DISCLAIMER: I do not own Inuyasha and Company. They are the property of Rumiko Takahashi and whoever else she decides to license them out to. This fic was originally done to the lyrics of Probably Wouldn't Be This Way by LeeAnn Rimes from her This Woman album. I recommend listening to that song while reading this. The version with the lyrics is posted here http/www(dot)mediaminer(dot)org/fanfic/viewst(dot)php/107818.
I Probably Wouldn't be this Way
The ringing phone startled her and she jumped right off the couch, looking for the offending sound. Her mother had taken her grandfather to a doctor's appointment and Souta was spending the night at a friend's house so, for the next few hours, it was just her and Buyo. She had contemplated getting dressed (she had spent the majority of the last month in her pajamas) and trying to catch up with her friends at WackDonalds. They had called her earlier that morning to invite her to lunch since they'd all be heading off to separate colleges in a few weeks. She had declined, of course, as she had declined every invitation that had been offered since that day. Leaving the house just wasn't in her agenda at the moment…seeing a world filled with life and happiness…love…she just couldn't handle it. The thought of listening to her friends, whom she loved dearly, chatter on incessantly about their relationships…it made her queasy.
Again the phone rang and she grimaced, knowing it would be one of her friends begging her to come out to eat and see a movie. It would be good for her, they claimed, to experience life once more.
They'd never been in love.
She cleared her throat and picked up the receiver, trying not to sound like she was crying. "Higarashi residence."
There was a distinct pause on the other end and she briefly contemplated hanging up, but before she could disconnect the call, the caller spoke in a clear, but obviously nervous, voice. "Higarashi? It's Houjou. How are you?"
Kagome closed her eyes and mentally winced. She did not want to have to deal with this today. Why couldn't people just leave her alone for goodness sake! I just want to be alone…I just want to be…with him…
"I'm feeling better, thank you," she lied, voice wavering slightly. "I was just in the middle of cooking, Houjou-kun, perhaps I could call you back…"
"Oh, no, that's alright Higarashi…this won't take but a minute," he stuttered and she could hear him gulp. "It's just…well…I was wondering if maybe…if you're feeling up to it, that is…you might want to…or at least think about…going to the movies next Friday? We could catch a movie and then there's a nice little restaurant that opened up just down from the theater where we could get dinner…"
"Dinner and a movie?" she squeaked. "Houjou-kun, it's a very nice offer…I…I…" She grasped for some excuse, any excuse, to turn him down, but the voices of her family and friends echoed in her mind.
It's time to let go.
Let the past stay in the past.
Stop dwelling on the bad and get on living with the good.
She sighed. "I'll go," she said finally, defeated. "I'll meet you at seven next Friday…here at the shrine…I have to go. Goodbye, Houjou-kun."
She clicked the receiver down and fell back on the couch, head down. I just made a date. Why would I do that? I'm not ready to do that yet. I just want to sit here and try to forget. I want to forget everything…why can't I forget? The tears rolled down her cheeks in a steady stream as she drew herself up into a ball on the couch, making herself as small as possible.
She had not left the house since she had come home from the Sengoku Jidai for the last time except to pray in front of the Goshinboku…it wasn't actually praying, really. She spoke to Inuyasha during those moments. She had told him about everything she was feeling, everything she could not tell him before. There would be no more trips through the well, no more shard hunting, no more youkai, no more Inuyasha. Depression and guilt had overridden any other emotions and she had closed herself off to the rest of the world - even to her family.
For the first week after her return she had stayed in bed, eating and drinking only what was necessary to survive, not wanting to do that. Had it not been for her mother's constant attention and her brother's pleas every night for her to get well again, she would have allowed herself to succumb to the desire to simply fade into nothingness and blink out of existence. Then she had begun to venture from her bed to the kitchen, unable to even glance outside because seeing the towering branches of the sacred tree and remembering the events that had brought her home in the first place was much too painful. The past week was the first she had dared to step outside the house and she had wept at the base of the great tree until she could weep no more and had passed out from the exertion.
She stood and wiped her cheeks, heading for the front door. Buyo looked up from his place on the rug, but made no move to follow. He was much to comfortable where he was to pursue his curiosity. She slipped on a pair of shoes and went out to the court yard, having to shield her eyes from the bright afternoon sun. Everything was a reminder of him. The way the warm rays heated her skin and clothes reminded her of how it felt to have his haori draped over her when she was cold or in need of protection. The cool breeze that tugged at her hair and caressed her cheek only served to remind her of the gentle way he would brush her face or arm, always afraid that his calloused hands would be too rough on her smooth skin or he would accidentally scratch her with his claws. If she closed her eyes and faced the wind, it was almost as if he were there, wrapping her in his arms once more.
