Portrait of a Non-Betrayal
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters of Inuyasha.
"How the hell do you know, Kagome, huh? You weren't there, so how can you say how you would have reacted?" Inuyasha shouted at the girl standing, fists clenched and face red, before him.
"Because I know my own heart, Inuyasha, and I also know you wouldn't do that! I trust you, even if you don't think I should, you baka!" she screamed right back, tears standing in her eyes. "I would never believe that of you!"
"Keh! You've never been through something like that, so you can't say what you would do, wench! You can't say you wouldn't have done what Kikyou did," he sighed then, his voice going quiet. "I don't blame her for not trusting me, and you shouldn't, either."
Kagome straightened, more hurt than she could ever remember being as those tears rimming her eyes started to fall. "I don't have to have been through something like that to know who I trust and who I don't, Inuyasha, and she should have known better. And I can't believe that after all this time that I've been by your side, you would still doubt me – that you would still think I would be capable of believing you'd attack me." Her expression etched tight with pain, she had to swallow hard to clear her throat. "Is that what you really think of me, Inuyasha? That I'd betray you like that – that my faith in you was that weak? I wouldn't believe you'd hurt me, not for a minute – no matter what." Her face crumpled with misery as more hot tears flooded her eyes and trailed down flushed cheeks as she shook her head.
"You don't know me at all," she whispered, hurt thickening her voice as she turned, slowly walking away from an unsettled hanyou, and their other, very appalled friends.
Sango glared over at him, and he looked away guiltily. "How could you, Inuyasha?" she got out, her voice tight, as she also turned her back to him and moved away, following after Kagome into the trees at the side of the road.
Miroku pulled something from his robes, and looking down at it, he sighed. I think it's high time to use this. Maybe... maybe this will finally get through to him, and even though sorcery isn't something I would consider using very often, I think... in this instance, I'm glad I went looking for a solution. And found it.
With that thought, Miroku chanted the spell he'd memorized, and threw what lay so innocently in his palm down at the hard-packed earth of the road. The moment it hit the ground at Inuyasha's feet, everything froze...
And he, and his hanyou friend, were pulled into the spell, leaving the world around them for a chance to see the past once again - but a strangely altered past... one unlike the past that had actually occurred.
Buddha, let this work!
Inuyasha froze, looking around in confusion. One minute, he'd been standing in the middle of the road, several days walk away from Kaede's village with Miroku, and then the next, he was standing by the Goshinboku.
What the hell...? Did I hit my head or something? "How the hell did I get here?" he murmured, looking around with a confused frown. "And where's everyone else?"
"As for the women, they are around somewhere, Inuyasha," came an urbane voice from behind, and Inuyasha spun around.
"Miroku! Do you know what's going on here, monk?" he asked, suspicion rife in his voice as he took in his friend's unsurprised and unconcerned expression.
Miroku smiled calmly and rattled his shakujo, enjoying the tinkling of the rings on it. "As a matter of fact, Inuyasha, I do. This-" he gestured around them with a casual hand, "-is the result of a spell I cast. The purpose of it, is to make you see the past through new eyes, as it were. You said, a few minutes ago, that Kagome couldn't blame Kikyou for her actions in the past, did you not? And that she probably would have done the same thing?"
He watched his stunned friend with a steady gaze until Inuyasha nodded, dumbfounded.
"This spell will let you see the betrayal of the past again – but with Kagome in place of Kikyou. You will also be in place of your past self. In this way, you will see whether you were right... or whether she was."
"But... what about you and Sango? You guys weren't part of all that," he said, still too stunned to get angry, though Miroku knew that was coming as soon as he'd gotten past some of the shock.
"We will be observers, only." He grinned mischievously at his friend's flabbergasted look. "You wonder how I did something like this, do you not, Inuyasha?"
The hanyou nodded, not trusting his voice.
The monk looked up into the boughs of the Goshinboku with a suddenly pensive smile. "You see, that last fight with Kagome that you had about this subject got me thinking. You said something close to the same thing to Kagome then... and I got tired of your delusions. I'd just had enough of the lies you have yourself believing – as has everyone else." Ignoring his friend's ugly flush as anger started to come out, he continued. "That trip I took to my Master's temple was not just a nice little vacation. I went to him and asked where to find a good sorcerer or sorceress – only they would have a spell of the magnitude of what I was requiring – and sure enough, the one he sent me to did. The cost was high... but I think it will be worth it."
