Love is absolute loyalty. People fade, looks fade, but loyalty never fades. You can depend so much on certain people, you can set your watch by them. And that's love, even if it doesn't seem very exciting.
Every Night Has Its Dawn
"Kagome . . ." her name slipped past his lips like a sigh, too low for her human ears to catch. In his chest his heart stilled, as if time itself had slowed to a halt. Maybe, for this moment, it had. His eyes didn't leave her face - that beautiful, young face that was exactly as he remembered. Her eyes held that same defiant glint, the same stubborn pull on her brow.
It was her, really her.
Standing in front of her, his memories, even the strong ones, seemed so dull and fabricated in comparison. This was the moment he had planned out and dreamed of for the past twenty years. He wanted to run to her, hold her in his embrace and never let go. He wanted to remind himself of everything Kagome: how her mouth tasted; the way her hair smelled tucked under his nose; how soft her skin felt sliding under his hands. He wanted to rediscover everything.
It was with that thought thought that his eyes wandered from her face to view the rest of her body. In his chest his heart started beating again, now hammering against his rib cage in earnest and the sweat from his palms were wiping onto Yusuke's shirt collar.
She was pregnant.
Somewhere, deep in the back of his mind he remembered Kuwabara telling him that in passing. But he had associated the information with Yusuke's sister . . . it never transferred to his Kagome. He wasn't prepared to see her holding a swollen stomach.
Desperately he went through his memories like a flip book, but all he saw was her thin, youthful figure. Had . . . he already been replaced? He wanted to shake his head and deny it at any cost but doubt was creeping into his chest and wrapping its cold fingers around his heart. Perhaps she wasn't as young as he had thought . . . perhaps he had left her waiting too long.
"Please put my brother down," her eyes flashed, "after all, it's not him your after." Her voice was hard - colder than he ever remembered it being. But then, he was still in the half hearted process of strangling her sibling.
He blinked and looked at his fists for a dazed moment before slowly releasing his comrade. He tried to wet his throat but he may as well have swallowed cotton, "Yes, yes of course."
Somewhere, in the farthest part of his mind he heard Yusuke's voice but didn't make out the words. Honestly, he didn't even try to. Perhaps it would be best to blame it on the shock, though, Kagome seemed to be ignoring the detective as well.
"You're Hiei's friend?" her voice was softer now that he didn't have his claws in Yusuke's throat, but Kurama couldn't help but notice the sadness in her tone.
He nodded, and there was a moment of awkward silence. Cold sweat dripped down the back of his neck and he tried to control his breathing. There was a twinge in his chest, an uncomfortable clenching of his stomach, that said this was all wrong. So consumed and dizzied by his thoughts it took him a moment to register what was happening when Kagome - his Kagome- bowed.
"I'm so, so, sorry." Her voice cracked and, suddenly, Kurama was distracted from his own misery. He knew she was apologizing for Hiei's wounds, but for a moment, a mere sliver in time, his heart jumped in his throat with the thought that she was asking forgiveness for something else.
He took one step forward, his hand reaching out with the intent to comfort her - to explainto her.
A red clad figure rushed from her open door to her side just as Yusuke threw himself in front of both them - his shooting finger still held at the ready. "What the fuck is going on Kurama?" The detective took another step back, closer to his sister as his eyes drilled into his old comrade's. "You said you weren't here because of Hiei, so why the fuck are you here then?"
Yusuke's uncertainty was driving his fear, Kurama could tell that much. A minute ago he would have done his best to relieve him of his worries, but now . . . Now his eyes were glued to an, achingly familiar, dog demon. A dog demon that was currently ignoring him in favor of comforting Kagome.
His stomach twisted and turned as he watched Inuyasha fuss over her. He brushed away her tears with experienced fingers, murmuring little nothings to make her feel better. Clawed fingers rested on her lower back, guiding her into the safety of his shoulder before finally casting the fox a vehement glare. Kurama could only stare, stunned, as the break in his heart widened.
