Inuyasha is owned by Rumiko Takahashi.
Pairings: Inuyasha/Kagome and light Miroku/Sango
Summary: This story takes place during the anime episode 37 "The Man Who Loved Kagome" or volume 14, chapter 137 "A Strong Man". Koga the Wolf Demon leader has healed from his wounds and has tracked down Kagome to claim her as his woman. However, Miroku comes up with a compromise to avoid a confrontation between InuYasha and Koga. Secluded with Sango, Kagome must make a decision once and for all who she will be mated with.
Rating: PG-13 for implied sexual situations.
A/N: This is intended to be a one shot, but it's a very long one shot (9,000+ words). It also follows the story arc of the manga and anime regarding Inuyasha and Kagome. This story does not end things once and for all for this couple, but instead it's about the couple's journey to that point.
"The Truth Is In the Scent"
"Come on, Shippo! You don't want Kagome to be taken away, do you?"
Shippo took a step back from Inuyasha's towering figure. "No, but no one's supposed to go near the hut."
"Wrong. I'm not allowed and neither is Koga. No one said anything about you not going to the hut."
"But, what? Do you want to give Koga a reason to take Kagome away?"
"No, but she won't go with him."
"He'll take her away like the last time and then we'd have to go and rescue her again."
Shippo thought for a moment. He didn't want Kagome to be kidnapped again. Miroku's compromise seemed like a good idea, but if he helped Inuyasha, wouldn't that be cheating?
"Inuyasha, no one is going to help Koga, so it wouldn't be fair. And what if we get caught?"
"We won't get caught. And how do you know that Koga isn't going to try and pull something too?" Inuyasha bent down on one knee to look at Shippo eye to eye. "Look, I don't like the idea that Koga wants to take Kagome, so I'll do everything I can to keep her with us. You'd do the same thing too."
Shippo studied Inuyasha's expression. He was being sincere. Shippo nodded his head. "Alright. What do you need me to do?"
"I can't believe we're stuck in this hut for five days." Kagome flopped herself down on the floor. "Ow."
"Well, it was either this or let Koga and Inuyasha fight. Again." Sango added more wood to the fire burning in the center of the hut. The smoke rose through an opening in the roof.
"You're right. Besides, it's stupid that they would fight over me."
"I guess Miroku's idea was pretty good then?"
"Yeah. Being stuck here for five days is better than letting Koga and Inuyasha fight over me. I'm just glad that Kaeda could find another hut for the family who lives here. I hate that this family had to leave their home because of a stupid, macho argument."
"I think it's a little bit more serious than an argument."
"Of course it is because they could kill each other."
"One would be killed."
Kagome sighed and looked out the simple window of the hut. Kagome hated to be the center of this kind of attention. Her friends back in her time would probably find it flattering. She found it embarrassing and off putting. "Sango, thanks for staying with me. I'd go crazy if I had to stay here by myself."
"No problem." Sango sat crossed legged, but stretched her arms. "Besides, it'll be nice to have a break from all those men."
Kagome laughed. "True. I just don't get how they think they can just order me around and expect me to do whatever they say."
"Hmm." Sango braced herself for another one of Kagome's frustrated rantings. She would really have to get Miroku back for putting her in this situation.
"And they're so arrogant. Like I'd actually be torn between choosing who I'd want to be with."
"Neither of them are that great of a catch."
There was a knock on the door and Sango jumped up to check. "Who is it?"
"It's me, Shippo."
Sango opened the door. "Shippo! What are you doing here? No one's supposed to be visiting."
"Koga and Inuyasha aren't supposed to be visiting." He walked in with some firewood and two blankets.
"True." Sango took the wood.
"Besides, Kaeda thought you might need these." He put a blue quilted blanket next to Sango's bedding and handed Kagome a red quilted blanket. "She says that the autumn winds come at night."
"Tell Kaeda we're grateful." Kagome said and put her blanket next to her bedding.
"So. . ." Shippo stared at his feet. "You haven't decided have you?"
"It's alright, Sango." Kagome smiled at Shippo. "I haven't decided anything and if I did, I'll announce it on the fifth day when Sango and I return to the village like Miroku said I would."
"You mean. . . you haven't already decided on Inuyasha?
"Shippo!" This time it was Kagome instead of Sango who admonished him. "No, I haven't. He was really. . . he. . . I. . ." Kagome groaned and crossed her arms.
Shippo looked at Sango for help. She just shrugged. Shippo thought, "It's worse than I imagined."
Shippo started for the door. "Well, Kaeda said she'll be here in the morning to bring you breakfast." He looked at Kagome. "Make sure to use that extra blanket. I wouldn't want you to get sick."
Shippo wished both of them a goodnight and left the hut.
When they no longer heard his footsteps, Kagome asked, "Do you think he's spying for Inuyasha?"
"Probably, but Inuyasha better keep his distance." Sango began to arrange the firewood in a neat pile. She tried to look busy in fear that Kagome would start ranting about Inuyasha and Koga again if she wasn't occupied with something.
Kagome rolled out the mat for her bed. "I hope my mom doesn't get upset that I'm gone for so long. I told her I'd be home in three days."
"Will she be very upset?"
"I think she'll be worried more."
"Perhaps we can tell Kaeda to tell Inuyasha to let your mother know you're alright."
Sango cringed. "Oh, no. What have I done?" She thought. Sango tried to keep the conversation light. "You know, Miroku said the funniest thing the other day."
"Oh? What did he say?"
"Uh. . . He . . ."
"He. . . it was a joke."
"And. . . gosh, what was it. . ."
"Was it the one about the maiden and the farmer?"
They both laughed.
Kagome said, "You know, Miroku isn't really all that bad."
"He's a good fighter."
