Turnabout is Fair Play
~Two Dogs With One Stone~
Miroku and Sango covered their mouths in unison. Panic flashed through Inuyasha's eyes as the rosary sparked, followed by a sleight of hand faster than they had ever dreamed the hanyou would be capable of moving.
Unbeknownst to the pair, their thoughts in that moment ran in strikingly similar directions. Both wondered just how many years they were bound to spend attempting to figure out just how Inuyasha managed it. From holding Kagome up under her arms to expertly balancing her up out of harm's way on one hand while the magic of the spell simultaneously smashed him face-first to the ground.
As the dust settled on the stunned silence, Shippou dryly observed, "And to think... I was sure he'd only pull that trick off with his ramen."
Kagome ignored their captivated audience and sat on his palm as casually as though she were doing no more than resting on the rim of the well. She didn't seem at all bothered at they way the crash of the hanyou's body colliding with the dirt echoed over and over through the trees. Her head tilted down so her bangs could more easily cover her eyes to hide her expression. It concealed everything but her mouth, and that she kept in a carefully neutral line. She somehow even managed to keep the recently acquired ears atop her head motionless as she waited for her own submission to wear off.
It was almost laughable the way everyone tensed when she finally shifted to get her feet on the ground and stand under their intense focus. Even Kouga looked uncertain of how to deal with such uncharacteristic silence. It was a huge upset to their well-established pattern of behavior post-antagonism and he didn't like it in the least. Frustrated, his brow furrowed and a faint growl came from low in his throat. He clenched and unclenched his hands, trying to decide what he should be doing with them in such an off-balance situation. More importantly, how best to approach the miko he'd thought he'd known so well.
This wasn't the time for a fight. And even if he wanted to instigate one with the hanyou so bad he could taste it, there was no way in any level of Hell that he would act the aggressor against Kagome under any circumstances. Newly pregnant, just discovering it from a "outside source," and obviously under some sort of a fucked-up spell that had changed everything in her body was simply not a time for any intelligent youkai to approach her.
But for as much as he wanted to help her, Kouga didn't have the foggiest idea where to start there either. Inuyasha had an singularly unparalleled GIFTwhen it came to bringing out anyone's temper. Kouga wasn't going to risk being turned into the outlet for Kagome, especially not since it would mean being the outlet for a miko with massive, spectacular strength in purification.
Unless he knew she was certain any overture from him was on the friendliest of terms, he had to wait for her express approval.
Anything else would really just be begging to get his ass purified by the breeding woman.
Kouga's gaze dropped down to where Inuyasha remained unmoving in the dirt. He swallowed hard in indecision before he twisted to observe Kagome silently returning to the river. His frown shifted, filling with concerned guilt when she crossed her legs and sat down. The only move she made was to lift her arm in order to give that little fox kit of hers a clear path to her lap when the boy hesitantly scampered close.
Technically, Kouga acknowledged privately, Kagome's reaction was his own fault.
Even if he didn't have any faith in a half-breed's ability to handle something as important as breeding, Kouga still aggravated the current mess. And upset Kagome by being the one to let her in on her condition. She really couldn't be more than a week or two in, not with how faint the thickening blend of scents was in her own. He knew- even if she obviously didn't- that she really shouldn't be rushing into a fight the way she did. Not until the scent settled firmly in her own lest she risk uprooting the fragile life as it tried to bury deep and strong in her womb's protection. Despite being Inuyasha's (for all the hanyou just plain rubbed him the wrong way and fought with him over Kagome's affection), he wouldn't be able to live with himself if he was the one who caused her body to reject the pregnancy.
Seeing Kagome lift her hand to stroke her fingers soothingly through the kitsune's hair caused a wave of relief to sweep through him. If she felt calm enough to do so, it suggested more toward her being free of any ill effects from her... previous exercise. At least it was a good sign toward it and he was willing to grasp at what he could at the moment. She's petting the little runt, so she's-? Is she calming down?
Patiently, he waited for the tension to drain out of her stance. He cocked his head to one side in a particularly canine motion; oblivious to the way his tail lazily flicked back and forth.
After another few tense heartbeats of time to let the lingering anger and adrenaline seep out of her natural scent and aura, Kouga turned his attention down at Inuyasha. Answers were most definitely the key to dissolving the last of the crackling aura that still hummed oppressively in the air. For everyone's sakes, he was determined to get them before the volatile situation got out of hand all over again.
Now it all came down to a matter of who best to dig those answers out of: an on-edge, newly breeding miko; or a newly-flattened, overly aggressive hanyou always on the look-out for a reason to start a fight.
"Oi. Inukkoro." Kouga shifted his balance to one foot and prodded at the hanyou with the other when his "greeting" failed to get a reaction.
"Get your foot off my head or I'll break it off," Inuyasha's voice was clear enough despite being muffled by the dirt. When Kouga hesitated, he flexed his fingers in an effort to come off more threatening that he felt. He'd rather not face any of them while he was still trying to calm the frantic pounding of his heart over what almost happened.