Five hundred years ago he had told him to keep her safe. Vaguely, he had remembered the hanyou's promise even though his name and face were lost to him. Until now Inuyasha had only played a faceless role in his memories. Now, looking at the way he held his lover, Kurama didn't see how he could have neglected to foresee the possibility of this happening. He had appointed Inuyasha as her protector, to keep her safe and ensure her happiness. Throughout his search it had never occurred to him that the hanyou would do everything to fulfill his promise.
"Damn it! Answer me!" Yusuke's outburst successfully captured Kurama's attention, albeit unhappily.
"I told you!" he snarled, suddenly feeling his earlier anger returning. He held onto it like a crutch. It was easier to feel the rage burning through his veins than the crumbling of his heart. "I -" his jaw snapped shut, his eyes darting to Kagome's. She was watching him now, waiting on his every word. Just as suddenly as it had come, his anger evaporated.
He had told Inuyasha to protect her because he had wanted her to be happy. He had broken her heart in hopes that it would make it easier to move on; on and away from him. How selfish would he be to disrupt the life she had created for herself - the life he had pushed on her.
He had found her but it had been too late. Now, he would live with the consequences of actions he had made in a past life. Everyday he would wonder if he could have done something differently; and every night he would go to sleep knowing he would have done it all over again. To keep her safe, he would make any kind of sacrifice. Five hundred years ago he surrendered his life; today his happiness.
"I . . ." In his chest his heart was dying, holding a razor to its wrist, "simply came to introduce myself." He bowed slightly at the waist, his heart's dying scream filling his ears even as he tried to plaster on a convincing smile. By Yusuke's frown and Inuyasha's glare, he could guess he wasn't fooling anyone. Kagome, now shielded by both men, watched from openly from behind their shoulders. "My name is Shuichi Minamano," he swallowed, "but I can see that I caught you at a bad time - I'll leave you to rest."
He turned on his heel, intent on running out of there and hiding somewhere he could relieve his hurt and lick his wounds. He only made it five steps before her voice rang out, effectively stopping him in his tracks.
"Wait!" She pushed her way past the hanyou, and almost past her brother when Yusuke's hand shot out to grasp hers. She may as well slapped the detective in the face when she snatched it back. Seeing his stricken look she gently touched his cheek. "It's ok," her eyes met Kurama's and the breath hitched in his throat, "he won't hurt me."
She said it like a statement, but in her eyes he saw the question. He shook his head, "Never." His voice must have sounded as committed as he felt because she continued her path towards him with slow, deliberate steps. Her eyes, like all those years ago, captivated him.
If felt like it took forever for her to reach him, but in reality she was standing within an arms reach in a matter of seconds. Her lip had been captured by her teeth with a nervous tug as her eyes regarded him. "You said your name is Shuichi?" At his hesitant nod her eyebrows furrowed into a frown, "Then why does Yusuke call you Kurama?"
Every muscle but his heart froze. In his ears he could hear its escalating rhythm, feel its pulsing in his chest.
She saw his hesitance but mistook the reason for it. With a soft blush on her cheeks , she broke his gaze to stare at her nervous hands. "I'm sorry, that must've seemed so rude . . ." Frazzled, she tucked a stray piece of hair behind her ear, and Kurama saw a flash of blue.
Breathless, his eyes followed her hand as it returned to its companion at her stomach. He recognized that ring - would know it anywhere. Hope grew like a seed, its vines sprouting and weaving around his heart with a fragile caress. Gently, he took her hand in his; ignoring her surprised look as he held it closer to his face just to be sure. Two silver leaves still twined around the blue sapphire that had reminded him so much of her eyes. His chest warmed, with the knowledge that she still wore it - blooming when he his mind registered that it sat on her left hand. She was still his; she had always been his. Which meant . . . His eyes drifted to her swollen stomach.
"You can't leave us,"she had said. When he had looked back on that final memory he had always associated 'us' with the group. Now, seeing her, he remembered her true meaning. That one memory, clearer than almost all the rest, and he had managed to misinterpret something so crucial. God, how could he have even forgotten such a vital piece of information?
"Kur - er, Mr. Minamano?" Her cheeks were still rosy from embarrassment, but her eyes refused to let go of her question. Now that he knew she was his, Kurama was more than happy to answer it.
