Disclaimer: I do not own the characters of Inuyasha, nor do I own the rights to Unforgettable, an original Nat King Cole song that was digitally redone as a duet with his daughter Natalie Cole after his death.
Stunned, and for the moment unable to feel the anguish she knew was coming, Kagome dropped her bag and slid down the tree at her back to the ground, her knees simply giving way beneath her.
She'd been on her way back to the village after being home for two days, when she'd literally stumbled on another Inuyasha and Kikyou moment... but this time, it wasn't her fault. She hadn't gone looking, wasn't spying on the two, hadn't even known the other woman was around.
They were meeting openly on the path to the well.
Of course, she was coming back a day early, so it probably hadn't even occurred to the hanyou that she'd catch them out. He hadn't even realized she was there – he was far too involved with holding onto the older miko and swearing, once again, that he could never forget her, or ever hate her, no matter what.
But Kikyou... Kikyou had seen her...
In no way ready to face anyone, not family by going back through the well, and not her friends here by going on to the village, Kagome struggled back to her feet, and grabbing her bag, took off into the forest, heading for a place to be alone.
She needed it.
Never sure, afterward, how long she'd sat where she'd eventually fallen, cold and lonelier than she'd ever been, Kagome was jerked out of her introspection by the slow tread of her preincarnation, and the ghostly radiance of her companions.
She looked up only to meet a measuring gaze.
"You will only continue to be hurt if you stay, Kagome," Kikyou said finally, sighing. "The only way for you to heal is for you to go home - and stay there."
Dazed, Kagome shook her head. "How can I go? Inuyasha would only come looking," she whispered, her voice choked.
Kikyou looked at her for a moment, then sat down next to her. After a few minutes of looking at the twilit sky, she said, "You heard him. He can never forget me. Just like I could never forget him. But... if you are willing... I can cast a spell that will make him forget you. You would go home, and he would simply think that I had released him from the tree after being brought back by Urasue. Then we could work together to defeat Naraku and complete the jewel, and you could go back to your life in that future time."
Stricken, Kagome couldn't look at Kikyou. He would forget me... like he couldn't forget Kikyou... she was so hurt at the thought she couldn't even speak.
The older miko seemed aware of that. "You are filled with pain, and that will not change while you stay here. And there is this... Inuyasha would finally have peace. Right now, he is torn by his need to protect you, and his feelings for me. It causes him much guilt and confusion. If you were gone, that would change. In the end, it would bring peace to you both."
Choking back a sob, Kagome's hands pressed against her mouth – she so badly wanted to cry. She'd never hurt so much as in that moment as all hope died inside her. It was true, in the end, what Kikyou was saying – Inuyasha might care about her, but he loved the other woman, and Kagome was only chasing her own eventual emotional death by sticking around.
She drew in a deep breath, not even trying to hold in the tears that she wanted to cry. "What about my friends? They'd remember."
Kikyou nodded. "Yes... they love you and would remember. But... if this is for the best, then you should talk to them. Tell them what is going to happen, and get them to accept that this is necessary."
She stood up, not even fighting what she now felt was inevitable. "Give me a few hours before casting your spell so I can explain to the others. You'll have to call Inuyasha back out, and keep him busy while I do. I'm sure you'll know when I go back through the well," she said, an almost mocking, bitter edge to her tone, "since you always do."
With one final glance at the undead miko, Kagome straightened her shoulders and began to move away, determined not to break down in front of the other woman – she was only human and had her pride, too.
After all, she would have the rest of her life to grieve once this was done – she could hold on for another hour or so.
The last thing Kikyou ever heard her say was, "I don't need your pity, Kikyou, so save it for someone who does."
A small smile, unseen by the young woman, lit the older miko's face as she said softly, "No, you don't need my pity, Kagome."
She watched as the younger woman disappeared into the darkness under the trees.
In the end, either because they could see her pain and didn't want to prolong it, or because secretly they agreed, Miroku and Sango gave in to her reasoning fairly quickly, though not without tears, at least on Sango's part.
Shippo, on the other hand, didn't take to the idea well at all, and surprisingly to Kagome, neither did Kaede.
"This cannot end well," she said, shaking her head. But finally giving in to the heartbroken look in Kagome's eyes, she agreed to go along with the whole thing – and cast a spell on Shippo of acceptance. It would calm him down, at least, and not allow him to give the whole thing away.
And after all her time in the Sengoku Jidai, it only took an hour for her to break all ties to the time and the people.
How painfully ironic.
With her last few moments in that time blurred by pain and tears, she dropped down the well, not even caring if she landed wrong and broke her neck in that moment of penultimate anguish. She was simply too overwhelmed to balance herself out.
Inuyasha had gone after Kikyou that second time she beckoned without a backwards glance at her...
She hadn't even gotten a chance to say a word to him before he was gone, leaving her with not even any final words to cling to.