If he'd been any slower in moving her out of harm's way, Inuyasha knew he could have potentially come down on top of her. More than just the impact, his weight with the added force of the damn spell behind it was surely too much for her to handle. Even with his blood obviously running on high, right now it would be entirely focused on protecting Kagome instead of the almost life being created inside her.
I could have fucking killed them. He took slow, deep breath against the surge of fear-driven temper that came rushing into his head as the panic faded away. His anger rose in leaps and bounds until his throat was aching with the need to demand what in all the flaming HELLS she'd been thinking to pull a stunt like that.
He was abruptly pulled from his thoughts when Kouga unexpectedly obliged. Then again, the wolf only stepped back in order crouch down so he could easily reach out and grab Inuyasha's ear between two fingers. Before he could try to swat the wolf away, Kouga used the insulting hold to yank Inuyasha's head up. "You idiot. I should have suspected a hanyou mutt like you would manage to fuck this part up too."
Inuyasha reached up, fisted his claws in Kouga's ponytail, and slammed his head down in the dirt right beside his own. Obstinately, he leaned all his weight onto that hand to lever himself up just to grind the wolf's face harder into the ground and growled. "Don't get pissy with me now just because she's obviously mine, yase-ookami. I'm not the one who fucked up."
Kouga shoved him off with a louder growl in an instinctive attempt to assert his dominance. The two mildly scuffled as Kouga continued to snarl while he regained his feet. He brushed the back of his hand across his face and remove the loose soil and glared as angrily as ever. Fangs bared, he drew himself up and sneered, "She can do better than-!"
Kouga broke off with a look of utter amazement overtaking his face as it dawned on him that someone had just had the gallto bring something down on top of his head.
A particularly heavy something, actually, that successfully dropped him to his knees with the complete unexpectedness of the attack.
"If you two are quite finished?" Sango's eyebrow was twitching and lips compressed in severe disapproval. She looked down at Kouga and leaned forward to press more of Hiraikotsu's impressive weight down on the youkai's head. "We do still happen have a slight problem that both you brainless idiots are responsible for, and if you don't get off your asses and fix it, I'm going to have two new targets for practice tonight. Understand?" Her voice turned staggeringly frigid by the last word. She nodded once even though neither had spoken, ground her weapon meaningfully against the wolf's thick skull, and lifted the boomerang to re-sling it across her back.
Kouga opened his mouth to make a remark about a human being able to catch him, even one of Kagome's friends, when he made direct eye-contact with the female looming over him like an avenging angel. He could feel his eyes widen and instinctively leaned away from the snapping temper lurking violently in those uncommonly reddish-brown eyes.
He finally understood just what Inuyasha could find to be so intimidating in a mere human. T-that's... that's such a chilling expression...
Miroku felt so much delight at the path Buddha placed him on more and more at the sight before him. He smiled with a great deal of smug pride and watched the two "fearless" youkai cringing away from Sango at her glorious finest like a pair of recalcitrant children. After suffering his years of constant badgering and taunting, particularly from Inuyasha in regards to his taijiya's temper, there was something infinitely satisfying about it.
Convinced Sango had those two well in hand, he schooled his expression to a softer smile, readjusted his grip on his shakujou, and made his way towards Kagome. She appeared content to sulk on the riverbank with Shippou looking rather sheepish in her lap, but Kagome was a difficult woman to read when she truly wished to be. Sango would handle Inuyasha and Kouga with her own methods of persuasion, so he decided to try his hand with the more difficult challenge of Kagome's emotional upset.
Shippou looked up when he heard the soft jingle of rings heralding Miroku's approach and patted his hand on Kagome's arm just in case she'd missed the monk in her contemplations. Miroku saw her give the kit a comforting pet and considered that enough of a sign it was safe to sit down beside the silent girl. He slanted a glance at her lowered head and heaved an exaggerated sigh. When that failed to garner a reaction, he reached out and gently set his hand on her knee. "I don't suppose you'd agree to bear my child as well, would you, Kagome-sama?"
Kagome's head snapped up. Eyes wide, she stared at Miroku for what felt like ages. Regardless, he kept right on smiling at her as pleasantly as though he'd done no more than remark on the weather. She blinked once and he felt a sliver of doubt in the far reaches of his mind. Before it could take hold, the red in her eyes flickered and faded away to her normal blue. The faintest upwards turn started at the corner of her lips. "You hentai."
"Please!" He pressed his hand flat against his heart with feigned offense, but his eyes were sparkling in triumph at being able to pull her out of the horrible mood so efficiently. "I am but a humble servant of Buddha."
Shippou and Kagome snorted their opinion of that claim in unison, but the kitsune's mournful look had changed to a delighted smile as well. His tail swished with excitement and he flashed bright, grateful eyes up on Miroku. When the monk nodded encouragingly, Shippou flung his arms across Kagome's stomach and snuggled into her. He wanted to bask and revel in the feel of her ribs moving with the soft chuckle the "humble monk" had coaxed out of her.
Kagome stroked her hand through Shippou's hair. She drew in a deep lungful of fresh air and let the clean peace of the river sooth her on a visceral level. She rubbed the bridge of her nose and brushed her hair back over her shoulder with the unoccupied hand. "If you tell me Sango just killed them both, I just might kiss you."
