Author's Note: It started out as a plot bunny - a part of an idea for a story, but never morphed into anything else. Then I realized it could stand on it's own as a one shot...sorta. So, here it is.
Their latest battle with Mouryomaru left them all injured in some way, but the hanyou had suffered the worst. At the moment he was unconscious and sleeping peacefully thanks to some of Kaede's herbs. Being Inuyasha, he had refused to rest while his body healed and had insisted they keep going to search for more shards or perhaps even engage in another battle with Naraku's awful incarnation.
In an effort to help him, Kagome had made a cup of instant ramen, seasoning it with the herbs Kaede secretly handed her. It hadn't taken long before Inuyasha had dozed off in the corner by the door.
Kagome yawned and stretched, wincing when the movement pulled at the scratches along her arm. White bandages were wrapped around her left bicep and right calf where claws had managed to scrape her. A band-aide stuck to her cheek, covering a rather nasty looking scratch from a flying rock that had been kicked up during the fight.
"I'm going to go get some more herbs, okay Kaede-sama? Who knows how long those will last on Inuyasha." She smiled fondly at the hanyou's sleeping form. "His body's different from ours, you know. I guess I'll have to think of another way to get him to take them though. He probably figured out my ramen trick."
Shippou snorted. "Doubt it."
She gave him a warning look and he pouted, going back to his crayons and paper. "I'll be back."
When she stepped outside, she looked up at the sky to gauge the time. Mouryomaru had interrupted their camp during the night and they had made it back to Kaede just after dawn, thanks to Hachi. After explanations and bandaging wounds and finally getting Inuyasha to rest, she wasn't surprised to discover that it was well past noon.
But the day was still pretty anyway. The weather was comfortable and a light rain had fallen the day before. Everything was dry now, but there was still the hint of the fresh rain scent in the air. Even her human nose could pick it up. That was something she loved about the feudal era. The air was clean and there was so much open space, filled with flowers and grass and trees. It truly was beautiful.
In her study of the sky, she couldn't help but notice the Shini-dama-chuu that circled above the hut, alerting those present that Kikyo was nearby. For once, Kagome was glad that Inuyasha wasn't conscious or he'd have gone running after the dead priestess.
She sighed, knowing it was wrong of her to feel antipathy towards the young woman. It was Inuyasha's choice to run after her all the time.
Still, she supposed it was rude to make the priestess wait expecting Inuyasha to make an appearance when he had no way of even knowing she was there. With a resigned sigh and a glance at the hut, the young miko trudged her way towards the bone eater's well and past towards the Forest of Inuyasha.
She found her 'rival' at the base of the Goshinboku and mentally scowled at her choice of locations.
"Inuyasha can't come," she stated simply from a few feet away.
Kikyo looked up at her and nodded. She leaned against the trunk of the tree and looked up at her soul stealing insects before bring her gaze back to Kagome. "How is he?"
"Stubborn as always," Kagome answered, rolling her eyes. She could have sworn Kikyo had almost smiled. "Mouryoumaru did a real number on him, but he refused to take a time out, so Kaede and I gave him some herbs to make him sleep. That's why he can't come."
They stood there in silence for several long, uncomfortable moments before Kagome shifted nervously. "If that's it I should be getting back…did you need me to tell him something?" She offered and then bit her lip.
The priestess shook her head lightly. "No. I will see him at some later time."
Kagome bit back a retort and nodded. "Okay then…" she started to turn around, but stopped and looked back at Kikyo. "May I ask you a question, Kikyo-sama?"
The other woman tilted her head slightly. "You may."
"Do you love him?" She hadn't meant for it to come out the way it had, sounding like an accusation. She had only wanted to know. If Kikyo loved Inuyasha and Inuyasha loved Kikyo, which she knew he did, then it was only right that the two of them should be together and it wasn't Kagome's place to interfere. She just wanted to know where she stood.
Kikyo paused, pondering the question for a moment before sitting on one of the large roots at the base of the tree. For some odd reason she felt compelled to be truthful with this girl and needed a moment to work out her answer. "I believe that I do, but I have no previous experience with the emotion to be able to compare and know for sure. How does one know if they are in love?"
Kagome released the breath she'd been holding and shook her head, quietly laughing at herself. "I don't know. I always figured you'd just know when it happened. There'd be no question about it."
"Life will never be that simple."
"Tell me about it." Kagome made a face. "If it was, I wouldn't have so many problems." She sat on the ground and drew her knees up, realizing they were going to actually have a conversation.
