FYI: "..." = talking | ... = thinking | **...** = flashback
Disclaimer: Inuyasha - Sengoku o-Togi Zoushi (Inu-Yasha: A Feudal Fairy Tale) was created by Takahashi Rumiko and is distributed in North America by Viz. I have no right to use Takahashi-sama's characters in any manner whatsoever... but I am hoping she does not mind my borrowing them for a bit.
~ hope ~
Sleep was not something Kagome wanted to abandon. Being curled up under the covers and feeling all toasty warm... it was heavenly. If only the sinus pressure in her head would go away...
She rolled over, pulling the covers with her and felt her bladder protest loudly in response. Nature was screaming at her and try as she might, she could no longer ignore its persistent call.
Hesitantly opening her eyes, she blinked painfully, her head aching in response. It was much brighter out than she had expected. Her brain groggily churned, still muddled by sleep as she looked around. She was definitely somewhere unfamiliar. A groan rose from her throat as she pushed herself into a sitting position, her bladder protesting painfully again. Her mind churned a little faster, trying to piece together the events that lead her to this place.
Bleary eyes darted about the room seeking out familiar faces, hoping someone she knew and trusted would be able to explain the situation to her. She felt relief once she caught sight of Inuyasha. He was sitting behind her tending to the fireplace, his back to her.
She felt a cool breeze against her bare flesh and looked down in alarm. To her horror and embarrassment, she discovered that she was naked. A startled "eep!" escaped her lips and she quickly pulled the covers up over her chest and wiggled herself back into the sleeping bag. She was relieved to feel that she wasn't completely naked, but an embarrassed flush was already spreading across her cheeks like wild fire.
Kagome looked up to see Inuyasha standing over her holding out her school uniform. She hesitantly reached for the garment and pulled it out of Inuyasha's hands. It was warm from being laid out in front of the fireplace.
Embarrassment quickly changed into a mortified anger as she realized that she also had no memory of removing her clothing the night before, "Sit!"
With an undignified flop, Inuyasha went crashing to the floor with a thud. "Damn... bitch... what are you doing!?"
"How did I get naked?" she asked angrily as she pulled the shirt over her head. "Did you undress me?"
"What the hell is your problem?!" Inuyasha spat as he pushed himself off the floor and glared at her. Relief mixed with anger swirled in his consciousness almost causing his snarl to slip into a small smile. She was certainly acting like herself.
"WHY am I NAKED?"
"Feh! Ungrateful..." He scowled at her, "I saved your life. You should be thanking me you stupid girl!"
Kagome's expression softened but uncertainty remained. "You... saved my life?"
"You fell into a snow bank, remember?" he sighed and turned away from her. "You were practically dead when I found you. I had to get you out of your wet clothes so you wouldn't freeze to death."
Kagome paused for a moment trying to recall the events of the day before. She guessed it was late afternoon from the brightness of the cabin, but for the life of her, she just couldn't remember anything that would explain how she got here. It disturbed her. "I can remember the demon girl with the shard in her neck... and then it started to get really cold..."
Inuyasha nodded absently, his attention back on the fire pointedly trying to avoid looking at Kagome.
"I... I don't remember anything after that... I'm... I'm sorry, Inuyasha."
Inuyasha paused, the tone of her voice sounded almost lost and he felt sorry for her. "It doesn't matter anyway." He turned toward her and handed her a cup of some foul smelling liquid that she didn't recognize. His eyes still avoiding making contact with hers. "Drink it."
She stared down at the cup, "What... what is it?"
"What does it look like? It's tea. Drink it."
"Tea?" She hesitantly brought it up closer to her face and almost dropped it when she got a good whiff of it. "It smells like dirty socks! I can't drink that."
"You've been drinking it for most of the day!"
"I... I have?" She stared into the cup and frowned. She'd managed to walk to this cabin and have all her clothing removed without her having any conscious memory of any of it and now she is told that she's been drinking some nasty smelling tea all day... it was almost too much. She pushed her uncertainty aside as much as she could and slowly brought the cup up to her lips. The smell assaulting her nostrils and making her sensitive stomach do flip-flops. "But I've... got to go to the bathroom first."
