Author's Note: Here's the companion story linked to "Sweet Sixteen" which had Kagome reaching sixteen and so as she stands on the threshold of adulthood she has made a difficult decision (to understand please read "Sweet Sixteen). So she returns to the Sengoku-jidai once more with a time limit in mind before she leaves the past, never to return. But Naraku has an insidious attack in mind that will alter not only her plans but will place her face to face with the darkness in her soul and Inu-Yasha and Kouga both become uneasy allies as they race to save her life. My first multi-chaptered Inu-Yasha story and you know the drill, I don't own Inu-Yasha nor did I create him, he is the brainchild of Rumiko Takahashi and belongs to her.

DARKEST HOUR

PROLOGUE---IN A MIRROR DARKLY

The skies above Japan during the period in her history known as the Sengoku jidai this day were dark, dark not with the clouds of Nature but instead the smoke that billowed up from fires manmade. Fires that came from countless battles as daimyo warred with each other over land and chattel, sending their samurai to die on the field of battle for the false sake of honor. And also at that time, the smoke that sent a haze to cover the sun was the emissions of funeral pyres of victims of these turbulent and primitive times, victims of pandemic pestilence that claimed lives as frequently as the battles did. The pestilence known as the Plague was sweeping the world outside of the Japanese archipelago and although the nation was isolated by choice, they were not immune as many of the populace also fell from the disease.

In a sprawling castle on a cliff that was surrounded by craggy mountain peaks a trio of beings, youkai were gathered. One male and two females, the male richly garbed in the raiment of a lord with his long ebony hair in a topknot. One was a small female clad in white with an impassive expression bearing a mirror that had flashing pictures, a slide show that the male youkai was watching with keen interest. In addition, bright orbs of light were entering the mirror at a moderate rate. The taller of the two females, a rather haughty woman with a regal and proud bearing in an elaborate kimono and her raven hair in a bun looked bored as she addressed the man.

"Really Naraku, don't you get tired of this? Always trying to trap that fool Inu-Yasha and his puny human friends. After all you have most of the shards of the Shikon No Tama." She leaned closer with a sly smirk and added, "If I didn't know better, I'd say you had a vendetta against him for some reason."

The being known as Naraku cast a dispassionate glance at her then turned his attention back to the mirror as he replied benignly, "Kagura, your place is not to question me. It is to carry out my wishes. May I be so bold as to remind you once again that I hold your heart in the palm of my hand?"

For emphasis he held the pulsing organ in question up and squeezed it ever so gently, causing Kagura to fall to her knees, clutching her chest in pain. Sufficiently cowed, she nodded as her crimson orbs narrowed and inside she cursed him with her entire being.

Naraku said, "I'm glad we understand each other. Now sit quietly as I watch the show."

Without another word, Kagura rose and obediently sat on the cushion behind him. Naraku then addressed the other female, "Kanna, show me the whereabouts of that baka hanyou and his entourage."

Kanna closed her eyes and the mirror glowed as the scene within it changed. Now the mirror showed the view of a village specifically a hut by the staircase of a shrine where the aged miko Kaede resided. The nondescript hut was also the gathering place for the fivesome made up of three humans a kitsune and an inu hanyou wearing a haori and pantaloons made of scarlet cloth woven from the hair of the fire rat and sporting a shock of silvery hair. The mirror then displayed said hanyou, who bore a rather hooded expression that had a hint of annoyance on his even features. His companions were probing him except for the dark haired beauty from the future who sat opposite Inu-Yasha with a benign look in her delicate countenance.

Hmmm, this looks interesting Naraku mused with fiendish amusement as he ascertained the strained atmosphere between the hanyou and his ladylove as he appraised the appearance of the girl Kagome who was the spitting image of the one woman that had infuriated him beyond reason.

