The Way We Get By

Author's Note: Hey, riesling here. I just thought that I should give you a quick thanks for reading my ficcy (or attempting to read my story). I'd first like to say that I don't own Inuyasha. Also, this is my first Inuyasha fic; so, when you review, please keep that in mind. Another thing, there are going to be a lot of pairings between characters, mainly with Kagome and others, so PLEASE don't flame me for pairings. And, finally, I would appreciate all constructive criticism!

Summary: Kagome's been traveling through Feudal Japan to piece together the destroyed Shikon Jewel for three years now. She's finally entered high school, keeping up in classes with her friends and managing to lead a fairly normal double life. But, recently, she's having betraying thoughts and just might find herself closer to the enemy than she'd ever imagined.

Disclaimer: This is the only time I will say this, but it stands for all chapters. I do not own Inuyasha: not the storylines or the characters. Please don't sue me, I write for pleasure, not profit.

Chapter One

---

It was snowing when she first stepped into the dawning morning. The snowflakes caught in her hair, brushing against her rosy cheeks and clinging to her eyelashes. She tilted her head towards the sky, closing her eyes and letting the soft white flakes fall onto her face.

She exhaled, opening her eyes to watch her breath float up towards the grey sky. The snowflakes were spinning silently to the ground, falling and collecting around her feet. The only sound was of his crunching footsteps from somewhere further ahead of her.

'Hurry,' her mind urged her on.

She began following his footprints, her eyes on the ground. She looked up for a moment to see just how far ahead of her these tracks stretched only to be met by an icy gust of wind blowing snow into her eyes. Blinking rapidly, she tried in vain to shield herself from the icy powder.

'Hurry,' she was reminded again.

She struggled to keep up with his pace. It was becoming harder and harder to follow his tracks; the snow was falling much more heavily, covering the prints almost as soon as he'd made them.

Everything was being covered in white; a white so pure it was hard to tell where the sky ended and the earth began. She had almost given up hope when, barely audible over the now howling wind, she heard his voice.

"Kikyo."

'Hurry, Kagome!' her mind screamed as she began to pick up her pace.

"Where are you?" she whispered to herself, listening, at the same time, to his voice through the almost blinding snow.

Her only answer was an echo, bouncing off of unseen walls, filling the space around her, "Inuyasha, at last you've come."

She stopped her running as she came near a clearing. The snow wasn't falling so hard there and she knew that she hadn't been heard; the two figures inside were concentrating only on each other.

"Kikyo," his voice trailed off.

"Inuyasha," hers matched his in desire.

Before she could really register what was happening between the two figures in the clearing, they were in one another's arms, sharing an embrace that had been waiting for what seemed an eternity.

She noticed for the first time just how cold she was. Her nose was frozen and her fingers seemed to be on fire. But she was shivering -- cold and alone.

She sank to her knees, watching them. And the snow fell.

'I-I'm too late,' she thought sorrowfully.

'Hurry,' her mind mocked her.

"I-inuyasha," she murmured his name.

"Kagome!"

---

"Kagome!"

Her breathing was fast and ragged; but Sango could only watch as a cold sweat trickled down the younger girl's forehead. Up and down –- Sango watched the rise and fall of her chest as she panted. She took Kagome's delicate hand within her own and held it to her heart.

"Oh Kagome!" she breathed.

But she did not wake.

"I-inuyasha," she was whispering his name over and over again.

Sango placed her hands on Kagome's shoulders, shaking her awake. Her voice was louder now; almost pleading, "Kagome! Wake up!"

She stirred, having caught the sound of her name. She tried to follow it. She murmured his name once again, "Inuyasha?"

Her eyelids flickered open slowly, as if sleep still pulled at her. Though her breathing was still labored and she was soaked in a cold sweat, Kagome looked up at Sango in confusion.

"S-sango? What? What happened?" her voice didn't quite sound panicked, though it wasn't quite calm, either.

"You were dreaming," she whispered to the younger girl. "I-I didn't want you to wake the others."

But it was a lie, one Kagome didn't pick up on. The others were already awake and bathing in the hot spring nearby.

Kagome sat up, shivering, as the covers fell from around her shoulders. Her body was still soaked in sweat and the chill in the air hadn't helped matters much, either. There was a distinct feeling that winter was not far off. It was faint, but when Kagome exhaled, Sango could see her breath on the air.