"No. Drink that then go outside and do your business." The tone in his voice telling her that he would not let this drop until she complied and he was getting impatient. He waited expectantly.
"Tell me what it is first."
"Quit stalling. It's tea, I told you already."
"What kind of tea?!"
"Feh!" Inuyasha clenched his jaw, "It's made of chrysanthemum and some other herb I can't remember the name of. It's good for sickness. My mother used to make this for me when I was a child. Just hold your damn nose and drink it fast and quit whining about it!" He motioned with his hand for her to hurry and drink. "Just trust me, damn it!"
Kagome held Inuyasha's intense eyes with her own for a moment before looking down at the cup in her hands. "I do trust you," she said quietly as she submitted to his request. She raised the cup closer to her mouth, willing herself to drink. Her bladder was screeching and Inuyasha wouldn't let her go unless she consumed the foul smelling stuff. She had no choice. With one quick motion, she gulped the liquid and nearly gagged. Her whole body seemed to lurch in response to the horrid tasting tea, Inuyasha merely smirked at her and turned back to the fire.
"Are you hungry?" Inuyasha asked over his shoulder as Kagome tried to finish getting dressed as quickly and as modestly as possible.
"Starving." Kagome responded as she stood. Her mind started to whirl the instant she raised to her feet. She closed her eyes and stood her ground waiting for the dizziness to pass. When she opened them again she was nearly nose-to-nose with Inuyasha. Her heart jumped in surprise.
"Are you okay?" Amber eyes filled with concern scrutinized her carefully.
"Yeah... I think I just stood up too fast," she said sheepishly.
He nodded and stepped away from her, his watchful eyes aware of her every move. She walked toward her backpack, which was lying in a corner of the room and pulled it open.
"...Uhhh, have you seen my... oh!" She spotted her shoes next to the fireplace and put them on quickly. "Okay, I'll be right back."
"I'm going with you."
Kagome's eyes widened in shock, "What!? Why? You don't need to come with me while I go to the bathroom."
"You just had a dizzy spell and almost feel on your ass. You're too weak to do anything. I'm going with you."
Her eyes flashed with the fear and embarrassment at the prospect that he actually would go with her, "No you will not!"
"Yes, I will!"
Kagome set her jaw. "Inuyasha..."
"I said I am going with you! Are you deaf and stupid?!"
Kagome gapped at him. "I'll say the S-word. Then you won't be going anywhere."
Inuyasha glared daggers at her.
"Look, I said I'll be right back."
He crossed his arms and looked away, "Fine. Do what you want. If you're not back in five minutes I'll..."
The sound of Kagome bolting out the door cut Inuyasha off before he could finish. He rolled his eyes and threw some meat on the fire for the girl muttering curses all the while.
Kagome chewed earnestly on the tough rabbit meat wishing she had Inuyasha's incisors. When she had returned from going to the bathroom, Inuyasha had offered the meat to her barely cooked. The mere sight of raw meat that had been cooked just long enough to be semi-warm nearly made her vomit on the spot. She argued with him for several minutes before convincing him that he needed to finish cooking it before she could eat it. Unfortunately she didn't think he would burn it as badly as he did, but she was so hungry it almost didn't matter.
Inuyasha sat slightly hunched over on the other side of her near the fire, his white hair covering his face. He appeared to be sleeping to Kagome at first glance, but every time she would start to cough or wheeze he would look up and watch her, his face bearing an unreadable expression. Then he would look down again, staring holes into the floor.
Kagome watched him quietly, wondering what, or better yet, whom he was thinking about. She didn't really want to know whom, although she could definitely guess. The silence was oppressive and uncomfortable. She felt like a stranger to Inuyasha and she was uncertain how to proceed. The only sounds to be heard were the crackling of the fire and her own occasional fits of coughing.
Clearing her throat she broke the silence, "Is there something wrong, Inuyasha?"
His eyes met hers momentarily, his expression causing her breath to catch in her throat. He grimaced at her and shifted his body uncomfortably. "Uh... no, nothing."
The crackling of the fire briefly caught Kagome's attention and she focused on the warmth as it comforted and soothed her tired muscles. Concern over Inuyasha's mood inspired her to attempt to converse with him again. Clearing her throat, she began once more. "Inuyasha, I'm sorry I yelled at you when I woke up." She blushed, remembering her reaction at finding herself topless. "I was just a little... uh, surprised, I guess. I'm sorry."
