Chapter 7 – We need to talk



Kagome awoke slowly, rolling over onto her back with a hoarse groan escaping her dry lips. Cracking her eyes open, she quickly closed them again, squinting against the bright sunlight that was pouring in through the window. Her mouth tasted like regurgitated lawnmower clippings, and her head felt like somebody was trying to pry it open with the Jaws of Life. If she was going to wake with such a killer hangover shouldn't she have at least gotten to enjoy a night of drunken partying first?

Oh gods ... she thought in dismay, draping an arm across her forehead as the memories of all that had transpired over the last few days came rushing back to her, along with the rest of her previously suppressed memories.

Hearing an echo of Inuyasha's last words of reassurance from the night before, his guarantee that no matter what, he loved her, she forced her eyes back open and glanced around the room.

She was by herself.

Is it really any wonder, though? she thought, not willing to be angry with him over this. If she were him, she probably wouldn't have stuck around, either.

She could feel his youki, so he was clearly somewhere close by, and that knowledge was mildly comforting, to know that he hadn't taken off into the forest, needing to get away from her completely, but still, his absence within the hut spoke volumes. Forcing herself to sit up with a mild grunt of achy muscles, Kagome felt momentarily disoriented but quickly found that the woozy feeling and migraine were dissipating, thank goodness. Whatever Kaede had put in that tea to help her sleep, it'd certainly done its job, as she judged the time based on the sunlight she could see out the window to be somewhere around late morning, at least two or three hours after sunrise. Everyone had clearly decided to leave her be, alone to her thoughts, and she supposed she was grateful for that because she wasn't so sure she would've wanted Sango or Miroku, or even Kaede, to be there with her in that moment, asking her how she was feeling. The aftereffects of the tea were fading quickly enough, but despite feeling okay physically, mentally she felt like crap.

Now, Inuyasha, on the other hand, she actually wouldn't have minded seeing. If he'd been there to greet her, looking perhaps embarrassed but nonetheless determined to work this out with her, that would've actually made her feel ten times better. His absence solidified for her how he had to be feeling in that moment. She wasn't surprised that he'd woken before her; sleep aid or no sleep aid he was hanyou and simply didn't need as much sleep as her, so surely when the others had tried to tiptoe out of the hut their shuffling had disturbed him, with his superior hearing, and he along with everyone else had then decided to leave Kagome alone so that she could rest longer. A fine gesture on the surface, but really, it was only delaying the inevitable, since they still had jewel shards to find and Naraku to kill. The two of them would have to deal with this eventually. Him leaving her alone like this, it was probably just to buy some time, so that he could try to figure out what to say, but that had to mean that he was trying to figure out how to put her down gently without hurting her feelings any more than necessary, right? If he really did still want to be with her then surely he would've been there to greet her, wearing a huge grin and immediately gushing reassurances that he did in fact still love her and that nothing had changed. There was no reason to leave her alone if that were the case, which clearly meant it was not.

Not that she would've expected it to be.

Oh kami ...what have we done?

Everything was ruined now. All her plans, all her pretending... No matter what, Inuyasha still had an obligation to Kikyou, and it hurt so much to know that there was no way he could ignore that, ignore his true love. Yes, Kagome did remember Inuyasha's words, that no matter what, he loved her, but he hadn't been thinking clearly when he'd uttered those words. She believed him, though, at least to a point. Looking back on it, Kagome knew how she'd felt, how the love she felt for him had shown through, even despite not knowing who he was at the time, and so she believed that the feelings of love he'd claimed to feel for her in return had to be genuine, in a way. There clearly had to be some kind of feelings there. Even Sango had told her, during their soak in that hot spring, of how she'd known the both of them had feelings for each other, acknowledging Inuyasha's love for her, although the taijiya had clearly been hesitant to tell the then memory-deprived miko the details regarding Kikyou. Sango had said that she did believe Inuyasha loved her, but also that he had 'obligations' that took precedence, to excuse why he'd never confessed his feelings. To know now that he did in fact love her, in some way or another, was a bittersweet revelation at best for the future-born miko, knowing that even though he actually did love her he still loved Kikyou more. His absence in that moment proved it. It was just that without his memories of Kikyou at that time he hadn't been able to remember how the tender way he loved her as a friend mixed with some healthy physical attraction paled in comparison to the true love he felt for the undead miko deep in his soul. Something that just had to be tearing him up inside, now, and Kagome felt guilt on top of her own heartache because of that realization, wishing she could take his pain away even more than her own. This was precisely what she'd never wanted to let happen, them losing themselves in the heat of the moment only to regret it later. Sure, neither of them were really to blame, what with the actual way it'd happened, but that didn't make what'd happened any less wrong, or the situation they now faced any less painful.

Sure, he'd claimed that it hadn't felt like anything was missing at that time, when he'd spoken of his feelings for her, but how many times had they not known in advance if something was familiar to them or not until after it'd happened? Hell, that was the entire nature of the spell they'd been under! How the hell was he supposed to have remembered Kikyou, then, without her having actually been there to then provide that déjà vu reminder? They certainly hadn't had an inkling that they had any other companions who traveled with them until after Kagome had dreamt of them, and she'd had absolutely no suspicions that she might have a family somewhere out there whom she missed terribly, her mother, brother and grandfather never once crossing her mind even as the faintest of whispers against her soul. Just like Inuyasha, it hadn't felt like anything was 'missing' to her, either, even as she'd known logically that there had to be something beyond just he and her out in the forest, especially since she was wearing a school uniform. But even that hadn't mattered; even thumbing through her math book had failed to invoke feelings of trepidation or urgency when it came to her grades, no feeling of 'oh shit, I need to get back to school!' popping into her mind. So then surely there was no way Inuyasha could've been expected to remember Kikyou out of thin air, with nothing to go on. Kagome fully believed that if one of the undead miko's shinidamachuu had chosen that moment to show itself that Inuyasha would've immediately felt drawn to it, realizing on a subconscious level that he needed to follow it, trusting his heart that would've surely told him that something fabulous was waiting for him where the creature would lead.

To know now that he was in fact physically attracted to her, and apparently even cared for her as more than a friend, to have been so absolutely convinced at the time that he loved her, that knowledge did want to make the edges of Kagome's lips lift in a small smile, but at the end of the day it didn't really matter, because at best he was simply torn between his feelings for her and Kikyou, like any man who had a steady relationship but also another girl on the side. Kagome could easily accept and believe that he simply loved them both, in a way. At worst, though, it was possible that Sango was wrong, and he didn't really see her that way at all, loving her as a friend yes but nothing more than that, and her physical resemblance to Kikyou had simply been confusing his mind at the time. They did look alike, after all, and so then there he was, without any true memories, his nose telling him that she was familiar because of scent, because of them traveling together, and then to look upon her face he felt feelings of love for her, and so obviously he would think that those feelings must be for her, right? Nothing would've ever made him think in a million years that his true love was actually somebody else entirely who just happened to share her face.

Kagome wouldn't hold it against him, though. She wouldn't. Dragging herself out of her sleeping bag and going through the motions of getting dressed in that moment, she swore to herself on whatever little honor she had left that she would not be angry with Inuyasha for confusing her and Kikyou while under that spell, for using her. He hadn't really usedher; not on purpose, anyway. He hadn't had sex with her while thinking about Kikyou. On a subconscious level, he'd had sex with her while thinking she was Kikyou, and that was different. He hadn't done it on purpose, and she just knew the guilt had to be tearing him up inside, on all levels, so she would not make it worse by being a bitch to him about it, driving the knife in his gut even deeper and twisting it. She would forgive him, assure him that she was still his friend, and do her best to move on from there and just put it behind her and not think about it any more.

They still had jewel shards to find and Naraku to kill, after all. After that, then, well...she didn't really want to think about what would happen after that. A part of her still worried he'd be joining Kikyou in Hell, although she desperately hoped it wouldn't come to that, and not just because she didn't want to lose him to Kikyou. She'd already lost him to Kikyou the minute the undead miko had been resurrected. No, she just didn't want him to descend into Hell because he didn't deserve it; he didn't deserve to give up his life for something that hadn't been his fault, for a death he hadn't caused. In her opinion he didn't owe Kikyou his life, but ultimately she knew that he would do whatever Kikyou asked of him so at that point she could only pray that Kikyou no longer wished to drag Inuyasha into Hell with her, accepting now that he was not to blame and that Naraku was the one who'd killed her. Kagome was pretty sure that was the case, as the few times they'd actually come across the undead miko as a group she'd spoken only of their need to get Naraku, and Inuyasha also swore that was all the two of them ever discussed during their private meetings as well, and Kagome also knew that Kikyou had tried to drag Inuyasha into Hell that one time before she'd learned of Naraku's existence, honestly believing at that time that Inuyasha had betrayed her, that all his talk of his feelings for her and agreeing to use the jewel to turn himself human had been a lie. Kagome knew she couldn't really blame Kikyou for her hatred of Inuyasha back then, believing what she'd believed, and so she prayed that the undead miko had put her hatred of Inuyasha behind her now, now that she knew the truth. Even though that would obviously mean the woman was more strongly driven by her feelings of love for him, now, Kagome would much rather give Inuyasha up to live with Kikyou than to die with her.

At least now, when Inuyasha rejected her to go be with Kikyou, she'd have her memory of their one night together to cherish forever. Was that selfish of her? Should she wish that it'd never happened, that that tengu had never robbed them of their memories? But wishing for such things wouldn't make them a reality, anyway, so since it had happened she might as well look back on their night together with happy thoughts, right? Even though his mind had probably been confused, and he'd probably been projecting the love he felt for Kikyou onto her because they shared the same face, he hadn't done it on purpose and if you really wanted to get technical, he really had loved her, sort of, at that moment in time at least. He'd thought at the time that it was her that he loved, and his words had been honest, from the heart. For one night in her life, Inuyasha had genuinely, truly loved her, and even though she was sure he regretted it now because it'd been a betrayal of Kikyou Kagome just couldn't fully bring herself to wish it'd never happened. Maybe that made her a bad person, but if Kikyou was going to get Inuyasha for the rest of their days after the quest was over then was it really so selfish that she was glad she'd been gifted with at least one special night to remember forever?

A few silent tears slipped down her cheeks but she stubbornly rubbed at her face, refusing to cry, refusing to let Inuyasha see that she'd been crying. That would only make him feel worse, guilty for hurting her on top of the guilt he undoubtedly felt for betraying Kikyou. The best thing Kagome could do for Inuyasha now, she knew, was to try her best to not be hurt by this. She'd give herself a few more minutes to compose herself, she decided then, as she sat down by the firepit and brought the slowly dwindling morning fire back to life some before then reaching for her backpack and getting out her hairbrush. It was her own means of buying time, but she needed it, and then, once she felt she was ready, she'd suck it up and go find him and get it over with, whatever 'it' was. If he didn't want to talk about it, if he told her only that she should just forget it'd ever happened, then while she'd silently disagree and cherish the memory forever she'd respect his wishes to never discuss it. If, on the other hand, he actually wanted to sit and talk things out with her, then she'd do that, too. Whatever he wanted. And she hadn't forgotten about what Sango had also said about how it was possible Inuyasha had been keeping his feelings to himself because she was from the future, either, because maybe because of that he believed there could be no future between them, what with them being from two different worlds and all. Hypothetically, if that turned out to be true, then she'd gladly tell him that she'd gladly stay with him in his time, although she knew not to get her hopes up. Assuming he actually did want to talk things out rather than just clamming up and pretending there was nothing to discuss, Kagome had absolutely no idea what all that conversation would entail. It could be anything from a love confession to a breakup, but whatever happened, she wouldn't lose her cool, she vowed to herself in that moment. Whatever Inuyasha wanted, she'd convince herself it was what she wanted too, even if it wasn't, because what she wanted even beyond what she wanted was for Inuyasha to be okay with what'd happened between them, and she'd do whatever it took to help him get there. Things would be awkward between them for a while, she was sure, but hopefully they could eventually put it behind them and be friends again. She hated to think that this incident had possibly ruined their friendship forever. If he wanted to send her away, if he told her to just go back to her own time and stay there because he couldn't bear to look at her any more, a constant reminder of his biggest mistake, she didn't know what she'd do.

