She is Mine, a Kagome and Kouga love story.

Author's Note: I have not seen or read the Final Act (please no spoilers!), so anything in this story that collides with the actual end results of the Inuysha series is speculation and was simply used to drive my story.

You loved me cuz i'm fragile when I thought I was strong. But you touch me for a little while and all my fragile strength is gone. -Sara Bareilles

Holding her breath, Kagome casually resisted the urge to barf, though casually failed. She thought she'd smelled it all in her lifetime. Liquefied demon blood, rotted flesh...but the smell of the cave presented a new set of stenches she hadn't prepared for: festering meat, bodies in need of a bath, dirty wolf fur... There were definitely enough rancid sources to go around. To frost the nauseating cake, grizzly animal parts and discarded bones were scattered about the cave floor. In some places, the abandoned meat had gotten wedged between stones, leaving greasy stains on the blue gray rocks. She definitely didn't remember Kouga's cave in such a state.

If his den weren't so messy and smelly, it might even be a nice play to stay. Could she really blame him for the stink, though? Even if Kouga usually ran a clean castle, he hadn't been home in months, always having been on the search for Naraku.

In the main section of the cave, the wolves had scooped out holes for sleeping. Beyond even this room, passageways led to bedrooms, weaponry storage, and probably other spaces since it was quite a large mountain. Kagome hadn't thought to explore yet, what with being a yummy human in a demon wolf's den, but those were the places Hakkaku had mentioned to her.

Yummy or not, she would spend a week in the cave until her friends returned.

When they returned from helping rebuild the destroyed villages, Kagome would borrow Kirara and take the long journey back home, never to return to this time.

When the jewel had vanished from the world and the treacherous half-demon with it, it also dissolved her duty to feudal Japan. Now that she and her team had saved the world, when were the fireworks supposed to rip through the sky? A revelation to glow out of the moon dust, pointing out the next step she should take with her life? She didn't need all the answers, just a sketch of a plan, at least gesturing toward the next path to take.

In the end, there'd been none of that.

With Inuyasha using his near invincible sword, Sesshoumaru his plus superior strength, Kouga his wit and stealth, and the rest of the group their honed talents and abilities, the demon Naraku had fallen. There had been an explosion, but definitely not the fireworks Kagome wished for. Naraku's body burst with a ripple, sending bloody chunks, dead demons, and innards spewing miles and miles across Japan. His flesh was filled with miasma and had taken many a life, destroying villages and crops. Kagome's group had immediately set to work to eliminate the problem and with her help, they managed to purify several villages of demonic remains, but it was ultimately Kikyo who saved the day. Her spiritual powers were not condensed to arrows like Kagome's and she used her abilities to purify the tainted lands and heal many people.

With a grumble, Kagome plopped down on a rock in the back of the cave's main hall. It was the rounded platform of stone that Kouga had tossed her onto many months ago, when he had kidnapped her. A missing hunk of the ceiling poured a wide strip of dim light over her form, indicating sundown's approach. Save for a couple of lounging brown wolves and Ginta and Hakkaku having a wrestling match with two other men, the space was fairly calm. Kouga was who knows where, apparently having an errand to run after the showdown with Naraku and had sped off soon after.

Kagome had no reason to stay in the feudal era now. She had a family to return to, present day friends to hang out with, school to catch up with. She would forget the nightmare that was sometimes a dream, just pretend it never happened. Though it pained her chest, she would forget the lovely Sango, the lecherous but kind Miroku, the adorable Shippo, and the faithful Kirara. But most crushing, she would forget Inuyasha. After all, he had already forgotten her.

He'd done it. He had finally done it. Kikyo finished her duties, her soul was ready to vanish from the earth… and Inuyasha, with his vivacious golden eyes, had looked at Kagome long and hard before he said the words.

"I am going with her."

Kagome stuffing her face in her hands, sighing. Once that demon snatched Kagome down that well at the age of fifteen, she knew her life would never be the same. The past had changed so much. How ironic. Kagome struggled to comprehend how she'd return to a normal life when all she had done in the last few years was everything but normal. Endless adventure, fighting demons, history reworked right before her eyes…and even then it was the people she'd met that had really dug a nest under her skin, made it a hard pill to swallow that she would have to leave it all behind.