But he wasn't and she was alone. Wrapping her arms around herself, she went to the Goshinboku and sat on the inside of the fence that surrounded the sacred tree, her back against the wood planks. There was a slate stone marker leaned against the trunk. Her family had had it carved just after her return and it had finally been delivered a few days ago. Inscribed in deep set Kanji was his name large across the top. In smaller, less prominent symbols, were the words "We never know how high we are till we are called to rise; and then, if we are true to plan, our statures touch the skies." And then, at the very bottom, were the letters that always managed to bring a sad smile to her face, "Keh."
Flowers and incense holders were scattered here and there around the bottom of the marker, a box of matches and a bag of incense hidden behind. She reached around and took out a stick and a match, lighting the sweet smelling product and setting it in a holder before she sighed and twirled a wilting flower in her fingers. "Inuyasha..." she took a shaky breath and tried to go on. "Oh, kami, Inuyasha...I miss you so much. If I didn't know how much my family needed me, I'd be with you right now. But I'm not doing them any good by staying, am I? I mean...I can't do anything. I want to and I try, but I just can't. I want to be happy and laugh again because I know you'd want me to be. You hated it when I cried and you always felt so guilty when I did because it was usually your fault. Now I can't seem to stop crying and it is your fault, you know, but I don't want you to feel guilty. So, wherever you are, don't worry about me, okay? Souta does that enough for both of us."
She dropped the flower on the ground and drew her knees up, resting her chin on them. "I wish I could at least pretend that I'm okay, even though I never really will be. Souta worries so much and he's still so young...he comes in and tells me good night every night before he goes to bed now. He never did that before, not since he was a toddler. I think he hopes that he'll walk in my room one night and see me on the phone with one of the girls, chatting like usual. Or maybe that I'll yell at him to get out of my room...anything that would show some sign of normalcy."
She picked at the grass next to her foot, taking a long blade and bending it this way and that in her fingers, for something to occupy her hands. "Mama tries to help. She's probably the most understanding of them all...She married my dad when they were young and then he died not long after Souta was born so she had to deal with the death of her husband at a very young age...just like me. Jii-chan understands the loss, but he had twenty five years with my obaa, so he's not as sympathetic."
Having accomplished destroying that blade of grass she plucked another and started on it. "The girls keep trying to get me out. They don't seem to understand that going out on the streets and seeing all those people...most of them with their significant other...it's too hard for me right now. I just keep thinking about you and all the things we didn't get to do, didn't get to say." She sighed and dropped the crumpled blade, resting her forehead on her knees as she sniffled. "And then today...oh, kami...today I made a huge mistake. Houjou called and caught me off guard, asking me out to the movies and dinner. A date! It's only been a month and already he wants me to start dating again? I'm going to have to think of a way out of it...I just never have been very good at turning him down. I mean, I feel so sorry for him when he looks at me with those sad eyes and that dejected, lost look. Please don't be made at me, Inuyasha. I didn't really want to say yes, but my mouth wouldn't do what my brain was instructing it to. You know no one could ever, ever touch my heart the way you did. I will never love anyone like I love you."
"Inuyasha, please, can we stop?" Kagome pleaded from several feet behind the hanyou. Sango and Miroku were grouped with her, looking just as exhausted as the miko who drug her feet and slumped as if there were a heavy weight on her shoulders. "I'm so tired...I can't walk anymore."
He had set the pace early that day, having heard rumors of a shikon shard in a village some ways away. They had been walking at a brisk, near jog, to keep up with him since that morning and had only stopped long enough to unpack the food Kagome had brought for lunch, eating as they traveled. Kirara had carried them a ways, but Sango had insisted that they start walking so that the neko could rest. They never knew what they might run into and Kirara might be needed to help and so the small kit had been riding quite comfortably on Sango's shoulder. Shippou had been rotating from one shoulder to the other, too small, with too short of legs to manage to keep up on the ground.
The hanyou stopped walking and silently turned, doubling back to where the three stood. "There's a hot spring not far from here," he told her, looking down his nose at her. "If we get there, we'll be a little less than halfway to the village." He glanced at Sango and then looked back down at Kagome. And he had thought that she might appreciate a hot bath after the day he'd put her through.
She lowered her head and closed her eyes. "I really want to, Inuyasha, but I'm just too tired to keep walking." She really did want to. The idea of relaxing her stressed muscles in the warm and soothing waters of the hot spring was defiantly inviting. When she opened her eyes again, she saw him standing with his back to her, crouching slightly as if waiting for her to do something.