A few more tears fell.


Sitting cross-legged on top of Kaede's roof, Inuyasha tilted his head back and glanced up at the sky, a million and one thoughts buzzing around through his head.

When he'd first woken up earlier that morning, to the whispered voices of the others as they'd tried their best to be quiet while going about their morning routine before slipping out of the hut, he'd remained where he was at first, pretending to still be asleep because he hadn't had the balls to face the others. He hadn't dared crack his eyes open and risk meeting concerned gazes, or worse, accusative gazes, as if they were daring him to do wrong by Kagome. For at least an hour after their departure he'd just lied there, beside the future-born miko, both willing her to wake and terrified of accidentally waking her at the same time. He was a coward, he knew, but the thing he feared the worst wasn't her anger, it was her sympathy. Her rejection.

What did she have to be angry about, after all? He hadn't used her, and neither had she used him, he knew. They'd both just given in to their feelings and attraction for each other, so she could hardly pin all of the blame on his shoulders, like he'd seduced her against her will, not that he planned on trying to blame her, either, of course. It was both of their faults, and at the same time it was neither of their faults, but regardless of whose fault it was or wasn't he was glad it had happened, and he would cherish his memory of being with Kagome for the rest of his life.

It'd be the only thing he'd have left to keep himself sane after their mission was over and she left him for her world, for good.

Desperately trying not to think about that, Inuyasha did indeed remember the concerned whispers he'd overheard from their friends during the return trip to Kaede's village. Was it possible that the main reason Kagome'd never approached him about her feelings for him was actually because she thought he still harbored such feelings for Kikyou? Kami, if he'd known that... Sure, he'd suspected it was possibleshe cared for him as more than a friend, but if he'd known she loved him like she apparently did and that she'd thought he loved Kikyou then he would've made damn sure she knew where his heart really lied. If there was even the minutest, most remote possibility that she could possibly choose to stay with him in his time after the mission...

But he knew he couldn't go getting his hopes up like that, lifting himself up for a big let down. He'd thought for sure all this time that Kagome only thought of him as a good friend, and that sure, she might have what the people of her time would call a crush on him, and she was clearly physically attracted to him, but with all her talk about school, her need to solidify for herself a place in her own world, a future for herself in her own century, then surely her feelings for him couldn't run that deeply, right? Or, even if they did, which he'd dared to fantasize on rare occasion, then he'd still figured that she hadn't wanted to say anything because, really, what would be the point? How cruel would it have been to tell him, knowing the kind of life he'd led, that here was a woman who actually did truly love him, but that it simply couldn't work out between them because she was from the future? If she'd still had no intention of staying with him, regardless of her feelings, then he could understand why even if she loved him she would've acted like she didn't, for his own sake, because she loved him and didn't want to hurt him. Looking at it that way, Inuyasha could understand why she would've instead chosen to never say anything on the subject, probably silently cursing herself for having stupidly fallen in love with him in the first place when she knew damn well it couldn't work, and then in that case the last thing she would've wanted to do was let him know how she felt because if he would've turned around and begged her to stay with him – something he was sourly tempted to do – it would've been wholly unfair to Kagome. How could he proclaim to love her but then want to go and make her choose between himself and her family? His world and hers? That wasn't fair, and he wasn't enough of a selfish bastard to honestly think he had the right to force such a decision out of her.

Just like she had never forced him to choose between herself and Kikyou, only now...looking at it from the perspective of Kagome keeping her feelings for him to herself not because she was from another world, but because she thought he loved Kikyou...he shuddered at the thought of just how deeply their lack of communication could have fucked everything up. He wanted to bring that tengu back to life and thank him, before then killing him again of course, since the guy was an evil bastard after their jewel shards, but evil bastard or not his trickery had ultimately led to the best night of his life, and...hopefully...if he could get his head out of his ass long enough to keep his vow of not letting anything keep him from Kagome, including himself, then maybe...just maybe...his future wasn't destined to be quite so lonely, after all.

After all, what did he have, if he didn't have Kagome? If she really loved him as much as he now believed she did, from the true love he had been able to read in her eyes at that time, while under the influence of that tengu's magic, then he would gladly move to her world with her, if it came to that, problem solved. If, when he finally hardened his balls enough to go talk to her, she would cry and tell him how she'd never wanted to let him know how she felt because it just couldn't work, because she had to go back to her own world when everything was said and done despite her feelings, he'd pull her into an embrace and tell her that he wasn't willing to give her up so easily, and that even if it meant he had to wear funny clothes, and shoes, and that blasted hat, he'd do whatever it took to become a part of her world, instead, if she simply could not remain a part of his. And if she dared say anything about how he loved Kikyou? He'd cut that line of thinking off before she even got started, pulling her into a kiss before assuring her that his old feelings for Kikyou were long gone, and that he only owed it to her to protect her from Naraku and avenge her death, nothing more.

That was the plan, at least, although as he'd lied there beside her thinking all those things for the last hour or so, his stomach doing flip-flops and his heart trying to break out of his chest, he'd suddenly bolted like a coward at the first sign of the miko's waking, slipping silently up onto the hut's roof in a blind panic before consciousness had fully reached her. And now, even as he heard her shuffling around inside, and he knew all the things he wanted, needed to say, he couldn't seem to make his body move.

Feh, you're a fucking coward, you know that? he scolded himself bitterly, releasing a tired sigh.

Although, he supposed, the longer he waited the more awkward it was going to become, since Kagome certainly had to be wondering where he was by now, and while he wondered what she was actually thinking he could only imagine that at least some of her mind had to be occupied with wondering what he was thinking. He knew his Kagome, and she worried over his state of mind a lot; she always seemed to care whenever she felt he was being too down on himself, like that one time he'd flipped out and killed those bandits in his youkai form. What if she was worried that he ran off, all screwed up in the head even more than he really was, and too embarrassed to face her because he was usually so emotionally constipated? Okay, so she could probably feel his youki and knew he hadn't run off, but knowing he was nearby was probably making her even more worried as to why he hadn't yet shown himself. She'd probably correctly guessed that he was trying to psych himself up for their big talk, but in what way? That, she might've gotten wrong, not that he'd blame her. He remembered their first new moon together, vividly, and how he'd clammed up the next morning, trying to pretend he hadn't been all soft and lovey-dovey the night before. Being poisoned and dying was no excuse, he'd thought back then, so desperately trying to act tough to counteract what he'd seen as a weakness at the time. And so now, how many times had he thrown the fucking L word around while affected by that blasted tengu's spell? Five? What if she feared he was going to deny it now? Deny his feelings? Or worse, try to pretend that nothing had happened at all? That was what the others apparently feared was going to happen, all that talk about 'doing the right thing' and not leaving Kagome in the dark regarding his feelings. Apparently Sango and Miroku, while they knew he loved Kagome, they thought he'd deliberately allowed the miko to think he cared more for Kikyou, and the only reasoning he could figure that made any sense was if it'd been as a means of emotional protection for himself, a wall he was trying to keep up around himself so as not to let Kagome in...because...why? Because his duty to Kikyou didn't permit him to be with Kagome romantically? That wasn't true, although maybe they thought it was. Maybe they thought Kikyou had forbad him from getting involved with Kagome like that, and so he was deliberately pretending to still harbor romantic feelings for the undead miko as a means of discouraging Kagome's feelings, which of course also implied they thought he'd known of Kagome's feelings for him...

He snorted.

They give me far too much credit ... he thought bitterly. "Truth is, I'm just an idiot..." he murmured softly, far too quietly for the miko below him to hear.

Creeping closer to the edge of the roof, above the open window, Inuyasha took a deep breath, seeking out Kagome's scent to bring himself comfort. Yes, his own body still smelled of their joining, and that scent was very comforting, indeed, to know it hadn't been a dream, that he really had gotten to experience such a miracle, but right now he just needed the reassurance that Kagome was still there, still with him, right now in that very moment, and not just a fading memory, like the scent he wore was. Her fresh, present to the moment scent hit him as he breathed deeply, but unexpectedly and unwelcome, the scent of her tears was mixed with it, and it burned his nose in a way, making him cringe. It was the scent equivalent to nails on a chalkboard, as far as his brain was concerned; he hated the smell of her tears. His gut lurched, knowing he was the cause. His absence, his cowardice, had apparently allowed her mind to run away with her. Who knew what she was thinking? He didn't, and he wouldn't, until he asked her.

This was going to be the hardest conversation of his life.

Fortunately there was no sign of their friends, everyone else, even including little Shippou, at least thankfully showing him the respect to let he and Kagome face this moment alone. Sucking in a deep breath through his mouth, then, he rose to his feet, squared his shoulders, walked as calmly as he could muster to the edge of the roof overlooking the front door flap, and jumped.


Kagome paused in her brushing when she thought she heard a rustling on the roof, and she held her breath with brush still raised, listening with strained ears as she heard the softest of footsteps heading towards the front door, followed by the faintest sound of somebody landing on the dirt.

He must have wanted me to hear him, otherwise he could've moved silently ... she knew right away, not sure how she felt about the revelation that he'd been up on the roof all this time.

She was glad she hadn't been talking to herself out loud.

Perhaps he'd hoped she would have been?

No matter, she wouldn't keep her thoughts from him. She knew he could smell deceit and this was no time for dishonesty.

As a crimson red sleeve pushed its way pasted the hanging reed doormat, followed quickly by the rest of him as Inuyasha gently shoved the doormat aside to enter, the reed mat falling back into place behind him, Kagome met his gaze with uncertainty and trepidation, but she met his gaze nonetheless, raised hairbrush forgotten. For a few uncounted seconds that felt like an eternity to the pair they simply stared at one another, the small, crackling flame in Kaede's firepit providing the only sound in the room.

Eventually it was Inuyasha who tried to speak first, but as he opened his mouth the words were suddenly caught in his throat. The look in her eyes...so afraid he was about to rip her heart out, or was it actually that she was afraid of ripping his heart out? Either way, he just couldn't take her looking at him like that. Finally, Inuyasha was the one to look away first, closing his mouth as he averted his gaze, lowering his head to stare at the floor. A move which Kagome immediately misunderstood, not knowing the real reason why he suddenly couldn't meet her eyes any longer. She thought it was because he felt guilty, fearing that whatever he was about to say would break her. Lowering her right hand which held her brush, resting both of her hands in her lap, Kagome too glanced down, staring at her hands in thought. It was up to her to reassure him.

"Inu..." she started before stopping abruptly, her voice unexpectedly cracking, causing her to suck in a sharp breath of air in the hope of keeping more tears at bay.

She knew all the things that needed to be said, but that didn't mean she wasn't terrified to say them. He hadn't given her enough time to compose herself; she wasn't as hardened as she'd wanted to be before having to face his rejection with a smile.

"Inuyasha..." she managed to choke out after a moment, her tone of voice not how she'd wanted it to sound, almost pleading as it was, although pleading for what she couldn't be sure. To not break her heart? To not cast her aside? To hold her and tell her that everything would be all right? Or D, all of the above? Mentally, she was kicking herself for being such a weakling when they both needed her to be strong.

