Cold Forgiveness
Chapter 3: One Last Chance

The wind blew across the Sunset Shrine, grazing at the leaves of the Sacred Tree. Upon its bark was a scar born years ago in a fairytale world. A hand reached up and touched it gently, recalling the memories in which the tree had seen. Children used to laugh and play, not knowing the real horrors that lay in wait just outside childhood.

Amber eyes glanced up into the moonlit leaves, ignoring the dried tear tracks that covered his cheeks and the dull ache in his throat from his wails of misery. It had been hours since Inuyasha held Kagome in his arms, listening to the last of her breaths as she slowly slipped from the world of the living.

Soon after she had lulled to sleep, the constant heart beat of her monitor slowed, until the short blips ceased all together. The world suddenly stopped spinning for the silver-haired man. He didn't recall removing himself from the hospital or even where he went afterwards. The rest of the night had been a blur. He didn't even know what time it was.

"Inuyasha," a voice called, pulling him back from the white hospital room in which Kagome spoke her last words.

He peered at the woman out of the corner of his eye. Kikyo looked at him hesitantly, her arms crossed over her chest as her hands played with the fabric of her jacket. The moonlight shimmered off her skin, making it appear a ghostly pale, and her brilliant raven locks blew gently in the breeze. Her brown eyes were mournful, and yet questionable.

"Kagome's gone," Inuyasha croaked. He didn't even try to hide the fact that his voice sounded so broken, so terribly tragic. Nothing mattered anymore without Kagome in the world. His life just seemed so pointless and cold. There was no hope left within him.

Kikyo closed her eyes and sighed deeply, allowing the realization to sink in. He guessed she had been preparing herself for her sister's death for months, so when the time came, the loss was a little easier to deal with.

Inuyasha turned his gaze back to the Sacred Tree. He fished a cigarette out of his pocket and lit it, allowing the sweet taste of nicotine to infiltrate his lungs and fill them before he released the smoke into the air. Ironically, smoking didn't do anything for his shaken nerves. Just when he needed it the most, cigarettes gave out on him.

"You made her happy," Kikyo whispered, her voice carried by the light breeze in the air.

"Keh," he grunted. "What makes you say that?"

She took a few steps forward so she was standing beside him, following his gaze to the scar on the tree. "Even though she and I were never close, when the two of you were together, I never saw her without a smile."

He shoved his free hand into the pocket of his jeans. "Kagome was always smilin'," he replied, inhaling from his cigarette. "I had nothing to do with it."

Kikyo looked at him with a sad smile. "Believe me, Inuyasha," she whispered, a soft sigh escaping her lips. "It was because of you that she was so happy, even after you ended things with her."

Inuyasha glanced at her with tired eyes. "Don't lie to me," he said, his voice holding no anger or hatred. He didn't have the energy to glare at her or curse her name to hell. What was the point anymore?

"I wouldn't lie to you. Not about Kagome."

The two stood in silence for a few moments, their gazes trained on the scar upon the Sacred Tree. Although Inuyasha was standing outside the shrine that had been Kikyo and Kagome's home, his mind was elsewhere.

He was back in the white hospital room with Kagome curled against his chest. He could feel her hair slip through his fingers as he lulled her into a sleep which she would never wake from. The faint beat of her heart thundered through his body and her last request played over and over again in his mind.

Marry Kikyo.

"Inuyasha," said woman called from beside him, pulling him back to the present day.

He turned to glance at her out of the corner of his eyes. "What is it?"

She looked at him with a determined gaze, her hands clenched tightly into the fabric of her jacket. "We can get away," she stated, her voice steady and strong.

Inuyasha looked at her fully now, a brow rose in question. "What the hell are you talking about?"

Taking a step toward him, she peered up at him with pleading eyes. "We can run away from this; from Naraku and the drugs. We can go somewhere he can't find us."

"Are you out of your fucking mind?" he replied in a harsh tone before taking a drag of his cigarette. A puff of smoke hovered in the air. "We can't run away from the bastard even if we tried. He's got too many connections that he'll kill us both before we can leave the city."

"Well, then I suppose turning him in is our only option," she reasoned, her resolve never wavering.

Inuyasha looked at her as if she had grown a second head. "What part of 'too many connections' don't you understand? If we turn him in, his goons will be all over us. Not to mention he'll probably be out of jail within hours."

"Then what do you suggest?" she bit back in return.

"Why are you so worried about it?" he demanded, cocking his head to the side. "It's not like you're in danger or nothin'."

Her eyes turned sad. "But what about you, Inuyasha?" she asked quietly. "Do you desire to live out the rest of your life under his control?"

"Of course not," he grumbled in return. "But there ain't much we can do about that, can we?"

Kikyo stayed silent for a moment, her eyes trained on his face as she pondered his words. "I'll find a way," she whispered gently. "It's my fault you're in this, so I shall be the one to undo the wrongs I've committed. Someday you'll be free from that monster and all the pain he has caused."

Inuyasha could tell by the broken tone of her voice that she had been beating herself up over his ordeal for quite some time, even if she never allowed anyone else to see how conflicted she was. Perhaps the weight of knowing she'd wronged another became too much for her. He knew the words she had just spoken would be the closest to an apology he would ever get from the Ice Princess herself.

Marry Kikyo.

Kagome's words repeated in his mind once more. How could she have been so selfless? She never did get along with her sister, and when she and Inuyasha parted all those years ago, he was sure she would hate him for the rest of her life. Instead, with her last breath, she asked him to marry the one girl who she despised the most.

I know she's made some bad choices, but she has a good heart.

What was Kagome trying to tell him? The evidence of Kikyo's betrayal was as plain as day. She became Naraku's slave and as soon as Inuyasha stepped in to help, she left without a trace, leaving him to take her place and ultimately suffer for years to come.

Was all that a lie? Did Kikyo have reasons for running away and leaving him behind? Inuyasha couldn't exactly answer those questions. He wasn't sure if he wanted to anyways. Because if it turned out that Kikyo had valid reasons for betraying him so long ago, then the hate he felt toward her would be invalid. Was he ready to accept the fact that she may not be the cold-hearted bitch he thought?

He shook his head to clear the thoughts. It didn't really matter anymore; none of it did. Kagome was gone from the world and he would never see her again. Her death left smiles a little duller, the sun a little darker, and his heart a little colder.

"I forgive you," he whispered into the air, ignoring the startled look Kikyo gave him.

Inuyasha wasn't sure if he would be able to fulfill Kagome's final wish. Marrying the woman who made his life a living hell wasn't exactly on the top of his to-do list. However, if Kagome was able to be so selfless as to ask him in the first place, then perhaps he could at least make an effort - even if his forgiveness was born from a cold heart that was unsure of loving again.

The two stood there in silence as the wind picked up and pulled a few leaves from the Sacred Tree, allowing them to flutter to the ground. Gray hues filled the skies as the sun rose over the horizon and a new day began.