"And sometimes he's very insightful."
"So. . ."
"What?" Sango gave Kagome a suspicious look.
"I was just wondering. . . if-no, when we destroy Naraku and Miroku's curse lifts and he doesn't have the wind tunnel anymore. . . well, would you. . . you know. . ."
"You know. You and Miroku?"
"WHAT! No way."
"Because he's a pervert. He can't keep his hands to himself. And he's always chasing girls."
"He doesn't chase them."
"You're right. They line up to meet him."
Kagome studied Sango for a minute before she said, "You're jealous."
"I'm not jealous. I don't even like him."
"Sango, you're blushing!"
She reached up to touch her cheeks. "It's just hot in here. I put too much wood in the fire."
Sango let out a frustrated sigh. "I don't like him. Not like that anyway. And I don't think he'll ever be serious with one girl."
Kagome did not say anything in fear of hurting any hopes that Sango may have. Kagome finished making her bed and rested on it. "I don't know if I'll need this extra blanket."
"You should keep it near you in case the fire dies while we're asleep."
"Oh, right." Kagome arranged the red quilted blanket at the foot of her bed. "Good night, Sango."
"Good night, Kagome."
Due to the eventful day, both ladies were quick to fall asleep.
Inuyasha poked at the fire with a stick as if it were a demon he was slaying. Miroku sat, meditating. Shippo was dozing off next to Miroku. Koga sat against a tree, close enough for conversation, but far enough not to risk any physical confrontations.
Miroku said, "Inuyasha, if you don't mind, I'm trying to meditate."
"I didn't say anything."
"No, but your constant poking at the fire is disrupting my meditation."
"Well, excuse me. Are you meditating on another great idea?"
"You're not pleased with the arrangement with Kagome and Sango?"
"It's a stupid idea."
"It's the best compromise, given the situation."
"I could've handled it fine. I can beat that mangy wolf easy."
"Don't make me laugh." Koga said.
"Shut up! You stupid flea bag. At least I don't run away whenever there's trouble."
"You dirty mongrel. I know how to pick my battles."
"You know how to run with your tail between your legs."
"Would you guys give it a rest?"
Everyone turned to look at the little fox child who was now sitting up. "We wouldn't be in this situation if you two would just leave Kagome alone." Shippo crossed his arms and wore a stern expression.
"He's the one who doesn't know when to give up." Inuyasha pointed at Koga. "He just needs to get it through his thick wolf skull that Kagome is not interested in him."
"Oh, and you think she wants to be with you?" Koga pointed at him. "She's in danger whenever she's with you. It's a wonder she's survived this long."
"Shut your filthy wolf trap! I-"
"Both of you stop! Look. It's going to be a long wait, so you both might as well stop you're arguing." Miroku stood. "It's late. Why don't we all just go to sleep?"
"Good idea. I'm going to Kaeda's hut." Shippo stood up and trotted off through the woods.
"Fine." Koga stood. "I'm going back to my den, but I'll be back tomorrow to make sure Inuyasha doesn't meddle with Kagome." He disappeared before Inuyasha could retort with a scathing comment.
Inuyasha let out a short grunt and continued his vigil in front of the fire. He sat crossed legged with his arms tucked in his sleeves.
"Are you going to stay out here?" Miroku asked. When Inuyasha gave him a withering look, Miroku sat back down on the ground.
"What? You don't trust me to stay away from the hut?"
"You're the one who should be watched."
"Inuyasha, if I'm with you, there could be no doubt that you've cheated in anyway. So, if Kagome chooses-"
"If she chooses you, than Koga cannot challenge you."
Inuyasha resumed his previous taunting of the fire with the stick.
"You sound confident that Kagome is going to choose you."
It was several seconds before Inuyasha spoke. "I think I have a good chance."
Inuyasha looked at Miroku with narrowed eyes.
Miroku held up his hands. "It's just that you're always picking arguments with her and it does try her patience a great deal."
"Me? I don't-" He stopped when he saw the skeptical look on Miroku's face. "We don't fight that much."
Inuyasha grunted. Did they really argue that much? He didn't think so. But, he did feel that Miroku's comment about trying Kagome's patience had some truth in it. He did notice that lately Kagome gave him an expression that sometimes looked like annoyance. He grunted again.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
"I'm sure it'll help."
"Since when do you like to listen to other people talk?"
"Well, I am a monk."
"Er. . ."
"Besides, I'm sure I won't get any sleep between your grunting and harassing of the fire, so you might as well tell me what's bothering you."
Inuyasha poked at the fire some more. The stick caught on fire and he tried to wave the stick to put the fire out, but it just made it worse. He immediately threw it into the fire.
"Fine." He crossed his arms deep into his sleeves. "Why did you have to make them stay away for five days?"
"You want Kagome to make a wise decision, do you not?"
"Yes, but I don't think she'll need five days to decide."
"Choosing a mate takes careful consideration."
"She should know right away."
"Inuyasha, it's been my experience that women, human women, do not take life commitments lightly."
"Neither do demons!"
"But, it's different for humans. They have to get to know their potential mate. Decide if they're compatible. And most importantly if there's love."
Inuyasha thought about the monk's words. He was sure that he and Kagome were compatible. But love? He was certain that Kagome did not love Koga. He could not say whether or not Kagome loved him.
"So, you think five days is enough for Kagome to pick between me or Koga?"
"It should be enough."
"If she chooses Koga, I'm going to kill you."
"There's no need-"
"Shut up and go to sleep."
When he heard the monk's breathing steady, signaling he was asleep, Inuyasha checked the haori Shippo had given him and then went to sleep.