"The hell you wi-ow!" Inuyasha's angry tirade was cut short by a heavy thunk they knew all too well. "Dammit, Sango, what the fuck was that for?"
A wider smile crossed Kagome's face and she covered her mouth to hide the new, louder chuckle that escaped at his outburst. The signs of amusement came through more easily when she heard Sango's hiss for silence and Kouga's appreciative laughter join in as well. Apparently, not even a knock on the head from Sango's wrath would stop Kouga for long. Kagome suspected it was more about having such a prime chance to see his favorite rival get bullied around by a pair of "human" girls. But as long as it kept him over there and- as placid as he was capable of being, she wasn't inclined to step in.
The smile faded after a moment and her eyes took on a distant look as the real reason for her inattention returned in full force. She'd dreamed over the years of all the different ways Inuyasha would confess to her. Younger, those visions had been soft and private; full of romance and whispered endearments. As she grew older, the rose-tinted filter of immaturity faded and subsequently changed the fantasies as well. One thing that always remained the same was how he would look intently into her eyes, draw her in, and confess his feelings. Sometimes he confessed them with the same confidence he carried into battle. In others, he was shy and awkward; disliking the vulnerability but admitting it anyway because she meant that much to him.
The reality on the other hand...
She turned Inuyasha's confession over and over in her mind, and her fingers resumed their strokes through Shippou's hair. I should have known. She felt the unmistakable prick of tears but closed her eyes quickly to hide it from Miroku and Shippou. The first time he admits that he loves me...the first time he actually says such serious words. It just has to be in the middle of a threat.
Abruptly, her lips quirked up in a soft, yet wry smile as something occurred to her. But then, it wouldn't be Inuyasha if he'd said it any other way. And he did say it in front of everyone. In front of KOUGA.
Shippou wrinkled his nose when he felt a splat on his hand. Looking down in mild surprise he saw a droplet of water slide down his wrist. Rain? He frowned, turning his palm up to feel for more before he heard the sniffle above him.
"O-oi!" Shippou shot to his feet in alarm. He tangled his little hands in Kagome's kimono and tugged on it to get her attention. "Don't cry! Kagome-kaa-san, don't cry!"
Inuyasha's eyes widened and his ears snapped straight up at Shippou's nervous stammer. Concern took over and his head whipped around from where he'd been in a glaring contest with Sango to find Kagome on the riverbank. Crying? Shit, Kagome's crying?
Kagome offered Shippou a bright smile and patted him again. When he still stared up at her with worry clear in his eyes, she shook her head in an effort to better dispel his concern. "It's nothing, really. Must be my condition." She made sure to emphasize that in a louder tone of voice and turned a flat look over her shoulder only to falter at Inuyasha's openly worried expression. Stubbornness and pride alone allowed her to hold her glare. But her resolve was starting to crumble under the emotion in his eyes as it deepened the vibrant gold she was so entranced with.
His ears flattened back under her angry censure. Still, he set his jaw in determination and stood to face her with his fists stuffed up in his sleeves. "Kagome, we have to talk. Alone."
Kagome turned to look out over the water again. It might have worked to shield her expression from Inuyasha, but her eyes gave her away to both Shippou and Miroku. She shook her head to dispel Miroku's questioning look and swallowed hard to get her emotions under control. Once they were as settled as they were going to get under the circumstances, she took in a deep breath and asked, "Did you mean it?"
"Hell yes, I mean it!" Inuyasha took a step forward and had to stop himself from simply scooping her up and carting her off. He wanted them safely away from all the curious eyes bouncing back and forth between them. Not to mention the interference from certain "outside influences" that fucked his chance to tell her about the pregnancy the right way. He'd already made enough mistakes in this one day to last at least a year; and he was determined not to piss her off again. Not about this. "We need to talk!"
"Not that!" She snapped out in exasperation, subconsciously mimicking his pose when she stuffed her hands into the sleeves of her kimono to make a circle of her arms and pull Shippou closer. Gods above, how can he be so smart and so stupid all at the same time? "What you said before. Did you mean that?"
Inuyasha blinked and tilted his head in confusion. "What did I say before?"
Miroku winced in sympathy when the hanyou went down with a crash a second time. This time swearing all the way at what Inuyasha obviously felt was an undeserved trip to the ground. Moving his hand from her knee to her arm, Miroku gave her a gentle squeeze and murmured, "Kagome-sama. This is Inuyasha. Perhaps he needs to be reminded more specifically."
"Oi! What's that supposed to mean, bouzu?" Inuyasha shoved up against the spell. His eyes blazed with fury at how easily the monk was touching Kagome when she was still too angry with him to let him get close.
Shippou bounded up onto Kagome's shoulder and shot Inuyasha a furious look. The kitsune jerked his head at her and crossed his hands in front of his chest in an attempt to silently convey this wasn't the time for Inuyasha to be throwing a fit. When the hanyou frowned at him, he patted one little hand over his heart and arched his eyebrows. Hoping his pantomime would prod Inuyasha's memory in the right direction for what she wanted to know.
