Disclaimer: All characters from Inuyasha are owned by Rumiko Takahashi but this story belongs to me. I don't own Photoshop either.

A Moments Hesitation

Chapter Three: Feelings of Pride

Her fingers trembled.

Even with her mother's permission it still felt funny to be doing this.

Fear caused her to hesitate on the threshold.

But this is what she wanted. She needed something physical to prove to Inuyasha that she not only loved him, but that she was proud of him. She wanted to prove to him that she was proud of the scar on her chest. And with Inuyasha, words rarely worked. So the night before she talked to her mother. She had outlined what she was planning to do and why she thought this was a good idea. The opposition she had been expecting never came. In fact, her mother seemed unusually pleased with the plan. Next she had to talk Souta into doing her a favor. She told him what she wanted, and he used his nifty little computer program to give her exactly what she wanted. That wasn't a difficult favor to ask either, the kid had been thrilled to be a part of this.

Okay, Grandpa wouldn't have been thrilled about the plan had anyone told him about it. But Kagome figured she could hide it from him for awhile... until she was in her thirties or forties maybe.

She placed her hand on the cool glass of the door. She was really and truly going to do this. It was a little scary.

"Stick to the plan," she murmured.

"I will, Kagome," her mother assured her.

Kagome nodded, certain that her mother could guard the door, even from an irate half dog demon. Hopefully it wouldn't come to that. But better safe than sorry.

Throwing back her shoulders, Kagome bolstered her courage and opened the door. No turning back from here. The place was surprisingly clean and well lit. It wasn't at all the dark and seedy place she had been expecting. Feeling more confident, she walked to the front desk and handed the man a piece of slightly rumpled paper. He took the paper and looked it over, not so much as raising an eyebrow.

"How old are you, kid?"

Kagome used her head to indicate the woman standing right outside of the door. "That's my mom out there, you want to go ask her?"

Apparently he did. When he returned he looked a little bemused from his conversation with her mother, which he required that she prove (and she did). With a shrug he showed Kagome to her seat and explained, in painful detail, just what exactly he was going to do.

"I'm ready," she told him.

"It won't hurt," he said, "Much."

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"It won't hurt," he said, "Much."

After all, seeing Kagome was enough for him. So what if he never got to touch her again, or have her touch him? It won't hurt that much. He'd get over it one day. It was only his heart. His soul.

He stared down at the door of the shop she entered. He'd never seen her enter that place before. In fact, he couldn't recall her ever going down this street. But why did she leave her mouth outside? It was almost as if she were... standing guard? Suddenly he tensed. Kagome thought she might be in danger? He tried to make sense of the smells, trying to locate one that might be dangerous. Wrinkling his nose he decided that half these smells (AT LEAST) were of some threat to her. Heck, if would be best all around if everyone was considered an enemy.

What kind of protection did she think her mother would be able to provide, anyhow? The woman didn't have a single weapon. Plus it was really difficult thinking that she would raise her voice, much less a hand, to anyone.

What was taking Kagome so long in there?

Quickly he jumped from the roof of the building across the street and hid behind the corner of the store. What was that girl up to? And how could he get in without alerting her mother? If she saw him, then she would tell Kagome for sure! She was too aware of her surroundings, it was almost as if she was looking for someone. She almost looked expectant. But who would she be expecting? Or was it Kagome who was expecting and her mother was keeping an eye out for her? What if it was that boy? What kind of place was she at anyhow?

Finally... FINALLY... Kagome came out of the shop. Alone. She was blushing.

Inuyasha's ears flattened back. Just who was making her blush like that? Was he still in the shop? It was a difficult decision to make. Follow Kagome or go into the shop and sharpen his claws on the rival male. He was reeeeally leaning in the direction of going into the shop, but there was something strange about the scent coming from Kagome that concerned him.

They walked straight home, no other stops along the way. And they were both walking with a strange spring in their steps. His heart dropped when he realized Kagome kept lifting her hand to touch the area where her scar was. Was it still bothering her? Or was she thinking about how he failed her? He was debating which one was worse when they arrived at the shrine. He found a nice comfortable spot to keep watch.

From a window he saw them prepare and eat dinner. Souta was unusually excited, and kept pulling at his sister's shirt. Inuyasha growled. He gave the kid two seconds to stop that before he made Kagome an only child.

Did he just see a bandage?

KAGOME WAS HURT?

Who did it? Was it bad? How had he missed it? Did she need a doctor? Should he take her back to Kaede?

When she went straight to the bathroom when she entered her room, Inuyasha snuck in through the open window. He would just see if she was okay... then he'd leave. She'd never even know he was there.

Then he heard the hiss of pain.

WHAM!

"Aaaahh!" she screeched.

"Gack!"