The blue lights of the well dissipated under suddenly pouring rain as Kagome disappeared, and with absolutely no fanfare, she faded from the mind of the one she loved more than life itself even as she faded from his era.
How easily I am forgotten...
I wish I could forget him just as easily so I could finally stop hurting.
The rain only poured harder as the forest watched over the now useless well in perpetual silence; for if it no longer had the purpose of transporting Kagome back and forth through time, of what real use was it?
A piece of wood popped in the fire, and Kaede stirred it back up, her eyes lightly passing over the four beings in her hut.
Miroku, his expression grim, giving his shoulder in comfort to Sango, whose cheeks were tear streaked and eyes miserable; she in turn cuddled both Shippo and Kirara in her lap, giving as much comfort as she was able. All four were highly upset at what had occurred a mere hour ago.
Kikyou had convinced Kagome to go home to her time and stay there, promising to keep Inuyasha from going after her by making him forget the girl from the future ever existed. He had already sworn that he could never forget Kikyou herself, but apparently his memory wasn't so infallible when it came to Kagome, and now the girl that had freed him from Kikyou's wrongful, hateful vengeance, who had followed him and cared for him and held them all together, was gone.
Not one of them looked up as the matting on the doorway shifted and Inuyasha stepped into the hut, Kikyou by his side, unable to guarantee in that moment that they would be able to look at him without something near hatred in their eyes – and knowing they wouldn't be able to look at Kikyou without that particular emotion taking over their expressions – and hearts.
"Oi," the hanyou gritted out, looking around with a frown, "what the hell's with the long faces, eh?"
No one moved, and Kikyou, knowing quite well what was wrong, said, "Perhaps you should go gather a bit more firewood, Inuyasha," indicating her sister's diminishing supply.
He eyed the people in the hut, then nodded and stumped off, leaving the clay miko to enter the hut and take a seat near the fire. Not that she really needed the heat, but she liked the way it felt – it let her imagine, for a short time, that she wasn't cold and clay.
It let her pretend she was still alive, and things that could free her imagination in such a way were few and far between, and to be cherished because of that.
"I take it that you cast your spell of forgetfulness on him, then," Miroku said, not looking at her.
"I did. It is permanent and unbreakable - except in certain cases."
Sango frowned. "Certain cases?"
Kaede was the one to answer, eyeing her sister suspiciously as she did so. "Aye. In other words, Inuyasha will not remember Kagome... unless his emotions towards her overpower the emotions he feels to the caster, i.e. Kikyou, in this case. So if Inuyasha feels stronger love for Kagome than he does for Kikyou, the spell will wear off by morning, because while his mind might have been made to forget her, his heart will be unable to. If he feels more for Kikyou, however, then he will never remember Kagome."
The hut fell silent again as everyone digested that, and Miroku watched Kikyou from under his lashes, wondering why she would have used such a spell. There were, after all, many other, more reliable spells of forgetfulness.
"One wonders why you chose that particular spell, Kikyou-sama," Miroku said coolly. "I am sure that one of the many other such spells would have suited your intentions better."
She met his gaze, then, something fierce flashing in her eyes for just a moment; Miroku was taken aback, suddenly uncertain as he looked at her. "Ah, but then, you don't know my intentions, do you, Houshi-sama?" she asked, her voice slightly bitter. "None of you do."
"Then why don't you tell us what they are, so that there is no more misunderstanding?" Kaede asked, her voice dry as she looked at her once-sister steadily.
It was quiet for a few moments as Kikyou stared into the fire, and then she sighed, her shoulders slumping a little, and suddenly, Miroku actually felt sorry for her. She looked weary, her dark eyes worn and sad, and as he glanced down at the woman leaning against his shoulder, he read the same pity in her eyes as she gazed at the clay miko.
"I am tired, Kaede. My soul, or what I have of it, is tired, and longs to be freed of this painful existence. To return to Kagome, where it belongs now. But Inuyasha holds me here – his emotions bind me with uncertainty and I cannot leave this plane. This was the only way I could figure out to finally and forever distinguish his feelings for me." She stuck her hand into the fire as everyone in the room gasped, then pulled it out. It was perfect, not one blemish on it, and she was clearly not in pain. "My body is cold, and nothing causes me pain – except my heart, and his emotions. If he truly loves me, and cannot let me go, then I will stay, help him defeat Naraku, and then... we can either go into death together, or I can try to continue on here. For his sake I would try, because I cannot deny him. Whatever he desires is what I will do and be. If he loves her more, however, then I will move on now, and go back to my rest, allowing her to return and soothe his heart. I wish for whatever Inuyasha wishes."
Everyone in the hut was surprised at the woman's words, except Kaede. She watched her sister with a knowing eye. "Tell me, Kikyou – which one would ye prefer, for yourself?"
You could hear a pin drop in the hut as they all waited breathlessly for her answer. When it came, it wasn't what they'd expected.