With a soft, relieved smile on his face he gestured to her hand. "You're still wearing your ring." At her intake of breath his smile widened and he watched her wide eyes fill with a mixture of disbelief and hope. He caressed her cheek, "Had I known that today's world preferred diamonds I would have found a more appropriate band for you."
Tears were rolling down her face but a hesitant smile was coaxing her lips. "Youko?"
He nodded, "Yes."
A weak, watery laugh escaped her lips before she looked at him with awe. Trembling, her hands touched his face - tracing his brows and gliding across his cheekbones before fingering the red strands of hair. "It's really you?"
He cupped her face in his hands, thumbs tenderly brushing away her tears. "Yes."
Her tears came faster than he could wipe them away and soon she was holding him as close as her swollen stomach would allow. Her blunt human nails gripped the front of of his shirt like a lifeline as she cried into his chest. "I thought - I never -" She held him tighter. "I missed you!"
She had no idea. For her it had been less than nine months; he had lived without her for years. However, seeing the tears in her eyes reminded him that though he lived without her longer (much longer), he at least lived with the hope and knowledge that she was out there. Had he not . . . well, he couldn't imagine the pain if there was no Kagome in the world. Just the thought of it made him hold her tighter. Yes, he had waited longer, but he wouldn't have wanted to trade places with her either.
He buried his nose in her hair, inhaling her scent with his weak human senses as he mumbled into her dark strands. "I missed you so much." He kissed the crown of her head before tilting her face up to his. Tears were still marring tracks down her cheeks but the pace had slowed. In her eyes he could see her faith growing. Faith in him, faith that he was truly there. His heart warmed and he swore to himself that he would never give her a reason to doubt again. "I'm sorry it took me so long."
A smile tugged at her lips, so soft and sincere it made his heart ache. She laid a small hand over his, guiding him from her cheek to her stomach. "You made it in time." Her eyes held his, conveying her every emotion just as she did all that time ago.
He didn't realize how desperate he was for her forgiveness, not until that moment when he knew he had it. Tension he didn't know he had, rolled off his shoulders. The love he felt for her swelled. Only Kagome would grant him forgiveness so quickly and without reason. She was the only one he could ever love enough to wait for - to come back from the grave for. "I love you." Her face brightened with happiness, a pleased blush tinting her cheeks. But for Kurama it wasn't enough; words would never be enough.
She would have said it back, he could see the words forming on her lips, but he didn't give her the chance. His love for her burned in his chest, demanding to be expressed. So he complied the best way he knew how; and nothing could have prepared him for how good it felt.
She was there, warm against his lips and solid under his palms. Her small hands tangled in his shirt as his fingers gently threaded through her hair. This moment hadn't been what he imagined. The kitsune in him had imagined their reunion as something filled with hot, passionate kisses and the mad search for a private room. But as a blissful sigh escaped her lips he knew that this moment was so much better than anything he could have ever imagined.
Shocking Yusuke speechless when he thanked him for taking care of his wife? Well, that just made the moment perfect.
A tiny sound broke through his world of dreams, so miniscule he knew others would have slept right through it. He liked to think that his ears were just sharper than most, youkai soul and all, but a part of him recognized that he had trained himself to hear that particular noise above all others. Looking over he could see Kagome stir and felt the familiar sense of amazement when faced with her motherly instincts. Even as exhausted as she was she still woke to the sound of their child's miniscule whine.
With her eyes barely open, she sat up with a small moan and started the thoughtless process of getting out of bed. His hand on her shoulder stopped her and she looked at him questioningly. He kissed her forehead lovingly, "I'll go. Just get some sleep." He knew she was truly tired when she didn't fight him - the past month, though the most fulfilling, had been hard on her.
His feet touched the cool floor and before his mind could fully register, he had already walked down to the next door over and turned the knob. The nursery, to his wife's dismay, was still bare of anything but essentials and a few scattered stuffed animals. He reminded her that they would be leaving soon - after all they only stayed at Genkai's for Yusuke and Inuyasha's sake. Who, Kurama grudgingly admitted, deserved some time with the child they had fought so hard to protect. More so, and perhaps the true reason he had conceded without protest, Kagome was simply too tired and too overwhelmed for them to even think about moving. Let alone the stress of finding, and buying, a 'forever home' as she called it.