Inuyasha backed out of the door he had just kicked in. Kagome was clad only in her skirt and that funny looking contraption she wears under her shirts, the one he was never ever EVER supposed to mention. He turned to leap out the door, certain that she was about to 'sit' him through the floor.

"Wait!"

He froze in mid crouch as he was preparing to jump. Warily he turned his head slightly until he could see her out of the corner of his eye. The white bandage on her chest drew his attention, and he lost all color in his face. She WAS hurt.

Before Kagome could blink, he was standing in front of her touching the edge of the bandage that was undone. Was it possible that the wound was still causing her pain? He hated that thought.

"Does... does it hurt?"

Gingerly she touched the bandage, holding her shirt in front of her to cover her chest. "Well, it does still sting a bit, actually."

His entire body drooped. Things were worse than he imagined if even after all this time it still hurt her.

"Would... would you like to see?"

Inuyasha gulped. He wasn't sure if he could stand to see the scar again. It killed him every time he thought about how close he came to losing her. How she almost died because of him. But he had to see if it was somehow infected. He had to make sure that she would be okay. Though somehow he wasn't able to pull at the tape.

"Some people think it hurts less to just rip it off," she explained when he still didn't pull on the tape holding the bandage in place, "But I think that if you go slowly and gently that it won't hurt so bad."

"I can't hurt you," he told her, yanking his hands away from her and dropping down on his haunches. "I can't."

She sighed. Then she smiled.

"Okay," she said cheerfully, "I'll just do it myself." She pulled on the bandage and gave a little yelp of pain.

Inuyasha stood up and batted her hands away. "Stop that, idiot."

Taking a deep breath, the dog demon took hold of the corner and ever so gently began to peel the tape away. He concentrated on the tape, and tried hard to ignore how hard her heart was beating. The harder hers beat, the harder his beat. The fact that she was only holding the shirt to her front made it all the more nerve wracking. Seeing her bare shoulders was almost enough to make him loose his nerve. But he continued to pull.

After exposing a few inches of skin, Inuyasha noticed something strange. Not that he was looking at her chest or anything, it was just that he was checking to see if he was pulling too hard. But it was a good thing he did, because otherwise he wouldn't have noticed the black line on her skin.

"Kagome... what...?"

"Keep pulling," she said.

Slowly he peeled down the bandage, more concerned than ever. Slowly he uncovered something that made his heart stop beating.

His name.

It was his name written in kanji, slanted upwards following the path of a leaf. It was his name... His...

"Kagome..."

She cleared her throat, suddenly unable to look him in the eye as her cheeks flushed. "It's a tattoo, Inuyasha."

He opened his mouth, but nothing came out.

"Do... do you like it?"

"My name..."

"Yes."

He couldn't take his eyes off of it. She was marked.

"At first I thought I'd put a picture of your sword on it... but you're more than just a sword. More than a protector and a warrior. Then I thought about a jewel shard... but you are more than that too. So... I used a picture of one of the leaves from the God tree." She let him move the strap of her undergarment slightly so that he could see the entire thing.

She was marked... as his...

"The tree is where so much happened. That's where we met. It's where I realized... well... a lot about my feelings. So Souta and I worked on a design using his Photoshop program. We took some pictures and I liked this one best. See how it is turned a little sideways? Anyhow, he converted it into black and white. Then I wrote your name in kanji using ink and a brush. He scanned that in and did an outline of it. I talked it over with Mom and she thought it was a good idea since you seemed to be... uh... bothered by the scar. I thought that this way when you saw it you'd know... well... you'd know that I'm not ashamed of it, that I am... kinda proud of it. And you. Um... what do you think?"

She... she marked HERSELF as his!

She was his?

She was his!

She... wait... what if it didn't mean what he thought it meant? He studied the tattoo as his heart beat furiously in his chest. He couldn't mess this up. Something important was happening, and he couldn't mess this up. Did she ask him a question?

Nervously she looked down on the tattoo. The tattoo of HIS name. HIS mark.

"Um... I was just about to put the salve they gave me on it. It is supposed to make it heal right and not fade."

It could fade?

"Where's the salve?"

She turned and walked to the bathroom. Once she reached the door she turned and looked at him expectantly. Was she waiting for him to follow? Shoot, didn't have to ask him twice! She smiled shyly when he walked in her direction. Good. So far he hadn't messed things up.

Averting her eyes she held out the medicine. Nervously Inuyasha took it. He looked at her to see if she really was asking him to put it on her. She wouldn't meet his eyes, but she didn't take the salve back.

It was cool and a little slimey, and it smelled funny. But he put some on his forefinger and touched it to her skin. He looked up at her to see if she was going to pull away.

She didn't.

So he continued to trace the path of the lines. He traced the path of the lines of his name. Then he traced the lines of the leaf. The scar ran straight through the leave, in fact, it seemed as if was the main vein and stem of the falling leaf. Kagome wasn't hiding the scar, she was making it a part of the mark. His mark.