"I am almost certain that Inuyasha will, indeed, remember Kagome by morning, if not sooner – in which case I will be free once again to be reborn as the kami decree. And then you all will look upon me with affection, instead of near hatred, because as Kagome, I will actually be worthy of that emotion." She smiled sadly. "And I will actually be alive and warm, with a heart that can accept and return those sentiments, as I cannot trapped in this slowly decaying prison as I am now."
It became clear in that moment that she was actually hoping that Inuyasha loved Kagome more – so that she could allow herself to disintegrate and return in warm, living flesh – as Kagome, her next incarnation.
Different, oh, yes... but also, in some little way, the same.
It had never been more apparent than in that moment, because as Kagome had once told Inuyasha, she shared the desire to be near him with Kikyou - they truly were simply different incarnations of the woman who had always loved Inuyasha.
It was just that as Kagome, she loved him more.
She loved him as he was... as a hanyou, which Kikyou had not. She only could feel that love now for him as a hanyou because her soul was remembering Kagome's feelings.
Silence fell in the hut once more as they waited for Inuyasha to return... and for what the next few hours would bring.
Inuyasha returned to the hut with an armful of newly cut wood; eyeing him curiously, Kaede asked, "Why did ye go cut more wood rather than gather what is already piled up outside, Inuyasha?"
He grunted as he tossed another log on the fire and stirred it up. "Because you're beginning to run low, and winter'll be here soon. I'm gonna have to go cut a bunch more and stock it up for you. Ain't no way your old body can do it, anyway," he grumbled.
It grew quiet after that, and it was clear that no one really knew what to say to the hanyou, now that Kagome had been wiped from his mind. No one wanted to mention her and mess up the chance to find out once and for all just who was really unforgettable to the hanyou.
Miroku watched Inuyasha carefully from under his bangs, noting easily how twitchy he seemed. "What ails you, Inuyasha?" he finally asked.
The hanyou started to growl back testily at the monk, then seemed to remember Kikyou's presence and visibly strained to hold his temper. "I don't know, monk. Something just doesn't feel... right. Something's going on – maybe it's Naraku up to his usual tricks."
Sango frowned. "Naraku?" she murmured. "Is he around here somewhere and you're sensing him?" she asked, fiddling with the strap to Hiraikotsu as she pulled it closer to her body.
Kaede shook her head. "I sense nothing of the kind anywhere near," she soothed, her calm demeanor easing Sango's upset that was compounded by Kagome's absence and the fact that she couldn't even speak her best friend's name.
Inuyasha glanced at Kikyou, and she nodded, agreeing with her sister. "Naraku is not near."
"Keh." Inuyasha leaned back against the wall of Kaede's hut, his arms holding Tessaiga close as he tried to relax, but for some reason just couldn't. Shippo's staring wasn't helping, either. "Oi, runt, quit starin'! What's your problem, anyway?" he asked brashly, leaning forward as it to pound him over the head, then winced and looked around, his ears flattened back against his head as though he expected to be 'sat' for his behavior, which he might very well have been had he gotten handsy with the kitsune - with Kagome around.
Miroku had to bury a chuckle – it appeared that at least the sit command was not easily forgotten. He only hoped that the girl that usually voiced the command was not easily to be forgotten, either.
After a while, Inuyasha appeared to be unable to handle the tension in the hut and stood up. "I'm gonna go patrol," he murmured. "I still say somethin' ain't right, whether it's Naraku or not. I'll be back later." He pushed the matting aside and leapt out the door before anyone could stop him, clearly needing to get away.
Once more, silence fell as Kikyou awaited her fate, and the others all prayed that her fate was to go back to her rest so that Kagome could return. And they didn't even feel particularly bad about that, since it was so clear that the clay miko herself obviously wished the same thing. Kagome's return would mean her rest, something she now fully craved.
Several hours passed with a few attempts at desultory conversation during dinner, and finally, just after everyone had settled down to try to sleep, Inuyasha returned. He hadn't taken two steps into the hut before he said, "Oi, wen-," and then froze and cut himself off with a puzzled frown, completely confused. "Er... uh, never mind," he mumbled, obviously embarrassed, though his brow was furrowed in a deep frown as he settled himself in his usual spot. It was clear that he knew that something was very wrong – he just couldn't figure out what.
The night went by slowly, the fire banked and keeping the hut nicely warm for those within its confines. It was a lulling warmth, allowing everyone to sleep comfortably – everyone except Inuyasha.
He just couldn't settle.
Damn it, I know somethin' ain't right! And why does it feel strange to have Kikyou with me? Hasn't it always been this way? He shook his head as a figure flashed through his mind, accompanied by very strong feelings of protectiveness... but the figure wasn't Kikyou, although she sort of resembled her – a little. Just as that ran through his mind, Tessaiga pulsed, surprising him into looking down at it – only to find it glowing pink as it chimed at him. He stared at it, stunned. What the hell?