For it was his cursed human heart that desired the lovely miko Kikyou that created he Naraku, in the first place and it was still that weak and base heart that kept him from his objective, to free himself from those crippling emotions by ridding the world of the resurrected miko. Once she and the desires of Onigumo's heart were banished, he could use the reconstructed Shikon No Tama and become the strongest and most powerful youkai. But to reach that, getting rid of Kikyou and the hanyou and his friends that pursued him relentlessly however was paramount.

One thing at a time he stated as his next objective was displayed on the mirror.

Naraku then leaned forward as he took note of the change in Kagome as it appeared to him that she had changed in some way, different yet the same. She was still as comely as ever but with that porcelain visage there was a very clear difference, almost as if she had changed overnight, like a flower that had reached full bloom. She was slimmer and taller, and her figure had become lush and she no longer wore the childish modern school uniform, instead she was clad in a pale blue sweater and miniskirt with platform sandals. He saw with smug satisfaction that there appeared to be some unusual tension within the group as evidenced by the conversation. He continued to watch the goings on with rapt attention.

In the hut, Miroku the houshi sighed as he remarked, "There certainly appears to be something amiss here between you and Kagome-sama, Inu-Yasha since you both have returned. Is everything all right?"

Sango the taijiya maid regarded Kagome and inquired, "Kagome-chan, is there anything wrong?"

Kagome shrugged her slender shoulders and replied in a neutral manner, "Iie, nothing here. Everything's fine."

Inu-Yasha opened his amber orbs and cast a fleeting glance at the girl then cast his eyes at Miroku in a glare as he retorted, "Nosy, it's all in your imagination so mind your own business. All of you."

"That's not true," Shippou the kitsune piped up. "You both have been peculiar since you came back from Kagome's time. So what happened?"

Again Inu-Yasha glanced at Kagome as if to send a silent message so she pasted a smile on her face and hurriedly replied, "Oh nothing really. We're just a little tired that's all. So don't worry, minna everything's fine."

The trio watched dubiously as she rose to her feet and headed out of the hut. "I'm going for a walk so I'll see you all later. Bye."

As Kagome left, Inu-Yasha was shaken from his inertia as he too got up and said nothing as he followed her, leaving behind three very perplexed friends. . . .

Kagome had walked to the outskirts of the village and into the forest only a short way when a scarlet clad figure leapt in front of her. She stopped as Inu-Yasha addressed her.

"You know they're getting suspicious. Just how long do you intend to keep this from them?" he wanted to know, his eyes piercing.

Kagome sighed as she answered, "I know I'm gonna have to tell them eventually. But I can't, not now it will hurt them too much. Especially Shippou."

It doesn't matter how much it hurts me though, does it? Inu-Yasha sighed as he said, "I know. But don't you think it's better that they know now? Instead of at the last minute?"

Arms folded Kagome shook her head. "Iie. If I tell them now, they will only try to change my mind and I've made my decision." She snuck a glance at Inu-Yasha as she asked, "You haven't really said anything since I told you the other night at my house."

"Keh," the hanyou scoffed. "What do you want me to say? You've made up your mind and I can't change it, can I." He pinned her with a gaze that was probing yet wistful and it made her bite her lip as she hesitated slightly before responding.

Regretfully Kagome shook her head. "Iie. As I told you, I have to think of my future. I'm sixteen now and I begin high school in a month so my mind's made up. I'll be going home for good when the month is gone."

Inu-Yasha's eyes showed a fleeting flash of pain as if he had been struck but covered it up with a look of feigned indifference. "All right, fine! You made up your mind so for now let's drop it." He turned his back to her as through the mirror Naraku watched and chuckled at the scene of duress. The mirror then went dark.

"So Kikyou's reincarnation is planning to return to her own time for good, eh? We have to move swiftly then."

Kagura rose and inquired curiously, "What do you plan to do, Naraku? If the wench is planning to leave for good, that will make things easier for you. She has grown more powerful of late, even more formidable than Kikyou with her ability to see the shards."

