A/N: Well I apologize to all you guys for taking so ridiculously long with this chapter. I ended up staying with the relatives all summer, and then this chapter just took longer to write than normal. I'm still not satisfied with it, but if I don't post it now, I never will. So I'm sure it's pretty rough, but oh well. Not as if I'm going for any awards or grades here, ne?

Thanx to all you readers who have actually stuck with me! It's been quite the journey. This is the last chapter. There will be a short epilogue following (at some point), but that's just about it!

Disclaimer: Still not mine.

Lime warning: be aware.

Chapter 16: Stay

In the rising dusk of the morning Sango and Miroku stood in quiet conversation. Miroku, well practiced all his life in silently sneaking into places he shouldn't be, had overheard the conversation between the 3 mikos and Inuyasha.

"But why must they transfer Kagome's soul to Kikyou's body? Especially since it's literally rotting away? What if it rots away with Kagome's soul inside!" Sango, frustrated, asked an equally anxious Miroku. "It makes no sense! If Kagome is the one with all the untapped power, why not transfer into her body, ensuring that all of her power and energy is left intact there?" She reigned in her anger as a frustrated scream nearly escaped her lips.

"Unfortunately," responded the monk, who despite all appearance, really was wise beyond his years, "it makes perfect sense." When Sango raised one eyebrow in retort, he quickly continued.

"The Shikon No Tama," he said simply, and waited as he saw realization dawn on her lovely face.

"Kikyou's body…"

"Precisely. The Shikon melded with Kikyou's body, and that – at this time – is the only thing anchoring Midoriko to this plane of existence. If both her soul and Kikyou's were to transfer to Kagome, there would be no purifying source to stave off the deterioration of that body, the Shikon no Tama, and the source of Midoriko's existence. The transfer would be pointless, because as soon as Kikyou's body 'died' as it were, both souls would vanish immediately from Kagome's body, acting as though the transfer had never happened."

Sango cast a sad glance at the dense foliage in the nearby forest, the same spot she had seen Inuyasha and Kagome disappear into last night. "I suppose it's inevitable then…"

Miroku shifted, and then linking his fingers through hers, joined her in watching the fading gloom.

Inuyasha watched as Kagome stirred in his arms, the languorous movement of her limbs and the warm look in her sated eyes had him wishing he could see this sight every morning for the rest of his life. "G'morning," he rumbled, his voice still deep, as he brushed a feather-light kiss across her temple.

Kagome had to refrain from giggling at the feeling of his rumble cascading through her chest also, and instead contented herself to draw lazing designs on his chest with her fingers. She so wished she didn't have to get up right now. What she wouldn't give to just fall back asleep in his arms right now. Well, that or some other fun activities that involved being in his arms…

With that she smiled wryly and sought to distract herself, knowing she shouldn't indulge in such thoughts. "Sleep well?" she asked, stifling a yawn against his chest since her fingers were still busy. He groaned slightly.

"I didn't sleep," he replied, and Kagome swore she heard a husky quality to his voice.

"Why not? Scared I would run away?" She smiled teasingly and poked him in the stomach.

"Not exactly," the ambiguous words confusing Kagome for a split second while he snatched up her hand in his. Then, as he raised her fingers to his lips, she saw and she knew.

"I will not leave you," she hissed, tensing. "Not even in death. Besides, I am not going to die."

If Kagome had not been so caught up in the moment and surprised at the vehemence that took her, she would have wryly commented on the irony of the situation, that she was the one assuring them they would win and that death was impossible. Then again, she had learned from a master of denial!

Inuyasha did not reply, simply continued kissing her fingers one by one, sighing when he finally felt her relax back against him. "I'll hold you to that," he whispered, dropping her hand and pulling her tightly against him as he buried his face in her hair. This scent, her scent…he would always remember it.

Although he could feel she was just as reluctant to break the hold as he was, she suddenly moved against him and shown down on him with her dazzlingly bright smile. "Well…I guess it's time to go do my duty and all that jazz!"

She slipped from his arms, and Inuyasha couldn't help but feel a loss at her warmth, but also in his understanding. He just didn't get her sometimes! Since when was she excited to face unknown spiritual powers, soul transfers, and death?

"Oi!" he called to the form in front of him that was hastily throwing on clothes. She barely paused to throw an acknowledging glance over her shoulder. "What the hell do you mean? What are you so damn excited about?"

She turned around and sighed in satisfaction as she put the last of her clothing in place. Hands on hips, she sent him another toothy grin – one that he thought looked suspiciously calculating and seductive. "The sooner I do the transfer and defeat Baratu and am back in my body, the sooner we get married and have a honeymoon!" She winked at him, then sauntered off in the direction of the village, her hips swaying gently as she walked.

Inuyasha merely gaped after her a moment before hastily snatching his clothes and attempting to dress himself as he ran. "Kagome? Hey Kagome!" he yelled. "What's a honeymoon?"

They were all sitting in Kaede's hut, the suffocating stillness seeming to take a form of it's own. The time had come, and they all knew it. There was no more time to wait for Baratu; his threat was too dangerous, continually hanging on the edge of their consciousness, and Kikyou's body – despite all the mikos' efforts – was rapidly deteriorating. On top of everything, they were fighting the clock itself.

Taking a deep breath, Kagome took her fate into her own hands. "Can we just get this over with already? I'm going to go insane with all this tension!"

Eyes immediately riveted on her, wary of the future, but also slightly thankful that she had broken the tenuous silence and the process could now begin, bringing the end ever nearer.

Midoriko cleared her throat gently and then gestured to the sleeping mat lying in the corner of the room. "If you would Kagome?"

Kagome stood to move and Inuyasha was immediately at her side, not touching, pushing, or hovering too closely, but lending the support of his presence as much as possible. She lay down on the matt, her feet toward the door, and her left side and head almost pressed into the corner of the wall. Her right side was open to the scrutiny of all her friends, and suddenly feeling fidgety she clasped her hands together and placed them on her chest, striving to emit a sense – or at least an appearance – of calm. When she imagined her body laying there, barely alive with her soul traipsing off elsewhere, she had a sudden giddy image of herself as snow white. She'd seen the movie, and swore her posture was the exact same as the fair maiden she had idolized as a child. Biting her lip to keep an indulgent giggle at bay, Kagome had to question her own sanity – and not for the first time. Suddenly her thoughts shifted as the comparison continued, and she realized that no mere kiss from Prince Charming would be able to wake her from this 'slumber.'

Grunting inaudibly her attention was brought back to the present when Inuyasha gently unhooked her hands from around themselves, and linking his fingers through hers, brought her right hand to rest on his knee. She hadn't even noticed him sit next to her, she had been so caught up in her own thoughts. Giving him a once over with her scrutinizing eye, she surmised that though her prince may not be 'charming,' he was all she could ever want. And unlike the other wussy man, he was here through her troubles – he wouldn't come only to rescue her at the end, after the harm had been done. Through all the grit he was her strength, and that meant more to her than anything. Squeezing his hand in hers, she shifted her gaze to the two mikos that were seating themselves next to her, Midoriko at her side, and Kaede closer to her feet.

After assuring everyone was ready, the two priestesses immediately set to work.

The process was relatively quick and painless, but the mental preparation was taxing. Inhaling deeply, Kaede set her hands hovering over Kagome's body, muttering an incantation under her breath. Midoriko remained her motionless kneeling next to Kagome, hands on knees, only moving to tilt her head down, closer her eyes, and part her lips slightly.

Before anyone could blink, a light mist began to form above Kagome. The mist grew and became denser until it almost had a nebulous form of its own. Suddenly, and without warning, it all moved inward toward Kagome's chest. Kikyou's body heaved in, a giant gasp wracking her form as the mist shot upward and into her mouth, dissipating in one fell swoop.

