Kagome felt awful. Her eyes were still puffy and crusty from crying, and she felt like she really needed a bath. She had been the first to awaken, to her surprise. Then again, she knew Sango and Miroku had been awake when she fell asleep. The taijiya didn't fool her; Kagome knew all too well that Sango couldn't sleep when Miroku wasn't around. And Shippou always slept in. But she was curious as to why Kaede hadn't yet awoken. As she sat up, her head began to throb, probably a result of all the tension in her neck. She dug through her big yellow pack, looking for some aspirin. Also pulling out a bottle of water, she downed the Tylenol. She was both disappointed and relieved when she saw that InuYasha hadn't joined them during the night. Stretching as she stood, Kagome grabbed her jeans and a yellow tee-shirt, as well as some other items, and headed for the spring.
The warming morning rays felt good on her face, and she closed her eyes as she faced the sun, basking in it. After a few moments, she again faced the direction of the spring and travelled that way. When she arrived, she could barely wait to soak her body in the warm water, and began undressing quickly. She practically leaped into the water, anxious to have her problems washed away, if only temporarily. My problems, she thought. Right... I had almost forgotten what happened with InuYasha yesterday. Sinking under the water, she wondered how bad it would be to drown herself, and toyed with the thought of those who would mourn her. She also knew, however, that Naraku would almost surely succeed without her around. Then, it struck her. She had never realized how important she was until now. Kagome had always thought of herself as the one that gets everyone else in trouble. Sango, Miroku, InuYasha... they all fought diligently and tenaciously. But other than the occasional purifying arrow, she didn't do much. She was no Kikyou. Kikyou... She couldn't get away from that name. And Kikyou could find the shards as well, which made her even more useful than herself. But... The last time Kikyou had her cold hands on the jewel shards she gave them to Naraku, making him even more difficult to destroy. There were so many times when InuYasha had faced Naraku, and if no shards of the Shikon no Tama had been in his possession, Naraku would have been dust. But that Kikyou... whatever her plan is, there must have been a better way than to hand them over to their enemy. That very name held so many emotions for her. But Kagome was fighting alongside InuYasha. She would never willingly hand over jewel shards, much less to Naraku. And that was something she had that Kikyou didn't.
Kagome burst through the surface, gasping for air. Caught in her thoughts, Kagome nearly had drowned herself. Kami, what a retard, she chastised herself as she smoothed stray, dripping ebony strands from her face. She began to gently scrub herself with a lavender gel and the scent calmed her nerves, allowing her to relax a bit for the first time in a while. She dipped under the water, rinsing the suds from her skin and was sure to resurface this time. As she wiped the water from her face and blinkingly opened her azure eyes, they settled on a familiar red form. Clearing more of the water from her face, she realized the red blob was a very serious-looking InuYasha.
"EEK! InuYasha! What're you..." she began to yell, although the tone of his face told her that this was no Miroku-induced event. She quieted herself without a single word from him, and waited for him to speak as she grabbed for a small towel she normally used to wash with, barely covering the most precious parts of her birthday suit.
Her heart nearly broke as InuYasha sighed as he hung his head, obscuring his eyes with his full bangs. "You win," he told her.
Kagome began to cry. InuYasha panicked a little, not knowing what had brought on the tears. She had seemed so peaceful a few moments ago. I've always made her cry, haven't I?
"InuYasha!" she cried through sobs, "I didn't want to win, I just wanted for us to be happy!"
Stunned, InuYasha took a few more steps towards her, each forgetting about Kagome's, er, clothingly-challenged predicament. "Kagome, I didn't mean it that way... please don't cry..."
"InuYasha, it's not my fault that it took you this long to find out how you really felt. I got so used to being rejected by you and being second to Kikyou that I didn't know what else I could be. I always felt third rate compared to you and Kikyou, Sango, Miroku, even Kaede. But when I'm in the mountains, I'm adored and I'm needed. And things can't change for me now," she told the hanyou.
