Title: Memento Mori
Word Length: 8256
Summary: She was the embodiment of virtue. He was her forbidden temptation.
Disclaimer: The Inuyasha concept, story, and characters are copyright Rumiko Takahashi and Viz Media.
NOTE: THIS IS THE 'CLEAN VERSION' OF THIS FIC. TO READ THE FULL LEMON, PLEASE VISIT MY MEDIA MINER ACCOUNT.
This wasn't supposed to happen.
She was Kagome Higurashi! She was supposed to be the good girl, the straight arrow, the paragon of purity.
She was considered by her peers to be one of the nicest, friendliest people in their class. Nobody ever said anything bad about her; she was sweet enough to never warrant jealous gossip. She managed to cross all the boundaries of modern high school life: age, class rank, popularity, gender. She was that girl, the one all the other girls envied (for her marks, her athleticism, her hot boyfriend, her perfect hair); the one all the other boys wanted to bring home to their parents (for her mild nature, flawless complexion, impeccable manners).
Best of all, she seemed blissfully unaware of it. She was genuine in her compliments, her sympathy, her cheer. She acted like she belonged at the top of the social heap, but not like she worked hard to get there – as if she'd be perfectly content to be the mousy little girl nobody danced with at prom.
Not that such a fate would ever befall her. Ever since ninth grade, she had been involved with Hojo-kun, the hunky senior class president. They were the Perfect Couple; they could practically be twins in terms of personality. He was endlessly gracious, with a calming nature. He was never involved in petty squabbles, having a kind word for friends and enemies alike.
Everyone knew the story of their fairy-tale romance, how he swept her off her feet in junior high school – how he'd doted on her during her numerous illnesses and absences. He was completely devoted to her, and she to him. They'd been going steady for three years. In the tumultuous world of high school romance, they were the bedrock.
Everyone knew it; took it for granted; Kagome + Hojo Forever. It was practically written in the stars.
That's why…this wasn't supposed to happen.
…spring, sweet rhythm dance in my head…
Kagome hummed softly to herself as she walked down the hall. A small smile played at the corners of her mouth. It was springtime, this was her last class of the day, and it was Friday! Could life possibly get any better than it was at this moment?
"Hey Kagome, wait up!"
She turned slightly to see a trio of girls rushing towards her. She smiled and greeted them in turn as they approached her.
"Is it true?" Ayumi gasped as she skidded to a stop.
"Kagome, I can't believe it!" Yuka bubbled.
"You're so lucky," Eri cried.
Kagome blushed prettily. "Yes, it's true," she confirmed, holding out her left hand. A solid platinum band graced her ring finger, sparkling in the light that streamed through the school's windows. The girls eagerly grabbed her hand, twisting her wrist as they 'oohed' and 'aahed'.
"Give us details!" Ayumi demanded, squeezing Kagome's fingers impulsively.
Kagome gave them a thoughtful look before speaking. "Well, it was our three-year anniversary. We had a wonderful dinner at a French restaurant, and…he gave me this."
She could practically see their hearts floating before their eyes. "That's so romantic!" Yuka swooned.
Kagome could only smile weakly. Romantic? Well, I guess so… That really wasn't the first word that came to mind when she thought about her long-term relationship. "Steady," "solid," "safe" – such terms were more in tune with her feelings on the matter.
However, she was well used to everyone believing she was one half of the school's Perfect Couple, and that they shared some sort of once-in-a-lifetime grand passion…even if she herself had never felt that way.
"He must be crazy in love with you, Kagome," Eri sighed as she eyed the ring. "I'm jealous. I wish a guy felt that way about me."
The warning bell rang then, interrupting their conversation.
Kagome gratefully extracted her hand and its adornments from her friends' scrutiny. "I better go," she said. "I don't want to be late to my last class!" With a wave, she dashed off in the direction of her history class.
As she slid into her seat, she looked down at the ring. It was beautiful, and she was flattered to have received such an expensive gift. She had never loved Hojo more (which, she happily suspected, had been his main intent), but she was troubled by everyone else's reaction. It had been two weeks, and everyone that had approached her asked her when she was getting married!, or, did she suspect Hojo was so serious about her?!, or marveling at the envy they felt for her position.
Truth be told, she found it rather stifling.
She was a Good Girl, and she knew Hojo was a Good Boy. They fit together. They made sense. They had a deep, meaningful relationship, built on years of patience and love and grace and solid togetherness. He was her first love, her first kiss, her first boyfriend.
But she felt like she was missing something…
…oh, she'd never been as romantic as her girlfriends, much preferring practicality to dreaminess. Her head told her, just as much as her heart, that she was in the right place in her life. She was months away from graduating, practically accepted into her first-choice undergrad program. She was so close to accomplishing every task ever given to her by her family, her society, her culture. Her life was unfolding quietly before her, showing her a path to happiness and fulfillment that others would kill to have.
And yet, she found it rather stifling.