The morning was cool as Sango had predicted. The sun was still hidden, so the cool air had not warmed yet. Kagome was glad she had listened to Sango about the extra blanket and had wrapped it around her. It looked like a light weight quilt and it surprised her how warm it kept her.
Kagome rubbed her face on the blanket. It was unusually soft and brought her a comforting, safe feeling. As if the situation she was in would turn out fine as long as she held fast to the blanket.
She opened her eyes and looked up at the ceiling of the hut. How could a simple blanket give such great reassurance? She thought. She looked over at Sango who was still asleep.
Kagome sat up and wrapped the red quilted blanket around her. She looked out the window and saw that it was still dark, but the sun would be coming out soon. She stood up and went outside.
It was not often that she got to see sunrises here. She would be so exhausted from their battles that she would wake well after the sun had risen. She walked just a few feet away from the hut and sat on a flat rock. Everything looked so different without the city skyline with its skyscrapers and buses. She actually liked the tree line horizon better. She wrapped the blanket around her tighter. There was some kind of scent from the blanket that gave her a strange comfort. She could not recognize it. The closest thing it reminded her of was home. But, not the home of her time or feudal Japan. She could not place it, but yet it was familiar.
Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a twig breaking. She looked around only to see a raccoon coming out of a brush. Thoughts of trying to figure out the scent of the blanket soon left her due to the impending announcement she had to make by the end of the week.
Inuyasha cursed at himself for not being more careful. If there was a time to be cautious, this was it. Miroku was still asleep, but he knew the monk would rise soon for his morning meditation. He just wanted to make sure that things at the hut were fine.
He knew Kagome would not be up anyway. She liked to sleep in. He was about to return to the spot where Miroku slept when he heard rustling in the hut. He thought perhaps Sango was rising to practice some demon fighting moves. He was surprised when Kagome emerged from the hut.
He couldn't help grinning when he saw that she was wrapped in a red quilted blanket. He made a note to himself not to bully Shippo too much today.
"Kagome, what is this again?" Sango held up a small bottle with some type of cream. She took a sniff.
"Oh, that's body lotion. You use it to moisturize."
"Uh. . to soften rough skin."
"Oh." Sango smiled. She put a dab of the lotion on her hands and sniffed again. "What's this smell? Some flower from your time?"
"Ah." Kaeda made a motion to Sango to pass it to her. "So it must have great healing properties. Can you use it on rashes?"
"Uh. . . I don't think so. This lotion is mostly for. . . making you smell good and feel soft."
Kaeda squeezed some out on her palm and sniffed. "Do you need bandages to wrap around the area you want to use it for?"
Kagome picked up the bottle next to Kaeda. "No, you just do this." Kagome proceeded to squeeze out some lotion and worked it onto her legs and than her hands.
"Ah." Kaeda did the same thing.
"I think it might attract bugs." Sango said.
"You're probably right." Kagome laughed.
Sango reached into Kagome's backpack and pulled out a very small bottle. This one had a crimson liquid in it. She shook the bottle. "What's this Kagome?"
"Oh, nail polish."
Sango and Kaeda mouthed the word.
Kagome continued explaining, "You use it to paint the nails on your fingers and your toes."
Kaeda inspected the bottle. "Is it used to ward off evil spirits?"
"Ah, I shall need some of that then." Sango said. "A slayer uses every advantage."
"Actually, it's just for show."
"Show?" Kaeda unscrewed the brush and sniffed the polish. She blinked several times from the fumes. "Are you sure? The smell that emanates from this liquid could surely ward off any evil spirit."
Kagome suppressed a laugh. "I'm sure. The smell goes away when it dries." She slipped off her shoes and her socks. "Let me see that, Kaeda." Kaeda handed her the nail polish. "See." Kagome proceeded to paint her toe nails. When she had painted all of them, she held up her feet. "It looks pretty."
Sango pulled out more items from Kagome's bag: a tube of lip gloss, a hairbrush, and some deodorant.
"Is all this really necessary?" Kaeda sniffed the deodorant.
"Do the women of your time really focus on their appearance so much?" Sango asked while she continued to pull out more things from Kagome's backpack.
"Some of this stuff is necessary. I suppose we do spend a lot of time on our looks."
"But, I don't see you using this stuff very much." Sango wore a troubled expression when she found a pair of tweezers.
"It doesn't seem important here. I mean, there isn't anyone here who'd appreciate these things."
"Well, a man is not worthy if all he cares for are such superficial things." Kaeda pulled out the wand for the lip gloss and tasted it.
"I know, Kaeda. But, still . . ."
"Still what?" Sango asked. She was further troubled when she found an eyelash curler.
"I don't think he'd notice-" Kagome covered her mouth.
Kaeda and Sango waited for Kagome to finish.
Kaeda put down the lip gloss. "Have you made up your mind, Kagome?"
Kagome hugged her knees to her chest. "Sort of."
Sango disentangled the eyelash curler from her fingers and looked at Kagome. "Who have you chosen?"
"I. . . No one."
"No one!" Kaeda and Sango said at the same time.
It was a minute before Kagome said, "Koga is very charming, but I could never love him. Inuyasha. . ."
"Yes?" Kaeda coaxed.
"He's in love with Kikyo."
It was a simple as that. Kagome knew she could never compete with Kikyo. Even if she chose Inuyasha, she knew she would always be haunted with the fact that she was second best to Kikyo.
"But, I thought-you and he-" Sango looked at Kaeda.
"It is true that at one time my sister Kikyo and Inuyasha were planning to live their lives out together with the help of the Sacred Jewel, but now. . ." Kaeda's expression softened when she looked at Kagome. "That clay and bone resurrection that is called Kikyo is not the same person who lived fifty years ago. She is also not the same person that Inuyasha cared deeply for."
Kagome did not notice that Kaeda did not use the word love.