Inuyasha narrowed his eyes on his friend, and growled. "Break it, monk," he said warningly. "Don't you dare go any further with this, or I'll beat you within an inch of your life."
"Sorry, my friend. Once set, the spell cannot be broken 'til it's subject has been run out. So, in other words, until we see what we've come to see, you're stuck. You will be forced to play along with it no matter what you try, so don't bother fighting it. And be aware – that really will be Kagome, though she will be only aware of this world while in the spell. That means that she will not remember our true reality, but think this is the real world. All her reactions will be her own – so you cannot blame the spell for what you will see."
The hanyou growled even longer, furious at the monk, but unable to do anything about it... though when they woke back up... "Fine! So when does this shit start?"
Miroku clapped his hands together and chanted the final portion of the spell, and said, "Right now."
With that, Inuyasha could feel himself released, and Miroku, though he was still there, faded, as though he were no more than a ghost. He stared at the monk for a moment, then looked back at the tree.
He flipped around at the sound of that voice, and winced when he saw Kagome wearing those damnable miko robes that reminded him way too much of a painful past, but bearing a wide grin as she trotted towards him, carrying a basket of herbs.
Try as he might to break through the spell, he couldn't, and finally, his voice was dragged unwillingly from within him.
"Baka! What are you doing out here without your bow?" he groused, all while his thoughts were whirling inside his mind. This is different already – I don't have any memory of Kikyou calling to me so openly and with such happiness in her voice. She's not hiding my presence at all...
She flushed but grinned even wider. "Oh! Well, I had to come see you and tell you what happened, and I forgot to grab my bow." She plopped down and set her basket down as she began sorting the herbs. "Why don't you sit down and let me tell you what's going on."
"Keh." He sank down, folding his legs and arms automatically into place as he watched her. "So... start talkin' then, woman," he sighed.
"Do you remember that old cave on the other side of the village?" she asked.
He nodded, eyeing her with a frown. "Yeah... what of it?"
"Well, I was down there this morning, because that's the only area a certain herb I needed grows, and I found a man inside the cave, badly burned. He was laying on the ground..." she frowned herself, then. "I think he was a bandit, or something... but I have to help him – it's what a miko does, and I couldn't just leave him there to die. So I went back to my hut and got what I needed, then went and bandaged him, and gave him things for pain." She sighed sadly. "He's in a lot of pain, and he'll never leave that place again – it'll be where he dies, but at least I could make his passing a little less painful."
She's... she's talking about Onigumo! Kikyou never told me about him – I had no idea... but Kagome came right out and told me. How can she be so different? "Well, that was stupid, Kagome," he grumped, looking at her from one eye. "You coulda been hurt or something! Next time you go to take care of him, I'm goin' with ya, got that?"
Kagome smiled up at him, the same, beautiful, open smile she had always given him, and nodded agreeably. "Well, I hoped you'd say that. I always feel safer when you're around, Inuyasha."
"Keh!" He blushed, mind whirling. So... even if Kagome had been in Kikyou's place, she wouldn't have been the same as Kikyou. Her open heart is still the same, even though she only remembers things as though she'd been born and raised here. She's so accepting of me, because it's her, and not because she was born somewhere else? How can that be?
"Kagome..." he started, and then hesitated, and she looked up at him.
"Why aren't you afraid of me... trying to kill me like any other miko? Why aren't you afraid I'm going to steal the tama anymore? You know that's what I was after before."
The miko tilted her head, and frowned thoughtfully at his question. "Well... I guess because when I was being trained, and I was told how the kami created everything, I felt like I couldn't hate a being just because they were a youkai, or hanyou, since the kami created them, the same as they did me. I mean, who am I to criticize the kami? If I hate youkai, then it would be like saying that the kami made a mistake. I never have understood the attitude other miko have on the subject. Bad is bad, and good is good – and any being can be either. A person," she emphasized, "isn't born evil – evil is a choice they make, and there's just as many evil humans as there are evil youkai."
He stared at her, stunned. Is that how she really sees it? "B-but..."
