Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of Rumiko Takashi. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No copyright infringement is intended.

Author's Note: I've returned to the game after a very long hiatus. I just read over my note from the last chapter I updated and I must admit that I indeed lied. Sorry about that. But I'm back and I'll be trying to update as often as I can. I've re-written this chapter, by the way. Just in case you're read the second half of this already.

Also, I've decided to fix the tense from past to present. I am now taking the advice of White and Strunk and using an active voice so please bear with me.

Hope you can all forgive me for my absence and welcome me back with open arms—or at least mind. As always, tell me what you think. Enjoy!

Chapter Thirty-Six: Away

The bright moonlight cast luminescent rays through the foliage as Sesshomaru strides to the makeshift camp where two beautiful human females await his arrival. He takes his time, seizing the opportunity to sort through his thoughts. On more than one occasion he wondered how it came to be that he finds himself in such a situation. Tragedy, he decides. It was tragedy who graces him with such gifts. How ironic, he muses, as a ghost of a smile pulls at the corner of his lips. His life has taken such an unexpected turn. If it was for the better or worse, he does not know.

Doubt plagues him. Does the danger of his presence outweigh his ability to protect those for whom he grows attachment? Will he always be able to prevent harm from coming to them? Panic creeps slowly into his mind. He failed as a guardian to one whom he cared for dearly in the past and he must forever suffer the repercussions of his missteps. Coming upon the small clearing—his destination—Sesshomaru's gaze falls upon a scene that made his heart ache, nearly crippled by the fear of failure both past and possible. The child sits on Sango's lap humming as the older girl runs long fingers through her dark tresses. They are so innocent, so incredibly fragile. He is pollution to their lives. No good comes from a Demon Lord as cruel as he.

His thoughts force him into himself as the rest of the world recedes—turning into something distant—only the doubt and panic is real. A small voice calls his name is the faraway reality—timid, uncertain. It pierces through the dark thoughts and lifts the clouds his mind pulling him from the grasp of the demons that lurk within. Sesshomaru focuses cool eyes on Rin; his child by circumstance, his ward, his responsibility.

"Hello," he greets her, barely clear from the hell of his mind.

Almost immediately, the child springs from Sango's lap and wraps her small arms around his leg in a manner of such familiarity he can't help but smile. Perhaps this is the answer to the questions that plague him. Her love and dedication strengthens him. Maybe he will be able to protect her, do what is best for her. She is so quick to forgive his folly he almost feels as if he can do no wrong so dire by her that she will turn from him. The smile spread further across his face at this thought. He can do this, he yells to the demons of doubt. He cannot allow for failure. She believes in him too much for that.

With a graceful sweep of his arm, he scoops up the child and holds her closely against his chest, placing his cheek against hers as she laughs at the unexpected change in altitude. Her laughter was a song that rivals the sweetest of melodies. In front of him, Sango stands watching with a soft expression on her lovely face. He offers her a gentle smile as well to convey his appreciation and she reciprocates in kind, the smile touching her eyes in the way he has come to crave.

"You certainly took your time," Sango chides playfully. "I was getting worried that you weren't coming back."

"Truly?" He asks.

"No," she says with a touch of seriousness. "I knew you wouldn't walk away from us."

Sesshomaru looks down at the child now snuggled into his neck. "You are right," he answers with newfound conviction, placing a soft kiss on Rin's forehead.

Again, the pair gifts him with their smiles and he feels peculiar warmth spreading through his chest. Love, he decides. It is love that fills him now.

The miracle of movies was something that Inuyasha is starting to get use to. He and Kagome spent the better part of the morning watching some of Kagome's favourite animated movies. For some reason, it's much more difficult to explain the live action kind—it's simpler to say that these things were drawn by hand and are imagined. It definitely beats having to fill Inuyasha in on the decades of progress that happened between his time and hers. Besides, it was enough to entertain him for a while—Kagome really wants to relax. So the duo is camping out in the Higurashi living room with the girl stretched out on her stomach on the couch and the boy sitting with his legs crossed on the floor as the rest of the family went out to for some window shopping at the mall.

The Lion King has captured the inuyoukai's attention. He can grasp the idea of talking animals pretty easily—in fact, he can digest that better than the idea of a whole world ruled by humans. A curious glance at his face and Kagome can barely suppress a giggle. The boy didn't even blink as his eyes fix onto the LCD screen.

Suddenly, Inuyasha throws one hand up in exasperation and rolls his eyes. "Oh, come on," he exclaims. The unlikely cast of animals had broken out into a musical number in the movie. This time she had to laugh.

"Inuyasha, you do this every time they start to sing," she says.

With arms crossed he replies "I know but it's ridiculous. Do you see this shit? No one who starts to sing and dance like that in real life would be able to do it long enough without getting eaten."

"It's supposed to be fun."

"I don't think it's very fun," is his reply.

"Oh, you're such a grouch. I bet you're just hungry. Maybe that's why you're thinking about eating unsuspecting happy animals."

As if on cue, his stomach starts to rumble. It must be lunch time. She flashes a triumphant smile. "Yeah, I'll give you that one," he agrees.

