There is not enough gratitude I can give to the readers who stuck with this story throughout, I apologize on the lengthy absence, new fandoms and everything else got in the way. This story will be priority to finish however, have no fear. *gives mini Inuyasha and Kouga's to everyone*

However, since I am hideously late with this story, it will now be six chapters, as this is quite a lengthy chapter; the next part will be up as soon as I can manage. As always, thank you dear reader for your patience, I will not abandon ye.

Also, the last three chapters were edited for terrible grammar mistakes I made, just for a forewarning. :)

No ownership, no nothing. Sadly.


"The art of love...is largely the art of persistence." Albert Ellis

Kouga had never considered himself a genius. He was of able body and mind, with a wit as tapered as a well-sharpened blade, battle-ready for any verbal encounter or conversation that came his way. He had the know-how for leadership, plenty of experience on the battle-field, and plenty of volition.

However, not once did he believe he was smart enough to cause such a successful aftermath for his five-step plan. By the might of his will, Ayame no longer was forced into obligatory matrimony, Kagome was free from his past foolishness, and Inuyasha...had invited him to stay with his pack. Granted, it was for the necessity of experiment to see if either of the two could stand each other. But the important part of it all was that somehow, based on his own actions, he managed to complete more than half of his plan. And Inuyasha didn't loathe him for the confession, much less the impulsive kiss.

In all, things were going quite well for him.

The most important part of it all wasn't that however. It was in knowing that the one he cared for didn't despise him in the least, and not only that, but accepted him into his life for an interminable period of time regardless of the motives behind the offer. Not only that, but Inuyasha respected his feelings on keeping the shards he returned to him. That was a more significant part than their spontaneous - albeit one-sided - lip-lock in truth. With the shards, he gave the pack he was to be joining an advantage, a secret that would be the undoing of Naraku.

For all Kouga knew, that fur-wearing disgrace had no idea of the new alliance, much less what his heart was telling him. Kouga figured that was an optimism the mission couldn't afford, the luxury of underestimating one's enemy, but he didn't care. Inuyasha didn't hate him, and that was the most liberating feeling.

ikikikiki

The first month of relocating to Inuyasha's group was one of the most awkward and exhilarating transitions of Kouga's life. Ginta and Hakkaku were thrilled to be beside Kagome - of which, they still considered a sister - and they got along very well with the other members. They answered Miroku's inquiries about every facet of their lives, as wolves, down to his questions about if wolves held a form of worship. Sango was extremely polite and that was a massive relief off of Kouga's conscience. The young human woman came from a clan of youkai-slayers, so he imagined any union between their opposite blood was purely wishful thinking. Never once did she mention the difference between them and for that, the young woman had Kouga's admiration. Kagome was just as spirited as always, but generous in the snacks she gave to him and his brothers. No matter how friendly she was with him however, Kouga refused to allow himself to come within five feet from her person. Kouga gave her breathing room, proper distance, and he was willing to talk with her only in the group. Not once did he speak with her alone, or attempt to splinter the necessary proximity between the two of them. Shippou and the fire-neko - of which, he learned was named Kirara - kept away from them if they were alone, but during travels, Shippou would sometimes sit on either Hakkaku or Ginta's shoulder, asking them questions. Kirara trotted alongside Sango, but Kouga had no doubt that she could sense that both he and his brothers meant their master and her pack no harm.

There were some definite problems that arose almost as early as the first few days. Kouga's concern was that without the jewel-shards, he would become a liability to the group. Kouga had no idea how much he relied on the borrowed power of the shards to fuel him for where he wanted to go. He could still run, but the effort was more taxing, straining on his body and mind than he had ever surmised. Running, something he had done all of his life, became far harder, any notion of losing himself with the movement of his legs and body scattered to the four winds the moment he attempted heavy sprinting. In a life-or-death situation, in which he had to run for his life, there was a minor chance he would run out of lung power and breath. He would be damned if he lost his life over a failure to win an important race in which his life depended on his ability to cross the finish line.