"I'm aware of that, Kagura. I'm also aware of her effect on that worthless hanyou. Can't you see it? He's crushed by the fact that Kagome is leaving." The amalgamation of evil laughed as he added, "If I can succeed in my plan, I'll not only have her ability to see the remaining shards, I'll have the control over that pest Inu-Yasha as well and I can rid myself of the both of them."

He addressed his pale incarnation. "Kanna, go and continue to gather the souls of the victims of the pestilence known by the humans as the Plague. Kagura, you go with her. Then when the mirror is full, return here to me."

Kanna nodded obediently as holding the mirror, she rose and Kagura reached in her hair and withdrew a feather, tossing it up as it floated down returning as a means of transportation that the two female youkai boarded to go to do his bidding. Naraku sat back and grinned evilly as he spoke aloud to his enemy.

"Take your ease now, Inu-Yasha. For your torment has not even begun yet. But rest assured it is coming…,"

Meanwhile the pair that had been unknowingly observed continued aimlessly walking down the wooded path, side by side yet wordless as each mind was filled with the grave reality of the time limit before them. Kagome especially felt as if she were betraying those who had become precious to her but she had to finally admit to the cold, hard truth, that she and her life was of another place and time. And so she had to face her true destiny. This was her thought as she strolled along.

Inu-Yasha, however was deep in a state of resigned melancholy as he plodded along beside her brooding over the fact that in the short span of a month, he would again be alone. Being that he had been alone for most of his life he knew that he would survive, as he did before. But this time was different, it was more ominous and he had to admit, heartbreaking as it was this girl who had always been beside him had healed the previous wounds of his heart, bringing him back from the depths of despair. But now he had to face that in a month's time, Kagome, the only one other than his mother that had supported him and bore his sorrow would be gone.

In his countless battles against Naraku and other foes such as his half brother Sesshoumaru Inu-Yasha had stoically born injuries that to anyone else would have been agony or even fatal, yet he always recovered. But as severe as the pain from those injuries were, nothing cut as deep or was wounding him as much as the knowledge that his time with Kagome was short. He highly doubted that there was any weapon or blade that could cut him as deep as her words did that night in her time but in typical fashion he had shifted into his self-protective mode and assumed a manner of surly indifference to all.

However, as he walked along with Kagome Inu-Yasha was beset with another emotion, an intense feeling of urgency not only to find the rest of the shards of the Shikon No Tama and defeat Naraku in the short span of time now alloted to him but to do something completely alien to him, share his feelings for her. He pondered the dilemma as dismayed he suddenly picked up a faint foul stench of one that he completely loathed.

In a clearing, a whirlwind appeared from behind a rock ledge and so the pair stopped as the muscular leader of the Yorozoku or what was left of them emerged and planted himself before Kagome. Inu-Yasha growled angrily as ignoring the hanyou Kouga again pledged his troth.

"Kagome, I picked up your sweet perfume as I was searching for Naraku so I came to see how you were faring." The debonair wolf then peered at his beloved in concern as he added, "But I also picked up the scent of your distress, are you all right, koi?"

At the sound of the endearment, Inu-Yasha snarled and planted himself in between the two, getting into right into Kouga's face. "Listen up you worthless fleabag. How Kagome is faring is none of your damned business so beat it."

Kouga became incensed as he retorted, "Shut up, Inukkoro! Everything about her is my business, she's my mate." He too growled as he noticed the strain in Kagome as she tried to keep the two alpha canines from attacking each other as they prepared for the umpteenth time to fight over her. The line in the sand was drawn as the dog and wolf squared off.

"Don't fret, Kagome. I'll take care of this mangy inukkoro posthaste." Kouga got into a battle stance and he cracked his claws as the hanyou grinned unpleasantly and followed suit.

"Just say the word, ookami and you're dead!" Inu-Yasha unsheathed his own claws as a growl rumbled in his throat.

Once again seeing the need to intervene Kagome sighed as she thought Man, this is getting old too. At first I was kinda flattered but now I just want them to stop. She snapped, "Okay you guys, knock it off! I'm not a kewpie doll to be won by either of you."

