Control. Infirmity. Defiance.
Chapter 1: Unexpected Assistance
Kagome clenched her fists. What was she supposed to be feeling right now?
'I… wasn't able to save Kikyou…?' The thought that she would fail, the thought that she could fail hadn't even crossed her mind in her desperate flight up and down the steps of Mount Azusa. Seeing Kikyou's face darken in pain, Kagome felt as though she were the one about to shatter. Worse than knowing she failed, worse than the guilt she felt at her own selfishness on the mountain, even worse than the helplessness of knowing Kikyou was in pain and there wasn't a darned thing she could do about it was the absolute loss and agony she could see in InuYasha's amber eyes.
Even closing her eyes, she couldn't block out his pain; his anguished face was burned into her retinas as though she were going blind. Was that all she'd see for the rest of her days? InuYasha clutching Kikyou as though he could hold her soul in the clay body through sheer force, turning away from the group to hide the tears she knew he was shedding, replayed over and over in her head like a sick movie?
"I'm sorry…" InuYasha was choking on his own words, "Could you leave the two of us alone?" Kagome suddenly realized she would do anything, absolutely anything to take that pained expression off his face.
"No!" The tingling warmth that filled her entire body became too much to control. As though her body was acting of its own volition, Kagome launched herself at her preincarnation and the hanyou she loved. Sango, Miroku and Kouga stared in confusion. InuYasha himself was so shocked he didn't move, only grunting slightly at the force with which she hurled herself at them. Kagome didn't notice she had begun to glow a bright pink.
Kikyou's eyes widened at the little miko's actions. "Kagome… you cannot think to…"
"I don't know what I'm thinking," Kagome spat out, more harshly than she intended. "I don't know that I am thinking." The pure burn of Kagome's aura became too much for the hanyou, who had to set down the women before he found himself trapped in his vulnerable human state.
A corporeal glow, thicker than fog and blue-tinted, formed around the two women. Kagome's pink aura merged with Kikyou's bluer one in a blinding purple flash.
When everybody could look up again, the two lay next to each other. Kikyou's breath came in rattling gasps, but the ever-growing scent of death had dissipated, leaving only her usual grave-soil scent mixed with her natural one. On the other hand, Kagome was so pale her skin was nearly translucent. She panted in deep, shuddering breaths, clutching her chest, tears leaking through eyes clenched tightly shut.
"We must… get to… my sister's home…" Kikyou stumbled a bit over her words, but she no longer seemed to be hovering on the verge of death. Next to her, Kagome had begun to go still. InuYasha nodded, looking over to Sango and Kirara. Kouga made a motion to pick Kagome up as InuYasha grabbed Kikyou again, but Miroku put his hand on the youkai prince's shoulder.
"You're still recovering from having your jewel shards ripped out, Kouga. I'm afraid time is of the essence." Kouga looked for a moment as though he would argue with the monk, but reluctantly agreed. He could hear how sluggishly Kagome's heart was beating. Promising to swing by later, Kouga took off in the opposite direction.
"What did Kagome do, Miroku?" Sango asked over her shoulder as Kirara flew toward the village. Transformed into a bird, Shippou kept sneaking worried looks at his mother-figure, lying still in Sango's arms. Sango shifted, concern flooding through her veins. Kagome was like her sister; she was already so close to losing Kohaku, could she lose the girl who'd come so close to her?
"I'm not sure. Whatever she did wiped her out, though. It's obvious she purified some of the miasma from Lady Kikyou's wounds, but have you also noticed how none of her Shini-dama-chuu have appeared? It's as though she no longer requires souls to stay alive."
Sango gasped. In the rush to make sure Kagome was comfortable for the trip back, she hadn't noticed the disappearance of the worm-like youkai. Now, though, their absence left a foreboding feeling in the taijya's gut. As though he sensed her change of mood, 'He probably did,' she reminded herself, Miroku tightened his hold on the woman. She leaned back into his soothing embrace for just a moment before resting her hand on Kagome's forehead. The girl was cool to the touch: too cool.