Sango said, "I thought by the way he looks at you that he. . . I thought both of you were in love."
Kagome felt her cheeks blush. "That's flattering, but I'm afraid it's far from the truth."
They were all quiet for some time before Kagome let out a deep sigh. "It doesn't matter anyway. I don't need either of them to be happy."
"Besides, I'm not ready to mate with anyone yet."
"So, you will not choose either. That is your final decision?"
Kagome nodded at Kaeda's question.
"Then perhaps we should end this nonsense now and go tell the men of your decision."
Kaeda and Sango started to collect the items on the floor that were from Kagome's backpack.
Kagome held up a hand. "Wait a minute. Do we have to tell them now?"
"Why shouldn't we?" Sango asked.
"Well, I don't see why we have to jump to put them at ease. After all, they came up with this crazy set up. I think we should make them see it through until the end."
"But, Kagome, you could be looking for more of the shards. What about Naraku?" Kaeda asked.
"Oh." Kagome looked down at her hands folded in her lap.
"Perhaps you're not quite ready to announce your decision."
"But, I won't change my mind."
Kaeda patted her hands. "Well, since you have a few more days, you should really take the time to consider your decision. It is a very important one."
Kagome smiled. "Yes. That's true."
"And, I'm sure the shards will be there for you to find and so will Naraku. It will also give some time for Inuyasha to master the Wind Scar."
Kagome nodded. Inuyasha was actually pretty good figuring out the Wind Scar technique, but he could always use more practice.
"I will return to my hut. I've got to prepare some breakfast for the men and I'm sure they will want to know how you two are doing."
They both said goodbye to Kaeda. When she was gone, Kagome turned to Sango, "Would you like to try something new?"
Sango hesitated. "Like what?"
Kagome dug through her backpack and pulled out a tube of some sort of liquid. "This is called a face mask."
Sango raised an eyebrow. "A face mask?"
Kagome explained that it was used to help purify the skin and improve it as well. Sango still looked reluctant, so Kagome said, "I've heard that it makes a man want to caress your skin."
Sango blushed. "No, maiden would tolerate that behavior."
"Of course not. I didn't say you had to let them."
Sango smiled and agreed to try it.
Kagome explained that they had to keep the masks on for at least twenty minutes for it to work and then they would have to wash it off. "While we wait for the masks to dry, we can paint our nails." Sango began to feel uneasy. She was not sure she should have agreed to all this. She did not feel it was necessary. However, seeing that it put Kagome at ease, Sango let her proceed.
They both had the face masks on when Shippo showed up.
"What's happened to you! Did a demon put a hex on your faces?"
Kagome laughed. "No, silly. We're just. . . beautifying ourselves."
"You both don't need to be beautified."
"That's kind of you to say," Sango said.
"Since we're going to be here a while, we're just keeping ourselves occupied until I have to announce my decision."
Shippo looked at all the bottles and tubes laid out on the hut floor. He was about to sniff some white cream when he realized he had a purpose. "Oh, I almost forgot. Uh. . . Kaeda sent me back to collect the blankets. Uh. . . She wants to air them out."
"We can do that," Kagome said.
"Oh, you don't have to trouble yourselves." He collected Sango's blue blanket and then Kagome's red one. "I don't-I mean, Kaeda doesn't mind. I'm happy to help her."
He was almost out the door when Kagome said, "Shippo, make sure to bring back my blanket tonight."
"Right." He could not help grinning as he walked out the hut.
"What's that smell?" Inuyasha's ears perked up when he entered Kaeda's hut.
"It's lunch," Miroku said.
"No, it's not food." Inuyasha sat on the floor. When Kaeda put out the lunch bowls, Inuyasha sniffed her. "Kaeda, what did you do?"
"Hmm? Oh, it's nothing. Just something Kagome let me have."
Inuyasha's ears perked up, but he didn't say anything. Instead he occupied his attention with the bowl placed in front of him.
Miroku said, "And how are the ladies doing?"
"They're fine. I think spending some time alone will be good for Kagome."
Inuyasha continued to be inordinately fascinated with his lunch.
Miroku said, "How is Sango doing?"
"She's doing well too. I think perhaps she may be overwhelmed by the attention Kagome is bestowing on her."
This time Miroku and Inuyasha looked up from their food.
Miroku smirked. "Oh really."
"She's not used to being fussed over. It's not a surprise. Sango being a demon slayer. One would not spend so much time on such. . . things."
"What things?" Inuyasha croaked.
"Things that women from Kagome's time care about. Mostly about looks."
"I see." Miroku grabbed his chin. "Perhaps they are sharing secrets to improve their feminine whiles."
Inuyasha rolled his eyes and returned his attention to lunch. Shippo had been standing in the doorway of the hut for a second when Inuyasha noticed his presence. He looked at the fox demon child and Shippo gave him a slight nod. Inuyasha slurped down the rest of his lunch. He stood up.
"Where are you going?" Miroku asked. Shippo sat next to him.
"Gees, can't a guy go relieve himself without having to ask permission?"
"Fine, but don't be gone too long."
Inuyasha grunted in response and left the hut. He walked into the woods and when he was sure Miroku was not following him, Inuyasha searched for the tree Shippo was supposed to have left an enchanted blanket.
It was the night before Kagome was to announce her decision. For the last four days, Inuyasha had to put up with Koga's taunting and bad mouthing, but after tomorrow, he would not have to listen to the wolf demon's mouth anymore. Shippo had proved to be an invaluable aide to carry out his plan. No one had suspected a thing. Well, there was one time when the blanket was not in its hiding place, but that was because a fox almost ran off with it. Inuyasha and Shippo decided that they had come too far for their plan to be destroyed by a forest creature. They picked a different hiding place and since then they had no more troubles.