Silence reigned in the hut a full minute before the clamor erupted. Shippo, Sango, and Miroku all spoke at once, aching to know what had just happened.

Only Kaede noticed Inuyasha's oddly silent state. Squeezing her hand more tightly, his eyes hadn't left Kagome's face. Midoriko remained still, breathing even and slow. It was she who finally answered their questions.

"That mist was Kagome's soul ' she explained, eyes still closed. "It didn't take the form of a bright orb because this was not her full soul, and there's still a threat attaching it back to her body. In this way, her soul is not permanently separated from the body and has a possibility of returning."

Taking in this information, all eyes once again turned to Kagome. Without anyone else noticing, Inuyasha had shifted his hold slightly to feel at Kagome's wrist, breathing a sigh of relief when he felt her pulse against his fingertips, slow but stead. It throbbed once for every six of his heartbeats.

Rising slowly, Midoriko pushed to her feet and headed toward the door. Pushing the mat aside, she paused just long enough to wait for Kaede to follow. Then the two mikos were gone, an exhortation to Inuyasha to guard Kagome's body thrown over their shoulders.

They sat still, the ensuing silence filled with anxious expectation.

Kaede had left Midoriko at a point approximately half-way to where they guessed the holy grounds to be. Her presence would only be distracting, so she remained behind to meditate and offer any support or protection she could. In the case that any rouge youkai came around that had caught wind of the plan for a miko to go into battle at the holy grounds, she could also act as a diversion.

So Midoriko trod on alone, relying heavily on Kagome's memories and intuition to lead her. Stretching her senses inward, she could easily feel the presence of the third soul inside her, momentarily unconscious but whose mind was easily plundered. Pure energy brimmed within her body, filling it nearly to capacity as the auras of the three mikos combined and fed off each other. The sheer extent of Kagome's power still astounded the much older miko, but she supposed that's how the younger girl was able to mentally cope with and physically survive such a strangely different world than the one she'd been born into.

Without realizing it, her eyes had unfocused while she thought on Kagome, and now that she was back in her senses she had to catch her breath. Staring her right back in the face was a sakura grove – the­ sakura grove. Mentally girding her loins she took that first irrevocable step into the holy ground and her final battle with Baratu.

Immediately a tingle began at the nape of her neck, and at first she thought she was being watched. She swung around, expecting to see Baratu standing there, however she saw nothing other than pink-laden branches swaying slightly in the breeze. Closing her eyes, she took a moment to orient herself to her surroundings, and ever so slowly realized that the tingling she felt was in fact a presence – it was the presence of this place. Letting it roll over her and seep into her she felt at once at peace.

Until she turned around and stared unblinking into a pair of large green eyes.

"Baratu!" she breathed.

The demon did not answer her, only let his gaze rake over her body, taking in her new form and sizing it up, his serpent tongue flicking out occasionally to take her scent from the air. He turned on one foot and moved to circle to her left, his eyes never leaving her. For her part, Midoriko was doing the same thing. She moved to her right following Baratu's lead, determined not to let him get behind her – even here in this holy ground. He was smaller than he had been, which wasn't saying much since he had been unimaginably large in his earlier form. The demon he had chosen to inhabit was still immense, easily two or more times her height and of considerable girth – though it was easy to tell none of it was fat. She could not peg exactly what kind of demon he was; his coloring was brown and he had large green eyes slit like a cat's. The only give away was the tongue that still escaped his mouth from time to time.

Baratu easily fell into his old pattern of taunting. That he could still do safely here without fear of retribution from the presence of the place. "I see you have finally caught up with me, miko. Pity you had to take up in such a weak body. It's almost as if it were literally rotting away before you."

Midoriko bit her tongue at his all-too-accurate description of the status of Kikyou's body. She could only hope he wouldn't guess how close to the truth he had been. But circling each other wasn't going to get them anywhere, and this time the tickle she felt in the hairs on the back of her neck definitely did have to do with the demon standing in front of her. The evil gleam in her eyes gave her surprise; she didn't know how something so sinister could exist within a place so peaceful. The threat lurking in those green depths was very real, and she still had no concrete idea how to deal with it. She knew it wouldn't be long before he made a move though. She just had to wait, and pray he didn't take her by surprise.

Inuyasha's head shot up from his position on the floor. He hadn't moved from his earlier spot sitting next to Kagome's body and gripping her hand in his lap. Every now and then he still checked her pulse and breathing to make sure she was still with them, but other than that he remained motionless.

Eyes closed, he felt Kagome tug at him. However, when he turned to her she was as she had been before. His startled expression did not go unnoticed. "Inuyasha, what happened?" asked the ever astute monk. The question drew the gazes of the taijiya and the kitsune who sat quietly in the opposite corner of the room.

Inuyasha merely raised one hand in a gesture meant to dismiss the question, but then it happened again, and this time the tug was stronger. He looked at Kagome but saw nothing out of order. Hesitantly he turned to Miroku and asked, "Did you see Kagome move?"

"What? I don't think I could have heard you right my friend – "

"You heard me exactly right! Did you see Kagome fucking move!" His exasperation was taking over, frustrated with not knowing what was going on, and whether the problem was with his mate or with him.

"I haven't seen anything at all Inuyasha. Kagome hasn't moved since Midoriko and Kaede left. Why – " Inuyasha cut him off with a wave of his hand. Silence once again reigning in the room, he sent out his senses. If the tug came from Kagome then maybe…

The feeling came again, but this time the pull was so strong he physically moved forward. Eyes shooting open, Shippo gasped at the fire he saw there. Abruptly Inuyasha stood up, pausing to carefully lay Kagome's hand across her breast. Mentally berating himself for not understanding the first two tugs, he realized his mate was in trouble and calling to him. He'd be damned if he ignored the third warning. Bolting out the door he shouted a quick command to Sango to watch over Kagome's body, and then he was gone.

Midoriko was beyond frustrated. The past few hours had consisted of nothing other than the two of them circling each other, Baratu throwing in his usual taunts in an unceasing stream. If he didn't shut up soon she was going to scream! Now where did that thought come from?

She had dealt with these barbs for what seemed like an eternity. Being shut up in a jewel with any demon was not pleasant, but this one… Glancing at him scathingly she thought if she could just rid him of his mouth then maybe she could be happy.

However, as much as this annoyed her, a deeper frustration had her worried further. No matter what tack she employed, she had been unable to call upon Kagome's powers. Midoriko had accounted for the strange aura of the sakura grove, but all logic pointed that it would only enhance Kagome's latent abilities. So why was she unable to call the girl's aura to her aid and put it under her own control? Why was she still locked in a stale mate with this loathsome beast? If she couldn't progress with this dilemma, their stale mate might last another eternity, and Midoriko cringed at the thought. Baratu didn't look in the least inclined to break the unwritten law of the miko holy ground by instigating physical violence and getting himself kicked out, thus making him more vulnerable. No…he seemed quite happy to stay here for as long as suited him, all the while shooting his mouth off at her.

Suddenly Midoriko was shot through with a strike of fear. He could very well stay as long as he liked. She on the other hand…

Who knew how long this body of Kikyou's would last? The very wish that was unselfish enough to free them from the Shikon no Tama might just be their undoing. If the body, along with the completed Shikon, disintegrated, then both hers and Kagome's souls would move on to the next world before finding other bodies. Kagome currently was too far from her own body to find it again before the inevitable tug of the nether world pulled her away. If that happened there would be no one left strong enough to defeat Baratu and he would have free run of the island, no longer living in fear and confining himself to the neutral zone of the holy ground.

