Hello, hello, this is Moonglow gal with her latest one-shot idea! I hope you enjoy!
Disclaimer: Moonglow gal plus ownership of Inuyasha equals full cast minus Kikyo. Do the math.
Two young women and one young man sat around a campfire, all silent. The younger of the women held a young fox demon in her lap, her blue eyes clouded with anxiety and a strange resignation. The other stroked the fur of a small fire cat, whose right front leg had been heavily bandaged.
The man stared fixedly at his right hand. A sturdy purple cloth was wrapped around his forearm; a flimsier cloth dangled fromthe simple gold ring he wore on his middle finger. Other than that, his hand was perfectly ordinary, with absolutely nothing worth staring at.
But that was precisely why he was staring, for just hours ago, he had broken the curse that had plagued him and his father since birth: a hellhole in the middle of his palm that would eventually suck him in and end his life.
But it wasn't quite accurate to say that he had broken the curse; to do so would mean claiming that he had killed the half-demon who had first laid down the curse, Naraku. And he hadn't.
The one who had struck the killing blow was the young woman with blue eyes, who now alternated between glaring at the flames and anxiously watching the forest. She didn't seem to be aware of the fact that her green skirt and white blouse were stained with blood, or the fact that her hair was matted with sweat and demon slime. The only thing that seemed to matter to her was the foliage where her fifth traveling companion had disappeared earlier, following two vaguely reptilian creatures called soul skimmers.
"Inuyasha, where are you?" she murmured, distractedly stroking the fox demon's orange shock of hair. "Don't tell me you're going to leave without saying goodbye."
"Don't worry, Kagome," the other woman assured her. "He said that he was just going to talk to Kikyo, not leave. Not yet, at least," she added to herself. Her magenta eyes sought the man's, ready to share a concerned glance. But he was still contemplating his hand. She sighed and got up, choosing a new seat next to him. "Miroku, are you all right?"
"Sango, I'm sorry about your brother," he said automatically, not seeming to really notice that she had spoken.
She firmly gripped his chin and forced him to look at her. "He's at peace now, and I am satisfied with that. Now answer me, Miroku, are you all right?"
Kagome sighed impatientlyand stood, placing the demon on the ground where she had just been sitting. When he protested, she said with a smile, "Sorry, Shippo, but I'm going to look for Inuyasha."
"You shouldn't go alone," Miroku protested, gently removing Sango's hand from his chin. Despite her worry, Kagome couldn't help but notice that he didn't let go of her friend's hand once it made the return trip to her lap.
She stooped and picked up her bow and a quiver almost full of arrows. "I'll be fine, Miroku," she assured him, experimentally drawing the bowstring. "I could handle Naraku; how much trouble could some forest roughs cause me?"
Both Sango and Miroku frowned at her, but she did make sense. Besides, the look in her eyes said quite obviously that she wanted to be alone.
Kagome nodded to the three of them. "I'm just going to make sure that Inuyasha's okay. I'll come back with him. If he comes back and misses meon the way, he can track me to wherever I am." With that, she vanished into the trees.
Kagome ghosted through the forest, scanning the trees for a wink of silver, a flash of red. "Inuyasha," she called softly, firmly gripping her bow. "Inuyasha, where are—"
She cut herself off when a dim glow penetrated the trees to her left. "That's Kikyo," she whispered, recalling the odd glow of stolen souls that she always emitted.
Months of experience with demon hunting surfaced in her as she noiselessly made her way through the bushes that all but concealed Kikyo and the object of Kagome's search.
Finally, she peeked through a small clump of leaves and found them. Kikyo, a woman who looked shockingly like her, and Inuyasha, the silver-haired, golden-eyed half-demon who had stolen both Kagome and Kikyo's hearts.
Inuyasha was saying, "—have to say goodbye first."
"Are you so anxious to put off what must be done, Inuyasha?" Kikyo asked softly, her hand tight on her own bow.