Inuyasha cringed. The pain in her voice, so obvious, it caused his ears to flatten, caused his own heart to ache along with hers as he pinched his eyes shut, but what was the cause of her pain? Was he the perpetrator or the victim? Was he about to reassure her or damn himself? Would his words bring a smile to her lips or tears to her eyes, as she felt relieved or even more guilty? Regardless of the outcome, though, he had to be honest. That much, at least, he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt.

"Kagome..." he managed to croak, his voice betraying his fear as he still stood staring at the raised wooden floor from his place standing in the dirt entryway, unable to lift his gaze to meet her own, even as he felt her eyes back upon him. "Kagome, I..."

Just say it! he mentally yelled at himself. With as many times as he'd already flung the L word around, one would think it'd be easy to say it again in that moment, but trying to say it now, it was like voicing a surrender, in a way. He was surrendering his heart to Kagome, hers to do with as she pleased, and that thought utterly terrified him.

"No matter what, I won't be angry with you, I promise." Kagome spoke back up out of nowhere, surprised and a little proud of herself for how stable her voice suddenly sounded as she continued to stare at the way he was staring at the floor, trying and failing to read his expression, his hair blocking her view of his face.

Her unexpected reassurance, it had him furrowing his brow, although even though he'd just called himself an idiot not that long ago he wasn't stupid, and correctly deduced that she must have thought he was about to reject her, for whatever reason.

She thought he was about to reject her...so then did that mean she wouldn't reject him?

Feeling the tiniest bit braver, he found the courage to raise his eyes back up to meet her own in that moment, although he still remained standing in Kaede's dirt entryway, not yet walking forward to step up onto the raised wooden platform where Kagome sat near the firepit.

"Kagome, I'm not..."

He paused again, shy and tongue tied, but her eyes...gods. Her eyes were like a frightened rabbit staring at a hungry wolf, and the smell of her fear, that was what finally pushed him over the edge. No matter the outcome, he just had to plunge forward, even if the move drove a sword straight through his own gut. He'd never been afraid of battle before and that was precisely what this was, a battle. Only his opponent wasn't Kagome, it was his own gods damned insecurities.

"I'm not rejecting you. I...what I said last night...I still mean it."

There, finally, he said it. Well, close enough. Now that he'd stuck his neck out, he had nothing left to do but wait for the ax to fall. It only took him a few brief seconds to get his answer, but they were the longest seconds of his life.

At first, when he'd first started his unfinished sentence, Kagome could've sworn her heart had stopped beating. She'd stopped breathing; she'd stopped doing anything that could have possibly made any noise because she knew she couldn't miss the next words to leave his lips. She'd never understood the expression to be hanging onto somebody's words before, but she really had been hanging onto his every word right then in that moment. She'd been hanging from them, dangling, about to fall, hoping beyond hope that his next words would somehow save her from plummeting into despair.

"Kagome, I'm not..." He's not what? Sorry for what they did? Able to see her any more? The man she'd thought he was? Sure what to do or where to go from here because he was just as fucked up in the head as she was?

Then when the rest of his words washed over her, it was like a soothing balm, a purifying rinse of holy water cleansing the blackness off her soul. He wasn't rejecting her...nothing else mattered. No matter what, they'd figure this out, together.

A huge, relieved sigh escaped her as a brilliant smile blossomed across her face, like a flower opening its petals at the feel of the sun. Then, the next thing Kagome knew, she was scooped up into his warm, inviting embrace, Inuyasha's feet having finally found the ability to move at her so obviously comforted reaction to his words. Realizing with finality that he'd said the right thing, feeling relieved himself when she hadn't started sobbing or reeking of guilt at his would-be reassurance, he'd immediately rushed her and picked her up from where she sat on the floor only to turn and plop himself down on the wooden floor himself with her in his lap, and there they sat, her in his arms, his voluminous sleeves draped across her tiny form as though to shield her from the outside world.

Kagome offered no resistance, resting her left cheek on his right shoulder while he tilted his head down and sideways, resting the right side of his head on top of hers, breathing deeply through his nose the scent of her happiness. They stayed like that for neither knew how long, until finally it was Kagome who broke the silence.

"I love you, too." she murmured quietly, and he chuckled a little, wrapping his arms around her just a tad bit tighter.

"I figured that part out..." he told her after a moment, his voice soft and gentle. "I just didn't know if it was a good thing or a bad thing."

His tone was relieved, indicating he was no longer that worried about it. In his mind, they'd find a way to make it work, no matter what. If she honestly couldn't stay with him in his world then he'd move with her into hers, end of discussion. Now that he knew both of their hearts wanted the same thing, he'd be damned if he let a little thing like them being from two different centuries get in the way. They loved each other; that was all there was to it.

Kagome pulled back the tiniest bit at his words, just enough to lift her head and peer up to meet his eyes though his arms remained wrapped around her.

"Why would it be a bad thing?" she asked, confused. She understood why she'd thought herself being in love with him was wrong, assuming his heart belonged to Kikyou, and in fact there was still a nasty little voice in the back of her head wanting to remind her that they hadn't discussed the undead miko yet, but ignoring Kikyou for that moment at least, then what could Inuyasha have possibly had to be worried about where her feelings were concerned? Unless...

"Because I...I figured you didn't want to love me, if you figured, you know, that it just wouldn't work between us in the long run." he managed to explain shyly.

The look in his eyes reflected the remnants of his concern in that regard, but also his resolve. After all, just because Kagome had been relieved to hear his love confession, indicating that her fear had been that he was about to deny his feelings or otherwise reject her, that still didn't explicitly state her intention to remain with him after their quest was over. What if she'd just gotten so caught up in her insecurities about Kikyou that their other issues had simply slipped her mind? But he was prepared for realization to dawn in her eyes, to tell her that he wouldn't take no for an answer.

Gazing up into his eyes in that moment, the hanyou waiting with baited breath for her reply, Kagome was reminded once again of Sango's words from back in the hot spring, the taijiya's belief of why else Inuyasha might have kept his feelings for her to himself if Kikyou were not the only reason.

"Because I'm from the future..." she stated in understanding then, but not with a tone that suggested she'd suddenly realized herself why it was truly an issue. Instead, her tone of voice implied only that she'd realized that that was his issue, until now; his reason for why he'd previously been worried up until that very moment. The fact that he was apparently no longer worried about it was also obvious to Kagome, and his composure in that moment was helping to keep her calm as well. She too believed that no matter what, they'd make it work.

"Yes, because you're from the future. Had you forgotten?" he asked in reply, his teasing tone of voice and eyes sparkling with amusement only further assuring the future-born miko that while it'd previously been a worry of his, it apparently no longer was.

"Baka..." she muttered playfully then, and he chuckled again, secretly relieved the final amount by the look of amusement in her own eyes. Whatever she was thinking, it clearly wasn't as big of an issue for her as he'd feared it was.

As if sensing his thoughts, Kagome got serious again in that moment, the look of amusement in her stormy blue-gray orbs replaced by one of love and reassurance.

"Inuyasha, there's no contest. Yes, I love my family and my world, but in a different way than the way I love you, and if I'd known you could have even possibly felt the same way I would've confessed my feelings long ago. While I'd like to be able to visit my family, if I can, my place is with you, if you'll have me."

Truly touched by what she said, Inuyasha didn't answer her with words of his own, instead immediately lowering his mouth to hers, speaking a different language that left no room for misunderstanding as she unhesitantly returned his kiss, her arms snaking up to wrap around his neck. Languidly, they reacquainted themselves with one another, relishing in the taste of each other, of the reassurance of whom they each held in their arms. When Inuyasha silently asked for entry, Kagome immediately granted him passage, opening her mouth to receive him, and as their tongues danced they each felt a spark of desire ignite from deep in their bellies.

The kiss became a little more heated, Inuyasha rumbling his approval deep in his chest as Kagome's right hand reached for and found his left ear, rubbing gently. His right hand found its way to the back of her head, delicately fisting her raven locks, but when he felt himself start to harden he forced himself to pull back, out of the kiss, lifting his head until her hand dropped away from his ear. Lowering his own hand back down to her side, he offered her a warm smile that assured her he wasn't rejecting her, but he simply felt that now was not the time or place, and she blushed a little, realizing he was right. They couldn't get carried away when they hadn't fully cleared the air yet.

Inuyasha's thoughts were running a mile a minute, but in a good way. If her being from the future hadn't been what'd been holding her back, then he knew what had. She'd said it herself, in a roundabout way, when she'd said she would've told him of her feelings if she'd known he felt the same way. That meant she'd previously thought that he hadn't felt the same way, and there was only one reason why that could be. They had to discuss it, now. Get it over with. Now was the perfect time, too, with him feeling so relaxed, the love of his life currently cuddled in his lap as she was. Leaning forward and resting his forehead against hers, then, Inuyasha was unable to wipe the grin off his face, even knowing what he was about to say. He couldn't help it; he'd never felt happier in his entire life than he did in that moment, and he knew his next words weren't about to ruin a damn thing.

"Just so you know, me 'n' Kikyou..."

She immediately stiffened at his words, like he'd expected her too, but he quickly plowed forward, saying what he knew she needed to hear.

"...it's the same, Kagome. I do still love her, in a way, but it's nothing compared to the way I...the way I love you."

He lifted his head away from hers to meet her eyes again, and her heart melted at the look of absolute love and devotion in his golden honey gaze, the absolute honesty she could hear in his voice.

She could also feel his erection from the way she was sitting in his lap, and it brought a darker splash of crimson to her cheeks, which had him chuckling again. He was half tempted to tell her how he'd never lusted for Kikyou the way he lusted for her, but figured that part could be left unsaid for the time being. Her proximity and the lingering scent of their joining was starting to make it hard for him to concentrate, but he knew he needed to think with his big head for the time being, and speak from the heart. The body was a part of it, sure, but their issues of the heart needed to get fully cleared up, first.

Then he could tell her how badly he wanted her.

"I don't know how long you think I knew her, but not counting the first few weeks I stalked her for the jewel, after we actually started talking I was only with her for a couple of months before it all went to shit. I've known you longer than I knew her, now, and over the last few months you've become way more important to me than she ever was, and while she's a real part of my past and somebody I can't abandon, I'd always wished that you could be my future. I hadn't known if you felt the same way or not, thinkin' that it didn't matter 'cause you'd planned on leaving me after we defeat Naraku either way, but so there it is. I hadn't said anything to you about my feelings 'cause I hadn't wanted to seem selfish, to force you to choose between me 'n' your family, so I was gonna let you leave since it'd seemed that's what you'd been plannin', but I hadn't wanted it. I wanted you. I want you. And I mean you, ain't a part of it."

Tears welled up in her eyes at his words, but one sniff assured Inuyasha they were happy tears.

"Oh, Inuyasha..." she said, reaching up and placing her right hand on his left cheek.

He closed his eyes at the feel of her touch, tilting his head ever so slightly to press his cheek against her palm.

He could sense her happiness, but also her confusion, the lingering questions she wanted to ask.

"Go ahead and ask whatever you want, Kagome. For once, I'm actually in a talkin' mood." he said with a chuckle, opening his eyes back up and lifting his face away from her hand.

She lowered her hand and lightly bit her bottom lip, giving the matter some serious thought.

"You said you weren't sure if I felt the same way or not, so does that mean you had thought it was possible? I just can't understand it, why you wouldn't say anything if you thought there was even a chance. Why let me go without a single word?"

