Author's Note: This idea came to me a couple of years ago after watching the Naginata of Kenkon arc—more specifically, the episode "An Ancestor Named Kagome." Basically that arc always frustrated me, not just because it was filler (actually, I enjoy a break from playing "ring around the Naraku" once in awhile… --grin--), but because there was this great little thread that never really came to anything. Not that I expected it to become a big deal, but I always thought there was an obvious direction to go with it, and they just never went there. Anyway, if you haven't seen the episode, don't worry about it—you shouldn't have any trouble following the fic. And spoiler issues are negligible, especially considering the episodes were filler anyway.

Anyway, I think I basically finished this awhile ago, but for some reason I never got around to posting it. I stumbled across it today and thought I would go ahead and put it up…

What's in a Name?

Kagome was late. Again. And Inuyasha was going to retrieve her.


He heaved a sigh as he alighted on her window sill and slid back the glass pane. This would all be so much simpler if that girl would just get her act together and come back when she said she was going to once in awhile.

Well, okay, maybe he was a little early. But just a little—like, an hour. Or two.

Okay, six, but who was counting?

Dropping expertly onto the carpet, he folded his arms and glanced around the empty room. A downy ear flicked atop his head, picking up the sound of running water from across the hall—she was probably taking a shower. She always did that when she came home. Come to think of it, she did it an awful lot back in the feudal era too. What was that girl's obsession with being so…clean all the time? She spent half her life soaking wet—didn't it ever get annoying?

Not that he could say he minded the sweet, fresh smell of her hair and skin after she bathed…but still, how fast could she possibly get dirty?

He moseyed over to the mirrored dresser that faced the window and started poking through the mess of papers and bottles and little containers of multicolored powders and paints she called "makeup." She said it was worn on the face—like the stuff he'd heard geisha wore to make them prettier—though he'd rarely seen her wear it. Why she had so much of it if she never wore it was beyond his comprehension. She said it was for "special occasions," but she couldn't seem to name any when he'd asked what sort. Strange girl…

He pulled the cap off a small blue tube and sniffed at the rose-colored paint inside, scrunching up his nose at the dry, faintly petroleum-like stench and quickly replacing the cap. Weird stuff. Only in Kagome's era would you put something like that on your face. Shaking his head with a bemused smile, he nudged aside a stack of papers and tugged at one that resembled something with which he was familiar. It was on the same blindingly white, smooth paper that was common in Kagome's time, and the ink was the sort that came out of Kagome's "printer," but what was printed on the paper looked like a section of an ancestral scroll. He could see the edge of the family name label at the top—the Hojo family.

Hojo…where had he heard that name Hojo before…?

Frowning his curiosity, he scanned the names on the page, only just then noticing that one of them had been circled, with a little heart drawn next to it. His eyebrows jumped in surprise when he read the name: Kagome Hojo.

Kagome Hojo? Well…that was a coincidence…


He followed the line that connected the mysterious Kagome Hojo to her husband…Akitoki.

Akitoki Hojo.

Okay, it was a big coincidence…

A few moments passed before he realized that his hand was slowly tightening into a fist, crumpling the paper inside it, and his left fang was boring a hole in his bottom lip. Noticing these completely unaccountable signs of panic, he gave himself a mental shake—he was being ridiculous. After all, Kagome was a pretty common name. And just because they happened to know this Akitoki guy, and he happened to live in the era to which Kagome traveled, and she happened to have a copy of this little family tree, which happened to have her name circled, and there happened to be a little heart next to it, that didn't really mean anything, did it? Of course not. It was all just—

His fevered rationalizations were interrupted by the sound of the shower turning off, and all of a sudden Inuyasha knew he didn't want to be there when she walked in. Aside from the fact that she would probably sit him through the floor if she found him standing there staring at her when she was wearing nothing but a towel, he also wasn't sure he was capable of intelligent speech at the moment. It seemed a strategic retreat was in order.

He folded the paper in half and stuffed it in his haori for further consideration as he leaped for the window and headed off across the grounds to the well.