A sniffing sound brought her out of her thoughts. Baratu's eyes narrowed. "Why Midoriko-sama," he said overly sweetly, putting as much sarcasm as he could into the phrase, "it seems that body of yours is weakening rapidly. Is there anything I can do to help, or shall I just sit here and watch it blow away?"

Midoriko was barely able to contain her emotions, not letting her surprise, fear, and fury show through. She knew she had to do something, and soon. But what? What could she do? She couldn't very well attack Baratu; while she would be rejected by the grove, he might be able to stay if he remained passive. That was not a chance she could take. Her only hope was in…

Damn it Kagome! Why can't I access your powers!

Suddenly Baratu shifted away, turning his back to her, and Midoriko found her senses wheeling. Was he challenging her? Daring her to attack him? A harsh yell from the other side of the clearing snapped her to attention.

"Oi, ugly beast! Why don't you fight like a real demon instead of hiding yourself away in a place for mikos!"

Although the source of the voice was blocked from her vision by Baratu's massive bulk, she recognized it in an instant.

"Why you little-" seethed Baratu.

"No Inuyasha, don't!" implored Midoriko, running to circle around Baratu and get to Inuyasha. "You know he can't be defeated with just a physical fight!"

He turned to face her, annoyance written all over his face. "Well then why the hell is he still standing here! You took Kagome's soul – you have her power. So why haven't you crisped the guy yet?"

The two continued bickering, oblivious to the monstrosity standing slightly to the side. Did they mention…another soul? How many souls does that wench have inside her? Are they all miko? Shit…

Being as unobtrusive as possible he began to back away, hoping that the miko and hanyou were too entranced in their argument to notice until he was long gone. He had retreated a good ten feet, and was just turning, thinking he might actually be able to get away with it, when he heard a growl.

"Do you actually think we're stupid enough to fall for that! Get the fuck back here!" No doubt as to who said that. The hanyou with the pointy sword was now walking straight toward him. Without a thought Baratu turned tail and fled.

Midoriko tried to call out another warning, pleading with Inuyasha to only track Baratu and not attack him, but her words were lost in the growls of the two. She desperately clung to hope that he would not attack and was merely posturing, but all was dashed as Inuyasha drew Tetsusaiga and ran at Baratu. "NOOOOOO!"

Before she could blink he was gone. So was Baratu. She was alone in the grove, and her insides were seething and despairing at the danger Inuyasha was in.

Midoriko's control of Kikyou's body was momentarily ripped from her as she dropped to her knees, a gut-wrenching scream of "NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" lifted to the sky. The voice didn't even sound the same to her ears as the scream she had let loose only seconds before, her unheeded warning to Inuyasha. Instantly her vision was clouded by bright pink. At first Midoriko thought she was living one of Kagome's episodes and was soon going to black out, however she was thoroughly surprised when she craned her neck to the far left and saw an edge to the pink.

It was an aura! Looking back up the swirls filled her entire vision. The aura…it was coming from her! Suddenly everything clicked into place. It wasn't that Kagome was untrained that kept her from using her powers at will. They merely weren't meant to be used that way. They only worked under duress. She felt a prodding at her consciousness and knew it was Kagome seeking out to find and protect her mate. A quick glance around, ensuring she was alone in the grove and that she would be safe, the body dropped to the ground, lying prone as if dead, while Midoriko's consciousness descended into itself in order to meet and confer with the other two souls within the body.

She prepared herself for what she knew she would see, but still she was surprised. Kikyou sat limply on what passed for the ground in this misty place, her skin a ghostly pale as if she were barely there. Kagome was in stark contrast. She was seething and seemed to be fairly vibrating, a living force coming off her in waves. Not only were her miko powers emanating so strongly in here, but her appearance had taken on slightly stronger demon characteristics than when she had last seen her. Oh, it wasn't much, Midoriko would admit, but even those tiny changes were unusual and just showed the depth of the connection she was fighting for.

"WHERE IS HE!" yelled Kagome before Midoriko could say a word.

Glancing once more at Kikyou and affirming that she would not be giving any input into this conversation, Midoriko turned her attention once more to the pained girl in front of her. "Kagome, I have something very important to tell you. Would you please calm down for just a moment?"

"I need to get to my mate! You let Baratu take him away!" she started, slightly calmer, but not much better.

I didn't let Inuyasha do anything – he went against what I told him to do. Midoriko bit her tongue against the words, knowing they would not be helping anybody currently. "That's what I'm trying to tell you Kagome. I need you to help me find them."

Kagome merely looked her question at the older miko.

"The only way Inuyasha could have found you here is if the two of you were somehow connected, and he was able to trail that connection to the location of your soul. If that is the case, then the reverse should work also. When I retake consciousness of this body, I will leave an opening for you so you can concentrate on finding Inuyasha and lead us to him." Midoriko explained slowly, as if to a child. She couldn't be sure of how aware Kagome was in the seething state she was in due to the absence of her mate.

"And once I find him…?"

Midoriko took a moment to look over the young girl in front of her. "I will retake control of the body. If there is more than one soul reacting, we may take opposite paths, make opposite decisions, and in a battle we cannot afford any slight hesitations. Such could lead to our deaths." Taking a deep breath, she decided she needed to explain the rest. "Also, I was not able to call forth your powers earlier. They must only react to your emotional state, so in a sense we need you to stay high strung. However, in such a state you cannot possibly act coherently in a battle, and with my larger experience I should be able to direct your power under my control and fuse it mine and Kikyou's. Do you understand?"

Kagome glared at her, angry that she would not be able to kill the bastard that had dared threaten her mate, but somewhere inside her logic won through and she knew that Midoriko was right. Grudgingly she nodded. "Alright. Let's quit talking already and go find him."

Turning from Kagome and bringing the both of them to consciousness, Midoriko hid an amused smile. She'd had no idea the bond between the two had stretched this far. When her mate was in danger, Kagome acted more like Inuyasha than she bet the girl realized. Silently she felt Kagome prodding at her, and knew she had already located the whereabouts of said mate. With a nod, more to herself than her counterparts, she headed off in the direction indicated by Kagome, and prayed they were not too late.

Midoriko was running…panting…straining every sense to find the tell-tale tickle that heralded the presence of youkai. Inside her mind, Kagome prodded in the right direction and nudged her every time she veered slightly off course. She could sense, however, the younger girl's exhaustion at having to extend her senses so far while at the same time struggling to stay conscious.

Finally, it clicked. Midoriko could feel the distant humming in her ears and knew she was close. Slowing to a halt she took a moment to calm her raging breath and to send Kagome's consciousness delving back into the depths of the body.

At Kagome's slight resistance she reminded her counterpart, 'Remember Kagome, having more than one of us awake at a time can cause discord, and we cannot have even the slightest hesitation in battle.' She felt Kagome's acquiescence, and disappointment, at the statement. While the girl was descending further and further into her unconscious state Midoriko admonished her. 'You would do well to watch all that unfolds Kagome. Keep your mind on your mate, and use all you can to protect him. Leave your emotions raw: I know it will hurt you more, but it will aid in bringing out your powers. I fear the coming battle will be the most difficult any of us ever faces.' With these words she felt a slight flare in Kagome's aura before it disappeared, leaving only the faintest traces behind.

Heaving a deep sigh and mustering all the courage she could, Midoriko turned and ran into the forest toward where an evil youkai and an over-anxious hanyou dueled in battle.

By the time Midoriko arrived where the two were, they were already in the heat of action, both drenched in sweat and covered in blood from their efforts. Even as Midoriko watched Baratu sent a crushing blow toward Inuyasha. Expecting him to dodge, she froze when she heard the resounding crunch as Baratu's fist and claws connected with Inuyasha's chest. Midoriko couldn't explain why, but she couldn't move as she stared in aghast horror while Baratu moved in on Inuyasha's struggling body.