So he did what any self-respecting wolf-prince would have done: he offered to hunt for the pack whenever they needed - or wanted - his assistance. Kouga told this to Inuyasha first, without mentioning his fear of not being able to run fast and hard. He did this for many reasons, but one main one in particular: he knew that Inuyasha's pride was important. The image Inuyasha upheld for himself as a leader was important, along with the ability to save face. Life had more than likely crushed Inuyasha's pride at some point, taking with it any thought of self-confidence. Whereas he had been told from the beginning of his life that he was to emanate and foster deep-rooted assurance in himself, Kouga doubted that was the truth for Inuyasha. In a world that mocked, shunned, and killed half-breeds, Inuyasha had to find a resolve and a confidence all on his own. By asking if he could assist with the hunt, Kouga was reassuring Inuyasha that he wasn't attempting to take over providing for his pack, nor was he deposing him of the title of leadership; Kouga just wanted to help, albeit in a physical and subconscious way to the wonderful half-breed's psyche.

Kouga voiced his inquiry, awaiting the inevitability of his head getting bashed in, or a ten-minute long rant on how asinine his claim proved to be; Inuyasha did neither of those things, nor did he act out on the list of thousands of possibilities Kouga imagined, most of them resulting in his death or expulsion from the group. The once half-breed gave him a long, probing stare, scratched the inside of his left ear, and then proclaimed that if he wanted to do that, no one was stopping him.

Thus his hunting endeavors began. There was nothing more satisfying than killing an animal for a meal, and once more, reveling in the thrill of the hunt, At least that was how it used to be, upon the aid of the jewel shards. Now, there was no chance of an easy pursuit. If the animals weren't hiding, then they migrated to another part of the forest. If the scents weren't lost, the animals had heard him and fled. He killed, he hunted, and he provided, but only at the cost of his energy and more egotism than he ever would have dreamed.

'Nobody said impressing someone was easy.'

The group always thanked him for the rabbits, deer, and other various animals he took down, and for that, Kouga was thankful. It was Inuyasha's wariness that set him on edge. He ate the food and muttered his appreciation afterwards, but he didn't seem too pleased with his efforts. Kouga, in-between a mouthful of buck, inwardly panicked. What had he done wrong? Was he upset abut the kill? Did it have to do with the fact that Inuyasha was stripped from an obligation that inspired confidence? And above all, did it have anything to do with him?

Afterwards, within the expanse of thirty seconds, Kouga felt like bashing his head against a tree, laughing himself to tears, and beckoning hysteria for being so ridiculously stupid. The truth was that he just had to remain calm, take everything with the rise and fall of the sun, and stop working himself into a frenzy over every minor reaction his love interest showed him. If he kept this up, he would go bald, die of heart failure, or wind up doing something incredibly foolish.

Kouga's answer came at the end of the first month of travel, after a particularly hard hunt. He managed to kill a few rabbits, but he knew that his brothers, himself, and Inuyasha preferred meat they could sink their teeth into. Mainly, this part of the hunt was propelled forward with one thought in mind: his stubborn, sharp-witted romantic interest. That was why when, after several minutes of pure concentration he found himself scared out of his skin at the voice behind him.

"Are ya sure you don't need my help?" Kouga whirled around so fast, he was struck by a moment of uncharacteristic clumsiness that didn't become him. He was so startled that he nearly fell down into the glade where several drowsy deer were grazing, nibbling on the remaining grass of summer. Lucky for him, his antics didn't scare the deer away, and for that Kouga was grateful.

"Yeah, positive. Now leave!" All of this was said in a quick whisper, cerulean eyes darting from the prey to the handsome figure before him.

"Ya sure? I mean, I appreciate what you're doing and all...but I'm here if you need me."

Inuyasha offering him help? And him nonetheless? Yes, this was the once half-breed who defied every obstacle and barrier that tried and failed to barricade him from personal acceptance and strength. However, he was so unwilling to ease away from his unyielding facade which he wore like the birthright of the katana on his hip. For Inuyasha to offer his services...in short, it was a big, fucking deal and not to be taken lightly, or for granted.

Kouga glanced away from the herd, met citrine eyes, and nodded. "Yeah. Yeah, really. Thanks, but I need to do this on my own. I'm catchin' your dinner, and it'll be good."

