Author's Notes: This is set before Slayer of Nightmares -- I have a tendency to write little scenes to help me sort out how the characters feel and think, and because I do not write stories in a linear fashion -- I put them together like puzzle pieces. This often leads to bits and pieces of scenes that never make it into the main story.
This actually holds together as a readable vignette, so I thought I'd post it. (Originally, I was tempted to incorporate it as a flashback in Slayer.
I'm putting this under the "Inuyasha" category but for reference, Slayer of Nightmares is a Buffy/Inuyasha crossover. This is set after a couple years of traveling, and after Kikyou's death in the manga, but (obviously) before the end of the series.
She was so beautiful, sitting by the fast-moving little river, on a rock overlooking a waterfall.
Inuyasha sighed a strictly silent sigh. Kagome hadn't seen him yet; she was sitting beside the water, feet dangling in it, running a comb through her drying hair. They'd stopped a few hours before sunset -- with it being midsummer, the days were long and miserably hot and the humans in the party had been ready to drop.
Kagome, with her passion for cleanliness, had immediately headed for the fast-moving and crystal clear water. The wind brought the pleasant smells of her shampoo and soap to him now, so unlike the scents of people of this time. She never smelled of body odor, even after a day's hard traveling -- there was a gel she rubbed herself with, to prevent that. That stuff smelled good too; she called it baby powder scent and had laughed uproariously when he'd asked her what it was, then explained.
His nose twitched, taking in those pleasant odors.
"Inuyasha, I know you're there," she said, mildly, glancing in his direction.
Ah, well. He couldn't hide from the miko for long; she could sense his youki as well as that of bad guys. He stepped out from behind the concealing screen of bushes and, for want of an excuse to explain why he'd followed her down to the creek, asked, "How's your hand?"
"Lemme look." She'd gotten scratched up when she'd fallen on her hands and knees earlier -- a very stupid but large snake youkai had knocked her over in its death throes. The end result had been a skinned palm and grass stains on her skirt.
"It's nothing," she closed her hand into a fist.
"Oi, wench, you don't treat it now, it'll be worse, later." He grabbed her wrist.
"Inuyasha, it's fine!" She tried to yank her hand away.
"Let me see!" He insisted.
"I'm fine! I already put antibiotic cream on it. It's nothing!" She pulled harder, glaring at him. "You're so pushy sometimes. I do know how to take care of myself!"
"Feh." He let go, just as she gave a very hard yank against him. Without the resistance of his hand, she lost her balance and toppled backwards into the stream -- which happened to be cold and swift at that point. She landed above the waterfall, then promptly, and with an indignant shriek, tumbled over the edge and several feet down into a deep pool.
"Shit!" He didn't think, he just took two running steps and dove in after her. He caught her by the arm a few feet under the water's surface and with a few powerful kicks yanked her up for air.
She spluttered and swore. Her scent was angry, but not hurt. "Inuyasha, you ass!"
Yeah, she wasn't hurt. Ears pinned flat against his head against both the water and the expectation of being 'sat' as soon as he made it to shore, he headed for the water's edge. "Let go of me!" She protested, "I can swim!"
He didn't want to. But there was warning in her voice, so he released her. After a pissed-off glare while treading water, she swam to a flat rock that looked to be an easy way out of the plunge pool. She was shivering when he scrambled out after her, and she gave him an accusatory look.
"Oi, woman, I didn't do that on purpose ..."
"I just got dry!" She turned her back on him. She looked up towards her gear, which was at the top of the water fall. "And now I have to climb back up there!"
Well, at least that problem was easily solved. He scooped her up and leaped the several feet top the top, then carried her back to her former position.
She sighed, suffering his manhandling of her with ill grace. "Inuyasha, you're an idiot, you know that?"
"Yeah." He grunted, setting her down.
She gave him a surprised look, perhaps expecting him to argue. Okay, fine, he'd argue. "Am not."
Surprisingly, that only triggered a laugh out of her. She suddenly rested her forehead against his shoulder, giggling. What the hell did she find so funny about an unexpected dunking? Her fingers twisted into the soaked fabric of his haori and her shoulders shook with suddenly helpless giggles. "The look on your face ... Gods, Inuyasha, I wish someone had a camera handy when I fell in."
"Feh. Now will you let me see your hand?"
With a huffed sigh of her own, she presented him her fingers. Which, he had to admit, didn't look nearly as bad as he'd feared. He said, "I guess they'll be okay."
"Yeah. They will. And you're soaked." She tugged at his haori, going for the ties that held it closed. "Take that off, we can hang it in the sun and it might be mostly dry by dark."
"Oi, wench, trying to undress me?" He teased, and then instantly regretted his words -- because he didn't even want to imply that as a possibility.