Please let it be what I think it is, Inuyasha prayed.

When the salve was applied, and he couldn't think of a good reason to still be touching her skin, Inuyasha pulled away. He watched as Kagome turned around to pull on her shirt. She was blushing, but she was also smiling. He followed her back into her bedroom. There she took a seat on the edge of her bed and watched him.

"It's my name." He swore, it was the only thing he could think of to say.

"Yes."

"On purpose?"

She laughed. "Yes."

He sat beside her and tried to see the tattoo. He wanted to see his name.

Heh, no one else could claim her now!

Unless... unless it didn't mean what he thought it meant. But how could he ask without it sounding wrong? After all, what if it didn't mean what he thought it meant? It would be mortifying!

"Do you like it?"

He nodded slowly. His heart hadn't slowed down even a little bit. At this rate it would explode soon. He swallowed. He had to know.

"Does... does this mean..." he blushed and turned away. He couldn't do it.

Kagome drew her legs up onto the bed and turned to face him. She took a lock of his hair and tugged on it until he looked at her again. "Does it mean what?"

Gulp.

He was going to feel like such an idiot.

"Does it mean... the mark... does it mean... that you are... mine...?"

She inhaled sharply, and Inuyasha cringed. She bit her lip and nibbled on it, and didn't let go of his hair. In fact, she seemed to be studying the lock she held captive.

"Do you... want me?"

His breath frozen in his lungs as his body seemed to be paralyzed. The she looked up at him with those warm eyes of hers. They seemed so unsure. So hopeful.

"Yes."

She didn't smile. Not exactly. It was more like she was lit up from inside, and not with that scary aura she sometimes got. No, this was more like she glowed. She was radiant. He couldn't help himself, he pulled her into his arms.

"Are you mine, Kagome?"

"Yes!" she cried.

He felt like crying a bit himself as he buried his face in her hair, pulling her even closer. She was his. She was HIS! He held on to her shoulders and gently pushed her away, studying her face. Needing to know that she meant it.

"Are you sure?"

She laughed and smacked his chest. "Of course I am, you dummy. I love you!"

Unable to speak, he pulled her back into his arms. She chose him! She wanted him! She LOVED HIM!!! His heart felt like it just might burst after all. It was her who finally pulled away from him, goodness knows he wasn't able to let her go.

"Um... what about you...?"

"What?" He took a lock of her hair, much like she had done to him. But it wasn't to get her attention, it was to keep contact.

"Are you mine?"

What? Was she crazy? He asked her as much.

She stopped looking at him and began to find great interest in the blanket on the bed. She traced a pattern on the cloth. Inuyasha put his hand on hers to make her stop.

"I just... I mean I know that you still have feelings for Ki..."

"Are you serious?"

"Well, I know that you still go to..."

"Are you an idiot?"

Kagome frowned at him. But at least now she was looking at him. Though the way she was looking at him it suddenly didn't seem like a good thing. But he saw doubt in her eyes, almost as much doubt as anger. He'd really like to get back to where she was looking at him with those soft eyes that glowed with love, not scary miko magic.

"If I wanted to be with anyone else, I would be. But I choose to stay with you. You... you're the most important thing in the world. I will always choose to be by your side."

The scariness was gone, and the love was back. He sighed with relief.

"Do you love me?" she asked.

His first instinct was to run. The second was to deny. They were his defense mechanisms. It was how he kept from being hurt. He looked at his mark on her chest. There really wasn't any need for that though, was there? She loved him. She chose him. She was his, and he was never going to let her go.

"...yes..." He prepared to run anyhow... just in case.

But she squealed and launched herself at him, knocking him back onto the bed and he had no choice but to hold on to her. If this was the reaction he'd get, then maybe he'd have to say it more often.

"I do," he said as he held her tightly. "I do love you, Kagome."

She laughed with joy and pressed a kiss to his lips. Yep, he was going to have to learn to say it a whole lot more often.

"Think I can get a tattoo, too?" he asked when she finally came up for air.

She sat up on his stomach and looked down at him. She cocked her head to one side on touched his chest.

"I think that it would heal too fast. I don't think it would take."

He was disappointed.

Then she grinned at him and put her elbows on his chest and propped her head up on her hands to look him in the eyes. The elbows were a bit uncomfortable, but he'd put up with anything if she'd keep looking at him like that.

"I could always paint one of for you," she suggested.

"Yeah?"

"Sure," she said as she traced an imaginary pattern on his chest. "And when it wears off I'll just paint on another."

Inuyasha grinned. Now THAT sounded like a good idea.

Fin

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Author's Note: This is part three of a three part story. Now that it is down on paper (so to speak) I can finally concentrate on my other stories instead of obsessing.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to review. I hope you liked the story. Originally it was going to be a one-shot, but I figured it would make a better short trilogy type of thing.