Both turned and regarded her questioningly. "Huh?"

"What's that?" Kouga asked.

Inu-Yasha demanded, "What the hell is a kewpie doll, anyway?"

"It's a prize that they give away at carnivals back home," she explained. "But never mind that, I want you to stop this fighting over me, NOW. Sheesh, I'm so glad that I'm not gonna have to deal with this much longer."

That statement caught Kouga's attention as he grasped Kagome's hand and inquired, "What do you mean, Kagome-koi?"

Jealous as usual, Inu-Yasha pulled them apart as Kagome replied, "Kouga-kun, I'm planning to go back home, to my….time."

The wolf did a double take as he echoed, "Your…time? What does that mean?"

Inu-Yasha scoffed, "Moron, Kagome comes from another time. Or didn't you figure that out from the way she acts and dresses, she's not like other wenches."

The wolf glared at his adversary momentarily yet still surprised Kouga studied his love as he queried, "Is that true, Kagome? Do you in fact come from another time?" His handsome features were in a state of astonishment as he stared at her causing her some discomfort.

Kagome was pinned by the wide and steady pools of cerulean as she bit her lip and nodded. "Uh-huh Kouga-kun. I come from 500 years in the future, the 21st century."

He echoed, "You come from….the 21st century?"

Kagome nodded again and continued, "I travel back and forth through the well in the clearing. You see, in my time, my family and descendents are shrine keepers and have been for many years, going back to this time. At least that's what ji-chan says."

"H-how can that be? You're not youkai, you're human," Kouga said slowly.

She nodded as she stated, "I know but I can travel between the two ages."

He stood dumbfounded as she went on, "You see, it all begins with the Shikon No Tama. The miko Kikyou was entrusted with it and when she died and was cremated, she took the jewel with her."

Kouga said, "I know that the jewel was gone for fifty years. Why does that have to do with your being able to traverse the time slip?"

Kagome sighed and said, "I'm getting to that. One day when I was passing by the well house on our shrine I was captured by a youkai known as Mistress Centipede and dragged down the well and ended uphere."

"Keh," Inu-Yasha snorted. "You don't have to tell the baka the whole story. It's none of his business."

"Ah shut up, inukkoro. If Kagome wants to tell me, she can," Kouga snapped as the two glowered at each other.

Kagome admonished, "Inu-Yasha, it's okay. Kouga's a trusted friend and it's time he knew."

Inu-Yasha grunted as Kagome continued telling the story, "Anyway, I escaped Mistress Centipede and ended up in front of the tree where Inu-Yasha was bound."

Kouga snickered as he derided his rival, "Heh, I know all about that, too. By the miko who he fell in love with…..BAKA!"

Inu-Yasha's amber eyes narrowed dangerously as he ground out, "And just how did you find out about that?"

Smirking, Kouga opened his mouth to reply but to defuse the potentially volatile situation Kagome cut him off. "Like I was saying, I ended up where Inu-Yasha was bound when the centipede came after me and the Shikon No Tama popped out of me." She pointed to her left abdomen to illustrate.

"The jewel… came out of …you?" Kouga's azure gaze lit on the area in question then inadvertently slid to her bosom as Inu-Yasha saw and his own eyes flashed fire as he snapped at the wolf.

"Keep your eyes off her, hentai." He boxed Kouga's ear, which caused the first volley in the ongoing war as the ookami howled and became enraged.

"That does it! Inukkoro, I'm gonna knock you on your ass," he snarled as with an evil smile Inu-Yasha jumped up and goaded him further.

"That's just what I've been waiting for. Come at me, fleabag I'm beggin' ya."

Kagome snapped, "Inu-Yasha, oswari!" And with those words and the pink flash the hanyou ended up face down on the ground.

He glared at her as he griped, "What the hell'd ya do that for?"

She said irately, "Would you just let me finish the story, for Kami sake."