"InuYasha, we have to hurry! Let's go, Kirara." With a roar, the two-tail surged forward in a burst of fire and speed.
Kaede's sharp intake of breath as she inspected her sister both physically and spiritually did not go unnoticed by any of the group.
"What? What's wrong?" InuYasha's nerves were shot straight to hell, having watched the woman he loved nearly die; only to be apparently saved by the other woman he loved. Now on one side of the hut, Kagome slept, unresponsive, and Kikyou was too weak to explain what the younger miko had done. "Miroku and Kaede were forced to probe Kagome's aura in hope of finding answers after coaxing a revitalizing tea down her throat."
"Nothing's wrong, per say, InuYasha. It is simply… Kikyou, you say Kagome did this of her own accord?"
Kikyou managed a nod as InuYasha fumed. "Oi! What did Kagome do to her?"
Kagome's eyes opened weakly at his outburst, his anger and pain drawing her from dark unconsciousness. She mistook his frustration in not knowing what had occurred as anger. Kagome's first thought upon waking was that even in saving Kikyou, she couldn't make InuYasha happy. The thought lingered as she felt her grasp on wakefulness slipping again. "InuYasha…" Kagome muttered her hanyou's name painfully as she lost her battle with sleep.
"Kagome! What did you do? Why did you do it?" His anxious eyes swept over the miko's once again still form, noting worriedly that she had fallen asleep again.
"Do not wake her, InuYasha. She will need her rest. Kagome has accomplished something I have never before seen. She has… I assume willingly… transferred a larger part of the soul she shares with Kikyou into this clay body." Kaede's voice was tinged with shock. She was unsure how the little miko had completed the task. "Not only that, but she has created a type of barrier tying the soul to the body for now."
Miroku lifted his head. "Is that why the soul collectors are no longer hovering near Lady Kikyou? Because Kagome's soul is large enough to fill the body?"
Kaede nodded. "But the barrier is weak and fluctuating. I believe Kagome will need to strengthen it when she awakens."
"When will that be, old hag?" InuYasha's brash demeanor was made less threatening by the confusion and fear evident in his eyes. That he wasn't hiding his emotions at the moment was a shock to his travel companions, but they all knew how much he cared for the two incapacitated women.
"I know not, InuYasha. Kagome used almost all her strength: she is untrained and should not have been able to do what she did. She will most likely sleep for a long while and remain tired for many days." Kaede sighed, sitting somewhat heavily near the fire, staring into its depths. "I do not know how this soul transfer will affect either my sister... or Kagome."
"What do you mean?" Kaede had brought up what Shippou feared the most. "Will they be different now?"
"Keh. They're two completely different people who happened to share a soul. How could this affect who they are?" InuYasha's eyebrow was twitching, a sure sign that an explosion was imminent.
Miroku looked up at the hanyou. "This is true; they are most certainly two very different women. However, in Lady Kagome's haste, she may have transferred not just part of a soul, but part of herself into Lady Kikyou. Remember, Lady Kagome is untrained, but exceedingly powerful."
Kaede nodded. "We will not know until Kagome awakens what the repercussions of her actions may be. Perhaps they will not manifest themselves right away. It is too soon to tell much."
Kikyou groaned a little bit, shifting to get comfortable. "Only Kagome will be able to reinforce this barrier that ties me to this world. It is something unique. I wonder if she remembers how she did it."
"I want to know why she did it!" InuYasha nearly bellowed, only belatedly remembering to keep his voice down.
Kikyou let out a quiet laugh, sounding tired but somehow happier than she ever had before. "For a moment as she worked to heal me, I was connected with her very being. The only thing she was thinking was that losing me would destroy you. Dear InuYasha, she was only thinking about making you smile again."
This revelation sent nearly everybody reeling.
Shippou gazed worriedly at the woman he had come to mentally call "Okaa-san." 'Kagome's heart is so big. She's in love with InuYasha and still risked her life to save that stupid Kikyou!'
