Well, I decided to write another Inukag one-shot. I know, I know, the plot is one of the very old and very used ideas, but please check it out regardless, ok?

For those of you who read Against all odds and are waiting for a second part… I decided not to write one. However, I will write a companion story to it, so keep your eyes open, ne :D

Alright, enough of me talking, on with the story.

Breaking explanation:

XxX: change of scene

ZzZz: switch between the 'dream' and 'reality' (you'll understand as you'll read)

Ж: change of POV

~ξ~: time-skip

Disclaimer: I know nothing at all and I never will except the idea (I think?).

Now, please enjoy and review if you feel like it, and special thanks to Kanna37 for editing thus monster :3 Love you!


If the Miko Was Someone Else

Inuyasha cursed as he ran through the woods with Kagome in his arms. The girl was unconscious and the wound in her chest kept bleeding freely. The stench of death was starting to surround her slowly, and Inuyasha bit his lip when he smelled it.

"We're almost there, Kagome," he whispered, although he knew that she most likely didn't hear him. "Just hold on a little longer. Don't you die on me, you hear?" The only response he got was a cough as she shivered in his arms. At least she wasn't coughing up blood anymore. But her situation still wasn't good. Not at all. For not only did she have to struggle to stay alive due to her wound, she also had to fight the poison the yōkai injected into her body.

The half-demon's hold on the schoolgirl tightened some more as he sped up. He could hear her heart rate slowing down and it scared the wits out of him. In the distance, his eyes could see the lights of Kaede's village through the darkness of the night.

"Just a little longer," he pleaded to the unconscious, feverish girl. "Don't give up, Kagome. Just a little longer."

By the time he finally reached the hut of the old priestess, Kaede, he was half-dead himself. Though in his case, it had been out of fear for Kagome's safety, rather than injury. Her state had worsened still on the way and the young hanyō could say that she was way closer to death than he could deal with. So close that he didn't even need his sensitive nose and hearing to tell.

"Wake up, old hag!" Inuyasha all but yelled as he entered the hut. He soon found out he didn't need to yell, for the old priestess was not asleep yet. She turned around and opened her mouth to scold him for such a noisy entrance, not that he ever entered any other way, but closed it again when she saw Kagome in his arms. Without a word, she motioned for him to lay the younger priestess near the fire that was burning inside the hut and proceeded to tend to her injuries. She didn't even ask what had happened. They didn't have time to chatter. She'd have to figure out what kind of yōkai attacked while she worked. Right now, every second counted.

Inuyasha sat near the entrance so as to not disturb the elder priestess in her work, his claws flexing without his notice in his helplessness. Right now, he could do nothing but watch and hope Kaede could heal the girl from the future. But damn, did he hate being unable to do anything.

About an hour later, Miroku and Sango, who had Kirara and Shippo in her arms, entered the hut too. Inuyasha had gone ahead of them with Kagome and they all agreed it was a good thing he did, or else the young girl could have paid with her life.

As soon as they entered, Sango sat down next to Inuyasha, while Miroku walked over to Kaede and helped her. Being a monk, he had a little knowledge on treating wounds, although he was nowhere as efficient in that art as Kaede or Kagome herself.

As the night wore on and the tense silence continued, it was all Inuyasha could do not to pace around the hut in his anxiety. Every now and then, he fidgeted nervously as he glanced at the pair working on the injured miko. Neither had said a word and it put him on edge. If they could at least tell if Kagome had a chance or not…

Sunrise came and found Sango sleeping propped up against the wall where she had been since she arrived, a worried frown on her face and two small demons in her arms. Inuyasha sat next to her, his body completely rigid by now. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity but was in reality but a couple of hours, the elder priestess and the monk turned to the other occupants of the hut with grim expressions. Inuyasha's heart leapt into his throat as he jumped to his feet. He definitely didn't like those expressions they had on their faces.

"Well?" he managed to ask around the bile that has formed in his throat. To his relief, Kaede had sent him a reassuring smile, however small due to her fatigue.

"Worry not, child. Kagome is safe from any danger. All she needs now is rest."

Relief hit the hanyō hard and his knees almost gave way under him as he released the breath he hadn't noticed he had been holding. Kagome was alright. She would be fine.

Suddenly, Inuyasha stood up and left the hut quickly saying something about needing fresh air. He couldn't stay there, least the others would see his weak side. And that, he could not allow.

Not long afterwards, he found himself in a tree on the hill on the outskirts of the village, the same hill that Kagome had first met his brother at, when the latter had come to retrieve the black pearl from Inuyasha's eye in an attempt to get the Tessaiga.

The worry and stress leaving his body, Inuyasha thought back on the night before.

He had dozed off in his tree after making sure there weren't any yōkai nearby. He wasn't sleeping long though, as soon a feeling that something was wrong woke him. One look at the camp below him was enough for him to know what it was: Kagome was gone. Her scent was heading towards the forest.

'What is that stupid wench thinking?' Inuyasha thought furiously as he jumped down from the tree and took off in a run after her. Not too deep into the woods, he came to a sudden halt and his eyes widened at he saw. There, in front of him, was a very accurate copy of himself. Had he not known that he was not looking in a mirror, he would have easily believed that he was looking at his reflection.

Noticing him, the copy smirked and jumped out of sight. Inuyasha didn't follow it, too stunned to move. What the Hell was going on?

A sudden sound of a bow-string snapping and of an arrow cutting the air brought him back to reality. Kagome was standing in front of him, her bow raised and her brows furrowed. But her arrow obviously wasn't aimed at him. Not even Kagome could shoot this far off target.

"Osuwari," the girl said calmly before Inuyasha could even open his mouth and not even a second later, he was kissing the ground. Growling angrily he stood up when the spell wore off and glared at her.

"What the Hell was that for?" he yelled at her as she notched another arrow and turned her back on him, eyeing her surroundings warily.

"Well excuse me for making sure I wasn't going to shoot the wrong target," she snapped without looking back at him as she continued to scan her surroundings. "Believe it or not, that yōkai can actually copy you really well."

The insult that was about to exit his mouth stopped midway as he stared at her back, his mind wandering immediately to the accurate copy of himself he had just seen.

"It attacked you?"

"You've seen it?"

"Answer the question, damn it!" he was back to back with her now with Tessaiga drawn. Kagome huffed in annoyance.

"I'm hunting it down right now, so quite obviously it did. Guess it didn't think I'd shoot it if it looked like you."

Inuyasha froze as he heard that, his mind wandering to a similar situation more than fifty years ago. One that ended with one death, one long sleep and a lot of hurt.

"You shot at it?" he asked wearily. He should be glad she did. If she didn't, she might have been hurt or worse. But at the same time, knowing she apparently hadn't hesitated hurt. And here he thought she had trusted him and he could trust her too…

"Only because I knew it wasn't really you. Besides, what was I supposed to do? Let some copy of you kill me?"

Once again, Inuyasha's thoughts came to a screeching halt. He glanced at her over his shoulder, momentarily forgetting about the yōkai lurking around.

"You knew it wasn't me?"

"You think I would have shot it if I thought it was you?" Kagome yelled right back, still not turning to him. She had been in her share of fights. Enough to know not to lose her focus in such situations. That yōkai was different from any other they had ever encountered. Smarter. Almost as if it knew its enemies inside and out. Not even Naraku had been this well informed.

"How? How did you know it wasn't me?" Inuyasha asked her. She huffed in annoyance. He was the more experienced fighter here. Shouldn't he know this conversation could wait and he had to focus now?

"Well, first of all, I know you would never attack me. And second, the s-word didn't work on it," she said before quickly firing an arrow into the woods. She could have sworn she saw a bit of red there…

Inuyasha was about to ask her something else, but her firing of the arrow reminded him where they were and what they were doing. Regaining his focus, the dog demon sniffed the air trying to locate the yōkai that dared to attack his friend.

The rest of the fight was a blur to Inuyasha. As suddenly as the yōkai had disappeared before, it appeared again and struck. Kagome fired another arrow at it but it dodged. Inuyasha tried to cut it down. Sooner or later, the yōkai was brought down by the duo… but not before it managed to strike Kagome while Inuyasha had been distracted. Though by what, he could no longer tell. Whatever it was that made him lose his focus again, he couldn't remember.

But what occupied Inuyasha's thoughts most was the conversation he'd had with Kagome before the fight began. She had known the fake to be a fake almost instantly. She had attacked it because she knew it wasn't him. She wasn't deceived, unlike Kikyo fifty years prior.

'But… that was different,' Inuyasha thought. And he couldn't help but wonder… if back then, when Naraku turned them against each other, it had been Kagome and not Kikyo that was guarding the Jewel… If Kagome had been brought up in this era, if she lived the same kind of life as Kikyo and if she found herself in the same situation with him as Kikyo did on that day… how would she have reacted? Would she kill him? Or seal him like Kikyo did? And… how would he have reacted?

XxX

Sango and Miroku sat in Kaede's hut, Sango having awoken not long after Inuyasha left, surrounding Kagome while waiting with the elder priestess for the younger miko's awakening.

"Are you sure there's nothing more you can do, Kaede-sama?" Sango asked suddenly, earning herself a questioning glance from Kikyo's younger sister. The slayers eyes focused once more on Kagome. "She just seems… to be in so much pain," she whispered as she took one of Kagome's hands in her own. It was warm. Too warm. The fever hadn't gone down a bit.

"It must be the poison," Miroku sighed and Sango snapped her head up. Seeing the panic in her eyes, the houshi explained quickly. "It is nothing to worry about. It's not a strong poison, nor a deadly one. In fact, Kagome-sama's spiritual power had purified almost all of it already it would seem."

The taijiya looked positively relieved at this news. But relief still didn't completely take over. She would only be completely relieved once it was all over and Kagome was back on her feet.

It wasn't until twilight that Kagome finally opened her eyes and sat up. Immediately, Shippo jumped into her arms with a cry and tears of relief falling from his eyes in waterfalls. Kagome smiled as she assured the kit – and every other occupant of the hut – that she was indeed alright. One look around the hut had her brows furrowed though.

"Where's Inuyasha?" she asked suddenly.

"He's outside as far as I know. He has been all day since he heard you were out of danger, Kagome-sama," the monk said. Sango huffed in annoyance.

"One would think he could stay here if he was this worried," she said, more to herself than to anyone else, but Kagome still heard her and couldn't help but smile.

"He probably just couldn't handle the tension, Sango-chan," she said, though she suspected it was really something else. She should probably go talk to him. But as she stood up, her friends immediately told her to sit back down and it was all she could do not to snap at them that she was feeling fine.

"Are you sure, Kagome-chan? You have been poisoned after all," Sango asked worriedly and the young miko held back a sigh.

"Yes, I'm sure, Sango-chan. Besides, that poison was nothing. I've had worse," Kagome said. However, the mention of the poison made her sit down with her brows furrowed. "But now that I think about it, it's weird. Usually, poison is supposed to be deadly isn't it? But I'm sure this poison was not meant to kill me."

The monk, elder miko, and demon slayer exchanged glances before turning back to Kagome.

"What kind of yōkai was it that attacked ye, child?" Kaede asked calmly. Kagome heaved her shoulders.

"It was weird," she admitted after a short while of thinking. "I'm sure it was the first time I fought a yōkai like that and yet it seemed like it knew me from somewhere. It was almost like it had fought me before."

"What makes ye say that?" Kagome sighed and looked the elder priestess straight in the eye, her gaze telling Kaede that the young girl wanted answers herself.

"It read my movements perfectly from the first arrow on. Like it had seen me fight enough times already to figure me out. It already knew my weakness or it wouldn't have changed into the one person I could never shoot…"

"But you did shoot at it, didn't you Kagome-sama? Despite the fact it looked like Inuyasha," Miroku interrupted. Kagome glared at him.

"I only did once I was a hundred percent sure it wasn't truly him," she all but snapped. Honestly, how could Miroku even think that she could shoot Inuyasha?

"How did you know?" Sango asked calmly and Kagome took a deep breath to get her temper under control. She then repeated the same answer she told Inuyasha the day before.