Kouga smirked at the grumbling inu as Kagome continued, "Anyway, after the jewel came out of me, I was supposed to do as Kikyou did, take care of the jewel."

Inu-Yasha scoffed as he got up into a sitting position, "Keh, but you didn't, you let some measly crow youkai get it and take off, so I had to get it back."

Kagome skewered him with her chocolate glare as she bit out, "Aa, but you didn't and I had to kill him with an arrow."

Kouga was intensely interested as he asked, "Your sacred arrow?"

She nodded, "Aa. I shot the youkai and killed him and when I did, the jewel shattered into many pieces, into the shards they are now." She lowered her head in shame as she added with a sigh, "And so it's my fault the Shikon No Tama is back in the world and in shards so that's why I come back and forth. It's my duty to do what I can to retrieve all the shards."

Kouga took her chin in his hand and gently raised it. "Don't be so hard on yourself, Kagome-koi. We'll help you get all the shards back."

Inu-Yasha jumped up and wrenched Kagome away as he barked, "WE? And who the hell asked you to help, ookami baka? We can find all the shards without your interference so piss off."

Kouga leapt to a fighting position as he roared, "Inukkoro, that's it. I'm gonna kick your ass now!"

Inu-Yasha laughed as he said, "Any time you're ready, scrawny ookami."

Kouga grinned as he said, "No time like the present." He lunged forward, his own arm raised with claws at the ready heading for the hanyou who was likewise poised.

All this time Inu-Yasha was circling with his claws out and ready. Since finding out about Kagome's plan to leave for good Inu-Yasha was itching for a release for his pent up emotions and a fight with his bitter enemy and rival for her was just the thing. Pounding Kouga into a pile of mangy fur and bones would do a lot to alleviate his pain. He was about to pounce on his quarry as the feminine screech from behind startled him.

"Okay THAT'S IT!" Kagome railed as she got between the two and pushed them apart as she angrily confronted the two canines. "I told you both to knock it off and I mean it….KNOCK IT OFF!"

Kouga protested in an adolescent manner, "He started it!"

Kagome cut him off with a wave of her hand. "I don't care. I'm sick of the bickering between you two. I'm outta here and don't either of you follow me!" She flounced off, leaving both males staring after her.

Although the opposite was true Inu-Yasha whirled on the ookami and growled, "Mangy fleabag, you made her mad, you always come around here and stir up trouble. It's your fault that she won't stay."

"My fault?" Kouga was incredulous. "I've done nothing to drive Kagome away." He got right into the hanyou's face as he said sourly, "But that cannot be said for you, inukkoro."

Inu-Yasha glared back at his rival. "And what the hell is that supposed to mean, ookami?"

Kouga's eyes narrowed to azure slits. "Just this. Twice I can recall Kagome in tears because of the way you treat her. Like the perfect sakura, she is rare and precious and like a clumsy ox crushing the fallen blossom you've trampled all over her heart. You don't deserve her." His voice rose to a roar as he bellowed, "She's in constant danger tagging along with you. And because of you, she almost died!"

Inu-Yasha cringed as the wolf's words hung in the air and echoed in his ears. He was bombarded with the very facts that were gnawing at his soul and that had been feeding on him since Kagome informed him of her decision. In the face of Kouga's accusations, he was sullen and silent as he had nothing to say.

"Humph!" The wolf stepped away and then Kouga whirled about to leave as he barked over his shoulder, "Baka, if anyone's to blame for Kagome leaving here for good, it's YOU!"

He took off, leaving an eddy of leaves and twigs in his wake as well as a seething hanyou who watched with a dark scowl on his even features. . . .

Meanwhile, at a distant village Kagura and Kanna hovered above as the palls of smoke from another funeral pyre as the bright disks of departed souls rose up and were drawn into the mirror, some white and pure and some tainted. The tainted ones were accepted whereas the purest ones would float out and up to heaven.