Kagome arrived back in the feudal era about three hours later. He knew because he had spent those three hours hunkered in the branches of a tree that overlooked the well clearing—close enough that he could see and smell her when she arrived, but far enough away that she probably wouldn't notice him hidden up there in the shadows. For most of that time, he alternated between scrutinizing the piece of paper he had pilfered from Kagome's room, looking—out of mere curiosity, of course—for some solid evidence to suggest that this Kagome was not his Kagome, and stuffing the paper back in his haori and trying very hard not to think about it at all (which didn't work very well). Despite his best efforts to suppress them, memories of the last time they had met up with Akitoki kept sidling to the surface. There had been that time when they were after the Naginata of Kenkon when Kagome and Akitoki had fallen off a cliff and been washed away by the river below. They had been alone together for some time, he recalled. At the time, it hadn't really occurred to him to worry about this—he was more worried about whether or not Kagome was safe than who she was with and what they might be doing. It had never so much as crossed his mind that Akitoki might be a threat. But the more he thought about it now, the longer that stretch of time seemed, and the more glaringly obvious it became that Kagome never seemed to mention what had happened while they were separated. Not once. Sure, it wasn't like he'd brought up the subject himself—but still, Kagome talked about everything. Was she keeping something from him? What could she have to hide?

His stomach turned at the thought.

When at last he caught her scent from within the clearing and looked over to see her head appear over the lip of the well, he kept still and silent, not wanting her to know he was there. Once she had started off down the path, he dropped silently to the ground and crept after her, watching her wend her way back to the village. He wasn't sure exactly what he was looking for, but whatever it was, he was sure he wouldn't find it if he actually let her know he was there. If there really was something going on—if she really was hiding something—she'd been doing a pretty damn good job of it until now. Besides, he was a little afraid that if he spoke to her right now, all that would come out would be an incoherent mix of expletives and garbled half-sentences—not exactly the kind of strong position he preferred to hold when approaching a problem.

As she disappeared into Kaede's hut, he waited a bit to see if she was going to come back out. Once it seemed safe to assume that she was staying put, he approached a bit closer and trained his ears on the hut, hoping to catch the voices of those within.

"Are you sure that's a good idea?" said a voice he recognized as Sango's. "I mean, is it fair to keep something like this from him?"

His eyes widened a fraction, and he leaned in a bit closer—although it really wasn't necessary, since his demon ears were picking up the entire conversation loud and clear. It occurred to him vaguely that the odds that they would just happen to be talking about the exact thing he had been thinking about all afternoon were slim to none—but the sound of Kagome's voice when she spoke again smothered the voice of reason with practiced ease.

"Why not?" Kagome replied nonchalantly. "It's really not his business, after all. Just because we're friends and he protects me doesn't mean he's entitled to know every single personal detail of my life. Besides, I think he's better off not knowing, at least until afterwards. You know that would drive him crazy."

"But even so, you know Inuyasha—how long do you think you can keep it a secret?"

He heard a rustle of fabric that sounded like a shrug. "I've kept it this long—and it won't be much longer."

His pulse jumped and he flicked his ears away in surprise: Won't be much longer. He didn't want to think about what that might mean. Blood thundered through his veins, and he couldn't tell whether it was from anger that she was hiding something from him, or fear of what it might be. Since anger was easily the most palatable of the two, he decided to go with that, and dashed off into the woods to cut down a few really big trees and blow off a little steam before returning for dinner.

By the time he had managed to pull himself together, the sun was low in the sky, casting an orange and pink glow across the clouds. He trudged back to the village, feeling somewhat sullen, but at least calmed. As he pushed back the reed curtain over the doorway, he answered Kagome's bright and cheerful greeting with a curt nod and plopped down on the floor next to the fire, ignoring her. Stupid wench. How dare she act as if nothing was wrong? How dare she smile that shimmeringly innocent smile while she was lying to his face?

He was quiet throughout most of the meal, despite Kagome's efforts to draw him out—but he wasn't going to fall for that. He wasn't going to let her make a fool out of him any more than she already was.