"One, I know Inuyasha wouldn't ever attack me. And two, I tried to s-i-t him and it obviously didn't work. Three," she stopped and looked and felt carefully around to make sure Inuyasha was not near enough to hear. Once she was certain, she continued in a whisper. "Three, it didn't feel quite like him."

"Feel?" Miroku asked and Kagome looked away her cheeks tinted in a light pink. Kaede smiled.

"Ye are talking about his aura, aren't ye child?" Kagome nodded her head and sighed.

"It's just… his aura calms me. It has such a nice feel to it that I can't stop myself from letting his youki surround my senses. I just…" she trailed off hiding her face in her hands. Kaede put a reassuring hand on her shoulder.

"Worry not, child. It is absolutely normal for a priestess to enjoy the feeling of another's aura, especially if it is someone close to ye. It is but a priestess's way not only to look out for her loved ones, much like memorizing scents for Inu-yōkai or other ways for both humans and demons to know when something is wrong with those they care about."

Kagome sent a small smile at the elder priestess, but the smile fell when she noticed the lecherous look on Miroku's face.

"Sooo, Kagome-sama… how does it feel to feel him up…" he didn't get to finish his sentence for Sango had hit him with her boomerang with all her might, knocking the monk out cold.

"Don't make it sound so perverted you letch," she growled. "Kaede just said it was nothing like that." Sango huffed as she sat back down, then glanced at Kagome. "If I may ask, Kagome-chan… how does Inuyasha's aura feel to you?" she asked. Kagome shot her a surprised glance then smiled.

"It's not like any other I've ever felt," she answered. "Yours, Sango-chan, is strong and has a slight yōkai undertone due to your frequent dealings with them I suppose. But it's still definitely human and at the same time as it feels harsh and strong, it also feels delicate. I guess this has to do with you being a slayer yet still being a girl.

"Shippo here feels like any other demon and yet I would never mistake his aura for anyone else's. It just has that feel to it… I can't really describe it, but it's something that's unique to him and him only," she continued with a smile as she patted the young kit on the head. She received a big smile and some cuddling from said fox demon in return, making her chuckle.

"Miroku-sama's aura feels rather dark at times. I suppose this has to do with his Air Rip. But most of the time it's joyful and bright. He's honestly the light in the group when his aura isn't clouded by dark thoughts, that is. And it has that gentle feeling to it that tells you it's OK to trust him.

"Inuyasha… he doesn't feel like any of you and yet like all of you at once. His aura is strong and makes me feel safe, but at the same time there's a certain tenderness and even weakness in it. He feels mostly like a yōkai, except on his human night, but there's still that human touch. His aura is calm and agitated, bright and dark, warm and cold all at once. I can't even truly describe it. It's a mix of anything and everything but in a balance where one feel never exceeds the other. There's no feeling to his aura that feels stronger than the others… and truly, it's like there's nothing to feel at all," Kagome sighed and looked over at her friend and the elder priestess. "Did that even make sense?"

Sango was staring at her with wide eyes for a moment and silence reigned in the room, broken only by Miroku's occasional groans as the monk slowly came to again.

"Ye must have been feeling Inuyasha's aura a lot," Kaede finally voiced and Kagome blushed again. "This is good. If ye know his aura so well, ye will not be fooled when someone tries to pretend to be him. Like the other evening."

Kagome nodded. 'But it's not only his. I could recognize the aura of any of my friends anywhere. I know them all really well,' she thought. After all, it wasn't like she could feel only one aura, it was either all or none. But as she learned to control her miko powers, Kagome had quickly discovered that it wasn't only Inuyasha's aura she liked to feel (although to say it wasn't because of his aura that she even started practicing the art of 'feeling' would be a lie), she liked to be surrounded by the feeling of different auras around her. Not only did it make her feel closer to her friends, it also gave her a certain feeling of security and control.

"Which reminds me of our original topic of conversation," Sango said. "We still don't know what exactly it was that attacked Kagome."

Said miko bit her bottom lip. She had felt and seen something before she blacked out and before the demon was killed. But how could she explain it?

"It felt like it didn't belong here," she suddenly blurted out. Sango, Kaede and Miroku, who by then had thankfully (or maybe not) woken up by then, looked at her with wide eyes, so she explained herself. "Its aura. It felt like it didn't belong here. Like it came… I don't know… from somewhere far away… like from a different time or something like that."

Kagome narrowed her eyes and shook her head.

"No, that's wrong. It felt like it didn't belong here, but at the same time it didn't feel that way. And what's weirder is that… when it struck me… before I blacked out… I saw something. Something really weird."

"What was it you saw, child?" Kaede asked gently when she noticed Kagome started to shake slightly.

"Myself," she whispered. "I saw myself… and that demon…" she said slowly, looking for the right words to explain what she had seen. "I saw it kill me a few times over… but each time was somewhere else. And I was wearing something else each time too. The only thing that was the same each time was the feeling of that demons aura, because there were only a few times it looked like Inuyasha. Most of the time… it looked like a silver eagle."

Silence fell in the room. Sango and Kaede had furrowed their brows trying to think of an explanation for the weird vision. But it was the monk that actually came up with it.

"There's a legend I heard on my travels before meeting you," he said. Once he was sure everyone was listening to him, he continued. "It was about a great magician that once lived. He was known for his excellent potions. It was said he could make a potion for everything.

"One day, someone decided to test the theory and has asked the magician to create a potion that would allow him to travel to a place he knew like the back of his hand and yet didn't know at all. And the magician did it, though not before warning the man that he could not let anyone other than himself drink this potion or come into any contact with him that led to injury, like let's say a sword-duel, once he drank it until it wore off.

"The man left the magician and set out on a journey home, intending to test the potion once he was there. But on the way, he couldn't stop himself and drank it before he arrived. At first, it seemed like nothing had happened, so he was sure the potion had not worked. Only once he arrived in his home town did he see the potion had indeed brought him to a place he knew like the back of his hand, yet didn't know at all.

"The village was still there and looked the same, but the people treated him like a completely different person. Legend says he couldn't stand that change for longer than a few days and wanted to return but knew not how to do it."

"What was it that changed in the village?" Shippo asked. Everyone stared at him like he had grown a second head, for he had been so unnaturally quiet during the whole conversation that they had almost all forgotten he was even there. Miroku cleared his throat.

"It's not said in the legend, but it must have been a really radical change," the monk replied evasively before getting back to the tale. "Anyway, he tried to return to his home as he knew it, but didn't know how, so he traveled back to the magician to ask him for help. He never got there though. An eagle yōkai had attacked him on the way. In self defense, the man forgot the warning of the magician and struck the demon with his sword, cutting it deeply.

"The eagle fell to the ground as if dead and had, in front of the man's eyes, become silver. Noticing other demons in the darkness, the man had returned home. On the way, he had made camp and had struck his sword into the ground. A black hole is then said to have appeared and sucked him in. He's said to have awakened back home in his village and everything was back to normal. So he thought it to be a dream.

"It was a few days later that he met a silver eagle yōkai and was killed by it. And then, the eagle vanished into a black hole that opened in mid air, never to be seen again. This was witnessed by one of the children of the village, one who had heard the man's story about the weird potion, which is how the legend was born. It said that the yōkai was killed by another, starting a chain reaction, each yōkai inheriting somehow the power to travel given by the magician's potion. Though the exact 'chain' was lost as time went on."

"You think the yōkai from yesterday has something to do with this legend?" Sango asked with raised eyebrows. Miroku shrugged.

"I don't know, maybe. After all, if this yōkai could travel like the man in the legend, then maybe it had met Kagome in some other place like the one in the legend and killed her there? It would explain how he knew her so well even though it had never met her."

"Yeah, but what was this place where it could supposedly meet Kagome-chan and kill her if she's right here, alive and well?"

Kagome didn't say anything for a while as she digested the story and what she herself knew of the demon. It had definitely met her before, otherwise it wouldn't have known her fighting style and her weaknesses so well. If Miroku was right and that yōkai did have powers like described in the legend, it was easy to explain. But just what kind of place was it that it could go to?

Then, suddenly, it clicked in her mind.

"An alternate reality," she said suddenly. At the blank stares of her friends and Kaede, she explained patiently. "In my time, there are different theories about life somewhere else other than on earth as we know it. About life somewhere else in general. One of them is the theory of alternate realities or parallel worlds. Basically, it's life as we know it except that at some point in time something happened differently changing the future. For instance, there might be a reality, where I meet Inuyasha and the rest of you guys, our reality… and there might be one where I never fell down the well."

"You mean to say there are different versions of us living different versions of life and the differences are due to one small change in each one?" Sango asked in wonder. Kagome shrugged.

"It's just a theory. And I don't know how big the changes are. I can't travel between parallel worlds… but it looks like that yōkai could."

Silence fell in the hut as the group digested Kagome's theory. Finally, Kagome stood up.

"I'm going to talk to Inuyasha," she said as she swiftly left the hut. As she vanished outside, Miroku sighed.

"If Kagome-sama's and my theories are correct, then not only was that yōkai able to travel between realities, Kagome-sama might be able to as well," he said. The other occupants of the room directed wide eyed stares at him.

"What do ye mean, young monk?" Kaede asked. Miroku's eyes were serious when he looked at her.

"Think about it. In the legend, every yōkai or human that was as much as scratched by the 'traveling' demon got that ability too. And Kagome-sama said that the poison didn't feel like it was meant to kill. What if its purpose was to let the ability move on to someone else?"

After Miroku finished speaking, silence reigned in the hut again and the question remained without an answer. And none of the occupant knew that Kagome had actually still heard what was being said.

XxX

Kagome followed Inuyasha's aura up the hill where she'd first 'met' his half-brother. Just like she expected, the half demon was sitting in one of the lower branches.

"Inuyasha," she called out softly. He must have been in deep thought for she could swear he was startled by her call. When he looked down at her he frowned and jumped down in front of her. It wasn't a frown of anger though, she quickly noted. It was more like one of disapproval. Maybe because she got up and should be resting in his opinion?

"You should have just stayed in the hut. I was about to go there," he told her gruffly and she couldn't help but smile. So he was worried about her condition.

"I just needed some fresh air," she said as she walked past him and leaned against the tree he had been sitting in only half a minute prior. "The stars are beautiful, aren't they?" she then asked, changing the subject.

Inuyasha shook his head as he watched her. He couldn't help but notice that she looked just like Kikyo, but the similarities ended there. She was so different in every other aspect that the hanyō wondered how he could have ever seen Kikyo in Kagome.

"What do you see in them? They're the same as any other night," he replied gruffly as he leaned against the tree beside her. Then he heard her sigh.

"What's on your mind?" That question caught him off guard and his eyes widened for a second before he regained control.

"Keh! What makes you think there's anything on my mind?" he asked. This time, Kagome bit back her sigh but she couldn't hide the sadness in her expression so she turned her head away.

'I can feel it in your aura,' she thought but didn't dare to say it out loud. For Kaede and the others it might be normal that she constantly felt their auras, but how would Inuyasha react to that? It wasn't the same as with him checking their scents after all. He couldn't help it, he'd have to cut off his nose to stop. But she could just close off her sixth sense any time she wanted to and quit examining the auras around her, especially his.

She just didn't want to.

Inuyasha glanced at her when he caught a change in her scent. She was sad, he could tell. Then, something she once said to him resurfaced in his mind.

"I just feel… so happy. It's the first time that you've talked to me like this. I wanted to know both what was painful for you and what was sad. And how you thought about them."

That's right… Kagome had wanted to know that, she said so herself. But she never asked. This time was no different. At the slightest hint that he didn't want to talk about it, she backed out and didn't pester him. But she wanted to know, that much was sure.

It was as if she was sad he didn't trust her. One would think he would after all this time and everything they'd been through together. Andhe did trust her. It was just hard for him to talk about anything with anyone. He had been alone for so long he had almost forgotten it was possible to confide in others.

"It's OK, isn't it? Because now you're not alone," another thing she said drifted back to his mind. That was right, he wasn't alone anymore, thanks to Kagome. He had people he could trust, people he could confide in, people he could call his friends.