"You're needed here too," InuYasha began.
"As a jewel detector, I know. But they depend on me for what I know... Kouga likes the fact that I'm smart. And I never gave myself any credit until now," she scolded.
"Yeah, I shouldn't have said so many bad things to you," InuYasha said, hanging his head again.
"Right. And... Wait. What?" Kagome asked, cocking her head slightly.
"You're too good for me, Kagome. I never appreciated you, and put you in danger so many times so I could see Kikyou. And all those time you tried to heal me... I should've just let you. I guess I have too much pride. Keh, maybe all the guys in the family have it," he said, ending in an angry tone.
Now it was Kagome's turn to be shocked. She never would have anticipated the hanyou's words. But she did recognize what it had taken for him to speak them. "Thank you InuYasha," she said softly. "But I want you to know that I was never too good for you. I think you were too good for me. That was why it was always Kikyou you ran to..." InuYasha cringed with her words, and Kagome's eyes began to water.
Now, as they stood there quietly, each thinking about all that was said, Kagome felt a little drafty. She rubbed her arms. The sudden movement caused InuYasha to look over, and he couldn't help but notice the way her breasts were mashed together as she tried to warm herself. The next thing he knew, he had been hit in the head with a rather large rock.
"InuYasha! You pervert! Get outta here!" Kagome screamed.
InuYasha rubbed his head, waiting for the priestess to dress and reappear. He heard a distant commotion in the village, but he decided it was only morning chatter, and it could wait until he and Kagome returned. Soon, Kagome joined him, still scowling.
"Sorry. I really wasn't lookin' though," he told her. Kagome decided he sounded remorseful enough and accepted his semi-apology. Anyways, she was anxious to continue their conversation.
"So, does this mean I can go see Kouga, and come back and travel with you?" she asked, a nervous look on her face. InuYasha could smell her nervousness. He sighed.
"Yeah," he said simply.
Before he knew what happened, Kagome's arms were around his neck and her face buried in his silvery hair. "Thank you," she whispered.
He wanted so badly to kiss her, to lavish her with his newfound devotion, to take her away so that she would forget about leaving him behind for some mangy wolf youkai. But he knew that Kagome was like a cat. If he tried to force her, she would just run further away. So he would wait, and maybe some day she would come back to him. But for now... Still caught in an embrace, InuYasha found himself touching her needingly. He grasped at her, his claws trying to hold on to something that he knew he couldn't keep. Kagome sensed this and pulled away. She half-smiled at him, and reached for his hand. "C'mon, InuYasha. Let's get back to the village."
He took her hand, and they walked quietly towards Kaede's home. A few minutes later, Kagome noticed InuYasha's grip tighten apprehensively as he sniffed the air. She had seen this all too often. "InuYasha? What's wrong?" she asked quietly. "Something's going on in the village. Everyone's running around and yelling. They're upset, and lots are crying," he told her, still listening.
Kagome gasped and prepared to run, but InuYasha grabbed her arm and positioned himself for her to climb aboard his back, as they had done since they hunted the demon crow that had stolen the whole Shikon no Tama. She smiled a little as she nodded, allowing InuYasha to hold her up on his back. He took off, running in the direction of the small village. The smell of tears from many humans began to overpower his senses, and he began to hear some shouting, some crying. He began to speculate that a demon or a human army had attacked, but he also remembered that Sango and Miroku were there, and little could happen to the village with the demon slayer and monk protecting it. Unless perhaps it was Sesshoumaru. But why would he attack this village? Or maybe it was Naraku... InuYasha quickened his pace, excited by the thought of a confrontation with the half-demon who was his enemy. His left hand lowered itself to the hilt of Tessaiga, ready to 'Kongousouha' Naraku into oblivion. Bounding over rooftops, InuYasha made his way towards the source of all the commotion. Both he and Kagome were horrified to learn that most of the village was crowded around Kaedes' home. As they stopped and Kagome lowered herself to the ground, they both heard the sobs of Shippou, and soothing words from both Miroku and Sango. Kagome instantly searched for her best friend.