Kagura was bored as she waited for Kanna to gather the diaphanous orbs and she yawned as she remarked, "This is taking forever, Kanna. Surely the mirror is full or at least near to its capacity."

Kanna replied placidly, "The mirror is not yet full but we have enough tarnished souls to satisfy Naraku. So we can go now, Kagura."

Bossy wench the wind witch groused crossly as she used a wave of her fan to create the wind to fly them back to the castle and Naraku. . . .

At the same time, Inu-Yasha caught up to Kagome, as she was in a fine temper, irked by the near barrage that took place between the hanyou and Kouga. He leapt above and landed right in front of her, halting her progress as she met his stare.

"And what do you want?" she said icily as she stood with arms akimbo.

Inu-Yasha grunted as he stated, "I know you're mad at me because of that tick-ridden ookami. But he asks for it by making passes at you all the time, why can't he just give up?"

Kagome pinned him with her stormy chocolate orbs. "He's a friend, Inu-Yasha. A friend who's looked out for me and protected me."

"And I haven't?" the hanyou asked testily. "I've protected and watched out for you more than that fleabag ever did." His voice calmed as he said, "Remember how I came to your time and cared for you when you were sick."

Kagome bit her pink lip as she nodded. "Uh-huh, I remember," she murmured.

Inu-Yasha grasped her hand and surprised by the uncustomary gesture, she gazed at him as he said, "Kagome, I don't want to argue with you. I want you to come somewhere with me, that's why I came after you when you left the hut."

She was perplexed as she asked, "Where?"

But he just knelt down and presented his back to her. "Never mind just climb on and come with me."

"Okay." Really curious now she mounted the hanyou and with a leap they took off into the clear blue clime of the afternoon. . . .

In a short time, they were at a lake and Inu-Yasha leapt over to the shore where a long flatboat was moored and bobbed up and down in the rippling wavelets, glistening in the sun. He let her off and then taking her hand, led her over.

"C'mon and get into the boat and I'll take you for a ride," he said gruffly as Kagome regarded the hanyou quizzically.

"You want to take me on a boat ride?" she asked.

"Aa," he answered as he guided her to the gunwale and with a gentle but firm hand he held on to her as she climbed in and went to the stern bench to sit. He then reached for a pole and got into the bow, pushing against a rock with the pole to shove off.

The craft glided into the sun drenched water of the lake, sending shiny ripples in its wake as Inu-Yasha propelled the craft with the pole and Kagome sat musing about why he insisted she accompany him. Her eyes took in the lush greenery of the surrounding flora, the trees spreading their leafy canopies above as the dappled sun peeked through the branches and her thoughts flowed like the water.

I wonder what's with him? Kagome pondered as she surreptitiously studied the hanyou as he played the part of gondolier and piloted them across the lake. I know he's bugged about my decision but he's acting really strange, it's kinda freaking me out. And he won't say anything, nothing new there but from the way he's acting it seems that he wants to say something to me—but can't.

At the front of the flatboat, Inu-Yasha was deep in his own reverie as he remembered the last time he had ridden on this boat, on this lake. It was an afternoon like this when he had taken Kikyou the same way, as they needed to cross the body of water so they could continue their travels together. At that time, he had offered to carry her but Kikyou declined and suggested they use the boat instead so he acquiesced and drove the boat to the dock on the other side.

Inu-Yasha then inwardly sighed as he recalled what happened after they pulled up to the dock. He got out and moored the boat, then waited as the miko made to exit the craft and join him. But she stumbled as her sandal caught on a loose plank and she fell forward so he sprung out to catch her and then as she looked up and as he saw the perpetual sadness in her eyes, he was overcome and hugged her to him, dropping the pole. And then as they drew back, he and Kikyou shared their first kiss….