He knew that if he ever wanted to talk about anything, Kagome would be there to listen. And from that one time he actually did talk, he couldn't deny the fact that it had felt good to tell her. Maybe now wouldn't be any different?

"I was just thinking," he started and Kagome slowly turned around to face him. But he wasn't looking at her anymore.

"About what?" she asked gently. It would be no good to bring him to closing himself off once again now that he finally decided to talk.

"About the other night," Inuyasha admitted quietly. "About how you knew… that it hadn't been me that attacked you. And how Kikyo didn't, all those years ago," The hanyō slowly raised his head to look at her. Kagome had her full attention on him now as she spoke.

"Inuyasha, those were two completely different situations," she said gently. "I wasn't raised like Kikyo. I didn't come to know you the same way she did. I wasn't tricked in the same manner she was. You can't compare those two situations."

"I know," he said as he hung his head. "But I can't help wondering…" he couldn't finish the sentence, partly because he somewhat feared Kagome's reaction, partly because he just didn't know how to say it. But Kagome had a pretty good idea what he meant.

"How it would have gone if I were in Kikyo's place?" she asked gently as she turned away and walked towards the top of the hill, unaware of Inuyasha's gaze following her, for his head had snapped back up as she spoke. "Believe me, I've wondered about that too, more than once," Kagome admitted as she looked at him over her shoulder with a small smile.

"And I wish I could say I'm sure I wouldn't have been fooled… but I can't guarantee it, can I? None of us can know how things would have gone."

'But I sure wish I knew,' Kagome thought and she was quite certain the hanyō behind her thought the same thing. It was one of the what-if questions that had plagued her almost for as long as she'd known Inuyasha and a bit of his past, with Kikyo and before her.

"I'll be going back to the hut," she then said as she turned around again and smiled. "Come join us when you feel like it," she knew he needed some more time to himself. He didn't need to tell her and she didn't even need to feel his aura to tell. She just knew. So with a last smile at him, she walked back to the hut where Sango, Miroku, Kaede and Shippo had already fallen asleep. She was quick to follow them, unaware of the sudden black orb that appeared above her and covered her in a black light.

ZzZz

"How's the kid's eye?" she heard a familiar voice ask and out of the corner of her eye she saw Inuyasha sitting next to her. She wasn't surprised he was there though. She had felt his aura approach. She held back a sigh as she thought back to the events of the previous day.

A horde of yōkai had attacked the village and while she and Inuyasha were able to defeat them all before any of the villagers were killed, they had been unable to prevent injuries. Her brother had been caught in it all because he had tried to help. He would never be able to see out of his right eye again, of that she was sure. And it had been her fault, too. She should have paid more attention to what was happening to him. She should have protected him.

"I wronged him," she replied quietly. "It is all my fault. It was because I was powerless," she continued. Inuyasha sighed before he spoke again. His voice was unnaturally soft, much softer than it usually was and much softer than she was used to.

"Don't be so hard on yourself," she heard him say and she looked up at him in wonder. "This happens all the time when you're fighting."

Was he actually attempting to cheer her up? Well, as far as she could tell he apparently was. The thought brought a small smile to her face. Inuyasha never knew it (most likely because she never told him), but despite him saying he had a hard time with words, he somehow always knew the right thing to say to make her feel better.

And if that didn't do it, the feel of his aura was enough to.

"I guess it does," she replied as she allowed herself to fall back on the grass. They were sitting on a hill near the village, as close to it as Inuyasha dared to come unless it was under attack. Not that he ever said he wouldn't come any closer, his pride wouldn't allow him to say it, but Kagome knew he'd be uncomfortable so she never asked of him to come any closer than they were now. She was well aware that being a hanyō, his life probably wasn't anything light and while she didn't know the details, she was also aware what humans were capable of when it came to half-demons. Especially if they were young or refused to fight.

Now, refusing to fight was not something Inuyasha did. Quite the contrary, in fact. He always seemed to seek battle, though why he'd do that was beyond Kagome. But whenever he was near humans, she could feel the discomfort taking over his aura. He didn't trust them, any of them. She was apparently an exception, maybe. And while she was glad he at least tolerated her presence, maybe even trusted her a little bit, she couldn't help but feel bad for him, for whatever hard past he must have had.

Of course, he never talked about his past. She never asked about it, either. It was a sore subject and while she was curious and wanted to know more she also knew not to stick her nose where it didn't belong. If he ever felt like talking, she'd listen. But she wouldn't ask him to talk. He'd have to decide on his own. She would never force him.

As he lay down next to her, Kagome couldn't help but voice the question that rose in her mind as she thought about Inuyasha… how he always seemed to seek battle.

"Inuyasha," she started and out of the corner of her eye she saw him look at her. Gathering her courage, she asked: "Are you unable to be yourself unless you're fighting?"

She saw him narrow his eyes at her and he tensed a little. His aura got a defensive tint to it. It was obvious the question had set him on edge for some reason.

"You asked me something like that before too, didn't you?" he asked back and she looked back towards the sky. Indeed, she had asked him that before and just like back then, he avoided the answer. She sighed.

"Would you like to stop fighting?" she dared to ask without looking at him. She didn't need to see him to know what he was feeling. His face would never show his true feelings anyway. His aura, on the other hand, spoke volumes to the young miko. And she could easily tell he was confused and… somewhat frightened? Why would such a question frighten him?

She had almost apologized for asking. In all the time she'd known him, Inuyasha's aura had never the slightest tint of fright in it. Never. In all honesty, she was tempted to think the word 'fear' didn't exist in Inuyasha's mind. Or rather it might have existed, but it held no meaning.

But her simple question had frightened him ever so slightly. And for the life of her, she couldn't figure out why. But she couldn't just apologize and ask him to pretend she never asked. He'd get suspicious and ask her questions. And whether she liked it or not, she'd have to say that she'd been exploring his aura more than some might find necessary. And she didn't dare to tell him that just yet, for while it was normal for her to feel his aura at least a little bit to recognize him when he approached, exploring someone's aura to the level she had explored his… miko only did that to family members and other people close to them. To be able to instantly know when something was wrong. To watch over them even from a distance, albeit not a too great one. Any human in her village would understand that if she said she had tried to get to know his aura as best as she could, though most would probably still frown upon it.

But how would a half-demon react to such a revelation? He didn't see 'aura exploration' the same way she and other miko did. Given that he hardly trusted her, he might even see it as her trying to do… what exactly? She didn't really know, but she had a feeling his reaction wouldn't be a good one.

So instead of saying anything, she bit her tongue and waited for his response.

Ж

He froze as he heard her second question. To be honest, he never asked himself either of those and he didn't know an answer. That's why he avoided thinking about it. But now that, for the first time, she actually probed the subject, he started to wonder. Why in the seven Hells would she ask him that? It was basically as if she was asking him to stop fighting. But if he did that… then what exactly did she think he was supposed to do?

Suddenly, his thoughts wandered to the Shikon Jewel. The Jewel she was guarding. The Jewel that could turn him into a full demon.

But… did he really still want to be a full yōkai? He wasn't sure anymore. What he did know was that the Jewel had the power to transform him into a full yōkai… just like it had the power to turn him into a human, he realized.

'Would you like to stop fighting?' she had asked. Did she mean… that he should turn into a human?

"What?" he finally managed to ask. If she asked him to become human… it would mean she was no different than everyone else. And here he thought she had accepted him as he was. Not that he truly thought it possible. After all, who could accept an abomination such as himself? Who could ever accept a half-demon? No one. That's why he wanted to become a full yōkai. But now that he thought about it, if he became a full yōkai, would Kagome still stay with him?

Probably not. She was human. If anything, she'd stay with him if he became human as well. But could he do it? Could he discard his demon half just to stay with her?

He knew getting rid of his human half would be easy. His human half brought him nothing but trouble, especially on the night of the new moon. But his demon half… it was what gave him strength. He relied on it much more than on his human half. On the nights he was human, he felt weak and vulnerable. Could he handle this feeling all the time? Would he be able to get used to it just to stay with Kagome?

And why was he even thinking about it?

Probably because in the time he'd known her, without even realizing it, he came to see her as – he dared think – a friend. And he didn't want her to leave him alone again. But would he be able to let go of his demon half just for that?

Her answer to his one-word-question answered also that lingering thought for him. It was not the answer he ever thought he'd hear though.

Ж

Kagome sighed as she finally obtained as much of an answer to her question as she probably ever would and then sat up. His aura felt conflicted to her. Whatever he was thinking about, she didn't like it. So she had to somehow bring him out of these thoughts.

"I was just thinking," she started and stopped. Did she have the courage to actually ask him? She shook her head. What was wrong in such a question? Nothing in her book, so she might as well ask. "I was thinking," she started again, "If the Shikon no Tama could be destroyed… then I could live as a regular priestess again. But then, you wouldn't really have a reason to stay, would you? I was just wondering if you would stay regardless of that," her voice was quiet as she said that but she was sure he had no problem hearing her. He had hearing way superior to hers after all.

Inuyasha suddenly jumped back into his crouched position and she almost jumped at his sudden movement. He was staring right at her when she turned her head. His face was hiding his emotions as always. But he couldn't hide his emotions behind a wall when it came to his aura.

"What did you just say?" he asked her and she looked at him with questioningly. Surprise was evident in his aura, but she could not figure out why he would be surprised. Not to this extent anyway. Did she say something weird?

"I asked if you'd stay even if the Shikon Jewel was no more. It is mostly why you're still here, isn't it? Though now you're helping me protect it instead of trying to obtain it to become a full demon."

Suddenly it dawned on her. He was a hanyō, after all. Not really human, not really a demon. How many people accepted such a being? None, though she never understood it. The priestesses in the different shrines she visited to complete her training had all tried to teach her to hate all demons and half-demons, but she never understood why. While it was true that most demons were rather cruel when it came to yōkai-human interaction, Kagome was well aware that it were mostly low-level yōkai that attacked villages. She had met a few stronger demons on her travels to complete her training or later, after receiving the Jewel and before meeting Inuyasha, in order to help a village in trouble.

She had met demons that took on human form and some that went as far as to truly pretend to be human. And while it was true most of them wanted to deceive her in order to kill her and take the Jewel, there had also been those who were really nice to her. Which is why Kagome never thought that all demons were evil, just like not all humans were good. The young miko also believed that humans and demons could get along if they tried. Half-demons were proof to that, being children of a yōkai and a human.

Too bad she was pretty much the only one thinking this way. Most humans feared hanyōs because of their demon heritage. And yōkai thought them weak for their human heritage. Half-demons weren't truly accepted by either. They were hated by everyone.

'Inuyasha… probably never felt like he belonged anywhere except with his family… who are probably dead by now. So it would only make sense that me asking him to stay would surprise him I guess. After all… who could accept a hanyō for what he was,' her last thought was bitter. Inuyasha didn't deserve the treatment he most likely got as a child. He may be a half-demon but that didn't make him any worse than any human or demon. It was the heart that counted, not the blood. And Inuyasha had a kind heart despite his rough exterior.

Inuyasha didn't answer her, but she wouldn't let silence be her answer this time, so this one time, she closed her eyes and concentrated on his aura, trying to read one from it. She usually didn't do that. It felt like she was invading his personal space and she was doing enough of that just by exploring his aura more than she should. But she couldn't stop herself, it was stronger than her. It was as if his aura was calling to her… as if they were meant to be.

Kagome mentally shook her head, but the thought didn't fade. She wasn't planning on denying it. She had figured some time ago that since meeting him he had become more than a friend to her. Somewhere along the way, she had fallen in love with him. But they couldn't be together because of her duties, because of who she was.

She was a miko and the protector of the Sacred Jewel. Technically, she shouldn't have even fallen in love. But she couldn't very well tell her heart to stop loving Inuyasha, now could she? But now that she thought about it, she could do something else. If he let her do it of course.

Ж

His mind had gone blank at that point. Did she really ask what he thought she had asked? No… she couldn't have, could she? Why would she even want that?

"Would you… want me to stay?" he dared ask and her eyes flew open. She must have been thinking about something. But then she smiled at him that smile only she could flash at him.

"Why wouldn't I?" she asked innocently, smile still in place. He felt entranced. How was it that so much warmth could emit from one person and be directed at him? "I mean, we are friends aren't we?"