She shook her head as the teacher called the class to order. I can worry about these feelings later, she told herself. This was Honors history, her worst subject! She was no history buff; something about all those dates and battles and trading contracts just made her eyes glaze over. It was getting harder and harder to truly care about classes, now that they were almost over…but she had to concentrate. She wasn't about to ruin 12 years of straight A's because she was feeling a little burnt out.
The teacher walked around the room, reviewing a bit of the last chapter. They had just finished discussing the Warring States era, a very unsettling period for Kagome, personally – the monarchy overthrown by violent factions, who fought for control of the entire country. It was a period of civil unrest that led to hundreds of thousands of deaths. A century of chaos and murder…the very idea made her shudder.
"…and yet, during this particular period of time, we find a significant rise in the oral tradition," her teacher was saying. "Stories of demons and slayers and spirits take on a whole new significance." He turned on his heel, heading back to the front of the classroom.
"Your final project for the class will involve investigating one of these myths in the context of the time period," he said, quickly jotting the ideas on the blackboard as he spoke. "Where did the story come from? What was the moral? What is the historical significance of it? These are questions you should consider in your investigations."
Kagome quickly copied the questions into her notebook, her brain already hard at work. It wouldn't be hard to look up a story, she thought – after all, her family probably had tomes and tomes of myths lying around in one of the storehouses. Her grandfather was constantly talking about some legend or the other, even though his stories usually went in one of her ears and out the other.
"You'll be paired off in tandem for this project," her teacher said, catching Kagome's attention once again. "You will be expected to write a paper and give the class a presentation of your findings."
The classroom was filled with a low buzz as the students contemplated this. They didn't often get to have partners for homework assignments.
"Everyone seated in Rows 1, 3, 5: look to your left. Everyone in Rows 2, 4, 6: look to your right. Congratulations, you've met your partner for this assignment." The teacher gave a small, wry smile as some of the excitement dissipated.
Kagome, seated in the last row, looked to her right, momentarily startled by the intensity of the golden gaze that met her eyes. She swallowed convulsively. It's him.
Inuyasha Tashiro sneered at her. "Great, I've got Miss Perfect," he said, stretching his arms languidly over his head. "I've always wondered what it felt like to get an A on a school project."
Kagome couldn't believe her eyes. She didn't know why she felt so surprised; they did have assigned seats, after all, so she'd spent the entire semester sitting next to him. Maybe it was because he'd actually shown up today?
She managed to school her features into a look of practiced patience as she studied him. He was very unusual in appearance, with his longer-than-fashionable silver hair and dark gold eyes. He was obviously smart, given he was on the Honors track, but he didn't have much of a presence in her world. He wasn't part of any clubs or societies, rarely showed up for sporting events. He tended to stay on the outer fringes, wanting no part in the popularity stakes.
But, of course, he knew who she was.
They continued to stare at each other, sizing one another up. A prickle of electric tension filled the air between them, causing her stomach to stir. His defiant gaze clouded over, leading her to believe maybe he felt it, too…
"You have three weeks to prepare all parts of this project, and it will count for 35% of your final grade," the teacher interjected. "Good luck."
The final bell rang, signaling the end of the school day. All around them, people bustled about, collecting their belongings before rushing for the door. Kagome couldn't move, pinned by the strange vibe passing between her and her newly-minted history project partner.
Inuyasha finally broke the stare, gathering his books and shoving them in his bag. "So, what do you want to do this project on?" he asked casually, stretching his legs before standing.
Kagome pushed another convulsive swallow past her suddenly-dry throat as she followed suit. "I don't know," she confessed, embarrassed to feel so flustered around him. "This isn't my favorite era of history."
He snorted as they walked up the aisle. "You have one?"
She blushed, biting her lips as she walked out of the room. She looked up slightly, seeing Hojo standing at the end of the hall, waiting for her. Her face brightened as she waved at him. "How about we meet at the library tomorrow and discuss this?" she asked, dazzling Inuyasha with a bright smile.
It was his turn to appear startled. "Okay," he said hesitantly, rather amazed at the sudden change of mood. "Around 1, maybe?"
"Sure!" she said brightly, giving him a dismissive wave as she set off toward her boyfriend.
Inuyasha could only stare after her.
Kagome willed her heart to stop fluttering as she approached Hojo. "Hi," she greeted him, leaning up to kiss his cheek.
"Hi yourself!" he replied, snaking an arm across her waist. "Are you ready to go?" He pushed open the door with his free arm, letting the sunshine spill across the floor.
She gave a happy sigh. "More than ready," she replied, stepping out of the building, pushing all other thoughts from her mind.
She was with her boyfriend. School was out for the day, and the night held endless possibilities. What more could she want?
…someone's secrets you've seen...
Kagome gracefully juggled her belongings as she stepped off the bus. Her back ached with the weight of the books she carried, but she couldn't adjust the straps on her shoulders, as her hands were also full. Maybe I did go a bit overboard, she thought to herself as she carefully climbed the steps of the public library. Oh, well – better to be over-prepared than not!