A bashful smile played upon her lips briefly before she took another bite of the meat waiting for him to respond.
"That's okay. I expected you to be angry."
Silence hung in the room once again and Inuyasha resumed his staring match with the floor. She sighed. Inuyasha was usually only this reflective when he was thinking about Kikyou. Her heart twisted a little in her chest.
Sometimes he acts like this when he's worried about you, too Kagome darted another look at Inuyasha, suddenly curious and hopeful. "What's on your mind, Inuyasha?"
He glared at her impatiently and she immediately regretted asking. "Just finish your damn meat."
Kagome's brows drew together, What's up with him telling me what to do like that? She stared at the fire, pointedly trying to avoid looking at Inuyasha and chewed miserably.
Swallowing the last bit of meat, Kagome rose and returned to her sleeping bag. She was certainly feeling a lot better than she had been feeling yesterday, but sleep was gently calling to her. Her muscles still felt achy and her head hurt. She didn't necessarily feel tired enough to sleep for the night, but there was no use in being awake. Inuyasha definitely didn't seem to want to talk to her and she was tired of trying to get him to tell her what was bothering him. After all, he had a right to think about his precious Kikyou without interruption. Sleep seemed like the best option, at least that way there was an excuse for the silent treatment. She turned her back to Inuyasha and pulled off her top quickly and replaced it with her normal nightgown, not caring if Inuyasha saw her bare back or not.
"It's not even past twilight yet."
Kagome glanced over her shoulder to see Inuyasha watching her intently. "So?"
"So... you're going to sleep pretty early. Do you feel that ill?"
Is that concern I detect in your voice, Inuyasha?
Kagome shrugged, "You don't seem too interested in talking to me, so I figured I would get some rest."
A grunt came in response, much as Kagome expected. She bent down and pulled the sleeping bag closer to the warmth of the fireplace, careful not to place it too close to where Inuyasha was seated. She sat down and pulled part of the covers over her legs.
"Ah... thank you... for taking care of me. I really appreciate it," Kagome said quietly. "Good night, Inuyasha."
"You should have told me before we left," Inuyasha said without looking up.
"T-told you what?"
Inuyasha slowly raised his head and looked her in the eye, "About how sick you were."
She blinked at him, uncertain how to respond. "Ah, well... I didn't think it was that bad. I was feeling better so I thought I was well enough to go with you. It's my fault you lost the shard." She bowed her head slightly, "I'm sorry."
Inuyasha shook his head, "The shard will be easy to find," he muttered. "I should have known better. I could smell that you were sick but I thought you were all right because you didn't say anything about it."
Kagome paused for a moment and cocked her head, peering at Inuyasha skeptically. "You can smell it when someone has a cold?"
"Not anyone. I know your scent, so I know right away when it changes." He shrugged, "Of course, a human's scent changes for every little thing. Especially females."
She looked at him with surprise, "Is that so?"
He heard the challenge in her voice and responded in kind, "Sure. The smell of your sweat tells me what kind of food you've been eating. Your scent is slightly different when you first come through the well after you've been home for a while. It also changes when you're worried over those 'test' things and when you're scared or just upset in general. Plus there are the monthly scent changes."
Her brows drew together, the implication of what Inuyasha was telling her slowly dawned on Kagome and her mouth gapped open. "Y-you mean you can smell when I... when I'm on..."
Inuyasha shrugged nonchalantly, "Sure."
A look of horror mixed with embarrassment moved across Kagome's features. A blush was rapidly spreading across her face and she looked completely dumbfounded. Inuyasha was finding himself increasingly amused with her reaction and the urge to play with her grew stronger. Adverting her eyes away from him, she began to nervously fidget with the hem of her nightshirt.
"It's a pretty major scent change. Why are you surprised I would notice it?"
Kagome remained quiet for a while before slowly forcing herself to look up at him. She cleared her throat and whispered, "Y-You can... smell when I have my... period?"
Perplexed eyes searched her face, "Period?"
Her blush grew darker and she was forced to look away. "Uh..." oh Kami-sama... "When I... b-bleed once a month?"