Finally, as they were clearing away the dishes and getting ready for bed, Kagome pulled him aside and looked up at him in concern. "Inuyasha, are you alright? You've been acting really strangely all evening."

He looked back at her, peering into her eyes with thinly veiled suspicion—but try as he might, he could see nothing there but genuine concern…and it made him feel a bit guilty. What if he was wrong? What if he hadn't heard what he'd thought he'd heard? What if he was just being paranoid, and there was really no big, huge, scary secret at all? He'd been so sure at the time that his suspicions were being confirmed—but looking at her now, it seemed that either she was a lot more treacherous and deceitful than he had thought her capable of being…or things weren't quite the way he thought they were.

He sighed slightly, willing his tense jaw muscles to relax and even give her a small smile. "It's nothing. Just…nothing."

"Are you sure? Because you seem upset about something."

"No. I'm just…anxious to get back on the road."

Kagome smiled at him sweetly, and his suspicions receded an inch or two further back into his mind. This was Kagome! Kagome would never lie to him about anything important. Kagome wouldn't run around behind his back and set him up for a fall. No—not his Kagome. "Okay," she said. "We'd better get some sleep then, so we can get going bright and early."

He nodded, and she moved back across the room to settle down into her own sleeping bag. He waited a few moments before following her and taking a seat with his back to the wall just a few feet away, where he could watch her without seeming to from beneath his eyelashes. Soon her breathing evened out and became slow and deep, and he was comforted by the sound of it. He could almost feel it washing over him like a warm, gentle tide. No, his Kagome would never betray him. He trusted her.

The next morning was relatively pleasant. The piece of paper was still tucked safely away in the folds of Inuyasha's haori, and his memories of last night's overheard conversation were tucked safely away in the back of his mind, but neither succeeded in bothering him much. Of course, the fact that he couldn't quite bring himself to get rid of either said something—but at the very least he was keeping his doubts at bay and trying to carry on as usual.

The group had a light breakfast at Kaede's before packing up their supplies and preparing to set off on the next leg of their journey. They said goodbye to the old miko and filed outside to set off, Sango and Miroku climbing onto Kirara, Shippo on Miroku's shoulder—but when Inuyasha crouched to allow Kagome to climb onto his back, she hesitated.

"Uh…actually, Inuyasha, I think I'll walk for awhile today," she said with a smile that immediately told him she was hiding something. He returned himself to his full height and frowned at her, all those nasty suspicions of his crawling back out of the woodwork.

She flashed him another unconvincing grin and quickly turned away, setting off down the path alongside the others, who had dismounted Kirara, since it seemed they would be traveling at a somewhat slower pace for the time being. He stared after her for a moment, trying not to give in to his fears again—after all, it was such a small thing—but it was difficult. The only times she had ever refused to ride on his back were after they had had some sort of big fight, or after he had gone to see Kikyo—but nothing like that had happened recently.

Heaving a sigh, he trailed after his companions. Somehow he sensed that this was not going to be a very good day.

And boy was he right.

Several times throughout the day he casually suggested that Kagome switch to riding on his back, but every time he was refused—and every time with that same, falsely-sweet smile. Each time he saw it it grated a bit more on his nerves, and served only to make him try harder to force her to be near him. Twice he tried to follow her into the bushes when she ducked out to go to the bathroom—both occasions resulting in a thorough 'sitting' and a few incredulous glares from the other members of the group. By evening, he was sticking to her like glue, practically challenging her to snap at him or tell him to go away and leave her alone, or do something that might reveal her true colors at last.

Finally, though it was still relatively early, Kagome turned to Sango and Miroku and suggested exasperatedly that they settle down for the night. Inuyasha got the feeling from the looks the others seemed to be giving one another when they thought he wasn't looking that they all pretty much thought he was going crazy, but he didn't care—he was furious.