It was a matter of personal pride on Kouga's behalf, a way of physically proving that not only could he manage without the stolen power of the jewel shards, but that he was able to provide for the group he was accepted into. And in truth, it was to show Inuyasha just how much he cared about him, that he was willing to forsake the invincibility he felt with the shards and learn everything difficult just for his sake. A worthy sacrifice, and since the five-step plan was working thus far, he figured that it would be a waste to give it up now.

Inuyasha met his gaze for several stretched out moments, eliciting in Kouga the slick-palmed, stomach-churning sensation when he did so, and he nodded. The once half-breed took off soundlessly and within half an hour's time, Kouga uncovered several conclusions: deer were fast but he was learning how to catch up with them, and Inuyasha, somewhere along the way, had changed.

That was a bold statement to make considered who he was referring to, but he made the claim regardless of any nay-sayer. Before, the Inuyasha he knew was unwilling to bend, to give those in his presence a trace of patience, much less understanding. People like that, closed off people who did their best with foul-mouths and smoldering glares to scare others off usually succeeded. Inuyasha reminded Kouga of a wounded predator, be it a panther or something equally ferocious and ill-tempered that hissed and snarled at anyone who dared come too close to him.

Gradually, through the passage of time - and perhaps experience - there were no more bleeding wounds on his person and those who had attempted to help him became his pack, a family. Granted, one didn't see too many packs like the one he was currently ensconced in, but that was what made Inuyasha's group so interesting: the diversity and the fact that they softened his spirit. Had Kouga tore into his limbs, spoken in tongues and kissed him a year before, he'd more than likely be dead right then.

But he wasn't and that was the important part in all of this. Inuyasha had found a way to be patient with those around him, tolerating every personality quirk, every semblance of oddity. There was still his ever-present features, the cussing, and the demeanor that screamed that no stranger get too close lest they walk away cradling their own limbs, but the truth was there: the seemingly incorrigible once half-breed had changed. The further proof in this theory was in the way Inuyasha left him to his own devices as he hunted. He didn't insist on helping him, nor did he interfere with his personal plan. He said his piece, then left.

Kouga really loved this facet of his favorite once half-breed though the new information left him reeling long after he was supposed to be asleep.

ikikikiki

On the last day of the second month of traveling with the group, Kouga found himself wide-awake, unable to sleep. The rest of the pack had surrendered to dreams, his brothers gentle snoring, along with the heartbeats of human and youkai alike creating a soothing tempo of breathing. By all accounts, he should have been able to catch some shut-eye, for this was the most peaceful sound he knew.

Try as he might, it wasn't happening tonight.

Carefully, Kouga stood up, cracked his neck a few times, then looked up to where his favorite once half-breed was sleeping. At least, Kouga had presumed Inuyasha was asleep until he had looked up. His back was as straight as an ancient monolith, the gentle breeze moving the crimson sleeves of his haori like banners from an ancient time. With the way the moon hung low in the sky, it emanated a frosted light over the valley, playing with shadow and color. For the moment, Inuyasha's skin appeared to glow, the tan of his flesh smoothing out to a beige. And his eyes were...beyond any descriptive words Kouga could shape into being right then. He was the embodiment of this summer's night, and so very enthralling.

There was a question in those honey-colored eyes, a question that by Kouga's brief assumption, Inuyasha hoped to find the answer for by looking up at the skies. Kouga didn't want to break his concentration with seeking advice in the clouds or anything, but this was the first official "alone time" he'd had with Inuyasha since he found the hanyou's mouth irresistible to his own.

If he hated him for breaking his thoughts, then so be it. There was no sense lying on the ground, pretending to sleep, not when he could potentially help Inuyasha speak about whatever it was that needed a voice.

Quietly, Kouga made his way over to the tree, stopping just below a cluster of roots at the base.

"Couldn't sleep?" Inuyasha's head appeared over the branch, and the reply was spoken too low for human ears, but in the perfect pitch for a youkai's.

"Meh. I hate bein' restless. I was just thinking to pass the time."

It was a crazy idea, but not so far in the grip of insanity that Kouga wouldn't at least attempt this notion.