"Feh!" Inuyasha crossed his arms and snorted, "Of course I can smell that! Every youkai downwind of you can smell it. I don't have a weak nose like you humans."
Kagome said nothing as she continued to thumb the hem of her shirt. Inuyasha caught the gentle scent of her sweat and smirked to himself. She was indeed quite embarrassed and he was enjoying her response too much to simply let the subject drop.
"All women carry a paired-scent," Inuyasha continued matter-of-factly, "one of them always being a blood scent. You're female, you're old enough to know these things without me having to tell you. Baka."
"Well, it's just... I didn't know it..." Kagome stammered. Embarrassment was desperately crying to her to change the subject, quickly. Her mind churned trying to think of something... anything to steer the conversation off course and away from talking to Inuyasha about her period!
"But... but what is this... 'paired-scent'?" She mentally slapped her forehead, realizing her folly. AHH! Stupid! stupidstupidstupid!
Much to Kagome's surprise, Inuyasha laughed, clearly amused. It was a sound Kagome rarely heard and wished she could hear more often. "Why do you humans even have noses?" He grinned, "You have a blood scent and a... mating scent. That's the only way to describe it. Women's scents even change when they are expecting a child or nursing. Didn't your mother talk to you about this or do I have to explain it to you?" He smirked mockingly as he leaned towards the young woman and whispered softly, "Kagome, do you know where babies come from?"
Inuyasha could hear her heart pounding faster in her chest, her cheeks growing darker with embarrassment even as she angrily glared at him. Inuyasha chuckled and crossed his arms over his chest again, putting forth his best pompous pose.
"All human women carry a mating scent and a blood scent. I smell it on Sango, too. Although Kaede-baba is too old." Inuyasha's smirk grew into a wide grin as Kagome shifted uncomfortably and returned her attention to the hem of her shirt. It was rare to see her so... mortified into speechlessness. The temptation to toy with her had been too strong to ignore. "Shippou can certainly smell it, although Miroku can't... that's a benefit. I'd hate to see the way that hentai acts around a woman he can smell is in heat."
Kagome opened her mouth to say something, but Inuyasha cut her off to get one last jibe in. "Kagome, haven't you ever noticed that there are certain days when Shippou doesn't act so... 'clingy' with you? When he refuses to sleep with you in your bedding?"
Her fingers stopped twining with the hem of her shirt for a moment in reflective pause. He knew she was mentally verifying his statements to be true and waited patiently for her reaction. She said nothing as she grabbed a handful of the material in her clenched fist. His itch had been scratched and it was time to stop toying with the girl. "He's still too young to really understand. Anyway, since I know what you smell like healthy I can also easily smell when you are sick. That was how I knew you were ill. Your scent changed."
The chatter of fire crackling filled the cabin again as the two became quiet once more. Inuyasha sighed deeply. He had enjoyed that brief exchange. It had been a while since he and Kagome had played verbally and he missed it. Kagome had acted more like herself in the time when she first woke up than she had in the past few weeks since... since she saw me with Kikyou... He scowled and turned his gaze to the fire.
"Inuyasha, what's bothering you?" Kagome asked, her voice holding a quality of pleading.
He searched her face, and felt guilt wash over him. He couldn't do this to her. His decision was finally made; it was time for them to talk. Taking a deep breath, he began. "I have been wondering the same thing about you."
A nod came in reply.
"What do you mean?"
"You've been acting strangely for the last few weeks." He paused, weighing his words. "Distant. I get the feeling you've been avoiding me or angry with me and you've been short-tempered..."
Legs slowly drew up to her chest giving Kagome the appearance of a child. Large blue eyes stared out at him over the tops of her knees. She was pulling away from him, both physically and emotionally. It disturbed him to see a physical display of what he has been feeling from her for the last few weeks, but he continued undaunted, "What is bothering you?"
"Is this what has been bothering you?"
"Ahh, no— your odd behavior has..." He clenched his jaw, becoming impatient. She was avoiding the question. "I don't like feeling like I have to walk on eggshells around you!"
She remained silent, hesitant.
He narrowed his eyes at her, "Is this because of Kikyou?"
A pregnant pause filled the air. Kagome and Inuyasha both locked eyes, waiting.