Inuyasha. The boy pinned to the tree that she had freed, out of curiously, out of desperation, out of need. She had always needed him, even after she mastered the bow and arrow. Even when she learned how to dodge a serious hit from a demon and could run fast enough not to get kidnapped (so much) anymore. From the beginning and in the end, she always looked for Inuyasha to pull her out of the clutches of death. Always needed the golden-eyed boy, no longer pinned to any tree. Yet somehow, still imprisoned to his own past.

Damn Kikyo for dying some fifty some years ago, Kagome thought, amidst her dark thoughts. Damn her for not using the jewel to heal herself instead of seeking vengeance. Had Kikyo lived, Naraku would have never reached the levels of power to turn feudal Japan upside down. She could have gone on guarding the jewel, perhaps even have learned it was all a trick and made up with Inuyasha, lived a long and happy life. But ultimately, if Kikyo had lived and had not chosen death, Kagome would have never been born.

Kagome smirked, a bitter lifting of the lips. With her chin in her hands, she stared ahead. Kagome didn't even notice that she had been watching Kouga's right hand men getting clobbered in two intense arm wrestling matches. That is, until one of the boys turned her way.

"Hey sister!" Ginta called.

Kagome straightened, startled from her thoughts. Ginta smiled, the dimples protruding from his cheeks.

"You're looking pretty bored over there. Why don't you come here and join—"

"Got ya!" Ginta's wrestling opponent slammed Ginta's fist hard against the rock foundation they arm wrestled upon. Ginta howled, wagging his throbbing hand.

Hakkaku and the rest of the wolf men doubled over in laughter, pointing and shouting as Ginta chased the cheater around the cave. Kagome let out a giggle but abruptly shoved it down. These men definitely made it hard to act the bitter Betty; the joy around the place was almost as loud as the smells. At least all the excitement kept her mind preoccupied, away from thinking of her future, away from thoughts of Inuyasha …

Raising from the circular rock, Kagome headed forward to seat herself on a smoothed out formation beside Hakkaku. She waited until they'd all calmed down to ask the question on her mind.

"Are you guys sure I can stay here? I mean, I don't want Kouga upset or anything..."

The men all looked at each other, some communication passing between their eyes. Even the resting wolves lifted their tails, rolling their gazes her way and murmuring in their wolf language. Kagome groaned a little. Being the odd human out was never a good feeling.

Shifting her legs from under her ruffled green skirt, she frowned at the material. Her school clothes reminded her of him, as it was the getup she wore almost every day as she travelled with him and her friends. Anything that reminded her of Inuyasha needed burning. But she would deal with that when she got home. Now to focus on why the wolf men were staring at her at that strange way…

"Well, now that Naraku is out of the picture," Hakkaku said, picking at his bleach white Mohawk. "Kouga will be thrilled to know you're staying here. This is kind of his dream."

Kagome bit on her cheeks to keep the color from surfacing. But heat warmed her skin, and she knew she'd failed.

Ginta nodded, smiling wide.

"Imagine his surprise to find his woman waiting for him back in the cave!"

"He'll definitely flip…flip her on his bed, that is."

"I'm not his woman!" Kagome sputtered, stomping her foot. "Besides, don't you forget he has a fiancée."

Hakkaku shrugged, moving to the center of the room to tend a large fire. Nightfall was beginning to touch the edges of the cave, casting shadows. When the fire came alive, light engulfed the room. Hakkaku returned, sitting on on the bench space beside Kagome. His behind landed right on a bone but he didn't even seem to notice.

"Kouga left to clear the confusion about his engagement with Ayame once and for all. He brought one of our finest wolf warriors to take his place as her groom. Everything is set for you and him to be together now. That is, if you'll have him."

Kagome pulled back a little. Wow.