Shippou's face took on an annoyed scowl when Inuyasha's confused expression didn't change. Inuyasha if you screw up my chance to have a family again, I'm going to kill you! Say you love her, you thick-headed moron!
Inuyasha blinked as he debated asking Shippou what the hell was wrong with his chest. Given everything going on, however, he shrugged it off as unimportant. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other while he mentally went back over everything he'd said that she might ask about. "You mean if I would beat your ass? Well, shit, Kagome, if you don't start taking better care of yourself then yeah, I will. But not until after you've had the pups."
Shippou smacked his hand over his eyes and groaned loudly. "Oh good flaming gods."
Kagome could feel her eyebrow twitching. Her ears flattened back with her rising fury and her muscles tensed in preparation as she started to stand in order to give her obnoxious mate a piece of her mind. And maybe a foot while she was at it.
Miroku's hand tightened to hold her in place before she could get far; just as she heard the satisfying thud of the Hiraikotsu against bone. If there were any doubts, the hanyou's violent swearing blistered the air to prove just who had been its target.
"Sango! I swear to-!"
Inuyasha's snarl was cut off with a yelp when Sango grabbed his ear and dragged him halfway back to Kouga. She yanked his head down hard and hissed in the sensitive appendage, "You told Kagome-chan you love her, you unimaginable jackass! We all heard you!"
Kouga's brows shot up, unconsciously mimicking Inuyasha's perplexed expression. Although he chose to remain silent while the hanyou took the more vocal method of addressing the problem and turned his scowl at Kagome. "Bitch, is that what this is all about?"
Shippou was slowly resigning himself to a single-parent existence. He deflated down on Kagome's shoulder and buried his face against her kimono with a deep sigh. He's an idiot. A completely unfixable idiot.
In the tense silence, Kouga could only ask, "How the fuck are you treating her, Inukkoro?"
At the offended look and growling he received, Kouga arched an eyebrow and folded his arms over his chest. He leaned back against the nearest tree to let his regenerative abilities start to mend all his aches and the new injuries sustained from that inhuman female masquerading as a human. That, and it gave him a clear, comfortable position to listen and observe the whole mismatched group Kagome always insisted he leave her with.
The wolf looked back and forth from miko to hanyou and tried to piece together everything that could have happened to bring events to this disastrous conclusion. Why would she be uncertain about the worthless hanyou's emotions when it's obvious what he's done? Is he behaving in such a vague manner towards her now that she's breeding that it's been put in question?
When he opened his mouth to ask just that, Inuyasha shot him a warning look to prevent it. The hanyou bared his fangs in a snarl that clearly said he already intended to smash Kouga's head against the ground a few more times for the insult. After he'd straightened out his dense miko's broken perception skills. "Oi! Answer me, Kagome! Are you acting like this over something that fucking silly?"
"Silly? Silly?" Kagome was on her feet, facing him so fast that both Shippou and Miroku nearly went flying. "You think telling me you love me is 'fucking silly,' Inuyasha? Do you realize you've never fucking said it before now?" Her eyes were blazing with rage at how casually he dismissed something that meant so much to her.
Never one to be outdone in a match of tempers, Inuyasha picked himself up and snapped right back. "What difference does it make if I say it or not? How could you not tell, dammit? Didn't I make it obvious enough?"
"Obvious?" Kagome repeated in disbelief; completely taken aback by that question. She stared at him in disbelief as her mind tried to work around the insinuation behind it. Obvious? Wait, but that means-? He thought I-? Inuyasha thought I knew it already?
Inuyasha made a sound of frustrated impatience and flung out his hand in an expansive gesture. "What the hell else do you want me to do to prove it to you? I made it obvious enough to everyone else! Your weird friends, my goddamn bastard of a brother... fuck, bitch, I even agreed to stay out of it and let you fight Kikyou! What else do you need before you can tell?"
Kagome stared at him, blinking as her ears flipped forward and back into her hair again while one hand lifted to rest on Shippou's back. He... really thought he was saying it clearly enough without the words?
"I'm even going to tell your family - like youwant me to - as soon as we go back through the well, and I'm sure that Kaede-baba already spread it all over the village." He jabbed a clawed finger back in the direction of Kaede's hut, working himself up into a prime rant. "Kouga's right fucking here and he can tell you're breeding, so that pretty much covers everyone, doesn't it? You practically get away with murder and I don't stop you. I protect you, I sleep with you; what else can I do to prove it to you, dammit?"
"Then... you did mean it?" Kagome interrupted the moment he stopped to take in a breath while his eyes clearly showed he was only gathering steam.
"I wouldn't have said it if I didn't!" Inuyasha was close to throwing his hands up and just bashing his head against the nearest tree in frustration. Or better yet, making those promised bashes to Kouga's head against the nearest tree until he felt better. Inuyasha turned slightly to eye the wolf watching the whole scene so intently; momentarily turning over the pros and cons of following through on that thought.
