Author's Notes- This is the first of several holiday gift fics (for friends on lj) that I'll be posting in the next several days. This particular oneshot was written for Planetgal471. Gift fics will be mostly Harry Potter, with a smattering of InuYasha and a smidgen of a few other fandoms. Keep a look out. I guess this story has some experimental characterization, so bear with and let's hope it was successful. When I wrote this fic one of my aims was to show InuYasha's growing maturity. My fics (and even the manga itself) tend to focus more on how emotionally strong Kagome is but in this story I wanted to show how Kagome's flaws compliment InuYasha's strengths- from Kagome's perspective. And yes (if you've read my other stories and haven't figured it out yet), I quite love the idea of IY ending up human when all is said and done.
A Little's Enough
Kagome was far stronger than she appeared. Her slender arms masked taut muscle, molded firm by the strain of the bow on her petite frame. Before Kagome had ever nicked an arrow on an old fashioned bow, it had always looked quite easy to her. Indeed, perhaps in the rush of adrenaline during that moment she first aimed an arrow in sengoku jidai, it was easy (although at the time her aim was in need of drastic improvement no doubt). She did not register the immense pressure it took to pull the string back and let the arrow fly, nor did she register how much more pressure it took to do so while keeping steady to hit the mark, as she learned to do over time.
When Kagome's bow doubled in size, replaced with one almost reaching her full height, she didn't consider that a bow twice as big took twice as much strength to use. Perhaps it was because their fights with Naraku and his henchmen were also becoming twice as unforgiving as he grew in power, but Kagome did not see much of a difference between the bow she'd earned from the Spirit of Mt. Asuza and her older, smaller ones.
Always, her body ached all over after every battle, particularly her upper half. But Kagome blamed it on the intensity of the fight (which was not quite incorrect, but not entirely right).
Never, did she notice the calluses on her hands, the various small scars on her arms and legs, or the fly-away way her hair behaved so often now. Several centimeters of split ends tipped her long hair, which she had not cut since shortly after her first trip through the well. Her bangs often fell into her eyes, but she scarcely noticed. Although she enjoyed a good bath (or a few) anytime she visited her own era, she could not remember the last time she'd fretted over her appearance. Trips to modern jidai were filled with schoolwork and catching up with the family, she simply didn't have time.
When Naraku was defeated and the shikon no tama purified, it was time for her to notice these things. Her friends were convinced that she'd let herself go to waste a bit while she had been ill. They meant well, but Kagome was pleased that they hadn't noticed the rough skin on her hands or how instead of being weaker, she was substantially stronger. She thought that those particular changes would not be easy to explain away.
It barely hit her shoulders when fifteen centimeters came off, layered, as that was the in style according to the hairdresser. Her friends had nearly squealed in approval and rattled on about being "so jealous, it looks so great" when she exited the shop with them. She was surprised when she had to stop herself from saying she thought it was fine enough before she cut it. A bit flustered over the attentions of her friends, Kagome returned home in confusion.
When Kagome reached her bedroom, she looked in the mirror she saw the woman that she'd become, scars and calluses, a strong and agile, if very petite, figure. And a rough look about her that she couldn't quite get rid of even if she'd tried. Kagome wondered why she didn't care, nay, preferred herself this way. She didn't look as smart in her new high school uniform as she'd hoped she would back when she'd first eyed it with envy on an older student over a year and a half ago. The stiff new fabric felt strange and foreign to her, and she half-joked to herself that perhaps she could spruce it up with a bit of dirt on the hems. A spot of familiarity, for a now unexpectedly unfamiliar world.
Behind her on the bed, something, someone, that had become very familiar, slept. He had been sleeping a lot lately, at least twelve hours a day for the past week although he slept less as the days went on. Purifying the shikon no tama and using her unsealed miko powers to help destroy Naraku had been draining, but it was nothing compared to the sacrifices InuYasha had made. Whenever she considered them, she was simultaneously heartbroken for him and bursting with pride for him. He had been so brave, so strong, and so selfless. She'd watched, pleading with him to reconsider, as he channeled all of his youki into a last ditch attempt to destroy Naraku's body beyond recovery, leaving his tainted soul open for Kagome's arrow to destroy. Her cries and her tears were mingled with his screams of anguish, as the very strength he lived his life with entered the blade, and at the right moment, one laborious swing of Tessaiga, had given her the chance she needed. Her arrow flew true, obliterating Naraku's soul and purifying the shikon no tama, which fell to the ground, as if it were nothing. Before seizing the jewel, her eyes had gone to InuYasha's unconscious form. A sharp intake of breath, and she'd whimpered in regret as the last vestiges of silver vanished from his hair, leaving it as stark black as the charred ground beneath him.