"Know what 'cha mean. Mind if I join you?" The moment the words left his mouth, Kouga felt the air of confidence he donned like a much-needed weapon fragment, tearing itself to shreds from the source it came from. His past frenzy came into being, along with the strand of inquiries, of inner-chastising, of everything ever fashioned to create doubt.

It was only a few moments, but it felt now like he had been standing there until he could feel the world move beneath his feet, waiting on whether or not acceptance or rejection awaited his call.

Had Kouga not been looking up, he would have missed the brief bobbing of Inuyasha's head, a green-light for "get up here, you crazy mutt." Kouga felt a grin split his face and within moments, he was settling himself on the branch adjacent to Inuyasha's. There was no time to consider if anyone else had ever shared a tree with him before, nor did Kouga wish to think about that. What mattered was the here and now, the truth being that Inuyasha let him share his company. Doubt wouldn't poison this brilliant turn of events, a turn of events that was hidden under the guise of a restless summer's night.

"We don't have to talk if you don't want to." Kouga laced his fingers, folding his hands neatly behind his head. "I don't wanna disturb you." Inuyasha was silent for a moment, for a long moment in which Kouga wondered if he was having second thoughts about having a guest up here.

"Nah, I don't mind. You're the first person that ever wanted to join me up here." Kouga, had he been on the ground, would have been turning somersaults right then, for that was such a great thing to hear. Though, it might not have been as equally significant to Inuyasha as it was to him, Kouga didn't really mind. It was...flattering. Intensely flattering to be a guest, even if it was just sharing a tree.

"Well, thanks! It's good to be up here. It's a nice night for looking at the stars." It took Inuyasha a few moments to respond, and instead of flying into a tizzy over nothing, Kouga figured that at night, when inward contemplation came about, it became that much harder to carry on an intelligible conversation.

"Yeah, you're right. I was actually thinking about somethin' a little deeper than stars."

Kouga, beside himself, chuckled. The hanyou certainly knew how to keep someone guessing.

"Oh yeah? Like what?" Kouga would have sooner tore out his tongue than voiced that inquiry, but he knew that since it was said he had to deal with it. "I mean, you don't have to tell me if ya don't want. It's your business."

Inuyasha chuckled deep in his throat, the tree groaning with his shifting weight. It was almost as if he wanted to make himself more comfortable, something someone would do if they wished to ease into the conversation better. The night was certainly looking up.

"It's a little stupid." Now it was Kouga's turn to laugh, not out of mockery, but a laugh with the connotative "oh really? I'm sure I'm dumber than you" feeling behind it.

"Oh yeah? Try me. I'm sure what goes in my mind will reassure your brain." Inuyasha was silent for a bit longer and Kouga was fine with it. There was no such thought as dead-on between them, at least where Kouga's mentality was concerned. The air seemed to be swathed with an electric current, a veil of lightning easing him into a stupor that easily would have left him a gibbering fool had he not learned to control it. It was the feeling of belonging, of knowing that this was who he loved and simply being in this proximity with Inuyasha was enough for now. He just hoped that Inuyasha wasn't bored with him, with the silence that enveloped the two of them in their own pocket of solace. Because if he was, well, then that was something to be concerned about.

Up here, from the vantage point, it was a completely different world. Just like he had his cliff-side, Inuyasha had the trees of the forest to escape to for a breath of air. They weren't so different as he had once believed, once upon a foolish time ago, where competition, killing and getting "his woman" was all he knew.

And then a catalyst with eyes of the sun and hair like the stars obliterated his world and sanity. Of which, he was ever-grateful for.

"I was just thinking if there's such a thing as Fate. If so, she, he, they, it or whoever sure has a funny way of controlling everything." Fate. Kouga never doubted that Inuyasha contemplated the world in its entirety before, but this just proved that Inuyasha was far smarter than what people gave him credit for.

"Want my opinion on that? But first do you believe in Fate?" There was a pause, but it wasn't as brief as the past prolonged silence between them.

"I don't really like the thought of somethin' controlling me and what I do. It's like being forced to do something by an enemy I can't see." That was a very interesting way of looking at the notion of Fate, something Kouga was strongly against since the start of this new found volition of his.