Inuyasha watched the hut from the perch in a tree he had used many times before. Even though it was pitch black, his demon eyes allowed him to see. He couldn't see into their window, but could make out dark figures as they passed the window from time to time. If he was lucky, Kagome would look out the window before she went to sleep.
It seemed that Kagome and Sango had become better friends because every now and then he could hear the two women laughing over something. He hoped they weren't laughing about him.
There was a gentle breeze and Inuyasha got a whiff of Kagome's scent. It did not come from the hut, but from him. A small smile pulled at the corner of his mouth. He liked having her scent on him.
Sango threw another piece of wood into the fire. "Are you ready for tomorrow?"
Kagome nodded. "No more indulging. Back to looking for jewel shards and slaying demons."
Sango smiled, but it slowly disappeared. "Are you keeping true to your earlier decision?"
It took a moment for Kagome to answer. "Yes. I. . . I think it's best."
Sango hesitated before she said, "You know, he might surprise you if you choose him."
Kagome wrapped her red blanket around her. "He might even be expecting it, but. . . if we're going to be mated, he's going to have to choose me."
Sango studied her friend's face. They had grown to be like sisters over the past few days and she knew Kagome's expression to be true. "You're very wise, Kagome. I don't know if I could be as strong as you."
Kagome laughed. "I'm glad you think so because I don't feel very smart or strong at all."
"I think you're doing the right thing." Sango smiled. "Just be prepared to encounter Inuyasha's wrath."
Eventually they turned in to go to sleep. Kagome did not fall asleep right away. She was nervous about tomorrow. She would stick to her decision. She was nervous about how Inuyasha would react. Would he be upset? Would he be disappointed? What she dreaded most of all was if he acted relieved.
She pulled the red quilted blanket tighter around her. It was strange how this simple blanket provided so much comfort and security for the past four days. She chided herself that she was too old to be relying on such a thing for security. It was not like she could have it around all the time. As usual, when she needed it most, the blanket provided her with a warmth that soon had her falling asleep.
Inuyasha laid on the grass with his hands tucked under his head. He tried to engage his attention to the stars that pricked the dark sky. Soon there would be a light that would be trying to slip over the horizon and then Kagome would announce her choice for a mate.
The implications of her decision finally weighed on him. At the beginning of the arrangement, Inuyasha had tried to find a way so that Koga would not have Kagome. He was sure that Kagome would not choose to be with Koga, but he did not want there to be any reason Koga could use to take away Kagome. To him, at first, it was a situation where the enemy could not win.
Now, there was a small part of him that wanted to be the one Kagome picked to be her mate. He didn't care about putting Koga at a disadvantage anymore. He actually wanted to be picked and that thought surprised and scared him at the same time.
He could not deny that a part of him still lingered over the thought of Kikyo. He could not forget her and yet he also could not forget Kagome either. He could not help feeling guilty that a part of him wanted to be chosen as Kagome's mate. This meant that his promise to always protect Kikyo was weakened. Perhaps even cheapened by his traitorous desires.
He pounded his fist on the grass. He allowed himself to dare to imagine what it would be like if Kagome chose him to be her mate. He tried to stop his reactions, but he couldn't. A smile appeared on his lips and he felt the back of his neck burn. If he was her mate, it would be him in that hut with Kagome not Sango. Instead of that blanket wrapped around her, it would be him. His eyes widened at the images of what could happen when two grown adults were sharing one blanket.
"Oh, gods." Inuyasha let out a frustrated sigh and rain his long demon fingers through his silvery hair. He really wanted to be in that hut right now.
All the men had gathered at Kaeda's hut and waited for the arrival of Kagome and Sango. Kaeda served the men some breakfast.
"Thank you, Kaeda." Koga took the food she offered. "My comrades would be so fortunate if we had you at our den."
"Shut up! You stupid wolf. First you want to take Kagome and now Kaeda!" Inuyasha shot daggers with his eyes at Koga.
"Shows what you know. Kaeda would be our den mother. She would be an excellent mother to my pack."
"She's not going anywhere. Find your own den mother!"
"If I didn't know any better, Inuyasha, I'd think you've become quite attached to these women."
Inuyasha grunted in response.
Kaeda patted Inuyasha's shoulder. "Although you're offer is quite tempting, Koga, I must stay. I'm the priestess here, and I can not abandon the people of the village. I'm their only protection."
"Ah, so you are a miko as well." Koga looked at the elderly with greater respect. "You're loyalty to this village does you great credit. Of course you must stay."
"She doesn't need your permission, flea bag."
"You're more touchy today than usual. Perhaps you've accepted the fact that Kagome will be choosing me."
"I didn't know you had such vivid dreams."
"Dreams? Well, they'll come true soon enough. As soon as Kagome makes her announcement, I'm taking her back to my den and then we'll-"
Inuyasha shot up from his seat. "Like hell you are! If you think I'd let you leave here with Kagome-"
"Alright then." Koga stood up. "Outside. We'll settle this-"
Miroku stood up and held up his hands. "Have you both forgotten that Kagome will be showing up any minute?"
"I'm going to wait outside." Inuyasha left the hut.
"Not by yourself." Koga muttered.
Miroku looked at Kaeda. "Thank the gods that it's almost over." Miroku, Kaeda, and Shippo went outside as well.
Inuyasha and Koga stood a few feet away from the hut, but away from each other.
After a moment, Inuyasha said, "So, after Kagome makes her announcement, will you swear not to bother her again?"
"I won't have to bother her again because she'll choose me."
Inuyasha grunted. "But, if she doesn't, you won't try to kidnap her again, will you?"
