Disclaimer: I don't own Inuyasha.
Author's Note: Well, this little idea came to me awhile back. I've poked at it here and there over the past few months, wondering if it would be better off as part of a larger, more fully-developed story rather than as a standalone scene—but in the end, I couldn't really think of a way to work it into a story without taking on a project that was much more involved than I really wanted it to be. But still, I think this scene is really fun, and I just couldn't bear to let it languish in my files, never seeing the light of day. If I ever do come up with that elusive idea for a larger fic that it should be a part of, maybe I'll rework it—but for now, it is what it is. Enjoy!
An Honest Mistake
Kagome did her best to bunch up the billowy white sleeves of the priestess uniform, tucking them into any nook or cranny she could find in the hopes of keeping them out of the water. Unfortunately, unaccustomed as she was to wearing such a garment, she hadn't thought to bring one of those nifty little string contraptions that the people of this era usually employed for this purpose. But she was quite good at coming up with on-the-spot solutions by now, so she made do.
It took almost twenty minutes of scrubbing to get the blood-stains out of the pleats of her uniform skirt, and another ten before she realized that getting the stains out of her white sailor shirt was pretty much a lost cause. Her mother might be able to bleach it when she got home, but until then she was going to have to live with the faint orange-ish streaks that covered most of the front. She wasn't sure what to do about the tears in the side though. Hopefully Kaede would be able to mend them for her for the time being, at least until her mother could go at it with her sewing machine.
She wrung as much water as she could out of the shirt and laid it out on a flat rock by the water's edge to dry, settling back on her haunches and resting her palms on her knees with a sigh. As the ripples dissipated from the surface of the stream, she quirked her head curiously at her own reflection.
God…I really do look like her, don't I…
The thought sent a chill down her spine. It was creepy enough to look at your own reflection and see a stranger—but that particular stranger was the last person she wanted to see in her mirror. Or, frankly, anywhere else, for that matter…
When the reflection of a frighteningly familiar ivory creature snaked around her own and flitted out of sight, she nearly jumped out of her skin. She whirled around just in time to see the serpentine body disappear into the woods with a flick of its tail, and her surprise melted into a pool of dread, settling in the pit of her stomach.
She knew exactly what would happen next. It was like some sort of awful dance they all went through, over and over again—and it always turned out the same way: She felt miserable, he got all broody, and Kikyo…well, Kikyo was still dead. That was sort of the linchpin of it all. As long as Kikyo remained trapped in limbo between death and life, none of them were really free.
But knowing all of that didn't change the fact that Kikyo was here, and Inuyasha was bound to go looking for her. And maybe it was just some masochistic thread in her personality, but Kagome knew that she was bound to follow him. So she did.
Leaving her clothes by the water to dry, she got to her feet and trotted off into the woods in the direction the soul-stealer had been heading, scanning the trees ahead for the occasional flicker of ghostly white that told her she was on the right track. Finally, after what seemed like half an hour—though it was probably more like five minutes—the trees thinned out, and she stumbled unceremoniously into a clearing, clutching at the stitch in her side.
On the other side of the clearing, not ten feet away, stood Kikyo, poised and somber as ever, looking particularly superior to the pale imitation gasping for breath across from her. Kagome straightened up self-consciously, plucking a stray leaf from her hair and tucking a few loose strands back into place. But despite her efforts, she still felt about two centimeters tall.
Not having expected to beat Inuyasha here, Kagome was at a bit of a loss as to what to do now. Her plan had pretty much been to hide out of sight and eavesdrop on their conversation as usual—though of course, the fact that in her haste to get here she had been crashing through the forest like a Mack truck and that her momentum had caused her to come tumbling out of the foliage would probably have ruined the element of surprise anyway. Fortunately, however, she was spared the awkward silence when Kikyo took the lead in the conversation.
Kagome blinked. "You were looking for me?"
But Kikyo ignored her question, brushing on to more important matters. "I have become aware of a flaw in Naraku's plans—one which only I can exploit."
"You know his plans? You know what he's up to?"
"It is a dangerous task, and it is likely that I will not return," she continued, as though Kagome had not spoken. "I only wish to warn you and your friends—do not attempt to approach Naraku or his offspring at this time. I must have him to myself for now."
"What do you mean you won't return? Why are you telling me—why not Inuyasha?"