"You're alright, Kagome?" Sango questioned.

"Of course!" she stretched, smiling warmly at Sango. But in her mind, Kagome knew that everything wasn't alright. She'd been having these 'nightmares' of Inuyasha and Kikyo since she'd witnessed them together in the forest clearing near Kaede's village: the same nightmares had been haunting her for three years.

But this time the nightmare was so different. It was much more real. Their voices sounded much more clear –- and Kagome could swear that she felt the snow at her feet with each step and the chill of the wind on her neck.

'What do I care if Inuyasha's in love with that wench, anyway?' Kagome asked herself. 'It's not like it's any of my concern.'

But Kagome knew the truth. Sure, it had only been a school girl's crush when she first met him. But now she didn't know what to call it.

Before Sango could press her more, Kagome reached for her school uniform and began to dress. She pulled on a white long sleeved t-shirt before finishing with her new school vest. It was mostly the same as the one she had worn in Jr. High, but this one was navy, a much more sophisticated color in the eyes of her school. She tied the red necktie in a bow, just like she did every morning. Her skirt, however, offered her much more of a hassle.

"What happened here?" she asked, holding up the tattered remains of her navy blue skirt. It was damaged beyond all possible repairs; it was torn, shredded to near pieces. The threads at the waist had been pulled so that it was far too small for anyone to fit into and the bottom of the skirt had become so short that there wasn't much use in wearing anything but her panties.

Inuyasha, who was returning from the spring with Miroku and Shippo following closely behind him, spoke up first, "Shippo saw a string and pulled it."

"And you let him?" she sounded irritated – no, furious!

"I wasn't gonna stop him," Inuyasha began smugly. "There's no way to predict how you'll react."

"But you…you! Eeeeurgh!" Kagome let out a high pitched noise, most closely categorized somewhere between a scream and a groan; but still got her point across. She was very upset. "This was my favorite skirt!"

Sango and Miroku both exchanged knowing glances as Inuyasha threw up his arms in surrender. "Kagome! Wait!"

"Inuyasha," she sounded so sweet and innocent now. But her voice changed as she shouted, "Osuwari!"

And she left the group to clean up camp and head back to Kaede's village on their own. She was taking extreme measures to show just how unwilling she was, at the moment, to tolerate any of the injustices brought upon her by the unbearable red-clad hanyou.

It was a mystery to her if she was really upset about the condition of her skirt or if there was something more that sparked her temper. When she honestly thought about it, Kagome knew that it had something, no a lot of something, to do with the dream she'd been having of Inuyasha and Kikyo.

She stayed well ahead of the group for the entire journey back to the village. But she listened intently to the lectures of Sango and Miroku, both of which were summed up quite well with 'you never learn, do you Inuyasha?'

Content with his punishment, Kagome took her leave and went home.

---

"Mom?" her voice rang out across the shrine. "Sota? Gramps?"

'That's strange,' she thought, hoisting her bag over her shoulder. 'Where is everyone?'

Kagome crossed the large open walkway from the old well to her home, still wondering where her family could be. The sky was cloudy and it looked like it was going to rain.

As she took off her shoes and stepped into the kitchen of her house, Kagome was a bit taken aback by the silence in her home. 'They really aren't at home,' she thought. 'Oh well, maybe they'll be back after I've taken a nice warm bath.'

Leaving her bag by the door, Kagome ran up the stairs and into her bedroom. Everything was just as she had left it, her bed was still made, her clothes still in a laundry basket waiting to be put in her drawers, and her school books still untouched on her desk.

"I'm home!" she sighed, falling face first into her pillow. "Oh! It feels so good! And it's been so long; I guess I've missed this more than I thought."

She turned over and looked up at her ceiling, crossing one arm behind her head. 'I wonder if my nightmare will follow me here.'

But she erased that thought from her mind as she heard thunder rumble from outside of her bedroom window. It really was going to storm; and from the view Kagome got from looking out of her bedroom window told her it was going to be a long storm.

"Better go take a bath, hadn't I, Buyo?" she asked the brown and white cat curling up in her lap. He was getting old; most of his brown fur fading.