Inuyasha shook his head, his dog ears (courtesy of his dog-demon parentage) nearly flat to his head in his dismay. "It's not that, Kikyo. I know that I must give my life to you in return for yours. I've already promised that to you. But," his hand went to a string of dark red holy beads and polished fangs draped around his neck, "they're my friends. I've never felt so at home with anyone as much as I am with Sango, Miroku, Shippo…and Kagome," he added in a whisper, making said girl's breath catch.
He looked pleadingly at Kikyo, who had been a priestess before her untimely death. "They are my family. How can I leave the people who have made my life worth living without even saying a word of farewell? They've always been there for me. I can't—"
Kikyo shook her head and turned away. "Tomorrow, then, Inuyasha. Tomorrow, I will meet you at the foot of the Goshinboku, the Gods' Tree, and there, we will descend into hell."
Inuyasha's mouth tightened, and he nodded. "Tomorrow."
She nodded back and walked through the brush at the other side of the clearing, her many soul skimmers following in an eerie veil of light.
Inuyasha watched the spot where she had left for a long time, even when the light of the stolen souls was no longer visible. Suddenly, as a breeze swept past him, his head flew up, and he took a deep sniff. "Kagome?"
She winced. How could she have forgotten his super-sensitive nose, another mark left by his demon father? With a sigh, she stepped into the open. She tried to smile. "You caught me."
Inuyasha frowned at her. "So. You heard?"
She bit her lip and made herself nod. "Tomorrow."
"Yeah…" He stared up at the canopy of green leaves, tapping his foot awkwardly.
Kagome stared at the ground for a few moments before saying hesitantly, "Inuyasha?"
"Don't call me crazy when I ask you this, because I know that that's what you'll think I am once I ask." She unthinkingly backed up a few steps, until she felt a tree at her back.
He turned to scrutinize her, one eyebrow raised. "Out with it."
"Can I…" She gulped and tightened her fists, vaguely noticing when her bow began to creak under the pressure she was putting it under. "C-can I go to hell with you?"
Inuyasha blinked. "What?"
"I want to follow you into hell."
"What?" Kagome stared at him in shock. No hesitation. A simple "no". "But Inuyasha, I—"
He shook his head and crossed his arms over his chest. "You don't owe me anything. You have no reason to follow me into hell." She recognized the stubbornness in his voice, but what was that peculiar expression on his face?
"Kagome, listen to me." He walked swiftly toward her, until he could clearly look into her eyes. He gripped her shoulders and spoke softly. "Kikyo died because I didn't trust her. If I hadn't been so quick to assume the worst, she may still be alive today. I accept the responsibility for that. I accept the consequences. This time, both of us will go. But Kagome, you have no reason to be drawn into hell."
"What if I told you that it's because you've always protected me, always stood by me? You've saved my life countless times, Inuyasha. What else can I give you in thanks?" she whispered.
"Kagome, you've already paid me backa hundredfold. I've been alone my whole life. Then, when I met you, you cried for me. You cared for me, became my friend. You made my life worth living. Every kind word you've said to me, every gentle glance you've given me, reminds me of how lucky I am to know you."
Kagome couldn't help but blush. "Inuyasha, I want to go to hell with you. I'm not repaying a debt, I'm obeying my own heart."
He expelled his breath in a long, trembling sigh. "Look," he said gruffly. He leaned forward, bracing his arms against the tree and resting his forehead on his forearms, so he was leaning just over her head, his breath ruffling her hair. "Kagome, this tree…fifty years ago, before I met you,I would only have seen it asa means of escape. It was a place where I could rest without keeping one ear and eye open and searching for danger." A few notes of birdsong floated through the air. "That bird? It was prey, an unfortunate victim of a dog-eat-dog world, a world I fought to stay alive in. I myself was nothing more than an abomination. I was unwanted, unneeded, unloved. Cursed to be alone forever."
"But Inuyasha, you're not," Kagome protested softly.