After a moment, though, it stopped and went silent again, the pink glow dying, and he shook his head, confused and frustrated and trying desperately to search out that girl in the flash he'd seen wearing really strange clothes. I ain't never seen clothes like those before. So what the hell? Who was that... and why do I feel as if I have to protect her with my life? I only protect Kikyou like that... right? he asked himself as that thought jarred heavily in his mind. Don't I protect her always?
It seemed so strange – he'd always been very circumspect around Kikyou, not allowing himself to be as crude as he normally was around others. But for some reason, he almost felt like he was straining to be polite now – as though he'd gotten out of the habit... Keh... gotten out of the habit of trying to be someone I'm really not. But if Kikyou was always with us, why would I feel as though I weren't used to talking all polite and crap? Gah! This is so frustrating!
Standing quietly, checking to make sure everyone was still peacefully sleeping, he stepped outside and then leapt quietly onto the roof of the hut, simply unable to sleep – not even in his customary doze.
Several more hours went by as he let his mind wander, hoping that whatever was going on would make itself clear, but he only found more frustration as flashes of that girl became more frequent. He saw himself arguing with her, sitting peacefully with her staring at the stars, waiting for her in a strange place he couldn't even identify anything in – and one memory of crying over her, thinking she was dead. But he still couldn't figure out who she was and it was driving him nuts, especially as his heart kept telling him he needed to protect her!
It was getting close to dawn when he became aware of a very strong youki heading their way – youki that was threatening. Actually glad to have something to take his severe frustration out on, he jumped down from the roof of the hut as Sango and Miroku, followed by Kirara and Kikyou, joined him outside, clearly having been woken by the powerful youki.
"Let's go. We don't want to fight it here, so let's head it off before it gets close to the village," he snapped, bending down to let Kikyou climb on his back. The motion felt so normal to him that he didn't understand when she looked at him, confused. "Well, come on! Get on so we can get out there to it before it gets here!" She nodded after a moment and awkwardly climbed on, and Inuyasha immediately took off full throttle, wondering why she was so tense and barely hanging on, as though they'd never done this before.
But he didn't have time to wonder about it, so he set it aside for later as they quickly encountered the problem youkai. It was just a typical oni, so it was clear it must have a shard of the jewel to make it so much stronger than it normally would be. He set Kikyou down and drew Tessaiga, staring at the sword for a moment as it once again glowed pink before ignoring it and staring at their adversary.
Sango was also sizing the thing up, already astride Kirara and trying to decide whether she should attack first or let Inuyasha do it. The decision was made when the hanyou, with a certain lack of planning, engaged the enormous oni, clearly in a bad temper and happy to take it out on the ugly creature that was bellowing for Kikyou to give up the shards of the jewel.
"Oi, wench," he yelled, "where's the damn shard?" Again, he only seemed to take note of his language after he'd already started speaking, and even more frustrated now, he leapt at the oni as the bellowing creature swung a huge fist at the hanyou. Kikyou never had the chance to answer him before he was skidding back along the ground, cursing the whole way.
It was clear to Miroku and Sango both that his usual problem of not fighting so well when Kagome wasn't around was affecting him still, spell of forgetfulness or not. Which meant that the hanyou did, indeed, care greatly for the small miko, since while his mind seemed to have partially forgotten her, his heart and soul had not.
Sango attacked to give him a moment to regain his feet, and Kikyou said, "I cannot tell where the shard is, except that it is somewhere above the waist. Be careful, Inuyasha," she said coolly, watching as Sango hit the oni, though with little result. Deciding it was time to join in, she pulled her bow from her shoulder and drew down on the creature before letting the arrow fly.
Her aim was as good as it ever was – but her reiki was weakening, and it did little damage to the oni except to sting it and make it angry. Worried, Inuyasha yelled at her to stay out of the fight and then once more entered the fray, cursing the ugly beast out and only angering the unintelligent thing more.
This time, Inuyasha didn't land on his feet when the oni knocked him away, hitting the trunk of a tree and losing his grip on Tessaiga as he slid to the ground just behind where Miroku was standing, prepared to suck the thing up as soon as someone could get the shard away from it, and also defend Sango if necessary.
The monk turned to hurry to the hanyou to determine if he was okay, worried over Sango alone in battle against the beast, when a familiar pulse echoed through the area, and Inuyasha, bloody and enraged, climbed to his feet, elongated claws held out and ready for blood.
Horrified, Miroku backed away slowly, moving to intercept Kikyou, who, not knowing what was happening, was trying to reach the hanyou as well. "No, Kikyou-sama," he said softly as he reached her, grabbing her arm and tugging her slowly back so as not to draw Inuyasha's notice or ire, "he is in his demon form, now. He won't recognize you."
Stunned, the miko watched as the hanyou, now with nothing but his claws, ripped into the oni and literally destroyed it, tearing it into pieces within moments and leaving nothing but shredded remnants of the giant creature scattered over the bloody landscape.
