Returning to camp, she mentally prepared herself for a conversation with Inuyasha. As reluctant as she was to speak with him about such a matter, he needed to be told, and she needed a favour from him, though he would probably be disinclined to grant it. "You okay, Kagome?" Sango's hand found its way to her shoulder, squeezing it lightly and offering her support. Her sister of her heart, Kagome mused. One always knew what the other needed, and was always willing to provide it.
"I'll be fine. It's Inuyasha I'm worried about."
She thought of it for a minute before replying. "He's so used to rejection, I hate to add to it, but that's how he's going to see it. A rejection of him for his brother, whom he competes with, but can never win against. While it would be hard for anybody to swallow their pride on this, he's going to find it impossible, and he'll probably lash out."
"I won't let him hurt you. Miroku and I will stay nearby to intercede if necessary."
Smiling, she gathered her strength. "Thanks Sango, but I don't think it'll come to that. He may hurt, but he won't hurt me. I won't let myself be hurt by his words." Taking a deep breath, she stepped into the clearing and looked around. She could see Miroku and Shippou sitting near the fire, boiling some water for what she assumed was going to be tea. Kirara laying next to them, sprawled out and sleeping, but no Inuyasha.
"He's gone," Miroku explained without looking up from the fire. "He followed you two to the hot spring, not close enough to watch," he added, "but close enough to keep an eye out if there's any danger. He's feeling guilty for not being able to help rid you of the spirit as he feels it's his duty to protect you. He came through about five minutes ago and leapt off somewhere into the south."
"Inuyasha," she murmured, saddened that he had to hear her story the way he did. Nobody should have to hear a story like that by listening in. She would have rather told him herself.
"He sees it as a great blow, Kagome-sama. I don't know what you and Sango talked about, but he didn't react well." Removing the pot of boiling water from the fire, he placed several tealeaves in it before stirring it around and letting it sit so the flavour would steep through. "An herbal blend provided by Kaede. I suggest you both sit down and when this is ready, I'll pour you a cup. I think it's about time somebody filled me in on what would send Inuyasha off like that."
Sighing, Kagome took a seat near the fire and waited for Miroku to pour the tea. "Fortunately it's not a long story, Miroku, but it's complex. And it's not something I want to share with everybody at camp as it's intensely private. Inuyasha was never meant to hear it like he did. I wasn't sure I was even going to tell him to be honest, but he has a right to know."
"I won't judge you, Kagome-sama."
Running through the trees and leaping into the air at a breakneck speed was the only way he could feel free at the moment, not feel dragged down by recent events. A mix of emotions swirled through him at about the same speed he was running. Hurt. Anger. Betrayal. Rage. One piled on top of the other, until he couldn't keep them in check anymore, and he had to just get away.
Though common sense told him she probably had no other choice, and she most likely didn't initiate it, he didn't know how he would ever be able to accept it. He was leery at letting Kagome go off with his brother to begin with, but he trusted her to know what she was doing. If he had known this was going to happen, there would have been no way Kagome would have been left alone with Sesshoumaru. She belonged to him.
Leaping off the top of another tree, Inuyasha allowed a small smile to grace his face as the wind blew his hair back, and created a resistance that only made him work harder. Anything to burn off the excess energy.
Oh he knew, when he truly thought of it, that Kagome never really belonged to him. He was too caught up in the past to really look ahead to her and the future, and at times she was too caught up in the future to look back at him and the past. But despite all this she still belonged to him. She was pack. She was his best friend. And though he knew it was wrong to think of it this way, she was also his only remaining connection to Kikyou. He had never let her know that, but somehow he suspected she had already figured it out. Kagome was smart like that.
So if he knew she couldn't belong to him, why did it still hurt this much? Sango was right. Despite Kagome's futuristic views, even if he wanted to, he could never take her now. He would never have been able to move past the fact that his brother had her first.
His brother who managed to get everything first.
Feeling the rage rise again, he struggled to take a deep breath before catching a flash of white off in the east.
His rage came to a full boil as he saw the youkai make his way through the forest. "Bastard," he seethed as he came to a quick stop and made a detour. Brandishing Tessaiga as he made his way to the air again, he fought down the rage knowing it would only cloud his attack, and he snarled as he landed in front of his half-brother.
Letting the blade lower, he pressed the tip of it against Sesshoumaru's armor in warning. He was one pissed off hanyou. "Asshole," he greeted, further pushing his blade into the armor and ignoring the inu's hardened eyes. "I have questions, you have answers. Now you're going to talk or so help you as I shove Tessaiga so far up your ass it'll be coming out of your mouth."