She pushed against the heavy doors with one shoulder, tightening her grip on the scrolls in her arms. These weren't the originals – her grandfather would have had a monumental fit if those left the grounds – but they were delicate nonetheless. Finally, she made it up to the third floor, where the dustiest of the dusty stacks took up residence. It was the home of the reference section of the library, and it was obviously little-used, by the looks of things.
She spotted Inuyasha right away; it was hard to miss such a head of hair, even from a distance. As she approached him, she felt her heart flutter once again. What the hell? she wondered, slightly irritated. It's just Inuyasha!
She pushed the treacherous thoughts from her mind, opening her arms and letting the bundle spill out on the table before him. He laughed as the scrolls rolled around, looking up to meet her gaze with a wry smile.
"Did you bring your own personal library with you?" he asked her, hesitantly touching one of the ancient scripts.
"My family lives at the Sunset Shrine," she said, slipping into the chair opposite him.
He just stared at her. "Of course," he deadpanned. He waved an arm to his left, where a few books were lying open. "Well, I started looking up myths, but obviously…" He trailed off, gesturing before him.
Kagome flushed slightly. "Did you find anything interesting? I was afraid there wouldn't be much here, since this is just the public library…"
He eyed her with curiosity, which only caused her to blush even more. What are you doing? she asked herself, struggling to meet his gaze. It's not like a boy's never stared at you before! You have a boyfriend!
"You're right about that," he said, slamming the books closed. "There's mention of the oral tradition, just like the sensei said. But, I've yet to find these myths and legends explicitly told." He shrugged.
She shrugged as well, trying to be casual even though she felt anything but. "I'm sure we'll find something in the shrine records," she said, clearing her throat all the while. "It was established during the Edo period, after all."
She grabbed a scroll and unrolled it, even as she felt his eyes upon her once again. When she gathered the nerve to look up, she noted with relief that he'd turned his attention away from her. Quickly, she ducked her head again, her eyes beginning to cross as she read the same paragraph over and over. She was too attuned to his movements, and it was making her incredibly uncomfortable.
A rumble of thunder rolled across the sky, and she shivered. It wasn't a conscious movement; she didn't even realize she'd reacted at all until she felt a hand on her arm.
"Kagome? You okay?"
Kagome jolted, as if he'd sent a spark of electricity through her veins. She didn't answer him right away, her eyes glued to the hand, fingers resting lightly on her forearm. He had long, tapered fingers, like a pianist. Even the shape of his nails was fascinating: cut into perfect half-moons, obviously well groomed.
Not like she expected, at all.
Another dark plod of thunder sounded, followed by a flicker of the lights overhead. She squeezed her eyes shut, all of the muscles of her body seizing as the irrational fear gripped her.
God, she hated thunderstorms. Absolutely, truly hated them.
The warmth at her arm withdrew. "Afraid of the storm, eh?" he mused. "So even Miss Perfect has a breaking point! Who knew?"
Kagome willed herself to be calm – to keep from reaching across the table and smacking him – to keep the tears firmly behind her eyes. "I'm not perfect," she muttered between claps of thunder.
He didn't respond to that; she was grateful for his silence. She didn't care if he was still staring at her; all she was feeling right now was complete and utter panic, loss of control. She stayed huddled down, eyes shut, until the storm passed over. Luckily, the electricity didn't fail.
When she finally relaxed out of her death hold, she noted that Inuyasha had turned his complete attention to the scrolls. He was engrossed in whatever story he was reading; he hunched over the table with great interest. She watched as his eyes raced across the page, a smile growing as he neared the bottom of the tablet.
He glanced up, mouth open to say something, but thought better of it. He sat back, lowering his eyelids as he studied her. "Back among the living?" he commented.
She narrowed a glare in his direction. "Never left," she replied, picking absently at her ring. "Did you find an interesting story?"
He didn't reply right away, instead watching her fiddle with the band on her left hand. "Yeah," he said, bringing his eyes back to hers after a moment. "This one sounds promising." He handed her the scroll.
She glanced over it, her eyebrows lifting as she skimmed the contents. "The Shikon Jewel?" she questioned warily. Her grandfather sold Shikon Jewel trinkets at the shrine. They were supposed to be good luck charms…or something.
"Yeah," he replied, a smile creasing his mouth. "It's a classic story of love and loss, and contains a kickass battle between youkai and hanyou and humans. It contains every trope of a modern, classic fairy tale. There's tons of ways to dissect it!"
His enthusiasm shocked her. In all the time she'd known him, she'd never seen him express such a gung-ho curiosity in anything – not school, not sports, not family or friends or hobbies. Admittedly, he was mostly a loner, never one to really cross her path. But they'd been in school together since sixth grade, and that common history had to count for something, right?
He laughed at her expression, and she quickly snapped her mouth shut. "Yeah, I'm a closet history nerd," he admitted freely. "Plus I read a lot of manga."
"And you've never gotten an A on a school project?" she sputtered incredulously.
"How many school projects have you ever done on manga?" he asked her. He laughed again. "Believe me, the history buff thing is totally incidental to my true passion."