What should have been a moment of boundless joy for her, had felt profoundly sad. For the first time, she'd felt the weight of the bow. Heavy, and her shoulder and hand were distinctly stiff and painful. Her tears had splashed the dead ground as she'd marched over to retrieve the purified jewel. The silent faces of her companions gave no comfort. It wasn't fair, they were all the same as before, albeit a bit bruised and beaten. Better even, in some cases. She had caught Miroku marveling at his healed hand out of the corner of her gaze…
Kagome snapped herself out of her reverie when she heard a stirring from the bed. But InuYasha has handled it so much better than I have…
"…'gome," the beginning of her name was cut off by the muffling of his pillow, "what's for dinner?"
A smile crossed her features, "Is that all you can think about lately, eating?"
InuYasha nodded, half lidded, as if he still hadn't brought Kagome into focus. "Pretty much, I've just been so damn hungry since that day."
He said 'that day' so matter of factly, as if it were not something to be very distressed about. Kagome didn't quite understand, although they hadn't actually discussed it. She had very deliberately avoided the subject, as she didn't want to make it worse by reminding him.
"Oi," InuYasha's eyebrows furrowed as he sat up all the way, stretching his arms and yawning, "what the hell happened to your hair?"
Kagome felt her cheeks redden and she sat down on the bed next to him. She wished he hadn't noticed, although she knew that impossible. "My friends took me out to get it cut, since I had a lot of split ends. It was looking a bit dingy because it hadn't been trimmed in so long."
InuYasha rubbed the back of his own hair and shrugged. "Hmph, my mother used to trim mine but I haven't done it since." Kagome reached over and ran her hands through the bottom of his hair. There were indeed at least twenty centimeters of split ends. Curiously, she reached over to take his hands, running her fingers across the calluses that hardened his palms. InuYasha cocked his head to the side but didn't question as she proceeded to roll up his sleeves, surveying the several small scars that decorated his arms. She knew his hands and his hair as well as her own, but somehow she'd never registered the rough feel being calluses when she held his hands nor the coarse ends of his hair when she burrowed into it while on his back. Perhaps she hadn't noticed, because it and they were so much like hers. Or maybe it was the other way around. That's why she hadn't noticed these flaws on herself, because they were so much like his.
Feeling a bit awkward, although not at all displeased at her administrations, InuYasha spoke up, "It looks nice." Kagome glanced up, taken aback by his voice interrupting her. "I mean your hair. But… it was fine before."
"Thanks," Kagome smiled lightly, "I'm not sure I should have done it…" She breathed in, "InuYasha, do you think I'm different than when I met you?"
"Eh? What do you mean?" He blinked, confused.
"When things change… I sometimes get scared," she looked up into his violet eyes, "You seem so much better at handling change than I am."
InuYasha knew what she was referring to and wasn't quite sure how to respond.
"But what's strange is that I have changed in the past year, and somehow I didn't notice until now," she glanced over to her desk and the large mirror above it, "I look at my reflection and it's so different. I feel different too."
"Kagome that's not bad…"
She shook her head, "I know. That's what's strange. I'm happy with how I've changed, but I sort of feel… out of place now. Even maybe like I'm a bit more grown up than most girls my age."
InuYasha placed his arm around her shoulders and she leaned into him.
"Because I changed to fit into your world, everything that comes with mine seems a bit odd now."
Kagome hoped InuYasha understood. She found it hard to explain how she'd wanted to smudge her uniform, how she'd felt out of the ordinary while out on the town with her friends, and how secretly… she treasured the calluses on her hands and the scars on her limbs; even more so after discovering that InuYasha had the same imperfections.
"And you… how do you handle it so well?" Sympathy flickered across her expression. "I cried so hard for you, and you just talk about how you're feeling stronger every day and you should be okay in a few more days and…"
"Naraku's dead Kagome," he finally cut in. There was a hint of shortness to his tone, as if he simply could not grasp why she was so upset for him. "Do you think I care what it took? That him being dead doesn't outweigh everything?"