"Come on, wench, what're you waiting for?" He growled over his shoulder. "Get on already. We ain't got all day, you know." She grinned and wrapped her arms around his neck while he grabbed her legs, making sure she was holding securely enough to not fall. "Come on, Kirara. You take Sango and Miroku. They look like they're about to fall out. Humans are so weak."
"I am not weak," Kagome protested, but didn't have the energy to really sound put out. "I'm not."
"Keh." He smirked, confident that the other two couldn't see it. He knew she wasn't weak, but it was fun to patronize her. He did worry though. He'd never seen her this tired before.
She lay her head on his shoulder, her nose pressed against his neck. She could feel the beads of his rosary pressed into her cheek, but didn't move. "Inuyasha?" She felt the muscle in his shoulder jump when her breath tickled his bare skin.
"Wake me when we get there, 'kay? I really," she yawned mid sentence, closing her eyes, "wanna...the hot spring..." Sleep was already beginning to claim her and her breathing deepened and evened out, casting steady bouts of warm air on his skin.
She raised her head, looking up at the branches of the huge tree. For a moment she thought she saw a flash of red and silver on the lower branch, but when she blinked it was gone. Great, she thought with a trace of bitterness, now not only am I talking to him, but I'm seeing him as well.
She sighed. Too bad it wasn't real.
She sat on a ledge that jutted out beneath the waters of the hot spring, her back leaned against the 'wall'. She had tied her hair up to keep it from getting wet and donned her bathing suit, just in case a certain lecherous monk found the energy to come spying on her. Sango had been unable to stay awake any longer and had left her in the springs by herself with her request to ask Inuyasha to come. She wanted to be able to relax and not be on the lookout for youkai or perverts. Shippou was already curled up in her sleeping bag, fast asleep.
When his aura sparkled in her minds eye, she smiled, and lay her head back, looking up to find a patch of red amongst the green foliage of the tree above her. "Hey, Inuyasha." He grunted and she closed her eyes with a sigh. "Thanks for bringing us here. It was really sweet of you to think of it."
"Keh. I ain't sweet," he muttered. "I just wasn't in the mood to argue with you and I knew if I told you about the hot spring you'd keep going, getting us that much closer to the shard."
She frowned and batted at the water, causing it to splash though she knew she couldn't reach him all the way in the tree. "Oh, fine then, be that way. I was trying to be nice and compliment you."
She lay there, frowning slightly, for a while with neither of them saying anything. Finally she sighed. "Why don't you ever want to admit to doing something nice for someone? Everything you do, you claim to have done for selfish reasons. Is it that horrible to be thought of as being a good guy?"
She heard the leaves rustle as he moved around on his branch. "I ain't a good guy, Kagome." She sighed. "Oi, wench, you got that swim thing of yours on?"
At that she lifted a brow, curious. "Of course I have it on, silly. Miroku is still around, you know."
She thought she heard him chuckle before he landed on one of the large rocks that surrounded half the spring and sat cross legged, tucking his hands into the sleeve of his haori. Even though he was facing her, he kept his eyes on the water just below him. She was covered, of course, but he still felt uncomfortable knowing how small her swim clothes were and just how little they covered.
"Inuyasha?" She asked tentatively. "You never answered my question. Why do you turn everything around to make yourself look bad? Why don't you like being considered a good person? You are a good person, you know. You have a good heart."
"What makes you think so?" He retorted roughly.
"Because I know you."
"Oh really, Kagome, you know me?" He looked at her, glaring slightly. "You think you know me. But how can you be sure that I really don't have an ulterior motive behind what I do? How do you know I don't just do it because it benefits me?"
She raised her head to look at him, her expression sad and serious. "Because if I took all your actions at face value then I'd have to believe you lied to me and you really do only see me as a shard detector, a means to an end. I'd have to believe the only reason you protect me is so that I can find the jewel shards for you." He looked away from her and she looked down at her hands in her lap. "I know that's how it was in the beginning, but I believed...I hoped...that our relationship had changed at least that much."
"Your not just a shard detector." His voice was quiet and she almost missed it. When she looked up at him, he still had his head turned away from her. "I didn't lie when I said that before. I have never lied to you, Kagome. I protect you because I want to." He turned to look at her, giving her a slight scowl. "But don't go getting all cocky and shit because I said that."
She gave him an incredulous look. "Oh, so you're saying you fight for me because you want to...because you like to fight? Because you want something to do? I just wondered because I don't want to misunderstand your meaning and accidentally think you might care about me."
"Of course I care, baka!" He exclaimed defensively, glaring at her. "Do you think I'd risk my neck for someone I didn't care about? I just don't want you to go reading shit into it, that's all."