Before she knew what was happening her vision was turning pink again. It didn't explode out like it had last time, instead the power felt like it had been turned on and was building to the speed and immensity of a rushing waterfall. The sheer force of it winded her, and she had to gather her wits to marshal the oncoming tide.

Nothing happened.

She paused, gasped, then tried again. Still, nothing happened. The flow of power continued out until it seemed as if it would drench her of every force within her body, even down to her life force. She belatedly realized the flaw in her plan to defeat Baratu: there was no way she could ever reign in and control Kagome's power.

Inuyasha was the first to notice the strange aura on the other side of the clearing, but then again he was not only facing that direction but was also quite accustomed to the feeling of his mate's powers. Even while Baratu raised his arms over his head to deal another bone-crunching blow to the ground-dwelling hanyou, the giant beast twitched as he sensed the danger behind him. Both stood straight and slowly turned toward the growing menace that was coming ever closer and closer to them.

Suddenly the dam burst and the pink aura of power that had been growing steadily quickly reached a peak and shot out toward them quicker than either would like. Baratu's eyes were fixed on the edge of that pink cloud that was barreling down on him, but Inuyasha only had eyes for the center of that aura. Kagome. Seeing the look on her face he could only guess what was going on. But from the mixture of surprise, defeat, and horror that laid in those eyes, he had a pretty good idea.

Without another thought he bolted toward his mate, leaving Baratu in the dust, just as the cloud enveloped them.

Immediately his senses were bombarded by a barrage of pain that set his limbs twitching, and it only got stronger as he closed in on the source of the cloud. Glancing quickly behind him so as not to be unaware of his enemy's position, he noticed that Baratu was faring far worse than he was. The demon was practically immobile, all his energy focused inward to fight the pain he was forced to endure. Not having the time to think about why that was, Inuyasha tucked the tidbit of information away to worry about later. He didn't even notice the tremendous amount of energy that passed straight through him without touching him. Right now all he could think of was getting to Kagome.

She was barely visible through the gaseous pink of the cloud that surrounded her. Kikyou's body was kneeling on the ground staring up at the energy pouring from her, an image of utter shock etched upon her features. Inuyasha crouched in front of her, balancing on his heels, and gently grabbed her shoulders. Sparks of energy crackled between them at his touch, and his slightly burned appendages automatically recoiled at the sensation. However, he was never one to balk at pain. He grabbed harshly onto Kagome's shoulders and began to shake her for all he was worth.

"Kagome…KAGOME! Snap out of it!" he shouted in her face. When he still got no response he switched tacks. "Midoriko – I know you're in there – I know you can hear me. Now answer me!"

Slowly he saw awareness seep back into the hollow eyes of Kikyou's body, and he waited patiently as they focused on him. "I…I can't control it Inuyasha. I thought I could, I should be able to, but there's nothing I can do. It's out of control…and I've failed…we've all failed…"

Inuyasha's impatience butt in and he cut her off. "You are making no sense. What the fuck are you getting at? What can't you control? And don't you dare dig a grave yet. I am not letting you say that we've failed and that all Kagome and I gave up has been for shit. Now what's going on!"

"Kagome's powers…look around you Inuyasha!" The miko's eyes grew hazy again as she gazed on the heavy cloud of power surrounding them. Without warning her gaze snapped back to the demon behind Inuyasha. "As you can see, while you suffer from her powers, Baratu does suffer worse. However, the energy output is draining this body tremendously and I do not know how much longer it will hold on like this – without any control. Kagome's powers will self-implode before it is enough to do any permanent damage to Baratu. While I know what causes Kagome's powers to flood out like this, there is nothing I can do to control or direct it. There's nothing…"

Inuyasha hesitated only a fraction of a second. "Give up the body then," he said quietly, seriously.

"What?" Midoriko hissed.

"Kagome has a better chance than you do of controlling this right now. You said so yourself that you can do nothing, so what is wrong with giving her the chance? Besides, I'm not getting hurt as much as that stupid carcass over there, so she must still be recognizing me on some level. I can help her. But I can only help her if she's herself – so let her have the body."

"I don't know Inuyasha…" Midoriko pondered.

"We don't have time to bullshit this!" fumed Inuyasha. "I will not lose my mate!"

Inuyasha was about to push his point again when he felt the body go limp in his arms. Grabbing her form closely to him, he began to fret. She couldn't have been so drained as to…NO!

"Kagome…KAGOME! Not again damn it, this time you answer me!" He cradled her face between his hands and watched her face for signs of life when her eyes shot open and her lungs contracted.

"AAAAAAHHHHHHHHH! INNNUUUUYAAAAAAASHHHAAA!" A scream tore her throat that filled the skies. Her eyes were livid, no signs of lucidity to be found in them. Inuyasha knew he had to calm his mate, but his mind was not being forthcoming with solutions. He did the first thing he could think of and repaid Kagome's favor to him when he lost control of himself to Kaguya – he kissed her.

Gradually, ever so slowly, Kagome's wits began to gather around her as she responded to his kiss. He opened her, stretched her, found himself giving in to her, and finally caught hold of himself just as he found he was losing himself in her mouth. Reluctantly he broke away from her. Finally breaking his eyes away from her swollen lips that beat with her ragged breathing, he lifted his gaze to see she was completely conscious. He wished nothing more than to drag her into his arms again, crush her to him in a possessive hug – but as usual, he did not trust himself to be in control around her, so he settled for his usual response: "Keh. So I see you're finally back to yourself wench."

Instead of yelling at him for his ill-timed gruffness, Kagome simply smiled sweetly at him. "Thank you, Inuyasha." The blush was barely noticeable on the hanyou's cheeks, but Kagome was one who was trained to see such small signs, and her smile grew all the larger, until she glanced over Inuyasha's shoulder and caught sight of Baratu, who was starting to rouse himself. Inuyasha, catching her change in demeanor, turned to follow her gaze and glared at the demon.

"I think I know what we can do." Inuyasha turned in surprise at Kagome's statement. "You're not going to like it – but I need you to trust me on this. Okay?"

He eyed her suspiciously. "That depends…what is it?"

He almost lost it when she nearly growled at him. "Inu…yasha…," she said in a warning tone.

"Alright, alright, fine. Tell me what I gotta do," he finally conceded.

"Okay." She took in a deep breath. "So we've established that my powers go all out of whack when I get emotional, right?" Inuyasha knew this was a rhetorical question, especially since she was using terms from her time. She was usually pretty good about not using them, or explaining them to him, when talking to him and not at him.

She continued. "We need my powers to flare up, which now happens every time you're in danger; but I also need to stay in control, which hasn't happened any of those times. So I need you to get hurt in a way that I know you'll be okay." Kagome looked at him to see if he was following her train of thought, but he seemed to be a bit lost.

"Fine, so maybe I'm not making any sense yet. Anyhow, here's what I need you to do." She added under her breath, "For once one of these smelly demons having a big, giant bulk is gonna come in handy." Of course Inuyasha was able to hear her remark, but merely raised an eyebrow at the comment.

"I need you to stand on the other side of Baratu, and use his body to stay hidden. Whatever you do, do not let me see you. We're going to have to play on the small amount of youkai sense you've given me, and rely mostly on smell. When you're sure you're out of sight, cut yourself. Not severely, or anything that will really hurt you, but something that will put a lot of blood in the air – remember, I have to somehow be able to sense it."