"Mow?"

Kagome laughed as she picked up her cat and sat him on her bed. She took off her clothes quickly as she walked into the bathroom and turned on the water. It was cold outside, but the water from the bath warmed the small room adjacent to Kagome's bedroom.

"Ahh," she moaned, sliding into the warm water. "This is so nice."

The thunder grew louder and rain sounded violently against the side of her house. Lightning would flash occasionally, lighting up the already lit bathroom. It wasn't very relaxing, listening to the storm.

Kagome groaned, not yet ready to leave the warmth of her bath. She stood and wrapped a towel around her nude figure and walked back into her bedroom. She picked up a portable CD player and began rummaging through some of her old CDs. Finally picking one, she put it into the player and put the headphones on.

She put the player on the ledge next to the bathtub and threw her wet towel on the floor; she'd be using it again soon, once the water got cold. Turning up the volume, Kagome sank into the water, careful not to get the headphones wet.

"Ah ryoute ni sora wo mune ni arashi wo," she sang.

The sounds of the music drowned out her voice, but she was still thinking through each line of the song. It was her favorite, always making her feel better, even when there wasn't really anything she needed to feel better about.

'It was stupid Inuyasha's fault!' she thought bitterly. 'I'd still be there with Shippo and the others had it not been for his – his insensitivity!'

She listened to the words, letting them flow over her. She was relaxing slowly, allowing the warm water to dismiss her body's aches and pains.

"Ah kimi ni owakare wo kono umibe ni nokosarete itano," she listened to the words, closing her eyes as she sang them.

So it was no surprise that Kagome didn't see her mother walk into the bathroom and stand over her, listening as she sang the words that, through her daughter's love of the song, she had grown to love, as well. And Kagome didn't hear her mother speaking to her.

"Kagome, honey?" Mrs. Higurashi asked hesitantly. She reached out to brush her daughter's shoulder gently.

"Nani?" Kagome exclaimed, her eyes shooting open. She immediately thought of modesty as one hand traveled to cover her exposed chest and the other reached to remove the headphones from her ears. "Mom?"

"Telephone, dear," she handed her daughter the cordless phone.

"But, how'd you know I was home?" she asked.

"Your bag was left by the door."

Kagome took the phone from her mother, smiling. "Thanks, mom."

"Dinner will be waiting for you downstairs," she said, leaving the room.

Kagome stared at the phone for a moment before putting it to her ear and saying, "Moshi moshi."

"Kagome!" the voice from the other end was deep; definitely male.

"Hai?" She hesitated before adding, "Who is this?"

"Oh, my apologies," the voice laughed. Was he embarrassed? "Houjo, here!"

"Houjo?" she questioned. She didn't know what to say. Sure, he'd liked her since grade school and it was commonplace for him to bring gifts and attempt to talk to her by phone, but this was the first time she'd spoken to him in months! "How are you?"

"That's what I called you about!" he exclaimed. "You've been gone from school for so long. I was wondering, how are you feeling?"

"I'm feeling…" she let her voice trail off. She was still missing so much school that her grandfather was making up various sicknesses for her to be plagued with. She'd barely made it into high school with her near failing Jr. High school grades. But now she was doing better in school, mostly because her grandfather had gotten bored with crossword puzzles and had begun working on her homework. "I'm feeling better, thanks for calling."

"That's wonderful to hear! Will you be back at school soon?" he asked.

"Well," she paused in thought. "Houjo?"

"Hai?" he acknowledged her.

"What day is it?"

"W-well, Friday!" he laughed. "You must have been really sick to forget what day of the week it is!"

Kagome clenched her fists underwater and tried to keep herself from shouting. "I'll be back at school tomorrow, I think."

"That's great to hear!" he paused. "You wouldn't want to go to lunch with me after morning classes tomorrow, would you? Only i-if you're feeling better!"

"Sure, Houjo," she smiled, a genuine smile. "I'd love to."

"R-really? That's great!" he laughed. "Well, I'll talk to you tomorrow, then. I'll meet you by the front gates after classes let out!"

"Sounds good," Kagome said sincerely. It was the first time she was truly happy in weeks. "I'll see you tomorrow."

"See ya!" he hung up.