Kagome smiled, satisfied for the moment, and leaned back again, closing her eyes once more. "And what am I supposed to read into it, Inuyasha?"
"I know how you are, Kagome." He pouted over having had to admit as much as he had. "You'd probably get all mushy and start that sentimental crap thinking I loved you or something."
Her body stiffened and she fought for a moment to bring her heartbeat back down to normal, not wanting to him to know how this conversation was making her feel. The butterflies in her stomach fluttered and she wondered what other information she could squeeze out of him. "Well, do you? Love me, I mean?" She didn't look at him, not wanting to make him nervous enough to leave. "I mean, if you don't then you might as well tell me now so that you don't have to worry about me getting mushy and sentimental. So, do you?"
"No," he answered a little too quickly. Opening one eye just enough to peak at him, she saw that his cheeks were bright red and she didn't think it was from the heat of the springs either.
She took a deep breath. It hadn't exactly been the answer she wanted, but it was the one she'd known she'd get. Of course he didn't love her. It was a silly notion. "Well, then there's no reason for you to worry, is there?" She sat up and reached for her towel, starting to get out of the springs, making herself yawn. "I'm exhausted. I'm gonna head on to bed. Thanks for keeping me company, Inuyasha." She grabbed her pajamas and shoes, about to go back behind one of the larger rocks and change from her swim suit when he grabbed her arm.
"What'd I do this time, wench?" he demanded.
She kept her head turned away from him, eyes on the ground and tried half heartedly to break loose from his hold. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Don't try that with me, Kagome. You're about to cry. I can smell it. Now I wanna know why."
She sighed and turned to look at him, smiling softly. "It isn't your fault this time, Inuyasha. It's just...I just..."
"I just wanted something I can't have is all." She tried to pry his fingers from her arm and he let her go. "It's silly. Don't worry about it. I knew I couldn't have it, but I let myself get my hopes up anyway. I'm fine, really."
He narrowed his eyes, studying her profile where she stood, not moving to get dressed again. "What did you want?"
"I told you, it's silly. Don't worry about it."
She sighed at his warning tone. He wasn't going to leave her alone till he got an answer and she didn't have one to give him except the truth which she most defiantly could not tell him. He growled in agitation, impatient with her stalling and she glared at him. "You. Okay? I wanted you, but I can't have you because you don't want me. And why would you? I'm just a silly, weak, useless, little girl. After all, you prefer humans of the undead variety." Realizing what she'd just said, she clamped a hand over her mouth, eyes going wide. "Oh, kami! Inuyasha I'm sorry! I shouldn't have said that. I didn't really mean it, it's just that...you kept bugging me for an answer and I was getting upset and embarrassed..."
He gently grabbed her wrist, pulling her hand from her mouth. "You coulda just said sit."
"I don't say that anymore," she protested quietly. "Not unless it's for your safety."
He smiled slightly. "Yeah...I know." He furrowed his brow and looked at her. "You really want me?"
She blushed bright red and tired to hide her face. "Oh, kami, I can't believe I said that..." He took her words the wrong way. She could tell by the immediate stiffening of his body and the tightened hold on her wrist. "Yes, I want you. I just didn't want you to know that because you'd probably get mad at me and yell and take it the wrong way and call me a baka and then you wouldn't want to come near me anymore."
"Why would I get mad?" He shrugged and looked down to see her confusion and sighed. "I...I lied about before...when I said I didn't...you know...love you..."
She sat with her back to him, a large book open in front of her and a notebook in her lap, scribbling on a sheet of paper. History was a breeze, she was living it, but science and third year algebra...if Naraku didn't kill her, school work would. They had procured a place to stay that night in a village. At the moment, Sango was keeping an eye on Miroku while he got rid of whatever evil spirits he had conjured up when getting the room and Kirara was just outside playing with Shippou. Thank goodness for the neko youkai or she'd never get any work done.
She heard Inuyasha come and crouch behind her, but chose to ignore him for the moment. Of course, she should have known he wasn't going to allow that.
She didn't look up, from her notes. "Hmm? Inuyasha, you wouldn't happen to know what b equals, would you?"
She could feel his gaze on her back. "Never mind," she giggled. "I'm trying to finish my algebra. After that comes physics." She sighed and shook her head. "The fun never ends..."
He didn't leave, but crept closer, looking over her shoulder at her work. After a few moments of quiet, he poked her. "Kagome?"
He hesitated as if he were deliberating with himself over whether or not this was the right time. Probably not, but he didn't have the knack of finding the right moment for anything. "When the jewel's completed and all...what are you gonna do?"