If he had been surprised before the he didn't know what to call what he was feeling now. She saw him… as a friend? He must have heard her wrong or she must have hit her head. No one ever wanted to be friends with a hanyō.

Then again, no one ever wanted to have anything to do with a half-breed such as himself. No one… except Kagome. She had shown him kindness like he never knew before except when his mother was still alive. Kindness he didn't know existed. Not for him anyway. She had shown him that there were other ways of living than by himself as he had lived until now. She had shown him friendship and trust. She had shown him his way back to the heart he had lost so long ago and helped him regain it. That had to mean something, right?

"I… I guess we are," he finally said, but he didn't dare look at her. Then he heard her giggle beside him.

"I'm glad," she said. "Glad to know you see me as your friend as well."

He couldn't help but give her a smile. A small one, that was true… but how long was it since he last truly smiled? 'Though I still can't understand why you'd want a half-breed as a friend,' he thought to himself. Her laughing stopped suddenly.

"What did you just say?" she asked. She sounded mortified and Inuyasha himself froze on the spot. Had he… said that out loud?

Kagome stood up suddenly then walked a few steps down the hill. He wanted to call after her, but then she stopped. She didn't look around as she spoke.

"I guess this is what it's about, isn't it? You're a hanyō after all. Half human, half demon, belonging to neither, right?" she asked, her form shaking with what he guessed to be anger from her scent. He didn't like what she was saying at all. It wasn't like her. Kagome never spoke that way. But then again, no matter how much he wanted to deny it or how much it might have hurt him to hear it being said from her of all people… he knew it was true.

"After all," she started and he felt his blood freeze. He had a feeling he knew what she was going to say. But from her of all people… he'd give anything for her not to say it. He couldn't stand to hear it. Not from her.

Wait a minute, just when did her thoughts of him become so important to him?

"Who could ever accept a half-breed, am I right?" he heard her say and he clenched his fists. He had thought he had known true pain, but whatever he felt back then was nothing compared to now. But even though she hurt him, he wouldn't let her see it. He'd show her true pain in return.

He stood up and glared at her with the greatest glare he had ever given anyone. So much for being friends, right? So much for trusting each other, for being accepted. His claws almost dug into his palms from the force he was clenching his fists with. He opened his mouth to retort, to show her that words couldn't hurt him, that she couldn't hurt him no matter how much she tried. But then she turned about again, giving him a glare of her own despite the tears that were slowly rolling down her cheeks.

"Never think so lowly of yourself again, Inuyasha. Do I make myself clear?" That had shut him up. Whatever insult was forming on his tongue, it had died right there and then. He could just stare at her.

This was the first time he ever saw her cry. He never thought she knew how to shed tears up until now. For her, just like for him, tears were the proof of weakness. And being the protector of the Jewel of Four Souls, weakness was not something Kagome could afford to show.

Yet she was crying now.

Goddamn, how was he supposed to act now? It was the first time he saw her cry and already he knew he wanted it to be the last one. He hated it already. But how was he supposed to make her stop if he didn't even know what started her tears? Or could it be that…

Guilt slowly creeping into him for making her cry, Inuyasha gulped and walked over to her, planning to sooth her, to make her stop crying.

"What the Hell are you crying for, wench?" he asked gruffly as he approached. That… wasn't what he was planning to say. He bit his lip as he put his hands on her shoulders. That was the closest he'd ever gotten to her, he never dared to get this close. Though now that he was, he couldn't get back for the life of him.

She looked up at him with teary eyes and opened her mouth to speak, but he beat her to it.

"Are you crying… because of me?" he asked gently, thinking twice before he said anything at all. He wasn't good with words and goddamn he wasn't good with situations like this. But this one time, he really didn't want to fuck up. But Kagome shook her head, confusing him more.

"For you," she corrected while looking at the ground. He raised his eyebrows in confusion.

"What do you mean?"

"I'm not crying because of you, I'm crying for you!" she all but screamed back as she turned away. She probably didn't want him to see her tears.

Inuyasha just stood there dumbstruck. She was crying… for him? That was a first. Never had anyone ever cried for him before, not since his mother. He always thought he hadn't been worth anyone's tears. But why would Kagome cry for him? That was a question he couldn't answer himself.

"Why?" he asked her quietly when her silent tears slowed down. Not once did she let a sob escape, not one shook her body; even while crying, she showed nothing but strength. And somehow he knew her tears were genuine and had they been somewhere where she was sure no one would see… he thought she might even lose her composure more than she already did.

"I always knew… that because you're a hanyō, your past probably wasn't the nicest one," she confessed. "So I never asked. But I had always wanted to know. I just thought that bringing up sore subjects would get me nowhere. I figured you'd talk when you felt like it. And if you never wanted to talk, that would have been fine too. I can't force you to tell me anything no matter how much I want to know.

"But I never thought it was this bad… to make you think like that," she confessed after a moment and he couldn't help but stare at her. His body moved without him truly commanding it to and before he knew it, his arms had encircled from behind around her shoulders, his joined hands resting above her breasts. He allowed his forehead to lean against the back of her head. He didn't know what exactly he was doing… but it felt good.

"It's better now," he told her. What had gotten into him? When did he become so soft?

She surprised him yet again as she turned in his arms and returned his embrace by putting her hands around him at the height of his chest and leaning into him. His hold on her tightened a little. He had to admit that… he didn't want to let go.

"I'm glad," he heard her say and a sudden feeling of warmth spread through his body. How he wished they could just stay like that forever. Alas, they couldn't.

"I should go back," Kagome said quietly and he had to force himself not to pull her back into his chest when she started to lean away from him. "I still need to check on Souta. And it's late," indeed, the sun had almost set. It was time for her to go. "I'll see you around, right Inuyasha?" she asked as she started to walk away. He wanted to follow her to the village, but he didn't really dare. He was welcome there when he was fighting the attacking yōkai, but that was about the only moment he was welcome there and he didn't feel like testing his luck that maybe this village would be different (maybe thanks to her?).

"Yeah," he replied curtly as he swiftly turned around and jumped into the trees while she walked down the hill to her village. As soon as the wind carried her scent away, he frowned and stopped, glancing back the way he had come for a while before continuing on his way.

When did it happen that it felt so natural to have Kagome around… that whenever he couldn't smell her scent he felt as if a part of him was missing?

Ж

Kagome entered her hut to see her mother tending to her brother just as she had left them. Her bad mood returned instantly.

"How is he?" she asked as she entered the one-room-hut. Her mother turned to her and flashed a tired smile.

"He'll be fine, thanks to you," the elder woman answered, referring to Kagome's healing session on her brother with healing herbs she had on stock. Once she had done all she could, she had asked her mother to watch him for a while, took her bow and arrows and went out to meet Inuyasha. Though she didn't regret meeting him, she now also felt like she shouldn't have left her brother.

"If it hadn't been for me and the Jewel, he wouldn't have been hurt in the first place," the young miko replied sadly as she sat down next to her mother.

"Was my own fault for not being careful enough," a third voice joined the conversation and her eyes snapped over to her brother who was apparently waking up, his one working eye blinking slowly.

"How are you feeling?" Kagome asked. She knew it sounded like a stupid question, but neither her brother nor her mother were stupid enough to think she meant exactly what she asked. Souta smiled at her.

"It doesn't hurt if that's what you want to know. And considering I got into a fight against demons and survived – even though I admit I would have preferred it without you having to help me – I feel great." Kagome sighed in relief before giving her brother an apologetic smile.

"I'm sorry this even happened. I should have protected you better," she admitted, but her brother cut her off.

"Oh, come on, don't give us that. It wasn't your fault, OK? You might be a strong priestess, but you aren't almighty. You can't protect everyone you know. Not alone at least. So quit blaming yourself, alright?"

She couldn't help but smile at that. Of course, a little bit of guilt would always be there, but knowing that her brother had forgiven her already made her feel better.

"Get some more rest, Souta-sama. It'll do you good," she joked, addressing her brother as if he were a full-fledged monk already. He grinned back at her before closing his eyes and drifting off to sleep.

"How is Inuyasha?" her mother suddenly asked when she was sure Souta was sleeping. Kagome glanced at her mother before answering with a smile.

"He's fine," she answered as she moved about her sleeping brother and changing the bandages on his eye. The wound was healing well and if he took it easy tomorrow, she could release him from her medical custody the day after tomorrow.

"Did you ask him?" the elder woman probed. She was the only one who knew what Kagome had been thinking about for the last week or so and what she decided she would do this afternoon. The younger miko shook her head.

"I'll ask him tomorrow. I didn't really get a chance today. Besides, I still haven't finished them," she answered as she moved to the small drawer in the corner of the room. She sat in front of it and took a small leather bag out of one of the cases before emptying it on her palm and laying the contents carefully on the floor. It was a bunch of black pearl-like objects and a few brown ones that were unmistakably magatama*, even though they could be mistaken for fangs or claws just as easily. There was a small bit of wood too, which Kagome took in her hands along with a knife as she started cutting it into small pieces which she then shaped either into a pearl-like form or into a magatama. "I wonder if he'll allow me to put them on him," she mused aloud.

"I'm sure he will if you explain what they're truly meant to do," her mother assured. Kagome stopped her work to look at her mother like she grew a second head. 'Whether I explain it or not, the chances of him agreeing are small either way,' she thought as she got back to cutting out the pearls. But that didn't mean she wouldn't at least offer it to him.

A few hours later found her with no more wood and only the 'pearls' and magatama in front of her. The young miko carefully gathered them into her hands and pressed them together between her palms. As she concentrated her energy, she moved her hands back towards the drawer where she had laid a white handkerchief. Then suddenly, a soft pink glow surrounded her hands before vanishing again and when she opened them, a necklace of violet pearls and white magatama made of wood lay in her hands before the pieces fell apart, right into the handkerchief she had prepared.

The young miko carefully tied a knot with the four extremities of the small cloth and put the bundle back in the leather bag which she then replaced in the drawer. The enchanted beads were now complete. All that was lacking was Inuyasha's permission which she would try to obtain the next time she met him.

XxX

The next day she went into the woods to gather more herbs. It wasn't long before she felt Inuyasha approach her. She closed her eyes as she allowed his aura to surround her. She couldn't help it. She loved the feeling of his aura. It was so warm and so welcoming… she felt safe whenever it surrounded her. And safety was a feeling she rarely experienced ever since she agreed to guard the Sacred Jewel.

Soon enough, he had landed on the ground not too far away from her, probably unaware of the fact that she had sensed him long before he came. She never told him just how far her senses could reach. She enjoyed it much more when he 'snuck up' on her. Which she ruined each time of course.

"Morning, Inuyasha," she said calmly when he was about five feet away from her and she swore she heard him curse under his breath. Was he really that set on surprising her?

"Damn, just how far do your senses reach, wench?" he asked her. She didn't look at him and concentrated on the herbs she was looking for instead, but her eyebrows went up in wonder. Somehow, his aura felt different.

"I felt you when you were about as far as the dry well," she replied without thinking. It wasn't like she needed to hide that from him. It was just that he never asked before.

"From that far out?" he asked, and his aura told her he was surprised. But the weird feeling to his aura didn't disappear, so she only nodded as she spread her senses a little stronger and allowed his youki to flood her. Then it hit her. The weird feeling in his aura… it was happiness.

Now, she had felt a lot of emotions in Inuyasha's aura, such as confusion, anger, complete fury and hurt. She had really felt a bunch of emotions in the time she knew him, and happiness wasn't one of them. This was the first time she sensed this particular emotion in his aura.

Could it be that he was happy to see her?

Well, she could always hope, right?

"Say, Inuyasha," Kagome spoke up after a longer wile of companionable silence. When she was sure Inuyasha's attention was fully on her, she continued, "Have you ever heard of a thing called enchanted beads?" she asked. This was it. Now she'd ask him.

However, Inuyasha only gave her a blank look before answering.

"Enchanted beads? What the Hell would that be exactly?" of course, he just had to make things harder for her. Kagome bit back a sigh and tried a different approach, though she was aware that it might make things only even harder for her. But she couldn't very well just tell him one of their meanings and leave out the other could she? So better start with the least pleasant one.