He ignored her as he went on, "But now? This tree is a mystery. How could something so large and majestic have grown from a tiny seed? That bird…that bird is a living thing in its own right, a source of beauty and happiness. And me? Now, I know that I'm worth something. I can have friends, I can have a life. Kagome, this is the world as I see it now. It's alive, it's real, and it's beautiful. And it's all because of you."
He pushed himself away from the tree and took one of her hands in his. "Look, Kagome. This is the world you have shown me. This is the world I want you to live in, and be happy in, just as you gave me a chance to do."
Kagome could feel her breath coming faster as a peculiar sensation fought its way from her heart into her throat. "Inuyasha, no world is worth living in without you," she whispered.
"Don't say that, Kagome," he said, his hand tightening. "Not when you're the one who made my life bearable. I want you to live, Kagome. I've protected you for so long, nearly died for your sake so many times. Don't let it all go to waste," he said with a sad smile.
"Inuyasha, you don't understand."
"I think I do, Kagome, and that's my final word," he said gently, but firmly. "Now come on. We'd better be getting back."
Sango, Shippo, and Miroku's faces had brightened when they saw Inuyasha and Kagome walk out of the forest, hand in hand, but their happiness was quickly shattered when Kagome shook her head. Now, all five prepared for bed, Kagome snuggling into her sleeping bag with Shippo, Miroku finding a comfortable tree to lean against, Sango settling on the only rock-free patch of ground, and Inuyasha finding a tree limb large enough to support his weight. They had spent months' worth of nights thus; this would be the last.
As she listened to Shippo's baby snores, Kagome stared up into the night sky. 'If only none of this had happened,' she thought mournfully. 'If only Kikyo hadn't been brought back to life. If only I hadn't ever met Inuyasha. If only Kikyo hadn't survived that fall off the clif—"
She winced. There it was again. It was disgusting, how these tantamount-to-murderous thoughts always seemed to surface in her mind. Sure, she resented her previous incarnation, but that didn't mean that Kikyo deserved to die. 'Love does funny things to people, and not all of them good. After all, Kikyo loves Inuyasha, and look what she's doing. Dragging him into hell!'
Her breath caught. 'Tomorrow, there'll be no more Inuyasha. Tomorrow, I have to say goodbye.'
A tear leaked out of the corner, and she impatiently brushed it away. "It's his duty," she whispered. "It's what he wants to do…what he has to do. You don't want him to neglect his duty, do you?"
"If only I could," came a soft voice beside her sleeping bag. Kagome squeaked in surprise, twisting to stare into Inuyasha's eyes, each as golden as the sun. How could he have come down from the tree so silently? "If only I could abandon my duty."
She stared at him, forehead wrinkled.
He sighed and absentmindedly ran a clawed hand through his silver bangs. "I have never valued my life more than I do now. Now that I know that I can have a happy life, and now that I actuallyhave one, I wish over and over again that I didn't have to give it up. You understand, right? You've also wanted to abandon your duty before, right?" He stared anxiously at her, begging her to confirm that what he felt wasn't some kind of abominable crime.
"Everyone does," she said softly, sitting up. "But," she ventured, "there is one duty that I have never really wanted to leave: ourquest for the Shikon Jewel shards."
He frowned at her, suddenly confused. "But all those times you ran off to your own era, that one time you didn't want to come back—"
She shook her head, cutting off her memory of the very day Inuyasha had agreed to accompany Kikyo into hell. "But I did come back," she reminded him. "I always came back. Because of you, Inuyasha. My life wasn't worth living without you, and it still isn't—"
She fell silent when she felt one of hiscallused fingers against her lips. "No more, Kagome," he ordered, his voice strangely rough. "How can you expect me to rest in peace knowing that I dragged you into death with me?"
She gripped his hand and moved it away, murmuring, "How can you expect me to live out my days without you?"
He sighed and shook his head. Then, to her shock, he gently cupped one of her cheeks in his hand. "Do this for me, Kagome. Stay alive for my sake."
