DISCLAIMER: I don't own Inuyasha, but if you want to think I do then be my guest.

Walking Through Fire

by: Lara Winner

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Chapter 5: Checkmate

Silence met the bold youkai's pronouncement. Even the birds stopped their twittering as if sensing the lethal tension that strained between the two males at the wolf's words. For Inuyasha it was the final blow to his frayed nerves. After everything he'd faced in the last thirty-six hours he was at his limit.

"Like fucking hell I will!" Inuyasha yelled, placing his hand on the hilt of tetsusaiga in warning to the daft wolf.

"I didn't come here to fight mutt. Just hand over my woman and we'll be on our way." Kouga said, his rakish smile never faltering as he held out a hand to Kagome.

Inuyasha knocked the wolf's hand away and stepped between them to block his view of Kagome. "Over my dead body!"

Kouga sneered, "Are you so eager to die, dog breath?"

"You can try you bastard but you won't last long against tetsusaiga!" Inuyasha snarled as pulled out the rusty sword and it transformed almost instantly.

Kouga was forced to take a step back yet he still seemed unimpressed with the hanyou's display of power. "We all know you have daddy's sword." he taunted, "So why don't you quit hiding behind the fucking thing and fight like a man."

"You fucking son of a bitch!" Inuyasha growled.

The wolf laughed. "Or are you afraid you'll lose dog shit?

"I ain't afraid of your pathetic ass, just your fleas."

"I'm sure you know all about fleas you mangy mutt!"

"Shut up you stinking wolf!" Inuyasha seethed, face turning red and blotchy from his fury.

"Make me!"

Inuyasha hefted the sword with practiced grace. "Don't worry I'd love to shove tetsusaiga down your fucking throat!"

"If you're gonna hide like a pussy behind your fucking sword then you're wasting my time dog shit! Kagome needs a real man!" Kouga snickered.

Inuyasha tried not to react to Kouga's insult but it was useless. He couldn't back down from such a blatant challenge, especially when his claim on Kagome was at stake.

"All right, you want a real fight then you'll get one." He smirked as he sheathed tetsusaiga and then removed the sheath from his waist and tossed it aside.

"Now that's more like it," Kouga said with relish, "so quit yapping like a puppy and let's get to it!"

Inuyasha ignored the red closing in on the edges of his vision. There was only one thing on his mind as he cracked his knuckles and rotated his shoulders. The stupid wolf had to die.

Inuyasha was ready when Kouga lunged and from behind him he heard Kagome's surprised cry but even that was overridden by the pounding of his heart as it echoed in his ears. Anger inflamed his blood as it pumped through his veins and the demon inside him awakened. He'd finally found an outlet for his inner anguish and nothing was going to stop him from ripping the wolf into bloody pieces.

From the sidelines Kagome watched as the boys circled each other trying to get in a good swipe and her stomach dropped in fear. She hated to see them fight but in the past their face-offs had never amounted to more than threats and name calling. Something about this fight was different, she could feel it down to her bones.

A particularly deep snarl sent a chill of apprehension down her spine and in a flash the boys collided. She barely choked back the scream that rose in her throat as they started punching a clawing.

Even lacking shards Kouga's reflexes were still impressive and it showed when he narrowly missed a wild swing from Inuyasha and followed with an upper cut to the jaw that sent the hanyou sailing several feet back and hitting the ground with a groan.

"Inuyasha!"

The hanyou winced as he picked himself off the ground. Kagome looked as if she wanted to run to him but knew better than to come between him and his opponent. He flexed his jaw and wiped the blood that trickled from the corner of his mouth with the back of his hand.

Kouga settled for glaring his contempt. "You want more mutt face, you got it!" He lunged again but this time Inuyasha caught him in the stomach and he doubled over, the breath knocked out of him.

"You're fucking pissing me off!" Inuyasha spat. He circled the wolf trying to anticipate his next move but again the wolf moved quick and before he could block Kouga sent a well-aimed kick right into his chest. He stumbled back with a curse.

Kagome worried her lip as she debated how to stop them. There was the old faithful method… but she really, really hated to use it, especially after all that happened so recently. Inuyasha wouldn't understand why she'd subdued him, he never did. And she couldn't stand just watching and fretting. She had to do something before they killed each other.

As if sensing her thoughts Inuyasha eyes locked with her own. His lips curled back in a snarl and his expression spoke volumes as he warned, "Kagome, don't you dare-"

Inuyasha I'm so sorry…

"Osuwari!"

"Gah!" The colored beads pulsed and the hanyou hit the ground, his growls taking on a frenzied pitch as he struggled against the subjugation with maddening intensity.