"They're also known among the demons as the beads of subjugation," she said in a small voice.

Ж

He froze at what he heard her say. The beads of subjugation. He had never heard of those either, but then again the name said it all, didn't it?

But why would she ask him about something like that? Unless…

"What, you wanted to give me some beads like that?" he asked, though he didn't really mean it. Kagome wouldn't try to subdue him… right? When she hesitated with her answer he understood. "You did," he said as he felt anger rise up inside him. He couldn't believe she would even think that. "You wanted to subdue me you deceiving…"

"NO," she cut him off before he could finish his insult and stood up before grabbing his arms. "Please Inuyasha, at least hear me out," she pleaded. Seeing her like that, he didn't know what to think. He didn't know what made him listen to her in the end either.

"Keh," was all he said as he turned away from her. She probably saw that was all the answer she was going to receive from him for she released his arms and backed away a few steps. She didn't look at him for a while and he grew impatient soon enough. "Well, start talking, wench," he growled at her.

"I'm not going to lie, I did think of giving you such beads," he snarled when she said that but she continued, unfazed. "I never thought of it as means of subjugation, though. You see, there's a reason we priestesses call those beads 'enchanted beads' instead of 'beads of subjugation' like yōkai do. Those beads mean much more to us than that.

"I won't deny the fact that most priestesses use those beads to subdue demons, but I'll say straight out that I don't get why they'd do that if they hate demons. I wouldn't subdue any demon, especially not you, willingly. I know how degrading it is. Why do you think I asked you about it before ever doing it if I wanted to subdue you? To ask permission? True, that's what I want, but not in order to subdue you."

"Well then, why do you want me to have those blasted beads?" he asked gruffly. Though now that he thought about it, she was right. If she'd truly wanted to subdue him, she probably wouldn't have asked him about the beads. Plus, she wouldn't have waited so long, he figured.

"You know that as a priestess I technically have to be a maiden all my life, right? As in, I cannot have a mate," Kagome said quietly. "How do you think people like me cope with that thought when they fall in love? We have feelings after all and when our heart decides to love, we can't tell it to stop," she sounded sad now. Almost like she was in that exact situation.

Was that it? Was she in love with someone? And what the Hell did that have to do with anything? As if reading his thoughts, Kagome went on.

"That's where the enchanted beads come in," she said. "Have you heard how they work?" he shook his head negatively as he glared at her. She had still done nothing to calm his anger at her, but he'd let her talk. And then he'd leave and never come back.

And he didn't stay because he was curious or because she asked him to hear her out, he just didn't feel like leaving yet.

"They're supposed to work when a certain priestess says a certain word of her choosing. And they work only when that one priestess say that word. The beads would work for no one else. Do you want to know why?" she must have taken his silence for a yes, because she continued without faltering. "Because originally, the beads weren't meant to subdue yōkai… but to bind together the souls of two people who loved each other."

That had not only gotten his attention, it had also caught him completely off guard. Just what was this priestess thinking by telling him this? He couldn't for the life of him understand why she would even bring it up.

"What do you mean?" he asked her warily. He didn't know how to feel about this conversation. At first he hadn't liked it at all but now, he just wasn't sure what to think.

"As I said, priestesses can't just follow their heart and go with those they fall in love with. So they made the enchanted beads. That way, the priestess could bind her soul to the soul of the one she loved. And it was a bond that could not be broken, except if one of the people bound together wanted it to." Kagome then sighed and looked away. Inuyasha could feel there was something more she wanted to say, but she was visibly hesitating. He was about to tell her to spit out the rest when she blurted it out.

"I guess you could compare it to mating… only that it wouldn't necessarily be for life," she had said it very quickly, like she was embarrassed about it, then fell silent. Inuyasha just stared at her in disbelief.

'M-Mating?' he thought as he tried to tear his eyes off her, but to no avail. 'D-Does that mean she… she wants to… mate… me?' that couldn't be it, could it? But then again, this was Kagome he was talking about. Anything was possible with her.

"Are you saying…" he couldn't finish the sentence. He didn't dare to. Surely, even if this was Kagome, she couldn't mean it like that. There was just no bloody way.

"…that I would like to bind our souls with beads like that. Yeah," Kagome said quietly as she sat down in the grass beside her basket of herbs. Inuyasha sank into his common, crouched position next to her. "But I would never do it if you didn't want to," she assured him. He bit his lip as he dared to look at her, but she wasn't looking at him apparently finding the grass much more interesting. He swallowed as his throat suddenly became very dry. Why was he so nervous about it all of a sudden?

"If we were to do that… to bind our souls through the beads… would we be mated then?" he asked softly. Somehow, the idea of being mated to Kagome wasn't that unpleasant at all. But Kagome shook her head.

"Not entirely. Yōkai mate through a bond of blood and once they do, it's for life. Our bond would be one of souls. And if one of us wanted to break it, I could take off the beads any time. And I assure you, if we were to do that and you later asked me to take them off, I would have," there was something in her voice that made Inuyasha certain she wasn't lying. She truly meant what she said. She wanted to bond with him… a bond as close to mating as she'd probably ever get being as a priestess.

But then again, a bond of souls was much more intimate than a bond of blood if you asked him.

"And you would want to bond like that… with me?" he asked her. Kagome's sigh was the next thing he heard.

"We had this conversation before, didn't we?" the young miko asked tiredly as he raised his eyes at her before casting them back downwards. 'Yeah but… it's one thing to have a hanyō friend and another to be mated to a hanyō,' he thought somewhat bitterly. "I don't care that you are of mixed blood, I told you so before, didn't I?"

"You did," he answered and he couldn't help the smile tugging at his lips. He knew his answer now. If it would make Kagome happy then… "Would you… give me those beads?" he asked her. Kagome froze beside him and Inuyasha looked up at her. There was no hesitation in his mind or heart. If it would make Kagome happy, then he'd bond with her. Hell, it wasn't like the idea didn't sound appealing to him, either. At least, he'd be sure to never be alone again.

"I don't have them here," Kagome replied and Inuyasha's ears drooped a little. She then glanced at him and smiled. "How about we meet at the same hill as always tomorrow at noon and I bring them then?" she offered and he nodded.

"Tomorrow at noon it is," he agreed. And he couldn't deny the happy feeling bubbling inside him at the thought of being tied to Kagome. Of bonding with her. When was the last time he felt happiness like that? Not since his mother, that much was certain

Ж

That evening, Kagome sat in front of the drawer again as she took out the enchanted beads and placed them in the sleeve of her white chihaya**. Honestly, she hadn't expected Inuyasha to agree, but she was happy he did.

Now, all she needed was the right word to set off the beads. She didn't have to think long before she smiled. 'This will be the perfect one,' she thought as she lay down on her futon and allowed sleep to claim her.

XxX

Noon couldn't come soon enough for her the next day. She even left early as soon as her most important duties were taken care of. On her way, she felt the beads with her fingers, just to make sure she didn't forget them and that this was really happening. She briefly wondered if Inuyasha was as nervous as her about this.

Well, he agreed rather easily to her offer, so maybe he felt the same way about her? She used to think that it was only her wishful thinking, but now that one of her two greatest dreams was coming true (the other being the Jewels destruction), she wasn't sure if it was really just that. After all, if he didn't feel anything for her, why would he agree to bond with her?

Lost in thought, Kagome subconsciously closed off her senses and thus didn't feel the demon approaching her from behind. Had she had her senses open like she usually did, she would have sensed the approaching danger that was the yōkai that called itself Naraku and who was born from Onigumo, a rogue bandit the young miko had cared for up until not long ago.

But as it was, the priestess didn't feel the shape shifting demon approach and only noticed its presence when it was too late.

Sudden pain ripped through her right shoulder blade, down to her breast. Surprised at the blow dealt from behind, Kagome stumbled before falling to the ground on the top of the hill she didn't even notice arriving at. As she fell, the Shikon no Tama that she was wearing as always around her neck fell to the ground a small distance away from her. Cursing herself for closing off her senses, which she spread out again immediately, as well as the fact that she brought neither her bow nor her arrows with her, Kagome tried to reach for the fallen Jewel. Whatever it was that attacked her, it couldn't get it.

Her hand almost reached the cursed pearl when a foot, an agonizingly familiar foot, slammed onto her outstretched palm. Confusion rising up in her, Kagome slowly raised her eyes up to her attacker… and froze. She couldn't believe her eyes. And yet there he was, right in front of her, the half-demon she had wanted to bond with today. And he was laughing.

"Stupid girl," she heard him say in a cold voice. "Did you really think that I would want to bond with a weak creature like you? Did you really believe I would choose you instead of the Sacred Jewel?" his words cut her like a knife. She couldn't believe what she was seeing. It couldn't be him. It just couldn't.

And yet it was.

"Keh, you're one naïve little girl. I only got close to you so that I could get to the Jewel. But it will be better when it's tainted more. Tainted with the blood of those villagers you swore to protect," he said as he picked the Jewel up and slowly started to walk towards her village. Kagome just lay there unmoving, her strength leaving her and her heart breaking with betrayal. But suddenly, two thoughts entered her mind and she clenched her fists as she slowly tried to get up.

'If what that demon said was true and if it was Inuyasha,' she thought as she stood shakily. Her wound was severe. She didn't have much time left. She needed to hurry. 'If it was him, why wait so long to strike? He had countless other occasions to kill me and take the Jewel.'

The second thought that entered her mind was the one that persuaded her that Inuyasha couldn't have been the one to strike her down though. She knew his aura enough to recognize him anywhere and she had gotten a good feeling of the aura of her attacker once she spread out her senses again. And while she couldn't deny that his aura felt a lot like Inuyasha's, it also felt much darker than his. Darker and much more unnatural, like it wasn't his true aura.

Then it dawned on her. It was the fake feeling an aura got when someone was using a shape shift spell or something of the sort.

Meaning that whoever attacked her wasn't Inuyasha but wanted her to think he was. Well, that obviously hadn't worked on her. This time, she was really glad she explored Inuyasha's aura as much as she did, or she might not have seen the difference.

"I'm sorry, Inuyasha," the young miko said quietly to herself as she slowly limped down the hill back towards the village. It didn't look like she could bond with him after all. She'd love too, but her village came first. She couldn't allow them to be slaughtered by that monster wearing Inuyasha's face. And she doubted she'd have a chance to bond with him afterwards. Not with the state she was in. In all honesty, the only thing allowing her to still move and live was her own stubbornness.

"I'm truly sorry, Inuyasha."

Ж

Inuyasha cursed as he cut through another yōkai that blocked his way. He was on his way to the hill where he and Kagome were supposed to meet and mate when a horde of low-level yōkai blocked his path. They were no match for him, naturally, but given their numbers he got held back for some time.

It was well past noon now, but he hoped Kagome had waited for him. If not then his insecurity be damned, he'd follow her to the village.

As the last yōkai fell, Inuyasha released a breath of 'finally' before starting to run again. He wasn't far away from the hill now, he'd soon be there. And then he'd mate with Kagome.

Even if said 'mating' wasn't the yōkai mating but the 'priestess version' of it, he still felt happy and excited just thinking about it, though the hanyō couldn't really tell why he felt that way. Sure, Kagome was his friend and he felt close to her, closer than he ever felt to anyone except his mother, but was it enough to mate her?

He hadn't considered that thought for even a second when he answered her offer and he wasn't going to start now. He somehow felt that he was doing the right thing. And he was just happy Kagome was willing to mate with him.

He suddenly stopped as he realized he had arrived at their meeting point and frowned. Kagome hadn't arrived yet. She normally wasn't one to be late though. But Inuyasha shrugged it off. She probably got held up in the village or something like that. She would probably arrive soon.

His ears twitched as the sudden sound like that of an arrow being released and flying through the air. And it was approaching. Trusting his instincts, Inuyasha quickly leaned to the side… and it was a good thing he did for in the next second an arrow missed his head by mere inches. Face turning up in a snarl, the young half-demon turned around and flexed his claws at his enemy and getting ready to strike back… Only to freeze when he saw Kagome standing there already putting another arrow on the string of her bow.

