Inuyasha and characters belong to Rumiko Takahashi.

Defeating Yourself

The fire popped and crackled in the silence. She watched as he disappeared into the dark, the glint of moonlight off silver hair the last thing she saw.

"Kagome?"

She paused before answering, trying to regain control of her voice.

"It's ok Sango. I'll go find some more firewood. It's colder here in the mountains and we don't want to run out before morning."

She had walked out of camp a short distance before realizing she was headed in the same direction as Inuyasha. Once out of sight of her friends she made an abrupt turn, mentally congratulating herself for not letting her voice crack. She wandered a little further away than she should but she desperately wanted privacy. The silent sympathy waiting at the campfire was too painful to deal with right now.

She found a small copse of trees that seemed to be made for sitting in while you castigated yourself. She sat down, her shirt snagging a little on the bark. The tree abraded her skin a little where the shirt rode up, but the physical discomfort was nothing compared to the pain in her heart. She started to go through her self lecture once again, one more time to blazon it on her soul.

"It's not like this is new, I should be used to him going to Kikyou now. She's given us information on Naraku before. That's all he's going to go see about," she trailed off.

A tear fell, followed by two more.

"I don't care if she's helping us out. I know he still loves her and I can't do anything about that... but one day… one day… she'll drag him to hell and he won't even fight her! He's so stupid!

Stupid, stupid, stupid!"

She punctuated each word by beating on the ground beneath her. Bits of leaf and bark clung to her fist and tears ran down her cheeks unchecked. Folding her arms around her knees she cried. Wrapped up in her little world, rocking back and forth, she cried for all the missed chances, all the little ways she told the idiot she loved him that he didn't seem to understand. Cried because his fate seemed so bound to the one who came before her.

A comforting arm came around her and held her. She turned and buried her face in a welcoming shoulder, still heaving with tears. They slowly dried up and Kagome was able to collect herself.

"I'm sorry, San…"

Her fingers twitched at the solid white cloth in her hands. Instead of Sango's pink and white kimono there was only white below her face. She pushed back from her comforter, taking in the red and white of a priestess' garb. She looked into the eyes of the woman who had just consoled her, the eyes of the woman that had caused this pain.

"Kikyou! I'm sorry… I thought you were… what are you doing here?" she babbled.

"My calling requires me to give solace to the grieving. You are busy crying over what can't be helped, aren't you? That's a girl's selfish, self-inflicted grief, but it is still grief."

Kagome straightened up indignantly but Kikyou ignored her.

"I do not understand why you shed so many tears for him. You are only causing yourself more pain by not accepting his fate."

"Why are you here, Kikyou?" Kagome bitterly ground out, staring at the ground. "Inuyasha went to you, you should be talking with him now, not me."

Kikyou looked at the mess that was her reincarnation, taking in the snarls of hair that had collected some of the bark and leaf litter the girl had been sitting in. She gave a cynical laugh.

"It was you I wished to speak to. Not him. Don't worry, he will not find us."

"But why? Why me?"

Kikyou drew Kagome closer and ran her fingers through the tear dampened locks.

"To feel so much for one person tears come…," Kikyou made a harsh, self deprecating sound. "I was once that naïve."

She kept her fingers wrapped in Kagome's hair, occasionally smoothing out a tangle and picking out the dirt and leaves. Kagome was speechless at the almost sisterly affection Kikyou was showing. This was a woman that had tried to kill her, who wanted to kill Inuyasha. Kagome could only stand there as Kikyou continued.

"Naraku will finish the jewel soon and I will be able to finish him off. I came to warn you not to interfere."

"Why would I interfere? We want him dead as much as you do!" Kagome hotly retorted.

Kikyou increased her grip on Kagome's hair, painfully winding strands between her fingers.

"You are a naïve, senseless girl in these matters who doesn't know when to let her betters take care of things. I will be the one who takes down Naraku. Do not get in my way if you want to live."

Kagome gasped as Kikyou's grip on her hair tightened. The pain had new tears welling up in her eyes. She looked at her almost-double's fierce face and blurted out a damming question.

"But what about Inuyasha? I understand about Naraku but please tell me you aren't still planning to take Inuyasha to hell!"

"You love him."

Kagome's eyes widened. Kikyou released her grip on Kagome's hair and let a small smirk curve her lips.

"It's very obvious. You followed right down the path I took. Poor Kagome, doomed to ever follow behind me, making my same mistakes, ever trusting the power of her own goodness.

The hanyou loves both of us but he will choose in time. Until he does, feel free to come cry on my shoulder. Who can comfort you like your own self?

But understand this- no matter who he chooses, his death belongs to me. I will choose when he dies. I will be the one to accompany him to hell."

Kikyou paused for a moment, scanning the night sky.

"He's on his way back to you, so I will leave you here to greet him. Remember my words."

Kikyou faded into the trees and Kagome sank to the ground, her heart beating wildly and her hands shaking.

"Kikyou…"

She stared at the leaves on the ground, too overcome to move. A short while later Inuyasha came flying through the trees to land beside her.

"Kagome?"

The nervous hanyou's nose was twitching as he squatted beside her. She knew he smelled Kikyou.

"Oi, Kagome. What's wrong, what happened?"

She tried pulling herself together and getting up.

"Nothing's wrong, Inuyasha. There's nothing…"

He was giving her an odd look and it made her uncomfortable.

"You know she was here. Just leave it at that."

For once he decided discretion was the greater part of valor and wrapped his top around her, startling her. He gave her a hand to pull her the rest of the way up.

"It's getting colder. Let's get you back to the fire. I'll pick up some more wood on the way back."

She nodded, grateful he wasn't going to press her for answers. They slowly made their way back to camp, Inuyasha collecting an armload of firewood. She glanced at his face occasionally, Kikyou's words running through her head. Could it be? Was there a chance of Inuyasha choosing her? And if he did, could she accept Kikyou's claim on his death?

Inuyasha noticed her pensive face and glances, not knowing what to make of them. As far as he was concerned it was never a good idea for Kikyou and Kagome to be around each other. Kagome always wound up hurt. Damn, what had Kikyou said to make her look at him like that?

"What's wrong, Kagome? Why do you keep looking at me like that? Have you been crying again?"

Shit, why couldn't he keep his mouth shut?

"Nothing's wrong. And who says I've been crying?"

"Your eyes are red and I can smell the tears. So what's wrong?"

"I said nothing is wrong!"

"And I say there is!"

By this time they had made it back to camp, argument preceding them. Shippo started counting off the seconds.

"One."

"There isn't anything wrong!"

"Two."

"Then why were you crying?"

"Three."

"I wasn't crying! Osuwari!"

Shippo shook his head.

"That idiot will never learn."

Kagome sank to her blankets. No, Inuyasha never seemed to learn. He just did the same thing over and over till it worked or he was defeated. She zippered up the sleeping bag and thought about Kikyou's words.

Could she stand to lose Inuyasha to Kikyou? Or could she become ruthless enough to fight Kikyou? She remembered Kikyou smoothing out her hair and swallowed a sob. How could one ever fight one's own self and win?

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I used to have a copse of trees like that. Either one tree had split or several trees fused together but it was an excellent spot for sitting and thinking. To this day I like walking outside and finding a quiet place to contemplate life... so now you know where the location for the story came from. :)