She flipped a page in her book and started punching in numbers on her calculator. "I don't know. I haven't really thought about it. Why?" She looked over her shoulder at him, pausing in her work. He looked so...sad. She smiled and leaned back slightly so that she could kiss his cheek. "What are you thinking about?"
He shrugged. "I was just wondering what's gonna happen to us is all." He shrugged. "You'll leave, won't you?"
"I'll always come back," she told him softly, smiling. "I always have. I know what you're thinking, Inuyasha, but I'm not like everyone else. I wouldn't leave you alone."
He nodded, but didn't move away and she quirked a brow, wondering what else he had on his mind. The bridge of his nose turned light pink with a blush with whatever thoughts he was conjuring up. "Kagome...I was thinking...if you wanted, you could stay here...with me."
She giggled as he stumbled over his words. "I thought that's what we just talked about, Inuyasha."
He gave her a short glare before looking back down at the floor. "Aa...well, I meant...with me. You know...like...like...a mate..." the last few words were so quiet she had to strain to hear them, but when she did, she blushed crimson.
"D-did you just say...like a mate?" She squealed, eyes going wide.
He blushed deeper. "Well, yeah. It's like marriage and...I just wondered...but, forget it. I shouldn't have asked." He started to get up, but Kagome twisted so that she could grab the cloth of his haori.
"Let me get this straight. You just asked me to marry you...eh...be your mate and now you're taking it back?" She narrowed her eyes at him. "What kind of proposal is that, hmm? You can't just ask someone to be with you and then take it back. If you're gonna ask then ask because you mean it."
His eyes widened at her tone and expression and he put his hands up in defense. "You didn't look like you liked the idea, so I decided to forget it. What're you getting upset about anyway?"
She groaned in exasperation. "I'm getting upset because my boyfriend just asked me to marry him and then didn't even give me a chance to answer before he changed his mind."
"You were just going to say no."
"Oh, yeah?" She had dropped her pencil and with her hands free, placed them on her hips. "You didn't wait around to find out, did you?"
He looked at her, suddenly suspicious. "What would you say?"
"You won't know till you ask, will you?"
She smiled sweetly and lightly kissed his lips. "I'd ask how this mate/marriage thing worked because I don't know anything about youkai or inu youkai society."
He smirked, as if that were enough of a yes for him, and sat back on his heels. "We mate, of course, and I mark you as mine. I have to bite you - on the shoulder. It'll leave a special scar that will let other youkai know you and I are together. You'll also carry my scent. After that we're hanyou and mate till one of us dies." He crossed his arms over his chest. "Then once you knew, what would you say?"
She reached out and tweaked one of his ears, laughing when he growled at her. "I'd say you're gonna have to wait till I finish my homework."
"The first college term starts in a month. Mama enrolled me even after I told her I wanted to wait. She thought it'd be good for me and she says that now my education should be the important factor of my life since I won't be traveling time anymore. I don't know what I'll study. I thought about being a teacher. I think I've got the patience for it, but I can't get myself motivated enough to really consider it. For a short time I even considered being a doctor, but I don't think I have the stomach for it. Stitching you guys up was one thing, but I don't know if I could deal with all the blood and sickness. Especially not now.
"Eri gave me her cousin's number. He's a psychiatrist and deals a lot with grief counseling. She's been hounding me ever since to go talk to him. Wouldn't seeing a psychiatrist mean that I think I'm at least a little loony? Does her giving me the card mean that Eri-chan thinks I'm a little loony?" She shook her head. "What would I say to him, anyway? 'Oh, I'm grieving the loss of my husband. He was a hanyou from Sengoku Jidai and died in battle while we were in search of the shards of the Shikon no Tama.' Yeah, then they'd really lock me away.
"Sometimes I even wonder if that wouldn't be such a bad thing. At least then I wouldn't have Ayumi creating dossiers on all the available guys she knows. They all think that I should immediately go out and start living again. You know, there was a time when a person was given a year to mourn the loss of a loved one. I wasn't even allowed a month."
She stretched her legs out in front of her and lit another stick of incense since the first had burned down. "Jii-chan finally broke Mama down. She was planning to let me have my time, deal with it in my own way and not butt in, but he's been bugging ever since I started coming out here. He thinks it's not healthy for me to be out here, talking to you. She sat me down last night and tried to talk to me about his concerns without actually telling me not too. I appreciate their concern, I really do, but I just wish that they'd leave me alone and let me work this out on my own. I'm going to live because I know you want me to. And I'm eventually going to reassemble the pieces of my life, but right now it just hurts to much. I know it'll take time, but eventually the pain will lesson, when it's not so fresh. I still have my own wounds from that battle...the physical wounds. They're starting to heal, but they're just proof that it hasn't been that long. Why can't they understand that?"