"Sango? Sango? SANGO?!" As Kagome pulled aside the grass mat that served as a door, she came upon a very somber-looking taijiya.
Their eyes locked, and they embraced, as Sango began to tell Kagome what had happened. Miroku joined them, behaving himself under these conditions. InuYasha followed Kagome's scent to the hut, scowling as he looked around. All these stupid humans and their stupid emotions. Kuso, they act like someone died!
"Just what the hell is going on here?!" he shouted, his ears pinned back in anger. But his heart skipped a beat when Kagome turned around and looked at him with tear-brimmed eyes.
That look had always made him want to hold her, to comfort her, to kiss her. But now that he knew he loved her, the feeling was there tenfold. He checked his reins for the miko's sake and asked her softly, "What's going on, Kagome?"
It took her a moment to answer, to find her voice past the choking tears, but InuYasha dared not rush her this time. She lead him outside the hut, walking a few yards from it. "Kaede's dead."
InuYasha had simply blinked, mouth slightly agape. The others had followed, and Kagome turned back around to hug Sango, and Shippou jumped unto the priestess' shoulder, trying to join in the family hug. Miroku looked sideways at InuYasha, trying to judge his reaction, although he could only see shock. Shrugging, the houshi left to arrange the burial with a few other villagers.
Unable to process the information, InuYasha still stood there. No longer did the cries or tears offend his senses. No longer did the crowds annoy him. He simply stood. And soon, that also gave way, allowing him to fall to the ground, sitting. Kagome noticed, and left Sango and Shippou to go to the hanyou. Kagome wanted to say something. But no words would come. Kaede had been a mother of sorts to InuYasha. She scolded him when he needed it, gave him advice, and knew how to speak to him so that he would know how to do what was right. She had had fifty years of ill will towards him because everyone knew he had killed Kikyou, but as soon as he said that it hadn't been him, she believed him. And no one had treated him as fairly as that since his mother. Also, Kaede was the closest thing he had to being with Kikyou... Suddenly, Kagome felt awful for thinking that even now, with the death of a close friend, she couldn't help but think that Kikyou always trumped her; somehow everything that was important to her was taken away by Kikyou. She shouldn't feel this way. She was an awful person for thinking that way. She found herself embracing InuYasha.
Even though he felt horrible, InuYasha couldn't help but notice how much better he felt with Kagome's arms around him. He knew that she was only doing it out of sympathy, but he felt better all the same. After a few moments, she let go, knowing that InuYasha was distraught enough to mistake her sympathy for romantic feelings, even after she had turned him down several times. He was just that thick-headed.
Kagome began to think of Kaede and how she had helped her so much during these years. If it hadn't been for the old priestess, Kagome would have probably been centipede-youkai food. And she probably wouldn't have met InuYasha or the others. She owed Kaede for so many things, and now the miko realized that she never really told Kaede how much she meant to them all. Barely a whisper, tears began to fall as Kagome felt the impact, sitting next to the hanyou. "Kami," she spoke.
InuYasha looked quickly to her, alarmed by her sudden mood change. "Kagome?" he said weakly.
"I- I'm ok, really," she assured him. He scowled at her, not believing her lame attempt to brush his concern off.
She sighed, giving in. "I just wish I had told her... thank you," she told him, bowing her head to hide her face from him. With her relevation, the half demon hid his own eyes with his bangs, unable to reveal that he, too, would have wanted to tell the old woman how much she meant to everyone, including himself.
They sat in silence for a few minutes, each having much weighing on their minds. Suddenly, Miroku approached the pair. The monk rubbed the back of his head with his cursed palm, the words not coming easily. After an exaggerated pause, he spoke. "Well, it seems that everyone is at odds as to what to do with her. Some want her to be burned, as a tribute to Kikyou. Others think a small shrine should be built. Then a few have said that you should bless her, Kagome, and InuYasha should bury her."