She shook her head, casting him a small smile before looking back at what she was doing. "I'm not afraid of you, Inuyasha. I don't believe you would ever willingly hurt me. You try to hide it, but you are a good man – an honorable one, and I trust you. And besides," she chuckled, "you're perfect the way you are – why should you change yourself into a full-youkai like you wanted before? There's all sorts of youkai out there... but there's only one Inuyasha." She slanted him a look once more. "Then there's the fact that you could have already taken it many times, and yet instead, you've helped me to protect it several times – as well as you've protected me."
He stayed silent, more shocked than he could ever remember being. Kagome really is different – inside, in her soul, than Kikyou ever was... but will it stand Naraku's first betrayal? Will she truly prove that she completely and totally trusts me?
"Well," he sighed, "when are ya goin' to take care of this bandit, then?"
"This evening, at dinner. I'll re-bandage him, and then feed him what little his body can take, before heading home for the night," she replied, her attention fully on what she was doing. She was always so serious about her herbs – mixing them up could be a very bad thing. "Are you going to have dinner with me tonight, or do you have something else to do?"
Closing his eyes, he huffed silently as he considered it. "I... guess I'll eat with you, since I'm going to go with you to see this bandit, woman."
She looked up with a smile, and then the scene began to fade away, and Inuyasha looked up at Miroku's ghostly form, startled. Within seconds, he found himself sitting in an open field as Kagome was picking herbs, this time. He glanced around, confused, and then his eyes widened as he remembered this scene from his past.
This... this is when Kikyou asked me to become human! I wonder what's going to happen here with Kagome? I mean, she just said I was fine the way I am, and she's always said that... but... would she actually want me, as hers, if I stayed hanyou?
Kagome tilted her head back and sighed, deeply content. It was a beautiful day, sunny, but not too hot, and a cooling breeze fluttering through here and there... she glanced sideways at Inuyasha with a blush, and smiled to herself. And even better... Inuyasha's with me, she thought, happy that he was.
"Inuyasha," she said slowly, waiting until he looked at her to continue. "I've been thinking... if I didn't have the Shikon no Tama, I could be a normal woman... I wouldn't have to worry about being that stupid thing's guardian anymore."
He nodded, eyes wide as he waited for the words. This is it... she's gonna say the same thing...
She blushed, and looked down at her hands that were fidgeting in her lap. "I think..." she hesitated, then blurted out, "I think I know how to get rid of it. The only wish I think would actually wor-"
"Keh! Why don't you go ahead and say it, then? You want to wish for me to become human or something, right?"
Eyes widening in shock, she almost choked at his words. "NO! Why would I want that, Inuyasha? That would be the same thing as you wishing yourself youkai! You wouldn't be you, silly. Inuyasha is a hanyou – and that's how I want you to stay!"
Unable to believe it, he stared at her for a moment, than asked, "But then, why did you say that about being a normal woman? What's that got to do with anything?"
A scalding blush washed across her cheeks, and her face dropped so low, her bangs completely covered her eyes. He could see the tension in her now tightly clasped hands, though. "Well," she whispered, "I... if I didn't have the jewel anymore... I wouldn't have that responsibility, and I could...maybe find someone and, you know, settle down, as a wife. Someone like... you, Inuyasha..."
He'd already suffered through so many shocks in the last little bit, that he didn't even react, he just stared at her for a moment with a blush, and then said, "Kagome... you'd still be a miko, and no one would ever allow... that kind of thing," he said sadly. "They'd try to kill you."
Her head whipped up at that, and he was caught off-guard at the wildly hopeful look in her eyes. "I don't care, Inuyasha! I... I love you, and this would be my choice! If the villagers didn't like it, I'd happily go live in the wilderness with you, and not miss a thing. It's only the danger that the jewel presents that keeps me here."
Heart softening all over the place at her declaration, he shook his head for a moment to clear it, and then asked curiously, "So... then - what's the wish you were thinking of?"
Smiling a little as she realized he hadn't rejected her, she sighed. "The only wish that I think would ever work. I want to wish it to disappear... forever."
He blinked, startled, never having given that kind of thing the first thought. Disappear... forever? Kami, Kagome... you truly aretotally different than Kikyou, aren't you? Guilt tightened its talons on him. I always knew you were, but... I didn't know just how different. I can't even believe that you really are her reincarnation anymore, the differences are so huge...