It was truly perplexing to Kagome, because she would have said something to him had she known of his feelings. But she had an excuse for why she'd thought he didn't see her that way, namely Kikyou. What was his excuse? Just because she was from the future? Though, on the other hand, she supposed she could see his point of view. She would have to be absolutely head over heels in love with him in order to want to give up her family, her entire world just to be with him. Lucky for him, that was precisely how she felt. But the longer she thought about it in that moment, she supposed she could understand why he'd made the decision to not say anything, even believing it was possible she liked him like that. He'd explained that he'd thought it'd been her intention to leave in the end regardless of whatever her feelings might or might not have been, and if you loved something, set it free, right? Hadn't that been the philosophy she'd been living by, herself?

He sighed at her question, his eyes never losing their look of love.

"What was I supposed to think?" he explained, his tone gentle and not accusative. "All the time, you talk about your school, your tests. You've pretty much drilled it into me how important all that stuff is to you, how you have to keep your grades up otherwise it'll hurt your future, and I've made the craters to prove it." He chuckled lightly. "Why would I think you might've been thinking about stayin' here after all our shit's done with as often as you talk about needing to do your tests and crap?"

Kagome had the good grace to blush at his explanation, especially his dig about her use of the rosary. Mentally smacking herself on the forehead, she knew he was right, she had always talked about how important her schooling was, for her future. Her future in the future.

"The...the reason I always talked about all that, you're right...it was because I'd been planning on going back to my time for good when everything was said and done. But...but I hadn't been thinking only that I wished I could stay here with you but that I just couldn't 'cause I was from the future and it just wouldn't work, just wasn't meant to be. My family...my family would understand. Mama's actually talked about my destiny before, when I've been upset, when I've come home after we've had a fight. She knows how I feel, including that I thought you didn't love me in return, but she'd always say something to cheer me up about how whatever was meant to be, would be, and that the fates work in mysterious ways. I know if I told them I wanted to stay here with you, they would let me. They would miss me, and I'd miss them, for sure, but girls moving away from home to go live with their new husbands is how it was always done, and most of the time still is. Sure in my time most people still keep in touch with their daughters, even if they move far away, 'cause of things like telephones or the Internet, but my Jii-chan's nothing if not a stickler for tradition, and well, what's more traditional than the grown up daughter moving away to become part of her husband's family?"

Her blush got darker and darker the further along she got in her speech, especially when she said the word 'husband', but Kagome was bound and determined to make sure Inuyasha knew exactly how she felt about him.

"The real reason why I thought I had to keep my grades up, that when our mission was over I'd be returning to my world, was because I thought you...I thought you loved her. I didn't think staying here with you was even an option, 'cause I'd figured that after the quest was over you'd be with her, and why would I want to subject myself to witnessing that? So I was going to leave, yes, but that's why. Don't get me wrong. It's not like I thought you didn't care about me at all. I know we're friends, and that you would've missed me, but...but I just hadn't thought there was room for me in here..."

She reached up and placed her right hand on his chest, over his heart.

"I guess I was just jealous, and selfish, and even though I would've left without saying anything to hurt you, bowing out gracefully to let you have your own happily ever after, there's no way I could've stuck around to watch you be with her. I wanted your happiness more than anything, even if it wasn't with me, so I wouldn't have said a bunch of stuff to make you feel guilty, to throw my love in your face, but yeah, I was going to leave."

Closing his eyes as all she said sank in, a brief splash of pain washed over his face as he reached up and grasped her hand tightly with his own, pinning her hand to his chest as though afraid to let her go.

"Gods...Kagome...how we were about to fuck everything up." he said with a bitter laugh as he opened his eyes back up to meet her own.

She had the good grace to chuckle as well, silently admitting that their lack of communication was just as much her fault as it was his.

He gave her hand a squeeze, locking his eyes with hers.

"I knew Kikyou upset you, but I swear, I had no idea it was for that reason. I mean hell, I admit it, I was a total dick to you at first regarding Kikyou. I would've been pissed off too if say, you kept on saying how I wasn't as good as Sesshoumaru or something, like when I didn't know how to use Tessaiga at first. I remember what I used to tell you, and I didn't blame you for not liking it whenever I'd go see her or whenever she showed up and you had to deal with her presence. Her talking down to you herself like you were her 'copy' certainly didn't help matters..."

He sighed again, and then continued, shaking his head at himself.

"But damn it all, I'm an idiot, okay?"

The look in his eyes became apologetic, his tone of voice asking her to forgive him. He lifted her hand from his chest and unwrapped his other arm from around her body to reach over with his other hand, cupping her hand between both of his.

"I knew you might've kind of liked me, but I swear I just thought you needed to go back to your world at the end and that that was just that, and so you were tryin' to keep whatever feelings you might've had for me to yourself 'cause what would be the point in admitting it and breaking both our hearts, right? If I'd known you thought I still felt that way about Kikyou I would've made sure to set you straight, I swear. I care about her, yeah, but she's the one I just think of as a good friend now, Kagome. You got you two flipped in your head, how you thought I thought of you both. And before you even think to bring it up I'll tell you right now I ain't sacrificing myself for her when all this shit's said and done. Yes I do owe it to her to kill Naraku, to avenge her, and fuck it, if I die during our fight against Naraku then that's my penance, my death for failing to avenge her, at Naraku's hand, not hers. If she wants to drag my soul into Hell after that, who am I to stop her? I'd deserve it for fucking failing her. But she doesn't want to kill me herself, to drag me into Hell as punishment, like she wanted before. That was before she knew the truth, and she's told me straight that she doesn't want that any more, that the only reason she'd wanted that was 'cause she'd thought that was what it'd take to appease her soul, but now it ain't. Now that she knows it was Naraku, my death wouldn't bring her soul peace, anyway. She needs Naraku's death, and I'll give it to her, and then I'm free to live my life. She's told me so. I think...I think she knows I love you. Hell, Miroku and Sango know it, so I guess it was only your wrong ideas about Kikyou that kept you from seein' it, too."

It was Kagome's turn to pinch her eyes shut as a brief stab of pain washed over her, pain stemmed from guilt for ever having doubted him, especially after everything they'd shared over the last few days.

As if sensing her thoughts, or maybe it was just Murphy's Law giving Kagome's guilt a nice hard kick while it was down, Inuyasha questioned her in that moment with, "What I don't get, though, is why you were still so worried about it now, even after we...after all we shared. I knew...I knew this morning that you loved me, because you'd told me so already, and I knew you were telling the truth, it was obvious. So how could you have still doubted me when I already told you I loved you? You still thought I loved Kikyou? Even after telling you I loved you? Or...or was it 'cause you thought that regardless of me loving you instead of Kikyou I'd still be going with her to Hell, anyway? Was that it?"

He supposed that would make sense, since he'd thought that even though she loved him she was still going to leave him for her own world at the end. So if Kagome had somehow believed that he was definitely going with Kikyou to Hell at the end, then his feelings for her suddenly wouldn't matter, just like how he'd been worried that hers for him hadn't mattered. Duty was duty and all that, so maybe she'd been fearing just as he had been that he'd been about to tell her how, regardless of his love, it just couldn't work out between them.

Having opened her eyes for a moment to meet his gaze when he'd started his question, she flinched and looked away again as he finished, prying her hand out of his grasp. She almost started to move the rest of her body, as if wanting to get up from the way she was still sitting in his lap, but feeling the way her muscles flexed the tiniest bit he immediately wrapped his arms back around her, his grip tight enough to articulate his desire for her to stay right where she was. His body had calmed back down by then, sexually, their conversation turning into a bit of a mood kill, but Inuyasha still knew it needed to be said. It all needed to be said.

"Whatever it is, you can tell me. I promise I won't get angry, either. We need to get this shit out, Kagome, and now while the others are actually giving us this chance to talk without them butting in. I want us to start clean, and that means all our fucked up thoughts from before need to be exposed and put to rest. I told you why I was still worried, 'cause even knowing you really did love me, I hadn't known if you'd still been planning on leaving anyway, if you were about to cry and tell me how sorry you were but that we just couldn't be together because you'd be leaving at the end no matter what. That was why I was afraid of rejection, so why were you?"

His tone of voice became softer and more understanding as he continued, wanting Kagome to know that he'd really meant it when he'd promised he wouldn't get angry. He wasn't trying to accuse her of not trusting him, because her fear of rejection had been obvious. He just wanted to know why so that he could more properly put those fears to rest. He knew it had to be Kikyou related, somehow, but he wanted her to admit the details, to get it all out there so that there wouldn't be any lingering insecurities between them.

Kagome sighed and relaxed her posture some, knowing he was right, but still dreading what she was about to confess.

"I'm sorry in advance, and I don't doubt your feelings now, so please don't be hurt, but..." she started, somehow managing to meet his eyes. "When I first woke up, I...I did remember you telling me you loved me, and I did think those emotions were real..."

"But?" he prompted when she paused, and she sighed again, lowering her head a bit to stare at his chest.

"But I'd thought that maybe...maybe you just loved both of us, like I was the 'other woman', and that's why I thought you were going to reject me, 'cause I thought you being with me was a betrayal of Kikyou. Maybe you had plans to go to Hell with her in the end, or maybe you didn't; honestly, I'd been pretty sure all that Hell stuff was behind you two, 'cause just like you said, I knew she hadn't known the truth about Naraku back then. I'd been sincerely hoping that she no longer wanted to kill you, but so I'd thought...I'd thought that you two were going to live together after the mission was over. Maybe try to pick up where you'd left off before Naraku got in the way. And yeah, I'd thought before that maybe...maybe you really did like me, too, a little bit; I thought maybe...I used to fantasize that you were at least attracted to me physically, like I am to you, but I knew it wouldn't be right, and I knew I'd never try to seduce you, 'cause it wouldn't be fair, 'cause you loved Kikyou, or so I thought."

Inuyasha let her words roll around in his head for a minute. He could easily understand the concept of loving two women at once. After all, he was the result of his father's 'other woman', something his older half-brother would never let him forget for the rest of his life. And in a way it was true, he supposed, because in a way he did still love Kikyou, and he'd even admitted as much. The only difference was Kagome had apparently thought that Kikyou was number one in his life and that she was the lesser important of his two women, when in fact it was the opposite. Now, he'd never cheat on Kagome with Kikyou, physically; honestly, he'd never had much of a sexual desire for the undead miko, even back when she was alive. But aside from that minor detail he supposed it was true, in a way, that Kikyou was the 'other woman' of this equation. He wanted to be with Kagome, and in fact was with her most of the time, but then sometimes he'd go slink away and be with Kikyou instead, only it was just to talk, and maybe to remember the past. Was that still a betrayal in a way, a betrayal of Kagome? Not so long as he was honest about it, he supposed. And not so long as he wasn't regretting the past, wishing things could've been different in any way. The only thing he felt bad about was the way Kikyou's life had been cut short, but he was definitely relieved that he hadn't used the jewel to turn himself human, and he'd long ago come to grips with the fact that Kikyou wasn't as perfect as he'd once thought she was.

No, going and seeing Kikyou, that wasn't a betrayal of Kagome so long as he didn't rue his life with Kagome, so long as he didn't long to be with Kikyou instead, and he didn't. He only went to see the undead miko to be nice to her, and really, the real reason was because they were strategizing how to kill Naraku. Once Naraku was defeated his hope was that Kikyou could return to the land of the dead once and for all, but with her soul at peace, so that she could rest without torment, and he wouldn't regret her departure from his life at that time. Instead, now that it looked like he might actually have a real, bona fide future with Kagome to look forward to, that would be exactly what he'd be doing, looking forward to his future with Kagome.

"No need to apologize." he told Kagome then. "It makes sense. If you previously thought I loved Kikyou as much as you clearly thought I did, and then here I am saying those things to you, but with my memories of Kikyou obviously gone at the time, then I can get why you thought I just loved you both 'like that', and how I now regretted being with you if it was a betrayal to Kikyou. You were wrong..." he added with a chuckle, "but I can get why you thought it."

