Mid-June, 2006

Kagome shifted her weight forward slightly, loosening her hold on the reins and taking her weight on her calves.

'Four, three, two-' She was cut off from counting strides to the jump as her mare skidded to a halt. Kagome let out a shriek, gripping at Ginger's mane to keep herself from flipping over the horse's shoulder. She groaned as her muscles protested the workout; it was hard to push up off the horse's sweaty neck as the mare backed up, snorting and eyeing the shimmering tub of water between the jump stands as though it might take corporeal form and drown her.

"You're going to-"

"Oi, wench!"

Kagome sighed, turning her head to face Sango; the movement also turned her away from the fuming hanyou stomping toward her angrily. "I think you're right. I'm going to need a crop to get her over this."

"I'm fuckin' talking to you, bitch!" Clawed hands wrapped around the reins near her mare's mouth. Lips thin with irritation, Kagome let her eyes gaze appreciatively up the muscled arm, to slide up a handsome face – currently red with barely suppressed anger. Golden eyes snapped as the young man brandished a helmet toward her. "What the fuck is your problem? Your dad'll be pissed if he heard you were jumping without a helmet. Do you want to be in a coma?"

Kagome bristled. "I wasn't asking for your opinion, InuYasha!"

"You almost got really damn intimate with the ground head-first, moron! You'd spill whatever brains ya' got out of that human head of yours." He held out the green helmet again. "Put. It. On." His tone brokered no arguments.

Having come up on Ginger's other side, Sango shrugged at Kagome's inquiring look. Between a rock and a hard place, Kagome huffed and took the proffered helmet, snapping it under her chin and tightening it angrily.

"Good." Giving the area a once-over, as though there were some maniacal killer on the loose and just waiting to pounce, the young man turned on his heel, storming back to where he had been helping the closest person he had to a best friend stack hay.

"You could at least say 'thank you', InuYasha!" Kagome shouted from her saddle. Though his canine ears flattened to his head at the shrill echo, he refused to give her the satisfaction of a response.

OoO**OoO**OoO

'Son of a bitch!' Making sure nobody was around to witness his little temper tantrum with a flick of his ears and a twitch of his nose, InuYasha lashed out at the nearest thing: kicking a bucket into a nearby empty stall.

It wasn't. Fucking. Fair.

What right did she have to make his heart nearly stop when he realized she was putting herself in danger? Did she have an ounce of common sense in that head of hers? He swore to all the gods, the girl was put on Earth to drive him insane.

Gods damn it all to hell, but he hated this.

Never her. He couldn't hate her. He was hard-wired to take care of her. Just one whiff of her scent and his body went into "protect our mate" mode… whether he liked it or not.

That's what she was; at least, for all intents and purposes, his body believed her to be his mate. If she told him to jump, his body would react before he could stop it. If her stomach rumbled, something in the back of his mind drove her to find a granola bar or sandwich for her to munch on. It was abso-fucking-lutely ridiculous, and he hated being a slave to her whims.

Not that she knew he was looking out for her, of course. InuYasha had sworn he'd never tell her how it killed him to see her upset. Kagome would never, ever learn that his last thoughts before falling asleep were if she were comfortable, if she were warm enough, if there was anything she could possibly need.

When he'd first realized what she represented to him, he'd feared she would laugh or be disgusted. Hanyou were rare in Japan, and he'd grown up knowing little but loneliness. Apparently youkai-human matings were more common here in the States, but the idea that he was lower than everybody else was ingrained on his psyche.

It would have been better if he could have hated her, InuYasha mused as he grunted a greeting to Miroku and resumed his work. Upon his mother's death (his father's having come several years prior), InuYasha had been sent across seas to where his older brother worked… under Kagome's father's leadership at Steelcase headquarters. Kagome had moved to America just two years before and had been assigned to show him around the first few days at school. She laughed, though there was an old pain in her eyes, and joked with him and invited him to sit with her friends. They welcomed him, too; it confused the hell out of InuYasha, but he couldn't deny he was grateful for the change.

Nonetheless, it was absolute hell going to school with the wench his body craved like oxygen. Sharing classes was even worse – he hated the way he could get high off her scent, the way his hands absolutely itched to learn her body… hated the way her laughter made him smile, no matter what his day had been like.

Most of all, he absolutely despised the way he couldn't feel complete if he didn't scent her, see her, hear her… InuYasha needed Kagome, and that made him feel weak.

It wasn't her fault, he reminded himself on a daily basis… not that it did any good. If they weren't sniping or screaming at each other, one would be stoically attempting to ignore the other. Of course, that didn't go well at all, either. Kagome was too damn friendly to hold a grudge… and InuYasha's youkai howled when he knew Kagome was upset about something he'd done.

Which happened quite frequently, he acknowledged with a smirk, as he absentmindedly noticed a moldy smell coming from a bale and tossed it on a small pile of bad hay. For somebody with all the instincts necessary to see to his bitch's every need, he certainly knew exactly what buttons to push to send her into a flaming wrath.

He didn't mind. She was damn hot with her cheeks flushed, eyes glittering as her mind worked feverishly to top him in their verbal sparring, chest heaving from her shouting…

InuYasha groaned. It was not easy to stack hay bales with a hard-on… 'Fuck!' He snorted mentally. 'Yeah, that sounds good right about now…'

He wouldn't though. Ever. He'd rather end up alone than bring Kagome down… she was beautiful. She was smart (when she wasn't doing math). She was talented and had tons of friends and acquaintances. It didn't matter to him that he often felt he'd die without her; he'd die if he crushed her spirit, left her stuck with a hanyou.