That last word reverberated through her. Passion. Everything about it – the tone of his voice, the wry smile, the implication of the word – washed over her. She'd never been passionate about anything, much less something as insignificant as manga.
She stared at him with something akin to awe.
"Have I managed to throw you off guard, Miss Perfect?" he teased, again reaching for her hand. "I guess we all have our deep, dark secrets."
"Yeah," she managed, her eyes sliding down to look at their hands. His was barely resting on hers, perfectly chaste and friendly, and yet…the warmth, the heat of even that slight touch, was stronger than she'd felt in a long time.
His fingers curled slightly around hers, giving her hand a slight squeeze. "So? Are we a 'go' on the Shikon Jewel story for our project?"
Kagome shook herself mentally, gathering her wits. "Sure," she replied, licking her lips and trying to turn her attention away from their joined hands. "I'll see if we have any more records of the story at home."
"Cool," Inuyasha said, releasing her hand and reaching for his books. "Now that we have an idea, I can focus the research here a bit more." He picked them up and pushed back from the table.
"Wait!" she burst out. "Where are you going?"
He gave her a strange look. "To the card catalog. I don't need permission, do I?" he asked sarcastically. He didn't bother waiting for a response, moving away from the table with silent, effortless ease.
As she stared after him, her traitorous thoughts invaded once again. What the hell was that about? she berated herself. You have a boyfriend. Inuyasha's not interested in you, he's just being nice. He has other passions in his life…
She sighed. If she was completely honest with herself, she'd admit that she was a bit jealous he could show such passion for something, even if it was as silly as a manga collection. What did that feel like? Were only certain people inclined to feel it? She'd lived her whole life without ever declaring herself passionately interested in something, and figured that maybe she always would.
After all, she was practical. Not romantic.
She gathered the scrolls again, lining them up neatly on the table as she discreetly checked her watch. She had a standing Saturday evening date with her boyfriend, and it was nearly five o'clock. She looked around, not spotting Inuyasha nearby, and decided to find him, instead of waiting for him to return. Gathering her possessions, she walked toward the card catalog, which was near the stairwell and thus, on her way out.
"Inuyasha?" she said quietly, walking up to him. "I've got to go."
He looked up at her from the computer. "Okay," he said. "When do you want to get together again?"
"Maybe Monday afternoon? After school? I have archery club till five, but then I'm free…"
He allowed the suggestion to roll around his head. "Sounds good," he replied, looking back at the computer. "See you then."
"Right," she said, hugging the scrolls close to her chest. "See you then."
…you quench my heart and you quench my mind…
That Monday afternoon turned into every afternoon of the week, and the following week. Kagome found herself drawn into the story of the tragic hanyou, betrayed by another into killing his beloved priestess. When reawakened from his curse, he vowed to find and destroy this enemy, along with the jewel the enemy so craved, which his priestess had kept safe from the evil of the world. There was a lot of meat to the story, and she could feel herself growing more and more interested in it, in the different angles at which they could approach it.
This wasn't supposed to happen.
Gradually, she began to notice how her ordered little world was closing in on her. She tried to put it off, excuse it as an aftershock of being so close to graduation and the millions of little details clogging her mind: what she was going to wear to prom, her valedictory speech, which undergrad program she was going to ultimately choose, etc. And yet, it seemed the more time she spent with the flirty, enigmatic Inuyasha, the harder it became to deny it.
She wanted him.
Or, more specifically, she wanted to be like him. He talked enthusiastically about their project, and she wanted to find that same excitement within herself. She wanted to know what it felt like to be passionate about something, interested to the point where it became the center of her universe. The more she got to know him – and his sense of humor took some getting used to – the more she realized just how dull her life had been to this point.
Oh, she'd done everything right – straight A's since grade school, respectable ability with a bow and arrow (and tennis racquet), loving family, balanced social life – and she didn't regret any of it. But she'd never felt the grand passion for any of it, not like everyone thought and envied of her.
Maybe she was Miss Perfect. But Miss Perfect hadn't had any real fun in a very long time, it seemed.
She didn't devote all of her time to the history project; far from it. She had other obligations, other hobbies to round out her time. She had dinner with her family every night. She had a steady date with her boyfriend on Saturdays. There was an archery tournament coming up to practice for.
Her life was stifling her.
She could feel the edges of it closing around her, cocooning her. She'd enjoyed the feeling before, because it meant she was in control. But…she began to wonder to herself…had she be so concerned with being a Well-Rounded Individual, being the perfect daughter, perfect student, perfect girlfriend, that she'd missed out on something very important?
It was a revelation that played heavily on her mind, as she headed into the final week of the history project.
They'd been meeting regularly at the library, on the third floor, in the stacks. It was becoming a second home; they'd spend a few hours there each night, puzzling over a new idea. She began to see them in the main roles of the story; he was the brave warrior hanyou, out to avenge his beloved's death; she was the miko who wanted to save the world. Of course, that miko also loved the hanyou enough to die for him. What did that feel like? she asked herself one night, running her hands across the scroll containing Kikyo's role in the saga.