"Fine!" he burst out, putting a stop to their muttering and storming off into the woods in search of a suitable clearing. "Come on, let's find a place. Stupid, weak humans…"

When they caught up with him, he had already cut an entire tree into more firewood than they could possibly have used even if they were staying in the clearing for a month—but no one commented, for fear of incurring his wrath. Instead, Sango began building a fire pit, and Kagome retrieved some empty water bottles from her backpack.

"I'm going down to the stream—I'll be right back."

"I'm coming with you," he said determinedly, starting to follow her—but she whirled around to stop him.

"No!" she said urgently—and then she cleared her throat to cover her lapse. "Uh, I mean, I'd rather go by myself. I'll only be a minute…"

Inuyasha looked back at her stonily, and she held his gaze for a moment, something like confused concern crossing her expression—but then she shook it off. "I'll be right back," she murmured, giving him a hesitant smile, turning to walk away. She glanced back at him nervously a couple of times on her way, before disappearing into the trees.

Inuyasha, for his part, could feel his claws digging into his palms in frustration. He didn't know what to do anymore. He didn't want to believe it—he didn't even want to think it could be possible—but how could he ignore what he had seen with his own two eyes? "I'm going for a walk," he growled, only moments before disappearing into the forest himself, in another direction.

She was pushing him away. It was plain as day—there was no way he could ignore it. Every time he had tried to get near her all day, she had shied away from him. She had refused to ride on his back, for no good reason—something she had never done before. And he could have sworn that she and Sango were always falling back from the group and whispering, just barely out of range of his hearing.

He alighted on the branch of one of the larger trees and crouched against the trunk, pulling the rumpled piece of paper out from within his haori and staring at it blankly. With a clawed finger, he traced the characters of her name, written in that strange, futuristic ink that seemed to have no texture, no substance. Could it really be true? Could she really have fallen for that…that…Akitoki?

He closed his eyes, leaning back against the tree trunk, conjuring her gentle, loving face in his mind. She was so kind—there was so much love in her, so much love that he knew he would never be able to return in equal measure, at least not the way someone like Akitoki could. Akitoki, a mere human, had thrown himself in front of a demon blade to protect her, had shouted his love for her at the top of his lungs without hesitation, after only knowing her a short time. Sure, Inuyasha had thrown himself in front of anything from blades to arrows to giant blasts of demon energy to protect her—but that was different. He was hanyou, and besides, he had never placed much value on his own life. If saving her life came at the price of his own one day, it would be no big loss. But it was Akitoki's shameless declaration of love that was truly remarkable. That was something Inuyasha wasn't sure he was capable of doing.

The image of Kagome in his mind turned her beaming smile away from him—and all at once there was Akitoki in the picture, arms spread wide, eyes shining with love as she rushed to embrace him. "I love you, Kagome," Akitoki whispered. "You are the sun and the moon, the earth and the sea—my love for you is everything there is…"

"Oh, Akitoki," she whispered dreamily, leaning in closer. "Akitoki…" And then their lips met.

"No!" Inuyasha yelped, his eyes flying open as he nearly fell out of the tree. His breath was coming in short pants. No, he thought again—no one could take Kagome from him, not like that. So what if he couldn't string two words together to save his life—did that make his love any less real?


Yes, love. That was what it was. He wasn't sure why, but he'd never really thought of it that way before. He'd known that Kagome was important to him—more than that, even. He'd known that her presence made him happier and calmer than he had ever imagined possible. He'd known that she gave him a strength he'd never known he possessed. He'd known that he hated being without her, that the world just didn't seem right when she wasn't around, and that the thought of losing her terrified him—but it had never occurred to him that all those things put together might just be love. The word took on a different meaning, all of a sudden. Love was Kagome.

He'd never been so scared in his entire life.

He had no idea exactly how long he sat there, mulling over this strange realization, but by the time he took notice once more of the world around him, the sun had long since set, and the forest was nearly pitch dark. Admonishing himself that the others were probably wondering where he was, and that in any case he ought to be there to protect them, he slid down from his tree branch and set off through the woods at a less-than-hurried pace, still a bit in a daze from such a long spell of introspection.