"Nor I." Kikyo calmly folded her hands in her lap and looked at her reincarnation, studying her carefully. "May I ask you something now?"
Kagome shrugged. "It's only fair."
"Do you love him?"
She felt her face pale before her cheeks heated up, turning bright red, and looked away. It was one thing for Kikyo to answer that question. The feelings between the once living priestess and the hanyou were already out in the open. The feelings between Kagome and Inuyasha, however, had never been admitted to anyone. However she answered might be used against her.
"It would not serve me to tell Inuyasha and since there is no knowing how he feels about you, there is no reason for me to hold your answer against you."
That hardly calmed Kagome, but what she'd said before was true. It was only fair that Kikyo get an answer from her after giving one.
"I've never been in love before, but I'm certain that's what I feel," she said quietly. "I trust him more than I ever trusted anyone. I know that he'll always protect me. I love being with him. Even when we argue and he says or does things to hurt me, I still want to be with him. I want him to live and to be happy and it scares me every time we go into a fight because I know that he can be reckless and thoughtless." She shook her head and idly picked at the grass beneath her. "It's funny though, you know? It doesn't matter if he feels the same way about me. As long as he lets me keep loving him and stay by his side, I'll be content."
Kikyo nodded and looked to the side. "There was a time I thought that you and I were not so different. Now I see that we are not so similar."
"I like to stand out."
"You do it well."
"Thanks…I think." Kagome furrowed her brows, trying to determine if it were an insult or an innocent comment. "What's this all about, Kikyo-sama? Why do you care how I feel about Inuyasha?"
Kikyo barely lifted her shoulders in a shrug. "I was curious."
"But why? It's not like it's going to change anything," Kagome argued softly. "In the end, you'll still take him away."
The other woman stood. She and Kagome were closer in age to one another now than they had been. "Possibly." She turned towards Kagome. "I asked it of him and, at the time, he agreed. Having had time to consider it, I have decided to retract my request."
Kagome tilted her head to the side in curiosity. "Why?"
"At the time I was too filled with anger and hate to see the situation clearly," Kikyo answered simply. "When Urasue used her magic to revive me, she intended to transfer your soul to my body, being as you were my reincarnation. However, you were able to call the soul back to your body before the process was finished and I was left with only a small portion to sustain me with my memories. When Naraku is gone and I am prepared to give up this life, the soul will return to your body."
Kagome was quiet and looked up at the miko, not sure how to react. She met the woman's dark eyes for a moment before looking back down at the grass in front of her.
"When that happens, there will be no soul left to go to hell. I cannot drag Inuyasha to hell in order for him to be with me, if I will not be there myself."
Kagome felt her eyes tear up and pushed herself up, brushing her skirt off. "Kikyo-sama?" She managed to small smile. "Thank you."
Kikyo shook her head and looked past Kagome, out over the clearing. "I am being selfish. My soul resides within your body. I wish to be with him and that is the only way I know how." She smiled gently and turned away and walked slowly through the trees, disappearing into the shadows.
Kagome stood there for a few minutes, just watching the shadows, lost in thought. Inuyasha was going to live. It felt as if a tremendous weight had been lifted from her shoulders.
When she turned she found herself staring directly at a shirtless Inuyasha. His chest was wrapped in white bandages and a red stain had started to spread over the material. "You're supposed to be sleeping."
"I guess your potion didn't work on hanyou," he muttered.
Kagome sighed. "I didn't know what else to do. You needed to rest and you just kept arguing."
"Kikyo was here." He glanced over at the trees before looking back at her. It was always uncomfortable after one of Kikyo's visits.
"You saw her, didn't you?" She started past him back towards the hut. "How long were you standing there?"
"Long enough." He walked beside her and sighed.
"You should have said something."
"You two were busy talking."
That earned her a slight smile. "A little." He stopped and turned her to look at him. "You okay?"
She smiled sweetly. "Yeah, I'm fine." She reached out and took his hand, tugging him towards the hut. "You heard what she said, didn't you? About hell and all?"
Her hand tightened around his. "I'm glad."
"Me too." He blushed slightly and looked away. She probably thought he'd arrived around the time Kikyo told her she wouldn't drag him to hell. Actually, he had been there a lot longer than that. Kikyo had spotted him just before she asked Kagome's feelings about him.
Funny, he'd never figured Kikyo would be the one to help them with a relationship.