"K-Kagome," he stuttered in his surprise. "What… are you doing?" he couldn't believe she'd do it. That she'd trick him and try to shoot him in the back. The thought that she'd do that hurt, although he'd never let her see it. Then he heard her laugh and he snapped back to attention.

"Surprised, aren't you?" she asked back, nothing of the warmth he had gotten used to present in her voice. "Never thought I'd do this, huh? I guess you truly believed I'd want to mate with you, didn't you?" she laughed again and he snarled, trying to cover up his hurt with anger. She continued talking.

"How stupid are you? Do I really look like someone who would do such a thing with someone as disgusting as you, you filthy half-breed?" he snarled again. Her words had cut Inuyasha deeply, but he refused to let her see it. How could she. Inuyasha trusted her. He truly believed she was different. Well, so much for that theory.

"Now die, half-breed," Kagome yelled as she released her arrow. He dodged again before turning around and running towards her village at top speed, avoiding the few more arrows that she tried to send his way but missed. How he hated that bitch. How dare she do that? He'd make her pay.

But he couldn't deny that he couldn't kill her. He couldn't raise his claws against her. He just couldn't bring himself to do it, the lone thought of it repulsed him. So he'd do the next best thing. He'd get the Jewel which he was sure she had left at her village for his he hadn't sensed it with her. He'd take the Shikon no Tama, become a full demon and destroy her village. Let's see what she'd have to say to that. That will teach her to mess with him.

Those were Inuyasha's thoughts as the first huts of the village came into view. The village was a small one and he knew it like the back of his hand, since he often 'visited' when yōkai attacked in order to help Kagome fend them off. So it wasn't hard for him to locate that small shrine where he felt the Jewel was kept, nor to break in there after setting a few of the huts on fire.

The villagers had mostly gone into a panic by then and were screaming for women and children to go hide because Inuyasha was attacking the village. The half-demon didn't really care about their screams as he grabbed the Jewel as soon as he spotted it before jumping out of the shrine and heading back towards his forest through the burning village.

He couldn't help but wonder how Kagome had managed to keep the Jewel safe considering that the protective wards around the shrine could never hold a yōkai at bay for long, especially not a strong one like himself, even though he was only half.

But then again, Kagome always wore the Jewel around her neck, didn't she? Inuyasha frowned, but kept running nevertheless. It wasn't his problem what the bitch did and did not do so long as it didn't involve him directly. And if she wasn't planning on protecting the Jewel correctly, it was only better for him.

Ж

Kagome sucked in a breath when she arrived in her village. She had already retrieved her bow and her arrows were slung over her shoulder like they always should have been. The village was in ashes, but if she was lucky, the monster she was looking for and who was responsible for all this was still there.

She prayed to the Kamis she wasn't too late. She couldn't be too late. If she failed all the villagers because she was as careless as she was… if they all died because of her mistake, she'd die.

Not that she wouldn't probably die either way, but still…

Her thoughts were interrupted when she saw a flash of red from the corner of her eye. It was moving at a fast speed and it would be in front of her soon. So with speed she didn't know she could muster, she raised her bow and prepared an arrow ignoring the pain that shot through her shoulder blade as she drew the projectile back on the string. Then she saw the imposter in front of her, right in the way of her arrow.

It all happened in slow-motion. She watched the demon that looked like Inuyasha pass in front of her, apparently not even realizing she was there and she loosened her hold on the arrow, slowly releasing it. But suddenly realization hit her as she felt the aura of the half-demon in front of her. That wasn't the demon that attacked her. That was the real Inuyasha.

But it was too late. The arrow was almost released. She couldn't stop it now, so she did the only thing she could do.

"Inuyasha!" she yelled in warning as she unwillingly released the arrow.

Ж

"Inuyasha!" he heard someone yell. It sounded like a warning, but what surprised him more was that it was Kagome's voice that was calling. Before he knew what he was doing, he stopped and gazed straight at her just as an arrow flew past him, quite the distance above his head before it got impaled in the tree behind him. He smirked at her.

"What's wrong, Kagome? I thought you had better aim," he mocked her as he spun the Jewel by its chain on his finger so that she could see it. Inuyasha saw her eyes widen when she saw the Jewel and then something like understanding shone in her eyes as she looked at him, the Jewel, the burning village and then at him again. It looked like she figured out he was responsible for it all. But why did she seem so surprised? What did she expect him to do after what she did?

"Why so surprised," he snarled, but he was surprised himself when he saw tears in her eyes. And suddenly for some reason, he started to feel that something was terribly wrong here. Like he was missing out on something very important.

"Inuyasha… but why?" he heard her whisper in her disbelief and her body actually shook as the tears rolled down her cheeks. He snarled as the anger returned full force.

"Why do you think?" he growled at her. Her eyes grew wide for a moment in apparent confusion before her eyes closed and she shook her head.

"Inuyasha, I don't know what you're talking about," she said. She sounded hurt, confused and most of all… sad. Keh, she shouldn't have expected anything else. That's what she got for playing with him. At least, that's what he thought, ignoring the feeling of wrongness that was growing stronger within him.

"Don't play innocent, Kagome," he spat her name out like venom, still trying to cover up his hurt with anger. But why did he feel like she saw right through it? "Don't tell me you already forgot what happened at the hill," he added with a feral growl as he flexed his claws. Her eyes shone with understanding now and only made him madder. How dare the bitch pretend not to know what she did?

What she said next though was not what he expected though.

Ж

Understanding dawned on her after what he had just said. She thought back on what had happened on the hill. She had been attacked by a yōkai that looked and sounded just like Inuyasha, yet she was sure it couldn't have been him. The monster had said something about slaughtering her village to taint the Jewel so she came here. But instead of the demon, she found Inuyasha. And not only did he have the Shikon Jewel that that other yōkai had taken from her, it looked like he was the one who attacked her village too.

But Kagome knew it hadn't been him who attacked her. The aura she felt now was definitely his and it was much brighter than the other one she felt. But she didn't understand at first why it felt like he was hurt so deeply or why he would attack her village. It was only after he mentioned the hill that Kagome understood.

The same thing that happened to her had obviously befallen him too. Only that he hadn't seen through the lie and was apparently persuaded she had attacked him or whatever it was that happened in his case.

Knowing that he didn't trust her enough to believe in her and that he was fooled so easily hurt. But then again, considering the life he probably had as a half-demon, could she blame him? He had a hard time trusting anyone and she was pretty sure Inuyasha, in all honesty, trusted no one. She should not think her of herself as an exception. Though considering he had wanted to bond with her, she thought he did trust her.

Well, that obviously wasn't the case, but that didn't mean she wouldn't try to open his eyes to the truth. She could tell that the demon she wanted to get was nowhere near. It was just her and Inuyasha and she didn't have much time left. But she refused to leave this world with him hating her for something she didn't do. She lowered her bow.

"Inuyasha, I don't know what happened on the hill to you, but whomever you saw and whatever this person did, it wasn't me! I wasn't…" she was interrupted by sudden, stinging pain in her shoulder as her wound reminded her both of its existence and its severity. Kagome gasped in pain as her bow fell to the ground before she lowered herself to her knees, her left arm clenching her injured shoulder tightly. How she had managed to get this far with a wound like that she herself wasn't sure. She guessed she was lucky. But her luck ended there.

She only hoped Inuyasha would somehow see the truth.

Ж

His eyes widened somewhat when he saw Kagome gasp and clutch her right shoulder as her bow fell uselessly to the ground. The young miko then lowered herself to her knees as if strength left her. That was when he finally understood where this feeling of wrongness had come as his brain finally registered the smell that he'd smelled ever since Kagome had arrived.

It was the scent of blood and it was heavy in the air. Very heavy.

Now, it might be true that he attacked the village and destroyed a few homes, but just like he couldn't bring himself to harm Kagome, he couldn't kill any other human. So he had made sure none of the villagers died in his 'assault'. Besides, the scent of blood didn't come from the village. It was coming from Kagome and it was rolling off of her in waves. She must have been hurt really badly.

But that didn't make any sense. She saw her not ten minutes ago on the hill and he was sure she wasn't hurt then. So how could she possibly be hurt now? It wasn't possible.

Then again, in the short time he was here, she shouldn't have been able to catch up to him as quickly as she did even if she ran either. Even less probable in her current condition. Which meant she had to have set out way before him.

Now that he thought about it, he was late when he arrived at their agreed meeting place, courtesy of those yōkai that got in his way. And when he saw Kagome then, she had no problem shooting straight at him. Frankly, she would have killed him then if he hadn't dodged in time. But just now, the arrow she fired flew well above his head. Way too off target to be accidental. It was as if Kagome had jerked her bow upwards in the last second to miss him on purpose.

Could it be that those yōkai were meant to hold him back? That while he was fighting them, Kagome had met something else and was hurt? And that once he arrived where he was supposed to be… he met but an imposter?

Everything pointed to that conclusion he realized and sudden wave of guilt hit him hard. The words Kagome had just said… Inuyasha couldn't help but believe them. But then, that would mean he had attacked her village for revenge for something she had never done. And while Kagome was forgiving, he doubted she'd be able to forgive that.

"Lady Kagome!"

"Miko-sama!"

"Kagome!"

"Sis!" the shouts of the villagers brought him out of his thoughts as his head snapped up. A group of villagers, and her family among them, was surrounding her and Inuyasha could smell their worry even from where he was standing.

"Kagome, we need to treat this wound, right now," Kagome's mother was saying and her voice was nervous. Was Kagome's wound… that bad?

"Sis, who hurt you?" Souta had asked, tears in his one good eye. It was obvious the kid hated to see his sister hurt much like she hated to see him hurt.

"It had to be the hanyō, who else?"

"Let's make him pay, for our village and for Kagome-sama!"

"Ay, let's get him, demon blood or not!" the villagers were crying as some of them turned on him, rage evident on their faces. Inuyasha gulped as he unwillingly backed away a few steps. He didn't want to fight them, but they were set on killing him. Not that he could really blame them. After what he did, who would possibly believe him if he said he hadn't laid a single claw on Kagome?

No one, that much was certain.

"N-No," a small, female voice spoke up. The villagers, being near heard it, though barely. Even Inuyasha, with his enhanced hearing, had problems making out the words. But he knew who was speaking. Golden orbs clashed with brown ones as she looked up at him from her crouched position. "It… wasn't him," she managed to say before she closed her eyes and hung her head again. But those small words were enough for the villagers to calm down somewhat, though they apparently had trouble believing what the young miko just said.

Inuyasha himself was frozen on the spot. The hanyō couldn't believe his years. Even though she knew he had attacked and destroyed her village, even though he was really the one that betrayed her trust not the other way around… she still defended him. What he couldn't understand was why she would do that. And how she was even able to do it when he wasn't able to voice the denial of hurting her physically (which was, by all means, true) due to the guilt and self-loathing consuming him. In his eyes, he deserved to be driven out like the villagers were probably planning to do, since they obviously wouldn't be strong enough to kill him. So why did Kagome stop them?

The young miko suddenly shuddered before she started falling. His body moved on his own then as he rushed to her side, forgetting the Jewel completely and before anyone could stop him, he was in the middle of the circle of people and caught Kagome in his arms before her body hit the ground.

"K-Kago… me?" he said her name with a quivering voice that betrayed the fear that started to eat away at him now that he was so close to her. The scent of blood was even stronger up close which really shouldn't surprise him. But the scent that was really making him sick to the stomach was the strong scent of death that was surrounding her. He could feel sudden warmth behind his eyes and he took in a shuddering breath as his nose told him what his mind and heart refused to accept.

She was hurt too badly. She was too far gone.

There was nothing anyone could do to save her now.

"Kagome," the sound was more of a whine than anything else as he gently pulled her closer and buried his nose in the crook of her neck, ignoring the stench of death marring her wonderful scent. Kami, he didn't want to lose her. If there was anything he could do to save her, he'd do it. Anything, if only she could live.

For it was now, as she was dying in his arms that he understood… that he loved and needed her.