When he reached the campsite, he saw that the others had finished their dinner, and Miroku, Shippo, and Kirara had already turned in. Only Kagome and Sango remained awake, sitting by the fire and conversing in hushed tones. Careful not to make a sound and give himself away, Inuyasha crouched behind one of the bushes lining the clearing and observed them stealthily, his demon ears picking up their conversation with little difficulty.

"So, you still think you can keep it a secret?" Sango said skeptically.

"I don't know," Kagome sighed, tilting her head thoughtfully, "he does seem to be acting a little weird, doesn't he. Do you think he suspects something?"

"I'd say that's a pretty safe bet."

"Yeah, that's what I was afraid of. Still, I don't know what else I can do—I mean, how do you broach a subject like that?"

"Mm," Sango murmured in assent. "Not really the kind of thing you can just bring up out of the blue, is it."

"No kidding. That would be pretty awkward—and really, how much good could it possibly do?"

"Yeah, I suppose you're right."

Kagome shook her head bemusedly, staring into the fire. "He's just gotten so clingy. Seriously, I don't know how much more of this I can take. I just want it to be over."

His heart froze. Over. She wanted it to be over. The words replayed themselves in his mind again and again, and he searched for any way he could have misheard them, anything he could have misunderstood—but no matter how he looked at it, he could only see them meaning one thing: She wanted to get away from him.

Much to his chagrin, unlike the previous night, his dire convictions had not subsided by morning—in fact, if anything they had only grown worse. He had waited there in the bushes for the other two to finally go to sleep, and then he had spent the night in a nearby tree, hidden from the eyes of his companions by the branches, though he could still see them in the dim moonlight. Or more specifically, he could see her.

Much as he wanted to put the blame solely on her for her treachery, the longer he sulked, the more reasons he found to blame himself. Every accusation he could think of to hurl at her—that she had broken a promise to him, that she had led him on, that she should have been honest with him for the start—bounced off her like rubber and stuck to him like glue. How many times had he left to go see Kikyo without telling her? Well, it wasn't like they were married or anything, his mind argued—but of course if he had a right to go gallivanting off with Kikyo under emotionally ambiguous circumstances, then didn't she have the same right to run off and meet that—that Hojo guy? He tried to argue with this, but everything fell flat. He hated logic—especially when it was against him.

Still, there was one thing he couldn't justify, one thing he couldn't let go of: Why was she letting it go on like this? At least when he had realized he had to fulfill his responsibility to Kikyo, he had told her as much, and given her the chance to leave. (Well, he'd gotten around to it…after a few days…) But based on all the evidence he'd collected it seemed that Kagome had already made her choice—and perhaps had done so some time ago—and yet she still hadn't said a single word to him about the fact that she was in love with someone else, and she was leaving him for that Hojo nutbar. What, was she just planning to disappear one day, just up and leave, just like that? Was she really so selfish and cowardly that she would let him sit around thinking everything was fine and dandy until one day she ran off to meet him and didn't come back?

These were the thoughts churning inside him as they continued on their journey the next day. This time he made no attempts to force her to be closer to him—didn't follow her to the stream, didn't offer her his back, didn't even look at her if he could damn well help it. If she didn't want him, fine—he didn't need her. He'd gotten along just fine (just fine!) on his own before he'd met her (well, except for the whole pinned to a tree for all eternity thing…), and he would get along just fine again without her.

It did not escape his notice that now that he was being more standoffish, she seemed to be trying to coax him out with friendly little smiles and welcoming gestures, carefully skirting his occasional barbs and refusing to pick a fight. If anything, this only made him more miserable. He knew it was only out of pity—and somehow it was as if her lack of excitability was telling him that she didn't even care enough about him to bother arguing with him anymore.

Around midday, Miroku spotted a shaded clearing off by the side of the road. "Why don't we stop here for lunch?" he suggested.

"Good idea," Kagome concurred. "I'm starved. Is it okay with you, Inuyasha?" she asked kindly, turning to him with another one of those sweet smiles, the ones he knew no longer really belonged to him.