She lowered the collar of her tee-shirt and looked at the scar on her shoulder. It was still there, four small round incisions and the kanji mark for his name. "I look in the mirror every morning to see that the mark is still there. I'm so scared that it's going to fade away or something and it's the only thing that I really have left of you except Tetsuseiga and some pictures." She fingered the slightly raised scar. "I don't know why, but this scar makes me feel special. Last time Mama took me clothes shopping - you remember that day. You sulked in the tree all day because I came to this era instead of staying in the Sengoku Jidai. Anyway, last time she took me clothes shopping, I bought a lot of tank tops just so I could show it off. That's strange, isn't it?"
Her stomach growled, drawing her attention. She could no longer deny that she was starving, having not eaten anything since the previous afternoon. "Well, koishii, I'd better get something to eat, but I'll come visit again before bed." She reached over to put the incense out and stood up, lying her hand on the stone for a second before climbing back over the fence to go inside.
"Kukukuku….feeling weak, Inuyasha?"
The dark haired hanyou chuckled again as he shot another tentacle at the silver haired boy facing him. The material of Inuyasha's haori was dark with blood and his steps were slow and uneven as he brought the Tetsuseiga up to try and hack off the offending appendage, coming down a second to late to perform the task. He was knocked back and landed with a grunt on his back a few feet away, struggling to get up, using his sword as a leverage and a cane. "That…all you got…Naraku…" he gasped out, still as cocky as ever even though his ears were flattened against his skull in pain. Lacerations covered his body. There was a hole through his abdomen and he was almost certain he had at least two broken ribs and a near broken, if not already broken, ankle.
"Don't die on me yet, Inuyasha. I'm not through having fun." Naraku laughed again and easily jumped out of the way of Inuyasha's hasty wind scar attack and right into the path of an oncoming arrow. The tip sparkled with purification light and managed to destroy his right arm and shoulder.
"Inuyasha, do it now!" She screeched from across the field where they had come to do their final battle. "Now! Before he regenerates!" She knocked another arrow and let it fly, aiming for where Naraku's heart would have been had he had one. From the corner of her eye, she could see the hanyou struggle to raise Tetsuseiga and bring it back down.
The strength of the combined attack had Naraku's body in several different pieces and the Shikon no Tama flying through the air. Inuyasha fell to one knee with a moan and Kagome scrambled after the jewel before Naraku could pull himself back together. (a/n: pun definitely intended. I needed some humor…)
With the completed tama in her hands, Kagome squeezed her eyes shut. I wish for Midoriko's soul to be free from the turmoil of the jewel. I wish for the daemon to be defeated. I wish for the purity of the jewel to be complete. She opened her eyes and looked down as the lumps of Naraku's flesh began to pulse and bring themselves back to form a living being. The jewel glowed bright red for a moment and she was afraid that she had done something wrong, but then the red became dotted with blue and the blue light slowly overtook the reddish glow until there was nothing left. With a flash of bright blue, the stone became dull, it's aura completely vanished. The great Shikon no Tama was now worth no more than some ordinary sea stone.
The lumps of mass stopped their movements and seemed to sigh as they seeped into the ground, disappearing forever.
But she didn't take the time to study any of that. The lifeless jewel fell to the ground, forgotten, as she sprinted to Inuyasha's side in time to catch him before he could hit the ground as he toppled over. She wrapped her arms around him, holding him close to her, his head lying on her shoulder. "Oh, Inuyasha…why do you do these things? Why do you insist on scaring me so? I have to get you bandaged up now…" She kissed his forehead, denying what they both knew was true. There would be no need for bandages…
He brought his hand up to brush her cheek, wincing at the effort as the movement pulled the skin on his shoulder where Naraku had sliced through the tissue and muscle to the bone. He used his thumb to brush the tears away that had started to roll down her cheeks. Her heart knew the truth even if her mind refused to accept it. She brought her free hand up to grasp the one at her face, twining her fingers through his, brushing her lips across his knuckles. He squeezed her hand lightly in return. "Itoshii…" she had to lean further towards him to be able to hear his light whisper. "Ashi…teru…"
"More than life," she whispered softly, "I love you, forever and always." She smiled through her tears because she knew he loved her smile. Despite the pain that he must have been in, the hanyou smiled and his eyes slowly began to close, his body going limp in her arms before his lids rose once more, this time to only reveal dull and lifeless amber orbs. Inuyasha was gone.