She turned a sudden and instant shade of red almost as bright as his sopping wet clothing. And then he was acutely aware of how close she was to him -- looking up at him, eyes suddenly confused and embarrassed in equal parts. He realized her blouse was soaking wet; he could see the lines of her bra under it very clearly. It clung to her body, revealing a very feminine figure made all the perkier by her modern garments -- not that he hadn't seen her in very little, or sometimes nothing at all, but this was somehow different. She was inches from him ... in easy kissing distance. All he had to do was raise his arms up and put them around her and pull her in and inch or two closer ...
They sprang apart as if they'd been electrocuted by each other. "Gomen, Inuyasha," she muttered.
"Kagome ..." he was glad for the fact that he was, in truth, freezing his ass off despite the warm air. That water had been cold. Otherwise, a tent in his hakama might have betrayed just how interested he was in the idea of her taking his clothes off. Damnit all, anyway ... the wind was carrying a whiff of her scent to him; she'd felt it too. The attraction between them.
He shrugged out of his kimono and haori and tossed them over a bush. When he turned back to her, she was rummaging in her pack for a change of clothes. She apparently felt his eyes on her, because she snatched what she called a "beach towel" up off the ground and threw it at him. "Go take your pants off and wrap that around you."
"Feh." But he didn't make any more jokes about Kagome getting him out of his clothes. Instead, businesslike, he toweled the water out of his hair with the rough fabric and then, while her back was turned, did as she suggested.
He should have left, he really should have, at that point. But she was sitting back down, clad now in dry clothes, and looking as pretty as ever. "Oi, wench, gonna sit me if I want to join you?"
"No," she said, giving him a wary look.
"Good." He dropped onto the sunny rock beside her, hunching his shoulders a bit, and feeling suddenly sorry for himself.
"Inuyasha, how long have we been together? Two years?" She said, after a moment's silence. Gods, he loved her voice ... not that he'd ever admit that to her.
"Something like that," he grunted, though he could have told her the exact date she'd appeared in his life and returned him to the living.
To his surprise -- partly because he figured she was still mad about the dunking -- she said quietly, "Inuyasha, you like me, don't you?"
"Feh. 'Course I do." He shot her a sideways look, wondering where this was leading. He was rather scared he had an idea, and he was so not ready for this discussion.
"Not like that," she said, leaving him a little mystified about what 'like that' was ... friend, he supposed. "You're my best friend, Inuyasha. But ... ever wonder if we could be anything more?"
Every day since you walked into my life, he was tempted to answer. Every time you smile at me. Whenever there's a quiet moment and you're just there. When you run to me and seek shelter in my arms with no fear of me, seeing only me, your sworn protector. And whenever you say something offhanded that reminds me that you do not see a half-breed, you see a friend.
Roughly, he said, "No point in wondering."
"No point?" She sounded offended. Suddenly, a pair of brown eyes were inches from his. "What's that supposed to mean."
Gently, and mindful of his claws, he put his hands on her shoulders and pushed her away. "Don't."
"Don't do this to me." He turned away, started to rise and leave. Maybe she'd get the hint, drop the subject, and never bring it up again. Because if he had to talk about it, his heart would break.
"I get it," she said, very softly. "I'll never be her."
Her. Kikyou. Kikyou had been dead for weeks, now, dead forever, no longer a part of his life. But Kikyou wasn't the reason at all for his longstanding reticence. But Kagome thought it was. She thought that he loved Kikyou more than he could ever love her. That he was pining for her. That he didn't have room in his heart for the both of them.
Damnit, he loved her -- Kagome, not Kikyou -- too much to let her hurt like that anymore. With a huff, he sat back down next to her. This is scarier than going into battle against Naraku, he thought, with some dark amusement. He had so wanted to avoid the subject ... forever, if possible, because what was the point of talking about things you couldn't change?
"Inuyasha?" She said, hesitantly. Kagome obviously found some point in discussing it. And as much as it hurt him, perhaps it would hurt her worse if he never told her the truth.
""s not that, wench." He rested his hands between his feet, which he drew up close to his body. It was a defensive posture; he could lunge quickly into flight or attack when he sat like that. Old habit made him assume that pose when he felt nervous. It also made him look more canine than he already was, but what did he care?
"You don't love me, do you? Not that way," she said, quietly. "It's okay, I guess. You're my best friend."
Damnit. He could hear the heartbreak in her voice. He reached out, suddenly, and draped an arm around her shoulders, and pulled her into a hug. She stiffened against him, and whispered, "Inuyasha ..."
"Shh." He tried to let his actions say what was so hard for him to communicate in words. He'd never told Kikyou this when she was alive, either. Ever. He regretted that. It made it more important to tell her, perhaps. "Kagome, I ..."