That was the last straw.

"Goddammit wench!" he burst out finally, his anger and misery boiling over at last. "Why don't you just come out and say it already! It's not a secret—I already know. I know everything, alright? So just fucking stop lying to me and pretending everything is okay when you know it's not!"

Kagome gaped back at him, flummoxed. She darted an alarmed glance over at Sango, and then a slightly embarrassed one over at Miroku and Shippo, who seemed even more bewildered than Kagome, if that was possible. "What…what in the world are you talking about?" she murmured at last.

"Drop the innocent act, okay, bitch? You're not fooling anybody—I know what you've been hiding from me. I heard it—I heard it all!" Strictly speaking, this was not entirely true. He had only caught pieces of conversations, and if he was being completely honest with himself, he had never actually heard her mention Akitoki—but that was beside the point. He was no fool. He could put two and two together, and he knew she'd be more likely to come clean if she thought he really had heard everything. Besides, he practically had…

"Uh…Inuyasha…" she began, shifting her weight awkwardly.

"No! No more excuses! Admit it—you've been having—" but she darted forward and muffled the rest of his sentence with a hand over his mouth, sending an uncomfortable look back at the still utterly confused Miroku and Shippo over her shoulder.

"Not here, okay?" she muttered. "If you want to talk about this, fine, but let's do it somewhere else."

He wrenched his face away, glaring at her, seething—well, at least the truth was out. She'd stopped pretending now. It was funny, but part of him was suddenly terrified of continuing the conversation; after all, he knew where would ultimately lead. But there was no avoiding it now—he had started it, and now all that was left was to finish it. "Fine," he gritted, turning on his heel and marching off into the forest, flicking back an ear to confirm that she was following him.

When they had reached a small gap in the trees, far enough from the road to be out of earshot of their friends, he whirled upon her again. Even now, looking at her through a haze of fury, he was struck by how beautiful she was—not in some ridiculous, unearthly way, like so many demon and human women he had encountered in his life, but in a way that was distinctly mortal, her cheeks slightly flushed from days of walking, perhaps a bit reddened by the sun as well, her hair thick and soft, but in mild disarray from the breeze and the branches that had snatched at it during their short trek. But most of all he noticed her eyes—he could read every emotion that crossed her face in those eyes, pull them apart and sort them like scent trails in the ground or on the wind. Or so he'd always thought. But it seemed he had been misreading things for a long time—he didn't want to believe that, but at the moment he could fathom no other explanation. Right now what he saw in those eyes was a mix of things: Some sheepishness and confusion, perhaps a little guilt—but mostly concern. Concern for him—because he was upset, and she wanted to make it better. Damn her—where did she get off tearing his heart out and then seeking to tend the wound?

"Why didn't you tell me, Kagome?" he demanded quietly.

"Be—because, I didn't think it was that big of a deal. I didn't want to worry you," she said meekly, still intent on his expression.

"Not that big a deal?" he growled. "How can you say that?"

"Look, I know it seems like a big deal to you, but really, I swear it's not. In my time we do things differently—we've found ways of taking care of things like this that work much better than the methods you have here."

He frowned slightly, a little lost, but he shook it off. "Fuck that, Kagome—I don't care if you do things differently where you come from. You still should've told me."

She raised an eyebrow slightly and rested her hands on her hips, saying wryly, "Well I'm sorry you're angry, Inuyasha, but honestly, it's really not your business."

"Not my business?" he roared. "How can you say it's not my business after all we've been through? Was this all just some big joke to you?"

"No, of course not—but really, what does that have to do with anything? You're not my keeper, Inuyasha—I think I have a right to a little privacy. And anyway, I figured you probably wouldn't really even want to know—I mean, it's a little awkward…"

"A little awkward? That's your excuse? It's a little awkward? At least when I was in your shoes I had the balls to go talk to you about it, to your face—but no, you just sneak around talking to Sango, telling her all about your little trysts and laughing about how you're making a complete jackass out of me!"

"Uh…what?" she mumbled, apparently stumped once more.