InuYasha was so deep in thought he didn't notice when he almost pegged Miroku in the back of the head with the last bale.

Miroku did. "Man, what is your problem?"

InuYasha blinked, drawn out of his reverie. Damn it, this is why he didn't like thinking. People could sneak up on him. "Huh?"

"Eloquent as usual," Miroku said dryly, glittering eyes betraying his amusement. "I asked if we had anything else to do. Sango and Kagome are done in the ring and there's another hour or so until the next class. Let's get a work-out in."

InuYasha snorted. "You just wanna show off for Sango."

"It's not my fault I look damn good in chaps," Miroku said, pushing himself off the neatly stacked pile of hay and headed toward his horse's stall. "I'll ask Sango to set up the barrels," he shouted over his shoulder.

InuYasha rolled his eyes but headed toward his own horse's stall.

He may hate how much his body depended on Kagome, but not enough to discourage him from taking part in activities she liked. Sesshoumaru had hinted (not very subtly… an oddity for the youkai, InuYasha remembered thinking) that the girl had taken up riding and that InuYasha might find it a challenge.

Of course, InuYasha didn't sit with all the hoity-toity bullshit Kagome did. She did fucking everything with her one horse – jumping, Hunt seat, Western, speed… hell, even the super-fancy Saddle Seat shit. He wasn't sure how a girl who bounced all over the damn place could act all prim and proper at shows, but hey – women were mysteries the hanyou was sure he'd never unravel anyway.

He'd taken rather quickly to speed classes, though, and was taking up rodeo as well. He hated to admit it, but it was a challenge keeping his horse on track while enjoying the wind on his face…

And, of course, it was another reason to piss off Kagome. Cherokee was a full-blood Quarter Horse; Ginger was an Arabian. Kagome was thoroughly brain-washed in the ways of Arabian owners and could argue Cherokee's "push-button" ways for days if you got her going.

InuYasha had almost finished saddling Cherokee when Kagome squelched by, her mare in tow. The wet slapping of her boots drew his attention; his head followed the swivel of his ears… and his jaw dropped as he realized Kagome's once-white, paper-thin tank top was literally plastered to her upper body... and the water had obviously been exceedingly chilly. In fact, she was sopping wet from head to toe, and from her knee-high boots up, she wasn't hiding a thing.

InuYasha stifled a groan as his forgotten arousal resurged three times as strong, pulling the blood from his head so quickly he was afraid he'd hit the ground.

Kagome heard the noise, though, and turned quickly to pin him in place with the angriest and yet miserable expression he'd ever seen on her face. 'Fix it, fix it, fix it…'

InuYasha bit back a curse, and it must have looked like he was trying not to grin, because her mood swung from upset to anger in a heartbeat. "What?" she snapped, looking much less intimidating as water dripped from her hair and down her nose.

Certain none of those hated tears were on their way, InuYasha allowed himself to snicker. "You look like a drowned rat," he admitted easily, ears sliding only a little back as she hissed at him like a pissed off cat. "Problems getting her over the water jump?"

"Gee, ya think?" Kagome shot back. "I don't have anything to change into, either…"

'Not that I mind,' InuYasha allowed himself to admit, eyes roving down her body quickly as Kagome began to untack her mare. His eyes narrowed in on a large scar over her ribcage… like something had gnawed into her. 'What the fuck is that?'

"Where'd ya get that scar?" he questioned swiftly, wishing he could take it back as Kagome gaped at him.

"What?"

"The… uh, you know. I… the scar! On your ribs!" InuYasha babbled, a bit worried by the spike in her spiritual powers. He'd known she had them, but rarely used them… so why were they coming out now? "I mean, I wasn't lookin' or nothing, but your shirt's wet and-" He clamped his mouth shut.

Kagome gulped and turned her attention back to her mare. Now she smelled of anxiety – not a pleasant scent. "I… can't talk about it, InuYasha," she muttered. She swiftly changed the subject, "Are you going to work Cherokee or not? You said you'd take me home and I want to get back before dark."

InuYasha wrinkled his nose. "Yeah, yeah. I'm on it. Grab a pair of my sweat pants and a shirt from my truck," he muttered. When she blinked at him in confusion, he forced himself to continue gruffly, "I don't want you getting my seats wet."

Kagome huffed and stomped wetly back down the aisle. InuYasha allowed himself a few moments of admiring her fine ass before tearing his eyes away and cursing his lack of self-control.

'Please change… I don't think I'd get us home in one piece as hard as I am,' InuYasha winced, willing himself to calm down before he hopped on. The jagged scar surfaced in his mind again… he needed to know what had happened. Was she attacked? When did it occur? Why did she seem so anxious about it? He tensed, 'Could something still be after her?'

Grabbing Cherokee's reins, InuYasha made his way to the arena. If anybody would have answers… Kagome's best friend would.

A/N:

This is a story based on a series of prompts for the LiveJournal community un_love_you.

There will be 30 chapters, one for each prompt.

Prompt: "Author's Choice: I don't want to need you."