Kikyou had never seen him in his demon form, and she gasped, shocked, as he destroyed the oni and then turned his red-eyed gaze on them. Slowly advancing on the two, he ignored the barrier that Miroku placed around them, though he stopped just short of touching it.
"Where is she?" Inuyasha growled, his voice deep and gravelly, stunning Miroku – the only two times he'd spoken once he'd lost himself to his demon form was the first time it had happened after Goshinki had broken Tessaiga and he'd tried to warn Kagome to get away from him, since he didn't know what he would do next, and when he'd faced Gatenmaru. He'd taunted the youkai he'd called a 'bug that needed squishing' before ripping him apart. After that, though, he'd never spoken during transformations, and they'd all assumed that, with the demon in full control, he couldn't talk – that he was nothing more than a brutal, mindless killing machine. Even Sesshoumaru had believed that. He'd just shot that idea right out the door with his question.
"Where is who, Inuyasha?" Miroku asked, his voice soft and his movements slow and non-threatening, behind a barrier or no.
"She!" he snarled angrily, eyes flashing. "Ka-go-me! Where is she?"
Completely caught off-guard, Miroku just stared at the demon standing mere feet from him and demanding to know where the miko he was supposed to have forgotten was. The miko his hanyou form had forgotten, at least mostly. "Why do you wish to know?" he asked suspiciously, glancing from the corner of his eye at Kikyou, who was still speechless and stunned.
Inuyasha growled, getting angrier. "Do not hide what is mine from me!" he roared, fangs glinting in the early dawn light. He looked at Kikyou, suddenly, and growled, his eyes narrowing with rage as he met her wide, terrified eyes. "You. You tried to make me forget. But I won't forget what's mine."
"What does that mean, Inuyasha? She's yours how?" Miroku asked, genuinely curious to know how the demon saw Kagome.
"She-is-mine. Mine to protect. Mine in all ways that count. Mine! Now where is she? Why do you hide her from me?" he asked, suddenly suspicious himself and not inclined to tolerate any further procrastination from the monk in answering his questions.
"I wish to make sure you will not harm her, that is all," he replied, forcing himself to stay calm no matter what.
At that, the demon almost looked surprised. "Harm?" he asked, blinking crimson eyes at the monk. "You humans are fools. Why would I harm what is mine? She is always to protect, not harm. Now tell me where she is!" he growled again, becoming angrier with every passing moment.
Hoping the ruse would work, not even sure it was a ruse, because it was entirely possible he was right in his guess, he said, "She is at home, Inuyasha. But you cannot get to her in your current form. The well will not allow you to pass unless you are hanyou or human."
At that, Inuyasha snarled. It clearly irritated him to hear those words, but it was also clear as his eyes began to drain of the crimson, that he felt strongly enough that Kagome was his and needed to be retrieved immediately,that he was willing to hand over control to his hanyou form once more. And all without even needing Tessaiga... apparently, Kagome meant a hell of a lot more to Inuyasha than he'd ever let on, if his demon side saw the young miko as his, and could control his bloodlust enough to regain his hanyou form in order to go after her when he couldn't reach her in his more primal form. Not only that, but he hadn't been affected by the spell of forgetfulness in that form at all.
Within a few moments, Inuyasha's demon form had surrendered enough control that his fangs and claws went back to their normal size, though the whites of his eyes remained red and his cheek crests were still faintly visible. It was clear that the demon wasn't about to surrender total control until what he considered as his was returned to his side.
Inuyasha blinked, looking around at the rather savage killing ground and groaned, realizing that he'd gone demon again – and that said demon was hovering just under the surface of his skin. But when he caught on to what his demon already knew, i.e. that Kikyou had spelled him to forget Kagome, and that the others had gone along with it, no matter the reason, he became angrier than they'd ever seen him – even as a demon.
"What the fuck!" he screamed in fury as he glared at Miroku, who'd let down his barrier, and Kikyou, then turned to look for Sango, who had realized he'd gone demon and stayed aloft and out of harm's way. She hadn't heard the conversation with his demon form, though, so as she landed nearby when Inuyasha returned to his hanyou form – mostly – she had no idea that the cat was now out of the bag. "How could you guys go along with that shit! Kikyou I could see this from, but you guys? I thought you all cared about her!"
Miroku sighed as he moved closer to Inuyasha, prepared to explain, but came to a halt as Kikyou raised her hand.
Still stunned by what she'd just witnessed, Kikyou was shaken, scared of what Inuyasha truly was. But she had been the one to start this with her spell, and she would be the one to explain it. "They went along with it because Kagome convinced them to. And Kagome went along with it because I convinced her that you could never forget me, but you could forget her, and that if she went home and never came back, and you forgot her, you would no longer feel torn by your duty to her, and your feelings for me."