'Inuyasha!' Kagome thought, her mind immediately scolding herself for even thinking of 'cheating' on him. But, it wouldn't really be cheating -- not if Inuyasha has been seeing Kikyo all of this time. And it was decided. 'If he's seeing other people, then I'll start seeing other people, too.'

Kagome took one last dive underwater before reaching for the towel to wrap around herself. She could smell something wonderful coming from the kitchen; and she was feeling hungry.

---

She was standing in front of the main entrance of her high school the next afternoon, huddling under her umbrella to stay out of the rain. Kagome had put her hair up before she left for school that day. She still smiled when she thought about the small curls falling from her long pony tail.

Somehow she'd managed to keep her grades up enough to be admitted to the next grade and then the next. She was becoming quite skilled at the juggling act that had become her life for the three years she had been traveling to feudal Japan. Kagome was able to manage her time, keep her grades up, and still restore the Shikon Jewel without breaking too much of a sweat.

A lot had changed over the years that had passed. Kagome was now a young woman of eighteen. A young woman, not to mention, who had caught the eye of many a young man in her time as well as in the Feudal Era.

School, on that day, had been wonderful. She wasn't really sure what was so great about it; she was still struggling to understand most of her classes, after all. But something about the day just seemed so much better than normal.

Maybe she was happy to be back at school; she had been 'sick' with the flu for three weeks. Or maybe Kagome was happy to see all of her friends once again. But perhaps the satisfaction of showing Inuyasha just what it felt like to be cheated on was growing on her.

'Wait, wait, wait!' Kagome's mind cautioned her. 'Did I just think 'cheated on'? Inuyasha and I aren't really together. Are we?'

Her eyes shined through a thin layer of mascara and some silver eye shadow as she remained lost in thought. She was very confused about how excited she was to be meeting Houjo for lunch. No matter, though. Either way, cloudy as it was outside, the day couldn't have been brighter.

'I've been to lunch with Houjo hundreds of times,' she thought. 'He takes me out nearly every time I come back to school from being sick. And it's only him being nice to me; a little 'I missed you' between friends, right?'

But the more Kagome thought about Inuyasha compared to Houjo, the more she began to see just what her friends had been trying to tell her all along. And maybe it wasn't that she hadn't been listening to her friends, but just that she'd been so swept up in her thoughts of Inuyasha.

Being away from him for this short time sure had made her realize just how genuine Houjo was. Inuyasha would never have been so kind or caring as to wait around on her for all of these long weeks that she'd been 'sick' from school.

'Inuyasha hadn't even been patient enough to wait for me to show him how I felt before he chose Kikyo,' Kagome thought bitterly.

Houjo, however, had called her that morning, before she left for school, to ask if she was feeling alright and if there was anything special that she'd like for breakfast. Would Inuyasha ever ask her that? No! And even though she wasn't really sick at all, it was still nice to know that Houjo was thinking of her.

"Kagome?" she heard a voice question from behind her.

Turning around, Kagome sighed to herself as her eyes fell into the soft gaze of Houjo's caramel ones. He was smiling and holding an umbrella above his head. He stepped under Kagome's and closed his, shoving the umbrella into his bag.

"Konnichiwa," she smiled and leaned closer to him, allowing for him to fit more comfortably under her umbrella.

"I hope I didn't keep you waiting for very long," he smiled at her, taking the umbrella from her and offering her his arm in exchange.

Kagome tried to hide a blush as she grasped his arm and smiled up at him. She looked down at the ground before answering, "No, not long, Houjo."

"I'm glad to hear that," he smiled.

They walked in silence for most of the three blocks to the outdoor shopping mall where most of the kids from their school spent their Saturday afternoons. There were restaurants, shops, a movie theatre, and even an arcade.

The central square of the shopping center wasn't very crowded because of the rain, but Kagome could tell by looking inside some of the stores that this was still a very busy place. Houjo smiled at Kagome's reaction to all of the different stores.

"That's right," he commented. "It's probably been a while since you've been here, having been so sick and all."

Kagome blushed, "Right."

They walked until they came to the entrance of a modest sandwich place. They were fairly busy on the inside, but Houjo put the umbrella away and led Kagome quickly to a small table in the corner.

"Order whatever you like," he started. "You need to start gaining your strength so that you can fight off future illness."