At that memory, the hanyou snuck a glance back at Kagome as she was perched on the seat, the breeze catching her raven tresses and fanning them about as they flew about her lovely face. He found himself thinking of the similarities between the two young women that had in the stretch of fifty years each claimed his heart and the differences, because although Kagome resembled Kikyou she was different in a very clear way. Her face, even when she was sad, bore none of the naked sorrow that Kikyou had and it seemed that even the sun itself was brighter as it shone on her. He cracked a rare smile at that thought but then like a bucket of ice water, the cold reality that in a scant few days he would no longer experience the complete joy that being with Kagome gave him tore at his heart anew. Yet as usual he hid his true feelings and he covered his anguish by turning away and lowering his head.

Being as clandestine as Inu-Yasha, Kagome had noticed his attention on her and she saw the yearning in his eyes as he secretly watched her. She was perplexed and yet inside her heart she rejoiced as she saw the proof of his affection that he constantly denied. Often she had wondered if it was because the others were around as he was extremely private about his feelings. But now it was just the two of them, no Shippou, no Sango, and no Miroku were around to bear witness so perhaps that gave him the freedom he would not feel otherwise.

"Inu-Yasha?" Kagome asked timidly as she was strangely afraid of the mood that existed between them.

He glanced back. "Aa?"

"Where are you taking me?"

Inu-Yasha sighed, "No place particular. I just wanted to take a boat ride with you on a nice day like this." He cast a defensive look at her as he demanded, "Is that a problem?"

She quashed the ire rising inside at his usual belligerence and shook her head. "Iie, iie."

He then turned around and regarded her closely with trepidation, "You trust me, don't you?"

She looked back at him in some surprise. "Of course."

He relaxed as he turned back around. "Then just sit back and enjoy the ride." He continued to guide them through the placid waters as the sun dipped in the western sky in its cloak of gold and orange.

They rounded a bend and about 25 feet ahead was a dock, that led to a road that was headed west and the sun cast its angled rays to the lake shore, bathing the couple in its amber glow. The flatboat glided up to the dock as Inu-Yasha stilled the craft with the pole while tying the moor line to the mooring post. He then stepped up onto the deck to wait as Kagome rose and made to follow.

But as she stepped up, the same loose plank caught the platform of her sandal tripping her as she gasped and fell forward, prompting Inu-Yasha to lunge forth and catch her, as he had Kikyou. Only this time as Kagome gazed up at him, her eyes were surprised and uncertain, which sent a similar pang in him and tossing the pole aside, he encircled her in his arms, cradling her head against his shoulder.

Kagome was speechless in the cocoon of fire-rat cloth as the warmth of both the hanyou's gesture and body encompassed her and she could feel the longing and urgency in him. She returned the embrace and the feelings she could feel radiating from within.

Oh Inu-Yasha. Her own arms snaked about him, under his arms and she turned her head and rested her cheek against the fur of the cloth, marveling at how soft it felt. She was then further bemused as they drew apart and gazed deeply into each other's eyes. Kagome stood there transfixed as the hanyou's eyes were soft and glowing like molten gold and she was drawn in. Deeply moved, Kagome opened her mouth to speak but Inu-Yasha's hands slid up and cupped her face as his mouth moved in to claim hers.

The kiss began softly, hesitantly as his tongue ran across and tasted her lips; strawberry as she moaned and opened her mouth to bid it entrance. He eagerly complied as his clawed hands laced through her hair like corn silk and his senses all slipped into overdrive. Her own surrender served to fuel his growing passion as he craved and sought more. My Kagome Inu-Yasha said to himself over and over again in a litany as he continued to savor the closeness of the woman he adored as they were entwined together, closed off from the rest of the world.

Finally they drew apart, breathless and mutually amazed by the enormity of the emotions between them they locked eyes, words at a loss. Inu-Yasha then turned and knelt down as Kagome climbed on his back and grasping her securely, leapt up and headed back to the village. Yet as they traveled along, both silently pondered what truly was waiting in the thirty days that lay stretched out before them as their days together were numbered. But neither had any idea that something vile and foreboding was on the horizon. . .

NEXT…..SOMETHING WICKED