"Well... that's certainly a different kind of wish. But... it might work – after all, you wouldn't be wishing for power, and in fact, you'd be using it to wish away power..."
Kagome nodded. "And Midoriko could finally rest..." she trailed off.
He reached out and took her hand, bringing it to rest over his heart, and captured her gaze in an intense one of his own. "So... let me get this straight. You want to wish the jewel away, forever, have me stay a hanyou, and get... married?" he asked softly, almost afraid to say the last part out loud for fear of ridicule.
She nodded eagerly, a hopeful smile on her face.
Before he could answer, she faded... and he was facing a new scene, this time as an observer only. Ah... now we're getting to the crunch! This is where Naraku, disguised as me, attacked Kikyou. So, how is Kagome going to react?
He watched with an almost bittersweet sadness as Kagome's actions paralleled Kikyou's on that long ago day, as she took out the shell of lip paint he'd given her, and put some on. It wasn't but a moment before the newly-born Naraku appeared in his stolen form, and Inuyasha cried out the same as she did when his claws tore into her. He wished he could stop what was happening... but that was not in his power, so all he could do was watch as she hit the ground, shock and pain in her beautiful face.
His breath caught in his throat as the illusion of himself moved around to where Kagome could see him holding the jewel, and he waited, pain in his heart, for her denunciation...
Only it never came.
At first, he could see a stunned look of confusion in her eyes as her face paled, and her blood pooled beneath her, and he wanted to gut Naraku for the taunting words he spoke to her, but Kagome... again, she didn't react the way he thought she would. As the fake him ran off, she pulled herself to her feet with a determination he was proud of.
Inuyasha? No... I could see that person's soul in their eyes – and they were nothing like Inuyasha. They were... something else. Evil. That wasn't even a person – it was like a lot of beings all in one.
"That wasn't Inuyasha, I just know it! But who could it be that would know about he and I...?" She swayed on her feet, but refused to give in, and despite the blood running down her back, she began to stumble towards the village, following along behind the phantom, determined to figure the puzzle out and stop him from taking the jewel.
Miroku, who'd watched the whole thing unfold from his place hovering near Inuyasha, smiled, and said, "Well, Inuyasha? Found out some things today, have you? Let me assure you that the best is yet to come. Now, we get to see your reaction to Naraku's portrayal of Kagome. Will you fall for it, I wonder?"
Inuyasha cast him a look. "How stupid are you, monk? I know that's not Kagome, so how is this going to tell how I would really have reacted to this situation, if it had happened back then?"
A ghostly chuckle met his words. "Because, just as with the last several scenes, you will be unable to respond using your knowledge of what actually happened. You will be forced to respond as though unaware – just as you were when these things took place."
"Keh. Let's go then," he mumbled, not too happy. How will I really react? Will I... prove myself unworthy of her? Of her trust?
Another blink, and he found himself facing another familiar scene, as he walked past a tree – only to have several arrows strike near him with heavy thuds. His heart beat painfully fast as he turned, and saw what appeared to be Kagome, another arrow drawn as she glared at him with hatred in her eyes.
No! That's not Kagome... don't be fooled, he whispered to himself.
He could feel shock and apprehension within himself as he stared at the apparition standing above him in the sunlight. "Kagome!" he shouted. "What...?"
No... Kagome... how could you... his heart abruptly changed from feelings of betrayal and hurt, then, to denial. No! That isn't her! I won't believe it! His fully aware side cheered in that moment...
He turned and ran, but instead of heading for the village, as he had the last time, his feet turned in the other direction, startling him. As did his thoughts once again... That... that can't be Kagome! Kagome isn't capable of looking at someone with such hate in her eyes... but who the hell is that, and where's the real Kagome? She could be in danger! He rolled his eyes. This is fuckin' confusing – part of me knowing what's happening, and part of me not.
Inside, the part of him not sleeping within the spell was overjoyed – he'd proven his own trust in Kagome in that instant, and now he could watch the rest open up before him with no foreknowledge of what would happen.
Body racing towards the woods behind the village, he quickly outdistanced the fake Kagome, and headed for the place he had been heading to meet the real Kagome. It didn't take long for him to smell her blood, and heart pounding, he sped up, reaching her within moments, his breath stilling at the pain in her face.
"Kagome!" he gasped, reaching for her, wondering if she would flinch from him.