Kagome laughed, looking at all of the heads they had turned as they rushed to the corner table. There were jealous girls glaring at her from all over the restaurant. Not to mention the heads that Kagome, herself, had turned from the other high school boys.

"I guess people just aren't that used to seeing us together," she smiled, commenting on all of the jealous stares.

"Well, they're going to have to get used to it," he laughed. "I don't plan on letting anyone else take you out."

Kagome blushed but smiled at him. All the while wondering, 'What's this feeling? I've been to lunch with Houjo hundreds of times and he's never said anything like that to me before.'

The waitress came shortly after, snapping Kagome from her thoughts. Nothing was really said between Houjo and Kagome until the waitress brought out their milkshakes.

"Strawberry?" Houjo questioned. "I've never tried that, I don't think."

"Would you like a sip?" Kagome asked, offering him her straw.

"Sure!" he smiled and took the glass from her hand.

"So?" she waited. "What do you think?"

"This is wonderful!" he handed her the glass back. "Just like you."

Kagome turned three shades of red, 'What is he thinking? Why is he saying these things to me? But most importantly, why do I like them?'

"Kagome?"

"Hm?" she acknowledged him but avoided his eyes.

"Are you having a good time?" his voice was so innocent and he was staring down at his hands, avoiding eye contact with her, as well.

Kagome smiled, letting her shyness die away as she reached towards his hands and covered them with her own. He looked up at her, and she spoke, "This is the most fun I've had since I've came back from the Feu- since I've come back from missing so much school."

If Houjo had noticed her hesitation, her would-be confession of her secret, he hadn't let on. Perhaps hearing her say that she enjoyed spending time with him was something so wonderful that he hadn't had time to realize anything else.

"That's great!" he exclaimed, smiling and turning his hand over to hold one of hers. He squeezed it gently, feeling how frail she was.

Once they'd finished eating, Kagome and Houjo decided to walk around the outdoor mall and enjoy themselves for the rest of the afternoon; they did have the entirety of Sunday to finish their school work, after all.

Though the sky was still cloudy, the rain had stopped. There was a cool breeze blowing through the city and Kagome shivered, pulling her jacket more tightly around her shoulders. They were making their way back to Kagome's home, slowly, enjoying the last few moments they had together.

They stood awkwardly at the bottom of the stairs leading to the shrine for a few minutes in silence. Kagome was playing with the umbrella she held in her hand and Houjo was shuffling his feet across the ground with his hands in his pockets.

"Thank you so much, Houjo," Kagome smiled, stepping closer to him. "I had such a great time with you today."

"I'm glad you enjoyed yourself," he smiled.

Houjo had grown taller in the three years since Jr. High school. He was nearly a foot taller than Kagome now; with darker brown hair and much more mature eyes. He'd grown stronger; she could see muscles underneath his school uniform. Houjo was quite handsome; much better to look at than Inuyasha.

"Well, ja ne!" she yelled, pulling herself from her thoughts and running up the stairs with a quick wave.

"Kagome?" he stopped her in her tracks. He looked at the ground, saying quickly, "Would you, maybe, want to be my girlfriend?"

Kagome smiled, stepping down in front of him. Had he really just asked her that? And she answered before she realized it, "Of course!"

"Really?" he sounded surprised but looked ecstatic. "Great then!"

Kagome laughed, throwing her arms around his neck and pulling him into a hug. He slowly wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling their bodies together. And they stood there for a long time; each one fully knowing just how much the other had waited to be held like that.

Author's Note: So, what did you think of chapter one? I know it wasn't very exciting and it didn't really leave you hanging; but why don't we all just think of this as the prologue? I PROMISE that this is a story you won't want to stop reading; so, please stick with me! And I guess it's safe to tell you that you'll have to wait until the next chapter to hear from Inuyasha. But I promise this is still just setting up for the real story. Please stick with it!

Song Credit to Utada Hikaru – Letters

Disclaimer: I don't own the song. It belongs to Utada Hikaru and I only borrowed it for a while!

Ah ryoute ni sora wo mune ni arashi wo - Oh on the sky in two hands to the storm in the heart

Ah kimi ni owakare wo kono umibe ni nokosarete itano – Oh farewell to you on this seashore