Finally, however, he settled for raking his claws through his hair and swearing under his breath. He took what he hoped was a calming breath and tried again. "Kagome, can't we talk about this privately? This isn't something everyone needs to hear."
"This is one of those disagreement moments, Inuyasha." She folded her arms under her breasts. Her hands unobtrusively stroked over her stomach before she used them to catch the kitsune sliding down her chest to get a better seat for the more civilized version of their recent arguments. "I already told you, hearing about this from Kouga completely erased your rights to privacy on this one."
"If you growl at me, I'm going to eat nothing but potato chips and candy bars until I have this baby." Kagome's brows drew together and her eyes dared him to question her resolve. "I'm mad at you, Inuyasha; I mean it. Nothing but junk food, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it."
Inuyasha's mouth opened to retort when the actual threat clicked in his head and he snapped it shut. Better that than accidentally saying something to lose the ground he'd inexplicably gained. She's speaking protectively about the pregnancy. Or at least, well, indirectly protective of them. She's not trying to throw Kouga at me or bouncing around carelessly to attack me. She's willing to stay calm and talk.
"Did you mean it?" She repeated with more than a hint of a snarl sneaking into her voice with the aggravation of just how many times he was forcing her to say those words. "Straight answer, Inuyasha. Yes, or no."
Inuyasha stuffed his arms deeper into his sleeves and hunched his shoulders as he shot some of his more impressive scowls at the wholly unaffected spectators. "Bitch, you already know when I mean what I say."
Shippou sighed and rubbed his head. "Why do you have to make everything so difficult?"
"You stay out of this!" Inuyasha pointed to the little kitsune angrily hiding his discomfort in the frustration that easily spilled over into that sharp command.
Shippou's response was to stick out his tongue and flip him a rude gesture, "What do you expect when you're doing such a crappy job of telling her why you did it?"
"Coming from a damn kitsune?" He reflexively bared his teeth. "Your ideas about this shit are ridiculous and every self-respecting youkai knows you can't trust-!"
"And after you were being so mature and smart about so many other things," Shippou interrupted to continue his lamenting without giving Inuyasha a chance to finish the tirade against his race. He snuggled into Kagome's arms and reached down to pat his hand against her stomach. He'd never tried before, but he made his best effort to call to the developing ki and bond at this early stage. "Don't worry. At least your Mama is smart."
"Shippou, you're digging your own-" Inuyasha took a step forward, one fist raised to clock him over the head when Kagome let out a sound of impatience and held up a hand to stop the advance.
"Inuyasha, you can chase Shippou-chan later. After I decide whether or not it's worth it to rip off your arms and beat you with them until the moon comes up, strangle you, or shave your head for keeping this from me." She drummed her fingers on her arms until Shippou reached up to press on her hands to stop the nervous gesture. She sighed and patted him on the head before she reached up to massage the bridge of her nose. "Is it really so hard to say it? Is that why you're dancing around it after you've already said it once?"
"Well, shit, Kagome, words don't mean anything!" He rubbed his hand over the back of his neck, obviously uncomfortable with explaining his actions in front of so many others. It was even worse with Kouga, of all people, sitting there; the wolf watching them with both great interest and uncommon composure. "Anyone can say words."
Kagome frowned at his explanation. Her mouth opened as she started to respond, but stopped herself as she let the full meaning of it sink in. Anyone can say words? Actually, I can see where Inuyasha might be mistrusting of words after the life he had. But does that-? Could he really have been "saying" it all this time?
She gave up on the bridge of her nose and moved on to straight up to rub her hand over aching head. It was disconcerting, but she could actually feel her blood slowly settling down the longer she stared at him. As it settled, it was much easier to see the anxiety -and even a little bit of hurt- that he was trying to hide beneath his glare. It never occurred to him that I wouldn't know.
"Have I ever done anything to make you doubt it? Do you think I'm mistreating you?" He motioned expansively with one hand, flustered and grasping for whatever it was he wasn't understanding when she continued to stare at him in silence. "Fuck it all to hell, Kagome, if this was bothering you this much, why didn't you say something before now?"
Kagome squirmed when all five pairs of eyes turned on her to hear the answer to that one. She instinctively took a step back while her mind momentarily wiped clear of coherent thought at suddenly being on the other end of the argument. "I-ah..."
Inuyasha's arms came out of his sleeves to fold over his chest. He struck a much more confident pose once he realized he'd just managed to twist things in his favor. "If you want a straight answer out of me, then you owe me one too."
She could feel her cheeks turning pink when Miroku and Kouga nodded in subconscious agreement to that roundabout command. "I know that."
"Then why didn't you ask before now?" His brows lifted with the question. He pressed on to hold her attention before it could wander away to the others; or she found a way to avoid the issue and turn it back on him. "It's this not talking to me about what you're thinking and doing that got us into all this shit in the first place, isn't it? Even after all that, you're still keeping things from me?"
The guilt on her face changed instantly to flat accusation. "Somehow, that coming from you just seems to carry a little less weight at the moment, Inuyasha." She pressed one hand meaningfully onto her stomach, "I'd say this is about the mother of all 'keeping things' from the other person involved."