His soft touch did strange things to her stomach as she drew breath to protest. "Inuyasha—"
He seemed to sense her intent, for he sighed again, cutting her off. "Kagome, just promise me this. When I go to hell, alone, do not take your own life. Oh, I could see it. I know you better than that, Kagome," he admonished when she gave him a surprised and questioning look. "Promise me," he whispered, sliding his hand to smooth a lock of hair behind her ear. "Please."
Her hand automatically went to cover his, gently stroking his skin. "I…I promise."
"Kagome, are you sure you want to come with me?" Inuyasha asked softly. Morning had come, introducing the day of Inuyasha's death. He and Kagome walked side by side, heading for the designated meeting spot.
"I've always stood by you, Inuyasha. I'm not going to stop now," she said harshly. After a few moments of silence, she said more gently, "Inuyasha…I'm…I'm going to miss you so much." To her disgust, tears began to leak out of her eyes. 'Pull yourself together!' she ordered.
But the realization had hit her. It had finally hit her. Inuyasha was going to die. After today, he wouldn't be there to greet her when she came back from her own time. He wouldn't carry her on his back whenever they had to travel great distances. He wouldn't ever insult her again. His bottomless appetite for Ramen, his fiery temper, his subduing spell would be forever gone.
"No…" she whispered. The tears came harder and faster. No more confident smirk, no more dog-ears to admire when he wasn't looking. No more new moon transformations, no more warm embrace lifting her out of danger's path.
Suddenly, she felt herself in that selfsame embrace, her face pressed gently against soft cloth covering a chest of wiry muscles. "Kagome, please don't cry," she heard Inuyasha's voice beg her, somewhere just above her head.
"But Inuyasha," she sobbed, "you're going to die. You're going to leave me forever. How can I not cry?" she asked wildly.
His hand traveled up and down her back, rubbing it soothingly, but shakily. "I know I'm going to die," he murmured. "This is why I didn't want you to come with me to hell. I don't want to have to cry for you. I want to be happy, knowing that you'll be alive and well. Can you understand?"
"But Inuyasha, I want to follow you! How can I live on when I love—"
"Don't say it!" he said sharply. He quickly put his hands on her arms and pushed her far enough away so they could look into each other's eyes. After a moment, his harsh gaze softened. "Don't say it," he repeated more gently.
And then, Kagome suddenly found that she was being kissed. A shiver of shock and delight rolled through her, stopping the tears and leaving her incapable of anything but clinging to Inuyasha, losing herself in the fiery tempest his lips put her in. But to her disappointment, he broke the kiss only a few moments later. "Don't make it any harder than it already is, Kagome," he whispered, his breath coming faster, just like hers. His golden eyes had an odd shine to them, a strange exhilaration.
"Inuyasha," she breathed, still clinging to his arms for support. The word seemed to break through the rein he was trying to keep on himself, for once again, their lips met. This kiss was less rushed, sadder, sweeter, more desperate. Kagome thought wildly, 'It's a good thing he's so strong, else I'd have fallen a long time ago.'
This time, when they broke apart, Inuyasha rested his forehead against hers. "I'm just as sad as you are, Kagome. How many times do you think I've dreamed of growing old with you? How many times do you think I've wondered what quarter-demons looked like? I can't count the many times I've asked myself if our pups would have my golden eyes or your beautiful blue ones. The many times I've debated with myself whether you would consent to be my mate or not…the many dreams I've had of waking up with you by my side…but they stayed as just that…unrealized dreams, unanswered questions. I have a duty, a responsibility. I can't cop out now."
She stared into his pained eyes, open-mouthed. He had overloaded her. The kiss, the confessions, the inevitable end of it all; it was too much.
"It's too much," she repeated, this time out loud.
He sighed and folded her in his embrace again. "I know, and I'm sorry. I hate myself for doing this to you—"
"Don't," she murmured, resting her head against his chest. "I'd rather know than be uncertain for the rest of my life."