How long she had sat there cradling Inuyasha's cold and lifeless body, she didn't know. At what point she had lost consciousness, she didn't know either. When she had first realized…first acknowledged that her beloved hanyou was gone, she had screamed, an enraged and agonized sound that tore from her throat and echoed through the valley they were in. The pain filled reverberation had seemed to go on forever, but even that could not expel the agony that ran through her body. Then she had simply sobbed. Not the loud, harsh, dramatic sobs that most people would expect. These were quiet and hardly noticeable but shook her body with such a force that they were amazed she could manage to breathe at all. When she no longer had the strength to cry, she had closed her eyes against the dull, sightless stare of the once glowing amber eyes and lay him on the ground and simply sat there, his hand clutched in both hers.
When she had awoken later, she was in Kaede's hut, a bandage wrapped around her arm and her middle. Someone had cleaned the blood from her skin, a mixture of her own and Inuyasha's, and had removed the tank top and jeans she'd been wearing, replacing them instead with a pair of loose, blue pajamas. There was no one in the hut with her, but she heard noises from outside and went to investigate, feeling lightheaded and dizzy when she first stood up. Where was Inuyasha? He had always stayed by her side when she was hurt or ill…
The events of earlier returned and she felt like crawling back beneath the cover and losing herself once more to the blissful amnesia of unconsciousness. However, there were things she had to do and know first. So she slipped her shoes on and pulled the straw door back, looking out. It was just before sunset and she ventured to guess she'd only been out a few hours. They hadn't been far from Kaede's village when they'd caught Naraku and Kirara would have made it there easily. Hiraikotsu was leaned up against the wall of a small building where Kaede kept herbs and would sometimes house the sickly or injured. Kaede was probably in there with Sango…
A whimper from her left caught her attention and she looked down to see Shippou sitting beside the door, drawn up into a ball. She knelt and touched his head, running her fingers through his rust colored hair. He stiffened and looked up, hastily wiping his cheeks and eyes. "Kagome, you're awake. Sango and Miroku asked me to keep watch for you so you could rest."
She managed a small, sad smile. "No wonder I felt so safe," she said softly and his cheeks tinged with red. "Where are they now?"
He lowered his gaze, suddenly nervous. "They told me not to tell you. They don't want you to have to deal with it…"
The hand that had been stroking his hair stopped. "Deal with it? They've started preparing…where, Shippou? Where?"
Shippou shook his head. "No, Kagome, please don't ask. I'm not supposed to tell you."
"Alright." She stood up and started for the hut where Hiraikotsu was leaning. "I'll find them myself." Shippou was chasing after, trying to grab her pants leg, begging her to go back and lie down. She stopped and looked down at him, kneeling once more. "Shippou, I can't just sit back and let someone else take care of him. It's my job…and…and my right…as his mate."
When she stood up, he didn't try to follow, but simply watched her walk away and disappear behind the straw woven door. Sango and Kaede were inside, several basins of water sitting on the floor by them. On a tatami mat, in the middle of the room, lay Inuyasha. Someone had closed his eyes and undressed him so that only a small blanket covered his mid-section. The rest of him was bare to the world. They had almost finished washing the blood from his skin and wounds though his white hair was still coated with the drying red liquid.
"Kagome-chan…" Sango started as she looked up to see her friend standing there. "Why don't you go back and lie down? Kaede-sama and I will take care of this…"
Kagome stood her ground. "No." She took a few confident steps to them and leaned down, taking the rag from Sango's hand. "I'll finish this."
"Kagome, you have had a difficult day and you suffered your own injuries in the battle with Naraku," Kaede stated softly. "There is no need for you to force yourself to perform these tasks when Sango-sama and I are capable."
Kagome turned to look at the older woman with dark, pained eyes. "I need to do this. It's closure for me. Besides," she cast a wistful glance at Inuyasha's peaceful face, "he wouldn't want anyone else touching him."
They had left her alone then and she had spent hours washing the dry blood from his skin and hair, brushing the silver strands out until they shone. Although there really was no point, she had taken a needle and thread, stitching the deeper lacerations back together. Still, there was really nothing she could do about the wound in his stomach except bandage it because she could not bare to look at it. While she worked, she talked to him…to herself…reiterating stories of their adventures together, pausing in her work and smiling lightly when she remembered the night he'd accidentally told her he loved her and the way their relationship had changed from there.
When she was finished, and his body was ready for the funeral pyre, it was long past sundown and she stood, stretching stiff muscles. His clothes had been piled by the door and Tetsuseiga was resting against the frame. The clothes would have to be washed to remove the blood and done soon, though she wondered if fire rat hair stained. They would also have to find him something to be buried in since his hakama and haori wouldn't burn, being fire resistant. The Tetsuseiga she would take home with her and keep safe. His clothes she would leave with Shippou. He would grow into them eventually and not only would it be a memento to remember his adopted father by, they would also keep him protected.