"Half-breed," Sesshoumaru greeted as he narrowed his eyes on the hanyou. He didn't miss the anger emanating from him, the subtle rise of what little youki the whelp had. Flexing his hand lightly at the side for a brief moment, he lifted it to push the blade away, not that it could do much damage to him with Tenseiga at his side. "I see you have yet to learn the proper way of greeting family."
"Fuck that, Sesshoumaru. You are no more family to me than I am family to you. What I want to know is why."
Raising an eyebrow, he could only guess the hanyou had learned of his activities with the miko. Feeling a light pang in his chest at the thought of her, he immediately dismissed it. He had more pressing matters to deal with. "That is of no concern to you."
"She is my pack. Further more she is Kagome. That makes it my concern."
"You seem to forget that, brother," he sneered as he looked upon the hanyou. "You don't look at her and see your friend. You look at her and see your dead miko. This is why it doesn't concern you. It is between I and the living miko, not you and the dead one."
Jumping back as he saw the blade of Tessaiga come at him, narrowly missing him. Smirking, he pulled Tokijin out of its sheath, feeling the evil and hate resonate off the sword and direct itself at Inuyasha, he released the hate and lashed back, knowing the whelp would easily dodge the attack. He had to credit him with being a quick learner. It was becoming increasingly difficult to teach him in the way he knew best.
"Where is she?" He asked as he saw Inuyasha stop for a moment to catch his breath.
"Not anywhere near you."
"I have business with her and you would be wise not to interfere. Where is she?"
Feeling the press of the Tessaiga against his Tokijin, he pushed forward, ignoring the flying sparks as the two blades clashed against each other. "You don't get to see her until I know what it's all about. I left her with you once and look what happened," Inuyasha growled as he fought back.
Sending another wave of blue light, he sent Inuyasha flying off to the side, and though he landed on his feet, he was clearly winded. "Jealousy, Inuyasha, does not become you. It is wise to remember who your betters are. Where is the miko?"
Glaring into the boy's eyes, he let his defences drop just once, knowing they could bring him the end result. Pride, he knew, had a time and a place, and while he could spend countless hours playing against his brother, this was neither the time nor the place.
Giving the spirits a second chance at love means just that. Love, not lust.
Bokuseno's words echoed in his head once again, trapping themselves there to the point where he was becoming obsessed just thinking about them. His determination to find the miko and speak with her was beginning to override all rational thought that told him to do otherwise.
Communicating everything he needed to say without words, he found that the lack of pride wasn't as distasteful as he thought. Watching his brother slump in defeat, ears low to his skull, he knew he finally succeeded and sheathed Tokijin.
"We're still camped where you left her," Inuyasha said as he sheathed Tessaiga. "I'll warn you now though. You hurt her, you'll wish that shoving Tessaiga up your ass will be the extent of what I'd do to you."
Nodding his head, he turned to leave, only to turn back again. "You tell anyone of what you saw here, the same threat will hold to you."
Silently, she slipped away from the group, tiptoeing across the camp so as not to wake anybody. She was slightly disturbed by fact that Inuyasha had not returned. And saddened. She had hurt him, something she had promised herself she would never do. Walking, the struggled not to trip on the various roots and vines covering the dirt ground. In her effort not to wake her camp mates, she had forgotten to unpack her flashlight. She only hoped that she wouldn't get lost in the dark. The smell of fresh water was in the air though and Kagome knew she was heading back in the direction of the hot spring. It would be quiet at the very least to let her think through the last few days in relative peace.
Snapping to attention, she narrowed her eyes, trying to focus in the dark and looked ahead. "Inuyasha!" Torn between running to him, and running away, she stood her ground, fists clenching at her sides. There was so much she wanted to, and needed to say to him, yet she found herself lacking the words, and the strength to voice her thoughts to him. This was Inuyasha, the hanyou who had saved her life countless times, been there for her whenever she needed him, and her best friend. And in return, she hurt him quite possibly more than he had ever hurt her. Sitting next to the hot spring, he looked very much lost and alone. A saddened puppy probably best exemplified the image he portrayed at this moment. "I'm sorry."
"What for?" he asked bitterly. "For sleeping with him or for not telling me about it."