"The… Shikon no… Tama," it was unmistakably her voice that reached his ears and he looked at her face to see her looking back at him through half-closed eyes. Sudden hope shone in his soul. Of course, the Jewel! She could use it. They could wish on it. Wish for her to live.

But as he gave the Jewel back to her, for he was still carrying it, his throat constricted and he couldn't bring the words out.

"All of that… all the… pain and suffering… for this… small pearl, huh?" Kagome asked in a weak voice as she held the Jewel in her hand, her powers purifying the little violet stain that settled inside it and making it shine in a bright pink light again. She smiled as sad smile. "I just wish… it would… cease to exist," she whispered as her eyes slowly closed again. Inuyasha's hold on her tightened as a new wave of pain and fear hit him and he called her name again. A burst of pink light from where the Jewel lay blinded him for a second, but when the light faded… the Jewel was gone, leaving only a few ashes behind. The dying priestess smiled weakly and sadly as she reopened her eyes again.

"It was this easy… to get rid of it… permanently, huh? Who… would have thought?" she asked no one in particular and suddenly, Inuyasha could feel her drifting away from him. And he didn't like the feeling one bit.

"Kagome," he whined as she brought her closer to himself again, his body trembling. "Kagome… please… don't go," he begged her through the tears that started to fall from his eyes. That was the first time since he remembered that he ever cried… but right now he just didn't care.

"Please… don't leave me alone," he felt like the small brat again, begging his dying mother not to leave him either. And he knew begging wouldn't help and Kagome would die. But he couldn't stop himself from trying. The thought of losing her forever… it just hurt too much. But she never answered.

"Please, Kagome. Please, don't die. I'm sorry! I love you," he didn't care if all of the villagers heard him. To him, there was only him and Kagome there, just the two of them. Only the two of them.

"I'm sorry," he repeated, apologizing for being fooled so easily. She had had faith in him, she hadn't been fooled like he was. Why couldn't he have believed in her? Then maybe he would have found her quick enough to save her. Maybe she wouldn't have had to die.

There were just so may maybes…

"Inuyasha," Kagome whispered and he pulled away just enough to look at her face. She was smiling sadly at him and the sight of her so fragile, so broken only made more tears rise up to his eyes. Her voice was soft, gentle and weak as she spoke.

Ж

She hated seeing him in pain. She hated feeling his aura was in pain. But this one time, no matter how much she wished, she could do nothing to ease that hated feeling. And seeing him like that made her heart reach out to him. But there was nothing she could do to ease his pain. Not this time. Not when she was the source of it.

But with her last remaining strength, she could try something else and she slowly reached inside the sleeve of her hakama as she started speaking to him.

"I… want you to know… Inuyasha… that I'm… very glad… I had the chance… to meet… and get to know you," she said and she saw his eyes widen. Was he that surprised? She wondered briefly why, but decided not to ponder it for once. She didn't have much time. "And… you have nothing… to apologize for," she added almost as an afterthought. She could feel the last bits of her strength leaving her. She needed to hurry.

He had opened his mouth, probably to protest to what she just said, but she didn't let him speak. If she was interrupted now, there would be no later for her to say what she had to say. So she raised her hand to his cheek to silence him as she spoke.

"And I… want you to know… that I'll… never forget you… and that… you'll always be… in my heart," her hands slid down to his throat as she used the last of her remaining energy to let that one last spell work. "My beloved," she whispered and right after those words left her mouth, darkness took her away, a soft blue light being the last thing she saw.

Ж

His free hand caught hers as it went slack and fell away from his neck. He couldn't hear her heartbeat or her breathing anymore. It was evident she had died. And knowing that killed him inside.

Inuyasha bit his lip as he felt a new onslaught of tears coming. Why couldn't he just have trusted her? Why did he have to be deceived so easily? Why did she have to be taken away from him?

The dam broke without warning and Inuyasha hugged the miko's body tightly to his chest as he cried. He was begging her not to leave him, to come back even though he knew it wouldn't do anything. She was gone. Kagome was gone somewhere he couldn't follow

He didn't know how long he sat her with her in his arms, crying and sobbing. It could have been hours and it could have been only minutes. Time didn't matter. Nothing mattered to him anymore. She was gone. The one he loved was gone.

And the worst of it was, he was entirely to blame for her death.

Someone laid a hand on his shoulder and he looked up to see Kagome's mother. She was the only one there though. The hanyō hadn't noticed when the other villagers left, nor did he really care.

"She deserves a proper good-bye, don't you think?" the human woman asked him gently, her voice betraying she had been crying not long ago, but that was to be expected. Kagome was her daughter after all.

Inuyasha understood her words. She was speaking about a proper burial. Or rather, given that she was a miko, she would probably be burned. The hanyō nodded his head as he stood up, still holding her body in his arms and hugging her close. He didn't want to let her go, but he understood that he'd have too sooner or later. And it would most likely be sooner rather than later.

Kagome's mother had led him to one of the few huts that either survived his attack or was the least damaged and thus quickly repaired and told him to leave her body there. Her family would prepare her for the final ceremony there, while the other villagers gathered wood.

He had done as he was told, but when he left the hut, he soon found out that he couldn't stay in the village for her burial. It just hurt too much. Which was exactly why he left to the forest as soon as Kagome was laid on the futon prepared for her inside that hut. The young hanyō just couldn't stand to stay there any longer. Not when he knew that the reason for her death… was him.

Ж

Darkness. That was all that was surrounding her. Impenetrable darkness.

She wasn't scared of it, but it wasn't exactly very comfortable to be there, either. Wherever 'there' was. Just where exactly was she? She couldn't tell. She couldn't see or hear anything, nor feel any aura anywhere near her. Wherever this was, it was not a place she knew, nor a place she wanted to be at. She needed to get out of there and fast.

Question was, which way should she go to get out of there?

Then she heard it. It was very faint, but she would recognize it anywhere. It was Inuyasha's voice and he was calling her. Calling straight out to her soul.

"Kagome…" he sounded so broken it made her heart ache. She bit her lip to prevent the tears from falling and reluctantly they gave up. Now was not the time to cry.

'Inuyasha,' she thought as she started walking in the direction she thought his voice had come from. It wasn't long before she heard his call again, closer this time. And she could swear she saw a light in front of her.

The last thing she remembered was being held by Inuyasha as her strength left her body. She had remembered being hurt and she remembered thinking that her death had to come soon. Then the darkness had taken her. Did that mean she died? Was this the way to the afterlife? She didn't know why, but somehow she doubted it.

The light had gotten much closer now and so had Inuyasha's voice. Kagome couldn't stop herself as she called back to him, though something told her that contrary to her, he could not hear her call. Then, she started running towards the light. Somehow he knew that whatever was on the other side… it couldn't be bad. Even if it was the afterlife, she would welcome it with open arms, for at least she had died without any regrets.

As she took the final steps and touched the light, it engulfed her and ripped her away from the darkness as one last call, the most devastated and desperate one of all that kept calling her on the way, reached her ears.

"KAGOME!"

ZzZz

Kagome shot up in her bed as if the light and scream had been real and were what woke her up. She was in Kaede's hut. She had probably fallen asleep shortly after her talk with Inuyasha. But what a strange dream she had. The strangest thing being that she actually remembered it in greater detail than she ever did with any other dream. It was just so real… It felt as if it had been really happening.

"Kagome-chan!" Sango's voice suddenly resonated in the one-room-hut as the slayer all but threw herself at Kagome and hugged her tightly. Surprised at first, it took Kagome about half a minute to return the hug. She was about to ask the older girl what was wrong, but Sango beat her to speaking as she pulled back and looked the miko from the future dead in the eye.

"Never scare us like that again," she said, her tone deadly. Now, Kagome was really taken aback and raised her eyebrows at the slayer.

"Scare you?" she asked. She didn't need to clarify her question as Sango huffed in annoyance.

"Both you and Inuyasha have been sleeping for at least three days now. And he has yet to wake up, too. Do you have any idea how worried we were?" Sango asked almost accusingly while Kagome could only stare at her.

She'd been sleeping for three days? Wait a minute, that was about how much time had passed in her dream, wasn't it? And Sango said Inuyasha slept that long too… and he was in her dream, while her other friends weren't…

Could it be that what she just had was more than a dream?

Suddenly, the conversation she had with her friends a few nights prior before she went to talk with Inuyasha resurfaced in her head and her eyes widened. She stood up suddenly and quickly left the hut saying she needed to talk with Inuyasha. There was only one way to test her theory, and that was to find out whether the hanyō had the same dream as her.

If she could really call it a dream, that is.

ZzZz

Inuyasha was sitting between the roots of the great tree that Kagome called the Goshinboku. He was holding his knees up to his chest and his arms were around them. The inu-hanyōs ears were flattened against his head as he rested his forehead in his legs, his whole form trembling with suppressed sobs as he cried.

He just couldn't hold it in anymore. Kagome's death was one painful thing too much as the tight hold he had on his emotions broke, making him release all the pent up pain from all the years ever since his mother died. But still, what hurt the most were the most recent happenings.

It hurt all the more to know that it was his fault too. If only he hadn't been fooled, then maybe Kagome might have survived. Why couldn't he have had more faith in her? Why couldn't he trust her like she trusted him? Why didn't he see through it when she did?

He wondered if it would have been easier if she had been fooled as well, but then again, what did it matter? What was done was done and there was nothing he could do about it no matter how much he wished.

"Kagome," he whimpered to himself as his tears continued to fall and the guilt ate away at him. It was his fault she died, no one else's. How he wished he could bring her back somehow. If there had been a way, he would have done it. He'd do anything. Anything to get her back.

"Kagome," he was repeating her name like a mantra to himself. She had been the first one to accept him as he was – as a hanyō. She was the first one except his mother to accept him unconditionally. His blood didn't matter to her. She treated him like she would anyone else and had shown him kindness he never knew existed. She was his savior.

Inuyasha slowly straightened himself up and wiped the remains of his tears with his sleeve and leaned against the great tree. Kagome wouldn't have wanted him to destroy himself over it, he knew. Knowing her, she would just tell him to let it go, that it wasn't his fault and that he shouldn't stay locked up on her because he still had a life to live. Only… his life wasn't really worth living without her, he realized.

Suddenly as he lowered his hand from his still teary eyes, he felt something at the height of his neck that he was sure hadn't been there before. Golden eyes widened slightly as he felt the thing. It felt like a necklace of sorts. And it was carrying her scent, he noticed. That's why he couldn't get her out of his head; her scent was surrounding him, emanating from the necklace like heat from a fire. But what exactly was this thing that was hanging around his neck? Surely it couldn't be…

Knowing that there was a stream nearby, Inuyasha quickly got up and ran to it. When he arrived, he leaned over the water's surface to see his reflection. And sure enough, a necklace of violet pearl-like and white fang-like beads was hanging around his neck. Upon closer inspection, he noticed that the fang-like ones were actually magatama, for he could feel Kagome's spiritual power surrounding them. And now that he thought about it, there had been some weird light after she called him her beloved. So no matter how he looked at it… those had to be the enchanted beads Kagome had wanted to give him.

He couldn't believe his eyes. That just wasn't possible. How could she, even after all that happened today, even though she was about to die (because of him nonetheless), still want to bond with him? It was beyond his comprehension. He hated himself for what had happened to her and blamed himself and she just… forgave him. Just like that. As of nothing had truly happened. What Inuyasha couldn't understand was how she was able to do it.

The hanyō could see it clearly now. Him and her, they were in two completely different classes. He might have loved her, but they could never be together. Because he just didn't deserve her. Her golden heart was just too good for him to have. He would never have been able to give the priestess the happy life or anything for that matter that she deserved. He was just a worthless hanyō.

"Never think so lowly of yourself again, Inuyasha. Do I make myself clear?" the words she had said to him only two days ago echoed in his head again. That's right, she never thought lower of him because of his mixed blood, did she? And she didn't want him to, either.

She truly was too good for him. If he ever deserved anything, it surely wasn't her.

He slowly stood up and turned to face the village. From what he could smell the burial would begin soon. He clenched his fists. The thought of the burial reminded him that she was truly gone for good.

