AN: Written for the "Friendship" theme at iy_wiltedrose on Livejournal. This is a oneshot and will not be continued. Spoilers for episode 151.

Adjacent Soul

Kikyou and Kagome can never be friends. They can't even be comrades, and Kikyou hates to even think they are allies. Even if feelings are stripped away: jealousy, heartache, and unease - virtually nothing can bring them together, not even tolerance.

Though Kikyou has little to feel guilty for. The girl loathes her enough on her own, and Kikyou fully accepts the blame. Staying away from Inuyasha in this post-mortem life is the better reason, and though it hurts too much to see him now, at the side of someone else, Kikyou cannot deny that it hurts to be in Kagome's presence as well.

The small spark of life inside her aches at the sight of her reincarnation, a side effect that Kikyou can hardly endure, yet is powerless to rectify. It's easier to be cold rather than kind, she muses. It has helped Kikyou avoid the girl's pained eyes or Inuyasha's looks of regret.

She has her own mission anyway. Jealousy is hardly her forte, though it's a well enough excuse to mask her pain, her obvious weakness.

'I try,' she thinks, her wounds spilling out from Naraku's blow. Her shikigami do what they can and bring her to this pool, hoping for her survival, and when she opens her eyes, she wonders why the ache is triggered within her core.

'Kagome.' The girl's energy engulfs her. Soft, tender fingers hold her, fretting and gripping as if she'll never let go. It feels so warm, and as Kagome holds her, Kikyou wonders about the light beyond the door. If she gives up her energy to the girl now, she can move on. Kagome's soul can become whole again and Kikyou can rest.

'But, I'm not ready. Naraku is still...' Kikyou thinks with hardened reserve. Kagome's soft fingers shift on her skin, and suddenly, she's so warm and light that Kikyou thinks she's returned to the womb. Her mouth opens, and the water is pulsating in her throat, and Kagome's hands are so hot against her clay skin, Kikyou feels as if she's branding them there, leaving a permanent mark to remind her - "I saved you."

She can't avoid her now. Kikyou revives and the connection between them is stronger than she's ever felt. She stands recovered, her legs shaking from the energy coursing through her body. 'This girl has power she doesn't even use,' Kikyou thinks, and it dawns on her that Kagome is young, but someday can be more than Kikyou has ever been.

Maybe it's her kindness. Maybe it's her unconditional love and compassion. Kagome is a mystery, the mystery that Kikyou longs to be. Naraku may see a young girl, naive and clumsy, odd and out of time, but Kikyou knows she has potential to match. Her hollow frame shudders as Kagome's spiritual energy lulls and hums within her. Naraku's horrid poison is completely gone.

And it angers her even more than Kagome didn't even have a choice. Kikyou goes back on her word to herself, and she brushes off the girl again. 'I can't even thank her,' but extending her borrowed time is proof enough that Kagome deserves the recognition.

Thus Kikyou leaves anyway and feels Kagome's anger. So human, so young, and Kikyou longs for it. She despairs for it; since despite this anger, Inuyasha will belong to Kagome anyway.

Kikyou is alone again, but she is not without the memories - and a shift in their relationship she does not want. Kikyou supposes that if she'd stayed dead, these memories, these emotions, and this shame would have never existed.

~*~

It's quiet that night, and Kikyou pauses to recover her strength, though she feels better with Kagome's energy anyway, and she can head toward Naraku again if she chooses. However, she sends her shikigami out and waits.

She closes her eyes and counts the footsteps as someone approaches her. It is not the person who she wants, but it is the one she must see.

"This isn't about gratitude, is it?" Suddenly, the tired girl seems brave. Kikyou doesn't smile, but she meets her rival's eyes equally.

"If you were given a choice, would you have still saved me?" Kikyou rises from her seat at the trunk of the tree and glides over to her incarnation. "You don't like me, so why save me? Aren't I in your way?" Kikyou can only think of taunting her, her last veiled attempt to keep Kagome away - to stop the ache.

"I don't...I don't dislike you," Kagome says resolutely. "I try... do you know what it's like to live in someone's shadow?"

Kikyou scrutinizes her, noting the tension in Kagome's forehead as the girl stares at her challengingly. Unlike the other times, Kagome is no longer afraid of her. Confidence in Inuyasha to save her? No, Kikyou realizes. Confidence in herself. Kagome is responsible for saving her, something she did all by herself. She's proven herself, not only to Kikyou but to Inuyasha. Even if Kikyou refuses to acknowledge it, Kagome's confidence grows regardless.

Maybe she's not just a girl any longer; Kagome is starting to become a woman.

Kikyou holds her gaze but inches forward, and she reaches out her hand to Kagome. Her reincarnation stills, and as Kikyou's hand rests on Kagome's cheek, Kikyou feels the strange yet gnawing ache that surges within her every time she is close.

"It hurts," Kikyou confesses, and Kagome's eyes widen as if this is an important revelation. However, Kikyou feels relieved to tell her. If she can't thank her, she can at least give her this. "If I am near you, this part of our soul wants to come back to you."

Kagome gapes and Kikyou continues, withdrawing her hand and walking away to dull the pain.

"Sometimes, I am tempted to give it to you, but then..." Kikyou shakes her head and starts to walk away. Her shikigami flutter around her and begin to follow. Kikyou says harshly, "I will kill Naraku before then." She turns around and sees Kagome's stunned eyes, but there's something else within her expression - it's concern, and it makes Kikyou uncomfortable. Maybe in another life they could have been friends, but it's odd enough that two women walk the earth and share a soul. Maybe there's something kindred in that...

"If I don't kill him, you must, Kagome," she says. Kagome's face pales, but she nods in understanding.

"I promise," Kagome says, and Kikyou suddenly feels her body relax. The ache inside her isn't so prevalent, and it almost feels cohesive. Maybe fighting her reincarnation was never the answer, but it's too late now. Kikyou can already feel her time winding down, as if her toes are grazing the absolute bottom.

Kikyou turns to leave again, but it's Kagome who stalls this time. "Thank you," she says, and at first Kikyou doesn't know why she's thanking her. She hasn't done anything, and revealing her weakness to her reincarnation is hardly worthwhile. In turn, it feels like a weight has lifted from Kikyou's conscience. She has never felt less animosity toward Kagome than right now, and she realizes this is why her death feels so close.

Redemption comes like trickles of water within a great ocean.

As she and her entourage exit, she still feels Kagome's presence - waiting and watching her as she treks farther away. Kikyou wonders if Kagome will tell Inuyasha about their rendezvous tonight, if she'll reveal the secret about their separated souls.

Kikyou doesn't believe so; perhaps Kagome understands this isn't something that she can tell others or that some will even understand.

Maybe, she thinks, it's something only shared between two good friends. Kikyou pauses curiously and raises her hand to her chest.

She hasn't felt this warm since before her death.

END