Inuyasha inwardly cursed at not quitting while he was ahead, but still refused to back down. He admitted, "I was trying to figure out how to tell you what happened! I told you that already. I didn't mean to keep it from you, I just didn't... want to do it wrong."
Kagome dropped her gaze and closed her eyes again at the way his voice trailed off with self-conscious uncertainty. She had to swallow hard against the need to comfort him and inwardly cursed at the renewed prick of tears right behind her eyes. Dammit! Why can't I stop crying? I- I just waited to hear it and he-! She cut her thoughts off before they could make things worse and bit down hard on her lip in her effort to hold her emotions back. "Why?"
"Why do you think?" He gave her a dry look, unable to stop the faint growl from rising in his chest as he resigned himself to swallowing his pride and explaining everything in front of everyone. She was right about it being his mistake that she'd heard it from Kouga first, and if she needed this to be done in front of all of them to make it right, he'd grit his teeth and do it.
"This is just a little bit important to me, Kagome." He made sure his tone made it clear just how much of an understatement he considered that remark. "Or do you really think I would have done this if I wasn't serious? This is kids; these are actual living things from you and me. This is a family, ourfamily."
Her entire expression softened for a moment, eyes so liquid with emotion that Inuyasha breathed out a sigh of relief. Right up until he saw the confusion chase across her face. "Kids?" She repeated, carefully drawing out the "s."
Shippou's eyes went wide at the slip up and he smacked a hand up to his forehead again. Oh shit.
Inuyasha's own expression changed back to panic, tensing as he tried to backtrack when her mouth made an "oh" of discovery over his reaction. "Wait, Kagome-"
"As in more than one?" Kagome's spine straightened bit by bit until it was almost perfectly rigid. A faint red glint reentered her eyes. "You can already tell that? You know how many I'm going to have already?"
Kouga perked up at the returning promise of violence against his favorite rival. He looked back and forth between Kagome's deceptively calm expression and Inuyasha's cornered one. "Gods, Inukkoro, this just keeps getting worse for you, doesn't it?" Multiples for a first breed with a human? Oh, she's going to eat him for sure.
"Kouga, I really don't need your help for this," Inuyasha gritted out, not wanting to take the time to beat the ever-living daylights out of the wolf for his continued presence and "helpful additions." Not when his biggest problem was glaring him down as though she was trying to pick out the perfect spot to tear apart first.
"I do believe it would be to your advantage to ignore Kouga for the moment, Inuyasha," Miroku couldn't resist commenting. He shook his head and stood, keeping an eye on Kagome's expression in profile the entire time. "I believe this issue will require most of your attention."
That said, the monk cleared his throat and inched away from what his instincts interpreted to be the most immediate source of danger. More than one. Dammit, there is absolutely nothing fair about this situation.
Shippou nodded rapidly in agreement and swallowed hard against the sense of impending doom. As well as the urge to take refuge on the monk's shoulder. This is so not going well.
Kagome was feeling more than a little dizzy. She struggled to hold herself together with pride alone as everything but Inuyasha's face seemed to fade out of her focus. It was getting difficult to take in a proper breath and she was positive Shippou would tell on her for feeling the tremble in her limbs any second now. Even so, she stubbornly held her stern expression while her mind raced to restart all its voluntary functions and restore her ability to form a coherent thought that could translate into speech.
In the end, she still didn't trust herself to say more than the two words that meant more to her than any other at that particular moment. "How. Many?"
Inuyasha flinched guiltily. "I didn't realize we'd made more than one at the time-!"
"How many?" she repeated with more strength.
"I mean- that was the first time I've ever actually participated during a cycle," he admitted and slid back a step nervously. "And you were human before now, it's not like I was thinking that it would be a problem if we-"
His ears flattened back as he fumbled to think of a way out of answering that. Realizing the futility of presenting anything but the truth, his shoulders slumped in defeat, and his eyes dropped meaningfully to Shippou. "You heard her."
"What?" Shippou's voice cracked under the sudden attention. His eyes widened to nearly comical proportions as Inuyasha gave him a single nod and jerked his head towards Kagome.
"How many souls can you feel?"
"Why are you asking me?" Shippou squeaked out while he looked from side to side in an instinctive search for escape.
"Cause you're the one who's had his damn ear practically attached to her belly since we got back!" Inuyasha shouted, rapidly losing all the patience he had left the longer Kagome stared at him.
"Plus he's a kitsune," Kouga added helpfully.
"Dammit, Kouga! Stay out of this!" Inuyasha jabbed a finger in Kouga's direction without feeling the least bit ashamed that he was using the wolf as an outlet for his frustration and anger. "Why the fuck are you even still here?"
"You leave Kouga out of this!" Kagome cut in before the pair of them could get into it. "I mean it, Inuyasha, I want to know. Now."
"Why do you think I'm telling Shippou to tell you?" He rounded on her and demanded.
Kagome gaped at him. "You don't know?"
"How the hell could I?" Inuyasha finally gave in and flung his hands up in exasperation. "All I can hear is that there's more blood and energy moving around down there. Kitsune can tell from the start, how do you think they eat so many babies?"