Out of the way, Sango also reflected on her best friend's huge heart. She could see Miroku felt the same way she did as he looked admiringly at the young woman from the future. 'Kagome has shed so many tears over InuYasha's obsession with Kikyou. If I were in her place, I don't think I could have saved my rival. Yet, she gave her very soul to try to make InuYasha smile again.'
InuYasha wasn't smiling, nor was Kaede. The elderly miko worried about the consequences of Kagome's actions. This construct of clay and bones, though it housed her sister's soul, was not the woman of fifty years past. Though she had always harbored a wish to see her sister again, she wished Kikyou could finally rest as she should have originally been allowed to. Urasue's black magic had been allowed to continue on far too long.
InuYasha finally got up from his spot next to Kikyou, walking the few steps to kneel next to Kagome. The little miko's face was contorted, as though she was under a heavy strain or in great pain. His back to the rest of the group, nobody saw the concern in his eyes.
'Kagome, did you really do this for me? Why? You… stupid, stupid girl… What have you done to yourself?'
Kagome awoke late the next morning. Upon opening her eyes, she discovered splitting pain of a headache so intense it was all she could do to close her eyes again. If it hadn't been for her voracious hunger, she would have vaguely wondered if someone had spiked her... whatever she'd had to drink the night before. Shippou, charged with keeping an eye on his foster-mother, scampered over from where he sat coloring as she let out a pained groan.
"Are you okay, Kagome? You shouldn't get up yet. Kaede says you'll need to eat something. They gave you a funny tea yesterday, but she said that wasn't really filling and that you should have real food now." Shippou was digging in the big yellow backpack now as he jabbered excitedly to his mother-figure, thrilled she had awoken. "At least you weren't all beat up, right? You just need energy! I don't think InuYasha will mind too much if we give you some of his ramen." He turned back to Kagome and noticed she'd started to slip out from under her blankets. "Stay there, Kagome! I can do it!" He awaited her small nod of approval at his choice in food, and then answered her unasked questions.
"Kaede is making her rounds, checking on the villagers. Kikyou went to gather herbs; I think InuYasha went to guard her. Kikyou's still kind of weak you know, but Miroku says you helped her a lot!" He took a deep breath as he poured the now boiling water into the cup, letting it sit while he dug in the oversize bag for a pair of chopsticks. "Miroku and Sango went hunting for dinner tonight. We're going to have to eat really good to get up our strength and make sure we're ready for any battles that come our way!" His chest puffed out proudly. "Oh, and they're making sure there're no youkai around. They're worried that Naraku will find out that Kikyou didn't really die and come here to try and finish her off! He might even try to kill you because you saved her!" The kit's tail twitched in terror at the thought.
Shippou stared at the steaming cup of noodles, biting his lip. "Sango and Kikyou were talking about trying to find Kohaku. His scent disappeared with Sesshomaru's, I think. Earlier today though, the air… kinda smelled like Sesshomaru and another youkai, InuYasha said. He thought about going to check it out when you're feeling better."
Kagome managed a weak smile as he proudly handed her the offering, having wrapped up his recitation of recent events. "Why don't you check and see if there's any pocky left in my bag, Shippou?"
He turned sparkling wide eyes on her, "Even though it's before midday?"
Kagome nodded. "That's right. You've been a great deal of help to me so far."
Shippou puffed out his little chest with pride, bringing a small smile to Kagome's face as he raced to the corner to get his treat. Box in hand, he contemplated the treat before joining her on her blankets and offering her a few sticks. "You can have some of my treat, Kagome," he offered with the air of somebody going incredibly out of their way. "After all, you were really helpful, too… you kept Kikyou alive, even if dog-boy can't properly show his appreciation." He munched on a stick before adding, "And you need to get strong like me!"