"Who the hell would say something like that?" InuYasha yelled.
"Well, Sango and I thought it would be nice if the two of you..."
The houshi was cut short by a quick rap to the head.
"That really wasn't necessary, InuYasha," Miroku scolded him.
"You two don't get to decide what's gonna happen to Kaede," he told the monk sternly.
After a brief silence, Kagome looked up at the now-standing hanyou and asked, "What do you think we should do, InuYasha?"
He turned to look at her, blue eyes searching for answers, and he fought the urge again to hold her and kiss her. He tried to clear his mind, tried to think of some way to honor the old priestess. What can we possibly do? She did everything she could for me an' Kagome until we started takin' care of ourselves good enough. She was kinda like our mom. Thinking of family, he began to think of her family. Kikyou...
Stepping forward and avoiding the gazes of his companions, he told them his plan. "I'm gonna go look for Kikyou. Kaede was her sister, so she should have the right to bury Kaede."
Kagome smiled, feeling like this was the right thing to do, and hoping that seeing Kikyou would take his mind off of her leaving to see Kouga. Miroku spun around to see Kagome's reaction before giving his own, and nodded to InuYasha, sounding a small "Hmm."
With thier approval, InuYasha began to head into Kaede's home in order to let the villagers know what was to happen. When the hanyou was out of view, Miroku smiled at Kagome. "Well, I suppose you're going to take your own little trip, ne?"
Blushing lightly, Kagome nodded. "InuYasha will be busy. I'll have nothing to do here..."
Sidiling closer to the miko, Miroku gave her a knowing look. "If that's how you want to explain it, it's fine with me," he told her.
They left it at that, and soon InuYasha emerged, with Sango and Shippou in tow. Sango told them that the towns' healer had decided that Kaede had just died in her sleep, of old age. The others seemed to have a weight lifted off them with the new information, but InuYasha still seemed grim. He let them know he was leaving, but after a few steps, he felt a tug on his haori. He turned to find himself knee-deep in the pools that were Kagome's eyes. He felt so lost, looking into them, that he almost wanted to drown in them. They shared a look, both appearing as if they were about to cry. With the speed of a cobra, InuYasha grabbed the miko and pulled her to him, running one hand through her hair and the other holding her close. She was surprised and almost pushed him away, but Kagome found the embrace comforting, and took the opportunity to whisper to him.
"While you're gone, I'm going into the mountains," she said quietly, opting not to say the name of the wolf to keep the peace.
InuYasha pulled away, searching the depths of her orbs and nodded. "I'll see you when you get back," he told her.
Almost dying from shock, Kagome half-opened her mouth, not quite knowing what to say. But before she could even do that, InuYasha grabbed her again, this time kissing her deeply and passionately. The others, now also possibly in cardiac arrest, stared, mouths agape. And just as quickly as it had happened, it was over. The hanyou promptly tore himself away from the confused miko and ran deep into the forest, in search of the undead.
A monk, a demon slayer, and a kitsune all stared at Kagome, waiting for her response. The all waited for a very loud 'osuwari' and the yelp coming from the forest that would follow. Or perhaps a string of words that none had heard from the young girls' mouth. Or perhaps she really would have a heart attack, from all the stress. But to add another jolt of electricity to their stormy morning, she surprised them all by simply smiling. Then a giggle escaped her lips. Before they knew it, she was laughing hysterically. The companions looked at her and each other worriedly, believing that Kagome's brain had finally had it. But the priestess had glimpsed their distress and calmed down.
"I'm ok, I promise. It was just so unexpected. I guess he was saying goodbye... to us," she told them.
So she told them each she was leaving as well, and would be back soon, so they could resume their journey to find the rest of the jewel shards and defeat Naraku, amongst other things. She hugged them, and with a wave, ran away from the village, heading north. A few minutes after she had disappeared from their view, Shippou told Miroku and Sango that he heard a wolf's howl. Turning around, Sango saw the telltale whirlwind that was their sign to not worry about Kagome anymore.