But Inuyasha didn't care—he wasn't falling for it. It was a little late in the game to go back to playing dumb—couldn't she see that? "So what was your plan, huh? You figured you'd string me along for awhile, just for fun, and then as soon as you were sure that I was so goddamn fucking in love with you that I couldn't possibly imagine spending my life with anyone else, you'd go running off with him and leave me in the dust—is that it? Is that how you get your kicks, bitch?"

He had to admit, if her bewilderment really was an act, she was a damn fine actress—and she was really taking this game to the limit, pushing it this far. She blinked at him a couple of times, brows knit in a frown, mouth propped open slightly, then gave her head a small shake and refocused. "Wait—what exactly are we talking about?"

"What are we talking about? We're talking about you being in love with that—that Akitoki Hojo jackass!" he snapped.

Her eyebrows shot up. Okay, so she was a really good actress. Either that, or they were having a slight miscommunication of some kind. But the potential ramifications of that possibility were too mortifying to contemplate, so he squashed them down. "Where on earth did you get that idea?" she murmured, stunned.

"I…uh…" he floundered, his train of thought suddenly derailed. He hadn't really expected her to deny everything for quite so long, and now he was starting to wonder if maybe he really had misread things somehow. "I overheard you," he managed at last, "I heard you and Sango talking a couple of times about a secret, something you didn't want me to know—you said you…you wanted it to be over. And I found…this," he finished, digging the crumpled piece of paper out from within his haori and passing it to her.

She frowned over it at first, unfolding it and scanning the contents, apparently unable to make sense of it—and then realization dawned on her face, and finally understanding as she seemed to piece things together right before his eyes. Her head lifted, mouth forming a silent "o"—and then she turned eyes sparkling with amusement on Inuyasha, and gave a stifled laugh.

His scowl deepened slightly, and he crossed his arms over his chest—he didn't like being left out of the joke. "What's so funny?"

"Oh, Inuyasha…" she began, her voice still quivering slightly with suppressed laughter. "You mean to tell me that just because of this, you thought I was going to run off and leave you for Akitoki Hojo?"

His eyes flashed defensively. "Well it wasn't just that—there were the conversations too. And you kept refusing to ride on my back—and you wouldn't let me go with you when you left the group."

"I was going to the bathroom!" she protested.

"Yeah, yeah, fine—but what about the other stuff, huh? If that's not the big secret, then what is it?"

He cheeks reddened slightly, and her amusement morphed into embarrassment. "I—I just have a little…bladder infection, that's all."

He blinked. "A what?"

She rolled her eyes, exasperated. "A bladder infection. It's a—a problem in my lower abdomen. It's nothing serious with modern day medicine to take care of it, but I didn't want to tell you because I figured you'd freak out and treat me like I was dying or something—so I didn't want you to see me taking the medicine, because I knew you'd ask questions, and I'm a terrible liar. And I didn't want to ride on your back because it's, well…a little uncomfortable. Not usually," she rushed to reassure him, apparently detecting the flicker of hurt he felt, "just because of this infection thing. I figured it would only be a few days before it was gone, and I…I just didn't want to worry you."

"Yeah, well nice work," he groused.

"Hey," she replied, sounding a bit peeved herself at this point, "it's not like I was trying to trick you or anything. It's not my fault you found this thing," she waved the paper in his face, "and jumped to conclusions. You should know better than to think I would do something like that to you—don't you trust me at all?"

"Of course I trust you," he snapped. "It's not a matter of trusting you, it's…it's…oh fuck, I don't know what it is, okay? Just drop it. Doesn't even matter anyway—not like we're together or anything. You can do whatever the fuck you want."

She made a frustrated noise akin to a growl and grabbed him by the forelocks, forcing him to look her in the eye. "Dammit, you are so insecure! How much clearer can I possibly make this? I love you, okay? I. Love. You," she ground out, punctuating each word with a sharp tug. "I've always been in love with you, and god help me, if you disappeared on me tomorrow I would probably go on loving you for the rest of my life because you're just so crazy and obnoxious and you've gotten so far under my skin that I doubt even death could get you out of my head! Why is that so hard for you to believe?"