At this Inuyasha started to put up a fight. "Kagome, how can I do something like that! Your puny senses will need a fucking huge amount of blood – and then I'll probably be so weak I won't be able to protect you!" He was about to further his argument when Kagome cut him off with a glare.

She stood before him resolute in her decision. "If you're ever going to trust my fighting instincts, now might be a good time."

The two stared at each other, as if to see who's convictions were stronger, when suddenly Inuyasha's face turned softer and he laid a hand on her cheek. "Just stay safe, alright?"

Kagome stood agape for a split second before she wiped away the tears forming in her eyes and nodded. "Hai! Now make sure to stand downwind from me, and when I say so, cut yourself enough to bleed a lot, but not to damage you. I still need you able to fight. When my energy comes at you, I need you to focus all of your thought on me. Do not think of Baratu or Midoriko or anything else – just me."

"Your energy…?" he questioned.

She waved him off with her hand, gesturing to the bulk behind them who was now on his feet and focusing on them. "No more time to explain. Just go!"

A quick nod and Inuyasha leaped from her side, putting all the faith he could muster into Kagome's plan.

He got into position as fast as he could, not trusting to just how slowly he hoped Baratu would recover from Kagome's last attack. Scenting the wind he made sure he was downwind and Kagome would have the best chance of smelling his presence even as his blood starting getting carried around, soaking into the ground. The hardest part was staying out of her line of sight. At this point Baratu was staggering back and forth trying to get his bearings, planning a way to attack the little miko who had damaged him so. Inuyasha quickly timed Baratu's movements and matched them, and after only about 30 seconds was moving enough with the massive demon that he was assured to stay completely out of Kagome's line of vision.

Kagome, steadying herself, knew it was time and shouted out to Inuyasha to cut himself. He complied to digging his claws deep into his back and the side of his hip, going for surface blood vessels while keeping away from any vital organs and major arteries. In no time at all he sensed the youkai in his mate rising.

Kagome could smell his blood. It was everywhere. The beast inside her raged – her mate was hurt! Not only that but she could not see him, could not find where he was. He could be dying! No…no…she was the one who told him to cut himself, she reminded herself. He would not die. Would he? What if something outside of the plan happened? No – that could not happen! Where was her mate! Where is he!

Baratu was facing the small ningen female, slight amusement painting his features as he watched emotion after emotion flicker across her face. Humans were such weak creatures, being so easily controlled by something so fickle as 'emotions.' Then he watched as the woman's eyes tinted pink. 'What the hell is she doing?' he wondered, before hell exploded.

Kagome's arms thrust out to her sides, spreading wide, as her power concentrated and built like a flame above her. It grew larger and larger until she could not contain it anymore and it split. Both segments shot out from her body, leaving glowing trails as they headed toward their destinations. The smaller part headed straight toward Baratu, a definite menace resonating within the surge of power. As it made contact with his body it held him immobile, the smaller amount of power doing little other than preventing him from fleeing. Baratu struggled against the stinging flow of energy, and Inuyasha found himself having to counter his previous timing to the demon's movements in order to remain hidden from Kagome.

The larger arc sped straight over Baratu's head and hit Inuyasha straight on. He winced in preparation of the expected burning sensation but instead found himself enveloped in a feeling of warmth and comfort. Astonished, he realized that while the arc of power directed at Baratu was meant for harm, the one sent to him was meant for healing and protection. He managed a grim smile at the thought that Kagome's powers had most definitely – finally – distinguished him as her mate. He put that thought aside for later gloating, and then remembering the full instruction Kagome had given him turned and focused all of his attention on said mate.

As he spent more and more time concentrating on her, he found himself increasingly frustrated that there was an enormous, ugly bulk blocking him from seeing his beloved female.

Being so focused he did not realize what was going on, but an outside observer would be surprised to see an enormous amount of energy building up in the hanyou. The energy kept building and building, until one would be surprised at the ability of the hanyou's body to not burst under such pressure and such power. Suddenly it seemed as if just such a thing would happen, as with a gut-wrenching cry the energy was set loose and directed back at the source of it all, the little miko that the hanyou was pouring so much focus on. Noticing there was something standing in between the hanyou and his mate, the passerby would think how he would hate to be in such a position before continuing on his way.

Unfortunately for Baratu he had no such option of moving out of the way for the onslaught of power ripping straight through him. The small amount of energy Kagome had been pounding into him had prevented him from running from what he had seen coming. The total amount of power that Kagome sent to Inuyasha was now being pumped back to her, through Baratu's body. This time, however, it was not a warm and fuzzy feeling that accompanied the power transfer – like what was felt by Inuyasha, or even the slight stinging that Baratu felt from the surge of energy directed at him from Kagome. No – this was something much worse.

Not only were Kagome's powers hitting him from front and back, but the part coming from Inuyasha had somehow merged with the small miko part of the hanyou and was drawing on his own powers too, thus magnifying the effect exponentially. He felt like he was being eaten, digested, and then melted from the inside out.

The cycle of transfer of energy proceeded for another few moments. All of Kagome's energy was still being directed at Inuyasha in a healing/protective way since the blood was still flowing freely from his wounds due to the tremendous output of energy required of him when he sent Kagome's energy back at her. She no longer needed to worry of Baratu moving since he was immobilized from the pain being inflicted from the arc of energy shooting through him from Inuyasha on its way to Kagome. The feeble efforts he was able to make, such as thrashing in his misery and swooning occasionally from one side to the other, were small enough that Kagome and Inuyasha were easily able to compensate and keep out of the sight of the other.

Finally, the flow of energy stopped as Kagome calmed. Her eyes, returned to their normal white and brown, glared at the weakened enemy cowing in front of her before she dropped to her knees and then collapsed on the ground.

Baratu took this as a sign of blessing from the kamis. He was weakened, but most definitely not defeated. Now with the little miko unconscious he should be able to dispose of her and then continue on without the hassle of dealing with her, or Midoriko, or any other of that lot. With that in mind he began crawling toward Kikyou's body, bent on her destruction.

Inuyasha, though, was not about to have that. Although he was exhausted from the output of energy, he was still far better off than Baratu. He quickly took stock of his options, knowing he had only seconds to move before Baratu got his grimy hands on his mate. He couldn't use any of Tetsusaiga's fancy attacks, not even Kaze no Kizu, because Kagome still was on the direct opposite side of Baratu and she would be caught up in the blast. He didn't have time to leap to the side, make sure he found a safe angle, and then let loose a blast – that would take precious seconds he didn't have. Finally, he just literally took his decision in his hands and jumped at Baratu's, wielding Tetsusaiga to come down heavily on the demon's back.

Nothing. Okay, Inuyasha conceded, not nothing, but certainly not what he'd hoped for. Baratu was not lying in pieces, but merely had a deep scratch across his back. All that for a fucking scratch! What the hell more could he do!

He had no more time to think. Baratu hadn't slowed at all for Inuyasha's attack and was now right in front of Kagome, reaching for her neck. Without thought, Inuyasha let out a battle cry and leaped for the demon again. Tetsusaiga pulsed once and then began to glow eerily with a pink flame that he associated with Kagome's miko energy. Confused, but not given the privilege of time to worry about it, he crashed the sword into the top of Baratu's skull and watched in both pride and wonder as the sword cut through.

The sides split cleanly in twain, half of Baratu falling to the right side of Kagome, the other half falling on her left. She was still lying where she had fallen, covered in bits and pieces of Baratu's blood and innards. Inuyasha only took a split second to gloat in his kill – the best kill of all time and he didn't even get to glory in it! – and turned his attention to Kagome. He immediately dropped down next to her and pulled her into his lap. Cradling her against him, he stroked Kikyou's face as he tried to call his mate back from unconsciousness.