Kagome bit her lower lip, in a crazy way hating how he was being so understanding, because it just made her feel that much worse about what she still hadn't told him.

"Not just that..." she admitted then, earning a confused tilt of his head, the way a dog would do. She found it endearing.

"Kami...this is hard..." she grumbled, leaning forward and resting her face in the crook of his neck on his right, both hands fisting the front of his suikan, as if trying to hold onto him for dear life.

He stiffened a little at the move, nervous about her sudden nervousness, the spike of fear in her scent unsettling him even further. Just what was it she still wasn't telling him?

"I'm so sorry..." she started barely louder than a whisper, guilt pouring off of her in waves. "I'm sorry, and I don't feel this way anymore, obviously, but...but before you came in, when I was thinking about everything that'd happened between us versus what I thought I knew of your feelings for Kikyou, I...I'd also thought that maybe...that maybe it was possible you had been confusing the two of us. You know, 'cause I look like her."

He stiffened more at her words, but he remained quiet, allowing her to continue.

"I thought, you know, that me being familiar to you was crossing wires in your brain with the love you felt for Kikyou, and so when you saw my face, you associated my appearance with those feelings, and then because I was familiar to you, my scent, my uniform, you assumed those feelings of love were for me. And I wasn't angry with you, when I'd thought that that might've been what'd happened, 'cause obviously it wasn't your fault if it was. I actually felt sorry for you, and was just afraid that you were about to break my heart, having to explain it all to me, how you weren't yourself and never meant to hurt me but that there could be nothing between us. That was what was bothering me the most when you first came in here, why I was so afraid of you rejecting me. I'd figured the best case scenario was that you actually loved us both, and just gave into your desire to cheat on Kikyou with me because of the spell. Worst case, you'd confused me for her, and that thought was breaking my heart all by itself, both for myself and my unrequited love, and also from a place of sympathizing with you, with how guilty you must have felt, both to hurt me like that and also to betray Kikyou like that. I'd wanted to take your pain away most of all, and was going to try my best to forgive and forget, to not make you feel even worse than I'd thought you already did."

Finished, she breathed out slowly, keeping her face where his neck met his shoulder. She found comfort in the fact that he hadn't shoved her away yet, disgusted with her lack of faith in him, of how her explanation made it sound like she'd thought so little of him. Not that confusing her for Kikyou really could have been his fault in any way, if it really had happened, but more that she'd thought he would actually have the gumption to reject her afterwards, to expect her to be able to act as though it'd never happened. How much cruelty did she honestly think he was capable of? Of course, in reality, Kagome's imagination was just running away with her again, since that wasn't where his thoughts had taken him at all.

Inuyasha was frozen stiff, unable to move for the knife in his heart. He didn't need to understand the 'crossing wires' part of her statement for everything else she'd said to make perfect sense to him, and he felt horrible listening to her confession, his gut twisting up inside, although not for the reason she was expecting.

"Kami, Kagome..." he uttered after a moment, his voice cracking.

He breathed deeply through his nose to find his solace, the scent of their joining taking him back to that moment in his mind, and all the feelings he remembered feeling at that moment in time, when he'd known only his instincts.

"You ain't got nothin' to feel sorry for, since it's my stupid ass that filled your head with those doubts in the first place." he told her then. "Looking back on the way I used to insult you, comparing you to her, and adding in that you thought I loved her? That makes all those insults so much worse. Fuck...I've been breaking your heart for months and never knew it. I ain't gonna lie about your physical resemblance to her, 'cause that'd just be stupid. You do have her face, but you know what? I don't fucking care, because I'm half inu, Kagome, and it's scent that matters most to me. Back then, when I didn't know shit about who the fuck I was, or who you were, I was functioning purely on instinct, yeah, but there ain't no way in Hell I confused any supposed love for Kikyou and thought it was you 'cause it wasn't your face that I 'associated' those feelings with, it was your scent."

He emphasized his point by making a deliberate show of sniffing her hair, before gently forcing her face away from the crook of his neck only so that he could bury his face in the crook of hers, on her left. Sticking out his tongue, he licked the faint, healing bruise that was the hickey he'd given her during their night together, and he chuckled a little when she shivered at the sensation.

"Those feelings I had for you while we were under the spell, those are the feelings I have for you, and they're all for you, Kagome..." he rumbled, nipping the skin of her neck very delicately, careful not to cause injury. He then pulled back, meeting her eyes again.

"I'm sorry..." she repeated anyway, even though he'd accepted the blame himself. "I guess my mind just ran away with me when I woke up and you weren't here. I'd figured, if you really had loved me then you would've been here to tell me that first thing. You should've realized I'd misunderstand when I woke up to find you gone." she playfully accused, laughing a little at her own foolishness. "The fact that you were gone, I'd figured it meant that you'd needed time to yourself, time to think...and that could only mean you'd needed time to think of how to put me down gently without hurting my feelings too badly."

He sighed, and laughed a little at his own foolishness, too.

"Truth is, I was right here beside you until you started to wake up. I'd been awake for a while already, woke when the others got up and left, but I didn't let them know that and I stayed put, my mind making me crazy. There were a million things I wanted to tell you, but at the same time, because of my own fears, I was afraid of facing your rejection, and so when you started to wake my fear won out and I bolted. I didn't mean to make you worry, and I'd actually realized my absence had made things worse, when I smelled your tears, which was what finally forced me to get over myself and come back in here to see you."

She smiled a little at that, to realize that he hadn't actually walked out with the others after all, but had instead chosen to stay lying beside her, intending on being there for her when she woke up until his own fear had caused him to runaway at the last second. That was a hell of a lot better in her book than him making the knowing decision to leave her be while he went to deal with his own thoughts.

Inuyasha pulled Kagome from her musings as he leaned forward and captured her lips in a brief, chaste kiss. Earning her full attention, he affectionately rubbed the backside of his right index finger along her left cheek before lowering his hand, the look in his eyes determined.

"Hell, Kagome, trying to figure out how to let you down easy was not eventhe last thought on my mind, it wasn't on my mind at all.I've wanted you so badly, for so long... If you actually, really can and will stay with me after we defeat Naraku and get rid of the damn jewel that'll make me the happiest hanyou on the planet. No, you know what? Fuck that. Already just being your friend made me the happiest hanyou, I'm sure, by a long shot. If you are actually willing to be more than my friend, to be my wife? That'll make me the happiest man, and if for some reason your family does give you grief about staying here don't sweat it, 'cause the reason it'd no longer bothered me as much after realizing it hadn't been your concern was 'cause I'd already made the decision that if you can't stay here, I'll move there. I don't give a fuck how different it is, or how weird, or even if I have to go to that school place myself and worry about my own damn tests. I'll figure it out; I'll learn whatever you tell me I need to learn to be able to get by in your world. And if you can and do stay here? I'll protect and take care of you, forever. We can stay right here in the village, where they actually tolerate me. Sure, some people might not be too keen on the idea of a miko and hanyou together, but fuck 'em. Kaede-babaa would keep 'em from throwing us out. We could have our house built just within the forest border, on the other side of the shrine. That should be far enough away from the main part of the village that we wouldn't bother anyone else."

"You've...you've really thought about this..." Kagome commented, eyes opened wide in astonishment.

He chuckled again.

"It was all just a dream, before now. Sure, I'd thought about it, but never like I thought it could really happen."

"This is a bit like a dream come true, isn't it?" she agreed, reaching up with her right hand to rub his left ear again.

He tilted his head into her touch, his eyes closing in bliss, but when he felt something stirring in his loins he snapped his eyes back open and tilted his head out of her reach.

"S-sorry, uh..." he stuttered, blushing. It didn't help when Kagome giggled as she pulled her hand back.

"Looks like I know a secret about inu-youkai physiology." she teased, and his blush darkened as she wiggled her bottom some in his lap, making it obvious to the hanyou that she knew his erection was back with a vengeance.

"Kn-nock that off, Wench." he finished with a teasing glint to his own voice.

She gasped and frowned playfully, slapping his chest with faux annoyance at the nickname.

"Baka ..." she stressed, earning a laugh from the hanyou that had her smiling.

She was so happy that he was so happy.

Hell, she was so happy that she was so happy.

He was right; oh how the two of them had nearly fucked everything up... But there was no point in dwelling on any of that any longer. They'd cleared the air, realizing how much of a baka they'd both been, and now it was time to look towards the future.

Their future.

Without warning, Kagome tilted her head up and slammed her lips back against his own, her hands fisting his silvery locks.

Inuyasha was surprised for all of two seconds before his body kicked into gear and he reciprocated by returning her kiss with passion, his left hand pressed firmly against the small of her back while his right climbed higher until it was cupping the back of her head. Unhurriedly, he allowed their lips and tongues to duel, a burst of pride and love coming over him at the way not one single speck of nervousness appeared in Kagome's scent when she began exploring his fangs. In fact, it was the scent of her arousal that increased as she traced their length with her tongue before gently nipping his bottom lip with her own teeth. A brazen move that was making it hard for him to remember why they needed to cool it before things got any more heated.

After all, just because everyone knew they'd already slept together, it wasn't like he wanted any of their friends to actually walk in on them.

"K-Kagome..." he managed to rasp, sucking in a deep breath once she freed his mouth because he'd stopped breathing through his nose for fear that her delicious aroma would cast a blanket of poor judgment over his mind.

He cleared his throat, meeting her eyes with a sheepish, embarrassed grin.

"Kagome, kami how I want you, but I don't think now's a good time."

She blushed terribly at his words, realizing yet again that he was right. She hadn't felt shy at the time, having been attracted to him and having fantasized about him 'like that' for as long as she had, not to mention the fact that they'd already slept together now, thanks to that tengu's spell. And she did want to thank that tengu for his spell, because those were memories she certainly did not regret having. But even though they'd pretty much cleared the air now and wiped the slate clean, and were in an official relationship now as far as she could tell, that still didn't mean they should just up and do the nasty in Kaede's hut.

"You're right, I'm sorry." she replied then, her tone more whimsical than truly remorseful. "We'll have to figure something out, though, 'cause there's no way I want our one night together to remain our one night together." she added boldly, shooting him a heated look.

He chuckled once; it sounded more like a snort.

"Hell, Woman, I don't think I could resist you now even if I tried." he admitted, waggling his eyebrows, which earned a pleasant giggle from the miko. "I'm glad we're on the same page, if that's how you use that expression, 'cause I definitely don't want to put our relationship off until after we kill Naraku."

Kagome nodded her agreement. "Yup, you got the expression right, and we're definitely on the same page, 'cause I don't want to wait, either." Thinking about something for a moment, Kagome asked with genuine concern, "It won't screw anything up between you and Kikyou, will it? I mean, will she be angry with you? I believe you, where your heart lies, but what about hers?"

He could tell she was speaking from a place of genuine concern for the undead miko, and that thought just reminded him all the more of why he loved her.

"Honestly? I don't know. It'll probably be bittersweet for her. I think a part of her wants to see me happy, the part that loved me from before, but even though she's promised she won't act on it a large part of her also still hates me, because of the feelings of hatred she'd died with, and those emotions are frozen within her. She'll probably be jealous, but not because she honestly thinks there could've ever been a chance for her and me now, with her as she is. She's jealous of you period, for the fact that you're alive, so you winning my love? That'll just be another thing added to the list in her mind of how life is unfair. There's not that much we can really do about it, though, except try to understand things from her point of view. She's a ghost, in a way, and in most ways there's just no reasoning with ghosts. She's driven mostly to kill Naraku, though, so let's just focus on that. I'd rather not flaunt our relationship in her face, but I won't lie to her either, Kagome. If she asks, I'll tell her the truth."