Kouga had really thought this far through all of this? Either way, she couldn't let these boys think she would actually stick around to be with their leader. Kagome folded her arms and began to shake her head, but stopped short when she saw their faces. The fire light caught the whites of their eyes and all the hope shimmering there. Well, she couldn't just break the news now. She wasn't feeling that bitter. But boy, did it smell. With a forced smile, Kagome patted Hakkaku's shoulder and rose from her spot on the bench.

"Where are you going, sister?"

"I need some fresh air," she said, heading for the mouth of the cave. "And a bath to wash off the stink," she murmured to herself.

It wasn't a lie. Although the real reason she wished to get away was to think. Though she would rather let her brain stay in a little blissful, thoughtless cloud, Kagome needed to evaluate her next steps.

Exiting the cave's protective hood, the wind rushed her immediately, pulling at her long white sleeves and tasting her skin before pulling away. Kagome approached the ledge of the cliff's lip and looked down. From this high up, it felt like standing at the tip of the universe. It was the crest of autumn, and a peaceful quiet saturated the air. The endless mountains and valleys, the smoke from distant fires in villages… Kagome smiled, allowing herself to admire the evening view. Of course, evil demons were still in the world, along with treacherous men and women who would stir up more disasters. At least she had helped eliminate the biggest threat. It was partially her fault he'd gotten so far, after all.

As she continued to stare out at the land beyond, someone cleared their throat behind her. Ginta and Hakkaku were approaching her, each of them looking a bit sheepish.

They handed her a brown bundle. Clothes. "We male wolves don't need to bathe much, but when we do, we use the stream over there." Ginta pointed over to the right, where a waterfall lapsed against the cave and dropped down into a clear bed of water. "So if you want to wash up, there's the place."

"Oh." Kagome's face softened, then flushed with shame. Had they heard her complain about needing a bath? Regardless, how sweet of them to think of her needs. Then again, they thought of her as their sister and Kouga's woman. She sauntered over to the cliff ledge, halting near the waterfall. "Thank you, but how am I going to get down there? The only way I got up these mountains in the first place was because my friend's demon can fly."

Hakkaku scratched the back of his neck.

"Well, we just run down the sides of the cliff walls or leap from the rocks, so I guess you could climb. Be careful, though."

Kagome looked down, and it was a long way down. Gulping, she opened her mouth to ask for their assistance and could tell they were already braced to help.

At the last moment, she stopped herself from taking their hands.

If her urgent bath needs didn't prove to them that she was indeed unfit for Kouga, this would. Not that she needed to prove that she was fit for Kouga's...still, she didn't like the weak appearance she gave off.

Why do I always need someone? She questioned herself. I can hardly take care of myself. My mother still packs my lunches, for goodness sake!

Dealing with deadly enemies was one thing, and climbing down a waterfall another...still, the waterfall might have a higher survival rate. Kagome thought of Sango. She was a strong woman and few demons could match her. Plus, the female slayer definitely wouldn't hold anyone's hand to scale some rocks.

Kagome had no more excuses for weakness.

With her jaw set, she opened her knapsack. Quickly stuffing the garment the boys had given her into the bag, she turned to them again.

"I'm going to climb down," she announced, bending to remove her loafers and socks.

Ginta and Hakkaku glanced at her, to each other, then back at her.

"That's a little dangerous, sister." said Ginta, his gravelly voice raising.

"Yes, just let us carry you down. Kouga will beat us up if you're injured."

"I'll be fine," Kagome said, taking a breath as she placed her bare foot onto a large rock leaning against cliff side. The stone trail meandered all the way down to the stream.

She swallowed.

Oh hell, it was high.

With her hands and feet, she tested the rocks stability, and they didn't rumble or shift under her prods. Good sign, she though to herself, nodding. She turned back Kouga's men, shifting about on their feet, and lightly thumped the closest one of the shoulder.

"Really, I've got this, guys. Go on. Don't you have other things to do?"

Hakkaku shrugged, stopping his shifty dance to grin.

"Well, we do need to find some extra muskrat for the pack... Someone will call you up for supper when it's ready. You can even cook the meat, if you'd like."

Yeah, that'd be nice, Kagome thought, but instead said. "Great! Good luck."