Miroku cast her a sharp glance during her little speech, as that was not what she had told them. But he quickly realized that the undead miko would not want Inuyasha to hear her true reason, or he'd argue with her desire to once more pass on, so instead he said nothing, respecting her wishes.
Inuyasha shrank back from her, totally stunned as he stared at her. "You what?" he whispered, looking at each one of them, obviously trying to understand. "Why would you tell her something like that? I can never forget Kagome! Not ever! You're a fool if you think I could, Kikyou," he finished after a moment spent staring at her, a hurt, disappointed look in his eyes. He turned away, not looking at her again. "I'm going to go get Kagome back where she belongs. Miroku, you guys should find that shard before that thing regenerates. As for you, Kikyou, I don't want to see you when I get back. I'm too angry at you right now to talk to you politely." With that, the hanyou, being ridden by his demon half, picked up Tessaiga and took off, headed for the well.
It had taken his demon coming out to finish breaking that spell, but now he knew what the wrong feeling that had been bugging him all night was.
It was the same wrong feeling he always had when Kagome wasn't with him, in her world or his, it didn't matter. But when she was not at his side, everything felt off... felt as though the most important part of him had disappeared or was suffocating to death.
Yes, his demon had been telling the truth with all that he'd said, though he wished he hadn't been quite so truthful with the monk. He grimaced as he ran – Miroku would never let him live this down. But it was unavoidable, really, since sooner or later, it would have come out, because he had no intentions of ever letting her go. Kagome was his. His to protect, his to fight with, and his to love. And Kikyou or no Kikyou, he was bringing her back with him, because by his side was where she belonged, and he didn't care what anyone else thought about that.
You were wrong, Kikyou, when you told Kagome she didn't belong here. She does. But even if you were right, it wouldn't matter, because I belong with her. Wherever she is is home... whether that's here, or there in her world. Either way, we belong to each other, and I won't let you come between us anymore.
And it was with that thought that the red and golden eyed hanyou leapt into the well, disappearing into the blue lights of time with determination... and a little bit of anger, as well. He'd told the stupid girl before that she was home to him, that he needed her with him, and that he'd never leave her behind. In fact, he'd told her that twice – when Tsubaki had stolen her body and she'd warned him, trying to tell him to leave her, to run, and again when Menomaru had done the same thing.
It seemed, though, that she hadn't learned the lesson.
Maybe it was time for him to put it in different terms, then.
He hopped out of the well on her side, something inside just so damn relieved that she hadn't sealed the well that he had to take a minute to calm his pounding heart.
With a sigh, he brushed his bangs out of his eyes and stepped towards the doors to the well-shrine, almost jumping out of his skin when the doors opened and Kagome's mother stood in the entrance. They both froze, and he watched warily as she studied him intently for several very long seconds, and then his heart once again resumed beating when she smiled and beckoned him out of the shrine.
"Kagome told me that Kikyou put a spell on you to make you forget her, and that you would no longer be coming to get her – that her part in your past was over. She was barely coherent, but I finally figured out what she was saying and had her take a bath and then go to bed. She was pretty hysterical... but I finally got her to sleep." Her smile widened a bit as he stepped out of the shrine and she slid the door shut before beckoning him to follow her. "I woke up early this morning because I just had the feeling that you would be showing up, and I wanted to make sure everything was alright with you before you talk to her."
Inuyasha blinked at her as she walked into the house and shut the door behind him; he followed her beckoning finger into the kitchen and sat down obediently as she pointed to a chair. It was silent as she busied herself fixing herself a cup of tea, and him a cup of ramen. His eyes brightened when he saw that, and unnoticed by him, but definitely not by Mrs, Higurashi, his eyes lightened until there was no more red, and his crests disappeared.
His demon blood, satisfied that he would be getting the female he considered his back, one way or another, faded back into silence and slept once more.
Mama placed a steaming cup of the instant noodles down in front of the hanyou and handed him some chopsticks, and then took her own seat with a nice hot cup of tea.
The silence continued as Inuyasha ate his breakfast, but once he was done, he set the cup aside slowly and looked at her, meeting her steady gaze firmly. He was not going to leave without Kagome. If Mama wouldn't allow Kagome to go back, then Inuyasha would just settle in some of the trees out on the shrine grounds and refuse to go back.
Since that wasn't acceptable, really, what with Naraku and all, he had to convince the woman that he could still take care of Kagome, regardless of what had happened. Especially since what had happened hadn't even been his fault.
He waited for her to speak politely, and also because he needed to know her stance on things before he spoke.
When she did, needless to say, he was extremely surprised.
"Kagome explained to me about the spell that Kikyou cast on you. While I am not at all surprised that you broke it and are here, will you tell me what woke you up to what had been done to you?" she asked, smiling gently at him again.
He blinked several times in surprise, not expecting that and having to reset his mindset on the whole thing. She wasn't going to try to keep Kagome away from him?