Kagome sits up and stretches, "All right! Let's go to the kitchen and find some food. I'll pause the movie."

"Don't," he protests. "Let it go through the part of their stupid song and dance routine."


"What?" He replies innocently, "It is stupid."

"Ugh… what am I going to do with you?" She said as she walked toward the kitchen.

"Well for starters you could prepare a meal for me, woman," he teases. "It's like you don't know what I keep you around for."

"Just for that, smarty-pants, you're getting a salad for lunch."

Finally finding his way into the kitchen, Inuyasha plops himself onto one of the chairs surrounding the little round table. Kagome is already busying herself with heating water for ramen. A sigh escapes her lips—even when she's home she still has to eat ramen—but Inuyasha sure does love it. Besides, it only takes minutes to prepare which is always a plus.

With a voice he seems to reserve for the times he wants to say something of grave importance, the hanyou comments, "I don't understand how it is that humans can eat a meal of leaves—like damn rabbits. You might as well stick your faces in the ground and chew on the grass."

"It's good for us, fool," she chides. "Humans need vegetables in their diet for them to be healthy. It makes them good and strong!"

"Feh, demons only need meat."

"Is that so?" Kagome raised an eyebrow playfully. "But I've seen you eat vegetables. Don't you go and deny it."

Suddenly a dark, hurt look passes over his face. "I know," he mumbles. "I said demons only need meat."

Stupid girl! Why did she say that? The girl's hands immediately fly to her mouth.

"Inuyasha," she begins, words muffled by her palms. "I'm so sorry… I wasn't thinking…" He's not usually so sensitive; it only makes Kagome all the guiltier.

He shakes his head in protest, "No, it's fine." After a moment's hesitation he continues, "I've just had some things on my mind. You know, since last night and stuff. It's been kinda hard being reminded of it, is all. It's not your fault."

The boiling of the kettle cut through the heavy silence that filled the space. Kagome solemnly pours the hot water into two bowls of instant noodles. It still feels as if it was her fault, though. With great care not spill the contents of the Styrofoam containers she brings them over to the table where the oddly quiet Inuyasha sits, placing a bowl and a pair of chopsticks in front of him and doing the same for herself as she takes the seat across.

She watches as he peels the rest of the cover off his meal and dips his chopsticks into it without the vigour that was characteristic of his love for the artificially flavoured delicacy.

Finally mustering up the courage, she offers, "You know you could always talk to me about what's bothering you."

He looks up at her, "Nothing's bothering me."

"Don't lie to me. I know you enough by now; you're never this serious."

He looks pensive for an extended moment and in surrender, he confesses, "It's about my brother. What with his being around all the time now it's making me think of shit I haven't thought about in years. Why did that bastard have to come out of nowhere like he did anyway?" As an afterthought, he adds, "I would have been just peachy without him."

She nods in understanding. "Some people say," she says reaching across the table for his hand. "That sometimes it helps to talk about it."

His honey-coloured eyes shoot her a skeptical look. "Feh," he shrugs. "We can try it your way then, if you want. But let's go to your room. I don't really want to talk about this out in the open, you know, just in case someone comes home."

Letting go of his hand, Kagome flashes him a soft smile in agreement and they continue their meal in silence. After they've finished, Kagome clears the table and lead the way upstairs to her room. Inuyasha follows a few steps behind her still wearing an expression of sadness on his face that was so out of place on his usual tough exterior.

"What's wrong?" she asks him after they settle themselves on the bed with him lying on his side, hand supporting his head, and her on her stomach. Their bodies are almost touching. It surprises her how comfortable they've suddenly become with one another. Or perhaps they were always so familiar—they just didn't have many opportunities to be alone like this. She studies him as he looks past her seemingly trying to find the words to begin.

"A part of me, I guess…" he hesitates, "wants Sesshomaru to accept me."

"How come?" she asks. All this time, he led everyone to believe that he didn't care about what his elder brother thought of him. She can't understand why Inuyasha would feel as if he needed to gain his approval.

His shoulders rise in a minute shrug, "I don't know. I know you don't really get it but Sesshomaru, like I said, wasn't always such a pain in the ass. I feel like he, of all the people in the world… really… understands me—you know? Because he's been there from the get go. And the more I see him with that little girl—and Sango, even—the more I see the big brother I used to have. He's in there. Underneath all that being heartless crap. I can fucking see it!"

Kagome reaches for his hand again. "Inuyasha…" she says searching for the right thing to say but the words fail her. She wants to comfort him, ease his anxiety but it's too much to process at once. Instead, she lets go of his hand and wraps her arms around him pulling him into an embrace. It was the best she could do.

Inuyasha buries his face in her neck bringing his own arms to encircle her waist. She holds him tighter. He relaxes onto her soft curves and began to chuckle.

She pulls away the confusion on her face said it all.

"You didn't think this whole 'talk-about-it' idea through, did you?" He smirks, "You can't even say anything. I don't think it works that way."

Kagome's face flushes, "Well, I—" she began in defense but was cut off by Inuyasha's lips on hers. As quickly as it had come, he pulls away with an even wider smirk.

"Don't worry, though," Inuyasha pulls her close once again. "This is enough for me."