She found herself comparing experiences. She felt like she was lost in a haze, living someone else's life. Her reaction to her friends' gushing was confusion, and guilt. She never told them their ideas of her were so completely wrong; she let them live with the misbegotten notion that she led a charmed life. Why?
The more time she spent with Hojo, the more she felt trapped and smothered by him. Their shared life was utterly routine. They went to the same restaurants, held the same conversations, exchanged the same good-night kiss over and over again. He had started acting more possessive of her since giving her that ring on their anniversary. Oh, he could never be outright cruel or nasty, but it was like he was taking her – and their relationship – for granted.
Perhaps worst of all, she didn't find him attractive anymore. He was still as doting and loving and caring as he'd ever been, but it was…bland? When she looked at him, she found herself wishing broad shoulders, wild silver hair, dark amber eyes in place of his more normal features.
One night, at the conclusion of a study session for the history project, the realization came crashing down on her. I have a crush on him, she thought, eyeing Inuyasha shyly from underneath her lashes.
She'd never had a crush before; at least, not like this.
Everything about Inuyasha fascinated her, from his explosive wit, to the flirtatious way he touched her, to the way he let his hair fall over his shoulders and cover his face when he was really engrossed in a book. She'd touched his hair before, and she was surprised at the texture: thick, yet soft and light. It didn't seem to react to the humidity or cold (qualities most girls spent a fortune simulating with hair care products).
His smiles always reached his eyes, and he never minced words. He wasn't afraid to break out a sarcastic quip or tactless comment, even if the situation didn't call for it. She realized he was quiet when he had nothing to say, and that it was mistaken for aloofness. The more time she spent with him, the more she was able to read his moods, and it seemed…he lived his life freely. There was no careful containment of his emotions, no order of the chaos. He didn't care if he was offensive or nice. He was him, not someone else's idea of what he should be.
It must be nice, she thought as she continued to look at him. No restrictions. No expectations. No fears.
She was going to miss him. When this project was over, they'd drift apart again, back to their own worlds. It was inevitable; three weeks did not a lasting friendship make. He seemed to realize this as well; he called her "Miss Perfect" about as much as he used her first name, as if to remind her of their social distance, of the impending doom of their time together.
He looked up at that moment, catching her in the middle of her sad thought. "Why the long face?" he joked, reaching across to tap his pencil on her hand.
She forced her lips into some semblance of a smile. "Nothing," she replied, turning her attention back to her notes. They were supposed to be finishing the paper; with only two more days, it was time to put the polish on the project.
He stared at her for a moment. "Don't worry, you'll be rid of me soon enough," he said, the laughter in his tone ringing false.
She glanced up as he looked down, his pencil once again scratching across the page. What if I don't want to be?
…in your eyes I see what's on my mind…
Kagome's eyes drooped; her head fell forward, off the perch of her hand, and she roused herself awake once more. Her notebook came into focus, albeit blearily. What time is it? she wondered, lifting her arm slightly to peer down at her watch.
It was pretty bad to be falling asleep at 4:30 in the afternoon.
She put her hands straight down at her sides and literally jostled herself awake, forcing her concentration on the sheet in front of her. She was waiting for Inuyasha to show up; it was the final day of their assigned time for the history project. They'd finished the paper the night before; all that was left was turning their findings into a five-minute presentation.
She'd skipped archery club after school, hoping to find Inuyasha ready and waiting at the library. Alas, it was for naught; he wasn't there yet. She wasn't surprised, but she did find herself feeling a bit…disappointed?
Get over it, girl, she told herself firmly. You are off the market.
Somehow, this truth didn't placate her.
She pushed the thoughts from her mind completely, choosing instead to pick over their paper, pulling out the finer points for their presentation. Together, they'd come up with some brilliant ideas (if she did say so herself). She was actually looking forward to discussing them in class, even though, as a general rule, she didn't engage in public speaking.
She sensed his approach, glancing up as he came into view half an hour later. He was absolutely drenched, soaked from head to foot, but was still grinning at her like a madman. Her heart began to race in that now-familiar pattern, and she couldn't resist returning his smile.
"I'm flattered!" he said as he approached their table, dropping his bag beside the chair. "You couldn't wait to see me, eh, Miss Perfect?"
She lowered her eyelashes. "You know how I yearn for you," she said dramatically, hoping to disguise the truth of the statement.
He laughed as he peeled his raincoat from his shoulders, throwing it across the back of his chair before sitting. He reached down, presumably for his own books and notes; Kagome was surprised to see a bag of fast food land on the table instead.
Her eyes widened. "You can't eat in here!" she hissed, pulling her notebook away, as if afraid it would pick up the scent.
He ignored her scandalized expression and opened the bag. "Oh, come on," he scoffed, digging out the burger and fries. "Nobody ever comes up here."