"But it wasn't fair for you to…"
"And I'm alive, and you're alive and we're still together… I don't mind sacrificing things for that," he looked her square in the eyes, never wavering.
"You might never be able to go back home again!" Kagome recollected saying goodbye to her comrades and carrying InuYasha's half conscious body through the well with her, eager to get him some rest and medicine in the modern era. Carrying InuYasha so easily, was one of the first times she consciously noticed how strong she'd become. How ironic, she thought, that she'd become so much stronger while he'd lost all of his strength. It was only after they had both settled down that evening, that the reality that the well could stop working without the jewel struck them. And if we try, could it separate us for good? The thought, just as it had when it first came to her, made her feel as if ice had gripped her heart.
InuYasha gulped and steadied his gaze again. "If you'll have me… I never want to try and go back."
The frozen hold on Kagome's heart let up and she felt a warmth flicker alive to replace it. "But you've given up so much…"
"Dammit Kagome!" He actually seemed angry, "All of that is nothing!"
Her eyes widened, shocked at his outburst.
"You always try to take my pain as your own," he continued, voice softer, "If I'm hurting… you always end up hurting more on my behalf."
Kagome bit her lip to stop a retort. He was right, and she could think of several situations to which he referred; Kikyou's death being the most obvious.
"And I've seen you since we came back here…"
"Keh! Don't think I don't notice," he paused, "how you look at me with regret and treat me like some sort of invalid…"
"InuYasha I don't mean it like that!"
"Because I'm stuck here and I'm not only human but am still recovering my strength," he continued. "I know that things are different for you after all that time in my world and that it probably does feel sort of like you're out of place now, but Kagome I know you like being with your weird friends and that you're excited for your new school and all that crap I don't quite get still."
Tears welled up in Kagome's eyes, "When I go out with them I just think about you, stuck at my house in a foreign place and feeling weak and..."
"And I know they're okay, but I miss Sango-chan, Miroku-sama, Shippou-chan, Kaede-baachan and Kohaku-kun. We only just said goodbye, but not goodbye for good," she brushed a tear away, "and why should I have the right to just act like everything is okay now and go back to normal? It will never be… normal again."
"Do you want it to be normal?" InuYasha inquired tentatively.
Kagome blinked, surprised at his question. Do I? What was normal for her a year ago was a life without InuYasha, and what was normal after she met him? Constant danger, war, always worrying that the ones she loved could die at any time, and an enemy that they sacrificed so much for so long to destroy. It was true she was with all of her friends in both cases, and she felt quite like she fit in rather well. But…
"No, I don't," Kagome whispered softly.
InuYasha smiled lightly, "That's right," he began, "usually you're the one comforting me."
Kagome pinked and resisted the urge to whack him with a pillow. Instead, she reached over and took her hands in his again. "I just want you to be happy," she explained anxiously, "And I feel like… I can't be, unless you are."
"Oi, but," his tone was lighter, "I can't be unless you are."
She was surprised again at his frankness, it was as if ridding himself of the burden of Naraku had lifted an emotional weight off of him. She hoped, it was also because he knew now there was no danger of losing her. Kagome knew that's how she felt about him.
"Then I'll be happy," her lips lifted into a gentle smile. InuYasha nodded and pulled her hands up towards his chest.
"If you ever feel a little bit out of place… then we can be out of place together," he squeezed her hands tenderly, "I've always been out of place somehow, no matter where I am."
Kagome frowned, "That's not funny at all, it's sad."
InuYasha just shrugged, "I guess it used to be, but it's not anymore."
"Oh?" Kagome's face reddened as she felt InuYasha drawing closer to her.
"Because… I'm not alone like back then."
Touched, Kagome closed her eyes. "And I'll make sure it stays that way… if you'll have me."
"Keh, don't be stupid. You don't need to ask," and with that InuYasha leaned in the rest of the way, lips pressing against Kagome's. Worn hands ran through dark hair, and their eyes fluttered open for a moment, violet to brilliant blue, before they deepened the kiss. A kiss sweeter even, because of all the sacrifices made on the path towards it. And Kagome, molded by both the present and the past and embracing how both had made her who she was, realized what a gift their ending had turned out to be.