"And if she suddenly demands to take you into Hell with her, after all?" she asked, her tone more curious than genuinely worried.

He shook his head.

"She's already released me from any supposed vow I made in that regard, saying she no longer wants my death and will not be dragging me into Hell. If she changes her mind because she thinks I scorned her that wouldn't matter, it wouldn't count; I'm not going anywhere."

Kagome offered him a tender smile at his words.

"Still, now that I know how you really feel, you can go and talk with her whenever she comes around, and I won't give you any grief about it. I used to worry in the beginning that she'd pull something, try to kill you like she tried before, but I know she's not like that now."

It was his turn to smile at her words.

"So then I guess the only thing left to do now is tell my family." she added suddenly, wiping the smile from his face as his eyes reflected his sudden nervousness, a 'deer in the headlights' look coming over him like any adolescent boy might get at the thought of telling his girlfriend's family about them.

Kagome giggled again.

"Mama loves you, relax." she assured, adding, "I can't really afford to keep it from her, anyway, 'cause in my time I'm still too young to get a birth control prescription by myself, and I definitely think me going on the pill, as uncommon as that is compared to just using condoms, is definitely the better decision in this case."

He just kind of blinked at her at that one, trying to wrap his mind around her foreign words. Even though he had no idea what a prescription was, or a pill, or condoms, the term 'birth control' seemed fairly self explanatory.

"They have something in your time that controls birth?" he asked, clarifying, "You mean like herbs that get rid of pregnancies, right?" He wanted to make sure they were still on the 'same page', using the expression he'd picked up from Kagome over their time together. They had such herbs in his time, too, although he could easily concede that the ones from her world were probably better.

"Not to get rid of pregnancies, although we have that, too." she explained then. "My time actually has a medicine that successfully prevents pregnancy in the first place. Even though now's not the time to have a baby, I...I don't think I'd have the heart to get rid of one if I did end up pregnant. I guess first I'll have to make sure I'm not already pregnant from our night together. If I am we'll figure something out."

"You're not, so don't worry." he stated before blushing darkly at the curious look she gave him. "Er...I..." He cleared his throat. "I know your cycle." he decided for.

It was her turn to blush again.

"Oh." she managed to squeak, before clearing her own throat. "Well good, I guess. One less worry, at least. I mean don't get me wrong-" she started, only to get interrupted.

"I get it. Now's totally not the right time to bring a brat into the world. I'd thought that before, that...that night. If you...if you'd been, ya know, ready, well...it would've been the hardest thing I'd ever had to do, but I wouldn't've let us..."

"Have sex..." she provided oh-so helpfully when he paused, chuckling at the way he glanced away with crimson cheeks.

"Er, yeah, that."

He closed his eyes, mentally berating himself for suddenly still acting like a skittish virgin when he was no longer one, and the woman he'd lost his virginity to was presently still sitting snuggled in his lap, his erection pressed against her bottom through their layers of clothing.

"Fuck it. I can tell by scent when you're fertile, and if you had been that night then I wouldn't have let us have sex. There."

He glanced back her way and nodded, proud of himself for spitting it out.

She offered him a warm, understanding smile, before quickly reaching up and tweaking his ear.

He chuckled a little, before something suddenly occurred to him. Realizing what they were actually discussing, what they'd both actually said, he asked, "But...but later, after we kill Naraku and get rid of the jewel...you'd really...?"

He couldn't finish what he wanted to clarify, but he didn't have to.

"I said I wanted to be your wife, didn't I? What all do you think that entails?" Her voice and eyes were both full of so much love in that moment that it would've knocked him on his ass if he weren't already sitting.

"You really mean that..." he stated almost in awe, although it wasn't voiced like a question. Kagome could understand why the concept was so astonishing to him.

He stared into her eyes for a moment, his lips curving up into a huge grin that revealed his fangs, and then the look of awestruck love in his golden orbs shifted into something a tad more playful.

"Even with the ears?" he asked, a teasing edge to his voice.

She smirked.

"Oh especially with the ears." she replied knowingly, reaching up with both hands to rub the base of both of his ears.

Inuyasha rumbled deep in his chest, his eyes closing in bliss. Even though it was sexually stimulating, and was making his 'problem' down below even more noticeable, to the both of them, neither hanyou nor miko wanted to stop what they were doing...until an unexpected and unwanted moan that sounded suspiciously like a whimper escaped his throat against his will.

Embarrassed, he quickly reached up with both hands and lifted Kagome's away from his ears, grumbling out a humiliated sounding "'Nuff of that." as he released her hands

Kagome quirked a brow at him.

"Inuyasha...were you..."

She paused, unsure if she was right and even more unsure if she should voice it. Perhaps it was just his developing case of blue balls that was bothering him, and granted, she really should stop the teasing, she knew, since they couldn't do anything about it for the time being.

Unless I can get him to sneak off into the woods ... a wicked part of her mind provided, the miko chuckling inwardly at the perverted thought. She just might have to take the naughty part of her mind up on that idea.

But dragging her thoughts back on track for the time being, it hadn't seemed to her in that moment as if he'd merely whimpered in his version of a moan before then wanting her to stop her ear torture simply because of the way it was torturing him. Instead, it was actually almost as if...

"Were you just...just embarrassed because you whimpered like that?" she decided to ask, immediately realizing she was right by the way he looked away and lowered his ears to his head, clearly even more embarrassed that she'd called him on it. If she'd been wrong then he would've had a completely different reaction to her question, she was sure. Her intention was not to poke fun at him. "You know you don't have to feel self-conscious about any of your inu-youkai traits around me, don't you? Hell, what about you rumbling that happy growl-like sound you were also making? That's canine, too, you know. And you always growl whenever an enemy shows up, or Kouga-kun..."

She did have a point, saying that last part on purpose in order to prove said point with the way Inuyasha automatically growled at the sound of that name. He turned back her way and glared, but she raised a hand up as he opened his mouth, stopping whatever remark he was about to grumble out.

"Don't worry, the next time he shows up I'll proudly let you tell him how I'm your woman. But as your woman, I want to make sure you know that that means you can be yourself with me, at all times."

His eyes opened a little bit wider at her words, suddenly wondering if she meant what he thought she meant by the way she'd emphasized certain parts.

"You...you mean, even during..."

"At all times." Kagome stressed again. "You wanna mount me from behind? I don't have a problem with that." she teased, winking as she told him, "In my time they call that position 'doggie style'."

He barked out a laugh at that one, and in a way it did kind of sound like an actual bark. As he thought about it, though, the idea of taking Kagome from behind like that...

"You need to get out of my lap, Woman, before I take you up on that offer right now."

She laughed but also complied, crawling out of his lap to sit on the floor beside him. Sobering a little, she sighed and said, "Much as I'd like to go run off with you somewhere where you can make good on that threat, I think in reality we need to wait until after I can start taking the pill, just to be on the safe side."

He smirked a little just at her admission of a part of her wanting to sneak off like that. What a little vixen, his secret hentai Kagome. Although he did agree that now was definitely not the right time to bring a baby into the mix, and even though he could scent when she was fertile he'd be the first to admit that he didn't know that much about biology, like how long his seed could live inside her body, plus there was the fact that her cycle wasn't always completely on schedule. Her fertility might sneak up on him one month, and then what? Pray that the last time they'd slept together was long enough ago that his seed had died before her body became ready to accept it? No, going by scent alone wasn't a fool proof method of avoiding pregnancy in the grand scheme of things, he knew, and therefore it was far too risky as far as he was concerned, especially considering what all was at stake. If she actually had some kind of super powerful herbs in her century that she could take that would prevent her from getting pregnant then he'd wait until after she got those herbs. It wouldn't be a pleasant wait, but he'd wait nonetheless.

As if sensing where his thoughts had finished off, probably from reading the splash of discomfort that had passed over his face, Kagome leaned up against him and gave him a peck on the cheek.

"Of course, there are other things we can do in the meantime." she stated with a sultry edge to her voice, before leaning in again and licking his cheek that time.

He floundered while she giggled, coughing a little in his shock over her boldness. It would've been a spit-take reaction had he been drinking anything.

With crimson cheeks, he darted his eyes her way for a second before looking away again. There were still some topics he found it hard to discuss.

"G-gland to know t-that it didn't bother you." he mumbled shyly, his face disappearing into the red of his suikan.

It was then Kagome's turn to cock her head to the side in confusion, wondering if they were somehow talking about two different things because his reaction just didn't make any sense to her.

"Why would it have bothered me?" she asked, perplexed, even if she was a little embarrassed herself to be discussing such a...personal...thing. Trying to keep a brave face and not appear too embarrassed she boldly added, "I certainly didn't have any complaints."

He fidgeted, adjusted the way he was sitting slightly, and she figured their present topic was probably not making his 'situation' any better. She was just about to drop it and change the subject when he spoke back up again.

"Guess you weren't kidding." he mumbled shyly, offering her a hesitant smile.

Okay, now I really am confused ...

She couldn't help asking.

"Kidding about what?"

He fidgeted in his seat some more, glancing her way a few more times in between looking in the other direction, as if he wanted to look her way but was somehow afraid to at the same time.

"About...you know...you being okay with my inu half, at 'all' times." he tried to emphasize.

Kagome furrowed her brow, really starting to wonder if they were talking about the same thing or not, although even with all her brazen teasing she was nowhere near bold enough to just come right out and say it.

"Are we both talking about the same thing?" she asked him then, her tone of voice slightly confused, slightly amused. "Because I'm talking about how you...I mean...you know...kami don't make me say it!" she finished with a laugh, crimson staining her own cheeks.

His blush only darkened as well.

"We better be talking about the same thing." he stated, his tone suggesting that he'd be pissed off, even if just at himself, if he'd gotten all embarrassed for no reason because his stupid mind had wandered off into hentai land while hers hadn't. He didn't think so, though, with as forward as her words had sounded. "You said we could do 'other' things in the meantime, since we can't really be together again until you get those herbs. So I figured you meant...you know...and then you licked my cheek, so..."

That sealed it for Kagome.

Although thankfully her confusion, a different variety this time, kicked in to override her own embarrassment in that moment. They had nearly lost out on the chance of ever being together at all because they'd both been so caught up in jumping to their own conclusions about this or that that they'd never sat down and actually talked with one another about how they really felt, and she was bound and determined to never make that mistake again.

Even when the conversation was embarrassing as hell.

"But what does that have to do with your inu half?"

That got Inuyasha to look her way again, his own eyes reflecting confusion that time. Could she honestly not put two and two together?

"Uh...because it was because of my inu half that I..."

He paused when understanding dawned in Kagome's eyes, grateful for the fact that she'd finally caught on because he really hadn't wanted to spell it out any more than that.

Smiling with a look in her eyes that was a combination of amused and sympathetic, Kagome reached forward and rested her hand on Inuyasha's shoulder, giving a reassuring squeeze.

"Maybe it really was your canine instincts that drove you. Thinking about it, I don't know how you could have acquired very much knowledge on the subject otherwise, unless you're a peeping tom..." she teased, offering him a playful wink at his indignant look at her suggestion that he would dare peep like the bouzu did. "But Inuyasha...that was a perfectly human thing you did, what we did. Everything we did, what you did with me...there was nothing exclusively canine about it. Trust me, in my time, knowledge about anything and everything sexual is pretty much everywhere. There's so much hentai stuff around that probably even Miroku-sama could get his fill and be bored of it..."

Inuyasha laughed quietly at that.