"Uh... well, I guess I knew something was wrong all night, but I couldn't figure out what," he began, trying to watch his language and be polite. His nose wrinkled at that – it seemed that the only one he could really be himself around was Kagome herself. But at least with Mrs. Higurashi, he wasn't really being different – just a little more respectful of his Kagome's mother. "But we got attacked by an oni earlier, and Tessaiga got knocked away from me. And even though I wasn't in danger of my life, apparently my youkai blood disagreed, and woke up, angry that Kagome wasn't with me and demanding to know where she was. And he was right," Inuyasha said softly, blushing, he dropped his eyes. "Without Kagome, I was in danger of my life. Without her, I can't breathe – and I really can't understand how she could think that I could ever truly forget her. I never, ever could – because she's unforgettable. No matter what Kikyou thought, no matter what Kikyou told her, it was wrong. Because while I can never forget Kikyou, I can live without her. I can't live without Kagome," he finished, still staring at the table and as red as he'd ever been.
When Mrs. Higurashi didn't respond, he looked up at her tentatively, only to find her looking over his shoulder with a kind, knowing smile. It was then that he caught the scent that was only Kagome – the most beloved scent in his world though it was touched with salt, and his eyes widened as he jumped out of the chair and turned around, only to see her teary-eyed, sad little face staring at him with desperate hunger.
There was nothing he could say in that moment. She'd heard what he'd told her mother, and since that was all that was most important, all he could do was stare back at her just as hungrily.
After a moment, she spoke, her voice hoarse and touched with misery. "I... I thought I would never see you again, Inuyasha," she whispered, not even noticing her mother; subconsciously, she knew she was there, but her presence was simply unimportant at this moment. "I thought I would die, because it hurt so bad."
"If... if you thought that," he returned just as softly, having completely forgotten her mother's presence, "why didn't you, you know... seal the well?"
She looked down at that, her fingers twining uselessly together with a small piece of ragged tissue. "I was going to," she admitted slowly. "But mama talked me out of it."
At that, such a wave of fear washed over him at how close he'd come to losing her forever that he took as many panicked steps as it took to reach her, and pulled her into his arms. The slender girl almost disappeared beneath the large red fir rat haori sleeves; her mother just smiled wider at the scene. "How could you try to do something so stupid?" he asked, his voice breaking with the debilitating fear. "I've told you before, Kagome, I need you with me!"
"But for how long?" came the dejected response, and shocked that she would even need to ask that, he pulled away to look down into her tear-drowned, beloved little face.
"Kagome..." he started, and then stopped, not sure how to tell her what he wanted, what he really, truly wanted from the bottom of his soul. "I need you with me forever, Kagome. I... don't know how else to say it. I've never needed anything before," he admitted quietly, his eyes a little guarded as he admitted something aloud that he'd never said to anyone else. "Not anything. Not even... Kikyou. I never wanted to need anything before, because needing something, well, it's a weakness for a hanyou. But... it didn't take me long to realize that I do need you, Kagome. So don't ever take that lightly when I say it, because for me to admit that... it's dangerous."
Kagome listened to him, eyes solemn as they met his, and really took in what he was saying. It felt so good to know... "When I saw you and Kikyou... there on the path to the village, and you told her you could never forget her, I walked away. I went into the forest and sat down, trying not to think about it, even though it wasn't working. But then she came... she saw me, you see. Even though you didn't, she did. And she told me the same thing. That you could never forget her, but that you could forget me... she kinda intimated that if I really... cared... about you, that I would leave and let her make you forget, because then you would no longer feel torn between your feelings for her and your duty to me. I..." her breath caught at the remembered pain and she stopped, unable to finish. She shook her head. "I didn't want to trap you by being a duty, so I agreed to go, even though it hurt worse than anything I've ever felt."
Inuyasha gritted his teeth, never more angry at Kikyou than he was in that moment. Not only had she almost cost him the one thing he needed to live, but she'd really, truly hurt Kagome – deep down where it mattered – where it would take a long time to heal. Because Inuyasha understood very well that injuries to the heart, to the soul, were more damaging than any other kind of injury, and they took the longest to heal – and sometimes never fully did. He understood it, because he'd had a lifetime of pain just like that, being outcast, unwanted, hated and alone, just because he was hanyou.
But Kagome had come... and those injuries, the ones that had darkened his soul until it resembled a wasteland rather than an oasis as it should, had begun to heal. They had more than begun to heal – they had healed. So much of who he was now was all because of Kagome. Not because of Kikyou, not Kaede, or anyone else. And though his friends had added a new dimension to his life, they hadn't healed him, either. Because even though they were his friends now, they had only originally trusted him because Kagome did. But Kagome trusted him, because she trusted him. Not because someone else had shown her that he could be trusted, that he was worthy of friendship, and even more, but because she had looked at him and seen another person, not someone that possibly could be made into something that was worth knowing, like Kikyou had wanted to do by turning him human, making him acceptable – but someone who was already worth knowing, simply because he was just that – a person with feelings and intelligence and a soul that so desperately needed saving.