She felt him bury his nose in her hair and inhale. "Kagome…I'm going to miss you."
"Not as much as I'll miss you," she whispered.
"I know." He reluctantly pulled away from her. "But the longer we stay here, the more painful it will be in the end. Come on." He took her hand and led her toward the Gods' Tree.
Kagome stared silently at the back of his head as they forged their way through the forest. 'Why, why, why?' she thought angrily. 'Why did I have to fall in love with him, of all people? The one man I can't have!'
He glanced back at her and gave her hand a reassuring squeeze. The sadness in his eyes made her throat tighten. 'Oh yes, that's why,' she thought with an internal sigh. 'Because…because he's Inuyasha.'
Soon, too soon in Kagome's opinion, the foliage gave way to reveal a small clearing. In the middle stood an immensely old tree: the Goshinboku, the Gods' Tree. It was to this tree that Inuyasha had been pinned with an arrow for fifty years. For fifty years, he had slept under Kikyo's spell, not knowing she had died, not knowing that a demon had torn apart the love and trust they had once shared.
'Did he dream during those fifty years?' Kagome found herself wondering. 'Did he have any inkling that the reincarnation of his old lover would awaken him? Did he know that he was to spend almost a year fighting the half-demon Naraku? Did he know that he would suddenly be trapped in a romantic drama that should never happen outside of a manga?'
Kikyo stood at the foot of the tree, one hand touching the patch where bark refused to grow back. That had been the spot Inuyasha's body had been pinned against for fifty long years. When she heard leaves rustle, she turned to face them. "Inuyasha," she murmured, ignoring Kagome. "It is time."
He swallowed hard. "Yes, it's time. Just…just give me a minute to say one last good-bye." Without waiting to see if she consented, he turned to Kagome. "Kagome…" he murmured, cupping her face in both hands. "I…I have to go now."
She turned her head and kissed one of his palms, tasting her tears that had fallen onto his skin. "I know. Inuyasha…thank you. Thank you for everything."
He slid his hands around to press her to him, to support the back of her head as he kissed her gently. "No, Kagome. Thank you. Thank you for always being there, for always listening, for always being you."
She raised a hand and traced her fingers across his face. "I'll never forget you. How I met you, all you've done for me…"
Inuyasha smiled bitterly. "How ironic that I am to leave you...to die in the very place where I met you...where my life really began." He shook his head, then gently pushed Kagome's bangs back from her face. He kissed her forehead and murmured, "You are my world, Kagome. Remember just that, and I'll be happy."
She kissed his cheek and choked, "As you are mine. Good…good-bye." She stepped away, wiping her eyes.
He nodded, biting his lip, then turned to Kikyo, who looked no less than livid. "I'm ready."
"A good thing, too," she said coldly. "I was thinking I'd have to interrupt before things got inappropriate."
He merely shook his head and stood beside her. Even as he spoke to her, he fixed his eyes on Kagome. "Just do it."
Kagome, covering her mouth with a shaking hand, watched as Kikyo gripped Inuyasha's arm. The former priestess then closed her eyes.
Kagome flinched, waiting for the ground to begin shaking and opening up, just as it had the one time Kikyo had tried to trick Inuyasha into following her.
But nothing happened.
Kikyo's eyes flew open and shot Kagome a glare that was nothing short of murderous. "Girl, stop it! Now!"
She blinked. "Stop…stop what?" she asked timidly.
"Stop binding my soul to the world of the living! You hold the larger part of the soul we share, and that part isn't allowing me to descend into hell!"
"I-I'm sorry, but I'm not doing it on purpose—"
"Save your apologies!" Kikyo snapped. "Just accept the fact that Inuyasha and I are going to die, then we can descend."
"But," she whispered, "I can't just accept the fact that he's going to die!"
Her eyes narrowed. "You have to."
Kagome involuntarily stepped back. "I-I'll try."
