A/N: This takes place some years after Naraku's defeat. Kikyou is dead, and the Inuyasha group is living in Kaede's village. I leave the lead-up to this story to your imagination. This was one of those things where I was about to go to sleep, then an idea popped into my head, I got out my laptop, and I wrote it down in a few hours.

DISCLAIMER: Yeah, yeah. I don't own it, OK?

Always Wanted

It's the wind that wakes me, I think. I can hear it whooshing softly outside. A particularly large gust of it blows up against the bamboo-curtain door, causing it to shift restlessly in its frame. That rustling noise was what woke me.

Instinctively, I reach for her. Even my eyes can not pick up anything in the darkness of the night, but I can feel her beside me. Rolling onto my side, I lean in to her until I can feel her soft breath on my face. It is extremely difficult to resist the temptation to pull her into my arms, to hold her, to bring her as close to me as possible. Instead, I settle for feeling her breath or my cheek, listening to her heartbeat. I don't want to wake her up. She is peaceful when she sleeps. It is her chance to rest. Lately, I know she's not getting enough of that.

I can smell her, too. Her scent wraps around me, enveloping me like a warmer, softer blanket than the comforter tucked up around our legs. If I had to describe what she smells like, I…don't think I could. Sometimes I find something in life that smells a little like her. Then I smell it again and realize I was wrong. Nothing smells like her. Her scent is hers and hers alone. I can close my eyes and breathe it in and be happier than I would be doing almost anything else. Her scent is part of what makes her who she is. Her scent is part of her. Part of my Kagome.

I lay my head on the pillow, right next to hers. A strand of her hair brushes my cheek. I don't bother to brush it away. I listen to her steady heartbeat. A gentle pulse. The pulse of life. She has so much life, she's practically brimming with it. I look at her sometimes, and I can see it shining out of her big brown eyes, those eyes that are so innocent and yet understand so much. She understands life. She understands people. Of everyone I know, she understands the most. She doesn't have the most knowledge. But she has the greatest capability for getting that knowledge. What she sees, she understands. And that understanding is so much more important that the knowing people are always going on about. You don't have to know to understand. This, above all, I understand. And because I understand, I know.

She shifts slightly in her sleep and my eyes snap to her face. They have adjusted somewhat, so that I can make out her features in the dark. Her lids are closed over those eyes that tell me so much. She doesn't have to say anything for me to know what she means. I know she understands me the same way. It confuses people, the way we can talk with just our eyes. I like that.

Her lips are parted just the tiniest bit, so that slow breaths can escape them. I don't look at her lips for too long, because then I will be drawn to them. I can already feel my lips quivering, reacting to hers. Longing for the feel of her soft lips brushing against mine. But she will wake up if I kiss her. Just because my sensitive ears wake me up frequently doesn't mean she should wake up as often. Even here, safe in the village, surrounded by people who know and accept us; even in our warm hut, alone and asleep and safe, I still worry about her. Her slightest movement sends a jolt of fear down my spine. I must protect her. It is an instinct, a need, an absolute necessity. I protect her.

Maybe it's because expressing love is so hard for me. I love her, she knows that. I've told her. I love her in the way I kiss her, and hold her. I love her in my eyes, when I look at her. But it is in my instincts, in my very coding, to protect what I love. That is my form of loving. She knows that. She accepts it. She accepts me.

She was the first person to ever truly do that. I will not say that she was the first person to ever love me. My mother loved me, I know that she did. And Kikyou loved me. I do not know for how long she loved me, or how strongly. But she did. I loved my mother. At a time, I loved Kikyou. I have never been loved as Kagome loves me, and I have never loved anyone the way I love her. But it's more than that. She accepts me. Even my mother could never truly accept me. In me, she saw only the love she had had for my father, and her grief at losing him. But she was human. When the villagers taunted me, and hurt me, she would hold me and cry. But she wasn't crying for me. She was crying for herself. And for my father. And she never did anything to stop them. She could have, perhaps. It didn't occur to her.

And Kikyou. She loved me. There was a time I thought that we could have a life together, the life neither of us had ever had. I found a kindred spirit in her. I found someone with the same wishes and dreams that I had. We could acquire them together.

But I was wrong. I know that now. Even if Naraku had never set us up to betray one another, even if we had had the life we'd wanted…it never would have worked. We each saw in the other only the desire to have the life we'd always wanted. We saw each other as an opportunity, a way out. Perhaps it was that hope that we saw in each other that we loved, more than anything else.

And Kikyou, too, didn't accept me. She, like all other humans, wanted me to become human. She saw me as an opportunity, and was willing to change me as long as it meant that we could have the life we wanted. I became certain that I would never be accepted as I was. I was willing to give up myself, to give up part of what was me, in order to have acceptance. To have a life. Kikyou didn't want me, if she wanted me to change. She wanted only the idea of me.