She looked up, eyes searching his, and then she smiled, slumping into his arms with pain and weariness – and gratitude that he was there. "Inuyasha... I knew it wasn't you," she whispered. "Someone attacked me that looked like you – but I didn't believe it."
He nodded frantically down at her. "Someone that looked like you just shot arrows at me, too, Kagome-" he settled a finger over her lips as she opened her mouth in denial, "-I knew it wasn't you, don't worry. But we've got to get you taken care of, and then find out who did this – and why!"
"He's after the jewel. He had it with him, but said it needed to be tainted more first," she gasped out, "and now it's back in the village. I can feel it. Take me there first, Inuyasha. Then I can wish the tama away, and then whoever that was will be disappointed, and we can track them down, okay?"
He frowned, but nodded, and within moments, had her in the shrine. Quickly, worried that the fake could come back at any time, he leaped to the front, letting her grab the now darkly tainted jewel. He watched, awed, as her touch purified it again, and then her eyes closed, and lips barely moving, she made her wish...
And the tama disappeared in a rain of sparkles – forever.
Kagome slumped into his arms again with a sharp exhalation of breath, and then smiled up at him, her heart in her eyes. "It's done, Inuyasha! The jewel is gone forever!"
He nodded, and smiled down at her for a moment...
Then blinked, suddenly feeling a bit disoriented, when he found himself once again standing on the road that they'd originally been on, no longer caught in the spell, and all of himself fully cognizant of his surroundings once again.
Shaking his head to clear it of the fog that was currently masking his thoughts, he turned towards Miroku, watching as the monk also blinked, and shook his own head. "Keh. Where the fuck are the girls, monk?"
Miroku opened his mouth to answer, but was cut off by a crashing back under the trees, that quickly resolved itself into the women in question. The moment Kagome caught sight of them, she pulled Sango along behind her as she hurried towards them. "Did you guys see-" she broke off when Miroku nodded.
"Yes, Kagome. It was a spell that I cast – as a way to show both of you who was right, and who was wrong about what would have happened had fate cast you in Kikyou's place all those years ago. Inuyasha, especially, needed to see the truth of what would have been," the monk said.
Both women stared at him in shock, while Inuyasha refused to meet anyone's gaze.
"So... you're saying that what just happened in that... dream?... is how I would have reacted if I had been in Kikyou's place?" she asked, wanting to be completely clear.
He nodded. "Yes. The spell was designed to bring out your true feelings, and the reactions that you had while within it was exactly as you would have reacted had that been reality."
"Huh..." Kagome looked down at her shoes, obviously considering his words. "But why did you do it, Miroku?" she asked softly.
He cocked a brow and met Inuyasha's gaze. "Because I have a particularly stubborn hanyou friend who's had a lot of nonsense locked up in his head for many years – and it was time some truth got in there to balance all that out." His expression became sympathetic as he continued to hold Inuyasha's eyes. "I'm sorry, my friend, but as you saw, things with Kagome would have gone much differently. Neither you, nor Kikyou, trusted the other, and even had Naraku not interfered, you would never have remained together, for without trust, there can be no relationship."
Inuyasha finally looked away, shamed to admit that Miroku was right. He'd known Kikyou didn't really trust him – but he felt that she was vindicated in not doing so, since he was a dangerous, worthless half-breed.
Unfortunately for him, when he looked away from Miroku, he ended up looking at Kagome... and she showed her empathic streak once again when she gasped, eyes widening as she looked back at him. "It wasn't just Kikyou that you didn't trust, was it, Inuyasha?" she asked slowly. "You expected her to not trust you... because you don't even trust yourself."
He winced. Dammit, Kagome, how do you do that? "I..."
"Don't deny it, baka! This whole time, that's why you've never really been too angry with her about what happened, because you felt she was justified in her mistrust!" Kagome cried, upset and shocked at her sudden epiphany. "You are such an idiot, Inuyasha. You are not what you think you are. You are good, and honorable, and strong – and trustworthy, and I don't care what anyone else thinks!"
He stared at her, unable to think of a thing to say, and then glanced at his other friends helplessly.
"She is right, Inuyasha. You are all the things she has said, or I would not waste my time traveling with you. I am going to say this, and you can get angry all you want, but take this the way it is meant, and not as an insult against anyone. I would never have agreed to travel with Kikyou. She has changed, somewhat, since she was brought back, but nonetheless, there is still much in her that is not good. Yet, I agreed to travel with you. And for a monk to say they would rather travel with a half-demon than a miko... well, that should tell you something."