Kouga decided to wait a few moments before responding, just in case Inuyasha wished to say something else, or add to his outspoken thought. When his ears were met with silence, Kouga gave his opinion and inquiry form.

"Fate scares you if it's beyond your control, am I right?" Inuyasha swiveled his head around to meet Kouga's gaze, his eyes narrowing with an accusatory glint, borne of habit.

"I ain't scared. I just...it makes me uncomfortable." Kouga figured that his question didn't ruin the camaraderie, but he couldn't help the sliver of fear that sliced its way through his chest.

If one question ruined everything after all, then he chose the wrong person to fall for. He'd get out of this; he had to.

"Hey now, I didn't mean to offend. Just a question." Inuyasha raised a black eyebrow, part of his face obscured momentarily with the gesture, courtesy of his bangs. "You're the bravest youkai I know." Inuyasha's ears flattened against his head, as if his body was attempting to purge the compliment before it got under his skin. Kouga wasn't sure if Inuyasha was successful in that or not.

"...thanks. There's braver. But hell, I ain't doin' so bad." A transitory smile flickered across Inuyasha's face, his lips never looking more inviting than at that moment. In that moment, Kouga not only wanted to kiss that mouth, but gently touch it with his fingers before kissing it again and again. With the brief flash of fang, and a light pink tongue, it was enough to drive him wild, if not up and down the tree a few times.

"Uh, yeah! But they're not you." Kouga cleared his throat, hoping that the gesture cleared his mind of any sensual futures with that mouth. What mattered was now: the clear night air, the heat of the season, and the best company in the world.

"Wanna know what I think of Fate?"Inuyasha nodded his assent. "It's a waste of time. Who lets some stupid idea for "Fate" and "Destiny" decide what we do and who we are? I sure as hell ain't gonna let anyone run my life." If there wasn't a sleeping campsite below him, Kouga would have shouted his opinion through the night that Fate could stick it where the sun would never in a million years shine. He figured it best to be considerate for those that needed sleep. "The bottom line: I don't believe in it." Kouga stretched his legs out, relaxing to the best of his ability against the bark of the tree, adjusting his hands all the while. It only took a few moments to realize Inuyasha was more or less gawking at him.

Kouga tilted his head, opening one eye to meet the inquiring gaze of his love interest. "Hmm?"

"You just sorta read my mind. You placed my thoughts into words. I don't buy into Fate either. Life's what you make it." Kouga chuckled low in his throat, praying that Inuyasha couldn't detect the traces of a blush that enflamed his face.

"I'm tellin' ya, I'm not as dumb as I look." He tapped his forehead, tilting his head up to look at the stars. "I do believe something else though. Wolves believe our ancestors roam the skies. There's even a legend about the moon and stars being what the howls of the first wolf created, so no one would have to be lonely. We're never alone. That's what I believe anyway."

Inuyasha shuffled in his seated position, remaining silent for quite some time, so quiet that Kouga wondered if the hanyou had fallen asleep. As lovely as it was to entertain the fantasy of carrying the hanyou to sleep down below, Kouga figured Inuyasha was simply thinking and taking his time with it.

"Let me get this straight. Wolves believe their ancestors, right down to their uncle from hundreds of years ago, are running rampant up there?" That sounded like he was disagreeing with him, when in reality he wasn't. There was an edge of neutrality that lined his voice with a willingness to understand Kouga's belief even if he didn't necessarily believe in it. This furthered the notion once more that Inuyasha was continuing to change.

"Yeah, I believe it. There's nothin' finer than knowing my folks are lookin' out for me." Before he could stop himself, bite off his own tongue, or choke down the question, Kouga gave his inquiry a voice. "Where are your folks?" Surely not every hanyou upbringing was as tragic as what he assumed. It was only a question, but Kouga had no way of knowing how deep the inquiry hit him, if it was a sore subject or not. The only way to find out for certain was to ask and let any trace of cowardice fall from this tree, dissipating into the shadows where the dark thoughts came from.

"Keh, they're long gone." Kouga had a feeling this was the case. He might not have been the brightest youkai on the earth, but he certainly knew the difference between when it was appropriate to ask questions and when it was in his best interest to shut the hell up. It was the time for the latter to reign dominion over his words.