"InuYasha! Don't worry, I'm fine." Kikyou's voice, carried on the wind, held a happiness Miroku had never really heard in her voice before. 'I suppose she may have been that happy while she was alive,' the monk mused, 'perhaps it is a reflection of the warmth of Kagome's soul?'
InuYasha held out his hand to the resurrected miko, who had stumbled while walking up the path to Kaede's hut. "I just don't want you to strain yourself." His gaze shifted from the miko next to him to the hut, ears perked. 'I don't know if Kagome can heal you again.'
Sniffing the air, the hanyou knew Miroku, Sango and Kirara had landed nearby and called out a greeting. Miroku returned it as Sango slung two deer carcasses off Kirara's back. "This should make a substantial meal."
Kikyou smiled. "Kagome will need a good meal to help build her strength back up. Good food and rest are the best remedies right now, as well as time. I've gathered herbs to make her a restorative drink, as well."
Miroku almost chuckled at the confused look on the hanyou's face as he gazed at Kikyou. InuYasha almost looked as though he was meeting Kikyou for the first time, and, in a way, he was. InuYasha had known and loved Kikyou in her prime, when she was the revered miko who purified and protected the Shikon no Tama. Though he never said so, it was obvious InuYasha truly cared for the miko's reincarnation, who was bubblier and more outgoing than Kikyou would have ever allowed herself to be.
Nobody was quite sure how InuYasha felt about the resurrected Kikyou, but it was obvious he felt at the very least a deep sense of responsibility toward her. Once reanimated Kikyou had been free to act as she saw fit, but had also been fueled by hatred and a need for revenge. Now, with more of Kagome's soul, she seemed happier; more approachable and relaxed. This was obviously throwing InuYasha for a loop, and he was unsure how to respond.
InuYasha's ears turned toward the hut as all of them heard Shippou's voice rise in a pitiful shout. The hanyou growled quietly, stalking up to the door just as Kagome began to walk out.
"Shippou, I'm just fine! If you don't stop pushing on me, though, I'm going to trip! Will you please just let me-" Her protests were cut off quickly as she put actions to words and stumbled and fell into InuYasha's waiting arms.
"Oi, wench! What the hell do you think you're doing?" InuYasha seemed close to carrying her back inside. Kagome must have sensed his intentions, because she began to struggle against his grip.
"Oh, come on! I'm not the one who was hurt last night! I'm just fine! See? I need to move around some, my legs are getting cramped up just lying around!" Unfortunately for Kagome, her strength was nothing compared to InuYasha's, who simply moved with her efforts so as not to tire her out.
"C'mon Ka-Go-Me; we're going to make some dinner. You need to eat." He let go of Kagome's wrists as she threw her arms in the air. Still, InuYasha was pleased to see her turn around and head back into the hut, muttering under her breath about overprotective youkai and hanyou and stupid men.
Shortly after nightfall, Kagome moved to sit next to Kikyou at Kaede's encouragement. Her lips were pale, pressed tightly together as she took a seat next to the calmer miko. "We should do this while your body has enough energy to do so. Are you ready?" Kaede asked, staring Kagome in the eyes. The younger girl worried her bottom lip, shifting her weight from one side to the other before finally nodding weakly.
InuYasha glanced at each miko in turn, finally focusing on Kagome as he cocked his head. "Kagome?" There was a wealth of questions in that one word, but as always, Kagome understood. She smiled softly at him. "It's fine, InuYasha. Kaede has talked to me about what I have to do. It's just-" She gulped, staring at her hands with a bit of trepidation. "…I've never done this before."
Miroku chuckled. "Nobody has, Lady Kagome. You're in uncharted territory."
Kagome rolled her eyes and responded dryly. "Thanks, Miroku. It's really encouraging to know that if I mess up, nobody can fix it."
"There's nothing to worry about. You instinctually created this barrier; I have no doubt you will be able to strengthen it on instinct, as well," Kaede responded, moving with Miroku to sit closer to the two women. Miroku was about to place his hands on Kagome's shoulders for support when a low growl filled the room.