At a loss for words, he stared into her beautiful, utterly familiar face, which was still crackling with frustration like static electricity. It occurred to him suddenly just how close her face was to his.

The kiss had started before either of them knew it was happening, and it was passionate, full of all the things they had already said, as well as the things they hadn't gotten around to yet. "Damn annoying wench," he growled into her mouth as he caught her lower lip between his teeth, and she wrapped her arms around his neck. "Stupid stubborn jackass," she muttered back, pressing herself more firmly against him, still not breaking the kiss.

Wanting to get closer, but with little more than impulse to go on, he gripped her thighs and lifted her up so that they were wrapped around his waist—but just then, Kagome reared back with a wince. His eyes snapped to her face in fear, and he wondered if he had gone too far. "Are you…okay? Did I hurt you?" he said nervously, panting slightly.

"Yeah—I mean no, it's just…you know, the…lower abdomen thing," she admitted.

"Oh," he replied guiltily, putting her down carefully, "Sorry…I forgot…"

She gave a small laugh and glanced up at him from beneath her eyelashes, smiling affectionately. Seeing that she was alright, and she didn't seem to be angry anymore, he returned the smile with a small one of his own—his own anger seemed to have melted somewhere along the way. He thought maybe it had been around the time she had told him she loved him. Or maybe it had been the kiss…

"You know," he said finally, not quite able to meet her eyes as he spoke, "I love you, too."

Her smile widened, and she nodded. And then, with a hint of wryness, she added, "But it's nice to hear it, for once…"

In spite of himself, he gave a small chuckle—and then he ducked his head to kiss her again, this time more lazily, less fervently. The passion of anger was pretty heady stuff, and he definitely looked forward to revisiting that sometime later when Kagome was…feeling better—but there was surely something to be said for this kind of a kiss as well. It was like coming home.

Which made sense. After all, he'd known for a long time now that she was his home.

The sound of someone clearing his throat pointedly from a few feet away woke them from their self-made spell, and they glanced over to see Miroku standing there amid the trees. "Excuse me," he said, quirking an eyebrow, a knowing smile hovering at the corners of his lips, "don't mean to interrupt, but are you two about done here? Your lunch is getting cold."

They glanced at each other. "Done?" Kagome said.

"Never," Inuyasha finished for her, and they both smiled.

He could see Miroku rolling his eyes in his peripheral vision, but he didn't give a damn about the monk at the moment. Kagome gave Miroku a slightly apologetic look. "Thanks, Miroku—we'll be right behind you."

Miroku nodded, though his smile betrayed a note of skepticism, and disappeared back into the forest.

True to Kagome's word, they linked hands and started walking back toward where they had left the group, though at a rather more leisurely pace. "So wait," Inuyasha said as they walked, a thought occurring to him, "there's something I still don't get—what was that paper thing, and where did it come from? Why does it have your name on it?"

"Oh, that," Kagome said, giving another small laugh. "A friend of mine from my time found it and made me a copy, just cause it was a funny coincidence, I guess."

"What friend?"

"Hojo, of course—you've met him."

"Hojo? You mean that guy who's always bringing you presents? That Hojo?"


"Well what are you doing taking stuff like that from him? I mean, it's bad enough he hangs all over you and buys you stuff all the time, but something like this—the family scroll and the little hearts next to your name."

"I drew those."

"You what?"

She shrugged. "I was on the phone, and I was doodling."

He frowned skeptically, grumbling, "Yeah, sure you were."

She slanted him a look. "Inuyasha…"

"Don't you dare," he threatened, eyes narrowing.

But of course, his threat only read as a challenge. "Si—mmph!"

None too eager to eat dirt, he quickly stifled her "sit" with a penetrating kiss.

"Call it even?" she murmured in a mild daze once they broke apart.

"Deal," he agreed. Yes—this was definitely going to make their arguments much more interesting from now on…