Inuyasha's attempts only grew more wild as Kouga laughed, "Ever the obedient dog, heh? What else can you expected from a half-breed mongrel?"

As he turned to Kagome Inuyasha began to scream his frustration. "Fuck! I'm gonna kill you asshole! First I'll rip your stupid fucking tail off-"

However Kouga wasn't listening and he turned his undivided attention to Kagome. Under his ardent perusal she forced a polite smile, an undercurrent of annoyance gripping her heart.

Gently the wolf prince lifted her hand to his lips.

"-ya hear me baka! I said don't touch her! You're so fucking dead! Damn it Kagome! Fuck-"

"Its time you come with me Kagome." He said softly, persuasively, so very matter-of-factly that it dared to be denied.

"But… Kouga-kun I can't…" she shook her head helplessly begging him with her eyes to understand. How was she supposed to explain that her heart belonged to Inuyasha and until they resolved what lie between them she wasn't going anywhere? And there was her family to consider. She couldn't live solely in the past. She had ever intended to become Kouga's mate but how did she tell the confident prince that without hurting him?

"Of course you can. You're my woman and its time that you are by my side where you belong."

She tried to tug her hand from his grasp. "No really Kouga-kun, I can't."

Brazenly he reached up and curled a lock of her hair around a clawed finger all the while continuing to smirk, his handsome face aglow with teasing pleasure, completely undeterred. "No need to be so formal Kagome. From now on simply call me Kouga. You're to be my mate so it is only right."

"Mate? No Kouga-kun-" Kagome gasped and her voice fled as the wolf demon leaned forward and pressed his lips to hers. Her eyes flew wide in surprise, so caught off guard was she that she didn't even notice his hand had sunk into hair to hold her head still.

For the space of a heartbeat Kagome remained passive and then her brain snapped back into motion and overriding her shock was a spark of indignation. She pushed at the wolf prince's chest and tried to pull away, "Mowga swop!"

Neither Kagome nor Kouga saw Inuyasha rise to his feet, nor did they see the pain in his golden eyes as they flashed from gold to rust before taking on the hues of blood as jagged stripes formed on his pale face. By then it was too late.

"LET GO OF HER NOW!"

Oh Gods…

Kagome freed herself from Kouga's hold and turned to Inuyasha, a look of horror taking hold of her features. She'd heard the change in his voice and the gravely tone that sounded far too inhuman coming from her hanyou.

"Inuyasha!" she cried as she instinctively moved toward him, only to be stopped by Kouga.

"Don't go to him Kagome! He's out of control!"

She pulled against his vice-like hold, her own panic rising. "Let me go! I have to get to him before he does something stupid and hurts himself."

"Kagome he could hurt you!"

"No he won't." She tried prying at his fingers. "I have to get him to calm down before it destroys his mind!"

Kouga was stronger and still he held her back, eyeing the hanyou distastefully. "I'll take care of this!"

Frightened tears spilled down Kagome's cheeks and her panic nearly overwhelmed her as Kouga's pale blue irises turned crimson. She knew if the fighting continued it would be to the death. Inuyasha would submit to the consuming rage and the longer it kept hold of him the more damage it would do to his rationale. She had to get to Inuyasha.

"Please Kouga, let me go." She choked, her voice catching on a sob. "Please."

The wolf demon looked down at her and suddenly the crimson bled from his eyes they widened as if something occurred to him. His grip slackened enough to where she could her arm free, but he didn't seem to realize. He just look at her, really looked at her, and it felt as if Kouga were seeing her for the first time.

She backed away putting herself between him and Inuyasha. "Kouga I can't come with you and I can't be your mate because… I…" another wave of tears spilled over her lashes and the crushed look on Kouga's face said he could guess what she was about to say, and yet it had to be said, "…I love Inuyasha. I'm sorry."

"Kagome…" he looked as if there was more he wanted to say and took a step toward her but the crazed snarl that came from behind her stopped him in his tracks and sent her heart up into her throat.

"Kagome watch out!"

Kouga's shout was her only warning as elongated claws dug into her shoulder ripping the material of her school blouse and pricking her skin before yanking her backward. She hissed at the slight pain and losing her balance she fell into Inuyasha sending them both crashing to the ground in a tangle of limbs. The hanyou braced himself above her, their faces nearly nose to nose, his teeth bared as he growled from the depths of chest.

How could anyone think she tamed him? The dangerous beauty of what he was held her immobile, almost mesmerized. He could seriously hurt her, even kill her before he realized his own actions. She was afraid, but not for herself. Never for herself. She'd stayed by his side through hell and back because it meant she could keep him safe and now was no different because she loved him.