"Yes." Kagome's level voice broke the silence as her eyes broke away from his.
"Why?" His voice much more gruff sounding than he intended it to be.
Kagome sighed and forced herself to look evenly at Inuyasha, willing her voice to remain steady and true. "I don't want to talk about this. Besides, I thought we went through all of this at the well."
Inuyasha grunted and glared at her. She could see he was very close to losing his patience and would not let the subject drop, his expression demanding an answer from her. There was no avoiding it.
Swallowing hard, Kagome gathered her courage. "I—I meant what I said to you back at the well. I want to be with you, Inuyasha... that's why I returned." Kagome felt her throat begin to tighten and tried desperately to ignore it. She knew that if she looked into Inuyasha's eyes now, there would be no way she would be able to hold back her tears. "I know you have chosen Kikyou. I know you still love her; will probably always love her. I just... it still hurts to know that there is no room in your heart for me."
She paused and took a deep breath. She felt like she was standing on the edge of a cliff, too close to the edge to turn back now. Her heart urging her onward, she continued. Closing her eyes she whispered quietly, "It hurts because I— I love you, Inuyasha."
The familiar sting of tears pricked at her eyes and she used every ounce of willpower she had left to hold them back as she waited for some kind of response. The fire crackled loudly in her ears as the silence stretched out. She finally opened her eyes only to see Inuyasha staring at the fire with an unfamiliar expression clouding his features.
Perhaps he didn't hear me...
That thought alone caused one tear to slip, and another, until her cheeks became damp with them. She silently cursed herself for crying and wished somewhere to hide and be alone with her broken heart.
"Kagome, I can't love you back," Inuyasha's hushed voice broke through her tears. "I just... I can't. I'm sorry." His amber eyes looked at her sadly, full of pity. During her internal struggle to remain calm and abate her tears, she hadn't even noticed him move to sit directly in front of her.
She turned her face down and away from him; hating the sympathy she saw his eyes. She nodded simply out of habit, "It's okay, I understand..."
A callused thumb brushed across her cheek, wiping away her tears. "No, you don't." He gently cupped her chin and forced her to look up at him. "Kagome... I care about you more than anyone living. You are the only one I..." he paused, pursing his lips together, wanting to get the words right before continuing.
"I trust you more than anyone, but I don't deserve your love." He saw Kagome's eyes flash with protest and he quickly silenced her with a finger over her lips. "Wait for me to finish."
She slowly relaxed and he continued, "It is my fault that Kikyou's soul is roaming this earth tortured, that she died hating me. Naraku succeeded. I couldn't bring myself to completely trust her, to believe in her and because of that she died believing that I had betrayed her. All because I couldn't bring myself to completely trust her, even though I loved her. I owe Kikyou. She deserves better than that. I can't allow myself to find happiness until she is at rest and her soul is appeased. I can't stand the thought that she is living the way she is now because of me. If my death will appease her then I will gladly die once Naraku is taken care of and the jewel is made whole. I owe her that much."
Warmth slowly spread throughout Kagome's being as Inuyasha spoke. A fire. It spread from her belly throughout her body in an instant. For the first time since she had met Inuyasha, she felt true anger toward him and Kagome could hear no more. She pulled away from him abruptly, knocking Inuyasha slightly off balance by the forcefulness of it.
"No! You are the one who doesn't understand! Kikyou is already dead! Her body is a sham and her soul is barely connected to that... that flesh. Your death will not appease her or atone for anything!"
Inuyasha stared at her wide-eyed and uncertain, his mouth agape. She took a deep breath to calm herself before continuing. "I can understand you still loving her... but wanting to die for a woman who is already dead? Inuyasha, I know she would not ever want that. Not the real Kikyou that you knew fifty years ago. The Kikyou walking around now is not her."
Silence hung in the air as both parties tried to sort out their thoughts.
"Everyone tells me I am Kikyou's reincarnation. That I am not the person I always thought I was." She let out a slight snort and smiled self-mockingly, "I struggled for a long time if my thoughts and feelings were truly mine, or if they were Kikyou's. I used to tell myself that what I felt for you wasn't really me feeling it, and it made me feel hallow inside. It's painful to be told that you are someone else. But if that is the case... if I am truly Kikyou's reincarnation... I can tell you with certainty that she would not want you to die like that, Inuyasha. If our hearts are truly alike, I know she wouldn't want that because I wouldn't."