Kagome, however, wants me. She loves me. I was, and am, willing to become a human for her, if that is what she wants. It will be much easier, for both of us. For our family. For the children we will someday have. But she refused, and she does to this day. I am not me if I am changed, she says simply. She reminds me that she loves me, and that she loves all of me. There is nothing about me that she doesn't love, she says. I can think of several things that she doesn't love. When I point this out to her, however, she says that I can be maddening, but she loves me anyway, and that she always will. Then I kiss her, because saying something would just be too hard. I do tell her that I love her, though, and often. Because the words feel nice. They taste nice on my lips, and on my tongue. She tastes nice too. She tastes like Kagome. She tastes like love.

I have heard people in the village say that she is perfect. They say that she is not just a priestess, but a godsend. That makes me mad, almost to the point of grabbing hold of the villagers and shaking them, hard. How can they think that? How can they be so blind? It's like they think my Kagome isn't even human. That she exists to be a priestess and to heal and care for them, and that she has no emotions of her own. But I know that she does.

Her happiness is pronounced, yes. When she smiles, it's like the whole world is lit with a glowing, radiant happiness, and anyone who is left sad or unhappy feels out of place. Then she comforts them and makes them feel happy, too. But she also hides behind her happiness. Sometimes she will be sad, or depressed, and she will cover it up with a shield of happiness. The villagers fall for it, all of them, the stupid fools. But it should be obvious. This happiness is not pure. It's light, on the surface. It's not enveloping or all-consuming. Anyone who really knows Kagome knows that this is not real happiness for her. I think I am the only one who has ever seen her sad. She thinks that she has no right to be sad, or hurt, or to feel pain. But she lets me see it. She lets me see everything. And she does get sad a lot. I've held her, many times, while she cried into my chest. I stroke her hair and try to help her, and it usually works. But she doesn't want anyone else to see that sadness. I thought I was alone in my need to hide weakness, but I was wrong. She hides weakness too. And sometimes, we just let ourselves be weak together.

Her anger, she doesn't hide. Of course she gets angry. Her happiness is pronounced, so her anger is as well. It has to be. All her emotions are strong, clear, pure. That's why she is life. And when she gets angry, no one stands in her way. I've seen her shout down villagers, generally for something they've said to me. I've seen her purify demon into puddles of sparkly pink dust for daring to try and hurt her friends. And of course she gets mad at me. And we fight. But the fights don't bother me. In the end, we always make up. And even if we're angry, we never stop loving each other. So it's okay.

She shifts in her sleep again. One hand slides up my arm and rests there. I look down at her and smile. I stroke one finger along her hand, still soft, yet so much more calloused than it used to be. But it doesn't surprise me. Of course it is.

Since Naraku's defeat, we've all been living in Kaede's village. It's near enough so that we can go to her era when we want to. Sometimes we do. But Kagome has taken a new responsibility onto herself since. With Kaede-baba getting to be too old to protect the village, and Kikyou dead, Kagome had decided that she must be the one. We all know that she has great spiritual power, greater even, perhaps, than Kikyou's was, but she has no idea how to use it. She has never been trained, and everything she knew while fighting Naraku she picked up herself. But now she has time. And so she has been working, all day most days, with Kaede and other monks and priestesses in surrounding areas. She is determined to train her power so that she can harness it to its full extent. She has willingly taken on the duties that Kikyou tried so hard to escape. But training leaves her tired and often irritable. I feel like we have no time now, just for us. Except at night, but she's usually sleeping. I have to content myself with watching her. Just being near her is enough.

In her sleep, she pulls closer to me. Her head snuggles up against my chest, and I can feel her arms wrapping themselves around my waist. Her grip is gentle, but somehow she is still clinging to me. Her voice is muffled, but I'm pretty sure I hear her murmur my name.

Gently, I stroke her hair. I brush my lips over the top of her head, barely touching it, but I can feel her hair against my face. It is soft, and has a gentle smell of flowers clinging to it. I smile at that, because I know that her hair used to smell a lot stronger. I made her start washing her hair with gentler-smelling stuff, because I can't stand the strong scents that disguise her personal smell. Closing my eyes, I feel her, hear her, smell her. She is all around me. She is my love, and she is my life.

"Inuyasha?" her voice is louder this time, and I know she is awake. I look down and meet her half-closed eyes. She smiles sleepily.

"Sorry. Did I wake you?" I brush a lock of hair out of her eyes.

"No." She yawns. "Why are you awake?"

I smile, and wrap my arms around her slim frame. "I was just thinking."

"Mmm…about what?" she nuzzles her face against my chest as she talks. It's kind of distracting.

"Keh. Nothing important." I kiss her nose when she looks up at me quizzically. "Go back to sleep, Kagome."

She nods, her eyes already closing. "'Night, Inuyasha." She snuggles up against me again, her head a warm and comforting weight on my chest. "Love you."

I smile as I close my eyes too. Sleeping is so much easier when she's near. I can relax. I can rest. I can have what I've always wanted. She is what I've always wanted. Needed. I know she feels the same way. And I have her. She is mine. I am hers. Always.

"I love you too, Kagome."

A/N: That's it. Hope you liked it. Reviews are always welcome, as they are my life source. I swear they are. Flames, as usual, will be disregarded. It is both childish and silly to read a fic just to flame it.

Thanks a lot!