha snorted. "Are you kiddin'? A week after you left, Kohaku stumbled into the village, hurt, but alive. Sango was freakin' over the moon! As for dying, Miroku was the last to go, not long after Sango, and that old bastard was still chasing around demons 'till the end. He passed one night in his sleep, surrounded by more snot-nosed grandchildren than any sane man could possibly want."
Kagome laughed, the thought of a white-haired Miroku still banishing demons soothing the hurt she felt at her friends' deaths.
She didn't realize she'd said anything out-loud until InuYasha snorted next to her. "White-haired? He didn't have any hair by then!"
Covering her mouth with her hand, Kagome laughed so hard she thought she might cry.
"Oh, no! Didn't it bother him? I can't even imagine!Poor Miroku"
InuYasha shook his head. "Nah, not really. He and Sango always said they never felt their age because I was around. I never changed, so I guess they didn't either - not inwardly, anyway."
"I'm so glad to hear that, and about Kohaku living - and I'm so glad you're here, InuYasha." Kagome said, relieved.
Grinning, InuYasha shocked her by reaching out to take her hand in his. "What, you weren't glad to see Sesshomaru was still hanging around, too?"
Kagome sighed, feeling uncomfortable. She could feel the heat rising in her cheeks. It might have been centuries for InuYasha, but for her it had only been a few minutes - and she definitely hadn't had the time to work out her strange dreams and feelings about his older brother. Awkward!
"Wow. Talk about a shock! I thought I was seeing a ghost, at first!" she exclaimed, trying to blow it off.
InuYasha suddenly looked troubled. "Well...ya' ain't that far off," he mumbled, raising one hand to scratch the back of his neck. "To tell ya' the truth...I really dunno' how he made it this long - "
Kagome frowned, trying to hear him properly. "What? Well, it was strange to see him alive. I mean, I felt so sad when you told me he was dead - and then, bam, there he was! It was a relief to see he was okay, I guess, but it was also kinda' scary! How did he survive?"
"Well, he kinda' didn't - " InuYasha bit his tongue.
"Oh, Kami-sama!" Kagome's free hand flew up to cover her face. "You mean he came back from the dead? How? Is he a zombie? Sorry, but, ew!"
InuYasha winced, knowing his brother was still lingering somewhere nearby and listening to all this. He looked down at Kagome's warm little hand in his and squeezed it. "Um...Kagome? We really hafta' talk."
"I know! You still have to tell me about old Kaede, and Shippou! Oh, and Kouga - "
"Yeah, yeah, and there's a lot to tell, too, but..."
"But what?" Kagome looked at him suspisciously. "Oh, no...don't tell me Naraku is back, and he followed me to the present, and he's still after the shikon jewel!"
InuYasha drew back a little, ears twitching in surprise. "Uh, no. He's dead, remember?" 'Does she want Naraku to be back?'
Kagome scowled and pulled her hand out of his. She stepped back and put her hands on her hips. "Well, so was Sesshomaru, and he came back! Apparently it's so popular everybody's doing it!"
InuYasha shook his head. "You got it all wrong. This ain't even about Naraku - well, maybe a little, but - "
She held up her hand. "Stop. I don't want to hear it until I've had something to eat - preferably Mom's oden! I have the feeling that what you're going to tell me is bad news, and I won't listen on an empty stomach, InuYasha!"
"Kagome - " InuYasha held back, worried about Sesshomaru's current state-of-mind. The poor bastard had already waited five-hundred years, he didn't know what would happen if he had to wait much more -
"Forget it, let's go!" Grabbing his hand, and her bag in the other, she marched toward the house, dragging the protesting hanyou behind her all the way.
InuYasha let her pull him along, but his mind was all tangled up. How could he fix things between them when he also had the responsibility of Kagome's safety on his shoulders? When Sesshomaru himself was still so damaged? How did he explain it all, to Kagome, about Demon's Night, everything, especially without her sitting him into a crater!
Allowing himself to enter the house behind her, and hearing the delighted yell of her little brother at the sight of them, InuYasha attempted to smile a greeting, but his heart was heavy with five-hundred years of indecison and worry. He had to laugh, though - since when had he become the responsible one in this weird relationship?
To be continued
A/N: Sorry, guys, not much to say. I do apologize for the obscenely-lengthy wait between chapters. I don't really have much of an excuse besides that I had a hard time getting lost in the fic like usual. I do have most of this finished, but filling in the blanks is taking longer than I thought. I hope you'll stick around to see the end. Thanks everyone!P.S. This chapter's title is from an awesome song called "Follow Me" by Holly Brook. Give it a listen!