Inuyasha bowed his head, burying his face in her wet hair. He couldn't say it. He just couldn't even though he really wanted to, even though he knew it was important. There was a great big huge lump in his throat blocking the words. The I love you that he wanted her to know just wouldn't come out. Finally, he got around the problem by whispering, "When you go home, after ... everything is over ... I will never, ever, ever forget you. Not to the end of my days."
"Go home?" she whispered.
He stroked her back, curling his fingers under so that he used his knuckles and didn't snag his claws on her shirt. "Kagome, you will, someday. Go home and leave me here. That damned well will be closed ... and I'll never, ever see you ... again ... not ever ..." He could hardly bear it when she was gone for a few days. He didn't really want to think about her leaving him forever.
She sighed and relaxed into his arms, settling into his lap atop the towel. He wanted to kiss her now, but didn't, because that was almost as dangerous as those three words he could never say -- and it was doubly a risk given how little he was wearing. He really, really would have preferred being fully dressed for this ... he could feel the bare skin of her arms against his chest, and the softness of the finely woven fabric of her shirt. Instead of words, however, and with reckless disregard for the circumstances, he just held her close, trying to show her how much he truly cared for her.
When he smelled the salt of her tears, he thought perhaps he'd succeeded a little too well. "Kagome, don't you cry!"
"Inuyasha," she murmured, running her fingers through the wet locks of his hair. "I don't ever want to leave you."
"But you will," he said, roughly. "Don't tell me you're going to stay here. Don't. You've family who love you and a place in the future where you really belong. This isn't your world. And I for damn sure don't belong in the future -- what would I do, have you work and support me while I hid from sight from everyone who might see me and know me a monster?"
"I see," she said, quietly. Her voice said she didn't like his words, that she wanted to argue.
He tightened his grip on her. "It's not really fair, ne?"
"Yeah," she agreed, finally, not arguing, which was worse than the vicious fight he'd been terrified this discussion would lead to.
Tears streamed down her face. She didn't deny she wanted to go home and he'd have called her on the lie if she tried. He'd already resolved he wouldn't make her chose between him and the family that loved her -- that crazy grandfather, her charming little brother, and her mama -- the latter reminded him, a bit, of his own long-dead and very much missed mother. It might have been easier if they hated him, but damnit all, they trusted him to take good care of this wonderful girl. And for many reasons, he was resolved to live up to that trust. He would not fail them. Or her.
And he couldn't ask her to chose between them and him. Because if he had to chose between Kagome and his own mother, he didn't think he could, and the choice would rip his soul apart regardless of his decision.
Not at all to his surprise, she reached up and pulled him down for a kiss -- he let her, allowing himself just this once to give in to his feelings. Her lips were sweet on his, and she clung to him with no fear. Her scent came to him, reassuring him that she was enjoying the kiss, even if it was mixed with desperate sadness and salty tears.
After a moment, he let her go, and indeed pushed her away a bit, before things got too heated. Because they could, very easily -- he could smell the desire on her, and knew his own feelings on the matter.
"Inuyasha?" she said, quietly, sitting on the rock next to him, arms around her knees. "We could be happy together, you know."
"Yeah ... I know." He did. He had, for a long time. It had frustrated him, because if circumstances were different he would not have hesitated to take what she offered, and rejoice in it. He was a hanyou, but damnit, fuck anyone who said he couldn't have love like this. Fuck them to hell. But ... it wasn't fair for her.
"I'd stay, if you asked." Her voice was tremulous. She studied his face, and clenched a hand in a fist like she wanted to touch him again and was firmly resisting.
"I won't ask." He reached a clawed hand out and ran it through her hair. She leaned into his caress and sighed.
"No. You won't. Unfortunately." She eyed him, with speculation in her eyes that he didn't entirely like. She almost seemed about to say something -- but instead, she simply shook her head and rose, then moved to gather her bathing things up.
"Kagome," he said, quietly, in a tone of confession. "It hurts so much."
"I understand," her voice was very quiet -- only his hanyou hearing could have detected her words. But he knew she did understand, because she was his friend. She knew just how badly it would break his heart to lose her, perhaps in the very near future, if he let himself act on his feelings now.
She glanced over her shoulder at him, then looked away sharply. "Inuyasha?"
"Don't ... don't let us part without saying goodbye." She sounded like she was about to cry. "Promise me that. Promise me we'll say goodbye."
"I promise," he said, knowing even then that it was a lie told with her best interests in mind. Because he already knew what he was going to do, when he got that damned jewel in his hands at last. If he let her say goodbye, she might ask him for something he couldn't deny her ... come forward with me, or let me stay here ... neither option was in her best interest. But the promise made her give him a wan smile, and that was good enough for now.