'Just accept it,' she told herself, closing her eyes. 'They have to go. You can't stop it. You can't stop Inuyasha from doing what he must. Just let them go…'
She felt the ground shake beneath her, and a tear squeezed out of the corner of her eye. She determinedly kept both eyes closed as she thought repeatedly, 'It's his duty, just let him go. It's his duty, just let him go.'
The ground stopped shaking, and she turned away before opening her eyes. She didn't think she could stand the sight of empty ground where Inuyasha had been moments before.
Suddenly, a dazed voice spoke up behind her. "I never thought I'd be grateful that women can be so possessive."
She froze. 'No, just keep walking. It's just trauma. You're hearing things. Just keep going.' She raised a foot to take a step, but was stopped from moving forward when two red-clad arms wrapped around her.
"What, did you think I was a ghost?" the owner of the arms said when Kagome gasped.
She turned in the embrace and found herself staring into two golden eyes, set in a face framed with silver hair. "Inuyasha…how?" she whispered.
He smiled grimly and hugged her closer. "Apparently, your unwillingness to allow us to descend was dampened only enough to let Kikyo go. When the ground started to open, she just turned into a ghost or something. Her hand passed right through my arm, and then she was gone."
"B-but…what about your debt to Kikyo?" she stammered, immediately kicking herself for mentioning it.
He shook his head. "The choice to die was her own. Both of us made our mistakes, and nothing we do now can change that. We can't go back to the couple we once were." He slipped a hand under Kagome's chin. "The past belongs in the past, just as the present belongs in the present. My duty is to you, now. I have a duty to love you, to try and ease the pain I've put you through. Is this duty acceptable to you?"
She nodded breathlessly and leaned her head against him. "Then what is my duty to you?"
He pushed her away slightly and studied her face for a moment. Finally, he said seriously, "Your duty, Kagome, is to show me…what color eyes will our pups have?"
Both stared at each other for a moment before breaking down into laughter. Inuyasha hugged Kagome to him as both shook with mirth, Inuyasha at the shock that had appeared in Kagome's face, Kagome at the perfect poker face he had presented to her, a talent she had until then been unaware of. Together, they laughed for the beautiful chance at life fate had given them.
But as all laughter does, it slowly died away. Once Kagome could speak without lapsing into giddy giggles, she looked up at him and said just as seriously, "Well, we have plenty of time to find out."
He stared at her, an odd look in his eyes. He leaned forward and whispered breathily into her ear, "Why put off for tomorrow what can be done today?"
She shivered, then laughed and wriggled away. "Before we rush into any of that, don't you think should let our friends know that you're alive? Or are you planning to stay in hiding for the rest of your life?"
"If you hide with me, I won't mind at all," he quipped, taking her hand and walking out of the forest with her.
When they returned to the village Sango, Miroku, and Shippo waited in, they found Sango and Shippo still sobbing, and Miroku oddly solemn.
But once they saw that their friend had returned alive and well, they quickly became exuberant. Sango and Shippo enveloped him in hugs, while Miroku enthusiastically pounded him on the back.
And the years passed. Sango and Miroku got married and had four children, two inheriting their mother's temper and two reflecting their father's good humor. Shippo found a nice vixen to court, with eyes bluer than the unending sea and hair more golden than the sun's warm rays, to hear him tell it. Kikyo's formerly desecrated grave was re-consecrated and restored to its former simple beauty.
And Kagome and Inuyasha's three pups were all born with the greenest eyes any of the five companions had ever seen.
(wipes forehead) Well, there we go! Another one-shot done. One down, fifteen to go!
Yes, I counted, I have sixteen one-shots planned out (including this one). Not to mention the folder full of song lyrics just waiting to hatch into songfics…
Listening to techno while writing something like this…it's a very peculiar sensation.
Anyway, review and tell me what you think! Don't worry, I'm a big girl! I can handle criticism! (though I don't necessarily like it)