Koga hesitated before he said, "If her wish is to stay with you than I will respect her wishes." He turned and looked at Inuyasha. "But, so help me, if she should fall into any danger-"
"She won't. Not while I'm protecting her."
Koga was about to make a retort on his skills as a protector when both of them caught a scent in the wind. He said, "She's approaching."
When Kagome and Sango were a few feet away from them, Inuyasha inwardly smirked. "Kagome's choice is obvious."
"Shut up! Mut!"
By this time, Kagome and Sango were standing, watching Koga and Inuyasha bicker.
"You really think she's going to pick you?" Koga turned to Kagome. "I know you've picked me. Have I ever insulted you or disrespected you?"
"Uh. . . well. . . no." Kagome said.
A low growl emitted from Inuyasha's throat. By this time, Miroku, Kaeda, and Shippo had joined them.
"Kagome," Koga took her hand, "if you choose me, you'll be the Queen of my wolf-demon pack. You'll be treated with the utmost respect and reverence." He reached up and touched her face. "No one would disrespect my woman."
"Get your filthy hands off her!" Inuyasha's hands fisted.
"That's so sweet, Koga." Kagome felt her cheeks blush.
"What!" Inuyasha's mouth had fallen open.
The others wore surprised expressions. Miroku said, "Koga certainly knows his way to a woman's heart."
"Shut up!" Inuyasha said and pushed Koga away. "I told you. She's already made her choice."
"She hasn't said anything yet."
Everyone gave her expectant looks. "Well, I. . .uh-"
"She doesn't have to say anything." Inuyasha said. "The truth is in the scent."
Koga gave him a wary look.
"Go ahead. Smell for yourself."
What is he talking about? Kagome wondered.
Koga gave Inuyasha another wary look before he sniffed Inuyasha. A brief look of disbelief crossed his face, but he was quick to erase it. He said, "So?"
Inuyasha stepped away and held out his arm, inviting him to sniff Kagome.
Koga sniffed Kagome. At first he didn't believe what he smelled and looked at Inuyasha. He nodded, encouraging him to sniff some more. Koga sniffed Kagome on the neck, her arms, and even her hair.
"How did I miss. . . but that's impossible!" Koga looked at Inuyasha with suspicion.
"What?" Kagome said.
Koga looked at Sango. "You were supposed to be her chaperone. You were supposed to make sure that neither of us visited Kagome."
"Neither of you did. She was with me the whole time."
"Liar!" Koga narrowed his eyes at her.
Miroku took a step next to Sango.
"Don't be such a sore loser." Inuyasha smirked.
"Shut your dull fangs! I don't believe this."
"What's going on?" Kagome said.
"I'm not a liar. I swear on my reputation as a demon slayer that Kagome was with me the whole time."
Sango's words could not be doubted. It was a minute before anyone spoke.
"Does this mean that Kagome belongs to Inuyasha?" Miroku said.
"There can be no doubt. Their scent. . ." Koga wore a disappointed expression on his face.
"What about our scent? If someone doesn't tell me-"
"If Inuyasha has been secluded from you like I have. . ."
"Both of your scents still linger which can only mean. . ."
Miroku's eyebrows shot up. Sango wore a confused expression and Kaeda concealed her surprise. Shippo was distracted by a butterfly dancing in front of him.
Inuyasha wore a smug look.
"Now will you leave us alone?" He looked at Koga.
After a moment, he nodded. Then he turned to Kagome. "I only fought for you because I thought I'd have a chance." Koga bowed low, turned, and ran with dust trailing him.
"What was that about?" Kagome watched the dust trail dissipate.
Miroku said, "Perhaps we should give these two some privacy." He gave Inuyasha a knowing look. "They've been separated for some time and I'm sure they want to. . . catch up." He winked at Kagome and started to herd everyone else away.
Kagome looked at Inuyasha who was concentrating on the shapes of the clouds in the sky. They reminded him of what Kagome called cookies.
"What's going on?"
"What do you mean?"
"Don't give me that. Why did Koga give up so easily?"
"Are you saying you wanted to leave with Koga?"
"That's not what I meant. What did Koga mean by there could be no doubt about our scents?"
"Just that. You can't lie about a person's scent."
"I know that! If you don't explain what's going on, I'll-I'll-"
Kagome narrowed her eyes at him.
Inuyasha crossed his arms and turned away. "There's nothing to explain."
Inuyasha crashed head first onto the dirt ground. "Kagome!"
"It sounds like Inuyasha is really making up for lost time."
Sango smacked Miroku on the back of the head. "You're not supposed to be listening."
They all sat in Kaeda's hut which was a few feet away from where they had left Kagome and Inuyasha.
"I can't help it if he's very vocal about his feelings for Kagome."
"It sounds like they're arguing."
"It sounds like two people having vigorous-"
Sango smacked Miroku again. "You're such a lech."
"Kaeda, may have more onagi?"
"Of course, child." She proceeded to make more food.
"Something's not right." Sango said.
"Aye," Kaeda said.
"Didn't anyone think it was odd the way Koga left the way he did?"
"We're not gifted with Inuyasha's and Koga's ability of smell."
"It's like Inuyasha said, 'The truth is in the scent.'"
"But, I was with Kagome the whole time. Neither Inuyasha or Koga came near her."
Miroku wiggled his eyebrows up and down. "Which means that Inuyasha and Kagome mated sooner than we thought."
"Lech!" Sango slapped Miroku for having his hand on her bottom. "There's no way they mated. Kagome would've told me."
"I agree with Sango. Something's amiss." Kaeda said.
"Well, perhaps she wanted to be discreet."
"Kagome would've said if they mated. She had decided-"
"Did you say Inuyasha and Kagome mated?" Shippo looked up from his bowl of rice.
