Understanding Inuyasha

Disclaimer: I don't own Inuyasha.

A/N: It might seem as though this is OOC for Sango, but don't judge until you reach the end of the story, and then you'll see where I'm going with this, and that it's not really OOC at all.

~oOo~

Kagome smiled and leaned back for a moment, just enjoying the beautiful day.

It was late spring, and she was out gathering the first medicinal herbs of the season. It had been almost a year since her return to the Sengoku Jidai, and in just a few more days she would be getting married. It was a dream come true for her.

When she'd returned to the past last year she'd been all for getting married immediately – but Inuyasha had nixed that idea. He'd wanted things done right, and there were a couple steps he'd felt the need to take.

One, he would not wed her until they had a home of their own – and not some dank cave or tiny hut, either. He'd wanted to build her a house, one with plenty of room. When she'd asked why a simple hut like the other villagers had wasn't enough, he'd given her a look.

"Keh! Did you forget I've seen your house in the future? I know what you're used to, and it ain't no tiny one room hut, woman," he'd responded. When she'd replied that he didn't have to go through all that trouble, that she'd be fine with a hut, he'd insisted – because she'd given up so much from that future world to return to him he was going to provide whatever he could that would lessen her losses as he saw them.

She'd been completely touched, tears gathering in her eyes even now at the thought.

But a house like that took time, especially when he wouldn't let anyone else help – at least not on the structure itself. There were some things he couldn't make, and then he would barter with whoever in the village could provide the needed service, but for the rest of it he was determined that he be the one to provide her needs. It was a labor of love for him, and she understood and appreciated that more deeply than he realized.

The next thing he'd insisted on had been a proper, long courtship. That one had truly blindsided her. Inuyasha tended to be hasty in most things. He wasn't normally a patient person, and she knew that he wanted her physically – quite desperately. But he was determined to wait. When she'd finally gotten frustrated herself and asked him why, since she'd pretty much considered their time together in the past courtship enough, she'd been stunned silent by his answer.

He'd gotten quiet for a few moments when she'd blurted out her question, and then he'd looked at her with this solemn, regretful expression that had silenced her frustration immediately.

She'd never forget what he'd told her then.

"There shouldn't be two women on a man's mind when he's courting one, Kagome. And because of Kikyou I couldn't only think about you back then. I ain't gonna dishonor you that way. Now I can give you all of myself like I couldn't back then because of my responsibilities to her. You deserve that – and a hell of a lot more. So we won't be gettin' married until next spring, and that's final."

She'd always known that Inuyasha held feelings for Kikyou – that he'd loved her. And while that had hurt and she'd indeed been jealous, she'd also understood. If he'd been the type that could say he loved a person and then just turn around and abandon them to turn to another, she wouldn't have loved him like she did. Truthfully, that sounded way too much like a lot of the men in her time – no loyalty or fidelity at all. It was his loving heart that drew her own, and so she could hardly hate him for it.

It only made her love him more.

A soft sigh left her and she inhaled deeply, enjoying the fragrant spring air with a light heart. Though she'd been incredibly touched at Inuyasha's reasons for waiting to marry her she was very glad the wait was over, though she'd always remember the courtship he'd given her. He'd done everything he could to prove that she was the only one on his mind now that Kikyou was laid to rest and no longer walking the earth in pain and darkness and he didn't have a load of guilt and confusion to deal with.

"Just a few more days," she sighed. "And then I can officially move into my new home. I'm so excited!"

"Ano... Kagome-chan..." Sango's voice interrupted her pleasant thoughts, and she turned to smile at her questioningly.

"What is it, Sango-chan?"

Sango gave her a set look, one that told Kagome that whatever her friend was about to say was serious.

"It's okay, Sango-chan, just ask. I won't get mad," she promised. "I know that whatever it is you have good reasons behind whatever is on your mind."

"Well, it's just that I wonder how you can seem so joyful to be marrying Inuyasha, you know, with everything that happened in the past. With... you know... Kikyou." She almost whispered that name, as if speaking of something forbidden.