"That's a lie!" Shippou shouted. His tail bristled in agitation as he shook one little fist at the hanyou. "Only some kitsune eat babies!"
Kagome set a quelling hand on Shippou's head and shot Inuyasha a look that spoke volumes about just what would happen to him if he didn't stop. Satisfied he would stop antagonizing Shippou, she took a deep, bracing breath and looked down at the little kitsune's nervous face. She didn't say a word; just continued to stare and waited for him to crack.
Shippou's lip quivered.
Kagome arched one eyebrow.
Shippou's eyes turned absolutely luminous in his attempt to convince her to turn her attention elsewhere.
Kagome's brow crept a fraction higher.
Inuyasha stubbornly ignored Kouga as the wolf appeared at his side and prodded him with an elbow. No matter how true it might be, he absolutely refused to acknowledge he was sharing in the moment of amusement. That wasn't even taking into account what was likely to happen if Kagome caught him taking any pleasure in the situation. Despite his dislike for the wolf, he was absolutely certain Kouga was having the same thoughts as he was; imagining Kagome sitting in a much more serene setting with that stone-faced front turned on a mischievous pup. Granted, the wolf likely wasn't imagining the babies she was tending had white hair and golden eyes, but at least Inuyasha knew his own version of the fantasy was more than just wishful thinking.
Shippou's expression finally cracked and he reached up to cover his head with his hands as best he could. "I just like to listen! That's all!"
Kagome bit the side of her tongue and sternly reminded herself that he was too young to understand she wasn't mad with him. She reached up to grasp his hands and gently tugged them down to his lap to get him to look up at her. "What do you hear, Shippou-chan?"
Swallowing hard, the little kitsune shot one more desperate look around the unhelpful faces of the other adults and slumped in resignation. He glanced up at Kagome through his bangs and reached out a shaky hand to touch her abdomen. In a quiet voice, he admitted, "There are three different spots being watched by souls, but one of them is kind of shy. It sticks behind one of the others and only touches you when that one goes with it."
Inuyasha's spine straightened and both ears shot up in shock. "Thr-?"
"Three?" Kagome choked out over the hanyou's whispered attempt to repeat that revelation. "Three?"
Kouga blinked and looked at Inuyasha with some surprise of his own. "For a first birth? What, were you trying to make it as difficult as possible?"
When Kagome's head snapped around to the pair of them again, Inuyasha cursed and glared at the wolf. "Not. Helping."
Kouga brought both his hands up in placating defensive but the look of confusion remained set on his face. "I'm not saying she doesn't have the body for it-"
"Kouga!" Kagome gasped out in embarrassment.
"What?" He shrugged and gestured to her shape to illustrate his point. "You've got some really nice hips on you, especially for a human. But you're still pretty small, Kagome."
"What does that have to do with anything?" Kagome was downright determined to ignore the flush she could feel rising in her cheeks.
Kouga cocked his head to one side at her question, not understanding how she didn't already know the answer. "Until you have one and settle your hips and all, it's not a good idea to start trying for full litters. You have to hold back."
Kagome stared at him in amazement. "How-? How do you know that?"
Kouga's brows lowered over his eyes and he glanced to Inuyasha only to find the hanyou staring at him with the same awed expression. He folded his arms and took on his most authoritative stance. "I'm the head of my pack, remember. I've overseen all the births that happened since I was old enough to start taking over, so of course I know!" Shaking his head, he gestured to Inuyasha and accused, "How the hell do you not?"
Inuyasha backhanded Kouga's chest in aggravation and snarled, "I didn't have a giant-ass fucking pack grooming me to help make babies!"
"Births! I help with births, inukkoro!" Kouga corrected impatiently. "I haven't made any of my own because, unlike you, I can control myself!"
"Could have fooled me," Inuyasha spat back derisively.
Inuyasha's ears flatted down against his skull at Kagome's shout and even Kouga cringed from the anger in her voice. He even backed away to let her direct it all at the hanyou. If he hadn't been so concerned with the rising flare of Kagome's aura, Inuyasha might have spared a moment to taunt the wolf for his cowardice, but the narrowing of her eyes suggested that wouldn't be a good idea.
Inuyasha reflexively stuffed his hands into his sleeves and hurried to absolve himself of that blame. "It's not like I knew, Kagome!" Her eyes slanted to Kouga and he bristled at the silent indication. "Ididn't know, all right? It's not like I ever met anyone who would ever want to have a hanyou's kids!"
"I wanted to have your kids, you colossal moron!" Kagome yelled right back.
"I wanted you to have them too, or you wouldn't be fucking pregnant, bitch!"
"You could have just said something then and we wouldn't have to be having this discussion!" Kagome actually stomped her foot, unable to think of any other way to adequately show her frustration without causing him serious bodily harm. She opened her mouth to yell at him again only to have her voice die in her throat. Her eyes widened as just what they'd been yelling back and forth sunk in.