"My Inuyasha…" Kagome's fingertips traced the vivid purple stripe over his cheekbone, then she threw her arms about his neck and held onto him as tightly as she could. Terror coursed through her at the thought of not being able to reach him and all she could do was hold him as she began to cry even harder.

Through the red haze a scent reached Inuyasha, one he recognized but didn't assocoiate with the salt that mingled with it. The was also the faintest trace of blood but it wasn't enough to keep the fire in his blood blazing like an inferno. He tried to shake off the hold that was keeping him down and draining his rage but the feeling of it, of her, was seeping into his consciousness like the fine web work of cracked glass.

He knew that scent. He knew the fragile body pressed against him. Her tears prodded him with human emotions he didn't want to feel. Yet her name was like a prayer whispering across his brain.

Kagome…

She trembled as hope surged through her. It wasn't her imagination, his rumbling growls were lowering in volume and his struggles against her embrace were lessening. After another tense moment of halfhearted resistance, he finally fell silent and tucked his face against her neck, his breathing turning choppy. One of his arms snaked loosely around her back and Kagome almost began crying again out of sheer relief.

Then she remembered Kouga.

The wolf prince stood to the side watching them with a blank expression. When her eyes met his stare he looked away, an irksome flush tinting his cheeks. She could see his annoyance reflected in his proud pose, and she could see the sting of her rejection in the set of his jaw. She hated the fact that she had to hurt him like that.

Kouga lifted his chin haughtily. "Dog shit got control of himself yet?"

Just the sound of the wolf's voice had Inuyasha growling again and she tightened her hold on the hanyou's neck even more. She nodded. "You had better go Kouga. I can handle him now."

When he finally looked at her he seemed confused, "You would really rather be with him?" he asked. She nodded and was surprised when he flashed a sardonic smirk, "I won't say I understand but if you ever get tired of his shit you know where to find me." With his offer hanging in the air he gave her a curt nod and then the wolf youkai was tearing back through the trees from which he had come.

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Miroku knew he shouldn't.

However, temptation did not heed logic and it was right there as she bent before him, curved delicately just the way he liked. It was as if Buddha himself were smiling in approval. It would be a sin not admire such a nice specimen of-

"If you even think about it I will break your fingers."

Instantly his mesmerized expression was replaced with one of pious innocence, a sure sign of his guilt. "Sango, my love, you do me a grave injustice by suggesting that I, a monk no less, would entertain that idea."

She stared at him over her shoulder, unmoved.

"Well perhaps it did cross my mind but only for a moment, I assure you."

"Remind me why I put up with you again?" she asked wearily as she resumed the task of stirring the stew she had helped Kaede prepare only a short time ago.

Despite her tone and her threat Miorku noticed that she did not move to the other side of the fire. He smiled. "Because you love me just as I love you."

"Of course, how could I forget."

He moved closer… and closer…

Sango dropped the wooden spoon into the metal pot and whirled on the henati monk with a severe frown marring her flushed face. "You just don't know when to quit! I mean, what in the world has gotten into you? Since yesterday every time I turn around you're trying to grope me. Everyone knows you have wandering hands but this is a bit much, even for you!"

Miroku couldn't hold back his smile. "Then I shall explain it to you as best I can." He held up his healed, right hand. "There is no more Kazanna, which in turn means there is no longer a glove or prayer beads to hinder my… ah… explorations. So in celebration of Naraku's defeat I only ask for a small squeeze, if you will be so kind."

For a long moment Sango could do nothing but stare at the monk dumbfounded. Then she began laughing.

While her laughter was far more preferable to her fists, her answer was still no. Sango wasn't kind, Miroku mused with a forlorn sigh, not kind at all.

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It wasn't until Kagome handed him tetsusaiga that Inuyasha felt the last measure of his sanity slip back into place. He remained on his knees not daring to look at her, shame adding to the well of guilt he seemed unable to escape. He could have killed her, as it was he could smell her blood on his claws for the second time in mere hours.

It was sobering thought.

He heard the shift of material just before she placed a shaking hand on his shoulder. As if burned he jerked away, unable to bear her sympathy when the monster inside of him deserved none of it.

"Inuyasha?"

It took everything in him to resist the urge to burrow himself in her arms. "Don't. Stay away from me."

"But Inuyasha-"

"Stay away!" he said more sharply then he'd intended. When she sniffled he sighed in frustration. "Don't you get it! Next time I might kill you baka!"

"No, you would never hurt me. Don't say such stupid things." she admonished softly.

He winced. "I can smell your blood."

"You mean my shoulder? It's just a scratch. You could have taken my head off if you'd wanted to but you didn't. Besides it's my fault this happened. If I hadn't subdued you things wouldn't have gone that far."