Kagome blinked, surprised. "Eh? What do you mean?"

"How do you know he really wants you, Kagome-chan? I mean... well, he never really chose, you see. I would always be wondering if he was just marrying me because I was the reincarnation of his lover, and this was the only way he could have her," she said slowly.

"Of course he did, Sango-chan!" she exclaimed. "He chose several times! I'm not so much a doormat that I'd just accept second-best, you know."

Sango didn't seem convinced. "When did he choose you? Out loud? I don't remember that! He was always waffling back and forth!" she snorted indignantly as she thought about those days for a moment.

Smiling almost sadly at her best female friend Kagome shook her head and then looked up at the sky, trying to order her thoughts. She wanted to be able to set Sango's mind at ease, and to do that she needed to be able to think clearly, without getting all emotional and defensive.

"He chose in several ways and several times, Sango-chan. He did," she insisted at her friend's doubtful glance. "Think about it. First off, if he'd really wanted to stay by Kikyou then he would have gone with her. But he didn't. He chose to stay with me. He may have gone to see her when she was around, but he always came back to stay by my side. He wasn't roaming around at hers, was he?"

"Yes, but really, was that his choice – or hers?" she asked, eyes narrowing, and to Kagome it almost seemed as though Sango was trying to play devil's advocate in the moment. "I mean... she always seemed to keep him at arm's length. Maybe she didn't want him to travel with her."

Shaking her head, Kagome said, "No... I thought of that, too. But in the end Kikyou did want him to go with her – only to hell. She tried to get him to go with her, you know that. I called out to him and it woke him up – and he chose to stay with me. And the poison vines illusion, he broke out of the illusion of her trying to get him to go with her himself because he remembered me. He wanted to stay with me then too, not go with her."

Sango eyed her for a moment, her gaze serious and weighing. "Still, that's so tenuous, Kagome-chan," she replied. "What about what happened with Kaou? I remember what you told me about the dream he had where Kikyou asked him to go with her. And what Kaou said. That the 'woman he loved most in the world' had died. You said Inuyasha never denied it. How could you overlook that?"

At that Kagome sat up and clasped her arms around her knees. Pensively, she stared at the grass as she wiggled her toes in the cool vegetation and thought back to that time with the flower prince. It had been a bad time for her, there was no doubting that. Kaou hadn't been wrong when he'd said that she was in terrible pain.

But at the end of that confrontation she'd actually felt better about things than she had in a long time – because even though Inuyasha hadn't answered her when she'd asked if he'd wanted to go with Kikyou, in the end it was her voice that called him back. Again. He'd been given a choice in that dream. He could die and go find Kikyou in hell – or he could stay with her. And he'd chosen to stay and follow her voice back to reality, back to her side yet again, breaking Kaou's spell.

She knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that if Inuyasha had truly still been in love with Kikyou at that point that he would have followed her call, even if it had been a false call – he still would have died and joined Kikyou on the other side. And even if one were to argue that he only stayed so he could gain vengeance on Naraku, there was still this: After Naraku and the jewel were gone and she'd been taken back to her era he could have then chosen to follow Kikyou to hell, as he'd once said he would.

But he hadn't.

Instead he'd waited for her to return. He'd tried the well every three days for three years. He wouldn't have done that if he were pining over someone else.

"And yet he's still here, Sango-chan, ne?" she said, breaking the silence that had fallen between them. "If he'd really loved Kikyou still and wanted to be by her side, he could have followed her to hell after it was all over and I was gone back to my era. After all, it wasn't like he still needed to protect me since I was safe in my world. But he didn't. He stayed here and tried to get through the well every three days. He waited for me. I am not Kikyou – and he knows it. We are nothing alike. I accept Inuyasha for who he is and she didn't. That's a very important thing to him, you know that."