A forever home . . . it certainly did have a ring of appeal to it. Even if the practical side of him argued that the chances of them staying in one place for the rest of their lives was unlikely at best. But with her eyes shining as she had shown him around the shrine that she had grown up - the tick marks in the door way that charted her growth and the tree she and her father had planted in the backyard - Kurama couldn't help but tell her "yes". He'd do everything in his power to make it happen. If they had to build a home from the ground up, which he was seriously considering, he'd do it.
Especially since he was fairly certain some of the artifacts in his hoard would be quite appealing to the local museums.
The thought brought a smirk to his face every time. He had only told Kagome of the funds he had saved from his days of fighting alongside Yusuke (after he had served off his sentence of course) and decided to save the news of his remaining hoard for another day. As it was, he was more than amused to the way her jaw slackened. Though it wasn't enough to hold them over forever, it was certainly enough to get their lives started - and enough to ease the worry lines in his mother's face when he had introduced Kagome. That . . . had certainly taken a lot of explaining on his part.
At the end of the day his mother had sat in shocked silence as she came to terms with what her son was; what he had always been. Kurama had worried that perhaps the truth would be too much but she had amazed him when, at the end of the night, she had asked when her grandchild was due. The shock still lined her eyes but in her gaze he saw her growing acceptance. Demon soul or not, he would always be her son.
The next week she was there, cooing with Kagome's mother on how perfect their new grandchild was. They hummed and hawed over who the child looked like, before they came to the conclusion that the infant carried both of their children's features. It seemed to Kurama that the decision was reached more out of their polite nature than fact, because when he saw his child for the first time all he saw was Kagome.
A month old, and millions of looks later, she still took his breath away.
Leaning on the crib rail he smiled down at her. "What is it my little girl?" At the sound of his voice her lips spread into a dimpled smile, her blue eyes so bright and attentive for a month old. Reaching down to pick her up, her feet kicked in excitement as she reached up for him. He made a great show of how heavy she was getting as he hoisted her up and nestled her against his chest to which she giggled endearingly. Again, Kurama asked how they could see anyone but Kagome in this child. She had Kagome's smile and eyes, no one could deny that. But he could see more subtle things too - the way her laugh could fill up and brighten a room, and how she could wake up most mornings content to greet the day with a smile.
In Emi, Kurama saw all the things he loved in his wife and loved his daughter all the more for it. The only things he could truly lay claim to were her more . . . demonic attributes. Silver hair was starting to tuft against her milky scalp and her pointed nails were already beginning to sharpen. He knew it wouldn't be long before her teething started, revealing sharp kitten fangs. But perhaps the most surprising, for him at least, had been the rate of her growth.
A week old and she was smiling and now, at only a month she had taken to giggling and laughing. With the amount of control she moved her body, he wouldn't be terribly shocked if she started crawling in the next couple weeks. It was as if her human blood didn't slow down her demonic blood at all. She just kept growing.
A fact that Kagome seemed almost saddened by as she watched her daughter grow faster than she could buy new wardrobes for. Half the apparel in the little one's closet didn't even get the chance to get worn. His wife had learned the hard way to keep the tags on until the garment was actually on their daughter. Over all, keeping up was exhausting and Kurama couldn't imagine how hectic their lives would become once walking came into the picture. If Emi had any bit of her father's curiosity (which he had the sneaking suspicion that she did) they would be in for many an adventure.
At least for now they had a couple pair of willing hands. The moment he held her, Kurama knew that his comrade was smitten. Yusuke, with his newborn niece in his arms, had melted like butter in her tiny grip. The goofy smile that spread across his face when he looked at her was proof enough that the spirit detective would be the proud uncle that carried a picture of his niece in his wallet and bragged to the world about her accomplishments.