No, it didn't remind him, he never forgot that. But though he knew she was dead, for she died in his arms, it was as if this reality truly reached him only now. He didn't just lose her. He lost her forever.

"Kagome," he whispered to himself again before he gave in to the urge to release the remains of the pain and he threw his head back to release one last, devastated, desperate scream as if she had died just this moment and not a good few hours ago. But then again, this time did feel like only seconds to him.

"KAGOME!"

Inuyasha punched the ground with both his fists with all his might and even managed to make the ground crack a bit. He took in a deep breath to try and get his pain and despair under control again. Kagome wouldn't have wanted him to lose himself like that, he was sure. And that was one of the few things that still mattered to him, because for her, he'd do anything.

When he calmed down enough, he spared a glance in the direction of the village again and stood up. Inuyasha took in another calming breath and steeled himself as he forced his legs to carry him there. He had to at least ser her off.

XxX

The place was deserted. The burial either hadn't started yet, or it was already over. But given that the stack on which Kagome should be burned was still untouched, he figured that the ceremony hadn't taken place yet.

He was somewhat glad. He really wanted to see her one last time. To see her off.

He heard rustling behind him as people started to gather, but he paid them no mind. Not to them, nor to what they were saying.

"See, told you he'd come."

"Ok, ok, you win geez."

"Shhh, keep it quiet you two," was it just him, or did they sound a bit too cheerful considering they were about to bid their long-time protector and one of the most loved priestesses the final farewell?

That's when he smelt it and it made him freeze. Her wonderful scent. It surrounded him and caressed his senses, almost making him forget that this was the last time he was going to smell it. The time had come…

But wait, shouldn't the stench of a corpse or of death follow her wonderful one if she was dead?

He didn't think about what he was doing. His mind had gone blank as he spun around in surprise. But as he should have expected, she wasn't there. Still, her scent surrounded him and he could swear he felt her embrace him from behind like he'd done to her two day ago when she was crying. And was her mother, who was the one standing there along with Kagome's brother and a few kids, really smiling a genuine smile at him?

And then he heard her wonderful voice from behind him, making him want to spin around again.

"Inuyasha."

ZzZz

"Inuyasha!" said half-demons eyes snapped open and he jumped slightly in surprise, falling out of the tree he was sleeping in and falling to the ground, hitting it with his back.

He stared at the sky above him for a while. He was on the hill on the outskirts of Kaede's village. He must have fallen asleep in the tree shortly after Kagome left. But how come he slept deeply enough that he didn't wake up when she came back?

"Are you ok?" the schoolgirl asked as she knelt beside him. He 'keh'-ed at her as his means to say yes as he pushed himself into a sitting position. His mind wandered back to the dream he'd had. It had been just so real he had trouble believing it was just that; a dream. The anguish and pain he'd felt once Kagome had died… they had been so real.

"What are you staring at, wench?" he asked gruffly as he noticed Kagome observing him closely. She huffed in annoyance. He was ok, alright, and back to his rude self.

"I was just wondering if you were really ok, because I know you usually don't sleep three days straight," she scoffed at him and stood up. His eyes widened.

"Wait, what do you mean, three days?" he yelled at her and she looked over her shoulder to look at him.

"Sango told me the two of us have been sleeping for three days and that they couldn't wake us up," she said as she sighed and sat down against the tree, her back facing him. He stared at her for a while, then 'keh'-ed at her again before opening his mouth to deny the possibility of him sleeping that long, but she spoke first.

"Say, Inuyasha, what did you dream about?"

"What?" he asked her with a frown. Talk about questions coming out of nowhere.

"I asked what you dreamed about. I was wondering, as crazy as it seems, that maybe… we dreamt of the same thing," she said shyly. She knew the idea probably sounded ridiculous to him. Had she not known where she was going with this little interrogation, she would have thought it crazy herself.

"Keh," was the only response Inuyasha gave her and she knew the only way to get him to tell her was to start talking herself. She sighed.

"My dream was a bit weird," she started. She could see him glance at her from the corner of her eye and so she continued speaking, knowing that she had his attention. "I was a priestess in this village and my family was even here. Mama and Souta at least. And I was guarding the Shikon Jewel."

His face didn't show it, but his aura definitely spoke of surprise to her and she fought the urge to raise her eyebrows questioningly at him. Could he really have dreamed the same thing?

"You were there too," she continued. "And we were friends. Close friends. As close as we could get in that dream I suppose. And I wanted to give you something very important to me but…"

"But someone tried to get us to hate and kill each other," he interrupted and she knew what he wanted to say but kept to himself. 'Just like with Kikyo and I.' "I dreamt the same thing," he finally admitted and she turned around to gaze at him. Kagome bit her lip. She had a feeling her theory was correct but suddenly, she felt she shouldn't share it with Inuyasha. But then again, if she really was correct then he had a right to know.

"Don't you think… it could have been more than just a dream?" she dared to ask and he directed a confused gaze at her.

"What else could it have been, wench?" Kagome sighed. She had a distant feeling she was going to regret bringing this up but…

"Do you remember that yōkai from a few days ago?"

~ξ~

"So you mean to say… that this dream of ours might actually be something like a glance into a different world in that which we experienced has actually happened?" Inuyasha asked her once she repeated her conversation with Sango and Miroku and explained their theories about the yōkai being able to travel between parallel realities and her somehow 'inheriting' the ability from him.

Kagome nodded.

In all honesty, she expected him to laugh at her or something of the sort. She expected him to think she was stupid to even think of such a thing. So she was quite surprised when he seemed to actually believe her.

Inuyasha sighed as he leaned against the tree again. Somehow, considering how real this dream had felt, he had no trouble believing her little theory even if it did sound somewhat crazy.

"So what we saw… was true? It really happened?" He sounded hurt by the idea and the pain was rolling off of his aura in waves. Kagome didn't like it, but she couldn't very well back out now.

"For the versions of us that lived in that reality, yeah," she replied cautiously as she laid a comforting hand on his and squeezed lightly. Why was this affecting him so?

"So I guess now we know what would have happened if you were there instead of Kikyo, huh?" he asked. She didn't answer and he closed his eyes. His aura was so laced with pain that it almost made her cry. Just what did she say to make him hurt so much?

"It really was my fault then, wasn't it?" he suddenly asked and Kagome stared at him with wide eyes, but he had turned away from her. The young miko was at a loss.

"What are you talking about?" she asked as she came closer to him. Just what was he blaming himself for this time?

"You died," he said shortly, but his voice was laced with so much hurt and regret that she felt the words cutting her. Inuyasha had closed his eyes and tried to get his emotions under control. He was close to tears again, but unlike in his dream, he wasn't going to let them fall. He was stronger than that. "It was my fault you died."

He remembered the last moments of his dream of course, but he didn't dare hope that Kagome might have survived. He saw her die with his own eyes and he knew all too well that dead people never came back no matter how much one wished for it. And if they did, they weren't the same. Kikyo was the best proof of that.

"Stop talking nonsense," Kagome interrupted him before he could say anything else as she embraced him and held him close. He wouldn't let his tears fall, but she could feel his body tremble ever so slightly. The dam was on the verge of breaking.

"It wasn't your fault. You weren't the one to deal me that wound, nor were you the one to finish me off. You didn't kill me and there was nothing you could have done to save me, so stop blaming yourself. It wasn't your fault."

"I was fooled," he was the one to interrupt her now. "You weren't. If I'd had a little more faith in you… if I had realized sooner that it couldn't have been you then maybe I would have gotten to you sooner. Maybe something might have been done to save you…" he broke off as a few tears rolled down his cheeks.

The guilt he felt in the dream came back full force. No, it wasn't a dream. It was a reality. It was a reality some other version of him lived. It was fucking real. Which was what made the emotions so overwhelming that he couldn't hold them in.

"I never blamed you," Kagome's quiet voice reached him as she rested her cheek on his back. He had turned away from her at some point and she was now embracing him from behind trying to comfort him. What she said made him almost freeze. "The me in that reality never did. She understood Inuyasha. I understood. And I never blamed you. There was nothing to blame you for."

"But… I couldn't see through that lie…"

"And I understood why," she repeated. "You may have never told me the details, in our reality or in that other one, but I could imagine what kind of life you must have led, Inuyasha. A life that taught you to trust no one. And I knew that in that reality, I was no exception. I had no right to be."

"That's no excuse," he started to say, but she interrupted him by tightening her hold on him.

"Just stop it," she said as a few tears escaped her own eyes. To see and feel him in such pain was more than she could handle. But at the same time, she couldn't bring herself to close off her senses to at least stop feeling his pain. She wanted to be close to him and she wanted to make it just go away. But she didn't know how. "It wasn't your fault, period," she added as she fought to keep her emotions at bay for once. "Besides, I'm not too sure if I really died," she added as an afterthought. Inuyasha wanted to ask what she meant, but finally decided against it. It was better to let it go. That was what Kagome was trying to get through to him.

Dwelling on it wouldn't serve anyone any good.

So he didn't answer her but he couldn't help the small smile that was tugging at his lips. Kagome never changed. No matter what he did, she always forgave him. Without realizing it, he leaned into her. It felt so good to be near her, to be held by her. He felt warm when she held him like that. Warm and relieved. As if she was taking away his sorrows one by one and healing his heart just by being there. And she probably was.

"Thanks, Kagome," he whispered under his breath and he was sure she heard him though she didn't respond. To know she didn't blame him… that she forgave him… it was a relief to his heart.

"Hey, Kagome," he suddenly started. There was something on his mind thanks to that dream… something that didn't sit well with him. So he intended to find out the truth. "How did you know, in that other reality, that it wasn't me who attacked you?" he managed to ask.

"Your aura was off," she replied without hesitation, forgetting that he had no idea how well she knew his aura, in this reality or the other one.

"My… aura?" he asked her making her realize her mistake. But it was too late to take back what she said, wasn't it. She sighed.

"I have explored your aura. I felt deeply into it using my priestess powers. I explored it so thoroughly that it became one of the auras I could distinguish from really far away and that I couldn't mistake it for anyone else's. Guess I really wanted to feel closer to you than you let me," she added as an afterthought. She didn't want him to think she did it because she mistrusted him.

Inuyasha stayed silent for a while. She had… explored his aura? But, wasn't that like an alpha memorizing the scents of every one in his pack? Did that mean that she cared for him that much in that other reality?

"I'm doing it right now, too," Kagome said suddenly when he didn't respond. She decided it was time to come clean. She felt him freeze at her confession, but she spoke on regardless. "And I don't like what I feel," she admitted. But when she felt him hold his breath, she went on hastily.

"I don't like the feeling of pain that is always surrounding your aura. I don't like how this feeling is now stronger than it was before. I just want to make all your pain go away, Inuyasha. To free you from it. Why won't you let me try?"

Inuyasha was silent for a while. She had explored his aura to the point where she could tell his feelings? Now that he certainly didn't expect. But then again, he could tell her feelings by her scent too, couldn't he? And she was about the only one he was able to do it with.

Somehow, knowing that she cared this deeply about him… it made him feel warm inside and he fought the urge to sigh contently he leaned against her even more while she hugged him from behind. 'Kagome… you're helping me by just being here. You don't need to do anything else,' he thought, but he couldn't bring himself to say it out loud.

But he had a feeling she knew that without him having to say it. And that was fine too. He was just glad she was still with him. And he'd do anything in his power to make sure it stayed that way.

Because he loved her.

Kagome, not Kikyo.

He knew that now and he would no longer deny it.

He loved Kagome.


* Magatama - an ancient comma-shaped bead imbued with great spiritual and mystical powers. These beads have been found as far back as the Jomon period (jo-mon-jidai, about 10,000 BC to 300 BC).

**chihaya – the top (or shirt) of a miko outfit.


Wow, that turned out into a monstrosity, didn't it? The longest one-shot I've ever written, that's for sure. I really hope you liked it :3 Take care and see you in the next fic I'll definitely write sometime XD

Update 21.12.2012 (the end of the world! :P): for the interested, another what-if fic is already out and on a roll. It answers the question 'what if Inuyasha was the human, and Kagome the hanyo?'. Give it a try if you have a moment, I promise it's worth your time ;)