"Uh. . ." Sango looked at Kaeda and Miroku for help.
"Perhaps when you're older, Shippo. I'll explain to you. . ." Miroku said.
"They didn't mate."
"Uh. . . Shippo? Do you understand what mating is?" Sango said.
"Of course I do. How do you think my parents had me?"
The adults were speechless.
"Anyway, I helped Inuyasha by making sure Koga couldn't take Kagome away."
"What did you do, Shippo?" Kaeda asked.
"Well, I-" He covered his mouth.
"Go on." She encouraged.
Shippo shook his head. "It's a secret."
Sango gave Shippo a bright smile. "Are you sure you can't talk about it?"
"I'll talk about whatever you want." Miroku said.
Sango ignored him. "You know, Kagome brought me back something back from her time. I'm not sure if it's any good."
"What is it?" Shippo said.
"Something called chocolate."
"Chocolate! I love chocolate."
"I'd be happy to share it with you."
"Hey, what about me?" Miroku asked.
Sango elbowed him. "It'll be for Shippo. I'll share it with him when he shares what he did with Inuyasha."
"I'm afraid bribery won't work." Miroku postured himself by straightening his back and crossing his arms. "I think Inuyasha's retribution is greater than his love for chocolate. And besides bribery is not an honorable-"
"Sango, you promise to share your chocolate?"
Shippo smiled. "I'll tell you."
Miroku groaned and then shrugged. They all listened while Shippo told them how Inuyasha tricked Koga.
"Are you ready to tell me?"
Inuyasha was still sealed to the ground. He groaned.
"You know, you wouldn't have to eat so much dirt if you'd just be honest with me."
He remained quiet, but watched her pace back and forth in front of him. She smelled like Kaeda on the first day she was away. He also saw that her fingernails were a crimson color.
"What's wrong with your nails?"
Kagome stopped mid-stride. "Oh, it's nail polish." A corner of her mouth pulled up. "Boys from my time think it's pretty."
"They think that's pretty? It looks like you have blood on your nails."
"It's not blood!"
"I know it isn't. It doesn't smell like it. Why would they think having blood on your fingernails looks pretty?" He sat up now.
"I told you, it's not blood. And there are other colors that a girl can paint her nails." She looked down at her painted nails. "What? You don't like it?"
She let out a frustrated sigh. "I guess I shouldn't have painted my toe nails either." She said to herself.
Inuyasha's ear twitched. Kagome always wore those shoes. He tried to imagine her feet bare with the painted toe nails and for some reason it made the back of his neck burned. He shifted in his spot.
"Where do you think you're going?"
"I'm not going anywhere."
"You still haven't told me what happened with Koga."
He was about to tell her that there's nothing to talk about when he remembered what happened the last time he said that. He hesitated before he said, "Why do you care so much. . ." about him. He did not say the last part because she seemed to get worked up whenever he said Koga's name.
"This was a very important decision and I want to know why. . .well, I didn't even get to announce-"
He held up his hand. "Wait."
"We're not alone." He looked over at Kaeda's hut. "We should go somewhere with privacy."
Kagome looked over at Kaeda's hut. She didn't see anyone, but she didn't doubt that Inuyasha could probably smell the others just hovering near the door. "Let's go."
They walked away from the hut and left the village. They reached a familiar clearing. The Bone Eater's Well was in the middle.
Inuyasha snuck a glance at Kagome as they walked. It had been nearly a week since they last saw each other. She looked well rested. Her face. . . her skin looked so soft. He felt compelled to touch her face.
They stopped a few feet away from the well. Kagome crossed her arms and gave Inuyasha an expectant look.
He unceremoniously dropped to the ground and sat cross legged. He tucked his arms into his sleeves.
Kagome let out a frustrated sigh. She sat down too. She decided that she was going wait for him to start. She was tired of prodding.
Inuyasha snuck another glance at Kagome. She was watching and waiting for him. Damn it, he thought. He hated it when she looked at him that way. It was easier to be sullen when she was annoyed or frustrated. When she looked at him like that, it was difficult to ignore her. Her eyes were trained on him with a steady gaze and her lips were not pressed together in a straight line. In fact, they looked full. Very full. And shiny.
They never looked that inviting before.
"What's wrong with your lips?"
"What do you mean?" She put her hand over her mouth.
He pulled her hand away. "They're different." He caught a whiff of a scent and leaned closer to smell.
"What are you doing?" Kagome leaned back.
He looked at her and then at her lips.
Kagome felt her cheeks burning. Is he going to kiss me? She thought.
"What. . ." He looked at her again and then realized how close he was to her face. He was quick to jump back. "What the hell is wrong with your lips?"
"It's lip gloss."
He mouthed the words. "What's it for?"
Kagome shrugged. "I just felt like wearing it."
"Is that something else you wear for boys in your time?"
"What? They like this lip gloss too?"
"It's supposed to be pretty." She pretended to be occupied by her finger nails. "It also smells and tastes good too."
Inuyasha's eyes widened. "You mean. . . you let them. . . taste it."
She turned slightly away from him. "That's the idea."
He looked at her again. The lip gloss. The nail polish. "Why are you wearing the lip gloss and the nail polish here?"
"What? You don't like it?" She tried not to sound hurt.
His brow furrowed. "You never wore that stuff before."
"Does it matter?"
"Why now?" He let out a low growl. "Did you do all this for Koga?"
"You were going to pick that dirt monger!"
He stood up and paced back and forth. "What do you see in him? He doesn't stay to fight and he thinks he can just have any woman he wants."
"Gods! How could you pick him! I would've had to come rescue you. Again!"
"It's a good thing I figured out how to get your scent."
"It's really stupid that you want to be with Koga."
Kagome stood up. "What did you say?"