"But so trust me..." she continued. "Even if you...even if the canine part of you enjoyed that, in a canine way, then no that doesn't bother me because human men, they do what you did, too. And this isn't all one sided, either, you know. If you wanted to fool around over the next couple of months while we're waiting for my pills to kick in, I'll gladlyreturn the favor."

That did it.

Bolting to his feet, Inuyasha looked Kagome's way and muttered, "Uh...I uh...I'll be right back."

He made it two steps towards the door before her voice rang out teasingly with, "Want me to help?"

And that was how Kagome suddenly found herself flung over his back, racing through the trees. She didn't mind it, though. They were together now, engaged to wed as far as she was concerned, and so there was nothing wrong with them disappearing into the woods from time to time for some 'private' time. He was so far gone, though, that she didn't get a chance to demonstrate her modern day knowledge of the act that was the counterpart to what he'd done for her during their night together. She barely wrapped her fingers around him when he lost it, spilling himself on the forest floor, although the miko took it as a tremendous compliment and still told Inuyasha that some other time, when they had the time, she'd still gladly perform that other act, an act that Inuyasha had actually already known existed from overhearing men traveling through the woods talking about it, hence why the mental image of Kagome performing such an act on him had had him on the verge of messing his pants. Why he'd automatically associated himself pleasuring her in such a way as a 'dog' thing when he knew women could do that for men he wasn't quite sure, but like Kagome had even said, maybe he really had been driven to do so by his canine instincts at that moment in time, but even if that were the case she simply didn't care. The actual act itself wasn't disgusting to her, which was his main concern, and so then nothing else really mattered; apparently that was one thing dogs and humans simply had in common.

Apologizing sheepishly for their impromptu rendezvous as he refastened his hakama, Inuyasha promised Kagome that he'd even the score later, and she laughed it off, assuring him she wasn't worried about it as they made the quick journey back to Kaede's. They still had the hut all to themselves, having only been gone for a few minutes, and so they spent the next several minutes discussing the few remaining things they still needed to talk about, including the details of how Kagome's birth control pills actually worked, and how long they'd have to wait before feeling confident that the medicine had had enough time to take effect. Inuyasha still felt hesitant to face Kagome's family about their newfound level of closeness, but she won him over in the end the same way women had been getting men to do whatever they wanted for generations, with the lure and appeal of sex. No pills equaled no more sex, even though she would be willing to do those 'other' things, but even so Inuyasha knew that he'd only be able to take it for so long before he'd want to be rejoined with her all the way, and so that meant facing her family, end of discussion. First, though, they had to face their friends.

Heading out of Kaede's hut, then, walking side by side though not holding hands because such a ballsy public display of affection wasn't as socially acceptable in his time period as it was in hers, it didn't take Inuyasha long to find the others. Kaede was doing her rounds in the village, but Sango, Miroku and Shippou were all together, hanging out near the edge of one of the fields. Sango was going through a few kata motions with her sword, the taijiya always wanting to keep her face-to-face combat skills sharp because relying too heavily on Hiraikotsu could prove fatal. Nearby, Miroku sat underneath the shade of a small tree, a stack of blank ofuda pages beside him on one side, finished ofuda drying on the other, and an ink brush in hand as he worked on his current one. A stop at Kaede's village was the perfect opportunity to replenish his various ofuda, since the elderly miko always kept a supply of sutra papers on hand, even more so now that she knew he would repeatedly be in need of them.

Shippou was playing with Kirara in the field near Sango, and was the first one to notice the couple's arrival.

"It's them!" he said excitedly, immediately earning Sango and Miroku's attention as the two humans looked up to smile at the way Kagome and Inuyasha were both smiling as they approached.

"Well good morning, you two." Miroku greeted, setting his wet ofuda down carefully to dry before picking up the already dry ones and rising to his feet, tucking the finished ofuda into his robes.

"I would ask what's for breakfast, but I bet it's almost time for lunch." Kagome stated with a nervous chuckle, tiptoeing around the subject at hand.

"Sorry, Kagome-chan," Sango explained as she approached, sheathing her sword. "Kaede-sama had said it would be best to let you two sleep as long as you needed, so we didn't want to risk disturbing you with the sounds and smells of cooking; we all ate at the village headman's."

"He was told only that you two needed to sleep undisturbed to fully recover from a magically based youkai attack. Kaede-sama allowed him to assume the tengu's spell merely depleted your own spiritual energies." Miroku added, since it was obvious the headman would have had to have been told something to explain their arrival, and the hanyou and miko's noticeable absence.

Kagome nodded at the monk's explanation, relieved that there wouldn't be any rumors spreading among the locals, not to mention her relief that Miroku seemed to be acting so maturely for the time being. Of course, if he knew about her and Inuyasha's little trip into the forest before coming to greet them he'd never let them live it down, she was sure. Miroku was Miroku, no matter how long he managed to stay on his 'best behavior' for their sake.

Sango-chan must have threatened him... she thought, amused. Pervert or no she'd gotten used to him; he was her friend, and their friends deserved to know the truth.

Just not the 'juicy' details.

Kagome and Inuyasha shared a look, the expression in the hanyou's eyes confirming he felt the same way. Then he nodded once, and she nodded as well, letting him know that she understood.

"Keh, may as well get this over with, since I know you guys gotta be wondering." he stated then, addressing their friends. "Especially you..." he added with a glare in Miroku's direction, to which the monk put on his best 'Who, me?' mask of innocence.

Inuyasha snorted once, shaking his head, then glancing back Kagome's way, he offered her a warm smile as she turned her head and smiled his way in return. Glancing around first to make sure none of the farmers working nearby were paying them that much attention, Kagome then stuck out her hand in Inuyasha's direction in offering, and since he also knew nobody was looking Inuyasha grinned at the future-born miko before voluntarily taking her hand in his and giving it a little squeeze, nobody but their friends bearing witness.

Holding Kagome's right hand in his left, Inuyasha turned back to look at the relieved faces of Sango, Miroku and Shippou, and nodded, stating, "We got our shit worked out, and just so you guys know for sure, so there ain't no guessing, Kagome 'n' me, we're together now, and we're gonna stay together after we kill that bastard Naraku."

Sango's eyes met Kagome's at Inuyasha's words, and the miko nodded happily at the congratulatory look the taijiya sent her way, Sango of course having known how badly Kagome had longed for this, what she'd previously deemed to be a nearly impossible fantasy.

"I'm so happy for you both." the taijiya stated, nodding her approval.

"'Bout time!" Shippou piped up, earning a chuckle from everyone present.

Miroku opened his mouth to say something, a twinkle in his eye, but Inuyasha cut him off, releasing Kagome's hand to cross his arms within his sleeves.

"No lecherous thoughts, Bouzu, but if you've got something serious to say, then go ahead."

Miroku closed his mouth for a moment, sighed, chuckled, then shook his head with an amused expression and said, "My friend, you know me too well, and yet not well at all if you think I can actually refrain from having such thoughts."

Inuyasha narrowed his eyes, and Miroku chuckled again, ignoring Sango's heated glare as he added, "However, while I can guarantee you that my mind will continue to function how you already know it does, I also promise to show you respect by at least attempting to restrain my words, so as the lovely Sango already so eloquently stated, I am truly happy for the both of you."

Inuyasha nodded his approval, then, and Kagome offered the monk a warm smile. She was about to reach over and squeeze Inuyasha's upper arm affectionately before pausing as a few farmers approached, and the locals bowed a polite greeting as they passed, none the wiser. They would find out about the pair's union eventually, as nobody really had any intention of trying to keep it a secret, but for that moment at least Kagome didn't want to have to deal with word spreading like wildfire, which it inevitably would when they did find out.

"I can take a joke, Miroku-sama," the miko stated then, her focus back on the conversation at hand, "but sometimes you go too far, and I won't hold Inuyasha back if you push him too far. Just remember that."

The monk nodded in understanding, and rubbed the back of his head, as if remembering past occurrences when he had indeed pushed the hanyou too far.

"All kidding aside, Kagome-sama," he stated then, "it is my true belief that the kami intended for you two to be together, and you will find no disapproval of your union from me, nor dare I say Kaede-sama, either, although she has not yet been made aware of what all truly transpired between you two during your adventure."

Feh, ain't none of her damn business, neither... Inuyasha thought, although he held his tongue. He supposed the elderly miko did have a right to know, the longer he thought about it. They were staying under her roof whenever they stopped at her village, after all, and so she didn't deserve to be deceived over something like that. He and Kagome were going to have a sexually active relationship, and she needed to be okay with that, or they needed to find a new place to stay.

"We'll talk to Kaede." the hanyou stated then, his lack of a disrespectful suffix added to her name translating into the most respect the others had ever heard him give the elderly miko.

Kagome offered him a warm smile, and then told the others how they could go back to what they'd been doing, because she and Inuyasha needed to go ahead and find and speak with Kaede and then head back through the well for the time being. Besides needing to speak with her family about this newest development, Kagome was due for a return trip home, anyway. They were running very low on some supplies, they were completely out of ramen, and she really needed to check in with her school, too.

Another thing she and Inuyasha had discussed briefly before heading out to find their friends was her need to continue her schooling, even though she did now plan on living with him in his time once everything was said and done. It was a matter of honor, for her family's sake, that she complete her education with at least relatively good grades, and when put that way Inuyasha didn't have a problem with it. Doing something for her family's honor, so that her world would not view her as a disgrace and a failure, how could he fault her for that? So for the time being at least, while they were still hunting Naraku and Kagome was still going back and forth between worlds, he would also allow her to continue going to school. If after they defeated Naraku and purified the jewel the well suddenly stopped working then Kagome wouldn't beat herself up over something she couldn't change, in that regard, but until that happened she'd work under the impression that she could actually finish and graduate. Neither of them were worried about the possibility of the well separating them from each other once everything was said and done; they also now believed that they were meant to be together, and so they both fully believed that the kami would arrange it so that they could be together. Either the well would keep working, which would be awesome because then Kagome could continue to visit with her family on occasion, or it would not allow either of them passage at all. It would not let her pass but then lock Inuyasha out, while trapping her in the future; they could feel it. Even when he'd thought that Kagome was going to return to her own time after the mission was over he hadn't really thought that the well would seal up. He'd thought only that she was going to say her goodbyes, closing that chapter of her life. He'd actually thought that it was possible she might've come back for a visit every now and again, but having also thought that she'd most likely thought of him only as a friend and that there could be nothing romantic between them, he'd figured it would only be a matter of time before she started dating men in her own time. She would've moved on, wanting a normal life, and going back in time certainly wasn't normal and so she would've simply stopped doing it.

Or so he'd once very stupidly thought.

Saying a quick farewell-for-the-time-being to their friends, with the promise that they'd be back in a few days, Kagome and Inuyasha then headed out in search of Kaede, whom they found a short time later walking a path between houses, basket of medicinal herbs in hand.

The elderly miko smiled knowingly as she saw the two approach.

She didn't need to know the details of whatever had transpired during their time alone together to know that something obviously had. If not for the way the hanyou and miko had held hands briefly in a moment of shared relief and victory upon learning from her the night before that she could in fact reverse the spell, then the way Inuyasha had repositioned his body after they'd gone to bed to sleep cuddled up in a semi-spooning embrace behind Kagome had sealed the deal.

She would admit, though, to being curious to hear what the couple had to say in that moment, as they drew nearer. It was clearly going to be good news, from the happy expressions they both wore, and for that she was grateful, feeling that Inuyasha especially definitely deserved happiness for all the suffering he had previously been forced to endure. Kagome was his godsend, their meeting designed by the kami; of that Kaede had absolutely no doubt.