"You really used to think that about yourself?" Inuyasha's voice was barely above a whisper.
"I still think that."
Inuyasha grabbed Kagome's hand in his and squeezed it reassuringly, "Kagome... you're... I mean I don't..." He broke off, the message he wanted to convey to her lost as the words failed to come to him.
All Kagome could feel was the comforting warmth of Inuyasha's hand around her own.
"You and Kikyou are two different people," he whispered finally. "You are more than just her reincarnation... I mean, much of Kikyou's soul is within you, but you are you. There is only one Kagome."
Fresh tears pricked at her eyes, begging for escape. The gentle squeeze of his hand wrapped around hers drove one rogue tear down her cheek to splatter silently on her lap.
"You are no less than she is. I think you're more." He reluctantly let go of her hand, allowing her to wipe her tear-stained cheeks.
"For awhile, I thought I would be content to die if it meant freeing Kikyou from her hell... but..." his voice faded as he tried to form the words in his mouth. His eyes bore into hers meaningfully, holding her. He whispered softly, "...but I... have something to live for now, Kagome. I don't want it to be this way, but I feel trapped."
The words weighed heavily on Kagome's chest, causing her breath to catch in her throat.
Inuyasha turned his face away from her, a faint blush spreading across his cheeks. "It is my hope that I will be able to appease Kikyou's heart without having to sacrifice myself... but I meant what I said before. I owe Kikyou and it is a debt I must pay. I couldn't live with myself otherwise." He turned to face her, his cheeks no longer casting a ruddy hue. "Until then, I can't accept your love and love you in return and be happy until this is finished. I'm... sorry, but I just... can't."
His eyes held hers for a moment before turning away to gaze at a far corner of the room. Feeling bold, Kagome scooted closer to Inuyasha and rested a trembling hand on Inuyasha's knee. Startled amber eyes met hers and before either one of them could blink, she threw her arms around him fiercely. He tensed up from the suddenness of the contact before returning the hug earnestly, enjoying the feel of her against his chest.
"Th-thank you... for telling me that, Inuyasha," she whispered in his ear. "Thank you."
He squeezed her more tightly and inhaled her scent. The warmth of her being soaked into his, filling him. She loves me He held her tighter, enjoying the moment, memorizing every detail he could. I'm so sorry Kagome, I am the coward. He felt a lump form in his throat and swallowed it down stubbornly. I couldn't say it... but I love you, too...
"Come on," Inuyasha said as he motioned to Kagome, indicating that he was ready for her to climb onto his back. The morning sun hung brightly on the horizon; it was time to return to their friends waiting for them in the village, and to their quest.
She nodded mutely and crossed the distance between them. She hesitated a moment, feeling suddenly uncertain about the idea of touching him, of being that close to him. It was foolish, she knew. After all, they shared her sleeping bag last night and even with their best efforts to avoid too much contact, they still woke up that morning in a tangle of limbs. Regardless, her heart still made a flip-flop in her chest with the anticipation of being so close. Chastising herself for her foolishness, she quickly climbed onto his back hoping that he didn't notice her hesitation and the flush of her cheeks. He hefted her up into a more secure position and then retrieved her backpack.
She took one last look at the cabin that had sheltered them from the storm, bittersweet emotions filtering through her consciousness. Kagome smiled slightly despite herself. She had offered Inuyasha her heart and he had refused, but she had seen a part of him that also filled her with hope.
Things were different now.
Without a word between them, they left the cabin. The air was crisp, but not blistering cold as it had been. Kagome snuggled closer to Inuyasha, relishing in his warmth and the moment of peaceful closeness. Soon they would be back with their friends and the chaos of searching for the Shikon no Tama.
Even though he had made it clear to her that he could not give her his heart in return, she felt some comfort in the knowledge that he knew her feelings. Besides, she was certain fate had plans for each of them and she would be patient and continue to love him in silence. Until then, she would stay by his side through everything... and she would be content with that.
Author's Note: Thank you for taking the time to read this. I really do appreciate it. Comments and criticisms are appreciated and encouraged. Feel free to email me.