That's true, she conceded, eyeing the fries, her stomach flipping in hunger. Skipping archery practice almost meant skipping the post-archery practice snack.
"Besides," he continued around a mouthful of burger, "haven't you ever wanted to break the rules?" He nudged the package of fries closer to her.
She couldn't resist that steamy, potato-ey goodness for long. "Maybe," she replied coyly, biting into a still-warm fry.
They ate in silence, each glancing over their own notes. Time slipped by as they began their collaboration on the oral presentation, deciding which points to highlight, and who would be in charge of elaborating on which point. Kagome found herself staring at Inuyasha, desperately trying to memorize his features, the way he tilted his head while in thought, the tone of his laugh. Spending time with him had opened up to her a whole different world of possibilities…and only now did she realize how desperately she was going to miss him.
This wasn't supposed to happen.
She wasn't supposed to fall in love with him.
It was crazy. She barely knew him, and yet…she felt like he had insights on her that nobody else did. He saw past the façade (even when he chose to distance himself with it), showed her the potential she had to become something even better than she ever imagined.
It was stupid, to feel this way about someone she barely knew, someone who, for most of his life, had barely registered on her radar. He'd flirted with her, touching her hand or shoulder or back, but he'd never truly embraced her or kissed her. The overwhelming urge to kiss him clawed up from her gut. Yes, she decided; she'd kiss him goodnight, a parting gift for spending three wonderful weeks with her, showing her a captivating side of history she usually glossed over.
The notion filled her stomach with butterflies, and she'd definitely never felt this way about a guy before – not even the first time Hojo kissed her, all the way back in middle school. She cringed as she remembered it, so soft and chaste and…closed. Bland.
Could she even admit to herself how much her fairy-tale romance felt like scripted reality?
She busied herself with her notes, pushing the thoughts from her mind. She perused the paper with renewed interest, outlining the plot of the dastardly villain of their story. He'd destroyed the woman he loved because he figured – if he couldn't have her, no one would.
She shuddered at the thought.
All of a sudden, the library went pitch-black. Kagome screeched as an extended roar of thunder rattled the windowpanes. She thought it was a pretty contained reaction, considering her absolute hatred for thunderstorms.
"Kagome?" Warm hands engulfed hers, orienting her back to the table.
She squeezed Inuyasha's fingers as the thunder subsided, willing her nerves to stop jangling. She took a deep breath, steadying herself to assure him she was okay (and not a big baby), when the accompanying lightning streaked across the sky, cracking as it struck a nearby tree.
That was it. With another stifled scream, she pulled away, scrambling under the table and wrapping her arms around her knees. She could hear the voices of the other library patrons drifting up to them: speculation about the storm, how long the power would be out, when the generators would kick on, or did that strike of lightning hit the generator? Eventually, the voices began to blend together, becoming blurry as her eyes took over sensory control.
She hated thunderstorms. She never told anybody why, because everybody that needed to know (her family), already did. Not even Hojo knew, though he had embraced her and comforted her through some pretty fierce ones.
Her name reached her ears sometime after she realized Inuyasha was under the table with her, his arm more than halfway around her shoulders. She pressed her face into her knees as he closed his arms around her, pulling her close. One of his hands began to stroke her hair lightly, and that made her cry in earnest.
Inuyasha didn't say anything, merely held her and allowed her to sob all over him. Her arms slipped down, her hands finding the soft cotton of his shirt and balling into fists. Another wave of thunder and lightning assailed the building, throwing shadowy glances around the room.
"Why do you hate thunderstorms?" Inuyasha asked her quietly.
She sniffled, biting her bottom lip hard as she worked to regain control of herself. "Because of my dad," she finally answered, raising her hands to her eyes and swiping futilely at the tears.
He continued to thread his fingers through her hair, reaching out to brush her cheek softly with the pad of his thumb as his hand passed by. She raised her head slightly, leaning into the brief caress.
"I found out about my dad's death during a thunderstorm," she said a few moments later, as she calmed down enough to speak. "He'd been in a horrible car accident that day, while I was at school. When I finally got home that afternoon – and saw Mama and Jii-chan and the police…The weather was terrible. And it stormed that whole night, so bad I couldn't sleep."
She bit her lips again at the painful memory; she'd never forget that horrible night, lying awake in bed, replaying the news over and over again in her mind. She was old enough to know what death meant – that he was never coming back, that she'd never see his gentle, smiling face again – and it absolutely broke her heart. Ever since then, whenever it stormed, she was reminded of that fear, that gnawing feeling of hopelessness and loss of control.
When he didn't respond to this hushed confession, she gave a bitter laugh. "It's silly, I know."
He pressed a lock of hair behind her ear, letting his hand drift along the line of her jaw. "It's not silly," he said. "It's understandable."
She followed the feel of his fingers, turning her head to face him. Another clap of thunder, another flash of lightning – and she saw him, briefly, his eyes alight with concern, his expression arranged with a sympathetic cast. A question burned on her tongue, a silly thought that wouldn't let go of her mind until she gave it voice, credence.