"Glad to see you two up and about." she greeted then, adjusting the basket she carried. "No lingering ill effects from the tea, I trust?"

"No, Kaede-obaa-chan," Kagome assured, "I did feel a little sick when I first woke up, but it went away quickly."

Inuyasha nodded his agreement.

"Good, good..." the elderly miko answered, adding, "Usually, the longer a person has been under the influence of a memory blocker, the worse they feel upon having the spell removed, so you two were fortunate it had only been a few days."

"A lot can happen in just a few days." Inuyasha mumbled under his breath, although Kaede heard him. She gave the hanyou a knowing smile.

"Indeed it can." she agreed. "Was there something specific you had in mind?"

Kagome sighed, but it was actually more of a whimsical, happy sigh, a twinkle of merriment in her eyes as she decided not to keep the elderly miko waiting any longer.

"Inuyasha and I, we ended up, um...confessing our feelings for each other, while under the influence of that spell." she decided upon tactfully, knowing Kaede was old and wise enough to fill in the blanks with a grandmotherly smile, never longing to know the details like some of their friends would undoubtedly try to pester Inuyasha about whenever he thought he could get away with it. That was a worry for another day, however, as Kagome continued her explanation in that moment.

"We'd each had reasons for why we'd previously thought our feelings had been one-sided, but now that we know the truth..." She paused, turning her head to glance Inuyasha's way with a smile.

He grinned her way in return and nodded, before looking back at Kaede.

"Keh, Kagome 'n' me are together now, Kaede, and I really hope you don't got a problem with that, 'cause it ain't gonna change if you do."

Much to the couple's delight, Kaede offered them both a warm, congratulatory smile at Inuyasha's words, before stating, "Quite the contrary, Inuyasha, I find myself believing that perhaps that tengu's memory blocker had been destiny's plot at work. Perhaps this was the kami's way of finally getting you two to see the feelings that even this half blind miko could see."

Her one good eye twinkled with mirth as hanyou and future-born miko both blushed mildly at her teasing.

"Be happy, you two," she continued then, "you deserve it, and you will get no ill wishes from me."

"Thank you, Kaede-obaa-chan." Kagome stated with a little bow of gratitude, before adding, "Inuyasha and I are going to head back to my world for a few days, now; we've already spoken with the others."

Kaede nodded her understanding.

"Then take care, you two. I will see you upon your return to this land."

With that, the elderly miko began heading to the villager's house she had been on her way to before stopping to speak with the pair. Inuyasha offered her a small nod of thanks before heading with Kagome towards the well. When they reached it, he paused and breathed deeply a few times, trying to calm his nerves.

"We don't have to tell Mama anything about the tengu's memory blocking spell, if you don't want to." Kagome offered. "We could just tell her that we've come to realize our feelings for each other, that we told each other how we feel."

"Won't she be curious how it happened all of a sudden like that?"

Kagome just shrugged.

"If she asks me later how this happened, what happened to make me confess my feelings to you, then I can tell her the truth later." she said. "For right now, though, I think she'll just be relieved that we're not coming to her with the news that I'm pregnant. While I don't think she'd be angry, she'd probably be a little disappointed in us, so since we want to take precautions to make sure that doesn't happen I imagine she'll be quite pleased. I'm sure she won't be angry that we're together, I'm not still too young for that, but I am too young to have a baby in my time, culturally speaking, still going to school as I am. I need to try to finish my education for honor's sake, and well, being pregnant in school, that's a huge dishonor."

Inuyasha nodded his understanding.

"I'll gladly call you my wife, Kagome, so such a thing would be no dishonor in this world, but either way I do agree that this is no time for babies. Not until Naraku is dead and the jewel is gone. Not until we have a house to call our own."

Smiling at his words, Kagome reached over and took his hand, something Inuyasha happily complied with as they were alone now in the well clearing, no possible villagers anywhere nearby to see them. Together, they jumped into the well and five hundred years into the future.

Mrs. Higurashi was ecstatic to see her daughter as they walked through the door and immediately asked Kagome how long she would be staying, to which the fifteen-year-old conceded that she'd be staying for a few days, and that she knew she needed to check in with her school and try to get fully caught up with however many past due exams she had to take. She stated vaguely that Inuyasha would be staying with them while she was home and Mrs. Higurashi didn't bat an eyelash, happily inviting Inuyasha to join them for lunch, and the entire family, minus Souta who was currently at school, ate while engaging in upbeat chitchat that caught Kagome up on what all she'd been missing out on in her world, while she in turn told her mother and grandfather a much more vague version of the recent youkai troubles they had encountered and why it had taken her so long to get back home. Her 'vague' retelling of battling that tengu stated only how she and Inuyasha had encountered the youkai they'd then had to fight, and that afterwards they were finally able to catch up with their friends who then informed them that the troubles at Mushin's village were already taken care of, and so they'd then headed back to Kaede's. She told the story so smoothly that had Inuyasha not already been aware of the rather significant portions of the story she'd left out he never would've known how much of the tale she'd omitted. Kagome was a horrible liar, but she'd gotten very good at telling half truths, and an unspoken truth was not a lie.

After her grandfather excused himself to get back to his shrine duties it was then that Kagome confessed to her mother with mild nervousness that she had left a few things out and that she had something else to tell her.

"Oh?" Mrs. Higurashi asked, truly curious and perhaps the tiniest bit worried by Kagome's obvious nervousness. That was, until Kagome smiled Inuyasha's way and took his hand, the hanyou smiling at her daughter in return.

Mrs. Higurashi then broke out into a huge grin, which immediately put the young couple at ease, and then Kagome announced simply, "Inuyasha and I have gotten our feelings out in the open, and Mama...we're together now."

Kagome's mother responded to the news by standing up from her place at the kitchen table and walking around to the other side where her daughter and the hanyou boy were sitting beside one another, stepping up in between the couple and leaning forward to wrap her arms around both of their outer shoulders in a firm embrace.

"This is wonderful news." she stated happily, before releasing her daughter and stepping around to Inuyasha's other side to meet the hanyou's eyes as he turned his head to face away from Kagome and look up to meet her mother's gaze.

"Welcome to the family, Inuyasha." she stated with a warm, wholly approving smile, and he couldn't help it. Inuyasha rose from his chair and hugged the older Higurashi woman.

"You don't know what your acceptance means to me, Higurashi-san." he stated respectfully. "I promise to cherish your daughter for the rest of my life."

Chuckling joyously, Mrs. Higurashi pulled back from the hug and eyed Inuyasha with faux criticism as she stated, "First order of business, I want you to drop that Higurashi-san nonsense." She grinned warmly as she added, "You will call me Mama from now on."

He blushed lightly but nodded.

Mrs. Higurashi then shifted her gaze to her daughter, who stood up away from the table as well.

Kagome could read the hesitant question in her mother's gaze.

"Kagome...are you..." Mrs. Higurashi started before pausing, unsure of exactly how to ask and not wanting to sound too scolding, since obviously whatever was done was done and her disapproval wouldn't change matters.

She was visibly relieved when Kagome offered her a reassuring smile and said, "No Mama, I'm not pregnant, although that is part of what we need to discuss."

It was embarrassing for Inuyasha to stand there and receive Mrs. Higurashi's knowing looks as Kagome confessed to her mother how they were sexually active, giving him credit in reassuring her mother that because of his canine half he was aware of her fertility cycle and would not have permitted them to do anything had there been a risk of conception. It was the truth, and he appreciated the way Kagome's mother nodded his way at her daughter's words, pride in her eyes as if he'd just won extra points with her, but regardless it was still embarrassing. As Kagome explained her desire to go on birth control pills Mrs. Higurashi readily agreed, much to Inuyasha's relief.

She could have theoretically tried to forbid them from being together, but honestly, Mrs. Higurashi knew it was a lost cause. She remembered what it was like to be young and in love, and that they were both being so responsible when it came to avoiding accidental pregnancy, she wanted to reward them for it, not punish them. Her baby girl wasn't a baby girl any longer, and she'd felt in her heart for months now that it was only a matter of time before the two of them came to her with such a confession.

Getting all of those arrangements out of the way while Kagome's grandfather remained none the wiser out in the yard, Mrs. Higurashi promised her daughter not to worry about him, that she'd tell him in a little while. That said, she shooed Kagome off to take a warm bath, something the future-born miko happily complied with, as she and Inuyasha disappeared upstairs to her bedroom, first, to drop off her backpack and grab a change of clothes.

"You can use the wash room after me if you wanted to get cleaned up too." she offered as she rummaged through her dresser drawers, Inuyasha sitting cross legged on her bed.

"Just so long as your little brother doesn't pour the water." he replied with a shudder, thinking back on the time Souta had tried to boil him alive.

Kagome chuckled.

"I'll prepare the tub for you, and then I'll show you how to use the shower controls before leaving you to it." she offered, before a wicked smirk came over her features. "And then tonight, we can work on replacing some of the scents that washed off."

Inuyasha choked lightly, coughing a little at her words as if afraid her mother or grandfather would somehow overhear.

"K-keh..." he managed after a moment, earning a giggle from the miko.

Kagome disappeared out the door after that, to reemerge a little while later smelling clean and wholly of Kagome...except for the faint trace of their joining that was still lingering within her. Taking her up on her offer Inuyasha let her show him how to use the shower controls and a little while later he was clean, himself, and dressed in a baggy pair of sweatpants while Mrs. Higurashi ran a load of laundry. His fire-rat suikan and hakama might've been self-cleaning, but his kosode and fundoshi sure weren't.

Souta went crazy when he got home from school and found not only that his sister was home, but also that she was accompanied by his own personal canine super hero. By that point Mrs. Higurashi had shared the news with Jii-chan, in a slightly modified way that omitted the part about how they were actually sleeping together or that Kagome would be going on the pill. Let him assume what he wanted from the news that Inuyasha and Kagome had confessed their feelings for one another and were now officially boyfriend and girlfriend. Souta was thrilled to learn that little tidbit, and when he asked Inuyasha, in front of Jii-chan, if he was going to marry Kagome someday, the hanyou earned the slightest of nods of approval from the elder Higurashi when without hesitation he responded with "Absolutely."

The next few days were relatively uneventful as Kagome went to school and borrowed notes from her friends, taking a bunch of makeup tests, not to mention her doctor's appointment, accompanied by her mother, so that she could get a certain prescription. Too embarrassed by the thought of her family hearing them Inuyasha ended up politely declining her nightly advances, not that they could go all the way anyway since she was going to stick to her own rule of no more sex until the pills had had a chance to kick in, but they did sleep together cuddled up in her bed, fully clothed, and that was good enough for him for the time being.

Once they had everything ready, Kagome's schoolwork all caught up and her backpack stocked full of supplies, plus an extra bag of supplies Inuyasha carried over his shoulder, they were ready to head back to the past and bid her family a temporary farewell. Heading back out on the road with their friends, Inuyasha and Kagome knew the road ahead was going to be a bumpy one, but now, thankfully, knowing where they stood in each other's hearts was at least one less road block on their way to happiness. Nobody knew how long it was going to take to find and kill Naraku, or complete and purify the jewel, but at least Inuyasha and Kagome did know how their future was going to play out after those two events finally came to pass. They refused to waste time thinking about the possible negatives, like one of them not surviving the final battle with Naraku, or the slim chance that the well actually would somehow seal up and trap Kagome in the future. Still mentally smacking themselves on the forehead for how they hadn't previously seen it, both hanyou and miko were now fully convinced that they were meant to be together, that it was indeed fate, or destiny, or whatever else you wanted to call it that had led up to where they were in that very moment. No matter what the future had in store for them, they would face it, together.

~ Fin ~