"InuYasha, you wound me!"
"I'll wound you, all right! Watch the hands, monk!"
Miroku raised his eyes to the heavens for guidance, then motioned to the women. "Perhaps you would like to help instead, InuYasha? I am simply here to help support Lady Kagome in this first night of strengthening the barrier. I am sure Lady Kagome would appreciate your help…"
Kagome blushed at the suggestion, while the hanyou turned his face away so nobody could see the similar look on his face. InuYasha took a second to weigh the options. On one hand, he'd be touching Kagome with everybody around, and in front of Kikyou, and he was always confused when the two of them were near each other. On the other hand, he'd be touching Kagome… and the monk wouldn't be. InuYasha swiftly shouldered the monk out of the way.
"What do I have to do?"
Behind InuYasha, Miroku grinned at Sango and Shippou; all three were pleased to see InuYasha taking a part in the process. Perhaps Kagome would be bolstered by the hanyou's willingness to be near her in front of Kikyou? 'One can hope, at least.'
"Simply place your hands on her shoulders, InuYasha. Don't squeeze, but put enough pressure for her to know you're there." InuYasha's skin looked like it was reflecting his haori as he grasped the girl's shoulders with his calloused palms.
"Keh. What's the point?" InuYasha tried not to sound as curious as he really was about the process.
"You are acting as Kagome's anchor, InuYasha." Kaede spoke from Kikyou's shoulder. "You will be there to provide something for Kagome's soul to latch onto if necessary, so she doesn't inadvertently merge more of her soul with Kikyou's body. Any more could prove dangerous to her. Are you ready to begin, Kagome?"
Kagome nodded, closing her eyes. She started to glow a pale pink, and InuYasha's hands shot up off her shoulders. "Oi, wait! I'm not gonna get purified, am I?"
Kikyou laughed, a fairly unfamiliar noise to most in the hut. "No, InuYasha; Kagome will not purify you. Do not be concerned."
Kagome turned to face him, obviously hurt. The message was clear: "Would I ever willingly hurt you?" It was like she was speaking to him mentally. InuYasha shifted a bit at the insinuation before meeting her eyes, a small smile on his face, and reaching to smooth back a lock of hair from her face. He caught himself just before his knuckles brushed her cheeks; flushed slightly, he changed the direction of his hand to grasp her shoulder, twisting her back around. Staring straight ahead, unwilling to see if the lecher had caught his near indiscretion, he squeezed her shoulder encouragingly. "Okay, go ahead, wench."
Kaede smiled. "Kagome, close your eyes and look for the barrier you've placed inside Kikyou's body."
InuYasha tried, kami help him, he really did, but he couldn't bite back his comment fast enough. "Feh! You tell her to close her eyes but then to look for something? Make up your mind!"
Kagome's shoulders shook, and InuYasha quickly sniffed the air for any tell-tale signs of tears, wondering quickly what he could have said to make Kagome upset. Then he realized she was smothering an outbreak of giggles and felt only a bit better. 'They're laughing at me, damn it! But at least Kagome's smiling again; she was too quiet at dinner. Something's bugging her.'
"It was a bad choice of words, InuYasha. I should have said 'search.'" She stifled her quiet chuckles before clarifying, motioning with her hand as she added, "What Kagome is looking for is a spiritual barrier; she is seeking it with her miko's aura."
"Have you anymore questions, InuYasha? Or may we continue?" Kaede narrowed her gaze on InuYasha.
Kagome could feel InuYasha bristling behind her. "Let's do this," she interrupted. "Kikyou's getting weaker." She closed her eyes, taking one of Kikyou's hands, and began to glow pink as her aura rose up to greet the other part of her soul.
InuYasha's eyes grew wide as the aura began to detach itself from the younger miko. Kagome began to slump slightly. Miroku grew alarmed, "Stop her, InuYasha!"
"Oi, wench! Just the barrier. She don't need any more of your soul." He tightened his hold on her as he could almost feel her soul slipping out from her body. He was relieved when she straightened under her own strength a moment later.