"Do you think I'm stupid?"
Her heart sank. What a stupid thing to ask, she told herself. Now I'm going to know how he really feels, whether I'm ready to hear it or not. Really, wasn't it better to cling to the notion that he did like her, in some capacity?
"Not stupid," he said softly. "Not perfect, either."
"I'm not perfect," she insisted. "I never claimed to be."
Another crash of thunder startled her; it seemed the storm was beginning to pass overhead. She didn't even think; her arms linked around his waist of their own accord; she practically jumped into his lap.
Oh, God, she thought as she pressed her face into the comforting fabric of his shirt. Her heart was racing a mile a minute; her stomach was reeling, just on this side of nausea; her legs felt like jelly. But she couldn't focus on those sensations; all she could think was: oh, God, he smells good.
Was it right? No. Was it proper? Hell no! Did this closeness make her head swim and her heart sing and her senses come alive?
She tentatively raised one hand, drifting close, touching his face in the dark. Please let him want this as much as I do, she pleaded silently as her fingertips found the contours of his mouth.
"Kagome," he said, his breath rushing from his mouth, cool to her touch. Her head was too muddled to discern his tone.
She bit her lip, letting her hand fall to his shoulder. "Inuyasha," she replied softly, her heart bare in her tone.
She could hear the rasp of his breath, felt his shallow inhalations across his back. She wished she could see his face, but in the same moment was glad she couldn't. Her head felt heavy, her tongue thick. Her heart was pounding in her ears. Her hands were beginning to shake.
She had wanted to kiss him before, but now it felt like a necessary action: if she didn't, she would die. She was quite certain that her life would literally end if she was forced to endure this agony any longer…
She raised her head, the hand at his shoulder curling around the nape of his neck; the other one travelling up the plane of his back. Tentatively, she pressed her mouth to his, and hoped…
No. He completely stiffened, absolutely unyielding to her advances. Heat crowded her face as she pulled away, shame flushing across her face and neck. Oh, God, oh, God, why? Why did I do that? Why did he not kiss me back? A fresh round of tears threatened to fall.
His hand cupped her cheek softly. "Are you sure?" The question was so quiet, she almost thought she imagined it.
She pressed herself close to him again. "Yes," she whispered in a rush, leaning into his soft caress. His fingers drifted into her hair, leaving a trail of tingling nerves in their wake. She felt his face edge ever closer to hers, his breath quick against his lips…and then hers…
His mouth brushed hers softly, once, twice. She was surprised that he was so gentle, treating her as if she was some delicate object. She felt his hand on the back of her head, the fingers splayed in her hair. His other arm was locked securely around her shoulders, holding her in place.
Agony…this was worse than the moment before…now that she had the slightest taste of him, she hungered for more. Please, she thought as he continued to tease her. Please, just kiss me.
As if on cue, his lips settled over hers. She couldn't move, she couldn't even breathe; her entire being was absolutely arrested. Her mind was overwhelmed with thoughts, feelings, emotions; she couldn't analyze this moment, even if she wanted to.
He pulled away after a moment, resettling in a slightly different position, nipping lightly at her bottom lip. She felt herself falling – into him, into bonelessness, into this feeling of absolute abandon. All of a sudden, she was hot and clammy, restricted to the small space inside her skin. She moved closer to him, wrapping her arms around his neck, holding on as if her life depended on it.
She felt his back arch as he kissed her again; his arms shifted, one drifting down to rearrange her legs across his lap. His touch was absolutely electric, blazing trails of fire across her body. She invited his tongue into her mouth, trills of pleasure dancing across her nerves as he complied with her wishes once again.
The word branded itself on her brain. It was the only name she could conjure for her current state of being, and she came to understand it fully as their kisses deepened. This feeling of weightlessness, of anticipation, of absolute rightness – this was addicting. She could see why so many people reached for it, and held onto it when they found it.
"Kagome," Inuyasha whispered, his breath hot on her face. "We have to stop."
"No," she pleaded, reaching up to touch his face. The storm rumbled somewhere in the back of her consciousness. "Please, no."
He fumbled for a moment, bringing his left hand forward, touching hers as she touched his face. "But this," he breathed, pressing at the ring on her finger. "It means…'hands off'."
The words should have resonated with her, should have reminded her of her rightful place in the world. But, at this moment, she didn't care. She didn't care about propriety, or the expectations that weighed so heavily on her. All she cared about was the boy in her arms, and how much she didn't want him to stop.
"It's our last night together, Inuyasha," she sighed, brushing her mouth against his. "I want this. I want you."
He caught her mouth in a full kiss, releasing her with a harsh intake of breath. "Promise me," he started, pressing kisses along the side of her jaw.
"What?" she asked, arching forward, allowing him to explore her neck.
"Promise me…you'll have no regrets," he said.
God, she wished she could see his face at that moment. "I promise," she replied solemnly, reaching up to ruffle his hair.
The heady scent of him filled her nostrils, and she wondered…how could she ever give this up? Why could she not live in this moment for the rest of her life?