Staring in his eyes, she couldn't help but think how similar they were to his brother's, only his were much more expressive. They were drowning in sorrow and she felt her heart break for him. She did this to him. "I can't tell you what you want me to tell you," she said as she moved forward and took a seat next to him. "I can't lie to you and tell you I'm sorry for sleeping with him. It was necessary."
"Necessary? That's it? Nothing more?"
Shaking her head, she reached for his hand and held it in between hers, sandwiching it. "I won't lie to you," she repeated. "I can't answer those questions. I don't know the answers myself. I do know though that the more time I spent with him, talking to him, the more I got to know him and learned that he's not as bad as I thought he was. That has to count for something."
"He's an ass, and he'll never change."
Giggling, she opened his hand so the palm was facing up. Tracing the lines that ran across it and up his fingers, she amused herself for a moment. They were strong hands, she noticed, covered in calluses from wielding Tessaiga. Overtime they had come to be covered with the blood of many others, including his own, and yet, it remained still as she continued her ministrations. "I put up with you all these years. What makes you think I can't handle your brother?"
Feeling his hand enclose her own, she turned her head and looked up at him, noting his serious, contemplative gaze. "I'm sorry too. I have a feeling that despite my best intentions and my own personal wishes, I've pushed you away."
Shocked, she maintained eye contact. "You've matured you know. You're still rash at times, and quick to anger. Your temper at times still astounds me, and yet you've grown up. Four years ago we would have never had this conversation. You'd have stormed off in a huff the moment your brother's name was mentioned."
"Yeah well things change. And they're still changing." He gestured to his right, her eyes following the motion, only stopping when she saw the figure clad in white standing in the distance. How come she hadn't noticed him until now? "I've learned to read you like a book over these four years," he continued. "I can't compete with that, nor will I try. Just promise me something. If dog shit over there ever hurts you, you come and find me so I can kick his ass."
Feeling her face stretch into a large smile, she could see it reflected in Inuyasha's eyes just before he leapt into the trees disappearing from sight. Standing herself, she took one step ahead, followed by another, the weight of the world disappearing with each foot forward. She thought he had left for good earlier in the day and until this moment, she didn't realize how much that had affected her. But it all washed away when she saw him standing there, waiting for her.
"Hey," she smiled as she greeted him, her heart full of cheer and no doubt reflecting itself in her very demeanor.
And her heart leapt from her chest and soared into the sky as she saw him smile back down at her. For the first time ever, the world around her seemed to balance out. Everything was perfect.
It's done…wow…I'm still catching my breath over this.
Firstly, I have several thank yous…
So I am on cloud nine today and I have all of you, the readers, to thank for this. A very big thank you to everybody who voted for this story on the latest IYFG poll. I am extremely honoured that you think so highly of this story to vote it as Best Canon. I've been walking around and working with a smile on my face and as soon as I came home from work I started to work on this chapter. I'm still in a state of shock, as I never thought this story would be nominated, then seconded, then win. So thank you.
I would also like to thank Jay FicLover who came up with such a wonderful challenge. It was truly inspiring and one that as you can see, I couldn't resist and I'm glad I could do it justice. I did warn you Jay that it takes me a while to write a story lol, well it was almost 13 months. I started this story on November 18, 2006…well before but I posted it then, with the hopes that I would be finished by November 18 of this year. Unfortunately many things got in the way of that, but it's not too too late. Your comments have been inspiring and has certainly offered me guidance along the way. Thank you.
Thank you also to Yabou and Elegant Paws. Elegant Paws, I had just come off a small hiatus when you started reading and it was enough to inspire me to get back on track with regular updates. Not to mention the late night e-mails that have helped keep me sane along the way. Yabou, well, you know everything you've done. Your support is phenomenal and it was always great having somebody read my chapters and telling me I wasn't off my rocker with some of the stunts I've pulled in this story. Thank you both.
Secondly, I've been getting a rash of e-mails and reviews from people who are upset about no angry Inuyasha, or looking forward to an Inuyasha outburst. I'll say it now that while he's angry, I like the hanyou, and I refuse to write stupid childish angry. Anybody who follows my drabble series on ff. net titled Brotherhood will see this. This story takes place several years after Kagome falls into the well, so they've both grown up over time and this is reflected in his attitude. I wouldn't write him any other way.
Finally, thank you to everybody has been reading this story. Whether you're a new reader or somebody who's been following this since the beginning, thank you for your support. I mean it when I say it means the world to me. All of you have been inspirational.
That's it. I hope you enjoyed the story as much as I've enjoyed writing it.
Disclaimer: Please see chapter one