She had just finished eating a bowl of instant ramen, for some reason she'd started craving the stuff, when the phone rang again and she groaned. Please don't let it be Houjou or one of the girls. Once in one day is most definitely enough. "Higarashi residence."
"This is Tsuki Mika with Dr. Kaou's office. I'm calling to speak to a Higarashi Kagome?"
Kagome got the feeling that she should probably sit down. She had gone to Dr. Kaou about a week before everything had happened for a routine examination, but also because she'd been feeling a little funny, not quite ill, but not normal either. "This is she."
The woman sighed. "Good afternoon, Higarashi-san. You remember that when you last came to visit Dr. Kaou we took a blood sample and you informed the doctor that you were feeling different from normal? The doctor had your sample sent to the lab and I apologize for the long wait, but the lab technicians got a little backed up. It usually only takes two weeks instead of three."
Kagome nodded and then remembered the nurse couldn't hear her nod. "It's alright. I've been slightly unavailable lately anyway."
"I hope it was nothing serious," Tsuki-san commented before continuing. "Anyway, Higarashi-san, I was calling because we got the results of your lab work and would like for you to come in for a consultation with Dr. Kaou."
Kagome paled. There was something wrong. She knew it. That's why they had called. They wouldn't have called if everything was normal, would they? "Can you tell me why, please? I want to be prepared if he tells me bad news."
"Oh, it's not bad news at all dear," Tsuki-san assured her hurriedly. "It's actually quite good, in fact. Dr. Kaou just wants to get you started on some vitamins and set you up with a good prenatal physician."
"Hai, Higarashi-san. You're not sick at all. You're pregnant." There was a giggle on the other line and Kagome realized the nurse couldn't have been much older than she. "Higarashi-san?"
She was jerked out of her stupor by the concerned voice. "Hai, I'm here. Pregnant? You're sure?"
"Positive. According to your file, at least three months. Hadn't you suspected? Have you been feeling ill? Missed your menstruation? Anything that might suggest such?"
Kagome worked her mouth, but no words came out. When her voice box finally opened up, her voice was a harsh whisper. "I...I have been nauseous and ill, but...You see, my husband...I lost my husband last month...and I thought I was just sick from grief...And I wasn't really concentrating on my cycle..."
"I'm really sorry to hear about your husband, Higarashi-san. Being a single parent is difficult, but now at least you know you'll always have a part of him with you." Kagome managed a thank you before the woman continued. "Higarashi-san, I don't wish to bother you, but I do think that it would be best if you began prenatal care as soon as possible. The stress of losing a loved one can take its toll on the body and stress at such an early stage of pregnancy is not good. Would it be possible for you to come in tomorrow afternoon at two?"
"Hai, two, tomorrow. I'll be there. Thank you, Tsuki-san." She hung up the phone and sat in the chair for a minute, staring at the wall. Pregnant. She was going to have a baby - Inuyasha's baby. I wish he'd known...he'd have been so happy. I wish I could see his face when he found out he was going to be a father. A family was all he'd ever wanted and here it is and now he's gone...oh...Inuyasha. She stood up and put a hand over her still mostly flat tummy. "I wish you could know your father, little one. He would love you so much and he would spoil you rotten, I know he would."
She walked back out to the Goshinboku and stood in front of the tree, looking up at its branches, touching the bark with her hands. "Koishii...a baby...we're having a baby. Did you know? Could you have known? Oh, Inuyasha, I hope you're happy. I hope you know how much I love you and are watching out for me...us...from wherever you are."
She closed her eyes as the wind picked up, wrapping around her like his arms used to do and tugged at her hair. The breeze blew the petals from the flowers of the Sacred tree so that they rained down around her. "I'm your mate and I always will be. I wish you were here, koishii. I wish you could be here to watch your pup grow up. I miss you so much. I love you, Inuyasha."
A petal brushed across her cheek, leaving a tingling feeling where it had touched her, caressing her as his hands had done. Despite the sound of the cars below on the street that ran past the shrine, despite the rustle of the leaves in the breeze, she was almost positive she heard a familiar voice whispering in her ear...
A/N: The quote on Inuyasha's grave marker is a part of a poem by Emily Dickenson. I was on the net looking for some sort of quote that would fit nicely, you know (My poetry is...uh...well, you'll never have to worry about reading it...), and I saw that poem and I immediately thought of Inuyasha.