That's right, she'd said the fucking word and he'd gone splat on the ground just like alway- Inuyasha froze as he remembered something else, something that made all feelings guilt and remorse fade into anger.

"You kissed him." He breathed, sounding shell-shocked. A crushing ache settled in his chest and he winced. He knew the feeling well. There was nothing like the cut of betrayal.

"YOU FUCKING KISSED HIM!" He yelled jumping to feet to tower over Kagome.

"Oooh you know it wasn't like that." she fretted, twisting her hands nervously.

"Not like that! NOT LIKE THAT! I know what I saw and you were KISSING!"

Kagome blushed. He was so angry his face was steaming and he was jabbing his finger at her like it was her fault. Yup, the baka was going to give himself an anurism if she didn't find a way to calm him down.

"He kissed me Inuyasha, not the other way around. There is a difference, you know. If I'd known he'd sneak one on me I wouldn't have let him stand so close to me." she defended trying not to get angry herself.

"Riiight! It wasn't your fault just like leading him on for last two years wasn't your fault! And just like sitting me into oblivion every time he's watching isn't your fault either! Nothings you're fault Kagome! I'm the always the bad guy all the ti-"

"Osuwari!"

It was Kagome's turn to stand over the Inuyasha shaped crater as she glared down at the hanyou with narrowed eyes. "I never led Kouga on. We were friends and that's all I've ever been to him. And the only reason I subdued you today was because if I hadn't one of you was going to end up seriously hurt."

A muffled "You should've let me kill the bastard." drifted up to her as folded her arm and began taping her foot in agitation.

She waited for the spell to wear off. She waited till Inuyasha crawled out of his crater and faced her eye to eye. What surprised her was the look of unabashed hurt that lingered in his golden orbs.

"Why Kagome?" he asked in a strangely docile manner. "What has he done for you that I haven't? Why do you always take his side and make me look stupid?" he sucked in a breath, "Why would you kiss him in front of me like that?"

It amazed her how just a look from him could pierce her heart like a thousand daggers. Oh why couldn't he understand for once… "It's not like that! I didn't kiss him."

"You did too! I saw you!"

That was all Kagome's nerves could take. Frustration brought on by years of Inuyasha's orneriness had been building within her like bubbling lava and her ability to reason was worn down like a cracked dam. Once the floodgates opened there was no stopping the seething words that came pouring for her lips.

"BAKA! After all this time that I've stayed with you, after everything we've gone through, after Kikyo, you still don't trust me! Well while you were going too busy going psycho Kouga asked me to go with him and you know what I said? I said No! And you know why? Because I love you. And I told him I love you and he's not going to come back anymore because he's knows exactly how I feel about you. Everybody knows exactly how I feel about you but YOU! How do you think that makes me feel!" she hissed.

He flinched, his ears disappearing into his silver hair and she could have sworn she heard something that sounded suspiciously like a whimper. But these feelings had been kept inside her for too long and it was time everything was said, no more assumptions.

She pushed at his chest but the hanyou didn't budge. "Baka!" she slapped at his chest and still he didn't bat an eye, "I love you! You hear me! I love you!" she slapped at him again, "Baka! Even when I'm so angry at you I can't think straight I still love you. Am I getting through to you baka!" and then she was in his arms, crushed against him so tightly she was surprised her ribs didn't creak in protest.

"Kagome…" he murmured into her hair, his voice tender and reverent. It wasn't often he held her like his life depended on it, yet right now it did. He was not a man of many words and he sure as hell didn't have Miroku's cool charm. So he did what came naturally and settled for showing her how much her admission meant.

Inuyasha's eyes slid closed in pleasure as the truth of her confession washed over him. To hear the words, to hear her voice so desperate, it awed him. It invigorated him. He hadn't lied when he proclaimed that she was his strength. Kagome was that and more. She was his conscience, she was his hope, she was his future and she was also his weakness.

Simply put, she was his life.

"Stay with me," he whispered, his heart in his voice. "I can't lose you. I can't. I don't know what I'd do."

Kagome leaned back, just enough to his see his face, and beamed. "Don't worry. I'm going to personally make sure you never have to find out."

Inuyasha was certain he'd never seen Kagome's smile as dazzling as it was at that moment and it caused a funny little fluttering to start in his stomach that spread out in a tingle of warmth throughout his body. The feeling triggered his heart rate to triple and he didn't know if he was moving closer or if she was, not that it mattered because when her lips brushed his all intelligent brain activity ceased.

And it was a long, long time before his thought process returned.

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A.N. – I'm sorry it took me so long to this chapter. Life has been pretty crazy so thanks for having patience. All that's left is an epilogue and this fic is done.

Thanks for reading!