It was clear Sango was judging her words, still watching her and holding her gaze with speculation in her eyes, and Kagome thought she understood what Sango was doing. She was trying to protect them both in her own way – making sure that Kagome understood Inuyasha and her place in his life so that there would not be anymore unresolved pain and angst in their relationship. So few people really understood Inuyasha – and admittedly that was mostly his fault, for always being so gruff and pushing people away. Though he was much better at it now than he had once been, she would give him that, Kagome couldn't be angry at their friend for pushing for the answers she had obviously been looking for.

"I'm glad to see that you still know him so well, and that your faith in him wasn't tarnished while you were gone. I had wondered, you know, if your separation for those three years would cause confusion and doubt to set in," she said at last, a smile lightening the serious expression she'd had. "I'm glad to see it didn't. Being married isn't easy, and if there are doubts that come into the marriage from before they can cause serious damage to the couple's happiness." She nodded to herself, satisfied, and then changed the subject slightly. "So... why did he insist on waiting so long – besides the whole house thing?" Sango asked after a moment as she watched Kagome go back to picking the herbs she'd come for. "Not that it wasn't a good idea – it let you both reconnect after being apart for so long."

Kagome shot her a bright smile at that question. "I asked him that, too – when I first got back and he seemed to be dilly-dallying. And he said that back then he hadn't been able to give me all of himself, what with his responsibilities to Kikyou, and that it wouldn't be fair to me to consider that our courtship."

"Wow... I know Inuyasha feels things deeply, but he usually doesn't articulate them so clearly." She giggled then, remembering some of the many instances when he'd resorted to starting fights just to avoid actually talking about his feelings. "I bet you were surprised, Kagome-chan."

"I was... but what could I do but honor his wishes after he told me something like that? And you know what? He was right. I won't ever forget the courtship he's given me. He's really gone out of his way to make me happy, even going so far as to take me on 'dates' like couples go on in my era." Her bright smile softened affectionately. "I think my favorite one was when he took me for a picnic lunch on the lake... although... I really did enjoy it when he took me sledding this last winter. After I'd told him about sleds and how much I missed sledding down the shrine hill in winter, he went and built me one and then he went and searched out the perfect hill to sled down, just for me. And he had my old metal canteens filled with hot tea that he kept in a nearby hot spring to keep them hot so we could drink them to warm back up when I got too cold," she finished reminiscently. "I had a lot of fun that day."

She had to smile to herself when she noticed Sango looking almost... jealous. Men in this day and age didn't court women like they did in her time – romance was really an unheard of concept, and though she knew Miroku loved Sango with all his heart, he was a typical male of his era. Inuyasha however, had been exposed to her world and knew about things that no one else here did. He'd remembered some of the things he'd learned from helping Souta get his girl that time the younger boy had begged for his hero's help, and he'd put those memories to good use in wooing her.

And that was exactly what he'd done. He'd gone out of his way for her sake to give her a bit of romance to remember for the rest of her life, and she appreciated it more than she could say. To her, he'd more than proved he loved her and she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt who her hanyou had chosen – because he was still beside her, and not with Kikyou as he could so easily have been.

Flicking a quick glance up into a tree at the edge of the meadow they were in, she caught the glint of gold eyes and a fangy smirk and winked at him, not at all surprised to see him there watching over her and Sango. She could see the softness in the glance he cast Sango's way, and knew that he'd also understood what the slayer had been trying to do. And he was returning her 'protection' with the same thing in reverse by watching over them both to make sure nothing could harm them.

His protectiveness was a product of his love and just another way he proved it, though he'd never said the words to any of them.

He didn't need to.

She understood – and so did the others.

And that was all that counted.

~oOo~

2nd A/N: Just a little one shot pointing out the glaring fact, to those who always holler about Inuyasha not really actually choosing one or the other, that he did choose Kagome – more than once. In fact, he chose her every day that he stayed by her side and did not leave her to go follow Kikyou, and he was choosing her every time he went and visited Kikyou, and then returned to stay with Kagome. I used to be one of those people that worried about him not having 'chosen' Kagome out loud – but in the end, he didn't need to, because his actions spoke louder than words could. This manga really deserves a second read through. You'll understand more once you've seen how it ends, and then gone back to the beginning and started all over.

Amber