Sango nodded, agreeing fully with Miroku. "The lecher speaks for me, too, Inuyasha. Wouldn't you know it, when he's not thinking about women, he's actually pretty smart!"
The group chuckled a little bit, though Inuyasha simply looked uncomfortable. Kagome sighed, knowing that he would be thinking on things for several days, more than likely. She could only hope that he would finally come to the right conclusions...
In other words, he wasn't the one that failed fifty years ago – more blame lay at the feet of Kikyou, than anyone else. She was jerked from her thoughts by Inuyasha's voice.
"I understand what you were trying to tell me, monk, but... I still say she was right not to trust me, because I obviously didn't trust her. Look at what happened."
Miroku sighed and moved over to the side of the road to take a seat, waiting 'til the others followed suit to speak again. "Inuyasha, again, I'm going to be blunt. Her mistrust of you wasn't warranted – after all, you didn't attack her, did you? However, she did attack you -which means your mistrust of her was correct – you weren't safe around her. Your instincts were trying to tell you something, and they were right."
Inuyasha blinked, then blinked again. My instincts were trying to warn me...? I... never thought of it like that. It is something instincts do – telling you when something dangerous is around. He cast a guilty glance at a rather subdued Kagome. And funny thing... my instincts have never said a damn thing about Kagome. Guess they knew from day one that I was safe with her. I really am a baka, he thought, suddenly feeling every bit the fool Miroku had ever called him.
He sighed, and looked down at where his hands were inside his sleeves, busy plucking at the baby fine silver hairs that adorned them. I have to say it, as much as I hate doing it...
"I'm sorry, Kagome. You... were right. You do know your heart enough to know what you would do in those kinds of situations, and... you knew me better than I did."
"You silly baka. I've always known I could trust you." She reached out and grabbed at one of his hands under his sleeves, and the minute her hand covered his, he stopped pulling his own hair, and held still, flushing, as he looked up at her.
She watched him for a minute, then smiled at him, and stood up, holding out her hand. "Come on... we've still got a lot of traveling to do, and sitting around isn't going to get us anywhere." She glanced at Miroku, then back at Inuyasha. "And I think we have some thinking to do, too, you know?"
Nodding, he accepted her hand and let her pull him to his feet. "Yeah, I guess so." He glanced at a smiling Miroku, and nodded. "I should probably thank you for what you did, but I'm still kinda thinking about the whole thing, so let's leave it until I figure out what's in my head, okay? I'd rather say it and be sincere, after all," he said softly, and they all instantly understood.
Miroku merely nodded, and with no further delays, the group once again began walking, everyone ignoring the hours they'd lost with first the fight, and then the whole spell thing.
It had already been a long day, and Kagome could only be glad that Shippo had stayed behind with Kaede this trip out – they definitely didn't need him needling Inuyasha like he always did right now...
The poor hanyou had enough to think about already.
Two days later, as they ate dinner around their campfire, Inuyasha paused in his eating, and looking up at the monk, said, "Thanks, Miroku."
Everyone knew what he was thanking him for, and no more needed to be said as the monk nodded, pleased.
Later that evening, when Kagome left the small camp to go sit and stare up at the stars, Inuyasha decided to join her. He had a few questions for her.
"Keh." He plopped down next to her, and she turned her head to look at him with a small smile. "Did you mean what you said in that spell thing the other day?" he asked, steadfastly refusing to meet her gaze as he awaited her reply.
Kagome, head pillowed on her arms as she lay on the grass on her back, looked confused for a moment. "Umm... which thing I said?" she asked.
He shot her an exasperated look. "Well, all of it – but first, the part about being evil being a choice, and not just because you were born a certain way?"
She nodded, eyes going back to the sky. "Yeah. I've always wondered about the arrogance of the people here, really – daring to hate one of the kami's creations. And then calling a person evil just because they aren't human. Humans can be horrible, so it's just so hard for me to understand the whole attitude in this era."
He stared at her for a long time after that before he was able to look away. Kagome... you're so amazing – I'm the luckiest bastard alive to have met you, he sighed to himself. He finally jerked his gaze away from her, and lay back, joining her in looking at the stars.