At least that's what Kouga's brain told him. What failed to occur was a communication between his brain and mouth that signaled a red flag, stating that the time to stop speaking was now.

"Mine too." He'd already mentioned that, but the reminder was not for the sake of attempting to relate, but simply a gentle indication that they were similar creatures. "Guys like us gotta stick together." That was a bold claim, a suggestion that stated that there was something keeping the two of them together, a connection forged by their orphaned states. For all Kouga knew, Inuyasha was contemplating all the ways he could throw him from the tree for his insincere remark.

Questions were never simple, for the pain of answers, the pain of memory was very much real.

"I mean...uh...I'll just shut-up now. Sorry for buggin' ya and breaking your train of thought." Inuyasha fixed him with a look that proclaimed two truths to be absolute: Kouga was a real head-case for over-thinking and the constant second-guessing, and he wasn't offended by the questions. In theory, Kouga speculated as relief bathed in clarity, if Inuyasha had the willingness to answer his questions, he didn't really mind that he asked them outright.

"Hn. I really don't care if you stay or go." That was as close to a verbal affirmation Kouga was going to receive which he was alright with. So long as he wasn't on the ground, picking his teeth from the dirt in the gloom of the night, he was fine with Inuyasha's response.

"Well then, thanks! I don't mean to be nosy, ya know? I just want to...know what you believe's up there." Kouga had changed the sentence halfway through the formation. He figured that if he was to say he wanted to know him the entire conversation would sputter and die, and Inuyasha would never feel truly comfortable around him again.

'So much for seducing the guy.' "I mean, you gotta go somewhere when we die, so why not up? Wanna hear more about the legend that the wolves believe in?" Inuyasha agreed, and fully turned his body to face Kouga. A phantom hand clenched his gut when the hanyou physically turned to meet his gaze, the enormity that Inuyasha was looking at him enough to send him over the edge of the tree. Somehow, he managed to tell a few final pieces of information on his belief, on how wolves died, and then sprinted through the heavens for all eternity in their true forms.

"True forms, always lookin' down on us, but at us. We're not alone here." Once more, Kouga wished he could have taken back his words. He was well aware that what he was doing, all of this self-doubt had no place in his mission to "get the guy." If he wanted for all of his past efforts to go to waste, he might as well have kept up the same charade of moral dilemma. However, Kouga just couldn't help it. It was incredibly easy for him to believe that he was ever-watched over by his ancestors, but for someone else who had never heard the belief before, there was much more room to disregard it. Also, it was simple for him to believe because of his lineage. He was still the appointed prince from birthright and had a childhood composed of being coddled and very happy. His polar opposite fashioned in red and enough unreadable expressions to last a thousand years had more than likely known of hell earlier than any living creature should have. If anything, Kouga had no right to even talk with him about this, much less speak about this "faith" of his.

"At least, that's what I believe: that no matter who you are, or where you come from, your ancestors and the wolves are always watching after ya." Inuyasha emitted a small grunt of approval and flickered his gaze from his eyes - which was a pleasant and stimulating experience - to the midnight colored sky.

"Even if you're not a wolf?"

"Yeah! I mean, if you're up there, you're not going to be looking at just the wolves, but the world. They see everything, and we're not alone because of it."

Inuyasha didn't speak for several minutes, as if the silence allowed him to digest this new information.

"Hn. A lot of youkai in their true forms, watching us." The sentence was a statement, threaded by indifference; neither a disagreement nor an agreement. Kouga caught that the emphasis was on the words watching us, and he instantly felt like a creep, like someone who was looking far too into world placement. However, there was no denying that Inuyasha was at least mildly touched by the revealing of his belief.

"I mean, I thought about that, about those who died watchin' over those who lived and all, but I never had someone to share it with." Inuyasha shrugged, his rigid body language revealing how apathetic he was to not being able to reveal his theory to someone before. It was the demeanor of someone who was so used to keeping their thoughts locked away that they were immune to not being able to speak openly. That saddened Kouga to no end. Someone like Inuyasha should have been able to find someone with whom he could confide his musings with, someone trustworthy who wouldn't betray his inner-most thoughts with a world that took a liking to demeaning half-breeds. Kouga figured that was where the age-old phrase came into play, the one that spoke about this life not being fair came in.