"Kagome? Kagome! Wake up wench…you gotta show me you're alright…" He gently shook her, sighing with relief when he saw her eyelids flutter open. "Kagome?" he questioned, noting the sad look that plagued the depths of her eyes.

It wasn't Kagome's voice that responded to him, but Midoriko's. "Kagome is no longer within us."

Midoriko and Inuyasha arrived back at the village somber and angry. The Inu-tachi took one look at them, their expressions, the blood, the disheveled clothes, and ushered them quickly into Kaede's hut before speaking a single word.

Inuyasha didn't even spare a glance for anyone else, just raced to his previous spot beside Kagome's body. After checking for signs of life and still finding her pulse and breath, he turned on Midoriko, aggrieved rage showing in his face. "You will explain what the fuck you mean NOW!" he demanded. After she had dropped the bombshell that Kagome was 'no longer with us' she explained that neither did it mean she was dead. However, she refused to elaborate any more until they were with the others.

Midoriko sighed heavily at Inuyasha's display, but internally conceded she would probably act the same if the situations were reversed. "As I said Inuyasha, she is not dead. If you will calm yourself for a moment and allow me to relate what happened to every one else, you will see what happened."

Sango cut in. "Does that mean you actually defeated Baratu?" she asked, hope tinting her voice.

"Yes it does," she replied to everyone's cheers and Inuyasha's grumbling. He sat against the wall, knowing that now there was no way to get any answers until the others had sated their curiosity.

Midoriko launched into her tale, pausing only now and again to answer questions by the eager listeners. Even Inuyasha listened with rapt interest, as he noted new details he had not been privy to on his side of the battle. When she got to the part of how Inuyasha defeated Baratu with a swing of Tetsusaiga, it was the hanyou who interrupted the telling.

"How was it that Tetsusaiga was able to kill that damn demon? The first time I struck him he was barely scratched. Then it started glowing pink as if with miko power and sliced through the bastard as though he were nothing more than air. How the hell did that happen? Where did it come from? And why did it smell like Kagome?" Miroku really wished Kagome were conscious for this, because he was sure the image of Inuyasha literally scratching his head would have amused her also. Switching his view to Midoriko he wasn't too sure she wasn't amused by it – maybe Kagome was rubbing off on her?

"Those are all good questions," she answered, "and I have one answer that will sate them all. Kagome transferred her soul into your body."

"WHAT!" came all the gasped replied at once.

"It means exactly what I said it means. Kagome's plan to play on her protective emotions worked perfectly, perhaps a little too perfectly. Once she smelt your blood she was able to rationalize to herself that you were not about to die simply because the two of you had planned it. But she realized that things do not always go according to plan and soon she began to panic once her youkai mind started rising. There was always the possibility of what could go wrong, and with those emotions running so strong already it was more than she could take. She used her transfers of power to you to also transfer her soul from being housed in us to instead house in you, so as always to be with you and not risk being separated. If you search inside yourself right now you will be able to find the edge of her consciousness." At his incredulous look she encouraged, "Go ahead, try it now."

Inuyasha closed his eyes and clutched one of Kagome's hands that had previously laid on her breast, bring it close to his chest instead. Focusing his breathing as Miroku had once taught him, he focused inward in a meditative state and suddenly jolted. "She's there!" he exclaimed.

"Of course she is," stated Midoriko evenly. "It's not like I would lie to you about this." Somehow Inuyasha sensed a bit of Kagome in that last statement.

He growled his frustration. "So what do I have to do to get her back?"

Midoriko started herding the rest of the group toward the door. "Use your imagination, Inuyasha. You need to somehow convince your mate that she would be better off in her own body than in yours." Shoving Shippo outside into Sango's arms and shooing the lot of them off, she turned back. "I can't tell you all what you must do. Not only am I not mated, but I'm sure it's different in every circumstance. You know your mate best. You must be the one to figure out how to best prove your point to her." She began to walk out the door, and while fastening the door hanging shut she added, "Oh, and be sure to remember – just as her soul came out and into this body through the mouth, it will need to do the same in this case. So don't sulk and keep yours sealed shut or anything." With that encouragement she left, leaving Inuyasha alone with Kagome to see what he could do to coax her soul back to life.

Inuyasha shut his eyes and breathed deep. How the hell was he supposed to know how to do anything? He never dealt with all the spiritual mumbo jumbo – he just beat the crap out of stuff.

Scenting the air around her body, Inuyasha raised himself up to kneel by Kagome, seeing if he could detect any physical presence of her aura. So how the hell do I get her back in here? Perplexed, he poked and prodded at different parts of her body, with extra emphasis on those places he knew to be ticklish and would make her react in embarrassment or anger. Nothing! Now what was Midoriko saying about her mouth? Curious, Inuyasha bent over her, and carefully using a finger on each hand drew her mouth open wide. Peering in, he looked for something different, something out of the ordinary, but just saw a normal mouth. Just then Kagome exhaled and he was suddenly very conscious of the feel of her soft lips beneath his fingertips, quickly drawing his hands away as though he'd been burned. Gripping her shoulders instead he trained his eyes on her face, and gave in to his need to vent his frustration.

"Damn it, Kagome! Why the hell did you have to go and do something like that? Now you've left me here alone with a body! A body! Some bright idea that was…" Raising one hand he traced the back of his fingers longingly across her cheek, almost resigning himself to never seeing her face animated again. "Damn stupid girl…"

"Hey!" The sound of indignation filled him, although he more felt it than heard it. Glancing quickly at Kagome he confirmed that she hadn't moved at all. Slowly the pieces starting falling into place. Is Kagome's soul…awake? Can she hear me? If so…can I…hear her?

Quickly changing tack Inuyasha spent as much concentration as he could and focused on finding that inkling of Kagome's presence he'd sensed earlier. Before he knew it he was descending into himself, down into dark recesses he'd never noticed before. The stillness around him was deafening and the silence seemed to reach on for never-ending moments of limitless time.

"Kagome?" Inuyasha tentatively called out. He began to walk forward (or the closest approximation he could make for walking in this place), attempting to find something to steady himself against – to gain his sense of direction – but he couldn't even feel the ground beneath his feet. He continued for what felt like ages, the only difference he could note being the lightening of the air around him. It was a dark shade of grey now, although his vision was still obscured by swirling masses of mist and fog. "Kagome!" he called out, a bit stronger this time. He could sense his mate nearer, but credited that more to the fact he was now inside his body than outside it. Of course he was closer. The question was, how much closer?

Surging on with renewed determination he found himself coming into an area much lighter than those before. He could see clearly all around him, and other than a bright light shining a ways away, all he saw was unending depths of light grey. "KAGOME!" he bellowed out his frustration. Instantly his attention was trained on the source of that light, burning brightly now in its intensity. He shot toward it and came to a halt a mere meter in front of it. Although it was just a glowing white orb of light that represented a soul, he could see the slightest tinges of Kagome's physical appearance outstretched over it, as though the small light was only her heart and the rest of her stood in front of him as she normally would. Even with his hanyou sight, he had to squint to see anything of her other than that light.

With a movement that Inuyasha guessed was Kagome holding her arms open to him she exclaimed, "Inuyasha, it's about time!" There were so many questions he had, his thoughts were swirling in a jumbled mass in his head, but that could wait a few minutes. Stepping forward he walked resolutely toward Kagome, using the time to map out where the rest of her body lay, nearly transparent against the blinding white that shone as the background of the entire room. "Kagome, what are you doing in here?" he questioned. "Why did you leave me?"

A smile opened on her face and she twirled past him. "Don't you get it?" she asked as she was breezing by. "We can't ever be separated in here!"