"Mmkay… I've found the barrier. I just pour strength into it until it glows solid again, right?" Kagome's voice sounded strained as she waited for the affirmative from Kaede. With Kaede's acknowledgment, Kagome's glow flickered; a moment later, Kikyou began to radiate the same shade as Kagome's powers. What felt like a lifetime, but was truthfully mere moments later, Kagome slumped backward, breathing heavily.
This time, InuYasha did not hesitate to push her bangs from her eyes; he allowed her to crumple bonelessly into his shoulder as he brushed his hand against her forehead. It was cold to the touch, as though she'd given even her body heat to Kikyou. A second later, she began to shiver; InuYasha absently wrapped his trailing haori sleeves around her.
"Oi, you okay?" Her head bobbed lightly in what may have been her attempt at a nod. Leaning forward to study her face, he noticed just how pale she was; how dull her usually emotional eyes were. He didn't like it one bit: she looked… to be honest, a lot more like Kikyou than she ever had before.
InuYasha scowled; the whole situation was fucking headache-inducing. His concern grew as she let out a cavernous yawn.
"C'mon, let's get you into bed." Ignoring the various looks from everybody in the room in favor of making sure Kagome was taken care of, InuYasha stood, Kagome in his arms. He carried her over and lay her down in her sleeping bag, where she fell asleep seconds later. Shippou was more than happy to curl up at the young woman's side, warming her and feeling as though he was helping by protecting her.
The rest of the group waited up, talking about Naraku and what could be waiting for them in the next few days. They were half-way through a quietly heated discussion over where Naraku might be hiding and what his newest goal would be (Kikyou or Kohaku?) when a multi-toned roar shook the forest outside.
InuYasha shot to his feet, withdrawing his sword as he ran out the door. Miroku, Sango, Kikyou and Kaede were at his heels, all afraid of the same possibility. Shippou hung back on InuYasha's orders. "Stay with Kagome! If she wakes up, do not let her go outside!"
Naraku's stench was on the wind; he had sent a horde to finish the work he apparently hadn't accomplished the night before. InuYasha heard Kirara's warning growl as she dispatched some of the small fry, Sango wielding Hiraikotsu from her back. Miroku had taken up a guard position just inside the village with Kaede, strengthening a barrier to protect the village before turning his kazaana on the threatening group.
Kikyou refused to ride upon InuYasha's back, choosing to run next to him, sending purifying arrows into the fray. He heard a shout as some of the stronger ranks began pounding against the barrier. There were just too many youkai to keep track of and keep down. In just minutes, they had burst through the defenses.
'Kagome!' InuYasha's thoughts immediately strayed to the young woman lying in the hut near the shrine steps. 'I can't let anything happen to her!'
Turning on his heel, InuYasha tore through the village to see Kagome bracing herself up against the wall of Kaede's hut. Shippou clutched her leg, sobbing and begging for her to go in the hut; Kagome ignored his pleas. InuYasha could tell in an instant the kit had stood no chance against the wench when she was determined. He was still pissed. "What the fuck do you think you're doing, bitch? Get back inside!"
Kagome bit her lower lip angrily. "I'm fine! I can help!" She was sorely disappointed, however, when her first arrow's tip flickered a rather pale pink for just a moment before losing its momentum. Even in the heat of battle, InuYasha saw the shock and despair in her eyes as he swept down, pulling her out of the way of a gaping, tooth-filled jaw. Kikyou's arrow, glowing brightly, cleared out the remaining creatures that threatened them. As purification power lit the night sky, Kagome's head slumped dejectedly to her chest, the pink reflecting in Kagome's dull eyes.
More thanks than I can possibly express go to the amazingly awesome angelica incarnate, who helped re-direct my run-away verbosity. *grins*
Disclaimer: I do not own InuYasha or any other characters from the anime/manga. They all belong to Rumiko Takahashi.