"Because his foolish heroism would compel him to stop me before I can make the attempt," she replied somewhat impatiently, "and none of us can afford that. You have influence over him."
"Not where you're concerned," Kagome muttered before she could stop herself.
"Nevertheless, you must see that he stays out of the way, for all of our sakes."
"But—don't you at least want to talk to him before you go? Shouldn't you at least see—"
"There is no time," Kikyo interrupted, and her soul stealers entwined themselves around her body, preparing to carry her away.
"Wait!" Kagome called out moving forward as though to try to drag her back to the ground—though she knew that there was not much she could do at this point. "He'll be upset that you left without even saying goodbye!"
"He'll survive," Kikyo said in a tone that might have sounded wry had it been anyone else speaking, though it was always hard to tell with her—and then she disappeared past the tree line, leaving behind only one lazy soul-stealer that seemed to have decided to take one last swoop around the clearing before trailing after its mistress.
Every muscle in Kagome's body tensed as Inuyasha's voice sounded quietly from behind her. Seeing as there was no longer anyone else in the clearing, it was pretty obvious that he was speaking to her. She wanted to whirl around and correct him immediately—but the thought of seeing the disappointment on his face when he realized she was "just Kagome" was enough to make her hesitate for just a moment.
A moment too long.
"Wait—don't speak," he said, just as she had opened her mouth to do so. She snapped it shut and made to turn around to correct the misunderstanding before things went too far—but he stopped her. "No—no, don't turn around, please. If I see your face, I might not be able to say what I have to say."
Oh god. Oh god, oh god, oh god. Kagome's mind immediately started rattling off a list of "things Inuyasha might have trouble saying," and considering the context, not very many of them boded well for her. I don't think I want to hear this…
But she just couldn't turn around. It was as though someone had welded her feet to the ground beneath her, and the rest of her body had followed suit. Maybe if she just waited and kept very still he'd say whatever he had to say and then…and then just leave.
And maybe, just maybe, she'd be able to keep from bursting into tears until after he was gone.
"I've been thinking…a lot, lately. And…you know I'm no good at this. I never have been."
Kagome pressed her lips together tightly, furrowing her brow and trying very hard to pretend that his words weren't eating her alive from the inside out.
"I've been trying to pretend there wasn't a problem for a long time now, like everything was just fine and normal—but I can't go on like this. I can't keep living halfway in between you and Kagome. It's not fair to either of you—and it's not fair to me. So…I've made a decision."
Her entire chest cavity felt empty and full at the same time—and she thought there was a serious possibility she might throw up. I can't…I can't listen to this…I can't hear him say it…
"I'm in love with Kagome."
Oh my god, this is unbearab—wait, what did he just say?
He must have noticed her entire body stiffen in shock, because she could hear him take a step closer to her, speaking apologetically. "I'm sorry—I'm so sorry. I'll never forget what we had, Kikyo, as long as I live, and I swear that I will protect you, just like I said I would, and I'll take revenge on Naraku for what he did to us if it's the last thing I do, you know that—but I can't keep lying to myself about this. God knows I never meant for things to turn out this way—they just did. We had our chance, and things got fucked up…and now all we have are loose ends. But Kagome deserves better than what I've given her so far—and the fact is…I need her."
Well, it looked like she hadn't been able to avoid crying after all—but at least these were tears of happiness. Indeed she was so stunned she barely noticed them, and couldn't have spoken now even if she'd wanted to.
When he rested a hand gently on her shoulder, jolting her out of her catatonia, it was all she could do to suppress a telltale "eep!" and quickly school her face into a stoic expression before he turned her to face him. Even then she had to be careful to focus on his chin to avoid melting beneath his gaze and giving herself away.
Then he did something she had not anticipated: He kissed her.
It was a gentle, chaste kiss, clearly a goodbye, but it threw her for a loop all the same. She hadn't the foggiest idea what sort of a kisser Kikyo was—and come to think of it, she didn't have much experience with the activity herself—so she just sort of stood there, waiting for it to be over. She felt Inuyasha draw a breath in through his nose—
And then she felt him freeze.
All of a sudden his eyes flew open and stared directly into hers. Uh-oh. He pulled back slightly, just far enough so that he could focus on her face, and so that he had a clear view of what she knew must be her blatantly alarmed expression.