"Why did it take me so long to find you down here? Why are you all the way back here where it's light?"

"Oh Inuyasha," she said, almost as if he was asking something he should already know the answer to, "of course I'd go where it's light! I do want to know all of you, including those scary dark places, but I figure I have all the time in the world to get to those." She brushed past him again, still continuing her dance. Inuyasha reached out to grab her hand, to stop her twirling and get her to face him, but despite his reflexes he only grabbed thin air. Confusion poured through his mind as he glared at his hand, then hers, then his again, and then he got it. Suddenly he understood completely.

Inuyasha stood silently, following the celebrating, twirling Kagome with his eyes, waiting for her to be beyond revelry so they could speak. He was glad she hadn't noticed the same thing he had. He needed to convince her of his point first, before she flew into a panic.

Slowly, her movements became slower and slower, and she rotated around Inuyasha a final time before she came to a rest before him, chest heaving as she dragged in breath. "Isn't it just wonderful?" she exclaimed. She swung forward as if to touch him but he slowly shook his head and took a step back.

She cocked her head as she looked at him, delight and only slight confusion hanging in her gaze. "What's wrong silly? Mad because you didn't think of it first?" She laughed softly. "Can you imagine? We can always be together now; you don't have to worry about protecting my weak body all the time, I don't have to worry about you dying and leaving me behind, and we can always just be with each other. No more interruptions!"

What interruptions? Inuyasha thought. There's nothing to be interrupted from in here – not like we can do anything, he added sulkily.

Then Kagome beamed at him, and Inuyasha's heart broke that he had to break her delusion, and found himself wishing he really could leave her soul here, within himself, that it really would work. But he knew it wouldn't. The problem was convincing her of that. He stared at her so long, with such a despondent longing in his eyes, that Kagome began to get nervous.

"What's wrong Inuyasha? I'm here with you. It is perfect – isn't it?" She was suddenly slightly hesitant.

"No Kagome. I'm sorry, but it's not perfect. I want…" he paused to lick his lips, "…I want you to come back. To your own body. I miss you."

"W..what? Why would you want that? Don't you want to be with me like this? I thought you loved me.." She looked at him with confusion and hurt in her eyes.

Inuyasha began to panic at where she was heading with this. "Gah – what are you talking about! Of course I love you! That's what this whole damn thing is about, stupid wench!" She looked even more confused than before. Inuyasha knew he had to explain, and quick, before she began to panic herself – he knew he'd be fucked if that happened.

"I can't keep you just for myself," he almost whispered, fighting against every instinct in his body to accede to the admission. Kagome just stared at him like he'd grown a second head.

"But you're always possessive of me. You refuse to let me be around Kouga, you threaten to kill any guy that comes near me…" she trailed off.

"Yes," he sighed, "but that's guys. What about your family? I can't take you away from them. And Shippo? He's already lost one family. I know we're all his family, but you know he's the most attached to you. To not have you there to soothe him after his nightmares, and other such crap, the kit'd be heartbroken."

Kagome nodded, tears shining in her eyes. "I know, and I do regret that I won't be able to interact with them the same way. But I know what goes on around you, and anytime I speak with you directly like this I can give you a message to whomever. Besides, you're the only other one who can go through the well so you can actually tell my family what's going on and I can see them through you."

Inuyasha's breath caught. She was willing to give up so much for him? Just to be with him? He was a bastard who didn't deserve such love, and he'd be damned if he let her throw so much of her life away just to be with him like this. So he pulled out as many dirty tricks as he could, his ego grating against him at the admissions he was just about to make. Playing her love against itself no less…

"But what about me, Kagome?" Her eyes shot up from where they had been resting on the floor, searching his face for what he meant by that. Wasn't she doing this for him? And herself? For them? "I already told you I miss you. I mean that. I can't imagine losing so many things I love about you: seeing the sunlight reflect in your hair – or even better the moonlight at night when you're standing in a field with me…seeing the way you flush with anger when you argue with me – you're so cute when you're mad!" He paused slightly to smile at her flabbergasted expression from that one. "I love watching you laugh with the others, and the way you can actually get me to laugh with them sometimes. I love the way you make me part of a group, part of a family. I love the way you lean back and close your eyes when you ride on my back and I'm going fast, the way you say you're flying and then trust me to not let you get hurt when you raise your arms from your sides and thrust them into the air. I love the fact that even though I pretend to hate it, you still sit with me on my human night. I love that you take me home with you and let me spend time with your family. I love the way your curl against me when we sit in a tree together, or when we fall asleep apart and somehow still end up in each other's arms. I can't imagine not waking up with my arms wrapped around you every morning. I can't bear the idea of not getting to make love to you the way you deserve…" he trailed off, his face beat red, his voice beginning to fade from embarrassment. He couldn't look at Kagome. He couldn't stand seeing how she'd taken his admission, how she'd deal with his vulnerability.

Little did he know Kagome's jaw was gaping. She'd had no idea such small things meant so much to him…although now that she thought about it, maybe they weren't so small to him. She couldn't stand the way he wasn't looking at her right now, as if he was afraid she'd reject him. "Inuyasha?" she prodded. When he still didn't raise his head she reached both hands to either side of his face to draw his gaze up to hers. What she didn't expect was that her hands never made contact with his skin, but just flowed right through him as though he wasn't there. Or like she wasn't truly there.

"Inuyasha?" she asked again, the fear in her voice erasing all other thoughts from his mind. He saw her position, guessed what she must have done, showed her again by raking his hand straight through hers.

"I can't touch you in here Kagome. If I wasn't part demon, I doubt I'd even be able to see any of you except for that glowing ball there," he pointed to her soul.

"Is this just about a body then? Is my soul itself not good enough for you!" Although she tried to muster up as much anger as she could, still only confusion and fear came through in her voice.

Inuyasha never wished more than right now that he could touch her, just so he could shake her shoulders and bring her back to her senses. "Course not! I love you Kagome – what good is a body to me without you in it? If I had to pick only your body or soul it'd be your soul in a heartbeat. Don't you know me better than that?" Despite how much he held it back, it still felt like an accusation to Kagome, one which she found to be rightly placed.

"Kagome, can you honestly tell me that you'd be happy never holding Shippo again? Never hugging your mom again? Never waking up in my arms again? Never feeling my lips on yours? I thought that's what we'd fought for this whole time, what we had waited for; we had to wait until Naraku was killed for us to finally be together. Now we are and you're scared and want to run away? I know it's easier Kagome, but there are so many things we'll both miss if you're shut up in here. What about kids? Don't you ever think about us having kids together one day?" Inuyasha knew he'd pressed the right button when her eyes started to tear up again, but he was afraid he'd gone too far. "You know what I want Kagome, but this is a decision you have to make on your own. I know life will be hard, but hey, I'm there with ya right? What have you got to be afraid of?" He let his trademark egotistical smirk flash, trying to lighten the mood slightly.

He turned from her and started to walk back toward the darkness he had come from. He had one more card to pull, and he hoped as hell she wouldn't remember enough to call his bluff. "Besides, you promised me a honeymoon. Two whole weeks you said, right?" Regardless that that was all he knew about it – he still had no idea what a honeymoon actually was, only that she was really excited about the surprise she had for him – he hoped it was enough that she knew what it was.

Walking even further away he commented over his shoulder, "If you're going to be unavailable, maybe I'll just have to find someone else to take me. You did, after all, promise…" Kagome could just barely make out the wicked gleam lighting Inuyasha's eye as his head turned away from her back toward his destination. He wouldn't…would he? No, it had to be a bluff…didn't it?