Kouga was so touched by this fact that he nearly blurted out that Inuyasha could share anything with him whenever, wherever. But he didn't. Kouga figured he had made enough of a fool out of himself for one night, so he remained quiet, barely breathing, almost as if he believed from his past view-point that his very existence was an annoyance to Inuyasha.

The hanyou's next words came as a world-shattering shock to him, splintering his past thoughts. "I guess this means I trust you, a little." Kouga nearly fell off the branch then, and he knew that with this tantamount feeling of astonishment, he would have split his skull from the fall, for he would have been too stunned to save himself, much less land properly.

To compensate, Kouga felt a sly grin spread across his features. "You mean it?" There was a definitive note of vulnerability in the words, which led Kouga to wonder if Inuyasha detected it. The weakness was there for him alone, for Inuyasha was the only one who made him question so hard, much less think so deeply about everything they talked about.

Inuyasha smirked and Kouga felt himself lost in the slant of his mouth. "Yeah, I guess. You're not bright enough to fool me. You're not interested in anything other than me, and bein' with me. That kinda devotion can't be faked."

That was both the greatest compliment and the most enigmatic claim Inuyasha had ever made. A compliment because Inuyasha believed that what Kouga was feeling right then, the pulse-pounding, head-spinning sensation was not just a fabrication. He believed that Kouga had told him the truth about him "fucking loving him." Also, the claim was layered with mystery, for Kouga still didn't know if Inuyasha trusted him in full. That being said, Kouga knew Inuyasha didn't fully trust the water he drank, much less a stubborn and very much in love wolf-youkai who only wanted to be with him.

Kouga chuckled, mirroring Inuyasha's smirk. "You bet! I'm fucking yours. My heart's still set on you."

For the umpteenth time that night, Kouga feared that his words would finally cause Inuyasha to kick him out of the tree, and even worse, his life. He wished he could snatch the words from thin-air, and swallow them, the hope being that by the time Inuyasha replied, the words would be halfway down his small intestine.

Inuyasha didn't do anything aside from raise a slanted eyebrow, breathe a lofty sigh and shrug. "You really mean that, don't you?" Every word of that sentence dripped with the poison of disbelief, almost as if Inuyasha couldn't fathom why he would feel this intensely about him. Kouga knew that if he was to attempt to answer that unspoken inquiry, they would be in this tree until the following night.

Instead of trying to answer what was never placed into words, Kouga answered the question at hand. "Yeah. Yes. I really do Inuyasha. I meant everything I said a few months ago. No regrets, my heart is yours." Kouga lightly tapped his chest for emphasis, which resulted in brief albeit pleasing laughter from Inuyasha.

"I know it makes no damn sense, but that's the thing about love, even if it's one-sided; it makes no sense."

Inuyasha shook his head, and Kouga wondered if he still couldn't believe that he felt this way for him.

"You still don't believe me, do you?" Inuyasha met his eyes, shrugging.

"Well, yeah, sure. You're goin' to all the trouble of giving back jewel shards, joining the pack, and then telling me you love me. I'd be pretty stupid not to believe it when it's staring me right in the face."

Kouga chuckled, the sound low and vibrating in his throat. "You're damn right! I mean...err...it's up to you. I leave it in your hands." Closing his eyes, he leaned back in the tree, pleasantly relaxed all of the sudden. Who knew that banter, along with philosophical conversations, could inspire somnolence?

"That's right. Give it time." Those words nearly made Kouga jump sky-high and give a whooping cheer, for Inuyasha was actually willing to...he was willing...well, he was going to try. He was going to give this a try, whatever this was, and there was no need to worry so much.

'Easier said than done.' Instead of screaming and cheering as if he would never scream or cheer again, Kouga forced his eyes closed, drowsiness weighing down his eyelids like pieces of lead. He wanted to say goodnight, but they already had in some ways; if there was one thing he knew, it was that he was most certainly not a genius, and with this resultant insanity called love, it was that in the beginning stages, words didn't need to be wasted.

'Goodnight you crazy son-of-a-bitch; I love you forever.'