"And what about the other thing..?" he asked, his voice recognizably hesitant.
"Eh? What other thing?"
"You know... what you said about... about bein' with me." He flushed deeply.
"I... I love you, and this would be my choice! If the villagers didn't like it, I'd happily go live in the wilderness with you, and not miss a thing."
Kagome's cheeks reddened, then, and she refused to look directly at him as she remembered her words. "Why wouldn't I have meant it, Inuyasha?" she finally got the courage to ask. "You can't be that oblivious – it isn't like you haven't heard me say that I love you. You're my best friend – of course I'd want to be with you forever."
Inuyasha took a moment to catch his breath, hearing her say that so bluntly still such a surprise to him. "I... I always thought you meant that as just, you know, friends. Not like... married," he said quietly.
She chuckled, then sighed. "Honestly, Inuyasha, you can be so dense sometimes. Everyone else knows how I feel about you – even Naraku. That's why he used me that time with Tsubaki to try to kill you... because he wanted to cause as much pain as possible."
He scowled at that reminder of Naraku's perfidy. "Keh! Damn bastard – I can't wait to slice him open with Tessaiga." He was seriously perturbed by that memory. Just another one of the damn times I've almost lost her. His scowl deepened at another part of that memory. "And you! Trying to tell me to run away – like I'd leave you alone, wench!"
Sliding her eyes sideways to glance at him, she blushed at his words, warmth moving through her. "I know, Inuyasha. I was just trying to protect you from what they were going to use me to do. I could never live with myself if I killed you." A pensive look crossed her face, then. "I think that's why I understand Kohaku so well."
Growling at that reminder of another scheme of Naraku's, and it's victims, he sat back up, folding his arms into his sleeves and staring at the night sky hard, as though it contained all the answers to every question a person could ever ask.
After a few minutes of reflective quiet, Inuyasha unfolded his arms and reached out to poke Kagome in the arm. "Oi, wench," he said softly, and waited for her to look at him. "You know I feel the same way, don't you?"
Heart pounding, Kagome stared at him. "About what, Inuyasha?"
"Keh... about everything, woman. Everything we've just talked about. I feel the same way." He said it with a peculiar intensity, and Kagome gasped as it came to her what he was meaning... and tears filled her eyes.
Sitting up, she threw herself at him, and clutched to him, almost unable to believe what he'd just admitted to, in a roundabout way.
"Geez, Kagome," he chuckled quietly, as his arms came around her. "I've told you before that I need you with me... didn't you understand what I meant?"
She shook her head from where her face was still hidden against his suikan, and he laughed again. "Sheesh... and you call me dense," he said in a soft tone of voice – one filled with affection. "All the feelings you just talked about – how you feel about me – those have always been returned completely. I'm just not... very good at talking about them," he finished sheepishly.
Kagome nodded, and finally pulled away a little from him, staring up at him with shining eyes. "And plus, you were confused about the things that had happened with Kikyou so long ago."
"Yeah," he admitted quietly, "but that's why I'm glad we have meddling friends. "It hurt, a little, to see how different things could have been, but... since you weren't born in this world, I'm glad that things happened the way they did; if they hadn't, I'd never have known you – and knowing you makes up for every bad thing that's ever happened to me. You make it all worthwhile, Kagome. All of it."
Heart in her eyes, she stared at him, sheer love almost overwhelming her in that moment, and it was all visible to the hanyou in red as he stared back, the same expression in his own golden eyes.
"That's why we must always be together, Inuyasha – remember, I've told you that before, and I meant it. I'll always be by your side, until the day you send me away," she said, and he smiled a little at the happy expression on her face.
Pulling her into his lap, he sighed contentedly, and tucked her head under his chin. "I'll never send you away, K'gome," he said softly. "Never."
The next morning, when their friends awoke in the camp, and didn't see them, they went looking.
What they found had them both smiling for days... a hanyou, and a miko, curled peacefully together...
Both sporting contented smiles.
Thank you, Buddha.
A/N: I've been working on this one-shot all day to get it the way I wanted it, and I finally got it at least close. Plus, I'm working on several other one-shots as well, that I'll probably be posting over the next several days. I'm just in the major mood for serious Inu/Kags fluff, I guess. Hope everyone enjoys!