Inuyasha's reaction had been one that puzzled Kurama for weeks until he asked Kagome about it. From the moment she was placed awkwardly in his arms, the hanyou's frown softened into just the slightest smile before he quickly handed her to another pair of waiting arms and left. In his eyes Kurama swore he saw a flash of worry as he held her. It hadn't made sense to him, but as always Kagome saw through the hanyou she had once loved with all her heart.
Her eyes had softened with that knowing look as she smiled at him. "Youko, Emi is our daughter, our blood and family. To Inuyasha she is pack, but more so . . . she's like him."
At his confused look she had sighed, her hands pausing in folding the laundry. "Inuyasha's afraid for her because he knows what it's like to grow up not fitting in." Her eyes saddened. "Our daughter won't be any different in that regard - she'll be stronger, faster, and different from all the other children. They'll tease her and she'll come home some day's crying, or maybe even bruised knuckles if my brother has any say in it."
His face, he knew, had portrayed his horror quite clearly, but his wife only smiled. "But on those days she'll have two parents to come home to, an uncle who would fight the world for her, and a friend who knows all too well how much it hurts to be different."
Looking at his daughter drooling on his shoulder as she drifted off to sleep, Kurama couldn't imagine how anyone could hurt his little girl. She was going to be stunning just like her mother, with the kind of beauty that shined from the inside out. How could anyone even think of dimming that light? The thought made his face harden and his jaw clench. Whoever dared would be finding themselves on the wrong end of one of his plants and, most likely Yusuke's fist and Inuyasha's sword.
The image of the three of them intimidating a five year old came to mind and he couldn't help but sigh. He would have to settle with having a firm talk with their parents . . . at least until the kid grew enough to make the image of them threatening him not so comical.
He blinked, somehow surprised to see Kagome standing in the doorway when he turned around. At his blank look her face softened into a tender smile as she crossed her robe covered arms across her chest. "You never came back to bed. It's already morning."
Frowning he looked out the window, surprised to find that the sun had indeed come up and filled Emi's room with light without him noticing. "Huh," he looked back at his wife, giving a half shouldered shrug to avoid jostling his daughter. "So it is."
She raised her eyebrows, lips curving in amusement as she walked towards him and gently plucked their daughter out his arms to hold her to her own breast. "Please tell me you weren't sleep walking with out only daughter these past couple hours." Her eyes twinkled as she gave Emi a kiss the head.
He couldn't help his answering smirk, even if it was at his own expense. Seeing her so playful and happy with their daughter in her arms . . . well, any man in his right mind would sacrifice some of his pride for such a vision. "I may have gotten distracted."
She nodded, that knowing smirk still plastered on her face. "Ah, is that so? And what, dare I ask, could have distracted my husband for two hours?"
Kurama wrapped his arms around her steadily slimming waist until only Emi lay sleeping between their beating hearts. "I may have been thinking about which plant to use on the first boy that dares hurt my daughter."
Kagome laughed, the sound causing Emi to stir in her arms. With wide, blinking eyes she touched her mother's face as if surprised to find her there. "I'm sorry baby did Mama wake you up?" Her little fist tapped her cheek before giggling wildly.
Both parents froze, smiles wiped off their faces as they looked at each other before staring back at their child. "Did she just . . ."
Kurama nodded, a proud smile slowly spreading across his face. "I think she di-"
Emi bounced happily in Kagome's arms. "No no no no no no no no!"
Kagome groaned, "Great. Just great." She gave her husband a pointed look, ignoring the streams of giggled 'no's that were now flowing out of her daughter like a broken water line. "This must be where your genes come in." She began to make her way out of the room, her husband dutifully following after her with a frown.
She threw a teasing look over her shoulder. "You always did like to hear yourself talk."
Well, had I finished this an hour earlier it would have been the five year anniversary of this story. So since I am an hour late I will instead say Happy Halloween!
I hope you all enjoyed the last chapter and I hope it fulfilled your expectations. There will likely be an epilogue at some point from Emi's point of view for those of you that like more 'bittersweet' endings. For those of you that like happy endings - this is it.
Again, I hope you enjoyed! And I hope you decide to follow me in my next YYH/IY adventure The Good Dog! Have a safe, happy holiday!
And as always, thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your kind words and support!