He pulled her back into his arms and settled his chin atop her crown. With a deep, contented sigh, he said, "If this is duty, then never take it from me. Because you're the best kind of duty I could ever find. Kagome, you should never think about this again. Everything that Kikyou told you was wrong, okay?"
"How could it all be wrong?" she asked, her voice muffled in his chest. "You don't know everything she said."
"I don't have to. There's no way that anything she told you could be right. Because she doesn't know me, Kagome. She doesn't know me. The only one that knows me is you. Like... she didn't know about my human night. And she didn't know about my mother. Or even about Sesshoumaru. She didn't know that my favorite flowers were roses, because they remind me of my mother." He went on, listing all sorts of things that Kikyou hadn't known about him, but that she did, and her mother listened quietly, getting to know her future son-in-law just a little better. And in his voice, she could hear the same thing Kagome always had; a soft-hearted, loving, but lost little boy who had been so horribly abused by everyone in his life. It made her want to cry for him.
Instead, she got up and slipped silently out of the room, giving the two who needed each other so totally time to be alone.
"But most of all, Kagome," he once more pulled back and looked at her, "she didn't know that the only truly unforgettable thing in my entire life, is you. When I told her I couldn't forget her, I meant it. She's part of my past, and – unfortunately, I sometimes think," he teased a little, "I don't have amnesia. I'll always remember her... but I'll always remember mostly the pain of betrayal. She just believed Naraku's lies, Kagome. I didn't... not at first. Even my last words, before I fell under her spell, I was trying to figure out what was going on. She didn't. She just believed me capable of all that he did to her, which is the final proof that she didn't know me like you do. Most of my memories of Kikyou are unhappy ones." He met her solemn gaze with one just as solemn. "But you... Kagome, you I couldn't forget for a whole different reason. And that's because I don't have any unhappy or bad memories of you. The only good memories at all after my mother died are all tied to you. And that's why I could never forget you. Because you're the only thing I want to remember from my life. You're the only good thing that came out of it, 'cept my mom, of course. You. Not Kikyou."
Tears once more cascaded down her cheeks, but they weren't bad tears this time. Oh, they hurt, but it was because they were cleansing the pain away. She was just so glad... "Thank you for remembering me, Inuyasha," she choked out of a tight throat. "Because I could never forget you, either... You're unforgettable to me, too. And I could never be happy without you, at all. So I will stay with you if you want me to, for as long as you want me to."
He wiped her tears with the edge of his fire rat, and then tugged her hands lightly. "Then come back with me, Kagome. Come back with me... come home with me."
A watery little laugh caught at his heart and she tugged back on him. "Okay. But can I get dressed and get my bag first? I promise I'll pack a lot of ramen," she bribed, and it was his turn to chuckle as he reluctantly let go of her hands.
"Okay, but make sure you bring lots of ramen, like you promised, wench," he teased a little. "Because it's going to be a while before we come back." He followed her upstairs to her room, closing his eyes and inhaling her scent deeply, knowing how close he came to never smelling it again. This room... he looked around it with a half-smile, was his favorite place on either side of the well. It was perfectly, purely Kagome, not tainted with anything else. But even though he loved her room, he didn't really like the rest of the world beyond her door – because everyone in it, it seemed, wanted to take her away from him – that school place, her crazy friends, and that Hobo character, worst of all.
At least in his world, he could keep her by his side and protect her from everything. And that was why he would always do his best to keep her there with him.
Despite what Kikyou, or anyone else, had to say about the matter.
There was a very happy reunion between Kagome and the others when they got back to the other side of the well, and a much happier Inuyasha barely let Kagome out of his sight again. He'd truly proved that she was the one he couldn't forget, and the tension that it eased in the group was amazing.
Inuyasha didn't figure out that Kikyou was truly gone for some time, and while he was saddened, especially when the others told him of Kikyou's reasons for what she'd done and what she'd told them in the hours she'd spent with them in Kagome's place, he couldn't help but get a little bit angry when he heard how she'd - in a way - dismissed Kagome as simply a newer version of her. As far as he was concerned, he would always wish that Kagome wasn't Kikyou's reincarnation at all – and he made sure to let everyone know that no matter what Kikyou had said, Kagome wasn't a new Kikyou at all...
Because Kagome was no one but herself. She was the only memory that was stored in his heart and soul, which is why she was unforgettable - because while the mind might forget, the heart and the soul...
A/N: Another story that's been in my folder for a while. This one was inspired by Nat and Natalie Cole's artificial duet Unforgettable. This one wasn't finished, however, so I did that this evening, and now it's also done. As you can tell, I'm kinda cleaning up my 'Various' folder. Next up: an Inupapa/Kag that decided to go from one shot, to a slightly longer short story.