Inuyasha hesitated. He was careful not to call her stupid. Koga's comment made him realize he had to be more careful not to insult Kagome. "Uh. . . I don't think it's a good idea to be with Koga."
"Not that. What did you mean you got my scent?"
"Uh. . . Did I say that?"
"Yes, you did. Now explain."
"First tell me why you're wearing all that stuff for Koga."
"I told you I wasn't."
"I was showing Sango how to wear it."
"Tell me how you got my scent."
Inuyasha self consciously touched the rosary around his neck. He realized there was no way out of this. He couldn't fight or use his Tesusaiga to win this battle. "I had you wear my haori."
"Your haori? I don't remember wearing it."
He took a breath before he said, "Every night you wore it."
Kagome thought for a moment. "No, I didn't. All I had was-" She looked at him. "A blanket."
"Shippo used his fox magic."
Kagome processed this information. "Is that how I got your scent?"
He nodded again. "I wore the haori during the day."
"But. . . I don't understand. Of course, our scents would mix. We're around each other a lot. I probably have Sango's scent on me and mine on her."
"It doesn't work that way."
"Why not? Scents don't transfer from person to person?"
"No. It's not a question about who you've been around, but who you're mated with."
"Demons mate for life. You can tell that a demon's mated by the scent left by their mate."
Kagome's brow wrinkled. "Yeah, but. . ." She looked at Inuyasha with a confused expression. "Doesn't being mated mean that both people have. . . they. . ."
"But we haven't."
"Koga didn't know that."
"So, are you telling me that. . . he thinks we've mated."
He nodded again but this time with a small smile on his lips.
"Wait a minute, Miroku, Shippo, Sango. . . Oh gods. . . Kaeda! They think we've mated."
"I can't believe this."
"Why are you getting so upset? I thought you didn't want to be with Koga."
"That's not the point!"
Inuyasha did not like the expression on her face. She looked like she was getting ready to sit him. "Wait, I'm not finished."
"You mean there's more?"
"Well, I just. . . what the hell is the big deal?" He braced himself. She almost uttered the dreaded words, but she stopped. Her expression turned to calm.
"Is that what you really think?" Her voice was unusually level.
He looked at her suspiciously. "Yes."
She took two steps towards him. "Then take off your clothes."
"Well, we might as well make your trick a reality."
"Uh. . ." He backed away as Kagome walked toward him.
"I mean, we can't let people believe a lie, right?"
"Kagome-" Her face was inches away from his.
"Don't you want to know why I put this nail polish on? Why I'm wearing lip gloss?" She blinked at him. "Aren't you curious about how it tastes?"
Inuyasha was not sure how to react. Kagome never acted this way. He never thought she could act this way. She was always just Kagome. Friendly and kind. But this. . . her mouth smelled sweet. It disturbed him, but intrigued him more. The memory of him and Kagome sharing a blanket came unbidden in his mind.
He liked this side of Kagome. A lot.
Kagome's lips parted and Inuyasha's eyes widened.
Her voice was low. "Sit, boy."
He let out an unmanly scream.
"How do you like the taste of grass?"
His voice was muffled.
"I can't believe you! Did you actually think that I'd let you have me just like that? What kind of girl do you think I am? And I can't believe you'd let other people think I'm that kind of girl."
Inuyasha groaned. It felt like the grass had made little cuts on his face.
"You are going to tell our friends the truth."
"I haven't even kissed a boy yet. How could you think I was ready to mate with anyone!"
"Sorry?" She grabbed his collar and pulled him up. "I was going to announce today that my choice was neither of you."
Inuyasha flinched at the words.
"I could never love Koga and you're in love with Kikyo."
"When I mate with someone, it'll be because that person respects me and loves me. Me!"
He swallowed hard.
"I'm not some prize to be fought over."
Inuyasha looked at Kagome. "You're right."
"I-What did you say?"
Kagome blinked several times.
"I shouldn't have pulled that trick."
She opened her mouth and closed it several times. Then she said, "How long will your scent stay with me?"
He looked at her. Her arms were crossed and she was looking down at the ground. "For a while."
She played with a blade of grass with the toe of her shoe. "Mine will stay with you for a while too?"
It was a minute before she said, "I. . . I guess I should thank you for lending me your haori for the past few nights."
He was surprised by her comment.
"It was a dirty trick, but. . . the nights were cold and it kept me warm."
She looked up at him and she saw an expression on his face she did not recognize. He had a soft look in his eyes and a faint trace of a smile on his lips.
"I'm going back to Kaeda's hut." Kagome started walking back.
"You're not going home?"
"No. Do you think I should?"
"Good. I think we've wasted enough time. We should be looking for the jewel shards."
They started walking back to the hut together. They made it through the village, but before they reached the hut, Inuyasha stopped and took hold of Kagome's arm.
"What?" She asked.
"Are you going to wear the lip gloss from now on?"
Kagome rolled her shoulders back. "Maybe."
She had said that she never kissed a boy before and if she continued to wear the lip gloss, he was sure she would be kissed soon.
"When will you let a boy taste it?"
Kagome felt the top of her ears turning red. She looked at him and he had such a serious expression on his face. "When I'm ready."
"Because. . . it's pretty."
Kagome blinked several times.
"They're back!" Shippo's voice traveled from the hut. He had keeping watch for them.
Inuyasha walked into the hut. He and Shippo started arguing, but there was no heat in it. Kagome stood outside the hut, collecting herself. She was stunned by Inuyasha's compliment. He had never complimented her before.
A slow smile spread across her face. Was it possible that Inuyasha was finally noticing that she was more than just a shard detector?
For the first time, Kagome felt that she actually had a chance to win Inuyasha's love.THE END