A buzzing sound captured her attention sometime later; reluctantly, she forced her eyes open. She stared at the underside of the library table in confusion, wondering just what she was doing there…then it came crashing back.
The kiss that had started it all.
Oh, God. Her heart lurched. What had she done?
"Kagome." Inuyasha stirred, bringing his lips to her cheek. "Are you okay?"
She clutched him with all her might, pressing her face into his shoulder, inhaling the scent of him, of them, trying to press it to her memory. I will not cry…I will not cry. Her embrace tightened around him, even as he lay atop her. I will not let him go.
…tomorrow, we're back to being friends…
"…and that's the moral of the story," Inuyasha concluded. "Love worth having, is love worth fighting for."
Their classmates applauded politely as Kagome and Inuyasha returned to their seats. Beyond a small nod, an acknowledgement of mutual accomplishment, they didn't look at each other. They sat through the rest of the class, listening to the other presentations, participating in the discussion lead by the teacher. It seemed they all found different, interesting, and yet evocative tales to share, and the unit, on the whole, was quite successful.
Kagome looked at the ring on her finger, watched the band play prettily in the light from the far window. Ever since that fateful night, she'd felt empty inside. Not only literally (now she knew what she was missing), but figuratively. One night with Inuyasha, the cap of a three-week stint in his presence, had shown her just how empty and unfulfilling her life was.
She had no one to blame but herself, of course. But, she had lived her life the best way she knew how. Good Girl was a role she could wear with ease and comfort, and it had gotten her quite far in life. She was so close to achieving all of her dreams…
…she hazarded a look to her right, glancing at Inuyasha under her eyelashes.
How could she thank him, for all that he'd done for her? How could she live her life without the passion he'd shown her? Would she have to? Would they drift apart, even though they were irrevocably linked together now?
The final bell rang, signaling the end of class. All around them, people bustled about, chatting and laughing and leaving the room. Kagome could only sit there, glued to her seat, staring at the ring that branded her.
This wasn't supposed to happen.
The teacher left after the hustle of students, leaving the two of them alone in the empty classroom. Inuyasha slowly stood and gathered his belongings, throwing his backpack across his shoulders with ease. Kagome didn't look at him; she didn't need to. Her body thrummed at his closeness.
Something clinked against the lacquered wooden desktop in front of her. She blinked, focusing on the object with a mixture of surprise and fear. It was a Shikon Jewel keychain, one like her grandfather hawked, but there was something…different about it. She picked it up, letting the cool stone roll between her fingers…and she saw it.
Glints of gold and silver winked in the sunlight. The 'Sunset Shrine' tag had been embossed, the English letters traded for Japanese characters. On the opposite side, tiny silver characters spelled out her name.
"I had them made up for us," Inuyasha said quietly. She looked up to see him standing beside her desk. "As sort of a 'saying goodbye' present. You know, for the project."
She stood up as well, cradling the trinket in the palm of her hands. "Thank you."
He shrugged. "I should probably be thanking you," he replied. "It's the first time I've ever gotten an A on a school project."
She smiled, but shook her head all the same. "No, thank you. For…everything." A traitorous blush stalked the back of her neck, but she forged on. "I'm not afraid of thunderstorms anymore."
He chuckled. "That's good to hear."
Her cheeks glowed as memories washed through her mind. "I know we agreed – no regrets – but…I do have one."
He swallowed convulsively. "And what's that?" he asked quietly.
She couldn't resist reaching for his hair one last time, letting the cascade of silver fall through her fingers. "That I can never have you again," she replied.
Something wicked curved his mouth as he returned the slight caress. "Never say never," he chided. His free hand curled over hers, where she held the Shikon Jewel. A slow wave of heat permeated the air at the touch, swirling around her body, tempting her…
The moment was shattered with a hesitant knock on the classroom door. "Kagome? Is everything okay?" Hojo's head appeared, concern radiating from his face.
Kagome sighed as she faced him. "Everything's fine," she replied with false cheer. "I was just saying goodbye to Inuyasha."
She returned her attention to her ex-partner, smiling sadly as he released her hands. "Goodbye," she said. She felt the finality of the word as well; no matter what she desired, this was the Right Thing to do. She had come too far, worked too hard, to throw everything away now.
Passion was dangerous. Grand passion was addicting. Emotions wouldn't get her into medical school, help her land a good job, or advance her career. She'd go back to being as she was before. Steady. Safe. Solid. Practical.
Inuyasha watched the conflicting sentiments flutter across her expression. "Goodbye for now, Kagome. I'll see you around sometime, yeah?" He gave her shoulder one last squeeze before turning away…heading out the door…out of her life…
Author's Note: This story was originally conceived as a drabble for a prompt contest. To read the original piece, please see Chapter 2, "Memento," in my Collected Works collection.
The lyrics used as scene breaks are from the following songs:
Lover Lay Down / Satellite © 1994 Dave Matthews Band
Two Step / Say Goodbye © 1996 Dave Matthews Band