Ginta chuckled, looking from her to the mighty cliff.

"Yeah, you too." And they left.

Gee. That really notches up my confidence.

Tightening the knapsack to her shoulders, Kagome took another deep breath. With another foot to a rock, she was one step on her way. The weakening sunlight shadowed the rock path. It was still bright enough to see around her, but the rocks further down were merely dark smudges. Oh well. What choice did she have? She had already rejected help. This bath was so hers, and by golly, she was going to have it.

So no one tried to kill me, thought Kouga with relief, heading back to the cot his distant brethren had provided. That's always a good thing when visiting family.

The disaster he thought he'd face by wiggling out of his false engagement turned out shockingly amiable, though not too shocking, considering recent events.

Word quickly spread among the wolf demons of how Kouga helped eliminate the demon Naraku, a beast who had already killed many of their kind. That alone dissolved the Northerner grudges over the fact that he wouldn't settle down as their leader and marry the elder's grandchild Ayame.

No, Kouga wouldn't submit himself to that fate. First of all, he had chosen his pack of the Eastern Mountains and planned to lead until he died. Which, he hoped, mightn't be for many centuries. He had grown up with these wolves, after all. Through hard training, patience, and wit, Kouga had prepared himself to leadership, always aimed to be important one day. When their last elder had died, he'd stood up and welcomed all challenges. The few he had were thrown out of the running immediately, and no one went after him at that point. The wolves already knew it would have to be him. Kouga, the new leader of the wolf clan, was fit to lead.

But not just any wolves, but the Eastern wolves.

Now that Naraku was dead and Kouga had secured Ayame to one of his finest warriors, there was only one thing left to accomplish. Turning onto his stomach on the pallet his hosts had laid for him, Kouga stared out of the carved out stone of a window, watching the sunlight dip low in the sky. Finding a mate was the only thing he had left to do now, and there was only one woman he wished to consider.

The foreign-smelling human, with her soft skin and feathery laughter. The sweet girl with the wild dark hair and the melting brown eyes. His mouth watered as he mentally caressed her form under his rough hands, sand against satin, grain on grass. Although Kagome was adorable, the woman was feisty with a mouth that'd no sooner kiss you goodnight then scream at you for stepping out of the moral line. Kouga liked her irregularity, the mystery. Her shifting persona kept him on his toes, and leaders needed to stay alert and, occasionally, challenged. He also welcomed her traits because he knew one thing: Kagome was loyal.

It was the curse stuffed inside a blessing, her sense of devotion to the ones she loved, for it meant she would cling to Inuyasha.

Inuyasha was the man she had met first, and the dog had just charm enough to keep her smitten. But didn't she know that wolf-like loyalty of hers was wasted on a puppy? Inuyasha was busy panting for the Kikyo woman to fully focus his eyes on Kagome. But it surely didn't stop Kagome from wanting him.

And yet...Kouga thought, feeling silly, her devotion to Inuyasha sure didn't stop him from wanting her.

Grounding a fist into his hair, Kagome shook out his pulled back tresses. Yeah, he certainly understood the curses and blessings of loyalty.

Removing himself from the pallet, he rose to stand close to the window. The sunlight drifted lower and lower to darken the cliff faces. With a sigh, Kouga wondered what Kagome was doing now. Probably heading back in her village, wherever that is. Maybe she was still travelling with her friends, or assisting those nearby humans who were injured from the battle. He'd had no time to stick around, though, needing to settle the neglected issues in order to move on peacefully.

Leaving him back at square one. A wolf clan leader without a woman.

Although he handled his men just fine, it was always good to have a female to help keep them in line. There were several female wolf youkai in the pack, many of them attached and mated, though for the ones that were of prime for mating, he just couldn't want like he wanted Kagome. Many months ago, he almost thought of taking a female, Shiyla, for his bride. But then Kagome had crawled onto the scene and everything changed.

From then on, it was her or no one else.

As night snuffed out the light completely, Kouga ran a hand down an exhausted face. From the way things were looking, he was thinking no one might be his only option.