"Kagome?" he breathed.
She winced, and gave an almost imperceptible nod.
He staggered back a couple of steps, clearly unnerved by this unexpected turn. "W-what the hell are you doing pretending to be Kikyo?! Are you trying to spy on me or something?" he burst out, his voice a mixture of fury and hysteria.
Well…yes, but not like this… "No! No, I wasn't pretending to be Kikyo!" she protested.
"Feh—coulda fooled me!"
Um…actually I did fool you… "It's not what it looks like…"
"Then why are you in that getup, huh?!"
"My clothes had blood all over them—I was just wearing this while I was washing them!"
"But—but the soul-stealers, I saw them," he spluttered, trying to make sense of what had just happened.
"She was here—she came to talk to me, but then she left, and that was when you showed up, and you thought I was her, and I just couldn't—"
"She came to talk to you?" he interrupted, sounding worried now and coming forward again to grasp her shoulders firmly. "What did she want with you? She didn't try to hurt you again, did she?"
Kagome's heart tripped slightly at his obvious concern, but she reassured him, "No, no—nothing like that. She just told me to—that we should lay low for awhile, and not go looking for Naraku."
"Because—she said she knew of some sort of weakness that only she could exploit, and she asked me to tell you not to go after her."
"Fuck that—I'm not letting her go up against Naraku all by herself. Hell, that nearly got her killed last time," he scoffed angrily, but Kagome put a calming arm on his shoulder.
"Wait—I really think we should trust her on this. She knows what she's doing, and she knows what the risks are."
"It's her decision, Inuyasha," Kagome interrupted before he could protest again, and she met his gaze determinedly until finally he released a breath, and she knew she had won. Hm…maybe Kikyo was right…
But when his eyes flicked back to hers, now that the distraction of the argument was out of the way, the memory of all the things he had inadvertently said to her minutes before came flooding back—and neither one knew what to say.
He looked away quickly, the faint trace of a blush coloring his cheeks, but before he could step further away and close off completely, as was his nature, Kagome spoke. "Did you really mean all that?"
"Feh. Mean all what?" he said gruffly, though they both knew he knew exactly what she was talking about.
"What you said before—about…loving me," she replied tremulously.
Inuyasha fidgeted nervously, stalling for time—it was one thing to admit all this to himself and to square things with Kikyo, but he hadn't really been planning to spill his guts to Kagome just yet. He still needed a little time to gather his courage, and—and he wanted it to be something special, somehow. He knew he was no good at the mushy stuff, but he'd imagined what it would be like to whisper it in her ear as they sat in a field of wildflowers on a summer morning, just to see the brilliance of her smile and know that it was all for him. And instead, he'd accidentally blurted it out to her in the process of mistaking her for Kikyo, yet again—the one thing he knew she hated most in the world. Now that was romantic…
"I…uh…" he fumbled. Say something…anything…
"Because you know I love you too, right?" she interrupted in a rush, and he turned back to her in surprise.
She nodded, smiling. Well, there was no resisting that…
He stepped back toward her and pulled her against him in a kiss—though this one was nothing like the last. This time her lips were pliable and soft, moving against his, and her arms wound around his neck as she sank against him, a perfect fit. This kiss was all a joyful "Hello."
A/N: This scene has one major technical flaw—did you catch it? The problem is that the whole thing is from Kagome's perspective (close third person) up until just a few paragraphs from the end, where we suddenly find ourselves hearing Inuyasha's thoughts as well. Now, this would be fine if things were more balanced out—if we either got more of his thoughts throughout, or if it were a larger story in which the narration shifts from one character's point of view to another's on a regular basis—but it's not. And the tricky thing here is that the earlier part of the scene really doesn't work if we can hear Inuyasha's thoughts, because that gives away the "surprise" and weakens the tension of Kagome's dilemma. The only real solution to the problem in this case, without writing a longer story for this to be a part of, would be to cut/rewrite the paragraph that's fully from Inuyasha's perspective (the one that begins "Inuyasha fidgeted nervously, stalling for time")—but, to put it simply, I didn't wanna do that (--grin--). I like that paragraph. We'll call it author's prerogative… (--grin--)
Anyway, this blatant transgression aside, I hope you folks got a smile or two out of this bit—I know I always do!