All the anger abruptly drained out of her and left her staring at him in incredulity. Whether inadvertent or otherwise, Inuyasha had just unloaded more insecurities in the past five minutes than he'd shared with all of them combined in all the years she'd known him. She'd always wondered if he had issues about families or kids, especially given the history he had in regards to relationships in general. But since that day, everything had been moving so fast.
As tired as her body was, it was too easy for her head to feel like it was just last week she'd been blushing at the thought of holding hands with Inuyasha. Only in her wildest dreams had she ever let herself imagine a little golden-eyed baby with Inuyasha's ears cuddling down in her arms and calling her "mama" while the hanyou watched over them. To have two more added to what was now a reality for the suddenly much too near future?
Kagome brought a hand to her head as a wave of dizziness swept through her.
Inuyasha straightened in alarm when Kagome swayed. Before he stopped to think, he leapt across the space separating them and wrapped a steadying arm around her waist. Concerned golden eyes searched her face while he urged her to lean more of her weight against him. "What is it? Are you all right?"
"No, it's nothing," Kagome murmured with a shake of her head. "Just got light-headed all of a sudden."
Inuyasha frowned and looked her over from head to toe. "You probably haven't eaten enough today. Then you had to go and get all worked up over stupid shit." He gave Shippou a low growl to get him to move and swung Kagome up into his arms. "How many damn times do I have to tell you not to overdo it before it sinks in?"
"Well maybe if you said 'take it easy, you're eating for four,' I would known you weren't joking when you said I really should have eaten that cow we passed this morning," she drawled out sourly.
"You were staring at it and I heard your stomach growl," Inuyasha defended with a huff.
Kagome gave him a dry look to show her lack of appreciation for the reminder.
"I told you fresh is better," he continued. He pointedly ignored their captivated audience in favor of finding a boulder and sitting her down with uncommon gentleness. "I would have killed it for you."
"Not the point."
"Ch!" Inuyasha scoffed. "It is if you're falling over on me now."
Kagome swatted him in the stomach and said, "Can we stop talking about the damn cow and get back to the babies you 'forgot' to tell me we're having?"
Inuyasha covered her mouth with his hand and looked around for Sango. When he found her though, she was staring at him like he'd just mutated into something horrific right before their eyes. Brows lowering, he grunted to get her attention, "Oi, Sango. Go get something for Kagome to eat from Kaede-baba."
Her annoyance grew again and Kagome reached up to grab the two tails of hair framing the sides of his face. She yanked his head down, shook off his hand, and hissed, "We aren't done."
Inuyasha caught both her hands to stop her from pulling his hair again. "Dammit, bitch, I'm trying to take care of you!"
"And I'm trying to get some answers before I settle on strangling you in your sleep to be done with this!"
Sango was drawn out of her fascinated staring by the brush of a clawed hand across her wrist. Reflex made her jolt in alarm at the sensation she'd been trained to recognize as a deadly advance even as her mind caught and stopped it. She barely resisted the urge to swing Hiraikotsu around and slam it across whoever instigated it. Instead, she turned to frown her displeasure at Kouga. "Don't ever do that again."
Kouga smirked indulgently at her show of temper but refrained from making the kind of smartass remark she expected. He jerked a thumb back toward the town and rumbled softly, "You should get the other two. This will take some time with the way those two can go on."
Sango's jaw clenched and her eyes flickered to the couple indecisively. "But-"
"Might as well get something to eat while she finishes handing him his ass," Kouga explained with a heavy sigh. His eyes took on a wistful light as he focused on Kagome's face and the color in her cheeks while she traded arguments back and forth with Inuyasha. With a melancholy sigh, he shook his head and turned his back on the pair. "Besides, this way by the time they're done, my wolves will have brought in something good for her."
The taijiya blinked, bemused by his odd behavior. It took longer than she would have liked, but eventually things clicked and her expression cleared with her realization. As calm as the wolf was acting, this had to be disappointing at best. If not completely heartbreaking, depending on just how deep his affections truly ran. And yet, despite his personal feelings, or maybe even because of them, he was still thinking of Kagome's best interests.
Sango nodded to show she understood and caught Miroku's eye with a simple gesture. From there it was easy enough for the monk to beckon to Shippou and encourage him to abandon his dangerous perch between the pair. The fox rubbed a little hand on Kagome's flat stomach once more and made a stealthy run to join the retreat.
Still, Sango couldn't help but hesitate and glance back at the couple who remained unaware enough of their surroundings to miss the four of them removing themselves from the scene. Will it really be okay?
Kouga clapped her on the shoulder and urged her to keep following the path. "C'mon, taijiya. Either they work it out and come back together or Kagome kills the hanyou and agrees to come live pampered and happy with me forever instead."
Sango let out a helpless laugh and hurried to cover her mouth to muffle the sound. "You'll never change, Kouga. No wonder Kagome likes you so much."
"Just remember to remind Inuyasha of that," Kouga encouraged with a shameless grin. "Preferably every time he looks happy."
This time Sango was laughing softly as she cast one last look over her shoulder. Sending a silent prayer to the kami for everything to work out between her two dearest friends, she joined the rest of the group on the path toward the village.