"Well Kagome, I'm going to go topside and see if I can't deliver a little more persuasion your way. Might do ya good to come and watch, you might just decide to join in." She could hear the snicker in his voice.

Oh hell no, she thought, he is not going to do what I think he's going to do. One look at his cocky strut and she let loose a frustrated scream. No, he was going to do exactly what she thought he was going to do.

Inuyasha opened his eyes and took a moment to orient himself. He was back to his rightful mind inside Kaede's hut, sitting next to Kagome and holding one of her hands. A few deep breaths for internal focus and he was smirking again. Kagome's soul was rising in his consciousness. She wasn't staying buried in his core – she was taking his bait and wanted to see if he would go through on his claim. Maybe she would be curious enough, or desiring enough, to allow herself to flow back into her own body. One of the few things he'd learned from the mikos about soul transfer is that the soul had to be highly conscious in order for it to happen. So now with Kagome's mind coming close to topside, this was the best shot he'd probably get.

Standing up, he shrugged off both his outer haori and inner shirt, leaving him topless. He gave a little laugh as he felt Kagome's reaction; she was frustrated that she couldn't see him. Hopefully I'll be fixin that soon enough, he thought.

His eyes swept over her form, clothed only by a simple yukata. Although originally planned to make it more comfortable for her to sleep in that one position for an indefinite amount of time, the single layer certainly made his job easier. Inuyasha knelt beside her and untied her sash, letting his fingers trail teasingly just inside the folds of cloth. Suddenly he thought he saw a small tremor run through her body, but quickly dismissed it as wishful thinking and returned to the task at hand. In one smooth motion he had the yukata parted and pulled to her sides as he lifted her to him so that he could pull her arms free. He hadn't expected the feel of her breasts brushing his chest and he hissed at the delightful contact.

All too quickly for his liking he gently laid her back down then straightened to look down on his mate. Inuyasha was in awe. Although they had done this once before they had gotten straight to the act with no real playing beforehand and he hadn't been able to see her nude. Now that he was able to feast his eyes on her he didn't think he'd ever have his fill. She was absolutely beautiful, so much more than he'd imagined or been able to glimpse when he'd 'accidentally' seen her before.

Reaching down he loosened the ties on his hakama, letting them pool on the mat where he knelt. Then with the grace that only an inu youkai can manage, he slipped them completely from his body as he settled himself between Kagome's thighs, never straightening his own legs. He leaned over her, keeping all his weight on his left arm as with the back of his other hand he caressed her cheek. For a moment he just laid his forehead against hers and reveled in the feel of their hot breath mingling. "Gods Kagome, I miss you," he whispered against her lips.

That's when it finally registered. Her breathing was more rapid than it had been earlier. To that matter, so was her heartbeat. He'd been so caught up in his own reaction he hadn't been paying attention to hers! Stupid baka, he berated himself. Now that he was able to focus, he noticed that the bit of Kagome he could sense inside himself was intensely aroused, even frustrated. Was her body just representing how the soul felt? Were the two still that connected?

As close as she was, Inuyasha could still sense Kagome's hesitancy. Before she could retreat back into her fears, he knew he had to do something to push her over the edge. "Kagome," he whispered, and was immediately aware of the sharpening of her attention on him. "Kagome," he repeated, "you are more than I'd ever thought possible, and I know I don't deserve you. But you're mine now bitch, and I don't want to let you go. Sure your body is responding, but that's not enough. I want to see your eyes darken with desire; I want to see your eyes as I come into you and to feel the whisper of your breath when I make you scream my name at the end; to feel that you are there with me; to get closer to you in every way possible…"

All the while he'd been speaking he'd been running his right hand over the curves of her body, as if to memorize them by simple touch. Now closing the scant distance between them he drew his hand down to her core and guided his head to her opening. With one powerful, long thrust he drove himself into her, burying his length to the very hilt. He grunted at the feeling as the friction started to drive him crazy and he held himself immobile for a long, long minute. Drawing out only a fraction of an inch he rocked back into her, tilting Kagome's world on its axis.

From inside Inuyasha's body Kagome was seething. She couldn't believe he had the gall to do this to her unconscious body – you know, aside from the fact he's my mate and I gave myself to him soul..and…body…crap! she finished the thought lamely. However, the further he got the more she realized she missed this. Before they'd been mates she had longed for this so long, and now she'd never feel it again. Still, it was better to be connected this way in spirit – wasn't it?

Then she saw Inuyasha come inside of her body and she thought she would die. She looked down at the glowing orb that was her form now and was suddenly bombarded by the empty ache that was growing inside of her, the left over feeling from being aroused and knowing that she couldn't be satisfied. She remembered that feeling of her mate moving inside of her, the utter completeness that had flooded her body.

Her consciousness inside of Inuyasha rose to a fever pitch, fear and comfort contended with desire and jealousy and everything erupted into a blinding light. Inuyasha wasn't able to track her thoughts anymore and had to shut his eyes against the cacophony that was both inside and outside his own head, when abruptly his head was thrown back and formless matter poured out of his mouth into that of his mate below him.

Before he knew it the whole episode was over, and Inuyasha was looking down into the blinking eyes of his conscious mate. "Kagome!" he rasped.

She flashed him one of her brilliant trademark smiles and brought a hand up to his face. "Inuyasha," she drawled, "let me just tell you that it's really weird to be jealous of your own body." She bucked her hips up against him and reveled in the groan she drew from his lips. "Now, why don't we pick up from where we left off?"

Inuyasha, however, had plans of his own. He slowly pulled out completely and began to move up off of her when she latched onto his shoulders. "Wh-what are you doing? You drew me back here with sex and now you're leaving me!" Kagome panicked.

Inuyasha just glared at her. "Of course not, stupid wench. What kind of mate do you think I am!" Kagome didn't protest any more, but she still looked her question and did not release the death hold she had on him. He gently pulled at her fingers, prying them off one by one. "Last time we had to go to fast and be too quiet. I'm going to make you scream so hard you won't be talking the rest of the night." He capped his statement by flashing his fangs, and Kagome didn't know how but he made the movement the very embodiment of scandalous and seductive.

She, nonetheless, wasn't going to have any of that. While she knew Inuyasha didn't mind scandal, she sure did. "Baka, you know we can't do that! That's why I promised you a honeymoon – I will not scream here for everyone to hear and know what's going on! I can't!" Her face, already flushed from passion, turned a flaming beet red from embarrassment.

While she struggled against him Inuyasha calmly put a finger to her lips. "Shhh…I know that. Feel what's around us though. Midoriko put up a barrier around the hut. At first I didn't know why, but I think she knew this would happen from the beginning and knew we'd want our privacy." Again he flashed that stupid grin Kagome wanted to smack him for.

"So? It's just a barrier – meaning people can't get through. If we're making a bunch of noise I don't think they're going to be trying to come in here…" Kagome's complaints were cut off by a deep passionate kiss from Inuyasha. When they finally came back up for air and both were panting heavily, Inuyasha whispered against her cheek, "It's a soundproof barrier. Feel for it again." She did so and a slow smile curved her lips when she realized he was right. This time she didn't put up a fight when he started raining kisses all down her body.

"I have decided," Inuyasha declared in the most arrogant voice he could muster, "that I shall use this time to pleasure you in every way I can think of to prove to you just how good it is you are you in your own body now. Wouldn't want to disappoint ya now, would I?"

Kagome gazed down at him with anticipation and slight horror as he lowered his head to the apex of her thighs and gave her one long good lick before he suckled and her shriek filled the room to the rafters.

Many hours later, Kagome was indeed hoarse and both she and Inuyasha were sated to their bones. Needless to say, Inuyasha had indeed proved his point.

A/N: Just a short epilogue left folks, and that's it!